a plan where there wasn’t one before


I’m not sure how it happened, but making things is now sort of making its way to the center of my world. I’m sure you’ve noticed. Since it began, I’ve hardly talked about anything else. I’m not even good at it yet, but I’ve found a thing that feels complicated but only in good ways, fulfilling, exciting, and possible, possible, possible. I’m sure I’m beginning to sound a little whackadoodle gushing about fiber arts in this way (especially if you’re the sort of person who looks at a knitting needle and thinks it’s a weird long pencil or something), but for me this is a giant discovery, and one that I want to gush about repeatedly. In short, making things is giving me hope.

I’m not in any position yet to try to teach anyone how to sew or knit or to stand on any pedestals bestowing any sort of knowledge, but what I can tell you is that if you want to make things you can. You really, really can. All I know about it so far is discovery, seeking to learn, finding very real hope in something tactile and actual. You can learn about making alongside me if you’d like. I’m going to keep talking about it. Often. I’m going to tell you pretty much everything I know. Which is only a little, but growing every day. Made my first french seam the other day, altering a wool scarf bought from Goodwill. Baby steps.

A nice chunk of my internet time these days is spent clicking through maker after maker, reading blog posts and finding new patterns, wandering down corridors trying to see what everyone is making and how. I’m finding that what is really impressive to me in this world is nothing more than dedication and persistence. No one was born an amazing maker of things. We all just have to do it a lot. We all just have to make one thing and then make a lot more things. That’s the only way it works. I think that is what any of the makers I admire would tell me if I asked. I think they would tell me that they just made one thing and then made some more. That it happened slowly and persistently. That a lot of hours have gone into what they are doing now. You can only be a maker if you are making things. Which is fantastic, because making things is a thing I can do! It’s an identity I can claim through action. It’s a heritage I can step into through persistence and time. When I stumble upon a maker whose work is beautiful to me, I can see years of trying and re-trying, picking up and putting down, experiments and victories. That is when I get excited. That is when it all feels supremely possible. I’m not interested in virtuosos. I’m interested in long, windy, trying journeys, projects begun and discarded, and people who head toward what they are compelled by. That is the sort of maker that I ultimately hope to be, one who does things because I’m interested in them, not because of any desire to be impressive or amazing right away, not because of any outside expectation or status quo. Just one project then another, whatever is compelling, whatever has the potential to be beautiful, somehow.

For now, I’m firmly entrenched in the information-gathering stage. I’m reading all the blogs, I’m learning all the techniques, I’m gathering up all the projects, I’m collecting all the fabrics, and I think all of it is a sort of circling around and around trying to figure out what it is that I want to make. I have big dreams brewing. Dreams of learning how to draft my own patterns, of selling things I make, of teaching other people, of doing things in ways that no one else has thought of yet.

Till then, I am learning, and soaking up everything I can from the people who have come before me so beautifully and humbly. No one is trying to claim any sort of superstar persona. All of the people whose work I really admire just seem to really like sewing and knitting. They seem to have just kept on making things, one after the other, because they love it, because it’s what they know to do. For some people this means a small business blossoming, never too big, but fantastically satisfying. For some people this means sewing clothes for their very own children and needing nothing more than that. For me, I don’t know yet.  Still, I recognize the pattern, the tendency to make and make again in myself, in writing and in sewing and in knitting. It’s actively giving me hope, this community and its attitude and the way my body is stretching to it, like a long-stemmed plant searching for sun.

This learning time means trying a lot of different ways of constructing with textiles. Trying patterns from multiple indie pattern-makers, learning new knitting stitches, experimenting with yarn weight, designing my own quilts and learning from what others have done before me. I’m making now to see what I like and what I don’t like, what comes naturally and what feels like a stretch. I’m going to keep telling you about all of it, because it’s on my mind. Right now, my daydreams jump to yarn and fabric. I want to gather up all my friends and sew things together. There is so much I hope, so much to see, so much!

My biggest goal is to make a lot of patterned projects this year with the hopes of soaking up all the wisdom and techniques enough that I can tackle the dream of beginning to think about drafting a few of my own patterns in 2018! (Or at least some half-decent tutorials). I’m also always half-toying with the idea of becoming the sort of person who has an Etsy shop, but not sure about that yet. For now, lots of learning, lots of doing, building skills and showing up.

For now, some sort of semblance of a plan for the next few months. Things to definitely make, things to keep on dreaming about, things to mull over and research and see about. This is what has caught my eye lately. These are the skills I hope to build. These are the building blocks of a year of learning, of investing in myself and in hope, of exercising my agency and making some beautiful things where before there was just a pile of yarn or cloth. The past few months have been so full of encouragement from so many corners, encouragement that I did not expect but that I desperately needed. It seems to me that it is all significant, that this is not some sort of fluke, that this corner of the world that I have stumbled into is a good one, a soft place where I can belong and where so much is possible. This is the way I will exist as a person in the world, by fighting weakness with action, by calling sewing and knitting hope, by inviting others to join in, by making things and calling it victory.


Things I will definitely make:

Farrow Dress, Grainline Studio. Annie gave me this pattern for Christmas and I’m so excited to sew myself the sleeveless version. I bought this fabric for it in the Strip District in Pittsburgh. This project may be the first big one on my list for the new year!

Scout Tee, Grainline Studio. Jill gave me this pattern for Christmas. Just finished my first scout tee, sewn from fabric from the market in Kigali. It was a super quick project and I love the way it fits me. I’m sure I’ll make at least another two or three Scouts this year, probably in linen and cotton, and definitely in neutral hues. My Kigali fabric is NOT neutral, but I love that about it.

Another pair of Purl Soho’s Perfect Fit Socks, because the first pair I made were incredibly satisfying to knit. I kind of love teeny tiny stitches that feel slow-going but build into something fantastic. Maybe I’ll go a little crazy and make some Pixel Stitch socks instead!

I’m about to unravel some mittens I started but didn’t love and knit the yarn up into this hat, free on Ravelry. Should be a pretty quick and satisfying project.

I bought some gorgeous fabric at a favorite Pittsburgh shop for a Purl Soho Quilted Zipper Pouch. Planning to use mine to hold a knitting project or two.

More self-designed quilts. I recently decided to face my fears and try to make a quilt of my very own design – a table runner. In the middle of hand-quilting it now, and the success of my math and design and hope and figuring it all out has put so many more ideas in my head! That combined with the fact that Isaiah’s grandma gifted me a year’s worth of fabric scraps has me ready to make a million quilts!


Things I’m mulling over:

My in-laws gave me some gorgeous British aran grey wool for Christmas, and I have dreams of turning it into a cowl scarf. This pattern by Brooklyn Tweed is a frontrunner, but I’m not sure yet. Probably won’t happen till fall.

I’m direly in need of a couple of new bras, and this pattern from Cloth Habit looks promising. Just need to make sure my skills are up for the task, and also that the materials won’t amount to costing more than just buying something.

This cardigan is my next big hoped-for project to make for myself. I love the shape of it and the detailing. I think some of the techniques required a  little beyond my wheelhouse, but I tend to learn by doing anyway, so I’d be willing to take a chance! It’s mostly just a matter of whether I can bring myself to buy that much yarn anytime soon! This is a cardigan that I want in my closet.

I want to make Isaiah a sweater at some point, but it will be tricky to choose just the right pattern to make it very worthwhile. I’m thinking of this one, because you really can’t go wrong with something so classic. Probably navy, maybe with a grey stripe. For next Christmas?

I’m interested in Grainline’s Driftless Cardigan for a new sewing challenge. I’ve never made anything in jersey before, and I’m anxious to learn.

Garment House Raglan Sweater and/or Cline by Julie Hoover. Would love to add another handknit simple pullover to my wardrobe, and both of these options are fantastic. We will see if I get around to it.


Things I will dream about making:

Prime, Brooklyn Tweed. This sweater is so well shaped, and I love it in the grey they knit the sample in. This would fit so well into my wardrobe. But a gal can only make herself so many sweaters, right? Will save for a rainy day, season, year.

Tessera, Brooklyn Tweed. I’ve never taken the dive into colorwork yet, but this cowl makes my fingers itch to give it a try. It’s gorgeous. I feel like once I dive into the land of colorwork, I may never come out again!





2 thoughts on “a plan where there wasn’t one before

  1. I so agree that the way to learn to make things well is to make them, and make them , and make them. And be willing to make things badly first. I love the patience and slow progress evident in anything made – anything that is better than the last is a win.


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