Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Little Bit More on Lett-Lopi Yarn - What Does it Feel Like When It's Knitted and Blocked?

There aren't a lot of posts or resources that will tell you what Lett-Lopi (Icelandic yarn) actually feels like when you wear it. And when you feel it on the skein you might be afraid to give it a try because it's very scratchy. It's not a plush ball of softness of the sort we next-generation knitters trend towards. But man, this stuff is never going to pill.

Having worn my new vest yesterday (admittedly only once so far) I can tell you this:
  • It was incredibly warm but not in the way that some knits tend to overheat one. There was a lot of openness in the fabric so that it trapped warmth but also allowed for circulation. A+ on this account.
  • Scratchy does NOT equal itchy. Scratchy is a quality of long and short fibers cohering in an unrefined yarn. Itchy is what happens when you wear mohair or alpaca or acrylic (or something else which your personal ecosystem may not appreciate). So, unless you're sensitive to wool, I don't think you need to worry.
  • Scratchy does NOT equal harsh. This yarn - which touched my neck all over, for hours, was actually beautifully soft. Sure, soaking it in hair conditioner didn't hurt - not that it softened the hand more than slightly. I had no reaction. I can imagine that if you wore this and overheated (started sweating) you could get uncomfortable because then the wool halo and the sweat would start to interact. But I had no issues with it and I'm the one who loves cashmere. No, I wouldn't make a fitted sweater out of it - or something which would directly touch a large portion of my skin - because I prefer thinner knits in that context and this might produce a weird sensation against one's entire torso. Mind you, I would make gloves or a scarf out of it without concern. Note: The peeps who wear Icelandic sweaters, made with this yarn, are likely wearing a layer between the non-fitted sweater and their bodies.
Inasmuch as every use of different styles of yarn advances one's understanding of this craft, of textile production, of fiber - I totally recommend that you give it a try. I don't think there's huge application for this yarn, for most people, but those who love it are really hooked. FWIW, if you're not in a northern climate, I think it would be too warm a material to utilize more than exceedingly occasionally.

I would use it again, though I won't rush out to buy it. What can I say? You can take the girl out of the worsted-spun but you can't take the worsted-spun out of the girl... (Does that sound weird?)

But enough of my views - what do you think of Lett-Lopi?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 12 - Circular Vest

I fucking love this one:

Sometimes stash-leads to kismet. Y'all have to make this garment. It takes about 2 weeks (if you're serious) and somewhere around 500 yards of aran-weight yarn. You could easily make one for your best friend for Xmas and totally blow her mind!

Let's Talk About The Pattern: It's not a difficult knit but it is a bit fussy and it does get tedious at the end. Mind you, it's pretty enjoyable, despite that, because the fabric that emerges from one (reasonably) straight-forward pattern 4-row repeat is pretty cool. With a simple flat-knit, short row technique, the waistcoat becomes a circle which is seamed up at the end and into which a back panel is inserted. The armholes are the unsewn space between the sides of the waistcoat circle and the back panel.

Here's the thing, next time, I'd do this differently. Yeah, I know, next time I do everything differently but hear me out. Instead of seaming up the bound-off edges of the circle at the end, which can be a bit messier than necessary, I'd provisionally cast on, at the start, and 3-needle bind off the 2 edges of live stitches at the end. This would take virtually no additional effort. I'd also consider picking up stitches at the bottom of the waistcoat circle, knitting the required number of rows and then seaming it at the top. Mind you, the back panel is inserted width-wise to match the direction of the garter stitch in the waistcoat, so that consistency would be sacrificed for a neater join...

I made the back panel wider than the pattern calls for because I think, as drafted, it looks skinny and strange. I also made it shorter so that the armholes wouldn't be too long for me. What I'd say is that the instructions, from a sizing perspective, are a guideline. I made a modified medium, after starting with a small and realizing that it likely wouldn't be long enough given that I worked with needles 2 sizes smaller than recommended. Strangely, I got gauge with those needles, but gauge is worked in garter and I don't think it translated well to the very nubby blackberry pattern at the edges of the waistcoat circle. Having said that, I like the fabric that the smaller needle size produced so I would definitely use the same needle size again.

Great thing is that every size of this garment starts exactly the same way, by casting on 44 stitches. This allows for easy modification as you go. See my Ravelry notes for more details on what I did to modify the size.

What about that crazy yarn?? As you know, my friend Michael brought me back the Lett-Lopi from Iceland last summer as a gift. He bought it in the grocery store and cheerfully advised that it cost $4.20 CDN per skein. This garment took slightly over 4 skeins so, technically, this garment cost under $20 bucks to make.

BTW, Karen Templer from Fringe Association (a blog you should follow whether you like knitting or not), is a nut for this yarn. She started singing its praises recently (long after it had made its way into my stash) and that gave me confidence to try it out. Part of my issue is that I didn't really have enough to make a sweater and it's not well suited to small accessories that touch the skin.

This yarn is hardcore. It's like wearing a sheep. It's hairy and scratchy (though not as scratchy as it looks - and less scratchy still after blocking, especially if you follow up the wash with a soak in hair conditioner. BTW, don't use a lot of conditioner and don't rinse it out at the end.)

The yarn is unparalleled in its warmth given that shorter and longer wool fibres are carded together to produce a yarn that's spun with a lot of air trapped between these fibres. I mean, this is the stuff the Icelandic fishermen wear. The relatively untreated state of the yarn lends to its waterproof properties (these are somewhat stripped by washing, hence the addition of conditioner at the end. Some prefer to wash with lanolin-enriched Eucalan, but I don't have any and I didn't see how conditioner could hurt.)

This yarn is not my jam but I became increasingly enamoured of it as I went. It unrefinement is quite spectacular, if unappealing, like a harsh landscape. You can feel its durability. Furthermore, it's beautifully dyed to provide a very deep, but clear navy blue. It blocks fantastically, better than any springy yarn. On the flip side, it is barely spun. I mean, whole yards come out like carded fiber, simply held together by the strength of the wool, having disparate texture and gauge. Some bits are aran-weight, other bits like fingering. It's odd.

Now, it doesn't have a lot of drape, unsurprisingly, which is why I thought it would either work perfectly, or horribly, with this pattern. Remember, I didn't have a lot of choice given my yardage and the need to keep this second-layer. I thought that the structure could be good for this garment, as long as it didn't produce a stiff end-result.

As of now, I think it has worked entirely adequately - and time/wearing will tell if I think better or worse of it, in the end. Next time I make this, though, I'll use a drapier yarn (not alpaca, but a smoother worsted-spun) because it's the only way to get length in the garment without bulking up the collar.

What do I mean by that? Well, the bodice (waistcoat) is a circle. Whatever part of it allows for its vertical extension also gathers at the neckline to form the lovely shawl collar. I love a shawl collar but this one doesn't have modifiable dimensions because it is not seamed on. I'm already short with a short torso so this means this version has, arguably, too much collar for my proportions. But, I'd like a bit more length in that circle (than I got this time around) without adding to the bulk at the neck. The only way to achieve that is by using a yarn with more drag (i.e. a softer hand). It won't be as durable or as warm, but it may provide a better drape to suit my needs.

I think it's particularly chic with my wooden shawl pin.

Another plus of this pattern is that it can be made to suit a lot of shapes (though some better than others). I mean, a long or wide person will have better luck given how it's drafted, but it's totally achievable for other shapes. I sense it would be least suitable for a wide, short person who carries most of her weight in the middle but careful yarn choice might mitigate that issue.

So what do you think? Do you like this? Would you make it? Let's talk!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Five Ds

Nothing like being woken to the crash of ice falling from your roof. It actually sounds like part of the house is disconnecting which, given the reason for my upcoming reno, is off putting. (Note: the back of the house is in no imminent danger of falling down - but homeowners woken to crashing noise are apt to freak out for a second or two.)

The elephant in the post is that there's freakin' ice falling off my roof and it's practically April. I wish I could say this is unlikely. I wish I could say that we didn't just have a stupid fucking ice storm (not severe) wherein it was dangerous to walk to the streetcar, never mind to work. I wish I could say that the phone lines were up again - in only because we have IP television that totally doesn't work going into the weekend. I wish I could say that we've seen something other than dull grey and brown in the last week and a half. I wish I could say that when we saw sun a week and a half ago, it was for longer than a day.

I realize these posts are ubiquitous at this time of the year, but honestly, late winter weather in Toronto - alright, most of Southern Ontario - is hideous. It has all the detractors of English weather (trust me, I know, I lived there) - horrible damp that cuts to the bones, and encourages many kinds of pain. It has all the detractors of northern weather, if intermittently: snow, ice, consistently frozen temps. But it loves to hover at a temperature that combines the utter worst of both. Toronto sits at the nexus of several competing weather forces which results in weather patterns stalling overhead - the occluded front, as they say. The result is constant dull, dank, dark, damp and DEPRESSING. Sure, we're protected from many extremes, but the price we pay is weather "solitary".

If you live in Winnipeg, God help you in winter, but at least you have a lot of sun. If you live in Vancouver, you've never seen the sun so you don't know what you're missing - but you can wear your cute yoga outfits year round (and they're waterproof) - not to mention that it's freakin' urban-nature at its best. If you live in Montreal, you live in Montreal, so stop gloating and eat a bagel. If you live in NYC, you're bound to get a hurricane now and again but your spring starts a month before ours and you see the sun. If you live in North Carolina, it's been nice since late February.

Right about now I hate-envy everyone who doesn't have to go through this, which I realize makes me small.

So - peeps who also live in places where the weather sucks for long stretches: How do you handle this? Moreover, where do you live (cuz I want to stay the hell away)? How do you justify slogging through year after year. FYI, I never book winter vacations to warm places because the idea of returning to Toronto, only to go back into weather misery, is too wretched to consider. Let's talk!

PS: This isn't the time to tell me about your crocuses. :-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Time Travel

I'm taking a break from my late evening stress coma to urge you to watch this unbelievable piece of history. (Amazingly, it was filmed in 1978. With the exception of some clothing, it looks as if it could have been shot in 1950.):

Honestly, spend the 26 minutes transfixed by how a sheep turns into dyed, plied yarn - old-school-like. You will marvel at the skill of these people. Word to the wise: It gets off to a very slow start but don't give up on. It goes from boring documentary period piece to fascinating a little after 5 minutes.

Damn, I've turned into one of those crazy spinning-ladies-to-be. But I can actually feel peace emanating from the celluloid. Those women are tripping.

(I found this clip on KnittyBlog today, a site which I recommend you support, if that's your thing.)

I was transported. Do tell me what you think.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Adventures and Hard Work

I've moved into a super nova busy time at work. In some ways, the next 6 weeks is likely to hold the most complex and challenging professional adventure I've been on yet. I'm stressed out about it. I dwell on the difficult moments; I scarcely take a minute to reflect on the praise. (Admittedly, there's more difficult than praise.) But I wonder why it is that I am hardwired to ruminate on the unpleasant, the moments of tension, while I let the (equally effusive) positives fly by.

This is not phase that I will allow to compel me. I've spent 45 years getting ready to apply my life experience intelligently. But I may be absent more frequently if this pace continues. I work long hours straight, these days. Seriously, no time to get a tea in the kitchen or to find healthy food or to pee. And yes, I realize it's not healthy. But sometimes we have to stretch ourselves. Friday, I managed to eat a donut and chips for lunch, while I negotiated with a worried client. OK, don't cry for me. It was a crema catalana beignet from Bar Raval (which I picked up on my way into work, pretty sure it would be a batshit crazy day) and the chips were overpriced, jalapeno kettle cut things. These foods were strangely well-paired.

The other day my mentor came into my office and, after listening to me fast-talk with agitation for 5 minutes, inquired as to whether I was secretly pleased to be working on something so intellectually and interpersonally challenging. Way to put things into context. I guess that's why they tell you to find a mentor.

But in the quiet moments between the crazy days, I knit. (You'll note how much I've been knitting lately.)

I mentioned recently that I'd bought 2 interchangeable needle kits by Knitter's Pride, a brand I don't know much about though I do own a couple of KP bamboo circulars. This company produces numerous styles of needles and, while I'm not one to be tied down by one brand of needles - I cast my lot with Addis, pretty early on, and I don't love them in the end - I do like to mix and match. Furthermore, I'm thrilled by the idea that 6 needles, with detachable cables, can produce a zillion different options.

Here's what I got:

Knitter's Pride Comby Interchangeable Sampler Set

1 pair Symfonie Dreamz (distinctively colored wood) (US 6 / 4.0 mm)

1 pair Cubics (cube-shaped wood) (US 7 / 4.5 mm)

1 pair Nova (nickel-plated brass) (US 8 / 5.0 mm)

1 24" cable
1 40" cable
4 end caps 
2 cord keys

Tips are 4.5" long. (That's the actual length of the needles that attach to the cords and join.)

Knitter's Pride Comby Interchangeable Sampler Set II: 

1 pair Karbonz (US 2.5/ 3.00mm) tips

1 pair Bamboo (US 4/ 3.5mm) tips

1 pair Nova Cubics Platina (US 6/ 4.00mm) tips

1 24" cable
1 40" cable
4 end caps
2 cord keys

Tips are 4.5" long.

The cost for both sets, including shipping, purchased online from the US, was 69 bucks CDN. Very well-priced IMO, given that I get to try a many new things - even if I'd have preferred needle sizes at either extreme of the gauge range because I use really small needles most often and I don't have all the large needle sizes in my cache already. Of course, you're only going to find the steady middle in a sample kit, to suit the largest demographic. No, I don't need these sets but I want them. How will I ever learn about different needle shapes and composite materials, applied to different fibers, if I don't explore? It's not like they take up any space. Or like I'm merely an occasional knitter.

In the past, I've been staunchly monogamous. I pick up a project, I knit a project, I finish a project - and then I move on. Sure, I plan the next project while I'm knitting the current one, but I'm compulsive about completing things so I don't want to impede that process. Having said this, my Bust the Stash initiative has shown me how, when you're planning is impeccable, you can do a few things at once (esp. if they're simple and small). I haven't gone down this road yet, but I do love that I can utilize needles, with different cables, as necessary to make 2 or more things, requiring the same needle gauge, simulaneously. Yeah, I already own all of these needle sizes, and most in multiples (with different, static i.e. non-detachable cord lengths), so I probably wouldn't ever have to go to that extent. But it's fun to have all the options!

This is how they came packaged (minus the labels):

Sure, it's tidy and functional but that plastic off-gassing is nasty and, let's face it, this presentation is not chic. Who wants to reach into their sticky plastic see-through envelope to search out needles? Not to mention, in the way that all of my other needles (not interchangeables) are housed their own portfolio, these deserve an attractive home.

Which is where the (arguably overpriced, but appreciable) Addi Interchangeable case comes in:

Note that my case did not include the needles. Of course, the Addi kits come with both but, like I've said before, I hate Addi cables and, durability notwithstanding, I find most of their needle tips to be too blunt (even the lace ones) and the needles themselves to be too slippery or too sticky. Mind you, I've always loved this case and I was thrilled to learn that it's sold independently of the needles. It cost me 54 bucks CDN, all in, purchased from the UK.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself: Kristin, you just spent $125 CDN on a self-curated interchangeable needle set with far fewer needles than you'd have got if you bought a complete, ready-made kit. And they're not in the most useful-to-you sizes. And you know nothing about whether you'll like them or if they'll last. Not to mention that the case says Addi and the needles are a dog's breakfast of different shapes and materials - which is just kind of off.

What can I say? I'm happy. It was an adventure - the likes of which I experienced last night at Enoteca when, so exhausted that I couldn't even string together a sentence, I asked James (our server and friend) to bring me any beverage of his choice, other than beer (which I hate). I like living on the edge - especially when the thing that's over the edge is, let's face it, totally safe. Hilariously, he brought me one of my old standards (an Italian La Crema). I think he could see where I was at.

I love the case. The needles all fit (and there's room for others if I find a new sample kit to buy). They all seem to join well and easily to the cables. Some of the tips are more my speed than others but, you know, you can't tell what needles will work with what yarn until you're in a particular situation. Sometimes you need slippery, sometimes square, sometimes wood etc.

So there you go, a small book on a few needles.

But how about you? Are you an interchangeable needle person? Did you buy all of your needles independently - as you were learning - only to find now that nothing matches and you wish you'd gone for the modularity of interchangeables? Do you actually like Addis or did you just buy the hype? What do you think of Knitter's Pride? Do you have a fave KP style? Have you tried these sample kits? How do you store your interchangeables? Let's talk!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bust The Stash: Finished Object 11 - Foolproof Cowl

I am exceedingly pleased with my finished Foolproof Cowl:

Everyone should make one!

Here's one side:

And here's the other:

For what it's worth, this is by no means my best work, technically (there are a couple of small errors which I won't point out because, really, no one's going to notice them). I had to go off road with the Inspriation instruction directions. Note: There are 2 versions of directions for this cowl - Inspiration (which is essentially a pattern that tells you what to do) and Free Spirit (which gives guidelines and assumes you'll create your own striping pattern). I didn't have enough yarn to do the full-on Inspiration version so I mixed and matched. As a result, my striping pattern is pretty whack - but I finished up a maximum amount of yarn and gain a maximum amount of cowl length.

At 400ish yards of Loft yarn, this is just long enough to wrap around the neck twice. I'd definitely use 500-600 yards on my next version. Happily, the size is adjustable to suit what yarn you've got to work with.

I'm of two minds about using woolen-spun yarn, such as Brooklyn Tweed, for this project. It produces a more rustic end result, and that result is warmer than a worsted-spun one. It's less inclined to pill, it gains structure and strength in blocking. Furthermore, Brooklyn Tweed yarn, for all of its rusticness, is still very soft (and springy, and "kinky"). But... You need a light touch to knit with this stuff - it has basically no twist and it likes to break if you're even a smidge too tight. I've discovered that individual skeins can be radically different. Some contain yarn that's quite robust and even, others contain yarn that's brittle and uneven. I can knit with either because I'm a loose knitter with even tension, but I can see how this yarn won't work for everyone. Never have I seen more polarizing comments on Ravelry than when it comes to the quality of BT Loft. You either love it or hate it. I'd say more people hate it than love it, but the lovers are HARDCORE.

I don't think I'll run out soon to purchase BT yarn again, though I'd welcome an opportunity to use it in the future - particularly one of the weights I've not tried. As of now, I've only used Loft (the fingering weight).

I am totally enamoured of Brooklyn Tweed, the concept, and I think that many of the pattern designs are excellent, but I prefer a worsted-spun yarn - if one more rustic than my initial knitting tastes belied. Still, I urge everyone to give it a go (and Quince and Co, for that matter). Neither thrills me to the extent that Madeline Tosh does, but they're lovely, durable American-grown yarns that can be purchased online (or in store, in some instances) at a reasonable price.

What do you think of my Foolproof? Have you made this?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Bug Story

Scott and M are in NYC for a few days over March break. While I cannot say that I'm in any way put out by this - work is crazy and I am exceedingly happy for the peace and quiet (aka not arguing with a 16 year old incessantly) - I did have a totally stressful experience about an hour ago. It involved yoga. And a centipede.

I cannot even type that word without feeling sick.

There I was, blithely considering what online class would suit my rather scattered post-work mood, and this horrifying, hairy bug just sidled up beside me. It wasn't even freaked out. Alas, when I observed it, not an inch away from me, I did freak out - and proceeded to spill the contents of my (mercifully, almost gone) Immune Booster (juice) shot all over my keyboard. Somehow the spa lifestyle has eluded me today, despite the many trappings.

As fast as I jumped, it ran out the sewga room door. And then I was trapped.

BTW, this isn't the first time this has happened. It is, however, the first time it's happened when my people are in a foreign country. You can imagine my dismay.

At any rate, I spent a few minutes considering my options. Staying in the yoga room for another 48 hours wasn't one of them. If nothing else I had soup on the stove. So I grabbed a shoe, shored myself up and peered behind the door. The fucker was gone.

Honestly, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. The idea of killing it was almost as sickening as the bug itself. I mean, to kill it, I'd have to get within a foot of it. Or a shoe, anyway. But not finding it meant I couldn't be rid of it. Everything started feeling like a bug was crawling on me. And, of course, I didn't know how I'd ever enter the sewga room again (despite the fact that the bug disappeared outside the room).

But then I did something unheard of. Truly. I decided to listen to the voices in my head - those of everyone who's ever tried to talk me off a ledge when I see a bug, those which told me that it was truly gone - as gone as a bug can be i.e. into the walls - and that I'm 2000 times its size and that it's more scared of me than I can ever be of it. And then I opted to take back the room.

God help me, I did yoga. Sure, I wore my glasses (which made me feel incredibly nauseous by the end because I spent the entire time compulsively staring at the door). And I didn't do savasana in the sewga room. I mean, I'm not insane. Yes, I ran out the door, at the end, stealthily looking behind me, prepared for the worst. And I actually feel more terrible now than before I started.

But dammit, I'm not stuck in a room for the next 2 days. That's a metaphor for you. Or something.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What I'd Knit if I Weren't Stash-Busting

I suppose it would be more optimistic for me to have entitled this post "What I'll Knit When I'm Finished Stash-Busting" but it's hard to imagine getting through all of my stash yarn, even as I've completed more than 11 projects with stash yarn to date. (Note: I've actually completed 17 projects using stash yarn, in the last 5 months, but I didn't start my formal stash-using process until mid-January.)

I've got 4500 yards left to get through (over 23 projects). Increasingly, those projects are tiny Bluebirds of Happiness so the boredom factor goes up while the yardage factor goes down. In truth, I haven't made one of these yet so I can't confirm that they're boring. I sense I'll be in the mood for them when the fall comes around and I'm looking for a mini-gift. What's cuter than a little ornament?

I just discovered this great Ravelry feature, accessed from the bottom of the Projects page, wherein it shows you (graphically) how many yards of yarn you've used on all the projects you've cataloged. I neglected to weigh 4 of my finished projects so they don't count towards the totals but, in 81 projects (knitted over almost 5 years), I've used 36,390 metres or 39,797 yards. It's safe to say, including the 4 projects that weren't counted, I've knitted with 43,000 yards of yarn since I started back in 2011. Not negligible, huh?

It's for fun stats like this that you should keep tabs on EVERYTHING you do in Ravelry.

At any rate, as I'm not saintly, I spend much of my time considering what I'd knit if I could go out and buy any wool without restriction. What I have noticed is that now I'm a bit more strategic about this process than I would have been 3 months ago. These days, I'm looking at ways to purchase such that I can go through 2 full projects (one small, one large) with the same yarn - to diminish the likelihood that I'll have 100-200ish yard remnants to utilize. Cuz I'd rather plan to use a yarn I love twice - to make 2 projects that intrigue me equally - than to use it twice, one instance of which is a suboptimal, haphazard stash-bust.

Here are a few things that I'd like to knit right now:
  • A new pair of socks using my standard Simple Sock pattern. It's amazing how much one desires socks when there are only non-matching remnants to work from. You may recall my staunch, anti-sock knitting stance from years ago. How times have changed...

  • I do love an asymmetric line that hides one's midsection while calling attention to one's legs and shoulders. This sucker eats yarn, if the pattern info is accurate (@1500 yards of sport-weight). I bet it would be awesome in Tosh Sport - but that would cost a fortune (like 200 bucks CDN).
  • Can't say I'm not intrigued to make another Foolproof Cowl. But next time I'll make sure that I have adequate yardage of both colours to follow the Inspiration version of the pattern without deviating:
  • That cream and navy colourway is dynamite. 
What do you wish you were knitting (even if you're happily knitting other things)?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bust The Stash: Project 11 In Process - Foolproof Cowl

This is a stash-buster that I'm actually psyched about:

Foolproof by Louise Zass-Bangham
Originally, it was the topic of a Mystery KAL (knit along) published in April 2013. I can assure you that I have NO interest in mystery knitting of any sort. What could be more meh than spending a bunch of time and yarn making something, the end look of which you can have little to no idea about when you begin? Not my scene.

But now that the mystery KAL is long ago complete, the cowl pattern comes with pictures and the full list of clues all in one place. Now it's just a regular pattern that anyone can knit and it's INGENIOUS. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if you want to figure out anything - if you want to save the world - put a bunch of top-notch knit designers in a room and lock the door. The veritable secrets of the universe are in every swatch of hand-knit fabric and these people know it. Like deeply.

As promised, in this project, there's no need for casting on, purling, knitting in the round or binding off. Just knit stitch, increases and decreases. How can that be? It's actually pretty straightforward once you discover how it works.

Of course, I have less yarn than I should to make the most of this iteration of the cowl. No mind. I'll make it again. This time I am using a tone-on-tone duo of Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Barn Owl and Woodsmoke colours. They actually look lovely together (if perhaps too similar to each other. I did, after all, confuse one colour for the other when I ordered yarn a second time). I have a lot of thoughts about BT yarn which I'll get into shortly. In short, it's enigmatic.

So, has anyone made the Foolproof cowl? Did you do the Mystery KAL? Have you ever done a mystery KAL? Did it work out or did you end up knitting something you consider hideous. I'd love to know.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Finished Object: Karner Wrap

Talk about a long time coming:

The Karner Wrap is, regrettably, not as long as I'd hoped it would be though I used 99g of the 100g ball. And it's not like I had an iota of impulse to keep going. That skein was ENDLESS, like, way more endless (and less enjoyable) than those mystery glasses of wine you sometimes get that seem never to diminish in volume despite continuous sipping.

It's an airy, cotton/bamboo blend. The colour is spectacular (graphite meets indigo). It'll be warm (but not wintery) through all seasons. I'm sure it will get comments just by virtue of its unique textile. But there is no way I will knit with Abrazos again. Dental floss. It ain't my thing.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bust The Stash: There's More Than One Way to Get There

Right now I have 4900 yards remaining in my stash which, given that I started at 7500 yards (2 months ago) isn't bad. I actually think I might have neglected to add in about 1000 yards initially (because I bought extra yarn for the Decalage scarf and then ripped back the KNUS sweater), but even if I was accurate with my original count, 2600 yards is 2 and half sweaters worth of yarn. I'm making progress.

One of the larger yardages in my stash has been Quince and Co Tern (fingering-weight silk and wool blend) in the Barnacle colourway. I used some of it to knit this cowl shawl in the fall, on my way to my grandmother's funeral as it happens. Even if that experience did undercut my enjoyment of the wool, I never liked the colour. I thought it would be more grey, less green. I have been putting off using it, complaining about how it just doesn't excite me, whereupon one of my work friends suggested that I try to return it.

Um, I bought it, online from Quince, in October 2014. It did not occur to me that a return would be feasible. But the yarn was still in the hanks, with the labels, in perfect condition (having been well-stored). Furthermore, I love Quince yarn (though Tern isn't my fave) and I'd use a credit very easily. So I emailed them and they responded immediately advising that I could indeed send it back. Of course, Quince yarn is so affordable that the credit will be a mere $28.50 US (and I spent 10 bucks to return the yarn). But this means I can put it towards a more practical yarn purchase at some point in the future. The best thing of all is that I'm down 660 yards AND I don't have to knit with a yarn I'm never going to enjoy.

On the topic of stash-busting, I've been thinking a lot about Felicia's stash-less philosophy. One of her emerging perspectives is that, if you make a sweater (for example) that you will NEVER wear (sound like someone you know?), the most sustainable way to manage the issue is to rip it back and restash the yarn. My way, to date, has been to give the sweater away. Then I don't have to deconstruct something that's taken 100 plus hours to make and I get to be generous. But Felicia has a point. It's not the least wasteful methodology. It's also not the cheapest. Scott thinks that this argument is crazy. He likens it to tearing down your large house to make it smaller when you don't need as much space anymore.

On the flip side, it's boring to knit with the same yarn 3-plus times. Ask the yarn-end stash-buster how she knows. There's something to be said for variety - and what it teaches one. How would I know how yarn works if I only knit with the same fiber till I perfected, to my own mind, the end result. Did I mention that ripping that shit out is PAINFUL. Furthermore, way to increase the stash numbers endlessly! Am I really ruining the world by choosing not to unknit what I've made? I mean, if I want to be sustainable (and I do), should I not buy myself a sheep (even if it lives remotely) and make all of my yarn, from scratch?

I'm not being rhetorical here. I really don't know the answer. So I'm looking for feedback.

Do you often unknit the projects you've made to reuse the yarn? Does it totally stress you out? Do you routinely return unused hanks for credit (or do you get complacent and leave it in the stash)? Do you resent knitting 18 hats for puppies when you have miles of 40 yards ends to contend with. Am I overthinking this? Please, let's talk.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wherein I Disclose that I Don't Like Podcasts

At home, in bed, still feeling like crap. Scott just came back from the doc with a script cuz he has bronchitis. I'm not getting bronchitis, btw. I am fighting and winning against aches and fever and sore throat. (Just putting it out there.) You know of my anxious feelings about illness but, have to say, when I can sidestep the hovering dread, there's much to be discovered on the internet.

I came across this series of podcasts on a new-to-me blog called Woolful. The site is gorgeous in that "ideal creative-town America" kind of way (you know Ashville, NC or any of the Portlands). All of the photos are crunchy-yarn delicious and perfectly simple.

Lord, podcasts are boring. Here's the thing - I've got a continual podcast running through my mind (it's called having a conversation with myself) and it's way more interesting than most of what any actual podcast has to say - even when I am sick. Furthermore, I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this but, one of my less gracious qualities is that I cannot stand the timbre of some people's voices. OK, many people's voices. Anything nasal or flat is a no go. Vocal fry makes me homocidal. Women who reflexively speak in questions need to stop that shit. Men with effete voices drive me up a freakin' wall. I routinely turn off TV shows because I don't need the irritation. Look, I realize that everyone has a unique voice and it's not his or her job to make it pleasant to my ears, but the thing about radio is that they actually choose those people because they have (generally) good tone and they know how to carry on a conversation. Your average grass-roots podcast-talker? Not so much.

At any rate, listening does pass the time and it's free and if I don't appreciate it, I should just keep my mouth shut, I realize.

Point is that one of the podcasts alerted me to a blogger called Felicia who does this thing called The Craft Sessions and has also put together this awesome "stash awareness" series. I was already to get shirty with her for stealing my idea :-) and then I realized she started her own stash busting journey a year and a half ago. Wish I'd seen this sooner! There's nothing quite as delightful as discovering a great new knitting blog, one that's pedigreed with a deep archive of posts, except (perhaps) one that speaks your language. FWIW, Felicia's voice is in no way annoying. She has an adorable cadence.

In my bed-lazing travels, I also came across this hilarious video advertisement for StashBot:

It's an enjoyable, and possibly relatable, 4 minutes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 10 - Ribbed Hat 2 (And a Glimpse at the Karner Wrap, In Process)

Here's the latest Bust the Stash finished object - another Ribbed Hat:

In truth, though I have 4 more of these planned, I thought I'd have to throw myself off a bridge from boredom if I tried to make another right away. It's a fine little project but, really, I'm only making these hats to get rid of yarn ends. And they're too fussy in the crown decrease section to be an entirely enjoyable knit.

I was feeling trapped by the hats until the following thing occurred to me:

My fave part of knitting is, by far, the planning. The knitting is simply the execution of the vision, which is probably why I'm mainly a "monogamous knitter" (one who staunchly sticks to one project at a time). But, when you've actually done 25 project's worth of planning, and everything's there and cataloged (including the queue that reminds you of your knitting responsibilities to achieve the end goal), why not switch it up? It's not like I'm going to forget something. That yarn will still be there, assigned to that project. I feel this process has provided me with a bit of latitude to explore other planned projects that still need to be done.

Which is why I've returned to the Karner Wrap, my second-longest, in-process project (after the Knitted Boucle Jacket, recently discussed - and, as yet, uncompleted). I decided, since it's already on the freakin' needles, and it's not going to finish itself, that I might want to give it another go. It's simple stockinette (with ribbed edges) but the yarn makes it a mighty complicated knit.

Karner Wrap
I bought this yarn with Sara and Andrea in June of 2014. I cast on the included "beginner level" scarf pattern immediately, enthralled by the potential of the finished result. I had enthusiasm for the first couple of months, whereupon the endless, endless monotony of knitting with dental floss-weight conspired to turn this project into "train knitting". Note: I don't go on long train trips so often that 1000 yards of dental floss has yet been utilized.

Look, if the sample is anything to go by - or my progress to date - this project is going to be amazing when it's done. The yarn is irregularly slubbed, of different gauges. The colour is gorgeous. The bamboo / cotton fabric produced is truly textile art (and as wacky as textile art tends to be - but with more cool factor than it usually has). Plus, it'll be totally useful and wearable through all seasons.

But I don't recommend that you go out and knit this thing. It's a fucking commitment. I just returned to it with gusto and I can still only get through a couple of grams in a sitting (and maybe 6 grams a day over hours of concentrated knitting). The unused ball weighs 100g. Furthermore, the yarn is plied. Yeah, it's thinner than cooking string and it's freakin' plied. That means that ones sharp pointed needles (and you do need sharp to get through the loops) inevitably strike between the plies, semi-regularly, and you end up having to carefully unknit the stitch to avoid split yarn (which when your yarn is dental floss can result in a mere hair of yarn holding the stitch to the needle). Then there's the ease with which you can knit into the stitch below the one you're going for, which leaves what looks like a hole. Or the accidental knitting of 2 stitches next to each other (that lump together) - since the yarn is of many different thicknesses, it's impossible to tell what's going on at any given time. Of course, one can drop a stitch and not realize it for 20 rows because the texture of the yarn is such that the stitch holds itself in place, until it doesn't.

My point is that any beginner would lose her mind knitting this and even an intermediate or advanced knitter can't take it on with any facility because the yarn has special needs.

I don't know that the means will justify the ends, but I'll keep you posted. And I am seriously considering going back to finish that Boucle Jacket next. I know I say this occasionally, but I cannot believe that I have 80 per cent of a gorgeous wool jacket just sitting there ready to be hand seamed and machine "buttonholed".

The joy of not buying new yarn is that you really get to experience the yarn you already have. And let's face it, all of that yarn was new at some point.

Anyone made the Karner Wrap? Would you ever make it again? Do you like the fabric produced by Abrazos? Let's talk!