Selfish Knitting: Wavy Peplum Sweater

This peplum sweater was truly a labour of love. The yarn started out in several other projects before I found the right pattern for it, and even then it underwent some unknitting. However, the final result is one of the most intricate pieces I’ve ever knit.

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Not going to lie, there were some problems within the pattern. I recommend reading this first. However, those corrections don’t even cover problems within the cable chart, which took a while to figure out. Luckily, the pattern is a 16-row repeat, and I was able to memorise it. If you want to take this project on, I definitely recommend patience and a stiff drink.

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I made a few changes to the pattern, namely making two fronts because I couldn’t understand the instructions for making a back with the zip down the middle. So I have now resigned myself to styling my hair after the jumper is on, as the neck is too tight to maintain a hairstyle. I made a Size Small, then blocked it quite severely. I wear a UK 8-10 (US 4-6) and it fits well. It was found in the Creative Cables book.

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I made this last year, as is evidenced by the heels I’m wearing. Lately, I’ve been styling it in the same way as my previous knitwear share (ie, black skirt with flat boots), but I dug out these photos for a bit of variety!

A little announcement: My coming series!

As I sit here at my sewing table (ie, my desk with a sewing machine on it), I am feeling rather excited about a new project I’m taking on. However, I feel as if it deserves a bit of backstory.

So, when I was a little girl, I had a Gene Marshall doll. My mom bought her for me, along with a couple outfits. At the time, I didn’t really understand the doll or her clothes. They were vintage-style, and my own leanings were decidedly modern at the time. However, I had a dream on Samhain night about this doll. The dream was vivid and weird, as they so often are. Since then, I’ve been planning to sew versions of her clothes for myself. I’ve sourced a few fabrics, selected a handful of patterns, and started on one outfit in earnest. I hope to have it completed this weekend.

Though this brings me great excitement, I am a bit nervous. It’s been years since I’ve sewn anything, and longer since I was happy with a project. Perhaps I cut too many corners in my 20s; perhaps I rushed things. But now, I’m determined to do things properly. Interfacing, lining, hand finishing.

In addition, I’ve also made some rules for myself. (Type A personality alert.) One is that I’m going to be operating on a one in, one out basis. This won’t necessarily mean that I’ll be getting rid of like-for-like items, but it will mean that, with the completion of each piece, I’ll be selling or donating something else.

I’ve also decided to shop my wardrobe where possible, find secondhand or true vintage items when able, and also to shop others’ stashes before buying new fabric. So, purchasing new fabric will be a last resort measure. Already, I’ve had some success with this on eBay, and I’ve found metres of vintage cashmere, silk, and wool which others are de-stashing. My reasoning for this is twofold. One, I don’t want to create additional waste or demand for production. Two, this article from The Guardian horrified me, and I’ve decided to stop buying new wool as a result.

These conditions may mean that the finished product is a slightly different colour or texture, but I think this is okay. Also, the fact that I am not a doll with a doll’s figure will mean that the clothing will naturally look slightly different. This will be for reasons of practicality as well as aesthetic. For instance, I will not be lifting the ban on wearing heels. Therefore, everything will need to be of a length that works with flat shoes. Nor will I be changing my hair colour or buying expensive accessories that are hard to store; I’m working with what I have.

My purpose for embarking on this creative endeavour is to add some beauty to my life. Gene’s clothes are often Dior-inspired, and the colours and shapes look like a joy to wear.  At present, I usually wear leggings with a big sweater around the house, and dog walking clothes outside of it. I am not overly glamorous, though I used to be. Not to mention that these days, I need something to hold my attention between writing and pet stuff, so that I don’t get too obsessed with the news. Getting caught up is easily done.

Thus, it is with glad tidings of great joy that I announce my new series: Becoming Gene Marshall. I hope that it helps me gain confidence in my sewing as well as revamping my wardrobe with things I love to wear.

 

Selfish Knitting: Bevin+Creative Cables

Ah, Mercury Retrograde! I may be in near constant disagreement with everyone around me, electronic things act strangely and I’ve been advised to never sign a contract. However, it is a good time to finish up all the lingering projects.

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This silver delight is a good example of this – I started on it in July (or maybe June), completed the sleeves and half the back and then stopped. I have no explanation for this. A couple weeks ago, I picked it up again and finished it off.

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This jumper is a combination of two patterns. One is the Bevin jumper, and the other (the cable pattern) is from Creative Cables. I started out making the Creative Cables pattern verbatim, as it were, but the sleeves were very long and the shape wasn’t overly flattering. So I unknitted and started over with the Bevin pattern as a sort of skeleton, as I’ve used it before and found it very flattering.

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This all went very well, and I essentially made two back pieces, with the front’s neckline castoff occurring about two inches lower. It looked like it would be a square neck until the ‘pick-up and knit’ portion. I used the Debbie Bliss Luxury Silk DK and am very pleased with the result!

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Banishing Fear

A classical beauty I am not. A twisted spine, hair perpetually in transition, hands like Nosferatu and a nose that my father in law has generously called ‘aquiline.’ My smile is rather pleasing, but it doesn’t photograph well. You had to be there.

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But I wouldn’t mistake honesty for complaining. I like the way I look and the Laird Hamilton also seems happy with me as I am. But photographing these features can be tricky. So I started with the hands. I mentioned Nosferatu earlier, but they really are very Weimar Berlin. And so I’ve channeled that famous image of Sylvia Von Harden. When I first saw that portrait, I loved her androgyny and those angular limbs. But the hands are the most compelling.

Weirdly, I’ve felt unworthy of being photographed for nearly two decades, shying away from the camera and always trying to find my skinny angles if I’m forced to say cheese. Yet, the images of other women that I find inspiring are rarely perfect. They embrace what the subjects probably grew up believing were flaws.

I have a feeling that this blog is about to get a whole lot…sharier. Being open is something I’ve long been concerned about, as has displaying my own image. In fact, I’ve allowed barely a dozen photographs to be taken of myself in recent years. An entire haircut and subsequent growth passed with only a single selfie.

However, as part of my Samhain ritual, I banished a few things – eight, to be precise, as this is the numerological value of ‘banish.’ While I’ll pass on attempting everything that currently frightens me, being more open online is something I’ll make an effort towards. For instance, I’m an avid knitter and a tentative sewer. I’ll be making room for these creations on here, and photographing myself wearing them. Because sticking a cardigan on a hanger is bad for the wool, you understand.

My major interests at present include a Second World War novel that I’m writing, knitting, witchery and vegan cooking. A tangental interest has been Weimar Berlin, which has proved influential for my book. With all these little fragments, I’m having trouble coming up with a cohesive theme for my blog. Not to mention all the random thoughts that I have and feel compelled to write about. The thought of getting things too scattered has concerned me, as it might confuse readers. As a reader myself, though, I have come to enjoy lots of subjects being covered by individual bloggers, and relying on company blogs for single-subject compendia. So, in short, I’m just going to write like I talk and snap what I look like.

 

A Conjecture of Our Time

As I was sewing up a knitting project, I listened to Amanda Halley, as I so often do. In an episode about fashion forecasters, she pointed out that fashion has changed very little from 2008 to 2018. The Laird Hamilton and I have discussed this from time to time, as some of the clothes we wore when we first met are, at present, wearable and relevant. Still, Halley had pictures.

This isn’t to say that absolutely nothing has changed, but the overall aesthetic is so similar. We expect interior design and architecture to remain more constant, as to update anything more than throw pillows annually would break the bank. However, the streetwear-through-time pointed out that very little has changed in the way we dress our bodies. Halley argues that we don’t want anything new at present – we just want better versions of our old stuff.

I wonder if this is true. Do we want to subconsciously relive those years, when things were more predictable and the outside world felt normal? Or are we just sartorially lost? We’ve seen wave after wave of mini-trends and subcultures taking prominence, but nothing has stuck around. Runways have brought us the dramatic and extreme, but few things would suit a regular woman’s lifestyle. The 40s, 50s and 70s have all had their moments, and yet we still go back to our skinny jeans and slightly oversized jumpers. Very few of our everyday outfits are exciting, though as a society our purchasing has exploded.

As we know, the 1950s and 1960s each had a very unified look – a set handful of haircuts, a small margin of skirt lengths, prescribed shape wear. Today, it seems that we’re floundering a little, with so many of us seeking out the ideal wardrobe and then proceeding to wear 20% of it 80% of the time.

Of course, this paradigm of ‘more of the same’ is pitted against a consumerist model, in which 52 micro seasons now exist. Retailers are geared toward producing fast fashion pieces that keep us feeling pacified as the memory of our weekend recedes. Ultimately, we have much to choose from, but the selection is hardly any different from what we already have. Statement necklaces, check shirts, ankle boots – we’ve had them all, with slight variations. Are we so caught up in details that a slimmer heel outshines a block, or burgundy outpaces red?

I’m all for individual expression, particularly through fashion. However, I believe that what we’re seeing here is designers trying and failing to find a look that speaks to a generation – someone who creates an aesthetic conjecture of our time. Thus, they make subtle changes to previous designs because they sell. We buy them because we know that they work. And still, we spend our weekends in skinny jeans and oxfords paired with our husbands’ jumpers. (Or is that just Surrey?)

I wonder how fashion would change if the designers were all encouraged to take a year off. Like letting fields go fallow for the good of future crops. How much could things change in that time, without the external pressures of sponsors, parties and buyers? Would we be able to go back to a time of slow fashion made explicitly for the way we live now?

My Pants and the Patriarchy

Epilating, Waxing, Lasers, good, old-fashioned Shaving. I’ve done them all in an attempt to ‘deal’ with my body hair. Particularly my pubic hair. Being half-Italian, I have a lot of hair. Thus, this hair removal routine was not in an attempt to look like a porn star; it was just to keep said hair contained in my pants.

Lately, however, I have grown tired of this. Paying in time and money to have hair pulled out from the roots just to feel acceptable in knickers, that is. No man I’ve ever met goes through this nonsense, nor have they had waxes for anything less than their favourite charity.

As women, we’re often told that body hair is unsightly, or even ‘gross.’ When the bikini was created in 1946, it was right after men returned home from the war, and women were fighting to retain the same status that they held during wartime. They had held jobs, built airplanes, and worked in wartime intelligence. Yet, they were expected to go back to the home and stay there. It should be no surprise that, in an era that infantilised women, pubic hair needed to be removed in order to wear the current fashion. Hair indicates sexual maturity, even female desire. Is it such a leap from a sexually mature woman to a confident one?

The patriarchy likes to keep us focused on things that don’t really matter. Fashion flows one way and then the other; we are constantly on the lookout. In this way, our attentions are focused elsewhere and we are less likely to express outrage towards our circumstances. Bread, circuses and waxes.

Most of us have no need to remove our body hair, and yet porn culture has indicated to us that we should to be aesthetically pleasing to our partners. Most of us are not porn stars, and so we should not be held to the same standard of grooming. Our genitals are not being filmed, and thus letting the camera view penetration more clearly is not of importance. Because this is all waxing is for, really: the close-up.

And yet, viewing penetration isn’t generally sexy for women. Women also aren’t dragged out of the moment because of hair. We are more turned on by a story, an atmosphere, an unspeakable chemistry. Perhaps it isn’t even that sexy for men, either. Over the weekend, I was in a vintage shop in Brighton and overheard two guys going through a basket of old Playboy magazines, which they evidently preferred to the newer editions. They complained about the amount of airbrushing that bodies receive in modern porn, and about the lack of hair. Bald like ten-year-olds. What’s the point?

But I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was knicker shopping. So, I recently bought some new styles of underwear, having disposed of all the bikini styles that require the eponymous wax. And all of the Brazilian styles, which, well, ditto. Even with American Apparel declaring that the minge is back, this was not an altogether successful undertaking, unless I wanted to continue my life looking as if spiders were escaping the legs of my pants.

It wasn’t until the Laird Hamilton and I were off for a little drive that he suggested I look to countries like France, where pubes are more normal. I remembered seeing a French emcee at a burlesque show. She wore a sheer costume, and fully visible beneath was a natural bush. What better for the retro styling than retro lingerie? French knickers have saved the day, with their fluttery style and longer length. Though they are inappropriate for tights and jeans, I hope that I’ll find another solution for those. For now, I’m happy with silk knix and suspenders.

In short, the patriarchy contains many elements which either intentionally or inadvertently tax female citizens, both in finance and in time. Young women in particular feel compelled to shave just in case a spontaneous sexual encounter occurs. I’m calling bullshit on the whole thing: we have better things to do with our lives.