August 2019 Catch Up

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • Nothing. Zip. Nada

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    This is my ‘desk’ project so only gets worked on in my lunch hour at work. Only a couple of rows further on. I will have to take another ball into work fairly soon though meaning I am about to start ball 3 (which is awesome as I’ve worked balls 1 and 2 twice due to me being an idiot)
  • Spectral – another 10 segments completed.  I’ve discovered I can do a segment in about 12 minutes and have definitely shifted into the second half of the scarf now – which is a relief!  The pattern calls for 56 segments I believe, but I want a symmetrical scarf so it’s going to end up being a Dr Who length of about twice that…

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • I’m easily distracted
    My brain runs off with ideas and gets to 90% then suddenly veers off and starts on a new idea.  This means that I have a lot of ‘not even started’ projects that I really want to do, but oh look,…. Shiny….
  • ChartMinder
    I’m always a bit late to the party, but wanted to let anyone who doesn’t already know about this little bit of free software in on the secret.  ChartMinder (www.chart-minder.com) is a little website that lets you design your own knitting, tapestry crochet or filet crochet charts by designing the segment and then seeing how it works in repeats.  You can change colours, do repeats vertically or horizontally (or both) and set your ‘repeats box’. It’s really very cool.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

I have a double knitting workshop at the end of September – so may have bought another 3 Caron Pantone mixes for that…

Really need to crack on with some projects so I reduce my stash again!  I was doing so well.

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance
July10-6
August80+2

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

I’ve realised I am pathologically incapable of writing a short post, so rather than have the really long, picture heavy posts once a month I am aiming for shorter posts of different styles twice a month.  The start of the month will be on something that has caught my eye (the Oh Shiny…) and the middle of the month will be the list you see above.

Quick! To the Fibre Festival!

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • Two crochet cotton collars
    I’ll be honest, I kinda worked out of my head for this.  I bought a pretty blouse in the M&S sale, and wanted to make it more ‘vintage’ with a matching collar.  Now I have two.
  • Mini Skein Jars
    Saw this idea on etsy and had half an hour to kill.  Might do a tutorial on how to make these with stuff you can buy in discount craft store ‘The Works’.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (PSurse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    This is my ‘desk’ project so only gets worked on in my lunch hour at work. Only a couple of rows further on.
  • Tirrold Sweater – came out of long term hibernation to become my ‘purse project’.  Have completed the first diamond of the lace pattern of the back
  • Spectral – got another few repeats done. Having spent what seemed like a long time getting a colour change every 2 or 3 segments I’m now upto 10 or 11 segments all the same colour. Luckily it’s a beautiful purple, but still a bit odd.

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • There is joy in being a beginner
    It can be useful to relearn or learn something completely new to remind yourself what it’s like to feel all fingers and thumbs and get that buzz of ‘mastering’ a new skill or technique. This month I’ve been playing with really looking at how my stitches ‘sit’ on the needles in my knitting – and how that affects the stitch – and also if wrapping clockwise or anticlockwise for crochet actually matters (short answer is yes, yes it does)…

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

Hmm. It started going wrong when The Works had the Caron X Pantone yarnspiration at just £5 a set.  I was good – I only bought 2, and I deliberately tried to buy colourways with at least one colour that I wouldn’t normally go for. But then Fibre East happened. Sigh.

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance
July10-6
August50-1

Oh Shiny…

The source of my chronic startitis – covering everything from planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye to subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

So I spent a little bit of time this month making some cute mini skein ornaments (and a lot less time than you would think) so I could have written about that, but I also did a little bit of dyeing with food colouring (having *so* much fun with this)  so I thought about writing about that, but then, in the midst of the hottest week of the year, there was Fibre East 2019!

My first yarn festival ever was the almost mythical Knitnation in 2010.   I was a brand new knitter and got to attend a workshop on casting on and binding off – and massive thanks to the lady who sat next to me and accidentally taught me how to read my knitting (a fundamentally essential skill in my opinion).  I was also introduced to the stampeding knitters attacking the Wollmeise stand – I still have the skein I bought to make Arlene’s World of Lace Sleeping Beauty, and I’m still amazed at how tight she manages to wind her skeins. It was also something of a baptism of fire into yarn that wasn’t 100% acrylic, how much yarn actually costs, and how to work out pence-per-yard!

After that came KnitNation 2011 (and memorable workshops with Franklin Habit and Susan Crawford), yarn-something-or-other in Brighton, three knitting and stitching shows at Alexandra Palace (just awful, I was talked into going twice more than I really wanted to) and my first attendance at Yarnporium 2018 (which is a lovely ‘little’ show run every other year in London).  There have also been four visits to Fibre East. My last visit was in 2017 as I couldn’t make it last year and this year didn’t disappoint.

I also got to take a friend (‘D’) to her second ever fibre show – and the biggest one she’s been to.  I met up with friend (and fibre east show regular) ‘R’ with her two boys, and unfortunately plans to meet up with new friend Melanie_Odell from the dyeing course (check out her beautiful work on Instagram) failed, but maybe next year!

Having had the hottest day in the UK on record (38.7C) on the Thursday, it was thankfully quite a bit cooler by Saturday (just 23C) – though I could have lived without the rain.  We arrived early (as the doors opened) and had a wander through all that was on offer. 

D tried her hand at drop spindle, I had a go at weaving on an 8 shaft loom and the boys had a blast trying out block printing.  The show was bigger again this year, and it took us nearly 4 hours to amble around and have a nosey at most things (remember we had two small children in tow).  Lots and lots (and lots) of hand dyed artisan yarns, quite a bit of felting on display and the guild’s hall showcased some very impressive work.

Changes to the catering this year meant that there were huge queues and a mediocre (at best) offering for food – I think next year will be a bring-your-own picnic – but it must be difficult to feed and water a crowd of a couple thousand people.  My one ‘beef’ was with the shoppers who felt the need to keep their new purchases ‘safe’ by putting them on chairs at their tables. I’m sorry but when you can see people standing trying to juggle a sandwich and hot drink and bags then taking up seats for your new stash is just ignorant.  Particularly during the really busy period between 12 and 2.

It was a delight to see ‘old friends’ (I’m not sure they really are friends if you see them once a year in order to buy yarn from them but I’m going with it) and to make some new ones.  Special shout outs to the lovely people who I didn’t buy anything off this time but have in the past or will in the future… Ducky Darlings where I admired their beautiful Navelli tee sweater (sorry for not linking to the project in Ravelry – I can’t find it!), Jon at EasyKnits who is always awesome and doing really creative things with sock blanks and interesting colourways and Sue at SSK (Sue Stratford Knits) with her lovely drink inspired designs and badges.

I have to say I was very reserved and only picked up a ‘couple’ of things; 

  • It started with 423gms of undyed lambswool with a tweed fleck for just £10 and a single skein of undyed mohair for £3 from AC Wood speciality fibres.
  • Followed by the Strange Brew book from TinCanKnits (I see yoked patterned sweater designs in my not-to-distant future) bought from Ewe and Ply
  • Tim and Denise at WilloFibres were happy to sell me some new acid dye colours that I am not confident making myself,
  • Sarah and Jon from Purlescence were as wonderful as always and added to my Chiaogoo interchangeable collection with some 6mm tips and yet another cable (why do we never have enough?)
  • The intriguing  Ribbonesque pattern might have fallen into my bag – thought up by the talented Tanja at The Knitting Swede
  • little tiny bee stitch markers and a lovely 1/2 sized gauge measure arrived via Emma at Yarnistry (and some distinctly not safe for work stitch markers for one of D’s crafting friends)
  • And finally after much cooing and indecision (and technically after the show had closed)  the very patient Tara and her mother at Irish Artisan Yarns (IAY) parted with the most amazing orange/blue ‘Ballyholme’ colourway (seriously check out the watercolour soft colours on her baby alpaca silk blends)

And before you think ‘gosh, that’s a lot!’ I have come back from other yarn shows with over 20 skeins of yarn plus ‘trinkets’.  3 skeins, 2 patterns, a set of stitch markers a gauge measure and some dye does not constitute ‘a lot’ in my universe at least ; -)

Another special shout out to  Alls Wool that Ends Wool.  D picked up the most amazing sparkle cosmic colourway (which isn’t currently on their Etsy shop for me to link to) from Emma & Hubby (thanks for being so patient with all the questions guys).

So a long day (I set off at 6.20am and got home just on midnight) but Fibre East is genuinely a lovely show to attend. Are you picking up the courage to attend your first show? Or are you an old hand at this and what’s your favourite show?

Finally, a little side note: if you want a giggle, apparently crochet garments are in again – Kenya Hunt of the Guardian newspaper is most taken with her £295 granny square dress and she’s managed to get an entire article about how to wear this dress with two different pairs of shoes and accessories.

I’m all for hand crafted garments (and you don’t get much more handcrafted than crochet as there is no machine that can do this) but I do wish crochet would move past the granny square! Knitting has developed so much from the monstrous clown-barf mohair stuff I was forced to wear in the 1970s and 1980s, but crochet garments really do seem to be stuck in the 70s (with the exception of the amazing avant-garde stuff that the Russian bloc and Japan seem to be producing)

Dyeing to learn..

This is a little different to my ‘usual’ posts in that not much time has passed (a little over 2 weeks) since my July post, so the regular ‘features’; Finished Objects, Works in Progress, Every Day’s a School Day and Bits of Sheep, will return in the August post.

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

The 22nd and 29th of June were spent in a haze of chemical compounds in a garrett studio in south London.  But oh, what fun we had!

the start point of the adventure…

Ok, to be completely fair the ‘garrett’ was a bright and airy 2nd floor large studio at Morley College, the chemical haze was safely contained within the fume cupboard and ‘south’ London was within 10 minutes (brisk) walk of Waterloo station.

I was there to be inducted into the delights of hand dyeing yarn (a source of much confusion and amusement to my non-yarn friends) over two days – covering everything from making up stock dyes, working out mordants (the stuff that stops the dye from just falling off the yarn  again, mixing colours and dying a variety of fibre (lambswool and cotton provided by them for little cost, superwash, silk and fibre blends provided by ourselves)

It was a small group, just 4 for the first session and we were joined by 2 more for the second session, and Alex (our tutor) brought her wonderful calm, exploratory nature to create a class just brimming with curiosity and ‘what happens if…’

We covered so much in the two days of the class that I’m going to summarise this a bit – and possibly (probably) do companion posts in future.  The main points I learnt are:

There are different types of dye for different fibres

So the first thing we learnt is that not all dye is created equal, it depends on what type of fibre you are trying to add colour to.

  • Protein based fibres (most animal fibres such as wool, alpaca etc.. and silk) are dyed using Protein or Acid dyes (same thing, different terms).  They are called acid dyes because you use an acid (often vinegar or citric acid) and heat as a fixer.
  • Celluloid Fibres (most plant fibres such as cotton, hemp, linen…) are dyed using Protion or Alkaline dyes (again same thing, different terms).  They are fixed with an alkaline such as sodium carbonate solution and salt water.  This method doesn’t require heat to set – and entertainingly (confusingly) can be used on protein based fibres by using an acid and heat.

Note: the powders are very fine and must only be handled if you are wearing a suitable dust mask or have access to a fume cupboard.  Gloves are required or your hands will give you away as a dyer and the dyes take *ages* to fade…

You have to scour your yarn before starting

  • Scouring means to clean your yarn and remove all oils and grease as well as dirt before you start.  It is usually done by dunking the yarn into a pot of vinegar water for ½ hour, or leaving overnight in a pot with a bit of dish soap (depending on the fibre)
  • Of course rules were made to be broken and if you are working from commercially produced undyed skeins there is nothing stopping you dunking it into the dye bath dry – it’s one way of getting a specific result (see below)

There are loads of different ways of adding the colour to the fibre

Depending on the dye type, some of these methods will work better than others, but the main styles of hand dyeing seem to be:

  • Solid – put the fibre in a pot with water.  Add the dye. Bring up the heat (if needed).  Wait until all the colour is absorbed. Rinse.  Apparently this can be hard to achieve as a hand-dyer and you are more likely to end up with…
  • Tonal – adding dry yarn to a pre-warmed dye bath – or adding yarn in a big pan and then adding dye outside or inside the yarn (like a doughnut) means the dye will uptake differently giving subtle shade differences around the skein.  This can also happen with some mixed colours where different component colours attach to the yarn at different rates. An example of this would be purple made up of blue and red – the red will attach faster than the blue meaning there would be some red/purple bits and some blue/purple bits.
  • Dip Dyed – A section of yarn is dipped into several dye baths of different colours giving long(ish) sections of colour but there are multiple different colours per skein (2+)  the length of each section depends on how big your skein is!
  • Ombre – the yarn is dipped in sections into the yarn for different amounts of time – the longer the yarn is in the pot the deeper the final colour.  This can be done by putting all the yarn in and then taking bits out, or by gradually adding more yarn to the pot. Gives a single gradient shade along the skein.
  • Hand-Painting – the yarn is laid out on a flat surface and the dye is painted, pressed, dribbled, printed etc.. onto the yarn.  This gives a very high level of control over where the dye goes and which colours go where
  • Space Dyeing – can be done flat on a surface or in a low level of water in a pan.  Very similar to hand painting. Done flat it usually gives short stripes of colour across a skein (giving an almost tie-dye effect).  In a pan the extra water encourages dispersion so gives a softer marbled effect and colour mixing.
  • Tie Dye – By adding twists of string or ribbon tightly to the fibre you can make areas that are white and undyed.  These you can leave white or add other colours after the first process. For example you could make a solid or tonal yarn and then add a secondary colour by hand-painting.
  • Speckling – using a tool (brush, toothbrush, finger, fork) to spray/drop small amounts of dye (powder or fluid) across a skein laid flat on a surface or in a shallow bath.  This gives little dots or specks of colour/s throughout the yarn.
  • Overdyeing – adding a second colour over an existing colour.  For example dyeing a fibre yellow, then adding red would give an orange colour.  Often used to ‘correct’ colourways that you don’t like. You can go darker but not paler.
  • Glazing – this is a form of dyeing where the fibre is put into a second colour for a very short space of time so that only the outermost threads pick up any dye and it is only surface.  Frequently used as a form of overdyeing.

There is less maths than you think

While it is possible to get jewellers scales and weigh dye out to a fraction of a gram (and this is needed if you want exact repeatable colours) this is not necessary for dyeing at home.  Most of the course was ‘about this much’ finger in the air measurements (we were given crib sheets of the most common ratio’s) This created a wonderful exploratory, curiosity driven class which gave us the confidence to try a more scientific approach at home if you wanted to.

You need less dye than you think

We made up 5 colours of stock dye (the base solution you make everything else from).  10g of dry powder mixed with 200mg of water each was PLENTY (I have enough left over to dye another 10 or so 100g skiens to a mid depth of colour).  We used 5 colours in the acid dye (a blue/black, blue, blue/red, a greeny yellow and an orangey yellow – and by that I mean the black had blue tones, the red had blue tones…) and 4 colours in the alkaline dye (black, blue, red and red/yellow).  You can buy dyes from online suppliers in about 5grams upwards.

These five shades were all we needed to be able to make any colour you can think of by mixing different quantities of different base colour together e.g. red and blue makes purple.

Colours don’t mix in the way I think they do

And I think this is where I am going to have a lot of fun.  The most surprising was that to get grey (with the blue/black acid dye we were using) you had to add orange (to cancel out the blue) – never would have thought of that!

The Dyeing community are welcoming and very sharing with their knowledge

There is a whole heap of people who are taking the time to share quality videos that are clear and understandable on all sorts of different techniques.  Check out YouTube. Some of those I have found useful are HueLoco (lovely clear videos on dyeing techniques including how they knit up), Rebecca of ChemKnits (for a whole gamut of videos on every technique you can think of and a nice clear video on the maths of dyeing), Nicole Frost of FrostYarn (for wonderfully detailed video and handouts on ratios of dyes to get specific colours) and Wool,Needles, Hands (for a fascinating journey through dyeing skeins from inspiration photo to finished product)

In a little more detail (with photos of what I did…)

The first morning was spent getting a little bit of background about ourselves, showing samples and talking about the different types of dye.  We then made little mini skeins of lambswool and made up our protein dyes. While we were making our dyes and colours we also set our yarns to pre-soak for about 30 minutes in a water bath with our vinegar added  (not much it works out as about 1 tablespoon of vinegar per mug of water)

We made up five base colours, from which we would mix all our other colours. Then we were left to our own devices to mix colours we wanted to try.  This was done but putting a dribble in a white cup and adding other colours till you got about the colour you wanted. Then (because this class was an introduction to and not focussed on exact repeatable results) you kind of remembered that you had put in twice as much red and blue, or 3 times as much yellow/green as red and tipped about the ‘right amount’ into a pre-heated water filled pan or (in our case) tea urn.  Alex was the absolute master at getting this right, years of experience allowing her to perform what was, in our eyes, magic.

I made a stunning royal purple which I ombre dyed in a deep (tall narrow) tea urn and was surprised at the difference between superwash and pure wool uptake.  The wool below was left in the bath for about 20 minutes for the darkest shade (about 5 minutes for the lightest) and the bright purple superwash was in the dye for less than 30 seconds! Note: I demonstrated how to use a ball winder with this skein to another student and then re-skeined it so it’s not in it’s beautiful ombre gradient anymore.

I also stole some ‘aubergine’ purple and a beautiful green from my class mates and added a short splash of my purple to make what I initially called ‘middleclass breakfast’  – until somebody else pointed out that a) isn’t that avocado? (yes, yes it is), and b) those are perfect suffragette colours!

I’ve been chasing a perfect ‘sunset on sandstone’ colour for a design idea and after lots of dipping and mixing individual drips  I got what I thought was a pretty good colour – however I didn’t have the first clue as to the proportions of which dye/s I had used.  Solution? Add water to the cup, stick in a mini skein of superwash and then (and this is the clever bit) take it out, stick it in a microwave safe container and microwave it for about 2 minutes to fix the colour.  (apparently if you don’t have a microwave you can do the same thing by steaming for about 10 minutes). This was really interesting to me to be able to make very small amounts of a colour to try things out (instead of having to make a tea-urn full!)

I came home at the end of day 1 with four beautiful, slightly damp, samples that I really was genuinely proud of.

Day 2 was touted as being the hottest day of this year, with temperatures in London threatening 35 degrees.  A loft studio with a tin roof and no air conditioning wasn’t my first choice but I was genuinely excited to continue this little foray into hand dying.

Today the focus was more on cottons, so after welcoming the two new members and oohh… ing over last weeks (now dry) samples we cracked on.  Mini skeins of 100% cotton were made, and procion dyes were made up. These dyes are cold fixed so you pre soak your cotton, add them to a dye bath and after 10 minutes you add a solution of salt water.  After a further 10 minutes you add a soda solution (thats washing soda or sodium carbonate – not baking soda or caustic soda) You then leave the solution for nearly an hour for the dyes to fully absorb and set.  This gives a much paler, softer result than the acid dyes but that could have been my dye concentrations more than anything!

We did some immersion techniques (tonal and solids – ombre dying is much harder with this method because of the long soak times) and we also did some hand-painting and speckling.

Finally I wanted to overdye a skein of lace-weight alpaca/silk I had fallen out of love with.  The skein was gorgeous when I bought it, but the knit product was horrible. Because of the navy blue sections I decided to go with a very dark purple mix with LOTS of dye which resulted in the most amazing tonal purple after 20 minutes. So much dye meant a classmate did a further 100gm skein in an almost as dark purple.  By now most of the reds had struck (attached to the fibre) leaving the blues so I grabbed a dry skein and ombre dyed it to suck up the remaining dye.  This accidental skein is one of my favourites from the two day course!

Inspired I also did a little bit of space dyeing at home –  I did a mini skein of superwash wool with some of my calligraphy inks and just LOVE the result!

Definitely a new hobby and once I have acquired a suitable pan (you can’t put procion or acid dyes into pans that will be used for food ever again) I will be dying the rest of my samples and skeins.  I’m really fascinated by ratio/percentage dying and also by dyeing using food colourings (which are obviously food safe) so excited to play with this new medium which is just full of so many possibilities!

Stash-ay Away?

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • Nothing Knit or Crochet
    Had a busy month and lots of my projects are large projects, however
  • Project Bags
    I had a whole raft of linen/canvas shopping bags that for one reason or another I didn’t want to use as shopping bags (sentimental, unique, wrong size, handles not long enough or too short,..) so I spent a happy afternoon with a needle and thread and seam ripper making very easy project bags.
converted linen shopper to project bag
Convert Linen Shopping bag to project bag – remove handles, thread ribbon through top seam (I opened one side seam and hand stitched the loose ends) then add simple box folding to bottom to give a bag that will stand up.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    This is my ‘desk’ project so only gets worked on in my lunch hour at work.  I’m about 30% through and about to start the base of the skirt
  • Tirrold Sweater – came out of long term hibernation to become my ‘purse project’
  • Spectra – gets a few rows (1 ‘panel’) a week but frankly I’m bored with this again
  • I worked a little more on my swatches but am now playing with different fibre content to get the best blocking for the modular shawl and doing a lot of ‘thinking’ about the project rather than actual working on it.

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • Perseverance
    I seem to be very good at starting a project and then getting distracted by something else -resulting in lots of half complete items in my WiPs (also known as working on my PhD  – Projects Half Done!). Making more of a concerted effort to finish things before moving on
  • Techniques.
    As the Spectra is only 40 stitches long and involves short row shaping I decided to uninvent (to quote the great Elizabeth Zimmerman) how to knit and purl backwards.  To my great surprise, this is not the same as knitting left handed! It’s actually very easy and fun to do, and made easier by an ability to ‘read’ your knitting so you can see how you can ‘force’ each stitch to be what you want it to be.  Really enjoying the process – but there’s a lot of very same-y stitches that just don’t hold my attention for long.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

Having a very reserved month – my only slip was a skein of a beautiful soft reddish brick color of a wool linen blend that might be perfect for my modular shawl design..

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance
June52-7
July10-6

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

There are two things I’d like to talk about this month so I’m going to actually post twice this month!  My next post will be all about the ‘dyeing for knitters’ course I am completing this weekend and deserves a post all of it’s own.  That post will appear in a couple of weeks.

So this week I’d like to do a book review – 

A Stash of One’s Own – an anthology edited by Clara Parkes

The blurb on the dust jacket says: 

In tales from twenty-one knitters, Clara Parkes examines a subject that is irresistible to us all: the yarn stash.

Anyone with a passion has a stash, whether it is a collection of books or enough yarn to exceed several life expectancies. With her trademark wry, witty approach, Parkes brings together fascinating stories from all facets of stash-keeping and knitting life–from KonMari minimalist to joyous collector, designer to dyer, spinner to social worker, scholar to sheep farmer.

Whether the yarn stash is muse, memento, creative companion, career guide, or lifeline in tough times, these deeply engaging stories take a surprising and fascinating look at why we collect, what we cherish, and how we let go.

Contributors include New York Times bestselling authors Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Debbie Stoller, Meg Swansen and Franklin Habit, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, Adrienne Martini, and a host of others.

I will be honest, I bought this on impulse in the KnitPicks sale – and I am very glad I did.  

Each unique take from 21 different points of view, written over a few pages each, on what is a stash and it’s psychological meaning helped me clarify and identify my own ideas – from the relief my own stash doesn’t match the nearly 12,000 skeins of one Ravelry member to the moments of stressed caused by the acknowledgement that somebody (who doesn’t appreciate this stuff in the way I do) will have to deal with all my stash when I shuffle into the big yarn store in the sky.

New voices I hadn’t read before came across eloquently about their own experiences and journeys with their stash (or lack of!) and old friends reassured me that I wasn’t thatdifferent to other crafters.

I highly recommend this light read as a reassurance that no matter what style or type of stasher you are (no yarn at all to thousands in a special room) there’s more than just you in the world.  Stash, and yarn stash in particular, are far from essential to a crafter’s life – but if you like to have a few ‘comfort balls’ around then grand. If you prefer to only have yarn in the house that is being used for your current project and you’ll buy what appeals for your next project then that’s just dandy too.

I read this over a couple of days (I am a fast reader and have a long commute when I don’t cycle to work), but because of the essay style and short ‘chapters’ it would be easy to read this one essay at a time and then take a couple of days to process the ideas presented – I fully intend to re-read most of the essays again at a more considered pace.  However the book had an immediate impact on me both physically and in my mental approach to my ‘craft collection’.

Most of you will have worked out I have a stash.  I hadn’t considered that all the accoutrements also counted as stash – my needles, hooks, threads, little pin looms, books, patterns, project bags… and I was inspired to finally get my yarn stash (most of, I think I’m missing 3 balls)  onto Ravelry. It took just under 9 hours but I got there! I once worked out that if I gave up my day job and took up knitting 8 hours a day I had 3 solid years of work without buying another ball. I’ve got faster since then – but I think I still have a safe 18 months to go at without worrying overly.

Do have I stash I will never use?  Absolutely. Those ‘souvenir’ balls and those ‘it’s just too pretty…’  Have I bought stash for a specific project and then gone off the idea?  Indeed, and those balls and skeins sit and wait patiently, without judgement, while I decide what it was the universe actually wanted them to be.  Could I give away the stash I have fallen out of love with? Probably. But I’m not quite there yet – my stash diving showed there is very little I am not in love with, and that which is ‘unloved’ is my oddments that I use for swatching ideas.

Having examined my buying habits, it appears I am a combination stasher.  Most of my purchases seem to be bought for the ‘potential’ of what that skien all could be.  Often I have a project type in mind, and several purchases are for specific projects that I had carried in my head for several years before committing (even if I haven’t started the project yet!).  But I also ‘adopt’ yarn. Those skeins that just need to be looked after and come home with me. Now, sure, in the long run this is cheaper than adopting, say, kittens who need shots and feeding and stuff – but it has resulted in a goodly percentage of my stash that has no purpose other than for me to occasionally get them out and ‘squee’ over them.  Finally there is the Exotic Fibres Collection – those skeins bought for no other purpose than for me to be able to say “I have yarn made of…” (banana, 100% milk, possum, seaweed…)

I tend towards the hyper detailed in my mind, so the fact I am in love with possibility of my yarn, with the potential captured in the fibres rather than the actual concrete results has surprised me. My stash is not there to soothe the panic of “I must cast on x at 3am..” or “in the event of the zombies, I can at least hole up and not need yarn for a couple of years” (though there is definitely an element of that). My stash is a comfort blanket of latency.  A smorgasbord of dormant possibility. That jewel like ruby 4ply silk could be a vest, or a beaded evening bag or an elegant lace insouciant scarf. That dove grey mist of cobweb weight mohair with the pale lilac core could be a snood, or lace cuffs or a frothy collar. That petrol sheen bulky acrylic would shine as a simple long sleeved shrug, or maybe a hat and gloves – or slippers…

I enjoy my finished projects, I love picking a shawl to match an outfit or presenting new parents with a blanket they can use, or showing I care with a well thought gift.  But I really get a kick out of selecting the perfect yarn for the perfect project, paired with the perfect tools. I don’t need my needles to match my yarn colour (like one of my yarnie friends) but I will select my stitch markers to match my mood and project – often with a little private in-joke that makes me smile when I see it.

Could I live without my stash?  Sure (she’s says while she doesn’t have to test it).  I’m in the enviable position of having enough disposable income that I could create a new stash over time.  Would I miss some of the irreplaceable items in my stash? – yes, absolutely! But more the books and vintage tools than the yarns themselves – and the universe is always providing new ‘irreplaceable’ things for us collectors of beautiful moments and trinkets.  My relationship has sifted subtly as a result of reading ‘A stash of one’s own’ It’s gone from being a reserve yarn shop to being acknowledged as a representation of the potential I am capable of. That each skien has a place and means something (even if that something is ‘don’t buy this yarn ever again’).  It was a nice surprise to discover that part of me still believes that I can be anything I want to be, and my stash is my metaphysical representation of that.

What does you stash mean to you?

It’s Dior, darling.

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • RNG Baby Blanket
    Had fun with this little blanket in block stitch.  I had 4 colours (excluding the white defining line) so utilised a Random Number Generator via Alexa – “Alexa, give me a random number between x and y” works! – to decide which colour to use next.  I’ll be honest I ignored her if she told me to use a colour three times, but otherwise it was a fun technique to use.
Baby blanket

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    Despite a perfect swatch I discovered (30 rows in) that my stitch and row gauge was off. Not just by a little bit – this ‘skirt’ was rapidly becoming a thigh warmer – or a skirt for someone a LOT slimmer than me. Ripped out and not had the courage to start again yet.
  • Due to various factors I had to go ‘deep hibernation diving’ for a couple of projects – these are projects that I haven’t worked on in (at least) 12 months, them having done the equivalent of having fallen down the back of the sofa after I got distracted by other projects. I dug out my Stephen West Spectral shawl and my Tirrold Sweater

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • There’s more than one way…
    The short rows and low stitch counts of Spectra has encouraged me to learn to knit and purl backwards. What was fascinating for me was how this is different to knitting left handed (I really hadn’t expected that!) But knitting left-handed twisted the stitches – so knitting left handed and knitting backwards really are two different techniques.
  • Tedium and perseverance
    lace weight 2×2 rib for 17 inches is boring and probably the reason this went into deep hibernation in the first place. However I am very close to finishing this long boring tube so just need to crack on so I can get to the cute lace section.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

Having signed up to a short course to explore some dying techniques this month, my stash has naturally increased by ‘some’ in order to have something to dye. But breaking out the deep hibernation projects means I’m also clearing a little bit out…

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance
May515-10
June52-7

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

This month isn’t so much about yarn as about the heights craft can reach.  Sorry this is a long post and quite picture heavy, but I wanted to record all my thoughts for myself as well as for you.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the Dior Exhibition on at the V&A in London – seriously, I was like Charlie Bucket on finding a golden ticket when I managed to score these and the show did not disappoint.  I am a lover of 1940’s and 1950’s vintage clothing and frequently dress in original vintage and reproduction garments and Dior to me is the epitome of this period in time.

Set across 10 rooms the show is staged to present this couture fashion in all its glory.  Each room is themed and presented in a different way, and with the exception of the 2nd and 3rd rooms, designers for the House of Dior are mixed together giving a really interesting overview of the individual designers and how the aesthetic of Dior is maintained.  Of course there were certain designers that have a very strong, identifiable look (Galliano I’m looking at you) but for others it was much more difficult to identify which were Dior himself and which were another designer.

The timelessness of the exhibit was also interesting – frequently dresses from a 20 year period were put together and it was very difficult to say which order they were made in and what time period.  Of course Dior has a very (to me) ‘vintage’ 1940’s/1950’s look – but Dior himself was drawing from ‘the Belle Epoque’ and using older historical fashion as his main influence and that was very apparent in the collections on display.  Also Dior’s love of flowers and gardens was much more obvious when viewed in groups of clothing.

The exhibit opens with the famous ‘bar suit’ which ushered in the new look and lots of personal artifacts, photographs and drawings.  I was fascinated to read that Dior had stepped on a (5 inch ish) metal golden star in the street and being very superstitious had seen it as a symbol of the good luck he was having at the time.  He kept the star with him, and in later years would reward his atelier’s excellence with a copy of the star – part of me wonders if this is not the origin of a gold star for achievement (though of course it could also have a military origin – I genuinely don’t know).

The second room is lit boxes of some of the most iconic silhouettes that he had leading into a bright room centered around Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress and lots of information about Dior opening shops in England and the partnerships he created with various companies to provide a brand that even the most ‘lowly secretary’ could buy into.  Room 4 was a look at his belle epoque styling with Marie Antoinette inspired lines and beautiful embroidery and beading work reminding me of Royal courts.

Next was a look at how Dior, and future designers, were influenced by travel and incorporated elements from their explorations.  This was inspiring for me to see how architecture, colour and ritual was incorporated into designs. The flavour of the country being apparent without being obvious was really interesting and I know I need to cogitate on what that means for my own designing process.

The “Travel Room” was quite a darkly lit room with black plinths and floor and you exploded from this into a bright white room with thousands of paper flowers cascading from the ceiling.  I’m sure they were adding Dior perfume into the air in this room and to echo the room decoration all the dresses in here had something to do with floral decoration – from a short, strapless dress decorated to look like a single tulip flower to the Miss Dior dress covered in millions of tiny hand sewn organza bud flowers.  This room contained some of the most beautiful dresses of the collection for me.

A short passage linked to some of the more recent designers, where echo’s of patterns and designs could be seen as well as some of the more outre Galliano designs.  This was another ‘dark’ room to show off the sequins and beading better.

This lead into a stark white ‘design’ room – stacked with toiles.  For the readers who don’t sew, a toile is a mock-up of a design made in cheaper fabric (often white cotton) to make sure of fit and drape as well as placement of appliques and buttons etc..  This room for me was mind blowing as there were so many toiles and designs it was easy to see both the detail of the work (the fine darts and pleating and draping of the fabric) but also how a tiny change completely altered a design – encouraging me to try more different things in my own designing but also in my own wardrobe, for example swapping a belt for a different colour or width. In the photos below you can see the toile (complete with paper appliques) and the finished garment

After the bright clinical starkness of this room a darker corridor containing a rainbow diorama of ensembles was almost overwhelming.  Starting with white and fading beautifully through the colour wheel to black everything from hats, shoes, jewellery, dresses, handbags (and oddly knee pads) were on display opposite some of the Dior magazine covers through the years.  I particularly loved the mini mannequin models of the dresses in this display – perfect scale models of dresses on display elsewhere in the collection, standing about 12” (30cm) high.

This corridor ended in a startling large circular space with a ceiling changing through sunrise to cloud spotted day to sunset and night with shooting stars.  A slowly turning pedestal in the centre displayed 10 or 11 dresses and around the outside were evening dresses ranging from perfect simplicity to dramatic impracticality – including several dresses worn on red carpets recently, along with photos of the stars wearing them.

As you left, overwhelmed and senses drenched in variety, techniques and colour there was a final single mannequin of a dress designed by the current head designer which was beyond doubt ‘a Dior’ echoing the full skirts and vintage feel of his original designs and inspired by a 1950’s vintage asymmetrical paper fan – including embroidering his signature into the tulle layers of the skirt it was uplifting to see how the tradition continues into the future.

I need to process everything I saw as there was well over 200 dresses in the displays, but I am sure that this show will influence how I design but also how I dress in the future, even when not in vintage clothing.

A re-entry to the world..

Well, hello there, good looking!  First up an apology for being absent for so long – and thank you to everyone who took time to drop me a comment after using my ‘how to use crochet charts’ tutorials – it’s really appreciated.

Secondly, a shout out to the lovely ladies at F this Knit and Teaching your Brain to Knit – two podcasts I started listening to recently on my stupidly long commute who have inspired me to get my act together and start posting again.  Of course it also meant I started commuting by bike again so I no longer have time to listen to three 1 hour long podcasts a day but I am listening when I can, and both these are interesting podcasts for different reasons (warning: F this Knit is “not safe for work” and if you are easily offended or don’t like swearing this is not the podcast for you)

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

Finished Items – May 2019

Obviously I have finished more than these since my last post, but I am going to go with just this year or it will get way too depressing.  Hopefully doing this will also mean I start updating Ravelry properly to keep track of yarns, needles/hooks, yardage and pattern sources as I am really bad at that!

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
  • Test swatches for a bias wrap (PP)
  • Test swatches for modular stole
  • Cotton Baby Blanket

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • Gauge
    My Ambient sweater has taught me that my tension might be different on circulars to dpns and that it might be worth swatching with both types if making a sweater or cardigan that you want to fit you particularly in the sleeves!
  • Don’t design in the round if you aren’t going to use the benefits of working in the round / READ the damn pattern.
    Started the skirt and ripped back twice before realising that the perfectly clear word ‘turn’ at the end of the pattern row was meant to be followed.  I think the pattern designer was trying to prevent a visible seam but I was getting a horrible noticeable diagonal ridge (sure that’s my fault for not turning) and was having to count the over 100 stitches every round to try and get it to place right – it just wasn’t working for me.  Personally I think if you are not going to take advantage of working in the round to get the (really pretty) fabric that looks different to standard crochet for 30 something rows then work flat and seam with a flat stitch.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

I am very definitely SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy) and have been on a self imposed yarn diet for the best part of 4 years now.  The stash however isn’t reducing, so i think they might be breading. Of course if I go to a yarn show it would be rude not to support independent traders or pass-up on the large retailer discount sales, and I am very good at starting projects that I just don’t have the yarn for in my stash…!

Going “Cold Sheep” refers to when a crafter (usually self nominated) decides not to buy more yarn/fibre until a self determined dent has been made in the existing stash.  But obviously we *need* that pretty skein for those thingymajigs we might have to make at some point in the future

I did buy a bit of yarn in France, but given I was in La Droguerie (a wonderful fairytale of a yarn shop) I thought I was very restrained (1 small cone of lace-weight mohair sparkle – Voilette, 67% superfine mohair 33% stelina, 35gr, 300mtrs in colourway Cendrillon) and Phildar let me buy yarn to play with some ideas – two balls of Phil Mohair Soie (70% mohair, 30% silk, 25gr, 195mtrs in colours givre and minerai (similar to Rowan kid silk haze but a ¼ of the price) and a ball of 100% cotton in the palest blue for the collar and I may have bought a packet of 8 different 10g mini balls for the cuteness factor.  Oops.

Having also taken 8 months to realise I need to make another baby blanket (I really should have realised that one a bit quicker – she looked pregnant from about month 2) I was cycling home and thinking about what cotton I had in stash… I knew I had a couple of balls of cotton for making ‘spa cloths’ (dish cloths) at Christmas but wasn’t sure about the quantities or colours.  Of course once I got to my stash I discovered the 50 (yes, that’s fifty) balls of 100% cotton in baby pink, lilac, baby blue, soft fushia, a muted purple and white that I picked up for about £20 a few years ago with the intention of using them up in my classes. So I guess I can sacrifice a few of those to the cause! I’m having great fun with this one. Starting with a simple crochet block stitch pattern, I discounted the blue (normally I don’t do baby blankets in gendered colours but the blue jarred against the other pink shades and she happens to be having a girl) and having laid out one ball of each in order, I’m using a random number generator (a 4 sided dice for those amongst you who know what that is) to decide the colour for each colour block row.

But I have reduced my stash by a further 5 balls at least.  I have also used my 10 balls of Knit Picks Dishie (for the Skirt).  I bought specific yarn for my other completed projects this year so they came in and went out again.

Balls/Skeins In Balls/Skeins Out Net Balance
5 15 -10

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

Honestly I am playing with so many ideas at the moment I barely have time to think!  After a recent one week trip to Lille in the north of France I came back with so many photos of things that could be turned into knit or crochet (or, in one case, a hand painted silk scarf) patterns.  At the moment I am swatching (and frogging and swatching and frogging and swatching) a bias knit rectangular wrap which has single stitch vertical lines.

Who would have thought that there is more than one way to do a vertical line, but the single stitch of a different colour doesn’t work.  I’ve tried dropped stitches, beading, double knitting, duplicate stitching, travelling or raised stitches..… nothing is working right yet, but I will get there I promise.

I have also been distracted by a crochet pattern idea (also inspired by the trip to France – a 17th Century Persian sandstone window screen in the Louvre in Lens being the source) which involves modular triangles.  I had done a pattern that wasn’t modular in a couple of hours but it just doesn’t have the crisp definition of line I want, even after blocking…

So, before the post gets even more ridiculously long I’d better sign off and progress with some of those current projects.  See you next month!

Scandi Cuffs

So I finished my little cuffs (yesterday in fact) and thankfully I do indeed have a matching pair.  Phew! Given I have to give these away tomorrow I’m delighted I have a two that look like they belong together.

twos a crowd

close up of stitches

and i know you all wanna see inside…

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was working on a baby blanket (or rather needed to start a baby blanket).  The advantage with working a stash busting blanket (in the rather fun block stitch) is that the colours change every row and it’s a wonderful rainbow.  The downside is *ends*!  Oh my word, the ends! Finally for today I just had to mention the clocks changed, the weather warmed and 4 days later my jasmine is in full flower and as I cycle home in the evenings I can smell my own little garden from about 150yards away.  How wonderful!

Are you feeling tense?

So my current little pet project is a gift.  My boss retires at the end of the month and I wanted to give her a little something.  She is another crafter so I know it will be appreciated, and I wanted to do something knit as she can crochet her own stuff that she wants.

Another friend had given me a craft magazine, and nestled in the pages was a pair of knitted cuffs (Arrow Cuffs from Knitting from the North by Hilary Grant – and if you want the book there’s a matching cowl)

you can click the photo to be taken to the free pattern

I haven’t done stranded work before, and had some Fyberspates Scrumptious yarn left over from the Foolproof cowl I made and this little project appealed.

As you know I love learning new techniques, just for the sake of it.  I had a blast doing a little bit of colourwork and stranding – working out how not to end up with a massive tangled knot of yarns and carrying two yarns at the same time while working on dpns…  However, to be completely honest I’m not sure this is the best application of this technique for me.  And here’s why…

one of these things is not like the others…

The first cuff I did is the one on the right.  Once finished I discovered that I can get it over my relatively small knuckles and thumb.  Just.  It’s snug.  However as a gift there’s a worry that you might damage them taking them on and off so I needed to have a looser tension for the second cuff.  That would be the one on the left.  Erm.  Ah.

So now we are making cuff number 3.  (isn’t there supposed to be a problem with starting the second item of any paired project?)

hopefully the tension will match ONE of the exisiting cuffs. Either one will do!

TED Tuesday – Gratitude

I have so many of these talks to share with you, and am looking forward to getting some of my favourites up here.

Last month I shared the concept of TED talks with you, along with my suggested ‘starter talk’.  If you missed it, it’s here.

This month, take just 12 minutes out of your day to find out how you can permentantly change your brain chemistry to feel happier!   (I know, this one is in French, but it’s subtitled so don’t panic – and it really is worth it)

There is a lot of stuff floating around about gratitude and making lists about the small things that make you happy and journalling about the good things……  this is where it all started – and gives you the reasons WHY it’s possibly a good idea to note that really good cup of tea or coffee you had today.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not as good as doing 3 things a day like she suggests, but i try for one a day, and have been for the last 6 months or so, and I have noticed that I am a bit more positive and a bit less inclined to ‘the sky is falling!’ than I used to be.  Baby steps n’est pas?