Tag Archives: stash

Organizing my Stash…Again

Standard

My knitting has been on the back burner these days. Mainly because I started the Lace Cardigan from The Art of Seamless Knitting by Simona Merchant-Dest and Faina Goberstein. It’s a top down cardigan and a bit fiddly as it requires a lot of concentration. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be gorgeous when it’s done but I was about 45 rows into the pattern when I realized my gauge was wrong and it wasn’t going to fit (even though I had done a gauge swatch). I ripped it out and started over but it’s been slow. I still haven’t made it back up to row 45. Between having to get up early to run (to beat the heat) and going back into an office again, my brain has been kind of fried and doesn’t want to deal with all the yarn overs, SSK, etc. I mean, I’ve been under lock down for over a year and realized my social skills are a bit rusty. It’s been taxing.

I want a no-brainer knitting project. So naturally I decided to pull out all of my yarn and organize it. Totally reasonable response, right?

This is not the first time I’ve done this. However, it is the first time I decided to put it ALL down on paper (well, in a Google spreadsheet, so technically not paper…). I have managed to use up some of my stash the past year and it’s been shifted around where most of it now fits in my linen cabinet. The problem is it’s not easy to see all of it – out of sight, out of mind. Here’s where the beauty of the spreadsheet comes in.

The columns in the spreadsheet are labeled: Brand of Yarn, Color, Fiber Content, Amount (# of skeins as well as the grams or yardage of each skein), Recommended Needle Size and Project Ideas (as vague as “hat” or actual links to patterns). And the first column has an actual picture of the yarn. Not all my yarn has labels but I fill in what I can.

The spreadsheet is a good idea for several reasons:

  • I can see what I have without dragging everything out of the closet.
  • I can add in ideas for different yarns as I find them. Having brand names on hand also allows me to go into Ravelry and look for projects made with that specific yarn, even if the yarn is no longer being manufactured.
  • I can look for yarns to pair up. This is especially useful since I have so many odds and ends.
  • It got me thinking about what to do with all my odds and ends. Given that I already have 50 yarns listed and I’m not done, not everything I knit needs to be for me. I thought it would be nice to use some of my yarn for gifts and charity. I’d like to have a stock of handknits around to surprise friends and family with. I’m thinking of “one-size-fits-all” kind of projects – hats, scarves, socks, mittens – that sort of thing. These are also perfect “no-brainer” projects.
  • It’s a reminder of how blessed I am. It may sound corny but what made the last year so bearable was my knitting and sewing. And how wonderful was it that all I had to do was open a drawer or a cabinet to find a bounty of materials to pick from.
  • It gives me one place to capture all of my ideas.
  • Creativity has a stereotype of being messy and chaotic but it needs constraints. Organizing my stash into a document and being able to see everything all at once activates “what if” thinking. What if I combined different weight yarns? What if I tied all the small leftovers together to create a Frankenball? What if I combine different textures? How would that effect the stitch pattern? What if I combined knitting with crochet? Crochet with sewing? What if I worked in patchwork? What if I added leather? These questions get my juices flowing and are the basis for some really unique and interesting design.

It may not seem like I got a lot accomplished this week but I laid the foundation and set myself up for success with future projects. Whether I need to take on a more challenging project or just need something keep my hands busy, my spreadsheet will be there with all of its possibiities.

4 Days, 4 Skirts (Draft an 8 Gore Skirt)

Standard
4 Days, 4 Skirts (Draft an 8 Gore Skirt)

I’m a sewing Ninja.

I talked about these skirts in this video (I threw one in as a bonus). In actuality, I’ve been “planning” them for a couple years but some other project has always gotten my attention. I also said I could probably sew them all in a day if I set my mind to it.

Famous last words. Technically I could have done it if I hadn’t chosen to hand sew the hem and waistband. Still, a skirt a day is pretty impressive, in my opinion.

Let’s break them down, shall we?

Skirts 1, 2 and 3

The brown/olive skirt was the first one I made because I had black thread in my serger and all the other skirts required white (I use only black or white serger thread – black for dark fabrics, white for light. Serger thread is not cheap and you have to buy 4 spools so I don’t bother matching colors.)

I made it to wear with this sweater:

Unfortunately I was less than thrilled when I tried them on together (I wish had taken a picture). The sweater came down too far and hid my waist. It didn’t look bad, it just didn’t wow me and it took a bit of the wind out of my sails. After mulling it over for a couple of days I decided to redo the sweater. I unraveled it to 2″ below the armhole, which was easy because I knit it top down. I shaped the sides to take away some of the bulk and define my waist. Also, I’m short waisted so I took away four inches of length going from a side seam of 13 inches to about nine inches. Looking at the two pictures side by side doesn’t seem like that big of a difference but when paired with the skirt the proportions are spot on!

I realized that’s been part of the problem with my wardrobe – I’ve been settling for “good enough”, instead of insisting on only having pieces that look and make me feel great. More importantly, I understand my proportions better and can see the (sometimes subtle) changes needed for a garment to flatter my figure. We should take the time and effort to make it right because we are worth it. I noticed a discernable shift in how I was carrying myself when I put on the revised sweater.

This made me rethink some of my yarn stash. Because the waistband on jeans fall below my waist, I want sweaters that are longer so they cover my stomach. But these skirts fit me at my waist (which I want to highlight) so I don’t need all that length, which means I don’t need as much yarn. I can make “skirt sweaters” from those yarns I have less of.

Okay, back to the skirt. I put a diagram below to show you how I drafted the pattern. Make sure you add your seam allowances and cut your pattern on the fold. You’ll need to cut out eight gores. I wear my skirts so the zipper is in the back.

What went well:

  • For the waistband I cut a 3″X 29″ (my waist measurement + 1″ ease + 2″ to finish at zipper opening) rectangle and interfaced it.
  • I used the same pattern I used to make the dress in this post. It fit me perfectly, sitting at the my waist and flaring out.
  • The fabrics I used were a bit more shifty than the quilting cotton I used for the dress so interfacing where I put the zipper was a big help and made insertion much easier.
  • I learned my lesson from the dress and made sure each side of the waistband lined up at the zipper so no more uneven zipper openings.
  • I serged all the seams after I sewed them as these fabrics tend to fray.
  • I got a lot of practice inserting zippers and hand sewing.

What would I do differently:

  • The light blue fabric, while having a beautiful shimmer, was not a good choice for a skirt. Not only is it very sheer, it was also surprisingly scratchy. There night be some metallic thread running through it. I barely lasted eight minutes in it, I couldn’t imagine wearing it for eight hours. I won’t be wearing it until I get a slip.

Skirt 4

I didn’t mention this skirt in my video because I was in the process of knitting the top and I wanted to reveal them together. I got the fabric from the thrift store and I think it’s a silk sari as it’s very narrow.

I didn’t use the gore pattern because it would have distorted the stripe, which pulls in the color from the top. I decided to make a dirndl skirt instead. A dirndl, or gathered skirt is basically two large rectangles (mine were 28″ X 31.25″) gathered up into the waistband (I made the waistband the same as the gore skirts).

I squealed when I looked at this outfit! I am absolutely in love with it, which was a bit of a surprise. I thought the gathers would make me look poufy. And if I used a heavier fabric it would have, but this is light so the gathers drape nicely. I get a 50’s vibe from this look. All those vintage sewing videos seem to be rubbing off on me. Not that I mind. I think the 40’s and 50’s silhouettes are flattering to my shape and plan to reference them more in my designs.

The sweater is my own design. I had only three skeins of Red Heart Luster Sheen (I don’t think they produce it anymore but you can find some on etsy or ebay). I planned on making it a raglan tank top but couldn’t figure out how to finish the neckline in a way that I liked. I didn’t want to do a rounded neck either, thinking that would make it to “vesty”. I settled on this wider neckline which suits the whole 50’s vibe of the skirt. I will be getting a lot of wear out of these two.

Final Thoughts

If you are new to sewing, these two skirt designs are easy, not only to sew but also to draft yourself. Buy some cheap fabric (check your local thrift store for fabric and/or bed sheets) and test the fit of your pattern as well as work out construction details. Zippers seem intimidating but like everything else they become easier with practice. Invest in a good sewing manual (I like the one Reader’s Digest puts out) or Youtube for tutorials.

Once you’ve sewn a few skirts you can play around with the details on these skirts by adding tucks, pockets and other embellishments

Now that I’ve tested these two designs, I’ve added other fabrics to the queue. But first I have to find a knitting project since I finished all of my UFO’s. I have several yarns that match the red poppy skirt and a basic black sweater would also be a welcome addition. I just have to figure out the designs, which is always fun.

Out of the four outfits, which one is your favorite?

Stashbuster Blanket

Standard

It feels sooo satisfying to finally complete a project. I present to you the Patchwork Blanket (pattern link down below) which I’ll be donating.

As you can see from the photo above, I had about 15 skeins and a bunch of random balls of acrylic worsted weight yarn. This yarn, in my opinion, is not suitable for any garments and it was hard on my hands because it’s stiff. But it is great for blankets. I added one to my bed last week as we had sub-freezing temperatures and with my quilt, I was toasty warm. I’m not sure where the yarn came from, but some is leftover from the latch hook rugs I did in December.

My goal was to get 20 squares (each roughly measuring 13 inches) out of what I had to make a 4×5 blanket. I knit it on size 8 double pointed needles (it is knit from the center out) and as more stitches were added, I switched to circular needles. I can’t say it’s the most beautiful color scheme but it works. To finish it, I crocheted the squares together and then did 3 rows of a single crochet border in black. I then gave the blanket a good steam, basically killing the yarn. This isn’t something I’d normally recommend, but I think this cheap acrylic benefits – it just makes the stitches nicer and the blanket softer. I still have some leftovers to contend with. I will either send them to my mother, who makes needlepoint coasters and glass cases, or I will use them to decorate and wrap gifts, This is the fourth blanket I’ve made using this pattern.

I can’t tell you how many blankets I’ve made in my lifetime, though it’s been a lot. Blankets are a great way to use up scraps and don’t require a lot of concentration (keeps your hands busy while watching T.V.).The sheer amount of yarn I’ve gone through is mind boggling. And am I the only one who names their blankets? I have one called the Drywall blanket. My mother made it and it is worked in an afghan stitch embroidered with cross stitch. It’s a beautiful blanket but the acrylic yarn in combination with the stitch does make it quite stiff. I inherited a lot of yarn from my grandmother. Again, it was worsted weight acrylic. She probably got it from KMart since that was her favorite store. I knit all that yarn up on my bulky knitting machine (I’ve since sold all my machines as I prefer to hand knit) and made a huge blanket for our bed (I was married at the time). Most blankets are too small and when one person rolls over the other tends to get shorted. Not with this blanket, which we named The Ugly Blanket (sorry Grandma, those color choices were just bad), as it had three huge panels which hung to the floor on each side of the bed. One year, in another attempt to make a dent in my stash, I made nine blankets. Below are just a few examples.

While a pattern really isn’t necessary (all you need is a stitch dictionary) there are some fun ones out there. Here are a few of my favorites:

Patchwork Blanket

The Groovy-ghan

Easy Baby Blanket with Lace Option

A New Design – A Look at my Creative Process

Standard

A new video is up. One day when we are allowed back out into the world to do more than just get gas and groceries, I want to go to more theatrical and artsy events but I haven’t got a thing to wear. So I decided to design something and wouldn’t you know, I’ve got just what I need in my stash.

The Destasher’s Library

Standard

You know what I love as much as yarn and fabric?

Books!

My book collection has changed and evolved over the years. When I first started, I had a lot of pattern books. My skills have advanced far enough that I can make a design just from a picture so most of those are gone. Today my shelves contain books that focus more on techniques than sweater patterns. Many of them will come in handy for The Great Destash of 2021 and I’d like to share those with you. Unfortunately many of these have been in my collection for decades but you might be able to find them at your library or secondhand

YARN

  • Stitch Dictionaries – Whether you knit or crochet (I do both) a good stitch dictionary (or 10…or is that just me?) are a great source of inspiration. Barbara Walker’s Treasuries, Nicky Epstein’s “Edge” series and The Harmony Guides are my favorites. My crochet stitch dictionaries include ones for stitches, edgings, Irish crochet and motifs. I mean, the granny square was practically invented to use up stash!
  • Modular knitting books – I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Horst Schulz when I was in Dallas and have been enthralled with modular knitting ever since. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate a lot of different colors and fibers with relatively little work. I think the technique also lends itself beautifully to using up small bits or single balls of yarn. In addition to both of Horst Schulz’ books (3 actually, 2 in German and the English translation of Fashion for Children), I have Knit in New Directions by Myra Wood, Modular Magic by Ginger Luters, Wooly Thoughts and No- Pattern Knits by Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer, Knitting for Anarchists ( see “The All-Purpose Strip-Knit Anarchist Sweater”) by Anna Zilboorg and Number Knitting by Virginia Woods Bellamy (printed in 1952! and featured on this episode of Fruity Knitting). I also highly recommend The Progressive Knitter by Maggie Whiting. This book is no longer in print and it wasn’t available on Amazon at the time I wrote this, but it is a wonderful book. It isn’t about modular knitting but she does include it. It looks at knitting “outside the box”, so to speak as it explores different silhouettes and yarn combinations – a must for the destasher, if you can find it
  • The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe. If you are starting your book collection from scratch and have limited funds, this should be first on your list. It has color theory, stitch patterns, modular knitting and a whole host of other color techniques at your disposal in one compact book.
  • Hand-Knitting Techniques from Threads Magazine – Gawd, I REALLY miss the old Threads magazine, before they sold out focused on just sewing. I’m sure the decision was a financial one, but I loved the old format. It was creative, quirky and well-done. There wasn’t anything like it. Sigh. This book is a collection of reprints from those good old days. The articles particularly useful for destashing are “The Oddball Sweater” and “Knit Landscapes from Leftovers”. It also has lots of other great techniques for knitting socks, gloves and top down sweaters.
  • Toe-Up Socks for Every Body by Wendy D. Johnson – I like knitting socks and have some leftover sock yarn in my stash. The problem is I’m not sure if I have enough to knit two socks. While I haven’t tried this technique yet, knitting the leg and cuff last, instead of first, and being able to adjust the length depending on how much yarn I have, will be more efficient and effective. Keeping my fingers crossed it works.
  • The Knitter’s Guide to Sweater Design by Carmen Michelson and Mary-Ann Davis – Released in 1989, this was the book that demystified pattern making for me. I have more recent books but this is the one I always return to. It’s straightforward and gave me a reason to use the Pythagorean Theorem. I would have enjoyed geometry a lot more if my teacher had related what we learned to knitting design, just saying.
  • Afghans and Throws by Luise Roberts -An afghan is a great way to use up scrap yarn and what I love about this book is how it caters to working with leftovers (though I’ don’t think that was her intent). Luise covers working with different yarns, stripes, appliques, modular knitting, choosing colors, edgings and methods to join motifs. It also has plenty of stitch patterns.

Fabric

  • Ruth B.McDowell’s Piecing Workshop and Design Workshop – If you want to explore art quilts, IMO, these are the books to start with. She does a great job of breaking down the process into easy steps. Working strictly from scraps (as I will be doing) is one way to stretch your design skills. Art quilts are the yin to a scrap quilts yang (or is it the other way around?) Scrap quilts are a nice diversion – they give you something to do but you can let your mind wander while art quilts are perfect when you are looking for a creative challenge and have the mental energy to do so.
  • Adventures in Design by Joen Wolfrom – Another quilt book but it does a nice job of breaking down different design elements so you can achieve a great versus a ho-hum design. I think it’s a nice companion to Ruth’s technique books.
  • If you are more interested in making clothes than quilts, The Art of Fabric Collage by Rosemary Eichorn and Koos Couture Collage by Linda Chang Teufel might be more up your alley. Both books feature techniques and inspiration for combining fabrics and creating wearable art.
  • Decorative Dressmaking by Sue Thompson – While the clothes featured are a bit outdated (it was printed in the 80’s, need I say more?), this book looks at common (and some not-so-common) techniques such as flounces, stipes, piping, applique, bands and binding (to name a few) with a “what if” mindset. I love it’s playful vibe to experiment and explore as well as offer up some projects to practice what you just learned. You’ll be looking at design in a whole new way.
  • If knits are your thing, I would suggest any book by Natalie Chanin. My favorite though is Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. As I’ve mentioned before, if I ever got married, I would make my dress using this technique. Actually, I’m going to make a dress using this technique whether I get married again or not.
  • If you do make clothes, I think a good pattern drafting or draping book should be in your library. I have Dorothy Moore’s Pattern Drafting and Dressmaking which I’ve used for skirts and Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph-Armstrong, which is a college staple and more comprehensive. I’ve used it to make a hi-low skirt which I loved (but sadly got too big on me). A good book for beginners is How Patterns Work by Assembil Books (I have the kindle version). Even if you don’t draft your own patterns, it helps you understand the logic behind patterns, making it easier to work with commercial patterns. But you don’t need to get all fancy, you can create great clothes with no patterns. The Woman’s Day Book of No-Pattern Sewing by Lorraine Ruggieri (1981) uses just simple shapes. The designs are basic but you could use them as a jumping off point to play around with fabrics and embellishments.
  • Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – This is a good reference manual for different sewing techniques that commercial patterns don’t give you.

Design

  • The Fabric Design Book by Karin Jerstorp and Eva Kohlmark – What is it about the Swedish and design? I mean, they just get it. This book is like a textbook, offering the adventurous creative permission to play and explore color, pattern, line and texture. It’s such a yummy book – pick it up whenever you feel blocked.
  • Design Basics by David A Lauer and Stephen Pentak – Another college staple for design majors. Everything you wanted to know about design elements and principles.
  • How to be Creative in Textile Art by Julia Triston and Rachel Lombard – This book is about keeping a sketchbook to capture inspiration and research as well as a tool to play around and experiment with your ideas before you commit to the final project. It’s a one-stop shop for your creativity.

This is by no means my whole library, just the titles I think are relevant for using up a stash – especially those smaller bits and pieces. I’d love to hear what books you find helpful/inspirational.