In praise of the humble mitered square

Lets face it, after a few months (years) of knitting socks, you are going to have amassed a fairly hefty collective of leftover sock yarn. If I am knitting socks for me I normally expect to have about 30g of sock yarn left from a skein of 100g - sometimes a little less if the design features lots of yarn-eating cables.

And all those little 30g balls of yarn can soon add up.

For me, the tipping point came when I decided to reorganise my sock yarn stash and put all the leftovers together. When I realised that I had about 1.5kg of little sock yarn balls it was time to admit that a) I needed help and b) maybe I should make something with it all.

The next few weeks on the blog will therefore be devoted to ideas for using up that leftover sock yarn, starting with the epitome of thriftiness - the Sock Yarn Blanket.

If you have a few hours to spare just type in the words 'sock yarn blanket' into Google or Pinterest and prepare to be blown away by the creativity and colour you will find. One of the most popular patterns or recipes is a free pattern download: The Mitered Squares blanket by Shelley Kang. Endlessly adaptable and highly addictive, it's easy to see why there are so many versions of this on Ravelry and it's hard not to be drawn into their appeal. There is something very pleasing about how all the neat little decreases line up along the length of the blanket and bright hand-dyed yarn in garter stitch is always a real winner.

It is worth considering however that this is a large scale undertaking and because the squares are joined as you go, the project quickly becomes non-portable. Some clever knitters have got around this however by using the same principle to knit square panels of say 3x3 or 4x4 which can then be seamed together. Indeed, the very clever ScullyWully on Instagram took this principle and expanded it to create a series of monthly blocks - with the colours influenced by the seasons and the other projects she was working on at the time.

If large-scale commitment isn't your thing, you could always take this idea and adapt it to make cushion covers for example or smaller cot-sized baby blankets.

The only other caution I would issue, with my 'voice of experience' is to weave in the ends as you go - ask me how I know! With that caveat in place my only other advice is to go for it and have fun. If your enthusiasm wanes you can always curtail the project and make a cushion cover, or you can go the whole hog and make a king-sized bed masterpiece.

Knitting Goals 2016

After much thought I'm not setting myself targets such as 'Knit 12 pairs of socks' this year but rather my aims are to have a good balance of projects on the needles at any one time and to keep making progress through those projects without the distractions of the new and the shiny. At the same time, the trick is to leave enough flexibility in there to cope with the inevitable "Oooh...shiny..." distractions. I know what I'm like :)

My Mama Vertebrae cardi - very much in progress

My Mama Vertebrae cardi - very much in progress

Knitting projects for each month are to include:

1. Something using yarn from stash (bought pre Jan 2016)

2. A sweater for me (the same sweater may span several months)

3. At least 2 original designs

4. Vanilla socks...obviously

5. Something for the gift box (this can be something from items 1 or 4, or something else)

As each month end approaches knitting tasks include:

1. Updating Rav project pages and stash

2. Deciding which projects can be finished by the month end

3. Picking a new project to cast on, on the 1st of the month

4. Ensure that any yarn which has entered the stash has been photographed and logged (with date) on Ravelry - the little box marked 'Cost' can just stay blank.

I did contemplate going through the whole stash and making sure that my Ravelry record is accurate as I reckon that about 60% of my stash is properly recorded. In the end though, my chronic laziness won out and I decided that as long as I faithfully promise to make sure new stash is logged promptly, then my time would be better spent actually knitting my stash rather than documenting it.

So, how about you? Care to share your knitting goals - I'd love to hear what you are up to. Please do leave a comment below or pop over to my Ravelry group where we have a whole motivational thread devoted to goals, encouragement and a fair number of lists.

Airing my stash

The new year has seen a bit of domestic upheaval and decluttering and as a result I have been thrilled to have acquired a nice big wooden chest of drawers in our spare room. Of course, I immediately did what any self respecting knitter would do and filled it full of yarn.

All the boxes under the bed and on top of the wardrobe were piled gaily into the drawers and I gazed happily on its woolly contents.

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

These beauties from The Uncommon Thread have their own special drawer

After the dust has settled though I find myself surveying it with a somewhat more critical eye. I did a major round of decluttering last year so I am pleased to report that there is no lurking fun fur/eyelash yarn in there, and a lot of my pre-ravelry acquisitions have already been sent to the local charity shop.

On surveying what is left I realised I have some beautiful yarn and it needs to be allowed to see the light of day. I also have some non-so-beautiful yarn which leaves me wondering why I bought it in the first place. Looking at the yarn in the latter camp I realised that most of it was purchased at yarn shops as impulse buys, and mostly when exploring new towns and new-to-me yarn shops.

I'm sure you know the feeling. On a trip to a new town you come across a yarn shop, or your DH finds one and, pleased as punch, insists that you go in and he will treat you. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth you enter the shop, ready to be sent dizzy with yarn fumes and instead find yourself surveying a huge wall of baby acrylic yarn.

There really is a place for pastel baby acrylic yarns, of course there is, but I have a strictly limited need for it. Of my precious yarn storage space I would much prefer that I give homes to beautiful hand-dyed yarns, items of wonder and beauty and just enough good quality dk weight wool to make a few sweaters. Add in some great sock yarn and some fun self stripes and that really would be my ideal stash.

Anyway, that aside. The reality is that when I find myself in such a yarn shop, with my DH looking expectantly at me I usually panic and pick something that I know, in reality I will never knit with but it looks pretty. The yarn then comes home with me and goes promptly into the stash, never to re-emerge.

Now, I know myself too well to ever utter the words 'cold sheep' ever again. I love yarn too much and specifically I love buying and holding new yarn too much for that. What I do want to do though is to better curate my stash and make sure that I do justice to some of the lovely yarn I currently own.

I'm not quite sure what shape that will take but I am busy doing lots of planning for the current year and realistically assessing how much knitting time I have both for new designs and for personal knitting. With that in mind - and the recent Episode from Jo of Shinybees fame on Knitting Goals - I will be back shortly with my realistic, achievable and downright cunning Knitting Goals for 2016.

Loving my stash

This year I have been deliberately low key about my goals and intentions for 2016. I know I have a tendency to try to commit to lots of different things at once and often end up not achieving many, or indeed any of them.

This year I decided to take a little time and not feel the pressure to commit to any particular goals, just because January 1st has rolled around again.

One of my major goals for last year was to get the website up and running, and now that it is I feel as though I want to relax here a little. To take stock and take a little time to grow into this new space of mine.

One thing I have started to do however is to look at my stash with a more critical eye. Specifically the yarn I collected before I discovered luxury and hand-dyed sockweight yarn, and that which I collected after this point. My stash definitely falls into two camps - Noro Silk garden, I'm looking at you!

My aim for this year is continue enjoying fabulous hand dyed yarn from some amazing indie dyers and I have no intention of cold sheeping in the slightest. What I would like to do is to go through some of my older stash and give away that which I know I'll never use. Then, with what's left my aim is to always have a simple project on the go that is using up some of my older stashed yarn. Baby hats, blankets and little sweaters are always perfect for the gift box and use up those odd half skeins of sock yarn. I recently discovered the joys of holding sock weight yarn doubled to make an approximate worsted weight yarn and the resulting super-squishy fabric is perfect for using up some of that stash.

2016 is going to be my year of stash appreciation - here's to the well curated stash!

A Stash Dash triumph

Today marks the end of Stash Dash 2015 - an epic challenge hosted by the Knit Girlls to knit 3K, 5K or 10K's worth of yarn from your stash.

Me, being me I had to go for the 10K challenge and I have to admit that there is no way on earth I would have achieved this, were it not for the Mitered Crosses blanket which acounted for over 5K of yarn all by itself.

My Stash Dash 2015
So, clockwise from top left we have:
Hitchhiker 400m
I Heart Stripes shawl 365m
Shetland Trader MKAL 453m
Traveller Tunic - 973m (The shame - I still need to take a modelled picture of this one
Drachenfels  939m
Log cabin-ish blanket 1002m
Watermelon Stripes 268m
Mitered Crosses blanket 5034m
Trickle Shawl 385m

All the links take you to my Ravelry pages in case you want more details of yarns, patterns etc. Also a few lovely members of my Ravelry group - Louise Tilbrook Designs - joined in too and we posted details of all our projects here. Do check them out as there are some fabulous inspirational projects there.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this years challenge and getting some larger projects off the needles was very motivating.

Now all that remains is the question - Is it too early to start planning for next years challenge?

Lots of finishing

As we head into the weekend and the start of August beckons, my attention this weekend will be turning towards WIPs that I need to finish for Stash Dash.

At the time of couting I have just over 9000m under my belt and just need that final push to get across the 10K finish line by August 14th.

First up are two pairs of socks that just need their afterthought heels and which I think will count for about 600m between them.

Then we have my I Heart Stripes shawl which has been on the needles far too long and just needs that final push along the loooong rows to finish it off. I think that will be about 400m and so these 2 projects combined should be enough to see me gaily over the finish line.

Of course the bulk of the meterage for my Stash Dash 2015 has been the 5000m or so tied up in the Mitered Crosses blanket. I've received lots of questions and comments about the blanket project - thank you to all - and so I'll make this the subject of it's very own #FOFriday post next week.

Why not join in with the #weekendwipalong hosted by Shelley at Little House in the Corner

Spill the beans on what you are working on and drop your link on her page so that we can all cheer each other on.

Knitting and Minimalism: Part Two

So, last week I was all fired up with enthusiasm for some selective pruning of my stash and I happily set about reviewing my yarn stash (yes, all of it) and ensuring that it met one of 3 criteria:
a) beautiful
b) useful
c) intended for a purpose

So, how did I do?

Well, I'm pleased to report that my stash has now shrunk in size from 4 large storage crates and an under-bed drawer to 2.5 crates and the aftermentioned drawer. The latter holds my prized sock yarn and whilst none of it will be leaving my possession anytime soon it does need a tidy up and organisation - so that is my job for this week.

Overall I have sent 2 larger carrier bags to the charity shop and the kids play club - mainly acrylic and leftover skeins or part skeins from projects. It really helped to think of yarn in terms of 'Is this something I will enjoy using?' when deciding which category it fell into.

For some reason I had accummulated quite an array of aran weight yarn in shades of brown and grey. Not the most inspiring thing to look at - I must have been having a throwback to my 1970s childhood at some point. So, out it goes - and my stash is a happier, brighter place for it.

The yarn pictured is my 'good' unwanted yarn and so this is waiting to be photographed (if it isn't already) and listed on my Ravelry destash page.

I am undecided but I'm thinking that I might offer it up to anyone willing to make a contribution to my Just Giving fundraising page in aid of Bliss. I would have to make this available to UK people only, regretably, due to postage charges but I'm thinking that it would be a good way to put my unwanted stash to good use and raise some money into the bargain.

Next up, the book collection as my bookcase is officially FULL.

Knitting and the art of minimalism

I have really enjoyed taking part in the Project 333 challenge and after a month I am starting to see the benefits of simplifying my wardrobe. My morning routine is simpler and calmer with less clutter and fewer choices - and I can pull something out of the wardrobe without releasing an avalanche.

In the interests of decluttering, my mind has turned naturally enough, to my other potential avalanche risk - The Stash.

Like any self respecting knitter I am keeper of a goodly sized stash, but, is it too much, I wonder? Does my stash help my knitting life and imbue me with a sense of calm and satisfaction that I am ready for any knitting challenge or does it threaten to overwhelm me and complicate my knitting life. Hands up that woman (me) who had to buy an extra skein of yarn to finish a project, only to find the missing skein months later in a box of 'deep stash'.

I have no desire to cull the stash severely or to impose any sort of frugal 'cold-sheeping' existance - the idea is just to review it (all of it) and to see what serves a purpose, and what does not.

Employing William Morris' principle of "Keep only what you know to be useful or believe to the beautiful" I will be categorising my yarn into the following groups:

Beautiful Yarns
This doesn't have to have a purpose. It is just beautiful, and lifts my heart when I look at it. It is my source of inspiration, of comfort and of joy. I am lucky enough to have some beautiful sock yarn and laceweight yarn in my stash which is lovingly hand-dyed and a source of pure joy.

Yarns with a purpose
Yarns for which I have a definite project in mind. It doesn't matter when I intend to actually make it, but I must have a defined use for it (and linking it to my Ravelry queue wouldn't hurt either)

Useful Yarns
This includes baby yarns (although I must have enough to make an actual garment) and superwash dk/aran suitable for hats and gift giving (ditto regarding the amounts though). I know for a fact that I have many part-skeins in this category which I have saved for some unspecified time in the future.

Everything else
If a yarn doesn't fall into either of these 3 categories then it will end up here and will be destined to leave my house in some form or another (charity shop, gifting, de-stashing etc)

I don't have a huge amount of free time this week so every day I'll take one of my storage crates - I have 4 and work through it, applying these principles.

Next week, I'll let you know how I got on. And if you don't hear from me, I'll be buried under a yarn avalanche somewhere :)