Wednesday, December 31, 2008


For those of you who: a) are just now reading your first knitting blog; and b) have somehow managed to miss every one of The Yarn Harlot's books; and c) have never spoken to, emailed, or otherwise communicated with another knitter, S.A.B.L.E stands for "Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy".

I'm there.

This was my stash in March of 2007, when I started blogging:

Two bookshelves, neatly organized. At this point, I only had two knitting books and no magazines. In fact, I had only just started to explore the concept of "stash", for which I totally blame The Yarn Harlot. Before this, I knitted for 20 years by buying the yarn I needed for the single project at hand, finishing the project, and then moving on (I threw out any leftovers). It was only after I read the first of the Harlot's books that I realized I could stock up on yarn, patterns, and books. You know, in case of an emergency or something. I seem to have embraced the concept with a certain degree of enthusiasm.

This is what I saw when I opened the stash closet this morning:

That used to be the floor of the closet. The bookcases from the first picture are behind that pile (still full of yarn).

This is the closet shelf, up by the ceiling, not visible in the last picture [actually, this is the closet shelf after I organized it. The before was embarrassing in a way that had nothing to do with a simple yarn addiction]:

That, folks, is a lot of yarn.

I think that is officially more yarn than I can justify. Several hours ago, when I opened the closet and saw the mess, I thought, "Hmmm. Maybe I ought to take an hour or so and get this organized and photographed so I can put it up on Ravelry. Maybe I could even see if there's anything to destash. That seems like the sort of thing a person might do on the last day of the year, if she were the organized, resolution-making type."

I got out my camera and a legal pad and set to work unloading, sorting, photographing, and cataloging the yarn.

My camera battery died. Twice.

I have six pages of the legal pad filled.

And, four hours later, I have only half the yarn cataloged.

I'm afraid drastic measures may be in order.

To begin with, I have identified quite a bit of yarn for destashing. I think it amounts to about a quarter of the total stash, and that's just the yarn I can destash without any discomfort. If I want to dig a little deeper, there are several more yarns that could go on the block. So, for starters, I'm going to put all that yarn up for sale on Ravelry.

Second, as a corollary of sorts, I am finally going to catalog all of my yarn on Ravely, so that I can see exactly what I have, and I am going to put up any new yarn I may buy as soon as I receive it. Forcing myself to keep track is, to my mind at least, a lot like keeping a running total in my checkbook; it makes it impossible for me to ignore reality. It also gives me a place to "shop" without spending any money. I love to look at yarn online and think about what I would make with it. If my own yarn is online, I can look at it anytime, and I won't be tempted to break out my American Express Card (hey, I'm trying, okay?).

Finally, although I don't believe in diets of any sort (they only make me crave what I've decided I can't have), some sort of yarn-buying reduction plan is clearly in order. I don't do New Year's Resolutions (see "diets" above), so let's just call this a little personal growth challenge. A complete moratorium is clearly not going to work. But for the next year, at the very least, I am challenging myself to buy less yarn than I knit. A lot less. My goal is to find the floor of the stash closet by the end of the year.

This is how that floor looks now:

Those two cardboard boxes on the right are destash yarns, and somewhere in there is a large bag of acrylic and cotton yarns that I plan to donate to the elementary school's knitting club. The rest of the yarn on the floor is the amount of yarn I will need to get out of the stash to reach the floor. I know you can't see it well, so you'll have to take my word for it: there's about sixteen sweaters' worth there, plus spinning fiber (which doesn't count as yarn, but still needs to find a place on the shelves before the end of the year, which means it will have to take the place of some yarn already on the shelves--see how it works?).

Now, I can't knit sixteen sweaters in one year, unless I give up certain other activities, like cleaning and laundry and speaking to my children. Even if I could, that would only allow me to reach my goal if I bought no yarn at all for the entire year, and we've already established that is unrealistic. But about a third of the closet shelf is also currently filled with destash yarn. I figure, moving yarn up from the floor to the shelf as I destash is fair, and totally in keeping with the goal of reaching carpet in 2009, as long as something is moving out of the stash in some way, right?

And now I'm off to make pizza and taquitos for the younger units so that I can send them and their friends up to the media room with sparkling cider, while hubby and I enjoy filet mignon and champagne downstairs. Happy New Year, all!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

Why I haven't been blogging:

Jury duty (still!)
One migraine
Kids home from school (eternally, it seems)
A large dog with a back injury (three vets and counting)


Just plain laziness.

Christmas was good. We had no house guests this year, which was much less stressful than last year's never-ending tag team of family members in search of a place to sleep and 24-hour kitchen service (I love my family, know). There is some small chance that we have also turned the corner on the sibling-rivalry smack-down, although I'm reserving judgment on that. It could just be carry-over from the annual "if you don't stop smacking your brother, Santa is going to skip right the heck over this house!" threats that we always resort to at this time of year. We are in the midst of our annual holiday veterinary crisis, however. For the third year in a row, one of our pets has decided Christmas is the perfect time to have a medical meltdown. In the past three days, we've been to two vets, done one set of x-rays, and received four prescriptions, and I spent the morning on the phone looking for a veterinary chiropractor (yes, really) who could see her on short notice. After 30 calls, I found one that will see her tomorrow, but the office is an hour drive from our house. Think I can convince the kids it's a field trip?

I personally had a banner Christmas morning. My darling husband has finally bowed to the power of the fiber addiction and accepted that the only gifts I really want have to do with animal hair. I got extra bobbins for my Woolee Winder (which I wanted and requested), a skein winder (which I wanted but didn't request), and--my personal favorite--my very own body double!

She doesn't look exactly like me; there's that little matter of the missing head and limbs. But she is exactly my height and shares my exact measurements, and she's already proved her value. These shots were taken Christmas morning, right after I ripped out the enormous and time-consuming shawl collar on Amanda because there was something just so not right about it.

As soon as I put the sweater on Bertha (or Ruby, or Wilma, depending on the mood), the problem was obvious:

This is the back neckline, according to the pattern, before the stitches are picked up and knitted for the collar. See the problem? Yup. Way too high. But I couldn't see it when I tried the sweater on myself. It's not that easy to see the back of your own neck. With the sweater still on Bertha, I took out the bind off row and ripped back until the neckline was about the right height (this sweater is a bottom-up raglan, so this was simple). Then I bound off again and redid the shawl collar.

The end result is perfect, but I would not have discovered the real problem without Bertha's help. I shudder to think that I would undoubtedly have re-knitted the entire collar, only to have it still not fit properly, because the problem wasn't the collar in the first place. I'm not sure why this problem came up. My stitch gauge was correct. My row gauge was slightly smaller, which should have resulted, if anything, in a shorter raglan with a lower back neckline. The rest of the pattern was perfect, except that the sleeves, as written, would be too short for anyone over five feet tall (unless you're a T-Rex, in which case, knit away). I added three inches to the sleeve length, and they only fit because the yarn grew a lot with washing. If you're considering this pattern, do keep that in mind, and pay attention to the height of the back neck.

Modeled shots to follow, as soon as I can collar a photographer to help me out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I have been knitting. I just haven't been blogging about it. The truth is, I was so disappointed with the way Autumn Leaves turned out that I haven't been able to bring myself to take FO shots. It fits fine. I just don't like it. Eventually I will bite the bullet and post pictures. In the meantime, I have been soothing myself with alpaca.

This is the body of Amanda (Ravelry link), from A Fine Fleece. The yarn is Reynolds Andean Alpaca Regal in mallard heather. The color is a bit darker and maybe a bit greener than in this picture. It's definitely not as bright as the picture suggests. My little point and shoot camera and I don't agree when it comes to color. This is as close as I could get.

I love this yarn (and the fact that I got it for less than half of retail from a destasher doesn't hurt). I have a long-established alpaca fetish in the first place, but this is especially nice. It is a heavy worsted/chunky weight, and it's spun (I think) a bit more firmly than most alpaca, so it seems to hold its shape better than most alpaca. There is a bit of wool in it, which helps. My swatches didn't change gauge at all with washing, which is a rare occurrence with alpaca, in my experience. I do expect it will stretch lengthwise with wear, especially since the yarn is quite heavy. I am adjusting my lengths accordingly, so I hope I am correct.

This cardigan is worked bottom up in one piece, the sleeves are worked separately, then attached to the body, and then the upper body and shoulders are worked together with raglan shaping. I don't like this approach as much as a top down design, because it doesn't allow for trying on and knitting to the proper length, but at least there is only a tiny seam to work under each arm at the end. The sleeves on this are designed to be rolled up, so I'm not too worried about the sleeve length, but I have been waffling about the body length. I have finally concluded that I should make all my sweaters about two inches longer than I usually do. I seem to like winter sweaters best when they hit at the lower hip, which is longer than most are designed to do. I keep finding myself tugging at the bottoms of my sweaters, even though I always add length. So in recent days, I have been going back and lengthening some of my favorites. [This is not difficult to do, by the way, as long as you have the yarn. If the sweater was knitted top down, of course, it's simply a matter of picking out the bind off, joining the yarn, and working some extra rows. But even if it was done bottom up, you can cut off the ribbing, pick up the stitches, and knit extra rows downward, then re-knit the ribbing. Or you can just lengthen the ribbing. There are lots of options. Just because you've been wearing the sweater for a while is no reason not to go back and modify it if it's not quite right.]

I've finished the body of Amanda up to the armholes, although I made add another inch, and one sleeve is done and awaiting joining. The other sleeve is almost half done and will probably be finished today. I've been dragging this project out deliberately, because I'm enjoying it so much that I don't want it to end too soon. The pattern is really lovely and soothing to work. The textured stitch is much more interesting than plain stockinette, but not at all taxing--perfect for tv watching or supervising kids or sitting around with family.

Eventually, though, I'm going to have to finish it and move on. My queue (and my stash) are rapidly reaching disturbing proportions. And there's still that little matter of the plainblackstockintettesportweightcrewneckpullover. Sigh.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Knitting Goes Mainstream?

Check out these decorations I spotted at the local Starbucks:

It's a yarn ball wreath! (Child not included.)

It wasn't for sale, but it would be super easy to make. I think I'd use styrofoam balls in different sizes and wrap them with yarn, then wire them together, with or without the glass ornaments.

And look at this (not a great shot, sorry):

Can you imagine how much more peaceful the world would be if everyone knitted? Clearly the person who designed this saw the connection.

These would make great holiday art projects to do with kids, or terrific Christmas gifts for knitters/crocheters. I may need to make a quick trip to the craft store.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

First, a public service announcement: the new Knitty is up!

Go. Check it out. I'll wait.

There are two sweaters I flat out love from this issue of Knitty (or, as I've come to think of it, "the Romi files"--she's got the cover again! Congratulations, Romi!):

This one is by Jordana Paige and is called "Amused":

And this one, by Norah Gaughan, is called Surface:

I must have them both. Now.

I've already swatched for Amanda from A Fine Fleece:

(Still can't get a decent photo of this one. Sorry.)

I've worked out the colorwork for my Transitions sweater and the yarn has arrived and is just awaiting my attention.

And I'm still on the hook for--say it with me now--aplainblackstockinettecrewnecksportweightblackcashmerepullover.

So many choices, so little time! Any guesses what I'll cast on first?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yarnhog Screws Up

Yep. It's true. At least it wasn't knitting I messed up.

Anyone remember a few weeks ago when I had jury duty? No? Ah. Maybe I didn't mention it. I've been called for jury duty every six months for the past ten years. Each time, I've had the court-approved excuse of "small children for whom financially-feasible childcare is not available." This time, though, I had to admit that two kids in school all day and a husband who works at home (and could potentially pick them up after school), did not really count as a valid excuse. Also, I've always wanted to sit on a jury. So I went.

I got called in for a really interesting criminal case. There were three groups of 21 potential jurors, and I was in the last group. All of us were in the courtroom for the juror interviews. I sat listening to interviews for eight solid hours, and they never got to me. I couldn't knit, either. But it was really interesting, all the same. And even if they had called my number, I'm pretty sure I'd have been excused. I'm a lawyer (civil, not criminal), and lawyers generally don't get seated as jurors (although there was a young corporate attorney ahead of me who did get on the jury; all the more reason I wouldn't have made it, I suppose. Can you imagine two lawyers on one jury?)

Anyway, one would think that answering the jury summons would get me off the hook for at least...what? A year? Six months? But I got called again. Now, to be fair, the first summons was for state court, and this one was for federal court, and never the twain shall meet. In state court in California, jury duty is a one-day/one-trial service. You show up for one day; if you don't get seated on a jury, you're done. If you do get seated, you do one trial, and then you're done. I did my day.

Federal court is different. You are on call for a month. They send you a letter telling you when to call the court juror line, you call, put in your number, and the recording tells either when to show up, or when to call back. If you get called in, you go for the day, and either get on a jury or get sent home. Either way, you're still on call for the rest of the month. And you have to remember to call each day that you're told to call. I've been on call for over a week now, and it's been a challenge. Under the best of circumstances, I'm not that great with schedule changes. But having to wait until after 6 pm (when they post the next day's jury calls) to find out whether the next day is completely shot to heck has been frustrating. And trying to keep track of which days I have to call in has been an exercise.

So last night, between dinner and taking Older Son to Science Olympics practice, I forgot to call. I did remember that I forgot to call, right after I dropped the last kid off at school this morning. So I called in, and, when I discovered I was supposed to have been at the courthouse an hour earlier, "pressed three to speak to a jury clerk." Only there were no jury clerks in the office, which wasn't open yet. I debated whether to drive downtown (about a 40-minute drive) or wait until the office opened to ask for instructions. I waited. And waited. And waited.

I hate being late for anything. It drives me almost crazy. I'm always at the airport two hours early. If an invitation says "7:00 pm", I'm outside at five 'til, waiting for the clock to change. Even my kids were born early. It's pathological, I swear. So sitting and waiting for the jury office to open, knowing I was already an hour late was torture.

And when the office finally opened, I couldn't get through to talk to anyone. After roughly 50 repetitions of "All clerks are assisting other jurors. Please try your call later," I gave up. (Have you ever noticed that recordings don't care how loudly you scream?) I got dressed, put on makeup, and was doing my hair when my husband announced he had the jury office on the phone (thank God). They weren't very happy with me, but I'm pretty sure this sort of thing happens all the time. It must, right? The clerk changed my status from "failure to appear" (does that sound as ominous to you as it does to me?) to "time off". And told me to "be sure to call tonight."

I'm hoping this will help:

I don't know how I'm going to make it through another three weeks of this.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Is it fickle if you start out a project loving the yarn and pattern, and then realize partway through that you really don't? Or is it just open-minded?

I am not loving Autumn Leaves. It is almost done, actually, just one button band to go, and I would have had that done last night had I not spent most of the evening ripping and reknitting and re-ripping and re-reknitting the yoke and the first button band (which I sewed in and pulled out three times), trying to make it accommodate a button spacing that would please me. I finally decided that it was an exercise in futility, because it wasn't really the button spacing that wasn't pleasing me; it was the whole project. At that point, I set it aside, because nothing about the project was going to make me happy anyway, and there was a good chance I was going to start ripping with abandon just for the heck of it.

Here's the work in progress, almost done, and looking even less appealing in the picture than it does in person:

I don't think there is anything wrong with it. The yarn is soft and squishy and warm (although I think I need some sort of intervention to deal with my addiction to buying variegated yarns that I invariably hate when they are knitted up), the seams are perfect, and it fits properly, or will after a nice soak and blocking. I just don't like it. I think this may be a case of "looks fantastic on the 20-year-old model, but have you looked in the mirror in the last decade?" I have the feeling I'm just going to look silly in this.

Still, it's almost done, and I have a really hard time leaving anything unfinished, so I'll be knitting up and sewing in that last button band today and moving on to the blocking. I'll have to find some buttons that will work, too. And then I'll do an FO post and you can all tell me the truth about whether I should wear this in public, 'k?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Love: A Review

I will apologize right up front for the quantity and quality of the photos in this post. The quantity is my fault; the quality, not so much. I will explain later.

Like most of you, I own a number of knitting books. Some are technique books, some are stitch dictionaries, and some are pattern books. Of them, the pattern books are the most fun; who doesn't love to look at beautiful sweaters, shawls, or socks? But they're also the books I "use" the least. I rarely knit straight from a pattern. Most of the time, I start with a pattern, then modify it to suit my body, my taste, and my yarn. When I do buy a pattern book, it is usually not because I want to use the patterns, but because there is one or more project that I find inspiring in tangible way, meaning I can base an actual project on it. Even when I love a book, like Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits, I rarely knit more than one project from it, at best. (In point of fact, I have not made a single project from Custom Knits, although I have done two top-down sweaters using techniques from the book since I bought it a couple of months ago.)

Which makes it almost shocking to me that I have come across a book with not one or two patterns that I want to knit, but a whole wardrobe of them:

This is an amazing book. It is organized around the concept of using handspun yarns to produce gorgeous, heirloom sweaters, and it is sort of generally directed at spinners, since it provides instruction on different fibers and how to spin yarns for specific purposes, but it is not a spinning book. One of the interesting aspects is that each project is shown in both a handspun yarn and a substitute commercial yarn, sometimes quite similar to the handspun, and sometimes completely different, which is particularly useful, since it illustrates how much power yarn choice has on a finished project.

But for me, the definite highlight is the patterns.

I love this take on a traditional aran:

Or how about this one? I never thought of an aran as "dressy" before.

And how could you not love this?

There's a men's and a women's version of this one. I love the collar.

This Chanel-esque one caught my eye, too, although I don't like either of the yarns they used for it.

And here's where I'll apologize for the photo quality. I took several shots of this and couldn't get a clear one. Then I realized it was blurry in the book. A lot of the photos are. Most of them showcase each sweater in two yarns, often with one in the foreground and one in the background, with one or the other out of focus. And many of the photos, while beautiful, are not particularly useful for a knitter who wants to get a clear view of the garment. They are either partial shots, closeups, or too far away, or they only show the back, etc. For almost every project, I found myself turning the page to see another view, only to discover there wasn't one. This is one of two major issues I have with this book.

It really irritated me with regard to this sweater, which made me gasp out loud with delight:

I love this sweater! See the texture? Not so well? Yeah, well, get used to it. The only other picture of this sweater is this one:

And yes, they are in "soft focus" in the book. That won't stop me from making this sweater; I have the perfect yarn in the stash, and I've been wanting to use it for a cozy, squishy cardigan. I'll make mine a little longer, and add some waist shaping.

Obviously, no book is going to appeal to everyone equally. If you don't like cables and textured patterns, and rustic, woolly yarns make you itch just looking at them, this probably isn't the book for you. It runs heavily to aran/fisherman-type sweaters with lots of cables and textured stitches, although as you can see from the pictures above, there are certainly other designs as well. There are also some scarf, hat, and sock designs. Most of the patterns are unisex, which leads me to my other major complaint: most of the patterns start at a 38"-40" chest and go up from there. If you are a plus size, you are well-covered with this book. If you're on the small side, be prepared to do some creative re-sizing, or swim in your sweater like the models in the book. (Most of the sweaters also lack waist shaping, and many have drop shoulders, so unless you're shaped like SpongeBob Squarepants, you may want to consider some modifications there, too.)

But despite what I consider to be fairly significant flaws, I really love this book. As a spinner, I especially enjoyed the section on different fibers. Ever wonder whether Romney is coarser or finer than Corriedale, or what the difference is between Blue Faced Leicester and Border Leicester? I know now! There's also a bit of information on blending fibers, estimating fiber quantities per project, etc., but nothing you wouldn't find in greater detail in a spinning book. As a knitter, I find the projects absolutely irresistible. There is enough quantity and variety here to keep me busy all winter. Now, if the weather would just cooperate...