Thursday, January 31, 2013

A New Year's Knitter : Part 4 - WIP Boot Camp

Okay, so this is the last installment of the 'A New Year's Knitter' series.  So far, we have discussed cleaning up (and out) your stash, your needles, and your patterns.  Today we will discuss the what is perhaps the hardest clean out of all -- the WIP pile.  You can do it, however, because we've built up your ruthlessness over the month.  You have steeled your heart to rid yourself of Stash that you no longer like, Needles that no longer have a mate, and Patterns that you admit you will never get around to knitting.  Be strong -- this one will be like a bandaid -- do it quickly and the it will hurt the least. I promise.

Nearly every knitter on the planet has more than one Work In Progress at any given time.  It seems impossible to work on one project in every circumstance.  That sweater you have been slaving away on at home is impractical to work on in the line at the bank, or at a red light, or on the commuter train -- so you start another project.

That is fine -- it really is -- but eventually, in the process knitting those boring manly stockinette tan socks that you thought you would not mind working on, you get the itch.  You need something more [fun, colorful, intricate, NOT TAN] and those socks end up tucked away somewhere out of sight.  Occasionally you find you need your size 3 DPNs, but when you realize you left them in that sock, you back away slowly hoping that particular WIP won't see you.  You needed another pair of size 3 DPNs anyway...

Unfortunately, this happens to a lot of knitters -- and it happens a lot.  Projects get stored away for another day for all kinds of reasons -- they're boring, or the color is monotonous, or you realize that baby is now in middle school and no longer needs a baby blanket.  Whatever the reason, they are stored somewhere.  In your house.  Taking up your needles.  And your yarn.  And they make you feel guilty when you see them.

Well today you will cut yourself free.

Step 1 - Gather up all of your WIPs.  Search the house this one last time.  Pile them all together somewhere and then go get yourself a big glass of wine, or scotch maybe...

Step 2 - Be honest with yourself as you go through each and every WIP.  Why did you put this away in the first place?  Did you hit a wall?  Was there a mistake you couldn't face correcting?  Will you really finish this?  Does your son still have size 4 feet?

Divide these WIPs into two piles: One you will finish, and one that needs to be Frogged.

Step 3 - Steel yourself!  *Take a WIP from your Frogged pile and RIP IT OUT.  After you're done, go wind that yarn back into a ball.  Repeat from * to end of pile.

Step 4 - Make sure you add that yarn to your Ravelry Stash and remove the WIP project from your active projects.  Also be sure you counted these needles when you worked Part 3 of A New Year's Knitter -- if not, add them to your Ravelry Needle stash.

There now!  That WIP never even existed!  Feel the guilt of that project just melt away...  :)

Step 5 - Sort and queue your remaining WIPs.  Then be sure to work on these until they are complete.  This should not be a problem -- remember that you have determined they are worth completing!

Step 6 - It's worth identifying where these WIPs should be kept -- in the car, at work, by the bed, or in your knitting chair.  Place them each in their own WIP bag along with what you'll need to work on them (scissors, cable needle, etc...) and put them in their 'spot'.

I like the variety of WIP bags on Etsy.  These are my favorite:

They are handmade by Knitterbag in Lithuania and they come in small medium and large...

Congratulations my friend, you are now
 a New Year's Knitter!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A New Year's Knitter : Part 3 - The Yarny Decimal System

When my mother first moved into her new house, someone gave her something with a chicken on it -- or maybe it was a rooster... Anyway, over time and before she knew it, there were Roostikens everywhere.  People do, after all, like to give people things they will like, and she did after all have a Roostiken theme going...  Unfortunately for her she now has more Roostikens than she can keep track of and they end up everywhere -- tucked into any nook and cranny...

So it goes for any knitter once they begin knitting.  I have received knitting books for Christmas, my birthday, because there were knitting books for sale on the local library cart, as magazine door prizes at meetings, auctions, and, of course, lots of random patterns people have printed out because they "thought I'd like them" -- read "please make this for me" -- and all in addition to those I have bought / printed for myself...

  Now I'm not complaining about receiving these gifts -- they were given to me out of love and with good intentions -- but over time one ends up with loose leaf patterns, magazines, and books everywhere.  They're scattered throughout the house.  Some are in the craft room on their shelf, some are piled beside the bed, lots and lots of them are loose and walking about the house.  I even found some the other day in my cookbook bookcase...

So there comes a time when a knitter has to say, "Enough.  I own knitting patterns, they do not own me...".

Here's my advice on how to turn your disorganized pattern pilings into a proper Pattern Library:

Step 1 - Gather all of them together in one place.  As usual, you must make a mess before you make progress.  Search everywhere -- under couch cushions, in piles of other paper, on the finished tray of your printer, in the bathroom, on the fridge, and obviously in your cookbook library...  Also, don't forget those on your computer as pdf's and ebooks.

Once you have them gathered together sort them into one of four categories:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Loose Leaf Patterns
  • E-books

Step 2 - Sort through each pile.  Identify those books/magazines/pattern pages/ebooks that you will never use.  As before with needles and yarn stash -- be honest with yourself.  Do you really need that Cast On magazine from 1983?!  Discard any that you no longer love or need.  If they're books or magazines, either throw them out or donate them to your local Guild, LYS, or Library.

Step 3 - Enter those patterns, books, and magazines that you want to keep into your personal Ravelry library.  The Ravelry library database has half a million patterns in its system and when you add what you own to your personal library, Ravelry will identify a match and keep track of the individual patterns that you own.

That last bit is important so let's review that point again -- If I enter a book with 128 patterns in it in my Ravelry library, and then I later decide I want to make a pattern I found through the pattern search tool that exists in that book, Ravelry will tell me that it is in my library already.  This means that I am not responsible for knowing every pattern in every book and magazine I own.

I can't count the number of times I have settled down for a good Ravelry pattern browsing session and by the end I've picked out a pattern I want to make and when I go to purchase the pattern, I get a notification that it already exists in my library.  I cannot speak for you -- but I think that is really, really cool.

For this reason alone, it is worth it to avail yourself of this feature.  It prevents you from re-purchasing patterns you already own.

So let's look at this process in depth:

Here is my Ravelry library:

Now, let's say I buy a book called Knitting Scarves from Around the World by Kari Cornell and I want to add it to my queue.  Go to your Ravelry Library and click the "+ add items to my library" button:

Enter the title of the book in the search box on the following screen and notice that Ravelry tries to find a match as you type the title of the book.  You can click one of the match results which appear below the search box or you can click the Search button:

Your search results/match will be displayed:

Select the "add to library" button:

Notice the book has now been added to your library.  Your book count on the left is up by 1 and it can now be seen in your library:

Now, if I forgot about this book and through the Ravelry pattern search, decided I wanted to make the Icelandic Yoke Scarf , Ravelry would tell me that the pattern is in my library as it does here:

This is a very useful feature and it works just as well for magazines, booklets, and single patterns!

Once you are done, store your pattern library in a single place convenient to your crafting space.  For me, that would be in a bookcase in our office/craft room.  Add the books as they are and the magazines in a magazine holder.  But the single patterns are best stored in three ring binders.  I like to place mine in plastic sheet protectors and then put them in the binder.  You can then organize them any way you want -- by yarn weight, by item type, by queue, etc...  This binder then sits neatly on the bookcase with the rest of your physical patterns.

Step 4 - Repeat this process with your digital library.  Organize them in a single folder on your computer however you like.  I prefer to organize mine by [Last Name, First Name M.I. - Title].

And there you have it -- you have de-stashed your pattern library and whipped the rest of it into shape.  Congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Next up we will beat down those WIPs!

Happy Knitting Everyone!

Joining Steph@Woolythyme and Linda@Natural Suburbia for Creative Friday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A New Year's Knitter : Part 2 - Needle Roundup

Last week was completely out of control.  Inclement weather, more inclement weather, a roof leak, a day off and a trip to a state park eight hours away completely threw us out of our routine.  :)

So, a bit late but here none the less, is a record of the random musings of a knitter on needle management...

We all have a lot of them.  A few of us have some that seem to radiant in our craft, but for the most part they're out-shined by the yarn and product in almost any case.  I am speaking, of course, about the workhorse of knitting (thought that was you didn't you?!) -- the knitting needle.

Most of their surface is covered in stitches.  They are not the focus of the work.  Often they are made of a rather non-descript material (silver or bland bamboo come to mind?).  But let's be honest -- not a single stitch would be made without them.  You cannot begin a single knitted item without them.  So it is easy to miss them altogether -- until you need one and cannot find it.  This is the scourge of the knitter -- we misplace them everywhere.  They fall out of WIPs, disappear from knitting bags, and take vacations in the deepest and darkest recesses of your favorite couch.  Being round, they roll under or behind things.  I am amazed I can ever find one at all.

If you spend 5 minutes or more searching for a knitting needle, then you may be in need of a better knitting needle management system.  You might also be in need of a better system if your stash of needles has outgrown your current mechanism for storing them, if you have multiple places you store them, or you simply have no method for storing them.

If you buy a new set of needles each time you buy yarn because you know you won't be able to come up with a pair -- then this is for you... :)

Corral Your Knitting Needles!

First: Gather all of your needles.  ALL of them.  Those that are in the couch, have rolled behind the refrigerator, in your winter coat pockets, between your car seats -- SEARCH EVERYWHERE!

Second: After you have them all in one place, divide them into four categories:
  1. Straight - 10 inch knitting needles
  2. Straight - 14 inch knitting needles
  3. Fixed circular needles
  4. Interchangeable circular needles
  5. Double Pointed Needles
Now, I should preface the rest of this with the note that I am lucky enough to have a craft room -- but I think you can manage this with any situation as long as you can keep them all together.  This method works best for me, adapt it as you wish.

Third: Now you will show these needles who is boss...  As you put a set away, catalog it in your Ravelry notebook's "Needles/hooks" page (see the green box in the image at the bottom of this post).
  • Straights (10" and 14"):  Pair them up.  If you cannot find a mate for a needle, then it is time to let it go.  Odds are, it is already in a land fill somewhere or was lost two or three houses ago.  (You've tossed your entire house already remember?).  Be ruthless -- you can do it!  Find a vase of your choosing that will fit all of the 10 inch needles and place them in it.  Then find another for the 14 inch needles.  This solution serves multiple purposes... First and foremost your needles are pretty and make a very appealing bouquet!  Second, by placing them point down, you should have the size available to you at a glance on the end.  Third, it is EXTREMELY EASY to put them back when you are done with them -- you don't have to find and unroll a needle case, put them back, then roll it back up again.

  • Fixed Circulars - These are perhaps the hardest type of needle to control.  By their very design they are nearly impossible to store accessibly.  Some people like to store them in those hangy-things that have a slot for each size and which leave the needles themselves dangling out of either side.  However, I think the most appealing and versatile way is to use a tackle/lure binder.  They're available at any sporting goods store, can be expanded by adding more sleeves, and you can write on the plastic sleeve itself.  Store your needles however you think is best.  I like to sort mine in sleeves by size and length (i.e. one sleeve for 16 inch size 8 needles and another for 24 inch size 8 needles).  This method is very adaptable.

  • Interchangeables: I have never seen an interchangeable set that didn't come with some kind of case.  My suggestion is to find it and use it!  If you don't like it, there are other options out there via online retailers (i.e. etc...).  These sets travel best in your bag and if you keep one set on you, you will always have a needle of any length or size you could need in a pinch.

  • DPNs - There are many ways to store these and you should pick your favorite.  First, identify any sets without at least four needles and pitch them.  I like to bind the set together with those knitting needle coil wraps like Knitpicks sells.  I then place the sets together in another vase by length (i.e. 6", 8", etc..).  I have seen others successfully encase theirs in DPN holders or use those empty button cylinders with the screw on lids with a size sticker on the end.

Congratulations!  Your needles are sorted and you now have a complete catalog of your needles in your Ravelry account.  This catalog is available to you 24/7 via the internet or as a printable index card via the "print: pocket card" link on Ravelry (see the red box).

Check back tomorrow for the latest WIP and later in the week when we tackle that mess of patterns that seem to be everywhere

Knit Happy Everyone!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A New Year's Knitter : Part 1 - Stash Busting

So in my last post I promised a plan of attack on "the Stash" and so here it is...

It started out so simple.  It really did.  It was even kind of inconspicuous and easy to miss before things went awry...  You see I started crocheting when I was six.  I started out with a single ball of yarn and an extra crochet hook my grandmother didn't need any longer.  I made lots and lots of potholders that loosely resembled a trapezoid or parallelogram.  Eventually I got better and I started buying yarn for specific projects -- but even then I was so little that one project at a time was enough.  In those days, there was no STASH.

But then the days of my love for acrylic yarns grew weary and I ventured into my first LYS and I got the fever.  You know the one.  The fever which only lots and lots of protein fiber fumes can abate?  Yeah that one.

It started out as a bag of yarn in the closet.  It was always there, waiting for me to come for it.  For some years it waited a long time and I think that's when the seed of greed took hold.  When I finally learned to knit and my projects started taking longer to complete than I could go without buying yarn, it started to grow.  Like the cookie monster and his prey, I threw yarn into the stash that was never seen or heard from again.  In the dark it grew.  And GREW.

When we moved into the new house, we had to make sure there was a room for it.  When my beautiful wife started knitting, we suddenly had a pair of them and I knew that something would have to be done.  Our constant fiber exposure would eventually mean that the house was too small for us and the stash -- and I draw the line at it having its own property.

This January, I figured it out.  I finally realized that the only way to persuade myself to knit from the Stash was to know what was in it.  If this situation sounds familiar to you, please join me in beating back the Stash!

To achieve Stash Behavioral Modification (SBM) and become ZEN with your fibery mass, consider the following approach.

You will need:
  1. A LOT of floor space, preferably CLEAN floor space.
  2. A few hundred zip lock bags (2 or 2.5 gallon preferably)
  3. Lots of time (because sifting through the onion like layers of your stash will take a while)
  4. A computer and a Ravelry account 

A well managed stash can be attained through the help of Ravelry (and it should help because the ease with which it provides knitters access to trending patterns and yarns is partially responsible for the ever-occurring STASH Monster...).  Ravelry gives you a place to store, favorite, and queue patterns.  It also gives you a place to manage your yarns -- even with a picture of each one should you so desire.

Let's get started:
  1. The first step is to print out or make working copies of patterns for which you have already purchased yarn.
  2. Enter the yarn in your Ravelry Stash.
  3. Place yarn and pattern (and any other required materials -- i.e. beads, waste yarn, buttons, etc..) into the zip lock bag and seal it up.
  4. Add the pattern to your Ravelry Queue and "Use Stash Yarn" on the queue item page to tie your stashed yarn to this specific project.
  5. Continue in this manner until you have bagged up each existing yarn/pattern pair. 
  6. Next, find and print patterns for the yarns which you do not yet have a project in mind and bag those together after adding the project to your queue.
  7. What you will finally be left with is yarn in one of three categories:
    • Yarn that is part of your CORE stash.  This yarn is special to you and anything you made with it would be a disappointment.  Don't laugh, you know you have some.  This yarn serves as inspiration for your inner knitting muse.  Add it to your Ravelry Stash and then display it prettily in a cabinet somewhere.
    • Leftover yarn from previous projects.  There's not enough to really do anything with this, but there is too much to throw it away.  It's decision time -- You must throw it away or sort it by weight and bag each weight with the intention of using it at some point for a traveller's blanket or a Beekeeper's quilt, etc...  I would NOT add this to your Ravelry stash.
    • Yarn you once loved but which has fallen out of favor.  This would include any of those neon colors from the 80's and any of those oranges and greens from the 50's, 60's, or 70's...  My suggestion for this is either A.) Start a charity knitting stash or B.) Donate/throw away this yarn.  Again, do not add this to your Ravelry stash.

Voila! You have now whipped that Stash into shape.  Your yarn is organized with its respective pattern.  It is in your Ravelry Stash and hopefully your Ravelry Queue:

The only thing left to do is sort the queue order and store your projects as Long-Term, Short-Term, and Current WIPs.

This process can be daunting, but I promise it's worth it.  You will feel terrible about it while you are knee deep in your living room trying to sort this much yarn, but again -- it's worth it in the end.

I began this process last weekend and sorted through all 154 yarns (who knows how many skeins).  I have organized most of it into 30 queued projects:

But now I know I have all the charity knitting yarn I could possibly need and my Core Stash yarns are prettily stored in a cabinet in the craft room...         :-)

And, to be honest, the amount of time I know it will take me to knit my queue is enough to keep me from pulling out my charge card at the LYS -- or at least to keep me from pulling it out for yarn anyway!

Good luck organizing your stash everyone! 
 Next week we will attack needle control!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy Tails: A tale of two tales...

Long long ago (like in May) our owners took us to the vet and asked that we be put down because they simply didn't want us anymore.  That wonderful vet called the Schnauzer Love Rescue society and we were whisked away in secret on the puppy underground to a wonderful foster family in Memphis, TN.  They took us in and got us cleaned up, taught us manners for in the house and how to play and have fun.  Slowly we gained weight and our coats became healthy again.  Doodles lost her heartworms and Taz his... well, let's just say his line ends with him.  We were wary at first having hopped around so much, but we eventually decided we could be at home here and love these people.

But then on Saturday we went for a car ride and met some nice new people.  They had a clean house and a fenced back yard and room in their hearts for two small miniature schnauzers.  Resolving ourselves to leave our foster family, we decided this morning that we will adopt these new people...  They need us, and we want to go where we are needed.  Our fosters will be sad to see us go after such a long time, but they will still have Sasha and Roxie to care for them so we're not worried.

So congratulate us on our final move -- because we have found a home!

A 2013 reso... err... Commitment

So here's the thing.  I hate New Year's Resolutions.  I don't believe I have ever made one that I was able to hold on to throughout the entire year.  But I think that part of that has always been my choice of resolution.  So many people this time of year resolve to lose weight, stop smoking -- the problem is that those resolutions are usually doomed from the onset of the fresh start of a new year.  Well, I don't smoke so there's that one, and although I could afford to lose some pounds, that needs to be more of a lifestyle change and not a New Year's Resolution.

So I've decided to commit this year to activities that I enjoy.  Given the utter and complete chaos that last year brought for R and myself -- and the way that affected my blogging -- I've decided that this year I will blog more often.  My goal is at least once a week.  It shouldn't be that hard and it should be routine.

I love this blog...

I love to knit...

I love to blog about knitting...

So given that I hate New Year's Resolutions, I'm not going to call this a resolution :-)

It's January.  A new year.  A fresh start.  Like most of the people I know, it feels like a good time to clean house.  So after putting the holiday decor away, my eye turned to my stash.  My wild, feral stash.  I have a craft room and believe me when I say -- "It's a jungle in there...".  There's yarn, needles, notions, tools, winders, and other fibery things in there with no organization.  So over the next four weeks, I'm going to turn my attention to creating order from the mess...
  • Week 1 - Stash Management

  • Week 2 - Needle Management

  • Week 3 - Pattern Management

  • Week 4 - WIP Management

This week is stash management.  I'm deep in the enemy territory at the moment, but will post on this journey later in the week...

Until then, Knit the New Year everybody!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's 2013!

Happy New Year everyone!

I have had the best New Year's day I think I have ever experienced.  For several reasons...

Last evening I spent some time "remembering" 2012.  It has been a really long time since I have been able to look back on a year in a completely positive light.  2012 was a very good year to R and I and it feels really good to revel in the happiness it brought.  We made some really good life choices involving our location, work, buying a house, expanding our family, and debt.  I am thankful for each and every one of those choices -- they weren't always obviously the right choice, but I am happy with the result in each case.

We are also thankful for the friends 2012 has brought into our lives.  The move to Memphis brought us home and also involved us in a community -- which is something that we have been missing for the past several years.  It feels permanent -- and that has allowed us to make growth in our friend quotient... :)  R and I are now immersed in the fellowship of our LYS, the Memphis Knitting Guild, and in the wonderful new Cordova Knit Night that R started back in September.

Today, two of our newfound friends came over to the house to join us for a meal (a healthy one of course to combat the holiday food hangover we all have ;), knitting, and a movie marathon.  It was fun. It was more than that really, it was truly pleasurable.  I don't know if they'll ever know what it means to us to have the opportunity to invite them into our home, to share a meal, and knit together.

People say that one should end the year the way one intends to go on, and then that you should spend the first day of the new year doing what you want to fill the year with.  To be perfectly honest, it sounds like a lot of work to me.  I say just fill your days off with what makes you happy.  Tonight I am headed to bed grateful that my house is clean and there's not one single thing during this day that I would have changed.  It was perfect.

Wishing each and every one of ewe a very Happy New Year!