Where are they now?

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This was the first thing I ever knit. A huge, improvised design, stockinette and garter stitch scarf. My ABC scarf – both literally and metaphorically.

I loved it for a long time. For both its metaphorical meaning and its warmth.

But then I realised I wasn’t wearing it anymore. I had become too bothered by the rookie mistakes. It was too big. The knots on the joins of balls (which were there because I didn’t know better back when I was knitting it) irritated me. And then it became this.

I was a little sad, but knew it was the right thing to do. And a few months later, it became this.

And this.

I think you’ll agree when I say – no regrets! :)

Tidy mind, tidy stitches

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Be warned, this will not be a pretty-picture post. While I admire many a crafter’s wonderfully organised yet cheerful, pretty and appealing studio or crafty corner, in my present circumstance of living in a 3×3 meter room in my parents’ house I’ve found that functionality trumps looks. This is the space in which I sleep, dress, work, craft and relax. Fitting that many activities (and their tools) into such a space is no small task. So my yarn shares a space with my dictionaries, my armchair serves as a shelf for finished objects, and the “studio” in which I do most of my crafting is my bed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining too much! This was my childhood room which gives it a very warm feel, and I prefer smaller spaces to huge ones. But a few extra square meters wouldn’t hurt. I’ve found that the best way to make use of a small space is to go up – use the height, stack things up. It can be a little annoying, when you have to lift up five heavy dictionaries ten times a day because you always somehow need the one that ended up in the bottom of the heap, but it’s better than having to go into the next room ten times a day. The problem with knitting projects, though, is that they don’t exactly stack up. Which brought me to the idea of shoe boxes.

This was a total breakthrough for me! Shoe boxes are the perfect size to keep several balls of yarn, needles, a printed pattern, and all those other itty bitty things you need for a knitting project. Not to mention that it’s easier to dig out a tiny stitch-marker from a box than from a fabric project-bag, where it hides in the curves and the darkness… Aaaaand they stack up! :)

Apart from noticing that I am a big fan of Clarks, you may also notice in the photo that I label my projects with post-it notes too. That way I know what is where and when I feel like working on a project, I just pull out the labeled box and get to it, it contains everything I need. And I have a constant visual reminder of all the projects I have going, which I like to tell myself keeps my WIP count from rising. With all those boxes looking at me a little accusingly, it’s easier to give up on starting another new project and grab a WIP to finish instead. All in all, I’m very happy with the shoe box idea and will surely be keeping it even when I have more room at my disposal. Though I might do something to pretty up the boxes – sorry Clarks, nothing personal!

Now, if you’re looking at the above photo and thinking that it all looks super nice to you, let me present – the bigger picture.

Note that the WIP area also serves as a bookshelf, a shoe-closet, an umbrella stand, a shelf for my iron, and many many more things. As I said, this is a multi-tasking space! ;)

Happy Wednesday! I look forward to picking up a few good organisation ideas from other crafters today! :)

Skill + 1UP

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When it comes to my knitting skills, I guess you could say they’re a constantly evolving and a constantly devolving thing. I learn a new skill on most projects, whether it’s a huge thing like two-handed colourwork or a tiny thing like a new method of cast-on. I am usually thrilled by the said new skill and talk about it without end (you regular readers here are my witnesses). And then, usually, I forget all about it. In the knowledge that the link to the YouTube tutorial is safely stored on my Ravelry project page, I don’t feel the need to keep practising the skill. I use it on the thing I needed it for, and store in the “to re-learn” section of my brain until I need it again.

There are some skills, however, that you can’t learn from YouTube. And those are the skills that I am practising, and improving, on every single project. Which means that I can illustrate them easily using my latest FO, finished yesterday evening.

The skill of making do with whatever yarn I have available. The recipient wanted the colour lilac. The only lilac yarn I could find was DK, while the pattern called for aran weight. Simple, just hold it double!

The skill of finding other crafts with which to create what I need, instead of searching for just the right thing in the shops. I couldn’t find matching buttons that would be big enough. Simple, cover old buttons with yarn used in the project!

The skill to not fear experimenting with ideas that just pop into my head. I didn’t want to do single-coloured pom-poms again. Simple, vary it up!

That’s one option. What about another one? Simple!

The skill of modifying a pattern so I get exactly what I want. The earflaps were too long for my taste. Simple, shorten them!

I didn’t like the way the edge rolled. Simple, add a seed stitch border!

These skills are more important than knowing how to do a psso or a w&t. Because, I assure you, if you had set me up against these issues a year ago, I wouldn’t have squeaked “Simple!” and gone to work. I probably would have started pulling my hair out instead. And that’s why, even if I couldn’t make a list containing things such as  crocheting a border, embroidering a motif, sewing a flat seam, doing the twisted German cast-on, I still would’ve said my skill has gone up by far more than 1.

Happy Tuesday! :)

a tale of one (or two or three or four…) yarn

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I’d like to use the opportunity of today’s topic to talk about an issue which is of everyday concern to knitters in my region, Southeast Europe, but which I rarely see mentioned on blogs from other countries. When bloggers from the UK and the US (my main source of company for morning coffee) start to write about yarn, they are inevitably writing about some luxurious blend that they couldn’t resist, some brand name they got on a bargain, or some cheap yarn that surprised them with its quality. Yet, when I go to the yarn shop here in Croatia, there are completely different worries on my mind.

While I am personally very lucky to travel quite a bit abroad, and use my travels as an opportunity to treat myself to an occasional brand-name, luxury-blend, high-quality yarn, like many knitters here for most of my projects I still depend on what is offered locally. There is one big yarn factory in Croatia and most of what’s on offer is due to it. The name of the factory is Unitas, and the names of the yarns always make me smile – they are simply popular Croatian female names. I rarely use my namesake – Ivana, because its colours never appeal to me, but its existence makes me happy nonetheless.

If you want variety of colour and weight, Unitas is your best choice in Croatia. The problem is, there is sometimes a bit too much variety. I present to you: several colours of Unitas Lucija.

All the yarns pictured above are from my stash, and every single one of them has the same label:

The composition is 50% wool and 50% acrylic. The recommended needle size 3 – 3.5mm. On Ravelry, Unitas Lucija is listed as a fingering weight. All good so far. But look closer. Do these look like the same yarn to you?

Not to me. And it ain’t the colour that’s the problem. Unitas simply doesn’t seem to have grasped the idea the yarns of the same name should preferably have the same characteristics. These yarns are not the same weight, they knit up to a different gauge, their elasticity ranges from completely stiff to wonderfully bouncy, some of them feel like they are pure acrylic and some like they contain mohair, and they are not even remotely spun or plied in the same way.

From left to right:

  • a soft 2-ply,
  • a strange novelty yarn in which the two colours feel like they’re glued, rather than plied together,
  • a single ply that resembles raw roving and breaks easily,
  • a construction of many thin tiny threads that seem to have been joined together in an i-cord method.

All. The. Same. Yarn.

I’d like to note here that I didn’t select these yarns with the intention of emphasizing the differences – I just pulled out all the skeins of Unitas Lucija I have in my stash and started taking photos. And it’s not a problem of just Lucija. There is the same problem with Marija, Ana, and all the other female-named yarns from Unitas’ offer. Yes, even with Ivana.

Have you ever seen a Rowan or a KnitPicks or a Drops yarn that has this much variation in itself? And can you imagine the problems of trying to select matching yarn for a project that requires two colours of the same yarn? Or the frustration of never knowing what gauge the yarn will be, even though you’ve worked with the same yarn ten times before? Or not knowing if it will be splitty or not, because you are encountering ten different plying methods in one shelf full of the same yarn? These are the problems knitters in my neck of the woods face every time they enter a yarn shop.

And that’s why I don’t need to write about two yarns today. I can take the same yarn and write ten different stories about it. It might sound like a fun idea at first, but when it comes to practicality, it quickly loses its appeal.

I just thought it was time someone finally said something about it.

happy weekend!

How good it felt to take in the spring today! Faced with gloomier forecasts for tomorrow, I decided to take full advantage of this spring day… I opened up the windows and let the fresh air in, I spring-cleaned my wardrobe, cooked a vegetably meal, hung laundry to dry in the wind (first time this year!)…

…and then sat among the yellow and blue scents to knit a while.

I even did a bit of planning for the upcoming Knitting and Crochet Blog Week!

I’m feeling inspired! It’s going to be a lot of fun! Hope to see you around next week… :)

another bootie!

I warned you, I’m obssessed! But since I’m making so many of these baby booties, I thought it’d be a good idea to show you how they look in progress. Here’s one about halfway done.

Not looking very much like a bootie at all, huh? I know. I was a bit suspicious the first time around, but it works perfectly well. As you can tell, up to this stage it’s only garter stitch. For the last five centimeters you only work on the centre 10 stitches, but it’s not short rows or anything like that. You simply ignore the other stitches. I find this easier to do when I place the non-active stitches on separate DPNs so they’re out of the way, but this is not obligatory. You could knit this whole thing with just two straight needles.

The next step will be to pick up stitches along the two vertical sides of the central 10 pillar (the little thing that’s poking out), and then knitting all the stitches in garter again for a while. The picking up of stitches is the most demanding part of this pattern, and you’ll probably agree that picking up about a total of 20 stitches is not terribly demanding. :) I have a little trick I’ve conjured to avoid breaking yarn at any point, so if I manage to get good photos I might show you that in my next bootie post.

I think the yarn I’m using for this was a gift. I don’t think I was terribly pleased when I got it. I don’t know what you call this kind of yarn, it’s not variegated, instead it’s several strands of different colours plied together.

 

Not my kind of thing at all. But I’ve already learned that all yarns have potential, if only you can find the right project for them. And I have to say, I think I’ve discovered the true potential of this one!

I’m loooooving how it looks in garter stitch! From this perspective, it makes me think of hot oriental spices, not a sensation I normally associate with knitting but a good one none the less :) I’ll be giving the booties a name in accordance with that, but I haven’t quite settled on the particular spice yet… :)

booties everywhere!

I was looking for a quick little baby gift the other day, and discovered this free pattern. There’s not much to tell apart from that. I tried it out, and fell in love. I’ve been making stay-on baby booties ever since!

This is my fourth one.

The first pair, which I haven’t photographed yet, was in a single solid colour. For the second one, I tried out some striping. The booties originally have a longer brim, which is then folded over, but I didn’t like the fact that striping in garter stitch inevitably has an obvious “wrong” side, so I decided to make the brim on these shorter, non-foldable. If you know any tricks for reversible garter-stitch striping, do tell!

The pattern is wonderfully easy and clever. It is knit on straight needles, all in garter stitch. It requires a tiny bit of picking up stitches and the simplest of decreases, and that’s it! Other than that it’s just knit knit knit. Perfect for knitting while your mind is elsewhere, say with an interesting audiobook, and done so quickly! As I’ve said, I’ve managed to squeeze in four of these over the weekend, while at the same time having a ton of work!

Not even to mention that this seems like the perfect thing to make a bunch of and keep on hand for unexpected gifting opportunities! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to dream up some more colour combinations…

hmmm

I thought I was almost done with my Burberry inspired cowl. I finished knitting and stitched the ends together loosely to see if it would be long enough. It was, but lo and behold, trying to wrap a neverending loop around your neck twice results in a rather bulky twisted lump at some point, especially if the said neverending loop is bulky itself. So now I’m not really sure how to deal with this. Alternative way of stitching the ends togeter (would stitching them together in a moebius fashion help?)? Not stitching them together at all but keeping it as a scarf? I don’t really like that option, the ends look too silly for scarf ends (and I wanted a cowl, so badly!). Attaching some buttons (where?) and making it some sort of scarf imitating a cowl with the help of buttons? I don’t know. I’m racking my brains.

And in the meantime, I’m wearing it as a turban. Don’t you think that might be its destiny? ;)

not the best week

Things have been known to be better here at camp fridica. Several things are keeping me chained to my room, and they don’t even involve crafting! The lack of crafting is partially due to lack of time (I’m currently working as a freelancer, and if you know anything about freelancing you probably know that it boils down to not having anything to do for a while, and then having 10 huge tasks pile up, all at once, unexpecdetly), and partially due to various physical ailments, including: a nasty headcold that I’ve been trying to fight off by consuming unprecedented amounts of tea, honey and chicken soup (we’re still at a stand-off, the headcold and me, that is), aching fingertips (from spending about 8 hours a day typing incessantly), as well as a very painful right arm (from having played air hockey vigorously on Monday – though I’m not sure I regret that as it’s been basically the only hour of pastime this week). This all resulted in knitting not being terribly comfortable, even when I managed to squeeze it in a bit.

Which is all to say I had to find some other quick crafty thing to do. And I did. There was this little knitted goodie that’s been sitting in my room for a while, waiting for me to find the time to get it an envelope and mail it off. But once I got the standard padded yellow envelope, it seemed so ugly! Perfect excuse to do some experimental crafting. Following some examples I saw online of using paper doilies to decorate gifts and suchlike, I bought a set of paper doilies, some paper glue, and I was off.

In the process, I found out some things. Such as that paper doilies are thin. And I mean thin. And that glue shows through.

I also considered some practicalities, such as what will happen if the doily gets ripped off by accident while being handled in the mailing process. Just in case, I wrote the address of the recepient both on the envelope under the doily and on the doily itself.

And here is the final result! It’s the same on the back too.

Not bad for a first try! Definitely cheers up the yellow envelope a bit :) I did consider adding some blue twine to make it look like a gift, but I wasn’t sure how the post office would feel about things sticking out of the package in all directions, so I held off for now.  In any case I’m pretty happy with how it came out, and since I bought a few more doilies, I’ll definitely be trying it out again.

Quick, fun, and no typing involved. Just what I needed. :)