How the Knitted Chokers Came to Be (+ Learn to Make Your Own)

knit choker

I designed Close Knit to be a freeform thing - I didn't want to commit to making a certain product, or anything, I decided instead to have side jobs to keep up an income so that I could afford to be a little playful and meandering with this little business.

It's lead me to so many good things - a blog post series turned into a podcast, my flexible work schedule that lets me attend handspinners guild meetings on thursday mornings, and now I've begun learning (and getting addicted to) spinning. 

There have been so many tiny, serendipitous things that have happened that have led me to where I am now with Close Knit, and I'm loving the surprises and exciting opportunities that have come out of them.

The knitted chokers/necklaces are one such story.

I have promised my partner a friendship bracelet for many years (sorry, bub!) and I've also promised for the last year and a half that I'll felt patches onto the jumper that used to belong to my papa back in day (the elbows are just gaping holes now). So I finally got around to picking up some roving from the handspinners guild shop and I picked up two, one dark grey and one navy, not sure which one would go with his jumper. 

I took them home and realised the grey was totally clashing - so I nixed that idea and figured, well, now I've got this grey cloud of fluff to practice spinning with! I started spinning it up and made a few tiny skeins, no more than 10g each - real tiny. I plied them up, washed them and turned them into my first few skeins of handspun which I proudly brought to the guild meeting for "show and tell". 

Then I was like, what do I do with all these tiny skeins? they're not really enough to make something out of. So I remembered that I had promised a friendship bracelet to my partner for literally years and set about making one. I knitted it up and thought I'd make it a bit bigger than my own wrist to accommodate his - but when I finished it it looked pretty long. I held it up to my neck for comparison, and then I was like, wait a minute, could I knit chokers?

So i tied it up in a little bow at the back and started wearing it around. I was pretty pleased.

I wore it home and immediately my housemates all exclaimed that they wanted one, too. That gave me the needed validation that these were fun/kinda cool so I kept knitting them.

They are all handspun wool (usually Australian grown merino) - spun either by me or a friend in the states who sent me some little skeins to play with - and then they're handknit by me. Because of the nature of handspun, they're all one-of-a-kind! They're tiny labours of love and what I like the most about them is that I only feel joy/excitement when spinning and knitting small things - so they're full of good vibes, too. 

If you're in the marker for a knitted necklace - let me know, let's make that happen! 

OR if you wanna make your own and you live in Hobart - come to my workshop next Tuesday night, 7th June 2016 7pm-9pm at the State Cinema in North Hobart. To register a spot email hello@shippinglane.com - tix are $35 and include a hot beverage, knitting needles and wool that's been handspun by me! Hope to see you there. 

 

 

And in case you're wondering, I did end up making my partner his friendship bracelet in the end ;) 

What's On My Needles - Knit-A-Long Edition

Each Week (more or less), I'll share a quick (or sometimes not quick) snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

quinceandcoyarn

If you follow me over on instagram, you'll already know about this,  but in case you don't - here's the lowdown. My BFF (best friend in fibre, or best friend forever, either is cool with me) Kate  and I met up in Boston last year and went on an unintentional yarn crawl, because what else would happen when two fibre nerds meet IRL for the first time? We're both mad for non-superwash wools, and neither of us had tried knitting socks before, so we picked up a couple skeins of Quince and Co finch - in the heathered colour "caspian", because of course we would pick the same colour. But really, we picked the colour because we wanted something neutral but not too light that they'd get too grimey. These are socks, afterall.

So here we are, a solid 8 months later (whoops) finally getting around to knitting our first pair of socks together. We wanted to try this together because we have a habit of starting projects and ripping our hair out over them and then giving up (sometimes). So we figured that if we did them together, there would be enough moral support to keep us going - solid logic, right?

sock swatch

Then we figured that if we were struggling to work up the courage to knit our first pair of socks, there are probably a bunch of other folks out there, too. So we made it a little Knit-A-Long. We're calling it the Pen Pal Sock KAL - cuz how cute, that rhymes, and it describes our friendship. And we're using the hashtags #penpalsockkal and #firstsocks.

We technically started the 1st of May, and I'm saying techincally here because I haven't even finished swatching yet, so please feel free to join us at any time. Oh, and my good internet friend Joanne had a great term for what this KAL will probably be, the #worldsslowestkal - which is cool with me because, hey, knitting shouldn't make you feel anxiety or pressured, right? (I'll be honest, I sometimes feel that, but I'm trying to relax about the whole thing - it is only knitting, afterall). 

So get amongst it by knitting your own pair of socks - any socks will do - will doing the BFF socks by Cookie A  and we're leaving out the cables because Jen Beeman is a goddess and her pair were absurdly good. Knit as fast or as slow as you want, 'cause we're not here to judge, just cheer you on. 

xx

Ani 

 

What's On My Needles - The Making of a Sweater

Each Week, I'll share a quick (or sometimes not quick) snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

Well hey there- I seem to have taken a (rather unintentional) hiatus from posting "what's on my needles". But it's never too late to share, right?  I thought I'd take this time to do a little "start to finish" kind of post to show you the process of skein to sweater, since I finished my Agnes Pullover a couple of (cough) months ago. 

I've since worn Agnes on hikes, to the shops, to the farmers' market. She's a good companion. Nice and cozy warm. And pockets. Bloody pockets. Love 'em. 

IMG_3935.JPG
agnes swatch
soaking swatch
agnes progress
agnes with a pocket
IMG_4108.JPG

That's what was on my needles in Jan/Feb - now I'm working on a cowl (more on that soon), a shawl (also more on that soon), and some sewing/quilting/spinning to break things up a little. 

Thoughts On Spinning (From A Spinning Newbie)

first attempt at spinning

first attempt at spinning

You know when you discover something and you're like "how did I not know about this before? what was I doing all this time? my world is completely changed." This happens to me on a fairly regular basis - some examples I can think of - bringing my bicycle to college and being able to cycle around The Bay, buying garlic Persian fetta and putting it in salad, and most recently - spinning. Clearly I am easily pleased/my life is easily improved. 

first tiny baby skein of hanspun

first tiny baby skein of hanspun

Spinning has my head, well, spinning - with ideas of what I can make, ways I can get more creative/have more control over the things I make. My mind feels like tons of tiny little lights are twinkling at once - or something like that. The plying possibilities- the spinning possibilities, the fibre I can source, the learning the thing. It's all so damn exciting. 

spinning attempt #2 - mid Andean Bracelet Making attempt

spinning attempt #2 - mid Andean Bracelet Making attempt

Thinking of trying spinning? Here are some thoughts I have/things I've learnt (but take this all with a grain of salt, because I am clearly no expert) 

  • See if there is a local spinning guild you can check outMine has been a ridiculously amazing resource and community. It has a library of tools- and I was even able to loan a drop spindle so I didn't have to buy one outright! In all likelihood, there's one in your area and the people there are the best people in the world (cuz, the fibre community, amirite?) 
  • Try starting on a drop spindle - they're cheap, portable, and that makes it easier to get started, I think. That way you can easily start without a lot of upfront cost, and you can do it wherever. If you're anything like me, you'll be so stoked that you will take it with you everywhere- to the park for your lunch break, to the farmers market, etc
  • If you do start on a drop spindle - try the "park and draft" method first, just to get your bearings. You start by sitting down and over-spinning so that you don't have to do the downward motion + draft (aka pull the fibre through your fingers) at the same time. Here's a video that might help get you started.
  • If you have long hair, tie it up before you start, or you might spin your hair into it.... (not that i did this or anything) 
  • Speaking of hair ties, have a couple on hand, they're really useful for tucking the excess fibre into on your left wrist so that you don't accidentally get too much fibre all mixed up in your work before you're ready to draft it.
  • Get some roving if you can, it's a little easier to work with than a raw fleece (at least for me so far) and there's minimal processing that you need to do before you can start working with it. 
  • Try not to have clammy hands - I've felted some bits of my wool because I have perpetually clammy hands- I've not worked out a fix for this yet.... I'll update this if I get any advice on this. 
  • Want to Ply? Look up: Andean Plying Bracelet for a simple way to get the fibre off your hand and plied! I think it's pretty amazing that you can make a plied yarn  with nothing but your hands and the drop spindle. 
  • Just start! It doesn't even matter if it's lumpy and weird and over-plied. It'll all work out. Wash your skeins when you're done, and that'll help even that shit out. 

I'm thoroughly loving spinning - and I'm not seeing this love/obsession changing at any point. If you want to get started and need a hand, I'm happy to help! I can try giving a lesson over skype (or in person, if you're Aus based!) and I'll do my best to help you out. Shoot me an email at hello@closeknit.com.au if you wanna chat spinning :)

xx

Ani

Thoughts On Sweater Knitting - The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Each Week (more or less), I'll share a quick (or sometimes not quick) snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was farmsitting up at Nan's, and I knew I needed a big project to work on. I'd been eyeballing the Lila pullover for some time, and just needed a sweater's quantity of wool. That's where Nan came in - generously letting me take some luscious White Gum for this sweater (!!). Marlee of Have Company happened to be on the same wave length as I was, so we started our sweaters around the same time and kept each other up-to-date on progress using our lil' hashtag #crosspacificknitclub

 

swatch_lila.JPG

It was a fun and eye-opening process - knitting this sweater, making mistakes, slowly fixing them, seeing Marlee's sweater progress, loving her sweater, suddenly feeling very inferior and slow. It was a process in self-care and weird competitive vibes for sure.

lila_in_progress_1

The anxiety and jealousy vibes I was feeling made me ashamed. I didn't want to feel these things, because knitting a sweater shouldn't invoke those feelings, and Marlee had been nothing but incredible supportive the whole way through (read: ALL the moral support when I was majorly confused about short rows and concerned I'd made a sweater for a giant).

So I stepped back from the sweater for a day or two, mostly because my hands were starting to hurt (early onset arthritis, anyone?), and took a little time to reflect on those feelings. I think they stem from a really deep-seated desire I feel to compete, to be instantly gratified, and get validation on the interwebs. The more I took a hard look at those feelings, the more ridiculous they started to seem. And when I finally verbalised them to a friend, I realised how utterly useless they were. Since I'd gotten my petty feelings out in the open, I could actually move into making this sweater happen, and do it with focus and good intentions. 

lila_complete.JPG


After that, I finished knitting it, was feeling pretty happy with it, and then went to block it (because, ya know, trying to be a "good" knitter"). Then the shit hit the fan because it looked as though it had stretched waaaay out. So there I was, on the bathroom floor scrunching and squeezing and hoping it wasn't 7 sizes too big. And it took over 2 days to dry, so I was a hot mess for 2 days wondering if I'd just made a sweater for a pregnant human. 

Turns out I was overreacting and it was a pretty good fit afterall. 

Lessons learned - try to be less critical of myself when knitting (even if I'm slow AF), trust in the magic of blocking, and trust in the magic of internet friendship and KALs (knit-a-longs) to keep you honest, grounded, and supported. Oh, and grey is remarkably challenging to photograph - that was the other (much less profound) lesson learned.

xx

Ani 

What's On My Needles - A Big Ol' Catch Up Post

Each Week (more or less), I'll share a quick (or sometimes not quick) snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

petawawa_in_progress

It's been nearly two weeks since I last checked in with you about what I'm working on. I've had a couple of weeks farmsitting for the lovely Nan Bray, who has a property in Tasmania with a big flock of merino. She makes incredible, soft yarn (superfine merino - to be exact) that is a joy to knit with. Whilst I was there, she said "take a skein each day" - and obviously I could not resist that offer! 

I decided to go with a skein of Hawthorn (the red colour) to make a hat for Brittany (we're doing a trade, and as promised, I'm crafting a post on that later, because I love a good trade!). I used the Petawawa Toque pattern, by Goodnight, Day, which creates a really lovely hat, but since she doesn't list gauge or anything like that, it's a little hard to know what you're in for. So, I knitted this on one size down from the recommended needle size, because this is 8 ply wool (Aussie wool lingo throws me for a loop), which is a little bit smaller than the worsted weight this hat called for. 

I have a tiny head, so when I make things for other people, I try them on as I go, and if I'm swimming in them, I assume it's probably a good fit. (Maybe this is not a very good method). I finished this hat, and it looked really bloody big, but I thought, hey - let's just block it and see. WOAH - now, when I blocked it, it got even bigger - so big that it was big on my partner's head (for reference, we often joke that my head is roughly half the size of size). So, I did what every good knitter (and I am NOT normally a "good" knitter) would do - I ripped it back. Actually, I ripped back about 1.5 inches off the crown and reshaped the crown. I blocked it again and - viola, a wearable hat (see below) - a bit big on me, so juuuuuust right for Brittany. Success!  

petawawa_toque_hawthorn

Now, since I was on a farm (and what else does one do when on a wool farm?) - I knitted a lot. After blocking Brittany's hat, I blocked a few others - one that I just had been too lazy to block originally (the Petawawa in turmeric dyed yarn I made for myself last year), a Classic Cuffed Hat for Edie, and a Boyfriend Hat for Brittany. 

beanie_stack

There's more where all that came from, but I'll save it for next week's post. I've got a lot to say about that knit! 

Thanks for reading.

xx

Ani 

What's On My Needles - Better Late Than Never

Each Week, I'll share a quick (or sometimes not quick) snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

have porch, have comfy slippers, will knit

have porch, have comfy slippers, will knit

Normally, I try to make this a weekly post (every Thursday, so far), but last week went awry when I was invited on a 4-day backpacking trip, leaving on Thursday - not that I'm complaining. 

I've just finished up a "Boyfriend Hat", which turned out well, despite my annoyance with the pattern (see previous post for details). That hat is destined for a friend in the states, just as soon as I finish up the other hat I've promised her! I'll post a photo of tht once it's blocked and ready to go - maybe we can even convince her to take one of it on :) 

I then picked up my needles to work on a Classic Cuffed Hat as a (belated) holiday present for my mate Edie. After about 10 attempts at the tubular cast on (which I love, but really seem to struggle with), I got moving and worked on the 1x1 ribbing for the brim on the first couple of days of the backpacking trip, and then on the car ride home, I worked a couple of inches of the body. 

I just managed to finish the hat two nights ago, soak it, and get the blocking started to hand it off to Edie before she heads back to the mainland. She tried it on yesterday morning and - kaboom! - it fits, high five emoji. 

That's what's been on my needles, how about you guys? 

xx

What's On My Needles - 24th Dec 2015

Each Week, I'll share a quick (or sometimes not quick) snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

boyfriend_hat.jpg

This week, I've been making a bit of progress on a Boyfriend Hat - a pattern I've been eyeing on Purl Bee for some time. It's for a friend (for a trade actually! more on that later) so I've gone about it in a methodical way - swatching, measuring, etc. Let me tell you, though, it hasn't been my favourite to knit. You need to cast on 160 stitches, and I had to cast on about 8 times before getting it right. Pro tip: place stitch markers every 20 stitches to save yourself from attempting to count 160 stitches at once, only to get lost several times, and end up with 156 on one count, 161 the next - ya feel me? 

Now, of course, as I'm 6 inches into it, I find a whole slew of critiques of the pattern, from knitters whose opinions I value and trust, like Jen of Grainline Studio, amongst others. Mostly, people have found that the sizing seems off - too big. Fortunately, I cast on a size smaller than I wanted the hat to be, because my gauge is a tiny bit looser than called for, and now that I've read these critiques, I'll stop my hat a bit shorter than written in the pattern before I start the decrease rows. So far, the hat is big on me, but I have a head the size of a pea, so I'm not too concerned. What I do really like about it is the tight 1x1 rib (not to knit, because that's a pain - literally) is how dense the fabric is, and how warm it will be. Makes me feel good to know that I'm knitting up a nice warm hat for a shepherdess! 

lavender_linen_pillows

Other than the hat I've been working on, I've been doing some non-knitting fibre related things. This year, as gifts for the holidays, I wanted to make things that would be simple, cost-effective, natural, and most importantly, useful for my friends and family. After being gifted some madder root dyed linen by a lovely friend and talented maker living in Perth, and learning about the properties of lavender as a moth repellent, I had a lightbulb moment. So, I set about making some of these sachets, which are simple to make, and have a number of uses - including keeping your clothes smelling fresh, protecting your woolens from moths, or for keeping under your pillow to help you relax and sleep easily. I'm really excited to write up little instructional tags to go with these and give them as holiday gifts to friends.

What's on your needle(s) this holiday season?

xx

What's on My Needles (Or Rather, What Isn't) - 17th Dec 2015

Each Week, I'll share a quick snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

naturally_dyed_patchwork_pillow

Once again, I find myself with a lack of knitting project progress to share here, mostly because I'm trying to rest my wrists, but also because I've been struggling to motivate myself to knit. Does anyone else find that when they take a hiatus from knitting the urge to knit begins to subside a bit? Maybe that's just me. I find it a bit sad - I love that bizarre urge I have to knit the majority of the time, it makes me feel a bit empty when it's not there. 

Now, to explain this week's "What's On My Needles (Or Rather, What Isn't)"  or alternatively, "What Was Previously on my Needle(s) and Now Is Gone". I started working on this little patchwork pillow thing a couple of weeks ago, rather improvisationally, because I don't know what the hell I'm doing, so I'm just making it up, and I clearly don't have the patience to make a pattern or anything like that. I basically just started sewing pieces together and adding more on as I went, more or less keeping a straight line of fabric at the top and thinking it would roughly be the shape of a pillowcase. 

I decided after doing the bulk of the sewing on a machine, courtesy of the babes over at Bobbin and Ink (the communal sewing space where I rent a machine, and get lots of kind feedback and help, even when I've totally screwed something up), I would do some of the final sewing by hand in the park. So I popped it all in my handy little Field Bag - needles, thread, pins, and headed over to the park. I sewed in the sun with This American Life playing in the background, it was all a very nice affair. 

Now somehow, I woke up yesterday morning and it's nowhere to be found. I scoured my room, scoured the friend's house we went to after dinner that night, nowhere. And I got really bummed out; this little project - a practice of improvisation, trying not to give a f**k that the seams were wonky, a practice in being patient and kind to myself- was abruptly ended. I never got to see it fully formed, as a pillow, never got to show it off as one of my first sewn pieces - "that I hand dyed with avocado pits and skins and other plant materials!" (I hear myself exclaiming that)

At first I just felt sorry for myself, then I began resenting that feeling, that such a simple and silly object could make me sad. It made me think of all the unnecessary want and greed that comes with owning things, the consumerist mindset that I think can even be applied to objects you make yourself. The more I think about it, though, the more I think it's not so much the loss of the object, but of what the pieces represented - the newly formed friendship with Laura, who let me into her home after meeting me once, made me delicious snacks, and let me dye this old ripped up pillowcase with her, the kindness of the ladies at Bobbin and Ink, forever practicing patience with me, even when I've followed none of the sewing rules and made a huge mess, the excitement of a sewn object becoming a part of my "fibre arts" repertoire. The half-finished pillowcase was a representation of many good things that have come into my life recently, of the luck I've had with finding such incredible people, and the gratitude I have for them. 

Maybe the picture here is enough to remember what it meant, maybe the act of writing this out did just that. And maybe, just maybe, some nice fibre artist will find it on the street and give it some much needed love. 

xx

Ani

What's on My Needles - 10th Dec 2015

Each Week, I'll share a quick snippet of what I'm currently working on, no matter how small (or rough) it is. 

Whilst not technically "on my needles", because I've finished it now, I blocked the Roku Hat - By OlgaJazzy , which is a really well-designed and quick knit. I needed to learn the long tail tubular cast on method - which pretty much made me tear my hair out, but in the end I finally figured it out (I think) and I really like the way it makes the cast on edge of the hat look. 

community_weave

Other than the Roku, I've been attempting to rest my hands and wrists, as I'm noticing a bit of pain in my wrists and the fleshy bit between my thumb and index finger (which completely terrifies me). So, instead, I've been working on finishing up the weave that became a "community weave" at a recent picnic I attended.