I recently finished wrote a blog post about doing visible mending to a pair of my jeans. I learned a lot and I wanted to write about what I learned from this project. It made me think about the differences between starting a project as a total beginner vs doing something you have done for years. It also made me realize how differently a beginner would approach a project than someone who is more experienced. Before I started this project, I had not done much hand stitching and hadn’t done any sashiko mending. It made me realize that when you have done something for years you don’t really have to think about where to start. As a total beginner, you often don’t know where to start. At first, I certainly didn’t know where to start on this project.
I finally found some tutorials and was able to get a start on it. As I did this project, I had a lot of questions. For example, I wasn’t sure what fabric to use for patching, I also found some old embroidery thread and I wasn’t sure if it was usable or not. I also didn’t know if my scissors would work or if I should get fabric scissors. Maybe if you have done this for a while, these may sound like obvious questions but not to a total beginner like myself. I asked for advice on the Thrifty Knitters Group on Ravelry. I was a little nervous about asking for advice but they were so kind , helpful and supportive. It made a big difference to me and I am not sure if I would have kept going with this project without their support and advice.
I also struggled with self doubt. When I was mending my jeans, I had a panic moment where I was thinking, “What am I doing? This will look weird, people will laugh at me if I wear them”. But I kept going and finished them. It took me a couple of days to do the stitching part. Once I finished it, I was happy with how it looked, When I showed the finished project to some family members, they thought it looked good. I posted a few pictures of the finished jeans on Instagram. A lot of people told me that they thought they looked great. I got very positive responses and it boosted my confidence. Overall, the project went a lot better than I thought and my self doubts didn’t turn out to be true.
A good friend of mine told me that embellished denim was all the rage. I had no idea about that when I did this, I just thought sashiko mending looked cool. I went to the mall later that week and sure enough I saw rack after rack of jeans with embroidery or creative patches on them. It trips me out I was doing something right in style when I had no idea before I started this project. So, despite my self doubts, I was able to finish the project and got a lot of positive feedback. I also have a very cool pair of jeans that were once wearing out. From this project, I learned that it can be good for me to learn new skills. I also learned that it pays off to push through the self doubt.
I recently finished mending my jeans using the sashiko method and I enjoyed it so much that I started looking for other ways to do hand stitching. I saw the book, “Slow Stitch” by Claire Wellesley Smith at my library and decided to read it. Overall, I thought the book is worth reading if you are interested in hand stitching and sustainability but it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had thought that it would be an overview of hand stitching techniques but it was more of an overview of various ideas of the slow movement and creative hand stitching. I learned about some artists that I want to look into and she had some valuable tips on hand stitching but I didn’t come away from the book feeling like I learned how to stitch. However, I did feel like I had read a variety of interesting ideas.
The book was divided into 4 parts. Each section has a different theme. Throughout the book, she introduces the reader to various artists. The first section of the book is about her views on the slow movement. The slow movement is a movement started by Carlo Petrini when he protested fast food restaurants. The overall idea is to be sustainable, shop local and slow down the pace of your life and be mindful. The second part of the book is about what materials to use. It expands on the ideas in first chapter. She heavily emphasizes using secondhand materials whenever possible and even has a section on what fabrics to look for at thrift shops. She also writes a section on natural dying and notes that she likes to overdye fabric and thread using natural dyes from plants she grows. The third section gives an overview of textile traditions from different cultures. She covers mending, quilt piecing, Kantha from India and Pakistan , and Boro mending from Japan.The fourth section is about mindfulness and how a slow stitching practice can be contemplative and mindful. She goes over the practice of making and using a stitch journal.She also covers ways to use this practice to be more aware of your surroundings. She has a section in this chapter on using stitching projects as a community builder.
I had mixed feelings about this book. On a positive note, I found out about a lot of interesting artists, I got some tips on hand stitching. I also felt like this book tried to pack a lot of varied ideas into one book. She heavily emphasized using second materials whenever possible. I think this is admirable but I am not sure it is realistic or even appealing to a lot of people. I went to a couple of different thrift stores after reading this book and didn’t find any fabrics I could use. I think this practice of only using secondhand materials can be easier said than done. Also her stitching projects were random stitches on scraps of fabric that had no real use. The idea of doing random stitching didn’t appeal to me. She is clearly very into being sustainable but her stitching projects didn’t have any practical use and that bothered me. It made me realize that my idea of being sustainable is to make items that are useful. My idea contrasted with this book and that gave me something to think about. I think this is an interesting book if you are interested in textile, art and sustainability but I thought it was weak on practical instruction and more of an overview of a lot of varied ideas within slow stitching than an actual how to book.
In the past year or so, I discovered visible mending with sashiko stitching and immediately liked the idea. I have always liked creatively using materials that would otherwise get thrown out. I also liked the idea of making something new, unique, creative and pretty out of clothes that are wearing out. I thought that that it looked cool and wanted to try it.
Recently, 2 pairs of my jeans started to wear out. One pair in particular was very close to tearing at the knees. I went shopping for a new pair of jeans and saw rack after rack of skinny jeans that would not fit me and distressed demim. I don’t understand the appeal of distressed demin. At the store,one of the pairs of distressed demin was 89 dollars and I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on jeans that were already ripped. This frustrated me and I decided to try my hand at sashiko mending.
On Pinterest, I had already pinned a bunch of images of sashiko mending and some tutorials. I had also bought a thimble, darning needles, embroidery floss, pearl cotton and a fabric pencil. Ideally you are supposed to use sashiko thread and needles but I decided to use what I easily buy locally and order sashiko supplies online if I ended liking the technigue. I had read that embrodiery thread and darning needles can be substitutes. If this project hadn’t worked out I could use what I bought for other projects. I went back on to Pinterest and looked at a couple of tutorials. I wasn’t sure what material to use for patching I asked for advice on the Thrifty Knitters group on Ravelry and they suggested I use an old demin shirt. I went to a local thrift store and got a couple of denim shirts to use. I was apprehensive about doing this stitch on jeans without practicing first so I practiced on squares of fabric I cut up. I immediately enjoyed the stitching and found it so relaxing. I ended up making 4 sqaures and playing around with color and how I put the stitches together.
I finally tried the technique on my jeans and I was nervous, I struggled with how to pin the fabric to the jeans, and how to see where to stitch. With the fabric pencil I bought, it was very hard to make a mark that would be visible on the fabric.I ended up pinning around the edges of the patch. I also had to pull the pant leg inside out several times to check my work and I kept worrying that I would knock the pins out. Once I got going, the stitching part went fine and it went better than I thought. Overall, I am very happy I tried this. I like how the jeans turned out and it makes me happy to give new life to my old jeans in a creative way. I found out that I enjoy doing hand stitching. Stitching the practice samples and jeans gave me ideas for other projects that use similar skills.
Since summer is here, I have been thinking a lot about what I want to make this summer. I am currently working on the Featherweight Cardigan, a blanket and this crocheted tank top pattern. The tank top uses yarn I have had for years I have been trying to figure out how to use the yarn since I used it to make a scarf and had to unravel it several years ago. I am excited about this project; I think it is cute top and I am happy to find a good use for this yarn. I am also still working on the Featherweight Cardigan. I am hoping to finish it by the end of the month but I am not sure that will happen. I don’t have a set time that I want to finish the blanket. I started it as a fun project to do while I listened to podcasts. It is also a stash buster. I am OK if this takes a long time to complete.
Once I finish the Featherweight Cardigan, I have been thinking about making the Zinone top by Andi Satterlund. I have wanted to make it since it was first published. I think that it will be a good addition to my wardrobe and be fun to make. I could use some summer weight dressy tops. However, it is on my mind that I will be starting this top around July and may not finish this top until early fall. During this time, I could cast on a sweater and have a sweater ready for fall. On the other hand, I love this pattern and I want to work on things that make me happy. I haven’t made up my mind what I am going to do about this.
In addition to the Zinone, I also love this lace top. I am not sure if I will get around to making it this summer. I am thinking about starting this in the fall, It is a lightweight top but I think this could be a good piece to layer with a sweater or blazer. I also want to make a lace scarf but I am not sure when I will get around to it or if I will have the time to do a lace project this summer.
Recently, I decided to unravel 2 projects and I learned something from it. I realized that keeping projects around that I was lukewarm on was distracting me from the projects that I genuinely wanted to do. I stopped to count up my current projects and I was doing 6 projects at the time. I was mending jeans, repairing a top, making a swatch for a crocheted summer top design, swatching for another summer top, making a cardigan and knitting a blanket. I realized that I felt scattered with having this many projects at once.
The first project I decided to unravel was this top that I made. I had made the top many years ago and never wore it because the armholes were too big and weren’t flattering. I originally thought repairing the top would be a quick project. However, when I stopped to work on it, I realized that it would be a much bigger project than I planned.and would be harder to execute than I thought. I thought about it and realized that I have been trying to fix the armholes for years and could never figure out how to do it. I also realized that I don’t have the garment construction skills to fix it. I wasn’t that excited about figuring out how to fix it so I decided to cut it up and reuse the materials. For another project, I had this idea to design a summer top using the yarn pictured above. The yarn is from a project I tried to do last summer that didn’t work out. When I did a swatch, I realized that with this stitch pattern, the hem would be uneven. I also felt lukewarm about doing the stitch pattern so I decided to also frog that project.
Once I did that, I felt like it made room for me to work on projects I am genuinely excited to work on. I started working on a top I want to make and am excited to work on it. At the time, unraveling those projects felt like a small moment. I mean not deciding to do a crochet project or 2 is not a big deal. However, it made me realize that sometimes you need to let go of things to make room for what you really want to do. I really wanted to make this lace top but I kept looking at the top I was trying to fix and thinking that I should do that first. I would also look at the number of projects and feel scattered. Once I unraveled both, I felt like it was easier to focus on the projects I had left. In conclusion, it you are working on something and not that into it, don’t be afraid to unravel it.
I have recently realized that with knitting and crochet, I can make sweaters that are nicer than one I could afford to buy myself. The sweater I most recently finished made me rethink some of my ideas on garments that I want to make. Until recently, I had thought of handmade wardrobe for myself in terms of making items I could use in my everyday life. For example, the pullover to wear when it gets cold. I am also realizing that it could be useful to make items that I could use for dressy occasions once they arrive. I realized this when I finished the Belcarra Cardigan., I suddenly had a sweater that was one of the nicest sweaters I had owned. It was a nice coat cardigan and I had never had one before. When I tried it on, it fit well and made my jeans and T-shirt look dressier. If I hadn’t made it myself, I wouldn’t have this sweater. In fact, I wouldn’t know where to get such a sweater. I also most likely couldn’t afford to buy a ready made versions of this sweater.
When I finished The Belcarra Cardigan, I went back and forth on what project I wanted to do next. I was eyeing a lace tank top. I thought it was pretty and liked that it It uses yarn I have on hand. The yardage I would need for the top also works with what I have. Then I looked at it and realized that the tank top is pretty dressy and I didn’t have a place to wear it right now. I hesitated because I was thinking that I couldn’t really use it right now. I told my mom about my doubts and she encouraged me to go ahead and make it. She pointed out that if is nice to have clothes on hand just in case the occasion arises. For example, you get invited to nice party. She pointed out that if you get invited to an event and need to find an outfit, that it is very hard to find anything at the last minute and the stores may be already stocking for next season when you need something for the current season. I decided to make it for those reasons and also because I think it will be fun to make. Going forward I am definitively looking into making nicer items for my wardrobe in addition to basics I can wear every day.
I thought I would give you an update on the projects I am currently working on.
I started making the Featherweight Cardigan at the beginning of March. I am enjoying it so far and it working up faster than I thought it would. I haven’t made much progress because I have been trying to finish the Belcarra. Now that I finished the Belcarra, I want to focus on finishing this sweater.
Log Cabin Blanket
I started this because I wanted a mindless project to work on while I was watching a DVD or listening to a podcast. I was also stressed out and I like to start new projects when I am stressed out. This will be smaller blanket that uses up some acrylic yarn in my stash. I wanted a smaller blanket that I could wrap around myself when I am stressed out and it is cold out. I really wanted to use the navy and burgundy yarn and I liked the pink with the navy and burgundy. I showed it to my mom and she suggested adding the white and light blue. I am happy with the color scheme and like log cabin type projects. I mainly wanted to have this on hand to work on but I don’t really have a set time that I want to finish it.
The cardigan I just finished got me thinking about product vs process knitting. Product knitting is when you knit because you want to use the finished object. A process knitter likes the process and isn’t necessarily knitting to use the finished project. I have realized that up until now, I have been more of a process knitter. Until recently, I would pick projects based on how much fun they would be or what skill I wanted to learn. Often it would be a thought process of, “I just finished a piece and now what do I want to do?” Or I would pick a project so I could learn a specific skill. When I started to read Karen Templers blog more and the handmade wardrobe hashtag, I started to want to be more deliberate about what I chose to make. I was inspired to make pieces I could use in my wardrobe. At the time I was so inspired by the pictures of people wearing the pretty garments that they made and being thoughtful about what they wanted to add to their wardrobe and I wanted the same thing.
I saw another side to all this when I recently finished making The Belcarra Cardigan. The piece was frustrating and it was a struggle to keep doing it. It took a lot longer than I thought to make it and I had to unravel and redo it several times before I got a good start. I almost put this sweater on hold because it was taking so long and spring was coming . It was frustrating to be still working on this sweater I had hoped to wear this past winter. I ended up pushing through and finishing it. I knew it would bother me to have an unfinished project hanging around until next fall. I also persevered because I wanted that sweater in my wardrobe.
During the process of making this sweater, I lost some enthusiasm for making garments on a regular basis. Not too long before, I had been so inspired by making more garments but my frustrations with this project dampened my enthusiasm. I read somewhere that the pieces that end up being wardrobe staples are often very boring to make. I can definitely see how that can happen. I realized that it can be draining to plug through a frustrating process because you want the finished object.
I had been moving towards being more of a product knitter but I realized I also needed to make sure I was working on projects that are fun. I realized that the pieces I do because “wouldn’t hat be cool!” keep things fun and alive. I made a log cabin scarf because I really wanted to do a log cabin project. At the time, I certainly didn’t need another scarf or another project. I want to make a lace scarf out of light green yarn because I like doing lace knitting. Moving forward, I still want to make useful garments but I am realizing that I need to make sure that I leave room to be spontaneous and have fun with my projects. I am also thinking that the next time I am frustrated with a project, I will give myself permission to frog it and put it on hold.
I recently finished the Belcarra Cardigan by Robyn Chachula. I am very happy with how it turned out but I found it to be a frustrating project. The main thing that frustrated me was that it took a lot longer than I thought to finish it. I started making this in late November. I finished the sweater in mid May. and I had hoped to be wearing it this past winter. I had to unravel the same section several times before I could get a good start on it. I finally got a good start then I got distracted by Christmas knitting and a log cabin project.
I thought about putting it on hold or unraveling it a few times. The main reason I kept going was that I had bought the yarn to make the project and I wanted this sweater in my wardrobe. I did end up up putting it on hold for a while. I finally started working on it again and had to restart a couple of sections several times. Near the end this was all I worked on because I wanted to finish it before it was too hot to wear it. I did finally finish it but it was a struggle.
Now that it is done, I am glad to have it. It is the nicest sweater I have. Before this project, I didn’t have a nice coat cardigan. This is a much needed addition to my wardrobe. When I was making it, there were times that I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. I didn’t like the sleeves before I added the cuffs. Once I added the cuffs, it came together and looked good but before that, I was pretty discouraged and thought the sleeves looked funny. Now that I am done, I am very happy to have with how this sweater looks.
During the time when I was wasn’t posting regularly, I finished a few projects and wanted to give you an update. To be honest, I hesitated to write this post. Part of me was concerned about posting a, “What I have been working on” post after I wrote a long post saying that I want to write about more than that. However, I feel funny not posting what I have been doing. Plus I enjoy reading other people’s blog posts about their projects and the thoughts behind it. So, here is a what I have finished lately.
Grey Cable Scarf
I started this project back in December. I had looked at my scarves and hats and decided that I could use a grey scarf with a textured stitch pattern. I fnally finished it on March 20. I like cables and saw a lot of cable scarf patterns on Ravelry that I loved. I also wanted to knit a cable scarf because I had tried to make a cable scarf the previous year and it didn’t work out and I wanted to try again. I enjoyed working on this scarf but it took me longer than I thought it would to finish it. Since it is now spring, I now have a scarf for next winter.
I had made an identical hat years go. This winter, I lost it when I went to run errands. I upset me when I lost the hat. I decided to make another one because I liked the hat. I had also made a matching scarf that didn’t go with many of my other hats. I almost didn’t make the hat because it felt like an obligation, as in I should make this because I lost the other one. However, once I started making it I enjoyed working on it and really like this pattern. I recommend it if you are looking for a hat to knit.
Log Cabin Scarf
I did this as part of the Log Cabin knit a long that Mason Dixon Knitting and Karen Templer hosted. When I heard about this knit a long, I wasn’t looking to start another project. At the time, I was already working on a scarf and two sweaters. But I had recently watched a tutorial of log cabin knitting and really wanted to try it. I found out about this knit a long right after I watched the tutorial and I decided to go for it. I used yarn leftover from a blanket I made plus some other odd yarns in my stash that fit the color scheme. I enjoyed working on it. It is a habit forming technique and a great way to use up scrap yarn in a creative way. This scarf came out a lot longer than I thought but that should be good for days when the temperature is freezing. When fall comes closer, I may try making a log cabin type hat to match.