A Stitch in Time, Saves Nine

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 29 & 30

What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?

I’m lumping these two together and then the list is finished! I am mcglarin on Ravelry, where you can creep on all of my projects. This is actually a good spot to see if there’s an upcoming pattern I’m designing because I use the project page to keep track of a lot of info. If you’re interested in the patterns I’ve designed and have available for purchase I am Kristen McLaren Designs on Ravelry as well.

Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?

There’s so much stuff to learn when it comes to knitting. There’s about 10 different ways to accomplish the same thing and what you do mostly depends on who you learned it from. I’m not going to go into technical things right here, I’ll save them for a future blog post maybe, but here’s a few things I’ve learned in my years of knitting:

WRITE IT DOWN 

I can’t even tell you how many times I wish I kept better notes about something. I always assume I’m going to remember exactly what I’ve done. Part of my brain knows I won’t which is precisely why I knit most things two-at-a-time because at least they’ll match even if the next pair won’t. I’m going to work on getting better at this though because it tends to make more work for me when I’m trying to publish a pattern later and I can’t remember which way I started the heel or something.

STAY ORGANIZED

This kind of goes along with writing everything down but it more applies to yarn. I recently re-balled, weighed out, and bagged up most of my knitting stash. Everything is labeled now and protected from any hungry moth creatures. I’ve also tried to be diligent about adding my new yarn to the stash page on Ravelry and also adding yardage and yarn info to projects so that it automatically updates my stash page (SO HELPFUL). This way I know pretty much exactly what I have and if I’m out shopping I can easily pick up more of something or I can remember which yarns I really didn’t like working with and to find something different for next time.

DON’T SKIP THE SWATCH

This is something I begrudgingly started doing after too many projects ended up being a let down due to size. It seems like such a bother when you want to jump right into a project but as they say ” A stitch in time saves nine.” Not only is swatching just good for checking that your gauge is correct, it’s also good to practice the stitch pattern and to check that you like the drape or feel of the fabric it makes. Knitting those four inches seems like such a pain, but it’s a lot less painful than ripping out half a sweater that you already know isn’t going to fit.

EMBRACE THE FROG

I am a notorious ripper-outer. If I don’t like how something is going I will rip that shit out. Part of this is perfectionism but why wouldn’t I want something I made to be perfect? I’ve ripped out entire projects in front of other people and the sheer horror in their eyes brings me a secret joy. Basically my philosophy on the subject is: if I know I’m not going to like it why would I finish it? Spending 40 hours making something you’re not going to wear is way worse, in my opinion, than frogging a project half way through and then spending 60 or 80 hours re-making it knowing you’re going to love it.

Yarn, Yarn, and more Yarn

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 27

How do you acquire most of yarn? Online retailers, local yarn shops, swaps, or large chain craft stores? What’s your favorite?

IMG_0446I spent a solid twenty minutes digging up this photo. This is my weaving stash in the summer of 2014.. I started collecting yarn out of the yarn closet at school. There was a lot of junky yarn in that closet, most of it was donated by old ladies or mill companies sending us mill ends or discontinued items. I spent quite a bit of time in that closet going through all the yarn and picking out the good stuff. I sort of had a knack for it.

Since then I’ve mostly gotten my yarn from box stores. It’s what’s available, it’s what’s affordable, and I’ve been able to make a lot of it work. I like supporting LYS or indie dyers but its just not financially sustainable considering how much I knit. If I’m in a good rhythm I can usually finish most projects in a weeks time. I’ve ordered some yarn from online retailers but I really do like to be able to touch everything and match up the colors in person before I buy it. For more of my thoughts on yarn check out this post from a few weeks ago.

I do miss dying my own yarn. I’ve been toying with the idea of finding a sock yarn I can purchase in bulk and dying my own skeins. I don’t have any wool dyes left (besides the stash of vegetable matter clogging up my mother’s freezer) and I would need to buy a big kettle designated as a dye pot, but otherwise it’s sounding like a better and better idea. The ability to make any color I want is a skill I sorely miss taking advantage of.

 

Lacking Motivation

de80c55b-4e01-411b-88c8-473fcaf1977fMy sleep schedule has bee absolute garbage for like two weeks now. I’ve been getting like four hours at a time and I’ve just been falling asleep at random times and not being able to wake up. It’s making motivation to do anything rather difficult, but here’s a little WIP for Wednesday (it is Wednesday, right?) I spent all of Monday trying to stay awake and managed to knit all the way to the heels on a set of socks. My needle is just a smidge to small for two at a time mens socks, so it’s taking a little extra hand power and after about 20 hours of pretty much straight knitting my hands are not pleased.

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 25

Do you have a knitting book or a place where you keep patterns, ideas, size measurements? Post a picture of it!

I really should have a knitting book. I have a book for just about everything else. I have a quilting book, I’ve been keeping a bullet journal, and I have one for notes for my tech knitting course, but not one single place to keep knitting things. It would probably make my life a lot easier. I mostly just have hundreds of random sticky notes all over the place. Nothing is labeled, they’s usually only half of the information I could want on them and I lose them constantly. It’s a pretty dumb system for someone who writes knitting patterns but so far it seems to work. I’m pretty good at reading my own knitting and have a weird sensory memory when it comes to patterns. I can pretty much see in my brain what I’ve done which helps when writing things out later. It would however make things much simpler to write everything down as I’m actually doing it. Maybe I’ll get a new book in January and start keeping everything in the same place…

The No Knit List

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 22

Have you ever stricken someone off your to-knit-for list because they didn’t appreciate/take care of your last knitted gift to them?

I’ve definitely learned my lesson knitting for lots of people over the years. I have minimized my list dramatically mostly due to the stress of knitting for like ten people. It’s too much for my hands and it’s a lot of time to not be designing new patterns for my shop. The year I made socks for a bunch of my friends a lot of them seemed uncomfortable to be getting socks and a few didn’t even thank me. I’ve had a few people ask me to knit something for them “and they’ll even pay me” but balked when I told them a ballpark range of how much their item would actually cost or they simply never paid me. That’s the fastest way to the no knit list. I’ve limited my list to mostly family at this point. They understand how much labor a hand knit item takes and I know they’ll appreciate it. I actually went to buy my Christmas gift yarn haul this morning so now I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’ve got five items to whip out before the holidays.

Holiday Knitting Rant

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 21

Do you knit gifts for friends and family for the holidays or birthdays?

I used to do this a lot more than I do now. One year I think I made like ten things as gifts and I don’t think I bothered to start until at least Thanksgiving. I’ve cut down a bunch in the past years for various reason’s that I’ll probably get more into tomorrow, but mainly it ends up being so stressful that it takes the fun out of it. There are certain people that I’ll happily knit gifts for. I know they’re going to appreciate them and I know that they’re going to take care of whatever I give them.

I knit a few things for my best friend when she announced she was pregnant. I love making baby items – they’re so fast and they’re just so stinking cute. Knitting baby items is basically like making sample sizes. I can experiment with new techniques or make dumb adorable stitch patterns with a lot less time and a lot less yarn. She loved the little things I gave her, and sent me pictures of her little guy wearing them which is basically the greatest thank you I could ask for. She then told me that anything else I make for them she’s insisting on paying for. At first I was a little hurt by this but she explained to me that what I make is worth a lot more than I give myself credit for. This has kind of been simmering in the back of my head for the past year or so. Yes, knitting is my hobby, but it’s also my passion and I’ve worked really hard to become very good at it. It goes back to discussions my studio had over and over again about the value of “art” and “craft” practices and how they’re both perceived by people in the art world and everyone else. I’ve always felt like the craft world is highly undervalued by most people and I know there’s conversations all over the internet that basically boil down to people expecting crafters to make things for free or for material costs – like it’s something we’re going to do anyways so we should be overjoyed that someone is willing to buy us yarn.

Sorry for ranting but this is where my brain is at as the looming holiday deadline approaches and I internally debate what and for whom I should be knitting. I know most of my readers are knitters and crocheters and crafters in general, what are your thoughts on all this? Do you knit for everyone or just a select few?

English vs. Continental

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 18

Do you knit English or Continental?

I had to look up the differences to be sure of my answer for this one. I always get them mixed up. The short answer is that I knit English style, and the long answer is that I knit both ways.

When I first learned I was holding the yarn in my right and dominant hand. I don’t know if this was a conscious decision or it’s just what I was seeing in youtube videos. That’s the way that made sense to me, although they say continental is easier for crocheters to learn.

When I started stranded knitting I was throwing both yarns with my right hand and spent a lot of time detangling my yarn. The strands would twist every time I switched colors and after a few rows it was a giant mess. This method also took a lot longer and my tension was not very good. I don’t remember if someone told me or I saw a suggestion online, but I started holding one of my strands in my left hand and one of my strands in my right hand. It made knitting go a lot faster and my fabric ended up looking much neater. I have since learned that holding the background color strand in your dominant hand and the pattern color in your non-dominant hand makes colorwork patterns really pop. The slight difference in tension means that the pattern stitches are a little looser making the background recede.

In my quick google search today, I learned that a lot of people say continental is better for people with repetitive stress pains from knitting since picking the yarn requires slightly less movement. It takes me a lot longer to knit continental so I usually give up pretty quickly but it might be worth forcing myself to work a whole project that way and see if my joints feel better.

As a side note, I think it’s super interesting that there’s a regional based difference. I had a roommate who learned to knit continental from her mother. Her mother was from Germany where the continental style seems to originate. It would be an interesting history lesson to see which method people use – especially if they’ve learned from a family member. Which way do you use?

Care of Magical Knitted Creatures

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 17

Have you ever had a project that you loved become ruined? What’s the story behind it?

As far as I know, I’ve been pretty fortunate with my finished objects. I’ve found a few moth holes over the years in things I’m not crazy about, and that was partially due to neglect. I would be able to mend those spots pretty easily if I needed/wanted to. I’ve snagged a few scarves on rings and earrings or zippers but those are also easy fixes.

There’s a few reasons I don’t have a lot of damaged items but it mostly boils down to care and material choice. Things that get a lot of use/washes I tend to make with durable and washable yarns. I throw my hand knit socks in the washing machine with the rest of my laundry. If I think of it I might wash them in cold with my shirts, but I usually forget and they go in the hot load. Things like scarves, hats, mittens, and sweaters I only wash as needed. These I usually hand wash, squeeze them out with a towel and then re-block to dry.

Items I’ve made as gifts I usually plan out material choices to suit the recipient. Baby clothes or toys MUST be machine washable. I don’t like to make more laundry for mamas- who has time to hand wash something that’s probably getting puked or pooped on? Most yarn advertised for baby items are machine washable to start so that makes it easy. I like to use sock yarn for baby sweaters – it’s a little more work knitting but it’s hardly ever scratchy and there’s usually better color selection than “baby yarn” which I usually only see in pastels. I’ve only gifted a few 100% wool items and they’ve come with strict washing instructions, or in my sister’s case I’ve offered to wash it for her when she needs (and I’m not sure the sweater I made her has ever been washed…).

Hopefully my luck continues because I would be pretty devastated if one of my favorites got ruined… but then again, that’s a pretty good excuse to buy more yarn and knit it again!

No Pain, No Gain

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 16

Have you ever had a knitting related injury?

Hoooooo boy have I ever. I have been absolutely plagued by hand and wrist problems since I started knitting. When it first started happening in 2011 I thought it was Rheumatoid Arthritis. I went to see specialists and they basically told me I was too young for that kind of problem, gave me ibuprofen and told me to stop using my hands. This wasn’t really an option for several reasons – namely I was in school for a degree in textiles and as a general rule, you need to use your hands to make them. I’ve since given up on doctors.

The worst it’s ever been was 2013/2014. I was working wayyyy too intensely. I was in constant pain, I was having a really hard time doing simple tasks like buttoning shirts or holding a toothbrush. I would get shooting pain up to my elbows if I turned my wrist a certain way. I could no longer hold a pen to write more than a few words- which makes taking notes fairly difficult when a lot of professors didn’t want computers in their classrooms. My hands were also randomly spasming and I would drop whatever I was holding- which was often at the coffee shop I worked at- let’s just say my shoes smelled permanently like PSL.

I try to be ergonomic as possible when I’m working but I also tend to knit for long periods of time without very many breaks. Things aren’t nearly as bad as they were but every so often it hurts too bad to knit and I try and take a break for a few days. I’ve learned to deal with it and have found that if I knit at least a little bit every day, especially when I just wake up, my hands tend to be less stiff and hurt a little less over all.

It’s not hoarding if it’s organized, right?

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 12

Where do you keep your stash? Post pictures!

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I had every intention of cleaning up my studio and making it look pinterest worthy by now. But I didn’t. I’d love to be able to beautifully display my stash on beautiful shelves, maybe one day; but for now I’ve got everything bagged up and weighed out and labeled with sticky notes. I’m kind of terrified of getting infested with moths – I found a few holes in a baby sweater I never put buttons on and after that I rewound a bunch of skeins, washed a few that were especially dusty and bagged everything separately incase I missed something it at least won’t contaminate all of my yarn. I’ve also got three big bins in my parent’s basement that I’ll move once I have space for my loom.

To make up for the sterility, I went through and tried to digitally organize my stash. I’ve added photo’s to most of my stash on Ravelry and have been trying to keep the yardage updated the best I can. I’ve got a lot of half used up skeins and it’s hard to find projects I like for using it all up. I do like that I can search through all my yarn without making a giant mess. And if I’m out buying yarn and need to see if I already have some/have enough I can pull out my phone and look it up.

Knitting Inspiration: Gunta Stölzl

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 11

Do you have a “Knitter Hero” or someone that is just way too awesome for their own good? Do share!

Since knitting and other ‘domestic arts’ have long been seen as ‘less than’ within the arts communities and therefor poorly documented throughout history I’ve chosen one of my favorite textile artists from history. There’s more to this rant and maybe someday I’ll really get into it. But for today I just have some of my favorite images of Bauhaus Weaving Master Gunta Stölzl’s work.

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