The 30 Day Knitting Challenge: Day 14

Day 14: What’s the worst yarn/fiber that you’ve worked with and why?

Hoo boy, that’s a tough one to answer. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of awful yarn experiences I’ve had that I’ve blocked out of my memory. For what it’s worth, even decent yarn experiences apparently slip my memory: My mom told me on one of her recent visits that I knit her a hat while we were at a knitting retreat years ago. Once she said it, it sounded vaguely familiar, but I essentially have no memory of it. I wonder how many other Alex Originals are floating around out there that I’ve completely forgotten!

Right, worst yarn ever. You probably know by now that you’re not going to get just one answer. Let’s start with a recent experience:

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This is some random grey acrylic that was lurking in my stash. I have no idea where it came from, but it most likely was in a batch of yarn from Goodwill or the like. Now, I don’t hate acrylic yarn. I have some yarn elitism, to be sure, but there’s something to be said for having the right yarn for the job, and sometimes that’s acrylic. There are plenty of non-scratchy acrylics out there and I use them when appropriate:

But this particular grey acrylic was just nasty. Part of the problem was that I sort of just assumed it was worsted/aran weight, so I used it as such when making a Car Blanket for my fil. The other three yarns I used were all Caron Simply Soft. Throughout most of the project, I just knew that I hated working with it: It hurt my hands, it was stiff and scratchy, and the fabric it created was unpleasant. I forged ahead, though. It wasn’t until I was almost done with the blanket that I realized that I was knitting it at too tight of a gauge and that it was probably closer to bulky weight. I don’t think knitting it on larger needles would have sparked a love affair with it, but it might have been a little less intolerable than it was. In any case, the blanket turned out well and no one but me seemed to think the grey panels were sub par.

Another unsatisfactory yarn experience involved Berroco Linet:

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I have twelve skeins of this stuff. Twelve. 1320 yards. It came from the Goodwill windfall. It’s cool enough yarn, but I just tried to use it for the wrong project. Mind you, I have no idea what the right project would be, but this definitely wasn’t it. I started to make a Lacy Loo with it, but it just was not working:

The chainette construction of the yarn gives it a sort of angular quality, which made it odd to work with. It wasn’t physically unpleasant like the grey acrylic, it was just not satisfying. I ended up making the Lacy Loo out of a purple merino (Jil Eaton Minnow Merino) instead:

Last up is this sort of greenish-brown acrylic boucle stuff:

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It even kind of looks like a turd, doesn’t it? I lost the ball band for it a long time ago and have no memory of what it is. I tried starting something with it years ago, but it just pulls in that weird boucle way. It also has a very thin core of just a thread or two surrounded by a lot of fuzz so it was very hard to work with. I find that I tend to not care for most boucle yarns in general. I haven’t worked with a really nice one yet, though, so they may actually be lovely and I just don’t know it yet!

What’s the worst yarn you’ve worked with?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

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The 30 Day Knitting Challenge: Day 13

Before I start: My heart is aching for the people killed in Orlando yesterday morning, for their loved ones who survived, for the communities this event has touched, for our country and for the world. I cannot comprehend such a mind-numbing tragedy. I hope that, this time, we can do a better job of learning from this event. I typically leave my politics at the door, but sometimes things just need to be said: There is no reason that one person should have access to enough weaponry and ammunition to handily end the lives of dozens of people. Maybe we cannot recognize and address the hatred behind such an attack in time to prevent it, but we can remove the tools that make it possible.

With that said, I hope that you and yours are safe and well.

Day 13: Do you have yarn that you love but can’t find a project for?

Well, yes. I’ve got lots of that. Where should I start?

I guess I’ll start here:

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This would be madelinetosh Pashmina, colorway Free Range Eggs. Two skeins of it means I have 720 yards of sport weight 75/15/10 merino/silk/cashmere. What’s not to love?? Well, I was thinking it would make a nice shawl for my sil, but man, I haven’t been able to come up with a pattern that seems just right.

I think the answer for this one is going to lie in swatching. I really think the colors are gorgeous, but…I’m just not sure how they’ll look knit up. I’m afraid the pinkish-red is a little too pinkish-red, and that the contrast with the softer minty blue and peach will be too much. I’m pretty sure the right pattern for this yarn is going to be a “less is more” type. Thoughts?

Okay, who’s next?

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And here we have 615 yards of Lorna’s Laces Lion & Lamb in colorway 50 Skeins of Grey. This is an aran weight single that’s 50% merino and 50% silk. It’s really, really lovely, but I have no clue what to do with it. I actually can’t find any projects on ravelry using this yarn in this colorway, so I don’t even have a sense of how it looks when it’s worked up. If I had one more skein, I’d consider making it a Clapotis.

Who else is floating around here?

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Here we have three skeins, or 123 yards, of Noro Gemstones. This yarn is super bulky at 3 sts/1″. It’s mostly synthetic except for a hint of cashmere (???). It’s not something I would typically pick out, but it is pretty and I do love Noro. This was part of the original, legendary, Goodwill windfall. I would like to use it to make something for my daughter, but what? Part of my problem with this one is that I’m just not used to working with super bulky yarns. I don’t have a good sense of how far 123 yards will go*. The other problem is durability. I have this idea that things I knit, especially for my daughter, should be very much functional. However, this yarn (and most other Noro yarns) sure can’t be thrown in the washer. So, what can I make, with that yardage, that won’t need to be washed much/at all?

Okay, I could play this game all day. I have tons of gems hiding in my stash that just need the right pattern to show them off. I welcome any comments or suggestions you might have! What about you? What’s lurking in your stash that you’re not sure how to use?

*Aside from the obvious: it’ll go 123 yards.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 12

Day 12: Where do you keep your stash? Post pictures!

Well. You’re not going to get stash storage pictures, but don’t be too disappointed–while most of my stash is fairly well organized, the way it’s stored is not pretty. I have it sorted by yarn weight and stored in large plastic tubs, which are split between our walk-in closet, our “craft room”* and a storage room at my mil’s house.

I had it handily under control, stored neatly in our basement, and then two things happened. First, we decided to clear out our basement so that we could rent it out (hasn’t happened yet, but it’s coming). Second, I started getting carloads of yarn from my freecycle benefactor. So, it all had to come out of the basement and it expanded in volume all at once. I gave tons and tons of it away, but there’s still a lot left that I haven’t been able to organize properly yet. I have plans, though, don’t you worry!

Here are some projects I’ve been working on with the freecycle yarn so far:

I think that’s pretty good progress!

I have a small bin that I keep in our family room that has yarn in it that I’m reasonably sure I’m going to use soon. Plus, I have a few (ahem) project bags here and there with WIPs, yarns for upcoming projects and notions.

And that’s pretty much the long and short of it. Do you have a stash? How do you organize it? Where do you store it?

*Said craft room is not quite a reality yet. It’s sort of a jumble of a lot of stuff that needs to be organized and put away…somewhere.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 11

Day 11: Do you have a “Knitter Hero” or someone that is just way too awesome for their own good? Do share!

It’s so funny you asked that! I’ve long been a fan of The Yarn Harlot, aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. She is, for starters, a fabulous knitter. She’s also the first knitting blogger to enter my radar. Her witty and sometimes wry accounts of her knitting exploits are always both informative and amusing. For over twelve years, she’s consistently shared her challenges and successes along with small vignettes of her life and family. Her posts have helped me to realize that even crazy skilled and prolific knitters sometimes have trouble getting started, trouble counting, or trouble trusting their instincts. Sometimes those knitters even end up playing yarn chicken. Reading her writing has helped me up my own game more than once, too. I borrowed this technique twice now and have had good luck with it. Also, I love that she loves beer and coffee*. On top of all of that, she’s an author several times over, a speaker, and a teacher.

So imagine my surprise when I checked my email yesterday and saw the name “Stephanie Pearl-McPhee” in my inbox. It didn’t immediately register, actually. Admittedly, my head was elsewhere–I had just left a job interview, I was thinking about finding a gas station, etc, etc. For once, I wasn’t really thinking about knitting. Then, when I opened the email, it all came flooding back.

You see, the Yarn Harlot embarks every year on a significant charitable fund raising effort. She rides in the PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally, a six day and 600 km ride from Toronto to Montreal. The proceeds from this event benefit the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation. As part of this fundraiser, she hosts a giveaway on her blog. She’s dubbed it “karmic balancing gifts”. You can enter the giveaway by donating to the bike rally and then sending her an email to let her know (more detailed instructions can be found on her blog). Then, readers volunteer to donate fiber-related stuff. She matches them up at random, announces the winners on her blog, and notifies them via email.

I haven’t been able to work for several months due to a back injury, so I’m not in a place right now to give a ton to charity. However, every little bit helps and I chipped in a modest donation. And then promptly forgot about it, until I read her email saying I had won a karmic balancing gift! She posted a pic on her blog of the goodies that will be finding their way to me soon:

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Cool, right?? Life is hard right now, but…I’ve said it before: the fiber world just keeps giving back to me, over and over. These three skeins are compliments of Lisa L. My thanks to her and to Stephanie for coordinating such an awesome endeavor!

*If you only click on one link out of this post, this is the one. Just do it. You can thank me later.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challege – Day 10

Day 10: Do you have a favorite pattern or designer?

In short, no…not just one! There are tons of awesome designers out there, and patterns for just about anything you could think of. There are, however, a handful of qualities I look for in a designer. I am selective about patterns that I purchase. I am willing to pay a decent price for a good pattern, and am in favor of supporting independent designers, but I expect a lot in return.

First, I appreciate when a pattern is well written. It should be clear and informative while still being concise. All abbreviations used should be described thoroughly in the legend. For example, one of my pet peeves is when ssk is explained simply as “slip, slip, knit”. Someone who had never worked that stitch before, which was everyone at some point, would not know from that description that you must slip each stitch separately, knit-wise, and then knit the two slipped stitches together through the back loops. I think care should be taken to use standard or common abbreviations when possible, as that both alleviates confusion and makes it easier for the knitter to look up any unfamiliar techniques.

Second, I think almost all patterns benefit from a good schematic. I remember looking at sewing patterns with my mom when I was a kid. I was always swayed by the drawings on the front, but my mom taught me to look at the back flap where there were clear diagrams of each variation the pattern contained. You could determine from those schematics if a pattern had gathers or pleats, darts or tucks, etc. Knitting patterns that include schematics are much clearer and easier to understand. I especially appreciate when a schematic includes the direction of the knitting, which is particularly helpful with shawls or other pieces knitted on the bias.

Third, the best patterns are thoroughly tested and tech edited. If I come to a stumbling block, I want to know that I can trust the pattern to have the right numbers and directions. Otherwise, I might second guess myself unnecessarily. Figuring out a complicated pattern can be quite a puzzle, and it’s disappointing if I ultimately determine there’s an error in the pattern.

When knitting, I like to challenge myself to try new things, figure out new techniques, and explore what’s out there. I do not think that challenge should extend to interpreting the pattern itself. The best patterns, those that meet all three criteria above, can help make tricky techniques fly off the needles without all the stress and confusion. A pattern like that, to me, is worth paying a fair price for.

Another quality I like in a pattern is versatility. Not all pieces lend themselves well to this, but many do. I appreciate when a designer has planned out different options or features and provided directions for them. That increases a pattern’s value significantly as it could be used to make things more customized. There are several designers (Tin Can Knits does this consistently) who size their patterns from newborn up through larger adult sizes, which I think is extremely useful. If I’m considering purchasing a pattern, I would be more likely to choose one that provided lots of options.

Finally, there is one practice that I find incredibly off-putting, and that is when designers attempt to place restrictions on what the knitter can do with any finished objects made from their pattern. I have seen multiple patterns that state that you may not sell items made from them, or that you must purchase a “cottage license” in order to have that right. Some say that you may use the pattern only to make items for your own personal use, or to donate to charity. The legal reality is that US copyright laws do not support this, and it only persists because people don’t tend to think designers would make that claim if it weren’t legit. In the US, copyright only covers the actual pattern*, not objects made from it. There’s a ton of discussion about this topic on ravelry so, if you want to delve into it further, there are many descriptions there that are far more detailed and informed than mine (such as some of the posts here). Suffice it to say it irks me when a designer adds such clauses, as it seems they are attempting to take advantage of people’s trusting nature.

So, that’s what I look for in a good pattern! How about you? Do you have a favorite pattern or designer?

A note about Thursday Sock-Along: You might have noticed yesterday was Thursday. You also might have noticed that I failed to notice yesterday was Thursday. Usually, I would have put up a sock post. However, since I haven’t been able to do any sock knitting this week, you’re not missing much! If you’d like to get your sock fix somewhere else, check out my fellow Thursday sock knitters. Paula blogs at Spin a Yarn and Hannah blogs at unsophisticated + jejune.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

*And even that is debatable.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 9

Day 9: What fiber or yarn do you love working with?

Hopefully my answer to this one is not too unpredictably boring, but my favorite yarns to work with are any of the squishy-soft, lusciously dyed wools and wool blends from makers such as madelinetosh and malabrigo. There are many others that I haven’t worked with yet but I covet, like Miss Babs, The Plucky Knitter, and Neighborhood Fiber Co. (I know, I know–I live in Baltimore but haven’t used any of their yarn yet…I’ll get there). Also, I have three delicious skeins of Frabjous Fibers Wonderland Yarns just waiting to turn into something dreamy.

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I like yarns with alpaca, cashmere, silk, or pretty much any other luxury fiber included. One of the yarns I used for my Miller’s Daughter is The Fibre Company Road to China Lace, which is a blend of alpaca, silk, cashmere and camel…and it is delectable.

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I like yarns with interesting or surprising colors, like Noro’s long color repeats and gradient yarns. While I haven’t worked with any speckled colorways yet, I think they look awesome! Someday, when I’m not on a yarn diet, I will sample more of these lovelies. Got to work down the stash first!

All that said, there is something compelling in working with a good, minimally processed, rustic wool. There will always be a place in my heart for natural, tweedy workhorse yarns. I do also think about the origin of fiber and how it got from the animal to my needles. Ideally, when I actually buy yarn again, I would like to keep that process in mind and select yarns that are ethically sourced and produced.

What yarns and fibers tempt you the most?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 8

Day 8: What’s your most challenging project?

There are two kinds of people–those who play favorites, and those who don’t. By that I mean that some people are able to pick out their one favorite thing out of a category, like a favorite ice cream flavor or favorite book. I’ve never been able to narrow things down that much. My superlatives change depending on my mood, the context, what I ate for breakfast that day, you name it. The same idea goes for most anything. So, I am not going to be able to come up with a single answer for today’s question.

What I can say is there’s a reason I’m not exclusively a shawl knitter, or a sock knitter, or an insert-object-of-choice-here knitter, and that’s because I enjoy the challenges that variety brings. I like to be able to make new and different things, or to tackle a complex-looking pattern and chip away at it until it’s manageable (I’m talking to you, Clapotis), and to stretch my skills and expand my experience. With that in mind, my most challenging projects have been the ones that have pushed me to learn something new.

One pattern in particular spurred me to learn how to use dpns. Sometime in college, I made three* different tea cozies using the Kureyon Kozy pattern. Either I hadn’t used dpns prior to that, or I hadn’t used them much as there was definitely a learning curve involved. The pattern begins at the bottom, at the center of the base. You cast on a few stitches and increase as you knit outward, creating a circle. Then, you make a second circle, join them by knitting each stitch together (like a three needle bind off, except you don’t bind off), and then knit upward to form the sides. I must have started and restarted a million times before I got it, but get it I did! And then I was off. Along with the tea cozies, I made several hot pads by making the circles out of kitchen cotton and then binding them off together. In fact, we still have a stained and bedraggled one in use in our kitchen right now. If I were to make a hot pad or cozy now using the same pattern, it would be a breeze–but at the time it was a challenge and it upped my skills significantly.

Another project that challenged me in a new way was knitting my first River District Toque. The construction was different than I had done before–knit the brim flat, join the edges, then pick up stitches around the crown and decrease. That wasn’t hard to do, but I decided I wanted to learn how to graft in pattern to join the edges instead of seaming them. I poked around online until I found a tutorial that worked for me, got to work and ended up with a nearly invisible join. I blogged about it here. It was a really cool new skill to have and, as it turns out, has made regular grafting (Kitchener stitch) seem simple.

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My daughter wearing her River District Toque. Image copyright Callandra S. Cook.

The third project I’ll discuss wasn’t really all that challenging…or wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t kept making mistakes. In an effort to not rip back my Little Phryne for the third or fourth time, I instead dropped one section of it back by several rows then reknitted each partial row. I blogged about that process here. Beware, as the pics included are not for the knitter who is faint of heart! It was definitely a challenge! However, it was a worthwhile skill to learn. I’ve used it a couple of times on other projects already.

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Little Phryne

Of course, while writing this post, I’ve thought of several other projects that would be worth mentioning. I guess that’s the great thing about knitting: the challenges and growth are there to be had whenever you want them, as well as the tried and true, comfortable, TV knitting. They both serve an important purpose for me and I wouldn’t willingly give up either. What about you? What are your most noteworthy knitting challenges?

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

*I know I made at least three, but there may have been more. Two were given away as gifts and one is somewhere around here. I’ll try to dig it out sometime and photograph it.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Days 1-7

I have no idea where this originated, but Talya at Duck and Cover has been blogging about a 30 Day Knitting Challenge and it looked like fun. So, since I am doing a lot of knitting but not actually finishing much, I thought it would be a way to add some interesting content to my blog in the meantime!

Day 1: What was your first finished project?

My first finished project, as far as I can remember, was a pair of pink acrylic bed slippers. I don’t have any memory of them after I finished them, so maybe I gave them away to some poor, unsuspecting soul. Mom, if you are keeping them somewhere, please dig them out and take a picture! And then send them to the happy home for slippers in the sky.

I have no idea what pattern I used. It was in a little pamphlet or learn to knit booklet that my mom had. I remember there was garter stitch involved, and pom poms! The closest thing I can find on ravelry are My Grandmother’s Slippers by Kathy North:

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Image copyright Kathy North. Via ravelry.

I’m pretty sure mine had some random holes in them, though. And they weren’t really so much the same size as each other. They were really something.

 

Day 2: What is currently on your needles?

I have 3 rows left on The Miller’s Daughter and the last 3 or 4 inches on my Twinberry. I am also gradually working on a Feathery Lace Stole.

Day 3: Do you have any other WIPs (works in progress)?

Um, yes. Kind of a lot. I have 6 projects that just need some sort of finishing–elastic added, ends woven in, blocking, etc. Those are my Twirly Summerskirt, Wee La Nina, Oak Way, Zagzig Hat, Zagzig Skirt, and Knight’s Helmet Hat. The last two I’ve actually worked on today. The other 4…I’ve maybe been dragging my feet on!

I also have a project that isn’t currently on the needles but does need a little more knitting done: Athena Shawl. I will get there, one of these days!

Day 4: How did you learn how to knit?

Partially from my mom, partially from the aforementioned learn to knit pamphlets. I can remember scrutinizing the pictures in them, making sure the yarn in my hands was wrapped exactly the way it was in the drawings. I was something of an exacting child when it came to stuff like that.

Day 5: How long did it take from the time your learned how to knit, to finish your first project?

No idea. Months? A year? I sort of learned in fits and starts. I remember working on a swatch for a while during one of my very first attempts. My mom had cast on some stitches, showed me the ropes, then turned me loose. When I brought my work back to show her, I remember her surprise at the fact I had increased the number of stitches on the needle (not the goal). I was so proud…

Day 6: What is your favorite piece that you’ve knit?

I have so many favorites, for so many reasons. Drachenfels was the first time I undertook a large project for myself, and it’s significant to me because I did it as a way to pour positive energy into myself. Quicksilver was my first shawl and a step outside my comfort zone, and I love it for that. Zigzag is an unfinished labor of love that was fascinating and beautiful as it came together. I love Merinda because of how squishy it feels and how the colors interact. I made a hat and scarf set for a dear friend once (pre-rav) that was stolen almost as soon as I gave it to her. However, she loved them, so I love them. I love everything that I’ve knit for my daughter because I love the look of delight she gets on her face when I give them to her.

I love everything I’ve made that’s stretched my skills, piqued my interest, or gotten me through a tough time. I love everything I’ve made that I’ve given to someone knitworthy because I love the joy the recipients have.

Day 7: Your least favorite?

Probably my swell and dashing wristwarmers, made some time ago. I didn’t have a very good sense of gauge and fit at that time, and they both turned out too snug.

And that brings me current! What about you? Did these questions take you on a trip down knitting memory lane? I’d love to hear about it!