Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Anthology - variations on a theme

Third time is a charm, they say. We say (in Finnish), the third time bears the truth. When I finished my third Anthology throw, I thought that I was done. But I have the 5th one on the needles as we speak. Is there a saying about the number five? (Other than madness?) The original Anthology throw is Helen Stewart’s design and can be found on Ravelry. I have made minor variations along the way.

I am sitting here at my dining room table on a glorious spring-winter morning when the white snow is sparkling in the sunshine. The weather is truly calling my name, but I have an urge to write a few words and hence here I am.

There are yarn balls scattered on the table in front of me and a new Anthology throw on the needles, the said 5
th one - or a variation on the theme. 

At first, I want to thank you for all the comments I have received these past weeks. Always enjoy getting them, it is nice to know that there is someone out there on the other side of the screen. I am not very active on social media, as you know. I am not on Facebook or any other platform than Instagram and this blog (on and off since 2005!). Oh, and Ravelry. I still try to upload my finished objects there, although some might escape that fate. 

I follow knitters and other makers on YouTube and it has crossed my mind to start my own channel but … I am afraid that my English voice has too strong accent for anyone to enjoy listening to. Of course I could speak Finnish and then add subtitles to the video, but in all honesty, I am not sure if I would have the skills needed to tackle all the demands in producing good content on YouTube. Plus there are so many good ones out there to watch. 

I am writing today, as I need to clarify (to me) few facts of this Anthology madness I am in. (I might have written these thoughts or similar ones already many times, I might just be repeating myself, but I need to clear my head and thus am again at this subject.)

I do not need all these throws and nobody does. I am knitting these just because I enjoy the process of seeing colors and feeling different fibers slip through my fingers. 

They say that knitting is therapy and I do agree. I could not make something; I am not sure why I am built that way, but that is a fact. It is true at the moment, and has been the past 60 years. The time, when my hands stop, is yet to be seen. Sometimes I worry that when I get even older than I am today, I will look at myself in the mirror and review all the years spent knitting and think that maybe I could have spent my time differently. Alas, I knit because I have this inner need to do so and cannot fight that. 

Why all these throws? Not socks, hats, mittens, sweaters, scarves, cardigans? (I did make two dog sweaters last fall.) Why these huge throws?

 Because I love to play with colors. 

If one has only two colors, one has to be very careful that they compliment each other in some pleasing manner. When one adds a third one, one has to be even more careful of the said combinations. When there are more colors, the easier it is to add even more and in the end they just magically work together. I have been given the advice of adding more colors when in doubt. Even the odd color spots seem like they are there out of careful planning. The truth is that in my blankets those strange colors are there because I just felt like knitting with them that given moment. My decisions are driven by my feelings, in picking of colors at least.

Most of the time, I do pick some kind of palette out of my yarn stash. While knitting, I switch colors, add new ones, toss out old ones and just will go with the flow. Many, many times I realize after a few rounds that I have made a mistake. I have learned to cherish that moment: it is brilliant, because it forces me to act to that odd color. The odd color might end up giving a whole new life and meaning to the palette.
Green is not my favorite or my comfort-zone color. I did struggle with this throw, I so wanted to add pinks and lilacs to it, but stubbornly kept it quiet green to the very end, with a few exceptions. The bright green there in the middle does feel out of space, I thought I would have more to add later on, but no, the skein was a lonely one.
The brown one has lots of colors in it, it is brown but if you look closer, you can see all the different colors hiding there.
I love to look at the edging of the yellow one, it is yellow through and through with bright oranges for interest, and because of the oranges, it is not too saturated, it is not overwhelming. 

I am sometimes asked how do I know what color to pick next. I do know the basics of the color wheel and that is my foundation. But I very much go with my instinct that has been trained with trial and error. After many mistakes (I am not afraid of ripping out if something goes terribly wrong) I have gathered silent knowledge, the kind that piles into your mind and memory without you really noticing it. 

Like some people are very good in spicing their food… they make something, taste it and immediataly know, what the food needs to be perfect. When asked, they know the basics, but otherwise they go with the silent knowledge and instinct. My color combinations are far from perfect and there is a lot to learn, but that keeps the process so very interesting. 

My colors are influenced by my mood, my state of mind, my environment, my light. I was reading a book of shadows, I don’t remember the name any more, but there was a discussion about the light and the color. It blew my mind to think that in the old times, people were forced to pick the colors in various circumstances. They did not have the luxury to only pick them in the perfect lighting but were forced to proceed in the shadows too. Imagine having to select colors in candle light or in the shadows. How would that affect the color choices?

Another reason for round throws? The surprise! One has to have the strength, the force, the power to finish the long rounds when coming close to an end. The blanket is so scrunched on the needles that it is very difficult to know the end result and that is exciting. Once the final stitch is bound off, I throw the blanket on the floor, and that moment is priceless. (My life is simple and small.) I can finally see the outcome… how did I succeed? The pile of odd skein ends and bits of new ones became this huge circle of colors. Am I happy with the end result? 

Throw is a throw, it does not need to fit, I don’t need to wear the colors but still get to use them. (I would love to dress in black only, I have to force myself to wear colors, because old woman in black can look a bit scary… I have been told! ) 

The throw is big enough for color play and there is plenty of space to change one’s mind. I did knit myself a scrappy hat, but the end result was not pleasing because I was too lazy to change yarns all the time to make it interesting. Five or six color changes did not make a lovely hat. But when there are few hundred stitches on one round, one can knit few rounds before needing to think about the color change and the need to weave in the ends. 

(When I change colors, I knit few stitches with the old yarn held with the new one. When the yarn is very slippery I secure the ends with a sharp tapestry needle.) 

It is very pleasing to be buried in the long rounds without the need to worry about the next project. I can easily cast on a thousand projects, but I do loose my interest very quickly and end up having many ratty, raveled skeins. When knitting on a big project, I do not need to fish for a new one very soon and don’t need keep on casting-on and ripping.

If you look at the pictures of the odd skeins here on my table in front of me, there are many different types of yarns there and they might vary in thickness. Round piece is very forgiving because you don’t need to get straight edges. It would be difficult to make a scarf or a shawl with straight edges with different yarn weights or different fiber qualities, as some stretch more than others. In this round form, one does not need to worry about that. 

Mohairs are my best friends, as they soften and blend the colors. I would love to knit a throw with combining colors with white or gray mohair just to see the end result. The yarn world is full of all kinds of mohairs and soft alpacas, it is very hard not to collect more. I am trying to reduce my stash so I have not bought yarn for a few months. While mohairs are blenders, I use helical stripes too, to soften the color change. These huge throws eat lots of yarn, but much less than you expect!

One good way to bring together all the different colors, is to concentrate on the border or add something eye-catching to it. I like the border to be fairly wide and I have tried to make a statement with it.

The red circle was quite pale, but the border is bright and strong.
The yellow border has bits of orange in it.
The i-cord in the brown blanket is strong. 

I have just completed few rounds on my 5th throw. I changed my increase rate from the Anthology throw, as it is knitted with Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Pi-shawl recipe. I increase more often and with less stitches. I have taken Stephen West’s shawl-design class and he gives good advice in his presentation about colors and increases and increasing. I just love to follow him and see what he is up to. He is my guru, he introduced me to this color knitting in the first place and his approach to knitting brought joy back to my knitting. I just have to mention him always. 

I think I will knit with pinks and oranges and reds. I have a few full solitary skeins that I plan to break into and use them too. I love that bright pink, and hope can find a spot for it at some point. Some of the yarns are my own hand dyed ones, some are truly old and some quite recent buys, newest are from the last year I think. 

One little tidbit, I would like to add. I use 4mm needle as my working needle, but the one that just feeds the stitches is smaller, I use 3,25mm for that. I love ChiaoGoo interchangables.

When I look at my yarn stash, I feel very lucky and very happy … there resides the thrill, the excitement, the love of my knitting. 

Be well, and wool, as always, with you, 


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Beloved stash

How are you? 

Thank you for being here again and thank you for all the messages xx. 

We are deep in January, actually January is almost behind us and spring is taking leaps in the amount of light we are gaining every single week. The weather has been mild, good for outdoors and walking. And! There has been knitting again after a few weeks of hiatus. I have finished two projects, socks and a blanket, Anthology throw by Helen Stewart.

I saw these Anthology throws knitted as advent projects last year in December. I thought about joining but I did not feel like knitting much and so I did not. Then one night after the New Year while watching tv I felt the urge to have needles in my hands again and in a whim bought the pattern, looked at my stash and picked one little skein of yarn and cast on. (Maybe I picked red since we were so close to Christmas.)

In December people were knitting with advent yarns, either with 20 gram or 10 gram balls in the order they were unwrapping their calendars. I have never bougth myself those small advent skeins so I decided to take my huge red yarn basket (at the moment my stash is organized by colors) and weigh all the little balls and everything over 20 grams needed to be wound into smaller balls so that I would never knit with more than 20 gram ball. I used few yarns more than once. 

I am not sure why this way of looking at the stash made all the difference. I have used odd balls a lot, but wrapping little balls was interesting and enjoyable. I did not make exactly the same size, did not feel like weighing ever so often. 

Also I did stick to the same color family, with a few exceptions, to have little bit of unity in the final result. (I am looking at my blue basket and am thinking of knitting my next scrap yarn project in the same manner. I have not decided on the project yet. Maybe another blanket.)

I would love to say out loud (write down) that this will be the year of stash and year of scraps and orphan skeins or 52 weeks of scrap yarn! But… if I go and declare something like that, I will just do the opposite. I will start to hanker new yarn and will keep adding to my stash every turn possible. Knowing all that, I won’t say it or won’t write it down here. But I wish, how I wish I could have the discipline to do just that.
Would love to eye the patterns and figure out how to make them with small left-over balls I have accumulated over the past almost 55 years. (Before that I used my Mom’s stash.) There is lots of various fingering weights and they are so easy to pair with another or with mohair or alpaca or some lace yarn. Just think about that… 

Every single hat or pair of mittens or socks I have ever knit, has added to the left-over pile (ok, not every!!). And then there are the lonely skeins, I overestimated how much yarn I would need for a sweater and after the final stitch was done, there was one skein plus some left over. Let’s not forget the purchases, when I just needed to buy this one beautiful skein of yarn.

The stash has been in good use for the past almost 5 years, most eaters were the four blankets I crocheted, but still there is plenty. I have knitted Stephen West shawls with odd skeins, his shawl designs are usually huge and eat lots of yarn. Thus the state of my stash is not as bad as it could be, but still there is plenty -  maybe it is 500 grams lighter now (am counting the socks too!).

Fingers crossed it will not be 5000 grams heavier next December… That could so easily happen. So very easily…

Wool with you,