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Project Memory Jars

As last mentioned in my plastic canvas wall hangings update, back in 2019 I’d given myself a pretty ambitious resolution: a challenge to turn 19 “works in progress” into “finished objects”. The first project added to my “19 WIP-to-FO Challenge” was my wall of Project Memory Jars

I’ve had a longstanding tradition of keeping a little length of yarn from each knitted and crocheted project I’ve made (later adding plastic canvas projects as my fiber hobbies crew). It started as keeping a bit of yarn in case there was need for repairs, but other than mending some knitted socks, it didn’t really wind up being a useful hoard item. That said, I have a strong visual memory and it was lovely to look back at the various yarns and remember the projects I’d made. The small colorful scraps would often bring up vivid memories of the gift recipient or technique I’d struggled with or laughter with crafty buddies in a workshop.

Originally these remnants were rolled into a ball and tied on one after another. It made them easy to store but impossible to see all the yarns on the inner layers.

My first “solution” was to make them into something tangible. They’d still have the same memory placeholder and all would be visible. Back in 2012 I eagerly cast on for a crochet granny square and made a few large blocks, intending to one day sew them into a large scrappy blanket.

This worked…fine actually. It was a chaotic mess and I knew I’d love the resulting blanket. The problem was that it would never be finished. I’d be storing a bag of 12″ granny squares for decades because even though I work on 50-100 projects yearly, the amount of triple-crochet stitches I’d be able to get from a few yards of leftover yarn was minimal.

So I thought about it and came up with a different idea. A silly little memory wall that makes no sense to anyone but me, but makes me smile and remember all the projects I put my time, effort, energy and care into.

My project memory jars

The shelves and brackets were extras from my previous job, so luckily I had those already on-hand.

I bought the jars at my local Dollarama in but if you can’t find them near you then these jars paired with these label packs would be a great substitute. Instead of using the white chalk that came with each jar I wrote on their labels with chalk markers.

Now that the wall was ready it was time to fill the jars. Which meant finally getting around to undoing the granny squares. Since it was the first item on my 19-for-19, it made sense to start with that one first.

1. FO Project Jars

What I said: I need to rip out all the individual lengths of yarn (1-10 yards long, each), match them up with what project they were from, and put the separated yarn into jars designated for each year.

What I did: basically exactly that. Only what took one sentence to type took hours to actually do. Frogging the granny squares was easy work, but before I could start I had to look at the center stitches of each block and figure out what project that was from, so I could put the blocks into a chronological order. (Luckily I take detailed project notes and my Ravelry page is mostly up to date!)

Once I’d figured out which blocks went where time-wise, I ripped them back and rolled them back into one big ball as I went, so the newest yarn was on the inside. Once everything was frogged I was able to start with the oldest scraps and begin to sort.

It was slow work but I moved through the yarn, cutting away the knots and putting a few inches of each yarn into the relevant year’s jar. Since the jars aren’t huge I only kept a bit of each and had a colorful pile of spaghetti left over at the end, which I later separated by length.

Anything that was a yard or more I rolled up and added to my mini ends bin, for use as waste yarn, stitch holders and row counters, or random craft projects.

I only undid knots for the cotton scraps because I had plans to re-use those. Every time I got to cotton yarn I added it to this growing ball, which I later turned into 2 scrappy dishcloths for my kitchen, using my own perfect, lay-flat, knitted diagonal garter dishcloth pattern.

I used about half of the scraps to make a smaller cloth with a hanging bit on the end, and then used up all the rest for the 2nd cloth. (The pattern is knit like a diamond so all you need to do to use up every bit of yarn is to find your center…work half the cloth until you hit the center point and then start the decreases to work the remaining half).

With all the jars filled and the extra bits used up, that officially marked the first of my 19 completed WIP-to-FO projects for my challenge, and now I have a silly bit of wall décor that confuses everyone who comes into my home office. I get to look at it and reminisce about all the people I’ve knit for and all the yarn-related creativity that moved between my fingers.

Here’s looking ahead to 2022 and all the projects it will bring.

Happy New Year!

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FREE PATTERN: Perfect Lay-Flat Knitted Diagonal Garter Washcloth

Update: see end of post for information about a downloadable pattern pdf

With my upcoming surgery looming in the near future, I decided to make the most of my time and get a head start on this year’s holiday teacher gifts.  I still make the Christmas and Hanukkah gifts for my kids’ teachers, lunch ladies and daycare workers, and, not knowing how much I’d be up for a long bout of down-to-the-wire crafting post-op (since I somehow always end up working til 4am the night before the last day of school), I was smart and started early.

I decided to make dish/washcloths again.  It’s been a few years since the junior campus staff got regular square washcloths, and I haven’t made them for anyone on senior side yet, so I wasn’t worried about being too repetitive.  I dug some favorite Bernat Handicrafter Cotton from my stash and pulled up the most basic, well known, standard dishcloth pattern Ravelry had to offer – a plain old, diagonal-knit garter washcloth.

Plenty of yarn, plenty of time, and a well-worn pattern.  This, I thought, would be a breeze.  I was even optimistic enough to think I’d have the Xmas gifts ready before November!

Heh.

My troubles started early on.  After completing the first washcloth, actually.  I had finished it and set it down flat on the table and noticed the lower edge immediately curl upwards.  I smoothed it flat but it quickly rolled inwards again.  It wasn’t terribly noticeable, and – let’s face it – this is a dishcloth.  If used properly it would end up scrunched and rolled and pulled and would sag and ease out of shape quickly.  But I was annoyed at how it looked and poked around at it a bit trying to figure out why the top half was fine but the lower half curled in.  The top half, by contrast, lay beautifully flat. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong.

Finally I realized it wasn’t my fault – there was an inherent flaw with the pattern. It was the kind where you increase into the second stitch of every row.  That type of increase pulls imperceptibly on the outer stitch, eating up the slack between the first two stitches.  When this is done at intervals one would hardly notice, but when it is done at the beginning of every row the result was edges that curled inwards.  This didn’t occur on the top half of the diamond because that was the decrease half and I wasn’t using any of the previous row’s slack at all.

I could smooth it flat and I could have blocked it but come on… blocking washcloths?  No thanks.  I’d rather figure out how to knit it without the flaw.

The main thing was to figure out what increase to use.  Any increase which went into the prior row, including a standard ‘make 1’, would cause the same inward tugging.  Yarn-over increase patterns didn’t have that problem, but I didn’t want eyelets dotting the sides of my washcloth.  I wanted these cloths to look less dainty, more ‘rugged’, if that makes sense.  I decided to work YO increases but to close them on the subsequent rows by knitting them through the back loop.

Once I was tinkering with the pattern I also added a plain row at the max width point before transitioning into the decreases. Diagonal patterns always seem to have you go from wide to narrow without any plain row in between and I find that the extra row tugs less on those points of the diamond.  The result is a lovely garter washcloth which has wonderful drape and lays flat beautifully, and is now my go-to knit washcloth or dishcloth.

photo2016-10-28113107amedit

I’ve knit 9 of them so far… sadly not anywhere near how many I need, but enough to know I’m really happy with how it works out, and I added it to Ravelry tonight.

The yardage listed is for a dishcloth knit to 41 sts, which results (at my tension) in a 9” x 9” square. You can easily make them larger or smaller. If desired before binding off you can create a strip to fold over and sew down for a hanging loop by either knitting about 4” of garter on those 3 sts or knitting them into a 4” long 3-st i-cord.

This pattern would work equally well for baby blankets or throws, continuing to increase until whatever max diagonal is desired before working the plain row and then beginning the decreases.

photo-2016-10-28-11-32-05-am

Directions

  • CO 3 sts 
  • row 1- k across 
  • row 2- k1, yo, k to end 
  • inc row– k1, yo, k to previous row’s yo and knit it tbl (to close the hole), k1 
  • Repeat inc row until diagonal of cloth is at desired widest point (I stopped at 41 sts)
  • Next row- k to previous row’s yo and knit it tbl (to close the hole), k1 
  • dec row– k1, k2tog, k to end of row 
  • Repeat dec row until cloth is back down to its original number of sts 
  • BO remaining sts & weave in the loose ends

Update!

This pattern is on Ravelry here.

This pattern is provided for free above, but if you’d prefer an easy-to-print version, I have made it available here for a very small fee. The PDF includes the full instructions, an easy to read layout and full color images.

*Updated January 2020

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.