As much as I love the joy of a beautifully finished piece of knitting, and as much as I will go to great lengths and employ an arsenal of tricks and techniques to get there, (remember my fixation with neat underarms?), at heart I am a bit of lazy knitter. If my knitting offers me a shortcut, I'll take it. Too many ends to weave in on a hat? Yeah, I might just ignore them and call it a new kind of head thrumming. Call it shortcuts or laziness or even sensible use of precious time, that's just the way it is. Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, I'm quite happy to rip an entire jumper if the fit isn't right for me. Go figure.
Given I'm a bit lazy, I also love stuff that looks really clever or intricate but isn't. Give me some slipped stitch knitting in a couple of colours, and I'm one very happy knitter.
So this little collection of patterns that I'm going to chat about today, Deception, ticks all those boxes.
All these hats use slipped stitches to create stitch patterns that are absolutely dead easy but look super clever and intricate.
All these hats only use one colour per round. Yep, even this one below, which really does look quite tricky. But it's not, it's really just working stripes and slipped stitches!
I tend to think of this type of knitting as being a bit like cheats colourwork, but really it's not about cheating. It's about using the techniques available to create something that looks great with the least heartache and hassle required. For me, that's an integral part of my knitting experience. I want to love the finished project, but I also need to enjoy the process of knitting. And while I am quite partial to colourwork knitting, I do know that it's not everyone's cup of tea. And I also know, that even as much as I like it, there are times that I just don't want to be messing with yarn strung over both my hands and the level of concentration required. Personally, I actually think the hat above looks like it uses techniques that are more complicated that colourwork ;)
When I started designing this group of patterns, my aim was to play around with these type of stitch patterns. In doing so I also wanted to explore a yarn that I was absolutely familiar with but in a new way. Over the years, I've knit at least one garment in every colour in the WOOlganics range, but when I started pairing them together and playing with different colour combinations; it was like a whole other curtain into their possibilities opened up. I couldn't believe that I'd previously missed how beautifully every single colour combines and works with every other colour in the palette. Even teaming unusual colour combinations together worked so beautifully and created such unexpected results.
The ultimate example of this playing with the WOOLganics colour range probably came with the hat below which used ten colour (you can use just two if you want). The stitch pattern here is again the result of a slipped stitch pattern interspersed with two round stripes.
Yes, there were an awful lot of ends to weave in in this hat. Well, there would have been if I had sewn them all in. Remember how I was talking about hat thrumming. The inside of this hat is actually just as spectacular as the outside, it's like a rainbow mohawk! No, you can't really carry a yarn strand up 18 rounds, which is what you would need to do here.
So the strange names?
Don't worry if you're struggling to pronounce a few of them, most of them are pretty quintessentially Australian words. These are place names that belong to a very rural area in Victoria, Australia, to the west of the Gariwerd National Park (Grampians).
It's hard to discover the origins of some of these place names. Some were probably originally Koori words that were misheard or corrupted. Words we'd spell differently now with a better understanding of the indigenous language developing. Cherrypool, for example, is the anglicised version of Djarabul and Woohlpooer would be spelt Wulbuwa. Wulbuwa actually means 'to burn very fiercely', which given the landscape of this area (scrubby bush) and its propensity for bushfire, it is extremely well named; as always seems to be the way with the Aboriginal place names. Laharum, I'm not sure ~ my research shows me that the local indigenous people did use the word lar for camp.
All these hats can be purchased either individually or as part of the e-book over in my Ravelry shopfront here.
Pop on over and give them some love <3
Do you find the etymology of place names as interesting as I do?
Which of these wee hats is your favourite?
It really feels like we only just got back from the land of the long white cloud, but truly we've been back for four weeks already. Four crazy hectic insane but very fun four weeks - for the most part.
We spent three weeks in New Zealand, most of that time living and travelling in a motorhome, enjoying the beauty of free camping, very little domesticity and the amazing landscape that is New Zealand. Three blissful weeks in which you're probably guessing I visited my fair share of yarn stores. Indeed I did, and I thought it only appropriate that I share with you my finds. Most of my yarn shopping was limited to the South Island. Whilst on the North Island we stayed in Napier for Knit August Nights (a blog post on that to come still, I hope!) and after that my family were surprisingly a bit yarned out and weren't that keen for anymore yarn stores. I probably couldn't fit any more yarn in our luggage either, to be honest.
If you're familiar with my crafting ethos, you will know that my preference is to purchase local. And this is exactly what I sought out on this venture. While there are many yarn stores in New Zealand that stock a wide range of yarn, my interest was purely in those who stocked a good range of New Zealand yarn; yarn that had been grown, processed and milled in New Zealand. So this was my target, this was the yarn I wanted to discover.
Our journey began in Christchurch. Unfortunately, it seems to be the trend that whenever we fly into somewhere on a travelling holiday we are in such desperation to get exploring that the first city we encounter, we don't really explore. That was certainly Christchurch for us. I believe there are some perfectly good yarn stores in Christchurch as yet I however, haven't explored them.
Incidentally, Christchurch is the home of Outlaw Yarn, a yarn that if you do visit New Zealand you should be on the look out for. This is a luxury yarn that is distinctively New Zealand but also packs a a good deal of attitude with their interesting blends. Think yarns that contain alpaca, merino, possum and polwarth. Whilst travelling the South Island I spent my time knitting up some Outlaw Bohemia Sport, which truly felt like I was doing my thing for the local environment. I felt like an Aussie environmental warrior on a tour of reclamation and helping the cause of the kiwi (Deb has a great outline on her webpage about why possums are such a menace in New Zealand, a land of no native large mammals - obviously a very different landscape to Australia which is dominated by native mammals).
Ashburton is the home of the Ashford Craft Shop. This is one place that I really wanted to visit, unfortunately we drove through Ashburton late in the day and the store was already closed. Ashford has a well established place in the history of New Zealand wool. They are renowned for their world famous spinning wheels as well as their yarns, which are spun at the Bruce Mill in Milton (more on that shortly).
You can find the Ashford Craft Shop at 427 West St Ashburton.
While I was in New Zealand, a relation also recommended the Yarn Barn at 606 East St, Ashburton.
Geraldine: I'm making special mention of Geraldine as even though I didn't stop at the yarn store there, I did purchase some yarn from this region while I was at Knit August Night, Maniototo Wool. This area of New Zealand, Central Otago, lays claim to being the hottest, coldest, driest and most inland part of New Zealand. Maniototo Wool is a Merino/Romney cross with a mid micron level. In a world of worsted spun wool, it's interesting to see a woollen spun yarn such as this. It's lovely and robust and is spun on the island in Christchurch. Even though Maniototo don't have a farm gate or a bricks and mortar presence in Geraldine it is a yarn to keep your eyes out for.
Geraldine is also home to The Tin Shed at Rangitata R D 22, another iconic New Zealand yarn store, stocking a wide range of local alpaca, wool and possum.
Oamaru was our first yarnie stop down the east coast. This is such a beautiful little town with a big history. A stroll around the few blocks fronting the main beach area whisper of past glory days. Much like many Australian country towns, beautiful stone buildings speak of a once foretold promise for this town; 19th Century limestone buildings that now house a different present than that envisioned.
In the down-town historical precinct, you will find a collection of galleries and workshops with a wide range of artisans at work. These were once the waterfront warehouses and stores of yesteryear. It is in this precinct that I found The Oamaru Textile Emporium, and oh what a find it was. As my first taster of a New Zealand yarn store, this was going to be hard to beat. Here I found rare breed hand-spun yarns (some beautiful Romney, Gotland and Polwarth), the hand-dyed yarn of Doe Arnot (an amazing weaver and dyer), as well as the offerings of other local dyers. Doe's yarns are dyed on a huge range of different bases, but what really drew my attention was her gorgeous range of naturally dyed yarns. Her yarns are sold under the brand DoeSpins and are well worth seeking out.
I was also really excited to find The Oamaru Textile Emporium stocks the yarn I was at that moment knitting, Outlaw Yarn. This yarn is a perfect match for this town with its Victorian feel and leaning towards the Steampunk vibe. Make sure you take a walk down to the foreshore from here to check out one very very cool playground for the kiddies.
You can find The Oamaru Textile Emporium at 13 Tyne Street, Oamaru.
Milton: From Oamaru we headed further south down through Dunedin and inland to the town of Milton, where our next stop was the Bruce Woollen Mill. New Zealand's woollen mill history shares a parallel with Australia's. In the 1960s, there were 18 woollen mills operating country-wide producing yarn, carpet and textiles. The same time period that spelt the death knoll for Australian mills was similarly disastrous for New Zealand. Bruce Woollen Mills is one of the few yarn mills left in New Zealand. At its peak it employed over 500 people, now much of its original mill space is either empty or rented out to other businesses.
I have to say I had high expectations for this place. I was envisaging something similar to the Bendigo Woollen Mills and their infamous backroom. Not so. This is a small and rather quaint mill shop with a variety of knitting and weaving yarns, but I suspect increasingly more of their floor space is slowly being given over to woollen clothing. This is definitely the place to pick up a good New Zealand manufactured woollen jumper or a pair of possum socks.
Yarn wise, there was a good deal of commercially spun Perendale yarn, an interesting selection of variegated yarns that looked to be hand-dyed, and probably the cheapest possum blend to be found in New Zealand. There is a dusty wee museum room next to the shop that houses some relics of the wool industry, and while it is certainly an interesting look back into the golden past, there is a sadness for me that pervades places such as these.
You can find the Bruce Woollen Mill at 1 Edward Street, Milton.
Te Anau is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. I spent a fabulous New Years Eve there about 12 years ago when we took an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound and I remember being amazed at the sight of snow of the distant mountains.
Te Anau is a very different place in the Winter time. When we visited in the Summer the road into Milton Sound had been closed the week before because of heavy snow. History repeated itself this time around again and the road was closed due to avalanche. Instead we took a cruise on Lake Te Anau to the South Fjord with Cruise Te Anau. We were the only ones on the boat so it made it even more amazing and personal and probably suited our family much better than the hour and a half bus trip down into Milton Sound and out again.
I didn't expect to find a yarn store in Te Anau, I'm not sure why - maybe because of its tourist focus, but I did. In fact, I found what I suspect may have been my favourite LYS on the South Island. What greeted me in Fiordland House was beautiful walls of colour and an awesome range of New Zealand yarn, possibly the best I found. The service was also exceedingly friendly which no doubt enhanced the charm of the place.
This was my first contact with Zealana yarn, a yarn I've heard so much about but had never actually seen in person. Yes, you can get this yarn in Australia but I wanted to experience it in its natural environment. Experiencing brush tail possums in New Zealand, where they are considered a pest, is significantly different than how I'd view a brush tail possum in Australia, their native homeland. They're flipping cute here you know; until they get into your vegie patch or roof that is! There's a whole different environmental consideration of the effect of this animal in these two vastly different landscapes. You know, I'd always felt a bit guilty about the possum thing in New Zealand until I discovered that it was New Zealanders themselves who imported them. That's up there with Australia's stupidity for importing rabbits, foxes and cane toads! Sorry Kiwis, but it is. Let's not even get started on the stoats thing, hey.
dThere are so many different brands of yarn to be found at Fiorland House; Zealana, Touch Yarns, Naturally, Rare Earth and Rare Essentials, Crucci and Stansborough (the yarn used to create the costumes in the Lord of the Rings films), just to name what I can remember.
Fiordland House resides at 3 Town Centre, Te Anau.
Queenstown is definitely the adventure and adrenalin capital of New Zealand. So much adventuring to be done there regardless what time of the year. I suspect it's also the tourist capital and you can't help but wonder when you're there, where do or the locals live? The streets seem to be lined with temporary accommodation and the whole town is set up to accommodate this transient tourist industry. Because of its role as a tourist destination, in Queenstown there are plenty of shops where you can find manufactured New Zealand knitwear. Knitting yarn, itself is a little harder to find. We did manage to find one shop, the Kiwi Wool Shop nestled in amongst the glitz in a sweet wee arcade.
This shop had a huge range of yarn; including all the expected New Zealand yarns from Naturally, Touch, Rare Yarns, Crucci and Zealana as well a selection of international yarns. Here you can also purchase handmade jumpers at a relatively reasonable price.
You can find the Kiwi Wool Shop at Beach Tree Arcade in Beach Street, Queenstown.
From Queenstown I convinced the family to take a short detour before heading up to the West Coast. My destination was Clyde. My reason for wanting to visit Clyde was Touch Yarns. When the world of internet knitting really opened up for me after having kiddies, Touch Yarns was one of my staple yarns, although at the time I did not know it by that name. Instead, it was the yarn base that a group of Aussie hand-dyers used and many of those of us in the cloth nappy community adored. The colours on this base were always so beautiful and saturated.
Touch Yarns certainly didn't let me down, the walls were so colourful and there was so much variety in lots of different yarn bases. These days Touch is just as well known for their possum blends as they are for their superwash merino, but the shop also sells a huge range of yarns from gossamer mohair lace weight to more chunky trial spins. While I was there, they had in stock some interesting hemp, cashmere, mohair, alpaca and silk blends, boucle spun yarn as well as some local breeds.
You can find Touch Yarns at 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde in a quaint little cottage.
Our jaunt up the west coast was wet, not a damp sort of drizzly rain, but an insanely heavy rain that persisted non-stop for a good couple of days. From before Fox Glacier to just outside of Nelson, it poured like I've never seen rain before. Compared to Australia, New Zealand is a really wet and watery place. Living on this big old dry continent; the size of the rivers and lakes there and the persistence of such heavy rain, was something fairly unknown to us. The rain was so heavy at times that as we drove up the west coast road where it intersected with the coastline, you could not even see the ocean. That weather is pretty typical for the west coast of the south island, even if it is pretty annoying for visitors.
Stopping in Hokitika for a lunch break and for the kids to explore some of the Jade (pounamu) shops, we braved the downpour and ventured out of our motorhome sanctuary. This was a luck stop as I stumbled upon Sock World.
Sock World is home to a mini museum of sock machines from all over the world. You can even buy yourself a one if you've got a spare couple of grand. Along with this mini museum there were plenty of woollen socks, both traditionally manufactured in wool and possum, as well as some machine knitted socks in lots of different variegated yarns.
The service at Sock World was not exactly what you would call friendly. I tried to ask the lady a couple of questions about the sock machines, but all I got was short sharp answers and she seemed more interested in her dog than the customers who had deigned to brave the incessant rain and enter her shop. I suspect she would have preferred to have been at home in front of her fire, and probably thought we were just there to shelter from the rain rather than serious customers. I suspect if I lived the constancy of that winter rain I'd become grumpy too.
Nevertheless, amongst the usual suspects of New Zealand yarn brands there were quite a few rare and cheap finds to be had here, as well as lots of hand-dyed sock yarns. I came across some yarn made by Pebblemill Yarns in Christchurch, as well as lots of unlabelled possum and felted merino yarns.
You can find Sock World at 27 Sewell Place, Hokitika.
Driving north through more of the rain, I also stumbled across a yarn store in Greymouth. Here the walls of yarn were also bright and cheery, and despite it being just on closing time, so was the service. The lovely lady there gave Lily some ideas on how to knit some fingerless mitts, and I tried not to gasp audibly when she explained a seamed approach.
Pins and Needles have quite an extensive range of both New Zealand and international yarns, as well as lots of other crafting gadgets and necessities.
You can find Pins and Needles at 70 Mackay Street, Greymouth.
Our last yarnie stop in the south island was in Nelson, a beautiful city with arguably the best climate on the south island. Here we stopped at Cruella's Natural Fibre Boutique, which is a truly gorgeous yarn shop with walls and walls of stunning colour. It took me a little time to realise that one of the walls of yarn actually had shelves of finished knitwear garments nestled adjunct to shelves of the yarn they were knit in. I quite liked this touch.
There was lots of New Zealand yarn to be found here. Cruellas probably had the best range of Rare Yarn Company and Zealana yarns on the south island, as well as a good range of Touch Yarns and Crucci.
You can find Cruellas at 155 Hardy Street, Nelson.
By the time we'd reached Nelson, my family had definitely had enough of yarn stores, this is despite each of the kiddies collecting their own little stash of wool along the way. Next stop, however, was Knit August Nights in Napier, where there was more yarnie delights to be had than we could have ever imagined!
A little while ago I ordered some of the glorious 4ply Ton of Wool Cormo in natural black to knit myself a cardigan. When my yarn arrived the lovely Kylie had tucked in some extra samples for me to have a play with. One of those samples was a 100g ball of this squishy natural white. It might have taken me, oh, a whole five minutes before it was on the needles.
I'd been playing around with a cabled hat pattern for a bit and had already knit a sample up in an Alpaca/Merino blend. I'd experimented with the brim and worked some lazy crown shaping; neither of which I was entirely happy with. A swatch and block later and this cormo was just begging to be knit into that hat pattern. So I made some changes, charted some crown shaping that was more integrated into the design and set to knitting.
Even though I had swatched thoroughly and played around with the cable pattern in my swatch, I really was not prepared for how perfect the matching of this yarn and this pattern are. Cormo spun worsted like this, embodies a knit with such incredible stitch definition. This is the type of stitch definition that makes me weep in glee. The cables are so gloriously squishy and they just pop. It is so perfectly divine.
What I love about this is even though it is one-size, it fits many heads. This is one of those truly family hats where one day my husband is wearing it and the next day the six year old milo boy is sporting it.
Construction wise, it is knit from the brim up in the round. It's fairly straightforward as far as cable knitting is concerned (which seriously, if you've never tried it have a crack at a milo and you'll see it is dead easy - just a matter of swapping the order of your stitches). The crown uses a couple of unusual decreasing cables, which actually makes them sound trickier than they are. They're just cables with a decrease chucked in there to help shape the crown.
And I do so love the crown on this thing, I love the way the cables all merge and intertwine together to really finish it off.
The cables have both written instructions and charts to cater for your preference.
Let me tell you a little more about this yarn.
Cormo is a really really beautiful yarn.
If you're familiar with Clara Parkes you may have heard her speak so very fondly of Cormo yarn over the years as it is up there as one of her favourites. Interestingly most people's experience with Cormo is of yarn from the US and yarn that is quite often woollen spun. This Cormo is different on both those counts.
Cormo is not readily produced in Australia, Ton of Wool is pretty much it. This is just a wee bit crazy, as the Cormo breed is as Australian as a Hills Hoist or Ugg boots. It is considered an Australian breed of sheep and was developed by crossing Corriedale rams with Saxon merino ewes.
Kylie sources her Cormo from the very farm and the very family who developed Cormo, the Downie family from Bothwell, Tasmania. It does not get much better than that. In fact, when Clara reviewed this yarn glowingly she said of it, "If you want to experience the very DNA of what Cormo was intended to be, and still is, this is your yarn." She nailed it.
The 10ply Cormo is plump and amazing to work with in a way that is hard to explain. It is like butter. It is a quiet yarn. It is serenity; a yarn of mindfulness. It is definitely more in the category of an Aran weight yarn than a worsted weight, which I think is why it does lend itself so beautifully to cables. It reminds me of a snuggly aran jumper my mother knitted me when I was younger (I still have that jumper).
In desperate measures, you could substitute with another yarn - look for something plump and preferably lofty. This beanie took about 78 grams of the Cormo which works out to a bit under 150 yards/140 metres. But if you have the opportunity to, seriously try the Cormo.
There's another reason that I'm singing the praises of Cormo. My husband is allergic to wool. I know, pretty ironic for the husband of a knitwear designer. It's not lost on me.
Over the years I have knit him countless beanies in every variety of wool and wool blend imaginable. I have made him wear skeins of wool shoved down his shirt to see how he'd react. He itches. He complains. Even the purest organic merino bothers him. I had pretty much given up on knitting for him.
And then he wore this beanie, not just a bit but for whole days. AND it did not itch him. He did not break out in a rash! That my friends, is pretty amazing stuff as I'm sure anyone with a wool allergy will tell you. I have no idea why, it's spun in the same mill as other wools that make him itch, he's tried natural undyed before, merino and corriedale he both reacts to - who knows?
So I'm hailing Ton of Wool Cormo as a non-allergic wool. Try it! It may work for you too.
Anyway, this beanie pattern called Bothwell can be found in Ravelry in my store, which is just a quick hop, skip and a jump from here.
What seems like not that long ago I released a number of patterns that were monikered with the second names of my sisters and I. You may remember some of them; Jane/Miss Jane, Elizabeth/Lizzie, Suzanne and Anne (Annie and Annabel). This little troop was missing one sister though and in June she was finally published - which coincidently happens to be the month of said sister's birthday.
This is Maree and she has just been published in Yarn, the fabulous Australian knitting magazine.
Maree carries on from the tradition of most of the other sister patterns in that her construction is a hybrid - a flirt with deconstructing the normal construction method. In this case, Maree is a hybrid circular yoke. Instead of the yoke forming a true circle around the upper body, it forms more of a half circle and sits just a wee bit differently. For those of you who have knit Jane, it's a similar idea to that but instead of raglan shaping across the back, the yoke is shaped in a circular fashion.
The garter stitch yoke then leads into a row of eyelets that allow the wearer to create a fastening if desired. I personally prefer to wear it open, particularly over cute sundresses, but it will fasten very similarly to Jane/Miss Jane if desired.
The body of the cardigan is knit in an easy to remember lace pattern that I simply adored knitting. I really love this pattern, and it is such a relaxing stitch pattern to knit.
One of my favourite part of this pattern is the way the lace merges into the pockets, which creates almost a rippled effect across the top of the pocket. This pockets are knit as you go.
As with the majority of my patterns, this is all knit from the top down and seamlessly.
The yarn that I used for this pattern is WOOLganics Organic Merino 8ply. This particular yarn colour is one that was hand-dyed by a friend of mine, Shannon, a number of years ago. I had probably intended to knit something for Lily out of it but it ended up being mine. The sample here in the 32" size used a smidgeon under 800yard or 400 grams.
If you've not knit with WOOLganics yet, seriously get yourself onto some of this stuff! It's beautiful to knit with and even more beautiful to wear.
Like the other adult sister patterns, this one will eventually have a little sister version too - eventually, but first of all I do have to catch up on my backlog of samples that are still missing published patterns! Yikes!
Maree is currently available in the June 2015 issue of Yarn.
You can find a list of stockists here, in Australia this should include any good Local Yarn Store and Newsagent.
You can also purchase the magazine direct from Yarn's publishing group or via pocketmags.com on your Tablet or computer.
Inside the magazine you'll also find an article I've written about the Circular Yokes and their enduring appeal as well as a profile piece. Yep, there's lots of me in this magazine! And to top all that off, my pattern does indeed grace the front cover (which is very awesome, don't you think!)
Designing knitwear sounds like a pretty ace profession for most knitters, and yes, it is for sure. But when your knitting time is based around knitting samples; the conscious and continual process of critically evaluating what is coming off your needles and constantly assessing and questioning whether or not it is meeting your expectations and how it can be improved; the concept of knitting as the new yoga becomes a little bit of a stretch of the imagination. Knitting with a constant eye focused on scrutinising every stitch, is in no way meditative. With looming deadlines, it's even questionable whether it is a relaxing process.
In preparation for the release of the milo bambino pattern I churned out sample after sample, in a mad whirlwind of knitting; seven wee milo bambinos by the time I'd finished. All the time conscious of the aim of getting the pattern released before mid May. I failed my self-imposed deadline, and that in itself gives a designer further opportunity to beat themselves up.
The long shot of it is that knitting under these constraints does not probably yield the same positive relaxed frame of mind that the average knitter experiences when they knit something from a pattern. You know all those studies that tell us how the gentle art of knitting is so good for us? I'm not sure those benefits apply to designers.
I hear knitwear designers say quite often that they don't have the time to knit other people's patterns. This is such a shame as there's so much to learn from others. Designing is a continual learning process, you can never know enough or even everything. Knitting other people's patterns gives a designer the opportunity to learn new techniques, new construction methods or even question and validate your own approach to your design process; which in itself is an extremely valuable experience.
Every year I try to knit at least one thing from another designer's patterns; I seriously learn so much about myself as a designer in doing so. It also gives me the opportunity to experience the meditative and relaxing process of knitting in the same manner as the average knitter does; or at least that's my theory.
Come the end of May and the culmination of my milo bambino marathon, it was time for a mindless meditative knit of someone else's patten.
I chose Lila by Carrie Bostick Hoge. I've wanted to knit this pattern since it was released, it has a lovely shape. I've seen some really lovely examples of this pattern knit up both online and in real life, and I think the recent Lila KAL that was all over Instagram was the thing that pushed me over the line in my choice.
Lila was also the name of my beloved grandmother, a quirky and eccentric character who we all loved dearly, even if she couldn't knit. The two memories that stick in my mind about my fabulous grandmother is that she always wore a hat and she rode a tricycle; a grown up adult-sized tricycle. She was blunt, often unintentionally funny, had exquisite taste in most things, and made the most amazing shortbread you have ever tasted. It must have made my grandfather homesick for Scotland and his wee Isle of Arran every time she made it.
As I'm a bit of a fan of the top-down knit and having read Felicia's from The Craft Session's comments about the fit around shoulders with regards to her Lila and the size she chose, I decided to tackle the more recently released Lila Top Down pattern.
I'll let it be known straight up that at the end of this knitting process, I ended up with two jumpers. How this came about is very much part of this story of the art of meditative knitting.
I decided to knit my Lila from stash, because quite frankly there's plenty to chose from there. I settled on this grey and white variegated yarn dyed on a Ton of Wool Cormo aran base, mainly because I've been playing around with swatches of the stuff and had knit a beanie, and honestly just wanted more of the experience of the stuff being on my needles, it is so nice to knit with. I knew that the tension in the pattern was going to be too tight for this yarn, so I swatched and decided to knit it at a tension of 18 stitches. My calculations told me that if I knit the 32¾" size at this tension I'd end up with a 34½" chest, which with that bit of positive ease would be perfect.
So off I went, diligently knitting away alternating skeins and pretty much enjoying the whole process of the mindless knit. Bliss. I knit the whole body minus a bit of length, worked the short rows a la Sunday Rows style, and cast off. I knit the neck band. And then knit half a sleeve. At this stage it became very evident that I wasn't going to have enough yarn to finish the garment as per the pattern, and you know, I pretty much knew this from the start and was prepared to have a battle with the yardage chicken. While I pondered my approach, I decided to try my jumper on.
Once the garment was on my body, the overly-critical designer part of my brain automatically kicked in. There were two things that immediately caught my eye.
The first was the width around the upper arm. Now bear in mind, that I did mod the pattern's tension so this may in no way be a reflection of the pattern. The width was that bit too wide and as result puckered out and created a lumpy looking bit when my arms are down.
The second was the short row shaping. My Sunday short rows were beautiful and neat and created a lovely seamless finish to the shaping. But, and this is a big but, the placement of the short rows creates extra room around the hips. If you think about the way short rows are used to create extra room in the bust area, it's a similar concept here. Unfortunately, this extra pocket of room sat right on my hips, much where your muffin top might be if your jeans are a bit too tight. Yeah.
This puzzled me. I'd seen so many Lila's knit but never noticed this before, so I scanned back through pages and pages of projects on Ravelry. When I looked back through the Top Down images on both Ravelry and Instagram, I found that this was indeed something fundamental to the pattern, and I saw those little saddlebags on a number of jumpers. And then it dawned on me, the placement of the short rows was quite different in these two patterns; in the Lila pattern knit from the bottom up they're worked along the thick hemband but in the top down version, they create a line that runs into the top of the hemband in the middle of the front, so they fall very much in the stocking stitch section of the front sides. The following image probably best shows this. It doesn't really show the muffin top effect, that was really only obvious when I put it on.
At this stage, I also had the niggling worry that I really should knit this yarn at a looser tension. So much for my meditative knitting. My response was to do what any sane knitter would do; curse and throw this bad boy in the corner.
And so I decided to cast on and try again, putting into practise all the things I'd learnt from my first attempt.
This time I chose some Quince and Co Lark in River, a yarn I'd actually bought for Toby. I had eight skeins of 50g so I knew yardage was not going to be an issue.
I loved knitting my second Lila so much and I love love love the finished garment. Already, it is high rotation and is filling a much needed gap in my handmade wardrobe. I have only ever knit myself a couple of actual jumpers over the years, none of those are frequently worn. Some I don't even know where they are!
I worked a number of modifications to get this one to resemble to bottom up one more accurately and also to suit my personal preferences.
Tension: I wanted to give this jumper some drape so that that side shaping and short rows sat nicely, so again I knit this at a tension of 18 stitches. This worked well as the Lark is very much a 10ply yarn and this looser tension gives a lovely drape to the fabric. It does intensify any pilling, but I can live with that.
Sleeve width: To make the sleeves a bit narrower around the upper arm, I worked the sleeves as more of a compound raglan. This simply means that I did not increase in the sleeves on every round where I increased for the body. I left out two sets of sleeve increases in the shoulder area which resulted in four fewer stitches in the sleeves, almost an inch less width.
I do wonder that part of the puckering may be due to the overall back width of this jumper around my shoulders, as even with an inch less there is still some bagging evident. The neck does sit quite wide, which I do like; but my shoulders are narrow and these two may not be a perfect match in a raglan for me.
Side shaping: As I was using a different tension, (and I can't for the life of me find where I noted down my row tension) I worked the side shaping every 21 rounds instead of every 26. I still worked the same number of increases.
Short row shaping: This is where the most significant mod occurred. I wanted my short row shaping to sit along the hemband. This is how I achieved it.
I worked my first short row around to where the second last short row is worked in the pattern, that's in the front section of the garment. I turned and worked around to the same place on the other side of the front. From there I worked backwards towards the side seam as I worked my short rows. This meant that none of the short row gaps were resolved until the last round. For some knitters this can be problematic as when working short rows in the round, resolving the short rows that were worked on the purl side neatly are a bit trickier.
When I used to knit soakers and longies I perfected a technique that I used with wrap and turn short rows (a great solution for this can be found in Shannon Passmore's Ultimate Longies pattern), but I rarely use wrap and turn short rows now.
For both the Lilas I knit, I've experimented with different short row techniques that I haven't used a lot or before. As I mentioned, I love to experiment with the new to me techniques at other peple's patterns bring with them. Both the following links and tutorials give some good information on resolving those purl side worked short rows on the knit side.
For Japanese Short Rows or Sunday Short Rows, this tutorial and the following Notes from Ysolda are priceless.
For Yarn Over Short Rows, this Coco Knits blog post is pure gold.
Of the two, I think I preferred the Japanese/Sunday approach, it achieved a neater result. This blog post here uses a backward yarn over when working the yarn over short rows, which I suspect may be more effective in tightening that gap, simply because the backward yarn over creates a shorter loop; so this may be the next approach for me to try.
Additionally, I worked one less short row; hence why my short row shaping actually began from the second last short row turn, and I worked a turn every four stitches instead of three.
I'm so much happier with the results of this shaping than with the original.
Underarms: I used the same technique under the arms I always use. When separating, work a kfab at each edge of the body stitches and cast on two less stitches under the arms. When picking up stitches under the arm, pick up two additional stitches and reduce them down using a ssk and a k2tog in the first two rounds.
You can find more information on this technique in my blog post here.
Length: Carrie mentions in a blog post here the difference in the lengths between Lila and Lila Top Down. The length I worked is pretty much halfway between these two. Perfect for me.
Arm shaping: The beauty of creating a garment purely to fit rather than following a pattern or as a sample for a pattern is that you can create perfect shaping. Such shaping is not always that easy to write instructions for. Designers will tell you this is the a common hurdle in pattern writing; finding the balance between ease of instructions and the reality of what you're trying to achieve.
In shaping the arms I ignored the pattern instructions completely. Instead I worked the arm decreasing to mirror the shape of my arm. Makes sense doesn't it, but consider how often this doesn't actually happen in patterns . Honestly, it would be far more complex to write a whole graded pattern this way.
To do so: After knitting straight for two inches, I worked a series of decreases in the top half of the arm between the underarm and just above the elbow, decreasing every 10 rounds. Then, in the next section where the arm itself has little shaping until the top part of the forearm, I knit straight. I worked some additional shaping in the final forearm section. My arms look a little less fitted than some I've seen in photos but that is exactly what I was aiming for. This method seriously creates a fabulously shaped arm. I strongly suggest you study your arm stretched out in front of you and consider how it is shaped, where are the curves and where it is straight. Your arms may well have quite a different shape to mine. Use your arm as your guide to creating your sleeve shaping and I suspect you will be far happier with the result.
Having finished my Quince and Co Lila and being happy with the results, I went to rip out my Ton of Wool Lila. But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't face the ripping and re-knitting. I do enough of that in my sample knitting; way too much sometimes. I didn't want to have to rip for a meditative knit. I looked at my jumper, I just had a sleeve to go. One sleeve. I decided to just finish the thing, even if I only wore it as a camping jumper, it would still be an incredibly useful acquisition to my wardrobe. And it would mean, I wouldn't have to rip.
One thing though. I could not live with that muffin top saddle bag shaping so I ripped those. I decided to work different short row shaping the second time around just for the sheer fun of it.
MODIFICATIONS PART TWO:
Length: I knit this Lila to about the length mentioned in the Top Down pattern itself before the short row shaping, maybe a bit longer judging by the final comparison photos in this post. I worked an additional side increase to give the body a bit more ease In hindsight this was not really necessary.
Short Row Shaping: I worked my short rows in the same manner as mentioned above but I worked the first turn just eight stitches past the side marker and continued back from there, working one at four stitches, one at the side markers and one four stitches before the side marker.
Hem and Cuffs: Worked in twisted rib, six rounds in the hem and ten in the cuffs.
Sleeve length: Yardage chicken dictated three quarter length sleeves, which really are just perfect. I'm a sleeve pusher-upper, so this length is really ideal.
This will certainly not be just a camping jumper, it may indeed become a bit of a favourite. And you know what? While I'm wearing it, I really can't see the bits around the upper arm that I'm not happy with. It keeps me warm, it's incredibly cosy, and that makes me very very happy.
I took the following photo just so you could really clearly see the differences between the two jumpers I made.
The different yarns and the resulting different fabrics coupled with the series of different mods really do make for two quite distinctly different looking jumpers. I've worn each of them already with both jeans as well as skirts/dresses. Both are fabulous and will be staples this winter in my cupboard. The three quarter length sleeves are definitely more practical for every day life.
What I continue to learn about myself from knitting other people's patterns is just how hard it really is to turn off that critical instinct and just go with the knitting process. I'm going to work on this a little more as there is so much to be gained from a mindless meditative knit. This has been such a fun and interesting process, and I'm quietly considering what will be my next pattern to knit.
Here's an interesting bit of information.
The pattern that I get the most email queries about is one that isn't even my own. Yes, at least once or twice a fortnight I receive an email requesting the details of it. How to knit it? Where does the pattern come from? And even asking for advice on yarns to choose for it. At the moment this seems to have escalated and it seems more like a couple of emails a week.
Now this doesn't bother me as really it's lovely to get an email from someone telling you they love something you've made and would like to make something similar. It's the highest of high crafty praise. It did, however, get me thinking about why it happens so often and why that particular knit.
And so I looked back through my blog and my Ravelry projects. And while, I've shared photos and some details I've not really written a comprehensive blog post on it. Truth be told, I think theres quite a few projects I've not blogged. Do you think that the altering sphere of social media has changed blogs and the way we use them? I suspect the instant appeal of Instagram has spelled the death knoll for some blogs. I do think though, that blogs do still have so much to offer. Take this project as an example, the photos that I shared here and on Instagram (and are probably on Pinterest too) don't provide all the necessary details. More is obviously needed, otherwise I wouldn't get so many emails. The pretty just isn't enough. That's been an interesting learning experience for me, and a reminder to share the crafting journey more on my blog; as I once did.
So you want some more details about this blanket?
I think the fact that, when I googled 'log cabin knitted blanket' to look for some pattern options, my previous post about knitted blankets came up; does tell me something. There's not even any information about log cabin blankets in that post; just a photo of this very blanket!
Let's see if this post can answer some if not all of those questions.
The pattern I used came from a book called Mason-Dixon Knitting and it was How to Log Cabin. From memory, this was more of an instructional rather than a pattern but it does walk you through the fundamentals of the process. If you're after a more thorough pattern, the same book contains the pattern Joseph's Blankie of Many Colours.
To be honest, it has been so many years since I knit this blanket and I can't remember if I followed their instructions or varied from it a bit. Probably the latter, knowing me, and unfortunately, I don't have access to the book as it was a library loan.
My initial rectangle looks to be about 20 stitches and 48 rows.
If you can't get hold of this book or want something now, or more specific, a quick search on Ravelry yields a number of results, like this one (which is based on the same pattern I used) or this one (which comes with lots of video support).
PICKING UP STITCHES
There is quite a lot of picking up stitches in the Log Cabin. I like picking up stitches. I also like grafting and knitting sleeves, which perhaps says a lot about me as a knitter. Anyway, picking up stitches. The basic rule I followed when picking up stitches for the next colour blocks, is to pick up one stitch for every stitch (where applicable) and one stitch for every garter ridge.
When working a blanket like this I DO NOT pick up and knit stitches as I would traditionally do, say if I was knitting a neckline (gosh, they're fun to knit too!). Instead of working each new stitch individually, you will get a much better finish if you pick up ALL the stitches at once and then work them.
Pick them up by sliding your needle in along and through the edge bump on each garter ridge from left to right. There are far clearer instructions in my Memory Blanket pattern as to how to do this. Alternatively, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee has a cracker of a tutorial on her blog.
The yarn that I knit my blanket in is WOOLGanic Head, Hands and Heart. Unfortunately, it is discontinued. It is also not an Aran weight yarn as it is listed on Ravelry, it is around a 16ply. Quite a significant difference really. Just to give you some context, I knit this yarn on a 8mm/US11 size needles.
This yarn is a glorious soft organic merino. It is incredibly beautiful but be warned that if you do create a blanket using the combination of gorgeous super soft merino and garter stitch, it will pill like the clappers. That's fine if you're ok with pilling or own a nifty gadget to get rid of those pills with a minimum of fuss. If that doesn't float your boat, I suggest looking for an alternative yarn.
So what are some good alternatives?
I have to be honest and say I'm not that familiar with the market for Super Bulky yarn. I live in Australia. Worsted weight and aran is really about as thick as I'm ever going to need a jumper in my climate, and even delving into yarns that thick is a bit of a rarity for me. Ask me about 8ply/dk weight and I'm your girl, I'll know all the good answers, but anything thicker and I'm a bit lost.
Remember, this is quite a thick blanket. If you're looking for a similarly thick yarn maybe something there is something in this Ravelry search that you will be familiar with.
While not quite as thick, Nundle Woolen Mills have a 12 ply that looks like it would be quite nice to work with.
Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 10ply would make a good machine washable alternative, and they have a good array of colours. You could even double the 8ply to give you around a 18-20ply for a lovely chunky finish.
The good old workhorse Cascade 220 would also work really well.
I could point you in the direction of some super stunning organic and ethical merino 8ply yarns that this blanket would be totally die worthy in, but I don't want to break your bank account, so let's just ignore all my favourite yarns for now.
I knit my blanket in seven colours, basically the colours of the rainbow but with the inclusion of a pink. I started with the pink as my central rectangle and worked through the spectrum as I added each additional rectangle. If I knit this blanket again, I'm not sure I would follow the same idea, although I haven't really pondered what I would do instead. Although having said that, I do like how working it this way didn't give it that deliberate rainbow look, I like how the colours work and compliment each other as you look inwards rather than presenting the rainbow.
The order of my colours went:
Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red.
If I was to work this with something like the Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury to achieve a similar result, the colours I would use would be: Lotus, African Violet, Bermuda, Leaf, Sunflower, Tangerine and Sunrise. (Just a note: I don't think the colours are very true on the BWM website, so if in doubt request a colour shade card from them).
My blanket is now quite big, around about a queen bed size. It still fits nicely on my daughter's single bed with some overlay.
Blanket knitting is really meditative and I love knitted blankets so much. They're a great relax and no-brainer knit for me. I waxed lyrically about the beauty of knitted blankets in my previous blanket post, so I won't do it again here, but I am thinking that my next blanket may just be another log cabin, this time made with 8ply leftovers. Yes, I have enough of those each year to knit a multitude of blankets!
P.S. i haven't updated for awhile but my Memory Blanket which I'm knitting from my 8ply leftovers to infuse it with childhood memories has past the 200 square mark!
Let me know if there's anything I haven't covered and I'll do my best to add my thoughts in later.
Before June rolls on too much, I thought I'd chat a little bit about Me Made May, perhaps a little bit on the late side if you've not heard of this and think this might be something for you.
For those who are unaware, Me Made May is the brainchild of Zoe from the blog So Zo... What Do you Know?. The aim is to give your handmade wardrobe some love in the month of May and wear all the things you've made. It's not competitive. It's not about who's made the most or used the prettiest fabric. You can share your photos on social media as many of us did, which has been a really fulfilling process and really helped keep me on track. I posted my almost daily photos over on Instagram, so if you're interested to see some of my handmade gear you can find me there as tikkiknits.
Most of those who participated made a pledge. Mine was simply to try to wear something handmade every day. I started a bit later than the first of May and I did miss the last couple of days of the month, but apart from that, yes, I did wear handmade every day! Yay!
Even more exciting, I made myself a new jumper in May. Actually, I made myself one and three-quarters of a jumper, but that's another story for another day. Did I sew however? No, unfortunately I did not :(
The most valuable thing I learnt from participating was that I do tend to make warmer weather garments; when I sew, it's summer dresses. When I knit, it's always cardigans and quite often short or three-quarter sleeves. I found there was a massive lack of real winter gear in my handmade wardrobe. Now that does make some sense as winter is pretty mild in the part of Australia where I live and our house is situated to make the full advantage of the winter solar warmth. Right now, I'm sitting at my dining room table in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt with the sliding glass doors open. That's pretty standard fare for most of our winter. BUT it does get quite cold sometimes, although admittedly not by most cold country's standard - yesterday was a really cold day for us, the maximum was 12 degrees celsius) and I do spend a lot of time outdoors, so my lack of a sensible winter woollie jumper was a bit surprising.
May itself is Autumn here so for much of my summer sewn wardrobe, it simply didn't get an airing. My favourite sewn shortie overalls that I made almost twenty years ago were a no show, as were a couple of dresses that are sleeveless.
Having said this, most of what I do make can be adapted and made to work for the cooler weather with a bit of layering, and that's certainly what I do. I am however, going to be more conscious when I sew of creating garments that will work all year round.
My most worn woollie garment is definitely the cardie. I discovered I tend to wear a different type of cardie depending on my outfit. For jeans, I prefer an open cardie, for dresses; something with a crew neck and buttoned. As we're coming into Winter and I seem to be having a love affair with my recently patched (and about to receive more patching) favourite jeans, I'm really craving a couple more big snuggly cardies and open cardies. Interesting. I suspect that in three months time when we see the first burst of Spring, I'll be casting on dress cardies again with crew necks and buttons, probably circular yokes as well!
I loved Me Made May so much, and the encouragement it gave me to strive to make use of my handmade wardrobe, that I'm going to try and continue it, and perhaps post regular photos. Maybe even try a #MeMadeMonday approach. Who would be up for that?
Me Made May has also given me the impetus to sew some more. I've been saying all year that I'm going to make Friday my sewing day, and spend the afternoon sewing. I've done it a couple of times but nowhere near as much as I'd like. The social media sharing aspect was fabulous as I came across some new to me patterns, and others that I'd always liked and had tucked away in the back of my mind. Even seeing garments made up in different fabrics and with different mods from the original patterns, gave me a whole new world of ideas and inspiration.
Did you participate in Me Made May?
What did you learn about your making habits?
Will you join me for a semi-regular #MeMadeMonday on Instagram?
This wee new pattern is one that has sat with me for quite a while since a conversation with a lovely knitter almost a year ago. She told me she wished some of my designs went down to premmie size. She talked about how tough it is having a tiny wee bub in a special care nursery and the need, as a knitter, to dress that baby of yours in something handmade; something that you've poured your love and heart into. The problem, however, she said is that many knitting patterns for teeny bubs lack a bit.
This is a conversation that I've had a number of times with different knitters and the need for smaller size baby clothes that have a bit of style and are easy to knit seems to be a real one. But how to go about tackling this need? I had a couple of ideas bouncing around in my brain about making a wee ebook with some premmie versions of some of my popular patterns. I thought about the teeny size of these babies. Well, I tried to imagine as best I could; my last baby didn't even look like a newborn when he was born. And then, earlier this year another knitter made a request for a 4ply/fingering baby dress pattern (which I happen to have in the works); and it dawned on me. Teeny babies need some teeny yarn. Yes you can dress these babies in 8ply/dk weight yarn but I'll be honest; my babies were mostly dressed in 4ply/fingering as newborns, except for their longies.
These teeny babies needed 4ply/fingering.
I've had a lot of fun knitting up all these wee milo bambinos. The process of rummaging through my least-knit 4ply stash has been an interesting one, and I've found some yarns I'd forgotten I owned. In knitting the samples I tried to capture a range of colours from the traditional to the more unconventional. The 4ply really gives the milo a different feel. Whereas, the original milo has rustic sort-of almost rugged charm to it; it looks like a real rib and belly warmer; this milo bambino is far more delicate and almost fragile. The size of the smallest size possibly reinforces that notion. When I hold it in my hands it seems so ridiculously tiny it is hard to imagine a baby that small.
milo bambino has been completely regraded for the smaller tension required to knit the 4ply weight yarn.
The size range covers 12" to 19"/30.5cm to 48cm chest which caters for a premmie of about 34 weeks gestation right up until about one year, most likely a bit older. It has five new cables included. I maintained the heart cable that I engineered for the milo pattern as it has a special significance for me.
The four smallest sizes have the option of a button shoulder to cater for hospital tubings.
Cables have both charts and written instructions.
After knitting all these teeny baby vests I am really feeling the love for 4ply and once I wind my giant hank of Cormo 4ply, I think there's a new cardie in the works for me. I might also ponder creating some smaller versions of a couple of other of my patterns in 4ply, but as you well know, there is so much to knit already and so little time!
I have five copies of milo bambino to give away.
To enter all you need to do is leave me the name of your favourite 4ply/fingering yarn (I promise I'm not shopping for more yarn!)
I'll draw the winners randomly on Friday evening.
P.S. Just in case you haven't heard, Milo May has been extended by two weeks and will now end on Saturday June 13th 2015.
I am going to start this post by saying that most classic of adult comments, "How the heck is it May already? I swear we only just started the year!"
Well, yes people, it is May, a good portion though it in fact. May for my household has involved a weekly dental visit for at least someone; most of them have been mine but we start off May with the wee Milo Boy having to have dental treatment under a general anaesthetic. All rather frustrating as we did everything to avoid this; he's the only six year I know that flosses, for goodness sake. It just seems we have a genetic disposition; and a very familiar relationship with our dentists!
Anyway, enough of the dental woes, let's talk about something far more exciting!
What follows is a pretty impressive list of all the lovely businesses and people in our community who have donated some fabulous prizes for Milo May. Thanks one and all, your support is fabulous and very much appreciated. Dear readers, please visit the pages of these lovely businesses, like their Facebook pages (as an individual, not a business ~ they don't count towards total likes) and generally share the love around.
Below I'm listing all the lovely businesses, including their logo and a description of their prize along with the places you can find them on the internet. Make sure you follow me on Facebook as each day I will be including some gorgeous photos of the prizes up for grabs.
Adagio Alpaca Mills
Aunty Nat's Knits
Forest Hill Hand Dyed Yarn
Gin and Tonic Yarns
Koru Designs Aotearoa
Let Them Knit
Little Brown Owl
Little Plum Yarn
Mara is a lovely member of our knitting community who has very kindly donated a set of her gorgeous stitch markers. Thank you Mara!
Red Riding Hood Yarns
The Barbarian Horde
The Hill in the Valley
Tomuc Valley Yarns
Wattle Tree Dolls
I want to tease out a little more this concept of ethical consumerism and what it means for those of us that are crafters, but before I do I want to share with you a little tale.
This tale involves a wee confession. I'm ashamed to admit that when it comes to clothes I do suffer from a bit of brand snobbery. My snobbery is directed at big chain clothes outlets like Target, K-Mart and (shudder) Big W. While I will totally admit to shopping in at least one of these stores occasionally (Tarjay is the only store that stocks kids clothes in my big girls' size in our town apart from the op shops) I try to avoid them as much as possible. Why? Honestly, I do worry about how they manage to produce such cheap clothes. "How can that be possible without someone along the chain of production being ripped off, underpaid or even in slave conditions?" I ask myself. Seriously, I don't want my kids wearing clothes that were made under slave conditions where the cotton was harvested by kids their own ages. So when I do shop there, I feel a huge sense of consumer guilt in relation to the cheap prices and my imagination runs wild.
This is a tale of where my snobbery comes undone and bites me on the bum.
On our recent holiday to South Australia, Lily ran out of clothes. Someone hadn't quite packed enough warm gear. So after trying the op shops to no avail we popped into Target to pick up a few pieces. As I walked in the door I saw an almost identical pair of pants/trousers to the ones I was at that moment. This pair were my current favourite and I'd recently purchased them at a local boutique store. The pants in Target were cheap, dirt cheap; under $20. My pair was about $100. Feeling a little ripped off, I consoled myself by thinking about what seemed to me the obvious production chain.
And then last week, the Australian Ethical Fashion Report was released. I read it. In fact, I read the whole report, rather than just the condensed report card. And guess what? Target got a B- on the report but the company who made my pants, F. Crap. Sure, they got an F because they didn't respond, but that in itself is pretty telling. Three different forms of contact; phone call, email and written letter, and no response? Seriously, what does that suggest? And as for Target? They actually include a whole heap of information in their website about their increased endeavours to source ethically.
The lesson learn from this report is that the price of the garment is absolutely no reflection of the ethics of a company. And you know, I know this but... there's still that niggling question in the back of my mind. And as the report shows, it's really only a handful of Australians, if that, who DO actually pay a living wage. This is quite different to the minimum wage of a country, this is the wage which makes it possible to survive. Regardless, I shall work hard to break my prejudice down further, as some of the worst performing companies are certainly those who charge the most!
In the wake of all this, it's Fashion Revolution Day today. A day when we're invited to show our labels and challenge the brands who made our clothes with the question "who made my clothes?" The hope is that this world-wide movement will encourage clothing brands to be more responsible for the people and the environment that their business exploits.
As crafters, it's easy to be snug and say, "I'm ok. I made my clothes" and give ourselves a tick. But how much do we know about the process and the journey of the raw materials that make up our supplies. Sure we know that that we made our clothes but do you know where your knitting needles, your sewing machine, your crochet hooks, and even your yarn and fabric were produced? What about the raw materials that make up those supplies; the cotton, the wool, the nickel, the steel?
One of the startling things that came out of the Ethical Fashion Report, was that the over-whelming majority of brands DID NOT know the source of their cotton. That means they didn't know the conditions it was grown in. They didn't know the conditions of those workers; whether they were underpaid, child workers or even slaves. There are more slaves in the world (approximately 30 million) than there are Australians, and quite a few of these slaves are FORCED to work in such industries. I don't know about you but I find it unfathomable that a situation like that can still exist.
These questions ring true for fabric and yarn manufacturers. In terms of yarn, there is a great deal of yarn that is processed in China. Under what conditions? Are these workers well paid? Are environmental concerns considered in the scouring (a very water intensive part of the production) and yarn dyeing process? What chemicals are used? How safe are these? This is particularly relevant to superwash yarns, where a virtual cocktail of nasty stuff is used for the convenience of being able to throw something in the washing machine. I honestly don't know what the answers are or even where to start asking, but these are questions that I would like to know the answer to. I think these are the questions that we NEED to be asking of our industry's yarn producers.
I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Are these concerns something you've thought about? How do you feel about this topic? Does it affect your buying habits?
Keep in touch
Who am I?
Craftin' Mummy about the house to the always gorgeous and very silly Miss Lily Rainbow and very snuggly and smiley Toby Milo, wife of the adventurous Andy, underwater man extraordinaire.
Print Patterns for LYS available from:
Yarnies I love: