Tag Archives: stash

California stash expansion

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I always seem to buy yarn while on holiday. In much the same way as what I knit on vacation will forever remind me of that holiday when I wear/use it later, so too does yarn bought while away stay tied to that place. For that reason, I decided that on this trip I wasn’t going to buy anything I could get on the ground in Toronto. I also wanted to try and buy with projects in mind (even if they’re as general as this would be good for a shawl), which forced me to pay as much attention to yardage as to colour, and (hopefully) means I’ve come out of this trip with yarn I can make good use of.

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Our first stop was A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. I don’t remember when I first heard about Verb, but it has popped up on blogs with enough frequency over the last several years to make it the one shop I wanted to make sure we went to. L, always happy to explore off-the-beaten-track placed, was happy to make a detour to Oakland, a city people actively tried to dissuade us from visiting. We visited Berkley in the morning and then walked to Verb.

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One of the things I knew I wanted to get was yarn to knit L a new pair of gloves. His old ones have had a good life, but there’s no way they can handle another winter, and after knitting Grace I thought Quince & Co. would be a good choice for new ones (though in the slightly heavier Chickadee). Verb had a great selection of colours, and after L chose what he wanted he left (there was a great café next to the shop) and I stayed to poke around some more.

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I could have spend quite a long time in Verb, but I was overwhelmed by the choices and conscious that L was waiting (he actually came in after reading for a while because he thought he might have to do some damage control! Haha).

I really liked the way the shop was laid out, with yarn in the front third and fabric in the back. There were a ton of samples, and I really liked the display rack, which both helped to divide up the shop and let you get a sense of how the various yarns knit up. There were also lots of Judys around, dressed in a combination of knit and sewn garments, which definitely inspired me to think more about the shop’s Seam Allowance ideal of making 25% of your wardrobe.

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Quince & Co. Chickadee in Winesap and Slate, and some lovely fabric! (I sewed my dress before I took these photos, so that double gauze is just the leftovers.)

In addition to the wool for L’s gloves, I picked up the Endless Summer Tunic pattern and some fabric: the double-gauze I used to make my Endless Summer Dress, a grey-blue cotton and hemp, and some 6.5 oz denim (destined to become this skirt, I think).

The other LYS we visited was ImagiKnit. I don’t like to push too much yarn shopping on L since it’s his vacation too, but ImagiKnit was pretty close to where we were staying, so on our last morning in San Francisco we decided to walk over after breakfast (this involved climbing/descending several huge hills, but it was totally worth it).

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What a great shop! ImagiKnit is huge — its two big rooms are filled, floor to ceiling, with yarn. The first room is all animal fibres and the second is all plant and man-made fibres, and both rooms are organized like a clock, with the thickest yarn at 12 o’clock (the front windows) and then getting thinner as you walk clockwise. Genius! I walked around and around, trying to take in everything, but it was a little shelf at the back that really caught my eye, since it housed all the locally dyed yarns.

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There were also a few baskets of yarn on the counter that drew me in. The owner said she had recently been to the Malabrigo warehouse/factory in Uruguay and picked up some experimental yarn. It looked just like barber-pole handspun, and was so gorgeous (and so unavailable anywhere else) that I couldn’t resist.

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Top: Aurora Yarns Acquerello Middle: Quince & Co. Chickadee in Slate and Winesap Bottom: Malabrigo Dos OOAK, and Tactile Fiber Arts Bolinas Sock in Spruce.

My total haul wasn’t too bad, really: three skeins of Quince & Co. Chickadee (for L’s gloves); two skeins of Tactile Fiber Arts Bolinas Sock, a fingering-weight BFL dyed in the Bay Area, in Spruce (for a shawl); a skein of Aurora Yarns Aquerello, hand-painted in Moss Beach (definitely for socks); and two skeins of one-of-a-kind Malabrigo Dos (who knows what this for — I’ll figure something out). All in all, some pretty excellent souvenirs I think!

Colour therapy

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I finished my rainbow socks on Tuesday and they are awesome! Which is to say, the colours are awesome (thank you Three Irish Girls!) and they make these otherwise plain socks sing.

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I’m not sure good lighting even exists at this time of year, so I’ll refrain from posting any shadowy pictures of my feet. These were just plain 64-stitch socks, with my usual heel and toe. I was pretty sure I’d need contrast toes to stretch the yarn, but when I got to the toe of my first sock, the skein still weighed almost 60g, so I just chugged right along with same colours all the way through. I actually have a bit leftover, which is a nice surprise. It’s not really enough to do anything with on its own, but it would be perfect for adding a bright stripe to another pair of socks, or (heaven forbid) darning these ones in the future.

For scale, it's already 14 inches deep, with another six or seven garter ridges to go, plus the border. This is going to be a big shawl.

For scale, it’s already 14 inches deep, with another six or seven garter ridges to go, plus the border. This is going to be a big shawl.

Socks finished, I turned to my neglected shawl (so neglected I haven’t even mentioned it here). I originally bought this yarn for Ysolda’s Follow Your Arrow KAL, but partway through Clue 1 I lost my nerve. I like the idea of an MKAL, but I realized that, in practice, I prefer to know how all the pieces will fit together before I start knitting them. So I followed my arrow to another pattern. I’m knitting Flukra by Gudrun Johnson. I’ve been coveting this shawl for quite some time now (even more so when I saw these examples of the shawl knit with garter stitch edging). I was originally going to knit it up in this, but it’s winter, and there’s enough white/grey around.

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I’m knitting it in Sweet Fiber Cashmerino Luxe and wow. This is a blend of merino/cashmere/silk and it is so, so soft. It’s like the downy fur on a kitten’s tummy. I can’t wait to wrap myself up in it. The colourway is Mystery (which would have been perfect for Ysolda’s KAL) and the colour of slate: mostly blue/grey, but with hints of rust running throughout. It’s not a bright colour, but it is a warm one, and I’m really enjoying the way it’s presenting in garter stitch. I’m almost done the body and I am pretty excited to get to the lace, which is all-action all the time, with no rest rows, which makes me think it’ll speed right along.

As if that wasn’t enough, I got home after a long day of work to find a very fun package on my doorstep. A few weeks ago Tanis Fiber Arts did an Etsy update, but instead of it being the usual grab-and-go madness they decided to dye to order, offering six colourways in three different bases. I don’t normally enter the fray of the Etsy update, but this was a really nice way to do it – not nearly as overwhelming or frustrating.

Clockwise from the top: Fjord, Rock, and Aurora

Clockwise from the top: Fjord, Rock, and Aurora

Anyway, I thought long and hard and picked up three skeins: Two skeins of the Purple Label Cashmere Sock, one in Rock and one in Aurora, and a Green Label Aran Weight in Fjord. I didn’t have any particular plans when I bought them, but when I saw them in person the wheels started turning. Rock, especially grabbed me. It looked much more grey-green in the photos Tanis posted, so I was surprised and delighted to see that, in person, it was the most delicate and subtle green, with just a hint of grey and gold in the background. I’m not locked in yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to become a Bakau shawl, which is another pattern I’ve been crushing on for a while.

AND, as if that wasn’t enough, let’s talk about knitted skirts. Remember the other day when I said I got the New Girl pattern for finishing my mittens? Well, Cassy commented that she thought was should do an informal KAL, since she loved the skirt too. We got to talking, and it’s official: in mid-March we’re going to cast on for New Girl. The pattern is half price at the moment, so if you’d like to join us, this is a good time to buy. There’s no pressure (and no prizes), but it’s nice to knit the same pattern at the same time as others: it’s good for encouragement, helpful if you run into problems, and an excellent way to narrow down your colour choices.

The week that was

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Plain socks, knit in Koigu KPPPM #P123

Plain socks, knit in Koigu KPPPM #P123. Apparently these colours are not out of my system yet.

I can hardly believe it’s Monday, because I’m still in recovery mode from last week (also because I worked yesterday). Last week my section of the paper went live with a new program that totally changes our workflow and, in small ways, everything about how we do our jobs. The basics of the job (design news pages, edit stories, write headlines, etc.) is the same, but the way we do it has changed, and like any big change, this one has been hard. It’s new technology, with fewer people in-house, and last week was a bit chaotic. The paper made it out close to on time every night, so it was okay, but I got home every night totally wiped (and late, since new systems tend to take longer, at least at the beginning).

It was one of those weeks that makes you glad you’re a knitter. Every knitter I know has, at some point or another, talked up the stress-relief of knitting, and I really needed that last week. Of course, as is often the case, I didn’t really have time to knit. I did pick up my needles and work a few stitches here and there, but there wasn’t time for more.

Hunter St. Cowl. Lace always looks bad before it's blocked, but I am loving this pattern (and this colour). I think I managed to knit four rows on this last week. Part of me thought it would be done by now.

Hunter St. Cowl. Lace always looks bad before it’s blocked, but I am loving this pattern (and this colour). I think I managed to knit four rows on this last week. Part of me thought it would be done by now.

By the end of the week, I realized (in part) why that was: I didn’t have anything plain on the needles. Everything I was knitting had a chart of some sort, and even an easy to memorize chart like the one for the Hunter St. cowl requires just enough counting to not be mindless. Often, I enjoy charted knitting when I’m stressed. For one, it makes me feel a little clever, even when I’m just executing the same set of rows over and over, but it also forces me to stop thinking about whatever is on my mind (last week, page layouts – I actually dreamt about nothing but page layouts two nights in a row) and focus on something else. When I have the time, this is awesome, when I only have time for a row or two, it’s not the same.

The second Hummingbird sock, which I'm knitting Hedgehog Fibres sock, which might just be my new favourite sock yarn.

The second Hummingbird sock, which I’m knitting Hedgehog Fibres sock, which might just be my new favourite sock yarn.

It took me the entire week to realize this, so on Saturday, after running around for most of the day, I finally fished some fun Koigu out of my stash cast on a pair of plain socks (at the top of the post). Sometimes stockinette bores me to tears and sometimes it feels like magic. These are magic socks. I knit most of them while we hosted friends for dinner on Saturday, and a little more last night, and I’m going to try and squeeze in a few rows before I go to work.

Part of a pocket for my Woodstove Season cardigan. After wearing it a few times without pockets, I'm actually reconsidering my plan, so I might put these away for now. They can always go on later if I change my mind.

Part of a pocket for my Woodstove Season cardigan. After wearing it a few times without pockets, I’m actually reconsidering my plan, so I might put these away for now. They can always go on later if I change my mind.

L sometimes teases me about how much yarn we have in the house, but honestly, this is what my stash is for. I definitely did not have time to go to the yarn shop this weekend, but luckily I had already planned for such a moment and had what I needed at home. These socks will likely sit on my needles for a while since stockinette socks are nice to have around but rarely hold my attention long enough to be a primary project. That’s okay, though, because they’ll be there when I need them.

Edited to add: After a couple of people asked about the needles I’m using for my socks, I thought I’d post a link. I treated myself to some Signature Needles after Christmas and holy, they are awesome. They are a bit of a splurge, but when you think of how often you use your needles, and factor in that good metal ones will last forever, I decided it was worth it. I bought three sets (2.25mm, 2.5mm, and 2.75mm) and am seriously considering getting another set in 3.25mm (for worsted-weight socks).

Yarn accident

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Since I started knitting a little over a year and a half ago (oh sure, I learned when I was 8, but I’m not counting that) I have been accumulating a stash. This has absolutely not been by design. When I was first learning and heard/read stories about knitters with entire closets or even rooms dedicated to yarn, I was astounded. Not because I think it’s a waste of space (no one with as many books as I have could cast aspersions on anyone else’s use of space), but simply because I couldn’t imagine buying that much yarn without having a plan to use it.

Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Blackberry

That, of course, was where I was wrong. At least in my case, I almost always have some sort of plan in the back of my head when I buy yarn. Sometimes it’s something really specific, sometimes it’s a little looser, but usually I have an idea in there lurking and then I see the yarn and the two come together and, bam, purchase. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I’m just enchanted by the colour, but so far, that’s more the exception than the rule.

Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in Nova Scotia

Still, I’ve managed to accumulate a little stash. It isn’t huge, but it’s there, and I could happily knit from it for months (I am a slowish knitter, which helps). It was all going well too, until a couple of weeks ago when I had what might be called a yarn accident. I was at work, just browsing the Internet during some downtime, when I stumbled across Colorsong Yarn (warning: very tempting site), purveyors of Fleece Artist and Hand Maiden yarns. I should have known I was sunk. I am a sucker for both gorgeous colours and things tied to Nova Scotia (my home province), and these dyers are a double whammy.

Fleece Artist BFL socks in Blomidon

I thought, at first, that I was just going to look. And I did. I looked and looked and looked. But I didn’t buy anything. Instead, I tucked a few colourways into my memory and left the site before anything dangerous happened. When I was still thinking about it the next day, I knew I was in trouble. I thought that, maybe like a food craving, just having another look would satisfy me, but no. Instead, that little look resulted in me buying five skeins of Fleece Artist sock yarn (three BFL sock, two Merino fingering) – after all, with shipping costs, you have to make it worth it, right?

Fleece Artist BFL sock in Spruce

I almost never shop online. Sometimes I buy books online that I can’t find in my local independent bookshop, but generally, I avoid Internet shopping for two big reasons: 1) I like to support local businesses, and 2) I can’t really tell how much I’m getting. I know that sounds silly, but I’m serious. Five skeins of sock yarn on the Internet? Nothing. Five skeins of sock yarn when I’m in my LYS and all I have to put my purchase in is my purse because I’m on my bike and a bag won’t do? Too much – I’ll hem and haw and then whittle my choice down to one (or, maybe, two).

Fleece Artist BFL sock in Seafoam

The package arrived on Friday, and even though I’ve been feeling a little guilty about the purchase, the excitement I felt when I saw it made me feel like I’d done the right thing. I cannot wait to knit these into things (probably socks, who are we kidding) that will show off their gorgeous colours (but not until the sweater is done; I’m standing firm). Yarn accident, yes, but no regrets (yet).

The whole haul. Sigh.

Swatches, Socks, and Skeins – oh my!

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I’m sure there will be many a multi-barreled Friday post in my future, and I suppose that makes great sense since Friday is the day you sort out the week so you don’t have to carry it into the weekend. I mean, it’s not just me who does that, right?

First up, my first lace work. About a month ago I decided to focus on socks for a little while because they are both practical and a great way (in my mind) to learn some new skills that I can apply to larger projects in the future. So, L and I went all over the city looking for The Knitter’s Book of Socks by Clara Parkes, which had been recommended. Sadly, I couldn’t find it; however, I did pick up Sock Knitting Master Class by Ann Budd, and it has been excellent. Since finishing my mum’s socks, I have been knitting Almondine (rav link) and I am quite pleased with how they’re turning out.

Almondine socks in progress.

Almondine socks in progress.

I’m just finishing up the foot of the first sock (they’re knit top-down, clearly) and once I’ve got it all finished I’ll write about what I’ve learned/what little pattern changes I’ve made, etc. I will say, though, that for someone new to lace but not to socks, this is a very satisfying knit: the pattern is clear and has enough repetition to become natural without becoming boring, and seeing the lovely little almond shapes come together is never-ending excitement. It was also great trip knitting (I started it in the airport lounge last week).

Sock knitting is not quite all-consuming, though, so I’ve been puttering around and doing other things as well. First, I’ve been trying to clean up my stash a little bit. For a relatively new knitting, I have certainly accumulated a lot of wool, and I’m not complaining, but with a yarn-happy cat around, I do need to keep things somewhat orderly.

Ganymede loves to chase knitting.

Ganymede loves to chase knitting.

So, I took an hour or so this week (while watching some silly TV) to wind up some of my ends. I like to knit from the middle out – as opposed to from the outside in – which means that if I don’t entirely finish a cake, it ends up flat and floppy and libel to get very tangled indeed. The solution (for me) is little balls, and now that I’ve gotten the hang of making them even, I quite like them.

From left to right, these are two colourways of Abuelita Mysterious Blend Bulky ( 95% merino-corridale, 5% silk – so soft and gorgeous to knit with), used to knit L a hat, and my leftover Tanis Fiber Arts DK weight 100% Merino. What will I do with this ends? I’m not sure yet, but at least when I get to them they will be easy to knit with.

Finally, I realized I have never done anything with the wool I bought in Switzerland in December. I picked it up from a market stall in Bern and, because I don’t speak German and the man selling it didn’t really speak much English or French, all I can say is that it s indeed Swiss wool, but what breed of sheep it comes from and where it was spun remains a mystery.

Swiss skeins

Swiss skeins

One skein is a sort of grey-green and the other is a grey-blue (which you can’t tell in this photo), and they’re both quite wooly and finely spun, which is nice.

The market gentleman was only equipped to sell skeins, which means it still needs to be wound somehow. I’d like to know just how much I have, but ho-hum, I suppose I can add that to its mysterious characteristics. But oh, what to do with them?

Also! I completely forgot, but you remember that nice Maritime wool I bought when I was at home? Well I’ve been swatching it (ostensibly for mittens) and I must say, it is even lovelier to knit with than I first imagined. There’s just enough lanolin to make it soft and almost buttery in your hands, but not so much that it smells or sticks. It also has just the hint of a hallow and although I haven’t quite settled on what I’m going to do with it yet, I am getting very excited to do something with it.

Here’s my swatch (knit on 3.75 mm dpn, which gave me 7 stitches and 9 rows to an inch), including a little section of colourwork, just to see how it went.

Maritime swatch