Darn Good Yarn Subscription Box

I wrote recently about the Quince Quarterly box I just subscribed to. This was not my first yarn subscription box, though. In 2019 I received the Darn Good Yarn Yarn of the Month subscription box for about 6 months. For $20 a box, you get a skein of yarn, a pattern designed for the monthly yarn, and some kind of accessory or notion. The pattern always has a knit option and a crochet option, and sometimes there are even two patterns for each craft.

The yarns are different from what you would find at most yarn companies. Darn Good Yarn primarily sources its yarn from disadvantaged communities, and most products are recycled in some way. For example, some of their yarns are made from recycled saris from India. They also have yarns made from uncommon fibers like banana fiber. This company has a great mission that I’m happy to support!

Finished Project #1

So what have I received in my subscription boxes, and what have I made? This month, I finally finished the Kahawai Cowl that I started making sometime in 2019. This project used some really nice Lace Weight Silk Yarn in color Sparkle Sandy Beach. The yarn is lightweight and mixes dyed silk with a skinny strand of sparkly material. It was overall nice to work with, but sometimes the fiber got caught on itself. The yarn nicely self-stripes, and the blue/green stripes contrast well with the sandy brown stripes.

The cowl is knit in the round and consists of a large cable on a background of reverse stockinette, followed by regular stockinette. After knitting the full length of the tube, the ends are seamed together. I did kind of a hybrid join, something between mattress stitch and kitchener stitch. Since I did not bind off the final edge before seaming but did not do a provisional cast-on, I couldn’t quite do regular kitchener stitch. The join is hardly visible, though (see the middle of the photo below), so I’m happy with how it turned out! This box also included a set of safety pin stitch markers, which I find useful for all kinds of projects.

Finished Project #2

The other project I finished is a little crocheted bag with a drawstring (I can’t find the pattern, unfortunately). It is made from Fancy Twist Silk Yarn in color Pink Flamingo, a bulky recycled silk yarn. This bag is a nice size for a child’s treasures, or maybe it could be a dice bag for role playing games. If I’m remembering correctly, the accessory this month was a pair of straight needles and a crochet hook, in an appropriate size for the pattern (US8).

Unfinished Project #1

This box featured a nice colorful yarn: Darn Good Twist Worsted Weight Silk Yarn, which is made from recycled silk, in color Machu Picchu. I worked on the knit pattern a few months ago, but am only about halfway done. It is an I-cord necklace made with US8 double-pointed needles. The box also included a 3-pack of silver buttons, which could look nice as an accent on a cowl or headband.

Unfinished Project #2

This box includes Speckled Tweed Recycled Silk Yarn in color Begonia. The two pattern options are a bracelet and a cowl. I haven’t yet decided which project to make…maybe I’ll try something completely different! The accessory gift is a pom pom tassel, which would be a cute embellishment for a bag.

Unfinished Project #3

Although the tag on the yarn in this image says it’s super bulky, it is really a Worsted Weight in color Catskill Fireworks (there was a slight mix-up in the inventory). The pattern is a bottle coozie and looks pretty fast to knit. The accessory is some hand salve, which is really helpful in winter months to soften hands.

My Take

This is a nice subscription box for trying unique yarns and small projects. I found that several of the recommended patterns were things I was not so excited to make, so I think that is why they have languished on my shelf. My desire to knit was also in a lull while I was subscribing, so that also may have been a factor. I do really like the company and would consider subscribing again in the future. If you’d like to subscribe, you can sign up here.

Quince Quarterly Fall 2020

In the past few years, subscription boxes have become popular for all kinds of products. I regularly get a couple different food boxes, and in the past I’ve tried the Birchbox beauty supply box and personal styling from Stitch Fix. I recently learned about Quince and Co.’s subscription program Quince Quarterly, which provides a brand new knitting pattern and corresponding yarn, four times a year. I heard about Quince and Co. years ago, but somehow have never gotten around to trying any of their yarns. As soon as I learned about Quince Quarterly, I had to sign up — it’s the perfect way to experience new yarns. Plus it’s so fun to get a mystery box in the mail every few months!

Quince Quarterly has two options: Level 1 for $45 and Level 2 for $90. I got the Level 1 box this time, though I’m tempted to upgrade to Level 2 in the future. Look at all the fun stuff that came in this box! There are three skeins of Quince Owl yarn (50% wool, 50% alpaca) in yellow, blue, and oatmeal; a brand new pattern for mittens and a hat; and two rolls of washi tape. I have never used washi tape before, so I am open to any advice on what to do with it! The pattern is called Albizia, written by Pam Allen, and it is printed beautifully on high quality card stock and paper with full-color photos and charts. One cool thing about the Quince Quarterly program is the patterns are exclusive to subscribers for the first six months, so this one won’t be available for purchase until April 2021.

I was anxious to get knitting, so I got the yarns wound up right away. I could tell that it was going to be a delight to work with this Owl yarn; it is rustic and squishy, and the colors look great together. I started out by making a stockinette swatch in a single color. My gauge looked good, so I began the hat. After a few rounds of the stranded color pattern, I realized my mistake: stranded colorwork gauge is not the same as gauge for a single color! There was no way the hat was going to fit my head, so I ripped it out and started over with a swatch in the color pattern. I had to go up one needle size from the recommended US8 to US9.

Both the hat and the mittens start with a simple rolled edge. The colorwork starts after just a few rounds and continues throughout, aside from a few sections where just one color is worked for a few rounds. I haven’t done colorwork in years, so I am happy that this pattern pushed me to do it again.

The pattern emphasizes the rustic feel of the Owl yarn. It is primarily knit in stockinette, with enough color changes to keep the work interesting. One detail I love is the well-placed purl stitches occurring just after color changes; they really make the previous color pop.

The mittens have a different but complementary pattern. I knitted mine with a US8 needle, one size down from what I used for the hat. The thumb is constructed from a simple waste yarn section with no gusset. I typically prefer patterns with a thumb gusset, but in this case the waste yarn approach really works, especially as it doesn’t require increases to be worked in conjunction with the colorwork pattern.

As recommended by the designer, I minimized blocking to preserve the stitch texture. The only thing I did was apply a little bit of steam at the cast-on edges to flatten them out a bit. From start to finish, this project only took a little over a week. That is the nice thing about knitting accessories with worsted weight yarn! It helps to have such an engaging pattern, too.

Overall, I’m really happy with my first Quince Quarterly box. I can’t wait for the next one! Oh, and I was planning to give this project as a gift, but the more I look at it the more I think maybe I’ll keep it for myself…

Some Not-So-Recent Cross-Stitch Projects

When I was a kid, my mom made several beautiful, complex cross-stitch projects. I saw her working on these, and eventually I wanted to try. I don’t remember what I started with, but I got into making very small projects, like candy cane Christmas ornaments and tiny wall decorations. These were fast to make and fun to give as gifts. It had been years, though, since I did any cross-stitch projects at all.

Then a few years ago (maybe 2016?) I got the cross-stitch bug again. I saw a cute owl cross-stitch kit at a craft store and decided to pick it up. It was during a Christmas vacation when I had plenty of time to work on crafts, so I finished it pretty quickly. It helped that the design was simple, with contiguous blocks of color and no backstitching, and only 4″x6″ overall dimensions.

The owl picture lives in my closet on the dresser, where it brightens my day whenever I see it. I love bright colors, and this has plenty of them. I also like the rustic look of the canvas background. In the past I had typically done projects that used white canvas, so this was a fun change.

Right away, I bought another kit, this time a Halloween design. I worked on it for a week or two, and then just stashed it away for a couple years. I finally picked it back up last fall, determined to have it completed by Halloween. I just barely made it in time! I think I completed it with about a week to spare, so it wasn’t part of my decorations for long. But this year, it has been on display since October 1, so we’ll get to enjoy it all month!

Like the owl, this design has big blocks of color that worked up relatively quickly. However, it took a surprisingly long time to fill in the whole black background. I like the way the backstitch orange stars break up the background with pops of color. The finished dimensions are about 5″x7″.

After completing the Halloween picture, I had good momentum for cross-stitching, so I started working on yet another kit. During the month of November 2019, I made a whole Christmas picture, which was more complex than my other recent projects. Each of the ornaments required several color changes. It may be hard to tell from the picture, but the center of each ornament is in lighter colors, while the edges are darker colors.

This kit is from thestitchery.com, a great resource for cross-stitch and related needle arts. (They have some really lovely kits for table runners that I aspire to make in the future.) The finished dimensions are 12″x5″, which is not a standard frame size. I ended up buying a custom frame and mat from https://www.matboardandmore.com/. They have many colors and options to choose from, and I am really happy with the result.

I have really enjoyed getting back into cross-stitch. It is definitely a tedious hobby, with some bigger projects taking several months to complete even when I’m making daily progress. When they are done, it really boosts my happiness to have cute decorations that I made myself, especially when they are holiday-themed and part of my annual decorating process. I intend to make more for other holidays (Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, etc.) Stay tuned for more completed cross-stitch projects in future posts!

Crochet Baby Doll Blankets

Baby doll blanket

My favorite crafting modality is knitting, but I’ve been branching out during the past few years into crochet and cross-stitch, both of which I first learned as a child, before I got into knitting. A couple months ago, I was looking at my yarn stash and noticed some large skeins of acrylic yarn that I’ve had for a while. It dawned on me that they could make cute blankets for my daughter’s baby dolls and stuffed animals, so I got to looking for patterns.

I ended up using the V-Stitch Blanket Pattern from Daisy Cottage Designs. The example in the pattern post is exactly what I had envisioned, with alternating stripes of different colors and a finished edge. I modified the pattern slightly, starting with a ch 48 for a slightly smaller blanket. I wanted pink to be the primary color, with white and grey contrasting colors, so I alternated pink-white-pink-grey for a total of 31 stripes. For the border, I did 3 rounds of sc, one in each color. The final size is 14.5″x18″. Ravelry link

The baby dolls loving their new blankets

The baby dolls have their own bunk bed with a trundle bed underneath for a friend to visit, so I made 3 identical blankets. I think they turned out pretty cute! Total cost was $0, since I was using yarn from my stash, and all 3 blankets were pretty fast to make, just a couple weeks from start to finish, in bursts of time here and there.

Baby dolls taking a nap in my bed

Crochet is a great modality for projects like this. V-stitch in particular is nice because it takes up a fair bit of space and works up fast. It is an easy stitch to learn and doesn’t require a lot of focus once you have it memorized. The only part of this project I didn’t enjoy was weaving in all the ends, but that is a consequence of choosing to do stripes!

What I’m Working On: September 2020

Cross-stitch Christmas Stocking

This stocking is for the new baby, and it comes from a Dimensions cross-stitch kit. I started working on it in July and I’m about 70% done. I’m hoping to finish before the baby comes in November (except for the name, since we haven’t chosen yet)! It would be fun to have everyone’s stockings up for Christmas this year.

Forbes Sweater

It’s been a while since I made a large item like a sweater, since I tend to prioritize accessories that fit well even if my gauge is a little off. I’m currently obsessed with Brooklyn Tweed yarns and patterns, and I thought the Forbes Sweater looked perfect for late fall, when I’m hoping to have it finished. It uses the limited-run Brooklyn Tweed yarn Ranch 02 in color Natural. I’m around 10% done so far.

Cowl

This cowl is from Darn Good Yarns subscription box earlier this year. The pattern is the Kahawai Cowl by Ellen Bergmann, and the yarn is Lace Weight Silk in color Sparkle Sandy Beach from DGY. I’ve been working on it off and on since around April. It is finally almost finished: the last step is to seam the two ends together. I just need to find a half hour or so to finish it up.

Planning

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been planning more projects and ordering all the supplies. Just last night, I ordered some fingering weight yarn and a pattern for a colorwork hat for my husband. I know it’s going to be hard to keep up with all these projects once the baby comes, but I’ll get to them all eventually.

I’m Back!

It’s been a long time! I was active on this blog for a little over a year, and my last post was February 2016. I may not have been blogging during the past 4.5 years, but I have been crafting. I’ve had a lot of life changes since then, too:

  • Moved across the country
  • Had a baby (who’s 2.5 now!)
  • Bought a house
  • Started a new job
  • Having another baby in November

Whew, that’s a lot of change! I haven’t always been consistent with my crafting progress (especially when taking care of a newborn!), but I have continued to enjoy the creative process of making things by hand. More than the final objects that I create, it’s the process that keeps me coming back for more. I love all the steps: the excitement of planning out a new project and ordering supplies, the calm meditation of working on it for days, weeks, or months, and finally the satisfaction of completion.

So what’s next for the blog? I have a backlog of finished projects from the past few years that I’ll be highlighting in upcoming posts. After I’ve worked my way through those, I’ll do my best to add new projects as I complete them. I will continue trying to use up yarn from my stash, but…

My stash in February 2016
My stash in September 2020

One thing that is certain is I won’t be clearing my stash again anytime soon. I am currently in the nesting phase of pregnancy, which for me is manifesting as an intense desire to buy all the yarn for all the projects. I’m trying to plan out real projects rather than buying yarn randomly, but I’m definitely acquiring yarn faster than I can knit it. It’s probably good right now, though, during the coronavirus pandemic, for my main hobby to be something easily done at home.

Thank you for reading! I’ll be back soon.

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.

spreadsheet

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.

PercentRemaningChart

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.

PercentUsedChart

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:

IMG_0242

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.

IMG_0650

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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