I have no idea what to do with this yarn:
Many years ago, my brother won this yarn for me in a silent auction. It came with a pattern for the most hideous shawl I’ve ever seen. Think Stevie Nicks meets the Lion King. Some of it is feathery, some of it furry, some ribbony, some sort of has tassel-like bits coming off it. Together, they were an abomination (I never knit the shawl – but there was a picture on the pattern, which I’ve since discarded), but separately, they’re actually very pretty. I just have no idea what to do with them, so for years now, and until I figure it out, they remain part of my home decor.
This is one I can’t easily answer. I have absolutely no preference when it comes to fiber content, weight, color, pattern, brand, etc. I don’t like scratchy yarn, I don’t care for linen, but when it comes to choosing a favorite, I couldn’t really settle on anything in particular.
That being said, I appreciate certain qualities in a yarn. Unlike some knitters, I am not a purist. I will knit acrylics and other non-organic fibers. The reason for this is mainly that you can pretty much be assured that no animal cruelty is associated with the creation of the non-organic yarns. I admire companies like O-Wool for their dedication to cruelty-free products (the owner states on her website, “Purchasing wool from animals that are treated respectfully is very important to me.”), but even they purchase their wool from farms that derive the majority of their income from the slaughter of their animals and sale of the meat. As a non-meat eater, this is a very difficult subject for me, as I don’t believe the meat industry could ever be referred to as “cruelty-free,” no matter how well the animals are treated while alive.
But luckily there are more and more options for animal-free fibers that are still organic. Aside from the standard cotton and linen, many sellers now also offer blends of cotton with other organic fibers like bamboo or hemp, or even banana fiber and soysilk. I’m all about feel, ease of care, and durability of the yarns I work with. If those qualities also come with a guarantee that no animals involved in the yarn production (or post-shearing) process are harmed, then all the better.
The simple answer to this is: every project is my favorite project as I’m casting on. Some are a joy from start to finish and become cherished items I’ll wear for the rest of my days or proudly gift to family or friends. Others become a bit of a slog, bogging down in the process, but shining once the finished object comes off the needles. And then there are the projects, where even a lovely finished piece can’t erase the drudgery of the experience of knitting it.
When it comes to the piece I was most proud of in the end, that may be this baby blanket I knit for friends about 14 years ago. It was my first blanket.
It’s a free pattern from the Craft Yarn Council, knit in individual panels and then seamed. The lace edging is added after seaming. I wasn’t done in time for the baby shower, and there ended up being twins in the end, so I felt a little bad about only having the one blanket, but it turned out so beautifully, I was still thrilled with the results.
And now, just for fun, one of my least favorite projects – also a baby blanket.
This one is from a Vogue Knitting book of baby blankets. I didn’t read the pattern thoroughly before going all gung ho and buying the yarn. Each of the 16 pinwheels contains four individual squares that have to be seamed. Those pinwheels are then connected by picking up and knitting stitches in a way that tested my long-forgotten geometry skills. The border I believe is crochet. I bought the yarn while living in South Carolina, which is where I started the blanket. It then moved with me to the Bronx, where I lived for three years. It also came with me to the apartment I had for less than two years in White Plains, NY, and then finally got finished, more than 5 1/2 years after casting on, in the last Brooklyn apartment I had. I can’t even remember who I gave it to, as the planned recipient’s child was much too big for it by the time I finished. But, it did teach me a thing or two about reading all the pattern instructions before getting excited about a project.
There really is no favorite type of project I can point to and say that I enjoy doing it more than any other type of project. The main thing for me is to learn something new or try a different technique as much as possible with each new project. I really enjoyed learning entrelac, but I doubt I’ll use it much beyond the Lady Eleanor Stole I finished last year
I had a ball knitting gloves for Christmas presents this past year, as this was also wholly new to me, but each pair I make from now on will have to contain some element, like a shaping technique I’m not familiar with, or beading, or some such thing, that’s something I’ve never tried before.
So, I guess I would say variety and challenge are key to my enjoyment of a project. I really value these opportunities to learn, whether it’s on my own, in a class or knit-along, or from a YouTube video. It’s what keeps me interested and excited about the craft.
For a good part of the 80s and 90s, I wore black from head to toe. I dyed my hair black, wore thick black eyeliner – I was a punk rocker, a goth, and really into the look.
This was taken in 1992 in a London basement flat I shared with two friends when we were all there on student work permits. Fun days.
My look has matured (gotten boring, to be honest), and I now embrace color, but I’m often still pretty monochromatic when it comes to my day-to-day wardrobe. I have lots of blue and grey, still a fair amount of black.
So, I kind of surprised myself in thinking about today’s topic. I was going to write about my love of earth tones, jewel tones, grey, and beige, but when I took a peek in the stash, I realized that it’s bursting with all sorts of vibrant colors. These will someday be cozy socks:
And I bought these beauties because they were on sale and I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I had originally thought to do a shawl with them, but now I think they may want to be a sweater.
Maybe something short-sleeved for spring?
I’m sad to say that I don’t yet have a finished object to share. The knitting part is done on the Swirl, but now comes all the tedious weaving in of ends. I’ve already put more than three hours into this endeavor, and I don’t think I’m quite half way through. There are loads of ends.
And that’s just one one cuff. As this is not my favorite part of a project, I’m really going to have to exercise some discipline to get this done. But now at least I can lay the entire piece out flat and get a better idea as to how it’s all going to come together once the seams are sewn up.
I think it’s going to be a really striking piece. Hopefully the sizing will work. If it does, and I feel happy in my finished garment, I foresee more of these Swirl pieces in my future!
Happy first day of spring! We’re still snow-covered here in the mid/upper Hudson Valley, but the sun is out, so the white stuff is receding. Let’s hope the longer days push progress along on that front.
I’d say the best tip I got recently related to casting on when you’ve got a lot of stitches. Unless the pattern specifies otherwise, I always use the long-tail method, which is the one I learned when first starting out. The way the yarn wraps around the left hand and the needle in the right darts in and out, catching the yarn here, and looping it there – it reminds me of those string games we used to do as kids, where we’d make cat’s cradle and jacob’s ladder.
But when you’ve got a lot of stitches going on the needles to start your project, the long-tail method is sometimes a tough one, as it’s hard to gauge exactly how much yarn you need to allow for that long tail. There are a lot of different methods out there for calculating the right tail length, but about the best way to avoid both a lot of extra tail hanging down or, even worse, running out of tail before you’ve put all the stitches on the needle, is to use yarn either from two different skeins or both ends from the same skein. This method is illustrated wonderfully on cocoknits. Something to remember when using both ends from the same skein is to first decide whether you want your working yarn to be pulled from inside or outside of the skein. The leader of my Swirl knit-along referred to this as whether you’re an “innie” or an “outie” (and here I thought she was talking about bellybuttons at first!). This will determine which end of the yarn is used as the tail, and which end as the working yarn.
Up until very recently (as in, since doing this Naknicromo exercise), the answer has been “more.” But after sharing my stash a week ago, I realized that I need to come up with a formula for paring down my yarn collection. I have both yarn with specific projects in mind, and random yarn I’ve bought because it was just too pretty to pass up. So, after this month’s projects (the Swirl and my Om Shawl) have been completed, I’m going to go with the following approach:
- I can only buy new yarn after completing four planned projects and one project using random stash yarn
- The four planned projects should be two small (socks, gloves, mittens, mitts, cowls, hats) and two larger projects (sweater or top, shawl, scarf, caplet, etc.)
- The stash-buster project can be anything, but the sum total of the project has to be at least of a small project size, i.e., I can’t make just one little softie, but a combination of a few of these cuties would definitely fulfill this requirement
- EXCEPTION! For fiber festivals, yarn crawls, or visits to a more far-flung yarn stores that I won’t be able to visit again anytime soon (like next month’s trip to Wales and London!), where I find something so exquisite, I can’t possibly walk away from it – well, I am only human. 🙂
Of all the techniques I haven’t yet tried, steeking is the one I fear the most. Fair Isle, brioche, magic loop – none of these make me sweat as much as the thought of cutting into my knit work.
The Tin Can Knits blog has a wonderful “how to” that makes great use of pictures to show that it’s not really as scary as one would think. But still – to create such a gorgeous piece and then take scissors to it – I get edgy just thinking about it.
I think the key to overcoming my fear will be to start with a smaller piece, preferably using leftover yarn from other projects, so I won’t be reduced to tears should my first attempt fail. This lovely cowl from my local Hudson Valley Knits Ravely group may be just the thing.
March seems to be going on and on. That impression probably has something to do with all the snow piled up outside … and the many more Naknicromo entries … 🙂
About the only tool I haven’t yet treated myself to is a spinning wheel. I bought a drop spindle and some roving years ago, but I’ve been hesitant to try them out until I can do so under an expert’s watchful eye. I don’t want to dive in on my own and risk ruining the roving. A yarn store in my area regularly holds introductory/beginner spinning classes on spindle and wheel, so I’m going to try to get to one of those this summer. I need some hands-on experience with a wheel before I make that rather sizable investment. But, I do kinda already have a spot picked out in the house that would be perfect for a wheel …
In thinking about this entry today, I realized I already have a TON of tools:
- Stitch holders and markers
- Needles of all kinds (straight, circular, double-pointed, interchangeable circulars)
- Needle storage solutions
- Needle sizer and gauge checker
- Measuring tapes
- Needle tip protectors
- Project storage and transportation (baskets, bags)
- Cable and darning needles
- Pins and fasteners
- Pom-pom makers (someone I used to work with got me a Doodle Loom and a Knit Wit rosette maker, which are too funny)
- Blocking board with blocking pins and wires
- Swift and ball winder
I rarely deny myself when it comes to cool knitting tools and accessories. But if my early attempts at wheel spinning prove promising, I’m going to have to exercise some self-control and do my research before making such a big purchase.