We need to talk about yarn…

OK  so we’ve assessed the clothes/shoes axis (I won’t be buying handbags either btw – I’ve ‘only’ got half a dozen or so, but that being said, I only use one regularly…the others clog up the wardrobe. Sulking) – so let’s move onto yarn.

Now before I owned a wool shop I had a stash. This largely consisted of skeins of beautiful lace-weights that I was scared to use, left-overs from finished projects and bargain yarn batches that I hadn’t found a use for, plus maybe enough yarn for the ongoing project. It looked like a lot. My mum never had anywhere near that amount: just enough for her current project and a small bag of scraps. I read funny stories by the Yarn Harlot about stash storage, but couldn’t empathise – I could hide my stash in just a small corner of the wardrobe.

Then I bought a wool shop and little by little, some of the good stuff trickled out and began to fill storage bags in my house. I mean I didn’t go crazy-mad, I just treated myself. Then, when I knew the shop was going to close and that a fire-sale was inevitable, I looked around the shelves and thought, nobody is having this delicious stuff at knockdown prices, (and because it was 100% wool and a premium product, it hadn’t exactly been flying off the shelves in any case) so I bagged it up and brought it home. I am not ashamed. Nope.

So the picture below is my stash – or the vast majority of it: not included is a large box of shop haberdashery and an equally large box for my Sock-blankie 2 and its ton of sock leftovers. And there is another small bag of some quite horrid acrylic ‘Special’ DK that I bought under the influence of a very famous blogger. Some of it turned into a blanket, the rest is called upon to produce occasional samples and pattern tests. I cannot throw it away because, well, it’s yarn. But friends, I remain unpersuaded of its ‘special’ qualities.

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the full stash
sock wool
sock…
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..the special ones…

When I arranged all this yarn on the bed I felt a mixture of shame and pride: the former because that’s a lot of yarn for one person, and the latter because that is a lot of yarn for one person.

And I do not need to buy any more yarn – do I?

#nobuyzone -additions?

So having decided to take a holiday from buying more stuff, and auditing my wardrobe, what, if anything, do I need to buy in the remaining three weeks?

  • I have a passion for Converse & usually buy a pair each summer – though the last iteration made it through two (I bought sandals instead this year… worn 4 times. Stupid British summers). My current orange ones are looking a bit sad, so might need to be ‘pre-placed’ (which is a bit like being replaced, but in advance).

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    …my under-utilised sandals. 
  • I need a neutral grey cardigan – I was making one and it’s nearly there, but not quite…. it’s one of those projects that I keep going back to and tweeking, before adding it back to the ‘to be finalised’ pile. I’m not sure what I don’t like about it, so I’m not sure how to cure it. It’s nice yarn….maybe I should just frog it and start again…
  • I might need new trainers: the current ones are fairly new and due to being Limpy McLimpface I don’t do a lot of actual working out! But wait, what if I get operated on in the next few months, recover rapidly, take up exercise and wear those trainers out? Um, I think that under these slightly unlikely circumstances I shall allow new sports shoes as the ONLY EXCEPTION TO THE #NOBUYZONE rule book.
  • I might treat myself to new knickers – on reflection some of them are looking a little saggy!

Next time….we need to talk about yarn…..

 

# nobuyzone audit

Well that was ….um, not good.

Here are the results of the audit

…in addition there are 9 coats, about a dozen handbags (and yet another bag for the bloody charity shop)! Some thoughts occur.

  • My wardrobe is very dark, mostly black, some sludgy colours and navy. I don’t think this is a good thing. And I have a lot of stripe-y things.
  • My shoe collection shows an unwavering commitment to comfort and Converse.
  • I have too many things that rarely get worn – the reason for this is that they are designated for ‘going out’ in….and I rarely go anywhere that merits a complete change of clothes.
  • On the upside, a good third of the tops that I have – t-shirts and tunic style – are made by me and get worn a lot. Buying the over-locker was a good move and it’s now more than paying back its purchase cost.

#nobuyzone

Organising the final days of the shop, stashing the left-over yarn and finding places to store it in the loft has been a sobering experience. I’ve laughed in the past when I’ve seen a suggestion that knitting and buying/stashing yarn it are two separate hobbies, but that laughter feels a little hollow when I’ve got many years supply of yarn… and still keep on buying it.

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I love the promise of an un-used ball of wool. The gorgeous colours and textures of a particularly lovely skein of yarn are like human catnip for me, but I’m beginning to feel a wee bit guilty about buying more and more of the stuff – and only very slowly turning it into knitted things.

 

At the same time, the loft revealed that I have a problem with buying clothes and shoes too: I’m sure I’m not alone in wearing the same dozen items and two pairs of shoes and yet I have a wardrobe stuffed with clothes, drawers stuffed with clothes, as well as a spare wardrobe in the loft stuffed with clothes. I have boxes of shoes, miles of scarfs, crates of hats and gloves and bags. While we were sorting out the spider-strewn storage, I began to feel a wee bit sickly (and that wasn’t just because of the spiders).

Clothes and fabric are one of the biggest contributors to landfill, the chemicals used to produce, process and dye cloth are frequently toxic, and the garment industry has questions to answer about how much it pays, and how it treats its (predominantly third world and female) workers. The fashion industry drives a fast and furious cycle of what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ that could leave half your wardrobe redundant in less than a year.

Like most of us, I enjoy the real pleasure of combining colour and cloth, glitter and gloss for a night out, and I’ve spent hours looking for the perfect pair of life-changing jeans just like everyone else. But I need to jump off that carousel for a while – and closing the shop, losing my independent income and changing my life has given me a obvious incentive to do something a bit different for a while.

So this is the plan – and it’s a simple one. I’m not going to buy any more clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories or yarn for a whole year. As I can sew I have an obvious ‘get out’ clause, but I’m going to attempt a ‘one in- one out’ policy. I’m going to start by auditing the stuff I have and make sure that I’m not hanging on to things that could have a better home elsewhere (and to make sure that I have enough knickers for a year). My plan is to kick off on the first of November.

PS this is Villagewoolly central for the next wee while – it’s in the conservatory and as you can see, it’s a pretty nice place to hang out. Btw – I don’t ‘do’ minimalism!

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one door closes….

Another week or so until the shop closes. In a way – mostly associated with my knee and, um, pain, it’s good to be getting to the end of things. But in most other respects, it’s pretty damn heartbreaking.

How will I miss the shop? Let me count the ways.

The people – whether you came to shop, browse, learn or just to chat. I have met knitters who have  shared my obsession, keen crocheters who sparked my current passion for colourful blankets, proud grandmas knitting a beautiful welcome for new members of the family, confident and experienced knitters with decades of making under their belts and people just at the beginning of their crafting journey. I have also spent time with folk who seemed a little sad perhaps and maybe lonely too, occasionally plain eccentric. But always kind, hopeful and great company. Thank you all.

The wool and yarn – I have been privileged to have access to lovely, colourful, soft, seductive, smooth, vibrant, silky, springy, gorgeous knitting and crocheting yarns. And I’ve been able to either a. get them at cost price (tee hee) and/or b. simply pluck them from my shelf and take them home to my stash. I will now have to start using that stash and I’ll have to pay full price too. Boo hoo, poor me. (I imagine you have limited sympathy for this point…so moving on….)

The work – working in a knitting shop is a pleasure – and occasionally I have also managed to make enough money that I’ve even had a wage. Ok, so not minimum wage and sometimes there hasn’t even been enough to take home. But still, it was mine….all mine. And I will have to manage my free time once I’ve got it again. This coming year could be awkward: there’s a risk that I’ll spend it marking time until someone repairs my knee, having my knee repaired and then recovering from having my knee repaired and then – boom – another year will have gone by. So I hope to get my future started as soon as possible after the shop door closes for the last time.rainbow socks

The Villagewoolly.com page will continue to operate – and I have an interesting challenge to announce soon – so stay tuned.

 

shawls, scarfs and other triangular things…

A quick look at any on-line knitting site will reveal a passion for shawls – whether knitted or crocheted, they’re all the rage. Does this reflect a desire to wander the country like a Jane Austen heroine clutching a bit of lace to a heaving bosom? Or sudden plummeting temperatures? Nah, it’s largely that, like socks, hats and blankets, shawls and wraps can be quick projects that will always fit, however relaxed your tension is, they don’t take a great deal of yarn and they’re very portable. As an added bonus, you can turn the colour up to 11 if you’re minded to escape the confines of a neutral wardrobe.

Today’s blog is essentially going to tell you a little about the ‘recipes’ for making the 2 most common shapes:  the new-fangled ‘scalene’ triangle wrap and the classic ‘v’.  But it’s worth bearing in mind that, if you have a stitch directory, a bag of yarn and some time on your hands, merely casting on multiples of your favourite lace pattern, edging it with rows and columns of garter stitch and knitting until you’re crazy bored will elicit a very fetching rectangular wrap. Not all shawls have to be triangular!

So first off – the scalene triangle wrap/shawl/scarf. Popularised by Martina Behm with her fantastically popular ‘Hitchhiker’. These long, shallow shawls have become the go-to for many a beginner pattern designer. Ravelry’s front page usually features at least one or two of them  (today there seems to be around 5!) They are usually garter stitch based, frequently make use of 4 ply/sock yarn and often have a collection of points or holes. Their recipe is simple, cast on a few stitches, increase every row on one edge and decrease every 2nd, 4th or 6th row on the other depending on the amount of depth you want in your scarf. More decreases = shallow long scarf. Less = deeper shorter scarf.

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The other classic shape is the ‘v’ – with a touch of lace, this is the go-to shape for those airy, floaty, ultra-feminine shawls to waft around your shoulders as the evening chill strikes (or  I guess, if you make them in a  thicker yarn, ignore the lace –  they’d be great for snuggling when reading in bed).

You start with a garter tab cast on, which is much harder to describe than do!

Cast on 3 stitches and knit 7 rows of garter stitch – then drop your second needle and pick up three stitches from the side of your garter strip (as shown)

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– then pick up three more loops from your cast on edge. You’ll end up with a crescent of 9 stitches all on one needle.

Next row: knit 3 (yo, K1) X3, yo, K3.

Next row and every wrong side row: knit 3, purl to last 3 stitches,  k3

Next row, k3, yo, k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, yo, k3 

Next row k3, yo, k5, yo,k1, yo, k5, yo, k3 . …and so on with the stitches written in green going up by 2 each row.

After the next row your work should look like this

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…..the photo illustrates the overall pattern.

When looking at a ‘v’ shaped shawl, it’s tempting to think that you start at the point and increase to the top edge, but this diagram should persuade you that you are doing precisely the opposite!

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Again, continue with the stitch pattern until you just have enough yarn to knit around 5 rows of garter stitch plus the cast off row. You’ll end up with something that looks like this. (sample knitted in Sirdar Divine Dk 2 balls x 50g, 5mm needles)

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Use sock yarn to add stripes, play around with reverse stocking stitch or eyelets, or just keep to plain old stocking stitch. If you’re inspired to move onto a lacy shawl, then at least you’ll understand the underlying structure, which should help you wrap your head around the more complicated stitch patterns.

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To get you started here’s a little free pattern from Villagewoolly.

Goldwing 

A scalene triangle scarf/shawl – with a lacy border.

You’ll need at least one ball of sock yarn (4 ply) but for a more generous wrap, 200g would be even better. I used 100g of Rico Las Vegas in shade 001 interspersed with  about 25g of WYS sock in a bright acid yellow for my version. A touch of striping will make this a more interesting knit, or make it in something silky and luxurious and you’ve got the ideal cover up for bare shoulders.

Note! I haven’t had this pattern tech edited – if you find any errors – let me know (email villagewoolly@gmail.com) – and apologies.

Dimensions (using my 125g of yarn)  160 cm wingspan and 40 cm depth (after blocking) – yours could be much bigger!

You’ll also need 4mm needles, scissors and a darning needle.

Abbreviations

st/sts – stitch/es

k – knit

kfb – knit into the front and back of the next stitch

yo – yarn over the needle

Set up rows

Cast on 3 sts and k 4 rows (ie. garter stitch)

row 5 – KFB, yo, k2 (5 sts)

row 6 – k to last st, kfb (6 sts)

row 7 – kfb, k to last 2 sts, yo, k2 (8 sts)

row 8 – as row 6

– then repeat rows 7 & 8 once, then row 7 ONLY once. (14 sts)

Next row Cast off 6 sts, k to last st, kfb. (9 sts)

Pattern

  1. Kfb, k to last 2 sts, yo, k2
  2. k to last st, kfb
  3. as  row 1
  4. as row 2
  5. as row 1
  6. as row 2
  7. as row 1
  8. Cast off 6 sts, k to last sts, kfb.

These 8 rows set the pattern.

( Note: After you’ve repeated these rows a couple of times, you’ll realise that you are making holes along the non-kfb edge and, when there’s 4 of them, you immediately cast off 6 sts on the next row – this simultaneously creates a lacy triangular point, and fulfils the requirement that for you decrease stitches along one edge of your shawl as you increase on every row of the other.)

goldwing WIP

When you have either a. got just a few grammes of your yarn left, b. the scarf is plenty big enough or c. you fancy a new project,  it’s time to cast off.

You should use a stretchy cast off in order to maximise the elasticity of each edge of the scarf – especially if you plan to give it a jolly good blocking (recommended).

Try one of these:

k the first 2 stitches of the cast off row, then insert your left hand needle into the front of the stitches you’ve just knit and then knit them together.  Knit the next stitch (2 sts on your right hand needle) and repeat.

Or try this i-cord cast off.

At the end of the your last row, cast on 3 stitches,  then  *k 2, s1k1psso – transfer these 3 worked sts back onto the left hand needle* . Repeat * to * until all your cast off stitches have been worked and then knit the last 3 stitches together. Cut off end and thread yarn through remaining loop.

Wet blocking will give you an airy lightweight shawl, or if you prefer a thicker scarf, just spray your knitting with a fine mist of water, lay it on a towel, ease it into your preferred shape and leave to dry.

 

Travels with Vanda

 

Hello again!

We’re back from our Scottish adventure, Vanda is safely in the drive and the laundry is finally finished (though not, regrettably, ironed… ah well).

I can’t say that I loved  every single  minute: there was a few sticky moments on our first night when the water pump didn’t work and I realised that reversing a campervan was a wee bit different to reversing a Panda, but I loved every subsequent day on the road with Keith and Vanda, and we will be going away again as soon as possible.

So what did we learn?

  1. It’s an ideal venture for a neat-freak. I am a person who likes a place for everything – and everything in it’s place, so living for a couple of weeks in a teenyweeny space, which necessitated that everything remained in good order was easy-peasy. I watch a lot of videos about tiny homes (type that into YouTube and expect to give up some hours of your time if you are like-minded).
  2. Bubble wrap and baskets are essential in the battle against rattle.
  3. You don’t know what you need – until you need it. Generally when it’s too late to get it.
  4. The Scottish Highlands are simply beautiful – if you haven’t been up there (and if you’re English, shame on you) GO. GO NOW!
  5. Cruise ships are now visiting Ullapool. But it’s still lovely, despite.
  6. Knitting/crocheting are the perfect pastime for evenings with Vanda. With a wee dram of course.

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I’ve never been a great lover of hotels (over-early breakfasts, over-heated rooms, over-stuffed pillows and only a single chairs in the bedroom), and I can’t get on board with second-home ownership (not great for locals and with so many lovely places to visit, why go to same place over and over again) and tents are no longer my bag (hard cold ground or stupid leaking airbeds, a walk to the toilet block, rain and midges). Self-catering apartments or cottages are fine, but hands up if you’ve experienced the following – weird lumpy mattresses, a complete absence of sharp knives, having to buy ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING from chilli powder to a cup of rice in order to make something as simple as a chilli. Yep, we’ve all been there.

Vanda has pillows we chose ourselves and a comfy bed, windows that open and close, comfortable seating, a proper bathroom, a kitchen more or less equipped with every thing we need (but see point 3…), and provided she has a full tank of diesel, she can take you anywhere you fancy – and, when you get there, you can have a proper cup of tea in your favourite mug.

And when you go round a corner and see this sort of view spread out in front of you the question isn’t ‘why would you?” , it’s why on earth wouldn’t you!

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PS.. out of gratitude to Vanda I finished her blanket….. here it is with the hummingbird cushions I also put together. Fabric from Abakhan.

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