Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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Breaking blog silence

This has not been the most productive year of knitting/crochet ever for me. I just realized that we’re in late July and I’ve only finished two projects. Two. And I haven’t finished a project since early May. Curious, I looked back over the stats for the past five years. I’ve been averaging twelve completed projects a year. Okay, it isn’t my imagination that my output is dropping!

sweater neckband

This neckband is beginning to seem like a mountain that I can never quite get to the top of.

I’ve been knitting fairly constantly (thank you, weekly knitting group), but my focus changed a bit this year. For several years now, I’ve been concentrating on knitting shawlettes, scarves, and cowls—one- or two-skein projects. Naturally, I was able to get those done fairly quickly. By contrast, I came into this year with a sweater on the needles (the Smart Plaid Pullover). It’s mostly done at this point: I’m knitting the Never-Ending Neckband—k2 p2 ribbing with DK yarn on a 16” size 2 needle (40 cm, 2.75 mm) is a bit painful to do for any length of time—and then all I have to do is tweak the length of the sleeves, sew them on, and finish the side seams. It’s just that it’s not done.

Meanwhile, the Bandwagon shawlette is being annoying. I’m knitting it in a gradient yarn, and I planned it so that my favorite color in the range, the light rose pink, would be at the end of the project. The challenge with any gradient yarn is using up as much of the yarn as possible without running out. The first attempt left me with nearly 20% of the yarn untouched. Nope. I ripped back (sob!) to the end of the last increase section and added three pattern repeats. Now I’m not going to have enough yarn. Aargh. Back to the end of the section, and I’ll try just two extra pattern repeats this time. I’m intensely hoping that the third time will be the charm: I’m really ready to be done with this project.

I’m not having technical difficulties with the Sparkly Purple Shawl. It has simply grown too large and heavy to be hauled around casually. However, as we’ve just recorded a temperature of 66.9° F (19.4° C) at the café where the above-mentioned knitting group meets, I may be working on it there to stay warm. Super-bulky yarn: your friend in summer, oddly enough. For those of you not in the area, it’s high summer in Minnesota right now and outside temperatures are in the 80°s and 90°s (25°-35° C). So I’m dressing for those temperatures and this café is an unpleasant shock to the system. All the income from our drinks is probably going towards the electric bill.

Back when I thought I’d finish Bandwagon on my first attempt, I assumed I’d need a second project to get me through CONvergence. I started the Aramingo Cowl, which was not only an attractive design, but would fulfill the requirement for sportweight yarn for my Diversity of Yarn challenge. (Despite my drop in productivity, I’m not ready to abandon the challenge.) I haven’t been having specific problems with this project either; it has simply been pushed to one side while I wrestle the sweater and Bandwagon. Plus, I’ve needed to refer to its charts constantly, so it’s not a project I work on easily around others.

So that’s been My Summer in Knitting: much effort and things to show for it, but not a lot of statistics. The mere fact that I haven’t been finishing projects quickly hasn’t stopped me from buying yarn, so I’m eager to start several projects but I don’t dare because then I’ll never finish anything. I must finish something soon for the sake of my stress levels!


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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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The cutting edge of knitting techniques

From the Wall Street JournalMillennial Craft-Makers Embrace Arm Knitting

Clearly all that money I spent on Addi Turbos was wasted.

From Salon.com: Meet the world’s most famous vaginal knitter

I hope she is using organic wool. I understand a lot of commercial wool has been treated with chemicals that can irritate sensitive skin. Given where she is storing her stash, this could be an issue for her. (Hey, if the article title didn’t warn you, what could I have said?) I’m not sure how many people will catch the issues she wants to explore because how she’s chosen to explore them will distract them more than anything else.


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2013 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week—Day 1: The House Cup

[Prompt edited for space reasons. Click here for the original prompt.]

Day One (Monday April 22nd): The House Cup.

A bit like Harry Potter, but not quite, this year’s Knitting & Crochet Blog Week is split into 4 houses. Don your favourite knitted or crocheted hat and let it guide you to which house you will be in.

  • The House of Bee: Bees are busy and industrious, but can flit from one interesting project to the next as bright and shiny things capture their interest.
  • The House of Manatee: Manatees are gentle, calm and cuddly. Relaxed and unflashy they represent the comfort and soft side of knitting and crochet.
  • The House of Monkey: Intelligent and with a fun loving side, Monkeys like to be challenged with every project presenting them with something new and interesting.
  • The House of Peacock: Peacocks take something good and make it brilliant. Buttons, embellishments and a bit of sparkle prove that perfection lies in the details – like a Peacock’s Tail.

So choose your house. You may be a combination of more than one of these noble beasts, but think about which house best embodies your qualities and declare your place.

House of Monkey coat of arms

I greet you from the front steps of the House of Monkey. Oh, when I started reading this prompt, I thought I’d be in the House of Bee (love the mascot!). I gave up knitting/crochet monogamy so many years ago that I find it hard to even remember what it was like to only have one project in process at any one time, when “I’ll just grab my knitting,” didn’t involve sorting through five projects, trying to decide which one to bring along. If I was losing track of how many projects I had in hibernation, how many had become full-blown UFOs, and how many were simultaneously active, then this was likely to be my house. Still, no final judgments until I’d seen all the options.

One sentence later, I wondered if I should be in the House of Manatee. (Really, how often does anyone get to claim they have a manatee as a mascot? It’d be worth it just for the surprise value.) But actually, I don’t belong there—my stash does. I adore the soft yarns, and I’m willing to occasionally sacrifice fiber purity for a delightfully snuggly yarn. It’s been years since I bought my first nylon yarn, and I still marvel that something that soft to the touch is made of the same stuff as pantyhose. But while buying oh-so-cuddly yarn is paramount to having an oh-so-cuddly finished product, that’s the last I think of it. My pattern and project thoughts go off in a different direction altogether, whereas I bet a true Manatee never loses sight of this objective.

Back to the House of Monkey in a moment. For now, just know that I read the description, suspected it was my true home, but pressed on to the House of Peacock, a mascot almost as uncommon as manatees are. I instantly recognized, however, that this was not the house for me. A woman who wonders if Starry is too flashy a yarn to be worn to work and who buys beads that are the perfect shade to be completely lost in her knitting clearly does not have the temperament of a Peacock.

And so here I am in the House of Monkey. This is appropriate given how I choose my projects. They have to intrigue me in some way, and often the intrigue is triggered by construction and structure. I made the Aran Wrap Cardigan in great part because I was curious to see how a rectangle with sleeves would work. The Circumnavigated Cardigan? It’s a stockinette stitch cardigan with saddle shoulders—a wardrobe staple, yes, but hardly fascinating knitting, it would seem. Except that it’s made all in one piece with no seams, so I just had to make one and learn how it was done. Along those lines, despite the fact I don’t do much charitable knitting and don’t have much call for baby clothes, I think I should make a Baby Surprise Jacket just for the experience.

Sometimes the interest lies beyond what’s written in the pattern. I’m getting ready to start knitting a relatively plain pullover sweater: drop sleeves and stockinette stitch. But I’m planning to fully customize this pattern: change it into a modified drop sleeve sweater, perhaps change the V neck to a crew neck, perhaps add a bit of waist shaping or make it A-line. I will take all my measurements and do my best to make sure the sweater is a flattering length. While the knitting itself should be straightforward, the planning will be worthy of a member of the House of Monkey.


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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.