Category Archives: On My Needles

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

So, I’ve been trying to prune some of my stash.  I used up a bunch of that blue Provincial Tweed for my big old sweater that I finished the other day.  I knit that fair isle sweater for my kid a couple months ago, using up a lot of leftover sock yarn.  And, I’ve made a couple scarves, cowls, and other little in-between-big project projects.

Sometimes I actually use up my yarn.

Sometimes I end up with more yarn than I started with.

So, I’ve had these two little balls of purple yarn for years.  (I got them to make a baby sweater for a friend’s kid.  I think she’s in kindergarten now.  It’s been a while.)  I lost the label, and couldn’t figure out what kind of yarn it was, but I know it was superwash and baby-appropriate.  So I though, “Hey, let’s use up this yarn and make a cute little purple sweater for the boy!”  Seems like a good idea.

Except that I apparently have no idea how much yarn a baby sweater takes.

You’ll notice that I ran out of purple  just about halfway through the sweater. (I knit it bottom-up, so it’s easy to see where I ran into trouble.)IMG_1226.JPGI also kind of guessed on the size, so it’s very, very big on the boy.  Of course, he’ll grow into it, but I was kind of hoping he’d be able to wear it now, when it’s cold out, instead of in 6 months when it’s a million degrees out. (Well, 80.  We live in Seattle after all.)  Oh well.img_1205And, I ended up having to buy a whole big skein of sock yarn to finish the top part of the sweater.  Because, of course, I didn’t have any yarn that matched that particular shade of purple in my stash.  So now I have 3/4 of a skein of sock yarn to add to my stash. So much for paring down my collection.img_1230At least the kid seems to like his new sweater!img_1200How do you use up your yarn?  Or do you just keep buying it, like I seem to be doing?

Ding dong!

The witch is dead!

Or, I should say, The Sweater is Finished!

It’s been over 9 months since I started this bad boy, and it. has. languished.  I’d pick it up every few weeks, work a couple rows (complaining the whole time), then put it down and somehow be shocked (shocked!) when the sweater wasn’t any bigger when I went to pick it up again the next time.

I freaking hated this thing by the time I got to the end of it.

So, it’s surprising that when I finally finished it (just before Christmas), I absolutely loved how it turned out!

IMG_1141.JPGIt might be my favorite sweater right now.  (I’ve worn it basically every day since I finished it, and didn’t even bother blocking it because I didn’t want to wait for it to dry).

It’s a super simple sweater, no fancy shaping, just a regular old Ann Budd top-down set-in-sleeve sweater with a crew neck and lots of extra length.  But, it fits like a glove, and the Knit Picks Provincial Tweed is crazy soft.IMG_1158It’s super comfy, and (despite the unflattering angle on the above photo), looks pretty nice, if I say so myself.  I couldn’t be happier (or more surprised) with how nicely the finished sweater is.

Have you ever finished something, only to be pleasantly surprised by how it turned out?

Not Shopping

I’ve always taken a weird kind of backwards pride in my stash.  It’s not impressively large, or full of any really fancy or special yarn.  In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite.  I’ve always been proud that it’s pretty well under control.  I try only to buy yarn that I plan on using for a specific project, and I try not to start any new projects until I finish my current ones (within reason… I’m no superhero).

But, I was cleaning out the closet in my studio a few weeks ago, and, well, I realized that my stash isn’t as under control as I thought it was.

I’ve got quite a lot of yarn.

Like, sweater-amounts of yarn.  (Well, baby sweater amounts of yarn, at least.)

Which has made me decide to start on a using-up-stashed-yarn quest.

I began with two skeins of a gigantic mystery yarn.  And I mean gigantic.  It was almost more roving than yarn, crunchy, itchy, bright blue wool.  I pulled out some US19s (really, they’re more like vampire-hunting stakes than knitting needles), and whipped up a quick garter stitch bowl with short rows.  I love how it turned out, but I’m never working with such a big gauge again- such a pain!IMG_1001I’ve also been blowing through a big moss-stitch scarf.  I usually hate scarves (not sure why, when I’ll happily make a shawl or a sweater, or even a gigantic garter stitch blanket), but I’m enjoying this one.  And I think I’ll have enough yarn left over to make a matching hat!  Leftovers on top of leftovers!IMG_0985I’ve already picked out my next projects!  I’m going to make a Zagged Cowl from the green yarn. (I made one years ago when I wrote the pattern, but I can’t find the danged thing for the life of me.  Luckily, I’ve got another skein ready to go!)  The blue on the left, plus the mini skeins are all Madeline Tosh Light- I think they’ll become some kind of color-work, maybe a hat?  I’ve had the mini-skeins hanging on my bulletin board for years, waiting for inspiration to strike, and I think the time might be right to get to work on them.  And, the mystery purple fingering weight on the right- I think that will be a baby sweater, maybe in combination with some other little odds and ends of mystery yarn from my stash.IMG_1009It feels great to be using up yarn (and making room for more!).

Have you ever gone “shopping” in your stash?  What did you find?  What did you make with it.

It is the sweater that doesn’t end…

Yes, it goes on and on, my friend!  Some people started knitting it, not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue knitting it forever just because it is the sweater that doesn’t end…

(Lamb Chop’s Play-along, anyone?)

Yes, I’m still working on the never-ending Provincial Tweed sweater.  The thing is, it’s so close to being done, I can taste it.

Look!  Only 1 cuff to go!IMG_0956I finished the right sleeve (and it’s nice and long)…IMG_0960I worked up the neck a nice simple crew neck that fits pretty perfectly…IMG_0946I even finished the split hem…IMG_0970But holy moly, that hem is unflattering.  it’s like a big, ugly arrow pointing to the widest part of my thighs.IMG_0968And why, oh, why did I decide that a garter stitch border on a stockinette stitch flap would be a good choice?  It’s all flap-y and roll-y and weird and disappointing.

I guess I’ll finish off my left sleeve, then rip back my split hem.  I might come up with something more interesting, but right now, I’m thinking a nice long 1×1 rib hem to match the cuffs.  So much for my plans for a super-cool over-sized, positive-ease sweater or something complex and cable-y.  But, if I’m being honest, a simple pullover in a lovely, soft (and machine-washable!) yarn will probably get more wear these days.

I just wish it was done already!

Do you have any projects that just. won’t. end?

Finished Fair Isle

I finished my baby Fair Isle sweater!  And just in time, too, because my baby’s giant head is already threatening to outgrow the neck hole.  But, I suppose that’s most of the challenge with knitting for babies- getting the project done before they outgrow it.

Anyway, pictures!IMG_0760.JPG Here he is, beginning what I’m sure will be an illustrious career in knitwear modeling.  (He looks a little grumpy because he just got up from his nap and I immediately shoved his head through this slightly-too-tight neck hole.)  Otherwise, this sweater fits pretty well.  It’s even got some growing room lengthwise in the arms and the body.  Perfect!IMG_0817I love the way my speckled, variegated and hand-dyed yarns all play off each other, making the yoke look more complicated than it was.  And, of course, I love the colors. I think they look especially pretty with the boy’s bright blue eyes and adorable pink cheeks.  (But I think most things look especially adorable on him.)IMG_0806.JPGHave you done any knitting for kids lately?  How did it go? Did you manage to finish while the kid still fit in it?

Itsy Bitsy Fair Isle

My kid is growing like a weed.   All the sweaters I made for him (except for this monstrosity) are already way too small for him.  His little Captain Picard sweater was practically too small when he was born- I could never get it to button all the way up.  He doesn’t like knit hats, he’s too little for mittens and scarves, and socks and bootees slip right off of him.

Anyway, I have an un-sweatered baby and I’ve got a little free time in my knitting schedule and some sock yarn leftover from a recent design.  Perfect timing!IMG_0525

I decided I wanted to try my hand at some fun Fair Isle knitting.  And, it had to be a pullover (cardigans just end up in the baby’s mouth).  Plus it had to be seamless and top-down (my favorite way to knit sweaters).

So, I dug around on Ravelry for a bit, util I found this beautiful sweater!

Christmas in July by Tanis LavalleeChristmasInJuly-Laura_medium2

Insanely pretty, right?  I love how multi-colored it is!  Sure, mine will be distinctly more blue-green, since that’s the yarn I’ve got, but that’s OK.  I love the fun, modern take on a classic yoked sweater.   (And I like that the color work doesn’t go past the armpits- continuing color  work down sleeves is a pain in the butt.  I mean, I’ll do it, but I’ll complain the whole time.)

Plus, it comes in kids and grown-up sizes!  If I really like how it turns out, I can make a matching sweater for myself, and become that lady.

I’m currently about 3/4 of the way through the yoke, and I kind of love how it’s turning out.IMG_0531It’s not as graphic as the examples, but I love the subtle way my speckled and variegated yarns work together in the complex color work.  I think this is going to be a great little sweater.  (Here’s hoping the boy fits in it for more than fifteen minutes-  I’m making a one-year-old size, in the hopes that it’ll get a little more use.  We’ll have to see how it goes.)

I can’t wait to see it finished!

What are you working on now?

Best Laid Plans

I don’t usually show you my “in progress” designs.  Usually, that’s because either: 1. I’m under contract to keep them under wraps.  Or 2. I’m so excited with how the pattern is turning out that I want to keep it a surprise and unveil it when it’s all shiny and finished.

Which means that you guys only ever see it when projects are finished and I’m happy with them.  (To be fair, most projects that I’m unhappy with never even get finished.  I usually bail halfway through and rip out the yarn to use in some other project.)

But this time you guys get to see a pattern from the Island of Misfit Sweaters!

I was so excited about this design- I was even excited enough that I decided to go ahead and knit it up and write up a pattern, even though my original design wasn’t picked up by publishers.  I was sure I knew better!  It was so cute in my mind!  It was an interesting knit!  It was small enough that it wouldn’t take much time!

Well, maybe I was in a haze of baby-brain/sleep-deprivation when I decided to go on with writing the pattern, but man was I wrong.

This pattern was doomed from the outset.

  1. The colors I picked were not good- two shades of green and a weird yellow-brown? What was I thinking? Was this 1972?IMG_0498.JPG
  2. The design that I thought was so clever was actually just overly complicated and a pain in the neck.  (Why make a sweater the time-tested, easy, simple way I’m familiar with, when I can break out the provisional cast-ons, short rows, and three-needle bind-offs?)IMG_0502.JPG
  3. I had intended the sweater to fit my kid (he’s already grown out of all the sweaters I made him before he was born- he’s a Robust German Baby).  I did the math wonky, and I think this sweater will fit him when he’s about 4 years old.  Look how long it is! And those sleeves!!!IMG_0504.JPG
  4. And, speaking of math, all that math I did to write this pattern… I lost it somewhere along the way.  Maybe I did the math in a fever dream… Maybe I got some sort of virus that only deletes bad patterns… Maybe I just forgot to save.  We’ll never know.

So, in summary.  Here’s a picture of the sweater that is not to be.  You won’t be seeing a pattern for this bad boy.  You might see my kid wearing it in a few years, or you might see me unravel it and knit it into something else (but probably not).  IMG_0506.JPGIt was a good idea, but some ideas aren’t really meant for this world.  Sigh…

Have you ever had a great idea that ended up going really, really sideways?  What happened?

Guesstimates

I’ve been knitting for decades.

I’ve been knitting sweaters for almost as long.

I’ve been designing my own patterns for close to 10 years, and professionally writing patterns for more than 5 years.

And no matter how I try, I still can’t accurately estimate how much yarn I need for a project.

Example 1A: My Provincial Tweed Sweater.IMG_0331I’ve been working on this bad boy for a while now, off and on over the last few months.  I’ve gotten the body done to about hip length (it still needs the nice long ribbed hem that I have planned for it).  It’s currently 15″ from the underarm.  A nice, generous length for a sweater.IMG_0337I have used up 2 skeins of yarn to get this far.  I originally thought I’d use 10 skeins.

Now I’m thinking I’ll maybe use 4 skeins.  I’ve poorly estimated yarn yardage before, but dang… I was very very wrong this time.IMG_0322I guess everyone is getting blue tweed sweaters for Christmas.

Have you mis-estimated your yardage before?  How badly were you off?

Prepped and Ready

I have about 37 different “favorite parts” of knitting.  I love picking out yarn, I love casting on, I love binding off.  I love trolling Ravelry for the perfect pattern, and I love deciding that Ravelry doesn’t actually have the pattern I’m looking for and deciding to go my own way. I love getting deep into a big swath of stockinette or garter stitch, and I love carefully picking my way through fussy little lace.

But my current (and by current, I mean “this morning.” It could change by this afternoon) favorite part of knitting is getting my yarn ready for knitting.

I just spent a quiet hour with a podcast, a cup of coffee and my yarn swift, turning these squishy, gorgeous skeins of yarn into usable little cakes.IMG_0227There’s something really meditative about spooling up skeins of yarn. Watching the swift spin faster and faster, and the yarn zoom around the ball winder is very calming to me.  Something about getting everything set and prepped and ready to be used is so satisfying.IMG_0236It feels like the first day of a new school year- all that promise.  Only instead of new notebooks and pencils in my Jansport, I’ve got all that lovely yarn stashed away in my knitting bag and the perfect set of needles ready to go.  I can’t wait to get knitting with this yarn.IMG_0263I’m sure I’ll get frustrated with this project at some point (I’m guessing at about 60% completion), but right now, I couldn’t be happier with it.

What’s your favorite part of starting a knitting project?

Not Knitting

It’s been hot as… well, something that’s really hot.  It’s been too hot to really think.  And it’s definitely been too hot to knit.

Seattle doesn’t usually get more than a day or two of hot weather in the summer.  (I’m talking actual hot weather, not “Seattle Hot” where it gets to 75 degrees and everyone whines.)  But this year, we’ve had a couple weeks of upper 80s/low 90s, which is real miserable.  No one has air conditioning around here, and in the places that do (like the mall), it’s pretty disappointing.

So I’ve set my big blue sweater aside for the time being.  As lovely as it is, I’m not interested in sitting with a gigantic pile of wool on my lap.  No thank you.

Instead, I went diving into my craft room stash for something a little more seasonally-appropriate to do.

And, boy, did I hit the jackpot!  (Thanks, Past Allison!)

At some point, I must have been on a cross-stitching jag, and I bought three little cross stitch kits.  They’re cute little Christmas-y birds (that are inexplicably postage-themed?).  A goldfinch, a bluebird and a chickadee.I had already started the goldfinch- the “stamp” part was mostly done when I pulled it out the other day.  (I honestly have no memory of working on this cross stitch- I must have started it years ago!)  A couple days of work, and voila!   I’m working on the bluebird now.  I’ve already messed up the head, but I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable, so I decided not to unpick the problematic stitches- he’s just a slightly chubbier-than-normal bluebird.The birds are supposed to be made into little ornaments, but I’m not sure if that’s what I’ll do with them.  Maybe they’ll end up being part of a wall hanging quilt, or sewn into little pillows.

I suppose I should finish them before I go planning next steps.

What do you do when it’s too hot to knit?