monster vs. monster

May 17, 2010, 3:53 pm
Filed under: knitting | Tags: , , ,

I have a bag set up in our spare room for gathering things I’m getting rid of, things I think other people might enjoy having but that I would never be able to sell – a coat with an awkward hole in the back seam, brightly colored plastic sunglasses, and so on. Sitting on the top of that bag, up until a few days ago, was a giant ball of brightly colored Mary Jane’s Attic yarn. Every time I walked past this bag I would see the yarn and think, “man, I should really keep that yarn.” Then I would remember my two small projects in this yarn, a completely unsuccessful hat (given away) and some semi-successful mittens (worn thrice) and walk away in a huff (see failures below). I have just never been a fan of how this yarn knitted up, and seeing it in my stash basket has always made for much sad, bitter reflection.

But then, last week, I got a craving to crochet. And I realized something. This yarn could be a market bag. If it ends up hideous, I thought, I won’t have to fret over dirt or berry stains. If it’s not hideous, well, great. Either way, a bag would use up every last inch of my remaining yarn and finally get this colorful burden off of my shoulders. And it did. I am thrilled. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you what is quite possibly the world’s first 100% wool produce bag. Come June, I am going to have the warmest, coziest broccoli in town.

An added plus? This bag didn’t come out looking half bad! The climbing trellis stitch broke up the color pooling, and there’s a nice balance between the stripes on the straps and the blotches of color on the crocheted bottom. The straps are doubled, meaning the bag doesn’t hang all the way down to my knees, and they are wide, which means they don’t cut into my shoulders. I could see this bag at the beach…if it wasn’t, you know, for the wool thing. I’m pretty sure wool is afraid of the beach.

In other news, the (very shadowy) picture above represents my stash. In its entirety. But for one wedding present and two works in progress that are currently busting through my sock yarn scraps, this is all the knitting goodness left in my house. What you see there are seven lovely skeins of handspun yarn, and ten or fifteen small balls of leftovers from other projects. It’s possibly the smallest amount of yarn I’ve ever had. I feel so free. And all of it is going into storage for the summer, which makes me feel, well, even freer. But then the questions arise. What do you knit when you have no stash? How do you choose a project when it’s not just a matter of reaching out for the next available skein, but instead requires planning and yarn-purchasing? And more importantly, how do you keep your leftover stash low as you continue to knit?

Answer: knit sweaters all summer. Wool sweaters. All summer. My reasoning? Well, first there’s the obvious discomfort of keeping a warm pile of fabric on my lap in July’s heat spells, but really, I think I can handle that. I have been known to knit through headaches, backaches, and wristaches, in heat, in cold, and in extreme sleep deprivation. I don’t mind discomfort. Next there’s the stash thing. I am trying to keep my summer knitting contained to the summer. I tend to like long sweaters; if I knit from the top down, I can use up as much of my sweater-yarn as possible, just knitting until the garment can’t get any longer. If I do have leftovers, I can make a flower broach to accessorize my sweater. Since I’ll likely only be able to keep my mind on a single sweater at a time, my projects won’t pile up, and this is good for two reasons: one, I am spending the summer in CA in houses that are not my own, and I will not have space for yarn; two, I do not want to bring a whole bag filled with w.i.p.s back to providence with me. I am aiming for a fresh start in the fall, and looming unfinished sweaters are not what I envision. That said, I am super excited for my summer sweater project. I’ve amassed a long list of cardigans I want immediately, if not sooner: from bulky structured ones like shalomsassymetrical, and juliet, to light, wispy ones like pas de vals and the minimalist cardigan, as well as a minimalist imitator, the swinging stripe cardigan, which is first on my summer queue. I’ve also seen a few sweaters with great textured patterns: ruffled rosa, ribbed faverolle, the lacy vine yoke cardigan and the variant 113-117 jacket.

(Photo credits: 1. GaysKnits Sassymetrical, 2.Shalom Cardigan, 3. Juliet, 4. minimalist cardigan, 5. Vine Yoke Cardigan, 6. Drops cardigan)


if you feel young
March 31, 2010, 11:50 am
Filed under: nice day | Tags: , ,

today is a slow, grey day.

a day for baking my favorite blueberry muffins, a recipe that never fails me.

a day to use my hands to make something for my home, from a pattern i’ve been waiting to use for two and a half years.

a day to sip coffee and listen to folk music and come down from the high of having the unexpectedly effing fantastic wye oak blow me right off my feet. watch the video. now imagine me clutching my heart while they stand under red lights and harmonize into a single microphone. yeah.

winter knitting
January 27, 2010, 5:39 pm
Filed under: knitting | Tags: , , , , , ,

Well, it’s the first day of the semester, which means no more shamelessly knitting for hours watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch (every episode is available here on YouTube, by the way, and I’m hoping that by conveying that knowledge to your brain I will remove it from my own). Winter break was no picnic for me but I did get a ton of knitting in. Since, sadly, the knitting marathons are now over and the reading marathons are soon to begin, I thought I’d do a little roundup post.

I’ve been working on a Barn Raising Quilt from Knitalong since – wait for it – September 2007. I was trucking along at the astonishing rate of three or four squares per year until this winter inexplicably sent me into a blanket-making frenzy. Maybe the sock yarn stash perpetually by my bedside started whispering to me in the middle of the night, maybe I just needed a mindless counterpart to final exams. Either way, I now have sixteen squares. Whoa. I love how colorful it’s turning out, and I can’t help but dream of all the sections I want to add – a strip of reds and golds, a strip of greens, maybe a strip of greys and browns (I’m not opposed to using both, though I’m sure every sensible designer in the world is screaming at me “No, no!”). I’ve got koigu, I’ve got cashmere, I’ve got BMFA and VFKW and bamboo cotton blends, and I’ve got only 26 squares to go.

What I don’t have, though, are any more sock scraps. I’ve got enough to make two more squares, and then I’m out. I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any yarn specifically for this blanket (that seemed like a dangerous door to open) and I’ve developed a distaste for repeating colors. So I’ve hit another wall with this blanket, and my fear is that now I’ll only ever choose sock or shawl yarn based on how well it meshes with a quilt that, realistically, probably won’t be done for another three years. Unless I magically stumble upon a hidden Providence sock yarn scrap stash…dare to dream.

I thought I’d be gifting myself  few more leftovers when somewhere around, oh, two weeks before Christmas I decided to knit three pairs of gift socks. I spent the holiday with some awesome parents who have been very kind to me despite my not being their child, and I couldn’t resist knitting them some matching his and hers cashmerino house socks. I used my own pattern (which someday I will write down, maybe) and since I have no qualms about wrapping still-damp garments, I got three out of four finished by the big day. BW got some manly socks, and I use “got” loosely, since I had to bring them back home with me to finish the toes. So he’ll get his in a few days. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Thanks to a hefty holiday gift certificate to the cave of wonder and delight that is Article Pract, the first few weeks of January saw a glorious amount of selfish knitting. I’d been itching to make another shawl ever since I put on my soft, luminous Laminaria in September and didn’t take it off for six weeks. I figured if I could make a large, shiny pile of pastel work with every outfit for a month and a half, an understated solid-color something would basically be wardrobe gold. And I guess I was right, but this project went so, so wrong. Ysolda’s Ishbel is a lovely pattern and there are some seriously gorgeous finished projects on Ravelry, and I couldn’t wait to get mine all knitted up to revel in the beauty and the luster and the general awesomeness. But, final product, not so much. The Cascade Heritage I used for this shawl turned out to be stiff and itchy, with the color falling flat and the lace springing out of shape as soon as the pins came out. It’s too small to be anything but a neckerchief, and not warm enough to do anything round my neck that comes close to making up for its weird scratchy texture. Shawl fail. I might try again with this shawl pattern someday…maybe larger, and in a color that works with my quilt…

I do, however, have a knitting success that wildly outweighs my Ishbel disaster. I finally knitted my own owls sweater! I got incredibly sick in California, which was amazing, since it gave me an excuse to watch cooking shows and infomercials and knit mindless stockinette ALL DAY LONG for, um, two weeks. I finished this sweater in five days! The pattern recommends that you bind off with a bigger needle than you knit with, but I ended up going down six needle sizes to get a crewneck-type neckline that didn’t fall off my shoulders. I haven’t gotten a chance to take pictures that do this sweater any sort of justice, but once I do, ravelry will be seriously photobombed.

I’m not good at following through on resolutions, but I do have a sort of goal for my crafting life: to knit less. It’s painful to say, but knitting slows my reading pace, gives me an excuse to watch awful television, and often keeps me awake long after the conscious part of my brain has given up. So this semester, I shall limit knitting time to the Monday night craft group and two Netflixes a week. Which is still probably way more time than I should be giving to a sedentary hobby, but hey, baby steps.

grad school SOCKS
November 22, 2009, 9:14 am
Filed under: knitting | Tags: , ,

Socks, guys. Not sucks. No no. Socks. Since August I have been on a sock rampage. With winter coming, I’m thankful for my rapidly accumulating sock stash. On the other hand, with our wood floors and lack of a mop, I’m not so thankful for the buildup of dirt and dust on the bottoms of all my beautiful socks. Maybe I should knit myself some house slippers while I’m at it.

First up are the Uptown Boot Socks from Favorite Socks. These were a trans-continental project, and somewhere during the move I lost half a ball of yarn. When I finished these I had just a teeny tiny ball the size of my thumbnail left. These socks got me knitting from the stash again and motivated me to finish a bunch of languishing projects all in a row. Bing bam boom. They also lulled me into thinking that I could knit while reading, which is not actually as true as I sometimes think it is. They’re knit in Rowan cashmerino and they are so soft and warm and lovely. One of these days I am going to knit something out of this yarn that covers my entire body. Like one of those baby burrito swaddling cloths. Or a beanie that covers my whole face.

Next, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you my first ever pattern-free socks. That’s right. I knit these babies on the fly. And they turned out perfect. I wrote down what I did as I knit, so I can type up a free “pattern-free” pattern for anyone who wants it, as soon as I get a chance. I know those patterns exist already, but they don’t include silly red heels and toes. These socks are super warm and soft and squishy and they do have silly red toes and heels and I love them.

I finished these giant fancy man socks (Gentleman’s Half-Hose from Knitting Vintage Socks) six weeks ago, but I didn’t get any good pictures while BW was here and he took them back to California with him, so they will forever look photographically unfinished. These socks were an epic adventure. I tore through the first sock, finished it in less than a week. These socks are like eleven inches high and one of the pattern rows is k1p1 so you can imagine the extent of my frenzy. The day I finished sock number one, my cohort went out drinking, and I LOST THE SOCK at the bar. Horror of horrors. Not only had I paid premium dollars for nice Koigu yarn and basically broken my hand knitting as fast as humanly possible, but now I would have to do it all again? Twice?! Unacceptable. Luckily, this all happened at a bar, so instead of moaning and rending my garments I just drank away my sorrow. A week later we all went back to the bar and my sock was hanging up on the wall. I screamed with joy and told everyone how lucky I was and danced around the room and promptly lost a pair of handknit gloves. That bar is no good for my knitting.

So I’m on a sock-roll. I’ve been working steadily on a blanket of leftover sock yarn squares, and with the leftovers from that project I’m making stash socks from Kristin Roach’s craft: post. Mine is the first project on Ravelry and that feels weird. I’ve gotten used to knitting crazy popular things and searching through other people’s photos for ideas. Oh well. Maybe other people will search me.

scrap happy
August 23, 2009, 10:47 am
Filed under: knitting | Tags: , ,

This is what’s left of my stash. It’s not much, but lately it has felt like a great weight. I thought having a small stash would make it easier to use my yarn up quickly, but it has actually been quite difficult to find uses for these little balls of color. 

My original stash-busting method was just to knit a giant garter-stitch scarf. When I hit the length I wanted, I knitted one extra square on each end to fold into pockets. I’m sure this rainbow scarf, over six feet long and with fourteen colors, looks a little ridiculous wrapped thrice around my neck, but its soft squishiness gives me such joy that I don’t much care what I look like.

After my garter scarf used up so much of my yarn, I was left the task of finding smaller projects. Cosy Cornelius-Bates’ Scrap Happy Celebration Hat has been a perfect fit for my dwindling stash, but I am rapidly running out of color combinations that would not look inappropriate on those over the age of six.

These coin purses from Leigh Radford’s AlterKnits Felt are quite addictive and I knocked out several in an evening, but when I realized that I would have to sew zippers into each one, my momentum mysteriously left me. I do love the felting, but I’m not so good at the hand sewing, and I’ll have to buy thread to finish these! Anyway I’m not sure how many more solid colored coin purses I can make, and I’m not a fan of felted stripes.

Floret 3

So what else can I do? I love this Posey Pincushion from Kris Knits – maybe I’ll make some for the local knitters at stitch and bitch to bribe them into loving me!


I also have a few great patterns from Hansigurumi for little garden and sea creatures – snails, slugs, hermit crabs – that I would love to finally knit up. I just finished two toys in one week, and I think I’m on a sewing-together-and-end-weaving-in roll.


And then there are always coffee sleeves, like this lovely one from MK Carroll that I made a cotton version of a few years back. There are actually no cables in this pattern, and I really enjoyed the smocking!

It seems like there is so much potential, but when I look at all these teeny tiny balls of yarn, all that comes to mind is how desperately I want to knit a sweater! Sigh.

without a plan
August 12, 2009, 4:17 pm
Filed under: knitting | Tags: , , , , ,

I don’t have much of a yarn stash, and here is why: when I walk into a yarn store, I’m all business. Don’t get me wrong, I do my share of cashmere fondling and color palette ogling, but I have to have a specific project in mind before I’ll actually take something to the register. Normally I’ll spend hours on Ravelry sifting through other peoples’ yarn choices and modifications so that I know exactly what my project will look like when I walk through my LYS’s front door. This approach has kept my stash from overflowing and my bank account from evaporating, but it has also turned yarn shopping into a somber, utilitarian process and left no room for imagination or experimentation. I decided a few months ago to stop buying yarns strictly for function and instead reach for unique handdyed or handspun yarns that catch my eye. I’ve since accumulated a small but delicious pile of yarns, and I’ve had as much fun staring at the skeins and contemplating their possibilities as actually knitting them. In my month of packing and moving, I turned to my weird yarns for solace and comfort and came out with some truly lovely pieces.

beeflowers cowl colors

This Cashmere Cuff, by Jessica Vaughan, used up every last inch of the amazingly soft Kim-X yarn I bought at Maker Faire in May. The artist’s description of the yarn goes like this: “Inspired by a photo of a bee visiting ice plants, this landscape yarn will knit up in slowly changing swathes of color to evoke the original scene.” I love that the final result maintains the integrity of the original vision, but that the cowl is still quite wearable, since it looks like a solid color from the front and a different solid from the back. I can’t wait to find buttons for this. It’s so soft, I want it around my neck NOW, 95 degree weather be damned.  

mitts 3

I don’t have a lot of experience knitting with handdyed yarns, so I was delighted to discover that these mitts not only show off my beautiful skein of Shades of Earth from Spincycle Yarns, they also match! This is a heavily modified version of Emily Wessel’s Handspun Fingerless Gloves, and I’m quite happy with the result. They knit up quickly and they’re surprisingly wearable and so begins my addiction to fingerless gloves. 

hat silly face

I got this gray thick-thin hands + notions yarn at the Renegade Craft fair in July. Three days later, as a friend and I enjoyed coffee and tofutti-topped bagels, it magically transformed itself into an Unoriginal Hat with added earflaps and tassels. We had a sudden cold spell in Oakland and I had already packed my warm clothes, and this hat saved me from days of shivering. Everyone looks ridiculous in this hat, but it’s that sort of self-aware ridiculous that is also full of humor and personality, so it works. 

giant cowl

In that same ridiculous vein, this Marian cowl has completely won my heart. I’ll admit it’s neither handspun nor handdyed, but it is made of the candy-colored Twinkle soft chunky that I had never let myself buy because I never had a practical pattern to make it into. As soon as I stumbled onto Jane Richmond’s möbius design, I knew I had to make this, and that even if I never had the guts to wear it, I would at least have something to cuddle on those cold Rhode Island nights. (Richmond’s designs, by the way, are bright, easy, elegant, and either free or cheap!)

So there you have it. This has been the good stuff. Next post, you’ll get a little bit of ugly.

April 6, 2009, 1:33 pm
Filed under: knitting | Tags:

I am on the brink of big life changes, and no one lets me forget it. Faced with the almost constant discussion of my future, my response has been to systematically get rid of half the things I own. This has translated, in the knitting world, into my finishing projects that have languished for months.

I finished a baby dress, a miniature quant, another so-called scarf, and a kool-aid colored hat, all over the course of just three days. This is the most exhilarating finishing-frenzy ever. I can’t stop finishing. Next up: a hiking scarf made of stash yarn, two pairs of socks, a stuffed snake, and a pink monster.