Is sock yarn ‘stash yarn’?

There are many divisive issues in knitting: to swatch or not to swatch, process v. product, but perhaps one of the most controversial is whether sock yarn counts towards stash. One would think that the debate is settled when the Yarn Harlot decreed that sock yarn isn’t really stash yarn. Maybe I just think of ‘stash’ a little differently.

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Take this beautiful skein of sock yarn. I bought this lovely skein of Indigodragonfly CaribouBaa in the fall of 2016.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, but I knew the colours were pretty, and when I bought it, it was my first ever Indigodragonfly, so I was excited. There it sat for almost a year and a half; other projects came and went, but inspiration had yet to grab me for this yarn. And then it did.

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In March/April I purchased two skeins from one of my LYSs (one two separate occasions, as it turns out).  After chatting with a friend about this yarn and how to use these two together, she encouraged me to take a closer look at Stephen West and his brioche patterns.  While brioche wasn’t in the future for this yarn, The Doodler was. I saw the pattern, I saw the skein of Indigodragonfly on my shelves, and I knew these three had to be used together.

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I have a hard time buying more than one skein at a time if I’m just buying yarn. Some of this is budget, and the rest is practical.  I’ve been stung too many times by not buying enough to complete a project that I’m either running out and buying more or ripping back and buying new.  If I have a project in mind that needs ‘x’ amount of metres, then cool, I’ll go out and buy what I need, but to buy ‘x’ skeins just because, that I just can’t do. But sock yarn, oh lovely sock yarn. You can buy one skein of fingering, and you have enough metres to make a plethora of things. A hat, no problem! Socks, duh. A shawl/cowl/neck accessory, done and done. Or, like my lovely blue/green Indigodragonfly, it can just live there until the perfect project comes along.

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On knitting up those pesky left overs

It’s inevitable. You find a pattern, buy the yarn, knit the pattern, and unless you end up playing an epic game of yarn chicken, you’re going to end up with left overs, those few grams of yarn that really, what CAN you do with it? A few weeks ago, these odds and sods were my focus and using them up in creative manners my mission.

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Well, first, I took over 100 grams from 5 different sock yarns and turned them into a lovely asymmetrical shawl.  I used the Ex-Boyfriends pattern and now have a shawl in browns, greens and a pop of purple. I felt highly satisfied when it was finished because those were 5 small cakes out of my stash.

Like many knitters, I also have quite a bit of acrylic kicking around. You know the yarn, the stuff you bought before you discovered your Local Yarn Shops and the wonderful and unique skeins they carry. Don’t get me wrong, acrylic has a time and place, but those small remnants were just taking up space and annoying me just enough to find a solution.  Enter my ‘Ugly Slippers.’ I took my favourite slipper pattern, divided up what was left of an orange and yellow into two, and finished off with the red, which I had significantly more of. The colours are out of order for me to call them ‘Jayne Cobb slippers’, but they are rather cunning, dontcha think?

For a final stash busting attempt, I discovered a new kind of torture. I had enough Opal remnants to make a smallish pair of socks, and tempted to try a new method, I bought 40″/100 cm circulars and started a pair of toe up two at a time socks. I. Hate. It. With a passion I didn’t know existed. The almost finished toes were lying on the top of my knitting basket, and we were in an epic showdown. My dilemma was: do I persevere and keep on, hoping that this method will grow on me, or do I face ‘defeat’, realize life’s to short to knit something I’m hating, and re-cast on with a different method, like my 9″ circulars which I LOVE? The desire for movie knitting won out, and I transferred one of the two onto my beloved 9″ circulars… Life’s too short to knit something out hate, right?

Local Yarn Store Day

Saturday April 21 marked the first (hopefully annual) Local Yarn Store Day, where fibre people were encouraged to go support their brick and mortar Local Yarn Stores.  I have four in my immediate area, four that I love dearly, and I would have loved to visit them all, but Saturday ended up being a perfect storm of errands, budget constraints, and the beginnings of a cold.  My errand running did put Soper Creek Yarn in Bowmanville right in my path, so of course I stopped in.

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I was there fairly early in the morning, sometime between 10am and 11am, and the store was buzzing with activity! Tina, the owner, had various sales on for LYS Day, and the big sign for LYS day was inviting.

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I was good to my bank account (the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic is April 28, after all, and one should budget accordingly), and I bought a skein of Cascade Heritage Sock in a lovely forest green colour.  A few weeks previous from Soper Creek, I bought a beautiful speckled skein from Mineville Wool Project, and the green was purposefully purchased to compliment the speckles.

In the past, I’ve written about why I love LYSs and why, I think, all knitters should support the LYS in their community.  Local Yarn Shop Day was another opportunity to bring attention to the small businesses in our community, to encourage people to shop local, and to discover for themselves what’s to love about a LYS.

Experimenting with Yarn Dyeing

A few weeks ago, while enjoying the remaining days of my Christmas holidays, I spent an afternoon experimenting with yarn dyeing. I had about 95g of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in my stash – about half was white and half was grey. What would happen if I joined these balls and dyed the skein together?

Here is the yarn skeined:

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I must admit, it looks super cool like this.

In order for the dye to adhere to the fibres, an acid needs to be used, because, science. A common acid to use with dyeing is vinegar, so in prepping my yarn, I added it to my slow cooker with 8 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar, and I let it sit in that solution for about an hour.

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I decided to dye/overdye the yarn purple, and in the past have used Wilton food colours with great success.  I took 1/2 tsp food colour and mixed it with 2 cups boiled water. Mason jars worked great for colour prep.

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See the blue on that paper towel? The purple Wilton makes must use blue to achieve its purple colour. I’m not trying to get a specific colour with this, I’m simply experimenting, so after the yarn soaked for an hour or so, I turned the slow cooker to low and added the dye.

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I’ve only dyed a few times, and I’ve been amazed every time with the process of ‘exhausting the dye.’ This happens when the colour of the water, which at the beginning is a vivid shade, becomes clear, the fibres absorbing the dye that was in the water. You doubt it will happen, but inevitably, this happens:

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Water on the spoon is clear. So cool.

After this dyeing experiment, my skein looks like this:

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And this:

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Seeing it caked, it gave me some pause as to what to make with it. It would make for a very dramatic gradient.  I could unravel and separate the two colours (using a Russian Join to connect them), and make something with the two smaller colours.  There are some lovely hats or cowls with colour work easing the transition between the dramatic colours.

Unhappy with the softness of the purple shade, I redyed it this weekend, using a dye that was such a deep purple, it was like Smoke On The Water was my soundtrack. Once again, I used the crockpot and I’m a lot happier with the final colour.

Having only tried home dyeing a few times now, each skein truly is an experiment for me. I’m still learning the tricks, playing with colours and their vibrancy, and admittedly having a LOT of fun each time while making a glorious mess in my kitchen.

Making Madewell Progress

Since March last year, I’ve been slowly but surely working on a cardigan: Madewell by Joji Locatelli.  It’s a fingering weight project, and because I like, ahem, challenges, I decided to make it with black yarn.  When I’m working on it around others, like at a LYS, people often share their own black sock yarn horror stories (“Never again” is often exclaimed), and on a few occasions I’ve been asked why am I punishing myself. Black sock weight yarn can be a wee bit hard on the eyes. Challenges aside, I love it, and with my wardrobe, a black cardigan will be worn time and time again, hence my colour choice.

This has been a great project to pick up after having put it down for weeks at a time. It’s largely stockinette, lots of knits and purls. Because I no longer feel the urgency of holiday knitting, I’ve been able to dedicate more time towards this project. I was nearing the end of the body, no more shaping increases or decreases, so the knits and purls proved to be great mindless knitting, working on a row or two while watching TV or reading on my e-reader.

I feel like I’ve actually made some progress with it this weekend, finishing the bottom ribbing and starting working on the sleeve.  This is my first experience with raglan sleeves, and I must say I love it. You don’t need to worry about setting in and seeming. The stitches came off the holder, onto a 16″ circular needle and away I knit in the round. Once again, being all stockinette, it’s proving to be fantastic for mindless knitting.

One whimsical feature of this sweater are the elbow patches, a great way to use up a few metres of that extra sock yarn everyone has in their stash.  I had three colours of Manos Del Uruguay that worked well together, so after binding off the main body, I took a break and knit up one elbow patch. They add a great pop of colour to this staple sweater.

Can’t wait to get back to knitting and hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to show off the finished cardigan!