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?

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?

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?

Weekend Knitting Double Header

You can get this cool quantum t-shirt at Zazzle.com

It’s been a CRAZY spring. I’ve been burning the candle at all three ends.

And what happens the minute you slow down—you get sick of course! And while I really dislike the brain fog and lost time of working on my teaching materials, I got a lot of knitting done while I was confined to bed with a nasty cold.

The good news is that I had several easy projects on the needles and lots of time where I could only really do mentally passive activities—simple knitting among them (TV watching being the other—reruns of The Expanse anyone?).

I finished another bathmat–this one for the island house bathroom, I’ve taken to called “Jeff’s bathroom” due to it being across the hall from the bedroom where the inimitable Jeff Dozier spent time with us during his knee convalesce. And a very simple mock turtleneck sweater design by Adrienne Vittadini  from an old Vogue Knitting Magazine. Vintage yarn for a vintage pattern.

I’m hoping my brain function returns soon, but for now, there’s nothing like knocking off a twofer of simple WIPs in my project queue.

In From the Cold

It was a rare sunny day—cold and crisp yesterday. I spent it scraping the dense moss off the roof of our shed and discovered the weather vane atop it had fallen. Probably knocked down by the unusually strong winds of late or perhaps the recent (standing dead) tree removal by our neighbors that I’m glad to see gone–else they crush my garage. Either way, it felt like some of the charm of our little home was lost and I was in the doldrums.

The shed is old, smells of gasoline (used to be mower storage, no doubt) and full of spiders. It’s also slated for demolition once we get around to it. So why clean the roof? It got me outside and though I probably should have demossed the grass, I was too lazy to drive to the island hardware store for lime.

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I came in feeling cold with my hands unscrubbably dirty (no knitting for me!). I donned my George Hancock while pondering knitting another. What weighted me down was thinking of all the yarn I’ve purchased for things I want to make, meanwhile I’m still buried under my grandmother’s stash.

Yarn Collage
Just a fraction of the yarn from my stash

I’ve donated the bulk of it to various good causes, but there always seems to be more, and more, and more. And, in spite of having this load of yarn, I keep buying more, and more, and more yarn that I want, though not all my purchases have worked out. For example, a few years ago I bought 5000 (not a typo; 2 X 2500) yards of variegated lace weight yarn. What was I thinking!

Enter Stephen West—a warm, wonderful character if you’ve not had the pleasure. I’ve bumped into him in various knitting venues—not that he’d remember, or that it matters. The upshot is that he’s a force of nature and one cannot help but be buoyed just thinking about him and his knitting designs!

So what perks up a PNW gal on a gray Sunday? A free knitting pattern called Garter Squish for a warm blanket he describes as “eats delicious yarn in no time at all, leaving lots of empty space in your yarn box or cabinet or room to fill with new wooly acquisitions.”

I queued two of them—one for an easy-care acrylic throw and another for wool—all of the yarn from grandma’s stash.

I have drooled over this pattern for ages–since he first he published it. And now I see its immeasurable value—busting the winter blues, making yarn quickly and easily disappear, and creating warm wooly throws for our little house. Stay tuned for upcoming photos.

Who knows, I might just be able to use the lace weight yarn with his Marled Mania Leggings pattern.

So many problems solved!

6000+ Pullover Possibilities? Not quite.

When I toy with the idea of being a fulltime knitter I’m always reminded of what Nicki Epstein said to me when I told her I was a budding designer. “Don’t quit your day job!” This was not in response to my skill as a designer—she hadn’t seen any of my patterns—her point was that anyone trying to make a living of it would starve unless they had another means of support these days.

Though Knitting is now mainstream, and I credit Ravelry with being one of the bigger catalysts of this movement among the Internet savvy, making knitting your job would be hard in spite of the moving stories on various podcasts and blogs of people that have gone down that road. The fact is, most of them do have another means of support.

But I digress.

If you’ve read this blog before you probably know the only thing I purchase in larger quantities than yarn is patterns. Literally my Ravelry library is considerably larger than my stash–4200+ patterns at last count. I have books and magazines dating back to Vogue Knitting issues from the 40s. I collect patterns.

This might seem odd, given I can and often do create my own patterns. And despite being in high-tech and spending a lot of time (in the past) writing code, I do not use sweater designer software. Instead I prefer the creativity and error prone method of graph paper and swatching. In part, I attribute this to having inherited most of my stash.

I saw Melissa Leapman’s book 6000+ Pullover Possibilities, as a way to have my cake and eat it too. Firstly I love her designs—such attention to detail! I thought I could use her book to make my pastime a bit less frustrating—leaving more time for garment making and less time for scratching my head over pattern design and math. And I was half right.

On the positive, this book contains great sizing charts—so if I were to ignore Nicky’s advice and decide to become a designer—this would be a VERY helpful guide indeed. From XS to 4X they are completely spelled out and even over different gauges. Wowza! These charts alone make the book extremely helpful to folks on a stash reduction diet.

6000 possibilities-2

What this book doesn’t contain is 6000 sweater possible sweaters. There are 3 sweater silhouettes, four sleeve styles, 6 collars and some “treatments”. If you do the math you could say you have 72, but these are all so similar and completely classic that the “possibilities” are closer to 4-5 actual designs.

Is it worth the $24.95? I’d say so. Especially for reducing the trial and error of stash busting. But I am just slightly disappointed that there aren’t a few more silhouettes—especially for more fashion forward designs, to really make this a “must have” book.

When I compare that to Sequence Knitting, which I turn to as a great reference guide, I’d have to say I stack rank it a bit higher. But perhaps that will change the more that I use it.

Woolen Socks in Summer

After the prototype I got busy making socks out of vintage Ski Sweater yarn from Denmark that is no doubt much older than me. But this stuff is amazing! It’s called Brunswick Dansk Ski-Crepe and I had four colors that I inherited. I’m trying VERY hard to not buy new yarn and shop from my stash–but–and I know I’m not alone here. That’s a tough thing to do–especially when you didn’t buy it and don’t have enough for a big project.

The four colors were a grey that I made into a seed stitch beret; a red mixed with charcoal I made into socks for the man; a navy/forest green mix which are also now a pair of socks. In my stash, I still have a straight green, but of that, I have enough to make a sweater. Too bad it’s the color I like the least.

Nick shrunk the first pair by washing and drying them on hot, so now I have a very stout pair of new hiking socks. The second pair I knit longer and taller, but I fear they too will become mine. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

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It looks like I’m on the trend to knit summer sweaters in winter and now in the heat of summer I’m knitting wool socks.

I guess that’s just the way it goes.  

Prototype?

I’ve been going on and on about getting better at socks. Knitting bigger yarn on small needles is producing some wonderful results. I felt quite a bit better after watching a Very Pink Tutorial on reinforcing socks by Staci Perry when she said, “They say that there are as many stitches in a pair of socks as a ladies sweater.” Amen sista!

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Before I headed into this, I made a prototype pair that I never thought anyone (except maybe me) would wear. They were out of a skein ball of acrylic yarn I picked up for a song, Deborah Norville Everyday Soft Worsted Prints in Lava. My husband teased me and teased me about the colors. When I finished one he asked, “Aren’t you going to make a pair?” “I think I might not have enough yarn, but I suppose I can try.” And try I did.

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The “truth”

Once made, I took the picture above. And that was the last time I wore them because as soon as possible, he’d captured them and wore them constantly–that is when they weren’t in the wash.

The "hole" truth
The “hole” truth

Two things were the problem: firstly, they were not made of sock yarn, and second, there was no reinforcing in the heels, but the most hilarious thing is he so UPSET and absolutely MUST have a proper replacement pair—just like them. Somehow I’ve converted him, says he, to “lurid” colored socks.

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And nothing but the truth…

I spent hours looking for a hand painted yarn to replace them and finally found a limited supply, Webs only, similarly colored yarn with at 10X the cost. Zen Garden Serenity DK in Gypsy Rose. I’ll still have to reinforce the heel—because they are wool, but they will surely last longer than this sad pair. I highly recommend you give Staci’s YouTube video a watch for learning how.