Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Knitting & Crocheting for a Cause

The first year I seriously took up knitting, I made scarves and hats for everyone I knew for Christmas. For many years after that, I would spend each year making holiday gifts - toys, socks, bags, you name it.

For a few years, I was equally split between gift knitting and so-called "selfish" knitting. (honestly, knitting for yourself really isn't selfish, and neither is crocheting or weaving for yourself, for the record!).

As the holiday gift knitting deadline stressed me out more and more, I moved almost entirely towards knitting for myself in favor of (gasp!) giving store-bought gifts for the holidays.

However, if you've been knitting long enough, you find there is a limit to how many handmade gifts you can reasonably give, not to mention, how many handmade garments and accessories you yourself can keep.

That's when I started taking up sample knitting as a side gig and dabbling in charity crafting. There are certain things I absolutely love to knit, but either have a surplus of them, or simply don't use - and thankfully, those are the things that I can either knit for hire or donate to a good cause, with the added bonus of using my skills to make the world a slightly better place.

Considering the dumpster fire that the world at large has become, that last reason is quite compelling for me. Whenever I feel depressed or helpless after hearing about the latest crappy thing that's happened, working on a project that's destined to be donated somewhere helps me to focus my energy towards something positive amidst all the negative. And even though it's a very small thing, it's certainly better than nothing. We have to start somewhere, right?

For those of you who are interested, here are some of the charities I enjoy making items for:

Mother Bear Project
A couple of years ago, I knit a Mother Bear for a KAL in the 2 Knit Lit Chicks Ravelry group. When I was cleaning out my craft room earlier this spring, I found the pattern and started knitting bears again. I've finished three so far, and my goal for this year was to make 6 bears total before sending them in. However, I spotted a post on Instagram that says that there is currently a shortage of Mother Bears, so I think I will send in the ones I have made right now instead of waiting til the end of the year!

The 2 Knit Lit Chicks podcast is hosting another Mother Bear KAL right now, so you can join their group to get inspired and maybe even win a prize!

Knit and crochet patterns for the bears can be ordered here; I highly recommend the knit-in-the round option! Also, if you need further convincing, check out the photo gallery of children with their bears, it's pretty much the cutest thing ever!

Hat Not Hate
I discovered this one via Louis Boria of Brooklyn Boy Knits, who has done a lot of work with Lion Brand to promote #HatNotHate, and anti-bullying campaign launched last year. If you want to participate, all you have to do is make wear, and post handmade blue hats, adding #HatNotHate when sharing on social platforms to raise awareness.

If you want to take it a step further, you can donate handmade blue hats to be distributed to select schools throughout the US to be worn by kids during National Bullying Prevention month in October. Their goal is to collect 25,000 hats and it sounds like they have a ways to go, with less than 2,000 donations so far.

Since I love to knit hats and have a TON of blue yarn in my stash, I'm going to see how many hats I can make this summer - so far I have 3 finished hats (apparently that's my magic number for charity projects).

Warm Up America
During the month of May, Knitter's Pride held a KCAL challenging their fans to knit or crochet as many 7"x9" blocks as possible for Warm Up America. The blocks are then made into blankets by volunteers in the community. WUA receives requests from a variety of social service agencies, including homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, American Red Cross chapters, veterans homes, senior centers, hospices and religious organizations serving families and individuals in communities around the country.

I decided to practice my crochet to make some blocks during this KCAL, with the goal of making 20 total (enough to make a baby blanket). Unfortunately, I kind of petered out, because making blocks is a bit boring! I'll probably end up weaving in the ends of the blocks I was able to complete and sending them in, rather than making them up into a blanket myself.

Even though I was kinda lame and didn't meet the modest goal I'd set for myself, some of the other KCAL participants really came through - one person even knit 160 blocks during the month of May! So, I suppose that is knitting rectangles is your thing, this is the perfect charity project for you!

I'll be sharing many more opportunities for charitable crafting here on my Knit & Crochet For Charity Pinterest board, and if you have a cause you love to knit or crochet for, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Losing at Yarn Chicken: Cheri Chevron Shawl

Running out of yarn is something that every knitter (or crocheter or weaver!) dreads, and when you're working with hand-dyed yarn, it can be particularly anxiety-producing.  The natural variations between dye lots means that it's not as simple as finding another skein to use if you run out of yarn before you're done. While those variations might not be noticeable when you're eyeballing the skein, they can be clear as day once you've used that yarn to your project. For this very reason I highly recommend getting an extra "safety" skein when you are buying hand-dyed yarn for a large project.

So what if you're trying to destash? That's where things get tricky, because you are most likely substituting in whatever yarn you find in your stash for the called-for yarn in the pattern (I'll cover yarn substitutions at a later date, as this topic was much requested in my reader survey!). To summarize, not all yarn behaves the same way, and yarn weight labels can sometimes be misleading (for example I've worked with many fingering weight yarns that would have been more accurately described as lace weight).

Oops! Out of yarn!

I've successfully made tons of project via stashdiving* and never run out of yarn until this point. I suppose it was only a matter of time, but I was absolutely crushed when I ran out of my contrasting color of yarn while knitting the Cheri Chevron Shawl by Ambah O'Brien.

What on earth happened?! I was definitely gambling with my yarn choices: while the main color (MC), a variegated skein of Leading Men Fiber Arts Show Stealer in How You Doin (LOL), was a completely full skein, the contrasting skein (CC) of Ancient Arts Socknado in what I thought was Great Scott! (more on that in a sec) was not. I'd used a few yards here and there for some projects, including the Mini Brights Slouchy Hat. I'd probably siphoned off about 20-30 yards, but I weighed the skein and compared it to yarn weight listed in the pattern and that is probably where I got into trouble; I'm pretty sure that both yarns I used were a little heavier than the single ply fingering used in the pattern. Oops.

I figured I could just keep weighing the skein as I worked and things would be ok, but once I reached the halfway point I knew it would be a stretch. It didn't help that I kept accidentally cutting this yarn before I was done working the CC section, in effect wasting already precious yardage. Needless to say, the yarn chicken caught up to me!

At this point, I'd come so far that only two options seemed viable: buy another skein of the contrasting color, or finish the shawl with the MC. My gut (and several wise people on Instagram) told me that the second option was probably best, but the perfectionist in me was being fairly stubborn and I ended up buying another skein of CC and patiently waited for it to be dyed and shipped to me from Canada.

When it finally arrived, I was so excited....until I held it up to the shawl and saw that it absolutely did not match, and it was then that I realized that I'd remembered the name of the color wrong. This was NOT a difference in dye lot, this was just me falling victim to my own crappy record-keeping skills. Over the last several months the yarn label had disappeared and somewhere along the way I'd arbitrarily decided that Great Scott! was the name of the color based on the photos on the yarn dyers website. Obviously that's not the best way to go about that...
Unfortunately, this is not the yarn I was looking for.
Not only did I have a new skein to add to my stash, thus negating the positive effects of a 100% destash project, I was also faced with a project that had been in timeout for several weeks that now had to be finished somehow. I'm so glad that I was using the knitCompanion app to keep track of this, because I'm sure in that time a paper pattern would have disappeared and I would have been even more frustrated with myself than I already was!

Can you spot the difference?

Plan B went into effect, and I used the MC to finish the shawl. My inner perfectionist is just gonna have to get over it. And if all of this pain and suffering means that I remember these lessons for the next destash project, then I suppose it was all worth it!

Of course, now I have to weave in allllll of those ends....

That face you make when you realize just how many ends there are to weave in!

Have you ever majorly lost at yarn chicken? What did you do?

*most of which are fade-related!