Lemonade from Lemons

I bought this beautiful Spincycle yarn from Dyed in the Wool in the color Shades of Earth from my local yarn shop. I planned to and did knit them into beautiful, albeit expensive, socks.  

Dyed in the Wool by Spincycle Yarns in Shades of Earth

The trouble began when my husband wore them. The yarn literally broke in places. In one day, the ribbing popped at the top and a hole appeared in the instep. I was, to say the least, bummed. This wool was not good sock yarn.

I frogged them back to skeins and looked to see if I could pair them with nylon thread, but that made a tangled mess when I made attempt #2.

Frogged Balls of Wool and the Start of My Gauge Swatch

With all the stash reduction plans, I went through and catalogued my whole stash. When I came across these lonely skeins, I just couldn’t help myself. With so many big projects and requests looming, that will take *forever*, I felt like I needed “a win”; something beautiful and something quick.

The Bias Scarf pattern, by Shelby Dyas is great free pattern designed for eating up stash. I already had it in my queue with a different pair of yarns. I wasn’t expecting to do it with just one yarn, even though the designer did. What she chose was a variable yarn made from torn up silk saris.

One good (and bad) thing about DITW yarn is that the weight varies a lot (from sock to sport weight) as does the color, so even though I tried to purchase similar looking balls, they are very different.

In a bias scarf variability just works. And because it won’t be in shoes and worn so heavily, the lack of durability will be much less of an issue.

Up Close Detail of the Color Variation

Lemonade from lemons! I’m not done yet, but even as a work in progress, I think this might be the prettiest scarf I’ve ever knit.

Any comebacks you’d care to share?

More than I can Chew

Last week was Paris fashion week and though I’m a practical knitter, I like to view the Fall collections since that’s usually when designers show knits. Not so much this year. It seems that funny hats, brown latex, poofy sleeves and sloppy fits are “in”. If you are curious, Paris Fashion Week Instagram showed a good variety of looks: https://www.instagram.com/parisfashionweek/.

Part of the reason to scour the looks was to break out of a knitting funk, since all my projects seem long and boring. On the needles are requests: an afghan for mom, another pair of socks for a friend, and a wrap made of tiny yarns on tiny needles. If keep on this tack, I won’t be using up any of yarn I’d hoped to destash, and I won’t hit my goal of 20 completes this year.

Last night, I found myself looking at the inventory (online) of two of my local yarn shops (LYS) for inspiration. I even thought to drop by, because retail therapy is what I do when I feel the need for something “fresh”. The queue gets longer; the stash grows; more WIPs.

Frustrated by fashion, fatigued by projects on the needles, I went to my stash to stop myself from breaking my New Years’ resolution not to buy more yarn. As expected, I was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer volume—and the ideas came pouring out.

An Inspirational Disaster Area

All the inspiration I need is there. Now, I’m wishing for more hands and more time to knit it all up!

What’s inspiring you this week?

Chart for the Watson Shrug

I’ve been getting some pings about the Watson Shrug I created because it doesn’t use the chart that was provided in the original pattern from Crystal Palace Yarns (sadly now closed). I believe you can still download the Aran Cabled Shrug as a PDF from Ravelry HERE.

This chart is for the 36-stitch repeating cable pattern I used instead of the one in the original pattern. I changed it because I don’t like looking at, or knitting, bobbles.

The delay in sharing is that the chart, my first ever, was originally done on graph paper with pencil (which I threw out—head shake). To share it I needed to digitally recreate it. Thankfully, in the project photos, I took a partial picture of the graph when I posted it. With that photo and the shrug as a reference, here is the pattern.

This cable pattern is over 36 stitches and repeats every 24 rows. All cabling is on odd numbered (right side) rows and all rows except the first and the middle row, have cables.

Pattern Key:

Watson Cable:

As I mentioned, with color patterns, in an earlier post, charting is hard. My hat goes off to those designers that not only create charts for the rest of us, but no doubt, like me, swatch them too. I have a newfound appreciation for the designers that use color and cables (sometime both) in their published patterns.

And please, your feedback is greatly welcomed should you find errors. This time I created it on my computer, so it won’t be so hard to make changes and upload a corrected PDF. 😊

Happy knitting!

Getting Organized

In the run-up to Spring knitting events I went through all my yarn, notions and needles. The purpose was to remind me what I have, so that I wouldn’t double (and sometimes triple or quadruple) my supplies.

The most challenging thing was being a “weekender” on Orcas Island is that my knitting goodies were not in one place. Fixing that took some coordination, but to reduce extra spending, it was well worth the effort.

Nick enjoying the sunset at West Beach in his “Island Sweater” knit with local wool from island sheep.

I’d like to have my yarn and supplies on Orcas Island since I knit more there or on my commute to and from. However, I do more project planning on the mainland. So, when I had to decide where to take inventory, it made sense to move to the smaller concentration to the higher.

It’s no surprise that I have a terrifying amount of yarn (it actually was… a bit), as most of my stash had been logged in Ravelry. What surprised me most was the quantity of needles and notions. Partly this is because I pick them up as I travel and partly it is because I inherited loads from my grandmother along with her stash. Some of these notions are antiques—which I will not part with—but an equal amount went into the donate pile along with some my own purchases.

Old plastic needles–handy for travel

Probably the best thing to come out of sorting all of my bibs and bobs was the creation of small organized packets of notion kits—four in total—so that I have virtually everything I need to hand, whether it is in the car, island or mainland, or for traveling with individual projects. Some well-chosen Tom Bihn knitting organizers really helped.

Tom Bihn is a local bag maker in SeaTac, who in addition to luggage, makes specialized knitting bags and accessories. And if the luggage at Red Alder Fiber Arts Retreat is any indication, both types of bags are very popular among the knitting community.

Anyone else doing Spring notions cleaning? Any interesting organizational ideas?

Learning My Own Knit Style

This week I attended my first Red Alder Fiber Arts Retreat (AKA Madrona Fiber Arts Retreat) and it was worth it. It’s relatively local to me, just a long drive, and the classes were well balanced between beginning, intermediate and advanced. It was also smaller and less expensive than many knitting events.

Being a long-time knitter, I took moderate to advanced topics; such as Knitting Argyle Socks and Patterned and Textured Double-knitting. Overheard from an attendee coming out of the pre-requisite for one of my classes, “that hurt my head”. I agree. Some of these techniques that employ new ideas, especially with color, take concentration when you are learning them. As with everything, with practice, they become easier.

What surprised me is not what I learned in class, but what I learned about what like, and don’t, as a fiber artist. In part this is because this is a very introspective time for me. I’m on leave considering leaving the workforce (for good) or what might be a ‘next career’ for me.

Not to say that the classes weren’t all consuming. Hats off to the instructors, who were patient and expert at their craft. I would recommend the classes I took at Red Alder above many, maybe even most, I’ve taken in more than 20 years of fiber conference class attendance. I’ll talk more about them as I use the learnings in future blogs.

In general, what helped most was finding out what works for me as a knitter. Maybe it will help you too:

  1. It’s okay to be practical. I should make things that my family asks for, will wear and use. The things I was most drawn to on other attendees and display were were both beautiful and practical.
  2. Challenging to make can be challenging to wear. It’s time to clean out my Ravelry queue of hard to make, never to be worn, specialty items requiring expensive, highly contrasting, skinny yarns. On real people, they can look more costume than couture.
  3. I’m so *over* shawls. They age everyone–even the very young!
  4. Designing colorwork patterns is hard. Charting color patterns is easy to get wrong and they are worth every penny. While I aspire to do colorwork designs, for the time being it’s perfectly okay to use someone else’s tried and true pattern.
  5. New designs DO look better. Older patterns were created to sell yarn and often lacked attention to detail, especially in sweater finishing and socks. New teachers are teaching new techniques that look and fit better. And many are easy to learn and apply to old patterns.

I’m now looking forward to Seattle Vogue Knitting next month. It’s even closer to home. And, as usual, I’ve signed up for lots of classes.

I hope I never get tired of learning new things.

Have you picked up any new techniques and ideas lately?

A stitch gauge with size in millimeters on one side and US needle sizes on the other.

PS: Though I did buy things at the marketplace—real fur pompoms and an elegant stainless steel stitch gauge necklace from Crossover Industries, I managed to stick to my resolution to knit only from my stash this year.

It’s Hip to Be Square – Sticking With Classic Designs

Some things are “classic” like Bach concertos and other things are likely to go the way of the song that inspired the title of this blog, Huey Lewis and the News and their song, Hip to be Square. I suspect that Bach will be heard more often and long after I’m around, given how long it has been since he was around (he died in 1750).

The upshot? Trends die and classics last. So why not knit things that never go out of style?

Last week I mentioned my grandmother used to, out of boredom, knit the frilliest, most intricate couch throws. And though I know she knit my family dozens of these beautiful showpieces; I cannot tell you where any of these are today–probably hiding out in closets. You don’t see them because they were showpieces and not particularly useful.

I’m lazy, so if I’m going to take the time to knit an afghan, rather than creating a visual piece, I’d rather see it wear out from use. And even better if it looks good too.

My first afghan, knit from yarn in my grandmother’s stash, was a series of stockinette and reverse stockinette squares with a seed stitch border. Since then, I’ve stuck with this very classic “squares” design, varying only the size of the squares, the weight of the yarn and the border. And though the first one is from many years ago, it is warm, washable, reversable and comfortable. And being a basic ivory color, it should also match any possible décor.

Simple Squares Throw in Ivory Acrylic

I’m on the last block of squares of my latest afghan in this series. After which I’m going to try a Purl Soho pattern to do something just a bit different, but not so different it won’t get used.

Shadow Squares Pattern from Purl Soho

I’m definitely happy to be a square when it comes to creating classic, useful household items. What I tend to splurge on is the fiber itself. These two afghans are a wool-silk blend and they are warm, warm, warm. Perfect for these chilly winter months.

These simple contemporary designs which are both easy to make and great for every day use.

This coming weekend I’m heading to the Red Alder Fiber Art Retreat in Tacoma. I’ve missed it every year–until this year–because of work and travel. I’m super excited to hone my double-knitting skills so I can do more reversible items. Hope to see you there!

What would you do if you forgot how to knit?

For most of my life, I’ve been a sweater knitter. I think this is because my grandmother, who taught me to knit, was a prolific knitter of sweaters—30+ a year. She also made afghans, but not as many because she’d get bored. To keep things interesting, she’d choose intricate patterns with bells and baubles. When I think of the ‘lost art of knitting’ it’s these fancy items that come to mind.

What’s amazing is after my grandmother stopped knitting, there was only one work in progress in her stash. She was a finisher, but later in life she became ill with Alzheimer’s and literally forgot how to knit. At some point, she thought if she didn’t have the yarn, she’d be less likely to want to pick up a project. And this would reduce her torment of starting and not knowing how to keep going. Except, of course, for the times she forgot that she’d forgotten how to knit.

This is how I came to ‘inherit’ a huge amount of yarn more than 10 years years before she passed away at 90 years old.

As a knitter, to forget how to weild your craft seems like the ultimate punishment. If it were me, I’d do what she did–find someone to inspire. And boy did she have a lot of inspiration to share! She’d been collecting for years and with every store closing or fire sale, her stash grew and grew until it overwhelmed her house.

As her memory faded, my grandfather reminded her that I was a knitter. So, she called and asked me to drive from Arizona, home to Idaho, to take away her stash. When I arrived, my grandmother told me it “made her sick” to look at it. She kept asking me, “you’ll use it won’t you?” at least a dozen times. “I just don’t want to see it go to waste.” I assured her it wouldn’t, and I meant it.

Then, as now, I am intensely grateful for the gift of her stash which I’ve knit into all kinds of things.

At that time, I would never, at that time, have been able to afford these yarns—not even the synthetics. Overnight, my nonexistent stash bulged with wools, silks, angora, cottons and linens as well. Most of it odds and ends, because she never knit with more than one yarn or color at a time. Since I do, her leftovers work just fine.

In this new year–new decade–in fact, I am challenging myself to put the remaining yarn to the best possible use. There will be difficulties, as many of them have no yardage or care information. It will also be fun figure how I can best use this gift of yarn to its best advantage.

I look forward to sharing!

Stash Mash – Decisions! Decisions!

The minute one project ends, I’m on the hunt for the next. And many times, I don’t even look at my queue (40+ items) or library of patterns (more than 6000).

I have projects on the needles, but I’m anxious to grind down my stash with a new project. And with so many free patterns—some with timeless good looks to them, it feels like the time to do a stash reduction is now. Especially if I’m going to make my goal of 20 projects completed this year.

One resolution (again) is to shop from my stash. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration I cannot seem to leave a wool shop or event without coming home with truckloads… And did I mention I bought loads on December 31st? 🙂

Rounding out the top of the free patterns on Ravelry I’m considering, given my stash, these are the top candidates:

  • A sweater called Sloper, by Karen Templer. Instead of three strands of worsted wool, I’d use two strands of Aran weight Rowan Bamboo Tape in Honey from my stash. Not only will it breathe better than wool, it won’t be scratchy on the soft skin of the neck.
  • A hat called Twist and Slouch, from local (Anacortes, WA) knit designer Kali Berg. It looks easy and I love the big brim, which for my small head is a necessity. I think Knit Picks Galerie  in Renaissance (jewel tones) would make a fine, colorful hat. I bought it for socks, but it’s must too thick for that.
  • A simple throw, Garter Squish, by Stephen West to chew through my copious stash of worsted weight yarns. I could make one in synthetic and one in wool and still have dozens of yarn left over.
  • An extra wide version of this Bias Scarf, by Shelby Dyas to replace a rectangle wrap I wore ceaselessly until I lost it in Copenhagen on a business trip.
  • Sediment Scraps blanket, by the knitty professors, is another possible candidate.

Where to start?

So what is tickling your destash fancy?

A Hat for Gray Days

It’s generally gray in the Pacific Northwest in the winter. Often the outdoors can inspire your color scheme to match.

This winter has seemed particularly dark due to a heavy flu and cold season in the region. What better to ward off illness than to knit and wear warm hats!

I started this hat without a pattern—I just wanted a black and gray striped hat. At first I thought of doing a jogless horizontal stripe, a pattern I picked up at KnitFit from designer Lisa Ellis. Instead of starting off that way, I decided I wanted a larger ribbed edge and liked the idea of doing it in two colors. But when I’d finished the ribbing, I thought, ‘Why not keep on going?’

I’m sharing the recipe right away, since I usually put it off and don’t do it. I’m trying to be a “finisher” this year, even in my pattern writing.

Following other DK patterns, I started by casting on 80, then 88, but both seemed small even for my small-sized head. I’m guessing the extra bulk comes from holding two yarns together. In the end I landed on 100 for a medium size adult hat. For a bigger or smaller size, I suggest adding or removing eight stitches (pattern can be any multiple of four).

The goal was to create a warmer hat and this design achieves it because the carried yarn creates a textured heat holding layer inside.

Contrasting Colored Ribbed Hat

This pattern should work well for any DK yarn—or for whatever meets the stated gauge. If you use wool, as I did (Patons North America Classic Wool DK Superwash), I recommend superwash and high contrast colors, with the lighter/brighter shade for the knit stitches and the darker/dimmer color for the purls.

Glossary:

  • MC – Main color
  • AC – alternate color
  • PM – place marker
  • SM – slip marker
  • DK – double knit weight yarn
  • K2P2 – Knit 2, purl 2
  • P2K2 – Purl 2 knit 2
  • P2Tog – Purl two together
  • K2Tog – Knit two together
  • CO – cast on

Gauge: 21 stitches and 14 rows over 4 inches

Needles: Size 5 circulars (16”), size 5, 4 and 3 double points for crown; medium (G) crochet hook (optional)

Yarn: 150 yards MC yarn; 100 yards AC yarn in DK weight

Recipe:

CO 100 sts with MC (darker) yarn and PM.

Row 1: With MC only P2K2 the first round being careful not to twist

**NOTE**: Row 1 is different from all the other rows switching purls for knits and knits for purls in order to prevent the purl bumps from the MC/AC color showing on the outside of the hat. But you need to do a rib–even on the all MC row to prevent the hat brim from curling.

Rows 2 through 44 (or until piece measures 6.5 inches): holding MC yarn in back, K2 with AC, place AC yarn in back and P2 with MC. Repeat these K2P2 in alternating colors until you reach the marker and SM.

Row 45: K2, P2, K2 in color. P2Tog. Repeat until you reach the marker and SM

Switch to size 5 double point needles on next round.

Rows 46-47: follow color pattern, Knitting the AC knits and purling the MCs purls.

Row 48: in color pattern, K2, P2Tog twice, K2P1. Repeat until you reach the marker and SM

Rows 49 and 50: K2P1 in color pattern

Row 51: K2tog P2, K2P1 twice in color pattern. Repeat until you reach the end and SM

Row 52 and 53: follow color pattern

Row 54: K1P1, K2Tog, P1, K2tog, P1. Repeat until you reach the end and SM

Rows 55 and 56: K1P1 in color pattern (50 stitches)

Switch to size 4 double point needles on next round.

Row 57: K1, P1, P2tog (with MC). Repeat until to end.

Row 58: K1P2 to end

Row 59: K1P2Tog to end

Switch to size 3 double point needles on next round.

Row 60: K1P1 to end

Cut yarn with approx. 18” of each color remaining.

Run the MC yarn through all of the stitches and pull tight and secure. Feed through the center of the hat crown (to the outside).

Finishing: using a medium crochet create a 10-stitch chain and pull the yarn through to secure. Clip 5 four-inch pieces of each color pulling them through the last stitch in the chain. Wrap an additional main color around these pieces to create a tassel and trim to desired length. Weave in ends.

And now for something completely different… The 2 Day Cape

I grew up with Monty Python. As a child I used to belly crawl into my parent’s bedroom and watch lying just at the foot of their bed. Sometimes I’d give myself away by giggling. This week I needed a giggle.

Home from work with the flu and just done with yet another pair of socks, I needed a knitting pick me up. Even so, I also had to have a small knitting project for flying from Seattle to Florida for Christmas, so I cast on the next pair of socks, this time for dad. And then was too sick to travel. Grumpy didn’t do my mood justice.

Even pouring over online yarn stores didn’t help, so I decided I should look at my queue. That’s when I hit on the pattern Hott Pink. Though the color was off and the design too busy for my liking, it reminded me of the beautiful bespoke cape dress Meghan Markle wore on her solo trip with Queen Elizabeth II.

I’d bought the yarn a year ago with this project in mind. If anything, I was overdue to work on something just for me.

After gauge checking with a swatch, I went up a needle size to create a bit more give in the fabric. I also made it a bit smaller around, only 42 inches to give a more fitted look. To make sure that it was easy on and off, I kept the design element of ribbing, but went with K1P1 to match better with the seed stitch.

Surrounded by a mountain of notions scattered on my bed, in two days, with only a few backing up (many to get the fit just so) I finished. So much faster and more satisfying than two months for a pair of socks!

Here’s how it turned out! So pleased!