How to Knit Faster: My 17 in 2017 Challenge

It’s good to challenge yourself, everybody tells me. Clearly, they’ve never gone overboard with a hobby until it adds stress instead of relieving it. I like to set myself a knitting challenge every year and had an ambitious but (I imagined) achievable goal for 2017: start and complete 17 garments, interspersing them with charity knitting for refugees. Now that June has arrived, my dream seems impossible.

Where did I get such a crazy idea? I had a really good knitting year in 2016—we’re talking a seriously, beautifully, FANTASTICALLY prolific knitting year. In addition to finishing up a number of WIPs, small projects, and projects for work, I began and completed 16 garments for myself. These additions to my closet included 7 light tops, 8 heavier garments for spring and fall weather, and a colorwork cardi in bulky yarn. It helps that I prefer spending all my leisure time at home with my cats, watching TV or listening to audiobooks while we all play with yarn.

So then 2017 arrived, and I thought, “17 more garment-sized projects? No biggie.” Then the doors of my closets started bursting open of their own accord, unable to withstand pressure from so much knitwear stuffed inside. My queue had to branch out to include other people, so I offered to knit a shawlette for my hairdresser’s wedding in November. (This project isn’t big enough to qualify for my 17 in ‘17 challenge, however.) When my boss expressed a wish for a classic Aran sweater, I volunteered to make one. A few irresistible yarn sales happened to coincide with new pattern releases by favorite designers. It wasn’t hard to bust some stash, fill my queue, and buy more yarn.

My 2017 knitting year started out well. By the middle of April, I’d completed 6 big projects, all from stash yarn. I decided to add charity knitting to my challenge, since hats don’t take very long and I’ve got plenty of nice yarn left over from other projects. Why not give a little back and hopefully brighten someone’s day?

But then disaster struck. Once my new e-spinner arrived in late March, I wanted to spend all my time making yarn. Project #7 and my current project, the Blue Hiking sweater mentioned below, got seriously delayed, partly because of that new spinning wheel and partly because it’s always tough for me to power through the most tedious part of each garment (you guessed it: the sleeves). Project #7 did come to an end—finally—permitting the thrill of checking off a project in Ravelry! With any luck, I’ll be able to finish the last sleeve on that Blue Hiking top soon. Then I’ll start on some charity hats, since I haven’t yet made any.

Where do I stand as of June 1?  Seven sweaters down, 10 to go!
how to knit faster

1.     Sky Blue: A cuddly shawl-collar cardigan from yarn that I designed, spun, and dyed myself. The yarn combined 2 fat and fluffy plies of wool from a sheep named Annie with a finer, smoother ply of alpaca. I knew from sampling and test-dyeing that these fibers would pick up colors differently when dunked into a dyebath of food coloring.

how to knit faster

2.     Steampunk: Julia Farwell-Clay’s fantastic Steampunk Pullover from knitscene Fall 2014, reknit for the upcoming Knitting Traditions 2017 that comes out in August (digital) and September (print).

3.     Indigo Girl Weekend: Several years ago, I dyed some commercial yarn with indigo and waited for the perfect design to come along. Then it did, in the form of a casual, comfy raglan that beautifully reveals variations in the yarn’s colors. It turns out, you have to rinse out indigo dye really thoroughly before knitting if you don’t want to become a Smurf. My hands turned blue every day that I worked on it, so I soaked the finished sweater all day in a vinegar bath before its maiden voyage.

4.     Flash Snowflake: I added this yarn and this pattern to my queue back in 2011! I admired Melissa Leapman’s simple, bold design long before I began working with her on Love of Knitting. There’s a special thrill in knitting a sweater when you know the designer personally! The white contrast yarn came from my handspun stash, for even more thrill. (Seriously, there’s nothing like knitting with yarn you made.) I managed to finish this project in 5 days, thanks to a holiday weekend binge-watching The Flash. Barry Allen’s zippiness inspired me to knit faster.

how to knit faster

5.     Summer’s Eve: Irina Anikeeva, another designer from Love of Knitting, creates stunning patterns for her Ravelry store as well as for Interweave knitting magazines. Don’t let my silly, immature name-pun turn you off—this gorgeous duster always gets compliments when I wear it. A cable flows down center back, changing its form between the shoulders and rippling all the way to the hem.

how to knit faster

6.     Slow Curve: Another project from my handspun, hand-dyed stash. I’m still figuring out what to do for closures, but the knitting is complete. You may have seen this sweater in a Closet Full of Sheep post while it was green and red.

7.     Cabled Red: A simple, striking design in a luscious blend of alpaca, silk, and merino. Plus red. Some days, I do not want to blend into the crowd.

Currently on the needles:

·       Blue Hiking, nearing the finish line. It’s part of an experiment on Melissa Leapman’s Hiking Henley from Love of Knitting Summer 2017. Once I finish this summer top in blue, I’ll knit up another version in red, with different seamless modifications. I’ll blog about my findings after I finish both sweaters and test them.

·       Stormy Berry, a challenging pattern from Jennifer Wood. After she published Refined Knits with Interweave in 2015, I fell in love with her design aesthetic—now Jennifer’s designs are all over my queue!

Do you set up crazy knitting challenges for yourself? Or am I just weird that way? Which project in my queue should come next? View my Ravelry queue  and let me know what you think in comments below.

Let’s hear it for more and better knitting!

Editor, Love of Knitting and Knitting Traditions

Learn How to Knit Faster by Knitting More!


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