Yarn & Yarnability

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a knitter or crocheter in possession of a good stash, must be in want of a WIP.

On the coach to Yarndale last Saturday, it became apparent that I belong to a collective of crafters who share the same secret. Amidst the plethora of our individual stashes, we each harbour a ridiculous amount of projects known as Works in Progress (WIP)

I need to back up a bit. In preparing to go to my first ever Yarndale, I went through my Yarniverse with the aim to inventory everything I had in order to plan a maximised spending strategy. Yarndale is the quintessential Yarn Con of the knitting, spinning and crocheting population. Not only can you find all manner of wool there, but there are other crafty things there to tempt you.

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Because I wanted more knitting needles and more skeins of hand-dyed, I needed to assess what I already had, what I wanted to make and what I would need to get so that I could go to Yarndale with a realistic budget. Simple!

No. Not so simple. By looking through all the bags and Yarniverse, I realised most of my needles were missing because there were already had stitches on them from WIPs in different stages of completion. There was the ornaments of Christmas past, a birthday present-gone-wrong, a summer vest from when I was a different size, a sock of nefarious origin, a poppy, a Clanger, and three shawls (two on needles, one on stitch holder). There was also one thing in there that I don’t even remember starting or what the devil it was supposed to be. It was on metal needles so I wager this is a leftover from my days as a complete novice!

What makes this really unsettling is that I had always been an organised person with drive and commitment to get a job done. But anything that I have ever been in my career life or even my social life has gone up in smoke when it comes to my craft! However, on the bus ride to Yarndale, I learned I am not alone.

Angela Burrows, one of Yankee Yarns favourite regulars, confided how she set on to finish projects during the run-up to Yarndale. She spent a fortnight “WIP-busting”. This, she confessed, was her Stash Acquisition Justification Mission which we will now put into the acronym, S.A.J.M.

“I have loads of finishes already this year,” she said. “…2 shawls, a teddy, Ez’s Dino onesie. I still have a shawl to turn into a FFO from a FO,  3 blankets, 2 Hygge CALs and pair of socks on the go…but who’s counting.”

What’s an FFO? It’s a Fully Finished Object. Angela is a trailblazer. Angela went on to say she “FFOed” Sophie’s Universe pattern she had been working on in the days leading up to Yarndale.  Of course, there are still WIPs that had been left behind. She found three baby blankets she started and 10 poppies.

Diabolical!

“We have an illness,” she said. I’m certain, but it makes me happy.” She would not really comment on the embroidery WIPs only to say there is enough for 10 lifetimes.

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But this is not uncommon. I went around Yarndale and noted some of the comments made by miscellaneous ladies AND gentlemen:

“That’s yarn is gorgeous! What will you make with it?” The answer, “I don’t know. But I needed it in my life.

“I think I am going to have to hire a cleaner. I’ll never clean the house now.”

“I’m sure eight of these will do. But I had better buy 10 just in case.”

“These will live in the boot of my car until I can figure out where I will put it. If he finds out, he’ll kill me.

“I don’t know when I will get to these patterns. It’s just nice to know they are there.”

“This skein looks a little like that skein but its ok. I will figure out what I am doing with each of them.”

“It’s so pretty. I love the colours. I almost don’t want to crochet it. I just want to sit and look at the skin whenever I feel a little sad.”

Using the Lean Six Sigma Project Opportunity of reducing manufacturing work in progress, I took five techniques and applied them to crafting WIPs. My understanding of reducing WIPs is that it would lead to a higher sense of achievement, peace of mind and freedom from clutter. So, here we have to focus on the raw materials as well as finished projects.

  1. Forecasting and WIP Levels– Here we make sure we keep an inventory of our materials from tools, wools and spools. This way we can make appropriate judgments according to demand. Keeping a list of things we want to make vs what we need to make and noting the time it might take to accomplish the project would help in the decision-making process. “Accurate forecasting promotes awareness, which leads to sound planning” according to Forrest W Breyfogle III in his paper on Shifting the Paradigm.
  2. Sharing Capacity– Sometimes we just bite off more than we can chew. This is just the fact. Whether it is due to our own ambition or just because we love our hobby so much. This is when we experience a “bottleneck” of projects. During this time, wouldn’t it be great if we can just hand something over to someone in our knitting group to help out? Whether it is making something up, lending a hand to a fellow knitter by doing a bulk knitting session of boring garter stitch or crocheting a few granny squares to add for someone so they can add them to their blanket. The idea is lovely and makes sense.
  3. Machines– A knitting machine could be used for those needful projects like a school jumper or the centre part of a big blanket. Anything you can set up and whip up. This will give you time to lavish on the quick-win projects like dish towel presents or crochet hats etc.
  4. Just in Time (JIT) – This is adhering to a schedule to make the projects you want in the desired quantities, just when they need them. You know Christmas is in December. How many ornaments have you decided to make? What about the Christmas Santa hat to wear at your son’s Christmas play? Easter egg chicks don’t come before Christmas projects. Basically, if we have a good schedule and track our progress, we can determine what the right number of projects is for us, as individuals, to have on the go. For some it is five; for someone else, that number might be much higher or much lower.
  5. Time-Saving Is this the right project for you??? This is a controversial point. If the WIP you are working on is not met with absolute love or even love/hate emotion, perhaps you should frog it and invest the time in the projects you actually do love. It’s not giving up. It is about knowing when to say when.

I’m interested in what number of WIPs is right for each individual. Drop us a line with your ideas, comments or rants! We’d love to hear from you!

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Bell, Book, Needles and Hook

It’s the New Moon and time for all good things to start! The air has a chill to it and the seasons are changing colourfully from the nostalgic glow of long summer days. The wind combs through trees. Some of those trees have already started to turn into the rustic reds and bronze of autumn. It is the end of September and garden fires everywhere are lit as if purifying the end of the month to make way for October.

When it gets cooler, the knitters and hookers come out of their Summer Slumber, unless you are one of the die-hard Yarnistas that knit for all seasons. My friend’s Mum once advised me to “Knit your winter things in the summer and your summer things in the winter.” She is a fantastic planner and always made sure she plotted her projects on the calendar according to season and event. All Halloween crafting should be well underway in September, she would always say. There are so many beautiful and fun things to create for Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos

Speaking of Halloween, Our Resident Designer Jen is a volunteer editor on Ravelry and they needed a picture of a crocheted pattern that had been made into a knitting pattern. It’s a pumpkin top for Barbie!

“Great for design adaptation, but not the pattern that people were expecting!” She said.

We have another yarn for you. This one is called Tweedy by Stylecraft. It comes in Moss, Bracken, Heather and Thistle. All Autumnal feeling yarn!

The recommended needles for this yarn are 4mm and we have a lovely pattern to show you at the next Workshop which is called, The Dewdrop Cowl Workshop. It’s on a Saturday in October. We will be publishing the date soon! Check out our Yankee Yarns Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

All Who Wander Are Not Lost

 

17-09-13-13-04-55-490_decoIt was one of those rainy days where I sat at my desk having five minutes with a coffee before the next big meeting. A part of me went into a slight melancholy as I mentally began to tick all the things I still had to do in the day. I noticed I was headed into a dark little place in my head. In order to change the direction my head was going in, I picked up two pencils from the pen pot on my desk, took out a bit of yarn I had stashed in my handbag and casted on a few little stitches. I knitted about 10 rows of a tiny little scarf, just for fun. That one little action must have released endorphins or something because I was able to finish my coffee, pick up my notes and head into the meeting with a much clearer head. This little exercise was an act of Mindfulness and something that I have been quite passionate about for a long time. Too many times we forget to stop, look around and see what we actually have in our lives. This kind of pattern leads to blue days. I’ve heard people lament about how they are in some kind of way because they “don’t have much” in their lives at that moment. However, I notice how often they forget to take stock in what wonderful gifts they possess in that current moment.

I have noticed how often people forget to take stock in what wonderful gifts they possess. So many of these gifts are everyday, basic needs we take for granted. It is easy to forget how privileged we are when we are able to take basic needs like sleep, nourishment and safety for granted. I have come to understand how gratitude for all the gifts, both large and small, is what keeps us from the melancholy.

20170825_122628-ANIMATION-1We were talking about this in the shop the other day. We get into all manner of conversations there. Our eclectic natures encourage topics from the esoteric to downright bawdy. There are so many times I wish we could have been recording our discussions. We went from arguing a theological point then somehow segued into whether I could be paid in wool rather than cash and something about a sheep…

It was decided that I could be paid in wool and I chose a skein. Our Fearless Leaser Sara all of a sudden got a twinkle in her eye and asked me if I wanted her to wind it up for me.

“I got a machine!” she said. I remember how her daughter stood by, squealing in absolute glee as she watched her Mum set the winding machine up. I felt the wonder of it all as I watched my yarn spin round and round on a clever little machine. I remember the gratitude of looking at the neat little cake of yarn Our Fearless Leader Sara presented to me. This is the kind of thing that will forever remain as a snapshot of joy is in the scrapbook of my mind.

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That little episode inspired me to document the memory and commit it to something that would stand the test of time. This could be something tangible. This would be something I could take into my hands and look over when and if those blue days ever threaten my inner peace again, There are so many ways to keep these treasures. It seems everyone has a blog, iPhone, online Ravelry account etc… but I decided to make an old-fashioned scrapbook.

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The scrapbook will also serve as a kind of project log for me to look back on. It can be a place for little bits of yarn, description, maker, patterns, thoughts and what inspired me to make the things I do. I decided to have a bit of structure to it.

Stash – A documentation of the yarn. I could keep a list of things left over in case I need to buy more to make something else without buying too much. That way I have more money to buy other yarn!

Tools – Again, this way I don’t spend money buying multiple of the same needles, hooks or patterns.

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Current Projects – Who doesn’t work on multiple projects? It’s just something that happens when we are so lucky to have the skill and desire. But sometimes we do bite off more than we can chew and we kind of lose the plot when we pick up a project we have not touched in ages. A journal documenting certain nuances of projects would be really helpful.

Goal Projects – I love to plan. This section would be where I can list the things I need for the next big project, keep track of all supplies I need and have and jot down any notes  to help me achieve it. It could be a tracker complete with test square or a sample of the yarn.

Events – Lists and pictures of yarn events, yarn bombs, charity knitting, crochet/knit-alongs, workshops and speciality visits like the trips to see Valaise Blacknose sheep flock in Dumfrieshire, Scotland or Hooligan Yarns in Bilthsthorpe

Skills & Techniques – This is the section where I will list stuff I need to learn like pattern making, entrelac knitting and spinning!

Frequently Used Measurements – This is where I would record how many stitches I usually cast on to make that favourite baby blanket, the top-down jumper or the dice bag I always make for people I love. It may need a pocket for the sock templates.

Inspiration– This is a great place to paste colour swatches of colour combinations that you might find at the DIY store in the paint section. The last time I went to decide on a colour for my living room, I planned on using the colours on the swatch for an afghan that would look perfect draped over the comfy couch. I also made some throw pillow covers.

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Of course, what is a scrapbook without pictures. There will be lots of these with random quotes, mottos, lyrics and poetry. It would be a wild and rambling place for my mind to wander and collect those little bits of life that I am so grateful to have!

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Mellow Yellow

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We never need a reason to yarn bomb a thing so it was no great surprise to walk into the shop last Friday to see the Yarnistas of Yankee Yarns wielding their crochet hooks. The color yellow was everywhere.

“It’s for the Tour of Britain,” said Our Fearless Leader Sara. The bike would be one of many yellow bikes on the trail for the Ovo Energy Tour of Britain which is a multi-stage cycling traversing the roads of Britain. There are 10 stages with Mansfield being the start point of Stage 5 on 6th September.

Cyclists have been competing for the best time since the first British stage just after WWII. So it was a thrill to be amongst those who rallied to support the event by adorning the race route with yellow bunting, flowers, painted bikes and our yarn-bombed push bike.

 

 

Starting in Mansfield, the route took cyclist on a 6 km odyssey around the town centre before starting the sprints and hill climbs out towards Sutton in Ashfield. The eight-day event was televised on ITV and attracted an estimated 1.6 million spectators. The people of Mansfield and surrounding areas turned out in form to cheer the cyclist on waving banners and shirts.

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Being a part of the community spirit is a big deal to Yankee Yarns. We like to support others. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But decorating the bike for the event went a bit deeper than that. Designer Jen explained it best when she remarked at how important it was that so many people contributed a small piece to the finished yarn bomb. She added how each chain, each inch, each link reflected each individual person. Because of this, the finished piece was better than we ever imagined it would be.

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“For example,” said Designer Jen, “Angela made a little bow which in itself would have looked quite small and insignificant (albeit beautiful). However, this was one of the final pieces to go on, atop the handle bars, and totally finished off the bike!”

Designer Jen went on to say how the collective creativity, common cause and community spirit mirrored the community effort of the crowd who came out to support the cyclists along the Mansfield to Newark route.17-09-07-16-32-20-436_deco

Thirty-six hours in total went into yarn bombing the bike. This time includes the time making the pieces and putting them together. Knitting and crochet are a bit like a race. There are times we find ourselves feverishly working against the time clock— trying to get just one more row in before (insert your road block here.) There are quick wins like baby booties, small toys and dishcloths. These are like sprints— quick and exhilarating. Then you have those leg races that keep you going for hours taking turn after turn. These are like making jumpers or ornate garments. Finally, there are the contests of endurance. These bring you the adulation of the crowds when you roll out a patchwork quilt or multicoloured blanket.

Trials and tribulation aside, being able to be a part of something bigger than ourselves— either as a participant or a spectator— and come together to appreciate the talent of others, it is a celebration of life.

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Hiya!

A beautiful thing was said in the shop the other day. It was one of those quintessential “Narrrrr how lovely” moments. Our Resident Experimenter Nori was working on her newest project using a seriously sumptuous yarn.

“That is gorgeous!” I said. “Where did you get it?”

hiyahiya2Quietly– reverently— she said she got it from one of our favorite customers. She had it in her stash for ages and gave it to Resident Experimenter Nori, most likely to make room for some of the newer yarns. Then she smiled angelically and said, “Janet always makes things for other people. So I am making something for her out of her own yarn.”

We all sat there beatifically looking on; as you do when you think of what a beautiful world we live in.

hiyahiya3It is the labor of love that binds us to a strange kind of joy. When you find something you enjoy, anything to do with it makes any endeavor feel as if it is what you were meant to do. When you love something so much, you will work tirelessly to create something that not only you will enjoy, but will be enjoyed by countless others.

The Shanghai designer, Qianer Huang loved knitting and designing beautiful creation so much, she wanted to design special tools to work her craft. With the help of her brother and father, who are both engineers, she worked to design the distinctive knitting system called HiyaHiya. hiyahiya1

HiyaHiya is a China based company founded in 2002. It developed into an international brand and built a solid reputation for pioneering design. Knitters all over the world have become enthralled with the needles.  At first, the needles were only available in the United States but now they are gaining in popularity here in the UK!

Yankee Yarns joined the “knitting revolution” starting with stocking the DPNs during the recent sock clinic but we now have a range of HiyaHiya needles in the shop.

hiyahiya5I was able to work with the small cable needle. These are perfect for small circumference knitting. I felt the same way with the DPNs when knitting the toe-up socks. I tried using some other DPNs as a comparison and quickly decided that I am now rather spoiled. HiyaHiyas just felt better in my hands and did the yarn did not slip all over the place. This really helped with my “Knitting Mindfulness.”

 

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What I think I look like when I am in my Knitting Mindfulness trance…

 

Yes, they make you feel a bit like some kind of knitting hero with a knit-purl superpower. Speaking of knitting superpowers, I found a lovely new stitch for you to experiment with when you get your new HiyaHiya needles. It’s called the Chinese Wave. Have a go!

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DISCLAIMER: We know anime is Japanese. But we are geeks. We wanted an excuse to post these cool anime memes. Just play along. It’s more fun this way.