Category Archives: yarn
Remember when I said my goal for the year was to burn through my yarn stash?
The only loophole (pardon the knitting pun) is that I can only buy more yarn if it’s needed to make a gift or for a special project someone asks me to make—like the socks I’m making for my brother-in-law who received a “coupon” from me for a pair of handmade socks.
Well, here’s how I’m doing:
The first and biggest hurdle was trying to inventory my yarn.
The good news: I only had about 60 skeins (or nearly full skeins) of labeled yarn of various colors, fibers, weights, and brands. The bad news? The pile of unidentified partial skeins was even larger.
While I was thinking of projects that would use up some of the yarn, my sister asked me to make one of the now iconic “p-hats” (to be polite) for her to wear at the Women’s March on Washington. Thanks to the inventory I knew I had enough dusty rose mohair blend to make a couple of hats.
Because the mohair blend is so fluffy it’s technically a “bulky” weight yarn, so I adapted the pattern, using 30 stitches on size 10 needles instead of 50 stitches on size 8.
A few days later a friend asked if I could make a hat for her friend’s 87-year old mother-in-law (below) who was planning to participate in a local march. I was able to use up even more yarn.
Since last weekend’s marches two more people have requested hats. One being a man who wanted blue, brown, or gray, but I don’t think I have enough in any of those colors for a hat so a little new yarn may need to be acquired.
Once I’m caught up with the socks and hats, I plan to use more of my yarn stash to make projects from the Knit Knack Kit my sister and I found for $2 at a resale shop last month.
The kit—which was open but intact—includes 25 patterns, a set of circular needles, a stitch marker, and a blunt tapestry needle for seaming projects.
Some of the patterns are silly—like a cell phone cozy for a flip phone—but others are nice or practical, like the pillows on the card shown above.
Come back in a few months and I’ll let you know how much yarn is left in my stash.
Fellow knitters and crocheters: What kinds of projects have you made with stash yarn?
Knowing how much my cousin and her husband love Americana, when a Lion Brand newsletter arrived last summer featuring several red, white, and blue knitting and crochet kits, I sent her the link and said if something struck her fancy I’d be happy to make it for her.
As it turns out, we both liked the same one. The U.S. Flag Afghan.
I hate to admit how long it took me to finish what’s a fairly straightforward pattern.
Under normal circumstances I probably could have finished crocheting this in a couple of weeks. But pretty much the day after buying the kit I injured the tendon running along my right wrist from my thumb almost to the crook of my elbow.
I’m right handed. And as fellow crocheters know, you move your wrist a lot when crocheting.
Than meant I could only do at most a row or two at a time.
Once my wrist and thumb began to heal I was able to increase how much I could do at once. I finished crocheting it in time for Thanksgiving, and over the extended holiday my cousin helped me place the stars. I only got a few firmly attached, so she said she’d ask her mother-in-law (a fellow yarny!) to help attach the rest.
Now for the review:
If you can double crochet and follow simple instructions for basic increases and decreases (which form the peaks and valleys of the ripples), you can make the body of the afghan.
The stars are a little more challenging since they’re worked in the round. I found using stitch markers helped me “see” the chain 1 space where the base of each new point joined the round. The stars are a combination of single crochets, slip stitches, chains, half-double crochets, and double crochets. But the design is so logical that after making two of three I didn’t need to check the pattern.
The only criticism I really have of the pattern is the vague instructions for changing colors where the blue field meets the stripes in the body of the flag. All it says is, “When changing color, drop, but do not fasten off the old color,” and later, “Change to color C” —or A or B, depending on the row you’re on.
It was only after a few rows that I realized sometimes I twisted the yarns, sometimes I didn’t, so the joint was more obvious on some rows than others. I finally discovered I could help hide that little bit of transition yarn by working it into the first stitch after the color change. (Sorry that’s so vague. It’s probably also why the pattern didn’t suggest it. It’s difficult to explain.)
As for the kit itself… I don’t often use kits, but the sale price was far less than buying the yarn alone would be, so it made sense.
I love the softness and thickness of Lion Brand’s Heartland yarn, and the almost time-worn look of the colors included in the kit were perfect: “Redwood,” “Acadia,” and “Olympic.” Being acrylic, it’s also easier to care for than wool.
Before beginning the afghan I did three gauge tests: one for the stars and two for the body. The stars were pretty close to gauge, but my first swatch for the body was a little large so I switched to a smaller hook and my second swatch matched the gauge.
My biggest complaint? By the time I reached the final two rows I was worried I wouldn’t have enough blue to finish the afghan. I started crocheting a little tighter—hoping to stretch out what little yarn remained—but only had maybe 10 inches of yarn remaining after the final stitch. And I even used the yarn from my blue gauge swatch. That’s a little too close to comfort for me.
There wasn’t much white yarn left after I finished the flag, either, so I opted to use an even smaller hook to make the stars. Because I was so short on yarn, I tried to keep the tails to about two inches when starting and finishing each star, barely long enough to secure the stars to the afghan. I only had about half an inch of white yarn left to tie off the 12th and final star.
Thankfully there was more than enough red yarn, especially since one skein was wound in a double strand. I’ve never seen that with any yarn before, so I’m sure it was just some manufacturing fluke. It looked fine from the outside, but when I tried working from one strand the other one kept knotting up. (I’ll just save that skein to use on a double-stranded project.)
If I were to rate Lion Brand’s U.S. Flag Afghan Kit using a scale of 1-5 stars, I’d give it a solid four stars.
Offering more details in the instructions for switching yarns where the stripes meet the blue field would boost the rating by half a point.
No one likes nearing the end of a project only to realize they might not have enough yarn to complete it. I’d suggest Lion Brand alerts crocheters that nearly every inch of blue and white yarn will be used so they won’t get too anxious when it starts running low. Knowing that before buying the kit would also give crocheters the option to buy more yarn (from the same dye lot, of course) or use a smaller hook.
Overall, those are minimal quibbles.
The recipients love the finished project, and that’s the only thing that really matters.
Don’t even bother denying it. Every knitter, weaver, and crocheter has a yarn stash. Some are big, some are small. Mine is somewhere in between. I’d guess about 80% of my stash is leftover from completed projects and the rest is either for projects I plan (or planned) to make or yarn that I bought because it called my name.
Over a year ago, a couple of my cousins volunteered to have a garage sale to help their older friend—once prolific knitter—unload a lot of yarn, needles, and patterns. They sold a ton of yarn. I’m not kidding: They sent me a photo of their grown daughter sitting on top of a massive pile of garbage bags all filled with yarn.
Their sale was a success, but I never want to have to divest myself of that much yarn at once. I’d rather use it.
Last summer I burned through most of my cotton yarn by making myself a new bathmat (and another for a friend who requested one).
But to use up a lot of mismatched yarns, I decided to make a large, double-stranded scrappy blanket.
The blanket is made from three panels: two using white, off white, cream, tan, and light gray yarns as a grounding color to be double stranded with random lengths of various colors of yarn scraps, and the middle panel uses black, charcoal, and dark gray as the grounding color.
To ensure the scraps don’t become untied, I held two strands parallel (as opposed to end-to-end) and knotted them with a loop so the harder you tug on the yarn, the tighter the knot becomes. Unless, of course, you pull so hard that the yarn breaks.
Because there are so many colors, I used a medium gray to stitch the dark and light panels together.
Each panel was 32 stitches wide and worked on size 19 needles, but I could have gone with 17s or even 15s and had a slightly denser fabric. Instead of counting rows I just tried to knit all three panels to approximately the same length.
I intentionally left the scrappy ends sticking out. First, there are so many that weaving them in would take forever. Second, if you do that in time they’ll work loose eventually anyway. Third, it adds more texture.
On a whim, I stranded the random scrap yarn with some red that was leftover from the flag afghan and crocheted an edging along all four sides of the blanket. That was so last-minute that I didn’t get a photo.
The beauty of a project like this? If the blanket snags or frays you can quite literally use any color/size/fiber of yarn to knot it back up.
Oddly enough, I made this for the same cousins who held that yarn sale! It was a thank-you for hosting the extended family at their cabin. But it’s really a memory blanket since it includes scraps from pretty much every item I’ve made for family members over the years. My sister-in-law donated some of her own yarn scraps to the project, too!
Making this blanket led to my New Year Resolution:
No buying new yarn until either my stash is gone or the calendar says 2018—unless it’s needed to make a gift or special project for someone else. (Every good resolution needs a loophole!)
What are your crafty resolutions for 2017?
I kid you
knot not. Today is I Love Yarn Day. Appropriately enough, the official tagline for it is Stitch It Forward.
It’s no secret. I really do love yarn. Bulky yarns, fine yarns, ombre yarns, worsted yarns, roving yarns, even t-shirt yarns.
But this I Love Yarn Day is a little bittersweet. A lingering bout of tendonitis in my right wrist/thumb is making it difficult to knit or crochet for more than a couple rows at a time, even with a not-so-festive splinted wrist brace.
Another obstacle? Since the weather has begun to cool off, a certain puppy likes to climb on my lap every evening when I’d normally be knitting or crocheting:
That’s why it’s taking me longer than normal to finish crocheting an American Flag afghan for my cousin and her husband. The kit, from Lion Brand, includes a pattern that’s essentially a ripple stitch with strategic color changes every so often. I started working on it in July. This is where I was on July 31st:
Normally, it might take me a couple weeks to knock this out, but it wasn’t until September 6 that I reached the field of blue.
I think I’ve got about 15-20 more (long) rows to finish, then I can make the stars, which my cousin and I will apply later so they’re exactly where she wants them.
If Puppy Sadie allows, I hope to work maybe one row per day until my wrist and thumb can handle my usual pace.
This is the first (hopefully only) bout of tendonitis I’ve ever had. As far as pain goes, it’s minimal but annoying. The most frustrating part is not being able to play with yarn as much as I want—especially now as the leaves are turning and the temperatures are dropping.
But have no fear: I’ll work a bit on the afghan at some point today just to celebrate National Yarn Day.
Do you have a favorite yarn? Let us know!
It’s a miracle! I managed to finish one sock by squeezing in some knitting time during Sadie’s late night naps.
She did wake up one night and express interest in the yarn—or perhaps the double pointed needles—so I’ll need to proceed carefully in getting her used to her human’s knitting obsession.
With any luck I’ll finish my brother-in-law’s second sock by his birthday. It’s in December.
It’s a good thing today is National I Love Yarn Day, because you really have to love yarn when you put several weeks into knitting something only to realize you made a really big mistake.
That happened to me when I was knitting a hooded sweater coat last spring. I thought I was almost done, but when I tried attaching the sleeves it was clear I’d made a mistake in the ribbing. I dreaded the thought of frogging (a knitter’s term for ripping out stitches) 10-1/2 inches worth of knitting—and both sleeves—that I set the project aside all spring and summer. But once cooler weather reignited the urge to knit, I told myself I couldn’t start any new projects until I finish this coat. (Okay, so I made an exception to make something for my sister’s birthday. But that only took a couple days.)
Two weeks ago I got up the courage to frog my work. It wasn’t as painful as I thought, since the yarn is a bulky roving and doesn’t unravel as easily as smoother yarns.
See all those live stitches? The first thing I did was slip a lifeline in. A lifeline is just a piece of yarn in a contrasting color that helps keep the stitches from raveling. I use them a lot when knitting lace or any complex patterns, so when (not if) I catch a mistake I can restart without having to re-knit an entire thing.
Threading the lifeline:
Lifeline firmly in place:
Worst of all, there were three sections I had to unravel and re-knit: the right side, the back (which is the big stretch above) and the left side. Each section is knitted separately, which is why I really needed the lifelines. Finally, I slipped the work back onto my circular needles:
It took nearly a week of evening knitting to re-knit it all. Then I realized I’d decreased on the wrong edge of one side, so I had to re-re-knit a couple inches of that. After that, I realized the larger back section was too short. So my next step will be frogging about three rows, knitting several more, then decreasing. Again.
Did I mention the sleeves use the same unusual ribbing pattern? With most ribbing patterns if you knit a stitch on one side, you purl it on the other. But this is a staggered ribbing—to make it easier to match the pattern when you attach the sleeves—so I’ll have to stay on my toes when increasing and decreasing if I want the pattern to stay in check.
Otherwise you’ll soon be reading another post about why it’s lucky I love yarn enough to rip things out and start over.
What are some of your biggest knitting blunders, and how did you fix them?
A few months back I heard about something called weaving sticks, which, I was surprised to learn, have been around for a very long time.
Always one for finding new ways to use up my scrap yarn — or for an excuse to get more yarn — I decided to buy some weaving sticks. The only problem was none of the local craft stores carried weaving sticks. I looked around and wound up ordering both small and large sizes of bamboo weaving sticks:
Here they are, all spread out…
Basically, they’re like pencils or chopsticks with eyes at one end.
Following the package directions, I first tested two of the smaller sticks with some lovely alpaca yarn I had left from making my sister some arm warmers. First I strung a length of yarn through the eye of each stick and let it hang. Then I made a slip knot from a ball of yarn and put the knot around the left stick and began wrapping the yarn in a figure 8. I only spent about five minutes testing it, and this is what I came up with:
Then I got bolder. I decided to try all of the large sticks at once, and change the color every five layers. I also remembered to photograph the process:
As you wrap, you push the work down the sticks and eventually onto the yarn you fed through the eyes of the sticks when you started. My goal was to make a cowl, so I only wove about 26 inches. (In retrospect, it would have been a better idea to have more layers between rows. It took me longer to weave in all of the yarn ends than it did to make the entire piece.)
This is what I wound up with:
I still haven’t figured out how I want to connect the two ends. They aren’t flush, like you’d get with a knitted or crocheted piece. I could attach a button, or even braid the strands of yarn left on each end and tie it together. I might even un-weave it and start over since this was just a practice piece to get me used to working with weaving sticks.
My experiment taught me how to use weaving sticks and also gave me a glimpse into yet another method our ancestors used to create woolen garments to help fend off the cold long before there was indoor heating.
If you like yarn but don’t have the patience for knitting or crocheting, consider giving weaving sticks a try. All you need to do is wrap, wrap, and wrap some more.
I’m a bit ashamed that two months have passed since I’ve posted anything new. The truth is I’ve had an onslaught of assignments for several clients throughout August and September. Since I’ve already turned in three of six projects due this week, I decided to sneak in a new post.
Even with a heavy workload, I made time to work on projects most evenings — usually staying up far later than planned just to finish a piece or complete a section. I made a Sock Monkey Bag for my niece’s birthday and a Creeper pillow for my nephew’s birthday. The unseasonably cool weather over the past week must have put every knitter around here in knitting mode. After finishing a pair of socks for a cousin I needed another project. I had the yarn and pillow form, so I made another Impromptu Pillow:
I developed the pattern last year because I wanted to make a chunky knitted pillow for a Christmas gift. Inspired by some gorgeous knitted pillows on Scandal, and knowing the recipient likes that show, too, I bought some super bulky yarn and started playing. The first Impromptu Pillow, in cream, turned out really well, with a beautiful texture you can’t help but run your hand over again and again:
The problem? I didn’t take notes when making the first pillow. I remembered using the seed stitch, and the size 13 needles recommended by the yarn. I also remembered my gauge swatch was a bit large, so I wound up using fewer stitches to make a 16″ square.
I knew I’d crocheted the edges closed — a super easy and clean way to assemble a pillow, and a good reason every knitter should know some basic crochet stitches — and added a simple (single crochet, chain three, skip one, repeat) edging to finish it off.
For the first attempt at the second pillow, I tried 35 stitches, which was too wide; 33 was a perfect fit. Your own results will vary depending on how loosely or tightly you knit.
This is called an Impromptu Pillow because you only need to make two squares large enough to fit your pillow form — in whatever stitch pattern you like — and join the edges around a pillow form. The crochet edging is optional.
Has the knitting or crocheting bug bitten you a bit early this year? If so, what’s on your needles – or hook?
Every knitter has leftover yarn. Sometimes entire skeins are left once a project is done, but it’s usually just a few yards of this and a partial skein of that. They may be different weights, different fibers, and they’re always different colors.
What do you do with all that scrap yarn?
I get scrap happy.
I’ve made scarves, a granny square afghan, and other things over the years. Unusually cool summer weather, a desire to use up some of my yarn stash, and a spare bolster pillow form inspired me to turn this basket of mismatched yarns…
….into the pillow on the right:
The cool thing about using random colors in one project is how they almost always find a way to pull together. It’s the reason I love scrap quilts more than matchy-matchy color-coordinated quilts.
But there’s a trick to keeping all the different colors from fighting. Balance.
In this case, I doubled the yarn scraps with black yarn. (I used a couple different black yarns in this project.)
I decided to knit the bolster cover on size 11 circular needles, and switched colors at the end of every round. It would have been easier to use random lengths of colored yarns, but I was going for a subtle stripe.
To create texture, I used a seed stitch, but garter would be nice, too. (Remember: because you’re not turning the work, doing a garter stitch on circular needles is like stockinette on straight needles. Knit one row, purl the next.)
I wasn’t sure how to do decreases in the seed stitch, so at the ends I switched to garter stitch and decreased on my knit rows, switching to doubled-pointed needles as the number of stitches decreased. For the second end, I picked up stitches from the cast-on edge and decreased as for the first end. I’m not entirely pleased with the decreases — I was hoping for flatter ends — so I can’t say I’d make it exactly the same way again.
Scrap happy projects are fun because you can play around and make mistakes without the worry of wasting yarn. When it comes to leftover yarn, the only waste is in not using it.
What are some of your favorite uses for scrap yarn?
I’ve had foot problems my entire life. While Morton’s Neuroma is the most annoying issue with my feet, hypersensitive skin is a close second.
Because my skin is so annoyingly sensitive — contact dermatitis, allergic rashes and relentless bouts of eczema are common — I have to avoid most natural and synthetic socks. Cotton is the one fiber that doesn’t irritate my feet.
Despite that sensitivity I can still knit with other fibers because the yarn doesn’t smother my skin so it can still “breathe.” (When my hands do get a little irritated, I just set the knitting aside until they’re better.) In fact, I had so much fun making wool-blend socks for other people that I decided to find a thin, smooth cotton yarn and make my own socks.
I bought a few skeins of Cascade Yarn’s Ultra Pima Cotton (color: Syrah) and made my own socks…just in time for Spring. I know. My timing could be better.
I’m wearing them for the first time right now. While they’re a perfect fit. I can feel every stitch. These may end up as layering socks, with a smoother store-bought pair of socks underneath, but I still love having a handmade pair of socks for my very fussy feet.