Category Archives: buying yarn

I Spent My Xmas Money & It Was Awesome

My in-laws went a little wild with the Xmas check this year, so I went a little wild with my half.

This is what my work looks like when it's all cut out for me.

I thought about buying a spinning wheel, but in the end that felt like making a commitment that spinning would be my main hobby for the next several months, and I’m not quite there yet. On the other hand, I have wanted to set a goal of knitting a sweater every two months next year, and that right there is 6 sweaters’ worth of yarn, and then some.  Moving mostly leftish to rightish through those stacks, we have:

  • Cascade Eco+ (green) for the Drops 103 jacket.
  • Cascade Eco (gray) for owls by Kate Davies.
  • Berroco Pure Merino DK for a hat for Dan.
  • Addi Lace 1.75 mm 60″ circ. I’ve been wanting to try needles smaller than 2 mm for thinner sock yarns like Berroco Sox and Trekking XXL but I bend the wood or bamboo ones too much to make the investment worth it. I haven’t knit with any metal since I first started knitting due to ongoing wrist and shoulder issues that made it too uncomfortable. I’m hoping these are thin and light enough that I can work with them.
  • Rowan Felted Tweed for Bonny.
  • Harrisville Designs New England Shetland for Plain and Simple Pullover.
  • Berroco Peruvia Quick in Brown, Black and White for Winding Path.
  • Berroco Seduce for Apocalypta.
  • And my all-time favorite sock yarn, Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select Semisolids in Azure.

This entire purchase was greatly helped by the fact that my sort-of local place has a frequent buyer stampy card discount coupon system, which cut a big chunk out of the cost for this lot. I even had a bit left over to pick up some canning jars for my next dyeing project and a top-whorl spindle on Etsy to start spinning lace weight with!

Dan had big plans for his half of the check as well, and we had a restaurant gift card to dispose of, so we headed out early this morning for what turned into about a 7-hour trip: bank, breakfast, yarn store, comic book store, Game Stop, other comic book store, finally home to pile everything up on the floor and stare at it slack-jawed and giddy with exhaustion. I hit the yarn store prepared, with all the yarn I needed for everything I want to knit in a spreadsheet. It seemed like they hadn’t completely restocked after the Xmas rush, so some adjustments needed to be made to the list, and I had to mix a few dye lots (though I ended up mixing accidentally on the Felted Tweed; hoping that can be worked out with a quick call in the morning), but I managed to get most of my biggest wants checked off the list. Even being prepared, it still takes a LONG time to pick out all that yarn, but seeing as the biggest splurge we ever allow ourselves at one time is maybe $50 if we’re doing really well that month, it felt really strange and fun to have some stress-free cash to blow. And now I can start saving up for NH Sheep & Wool in May, since I can’t see why I would have to buy any yarn between now and then.

Merry Xmas to all, and I am heading back to my big-ass loungey pillow to pet my yarn some more.

Snowed In

I wasn’t entirely convinced we were going to get a blizzard, since the weather reports couldn’t quite make up their minds. In New England we always say that’s a New England thing, but I assume it’s the sort of thing that people anywhere say is an Anywhere thing. Our last Xmas celebration was scheduled for 4 yesterday about an hour’s drive from where we live. Checking the weather starting Saturday night, the chance of snow by 4 went from 50% to 30%  to 70%. It actually started around 5, I think. The drive home was slow slow slow but safe enough. Today was going to be gift certificate spending spree day, but that has been put off until tomorrow (which I guess will be sunny?). The power grid’s a wee bit shaky out here, so in case this is meant to be our third winter in a row with a major outage, I’ve got the heat cranked up and the Kindle and cell phones charging. Batteries, flashlights, blankets all nearby. Dan’s mother managed a Yankee Candle long enough that I think we’ve got about 8 more winters to go before we’re in danger of running out of candles (though power outages around here do end up smelling like freshly laundered apple pies sprinkled with pine needles because of it).

Right after Xmas is the best time to get snowed in, though. I’m prepared for a day of playing with my presents, both yarnwise…

…and otherwise.

Top photo, clockwise from bottom left: Reversible Knitting, Knitting Without Tears, New Pathways For Sock Knitters, and The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning; Sereknity Yarn & Fiber Impulse, color Campfire w/matching stitch markers (love. my. husband.); KP Risata in Waterslide; KP small sock blockers; Namaste notions case.

Bottom photo: Big-ass u-shaped pillow for to lounge about on (good sister, getting me just what I told her to!); new Farscape graphic novel (yay for Farscape graphic novels! it’s like I can pretend the show’s still on!!).

Oh, yes. Today there will be lounging and reading and sock knitting and maybe even swatching for the next big self-striping dye experiment (gonna make me some pink, black, & white Jaywalkers if all goes to plan). And Mythbusters on Netflix. There must be Mythbusters on Netflix. Oh, yes, indeed.

Must. Do this. Every. Month.

I’ve been on the Phat Fiber mailing list for, like, ever, and it seems like every month the box goes on sale during a week I don’t get paid. This month it hit just right, going on sale not only on a pay week but on the 1 of 3 paychecks this month that wasn’t spent before it came in anyway.

This month’s theme was music, and I kinda feel like this box was made just for me: there are samples inspired by Prince, Madonna, Gordon Lightfoot, and Lyle Lovett. I’ve already pawed through it twice and suspect I’ll just be carrying it around the house with me for the next few days.

Simplify, Simplify

The Xmas knitting progresses nicely.

Clockwise from bottom left, that’s one Turkish Bed Sock in Maizy, one skein of Patons Classic wool split in half & wound into a double-stranded cake for a Honey Cowl, most of a slouchy hat of my own design in KP Gloss DK, 2/3 of a ribbed scarf in KP Swish Bulky in Coal, one sock knit up to the heel turn in Trekking XXL, and a pair of fingerless gloves in the same black Swish. 198 Yds of Heaven underneath.

I expect to finish the hat, and quite possibly the cowl, today. The 2nd bed sock should only take me an evening or two. The socks have been neglected a bit, so I’m going to have to start carting them around in my purse again.

The scarf will take no time at all to finish, but I’ve hit a snag entirely of my own making. I ordered 3 skeins of Swish Bulky for the scarf. After I finished the 2nd skein, the length looked just a little short. I’m aiming for a scarf that can be wrapped around once and leave the ends hanging just long enough to keep it in place; this is for a decidedly un-fussy uncle who probably wouldn’t go in for too much maneuvering required by such a functional item. Then, I realized I hadn’t planned anything to make for my sister’s boyfriend, I remembered the fingerless gloves I made my husband out of Swish Bulky, and I also remembered them taking way less than half a skein. That third bit was where my plan fell apart, it turns out. I decided to make the gloves with the 3rd skein of Swish, then finish the scarf. That way I’d get the most out of the yarn and not have to guess at when to finish the scarf. In the end, way less than half actually worked out to around three-quarters. All of which is to say poor me, I had to order from KP twice this month.

The Fuzzy Feet are off and some thrummed mittens are on for my mother-in-law. Dan asked me last night how I was going to felt them now that we have a front-loader. Which was really an excellent question. So glad I married that man. I mentioned strange tales I’ve heard of people achieving felted success with a bucket and a plunger, but when neither of us jumped right in with “That’s a great idea!” we hit up Ravelry’s pattern search feature to find something better. Of course, now I need some roving after I’ve placed my KP order, so I’ll probably just head somewhere local that sells felting supplies. (Good excuse to check out Jo-Ann or Michaels for some Wiltons dyes, too.)

Also off is the Poppy for my sister, replaced with the slouchy hat I’m making up as I go. Gauge and I have been having a bit of a fight lately, and after a few short-row sections it was clear Poppy just wasn’t working out. I usually use Xmas knitting as a reason to learn new techniques, but I think the construction of the Turkish Bed Socks is going to be as far out as I journey this year. The more things I want to try, the fewer things are likely to be finished in time, so I’m keeping it simple for all the other projects now. The only risk I took redoing this hat was my cheaty little gauge swatch, but I’ve knit enough that I can try the hat on and I think it will fit perfectly.

So, I think the Xmas list really is going to be as doable as I hoped. This year, I don’t expect to be weaving in ends on Xmas morning or saying screw the nice neat blocking and throwing the superwash projects in the dryer at the last minute. Yay, me.

Prep Work

My weekend activities typically amount to yoga, eating, knitting, & little more. This weekend, though I did not have a yoga class to teach & spent most of my time preparing to eat & knit, rather than actually eating & knitting.

I recently redid our budget & realized that if we spend what I think we should spend on groceries instead of what we actually do spend on groceries, there might just be a small savings account in our future. This is a big, huge, wild kind of deal. Money’s been tight for a while. So the prospect of  a bit of savings – even a very tiny weensy little bit – is a great motivator. (It’s not just groceries, of course. We’ll also be cutting back our fun money, meaning fewer skeins of yarn & action figures, but – tho’ it sounds like heresy even to my own ears – that expense is a hell of a lot easier to cut back on than food.) It means changing how we eat a little, but that just means reverting back to the way I used to eat. It’s all about buying big, cooking big, & preserving as much as possible; the next few weeks will be about trying to find that rhythm again.

This weekend I made 2 quarts of marinara sauce, chopped & froze 5 lbs of onions, roasted a chicken, & made 2 liters of chicken broth with all the leftover bits, bones, peels, stems, etc. The fridge & freezer aren’t quite well stocked enough to keep us going for too long, but I’m thinking about small steps. Only as much big cooking as I can do on a Saturday & a Sunday afternoon each week. In a month or so I should have things pretty well under control – & maybe just a squeensy bit in savings, if my math is right.

On the preparing to knit front, there was a goodly bit of winding to be done. I can almost see that there might be an end to the second skein of Cascade Eco+ for Dan’s sweater (can I tell you how much I love the idea of knitting a big big sweater for my oh-so-tall husband with just 3 skeins of yarn? ’cause, for serious, I hate weaving in ends), so I got out the swift & ball winder to get the last skein ready. The thing about this yarn (or, I suppose more accurately, the thing about my ball winder) is that it’s way more than my ball winder can handle. So, about a third to half of the skein gets wound up all nice & neat into a little yarn cake, then the rest I have to wind by hand. Once I was in the winding by hand groove again, I got the giantest skein of yarn known to Randi on the swift:

Might not look that big. Just trust me on this one.

Might not look that big. Just trust me on this one.

That’s some Cherry Tree Hill Oceania right there, & my, but this is just a great deal of yarn. 1440 yds. This is going to live on the swift for now & I’ve enlisted the husband’s help to get it wound. No way the ballwinder will handle this, so I’m winding it around a paper towel tube. I almost can’t see the tube anymore & honestly I don’t see even a dent being made on the swift. I don’t know how I’m going to handle this ball to knit with it  (handle this ball!). I’ll need to fashion some sort of stand.

So, not much visible progress on my projects, but take a look in my freezer & on my coffee table, & things are clearly getting done.

Making Plans

This is a post about how I consider buying yarn and knitting with yarn to be 2 different hobbies. It is also a post about how great I think Ravelry is.

I used to crochet, mostly afghans (or the beginnings of afghans that would then sit in bags in the attic; you know the drill). I preferred Red Heart for afghans because it comes in a million colors (and you can always find solids that perfectly match the variegateds), costs about $2/lb (very important when you’re 12; still important 17 years later), and was pretty much all my local Ben Franklin carried. I have absolutely no interest in entering into the Is Chain Store Acrylic The Greatest Thing Ever Or Is Producing It How Satan Spends His Free Time debate (except to say that, whatever else he’s doing down there, Satan can’t be making acrylic; acrylic melts). But I do know my own opinion, which is Yaaaaaaaay Red Heart! I can still get distracted by the entire wall of the stuff at A C Moore. I mean, it goes all the way to the ceiling and it has so many colors, you guys. Anyway, my point is, back when I crocheted, my other hobby was buying Red Heart. It turns out I can’t knit with Red Heart, though. I find it just a little too uncomfortably stiff, which isn’t a problem with crochet, since you’re only working with 1 stitch at a time. And I can’t crochet anymore, so when it came time to give all my Red Heart away to a friend who feels the same way I do about it, it did not surprise me to find that it filled an entire trash bag, overflowed a little, and ripped the side.

My buying-yarn-without-a-project-in-mind habit didn’t start for real until after I learned how to knit. Since I only ever crocheted afghans (though I did try a sweater once), I always bought yarn intending to use it for an afghan. Therefore, even if I didn’t have a specific afghan in mind, I was at least buying yarn with a purpose. Once I learned how to knit, though, I wanted to knit everything. Also, once I got my first taste of higher-end yarn (oh, it was Dream In Color Smooshy in Deep Sea Flower; mmmmmmmmmm) the yarn buying started to separate from the project planning a bit.

Well, to an extent. I can buy a skein of sock yarn knowing I’ll make socks out of it, even if I’m going to have that yarn for a year before I cast on those socks. So, there you go – I can buy a skein of sock yarn whenever I want! And I’ll buy a single skein of anything I think is pretty figuring I can probably make a hat or fingerless gloves or something out of it. So, hello, 20 or so single skeins of Cascade 220 and Patons Classic Wool. But I have been indulging my ooooooh-that’s-purrrrrty gene all along as well. Sometimes I buy just because it feels/looks nice – hence the several skeins of laceweight with not a shawl in sight. Over the last few years I have amassed quite a bit of stuff without having any idea what might be done with it.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with this method. I believe that hobbies are for fun-making and we don’t need to impose all these rules on them or talk about “being bad” vs “being good”. I have never gone on a “yarn diet”, for example, and I don’t hide yarn from my husband or lie to him about how much I buy. I think as long as you’re not taking money away from your household to spend on your hobby, then you’re ok, and I have never spent the rent money on anything but rent. However. I do have that other hobby – the one where I knit – and when I’m taking part in that one, I like to actually make things. Hats, socks, sweaters. Those things are made out of yarn. So, if I’m choosing a new project to knit and I don’t have yarn for it, and I go out and buy yarn for it without checking the several full drawers in the living room, well that just seems like I’m not taking full advantage of my resources, you know?

Enter Ravelry. My, but I do enjoy this website. (Want to know who else has knit a certain pattern in the exact same yarn and colorway as you? Want to  know what to do with exactly 105 yards of something or other? Looking for all the afghans people have made featuring Nintendo characters in some fashion? Done, done, and done. But I digress.) According to Ravelry, I have 7 pages of patterns in my queue and 114 different yarns. Until a week or so ago I wasn’t really seeing much connection between the two. Now, however, I have assigned yarns to about a third of the first page. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’m actually really happy with that number, because it represents several months’ worth of knitting time.

Even just matching up the patterns and the yarns has taken some time, but really this website makes it all so easy. Click the pattern, click the tab showing all the yarns people have used – they even show you which yarns people have used you also own now; all this website has to do is start making me breakfast and my life will be complete – and find something suitable of my own. Or, for the patterns I really want to make but don’t own anything appropriate to make it out of, I can browse around a bit to find what I would like to use, and then I have a shopping list for the next time I’m yarn shopping. No more buying 3 or 4 various skeins of whatever strikes my fancy if I know I really need 2 skeins of Smooshy for that scarf I’ve had my eye on. After a few evenings’ clicking and browsing and thinking, I now have plans for:

  • 2 skeins of Cascade 220
  • 1 skein of Mocha’s Fiber Connection Phoebe
  • that gorgeous purplesparkleyyum skein of Schaefer Anne
  • a sweater’s worth of Patons Classic Wool Merino
  • some Koigu that’s on its way in a trade along with 1 more skein I already have; and
  • a sweater’s worth of Noro Kureyon

The Kureyon was my first planned-for purchase I tried out my new plan on; the new plan is working already! I also have 5 more projects I’ve picked out yarn for and now I’m just waiting for the cash to accumulate a bit.