Journey to the Knitted Hat

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On the way to Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, WA

Knitting and I met in my child’s parent and tot class three years ago. The parents made the needles and we wound a small ball of cotton yarn. The needles were huge but smooth from sanding; it was a clunky and awkward start. The “washcloth” has since been unwound and used as play yarn and one needle broke while being a drum stick.

That was Spring.

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Working on the ribbing of my Barley Hat outside.

I moved on to making a ribbed scarf for my son and that took about a year to complete. I used the handy I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting to teach myself to cast on,  purl and knit. Starting with ribbing was challenging but I finished it. It is around big brown teddy bear’s neck.

That was Fall.

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First hat fitting

From the scarf, I decided to try knitting a cowl. The first one turned into a mini shawl (cast on too many stitches and wasn’t using a pattern) and the second one turned out alright. Then I made one for my son (successful and he still wears it) and attempted to make one for my younger son but bound off the edge too tight and made it into a hat. Kind of two steps forwards, one step back and while I liked knitting, I wasn’t quite sold on it yet.

That was Winter.

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Blocking in the bathroom

This past February, I was yearning for a creative project to keep my hands busy; it’s so helpful in the hours of caring for children. Sewing was great but not portable.  Crochet and hand sewing were too repetitive on my hands. Knitting was really perfect and so I pressed on. Another scarf/cowl/hat was not needed and truthfully, I really wanted a sweater. Somehow I remembered a post from Soulemama about the Annabel Cardigan and thought, why not? Inviting a dear friend to knit along with me, together we tackled our first knitted sweater. Along the way we got some wonderful help from Patricia at The Tea Cozy Yarn Shop and we were done by July. Not bad for a first sweater knit in the middle of busy family lives.

That was Spring and Summer.

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Drying; the hat hot air balloon.

But I realized by jumping to a sweater, I hadn’t learned some other basic techniques, especially being mostly self-taught, so I took a step back, and took a class at the amazing Tolt Yarn and Wool Shop to learn how to knit a hat, use double pointed needles and pick up a few other tips and tricks. My first hat, the Barely Hat, was a fun, quick knit. I had no idea! Hats really should be the first project for a new knitter. The details are on Ravelry.

In the last few months, through the Wooful Podcasts, many countless websites and Instagram feeds, and most importantly a serendipitous re-connection with an old friend who is a knitting wizard, my world has opened to this fabulous fiber community. There is so much to learn; it’s terribly exciting. It’s given outlet to my desire for creative expression and handwork while meeting the demands of my daily life.

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The finished hat

It took a while but the knitting bug has bit hard; I’m officially hooked. My trusty Fringe Supply Co. Field Bag filled with a project or two comes with me wherever I go.

Stories of clothes

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LOVED is the theme this week for Slow Fashion October:

as in your proudest accomplishment / most loved item / most frequently worn item / thing you saved up for / investment pieces / thing you worked a long time on / oldest thing that’s still in rotation.
– Karen Templer, Fringe Association

Many of my clothes hold stories, moments in time. The dress, above, I wore the day I met my husband, 15 years ago.  I picked it up at a thrift store because at the time I was a fresh theatre college graduate and didn’t have much disposable income. It was a fun dress to wear to a party; a dress in which salsa dancing could happen. It made an appearance at my sister’s 8th grade graduation and a host of other events until it was worn out. But it has stayed in the closet along side my treasured wedding dress.

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Many of my clothes also serve as a bookmark, holding the places I’ve traveled around the world. This top, purchased in India when I attended the wedding of a dear friend, brings to the surface a trip of a lifetime, taking me back to the intertwined chaos and beauty of that country. It was worn a lot upon returning home but it hasn’t been it in rotation for a while. It’s not an easy top for a nursing mom.

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I’m drawn to bright colors, although there is a lot of black on the hangers and in the drawers. Light, cotton pieces with embroidery often find their way into my closet.  Someday, I intend to make some of my own, inspired by the beautiful embroidery I saw while in Central and South America.

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The daily uniform: a pair of jeans and my fleece. This tells the story of where I am right now: wearing clothes that hold up and can be thrown on day after day but don’t have a ton of style. These jeans are also one of what I consider to be investment pieces in my wardrobe although they were a gift. They were my first pair of quality jeans and will always bring me back to the time around my wedding and the generosity of others. Buying investment pieces of clothing is not a habit; it’s something hard to justify. It’s a fear, almost, to have those items in my closet.  Perhaps I’ll just look at them on the hanger instead of wearing them, too timid to touch, saving them for special occasions and then not liking them. It’s ironic though, because I imagine less money would be spent and there would be a deeper love of fewer, high-quality clothes.

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And here is my proudest accomplishment, my first knitted sweater, Annabel Cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge. It took 6 months to knit, with many mistakes that I ripped out only to begin again. The buttons came from a sweet yarn shop on a trip this past summer, imbuing it with more story and life. It was a huge, rewarding, learning process; a different kind of investment piece. One of time, money and love that I created; one that I won’t be afraid to use. Isn’t that funny?  I probably wouldn’t wear an expensive knit sweater everyday if I purchased in a store but have no problem when made by my own two hands. The intention is to make clothes to wear, not to have them sit. And although it may turn out to be a monument of learning that I don’t wear, right now it’s pure love and I can’t wait for it to be cold enough to wear most days. It may push the fleece hoodie to the side for a while.

Going through the clothes in the closet revealed that there are many pieces that are indeed, loved, but still not in rotation. They still hang in my closet because I love looking at them, feeling them in my hands and letting my mind wander. I struggle with this: do I hold onto a closet full of clothes that I cherish because of the memories but don’t in fact wear anymore? The simple answer is: probably not.  It’s something to work through and find balance between those memories, actually wearing some of the clothes again and letting go.

There is a sense that my uniform is changing; what’s in my closet is beginning to shift.  Clothes tell the story of where you’ve been, where you’re at and perhaps where you’re headed.

Finding my way

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I was introduced to Karen Templer’s blog Fringe Association and Felicia Semple’s The Craft Sessions this past summer.  I was instantly inspired.  It led me to think about how I approach creativity and what it means to me (and how I haven’t been making much time for it these days). The Stash Less posts not only have made me aware about how I choose projects, but also how much I have already.  And that has begun to bleed over to my wardrobe, books, and other crafts.  I’ve been the type to purchase a book or craft supplies in earnest enthusiasm.  I spend a few days or weeks plotting and planning and even starting but inevitably, life interrupts and it gets put in a pile or basket on the closet shelf. I rarely follow through with a project.  Unfinished dress, and crocheted blanket; alphabet embroidery panel and wedding photo albums.  I did finish knitting a sweater- my first ever- this past July.  That gave me confidence that I can indeed finish and start a project.

I decided to start this blog as a way to carve out time to work on various projects.   To make my creative endeavors more of a priority.  A challenge of sorts: to follow through, explore, learn, make and be brave.

When Karen Templer introduced Slow Fashion October I immediately knew I wanted to participate, excited to join a growing movement inside of myself as well as a greater community.  I instantly posted on Instagram all the projects I wanted to complete.  And then I realized I’m doing the same thing I always do: setting myself up with wonderful and lovely projects, gathering all the supplies along with unrealistic expectations.  I need to choose one or two and go about it slowly.

So I think of this October as the beginning of a long journey.  Finding my way to a wardrobe of known-origins full of handmade items.  Completing a few projects before buying supplies for the next one.  With that in mind, I revise my goals: I will figure out how to finish the dress and continue knitting on my Charlotte Light Cardigan.  It’ll be hard with all the beautiful, amazing possibilities out there to make but the way I’ll participate in Slow Fashion October is to take it slow.