If China’s going to be taking less of our waste on, then we have to start to seriously look at how to produce less waste. In all aspects of our lives. This is some serious world-changing, so I am on tenterhooks. What will happen next? Will we make the Change we want to see happen? Will it take?
All the same, these things tend to do well when we start one step at a time.
As makers, we’re in a unique position to do something practical. This week, December 2-10 is Make Something Week, to turn our thoughts away from necessarily buying something in gift-giving season, but towards how we can take time to consider our own wardrobe needs, or the people we want to give a gift.
Even a small step is a start, and as German poet Herman Hesse wrote:
In every new beginning lives a special magic,
protecting us and helping us to live…
We as knitters, makers and clothes-wearers also need to look at how we can help fix the broken Fashion system. There’s a new report out from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, not just restating the Problem, but giving suggestions as to how we can fix it:
the report sets out four main ways to create “the new textiles economy”: phase out hazardous materials (including those that contribute to the microplastics problem); make better quality clothes and keep them in the system longer through rental models; improve recycling processes; and use renewable resources in manufacturing.
The quick answer, is that with knits, there is no difference. The longer answer is more nuanced. All three are made by hand. There are a few differences that set Haute Couture apart:
The maker is a dedicated craft specialist, using materials of the highest quality (alternately using exclusive, luxury fibres). And of course, the finishing. If we take the time to get the finishing just right, then there is no difference between homemade and Haute Couture.
It’s on my to-do list every year, to have a look in at the Brigitte magazine’s Knit Feature in autumn. This year it’s quite lovely. Twenty-one very wearable and very knittable designs styled with designer (and non-designer clothing).
Knit edition/ Brigitte.de
fotosource: Brigitte magazine
These are my absolute favourites (including the rainbow pullover on the cover). Oversized pieces, relaxed silhouettes, drop shoulders, snuggly hygge-inspired. And yet each piece has a little something to make it extra special – yarn embroidery, colour-blocking, ends left hanging as tassels, contrast colour edgings.
It’s shaping up to be a very snuggly (the German word is kuschelig) knit-season this year.
Are ribs ever not in? I think it’s very much about texture and structure. Solène Le Roux, a designer out of Hong Kong, has some very classic pieces (Rib and Garter Stitch Shawl right, and Ribbed Raglan Sweater top left), while Meghan Fernandes’ contribution to the Slow Knitting book, Spruce features ribbing in cozy cowl form.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I want to include my Sheep Sorrel in as a rib (because panels are also about texture and structure).
Now, I’ve been seeing ruffles for quite a while now, so I will not ask if we have reached ‘peak ruffle.’ If you like ruffles (I love ruffles, and am finally thrilled to have learned how to knit them), then I say knit ruffles.
And lastly, I was disappointed to find that there aren’t a lot of clear definitions on the interwebs about what exactly a Ruana is. So, I’ve done a bit of research for us, my dear readers.
A poncho is more or less a square or rectangular shaped outer garment, with a slit/hole in the middle where the head slips through. They can be knit on the bias (with a point in front), or straight (often referred to as a serape). In contrast, a ruana looks like a T or a Y when lain flat. Deidre at BiddyMurphy says that ruanas come from the Andes region of Venezuela, and the word originally meant ‘Lord of Blankets.’ They may or may not have a hood attached, but tend to generally be longer than a poncho.
I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.
The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.
Why bother You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.
How-to Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.
Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.
Do a mini-swatch
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits. Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.
I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.
On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.
This survey in no way claims to be a comprehensive list of all knitting magazines published in Germany. It is however a list based on what you would find in any well-stocked local supermarket or yarn shop.
Publications by Yarn Companies – like the one above, the yarn companies are now putting out their catalogues, which look more like Fashion magazines. Filati from Lana Grossa, and Made by Me – Handknitting from Rico. Depending on which yarns the LYS carries, you’ll find a variety of these magazines in yarn shops, but also on the magazine racks in supermarkets, bookstores and even railway stations.
Publications in women’s magazines – like Brigitte. Although Brigitte has recently branched off into the yarn market. They have launched a wool line, in cooperation with Lana Grossa, they publish a yearly knit-issue, and have launched a Special Edition Brigitte Creative magazine, with patterns and kits for sale. Another notable magazine venturing into patterns and yarn and kits is Landlust, which started out as a magazine celebrating living the good life in the countryside. Their patterns turned out to be so successful, that it seems only natural that they now offer the yarns (lovely tweedy yarns).
Publications by craft companies – for some strange reason (probably post-war Mad Men era publishers and ad-men deciding what housewives wanted) most of the craft-focused magazines have girly names like Ana, Diana, Verena, and Sabrina. There’s also Häkeln for you (for crocheters) and a Stricktrends (Knittrends).
A solid exception is Burda, well-known for years in sewist circles, they started out with Burda Stricken, and has recently responded to the growing market for more creative crafty magazines by putting out a Burda Creative with a wider mix of interesting craft projects.
Following this upsurge, we also saw the introduction of Mollie Makes in German, and of course, The Knitter, more or less recycling years-old material for German knitters.
One final note: International knitting publications from the US (like Interweave) and the UK (like the english version of The Knitter), are available mostly in railway stations or in the larger chain bookstores. Vogue Knitting is called Designer Knitting outside the US.
Where do you prefer to get your knitting magazines?
I went to a local Heimatmuseum (most districts and cities in Germany have some form of Heimatmuseum or association,which has permanent exhibits about the history of the specific area), the Pfinzgaumuseum to take a look at a private collection of summer shoes, called ‘Bambus, Binsen, Birkenrinde’ (Bamboo, Birchbark) .
The private collector, Hildegund Brandenburg, an architect made these shoes while away with her family on holiday. According to the exhibition information, it all started more than 20 years ago during a holiday in Norway. She described how her children were bored out of their skulls. So, the idea was to get the kids out to gather natural materials to make a house. She ran into some tree bark and decided to make sandals for the kids.
“I imagine myself to be a woman from prehistoric times, who has to make shoes for every family member every day.”
She often uses glue, needle and thread, but mostly restricts herself to using her swiss army knife. Her ideal shoe is one that is made of only one material, and quick to make.
She further describes how, compared to architecture, where the timeframes can be very long (from idea to completion), making a shoe is almost like instant gratification. After a while, it seems, she would make only one shoe ( I guess as a souvenir, once her kids were grown), as she wasn’t interested in repeating the process.
One shoe, highlights the real challenge for her: getting to know the materials intimately (characteristics, life period and stability, static and dynamic limits, and compatibility with other materials), and solving the thorny problem of how to connect the various parts. Each shoe tells the story of the holiday – from the Mediterranean palms, cork from Corsica, tree bark from Northern Europe.
I had expected twenty shoes, quaintly displayed, and was pleasantly surprised to see over a hundred sandals spread out on shelves. The museum did attempt to provide some extra information about the various regional plants used. This exhibition belongs in a museum of applied arts or the shoe museum in Hauenstein, with more space and resources to show the shoes and their materials properly. What would interest me, was how prehistoric people solved that summer shoe problem…