I meant to talk about it last month, but since a friend of mine already blogged about it, I think I felt a bit like it didn’t matter. We ended up getting a lot of local news coverage (CBS, Seattle Spectator, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, etc.). It was heartwarming (and body warming) fun!
In retrospect, I think there are thoughts I can share. For example, beyond charity, reasons why you may wish to consider it.
Fellowship: I loved participating with others in my group. We are not a guild, just a bunch of gals that meet up at a brewery. A common cause to be a force for good made us even more cohesive.
Stashbusting: As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, I have so. much. yarn. Why not use it for a good cause?
Swatching: You have to be careful here since a hat in the round may not match a flat swatch (the curse of purling). But if you are planning an in-the-round project, as I was, it’s a great test. Or knit a scarf in the new pattern/technique you are trying to perfect.
Joy: It made me happy to think someone in need would be wearing items I made. I love the notion that I may have made a difference. It’s true that woolen socks, hats and scarves only addresses a tiny piece of the challenges facing the unhoused. But there is joy in making whatever contribution you can to those in need.
Important things to consider:
If you do do this, it is important that the items be good quality. Before this opportunity came up, I’d been stockpiling hats to sell at my LYS. And eventually, I’ll do that. The upshot is they were “sellable” quality items. This means that donating them, alongside the men and women in my knitting group, is a meaningful gesture.
It’s also important that the items be washable. For this reason, I used superwash wool or acrylic for all of the donated items.
How to get started:
Our donation was organized by a member in order to keep it local, but I’ve also found great joy in knitting and mailing off red premie hats. And after we got coverage, other groups reached out to us to make suggestions and recommendations. Good acts beget more good acts—a virtuous circle.
Ravelry also has several charity knitting groups. Unfortunately, many of these have gone a bit fallow. So, start a new one and let me know, so I can join!
My knitting group (Yes, we really are called Capitol Hill Knitters of Doom) is always looking for more ideas, so if you have any, please share them in the responses and I’ll pass them along.
Many patterns specify a yarn and number of skeins, rather than yardage making substitution difficult. This post is designed to help you use vintage or any yarn on which you have little information.
I’ll be outlining ways to get yarn weight, yardage and care in order to make informed substitutions. This is especially relevant to me, since I inherited a huge stash of wool from my grandmother when she forgot how to knit when she developed Alzheimer’s.
It seemed like I had a lot of this yarn. My grandmother had 17 skeins (!) in her stash. But that turned out not to be the case. They are on cardboard spools–so there is more air than yarn. I’m also dealing with three different dye lots and minor sun damage. Grandma was a penny-pincher and often bought remainders, smoke/fire damaged and sun damaged, and unlabeled yarns at bargain prices. This is only one example of many “problem children” from her stash.
Getting the Weight:
What you will need:
Yarns of several weights that follows the standard yarn weighting accepted today. I generally rely on Cascade Yarn for this, but any major yarn manufacturer will do.
Appropriately sized needles for the weights.
Twist method: I learned this several decades ago in a class, I believe, Lily Chin taught at one of the early Stitches West. This is where you take a yarn that is a good standard for different weights of yarn.
The trick here is to have lots of “known good” weights of yarn. I have loads of leftovers that work perfect for this.
You hook the yarns around one another and then twist in opposite directions. If there is a “smooth” transition when you run your fingers across the join, you have likely found your closest yarn weight.
For the Peacock, I started with a DK, then tried a worsted, aran and bulky. What I learned was that because of the variance in the yarn, it ranges from worsted to aran and it is too big for DK and too small for bulky.
Gauge swatch: Now that we have an approximate weight. I recommend knitting a gauge swatch of the matching weight yarn and your “unknown” using the same needles. Measure and compare the swatches.
If they have the same stitches to the inch, you are done. If not, knit a swatch with the yarn that is one size up if your mystery swatch has fewer stitches or one size down if your mystery swatch had more stitches to the inch.
And keep your swatch of the unknown yarn. It will come in handy for determining the care.
Getting the Yardage:
What you will need:
A yarn swift (I’ve also used chair backs–anything you can measure around)
Flexible measuring tape
If the yarn is in a skein, a yarn bowl or way to hold it steady while you wind it onto a swift
If yarn is in a hank, place it on the swift and extend the swift to the maximum size; If yarn is a skein, wind yarn onto the swift (Steps 1 and 3 in image below)
Measure around the swift (Steps 2 and 4 in image below)
Count the number of strands (step 5)
Multiply the number of strands by the number of inches (e.g., 50 strands time 60 inches) and divide by 36 (inches in a yard) (not shown)
In my case, I got 50 strands at 60 inches, so that’s 3,000 inches of yarn. I divided this by 36, to get ~83.33 yards. Keep in mind, yarn is sold by weight not length, so you shouldn’t expect to get a round number. After getting the yardage, I wound it back into a skein (Step 6).
With 17 skeins I actually only have about 1400 yards total and only 833 yards of a single dye lot.
Getting the Care:
As you can see from the yarn label, it says to wash in temperature 30 (F or C?), it is possible to use an iron and it is possible to wash with most detergents, but not bleach. This still leaves a lot of missing information.
There are three (maybe more) ways to determine how to launder the fabric you create with this yarn. They are as follows:
Look on the label. Sometimes “superwash” or similar phrases are there. In my case the yarn came with symbols and these can be looked up online. I’ve included the reference chart below.
Look at yarns with similar composition. On Ravelry there are wealth of yarns which have this information. If you find one of similar percentages, you came mostly rely on this information.
The most foolproof way is to swatch (the same one you made for gauge) and do to it anything you might do with the finished item. Wash, it dry it, dye it, bleach it, etc.
Dealing with Multiple Dye Lots or Sun Damage:
The easiest way to deal with inconsistent dying or sun damage is to group them by color and alternate in your most different skeins, every other row. Another thing that works very well is blending it with another yarn for a marled look. If the color problem is minor, it will be invisible.
Do Try This At Home
It can be hard, these days, to get to your LYS. So, I hope this post helps you use up more of the yarn you already have. I’ll be posting an afghan I’m working where I’m blending vintage yarns in an effort to get something both useful and beautiful by using up my grandmother’s stash.
In Broadford on Skye, is The Handknitter Having Fun shop. I often find astounding deals of wool there. This year, since socks were my travel project, as if often the case, socks yarn was top of mind. And for another reason as well—I lost a just finished sock on an Edinburgh tram.
We time our visits to Skye to coincide with the climbing
season. This year we were a week later than usual. I expected it to be warmer
than it was two years ago when I brought long-johns and wished for t-shirts. This
year the opposite was true. It was cold, rainy and blustery. I on one hike I
was wearing almost everything I owned, soaked through and got blown off my feet
by a gust of wind.
Not to say the trip was a bust—not so! I was there for rest and the weather gave me time for knitting and a bit of shopping. I picked up three beautiful sock skeins and started another pair of socks, having brought two projects for the trip. Here are the three skeins which seem to be color inspired by the location.
Can’t wait to see how the socks turn out. Too bad they take
so long to knit!
NOTE TO SELF: hand dyed—don’t use different skeins and expect them to look like the belong together. This said, in spite of cutting the skein in half and caking it in reverse, the Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball® socks I started are variegating in the most peculiar fashion. Even if I make that mistake, it won’t be *this* different.
My mom has put in an order for a long bathmat and a chenille afghan. I let her pick out both colors from online and when they arrived, the gold of the cotton bathmat seems too subtle and the turquoise chenille of the afghan seems—LOUD. Just look at this Ice Yarns mountain!
An Ice Yarn Mountain of Baby Chenille
Odd Balls to Break Up All the Turquoise
I think I’ll do the bathmat first, because it will be quick and easy.
With the afghan, I’m hoping to use up a few more of my odds and ends; some dishie my husband didn’t like for kitchen towels and some sparkly stuff that grandma had in dribs and drabs.
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.
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.
Ribbon yarn of unknown origin
Close up of Sushma’s scarf
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.
I was on the fence about it, but I decided I needed to spend some time with my fellow stitchery folks at Stitches West. Not to mention I am way overdue for some time off from work.
Last year felt a bit solitary, but this year I managed to stay at the conference hotel and run into lots of singles—not unmarried folks—but knitters there on their own. So each night I had dinner with a different crafter from a different part of the country. It was MARVELOUS fun.
This year I had plans in place to avoid the purchasing frenzy that happened last year (mostly project bags). So while I waited for the Marketplace to open on Thursday night, a couple of other “singles” and I swapped strategies (over Chardonnay) for keeping ourselves in check. Mine was, don’t buy anything you don’t a project in mind for and no more bags, which for me meant I could buy a few sock yarns—which I did.
A half hour after the market opened we moseyed over and subsequently threw all those strategies to the wind, dashing from aisle to aisle, burdened by purchases. Perhaps abstaining from alcohol before visiting the Marketplace should be next years’ strategy.
The Stitches organizers were far from sympathetic self-proclaiming to be “devils” and querying what was in our bags as we left the market floor. But as we all know those are really in the details of what to knit next!
I have excuses for each purchase. Miss Babs was because of a scarf my neighbor made out of it in my Ridge Heddle Weaving class. The Malabrigio is screaming to be made into a Spiral Staircase Scarf for resale at the resort next door (no restrictions!). Though I have to call “uncle” on the Louisa Harding. That was simply a fabulous price and fills a hole in my stash for light fingering projects.
Next week I’m back to work, but for now I’m hanging out at home dreaming of what to make and filling up my queue on Ravelry!
Malabrigo in Azul Profundo. I bought two skeins and some matching beads to make a beaded Spiral Scarf
Louisa Harding Light Fingering in Pansy
Louisa Harding Light Fingering in shades of brown
Miss Babs Sugar Maple Gradient in Yummy Two Ply Toes
My husband and I have a thing about Scotland. Actually, he does and I’m getting that way after years of visiting with him. While Scotland as a whole is a great place, Glasgow where he was a Visiting Researcher, and the Isle of Skye, where his father took him hiking growing up, have made a lasting impression. So every year or so we go back.
The Isle of Skye is a lovely place and we like to stay at a climber’s hotel, called the Sligachan, which is nestled in the Cuillins where we do most of our hiking. However last year we missed booking it (needs advance booking for high season) and ended up in Broadford. While the hotel smelled reminiscent of an elephant enclosure, there was very good espresso and cheese board (two of our life staples) at café called Beinn na Callich and excellent seafood at the Harbour Restaurant (El Puerta)—both can be reached on foot.
Across from the seafood place is a tiny little road leading down to the water, which hosts a few artisan shops. One of them is a fabulous wool shop called Handspinner Having Fun.
Since I’m drowning in wool, I tried very hard to avoid the place and rightfully so because they have so much lovely wool (and silk), it is nearly impossible to leave empty handed. As the name implies, they spin and buy wool locally. For instance their Hebridean Wool is from sheep within 2 miles of the shop. I picked up some Blue Faced Leicester dk in a faded denim blue to create a warm, yet lightweight sweater Nick would be able to wear year-round, as opposed to his Orcas Isle Sweater which would sustain him in a Nor’easter.
Nick’s sweater is coming along, albeit slowly, which is why my last blog mentioned I can really only do one major project a year. It would help if I were a bit more monogamous in my knitting, but big projects make me antsy for the feeling that comes with finishing. My goal is complete it so Nick can wear it into the shop when we visit next month. If that’s going to happen I need to get on it! At this rate I’ll be knitting it right up to the door.
I’ll be sure, in May when I visit, to take pictures of the shop.
I have a huge cache of yarn. And that’s an understatement. Oddly I lust for more. And “How did you acquire so much?”, you might rightfully ask. Two reasons:
My grandmother purchased most of it
I purchased yarn myself that I wanted, but didn’t have a project in mind for (at the time).
I’m about to attend the first Stitches West that I’ve been to in 10 years. And why haven’t I been going? To avoid acquiring more yarn.
Let me first explain the grandmother bit above. She was an avid knitter. If you saw her without knitting needles in her hands she was either drinking coffee or making/eating food. Every year I got between 4 and 10 sweaters, most of which I donated to goodwill when I went back to graduate school and divested myself of most my worldly belongings. Meanwhile, grandma was slowly losing her wits. And one day in a moment of clarity she asked the yarn be boxed up and given to me. Why? She’d forgotten how to knit. Alzheimer’s can do that to you. She remembered I’d picked up needles in my 20s to deal with my stressful travel/work schedule, but only for those few hours.
I flew back to Boise, Idaho to get my truck, drove to Pocatello (my place of birth) and bagged up closet, drawer and attics bursting with yarn. Nine 32 gallon bags completely stuffed, compressed and thrown into the back of Ford Ranger. When these were unpacked, sorted, and stacked Tucson, I realized I had more yarn than a yarn shop. Piles and piles of it. Some already partially knitted. Some of it water/fire damaged. Some of it only odds and ends. Much I recognized as leftovers from sweaters she’d knitted. She effectively bought out store closures of their entire stock.
Several reduction ideas immediately occurred to me. I boxed up many of her notions and some of the colors I couldn’t bear to look at—especially if they were in unable to be dyed fibers—and sent them to a women’s correctional facility in NJ who was specifically asking for yarn and tools to knit with—four boxes of it. Another two boxes—mostly of singleton skeins and the rest of her Boye aluminum straight needles I gave to a local nursing home when I moved to Seattle. That left me with about 2/3 of the original.
Taking advice from Sally Melville’s first book helped be do away with quit
e a bit more, but time was ticking and I wasn’t really making a dent in it. In the Fall of 2014 I got laid off of work. I was rehired, but took a two month leave to “recover”. During that time I photographed the yarns and started posting them and my more recently completed projects on Ravelry. I’d always been a casual user until those two months, now it is rare that a day goes by without me being on it or introducing someone to the site.
My first mistake was not adding prices. This got me bumped from a group where you could post. Then, not having a blog (as you can see this one is recently addressed) worked against me. I needed a place to post my designs and yarns where they could persist. So here we are. What prompted me to move on this was that I found ANOTHER box of yarn in a clear plastic container that I had not catalogued, photographed and posted in my stash. Might there be more? Anything is possible.
I’ve had pretty good luck just posting on my stash under ‘will trade or sell’. But this site I plan to dedicate to designs I’ve created myself to use up the stuff and to the yarns themselves—several of them may pre-date WWII. Some so old, they just say “Ribbon Yarn” rather than having a name. Most from foreign countries. Many, simply one offs. What is left is beautiful and what I want to do is share. Enjoy!