Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No Snow

Yup, it’s all gone, every flake. Instead many places are flooding and there were some power outages in outlying areas yesterday. We have some water in the cold room under the front stairs but that’s kind of par for the course when it rains so hard in a short time. I’m glad I got a chance to at least go for a short walk in the snow before the Pineapple Express weather arrived.

Changing topics, this article that I read recently does make you think about clothing and textiles and how much and what quality you buy, doesn’t it? As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t tend to shop for clothing or even household linens until I’m desperate and everything is in shreds or so badly stained I can’t use it. I don’t enjoy the process, unlike a lot of people especially women. I’d rather go shopping in a yarn or fabric or bead or even a hardware store than a department store or dress shop. This is obvious in my house where no towel is less than 5 years old and some are as old as 15 or 20. When they’re too shredded for upstairs use (or I get tired of repairing them) they get demoted to the dye studio. I give very little to the salvage people — when I’m done with it, it’s probably best for compost! And no, I don’t really dress like a rag-picker. Apart from cat claw catches and grease stains (I refuse to wear an apron) I’m pretty easy on things. Plus I have a sewing machine and I know how to use it. I repair until it becomes useless. And as for following any current fashion or style, I really don’t care much. One of the big advantages of being a granny, in my opinion.

I was really enjoying reading an ongoing discussion on Ravelry about the ubiquitous stash question. Whether ’tis nobler to purchase supplies one project at a time or whether having an entire spare room dedicated to your hobby should make you feel guilty. Or smug. Or is a hedge against a future downturn in finances. My favourite quote is: “Any creative hobby needs materials. If having yarn to touch and compare at hand helps you with your creative process, that's not the same thing as materialism or consumerism.” For me it’s like having some hamburger in the freezer and a can of soup in the cupboard. (Yes, I “stash” food too.) I’m sure there’s a little bit of the fear of running out, a fibre drought, a tree falling on the yarn store going on here! The end of the world as we know it! OK, not the last thing. I hope. I don’t feel ashamed about it. I’m not hoarding or flaunting what I own or anything like that. I just like to purchase things when they are available and use them when I want. I have the space to store them and I’m not spending more than the household finances can afford. You also have to remember that I’ve had many decades to collect this stuff. I’m not a newbie knitter who just learned 6 months ago. I’ve been knitting for over 50 years! Half a century, people! (Ummm…that’s scary. It even scares me.) And I’ve been weaving, spinning and dyeing for over 30 years. That’s a lot of time to accumulate the necessities and the donated castoffs and the bargains and anything else that offers itself. I’ve even purchased portions of the stash of weavers and spinners who have passed on. They can rest easy because their stuff has a new home and they are remembered through the part of their stash that joined with mine.

Minimalism doesn’t appeal to me. But then neither does rampant consumerism, even for the DIY/indie/handmade stuff that’s hot in the knitting world right now. Just because someone else is buying something is not a good enough reason for me to buy it. I’m not much of a follower of trends. And of course I can spin or dye my own yarns and rovings so why should I pay a premium for someone else’s work. (More power to ’em though! I’m just not the right market for their products.) Unlike other collections, yarn and fibre can become something else. They are not like cars or comics or 50’s memorabilia because they have the potential to be made into something that has even more value than the materials it’s made from. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to make something out of your stash to justify it. Do collectors of action figures even take them out of the box? Or does that reduce the value?

I was thinking about “regular” knitters. Those are the people who buy commercial yarns in the stipulated number of balls for their chosen pattern. If they have single balls left over I can understand the desire to unload these if they don’t work with anything else in the stash. As a spinner however, I often make too much yarn for a project on purpose because you can’t run to your LYS for more if you run out. The nice thing is that many of my handspun yarns are a similar size and coordinating colours and can be combined successfully in other projects. Besides, I worked hard to create those yarns so I’m not going to just pitch them out! As I matter of fact, I’m far more likely to finish something in handspun or to frog it and use the yarn for something else just because I have much more invested in it than a trip to the yarn shop. It might cost less in monetary terms, but there’s a part of my heart and a lot of my time (and often a part of a sheep or other animal too!) in every ball.

I’ve recently discovered that my knitting tension is much more uneven than I realized. When knitting handspun small differences in tension don’t show much but when you knit with smooth commercial yarns, those differences are far more obvious. It’s not so bad with most of my sock knitting because I’m using fine yarn and finer needles and my stitches are quite tight. But with heavier yarn in stockinette, I’m pretty sloppy! Just another reason why I’m never as pleased with items made with commercial yarns as I am with my handspun. I’ll have to work on correcting the problem.

So, where am I on my current WIPs? The Pink Froth Socks are past the heel turn on both. Though I’m a bit disappointed with the way I arranged the rib stitches. They don’t flow as elegantly as I would like but I’m not going to frog them. These are wanted asap. Besides a three-year-old is not going to notice my lapse of design considerations.

With the Rose Madder wool, I’ve decided that I’m going to spin up 2 more bobbins of the slightly more orange shade and ply it with the first 2 bobbins so I have 4 skeins of more-or-less one main colour. Then I’ll choose several of the other colours to contrast. I’m still leaning toward the Brushed Lace Cardigan in IK’s current Winter 2007 issue. But it’s going to need some redesigning to fit me properly and it may or may not end up with sleeves. Depends on how much yarn I have. The nice thing about having made my own yarn for over 30 years is that I’m pretty good at adjusting for the differences between millspun and handspun. Basically using a pattern as inspiration rather than gospel. Another time I’d like to discuss how I approach this and why it seems like I’m off on a different tangent than most knitters.

Lastly, I spent quite awhile yesterday charting the sleeve caps for my Hepburn Cardi. Yeah, I know I should just “read” my knitting and wing it as I follow the pattern. But this is a cables-and-lace pattern of some complexity and I prefer to be forewarned as to what is coming up. Besides, it makes a great excuse to use Knit Visualizer! Beginning with the correct row, I just copied and pasted the stitch pattern until it was an allover grid the width of the sleeve and then followed the decreases from the pattern while “erasing” the extraneous parts with “no stitches”. This left the sleeve cap shape with the pattern stitches inside and all I had to do was clean up the edge stitches. (You can’t knit a half of a 2-over-2 cable right at the selvedge, for instance.) Now I have a complete picture of what I’m to knit, stitch by stitch! Of course I have it fairly well memorised by now and only have to check where I am as I begin each row. After a couple of hours of knitting this morning, I’m part way up the caps on both sleeves and it’s looking very nice. The stitch count keeps decreasing so it’s a good incentive to keep going! I only quit when my Palm batteries needed charging before I can listen to more podcasts. It’s a good thing to work on quietly while I’m still feeling somewhat dizzy, though I am better than I was. Day 6 and counting…


sweetgeorgia said...

Very interesting thoughts, Louisa... I'm happy to read your post. And thanks for the link to the article. Lots to think about, definitely.

Sue said...

Great post, and a good, thought-provoking article. I may have to write up my thoughts about clothing as well, though they're actually pretty much the same as yours, so maybe I'll just link to your post!

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, I don't feel the need to justify my stash of anything. It is lovely to be able to find what you need hidden away.