Monday, February 1, 2016

The Stash Less Challenge #1 - Taking Stock

I've been following Felicia Semple's Stash Less journey since it began on her Craft Sessions blog over a year ago. Her journey has made me look inward and think about my habits when it comes to crafting - what I buy, how I spend and whether the purchases get used or end up sitting in a drawer, unseen for years. Another real catalyst for me was moving house three times in a little over six months. This gave me an incredible awareness of just how much stuff I had, and since then I've donated clothes, books and homewares that don't serve me a purpose anymore. 

It's been a while since I moved house though, and I hadn't really made an inventory of my stash in a good long while. So last night, at around midnight, at the end of all of my current knitting and sewing projects, I emptied the drawers, got the yarn winder and got organised. And so begins Challenge #1 - Taking Stock.

Here is the Status of the Stash 2016, including fabric:

Going through this yarn and figuring out when and where I came across it has been a very interesting eye-opener into my stashing habits. For the most part, my stash can be categorised into a few broad groups:

Yarn given to me for /in payment of magazine work
Supporting indie dyers at craft fairs even if I have no project in mind 
The yarn isn't being produced any more so I need to get my hands on the last of it
Halfway through a project and I think I'm running out, so I buy an emergency skein just in case

All up there are 16 full skeins of yarn in my stash, which doesn't sound like a lot when I think about it. That's a good thing for me, as I like using what I buy. Nine of these have come from magazine work. A few years ago I got paid in Skeins yarn for a couple of articles I wrote and I have three 200g hanks of naked merino 4ply and three skeins of their naked chunky. These are the only yarns I have in relatively large quantities to make something quite substantial - I just don't know what yet. The other three include two skeins of Spinning a Yarn silk merino and a skein of Vintage Purls sock. 

 I can see that when I'm at craft fairs I am susceptible to buying one skein of sock yarn to tell myself that I'm being a good local supporter, even if I don't have an end project in mind. I just tell myself I can make more socks because they are totally quick and easy and I can even give them to someone if I want to! I can see at least two examples of this in the stash.

There are also two skeins purchased because the lovely yarn supply was running out and I was overcome by FOMO. 

One other skein was also purchased because I thought I didn't have quite enough for some lovely full length mittens I was knitting for a friend. Turns out I had just enough, and now I have another skein to make myself a matching pair one day. 

Then there is another bag of yarn leftover from big projects. In the photo, this is the bag at the bottom. That yellow - Red Riding Hood Yarn left over from my Chuck sweater - there's 165g of it! That's a hat, surely. Then there are two more balls of Red Riding Hood yarn of around 120g. I only purchased on hank of each colour, but these hanks must go a long way. Another hat from each, maybe? There's enough Kingfisher for another pair of socks, and I have a few ideas on what I can use the other bits for.

Problems with the stash = it's full of 4ply, in relatively small quantities. 
Aside from socks and hats, I doubt I'll be knitting anything big with any of this. Apart from the stack of naked merino, I don't have a sweater lot in here, so it's likely I'll want to go shopping at some point. 

Benefits of the stash = I'm getting better at using yarn up.

A lot of the yarn I purchased last year has been knitted. It is now a something, and not just a skein. That bag of leftovers shows me I've knitted a jumper, two cardigans, and several hats in the last year or so. I'm glad that I don't have too much that I don't know what to do with. I have a lot of ideas for a lot of this yarn, I just need to sit with my wardrobe now and figure out what's missing. 

Now on to fabric:

The fabric situation is quite different, mainly because when I buy fabric, I already have a project in mind and it gets used up fairly quickly. I think because I still find cutting fabric entirely terrifying, I only buy what I need because if I mess it up, I haven't spend too much money on it (read - another reason I'm scared of buying fancy silk).

Both of the ginghams, the blue and white stripe and the floral are left overs from other projects and are waiting to be turned into something new. This fabric may or may not remain in the stash - it might get donated. The light blue on the right is intended to be a shirt at some stage. The stamp fabric, the navy and the yellow, blue and white are all intended for dresses. The grey t-shirting is the only knit fabric, and it is very handy to combine with other knits to make raglan shirts, as evident in my last post. Also I'm pleased to note that all of this fabric is secondhand!

Footnote to the State of the Stash:

Not included on this list are things that I know I will never use. This equals three skeins of lace weight that I purchased years ago, thinking I would enjoy knitting lace (I definitely don't!) and a big bag of left over yarn from socks that I intended to make a hexipuff blanket with. I've knitted five hexipuffs in five years, all within one week of inspiration but given up on quite quickly. These skeins and bits have been added to the donations pile for the next charity shop drop-off. 

And my overall view:

I'm on the right track of where I want my stash to be. I want to have a few things in there that I can make progress on, while not being overwhelmed by how much cash I've just got sitting in a drawer, doing nothing. One of my big challenges for the year is to save some spending money for a trip to Paris, so I will be doing my very best to make from the stash instead of buying. There will be occasions where this won't be possible, and that's okay, but if I'm being much more mindful and not buying for the sake of buying, that can only be a good thing.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Linden Sweatshirt - making the most of leftovers

My Kielo Dress required a lot of fabric. And given the unusual shape of the pattern pieces, it wasn't easy to be resourceful when laying them out on the fabric. There was a lot of waste fabric, which seemed a shame given the fabric cost the better part of $60 and is so soft and light. So I did some thinking and had a look in the stash to see if there was anything I could improvise with. I think I came up with a winner.

Leftover blue merino knit + grey t-shirting, $5 from Fabric-a-brac + Grainline Studio Linden pattern = New Raglan Top!

This is the second time I've used this pattern, but the first time I've made the full sleeve, longer version. I am so happy with how this has turned out and how it's a great pattern for using up a few leftovers that might have been destined for the rubbish bin. Instead I've made a top that I'm sure will get a lot of wear, and how can you say no to merino sleeves? And another thing I love about this pattern is just how quick it is to make. A couple of hours yesterday and the shirt was all sewn up, and another hour today gave me the time to add the neckband, cuffs and waistband. I'm already planning to make these in more colours... I'm thinking grey with maroon sleeves next, although then there is a good risk of me and husband wearing matching outfits fairly often...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kielo Dress, and hiding from the sunshine

This city is beyond hot right now. The humidity is high. We're all sitting around as little as possible, perspiring a little too much, and in my case, avoiding the screaming sunshine until after 6pm when going out side is a little bit bearable. I sound like I'm complaining about the summer. And I'm sparing a thought for all those in the States caught up in the insane snow blizzard, but there's only so many layers you can remove before it gets a tad inappropriate. I've always been a winter baby. And so in my quest for shade, and making the most of staying close to the city because of work on-call duty, I've hidden away in the living room (which thankfully is west facing and doesn't sun until late in the day) and made a lot of progress on my sewing.

Here she is, my Named Clothing Keilo Dress. I've always been pretty bad at documenting my progress of any sewing project, and Keilo is no different. This time I was too scared of ruining several metres of quite pricey merino to distract myself with finding my camera and taking photos. 

I've never really worked with difficult fabric before, but let me tell you, this stuff is drapey. Every time I went to cut it, it moved. Every time I tried to pin a seam, it would take about 10 minutes to line everything up neatly. I thought about using my overlocker, but it's so temperamental that I avoided it completely, and a three thread with a knit fabric might not have worked well. The edges are unfinished, but as it's a knit, I'm not too worried.

The pattern called for a bias binding around the neckline and armholes. It was written for a woven fabric but I'd seen plenty of knit examples online. What I didn't really understand was whether you needed to use bias binding if you were making something with knit fabric. For the neckline I ended up using a strip of the merino as a stretchy binding, finishing the top stitching with a twin needle. For the armholes I just hemmed with a twin needle, wanting to avoid a bit of the bulk and also save me some time. Can you use ordinary bias binding on knits? Still a mystery to me!

 All that's left to do now is the hem - I need to enlist a girlfriend to help with this, as the finished length is a little long. 

I'm really happy with how it's turned out and it's definitely a pattern I'll use again - I'm thinking a couple of short versions for work maybe, with the additional sleeve pattern that's available. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

2016 begins!

I can't believe we're almost half way through the first month of 2016 already! If I'd set myself a new year's resolution of making sure I blogged regularly, I'd already been failing miserably. But it was quite nice to take a bit of a holiday from being online and thinking of things to write about. The new year's holiday was spent in a vintage style wonderland of a vintage caravan that's been lovingly restored by a friend's mum. A big storm hit on new year's day, but I was more than happy to sit in here for hours and just knit and read. 

I think it's great to start the year with a bit of quiet time to be refreshed for the year ahead. The rest of the holiday was spent bike riding and drinking coffee and enjoying friends' company - can't really ask for much more!

My first project for 2016 is to knit a replacement Storm Shawl. I'm just over half way through and am keeping a much better track of how I made this the second time round. 

I hope to get started on my first sewing project for the year this weekend. 

I'm going to get started on the Kielo Wrap Dress by Named Clothing. The pattern arrived earlier this week and this is what I plan to make for a friend's wedding. I need to get some fabric, I'm thinking a silk of some kind. The pattern looks quite simple, but that's probably a good thing if I'm working with slippery material. 

And in other very exciting news - last week I was accepted into a French language summer school programme in Paris, which starts at the end of June and runs for a month. So with this in mind, and wanting to enjoy the vintage and craft shopping in that amazing city, I'm going to be even more careful with what things I buy and make this year. The plan is to save enough to have a really good time on the other side of the world, and that means being really mindful of my spending. 

Aside from a couple of planned projects that have specific fabric or yarn requirements - like the Kielo Dress as there's no suitable fabric in the stash - I'll be crafting from the stash as much as possible. I'm sure I have enough in there for six months worth of making, and I am so excited for the trip that I don't want to cheat myself!

What are your crafty plans for 2016? Do you make resolutions or plan projects?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 - a year in review

If my top Instagram posts of 2015 are anything to go by, it was a big year for yellow and Chuck sweaters! Or if we are being specific, one yellow Chuck sweater!

The last year has seen me grow as a knitter. I've designed a couple of very, very simple accessories, knitted cardigans for the first time and started thinking more about what I'm making. With that in mind, I've been making things that I'm more and more likely to wear, which can only be a good thing.

I've also taken my sewing to the next level, somehow making a shirt (no sleeves - I'm still learning!) that hasn't fallen apart yet, as well as several items without any supervision!

I'm really looking forward to what 2016 will bring - no doubt more sewing and knitting adventures. My list of things to make is already filling up for the new year. I'm going to challenge myself and make a dress good enough to wear to a friend's wedding, and attempt to use up all the fabric I've found at Fabric-a-brac. Most of it is all intended for a particular project, it's just getting the motivation to get going. My knitting stash is relatively under control. There are few skeins of sock  yarn, and some odds and ends that I need a solution for, but otherwise I've been happy with my plan of only buying what I will use for a project I already have in mind. 

I think I'll do another destash early in the new year, before I go back to work. I've already tidied the craft room and my making space, which is usually so cluttered that I drag the sewing machine out to the dining table. I've found that every time I've destashed in the past, even if it's been daunting to give yarn away, or just go through it all to see how much exactly I own, I've never gone back wishing I'd kept something. And I like that. So in 2016, it will continue! All I will keep is stuff that will be used, and turned into things that myself or others will enjoy and make use of, instead of being kept in a drawer. 

Happy 2016 team! See you all in the new year!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Finishing up the last WIP of 2015

With 2015 very rapidly coming to a close (I have no idea how this year has gone so quickly!) I've decided to use my days off wisely and finish a very long-standing WIP, my socks in Happy Go Knitty Spotty BFL. I'd had a bit of a case of second-sock sydrome, that lasted quite a few months. I got distracted by cardigans, jumpers and scarfs. But with only the toe of sock number two left to finish, and the new year in sight, I thought it would be worthwhile to start 2016 without any leftovers from 2015. That's not to say I won't start a new project in the next day or two, but at least now all the project bags are empty and ready to be filled with new items. 

And in preparation for the year ahead, I went in search of a book to read at the library and came away with Why we make things and why it matters by Peter Korn. I haven't finished it yet but so far it's an enjoyable read - an autobiographical journey of one man who finds his calling as a furniture maker and a philosophical study into why people make and create. So for it has been an interesting read about craft, the human experience and the creative process. While I won't be trying my hand at wood working any time soon, I think crafters using a variety of mediums could take something from this. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Season's Greetings from mine to yours!

Here at the bottom of the world, cardigans are not usually Christmas-appropriate. Given our festive season is spent in the sunshine, with mandatory beach visits, swimming and barbecues. But this cardigan was just made for Christmas - how could it not be, with that green? So even though the sun was shining, I insisted on wearing my just-finished Netherton for the whole day, and very festive I felt, if not a bit hot...

I am so happy with how this turned out, especially after my near escape from running out of yarn without finishing the second sleeve. 

I hope you are all having a peaceful holiday with family and friends, and wherever you are reading from, you get a bit of time to take it easy after a few days of busy festivities. And I hope you get some knitting time, too!