Ravellenic Games 2014

This month I had the great privilege of captaining the Stashdown Ireland Team for the Ravellenic Games. The Games take place alongside the Olympics, where ravelry members are encouraged to take on and complete a challenging craft (or several!) while watching the Olympics. This year the global cast-on took place when  the opening ceremonies started the for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I was delighted to have something to throw myself into for the two weeks and organised to visit two of our non-resident members: our own Stew for the opening and Stripycat for the closing. It really felt like more like a cross-border event that way. I really enjoyed knitting my little heart out although ultimately I only got one project completed and one project frogged. I also had fun making the team logos, including a customisable one for team members’ Ravatars. The team tag, #teamsdie2014, was chosen to be short and memorable because I have had problems misspelling long fiddly tags in the past, it’s short for StashDown IrEland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found it very difficult to decide what projects to do for the games. I really wanted to knit a cardigan or jumper, from some Drops Nepal that had been hanging out in my stash. I had searched several times for the right pattern and kept changing my mind. The yarn is too scratchy to be next to my skin so some of my favourite patterns had to be ruled out. Also it’s quite a strong yarn without too much stretch and that eliminated yet more candidates. Eventually I decided on the Acer cardigan. This would be a real challenge for me, combining cables and lace and, horror of horrors, sewn in sleeves. Sewing is something I try to avoid and the thought of sewing in sleeves had me in a cold sweat. It would be a perfect choice to try and stretch myself with the Ravellenic games – as if knitting a cardigan within the timeframe wasn’t enough of a challenge! Ever the optimist I planned to finish off a cardigan WIP as well a shawl if I had time.

I started easy by frogging a sock for the aerial unwind event. The yarn had been tried in several patterns, supposedly for a Christmas present for Stew, and 6 months later I couldn’t stand to look at it. So Stew got it as a knit-it-yourself present :) I cast on Acer and flew through the main body. A little too fast as I kept missing cable turns and having to unpick the lace to redo it. The ice skating was simply too beautiful and distracting! When I got home life got in the way a bit and I hadn’t the concentration for the armhole and neck decreases and short rows through the lace. Thankfully there were two plain enough sleeves to keep me going. A three needles bind off on the shoulders followed by several attempts to pick up the buttonbands and collar and eventually all the knitting was done! Hooray! The first attempt at sewing up the sleeves is a little puckered at the top so I plan to redo it. I entered it for the Lace Luge, Sweaterboard Cross, Cable Curling and Stash Skeleton events. I can’t wait to block and wear it!

My other main Ravellenic project was to finish my Talamh cardigan. This was tight to the line. With two days to go I still had two sleeves to finish. I managed to knit the first sleeve in one day, with some crazy knitting and a lot of patience from Stripycat. That night I realised there wouldn’t be enough yarn for a second sleeve and that the first sleeve was too big. So the last day saw me ripping out the sleeve and reknitting it with faster decreases, hoping that this new smaller sleeve would take less yarn and let me knit a second one. No such luck, it was still too big and still using too much yarn. So ended my Ravellenic Wip-dancing event, ripping the sleeve again the morning after the closing ceremonies. Thanks to some very generous Yarn Tasters on twitter and some good advice I hope to be able to make two sleeves in the next week. Or at least attempt it one last time.

I was nervous and excited to be captaining a team this Ravellenic Games and I really enjoyed reading about how everyone was getting on. It was also great fun really trying to knit a challenge and watching all the really cool winter sports. It’s hard to believe it’s all over and there’s nothing left to do barr wait to be called to the podium. I’m looking forward to next time already :)

Edited to add Medals:

 

Step 2: They’re more guidelines

Maybe it’s just me, but this whole Cold Sheep idea sounds like a nightmare! Not buying yarn at all? But what if it’s really pretty! I don’t think my will power is that strong. Of course, having a husband that encourages me doesn’t help.

So maybe full cold sheep isn’t for me, but perhaps I should follow your example and take a more subtle chilly sheep approach.

I think it’s fairly safe to say I also have a lace weight problem. I just love it. I love the texture. I love what you can do with it. I love the ability to add a hint of luxury to an otherwise boring day. I definitely love the yardage to pound (both weight and cost) factor, it’s hard to say no to more than a kilometer of something, and hours of knitting entertainment, for less than dinner out for one. Over the years, however, I’ve bought faster than I’ve been able to knit. So perhaps I should hold off on the laceweight for a time.

Socks, on the other hand, are a different story. While I’ve always had a fair amount of sock yarn, I also usually knit through it pretty quickly. I have enough for a few more pairs of socks or gloves, but there’s always room in my stash for something new, so while I’m not going out seeking socks, if one happens to fall into my basket and accompany me to a checkout, I’m not losing sleep over it.

Other weights are a bit more pot luck with me. I have one giant cone of DK that will keep me cosy in at least one cardigan, but the rest is mostly odds and ends that could be used for hats and accessories at some point. For DK yarn and above, I think I need to put my foot down and say that it has to be bought with a specific purpose in mind. And since I currently have two cardigans in my queue, that day is a long way off.

Of course, there will always be exceptions. Travel is probably my biggest one, I love having souvenir yarn from special places, so if I end up far from home, I’m going to keep an eye out for something special to enjoy. It’s certainly a better use of suitcase space than a snow globe, right?

February has, so far, been good for my stash-busting. I finished a Winter Thaw for a friend (583m), a jumper for the Ravellenic Games (1030m) and managed to persuade a guest to take 1400m of laceweight out of my house in their suitcase. So far, the only yarn to come in has been a ball of sock yarn, so I’m at least heading in the right direction. For now.

Confession time: Since I wrote this, I took a wander to a local yarn shop I’d never been to before. I may have had a slip up, and added some lace to my collection. Still less than has left my stash this month, but clearly this is something I need to work on.

Stashdown Part 2 – the Stashdown Plan

If you’ve gotten to grips with your stash the next step is to choose a stashdown plan. Everyone has their own Stashdown plan. Some go cold-sheep – not buying any yarn at all. One way to do this is to queue enough patterns, that you have stash for, to do you for a few months (or years!). Then tell yourself you can buy yarn to knit whatever you want *after* those projects are finished. Known as the ‘sure I’ve plenty to be getting on with’ approach.

For some people *ahem* the ‘problem’ is not so much the total quantity of stash but rather the quantity of certain types of yarn. For me that’s laceweight, followed closely by 4ply/sockweight. So I’m trying to go cold sheep on laceweight. I don’t mind a good stash of sockweight as to me it is the perfect weight of yarn. With sockweight you can make anything: hat, gloves, scarf, lace shawl, socks, cardigan, baby clothes. You can even hold it double for heavier-gauge items like baby blankets. If I could only have one type of yarn it would be a merino/nylon blend in 4ply/sockweight. I have very little yarn heavier than that so I recognise that I may need to buy yarn for specific projects. Maybe you have aranweight yarn coming out your ears but would still like to knit the odd lace scarf? Or lots of cotton but no wool? Only itchy wool and no superwash? Whatever the situation, maybe a limited cold sheep plan is for you.

The rationally minded like a plan based on a ratio. This plan recognises that sometimes it’s nice to buy yarn. Or maybe just that self control can take a little bit of time and practice to strengthen. It’s a perfect option if you’d like to get a better handle on your stash, or finally get around to knitting some of your favourite skeins. Probably not suitable if your concern is the overall size of your stash.  A popular option is to knit/crochet/destash twice what you in-stash (ie buy, receive or otherwise acquire). So for every 1 skein you buy, you knit or crochet (or give away or sell) 2 skeins. It works similarly if you measure in metres and for other ratios. For some people even a 1 to 1 ratio is a challenge! For this approach having a monthly tally is very useful, comparing yarn out to yarn in. More about this later in the series.

A variation on the ratio plan is to set a stashdown goal for each week, month or year. I find a month is long enough for a quantifiable amount of knitting, despite fits and starts, and short enough to stay on track. You might set a goal to have 200m less stash on balance per month. Or aim to reduce your stash by 3km this year. Maybe even breaking even stash-wise, on average, will be a step in the right direction? That was how last year worked out for me overall.

Your plan can be aspirational: to knit from stash if at all possible. You can decide what that means. Buying yarn for specific projects can be ok. For example you might want to make a baby toy and have no cotton dk yarn in stash. Or maybe you want to knit a gift for someone and don’t have the right colour or fibre for them. This can be a slippery slope as I discovered last year! Recently if there’s a project for a specific purpose, I’ll try and make something else that will do using my stash. Instead of making the baby toy I might knit a sockweight jumper for the baby. Patterns which are written for multiple yarn-weights are excellent for this. My two favourites are the Puerperium baby cardigan and the Aviatrix baby hat. Another option is to swap stash yarn for the yarn you need, there’s a thread for that on the Stashdown Ireland group and lots of other options on Ravelry.

Of course you can mix and match any of these options, or even come up with your own. Try and devise a plan that will suit your needs, one you will stick with.

What counts? Does yarn received as a present count? Does yarn bought on holiday count? Should it count if you cast it on that day, or if you need it to finish a project? Or if it’s the yarn you’ve been waiting your whole life for, or if it was on sale, or if it was pretty…? The line has to be drawn somewhere and it is completely up to you.

Step 1a: How I measured my stash

I figured I would give a brief description of how I actually measured all the yarn for my stash. I had some handy tools to hand, but most can be done with whatever you have lying around the house

If you have questions, would like me to explain any step better, or would like me to add photos of any of the steps, just leave a comment. :)

Tools:

  • Weighing scales
  • Swift or niddy noddy (if you don’t have a swift, and I can’t sing their praises enough, you can use the back of a chair or the legs of an upside down table, feet of your ironing board. You just need something to wrap the yarn around of a consistent length.)
  • Ball winder (if you don’t have one, winding by hand works, but takes longer.)
  • Calculator
  • Scraps of yarn for tying skeins
  • Camera
  • Patience

Process:

  1. Is this a yarn with a label that hasn’t been used? If yes, congratulations, you can add this to your stash now, and move on to step 6.
  2. Is this a yarn with a label that has been used? If yes, weigh what you have, and use the information on the ball band to figure out how much you have left. If you’re adding your stash to Ravelry, you just need to tell them how much you have, like 1.1 balls, and they’ll do all that work for you. Add this to your stash and jump to step 6.
  3. Is this a yarn without a label but you know what it is? Use Ravelry’s yarn database to find the yarn. Weigh it, and calculate your yardage. Add it to the stash and jump to step 6.
  4. Is this ball of leftovers too small to count on it’s own? Do you have 27 ends of sock yarn? Consider adding a single entry for scrappy groups, and use a guesstimate of the length (such as 400m per 100g of sock yarn). And onwards to step 6.
  5. If you have no clue due to lost ball bands or because it’s handspun, go to the Measuring instructions below.
  6. Take a photo for your stash page. I used the Flickr app on my phone so I could directly upload the photos as I took them. I then linked my Flickr account to my Ravelry account to make adding the photos a breeze.
  7. Give your yarn a hug, put it to one side and move on to the next one.

Measuring unknown yarns:

  1. Weigh your yarn.
  2. What type of yarn is it? Fingering, DK, aran?Do you know the fibre composition? (Safety first!) [Sometimes I just guessed to speed up the process.]
  3. If the yarn is already in a skein, measure the skein, then count the number of loops at one point.
  4. If the yarn isn’t already skeined, use your swift, niddy noddy or alternative to wrap the yarn into a skein. Count the number of loops.
  5. Tie off the skein in at least 4 places to secure it.
  6. Remove it from the swift or swift-substitute and measure it’s length. Some swifts have marked lengths, so you can use that instead, similarly for niddy noddys.
  7. Do the maths (below).
  8. Add the yarn to your database.
  9. Twist up that lovely skein, or wind it back into a ball if you prefer.

The Maths:

LOOP = number of times around the skein

LENGTH = length of the skein

Calculate the full length around the skein. If you just calculated the length of the skein, end to end, double it. If you used the markings on your swift or the size of your niddy noddy, this number is already the full length around.

ROUND = LENGTH x 2

or

ROUND = number you got from your niddy noddy or swift

Find the total length of yarn you have.

TOTAL_LENGTH = ROUND X LOOP

Changes are this measurement will be in either inches or cm. You probably want to convert this to either meters or yards.

For cm:

TOTAL_LENGTH_METERS = TOTAL_LENGTH / 100

For in:

TOTAL_LENGTH_FEET = TOTAL_LENGTH / 12

TOTAL_LENGTH_YARDS = TOTAL_LENGTH_FEET / 3

Sanity test:

Once you have your final numbers, do a quick check to see if they make sense by comparing them with similar yarns. If you have 50g of something akin to sock yarn, but your meterage is coming out at 900m, something may have gone wrong along the way. If it’s somewhere between 300 and 500, you’re probably doing fine. However, some fibres and some methods of spinning can make a denser or airier yarn than you’re used to.

Step 1: Admitting I have a problem

Last week Cathy did a lovely informative post about the first step of stashdown superstardom. I’ve always been a bit… leery of taking too close a look at my stash, but there’s no time like the present, and since I currently have a little extra flexibility with my time and energy, I decided to follow her instructions and get to grips with my stash.

Checking out my stash

Size wise, my stash isn’t too big. Last year I cleared out a lot and gave it away, along with a number of old needles I wasn’t using. That felt really good, and left a lot of space for the yarn I actually wanted to keep. So I wasn’t losing sleep over the stash taking over our home, but I didn’t really have a good handle of what I did have, which makes matching yarn to projects a little trickier.

The toughest parts of my stash were the ends of things, particularly lace and jumper leftovers, and my handspun. It would be easy to enter in two balls of something with ball band intact, but for the ends, I would have to weigh each ball to calculate what I had left, and the handspun had to be both weighed and measured, as well as classified into a yarn weight category.

Ultimately, though, knitting is a thing I love, and I have a lovely collection of yarn, so it’s a shame not to have it properly curated.

Getting a measure on it:

Now here’s the fun part. I took out my yarn slowly over the weekend, starting with what was already out in my front room, and then moving onto the drawers. I decided to go with meters too, because I find that a much more useful measurement than weight. I much prefer to know that I have 800m of a certain yarn, and then I can match that to patterns.

Luckily for a lot of my stash, once I could weigh all the balls I could figure out how much I actually had. It was very quick and easy to add those to my ravelry stash page.

Instead of calculating the tiny ends of lace and sock yarns down to the last yard, I created an entry for lace ends and sock ends. If I’m honest, the lace ends are mostly being kept around because they’re pretty and nice to pet. They have their own ziploc back to live in. Since laceweight yardage per gram can vary so much I didn’t bother figuring that out.

For the sock ends, which were far more plentiful, I decided to make a rough guesstimate that 100g was going to be roughly 400 yards. It’s not a perfect system, but on average I think it’s close enough to work. I reckoned I have about 1600 yards of sock yarn, which in theory would be enough for a jumper, although it would be a hideous monstrosity with more ends to weave in than is civilised. I do have a plan though.

The spinning stash was quite fun to get to. I don’t knit enough with what I spin, which is a shame, so I’m hoping that having it all weighed, washed and measured would inspire me to use them up. All the washed and finished yarns are now measured and stashed, although I have a fair bit left that needs a soak first. I want to wash the yarn before measuring it, so that part is going to take longer.

Assessing my stash:

So after a long weekend of swift, ball winder, scales and calculator, my stash is roughly 36,600 meters long, or a bit short of the distance between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Nearly 20km of that comes from just ten lots of yarn, with the top being:

  • Colourmart DK, 3,500m: This is going to be a cardigan. And probably something else too, given how much there is.
  • Dublin Dye Alpaca Lace, 2,400m: I’ve already started making a lace shawl with this.
  • Colourmart Cashmere Sparkle Lace, 2,300m: No idea what this will be for, but it’s so pretty!
  • Colourmart Merino-silk Lace, 2,100m: Another Evenstar int he works.
  • Fibrespates Lace, 2,000m: A laceweight cardigan, eventually.

So I’m not quite SABLE yet, and I’m not exactly on a yarn diet, but I’m in a better position to know my stash and plan my knitting and yarn shopping around it.

Looking forward to the next step!

[If anybody would like to rummage through my newly sorted stash, you can check them all out on my Ravelry stash page, or look at the full spreadsheet here.]