National No-Knitting Writing Month

55,000 words in 25 days. Not too bad. Well, the words themselves are terrible, but the fact that I got it done was good.

Overall, November has been a very strange month. We’ve had two visitors, I’ve taught one and a half classes, one days of talks in Glasgow, two research visitors and almost no knitting! Eek!

So two weeks after my last post, where I had no knitting to show, I have no knitting to show. Instead, I’m going to show you my much less organised stash.

I keep most of my yarn in the “yarndrobe” which is actually an Edinburgh cupboard. Apparently this is a thing here, to have a very shallow cupboard with shelves, and mine is filled with yarn, knitted shawls and some undyed fibre. I store most of my yarn in zip lock bags to avoid pests.

So that’s my yarn stash.

Well, apart from the stash in the double ottoman in the front room. That’s where I tend to keep my hibernating projects, a lot of my spinning fibre and some sock yarn that hasn’t made it into the yarndrobe.

So that’s my yarn stash.

Well, except for the WIPs. They live on the bottom shelves of the bookshelves beside the sofa, along with my knitting books, swift and ball winder.

And that is really my yarn stash. Really and honestly, that’s it.




This is how my stash looked a few weeks ago. You can easily spot that my favourite colours are blue and purple, with a splash of green and some rainbows. It’s mostly lace and sock yarn with a few odd balls of other weights, none enough for a decent project. Sock yarn I think is the most useful and versatile yarn and even one 100g skein is enough to make lots of different pretty patterns. Now it is in three boxes: lace, sock & other.

There have been a few comings and goings since then, but not many. I decided that I wouldn’t spent as much time admiring new yarns or lusting after patterns I didn’t have the yarn for if I focused on what I *do* have and what I can make with that. So I dug out every skein of yarn, photographed it, entered the details into ravelry and uploaded the picture. So now I can see what I have no matter where I am – including in the yarn store!

The second great advantage is that when I come across I pattern I can check if I have any suitable yarns, then add the pattern to my queue with the yarn options selected. Then when I got to look at any yarn in my stash all the patterns I would consider for it show up on the page. It’s really an excellent way to organise and optimise.

Together these aspects help me to avoid SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy). Although, with the amount of laceweight yarn in my stash and my inability to knit anything more complicated than stockinette at the moment I might be SABLE already. I have been trying to take part in Stashdown – where you try to knit as much from stash as possible. For some people it means knitting exclusively from stash, for others knitting from stash if possible. Knitting exclusively from stash doesn’t work for me since my stash is so lace-based. So I knit from stash if I have something appropriate and only buy yarn for a specific project. Like the aran yarn I bought to make a hat for a friend. So far so good but it can be very tricky when I see really pretty yarn!

How do you manage your stash? What sort of stash acquisition policy do you have?

Cubics, huh, what are they good for?

I got an early Christmas present this weekend, a full set of Knit Pro Cubics! I’ve been hearing about these square needles for a while, and finally I have a chance to try them out! Some of the good things that people have been saying about them is that they can be less stressful on the hands and wrists, and that they can fix tension problems such as rowing out (where you knit and purl stitches are slightly different sizes, creating inconsistencies in stockinet).

Cubics interchangeables

The set itself is a wooden tipped interchangeable set. The tips range from 4mm (unlike their other sets that start at 3.5) to 8mm, a total of seven pairs. There are also four cables, 60cm, two 80cm and a 100cm, plus the usual end caps and cable keys. The cables are black, rather than the usual Knit Pro magenta.

So the first question is, what does 4mm actually mean for a square needle? When we talk about a 4mm needle usually, we’re referring to the diameter, but the important measurement is the circumference, which is 2*pi*r where r is the radius, or pi*d where d is the diameter. According to the cubics, 4mm refers to the diagonal of the cross section, so each side of the square of a 4mm needle will be 2*sqrt(2) in length. So the total distance around the needle is 2*sqrt(2)*4.

So in actual numbers, this amounts to 12.6mm for the round needles, and 11.31mm for the square. The 3.5mm round needle has a circumference of ~10.99mm, so a 4mm square needle is closer to a 3.5mm round needle. On the other hand, the square 4.5mm needle has a distance of 12.72mm, so 4.5mm square is closest to 4mm round.

(Of course, this all operates on the assumption that the yarn hugs exactly to the contour of the needles. Probably fine for laceweight, but  probably a less fair assumption for thicker yarns or stiffer fibres, like cotton.)

Cubics close up

So this has two main upshots.

First, you’re going to have to swatch. This is probably a good thing, at least for me, because I do need an incentive to do that work. I haven’t been caught out yet, but it’s only a matter of time. If I have to swatch because I can’t just expect my needles to be right, then that’s got to be a good thing.

The second thing is that it gives you more options for getting gauge. Sometimes I’ve found that the listed needle size isn’t right, but one up or one down takes me too far to the other side of the gauge. Now if my round 3.5mm are too small, and my round 4mm are too large, I can try the square 4mm and hopefully find that sweet spot.

In order to experiment, I want to take some left overs from Catriona, and try knitting up on round needles and square needles. The two things I want to look at were gauge and tension. I also want to try things like cables and decreases to see how they’re affected. So much fun to be had!

Unfortunately, with work commitments, and nanowrimo, I’ll have to save that for another day. One thing I have noticed though, knitting with cotton on the cubics is much less hard work. I think this is because the cotton is so stiff, it doesn’t hug the square like wool does, so you get bigger stitches on smaller needles. So my gauge will be larger but the stitches slip and slide around with no problems.

Cubics knitting up cotton

One final comment, how to check needle size? When the printed sizes wear off the tips, as they will if the other needles I have are anything to go by, can I still tell which tip is which? In theory a needle gauge designed for round needles will still work, since the measurement is on the diagonal. In practice, I did find my 4mm squares didn’t quite fit through the 4mm hole. It was marginal, but something to bare in mind. On the other hand, if you’re knitting to gauge rather than needle size, then the exact numbers are less important.


I’ve been a terror on my WIP schedule recently. I’d love to blame nanowrimo, but it kinda happened before then. I did cast on a new thing a couple of weeks ago, and I have these new needles to put through their paces. Currently I should have

Monday: Shawl 7.0

Tuesday: Sparkley socks

Wednesday/Thursday: The big silk shawl of doom’s border, and the newly cast on green sparkly shawl.

Friday: Shawl 3.0.

So out of my 15 initial WIPs, I’ve finished four, frogged two, and cast on one, leaving me with 10 projects, half of which are hibernating. Not too bad, I think. I’m looking forward to seeing how Ardara comes along.


Each year I try to knit one garment (cardigan or jumper) for me with yarn from my birthday, usually a present from my parents. Last year it was the purple Fez cardigan, the year before ‘Amused’ in blue thistle. This year it is Ardara by Carol Feller which I’m knitting in a lovely purple-heathered blue aran Irish wool. It’s from the book Contemporary Irish Knits – a veritable delight in modern Irish designs for Irish wool. I have a signed copy of it and can’t wait to knit more patterns from it.

I had to start with a large size for the hips of doom and then decrease down extra to an appropriate size for the waist and top. Hopefully it will work out ok! I decided to learn how to cable without a needle for this project, following the Grumperina method. At first it was much slower – that purple cardigan had given me great practice at cabling. Over the many many rows though I’ve warmed up to a reasonable speed. Especially as there’s no longer a cable needle to drop and chase after! I can’t wait to finish this cardigan. I usually start my annual cardigan at the start of October and finish it sometime in January. -The colder weather boosts my motivation to finish which negates the rising tedium of still knitting the same thing. I knit up the armholes quite quickly. Then the two separate fronts, with neck shaping, sleeve increases and shoulder shaping really slowed me down. I have the same piece on the back, the collar, the buttonbands and the sleeve edgings yet to go.

I had hoped to finish it early – partly because I want to wear it and partly because I was considering NaKniSweMo. That is: National Knit a Sweater Month, to complement NanoWrimo, national novel writing month where people commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Instead knitters commit to a sweater of at least 50,000 stitches. I realised it would be mad to consider this, especially with a thesis due in two months. Between Ardara, baby jumpers and other gift knitting I just won’t have time – regardless of study! Particularly since himself has requested  a pair of Milo socks for Christmas which adds charted cabled socks to that list. I had better get the socks of doom off the needles quickly – thankfully I am at the heel of the second sock now.

Hopefully by my next post I will have a complete Ardara and a pair of socks. Or at least some more of my thesis written!