The Yarn Destash Project: End of April Report

What a month it has been. I started April feeling pretty cocky and confident that I was smashing the yarn destash resolution; I had used up 21 skeins of yarn in just three months. I was a knitting machine and I was going to polish off this destash project lickity-split before the end of summer. Look at me! All hail the Midnight Knitter and her flashing knitting needles.

Then there was a slip: the Interweave Yarn Fest. I lost control. I bought yarn. I bought 11 skeins of yarn…

So the yarn total on my little Excel spreadsheet was reset down to 10 skeins. Boohoo! 10 skeins. Whatever. I am a knitting machine. I will catch up. I have this!

Behold my progress this month:

The minute I saw the Geology Socks pattern I wanted to make them. As in… I MUST HAVE THESE SOCKS IMMEDIATELY!! I cast on a total of three times to make the socks, ripping out twice to change the pattern and/or yarn until I had exactly what I wanted. I kept pulling the socks onto my arm so I could admire the pattern. What a shame to hide this great pattern under my pants… behold the Geology Mitts! My project notes are here. Total yarn used: 1/2 skein.
I spent a lot of time cranking out this Sea Swell Shawl, but it was time well spent as this shawl with its perfect drape will be a huge workhorse for me. My project notes are here. Total skeins used: 2 skeins (the lightest grey doesn’t count towards the destash as I bought it this year for this project.)
I’ve been wanting to make a stack of new dish cloths to use in the kitchen with my handwoven dish towels. This month I produced a small stack of Almost Lost Washcloths.  Total skeins used: 2 skeins.

 

I’m also continuing to make progress on my V-Neck Boxy. I’m working my way down the body and have another 6 inches to go before I bind off. This sweater was a little slow to start because of the shoulder and neck shaping, but now that I’m knitting stockinette in the round I am cruising along. Total skeins used so far: 2 skeins.

So there it is: after a month of knitting I have boosted the destash number to 16.5 skeins. I have two projects currently on my needles (the V-Neck Boxy and a pair of simple socks), so it is time to reorganize and get new projects lined up. Oh boy! Time to wind the yarn for my Nordiska sweater! I’m thinking about a new Sea Swell shawl. I want to make some grey and red socks to match my new shoes… I pulled an alpaca fleece from the garage into the house with the thought of spinning a nice rosy brown alpaca yarn to knit with some mohair I bought at Interweave Yarn Fest. I’m energized and gearing up for May: let the knitting begin!

One more little item before I sign off… today is May Day. When I was a child I would hand flowers on the doorknobs of my friends and neighbors. Today I offer up the current state of my blooming orchid.

Happy May Day everyone!

FO Friday: Sea Swell Shawl

It has been a pretty calm week with warm weather and cloudy skies.

The ground cover in my front yarn just burst into bloom in a big way. I always feel like spring is finally here when this phlox begins blooming!

I’m still nursing a sore ankle (the adventure continues… this bad-boy ankle will be it’s own post someday…) so I was able to get a lot of knitting done.

Let be honest here. I got the knitting done because the knitting supervisor and yarn chomper took lots of naps!

I finished the Sea Swell Shawl (by Stephen West) Monday night and got it wet blocked the next day. I really, really like this shawl. Let me introduce you to my current favorite knit:

Look at the colors and the fading and the lace and the wavy drape. Don’t you just love this? Doesn’t it look like it should be swimming in the sea. Like… maybe it should be a marine flatworm? I’m sure I saw a swimming creature like this in one of those Planet Earth videos…

This shawl is knit in wedges that use short rows with some lace to build the pattern. The back of the shawl maintains a constant number of stitches while the increases are built onto the sides and front edges. I didn’t completely understand what this would mean in terms of the drape until I was done with the shawl and wearing it.

The back of the shawl hangs with a uniform length that is just perfect to keep your back and shoulders warm. The lace, wedges and fading really shines here.
The increases built into the front sides of the shawl make it drape beautifully while worn. Notice that the two sides are complementary and not identical.

I wore this all day Wednesday and then took it out to do errands with me this afternoon. Because of the shape the shawl stays right where it belongs while wearing it!! If you usually fight with shawls to make them stay where you want them (like I do) or have to resort to a shawl pin to immobilize  them into submission, this is a big deal. The shawl even behaved itself while I was getting into and out of the car!

All of the edges of the shawl are icord, and I have to admit that I was a little sick of it while casting on and binding off. This is not a quick operation, but the finished product is so nice that it was worth the effort. I think that the stable edge contributes to the shawls well-behaved drape.

Here are my project notes. I’m already stash shopping to come with another one of these shawls. Spring colors, don’t you think?

Have a great knitting weekend everyone!

Orchids and Hot Mess Knitting

Today is bright, sunny and warm. No doubt about it, spring is here. Outdoors it is still too soon to plant as there is still another month of possible cold snaps and plant-crushing snow ahead of us, but inside the plants have gotten the message.

I’ve been monitoring the growth of this flowering stem on an orchid for weeks. Yesterday the buds finally opened. So happy with this bloom color!

I bought grow lights last fall and moved some of my favorite plants and roses back indoors for the winter. The plants eventually quit blooming and some of the roses are engaged in mildew/spider mite wars. So far those roses are winning, but there have been some close calls and trips to the garage for treatment and isolation. The orchids, however, have just flourished under the new lights and my jade plants put out so much new growth that I took cuttings and started several new pots. Anyway, never mind the jade plants… look at what happened with the orchids!

Most of my orchids have grown several new leaves over the winter and put out numerous new roots. Really, so many roots that I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Should I put new pots under these roots? Put the orchid into a bigger pot? Transfer it to a huge container and wait to see what happens?

I need to do some internet searches to see if I can propagate new orchids from those roots… I look at this plant and wonder if I should stop feeding it orchid food. Strangely, the orchid that is blooming has the worst growth of the bunch; maybe all of its energy is going into the blooms? Right now it is an orchid mystery and I’m just enjoying the blooms.

The rest of my time has been spent nursing an infected ankle (No, I don’t want to talk about it! Bad ankle, bad!) and knitting away endlessly on projects that never seem to get done. I keep adding new balls of yarn, knitting away, but they are still not done. I am drowning in yarn here, people!

I’ve been saving this Dark Side of the Moon (Alexandra’s Crafts) for a year looking for the right project. A little concerned about how the purple flashes of color will appear I started the V-Neck Boxy (Joji Locatelli) a couple of weeks ago. Hey, it’s best to not overthink these things. Just cast on and do it. What can go wrong? If the purple pools I will just alternate skeins or rip it out … I excel at ripping things out!
It’s a keeper!! I’m not alternating skeins at all and am happy with the effect of the purple flashes. My project notes are here.

I’m now below the V-neck and knitting like crazy on the body. This sweater is really, well, boxy, and each round of knitting takes forever, and the length is growing, but slowly. Once I was below the increases and shaping for the upper part of the sweater it became “knit until you have the length you want” knitting. I keep knitting, and knitting, and knitting, and knitting… you get the idea. I put it aside to hibernate for a little while.

Socks! Let’s do some quickly rewarding socks, I told MacKenzie.

I’ll do these cute Geology Socks with the left over fingering yarn from my Sturgill sweater! Won’t these look cute? MacKenzie agreed that it was a good plan, ate some cookies, and headed off to bed.

Umm… there is a reason they say you should read the pattern carefully before you start knitting. I skimmed the pattern text, found the pattern chart for the size sock that I wanted, and got to work. I love charts! Oops. This chart is not designed to be knit exactly as presented as the pattern is designed to allow individual customization; lots of customization. I ended up ripping out the sock twice! Ugh. The yarn and needles went into time out right next to the V-Neck Boxy sweater.

Looking for instant gratification I started this Sea Swell Shawl using yarn in the colorways of the Sturgill sweater.

Yep. Not sure what I was thinking here beyond that this was a stunning design and I wanted it right this second!! This is another endless knitting project. The balls slowly shrank as I knitted on and on and on in garter stitch broken every now and then with lace. I worried about the yardage of the third color, the wine-colored yarn, as part of it had been used to knit the Sturgill sweater… that ball is only 75 grams of yarn, and I used almost all of the first ball of yarn before the switch to pink occurred. Ugh! Maybe I should use the dark grey from the Geology socks for the third color and make the socks out of the wine colored yarn…

Last night I FINIALLY got to the part of the shawl where you start the third color and I used the dark grey from the socks. It will be great. It will go with more things in my wardrobe. I won’t have to stress about running out of yarn. My project notes are here.
Sitting in bed with MacKenzie and listening to an audiobook I cast on and started the Geology Socks for the third time using the wine colored yarn. Fast knitting as I have now memorized the charts and as everyone knows, the third time is the charm. My project notes are here.

After agonizing over yarn choices, amounts of yarn, and in what combinations I should be using them, I am finally happy with what is coming off of my needles. The only trouble is… there is so much endless knitting ahead of me. Endless knitting broken up only be the little charts of the geology socks.

I’m dreaming of a new project. Hmm… maybe I should go stash shopping. I could cast on a couple of new projects… Nordiska is calling me… I saw a fast cowl pattern at the LYS…

Hot mess knitting is pretty exhausting, but for me it may be an essential part of my creative process. Eventually I will have finished projects. Stay tuned, it is sure to happen someday soon.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. If there is a holiday celebration for you this weekend, I do hope that it is a good one.

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Flares and Zebra Nonsense

My last flare started sometime in the depths of December and dragged on for almost two months. It’s hard to begin to describe what is happening to me as my illnesses (systemic sclerosis and Sjogren’s Syndrome) intensify and the walls of my world gradually close in as I descend into the ever-deepening abyss of escalating illness. Always unpredictable, it starts before I am even aware that I am in trouble and before I know what’s up I’m a hot mess. Even now, as I write this, I can’t recall what the first true symptoms are, but I’m pretty sure that in the middle of my usual challenges with pain, fatigue and dryness the other problem children creep in the door and take me down before I even know they are there. As the flare builds momentum new symptoms erupt daily including:

  • Shortness of breath – I literally start panting every time I move
  • Gastritis that makes my stomach burn whenever it is empty, and
  • Gastroparesis that makes my stomach hurt whenever I eat
  • Intense itching and eruptions of eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Crushing fatigue
  • Sleep interruption
  • Swollen joints that won’t bend in the morning, and
  • Burning muscles that are too sore to touch
  • Brain fog and disorientation that makes me afraid to drive and unable to read
Edema on arm.
 Oh yeah. There is edema, too. Check out this arm!

Flares are a test of patience, but they always do come to an end for me. Somewhere towards the middle of February, for no reason that I can put my finger on, I slept soundly through the night. Wow. That was great, I thought. A couple of days later I realized that my energy was coming back and that my stomach didn’t hurt any more. After a week I took a shower and there wasn’t a wad of hair deposited in the drain. My thinking became clear, my driving fearless, and my muscle pain and swollen joints receded to background levels.  The itching stopped, the eczema disappeared, and I stopped using my inhaler. It was over; the storm had passed.

When I mentioned to my rheumatologist last month that I was having these flares things suddenly took a left turn and my whole appointment went off the rails. She first told me that there wasn’t any treatment that was more effective than what I was already receiving. (I know that, my systemic sclerosis is pretty stable, and I am grateful. I think that it is Sjogren’s causing all the trouble, but it has to ride in the treatment back seat since it probably won’t kill me.) Then she reminded me that I always mentioned my fatigue and muscle pain, and that maybe I should be tested for sleep apnea or given antidepressants. Suddenly, instead of talking about the conditions for which I was already diagnosed, we had to talk about depression and sleep apnea. I was defensive and almost in tears. It took days to process what had happened there.

MacKenzie the cat.
The poor Mother of Cats needed extra attention for a few days…

It all boils down to two essential truths. I am a Zebra. I have been betrayed by a medical system designed to treat commonly occurring conditions when I suffered from a rare disease. I have had my symptoms dismissed, disparaged, or ignored for literally decades. For my rheumatologist, who I like and trust, to do this suddenly threw me back into a defensive, victim-like posture. I will not let this happen again.

The other essential truth is that it is insulting and counterproductive to cherry-pick out a couple of symptoms from the entire package that I call a flare, concentrate only on them, and then build a diagnostic hypothesis that addresses only those isolated symptoms. Yes, I do have muscle/joint pain, fatigue, and sleep disruption, but let’s not forget about the gastritis, itching, hair loss, edema and shortness of breath. Once I am out of the flare, my sleep is pretty good and my fatigue is much reduced. I know that my rheumatologist wants to help me, but I’m going to insist that we stick to the data and that logic and reason are employed as part of my treatment plan. Even if that plan includes a clause that says… you are currently receiving the best care available and there is nothing else we can do for you because scleroderma and Sjogren’s sucks. Well, all right then. Give it to me straight, because I can handle that, but don’t hunt for ANOTHER condition that you can medicate without better data.

Because I don’t have sleep apnea. I’ve been tested twice in the last three years. I wear a Fitbit that shows that I’m in deep sleep for 1-2 hours a night and that I’m almost motionless all night long. It is time to put that hypothesis to bed and to spend more time talking about things like this lupus-like rash that has appeared on my face…

I’ve also been checked for depression and I’m fine. Yes, I am aware that MOST chronically patients need help with depression, but that doesn’t mean ALL patients require additional drugs.

After all, I’m self-medicating every day with knitting!

I finally decided to write about this experience in my chronically ill life in case it could help someone else. Okay, I also needed to vent a little!

Should I perhaps knit a little something for my rheumatologist? It must be hard for her to treat patients every day who are dealing with painful, progressive and incurable diseases; no wonder she sometimes grasps at diagnostic straws hunting for a way to help.

But if she does it again this Zebra is ready to deal with that nonsense!

The Yarn Destash Resolution: so there was a little slip…

Last week I cast caution to the winds, jumped into my car with my BKB (Best Knitting Bud) Deb, and headed north to the Interweave Yarn Fest in Loveland, Colorado. It was a beautiful day and we were looking forward to our adventure.  I brought some skeins of yarn that needed matching, a couple of patterns, a cocky attitude and an absolute conviction that I wouldn’t buy even one skein of yarn that I couldn’t use this year.

Here’s the background on my yarn stash: I’m working on reducing the stash this year by at least 50 skeins. As I headed up towards Loveland I was lulled into a false sense of progress as I had just totaled my knitting efforts and knew that I was on a great pace to reach my goals: 21 skeins of yarn had already been knitted out of the stash. I could afford to splurge a little, right? I am a knitting machine and I will pull off this resolution with one knitting hand behind my back. No problems!!

Absolutely beautiful skeins of yarns in greys, purples and magenta.
Oops!

Right. No plan ever survived contact with a knitting marketplace. After cruising and shopping the marketplace at Yarn Fest, Deb and I scooted on up to Fort Collins to visit My Sister Knits, a favorite LYS. By the end of the day I had bought 11 new skeins of yarn.

Yarn for Nordiska sweater.
But look at what I scored!! I took the gold and magenta yarns up to Interweave with me with an idea of making a Nordiska sweater from them. I just needed the yarn for the body of the sweater. The perfect yarn was hiding at the end of a rack at My Sister Knits: look at those sprinkles! I bought 2 skeins of the grey (Construct) and I have two more in the stash. I have plenty of yarn now for the sweater with an elongated body, matching arm warmers and socks. Total win!!
Yarn to knit a Koivua sweater.
I have three skeins of this pink variegated yarn in the stash just wailing to be made into a Koivua sweater. What they needed was a nice earthy but calm yarn to play nice with them. The perfect candidate was this light grey tweed that I found at the Western Sky Knits booth. Okay, this was less of a win. I bought 5 skeins of the tweed yarn to use these three pink skeins, but I get a fabulous Koivua out of the deal, so it is still a win, right?

So, I bought 7 skeins of yarn with a definite projects in mind for them. The other 4 are more of a “I need to buy these now or I will regret it later” type purchases. I mean, look at that mohair!! I will combine it with another yarn and produce a fabulous cowl or shawlette that will still be using up yarn from the stash. That’s good, right?

The last three yarns will become a three-color shawl of some type. Something beautiful that won’t count towards depleting the stash, but will be worth the knitting anyway. Something that I will treasure. (My Precious! sang in my mind as I grabbed the yarns to my chest… I just ignored the look that Deb shot my way as I tucked the yarn into my basket and skipped to the checkout counter…I don’t need an intervention. Really, I don’t. Move along, now. ) I wonder if I can get the mohair involved somehow? The colors all go together. Sometimes it is best to just go with the serendipity. I wonder if I can find more of that mohair?

Do you see how my stash got into such a state in the first place?

Knitting books.
I was also lucky enough to find these two publications that I have been looking for. Just beautiful knits that have me plotting lots of new knits. Socks. DK weight sweaters that I can produce by fading fingering yarns together. Lots of plotting ahead…

All in all, I came home with 11 skeins of yarn and I suddenly have a stash removal total of only 10 skeins. Well, that is less than optimal… Still, not impossible to overcome if I buckle down and get to work on my projects. I’m all fired up again and casting on like crazy. Socks, sweaters, shawls… I am on it!

Have a great (knitting) weekend, everyone.

The Yarn Destash Resolution: 3 Month Report

Right at the start of this year I cleaned out my yarn stash and made myself face a brutal truth: there is a lot of yarn in there. Maybe more than I can use in my lifetime. Maybe I should start to make a conscious effort to decrease the size of my stash…

Yarn stash.
Behold the yarn stash. 

Thus a New Year’s resolution was born: get at least 50 skeins of yarn out of the stash!! I made some basic rules, started a spreadsheet to track my progress, cast on some projects and got into action.

After 3 months I am happy to report that I have made some significant progress. Really, I’ve done a pretty good job of cleaning  yarn out of the bins above. I’ve actually emptied two bins!!

Details of the mitt.
I’ve made two pairs of mitts, these fabulous mitts above for a Knitworthy niece and a pair of thrummed mitts. Okay, these projects really were fussy and slowed me down. They were a lot of time and work, but will be prized possessions for years to come. Total skeins used: 2
Cowl on wooden bear.
In the gloomy days of winter I whipped out two different cowls, a Clinkerbell cowl and this Dissent Cowl. Total skeins used: 3
Finished sweater on the Mother of Cats.
The big workhorses in stash depletion were two sweaters that took time to knit, but really ate up the yarn mileage. This Sturgill sweater and the Daelyn were both knit from the top down and were fast knitting once I hit the stockinette-in-the-round portions of the sweaters. Total skeins used: 12

Have you been keeping count? The above projects used up a whopping 17 skeins of yarn and there were some other small projects that used up 4 more skeins over the last three months; 2 shawls and a pair of socks.

Did you do the math? So far this year I have knitted my way through 21 skeins of yarn!! I am well on the pace to finish off 50 skeins before the end of the year.

Through all of this knitting my trusty feline sidekick (and taskmaster) has been at my side and on my knitting, kneading the fabric into shape (with his now cut off claws!) and chomping on my yarn.

Cat sleeping in shawl.
Seriously. Every project I knit has pictures of him as close as he can get to the action. This is a shot of him on my Color Study shawl. 
Cat and toy mouse.
So of course I made a little mouse using yarn from the Daelyn sweater.

So there it is. Three months. 21 skeins of yarn used up. Things are going well and I’m feeling pretty good about getting at least 50 skeins cleared from the stash.

It was with this cocky and self-assured “I-am-a-knitting-machine”  attitude that I went to the Interweave Yarn Fest last week and hit the marketplace with my BKB Deb. Oops. You might say that I fell off the “buy no yarn” wagon.

But that is another post.

MacKenzie Speaks: The Sturgill Sweater is Done.

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Ornry cat snoozing on beautiful Fair Isle knitting.
I’ve been napping on the new sweater as much as possible.

The Mother of Cats has continued to knit like crazy on her new sweater. I’ve been giving her tons of help, but she doesn’t seem to appreciate me the way she should. She continues to freak out every single time that I put a claw on her sweater; she always grabs my paw and WON’T LET ME TOUCH THE SWEATER WITH MY PAWS!! I do not understand why she is acting this way. So selfish, the Mother of Cats!

Trimmed claws on the ornry cat that make him knitting friendly.
Look at what she did to me!!

The Mother of Cats is so unstable and difficult to work with. After I snagged her knitting only a couple of times she grabbed me and CUT MY NAILS!!! Can you see the damage in the picture?

Ornry cat snoozing on knitting with his paws on the work.
After my nails were cut she started letting me sleep on her knitting. Ah. So much better. This sweater is so, so comfy.
Finished sweater on the Mother of Cats.
Tonight she finished the sweater and put it on. NOOO!!! What will I sleep on now?

The Mother of Cats pulled out a lot of yarn this evening and started knitting on new projects, lots of new projects, lots of new yarns. She let me help and I got to chomp at least three different colors. One has cashmere… my favorite!! Wait until I get to show that yarn off.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The sweater is Sturgill by Caitlin Hunter. My project notes on Ravelry are here.
  • I finished the sleeves before completing the body as I was worried about running out of yarn and was considering options. I completed only a couple of inches of sleeve ribbing and paced the stitches on holders so I could match to the body of the sweater later (see below).
  • The sweater is knit with DK weight yarn, but I ran out of the main color (dark grey) before I finished the body of the sweater. I had a skein of fingering in the same colorway (Man in Black by Stitch Together) so I blended that yarn held doubled with the DK by alternating rows for several rounds and then completed the body with the doubled fingering. It was a great match.
Details of yarn in the sleeve ribbing.
Here is a close-up of the ribbing showing the doubled fingering mixed with the DK weight yarn. Don’t those colors look good?! All the ribbing on the body and most of the sleeve ribbing was done with the doubled fingering yarn. 
  • Once the body of the sweater was completed I did the same blending trick with the sleeve ribbing and then added another 4″ to the sleeve ribbing to get a total of 6″ ribbing. Sleeves fit perfect!
  • After wet blocking the two weights of yarn look identical in the sweater. Win!
  • MacKenzie has already gotten over the cutting of his claws since it allowed him to plant himself constantly on my knitting…
Spoiled and ornry cat sleeping on sweater.
As far as MacKenzie is concerned the new sweater is a bed for him…
  • Now that I’m done with all of my current WIPs it is time to go crazy and cast on lots of new projects. Wait until I can show off the next wave of knitted yumminess.