Friday, March 30, 2012

Controlling your yarn stash (while buying more yarn)

If you love working with yarn, chances are you have a little more of it than you need at this exact moment in time.

Maybe you're just finishing up a project and you've already set up what you need for your next one.  Maybe you haven't set up exactly... but have enough set by to do projects for the next ten years.

Whatever your situation, I am here to help you go on buying more yarn than your circumstances call for.

Adjusting Your Accumulation Strategy

Step One: Assessment

What's in your stash, anyway?  Where did it come from?  Why is it in your stash at all?

In my experience, how yarn arrives in the stash can fall into one of three categories.


This is a big one for me.  My pulse doesn't quicken for many factory-produced yarns even though I do love the idea of consistent dye lots; I am all about independent artists who dye their own yarn, and when I get attached to an artist I know I can trust for soft, warm fibers and colours that don't run, I want to support his or her efforts.

recent purchase from Twisted Fiber Art submitted as evidence

I feel the same way about local yarn stores - there are some I don't get excited about, and others I'll shop in specifically because I love what they do and want to support their effort to go on doing it.  Which means that if I go to that sort of LYS, or to a knitters' market where my favourite dyers are showing their yarns, I am going to buy something whether I need it or not.


We all have go-to yarns we use all the time, and we want to have them handy because you can't always run out to the store when you've just got to cast on those socks or that sweater.  If you know you're going to use it, why not stock up when you're near it, or ordering something else from the same online shop? 


I bet this is the worst thing for building up crazy amounts of stash.  Think about it: if you love making baby blankets in fingering weight yarn, you can choose two $30 skeins of hand-dyed superwash wool or two $5 skeins of acrylic on sale.  For a lot of people, and for a baby whose parents are going to have to wash that blanket a LOT over the next ten years (because if you do it right, that baby will love sleeping under it well past the day when his/her feet pop out the other end) it's acrylic all the way.  But... well, you know if you do this you'll have to knit another baby blanket for a mutual friend's baby, and isn't it better to stock up now?  I mean, $5 a ball?  please.

Except that following that line of thought, even if you only spend half what you would on the superwash wool you are going to come home with three times as much yarn as you needed.  You will have forgotten that the square footage of your home has value too, and you're using up some of with those extra four balls.  After a few more shopping episodes like this, you're going to have a tub of low-priced yarn you're sure you'll use sometime - all taking up real estate you could be using for something else.

(like fabric stash, but that's another story for a different blog.  stay tuned.)

Step Two: Categorization

Knowing what brought stash into your house gives you some power over the yarn that's had such power over you.  Maybe not enough power to get rid of any, but some nonetheless.  And you start by categorizing where that yarn sits today.

Love but won't use

I can look at certain yarns in my stash and say fine, I've loved this yarn, and I've made some things with it, and I feel loyalty to its maker, but I know I don't want to knit - at least, not with it - any more of the kinds of things it's intended for.

Don't love but sometimes use

Other yarns, I'll look at and say I can't believe I bought this whole giant ball of yarn for one tiny toy and now I'm stuck with it sitting here in case I ever need more of it, so I can justify having spent money on it in the first place.

Do love, will use

Self-explanatory.  If you are remotely like me, most of your stash will end up in this bucket.

Might use... for something else

Welcome to the abyss of spinning and weaving, a subject for another day.  Just be aware that both of the first two categories may linger in your stash because of this last one.

Step Three: Yarn Domination

Now it's time to exert power over your stash.  You're going to -

are you sitting down?

- look at how much knitting time is sitting in there.

Oh yes.

(you thought I was going to say 'Fill a bag to give away', didn't you.  ha! this is me you're reading, so relax.)

Do you know, it takes me at least a month to knit a pair of fingering weight socks, usually two? That's because I'm knitting other stuff at the same time.  If I did nothing but the socks, and they weren't too patterned, and nothing too dramatic happened around me (which, given the last few years, would probably mean that hell inexplicably froze over), I could pull off a sock in a little less than a week.

So let's say I could knit through two skeins of sock yarn in a month.  How much sock yarn is in my stash?  According to my records in Ravelry at the time I first started writing this, aka before I bought a lot more yarn while knitting a very little further, about 12 skeins  - not counting the ones I could use for shawls or the ones I forgot to load into Ravelry in the first place.

I am guessing that if I've got enough to knit nothing but socks for between three and six months (GAH), then I clearly don't need to buy any more sock yarn till that situation changes a lot.

(disclaimer: this fact didn't stop me from buying more sock yarn from a beloved hand-dye artist because it was limited edition and on sale.)

(seriously: you'd do the same, right?)

Your turn.  Break down your stash by weight and see how many knit-hours are invested in each category.  Try not to panic.

Step Four: Resuming Yarn Accumulation

This is where you get to justify buying more yarn.  Here is how:

Consider what's on your knitting horizon for the foreseeable future, then break it down by yarn weight.  And look for gaps.

You can take one of two paths from here, depending on your immediate needs.  You can say WHOA do I have a lot of laceweight yarn, and way too many hat and mitt patterns in my queue, I'd better put those aside and knit some shawls or filmy vesty things.

That path will probably lead you to No More Yarn Shopping, at least for a while.

Or you can follow my lead.  When I did this exercise in an extremely informal way, it was clear that everything I want to knit is in sport weight and most of my unused yarn is fingering.  So guess what?

I did go yarn shopping.  I hope you can too!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter shawl? What Easter shawl?

I didn't realize that Easter is about 10 days away.  How did it manage to sneak up on me again?  And I still haven't made a start on any of the cute things I was thinking of.  But I have pulled my new shawl onto my lap to try to finish in time.  You know,  now that the warm room is cleared up enough to let me put the blocking mats back out.

That little grey stripe at the end took about two and a half hours to do.  I think it's all of six rows, which should give you a clue how many stitches are on the needle now.

A lot. 

My regret at not using cast-on advised right there in black and white in the pattern (too lazy to learn something new, how foolish of me) continues.

It's suuuuper rolly-overy, isn't it.  Might have to make that a design feature, yes?

Yesterday's Discoveries

- still love the Viola yarn

- kicking myself for still not having finished the first pair of summer sockette things before it gets hot again

- no matter how much I think I sit around and knit all day, I don't seem to actually knit during the day and I would like to know what is up with that?

- it is possible and even recommended to knit lace through such action film as "Under Siege"

- I may have no self-control when it comes to shopping, but I can draw the line at having more than three cookies baked for somebody else, go me!

- I have enough self-control when it comes to shopping not to buy safety pins just like the kind Elizabeth Zimmerman loved, if the shipping is going to be $28-30

- well, I did yesterday anyway; who knows what will happen tonight because hello, I love these ones too

- really it's this pattern that would kill the shipping budget, which doesn't make me want it less, isn't that annoying?

- LOOMS.  Lots of discoveries about Looms.  Sorry Kathi, I'll try not to say more.  (yet.)

Preview of Today's Discoveries

- Thinking of sewing new curtains?  Far from a fabric store and watching your budget?  Check out your local discount housewares store for tablecloths. 

- Wondering why I might go out and buy 11 giant tablecloths to remake into curtains?  Stay tuned.

- Heh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ten Things about Knitting (and other stuff)

So many pieces of information have been forcing themselves on my attention in the last few days, I decided against trying to pull them into a cohesive report and offer it all to you as a numbered list.

Some Things I Didn't Know Before I Found Them Out Just Now

1/ It takes a really long time to knit 365 stitches of lace, especially when your instinct tells you to K2tog, ssk and the pattern tells you to K2tog, K1, ssk and you have to keep ripping back.

2/ More especially if you factor in the time it took you to set up the row before the lace row so that you actually have 365 stitches and not, say, 362.  (took about an hour to realize I missed one yarn over while knitting, and two stitches while counting.)

3/ Super especially if you are trying to watch 'My 600 Pound Life', first because there is nothing else on and I mean NOTHING, and then because it turns out the heroine of the episodes I saw, Melissa Morris, is incredibly brave, insightful, and honest. Love that woman.  (apologies as needed for not being able to find anything more highbrow than the Daily Mail link.)

4/ It's so not a good plan to be inspired to stop eating so many cookies by the journey of a woman down from 945 pounds, the night before you've promised to bake cookies for a bake sale.

5/ It's this recipe.  You know, in case you were wondering.

6/ You can't bring sharp objects along to keep you company if you have been summoned to serve in the jury pool where I live. I am trying to come to grips with this and hope to come up with either a week's worth of must-read books or some other nonpointy option in the five or so weeks I have left before I have to show up at the courthouse.

7/  Crafty people are SO SUGGESTIBLE.  and I have proof that it's not just me.  Guess how many people made a run on prints of this scrumptious piece of art unveiled at Attic 24, I dare you.  My own guess is, A Lot.  (and I would be among them if I had an inch of wall space available for it.)

8/ I am pretty sure a crochet hook is okay to bring to a courthouse, as it's not sharp.  But even though I am a Voracious Reader of Attic 24, I still haven't been sufficiently motivated by crochet to figure out how to use one.

9/ Conversely - further to #7 - I am totally motivated by pictures of looms, as proven by my spending a lot of today's cookie-prep time researching same.  The Schacht Cricket is so teeny! I would have an inch of space for that, surely.  Especially if it meant reducing the many inches of space currently allocated to my yarn stash.  Or maybe a Kromski - either the Harp or the Fiddle?

10/ Or maybe the Schacht, because I am pretty sure it would be okay to bring a 5-pound loom into a courthouse.  After all, there's nothing on my summons letter discouraging the bringing of blunt objects.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rewards from not knitting: surprise edition

This is a boring post about cleaning, with a knitting-related surprise ending which may be too small to appeal to you.  Just so you're warned about the cleaning part so you can go read something else with your coffee, instead.

Mary's Story of Sadness and then Happiness

After yesterday's post of Sad, I floundered around a while about what to do to cheer up.  Eating the hot cross bun proved that coddling wasn't going to cut it so I decided to tackle the horriblest cleany-uppy job I could think of.  And in this house, that means...

* * cue suspenseful music * *

the warm room.

The Warm Room: a misnomer

The warm room is so-called because the furnace is in it, and all the pipes that feed the rest of the house radiate out from it.  It's pretty large, and technically 'finished,' though the floor is kinda ugly and definitely sloped toward an exposed drain.  Previous occupants used it as a living room (!)  I use it for hanging clothes up to dry, housing my workbench and tools, and storing everything that gets scooped up from the rest of the house during an emergency tidy.

You can just imagine what it gets to looking like.

Let alone how difficult it can be to move around in it.

Essentially it's a room you don't want to pass up when you're full of angst and nervous energy, because you can get more resolved in a fraction of the time it would take when you're all mellow and happy.  Sure enough, in about three hours, I had almost all the floor exposed again and a tremendous amount of stuff out to Goodwill, recycling, or the garbage.

(and yes, I did just do about 5 days of this job over Christmas.  I swear that room breeds mess... though in this case it turned out to be mostly empty cardboard boxes I was keeping for some reason.)

The Reward

Okay, here is the exciting part.  One of the biggest nagging issues in this room is the garbage bag o' wrapping paper.  Don't ask me why I keep my wrapping paper in a garbage bag - or rather kept, because yesterday I finally came to my senses and found an empty cardboard box that was tall, narrow, and  - empty.  whoo hooo!

I switched the big rolls and poster tubes over to the box, now neatly wedged into a corner where it can't fall over or drift generally, and then picked up the 8-year-old, torn garbage bag to collect scraps of paper for recycling, with a view to tossing the bag immediately afterward.

But I felt something when I was grabbing the paper, and I had to look closer.

Ta da!!!!

It's the Missing Sock! The one I lost over the Christmas break!  It must have fallen into the wrapping paper bag when I switched the light off upon leaving the room with an armful of clean, handknit socks.  Catch me being responsible about electricity use again... well, yes, but I've moved the wrapping paper storage now so that risk is gone.

The Conclusion

After discovering the sock I still had a mountain of empty boxes in the TV room (aka my office) so I sat and got a dozen paper cuts slicing them all up and putting them in recycling.  Then I got rid of all the other excesses and vacuumed and tidied away yarn and made the cushions pretty on the sofa and now I have a nice shiny knitting space la la la

The End.

ps it's totally cold enough to wear the socks today, but should I wash the one that was lost in the depths of a dusty bag?  I think yes, though perhaps without letting it out of my sight until it's safely back in its sock cubby.  I did knit backup socks after all.

pps after all the cleaning up and dressing of papercuts I worked on the alpaca socks that have been in my Bad Books for not working out the first time.  I seem to be rotating Bad Books projects right now instead of Exciting ones.

ppps happy Monday!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Disappointment, in stripes

I find it quite interesting that no matter how long it might take to count all of one's blessings, there is still room in the human heart for despair.

Even if you've memorized that thing about knowing what you can change and what you can't and having the wisdom to know the difference.

You know?  There are so many things over which we have no control, and it's important to accept that, but it's still SUPER frustrating when, in the midst of things you can't control, you pick up something you can, in theory, control, only to find

 you're not controlling it either.

I refer, of course, to the first half of my summer socks:

This is supposed to be an exercise in me controlling my personal climate to make up for the very long list of stuff I can't control at all.  Instead, it's just making me crazypants.  What you are looking at there is version three of the sock. Or do I mean 'four'?  Let's review:

1/ knit right through to the end of the toe at Trish's and then ignored for a day, because it was that obvious the closed-over part did its closing-over a lot too late for the shoes I'm making the socks for.

2/ ripped back in front of some TV so terrible it barely provided any of the distraction I was hoping for, then started again just a bit earlier than the previous closey-over part to make a longer closed area.

3/ knit right through to the end of the toe on a car trip, only to discover that I hadn't ripped back far enough the first time OR cast on the correct number of stitches for the close.

4/ ripped back in the car owing to my not having brought a long a second project less complicated than my lace shawl, which I'm now positively terrified to touch again.  (I mean, if I can't even get a sock right...)

Yep, I make that three.

Most of this sock has been pure grind, and not fun at all, with the sole exception of the part done on Trish's front porch, which has now disappeared.  The part, not the porch (as far as I know.)  And while it may seem that the toe of a sock is nothing, just a superquick swish of the needles, it actually appears to be taking me about an hour each time.  With no guarantee of it being right this time either.

Okay, enough whining:  the question is, how do I get past the despair?  I have considered several options:

1/ vacuum the house so everything around me is bright and pretty and sparkly and not crunchy underfoot

2/ pull my sewing machine to the front of my desk and piece together a tote back I've been excited about

3/ bake the cookies I seem to have committed to have ready by Thursday

4/ sit and read

5/ give up entirely and have a nap

6/ not have a nap, but instead pull apart a messy closet and put it back together more neatly this time


7/ put some tea together with a hot cross bun and then get on the outside of them.

I think some combination of the above is probably going to be effective, especially if I pick one of the control-my-surroundings options.

What would you do?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Achieving balance in knitting and writing

Guys, thank you so much for your thoughts on Hugs and how it can best serve your blog-reading needs.  Every single person who talked or wrote to me said "It's the writing", and that is really, really freeing (as well as extremely flattering!)

So, that being said, I know you will want to hear all about how my writing day went yesterday.  You may develop doubts but knitting does get involved here - this is me we're talking about, after all.


Sit down at freshly-running computer to write down the piece that started unwinding itself in my head around 11pm the night before.


About a page in, realize that I have forgotten all the character names for the stories of which this new one is to be a part (it has after all been three years - how time flies! I thought it was two - and also, I am chronically remembering everything about people except their names, even in person, which is SO distressing); decide to revisit the earlier pieces for refresher.


Have saved latest edits of all six previous pieces in one new folder and am about to open them.


Have rediscovered Spider Solitaire.


Still playing Spider Solitaire.


Back from the posh grocer's, having acquired many and varied healthy, brain-boosting foods I can grab without prep, and am sitting at my desk again.  With a rainbow of purse-sized chocolates spread out in front of me and Spider Solitaire back on the screen.

(disclaimer: any writer will tell you that one must win a game of Spider Solitaire before writing begins.) 

(they just might not be telling you the truth when they do it.)


Still playing Spider Solitaire but thinking seriously about having a nap.


Super loud knocking at door = delivery of some sort.  And now you know why I love to shop online: built-in procrastination opportunities!


Have just paid $50 in customs fees for delivery from US.  Don't ask, I'll explain in due time.


Definitely need the nap, but must at least print the stories to get the names out.  Compile all six into one document with narrow margins and columns to save paper, then print.  Check printout and realize the first story - several years older than the rest - really doesn't fit and must be tossed.  Dutifully cut those pages into notepaper and ignore reading the rest. 


You have GOT to be kidding.  Already???  Guh.  Up and scrounging in kitchen for travel accessories, since I am about to leave for a/ errands then b/ knitting date with Trish.  Reach for portable socks, then think: portable socklets instead?  It is after all hot out, and I do need them first, but they are much closer to being finished.  Decide to gamble and shove them in purse.


Knitting on subway in new train.  If you live in Toronto, and you disagree with me, please be kind: I strongly dislike the new subway trains.  I couldn't wait for them to be released they look so beautiful from the outside, and I have tried and tried to love them since they were, but my love has steadily diminished over time until now, when I have moved past even 'dislike'.  They may take more passengers than the old trains but they accommodate them in infinitely greater discomfort.  After about 4 stops I have finally been able to grab one of the tiny narrow seats, go me.


Errands complete, arrive at Trish's, where she is putting chairs out so we can knit in the lovely warm shade of her porch.  We are both knitting socks even though she is still not loving hers, and chatting about the day.  One of us mentions 'parcel' and I say, "I had a parcel today that cost me $50 in customs charges" and she is horrified.

At Canada Post. 

Really the questions go on for quite a long time before she twigs that customs charges are directly connected to the dollar value of the merchandise shipped.

"Wait a minute," she says finally, "Just how much did you buy from Twisted???"

* * * * *


We were distracted then so I never did give her the answer, which is about this much:

This box of 8 skeins plus 1 bump of roving is the reason I still haven't posted the piece I started writing for Hugs a while ago, called "How To Keep Your Stash Under Control."  And the worst is - I planned this particular purchase very carefully for two weeks, right down to the projects, and can't for the life of me remember what they were let alone find my notes on same.

* * * * *



I have finished my socklet.  I have nothing left to knit!  I must now just sit and enjoy the breeze and the conversation and not beat myself up for packing the wrong sock. Or for maybe having messed up the size of the socklet and not having the fortitude to spend this peaceful time ripping it out.


Writing up proposal for sewing tutorial I suddenly realize I can't live without doing.


... and back to Spider Solitaire.

Now I remember why I stopped writing to knit: with knitting, you have something to show for your time.  And isn't that a great gift?  

Have a wonderful weekend - see you back here sometime around Sunday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Summer socks: panic edition (plus other stuff)

Look at this:

That was me about an hour ago.  I am wearing SHORTS, people.  In a really hot sunpatch on the porch.  In March.  I am not prepared for this, at all. 

By which I mean, of course, that all my socks are suddenly way too hot to wear.

This is an issue because for reasons I still feel way too young to understand, I pretty much have to have orthotics most of the time I'm walking, and while I do have sandals with excellent arch support (thank you Mephisto) the sandals I can actually run in, which is often necessary because I am often late, do not.

I wonder whether there's a connection between the need for orthotics and the chronic running to catch up?

Anyhoo: it's time for emergency knitting of the 'sockette' variety.  I had intended to use the much-loved-by-me Turkish Bed Socks pattern for this job, but when it came the point I just felt their construction was less than ideal for my Mary Janes, and also, I can't get gauge with anything lighter than sport weight which is just So Much Too Hot.

That picture up there? That's after two days of knitting, so you now have an idea of how all the whole 'design it myself' thing is going. I haven't even hit the part where I get to work in the round, yet.  GAH.

* * * * *

In related-by-GAH news, check out the current state of the Sugared Violets undertaking:

Doesn't it look like a bouquet?  Aren't the colours gorgeous together? 

I'm afraid to touch it though.  It took me two hours to get myself back to the point where I hadn't made any errors, and I want to be alone on a little unlimited-time island when I start back into it.  Not sure when that's gonna happen.  Maybe after supper.

* * * * *

I had breakfast yesterday with Wayson, he of the Lucky Scarf and the Eloquence Fingerless Gloves and the writing mentoring generally, and it was a fabulous day.  We had coffee and an amazing sandwich he recommended and then another refill on the coffee and after two hours he took me to a bookstore he thought I should know about (and now that I've been, I think he was absolutely right, as usual.)

I don't drink coffee, so I don't think I actually slept last night, and I'm still sort of buzzing around the house today.  But: so worth it.

Wayson is as I say my writing mentor and though he has been telling me for two years now (or is it three?) that I should definitely be writing about knitting...

... he said Something Different yesterday. 

He said he thinks it's time for me to follow my many and varied non-knitting experiences over this long period of Huggingness into some other writing endeavors, and that was even before I told him I was floundering about the direction my writing is taking, or rather, the lack thereof.

So, here is the deal.  I loooove writing this blog.  I am so happy to be able to just drop in here and be silly or share patterns I think you'll enjoy or that will help somebody going through a rough time.  Still, there are only so many buckets of time in my possession and the ones I pour into this place have to be satisfying, not just to me but to you, oh person I may or may not know who is reading all the way down into the picture-less part of the post.  (for which I thank you enormously, how flattering!)

I know the free patterns are a huge big deal for the crafty people who drop in here; I know the technique posts and pattern shop are also appealing.  But what else would you like to see?

Interviews with other knitters and writers?

Guest posts?

Less posts from me and more patterns, the result of my knitting more than I'm writing about it?

Less spinning?  More skilled spinning?

Better photography?  (aka, please make me buy a better camera)

Book reviews?

Other types of crafts, like sewing, gift tag/card printables, or - oh, I don't know, papier mache?

(warning: you don't want to see me doing papier mache.)

Do tell, my friends.  You can comment here if you like, or message me at Ravelry, or e-mail me directly.  I would love to know what you think!

An interruption for an organized closet

Hugs is all about knitting...

... but sometimes sewing can buy you more knitting time.

So I wanted to mention the tutorial I just posted for a DIY hall closet organizer.

And now I will collapse in a chair with the new knitting thingy I want to show you next, if I can just knit enough of it.  More soon!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ashford hand spinning tools, by the box

Recently I was faced with two similar boxes: one of them contained something for me. But which?

Here is how they came into my possession:

Recently, I had another birthday (MAN those keep coming up, don't they?  and just when you resolve to stop eating cake, too.)  A few days before that happens I usually hear the eternal question, "So... what can I get you for your birthday?" and this year, I was ready with an answer.  But the manufacturer of the What made a mistake in the shipping and accidentally sent the wrong thing, then said Oops and sent the right thing.  That made it much easier for me to know which box to open.  The one with the larger tracking number, of course!

If even Ashford isn't perfect, then I feel much better about my chances of hand spinning sock yarn some day.

What I have learned about spinning yarn by hand:

1. I really like spinning yarn by hand.

2. I really like my Ashford Joy spinning wheel.

3. I really, really wish I could ply just about 20% more yarn onto the bobbin so I wouldn't have to keep breaking and wasting bits of the final product.

Which is where my present comes in.  It's a new Ashford Joy Sliding Hook flyer, compatible with my Joy spinning wheel, and it's big enough to hold a bobbin (supplied with same) that holds 30% more yarn.  Bonus: the sliding hooks mean I won't have to stop and manually shift the yarn any more.  The bigger size means I'll have to adjust my standard tension, but I can live with that.

It was very exciting to take it out of the box and hold it and do a happy dance and all that,

but -

when I pulled out one of the two sheets of instructional paper that were packed with it I saw some words that made my blood run cold.

"The E-Clips are under tension and can fly off.  Wear eye protection."

It was at this point that I put everything back into the box and stepped away.  But a couple of weeks later I looked at the box again and realized I should have read the heading of that page.  Turns out the flyer comes with an adapter kit for Joy wheels made before 2002, and that's what all that was about; for my much more recent Joy, all I need to do is tuck the new flyer into the old flyer's carry compartment and proceed as usual.

Which is lucky because look:

More fiber from Twisted Fiber Art! and still more to come, because I got a spot in this season's club.

About The Other Box

Yes... the Other Box.  Well, the sliding hook flyer was ordered from The Fibre Garden in Jordan Village - love that store - and when the gentlemen there discovered the error they couldn't have been nicer.  All I have to do is a/ drop the wrong parcel at the shop, or b/ ship it to them to return to Ashford.  Sadly, the shop was closed the day I was in their somewhat distant neighbourhood last week.  So that means shipping.  Or... erm... keeping?  You know, just in case I ever want to spin really crazy big yarn with Ashford's new Freedom Flyer.  Ahem.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Knitting time management

The line between time management and time loss can be as slim as laceweight.  Or maybe I mean the line between neglecting everything else to knit, and neglecting knitting for everything else.

Take for example my usual policy of neglecting everything but knitting, which means messy things like dealing with dust rabbit colonies and orange peeling fall by the wayside in favour of having a thirty-sixth hat, or twenty-fifth pair of socks.

Versus my current policy of doing everything but knitting so I will be much more efficient with my knitting time by being healthy, fit, and resident of a dust-resistant home.  Which is crazy, because what gets left out is Zen, which is what happens when you knit (assuming it's going well, but more on that later.)

* * * * *

Brief pause for a pretty, and partially relevant picture:

And... back to today's topic...

* * * * *

Knitting Does Not Equal Guilt

You have to make time to do what you love - you just do, and you can't feel guilty about how much you do that because guilt isn't warranted in such a situation.  Think about it:  if doing what you love happens to make your life better, great.  If it makes somebody else's life better, for example by way of suddenly owning your twenty-sixth pair of socks, fabulous.

But realistically, doing what you love is going to make you a happier person, which makes you nicer to be around, which is SO much more important than being the person who keeps the dust under control.  And ever so much more important than feeling guilt.

The Role of Organization

Still... being organized can make it easier to have more knitting time.  We have all learned the hard way that the time spent searching for cable needle X or laceweight needle Y could have been better spent knitting shawl Z.

And who - as a passenger, though I know some drivers also indulge, to which I say GAH - hasn't benefited from travel time with progress on a project that was enough in one place to be scooped up into a tote-able bag on the way out the door?

Other short- and long-term ways to cheat more knitting time can include:

Requiring less sleep (and if you figure out how, do tell).

Buying previously-chopped veg and a prepared chicken for supper.

Setting out your next-day's clothes while folding laundry - and if you can manage it, a few days' worth, so as to scrape up some early-morning calm knitting time.

Planting perennials in front of your house rather than annuals, and enjoying the floral show at your non-crafty neighbours' houses instead.

Opting for a low-maintenance look of minimal makeup and hairstyling (this saves on shopping and salon time too.)

Knitting Time is Special Time

Speaking of which, when I finally had time to get a haircut the other day, Rob asked me what big knitting project I have in hand at the moment and I -

didn't know what to tell him.

Me: speechless.  This never happens.  (and this time, it only lasted milliseconds.  still.  speechless!)

I've been so focused on Zen-ing up my day, letting go of manufactured deadlines like writing a blog post every morning before 8am or having all the clean laundry put away by 8pm, I haven't put any thought into knitting at all, and have been working away at random plain socks for purely functional purposes.  Useful, but hardly uplifting.

Fortunately, I did give way about a week ago to the lure of the Sugared Violets crescent shawl, and I also had a few movie nights and car trips since then.  So I have something happy to look at every day.

Avoiding Disaster

Given the terrible lighting you would be forgiven for thinking I have included that picture of the shawl  in all its crescent-ness to say Look! I'm nearly done!

In fact, I expect that experienced knitters will look at that picture and say one of two things:

a/ Wow, Mary must have a seriously long circular needle; or

b/ Whoops, Mary messed up and has taken most of the stitches off the needle to rip back.

If you're keeping score, that's a chocolate to you and none for me, because I need my hands clean to rip back.  Yep, I messed up on the lace while watching yet another movie (The Brothers Bloom, which started well and got disappointing very quickly).  I checked my count; knew I'd erred; couldn't find the err; decided to fake the count at the end of the row since it was the first of a fresh pattern; knit, increased, and decreased another 416 stitches and discovered where the mistake was.  About 609 stitches beforehand.  It's just easier to frog than pick back 609 stitches with a minefield of yarn overs in it.

The moral of which is: the best way to manage your knitting time is: don't mess up during your knitting time.

Or, you know. Use a lifeline when knitting lace.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A St. Patrick's Day gift for you

I had some fun coming up with a printable banner you can colour for St. Patrick's Day:

I came up with a fabulous shade of green for the stripes - super nostalgic, especially with the vintage-style font.

If only I had a colour printer.  My version was a blank for colouring in by hand.

And of course, no knitter's artwork is complete without a little nod to the love of yarn, right?  Go ahead, click on the picture for a closer look.

(don't worry, there's a version with a regular shamrock too.)

(also, a version without 'Shamrock Love' written on the flags, if you just want some festiveness.)

Now, I did make this a reversible banner, but as I discovered when I went to assemble it - if you're really going to hang it somewhere where that matters, leave out the middle shamrock.  Otherwise on one side you will be reading 'sham-shamrock-rocklove."  Which may in fact be your sentiments about St. Patrick's day in which case carry on.

Click here to download .pdf of Reversible Shamrock Banner

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Five reasons to knit hand painted yarn

There are probably a lot more than five reasons to knit hand painted yarn but let's face it: we're busy people! and there's knitting to be done.

1. It is beautiful.  You know?  All those subtle variations in colour - it couldn't ever, ever be called 'flat'.

hand painted yarn
2. You don't always have to choose tiny projects or switch between two balls because of the subtle variations in colour that make it really super obvious if you only switch yarns when one runs out.

Not having to work two yarn strands at once is a big attraction to major processed yarns, but another option is to emphasize the super obvious by going to a contrasting colour when the first one runs out.

3. It's got love in it.  Seriously: an actual human person touched just about every part of that hand painted yarn in the process of dyeing and drying and reskeining it, for which you have to love the work.  The love comes all the way through to the knitter, and beyond  (or maybe it's the love you have for the hand painted yarn that goes beyond.  it's still love.)

4. It's going to make you happy.  And what you make with it is going to make you happy too.  Why leave happiness untouched in your yarn stash when it could be out on your needles on its way to you?

5. It's maybe not going to be available forever.  sigh.  So you want to find out as soon as you buy it whether you love working with it and need to buy lots more lest that handpainter move on to another creative outlet before you can do that.

(yep, the only Viola yarns you can get now are from somebody who planned ahead, or from the remains of the Etsy shop.  fortunately I had a pretty good idea I would love this yarn and did buy a lot over the last couple of years; still, looking at this?  I so wish I'd bought more brights!)

Project: Sugared Violets by Rose Beck

Yarn: sport-weight merino/cashmere/nylon in 'Thistle' by Viola (aka the brilliant Emily)

Purpose: a driving-trip switchup from sock knitting

End Use: with luck and diligence, a jaunty scarf for Easter Sunday

Panics: I didn't use the caston I was supposed to, and that bit is now pulling rather a lot...

Roundup: crafty Easter ideas

Remember Zinzaabub and Scribbles, the Easter Chick Twins?


(they are non-identical because I am not that good with an embroidery needle.)

I had all kinds of fun making them for a previous Easter - all kinds except the one about having lots of time in which to make them.  This year, feeling a bit twitchy about wanting to do another fun thing, I am hunting early for ideas.

1. Domenic Duck
The whole twitchy factor started when I spotted Domenic, in an ad on Ravelry (love those ads.)  He is a tremendously cute, wide-billed gentleman invented by the very clever Ms. Cleaver, whose site I'm sure you will also enjoy.  If you are a knitter who tracks activity on Ravelry, here is his page of cuteness.  I am smitten!

2. Easter Egg Treats
Jean Greenhowe offers a number of really, really adorable tiny knit toys and you might get distracted scrolling down to the Easter Egg Treats, but it will be worth it.  These little animal friends look cute as anything but they are also stealthy: they conceal chocolate eggs!  I can't personally think of anything more suitable for me, unless it's a knit device that peels and feeds chocolate eggs to passing chocoholics. In the meantime, click here for the Ravelry page for the Treats.

3. Felted Bunny
Directions for this elongated, graceful bunny by Christine Manitz are available in English and look pretty do-able to me.  I took one look at the images and thought: this rabbit needs to be hiding in tall grass, a basket tucked snugly beside it.  How cute would that be?  Or a bunch of them gathered together at the front door of your house, or mine?  Come to think of it, you could probably stuff them with heavy things for use as a doorstopper... anyway, I love the felted bunny and keep revisiting its Ravelry page.  Thank you Christine!

4. Easter Cupcakes
The attractions of this one are pretty self-explanatory.  They are designed by Louise Watling, another clever designer of small cutes, and feature little eggs and daffodils on top.  What's not to love?  The Ravelry link is the only one I spotted, so, erm, hope you're a member!

5. Fuzzy Easter Chicks and Mini Easter Eggs
This one comes from The PurlBee, a site dreams are made of, and if you scroll down past the amazing fuzzy chicks (who look like Zinzaabub and Scribbles but are I assure you of entirely different construction) you will spot what made me swoony:  the eggs.  Knitted Easter eggs, my friends. The Ravelry page is here.  And the reason I swooned for the eggs is here:

6. Grow Your Own Easter Basket Grass
Just ignore the plastic eggs in the adorable baskets pictured at this link: that is where the knitted eggs go.  Or the chicks or the egg treats or maybe an undersized elongated bunny?  Whatever: it's awesome.

And now, back to some other Eastery knitting.  Not a bonnet, unfortunately, but garment-ish nonetheless.  I'll show it to you later when I have enough of it to photograph: meanwhile, have a great day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A fresh start from a good finish

You know that liberating feeling you get - the one when you finish a project you thought would never, ever end?  Or... maybe just when you toss it out the window and move on with your life?  Or... maybe more when you finish because then you get to enjoy it?

(maybe I mean, finish it well, because if it comes out lousy you're probably not enjoying it.)

I finished the lace socks.

Bellatrix Lestrange, by Rachel Coopey, for the Biscotte et Cie Club, October 2011.  Yarn: hand-dyed semisolid superluscious Felix, from Biscotte.

They are fabulous.  They feel great and fit perfectly and even though I am painfully aware that nobody else can see how much intricate lace there is in almost every row, I can tell myself that I see it.  These socks have given me a new appreciation for doing intricate work that takes time instead of just racing through something that looks complex but isn't, which is my normal default mode.

(I might substitute 'perfectly sane' for 'default'.  Maybe when I'm retired and living on a deserted island that somehow comes equipped with self-maintaining food supplies and shelter I will be able to do intricate work all the time, but right now... it's a little crazy.)

And now that they are done


I feel so free!  I felt free all weekend as I totally overhauled Hugs, and I feel totally free today as I plot up all sorts of new features to add to the site.   It's spring for my yard and spring for me too.  Fresh starts for all!

(oh, and maybe some chocolate.  You in?)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

About me

Welcome to Hugs For Your Head!

My name is Mary, and I love old movies, long walks, tea and chocolate and a good book, knitting with and spinning yarn, and looking at stuff I sewed nicely.  The actual sewing is not my favourite but I do it anyway because I am that gone on the end result. 

I’m also a writer, which means I spend a lot of time not writing the stuff I should be and feeling guilty about it.  One of the best ways to not write is to do something else you enjoy that's easier (like knitting through an old movie while eating chocolate, for example.)  And then, to get yourself back to work, it’s helpful to write about anything but what you should be (like what you just knit.)

That’s why you’ll find so much useful stuff here about making things: I’m a terrible procrastinator.  One of the most productive procrastinators you’ll ever meet, but a procrastinator nonetheless.  Hope you’ll stick around and help!

You will find quite a few free knitting patterns at Hugs - for chemo caps, or very fast gifts, or other things I share to thank the terrific people who spend time here. 

Technical Tip

If you're having trouble downloading a free pattern, don't stress.  Just e-mail me from the link at the bottom of the sidebar and let me know which one you wanted.  I'll send you the file as soon as I get your note.

Free Knitting Patterns

I've pulled all of my free patterns onto one easy page to make it easier to find them; just click on the link for more information on each one.  If you have any trouble downloading them, e-mail me using the link at the bottom right and I'll send it right over.  Enjoy! 

Note: if you're here for a chemo cap pattern, check this quick guide to help you choose.

Hats (the ones with stars are especially chemo-friendly)
*Asymmetrical Cloche
Best Friends Beanie
Confectionery Cap 
*Double Double Cloche
Fast Hat Four Ways
Flowerpot Hat
*Graduated Ribs Hat
Instant Love Hat
Lazy Day Lace Hat 
Luxury Lid
*Not-Just-For-Chemo Reversible Cloche 
Pocket Top Hat
Slice of Life Hat
Spin Cycle Hat
Strawberry Sundae Hat 
*UpCountry Hat
Winter Garden Hat 

Candy Wrapper Scarflet (it's half cowl, half scarf...)
Crazy Cowl  - for handspun yarn
Shelter Valley Cowl
The Magical Cowl  - tutorial only
Togetherness Cowl
Triple Lane Travel Cowl
UpCountry Cowl

Candy Wrapper Scarflet (maybe more of a cowl, but click the link and decide for yourself)
Good Fences Scarf
Lucky Scarf
Milkshake Scarf
Railyard Scarf

Lazy Day Lace Shawl

Miscellaneous Projects
Last-Minute Lace Yoga Socks
Lichen Kerchief and Bracelet 
Swirly Felted Glasses Case

Pattern Shop

Several of my knitting patterns are available for sale through Interweave.  If you want to know more about any of them, just click on the caption (but not the picture, because Blogger only wants to show a bigger picture when you do that.)

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Copenhagen Hat

The Copenhagen Hat, from Interweave Knits 2011 Accessories issue, is a simple, portable knit from luxurious alpaca-blend yarn.

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PuddleJumper Socks

PuddleJumpers is the product of months and months of mobile sock knitting plus the desire for a simple, go-anywhere project that is easy to follow and plays up self-striping sock yarn.  Because I have a whole lotta self-striping sock yarn.

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Camp Smock

This swingy linen-blend smock from Interweave Knits' Summer 2011 issue has a pleat at the hem and this pretty twisted stitch at the bodice. The bodice is self-lined so you can wear it on its own or with a T underneath.

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Bohus-Inspired Hat

This unisex hat for Interweave Knits' Holiday Gifts 2010 is knit flat, so the textured stripes are a cinch to do and line up perfectly at the seam.  I added a buckle to mine to soften up its look. 

*  *  *  *  *

Blooming Stole

This silk/merino shawl appeared in Interweave Knits' Holiday Gifts 2010.  It's an incredibly portable knit and faster than you'd expect!

Tips and Techniques - Index

I've written quite a few posts at least a few of us might want to refer back to after the fact, and this is the page where you can do that.  At the top are the links for General and Self-Help posts; scroll down for Knitting, Spinning, Weaving, other craft-related tips, and links to other useful sites.


April 2014 miniseries, movie, and audiobook suggestions
Organic Cosmetics - reviews and recommendations
Healthy handspinning
Fitness for knitters
Weight loss for knitters


Cognitive behaviour therapy for fear of flying
Face the fear and win back your life
Fix the problem, not the symptom
Haste makes waste, so take your time
Less is more
Looking forward: how and why to do it
The right way to spread yourself thin 


bias - how to counteract it in yarn that has issues
cabling without cable needles - why? and a link
casting on two things with matching stripes
casting on with just enough yarn - a link
charted knitting - links to help you write your own charts
circular knitting on straight needles
Fair Isle advice
gauge swatching - why? and how 
gauge swatching - how far to go
horizontal knitting
increasing stitches
increasing stitches - when not to use nearly invisible versions
measurements - making your knit's match your body's
slipped stitches - various applications
slipped stitches - for a neat fold
steeking (cutting into your finished knits, on purpose!) 
stocking stitch - advantages thereof
tangles in your yarn - how to escape them
three-needle bindoff - a link
twined knitting
waste yarn - using it in aid of afterthought parts
winding a skein into a ball without a swift 
winding a skein into a ball without a swift, sitting down 
yardage - calculating with kitchen scales
yardage - calculating without kitchen scales
yarn substitution


blending fleece without carding
smooth hands to reduce fiber-snagging
spinning cables (as opposed to plying)
step-by-step spinning tips


Choosing your first loom
Troubleshooting, for the beginning weaver


double pointed needles - how to keep stitches from falling off them
hibernating your knitting projects
justifying more yarn purchases in spite of an overflowing yarn stash
knit more in less time with these organizational tips
knitting setup: how and why to line up several projects in advance 
match your yarn to its ideal project
mobile knitting - how to make the most of every minute
organize your project progress with a customizable planner 
organizing your craft stash, through supply reduction
organizing your craft paper stash, through sneaky storage applications 
pattern design - some lessons learned
snags - how to keep working yarn out of a purse zipper
swatching - how it saves you time in the end
sweater tip - save time to make time 
time management and knitting
Twitter - how it's helpful to crafty folk
warmest knits (fiber and technique tips)
waterproof wool - the secret ingredient 
winding yarn from the skein
yarn bell alternatives (which will make you want a bell) 
yardage, as impacted by stitch choice 


short rows: the many options
replacing ssk
twist, explained
one-row buttonhole
gauge-specific graph paper
weaving in ends as you knit
tools for pattern conversion
tips from Knitting Pattern Central
Knit Witch video tips (YouTube)
veryPink - helpful technique-specific videos at this link!