Knitting Olympics

I'm alive . . .

and I need some advice. Through some rather tragic circumstances*, I've come into possession of some lovely silk yarn that I'd like to make something nice with - but I don't know what. I have approximately 1100 yds of the stuff, and it's a worsted weight - so it's enough to make a short-sleeve top, or a really nice shawl. The yarn is plied (2 plies) and is a blue-purpley color that's probably too dark for my complexion, but I don't care. Thoughts? I'm stumped.

Incidentally, the link is from the blog maintained by my friend Ellen and her sister. Ellen is an incredibly witty, funny and warm-hearted person; her blog is highly recommended.

*I don't mean to minimize or trivialize Niki's death in any way. I just don't know how to talk about it in this forum, so I talk about her yarn instead.
Knitting Olympics

Knitting on a budget

Yea, it's been a while since I've posted here . . . I'm alive and knitting, but extremely busy.

A few people have asked me how I fund my knitting habit, so I thought I'd write a post on knitting with nice yarns without going broke.

I'm not a fan of synthetic yarns, especially acrylic. There are few synthetic fibers that compare to wool and other natural fibers in warmth, practicality, durability, texture, or attractiveness (did you know that wool can absorb up to ten times its weight in water before it starts to feel wet? that's my favorite natural fiber fact). Personally, if I'm going to put lots of effort and time into knitting something, I like to end up with something that lasts - and also something that looks and feels good. Acrylic generally doesn't satisfy those criteria, so I rarely knit with it (there are a few exceptions; more on that later).

I also try to be realistic about the costs of knitting. The bottom line is that it's not a cheap habit. The only way I would be able to make sweaters for cheaper than retail prices would be if I knit exclusively with the most inexpensive yarns, which tend to be synthetic fibers. For me, the higher quality of the finished product is worth shelling out more money for good materials. I would never pay $60 for a store-bought sweater (probably made out of acrylic anyway), but I would by $60 worth of wool or alpaca to make a sweater pattern I really loved, custom-made to my measurements. I'm unlikely to find that exact finished product in a store, and even if I did it would cost far more than $60.

Anyway. The internet is a great resource for good deals on yarn. There are online stores that sell brand name yarns at lower than retail prices, online companies that manufacture their own line of yarns, and online companies that do both. Swapping yarn with people online is another a good way to get your hands on yarn that you might ordinarily be too frugal to buy in a yarn store. Finally, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for 'destashing' sales by other knitters. The prices are often much lower than store prices. I've included a bunch of links to internet retailers and swapping/destashing blogs at the end of the post.

I used to buy a lot of yarn online, but lately I prefer to support my local yarn store (LYS) - all the more since I now work there! I think it's entirely possible to be a regular patron of an LYS and still keep the costs of knitting at an affordable level. You just have to be selective about what - and how much - you buy. A few guidelines:
- Budget how much you can spend on knitting supplies in a month, or in a year. I try to keep it down to $30-40 a month (which historically I've been able to afford since I almost never buy new clothes. Whoops). If I want to spend more than my monthly budget on a particular project, then I compensate by not buying any yarn in the next month or two.
- Don't be afraid to substitute a more affordable option if a pattern calls for a yarn beyond your budget. Look for yarn that knits up to the same gauge, has a similar composition, appearance and texture to the original yarn, and behaves similarly to the original yarn. Don't substitute cotton for wool or boucle for tweed; you'll end up with something entirely other than the original pattern (which can be fine if that's what you're going for). As long as you choose a substitute yarn carefully, you should be able to find something that works with both the pattern and your wallet. I've been able to cut down the costs of my knitting by a lot by substituting yarns. For example, I made a sweater out of Rowan's Vintage Knits that called for 6 balls of Rowan Felted Tweed - a $60 investment. Instead I used Grignasco Tango, a yarn with an identical fiber composition and tweedy appearance that cost only $36 total. I could also have used Elsbeth Lavold's Silky Wool ($42) or Kathmandu DK ($36). Most LYS's carry a number of good, basic yarns that are very affordable, have great yardage per skein (Silky Wool is a great example, also Cascade 220) and are easily substituted into a wide range of patterns.
- Look past high prices. Some yarns seem much more expensive than they really are. Be sure to check the yardage per skein before you decide if you can afford a particular yarn. Example - our store had a sale a couple months ago, and everything in the store was (at least) 25% off. People made a beeline for all the cheapest stuff, while overlooking a number of higher-priced yarns that would have been great sale deals - e.g. Alchemy Promise, a hand-dyed 85% mohair/15% nylon blend that's $32/skein. It seems like a high price until you realize that there are over 400 yards in each skein, and the gauge is huge - 3 sts/in. With that kind of yardage most people would no more than 3 skeins, more likely 2, to make a sweater. I was kind of surprised at the fact that not a single person besides myself took advantage of the reduced price. Anyway, the point is, a high price per skein is only half of the story.
- Knit small projects for yarns that you absolutely love but can't afford in large amounts. We just got some handspun cashmere in the store which is sooooo soft I can hardly even describe it - it's like feeling a cloud. Unfortunately it's almost $40 a skein. I'm planning on buying a couple skeins to make some super soft and warm fingerless gloves for the winter. I'm never going to be able to afford to knit a large project out of cashmere or silk, but I can afford to knit hats, gloves, scarves, etc out of luxury fibers.
- Knit lots of lace. This is my favorite strategy! Seriously, lace is probably the most affordable type of knitting out there. Lace shawls and sweaters take much, much less yarn to make than plain stockinette or textured knits. For the lace shawl I posted most recently, I used a Cashmere/silk blend that costs $31 per skein - but since the shawl is pretty small, and it's lace, it took only one skein. Two skeins would get most women a decent sized shawl. I'm highly skeptical that anyone could buy a handmade cashmere and silk shawl in a store for $62, much less half that. Also, lace shawls take some time to knit, so you're using less yarn for about the amount of time as it takes to knit a sweater (or longer). So lace knitters get more knitting enjoyment out of less yarn - more bang per buck. There are also a lot of very affordable lace and fingering weight luxury yarns on the market. Zephyr Wool-Silk (50-50%) is $7 a ball, and 2 balls are enough for a very large shawl. Misti Alpaca Lace (100% alpaca) is about $6 a ball, and 3 balls are enough for a large shawl. This means that you can make an intricate lace shawl (or sweater, or christening robe) that might someday be a family heirloom for less than $20. So yeah. Lace.

Um, that's all I got. Any other suggestions?

Knitpicks - sell their own line
Elann - own line and brand names
Handpainted yarn - own line of really lovely hand-dyed, often hand-spun yarns from Uruguay.
Discountyarn Sale - brand names, mostly sold by the bag. Good resource if you need a large amount (around 8-10 skeins or more) of yarn in one color.
Webs - (own line and brand names)
The Lorien Store - great deals on Brown Sheep, Louet
Knit Swap
Destash for Cash
Destash and Restash
Knitting Olympics

(no subject)

Pattern: Diamond Fantasy Scarf or Shawl by Sivia Harding, "Scarf" size.
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Pure Silk, 3 skeins. (Sport weight, 175 yds/skein)
Needles: Size 5 Denise circulars for the body, not sure what length. Size 5 and Size 7 denise needles for the attached I-cord (see more under modifications).
Time to Knit: 1 week.

Modifications: Nothing intentional. I found a mistake in the second to last RS row after the shawl was already blocking, which was frustrating. I only had size 5 needles on me when I finished the body of the shawl, so I used those for the first half of the attached I-cord. I knitted really loosely and it came out just fine. I've misplaced my size 8 needles, so I used size 7s for the second half of the I-cord. This didn't seem to make much of a difference in the final product.

Overall thoughts:
- Instructions were clear and well-written. The pattern comes with both written instructions and a chart. I used the chart for the most part, and I didn't find any errors in it.

- Yarn: Debbie Bliss Pure Silk is a soft, single-ply silk yarn, so it tends to fuzz and pill (not excessively, though). Other than that, this yarn was a real pleasure to work with, and being silk, it gives the finished product a really lovely drape. I'll definitely use it again if I get the chance. Also, it's supposedly machine-washable. I don't have any plans of putting this through the wash, though!

Difficulty/construction of the pattern - The scarf is knit entirely in one piece from the bottom point up, and the borders are knit as you go along. Lace shawls don't come any simpler than that. The lace pattern is easy to follow and would probably be easy to memorize, if one wanted to (I didn't bother). I would recommend this as a good pattern for someone just starting out on lace knitting.

Blocking - The scarf had to be blocked rather severely in order for the pattern to emerge. Silk is pretty fragile when wet, so I decided to go with a pin and spritz method. I wove cotton string along the edges of the shawl and pulled it tight to bring out the lace pattern. I used T-pins to pin out the points of the border and pin down the top edge of the shawl.

Would I knit this again? - absolutely! In fact, I cast on for another one immediately after I finished. It's not a terribly complicated lace pattern, but it still kept my attention and was a really fun knit. I knit the scarf size, but it's big enough to be a shawl for those of us who are short (I'm just barely 5'4"). This is a great pattern for a light summer shawl. The Yarn Harlot has more thoughts on this pattern here (summary: she liked it!).

On to the Collapse )

X-posted to knitting.
Knitting Olympics

Autumn leaves shawl in progress

Here's what I've got so far on my self-designed lace shawl. This part of the shawl is a modification of the Shetland leaves motif in Heirloom Knitting. The border of the shawl will be a variation of the madeira and diamonds motif, from the same book, and the edging will be a peaked edging with a leaf motif (really a modified diamond motif). We'll see how it turns out.

It's on hold for the time being, since the pattern for my silk yarn arrived a few days ago. Once that shawl is done, I'll get back to working on this beauty . . .

Knitting Olympics

I'm alive!

I've just been a little busy with school. I'm back now!

Here's what I've been working on. I'm not putting the pictures behind a cut - at least for now - because I don't think anyone reads this anyway. I'll change that if anyone complains.

A striped, bottom-up raglan sweater for David (no pattern):

Unnamed sweater-in-progress

Sweater closeup

Marianne, a lace cardigan from Rowan 37

Marianne back

Also, I have pretty yarn!

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (my new favorite), Tahoe colorway, for Pomatomus Socks

Pomatomus yarn

Knitpicks Shawdow in Sunset, for a self-designed lace shawl. I love how warm and rich this color is!

Knitpicks Shadow

Last, but certainly not least, some Debbie Bliss Pure Silk in silver. This was my birthday present from . . . myself. Hah. I'm going to use it to make this.

Silky deliciousness

Here's all the knitting stuff I got for my birthday. I'm most excited about the Heirloom Knitting book - it has so much useful information on lace knitting and design in it! I can't wait to put it to use.

Knitting loot
Knitting Olympics


So, I haven't gotten much knitting done in the past two weeks or so, but I do have a little bit of progress to share. I've been working on the Conwy pattern from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road. It's a really fun and pretty quick knit.

The pattern is knit cuff down, rather than toe-up like the last sock pattern I knit (Falling Leaves). I'm glad I've tried both ways, because now I know that I like cuff-down socks a lot more. Short-row heels and toes really do a number on my wrists, which would be fine if the final results were really attractive . . . as it turns out, though, I think heel flaps look and fit far better than short row heels do. I've finished one sock out of the pair, but I misread the instructions for decreasing for the toe and ended up with a ridiculously pointy toe as a result. It'll have to be redone sometime today. Bah.

ETA: The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, Black Watch colorway.

Here are some progress pics. Click for larger pictures. Sorry for the poor quality of the first one . . .

Conwy Socks

Conwy heel
Knitting Olympics


Originally uploaded by diablaazul.
I've been working on the Fiber Trends Pacific Northwest Shawl since November. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law, but, well, that didn't happen. I finished the body of the shawl on Christmas Eve, but I completely underestimated how long the edging of the shawl would take.

Anyway, here it is all done and blocking. I do have a blocking board, but the shawl won't fit on it. I'm deathly afraid of pinning the shawl to the bed, since we have one of those Sleep Number beds (a gift from the best in-laws ever), and I'd hate to puncture anything vital. You can see the shell edging peeking out from between the books. I'm going to have to block it a couple more times at least - once to get the edging pinned out properly, and another time to make sure the edges of the shawl are straight. Now that's love :)
Knitting Olympics

Do not pass go

Unfortunately I will not be able to finish my socks in time for the closing ceremonies of the Knitting Olympics. I'm just turning the heel on my second sock. I don't feel too badly about it, because I took a few days off to work on a scarf for daviticus. I probably would have finished in time otherwise. So, no medal for me.

On the upside, though, now that the Olympics are over (in 20 minutes), I can focus on my other knitting projects and blog about something besides socks. I'm currently working on finishing the following projects:

- Salina sweater from Vintage Knits
- Pacific Northwest Shawl from Fiber Trends (yes, still working on that)
- the aforementioned scarf
- Wedding Afghan for my friend Allison.

Pictures forthcoming!