Oh no, I love it

Do you ever do something in hopes that you'll be proven wrong? That you'll find out that doing things the hard way isn't worth it after all?

I cast on a sweater on 2.5mm needles. I've knit sweaters out of tiny yarn before - I've made a laceweight cardigan, but it was tiny yarn on great big needles for an airy wisp of a sweater. Not this. This is substantial fabric, not a hole in sight.

Tiny, tiny stitches. Delicate little stitches in stockinette and twisted rib. Over 300 stitches per row.

Reader, I'm heartbroken to say that I adore it.

I don't really wear most of my handknits. Even DK feels too chunky most of the time. I overheat, or the thick fabric gets in my way, or it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of my outfit. Whatever the reason, I just don't wear them that often. (Not never...but not often enough, and not as often as they deserve.)

I'm ashamed to say that most of the knitwear I've been wearing the past few winters has been shop-bought. So thin and versatile!

I had stashed away some seriously beautiful sock yarn. I say sock yarn, but it doesn't have the qualities I like in a sock yarn. It's too soft, gently spun, squishy. The ball begs to be petted. I can't see it as socks, but it's a beautiful yarn nonetheless - the sadly discontinued Regia Angora Merino. The colour is a rich purple, a saturated yet dark aubergine. It's soft and smooth with just a tiny haze of bunny hairs sticking out.

It's the kind of yarn that I am happy to be running through my fingers for a few hundred thousand stitches.

So I have a special yarn, and I have a lovely pattern (simple, elegant, with just enough interest - Oolong by Laura Chau), and I have a light but warm cardigan to look forward to.

Sure, it's a little disheartening to knit for an hour and a half and only have 2cm to show for it... but if I can just sustain my momentum a little while longer, keep admiring the fabric, keep petting the skein, I'll get through it and I'll have a sweater I can actually add to my everyday wardrobe!


An assessment of WIPs

On a lark the other day I decided to check if some of my favourite old blogs were still updating. Turns out, the Yarn Harlot is still going strong.

WIP work in progress knitting projects

I found this post of hers rather inspiring: An airing of UFOs and taking a good hard look at them.

The beginning of the year brings out a decluttering urge in me. Or if not decluttering, at least surveying my hoard. I'll never be a minimalist (not even close), but sometimes it feels good to let go of things that are burderning you, rediscover lost loves, and just get a sense of where you are with everything.

I keep a lot of things on the needles. I have a short attention span and a fickle heart. I know this about myself and I don't try to restrain myself too much - knitting is my hobby, after all, and in the grand scheme of things, a halfway-finished project isn't a tragedy.

But I lose things, and I forget things, and my body changes shape, and my tastes change, and worst of all, sometimes the moths come. So it feels like a good idea to take out all those projects and get a sense of where they are.

PS: If like me, you haven't been keeping up with Yarn Harlot, I highly recommend this post about the whole family knitting a wedding blanket. It chokes me up a little.

Now, on to the WIPs!

Angostura Vest

Debbie Bliss Rialto brown knitted vest work in progress

I'm surprised to see I only have a few inches done on this, because it felt like I had put a LOT of work into it already. I spent a long time planning it, trying to figure out how gauge works between ribbing and negative ease and a yarn that will stretch.

Its fate: So long as I can find my notes, I'd like to pick it up again, hopefully before next winter. But with the fiddly cables plus the fact that I'll need to seam it, I might not actually finish it this year.

Sheep Heid

Love this in theory, but there are two problems:

1. I didn't check gauge, it's too big, I'm planning to felt it but I'm scared about how that will go.

2. Moths have struck. I took the project off the shelf and one of the little things flew right in my face. Now it isn't as bad as it could be - they only just started to nibble, there are a couple of broken threads but no big holes. It's fixable.

Its fate: I'm putting it away for long enough to get over the moth trauma, and then we'll see what I can do. It's halfway done! It's handspun!

Hexipuffs scrap blanket

tinyowlknits hexipuff quilt blanket from scrap yarn

This project is stored on a shelf just above my bed, so I see it all the time, just staring at me.

It's a weird one - one of my oldest projects, and every time I re-visit it I think that I'm very close to finishing it, and then something else comes up. I'm running out of stuffing. Or it's not quite big enough and I need to add some extra columns. Or I need to mend it. Etc.

Its fate: Yeah, I'll finish it off one of these days...

Un-puffed Hexipuffs

golden brown honey coloured knitted hexipuff hexagons

What kind of monster am I, casting on a second project in the same pattern before I finish the first one? My fickle heart. In a moment of weakness, I hunted down every variety of beautiful honey-coloured yarn I could find, to make this honey-themed honeycomb blanket. I love it, it's my dedicated on-the-go project.

Its fate: I adore it. There's a hole in my life when I don't have hexipuffs to work on.

Kalajoki socks

Kalajoki purple twisted stitch socks

Picked this up again just recently, after thinking about how much I loved the yarn. This is The Fibre Co Cumbria Fingering, a wool/mohair blend in a very heavy 'fingering' weight which makes a beautiful cushy fabric. And oh, that colour! A bright red-leaning purple with just a hint of heathered dimensionality.

Its fate: Back in the saddle! Nearly finished the first sock.

Garter Stitch Mashup Blanket

This project isn't bad, I just have a glut of blankets in the house at the moment, so there's no urgency. I have two crocheted blankets in the rotation, I received a nice big one for Christmas, I have a really beautiful quality woven alpaca blanket from my mom, and we have one for every chair and sofa space. We're not wanting for blankets. So I'm not compelled to work on this, even though it's reasonably fun.

Its fate: Save for later.

Leighton House mitts

Beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. This pattern, and this yarn, makes me wax poetic. The way the colours shine on Wensleydale. The delicacy of it. The way it's silky, but woolly at the same time. I'm smitten. But I know exactly why I put this down. The colourwork is too much for my tiny brain to handle.

Its fate: I'll keep it in mind for the day when I want more of a challenge.

Dreambird shawl

I've gotta pick this back up sometime. I know why I bounced off it - the instructions are funny, and I made some mods, so each row was a lot of thinking. But if I can get into the swing of it, it could be something really fantastic.

Its fate: Read some other people's project notes and try and make sense of things.

Rainbow Scale Mitts

Wow, how 'bout this one. I made one mitt already! I'm half way through the second! Why did I drop it?

This was intended to be a design. I love this stitch pattern. It won't be worth it to publish this pattern, but I owe it to the mitts to finish them. It would only be the work of an afternoon or two.

Its fate: Pick it back up when I need some instant gratification.

Pink socks

OK, *this* is probably my oldest WIP. Look, it's on double-pointed needles! I haven't knit a sock on DPNs since... I can't recall. I don't love the yarn, I don't love the colour, and I think I was only knitting these to get a chance to re-photograph this pattern (one of my own designs).

Its fate: This one is on notice. I'm not frogging it, yet, mostly because I don't think I could do anything better with the yarn either.

Handspun Romney shawl - Emanuela

I have complicated feelings about my lace projects. My style and identity have evolved since my days of wearing lace shawls. Dang, this is pretty nice though. Handspun Romney, the yarn is thin but strong.

Some of the edge stitches fell off the needles and laddered down, so I have to do some restoration work before I knit this again.

Its fate: Save for later.

Lady Russell shawl

Oh. *Oh*. Hello, beautiful.

(Forget what I just said about lace. This, I would wear every day of my life.)

I didn't get to keep the sample of the original Lady Russell shawl from Jane Austen Knits, so I cast this on pretty soon after finishing that so I could have one of my own. Decadent yarn, big lovely shawl, with a real weight to it. If I remember right the lace pattern is relatively intuitive. I'd like to make this one of my projects this year.

Its fate: Put this one on deck for after I've finished a couple other things.

Icelandic Shawl - Lambton Panes

Good yarn and pattern combo, I just need to get into the headspace for it.

This is Einband yarn that I got in Reykjavik 4 years ago, and now I've since been to Iceland once again. Oops. Well, at least I didn't bring back any yarn this time.

Its fate: I can't see myself working on it at the moment, but I want to finish it eventually.

Peaks Island hooded scarf

It's a scarf. A seed stitch scarf. Dear god.

Its fate: I'm halfway done, so I'll consider picking it up again soon. But if that doesn't stick, then it's off to the frog pond.

Missing in Action

I know I have these projects in the house somewhere, but can't locate them at the moment.

Oolong Sweater (rav link)

How do I lose two finished sleeves and a sweater's worth of yarn? Just Joy things. I would like to pick this up soon if I can find it, as a few miles of stockinette in tiny yarn would do my soul good.

Ten Stitch Blanket (rav link)

Garter stitch blanket of handspun wool samples. It's been hit by moths before and it probably has again, wherever it is. It can stay in its corner until I feel like doing some mending.

Queen Anne's Lace (rav link)

I don't know about this one. It's beautiful, and I mean beautiful. The yarn is gorgeously delicate, and a great colour. But I don't wear my lace at the best of times anymore, and I certainly wouldn't wear a circular shawl. It'd be one of those projects that I cast off, block, look at lovingly, and shove into the back of the wardrobe. Even if I find it, I don't see myself finishing it, at least for now.

I am really glad I took this opportunity to take stock, and I've been inspired to pick up a few of these projects or slot them in later in the year. The temptation to cast on new projects is great, but I was really losing sight of everything I already had!


The humbling experience of learning to knit all over again

Someone I know lost half of her index finger. She was an avid knitter and crocheter, and it's been hard for her to have her crafts taken away from her. This Christmas, I'm hoping to help her back into knitting. I ordered two sets of Tunisian Crochet hooks - the extra-long crochet hooks with space to hold extra stitches - and a yarn-tensioning pin.

The technique where the yarn is held in front, flicked with the thumb, and tensioned around the neck or a tensioning pin is commonly known as Portuguese Knitting, though it's used in many places around the world including Peru, Turkey, and Egypt too.

I can't say for sure yet whether this knitting style will be suitable for my friend - but since there are different movements and different muscles involved, it's worth a try.

Before I can show her how to get started, of course, I have to be familiar with this style of knitting myself! I used these instructions by Andrea Wong from Piecework magazine. Andrea also has a wealth of videos, including more advanced stitches, on her Youtube channel.

My personal style of knitting is a little bit idiosyncratic - resting the righthand needle against my body, left hand moves the stitch, right middle finger flicks the yarn. I never learned the proper English 'throwing' style. But I've learned a few other techniques - Contintental knitting, two-handed colourwork, backwards knitting... so picking up a new style should be no big deal, right?

Yes and no! The first few rows were intensely humbling. Where do my fingers go? What do I do with the yarn?! For a moment I was transported back to making my very first garter stitch scarf. But after those first few rows I understood what I needed to do, and a few more rows after that I even got into a rhythm. Having some years of knitting under my belt helped - I could tell at a glance whether the stitch was correct after I'd made it - and my friend has many decades more experience than me, so she should be able to get into the swing of it too.

The hooked needles are a revelation, honestly. I felt like I didn't need as much fine control in my fingertips because the hook was doing the work for me. It's a very pleasant way to purl!

The left-hand hook did get in the way a little bit but I just had to keep it rotated so that the stitches would slide off and not get caught in the hook. (I needed hooks on both sides because I'm knitting flat -- but most of the hooked needles I've seen *meant for this style* are DPNs with the hook on one side, so you're knitting off a smooth needle, and onto a hook. In the round = no turning, no need for a hooked left needle!)

The hooks are not necessary for this type of knitting, but I found it a great help, and I think they would be especially good for anyone with motor issues, RSI, or other issues with their hands.

I'm pleased to have had a short introduction to a new technique, and I look forward to showing it to my friend. Hopefully it will work for her and this will let her start creating again!


The Ravelry Thing

Wednesday marks a bitter milestone in the knitting community. Ravelry, which has had its cheery green and red colour scheme since 2007 (the same year I started knitting), is removing its Classic theme and forcing all users over to one of their NuRav themes. The themes that have caused some people eyestrain, migraines, and even seizures.

The Ravelry redesign has been a huge topic in the knitting community, despite Ravelry's attempt to shut it down on all of their platforms. (Noticed the closed comments on Twitter and IG? Noticed how every Facebook post says there are dozens of comments, but only shows a handful? Noticed the strange lack of -any- conversation about this topic on the main Rav forums?) There are many people out there who have been leading the campaign for better accessibility of the site, and many people who can explain the history and situation better than I can.

I am deeply, deeply disappointed in the response that the Ravelry team has provided.

Rav used to be, hands down, my favourite site on the web. The usability, the information inside, the community. How many helpful little features were added to make my life easier or, simply, to delight. It was my home online, for a long time. I never really got involved in any other online fibre communities, because it was all in one place.

I used to sing Ravelry's praises to anyone who would listen (not just knitters - I thought it was a star example of a website, In General). I can no longer in good conscience do that.

Personally, I am fortunate that I merely find the new design ugly and less usable, rather than outright harmful to my health. The information hierarchy is bad, it's hard on the eyes, the icons are too small, but I can grit my teeth and carry on. So I'm not boycotting the site entirely - I think about the other websites I use on a daily basis, and the heartless corporations that own them, and the compromises I make every day to exist in the world we live in. So I won't go so far as to stay off the site for good.

But I will bear in mind that there are many people who can not, or will not, use Ravelry, and I respect them and I intend to include them.

(In terms of my patterns, everything that is on Ravelry is also on LoveKnitting, and my best-selling designs are also in my Etsy shop. It's a crying shame that Rav so strongly dominated PDF pattern sales that, a couple years ago, I could have listed several other shops that now no longer sell patterns.)

The way they have completely shut down any discussion on any of their platforms - on- or off-site - is absolutely infuriating. The way they have belittled actual people's pain and tried to sweep it under the rug is deeply hurtful.

I felt a deep betrayal when I saw the situation unfold. It was like losing a friend - but we should remember, despite the parasocial closeness we may feel, the Ravelry staff are not our friends.

The community spirit was a good business move. We made the site what it is - enriching it with our user-generated content, setting up and managing groups, sharing our knowledge, adding patterns. If no one ever added a project or posted in the forums, Ravelry would not be half the resource that it is today. Ravelry is its community, and that's why they did us so dirty.