Knitting and sewing

I am a bit of magpie when it comes to my making. I have sewn and knit since I was a child. Along the way to becoming a adult (at least chronologically) I have also done embroidery, dyeing and quilting. I have drawn some arbitrary lines at spinning and weaving that have stuck, and the embroidery and dyeing are practiced fitfully. For the most part I am a knitter and a sewist.  I have gone periods (sometimes years) without doing one or the other, but I always come back to them both. Over the years I have observed some things about each practice, much of which I have applied to both. 

It was the frogging of a particular sweater project that gave me some insight into the idea of making a muslin. This observation led me to making my first test garment, or muslin, a couple of years later. It took a couple of years for that understanding to sink into my psyche. My learning process can be slow going until I have that epiphanic moment when it all makes sense, and then I plunge forward. I mulled over the idea of unknitting an entire completed knit garment (twice!) for a couple of years before coming back to my sewing, and wondering to myself if being able to make a test garment wasn't why I had so much trouble with fitting knitted items, and why I was so drawn to the top-down method (that allows you to try something on mid-project). Knitting is unique in the world of garment making in that you are creating the fabric concurrently with making the garment. Many knitters who take up sewing are astonished at how much faster the process can go because you start with whole fabric, not yarn that needs to be turned into fabric. 

The swatch for my Blank Canvas pullover in Peace Fleece dk for the Fancy Tiger KAL.

The swatch for my Blank Canvas pullover in Peace Fleece dk for the Fancy Tiger KAL.

The entire (modern) concept of sewing involves deciding the garment you want to make, finding the method for making it (a commercial pattern, self-drafting or copying an existing garment), and then choosing the fabric in which to make it. Sewists have a whole piles of choices to make before they begin a project. Most of those choices are the sewist's alone.  This is not to say that many of us aren't inspired by all the imagery we have around us on the internet on inspiring blogs, Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram, Kollabora and more. But not everyone has access to all the same fabrics. Often the choices we have are very different from each other, and therein lays a great part of the creativity of the make. Which fabric will you use for that Peony, that Anna, that Archer? Your choice plays a big role in the whole process. Knitters have similar choices, but most knitting patterns are designed in a specific yarn. There are many knitters who think that because a pattern was designed in Malabrigo it can only be made in Malabrigo. Yarn choices, like fabric choices, are important to a successful outcome. It is true that the yarn a certain pattern is designed in is not necessarily interchangeable. A garment knit up in Lett Lopi will not work in Malabrigo, at least not without a lot of modifications, and a change in overview/style. In sewing it is also true that a pants pattern made in crepe de chine or an Anna made in wide wale corduroy will not be very successful.

Overall, sewists have more choices, more options for raw materials when working through a project. While I know there will be knitters who argue with me, all one needs to do is compare the size of Quilt Market (the fabric trade show) to TNNA (the yarn trade show) to see the difference in size of the industry.  When a sewing pattern designer creates a pattern they do make it in one fabric, but that fabric is most often a part of a class of fabrics- chambrays, voiles, denim. The consumer has many choices within those classes. From the very beginning the project has choices the maker can make, has to make.  Which is perhaps why I am always confused by how many knitters will make a pattern in exactly the same yarn it was designed in, even the same color. I'm pretty sure I have never done a pattern in the yarn it was written for...  Well, actually that may not be true. I did make a Featherweight from Knitbot in the Tern from Quince & Co. that was recommended in the pattern. I do wear the cardigan a fair amount, but not because that make was such a success, but more because I need that type of item in my wardrobe.  Please do not get me wrong, this is no fault of the designer or the yarn, but more of me not paying attention to my body, my garment needs, and my knitting peccadilloes. It was a re-learning experience for me, a reminder that I need to find the right yarn/pattern combination before I launch a knitting project. As an example, the swatch above was the third one I made for a Blank Canvas (Ysolda Teague) that I making, along with the Fancy Tiger ladies for their annual KAL. The pattern calls for dk weight yarn. I swatched with two yarns labeled dk, and neither would get to the required 5.5 stitches per inch without resulting in bulletproof fabric. The third time was a charm, and I am know knitting away happily on a sleeve in Peace Fleece dk, which they actually call a sport weight....  I'm just not wired to follow most paths laid out before me. I want to tweak things. I am not a designer, but I love to work within someone else's design to modify, alter, customize. Guess thats probably a big part of why I love to make my own clothes. 

I love to both knit and to sew, and both practices have had a profound on me, my sanity, my psyche, my wardrobe and each other. Life at it's best.....