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.

 

A Year of Making

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 24

Have you ever made your own pattern or dyed your own yarn? How did it turn out?

About three years ago I started to get bored with making other people’s patterns. I think it came about from having mostly weird sized yarn and not very much money to buy more. I designed a few mitten patterns for holiday gifts and just kind of whipped them together. Over the next few years I started making a few socks and baby sweaters just based on gauge and measurement standards.daisy_sock_medium2 Nothing too fancy, just the basics. Then in the summer of 2016 I made these Daisy Socks and the rest, as they say, was history.

I got a lot of positive feedback on instagram and tumblr so I figured why not write up a pattern for them, how hard could it be? I already had the charts and the construction really isn’t that difficult to explain. I even found someone who wanted to test knit them (it only took her like five months to get around to finishing). I didn’t publish this pattern yet because I was hoping my test knitter would finish knitting, but in the mean time I was already working on another pattern. I ended up publishing two different patterns that October and decided to just go for it and publish the daisy socks without the test knitter in November.

It’s been about a year since I started and I now have 13 patterns available on Ravelry. I honestly can hardly believe it- people I don’t even know making things that came directly out of my jumbled brain garbage. There are definitely aspects I need to improve on this year as I take designing into a more and more professional realm, but I’m learning things with each pattern and always working to get better.

Once I make it through the holiday knitting rush I’ll have time and hopefully be bored enough of vanilla-ass socks to start designing patterns for next year. I also have every intention of maybe getting an etsy shop up and running. Lucky for you guys, you’ll probably be the first to know all the new things.

 

Dream Projects vs. Reality Projects

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 23

If you had the supplies (and patience) for it, what project would you start today?

This one! This one! This one! I’ve definitely talked about this pattern in a POST before but it’s Persian Dreams by Jenise Hope. It’s been in my queue for a while. It seems like such an extreme project to take on but it’s so stinking beautiful and would be so fun for me to knit. Picking a color-way is probably the biggest obstacle to starting this project. I love how fun the original is (image on the right) but the more monochromatic ones suit my style and taste a little better and would probably get more use. I also think the budget for this project would run rather high – If I’m going to put this much effort into something like this I would like the yarn to be a rather high quality. I think wool obviously, but I would opt for super wash since having this thing felt up and shrink down would be a major disappointment. And then… there is my cat who would probably knead the final project into shreds.

502fa634-ed02-40f1-82b2-5fa0634d7b19But alas, it’s not time for starting fun new projects. It’s Thanksgiving here, which means I can no longer procrastinate on the gift knitting. I went and bought all the yarn I needed for my gift projects yesterday (except for K’s because he was with me and I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to make him… ). I ended up only needing to go to one store much to the relief of K. I started the first pair of socks yesterday evening and immediately remembered why I don’t like those variegated yarns – especially not for socks. As you can kind of see in the picture, I had to pull out yards and yards from either end of the skeins in order to find the color repeat so I can make matching socks. I found one set so far and I’m not entirely convinced that they’ll stay matching. It kind of seems like this yarn is made by just dumping a bunch of colors into an industrial spinner and hoping for the best. It looks great and enticing in the skein – which is why I somehow keep buying them – and then they turn into a giant jumbley pain in the ass to knit up. But that’s how it goes – maybe the blue ones will be easier since there’s a little more contrast. Time for me to get off the computer and get to knitting.

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.

Woman Knits in the Wild

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 20

Do you knit in public? Was anyone offended/incredibly happy/curious that you were doing so?

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For how often I knit in public, this seems to be the only good image. My friend Mel caught me knitting in the wild. We were watching a bunch of our friends make fools of themselves playing a very intense game of beach frisbee one morning.

I take knitting with me wherever I know I’ll be sitting or bored. I’ve taken knitting to family gatherings. I used to take knitting for my 20 minute lunch break. I knit through a history through film class in college (not an unusual thing to do in art school, also see previous post).  I take knitting on planes and have never had trouble getting through security. I once knit an entire baby sweater on a train ride to visit my friend in Michigan. I knit on long car trips. I knit at coffeeshops if I need to be there for any amount of time. I knit in bars.

Most people don’t seem to have any sort of reaction when I’ve knit in public. I’m sure I’ve gotten weird looks but I’ve never noticed since I was in my own little knitting world, which is kind of the point isn’t it? Occasionally someone will ask me what I’m making but usually don’t linger for a chat. This past summer while at my favorite traveling beer garden I was knitting and chatting and drinking my beer like any normal 20-something. The sky ripped open and it started pouring. We weren’t finished drinking so we made our way to the little shelter where the polka band was playing. In the true beer garden spirit, everyone who stayed crammed onto the few tables and started chatting with strangers *gasp*. I kept knitting because I was in a groove. An older lady asked me about the socks I was working on and then talked to my mother about how her mother used to crochet or something (beer garden memories tend to be a little fuzzy) but then left me alone. It’s been my experience that most older people who see me knitting will talk to my mom (if I’m with her) instead of me about knitting or crocheting. For the record she hasn’t made anything with yarn since the 70’s and likes talking to strangers about as much as I do.

While it’s much easier to dick around on my phone for those ‘sitting and waiting’ times, I just find knitting to be a more relaxing and productive use of my time. I don’t think it’s any different than picking up a magazine or bringing a book. It’s definitely not as common anymore but that shouldn’t stop anyone!

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!

Lonely yarn seeking project

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 13

Do you have yarn that you love but can’t find a project for?

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My best friend gave me this yarn as a bridesmaid’s gift almost three years ago. I like the colors and I love how it feels, I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT. I’ve mentioned before, fancy yarns hold me up. I also have no idea what to do with variegated yarns. For someone who primarily does colorwork I don’t like not being in control of wear the colors go. I’m afraid of color pooling or weird awkward stripes. I don’t want to waste this yarn on something I’ll never wear or just give away to someone because I didn’t like how it ended up. Even though it’s sock yarn it feels too precious for just socks. I’ve considered buying a another skein or two of a solid color and doing some colorwork with it, but nothing ever jumps out at me when I look online. If you’ve got the perfect pattern for this yarn leave me a comment and let me know!

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.

#FridayFavorites

Knitting Blog Challenge Day 10

Do you have a favorite pattern or designer?

This prompt conveniently lands on a Friday, so I think I’ll do a little Friday Favorites round up of a few of my favorite patterns I’ve personally knit.

Pine Bough Cowl by: Dianna Walla

I made this a few years ago (mine is the image on the right) It took almost ten skeins of yarn but was really fun to knit. The pattern was easy to memorize and it had never occurred to me before this to knit a scarf in a tube so that all the WS would be hidden away. I don’t know how “in” infinity scarves are anymore but it’s something I will continue to wear regardless.

Water For Elephants by: Yvette Noel

I’ve been a big fan of elephants for a while now and when I saw these socks I knew I had to make them. I believe these were the first pair of colorwork socks I’d ever made and if I’m being honest, probably spurred my obsession with making them. I had some cones of camel weaving yarn in my stash so I wound a big skein and dyed it black to have a contrasting color. I didn’t really check my gauge with these and they unfortunately are too small for my giant ass feet. But lucky enough for my mom, they fit her just fine. Less lucky for her – she has to hand wash them.

Dinosaur Jr. by: Katie Boyette

I’ve made this little cutie twice now. The first time was a gift for my best friend and her soon to be born little guy. It was so fun to see him take shape while I was knitting. He was so cute in fact that another friend of mine asked me to make one for his niece’s birthday. I added the purple foot pads and button eyes the second time around. I might even make this a third time because damnit it’s so cute I want one.

Salt by: Sylvia McFadden

The second I saw this pattern on Instagram I went and bought it on Ravelry. I knit this thing obsessively. The stitch pattern is so addicting the whole thing just unfurled from my needles. I couldn’t wait for winter to get here so I could wear this shawl. Mine came out a bit smaller than the pattern indicates but that’s hardly a shock considering how tightly I knit. I was so excited about this pattern that I even splurged on some Wool of the Andes yarn from Knit Picks. It’s definitely already one of my go too scarves this winter.