Assessing the WIP Basket

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a bunch of work-in-progress projects that have piled up in a corner or a basket or maybe on the chair in the bedroom. I find that at this time of the year I start to feel those unfinished objects (UFO’s) calling out to me. Unfinished projects have a way of pulling at my energy. It may not be a very big pull, but whenever I walk by them I have that subtle sense of “oh yeah, I should finish that”. And that takes a little bit out of me, every time. Maybe it’s time to make a plan to tackle some of those.

Going into the fall and winter, I really want to be able to work on new and exciting things that will inspire me: new yarns, new patterns, new challenges. I want to knit up samples with the new products I’m bringing in. But I also know that I really need to minimally assess my pile of WIP’s and come up with a plan to make that pile smaller.

Over the next 4 weeks, I want to pick through those things and determine whether there are some things that I know I simply won’t finish. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple started pairs of socks that are most definitely too small. They were both really complicated patterns and I knitted a lot on them. I just couldn’t bring myself to frog them even though I knew I should. I think I need to sacrifice them. Time to sit down at the yarn winder and just wind them into a new ball with fresh potential. I won’t get back the time I knitted either way. So instead of feeling sad every time I see them, I can think about using that yarn for a new project. There, that wasn’t so bad. That’s two projects that can leave the basket and go back into the stash.

I have at least one project that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to change colours part way through, or if I should order more yarn and just finish it in the colour I started with (before the yarn isn’t available any more!) I guess the fact that it has been sitting for a whole year is a good sign that I’m not going to change colours. Best get that yarn on order. Maybe that will motivate me to get back at it and finish it. 🙂 That’s one more that can move forward!

Then there are the ones where I lost the pattern, or the pattern had mistakes and continuing on will be more headache than fun. That should eliminate two or three from the pile in the corner of the living room… More frogging ahead!

I know there are a couple that really won’t take that long to finish if I just got back at them. I just kind of got tired of looking at the yarn; or the yarn wasn’t as nice to work with as I’d hoped and I lost interest. I’ll have to make a decision about those. It’s only a few, I can decide on those.

Funny, just thinking it through, I feel a little lighter. I feel like maybe thinning out the WIPs won’t have to be as hard as I was thinking it would be. I’m already feeling more motivated to take action and get some things done. Isn’t it amazing what a plan can do?

With all the new yarns coming in, it will feel good to clear the slate and make room to knit up some samples. I think I can maybe alternate between finishing an old project and making a sample out of something brand new. Little by little I’ll get that pile under control.

How about you? Are you ready to tackle your pile of UFO’s?

Happy Knitting!

Keeping out the Evening Chill

Heading to the lake? Evening barbecue in the backyard? Camping for the weekend?

It may be hot during the day, but when it cools off in the evening (if you’re anything like me) you’ll be reaching for something to throw over your shoulders to keep the chill away. Summer wraps are the perfect thing! With all the gorgeous patterns available to hit every skill level and every taste, add in all the lovely yarns… and the possibilities are endless.

I love shawls, wraps and ponchos. They fill that gap when you need a little something to throw on, but a sweater or a jacket are just a little too much. They are practical, cozy and can be as casual or as fashionable as you want. With the help of a shawl pin, you can clasp it to keep it right where you want it. No fuss or bother required.

Depending on the design you choose, you can challenge yourself, you can “Zen out” with something “brainless”… or you can hit the scale somewhere in between the two. As much as there are some highly complex lace shawl patterns out there, there are just as many easy ones that allow you to sit back and relax as your hands auto-pilot you to a lovely summer wrap.

Some of the designs that are referred to as cowls nowadays are really more like mini-ponchos, or capelets. These are really cute and don’t need any fasteners. If you’re going for an evening walk, they are just enough to keep you from getting goose bumps from that chilly breeze. Ponchos are a great and easy cover-up option too. Look for a pattern that starts at the neckline so you can simply keep on knitting or crocheting until it is as long as you want it to be.

Triangular shawls can be made in any weight of yarn and usually, you can simply keep on adding to them to make them as large as you would like them to be. You can tie them or use a shawl pin to fasten them where you like them. You can wear them in a few different ways so that they cover more or less of you.

Rectangular wraps are essentially just a really wide and long scarf. Using bamboo or cotton and a very simple stitch pattern can turn something we normally associate with winter into our “go-to” cover up through the summer months and during the “shoulder” seasons (pun definitely intended).

There are some lovely summery yarns available that can give you the perfect texture and weight for your shawl or poncho. Whether you prefer cotton, viscose, bamboo or linen blends, or you are a die-hard Merino lover, we are fortunate to have access to many options in a vast array of colourways. If you work up something in a worsted weight, it comes together quicker than you might think. I have a lovely gradient cotton/wool blend in DK weight (Rainbow Autumn) from Estelle Yarns that makes a gorgeous cover up that would be perfect for summer evenings at the campsite or beach. Looking for something with a bit of shine? Cotton/Viscose blends are what you are looking for. Bamboo is very strong and durable. CoBaSi gives a gorgeous summer fabric comprised of Cotton, Bamboo and Silk. The possibilities are endless!

I adore Knox Mountain Knit Co’s patterns; that’s why I sell them in hard-copy in my store. Her patterns are gorgeous and easy to follow. Once I start one, I can’t put it down. If you’re local, pop in and check out my binder full of Knox Mountain shawl patterns. If not, here’s the search result for her shawl patterns on Ravelry.

Here are a few pretty crochet designs I found on Ravelry:

Secret Paths by Johanna Lindhal (© Johanna Lindahl)

Shawl for Rachel by Hilda Steyn (© Hilda Steyn 2015)

Maple Leaf Shawl by Kirsten Ballering (© Kirsten Ballering)

Klaziena Shawl by Kirsten Bishop (by mola1971)

Striped Poncho by Crochet – Atalier (© Luba Davies Atelier)

These cover-ups make great projects to knit or crochet at your campsite. After all, that is what camping is for, right?

Happy Knitting and Crocheting!


Cobasi

Rainbow Autumn

Summertime

Tropicali

Mulberry

Nako Fiore

Baby Bamboo

Review: Katia Fair Cotton

After a significant time drooling over this yarn, (trying to decide what I wanted to make out of it) I finally started a project. This gorgeous cotton yarn comes from Katia Yarns of Spain. It is organic, fair trade cotton. It is very soft and comes in 200g balls with a self striping section and a solid neutral section. The mileage is fantastic at 620m! The colours are summer-yummy.

One ball goes a very long way. The sample Katia sent with my yarn order is a long sleeved child’s sweater. I would say it should fit a 10 year old. That only took one ball. Katia has other patterns on their website for this yarn as well. One is a child’s dress (also 1 ball) and a ladies’ dress (2 balls).

I decided I wanted to make a tank top out of it. Now, there isn’t a tank top pattern specifically designed for this yarn so I knew I would have to wing it. After some trial and error I settled on a 165 stitch cast on. I knitted the hem in garter stitch for 8 rows flat and then joined it in the round. (In hindsight, I would have been better to just do a couple rows; just enough that it was easy to avoid having a twist when joining it.)

I started with the striping section of the yarn at the hem and I’m working my way up from there. Although the label suggests using a 3.5mm needle, I wanted something just a little looser so it would be a bit breezy without being holey. I am using a 4.5mm needle and I’m very happy with the result. The gauge is working up much like a DK for me with these needles.

I divided it to knit between the armholes at the back and actually completed the back, but I was not happy with my division of stitches. I had overestimated how many I needed for the front. Also, it wasn’t as long as I like it. I weighed the yarn I used for that section after I frogged it and it was about 17g. So I figured I’d keep knitting until the ball weighs 45g and then work the sections between the armholes. But that would have made it longer than I want. I kept checking the weight and thinking, “wow, this ball goes on forever!” Amazing yield!

I kept this project really simple so that I could fly through it. Also the yarn is so pretty and the stitch definition is so nice, I figured I would just let the yarn do the talking. Anyone who knits a lot of cotton knows that just like with Bamboo, it can have a tendency to split as you knit with it. That is just the nature of the fibre. It’s better than some of the cottons I’ve worked with in that regard. It’s knitting up very fast and evenly.

I was hoping to have the top finished for this week’s blog but I’m not quite there yet. I will try and add photos to this post as soon as the top is done.

Katia Fair Cotton is a lovely summer yarn. If you are thinking about making yourself a little top or a wrap I would encourage you to. You won’t be disappointed.

Happy Knitting

Keeping up Traditions

Did you know that the oldest knitted artifacts date from the 11th century? And, the complexity of the knitting in those socks (colourwork, knit, purl and short rows) makes it pretty obvious that knitting had been around for some time before that. How’s that for being able to call knitting an ancient tradition? And you can be sure that if knitting has been around since then, people have also been mending their knitting since then too.

Anyone who knows my shop will know that a huge part of what I do is mending. Now obviously, most of that mending is on clothing, outerwear and outdoors related gear and it’s done using my various specialized industrial sewing machines. It is all mending (and alterations) none-the-less. I grew up in a family that couldn’t afford to be wasteful. My parents were hard-working, practical people. If we kids wanted to watch TV, we had to be mending something while we watched. The job I most commonly took on as my TV-toll was mending socks. Back then, I used an old lightbulb to hold the shape of the heel so I could carefully weave a new heel or toe with needle and yarn.

A long-time customer brought me a gorgeous Norwegian wool sweater, at least 30 years old. Other than the ravaged cuffs and a relatively small hole in one elbow, this beautiful lined garment was in excellent condition. It’s a testament to Norwegian craftsmanship. She asked me what I could do. I told her that there were a few ways to approach it, but that I really felt that it should be restored, as opposed to being repaired. I asked her what her budget was. She was willing to pay a fair bit, and although I knew it would not cover the time it would take to reknit the cuffs and graft a repair to the elbow, I just really wanted to restore it. I told her that I would be working on it in the evenings when I wasn’t too tired, in front of the television. It was not going to fall within my normal wait time for repairs.

I completed it this week and I thought I’d share how it went and show some photos of it. Now, please understand. I can’t afford to make a business out of restoring old sweaters for people. When she picked it up, she said, “I suspect I’m only paying about $2.00 per hour for all the work you did on this sweater!” She’s not far off! This was a labour of love on my part.

I began by choosing a row of knitting that would be easy to distinguish at the beginning of the cuff. There was a single round of green stitches that made it easy to know that I was getting the stitches from just that round. The sweater was knit with what appeared to be 2-ply yarn. The yarn I was using for the cuffs was 4-ply. So I had to decide how many stitches I would ultimately need and math my way through how many decreases it would take to get me there. I settled on 76 stitches and once I planned out how best to evenly divide up the decreases I set to work.

With the stitches picked up, I carefully cut through a single layer of the double cuff. I picked out all the bits of yarn from the old cuff, down to my needle full of stitches. Then I began to knit the cuff. I kept it simple with a 1×1 rib. After 30 rounds I did a purl round to make it easy to fold the cuff and did another 30 rounds before binding it off. I have to be honest, the sweater sat in a heap, mostly ignored for weeks at a time. I would knit a few rounds here and there. I finally repeated that process on the second cuff.

I picked out the stitches that held the lining fabric to the cuff and using the sewing machine, I stitched the lining fabric to the very end of the cuff. Once that was complete, I folded the cuff and very carefully pinned through the layers where the ends of the cuff lined up. Being sure to tuck any exposed fabric into the seam, I stitched through all the layers to secure the cuff layers with the lining in between. I used a herring bone stitch to make sure that it would be able to stretch without popping any threads.

Next I set to work on the elbow. There were several rows that were simply unraveled; the yarn itself was intact. I picked up stitches below and as wide as necessary so that I could create a patch for the other areas and comfortably cover the areas where the yarn was worn away. Using the existing yarn I knitted up until I got to a row where the original yarn was not intact. I then separated the 4-ply yarn so I could work with only 2 plies and knitted back and forth until I had a patch to cover the damaged area. Using a darning needle and more yarn, I grafted that patch to the sweater. It’s not the most elegant patch in the world, but it wasn’t bad. I spritzed the elbow patch and then pressed it with an iron to “block” it. It worked well.

This was a very satisfying project. It felt so good to be able to bring this gorgeous sweater back to life. I feel proud that I was able to be part of a host of traditions by taking on this one project. The sweater may be too warm out now to wear it right now, but I’m confident that it will be back to active use next winter. I’m sure that its owner will get another 30 years of snuggly warmth out of it yet.

And now that this project is complete, maybe I’ll get to some of my other WIPs.

Happy Knitting!

Scrub-a-dub-dub!

For years, knitters and crocheters have been making cotton cloths for kitchen or bathroom use. Besides the obvious facecloths and dishcloths, many are also making reusable makeup pads. These are small but relatively thick crocheted or knitted circles around 2 to 3 inches across, specifically for removing makeup. Others also make pot scrubbers; the new yarns available mean you don’t even have to cut up any tulle to do so! Trivets, potholders, tea-cozies, placemats… whether a kitchen-specific bundle of goodies, or a spa-related combination of items, these make fantastic gifts that are quick, easy and inexpensive to make. Add to this that they are small projects that won’t make you sweat as the weather gets warmer and you have a recipe for some fun, satisfying, warm-weather crafting.

Around the time when I brought in over 50 colours of “dishcloth” cotton yarn, I also brought in a yarn that is specifically designed for making pot scrubbers. It’s a Rico product called Creative Bubble. It’s available in 23 solid colours and 5 multi-colours. (I don’t have all the colours in stock, but I’m happy to bring other colours in if people want them.)

Rico has a number of patterns to go along with this yarn. The pattern that we did up includes a watermelon slice and a pineapple. You could simply crochet little circles if you wanted to, but these are so cute that I challenge you to resist them! We were able to get two pineapples out of one ball of yellow and three watermelon slices out of one pink ball. The only thing was that the third watermelon slice was one round smaller than the pattern said. You’d never know to look at it. Clearly green was also used for these. (Oh and a quick note: The Rico patterns use UK terminology. Be sure you know the difference if you are used to North American terminology. It makes a difference!)

Each of these scrubbies are as big as my hand. I have been using a pineapple scrubby at home to get a sense of how it behaves and I’m loving it. They are double thickness; they feel soft and cushy under your hand and they are large enough that you can really get some work done with ease. My husband commented that he thought they felt softer than the puffs we use in the shower. Speaking of shower puffs. You know when you put body wash onto those puffs and they get nice and lathery? Well that’s what the scrubbies do when you put the dish washing liquid onto them. They are fabulous!

I did a quick search on Ravelry and found a few easy patterns for scrubbies. The first one is just a nice basic pan scrubby. The second one combines a dishcloth with a scrubby. I’ll be bringing in more patterns from Rico, including a doughnut with sprinkles. How fun is that? If you are inclined to do a search, you may want to try with each of: scrubby, scrubbie and scrubber.

Pan Scrubber

Dish Scrubby

As winter makes way for spring you don’t have to abandon your crochet or knitting. You can always just shift from wool blends to cotton, linen and bamboo yarns. Choosing smaller projects means you won’t be roasting under an in-progress afghan in the height of summer’s heat.

If you are tired of making plain old dishcloths, a quick search on Ravelry will bring up a plethora of designs to choose from. If you want to find some really lovely ones, do a search with the word “spa” and see what comes up. I suppose that technically these would be considered facecloths. You can use any of the dishcloth cotton yarns available to make up spa sets. You could include a headband (to hold your hair out of the way while you wash your face), small round make-up pads, facecloths and shower puffs. The puffs could be made of either cotton, or a yarn like Rico Creative Bubble. Pair all that with your favourite luxury soap, maybe a candle, a bottle of wine, and you have a fantastic gift for someone who deserves to pamper themselves. I’ve included links to ravelry pages to offer some inspiration:

Aubrey Spa Set

Spa Day Set

Mini Almost Lost Washcloth

Extra Luscious Bath Puff

Easy Face Scrubbies

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for gift ideas that won’t break my budget, whether that be in relation to time, money or brain power. If you’re looking for projects that you can do in front of the television in the evenings (or in the back yard, when the weather is nice), any of these will fit the bill.

The other nice thing about these is that you can make them up in no time, in advance and stockpile a bunch of them. Make up some in classy neutral colours and others in fun and vibrant combinations. When you suddenly need a gift, you can put together a nice little package to fit the need at the time, effortlessly. Tie it all up with a pretty ribbon or some hemp cording and you’ll look like a genius.

Happy Knitting… and Crocheting!

Sock Madness!

Yes, Sock Madness!

This annual sock knitting competition is for those with skills and a competitive spirit.

Early in February I was knitting with a good friend. She was knitting a pair of socks designed to use up leftovers of 13 different yarns. Turns out they are the Sock Madness warm-up round socks. I have lots of leftovers I’d love to use up, but competing in Sock Madness… that I wasn’t sure about.

“Sock Madness is an international sock hand knitting competition based loosely on the basketball competition known as March Madness. There are 7 rounds of patterns. The first pattern is reasonably straightforward and as the rounds progress the socks become increasingly more complex in design. Every registered competitor who completes a pair of socks in round 1 will be placed on a team with approximately 40 players per team. It is announced ahead of each round how many will proceed to the next pattern/round. By the 7th pattern there will be one member from each team left to battle it out.”


(quoted from Sock Madness Forever on Ravelry)

Sock Madness is definitely cool. If you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to do a quick search on Ravelry; you’ll see what I mean. I’ve been intrigued by the interesting patterns they do in this competition for a few years now. I’m curious about the many advanced knitting techniques included in the patterns. Each year I think that if not for the time crunch, it would be a great opportunity to learn some techniques that I’m unfamiliar with.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy amount of competitive spirit. I just can’t see having enough free time at this time of year to justify being on a competitive knitting team. I know that I’d put way too much pressure on myself and I’d pay a steep price for it. So when my friend suggested I sign up as a cheerleader, I thought, “this could be the perfect opportunity”. You have to make a reasonable effort to complete the round one socks. (One fully completed sock, or two socks done to beyond the heel assures you a spot.) Then you are granted access to the patterns for all the socks and you can knit them at your leisure without the imposed time limit. Registration happens through the month of February and the competition begins at the beginning of March.

I signed up! Since then, I have been toodling my way through the warm up socks. I have completed one sock and I’m less than a quarter of the way into the second sock. I’m very happy with the way they are turning out. Of course, I have two other pairs of socks in progress as well that I put on the back burner, but I’ll get to them all eventually. I figure I should be able to manage the expectations to qualify as a cheerleader.

I’m enjoying the warm up socks. It was so much fun choosing my 13 colours of leftover yarn. I love the way that the pattern gradually incorporates each new yarn. With all those different yarns, I had a mass of “tails” to weave in when I finished the first sock though. I sat there, staring at it for some time, deciding what to do. I imagined what a big job it would be to weave those ends in on two completed socks and that motivated me. I took the time and got them all neatly incorporated before starting the second sock. (I even have photographic evidence! LOL) That way, I’ll only have one sock to fiddle with when completed. It was definitely satisfying to complete that little operation! I ended up with a very pretty sock out of the deal!

Working on this pattern got me thinking. In a way, knitting up a pattern like this is reminiscent of making a memento quilt. Each yarn has a story behind it the same way that each fabric of a scrap quilt does. I like that. I knit a lot of socks. There are certain people that I specifically make a lot of socks for. I was thinking that it would be really interesting to knit a pair of memory socks using leftovers from socks that I made in the past for that same person. I think that’s a really nice idea. With that many colours, I should be able to arrange them in a sequence that will make sense and look good, even if (at first glance) I might not think they should go together. It makes me think about handling my leftover yarns a little differently. It also has me thinking about other projects that I could do using up leftovers. I’m feeling downright inspired!

I’m excitedly anticipating the first round of Sock Madness. I honestly never thought I’d be participating in this event. Who knows, maybe I’ll surprise myself and discover that it’s more do-able than I imagined… Maybe next year I’ll want to compete? I guess you just never know… and I guess you should never say never!

Happy Knitting!

Onward! To the Ravelry 2019 Challenge

Last year I participated in the Ravelry 2018 Challenge. I set out to complete 20 projects over the course of 2018. I figured that would be a manageable number, knowing my knitting habits and my busy schedule. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I ended up finishing 33 projects. I wasn’t purposely trying to pack a lot of projects in; I feel good about that result. Good enough that I signed up for the 2019 Challenge too. At this point, based on last year’s results, I’ve conservatively set a goal of 30 projects.

During 2018 I completed the following:

  • 1 blanket
  • 1 cowl
  • 5 shawls
  • 1 adult cardigan
  • 2 toddler cardigans
  • 4 doll cardigans
  • 19 pairs of socks

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I have a couple of projects that were started that I didn’t complete yet. Notably “Alecia Beth”, a contiguous cardigan in 4 ply yarn. I hope to finish that in time for late spring when my winter sweaters and coat are too warm for the weather.

I’ve been thinking about what new things I’d like to try and knit this year. I definitely want to make a steeked, stranded colour-work cardigan. I have been looking at designs. I like the way that the colour-work wraps around those yoked sweaters that Tin Can Knits are known for.

Steeking is a construction method used to make cardigans. It’s typical of Fair-Isle and Norwegian sweater knitting. The idea is that you knit the sweater in the round like a pullover. Easy peasy! You allow extra rows of stitches in the areas where you want to cut it apart. Some people simply make a tube for the body with some extra steek rows where the sleeves will go, and down the centre front. They knit it to the full desired length. Then they knit the two sleeves separately. To put it into a nutshell, you reinforce the stitches on either side of where you plan to cut it open so your knitting doesn’t simply disintegrate. Then you cut it open. YIKES! Then you add button panels in the front (or a zipper) and insert the sleeves. Some people finish it off with a band of ribbon or a knitted band to cover up the edges where it was cut. If you use wool that isn’t super wash it is expected to felt enough along those edges so you don’t have to fuss with a binding. Some people knit the sleeves with the body so they are connected without having to steek them. I’m thinking that’s what I’d prefer.

What I don’t love about the yoked style of sweater is the neckline. To me, it always looks like it barely hangs onto the shoulder. I am not crazy about necklines that sit right at my neck either. So I’m hoping to find something that will be along these lines but with either a V-neck or a scoop neck. I could probably use short rows to shape the neckline more the way I like it. I suppose I could be brave and knit it using a pattern like the one above, but then do a steek around the neckline so I can shape the neck however I want it. That would be an option. Hmmm… for the first steeking project, that might be a little bit scary. But I figure that if I start with a child sized cardigan it should be less intimidating. Then, if I mess around with changing the neckline, it won’t be as big of a time investment (or yarn investment for that matter). Yeah, I definitely want to try my hand at steeking this year.

When thinking about what else I’d like to knit, I realized that I don’t have much in the way of toques or cowls. I’ve got some patterns in mind that I would love to knit. This time I will choose the yarn colours so that they actually look good with my coat though! There will definitely have to be some hats in my challenge list.

Obviously, I will knit socks. In particular, I have had a pattern in my queue for some time that I really want to do this year. These dirndl socks play all the right notes to thrill the German ancestry running through my veins.

Then there are these beauties:

Dornröschen schlafe hundert Jahr

I also want to get the next size up in my contiguous child’s cardigan designed and tested. I want to get the pattern cleaned up and ready to publish and I need to have at least 2 sizes to feel like it’s worth finalizing it. I may go for three but it’s such a tedious process that I might just be dreaming on that count.

I want to make a mohair shawl for one of my sisters, and a sapphire blue lace shawl for another one of my sisters. (She’s got a significant birthday coming up in 2020 and the shawl I have in mind is a huge project. I need to start it this year if I want to complete it for her birthday in May.)

I plan to participate in Tour-de-sock again this summer. That’s always a fun challenge that nets me six to eight pairs of amazing socks. I love my fancy socks. Even if no one else sees them inside my shoes. They make me feel good.

I have bits of leftover sock yarn that I might make into a net shopping bag to see how that goes. Every time I dig in my leftovers bag I’m frustrated that there isn’t enough of any of the yarns in there to make a pair of socks. This might be a good way to use some of that up. I think that will be a good mindless knit to do in front of the television in the evenings.

Oh my, I think that’s a year’s worth of knitting summed up in a 1000 words! Whee! I hope I haven’t bored you with my ramblings today. I must say that taking the time to think about what I want to make has me feeling inspired.

Happy Knitting!