Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A clean yarn drawer is a peaceful mind

I've been writing a lot over the last week, and working away in the back of my mind has been a stash tidy session: destash, knit up, log on Ravelry, contemplate, decide. Gradually working through the stuffed plastic bags that have been clogging up my drawers and my mind for the last year, and thinking, do I really want to take this with me? What have I learned in the past three year's knitting?

A case in point: cotton. It turns out I don't like it, much. Particularly not in heavy weights and in cheap varieties. It hurts the hands and doesn't shine and hangs heavy off the shoulders in a shapeless fashion. It is only ideal for babby knits, but, it turns out, I have no patience for babby knits. I am not a doting grandmother type. Not me. So farewell, entrancing package from two years ago: I've posted one bulging parcel off to a babby-loving friend who'll appreciate you, and one other is ready to go, and a sense of guilt that I never finished a babby knit has gone with you.

And then there's that other cotton, which is indeed heavy, but is not cheap and is complex and a rich rich green: Gedifra Marokko, which I had picked up on sale in KaDeWe in Berlin two years ago (I am made of fancy, I know).
Gedifra Marokko
Chuck, gift or knit into a bag? But I don't really do handknit bags: they sag and get grubby and don't have enough pockets. Or... I could trail Ravelry late at night for possible saviours?

Hallelujah. The yardage is exact, to about three metres or so; it'll be short and indacent, but I can wear it over a light cotton vest, and the colour will still be perfect. Type into Ravelry, photo, keep.

And so it goes. There are a few yarns I might yet part with: this sheen-less laceweight Lavenda, for instance,Lister Lavenda, another eBargain that is sitting about unloved: pure wool and vintage she may be, but she's also unshiny, fine, unsexy.

And that brings me to the point, I suppose: eYarn is not necessarily the way forward, because no matter how knacky the pattern, how perfect the gauge, what makes the garment is the yarn you use, its sheen, how soft it feels against the skin, its halo, the play of its colours. All the things you can never tell in an eBay photo. So do I regret all the eYarn? Of course not. It was my learning yarn, without which I would never know that I have no room in my life for mohair, that tweedy yarns are glorious and fun but to be used sparingly, that there is a great difference between cheap cotton and fancy cotton, that pure wool is not all alike, and possibly most importantly: the yarn on which I discovered what I love to knit and what leaves me cold and unloved. Ditching a half-knitted baby dress or scratchy scarf is much less painful when it only cost €3 in the first place. And sometimes, you even hit lucky...

Henley in progress

As with the patient Russian angora-wool, who waited her time in the back of drawers and is finally knitting up into flickering-flame glory, three years on. Sometimes, stash patience really is a virtue. But given how fast my life moves, usually not.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

O Stash, How I Love Thee

No really, I do love my stash. Not all of it equally, of course. But there's such a sense of frugality when knitting from stash! Of achievement! And I am being very, very good and holding off purchasing lots and lots of yarn that I really, really want, because... I have just found out that I am flying to the US in June. Chicago and Madison, homes of local yarn stores and lots of luscious yarn names that I have so far been only able to ogle on Ravelry and Interweave Knits and Knitty, and oh! I am drooling already! Better yet, I have a knitting partner in crime on the trip, so I suspect we'll be enabling an awful lot of fancy American kettle-dyed hand-reared yarn to make up for the acrylic wilderness of Northern England where we now live. Hooray!

So, one thing knitting from stash teaches you: what yarns you really like. Most of my stash comes from the broke days and from eBay. And much of it is sitting there looking... just a bit wrong. Just a bit too cottonny, a bit too acrylicky, a bit too chunky, a bit too listless... a bit too unloved. That's the thing about eBay, of course. No stroking and fondling the yarn! But my adventures in eYarn have been an Educational Experience, for through the medium of bargain yarn, I have found out for very few euros what I do and do not love. And currently, I am all about... the fine-gauge yarn. Yes. I have some stacks of aran and bulky to use up, some plain DKs without shine or brandname that I will doubtless get through at some time or another, but ooh, my heart is going out to fine, slightly sheeny, possibly blended yarns, sock yarns, cashmere-mix 4plys, laceweights... and I hereby promise to buy only the fine. Promise!

So what about that stashbusting, eh? Well, it's been like this...

FO: Chestnut Rose

chestnut rose
Pattern: Rose Red, from Ysolda

Yarns: Langora (left over from my bolero), two-and-a-smidgen skeins

Needles: 4mm bamboo DPNS

Time sucked: A week or so. I was on the train a lot.

Verdict: I was risking it, using a fingering-weight yarn in a DK pattern, and even though I knitted the large size, a slouchy beret she ain't. Much more, as my lovely lady friend said, a "bell-y cloche". But my lovely lady friend is a 1930s kind of a girl, and she likes the cloche look. I'm not sure I'd wear it myself, but she loves it, and that is most definitely what matters. Hooray! It's a gorgeous pattern, though you do have to keep paying attention, and I might well stashbust some more and knit up some of the rest of my shocking-pink cashsoft into a properly slouchy DK beret...

And there's more!

FO: Baudelaire Socks

baudelaires done

I love looking at all the pictures of these on Ravelry: because they're toe-up, people get fabulously long socks out of them, and really, long socks is where I'm at. Lookit, high lacey socks and mary-janes: it's back to primary school! Except that these are particularly witchy mary-janes, of course...

Pattern: Baudelaire, by Cookie A from Knitty, by Cookie A, from Knitty

Yarns: Schoeller + Stahl Fortissima Socka in pink, bought at the knitting and stitching show (sighs) two years ago. See! I am getting through the stash! I am! And this yarn was always meant for the Baudelaires! I like it: it's robust and even. More on that anon...

Needles: 2.5 mm DPNs

Time sucked
: Two weeks. Good LORD, these socks are princessy and demand attention. I ripped back and forth and recrossed cables and picked up YOs and... well, if anyone's paying enough attention to my calves that they notice an uncrossed cable, you really have to worry about them. They're only socks! It doesn't really matter! And yet somehow, it does.

: I opened out the cables and increased them to allow for calf muscles in what I hoped was a spot of elegant-ish clocking on the side. You can kinda see in the photo. It seems to have worked; the leaf pattern isn't stretching out at all...

So in general, am I pleased with myself? I am. Onwards and upwards with the Henley P., so! It's 16 degrees and springy out, but the BBC assures me that it'll be rainy and back down near freezing at the weekend. Light lacey warm jumpers will be where it's at, then. Meanwhile, to decide how best to get rid of the rejected members of my stash: the poor fluffy baby cottons (hate baby knitting), navy sock yarn (have knitted socks for my dad, don't have any other men to knit for), the lustreless vintage Lavenda 3-ply... all to make way for US yarn. And on the subject, a sad story to finish up with: luxe yarns may be only gorgeous, but look...

My glorious Lorna's Laces! My fine and finicky Potomatusamuses! Six months of wear and the washing machine, and look what happeneth! I suppose it was inevitable, but let it also be a Warning to me on my search for luxe yarn: luxe is as luxe does, but don't get too carried away by the Shiny. Yes, Lorna's Laces is beautiful, yes, the sock pattern is elegant, but you know what? if the socks aren't going to last, then it ain't exactly worth it. Let this be a lesson to me, in my yarntastic June adventures...