Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How to get more knitting done with less WIPs and hibernating projects and more FOs

Are you a serial starter?

Yeah, I'm looking at you, Heather! Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. You have a serial problem. Call the doctor.. you have start-itist.

How do you know you have start-itist (aka cast on-itist)? Well, it's a contagious infection passed from knitter to knitter that causes you to cast on for every new shiny project that cross your path. You constantly catch the cast-on bug causing you to cast on for ALL the things. It doesn’t last long, but is strikes fast and hard, leaving your head spinning and with a lot of needles in progress. Can't find a US size 6 for that NEW project? Can't imagine why. You have 5 pairs. And they are all stuffed in project bags with yet another hibernating shawl.

How do you contract the highly contagious start-itist? Too easily if you ask me. Every time a new edition of is released, a new Twist Collective pattern hit Ravelry,  a knitting podcaster show off what they are working on, your digital copy of I Like Knitting hit your inbox, or Interweave Knits hits your mailbox, it starts. You're flipping through the pages and every new image is a shiny beacon on hope and possibility.

So, the new patterns are out, you are smitten by the designs. You are enthralled by the photography. You imagine you are the model wearing all those gloriously cabled sweaters, those stunning colorwork mittens, and slap me silly lacy shawls.

As you flip through the pages of the magazine, every design is better and more lovely than the one before.

Hey, are you forgetting about something? No?! What about your current work in progress (WIP)? You remember the one! The colorwork hat with the massive pompom from last season you just had to have. Lets walk down memory lane for a second: You have a huge stash, like most of us do (no judgement here, I have a bedroom converted to an office, JUST so I can store all my yarn and fibers), one that is way pass SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy), but you had to go 2 yarn stores, place online orders with 3 different indie yarn dyers in order to get THE perfect shade of green variegated yarn to match the sample in the magazine because nothing else would do. So, now, that once sparkly new pattern you were obsessed with is now dull and lifeless, tucked away in a bin and marked as hibernating on Ravelry.

You have more projects at various stages of completion that you can even count.

You started all these projects for a reason. At some point you loved the design and wanted to wear it. How can you finish one of these projects so you can enjoy wearing it or gifting it to someone who is knit worthy?

We've all been there. We've been working faithfully on a project and something new crops up that totally distracted us. As a designer, I have a lot of projects on my plate and I make progress on EVERYTHING. And I am not just talking about the things I am commissioned to create for a magazine that I have to finish. Even the hats for my boys or the scarf for my sister… they all get worked on and get completed. And you know what, it feels good! It's feels awesome to want to start a new project and have free needles. My needles are not held hostage in a project.

New Majestic Needles from Knit Picks 
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So, how can you finish these WIPS and hibernating projects AND still get to play with all the new shiny projects?

I wouldn't leave you hanging. Here are a few tips:
  1. Frog it. If you are truly not in love with the project anymore, frog it. Wind the yarn and find something new to use it for. Rescue those needles from it's hibernating prison.
  2. When you get the urge to cast on for a new project, wind the yarn and SWATCH. Yes, I said the "s" word. Swatching or even simply winding the yarn is enough to take the edge off and get the urge out.
  3. Set a goal. Choose a few projects from your WIP and hibernating stockpile and decide on the one or two you will finish and by when. That way you will have a deadline. Write it down because there is something powerful in having your goals written down so you can look at.
  4. Goals change. Maybe after a few days knitting, you start to feel really out of love with the project. Ask yourself: Do you still want that hibernating project? Depending on how you feel about the project, do one of these things: Frog it, Finish it, Give it away, Pay to have it finished by another knitter.
  5. Try adopting a new system for managing your projects, aka, the reward system. Use the 2 out and 1 in method, which means that for every 2 projects you finish, you are allowing yourself to start 1 new project. Feel free to play with the ratio to find something that works best for you.
  6. Finish the easy stuff first. Sometimes, tacking the hibernating stockpile can feel daunting. Try finish projects that are mostly complete first. This will build up your confidence as you finish the project. Then move on to the next nearly completed project, then the next, etc.
  7. Get support. Join a Stash Down or Finish it group.
  8. Share your work and progress on Ravelry and social media to get support and accountability.

The truth is, so what if you have a hundred WIPs?! You want to keep on stating new projects without finishing any, then that is your right! NO JUDGEMENT here. Don’t feel you have to be in love with every project, forever. As long as your family isn't going hungry or cold, and you're not going broke by you constantly buying new yarn and patterns and never finishing anything, do what make you happy. But if you feel guilty, you want to finish up some things, use the tips above to help you out.

until next time,
Stitch On!


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{Freeport Cardigan}

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The yarn called for in the pattern is too expensive

yarn, substitution, pattern, expensive

How would you have responded?

The other day I got this email from a knitter that I've been thinking about quite a bit.

2-color sampler cowl, crochet
2-Color Sampler Cowl
The knitter started out by saying she liked my 2-Color Sampler Cowl and wanted to crochet it, but was disappointed that the yarn used was so expensive. For the sample I used Anzula For Better or Worsted, which retails for $32.50 per skein.

I was a little thrown off by the comment and it took me a little while to respond because, while I was flattered that she liked the pattern, I couldn't quite wrap my head around her disappointment at the time.

So, when I find a pattern I like, whether knit or crochet, while the yarn used is a selling point, I don't think it the definitive of whether I will make the pattern. Heck, I don't think I've ever used the yarn called for in the pattern. Have you? Maybe when I was a newbie. But definitely not now and not for a long time.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with knitting up a pattern in the same yarn and color as the sample in the magazines. The designer and the magazine had good reason to use that particular yarn. Maybe for the drape and shine the silk content provide or the sturdy, grabby nature of a rustic yarn for a steeked project. Whatever the decision, there was a reason for the yarn choice.

When I see one of my designs knitted up, I don't care what yarn is used. As long as the knitter is satisfied with their results. On Ravelry, there is a project for the 2-Color Sampler Cowl and the crocheter used Lion Brand Vanna's Choice and their project turned out fantastic.

KNitDesigns by Tian

I think that was what threw me off. This knitter was disappointed because the yarn was expensive. So what?!

When I design, the yarn used in the sample is a suggestion. I assume the knitters and crocheters would substitute for a comparable yarn in their own price range.  I've worked up pattern that called for cashmere with merino wool/acrylic blends, and wouldn't think less of the designer for using a lesser priced yarn. That's the beauty of the fiber arts, it's all about your own personal choices.

So, my response was diplomatic. While she didn't buy the pattern and might never buy any of my patterns, I am not The Knitting Police. I advised her that while the yarn is priced at $32.50 per skein, she could easily substitute for another yarn of a similar gauge and drape. I also have her a list of some staple, price conscious yarns she could use, even some acrylics.

Sunapee Shawl
When I first started crochet, I didn't know about LYS and fancy yarns. I was introduced to big box store yarns from Walmart then upgraded to Jo-Ann's Fabric. I know, fancy! But that's okay. It was a while before I discovered yarn shops, wool, and luxury blends, and Webs. Needless to say, my wallet is a lot lighter since those early days.

While I've had the great opportunity to crochet and knit with some fantastic yarns, I'm all for substituting yarns when needed. None if us should be selling our first-borns for yarn. Use the best yarn you can afford. I still go to Jo-Ann's Fabrics to pick up a few skeins, especially when I have a coupon. Don't judge. Their Paton sock yarn is awesome.

We are in an era where there is so much Internet shame. There's the constant out-doing the next guy, one upping your neighbors, and keeping up with the Jones.

This is our craft, our hobbies. Lets keep it fun and judgement free.

So now it's your turn. Leave a comment: Do you use the yarn listed in the pattern or do you go rogue and substitute?

Stitch On!


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Garment in pieces: Don't skimp on the finishing

Garment in pieces

Garment in pieces: Block before or after seaming?

You've been working on this epic sweater. For months you have been stitching away and dreaming of the day it will be finally finished so you can wear to your knit night to show of your beautiful stitches and hard work.
emma, shrug, knit, design, knitdesigns by tian
Photo by Interweave Knits

So, you've put so much time into knitting (and crocheting) your sweater, of course the finishing needs to look beautiful as well. What is your process for finishing your hand-knit (crochet) sweater worked in pieces?

The questions I see a lot is, when I am knitting a sweater in pieces (this can be applied to any garment or accessory, knit or crochet in pieces):

  1. should I block the pieces first, then assemble OR
  2. seam the pieces, then block the finished object.

The Pro answer is to: block each piece to measurement, assemble, and block the whole finished object again.

Why block first before assemble?

  1. It's so much easier to seam with flat edges rather than ends that are curling and misshaped. Before blocking, edging tend to be wonky and unruly. Blocking the piece will help to smooth out the curling.
  2. You will have a good idea if the garment will fit before seaming the pieces together. You can compare the measurement of each piece to the schematic to ensure.
  3. You will be able to identify and correct mistakes early. You will be able to fix problems, re-work a piece if needed before assembly.
  4. You will find out if your swatch lies. Was your gauge spot on or way off? You will want to find out now before you go to try on the sweater.

Before going through all the trouble of seaming up, adding button band, and weaving in ends to find out the sweater grew exponentially in the wash. If you find out now, you can fix the mistake(s) now easily.

knit, raceback, lace, begonia, knitdesigns by tian
Begonia Lace Racerback
This process might seem like a royal pain. Yes, it's time consuming. But you've already put so much time into knitting it, isn't it worth a bit more attention? Doesn't it deserve a little bit more time to be perfect? To be sure it's right and that it will fit properly?

If you are knitting (or crocheting) a sweater in pieces, get done with all the pieces, seam it, add the button bands, and finishing, try it on and it doesn't fit, what are the chances you will unpick the finishing, un-seam the pieces, and rip back to fix the mistake? Chances are, you're just gonna stick it in a drawer or toss it in the back of your closet and forget it.

You've just wasted months of work and a ton of money worth of yarn. And worst, your knitting confidence is shaken by an ill-fitting project.

Pro Tip: Even though I am a strong advocate for blocking each piece before seaming, if you are getting a result in your finishing process that you like, keep doing it!

So, have I convinced you to block each piece before seaming? Leave a comment and tell me your process for finishing your garments and accessories worked in pieces.


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