International Women’s Day: Knitting & Crafting as Feminist Acts

I’ve often asked myself how something so quintessentially feminine aligns with my identity as a feminist. When you think about sewing and knitting, it often conjures images of women relegated to housework. Now, for better or worse, we are not responsible for making our own clothes, and women are not as directly responsible for clothing their families (I won’t get into fast-fashion in this post, which is a completely different can of worms). Making clothing is a choice for most of us in the United States, and choice is the essence of feminism. Feminism isn’t about rejecting things that are “feminine,” so I’m letting go of the notion that knitting and feminism don’t align. Creating things for yourself, family, and others can be extremely powerful, and it is a very feminist act. 


Here are some ways I have found making your own clothes can be tremendously powerful from both economic and personal perspectives:

  • It gives us a choice of where we funnel our money. Many of our LYS and small fabric stores are female-run and owned. There are also all of the pattern designers, indie-dyers and yarn producers that we can support through our purchases. 
  • It frees us from conforming to fashion trends and norms. We get to pick colors and fabrics that we like and are not limited to what is made available in the stores, which is often dictated by people who are not representative of the wider population 
  • We also get to customize our clothes to fit our unique bodies. It allows us to free ourselves from concerning ourselves with numbers and sizes. It frees us more from attempting to conform to sizing standards that are out of touch for many of us. 
  • By making clothes, we are decreasing our dependence on countries and factories where women are exploited for their work. The fast-fashion industry is, in many ways, very anti-woman, and it profits tremendously from our dollars. 
  • Making, for many of us, is an act of self-care. It gives us identity and balance outside of our roles in our households and jobs, which is tremendously important. 
  • It does allow us to connect with the women who came before us, and it gives us something to leave behind. One key example of this is the Pussyhat; it will be a long lasting symbol for the women’s movement, and it will provide inspiration for generations of women beyond ours. 

I hope everyone is spending this day thinking of the women who came before us, the women who we know now, and the women who will come. 

Finished Objects: Cowl and Handspun

It’s been a little while since I’ve made an FO post. It’s not for lack of FOs, really, but more a lack of things to say about them. 

I finished my Oats cowl. I needed some basics, so this is the first piece of some everyday scarves and cowls I’m adding to my wardrobe. The yarn is Malabrigo Rios. It took me quite a while to finish, but it was an easy project to pick up and put down. 


I finished some fiber that I was hoarding for spinning on my new wheel. This is 4.9oz of a BFL in the Hummingbird colorway. It was a nice spin (although a bit of a slog toward the end), and I am pretty pleased with the result. My plan is to use it with some dark brown handspun for a brioche project. 


I also finished a few hats for some friends and others who are participating in some marches that are coming up. 

I’ve got quite a few more projects in progress and lots of goodies to work with, so hopefully I’ll have a lot more to share in the coming weeks. 

Little Weaving Project 

I’ve been seeing quite a few of these little tapestry/wall-hangings on Instagram lately. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure about them, but I was finding myself compelled to make one. My last Fibre Share partner sent me this tiny loom, so I decided to give it a try. Thankfully, I also found a set of quick classes on Creativebug that explained several of the techniques that are helpful for getting started, adding the fancy bits, and for finishing off the project. I would highly recommend this class for beginners, like me, or for someone who is interested in dabbling in a new fiber craft. 


This little project was so much fun, I decided to order a slightly larger frame loom. I think this is going to be a great way to use up the scraps that I just can’t seem to throw away. 

Weaving For Beginners

Newly Casted On: Two Color Brioche Shawl

I have officially been bitten by the brioche-bug! After successfully finishing a hat, I decided that I would try a two-color project. I decided on the Marley shawl by Andrea Mowry (who I happen to be pretty obsessed with; her patterns are gorgeous). It took a few tries for me to get the increases right, and early on, I made some mistakes that I decided I couldn’t live with, so I ripped out a few times. Now, I am starting to get the flow a little more, and I am happy with how it is working up. There is one area where I contemplated tinking back, but the mistake is high up in the shawl, so it’ll be pretty bunched up once it is on, and it is only noticeable from one side. It is bothering me a tad, but I am using it as an opportunity for growth. In all, working with two colors is far simpler than I thought it would be. I am working with KnitPicks Palette yarn, which is an inexpensive 100% wool fingering weight yarn.

If you are looking to explore brioche more, take a look at Craftsy; I found the class I signed up for to be really helpful for both the two and single-color techniques. Most people mention the class by Nancy Merchant, but I actually preferred the look of the projects offered with this class a little more.

Does anyone else have any favorite brioche projects or resources for knitting in brioche?

Craftsy

Madrona 2017

Large events put me way out of my comfort zone. I don’t know many other knitters locally, so I am often left with attending fiber events on my own.  I am pretty introverted and anxious, so big events filled with unfamiliar faces make me so uneasy that it is hard to enjoy them. Therefore, I usually tend to skip out on them. Finding my niche in the fiber community is still something I am working on, and I am determined to find a little tribe.

I had heard of Madrona Fiber Arts previously, but the long drive and lack of knitting buddies to attend with made me uneasy about going. This year, I offered to help a friend who was vending, so I made the journey down to Tacoma for the marketplace on Friday. I worked for a few hours, and then I took the opportunity to do a little bit of stash enhancement at the marketplace. I think next year, I’ll try to take a class.

The marketplace was big and a bit overwhelming. I did a few passes before deciding on what to buy. There was so much beautiful yarn and fiber. My strategy for shopping is to buy things that are not otherwise available to me at my LYS and/or buying for specific projects. So, I bought some yarn from Local Color Fiber Studio. It is naturally dyed on Bainbridge Island, and it is hard to find in local yarn stores aside from Tolt Yarn and Wool or online. I think these two skeins will become a simple two-color brioche cowl. I don’t have a pattern in mind, but there are quite a few out there. I have been needing a square gauge ruler, so I picked one up from Sincere Sheep. I also got a skein of Wool Folk to make the Tread Hat from the Within collection. I am super happy and excited about all of my finds.

After the marketplace, I made a quick visit to see a friend who lives in Tacoma. After a long drive back north (Friday commute…ugh), the wait for the ferry was over two hours! Thankfully, I was able to drop my car off and walk to the ferry. The afternoon ride home was glorious, especially when I was able to bypass the big wait.

Show & Tell: finished shawl, hat & weaving

Lately, my focus on projects for myself has shifted a bit to making items for friends and doing some sample knitting for the fiber mill on the island. Despite being busy with the day job/career and a part-time passion gig, I’ve finished a few projects that I am excited to have finished.

My Hudson Shawl is done! I finished it just in time for a snowy day too.  The yarn is Cascade Eco. The blue was some neutral colored that I ended up dyeing because it really needed the fourth color (which I hadn’t originally planned for). The stripes and eyelets are a bit out of my comfort zone, but I really like it.



This brioche hat (Vanilla Fog) was quick and a good introduction to decreasing in brioche. I had a Craftsy class on brioche in my library that I found quite helpful. After this, I think I’ll be ready for some two-color brioche! 

I also pulled my first weaving project off my loom. It is uneven in spots, but I am pretty happy with it overall. I used some of the handspun that I dyed with onion skins during the summer for the weft and Cascade 220 for the warp.

Craftsy

Knitting for fun versus knitting for function

When I’m choosing yarn and projects, sometimes I face the dilemma of whether I should be knitting for fun or for function. There are certain pieces that I wear all of the time; they are staples.

The Farmhouse Shawl is one I wear ALL of the time in the winter. It is a nice, neutral color, so it goes well with pretty much everything.

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I also wear a cowl that was gifted to me by a former client (and knitter). Again, it’s plain and goes well with just about everything. It is so simple, but it is one of my major go-to cowls, even though I have others to choose from.

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I also love the couple of sweaters I’ve finished over the years, and I wear them pretty often. With something that takes as long as a sweater, I am much more mindful over wearability and color choice, but even that has taken some time to learn (really, once I knitted a Burgundy tube top).

As I continue to knit and build a wardrobe of accessories and garments, I am finding myself gravitating toward patterns that I want to knit, but I question their function and wearability. I am a pretty plain-Jane when it comes to fashion, so dark colors, solids, and neutrals are what I wear most. But my eyes, gravitate toward patterns and color, even though they might not be practical.

Take for instance, the Hudson Shawl, which I am finishing the knitted-on-border for now. It has stripes and eyelets, which are totally out of my usual comfort zone, but the pattern and product just looked so tempting! The colors are still pretty earth-toned, but I keep asking myself what I am going to wear with it (despite having plenty of plain shirts that it’ll go perfectly well with).

And then, there are hats. I love knitting hats. But a girl, her husband, and her daughter only need so many. They’re a great single skein project (especially since I am NOT a sock knitter), but I tend not to wear them during the week because hat-hair is not a good look for the office. I keep finding myself wanting to knit hats, but I have one for almost every day of the winter.

 

I don’t think I have a great solution to this dilemma, but I am curious how others balance knitting for fun and function. I am trying to be mindful not to accumulate stuff that I don’t wear, but when there is so much lovely yarn and so many lovely patters, that can be a tall task. For now, I am happy with the wardrobe I am knitting, and I’ll keep examining what gets worn and what doesn’t. With the things that don’t get worn, I am allowing myself to be okay with giving it to someone who will love it more than I do, or I am doing myself the favor of ripping it out to repurpose into something that I will love more.

Is this something you think about when you are buying yarn and patterns? Or, do you allow yourself the pure enjoyment that knitting should bring? Either way, I’d love to know what others think on this.

 

Happy knitting!

WiP Wednesday: Knitting amidst distractions

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit distracted lately. The current political changes are stressing me out a bit. I am trying to remember to keep calm and knit on, because there’s not a whole lot that stressing out will do to help. 


So, what am I working on? 

I’m test knitting a cowl with some of the beautiful Josef & Anni yarn from Abundant Earth Fiber. This is my first time test knitting, so it has been fun and educational. 


I’m still plugging away at my Hudson Shawl. I’ve made it to the knitted on edging, which is a new technique for me. I can’t wait to bundle myself up in this. 

I started spinning some Cormo that I had gifted myself from Sincere Sheep around the holidays. It is like spinning a cloud; it is so soft and airy! 

I finished up a small cowl out of some Sweet Fiber Cashmerino that I won from a knit along. I think I stretched a little too much when I was blocking, but it is super soft and I like the pattern (Eterntiy Scarf from Brooklyn Tweed). 


A little handspun also made it into the finished bin

Making your crafty dollars count

Inspired by the marches taking place around the world today, I have been thinking a lot about how to continue supporting the long fight that is ahead of us. It seemed appropriate for this forum to discuss how I can use my crafty dollars to make a statement and support the causes that I believe in. Given that crafting is largely associated with women (for better or for worse), we can really use the things we buy and the things we make to bring attention to the causes that are important to us. I know I spend hundreds of dollars each year on my crafty habits, and I want to make sure that money is going to businesses that promote women and women’s issues. More than that, I want to make sure that I am not putting my money into the hands of businesses that are actively working against minority groups and/or women.

Disclaimer: there are all types of businesses and organizations, and these are causes that I believe in; do your research and support the ones that promote the values you see as important.

  • Shop with businesses that give a portion of their proceeds from their sales on a certain item to an organization that you support. I’ve recently found multiple Etsy sellers and Pin Cause, who give a potion of their sales to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
  • Shop with local businesses. There are multiple locally owned businesses, which are also owned and/or run by women, who have shown their support in the fight for equal rights. They were collection points for the Pussy Hat Project, gave discounts on pink yarn, and openly supported the march and movement. I know some businesses prefer to stay quiet in politics for fear of losing their customer base, so it is important to support the ones that take a stand to support things that you believe in. I am proud to give them my money and will continue to shop with them long after the marches are over. Some of these businesses are: Weaving Works, Knitty Purls, Bizarre Girls and Whidbey Isle Yarns and Teas, among others.
  • Not all of us have access to amazing local stores, but do your research on the big box stores or major online retailers that you shop with. Make sure they are not funneling their money toward organizations or causes that are in opposition to what you support. There are certain big box stores where I will not shop because I do not agree with the way they treat their employees or their stances on women and minorities.
  • Donate your handmade items when you can. There are a lot of charity knitting organizations. Do your research, and find a place where your crafty talents will be appreciated. I have knitted items to donate to cancer patients, babies in the NICU, and to moms who have lost babies because they are near to my heart.
  • Display the items that you buy in a place where people can see them. I have my buttons displayed on my knitting bag that goes just about everywhere with me. I also spent time knitting Pussy Hats in public. It can also show people that share your views that they are not alone; this can be an isolating time for a lot of people. Talk about them and discuss your views openly with the people who ask. This is a time where respectful, open dialogue is important.

Stash Enhancement and a New LYS

I’ve added lots of new, fun things to my stash as of late, so I thought I would share some highlights.

After Christmas and getting my loom, I did a pretty big Knit Picks order (actually, I did two, but they were in such close succession that I am counting them as one). They were running a promotion that with a purchase over $50 you could choose a free tote. I did not NEED a new tote, but this one just suited me so well. I also stocked up on some Wool of the Andes in a few different weights and some cotton yarn to do some weaving with. I am planning on a small blanket for the husband and some hand towels. The box of yarn is a bit intimidating to look at, but it does bring me a lot of joy.

I’ve also done a little shopping on Etsy. I got some gorgeous fiber and a few spinning tools. The fiber and larger wraps per inch tool are from a shop called Hipstrings, and the smaller wraps per inch tool (to replace one that I mysteriously misplaced somewhere in my house) is from A Rock and A Tree. I am quite excited to try spinning with some fiber that has yak in it!

This fiber was purchased in a moment of total weakness at Mad Cow Yarn. It is from a local dyer, The Homestead Hobbyist, and I just couldn’t resist the fiber content and the subtle color changes. I hope that this can become a cowl or a shawl once I’ve spun it up.

 

Lastly, I got to visit a new LYS: The Nifty Knitter. It is located in Issaquah, WA and has been open since about November. I had a few extra minutes between clients, so I was able to pop in for some yarn for hats for the #pussyhatproject. It is a small, but very charming location. The yarn is well-organized by brand, so it was easy to figure out what is there. The aesthetic of the store was very cute, a little retro, and very organized. All of the colors within a brand were organized, so it was easy to find what I needed. The selection of yarns was nice, and I expect that it’ll grow. There was also some locally dyed yarn, which always makes my heart a little happier. I am not out in that direction often, but it is definitely worth stopping at when I am.

 

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