Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Stash: A Reckoning

I hope you all had a restful holiday weekend, whatever you were celebrating! We had two very big Passover dinners, and thanks to taking yesterday off, I got pretty well caught up on my sleep. This morning did feel a bit crazy -- the Mister was up early to leave for a quick work trip, so I had to get Rainbow to school and then run off to an orthodontist appointment, which then made me run to get to work as quickly as I could -- but it also feels good to get back to the normal routine. I didn't get as much physical activity as I would like over the weekend, too, so my daily walks to and from work have been missed.

I am still working on two active WIPs, a shawl design sample and my afterthought heel socks; the socks are far enough along now that I might even finish them tonight if I can get enough knitting time in.

What I want to talk about today, though, is the state of my stash. Last weekend, I found myself going through just about every bin and bag of yarn and fiber in my stash in search of a skein of yarn I'd spun last summer and put in such a safe place that I'd been unable to locate it again for many months. I did eventually find that skein, but in the process I realized that I've acquired way more yarn and fiber than I really need or could reasonably use. I say this without judgment of the size of anyone else's stash; mine has just gotten to the point where it's causing me anxiety. So I'm taking some steps to help ease that:
  1. Starting today, I am not buying yarn just for the sake of buying it. I won't say I am not buying yarn at all, because sometimes there is a necessity (such as needing an extra skein for a project that's a gift, for instance), but I am not in need of yarn for any planned projects right now and have enough yarn purchased specifically for planned projects that I am not going to buy yarn and cast on for something entirely new on a whim.*
  2. At some point in the near future, I'm going to take some time to go through the entire stash and sort it. Things that do not spark joy will be destashed, either by giving them to Rainbow or a friend or putting them up for sale.
  3. For the foreseeable future, I'll be working exclusively from stash. That means upping my game with charity knitting (a perfect use for all the partial skeins that are making up a large portion of the stash) and working on gift knits, such as items for my nephew.
My long-term goal here is to see more yarn and fiber moving out of the stash than moving into it, at least for the rest of the year. I'm hesitant to go through and catalog everything I have, if only because of the amount of time it would take, but I'm going to keep track of what comes in and what goes out. I will monitor that on a regular basis, and if things don't improve, I might have to take more drastic action. Wish me luck, and if you have any good tips, please feel free to share them in the comments!

*NB: There will still be some fiber and yarn coming in, as I'm a member of several clubs, and there may be yarn coming in for design work, but that amount is small in comparison to what's already in the stash.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

And Done

I spent the better part of today plying and skeining, and while I won't have my final yardage until sometime tomorrow (because the yarn is still soaking and will need to dry), my combo spin is done!

I ended up with three skeins of traditional three ply and some singles left on one bobbin, which I chain plied (that's the skein on the far right). I suspect that the yarn will end up being closer to Aran or bulky than worsted after it dries, as my handspun generally puffs up a bit in the washing. So perhaps it won't work for the sweater that I had in mind, but I'm sure I'll find a good use for it!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Magic Yarn?

This week has felt simultaneously long and short. It's been busy, so you'd think it would be flying by, but instead I've woken up almost every morning wondering why it isn't yet Friday. I have a long weekend ahead (I'm taking Monday off to stay home with Rainbow), and it's a holiday weekend, with Passover starting tomorrow night, so chances are I've just been looking forward to the chance to rest.

I have not being doing a ton of knitting, mainly just working on my current socks, because I spent Monday and Tuesday night plying some of my combo spin singles (there's still quite a bit to do). I think these socks, or perhaps this new-to-me yarn, must have some kind of magic in them, though, because amazingly I've already finished the first sock save the afterthought heel despite the fact that I cast them on less than a week ago.

Last night the Mister and I went to an event for our local PBS station that featured a preview of Ken Burns's next documentary. It's on country music, which isn't really my taste, but it was something fun to do (and the Mister is on the board of the station, so it was a good excuse to go and show support). Before the preview, we got to enjoy a short set performed live by Kathy Mattea, who is featured in the film and also, coincidentally, happens to be the cousin of the station's president and CEO. I'd heard of her, though I'm not familiar with her music, so it wasn't as exciting for me as for some members of the audience, but it was still a nice evening -- and of course a perfect excuse to get some sock knitting done. By the time we left, I was already halfway through the toe!

In the absence of much other knitting content, I thought I'd do a quick recap of some of my reading lately. These aren't all the books I've read since my last reading update (you can go visit my Goodreads profile if you want to see everything), but these are the ones that I felt were good enough to share.
  • All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung: I'd heard about this memoir some time ago and been patiently (and then not so patiently) waiting for my hold to come through from the library. It's a beautifully written and at times heartbreaking story about a Korean American woman adopted by a white couple as a baby struggling with her racial identity as she grows up and struggling the reasons she was given up as an adult. It's a powerful story that really makes you think a lot about nature vs. nurture, how you form your own identity, and what makes a family. I gave it 5 stars.
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan: This is based on a true story, written after the author conducted in-depth interviews with the main character and extensive research in Italy. It looks at the experience of WWII for Italians, especially those Italians who were opposed to Hitler and Mussolini and actively worked against them. Though I found it a bit longer than I felt it needed to be, it was a very good read. I gave it 4 stars.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: What can I say about this phenomenal autobiography that hasn't already been said? I knew that Michelle Obama was a smart woman, but I never realized just how accomplished and intelligent she was until I read her book. My admiration for her has grown exponentially. I gave it 5 very enthusiastic stars!
  • The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann: This book was one of several I got for free through Amazon First Reads, and I read it mainly because I had a backlog of titles I'd gotten through the program that I wanted to get through. I've learned not to have high expectations for these books (you get what you pay for, right?), but this one surprised me. It was not an easy book to read, as it deals with an accusation of rape of a teenage girl by the father of the main character, but it's done in a thoughtful, sensitive way. It made me think a lot. I gave it 4 stars.
  • A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields: This was another Amazon First Reads book, but I had actually heard about it before because a friend of mine from high school is a literary agent and represents this author. This book is another one dealing with a difficult subject -- in this case, the disappearance of a young girl and the subsequent effect on her family, all against the backdrop of the main character's burgeoning career in ballet. Though I've thankfully never gone through such an experience, the conflict between the family members and the ways they dealt with their grief felt very real to me. It was a quick read, and the ending wrapped things up nicely (something I always appreciate). I gave it 4 stars.
If you are celebrating a holiday this weekend, I hope it's a good one! Expect to see at least some finished combo spin yarn here on Sunday!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Rainbow Connection

When the weather is gross and all the news is bad, sometimes the best thing you can do to lift your mood is knit yourself a bright rainbow-striped cowl.

Pattern: Sockhead Cowl by Kelly McClure
Yarn: Fibernymph Dye Works Bounce (80% superwash merino/20% nylon) in Once Upon a Stained Glass Window, one skein
Needles: 16 in. US 2.5/3.0 mm Hiya Hiya circs
Started/Completed: April 1/April 14
Mods: shortened the ribbing

I cast on this project to be my lunchtime knitting at the beginning of the month, right at my most stressful time of year at work, because I knew that it would be the perfect mindless project to work on when my brain needed a break. It was a brilliant move on my part, if I do say so myself, because I just did not have the mental bandwidth at the beginning of April to do anything that required counting or following a chart or keeping track of increases or decreases.

This pattern is dead easy, so much so that I didn't really need to look at the pattern after reading the number of stitches to cast on. I made a minor modification in shortening the length of the ribbing at either end of the tube, but that was mainly because when I first started, I got tired of knitting ribbing after about three inches and decided it was good enough (and then did the ribbing at the other end to match). I used up all but a tiny amount of my skein of yarn by weighing the skein before casting on and then again after I was done with the initial ribbing to calculate how much I had used at the point (22 g, for the record). I weighed my remaining yarn periodically as I was knitting the stockinette portion, and when I had about 23 g left, I started the ribbing at the end (I allowed a bit extra for a stretchy bind off that I knew would take more yarn than the cast on). The finished project is exactly what I wanted. It's cozy -- big enough to pull it up over my face and even wear it like a hat and cowl in one if I want to -- and crazy colorful, so it will be a bright spot in the middle of winter when everything else is dark and dull. I have a feeling there will be more of these in my future.

I had just started the finally ribbing for this on Saturday, so I decided to cast on something new to take with me to a performance of Come from Away (I always manage to screw up knitting when trying to knit in the dark, so I needed something in stockinette). So I cast on a new pair of socks.

This is the newest Fibernymph Dye Works base, Ridgetop fingering, a nonsuperwash Falkland/Romney blend, in one of Lisa's eighth anniversary colorways, Inspiration. Because it's such a long stripe repeat -- I've got two more stripes to knit to go through the whole repeat here -- I decided to do afterthought heels on this pair, meaning I can basically just keep knitting and knitting until I'm ready for the toe. This tube is already nearly 8 inches long, so assuming my usual 7 inch leg, that puts me into the foot already. I'm going to do a true afterthought heel so that I can place it either right in the middle of a stripe or right between two stripes.

I have to say that after knitting a big tube out of superwash merino/nylon yarn, this base did feel a bit scratchy to me at first, but it's really growing on me, and I already get a sense that it's going to make a durable fabric. I think this base (which also comes in a DK) would be fabulous for stranded colorwork, so perhaps one day I'll have a sweater in it. For the time being, though, I'm focusing on knitting and then wearing the socks to get to know it better.

Sunday, April 14, 2019


I got such a rush from finishing my sweater that I decided to move on to focus on finishing the next project, and that ended up being my combo spin. I spent a couple extra nights at my wheel in place of knitting this week, and that was enough extra time to get me through the rest of the fiber as of this afternoon. That's right -- I have finished spinning all of the singles for my combo spin!

I love that every bobbin looks different; it suggests that I did a fairly good job of randomly selecting my fiber so that the eight different colorways are all mixed up. I know that these singles are thicker than my norm, so naturally they spun up faster, but I'm still rather impressed with myself for spinning 880 g (or about 31 oz.) of singles in roughly a month -- especially considering that I mostly spin only on the weekend.

I am eager to start plying, but I figured I should be good and let the singles rest a bit first so that I don't have to fight with them. In the meantime, I'll move on to the next project.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Pattern Release: Systole Cowl

Depending on where in the world you live, it might be too hot for anything wool right now or it might still feel like winter. Where I live, we've finally had a taste of spring, but we're due to get a brief cold snap this weekend. Even when the weather is more temperate here this time of year, mornings always tend to have a bit of a chill to them, so while the days of wearing many wool accessories are probably past for now, sometimes I find I still need a light extra layer.

The new cowl I'm debuting today is just that sort of thing. It's small and lightweight, making it perfect to throw on when you need a touch of extra warmth but not so much that you soon find yourself overheating. Even if you don't need to wear it right now, it's one of those small, quick knits that are perfect when you still want to knit but don't want a lap full of wool.

This pattern started way back in August of 2017, when we traveled to Cape Cod on a family vacation. I visited a couple of yarn stores while we were there at the recommendation of some locals/frequent visitors and brought home some souvenir yarn, including these two skeins of Swans Island Washable Wool Sport that I knew I would use for a colorwork design.

I swatched when I got home and something was off, but other things were more pressing and it got put on the back burner. Then, a couple of months ago, I pulled out my swatch and set to work figuring out what was off and how to fix it. It took some time fiddling with the chart, but I finally got it looking the way I wanted to and dug out the yarn, which was just as pretty as I remembered (and thankfully hadn't gotten lost in the depths of the stash while it was waiting to be used!). Once I cast on, the cowl pretty much flew off my needles.

Though this design started as an abstract sketch, once it was knit up, I couldn't help but think that it looked like the readout on a heart monitor. Naming my designs is always one of the most difficult parts of the process for me, so I was glad to have an inspiration for a name. Systole is the term for the contraction of the heart that pushes blood out into the body. If you've watched enough medical dramas, then you know that the absence of it (asystole) is a very bad thing. There's nothing medical about the cowl per se, but I like the idea of the colorwork pattern signifying a beating heart in a way.

This cowl knits up in the round in one size that fits most children and adults. Although the finished size, after blocking, is about 20 in./50 cm around, I recommend using a slightly longer circular needle as a way of keeping your tension even and your floats loose. The entire cowl uses about 160 yds./146 m total, so if you have two 50 g skeins of the recommended yarn, you should have plenty to knit two cowls, particularly if you switch the colors for the second one. (Note that this yarn base is available in both 50 g and 100 g skeins; if you have larger skeins, you should be able to get four cowls out of two skeins!) My preview knitters used a variety of yarns for theirs (wool, wool/nylon, acrylic), and they all turned out great.

As with all my patterns, this one has been tech edited to ensure that it's easy to follow and error free. My preview knitters all had nice things to say about their projects, too, so I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who had fun knitting it!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Floozy, Complete

It has taken nearly six months, but finally it is done!

Pattern: Floozy by Libby Jonson
Yarn: Blacker Yarns British Classic 4-ply in Pale Blue (MC), Mustard (CC1), and Mid Blue (CC2
Needles: US 1 (2.25 mm), US 2 (2.75 mm), and US 2.5 (3.0 mm)
Started/Completed: October 18, 2018/April 4, 2019

When I cast this sweater on, it was supposed to be an easy knit. Yes, it's fingering weight, and yes, I had to go down to a US 2 needle to get gauge, but the colorwork was up first and is always fast and then it was just single-color stockinette. Easy, right? In reality, it might have been easy, but it certainly wasn't fast.

I managed to get through the first bit of the colorwork at the top of the yoke while I was away for Rhinebeck last year. I worked on it a bit more when I got home, but then I was distracted by other things and put it down for a while. Next, I took it on vacation when we went to Florida over the winter holidays, figuring that I'd get a ton of knitting done. But then I got carried away with knitting gnomes and charity hats and reading good books, and all I managed to do was get to the point where I split the arm and body stitches. It wasn't really until I was in a car for nearly 20 hours over three days last month that I got serious about getting this sweater done. When I returned from that trip, I had a body ready for the band at the bottom and about half a sleeve done, so there really wasn't that much work left to do. At that point, I decided that it was time to buckle down and focus on this project to get it off the needles once and for all.

The colorwork used in the yoke of this sweater is fun, but it's slip-stitch colorwork rather than stranded, and it wasn't nearly as fast for me. Essentially what happens in slip-stitch colorwork is that you use one color at a time and slip stitches in the unused color. It makes it a bit easier to do flat than stranded work, but it also means that you essentially have to work four rows to get two rows of knitting. So for those sections at the bottom and top of the colorwork section, where there are two-stitch blips of the mustard, I worked two rows knitting/purling the mustard stitches and slipping the pale blue and then two rows knitting/purling the pale blue stitches and slipping the mustard. For me, it was harder to get into a rhythm with this style of colorwork, though I certainly agree that it's less of a pain than trying to knit stranded work flat. That zig-zag line in the darker blue in particular involved some knitting gymnastics that are quite clever but slow. I think that had I been knitting this in the round, using stranded rather than slip-stitch colorwork, it would have been much faster for me.

Slowness aside, I enjoyed working with the yarn, which I obtained through the Woolly Thistle. With a mix of British breeds plus some BFL for softness, it's a real workhorse yarn. Many people would probably consider it a bit rough or scratchy, and though it did roughen up my fingers a bit while I worked with it (which, frankly, is a hazard for me in general during the fall and winter), I didn't mind it. I get the sense that it's going to be one of those yarns that wears like iron; it may even look like I haven't blocked the sweater yet though I did give it a good long soak over the weekend. Though it's classified as a 4-ply/fingering weight, it's very fluffy, which is probably why I had to go down to a US 2 to get gauge -- and even though I'm used to knitting fingering weight on an even smaller needle, the fabric is firm enough that knitting got a bit uncomfortable after a while.

I experienced a bit of rowing out on the body, which is unusual for me and I think an outcome of using a smaller-than-specified needle. If you look closely at this photo, you might be able to see it. Although I was hopeful that blocking would help, it's still there; I think that this sweater will require a number of wearings and washing to settle down and even out, and frankly I think most people are going to be looking at the colorwork at the top than the plain stockinette at the bottom. The tension on the sleeves is much better; I used a US 2.5 needle for those, knowing that my gauge was going to be a bit tighter working in the round as opposed to flat, and it turned out to be a good move on my part.

I had panic-ordered two extra skeins of the pale blue yarn when I got back from Chicago, thinking that I was going to run short, but in the end I had plenty of yarn -- I even have about half of the last skein left. I suspect the reason for the panic was that I thought I needed to make the long body version, assuming that the shorter option was going to be more of a cropped fit, but in actuality it's the perfect length, hitting just below my hipbone. I'm thankful now that there were only those two skeins available from the Woolly Thistle or I would have ordered even more! I'm sure the leftovers will be put to good use, though. This yarn strikes me as perfect for mittens, and with leftovers of the contrast colors on hand as well, I anticipate some colorwork mittens in the future.

I'm very, very happy with how this sweater turned out. I sewed on the buttons on Sunday night, after searching through my button collection for options (they needed to be the right size and I needed 10 of them) and coming up with three possibilities. Did I do it perfectly? No; if you look closely at the first photo above, you'll see that the colorwork isn't quite lined up as well as it could be. Do I care? Not really. I did my best, and that's good enough for me. In all likelihood, I'll end up wearing this open most of the time anyway, so it may be a moot point. I'm just so relieved to finally be done and to no longer have this last WIP from 2018 hanging over my head. We're supposed to get a bit of a cold snap next weekend, so I might even get to wear it out a bit before it has to be packed up for the summer!