Finishitis, Stash Acquisition & Stinky Yarn

The Guild recently held their annual Textile Bazaar. I rocked up right as the doors were open and left with almost more yarn than I could carry. No cones this time. I wanted two things: rug yarn and maybe some knitting yarn to use on the machines if it took my fancy. I found both.

However.

Most of it stank of moth balls. The stinky yarn got wound into skeins then soaked in woolmix and left to dry and air. The big batch of caramel brown knitting yarn came up fine. The rug yarn utterly reeked, and while it was drying the whole house smelled like a chemical factory. I had to put it in the bathroom, turn on the fan and leave it for a day. Thankfully it’s much better now, though still with a faint mothball odour.

In the meantime, I’ve leafed through my books, to-do list, stash spreadsheet and visual journal and felt only a few little sparks of interest. Whenever I’ve had time for craft I’ve fallen back on existing projects. I’m all out of inspiration.

I got to wondering if am in the throes of a very long bout of finishitis. So I decided to go with it. I finished spinning the yarn on my wheel – some lovely camel fibre – and I plied some banana fibre I spun a while ago with some overlocker cotton.

The third iteration of the twill sampler came off the loom. When I labelled it I discovered I’d completely missed one of the drafts. No idea how that happened. I’m not going to warp up the loom for one 10cm sample, though. I’m not even sure if I want to finish the chapter, to be honest. I have all the two-colour warp ones to do – 27 in total. The realisation that it would take me 20 years to get through the book at this rate was rather off-putting. Maybe I should do something more achievable, like picking ten drafts from each chapter.

All I have left on the WIP list is the mosaic clock. It would be nice to wipe the slate clean, I suppose, but it would also be nice to feel the excitement of starting a new project. For the moment, however, I’m giving my creative brain a rest. It will fire up again when it’s ready, I’m sure.

Onward

Well, my little burst of stash busting followed by stash building has passed. My store of yarn is now ordered and revitalised, and still under 35kilos. My work here is done. (Well, apart from the temptation to buy yarn for a jumper pattern in the book that came with the Bendigo Woollen Mills show survival kit.)

Over the last two months the itch to knit something warm to wear led to a dyeing session, machine knitting two large garments, buying two circular knitting machines, realising I don’t have much yarn for them, stash busting and culling, unexpected weaving projects and finally, a good bit of stash enhancement.

What next?

– I have a blanket to weave and sampling to continue.

– The guild has some events coming up I’ve volunteered to help with.

– I want to make the green hat to match the Green Lines Jacket.

– Now that I’ve re-familiarised myself with the Bond I’m tempted to see if I can remember how to use the Passap, and make some socks.

Looking further ahead, I have some mending and sewing lined up. I want to get a mosaic clock finished by summer. When my next writing deadline is behind me I’d like to try submitting a weaving pattern to a magazine.

And then there’s just life stuff. Lots of birthdays. Maybe a short interstate trip or two. Lots and lots of weeding through Spring.

Bendy Report 2018

It’s been two years since I last went to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show, and on that visit I bought mainly fibre for spinning. I more than made up for it this year. Last time I went alone, but this time I had the company of a friend – and ran into another on the way home. Both of them are knitters, and one is also a spinner and weaver.

I had quite a to-do list, from visiting a seller of looms to approaching a publisher of books about an idea I’ve had for a while, eating the same scrumptious lamb rolls I had the last two times and visiting Bendigo Woollen Mill.

We decided to visit the mill first, because I’d seen a little video describing the contents of their show survival kit and I rather fancied it, and numbers were limited. For $30 you got this:

Plus a sachet of hot chocolate (drunk), a pack of mints (forgot were in my bag), a bottle of water and a calico bag (given to my companion in yarn covetousness).

It was good value because I wanted most of the contents, which is pretty unusual in ‘showbags’. However, there are always a couple of things in them that I don’t want:

That’s a bookmark, badge and stitch markers. If anyone (within Australia) wants them leave a comment and I’ll post them to you.

I took my smallest wheelie suitcase with me to be kind to my back, and (theoretically) limit the amount I bought. Going to the mill first meant I wasn’t tempted to buy more than what was on my list because I knew I’d have it with me for the rest of the day, and I should leave space for other purchases. This filled about 2/3 of the bag:

The blue is ‘8ply alpaca blue fleck’ had been brought into the back room just that morning. The grey is ’16 ply recycled fibres’ and is lovely and soft. There’s a ball of Bloom in ‘wine’ colourway and multicoloured sock yarn in ‘purple green multi’. And the only yarn from the front room is a ball of 10ply cotton in ‘sky’, which I want to try machine knitting.

We headed to the show next, had lunch and made our way back through the sheds. I found the Louet dealer, who didn’t have floor looms as I’d hoped, but we talked about me going up to her workshop in Sydney later in the year. I spent some time at the Ashford stand and bought two large shuttles and bobbins – just in time for the blanket I just finished warping up – and a book of weaving patterns from an old manuscript.

At Glenora’s stand I bought some more 8/2 cotton and chenille, a ball of Ashford 8ply and a part for the Knitters Loom that broke a few months back that I didn’t know you could buy.

And I had mentally decided I wanted to buy a handful of single skeins of pretty or luxurious or interesting yarn.

From left to right: yak (white and chocolate) and camel (brown) yarn from Ochre Yarn, Australian grown and processed cotton (the first in recent times) by the Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, a lovely soft green yarn for a hat that matches my Green Stripes Jacket by Kathy’s Fibres, and a multicolour yarn that caught by eye by HalfBaked HandDyed.

And lastly, a cone of boucle saori wool, a handy mini crochet hook set and a sock darning mushroom:

When I first visited the show in 2007 I took photos, watched demonstrations, looked at all the animals and watched sheepdog trials. In following years I added the fashion show to that list, but as the show grew in size I didn’t have as much time for looking at animals and trials. Now I’m pretty much down to lunch and shopping. I didn’t bother with the fashion show this year now that it doesn’t include handmade items.

Today I’m exhausted. I expected that and planned to do not much more than write a blog post, add my purchases to the stash spreadsheet then put them away, and maybe do some weaving.

Will all my yarn acquisitions fit into the stash? No. Not even half! But I did stick to what I planned to buy except for the one small cone yarn – and I didn’t find any rug yarns. And some of it will be used straight away. (I’m looking at you, you lush green skein of green. You’re going to become a hat very soon.)

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.

Stash Portrait 2016-2017

Recent thoughts about where I want to go with weaving, and my fibre allergies led to a bit of a stash assessment. So I laid out all the yarn on the office floor and took a picture:

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(Wool yarns are marked in red, cotton in yellow, and everything else or yarns I’m not sure of the fibre are in orange.)

A sort was in order. I moved cones to the larger boxes and divided everything into wool and non-wool. All non-wool, non-acrylic yarns had instant keeper status. With those put aside, I considered which wool yarns to keep or cull. Sock yarns are keepers, since my feet don’t get irritated by wool. Recent handspun stays, too. The Bendigo Classic 2 & 3 ply does weave up into a nice blanket and makes good warp yarn, so I’ll retain that.

The rest I sorted by softness. The Tonne of Wool Cormo is the softest, Bendigo Luxury next, Cleckheaton Country and Paton’s Inca next, and the rest became one batch of ‘least soft’ yarn. From that I culled the Bendigo Serenade, Patons Shadow Tweed, Lincraft Cosy Wool, a cone of fine boucle and the metallic yarns I hated weaving with earlier this year.

I also culled my knitwear, removing two vests I don’t wear, a cardigan and a jacket. The jackets were unravelled. The yarn I got from them is wool, but I have plans to turn it into pin loom blankets. Since one is a bulky yarn, I’m currently making a pin loom 150% the size of the one I have, so the nails are spaced wider apart and I get bigger squares.

The stash doesn’t all fit into the boxes, but with the wool yarns hanging about in the way rather than the cone yarns, I’ve got more of an incentive to either use them up or cull them.

Acquisitions

We travel with carry-on bags only, so when it comes to souvenir shopping, we stick to small, light items. There’s always the option to post things homes, though.

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The first thing I bought was a metre of trim. Woven inkle could be found in most craft stores, as well as machine-make ribbon, for use in traditional costume.

When I bought the ball of yarn to try nalbinding, in the same ship I found a leather bracelet with rows of holes punched in it for cross-stitch. That’ll be a nice tv project. I posted this and the next item home with some books Paul bought.

The boxes of retors a broder I found in a second hand shop. The woman selling it gave a little laugh when I handed the boxes over and she looked inside and saw the thread. I have no idea why.

I found yarn stores everywhere. It got to the point where I’d expect to find one whenever we stepped off a bus or train. Most contained yarn best suited to knitting. If I’d still been knitting, I’d probably have wound up buying an extra bag and filling it. I got this skein, which feels well suited to weaving, in a shop in Roskilde that had lots of local yarn.

There was also the yarn I bought to nalbind with, of course.

Yarn Dessert

Weaving yarn isn’t the only kind I’ve been stashing. I’ve also been buying embroidery yarns from eBay.

First up was a batch of wool.

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I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make out of it, but when it arrived I got a wave of nostalgia, remembering how I use to do bargello work when I was a teen. However, I don’t have any canvas, I’m not sure what size to get to go with the yarn, and embroidery shops don’t appear to stock it.

Then there was some retors a broder/coton a broder:

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I’d read about it on embroidery blogs, but never seen it. After finding a skein in an op shop I went hunting on eBay. There didn’t appear to be any available in Australia, but I recognised the labels on a batch listed as tapestry thread, and more research told me that Anchor ‘soft cotton’ was the same or very similar.

Again, I’m not 100% sure what I’ll make from it yet, but I’ve read that it was better than using the full six strands of stranded cotton, as you don’t get loose strands from them being snagged when pulled through the cloth. I can see that being helpful when doing tambour embroidery.

Yarn Banquet

I’ve been buying yarns. Weaving yarns!

It’s not that I couldn’t keep weaving with knitting yarns, but the yarn in my stash tends to dictate what sort of projects I attempt. Having more ‘weaving’ yarns in there will inspire me to explore in new directions.

However, cones of yarn are expensive! Particularly so if you buy them from outside of Australia. It’s been a while since I’ve ordered anything from the US, and yikes! Postage is incredible! Unfortunately, there aren’t many shops selling weaving yarn in Australia, and with not a great deal of overlap in yarns they have available there’s little competition in prices.

So I’ve been trawling eBay and googling intently. My first score was $50 worth of sample cones from eBay:

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There are some interesting yarns in there, though I’ve put aside the ones with mohair in them to give away at the next weaving class.

Next I discovered in a round-about way that the shop I’d recently bought a book of Saori garment designs from, Curiousweaver, sells yarn. I typed in ‘weaving yarns’ and specified Australia in Google, and up came a rainbow of colour that led me back to her site.

I grabbed a three pack of wool yarns:

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And one of the packs of coloured cotton – perfect for that colour gamp project I’ve been wanting to weave for ages – for around $17 a cone.

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Of course, buying this much yarn did more than fill up the space I had left in my yarn storage tubs, so I had to get creative:

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My craft room feels more like a weaver’s studio now.

I think I have enough yarn now. Of course, I’ll probably stumble on a pile of yarn going free or incredibly cheap now. And I won’t be able to resist.

Sheep & Wool

Paul and I went to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show on Saturday. I hadn’t been since 2009, when I tagged along with some of the Ravelry Rocketeers. I ran into a spinner from that group, and a friend. It was a glorious day, sunny but not hot. The show was bigger than I remember, and though I didn’t think I’d buy much I spent over $400. Well, I have been on a stash diet since the beginning of 2009 (though I’m beginning to think that the only time I’m not on a stash diet is between the time I arrive somewhere where yarn is sold until the moment I hand over the money for it.) And the pricier items were the fringe twister and books.

Here’s the haul:

From left to right, top to bottom:

SWTC Jazz in silver, pewter and a metallic multicolour from Stranded In Oz
Two skeins of unlabelled silk yarn from a shop that didn’t give me a receipt (but they gave me the Bendigo bag at the top)
Grey Bunny Mink from Ixchel
Leila wool-bamboo sock, Pisces cobweb, Iris lace weight, Rufus 4ply merino-cashmere, and Primrose sock yarn from Moseley Park
Lang Jawoll Magic in multicoloured gem tones and Lang Mille Colori in graduated greys

Scarf Pin (which I’m also going to use as a hair clip) by Wool N Wire
Buttons, purple cotton yarn and a netting shuttle from the button lady
Fringe twister and inkle shuttle from the stall that sold Ashford Products (no receipt)
Fudge and chocolate coated mini puddings

Books from Colonial Lake Books
Bisk-Art Cookie Cutters

Once upon a time I would never have looked twice at lace weight or cobweb yarn, but this time I averted my eyes from anything heavier than 4ply. Though I can weave heavier yarns, I have plenty already. If I buy lighter yarn it can be used on the knitting machine as well. And now I have plenty of that kind of yarn. I just need to find time to knit or weave it.

Two in a Row

The weekend before last I made a day of it, and caught the train and tram to the Handknitters Guild Yarn Fair. My main reason to go was to ask a few questions of the Machine Knitters Association of Victoria, see if the Handweavers and Spinners Guild had any inkle looms on sale, say a brief ‘hi’ and ‘thanks’ to Kylie of the Ton of Wool project and fondle the cormo.

Well, I had a great natter with Christine about the MKAV and worked out which local club to contact. I got to have a look at the cormo and say thanks to Kylie as well. But the HW&SG didn’t have much more than a table with finished objects and handspun yarn to buy on it. However, I found out that they were having their textile bazaar the next week.

I bumped into a friend, Emma, and wound up having lunch with some of the Richmond knitters group. Which was lovely but made me miss hand knitting sooo much.

I did manage to buy a couple of things:

But I figured I’d save the main damage to the bank account for the next week, when I headed over to the Handweavers and Spinners Guild Textile Bazaar. I managed to avoid the temptations of the Great Cone Yarn Mountain Range and got a second hand inkle loom for $5, which would hardly cover the cost of the wood. Then, as I was about to leave, I spotted a new, teeny weeny inkle loom. For $15. I knew if I didn’t buy it I would kick myself later.

I also picked up a couple of rag shuttles. You can never have too many shuttles. And some ratchet and pawls that will come in handy if I make or adapt a loom.

And I finally got around to joining the Guild. Paul was waiting in the car, so I didn’t hang about too long. I wish I’d had a bit more time to chat, as I met more weavers in my short visit than I have before in previous ones. When asking if they had any paddle heddles, I explained by showed them my little afro comb loom, and it drew a bit of interest. No paddle heddles there, though.

Oh, and to the woman who said ‘oh, I read your…’ if you meant this blog… um… ‘hi’. You looked busy so I didn’t ask if you were a regular reader. In fact, a few faces seemed familiar but I couldn’t quite work out why. I probably would have, if I’d had more time.

Afterwards we scooted off to the Made in Thornbury market where two friends, Margaret and Beky had stalls, and when we set off home the day had turned drizzly and grey.