(Not the Heisenberg) uncertainty principle

It took me a long while, but I eventually learned to never say never.  Things can change.  Circumstances, ideas, and above all, people, can change.  Or at the very least, if a person isn't opening her narrow mind to the infinity of possibilities, she can rephrase her sentiments.  For example, a knitter who would once emphatically proclaim: "I would never knit socks" might instead say something like, "I'm not really a sock knitter", thereby introducing the possibility, if not the probability that sock knitting might happen in her life.  Likewise, another knitter might have spent the last decade firmly entrenched in the belief that project monogamy was essential to that project's completion and also that any other path led straight into the abyss of eternal startitis.  Yet the turn of the new year has that knitter toying with the idea of starting all the projects all at once just to test the validity of that theory, because, hey, why not? and let's be honest, not a lot of knitting got done in all those years.

But that has nothing to do with me, I'm sure.

Let's talk about my recent knitting and the projects I have going.  In the fall, I cast off my first ever bona fide socks.  That's sort of a lie.  I have knit a pair of "cabin socks" as a gift and a lifetime ago, I knit a pair of hiking socks (that could stand on their own, which was helpful because no one was prepared to assist them).  What I have never knit until now is socks out of fingering-weight yarn, i.e., socks that were theoretically wearable inside a pair of shoes.  And now I have.

After that, another pair of socks happened because the first pair was supposed to have been for me but didn't end up fitting.  I learned that -10% ease is way too loose for my liking and in the interest of self-preservation, I just knit a longer foot and presented them to my partner, who also likes a snug sock.  Why waste a perfectly good sock toe and a few inches of stockinette by frogging, I asked myself.

It's a good thing I got over the frogging aversion because otherwise, this second pair would also not have fit me or any adult I know.  I'm glad I made the necessary changes because I'm pretty pleased with these socks!  It's only been in the last year that I really came to appreciate wool on my feet after randomly buying a pair of wool socks to make it to the free shipping threshold for an online order.  Am I about to become a sock-knitting addict?  Jury's out (buying more self-striping sock yarn).*

It didn't take me long to cast on another pair of socks, despite having already started multiple projects since 2018 got going.  Lest you begin to wonder, I am not really a sock knitter.  Really.

When I bought this skein of fingering weight BFL last year in this super-charming "Dalmatian" colourway by Ancient Arts (another fantastic Canadian dyer) it was to make a hat, but I tried casting on for a hat, ripped it out, started again twice more and finally concluded that this yarn just wanted to be socks.  Who was I to argue?

All this knitting has unfortunately caught up with me so to give my wrist flexors time to recover I'm taking a break from knitting and starting on my #2018makenine sewing projects.  (Aside from a couple home decor items, I haven't sewn in the last few years so this is really exciting for me.  Although, I'm not sure if the more exciting part is the fact that I now have a room in which I can actually do some sewing and not have to pack everything away at the end of the day so that we have somewhere to eat and can sit down without fear of getting stuck by errant pins.)  I happened across the Make Nine challenge for the first time just last month and I really loved the idea partly because it was like a year-long Summer of Basics** challenge and partly because following the #2018makenine tag on IG has provided a nice dose of sewing inspiration.  I've been out of the sewing game for so long that I'm pretty unfamiliar with what's been happening in terms of the range of independent pattern publishers and fabric sources available online.  Seeing what people are choosing for their Make Nine gives me a nice little snapshot of what's going on and I really enjoy seeing people tackling their projects with such enthusiasm and confidence.  I tend to hesitate for way too long before starting (or not starting at all) because I'm afraid of screwing something up or ending up with something that doesn't blow my mind away.  But disappointments will happen and it's just a part of making.  If I have any New Year's resolutions (besides the requisite commitment to stashdown and to start exercising regularly), it's to ignore the what-if-I'm-not-good-enough-fears that stop me from attempting things and just START already.

But, I'm a fan of baby steps.  My #2018makenine is pretty tame.  I have all the materials and patterns for nine projects that I'm totally stoked about making so I don't have to spend any time (or money) on acquiring stuff.  (Truly, I have all the materials and patterns for much more than this, but I think nine projects in a 12-month is plenty ambitious for me).  The projects I've chosen are not super-complicated, they are all things I really want in my wardrobe, and a few of them are already cast on or cut out.  (WIPs are fair game too, right?)  This means I've got way more projects in active rotation*** than I've ever had before.

It never occurred to me before this year that having several projects going at once might actually be more efficient if you are someone who is easily distracted when something about a task becomes frustrating or boring.  You just switch gears and pick up something else that's also on the go.  Something's getting done and it doesn't involve Train of Thought or mindless surfing.  (I used to think that if I didn't start working on an entirely different project, I still had every intention of tackling the project at hand and toiling through the difficult stages--so I would do something noncommittal, like play a game on my phone or surf, but it would be weeks before I came back to it because life only offers you so many hours to spend on a hobby.)  Which is why I'm experimenting with starting multiple projects without finishing something first.  I can't deny that this feels a bit like skipping dinner and raiding the dessert table.  Which is to say, I'm really enjoying this strategy at the moment but I fear there may be consequences.


Footnotes:

*My first two pairs of socks were knit with Striped Turtle Toes by Turtlepurl Yarns, an independent Canadian dyer based in New Brunswick.  The first colourway is "Beekeeper" which I purchased at The Knit Cafe and the second is "Comic Strip" which I found at Eweknit (both are fantastic shops in Toronto, but if you are not in Toronto, Turtlepurl's Etsy shop is well stocked).  I think I may have given this whole sock knitting thing a whirl because I enjoyed these self-striping colourways so much and I needed an excuse to buy them.  Not exactly in keeping with my stashdown goals, I know, but my guilt is somewhat assuaged by the fact that I knit two pairs of pretty fun socks as a result.

**My Summer of Basics wasn't exactly a success or a failure but it did get me to narrow down the infinite list of possible projects and I actually started (and completed!) a couple of projects.  A real triumph for a perpetual procrastinator.

***This is not to suggest that I never had a huge pile of WIPs languishing in a corner.  However, if I ever put aside a project to start something new, I had pretty much sentenced it to permanent exile.  If it didn't get frogged or chucked, it's still sitting in a box somewhere.  (Sorry, Mom.  I really do mean to come by and deal with those.)

Firsts

 

It's taken a while, but after having been a knitter for 20 or so years, I finally worked up the nerve to attend a fiber festival.  (Naturally, you are asking yourself, if I never attended these yarn fests and I rarely set foot in a yarn store, how did my stash grow so large, and the answer is, of course, the internets.)  I have some theories about why I never could convince myself I needed to go to these things, but I won't bore you with them.  (They mostly boil down to one incident when a somewhat crazed knitter threw an elbow straight into my chest at The Textile Museum's More Than Just a Yardage Sale* so that she could get to a box of old Vogue Knitting magazines before I did.)  I did eventually convince myself that the few unpleasant knitters I had encountered in those early years by no means represented the whole of knitterdom and partly by chance, I started to meet knitters outside the context of bargain mania.  I discovered that knitters are so much more pleasant when they don't think you're trying to abscond with that bag of Rowan yarn that has a price tag of $10.  Anyhow, I eventually decided that I would in fact LOVE to attend a yarn festival but it happened to coincide with my deciding that I really should not be acquiring any more yarn until my stash was under control.  So this month, after several years of yarn dieting, I decided it was safe for me to go.  Please don't conclude that I have worked my stash down to something sensible.  I have not done so.  But I have learned to control my yarn acquisition problem.**

The fates have conspired to prevent me from attending the Knitter's Frolic here in Toronto for the last two years but I had heard about the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair and decided this would be the fair that finally broke my moratorium on fiber festivals.  I was a little worried that I wasn't picking the right venue for my very first foray into the world of knitting fairs since it was being held in a hockey arena--not exactly a visual delight***-- but, the timing was right, and most importantly, I was interested in seeing the wares of a few particular vendors and this was going to be my best opportunity to do so in person.

That handful of vendors I was interested in were, not coincidentally, all local Ontario wool producers and indie-dyers.  I especially wanted to see some more**** of what my fellow Ontarians were creating because I am starting to feel pretty strongly about supporting the local economy and in particular, supporting new producers and craftspeople who are building their businesses on a model of sustainability and ethical practices.  I wanted to see in person if their products were as impressive as their enthusiasm for environmental and social issues.  To be perfectly honest, I was blown away by what I saw and by the vendors I spoke to.  Some I had heard of, a few I discovered for the first time. What really struck me about some of these particular vendors was that sustainability of production and sourceable chains of supply were not just catch-phrases to them and these were concerns they took to heart.  I.e., they weren't just talking the talk.

So let me tell you about the Fair vendors that really stood out for me.  First, how nifty is it to meet an actual shepherdess!  This was a lucky find, tucked away in the Fair's Micro Market.  Laura Sharpe of Twin Oaks Farms was super charming and young as she is, she is shepherdess to a small flock of Romney sheep on her farm near Guelph.  (I say "young", I just mean well younger than I am--not little Miss Muffet).  She sells fleece and yarn which she has processed by Wellington Fibers in Elora.  You can read more about Laura's fiber products on her website.  (In fact, I hope anyone reading this clicks through to the farmers and dyers I link in this post--I'm excited about every single one of them!)  She has chosen to sell her products undyed at this time but sometimes, those natural sheep shades are the best!  I hope to get my pre-order in on time for a few skeins of worsted from her black lambs who were born this year and won't be sheared until 2017.  (Pre-ordering yarn because it's still growing?  Kind of awesome!  I also find it so adorable that her yarns are named for the sheep who provided the fleece!)  I was a little shy of getting in anyone's way just to take some photos so all I came away with was a snap of her business card (which she had already run out of by noon!) and a quickie of the yarn I would have bought had it been a worsted weight (which will be available in 2017, hence the pre-order):

Wellington Fibres happened to be one of the booths at the Fair that I really enjoyed photographing (quickly, so as to get out of people's way, although I somehow still managed to always be in someone's way. Forgive me, Fair goers.)  The rows and rows of boxes of brightly dyed fibers were a fun touch.

Speaking of displays, Kylie of Agrestal Yarns (which I hadn't realised is based in Toronto) had a really wonderful booth.  Everything about her yarns, her colours, her displays, and the fact that Kylie herself was knitting so nimbly while standing and chatting with visitors apparently without needing to look at her work just created this magical aura!  I probably took the most pictures here because I just loved the thought and artistry she put into each area of her booth.

I can thank the KW Fair for introducing me to the colours of the Georgian Bay Fibre Co. which is operated by Carla Pletzer in Parry Sound.  Carla has an incredible range of beautiful kettle-dyed colours in bases ranging from fingering to aran which were all on glorious display in her lovely booth, minus those which had already sold out.  I only packed a 50mm lens with me and backing up far enough to capture the whole booth meant stopping traffic.  You do not want to be the obstacle between a knitter and yarn.  Believe me.  (You can check out Carla's Instagram for a better view and just because she takes nice photos).

Amusingyarns_GBFibreCo_KWFair_display.jpg

I very nearly made off with the only two remaining hanks of Bayfield Fingering BFL in the colour Windermere Hollyberry right ahead of the Fair's guest speaker, Anne Hanson, but I was pre-empted by the lady standing next to me by a matter of mere seconds. Anne, in my defence, no one knew they were reserved for you and you are welcome to blame that lady who was hightailing it out of the booth with her spoils.  I was the one left standing there, mouth agape, mourning my loss.  (I had temporarily forgotten about the internet and the existence of online shopping.)*****

The Hollyberry is third from the left. This is where I blame the arena lighting because this photo does not capture the perfect orange-tinged redness of this yarn

The Hollyberry is third from the left. This is where I blame the arena lighting because this photo does not capture the perfect orange-tinged redness of this yarn

I have forgiven myself for this yarn diet transgression.  I loved the colour even under those arena lights, and now that it has arrived via mail, I have zero regrets.  Though, if I don't get it knitted up in the next few months, I'm going to start feeling a bit silly about my eagerness to have this yarn right now.  Especially because in my grief, I stumbled over to The Gaynor Homestead's booth and bought two skeins of their absolutely perfect 3-ply Rambouillet, despite not having had that type of yarn on my list of allowed purchases.  (Having a list really works--if you stick to it.)  It's on my needles right now, which is a good sign, but I have done the thing I was never to do again which is buy more yarn than I can knit in the foreseeable future.  (I still have hopes though.  I just have to resign myself to purely selfish knitting from now until the new year.  Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.)

I admit this might have been a rebound purchase, but seriously, I get goosebumps when I squeeze the yarn, it's that nice. Bonus, the Gaynor's were a really lovely young couple and they raised the sheep themselves.  They chose to have the yarn milled in Michigan, I think to achieve the precise result they were aiming for.  I haven't decided if I'm going to dye this yarn or not because it is my idea of the perfect shade of cream and it is the natural colour of their sheep. I almost feel it would be a shame to obscure it.

There were of course many other vendors and I did snap a few pictures of other things that caught my eye, but it seemed to me that there was something there for just about everyone, even someone as particular as I am!  Now I'm really looking forward to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on October 15, 2016 and I might even accompany a group of knitters.  I feel like there has been some personal growth here, somewhere.

As an aside, my worries about the arena venue ruining the vibe were completely unfounded.  I don't think my eyes really ever strayed from all the beautiful yarns, fiber, and sample knits.  Plus, a hockey rink is about as Canadian a venue as one can get.


Footnotes:

*The Textile Museum receives so many donations from companies and private individuals that they are now running drop-in sales throughout the year.  They have a list of upcoming events if you like sifting through old stuff in search of treasures or just marvelling at what other crafters had in their stashes

**Mostly under control.  I'm not made of steel. But I have definitely made progress, mainly in identifying my shopping triggers

***I'm going to pretend the wholly unattractive quality of arena lighting is a valid excuse for the quality of my photos

****I only recently became aware that there were so many yarn producers in Ontario through my friend Kerstin of Alpaca Avenue.  I don't know if there is another yarn store in Toronto like Alpaca Avenue that carries products based on both the beauty of the product and the sustainability of its production and use, with an emphasis on Canadian and American origination. Worth checking out if those things are of interest to you!

*****I have been working so hard to retrain myself to not shop for yarn online, which I think explains this cerebral glitch

Yarnography

I sometimes wonder if I don't knit my stash yarn because it looks so much nicer as skeins.

Malabrigo "Mecha", col.43 Plomo

Malabrigo "Mecha", col.43 Plomo

(More likely it's because the yarn in its unknit form holds infinite promise whereas the knitted item sometimes falls short of those wild hopes and dreams we had when we bought the stuff.  I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring a room full of infinite promise over a dresser full of disappointment and that's why the yarn stash is so out of control.  That, and unchecked shopping.*)

As beautiful as a skein of yarn is in its unsullied state, I find photographing an appealing image of my yarn to be pretty challenging.  Something tells me it ought to be a simple task, yet I find that most (as in, nearly all) of my yarn photos fail to capture that appeal that made me buy the yarn in the first place.  Kettle dyed yarns like the Malabrigo Mecha pictured above provide a certain amount of visual interest all on their own but try photographing ten balls of a solid colour mercerised cotton or superwash wool and then you find out how good a photographer you really are.

I had a look back at the evolution of my yarn photography and I can see a progression (mainly in camera quality) but maybe not as much progress in skill as one might hope for over the course of 8 years.  Somewhere in my mind I believe that if I can learn to consistently take an eye-catching photo of any yarn, be it a hank of beautiful hand-dyed or a drab ball of workaday cotton, I'll have actually reached the next stage in my photography endeavours so I continue photographing yarn despite the slow pace of improvement.

Besides, for me, photographing yarn is the next best thing to photographing actual finished objects so it remains one of my subjects of choice, especially since the FOs have been conspicuously not forthcoming in recent years.  Also, when you come home with your latest yarn acquisition or it arrives in the mail, your enthusiasm for that yarn is at its highest and therefore, photographing it doesn't seem like something only crazy people do.

As pointless an endeavour this might seem, there are a few upsides to all this yarn photography I do.  On a practical level, it helps me keep track of what I have in my stash.  Otherwise, after newly acquired yarn gets hermetically sealed into vacuum bags and then buried alive in a storage tote, I might easily forget I have it.  (Surely, if I had kept a visual record since I first began buying more yarn than I could knit, I wouldn't have 6 different balls of nearly the same shade of blue sport-weight cotton for the occasional knitted toy project that only required a few grams of the stuff.)  Photographing yarn has also taught me several things about using a camera and how light has more properties than "enough" and "not enough".

In an upcoming post, I think I'll explore some of the things I've learned from my own past yarnography mistakes and who knows, maybe I will apply those lessons to the yarn I still have in my stash (which is most of it) to see if I really have learned anything.


Footnotes

*The shopping is actually mostly in check now and has been for a couple of years.  The yarn stash though has not shrunk significantly due to low knitting mojo.  But I'm sure I'll have much more to say on yarn stashing another day.