While we know some of you are diligent monogamous knitters, working on one project at a time, there is a segment of the knitting population who have amassed a stash… some beyond life expectancy!
As professional knitters Em and I each have a stash and constantly work to keep it inspiring and under control. Every year when Em comes to visit me from Edinburgh she shops my curated collection, finding new inspiration from skeins I had put aside. I often find myself re-inspired as well, seeing old things as new again! So, now that our woollies have been cleaned, stored, and cared for (all about Spring cleaning the knits here), it is time to set upon the stash!
For further reading I loved Hannah Fettig of Knitbot’s article about stashing yarn here.
There are so many reasons to give the stash a good toss every year, or every few months. It’s good to know what you’ve got, to gather some new inspiration for what to cast on next and of course, to keep moths at bay! While I have not seen a moth in my yarn bins, I know they are out there, lurking, waiting. The very best way to keep moths away is to go through your yarn often, moving it around and exposing it to light and air. I keep cedar balls or lavender in each of my bins as well. Keeping your yarn in sealed bins is a good idea if you have moth concerns.
The biggest debate I have is how to organize the stash. Some methods considered are:
- By brand: I currently my yarn more or less binned by brand (with a few bins of ‘miscellaneous’); because this helps me to remember exactly which yarn is which and which colourway it is etc. but there are many ways.
- By weight: weight is a good one, especially if you are the kind of knitter who finds a pattern first, then heads to the stash to see what’s there in the right quantity.
- By colour: If you prefer to choose yarn first, project second, you might prefer to sort by colour, so you know what you’ve got in a blue at a quick glance.
- By project: our lovely model Emily Read has her stash arranged by project. Each project has it’s own bag in her sealed bins, and I think she even has a sticky note with the pattern name with some of them. When she is ready for her next project she can head to the stash, simply pull a bag and she’s ready to roll!
Once you’ve tossed the stash and organized however you like best, it’s time to cast on! I mean, you just spent a bunch of time organizing, so it’s time to reward yourself in a knitterly way. Is there a skein of worsted calling out to be a new hat? Is it time to turn that SQ (sweater quantity) into an actual wearable sweater?
If you just went through your knits you may have noticed some gaps in the wardrobe. For example I know Bodhi’s mittens won’t fit next year, so I can cast on a pair for her for next winter right now. If you have a lot of those 1/4 balls lying around (as I have found I do), as well as a few lovely skeins, maybe a stash busting Marley blanket is just the thing to keep the stash manageable and create something beautiful for your home at the same time.
So tell us, how do you organize your stash?
TCK Knits to cast on immediately:
As part of our year of thoughtful knitting we have been thinking a fair bit about knitwear after it has been created. How to keep your knits looking good so they can enjoy the longevity they deserve. Our knits (especially kid knits) get a lot of love over the winter so spring seems the perfect time to do a bit of an overhaul. At the end of a long winter, your hard working woolies need a bit of love and attention, and some items will be stored away until next winter. So, collect up all of your knits, and let’s give them a good clean!
Now, there is much debate on the care of knits, depending on the yarn you use, how much you use them etc. Personally, I always hand wash my woollies, even those in superwash yarns. It really doesn’t take long and it keeps them looking great (and there’s no chance of meeting some Velcro or a snaggy zipper in the wash!).
To give your knits a deep cleaning you will need:
- wool wash
- a pill shaver of some kind
- blocking mats or a large piece of cardboard
- a few towels
- lavender or cedar balls or sealed plastic bins for storage
- If you have a lot of colourwork knits you may need a bit of vinegar
- if you have any lace you might want blocking wires and pins.
For each of these supplies there are many brands and types, but for those who want to know: I am currently using Wool Soap from Twig and Horn, I have the Gleener (and I’m quite pleased with it) to get rid of pills, my blocking mats are kiddie play mats from Canadian Tire, and I have a few lavender sachets and cedar balls for my yarn bins.
Assess your knits:
Once you have collected up your woollies you can decide:
- which ones only need a good wash (probably all of them)
- which ones should be stored away for Winter (for me that’s the mittens, there’s not much call for those around here after May)
- is there anything that needs mending (is that sweater missing a button? are there any snags or holes in your knits?)
- is there anything that’s too small or that isn’t being used?
Washing your hand knits:
To wash your knits simply fill a clean sink with cool water and a little wool wash, submerge a few items of like colours and leave them for about 15-20 minutes (note the section on colourwork knits below). Give them a good swish around and then drain the sink. Press the water out of the items (don’t wring them), and roll them in a towel. Stomp out any excess water and then lay your knits flat on your blocking boards or cardboard to dry.
While it is tempting to leave your knits outside on a warm day, just keep in mind that there are birds overhead (a perfectly lovely baby sweater I had just finished was blocking outside and lets just say I’m going to have to dye it black, because a little bird poop permanently stained it). Also know that some yarns will fade with a few hours of direct sunlight. We suggest you keep them under cover or inside.
Note on colourwork knits or any knits you suspect the colour might run with: wash these knits separately, adding a few tablespoons of vinegar into the sink with them. Don’t leave them soaking for much longer than 15 minutes, or the vivid colours may bleed into whites or lighter colours.
A little extra love: most of the sweaters in my house get regular washings and are laid flat to dry, but all the knits need a little extra love once a year. Perhaps Hunter’s sweater needs de-pilling, or Bodhi’s sweater needs a button sewn back on. I found a great little mending tutorial from Martha Steward here, in case you find any holes in your knits. Lace shawls get a fresh block (here’s how to block a lace shawl), if a sweater is well loved it gets a fresh block (here’s how to block a sweater), and anything else that has worked it’s way out of shape gets a re-block too (blocking basics here). Knits that will be stored over the summer should be washed in advance of storage, as oils and grime from use are attract moths.
Now would be a good moment to consider knits that you haven’t used in a long time, or knits that are too small. While it is always hard to give away something handmade, I find a great sense of satisfaction in knowing someone else will get some use out of it. I pass along anything that is too small for Bodhi to my nephew Ellis.
Storing your knits:
If your knits are well used you are probably sorting through them regularly and keeping moths at bay through exposure to light air and movement. At the end of the winter you may have some knits that won’t be use again for some time. I store mine in a bin and throw in a few cedar balls to help keep moths at bay. While the kids use hats and cowls when we camp or on cooler spring evenings, their mittens are cleaned and stored away, as they are strictly a winter fare around here.
Once your knits are all in order, washed and blocked, free from pills, time to go to the stash! Tune in tomorrow for the annual tossing of the stash!
Some fresh springtime knits to consider:
My son Max currently loves his hand-knit sweaters (but only has one or two that fit) and always chooses this one. It was time to add to his sweater collection, and with Max’s love of mad colours (and my own) in mind, I decided to make him a Crazyheart sweater as part of the Heart On My Sleeve KAL.
I really loved knitting this sweater! The designer Tanis Lavallée has such a talent for creating clean details and delicious knits, and I was excited to experiment with colour at the yoke…and triangles are so hot right now, right?! Tanis knit a Crazyheart sweater for each of her family members, check them out here!
I worked the 132 st body size (following the stitch counts for size 2-4 years), but since I did it in slightly heavier weight yarn, on 4.5mm needles, the finished body circumference of the garment came out to 28” around at the chest, which is near the finished chest measurement of the 6-8 year size. With that in mind, I made body and sleeves 12-13” long, which corresponded with 4-6 or 6-8 year sizes. So while the sweater is really long on him now (he’s nearly 3), it will probably fit until he’s 6, or so I’m hoping!
For the ‘heart on my sleeve’ I used the little heart motif designed by Mary Jane Mucklestone – I worked it 3 times, for a long section of hearts.
If you haven’t already checked out the Heart On My Sleeve collection, you give it a look now! The ebook includes 8 yoke designs by 9 designers, and all proceeds from the sale of this ebook are donated to the Against Malaria Foundation. Designs were donated by Shannon Cook, Romi Hill, Bristol Ivy, Tanis Lavallée, Joji Locatelli, Jane Richmond, Ysolda Teague, and Alexa and I at Tin Can Knits. We’ve already donated over $40,000 USD, which buys 16,178 nets, which will protect 29,000 people (the entire population of 50-60 villages). Why malaria? Well it’s preventable (no one need die), yet it kills half a million people every year, and 70% of those who die are children under 5. Learn more here.
My colour vision for this Crazyheart sweater was inspired by one of the Prism hats that I made while working on Mad Colour. I love the way teals, reds, and oranges interact with each other, in fact it’s one of my favourite colour combos.
With the body knit in a rich variegated red in Malabrigo Rios, I pulled out my stash of scraps of Rainbow Heirloom Sweater yarn in a wide variety of colours, grouping together the ones I thought might work for the yoke pattern.
First I determined that I wanted the red / MC tone to flow through the yoke, and that I wanted to use teal blues in contrast. I coloured a few options in to see what might work.
Planning can take you only so far, so I got started, and knit the yoke. I didn’t get it quite right on the first try, but with a small adjustment, I ended up with a sweater I love!
KAL roundup … and Prize Winners!
Perhaps you’re one of the lucky KAL participants to have won the epic prizes? Chosen by random number generator from among the 160+ entries:
- trixieterrible won the Fringe Supply Company Woolelujah tote
- jorunnellen won the Pom Pom Magazine Take Heart gift pack
- PlanetAnnaKnits won a sweater amount of Dovestone DK donated by Baa Ram Ewe
- sls8201 won 5 skeins of WYS Fleece DK in ‘ecru’ donated by The Loveliest Yarn Company
- sarahjg2 won the TFA palette donated by Tanis Fiber Arts
- OldEnglishRose won 7 skeins of YOTH Big Sister in ‘raw honey’ + 1 skein of YOTH Big Sister ‘blue raspberry’ donated by YOTH yarns
- RavelJ won a SweetGeorgia party of five gradient + 2 skeins Superwash DK donated by SweetGeorgia Yarns
AND, because we always like to give away a little bit extra, Alexa and I are donating an ebook of her choice to RoHart, who knit not one but TWO lovely adult size sweaters for herself, and Paperdaisy1 who made the most adorable set of Easter sweaters for her 4 boys, including 2 sweaters from Heart On My Sleeve.
There were so many exquisite KAL entries! Each had knit at least one sweater, and many have already knit more than one from the Heart On My Sleeve collection. I’ve included a sampling of some of our favourites below, but do browse the FO thread to see them all!
More lacy TCK sweaters you might like this spring:
So I guess we’re biased.
Sometimes people ask why we’ve gone so ‘all in’ with the baby knits. Or they think that Tin Can Knits only designs for babies and children.
To be honest, it surprises me that some people see our work in that way! But then I look at our Instagram feed (currently full of babies and baby knits) and I get it.
This (adorable) bias in our work really has a lot to do with timing, and our personal lives. I think that in general, creative people’s work is heavily influenced by their personal lives, and in this Alexa and I are no exception!
We started designing together as Tin Can Knits when we were 26 and 28 years old. We released our first collection, 9 Months of Knitting, in 2011, when Alexa’s first baby Hunter was 9 months old. As we developed the designs for our second book, Pacific Knits, Alexa was pregnant again, and suggested that we size all of the designs from baby all the way up through adult, because she was a new mom, obsessed with baby knits and in love with the idea of matching baby and mama sweaters. So began the baby-to-big sizing which became our way of design.
Truthfully, although I was on board with the baby-to-big concept, at that time I wasn’t much interested in knitting for babies, not having any of my own, and not being terribly interested in other peoples’ either for that matter! When I put together Handmade in the UK in 2013, my focus was really on adult garments and lace pieces, although Alexa couldn’t help but knit some tiny versions for Hunter!
But in that book, there were the seeds of change that would come soon in my life… The Vivid blanket was a design that hinted at my future hopes for babies.
Since my son Max was born in 2014, we’ve done another ‘baby book’; Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe, and two more ‘whole family’ collections; Road Trip and Mad Colour. While every garment we design is sized up to adult, the fact of the matter is that those little tiny knits just seem to pop off the needles so much more often than adult knits do!
Most recently released is our collaborative Heart On My Sleeve charity ebook, in which we convinced some of your other fav designers to size the patterns they donated from baby to big too!
So now, with our children aged 5, 4, 2, 2, and nearly 1, I suppose it is true, we’ve gone all-in with the baby (and kid) knits.
So it’s a hazard… the Tin Can Knits Instagram feed can get a little baby-saturated at times. But you’ll have to forgive us as our work tends to reflect our life, and life right now is pretty baby-saturated! While our designs are sized to fit us too, the knits that end up coming off the needles at a much more rapid pace are sized to fit little ones. They’re so quick to knit, and are an ideal way to prototype ideas for future designs. And in our defense, we get a LOT of pleasure watching our darlings romp around in woollies.
Make it for ME… planning for Me Made May
While our recent output has been seriously biased toward the little knits, this year I am highly motivated to enhance my own sweater wardrobe. As I begin to learn how to spin, I expect there will be some accessories for me, worked in my new handspun yarns too!
Recently off my needles is this new bulky beauty, a prototype which may or may not be developed into a pattern some day.
Also, my group of knit friends are currently enjoying a personal KAL, each of us making an Enchanted Mesa sweater by Stephen West. I’m working with scraps and bits and bobs of lovely yarns, held together for fabulous marled effects. I can’t wait to wear it!
Plus, as I’m not planning any new babies (2 is enough!) I can now wear a good number of my old sweaters and samples, and my aim is to develop my wardrobe in ways that really make these knits shine!
Do you knit for baby or big?
Everyone knits for their own reasons, and our motivations have changed as our lives changed and our families grew! How about you? When Me Made May comes around this year, and you share photos of your handmade items, will they be modeled by you, by lucky friends, or beloved little ones? Or do you knit for charity?
Last May, in the first month of my daughter Neve’s life, I dressed her in so many teeny tiny sweaters – you can check them out in our post about MiniMeMadeMay. This May, tiny knits for her will likely be my main focus, but this time she’ll be a year old, still my baby, but a bigger baby now.
Who are you knitting for? Share your knit story with us!
Cute on both little ones and the ladies:
It is a common misconception that all of Canada is very snowy. Here in Vancouver it is usually very rainy, usually not so cold, and very seldom snowy (this year being one of the crazier exceptions in my lifetime). We do not deal with the well below freezing temperatures of the prairies! We have the ocean to temper things, and the mountains to insulate things. Why the geography lesson you ask? Because 1999 is the perfect sweater for such a climate! Warm worsted weight for the chill, but an open lace so you don’t over heat. It’s the Goldilocks sweater, juuuuuuuuust right!
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about sweater wardrobes and the 1999 hits a lot of the key points for me. It is a quick knit (as sweaters go), with a simple construction, and some lacy interest to keep me going. A perfect sweater to throw on with jeans and a tank top, one of my favorite uniforms. I may have to cast one on to wear at Knit City this year!
We used the scrumptious SweetGeorgia Trinity Worsted for the originals. It has an amazing drape to it, and the silk gives it a lovely shine. The layering possibilities for this sweater are great, you can see the difference above when Natalie is modeling with a black tank top vs. a pink one.
Emily and I have each knit a 1999 since Mad Colour, one for Hunter and one for Max. Hunter’s is in Rainbow Heirloom Sweater in ‘princess rockstar’, it was her sweater for her very first day of Kindergarten. Max’s version uses a more rustic yarn Emily bought at a fall fair, a mulespun 100% canadian wool that’s hand-dyed a great subtle grey-blue.
I’m excited to cast on a 1999 for me, but I also have a few more baby sweaters to knit before the year is out so a wee one might have to go on the needles too!
More lacey sweaters from TCK:
Hey, Stephen West has been saying it for years, and he couldn’t be wrong, right?! And thousands of knitters on Instagram agree…
We’ve been loving the speckles lately, how about you? Do you have a sweet stash of speckled yarns calling out for just the right project? Let’s take a look at the joyful spattering of contrast and serendipity you find in speckled yarns, and look at a few ways you might put those precious skeins to work!
knitty gritty speckled details!
First, grab a yarn that you love! I’ve got a few really lovely speckles in my stash just waiting to be enjoyed; lets look at these beauties in detail!
Left Column, then right column; top to bottom:
- Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in ‘Monarch’
- Colinette Jitterbug (discontinued, this is vintage stash – it was actually one of the few skeins I brought with me from Canada when I originally moved my life to the UK in two suitcases… I love it THAT much); in ‘Blue Parrot’
- La Bien Aimee Merino Singles in ‘Aimee’s Sweater’
- Baerenwolle BAERfoot Sock in ‘Turquoise’
- Sparkleduck Solo in ‘Here be Dragons’
- Baerenwolle BAERfoot Sock in ‘One of a BAER’
What do you think? I’d say the Sparkleduck and the Colinette fall a bit more into the category of ‘handpaint’ or ‘variegated’ or ‘multi’ colourways, as opposed to what folk are calling ‘speckle’ these days, which typically refers to shorter shots and dots of colour overlaid on a natural or tonal base colour. But the tips for working with speckles apply to variegated or handpaint colourways too.
Another one I’m working with right now is a LUSCIOUS colourway called ‘Turbillion’ in The Uncommon Thread BFL Fingering. Words cannot properly describe how much I adore this yarn; it’s a deep grey overlaid with speckles of gold, blue, and red. Colour genius!
choosing a project; a few tips for your speckled lovelies
There are a few things that tend to work out well. One technique is to pair a speckle or variegated yarn with a semi solid, to break up the crazy a little bit, and frame it.
You can do the same with a fair-isle pattern by using a speckle, semi-solid, or variegated as a contrast colour, as long as there is a strong contrast between this CC and the main colour.
One of the best things to do? KISS … Keep It Simple (with) Speckles!
Some of the best projects I’ve seen speckles worked into were the simplest ones! Our Simple Collection is a great place to start, with 10 simple and free designs that are perfect to get that speckle out of the stash and onto the needles!
Who dyed your speckle? We always love to hear a good yarn recommendation! Let us know in the comments, or share your photos and tips on your favourite social spot #specklesaresohotrightnow
Simple TCK designs that work well with a speckle: