Definition

I don’t know what happened last night, but I couldn’t get it together. I made dinner and went for a run, but the run was really only an attempt to strip me of the energy to keep hating the way things were going.  There’s absolutely plenty that’s gone right, tons of stuff, but last night a sweater didn’t work out and then the resident teenager was, well… teenaged. (The amazing thing about parenting is that I never stop being surprised by how it’s all going down. By the time a kid is in their late teens, they’ve matured so much that you can be really shocked by the occasional snit, and you’d think that I’d be so well equipped to handle something like that. I’m no rookie. The thing is that because the teenager is actually growing and maturing and gaining skills, the quality level of the snit just keeps going up, and the appearances of said snits start being infrequent and therefore shocking. (Not as shocking as my own snits, but there you have it.)  It means you never really get the hang. If had to give a quick list to someone going into parenting teens, it would be to remember this: A) SHUT UP.  B) Don’t take the bait. C) Don’t take it personally. D) You are probably too pretty for prison. Walk it off.  For the record, I usually remember all of that a few minutes too late. Maybe I need a tattoo. )

So last night I’m in this completely foul mood, forcing myself to be nice and civil and kind – and I decide to work on a little sweater. Not the blue and brown one, because all it needs is button bands, and they’re fussy and I hate them and it just didn’t seem like they were going to improve my mood at all, but nothing cheers me up more than a new thing, so that’s where I went. I need to have another little sweater in the works, a birthday sweater for Lou, and I’ve been enchanted with Antler, so that’s what I’m thinking. The thing is, it calls for Aran weight yarn – and I didn’t have any in cream handy, so I bought Tanis Green Label Aran.   I love this yarn. Bouncy,  nice tight ply that will show up the cables really well,  consistent, soft, superwash… it’s got everything going for it in the baby sweater department.  I knit a sleeve for a gauge swatch – I do that a lot for baby sweaters.  If it works out, you’ve got a sleeve, and if it doesn’t, well then, it’s only a sleeve. I don’t mind ripping it out, or at least not much, or not usually.  I’d started a sleeve, realized the fabric was way too open, and had my first concerns about yarn/pattern compatibility.  I ripped it back, went down a needle size, and finished a whole sleeve.  I still thought things were too open, but it is a natural coloured yarn- not dyed at all, and sometimes that means that it can be a little compressed. I find that dyed yarns are less likely to bloom or puff up when I wash them, but that’s sometimes not the case with yarn that hasn’t had a bath yet (dye or otherwise) so I sent the little sleeve for a swim, laid it out to dry, and then, because I am almost terminally optimistic, even in the face of awesome evidence to the contrary, I started the other one.

This morning I went and fetched it. You can see there’s been very little change. (Unblocked on the left, blocked on the right.) Things are tidier, the stitches neatened up a lot (right there, I feel like that’s the best evidence I can show you for why you wash/wet block knitting) and the yarn rounded out and bloomed a tiny bit, but not enough to change the gauge. It’s still too loose for me to be happy with.

See how there’s lots of space through the ribbing and the fabric? That’s going to look sloppy really, really soon when it starts being worn, and in this knitter’s humble opinion, knitting takes too much time to have things not work out because of some lazy moment when I decided it was "good enough".   I thought then that maybe I could go down another needle size, which would definitely make it a better sweater… but…

I’m already at a perfect 20 sts/10cm, and the pattern calls for 18, and going down a needle size would likely give me 22…and that my friends, that means that unless I’m willing to re-write the pattern for a DK weight yarn, which I’m not… I’ve got the wrong yarn for this pattern.  (It also means, that the Green label Aran is a beautiful, lovely, well constructed yarn that probably isn’t actually an aran weight, or at least isn’t for this old-school knitter with this idea of how knitting should look.)  I was pretty bummed, and I set it aside so I could have a proper pout. I really, really wanted this yarn to work, and it’s not going to, and now I have to go to the store and buy some yarn because I don’t have any natural coloured aran weight yarn, and then, then I had an epiphany.

I know how to make yarn. Things might be looking up.

117 thoughts on “Definition

  1. It’s been said before, but really, you should write a book on parenting. I’d buy it and my kids are older than yours!

  2. Glad things are looking up! And thanks for the awesome teenage parenting reminders. My daughter’s 14, and it takes a lot of character for me to remember, she’s only 14, try this conversation again after she’s eaten something, and just walk away. Argh. Enjoy you’re spinning. It’s Tuesday, anyway – aren’t you supposed to be spinning? :)

  3. And you love spinning, so that will make you feel better right there!
    Have fun.
    (P.S. I LOVE that little puff of wool! So happy looking)

  4. lovely wee puff of yarn. Advice for teenagers appliles to pre-teen in residence, much appreciated!

  5. Handspun is the best–you’ll be happiest with it. Louie is going to be stunning in it. (While I think wait, he’s having a birthday already?!)

  6. When they returned from university in December, I was woefully out of practice. They return one by one this weekend and I am repeating your advice like a mantra.

  7. …and it’s Tuesday, which is when you usually spin, right? So it’s meant to be!

  8. I know that when I have children, I will be referring back to your blog for all kinds of advice. Good luck with the rest of the teenage years!
    And how frustrating with the change of yarn. I have to say, I am so impressed with your ability to read gauge though… I struggle with gauge so much that it’s ridiculous! Luckily, I know what weight of yarn and size of needle that I need for socks (because of tremendous trial and error) and I stick with it. But I am trying for a sweater and things aren’t quite so easy for me!

  9. Then you should do what I do, make it in a bigger size. With more stitches per inch, it should work out.

  10. Your advice about parenting through the teen years is going to be very useful in this house, provided I can remember it in the midst of battle…

  11. So, let me get this straight. For a while you were upset about the prospect of buying yarn? Have you seen a Doctor about this?

  12. I love the care you put in, and this sweater when knit will reflect that love.
    Yay, and good luck with the spinning.
    CKW
    (Meanwhile, I have a wee issue with washing and blocking seamless top down garments – how the heck is that supposed to work??)

  13. I’m with Elaine – “having” to go buy yarn is a bad thing?? I was thinking that teenager really messed with your brain! Not to brag, but in 10 weeks and 3 days I will no longer have any teenagers. Not that I’m counting or anything.

  14. Sometimes you can go down a needle size and up a size in the written pattern and it works out close to the size you want. I do it all the time.
    PS – I love reading your blog, often I am laughing out loud at my desk, hoping that no one notices.

  15. Echoing Carol’s comment about teenaged behavior at the office – despite the actual age, the behavior is strikingly similar … Thanks again for the advice! Enjoy your spinning time – may the yarny force be with you :)

  16. Ugh… While my teen was earlier in my life than normal, I have to say the one thing that I had to always remember is that she could always top herself… don’t challenge that. She could, and would, do it if necessary – leaving me completely dumbfounded each time.
    Anywhoozles – I personally LOVE the idea of spinning my yarn and creating something from it. I can spin.. I just haven’t used it yet.

  17. If we were all to be entirely honest, wouldn’t it be nice to give our husbands that list for when we are in a bad mood??? LOL! :-)

  18. Dude, seriously, Kristin just blew my mind, I know that seems pretty common sense, but it would have never crossed mind, that’s so interesting I’m trying not to dribble tea down my shirt from my gaping open mouth…

  19. Cool – are you spinning superwash? Not that it has to be, for a baby, especially given that your family likely knows better than mine how to deal with handwashing.
    Once we had a cat named Snit. She was a sweetie, mostly. Her name was one of those long stories.
    Also, once I made a list like that of how to deal with my boss. I kept it in my pencil drawer at work. It didn’t work that well, honestly, but it helped a little to have it written down.

  20. I agree with your parenting tips for teens. If only I could follow them on a regular basis! In addition, I suggest taking slow deep breaths in the powder bathroom (where they can’t see you)!

  21. Depending on the pattern writer, DK might be our worsted weight, or it might be between sock and sport.
    You can never be sure.

  22. Here’s a gift for you – my husband and I got through the teenage years of 4 children after reading this marvelous advice: You only need five responses during those years – “yes”, “no”, “really?” “wow!” and “whatever…”. The theory being that whatever they’re thinking/saying/yelling is probably going to change by the next day, so you don’t need to get your knickers in a twist, as the British would say. Hope it helps.

  23. For the first time I might be feeling a desire for a wheel. It takes forever and a day to spin enough yarn to make even a small sweater on my drop spindle! And while you’re on the topic of yarn labels/gauge, I can’t tell you now often I find that labels understate the number of stitches per inch. Cascade Eco+ comes is a perfect example–it says 3 1/2 sts per inch, but I always knit it at 4 and wouldn’t want it any looser. Now, how much fleece do you estimate it will take to make enough yarn for your project?

  24. And this is why I don’t have kids. You can return piano students at the end of the lesson and not have to deal with the ‘tude.

  25. I don’t have any kids and the snits are just as shocking when it is your adult partner making them. Things that just don’t seem so angst-worthy are just shocking when they are thrown in your face like that!

  26. I just read the blog on my way back from a yarn shop where I couldn’t buy yarn. Man, would I love to have been able to get some. Maybe I need to start spinning. If it’s cheaper then thaT’s the way I’ll go. My 11 yr old certAinly has snits thAt would top any of a teens, they have topped my 16 yr olds. thanks for the advice.

  27. I only have one teenager here but she’s 14 (and a 1/2), and already giving me a run for my money. Thanks for the perspective! A whole book dedicated to your teenager parenting tips would be most welcome!

  28. Can’t you just do the ribbing with a smaller needle and the rest with the needle that got gauge? Not that I would stop you from spinning that lovely stuff!

  29. I am going thru this now with both my daughters, aged 16 and 14 (the 16-year-old is worst). It helps give me patience when I think of it as the ‘teens terrible-twos’. And, one day, it dawned on me, “ahhh, this must be the age my ex is stuck at.”
    By the way, beautiful roving! Can’t wait to see what it looks like.

  30. I was shocked when you said you didn’t have any natural coloured aran weight yarn. Really? In your stash? You jest!
    Seriously, though, you really do make a good case for the blocking. Thanks for the pictures and reminder.
    Happy Spinning!

  31. Kids, can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without, can’t shoot them, but we can act psychotic and keep them on their toes.
    (Try speaking in some un-intelligible language, rocking and sitting in the middle of the floor while knitting with size 15 straight needles. A little mouthy froth is good too.)

  32. Thin end of the wedge, sort of a gateway gansey? (Sorry, but Presbytera seems to be occupied elsewhere a the moment.)

  33. 1.) Hope that you produced the yarn you wanted without any problems and,
    2.) In producing the yarn, I hope your mood changed.
    It is always such a shock when your child, who you had been noticing is really maturing, acts their age.

  34. I survived the teenaged years with the soothing mantra….’just smile and nod your head!’ (and get used to the stomp, stomp, stomp, SLAM!) At 22 and 25 they are lovely grownup people!

  35. Have two snit-prone goddaughters, who at 19 and 20, are finally outgrowing that phase. Lately, it’s been fun AND funny to see how shocked (SHOCKED!) they are when their young tween-aged cousin goes into full snark-and-snit mode.

  36. Only fitting.. as it is Tuesday and all. I am still in awe of your spinning skills. I am a fledgling spinner at best, still working out how my antique wheel can work at all without the footman (I know I can use a strap, but I want it all proper).
    I have two teenagers however, and I fully sympathize with your evening. Some days it’s all I can do not to stab one of them with a fork.

  37. I got to the end and laughed and laughed. For most of us, that’s the equivalent of going out to get a cow when we want a glass of milk. And I mean that in the best possible, most admiring way.

  38. Okay. Gotta say that it is just too cool to be able to say, ‘don’t have the yarn I need? I’ll just make some’. Spin away!

  39. I’ve been known to make yarn for a particular project, though normally my handspun finds a planned project after it’s spun up.
    I’m yet to hit the teenage years, eldest is 10, snits are a fairly regular thing with him.

  40. Surely with the amazing size range in that pattern you could sub a smaller yarn into a bigger size and make it work? Not that I’m questioning your judgement :) But the range of sizes in those Tin Can Knits patterns is awesome!

  41. Yay, spinning rules! My dad always says “Do it yourself, then you know it’s done properly”. And as a bonus, spinning is so calming and relaxing, you can spin-off everything that annoyed you. Enjoy! :-)

  42. Although I am sure your homespun will be fantastic, if you find yourself needing this kind of wool again and have the patience to wait for the post, I highly recommend Elsawool’s worsted Cormo. It is like knitting with clotted cream and washes to the softest wool I have ever felt. Simply yummy. http://www.wool-clothing.com
    Doc

  43. That little dollop of roving looks just so adorable right there where you plopped it in the narrative.

  44. That was my mantra for many years, as my 2 girls have bow grown into their twenties. Still have to say it, though, as the younger one has Asperger’s and just cannot get herself to do anything not fun or interesting, like laundry, or showering, or washing dishes, or even just putting garbage in the garbage! Now I add to the mantra, “She doesn’t live with me!” LOL

  45. Yes, No, Really, Wow, Whatever. Yes, No, Really, Wow, Whatever. Thank you Carrie @ 2:46. My new mantra! My husband went to a sales seminar years ago and they were told to get up every morning, stand up and say, “I feel good, I feel fine, I feel this way all the time.’ STILL cracks me up, but who knows, that might work as well…..:)

  46. Thanks for the lesson about gauge. I am always in denial about it. Until I have to rip out half a sweater.

  47. You have the best readers ever! Hilarious. “I feel fine. I feel good. I feel this way all the time.” LOL Honestly, my hat is off to you parents. I don’t have kids, and even the thought of teenagers makes me want to hide! love your solution to the yarn dilemma.

  48. Some days are like that, and they just suck. You have more people on your side than you could even imagine! :-)
    (And honestly, sometimes our kids just suck.)
    *~*~*good vibes*~*~*

  49. Definitely should have had the same tattoo, back when mine were teens! Such perfect advice. Love that this sweater is going to come out right in the end (as do our teens.)

  50. Survived 4 teenagers. Secret: walk away. You don’t have to accept their invitations to a snitfit.

  51. The little yarn blob looks like a swirl of whipped cream, just waiting to be spooned into a cup of hot chocolate. It will make a lovely sweater. I have three children who are now very nice adults. But I could have used your mantra a few years back. Yes, a tattoo would have been helpful.

  52. I’m sensing a little attention deficit of some kind going on here. Let’s see. . .the Yarn Harlot does not want to shop for yarn (Joe, please take her temperature and make her see a doctor if needed). And she’s inciting the Spinning Deities — close kin to the Knitting Deities — to cause that innocent-looking fluff to become hell-bent on turning into a lovely yarn that isn’t suited to the baby sweater.
    YH, please stop this impending train wreck. Go to one of your well-regarded LYS’s and get some cream-colored yarn that you KNOW is an Aran weight. Let the fluff become what it wants to be. And yes, you just might be distracted by a lovely new laceweight yarn in a gorgeous shade of green. . . ! (Happy hunting at the LYS!)

  53. The problem I have arguing with my teenage son is that he’s smart and uses my logic to make his twisted point. I hate it! Whether I argue with him or not, his snit messes with my chi, dangit.
    Spinning helps me get my zen back so I hope spinning will help you too. Here’s hoping you get the aran weight you’re spinning for.

  54. I read the first paragraph aloud to my husband and we agreed that the parenting advice is also applicable for parenting a 5 year old with the caveat of A) Shut up probably lasting for a short(er) period of time. My favorite is the insertion of the use of “probably”–that I am “probably” too pretty for prison. That made me snort aloud. I’m finally seeing the allure of tattoo myself…

  55. Okay, maybe I am slow, but which sleeve was washed??? Did I misread something??? Seriously, I thought the sleeve on the left had been blocked but since it still has needles in it…. oh well… Thanks for the post!!

  56. I’m with Kathy @12:48 – I’d totally buy any parenting book you write! For now though I’ll commit that bit to memory; I’ve a (so far so good) 14 yo and a challenging eleventeen yo… both girls, and OH the drama! So thanks for sharing that hard-won wisdom with us. :)

  57. One more parenting advice for teenagers. Say what you need to say in one sentence. Two at most. After that, the ears are shut.

  58. My kids are full grown adults; they never outgrow the occasional snit ~
    …and for the record, I got a tattoo; it didn’t help.

  59. Antler is a lovely cardigan so it’s worth persevering for the right yarn to match, hopefully the spinning will produce something so completely perfect that all other yarn will be forgotten.

  60. When DD was a teen we had all 4 parents living with us. 2 had alzheimers. one just had a really bad attitude. You know its bad when the teenager looks at the adult and says “she sounds like she’s 15 on a bad day” LOL We survived.DD is 27 and back to”‘normal” I’m having adventures in spinning cabled yarn for a sweater for my brother. Have been playing for a year and cant get the darned gauge right. AKKK. tempted to do non cabled yarn

  61. Five teenaged sons, only two of whom I gave birth to. One teen daughter-by-choice. Parenting my boys was a doddle compared to parenting and fostering girls.
    Boys don’t do the drama and eye-rolling as much. Snits tend to be less common; but what I found so hard as a single mom (and still do sometimes even though only one is still a teen and the girl is now in her 30′s with babes of her own) is that boys will, out of seemingly nowhere, go not ballistic but atomic.
    Fortunately my sons are both kind and mannerly, so the explosion is usually short-lived, and they immediately apologize and start doing nice things like taking out the garbage and putting the dishes away (which is likely the very activity I requested that provoked the explosion in the first place.)
    The best you can say about raising teens is that it’s a highly complex and confusing balancing act. However, with one now 19 and the other coming up fast on 21, I’m proud to say that I like my kids as well as love them, and I’d enjoy their company even if I were not their mom.
    I had my own spinning epiphany today, too. How neat is that?

  62. If only we could keep up with the changes in behaviour of our teens… There was a time you had a spinningday a week. Seems to me you should re-introduce Tuesday is for spinning. Think about all the plans and ideas you can work out while spinning, maybe even rewriting a knitting pattern in your head, keep pencil and paper at hand.

  63. I hope the spinning made you feel better! But I’d still go with some superwash for the little one. I’t too hard to get rid of chocolate stains on virgin wool…
    Maybe your next book can be about teenagers ;-)

  64. I love Tanis Fiber Arts yarn, but yes, the Green Label is definitely not Aran weight. I’m not sure why it’s labelled as such. It’s fantastic for cables though!

  65. Excellent idea! A little spinning will calm your nerves and get you just the yarn you want. It’s so much nicer to knit with handspun anyway. Happy Spinning.

  66. a propos of nothing particular in this post, except that you and your readers are managers of all things woolly, I thought that you might enjoy this video of “reclaiming wool” from Sarah’s blog Hand Stitch.
    http://vimeo.com/48647058
    Enjoy! Thank you soooooo much for your generous sharing of… EVERYthing.

  67. Your A-D list is something I need NOW with my 11 year old and would have been applicable even a year or two ago. I have the biggest problem with step A….

  68. My parenting mantra is “I will not engage”. Works when they’re 3, hoping it still works at 13 (5 more months!).
    I have noticed in the past 5 years strange gauges on yarn. A yarn that I’d knit at 22st/4″ for a nice, good sweater, fabric, has 16st/4″ on the label. Worsted now seems to be 17st/4″ and it’s hard to find the “old” 20st/4″. It’s fustrating for me, with tons of experience and rarely trying to match patterns…but I can’t imagine being a newbie. THere’s a wine bottle cozy pattern on knitty.com that calls for a 20st/4″ yarn (they suggest Canadiana), but the pattern gauge is 16st/4″ on 3.5mm needles! I don’t see how that’s possible since the yarn recommends 4.5mm needles to get 20st/4″!!

  69. Knowing how to make yarn is an awesome skill when one uses a lot of yarn ;) I’ve been trying desperately not to continue on a startitis binge. I finished one baby blanket, and immediately cast on two new projects *sigh* Now I need to finish at least one more.

  70. It is a sad fact of human nature that foul moods are very catchy.
    Your problem with the yarn is making me face the fact that the yarn I am knitting a hat for myself with has the very same problem! Dang!

  71. I’ve knit Antler for an adult and thought I had the perfect yarn and when it came to the neckline – boy – did THAT sucker stretch from the weight of the yarn… So you are right on target to go for a nice tight start to things with Antler.

  72. It’s a bummer when your teen daughter turns on you; I told myself over and over that thing about “as close as you were, that’s how hard she has to fight to differentiate herself,” but it still felt horrible. A wise person once said to me that the teen builds a stage on which to perform a drama, and invites you to join them on the stage, but you must resist the invitation!

  73. Not arguing against making and using handspun for it, but what about going down that needle size, but instead of completely rewriting it, make it in the next size (or two sizes) larger?
    I’ve done that a few times (in both directions) with great success!

  74. As someone who was recently a teenager myself, I totally lol’d at the first paragraph. Then I read it to my mother and she did as well :P

  75. When my kids were toddlers, my mantra was, “Don’t react to him like a two-year-old. We can’t both be the two-year-old. One of us has to be the grown-up.” With five-year-olds, I’d say, “Let him be the five=year-old. We can’t both be the five-year-old.” (It can be said to older siblings, too.) Now that they’re teenagers, I keep saying to myself, “We can’t both be the teenager.” It keeps getting harder, though!

  76. And, you think that you’ll achieve the required aran weight that wasn’t found in the commercial yarn labeled aran by spinning it yourself? I can’t see a single problem with that plan.

  77. Don’t you love it? Everytime my knitting friends snear about spinning, I tell them this. When you want to make a project, you’re at the mercy of the yarn shop. Me? If I don’t have it, I can make it. Nanny, nanny, booboo.

  78. IMHO, that pattern gives a very loose gauge for Vintage, which is really a worsted – I knit with it a lot and would never knit it at less than 20 sts/4 inch (10 cm, ok ;) ). But delighted to see you spinning. I took my first drop spindle class this weekend, so hopefully I will be qualified for next June’s Port Ludlow retreat!

  79. gauge too loose – surely you have some laceweight or light fingering you could string along too? or are you worried it will make the stitches less defined? Mind you, an excuse to spin a baby sweater’s worth of yarn is is a nice thing to have :)

  80. I am the proud owner of a 14 y/o daughter and have printed the pertinent parts of paragraph 1 and will now hang copies of it about the house. She’s a good girl and its still going to be a long haul. Thank you for the instructions.
    Good luck with sweater knitting. Obviously, you are clever so it will work out. Can’t wait to see those cables!

  81. I’ll add the reason I walked away when I had teenagers and occasionally with the husband,they don’t let you take knitting needles to prison. Needles are considered a weapon rather than a means to calm you down.

  82. My observations:
    Even the traditional yarn weight names have become meaningless.
    Thick yarn is thinner than it used to be, for the same official size: “Aran” is closer to worsted, “worsted” is now closer to DK or fingering.
    But thin yarn is thicker: “Baby-weight” is closer to fingering, “fingering” is closer to heavy sockweight.
    Needles are being renamed with smaller numbers so that people can think they are knitting on more impressively small sizes.
    People are being told to knit looser, so a smaller skein can pretend to cover as much area as the older, bigger skeins used to.
    The only solution is to swatch until you get the texture you want, then do the math for the size needed, then make a wild guess at how much yarn to buy.
    Just like before there were official sizes for anything.

  83. yes.. I remember those days.. being a teenager can be frustrating as hell :P I now kind of feel bad for how I treated my mom during my teen years… :) and yay! for spinning :) it’s such a lifesaver

  84. Love what =Tamar @ 6:20am said – It’s clear that industry standards no longer exist or are waning at best. We must be steadfast to maintain our own and keep them as high as possible. Even if it means being much more conscientious about accurate swatching. Caught too many times with items too small or too big because of my own wish to make the gauge match even when it may not have. Working on taking my own advice but for now, knitting lots of shawls :)

  85. Oh, yes. I recently had the same realization. Wanting to make Gale Zucker’s Decibella, not wanting to buy the chunky yarn called for (as a fine gauge knitter, just can’t get past the 80 m per $12 skein prices), totally amused by making multi-ply yarns – amazing how long that added up to a need to spin the chunky for the cowl. Looking forward to seeing what you spin up!

  86. So that’s what has been happening – it didn’t seem like I was getting gauge on anything; it never occurred to me they were changing the yarn!
    Glad so many of you mentioned it.

  87. We say at our house – when your parenting teenagers, it’s goo to drink the big cup of shut-up every day. This is also helpful in marriage, just sayin’.

  88. That cream colored roving looks so enticing, almost look a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which now that I think about it, has far more calories than roving. But I like vanilla ice cream especially with hot fudge sauce, it makes the knitting easier. Don’t you think?

  89. Just look at the baby pictures. They were sweet, at times smelly, and could not talk back. It goes much too fast. those things keep my 14 yo healthy. 99.5% of the time, they are fine.

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