What to do With All That Clearance Yarn?

Tis the season when the Big Box stores run their yarn clearance sales. We’re all enticed with clearance sales notices popping up in our emails and texts, letting us know of the 70% off sales we likely won’t be able to resist.

So more than a few of us head off (or sneak off) to the yarn store and stock up. If we’re lucky, we pick up that yarn we found too pricey a couple of months ago and get to work on that sweater we envisioned. Or we might find some colors that will work for the fall and winter, and we happily get to work on Christmas gifts.

But what about that yarn at the unbelievable price, in bright summer colors? Well, some of us buy it anyway and figure out what to do with it later. If you’re like me, you can’t just pass it up.

You’ve got a problem on your hands: what to do with all that clearance yarn? I’ve found myself in this dilemma lately. In knitting through my stash, I’ve come up against a plethora of bright, happy colored yarns – bought on clearance in years past – and no discernable plan for any of it. Here’s what I’m doing with it:

  • A Sampler Shawl. I’ve got six skeins of pastel colored cake-type yarn that looked good in the store but turned out scratchy and not-so-nice. I’m using it to try out some new stitches. This shawl may look okay when it’s finished; it might not. That’s okay.  I’ve tried out lots of new techniques and stitches I’ll use in other projects.
  • Mini Prayer Shawls. I’ve used up the Caron x Pantone mini-skeins to make small, coaster-sized squares to hand out as “thank you” gifts. I’ve been asked to speak at a local Book Club, and I’m planning to hand out these mini Prayer Shawls to those lovely ladies who bought and read my latest book. They could probably be used as coasters, phone charging pads, or some other household use.
  • Something wonderful and unexpected. Several years ago, I bought a huge plastic bag full of blue, green, and white yarn at a big box sale of manufacturer rejects and remainders. Just for kicks, I made a long and skinny shawl that’s become my favorite go-to early morning wrap. The yarn tuned out super soft, and the shawl is vibrant and looks terrific. Who knew?

I know you creative knitters will have many other uses for clearance yarn. Feel free to drop a comment to share your ideas with me and other readers!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Psssst! The e-book edition of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles will soon be on sale! On Tuesday and Wednesday, August 13 & 14, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles will be on sale for only $1.99 at this link from 8 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday until 11 p.m. on Wednesday night. Give it a try and help me out by reviewing it on Amazon!

Stressed? Sit and Knit Awhile

It’s been a bad week here in America. Two mass shootings, stock market volatility, and the usual political divisiveness. Nerves are frayed, and many of us feel the stress.

For those of us who knit, a breather is just a couple of knitting needles and a ball of yarn away. If you’re suffering from jangled nerves, facing personal challenges, or just dealing with ordinary stress, pick up those needles and knit. You can knit anything – it’s doesn’t matter. The easier the project, the better. The point is to take a few minutes for yourself and your own mental health, check out from the rest of the world, and enjoy the peace and quiet for a while. 

In times of deep stress, I’ve always turned to my knitting needles. Several years ago, as I waited to travel to another part of the world to adopt my youngest child, I learned that the children in his orphanage could use handknitted hats and scarves. Delighted to hear this, I used this knitting time to soak up my stress and calm my nerves. When it came time to finally travel, I had an entire suitcase full of warm knitted hats and scarves for children who had no personal possessions, plus scarves for all their caretakers. 

Knitting can heal. Knitting is our own little time and space where we can re-group, re-think, and prepare to face the realities of the world once again.

Blessings for peace and resilience, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, fictional short stories about knitters of prayer shawls and how their gifts bless people they know or have never even met. The story “Hats for Orphans” is based on her own knitting of hats while an expectant adoptive mother. Available in e-book and paperback at this link.

Frogging Just Creates New Opportunities

This past week, I gasped in horror as my cat leapt into my lap, pulling apart a delicate piece of knitting I held in my hands. I couldn’t blame Scamper the Cat. He just wanted to sit in momma’s lap and purr. It’s not like he intended to make me lose several stitches that proved impossible to get back on the knitting needles.

I had to admit, I didn’t like the design of the intricate lacing of the shawl I was working on. The middle of the work looked messy, and I didn’t realize how bad it looked until I had progressed far beyond the point of fixing it. I played with the idea of frogging (“rip it, rip it, rip it out” for those not familiar with the knitting term for unravelling your work and starting over). But I couldn’t bear to tear out several inches of work. I had dithered back and forth for days, unhappy with my design and wondering if I should rip it.

Scamper the Cat made the decision for me. As I looked at the hopeless state of my knitting work, I realized he had actually done me a favor. Taking a deep breath, I pulled out several days worth of knitting and got the work back to a place where I could both re-do my design and get the stitches back on my needles. (Yarnovers and frogging don’t mix, I’ve discovered.) My evening of knitting turned out much more relaxing than I intended; ripping out is pretty mindless work.

We knitters are lucky. For those of us who knit, there are do-overs in life. Not many crafts allow you the opportunity to completely start over on a failed project with the same materials and without having to throw out pricey supplies. In fact, if you’re a “process knitter” like me, you just get more knitting time in with the same skein of yarn.

So if you have to frog your work, just remember it’s no big deal. Your work might look better in the end, and for once in your life, you get a do-over.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Your First Piece of Knitting Will Be Awful, And That’s Okay

I don’t know how many people have told me, “I tried to knit a scarf (or sweater, hat, blanket, sock), and it was awful.” They never try knitting again, and it’s a shame. I want to take such people by the hand, sit them down, and patiently ask them to at least try a second knitting project. It will be better, I would promise them.

When you learn to do something for the first time, you WILL make mistakes. That’s okay. It’s part of the learning process. I seriously doubt that anyone in the history of knitting (or any other craft) started and finished a project without at least a half dozen visible, obvious, and potentially disastrous mistakes. I now tell new knitters that they should plan to put their first project in the trash. If they do come up with something worth saving, we’ll all be happy and surprised. 

Do you remember your first knitted garment? I sure do. The first knitting project I tackled was a big orange and white blanket made solely with garter stitch, because my mom didn’t know how to purl. She didn’t know how to tie up loose ends either, apparently. That first blanket I made (now enjoyed by my dog) has less-than-charming little pieces of loose ends hanging out on every side and seam. 

As a twenty-something, I took up knitting again, this time asking help from the experts at my local yarn store, The Knit Wits. The elderly ladies who worked at the shop patiently taught me how to purl, increase, decrease, and properly sew my pieces together and tie up loose ends. I’m eternally grateful to those ladies. The sweater they had me knit ended up kinda messy, but that’s okay. My skills increased by leaps and bounds. My next sweater looked terrific, and I was well on my way to the ranks of “accomplished knitter.”

So if you’re just learning to knit or still a beginner, give yourself a break. If your knitting isn’t perfect, know that we’ve all been there at some point. I would guess that all knitters have an awful mess of a first project they’ll never forget. But those of us who love knitting so much eventually tackled a second project and maybe even a project down the road we consider a minor masterpiece. And we all hope you’ll try that second project, too. 

Knitting blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of the just-published book, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. This fictional collection of short stories includes tales of several newbie knitters and those saintly women who mentor them, forging friendships and incredible connections. Available at this link in paperback and e-book edition. Included in Kindle Unlimited.

Knitting Terminology Justs Makes It Seem Hard – Socks Aren’t That Difficult

When I last blogged, I had just finished knitting my first pair of socks. I used the “afterthought heel” method, leaving a grafted row where the heel would go, then knitting the heel last. That method seemed less intimidating, an easier way to knit a pair of socks than the more traditional method of making a heel flap, heel turn, and gusset.

Heel flap? Heel turn? Gusset? I couldn’t imagine what those things could be. Even after knitting a multitude of sweaters, shawls, blankets, and tote bags, that knitting terminology scared the living daylights out of me.

Then I actually tried knitting a pair of socks using these traditional elements, and bingo, I mastered them on the first try. I’m not a knitting genius; these techniques just aren’t that hard.

Here’s the honest truth about this terminology:

           “Heel flap” just means knit straight down for a couple of inches. Put half the stitches on a holder to keep them out of the way. Your pattern might call for you to slip some stitches. No big deal.

            “Heel turn” just means flip the dang thing around to the other side when the pattern says so. Make some decreases along the way. Again, no big deal. 

   “Gusset” just means you pick up some stitches, then decrease along the sides of the sock for a bit. Again, easy-peasy. You make a nifty-looking triangle before you know what hit you.

There, that’s not so bad, is it? The process of making a sock simply uses basic techniques you probably already know – decreases using either K2Tog or slip-slip-knit, slipping stitches from one needle to the other (easier than actually knitting or purling), or turning your work around backwards.  To learn to do these skills, view a couple of YouTube videos for a few minutes. Google these terms, and a zillion video links will pop up, most of them free and well-done.

It’s the knitting terminology that scares us from improving and expanding our skills, I’ve learned, not the actually knitting of the sock itself. So if you’ve never gotten out of your comfort zone to try a new skill, remember that whatever you’re learning likely won’t be as difficult as you imagine – whether it’s knitting or any other life skill.

Blessings, Cindy

Tackling Hand-Knit Socks for the First Time

After knitting since I was a teenager, I finally knit my first pair of socks. I’ve knit blankets, sweaters, five sets of place mats, more shawls than I care to think about, and even a couple of baby outfits. But socks???!!!  I was totally intimidated by the mere thought of knitting socks.

But my husband dearly wanted a pair of all-wool, hand-knit socks. He’s a serious woodworker, and he’s made me a living room sofa, chairs, picture frames, and numerous book shelves. How could I refuse to make him one measly pair of socks? My darling husband pushed me over the edge of my discomfort by telling me that knitting socks is like making a chair in woodworking. Yes, it’s difficult; but if you want to call yourself a serious crafter, this is what you need to learn to make. 

Then, lo and behold, the knitting kit subscription service I just joined sent me – of course – a sock knitting kit. I’d have to do it. Despite my lack of comfort with double-pointed needles, yarn so thin you can hardly see it, and teeny-tiny needles, I bit the bullet and endeavored to persevere on my first pair of socks.

Sock Under Construction, with graft for afterthought heel

Okay, sock knitting wasn’t so bad. I ditched the irritating double-pointed needles for a new set of tiny circular needles, only using the double points for the end of the toes and heels. The pattern called for an “afterthought heel,” which involved “lifelines” and a “graft.” As terrifying as those concepts seemed, I mastered them on the first try and actually produced a functioning pair of socks. My husband loves them. All’s right with the world around my house.

Like any new endeavor, knitting socks came seem daunting before you actually try it. But if you have some basic knitting skills, you can take the dare and master a couple of new skills that open new possibilities for your craft. You just need to give it a try. 

Here are some tools I found helpful in tackling sock knitting for the first time:

ChiaoGoo Twist Shorties Red Lace Interchangeable Knitting Needles. Pricey? Yes. Necessary? Oh yes. After deciding I couldn’t deal with double pointed needles for an entire project, I found these after a lengthy search for just the right sock needles. They come in a well-made pouch that will fit in a purse. The set includes teeny-tiny stitch markers for use with small sized projects (my regular sized markers fell off), a small ruler, three tiny cables and two sets of needle points. Highly recommended.

Clover Double Pointed Needles. Even if you use circular needles for most of your socks, you’ll still need double points right before you bind off the toes and heels. I love my Clover bamboo needles and added a new set of double points to my collection just for socks. 

Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. If you don’t use a kit, this book comes highly rated. Methods using both circular needles and double pointed needles are covered, including all the basics. 

Good luck to those tackling sock knitting for the first time!

Cindy

My First Completed Sock

Temperature Blankets – Marking the Days With a Knitting Ritual

Intrigued by the idea of a “temperature blanket,” I began my first one on New Year’s Eve by casting on with a bright yellow to celebrate the gorgeous 70 degree day here in Tennessee. My temperature blanket soon became a mosaic of blues for our normal cool January, sprinkled with some pale greens for warmer 60 degree days and a few purple rows for crisper cold days. We have a saying here in the Smoky Mountains – “if you don’t like the weather here, stick around; it’ll change.” It’s the perfect climate for a temperature blanket.

Mostly to remember to work on my temperature blanket each day, I began a ritual of knitting my one garter ridge each night, right after dinner as my family watched a TV show together. I didn’t mean to start a new daily ritual, but that’s what it’s become. When I sit down in my favorite chair to work on my temperature blanket each evening, it’s as if I’m marking the end of a day, a time of peace and quiet. It’s a time to think, for better or for worse, I’ve done what I could do today. It’s time to relax and put all worries aside.

I’ve noticed I work my temperature blanket more slowly than my other works in progress. Perhaps that’s because, by definition, I only knit two rows a day, making a loop from one side to the other and back. The point of this knitting is to mark an occasion, not necessarily to “make” a finished garment. This knitting mimics the movement of the earth, making a loop each and every day. As I knit through the seasonal cycles of nature, my knitting reflects the cold days giving way to the warm, the short days turning into longer late spring days of bright yellow and orange sunshine. It shows the process in rich colors I can touch and feel. 

Marking these daily changes grounds me in nature and in the cycles of life. It’s a simple thing, knitting these two daily rows. But this daily ritual has become a little celebration of life ever moving forward, ever renewing. 

My Temperature Blanket Pattern:

-Cast on 100 stitches

-Knit 2 rows each day (one garter pattern), using a color to mark the temperature of the day

-At the beginning of each month, I knit one row of K2, YO. I knit the number of stitches for the number of the month (e.g. 4 stitches for the 4thmonth of April, 5 for the 5thday of May), then do the same number of K2, YO and repeat this pattern down the row. I knit the second row of this garter ridge as usual to keep the pattern on track for the rest of the month.

Blessings on your knitting rituals! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is a writer and avid knitter based in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Visit her Author Page on Amazon by clicking this link.

Getting More Knit From The Kit – Using Leftover Yarn From Knitting Kits

Have you finished a knitting project and had yarn left over? This happens frequently to me. If it’s inexpensive yarn, I usually put it in a bin I keep for donations. Once a year, I give this bin to a school, camp, or summer program for crafting by children. But if it’s expensive yarn I really like, I want to make something else from it.

I recently began knitting from kits ordered online. I’ve done two kits by Kitterly (www.Kitterly.com), and I just started my first kit by KnitCrate (www.KnitCrate.com). When I first started knitting from kits, I feared I’d get to the end of a pricey project and not have enough yarn to finish. Happily, I can now report that both of the Kitterly kits I’ve done left me with plenty of leftover yarn. (The verdict’s still out on KnitCrate, but so far, so good. I’m impressed with all the extra patterns I get with their kits.)

What do you do with a good hank of expensive, high-quality yarn that’s too big to simply toss out? After working through a Kitterly shawl kit, I had enough to make both a narrow runner for use on a credenza and a large coaster. I also re-used the colorwork pattern on my “extra” items, since the pattern was still in my head. These small projects made nice transitions after spending a couple of weeks on the main shawl project. I also felt better getting three projects out of an expensive kit, instead of just one. (Honestly, I may end up using the runner and coaster more than the shawl!)

Knitting is a frugal craft. We make high quality items rather than buy cheap ones at the store. Knitters are the kind of people who look for good value for their money and don’t like to see nice materials go to waste. By getting “more knit for the kit,” knitters both use their awesome creativity to make something useful and get maximum value for their purchases. 

What do you do with leftover yarn?

Happy Crafting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is a writer, book reviewer, and avid knitter. Her books and blog posts can be found on her Amazon Author Page.

Knitting & Cats Don’t Mix – Or Do They?

 Sitting down for a nice, calming session of knitting, and who turns up to “help”? The cat, of course. When my cats Scamper and Milo see me sit down in my favorite chair with a wooly skein of yarn beside me, to them, it’s an invitation to play. 

Knitting with cats is both the most wonderful thing in the world and the most annoying. A soft, furry creature with big yellow eyes plops down on your lap and purrs right as you take out your knitting needles. What a knitter to do? You want to knit, but you don’t want to run off the cutie pie sitting on your work-in-progress, either. Eventually, the cat gets exasperated by those sharp sticks waved in front of his face, and he moves along. Or you push him.

A ball of yarn is the ultimate temptation to cause mischief for a cat. My cats usually know not to mess with my knitting yarn, fearing an almighty tongue-lashing that comes with batting around a yarn ball attached to a sweater under construction. But sometimes, a cat just needs to play with what is obviously a toy provided for a cat’s pleasure. Occasionally, I let the cat play…until the ball of yarn is roped around six pieces of furniture and knotted into a mess requiring a half hour of untangling. Then it’s time to “re-think” my policy of cats and yarn.

The problem with cats and knitting is that many of us seriously love them both. Both are warm, fuzzy, and lovely to look at. Both knitting and cats require attention from our hearts and our hands. Cat People are often Knitting People. And in those moments when the two clash and chaos breaks out, I hope we’ll remember that really, what’s a little frayed yarn and knots when you have the pleasure of seeing a cute little kitten batting about a “just right” ball of yarn?

Blessings on your cats (and yarn), Cindy

New Resources of the Week:

Knitted Animal Friends: Knit 12 Well-Dressed Animals, Their Clothes and Accessories by Louise Crowther. This charming new book tells you how to knit and construct adorable animal toys. There’s a cat pattern, of course, along with other critters including a dog, mouse, hedgehog, and clothes for all of them. Perfect for making gifts for children or for trying something new and fun. Coming on May 7, available for pre-order at a good discount

Jill’s Beaded Knits Bitshas some new Abacus Counting Bracelets, along with some cute new stitch markers. She handmakes her products and ships them out pronto. I recently treated myself to some new stitch markers, but I’ve not tried the abacus counting bracelets yet. I’d love to hear from anyone who has.

P.S. This blog is completely independent! I recommend books and other items I’ve read/used and like. Books are usually provided to me free through NetGalley and their publishers. 

Putting Away the Winter Stash

Springtime has come to Sycamore Cove in a sudden burst of green leaves, yellow buttercups, violets and azalea blossoms. Winter is good and gone. It’s time to put up the winter knitting supplies.

My jewel-toned yarns of burgundy, teal, dark blue, and greys go to the zipped-up bin in the upstairs closet where I won’t use them until autumn. My “works-in-progress” baskets scattered around the house now hold yarns in pastel pinks, spring greens, and cheerful yellows.

Putting up the winter stash elicits mixed emotions. Thinking of the Christmas gifts, winter hats, and warm sweaters I made last season gives me a satisfied sense of accomplishment. But then there’s the projects I planned to make and didn’t, the yarns I had pegged for sweaters or hats or lap blankets that just plain didn’t get made. I wonder if I’ll get to them next year. I wonder where I’ll be in my life, whether that yarn will “speak” to me like it did last year, or whether I’ll come up with some new and unexpected use for those unused skeins.

Life is sometimes like that unused winter stash – projects you planned don’t pan out, you don’t have time for them, or you lost interest in them. Maybe you’ll get back to them, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself with a great new idea next year that just hadn’t occurred to you this year. You feel good about what you did accomplish and give yourself a pat on the back for completed and successful items that gave joy to others or served some useful purpose.

But for now, it’s a new season. New yarns mean new projects, new opportunities, new possibilities. It’s springtime – a time for new beginnings in life and in knitting.

Cynthia Coe is a writer, book reviewer, and avid knitter. Her books and blog posts can be found on her Amazon Author Page