Marled sweater inspiration

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I’m in total agreement that the best prize of a knitalong is the resulting knitwear, however, I was totally floored to win a sweater’s worth of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn as WIP of the Week.

And it’s funny, because when Brooklyn Tweed released the Shelter marled colorways, I was sketching out my Fringe & Friends KAL plans and part of me (ok, most of me) wanted to ditch the Shelter sweater that needed un-doing and re-using to get my hands on those beautiful neutrals.

So I’m still in disbelief that I get to both reuse the existing sweater’s worth of Shelter (a treasured gift to Jenn), and then I’ll get my own sweater’s worth of Shelter gifted to me. Crazy.

But what to knit?

My first thought for a Shelter sweater went to Bronwyn, which totally stole my heart when it was released, but I wonder if the texture would get lost or feel too overwhelming in a marl. I actually already have a marled, cabled sweater — my Ondawa (shown below) is in a very similar colorway to “Caribou” and I love it, so I think another camel marled sweater would be too similar. That leaves me deciding between “Newsprint” in black & white, and “Narwhal” in grey & white.

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I love the contrast of Newsprint and I remembered Jen Beeman’s gorgeous self-designed Stone Lake marled sweater. Less cabled than Bronwyn, but it makes me think Bronwyn could look nice in the Narwhal colorway since it’s lower contrast.

But, while I love knitting within the natural “grey rainbow,” I feel like Newsprint would be a nice treat as a change of pace — something less common in the small farm yarns I usually gravitate toward. In fact, the other sweater quantity of yarn in my stash is a medium-dark grey from a local small farm & mill, purchased with Exeter in mind. Maybe the marl wants to be something simpler, a break from cabling…

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So then I thought about shape and style elements — what shape would best complement my existing sweaters? I have a simple, v-neck pullover that’s a hand-me-down from my dad, a men’s cashmere sweater that shrunk one too many times to fit him. It’s inky black and luxuriously soft, albeit moth-eaten with elbows that look like swiss cheese. I adore it.

Maybe a pullover with a nod to the soft, slouchy shape of this sweater I love? Immediately I thought of Lucinda, whose clever purl-side-out would certainly showcase the marl beautifully. My only hesitation is that Lucinda’s lovely drape and texture seems to come from yarns with a mixed composition, usually with a bit of silk.

Browsing some of the other Madder designs by Carrie Bostick Hoge, I remembered the newly-released Junegrass pullover, showcasing the gorgeous Colorado farm yarn Junegrass by Fancy Tiger Crafts, which includes one of my most favorite garment details: a split side seam.

Which leads me to my current daydream: a black & white marl Junegrass, with a neckline more like Lucinda (perhaps using my top-down customization skills learned in the knitalong), and a sleeve length slightly in between 3/4 and full sleeves (to match the feel of my well-worn and loved black pullover).

 

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Fall style inspiration

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Layers

I know, shocking — fall inspiration & excitement over cool weather layering possibilities. After a hot and humid summer across most parts of the country, I think this is a daydream shared by many. I’m looking forward to the usual suspects in denim, linen, wool, tights, and boots, but perhaps some new proportions this fall & winter. A bit lagenlook, a bit ’90s nostalgia, a bit of exploration and play for a contemporary mix.

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Beanies

Because I really miss wearing hats, and also just generally being wrapped in wool. I just finished knitting the bright red Diode hat (left), which was a seasonally inappropriate summer project but a satisfying travel knit and a terrific shape and fit. Coming out of storage will be my Lilian beanie (middle) and my Jul hat (right) which to be honest needs to be re-knit at a smaller gauge because I never swatched and it has grown a lot in size. For me, hand knit accessories are a great way to top off (pun intended!) a neutral outfit and wardrobe with bright colors, and it’s also much easier and less resource-intensive to dye a small item a bright hue than to tackle, say, a vibrant oversized sweater (for Diode I used madder extract, for Jul I used fresh coreopsis flowers).

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Warm neutrals

My warm weather color palette skews more toward cool colors, lightwashed indigo and white. For fall, I’m looking forward to drifting back to neutrals and a bit of warmth: grays, darker blues and black, rich browns, and apparently, I’m very drawn to that peachy nude (in inspiration images 1, 2, and 5 above). At first I thought I have nothing in that color in my stash or closet, but then I remembered the bag of avocado pits in my freezer… maybe a cool weather dye project will make that happen. (My previous avocado pit and iron dye experiments shown above).

p.s. I haven’t written off the end of summer — in real life, where it’s perfect bike riding weather, or in terms of writing here — and still plan to post about my best woman dress and reflect on my summer capsule in the coming weeks.

Sweater for love, redux: Fringe & Friends KAL 2016

alternate title: when you hardly love what you knit for someone you love

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It was a disappointment, the Sawyer sweater. Despite 2 gauge swatches, measurements of both body and well-fitting garments, blocking with care, and seaming – ugh, the seaming (shoulders abutting set-in sleeves and a two-piece placket meeting a ribbed collar), it was such a flop.

It was like the sweater embodiment of a shrug.

Not for lack of effort, on my part (did you read about the seaming? And my perseverance?), and maybe even moreso on hers. She lit up when I snipped off the final yarn tail, eagerly tried on the sweater that was promised many months before, and insisted that it was great – cozy, even.

But all I could see were the shoulders sagging off, the sleeves way too wide and long, the whole thing just looking like the wilting leaves of my favorite plant when I forget to water it, and then a flicker of that self-critical disappointment when garment and body proportions don’t quite match. So of course I wanted to bring it back to life. Just take in the shoulders a bit here, re-knit the sleeves so they stop right there, maybe block it into submission.

The thing is, I just didn’t want to. When I thought about re-knitting even one sleeve and suturing it back into the shoulder to cover up the ill-fitting armhole, felt wilted, shrugging, unwilling.

Naturally I knit a few smaller things from my queue for myself while I thought about how to rectify the sweater situation. I want to be able to share the joy and love that I feel when making and wearing my own handmade clothes with those I love. I want my partner to love the sweater not only because I made it for her but because she loves the way it feels, the way it keeps her warm, the way it fits her body and her style. And of course, I want to love the sweater every time she wears it.

Is that such a tall order?

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(maybe.)

(yes, probably; then again, have you heard about how clothes have shape-shifting, mind-bending emotional powers? I digress.)

But possibly the most frustrating, wilt-inducing thing about sweater v. 1 is that I know I can get so much closer. I really think it could only go up from here. I think if I were sewing I could measure the muslin to determine a more precise fit, re-cut the shoulder line, take a few notes, rip out a seam, and get it into much more lovable shape.

And here’s where it hit me: the top-down sweater. These same things, in addition to a totally clean slate and creative freedom, can be achieved with a top-down raglan sleeve sweater. Karen Templer has been singing the praises of this method since I started following her blog, Fringe Association, but I still didn’t really believe it, or possibly I just didn’t comprehend the process.

When I read the Fringe & Friends KAL 2016 prompt – an invitation, really – I thought too bad everything in my stash is already earmarked for other sweaters. (once again, mostly oblivious to the promises I’ve made to make things for others. oops.) But then, while having fun drawing out some sewing projects, I was thinking about how empowering self-drafting is — so satisfying to get the fit you want, without any labels telling you where your size ranks, whether you have a full this or a sway that.

And I swear, from my yarn basket on top of the cabinet in the corner of my sewing “studio,” the half-unraveled Sawyer sweater beamed out some sort of morse code: top. down. raglan.

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So here I go again, sweater of love for my love, v. 2, with all the things we want and none of what we don’t: knit from the top down, with a crew neck and henley placket, raglan sleeves with just-right armhole depth, plain stockinette fabric to let the heathered yarn shine, and sleeves and hem sized to fit.

There will be no shrugging.

Indigo Tamarack: Part III

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Fear not, my tamarack jacket is alive!

Remember when I bought the pattern as soon as it came out, dyed the fabric with indigo, sourced locally made wool batting, and even tested my quilting methods, then tabled it for six months and then wrote about how I really ought to prioritize it my queue?

Well it’s been the slowest of slow fashion, but the thing is, I didn’t really like how the quilting was looking. I went so far as to start machine quilting the back piece of the jacket, and though the stitches were even and I basted it and used a walking foot, the batting was so lofty and my quilting so amateur that the edges of the piece no longer aligned. I knew that if I continued I would hardly have a jacket the same size as the one I cut out.

I put my tamarack jacket in time out.

In the intervening months I had so many ideas for how to shift directions — minimalist sashiko hand quilting that would match the color of the jacket for a subtle tone-on-tone look; maximalist sashiko hand quilting that would celebrate the dashing white stitches in geometric patterns; machine quilting with narrow stripes to tamp down the loftiness; hand quilting with wide stripes to embrace the puffiness, etc. etc. as the Pin-spiration grew.

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I settled on a plan to make the quilting easier by reducing the loft of the batting by carefully “peeling” half of each piece off. To compensate for the lost insulation, I decided to switch from the lining I had cut from scraps to a lining cut from a thrifted flannel sheet. But still, I was uncertain of how to quilt the jacket.

And then, the Secret Catalog arrived and Maria’s OKONION x Secret Catalog quilts gave me ALL the heart eyes. (I know, emoji-speak, but seriously, check the quilts):

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Suddenly, all I wanted to do was quilt and all those months of Tamarack indecision evaporated as I decided I would jump into some quilt piecing. Since I had decided to remove the indigo-dyed scrap lining, I now had a set of coordinating fabric I could cut up and piece together. The last time I tried to quilt was in middle school and I chose turquoise and bright purple fat quarter sets from the local big box fabric store, and I think it was just a simple square repeat but the process lasted longer than my love for the color palette so I never finished it. (sorry mom, I still so appreciate your help).

I’m a big fan of Purl Soho’s blog, so I figured their classic aesthetic and generous tutorials wouldn’t lead me astray. The denim pinwheels pattern caught my eye quickly and seemed like a perfect match, so I trusted my gut and started cutting some test squares.

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I followed the Purl Soho instructions but decided on 4″ pinwheels and adjusted the math accordingly (with 1/4″ seam allowances for the pinwheel piecing). Quilting the whole jacket seemed overly ambitious, and less wearable for my style, so I decided on quilted panels and calculated how many pinwheels I would need to fill the panels.

I think it took me about 2 evenings of chain piecing, cutting, pressing, and more piecing to assemble all the pinwheel blocks, and then another evening to arrange them into panels. I didn’t get too fussy with the arrangement, I want it to be random but avoid repeats next to one another (there are 4 fabric types and 6 pinwheel combinations).

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Attaching the panels to the (already cut out) Tamarack pieces was still a little nerve wracking since it felt like the point of no return, but I finally did that and am moving ahead with quilting! While sashiko quilting will make the jacket even more eclectic, I’ve decided I’d rather do that than stress about the misalignment misadventures with my novice machine quilting. Sometimes, hand stitching is just so much more soothing.

My partner has been out of town for the week and I’ve been filling my time with late nights of sewing and other creative entropy. It’s been really fun to satisfy my quilting lust and resuscitate this WIP, too. Hopefully, Part IV will be the finished jacket soon!

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Last of the winter layers

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When I felt the first chills of fall last year, I panicked just a little bit. I’ve lived in cold climates before, but had adapted my wardrobe to California’s temperate weather, and faced a serious lack of winter layers.

Specifically, I needed long sleeve shirts with long enough sleeves because covering your wrists is important for retaining body heat, and also because I’m very tired of hems coming up short. When Grainline Studio released the Lark Tee, visions of cozy, custom-fit base layers danced in my head.

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If I wasn’t focused warmth, I think the Lark Tee would make an excellent wardrobe staple in some organic cotton knit fabric, grown and milled in the USA, either from Alabama Chanin or Organic Cotton Plus. I tried to find a wool fabric of comparable domestic origins, but came up short. I found the greatest transparency with a little digging into some Pickering International blended knits from Fancy Tiger Crafts. I chose modal/wool in “seaweed” (no longer available) and heather gray organic cotton/yak down and was happy to support the lovely Denver shop I admire so much.

Waylaid by holiday projects, work, and I dunno, a general lack of enthusiasm for sewing knits, I actually didn’t get around to sewing a Lark until the tail end of winter. But back in January, when temperatures dropped below zero, I instinctively reached for the cozy gray knit and whipped up a Papercut Patterns Rise/Fall Turtleneck. After studying some instagram shots of the completed pattern, I went with the “Rise” body and the “Fall” neck for a slimmer fit with a full turtleneck. I lengthened the sleeves by 2.5″ and the body by 1″, which was a little bit cropped but all I could squeeze onto the yardage. Without even hemming the edges, I ended up wearing this top several days a week during the coldest spells.

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In January, I had the opportunity to help a local organization on a project launch, and ended up visiting their office once per week. The dress code was a pretty big step up from my work from home attire (and even my former SF office outfits), so I was really glad to have this turtleneck in the rotation. I especially enjoyed wearing it as seen here, with a vintage silk skirt, tights, and boots. My occasional commute was also much improved by an incredible wool cape that I found at a local vintage shop — it’s essentially a wearable blanket, which is both fun to wear and seriously practical, and also a little more stylish than the bulky sweaters I favor for casual wear. It made my wool coat (also thrifted) practically impenetrable to the icy winds on my walk to the bus stop.

As for the Lark tee, I was a little worried that the drapey tissue-knit wool/modal blend would be tricky to sew. But I found it very easy to cut with a rotary cutter, and my machine handled it smoothly with a narrow zig zag stitch and a light ball point needle. I finished the edges with a twin needle which did create a bit of a bump, I think because the fabric didn’t have enough structure to resist bunching between the two rows of stitching, but it doesn’t bother me.

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If you’ve read other Lark reviews, many people have commented about the body length, and it’s true – the torso is long. I ended up cutting about 1″ off the length, but I also lengthened the sleeves by a total of 2″ for a really long, thumb-grazing cuff (when the elbows aren’t scrunched up, at least). I’m not really a fitted T-shirt person, my favorites tend to be a bit boxier and loose, but I like how the Lark is more “figure skimming” than close fitting, and I know I’ll make a few more variations. For this one, I found the armscye fit was much too droopy in the drapey and light fabric, so I just took in the underarm and sleeve curve until I was satisfied — about 3/4″ of an inch total where the sleeve meets the body. The photo below (albeit grainy) shows how I adjusted the armscye incrementally (I stopped when I liked the fit, and copied that shape and distance on the second side).

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In terms of materials, these two fabrics are exotic to me. I’ve seen this organic cotton/yak down blend used in a few indie fashion collections, and I think it’s a pretty good option for a “luxury” knit akin to cashmere blends. Despite it’s high-end reputation (which sort of connotes limited supply, in my mind), high demand for cashmere is turning “grasslands into a dustbowl” due to overgrazing, whereas Yaks are better suited to the landscape. I learned about the benefits of Yak down from the British knitwear brand Tengri, and I also like how Zady is positioning Alpaca as an alternative to cashmere, though I would love to see them support domestic Alpaca farmers. I’ve found local alpaca and alpaca/blend yarn pretty accessible, and a treat to knit with and wear.

Modal is another new one for me, and a fiber which I was hesitant about at first because it’s in the “semi-synthetic” family of fibers, like rayon. That means that although it’s derived from natural materials (wood pulp), the process of creating a yarn is more like a synthetic fiber (think Polyester or Nylon), which can be more harm than good. I can easily to go down an internet rabbit hole reading about wood pulp fibers (i.e. most rayons, including lyocell, Tencel, and Modal), which by many accounts are causing deforestation, and by other accounts are chemical-intensive and hardly worth the “natural”/eco-friendliness we associate with materials like bamboo.

But I’ve learned that there’s an important distinction: name brand wood pulp fibers, like Modal and Tencel, from the company Lenzing are lower impact because the company has 95-100% closed-loop production systems which reduces the chemical input and the effluent. And the inputs are more traceable because Lenzing only uses Austrian-grown Beechwood (for Modal)  which is not directly leading to deforestation. I appreciate this accountability and I think this technology offers better options than standard rayon or bamboo rayon, though the carbon footprint is probably still pretty high from the material use (trees) and transportation, so I aim to use them sparingly.

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Funnily enough, after ordering the fabrics I came across US grown and made wool knitwear from Ramblers Way, and it was on sale to boot! A set of long underwear, a henley, and a wool slip  (worn beneath my Lark tee in these photos) all proved critical for my winter wardrobe. If you’re looking warm, temperature-regulating layers, I’d definitely recommend them, and they’re vertically integrated with fair wages and low-impact dyes, all the good stuff. I wore the henley for winter running and enjoyed it so much more than plastic-y “tech” fabrics.

I love making clothes, and especially the ability to customize them (like lengthening the sleeves!) but increasingly it seems like there are ready-to-wear brands in the U.S. making more conscious decisions than fabric manufacturers, or perhaps it’s that they have more resources to devote to setting up a supply chain directly from the raw material. I like to support these clothing brands when I can, but then I miss the satisfaction and experience of making it myself. Do other makers feel this dilemma?

For next winter, I’m already dreaming of up-cycled wool leggings inspired by Tasha’s designs. I could see this working really well with a color-blocked design like the Aires legging, and maybe it would even work for athletic endeavors!

What are your cold-climate staples?

 

 

A year in stitches: One Year One Outfit Recap

 

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To write one summary post for all these projects hardly does justice to how much I love these pieces, how much I learned making them, and how knitting with local materials has deepened my connection to my local landscape and community. Alas, we’re nearing the end of January and it’s high time to round up what I made for my One Year One Outfit challenge. Spoiler alert: there is no true “outfit” but there are 3 sweaters, 1 shawl, and one hat, which truly reignited my love for knitting and led me to explore local fiber and local dyes, resulting in hard-working wardrobe staples.

A note: I wish I had the time or foresight to photograph these pieces outdoors, in the actual fibershed environment, but at the time I was able to shoot them, the day’s high was 1 measly degree (F), so here I am in my sunroom. I modeled each of my local fiber garments over my favorite and very special dress, which is not hyper-local, but it is made of organic cotton fabric grown by Sally Fox, milled and woven in Japan nearly two decades ago. The fabric was imported last year by Kristine of A Verb for Keeping Warm in collaboration with Sally Fox, and the pattern is the Prism dress also by A Verb for Keeping Warm, with the in-line pocket addition I wrote about here. I told a bit more of this dress’s story on Instagram during Slow Fashion October, and it seemed fitting to wear it as the foundation for my local knitwear.

And now, a lightning tour of 2015!

January

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Garment: my first sweater!
Fibershed: Northern California
Pattern: Hayward by Julie Hoover for Brooklyn Tweed. Mods noted on Ravelry.
Fiber: Twirling Petals yarn in Earl Grey, Drunken Ollie in Eucalyptus, Indigo on Muffy
Farmer: Mary Pettis-Sarley (photo below via Tolt Yarn & Wool)

Twirl by ToltNotes: This sweater reignited my love for knitting. I learned to knit about 10 years ago, made a few small accessories, and drifted away from knitting during college. In 2014 I lost my favorite hand knit cowl and sought a creative outlet from my job, which was nearly equal parts very stressful and very rewarding. So in the fall of 2014, after meeting Rebecca Burgess and getting to know the Fibershed community, inspiration overcame intimidation and I decided to knit my first full sweater. I decided to look for a Brooklyn Tweed pattern with a low difficulty rating, because I liked the contemporary designs and heard that the instructions were detailed. I settled on this simple pullover, and searched for a local yarn alternative to Loft. I heard great things about Twirl, and loved the whimsy of the logo and the yarn names, so I took a day trip to Knitterly in Petaluma and spent a long time looking at color combinations. There wasn’t quite enough of any one color that I liked, so I decided to color block the pieces. Around this time, I had been living on a very small budget and had mostly bought secondhand clothing for the past few years, so saving up for and purchasing a sweater’s worth of yarn felt like a big investment – it was probably the most I had spent on any one item in at least five years. It was so rewarding to spend those savings in support of local businesses run by inspiring women. Yarn in hand, I started my sweater. I knit in the mornings before work, I knit on BART, I knit some days on my lunch break on a patio full of business people, and I knit a lot in the evenings after Jenn went to bed (at the time she was a baker and worked very early mornings) — I was hooked! Finishing this sweater in early 2015 felt triumphant – and exuberant! I love it to pieces and am keeping it out of rotation this winter to preserve its longevity (it’s the perfect spring/summer/fall layer).

May

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Garment: marled Ondawa
Fibershed: Northern California
Pattern: Ondawa by Michele Wang for Brooklyn Tweed. Mods noted on Ravelry.
Fiber: Radius by Knitterly Petaluma in Alpaca/wool marl
Farmer: Mimi Luebbermann, Windrush Farm (photo below via Fibershed)

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Notes: After finishing my first sweater I was hooked on knitting once again, and really drawn to knitting this pattern, which I had tried on at the Brookyn Tweed trunk show at A Verb for Keeping Warm. In my mind I pictured it in the perfect shade of camel, but I had a hard time finding the right color, until I came across the new Radius offerings by Knitterly. I got really excited about this marled alpaca/wool blend (I think it’s basically an alpaca single plied with a wool single) and from there the knitting went much faster than I expected. This sweater is so warm and soft, and practically a security blanket for me. I love the cream color and the way the busy cables and subtle marl interact, and I just wish it wouldn’t pill quite so much (the downside of very soft fibers and a lightly spun yarn), but I can’t see myself stopping wearing it any time soon.

October

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Garment: Pure transition shawl
Fibershed: Northern California & Twin Cities
Pattern: Pure by cabinfour. Mods noted on Ravelry.
Fiber: Radius by Knitterly Petaluma in Alpaca/wool blend; local merino by Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Mill
Farmer: Various; Photo below of Rach-Al-Paca Mill in Hastings, Minnesota

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Notes: I knit this shawl as the temperatures shifted from mild to cold, and the dry fall air lent an urgency to the changing seasons. My grandmother passed away, not unexpectedly, and I spent two days wrapped in my favorite afghan that she knit, watching this shawl take shape, melding the places I’ve recently called home. The lighter, silvery-brown is a blended yarn from the Radius yarn that was actually sent to me by mistake when I needed an extra skein for my Ondawa sweater. I used the stitch pattern sections as my guide for alternating the yarn with a naturally-colored, chocolate brown Merino raised by a small farmer who lives right down the road from Rach-Al-Paca Fiber Mill, where I purchased the yarn. The color is rich and the yarn is squishy but hearty. This shawl is might just be my signature winter accessory, and I wear it almost every day, usually wrapped around my neck as a giant kerchief. It makes an excellent barricade against sub-zero wind chill.

November

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Garment: flockalong cardigan
Fibershed: Northern California
Pattern: Liv Light by Carrie Bostick Hoge. Mods noted on Ravelry.
Fiber: Flock, 1st Edition by A Verb for Keeping Warm, in granite
Farmer: Various; learn all about how Flock was made here (photo below via AVFKW)

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Notes: I actually knit this sweater after moving to Minnesota, when I probably should have focused on a Minnesota fiber project. Instead, I became totally smitten with the gorgeous yarn created by Kristine and the team at A Verb for Keeping Warm. I have no regrets. It took me a very long time to knit this fingering-weight cardigan, but I love the simplicity of the top-down pattern and the way the yarn changed from white to cream to shades of gray. The color variations are natural and due to the way distinct fiber (Cormo, Corriedale, and Targhee) from three different flocks was blended while spinning. I actually had the opportunity to tour Green Mountain Spinnery, where Flock was spun, while visiting friends on the east coast this summer, and it was magical. Peeking behind the scenes at the spinning process added another element of depth to this knitting project, and I think this yarn is a great example of how to incorporate different fiber properties and embrace the diversity of local sheep breeds.

December

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Garment: coreopsis Jul
Fibershed: Twin Cities
Pattern: Jul hat by Wiksten. Notes coming to Ravelry soon.
Fiber: Alpaca/merino blend by Rach-Al-Paca Farm and Fiber Mill, dyed in foraged coreopsis
Farmer: Rachel Boucher

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Notes: I started working from home this summer, and have found it both freeing and overwhelming. I find it important to take breaks and get outside every day, and one day on the cusp of early fall, I rode my bike up a local trail, searching for dyestuffs. I found neither black walnuts nor pokeberry (as I had hoped), but a patch of wildflowers in the parking lot of an office complex caught my eye. I pulled over, and immediately recognized the yellow flowers with blood red centers as dyers’ coreopsis. I harvested quickly and tried to explain to a confused receptionist exactly why I was loitering in the parking lot (note to foragers: go after work hours). I created a solar dye bath and took a chance on dyeing a whole skein of yarn (about twice the weight of the dyestuff). The resulting golden color made a cheerful hat that is slouchy, warm, and super soft thanks to the alpaca. The fiber was raised in Minnesota and milled in Hastings, Minnesota by Rachel Boucher, a passionate and prolific farmer and small business owner.

 

& in case you’re wondering what the full “outfit” looks like…1-2016-01-18 17.12.06

 

End note: Here is where I should tell you that I contribute to Fibershed’s non-profit educational/advocacy work with research, communications, program support, and general operations. It has been a joyful and exciting journey to get involved with the organization, and I’m thrilled to support its mission and vision. These knits, and this blog in general, are my personal projects and all opinions stated here are my own. I love taking part in the One Year One Outfit challenge — which I am personally extending into a 2 Years 1 Outfit challenge (wink) — and I think Nicki  is doing a tremendous job energizing people around the world with the One Year One Outfit challenge to explore what it means to dress locally. I just want to be completely honest about my bias in support of this project and Fibershed in general, since I am sort of wearing two hats as a staff member and affiliate member — two hats that are locally grown, naturally dyed, and locally made, whenever possible!

 

 

Indigo Tamarack: Part II

Part of the reason I was so suddenly smitten with Grainline Studio’s Tamarack Jacket pattern release was because I had recently attended a tour of local fiber farms through the Natural Fiber Alliance. If you’re in Minnesota or Wisconsin, I highly recommend the fiber tour that NFA puts together each fall. On the tour, I visited a local fiber mill and learned that in addition to spinning yarn, they produce roving, felt, and batting. So when the Tamarack pattern popped up in my Instagram feed I looked at it with new eyes: local wool quilted jacket.

Granted, I have never actually quilted anything before. But I need a mid-level jacket and want to support local farmers and mills as much as possible, so it seemed like the perfect project. I purchased the pattern, picked my fabric (and dyed it with indigo) and contacted the mill to order batting.

And then I waited.

It turns out that the mill I had visited mostly produces yarn and wool goods as a service — meaning they receive fiber from farmers, process it, and send it back — so they don’t have much retail or inventory available, and ultimately I needed to look elsewhere for batting. I really enjoyed doing a bit of research on quilt batting and thought I’d share a roundup of what I found:

Polyester:
When I called and visited local shops, or searched major online stores, I found that synthetic quilt batting dominates the market. I can understand why the low price point and washability would be desirable, but I really try to avoid plastic fibers both because I prefer the feel and benefits of natural fibers (and I wanted the warmth of wool for this jacket) and because synthetics are derived from fossil fuel and polluting the ocean.

Cotton:
Grainline Studio suggests cotton batting as an option for the Tamarack Jacket, and if you’re looking for a lighter weight jacket I’d recommend this Heirloom Cotton Batting from Organic Cotton Plus. It is organically grown and made in the USA, with no chemical additives to offgas in your quilt or jacket.

Wool:
Organic Cotton Plus also offers wool batting, and I kept it in mind as a backup (it is sourced internationally but describes the supply chain and processing with considerable transparency).

When I lived in the Bay Area I loved taking weekend trips north to camp in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa, and once visited Valley Ford Wool Mill. Nestled on a curve of road between rolling hills of pasture, Valley Ford is a working mill with a wonderful Mercantile that sells local wool bedding, yarn, garments, and felted goods. On my visit I bought a pillow, and I considered purchasing their wool batting for this project too.

Digging a little deeper into my local resources, I came across a broader list of Minnesota farms and wool mills, which led me to St. Peter Woolen Mill. This 4th generation family-owned mill is located about an hour from my house and specializes in wool bedding, including pillows, mattress toppers, and duvets, and I was elated to see that they offer quilt batting! Though the wool is not sourced within my immediate radius, I called to ask about their products and learned that they do source entirely from the U.S. (mostly the Western rangeland states).

Always looking for an adventure, I asked if I could pick up an order of quilt batting in person, and learn more about the mill, and mill owner Pat Johnson kindly obliged. The full tour included an interview for an upcoming research project, and provided an in-depth connection to the batting that I purchased. If you’re looking for wool batting or bedding, St. Peter Woolen Mill does an excellent job and sells online as well as wholesales to natural bedding stores around the country. They also offer a unique service: they will reconstitute your existing wool quilt or duvet. If you have a blanket that has gone lumpy or thinned out, St. Peter Woolen Mill can re-process it and send it back to you. The owner told me about family heirloom quilts that have been sent to the Mill multiple times to be re-made, and sent back to the family for continued use. I love this take on mending and making do, and it’s another great reason to invest in quality garments and goods that can last a lifetime (or longer). Batting in hand, I headed back to Minneapolis full of appreciation and excited to make a quilted jacket.

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Eager as I was (and am!) to make and wear my Tamarack Jacket, I put the project on pause while making holiday gifts for loved ones and finishing end-of-year work assignments. I’ve changed my mind a few times on the details for this project, and am glad to be taking it slow. Next on the blog, I plan to post a roundup of my One Year One Outfit makes, resources, and processes.