Spring Cleaning

Or, I guess it’s Fall Cleaning…

The mornings are getting cooler and I’m reaching for my big wool sweaters again, sweaters I haven’t worn in months.  And, frankly, they’re kinda (very) gross.

Theoretically, I do a big cleaning of all my knitwear every year, then spot-clean as necessary.  But if I’m being honest, this hasn’t happened in quite a while.  Like, maybe 5 years since I last did a through once-over of all my sweaters.   And it shows.

I put on my Bubbles Pullover the other day, and my allergies went off like I’d just rubbed my face in a pile of pollen, dust, and cat dander.  Not ideal.

So, while I might not have the time to devote to every single sweater in my closet, I do have time to clean at least this one.  Let me show you how I did it.

First, I hit it with the de-piller.  I like this Sweater Stone.  It seems pretty efficient, and it’s what I’ve had for years.  The de-pillers with blades kind of scare me, like they might jump out and cut my sweater, but this one seems fairly gentle (maybe?).  But, if I have a really special sweater, made with really delicate fibers or featuring a lot of texture-work, I’ll just go through and pick off the really bad pills by hand.  Efficient? No.  Gentle? Yep.IMG_2110Then I did a once-over for any holes or snags.  I noticed a little hole near the collar of this guy.  It’s not so bad, so I’ll leave it for another day.  But, if it was worse or in a more critical spot, I’d fix it before I washed it, to prevent making the run worse.IMG_2119Now it’s time for a bath!  I folded the sweater, and lay it in a nice, warm, soapy bath.  I like Eucalan soap, since it’s super-gentle on wool, doesn’t require a rinse, and smells nice, but isn’t too scented. IMG_2121I never swish the sweater around or anything.  Remember, wool + agitation + water = felt, so I keep the agitation to a minimum.  I just push the sweater down into the water, squeezing out the air.IMG_2125Then I let it sit for… a bit.  I’m sure there’s a rule about this, but I usually just let it hang out until I get bored.  At least 5 minutes or so (more, if you’re like me and wander off and forget).IMG_2128And this is the best/worst part:  Look at how gross the water is!!! Yuck!IMG_2131I let the water drain away, and carefully wrung out most of the water (again being careful not to agitate too much).  Then I rolled the sweater up in a towel or two, and squeezed the sweater burrito to get out even more water.IMG_2134Then it’s off to the drying rack!  I like using these big (clean) window screens. (They were originally used as drying racks for hops, back when my husband grew hops for his home-brew beer, but now I mostly use them for my knitwear.)   You can also use your regular blocking boards or just lay your sweater out on more clean towels.  Just make sure you’ve got it blocking to the right measurements, otherwise your sweater might end up clean, but lopsided!IMG_2142Now I just have to repeat the process for my other two dozen sweaters…

How often do you clean your knitwear?  Do you have any tricks to streamline the process?

Let’s Keep the Momentum!

Now that I’ve got my DPNs squared away, it’s time I did something (anything) with my circulars.

Right now (and, honestly for the last 15+ years), they’ve lived in one big jumble in this shopping bag.  It’s not pretty.  From time to time, I go through and try to match them up with their envelopes.  It’s a pain and I hate it, so mostly they’re just a big old rats nest hanging at the back of my closet. Don’t judge me.IMG_2103.JPGIn the back of my mind, I knew that there were circular needle holders out there- my mom even sells them. (She won’t let me buy anything from her shop, but you should buy from her.  Her stuff is amazing.)  So I pulled out the sewing machine and some fabric scraps and whipped up this bad boy myself.IMG_2093

It’s not the prettiest.  (In my defense, I picked my fabrics at night when the light was not great, and I thought the yellow was a better match, but still.  Also- rickrack?  Really?) But it’s functional and has already saved me a bunch of time.  It’s great seeing all the needles I have all laid out.  Weirdly, I have a lot more US3s than I expected, and a lot fewer US8s.  Funny how that goes.  At least now I know, and won’t keep buying 3s…

How do you organize your needles?

Getting those needles into shape!

I admit, this is a little bit of a silly one, but something that I’ve been needing to do for literally years.  I’ve done it.  I’ve officially organized my DPNs!  *Applause please.*

For a long time, I tried to keep my DPNs in their original packaging, but that was a mess.  It looked awful. I had packs of needles stashed everywhere, and I could never find the ones I needed.

Then several years ago, I put all my needles in one big ceramic jar.  I figured they’d at least be all in the same place.  I didn’t have to go rummaging through thirty-seven different project bags, or digging in my desk, or looking through my various pencil cases and backpacks.

And they looked cute! Bonus!IMG_2080

But that was quite a while ago, and in the interim, I’ve acquired *ahem* quite a few more needles.  (I don’t have a problem, you have a problem.)

I was digging through them the other day, looking for some US6’s, and I ended up so frustrated that my husband offered to help (looking through probably 100+ nearly identical needles will do that to you).  He immediately said “There must be a better way.”  Which made me realize that there must be a better way.

Why had it never occurred to me!?  I like to think that I’m pretty smart, but sometimes I question my own intelligence.

Anyway, I was thinking of what I wanted, and I knew I still wanted my needles out on display, and I wanted to be able to grab the size I needed at a moment’s notice (or at least without a half-hour long search and a lot of swearing).

Long story short, I ended up at Target, and found a “lipstick organizer” (Who’d have thought that was a thing?!).  It’s a short-ish organizer with 16 little spaces, plenty for each size of needle to have its own spot. IMG_2072

So far, it’s working great!  It still looks a little messy, but it gets the job done.  I think I might add little stickers or something to label the sizes, but for now, it’s working out OK.

I can’t believe I wasted so much time digging through that old jar… sigh.

How do you organize your needles?

Done!

I’ve gotta admit- it’s been a while since I enjoyed a pattern this much.  Part of it might be the speed of the knit; a sweater without (much of) a body or sleeves isn’t going to take long.  It might be the simple, yet super effective colorwork.  I’ve yet to see a version of Soldotna that doesn’t work.  And it might be that it’s one of the most flattering sweaters I’ve finished in a long time.

I actually bound off several weeks ago, while we were on vacation up on the Sound.  I even blocked it in the sun, overlooking the water. (Blocking with a view makes the finished project better, right?)IMG_20190814_184940357_HDRI think my favorite part of this sweater is how wearable it is.  Who would have thought? A short-sleeved, cropped sweater? Really?  Past Allison would have laughed at the idea that I would wear something like this.

But, look at it!  It’s great!  (Ollie seems less than impressed, but that might be because I’m not feeding him treats.)IMG_2054I’ve been wearing it over dresses, tank-tops and jeans.  And once it cools down (fall’s right around the corner), I think it’ll be cute over long-sleeved tanks or a nice buttondown.IMG_2000The kid seems like he likes it too. (How cute would a baby one be?!)

Have you finished anything fun recently?

New Pattern: Olympic Pullover

I know- it’s crazy, but I’ve another new sweater for you!  Exciting!

This one’s feels pretty on the nose for me, as it’s just starting to get cooler out, and I’m dreaming of getting into the thick of fall.  And there’s nothing that says “autumn” to me better than a thick, cabled, over-sized wool sweater.  (Though, honestly, this is really more of a “deep winter” sweater if you’re a normal person, and not a cold-blooded lizard person like me.  My husband tried it on and managed maybe five minutes before he started to overheat.)

It’s the Olympic Pullover!52715220_06.jpgIt’s named after the Olympic Peninsula, the gorgeous part of Washington between the Puget sound and the Pacific Ocean.  It’s full of lush forests, misty coastline and snowy peaks.  (And it’s where Twilight was based, if that gives you an idea.  Though I imagine that people that live over there don’t love that reference.)  It’s the perfect place to traipse around in a woolly cabled pullover.52715220_15.jpgThis sweater is beyond simple- dropped shoulders mean almost no shaping, and everything’s worked in pieces and sewn up, so it would make nice travel knitting.  Plus, the cables look super-complicated, but once you get them established, they’re pretty simple. 52715220_12

You can get a copy of the pattern here, or grab the whole collection (highly recommended- there’s some great sweaters in here!) here.

Pattern: Piper’s Creek Pullover

Woo hoo!  It’s a pattern day!

And this one’s a little out of my usual wheelhouse, because:

  1. It’s a fingering-weight sweater worked on US3’s.  Why? Because I’m a crazy person.
  2. It’s colorwork!  I love how colorwork looks, but all things being equal, I think I’m more of a cables person.  I love a big squishy sweater. (OK, I love making a big cabled sweater.  I’d wear either in a heartbeat.)

Anyway, without further ado, let me introduce the Piper’s Creek Pullover!52724220_09It’s a long-sleeved yoked pullover, made with Palette yarn from Knit Picks (though you could use really any fingering-weight wool).  It uses at least 7 (count em) different colors (great for using up leftover scraps!), but could be easily modified to use as many colors as you have on hand.  I made mine for my husband with a gray background and blue, red and yellow details.  It’s a great unisex sweater, and a fun, simple knit (assuming you don’t mind miles of US3 stockinette).

52724220_13.jpgI will say one thing though- the neck on the sample in these pictures ended up kind of funny, so if you want to make a Piper’s Creek Pullover (which I highly recommend), here’s what I would do to avoid the weird neck.  First, make sure that you’re only doing the number of short rows called for in the pattern, or maybe even reduce the number by one or two, just in case.  Second, make sure to work the colorwork nice and loosely (tight shoulders will make the neck funnel up, like it is in the pictures).  And third, make sure to block the sweater so the neck goes nice and smoothly into the shoulders.  Worst case scenario, if the neck ends up terrible even with all those precautions, you can always rip it out from the top down (or cut it out), pick up your neck stitches and work the neck and collar that you prefer after the sweater’s done.  (Though, that seems like a lot of work…)52724220_14

Want to pick up a copy? Grab the Piper’s Creek Pullover pattern here!  Or get the whole Palette collection here!

Pattern: Unspooled Dishcloth

Are any of you guys sewers (er… sew-ers? Sewists? People who sew)?  Have I got a dishcloth for you!

It’s the Unspooled Dishcloth!  It’s a super-cute dishcloth worked in the shape of a spool of thread.56122220

It’s super simple, and really versatile.  The “spool” part is worked in seed stitch, and the “thread” is worked with garter stitch.  I think this would be a fun way to use up scraps of yarn (rainbow thread!) or a great variegated (variegated thread!), or just use your favorite color.  How cute would a whole set of these be with matching spools, and coordinating thread colors?56122220_3

And best of all, the pattern is free!  Head on over to Knit Picks to pick up your copy!

Sheep in a Jeep!

As a stay at home parent, I spend a lot of my day reading kids books.  And, since my kid’s one and a half, and getting into the “Again! Again!” phase, I’ve been reading the same books over and over again.  Sometimes it’s an absolute chore (I’m looking at you, Follow that Truck!), but sometimes it’s great.  Especially when the book has a nice story, fun rhymes and detailed pictures.  Enter: Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy  Shaw.IMG_1973.JPGIt’s a delightful book about sheep who are remarkably bad at driving.  In 26 pages, they manage to 1. stall out their Jeep on the top of a hill,  2. get their Jeep stuck in a mud puddle, and 3. crash their Jeep against a tree.  It’s all very dramatic.

Anyway, on read-through 1,325, I noticed that one of the sheep has a knitting bag with her, and it goes flying when the car crashes.  She’s got 5 colors of yarn, and a half-finished… something.  Maybe it’s the beginning of a sweater or a scarf, or maybe it’s just a swatch.  Either way, it was super cute colorwork.  IMG_1977I noticed reddish ribbing on the bottom, then a row of… maybe blue and white circles, before a row of white triangles and red circles… and maybe some green on top with black dots? It wasn’t too clear, but I had a little time in my knitting schedule and some of the kid’s crayons to try to chart it out, so away I went.IMG_1981But halfway, through, I realized the red, white and green shapes weren’t just shapes… they were turnips!  (Or maybe radishes? It’s hard to tell the difference.)

I went back through the book to see if I could find another picture of the knitting.  And, wouldn’t you believe it- right on the back, clear as day, there was another view.  And now that I know they’re radishes, I can’t not see them.  Obviously- a row of radishes and a row of green dots.  How didn’t I see it before?IMG_1980Now that I was this far, I had to keep going- And another swatch later, I’ve got a very cute little radish design.  I’d change the colors so the contrast is there, but it’s a good start.IMG_1985Now I’ve just got to decide what to use this for.  Right now, I’m thinking a little pullover for the kiddo.  Maybe with a light blue background “above ground” and a nice chocolate brown heather for the dirt.  I think I might stagger the dots and the radishes,  and the leaves still need a little work, but I like where it’s going.

This whole Sheep in a Jeep project is getting a little out of hand (but maybe that’s fitting, considering the source material…).

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve gotten knitting inspiration from?

Cruising Along

I’m making headway with my Soldotna Crop, and I have to say, I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out.

I was concerned about the pinkness of the pink and the purpleness of the purple in the yoke.  (It’s really a crazy amount of super bold color-work, and I admit that by the end of it, I was starting to get nervous.)  But, now that I’m chugging along with the body, I really like the contrast between the bold, colorful top and the understated body.  Though, if I’m being honest, I kind of never want to do a “field of dots” sweater ever again. It’s just enough color-work to be a pain, but not enough to be exciting. (It does look nice, though…)

IMG_1955.JPG

I took a break from the body last night, and worked up the “sleeves.” I don’t think I’ve ever finished both sleeves on a sweater in one sitting (even a baby sweater).  This was really just an inch or so of ribbing- super simple and satisfying.  Now I think that all sweaters should have short sleeves!

I can’t wait for this thing to be finished and blocked (and those ends to be woven in… ugh).

But then I’ll have to figure out what to wear with it… That’ll be the tricky part.

Knitting Along

Ya’ll, this pattern is fun!  It’s been a minute since I did anything with this much color-work and I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

While last time I made a big deal about following someone else’s pattern and not doing any of my own math, I must admit I cheated a little bit.  I’d heard people complaining about the neck/short row situation on this sweater, so I changed it up a little.  Instead of working 7 rows of ribbing for the collar, I did 5. And instead of doing 5 sets of short rows, I did 3.  I think it’ll do nicely.  No turtleneck here!IMG_1943.JPGAnd I think I’m liking how these colors are playing together for the most part.  There’s still a part of me that’s a little skeptical of the pink-yellow variegated, but I think that’s because it’s just so far outside of the colors I usually pick.  And, I am a little concerned about the contrast between the pink and the gray in the big “arrow” section of the yoke.  (Though, honestly this picture makes it look pretty nice.  It’s a little less clear in real life.)IMG_1936.JPGI’m almost to the end of the yoke, which is both exciting (yay! I’m that much closer to finishing), and a little sad (boo! I’m that much closer to finishing).  It’s a fun little project, and with no sleeves and not much body to knit, it’ll be done before I know it.

What do you think of the colors?  I think I like them, but I’m still on the fence a bit.