My new WIP

Getting some work done while the kids run off some energy.

Last week, I mentioned that it feels like my unfinished projects were weighty. The looming uncertainty holding back my creativity to start something new.

Since that post, I’ve finished piecing 2 former unfinished projects together, creating a FRANKENTOP! I need to weave in the ends, but for all intents and purposes, the project is complete. How I feel about the finished project is more complicated.

Besides clearing away the vestiges of creative endeavors, creating from my stash is another sell imposed challenge. Its not as if my stash is huge, not including partial balls, my guess is that I have less than 200 balls of yarn at my disposal. Regardless of actual stash size, it is at a tipping point to overwhelm the space I have allotted. Its easy to be inspired by new material; every skein in my stash once inspired me. The challenge lies in rediscovering the spark and creating something new and beautiful without spending additional money.

Back to my new project. When I design, I don’t usually have a complete idea of what I want my final project to look like. This project, started similarly. I love mitered squares. I love that they are semi-modular, that I can complete a section within a project and feel accomplished. In mid-2019 I taught a mitered square class. There wasn’t really a project to complete. I was thinking about modifying the current progress from my classes into something closely aligned to my vision. But that would require extensive ripping out of perfectly good work, and I will just make something different (likely a blanket). Fortunately, a quick peek into my sock weight bin was all I needed to be inspired!

One day, the right project will come along and make this yarn sing. Purchased pre-2011.

While working this prototype, I’m not sure how much yarn I require. I chose only full balls, regardless of the amount of partial balls I have floating around in this weight. Once I know how much yarn is required, I may play around with new combinations.
I swatched a couple color combinations on different size needles. My first combination of yarn and needles was abysmal. The size 2s had little drape. And the yarn wasn’t right. I don’t know what it is about this yarn. It was so pretty on the hank! But the repeats are so short that everything just makes it look “busy”. My second combination on size 4s blends really great. The yarns are Rabbit Ridge Designs in Limited Edition for FNYC (Far North Yarn Company in Anchorage, AK) and Knit Picks Stroll Bare that I dyed myself 10 years ago (give or take). The working name for the project is the “Spring Sprang Sprung Cowl”.

left: dyed by me on Knit Picks Stroll Base. right: Rabbit Ridge Designs in LTD edition colorway for FNYC

I’ve been working on quite a few bulky weight projects (mainly teaching samples), so the size 4s feel slow and my hands aren’t really used to the smaller needle size. I usually stick to 6-10 for most personal projects; these seem to be most comfortable for me. I’m switching back and forth between english and continental style to see if speed or strain improves. So far, no. I am already feeling inspired to whip up a graphic edition of this design in a chunky weight.

Stay tuned for both projects!

The Lost Knits File Series Part One

Finish or Frog Projects from the WIP pile.
A Lost Project recently found and finished. Start 2013. Finished Jan 2020

Not every project is a winner. There. I’ve said it. I have a number of projects that I’ve started and abandoned in the hopes of SOME DAY. Some of these cast aside projects are over 10 years old. They take up physical space. Some of them emotional space and the nagging that I can’t launch into ALL THE NEW THINGS until I’ve cleared out the old.

I’ve been planning blog posts for the future. Some of the topics are obvious: teaching, patterns, what I’m working on, reviews of new techniques and tools and yarns. Other topics are less obvious: boredom, burn-out, FAILURE. My abandoned projects and designs fall into this second collection of topics.
I decided to take on the topic of my Failures in a blog series. The Lost Knits File. This will include knit, crochet, AND finished items.

Cropped Cardigan that needed the bind-off finished and the button bands.
Circa 2012-ish

This past week I pulled out some of my WIPs, snapped pictures and added some of the projects to Ravelry (to track my progress). Some of these cast-offs will be finished, others repurposed (a tank for a much thinner me reimagined into a summer dress for my daughter), and a few sweaters will be frogged (ripped out).

The first item I’m tackling is some cropped cardigan I started back in 2012 (or maybe earlier). I have no idea why I put this project down. Maybe the realization that I don’t wear white?
Details: It was a pattern written by someone else, but the designer and pattern name remain a mystery. The yarn feels like a cotton or cotton blend. I have no idea where the ball bands are from the yarn. Based on the amount of tails to weave in, the yarn was 50g balls.
Ideas: After trying on the mostly finished item, I decided to make the sweater into a pullover with an elongated “button band” that I’ve picked up on one side and will 3-needle bind-off on the other side. Since the sweater will be reimagined, it is uncertain if the project will be COMPLETE or if it will be mashed with another project.

Body of a tank. Made from yarns purchase on a trip to Myrtle Beach back in 2012(?).

The project I want to mash-up with the cropped sweater: A tank body from yarns purchased on a vacation to Myrtle Beach forever ago. I abandoned the project because I couldn’t decide what I wanted the top to look like. Wrap front, square neckline, I simply could not decide; after many years, I still haven’t made a decision.
Details: The yarns are non-wool blends: linen, cotton, “milk”. The gauge is similar, the colors complementary.
Ideas:I’m thinking of attaching the casing end to the base of the bodice piece. If the body isn’t long enough, I have enough yarn to lengthen it.

Time line to finish: 3-10 days depending on motivation.

Organizing Creativity

Some things I try with varying degrees of success.

Wistfully thinking about the day I have it together.

I try REALLY hard to organize my thoughts. The operative word is try. I haven’t been able to find a usable catchall solution for all the creative ideas I have. Brain dump notebooks from my 20s came close: part diary, part fictional chaos, my homework assignments, and the odd grocery list thrown in. But no discernible rhyme or reason, no table of contents, no index. Usually illegible. Now that I’m older, I use some other techniques to manage my creative ideas. With varying degrees of success

By nature, I’m a list maker. I love MAKING lists. Then I lose them before I can actually cross off all the items. Oops. I have lists tucked everywhere. On my bulletin board, on slips of paper in purses and wallets, in my phone, in apps, in my physical planner, in my project planing notebook. I’ve started (and abandoned) more project notebooks than I can remember in the last 18 years. My latest attempt is 18 months old and 3/4 full. Its my best attempt so far. Its morphed from a catch-all list of current and future projects to a somewhat more categorized list of crafting that needs my attention. At least I haven’t accidentally thrown it out, yet. (My project planning notebook has been effective for managing my pipeline, I haven’t missed a deadline in 18 months)

I’ve also started using Ravelry for my active/new projects again. Here is where I plug Ravelry (I receive no compensation, I just really love the site/service). I love being able to see at a glance what I’m working on. What needles/hooks I used, the yarn and the colorway (because I threw out the ball band), the number of pattern repeats! If I used a pattern written by some one else, the PATTERN! Now that I discovered I can use Google Photos to add pictures of my work, I’m more inclined than ever to use Ravelry to manage my WIPS/FOs! (This method has been most effective, when I put in the time to manage it.)

“The shawl under my desk” AKA Afetos. Started May 2017


For whatever reason, I stopped logging projects between 2013 and 2018. I think I can blame the kids? What I missed out on was 5 years of organized project notes! There are some projects created during this time that I think would make fantastic patterns to share. Instead of using my project notes to draft the patterns, I will need to use the project itself to recreate the pattern which I will then REWORK to make certain that I got it right. Not the end of the world, I have no shortage of ideas for new patterns. The only impact is to my turn-around time, my lost notes make every release like a new idea. Additionally, there are patterns I’ve started by other designers that are unfinished and I have NO idea where I am or even what pattern they are.

My major organization weakness is design notes. Most are on random pieces of paper, with cryptic instructions. I find them everywhere! Some make sense at least. But I don’t have a system for organizing them. Perhaps I need a scrapbook of all the random design/pattern notes I find.

Random Index card with a pattern on it. Its a blanket.

Yarn? That is just barely managed chaos. Organizing my yarn is a 2020 project, so stay tuned!

What systems keep you organized? Do you use Ravelry to manage your current and finished objects? A notebook? Spreadsheets? What about the projects in your personal pipeline? I would love to hear about your project/idea organization systems!

The Evan Scarf: A Year-Long Journey

OK. Really 11 months. But a year sounds more dramatic.

The Finished Evan Scarf

We are active members at our local YMCA, it’s how we know Evan. He runs youth programming for middle and high school students, summer camps, running the community Vegetable Market in partnership with Hungry Harvest, managing the volunteers for said market, and A BUNCH OF OTHER STUFF. He is also my 4 year old son’s favorite person at the Y. Last winter, my son told Evan that I was going to make him a scarf. Instead of laughing it off I said, “What color would you like, Evan”?

That week I found a nice dark green, and it was on sale. I THOUGHT two balls would be adequate (more on this later). I had recently worked a Fishermans’ Rib pattern, and thought it would make a nice scarf. I just couldn’t bring myself to START that scarf. The potential tedium was a bit off putting. So the yarn (and needles) sat together in a ziplock bag with my pending projects and class samples until DECEMBER. Then inspiration struck.

I was looking though one of my my cable pattern/panel books when I found it.

Such an incredible resource!!

There it was. The the Large Woven Cable. The cable looks complicated. But out of 12 rows of pattern repeat there are TWO rows with easy-to-work cabling. It is one of the easiest cables I’ve worked! I had my cable, but what to do with the rest of it? I wanted the project to be easy to work, but thick and squishy, so I decided to flank my cable with 10 stitches of garter stitch on either side. No curling, so much squish! And I wanted a neat, polished edge, so slip stitch edge it was! I had seen some scarves with a short section of ribbing (1″ or so) at the bottom recently. I like how neat ribbing makes a finished edge look; but what would it look like if I made the ribbing deep?

I wasn’t really sold on the look after the first set of cables.

After the first 6 rows of the pattern stitch, I wasn’t sold. After multiple pattern repeats, my spouse asked if it was a sleeve when I showed him my progress. I was beginning to second guess my decision to deep rib the bottom. But still, I carried on. What’s the worst that could happen? It would look silly, and I would rip it out and try something different with the ends. But from the onset, I REALLY liked the cable and garter stitch combination I was working. At the 10 repeat mark, I was beginning to wonder if I had enough yarn. Which I THINK may be discontinued. Even if it was still available, there was NO WAY I was going to be able to match the dye lot. I carried on.

Partially finished, it looked a bit like a sleeve.

After finishing, I measured the final length. 68″. My vision had the scarf being 74″inches in length, the approximate height of Evan. I had started the ribbing after 31 pattern repeats. I didn’t want to run out of yarn. Of course I could have weighed my yarn to have a better idea regarding how much yarn I had left. In the end, there might have been enough yarn to finish the final repeat (instead of ending on row 4). I was suspect that the scarf was going to be long enough, but SUCCESS! It is a fine length for my (very tall) friend! Who seems to genuinely like his new scarf.

Evan modeling his new scarf. I’ve seen him wear a lot of hats, now he has a scarf to go with them!

You can make your own “Evan Scarf”! You will need at least 400 yards of a worsted weight yarn, size 6 and 8 needles, a cable needle, and the FREE pattern from Ravelry.

download now

Happy Knitting!

60-Minute Cowl

I am so in LOVE with my newest completed project!

Greetings! It is currently January 3rd. Perhaps you have entered the doldrums of winter, where the only thing you look forward to is spring. Despair not my friends, I have brought you a quick and easy crochet cowl to brighten your day! Depending on your speed, you can literally complete this in about an hour. When I actually timed the construction in Fall 2018, it was 56:40. I did not stop the clock to retrieve snacks and water for the kids or when I had to fetch my finishing materials (yarn needle, scissors).

I have made 5 of these cowls between Early Fall 2018 and Early January 2020 (when I was brave and finally launched the pattern). I’ve used different yarns for each, just to see which one I like the best (spoiler: its Malabrigo).

Left: Small cowl crocheted in Malabrigo Rasta. Right: Large cowl crocheted in Patons Cobbles.

Right now, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Sometimes I REALLY love minimum effort maximum result projects. And this is TOTALLY one of those projects! When I’m working on a huge or very complicated project, being able to finish a project fast helps me feel accomplished. If you’ve never used a massive hook before be aware that you may need to adjust your grip in order to work the stitches. This was particularly true with the S/19mm hook.

I’ve used many different yarns to work this project. The two pictured in the pattern, Malabrigo Rasta and Patons Cobbles, as well as Lion Brand Thick and Quick, Big Twist Natural Blend, and Buttercream Luxe Craft in Thick and Thin.

Left: Large cowl in Buttercream Luxe Craft Thick and Thin. Right: Small cowl in Big Twist (bottom stripe) and Lion Brand Thick and Quick (top two stripes)

My favorite yarn was the Malabrigo Rasta. Because when I wear it, it feels like a warm cloud and the dimensional color is dreamy. The color of the Buttercream Luxe Craft Thick and Thin makes me happy as well. Whichever yarn you decide on, make is something you will love nuzzling into.

Get The Pattern HERE

New Knitters

One would assume that knitting, like other new skills, would have road map to proficiency. Spoiler: it doesn’t.

As a teacher I provide the basic skills of the craft: cast-on, knit, purl, bind-off. At the end of 2.5 hours I bid my fledgling knitters a fond adieu, to fend for themselves. Sure I invite them to take more classes with me, and some do. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to the questions “What now? What can I make?”. There are an overwhelming amount of resources for techniques and patterns that its nigh impossible to give a short answer that is sufficient. It would take another 2 hours to navigate the possibilities.

What now?

You PRACTICE. Becoming proficient in a new skill takes patience, persistence, and practice. I watched a TedTalk in 2019 given by Josh Kaufman, and it has changed the way I teach. The crux of the talk: Learning a new skill takes 20 hours of deliberate practice. Totally doable, 45 minutes a day for a month.

Just the highlights of Josh Kaufman’s talk.

What can I make?

Anything you want! Which is super ambiguous. We all have different reasons for wanting to knit, and different levels of adventure. Dishcloths (garter and other basic/repetitive patterns), garter stitch scarves, fingerless gloves (knit flat and seamed) are all great places to start. If you aren’t put-off by tedium, you could make a simple blanket as well. Think about the type of project that would fit into your life when you choose what to make. If you live in Southern Florida, a heavy wool scarf may not make much sense; but a light, airy cotton/linen scarf might.

Patterns

Regardless of where you obtain your pattern (see below), here are a few guidelines to help get you acclimated.
1. Read the whole pattern. Make note of any new skills you need to acquire.
2. Clarify any questions you may have. If K2, P2* doesn’t make sense to you yet, write out the pattern long hand, line by line. K2, P2* becomes: Knit 2 stitches, Purl 2 stitches, repeat to the end of the row.
3. Gather all materials. Yarn, needles, notions.
4. Start the project, trust the pattern. Sometimes things won’t make sense until you try it.
5. If you get stuck, ask for help! Many patterns offer pattern support, don’t be afraid to reach out to the designer with any questions. Believe me, we want to know if our instructions are confusing or incorrect. Ask another knitter, most of us are really friendly.

Take a class

As a teacher, I’m a bit biased on taking a class. Had I known how AFFORDABLE classes were, I could have saved myself quite a few headaches during my journey. See what project classes are being offered at your local yarn store (LYS) or large craft store (such as Joann’s). Being able to interface with an instructor is a great way to answer questions in real time. Knowing that you have someone to explain techniques and assist you if you get stuck takes some of the pressure off of you to “get it right”. You can also find local instructors for private lessons on the Take Lessons site.

Books and Magazines

When I first started knitting back in early 2002, the online resources for knitters were not as robust as they are today. Besides my printed learn-to instructions, I relied on books and magazines for patterns. Books are a great resource, because in addition to patterns, many provide a skills review.

The two-needle mittens and roll-brim hat are timeless.

Hip to Knit is one of my earliest book purchases, with patterns that are simple enough for beginning knitters. After almost two decades, a lot of the project photos look dated, but that doesn’t make the content less relevant. Change up the color palettes to keep the items modern. As a beginner I made at least two pairs of the two-needle mittens, and the basic roll brim hat (which I still wear).

There are so many magazine publications for knitters. I like Knit Simple Magazine for its visually striking patterns and easy to follow instruction. Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits make great eye-candy. Beware, some of the patterns are not suitable for inexperienced knitters.

The Internet

There is an overwhelming amount of information on the internet. I recommend getting a Ravelry account. You can search patterns, see other people’s projects, find communities that share similar interests, as well as keep track of your own projects (my favorite feature). Two other favorites of mine: Tin Can Knits and Knitty. Both offer patterns and tutorials. Knitty is entirely free and Tin Can Knits has a mixture of free and paid content. And not to state the obvious, but follow this site!

Happy Knitting! Stay tuned for more exciting knitting adventures with Cinna of Miscellaneous Design Studio.

These socks look like they are made for a giant.

For the last few days I’ve been working on knitting up a sample sock for a class I’m teaching in March/April 2020. Knitting the sample so far in advance allows me to work out any errors in the pattern provided, identify ambiguous language, and brainstorm potential issues and solutions for my students. In this instance, I also am reminded why gauge and measurement are important. Even after nearly 2 decades of knitting, I am not infallible.

I’m nearly 3/4 of the way finished with the first sock and I am having some thoughts about it. The process is speedy, fingering weight yarn held double on size 4 dpns. I like the toe-up construction that allows you to try on the sock as you go (assuming the sock is for you or someone whose feet you have easy access to). I’m not 100% sold on the aesthetics of the cast-on method used, but I’m confident my students will not have an issue with this set up. The sock does not look like any that I have previously knit. Because it’s super long and narrow. At first glance it appears that it would fit a banana footed giant.

However, it (very snugly) fits on my completely normal women’s size 9.5 foot. The issue with the sock is that the pattern, as written, is for a 6.5″ foot circumference only. This seems very small, so I consulted the internet, and a medium woman’s sock is usually 8″ in circumference (see the image below). Even with my larger gauge of 5.25 stitches per inch (6 sts per inch per the pattern), and a total circumference of 7″ , I’m lacking at least an inch in circumference.

Luckily, knit fabrics can be very forgiving and have stretch horizontally and vertically. To accommodate for the additional required width, I had to make the body of the sock quite long before starting the heel. I could have frogged the whole thing and started again; but I want to use this as a teaching example of why we ALWAYS need to measure the intended recipient and make a gauge swatch before we start our projects. Both of these activities will be worked into the class agenda, before we start wrestling an octopus with the cast-on. Additionally, I will have an expanded pattern with how to calculate the appropriate number of stitch for additional width and modifications for the short-row heel that incorporates these additional stitches.

As for the socks, I intend on making a mate as written. There will also be an additional sample sock made for display purposes, no one wants to knit socks for a banana footed giant.

Stay tuned for more exciting knitting adventures with Cinna of Miscellaneous Design Studio.

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