Q for You: Can we talk about moths?

Q for You: Can we talk about moths?

Roughly 20 years ago, I inserted a pair of tiny gold hoops into my earlobes and haven’t touched them since. Lately though, I’ve found myself drawn anew to pretty dangly things and the thought of having them for date nights. (More of that whole how-to-look-like-I’m-not-at-work conundrum.) The other day, as I was cruising around Pinterest, I ran across a photo of the loveliest pair — so fluttery and delicate — and then I realized: moths.

I have an affinity for insects — or rather, their shapes and forms, as opposed to real live ones. Even if I didn’t admire them in that way, though, I wouldn’t love killing them. I don’t like to kill anything, but as a knitter I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to moths. I see one, I smash it. (Mosquitoes likewise leave me no choice: It’s them or me. And ants? Turn a blind eye to one and he’ll be right back with 157 of his closest friends, dammit.) So I was surprised to find that, were the shop not closed, I might actually have considered ordering these odd pretties.

Somehow “see it, smash it” is the full extent of my moth policy, however, and I often feel it’s not enough. I have assorted lavender and cedar sachets I toss into the closet, knowing they’re really not strong enough to do any good. (Plus depending who you ask, they may or may not have any effect no matter what.) So all I do is hope and pray that I never have a real run-in with a moth and either my yarn stash or my sweater collection. Which brings me to my Q for You: What is your moth policy? Do you use deterrents; have you had problems; do you have solutions? (Would you wear moth earrings, no matter how pretty they are?) I want to hear ALL about it!

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your go-to yarn?

Product photo by CireAlexandria

Q for You: What’s your go-to yarn?

Q for You: What's your go-to yarn?

When I was in design school, the professor who had the most influence over my taste in typography* used to say you really only need about 5 fonts. (And this was before the digital explosion of font libraries.) In his Swiss-trained mind, if you had two good sans serif families (those being the Helveticas and the Futuras), and one to two classic serif faces, you might ocassionally find use for one or two more style- or era-specific fonts based on circumstance. But mostly you should be able to do what you need to do with the basics, relying on creative design skills and not flashy typefaces to make you stand out. Of course, he was known to shift even on his own dogma. I recall one phase, for example, where he was all about Gill Sans. Anyway, I think of this often in regard to yarn, as I’m a knitter who tends to use the same tried-and-true yarns over and over again. And sometimes I find myself idly trying to figure out what would the Helvetica vs the Times Roman of the yarn world. The decorative fonts are easier to find yarn equivalents for, but I won’t go there!

This is on my mind again as I wrap up an O-Wool Balance sweater (my sixth, I think?) and contemplate two more in the coming months, starting with the sketch above left that I considered for Summer of Basics last year and am longing for again, along with my marlisle proposal. Balance would seem to be my favorite sweater yarn, judging simply by how often I’ve used it, and that makes sense: It’s my preferred gauge, slightly heathered, earth-friendly, a pragmatic blend of cotton and wool, and helpfully machine washable (but not superwash). It’s a very sensible, versatile yarn. If Balance then is my Helvetica, I guess Shelter and Arranmore are my Times Roman and Garamond, being more traditional tweeds, also relied on regularly and repeatedly, and lending themselves to a wide variety of applications. That rotating “fifth” slot for me tends to go to small-batch farm yarns or other special things (like my Clever Camel cardigan), and I have the notion that I’m more likely to use new and different yarns for accessories while sticking more to reliable old friends for garments, but I’d have to do a study to be sure! I clearly do audition new yarns each year, and when I find one I like to knit and to wear, I’m highly likely to repeat it. But within all of that, I always come back to Balance.

So that’s my Q for You: What is your go-to yarn or yarns? Do you stick to a few favorites, or is every cast-on a new yarn adventure?

*Which is not all that evident from the design of Fringe!

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal? (how to)

I am a notebook addict, as I might have mentioned. A pencil and paper kind of girl. Diaries, planners, sketchbooks, logbooks of all sorts (books, wines …) were always an integral part of my life. I love a written record, and how visceral it is to flip back through one. Of course, in the digital age, my habits have shifted. I’ve used a web-based to-do system instead of a paper planner since around 2009; converted my editorial calendar into a spreadsheet in 2014; and have a solid 11 years of ephemera of every kind clipped into Evernote. PDFs, images, order confirmations, screengrabs, flight itineraries, random notes to self, you name it — if I need to search for it someday, or access it anywhere from any device, into Evernote it goes. I’m extremely organized and systematized. Yet somehow, where knitting is concerned — from when I learned in 2011 until the start of this year — my record-keeping has been a giant mess.

As I’m knitting anything, I always have notes on paper. I highlight, annotate and scribble in the margins of printed-out pattern PDFs. I have two Knitters Graph Paper Journals full of charts and shaping diagrams and top-down formulas, which I cherish. Plus a small memo book or notepad in the pocket of whatever project bag I’m currently using. When I finish a thing, I try to be thorough abou translating my chicken scratch from wherever it is into a blog post, and strive to record yarn and needle sizes and sometimes yardage in a corresponding Ravelry project page. But I’m surprisingly non-thorough. Inevitably, I or one of you will have a question that neither the blog post nor the Rav page can answer, and I can’t always find which notebook or pad or printout I was scribbling in at the time. Plus I’ve been around the internet long enough that I could make a very long list of former blogs, forums and databases I’ve poured myself into that no longer exist. Poof. Only paper endures. So I’m doing what I really can’t believe I’ve never done until now: I’ve started a proper knitting journal. Which will also be able to incorporate sewing, once I get back to it!

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

What pushed me over the edge was finally having the beautiful Fringe Supply Co. notebooks I’ve always wanted. I’m using the larger one for my main journal and still keeping a spare for random chicken scratch and the smaller notepad in my project bag. All of the pages are perforated, so it’s nice and tidy to tear them out of elsewhere when I’m done and paste them into the journal. There are some Bullet Journal elements to how I’ve organized it: I’ve included an index in the front and a “future log” listing things that need to be made in specific months (some of which is secret, so I can’t show you that part). Entering things this way allows me to not be too control freaky about what order they get documented in the journal, since they simply get listed in the index as they’re added. And I’m striving to include everything relevant to each project: my original sketches (on Fashionary panels); the yarn label; any notes extracted from the smaller notepad; the pattern photo and chart or annotated pattern pages; needles used; and of course FO photos, just printed out and glued in. Things are variously taped, stapled or glued, or stuck in pockets I make either by taping three sides of a half-page, or gluing in an envelope. I’ve toyed with including a piece of yarn — taped in with washi tape so I can change my mind — but I think that gets to be a bit much for me personally. Haven’t decided.

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

It’s already getting thick since I’ve finished more things in the past three months than I normally knit in a whole year. (I loved making the gatefold for my Log Cabin Mitts log!) But as it gets fatter, I just tear out pages to make room. Again, since they’re perforated, I can remove those edges and that just becomes useful notepaper, some of which finds its way back in.

I love sitting and looking at this notebook. Love the tangibility of it, especially since four of the FOs in there have already been given away. Obviously I won’t stop blogging and Rav’ing the details like always, but I like knowing this notebook will outlast the ever-shifting tides of technology.

So that’s my Q for You today: Do you keep a knitting/sewing notebook or scrapbook of any kind? How else do you record what you make?

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Do you add it up?

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Q for You: Do you add it up?

Q for You: Do you add it up?

I recently did something I try never to do: I calculated stitches and rows and yardage for something at the ultra-granular level. It was the collar of my blue Bellows. I realized I didn’t think I was going to have enough yarn, which is a thing that happens, right? Normally in such a situation, I’ll weigh my yarn, knit a row, re-weigh to see how much the row used and thus how much yardage that was, and assess the situation based on how many rows are left. However, I try to keep it as general as possible. I only want to know as much as I actually need to know. With that shawl collar — it’s basically like knitting a third sleeve — there are short rows involved (not as straightforward to calculate since each one is literally a different length), plus I had the idea that I might reduce the total number of rows. There were variables and mitigating factors. The only thing I could do was knit a row, calculate the weight/yardage used; do the math to figure out exactly how many stitches a short-row sequence amounted to; count the number of full rows and short-row sequences; and tally it all up. Only by knowing exactly how many stitches it would be could I determine how much yarn I needed. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t have enough.)

It’s the first time in my knitting life that I ever could answer the question “How many stitches is that?” And let me tell you: I did not love knowing. In fact, I’ve since repressed the number. I remember only that it was in the thousands — and that’s just the collar! At bulky gauge, no less. Since then there was that hat where I did increasingly gain a heightened awareness of how many stitches x how many rows, just because it was so much more knitting than a typical worsted-weight hat and I was on a deadline — but I still never multiplied those numbers!

I’ve always been amazed at how many people do this math regularly and on purpose. There are those of you who like to be able to say how many stitches, how many miles of yarn, how many minutes or hours were involved. In so many facets of my life, I am like that. But with knitting, I don’t want to know. The only thing I ever do in that regard is sometimes I’ll time myself to see how long one repeat of a chart takes, or two inches of knitting, or something broad like that, and I do it to set realistic expectations with myself. Like: If one chart repeat takes 1.5 hours, you can expect to knit maybe a few repeats per week, so what does that mean for the expected lifespan of the project. That’s the most I ever want to know.

Yardage-wise, I typically weigh a finished project to see how much yarn got used. That’s it.

So that’s my Q for You today: Are you a tabulator? Do you add it all up, or keep yourself in the dark, or are there in-between cases like mine? I look forward to your answers, and wish all of you a very happy weekend!

Oh, and p.s.: the Wabi Mitts kits are back in stock!

Pocket notebook from Fringe Supply Co.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your knit-stitch happy place?

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Q for You: What’s your knit-stitch happy place?

Q for You: What's your knit-stitch happy place?

I was telling some friends recently that the impediment to my finishing this Cline sweater as quickly as I’d like is that it makes me narcoleptic — I literally nod off right there on the couch. I always find stockinette dull (albeit occasionally in a refuge sort of way), but this is an actual sedative. Something about the soft yarn, the soothing grey heather, the stockinette motion. The fabric is a total dream, and I am actually still making pretty good time on it — and I have no doubt the finished sweater will be ace — but from a knitting perspective, it’s making me antsy, desperate for escape into something more satisfying.

In between nods I’ve been contemplating what it is that brings me that satisfaction. Is it a particular stitch pattern or type of knitting — cables, knits-and-purls, colorwork? It’s not about complexity, per se, but it is about watching the fabric develop and being wowed by it. The most pleasing projects are the ones where I can’t put it away at night — I find myself spreading it out on the couch next to me, petting it, admiring my progress, imagining those next few inches. But it’s also about my brain being able to settle into a rhythm — to identify a melody and hum along with it, as it were. I like stitch patterns that are the equivalent of earworms, whatever they might be. So whether it’s a memorizable cable motif or knit-purl combination, that’s my happy place as a knitter. (Peak examples being Channel, Gentian, Bernat.) And that’s my Q for You today: What gives you that sense of satisfaction as you stitch? Do you sink happily into stockinette, thrill to a challenging cable or lace chart, crave seeing colorwork patterning form in front of you? What’s your happy place.

EDITED TO ADD: I woke up this morning thinking about something I read a few months ago about “flow,” that state where your brain is happily humming along. This line stood out for me, and rings true: “This model suggests that we’re most easily able to enter a state of flow when we’re faced with a task that requires both a high level of perceived skill and offers us a challenge …” So flow comes from your brain being able to settle into a a groove but at a level where it’s like “this takes some skill” and “I got this” at the same time. I think that’s the difference between monotony and bliss! And why I’m reasonably happy knitting stockinette if I’m tracking spaced increases or something for my brain to groove on, just the littlest bit.

Pretty little gifts for knitters and others

IN SHOP NEWS: We’re still shipping over at Fringe Supply Co.! Within the US, we ship via Priority Mail, so in theory you can order through Wednesday morning and hope to have your package by Christmas Eve. Still, why tempt fate? We’d love to get your holiday gifts shipped off asap, if we haven’t already. In addition to knockout favorites like Field Bags and Lykke needle sets, we’ve got lots of great stocking stuffers, knitting group gifts, secret santa offerings: pretty little tools and balms, gorgeous notebooks, a variety of tool pouches, and who doesn’t love a gift certificate? If you need any help or advice, just ask! And thank you SO MUCH for all of your support this season and always.

Happy weekend, everyone—

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You:  What’s your favorite buttonhole method?

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Q for You: What is your favorite buttonhole method?

Q for You: What is your favorite buttonhole method?

You know that thing where you decide to knit a buttonband on an airplane and wind up with no buttonholes? Here’s how it happened:

As you can see, I’ve put a picked-up garter-stitch band on this gem I’ve been knitting. As I was sitting on the flight to Rhinebeck, chatting away with Meg, I sort of unthinkingly knitted my favorite buttonhole — of the slot-shaped, bind-off/cast-on variety — losing track, for the moment, of the fact that that only works on a vertical band (such as my Anna Vest). Running up and down, in knitted fabric, a slot buttonhole like that would just pull right open. I realized it as soon as I’d done it, promptly ripped out those rows, and then puzzled for a minute over what to do. I don’t mind a yarnover buttonhole (in all its minute variations) in a case where it’s sort of lost in the fabric. You can barely see them in my black cardigan, for instance, but they disappoint me a little bit in my camel cardigan, where they’re more evident. That YO hole just doesn’t look as tidy as I’d like, and I knew on light-colored fabric like this, and at this gauge, I would not be happy seeing them. So what’s an impatient knitter on an airplane to do? Leave them out, of course. Knit on, and figure it out later.

You know I love to try new stuff, and I had the thought that it would be fun to try machine-sewn buttonholes, which would give me exactly the neat and tidy slots I want for it. Alas, only after knitting a swatch to test the idea did I realize the fabric is much too thick to even fit under the buttonhole foot of my machine in the first place! Curses. So I guess the new thing I get to try is EZ’s afterthought buttonhole. (At least I already have a swatch to practice on!)

All of this got me thinking about buttonholes in their endless (never quite satisfying to me) variety! Which brings me to my Q for You: What is your favorite buttonhole method(s), and why? I look forward to your responses!

(Bone buttons via Fringe Supply Co.)

IN SHOP NEWS: A few of our long-awaited copies of Woods finally arrived. This is a big, beautiful book with lots of great patterns, profiles, essays … and an interview with me about sweater construction. Hopefully the rest of our order will materialize soon, but we do have some in the shop at the moment, if you’re quick. (I’ll let you know if/when we get more!) Thank you for your excitement about the new notebooks and all your lovely anniversary wishes this week. And if you haven’t had a chance to browse through the Winter 2017 Lookbook yet, I hope you’ll take a moment to do so!

Have a great weekend — see you next week.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your picky fit detail?

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Q for You: What’s your picky fit detail?

Q for You: What's your picky fit detail?

I’m pretty sure we all have a pet peeve or two, garment-wise — the little fit detail that can make the difference between most-worn and never-worn. Last weekend, I was posting on Instagram all the gory details of how I’m nailing down the exact length of the sleeves on this vanilla cardigan. Sleeves and neck shaping are the two potential deal-breakers for me. I can’t stand a garment that shifts around on me during the day, requiring me to tug at the neckline all the time, and same goes for sleeves. I want them out of my way, which means they’re either pushed up or rolled up most of the time. If a cuff is too wide to stay put when they’re pushed up — creating that perpetual push-and-slide scenario — I might actually lose my mind. And if they puddle on my hands when they’re pulled down, I definitely will. As I said the other day, I find this matter of sleeve length just that much more important on an oversized sweater like this. I want this cardigan to be nice and slouchy; I don’t want to look (or feel) like I’m swimming in it.

For me, that difference can be like a half an inch, and even though I have a blocked swatch and correct gauge and good math and preferred dimensions and all of that, no two sweaters sit or hang on the body precisely the same way. So since this one is top-down, what I’ve done is knitted one sleeve to just before the bind-off point and blocked it. Once I put it on, it was easy to see that it’s 6 or 7 rows too long — it already covers the top of my hand even without the bind-off row, whereas I want it to hit right at my wrist bone. So I’m ripping back the sleeve to 7 rows before the cuff, redoing the ribbing, and then it should be perfect. And I won’t have to worry about being institutionalized over a sleeve! It’s an easy enough thing to nail, and worth taking a minute to get it right.

So that’s my Q for You today: What’s the make-or-break fit detail for you — whether it’s a hat, socks, sweaters, whatever — and what do you do (or do you?) to get it just so?

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

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