Sarahs Knitting Sweaters: Yarn Chicken

*This post is part of a knit-along series with my dear friend, Sarah. Check out all her posts, plus our previous joint shawl project on her site, One Last Stitch.

I have been working diligently on my sweater, between bouts of prodigious organizing (see previous posts on my blog referencing the Great Purge of ’16). For once I’m knitting “monogamously”, only focusing on this one project for now. I delighted in the stockinette decreases after my ribbing fiasco, and was ploughing through the increase section when I started getting worried.

This pattern, while lovely and generally very clear, does not list anything about the actual amount of yarn needed. It gives gauge, weight, and suggested yarns, but says nothing of how many yards or grams one might need. When I bought the yarn I guessed that I would have just enough, and I have never actually used up an entire Yarnia cone before.

As I was nearing the last third of the increase sections, I looked at my yarn cone, and I looked at the pattern, again and again, and it seemed inevitable that I would run out. I had hardly anything left on the cone, and a good 10 rows of stockinette increases plus the sweetheart short rows still to knit. I am not the kind to play yarn chicken and hope for the best. I require confidence and consistency. I am 15 minutes early to everything, just in case I might be late. I once showed up late for a class in college and was in tears, distraught that I had not honored the time commitments I had made at the beginning of the semester. I do not run out of yarn lightly, and I wasn’t about to take a chance.

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Some park knitting, with just a few yards left on the cone.

Since Yarnia is a custom store, I had hoped they might be able to wind me just a bit more of the Chubasco blend I had chosen for this sweater. Unfortunately, they were out of the wool strand, and nothing similar matched the color, so I had to buy a whole new 400-ish yard cone of the copper sport weight. I got a good discount since it was one of only two cones left, but I was disappointed to buy a whole cone for just a few yards.

I took my knitting on the road while visiting family, and did the first half of the sweetheart neck…and I didn’t run out of yarn. It was close, but I still had some on the cone. I waited to return to Portland to finish the second half…and I didn’t run out of yarn, even after purling across the full row. I’m done with the body of the sweater and have this much yarn left on my original cone!

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I’m not sure if I can return or exchange the second cone I bought, but if I can’t I will pass it on to another knitter who will appreciate a serious quantity of a seriously gorgeous yarn. On to the pink lace!

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Before and After: I have a lot of clothes

As promised, I started the Great Purge of ’16 shortly after I published my last post. I spent a good half hour rounding up all my clothes from various corners of the house, emptying all my drawers and piling everything in great drifts on the bed. It looked something like this:

Nate commented, “You have a lot of clothes, sweetie.” Yes. Yes I do. I enjoy fashion, I like to shop, and I think clothes are a really fun way to express myself. So, I have a lot of clothes. The photo above is all the clothing I own, minus socks, undergarments, and accessories (scarves, hats, gloves, etc.). The accessories I piled separately on the ground, as well as my shoes (see below). I did not photograph my skivvies and socks, because I didn’t think you all would want to see them.


It is more than a little imposing to confront your entire wardrobe reincarnated as a mountain in a poorly-lit basement. In fact, it’s a bit terrifying. Not to be discouraged, I checked my manual, Tidying Up. There is a specific order for everything, and I wanted to get this right. Vanquishing a clothes-mountain takes deliberate planning and strategy. Following my tidying guru Marie Kondo’s suggestion, I started with tops, which happened to be the biggest pile, looming a good three feet from mattress to tip. I picked up one top and held it out, and then basically had a staring match with it while I tried to feel the sparkly joyful feelings, or lack thereof. It’s a little weird to have a silent dialogue with your clothes. It took me the greater part of a day to get through the whole massive mound piece by piece, shoes, bags, skivvies and all, but I made it. In all, I cast off 7 very full paper grocery bags full of clothing!


Then came the hard part: folding. Kondo has several chapters on folding. My girl LOVES folding. She suggests folding and stowing everything vertically so when you open your drawers you can see everything. Good ol’ MK even advocates for arranging your folded clothes in a color gradient from front to back, light to dark. I know, sounds like a pain.

As a former retail-slave (I take such pleasure in the fact that I can now say former), I can fold pretty much anything perfectly in seconds flat. Ask me to show you the patented Seaside sweatshirt fold sometime; it’s serious business. Oh, and for the record, folding boards are for chumps. All that folding for (minimal) pay has quite turned me off to the idea of doing it at home, however. Every few weeks I go through and fold everything, but in between I tend to let things pile up. Guru MK says I can’t do that anymore, and since I’m going all out on this, I followed her instructions exactly. It took a while, but check out those sweet gradients! And, my socks are “resting”. 


When I showed Nate my progress he congratulated me and said, “You know, sweetie, you still have a lot of clothes.” Yes. Yes I do. But now, I can say with confidence that every single piece of clothing I own brings me joy.

It’s been two days, and everything still looks nice. Today I tackled books, post and pics coming soon! Stay tuned!

Tidying Up

The other day I read an article by Summer Brennan about how hard it is to get rid of books. It was shared to Facebook by a former teacher of mine, who is now retired. Being retired, she shares a TON of interesting articles and things to her page, but this one caught my eye. I am a reader. I love books. Like many people, I not only enjoy reading books, but I enjoy having books, being surrounded by them, looking at them on the shelf just oozing knowledge and possibility. And, like many people, I find myself constantly pressed for space and books are always the first unfortunate accused of taking up that precious space.

Currently I live in a basement. I share this basement with Nate, and while it is a good and lovely and wonderful basement, it just feels packed full. Nate and I both read a lot, and have acquired many, many books. When I complain of our lack of space, the books are always first on the chopping block. “Get rid of them, you don’t need them!”, they say. Well, technically no, but I want them.

I found Summer Brennan’s article really inspiring. Brennan takes a very down-to-earth perspective on purging her bookshelf, and the reader in me was pleased that she kept so many of her books. She admits that discarding books is hard, in the title she calls it heartbreaking. I thought, if someone else who feels this way can get rid of some books, why not me?

Brennan mentions over and over the KonMari method of organizing and cleaning, detailed in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. It was after reading this book that Brennan chose to round up all her books and discard those that did not “spark joy” for her. So inspired was I by all this talk of organizing that I went yesterday afternoon and picked up Kondo’s Tidying Up at the library.

I finished reading it in just a few hours last night, and as soon as Nate is out of bed (or I decide that he should be) I’m going to start with my clothes, as the book recommends. Yes, I’m excited! Kondo’s idea of sorting by category seems simple, and I almost feel like I’ve done it before. Still, I don’t know that I have ever rounded up ALL of my clothes in one place, and the criteria of “sparking joy” had never crossed my mind. The criteria of “joy” feels really liberating for me. It allows me to keep my books, just because they make me happy. I won’t need to discard anything that I am not ready to release. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

One of the main tenets of the method is that you must touch and handle every item. Before you discard an item you thank it for its service to you. I also find this comforting. Even if I have to discard a book (it might not happen, right?), it won’t be because the book was a total waste, or that I was never meant to have it. It has simply already served its purpose in my life and is ready to move on. All this anthropomorphism is definitely a little kooky, but I’m ready to give anything a try. I’m ready to make peace with my basement and my books.

Off to go tidy up!

Sarahs Knitting Sweaters: Rick-rack Nightmare

*This post is part of a knit-along series with my dear friend, Sarah. Check out all her posts, plus our previous joint shawl project on her site, One Last Stitch!

After Sarah’s visit earlier this month, I was itching to get our new Amors Arrow sweater project on the needles. It felt like I was on summer break, and there was just so much time spread before me to knit all of the things! Unfortunately, I still had a good chunk of my final teaching portfolio to finish up, and was forced to wait. I am happy to announce that I submitted my portfolio on Friday and have nothing further to distract me from important knitting!

Despite my then-looming portfolio, I actually cast on last Wednesday. I couldn’t resist, plus I had been invited to attend a new knitting group at Starlight Knitting Society with Stephanie, a mutual friend of both Sarahs 🙂 I figured it would be safer if I cast on surrounded by other knitters, this being my first real sweater and all (except a pesky cardigan from college…more on that another time).

While Sarah was in town we went to Yarnia, and I chose one of their house blends for the main body color of the sweater (pictured above). It’s a lovely cinnamon-copper-brown sport weight blend of bamboo, wool, and silk.

I’m knitting the medium size, so after casting on the 216 stitches I joined in the round and started the rick-rack ribbing prescribed in the pattern. Now, as much as I am a huge fan of Yarnia’s unique un-plied custom blends, they can be a serious pain at the beginning of a new project. Catching all the strands with each new stitch can be trying, and if the first knitted row is anything other than basic knit or purl stitches getting all the way around the first row is nothing short of a nightmare. Rick-rack ribbing is NOT basic. Rick-rack ribbing plus multi-stranded yarn equals my knitting nightmare.

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In this pic I have knit about 20-30 stitches, in about 2 hours time. It was a bit painful.

After struggling for a while I almost considered ditching the rick-rack in favor of a tried and true basic rib. But I decided I want this thing to be pretty and delicate and lacy and nice, and basic ribbing is not any of those things. So, I soldiered on. With Steph’s encouragement (read: teacher voice) I was able to make it about a third of the way around at knit night. During one of my frequent breaks I picked out this lovely peachy-pink for the lace shoulders.

 

The first row took me a full three days, but I finally got all the way around! After the first row, things hummed along nicely over the weekend, and I will start the stockinette (most humble and blessed of stitches!) today. So excited to this turns out!

Graduation and Gradients

In the month since I last posted I completed my beautiful Coos Bay Beanie and have taken every opportunity to prance around with it on my head, in flagrant denial of the summery weather.

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Most other things knitted ground to a decided halt, with graduation pending and buckets of grading and lesson planning to be done. Between marking scores and streamlining lesson objectives, I did knit steadily on a pair of socks, intended as a gift for my cooperating teacher. When planning the socks I wanted something interesting, and had purchased this really beautiful gradient yarn. I thought it might do a nice bit of self-striping, but as it turned out this was a VERY slow gradient.

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About six inches into a ribbed cuff I realized that, while I liked this color scheme and moss rib pattern quite a lot, mis-match gradient socks are not a fashion I can get behind. I dropped the socks and threw myself fully into the pre-graduation push.

I graduated the last Saturday in April, and it was a really lovely day all around. My family and friends gathered, Nate made incredible food, and the sun even came around. I had stopped in at a knitting group earlier in the week, and after a quick consult at the shop about my doomed socks, I found a delightful substitute yarn from Sweet Georgia Yarns.

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I started with 64 stitches, knit about 4 inches and frogged, went down to 60 stitches and knit 3 inches before frogging, and finally settled into a groove with 56 stitches around. I’m so pleased with how these socks turned out, the striping is exactly what I wanted and the colors are bright and cheerful (this photo definitely doesn’t do them justice). I’m sure my mentor will love them!

Also, my dear friend Sarah (find her at One Last Stitch, and check out our upcoming Sarahs Knitting Sweaters series) came to visit, and it was really just lovely.

Fighting the Funk

 

The first week back from spring break started off more than a bit rough.  I had a delightful Easter, and Nate and I moved in for a three-week house-sitting/teen-sitting gig while my tutoring students’ grandparents are traveling in Japan. We get to live above-ground (hasta luego, dark basement) in their beautiful, historic home in Portland’s west hills.

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The view from the balcony of the house where we’re staying.

However, despite the view, my body did not take this transition too kindly at first. An unfamiliar mattress, student teaching picking up steam, and terrifying nightmares about the aforementioned teen throwing midnight pancake parties did not make the most relaxing cocktail. I barely slept for three nights straight, and the few hours I did get in were fitful. On Tuesday night I came home late after a meeting and tried to knit just one row on my current sock project to try to unwind. I couldn’t even make it halfway around. I just stared into space for an hour, sock in hand. It was bad.

By Wednesday afternoon I was feeling a bit more myself, and the weather was gorgeous, so I decided to keep the good vibes going and start something fresh to welcome spring. I sat out on the balcony in the sun with a glass of wine and cast on the Coos Bay Beanie (one of the patterns I got from the Rose City Yarn Crawl). Turns out this quick hat project was just the thing to get me out of my funk. That night I slept perfectly.

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Casting on on the balcony.

Ahh…much better. I’ve since made quite a bit of progress, and I should finish this weekend. I am knitting it in one of the special blends that Yarnia wound up exclusively for this pattern (yes, you’ve seen that cone before), and I absolutely adore it! It’s a blend of bamboo, alpaca, and merino wool in Shell, a creamy white with tinges of champagne. The bamboo makes it really smooth and silky, and the alpaca and wool add a nice halo of softness. I cannot wait to wear this thing!

Judging by the weather, I might have to wait a while…

Chick Lit

I have been meaning to post for days now, but I have been far too busy relaxing to write a blog post.  Spring break is upon us here in Oregon, and boy, did I ever need it!  I’ve been off since last Saturday and only now do I feel like my mind and body have recovered from 6 weeks at middle school.

My knitting life has been pretty productive this week, thanks in part to my cognitive fatigue. I finished my second Light and Up shawl yesterday, and it’s currently having a nice lie down and stretch on my bed. Black is more of a punctuation in my wardrobe, but I am certain that Sara will be delighted with this bat-wing beauty.

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In the week leading up to break my brain was pretty much liquified.  After a rough day at school it was all I could do to collapse on the couch and moan a greeting to my boyfriend. In an attempt to take my mind off things I started reading a fluffy Debbie Macomber novel that my mom had passed off to me a few months ago.  It’s one in her Blossom Street series, which is centered around Lydia, the owner of a yarn shop, and the women in the neighborhood who attend her knitting classes and also work in the surrounding businesses on Blossom Street.

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When I began reading the book I was almost embarrassed to be carrying it around and actually reading it. It’s pink and covered in flowers and it just looks frothy with doomed romance and damsels in distress. In fact, I thought I was going to get a third of the way in, decide the book wasn’t worth my time, and move on. I tend to read mostly fiction, but rarely romance, and never “chick lit”. As it turned out, I really enjoyed Back on Blossom Street. It was just what I needed, something light and uplifting, and the fact that I enjoyed it so much got me thinking about “women’s” literature and it’s place on my bookshelf.

As a feminist, I’ve had some trouble coming to terms with books and literature marketed exclusively to women that tends to prioritize finding a man and falling in love as the most important goals in a woman’s life. When picking up Back on Blossom Street I expected to be disappointed by more of the same: struggling, emotionally vulnerable women finds the perfect man and is saved by his undying devotion and superior financial status, everyone lives happily ever after.  In this book I was surprised to find that while, yes there were some romantic bits, those romances took a backseat to the powerful bonds between the female characters of the book. This was a story of independent women relying on other strong women to support them through various mundane crises.  Honestly, in some ways this was probably the most feminist thing I’ve read all year.  All the important characters were female, and were constantly interacting with other females about things that did not involve men. A++ on the Bechdel Test for sure, which is more than I can say for a lot of things I’ve read and enjoyed.

My point is, I have been wrong to judge people by their books’ covers.  Maybe that pink pulp novel with flowers and wedding dresses on the front is actually an empowering story of hope and the importance of ladies having lady friends. In fact, reading “chick lit” might even be a feminist act, and that is just grand. I can’t speak to the rest of her books, but Debbie Macomber has impressed me with this one, and I look forward to my next trip to Blossom Street to visit with all it’s strong, nuanced female characters.

The Crawl

After my winding frenzy last weekend I was itching to get something new on the needles.  I finished up my Kaika socks Monday night, and they are lovely!  I love all the different lace patterns, the bobbles at the top and the picot cuff.  It is delightful to finally have a hand-knit pair for myself that fit my feet and my style (apologies for the photo quality).

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After the socks were happily warming my toes, I started another Light and Up for yet another Sara (we are legion!).  This Sara is a friend from my graduate cohort who saw my finished shawl and drooled so much I agreed to make her one in her signature shades, black, black, and black, with some grey for a pop of color.  When it’s done she will be one seriously chic art teacher!

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This week was a social one in my knitting world.  I have mentioned before that I had been attending a weekly knitting group at Yarnia.  Alas, my schedule has changed a bit in recent months, so I haven’t been able to attend the Monday night group for some time, and hadn’t found another group that fit my schedule.  Well, while researching a bit about the Rose City Yarn Crawl (more on that in a bit), I stumbled upon a weekly gathering at another local shop that fits perfectly with my schedule!  I attended on Tuesday night, had a delightful time, and I hope to make this a regular thing.

Last but not least, the aforementioned Rose City Yarn Crawl.  Basically, this is a fun promotional event for a bunch of local shops, dyers, designers, and other vendors.  The truly die-hard Crawlers print a passport and try to get to all the shops on the list within the 4-day Crawl to be entered for big-time raffle prizes.  Each shop also contributes a pattern which you get free with purchase at the store (all are available on Ravelry as individual patterns or as an ebook).  I am far too financially strapped to be galavanting around the city salivating over yarn I can’t afford, but I couldn’t completely resist going out for a taste of the Crawl.  I went to my two favored shops (mentioned above), got two adorable new skeins plus two free patterns, and got out of the whole thing only $40ish poorer (it could have been much, much worse).

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Alright, I’m off to cast on some gift socks and write a lesson plan.  Talk soon!

Swiftly Now!

My work and social life picked up quite a bit this week, so I hardly had time to knit a stitch between meetings, tutoring sessions, and family outings.  This weekend has been mostly spent putting the finishing touches on my teaching portfolio that was originally due 2 months ago (I’m not irresponsible, dates were changed by the university because no one actually knows what’s going on.  I’ve come to terms with the uncertainty and just don’t do anything unless I’m told.  It’s fine.  I graduate so soon.).

This morning I was up early before a brunch date with two friends from college, and I saw a golden opportunity to test out the new winder and swift I had ordered earlier in the week.  For the uninitiated, most yarn for knitting is sold in twisted skeins or hanks, that look like this.

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I’ve been told this is because the colors and gradations are better displayed this way, and that it’s easier for yarn dyers and painters.  In any case, while these twists are lovely, they are quite impractical when it comes to actually knitting.  After spending far too long fighting to hand-wind a skein twist into a more manageable ball for the socks I started last week, I caved and ordered the proper equipment to make my own center-pull yarn cakes at home.

Up to this point I’ve always had my yarn wound at the shop, but that makes an in-and-out trip pretty much impossible.  Here is my, admittedly pretty hideous, new swift (the funny green thing) and slightly less hideous yarn winder.

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Also, you get to see my toes and some piles of clutter.  Hooray for you!  After clamping my fun apparatus to the coffee table (note the protective napkin barriers to prevent scratching) I untwisted my first skein and prepared to wind.

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After that, it was surprisingly easy.  All I had to do was turn the hand crank and the thing basically wound itself!  Less than an hour later my pile of skeins had transformed into a lovely little group of cakes, ready to knit up whenever I please (full disclosure: nearly all of the yarn pictured is planned for socks).  Just in time for brunch!

Addicted to Socks

Hello all!  It’s been a minute, and a busy one at that.  I still have many (too many?) projects in progress, and progressing they are, however slowly.  I figured out some cable confusions with my ambitious sweater project, and I have a good third of a pink blanket done.  Oh, and I knit myself a pretty little slouchy spring hat somewhere in the mix, too.

Over the long weekend, however, everything else stopped in its tracks and I started a pair of socks.  My friends, I will state it here for posterity that I, Sarah Burgess, persistent knitter and intermittent blogger, am officially addicted to socks.  I knit my first pair for Nate just to get my bearings, then a second pair that were meant for me but didn’t fit (now Nate has pretty pink socks), a third as a Christmas gift, and now I’m hooked.

  
I have all these other lovely, fun, engaging projects to do, but all I really want is to knit some foot mittens.  When I got my most recent loan refund from graduate school I immediately put 90% of it in savings (down payment, here I come!), but I splurged with some of the other 10% to buy nothing but sock yarn from Knit Picks.  As soon as it arrived I dropped everything and cast on my first pair of toe-ups in Stroll Hand Painted (colorway is called herbal-something-something, I think it’s discontinued…).  The Kaika sock pattern is GORGEOUS and free on Ravelry.  

  
I’m already planning for my next pair.  I have a problem.