Wardrobe Architecture

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Thanks to Tiniography for the photo!

Thanks to Tiniography for the photo!

How did it start? I think it was reading Karen’s beautiful post Make, Knit, Mend earlier tonight. There I went into the rabbit hole of shibui, boro, visible mending, sashiko and, generally, a longer timeline for the clothes we buy and make.

I’m currently on holiday in Montreal, visiting family and friends. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for the last three weeks (first in LA, then San Francisco; one week here, then another week in California) and so have been lugging a miniature multi-climate wardrobe around. It’s exhausting, and, truth be told, I’ve only worn most things a single time.

This is why I’m so eagerly reading the Wardrobe Architect series on Coletterie. I don’t really sew, but I do make a lot of knit clothing, and if I can build a thoughtful, functional, beautiful wardrobe without resorting to ordering the entire J.Crew catalogue, all the better.


Two Linen Finished Objects

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Is there anything more lovely than a crisp linen knit? It’s not my favourite fibre to knit with (the inelasticity is rough on my wrists) but the moment a linen piece comes off the blocking board, the ache is forgotten.

Banana Leaf Shawl
Banana Leaf Shawl in Handmaiden Lino.

As you can see, I had some tension issues with this one. Handmaiden Lino is a thin blend of silk and linen, and you can see the transitions from knit to purl as the wide ribs work their way out from the centre of the shawl.

Hanami Cardigan WIP

Hitofude Cardigan in Shuibui Linen

The Hitofude cardigan took forever, but it was well worth it. Shibui Linen is an interesting yarn, a cable-style yarn made up of a very fine linen thread. I had no issues with unraveling this time, unlike a previous knit.

Hanami Cardigan in Shibui LInen

Hitofude Cardigan worn over Sea Silk tank

Two perfectly seasonal pieces as Australia goes from chilly winter into hot summer.


A Craft Sessions Recap

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What a weekend. I’ve just come back from a wonderful three days in the Yarra Valley, attending the Craft Sessions. One of my favourite things about my life in Australia is the wonderful community of makers and crafters I have met, and this weekend was a highlight in that department.

I only did two workshops, both day-long: embroidery with the lovely Melissa Wastney (who flew in from New Zealand for the weekend!) and one-pot dyeing with the amazingly knowledgeable Julia Billings.

Australian flora is incredible. Is it because I come from Canada, where wildflower season is so short? Or because I spent ten years in Montreal, a gorgeous city with zero colourful flora? Either way, I’m fascinated with native flowers, and I’m not the only one — it seems like every artist here, from landscape painters to textile printers, is inspired by the red, yellow, purple and orange blooms.

I finally learned to do a proper chain stitch in Melissa’s class, but the real takeaway was the ease with which she finds new combinations of textures and colours. I’ve done a fair amount of embroidery before, but always following a pattern, typically all in backstitch. Not very interesting. This was a whole other story.

You know what’s wonderful about a craft retreat? Nobody thinks you’re odd if you pull out your knitting during cocktail hour. A few of us were even knitting between meal courses! There must have been seventy of us stitching away on Saturday night, digging through Felicia‘s stacks of craft books, drinking wine, cozying up to the fire.

Sunday’s workshop was an exercise in chemistry: an introduction to natural dyeing. We created 25 shades of yarn from one dye pot of madder. How gorgeous are these skeins? I see some beautiful dark red yarns in my future…

The best part of the weekend? Learning from this huge group of amazing women, and helping out where I could. Sharing the knowledge we’ve all gathered over the years. Teaching someone how to graft together the two pieces of their lace cowl. This hands-on work brings me so much joy.


Forced Anticipation As a Marketing Tactic

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Text on Ravelry announcing that a pattern is available for sale now but will only be sent in October


Oh, this sort of thing drives me nuts.

Listen, I get it. I work for a publisher. I understand publishing schedules, and I know how nice it is to build anticipation for a product.

But when a designer releases digital goods for pre-order three months before launch, complete with styled photos, there’s something wrong. They’re frustrating their fans, not just building anticipation.

Anticipation is when Jared Flood releases a photo of a tiny detail from one knit in his upcoming collection, one week before the launch. Anticipation is when people start asking around on Ravelry for the launch date of the latest Twist Collective.

Digital publishing is still new. We’re still figuring out the rules, especially in the crafting space, where some companies still rely on the digital illiteracy of their longtime fans to make a profit (I’m looking at you, Rowan).  I know I sound angry, and I am — crafting is a big part of my life, but digital publishing is an even bigger part, and it frustrates me to see it used to such bad effect.

Love the patterns, but this is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.


Dilemma: when knitting meets minimalism


I tried, I really did. When Jared and I first moved to Australia, I left my considerable yarn craft stash behind and vowed to never again accumulate a stash, and to only knit one project at a time. Ok. Two. Two projects at a time, maximum.

But then, we decided to stay a bit longer, and we moved to a nice new condo with so much space. I once heard someone refer to our living room as “the yarn corner”. At first, I ordered from stores like the wonderful Jannette’s Rare Yarns, since local options left much to be desired. Then a shop opened in my neighbourhood, better than I could have ever expected. Since I now teach at the Woolarium, my stash has increased by, ah, quite a bit.

2014-07-13 21.42.28
Ah, Sharron, I’ve just realised I still have your loom, tucked away in the back.

I left Montreal with a suitcase of clothes, just enough to take me through the seasons. When I first landed in Melbourne, it was late August, mid-winter, and I was wearing a jersey sleeveless dress and sandals. It was 17 degrees celsius, I was fine, but everyone around me was shivering in their winter jackets. I soon adjusted to this new “winter”, and added store-bought and hand-knit sweaters to my stash.

So how do I balance my love of acquiring beautiful yarns, and of making handknit wearables, with my desire for a simple, pared-down, clutter-free lifestyle? Do I give away my knits to people whom I love, but who might not appreciate the investment, both in time and in money, that goes into a handknit? I’m picturing silk-merino shawls thrown in the washing machine, cashmere hats dropped on the ground.

A third option appears: selling my knits, or knitting for hire. That’s quite controversial in knitting circles: knitting is skilled work, after all, and surely deserves a hefty hourly rate. Right? So would I dare charge someone $15, $20, $30 per hour for a sweater that will take upwards of 300 hours — plus materials? Would anyone even pay those prices?

But so little of knitting is about the finished product. For me, it’s all about the process. So why not knit for others, basically for free, if I can just enjoy the work that goes into it?

Ah, I don’t know, and I don’t know how others do it. So, dear reader: if you craft, if you make more things than you can possibly use up, but feel a compulsion to make, what do you do with the extra?


Simple shawls are the best shawls

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I am lucky enough to have a job that requires a lot of reading and thinking, leaving me with many hours of mindless knitting time while my brain tries to work through problems.

This WIP shawl is perfect for deskside knitting: portable, light, time-consuming (thin yarn, small needles) and, best of all, utterly mindless. 10 rows of stockinette, one row of eyelets bordered by some garter stitch. Increases on the right side only. Finishing off with a generous garter stitch edge. The end.

On Ravelry: A Shawl for Jess


On Twitter

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Ophelie Knits Twitter

The vast majority of followers on my regular Twitter account don’t want to hear about my knitting endeavours, and I doubt my knitting friends want to read about content strategy and web publishing. To that effect, I now have a brand-new Twitter account for knitting stuff! It’s @OphelieKnits. It has no followers yet. That’s pretty sad.