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)


the final countdown
May 10, 2010, 3:48 pm
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We all know that priorities are relative. It was not necessary for me to pack the majority of my belongings a full six weeks before my move-out date. Not at all. But once finals season rolled around, it became very, very important to me to have visible, tangible proof that the end of this school year is nigh, and that California is only a matter of days away.

Likewise, it was not necessary for me to make two cowls out of sock yarn. I already have a cowl made out of sock yarn, and while it is lovely, it rarely sees the light of day. There are reasons for this. A sock yarn cowl does not offer the soft squishy yarny goodness of a big bulky scarf. A sock yarn cowl cannot be wrapped around long, frizzy, renegade hair. A sock yarn cowl does not mask a voluptuous bosom.  A sock yarn cowl does not keep your neck warm during freak cold spells, nor dry during freak thunderstorms (speaking of which, Providence-weather-in-May, it has been so nice to make your freakish acquaintance). Moreover, in this neck of the woods, a sock yarn cowl likely comes into being after months of hatred and frustration directed at the yarn in question. Let’s face it – if I really liked the yarn, I probably would have made something else. These cowls served a single purpose, and that purpose was to get this yarn out of my hands.

So. For the record. If the yarn you choose makes you want to light things on fire, and the pattern you choose features two picot edgings that insist upon folding in the wrong direction, you do not have the makings for a good project. But considering all the stress and frustration and ugliness that constitute my academic life at the moment, I’m thinking maybe I just needed some ugly, stressful, frustrating knitted manifestations to exorcise my demons. Tangible proof. I’m all about it.

I will get through the next two weeks, and I will not knit any more ugly frustration cowls, and I will not watch any more ’90s vampire dramas until all of my papers are finished. These are all things I can accomplish. In the meantime, can I please have  this cocoon blanket/armchair combo? Please? I think it would really help me through the next ten days. Or, failing my actual survival of the next ten days, this chair of warmth and wonder would definitely help to hide me from the deadline enforcers. The evil deadline enforcers. With watery eyes.

getting over, getting out
April 24, 2010, 5:25 pm
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Boxes are packed, furniture is sold. Forget that I still have a month to live here, I am apparently anxious for change. For good measure, I chopped off my hair and quit smoking. I have also been stash-busting like a madwoman, and not just yarn! I have used up almost all the oils, spices and grains in my pantry! I have powered through nail polishes and perfumes! But the yarn-using, that is more fun to look at.

I finished my “bath” mat. It is enormous. I love it. It is so squishy and cushy and purple, and it totally used to be sheets. I can’t believe how fast I finished this – five days of knitting, two seasons of NewsRadio, done. I think that means there must be something wrong with me. We already have a bath mat, and this thing is actually too big to fit anywhere in my room, so it has been put away for now. But, when I pulled it back out for a photoshoot, I  was reminded of its squishy cushy purple wonderfulness and started to consider other uses – maybe after I pack my bed into storage, I can sleep on this thing?

As my other very exciting stash-busting project, I am proud to present my first toe-up socks. The whole time I was working on them, I kept thinking of the scene in “Clueless” where Ty first shows up: “Cher, she is toe-up. Our stock would plummet.” I knit them out of some taupe Crystal Palace Maizy yarn that I bought a billion years ago, and some leftover rainbow colored yarn that I was given at a knitting night back in August. The rainbow yarn was meant to go into my barn-raising quilt, but it just didn’t work. So rainbow striped socks were in order. Toe-up socks are not hard at all! I had to futz with the toes a bit, and I worry about the strength of the heel flap, but this was a great experience. I think the best part was knowing that I had enough yarn to just keep going and going, almost all the way up to my knees. These socks will peek out over my boots! I love that! I think I’m ready to follow a pattern now.

Research? Paper-writing? Well, those will happen eventually, I’m sure. More importantly, I have empty boxes left, and unknit yarn, and stupid tv shows to watch.

what’s up, february?
February 18, 2010, 10:29 pm
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I’ve been away for a few weeks, fighting a losing battle with an academic program that should be making my entire life’s dream come true. And now I’m having one of those days where I wave at a friend and spill my coffee all over myself, I reach for a bag of beans from the pantry and all the beans fall on my head, and I open my mouth to answer a question in class and a whole bunch of nothing comes out. So I thought I’d come home and do a bit of time-wasting to make myself feel better. I need some love. Knitting helps. Writing about knitting helps. Watching a really bad IFC movie while writing about knitting helps. Oh, and the glass of wine for dinner. That helps too.

First up: SOCKS. I don’t know why, but these days I’m sock crazy. I’ve been working diligently on clearing out my sock stash, first with the barn raiser quilt and now with this leftover socks pattern. I’m astounded at how much yardage those little golf-ball-sized balls actually contain – I hardly thought the leftover yarn from my laminaria would make one sock, let alone two. But here they are, and they’re fabulous. I actually made them too big for my own feet, which means that I can layer them over another pair of socks on particularly blustery days, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do when springtime rolls around. Hang them on my wall?

My absolute favorite part about these weird little ankle socks is that I ran out of the toe yarn right at the end of my project and had to darn them with a scrap of grey yarn and, well, it just looks so weird and endearing and Frankensteinian. Also, for some reason I’ve decided that the grey-toed sock is the right sock, and I can’t bear to wear it on my left foot. I tried, I failed. Weird? I identify myself as more of a left-brained person, but this ridiculous quiz tells me I’m 50-50, so maybe this is a sign that I’m turning into a right-brainer. Art school, here I come.

I’ve got a few balls of yarn that are too big for scrappy socks, so I decided to make a bunch of pairs of monkey socks. Granted, that’s a bit of a claim to make when I’m still on my first pair, but the pattern’s so easy to memorize and works so well with variegated yarn, I feel confident that my optimistic “bunch” will materialize. This koigu has been sitting in a basket since 2008 when I desperately wanted it to be a striped chevron scarf. The colors just weren’t happening, and for a while I couldn’t bear the painful memories these two skeins brought back to me. But I’m quite liking them as socks. Silver lining, two years later.

I finished a pair of Christmas-gift socks back in January, and I’ve yet to show them off. They’re a simple slipped-rib pattern, a free pattern from Knit*Six, and they make a really lovely fabric. The Trekking yarn is this sort of shiny blue-grey, perfect for BW, and the pattern showed up quite well. Also, for some reason, knitting with the really thin wool/bamboo combo felt like not knitting at all – the yarn was delightfully easy on my overworked hands and the pattern was delightfully easy on my overstuffed brain. But, again, my favorite part of this project is the weird toes.

I ran out of yarn again and ended up with a two-toned toe. I’m really starting to like these fraternal twins I’ve been making. They have a sense of personality, and it’s nice to be able to tell them apart. I’m sure they appreciate it.

Finally, to get away from the feet, a hat. I made my roommate a beret with a giant pom pom for Christmas and I’ve been seriously coveting it ever since. The weather’s been doing its chilly slushy-snow-type thing, so I decided I needed a Berroco alpaca beret of my own. I knitted it up while watching The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, taking breaks only to fill my water glass and throw my two cents into an internet debate on Vader vs. Boba Fett. The debate is ongoing, the hat is finished. I’ve worn it every day for the last two weeks because, even though it’s way too big for me, I love it. I love all of my socks, I love my hat, I love knitting.

And I love my dear sweet college-friend-turned-pen-pal for sending me the best Valentine’s Day card ever, which is on proud display in the center of my room. I love it. And gee, after all that knitting love, I really do feel better.

winter knitting
January 27, 2010, 5:39 pm
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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
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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
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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.