Thursday, August 31, 2017

This is how we do it

I've been asked many times when, how, and sometimes if I wear my handmade clothes.
During our last trip to London - city with a perfect sweater weather all year around - I asked my husband to take pictures of me in different knits just to prove that I REALLY wear them. Not as often as before, but still. So if you are curious to see my work and me together with London on the background - read on, but caution - a lot of pictures ahead!
I love visiting London - the only city where you can get a good tea anytime any place and nobody would ask you where you are from. One of the major London's attractions for me of course is my daughter who comes and stays with us for a while. And we have short but precious moments together.
London is a place where great theaters are, and we love theater. This time, for example, we were lucky to see Hamlet with Andrew Scott (if you live in London and haven't seen it yet, please, try getting a ticket, it is so worth it). I don't think I will ever want to see this play again - it was just perfect.
But let's get back to my "show and tell" and talk some clothes.
Prior to leaving for England we were told that the weather there was rather crappy - cold, windy, and rainy - and that warm clothes were the only clothes that we should bring. I packed accordingly.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, upon our arrival the weather changed and during the day it was mostly warm and sunny. Some of the sweaters that I brought turned out to be too warm and bulky. I packed only one cardigan, and a warm one to boot. Big mistake. Needed more cardigans in different shapes and forms - they are so easy to take off on subway and put on back on a street. And some sweaters proved to be perfect for this type of climate and urban lifestyle in general. So here I present my knits in London: hits and misses.
1.Black lace, or Wolfriver
 I wore it on the plane and it kept me warm, but it was too warm for walking on London streets, and absolutely suffocating on subway. Even hanging up behind my back. Should be used in winter or colder weather.
2. Loving
This one was worn the most and proved to be absolutely perfect for this kind of weather (low 70s, chilly mornings and evenings). Mandatory selfie in a store:
This garment is optimal for indoors and outdoors, light and effortless, ideal for day to evening transition. Wore it a lot.
3. Patriot
I like it because it is warm but not too bulky. It was cold and rainy for a couple of days and I had an opportunity to wear it. Its advantages - could be worn with or without a shirt, works well underneath a jacket, covers my butt and keeps it warm.
4. Japanese Sideways sweater
This sweater was also perfect for the weather and our activities. It is lightweight and airy, easy to wear hanging behind my shoulders. Was worn a lot as well.
5. Christmas sweater
The problem with this sweater was its length. I didn't pack any skirts, only pants, and in order for this sweater to look well on me in pants it needs something longer underneath, otherwise proportions are wrong. Yet, most of the times it was too warm outside to wear it with a shirt.
Here I am wearing it with jeans - and I am not particularly fond of this look.
6. Juno
This one was another hit during this trip - lightweight, could be tucked into pants, easy to take off and carry in a bag, perfect. And it goes with everything! Even graffiti on Brick Lane!
7. Riverband
The only cardigan I had in my suitcase (oh, how I regretted it later!), short and lightweight. Easy to take off and carry in a bag, real lifesaver in the evenings. I wish I had a thinner cardigan that could be worn under a jacket, but glad to have at least this one with me.
8. Swallowtail shawl by Evelyn Clark
Actually, I brought 3 shawls with me - I miss scarves and shawls, used to wear them all the time. My daughter promptly appropriated two of them (and I am so glad that she did because I don't wear them anyway), so I was left with just this one - it was knit many years ago and have been serving me well.
One night, when we were leaving theater after a play, I was even complimented on it (maybe not exactly complemented, but asked about it), so it is still in good shape.
Now, the main lesson from this trip: I need more cardigans. They are easier to put on and take off when you navigate through a crowd of people, and, unlike sweaters, could be worn in three positions - on, off, and unbuttoned.
Another takeaway from the trip: yellow and pink colors. I don't remember seeing so many different shades of yellow ever before.
This time yellow was literally everywhere. And I must admit that I loved it and developed an actual craving for yellow-green, yellow-brown, and neon yellow (I think, I've already mentioned that I have this physiological reaction to colors, that cannot be helped).
As to pink, only one shade was omnipresent on London streets - dusty pink or pale pink. Must admit that I started liking it as well and wanting to have more pink in my wardrobe.
I brought an insane amount of yarn from England this time. Yes, so unlike me, ha-ha!!! You can see on this picture just a tiny part of the lot.
In order to buy the new Rowan magazine we went to John Lewis (and I really wanted to buy it while we were there, because... we were already there!). We had to go there 3 times before I finally got it (my husband kept making jokes about John Lewis being the major tourist attraction in London).
I finally found it only by chance - not on display, but in a pile on a table for craftsmen under some other stuff (really surprising way of selling knitting books, if you ask me).
Yet, every time when we visited the store looking for the last Rowan I would find some new yarn without which I couldn't possibly leave and buy it. As a result we also had to buy an additional bag - a carry on - just for yarn. I feel so bad now but, I guess, it is a great motivation to knit faster.
Here is a little preview of my next project. It is a cardigan (didn't I tell you that I need cardigans?) from a Japanese knitting book and I've been eyeing it for quite some time. But to be a cardigan of my dreams it needed some changes. So changes were made and now it is almost finished. However, this is another story for another time. As for today's tale, it is finished. I do hope it helps you somehow when you plan your next trip to Europe.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

This is war, Peacock! Casualties are inevitable!

In July we usually go to Canada for the Shaw festival. Every year I am looking to this trip with anticipation. It is a wonderful possibility for us to unplug, enjoy theater and each other, and just relax and eat great food. After spending many long months in Florida building a house, we deserved this break.

If you love theater (we obviously do) this is your place to come. Usually plays are very different. There is something for everyone: one play for children, one musical play, one or two experimental plays, one or two famous/classical plays. This year the festival new artistic director – Tim Carroll – brought in new ideas and interesting choice of plays as well as much more actors – audience interactions to re-energize the event.
The acting is superb:  in Pennsylvania, we don’t see performances of this level often. Everything else is also executed on the highest level of professionalism.
The Shaw festival takes place in a tiny picturesque town of Niagara-on-The-Lake from April till October and is getting more and more popular every year. If you live in a driving distance from the place I’d wholeheartedly recommend coming and checking it out. This year we saw 11 plays on 4 different venues in 12 days.

We discovered this festival about 6 years ago and since then try to go there every summer. The weather in Canada at this time of the year is much better than in Pennsylvania (to say nothing of South Florida). We can take our daily walks through beautiful and peaceful countryside. Usually our final destination is a farmer’s market where we buy some fruit that we eat on the spot and go back home.
 Next to the market there is a little chapel that is apparently considered the smallest church in the world. Every day buses and cars bring lots and lots of Asian tourists who relentlessly take pictures of the chapel. Apparently, they all have it in their tourist guides as one of the world wonders or something. Anyway, it was hard to get a picture of it without tourists, but I managed.

There are also vineyards and wine testing in the area, great food and quaint antic stores – what’s not to like!

Before leaving for Canada I got sick and spent a day in bed recuperating. Soon I got bored and decided to make something from the leftovers of Fanion that I used to make Bo. I chose Blue from Kim Hargreaves Crush. Not only because it is light and summery but also because my gauge was spot on and I had enough yarn to make it. Plus it was black and white – and this summer black and white became my knitting trend.

I picked size M because I didn’t want the tank to be too snug on my hips. Boy, was I wrong! The result is cute, but VERY revealing and stretchy. I like it on the pictures but am not sure how to wear it in real life.

More pictures - on my Ravelry page.
Military style jackets with multiple zippers have been always much-coveted but unapproachable designs to knit for me. Two reasons: they definitely look better when store-bought and they are too difficult to make because of the zippers.
Zippers are hard to insert in knitted garments: unlike knitting they don’t stretch. I did it successfully once many years ago but it was so time consuming and all over so much pain everywhere that ever since I avoided garments with zippers.
I don’t remember when I bought this Phildar pattern (it is not on their website anymore and not on Ravelry) but decided not to make it for above mentioned reasons.
Till this spring when I unearthed it, took a closer look and decided to try it with the leftovers of great yarn. Again my gauge was spot on. I used this yarn twice before – for a Kim Hargreaves cardigan for my daughter (didn’t photograph it but it looks and wears well) and this pattern, also from Kim Hargreaves (yarn held together with Rowan Kidsilk Haze).
Soon I discovered that the original pattern as it was written is rather tight fitting. Not exactly what I am looking for in a jacket. That is why instead of knitting the smallest size as I usually do I settled on size 42/44. Among other changes: full length sleeves and  3 garter sts at the front borders – but otherwise I just followed the pattern.

Yet, I got constantly distracted. I made this and this instead of finishing my zipper jacket. Which is not how I normally operate. After some soul searching and deliberations I figured that the main reason for my procrastination was the necessity to insert zippers at the end. Yet, unraveling everything that was already finished by this time looked also kind of stupid so I made a decision to take this unfinished garment to Canada with me, work on it in between walks and plays, and see what happens.
As a result when we came back to Pennsylvania I had all the parts of the jacket finished. And I got zippers in a close shade of green and required length (from this website). And 8 days before leaving for another trip.  

All this trouble was not in vain. I got myself a cute jacket that is light and soft to the skin, goes with all my clothes, and could be worn underneath other garments. The buttons were bought in an antique store in Canada and are from a real military uniform.
Again, more pictures - on my Ravelry page.
This is the Summer of Basics after all and what can be more basic than a jacket military style!
I wanted to call it Colonel Mustard (Clue is one of my favorite movies of all times and I know it by heart) but its color is greysh-green. So it is Colonel Not Mustard for now. Do you have any other suggestions?
This summer I managed to make already two projects that were postponed for several years. It is August and we are leaving on Tuesday but hopefully by the end of the month I’ll be able to finish at least one more knit that I’ve been wanting for ages (or two?!!!).