Jul 26, 2015

FO | Bright & Bold Afghan

Yarn has a mind of its own.

For way-too-many years a large quantity of beautiful Korall bulky weight merino has hogged space in my stash. A dear friend gave me some as a birthday gift and soon I acquired more with the intention of making a cozy, over-sized sweater.

Over the past nine years, I've swatched, knitted, frogged, wound and reswatched this yarn more times than I care to count.

Finally, that persistence has paid off.

Once I landed on a stitch, strategy and design, this afghan flew off the needles.

From start to finish, the entire project took 4.5 weeks.

For a relatively slow knitter like me, that's a remarkably short timeframe. Even more remarkable is the fact it includes nearly a week of final swatching along with some additional time to finish an active WIP. (To avoid a startitis relapse, I'm diligently limiting the number of projects on the needles at any given time.)

That timeframe also includes nearly a week spent weaving ends, a task I force myself to tackle slowly and carefully since it's not my strongest suit.

Bright & Bold Afghan 
Pattern: In development
Yarn: Korall (Laines du Nord), Torino Bulky (Tahki, discontinued)
Weight: Chunky/Bulky
Yardage: 800 yards +/-
Needles: US 11 (8 mm)
Size: S (approx. 28 x 36 ins)
Ravelry notes:  Here 
Related posts: Here and here

Some serious shawl knitting is still on the horizon, but while I sort out the particulars, it feels good to have fiber running through my fingers, streaming out of the stash and becoming something useful and appealing.

That may explain why, before the last ends were woven on this version, I chose a radically different but equally stubborn yarn and began swatching for another. That afghan has also moved forward at a swift and satisfying pace. Meanwhile, two more yarn clusters have crept out of the cupboards to vie for inclusion in a third.

For me, this speedy knit offers such significant stashbusting potential, it may well mark a dramatic turning point in my ongoing efforts to wrangle the yarny hordes into submission.

And that's a tantalizing prospect indeed.

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Jul 19, 2015

Shawl Worthy

As fiber folk, many of us have an undeniable passion for shawls.

It's perfectly comprehensible. They’re the ideal way to learn new stitches, experiment with construction and play with color and fiber combinations while we also create something pretty, practical or both. Shawls, stoles, scarves and wraps are particularly popular right now, but many of us wear them year in and year out regardless of fashion trends.

Way back when, I sewed a lace shawl for special occasions and wore it often. I've also admired your lovely knit shawls for years, but didn't make one until 2012: a summer-weight Weaver’s Wool Mini Shawl for my lovely Aunt K who was ill, frail and always cold. (FO details are here.)

Since then, I've been bitten by the bug and made several more, each of which is worn on a regular basis. In fact, I’m wearing one as I write, because a shawl is the best defense against the occasionally cool morning breezes. (Today's choice: The Oyster Bay shawl shown below. The blend of wool and silk is cozy but light.)

As you may recall, earlier this summer I was reorganizing and consolidating the stash, trying to figure out what to do with an extremely varied collection of singletons, partials and long-term lurkers in fingering, sport and sock weights. This group began to coalesce.

All of the yarns are leftovers from shawl projects for which I'd bought multiple skeins to test color and fiber combinations to customize each piece to suit the recipient. The yarns at the center and top were used in dashing Aunt D's shawlette, which featured gradient silks and variegated Blue Heron with flashes of metallic gold. The solid shades were acquired for sweet Aunt K's shawl, which was worked in soft, light Wool Cotton 4-Ply (Rowan).

Knit worthy aunts and shawl worthy yarns. 

Somehow it feels like a cosmic connection. Am I the only one who sees a fresh spate of shawl knitting on the horizon?

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Jul 12, 2015

Stashbusting? 3 Reasons to Buy More Yarn

Many of us share a staunch determination to knit down our stashes.

For some of us that desire is so strong, we take the cold-sheep vow and buy no yarn until the stash is reduced to a predefined size. For others, the commitment is more flexible, so we shop the stash first but buy yarn in whatever quantities we need, when we need it.

These different approaches to stashbusting and yarn buying are on my mind for one very obvious reason: I'm poised to make several strategic yarn purchases. This is a carefully considered decision, but it took some serious effort to wrestle it to the mat. Why?

     Charlemont in action

Technically, I'm not cold-sheeping, but for nearly four years I've bought very little yarn (comparatively speaking). I don't regret any of the recent fiber investments, but in examining my overall satisfaction level, three things became very clear. I was and am happiest with those that allowed me to:
  1. Leverage the existing stash rather than expand it
  2. Complete a special project or make a gift
  3. Test a design concept in a particular color, weight or fiber
As restrained and mature as this sounds, my system is far from foolproof. Sometimes the stash grows stale and I itch to buy something new and delectable. (Remind me to tell you the the tale of the $500 sweater.)

      Morehouse Merino 2-Ply in action 

When that urge strikes, I revisit my criteria and ask the tough questions: Will it help me use yarn from stash? Is it essential to make a gift or bring an active WIP to completion? Does it allow me to more accurately test a design concept?

One yes might prompt a purchase. Two or more confirms it's a Smart Yarn Buy, offering that magical mix of fresh fiber coupled with the irresistible prospect of stash depletion, project completion, gift giving and/or design realization.

       Tern in action

Recent investments that met the Smart Yarn Buy criteria included new skeins of:

Non-fiber folks are undoubtedly raising their eyebrows in skepticism, but we know it's true: Sometimes the best way to reduce the stash is to buy more yarn.

UPDATE 1 (July 17)
Bought the first batch, a baker's dozen of cream merino from the LYS, Knitting off Broadway. If all goes as planned, this versatile yarn will help transform twice as many stash skeins into real-life FOs.

UPDATE 2 (July 22)
Found the second batch of targeted yarns, all of which will find their way into existing WIPs or projects in the pipeline.

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Jul 5, 2015

Call of the Wool

Last summer, I donned my Frog Princess crown and devoted many sticky, steamy days to undoing a variety of projects that simply weren't working. As painful as that process can be, the end result is always quite satisfying.

I thought I'd frogged everything, but somehow I overlooked a nearly finished boxy vest worked in lovely bulky merino. I'm now systematically frogging those pieces and caking the yarn as time permits, and this is just a small sampling of what's been reclaimed.

It's peak summer in this part of the world, so I should be knitting light fibers and airy designs. Instead, I feel a driving desire to tackle this heap of warm wooliness and cast on something simple, fast and easy.

An idea is beginning to form, but it's way too soon to declare victory. First, I have to consult the yarn in question, because in the past, it's stubbornly resisted every effort to be converted into something productive.

Translation: The pile of swatches is growing.

This trend will continue, while I search for that enticing but elusive mix of yarn, stitch, needle and design that beckons to be knit.

It may be summer, but this much is clear: The call of the wool cannot be denied.

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Jun 28, 2015

Spotlight | Red, White & Blue

As knitters, we all have our quirks. One of mine (as you know too well) is an ongoing obsession with cloths and coasters in red, white and blue.
Some of this is purely practical, since the stash holds an impressive amount of red, white and blue yarn from a project that didn’t work quite as planned.

Some of this is convenience, since cloths and coasters are a practical way to test new stitches or concepts. 

Some of those experiments work (Sweet Hearts & Soft Spots).

Some of  them don't.

Some of this is therapeutic, since working on a small, quick piece is a refreshing change from larger or more complicated projects.

Some of this is laziness, since the plain red and white cloths suit multiple occasions and can be pressed into service all winter from Christmas through Valentine's Day.
Strangely enough, it turns out if you do "some of this" on a regular basis, one day you'll discover you have an entire collection of handcrafted holiday items that looks something like this. (And yes, there are more. Many, many more.)

You don't have to be American to be a passionate about red, white and blue. In fact, there are 21 countries whose national flags feature that combination, and the list is much longer if you add those with multi-colored flags.

One of these days, I'll get photos of the rest of the collection. 

For now, let me wish Canadian readers a happy Canada Day (July 1) and fellow Americans an enjoyable Independence Day (July 4). 

Summer is whizzing by so wherever you live, take time to celebrate each day in true knitterly style.

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Jun 21, 2015

Alien Parasite Antibodies

Remember earlier this year, when I contracted a severe case of startitis?

The initial symptoms were so subtle and innocuous, they were easy to ignore ... until that moment they reached fever pitch and there were 10 (15?) WIPs and swatches on the needles. (Some but not all appeared in the post, COAT Weather.)

That's typical for some knitters, but we all know it's not the norm for me. As a a slow knitter with limited knitting time, I've learned to aim for a balanced mix of WIPs: One concept piece (swatching). One primary project (manageable and modular). And one or two small, quick knits (like the Sweet Hearts and whimsical knits).

Between your thoughtful suggestions and my research on the wacky side of the web, we were able to trace the onset of startitis to an alien parasite infestation (API). Putting a name to the problem helped and gradually the symptoms abated.

It turns out API is far more common than we realized, but beyond that very little is known about the condition. At present, scientists believe:
  • Exposure confers short-term resistance rather than lifetime immunity
  • Repeated bouts boost resistance but unpredictable relapses are common
  • Some people never achieve complete immunity
  • API can be fatiguing and frustrating, but it's non-fatal

These facts were moderately reassuring, but it was obvious further wacky-web research was in order.

There I found a compelling analysis of blood samples drawn from hapless humans afflicted with alien parasites. During this analysis, researchers were for the first time able to isolate the API cell form:
(Oh, dear. It's probably just my work-weary eyes, but doesn't that API cell bear a striking resemblance to ... No, surely it's just my imagination.)

The scientists were among other things stunned to find API cell strands "vary greatly in size, feature a wide range of textures, display a full spectrum of colors and some are even variegated." (Their words, not mine.)

You'll be relieved to learn the same team also managed to capture an image of the only known antidote, the powerful but elusive API antibody:
Reluctant to comment openly on what this discovery might mean, the scientists sheepishly confessed they were puzzled by certain facts. 

Apparently the antibodies vary in size and configuration much like the API cells, but they can be recognized by the presence of "stick-like structures that appear to be neutralizing the cell strands through some process we have yet to identify." (Again their words, not mine.)

Should you tell them? Or should I?

Connecting with the linkups in the sidebar.

Jun 14, 2015

Yarn | Weights & Conversions

I've been doing a lot of swatching to experiment with specific stitches in different yarn weights. I've also been mixing and matching assorted weights to test varied approaches to multi-stranding and assess the effect on color, stitch and fabric.

There's no mystery or magic involved, I'm simply striving to see my stash with fresh eyes and find creative ways to transform lurkers and lingerers into something pretty, practical and appealing.

      Lace + Sock

For several years, I've ruthlessly culled and donated yarns that no longer suit my preferences, are too fiddly to fathom or don't perform well in real life. Technically, I'm not cold-sheeping but I'm so committed to stash depletion, I've focused on designing patterns and prioritizing projects that help make the most of the yarn on hand.

The results have been satisfying, but many lovely yarns still reside in their cozy cupboards. (Yes, plural.) From afghans and accessories to cardis and cloths, it's time to employ innovative combinations that continue to whittle the hoard to a manageable size.

      Sock + Fingering

To make this ongoing effort easier, I created the yarn weight chart (below). Most of the information is familiar and readily available in various forms and countless locations. What's not so easy to find are quick conversions for multi-stranding.

After many frustrating results and false starts, I bit the bullet and pulled together the information I needed most. This chart has become my constant companion, and while I plan to continue adding to it, I thought you might find it helpful now for your own knitting adventures.

(50 gr)
Light Fingering
000 to 1
1.5 to 2.25
8.25 to
10 sts
Super Fine
1 to 3
2.25 to 3.25
6.75 to
8 sts
3 to 5
3.25 to 3.75
5.75 to
6.5 sts
Light Worsted
5 to 7
3.75 to 4.5
5.25 to
6 sts
7 to 9
4.5 to 5.5
4 to
5 sts
Bulky /
Super Bulky
9 to 11
5.5 to 8
3 to
3.75 sts
Bulky /
Super Bulky

Super Bulky

11 and up
8 and up
1.5 to
2.75 sts

Keep in mind the conversions are approximate, since every yarn is so very different. Also remember working with multiple strands is not the same as knitting with plied yarn. In general, the combined strands work up in a slightly more substantial (aka heavier) manner than you might expect, so plan accordingly.

These shifting and unpredictable variables are among the many reasons why swatching is so important. It's the only way to see how any yarn or mix of yarns will look and behave in a given stitch.


Meanwhile, there’s a swatch calling my name, so I’d better get back to my knitting.

For more tips, tricks and tools, click here.