2015 in review

I started this blog in January 2015 to help me knit through my yarn stash, which I called my Stash Challenge. It has been really fun to work toward the goal of using up all my yarn, coming up with creative ideas for small amounts of leftover yarn, and sharing my finished projects here. As an engineer, I love measuring and quantifying things — in case you couldn’t tell from my precise accounting of remaining yarn every month in my Inventory posts. So today I’d like to share some numbers, charts, and photos of my Stash Challenge from 2015. (I realize that we are already almost 1/6 of the way through 2016, but better late than never!)

Let’s get started. In January 2015, I had 5000 g of yarn in my stash, which looked like this:

Stash

I decided that during the Stash Challenge I would not be allowed to purchase any new yarn. There was plenty in this pile to keep me busy! Every month, I have kept track of my completed projects and the yarn I’ve used, posting an Inventory post for each month. Behind the scenes, I have a spreadsheet that tracks how much is left of each individual ball of yarn, a section of which is below.

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But that’s not all! I also made some charts to visualize the process and give me momentum to keep going. The first one shows what percent of the original 5 kg is remaining.

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It looks like there were a couple months during which I didn’t make much progress, one month (September) when I knitted A LOT, and the rest of the time I kept up a fairly consistent pace. For a closer look at how my pace varied, I plotted the percentage used by month.

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On average during 2015, I used up 4% of my stash, which amounts to about 200 g per month. Not too shabby! The most I ever knit in one month was 10.1%, or 505 g. I had a lot of free time that month — but I’m also pretty surprised by how much I was able to knit during the rest of the year. I had a lot of other things going on (finishing my Ph.D., starting a new job, some other personal stuff) so I am sure that without the accountability of the Stash Challenge I would not have made this much progress.

After one year, I have used up just over 50% of my stash. There are 2479 g remaining, which equals 49.58% of what I started with. I achieved this by knitting (and crocheting!) 40 projects, many of which were small items like headbands or gloves. Now my stash looks like this:

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I think you can tell that it’s a bit smaller, right? I also transformed my knitting shelf from this:

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to this:

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It’s much more organized now, and I can almost find everything! There is still a fair bit of yarn, but it is less daunting than it was a year ago.

I have found the Stash Challenge to be a great way to strengthen my perseverance and creativity, and I’m looking forward to finishing the Challenge in 2016! And then I can finally buy new yarn…

Inventory #12 – December

It’s time for the last inventory post for 2015! In December, I completed three projects and just barely used up enough yarn (145 g) to get under 50% of my stash remaining. I would call that a pretty solid year of knitting!

My first project in December was a pair of fingerless mitts for my cousin who always has cold hands at work. I chose the Leydon Mitts by Alicia Plummer. This is a great pattern because it has an interesting texture and the fisherman rib used for the edging is plush and warm. The mitts used 35 g of lavender Galler Yarns Prime Alpaca that I had leftover from the Reine Cardigan. I think my cousin will enjoy these warm, soft mitts.

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For project #2 I made a cute little baby cardigan from the Fuss-Free Baby Cardigan pattern by Louise Tillbrook. This used 65 g of Bernat Softee Baby yarn. I changed up the edging of the pattern so that it is continuous and has rounded corners. I skipped the pattern’s garter ridges at the neck and worked the whole body of the cardigan, picked up stitches all the way around, then worked garter stitch in the round to create the edging. On every other round, I increased two stitches in each corner to make sure the edge would lay flat. I have used this pattern before to make a Colorado Avalanche-themed baby cardigan for a friend’s baby, and I’m looking forward to giving this one to the next friend who needs it.

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My last project of the year was designed to use up the rest of my Noro Silk Garden yarn, 45 g worth. It’s a really simple ribbed pattern worked in the round, using a (K2,P2,K1,P1,K1,P1) repeat. Initially intended to be a headband, it ended up being pretty tall, so it can also be worn as a cowl. I really like how the distinct colors of this yarn show up in this headband/cowl — maybe even better than in last month’s Grey Gardens headband.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 52 different yarns remaining
  • 2479 g remaining (49.58%)
  • 40 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #11 – November

In November I completed two knitting projects. Just as importantly, I started giving away some of the knit items I’ve completed for my stash challenge! Every year we spend Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family, and there are usually 15-20 people there. This year was no exception, and it was the perfect place to offer up my fiber wares (for free, of course). More than half of the items I’ve made in the stash challenge were claimed by various family members.

I was thrilled that everyone was so eager to wear my knit items. I always try to make sure to avoid giving homemade gifts that people don’t really like, yet feel obligated to compliment. So for this stash challenge, I have primarily focused on making things that I like without targeting specific recipients, unless someone requests a particular item. Friends and family, please let me know if you want me to make you something! I have more yarn to use…

Moving on to this month’s projects…the first item I made was the Grey Gardens entrelac turban, using 55 g of Noro Silk Garden yarn. I’ve seen entrelac in several patterns over the years, and finally learned how to use the technique to make this headwrap. If you’re not familiar, entrelac creates a basketweave-like effect by working tiers of rectangles and triangles. You knit one complete rectangle/triangle before moving on to the next one in the same tier. The Grey Gardens pattern has very clear instructions for the technique. As for the yarn, I have long admired the brilliant color combinations that Noro creates. Silk Garden is a beautiful blend of silk, mohair, and wool with varying thickness that works up with a rustic look and feel.

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For the second project, I made a pair of boot toppers using 60 g of orange Red Heart Classic Soft yarn. Boot toppers are like boot socks, but they are only a few inches tall. They are designed to be worn around the calf, peeking out from the top of your boots. They’re an easy alternative to making full socks and are quick to knit up out of a small amount of leftover yarn. I figured out a simple pattern myself, with ribbing, cables, and picot bind-off. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the toppers with boots before giving them to my sister-in-law. If I can round up a good photo, I’ll update this post.

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Update 1/24/16:  Here are a couple pictures of the boot toppers in action!

 

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 53 different yarns remaining
  • 2624 g remaining (52.48%)
  • 34 projects completed in 2015

Happy 2016!

Just dropping by to wish you a very Happy New Year! Thank you to everyone all over the world (32 different countries!) for reading in 2015.

I did get a little behind with my posts at the end of the year. I did do a bit of knitting in November and December, so those inventory posts are coming soon, along with a summary of 2015. I’m excited to continue my Stash Challenge in 2016 — hopefully I will be able to finish it off this year!

May your 2016 be filled with peace, love, and crafting! I’ll leave you with a throwback picture of one of my first knitting projects, from December 31, 2009.

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Inventory #10 – October

Just a quick post this month — I only managed to complete one project. I think maybe I had a bit of a knitting hangover from the huge amount I did last month! Or it might have had more to do with starting a new job and the corresponding exhaustion. Anyway, my project this month was another Darkside Cowl (pattern by Sarah Fama), this time in bright pink Malabrigo Silky Merino. I’m calling it the Brightside Cowl since the color is so bold! I used 75 g of yarn, which is 1.5% of my inventory.

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Here’s to more knitting through the end of the year!

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 54 different yarns remaining
  • 2739 g remaining (54.78%)
  • 32 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #9 – September

(edited:  replaced some photos with better ones!)

September was a great month for knitting! I even threw a little crochet into the mix, too. For the first time during my stash challenge, I used over 10% of my inventory in a month, 505 g to be exact. Being on vacation the whole month really influenced the amount of time I had to knit — I doubt there will ever be another month like this once I start my new job.

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My first project this month was a Chevron Scarf crocheted from 170 g of peach-colored Caron Simply Soft yarn. This was a nice simple project to get back into crochet — I learned when I was about 10 years old from a lovely woman named Virginia, and dabbled with it off and on since then, most recently about 10 years ago. Anyway, I found this scarf pattern easy to learn and work on while chatting with friends. After the first row, there is only one row that you repeat over and over until the scarf is the right length.

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Five or six years ago I bought two balls of South West Trading Company Twizé bamboo yarn on sale, and they had been languishing in my stash ever since. I just didn’t love them and struggled to find a pattern that inspired me to use them. This month I finally used them to knit a Blogathon Lace Triangle Scarf. I modified the pattern slightly by ending with a few rows of garter stitch to keep the top edge from rolling and by neglecting to add the designer’s recommended tassels. The scarf took 200 g of the Twizé, and while I am pleased with how it looks and feels, I did not enjoy knitting with this yarn. The fibers separate very easily, especially when doing the double decrease stitch that is central to the lace pattern. But Ravelry tells me that the yarn has been discontinued, so I guess none of us have to worry about that anymore!

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The rest of the yarn I used in September was cotton used to knit various dishcloths/washcloths. First I made two Almost Lost Washcloths from a multicolored Lily Sugar’n’Creme cotton yarn (70 g total). This pattern uses garter stitch and short rows to make round, scalloped cloths. I found the pattern pretty easy to memorize after the first few repeats. Next I made four mini washcloths using the Mini Almost Lost Washcloth pattern and three different colorways of Lily Sugar’n’Creme (35 g total). This pattern is similar to the larger cloths and even easier to learn, plus it’s a great way to use up small amounts of yarn. Finally, I made a Dr. Who TARDIS Dishcloth from 30 g of some unknown orange cotton yarn. I don’t follow the show, but I know the TARDIS is supposed to be blue…work with me, I have a stash to clear out!

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Overall, I made great progress in September toward my goal of using up all the yarn in my stash. I’m almost halfway there! Thank you for following along on my journey.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 55 different yarns remaining
  • 2814 g remaining (56.28%)
  • 31 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #8 – August

This month I completed five projects:  four knitting projects totaling 255 g of yarn and one Ph.D.!!! Thank you, knitting, for keeping me sane these past few months of finishing my dissertation. (Ok, my friends and family also helped on that count!) Let’s see what I made:

1) I modified the toe-up sock pattern that I cobbled together last month to make a pair of boot socks, using 100 g of Plymouth Happy Feet yarn.. To make the pattern more interesting, I used an openwork diamond stitch that I found in the 400 Knitting Stitches book by Potter Craft. The other difference from last month‘s socks is that I added several increases for the calf. I didn’t check this until taking the photos below, but the size of the socks turned out perfectly for my boots, just peeking out over the tops.

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2) A few months ago, I bought a stack of old knitting magazines from my local yarn shop. In an Interweave Knits magazine I found the Koolhaas Hat by Jared Flood and was taken with its interesting architectural pattern. I decided to knit it in a pretty red Mirasol K’acha yarn, using 55 g. My hat turned out to be plush, warm, and beautiful!

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3) The Darkside Cowl by Sarah Fama uses a combination of vertical ribbing and horizontal welting to create a cool reversible zigzag stitch. My cowl is made from 100 g of Malabrigo Rios in the Paris Night colorway. I found this to be a quick and easy knit that beautifully showcases the subtle color variations in the yarn. Plus, the stitch pattern causes the fabric to naturally contract so the cowl stays nice and tight for warmth.

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4) I finally finished my poncho! On Ravelry, I called it a Summer Poncho, which accurately describes how long it took me to make it. This month, I sewed together the two halves and added fringe along the bottom. In total, it took about 475 g of Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn. I am really pleased with how it turned out, and surprisingly I’m right on trend – I have been seeing ponchos everywhere!

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5) The project I am most proud of is finishing my Ph.D. It has been a long time coming. It was surreal to find myself this month completing my last edits and getting my reading committee to sign off on it. But it’s finished, hooray!

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 61 different yarns remaining
  • 3319 g remaining (66.38%)
  • 22 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #7 – July

This month I was excited to focus on socks, but sadly I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to make them. Based on the amount of time I spent knitting, I should have completed at least four or five pairs, yet I only ended up with two pairs.

The main problem was that I really, really wanted to make the Widdershins socks by Brooke Chenoweth Creel from the Summer 2006 issue of Knitty so I was forcing myself to knit way more tightly than I normally would to match gauge. I ended up with the correct stitch gauge for the pattern, so the circumference of the sock fit well. When I got to the heel, though, there was nothing I could do to fit my foot in the sock — the opening was too small. I ripped the heel out and tried again, making probably six different heels, none of which fit. It turned out that the extra tight knitting really messed up my row gauge so it was impossible to get a nice heel from the given instructions, or any reasonable heel pattern, for that matter. I finally admitted defeat and decided to figure out how to make a basic toe-up sock that would actually fit. My takeaway from this experience was that sometimes row gauge is really important (like for socks!).

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I ended up concocting my own design for toe-up socks that fit my feet by cobbling together advice and techniques from all over the internet. The essential methods I used were Judy’s magic cast on and short-row heel shaping (I’ll save the details for a future post). Both pairs were made from Plymouth Happy Feet sock yarn in a variegated blue color. The first pair (60 g) was straight stockinette throughout so I could focus on the shaping for my feet. On the second pair (40 g) I got adventurous and modified the cable pattern from Widdershins to work with my stitch count (I had 48 stitches versus the pattern’s 54). This pair only went to the ankles since I was running out of yarn.

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I also finished up the Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn (76 g) I have been using to make a poncho. As I predicted in June, this was not quite enough to complete the poncho so I had to purchase more yarn (gasp!) to finish it. I definitely think it was worth breaking my no-yarn-purchasing rule, since otherwise the poncho would have been a really weird size and therefore totally useless. I finished all the knitting for the poncho in July and now just need to stitch the two pieces together and add fringe!

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My total yarn usage this month was 176 g, 3.52% of the 5000 g I started the stash challenge with.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 63 different yarns remaining
  • 3574 g remaining (71.48%)
  • 18 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #6 – June

June was a busy month for me outside of my crafting life:  I participated in my last commencement ceremony ever, I spent most of the month finishing a full draft of my dissertation, and I got really into watching the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs (bandwagon fan!). Yet somehow I managed to find time to knit 335 g of my stash this month! (Knitting while watching basketball may have helped just a bit.)

My first project this month was a small circular shawl – the Double Double Circular Shawl from the book Circular Knitting Workshop, by Margaret Radcliffe. This is the first project I’ve made from this book, although I’ve used it several times as a reference for circular knitting techniques. The shawl is based on the Pi Shawl concept that was popularized by Elizabeth Zimmermann, which consists of doubling the number of stitches every time the diameter of the shawl doubles. I mostly followed the pattern except I did a standard knit bind off rather than the recommended picot bind off because I was running out of yarn.

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The circular shawl is too small for me to wear – about 22″ in diameter – but it might be reasonably sized for a child. If not, I still achieved my main goals of learning the pi shawl technique and using up some lace yarn. It needed 15 g of Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace yarn, finishing up the last bit of the skein I used for both my wedding shawl and last month’s shawlette.

My second project was to knit approximately 75% of a poncho from the Irish Knit Poncho pattern by Adele Huey McCall. I chose this project specifically to use up a large amount of white acrylic yarn (Loops & Threads Impeccable). I started with a jumbo skein of 396 g, which looked like this next to a six-month old baby:

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Yep, that’s a lot of yarn!

I used 320 g on the poncho, finishing the first piece and half of the second piece. The pattern is varied enough to be enjoyable, combining seed stitch, cables, and a purl-based center pattern, yet easy to remember because it repeats every four rows. Given how much yarn I had to start with, I was surprised to discover that I may not actually have enough to finish. To prevent this from being a waste of time, I might have to break my rule and buy enough yarn to finish the project (cringe). We shall see how much progress I can make with the last 76 g.

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Close-up of poncho in progress

After this month’s knitting, I have now used up 25% of my stash – that’s 1250 g! I’m still on pace to finish by the end of September 2016, but I’m optimistic that I can beat that timeline.

YEAR-TO-DATE STATISTICS
  • 65 different yarns remaining
  • 3750 g remaining (75%)
  • 16 projects completed in 2015

Easy Eye Pillow

Today I made an eye pillow to use in yoga or general relaxation. It’s a really easy project to sew, and takes less than an hour from start to finish. To make one, you’ll need a piece of cotton fabric approximately 10″x10″ square, about 3/4 lb. dry lentils for the filling, and a small amount of dried lavender (I used about 1 g) for a nice bit of aromatherapy. You can use something else for the filling besides lentils – small beans or rice would work well. You could experiment with different types of dried herbs if you don’t like lavender or don’t have it on hand, or leave the scent out completely.

Start by cutting your fabric into a 10″x10″ square if you haven’t already.

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Fold the fabric in half horizontally with the wrong side out and press flat. Sew across one short side and the long side, using 1/2″ seam allowances. Continue the long side seam onto the second short side for about an inch, then cut the thread. Starting from the opposite corner of this short side, sew towards the center for 1.5″, again with 1/2″ seam allowance. You will be left with an opening about 2.5″ long. (Leaving the opening in the center rather than at a corner makes it easier to make nice corners and to fold the raw edges under for finishing.) It may be difficult to see, but the opening is on the right side in the picture below.

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Trim the fabric at a 45 degree angle across the corners, close to the seams but taking care not to cut them. Neaten the raw edges together by sewing with a zigzag stitch and overcasting foot on the corners, the left edge, and the long edge, making sure to leave the opening alone.

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Here’s a close-up view of a finished edge:

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Turn the pillow inside out and press flat with the raw edges of the opening turned under so they are ready to be stitched. Using a funnel if you have one, alternately pour in a little pinch of lavender and about 1/4 cup of lentils. Keep going until the pillow is about 2/3 full. You want to make sure there is room for the filling to move around and conform to your face, so don’t overfill.

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Quickly baste the opening together by hand. Move the filling out of the way and carefully topstitch along the entire edge to close. If you want it to look uniform, you could topstitch all the way around all four edges, using a decorative topstitch if you like.

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Remove the basting stitches, trim any loose threads, and your pillow is ready to use. Enjoy the relaxing weight of the pillow on your eyes, and take pride that you made it!

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Relaxing!