Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I've Been Pinned!

I remember that in the teen novels I read many years ago, the heroine or her friend would get "pinned" by her boyfriend to let the world know they were going steady.  I can't think of anyone I know in the real world who has gotten pinned in this way, so the practice must have died out over 50 years ago.

I have been pinned in the modern sense.  I am the most recent addition to Berroco's Spotted in the Wild Pinterest page.  Andra, the New England sales rep who always supports Webs at Stitches West, took my picture on Saturday.  She is a serious shopping enabler who always gives me accurate info on the Berroco yarns and patterns.  I am wearing Merle, the Norah Gaughan design I knit in November for National Knit a Sweater Month.  I decided that since I always buy Berroco yarn at Stitches, it was high time I wore one of my Berroco sweaters to the event.  My newest completed Berroco sweaters, King and Acey, were just too warm to wear, but Merle turned out to be perfect.  I got more compliments on this sweater than any other I've ever worn to Stitches.  Cables are hot!

Here I am!
Since cleaning up my craft room, I have been busy knitting, which is good since I bought 4-6 months worth of projects at Stitches (not as bad as in some years).  I got yarn/kits for 6 sweaters (I know, I know), but 3 are quickie short sleeve projects for spring and none of the six should take more than 3 weeks based on my Merle pace.  I got a hat kit from The Mannings booth, two irresistable sock kits from Knitters Brewing Company (Watermelon Socks and Vampire Socks), and several skeins of sock yarn for simple socks from Miss Babs, Western Sky Knits, and Invictus.

Thus far this year, I have knit 2 sweaters (one with a detached cowl), 2 scarves, a pair of socks, a hat, and one more cowl.  Here are the photos:
King sweater in Boboli

Knitting friend's toddler ALMOST modeling baby hat

Simple socks

Me enjoying Acey on this rainy February morning

Windowpanes scarf in cashmere and Miracle scarf in Handwerks sock

Cambio cowl (a Laura Nelkin design)
By Northern California standards, it is perfect knitting weather today:  cool and rainy.  Time to get back to my knitting (and justify my most recent purchases)!

PS:  In cleaning out my craft room, I came across several sweater kits that I am unlikely to knit, including a Philosopher's Wool kit, a Cotton Concerto Jacket kit from Great Yarns (think glitz), a few kits from Ram Wools, and one from Shelridge Farms.  I plan to post photos on Ravelry soon.  Let me know if you are interested in any of my excess stash.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spring Cleaning Comes Early, Plus Year End Wrap-up

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had lots of house guests (eight) for quite some time (eight nights) for the holidays.  I also knit like a madwoman in the weeks preceding, trying my best to have a great hand knit gift for each.

My craft room became even messier than usual as I tossed in whatever I had been using for the latest project (needles, patterns, left over yarn) instead of neatly putting in the correct location.  By the time our guests had left, even I knew I needed to work seriously to convert the craft room from just storage to the work space it is meant to be.

Joe (strongly) suggested I completely empty the room and reload from scratch.  He also suggested I get rid of old magazines and replace as necessary with digital versions.  Since I have every issue ever published of Piecework, Interweave Knits, and knit scene, plus most issues of Knitters and Vogue Knitting, that could open up considerable room.  I also have many knitting books, some that I use frequently and some that haven't been opened in years.

I emptied the room yesterday.  Here's what it looks like now:

In reloading this space, I'm going to start with yarn.  Last month I gave away some yarn I knew I wouldn't touch again (glittery stuff to Charity Knitters for scarves, baby yarn to Sylvia for her charity knitting, leftover alpaca from my Thunderstruck shawl to Stephanie after she said she'd use it).  I gave more away on Monday (machine washable yarn to Charity Knitters, a sweater's worth of Sirdar Highland Chunky in berry red to Catherine), and I've set aside nine sweaters' worth of yarn (most are kits) that I am unlikely to knit and have some possibility of selling.

I started an Excel spreadsheet to track my stash back in 2009 (before I was on Ravelry), and plan to continue using it to track what I have.  I'm thinking of restructuring some of the space (eliminating a shelf here and there) and organizing the yarn in different ways (one small drawer for all the baby and child projects instead of scattered throughout, sweater quantities separate from accessory quantities, bins by color or gauge), but that is still in the idea stage.

As for what I did last year, I finished fewer projects than usual, only 55 instead of my normal 65-75.  However, 60% were knit in fingering or lace weight yarn, so my yardage knit might have been similar. I did manage to achieve one knitting resolution:  I have 2 fewer WIPs than I did 12 months ago, and that is purely from knitting, not giving away or ripping out.

I did finish Xmas gifts for each house guest except the 4 year old boy who got dinosaurs and his grandfather who got a special framed photo from Joe.  Here's what I made:
Windschief hat, Ribbed hat, Mohair Bias Loop, 2 Pretty Things,  Quilted Lattice Ascot
 All were well received.  I knit another hat which came out too large for the 7 year old I had planned it for (it's on the gift shelf in the linen closet), cowls for my sister-in-law and mother, and a scarf for my daughter's boyfriend.  My nephew will get a Noro Striped Scarf I knit in 2011-12 and my son's girlfriend will get a Marin shawlette I finished in 2013.  Here are the newer things I knit:
Fairy Snocap

Acacia Cowl for Mom

Purple Drift Cowl for Joyce

Harrison's Scarf
As for current knitting, I am back at work on a scarf I began in December 2010 after ripping out a partially knit scarf started in 2009 in a stitch pattern that didn't do justice to the yarn.  I'm finally past the 50% point.
Handwerks Miracle Scarf
Off to my noon meeting, then back to the craft room!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Xmas might happen after all

I'm actually remarkably calm.

My parents gifts are done (just need to be wrapped and mailed).  The gift for my brother and his wife should arrive tomorrow, ready for wrapping.  Mailing will be tomorrow or Friday (since they are relatively nearby, arrival before Xmas is probable).

I have eight houseguests staying with us beginning Sunday for eight days.  I bought stockings for all at Target, labelled them, have been busy wrapping for all the stockings (guests plus our family of five), and have a nice present ready for wrapping for each guest (one hat needs binding off and a pompom, but otherwise I'm done).  I promise to post a photo of the entire pile of gifts before wrapping.

House is relatively clean, and food and supplies are here (or ordered) for the guests plus Xmas dinner for 36.

I have presents for my husband, both sons, and brother-in-law ready for wrapping.  None are handknit.


I haven't started my daughter's gift, my sister-in-law's gift, or birthday gifts for my niece and nephew (both born January 11, but a year apart).  I may need to repurpose a not-quite-perfect knitted accessory or two from my just-in-case gift stash.

Oops, I just remembered that I forget about oldest kids' significant others.  More presents, less time.

Youngest son has an out of town soccer game on Friday, right after finals are done.  Then he needs to finish college applications before the relatives arrive, which means I get to supervise (and get less other work done).  His room will be given to guests, so despite cleaning the house thoroughly yesterday, I have more cleaning work ahead.

My husband and I shared a bottle of Argentinian Malbec at dinner tonight.  Finishing the bottle off just seemed to make sense.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Knitting ALREADY???!!!

For years I have stocked a small shelf in my linen closet with "just in case" gifts: scarves, cowls, hats, mitts, some unisex, some clearly for women.  This has come in handy at times, like the year my brother showed up at noon on Christmas Day with his MIL in tow (he had forgotten to mention he was bringing her).  Items purchased or made with specific recipients in mind also go here.

I just peeked in the closet.  There are more items than I  feared, but less than I hoped.

This year we are cutting back on Xmas, sort of.  We are hosting a big family reunion gathering (at least 35 for dinner on the 25th) and have announced no (white elephant) gift exchange at the party this year, because it will be too crazy.  Our house will be bulging at the seams with 8 (!) house guests for Xmas week, and we will be toning down our normal gift-a-palooza for the immediate family so our guests don't feel overwhelmed.


I promised hubby that all of our house guests would awaken to stuffed stockings.  He promised to exchange gifts with his sister and her family as we usually do (I found out after the fact).  They appreciate hand knit gifts and have come to expect them.  I also promised Joe I'd get each guest a present for under the tree (they range in age from 4-78; none of them are on our usual gift exchange list).

Oh, and did I mention that I am gift purchaser/maker-in-chief?

At least I'm almost done with gifts for my side of the family.

Mom is getting this cowl:

She and Dad will also get a few non-knit gifts (one remains to be purchased, but I have it picked out).  I also know what to get for my brother and his wife (bought, not knit; they don't seem to appreciate the effort much).  I still need to knit a scarf for my fashionista nephew, but at least I have the yarn and a pattern in hand.

For the first time in years, I knit myself a party sweater before Thanksgiving.  I have the Ravelry forum for NaKniSweMo to thank for keeping me on task (and, in case you participate in it as well, the sweater does exceed the 50K minimum stitch count).  Here is a selfie in the bathroom mirror, unblocked, right off the needles:
Merle by Norah Gaughan
Although you can't tell from the photo, the yarn is shimmery (a clear nylon tube filled with colored wool fiber).  The sweater is lightweight, warm, and just dressy enough.  I am happy with this gift to myself.

Joe has joked that he is so busy that in addition to making Xmas happen for our family and guests, if I want to find any presnts with my name on them under the tree, I need to do the shopping.

Hmmm.  Some of those Black Friday yarn sales look awfully appealing….

PS:  I realize I have not posted in many months.  I have, however, knit quite a bit.  Updates next time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Many Ways That Stash Multiplies

I have been thinking lately about the many different ways that my stash grows.  Let me enumerate:

It appears unrequested at my home.

This is the least common, by far.  Every once in a while, I get a gift of yarn (not very often, despite many hints dropped).  I have received sock yarn a few times and once I received 2 skeins each of 3 different chunky yarns (those became a shawl).  Joe, if you're reading, Valentines Day is this week, and sock yarn is always appreciated.

On three separate occasions, I have been the recipient of the remaining stash of someone's recently deceased mother.  The logic seems to be "she loved to knit, you love to knit, you will love her yarn as much as she did".  Usually this stash is heavy into Red Heart and the like, but I often get a few gems as well.  My mother-in-law's last knitting basket became mine this fall.  Along with the Red Heart (most of this has already become scarves for charity), there was a softball-sized ball of black eyelash (perhaps one of my friends will enjoy using it for their charity knitting), a few yards of super-bulky pink chenille (will be repurposed as ribbon for wrapping presents), a cone of baby blue lace-weight merino (I see a wedding ring shawl or two in my future), and half a cone of ivory single ply lace-weight silk.
What remains of Ming's stash
It comes as a gift with purchase.

These have been more frequent lately, especially since British knitting magazines are available at Barnes & Noble.  In addition to the Amy Butler kit I received with my Rowan magazine subscription last month, sometimes the magazines I buy at the store include yarn.  The latest was 6 25g balls of fingering weight yarn along with an issue of Knit Now.  There were several patterns utilizing this yarn in the magazine; I plan to make a baby sweater that uses up all of the yarn.
Knit Now kit (included yarn, pattern booklet, & needles)
It arrives every two months as part of a subscription.

I have just started my 4th year of the Rockin' Sock Club.  This means 6 times a year I get a shipment of yarn sufficient to make a pair of socks (plus a few patterns, at least one of which is for socks).  Many of these get knit up within a reasonable period.
Rockin' Sock shipment in late January
I have subscribed to two more clubs this year.  I just received my first shipment from Cookie A's club (it comes with 2 cookie recipes in addition to sock yarn and 2 patterns).  Today I signed up for Laura Nelkin's Beaded Jewelry Club (offered through Patternworks).  The first item is a necklace kit, which should arrive in 1-2 weeks.
Cookie A shipment (yarn is from indigo dragonfly)
I purchase yarn for a specific project.

This is how the Comfort Sock for the border of my Barn Raising Quilt arrived in my stash last month.

This is also how some more yarn will arrive in the next few weeks.  I have fallen in love with several sweaters, and somehow just happened to buy the yarn on line.  They are the Thistle Cardigan (from Martin Storey's Scottish Knits), Chloe's Vest (from the Spring '13 Interweave Knits), a cardigan in Bliss Cashmerino Aran from the February '13 Simply Knitting (design by Amanda Jones), and the Great Oak Socks (from the January '13 issue of Yarnwise; this yarn (Smooshy) was in part to round up my Webs order to the next discount level).

I succumb to yarn fumes.

This is how most yarn gets in the door.  Stitches West is always dangerous to my credit card balance due to the overwhelming number of yarns available to fondle.  I always end up with a big Webs purchase, in large part due to the excellent sales support from Andra, the Berroco sales rep.  Local yarn stores also get me that way -- I came home unexpectedly with 100g of Shibui Staccato last week, with no specific project in mind (I'm leaning toward a pair of cabled gloves).
Shibui Staccato
This is why trying to reduce stash is a losing proposition:  it's like trying to plug 12 holes in a dike with only 10 fingers!


I have finished my Spiral Blanket.  Joe spotted it while it was blocking on top of Kerry's bed.  I think he likes it, because he kept asking who it was for (I had planned to give it to him for Valentines Day).  I  discovered last night that if you fold it half, it makes a warm and attractive shawl, so I may be borrowing it from him.
Spiral Blanket before blocking
My next project is jointly for the Use It or Lose it challenge and for the 2 KnitLit Chicks Kardigan challenge.  This is the Thistle Coat (on the cover of A Season's Tale) knit from Rowanspun Aran (not to be confused with the aforementioned Thistle Cardigan, which is knit in Rowan Fine Tweed).  I found it completely kitted up (including buttons and extra yarn) in a drawer with another, less ambitious sweater project that I had considered for these challenges.
Thistle Coat (on the left)

Thistle Coat sleeves in progress
Having that project in my knitting bag has freed up some room for my latest purchases...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

If you Give a Mouse a Cookie (TM) or How I Find Myself Down Another Knitting Track

When the kids were small, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie was one of the favorite books in the house.  If you don't remember or know the story, it shows how doing the next logical, make-everything-a-bit-more-perfect step can quickly get you to some sort of unexpected extreme.

This happens not infrequently with my knitting, which may partially explain why so many of my knitting projects have stalled out.

This past week, I was working away on my first project for Use It or Lose It challenge period #2, a Boneyard Shawl from some Brooks Farm merino/silk blend that had been in my stash for over 3 years. I have 810 yards of this, not quite enough for a long sleeved sweater unless I add in another yarn, and since I already have vests in similar colors (blues and black), I decided a shawl was in order.  This is what it looked like about 40 yards in:
Boneyard Shawl in BF Four Play
I was in my living room knitting away when I glanced at the stacks of knitted squares I store on the lower shelf of a coffee table.  They are all knitted from leftover fingering weight yarn (socks mostly), and it occurred to me that I might have almost enough to make a throw.
Squares on the coffee table shelf
I had 40 completed squares, so I promptly dropped everything and knit 4 more.  This is how 42 of them look together.
42 sock yarn squares
I am now thinking that 49 or 64 squares will be a great finished size.  I've even bought a few balls of Comfort Sock in gray for my assembly/edging yarn (see the two balls in the stacks photo).  These are my second stash addition for 2013.

As I was knitting my squares, I flipped through the rest of the Knitalong book where the pattern for the above squares (Barn Raising Quilt) came from.  The Spiral Blanket caught my eye.  It would use much more of my Brooks Farm yarn than the Boneyard Shawl would (unless I made the shawl HUGE), and besides, I already have a shawlette in similar colors (something that slipped my mind when I cast on the shawl).

Last night I cast on the blanket, and about 100 yards in, this is what it looks like:
Spiral blanket WIP
I think I will stick with the spiral blanket, at least for my Super Bowl knitting.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wading Through my WIPs, or a Moment of Public Honesty

By any sort of rational measure, I have an excessive number of WIPs and UFOs.  I know for a fact that it exceeds the size of the entire stash of some of my knitting friends, many of whom have been knitting even longer than I have.

Don't believe me?

I looked at my Ravelry page AND at my Excel spreadsheet (which I began in January 2010 to catalog my entire stash; it also helps me narrow down the location of projects/yarns to a particular cupboard or drawer).  On January 1, 2013, I had a reported 74 or 75 WIPs and UFOs.  Two of those were not really WIPs (a snoozer project on my Ravelry page that has yet to be cast on, or even have the beads strung for it, and a failure from a few years back that has been frogged and is awaiting repurposing), making the total 72 or 73 valid WIPs and UFOs.

I have whittled down the list a bit this month.  In the first week, I finished off a hat and a pair of socks begun in December.  Yesterday, I finished a scarf begun in October from yarn I had purchased in 2011 (see photo below).  I also knit a beaded bracelet (my "or" project because the beads were strung, but I did not cast on until 1/13/13) from a ball of Blue Moon yarn destined to eventually be socks.
Bobcat Farms Lace Scarf

That brings me down to 69 WIPs and UFOs.  Here's the breakdown:

1 felted purse (only need to sew in the zipper)
1 pair of flip-top mittens
3 pair of socks
4 blankets
11 scarves and shawls
51 sweaters and tops

Of the sweaters, only 5 are child-sized (in most cases, the intended recipient grew faster than I expected).

I know myself well enough to know that if I pledge to knit only from my WIP/UFO list, I will break that pledge in no time.

As I mulled over what to do, I scrolled through the 2KnitLit Chicks Kardigan KAL forum, looking at various ideas for a cardie that I should start in a week that might take me most of the three months allowed for completion.  In addition to adding to my favorites list, I noticed that several Ravelers referred to the 2013 Use It or Lose It Challenge sponsored by the Stash and Burn group.  For this challenge, participants finish 13 projects from stash purchased prior to December 2012, roughly one every 4 weeks.  Since this challenge is primarily intended to move untouched, well-aged yarns from stash to finished project, finishing off well-aged WIPs is limited to three at most of the thirteen project goal.

I have a lot of stash (no, not everything is in WIP form) falling into the untouched category, so I decided to join in.  As of today, I've finished 3 projects started in 2013 from stash purchased before December 2012.  As a spur to continued stash reduction, I've decided to avoid front-end loading my count, so only 1 of those 3 counted toward the goal for period 1.

I figure I can do a similar challenge of finishing 13 WIPs/UFOs that were started before January 1 of this year.  The added goal is to make this a net reduction in WIPs/UFOs, meaning that my total count on January 1 of next year needs to be 59 or fewer.

At this point, these goals seem challenging, yet doable.

I also need to make sure I don't buy quite as much yarn in 2013.  This may be difficult, since I signed up for 2 sock yarn clubs (Blue Moon Rockin' Socks and Cookie A's Sock Club) plus I bought a subscription to Rowan Magazine, so I'm already lined up for stash aquisition.

Note that the goal is "not quite as much yarn purchased", not "no net adds to stash".  I know I have some limitations.

The subscriber-exclusive kit from Rowan arrived in the mail this past week, making it my first stash acquisition of the year.  It consists of a pattern for the Cosby Slouch Hat (not in Ravelry) and three balls of a discontinued color of Amy Butler Belle Organic Aran (saddle brown).  I like the yarn and the pattern, but not together, so I think this will be repurposed (yarn for a scarf or cowl, pattern for another yarn).
Rowan kit for subscribers

Maybe I can finish before any sock club yarn arrives.