Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Progress, Measured Differently

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of 2017, I did what I do at the beginning of every year and I thought you might be interested to hear about my little New Year's ritual. You see, I have... some yarn. I won't say that I have TONS of yarn or that I have TOO MUCH yarn, but I do have a small stash. A sizable collection. Enough that an entire closet is devoted to it - and then some. Now, in many ways I am not a very organized person. I'm the kind of person who will put clean clothes from the dryer into the hamper and then leave them there, wrinkles and all, pulling items out as needed while my dirty clothes meanwhile get piled on the floor (because the hamper is already occupied, you see.) Before I met my husband it was most common for me to wash a dirty bowl only when I no longer had clean ones, and the proper place for something was generally the very place I just happened to set it three months previous. Making the bed is a relatively new development in my life, I'm always running out the door with one shoe on, I often arrive to work with mismatched socks, and all joking aside if you can find my Kindle charger I will pay you $10. I am comfortable with disarray and often things only get lost when I try to tidy and organize.

Well, yarn is different. I like to know what I have, and I don't necessarily want to have to pull out my entire closet to check in the bottom bin for that last skein of Malabrigo I thought I maybe remembered buying four years ago - chances are I never bought it in the first place! So back in 2013 I decided to become a little more organized with my yarn stash. Yarn has ball bands for a reason, right? It's so we can reference the pertinent information without making guesses as to yardage, thickness, dye lot, etc. So I took all of that information and I plopped it into a handy little spreadsheet for myself.

I went through my entire stash in this way and input everything I thought was important to keep track of. This way, I can filter my results to only show me worsted weight yarn with a total yardage over 800, or perhaps I only want to see what Brooklyn Tweed yarn I have in my stash. Now that I have my spreadsheet, I can do it all without creating a mess in the closet. I also added a few additional columns, such as the one that says "In Use?" I put little notes in that column - what did I knit with the yarn? Did somebody give it to me? Have I used 3 of the 5 skeins I had? Did I buy it with a project in mind? Notes to jog my memory because you see those two columns on the right - those are my favorite columns. They calculate how much yarn I have used (say, 300 of my 600 yards) and how much is left.

Every New Year I sit down with my spreadsheet and go through my entire stash, making sure everything is accurate. (Note: Tossing your stash at least once a year is also a great way to reacquaint yourself with any yarn you had forgotten, and also air it out a bit while checking for signs of moths.) Any time I buy new yarn, it goes in the spreadsheet. Any time I finish a project, I mark it down. If I give yarn away, it gets noted. That way, as the year moves through the seasons, my progress gets calculated. I like to see movement in my stash - it makes me feel like I'm actually using it, even if I know that 80% of it is still waiting its turn. But either way, come December 31 I can scroll down to the bottom of my spreadsheet and see my totals.

You see that on the right? That's the satisfaction I'm looking for. At the end of the year, I get to see the work that I have done that year. This screenshot is from December 2016, which means that over the course of the year, 23,000 yards of yarn passed through my hands. It wasn't all knitted, mind you - some of it was given away, some of it sold, (some thrown out), but it came in and it went out and therefore I noted it on my spreadsheet. Some years are more rewarding than others because I get to see a quantifiable decline in my stash inventory. Other years look a little different. For instance, in 2014 I began the year with 75,000 yards of yarn. Over the course of that year, I knitted (or gave away) 50,000 yards of yarn, yet somehow I still managed to end 2014 with MORE yarn than I started with! 5,000 yards more! I never said this was a stash management project, it is merely about stash organization. I am, however, proud to say that in 2016 I managed to reduce my stash total by a whopping 8,000 yards! (Yes, I realize that means I still purchased 15,000 yards of yarn this year, but still!) If I keep going at this rate, my stash will be completely gone in 11 years!

I better go shopping.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Past, Present, and Future

It feels as if blogging were from a completely different lifetime. I have been away from this space for so long, and so much has happened in life since the last time I wrote, it's hard to know where to begin. I suppose I should begin by saying hello - hello to all (any?) of you who may still have my blog in your feed, long forgotten. I'd like to say I'm back, but perhaps only time will tell.

What I can say is that now, after several years of - what was it, burnout? suffocation? apathy or disinterest? - whatever the case, I feel as though I am finally beginning to be excited about knitting again. It's a bit funny how you can take something you are so passionate about and as soon as you put a price tag on it, as soon as you depend on that passion to pay the bills, it begins to slip through your fingertips. And so that's where I found myself after 2.5 years working full-time at a yarn shop. I talked about knitting nonstop for 8 hours a day - usually on the weekends, too. When I wasn't at work, I was working at home - designing patterns, knitting samples for designers, for yarn companies, for the store... doing finishing work for customers or planning the next class I was going to teach. By the end of the day, when I could find a rare half hour of time for myself, I had no energy left to think about knitting. No passion left to dream about my next project. No time to knit for myself - to knit for fun. No, it was deadlines, only deadlines and after a while, that's all it meant to me.

Perhaps, then, it comes as no surprise that the time arrived that I had to look for something else to pay the bills. This is, of course, the most simplified version of the story, but it will suffice as an update to bridge the gap between where I was and where I am now so we can then continue to face forward and journey on ahead into the future. It has been four months now since I left the yarn shop and perhaps just in the last few weeks have I felt like I've wanted to actively daydream about knitting, to think about my next project, to talk about knitting again. And thank the stars that I have arrived back here! Because that stash wasn't going to knit itself...

If you'll indulge me for a bit longer, there is still quite a bit more to update you on as I have been gone for so long! There will be knitting in the post too, have no fear. Since I last posted here, it's as if my entire life has changed. Shall we see how?

To begin, I started running. My brother, his wife, my sister and I have run half marathons at the Grand Canyon...

At the Grand Tetons...

At Yellowstone...

And a full marathon here in the Twin Cities.

And see that pup I'm sitting with? His name is Toad, and I adopted him.

Actually it would be more accurate to say that we adopted him, my husband and I. Because I also met a man, fell in love, and got married! He's a lovely man and I count myself lucky for each and every day I get to spend with him. We met for the first time two years ago when he came into the yarn shop to take a knitting class! If that's not fate, I don't know what is.

And we also bought a house. But that was before we got married, and before we adopted Toad. Of course, there can't just be one dog for two people, so we also adopted Hank.

He's quite a bit bigger than Toad.

But they both make excellent knitting companions.

And here we are! We made it to the knitting! I'm glossing over most of the items I've knit over the past two years partly because they seem so long ago, mostly because they were samples for designers, and quite frankly because they are in the past and I am looking ahead. What I'm knitting in that picture is a Christmas stocking for my husband. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I wanted to remember this one forever - our first Christmas in our house, with our dogs, and because we got married on Dec. 23, our first Christmas as a married couple.

Of course, in true knitter fashion, I finished his stocking shortly after Halloween, but didn't quite get mine done in time. Give me another week or two and it will be finished, I'm sure of it.

Can we talk about the knitting? I used (am using) Rauma Finullgarn and I have to tell you, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite yarns for colorwork. I love how plump the yarn is and I think it can be knitted quite successfully on a number of different needle sizes. Here the majority of the stocking is done on 2.50mm needles, but the toe and heel are done on 2.00mm. The pattern itself comes from one of my current favorite knitting books, Latviesa Cimdi - "Mittens of Latvia". I bought my copy from a store in Latvia whose website I couldn't read before it became available in English, but it is now readily available with an English translation (I can only look at the pretty pictures in my book, but I don't mind. Somehow I find it to feel a bit more authentic that way.) As I am such a sucker for traditional knitting techniques and patterns, it thrills me to no end when I am able to include references to traditional knitting in my own projects. Here we have a mitten pattern from Latvia, two-color braids from Estonia, and a few Norwegian stars on the cuff.

And because I like details, I couldn't help but add a bit of candy cane striping to line the cuff. If you're going to spend the time designing and knitting a one-of-a-kind item, why not go all the way? I will admit, I'm not happy with that heel. I knitted it and ripped it out twice while cursing myself for designing as I go. I've never knit a stocking before, I didn't even know what the proportions were going to be until it was done, but I'm happy with the finished product overall. Mine will look exactly the same, except I flipped the background and contrast colors in the body patterning. Matching, but different - just like us.

And there you have it in a nutshell. I've run more miles than I care to think about, I bought a house, started a new career, adopted a few dogs (and continue to foster more!), married the love of my life, and have rediscovered my love of knitting as a hobby, as a connection to the past. And now that we're here in the present, I am so happy to say that I am thrilled to be here! I know now that I will carry my knitting into the future as well - I'll be sure to tell you all about it!