Thrifty Knitting

I love yarn and I love shopping, but seeing as I’m not working at the moment, I’m on a serious budget. I also might already have a decent amount of yarn. But every once in a while, the thrill of the hunt hits, and I just can’t help myself! A few days ago we took a quick trip to the GWBTP*. I haven’t gone in a while because it involves a lot of bending and reaching, and those have been difficult for me for a while now. But, the wifey agreed to be my “arms” so we did a short trip.

It’s hit or miss there usually. This time was more hit than miss, and before we knew it we had two carts full of stuff (don’t worry, Mom, we pared it down to less than one–and it was cheap). I don’t often find yarn there and, when I do, it’s almost always cheaper stuff that I don’t feel the need to bring home. This time I found a Ziploc bag with some yarn in it, but only one ball made it into the cart. There was a pair of short US10 Brittany wooden needles that came along for the ride, too. I also picked up a pair of unused makeup bags that I thought would make nice project bags. It wasn’t till I got them home that I realized the yarn and bags coordinated:

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I’ve been wanting a couple of new dishcloths lately, so I’ll use that kitchen cotton to start whipping some up!

I keep hearing good things about Cat Bordhi’s book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters.

Image from amazon.com

So, we stopped by the library the other day and I checked to see if they had it. They didn’t, and neither did any other libraries in the state of Maryland (at least on that network). I arranged for it to be ordered on interlibrary loan, and it’s on its way! If it ends up being the solid resource I’m expecting it to be, I’ll pick up a used copy on amazon. They did have a copy of New Directions in Sock Knitting by Ann Budd, so I checked that out:

Image from amazon.com

The last time my mom was in town, we took a quick weekend trip to my home town. On the way back, we popped into a few different thrift stores, just for fun. We didn’t find much that day, but I did stop to snap a picture of these plates I saw:

There were a few of each design. I thought it was interesting that there were a bunch of plates with spinning wheels on them. I hope a spinner found them and bought them!

I actually bought yarn for a project the other day. Remember I posted about going to my LYS’s “yarn tasting” happy hour recently? Well, all the yarns they had available for “tasting” were 10% off. Our friend (and our daughter’s nanny) has a new niece who hasn’t had an easy road of it, health-wise. I wanted to knit something for her and her mom chose a small blanket. I looked for a while for the right yarn for it, but had a hard time finding something just right that was also reasonably priced. I wanted it to be machine washable and dryable, but not to be 100% synthetic. I looked through a ton of different options online but wasn’t quite sold on any of them. Well, my LYS had some Kraemer Tatamy Tweed DK up for tasting and I gave it a try. It’s a 45% cotton/55% acrylic blend that’s completely washable. It feels soft and has a little shine to it, but it also has just the right amount of subtle tweedy texture. I bought four skeins for a total of about 1000 yards. It should be enough to make this free blanket pattern on ravelry:

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It’s the Baby Shane Blanket pattern by Tanis Lavallee (image taken from the ravelry pattern page). I have two skeins of neutral grey and one each of pink and lavender, so I’ll do two grey/pink triangles and two grey/lavender triangles. I think it will look really nice!

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While I would love nothing more than to buy some squishy soft madelinetosh or malabrigo superwash and make a beautiful blanket out of that, it’s just not in the cards right now. So, I’m doing the best with what I’ve got, and am very happy with how it’s working out. I might add this project to my Ravellenic Games plan. Think I can knit a thousand yards of blanket in a couple of weeks?

How’s your knitting going, thrifty or otherwise? Made any splurges lately?

*Goodwill by the pound, or Goodwill Outlet for those not in the know. It’s a thrift store where everything is priced by the pound instead of individually. There’s a ton of great stuff to be found but you’ve got to be willing to dig through bins of stuff to find it.

Drachenfels and the Art of Thrifting Yarn

Making good progress on my Drachenfels. I chose to make this a four color design instead of three, so mine is shaping up a little different (which I love). The original pattern starts with two colors and about halfway through, the first color is phased out and the third color is added. So, in the sample knitted by Melanie Berg, the shawl is chocolate and light pink on one and and red and light pink on the other. For mine, I chose to start with colors A and B and transition to C and D, so the two ends of my shawl will look very different from each other. I was not sure initially that that was the best choice, but I love it. I really do. I’ve just phased out the second original color so am working only with dark grey and light blue. So so cool. These pics help show the last color transition:

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And this helps show what the different parts of the shawl will look like together:

IMG_3849I’ve mapped out how much bigger I’ll make it. The pattern calls for continued increasing throughout the garter ridge stripes, then a solid color section, then the edging and I cord bind off. I’ve already knitted to the total number of stitches the pattern calls for but I’m going to keep going for a ways. I’m not a petite person and I want to really be able to wrap up in this. So, I’m going to do a 2 color stripe section for 42 rows, a solid color section for 42 rows, then the prescribed 30 rows of edging. At least. That will put me at around 114 rows and 72 stitches over the pattern. If the solid color section looks like it needs to be longer, I will just keep going. Lord knows I might as well use up some yarn!

Speaking of using yarn, I’m sad to report that I’m on something of a yarn diet. While my mom was in town, we got into a rhythm of checking out thrift stores and just poking around. Predictably, I always found the yarn section and my rate of acquisition increased (by a lot). I tried to limit my purchases to yarn with at least some cotton or wool content and with enough yardage to be useful. I think my best find was at our local Goodwill By The Pound, or GWBTP as we’ve dubbed it. The official name is the Goodwill Outlet, I think. We discovered this place about three years ago, shortly after we moved. Have others found similar places? It’s a Goodwill but instead of items being priced individually, everything is sold by weight. Clothes are a certain price per pound, housewares another, etc. etc. Shoes and furniture are sold individually at very low prices. For someone like me who loves to pick through stuff to find bargains, it’s pretty much akin to heaven. I do have to be in the right mood as it’s labor intensive and, frankly, pretty gross. But I’ve found some awesome stuff there for ridiculously low prices.

Anyway, a day or two before my mom left for home, we stopped by the GWBTP for a bit. I almost never find yarn there and, when I do, it’s usually in really poor condition. The wifey once found a ball of nice kitchen cotton there that became flower washcloths, but that’s it. Well, that day I found a bag of yarn with several unmarked balls along with three nearly full skeins of Rowan Kidsilk Haze. I would describe the color as electric purple. I love it. That yarn typically retails for around $15 a skein. I don’t know exactly how much that bag of yarn cost me, but it was well under a dollar. Just call me Charlie Sheen!

IMG_3843I also found a big batch of knitting and crochet needles in a fabric case. I sorted them all out the other night and added the hooks and dpns to my inventory. I haven’t gotten to the straight needles yet. Here’s a shot of the bunch:

IMG_3845That doesn’t include the case or the straight needle orphans. That’s 16 pairs of straights, one circ, five complete sets of dpns, three crochet hooks and two stitch holders. The handful of dpns in the upper right corner are orphans. I’ll keep them so I can supplement some of the four needle sets I have. The bag was $7. Some of the things are really interesting. For instance, the set of 5 tiny dpns half wedged under the packet of red needles is a very old set of sock or stocking needles. Those are gauge 0. I have another set just like them except 00. If I ever decide to knit stockings, I’ll be all set. Also, there’s a set of 10″ red aluminum dpns. I love longer dpns–they come in handy if I don’t have the right size circ and they’re easier for me because I have large hands. The two steel crochet hooks are a bit of a mystery to me. I tried doing some online research to determine what sizes they are but didn’t have much luck. I do know that one of them is the smallest crochet hook I’ve ever seen by far. I suppose I could use it to fix dropped stitches when I start knitting my cobweb-weight stockings with my 00 dpns (ha).

After my mom went home, the steady rhythm of thrift store shopping has slowed. That’s probably a good thing as I don’t really need yarn. I still keep an eye on sales online but am limiting myself to only really lovely yarn at equally lovely prices. What? I can’t just stop cold turkey! At least I have projects in mind for lots of it. I intend to keep it moving and, in my mind, that justifies my stash.

Right?

EDIT: I’m posting from a coffee shop with less-than-awesome wifi. The images in this post aren’t showing up when I try to view it. If that’s the case for anyone else, please leave a comment and I will try to fix it when I have a better connection.

Splitty Yarn, Splitty…Needles??

I am working on the project from hell right now. Many people say that life is too short to knit things you don’t like. In theory, I agree. However, I’m doing this for the greater good! Here are my reasons for forging ahead, despite the fact that every stitch is agony on some level.

  1. The stash. I have a lot of yarn. Not as much as I’ve seen on some people’s ravelry accounts, but still a lot. A good portion of it is beautiful, high quality fiber, a pleasure to work with. A much larger portion is stuff that I acquired before I really knew about LYSes or that there was such a thing as soft wool. Some of it was given to me. Some of it was thrifted and just seemed like too good a deal to pass up. In any case, I have a really hard time getting rid of yarn because I always think that maybe someday it would be useful. So, I want to use up as much of my stash that I don’t love as I can so that I can get it out into the world and out of my basement.
  2. The project and its intended recipient. I’m making a baby sweater for a little one who’s just a few months old. His parents are first timers and non-knitters. The last thing they need is to be saddled with something they have to hand wash, dry flat, and worry about ruining. Even superwash wool has its issues, so in this case I think acrylic is the best bet.
  3. I’m almost done. It didn’t get really bad until I started knitting the sleeves (I will explain further). At that point, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice all the work I’d already done.

So, some details about the project. I’m using this garter yoke baby cardi pattern with only a couple of modifications. I put ribbing at the bottom of the body and the sleeves instead of garter stitch and some of my measurements are a little different (I got stitch gauge but not row gauge…story of my knitting life). I’m using Caron Simply Soft Tweed in black. It is pretty soft for acrylic, but when it’s knitted at a tight-ish gauge, it doesn’t feel as great. I don’t love the yarn and I don’t love the color, but it’s what I ended up with so I’m going for it.

When I started, it was okay. It went pretty quickly. The pattern is nice enough and pretty easy. I was using a set of my new Addi Sock Rockets. Let me back up a little…in a previous post, I discussed a little about knitting needles and my preferences. Fogknits left me a very useful comment:

I LOVE Addi Rockets! I’m not a fan of the brass coating on the lace. The Rockets are the perfect compromise for me 🙂

Sadly, I don’t like the Addi Click set at all. The join is not smooth at all. The ‘click’ bit works perfect…I have never once had a tip fall off and leave me in a panic but it’s really had to get beyond that join. Addis are so perfect otherwise. It’s a disappointment to me.

I highly recommend trying it out before buying, maybe a local friend or even a shop will let you try them out first. I’ve just accepted it and buy the fixed sets.

Shortly after that, I stumbled across a serious deal on ebay for some Addis. I might have bought a lot of them (like, ten). The ones I got are essentially sock rockets but they are the kind that were only available in Europe, I think. In any case, they have the long pointy lace tips, the super slick nickel coating and red cables. I love them. They are absolutely perfect.

So, I started the baby cardi on a set of my new needles. Even though the yarn is a bit splitty, and a bit squeaky when knitted tightly (I’m a rather snug knitter), having it on the Addis made it tolerable. Then came time to knit the sleeves, so I dug out my size 6 dpns. Well, the set I used are Surina brand. I got a bunch of them on sale online somewhere and hadn’t used any of them yet. Well, they did not work out well for me at all. They’re not completely uniform in width, the points are weirdly extra sharp yet have a very short taper, and worst of all…the tips are splitty. Yes, splitty. Don’t ask me how knitting needles can be splitty, but these are. The tips are just too pointy and sharp to hold up to actual use. Splitty yarn combined with splitty needles makes for some tedious knitting! So, doing the sleeves was akin to absolute torture. The good news? The sleeves are done so I can go back to my Addis for the button bands!

Here’s an in progress pic:

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And a close up of the knitting:

IMG_3507And the current state of afffairs:

IMG_3542It probably won’t get finished for a couple more days as I haven’t picked out buttons yet. That will involve a foray into the basement which, honestly, could take hours! So I get to cast on for something else in the meantime. Unfortunately, I can’t share details on my next project yet as it’s a test knit that I need to keep under wraps until the pattern is published. I can divulge one thing: I am planning (as long as gauge cooperates) to use this yarn from my Goodwill windfall. That will help with my efforts to keep my stash moving and put things to good use!

In other knitting news, I have my first pic featured on a pattern page on ravelry! I owe this much more to the cuteness of my daughter and the photography skills of my wife than my own knitting prowess, but I’m still pretty psyched about it. The project is my Valentine Helix Hat and this is the pic (photo credit to the wifey):

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