Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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2016 by the numbers

I see from rereading 2015 by the numbers that “I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects.” Rest assured, I didn’t. I managed nine projects in 2016. No, nothing was wrong. I just found other things to do that weren’t knitting or crochet.

First up, the colors I used in projects last year. Not that there’s a theme here or anything.

Pie chart of dominant project colors.

One of these colors is not like the others…

Okay, now there’s a pie chart I could wear. That’s my everyday wardrobe (with one little exception). Oddly, gray, the color I used the most during 2015, is nowhere to be seen. I’m currently working on a gray sweater, though, so if I finish it this year, it’ll count.

Pie chart of project craft

Well, this certainly wasn’t the Year of Crafting Variety. That 11% represents one project. On the other hand, I did do one crochet project. But I definitely want to do more crochet in 2017.

Pie chart of project yarn by weight

No, not much diversity in my project yarn weight either. I enjoyed the projects I did (most of them anyway), but I’d have liked to have done more of them in something besides fingering weight yarn. And when I did do a project in something besides fingering weight, I went to the other end of the yarn weight spectrum altogether. No happy mediums in 2016!

My plans for crafting in 2017? Still up in the air. More crochet, different yarn weights, and maybe even more colors if that happens to work out. But above all, enjoyment, even if I end up doing a year of nothing except knitted projects in fingering weight yarn.


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2015 by the numbers

Yes, I’ve decided this is going to be an annual feature of this blog. Whether or not anyone enjoys reading it, I enjoy putting it together.

The first number, of course, is how many projects I finished in 2015, which is fifteen, nicely enough. No, I’m not shooting for sixteen projects in 2016. That’s a slippery slope that will eventually lead to my being in my 80’s and trying to do fifty projects in a year. Let’s not go there.

I love color, so I track the dominant color in my projects. I don’t love too much math, though, so I count this by the number of projects I’ve done, not by how much knitting I’ve done in each color..

2015knittingcolors

Admire the yellow while you can: I almost never do projects in it despite the fact it’s my favorite color. (It comes from the Little Lion project.) And purple made it in here this year: yay! But gray dominates again. When did I become someone who knits so much in gray?

2015projectcraft

I did much better than expected when it came to doing more crochet. One project last year, five projects this year. It’s not that I’m trying to make it an even split each year; I just want to do more crochet than I have been doing.

2015-yarnweight

 

But then again, diversity of yarn weight went down. I knitted in laceweight and DK last year as well, and fingering wasn’t so dominant. Although it was knitting small fingering weight projects that let me finish fifteen projects this year.

And what’s coming up for 2016? I’ve got some unfinished projects in fingering weight yarn on the needles, and it would be nice to do another sweater, but other than that, I haven’t really planned anything. I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects. If it happens, it happens, but there are other things I want to do this year as well! [gasp!]


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2015 Knitting & Crochet Blog Week—Day 7: Your Time, Your Place

Where and how do you take time out to knit and/or crochet? Maybe you don’t take time out at all and instead have your needles twirling as you try to juggle a multitude of other tasks with no ‘spare’ time to think of. Maybe you enjoy nothing more than to crochet whilst winding down from a yoga session, chatting with some friends in a nearby cafe.

Whether social or solitary, tell readers about your crafting time and space, and where you either most enjoy (or can simply find a few snatched moments) to turn yarn into something even more beautiful.

I started out my crochet and knitting life as a solitary crafter. This had less to do with my personal style and more to do with being in elementary school (not a lot of knitters my age) and it being the 1970s, when not all that many people were knitting or crocheting, period. I’d knit in my bedroom in that space between coming home from school and having dinner, or while watching TV, or as something to do when I had to sit with adults but wasn’t old enough to care what they were talking about.

calendar excerpt

Now the situation is almost completely reversed. I do most of my knitting and crochet with others, and it’s marked in my calendar, the same as a medical appointment or a business meeting. I have a weekly knitting group that meets at a nearby Starbucks. We used to meet at a LYS, but that fell through a few years ago, and even though that LYS has resurrected their knit night, we’ve gotten too used to readily-available drinks and free WiFi to go back. The other two groups I get together with are monthly. One is a small group of friends; we bring treats, settle in at one person’s house for a Saturday afternoon, and craft and talk. The other group is a loose association of acquaintances that happens to meet at the same time as my weekly group—but it’s good to shake up the routine every now and then. This group meets at a member’s home, usually the same place, but sometimes it works better if a different person hosts. The people who come aren’t necessarily knitters or crocheters: I’ve watched people bead, write poetry, do repair sewing on their clothes, sew bags for prayer beads, and make posters for a protest. One person who comes occasionally makes exquisite hardanger table runners and pillowtops featuring NSFW words and phrases. 😀

I still do craft on my own, usually while watching TV, same as when I was a kid. But now I have so many other things to do that that doesn’t happen much. Usually I’m doing something else I enjoy, like reading a book or doing the astrology or divination I’ve mentioned in earlier posts this week, so I don’t miss the solo crafting all that much—it’s all wonderful!


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2014 by the numbers

I had fun analyzing my crafts last year, so I decided to inflict more craft data on you again this year. I finished nine projects in 2014. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but hey, Viajante took time. Lots of time.

First, the dominant color in my projects, by number of projects. I did three small- to medium-sized projects in gray, and Viajante, despite its size, was only one project, which is why it looks like I knit more in gray than pink (not so!). But I’m not obsessed enough to start counting how many yards of yarn in each color I used, so this is as good as it gets.

Pie chart of dominant colors in projects.

I’m surprised brown made a return appearance, but I did knit a brown cowl for someone. (All my brown projects are for other people.) But how did I manage to avoid doing any purple projects this year? Even the two projects I frogged were pink.

2014-crafts

Only one crochet project in 2014. Well, maybe I can do two in 2015. We’ll overlook the fact that there aren’t even very many crochet projects in my Ravelry queue.

But surely there was more data I could analyze—only two charts seemed a bit too succinct. Hey, I could look at yarn weight!

2014-yarnweight

That was a bit eye-opening. I feel like I knit almost exclusively with fingering weight yarn nowadays, but there’s a fair variety of weights in that chart. Okay, the lace weight yarn was held doubled and treated like fingering weight, but it was lace weight.

On to 2015!


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2013 by the numbers

I’m having way too much fun with pie charts.

2013-colors

It’s a bit misleading. I’m not that fond of brown, but a set of six brown dishcloths pushed the total ahead of larger but fewer projects in other colors.

2013-crafts

More crochet than I thought I would manage this year. Again, credit those dishcloths!


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Crafting balance

And we have made it to the seventh and last day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. It’s been fun, if exhausting. And now that it’s over, I can do more actual knitting and crochet.

Day Seven: 29 April. Crafting Balance

Are you a knitter or a crocheter, or are you a bit of both? If you are monogamous in your yarn-based crafting, is it because you do not enjoy the other craft or have you simply never given yourself the push to learn it? Is it because the items that you best enjoy crafting are more suited to the needles or the hook? Do you plan on ever trying to take up and fully learn the other craft? If you are equally comfortable knitting as you are crocheting, how do you balance both crafts? Do you always have projects of each on the go, or do you go through periods of favouring one over the other? How did you come to learn and love your craft(s)?

I am both a knitter and a crocheter. The crochet came first; the knitting gets more practice. This is essentially my mother’s fault. While other people choose to learn knitting and/or crochet because they’re interested in it, my mother signed me up for a crochet class when I was 9, entirely against my will (“But Mom, only old ladies crochet!”). There was yarn. There was this hook. There was my near-total inability to find the last stitch in any row, leading to me crocheting a wide variety of triangles, as I lost one stitch on every row. With all this, I have no idea at what point I actually started to enjoy crocheting. But just about the time I became a crocheter in heart as well as in skill, Mom decided I needed to learn to knit as well. I’d enjoy it, she promised. It was more versatile than crochet, she claimed. I wasn’t nearly as hostile to the idea as I had been to learning to crochet, but I was confused: if crochet wasn’t as good as knitting, why did she make me learn crochet in the first place? (I never did get an answer to that question.) Mom taught me the bare bones of knitting, after which I never saw her touch needles again.* I took an accidental revenge for all this enforced learning, though: I spent the rest of the years before and during college hitting my parents up for yarn money.

Mom had a point, though. As it turns out, my favorite projects are sweaters, and over the years, I’ve found lots more knitting patterns that I wanted to make than crochet patterns. I also like to make afghans, and I lean towards crocheting them, but how many afghans does a girl need?** I have finally figured out that since crochet goes faster than knitting, I could crochet sweaters in fingering weight yarns which would have enough drape to wear comfortably, but I haven’t really tried this out yet. So I’m equally comfortable knitting and crocheting, but I don’t crochet nearly as much because I haven’t found as many patterns that I adore.

I don’t set out to balance the two crafts in my life. I have happily not crocheted for a year or two at a time, simply because I didn’t have a pattern that I cared enough to make. Whatever drives me to knit or crochet in the first place apparently doesn’t care which craft I pursue as long as I’m doing something with one of them. So I fall in love with a pattern, finally feel the time is right to work on it, and whatever craft it is is whatever craft I’ll be working in while I’m working on it. Which means that at the moment, I’m actively working on two knitting projects (cardigan and scarf) and one crochet project (shrug), just because they’re what called me at this time. (And I’m doing my level best to keep it to just three active projects, because I picked up pretty new yarn at Yarnover yesterday and it wants me to do something with it! Help!)

—–

*My hypothesis is that my mother had been made to learn to knit from her mother and hated it, but thought that this was just something that mothers were supposed to teach their daughters. I don’t think I was actually supposed to enjoy it.

**I know, I know: make some for charity. Maybe someday. At this point, I’m just not much of a charitable knitter.


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Improving your skillset

Today was Yarnover, the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild’s annual knitting event, and coincidentally, here we are, talking about developing our knitting (and crocheting) skills. How appropriate.

Day Six: 28 April. Improving Your Skillset

How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how’s your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you’d like to have tried them by.

Looking over that first question, I knew that my answer would be that I consider myself to be both an experienced knitter and crocheter. It was when I tried to define exactly why I think I fit that description that I realized how slippery the whole experience thing is. I could say that I’ve been knitting and crocheting for years (true), but I could have done so and never pushed myself to make anything more complicated than a dishcloth. Indeed, I’m basing this estimation of my skills on just one criterion: as long as a pattern is accurate, I assume I can successfully make something from it, no matter how complex. And that still leaves me plenty to learn, because even if I can reproduce any knitted or crocheted item under the sun, that still leaves me all the skills related to designing original patterns to develop. Should I master those, I may think of some other set of skills I could pick up. The world of knitting and crocheting skills may not be infinitely large, but I haven’t reached the limits yet.

Maybe it’s just my librarian background, but I believe it’s not so much what you’ve committed to memory as what you know how to look up. Taking the suggestions from today’s prompt as examples, I haven’t the foggiest idea how to start anything with a magic circle, much less an amigurumi piece, I don’t remember ever tackling double knitting, and my intarsia is decent but not stupendous. But I’ve got books on hand and the Internet out there ready to teach me these things if I ever need to know them. [As an experiment, I paused writing this post and timed how long it would take me to find instructions on how to do a magic circle. It took me about 45 seconds to find tutorials on YouTube. And now I know that that’s a crochet technique and I know how to do one.]

I’m always interested in learning new skills, but the more you learn, the harder it is to find more to learn. That’s becoming clear in both my personal life and in the general state of knitting here in Minnesota. I took two classes at Yarnover this year: one on understanding neckline construction and the other on figuring out what styles of sweaters do and do not look good on you before you go to the time and expense of knitting them. I learned useful tips in both classes and expect to put what I learned into practice sometime. But it turned out that I already knew a fair amount about each of these topics, and I believe that I could have figured out quite a lot of the rest on my own if I’d had to. On a larger scale, I’ve heard that STITCHES Midwest is held in the Chicago area exclusively rather than Minneapolis-St. Paul because when they tried holding it up here, there wasn’t enough interest in the classes: many of the knitters up here knew that stuff already. Maybe that story isn’t actually true, but it sounds like it could be. So learning new skills has become partly a matter of chance for me, rather than planning. For instance, I learned a new way of doing an SSK (slip-slip-knit) decrease from the woman sitting next to me in the neckline class. That wasn’t what I came there to learn, but I’m happy to have added it to my repertoire. I’ll continue to look over the Yarnover schedule when it comes out, investigate promising books in both knitting and crochet, and hope to be in the right place at the right time to pick up tips and tricks from other knitters and crocheters. But maybe it’s time for me to see if I can wean myself off other people’s patterns and learn how to come up with stuff on my own.


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Craft your perfect day


Wildcard: 27 April. Craft Your Perfect Day

Plan your fantasy day with your craft, It might just take up one hour of your day or be the entire focus of the day, but tell your readers where you’d love to craft, whether you’d craft alone or with friends, knitting or crocheting something simple or spending a day learning new skills.

My standards are remarkably low when it comes to the perfect crafting day (more positively: it doesn’t take much to make me happy). Basically, just give me time, a knitting or crochet project that I’m enjoying working on, and somewhere reasonable to sit, and I’m good to go.

I’m willing to be flexible on location, because based on past experience, I know that I’ve had great crafting experiences in all sorts of places. My knitting group meets in a coffee shop. A group of friends that I craft with alternates between our homes. I go on an annual knitting retreat in the far north. Each of these has pluses and minuses, as you’d expect. The coffee shop has the best variety of things to eat and drink. A friend’s home is comfortable, quiet, and more intimate—you don’t have to work around strangers who are sitting with your knitting group because they like the furniture in that part of the coffee shop. The knitting retreat offers Nature, something that city-bound me really appreciates (if only it was held at a time of year when it would be warm enough to sit outside and knit!).

Although I knit and crochet alone a lot and have a fine time doing so, I’d spend the hypothetical Perfect Crafting Day with friends, for all the reasons you ever spend time with your friends (you know, because they’re your friends). When crafting with others, you can choose to be part of the conversation or just listen to everyone else talk while you play with your yarn. You get to see what they’re working on (photos are great, but this is knitting/crochet: you’re going to want to touch the yarn) and rant about your project problems to an understanding audience.

In putting together the Perfect Crafting Day, one must not overlook the amenities. For all that knitting and crochet are pretty low-tech activities, I’ve concluded that WiFi is a definite plus to the crafting experience, especially if you’re with others. The conversation almost always brings up a point that you want to know more about—with a laptop or tablet at hand, you can quickly look it up while you’re all still there to talk about it. If someone mentions this great pattern they want to make, you can see it on Ravelry right then and there. Good food and drink readily available is a must for the perfect day as well. I like both the convenience of buying something ready-made at the coffee shop and getting to indulge my baking skills when crafting with friends at home or at the retreat. And of course there’s the furniture. It can be soft, it can be firm (within reason), but all I really ask is that I don’t have to deal with chair arms.

For the Perfect Crafting Day, I want to be working along on a project that interests me. While I like learning new skills, it’s not the same kind of pleasure as working on a project that I’m really enjoying the knitting or crocheting of. It’s one thing to have to concentrate on what you’re doing because it’s unfamiliar and you’re trying to get the hang of it, quite another to be able to relax and just appreciate the rhythm of your needles or hook.

Drat. I can’t write a post like this without wanting to drop everything and go work on my current projects!


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A knitter or crocheter for all seasons?

Woo-hoo! Halfway point of the blog week!

Day Four: 26 April. A Knitter or Crocheter For All Seasons?

As spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere and those in the southern hemisphere start setting their sights for the arrival of winter, a lot of crocheters and knitters find that their crafting changes along with their wardrobe. Have a look through your finished projects and explain the seasonality of your craft to your readers. Do you make warm woollens the whole year through in preparation for the colder months, or do you live somewhere that never feels the chill and so invest your time in beautiful homewares and delicate lace items? How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?

There are all sorts of ways knitters and crocheters express seasonality. One friend of mine is literally seasonal about her knitting: come summer, she stops knitting. But given that most of us are more addicted to engaged with our crafts, stopping for a season is usually not possible an appealing option. Many people get around this by matching their works-in-progress to the seasons. They work on large projects like sweaters and afghans during the winter months and smaller projects such as socks during the summer.

My knitting and crochet practice isn’t all that seasonal. I can’t tell how long it’s going to take me to finish a particular project, so there’s no point in my trying to time the start of a project so that it’s ready by the season I’d use it in. I like to work on projects when the spirit moves me, and the spirit has been known to move me towards knitting bulky pullovers just as spring is turning into summer. That isn’t as much of a problem as it sounds like. Many buildings are operated by people who are enthusiastic in their use of air conditioning. I, in turn, get cold easily. So in the height of summer, I may be happily knitting along on that hypothetical bulky pullover, staying warm by spreading it over my legs as I work.

Obviously, where you live is likely to affect your choice of what you knit or crochet. I grew up in Missouri, a state far enough north to have definite seasons, but with comparatively gentle winters. I recall only making three sweaters in the years before I left home for college simply because it never got cold enough to justify wearing them. I got pretty good at making vests, though. (Okay, I also liked that when you make a vest, you don’t have to worry about sleeve length.) Minnesota, further north, has both bitterly cold winters and steamy hot summers. Here I’ve been able to make heavy sweaters that would never have seen the light of day in Missouri as well as summer sweaters that keep me both well-covered and well-ventilated. Indeed, Minnesota is such the knitter’s/crocheter’s paradise that anytime I consider moving to another state, I take its climate—that is, the “knitability/crochetability” of its climate—into consideration…and so far, many other states haven’t passed that test. Many people don’t move up here because of the winters; I may never get around to leaving because of them!


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Your knitting or crochet hero

Day Three: 25 April. Your Knitting or Crochet Hero

Blog about someone in the fibre crafts who truly inspires you. There are not too many guidelines for this, it’s really about introducing your readers to someone who they might not know who is an inspiration to you. It might be a family member or friend, a specific designer or writer, indie dyer or another blogger. If you are writing about a knitting designer and you have knitted some of their designs, don’t forget to show them off. Remember to get permission from the owner if you wish to use another person’s pictures.

Ever since these topics were announced, I’ve been letting them bounce around in the back of my mind, hoping that interesting responses would somehow spontaneously generate themselves. With this topic, I’ve gradually realized that I don’t have knitting and crochet heroes. Which is not to say that I go through my crafting life without inspiration; it’s just not tied to individual personalities.

It sounds trite or overly simplistic to write it this way, but knitting and crochet themselves are what inspire me. Color and texture, separately and together, excite my little brain cells. Certainly there are designers famous for taking color and texture to exhilarating heights (Alice Starmore and Kaffe Fassett, just to start a list), and when I come across a photo of one of their designs that I haven’t seen before, I do my level best to appreciate the overall beauty of the piece and any unusual features it may have. But I’m equally impressed by fantastic designs from people I’ve never heard of—and nowadays, thanks to Ravelry and the blogosphere, I can see those just as readily. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that good photography is what inspires me!

Okay, so I’m personally more interested in what has been created than in its creator. But that’s probably just me. After all, I’m sure some people were inspired by a knitter or crocheter enough to go learn the craft. Do you have personal inspirations for your knitting/crocheting, or do you work on a case-by-case basis like I do?