The Skein Chronicles: Part 3- From Skein to Eternity

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It’s amazing what one skein can accomplish. Imagine how many skeins went into nearly 8,400 knitted and crocheted poppies! The commitment of the crafting community proved itself to be absolutely prodigious.

The marvel of it all got me to thinking about a Mindfulness seminar I attended where the topic of community came up. I know what you are thinking, and you’re right. Mindfulness is often seen as something quite solitary done by some bearded hippy dressed in hemp, sitting cross-legged on the edge of his serenity pond in his garden and chanting Om to his Koi.

Knitting, crocheting and crafting in general are seen as very solitary past times done by Nanas and spinster aunties who congregate a few times a year at some craft fayre in the village. But now we hear about knitting raves, crochet pub crawls, groovy dye & knit-ins (don’t even get me started on the psychedelics… and by psychedelics, I mean yarn) and Sit & Spins (where you bring your spinning wheel and play a bit of Prosecco Pong and let your mind spin a bit.

Being a part of a crafting community has so many benefits. Here are the top five:

  1. The power of knowledge– there will be someone in the group with random knowledge (bare tings, innit galdem!) who can assist you in your crafting quest.
  2. Not what you know, it’s who you know- Usually, the conversation goes a bit like this: “You are a great spinner, I see. Who taught you, can they teach me and how can I come by a Sleeping Beauty spinning wheel?
  3. Inspiration! I know someone who started on scarves. She fell in with a merry bunch of wayward crocheters who kept showing up with different projects every time they met. She got tired of showing up still working on the same scarf pattern. So she took the plunge and now she is the Sunflower Blanket Master!
  4. Opportunities and resources– Sharing is caring and often, one knitting circle turns into a virtual Diagon Alley of needles available to trade, gift or buy. In addition, custom patterns and interesting skeins often float over the table and into your trembling hands. It’s a truly magical place.
  5. Fun. Well, there was that time with the aforementioned Prosecco Pong and a nefarious interlude involving a stitch counting guide and a customs agent… but that is another story.

The measurement of happiness is one of those questions that most people will debate. The old question to a question springs to mind: How long is a piece of string? Or, shall we say, yarn? To which our question-to-a-question’s-question would be: What yarn weight are you talking about? I know a group who might know. It all comes down to amazing gratitude and a community spirit. Come around to ours. As Our Fearless Leader Sara would say, “I’ll school you!”

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Note from the blogger: Sorry I posted so late. I got all wrapped up. I’m all untangled now.

 

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The Skein Chronicles: Part 1- One Night Skein

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I had too many beers. Had my beer goggles on or something. At first, I thought, “Oh! Hello!!!!”Then it all got a bit out of hand. Everyone looked at me like I had gone a bit mad. Kicking myself now. And so, so careless! Right at that time, it seemed a good idea. Easily done in that light. Never again…

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No doubt, everyone has yarn in their stash that seemed a good idea at the time. I have one burning a hole in my Yarniverse right now. It’s a monstrosity. I was told it was bought at the Knitters Yarn Con aka Yarndale. Of course, when I heard this, all I could think was “Let’s see it! I bet it’s an artisan’s skein!” Everyone around the table looked at me in sheer bemusement. For whatever reason, they thought it was the ugliest thing they had ever seen. I do not want to post a picture of it for three reasons:

  1. 1. If the “artisan” sees it, he or she would be hurt. I’m a lover and not a fighter. The last thing I want to do is offend someone.
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think I see some funky potential in it. I remember seeing it and thinking, “This would make a cool trim for a poncho one can wear at Glastonbury with some very fashionable wellies!
  3. I kind of lost it in my Yarniverse. (That’s my story and I am sticking to it!)

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There are so many reasons we end up with “ugly” skeins of yarn.

I spoke to some people who all admitted (under the cover of darkness) that they owned some balls of yarn that were of an unconventional aesthetic quality. There are so many reasons for these acquisitions.  I was so fascinated, I wrote them down!

Here they are in no certain order:

  • I inherited it from my dead Auntie Beatrix (not her real name). Don’t have the heart to throw it out.
  • When I bought it, it was a really pretty blue. I have no idea what colour that is now. I call it “Kebab”.
  • It used to be pretty but I have frogged it so many times, it’s gone a bit “bit-y”.
  • It was so very expensive. So I thought, “Yes!” But look at it. It’s only a 50g ball, it goes with nothing, it is scratchy and hideous. Maybe it can be a dishcloth?”
  • It seemed a good idea at the time. I thought it would match the cream Arran.
  • I washed it by mistake. Maybe it can be used for hair for a doll or something. So I am keeping it.
  • I have no idea how this got in my stash. Do you want it?
  • Someone gave it to me. I didn’t want to say no.
  • I dyed it myself. It was the first one I ever did and I used beetroot. But it came out like this.
  • I spun it myself. It’s a bit wonky but I thought it looked a little artsy.
  • It was on sale.

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I will say so many of these balls, skeins, hanks and cakes make it into the charity shop, yarn bombs or newbie’s knitting bags. Be honest. How many do you have? We’d be interested to know.

I Dream Of Jeanie

 

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Stitch marker found on ETSY

 

Going into the Yankee Yarn shop is a little like going over to my cousin’s house. Our Fearless Leader Sara is from Louisiana and I am from Texas. We are kindred spirits not only bound together by our birth nation or the fact that we boldly set out to make our ex-Pat existence nothing short of awesome sauce. Of course, we have the whole knitting connection and we are both Mums of crazy dual national children. But our easy friendship sparked because we recognised we were both surreptitious rebels.

 

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Resident Experimenter Nori & Resident Designer Jen

In fact, Resident Designer Jen and even our lovely, serene Resident Experimenter Nori have a maverick streak in them. Most of the ladies that come into the shop have a bit of an untamed flair about them, to be fair. The knitting shop is like an outlaw’s hangout and we are all like wild, Wild West gunslingers— only our holsters hold balls of yarn and we are armed with hooks and needles.

 

 

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Stylecraft Pattern

So when Stylecraft came out with an exciting, new yarn “that captures the spirit and heritage of the denim” that is, incidentally, the trend this season, it made all of our eyes big with wonder. Jeanie Denim Look is inspired by the timeless and classic hues of denim. It is available in 100g balls in four shades: Dixie, Memphis, Delta, and (to my heart’s joy) Texas. The colours go from the retro 70s indigos to lighter blues like the stonewashed fashions of the 80s. Imagine the pieces you can make! Whatever your denim style — country western, rocker, chic, student-look—it is all up to you!

 

It is aran weight yarn, but its cotton acrylic blend means you can throw it in the wash and tumble dry without ruining the garment. It is soft. One of our customers said it was like working with chenille. Another said it was like working with velvet.

“Fuzzy feel good to the touch,” said Yolie Hume. “I am working on a cable sweater and it just feels so lush!”

“On circulars, it doesn’t snag,” said Becca MacDougal. “It does not split either. “ The yarn keeps its integrity even after you have to pull it all back and start over.

“I wish I could blink like I Dream Of Jeanie and have a sweater,” Said Our Fearless Leader Sara.

We have the patterns in the shop and will be getting more. I am thinking of challenging Our Resident Designer Jen to whip up a western style cardigan to go with my sundress, cowboy boots and Stetson. Watch this space.

My Bae: Knitting 

According to the Urban Dictionary, the  word “bae” means “before anyone else.” It is usually a pet name for someone with whom one would cuddle up.

Lately, the only cuddling up I do is with a hot water bottle, on the sofa, binge watching Prison Break with my latest W.i.P.  and a cup of mocha—

And this pleases me greatly.

In an age when instant gratification seems to be the end-all-be-all of our mortal existence, the sublime little happiness of spending days/weeks/months on a single garment is lost on so many people. Knitting socks or crocheting a blanket is a long love affair. Each stitch or chain grows with our affection for the person for who we are making the thing. But not everyone gets it.

Case in point, the following is a transcript of a conversation between me and an old colleague.

Roger: “YOU knit?!”

Me: “Yeah.”

Roger: “How many balls of wool do you need to make a jumper?”

Me: “Depends on the jumper.”

Roger: “Like… for me. How much?”

Me: “Depends on the pattern… depends on the size needles… depends on the yarn…”

Roger: “Guess-timate…”

Me: “Let’s see… for this pattern, your build would need something like 12 skeins with this particular wool would be about £52 maybe more.”

Roger: “How long would it take?”

Me: “Depends, again… I got work…I got stuff to do… books… kids….etc…”wp-1464102803138.jpeg

Roger:”So a long time?”

Me: (nods and makes an emoticon-worthy scrunchie face).

Roger: “I could just go to the cheap shop and buy one for half the price tomorrow.”

Me: “Yeah.”

Roger: “I don’t see why you would bother.”

Me:” I wouldn’t bother… for YOU anyway.”

Obviously, the guy I was talking to was not my “Bae”. People who mean the most to me are the ones who get showered with my time, affection and my knitting. I think of all the things I have knitted up since I first learned how to knit almost 10 years ago, I have only knitted a handful of things for myself. The rest go to those that come before anyone else. Which is a beautiful thing.

Hooked on Colour

With the recent grey, blustery weather and the general in-between-y kind of mood of this time of year, who doesn’t need a bit of colour? Better still, a bit of colour and company. Oooo! Even better than that, colour, company,  tea and… (dare I say it) cake!?

Well, last weekend Yankee Yarns took a road trip to Stitches in Birmingham. CHSI Stitches is the geek con for anyone who is lucky enough to have a yarn store. There, you are privy to all the workshops, all the demonstrations and all the new stuff. In fact, it is Europe’s largest trade show for all of the creative craft industries— That is the art, craft, needlecraft and hobby sector.

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Over 300 suppliers from all over the world converge to display their new and innovative products. If you think you get tempted to buy another skein of wool to hide in your stash everytime you walk into a wool shop, think what it was like for our Fearless Leader, Sara?

The pull was just too great for us and inspiration hit big style.Yankee Yarns is getting new stock to add to our already vibrant shelves.To say that we have had our Cake and eating it too is an understatement.

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We are excited to announce Yankee Yarns will now be the local cake house. Caron Cakes are 200g Aran goodness. To put it simply, thay are GORGEOUS diversity of colors that are 80% acrylic and 20% wool.

“I LOVE them!” said Sara. “I wanted to get one (at Stitches) but you can’t buy anything there.” So instead, Sara decided she just needed to stock it.This yarn is the perfect multipurpose yarn that is soft and versitile. It can be used for garments, accessories and home décor projects in knitting or crochet. Each vivid, variegated ball features five bright colors. Lush! And check out the names of each one. You just want to eat them up.

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Also on Sara’s list is Caron Simply Soft. It is 100% acrylic so it is both machine washable and will tumble dry on a low heat!

The proverbial icing on the cake comes in the form of some new and innovative needles. HiyaHiya Needles are completely interchangeable needles. Sara was bubbling with excitment. “Straight and circular. One set makes everything. Every length!”

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In addition to the new stock, Yankee Yarns is happy to announce we are now in Crochet Now Magazine for the next five months in the Shop Local section. If you come in and buy a magazine and spend £15 or more, you get a coupon to fill in and Crochet Now will send you 3 free gifts!

Speaking of crochet, we have a lovely little pattern for you. African Flowers! Head over to Ravelry for the free pattern, including full colour tutorial. You can make them and put them out on their own to use as coasters or you can attach them and make a blanket out of them. Really, your creativity is the limit. They make lovely house-warming gifts. Heaven knows we have enough stash yarn to work through and this will help with your Stash Bust Challenge for the year.

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So let’s get hookin’! And remember to send us pictures of your creations so we can get them on our Rogue’s Gallery. We just love to see what you are working on!

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Simply Sock Clinic Part II – Sharp Row Heel & Turn aka Big Bang Theory

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Question 1—25% of grade

Six ladies were knitting in a sock workshop. They all were about to learn how to do the heel. They had 120 minutes to complete the heel. One lady had 50 stitches on her needles. Two had 56 stitches on their needles. Two had 40 on their needles and the last one had 89 on one and 84 on the other. If each lady had to divide stitches onto three needles, dividing a half of all stitches on one needle and a quarter each on the other two needles, then how long would it take for all of them to lose their minds.

(Answer found at the bottom)



We all slipped through the doors of Yankee Yarns on a freezing, flurry-filled Saturday. Each of us had our socks knitted up to the heel and was in absolute anticipation of learning the new skill, Short-Row Shaping.  Deborah Bown, one of the participants, even took the whole week off work so she could devote the time to her sock! I think we all brought a level of commitment to this endeavour that one would find amongst those working on the Hadron Collider. Hannah Smith summed it up best when she said, “This is when I have to choose between knitting and sleep.”

 

I have often heard it said that most knitters tend to view making socks with either rampant trepidation or mystical fascination. Jenny, our resident designer, said once you get around the first fiddly part when working on the toe, the heel is easier. As it is with most things, until you break through from learning to mastering, there are stumbling blocks and much (mostly me) swearing. For us on Saturday, it all started with the maths.

We all read the bit on the recipe with the formula and began counting stitches. I don’t know if it was the fact that, it being Saturday, we all plummeted into a strange dyscalculic mode. Perhaps we all just got confused with all the counting-out-loud. Whatever it was, the general frenzy of the room had Jenny going around the table checking and double checking our computations. Everyone had some sort of diagram or workings-out scribbled on their pattern.  Our Fearless Leader Sara was rocking in the corner and before you knew it we were “stash deep” in String Theory!

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Well, maybe not quite but you get a general idea. You would have thought we were calculating math to discover dark matter or black holes.

“I think I found a hole,” said Sara. “Oh! No… no. It’s fine.” (Our Fearless Leader never drops the stitch!)

Out of chaos comes order. Once the arithmetic was all sorted, we could concentrate on the technique of wrap and turn on the increase. But even that got a bit transcendent when we approached the decrease. Angela Burrows got there before us and alerted us.

“You’re gonna love this,” she muttered. “It’s a right bastard to do.”

“I thought I could knit before I started to make a sock!” said Janet Garner

However, things quickly spun in a different direction. The geeks in us began to surface through the madness and it called to mind my experiences around another type of table.

“This is all witchcraft.”

“Yeah if maths doesn’t work, summon the sock demons.”

“What’s my saving throw?”

“That’s a +45 spell power and 27 to stamina.”

We all got there in the end. The best bit is we all left with our heels completed and every strand of hair on our heads.

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So what was the answer to the above math word problem? Well, considering we started the workshop at Noon and were due to leave at 2 pm… the last person didn’t leave until nearly 4 pm. One of us experienced a harrowing moment when the double pointed needle broke mid row and posted it on Facebook late on Saturday night. Some of us saw each other on Monday afternoon and exchanged knowing little glances and I believe I detected a slight twitch in (name withheld)’s eye…

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Using the formula C= π*d = 2*π*r. Thus pi equals the knitting circle circumference divided by its diameter. The answer is they lost their minds in 0.16666666666 seconds. Hehe…

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Just jokes.