A Goodwill Windfall and Gettin’ ‘er Done

I’ve been busy for the past few days hanging out with my mom (who’s visiting) and acquiring more yarn. We like to go thrift shopping and bargain hunting together, so, well, yarn happens. There are worse things I could hoard, right? Well, sometime in May she was in town and we went to our local “Gucci” Goodwill, so named because it’s in a nice area and tends to have higher end inventory. We’ve had good luck there. I was standing near the staff only area when an employee came out carrying two medium sized plastic tubs. I quickly realized they were full of yarn. I got my mom’s attention and told her we needed to follow. We did and, when we started going through the two tubs, quickly realized we’d stumbled across a bonanza. One tub was priced at $30 and the other at $20. We bought them both.

When we got back to the house, we pulled everything out, sorted it and divvied it up. We took turns picking until everything was claimed. This is not everything, but here’s a glimpse at some of the stuff we ended up with:

IMG_2930IMG_2931IMG_2932IMG_2933IMG_2934Some of the stuff you see there is Roz Houseknecht Handweaving Thick ‘N Thin Wool, Colinette Point 5, Classic Elite Inca Alpaca, Rowan Magpie Tweed, Noro Sahara and Noro Gemstones among many, many others. We added up the total sticker price of everything that had a price tag on it (a lot of it didn’t) and got well over $1000. It was a little insane. A few of my projects so far have used yarn from this amazing haul, notably my Old Shale kids blanket which used Colinette Wigwam.

I have a feeling I’ll always be chasing that “yarn bargain” high! We didn’t find anything nearly so awesome today, but I got a few things.

Since my mom is here, I wove in the ends and blocked her Not a Buff so she can take it with her. I like the finished result a lot:

IMG_3672 IMG_3671She seemed pleased with it. I also finished my Valentine Helix Mittens to go with the Valentine Helix Hat:

IMG_3674Ends are woven in and everything! I must be turning over a new leaf. Also, I decided the Old Shale kids blanket didn’t need to be blocked after all, so that is now officially a FO. That’s three whole new FOs! Even though I haven’t had a ton of time for actual knitting, I’m feeling pretty productive.

The mittens were a bit of a bear. I don’t think I would do helical mittens again. They’re a little funky because the extra rows get a little squeezed when they start and end. I think that helical knitting for hand wear should probably be limited to baby mitts that don’t even have thumbs. I would knit this pattern again, just not the same way. They are supposed to be extra good at staying on (that’s what the long cuff is for) so I’m hoping that they’ll be useful.

Happy knitting!

Wait, What Did I Miss???

I haven’t always knitted voraciously like I have recently. I have periods of time when I don’t knit a ton, and periods when I do. For the past few years, I have knitted a little off and on but didn’t really keep up with trends or ravelry or anything. I knew that styles and patterns were evolving and changing, but didn’t really consider that maybe techniques were being developed as well. Imagine my surprise when, the other day, I discovered Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on for single or double rib. I was looking for directions for a good cast on for ribbing and just stumbled across it. I tried it, liked it, and proceeded to use it for several projects that all started in rib. Including my current WIP Not a Buff.

So, last night I knit the last of the pattern section and the final rows of ribbing. I thought about binding off in pattern, which is how I’ve typically treated rib in the past, and just balked. The cast on edge was so stretchy and soft, and it followed the wavy zig zag contour of the rib. It did not flare out, distort the shape of the ribs, pull or look too tight. It just stretched very satisfyingly and then returned to its soft accordion folds. I couldn’t bear the thought of the cast off edge not living up to the cast on edge’s standards! So back to the web I went.

Well, I found Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, or JSSBO. I researched it along with a couple of other methods and decided it had the best chance of matching the cast on edge well. I stayed up way too late casting off all 140 stitches using it and I’m more than a little enamored. The two edges are very, very similar, to the point where it takes me a few moments to determine which is which.

These are the cast on edge:

tbcaston4 tbcaston2 tbcaston3

The color isn’t accurate as the lighting isn’t great, but you can see how nicely defined the ribs are. These images are from the cast off edge:

jssbo5 jssbo3 jssbo2

The only really good way to tell them apart is by looking for the twist at the top of each rib on the JSSBO. They both scrunch up and stretch back in the same squishy, gratifying way. I might have spent several moments last night squeezing my knitting, and no, that’s not a euphemism for anything!

All that is left to do for this piece is weave in the ends and then I think I will block it. I know it doesn’t really require blocking, but since the yarn has a bit of a shine to it, it has very high stitch definition. That means that the line and shaping show off well, but it also means that any little errant twist is extra visible. So, I will block it just to smooth everything out and make it all look a little neater.

In other finishing news, the wifey found my copy of The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie M. Wiseman! I don’t plan to stop searching out new techniques, but I am glad to have it on hand as a resource.

So, now that one WIP is off the needles, I am thinking more and more about the next project. I still have my Old Shale kids blanket in progress but am waiting for three more skeins of yarn before I can work on it. I have a couple of other random things to wrap up, but nothing that requires actual knitting, just finishing. I have a “knitting date” with a new friend on Thursday so I want to have something up and running by then. Here are some of the options I’m tossing around:

  • A flower washcloth for my daughter using this pattern and a ball of white and green cotton she and the wifey found at Goodwill the other day
  • A twirly skirt for my daughter (sans kittens or hearts) using purple and blue yarn from my stash
  • A Quicksilver for the wifey using some very yummy Cherry Tree Hill Supersock
  • One of these reversible cabled scarf patterns: Gwynedd, Palindrome, Rivulet or this one from Cables Untangled by Melissa Leapman. I’ve made the last one before a couple of times and really love it. I’m a little obsessed with Rivulet, though. I think that one might win. I haven’t selected a yarn to use yet.
  • One of easily a few dozen other patterns I’ve been drooling over lately

Lots to decide! I would like to fast forward through my two twelve hour shifts tomorrow and Wednesday and just commence with the knitting!

The Bitter End

Knitters, how do you find motivation to complete WIPs that have gotten…monotonous? Do you complete them? Or do you have a stash of hibernating, nearly complete projects? I don’t usually have an issue knitting through to the end, but I definitely lag behind when it comes to weaving in ends and doing seaming and finishing bits (case in point: my Capucine, languishing without its tassels). Like many “efficient” knitters, I tend to gravitate toward projects that have minimal finishing needs, and prefer using grafting/Kitchener stitch and the like when possible.

I just measured my Not a Buff and it is, conservatively, 15.5″. That means I have only 3.5″ to go before switching to rib, and only another inch or so after that to be done. But man, does it feel like pulling teeth. I keep browsing patterns and projects on ravelry, pondering what’s going on the needles next, dreaming of the gems in my stash and how they will morph into projects. I just want it to be done already! Any tips for gritting through? Or recommendations for my Netflix queue?

A few days ago, I was looking through boxes of knitting and craft supplies that have remained packed since our move three years ago. One was marked WIPs, and I sort of dreaded opening it. I’m glad I did, as I found the ggh tajmahal I’m using now (in a previously unfinished and abandoned sweet pea), as well as an in-need-of-frogging monica in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece. However, there were a few other things in there that brought a little sadness and anxiety and I’m trying to determine how to handle them.

First, an unfinished unbiased that I made out of wool that my mother brought back for me from Scotland. The wool is a beautiful heathery charcoal color but it is very very coarse. I have a high wool tolerance, but this is out of my league. So, I thought that making a bag out of it would be a good idea. I modified the pattern as I didn’t have quite enough yardage to finish. As a result, the V in the middle makes the bag too shallow to really function. I had this thought that I would line it with rectangular patterns that would cover the open V shape, but never got around to it (see above re: finishing; I’m even worse with doing linings/backings). In the meantime, my style has really changed and I can’t see myself ever carrying a handbag anymore, and so it sits. I suppose I should frog it, but it’s hard to sacrifice the work that went into it.

Second, I found my zigzag blanket that was intended for one of my twin nephlets as a baby (they are seven now, I think). I worked so. hard. on that blanket. I got through so much of the finishing: I seamed a million or so squares together, worked in a lot of the ends, picked up and knitted a border…but never put the backing on. And so it sits. I will try to finish it sometime as I really love it and want it to be put to use somehow.

Last, a scarf/stole that I knitted while a close friend’s mother was critically ill. It’s in Araucania Nature Cotton. I think I used a BW pattern called Rosebud? Something to do with roses. In any case, I had intended to give it to her when she recovered, but she passed away. I planned to give it to my friend instead and all this time (it’s been six or seven years) I thought that’s what I had done. So, when I found it in that box, a wave of sadness hit me. I had finished knitting it but never weaved in the ends or blocked it. I think I will finish it and give it to her, but I’m sad that I never did before.

The positive side of all this is that there is so much potential here, in all these nearly-done WIPs. There’s something extremely gratifying about completely finishing a project and then sending it out into the world to begin its new role. Handmade things go from projects that bring me joy to FOs that can potentially bring others joy (or me, when I make something for myself…it does happen sometimes). I love that I can make things that are both beautiful and useful, and also special because they were made for a purpose for someone.

On Finding Yarn and Finishing Techniques

The universe is not helping me on my stashbusting mission. First, the Goodwill windfall. Next, a fellow raveler decided to give away some of her own stash, and I was the lucky recipient of another windfall. Then, I discovered DBNY. Lastly, I was poking through a closet yesterday, opened a project bag I haven’t seen in a while, and found several skeins of different yarns (as well as four out of five of my US 3 dpns). Guys, this was pretty cool. Not only could I really use those dpns, but some of the yarn? Awesome! An untouched skein of Noro Silver Thaw! There was some other stuff in there, too–some kitchen cotton, some higher quality DK cotton, some sock yarn, a couple of other random things. But brand new Noro? Beautiful. I love Noro yarns, both for the long long long color repeats and for the interesting and often luxurious fiber blends. So now I just have to figure out what to do with it…

noro silver thaw

What I actually thought I might find in that project bag was my copy of The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie M. Wiseman. I bought it many years ago and have used almost every page. I can’t find it currently and it’s driving me nuts. I’ve had to resort to the internet for questions about technique selection, finishing tips and the like, and it can be really hard to track down a good source. I like the book a lot because for each topic, several different options are discussed and the pros and cons are listed for each. The silver lining in this is that a week or two ago while looking for a decent comparison of cast ons for ribbing, i stumbled across this little gem: Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on for single or double rib. I used it for the project I was working on (Capucine), then for the next project (Bel et Bon mitts), then for the next and…you get the picture. If you haven’t used it before, I would highly recommend trying it. It’s good for anything with 1×1 or 2×2 rib, is very stretchy and is very fast and easy. And, it doesn’t require doing a long tail anything! I always misjudge the amount of yarn needed for those and end up either short or wasting some. So yeah, check it out.

I still hope I find my book soon. Maybe if I keep looking for it, I’ll find more stashes of Noro or other fiber bonanzas I’ve stored and forgotten about!

Not a Buff update: about half done, give or take. I may make it a little less than the prescribed 20″. But then again, I may not. I’m concocting a ggh tajmahal review post in my head for once it’s done.

The Strangest Thing…

So, in my first post, I mentioned that I struggle with depression, right? I promise this won’t be a post (or a blog) just about mental health–there will be knitting too. But, depression is something that I always tend to hide, and I want to start to speak out about it some. At least, I’d like to think and talk about how it affects my life.

So yes, the strangest thing happened to me today. This morning, when my wife’s alarm went off and my toddler started stirring (anyone with a toddler knows that “stirring” is a very loud process), my first several waking thoughts surprised me. They were not what they usually are. That is, they were not anything along the lines of “Dear God, why me?” or “It’s got to be several hours before I have to get up” or “Ten more minutes, for the love of Bob!” They weren’t even close to “blah blah blurrrrrrghhh”. Nope. Know what they were?

“Man, I can’t wait to get up and go work on my knitting project!”

I can’t remember being excited to get out of bed, pretty much ever. The only exception would be Christmas morning as a very young child. Other than that, I’ve always been a night owl, an insomniac, the veritable opposite of a morning person. This is significant for a lot of reasons–it means things are going very well, treatment is helping, and that there is hope for things to change. Very recently, it was a feat of strength and motivation to get out of bed at all. This is very different. I would like to bottle up this feeling and save it so that next time things are really bad, I can open it up and just take a whiff. Not as a cure, though. Just a reminder that things are not hopeless, that they can get better.

Okay, on to the knitting! The project that inspired these thoughts is my Not a Buff that I’m making for my mom. I’ve gotten just shy of 6″ done, which is about 30% complete. The yarn (ggh tajmahal) is so pretty and soft, the design simple but still interesting, the fabric stretchy and supple. The yarn is, I think, a 3 ply, but it knits up a little like a single the way the stitches slant on one side. It’s got a soft shine to it that is pretty but perfectly understated. In short, I really like it.
not a buff

There are a couple of things that I might change if I knit this pattern again. It calls for a slipped stitch on every repeat, but doesn’t specify to slip as to knit or as to purl. I’ve been slipping as if to purl the whole time and am wondering if it was a mistake. I’m thinking that might be why the first stitch of each traveling band is sort of twisted outward. I’m not going to rip it back and start over, but I would try it the other way next time. I don’t think it looks bad the way it is–it’s actually kind of pretty. The other thing I might do differently is experiment a little with the different ways to do M1. There’s one of those on every repeat, as well. I’m doing it front to back, but forgot to knit it through the back loops. Again, not something I’m going to rip it back for, but something I would try different ways next time before committing to one. Pretty minor stuff, in all. The color in the closeup photo is really washed out, but you can see the stitch detail pretty clearly.
buff closeup

My other WIPs are in the same state as before. I’ve got good momentum going on the buff, so I want to see that through for now. Once I get to a clearing between projects, I’m contemplating switching my knitting style to continental. I’ve almost always been a thrower since learning around age 7. A friend in college was a continental knitter, and I had the chance to see how much faster it was. I successfully transitioned over, but then had a long spell when I wasn’t knitting. When I picked the needles back up a few months later, my muscles just remembered throwing. But, I was reading about it on the forums on Ravelry yesterday, and found that a lot of people have successfully transitioned. So I think there might be hope for me yet! I want to wait until I’m between projects, though, because I don’t want my gauge to get screwed up.

Enough musings for one morning…on to the knitting I woke up wanting to do!