Sweater Shenanigans : part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I shared the first part of the Fable of the Green Cabled Cardigan – you can find it here.  The story continues…

 

So I had decided to reverse-engineer a moderately complex cardigan pattern, with minimal skill or experience in doing so.  I cast all notions of this  ‘relaxing knitting’ thing I hear people talk about, I set about engineering this cardigan. The main bit of the body was pretty straightforward – no waist shaping or anything required, so it was just a rectangle. The armpits were where things would get interesting. Because, naturally, I decided to knit this thing bottom up, part in-the-round, and part flat (once I split front and back for the armholes).

 

I had at my disposal Amy Herzog’s Knit Wear Love, which is basically a book of pick & mix stitch counts to help you knit sweaters that are exactly what you want. It is a great book. It does not, however, accommodate idiot knitters who attempt to knit things part seamless and part flat, with no previous design experience. Because that would simply be encouraging lunacy.

 

Much arithmetic ensued. And swearing. I drew schematics and annotated them. I cast on three-hundred-and-something stitches. Aran weight yarn, on 2.25mm needles. Not because I am a spectacularly loose knitter, but because I had decided I liked the look of really tight garter stitch for the hem (and no way was I knitting the folded hem that I had already ripped out twice. Though in hindsight, I’m not sure my genius plan was actually any less arduous).

 

I had a minor flap after about 6 inches of the body was knit. It just…looked small. Fortunately a quick try-on on Mr RR proved it was fine. So things proceeded with minimal event for the rest of the body, until it was time to split for the armholes. Based on my gauge, I was able to select a sleeve from the aforementioned book, so I just had to apply those stitch counts to my knitting. Well, apart from the fact that all the sweaters in the book are knit flat and seamed, and I was in the round at this point. More schematics ensued, and the solution was found without too much difficulty. Of course, because I was now knitting flat, I had an interesting assortment of needles and cords through the various sections between the armholes. Knitting needles are sharp. The terror of getting out of step with the cable patterning in one of these sections now became my primary concern. Because, as the Blueberry Waffle sock can attest, I cannot reliably count to 2. In spite of this, the rest of the body progressed fairly smoothly, other than the increasing weight making it into a sofa workout at the end of every row.

 

On to the sleeves. The sleeves that needed to be constructed in such a way as to allow the cable panel on the outside of the arm to continue up and over the top of the shoulder. This meant modification to the top of the sleeve cap (and a corresponding alteration to the shoulder on the body to accommodate this weird sleeve). I worked out that the sleeve cap essentially needed to have a kind of tab sticking out from it, with the patterned bit on it. The patterned panel needed to not be too wide, or it would bugger up the decreases giving the sleeve cap shape. More measuring of gauge and drawing of schematics. More casting on of aran weight onto 2.25mm needles. Mr RR wanted a cuff he could fold over, so double the usual length. Of course. Clearly, my hands had not yet suffered enough.

By this stage, I confess I felt reasonably confident. Smug, almost. I had worked out most of the footery bits. This glow was swiftly dashed after I’d knit about 8 inches of sleeve and it looked to be about the size that would fit a bare twig. I knew my gauge (I had measured the swatch into dust by this point), and I knew how wide said sleeve should be, based on the number of stitches. I measured it – it did seem narrow… Mr RR was beckoned for a try-on. It actually seemed… ok. Panic averted. Despite my cockiness at my knitterly achievements thus far, I made the rookie mistake of being intimidated by ‘stocking stitch roll’, which made the sleeve look about 3 inches skinnier than it should, and really quite hard to adequately flatten out to measure accurately, even when it looks pretty flat. Pins are your friend in this scenario. Lots of them. Or just trust your gauge that you have measured and calculated stich counts from eleventy-million times by now.

 

Fortunately, the sleeve-panic was the last of the major issues. Sleeves were finished and crocheted in (I have an irrational loathing of mattress stitch). A zip way added, and promptly came undone because I sewed it in by hand and my hand-sewing has all the structural integrity of wet leaves. I machined it in, which was decidedly more satisfactory.

It has barely left Mr RR’s back since it was finished. It will need to be prised off him at some point for washing. It looks great on him, and he loves it. He loves it more than any commercial knit, and it fits better too. And that’s why we do it. It’s why we swatch and math and fiddle with the pattern until it’s to our liking, and gain a new vocabulary of swearing in the process. It’s not about relaxing, really – it’s the ‘I can fix that’ part of our brain that just can’t leave something be, because it thinks it can come up with something better.

And sometimes, it does.

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Flash that stash!

As the world and its wife are painfully aware, I am the keeper of a rather large stash.
At this point I’m unsure if I own the stash, or if the stash owns me. It’s a bit like a noose around my neck, so last week I locked the hounds out in the garden, took a deep breath and spread out the living room stash.
Now bear in mind that this is just a small portion of the stash.

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A bit overwhelming  isn’t it. I think there’s enough yarn there to last me the rest of the year. BUT! (Yes, a big but is required) there are plans for the majority of it!
In amongst that pile are a few WIPs as well – 2 pairs of socks, a cowl and wrap. One of the wips was finished last week and I love it.

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This is Mindful and was knitted in 1 ball of James C Brett’s Northern Lights and was quite a quick knit. It’s lovely and squishy too!
So what future lovelies have we in the pile? Answer is quite a few!
We’ve a cushion kit from Deramores , a hat kit from Deramores (link), Citron in the Stylecraft Senses and Hundred Acre Wood in some lovely Rosie’s Moments

So with ALL this choice in front of me, what project did I pick to start next? I’ll give you a clue, the yarn isn’t in the above picture – only I could vow to knit only from the living room stash and then merrily pull 2 skeins from the main stash. Typical really.
I started the Summer Shawl in some merino silk DK I had dyed and its now 99% finished – just waiting on my “willing “ volunteer to do the scalloped edge for me, crochet hooks and I don’t really mix.

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And while that’s going on, I’m working away on my Color Affection which I hope to finish this year at some point!

How big is your stash? Are you willing to photograph it in all its glory?

 

 

Knitting and Protest, part 1

In January 2017, the ‘pussyhat‘ project took the world by storm.

This isn’t the first time knitting has been used for protesting (anyone heard of yarn bombing?), but it’s perhaps the first time it really grabbed the spotlight. (See also here.)

Unfortunately, the pussyhat, while it was a fantastic idea in theory, turned out to be problematic in practice. But I’m not going to debate that particular issue here right now. (If you’re interested, there is now the hopefully more inclusive rise of the Blue Wave pattern. Unfortunately it’s not as simple to make as the original pussyhat, but it’s beautiful!)

Anyway, here in this part of the world (specifically Ireland), women are facing a very important vote. A vote that, if successful, will launch Ireland into the 21st century alongside the legalisation of gay marriage – the first country to do so by popular vote, by the way. The Eighth Amendment was voted into the Irish Constitution in 1983, and says: ‘The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’ On 25 May, Ireland will vote in favour or against REPEALING the Eighth Amendment. Which is important on so many levels. It allows women autonomy over their own bodies, for one. It stops the dangerous decisions that medical professionals are forced to make for their very sick, pregnant patients for whom carrying a foetus to term would be dangerous. It also stops the discrimination against women who, for WHATEVER reason they may have for not choosing to be pregnant anymore, are required to travel overseas for an abortion. That alone carries huge financial, emotional and physical costs.

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked. Read more about the Repealing the Eighth Amendment here.

So since knitting is all the rage these days when it comes to making political statements, I decided I wanted to hop on board. A few have already had this idea, check out some of the cool Repeal the Eighth patterns on Ravelry here: Michelle Gregory’s simple and effective Repeal Hat; Laura Walsh’s Tog4Yes Hat; and Laura Walsh’s other design, the Repealthe8th hat. And soon, hopefully, there’ll be a design of my own coming out soon (free of course!)! Testing has already commenced, let the needles get clacking in protest! 😀

Happy crafting!

UPDATE: Here are the charts with basic pattern instructions included. It assumes you have a basic knowledge of knitting and colourwork. I hope you find it useful!

Goin’ home!

…well, sorta. I didn’t. Someone else did.

Meet Douglas:

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No, not the backpack. The Highland Coo with the snazzy Tartan Bowtie.

Now, you’ve already heard about EYF from a human perspective a few entries back via our lovely Jo. So I won’t bother you with that and recount my trip. But I will, mainly in pictures, attempt to related to you how Douglas enjoyed his trip home. He hadn’t been in ages, and he had a special someone to meet. We’ll get to that later.

But first, the journey. We took the ferry, and were surprised to find that Highland Cattle, contrary to what one might expect, do not get sea sick.

His homeland greeted Douglas with appropriate weather.

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*sigh*

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Why do bus journeys take so gosh-darn-ding-dong long?

Seriously, though, four hours on a bus. That’s no environment for cattle. But, at long last, we did arrive in Edinburgh…

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…and had a pretty nice view, as it turned out.

Still looked nicer from outside, though…

Now, a few shops were to be visited, new friends were made, addictions to fudge revived… it was eventful.

Consequently, refreshment had to be taken, and what better place then where the magic began?

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Unfortunately, it was at this point that we learned Douglas can’t seem to hold his liquor. Or his butterbeer.

Douglas went to bed early that night. He had to be wide awake the next morning, for after…

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…soo many knitters…

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…and some idols…(Stephen West, for the uneducated)…

… it was finally time. Remember the special someone mentioned previously? Here she is:

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No, not the one holding him. That’s me. Not the other woman, either. That’s the lovely Kerry Lord (Creator of Edward’s Menagerie, TOFT. Douglas’ “Mom”, of sorts.) No, the fluffy Highland Coo next to him. His long-distance girlfriend, Morag. Now the snazzy bow tie makes, sense, right?

The day was as exhausting as the previous one, and ended with Douglas falling asleep on my purchases.

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What is this “self-control” that you speak of?

Day number three, I went to visit the Whisky Experience, and Douglas insisted on joining me. I experience a pronounced feeling of dread, but was persuaded.

I should have known better.

Found his namesake, and the world’s largest collection of unopened bottles of Scotch. So far, so good.

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Uh-oh…

 

Boy, had I been wrong to hope he’d learned from the butterbeer-incident.

The rest of the trip, Douglas spent in a hungover haze, looking for wizards and remedies, and encountering the random wild vampire. it was weird.

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…

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.

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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!

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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.

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