2016 was hard, y’all. Globally, locally, personally, I can tell you it was not my favourite. From confusing and confounding elections, to the loss of immense talents, to acts of brutality, it was a year full of heartache.
There were peaks though, and I’m not just talking about Stranger Things. When I started to reflect on the year, a year that was hard for me in terms of mental health, I struggled to zoom out and there I managed to find bright spots. I started to see rays of light beaming out from my lofty goal for the year of giving up superwash and synthetic based yarns. Preferences, simplification, and values were gleaned. Who coulda thunk it? Not one is revelatory on a national scale, heck, not even on a regional scale but they are lessons for me that I’m taking into 2017 and beyond.
When I set the goal in October of 2015, I was determined. I was sure of my reasoning. I felt steadfast. All that said, I was confronting my real, true, ardent love for all yarn and feared I would fail in a spectacular fashion. My fret level was as high as the threat level of gorgeous superwash yarns. (I think we can all acknowledge the wiles of gorgeous yarn, amiright?)
But, dudes, I made it! And it feels tremendous! Not just because I managed to go the whole year without purchasing superwash yarn and bases with synthetics*, but more so because of what I learned along the way.
Women making (delicious) yarn, and kicking ass.
AKA Yarns that I discovered and love.
Going into 2016, I knew there was purchase that I had to make and that was from Elsawool. In her lecture at Knit City 2015, Clara Parkes had spoken about Elsa and her divine yarn. She spoke about how Elsa is someone who inspires and mentors her process and standards at Clara Yarn. I just knew my journey this year would be incomplete without some of her purebred cormo. And I now understand Ms Parkes adoration for it; it is extraordinary. The natural colour and depth within the yarn, its soft and delicate yet sturdy hand when knitting, the organic way the stitches lay on your needles: it’s special yarn. The care that Elsa and her team shows to the process is evident in every yard. I truly believe you need to try this yarn.
My other favourites on the year are Julie Asselin’s Nurtured, Hinterland Textiles, and Ysolda Teague’s Blend No 1. These yarns make me straight up giddy! It is of these three that I made repeat purchases over the year and I still want more! While they’re all quite different, both in their fibre composition and feel, they’re united in their creator’s quest to bring purity and wholeness to the fibre world. I’ll speak to all four of these yarns in more detail in coming months.
Good for you, Not for me.
AKA Superwash and I are not super friendly anymore.
Knitting with untreated yarn obviously feels quite differently than the treated variety. It took one to two projects for me to acclimate to the different texture, the absence of bounce, and the existence of chaff and other material found in untreated yarn. And you know what? I wasn’t sure I loved it. While I remained certain about the goal, I feared I would hate knitting with all my new yarny acquisitions. That is until I cast on a project using a plied, superwash yarn (with some cashmere and nylon) and let me tell you, it felt like I was knitting twine. (Insert favourite panicked faced emoji here!) It felt like there was a coating on the yarn. Never before had I noticed it and some of my favourite yarns were falling victim! The more I knit with non-superwash yarns, the more its texture and rusticity was preferred; my hands were simply happiest with 100% pure wool moving between them. The exception to the superwash rule remains to be single ply yarn. My love for it is true and real and I don’t care who knows it.
Keep what you love. Separate the pretty from the useful. Destash the rest.
AKA The Great Stash Reduction of 2016.
No no no, I don’t mean the KonMari method. Shit, if I applied that to yarn, I’d be renting a storage space, because all yarn brings me joy! That’s the thing about yarn, while its feel may cause gripes, there’s a reasonable chance its flashy colour may make me want to hoard it anyway. (Stash can go in shadow boxes and pose as art, right?) Yarn appeals to several of our senses and often rational isn’t attending the party.
A smaller goal of mine in 2016 was to get my stash under control. Furthermore, it was part of my strategy for keeping on the wagon this year. I would article and update my Ravelry stash page with every single skein of yarn I owned. If I knew what I had, I could manage the siren calls of speckles. And, I wanted to be sure that I was only stashing yarns I loved. In January alone, I destashed/donated, 13977 yards. It felt liberating and rewarding and that’s when I set out to address my stash in earnest.
It was February.
It took three days to enter it all and I was able to blanket a double bed three times with skeins.
To say it was sobering would be an understatement.
My Ravelry stash totalled 320+ lots. The stash had overgrown its allotted space(s) (several times) in our home and I was ready to cull the herd. Immediately, I imposed the necessity of a 10% cut. Over the following two months, 10890 more yards left my house.
And the stash edits kept coming. I managed to separate my love for colourways with the truth of what I was actually going to knit. At press time, I have 198 lots on my Ravelry page. Every so often, I revisit my yarn to see if there any more cuts to make, and truthfully there isn’t. I love everything and want to knit it all, yup, even the superwash. It is an incredible feeling to be at peace with that I have.
Good for you, Not for me. The Colour Edition.
AKA Neutrals are my jam.
I love colour. Especially on yarn. The more variegated and speckled, the better it is and the more I want it! But here’s the hitch, I want to knit with it. It’s hard for me to wear it. So very much I adore Stephen West’s zeal for colour and the brilliantly bright creations that people create and drape themselves in. It is inspiring, loud in all the right ways, and I love it. Alas, it’s just not me. I only know this for certain now because of 2016: my year of neutrals. One of my concerns in giving up superwash was that I wasn’t going to be able to hoard the colourful skeins in the way I was accustomed and wanted. I feared that I would grow tired of the browns, creams, and beige. But get this, in a way unlike ever before, I’m wearing my knits! I can only attribute this to the neutrality of the yarn. That just so happens to match the neutrality of my wardrobe. Because surprise, surprise, I don’t wear heaps of brights in my clothes. Half of my (now) well curated stash is still variegated, speckled and colour-glorious, it is simply reserved for socks or a well suited pattern. (Just now am I realizing that I may have learned a thing of two about the right yarn for the right project this year, too.)
*I learned that I can bend the rules sometimes, and it’s all going to be okay.
AKA The one loophole on the year.
OMG You Guys! **
Yup, that’s its name, not an exclamation.
Have you seen it? It is AMAZING. It had me swooning the moment I saw it in Catherine’s Instagram feed prior to Knit City 2017. Swooning and sweating. How on earth was I going to ignore it? I wanted it so badly. It felt wrong to break the rules. I like rules, big fan of rules. You may not have guessed that though if you saw me front of the queue on Saturday morning at Knit City as I sprinted towards the Caterpillargreen booth… but I do. And subsequently, I was ravaged with guilt. I copped to the purchase to a select few in person but if you check my Instagram picture showing my haul from the weekend, you won’t see the skein. You know why? Because I didn’t want you to think me a failure. So I lied. Hello faulty logic!
Upon getting home from the amazing weekend in Vancouver, I handed the skein off to my husband and promptly forgot about it. Only until I found it in my Christmas stocking. Get this? My love for it is still very real and I regret nothing. It is the ONLY skein of superwash I bought in 2016. And that makes me feel proud. So yes, while I certainly bent the rules, my joy supersedes other’s impressions of me. Or should I say, my perceived perceptions of me.
Other notable knitterly based highlights for me in 2016 include treasured friendships, the acquisition of my forever tools, and bearing witness to wonderful triumphs of those around me. Of course all these highlights transcend knitting and the realm of hobby. Just when I think I have figured it all out: lessons, gifts, genuine joy bubble over to make it part of who I am. That may in fact be the best realization of 2016.
**An alternate name for the colourway is Weekend. The skein I own has the above name on it.