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!

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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.

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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.

Smitten Ain’t Quite Fittin’

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This project started out in the warm early Fall (Summer Knitting in Winter) when I was wanting a T-shirt to wear in navy, but honestly could not find a pretty fitted one to purchase. Though I’m now back on mission to “buy local” and make things instead of buy them. My money pit of a house might be partly responsible.

I’m replacing the siding and they disturbed the bats living in the soffits who when frighten took refuge in my attic. At night, they crawled out of my heat lamps in the bathroom. Imagine having a bat circling your ceiling fan! I literally slithered out of our bedroom on my belly until the husband had shooed it outside! It was the harmless small Western Brown bat—the kind that gobble up mosquitoes, so I like them around—just not zooming around dive bombing my head in my bedroom.

Back to knitting…

I love the Smitten Tee pattern and it was free, so what’s not to like! I also modified it to fit my taller frame, but I think I got a bit carried away. It turned out a bit bigger than expected and a bit longer too. But all in all, I count it a major success. I used up all of my vintage yarn–beautiful Italian Lane Borgosesia Cotone del Borgo. OR at least the navy color.

I’m curious if anyone else’s experiments have had good/bad/so-so results.

Where’d It Go? or Seller’s Remorse

My stash is prodigious. It’s mine and my grandmothers with a few of my friends’ grandmothers thrown in. There was a time, in the not too distant past, that knitting was a dying art. So when people saw me knitting, I would get given all the spare yarn that hadn’t been used up.

Yarn Collage
Just a fraction of the yarn from my stash

One Fall when I was on sabbatical I took to photographing and cataloguing all of my yarn—at least the small portion of it that remained after I donated most of it to charity—about 75%. But don’t let that fool you, I’ve still got an immense supply which grows every time I go to a knitting event—much faster, I might add, than I can possibly knit it with a very busy full time job that never seems to end at the end of the day.

To second the Ravelry post on January 6th by MaryHeatherB “Tip: 3 Things to do on Ravelry in the New Year”, Tip #1 is to catalogue your yarn on Ravelry. I highly recommend that you go through the exercise. Now I tend to shop at home because I know what I have and in what quantities. And now that you can “slurp” in photos you won’t have the added hassle I had in photographing 200 yarns.

I’ve been knitting things for the women members of my team and trying to pick up a few new skills along the way leveraging free patterns on Ravelry. One didn’t go so well. I attempted to give Aran Cabled Shrug in Kaya Wool by Crystal Palace Yarns a more modern look by switching the ribbing to garter and adding increases to compensate for the lack of give. I love how it came out, but feel it is a bit too misshapen to give away—not to mention way too small for its intended receiver. I’m still trying to work out a closure for it that helps hide the underarm “bump”.

Next I turned to a different project that I ended up falling in love with—a Bias Scarf by Shelby Dyas. It came out so pretty (and heavy) that it hard to part with. I bought some Lion Brand Homeland in Bryce Canyon and paired it with an unidentifiable yarn in my grandma’s stash—a slick, nylon, ribbon yarn in burgundy by Malibu Mark which reminds me a lot of Anne Blatt’s Antique.

That’s when I got the idea to make a shrug from the pattern—a square you can wear. If it were wider it would be perfect and I knew of just the yarn to pair up with a bit more ribbon yarn—but this time of KNOWN origin, Lane Borgosesia Diamante in a variegated black-taupe-white and/or solid black. On the hunt I went and I came up empty. I searched by stash and it was not to be found. Where was it? I sold it!  And no doubt now these two beauties are probably knitted up, possibly together, in some gorgeous creation.

And there was this VERY old Berroco Glace variegated cotton-blend ribbon yarn which barely deviated from white in the palest of pinks and blue. I was purusing Ravelry, as I often do on weekends, and found a great summer top to use it up with, feeling so proud to be shopping in my stash. Firstly, I couldn’t find it in my stash, but I was certain I still had it so I went to my storage rack… Gone! Well, it wasn’t my color, I rationalized. Er, um. *sigh*

I’m happy to have them get used and there was no telling when I would have used them, so it’s for the best, of that I’m certain. What it did get me to do was “rethink” my trade or sale portion of my stash on Ravelry.

Christmas Knitting for my Crew

My crew at work are some fantastic folks, so I decided to knit them all a gift this year, forgetting I’ve got my own friends and family to cover off on. That’s a problem for another post.

The knitting for the crew is going wellish. I flubbed the first effort project I call the Watson shrug because I made it too fitted and at least a size too small. And because it was yet another experiment–as usual. It has other problems as well in that the back doesn’t lay flat against the body. I’ll have to rethink it a bit and see if I can set down a workable pattern, but only after I buy more yarn and remake something whilst following a pattern—not creating one.

For one of my other ladies, I made a bias scarf. It’s meant to be worn with a Sari and I hope the receiver likes it, because I fell in love with it. I had to buy at my LYS—Lion Brand Heartland in a heathered gold color called Bryce Canyon (her favorite color is yellow and I didn’t possess any) but I paired it with a burgundy shiny ribbon yarn (of unknown origin called Malibu Mark) from grandma’s stash. Still trying to whittle it down.

The ribbon yarn was so slick I could not weave in ends or use typical methods for ball changes—it would unravel almost immediately. I literally had to sew, using thread, the yarn into the scarf, but the combination of colors really turned out great and I love the drape and heft of the finished product. Too bad I don’t have enough yarn left to make one for me! But those are the best gifts—the ones you love yourself.

Two more gifts to go as long as I limit my knitting to the ladies on my team. I’ve got a few more of the Malibu Mark in cream, gunmetal gray and taupe, so maybe I’ll use of the stash, by pairing them with other similar yarns.

How’s your Christmas knitting coming along?

Summer Knitting in Winter

The not so new job is still keeping me very busy. So much so that it was really starting to be Fall before I started my summer knitting. And I’m thinking, it is this sort of thing that creates so many UFOs. You scheme and plan and get things gathered and before you know it *POOF* Summer is gone.

I managed in September to whip up a Sleeveless Mock Turtleneck Tube Vest by Stefanie Japel in a dreamy Bernat Panama Natural Flax (AKA oatmeal) color from some of grandma’s stash. So yes, I’m still “shopping” mostly from home, but that hasn’t stopped the buying new yarns. :-/

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It took two tries. The one I made in August was HUGE due to a brain fart I had on sizing. I swatched and fixed the gauge with the different yarn, but somehow I thought what stitches per side was just the stitches for the center pattern. Needless to say I was off by several inches (12 stitches each side of the center stockinette panel).

Try 2 in September was a winner, but it was already getting a bit to chilly to wear it. Don’t be fooled by the photos–it was a cool breezy day and my jacket was close at hand.

And what of the Smitten Tee I was planning to do next? *sigh*

Well, I cast it on with another grandma stash yarn, Lane Borgesesia, Cotone del Borgo in navy, when it was still warmish, but then I started to feel the pressure of Christmas knitting. So now after working so hard last year to punt UFOs and getting down to a project or two in progress. Smitten, is now firmly on my “to-do” list.

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Anyone else run out of time to finish their summer knitting plans? Did you carry on, frog or just tuck it away?

Big vs. Little

I’m mainly a long time knitter of sweaters. And though I’ve only knit one afghan, I’m in the mood to knit another “big” project. It’s hard to explain the drive to do it mid-summer. I live far North (for the US) and this summer it’s been pretty rainy and cool in the San Juan’s. And though the chilly nights might explain some of it, I think it is more about size than the chill of summer evenings.

Moving to little Orcas Island has been a challenge for me—a good one. And though I have so far kept my home in the big city, I’ve definitely moved my flagpole. I still work—a lot—so downsizing to a city apartment just hasn’t been a priority—especially in the last two months when I’ve been averaging 80-hour work weeks. It’s a new small job at the same company and I love it—much better than my big job where I felt idle, unnecessary and depleted. And though it might seem counterintuitive that a small job takes more effort than a big one, it is a good metaphor for knitted projects.

Since the beginning of the year I’ve been knitting a lot of small projects—picking up new skills to make socks and such with the intent of having lots of easy-to-carry on the ferry and quick-to-finish items. I was also sussing out whether to sell items at the resort next door—and they only carry small items—hats, gloves scarves and the like.

So with the new job, finding out the resort is only selling the owner’s mother’s (and friends’) items and running into too many “no commercial use” pattern restrictions, I feel it is probably time to switch back to my bread-and-butter of big knits. And one of the lessons I’ve learned recently is that small, doesn’t mean quick. My Project’s page in Ravelry reminded me I’ve been at this last pair since early May.

Socks in particular are my nemesis. They take FOREVER. And sure, I’ll get faster at it when I’m not spending so much time ripping it out and fixing things, they are still a very big project for me right now. I don’t mind smaller needles. Give me a sweater on fours and I’m fine. But knitting with toothpicks and featherweight yarn is definitely putting me off socks. Definitely not a quick, little project.

To reassert my big knitting skills with so little time for knitting, I’m thinking I’ll picking up one of Frankie Brown’s afghans that grow organically like her Ten-stitch twist or Ten-Stitch Blanket. Which will challenge me on joins, but not on the knitting itself. And I think both might be great stash busters—particularly of sock yarns I might decide maybe aren’t for scarves or socks anymore. 😉

Got the Blues

Boy was I sunny this weekend despite the rain. I finally did it. I talked to the resort next door and asked if they’d carry my knitwear. I’m so excited because they said yes! Then the blues set in.

I’ve considered setting up an online store and decided there was too much competition, not to mention the difficulties and cost to ship from the Island. Living in a vacation destination means people with disposable income visit—frequently. They often want to bring a piece of their experience back, so why not a practical item like a hat scarf, yoga hood, or scarf? Now all I need is a label and I’ve reached out to a local designer for assistance.

For supplies I’ve got scads of grandma yarn (free to me wool) to use for these small portable projects while I’m still commuting and flying around the world for the job that keeps a roof over my head and food on the table. Though I’d never really planned to make a profit, it is still good to have things to keep my hands busy and I’m a bit over hatted, scarved and mitted at the moment. As is my trusty husband.

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Yoga Hood I am planning to sell at the resort next door

I’ve already posted about the Yoga hood I cobbled together from gift yarn—which will likely be the first item on sale. The next item I planned to show them was a matching hat and mitts I was making from leftover Tosh DK for my Woolful KAL George Hancock Home and Away sweater in lovely Worn Denim.

The mitts are no problem, because that is my own design. But as I was knitting the waffle hat I pulled out the pattern to look to see the decreases and to my disappointment the pattern says that it can only be used for personal use and non-profit use. And while I wasn’t planning on selling it for a profit (just cost) it seems like that would violate the disclaimer.  

While I completely agree that you should acknowledge where a pattern comes from. I can also completely understand not duplicating it and serving it up as your own design. Which is why the mitt pattern I created refers back to the Violet Waffles hat pattern as inspiration for their design. And while I completely get why you wouldn’t want a huge conglomerate (e.g., The Gap) taking a pattern and mass producing it as their own design, eliminating low-production, in-person sales of garments is a bit hard to understand. After all, the work of knitting it and the materials are my own. That said, this was a FREE pattern. So that might have something to do with it. I’ve written to the designer to ask her thoughts, just to be sure.

I’ll be sure to check this out before I knit up someone else’s design or design something to match. Another lesson learned the hard way!

I guess my sister-in-law will get this set. *sigh*