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On the other Side of the Snowstorm: Repairing Broken Things

fixing the toaster

Mr. Turtle fixing the toaster

One of the things I love about snowstorms is how they can sometimes function like a home-vacation: a chance to tackle all the things you haven’t quite gotten to yet.  I talked about my plan on Friday of things I wanted to tackle: darning, personal projects, starting the Piecework lace project I’ve got to get off by the end of the week.  And in that regard, it was a lovely weekend.  Little did I realize it at the time, but the theme of the weekend became repairing things: Mr. Turtle and I took turns solving problems and mending what’s broken.  There’s a lovely sort of satisfaction in that.

Saturday morning with the snow still coming down, Mr. Turtle and I got up earlier than expected.  After breakfast (and happy we hadn’t lost power during the night), Mr. Turtle tackled repairing the toaster, which had been failing to latch when you put the lever down.

Darning Socks

Mending socks with a darning needle and yarn.

It was one of those moments that made me glad that Mr. Turtle and I have different interests and things we’re good at: when a small electrical appliance breaks, it’s “broken” to me, beyond repairing.  Similarly, when Mr. Turtle’s got a hole in his socks or some textile wears out, he wouldn’t have a clue about how to fix it.

But to Mr. Turtle, the toaster was (nearly) an open book.  Meanwhile, I was busy tackling a pile of darned socks that had been building (and building and building).  Many of them didn’t need much repairing – we’ve both gotten better about “watching” our handknits for thin spots.  Much of the work was just working duplicate stitch over areas worn thin.

So while Michael tackled the toaster, I tackled the socks.  Then, it was out to do the first of two shovel efforts, a quick walk, and then a retreat indoors as the storm picked up again.

hat, mittens, gloves and scarf hanging from an unused shovel in a pile of snow.

Loosing the hats and mittens as we warm up

Sunday dawned with the news that church was canceled (not surprising), and nearly another 8″ of snow spread over our cars, yard, driveway and sidewalks.  It was not going to be a fun job to shovel – our one real snow-shovel (with a metal edge along the blade!) was out of commision.  The day before I’d bent the handle – a combination of it being an “ergonomic” handle and me being a mite bit too enthusiastic.  I was not looking forward to shoveling the driveway, sidewalks and other areas with a garden shovel.  Not only are the blades on these shovels small (so small!), but it just hurt my New England pride.

This is, again, where Mr. Turtle comes to the rescue – off he vanishes with the broken shovel, to return with the blade on a new wooden handle.  Our yard edge-trimmer (which we never use), valiantly gave up its handle to be installed on the snow shovel.  Soon we were warming up, the hats and mittens, jackets and scarves coming off as we polished off the driveway.

And because it hurt my pride not to do it, we are the sole people on the street that also cleared off our sidewalks and storm drain.  Again, raised in New England (and later upstate New York), I’m fairly certain it’s a law that you have to shovel off your portion of the sidewalks and clear out storm drains in your yard.  If it isn’t a law, then it was at least a family law in our household: you dug out the mailbox, you dug out the storm drain, and, gosh darnit, you dug out the sidewalks to ensure safe passage from the house in case of a fire.

So even as we’re living in Ashland, we did the same.

Then, it was time for another walk, this one along some of the more parklike areas of Ashland, to take pretty, artsy snow photography and enjoy the evening sun.

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Repairing a Puppy-Destroyed Blanket

New Year brought a small, temporary break in the designing workload – thank goodness!  I took the time to catch-up on some of the repair work that’s big and cumbersome, including repairing a puppy-chewed blanket.

Over New Year’s I was able to work on repairing a family blanket that had been “savaged” by a puppy.  This is a tricksy repair, with lots of patterning.  I’ve been working my way through it, taking the time to trace out the pattern in waste yarn before making the final repairs.

 

Take a look at some of my progress:

 

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Here I’ve got the tools of my trade: good solid waste yarn that’s smooth and not prone to breaking.  I’ve got a bent-tip needle, locking stitch markers, a crochet hook, and the project.  You can see the hole closed up now, with the yarn ready to be traced over.

 

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And here we have the final repair, the new yarn nearly invisible.  You can find the fixed area by looking at where the orange marker is poking through.

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Another hole, this one near the edge.  The repairs are made a bit more difficult because every other row the knitter worked is twisted.  Twisted stitches are NO FUN to repair because the top unraveled bit looks like a backwards loop cast on.  Every other row has to be manually detangled instead of just dropping things back to a good starting point.

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Here, working the pattern using a crochet hook.
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And now, the hole ready to be traced over with the new yarn!  Halfway finished!

Stay tuned, as this blanket has several more tricky holes that I’ll be tackling.

A Perfect Sweater Repair

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve been hopping, trying to wrap up finishing projects before Christmas is truly upon us.  I’ve nearly pushed through the projects that are due in the next two weeks (and then the rest aren’t due until the New Year!).  I had one repair in particular that I wanted to share – a sweater repair in the Irish Knit Style.  The owner, AM, discovered me through the Washington Post article, and got in contact with me shortly thereafter.  She had a hole right in the front of the sweater, and could I please repair it?

As always, I told her I’d do the best I was able, but I was concerned – the yarn she had, a cream flecked with bits of brown, looked to be tricky to match.

This week I sat down to start on her repair, and when I pulled her sweater out of my bag, I couldn’t help wincing – this yarn was going to be really tricky to match.  I have a number of different creams on hand, but all of them were too light, and with too much “yellow” undertone.  AM’s sweater was a cream with an almost grey undertone.  And again, it had flecks of brown it it – tricky to match.  I checked the sweater – there wasn’t a good place to “harvest” yarn without going to a lot of effort, and I knew AM wanted to keep the costs down.  So matching the yarn from somewhere else would be a better option.

The hole itself was a lucky one: a row higher and it would be in the middle of a cable – a repair that’s much more finicky and tedious to do.  Two rows down there was the same problem.  This hole happened in exactly the right place – the few rows between two cables.

Well, it’d been a while since I’d been to one of the local yarn stores.  I figured it was time for a visit.

The Knitting B is a local yarn store about 25 minutes from where I live.  It’s the longest drive to a LYS I’ve had since I left my parents’ house.  So I don’t get there as often as I feel I should, and it’s too bad.  It’s a great store with lots of natural light, a solid selection of yarns, and a good parking area (always a plus!). Elizabeth, the owner, had an LYS in Charlottesville, VA for 25 years.  She’s a savvy businesswoman who knows here stuff.

When I got to the Knitting B one of the employees began helping me out trying to get a match.  Everything we pulled was not right.  Many of my go-to’s weren’t working.  And then, I remembered a trick I’d used before to get a good match.  Color changing yarns often will have sections that shift between colors, which means you get a lot of “bang” for your buck – and in this case, a couple of yards of yarn that match a hard to match yarn.  In this case, Noro Silk Garden came to the rescue.

The repair was pretty standard after that.

Because the yarn was awfully fuzzy, and hard to see what I was doing, I did a step I sometimes skip.  I ran guidelines: a different color of crochet thread for each row.  Because it’s the holidays, I decided to go with red and green.  I then unpicked the old yarn, pulling it out of the way.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

Sweater repair with guidelines.

I began tracing the yarn with the Noro Silk Garden.  My only complaint about Noro is that it’s really easy to pull apart, being a single-ply.  It was also a fraction less lofty than the original yarn, but the color matching was so perfect I didn’t care, as the repair was only 4 stitches across.  I ran the first row of yarn, adjusting the stitches to make sure they matched the gauge of the stitches around them.  Then I pulled out the green guideline.  It’s one of the reasons I love crochet cotton: it pulls out REALLY easily, and is nearly unbreakable without scissors.

Sweater repair half done, only red guidelines remain.

Sweater repair half done, only red guidelines remain.

I then ran the second set of yarn, and pulled out the red yarn.

Sweater repair, needing ends woven in.

Sweater repair, needing ends woven in.

See how nice the color match is?  Just let me be geeky for a moment – the under-color is SO close, and the flecks of brown is SOOO close too.  You’d really have to be looking to notice this.

Then got down to the tedious part: weaving in the old ends and the new ends, tweaking things as I go.

Sweater Repair, finished.

Sweater Repair, finished.

Can you spot the repair?  Yes?  Well then, I ask you.

How about now?

Sweater Repair, big view

Sweater Repair, big view

As always, if you’re looking to have a knit piece repaired, get in touch with me on my Finishing Page.  Got questions?  I’d love to hear from you.  Comment, or drop me a note!

Changes: Pricing and Holiday Deadlines

Repair of a Shetland Lace Shawl

Repair of a Shetland Lace Shawl

It’s getting to be the end of October (where did all the time go?) and that means we’re starting to move into the Holiday season. This is the time of year where the amount of finishing and repair I do nearly triples!

I love doing finishing and repair work – I love being able to help you finish your projects and make them perfect!  I love helping you restore older pieces that have gotten loved on a little too much.

But the reality is that Finishing & Repair are the types of work I can only do so much of in a day before my well runs dry.  It’s also time (and very often space) consuming.  There’s a reason I get so many different large shawls, blankets and other large items to block!  I’m fortunate that Mr. Turtle and I have been able to dedicate a space in the house just for this type of work, and that he’s totally chill with finding a bunch of sweaters and other things drying on the guest bedroom bed.

Repairing a Crochet Blanket

Repairing a Crochet Blanket

What Changed?
Quite a few things have changed since I last changed my pricing-  nearly two years ago now!  And many of these changes have led to me concluding that prices need to increase.

  • I moved, and it became more costly for me to drive to my drop-off/pickup locations.
  • More individuals have opted to mail, and have me mail back, their items.  Postal prices have increased.
  • The type of projects I tend to get have become more complicated: most of my customers like to handle the “smaller items” themselves, and send me the more difficult projects.
  • My volume of projects has increased!  Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m happy about this.  BUT!  The reality is that knitting, crocheting, seaming, blocking, pinning, etc are all hand and arm heavy activities.  I’m relatively young, but I’d hate to find that 5 or 10 years down the road, I’ve given myself a repetitive stress injury.  Because of that, I limit the amount of hand-heavy activities I do during a day, and I make sure I have time to stretch in between.  This means I have a finite amount of time during the day I can devote to finishing and repair.
  • I’ve gotten better. As I practice more and learn more, the quality of my finishing and repair has increased, and I believe that my expertise is worth it!

Frankly, I’ve known I’ve had to raise my prices for nearly 6 months, but the reality of the holidays coming really drove the point home – my prices are not sustainable.

So what does this mean for you, my customer?

  1. Coming Sunday November 1st, my prices will be increasing on Finishing & Repair work.  My hourly rate will increase from $30 to $40.  Many of the categories in my Finishing line of services will also change – some won’t change as much as my hourly rate, and some won’t change at all.  But most things will be increasing by a little.
  2. On Monday November 30th, I will no longer be accepting Rush Service.  This will continue thru January 1st, and then Rush Service will return.  You may still request (and receive!) Express Service. That means if you want to get something finished or repaired before the Christmas Holidays – get it in sooner rather than later.
  3. There will be a new surcharge for oversized items.  Details are still being determined.  But the long and short of it is: I have cats.  I make sure all my finishing stays in places where it won’t get affected by cats.  This is fine for smaller items, but when I need to work on really large things, I have to rearrange my house to create a space where I can work that won’t also have cats laying all over it.  This extra effort needs to be taken into account – otherwise I’m going to get frustrated and grumpy every time I go to work on large items.  I don’t want that to happen.
  4. Note: for any of you that have gotten items to be before the November 1st deadline, don’t worry! Your projects will be charged under the old system.

Got questions about the changes?  As always, you can leave me a comment, or drop me an email, and I’ll be happy to answer them!

Thank you so much for being loyal customers!

First Snowfall!

Snow!

This morning I awoke to a familiar hue of light – grey and still.  There’s a nearly indescribable quality on mornings after a snowfall, as the bluish/whitish light from the clouds is reflected off of the snow, sneaking through blinds and curtains.  When I lived in New York and Massachusetts, it was fairly common (as every week brings multiple snowfalls, some big some small), but now that we live outside of Richmond, any snowfall is a much rarer event.

And this snowfall was made more special because it’s the very first snowfall of the year – seemingly apropo of my blog post two days ago.

All I can say about the Annie’s Project is it involves this really big ball of
rags. Peake keeps trying to figure out how to steal it.

Earlier this week I bought myself some maple syrup (overpriced and… I’ll be a little snobby – not as good of quality as the stuff I’m used to), as I was feeling a hankering.  Sugaring season is at least a month away, but I was feeling the need.  There’s nothing like the taste of sweetening your tea with maple syrup, or putting it in yogurt, or drizzling it over oatmeal like I did this morning.

Today is a day for tucking in and getting crafting done.  Unlike many around me, I don’t have a snow day today, but I can at least allow myself to do the fun parts of my job: like plugging away on the project I’m doing for Annie’s Crochet!, or working on the sample for the class I’m teaching at Fibre Space in two weekends.  It’s a day for a big pot of tea, and soup at lunchtime.

I’ve also been working on a bunch of repair work lately, which has been satisfying.  I really love doing repair work, and I’m working this year on documenting my process a little bit more.  Part of that is taking pictures, like this one:

Repair work on a cardigan in lace weight single-ply yarn.  I can’t even imagine knitting it.

Last two tidbits: I sent out my last newsletter last Friday, talking about teaching dates.  If you don’t subscribe, you can do it on the website with the little tab to the left.  It’s a good way to keep track of what’s going on.

I’ve also been a lot more active on Twitter lately.  If you’re interested in seeing a bit more of my behind-the-scenes process, you should follow me on twitter.

4 Warning Signs Your Handmade Afghan is Falling Apart

My business has many arms – my teaching, pattern writing, and more recently, finishing.  Normally finishing involves piecing together sweaters or blocking shawls, but sometimes I get another type of request.  Sometimes I get requests to do repairs on well loved a
fghans and blankets that are lovingly knitted or crochet.  Many times I’m able to fix things before they get too bad, but sometimes I have to be the person saying, “I’m sorry, but there is no way to fix your family heirloom.”  This is a terrible thing to say, and so I have a list of things to look for to know when your afghan is in need of repair, before it gets irreparable.

  • At the First Sign of Trouble, seek help.  There’s an old adage that says, “A stitch in time saves 9.”  And it is so true – making repairs before they happen is the best way to prevent tears, rips and holes.  Look for weak spots in your knitting or crochet – where the thread is getting thin or wispy.  These are places where holes will form.  Find someone to help you retrace the stitches and reinforce the work.
  • Pulls or loose threads.  Sometimes yarn that has been carefully woven in works its way loose, or gets caught and creates a pull or snag.  Don’t panic! If the thread is not broken, just stretched and out of the weave of the fabric, carefully pull it in different directions, and see if you can ease it back into place.  If not, see if you can find someone (like a finisher or a more experienced knitter or crocheter, that can help you work the yarn back into the stitch.

  • Seams coming undone. So many crochet (and even knit) afghans have their seams come undone.  One of my very first repairs to a blanket was my father’s well-loved afghan, made in long strips of knitting and seamed together.  If a seam comes undone, don’t panic.  Take a bit of matching yarn or thread, and carefully seam the edges back together, using a ladder stitch or running stitch.
  • The center of motifs are a common place I see in need of repair.  Either because the original creator didn’t secure the ends enough, or just because of stress, this can be a common cause for problems.  If you can, try to pick up as many of the loose loops and put them on a stitch older or locking stitch marker, to prevent further unraveling. This is one repair I’d say, if you can, to get a professional to do, as it takes a deft touch and a good understanding of how stitches work to get it back to matching the others.
The key to all of these problems is if they are caught early, they can be fairly painless repairs.  If you let the problem go, the worse things get, and the more likely that the afghan will need to be reconstructed or have more extensive repairs.Have you ever had to repair a project?  Tell me about it on twitter or facebook.  Looking to have your own repaired?  Get in touch with me through my finishing form!