FO: vellum

Today I wanted to share my Vellum cardigan. As I mentioned in my previous post, this one was an unplanned knit. I cast on May 1st and was finished by the 9th, so it went rather quickly. It was also a fun project for a lot of reasons.

This pattern is from Karie Westermann’s book This Thing of Paper. I wrote about the book several years ago, back when it was in the crowdfunding stages, and the end result is gorgeous. The inspiration for the patterns comes from the evolution of the printed page, from medieval manuscript to the printing press, which makes it a treat for a book lover. Still, even though I’ve had my copy since it was released in 2017, I had yet to knit anything from it. Vellum wasn’t even one of the patterns originally topping my list of favorites. Karie’s original color combo was nice, but it wasn’t very me, and some of the other pieces in the book spoke to me more.

Vellum by Karie Westermann

But it floated to the front of my mind when I realized the skeins of Mendip DK I’d purchased from Marina Skua would make a lovely colorwork yoke. Katie from Inside Number 23 knit a version of Vellum at the beginning of this year (seen finished in this episode), and it was that project that first helped me see this pattern in a new light. So when I decided I wanted to use my Mendip DK in a yoke, I figured playing with the charts from Vellum might work out well.

I made several modifications to this pattern to make it the sweater I wanted. I cropped the body slightly (although both the body and the sleeves came out slightly longer than I’d anticipated), and consequently changed the waist shaping. I also made several changes to the colorwork charts in order to really put Marina’s Mendip DK colorways on display. I was particularly interested in combining the Teal and Fox colorways in a section, so I added colorwork to one of the sections that was originally a single color. I also added a third color to one of the rows (the second motif from the bottom of the yoke, in brown Beech, orange Fox, and grey Sheep – the grey stitches were my addition). Getting the motifs to line up the way I wanted them to meant shifting around a couple of the decreases as well, but in the end it was absolutely worth it.

I mentioned the yarn of the main color for the body and sleeves in my last post: ancient stash yarn from Kahurangi Natural Wools in New Zealand, handed down to me from my aunt and originally purchased who-knows-how-long ago. This yarn is their Double Knitting and the colorway is Oatmeal. I’ve tried to use this yarn for one or two projects in the past and never ended up finishing them, so it felt really wonderful to finally put it to use, and in a garment I ended up loving. It was a pretty decent match for the Mendip DK, if perhaps ever-so-slightly thicker.

Vellum is steeked at the front, and I worked a crochet reinforcement before cutting it open. I believe this is the second cardigan front I’ve steeked (although I’ve steeked arm and neck openings on other garments) but this is the first time I’ve covered the steek edge with any kind of trim. It makes for such a neat finish, though, and I found the perfect trim to use over at Textile Garden (the buttons also came from Textile Garden). The teal and orange of the trim are a perfect match for Marina’s colorways.

I am very satisfied with this project – it feels good when things come together the way you hoped they would. I do feel like I want to address one issue, though – I recently spoke up about size inclusivity over on Instagram, and about my reasons for choosing not to knit a pattern from a recent collection Rauma launched in collaboration with an independent Norwegian designer. I want to acknowledge that the size range for Vellum isn’t that much bigger than the collection I was talking about. But I also want to state why knitting one of Karie’s patterns is different for me (and I understand if anyone disagrees with this): Karie is an independent designer who has also spoken up about pattern sizing and inclusivity in recent years. I know she cares about it. I know she’s been actively working on a size range for her patterns that includes much larger sizes than her patterns previously have done. I want to support her in that work, and I hope that some of her previously published work will see expanded sizing in the future (something I’m working on with my own previously published patterns). Companies like Rauma, while I love them for their yarns, do not have a great track record on size inclusivity and have not shown much of an inclination to change on that front. So it’s harder to choose to knit a Rauma pattern for a very basic summer top when that’s the case (I adapted a Jessie Maed pattern instead).

further reflections on making

Sir Duke shawl by Thread & Ladle, knit in Little Fox Yarn Vulpine DK

Back in February, I wrote a bit about the state of my creative life, as far as feeling like I had limited time to be making things, and how that played a role in my plans for knitting and sewing in 2020. At that point, I was still relatively recently reunited with my yarn stash and full roster of WIPs, and it was slightly overwhelming after six months without it. I wrote that I had two strong desires: to work through and finish existing WIPs, and to be working from stash for new projects. I had (and still have) a lot of projects queued up which I already have yarn for.

Then came Covid-19.

My overwhelming stash suddenly felt less overwhelming as my focus turned outward, to the many friends and independent businesses suddenly facing a year without revenue from fiber shows. That’s a massive blow for any small fiber business, and as I’m fortunate that my job hasn’t been in jeopardy, I ended up making a fair few purchases I hadn’t been planning on, both yarn as well as patterns and other supplies and tools. I definitely don’t regret it, but it meant this year’s making plans went out the window for a little while.

Twister Lolly Socks by The Crimson Stitchery, knit with Artfil Belle from stash

That being said, I wanted to sort of check in with myself here to see how it has affected my making. And when I sit down and look at what’s on the needles and what’s been completed, the impact was maybe smaller than I would’ve guessed. A few of those projects pictured in that post from February are now finished, for one thing. I’ve cast on several new projects since February, but many of those are also finished (see the Sir Duke shawl a the top of this post, the Twister Lolly socks above, and the Vellum cardigan below, for a few examples). Some of the old WIPs are still WIPs, but I’m working on that too. I’ve finished 17 projects since that post in February was written (a number I only just counted up and which makes me go !!!! a little bit). I still have 12 WIPs, which is evidence of new cast ons, but I had 16 in February so the overall trend is still towards more things getting finished than cast on. I guess the stay-at-home period combined with a delay in my data collection for my PhD meant there was more time for making than I was anticipating after all. The comfort that comes from slow stitching is certainly a factor as well, as it has been very welcome through the emotional rollercoaster that has been 2020 so far.

An almost-finished Angelou cardigan by Alexis Winslow, sans pocket linings & buttons and in need of a good blocking

Yarns have been a mix of new yarns and stash yarns. Most of the new yarns have been those purchases from indie yarnies who’ve had shows cancelled, and it does feel good to put those to use. And digging into some of my old stash yarns has felt really good as well. In particular, I’m nearing the finish line on an Angelou cardigan (a pattern from Alexis Winslow’s Homage collection), which is a pattern I first queued in May 2018, the same month I purchased the yarn for it. It had been patiently waiting for nearly two years, but I finally cast on in April. All that I have left to knit is the pocket linings, and then it’ll be ready for a blocking. I have nothing like it in my wardrobe, so it’s going to be incredibly satisfying to finally wear that one.

Vellum by Karie Westermann, knit in Marina Skua Mendip DK and Kahurangi Natural Wools

Even some of the surprise projects have made use of stash in unexpected ways. I purchased some skeins of Mendip DK from my friend Marina Skua back in April, thinking I might use them for some accessories. But then I realized they’d go together very nicely in a colorwork yoke, and I saw an opportunity to turn to my pattern library for inspiration. I chose to use the skeins of Mendip in the yoke of a Vellum cardigan (from Karie Westermann’s book This Thing of Paper), and the yarn for the main body and sleeves of the cardigan was proper deep stash: two 200g skeins of New Zealand wool from Kahurangi Natural Wools Double Knitting which were given to me by my aunt probably nearly 10 years ago. I have a few different yarns from Kahurangi that my aunt gave me, some of which I’ve used in the past, but some of which has been sitting around for years, leaving me feeling stumped as to what to do with it. So this one was an incredibly satisfying knit, and I’m planning to write about it in more detail very soon because I also made several modifications.

I’ve found that after the initial frenzy of shopping I did back in March, there’s been an ebb and flow to my desire to finish WIPs and work from the materials I already have on hand, and my desire to support businesses in the craft industry who are struggling due to a loss of revenue this year. But lately I’m once again finding the yarn stash a little overwhelming, and reminding myself that there are other ways to support businesses and designers that don’t involve adding yarn to an already overflowing stash. So for the latter half of this year I want to refocus, and to work on finishing up some of the projects that have been hanging around for months or even longer. Trying to focus on one or two projects at a time (one more complex “home” project and one simpler “on-the-go” project I can keep in my bag seems to work well for me) definitely helps speed up the process.

What role has making been playing in your life this year?

inspiration: this thing of paper

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“Who is ignorant of the difference between writing [scriptura] and printing [impressura]? A manuscript, written on parchment, can last a thousand years. How long will print, this thing of paper [res papirea] last?”
— Johannes Trithemius, In Praise of Scribes (De Laude Scriptorum)

When I was in high school, my mom worked in the office for the Women’s and Gender Studies program at one of the local universities. The office was sent copies of Bust Magazine and mom always brought them home for me to read. If memory serves me correctly, it was in one of those copies of Bust that I first stumbled into a tutorial for how to make your own journal using some pretty basic bookbinding techniques. I was hooked after that first tutorial – all my high school journals from that point on were little simple books I’d bound myself (you can see a few of them in the photo above). I went on to make a set of journals in 2006/2007 for my friend, musician John Vanderslice. The books had canvas covers and I painted album artwork from his catalog on them – it was a pretty immense project that to this day I am proud of. And while I’ve always remained a dabbler, my interest in making books has held (the most recent one I made was a birthday gift for my husband for his birthday before last).

I think it’s easy for fiber artists to be interested in books. The physicality of crafts like knitting or crocheting or spinning is central to them. We learn our way around the physical properties of wool and other fibers, the crunch or heft or twist. We learn to follow the feel of the knitting in our hands instead of relying on our eyes alone to see if we’ve dropped a stitch or made a mistake. And we really love beautiful pattern books.

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So perhaps it’s not surprising that we’ve gone a bit mad over Karie Westermann‘s upcoming project, This Thing of PaperYou’ve likely heard about it already, but in case you haven’t: the project is inspired by Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press, and the fascinating era of transition in bookmaking that transpired. This collection is going to be a physical book – a beautiful physical book – with 10 patterns for garments and accessories as well as accompanying essays. Karie’s funding the project via a Kickstarter, and thanks to the intense enthusiasm for this project she was 100% funded in just 25 hours (!!), and at this point she’s raised an incredible sum of £21,641, absolutely blowing her original goal of £9,700 out of the water. If you haven’t yet pledged your support but you’d like to, you can still do so on the Kickstarter page until Wednesday at 10:45AM central European time – just about 42 hours to go at the time this post goes live. I am so happy to help spread the word about this project, because the finished product is going to be something that I’ll be very excited to hold in my hands – and obviously, as just one of Karie’s many backers, I’m not alone in that feeling.

Not shockingly, I’m most looking forward to the colorwork patterns, but this collection will feature more than just colorwork and I can’t wait to see how Karie’s own aesthetic as a designer interacts with her inspiration and source material. I’m also really looking forward to the essays – how can I not love a book that excites the academic in me just as much as the knitter? If you find yourself curious as well, you can back the project, check out Karie’s mood board on Pinterest to get a peek at her visual inspiration, or peruse the stops on the blog tour for This Thing of Paper, of which this is the final stop. Highlights from the tour for me included JacquelineM’s tutorial for binding a booklet to keep notes for projects from This Thing of Paper (not unlike that first journal tutorial I encountered in high school) and Felix’s interview with Karie that went live last Friday, but the whole tour is absolutely worth checking out – the links below will take you directly to the blog posts:

May 26: Naomi Parkhurst

May 27: Meg Roper

May 30: Natalie Servant

June 1: Jacqui Harding

June 6: Woolly Wormhead

June 8: Tom of Holland / Tom van Deijnen

June 10: Ella Austin

June 13: Leona Jayne Kelly of Fluph

June 15: JacquelineM

June 16: Felix Ford/KNITSONIK

June 17: Clare Devine

When you’ve finished with that, be sure to check out Karie’s own wrap-up post, which also has some great practical info regarding when the book will be available and how it can be purchased for wholesale, etc. Congratulations, Karie! We can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with.