Inventory #4 – April

During April, I made the most progress of any month so far in this challenge. Not coincidentally, this was also the month that I defended my Ph.D. dissertation – I was doing a lot of knitting to relieve stress! I completed several items, although as you’ll see, most of them were small. That’s kind of what you get when trying to knit through your stash – it’s time to get creative and figure out how to use up small quantities of yarn that aren’t enough for a whole hat/scarf/blanket/etc. The total quantity of yarn I used this month was 360 g, or 7.2% of the original amount.

My first completed item this month was the orange baby blanket I’ve been making steady progress on all year. I made a big push on this blanket during the first couple weeks of April, using up 220 g of yarn. I purchased the orange yarn (along with some reddish pink yarn) three years ago intending to use it for cute table decorations for my wedding…but then I realized that it’s crazy to try to make yarn-based centerpieces mere weeks before your wedding, with so many other details to manage! I already made another heart baby blanket with the other yarn, so I’m thinking it will be fun to use the two blankets for my future children, to remind us of how much fun we had at our wedding.

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Finished blanket just after blocking

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All folded up!

The rest of the items I made this month were all plaited headbands from my forthcoming pattern. I used up a lot of the Malabrigo remnants from past projects, and the result is very colorful. First, I refined the pattern I used for the purple headband featured in last month’s inventory to make three more like it (turquoise, pink, and green). Then I developed a wide version intended to cover the ears and made two of these (orange and yellow). Finally, I modified the original pattern to fit a child’s head (I hope!) in order to use a smaller quantity of yarn (red). The original and child’s patterns take 15-20 g of Malabrigo each, while the wide version takes about 30 g. (The turquoise one didn’t make it into the group picture because I already gave it away to my sister!)

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Wide, regular, and child’s headbands

Overall, I’m happy with my progress this month. If I can maintain this pace for the rest of the year, I’ll be in really good shape for completing the stash challenge in a reasonable amount of time. Back to knitting!

Year-to-Date Statistics
  • 68 different yarns remaining
  • 4305 g remaining (86.1%)
  • 11 projects completed in 2015

Inventory #3 – March

Although I haven’t been very good about posting this month, I have made some significant progress on my stash challenge! I’m deep in the serious part of writing my dissertation, so it’s been wonderful to spend time knitting in the evenings to relax and rest my mind. This month I completed three projects and put a dent in a fourth larger project. I used up 300 g of yarn on these projects, or 6% of the starting total (5000 g) – not too bad for one month! Now I’m on a pace to finish my stash challenge in about a year and a half, which is far more respectable than last month. So, what did I make in March?

First, I made a multicolored farmer’s market bag from the Hexagonal Market Bag pattern. I used Lily Sugar’n Cream yarn, a nice multipurpose cotton yarn. The bag took 60 g of yellow and 90 g of blue/yellow/white. I modified the pattern ever so slightly in the last step:  instead of using a three-needle bind-off to join the strap to the rim of the bag, I used grafting for ribbing. This technique is pretty similar to standard grafting with kitchener stitch, but instead of working all the stitches in order, you separate the knit and purl stitches onto two needles, work all the knit stitches, turn, and work all the remaining stitches, which now look like knit stitches. I really prefer the look of the grafted join, since it looks identical to the opposite end of the strap. The bag became a gift for my mom.

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Completed project #1

Next, I got to work on using up some of the Malabrigo merino worsted I have left from numerous other projects. I made the Bloom Couture Headband by Melissa Monday with some green Malabrigo. It only took 15 g to make the whole headband, so I’m thinking this is a great way to use up little bits. Plus the awesome colorways that the Malabrigo comes in mean the headbands really add a pop of color!

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Completed project #2

I also made some more progress on the heart baby blanket I showed last month. I used 115 g of Red Heart Classic Soft yarn in orange, finishing off my current ball. Right now the blanket is about 56% finished, so hopefully I’ll have it done by the end of next month.

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In progress and getting bigger!

Finally, I decided I was tired of knitting other people’s designs and it was time to design my own headband. I came up with this plaited headband design, which I’ll write a full pattern post for in the near future (I’m still working out some of the details to make it clear and complete). This headband used 20 g of purple Malabrigo merino worsted. I’m really proud of the way it turned out, and I can’t wait to make more headbands and share the pattern with you all!

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Completed project #3

Year-to-Date Statistics:

  • 69 different yarns remaining
  • 4665 g remaining (93.3%)
  • 4 projects completed in 2015

Juris Mittens and Thoreau Hat

Today’s post features two accessories I made for my husband. The first one is an example of my bad habit of taking a long time to finish a project. In this case, I did all the knitting for the mittens pretty quickly, but didn’t quite have time to purchase and sew on buttons before Christmas, so I gave them to him with the promise “you can pick the buttons!” That turned into months and months of waiting, until we bought two different types of buttons 11 months later. So then he got them for Christmas that year…not! Since there were two choices for the buttons, neither of us could decide which ones to use. It took another ENTIRE year until I finally sewed on the dang buttons, which took all of 20 minutes. So two years later, he actually got to wear his mittens in December 2014. That is epic procrastination, and I’m not proud of it.

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A happy husband

Fortunately, the hat was finished much more quickly. I started it in December 2014 and finished it just a couple weeks later in January. This is probably more a function of hats being easier for me to finish than other items, but I’m hopeful that I’m turning the corner on finishing what I start.

The yarn I chose for these two items is Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran, a wool/angora blend, in a soft blue with bits of white and brown. One ball can easily make a hat, while it took about one and a half balls for the mittens. Both of the patterns come from the Interweave Knits Accessories 2011 magazine, which I’ve mentioned before.

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Juris Mittens

The Juris Mittens, by Alexis Winslow, combine fingerless gloves with a mitten flap in a classic tweed. They are constructed from the cuff up, knitting the fingerless gloves first. Then the mitten flap is made by picking up stitches along the back of the hand, then knitting in the round. The gauge is fairly tight to keep the hands nicely insulated. These mittens were my first project involving individual fingers, and I was pleased that it wasn’t much harder than making a thumb, it just took more time to make them all. I followed the pattern pretty much exactly, and I really liked the results.

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Juris Gloves!

I took a bit more liberty with the Thoreau Hat, by Terri Kruse. This hat begins with twisted 1×1 ribbing, then moves into stockinette with a single detail panel consisting of ribbing and a 3-stitch mock cable. I liked the overall look of the hat, but as I soon as I started working the 3-stitch mock cable, I realized I would prefer to do a real cable. So I made one up – I had never seen a 3-stitch cable before. My method was the following:  sl2 to cable needle and hold in front, K1, sl2 back to left needle from cable needle, sl1 to cable needle and hold in front, K1, K1 from cable needle. This basically resulted in knitting the 3 stitches in reverse order from left to right.

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Thoreau Hat with custom cable

Together, these two accessories are perfect to keep my husband warm throughout the winter. Although the hat wasn’t quite finished in time, he was able to wear the mittens during our trip to London and Paris in December. The combo gloves/mittens were just right to keep his hands warm while taking lots of photos of the cities!

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Inventory #2 – February

This wasn’t a very productive month of knitting. As I mentioned before, I have a minor hand injury which kept me from doing much knitting for a few weeks. But fortunately, it’s on the mend and I was able to knit some during the past week, so I actually have some progress to report!

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First, I whipped up a cabled baby hat using 10g of Bernat Softee Baby yarn on size 5 double pointed needles. The pattern consists of ten simple cables, with the cable crosses for adjacent cables worked on different rows. I have used the pattern several times, because it knits up quick and the cables are fun and easy. With this particular yarn, the hat ended up pretty small. This might be ok for a newborn, but I kind of doubt it would fit after even a couple weeks. Next time, I’d like to make a slightly bigger hat, either by using a different yarn or by modifying the pattern to include more cables and more length before the crown decrease.

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Next, I worked on a baby blanket that I started a while ago, using up 25g of Red Heart Soft yarn. This is the second time I have made one of these blankets, and they’re really cute. I modified the pattern to include several rows of garter stitch in between the heart panels. I like working on this pattern because there are enough differences between rows to keep my interest, but it’s not too challenging so it’s easy to watch TV in the background. And it’s a great way to use up several skeins of yarn – this one has taken 1.2 skeins so far, and will likely use at least 3 skeins in total.

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That’s all I’ve got! So here are the numbers for February:

  • 69 different yarns remaining
  • 4965 g remaining
  • 1 project completed in 2015

At this rate I will finish my stash in late 2017…here’s hoping I can pick up the pace!

Reine Cardigan

To go along with my stash challenge, a mini-resolution I have for myself this year is to actually finish my projects. I know, what a revolutionary idea! I have this problem where I LOVE to start new projects, to learn new stitches and techniques, and generally spend a lot of time knitting. But when it comes time to put the finishing touches on, my interest plummets. I just do not find it very fun to weave in ends, seam pieces together, block, or sew on buttons. These things are crucial, though! Blocking is critical for determining the final shape and size and for getting the fabric to lay correctly. Seams and buttons can add a great degree of visual interest, in addition to their obvious functions. So it’s time for me to get over my aversion to finishing.

Today I am happy to report that I have a finished cardigan to share with you. All of the knitting for this piece took place in 2014 – in fact, it has been about a year since I started the project. As usual, I procrastinated the less fun parts, which included sewing on pockets and buttons. But I felt a huge sense of accomplishment yesterday as I sewed on the last button.

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The pattern for this cardigan is Reine by Alexis Winslow, from the Brooklyn Tweed collection Wool People 3. (By the way, have I mentioned how much I love Brooklyn Tweed’s patterns? Always so good.) I was struck by the details of the design – particularly the garter stitch accents on the shoulders, sleeves, and hem, and the double-sided cable that lines the front edge, collar, and pockets. I used a soft lavender alpaca yarn – Galler Yarns Prime Alpaca Heathers.

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Garter stitch accents

I always like to learn new techniques, and this project gave me a few opportunities to do so. First, the double-sided cable was a fun change from the standard cables I’ve been accustomed to, and it’s pretty easy. Rather than knitting all the stitches in the cable section with cable twists every 6th row, you work 1×1 rib with cable twists every 6th row. The ribbing naturally contracts to appear like a normal cable on each side, which makes a great look for edging.

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Double-sided cables and pockets

I learned how to sew on pockets using mattress stitch, which makes the knitting look nearly continuous. For pockets, the seam is a bit obvious because of the extra bulk from the edge of the pocket that gets trapped in the seaming operation. I think I did a pretty good job of making the two pockets symmetric and secure. This was also my first project with full-length arms, so I was pleased that they look pretty good and seem to be the same length (whew!).

The last new technique I learned was sewing buttons on with backing buttons. This one kind of blew my mind. Essentially, if you sew single buttons to a knit piece, they can pull on the fabric and cause it to deform and droop. Backing buttons are tiny buttons that go on the inside of the piece at the same place as the functional buttons. You simultaneously stitch the two buttons on, sandwiching the knit fabric in between. The two buttons hold firmly against each other so the knit fabric doesn’t get pulled at all. It seems to be easiest if the buttons have the same number of holes. I chose decorative pearlescent buttons for the front, and simple two-hole white buttons for the backing. I was really pleased with how this finishing detail turned out – no drooping fabric here!

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Backing buttons

Overall, I am happy with the finished product. There are a couple things I would do differently in the future, though. My row gauge always tends to be a bit different than the pattern calls for, so I have to improvise to get the right size. In this case, the garter ridge details at the top ended up being a little higher up than I would have liked, so I would shift them down. It was hard to tell while knitting. The sleeves are a little tighter than I expected, so I would consider adding a few stitches in the upper arm. And finally, I think I would sew the pockets a little farther out from the center – but I’m not going to rip them out and try again! I will enjoy wearing this soft, beautiful cardigan throughout the spring.

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Loving my new cardigan!

Past Projects – Wedding Shawl

Happy first day of February! I can’t believe January is already over…I have not done as much knitting as I would have liked! One reason for this is that I have a small injury to my left hand. I don’t think it’s too serious, but there’s a little bit of nerve damage so I’m being really careful and taking it easy while rehabbing. Unfortunately, this means I probably won’t be knitting for at least a few weeks, which really puts a damper on my stash challenge progress for now.

In the meantime, I’ll be writing about some projects I have completed in the past, along with some other crafty things. Today’s post features the lace shawl I knit for my wedding in 2012.

Photo credit Eli Pitta

Photo credit:  Eli Pitta

For this shawl, I tried lace knitting for the first time. Lace knitting  is characterized by intricate designs with holes and shaping, and typically uses small needles and fine thread to create delicate pieces. Unlike a lot of the other projects I do, this one required me to pay very close attention to every stitch. It’s easy to make mistakes in knitting in general, but even more so with lace. Plus it’s harder to correct mistakes when the pattern involves many yarn overs and decreases as lace typically does.

Photo credit:  Eli Pitta

Photo credit: Eli Pitta

The shawl pattern comes from the Interweave Knits Accessories 2011 magazine. (This is a great issue! I have made several items from patterns in it, so it was well worth the $15 it set me back.) The pattern is called Trousseau Wrap and was designed by Miriam L. Felton. The Interweave Accessories issue has several beautiful wedding shawls, but this one really jumped out at me as something I had to make for myself. I love how the points on the ends of the shawl make a bold statement, while the ring pattern in the shawl body is intricate and timeless. For my shawl, I used Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace yarn in red for a pop of color.

Photo credit:  Eli Pitta

Photo credit: Eli Pitta

The construction technique for the shawl was new to me. First, one end is knit side-to-side to create the four points. Next, stitches are picked up along the edge and the piece is worked from bottom to top to create the body of the shawl, with stitches held provisionally once the desired length is reached. Stitches are cast on for the second end, which is knit from side to side again. At the end of each WS row, the last stitch is knit together with a held stitch from the body. I thought this was a really cool way to keep the shawl as all one piece, yet allow for the knitting direction to change in the different parts of the shawl.

Photo credit:  Eli Pitta

Photo credit: Eli Pitta

The hardest part of making this shawl was carefully manipulating the fine yarn, particularly because the pattern has many K3tog stitches in every other row. Once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed the detailed work and it was fun to spend my time making something so beautiful. It did take a long time though – I started in April 2012 and finished just a couple days before my wedding at the end of August 2012, so about 4 months! It ended up being just the perfect accessory to wear during my wedding, and I really enjoyed creating something unique and personal for this special occasion.

Inventory #1 – January : I Have a Lot of Yarn!

 

It’s Inventory Time!!! I meant to post this last week, but it was Birthday Week in the Russell household, so I was a little caught up celebrating, eating cake, and turning 30. Which means now I’m old enough that my knitting obsession is socially acceptable, right? Anyhow, when I decided to do this challenge, I knew that I needed to keep track of the process. If I can see how much progress I’m making, I’ll be much more likely to stick with using up my yarn stash. So here it is in all its glory!

My Stash as of January 2015. It’s so big my husband doesn’t have anywhere to sit on the couch.

My stash includes yarns from Bernat, Berroco, Brooklyn Tweed, Caron, Classic Elite, Debbie Bliss, Heather Prime Alpaca, Jamieson’s, Jojoland, Lang, Lily, Lion, Loops & Threads, Lorna’s Laces, tons of Malabrigo, Mirasol, Misti Alpaca, Nashua Handknits, Noro, Plymouth, Red Heart, Twize, and Universal. It includes many full skeins/balls of yarn as well as leftovers from past projects (even some really tiny bits!).

So what are the numbers on this bad boy? Well…it’s a little scary. The total mass of all this yarn is 5000 g, which is just over 11 pounds! This adds up to approximately 11,500 yards of yarn…which is more than Ravelry estimates I have used in my projects over the last five years! That Ravelry number may not be exact, but it accounts for almost 50 projects. So that is a good approximation of how many projects will be needed to use up my stash. Yikes!

How did I calculate all this? I kept track of everything in a Google spreadsheet. For the full skeins that I was lucky enough to still have the labels intact, I just copied down the information from the label, including the mass and yardage. Partial skeins were weighed in my kitchen scale, and I looked up the yardage per mass on Ravelry. There were a few skeins that I had no idea of the manufacturer, so I estimated the yardage per mass based on similar yarns I own.

The trick to using all of this up is going to be finding creative ways to use those half skeins and even smaller bits. My focus in the early going will probably be on the easy parts, those full skeins that I can turn into anything. I mean, I have to build some momentum to get through all this. I am just a bit overwhelmed at how much knitting there is to do!

In summary, here are the numbers for January:

  • 69 different yarns/colorways remaining
  • 5000 g remaining
  • 11,587 yards remaining
  • 0 projects completed in 2015

Do you think I’m crazy for trying to knit through all this yarn in 2015? How much yarn do you have in your stash?

 

Getting Started + Coming Soon

Here it is…my first post! I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for years, but never had an idea that I could write about for more than a single post. I finally hit on one last month when I realized that all my yarn was overflowing my bookshelf. I have spent A LOT of money on nice yarn for my knitting projects over the years. Often I go into a yarn store just to browse and come out with $50 worth of beautiful yarn with no plan for how I’m going to use it. And then the next week I buy more.

This is obviously pretty wasteful, and perhaps even bordering on addiction. And let’s face it:  since my apartment is not that big, I should not be wasting space on yarn I’m not even using. So this year I’m going to do my best to use up all my yarn instead of buying more. To add accountability, I’ll be keeping track of my progress through this blog. I’ll provide regular updates on how much of my stash is left and what projects I’ve been working on, as well as posts on a variety of other topics including book and product reviews, descriptions of projects I made prior to this challenge, sewing, and photography.

My knitting shelf. It doesn’t look that bad, right? Don’t be deceived – there is a lot of yarn lurking in those boxes!

Here are some posts that you can expect to see in the near future:

  • Initial inventory – how much yarn do I really have?
  • How I made a photography lightbox
  • A project I completed in December

I hope you enjoy reading about my projects, and I would love to hear from you in the comments section!

Do you have too much yarn/fabric/other? What are you planning to make this year? Please chime in using the comments section below.