Sweater Shenanigans : Part 1

 

 

This whole ‘pattern’ thing that’s so pervasive in knitting and crochet…I don’t really get it. I like to live dangerously. Or stupidly. It wavers.

There are so many great patterns out there, written by talented designers who plough hours into doing the mental gymnastics, so we knitters/crocheters can just sit down and relax and create. Pick your pattern, roll around in your stash and select the yarn, maybe knit a gauge swatch and off you go.

Or not, if you’re me.

Because I am apparently pathologically incapable of Just Following The Bloody Pattern. Instead, I tweak and fiddle at best, and make the thing up from scratch at the more extreme end. The latter is especially true for garments.

Now, I should point out that this is not merely a symptom of my giant ego, utter hubris egging me on to make ‘improvements’ to the carefully designed pattern. No, sometimes there is actually a method to this madness (and it really does lead to madness, or at least creative swearing, on occasion). See, I am an odd shape. I am essentially a human cut-and-shut. No part of my anatomy is in proportion to any other part, no matter what metric or schema is used. This means that no off-the-rack clothes, or pattern for said clothes, will ever fit me in anything other than a very…approximate…way. And that’s the beauty of learning to knit, right? You can make stuff exactly how you want it! Rainbows and crystals emit joyously from the needles, as the knitter creates perfectly fitting garments, all with a benign smile, because knitting is also therapeutic and relaxing, right?

Er, not in my house.

My approach to knitting is less fluffy-bunnies and zen-like composure, and more Wall Street trading floor with added stimulants.

Sometimes it all starts out so normally, too. Let’s take the Green Cabled Cardigan (GCC) that I knit for my beloved spouse (henceforth know as Mr RustyRenault) last year. Now, it should also be noted here that I do not, as a rule, knit for other people. If you’re looking for one of those Nice Knitters, you’ve come knocking at the wrong door. I make the odd exception, usually for Mr RR. He knows better than to actually ask for something – he waits, silently, until I have decided to bestow something upon him. Then he may select an item (in the knowledge that I am capricious and reserve the right to veto as I see fit) and yarn (he is very good at picking yarn, and can smell Good Yarn hiding amidst a sea of squeaky acrylic – this is partly why I deign to knit for him in the first place).

The GCC started inauspiciously enough. I had seen a pattern in a magazine, by a fairly well-known designer. Mr RR concurred that he liked this pattern (or was too intimidated to say otherwise), and so yarn was purchased, and feely squares (one in stocking stitch, one in the cable pattern) were knit, washed and blocked. Behold and glory be! My gauge sufficiently matched pattern gauge and so I cast on the appropriate size, without the need for tedious arithmetic to resize, or reswatch.
I cast on 200-and-something stitches for the bottom hem. I knitted. And knitted some more. It looked a bit small, but you never can really tell for a good few rows. I finished the (folded – so twice as much knitting as for a normal hem) hem and proceeded to the main cable pattern. It still seemed slightly…parsimonious in fit…but I put my faith in the designer and their pattern-writing skills.
After another couple of rows, doubt had reached epic proportions. Out came the tape measure and I measured. And, you guessed it – too small. By about 2.5 inches. I rechecked gauge. I rechecked the number of stitches. I rechecked everything that could possibly be rechecked.

And then I checked the pattern.

I melted a number of my favourite brain cells checking the arithmetic of stitch counts against the schematic at various key points in the pattern. It was…wrong. The number of stitches, when knit at the gauge specified, did not result in the measurement proclaimed so boldly at the top of the pattern page. I redid the math several times. I redid it with a calculator. I redid it whilst yelling it out in rage. It was still wrong.

Taking a deep breath, I plotted my next move. Other than throwing the whole lot in the fire (come on, we’ve all been there…). ‘Aha’, thought I – ‘I’ll just knit the next size up’. Chastened by the ten million stitches I had already fruitlessly knit, I cleverly decided to check the math for this enterprise. It was also…wrong. Whatever absurd size grading this pattern used meant that there were huuuumungous gaps between sizes, rendering the one size too small, and the next size up too big.

Now, what a sensible knitter would probably have done at this point, bearing in mind that this pattern had quite an unusual shoulder construction that was quite key to the look, would have been to give it up as a bad job and find something else to knit.

I am not a sensible knitter, as you have possibly gathered by now. No. I saw this as the pattern thumbing its nose at me, and I was not about to back down at this juncture. No, I would reverse-engineer this cardigan, retaining all the unique features, but the correct goddamn size. Did I mention that I had knit precisely two sweaters before this, one of which was Flax, the easiest sweater pattern known to knitter-kind?

So, casting aside all notions of this fabled ‘relaxing knitting’ thing I hear people talk about, I set about engineering this cardigan…

To be continued…

Advertisements

An EYF tour

I really love the month of March as it means it’s time for a quick hop across the Irish Sea to visit the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I’ve been every year since 2015 and have very fond memories of being with my tribe. People who get my enthusiasm and excitement for all types of yarn.

I thought now would be a good time to follow my knitting journey over the last four years as it’s pretty much summed up in my EYF stash.IMG_1999.JPG

 

The first year there was a little bit overwhelming as I had never seen so many skeins of yarn in the same place. I was like a child in a sweet shop, my eyes just didn’t know where to rest. At that part in my journey I was exploring the world of knitting socks and shawls so all those pretty hand dyed skeins of loveliness captured my attention. I think the most important thing was discovering indie dyers and seeing how many British dyers there were. I was excited to return home with some Old Maiden Aunt , Ripples craft and Skein queen.

Year two was more of the same but I found yarn from Easyknits and liked it so much that when I decided to knit a garment I decided to go for lighter loftier yarn than my go to super smooth merino . I bought some Blue faced Leicester and began my steps towards discovering the delights of more rustic yarn. I loved the sheepy smell of the lanolin as I knit . It conjured up images of gambolling lambs in spring sunshine.

Year three was a strange one as I had so many single skeins in my stash that I could knit enough shawls and socks to last a lifetime. I was beginning to want to knit garments. Now this requires more planning , patterns need to be chosen and the correct quantities need to be purchased especially if you are using hand dyed skeins. I got two lovely skeins of Old maiden aunt lace to knit a lace weight cardigan Laar. You would think that impulse purchasing of a sweaters worth of yarn but Ysolda is the best enabler ever and I found myself leaving with blend no 1 a beautiful mix of polwarth and zwarbles to knit a Polwarth sweater .

FullSizeRender.jpgThis year my journey from hand painted merino loveliness to sheepy goodness seemed to be complete. Through EYF and the podcast lounge I entered the world of podcasts and blogs and learnt about colourwork that requires a much toothier sticky yarn. So once again Ysolda enabled with Rauma yarn and Shetland yarns.

The thing that inspired me most was the meet the Shepherdess event on Sunday where I found beautiful yarns that had gone from farm to skein . There was so much variety from natural sheepish tones to beautiful jewel dyed skeins. I came away with some treasures and plans for colourwork mittens, cowls and hats.

IMG_2525

This little piggy …

In my last blog I wrote about taking part in an ‘along’.  Well least said about that the better….the majority of the other knitters did brilliantly. Various versions of the shawl emerged and are being worn proudly around necks. Mine, well the embryo shawl is currently sitting on the shelf of shame considering its future. I need to face reality, I’m just not a shawl knitter.

However, onwards and upwards…

As you will have read in last week’s blog we were at Creatathon. It was a great event and everyone had a ball – the picture of me top left features the writer sporting a rather fetching tea cosy. Part of the preparations had been to create ‘items’ to yarn bomb Botanic Gardens. As usual my hand was up first. Nikki provided us with a raft of patterns and I chose to make some little pigs. It was an amigurumi  pattern – i’m not traditionally very good at these and am not even in fact able to say the word – preferring something closer to ‘rig-ma-roll-y’. Somehow on this occasion the piggy and I just clicked and I soon had three porcine masterpieces which I proudly showed off in the rather sinister picture above right.

That was a fatal error – in a matter of moments compliments poured (well, trickled) in  pig requests abounded. The initial three pigs were soon accounted for – a very special newly adopted baby in the USA, a thank -you pig for some meringues, and a good luck pig for up coming exams.

Smug but slightly panicked at this point I reached for my hook and two more pigs were produced. It wasn’t quite the litter I had been hoping for, for the Creatathon, but it was something.

But fate was to intervene, The Bolter ( expat best pal – new mother of twins) is holding her Christening and when her partner David saw the pigs he thought it would be a perfect token for the Priest conducting the service.

And then there was one….

A yarn bomb of one, not exactly total coverage, but something. I headed to the museum with my rather frugal offering, feeling a bit sheepish ( or should that be piggish?). Nikki and I had a ball with the mountain of knitted loveliness she had created. We gave trees scarves, benches blankets and I got a bit giddy tossing bats into trees. When it came the moment for me to finally, ‘pass the pig’ – I just couldn’t do it. It looked at me (which was a bit of a challenge given I can’t do French knots and it had no eyes) and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take the risk of it being taken home by someone who wouldn’t take care of it properly (i’m an only child and have rather fixed views of how things should be done). So Pascal came home with me and has pride of place in the Virginia Wolff Suite (newly tidied out sitting room).

So, was my contribution to Creatathon a failure? At first glance, yes, none of the pigs actually made it to Botanic. However there are five homes, including a Parochial House who are currently being enhanced by these wee cuties – and surely that’s what Creatathon was all about.

My current obsession is Twiddle Muffs…. watch this space for an update.

Monsters

As you can probably tell by the lack of blog posts, the last fortnight has been a bit busy.
First of all was the pilgrimage to Edinburgh, via bus, train, boat and plane. Every transport imaginable
was used to get a group of knitters to yarn heaven.
Unfortunately I was unable to go, but from all the reports I’ve heard and photos I’ve seen, it was a great weekend!
As you can imagine, a lot of yarn was purchased and knitting idols met:
As for those who stayed behind, it was a quiet boring week. But things got busy again on Sunday as it was the Creatathon (not Create a thong as one nameless knitter refers to it) at the Ulster Museum.
We were a 2-fold team: a Monster team and a Big Sock team!
All in all it was a very busy day – lots of newly adopted Monsters went to their forever home and lots of new hexagons were made. We even got men to show off their sewing skills!

As for me, well I wore a tea cozy as a hat all day. Why? Why not!

20180325_105544

Goals-ish

2017 was not a productive year for me knitting-wise. Patches of minor chaos in Non-Yarn-Related parts of life (NYR stuff) meant knitting just didn’t really happen much. I made a few things, but not much – and, more importantly than the number of items, I didn’t really feel like I was focussed on enjoying the experience of knitting.

I’ve realised it’s not just about the time I have available to knit that affects me, but the mental capacity for it – if there is other stuff going on that creates mental clutter, that’s a big blockage. Life events and physical clutter both result in mental clutter for me. Some of this is unavoidable, and you just have to wait til things settle. Other parts are a bit more directly controllable.

Fortunately, towards the end of the year, NYR stuff had settled enough that I was able to think a bit more about organising myself to achieve more with yarn this year. Wanting to ‘achieve’ isn’t a competitive thing here – it’s that I feel more satisfied and motivated with my craft if I can see some clear progression and skill building.

So, the first step was to actually use some of the great functions Ravelry has – up until now, I had half-heartedly uploaded a few projects and marked some too many patterns as favourites and that’s about it. But Ravelry allows you to upload your stash, queue up projects you want to make soon, and also to set yourself a Challenge goal of finishing a certain number of projects, if you want.

 

So…

Step 1: Get stash uploaded so I can easily see what I have, and match up patterns to stash yarns. Destash any yarn that I’m a bit ‘meh’ about. I have so many really nice skeins – anything less than great is just clutter (see above).

Step 2: Clear out my Favourites, leaving only the ones I really really like. I find too much choice overwhelming, so having 400 shawls favourited doesn’t actually make me more likely to find something I want to knit – it makes me less likely to be able to pick something. Again – clutter getting in the way of doing want I want to do.

Step 3: Match up some stash and patterns in my Ravelry queue. Hopefully this should stave off decision paralysis when the time comes to pick a new project as I have some choices already made (not that I won’t change my mind about some of them of course!)

 

As part of this more organized approach to knitting, I decided that there were a couple of specific techniques I want to have a go at this year, vaguely inspired by the thinking behind the book A Year of Techniques. These are:

 

  • All-over lace
  • Knitting with actual laceweight (previously only done 4-ply)
  • Beaded knitting
  • Brioche
  • Stranded colourwork

 

I think I will be able to achieve a couple of these within one project – Calendula by Susanna IC should hit the ‘laceweight’, ‘beads’, and ‘all-over lace’ techniques all in one project for example.

I think that I now have a better handle on how I function as a knitter – I know that I enjoy it more if I can see progression of skill, and I know what the barriers tend to be that stop me getting on with I want to do. I can’t control all of them, but if I put in a bit of legwork to control the bits that I can stay on top of, then I’m still in a better position than before.

I’ve already made inroads to my goals – in a rare fit of productivity, I started and finished the Bousta Beanie from last year’s Shetland Wool Week over the weekend.  Funyin by Kate Davies is next on my list. or maybe Calendula. Or maybe I should finish that sweater….or….or….

 

*I nicked this title from an episode of one of my favourite podcasts Prairie Girls Knit and Spin. Go listen.

 

 

 

Why?

Sometimes, people ask me this question: why do I have so much yarn? I already have plenty, in all weights and shades and varieties. What could I possibly need with another skein (or three)?

I’ve decided to sum up my answer here because I think it may apply to other knitters/crocheters/yarn addicts too. And we need to stick together.

So why do I acquire more yarn?

BECAUSE I NEED ALL THE COLOURS.

 

The End.

Preparing for madness…

Well, more madness than usual.

EYF is not far, and yours truly is heading out to Edinburgh. Duh.

Surprising myself as well as others, I have actually been rather good this year so far, having refrained from any major purchases AND, have an actual shopping list for EYF that, as has been pointed out, does not just say “all the things”. I DO try, y’know.

In any case, TOFT yarn /kit(s) will be bought, most of it to be gifted once… transformed into a toy of some description, and I do have a jumper to shop for, but aside from that, I shall most stubbornly endeavor to behave. I’m likely to fail, but that’s not the point.

So, no yarn has been bought, a list has been made, what else does one do? Ah, right, try do work down the WIPs. Yeah. No. Not so much. I’ll admit, I’ve been a bad girl there. But there’s still 3+ weeks left, so a bit can still happen in this department. There’s always a bunch of “almost done’s”, is there not? I am determined to deal with those. No more casting on before EYF. There’s plenty to work on.

So… How do y’all prepare for a mad shopping spree like EYF? Do you treat yarn festivals as mad shopping sprees? Or is that just me?

VKL was mighty swell

I’m sure all of us have those bucket list trips that we would love to do. Mine for the last few years has been Vogue Knitting Live in New York. I love cities and knitting so this event seemed a match made in heaven to me. So with the help of my new travel guru (Naomi from Thomas Cook) we plotted the perfect route , found a hotel close to the venue and that’s how I found myself on a bus on a cold January day heading for Dublin airport .
After a long trip I checked into a hotel across the road from the Marriott which was the venue for the weekend.
On Thursday at five I joined the the excited group waiting to get our passes for our packages then the theatre group met to go and see Come From Away a musical based on the passengers grounded after 9/11 .

Friday saw VKL really get underway with classes and lectures taking place. I went to Top ten tips for a good fit which was full of useful advice to make sweaters that feel comfortable to wear and which  are flattering with Deborah Newton.n
Next was joining the queue for the opening of the market place for the first time. The doors opened and there was a mad dash mostly to Stephen and Penelope’s and Steven B booths. People arms filled with skeins but I was overcome by yarny choice and couldn’t decide what to buy. I eventually bought  two skeins and a project bag.IMG_1926

Saturday morning was my Steeks class with Julia Farwell Clay. This was a great class where we learnt two types of crochet steek and after knitting a button band , twenty women took a deep breath and the began to cut their knitting ! All was good and we left ready to tackle bigger projects.
Then it was back to the market place for more shopping . This time I got some very discounted knit picks Felici and a souvenir skein of Primrose yarn called Little shadow . I had wanted a sweaters quantity so that was the next thing on my list. After that I was ready to go out for fresh air and lunch before meeting a friend and having time to knit and relax. The general consensus was that it was less manic than last year.
Sunday morning saw me join the queue to have my measurements taken at the Fit booth I was there for an hour so had some chat time with lots of people . This was a much more relaxed day for me and I was able to see the art exhibits on the 7th floor and visit the stage for some talks and the famous yarn toss .IMG_1878

 

 

 


VKL was fun and I met knitters from all over the world. In fact on Friday night I had dinner with a girl from Australia and a lady originally from Peru . Saturday was a night with the ” Same time next year girls ” and we spent the evening in an Irish bar with very enthusiastic American football fans .

Come on along…….

I’m not much of a joiner – actually that’s not strictly true.  I’m a great joiner – whenever a new idea or outing is suggested my hand is first in the air and my deposit is first to be handed in. But when it comes to actually going / doing / joining, I tend to wimp out and stay at home in my jammies.  To date I have paid over £120 for various work social events that I signed up to and bottled out.  sometimes I even get as far as cleaning my teeth and doing my tan.

This is fascinating Patsy, I hear you cry, but what does it have to do with yarn? Well……. one of the great pleasures of being a ‘Yarn Person’ is the prospect of an ‘along’ – knit along, crochet along, needlefelt along…. Ravelry is filled with various alongs as are the magazines and websites. Most of my stitching friends have taken part in one, and some people are really dedicated. From my observations I have noticed that there are several categories of people who ‘along’.

  1. The Early Adapters – they are very clever, they try out techniques and designers long before the rest of us and get to say things like, ‘I knew Stephen West before he was famous’
  2. The Watchers – these canny maidens observe how others are getting on and watch the boards carefully for advice and suggestions – they always have a beautifully finished garment
  3. The Alpha Knitters – they knit up all the clues in all the colours and are known to be online at midnight to start stitching as soon as the new information becomes available – we are all secretly very jealous of their talent and their energy.
  4. The Frank Sinatras (they do it their way) – these knitters take the original pattern more as a suggestion – altering, yarn, colourway, size etc. They complete an amazing garment, though it often bears no real resemblance to the original.

What kind of an ‘alonger’ am I? Well actually none of these. I have subscribes to two alongs in the past. The yarn and a fully year of crochet now subscriptions are currently sitting in my living room – it is a very big pile and someday may become a double granny square bedspread. The other is the beautiful Hygge kit from Scheepies.  It is really intimidating and occupies a place of reverence in ‘knitting corner’. Periodically I take it out and just sigh.

So, are ‘alongs’ a no go area for this particular stitcher – it would seem not. Our knitting group has decided that in February we are all going to knit the same shawl. I have been reassured that it is ‘really straigtforward’. However this did come from an Early Adapter and a Frank Sinatra so I’m reserving judgement! It will all be very chilled with everyone working at their own pace. I have some beautiful yarn from Secret Stash to use.

So watch out for future blog posts when I will reveal if I have finished my very first ‘along’ or retired to my room with a garter stitch scarf.

Px

Not Monday

As you can tell, this isn’t Monday. There are 2 reasons for a lack of blog post yesterday, the big one being that I can’t get anything done when the husband is in the house – he causes too many distractions and last night he was waving SPECTRE in my face and I couldn’t refuse the call of Bond. James Bond.
The second reason is perhaps the most important one. I was in shock. Complete and utter shock.
As you may or may not know, I’m a little bit OCD when it comes to my stash. I have a beautifully colour coordinated spreadsheet which I’m rather proud of.

image001.png

I’ve had this since 2012 and I love it. I update it every Monday (be it adding new yarn or removing a ball that I’ve knitted up) and keep track of the weekly totals.
This week the total is 65.5 miles, which while particularly scary is actually less than a few weeks ago when it was hitting 70 miles.
So why was I in shock? Well the above snapshot is actually just the yarn that lives in the living room, and it’s nearly 10 miles on its own. In 2017 I only knitted about 10 miles, so it could take me all year to knit up just what I can see!!!
But, all is not lost! I’ve been making excellent use of my Ravelry queue – I’ve been matching yarn to patterns for a few weeks now and have enough queued to keep me going for a while. There’s a mixture of cowls, socks, shawls and mitts in there, so plenty of variety.

Screenshot_20180123-141249

I’m also desperately clinging to the Cold Sheep this year. I go through this routine every January where I decide I’m not buying yarn again until I’ve used up a good portion of what I already have. Then by about May I’ve caved and bought a whole load to make up for the lack of buying… but this year I’m determined to get the stash down to a decent level. I’ve already sold a lot of sock yarn I know I won’t use, and I’ll continue to clear out the unloveds as I go along.
There are 3 hurdles that may stop me in my tracks this year:
First up is Woollinn – this takes place in Dublin in May and, although I’m exhibiting there, the temptation to buy some fabulous yarn will be a bit too much, so I’m bringing moral support with me.
Next is Yarn Folk – this is the second year of this festival in Whitehead, and again I’m exhibiting at this one. It’s going to be bigger and better than last years, and while I was restrained last August, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to repeat that performance!
Lastly, the annual Dublin trip in November – while my purchases have steadily decreased over the years from 50/60 skeins to 10 or less, I’ll still end up buying yarn I don’t know what to do with!
So, if I can behave myself during these 3 festivals, then I reckon I’ll be ok.
Does anyone else have the same issue as me, or am I along in my struggle?
How do you organise your stash?

Do you match yarn to patterns? I’d really love to know!

 

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 96 other followers