Thursday, September 29, 2022

New Endeavor

 I can’t imagine anybody is still here, but if I still show up in your reader after all these wars and you’re interested in following my continued journey, head on over to where I have just started blogging again. Thanks!

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!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


I'm still riding this high from Meg Swansen's Knitting camp last month and I have to say that some of the most exciting, inspiring parts about the weekend other than simply listening to Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen talk were the tables and tables full of sweaters designed and knitted by Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen.

This was just one of three walls lined with their work. I spent quite a bit of time looking at these pieces - studying the shaping, looking at floats, figuring out how they were constructed, checking out the steeks and buttonholes... it was such a treat to be able to not only look at these pieces, but pick them up, unfold them, turn them inside out, really study them to your heart's content. What a pleasure!

As soon as I got home I immediately began the process of designing my own Meg Swansen-inspired sweater. It is going to be a long journey as there are still perhaps 5 or 6 more swatches I would like to knit, but here are my first two "Swatch Caps."

I should mention that these are unblocked because if we waited for that to happen then this blog post might never be published. This first cap was knitted to practice the technique of Twined Knitting, where you knit from both ends of the same ball of yarn and alternate them every stitch, always bringing one over the other so that they twist together on the inside of the fabric. I've never done twined knitting before and it was slow going to start, but I LOVE the resulting fabric. Wonderfully dense, with an elasticity that bounces back so quickly you'd think it were made of rubber. This is one of those techniques that I have been meaning to try for years and after camp ended, I just thought "No time like the present!" Traditionally Twined Knitting (or Tv√•√§ndsstickning) is done with Z-plied yarn and both strands held in the right hand, one strand always being brought over the other to complete a stitch. "Z-plied" refers to the direction the yarn was twisted and I can guarantee you that 99.9% of the yarn in your stash is not spun in this direction. If you want the traditional stuff, you can get it here from Nancy Bush. I have a bunch in my stash. It's beautiful. But I digress... My cap was knitted with a regular S-plied yarn, Rauma Strikkegarn, and I held both strands in my LEFT hand and always carried one strand under the other to twist them. Why? Because that's what felt comfortable. You can see that the technique can give you a very deeply textured knit/purl pattern that I have fallen so in love with.

Cap two was also knitted with Rauma Strikkegarn (can you guess what yarn I'm going to use to knit my final sweater?) but this time using the more common stranded technique of always carrying one color over the other to prevent them from twisting on the back of the fabric. Both of these caps were meant to check gauge, so I simply chose a stitch pattern I liked and took off. The finished sweater will combine both twined knitting and stranded colorwork, but not with either of the patterns seen above. I still have quite a bit of playing to do, modifying the techniques involved to attempt to match gauge between the two. As it stands, on the same needle size twined knitting is giving me 7sts/inch and stranded colorwork is giving me 6sts/inch. It shouldn't be too hard to find some middle ground.

I finally allowed myself to sit down and work on a project for myself because I finished a GIANT commission that had been bogging me down for quite a while.

Let me tell you right now, if anybody else wants an XXL Norwegian sweater, you're going to have to knit it yourself because this one near did me in. But I'm rather proud, because I only cried once while knitting it.

And it was when I thought I was done knitting. I sewed one shoulder together, was preparing to cut the neck steeks and discovered that they weren't centered. The entire neck hole was in the wrong place. I almost lost it at that point, but thank god I hadn't cut those steeks open yet. I had to rip back 5 hours (because clearly that's how we track our knitting progress on things like this) and do the top of the yoke over again. But now I can do my final happy dance because the sweater is done, blocked, and shipped off to its owner for good.

Which is excellent because I have a pile of five sweaters here with my name on them all in various stages of finishing and dang it, I will be wearing them this fall! Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

One Year Later

I bet you didn't expect to see me here, did you?

I've been thinking about bringing this blog back for a while now and I looked today to see when the last time I wrote anything was and wouldn't you know... it was exactly one year ago today. I suppose it's only appropriate, then, to write today with a brief update about everything that has been going on.

I feel like this has been one loooong year, full of countless days, weeks, months that I found myself saying "I just need to get to the end of this week/month and things will be better." And things haven't been terrible, they have just been busy. And stressful.

Since I last wrote, I have stopped taking on commission work from designers, which was a hard decision to make, but I was so bogged down with knitting that this winter I had to make a rule for myself: No knitting after 2am or before 6am. I called it my 2/6 Rule and yes, it really was necessary. And yes, it did only guarantee me four hours of sleep a night. And no, I do not function well with only four hours of sleep.

So I decided that this year, 2015, would be the year that I put myself first and start being a little more selfish both in my knitting and in my everyday life. Well... here we are in July and I still have to break out that 2/6 Rule every once in a while, but I'm working on it, and I think I've made progress in the past couple of weeks.

Last August I left my job with the Minnesota Orchestra to begin working full time at the yarn shop, where I am now working as the assistant manager. It really is a wonderful gig and I'm enjoying it immensely, but I've also taken on the role of "Chief Finisher" (I made that up.) What happens is that a customer will bring in a project that they want finished - be it blocking, seaming, weaving in ends, sewing on buttons, installing a zipper, or flat out knitting half a garment. And whenever those projects come in, they go home with me to be taken care of. So I replaced knitting for designers with spending my evenings blocking sweater pieces, sewing seams, and attempting to salvage poorly knit sweaters for customers. It really is about as tedious as it sounds and for most of the past 12 months, in conjunction with knitting samples for display at the shop, my personal knitting time has dwindled down to nothing. Well, I am slowly attempting to take my evenings back for my own personal use and I'm hopeful that this time it will stick (with the help of a fellow coworker who so graciously offered to help with the finishing work.)

About two months ago I moved again. That makes about 10 times in the past 10 years and I will tell you that I am SO crazy sick of packing up my life, living out of boxes, and not being able to settle in anywhere. But this new place feels like home to me, and even though chances are it won't be more than a year or two that I live here, this time I'm settling in. I've unpacked, I've hung art on the walls, I've taken my knitting books out of their boxes that they have been confined to for years. And for me the best part is that I no longer have a roommate. I no longer have a roommate with two cats. Oh dear readers, how wonderful it is to be able to block sweaters on my living room floor instead of under my bed with the door shut. How nice it feels to be able to leave my knitting on the couch when I go to bed. It really is making a world of difference in that I can simply come home and relax however I want, wherever I want, whenever I want. I am definitely taking advantage of having my own place. (And it's the most charming little place you've ever seen. I'll have to show you pictures in a future post.)

So I think that sums up most of the major life points since last I wrote - I left one job, started another one full time, I moved... So now let's talk a little bit more about knitting.

Here's the truth: For months now I have been completely burnt out. Cranking out sweater after sweater after sweater, repeatedly explaining the different between worsted and "fingerling" yarn for eight hours a day and then going home to sew sweaters together for people who have never heard of a spit splice, a selvedge stitch, or the importance of gauge. It was driving me absolutely insane. But then, last weekend, I had a breath of fresh air. I got to attend Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp in Wisconsin!

Ohhhh lord I had no idea how desperately I needed that. And honestly, I was a bit of a grump when I got there, but that quickly changed. To be surrounded by a roomful of other knitters who had not only heard about swatching, but who actually DO swatch. REPEATEDLY. And they block their swatches, and knit with real wool and don't care if they have to wash it by hand or if it's "scratchy" and they understand the importance of a clean ssk decrease line. It was knitting therapy, I'm here to tell you.

I have been an Elizabeth Zimmermann fan since I first began knitting about eight years ago, having picked up a copy of The Knitting Workshop as one of my first knitting books. I was always so inspired by her work, her designs, her philosophy on knitting and on life, on the way she didn't hold your hand, but gave you the information you needed to go out and explore the world of knitting on your own. Just incredible. And I'm ashamed to say that I had forgotten about all of that. Knitting had become my job, and I had become over the years purely a product knitter. I never stopped to think whether or not I was enjoying it, because who cares? I had a deadline to meet. Customers would ask "what do you like to make?" and I would stop and think, and then skirt around the question by simply saying "well, I make a lot of sweaters." But what do I like to make? What a novel idea.

This past weekend with Meg Swansen (Elizabeth Zimmermann's daughter) rekindled that spark that I had as a new knitter, staying up until 2am knitting not because I had to, but because I simply couldn't put it down! Knitting a project because I wanted to try out a new technique, a new stitch pattern, a new yarn, or a new construction. Back then it wasn't about the finished result, it was about the process. I had forgotten that knitting, for me, used to be an act of enjoyment, of leisure, of relaxation and not a catalyst for stress, sleep deprivation, and injury. I didn't care whether I was making something fashionable, or popular, or impeccably flawless. I cared that I was making something that I thought was cool, was fun, was interesting, or was functional. Well, Knitting Camp reminded me of all the reasons why knitting is my passion, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend.

I have already started swatching for some new designs sparked by the creative energy at camp and I am so excited to to be excited about knitting again!

Maybe I should leave this post at that. I'm excited about knitting again! And as a result, I hope to revive this blog so that I can once again share my excitement with all of you. It'll be a fun ride, I promise. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When I'm Not Knitting Sweaters

I always have so much trouble getting back into blogging when I've taken an accidental break.  This post will simply be to play catch up and then hopefully blogging won't seem so daunting.  I have quite a backlog of things to share, despite the fact that I have spent the majority of my knitting time these past couple of months knitting samples for designers.

I moved to a new apartment at the beginning of June and still feel like I haven't fully settled in or unpacked, but I'm growing accustomed to the new place.  I now have internet at home (this hasn't happened since 2010) so it will make blogging easier, I hope.  For today, though, let's just do a quick update.

Way back when there was still snow on the ground (which was much more recently than I care to remember) I finished another pair of socks for myself.  Please ignore my ghost-white Minnesota-winter legs.  This pair is part of my initiative to only wear handknit socks in the winter.  I hate making them, but love wearing them.  I'm hoping to crank out another few pairs before the cold sets in again.
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock in Ivy
Pattern: None, simple 2x1 rib
Needles: US 0

One of my best friends is pregnant with her first child, so I wanted to be sure the little guy would be equipped with a nice blanket when he arrived.  The due date was this past Sunday, but he still hasn't made an appearance.

Yarn: Frabjous Fibers March Hare (Muchness, Looking Glass, Caterpillar, Dreamworld, and Marmalade)
Pattern: Blanket from Wearwithall
Needles: US 7

The colors of the yarn are so vibrant, I'm really happy with how the blanket turned out.  I finished it several months ago and it has been on display at the yarn shop ever since, but I took it back yesterday so I could give it a good wash and send it out to my friend in Seattle before too long.

My friend also sent me a picture of a baby hat and asked if I could make a similar one for their newborn photo shoot.  I made three, just in case.  They requested sage green and because I'm colorblind, I thought I would give them options.  Also, I have no idea how large a baby head is, so I guessed.

Hat 1, Rowan Lima.
Hat 2, Fibre Co. Savannah.
Hat 3, BrooklynTweed Shelter.
(Clearly I'm not concerned about washability)
Pattern: None.

Now, despite all the samples I've been making, I have somehow also found the time to get sucked down the rabbit hole of a few other (somewhat related) crafts.  Crochet anyone?

Yes, I am making a giant granny square.  This is the first time I've ever really crocheted anything and it's sort of mind-numbing in a good way.  I'm using Shetland Spindrift in about 30 different colors and I love the way it's coming out.  I've added a few dozen rows since that picture was taken.  There are actually about eight of us at the yarn shop making this blanket together as a sort of crochet-along.  It's fun to see everyone's progress every week and we've all chosen such different color palettes.  Crochet is a great way to play with color because it combines them in a way that knitting doesn't.  Planning the color sequence is just as enjoyable as actually crocheting the piece.

And as if that's not enough to fill my time, I've also become oddly interested in card weaving.

That's the first band I made.  I really just threaded the cards to play around with it and came upon this pattern by accident.  You can see in the background a bit of the random patterning I was trying out before I came upon this one.  I just realized I don't actually have a picture of the cards that you use to weave with, but the technique itself is used to create narrow, strong bands.  For what?  Who knows.  I don't have a plan, but it's fun to explore the possibilities.

And it's FAST, too.  I'm able to weave several feet in just a few days.  It's definitely one of those instant gratification projects.

And if I really want to relax, I pick up my Multigrain Scarf from Shibui.  They sent me the yarn and pattern as a way to explore the "Shibui Mix" concept - holding multiple yarns together to create different fabrics.

This scarf uses Pebble, Silk Cloud, and Cima.  In the above picture you can see Pebble held double on the left (cashmere, silk, and wool), then 1 strand of Pebble and 1 of Silk Cloud in the middle, then Silk Cloud held double on the right.  (Silk Cloud is similar to Kidsilk Haze, only better in my opinion.)  It then progressed to Silk Cloud/Cima, Cima doubled, Cima/Pebble, and then Pebble doubled again.

Every time I pick up this project, I feel all of my stress melt away.  It's an incredibly indulgent project and there is no way I could possibly work with these fibers while remaining tense.  It's just impossible.

I'm using the same color (Mineral) for all of the yarns, but changing the combinations adds an interesting dimension to the texture of the scarf, despite the fact that the gauge remains the same.  It's a fun concept to explore and customers at the yarn shop have been falling in love with the different fabrics you can produce.

So there you have it, that's what I've been up to on top of knitting sweater after sweater after sweater (and working two jobs).  There are potentially some very exciting changes coming up in my near future, but more on that later.  Take care!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Shepherd's Harvest

Shepherd's Harvest - Minnesota's sheep and wool festival - was this past weekend and I think it's safe to say that I was an active attendee.  Last year I felt like I went a little crazy with my purchases, so this year I arrived with a small list of humble purchases I was hoping to make to keep myself reigned in.  I had already decided I wasn't going to buy any fleece this year because I still haven't spun what I bought last year and I wasn't interested in buying yarn, so really what I was looking for were small samples of this and that for a class I'm going to be teaching next month all about fiber.

Needless to say, I was able to find everything on my list.  I had methodically worked my way through all of the buildings that morning (Buildings A-D) before meeting up with a friend.  I had made my way through buildings A, B, and C before disaster struck.  My friend texted me, "Where are you?"  "Building D.  Save me from myself!!"  I had come face to face with this fleece.

My friend did not, in fact, save me.  Instead, he said something like "you need to buy that."  Some help he is.  I really am excited about it, though, and hopefully I will actually get around to using it.  It's a Corriedale fleece from a young ram and I'm a sucker for those natural colors.  Have you ever seen a colored Corriedale like that?  I sure haven't.  I washed a handful of locks when I got home to play around with and fully intended to wash the whole fleece in one go with the intention of carding it, but when I combed a few locks and spun them up, I swooned.  So now I've stored the fleece without washing it and will wash it more carefully to keep the locks intact.  Washing the whole fleece at once is just fine for carding because the fibers are going to get jumbled up when you card them anyway, but for combing you want the locks to stay together so you can comb the fibers into a parallel organization.

And now you're wondering what that other bag on the left side of the picture is, I'm sure.  Last year I missed the fleece judging/silent auction, but this year I walked through and looked at all the fleece up for auction and I couldn't resist...

That would be me with the Grand Champion fleece, which I won because I'm greedy like that.

But helloooooo, would you have left that there?  It's a Romney and this one I will definitely comb because it's a longer-stapled fleece that wouldn't lend itself well to carding.  (Generally fibers less than 3 inches are carded and greater than 4 are combed.  There's some wiggle room there in the middle and certainly you can try what you like, these are just standards that industrial mills tend to follow.)

So there, now you know the truth.  I have no idea where I'm going to put all of this when I move in two weeks, but I'm sure it'll all work out.  I'm eager to get back to my wheel, but sample knitting keeps me busy, busy, busy.

Oh, and speaking of moving, the most exciting thing about my new apartment is that I'm finally going to have internet at home again!  And my front yard will be a park, which will maybe entice me to get out and take FO pictures again.  That would be nice, wouldn't it?