I Made This is a new weekly blog post that features makers from around the world - some of them you will know through their online presence, others you will not - but their stories are equally inspiring.
I Made This aims to talk about the things we are proud of; of the objects we make that have meaning to us and the journey we take to make them.
So I know this is a weird way to kick off a series that is all about other voices - but I'm going to start. Mainly because I have been wanting to post about a cardy I made and this is the perfect format for it.
I Made This by Felicia Semple
I made this cardigan but I still don't understand exactly how. My hands began making while my head was playing catchup, trying to find an idea.
The cardigan began with some materials. We were two days into our camping trip when we visited a farm that did natural dyeing as part of a Tudor reenactment. They took wool from their own sheep, and dyed it using camomile and madder and woad and pussy willow. The skeins were so beautiful I couldn't leave them in the farm shop.
My middle girl saw the colours (she LOVES colour) and kept asking over and over "are they for me….could they be for me?" "Course they could love." "A cardigan?" "Sure."
OK. So I'm making a colourwork cardigan. I set a few parameters; Keep it simple. Think of it as a learning experience - I don't know that much about colourwork. Only use one or two colours per pattern. Make it stripy - four rows between each pattern - one big pattern then one small. I decide to think of it as a colourwork sampler of sorts; a place to practice my skills.
Final rule - I can't procrastinate - I have to just start. I have a tendency to procrastinate when using materials I love. I don't want them to run out and so I plan and plan and don't make. So I decide not to plan. We were camping and I have the time to do something a little challenging. I make up some starting numbers for the body of the cardy and start knitting.
This cardy was the craft project that came out of our adventure. Like the adventure, I made no plans. I picked patterns by using spotty wifi to do a quick google search for "colourwork images" to find something I liked. I'd quickly scribble it down, and knit some more. Sometimes there was no wifi and I would make a pattern up as I needed to keep knitting. I ripped and ripped and ripped this thing. I did the yoke at least six times to get the shaping to work. In doing so I used a whole heap of personal qualities I'm not that practiced at - like patience and sitting with uncertainty. Doing something so uncertain, and so unlike my normal making, made it addictive. I wanted to see if I could.
Technically it is a bit of a disaster. I don't have that much experience with colour work. I have made a few things but never taken the time to learn the rules. Even (especially) if you plan on breaking them, having a basic understanding of the rules is helpful. For example I used a two stitch seam of the natural coloured yarn on the underside of the sleeve. This lead to many interesting tangled sloppy stitches that are really obvious if you are up close (see below). A bigger error was that I didn't pay enough attention when I was buying the yarn. I assumed it was all DK and just thought that some of the skeins had been spun a bit thin. I realised about 3/4 of the way through that actually three of the colour skeins were fingering weight. It works. Kind of. I also realised at the end of the cardigan that I'd been holding what I wanted to be the dominant yarn in the non dominant hand. Whoops….. And then there is the fact I used a 4mm needle with dk yarn to knit a colourwork cardigan for a child that "runs hot". It is a thick coat, not a cardigan. Plus it's too small. Technically I might get a fail if we were looking at it from a technical point of view. Luckily we are not.
Because she loves it. And I love it. To her it is her "colourwork cardy" that she asked me for and I made because I love her. She doesn't care that it isn't technically great or too hot or too small. And I'm proud of it. It challenged me and extended me and I learnt.
It holds the memories of our trip and many places we camped. I cast on in England, I redid the yoke in Albania and I crocheted the steek in Greece. She and I sat together at our camp table under the trees in Umbria and cut the steek. I put the buttons on only this week - maybe finally accepting that it is over and we are home.
It almost feels like this came together through some kind of magic. I don't believe I would have been able to sit down and "design" something I like this much. One uncertain leap lead to another uncertain leap. Such an unusual process for me; I surprised myself.