Raising Knitwear from the Dead: The Sweater with No Name

It took a while, but my yarncromantic magic worked and I now have a finished sweater, made using the remains of a sweater I ripped back. And maybe another knitted T-shirt. And a skein of yarn I had to buy after losing at yarn chicken…But! It’s complete, I love it, and I have no regrets. So here’s the lowdown.

The reverse of purple colourwork knitting being unraveled
From this…

First off, I took scissors to my Sunset Highway sweater, and ripped it back into 2.6 skeins of Chromatic Yarns Sturdy Sock yarn (and some smaller balls of yarn used for the colourwork elements). I then reskeined the yarn, gave it a good wash and whack (literally whacked it against the side of the bath as I was taught to when I briefly handspun my own yarn), and voila! Yarn brought back to life and ready to knit. I also repeated this process with yarn from my rarely-worn Magpie Tendency, knit in the spring of this year. It didn’t fit my wardrobe, so no point leaving that to gather dust at the back of the wardrobe!

I settled for the Sweater With No Name pattern by Paige Parkin (@knitdiaries on Instagram), and promptly began knitting. I mis-judged the amount of yarn I had, and ran out just before the shoulders, so ordered some more from Chromatic Yarns. I’d estimate that I used a total of 2500 yards of yarn in total. This pattern eats yarn.

…to this…

The finished object is big, slouchy and my new favourite item to wear. I’ve never worn cold shoulder jumpers before, but this has me tempted to start! Not to mention eyeing up other yarns to make another in (a) different colour(s).

So. The moral of this story? Rip back knits and raise those lovely yarns from the dead in the form of something newer and better.

All images copyright Cia Jackson 2020

Socks for a PhD

Of course I had a project lined up in preparation for my PhD viva exam. What kind of knitter do you take me for? Whenever there’s a life event looming, my needles are on the go. I’m not superstitious, but you bet I was going to have a knitted item in the room with me for…luck. I could give you the boring Ravelry details about yardages and such. Or I can tell you why they’re one of the most important pairs of socks. Ever.

I had a skein of GamerCrafting Sparkle Sock (merino/nylon/stellina) that my pals Pip and Heather picked up for me at a yarn festival in 2018. The yarn’s colourway name was “Harley Deserved Better” and obviously they had to snag it for me. It then sat patiently in my stash as I spent a year trying to decide what it needed to be. Even then I knew it would likely make an appearance at my viva. It was Harley themed yarn, how could that skein not attend with me in some shape or form?

In the summer of 2019, I got my viva date. November. Knowing the building I was likely to have the exam in, I instantly ruled out a shawl. For some reason, the heating in SMLC has to be cranked up so high, you could probably fry an egg on a desk. The idea of sitting and sweating, face bright red for an hour trying to answer questions about my thesis? No thank you.

A ball of red and black variegated yarn

Dungeons and Dragons came to the rescue. I was playing in a regular game at the time and needed a project to work on during sessions. Socks! Easy to transport and shove in my bag, simple enough that I could put them down and pick them back up for dice rolls, lots of comforting and meditative stitches.

I settled on the Fika socks from Pom Pom magazine, Spring 2015 issue. I’d knit several pairs of these socks before and knew that this pattern would show off the yarn whilst fulfilling my knitting needs. I did make some slight changes as I’m anti-cuff-down socks, so instead cast them on toe-up, and swapped the heel out for a German short-row heel. If I’m honest, the pattern was more inspiration and I merely reverse-engineered it (as I had the previous times I’d knit it!) Either way, I had a cracking, utterly stress-free time working on these socks.

Feet in red and black handknit socks surrounded by books

I finished the socks with weeks to spare, of course. And wore them to my Viva. Nobody knew I was wearing them. For one thing I didn’t announce it to my examiners, but they were hidden from view by my boots. But I knew they were there. You honestly can’t beat the comfort of buttery soft merino stitches, and I defy anyone not to feel confident when there’s stellina sparkles involved too. I really like the ankles on these; the twisted rib is pretty, obviously, but it also makes them fit snugly.

I love these socks. I see summer D&D games and rolling dice. I see my friend’s office where I sat and prepared the hour before the viva. I see my examiners and remember the enthusiasm and praise they had for my Harley chapters. I see myself walking out of the building having passed. They’re a bloody good pair of socks.

I’m going to wear them to my graduation. Socks for a viva. Socks for a doctor.

Images copyright Cia Jackson 2020

Unraveled: 5 reasons to rip back your knitwear

The reverse of purple colourwork knitting being unraveled

I recently did what most knitters consider unthinkable and ripped back a sweater. Some may see it as a destructive act, but I see it through the nerdy lens of necromancy; bringing the yarn back from the dead (the finished jumper) by re-purposing it into a new garment that will give it a new life, and me something I’ll actually enjoy wearing. As far as I’m concerned, good yarn shouldn’t go to waste, so here are some reasons on why you should have courage and join me on my unraveling crusade of yarncromancy.

  1. It’s not quite your style anymore
    You might still be an emo at 29, or your style tastes might have changed. Where you were once into neon knits, you might be more about the neutrals now. You might prefer more fitted garments. Or looser ones. It’s okay for styles and tastes to change. If there’s still something about that shawl or garment that you love and want on your body, rip it back and transform that yarn into something that better fits your personal style.
  2. It doesn’t fit
    There’s myriad reasons why this might be the case. Your body may have changed, your gauge might have been off, or the yarn grew like crazy when you washed it (looking at you, Drops Merino Extra Fine!) so now your fitted cardi could fit 12 people in one sleeve alone. Whatever the reason, your knits should fit you how you want them to fit. You wouldn’t wear shoes that are too big or that give you blisters, and I’m willing to bet you’re not going to be wearing a hat that barely fits over your head, or a cropped jumper that wouldn’t even cover a nipple. If such items are at the bottom of a drawer or back of your wardrobe because they don’t fit either anymore or they never did… rip them back!
Purple and grey knit fabric
  1. The designer is a bigot
    In as polite terms as I can manage, you won’t want to wear the ideas of someone who turns out to be a bully on your body. It’s the main reason I frogged a sweater recently. The design was very identifiable, and I didn’t want to hurt people who had been hurt by that designer by wearing her ideas on my torso.
  2. There’s a “mistake” that bothers you
    Mistake, error, design element – whatever you call it, sometimes a section using the wrong technique like mixing up your brioche rows, dropped stitches, or a few stitches in the wrong colour might really bother you. I’m pretty laidback and have left in purl bumps and such as it makes my items personal to me. But I can see why having sleeves of different lengths or a section of lace that doesn’t match up would be an annoyance. In which case, rip back – nobody has time to feel slightly resentful of the shawl they’re wearing.
  3. It doesn’t meet your expectations
    I get this feeling a lot when shopping. I fixate on how that dress will somehow make my life infinitely better and I’ll look beautiful in it… Then I try it on, and I feel ridiculous. Sometimes, garments or accessories don’t live up to the vision or expectations we had once they’re off the needles. They might not fit the need we had for them – fabric that’s too transparent may not be your ideal work jumper, for example. You just might not be able to pin down why it’s not making you feel wonderful. If you try it on in a shop and you don’t like it, you wouldn’t buy it. Apply the same logic to your knitwear. Then add scissors.

Chances are, you used some beautiful yarn in those projects – colour, fibre, texture, whatever – and it deserves to be in a project that you wear and adore; to be shown off, not hidden away at the back of your wardrobe!
You deserve knitwear that brings you joy and comfort. Get frogging.

Images copyright Cia Jackson 2020

Stitches and Panels

Of course I was going to find a way to combine my love of comics and yarn. Of course it was going to become a blog post! Put down your needles and join me in the panels?

First off, when knitting enters the panels. I’ve followed Katie Green for a number of years, and I was thrilled when she began writing knitting comics for Pom Pom Quarterly, a knitting magazine I have been a long-time subscriber of. Fast forward to 2019, and Katie published those comics (with a few additions!) as a zine, More Than Yarn, and I picked up a copy at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Katie’s comics are all personal, touching on how knitting has changed her life; the impact it has had upon her mental health, her body image, and her relationships. There’s even a cute comic about a mitten, as well as one on the potential of yarn. One page was turned into a print a few years ago and now hangs in my flat. Katie’s comics are beautifully written and illustrated; there’s something comforting and familiar to each one. I particularly enjoy how she employs different colouring techniques for each one, which really cements the different tones and atmospheres as she shares her personal experiences. I know these comics pretty well, but I still enjoy returning to them. It’s a gorgeous collection, and I defy any knitter not to fall in love with Katie’s comics, or relate to them!
I really appreciated Pom Pom publishing these comics in their magazines too. Like most comics readers, I’m somewhat bored of mainstream media and bookstores occasionally peddling the “oh my goodness, comics are for everyone!” or “comics are for children, graphic novels are for adults darling!” nonsense. It was great to see these included without question in the magazine. Plus, y’know, more stunning images and words to enjoy alongside the patterns I’d eventually go on to knit. In short; more comics about knitting! And if you haven’t already, check out Katie’s work and her amazing autobiographical comic now!

You didn’t think I wouldn’t include some knitting inspired by comics, did you? Of course I am that level of geek!

Oooft, check that very different hairstyle!

Let’s go with stuff I’ve made. Please note that links here are to Ravelry pattern pages and unless you have switched to Old Ravelry, they will open in the new Ravelry format. There’s the Wonder Woman shawl by Carissa Browning – a free pattern no less, and I think there may be a crochet version too! Garter stitch, short-rows, and free. What’s not to love? I made mine a few years ago using long-stashed yarn from Old Maiden Aunt merino/silk yarn, and then wore it to a conference where I presented some of my Batgirl research. So many knitters have made this shawl, and I love seeing the different colour palettes they’ve used to interpret it; from sticking to Wonder Woman’s traditional costume colours, to using greys and neons.

Here’s two projects I’ve not thought of in a very long time. I was seeing a guy who was a big fan of The Punisher… At the time I couldn’t find a pattern, so I charted up the logo and made him a hat and some mittens. I don’t have a picture of the completed hat, but I did remember to take a picture of the mittens as I felt rather proud of them back then. I have no idea if he still has them – he tried to give me back a pair of socks I made him…uh no thanks dude, you wore them, also why those but not the other stuff? Men… – but I was pleased with how these turned out as at the time, I wasn’t a big or remotely experienced colourwork knitter. Not bad considering!

This is an unofficial one, but I was gifted some Harley Quinn-inspired yarn from two of my best pals. The colourway was “Harley Deserved Better” and was dyed by the fantastically talented dyer, Gamercrafting. As an aside, I got her Birds of Prey mystery club yarn for my birthday, and like this colourway, it was Harley to a T! Anyhow, once I had my viva date set, I knit these socks to wear to said viva. When half of your thesis is on Harley Quinn, you can’t not, right? Well reader, I wore them to my viva and it was a very relaxed and enjoyable viva. Were these Harley-inspired socks lucky? Maybe. Either way, they’re my favourite socks and I wore them whilst typing up my corrections over the winter.

This is, of course, the tip of the ice berg. There are a plethora of comics-inspired patterns available, some for free. Captain Marvel fans are in for a treat as there are some beautiful colourwork mittens and shawls featuring the Captain Marvel logo out there. It makes me wish I was a bigger Carol Corps fan, to be honest. There are plenty for Wonder Woman fans too. Beyond the shawls, there’s amigurumi to enjoy, and a stunning sweater which is on my list to tackle one day. Harley also makes an appearance, and seems to be popular with crocheters. Need a hat inspired by Harley’s old jester costume or a Harley plushy? Designers have you covered. Batgirl, much to my disappointment, has yet to become a firm source of inspiration for designers, but there’s still time. If you are a designer though, I could totally use a Batgirl shawl or sweater. Just sayin’. You can never have too many nerdy knits. And I want to see more knitting in comics.

Images copyright Cia Jackson 2020