Wiksten Tank

Wiksten Tank sewing pattern by Jenny Gordy.

Liberty Of London Tana Lawn in Pointillism Orange.

I sewed a garment! As you all know, I have so many hand knit garments, mostly sweaters and mostly cold weather items. Which is all good since I live in Montreal and can wear my worsted weight sweaters 9 months of the year (even some summer evenings). This is the thing. I love sewing, I LOVE fabric, and I love the instant gratification of being able to make a top in an afternoon, so you'd think that all that would add up to a more extensive sewn wardrobe. Here's the kicker: I LOATHE machinery. Stuff with gears. Stuff that can break and requires some engineering or greasing or maintaining or really just any kind of fiddling. Suffice it to say I have a love hate relationship with my sewing machine. Oh! I also HATE all the set up and take down involved in sewing since I don't have a dedicated sewing space and end up pressing on my kitchen counter and sewing on my dining room table. A lot of people are able to make this sort of set up work, but it kind of makes my stomach turn so I very rarely sew at home. Luckily for me, my mother lives a short 10 minutes away and has a very functional, dedicated sewing space in her house. I spent the morning at her place and made this tank there rather than dealing with all the moving parts of my own set up. And there you have it. A big part of why knitting is so awesome and perfect for every single person on the planet is the fact that it's so portable, so accessible, so easy to pick up and put down. There is no excuse not to knit. ;)

Ok, so my beef with my sewing machine aside, I sewed this tank and there are things that I absolutely adore about it and other things that I'm still undecided about, but I suspect that the parts that I love less are more about the learning curve involved in sewing your first garment more than anything else.  

What I love: The colour! The fabric! The shape! The fact that I made it and I'm so super proud of those lovely french seams and the pretty near perfect biased edging and that rolled hem that lays flat and doesn't curl and do all sorts of weird stuff that it did in my prototype version! I also find the length of this top really flattering on me. I love that when I wear it under a sweater you can see the bottom peaking out both in the front and the back. The curved hem is a really nice touch and, since I made this myself, I was able to cut the neckline a wee bit higher than the pattern suggested in order to make it hit exactly where I wanted it to. All in all, I'm crazy about it and though I doubt that my sewn wardrobe is going to overtake my hand knit wardrobe any time soon, I am pretty jazzed about having branched out a little bit. Since I had success with Jenny's tank pattern I'm considering trying her other super popular Tova pattern as my next sewing pattern. 

I knit this sweater before I planned for this tank but as soon as the fabric I'd ordered arrived I knew that the two were a match made in heaven! This is possibly my current favourite outfit and the fact that I made 2 components of it (I have no desire to attempt making jeans! I don't think I'm that hardcore) is pretty rad. The sweater is a pattern that I am currently working on and that I should have ready for testing soon. Stay tuned!

Slow Fashion October, Week 3 - Handmade

Wolf RiverReverbLady Sunnyside, CoolbreezeOmbreLifesavers, I Heart CardigansMonte RosaR&R Hoodie, Christmas In July.

This week's prompt for Slow Fashion October is about handmade items, and boy do I have a lot of handmade items to consider! I talked a lot about how terrific handmade items are in last week's post, so check that out if you missed it. Here is the thing, approaching this week's topic, I had mixed feelings. I thought that I was going to sit down and hash out my struggles with my need to make, both on a personal level - I can't not make! - but also on a professional level - it's my job to make! - and the reality of the realization that I currently have enough sweaters to last me an entire lifetime. I absolutely do not need any more sweaters. For the sake of this entry, I'm focussing on sweaters, mainly because I don't want to have to face the sheer volume of accessories I've amassed over the years. 

So, the sweaters, I have many and from a slow fashion consideration, I probably have too many. The slow fashion movement leans towards a very minimalist approach to wardrobes, and I can certainly embrace the "less things, better quality" angle with other segments of my wardrobe, but when it comes to my hand knit sweaters, I definitely don't have a "less is more" approach. And, I'm not ready to give up the chase. I love designing them, knitting them and wearing them. Looking at that array of sweaters up at the top of this post brings me so much joy! Some I wear very regularly, some I wear only a couple of times a year, but I love them all and I simply cannot stop making them. So much of the joy I get out of them is in the actual "making" process, though I do get a lot of satisfaction out of wearing them as well. As a participant in Slow Fashion October I feel as though I should be using today's blog post to set goals for how I plan to reduce my makes, but I just don't think that I can.  

Other than my sweaters, my wardrobe is really not out of hand. I don't own much that I don't actually wear, which I think is a good test for the validity of ones closet. Here's the thing about minimalist wardrobes, they don't allow for changes in style, or frankly, size. Over the past 4 years I have been pregnant, breastfeeding, back to normal and then pregnant again and am currently still breastfeeding. Needless to say, my size as well as my needs have fluctuated A LOT. For most people, setting out to create a super curated, handmade closet that will last them a lifetime doesn't seem that realistic because what are the chances that you remain the same size for your entire life? Having said that, there are definitely a few very flexible items in my wardrobe that have seen me through years of wear at every different size I've been, but I don't think that I'd like an entire wardrobe made up of just those pieces. Oh, and because we're talking about hand knit sweaters today, cardigans are crazy flexible pieces, so thumbs up for cardigans!

I am a fickle person, I've accepted it. I don't always have my finger on the pulse of fashion but I do enjoy it and I don't think that I could commit to one style of jeans or one silhouette of top for the rest of my life. I like to express myself through clothing styles and that means evolving my style as I age and change. Much of the discussion surrounding handmade wardrobes involves the idea of curating the perfect items of clothing exclusively for you, your body type and your style, which all all wonderful things about handmade, and I totally love all that, but me and my style change from year to year and I don't think that I'd be happy if my wardrobe didn't change along with me. 

So, when it comes to handmade, I guess I'm saying that I'm giving myself a pass. The fact that I make so many sweaters means that I don't buy them, does that count for something!? There's also the obvious point that I made last week about the fact that I cherish my handmade items. They are not all workhorse pieces, but they are all special and will not end up in a landfill. I do think that I'll take a critical look at my sweaters this winter and if there are some that I just don't love anymore I've got a sister and a few cousins who might be happy to inherit them. That's possibly one of the best things about handmade items, all the thought and care that goes into making is easily carried though all the way to the end and when the item is no longer serving it's purpose, hopefully the same amount of care and thought will go into the best way to get it out of your closet and into a new, loving home. 

Taking a more thoughtful, slow fashion, look at my handmade wardrobe has brought me to another realization that I'm quite happy about, and that is that my personal style, though ever evolving, is pretty timeless. I don't go in for anything too quirky or trendy, so hopefully the sweaters that I choose to design and knit will be wearable for a long time wether that is my ultimate goal or not. But I also want to add that I've come to the conclusion that knitwear is always in style! Looking at my lovely little collage of sweaters above I feel confident saying that they will all stand the test of time, which wasn't something that was necessarily on my mind when I was knitting them, but it's a really nice little bonus! 

Do I have too many sweaters? Yes, yes I do. So I guess my takeaway from this week's theme is that nobody is perfect and while I generally abide by the "everything in moderation approach" we are all allowed to break our own rules once in a while and for me, it's knitwear. And candy. I have no self control when it comes to candy. And Chicago mix.  

Mood Board Monday - Highlighter

Don't forget about today's Etsy update at 3pm EST! See you then!

ball gown, heels, Sharpies, pencils, TFA PureWash DK in Highlighter, friends, purse, planter, Roxy slip on.

ball gownheelsSharpiespencils, TFA PureWash DK in Highlighter, friendspurseplanterRoxy slip on.

Today's Etsy Update features a whole bunch of super fun new neon colourways! Neon's are popping up everywhere these days in a shockingly wearable and liveable way. A quick search on Pinterest brings up loads of beautiful (ok, and some not so beautiful) examples of high fashion and interior decor items with neon highlights. My approach to the neon trend is definitely a bit more subdued. I love the idea of neutrals - think Chris Grey, Graphite, Sand - spiced up with a hit of neon accent - a pompom! a hint of fair isle! a contrast hem! So much fun. Above I've chosen to highlight our neon yellow shade, aptly named: Highlighter! 

PureWash Etsy Update, Woolful Podcast & much more!

We've got so much going on right now I'm basically a tizzy, YES, A TIZZY! with excitement. The first thing I want to make sure to mention is that I am the guest on these week's episode of the Woolful podcast! It's such a thrill and even though it was super weird to listen to my own voice over the internet, I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Ashley and sharing a little bit of my fiber journey with her audience. It's been a long time since I've done an interview and it made me realize how much I love talking about yarn, colour and knitting. My wheels are spinning, I might try something new soon. Stay tuned! Oh, and there is a wicked giveaway over on the Woolful blog for a sweater's worth of PureWash Worsted in the colourway of your choice, go enter NOW!

We are working on a ton of fun new projects that have me very invigorated. I'm really excited to share them all with you in the coming weeks but none of them are quite ready yet. Oh, except for those postcards! The top right image above features a postcard designed by Chris and coloured by me. We're including colouring postcards with all of our orders now and I sincerely hope that you'll colour yours and mail it to a friend! Friend's love getting real live mail. Trust me. If you do colour your card (as I hope you do) please share it on social media and tag it using the hashtag #tfapostcard so I can see your beautiful work!

Oh, hello, NEONS!!! 

There will be an Etsy Update on Monday, October 17th at 3pm EST

This update will feature mainly: PureWash Worsted, PureWash DK, PureWash Fingering & those crazy bright skeins of Blue Label Fingering weight yarn you see up there. 

There will be a smattering of other things as well, small batches of OOAK's and such, but mainly large batches of each of the 4 bases listed above. No Grey Label Chunky in this update, but it will be back for the next one!


PureWash Palette Blanket

PatternFly Away by tincanknits

Yarn: TFA PureWash DK in Sand, Frost, Seabreeze, Peacock, Ravine, Saffron, Orange Blossom, Royal Flush, Orchid, Papaya and Natural. 

Ravelry project page here.

Weeks after we wrapped up the TFA Blanket KAL I'm finally getting around to blogging my personal blanket project contribution! This is the way with blankets, I'm all gung ho in the beginning and can whip off multiple squares like it's nobody's business. Then comes the seaming... then the border... then the weaving in of ends... Sometimes I fly through the whole process and other times I get caught up on one of the later steps. This time it was the border. My blanket just sat there, seamed together with ends mostly sewn in for a few weeks and then one night I said "enough!" and picked up the stitches, started on the border and within a few days the project was officially off the needles, ready for cuddling and peek-a-boo and all that good stuff!

As always, I can't say enough good things about the Fly Away blanket pattern by Tin Can Knits. This is my third and I can guarantee that there will be a fourth! Each one is completely different from the last. My heart could explode I love this pattern so! This colour palette is quite a departure for me. Though I'm obviously no stranger to the blue/turquoise tones I rarely opt for orange as a complement, it's just so much contrast and my gradient loving heart usually sticks with something a bit more subtle. But I love it! It's bright and fun and playful and I have no regrets. 

We're planning a PureWash Etsy update for later this week, possibly as early as Friday! My hope is to have Etsy updates every 2 weeks or so, doing our darnedest to keep the shop stocked throughout the fall.  

Slow Fashion October, Week 2 - Long Worn

This week's prompt for Slow Fashion October is about long worn items. In a nutshell, this is what Karen suggests we think about this week:

"How can we make the most of the clothes already on the planet — from taking care of and mending and wearing things longer, to thrifting, swapping, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, alterations and refashioning."

In the photos above I'm wearing a sweater that my grandmother knit for my mother when she was in university. Without giving away my mom's age, lets just say this sweater is upwards of 40 years old. And I still wear it. In fact, I still love it! The sweater is a "Classic Grammy". Very simple detailing, well, basically no detailing actually. Simple ribbed hems, garter stitch button band, modest buttons, relaxed fit, and... wait for it... 100% acrylic yarn!

The reasons that I love this sweater so much for what it has to say about slow fashion are:

A) It's handmade by Grammy, was worn and loved by my mom and is now worn and loved by me and that makes it inexplicably special. Even if this sweater were in a less flattering colour, or a harder to wear shape, I would still love it and wear it. There is zero chance that this sweater will ever end up in a landfill. As long as I'm alive, I will cherish this sweater. That's the magic of hand made!

B) She used acrylic yarn. It's not that I love acrylic yarn, it's just that a big part of the slow fashion conversation tends to frown upon synthetic materials in favour of all natural choices. I think it goes without saying that I'm a die-hard wool lover and would always choose a natural fiber first, but the fact that this sweater is knit in acrylic yarn in no way takes away from it's appeal for me. It's what Grammy had on hand at the time she made it and I dare not judge her choices.

C) It is a classic. More and more these days I try to think about the longevity of the patterns I choose in terms of style. I love fashion and can certainly get caught up in trends, but I try to keep longevity in mind as much as possible. This sweater will never go out of style because it's so basic. 

I have clothing that I've mended, favourite thrifted pieces and lots of hand-me-downs. But rather than give you all a detailed list of each and every one of my long worn items I thought that this sweater best exemplified the magic of long worn items in a hand made context. Whether an item is made by you, by someone you love, or someone you don't even know, there is a built in level of pricelessness in hand made items and I dare say that because of this extra special value they possess, hand made items are much more likely to be cherished for years and years over fast fashion store bought items, which is what makes them such an integral part of a slow fashion wardrobe. 

** I feel like I have to give an honorary shout out to my other favourite hand-made-hand-me-down sweater, this chunky scrappy beauty! In my original blog post about it I said that it was knit by Grammy, turns out my mother actually knit it for herself! Props to mom. ** 

Mood Board Monday - never enough blue!

A OOAK Sky Blue colourway from an Etsy update long ago, flowers, waves, popsicle sticks, scarves, another beautiful shot of Iceland borrowed from my brother's recent trip with his girlfriend.

A OOAK Sky Blue colourway from an Etsy update long ago, flowerswavespopsicle sticksscarves, another beautiful shot of Iceland borrowed from my brother's recent trip with his girlfriend.

The title basically sums it up for me. When I'm stumped for what colourway to feature in a mood board I like to go back to ol' reliable. I could make a million blue mood boards and never get tired of it! 

I'm thankful for blue mood boards. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving Canadian friends!

I'm gonna finish this, I swear!

I started (and finished) this sweater so long ago now that I can't even figure out exactly when I knit this. I'm thinking that it was 2013. Ouch. *So I just checked with Instagram and it says that I was wearing this sweater 129 weeks ago. (!!!) The sweater has been worn quite a lot since then and I actually really love the design and the fit, but... there were a few things that needed to be ripped and re-knit before it was perfect. So, 129 weeks later, I'm going to do it.

I'm calling this design Camaro. Chris named it actually. If all goes well you can expect to see a lot more of it in the coming weeks! 


Slow Fashion October, Week 1 - my introduction

Last year I sat back and watched from the sidelines as all the magic unfolded around Slow Fashion October and this year I vowed to take part a little more actively. I will probably still be a rather passive participant in terms of posts and comments, not because I'm not thinking about it and actively living the concepts of slow fashion, but because I am just so overwhelmed by all of my thoughts about everything that it entails and I don't feel like I'm totally capable of putting it all into words and expressing myself in a smart and productive way. I am the sort of person who doesn't chime in unless I'm confident about what I have to say. I know that I feel strongly about slow fashion, or maybe it's that I am strongly against fast fashion, but I also know that it's a complicated topic. I'm going to simplify things for myself and just talk about what I know and share my personal experiences with slow fashion.

So first, my introduction. Most of you who are reading this already know me and what I'm all about, but here I go! I'm Tanis, I'm 32 years old, I live in the suburbs of Montreal with my husband Chris, our 2 young sons and dog. Together with my husband I run our hand dyed yarn business, Tanis Fiber Arts, based out of our home. I am a maker. The high I get from making things from scratch is unbeatable. 

For me, like for so many others, slow fashion isn't about being holier than thou and only buying expensive, hand made, organic, perfect, hemp tunics. Slow fashion is about reducing waste. I think that's the biggest thing for me. Less waste in production and less waste in terms of the life of the product. If I had to nail it down, I'd say that I'm more environmentally motivated. Yes, I care a lot about the human conditions involved in the production of the clothing I wear, but the environment affects all humans, everywhere. The environment and quality of life are inseparable. After watching the documentary The True Cost on Netflix I was literally moved to tears by the environmental conditions that innocent people in developing countries are forced to live in because of our Western addiction to fast fashion.      

How does my family embrace a slow fashion lifestyle? Well, first of all I think it's worth mentioning that since Chris and I both work from home, it's pretty easy for us. Our jobs don't require a specific dress code and our lifestyle doesn't demand that we own multiple styles of clothing to suit all of the different types of "events" that we might attend. We're pretty much only dress "casual cute" (sometimes with more of an emphasis on casual than cute), which makes it easy to own fewer favourite pieces and to wear them all the time. We embraced slow food ages ago - we both worked in restaurants before embarking on this fiber life and our love of local, organic foods cooked into beautiful meals from scratch easily translates into an appreciation of thoughtfully handmade clothing. 

And we are makers! So though I say that I we love thoughtfully handmade clothing, the truth is most of the thoughtfully handmade items we own were thoughtfully handmade by us! There are some things I can't/am not interested in making, and those things I buy and will admit to sometimes buying them at affordable and accessible places, and I think that's ok! As I type this I'm wearing my favourite turtleneck that I bought at Target ages ago and I can live with that. I've worn it for years and hope to wear it for years to come. I'm going to put it out there and say that I don't care as much about where you're buying your clothes as much as what you're doing with them once you've chosen to take responsibility for them. If you plan on wearing them for a season and then tossing them, I'll cringe, but if you have a favourite turtleneck from Target and by some miracle it lasts for years and years (because often times fast fashion brands are not made to last - but miraculously some items defy those rules) than I'm all for it. 

Kids! When it comes to clothing for my boys I take the same approach as I do for clothing for myself. Buy less, wear it more and take care of it so it can be passed on when it no longer fits. The fact that I have 2 children of the same gender simplifies things. I won't get into it too much but I will say that I have a pretty strong bias against super gender specific clothing for tiny babies. Maybe it's because I have sons and have found that baby clothes shopping for them was a pretty lame experience. I focused on gender-neutral items, which there is a tremendous lack of in the baby-clothing industry. Items that could be worn by whatever subsequent babies I had, regardless of gender. As they grow that becomes harder because the fit is different and the fashion industry continues to hammer home the "boys only wear t-shirts with baseballs on them" ideology. My boys wear a lot of stripes and solids and yes, a lot of blue, but so do I (see photo above for proof!)

I think that it's also worth highlighting within the context of Slow Fashion October that it's so important to me that we're making the switch to our more environmentally friendly line of PureWash yarns. It can feel like a contradiction to say that I'm such a believer in slow fashion and then in the next line say "buy all my yarns to knit way more sweaters than you'll ever need!" but I believe that when you've thought about the yarns you're purchasing and you've put the hours into making yourself (or a loved one) an item with those yarns, that item will be treasured, cared for, and will live a long life. The fact that we are able to facilitate other people with handmade slow fashion ambitions is pretty awesome.

This is such a huge topic that I think about a lot and don't feel like I've even come close to scratching the surface on. I hope to continue to blog weekly with my take on each of the themes Karen has outlined for us. At the end of the day I guess I just want to put it out there that owning fewer items that you love means that you get to wear clothing that you love and feel good in every day and it's really not a sacrifice. I think that it's a misconception that slow fashion means giving something up, having less options. There are lots of ways to live mindfully and create less waste and feel really good about yourself while you're at it. 

Mood Board Monday - Aurora

TFA Green Label in Aurora, fungi, sky at night stolen from my talented brother's instagram, flower, art on canvas, a WIP shot of my Eventide Shawl.

TFA Green Label in Aurorafungi, sky at night stolen from my talented brother's instagramflowerart on canvas, a WIP shot of my Eventide Shawl.

I have been trying to nail down a mood board for our Aurora colourway ever since we developed it and it has not been easy! It's such an unusual mix of colours and it has proven very difficult to find images that truly capture the spirit of one of my favourite colourways. I'm quite happy with how this one finally came together. It was inspired mainly by that gorgeous photo featured in the top right hand corner taken by my brother. He is really spreading his wings as a photographer and I absolutely love seeing his images pop up in my Instagram stream. We don't live in the same city anymore, thank God for social media for allowing me to keep up with what he's up to. He and his girlfriend just returned from a two week trip around Iceland and the photo previews I've been seeing are off the charts gorgeous! 

I love you Vince!

October 1st

I have been looking forward to turning my TFA calendar to October all year long! This image is probably my favourite of the year. Two very special skeins of handspun yarn. Does it get any better than that?

Grey Label Chunky Etsy Update on Sunday!

left to right, top to bottom: Silent Movie, Cloudy, Tiki, Bisou, Hummingbird, Lotus, Tartan, Chris Grey, Cosmic Night, Sand, Iris, Ravine.

left to right, top to bottom: Silent Movie, Cloudy, Tiki, Bisou, Hummingbird, Lotus, Tartan, Chris Grey, Cosmic Night, Sand, Iris, Ravine.

Etsy Update on Sunday, October 2nd at 3pm EST

This week's Etsy update will feature a selection of our Grey Label Chunky yarn! Woohoo! I know that many of you have been very patiently waiting for the return of this base and I'm happy to say that we've dyed up lots of skeins, in a limited amount of colours (several batches of most colours) and we will continue to feature our merino/alpaca chunky base in Etsy Updates throughout the fall and winter. This is the last batch of Grey Label that will be made with conventional superwash merino wool. Going forward we will be making our chunky yarn with our PureWash merino, still blended with 20% alpaca, but a cleaner merino to make us all happy. :) 

I've randomly chosen a slightly later list time for this week's update, just to mix things up a bit for those of you in timezones where our 12pm EST is less convenient for. 

Have a great weekend! See you on Sunday!