Stash Review of 2018

While I was waiting for the Addi knitting machines to arrive I looked in my stash for yarns suitable to knit on them. I found seventeen batches of 8 or 10 ply wool or alpaca yarn, half of which I bought in the last year or two. I didn’t count the Bendigo cotton 8ply since, when I gave it a try on a machine, it was a little thin – a 10ply cotton would be better.

Of these seventeen yarns, none were in batches large enough to make a garment. I could combine some, as I’d done with the Green Lines Jacket, but even then I wouldn’t have enough to make anything larger than a vest – and I already have plenty of those.

So what to do? Well, I’m intending to go to the Bendy Show this year. There’s no fun in going but not buying anything. Perhaps garment-sized batches of yarn in weights to use on the circular machines could be something to keep an eye out for. After all, making the Green Lines Jacket and the pieces of another garment must have given me some room in the stash, right?

Er… not really.

It seems my stash has got a little out of control again. A few years back I got it down to ten kilos. Is now four times that weight. I’ve been storing cones and packets of yarn on top of cupboards and squeezed in with my sewing machines.

How did it grow so much so quickly? To work it out, I dragged all the cone yarn into the kitchen because there did seem to be a LOT of it. Sure enough, I had enough to cover our 8-seater dining table. Most of it I’ve picked up for a bargain or from other people’s stash bust. I’ve not been setting out to buy cone yarn, just accumulating whatever came along.

Over the next night I thought about what I had. Some of the yarn is good, some of it okay, some not so great. Life is too short to work with yarn you don’t like. I considered what I could make with it, whether for me or for someone else or for charity. Later I remembered the third way to look at it: what could I learn while using it?

So the next day I brought the rest of my stash out. I divided it first into cones and skeins/balls, then by fibre type, then by weight, then by purpose (eg. sock yarn). My stash is supposed to fill only the 16 tubs I have. They come in two sizes, and I decided to put most of the cones into the larger and most of the skein/balls into the smaller. Then I wrote two lists for each tub: one of potential projects, one of what I could learn making them.

All through this I culled yarn that I either didn’t like, or the project I had in mind didn’t thrill me (usually because it’s only purpose was to use up the yarn) and nothing else came to mind. I removed about one large tub’s worth of yarn overall.

Of course, it always turns out that some of the culled yarns look great together.

I told myself I wasn’t allowed to put them back in the stash. If I was going to weave them I had to at least wind the warp for something right now. (More on this later.)

Despite all this, I still couldn’t fit all my stash into the tubs. The problem wasn’t cones, but skeins/balls. To solve that I took a few batches out to knit up straight away on the circular knitting machines, which left me with only sock yarn ‘scraps’ not fitting.

Can you see room for new yarn? Me neither.

Time to get serious. I was going to have to cull harder, knit/weave really fast for the next month, or not buy anything at the Bendy Show. Since the latter was inconceivable, that left the first two.

After updating my stash spreadsheet the total was down to around 36 kilos. I decided it needed to get down to 35 kilos before I was allowed to buy more yarn. I culled what I considered a bad purchase (went to a friend knitting charity blanket squares) then warped up the knitters loom with another yarn. Still 600 grams over. Then I remembered that cotton is heavier than wool, so I started winding a warp for a baby blanket. Stash total = 34719 grams! Yessss!

(Better not weave too fast, though. Once a project is finished, I weigh the leftovers and put them back on the spreadsheet, and that might nudge it over 35 kilos again.)

I’ve since removed another 400 grams for a machine knit blanket. I reckon I have one small tub’s worth of space free, which isn’t a lot. Still, the stash is well organised now. And I have plans for most of it. All I need now is inspiration and time.

And maybe a ban on accumulating bargain or free cones of yarn for a while.

Green Stripes Jacket

So. Many. Ends.

But I got them all sewn in eventually. Then moved on to the sewing and ribbing.

Machine knitting is fast, but any finishing I need to do is slow, especially if there’s ribbing to hand knit. I don’t want to get another bad case of RSI. Thankfully there isn’t much sewing involved in this pattern – just two seams.

You can see in the next pic that the design adds extra fabric at the sides, in an arty drapey way.

It doesn’t hang as well on the dress form as it does on a person who has, you know, arms. But getting around to modelling anything myself these day is more hassle than it’s worth. First there’s getting changed into nice pants or a skirt and a matching top, then there’s picking a spot with good light in winter, and lastly there’s wrangling the other half into taking the photos.

You’ll have to trust me. It looks good on, and it’s comfy and warm. I’d like to try making a woven version.

Speckle Scarf

Last year at the Canberra Festival of Wool I bought this lovely speckled alpaca yarn. It is soooooo soft!

I made a tube on the Lincraft machine, and once I’d reached the end of the first ball I knew what I wanted to make on it: a braided scarf. However, at the width Aunty Lyn makes I wouldn’t get enough length to make a scarf once it was braided. So I waited until the Addis arrived and cranked out a long length of tube on Yoda.

This made exactly enough yarn to braid into a good scarf length. I separated it into three pieces then joined the ends – first by trying a kind of staggered three needle bind off but that wouldn’t sit neatly, so I simply gathered up the stitches on the remaining thread then sewed the three ends together in a flat stack.

I reckon a tassel would look good at the ends, but I’d need another skein of the yarn. Who knows? Maybe the maker will be at the Bendy Show.

Circular Economy

Meet Tube-bacca and Master Yoda:

They’ve joined Aunty Lyn (in the background) to make up a small family of machines. Judging by the chatter on the Ravelry and Facebook groups dedicated to circular knitting machines, this is pretty normal.

As soon as I had them out of the box I set up Master Yoda and stared cranking. 500 rows of my usual test yarn later I had not only confirmed that the machine works smoothly and faultlessly, but that 200 grams of 8ply yarn is enough to make a shortish plaited scarf.

Which I then frogged. It is test yarn, after all.

After using the machines a few times I soon wanted a better set up than clamping it to the table. So after thinking about it, then discussing the options with Paul, I came up with this simple solution: a table extension with a hole on either end. My design, Paul’s carpentry skills:

What I love about this solution is it’s flat and portable. I found I’m more comfortable clamping it to a stool, as the height is better for my back.

I tried plain (flat panel) knitting today, but kept getting dropped stitches. It’s likely to be the yarn’s fault as much as beginner’s fumbling.

Overall, I love these machines. They are fun and simple to operate and knit up yarn fast. I’ve ordered a book of patterns and watched lost of YouTube videos to get ideas for more.

But my adventures in cranking have hit a bit of an unexpected hitch: lack of suitable yarn in my stash. This terrible state of affairs may not last long, however, as I am planning to go to the Sheep and Wool Show later this month. But that raises another thorny question: is there any room in the stash for more yarn?

Sampler Brooch

I started making this brooch a while back, but stopped because I wanted to use it as an example in a talk about weaving while travelling. That talk got cancelled, then rescheduled, and I wound up finishing it and starting another to be the in-progress example.

After I had my eyes done and discovered embroidery was no longer comfortable, I figured I wouldn’t be making any more of these and wondered what I’d do with the settings. But weaving on cloth like this is easier on they eye than the fine embroidery I was doing before, so having finished one I know I can take another with me as a project to do while travelling. Here’s the in-progress example:

I’ve finished sewing in the ends of the Green Stripes Jacket and sewn up the seams. Now I’m pacing myself as I knit the ribbed bits. Which means I’ve machine knit the pieces of another entire garment, but I’ll talk about that in a new post.

Lots going on here craft-wise, but not much weaving right now. I’m still waiting for the circular knitting machines to arrive. I can see on the courier site that they’ve arrived in Australia, but they’ve not budged since. Stuck in customs maybe?

Mean, Green Machine Knitting

The yarns I’d dyed seemed to take a loooong time to dry. The blue-green yarn was dry by the following weekend, thankfully, so I started the project it was for. The pattern I’d settled on was the Garter Wrap Jacket from Bendigo Woollen Mills, which a weaver had shown the Weaving Matters group a few gatherings ago as a design it might be possible to make on the loom.

The jacket is a big rectangle with two slits on each side. It’s knit from the long side up. Even with a double-width Bond I didn’t have enough needles for it, so I turned the rectangle 90 degrees. I made the arm slits a bit longer than on the pattern because it’s easier to sew them up than to cut them longer. And, well, I do have longer arms than the usual knitting pattern in my size allows for.

That meant I needed to knit three sections, join them to knit the middle section, then separate and knit three more sections. At the same time, I had to combine three colours of yarn in a pattern that would use them all up at the same rate.

I weighed the yarns and worked out the row sequence would have to be: 2 light green, 2 black, 3 dark green, 3 black, with some extra black allowed for some ribbing for the sleeves.

It wasn’t hard to memorise the row sequence, but it was fiddly to keep swapping the yarns around so it took many, many more hours to knit than I’d expected. Still, the result looks fabulous.

The next part is sewing in all the ends.

All 350 of them.

This is taking quite a while.

Cranky – in a Good Way!

A few months back the local Lincraft store closed down. They had a sale, and among the many bargains I picked up was this circular knitting machine for, if I recall correctly, about A$50:

I gave it a try, taking a series of pics on my iPhone…

It could be a hat:

Or could be a sleeve:

Or one legwarmer:

Or a hat for two people:

Much giggling was had. Then I put the machine away and mostly forgot about it as I was swept up in sewing with handwoven fabric. But the other day, while I was waiting for my dyed yarn to dry, I figured it would be a way to scratch the machine knitting itch. I dug out some skeins of beautifully soft alpaca yarn I bought a little over year ago in Canberra.

And I got cranking. However, this second tube confirmed my suspicion that the machine was the right size to make small children’s hats, not adult ones. I could get the tube onto my head, but it was really too stretched out to make a comfy, attractive hat. I decided I would knit a hat on the Bond instead and use the rest of the yarn to crank out a plain scarf on the Lincraft machine.

But just in case I was doing something wrong on the machine, I looked up circular knitting machines on Ravelry and did a quick google. Next thing I knew I’d lost an hour or two in YouTube. I learned that there was a version of the machine I’d bought released in the US that was pink and white, and that it was rather good for the price. The Addi King was the best, however, and the right size for adult hats.

So I googled and it came up in Amazon for over A$600. WTF!!!

Some more searching and I found it for half of that on eBay. Then I found a shop in Germany selling the machines for a far more reasonable price… and a $90 shipping fee! So high postage costs partly explained the crazy prices I was seeing – if it was travelling to the US and then to Australia the costs would be astronomical. Direct from Germany was better, and the price came down considerably if you shipped two machines – the small Pro and larger King model.

I did think about it for a little while before I succumbed to temptation. Now I just have to wait for them to arrive.

Dyeing to Knit

The Squares Jacket got me thinking about how I’d like some new knits in my wardrobe. Of course, I can’t hand knit any but I could drag out the Bond Sweater Machine. But did I have any yarn that would work? And patterns that wouldn’t be too hard to do on the knitting machine?

The stash presented two possibilities: either I finally get around to dyeing and knitting the 1.5 kilos of cormo yarn, or I combine smaller batches of yarn to get enough for a garment.

The cormo yarn has intimidated me since I bought it, because it is beautifully soft and therefore easy to ruin when dyeing (and I know I’ll have to dye it because I don’t want a big fluffy white garment or blanket), and I know the maker had some trouble getting it to dye evenly.

The smaller batches were a mix of frogged projects and leftover yarn. Some I’d already matched up. But once I removed anything that wasn’t machine washable I had to reconsider those matches. Some were flat colours, others were variegated from previous dye jobs.

I bought and printed a few patterns and studied them, seeing how well they’d adapt to being knit on a machine. Hand knitters tend to prefer knitting in the round these days, but increases on knitting machines are easier done on the sides, so I have to divide patterns up into smaller pieces and sew then together. The first pattern I looked at turned out to be knit from the top down with raglan sleeves, and trying to convert it did my head in so I abandoned it. I found two more that would work. One was for 10ply, so I decided the cormo would be for that. The other was for 8ply, so it would be for the mixed batch of yarns.

Then a couple of hours dyeing turned into a day of frustrated plans.

The first mistake was mixing up a batch of orange dye by accident, because the label had faded to yellow. I wanted to overdye a blue yarn with yellow to make a variegated green. So I set the orange aside and started again. Only instead of a nice green I got khaki. So I overdyed that with a blue. Which worked but left me with a much darker result than I’d intended.

The dye bath was still very blue so I tipped it into the orange and got a nice forest green. I divided it in half, diluted it and dyed the cormo in two batches. The first batch came out looking great but most of the dye rinsed out and I was left with… various intensities of orange.

So I grabbed the remnants of another blue and some magenta and black sample packs and threw them into some fresh water, divided it into quarters, and dyed the cormo again in hanks of three. It came out… a very pale patchy mauve with dark purple areas and some lingering orange bits.

Which was better. I noticed, as I squeezed out the hanks, that the water beaded off the surface of the yarn. So maybe it still has lanolin in it. Well, I don’t mind the mauve-with-orange bits result, and I don’t seem to have ruined the yarn, and the blue-green is okay, so ultimately I got what I needed.

Now for the machine knitting bit…

Wear

While knitting garments, back when I used to knit by hand, I was probably not thinking too much about what state they’d be in after five or ten years. I was more worried about whether they’d fit properly! I realise now that I expected that, if everything else went well in the making, by creations would last a lifetime.

Not so much, it turns out.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how expensive the yarn was, or if it came from a high end brand. That’s no guarantee it won’t shrink or felt with wear and washing. Wear mostly. I wash my woollens very carefully. The Squares Jacket was knit from Jo Sharp yarn. Here it is now:

I can no longer blame putting on a few kilos for it not fitting well. The sleeves are about 5cm shorter. I doubt my arms got longer in the last 12 years.

Wear.

I suppose that’s the rub (no pun intended). Wear will felt wool as well as rough washing. I don’t feel like I got enough wear out of this jacket, though. I’m sad that we’re parting.

I’ve considered adding a panel at the sides and underarms, but the sleeves will still be too short. I’ve considered using the sleeves to widen the body at the sides and make it a vest but I have no yarn to finish the armhole edges and I have more than enough vests for someone who doesn’t wear them much. And the jacket really is a bit too felted. I wouldn’t give it to the op shop. I’ve considered throwing it in the machine to properly felt it then sewing something out of the felted fabric… but what?

At least it’s a natural fibre and will break down if I throw it out.

I am sad, but more than that… as my collection of handknit garments dwindles it reminds me that I can’t just get out the needles and add more. My hands, too, have suffered irreversible damage from wear.

Though I could set up the Bond and get creative will what I make just shrink and felt over the next few years anyway? If I look at the garments that are still in good shape at least I can note which yarns have stood up to wear and seek them out again. Or find the leftovers in my stash and combine them.

Which is where I headed next. Away went the sewing machine and out came the Bond Sweater Machine. And the dyepot. Stay tuned.

Black Denim Skirt

After finishing the Pinstripe Skirt I still had the sewing vibe and the idea of making a gored skirt out of old jeans was next on my list. The working week had started though, so I tackled the skirt in steps. Between breakfast and starting work I enlarging the pattern. I made it 20 years ago but had grown out of the skirt I’d sewn from it. At lunchtime I cut out the pieces.

I managed to get everything out of two pairs of jeans, though it meant the waistband was in three pieces. In the late afternoon I got sewing. This was made faster by having preserved the side seams of the jeans legs.

I didn’t finish it that day. It wasn’t until later in the week that I got the waistband, hem, buttonholes and buttons done.

Here’s the finished piece:

I’m very happy with it.

Do I still have the sewing vibe? Yes and no. The itch to weave is returning, and I’ve felt a twinge of interest in machine knitting. Both are due to winter approaching and wanting to add to my knitwear choices.