We are having a sweater weather for the last couple of weeks in our corner of the world. It is a thunderstorm season, almost every night it is raining and the mornings are so fresh and cozy – you just want to wrap in a light sweater, drink tea and read. No wonder I am all in sweater knitting mood, but on second thought – when I am not in this mood?
I am knitting away on the squishy cables of Gesture Sweater by We Are Knitters. It is such an addictive pattern! The back is almost done, I put it on scrap yarn to block and check the length, just in case. It looks like I need a couple of inches more to knit, but I’ve never worked with this yarn before and I don’t know how it will respond to blocking on a big scale. Better safe than sorry, right?
While the back is blocking, I decided to switch things a little bit and start working on sleeves before the front part. I chose one of my favorite ways – work both sleeves at ones using circular needle to accommodate the stitches.
This method has its pros and cons. The main “pro” – when you are done, you are DONE. If you suffer from the second sleeve syndrome, this might be the best way for you to knit sleeves. I also notice that this way my gauge is much more consistent in both sleeves and all my increases match perfectly. I can think of only one “con” – you have to watch your yarn balls, so the yarn doesn’t get tangled.
My knitting machine needles have been empty for several days now after the latest FO – Sand Sweater. And I am planning to make two more sweaters on it before I go to visit my family in Russia. I am going in a month, it still will be summer there, but you can never trust Russian summers! I definitely need knitwear, just in case. I love working with baby alpaca for Gesture Sweater, so I decided I need one more sweater in this fiber. I have Alpaca Cloud (100% baby alpaca) by Knit Picks in my stash.
It is very thin, like a web. To knit a sweater with it by hand would take half a century, but it is absolutely perfect for a machine knitting project. It may be a little bit too thin for my machine, but the swatch turned out OK, so I’ll give it a try.
This is one of the biggest advantages of having a knitting machine – you can make knitwear in such thin yarns that you would never knit with by hand! I am thinking a long cozy cardigan with the overlapping fronts and extra long sleeves. I hope I have enough yardage for it. If it turns the way I picture it in my head, it will be an amazing piece of knitwear for layers. And look at this color – so rich and deep!
I hope you are having fun with your craft projects! See you at Yarn Along.
Happy Sunday!! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend! Yesterday we went for a short walk in town and took photos of Sand sweater which, I believe, will become the most wearable machine knit piece in my wardrobe from now on. I washed it with hair conditioner and the fabric softened so much. I was afraid it was going to be too stiff knit with such textured stitch and in mercerized cotton, but a good bath solved this problem. I am officially in “knit-love”!
The seams are flat and don’t pucker – yay!! Knit experiments are always slightly nerve wrecking. When you are knitting from the pattern, you know exactly what you get in the end, and “blind” knitting can definitely turn against you with bad surprises! I am glad I avoided it this time.
The sweater is knit in my favorite color; I started to wear bright colors only after our move 4 years ago. My usual daily color palette used to be black, beige, white, grey and brown. I feel very “me” in this sweater!
One more time I am convinced that finishing “makes” the sweater in the end. I just can’t get over all the cute details that only a knitter will notice (so happy I have you guys to gush about them! ) Faux I-cord hem…
Crochet slip stitch + I-cord neckline… I know that finishing process can become tedious at some point, but it surely feels great wearing a handmade piece of knitwear and know that all the ends are securely hidden, all the edges are trimmed and the sweater had its well-deserved blocking time.
Machine used – Silver Reed LK150, stitch dial – 3.5. As I told you many times before, machine knitting process is so far from mechanical and automatic one, you really have to be watching carefully what you are doing and in case of this stitch even more so – the carriage settings that have to be adjusted every 4th row, the needles position, the tension. In some way it reminded me of weaving.
100% local mercerized cotton. I love this yarn a lot and especially in this color, it’s just a perfect shade of neutral beige. But after finishing the project, I think that if I started all over again, I would change some things – either yarn itself or the gauge. I love how the sweater turned out, but the combination of yarn/tension/planned fit of the garment wasn’t 100% perfect. Tuck stitch creates a very textured fabric and it is slightly on the stiff side when knit pretty tightly using mercerized cotton.
I wanted to make an oversize sweater, but understood that the fabric won’t have the necessary drape, so I went down with the ease. The good thing is that I have tons of ideas now how to use this fabric quality in the future. It will be just fabulous for structured garments! As for this kind of sweater, next time I would use pima cotton, or organic soft cotton, or alpaca, or merino/silk blends – that would make a very cozy, textured and soft oversize sweater!
Modified drop shoulder pullover with the positive ease.
When I finished working on a back piece of the sweater and took it off the needles, I realized it was way too long. It often happens to me, when working with a new stitch or design or yarn on the knitting machine, a lot of things might go wrong, no matter how well I prepared the swatch. You just can’t predict 100% how the fabric will behave after it is off the needles and as if it is very distorted on the machine bed, you can’t say for sure if you are moving in the right direction.
Anyway, the back piece was so long it looked like a dress. If it was just a drop shoulder pullover, I could just rip off several rows at the end, but as I had a little bit of armhole shaping involved, I couldn’t do that. Just on the side note, there is a great article on how and where you can modify the length of the garment without sacrificing the shaping –First amendments: altering length in a knitting pattern.
So I had to rip off several beginning rows. It took forever, but it was worth it – the sweater was saved!
I love boat necklines! They are so easy to shape (= no shaping at all) and they look so elegant and simple!
Happy note – I finally grafted I-cord edges perfectly!!!
Hem is always a struggle for me in machine knitting. I have a very simple machine and it can’t do any kind of ribbing automatically and transferring stitches manually takes way too much time. Plus, I don’t really like the cast on edge created on the machine – the stitches are quiet stretched out, because of the weights attached to them that are used to pull the piece of fabric down from the needles bed. So, the hem finishing takes quiet a lot of time.
A little note on the machine knitting – you just have to make peace with the finishing. If you are a knitter who enjoys the knitting process, but just can’t stand seaming/trimming/picking up stitches and all the finishing sweater fun, then machine knitting is not really for you. Finishing often takes more time than actual knitting. You can’t make seamless garments, so you need to seam all the pieces, trim neckline/hem and all the raw edges. But on the second thought, I realize that I quiet enjoy the finishing part of the sweater knitting process now and I think it came to me because of the machine knitting! It grows on you.
Back to the hem. To create a nice looking neat hem, I unraveled the first row and put the live stitches back on the machine needles, the wrong side facing me and knitted 4 plain stockinette stitch rows. Then I took the piece of the machine and bound off the stitches with 2.5 mm needle. The stockinette stitch part naturally curved up and created a hem that looked very similar to reverse stockinette stitch I-cord, but it took much less time!
It was really fun working on the sleeves, as it included much more shaping than the body. If the front and back pieces are practically two straight rectangles with some stitches bound off for the armhole, the sleeves had to be tapered much more. And as I was knitting in overall tuck stitch, I had to improvise and think how to place the increases to keep the stitch pattern as intact as possible. It was like solving a puzzle!
Adding one more sweater to my knitwear wardrobe! I haven’t bought any knitwear for almost two years now!!! I never thought I would be able to do that! Now I have another dilemma – what happens when I have enough knitwear pieces in my wardrobe or it is just impossible?
World Crafters are people who make things in different parts of the world. Some turned their hobby into a profession, some are balancing a day job with small crafty business, some chose to keep their hobby and just enjoy making, creating and giving. Behind each stitch is a story…
Almost a year ago I found the coziest and prettiest Instagram account – @la.reserve.design. Every time I see these chunky, cozy, textured, cabled big knits I just want to wrap myself in them. Today the maker and owner of La Reserve Design, aka Chunky Thick Wool Blanket Specialist, Alison, is talking about yarn, inspiration, craft social media and makers community.
Do you remember your first stitch? What was the beginning of your knitting story?
The first thing I ever knit was a long circular tube made from a children’s spooling kit given to me by my grandmother. I remember being so proud of my first “knit” project, which was pretty much a useless tube of uneven stockinette stitches. When I was a bit older my grandmother taught me how to do the garter stitch. I think this is how most people start knitting – a relative or friend teaches them the garter stitch and then for years all they can knit are squares or rectangle scarves! My grandmother is a wonderful lady and without her I would have never picked up a pair of needles, but her knitting lessons pretty much ended with the garter stitch. Since then I have taken many workshops, watched pretty much all of YouTube, and continued to learn as much as I can from friends and family about the craft.
What made you turn your hobby into business? Was it a conscious decision or it just happened on its own?
Turning my hobby into a business was definitely not a well thought out or calculated plan! I was all over the place the first couple of months I tried to sell my knitwear – making yarn runs every couple of days, not calculating my costs or time properly, and basically trying to figure it all out on the fly. I love knitting large chunky blankets, which, as you probably know, are very satisfying to make but quite costly in terms of yarn consumption and labour. I decided to list some of my items on Etsy on a complete whim. I remember turning to my fiancee and saying: “What have I got to lose? Worst comes to worst I’ll never sell anything, but the upside is I can continue to fund my craft addiction without spending my paycheck on yarn every month.”
I would love to talk about social media a little bit. How important is the social media for a successful craft business right now? How to find a healthy balance between being active on social media and still devote enough time to your business?
This is an amazing question! The truth is I’ve never been very active on social media in my personal life (I’m that person who has had the same profile picture since 2012). I was very hesitant to get involved with social media at all for my knitting because I felt ‘it just wasn’t me’. I started an Instagram account for La Reserve Design as a way of connecting to all of the beautiful and inspirational makers I had stumbled across online, without any intention of growing my following or even posting my own content. I very quickly became addicted to the whole thing. I love the instant feedback and I am constantly blown away by the support and creativity of the handmade community that has developed on Instagram. I’ve been so lucky to connect with some amazing makers, and have even become involved with a community called Our Maker Life, which is holding an offline makers’ meet-up this summer!
I remember you opened a very interesting discussion in your Instagram feed about sharing the process of your work with others and how it can actually turn against you, when some people can overuse it and even steal your ideas. Did you find a way to balance the desire to share your knowledge and the need to protect your copyright?
The supportive and creative nature of this IG community inspired me to share my process online like an open book, and I’ll admit I was very naive to the fact that there might be consequences to trying to grow a business while revealing all my makers secrets. After this realization I threw the question out there on IG, and I was overwhelmed with comments and messages that confirmed that this is something that as a community we all face. While I recognize that there is nothing proprietary about knits and purls, it’s hard to feel like your ideas are being copied or re-sold without care for the time and effort it took for their initial development.
This issue is something that I talk about all the time with the Our Maker Life team as we try to strategize ways to encourage everyone to create their own patterns and find their own identity online, along with giving credit to the makers they were originally inspired by to create. I recently began taking over the Our Maker Life blog every week with “Tip Tuesday”, where I share one of my makers secrets with the community at large. For me, this is my way of staying open about my process and connecting with everyone while maintaining some control over what I chose to share.
Having a craft business definitely requires some skills that go way beyond actual knitting/crochet. From your experience, what things did you have to learn apart from your craft to keep your business going?
I’m definitely still learning all the skills that make a good business run smoothly! I had to seriously up my photography game to be able to sell things online (just through photos). I’ve also had to learn a lot about accounting and bookkeeping to keep my craft business healthy. When I first started selling my knitwear, my father, who runs his own business, sat down with me and crunched the numbers so to speak. It taught me a lot about looking at the big picture of my small project and trying not to get bogged with too many creative ideas before making sure it makes overall sense for my business.
What advice would you give to someone who is just thinking about opening her/his craft business, Etsy shop for example? Looking back to your start what would you do differently, if anything?
My one piece of advice for anyone starting any project is to manage your expectations and be patient. If you’re looking for an overnight success the handmade marketplace is not the place for you. If you’re looking to start a project you can be proud of then you have nothing to lose. Looking back I wouldn’t do anything differently. What I love about my Etsy storeis that it’s all mine. My mistakes, my successes, and all the uncertainties in between are all mine. Opening my knitwear store has really felt like I am doing something for myself – so in that sense I wouldn’t change a thing.
Time management. Always a fascinating thing to talk about with crafters – it seems like it is our worst enemy How do you balance creating/Instagram activity/working with clients and your life in general?
Time management is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from running my own craft business. At first I largely underestimated what my time was worth and took on too much to chew. By nature knitting is a labor intensive, and it’s easy to undervalue your time when you start out. After making one of my largest custom pieces, a hand knit queen sized chunky blanket, I realized I had only made about $3.00 an hour on the whole project. I was like “Okay, that was a real labor of love. Now it’s time to re-evaluate what I’m making and how much my time is worth.”
Are you an yarn-a-holic? How big is your stash?
I am definitely a yarn-a-holic! My day job and background is in textile design, so I go totally gaga over anything fiber related. Recently I’ve been very good about not adding yarn to my stash without a clear plan for its use. I have a bad habit of buying beautiful yarn just because it’s beautiful, and then being too hesitant to use it for anything because I don’t want to waste it. I live in a fairly open concept 1 bedroom apartment which is a great motivator to keep my yarn stash under control!
Do you have a clear “dream” destination for your business or you just enjoy what you have right now and go with the flow?
The dream for my business is to turn La Reserve Design into a full time (or almost full time) job. I’m not sure what that job looks like yet, but I’m sure it’ll involve a lot of hard work to get there. I wouldn’t call it a “go with the flow” attitude, but more like I’m on a very flexible plan at the moment.
The series are called “World Crafters”, as I believe our surroundings can have a great influence on our work. Would you mind telling about your corner of the world? What’s it like? What energy does this place have?
I was born and live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and I agree that my surroundings have definitely had a large influence on me and my work. Canada is known globally for a couple of things, but it’s reputation for cold, long winters are no joke. I think this is why I love chunky knits so much. Sometimes I see beautiful, intricately knit scarves with lace patterns on them and I think:“When would you wear that? The snow and wind would blow right through the hours of work that went into this design!”
Montreal is a pretty unique place in Canada. It’s located in Quebec, with a predominantly French speaking population in an otherwise English country, and has an enormous restaurant/ food scene, with a vibrant local culture. While my investment banking friends fled to NYC and Toronto after university in search of the corporate experience and salaries, those of us who chose to remain in Montreal are pursuing slightly more creative endeavors. Thinking of my extended circle of peers, young professionals are pursuing paths like: textile design, cooking and opening restaurants, personal training, graphic design, interior design, and so on. Although no place is perfect and Montreal certainly has it’s own set of politics, I firmly believe that growing up here has made it possible for me to start my own knitwear business.
What “gifts of knitting” did you get from your craft?
I would have to say knitting has taught me patience and has forced me to slow down and sit still for a couple of minutes everyday. It has also taught me that ripping out a project that doesn’t feel right is all part of the fun, and if I were to extrapolate on this idea to other parts of my life: it’s never too late to do something new or start over. The biggest gift of all has been the amazing community of fellow makers I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with (have I mentioned Our maker life yet? ). The handmade community has taught me so much about pursuing a creative business and that supporting each other is a win-win. You know what I mean? “Success is not a zero sum game” or “Supporting someone else’s success doesn’t take away from your own” and all that good stuff!
Dear Alison, thank you so much for sharing your knitting story with us! You can find Alison on her Instagram and in her beautiful Etsy shop – La Reserve Design, where you will find not only her gorgeous chunky knits, but also patterns for them!
A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to one of my favorite designers – Johan Ku. This week I found his old interview and one phrase just got stuck in my head. To the question “Where does the creativity come from?” he gave a very unexpected and unusual for an artist answer: “Creativity comes from studying a certain field for a very long time. It comes from rational development rather than a mythical emotion.” I stopped at this phrase and just stared at it. This is the first time I read something like that from an artist or a designer. Usually you read answers like Oh, it just comes to me or I can’t really explain my creative process or It just flows on its own… And here you read a very logical and rational explanation of the creative development. If you remember, Johan Ku is praised for his extremely creative approach to knitwear, the innovative vision and textile design that is considered a new form of sculpture. I read and re-read it several times; you know I love wondering about talent and creativity – do you remember our latest discussion of talent origin?
The more I thought about this phrase the more true it seemed to me. I never ever considered myself a creative person. My early school creative essays were dry, logical and without grammar mistakes; my drawings were horrible and my craft attempts were rarely successful. I picked up knitting 7 years ago and struggled with it for a long time to make something wearable or at least not shapeless. And sometimes it hits me how much it changed over the time. I was working on my Sand sweater seams this week, but in my mind new ideas were swirling.
That alpaca fingering weight yarn was turning into a cardigan in my head; the colorful cotton skeins were forming into colorful light pullover; Moeke skein brought so many ideas that it was hard to choose…
And all of a sudden I realized how Ku’s thoughts of creativity are so true in my case. I can definitely say that I feel creative when I am around fiber and textiles, but I can also say for sure it didn’t happen just like that, overnight, “naturally”. It happened, because I love it so much I cannot spend my day without at least a couple of rows; it happened, because I didn’t give up this craft when I was an absolute beginner and kept trying and failing, trying again; it happened because in a way this craft became a part of who I am – I read and research a lot about it; I can spend hours going through textile and knitwear design photography; I even dream sometimes of it. And this “mythical emotion” comes when something works out – this exciting moment when you feel like you’ve found it, “This is it!!!” moment. But I also think just the time isn’t enough to develop a certain creative skill; I think one of the most important things, at least for me, is to be fully present when you are doing it, make it a conscious process when your mind isn’t wandering, but 100% in the moment. So, I would change this phrase a little bit: “Creativity comes from consciously studying a certain field for a very long time.”
What about you? I am so curios to read your thoughts on this!!! Do you agree that “Creativity comes from studying a certain field for a very long time. It comes from rational development rather than a mythical emotion.” or is there something more? Is there such a thing as a “natural” creative ability that just comes to people without much effort invested into it or creativity has to be nurtured? So looking forward to reading your thoughts!