I Love a Good Yarn

Yarns, stories, and sometimes stories about yarn


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Our mistakes are our greatest teachers

Until three days ago, I was a die-hard tinker when it came to backing out my work to correct mistakes. Frogging terrified me, because the image I had of it was like the photo below from from the loveknitting blog:

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All those hard-won stitches hanging vicariously in the balance. My lack of skill at getting those precious stitches back on the needles kept me from ever trying frogging, even when tinking meant a considerable investment in time and patience.

But as I started tinking the 20 rows I needed to back out of my Swirl sweater due to a rather bone-headed error, I quickly saw the pattern of where to grab the stitches below the row I was pulling out. I first experimented with grabbing several stitches and then pulling out the working yarn across that part of the row. When I found how quick and easy this was, I wondered if there were a way to anchor the stitches just below where I started to go wrong with my pattern so as to rip all those rows out more quickly. That’s when I landed on the “lifeline” approach to frogging.

The image below from Knitty clearly illustrates how to set a lifeline so as to be able to rip out all that error-riddled knitting with abandon and not risk dropping any stitches in the good work:

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I’m not sure how this technique would work if your piece contains yarnovers, cables, or other stitch patterns that cause stitches to not be worked in the standard order. I have a feeling it wouldn’t be as straight-forward as with your basic stockinette or reverse stockinette, as I have on my Swirl, but it is nonetheless a really handy technique to have at the ready when it’s needed.


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Fiber as art, graffiti and social/political commentary

For those of us in our 40s and older, this lifetime has seen some remarkable upheaval, with the old being thrown out for the new, and the new often having a very short lifespan. I remember when the fax machine replaced telex, when my desk typewriter was booted (not to be rebooted) for a PC, and when I stopped buying record albums to record onto cassette tapes to listen to in my car and made the switch to CDs. CDs have now entered into the realm of the passé, with digital downloads edging them to the music market’s periphery.

Like vinyl records, knitting saw a downturn with the generation that viewed these things as outdated, no longer cutting-edge – not the latest and greatest. But also like vinyl, knitting came back with a vengeance. Maybe out of a sense of nostalgia (or “retromania” – for the pops and crackles of the record album, or the feel of that hand-made blanket from our grandmothers – or the distaste for newer, colder musical delivery methods or mass-produced clothing lines, we’ve once again embraced what had recently been dismissed as uncool.

And like vinyl, which has a long history in the urban underground, fiber arts are now moving from a city hipster pastime to take a larger stage. Who in the world hasn’t seen images of the throngs of pink knitted hats in the U.S. capitol? But besides helping us wear our social/political leanings on our sleeves (or heads, in this case), knitting and crochet is also being used by artists to create provocative pieces.

A friend shared this wonderful piece on artsy.net on Facebook about artists who use knitting and crochet as “boundary-pushing, politically charged mediums.” I’ve been lucky enough to spot some works in the wild in Manhattan by the artist Olek, who is featured in this article. It’s quite a thrill to come across these vivid pieces among the drab grey city streets. I was dying to touch them, but I resisted out of reverence for the art.

img_0366img_0187Missing from the artsy article are two fantastic fiber artists I discovered through the Wassaic Project Festival, an annual summer event that features visual artists’ works, dance and musical performance, and short films. One of the artists is Jeila Gueramian. I wanted to live inside her installations – sort of granny square gone amok meets Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Again, the desire to touch everything is strong, so I had to keep my hands behind my back.

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And the other is Ben Cuevas. Though I missed his exhibit in Wassaic, his knitted skeleton and collection of other anatomical knits are unique and striking.

While I need the structure of a pattern and thorough instructions to create my knitted pieces, these folks are using the medium to let their creativity to wild. Something to aspire to.

 

 

 


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My Swirl-along

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Last month I started a knit-along to make a “Swirl” sweater. The Swirl is the brainchild of Sandra McIver, whose gorgeous book knit, Swirl! contains four different sweater constructions, with multiple patterns for each construction. The sweater is knit in the round for the most part, starting from the outside and working inward. This creates a roughly circular (or really more octagonal) piece with a gap in the middle.

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Stitches around that gap are then used to create the back and front bodice and sleeves. The finished product is one single piece that needs only to be seamed from cuff to cuff. The four constructions – round and oval, each with either centered or off-centered gaps – create larger or smaller collars. The centered Swirls have collars so large they can be worn as hoods, while others can even be worn upside down to even more versatility to your piece. The off-centered swirls have narrower collars and hang lower in the back.

Because the sweater is worked from the outside in, your cast-on will be a test of patience; one German Ravelry user described the it as a schwere Geburt – literally a difficult birth. I chose to do the pattern from the book’s cover. The cast-on for the medium-sized Swirl was a whopping 569 stitches. I thought I could do the standard long-tail cast-on and even consulted a variety of sources for tricks to accurately gauge the length of tail needed for a cast-on of this size. But it still ended up taking me three attempts to get it right. The two-skein cast-on or casting on with both ends of the yarn from a single skein is definitely recommended here.

The other major difficulty with a cast-on of that size is joining without any twists. I was lucky enough to have the help of my knit-along leader to get this aspect right the first time. Other participants in the knit-along shared stories of their exasperation of finding a twist only after making some serious headway in the project. That’s a lot of hours lost if you have to frog multiple rounds of more than 550 stitches!

Session two of the knit-along meets in less than two weeks, and so far I’m pleased with my progress. If it turns out well, I’ll definitely try out some of the other shapes and fibers featured in the book. Though knit, Swirl! is now out of print in the hardcover, it can still be purchased as an ebook on the knit, Swirl! site, as can two individual patterns from the book. Or you can find it used on Amazon.


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Snow day! … kinda

There are so many great things about working from home: zero commute time and cost, changing from jammies into street clothes optional, anytime can be snack time, and when the job makes me nuts, I can take a break and play with my cats.

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But for those of us who work from home, there is no such thing as a snow day. Today we had a fabulous snow – probably around a foot, with wind and cold temps. This is exactly what winter in the mid-Hudson Valley should be. If I weren’t a work-from-home person, I’d have been so excited to spend the day with my knitting, hot cups of tea, and my furry companions. But the winds didn’t knock out my internet connection, so the work day went on as usual.

But with it now being too dark to shovel again, the wind can toss that newly fallen snow and I’ll stay inside where it’s warm and cozy (my clanging wind chimes are a constant reminder that I should stick with this plan). With a looming deadline for my knit-along project, which I want to cover in an upcoming post all about the “create”-along phenomenon, I’ve unfortunately had to set aside my Om Shawl WIP.

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I can’t wait to get back to this, as I think it’s going to be a beautiful and versatile piece. The pattern is by Andrea Mowry, who has some stunning designs that are well worth a look. I found the pattern through the O-Wool site, where I also purchased the yarn as a kit for the project. It’s the first time I’ve attempted any kind of color work other than simple stripes, and I’ve been really pleased with how it’s turned out so far. The combination of the modern knit design and O-Wool’s environmentally responsible approach is further evidence that knitting today is a wonderful mix of tradition and innovation.


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Yarn-of-the-month club

This lovely box appeared on my doorstep yesterday.

img_1694It’s the first installment of a new yarn-of-the-month club offered by the wonderful The Perfect Blend yarn and tea shop in Saugerties, NY. Each month, the color of the hand-dyed skein will reflect some aspect of New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley. This month, the inspiration was Saugerties’ own lighthouse.

img_1271The lighthouse is also a B&B and has a gorgeous deck on the river side where the public can bring picnics or just sit for a while and enjoy the views. It’s well worth the visit at any time of year and a fitting theme for the first skein.

Because I love my local yarn store so much, I of course booked the entire year’s worth of deliveries, which means I’ll be treated to additional goodies:

img_1696Along with the yarn, cowl pattern, postcard depicting the lighthouse, and note from Mary, the store’s gracious and delightful owner, I received a set of jeweled stitch markers in a little canvas pouch, a paper ruler, and a della Q project bag. I’m so excited to work with this gorgeous yarn. I’m also thrilled to be able to support my local yarn store and Hudson Valley dyers.

The yarn-of-the-month club is open to anyone. Click the links above for more information on The Perfect Blend and how you can get in on this awesome program.


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The devil is in the details, part I

As is true for many knitters, I don’t enjoy all the finishing steps that come at the end of a project. Weaving in ends, seaming, blocking, sewing on buttons – to me these things are all just obstacles to my being able to slide into my new hand-knit garment. I know logically that the opposite is true, but once the last stitch has been knit, I’m so eager to wear my new piece that I resent all those unwoven ends and open seams.

But no project is without some amount of finishing. And though I know it would be in my best interest to avoid projects with a lot of finishing, I’m often so enamored with the picture of the final product that comes with the pattern that I don’t read the instructions carefully enough. So when a pattern for a baby blanket says, “There is a total of 16 quilt squares, each formed by putting together four matching color quadrants …” I unfortunately don’t do all that math right away and think, “Holy cow, that’s 64 individual squares I’m going to have to sew together … and I won’t even be done at that point!” Instead, I think, “Gee that’s a really pretty blanket. I wanna make it!” And I did, but boy, did I hate all that finishing.

And unfortunately, I have not yet learned my lesson. When choosing a pattern for a knit-along I’m currently doing, I made some adjustments I thought would make completing the item a bit easier. The pattern called for nine different colorways that would alternate in ways I initially read as being too complicated. So I instead chose to work with only five different colors of yarn, but it turned out that reducing the number of colorways meant more color changes. So, whereas I could have simply carried the yarn during most of the color changes by following the pattern as written, I’m now faced with yarn tail spaghetti.

img_1675The moral of this story is – read the pattern carefully. Take note of all necessary finishing, and when making adjustments, pay close attention to whether you’re actually streamlining your project, or making it unnecessarily complicated.