Friday, 5 January 2018

12 Months; 18 Projects

It's time once again to do my annual round-up post of all my knitting projects for the previous year. Are you ready to take a stroll through my knitting life in 2017?

In late 2006, I bought $40 worth of seconds acrylic bouclé cranberry-coloured yarn at Spinrite Factory Outlet in Listowel, Ontario, where $40 buys one a LOT of seconds yarn. Out of this yarn, I made first an afghan for my guest room, then a hoodie for one of my nieces, then a cowl-necked pullover for a friend (who had told me she loved the yarn so much she wanted me to will her the guest room afghan). There was still 250 grams of the cranberry bouclé yarn left, but after three items I had no further plans for the yarn and tucked it away to await its fate. Then in December 2016 when I was thinking about what I could make for my friend's baby girl Olivia from stash yarn, I caught sight of the remaining cranberry bouclé and thought it might be enough to make a little jacket in size 12 months, and would also be an attractive colour on her -- Olivia has olive-coloured eyes, medium brown hair, and fair skin with a slightly olive tone to it (as you may have gathered, she was well-named).

I searched the Ravelry pattern database for an appropriate baby's jacket pattern in a bulky weight yarn. I found some designs that I didn't like enough to use, but their pattern pages at least confirmed that 250 grams of bouclé yarn should be sufficient to make the style and size of jacket I had in mind as long as I didn't try to include a hood, which was so much information gained. In the end I took a pattern already in my library, Smock with Sheep and Shoes, designed by Debbie Bliss (and shown in the Ravelry member project photo you see above), and adapted it.

The pattern called for DK weight yarn, so I kept my calculator and some scratch paper handy in order to rework the given numbers of stitches and rows as I went along. I didn't like the floppy collar, so I went with a flat collar instead. I didn't like the detail on the sleeves, so I made the cuffs in garter to match the bottom hem and knitted the rest of the sleeves in plain stockinette. I would have liked to knit the pockets into the fronts, but I wasn't sure I'd have enough yarn, so it seemed best to stick with the patch pocket technique the design called for to give myself the option of not making them when the rest of the jacket was done. In the end, there was enough yarn to make two pockets, but I made only one as I thought it looked better -- the two-pocket look is too symmetrical. And instead of knitting a moss stitch or garter stitch heart on the pocket, I made the heart in a cream yarn I had left from another afghan to brighten up the jacket's look a little.

I'm pretty pleased with the result. The jacket looks cute and fairly well-shaped. I don't knit with synthetic yarns very much anymore, but acrylic bouclé is one of the exceptions: it is amazingly light and cozy and a comfort to wear. But it can be a little frustrating to work with, as one can barely see any detailing one knits into it. It's best to keep patterns simple when working with bouclé -- I wouldn't go any more complex than I have with this jacket. As it was, when I was working on the latticed bodice, I felt like I was constantly squinting at it and spending long minutes trying to figure out which stitches were garter and which were stockinette, and which stitch was supposed to go on top of the other when they crossed. Then again, by the same token, when one is working with bouclé, one's mistakes also tend to disappear into the work, and it knits up very quickly.

Making this jacket took 235 grams of stash yarn, and I had just 20 grams of the cranberry bouclé left. At a tally of an afghan and three sweaters, I can't say I didn't get my money's worth out of that $40.

Back in 2014, the good people at Darn Good Yarn sent me the free sample of their product that you see pictured above. The skein of DK weight Roving Silk Yarn (for which there seems to be no Ravelry page) sat in my stash for two and a half years while I mulled over ideas for how best to use it. While I thought the yarn attractive, I don't wear (or look good in) pink, purple, yellow, or light blue, so that ruled out any projects for me. My grandniece Cauliflower does like and look pretty in those colours, so I first settled on her as the intended recipient, and then decided last year that this yarn would work well as a contrast colour in a sweater for her eighth birthday present.

I searched Ravelry's pattern database for a little girl's sweater pattern that required two colours of DK, and found the Color Me Pretty Sweater pattern, designed by Elena Nodel. It's really quite pretty, the shaping is good, and the cute floral fair isle pattern would showcase the variegated silk yarn nicely. Next, it was off to Romni Wools with the skein of silk roving, where I tried to find a coordinating main colour for the sweater. I settled on 350 grams of Loyal DK in pale blue.

And here's the resulting sweater, in a size 8. This was a an exceptionally well-written pattern -- very detailed and clear and easy to follow. I'm pleased with my version of the sweater on the whole, though I do wish I could have gone with a paler blue for the main colour, as some of the stitch definition was lost because the blue of the silk roving and the blue of the Loyal were too similar. Other than that minor complaint, the colours proved to be an attractive combination that will look well on Cauliflower, who has fair skin, blue eyes, and light brown hair.

With yarn to spare, I made a matching hat as well. The sweater, cap, and the dollar store colouring book, notebook, and box of crayons I bought to go with them proved to be quite a satisfactory eighth birthday present.

I had 10 grams of the new Loyal left, and had used half of the 100 gram skein of Silk Roving DK, which means this project resulted in a net stash decrease of 40 grams. Now I have to figure out how to use the other half of the Silk Roving -- I was really hoping this project would use most of it.

Back in 2016 I knitted a sweater out of some reknitted green DK wool and this Manos del Uruguay Alegria, pictured above with a ball of the green yarn. The project turned out to be a huge mistake, as the green DK utterly refused to spring back the way reknitted good quality yarn usually does and the finished item consequently looked awful. I knew right away that I would never wear it and that I'd now have to come up with a project plan for *two* lots of stash yarn instead of one: the green and the Alegria. My first stash busting effort had spawned at least two further stash-busting projects. It was like cutting a head off a hydra. Good thing that I really loved this Alegria yarn for its own sake.

I searched Ravelry for a pattern that called for 200 grams of fingering yarn and came up with this one, which is Trestle, by Grace Ann Farrow. It only required 100 grams of the contrast colour, but I decided that would be fine as it would leave enough Alegria to make a pair of socks. My next step was to visit Romni Wools and pick out a main colour. I decided on 400 grams of Alpaca Merino Fine by Estelle Yarns in colour 411, which is a beautiful dark olive green.

And here's my finished sweater. I'm pleased with it. The yarns work together well, and though I don't have any skirts that will go with this piece, the sweater will look good with jeans, olive khakis, and a certain pair of olive velvet trousers that I made some years ago. Though I left the look of the sweater unchanged, I made a few technical modifications. I have the Ravelry users who also made this item to thank for saving me some knitting time, because when I checked their project pages I noticed that so many of them complained that the waist band was too tight and that gussets that were inserted under the arms were unnecessary and made the underarm area too bulky. I sized up my waistband and skipped the gussets accordingly. I also shortened the body of the sweater by two inches, as it would otherwise have been 25" long, when 23" is the perfect length for me. Good thing I did, as I would have run out of yarn otherwise. I had just 30 grams of the Estelle fingering left, and I doubt that would have been sufficient to make the body of the sweater two inches longer. I also used 130 grams of the Alegria rather than the 100 grams the pattern specified, but fortunately I had the two skeins of it.

Both the Alegria and the Estelle were lovely yarns and a pleasure to work with, but they do have one shortcoming each. I noticed that the Alegria faded rather significantly when it was washed (I'd run the Alegria and spring green sweater through the wash twice in an effort to get the spring green yarn to rebound). There was a dramatic difference between the ball of Alegria yarn that had been used to make that ill-fated sweater and the ball of Alegria yarn that hadn't been used at all yet. I didn't think to get a picture of it at the time, but the difference is visible in the detail shot above -- I used up the pre-used yarn first, and the chevrons at the top, which have been knitted with the virgin yarn, are noticeably more vivid than those below it. I assume the old and new yarns will more or less match after a few more washes.

As for the Estelle fingering, it turned out to be one of those yarns that are prone to attracting hair. As I knitted I was constantly picking my hair and my cat's hair off it, which doesn't bode well for future wearings. Oh well, I'm still glad I made this piece. This really is a beautiful sweater design. As I've often said in my knitting design reviews, garter stitch projects tend to look like beginner projects, and it takes an accomplished designer to create a garter stitch project that looks professional and sophisticated. And, like the Amande Tee design I made in 2016, it's a contemporary sweater with a certain 1930s vibe.

When I completed this project, I had 30 grams of the new Estelle yarn left, and had used 130 grams of the stash Alegria yarn, which amounts to a net stash loss of 100 grams. Not bad, and I had enough of the two yarns to make something else that you'll be reading about further down in this post.

This is the 2017 version of the slippers I make for my father every year. I believe this is the twelfth pair I have made. Dad has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, and his knees and feet are especially affected. His shoes always hurt his feet terribly until they're broken in. He needs custom-made shoes, but he refuses to spend the money they would cost, or to fitted for them in order to make it possible for my mother to buy the shoes for him. These slippers, with their specially cushioned soles, at least make it possible for him to walk around the house in comfort when he's at home. The pattern is a Vogue Knitting pattern from the Winter 1992/1993 issue. I modify the pattern by knitting two soles for each slipper (one in the yarn used for the upper and the bottom one in tough-as-nails craft yarn), slipping two dollar store felt insoles between each pair of soles, crocheting them together around the edge, and then knitting the upper up from the crocheted edge. I also elasticize the heels with thread elastic as they don't stay on otherwise. Dad wears each pair of slippers to shreds within a year, so I go with an inexpensive yarn, or even better, with whatever bulky weight yarn I happen to have on hand, and if I have to piece out the yarn with a second yarn to make it do, that's fine with me. The yarn used here is from my stash. I didn't have enough of the bulky weight yarn I used for the upper to make the top soles as well, so I knitted them out of the black craft yarn this time. When I didn't have quite enough of the black craft yarn to make the second pair of soles, I used a navy bulky yarn I had on hand for the tips of the insoles. You'd have to turn the slippers inside out to see it. I wasn't sure Dad would like this black, brown, and gold variegated yarn as he dislikes brown and would consider gold too flashy for him, but the slippers seemed to be dark and quiet enough to pass muster with him on Christmas morning. Hey, it's not like they're hot pink.

This project used up 150 grams of stash yarn.

This project plan began to form when I happened to see these two skeins in my box of worsted yarns, and was struck by how well the shades went together. I thought a third shade in a different shade of orange or teal would really pull it together, as well as making it possible to knit anything I liked. I've had these skeins a long time and their ball bands are long gone. I am almost certain the orange yarn is Patons Classic Wool Worsted in burnt orange, but I don't know what the teal yarn is, though I do know it's pure wool.

I searched Ravelry for a pattern that required 100 grams of two contrast colours, and found this one, which is Frost All Grown Up, designed by Unnur Eva Arnarsdóttir. Then I went to Romni Wools and bought 500 grams of Diamond Galway Heathers yarn in teal. My colourway, instead of being the stark, wintery colours of the sample, would be in the warm and vivid tones that look best on me.

And here's the result. The pattern was pretty well written and the sweater knitted up with no problems. I was a little disgruntled that the project didn't require nearly as much yarn as the pattern said. I used about 315 grams of the teal heather (the pattern called for 500 grams) and about 25 grams of the dark teal yarn and approximately 20 grams of the orange worsted (when the pattern called for 100 grams of each). This means that this project, which was supposed to reduce my stash size, increased it by 40 grams. (I was able to return one skein of the Galway Heather, or it would have been 100 grams more). I do love the resulting sweater, but I didn't really need it, and the lesson learned is that I need to be more careful about planning my stash busting projects. I should have realized that this sweater would use up less yarn than specified, and I also need to avoid buying a lot of yarn to use up a small amount I already have.

In March 2017 one of my closest friends surprised me with the gift of two skeins of yarn bought at Pembroke Farm, Prince Edward Island, while she and her family were in P.E.I. on vacation. The yarn is variegated in beautiful old rose tones that are the closest I can get to wearing pink. There is no gauge or fibre content information on the label, and the yarn isn't listed on Ravelry, but it's pretty clearly a bulky weight and feels like pure wool. I searched for a suitable pattern for this weight and amount of yarn and came up with the Aunt Julie shawl pattern.

Here's the finished project. It knitted up very quickly -- the only thing that slowed me down was a few errors in the pattern, which kept me knitting and ripping out for awhile until I figured out where the errors were.

Here's a close-up of the detail. I do wish my camera photographed colour a bit better. The colour is much warmer than it is here.

I have 80 grams of yarn left. I thought at first that I'd get some coordinating yarn and make a hat to match, but the colour proved so difficult to pair with anything that I gave up on that after a few months of shopping around. If I were starting this project over again, I would make a scarf from this yarn, one that I could cast off when I ran out of yarn.

Last year my foster sister Gayle asked me to make her a pair of sneaker slippers she'd seen on Pinterest. I told her I wasn't going to be able to get to it until this year, and when she groaned about having to wait, asked her what had happened to the pair I made her the year before. She told me the heels were worn out of them.

I planned to get to the sneaker slippers in April. But just as I was nearing the halfway mark on the project I was making before the slippers, Gayle was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The day we were waiting to hear if the tumour was cancerous, I went about the house reminding myself to breathe. It was some relief that the test results indicated that the tumour had a 95% chance of being benign. Gayle was subsequently scheduled for neurosurgery on May 1st. I set aside my current project and began the slippers so that Gayle could have them in time for her hospital stay and recovery at home.

I bought the pattern, which was Slipper Socks, by Rea Jarvenpaa, and I asked Gayle what colours she wanted her slippers to be. She told me black and white. I had some "winter white" worsted on hand, so I bought a skein of black worsted and also a skein of gray craft yarn for the soles, with the idea of making these slippers more durable than Gayle's last pair, which were made entirely of worsted yarn.

And here, much frustration later, are the finished slippers. The instructions were woefully incomplete. The pattern gives no details on how much yarn is required. Half of the instructions for knitting the black socks that serve as the base for this pattern are simply missing -- there are no instructions on how to work the heel, turn the heel, pick up the stitches along the side, shape the foot, how long to make the foot, or shape the toes. There are separate instructions included for the socks included in the pattern, but as they required a different stitch count from those I'd begun knitting from the slipper instructions, they weren't much use. The pattern doesn't tell you how many stitches to pick up for the edges where the lacing goes. The instructions for the medallion for the ankle are missing. I was not at all happy that I'd paid €5.00(EUR) for a pattern and then had to write a third of it myself. I won't be buying any more patterns from Rea Jarvenpaa.

I also had a problem with making the soles, as they turned out too wide, though that is not a fault in the pattern, as I had used craft yarn for the bottom and it was too bulky. I could have more or less fixed this issue by working only four of the five rounds called for in the instructions for the sole, but by the time I figured out that the sole was too wide I didn't have time to undo hours of work and do it again before my deadline. I went on with the job and put the slippers together as well as I could, finally finishing them the day before the surgery was to take place.

Then on the morning of May 1st I went downtown to the hospital where Gayle was to have surgery. I made sure to be there before her check-in time of 10:00 a.m. as I didn't want to miss my chance of giving her the slippers and seeing her for at least a minute or two before she was whisked away for the procedure. Gayle was delighted with the slippers. Her three daughters had brought her fancy ball caps (one had pink sequins!), and her ex-boyfriend a Rolling Stones bandanna to wear over her shaved head during recovery, and we joked that between her head gear and her kicks and having all of us for an entourage she'd be the most street patient in the entire hospital. She was checked in, given two wrist bands (I asked her if they were also going to microchip her), changed into the hospital-issued nightgown and robe and shower-cap-like slippers (her street-style accessories would have to bide their time until after the surgery), and set up with an IV. Then we waited with her. The surgery was originally supposed to be at 12:30, but we were told it would be delayed for a few hours. The extra waiting time did Gayle's stress levels no good whatsoever. It didn't help that she'd had nothing to eat all day, that the IV tube was hurting her hand, and the IV fluid was necessitating frequent runs for the bathroom. When she was finally wheeled into pre-op at about 2:30 p.m., she began sobbing.

And then at 3:00 p.m. we were told that the surgery would have to be postponed to another day because, though the surgical team was all ready to go, there was no ICU bed available for her post-op. Poor Gayle. She left the hospital with her long blond hair intact and her new accessories in hand... but with no surgery date. I'm happy to report that the surgery happened less than a month later, that it was successful, and that Gayle is nearly fully recovered and back to work. Also, I am told that her sneaker slippers were the hit of the ICU. Everyone who was mobile came over to Gayle's bed to get a look at them.

Perhaps ten to twelve years ago I knitted myself a cream cotton cardigan in a very simple twisted rib pattern. It was a nice piece, but I didn't wear it all that much as I gradually realized it just wasn't that flattering on me, and that I didn't really care for its minimalist style. This spring I decided it was time to take it apart and make a new cream cardigan that was better suited to my figure and tastes. The cardigan and the leftover half skein of yarn I had sitting in my stash weighed in at a whopping 700 grams (that twisted rib pattern soaked up a lot of yarn), which meant I had plenty of yarn to work with. I don't have any idea what the brand of yarn is, but whatever it is, it's great quality stuff.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable cardigan pattern and settled on this one, which is Nin's Cardigan, designed by Anne B. Hanssen. It's a nice classic piece with just enough detail to keep things interesting and attractive.

And here's my version of the cardigan. I made only a few small modifications. I found my gauge was a little smaller than it was supposed to be at 5.5 stitches per inch rather than 6 stitches per inch, and I adjusted the pattern to compensate for that. I wanted to use the buttons from the first sweater rather than buy new ones, so I made six buttonholes rather than seven. I was glad I had as the buttons looked quite well spaced that way. I also worked two repeats of lace motif at the waist rather than three as the pattern called for, as three would make for too much visual emphasis on my waist.

I'm pleased with the sweater and delighted that it took only 450 grams of the cream yarn, which left me with 250 grams. Keep reading to find out what I did with the remaining 250 grams!

Circa 2008 or 2009, my niece Clementine gave me a big bag of yarn that her mother-in-law had given her to pass along to me. The yarn was Patons Classic Wool Merino worsted in a variegated brown and pink colour called Rosewood, and there were 1200 grams of it. That's quite a lot of yarn to use when it's all one dye lot and such a specific colour, but I felt modestly confident that I was up to the challenge, and happily accepted the yarn. My niece likes brown and loves pink, so the first item I made was a cabled hoodie for her. She was very pleased to get it and I believe she still has it -- I caught sight of it in her closet not too long ago. This project soaked up a lot of yarn but there was still 310 grams left. When Clementine had a baby girl a few years later I thought I'd make my grandniece a matching jacket, but I wanted to wait until she was two or so, and then this plan slipped my mind until it was too late -- Cauliflower is eight now and 310 grams would not be sufficient to make her the kind of sweater I had in mind. But this year I spotted the yarn in my box of stashed worsted and thought it would do to make my friend's daughter Olivia a little jacket.

For this project, I turned to the Lavanda design, a pattern I already owned as I used it in 2016 to make Cauliflower a turquoise version in a size 8.

And here's the finished version, in a size 2. This was one of those satisfying times when one has *exactly* the right amount of yarn to make a project. I kept an anxious eye on the dwindling last skein as I was in the home stretch of this project, and I thought I might have to piece out the yarn by making the pocket linings a different colour, but I finished the project and the last of that big bag of yarn with just a half-handful of scraps to spare, with a stash decrease of 310 grams. Did I do a fist pump, you ask?

Well, no, it was more like this, except with the CN Tower in the skyline.

This year when it came time to plan my grandnephew Bug's birthday sweater, I began by turning to Ravelry to find a suitable pattern. I ended up deciding on the ever-so catchily named 1209-08, by Sandnes Design. I had a skein of dark green DK wool in my stash that I thought would come in handy for the contrast colour. But when I went to the yarn store, I couldn't seem to find a yarn that coordinated with it without looking too dark and drab. There were plenty of odd skeins of ivory DK in my stash, so I decided to just buy a yarn that would go with them. My best choice seemed to be a dark blue with flecks of green. The brand is Drops Karisma Mix, for which there doesn't seem to be a Ravelry page.

And here's the finished hoodie, knitted in a size 4. It looks okay. I ran into problems with the reverse stockinette stitch when there seemed to be no way to adequately hide the colour transition loops on the "right" side, so after a frustratingly protracted session of experimenting and ripping out, I simply gave up and knitted the sweater in stockinette. Even when done in stockinette, I still didn't care for the looks of the end of the round. If you make this sweater, I recommend putting the body's end of the round area in the middle of the front where one can hide it under the pocket rather than situating it at the side as one ordinarily would do, though there will still be no hiding the end of the round on the sleeves except putting it at the underside of the sleeve. I also ran short of yarn. I had bought 300 grams of the dark blue as specified by the pattern, and it turned out I needed an extra skein -- or 10 grams of it, anyway. Oh well. It's a wearable, sporty-looking item that my grandnephew seemed happy to get.

I used up 30 grams of the cream DK in making this project, but I had 40 grams of the new dark blue yarn left, which works out to a net stash increase of 10 grams.

The project plan for this vest began when I fell in love with a pattern. I'm trying to do much less knitting on a whim these days, and to make clothing for myself based on need, but I saw this pattern about two years ago and have never been able to talk myself into scratching it off my project list.

The pattern that was the object of such stubborn affection was the beautifully and intricately cabled one pictured above, and is named Kärhö, by Anni Laine. It's a free pattern.

When it came time to decide on a colour for the vest, I reluctantly decided not to do it in green, though green suits the leaf theme so well, because I already had a green knitted vest. I thought I'd do it in a robin's egg blue, which would go with some trousers I had. The yarn I selected was Sandnes Garn's Sisu, in a passably robin's egg blue-like shade.

And here's the finished result. The pattern was a size 37 -- too small for me -- so I sized it up to a size 40 by adding extra ribbing at the sides. The pattern called for the vest to be 21" long, which is too short for me, so I made the vest 23" long. I also knitted a narrow ribbed edging into the neckline, which was supposed to be left as it was, because I thought it looked unfinished without it. I didn't knit the vest in one piece and then steek the armholes, as the designer did that with this original sample in order to keep the colour striping consistent, as there was no need to do so when working with a solid colour yarn. And though I'd planned to wear this vest with trousers and jeans, I did find that one of my skirts went quite well with it when it came time to put it on my dressmaker's form, which like an old-fashioned lady doesn't do trousers.

I used 5 skeins of yarn and finished this project with 30 grams of wool to spare, which as the yarn was purchased specifically for this project, means a stash increase of +30 grams.

The next project in the list began when I thought the cream, coral, and robin's egg blue cotton yarns lying in my box of cotton yarns looked good together and would make a pretty summer top. The cream yarn was left over from the Nin's Cardigan project above. The blue yarn is Butterfly Super 10 left over from a top I made in 2014. I am fairly sure the coral yarn is also Butterfly Super 10, and it was left over from a little dress and hat I made for my grandniece in 2011 -- which in turn were made from a top I made myself and that proved too unflattering. Do you find that when you look over all the odds and ends of yarn in your stash you remember exactly what project they were from? I usually do.

I searched for a suitable pattern and found Fair Play, by Rosee Woodland. It called for four colours, but that was okay by me since the cream, coral, and robin's egg blue looked as though they could do with another colour to pull them together anyway. It was a bit of a challenge to find a yarn that looked right with both the coral and the robin's egg, but I think I managed it when I found a dark peach-like shade in Sublime Egyptian Cotton DK's "Spicy Lily" shade.

And here's my completed version of the Fair Play design, paired with a twill skirt I made several years ago. I don't think I modified the design at all. I do wish I'd reversed my use of the coral and the spicy lily. I had bought just one 50 gram skein of the spicy lily and wound up running short, so I had to buy a second skein and then only used 10 grams of it. If I'd flipped the two shades, I would have used more of the coral and been able to make the one skein of the spicy lily do.

Oh well. As it was this project resulted in a net stash loss of 255 grams, so I didn't do so poorly from a stash-busting perspective. And hey, this year I got a flattering new cream cardigan and a sleeveless cream top out of an old, unflattering cream cardigan! How awesome is that?

My sister is Christmas crazy and goes all out when decorating for Christmas. She sniffs at my Christmas decorating style, which involves hanging a wreath on my front door, putting a dozen or so decorations around my living room, dining room, and front entry way, and no tree. I consider this decorating style restrained but festive. She says it means I don't like Christmas.

My sister has an especial thing for snowmen, and usually when Christmas shopping I come across some fun snowman decor item or other for her and get it for a stocking stuffer or even her "real" gift. Over the years, I've given her snowman tins, tea towels, napkins, muffin cups, a little enamel and diamanté snowman pin, a snowman Christmas stocking counted cross stitch kit, a little snowman stand with numbered blocks one arranged to count down the number of days before Christmas, a snowman clock that plays a different Christmas carol upon each hour, and a number of other things I can't recall now. In another demonstration of the discrepancy between our tastes, I wouldn't have that clock in my house as it would drive me stark raving mad within a day, but she seemed much more pleased with it than the snowman pin, which I thought was adorable.

At any rate, several years ago when I first began coming across various patterns for knitted snowman families, it occurred to me that she would like such a snow family, and decided to make one for her. I don't like working in the small scale, though, and put the project off repeatedly.

My Ravelry library tells me I purchased this pattern in October 2014. It's the SnoBuddy Family design, by Chris de Longpré. There are a number of such snow family patterns out there, but this one struck me as especially cute. This is an inexpensive project to make because it takes just one skein of white worsted (I used part of a Bernat Super Value skein of worsted in the appropriately named Winter White) and some odds and ends of various coloured yarns to make.

Here's my finished version of the snow family. I went with reds and greens for their accessories and used just four yarns because I wanted them to look coordinated, but now I'm wishing I'd varied the selection of yarn a little more. As for modifications, I think I made just two: I fringed the edge of the mother snowperson's scarf, and I used glass marbles instead of the pattern-directed dried beans for weighting the figures, because that means this little family can take a bath as needed.

I bought a dollar store snowman gift box for the snow family, figuring that it would provide both a cute way to present the gift and storage for these little guys for the other eleven months of the year. My sister seemed quite pleased with her gift, and laughed delightedly as she stood the snow family along the arm of the couch she was sitting on when we opened presents Christmas morning. She told me she intended to name them. I said, "Frosty and Crystal..?" and she sniffed and said she was going to come up with something better than that.

Subtracting the weight of the marbles and the stuffing, I estimate that this project used up 280 grams of stash yarn.

In November of this year, I took the leftover olive Alpaca Merino Fine by Estelle Yarns, and the variegated Manos del Uruguay Alegria that I had from the garter stitch pullover sweater I talked about earlier in this post and prepared to make a pair of socks. I thought I might be running some risk out of running short on yarn, so I chose the Chipps pattern, by Stephanie Mason, for the sock project, not because I wanted to do the project in stripes, but because it was the only toe-up free fingering weight sock pattern I could find. If I knitted the socks toe up, I could adjust the length of the leg to suit the amount of yarn I had.

Here are the completed socks. As it turned out, I needn't have worried about running out of yarn. These are a little longer than I wanted and I still have about 15 grams of each yarn left (just as well as I'll need it for darning). But at least I got to try something new, as I'd never made socks toe-up before.

And though I've made a number of pairs of socks in my life since I knitted my first pair at 14, this is the first pair of socks I ever knitted for me. I can now confirm what my father and brothers have told me: that handmade socks do feel way better than commercially made. I'll be making more. My current set of wool work socks are getting worn (and paint splashed) and will need replacing within the next few years. I aim to own a set of eight handknitted wool socks by the time I discard all the old ones.

This project used up 80 grams of stash yarn.

The project plan for this item began when I saw that I had some pale peach yarn in my stash that I wanted to use up. I'm planning to make a dress in the near future, out of some pale peach linen and a light peach and green plaid that I have tucked away. I couldn't quite see any of my jackets working with the dress, and decided it would be a nice idea to make myself a little shawl out of the peach yarn and maybe another colour, since that very pale peach shade didn't do me any favours, and use up a good bit of that peach yarn.

After some browsing of the shawl patterns on Ravelry, I came up with this one, which is the Burlesque Shawl, designed by Miss Vinegar. It's a free pattern. For a complementary colour to the peach, I chose a skein of Cascade Yarns' Ultra Pima in "Summer Moss" (Ravelry has the shade listed as "Sage"). I no longer have any idea of what brand the peach yarn is.

Here's the finished shawl. As you can see, there is nary a hint of peach yarn about it. I got close to being done making the shawl in green and peach and realized I hated it. The yarn, which had been knitted into something else and then ripped out, was all separating into strands. The loose strands bulged out of the piece and made it look as though it were covered in snags. I decided that, instead of proceeding to finish the shawl as was, I would rip out all the peach and replace it with a different yarn, perhaps something in a paler peach. I went looking for a replacement yarn and couldn't find a suitable peach yarn in cotton. Instead I bought a skein of Berroco's Modern Cotton in "Sandy Point", which is a cream colour. Then I finished the shawl. I ran just slightly short of the cream yarn -- I had to omit two rows from the lace pattern and finish a third of the last row with a little piece of a very similar coloured wool and cotton blend yarn from my stash. This is almost certainly because Modern Cotton is listed as a worsted on Ravelry, though I didn't find it felt or worked up any thicker than the Ultra Pima, which is listed as a DK.

I was fairly pleased with the shawl, if somewhat cross that my stash-busting efforts had backfired. And I was a little put out to find that I couldn't seem to find much in my existing wardrobe to put with the shawl. Here's the shawl on a dress I already have. It'll look so much better on the peach and green dress I'm going to make in the coming year.

This project, instead of using up 100 grams of yarn as I had hoped, instead added 10 grams of yarn to my stash. I still got rid of the peach yarn, though, by putting it in the bag of thrift shop-destined items in my hall closet, so.... progress?

As you've already read above, last year I tried to make a project out of some pre-knitted green yarn, only to have it refuse to spring back when the sweater I made was completed. It seems as though the only option I had left was to felt with it. I didn't even have to use the Ravelry project database to pick out a felted pattern, as I immediately thought of one that I had on hand.

The photo above is the Panda Backpack, designed by Linda Cyr. It appeared in a nineties-era issue of Family Circle Knitting, which I had in my knitting library. And how cute is it? I thought it would be the perfect design to make for my honorary niece Olivia. I found some teal yarn (actually, small amounts of several very similar types of teal yarn) to accent the green, and some cream yarn to go with them both. But rather than putting a panda on the bag's pocket, I decided to put a cat on it. Olivia is cat-fixated. Her first word was "cat", and she gets very excited whenever she sees a cat anything in a store. And hey, why not feed her obsession, since that's the kind of aunt I am? For the cat image, I used the graph from The Cat's Out of the Bag felted tote bag pattern, designed by Deborah Tomasello.

Here's the finished bag. I ran into a few snags during the process. For one thing, the green yarn refused to felt, despite my most strenuous efforts. I put it through a hot water machine wash twice, tried felting by hand first in hot tap water and then in a steaming pot of water on the stove, and also put it in the dryer three separate times. No dice. I don't know what kind of yarn it is, but I do know it is 100% wool, so it must have been superwash wool. I can't say my efforts were entirely wasted, though, because I did manage to get rid of that awful rumpled look -- the yarn finally and grudgingly sprang back. This at least meant that, disappointing as it was to not be able to felt the bag, it was worth proceeding to finish the project. The bag's bigger than it's supposed to be, of course, but it's still a very suitable size for a toddler.

The other problem I ran into when making this item was that I couldn't seem to find a toggle that looked right. Rather than buy one of the ones Fabricland had, I decided I'd save my money and make a knitted flower that would serve as a toggle and echo the flowered print I'd chosen as a lining. The pattern doesn't call for lining the bag, but my unfelted version really needed not only lining but also interfacing to give it shape and structure, because it was sad and limp-looking and would stretch all to hell as soon as Olivia put any of her little treasures in it. I used a cotton print and the stiffest interfacing I had on hand. The bottom interfacing is hair canvas, and the body and top flap has some sort of thick, soft, fleecy interfacing. The lining I made ended up looking so good and fitting so smoothly into the bag that I was half-tempted to turn it inside out. And it gave the bag quite a good shape and body -- it can nearly stand alone.

So, all's well that ends well, but I wasn't too thrilled with this one. It's okay, but it's not as cute as the sample bag. But Olivia will probably like it, and that's what matters. As you can see, I also got her a an appropriate book to go with it. I would have put a cat-themed print lining in the bag too, but couldn't find one that went with my colour scheme.

This project used up 210 grams of stash yarn. I still have about half of that ill-fated green yarn left to use up. Blargh. IT'S YOU OR ME, GREEN YARN.

The project plan for this item was based on a need: I had a beloved dark brown thrift shop hoodie that I basically live in in the winter months but that had become too worn and shrunken and pilly to be presentable any longer, and decided to knit a replacement. I searched Ravelry for a good hoodie pattern in a DK weight, and found the Celtic Icon pattern, designed by Fiona Ellis. I bought 750 grams of a dark brown Merino Extrafine 120 to make it with.

This was a seriously time-intensive project, but it was worth it, and it's so much nicer than my old ratty hoodie that I no longer regret its passing. When I had finished pressing the seams and had taken a few photos of the finished hoodie, I put it right on and wore it for the rest of the day. I'm wearing it as I write this. I'll be wearing it for much of the winter and for winters to come until it wears out. Man, is it ever satisfying to make a project that beautifully fills an actual need.

And there was an unexpected stash busting, money-saving bonus. After I'd begun knitting the hoodie, I came across 100 grams of a virtually identical yarn, a dark brown Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, in my stash while I was looking for something else. I ended up using that stash yarn to make one front piece, one side panel, and to sew the sweater together, which meant I could return two unused skeins of the Merino Extrafine 120. Can you see the difference between the two yarns? I can't. It's really astounding that two yarns from two different brands, with two different fibre contents, and purchased a decade apart, are so similar. They even had exactly the same amount of twist.

I had nothing but a few scraps of yarn left when I finished, so this project, which was supposed to be made out of entirely new yarn, subtracted 100 grams of yarn from my stash.

And now we come to the last of my 2017 projects. Five years ago, I made my last impulse purchase of yarn. My rule now is that I only buy what I specifically need for planned projects. Meanwhile, for the entire past five years, my last impulse purchase has served as a wholesome reminder of why I needed such a policy.

While spending Christmas with family in Listowel, Ontario, in December 2012, I visited Spinrite yarn's factory outlet and purchased some Patons Decor yarn in a shade called "Rose Temptation", or what I would describe as a dusty rose, as well as some ivory lace weight angora mohair, with the idea that I'd make a dusty rose cardigan with a fair isle pattern on it in the angora mohair, used double. I didn't have a pattern chosen, and estimated the amount I would need. I began the sweater almost immediately, improvising the design with the help of a couple of different patterns, and nearly finished it before I realized I wasn't satisfied with it, that I hadn't shaped the neck right in the front and that the shawl collar consequently wasn't going to sit right. I also hated the thought of having to handwash the cardigan as I would have had to do, due to the presence of the angora mohair. The failed project sat around for a year or two. In November 2014, I ripped out the first design and purchased another cardigan pattern, this one being a garter stitch and cabled trimmed project that was knitted from side to side in only the dusty rose yarn. I got a front piece, a sleeve, and part of the back finished before I ran into difficulties with it as well, and put it aside. It wasn't until this past month that I got back to it, and I realized that not only were there technical and fit problems with my work, but that I didn't like it -- the loose garter stitch required by the pattern was too loose for my liking and looked messy. I ripped the sweater out again and searched Ravelry for a third worsted weight cardigan pattern. It had to be a cardigan because hey, I'd bought buttons.

After some browsing, I found the Forestry or Old Penny Cardigan design, created by Veronik Avery. It's a nice pattern, but so were a number of others that I found. This one won out because I already had the pattern, as I owned a copy of the Vogue Knitting Fall 2008 issue that it was in.

And here's the sweater. Though I finished this third design, it wasn't all smooth sailing either, as the pattern was poorly edited. I had finished the pieces, blocked them, seamed them together, and was picking up the stitches for the collar/button band ribbing when I found a discrepancy in the instructions. I checked the errata on the Vogue Knitting site only to find that there was another mistake in the left front instructions that I hadn't noticed. (I also found some muddled places in the instructions that weren't noted in the errata.) I had to take apart the seams that held the left front piece and reknit almost the whole piece, which is why I didn't manage to finish this project by the end of 2017 as I had planned. From now on I'll be checking Ravelry pattern pages for errata before I begin a new project.

I made just one modification to this sweater, which was to add buttonholes and use buttons instead of snaps as in the sample knit. I am pleased with the design and how it turned out and I am sure I will get plenty of wear out of this attractive and sensible cardigan.

But whenever I'm tempted to buy yarn on impulse, I will remember this project: how the design idea I came up with on the spot didn't work, how I didn't need the sweater and took years to finish it, how I had nearly 200 grams of yarn left when I finally finished it that I couldn't return.

I'm going to count this yarn as stash yarn since it was bought so long ago. This project used up 500 grams of stash yarn.

And that's... all she knitted in 2017. I whittled my yarn stash down by a total of 2440 grams this past year. Out of eighteen projects, eight were entirely made from stashed yarn, three were made mostly from stashed yarn, four were partly made from stashed yarn, two were made entirely with newly purchased yarn, and one was made out of yarn that was gifted to me. Three years ago I had four boxes and four bags of yarn, and now I just have the four boxes.

I suppose this isn't a terrible showing in terms of being somewhat consumption conscious, but now that I've spent five years abiding by my decision not to buy yarn on impulse anymore, and three years making a concerted effort to reduce my stash, it's time to make another change. Accordingly I've resolved to cut back on the number of knitting projects I allow myself to make. I shouldn't be spending so much money and time knitting, I don't need so many items, and the textile industry is terribly hard on the environment. From now on I'm going to limit myself to twelve projects a year -- still a generous number! -- and of those twelve items, no more than six can be for me. I actually think I can live quite happily with this decision. I have my list of twelve 2018 knitting projects all written out in my planner and am contentedly anticipating working on them all, without the hurried feeling that a longer list always caused. I mean, I still feel disgruntled because I didn't get to two of the projects on my 2017 list, even though I have no immediate need for those items and they can easily be done in 2018. I also do have four unfinished needlework kits in the house (one needlepoint, one crewel work, one embroidery, one counted cross stitch) that have been sitting around for years, so I can work on them whenever I've finished my knitting project for the month and still feel the need to do more needlework -- I enjoy those crafts nearly as much as knitting.

I've also resolved to design at least two knitted items this year, and then maybe I'll write up the patterns and list them for sale on Ravelry, so that all the designers whose work I've snarked on can avenge themselves by leaving comments like, "Aren't the shoulders slightly dropped?" and "Are you sure you shaped the waist enough?" and "Maybe I'll start a knitting blog named after a Neil Young song and critique your patterns on it," and "YOU'RE NO KAFFE FASSETT EITHER, HONEY."

And I'm looking forward to it all. Happy 2018, everyone!


  1. Happy New Year! Thanks for this thoughtful post. I read the whole thing, and am always interested in how other knitters organize their projects and stashes and rein in their impulses. Also very glad that everything turned out well for Gayle!

  2. You had a super accomplished year! You inspire me to strenghten my resolve to not increase my stash size.

  3. Lovely column. Near the end of 2017 I seriously started knitting from stash but have not kept track of net changes in it. My plan for tomorrow is to go through all of it and photograph it so I know exactly what all I have. Will make it easier to work on using it.

  4. Great column. I love the snowfamily! This last year I gave everyone dryer balls (easiest thing ever!) but I might just start snowfamilies for everyone this year. No worries about fit, and who wouldn't love those folks smiling down from a mantle or table?

  5. I look forward to your designing efforts, as we're of a similar build, I think. We must be as your comments on shaping usually resonate!

    Your comments about needing time for other crafts also resonate, but I'm not sure how well I'd cope with less knitting time - it's my go-to for any otherwise unoccupied moment and my yarn stash is just a little inflated.