Category Archives: stash

Postcards from the Stash

My name is Glenna, and I have a yarn stash. It’s of a reasonable size – the sort of size one might expect from a knitter who has been actively stashing yarn probably since she made her very first novelty scarf at the beginning of the ‘aughts, and bought an extra skein of purple feathered acrylic/poly blend “just in case,” and who is never without multiple Works in Progress or ideas for what to knit “next.” In the intervening years since I started knitting, I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of stashing yarns a bit nicer than purple novelty eyelash yarn (remember when those scarves were the thing?), and every so often I do a bit of a sort and cull and pass on some of it to other knitters who I know are more likely to use those bits than I am in the next year.

But mostly, I like having a stash. I was chatting with a guy in Peterborough last year who was a new knitter at the time (hi Kevin!) who was genuinely curious about the whole stash thing, and I said that for my own purposes I considered it in the same category as having a library of books in your house. I like reading, read often, but I don’t always know what I’m going to want to read at a given time, so I collect books based on my interest so I’ll have them around to read and consult when the mood strikes. I have books on my shelves that aren’t being actively read, and one day they may get transferred to the sort-and-cull pile and passed on, but for all I know I could be reading them tomorrow. This is by and large how I think about my yarn. Some yarns I buy knowing I’m going to use them right away, in the same way that I know I’ll immediately read the latest mystery paperback in a favourite series. Others are there waiting, just like that copy of Wuthering Heights that I know I want to read at some point except that the classic lit part of my brain is currently being taken up by Anna Karenina, and so I just have to maybe wait on that. I’ll totally read Wuthering Heights/start that green Cascade 220 pullover next month. TOTALLY.

Nov16-StashWorsteds

So, yes, I have a yarn stash. It’s the collection I choose to cultivate and outside of clothes, books, and dvds, probably the only thing I regularly spend money on. I like it. I thought I’d show you a glimpse of it, and share with you some of my stashing idiosyncrasies that are part of my knitterly process. I will point out that the majority of my stash is wool or wool-blends. I live in a 4-season part of the world with cold winters, and wool makes practical sense. It’s also a very comfortable fibre to work with, I like the way it feels on my hands to use, and it behaves well under hand-washing and blocking. Occasionally I’ll go for something in the plant-fibre area, for the summer, but it’s just not my preference – it may well be yours, though, and that’s all cool.

The knits that occupy a lot of my imagination are socks, and sweaters. Unsurprisingly, then, I tend to stash quantities of yarn in amounts appropriate for these items. With socks, that’s pretty easy – most “sock yarn” or yarn intended for socks comes in a sock-sized quantity, where 1-2 skeins is all you need to get going. Sweater quantities are a bit more personal, and actually if we’re getting down to it I recommend taking a few minutes out of your day one day, and familiarizing yourself with an approximate yardage number for your own sweater size and preference – of DK, worsted, and bulky. (If you happen upon a yarn sale tomorrow, you might not have time to look up whether you need 7 skeins of Malabrigo Bulky or 8. Just sayin’.)

I like worsted weight yarn for sweaters, and Cascade 220 heathers and Berroco Ultra Alpaca (pictured above) are two of my favourites. The Cascade 220 heathers have a nice textured look that appeals to me over the solids, and come in sooooo many colours. It’s hard for me to resist a Cascade 220 display, especially when it’s on sale (there are some Romni Wools summer sales I could mention), and I like that it’s versatile enough for cables, stockinette, or even colour-work. I’ve worked with it enough that I can estimate my gauge with it pretty easily. I like Ultra Alpaca for many of the same reasons, but also because its 50% wool/50% alpaca blend makes it SO warm, and so drapey. I’ve knitted sweaters, hats, gloves, mitts, and scarves with this stuff. It’s awesome. The alpaca factor does make it behave a bit differently than 100% wool, though, which means I always need to pay a bit more attention to swatches and sag than otherwise.

Nov16-LornasLaces

Sock yarn is extremely comfortable in my stash. Its real estate has achieved a relatively firm status, and this is partly because I mentally place sock yarn in different categories of sock knitting. First, there is the Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. I have no shame in admitting this is 99% because I like this yarn for knitting Jaywalkers. It’s just…something I started doing. Shamefully, I have only had 1 new LL jaywalkers pair in 2011, and one could possibly surmise that maybe that means I have more LL sock than I need. (None of those people are HERE, though, right?) But it’s sort of like the library. The next time I start a new pair of Jaywalkers, I don’t know what colour I’m going to want to knit with, so I like having the options. Maybe I’ll want them to be flaming pink, maybe I’ll want them to be sedately dark green. Who knows. That’s the joy of it.

Nov16-SockYarn

The rest of my sock yarn stash falls into more or less one of two categories – “things to knit 3×1 ribbed socks with,” and “things that I could knit anything I want with.” The first category tends to get the variegated or multi-coloured ones, and for that I love Socks That Rock, but also sometimes tonals like Tanis Fiber Arts sock. Usually if I’m keeping the sock plain and repetitive, I’ll make room for colour. The second cateogry, though, tends to lean towards solids and semi-solids, which are my preference. Madelinetosh tosh sock has become one of my stash pals there – I look for it in yarn shops when I’m out and about since not everyone has it, and try to always have a few skeins of different shades. If I’m trying out a new sock design with cables or a complex stitch pattern, it’s an enjoyable place for me to start. Indigodragonfly Merino Sock is in a pretty similar spot ofr me there, and I’m always open for more finds that fit here.

After that, a bunch of my stash falls into the realm of “I know I can make a project of some kind with this, I just don’t know what, yet, but I’m pretty sure I love this yarn enough not to worry about when that’ll happen.” Like, I know I’m not likely (though someone else might be) to cast on a laceweight shawl every single month, but I know that I like knitting them sometimes, so when that eventuality occurs it doesn’t hurt to be ready with a few skeins that are 1000+ yards. (I don’t want to be caught short. Them laceweight shawls is big, sometimes.) Here I’ve got a Madelinetosh skein of laceweight that was one of the few left on the shelf at Knitty City the last time I was in New York, and some Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight. Then there are things like Noro Silk Garden that are unpredictable. I like the colours. I can make a pair of Maine Morning Mitts with one skein, or a sweater with ten, or a striped scarf with 4. I can mix and match two colourways at once, or stick with one. It’s ready and waiting.

Nov16-StashMiscellaney

Lastly (for now at least), there is the “stuff that was super cool that I picked up at a festival or shop somewhere that was so pretty I had to have it and it’s going to be something awesome…just you wait.” My Miss Babs Yowza Whatta Skein purchase from this year, my Green Mountain Spinnery worsted and Fiber Optic sock from last year’s Rhinebeck, and a skein of Fleece Artist seconds that I found in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago.

Nov16-StashMiscellaney2

I’d be lying to you if I said that’s all there is, but those are the directions I tend to go when I purchase yarn. After a few years of knitting, I can predict some of the things I’m going to want for yarn of a given type, and tend to know my preferences, but that’s not necessarily true all the time. I also tend to stick to the same parts of the colour spectrum, but occasionally remind myself to branch out. It’s an ever-evolving approach, I suppose.

My stash sends greetings to yours! What’s your favourite yarn to look for when you’re in a yarn shop?

Happy Wednesday!

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The goods

My Rhinebeck shopping this time around was fairly precise. I made a list going in, and stuck to it, and then stopped shopping and browsed and chatted and ate food the rest of the time. All good too, of course! I often get taken in by the pretty things and buy one or two skeins (especially the sock yarn, which is so beautiful and tempting), and then regret not saving more of my budget for a really great amount of sweater yarn.

Oct19-RhinebeckMug

In addition to 2 more Signature circulars, a book and a hug from Stephanie, and a really great mug from Jennie the Potter (for which I have to thank fellow Rhinebecker Abbie, who stood in line for me and may have snagged one of the very last mugs there, I did indeed get some lovely yarn. (The mug is my 2nd from her, and I can see why everyone mobs her booth – they are just wonderful for a cuppa or a latte at home, and have such pleasing hand-painted designs.)

I’ve gotten a few lovely skeins of sock yarn from Miss Babs before, and at Sock Summit this past summer I really strongly considered their worsted weight yarns but didn’t have room. This time, I made a beeline for the display of Yowza Whatta Skeins, and brought home 3 in a lovely brownish grey colour called “Field Mouse.” It’s about 1600 yds altogether, and I think it might be destined for the cardigan sister pattern to Royale, which I’ve been wanting to work on for the last year.

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I also brought home 2 more giant bumps of yarn from Briar Rose, in this bulky and flaming red shade of Abundance. I think it’s going to be something big and cozy and cabley.

Oct19-RhinebeckYarn1

It’s a big world of yarn out there, and I love what I have access to through the yarn shops and dyers here at home, but at Rhinebeck there is always the thrill of getting to see a different selection of indie dyers and craftspeople, and it is wonderful that so many of us can benefit from this big yarn world in so many different ways.

In conclusion, yarn is awesome.
What yarn are you waiting to pull out of your stash – new or old?

Happy knitting today!

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Colour toolboxes

Thank you all so much for the lovely feedback on my Firefly socks in my last post – it is always so reassuring to have knitter-geek solidarity. It’s been a sock-a-riffic summer so far, and still with a bit more summer time to go!

Another one of my ongoing projects this summer has been to spend time thinking about colour. I’m planning some colour-work designs in the fall and winter ahead, and in addition to sharpening my fair isle skills have been pondering colour theory and ways to practice colour knowledge in a compatible fashion with knitting. As much as has been written on colour theory, most of it assumes your medium is something mix-able, like paint or pastels, and I’ve been thinking about how to work through various ideas and colour brainstorming in yarn form. It’s also been neat to think through more ways of teaching this kind of thing, should future such opportunities come up.

Aug14-Crayons1

One suggestion I got from another instructor at the Haliburton Arts School in July (herself a painter) was to go and get the full 96 pack of Crayola crayons – it has a wider variety of hues than your average box of pencil crayons, and at a much friendlier price than most formal art supplies. It makes for easy graphing or colour-testing to check out colour combinations, when you want options for, say, magenta and periwinkle instead of just pink and blue. And the boxes still come with sharpeners inside! Ah, childhood memories.

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I do love that they wrap the crayons with the spectrum in mind – you can tell at a glance which colours belong to the blues or the violets, right when you’ve picked them up. I also find it interesting that the number of reds and violets, as well as blues and greens, far out-number the other shades. I suppose these must be the shades that kids reach for most often?

But then, there is still the question of the yarns themselves.

Aug15-PaletteColours

Inspired by a photo circulating on Pinterest which displayed embroidery floss on clothes-pin bobbins, I decided to create my own yarn “paintbox” with my colour-work yarn (here, Knit Picks Palette). I have so many colours to choose from if I were to start making selections for a design that it gets unwieldy to pull out all the yarn at once (those two big tubs are starting to get heavy…and overstuffed…oh yes, let’s definitely get some of that yarn into garment form!), but this way I can have them all in a box at a glance, and sort all the shades according to their hue.

It is the awesomest. If I want to look at, say, all the blue-greens, there they are! I think pretty soon my (smaller) Cascade 220 stash is going to get the same treatment.

Aug15-Palette2

Ah, colour. So much fun, so little time.

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Thank goodness for yarn

You know, the more I knit the more I am grateful to be a knitter in the spring. It has nothing to do with needing to produce a bunch of warm garments (although given weather reports for the near future around southern Ontario I don’t think we’ll be giving up the sweaters or gloves any time soon). In the fall transition, it is definitely about knitting the stuff. You get the whiff of chill in the air and suddenly you find yourself casting on five sweaters. No, for me in spring it’s mostly about the yarn. I get to carve out a half hour in the morning, or an hour or two in the evening, or whenever it is the knitting suits me, and spend that time staring at a colour that in no way resembles greying half-melted snowbanks, and the thought that non-knitters don’t get to do this makes me wonder how they survive waiting for spring.

Mar8-Pleats1

The Dusseldorf Aran, while slightly sidelined, is coming along gradually, and the bright magenta is helping. It’ll be a little while yet before that colour shows up in nature anywhere around here. (And oh yeah? Pleats. Pleats, man. This sweater has pleated cuffs. It’s the first time I’ve gotten the chance to do pleats on anything knitted, and I dig it. Bit of folding here, bit of DPN knit-3-stitches-at-once action there, and then you have pleats.)

Mar6-RibbedSocksSTR

My project of adding a few more pairs of socks to the sock drawer is also coming along well, and last weekend I finished up another pair of 3×1 ribbed socks (from my basic ribbed sock pattern, in this post), in another Socks That Rock mill end colourway. (I’ve got to start making more dents in my Sock Summit stash, for serious.) And the best part of finishing a pair of socks (well, aside from wearing them)? Now, I get to walk over to my stash, look at all the yarn in all the colours, and pick out a new skein to knit with.

Mar11-SockStash

Yarn pretty much rules. I hope you’ve got some waiting for you today! Have an awesome weekend.

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Rhinebeck, the Stash-en-ing

Every year there are knitters who manage to go to Rhinebeck and not buy anything. I have no idea how they manage this. Clearly, they are stronger/wiser/more powerful than me, because I always return with an armload of yarn. This year, though, I made an effort to be a bit more mindful of what I was buying – that I’d rather have a few things I was happy with than many many smaller portions of things I didn’t know what to do with. Truthfully, I never can tell how long any of my acquisitions will sit in the stash, but I can at least try to acquire things that will stand me in good stead when I am suddenly hit with a project idea.

One of my first stops, therefore, was the Briar Rose booth. I have never managed to get to them in the first half of the day (Saturday) before, and it makes a huge difference in the selection that is there. I knew I wanted to get a sweater quantity of something, and lo and behold I came out with two of their generous skeins of Abundance, a heavy worsted/Aran ish weight, in a smokey grey-purple shade. One skein is a bit more purple than the other, so whatever I make with it, I’ll be sure to alternate skeins.

Oct21-RhinebeckStash2

On Sunday I returned to the Green Mountain Spinnery, having weighed the decision for a day, and also snagged a sweater’s worth of yarn from them – their wooly worsted 2-ply, appropriately named ‘Wonderfully Wooly’, in a nice dark cranberry shade of red. This is going to be something cabled, for sure, though who knows what and when ;)

Oct21-RhinebeckStash1

Although I wasn’t (really for sure I wasn’t) going to get any spinning fibre, so long has my spinning wheel been neglected these few months, I couldn’t help picking up a bit over at Into the Whirled. Their colours are just so lovely. And peeking out from under there are 2 skeins of wool/silk blend from Brooks Farm, for perhaps something in a hat and mittens set? We shall see.

Oct21-RhinebeckStash3

And finally, I have something for you, dear readers – a single fine skein of Holiday Yarns flock sock, in ‘Graple’, a nice purple colour. For a chance to be the happy recipient of this skein, just leave a comment on this post some time between now and Saturday morning (Toronto time), telling me about a knitting gathering you’ve been to and enjoyed (of any size) and I’ll draw a winner’s name at random. A little piece of Rhinebeck from me to you!

Oct21-RhinebeckStash4

I hope your Thursday has some knitting in it today! Until next time.

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Knitter’s Frolic

Well, the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic was this past weekend, and what can I say, it was a good time. I went down on Saturday with my mom and my friend Rebecca who came to visit this weekend from the wilds of NYC. Needless to say, she is going home with a bit of Canadian yarn, and we thank her for single-handedly attempting to support the southern Ontario-and-environs yarn related economy. Someone has to do it.

May8-Frolic-Rebecca

Not that I didn’t do a bit of damage myself, mind you. These goodies from left to right came from Van Der Rock Yarns, Indigodragonfly, Tanis Fiber Arts, and some Madelinetosh sock which is now happily being carried by the Naked Sheep. I also snagged a couple more skeins of semi-solid sock yarn from the Sweet Sheep, because I’m trying to expand my semi-solid sock yarn stash. For some reason whenever I go to look for some I don’t seem to have as much as I would like.

May8-FrolicYarn

May8-Frolic-PurplePurl

May8-Frolic-VDR1

It was a pretty hopping day, that’s for sure. In previous years I seem to recall having just a titch more elbow room, but I think we may have finally gotten as many knitters as possible into that space. There was a wonderful group of vendors there, and it never fails to impress me that there can be so many people dyeing yarn and nobody’s looks exactly the same as anybody else’s. Pretty cool, man.

May8-Frolic-Tanis1

May8-Frolic-NakedSheep

Thanks for the Saturday, Toronto! Let’s do it again some time.

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A Brief Note

Dear Self

You are currently finishing up three knitting designs, have deadlines to meet, your poor benighted done-except-for-one-sleeve Portland pullover is already guilting the crap out of you from the corner you stuffed it in back at the end of February, you have a perfectly serviceable 3/4 finished pair of ribbed socks waiting on standby in your handbag, and the Frolic, with all its attendant yarn-purchasing opportunities and startitis fuel, is coming up soon.

So if you could PLEASE STOP RIFLING THROUGH THE STASH AND PLANNING OUT LACE SHAWL PROJECTS, THAT WOULD BE SUPER AWESOME.

Apr28-ShawlContemplation

Thanks ever so much.

Love from, the rational side of your brain.

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The Knitter’s To-Do List

Oddly enough, it does make me feel a smidgeon more accomplished, to have gone from something like this:

March17-YarnToDoList1

…to this:

March17-YarnToDoList2

Yarn, you and me have got a lot of work to do. One at a time, there’s room for all of you on my needles.

It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it. Game on.

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Knitting Detritus

A while back – I mean, four or five years ago – I remember reading about how if you save all of your yarn labels you could do super fun things with them like collages or decoupaged dress forms or various paper crafts. And I like stuff, and I like saving things that could potentially be useful (hello, yarn stash, nice to see you), so I just started shoving my yarn labels into a bag whenever I started a new project.

Some times, this comes in darned useful. If you are ever unsure of exactly how many yards were in the skein, or which dye-lot you used, or if that was the Cascade 220 blueish heather or somebody else’s blueish heather, or if you’ve got 34g leftover, how many grams did you use up from the original ball of how many grams did that weigh again?

But years later, I can see that what I have ended up with is, quite simply, a pile of yarn labels.

YarnLabels

I can’t help thinking as though this is the moment when a Yarn Archivist should spring out from the next room and say “Aha! This is what it all means.” I can tell the yarns I have used most often, and also which yarns I only used once or twice and then never went back to.

Also, just looking at some of the labels themselves is sort of interesting. Let me tell you, yarn dyers – if you’ve got a label that can stand out in a pile like this, then you’re probably doing something right. Colours, shapes, images, logos, paper quality…they’re not all the same. Sort of neat to look at, in a really geeky way.

YarnLabels2

I don’t think I want to do any decoupage any time soon. But still…NOW what do I do with them?

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More or Less

Thanks to you fine folks, it looks as though I am going to be sending well over $350 to the even finer folks at Doctors Without Borders. Just as a reminder, 100% of cash from my pattern sales from now until January 30th will go into a donation to MSF/DWB. So that means you get more patterns to knit, I get the fun of knowing that more people are knitting my patterns, and MSF/DWB get a pile of money. I call that a win-win-win.

It is odd, at the same time that harsh reality is so confrontingly harsh in particular parts of the world right now, to be a person contemplating the parts of her own life with so much abundance. Last weekend I took a plunge into better stash organization and did a long-awaited IKEA trek to acquire new shelves for just this such purpose.

Jan10-YarnCave3

Dudes, I have a lot of yarn. Like, a lot. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my yarn room/office now looks a lot like my own personal yarn shop? It is at the very least, all yarn that I like, and it’s taken several years to get to the stash collection that I have. My stash and me, we’re gonna do fun things.

Jan10-YarnCave2

As, I suppose, many people do from time to time, I have plenty of moments when I wish parts of my life were different. But I do have a lot of yarn, and it is yarn that I like, and it holds creative possibility. And in some ways that is a lot more than I could have.

So, I have decided to be okay with the fact that I have yarn. If it’s the one part of my life where there is too much of a good thing…I can be good with that.

And when I get home I am totally going to give it a hug.

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