The value of slow

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For most things in my life, I strive for using as little time as possible. I also try to organise my day so that every hour is planned and therefore used efficiently, given my tendency to start watching TV and suddenly realising that is midnight and I didn’t do anything. These days everyone is working towards faster, faster, faster and I am not the exception.

I realised the other day however that the only slow thing I do is crocheting and knitting. If we think about it in terms of process and time, we are talking snail-speed here. From choosing a pattern (we have all spent countless hours on Ravelry), to finding the right yarn, swatching, then knitting/crocheting the actual project, finishing and blocking, it is a very slow way to get a shawl/hat/sweater/etc. into your closet.

There is a new term going around called slow fashion, it is mainly applied to the fashion industry and how to make the whole supply chain more sustainable and fair to all who take part in it. I believe that this is extremely necessary and important, and we should all support it as customers. But I also believe that this micro level of slow fashion, the personal one, is essential. Taking the time, however long that is, to make something with your hands that is to be worn and loved is something I have really come to appreciate in the last year. Instead of falling on this “go faster” mentality us knitters and crocheters are constantly looking for more challenging patterns that actually make us go even slower, ain’t that amazing?

At the end of 2015 I made my first knitted cardigan. I started on a train journey at the beginning of October and finished it by the holiday time in December, it was a beginner pattern and it actually felt like a quick project. Hallelujah for knitting/crocheting and its magic to make us go slow in a world where faster is king.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

xx

Sol

PS If you are looking for a great beginner sweater pattern, the Ramona Cardigan is perfect. Top down construction in aran weight yarn, a very well written pattern and a lovely and simple fit. Can’t recommend it enough.

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Doings and undoings

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Hello everyone, how’s your week going? I have been very busy lately with the blog, my new design and my upcoming classes in Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Did I mention I am teaching three classes this year? I couldn’t be more excited!

I also need to sort out my shopping list for the festival, which let’s be honest: it should be nothing considering the size of my stash but we all know that the yarny fumes at festivals are unavoidable so I might as well be prepared. Any of you going to EYF? Would love to meet up if you are around!

The last few days I have mostly worked on my Owls jumper, the pattern is by Kate Davies and it is sooo cute. I am using a yarn my sister got for me when she was on holiday in the south of Chile last year, it is a very rustic blend of wool and alpaca and I love the colour with browns, greens and pinks showing through. It is very unfortunate that after reaching the underarms I had to rip it all out though… 😦 I realised I was making the wrong size (two times bigger) after forgetting my bust measurements (we all have our days) and getting my gauge wrong. I considered leaving it but decided to rip out and start over and I must admit to being a bit proud of myself for doing this.

It takes so little to undo all that knitting, quite scary indeed to see all those stitches come undone: it’s probably the definition of a horror movie for knitters. It is a quick project though so I am already at the waist with the new size, and now of course I am worried it is a little too small… ain’t that always the case? That is the problem with bottom up sweaters, you can’t really try them on easily. I don’t particularly like fitted jumpers but the pattern calls for a bit of negative ease and it seems to look nice on everyone else on Ravelry so fingers crossed! I don’t think I could rip it out again to be honest so it will just have to fit.

What is YOUR criteria for ripping out and starting over?

Let me know in the comments!

xx

Sol

A catch up and knitting FOs

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Coming back to reality after the holidays is always mixed feelings: I love being back home to my bed and yarn stash but it is so difficult not to miss the amazing places I visited and the great time I shared with loved ones. These holidays were super busy but so much fun, I first spent a few days with my boyfriend in the Lake District and then my sister and one of my closest friends arrived to the UK and we did an awesome road trip through the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. I will be sharing some of my adventures here in the blog soon including a little shopping guide (featuring yarn of course) to some of the places I visited.

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Everything was a bit crazy before my holidays so I didn’t have time to share how my first two knitting projects turned out. Remember the infinity scarf I was making from that Craftsy class? Well, I decided to simplify the pattern a bit and it is now finished! I really really like how it turned out, I used West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley Aran, it is so warm and cosy. I enjoyed so much to knit the centre in stockinette, such a simple stitch but so beautiful and different from crochet fabric. It had been a while since I had used anything thicker than 4-ply yarn so it was lovely to use a thicker yarn without getting a very thick fabric.

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After finishing this project I knew I wanted to cast on a hat. I thought about starting with a very simple pattern but I’d had my eye for months on Clare Devine’s Chai pattern and decided to go for it even though it has a cable and you need to use DPNs for the decreases. The pattern calls for chunky yarn and I decided to use Ginger’s Hand Dyed in Little Cat Feet.

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The pattern is great and it goes really quickly even for a beginner like me, I had a hat finished after 3 days! I only panicked with the DPNs when I was doing the crown and started to get confused with all the needles but managed to sort it out and now I have the most beautiful hat ever. I love it so much and already wore it while on our trip to the Highlands.

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I already casted on a new knitting project with some very special yarn and have two other crochet WIPs at the moment, so loads to crochet and knit as usual 🙂 What is on your hook/needles? Let me know in the comments!

xxx

Sol

Catch up and latest FOs

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Well hello everyone! I am writing today to catch up on life, my crochet journey and now also knitting journey after a short break from the blog. It is summer in my corner of the world and even though the weather has not been great I have been trying to enjoy the extra light and just be out and about a bit more. I love being at home so it is always hard to get myself out the door but once I’m out I am always glad I did it. I am also still doing yoga and enjoying every minute of it, it helps with my anxiety like nothing else so really recommend it to everyone if you are looking for a different type of physical activity.

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I finished two crochet projects recently that I would like to share with you, the first is my Lorelei Pullover by Dora Ohrenstein. I LOVE this top, it is just so light and summery, the colour is amazing and the stitch pattern is beautiful and unique. Very simple construction so really recommend it if you want to give it a try. I used Ginger’s Hand Dyed Swanky Lace in Girl on Fire which is a blend of baby alpaca, silk and cashmere so you can imagine how awesome this garment feels.

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The other FO I wanted to share is my Penelope Top by Jenny Reid. I love the romantic look of this top and that stitch pattern is truly stunning. The back is really nice but couldn’t get a nice picture of it unfortunately… not easy to take pictures of yourself!

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I used John Arbon Alpaca Supreme 4ply in Silver Fawn, beautifully soft yarn though I am regretting the alpaca a bit after getting some serious pilling issues with only one wear. If anyone has any recommendations for a good pilling remover please let me know 🙂

I am so happy with these two garments because I really like how they look and have already been wearing them proudly, that is what my handmade wardrobe focus is all about and it makes me want to keep on doing more and more garment patterns now that I know I can make them fit. You know when you are working a pattern and you realise you made a mistake or you have a feeling it won’t be big/small enough to fit you and you avoid it until you are done? Well I have been determined not to avoid those feelings and it has saved the fit of my garments more than once with just a bit more work. Trust your instincts everyone and it will save you a lot of time and effort.

My knitting is coming along, I am taking a Craftsy class that shows you how to make an infinity scarf so I am working my way through that and really enjoying it now that I have found a good position for my hands and yarn when knitting and purling. After this I would like to do a hat and a shawl, so if you have any simple patterns to recommend I would really appreciate it. For the shawl I want to use a beautiful 4-ply skein from Hedgehog Fibres that I purchased when I was in Dublin last month, it is so pretty that I know the yarn would shine in a simple knitted shawl. I thought of doing a crochet shawl but it would have to be a very open and lacy one to use just the one skein and I don’t think the yarn colour changes will show as well so I am glad I am adding knitting to my skills bucket!

What have you been up to? Let me know in the comments 🙂 I will be going on holiday this month and I have family visiting on the following month so I may not be posting as often. I try to post on Instagram a bit more often so you can check my feed there if you want to see what I am up to.

Have a great day everyone!

x

Sol

Review: Learn to Crochet, Love to Crochet by Anna Wilkinson

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Hi there, how are you all? The blog has been a silent for a bit but I am back today with a book review for you. When I first started the blog I did quite a few reviews but it has been a while since I have shared one. When I purchased this book however, I knew I had to talk about it.

I hadn’t heard of Anna Wilkinson before since prior to this book her designs focused on knitting rather than crochet, though I had seen her beautiful Brill shawl which was featured in Pom Pom magazine (if you are knitter you must check it out). So when Jess from Ginger Twist Studio mentioned this book was coming out I was intrigued… a knitter publishing a crochet book is not something you see often, most knitters I know don’t like crochet at all and haven’t met many who enjoy both crafts. Since I believe knitting is definitely ahead in terms of fashion and style I was hoping this was a good thing, and I am happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. This book has many patterns that I would like to try, and more importantly, that I would love to wear.

I was very lucky to try on the samples from this book and Anna has given me permission to share some pictures of me and Jess with our favourite patterns. It makes such a difference to try on the samples, it made me realise which patterns I not only liked on the page but also looked good on me and if there were any modifications I would like to do.

The book begins with an introduction by Anna which I think really touches on what might be holding people back from crochet. As a knitter herself she admits that learning how to crochet felt a bit “alien” and “fiddly” at the beginning, but just with anything in life, this passes and you get to enjoy this craft and all the amazing things you can do with it. She explains how forgiving crochet is when it comes to mistakes (which I have always believed is the definite plus compared to knitting) and how each craft has its own place and purposes.

After a great intro there are detailed instructions for crochet beginners with everything you need to work your basic stitches, read patterns, measure gauge and even change colours. Sometimes this part of crochet books is not great, but I was quite impressed to see how clear the pictures and instructions are. She doesn’t leave anything to guesswork, showing you how to wrap yarn around your hook and identifying stitches, I am guessing her background as a knitter contributed to how comprehensive the instructions are. Since I have always crocheted I have never thought about how I wrap yarn around my hook but it makes total sense to mention this for complete beginners.

After this section you come to the “Learn to Crochet” patterns aimed at beginners, starting with a simple pair of fingerless mitts and moving on to more complicated things. What I love, love, love about these patterns is that in this book “beginner” does not mean that you can only do blankets, but also beautiful and wearable garments which use a simple construction that would be easy for a beginner to follow. She uses great colour combinations which are very attractive and the photography is stunning. I particularly like the Cropped Tee, the Zig Zag Shopper, the Granny Stripe Chunky Sweater and the Tweed Cardi.

Jess has already made an awesome version of the Cropped Tee using her hand dyed yarn and I may have already purchased some yarn for mine… 🙂

Cropped Tee by Anna Wilkinson
Cropped Tee, Jess’s version
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Cropped Tee
Granny
Granny Stripe Chunky Sweater

 

Granny
Granny Stripe Chunky Sweater
Tweed Cardi
Tweed Cardi
Tweed Cardi
Tweed Cardi

I was very surprised to see I liked some of the garments here which use thicker yarns. I don’t dare to crochet patterns which use anything thicker than DK, and even that I find too thick to work with crochet. But I must admit I was very attracted to those patterns, even the Tweed Cardi which uses super bulky yarn! It looks amazing on Jess and the weight of the yarn makes it more like a jacket than a cardi.

From the Love Crochet patterns section I really liked the Vintage Style Embroidered Top, the Fan Stitch Cardigan and the Patchwork Stitch Sweater.

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Fan Stitch Cardigan
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Fan Stitch Cardigan
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Patchwork Stitch Sweater
Vintage Style
Vintage Style Embroidered Top

I would say that the one thing I missed in this book was garments using lighter yarns. Even though I was surprised to like the garments that used heavier yarns, it is still not my preference in general. I think crochet can be so much more than heavy garments, it can also have beautiful drape and shape which also suits a larger range of body types compared to garments with thicker fabrics. Having said that I think some of these garments have a very simple construction and could therefore be adapted to use a different yarn weight if required.

If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it online at Ginger Twist Studio here. Big thanks to Anna for her permission to play with her samples and to Jess for being such a stylish model! I think my modelling career would be very short… I had to erase half of the pictures because I had my eyes closed 🙂

I will be back soon with some WIPs, FOs and some knitting… yes! you read that right!

x

Sol

Disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own money and decided to review it simply because I liked it 🙂

More summer crochet tops

My last post about summer crochet tops proved quite popular so I am back today with some more patterns for you to check out. The last post was all about what I call a typical crochet top so today I thought I would share a few that are quite stunning but may not fit with your idea of a crochet top which is why I love them even more. I am all about pushing crochet boundaries so these tops really make my hands itch!

I must mention again that I have not tried any of these patterns, though I have tried other designs by some of the designers showcased here with great results, particularly Joanne Scrace and Dora Ohrenstein. Some of these were published on magazines but checked and they are all still available as digital issues if you wanted to purchase the issue. Would love to hear what you think of these patterns and if you would like to try any of them so let me know in the comments. If you click on the picture you will be directed to the Raverly pattern page.

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Carolyn Top by Joanne Scrace © Tailor Made Publishing
Quartz Lace Top by Dora Ohrenstein © Harper Point
Quartz Lace Top by Dora Ohrenstein
© Harper Point
Penelope Top by Jenny Reid © Tailor Made Publishing
Penelope Top by Jenny Reid
© Tailor Made Publishing
Convergence Top by Linda Skuja © Interweave Crochet 2014
Convergence Top by Linda Skuja
© Interweave Crochet 2014
Roses Jumber by Simone Francis © Tailor Made Publishing Ltd
Roses Jumber by Simone Francis
© Tailor Made Publishing Ltd

x

Sol

June WIPs

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Hello everyone, how are you? I thought it would be good to start the month by sharing what has been on my hook lately and what I plan to start soon as well. I have so many projects I want to work on (and so much yarn waiting to be used), particularly all the summer garments that are on my queue since I want them finished by those two weeks in July that are called “summer” in Scotland.

First, I thought I should show you how my Freyja shawl is coming along. Last time you saw it I was starting my repeats and I am afraid there is still long to go. This shawl is beautiful but oh dear how much time it takes! I am about a third of the way but hope to finish it this month, have some travelling to do for work next week and have decided to bring this project along to make sure I work on it.

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What has been taking most of my crochet time is this awesome Lorelei Pullover by Dora Ohrenstein. It appears in a tunisian crochet book by Dora called The New Tunisian Crochet: Contemporary Designs from Time Honoured Traditions, it is a great book for learning new stitches in tunisian crochet but unfortunately the patterns didn’t really catch my eye, except for this one. I knew I had to make this as soon as I saw it, and after I found the perfect yarn for it it wasn’t long until this was on my hook.

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The yarn I am using is Ginger’s Hand Dyed Swanky Lace which is a beautiful blend of 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk and 10% cashmere in the colour Girl on Fire. This is the most luxurious yarn I have ever worked with, Jess has a great eye for colour and this one is no exception: it is just beautiful. It is definitely more on the bright side of what I usually wear but the colour suits me (after doing a quick poll in the shop) and since it is a summery item I think that is the best bet to go a bit more colourful.

The stitch pattern for this pullover was adapted by Dora from a vintage magazine, and it is very special and unique. As you may have noticed I love working on things that don’t look like crochet at first sight, and this definitely fits the bill. Gauge is tricky since the length of the stitches are determined by how much you pull that loop in each stitch, and it can vary a lot. Halfway through I realised that even though my swatch had a very loose row gauge I was now crocheting a lot tighter, so I am having to add a few more rows to make sure it is not too small.

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This is also a project where you can see the magic of blocking. It makes SUCH a difference, from an uneven fabric with a huge bias to beautiful and drapey. It is hard to see how it fits before blocking so I am just trusting that it will all work out in the end, a bit of crochet faith!

So that is what is on my hook just now, very proud to have only two projects on. I am eager to start more and so I will start swatching soon for my next garment to make sure I can start as soon as I finish one of these two WIPs (definitely the pullover). Here is a sneak peak at what I will be working on next!

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What are you guys working on? Let me know in the comments!

Have a great week,

x

Sol

FO: Transposition shawl

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I love finishing projects, especially now that I am on my handmade wardrobe journey and there is more chance I will actually wear my finished object (FO). The other great part of it is that you get to start another project and that is always such a joy.

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I made this shawl as part of the Crafts from the Cwtch Make-Along. The idea was to crochet or knit a shawl using a construction you hadn’t used before, which is such an awesome idea. Since I had been wanting to try one of the patterns from The Shawl Project by Joanne Scrace I though this was the perfect opportunity and started looking for which one to choose. I realised then that when it comes to crochet shawls, I haven’t really worked any of them that haven’t used tunisian crochet (weird right?) so any of them would be a new construction for me. So I decided to go with the one that first caught my attention after I bought the book, the Transposition shawl.

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This shawl is worked from the centre-out and the pattern becomes more open as you work your way down. It is so gorgeous! I used Titus 4ply by Eden Cottage Yarns in the colour Marigold and I love this colour so much. Now, I had been wanting to try a yellow-gold-mustardy colour for ages now, but I always thought it wouldn’t go with my South American complexion. When I saw this yarn on Victoria’s Instagram feed though, I knew I had to try it. I figured that a shawl would be a smart way to see if the colour suited me and if it didn’t I could give it to someone as a gift. It turns out I can pull off this colour, yay! I see a gold cardigan in my future… 🙂

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This pattern was so quick to make, it only uses one 100g skein of 4-ply yarn so you can use something a bit more luxurious without having to invest too much money in the project, I definitely recommend you try the pattern.

Have you finished anything recently? Would love to hear what you are working on 🙂

x

Sol

Summer crochet tops

I listened to the latest episode of A Playful Day this week in which Kate was talking about her handmade wardrobe inspirations including a few patterns for knitted tops she was interested in making. I have been wanting to post about crochet patterns that have caught my eye in terms of wearability and I think summery crochet tops would be a great place to start since this would be a good time to begin your project if you want it ready for the summer months.

I went to look in my Ravelry library, searched some of my favourite designers and came up with a stupidly long list of patterns! I decided then to split it up into a couple of posts since I realised I had two categories of tops: lace crochet tops (which are back in fashion, yay!) and well… everything else 🙂

This post focuses on that first category: the lace crochet top, which I would say is what people think of when they hear “crochet top”: a very open design, maybe with some motifs that scream summer like nothing else. When I say lacy though, I don’t mean that it has to be worked with a lace-weight yarn or cotton thread, a few of the designs here use heavier yarns such as DK. What I mean is that it has a lace design which is so typically crochet and which I personally haven’t explored as much as I would like to.

I have chosen patterns, both free and paid, which celebrate this style of crochet top and which I think would fit great in my (and anyone’s) wardrobe. I prefer more loose and flowy tops than fitted ones and this style of top is usually worked with no waist shaping making not only quite straightforward for beginners but also suitable to many different body shapes.

I have not tried any of this patterns personally so as with any pattern I would advise to check projects and comments on Ravelry before running to buy yarn (don’t deny it!) since depending on the weight it could be a long project. Click on the pictures to see the pattern on Ravelry and let me know if you are thinking of giving a try to any of them. Personally I have long admired the Pond Ripples pattern but I am not a big fan of joining motifs!

Kos © Rowan Yarns, 2013
Kos by Marie Wallin
© Rowan Yarns, 2013

 

Genoa by Robyn Chachula © Berroco Inc.
Genoa by Robyn Chachula
© Berroco Inc.
Pond Ripples by Elena Fedotova © Ravliki
Pond Ripples by Elena Fedotova
© Ravliki
Lacy Cropped Top by Marilyn Coleman © Coats & Clark
Lacy Cropped Top by Marilyn Coleman
© Coats & Clark
Striped French Sweater by Pierrot Yarns © Pierrot Yarns (Gosyo Co., Ltd.)
Striped French Sweater by Pierrot Yarns
© Pierrot Yarns (Gosyo Co., Ltd.)
Ethnic Denim Summer Sweater by Pierrot Yarns © Pierrot Yarns (Gosyo Co., Ltd.)
Ethnic Denim Summer Sweater by Pierrot Yarns
© Pierrot Yarns (Gosyo Co., Ltd.)

Let me know if you have any other patterns to suggest, my Ravelry library is never big enough!

x

Sol

FO: Alyssium cardi

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Handmade wardrobe in the air! I seem to have decided to go on this journey just at the right time, everyone seems to be talking about a handmade wardrobe lately and it is so exciting. I have a finished object (FO) to share with you but first let me tell you a bit of what has been going on:

  • This month is Me Made May 2015, a challenge to encourage people to wear and love their handmade items, how awesome is that? There are a few hashtags going around in social media (#memademay, @memademay15) with people posting pictures of them wearing their handmade garments or accessories and it is so inspiring. I am not officially taking part (not good at taking pictures of me every day) but definitely cheering on and enjoying to see everyone’s posts.
  • Joanne Scrace from The Crochet Project has created a Facebook group called “Make it. Wear it”. The group is aimed at people interested in wearable knitted and crochet garments or accessories. The group already has quite a few members so be sure to check it out if you want to join the chat.
  • Kate from A Playful Day has a topic for each month as part of her “inspired 2015” theme and this month is all about a handmade wardrobe (I am telling you there is something in the air!). She has a podcast out with this theme which I haven’t listened to yet but I love her podcast so I am sure it will be a good one.
  • Finally, Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch has kicked off her make-along this month, the idea is to make a shawl using a craft, technique or construction you haven’t tried before. There are quite a few knitters making crochet shawls and crocheters trying out their knitting skills which I think is amazing! I am taking part on this make-along with a shawl from The Shawl Project by Joanne Scrace. Check out the Ravelry group if you want to take part!

So now to the reason for this post: I finished my Alyssium cardigan! I am so excited to share this FO with you guys because I am completely and absolutely in love with this cardigan.

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The pattern is the Alyssium cardigan by Joanne Scrace and I knew I had to make it since the first time I saw it. It is really hard for me to like a pattern for a crochet garment, mostly because they don’t have any drape and I am in a I-only-want-to-wear-very-loose-clothes phase. But then I saw this cardigan and it looked just perfect: drapey, with a beautiful but simple stitch pattern and that ribbing is such a lovely design detail.

I decided to use the same yarn as the pattern and it was at the top of my shopping list for the EYF since I knew Victoria from Eden Cottage Yarns had a stall at the event. I ended up picking the same colour as the sample, it was the one I liked the most and the one that matched what I have in my wardrobe best.

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For this project I really embraced the whole idea of a handmade wardrobe and I am so happy that I did because the result is everything I thought it would be. Here are a few of the things I did differently from my usual way to tackle a project to make sure that this garment was something I would love to wear:

  • Swatching: I not only swatted but also blocked it and made a note of my gauge before and after blocking. This allowed me to keep track of my gauge as I was working on the cardigan, it made me realise if I was crocheting too loose or too tight that day and adjust accordingly.
  • Length adjustments: This is a top-down cardigan so making adjustments is very easy. I made the body a bit longer to make sure the ribbing finished right where I wanted it.
  • Sleeve trial and error: I made a mistake on the body at some point which meant that the pattern for the sleeves short rows wouldn’t work for me. I had to re-think the short rows to match what I had and it took a lot of charting, drawing and counting to get it to work. Once I had the math I had to work the sleeve to make sure it looked good and if not, go back to drawing again. I won’t even tell you how many times I worked those short rows until I was finally happy with the result, and I would’ve never done this if I wasn’t determined to get a cardigan I would love to wear.
  • Sleeve length: The length of the sleeves was another story, I changed the length three times on one sleeve before deciding on a long sleeve, and for each time I had to un-do the cuff to change the length but I am so glad I did because now it is perfect.

I have been wearing this cardigan a lot on the past week and have received quite a few compliments about it. First garment made with intention and it is a success! The first of many more to come…

x

Sol