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.


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




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—


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



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.


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




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?


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


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

First off, a little apology: I know I told you the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong announcement was coming this week. Unfortunately, there’s a been a little snafu and change of plans. So I’ll let you know when I’m re-ready to announce!

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

One thing we talk about all the time, and that has come up a lot in the #slowfashionoctober discussion, is that we’ve all made things that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out and go unworn. It’s a hard thing to face: all that time and yarn, just sitting the closet. Coming to accept that this happens — learning how to learn from it — is a big part of becoming a maker, I think. As is coming up with a strategy for dealing with it. I have so much admiration for those of you who frog things and reclaim the yarn and give it new life. For me, if it’s a perfectly successful garment that just doesn’t fit or suit me, I’d rather it went to a new home where it will be appreciated. (I have frogged things that hadn’t reached completion, for sure.) The only thing I’ve ever made that I couldn’t imagine giving to anyone else was my very first sweater, so I took it to a thrift store where I hoped some knitter would find it and feel wonderfully righteous and scornful about it! (I sort of hoped it might turn up on IG someday or something.)

There have been several things I’ve given to family and close friends. The one garment I couldn’t accept defeat on, or let go of, for such a long time was my Amanda cardigan up there. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t sit right on me and wasn’t getting worn, but it has so much history! And I’m so proud of the knitting, which is why I didn’t want to frog it. When it finally occurred to me I could use it to raise money to help people, that’s what it took for me to finally let it go — and to feel great about it. And I’ve put some other handknits up for adoption as well.

In every instance above, I love how excited the new owners are to have these garments — the very opposite of knitting something for someone and having them yawn. That said, I would love to someday find out what it feels like to frog a whole sweater. I imagine it’s the same kind of fun as sitting down in the stylist’s chair and saying “Cut it all off!” (One of my favorite experiences.) But it’s all got me wondering about different attitudes and approaches to the problem, so that’s my Q for You today: What do you do with your unworn FOs? And what about your muslins? Which is a whole ’nother ball of wax …


– The Slow Fashion October topic for this next week is: HOW. Let’s talk about your how-to skills and where they stand (from how to knit/sew, to thrifting strategies, to caring for your wardrobe, etc); how you acquired and improve on those skills; how you make time for making your wardrobe (however you go about it) …

– Tomorrow is I Love Yarn Day, so how might you pass those skills along?

– Ash Gremel has announced she’s hosting a clothes swap and has created a shared map so others can add theirs! Will you host one?

– And we’re here for you at Fringe Supply Co. with freshly restocked Bento Bag shelves (all colors and sizes) and so much more!

Have an amazing weekend, and thank you for reading—


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Want to have a worldwide clothing swap?


Q for You: Want to have a worldwide clothing swap?

Want to have a clothing swap?

I’m planning to kick off Slow Fashion October this year on September 29th, since the 1st of October falls on the weekend — and somehow that’s this Friday! I know a lot of you have already been thinking about projects, goals or challenges for yourselves, and I look forward to hearing them as we approach the starting line next week, but I’ve also been mulling the notion of organizing some sort of worldwide clothing swap, and my Q for You today is: Do you want to swap — and/or host or help?

I’ve never hosted a clothing swap (so hey, why not attempt a worldwide one?!) but there are two basic possibilities—

ONLINE: I know lots of people use Instagram for swaps and sales in various ways — either posting on their regular feed or creating a separate one for listings. Anyone who wants to could go about it however they like, or we could try to come up with some sort of standardized system that would help people find those who are listing stuff as available. (Maybe #SlotoberSwap hashtag, at least?) Thoughts?

IN PERSON: Likewise, I could just say “Hey, why not think about hosting a clothing swap!” and hope a bunch of people will do so. Or we could try to put together some sort of best-practices guidance and a calendar of events. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people with a shop or studio space where they’d be willing to host, and any thoughts on how to make it logistically manageable for people who are interested. (Does there need to be an RSVP and max # of people in attandance? Is it a free-for-all, or 1 “token” for each garment you bring, take turns picking …?)

Please share any and all tips and thoughts in the comments, below, and I’ll post a follow-up with an action plan if one takes shape in the conversation. And if anyone would like to volunteer to take charge of this initiative, please raise your hand!

Also, again, please consider donating workplace appropriate clothing to an organization like Dress for Success, or other very targeted donation opportunities where your clothes are most likely to be adopted, and not discarded. Anyone who knows of other great organizations with specific needs — especially any relating to all of the current disaster relief efforts — please share them below.

Also, Samantha of @agatheringofstitches is planning to organize a fabric swap, so follow her and be on the lookout for news on that.


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You (one of my all-time favorites!) : What stitch are you?

Q for You: What stitch are you?

Q for You: What stitch are you?

If you were a dog breed. If you were a wine varietal. If you were a color … what would you be? There was a Wool and the Gang newsletter recently with the subject line “What stitch are you?” and I thought it was that old parlor game we’ve all played how many times and ways, but that somehow it had never occurred to me to think or ask: If you were a stitch (knit, crochet, handwork, whatever), what would you be? (We did have that chat about “what gauge are you” once upon a time, but that’s a little different.)

The thing about this sort of game is you can be anything from really dismissive to super goofy to deeply philosophical with your answer, possibly depending on whether there’s alcohol involved … or you’re on the longest, most boring road trip of your life.

My immediate, flippant answer when I read that subject line was stockinette. Whether as in sartorially speaking, or in the sense of what a plain jane I’ve always thought myself to be. But I’m not stockinette! Like any human, I have my textures and complexities. (Was it Whitman who said, “I am large; I contain cables”?) My next thought was maybe I’m Ann Shayne’s rambling cable sweater of life, and certainly there have been phases of my life where that would be a fair statement. But I think I’m a bit like this fisherman sweater I’m knitting.

There are the swaths of nice, orderly broken-rib texture (or rice stitch?) at the edges; the rigid columns of meticulous, “tightly wound” raspberry stitch (which would be a teeth-clencher and overthinker if it were a person, right?); and then there are the two cable motifs. The single cables running up the sleeves and the sides of the sweater are wrong in some ways (the “ropes” bend without twisting and without reason), and yet they’re weirdly appealing. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, there were multiple instances of perfect strangers telling me I looked “very European.” I had brown hair and a stick figure and a face full of giant features at a time when everyone was expected to look like Christie Brinkley, and I came to understand (and even appreciate) that what they meant was “I don’t really understand your looks, but I don’t find them unappealing.” That’s what that cable reminds me of.

And then there’s the central cable panel. It’s a little like Ann’s planless cables, in that it’s puzzling and unpredictable at first, but it’s more like my resumé, actually — what seem like a lot of unrelated jobs have all crystallized in what I’m doing now. In the end (if this is the end for me — ha!) it makes its own kind of sense.

What drew me back to this sweater pattern over and over again for years is the fact that the two cable motifs really don’t go together — they don’t rightly belong on the same sweater. And where did the weird streak of garter-stitch raglans come from? On the whole, it’s a little warped — in a good way. So maybe that’s not a bad description of me.

And hey, getting this ridiculously philosophical about it didn’t even require alcohol! So that’s my Q for You today: If you were a stitch, what would it be? Have fun with it.

I look forward to your response, and wish you a happy weekend!

SHOP NOTE: The ever-popular indigo Double Basketweave Cowl Kit is back in stock!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you feel about mistakes?