Friday, August 31, 2007

Getting closer to Ravelry...

15146 people are ahead of you in line.
3894 people are behind you in line.
36% of the list has been invited so far.

Wow-- exactly 1,000 people got invites since the last time I checked.

The Great Stashbust Challenge of '07 Begins

This is it-- the launch of the Stashbust Challenge! It’s also more or less the launch of my blog, because I haven’t done too much with it yet, but I am sure that this project will give me plenty of material. Literally.

A little background:
Like so many other knitters, I have a little problem with impulse control when it comes to buying yarn. Actually, that is kind of like saying that the Pacific Ocean has a little bit of water in it. I really love yarn. I love the textures and the colors and the smell-- everything. It's just lustworthy stuff. I don't even think it needs to be knit up to be interesting.
However, having a big stash causes problems for a lot of other reasons. Although I don't tend to blow lots of money on things like clothes and shoes, I more than make up for it by buying yarn. I know that I have spent more than one thousand dollars on yarn this year alone. Well, plenty more than one thousand-- in fact, I am too scared to look at the receipts. (You see? This is a big sign that I need to kick the habit).
I also am running out of room to store the stuff. For about the first year or so, I could easily keep all my yarn in a small chest in my closet. I outgrew that pretty rapidly once I started building up a stash, and the better I got at knitting and the more room it took up in my mind, my apartment started to mirror my brain. It was kind of like The Blob’s wooly cousin—or The Blob wearing a sweater, if it makes you happier to think of it that way. It sure makes me happier.
Finally, at the beginning of this year I got tired of looking at all the full bags of yarn (not to mention the chest full of yarn--no longer the small chest, but a bigger one I got just for the purpose of holding my expanding yarn stash) so I purchased a big wall unit for my apartment. Ostensibly for books and entertainment, it also served the purpose of hiding much of my stash. However, that strategy backfired. Once I got the yarn out of sight, I just ended up buying more. A few months later, I was right back where I started, except that now I had the big wall unit, the big chest AND bags of yarn all over the floor. My apartment looks like a yarn store that got hit by a tornado (without, of course, the human suffering that accompanies natural disasters, unless you count how much it irritates me to have a messy apartment all the time).

This month, both due to an unexpected lull in employment (ahem) and to joining a KAL to “Do Something New” every month for the next six months, I decided that my something new this month would be to inventory the stash and officially launch my challenge. This is it!

About My Stash:
A few months ago, I decided to take a picture of my stash, hoping that the experience would have an inherent deterrent effect on my yarn purchasing. I got out all of my yarn and laid it out on my king-size mattress (ridiculous for a studio apartment, I know, but I got it for free.) When I began, I was trying to lay it out in a quasi-artistic fashion, but as the coverage grew more dense I finally just started throwing the skeins on the pile. I took the picture below and then put all the yarn away again. This entire process took seven hours.

There’s also a box of yarn that didn’t fit in the frame, and as I was putting away the yarn I found some more in random places around the apartment.
This picture was taken at the end of June, and I regret to say that the deterrent effect was minimal. My stash has grown even more since that time. I finally figured out just how much when I did my inventory last week: I had 51 miles of yarn in my apartment! I got rid of about 11,000 yards of this in a swap (meaning, I have some replacement yardage on the way!) and gave some away to Value Village, but as of right now I currently own 83,413.5 yards of yarn. My swap hasn’t arrived yet, either, so the final figure will be higher.
So, the stashbusting challenge officially begins right now. I have a feeling that it will take me through the end of next year, at least!

The Ground Rules:
1. The goal is to reduce my total yarn stash to approximately 10,000 yards. When I hit 10,000 yards I am allowed to buy yarn for new projects that don’t contain stash yarn, but I have to keep the total at or below 10,000 yards at all times. I am going to maintain my stash spreadsheet even after the challenge is officially over.
2. Yardage for WIPs is not taken off the total until the project is completed (including all finishing). If there are partial balls left over from a project, I don’t have to keep those in the total, but all full balls will of course be counted.
3. I will allow the following amounts – and ONLY these amounts—for purchase of supplies to finish a stash project. After some thought, I’ve decided that the allowances may be banked (because otherwise it may create an incentive to choose stash projects that require additional supplies). The “finishing allowances” are by type of project, and can only be used on a project that consists of at least 50% stash yarn—even if allowance is banked:
a. Scarf, gloves, hat, socks or similar small accessory: $15
b. Small-to-medium household items (like pillows, etc.): $15
c. Handbag or similar large accessory: $20
d. Pullover sweater or skirt: $30
e. Cardigan or jacket: $50
f. Blanket/afghan: $60
4. UFOs must have a ticker up on the sidebar at all times until the project is totally finished. My goal is to get myself down to 4-5 WIPs maximum before starting any new projects.
5. After finishing projects, I will post an accounting of the number of yards of stash yarn used and an itemized list of extra supplies purchased to complete the project, if applicable.
6. I am starting out with 15 UFOs on the sidebar (Good Lord!) and, because these projects are already in progress, I am allowing myself a total of $10 per project for finishing supplies for all of these items, which is bankable.
7. I am not setting a limit on purchase of books, but I am only allowed one new knitting/crochet book a month without penalty. If I want to buy more than one book in a month, I have to use banked finishing allowance—but I can use it 2 for 1 (i.e., $10 of banked finishing allowance can count as $20 book allowance).

Reward schedule:
I’m also setting up a schedule of rewards that I will allow myself to buy when I have used up specific amounts of stash yardage. Of course, since the idea is to not have yarn take up as much physical space as it does now, the rewards must not exceed 25% of the yardage I used up to get to the reward point. Also, the yardage is entered into my stash worksheet and fully counted as part of my yarn stash. All other rules will also be in full effect (i.e., if I already have five UFOs when I get the reward, I can’t start it until I finish at least one of the projects in progress).
Anyway, here are some pre-selected rewards and reward levels:
8,000 yards: Blanket Kit from Fleece Artist
7,000 yards: Sahara Blouse pattern from Stitch Diva and yarn to complete (possible materials: Yin and Yang yarn from SWTC)
7,000 yards: RYC Cashcotton DK to make Katherine Hepburn cardigan from Lace Style
6,000 yards: Lady of the Forest shawl kit from Fleece Artist
Naturally, I am deliberately making these first few rewards more stringent than the “25% of yardage used” guideline, both because I am treating the 25% rule as a maximum guideline and because, since this is the beginning of the challenge, I want to make sure I have to finish several projects before I allow myself to buy a new project’s worth of materials.
OK! I am ready to go. I have a complete inventory of all of my yarn and needles, all of my yarn actually has a place in my apartment now, and I have rules set down in black and white—not to mention the accountability factor; everyone knows that I am doing this, including yarn store employees. Speaking of which, I sincerely hope that none of my favorite LYSes go out of business due to this challenge but hey, I have to look out for number one for a change.
The challenge officially starts NOW!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Woo Hoo! I'm almost there!

My check-in on Ravelry today yielded this info:

You are #26311 on the list.
16146 people are ahead of you in line.
1876 people are behind you in line.
35% of the list has been invited so far.

Hmmmm. Does that mean that the 35% that have been invited are included in the 16,146 people ahead of me?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sweet Merciful Crap!!!

Starting on 8:30 pm Sunday, I got to work cataloguing my yarn stash.
11-1/2 hours later, at 7:00 am on Monday, I was done. I think I took a total of about 1/2 hours in breaks, so the cataloguing job took 11 hours total. I located every single skein of yarn in my apartment, entered the stats in an Excel spreadsheet and added up the total yardage. Then I almost had a heart attack, because:
This made me laugh at first, and then I thought about how most skeins/balls of yarn contain between 100-200 yards.
11,000+ yards are going out the door today (some in a swap, some to Value Village) but I'll still have 79,700 yards of yarn in the house, plus yarn coming to me in a swap.
Granted, my total contains some yarn that has already been knitted up in UFOs, but not that much. I am going to deduct each project's yarn only after I have finished the project.
I also did not count a few specific items: two almost-finished blankets (only need a single crochet edging in both cases), a small shawl that is currently blocking, a pillow cover that needs minimal finishing and the yarn for a project I am fixing for someone else. Since the latter is not my yarn or my project, I felt justified in not counting that. As for the blankets and pillow cover, I knit them so long ago I can't remember how many yards of yarn they contain. However, that just means that they don't factor into the count at all-- they aren't in today's total, but they also don't come off the total once the finishing is done.
Details of the Great Stashbust of 2007 (which may run through 2009, I'm guessing) will be posted shortly. VERY shortly, because I think I am faced with an emergency situation here....

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Technique List

I saw this over on a blog called Knitstant Gratification (worth a visit: and it immediately caught my fancy.

Mark with bold the things you have ever knit, with italics the ones you plan to do sometime, and leave the rest.
(My note: I'm going to assume that I plan to do everything, so I'm not going to use italics for that purpose...)

• Afghan
• I-cord
• Garter stitch
• Knitting with metal wire
• Shawl
• Stockinette stitch
• Socks: top-down
• Socks: toe-up
• Knitting with camel yarn
• Mittens: Cuff-up
• Mittens: Tip-down
• Hat
• Knitting with silk
• Moebius band knitting
• Participating in a KAL
• Sweater
• Drop stitch patterns
• Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
• Slip stitch patterns
• Knitting with banana fiber yarn
• Domino knitting (huh?)
• Twisted stitch patterns
• Knitting with bamboo yarn
• Two end knitting (not yet, but want to try.)
• Charity knitting
• Knitting with soy yarn (can I count several large swatches?)
• Cardigan
• Toy/doll clothing
• Knitting with circular needles
• Baby items (I'm counting a toddler.)
• Knitting with your own handspun
• Slippers
• Graffiti knitting
• Continental knitting
• Designing knitted garments (In progress....)
• Cable stitch patterns
• Lace patterns
• Publishing a knitting book (This is the dream! But not yet.)
• Scarf
• Teaching a child to knit
• American/English knitting
• Knitting to make money (That would be really nice, but not yet!)
• Buttonholes
• Knitting with alpaca
• Fair Isle knitting (So far, I've not done real Fair Isle, only stranded color knitting-- which, I think, was more difficult since I had to manipulate three colors on the same row.)
• Norwegian knitting
• Dying with plant colors
• Knitting items for a wedding (No, but I'm willing. Email me.)
• Household items
• Knitting socks (or other small tubular items)on two circulars
• Olympic knitting (guess I'll have to wait until next year...)
• Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn (coming up...)
• Knitting with dpns
• Holiday-related knitting
• Teaching a male how to knit (not quite, but I have talked with one about how to fix his mistakes...)
• Bobbles
• Knitting for a living (Sigh. No.)
• Knitting with cotton
• Knitting smocking
• Dying yarn
• Steeks (not yet but coming up soon!)
• Knitting art
• Knitting two socks on two circulars simultaneously (I wish! But this scares me. Besides, if I can ever master double knitting well enough to do two at once I want to do it on one circular.)
• Fulling/felting
• Knitting with wool
• Textured knitting
• Kitchener BO
• Purses/bags
• Knitting with beads
• Swatching (boy, have I ever!)
• Long Tail CO
• Entrelac
• Knitting and purling backwards (not yet but I really want to learn this before an entrelac project I have coming up soon!)
• Machine knitting
• Knitting with self patterning/self striping/variegating yarn
• Stuffed toys
• Knitting with cashmere
• Darning
• Jewelry
• Knitting with synthetic yarn
• Writing a pattern (uh oh-- I think my inability to finish what I start is going to really hurt me...)
• Gloves
• Intarsia
• Knitting with linen (I'm counting the cotton/linen blend I am using for the Cables and Os!)
• Knitting for preemies
• Tubular CO
• Freeform knitting
• Short rows
• Cuffs/fingerless mitts/armwarmers

• Pillows
• Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine (unfortunately both of the patterns I have tried from online mags haven't been so well written, so I frogged them-- I don't think that counts.)
• Rug
• Knitting on a loom
• Thrummed knitting
• Knitting a gift
• Knitting for pets
• Shrug/bolero/poncho
• Knitting with dog/cat hair (Ok, this is the one item on this list that I do not EVER want to do.)
• Hair accessories (does it count if I didn't finish it? Probably not.)
• Knitting in public

Of course my first reaction to lists like these is to want to hit every single technique listed, and maybe I will-- why not? I actually want to try all this stuff.

Progress on my Babette Blanket

Pattern: Babette Blanket
Designer: Kathy Merrick
Source: Interweave Crochet, Spring 2006

I started this blanket in March as a sort of ADD-friendly crochet project. Since there's about 130 squares in the blanket, I put the code for each square on a little slip of paper. That way, I figured that I could just take up the hook whenever the mood struck me, crochet a square or two or three, and add the square to the finished pile.
To assemble the blanket, you first join the squares into ten strips (which fit together log-cabin style) and then assemble the strips to each other. So far, I've crocheted about 100 of the squares.
This week, I realized that I was getting really close to having all the squares done for the first five strips, so I stopped the random-draw process, finished the few remaining squares for those strips and joined the five strips together. Here it is so far:

I reversed my usual procedure and tried to stick fairly close to the color choices that the designer used, although that ended up being a lot easier said than done. This blanket was designed using Koigu PPM which, as everyone knows who is familiar with Koigu, is created in small lots and each color is different. It's not like you can walk into a yarn store and find the full range of colors. (At least, you can't in the best store in Seattle that carries this line!) Also, there are 18 colors in this project and there were just not enough semi-solid Koigu colors that worked together in stock. I considered using some of the KPPPM (variegateds) but I didn't want to go that way. So, I bought some colors in Koigu and the rest in Shibui Sock, which is a very similar yarn.
Since I had to improvise, I just chose colors that I thought were close enough to the colors she listed, then completely substituted different colors in a few cases. For example, I couldn't find a "citron" I liked, so I went with carrot orange instead.
I wanted to go with the designer's color list because 1) I generally do not choose bright colors, and 2) I am not confident enough with my color sense to buy all that yarn on my own color choices. In all of my knitting (and crochet) I gravitate a lot more toward texture work over color. Plus, I wanted this blanket to retain the cheerful look. Might as well have at least one touch of cheerfulness untinged by sarcasm in my daily life!

The big question mark for me was what method to use to join the squares. I don't have much crochet experience, although I can do the basics, and had never made a crocheted item with more than one piece before. To make things more confusing, the only direction re joining the squares was this:
"Sew squares together using a tapestry needle and color A, matching edges, and working stitch to stitch."
OK, very well, but sew together how?
After thinking about it, I decided to use good old mattress stitch. I like mattress stitch and I wanted at least one side of the blanket to not show any seaming. So, there are small seams on the wrong side of the blanket, but they are fairly innocuous, and I get the nice flush side-to-side look on the right side.
A final issue that I will probably have to deal with as I finish this is that the Shibui, while similar to the Koigu, crocheted at a very slightly larger gauge. This is causing a little bit of rippling, but it seems to be evening out as I join the strips. As anal as I am, I wasn't concerned enough about it to block all the little squares before joining them. This is supposed to be my Happy Project!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Poochie the Rockin' Dog

Upon closer inspection, the family dog appears to be doing a fairly decent Gene Simmons impersonation.

Maybe the dog is employing the machismo to compensate for having to wear the little red bow on his head. If mom would only stick to the dog sweater he wouldn't mind so much, but accessories like the hair bow make it awfully hard for him to land a bitch.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Look at Dad's Eyes!

Dad really likes cold weather. And thin sweaters. He's been a lot happier since Mom started knitting, and especially since they started making bras out of that flexible Lycra spandex stuff. Except for the fact that he has become walleyed from staring at Mom's, uh, handiwork so much, and that he is so mesmerized by her "lady lumps" he ignores it when the dog pees on Sister's lap, things have been pretty nice around here lately.

Then again, I am one of those sons that actually enjoys wearing a sweater "like Dad's". I told that to the people at the American Thread Company, makers of Star Brand Yarns; I guess they are coming out with a new book of patterns pretty soon.

Shout Out to my Peeps!

Hmmm. When language like that comes out of me it's about as cool as your parents rapping at your birthday party.
I have to hand it to all the commenters on the previous post who commented that the Bisexual Sweater needed to stay in the closet. In retrospect, I cannot believe I missed that pun. Good for you, folks! You outpunned me.
I actually am a little disappointed in myself when I miss a pun that is set up so nicely. One example: when I was an undergrad, I emailed a math-major friend about something I had figured out in my college algebra class after a lot of studying, and I wrote that, now that I had taken the time to learn the concept, it was "easy as pie." He promptly wrote back: " I can't believe you didn't write, "Easy as pi."
You see, that was like seven or eight years ago and I still remember missing that pun! I guess that says something about me but I'm not too sure what it is.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The "Star Family Sweater Book", 1947

I received this pattern book from my "No Sheep Swap" pal in June. This swap took place through the KAL blog for the book No Sheep For You (Amy Singer, Interweave Press, 2007).

Evidently I must have mentioned that I like vintage patterns in my questionnaire, or my Secret Pal is exceptionally telepathic. Anyway, my first surprise package contained the "Star Family Sweater Book":

From the cover, you can tell right away that the Star Family does not contain Brangelina. Which is a big relief, if you ask me.

Of course, "Star" actually refers to the brand of yarn that they want you to use in the patterns. The grim black-and-white pictures of what look like really crappy yarns don't do much to sell themselves, hence the alleged need for this pattern booklet.

Do the patterns help either? Let's take a look.

Right off the bat, they assume the reader possesses a certain amount of initiative. The amount, however, is minimal. To wit:

Start knitting, Ace!

Considering that the copy writer is urging the reader to "Give play to your imagination," it's a shame that the professional that wrote this pattern couldn't imagine any variations more exciting than the ones shown here. Forget about adding colorwork, lowering the neckline a millimeter or two, using stitch patterns other than stockinette or rib, or any of that fancy-schmancy stuff. Instead, try:

1) tacking a "necklace" of itchy wool flowers all around the neckline -- presumably this is to remind you that, while you are freezing your butt off in the middle of winter with an itchy neck, that bitch down the block with the doctor husband got to go to Hawaii;

2) making the exact same sweater with long sleeves-- that is, if you're the kind of wild woman that can bear knitting past where the instructions tell you to stop;

3) embroidering your initials over one boob (it's all the rage in Newport this season!); or

4) sewing swatches as close as possible to your lady parts. Put a button on them and call them "pockets"! All the better to grope you with, my dear. Plus, we all know how flattering it is to create extra bulk just below the waistline.

Seriously, though-- they just don't make bras like this anymore. Look at how far apart her girls are: practically under her armpits. That was back in the day when lingerie designers came from the ranks of future NASA engineers. Remember that scene in "Vertigo" when Barbara Bel Geddes is designing a bra based on the engineering principles used in a suspension bridge? I rest my case.

In case you never learned how to write, Miss Vanek will be more than happy to write out the alphabet for you. Better get someone lined up to read it to you when it arrives in the mail!

And how exactly does one push up one's sleeves "college fashion"? I never learned a particular method of sleeve-pushing while I was in college. I mainly learned things like exactly how much time spent cramming yields a B+ grade on the final (about 9 hours) and What Activities Not to Attempt While Under the Influence (cooking; manicures; studying for the LSAT).

Good thing they stopped making floss out of wool. It always broke off when you tried flossing between the back molars. Besides, it made your entire mouth smell like Wet Dog.

I like the way Miss Vanek tries to sell knitting as a hobby-- it's a cure for the jitters and shakes! I got news for you, Miss V.-- the type of people who possess this much nervous energy are never going to be able to sit still long enough to learn how to knit. Especially with "wool floss" (and size 00 needles, I'm guessing.) Besides, yarn is expensive and every spare cent goes to diet pills and the three pounds of coffee a week.

Note how she reassures these Nervous Nellies that the added decorative touches can be taken off "at will"-- as opposed to the decorative touches that just hop off your sweater whenever they feel like it.

What son wouldn't want to wear a sweater "like Dad's", you ask? Pretty much every single kid I've ever met in my life. How embarrassing.

More expert advice from Miss Vanek-- two whole ways to cast on! And that's all, apparently. I guess since Miss V. was picturing an audience of jittery, paranoid speed addicts, she kept the technical section short and sweet.

And the coup de grace-- my favorite project in the booklet (not that the competition was exactly fierce):

It's The Bisexual Sweater!

However, I really don't think that it's fair to imply that it's somehow "wrong" for the sweater to be "gay by day". A sweater's choice of coordinating separates is its own business and nobody else's, and if it wants to hang out with the other girly sweaters during the day but dress up in a skirt and follow the fleet at night, who are we to judge?

Frankly, I don't think this sweater is right at any time of the day or night, but maybe that's just me.