Q for You: What was your first yarn?

Q for You: What was your first yarn?

Earlier this spring/summer, we renovated our bathroom, which also involved gutting and narrowing our coat closet. In the process, the contents of the bathroom, the coat closet and part of the living room all got dumped into the guest room in one gigantic mess. Six weeks or so since the bathroom was completed,* I’m still facing a large part of that mess, wanting to put it all back in a more organized fashion than it was before, and of course not having the time to do that! Among the piles is a big storage bag thing containing a load of scarves, hats and gloves that moved with us from the Bay but haven’t been worn since — many of them my earliest handknits. Among them is the first thing I ever bought yarn for: this simple camel-colored cowl.

With the caveat that I had crocheted (and very slightly knitted) as a kid — no doubt with some kind of craft-store acrylic — my first foray into a yarn store as a knitter was that fateful Nashville trip in 2011 when Meg taught me to knit by casting on Joelle Hoverson’s Pointy Elf Hat and walking me through the steps to completion. The red thick-and-thin yarn had come from her stash, and before we left for the airport on our last day, Jo (my friend, Meg’s mom) took me to Haus of Yarn, where Meg was on duty, and I surveyed the beautiful samples and yarns all around the store looking for something to knit on the flight home. Of course, I wanted to knit Julie Weisenberger’s loafer slippers (Meg: “Maybe next year”) but we settled on a seemingly simple bias-knit cowl that happened to have been knitted in the same yarn I had used for the elf hat. At that point, I only knew the knit stitch, so Meg and Jo taught me to purl and Meg gave me a little piece of paper with the instructions for kitchener stitch on it, and off I went. I find it not at all surprising that the first yarn I picked out was this lovely shade of camel! Albeit in this Thick ‘n’ Quick Merino that I would not likely choose for myself today. But now I’m wondering why I’ve never really worn this cowl, just held onto it as the first thing I knitted entirely on my own. And though my first two projects — this and the elf hat — were both knitted in this yarn, I’ve never knitted with it again.

I remember that day at Haus quite vividly, being bowled over by the incredible array of pretty skeins, especially all the multi-colored Malabrigo that was so prominently displayed at that time and all the rage, as I would soon discover. I can’t remember if I bought any other yarn that day, other than a ball of canary yellow dishcloth cotton (and a pattern booklet to go with it) that was my waste yarn for the next five years. But that brings me to my Q for You today: What was your first yarn? How long ago, and how does it compare to the kinds of yarns you knit with these days?

I look forward to your stories, and wish you a relaxing weekend!

UNRELATED SHOP NEWS: With the popularity of our knitter’s tool kit and our sashiko thread selection, we’re now offering a sashiko tool kit as well!

* If you’re waiting for me to post final bathroom pics on Instagram, I’m so sorry to be a tease. In typical fashion, I’m struggling to find time to do it as well as I want to, to do it justice. Hopefully this weekend in my IG story!

Q for You: Would you rather knit the sleeves or the body?

Q for You: Would you rather knit the sleeves or the body?

A few years ago, my now-pal Anna Dianich and I launched a funny little project we called the Tag Team Sweater Project. We had gotten into a discussion about how she dreads knitting sleeves whereas I dread the body. (We both love the yoke.) So I suggested a swap: We each picked a bottom-up sweater pattern; I knitted all four sleeves; she knitted both bodies; and then we were each responsible for our own sweaters from the underarm join on up. That sprang to mind the other night as I was working on my current top-down yoke* and started thinking “Then I get to knit the sleeves (fun!) … and then the body (ugh).

“I’m stuck on sleeve island” is one of the most common refrains among sweater knitters, and I just don’t get it! Sleeves are inherently short, quick rows — especially if they’re knitted flat (including top-down flat sleeves) — which means visible progress, and there’s something to do along the way. (Regular increases or decreases, in nearly all cases.) But the body, to me, is just this long, dull slog — especially if it’s done in one piece. (For pieced sweaters, none of this seems to even come into play.) Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels that way. So that’s my Q for You sweater knitters today: Do you prefer to knit the sleeves or the body? If all sweaters were Tag Team sweaters, which team would you be on?

IN SHOP NEWS: Two of our most popular items this summer — the “Bury me with yarn and needles …” tote and the Fringe knitters tool kit — and both back in stock over at Fringe Supply Co!

Happy weekend, everyone. I’m hoping to be knitting sleeves by Monday!

*OMG, you guys, I honestly wonder I’m ever going to get to the separation round on this thing! It’s been so slow going, and when I finally got to what I had calculated would be the separation round, I double-checked my gauge to make sure it matches my swatch. It’s WAY more compact, so I’m still going …

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Do you sew tags in your handmades?

Q for You: Do you sew tags in your handmades?

Q for You: Do you sew tags in your handmades?

It seems counterintuitive, really. Tags in the neck or waistband of clothes can be such a nuisance, but then it feels a little odd when you knit or sew your own clothes and they’re just bare back there. Sometimes I think it would be helpful — like with the Big Rubble I inherited — to be able to see at a glance which is the back and which the front. And there’s also a little urge to give yourself credit, right? Or to leave some form of a love note, as it were, in the things we make for others. There are lots of readymade tags for sale, and it’s easy to have custom ones made as well — if you’re inclined. I joke about having some fancy-looking ones made that say “BESPOKE by Karen Templer” But I’ve seen people do such lovely things with hand-embroidered labels, too, like the sweet ones above by Megan of @saltairarts, who hand-stitches her initials and the year into each of her finished garments.

So that’s my Q for You today: Do you put tags (or markings of any kind) in your handmade clothes? I’m sure we all want details, photos, sources if you have them. And if there’s someone whose approach you’ve noted or admired, please share a link!

I look forward to your answers and wish you a happy and relaxing weekend. Thank you for reading, and for your support of all things Fringe! See you back here next week—

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Q for You: What are your all-time favorites?

Q for You: What are your all-time favorite Fringe posts?

As I’ve previously alluded to, I have an uncommon amount of travel coming up in June. I’m teaching again at Squam Art Workshops (with an intimidatingly amazing cast of instructors!), which starts a week from tomorrow. And just a few days after I get back from those heavenly shores, I’m boarding a flight for Portugal, where I’ll be for 12 days doing all sorts of amazing yarn-related things with 8 yarn-loving friends, which I look forward to telling you about. That’s 17 days of big adventure (which I’m trying not to think of as 17 days away from my beloved!) and more blog posts than I can conceivably write in the days that I am home. I do have new posts lined up for several of those gone days and want to use the others to highlight some of the many worthwhile posts that are lying around in the archives when they could be of use to so many of you who didn’t see them the first time! So I’m hoping you’ll help me pick them, and that’s my Q for You today: What are the posts from this blog’s past that you have found the most helpful, informational, entertaining, inspiring … ? Could be a pattern, a tutorial or explainer, a wardrobe plan, a pattern roundup, a queue check or idea sketch, or whatever stands out in your mind that you got something useful out of.

If there are more suggestions than I have days for, the comments here will also serve as their own index of the good stuff for you to explore. Thank you in advance for weighing in!

And speaking of SQUAM! We’ll also have a Fringe Supply Co. table at the Squam Art Fair again on Saturday June 9th (open to the public), and we have some VERY SPECIAL goods we’re planning to bring. If all goes as planned, we’ll be previewing multiple new items that evening that won’t make it into the webshop for a few weeks after that. So if you’re in the area, definitely come to the fair!

Photos above are from a few of the all-time most popular posts: the Improv top-down tutorial, the Audrey hat pattern (photo by @toltyarnandwool) and “the mantastic cowl” (photo by @suskandbanoo)

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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?

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