Q for You: Flat or in-the-round?

Q for You: Flat or in-the-round?

What with all the activity and discussion stemming from the Top-Down Knitalong and Slow Fashion October, it’s been awhile since we had a proper Q for You! The other night, I cast on a slipper sock for the sake of a photo shoot next week, found myself dreading the in-the-round parts, didn’t want to get up to find my DPNs … and just thought, whatever, I’ll knit it flat and seam it. After which I marveled at this complete reversal in my preferences over the past couple of years. When I was first knitting, not only was small-circumference-in-the-round my favorite kind of knitting (specifically fingerless mitts, on DPNs), I only wanted to knit circularly. I’d see patterns for things knitted flat and seamed — like a hat or a raglan sweater — and wonder why on earth anyone would ever do that! And now, somehow, I’m that person.

Clearly there are teams in the knitting world: team flat and team circular. So that’s my Q for You today: Would you rather knit flat or in the round? And do you go so far as to convert patterns one direction or the other?


SHOP NEWS: There are lots of treats to be found in the webshop today — the new Pom Pom and Selvedge magazine, wrist rulers, fully stocked Field Bags and Bento Bags


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: How do you clean your handknits?

Q for You: How do you clean your handknits?

Q for You: How do you clean your handknits?

I ran into a discussion on Instagram recently where people were expressing surprise at the notion of blocking a finished sweater (as opposed to just blocking individual parts before seaming), and I was so surprised at the surprise! I thought blocking a finished garment was standard practice, and I almost always do it. Even if I’ve blocked the parts before assembly, I still want the seams and bands and whatever else to have the benefit of a good soak and flat-dry. (If you’re not familiar with the blocking process, click here.)

I also hear from people here on the blog occasionally who say they’ve never blocked anything in their lives. And I’m not sure if it’s a semantic thing or a misunderstanding of some kind, but it leaves me wondering if they’re saying they never clean anything, or just that they do it some other way (dry clean?), or what exactly. So I’m sort of dying of curiosity!

While not every yarn on the planet should be submerged, most (if not all) natural fibers benefit hugely from a good soak, especially if it’s wool yarn and a lanolin-based wool soap. I’ve noted before that I don’t immediately block everything — hats and mitts in stitch patterns that don’t really need it might not get soaked until the first time they’re in need of a wash. And for me and my knits, routine cleaning doesn’t necessarily involve a soak. My O-Wool Balance garments go into the washer and the dryer! I think that yarn actually benefits from it. The 100% wool stuff very rarely needs anything in the way of cleaning, and when something does I often use a trick I learned from my friend Anie, which is to just toss it into the dryer (dry) for a few minutes while a load of wet laundry is tumbling, to give it a good steam. Works like a charm!

So that’s my Q for You today: How do you clean your handknit goods?


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s the yarn you can’t resist?

Q for You: What’s the yarn you can’t resist?

Q for You: What's your yarn-buying weakness?

I have a weakness. A very clearly defined one. No matter how much I get bothered about the quantity of yarn in my house, no matter how many oaths I make about not buying yarn without a clear purpose and intent to cast on, no matter how close I am to throwing my entire stash in a few garbage bags and dropping them off at the center for creative reuse, when I’m faced with a certain type of yarn, I cannot stop myself from buying a sweater’s worth. What type is that, you ask? Small-batch, minimally processed, undyed medium grey yarn. Pictured above are the Sawkill Farm yarn I bought at Rhinebeck in October, Fancy Tiger’s all-Colorado Junegrass from their 10th anniversary celebration (which I didn’t get to go to — but I did get to buy the yarn online!), and Ysolda Teague’s Blend No.1, which I bought after petting it and her utterly perfect Polwarth* sweater in D.C.** They are not the same. The Sawkill is the most unusual blend of breeds; it’s sheepy and airy and farmy. The Junegrass is also farmy and delicious but also squishy and soft. (Sheep soft, not marshmallow soft.) And the Blend No.1 is sport weight, for pete’s sake! They’re as different as night and day.

If you factor in the salt-and-pepper Linen Quill that Purl Soho sent me and the darker grey Hole & Sons I bought from their second (and apparently last) batch, I have five grey sweaters in waiting. And I also genuinely believe I can come up with five sweaters as different from each other as these yarns are, and that there’s no such thing as too many grey sweaters. But clearly if I meet any more small-batch grey yarn in the near future (“but I’ll never have another shot at it!”) I need to remind myself there will always be another one and I have many at home.

So that’s my confession, and also my Q for You: What’s your yarn-buying weakness?


*Seriously, y’all, that is the perfect sweater. The details are incredible.
**There are no shopping links for the four small-batch yarns discussed here because none of them are available for purchase. See what I mean?!?! I had to!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Yarn management, collected

Q for You collected: Yarn management!

Q for You collected: Yarn management!

Yesterday’s yarn-winding post on Mason-Dixon Knitting (and the ensuing hypnotic discussion), followed by two different emails about related subjects, had me digging back into former Q for You posts on yarn handling that seem to be begging to resurface! (Plus on Friday I had a little meltdown about how much yarn is in my house, completely untamed at present, and how I need help keeping it under control.) These are perpetually pertinent subjects, the answers to which I never tire of seeing, and there’s so much assorted wisdom of this crowd stored in these posts. So today I’m encouraging you to take a look at the collected responses and add your two cents to each—

Do you wind your own yarn? (winder or by hand, balled or caked)
How do you sort your stash? (by color, by weight, by what)
Does having a stash work?
How do you close out a project? (what do you do with your leftovers)
How do you store your yarn? (for aesthetics and safekeeping)

And if that’s not enough Q for You for one sitting, browse through them all here at your leisure.


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Are you a process knitter or a product knitter?

Q for You: Are you a process knitter or product knitter?

Q for You: Are you a process knitter or a product knitter?

I’ve so far avoided making this a Q for You because I feel like it’s such a stock question, and also because my own answer is always changing! But I’ve been thinking a lot about it the last couple of weeks, both during and since knitting the Flex tee. So let’s talk about this notion of being a “process knitter” versus a “product knitter.”

To offer some semblance of a definition, I think a true, pure “process knitter” is someone who just loves to knit and wants to be knitting, and what they’re knitting isn’t of much concern. As long as they’re knitting, they’re happy. And a pure “product knitter” doesn’t necessarily love the act of knitting but the loves the end result, and will do what it takes to get that. As with most of these things, we really all fall somewhere along the continuum between the two.

For a long time I felt I was closer to the product knitter end of it. I love to knit, and do love it best when I’m loving the knitting itself (meaning the yarn and needles are giving me the happy feelings, and all that). But if I don’t desperately want the end product to exist in the world, I won’t pick up the knitting. What motivates me most is the outcome — I won’t knit just for the sake of knitting.

But it’s also true (maybe increasingly so) that I won’t knit just as a means to an end. If I’m not enjoying the yarn and the needles and the flow of a project, I’m equally at risk of letting it lie around unfinished, no matter how much I might want the end product. So it really has to be both for me, which I guess puts me at the dead center of the continuum?

Flex is a great example. I’ve loved the look of that little tee since the day the pattern first published. I have another sweater I knitted out of Kestrel, and I love the fabric, but it’s not the most pleasurable yarn to knit with, being aran-weight chainette linen. It’s a little like knitting with straw or something — not unpleasant, by any means, but not the sort of thing that gets your senses humming. Then there’s the knitting itself. The pattern is really unusual in its construction and completely brilliant. I can’t even understand how she worked out the details of the process (and graded it!), and I have so much admiration for the whole thing. But because of the way it’s built, it’s kind of an awkward, flappy thing to have on the needles. (This might be less true if done with a nice lofty wool/blend.) On top of which, it was missing my whole favorite part of the process. If I’m not inventing or reinventing anything — inserting myself into the creative process in some way — it just feels like manufacturing to me, and not nearly as gratifying. In this case, between the uniqueness of the construction and the fact that the schematic measurements don’t line up with the pattern numbers in any meaningful way, modifications weren’t really an option. All I could do is knit it as written. In short, it’s an amazing pattern and a darling sweater and fantastic finished fabric, but there was no particular thrill in the knitting of it for me, so it’s nothing short of a miracle that it got finished.

(Thus I don’t feel compelled to repeat it. That’s all I meant yesterday. I’m happy there are so many of you who loved every minute of knitting Flex!)

Once that was on the blocking board, I picked up my improvised cardigan in progress, and was instantly bathed in serotonin and delight. Having that fabric and yarn running through my hands felt like petting a baby kitten, and I was all like “OMIGOD I LOOOOOOVE KNITTING!” So that’s my Q for You today: Are you more of a process knitter or a product knitter?

New at Fringe Supply Co.

SHOP NEWS: As promised, additional copies of KnitWit magazine have arrived, for those of you who missed it, and we’re awaiting delivery of Carrie Hoge’s stunning new biannual magazine, Making, which is an absolute treasure trove. It’s in transit so I’ve gone ahead and made it available for preorder. And we also still have copies of the fabulous summer Pom Pom, so check out the magazine rack today, for sure. AND! We have the most awesome new addition to the matte black mini-scissors, the Owl scissors, which I am head over heels in love with — they’re the perfect size and they make me laugh — so check those out too. All that and more, of course, can be found at Fringe Supply Co.

Happy weekend!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for YOU: What do you modify?

Q for You: What do you modify?

Q for You: Do you modify knitting/sewing patterns?

If you read this blog, you know: I am a modifier. It’s exceptionally rare for me to sew or knit a pattern exactly as published. The other day, I got into a conversation with some friends about research a company had done about sewers and basic modifications like bust adjustments, length, etc., and they apparently found that almost nobody does that. One of the others in the conversation said, “What’s the point of making a muslin then?” To which I replied — as if I know this for certain, which I don’t — “People mostly don’t do that either.” (We can talk about the whole “wearable muslin” thing someday.) And I know from talking to so many knitters these past few years that many are loath to tamper with a pattern, even for the simplest of adjustments.

Then there are people like me who can never leave well enough alone. The first thing I do to any knitting pattern is mark all over it — crossing things out, writing in tweaks. My Knitters Graph Paper Journal (literally loved and used to tatters) is full of mod notes, redrawn charts, reworked necklines, re-sketched schematics and tweaked measurements. The first thing I look at in any schematic are the lengths of the body and sleeves, which I almost always tweak. (Sleeves are almost always too short for my arms; bodies are almost always too long for my liking.) If there’s waist shaping, I omit it. Every edging is reviewed for possible alternate treatments. Beyond that, it depends on the pattern. With sewing patterns, I’m most likely to hybridize sizes and redraw neckholes (which are almost always too gaping for me). To me, the main benefit of making my own clothes is this opportunity to customize the fit. But I know for a lot of people — maybe most people? — it’s more important to do what the pattern says and trust that it will come out correctly, if maybe not 100% perfectly fitted. There are definitely risks in tweaking, as well as rewards.

So that’s my Q for You this week: Do you modify patterns, and if so, what do you change? 


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Softness or durability?

Q for You: Softness or durability?

Q for You: Softness or durability?

This question of softness vs durability in yarns (this false dichotomy, really) is a bit of a motif for me this week. I talked earlier this week about choosing the camel yarn for my upcoming cardigan because it manages to be both incredibly soft and extremely hard-wearing. I’m also working on tomorrow’s post about my finished black Anna Vest, which I knitted in Terra because I wanted it to be black and I happened to have the right amount of black Terra in my stash. Terra is not a yarn I would have considered for my vest, if not for that happenstance. Being a single-ply blend of baby alpaca, merino and silk, it’s what I would categorize as “too soft” for me (and also “too warm” and “too drapey”). I have a prejudice against soft yarns.

There, I said it!

It’s a silly prejudice. While one could make a sweeping generalization that gooey-soft yarns don’t wear well, not all soft yarns are tender or prone to pilling. There are merinos with extremely long staple lengths that don’t pill the way other merinos do. There are blends and hybridizations that balance softness and ruggedness in the same fiber or yarn. There’s how it’s spun, how it’s knitted. And so on. But when it comes to picking out yarns for anything I’m going to spend more than an evening knitting, my number one concern is not how soft it is, but how it will wear. My least favorite thing in the world is to knit something, block it, love it, and have it quickly start looking shabby. Plus, as I’m always saying, I like yarn that feels like it came from an animal, not a lab, and the softer a yarn is, the more it feels fake to me. Which is just me being weird. (And then there’s superwash — natural fiber processed into fakeness.) I like minimally processed yarns, “sticky” yarns, yarns that splice, yarns that smell and feel like sheep. If they’re plenty soft enough to wear but not pillowy, marshmallowy soft, I’m totally fine with that. Not to say I’m not thrilled every time I find a yarn that manages to be both (like the Thirteen Mile recommended in the Anna pattern), but I’ll always prioritize durability over softness. And that may be to my own detriment — Terra wound up being absolutely perfect for the vest, in a completely different way than Thirteen Mile, and I might never have known it.

Here’s the thing — there is no such thing as a straight continuum between cuddliness and ruggedness. It’s just not that simple. It’s more like an XY quadrant chart, with all sorts of factors (breed, ply, milling, etc) playing into where any given yarn would fall in the four quadrants. But I’m proposing we pretend it’s a continuum for the sake of discussion. And that’s my Q for You: Which is most important to you, softness or durability? And what’s your definition of soft?


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What gauge are you?