Monday, February 22, 2016

Pompom Quarterly's latest issue and my restrictive stash

If there's one piece of mail I just love to receive, it's the latest issue of Pompom Quarterly. Any of you who visit here on a regular basis would know how much I love Pompom. I've knitted a fair few things from previous issues, and I've got a shortlist of next projects. And this issue's focus on celebrating undyed yarn is great. So often we are bombarded with bright colours, and I know I certainly forget just how beautiful the undyed hues are. 

The only issue is I'm lacking the right weight yarns to make some things. With my trip to Paris only a few months away, I'm really trying to limit my spending, which means I'm shopping the stash. And as I mentioned a few weeks ago in my first Stash Less Challenge post, my stash is a little bit restrictive. 

I'm in love with the Equilibrium Cardigan by Gina Rockenwagner, and I think it'll be a great addition to my cardi collection, but I don't have any DK weight yarn in a big enough quantity to get started.

I've decided that for now I'm not going to buy yarn, so this project will have to wait a little while. 

Luckily though, there is a pattern in here that I adore and I have the yarn to make it! I've had 600g of organic 4ply, undyed merino in my stash for a few years, and it's beautiful. I've just been waiting for the right thing to make with it. And I think I've found it.

Once I've finished my mittens I'm going to cast on Perpendicular by Sarah Brunenberg. It's a great triangular shawl that will be perfect for wearing with my winter uniform of dark blues. There's a lace panel, which will challenge me a lot, but the best thing is that I don't need to buy any yarn to make it.

And speaking of Stash Less - a big thank you to Felicia of The Craft Sessions for mentioning my Stash Less Challenge over on her blog this week. I've been a huge admirer of Felicia's Stash Less journey, and it's great to see how others are following her example and thinking more about what and why they stash. I can't wait for the next part of the challenge.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stitching Up Paris + weekend knitting plans

I feel like the stars are aligning for my trip to Paris even more every day. Last week two Paris based Kiwis published what might just be the travel guide of my dreams. 

Stitching up Paris: The insider's guide to Parisian knitting, sewing, notions and needlecraft stores by Keiry Belton and Barbara Cattoni is a gem, full of great information on where to find fabrics, yarns and notions in the world's most stylish city. 

It only arrived in my letterbox yesterday, but I've already read most of it and am planning after-class outings for my trip. I think exploring Paris' arrondissements by way of knitting shops is a great way to get off the usual tourist routes and find some little-known places. 
A bit about the book - Barbara is the lovely lady behind Stitching Up Paris, which offers tailored tours to different craft shops around the city. Keiry moved to Paris a few years ago and met Barbara, and the book is the result of their friendship and love of sharing their craft.

The book is broken down into several sections based on interest - knitting and yarn, sewing and fabrics, embroidery... which is a great way to focus on a particular craft. At the back of the book they also have all the shops listed by arrondissement, so if you want to visit a variety of different shops in a particular area, you can do that, too!

The only thing I think this book is missing is a map with a key to each shop. I quite like maps for planning adventures and getting an idea of locations' distances from each other. If ever a second edition is published, I think a map, or several of big areas in Paris, would be useful.

In summary, even if you're not planning a trip, I think this book is a great read and enjoyable for any Francophile that likes a bit of crafting!

Other things I'm doing this weekend... yes, I am knitting! For the last couple of weeks I've been stash busting and knitting with a lovely BFL fingering from Happy Go Knitty. I'm using one of my favourite free patterns and making some Long Lovely Mittens by Purl Soho. I had originally intended to make socks, but this red is just so great that it deserves to be seen and not hidden in my boots, so arm-length mittens it is!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kimono craft

A few months ago a very good friend took me to an amazing vintage paradise. An old warehouse in a semi-industrial part of Auckland, where there is a serious amount of treasure. We're talking vintage kimonos, yarns, vintage indigo fabrics, silk, and all manner of beautiful Japanese textiles. I had to buy something, so I came away with this lovely silk kimono, with plans to wear it over leggings and plain t-shirts. But of course, I haven't worn it yet, because I wasn't won over by the panel on the front.

I didn't want this to be another purchase to stay hanging in the closet being unloved. I mean, check out that fabric! How could it stay hidden away? So I got out the scissors.

I cut off the front panels and continued the edging around the neck and down the front panels. I thought about sewing it by hand, but I am too lazy, so I finished it all with a quick straight stitch.

I am very excited that this is all finished, it'll be just right for when autumn sets in. And I'm excited that this is another item saved from the back of the wardrobe and will be enjoyed. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Storm Shawl - a free pattern!

Regular readers would have heard all about my favourite scarf/shawl from 2015. This was the first semi-circle I ever knitted, using a beautiful gradient set from Dark Harbour Yarn. I wore it with everything bright that needed a simple accessory. It was my go-to, a step in a different direction from all the yellow I usually wear, and I loved it.

Then I lost it. Losing a favourite garment is horrible, but losing one you made is just the worst! After turning the house upside down to try and find it (added benefits = very tidy house afterwards). I asked at every location it could possibly be left at. And no luck. It was gone. But then I thought about this as an opportunity to double check if the pattern I hastily scribbled down as I knit the shawl actually made sense. I quickly ordered another gradient set and got to work replacing my favourite.

The philosophy of this pattern is pretty simple. Set up the shawl, then continue knitting until you've added in each colour and have pretty much ran out of yarn, then bind off. 
The hem is slightly rolled, a neat finish if you're not really into lacy edges.
 The pattern repeat, after the set up, is done over four rows, and this is a great introduction to yarn overs. 
Just a note - aside from me knitting this scarf twice, this has not been test-knitted. I had a go at this to show off some lovely yarn, and a few people have asked how I made it, so here it is! Get yourself some amazing Dark Harbour Yarn Port Fingering Merino in the Mare Vaporum gradient set to make one. This set comes with six mini skeins, going from light grey to charcoal. 

How to make:

You need: 
Dark Harbour Yarn's Port Fingering Merino - Mare Vaporum Gradient
4mm needles

24 sts and 38 rows over four inches after blocking.
Gauge isn't completely essential - I just carried on until I ran out of yarn!


Starting with the lightest coloured skein, cast on 3 stitches.
Row 1: Kfb, K1, Kfb (5 st total)
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: Kfb, K3, Kfb (7 st total)
Row 4: Knit
Row 5: Kfb, K5, Kfb (9 st total)
Row 6: K3, *YO, K1, repeat from * across to last 3 st, YO, K3 (13 st total)
Row 7: K3, purl to last 3 st, K3
Row 8: Knit
Row 9: K3, purl to last 3 st, K3
Row 10: K3, YO, *K1, YO, PM, K1, PM, YO, repeat from * two more times to last 4 st, K1, YO, K3
Rows 11 - 13: repeat rows 7 - 9
Row 14: K3, YO, *K to marker, YO, SM, K1, SM, YO, repeat from * two more times, K to last 3 st, YO, K3
Repeat last four rows, working an increase row every fourth row = eight increased stitches every increase row.
Continue in this manner, joining in each new skein, from lightest to darkest, when you get to six inches of yarn – leave this to weave in.
Continue until you reach 21 inches from the cast-on point to the edge, measuring up the middle of the shawl, ending at the end of an increase row. 
K2 rows, bind off loosely. 
Block and enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Stash Less Challenge #1 - Taking Stock

I've been following Felicia Semple's Stash Less journey since it began on her Craft Sessions blog over a year ago. Her journey has made me look inward and think about my habits when it comes to crafting - what I buy, how I spend and whether the purchases get used or end up sitting in a drawer, unseen for years. Another real catalyst for me was moving house three times in a little over six months. This gave me an incredible awareness of just how much stuff I had, and since then I've donated clothes, books and homewares that don't serve me a purpose anymore. 

It's been a while since I moved house though, and I hadn't really made an inventory of my stash in a good long while. So last night, at around midnight, at the end of all of my current knitting and sewing projects, I emptied the drawers, got the yarn winder and got organised. And so begins Challenge #1 - Taking Stock.

Here is the Status of the Stash 2016, including fabric:

Going through this yarn and figuring out when and where I came across it has been a very interesting eye-opener into my stashing habits. For the most part, my stash can be categorised into a few broad groups:

Yarn given to me for /in payment of magazine work
Supporting indie dyers at craft fairs even if I have no project in mind 
The yarn isn't being produced any more so I need to get my hands on the last of it
Halfway through a project and I think I'm running out, so I buy an emergency skein just in case

All up there are 16 full skeins of yarn in my stash, which doesn't sound like a lot when I think about it. That's a good thing for me, as I like using what I buy. Nine of these have come from magazine work. A few years ago I got paid in Skeins yarn for a couple of articles I wrote and I have three 200g hanks of naked merino 4ply and three skeins of their naked chunky. These are the only yarns I have in relatively large quantities to make something quite substantial - I just don't know what yet. The other three include two skeins of Spinning a Yarn silk merino and a skein of Vintage Purls sock. 

 I can see that when I'm at craft fairs I am susceptible to buying one skein of sock yarn to tell myself that I'm being a good local supporter, even if I don't have an end project in mind. I just tell myself I can make more socks because they are totally quick and easy and I can even give them to someone if I want to! I can see at least two examples of this in the stash.

There are also two skeins purchased because the lovely yarn supply was running out and I was overcome by FOMO. 

One other skein was also purchased because I thought I didn't have quite enough for some lovely full length mittens I was knitting for a friend. Turns out I had just enough, and now I have another skein to make myself a matching pair one day. 

Then there is another bag of yarn leftover from big projects. In the photo, this is the bag at the bottom. That yellow - Red Riding Hood Yarn left over from my Chuck sweater - there's 165g of it! That's a hat, surely. Then there are two more balls of Red Riding Hood yarn of around 120g. I only purchased on hank of each colour, but these hanks must go a long way. Another hat from each, maybe? There's enough Kingfisher for another pair of socks, and I have a few ideas on what I can use the other bits for.

Problems with the stash = it's full of 4ply, in relatively small quantities. 
Aside from socks and hats, I doubt I'll be knitting anything big with any of this. Apart from the stack of naked merino, I don't have a sweater lot in here, so it's likely I'll want to go shopping at some point. 

Benefits of the stash = I'm getting better at using yarn up.

A lot of the yarn I purchased last year has been knitted. It is now a something, and not just a skein. That bag of leftovers shows me I've knitted a jumper, two cardigans, and several hats in the last year or so. I'm glad that I don't have too much that I don't know what to do with. I have a lot of ideas for a lot of this yarn, I just need to sit with my wardrobe now and figure out what's missing. 

Now on to fabric:

The fabric situation is quite different, mainly because when I buy fabric, I already have a project in mind and it gets used up fairly quickly. I think because I still find cutting fabric entirely terrifying, I only buy what I need because if I mess it up, I haven't spend too much money on it (read - another reason I'm scared of buying fancy silk).

Both of the ginghams, the blue and white stripe and the floral are left overs from other projects and are waiting to be turned into something new. This fabric may or may not remain in the stash - it might get donated. The light blue on the right is intended to be a shirt at some stage. The stamp fabric, the navy and the yellow, blue and white are all intended for dresses. The grey t-shirting is the only knit fabric, and it is very handy to combine with other knits to make raglan shirts, as evident in my last post. Also I'm pleased to note that all of this fabric is secondhand!

Footnote to the State of the Stash:

Not included on this list are things that I know I will never use. This equals three skeins of lace weight that I purchased years ago, thinking I would enjoy knitting lace (I definitely don't!) and a big bag of left over yarn from socks that I intended to make a hexipuff blanket with. I've knitted five hexipuffs in five years, all within one week of inspiration but given up on quite quickly. These skeins and bits have been added to the donations pile for the next charity shop drop-off. 

And my overall view:

I'm on the right track of where I want my stash to be. I want to have a few things in there that I can make progress on, while not being overwhelmed by how much cash I've just got sitting in a drawer, doing nothing. One of my big challenges for the year is to save some spending money for a trip to Paris, so I will be doing my very best to make from the stash instead of buying. There will be occasions where this won't be possible, and that's okay, but if I'm being much more mindful and not buying for the sake of buying, that can only be a good thing.