Posts Tagged ‘sweater’

Every now and then, I get some proof that real honest-to-goodness actual people read this blog, at least from time to time. This information always delights me, although on one occasion it also rather disconcerted me. Sometimes, a gentle reader will pop up and ask a question. So, thank you for asking, and here are a couple of answers.

Firstly, as spotted by some of you, the sweater I accidentally striped, was indeed the thoroughly excellent  ‘Owls‘, a pattern that is charming, well-written, and most importantly, simple. Additionally, it is written for big wool, and should knit up delightfully fast. I actually substituted Malabrigo worsted, which forced me to go up from the smallest to almost the largest size to mitigate the gauge difference. While a nice wool, which I had been itching to try, in a color I adore, and that I had on hand, I was a little upset to end up knitting 25% more stitches than I might have. No matter, the result – even striped – is pleasing to me, and the deep green is ideally suited to my coloring.

The owls themselves are as cute as a button, but despite that, I decided against adding actual buttons for their eyes, as per the pattern. It seemed like, while making them more clearly owls, it might just be de trop. Perhaps I’ll find the perfect buttons, and change my mind, but in the meantime, that’s 40 buttons I don’t have to sew on, which might be another thing that swayed my judgement in the direction of less-is-more.

To answer a couple of questions that haven’t come up, but might, potentially: yes, everything you may have heard about Mal worsted is true. It stretches like nobody’s business (think, carrying quintuplets); it pills like nobody’s business (think, ransacked pharmacy) and the dyelots match as consistently as if they’d been put together by a blind person. And yet, like so many other knitters, I love it madly. And no, I don’t have the answer to ‘why’ exactly.

Now, moving swiftly along to the other – and not unrelated – question. One of those gentle readers who has, like myself, been bothered by a sweater of accidental stripes, asks how you actually go about alternating skeins. Dear reader, this is what my wise friend told me, when I asked her the same question:

Alternating yarns is just a matter of knitting two rows with one then two rows with the other, it doesn’t create any extra bulk and isn’t unsightly at all. I just make sure to bring the new working yarn in front of the old one every time. Also, the selvedge that I’m using makes it even cleaner looking than what I have tried before. Here’s the selvedge trick: knit the first stitch of every row, slip the last stitch purlwise with the yarn in front. Every row. It makes a beautiful, orderly, smooth selvedge, and completely hides the yarn being switched every two rows. (Printed, shamelessly, without permission.)

And my friend knows what she’s doing. On the left you may contemplate the result of her alternating skeins. What do you see? Nothing. Quite. Now, if you really want to be inspired, here is a closer look at the selvedge she refers to. What do you see? Quite simply perfection.

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The other day, I had a conversation with a friend, which went more or less as follows:

Friend: Oh, just by the bye, never ever knit from hand-dyed wool without alternating skeins. Ever. Even if they come from the same dyelot. You will end up looking foolish and you will regret it. Not ‘might’, ‘will’. Just thought I’d mention that while I think of it.

Me: Ah, thank you. I sure hope you’re wrong because I’m doing guess what? just now! And I’m not alternating skeins because they come from the same dyelot and they looked OK to me when I put them together and I think I’m getting away with it. They still look fine, and now I’m nearly finished the project. Lucky me.

Friend: Sorry to have bothered you. I’ll keep my advice to myself in future.

Me: Well, it might be useful advice for next time. How exactly would one alternate skeins, if one were inclined to do that?

So, firstly I’d like to point out two things. One, I have a transcript of this conversation, because it happened by email, but I’m paraphrasing to spare the blushes of the party who happened to be oh-so-terribly wrong. (You don’t know who that is yet, because I’m doing such a great job of keeping you in suspense). Two, I was very happy to have the advice, and interested in the technique for future reference. Not being arrogant, merely hubristic.

Cut to the chase.

I can live with it. Of course I can. My options are pretty limited at this stage, frankly, such that, if those skeins were any more different I would be calling the effect stripes and living with it. I admit defeat. In my defence, and for the purposes of Not Making the Same Mistake Twice, I must hasten to disclose that the rather staggering and heartbreaking dissimilarity is only discernable in good natural light. Which, it being February in a dark and gloomy part of the Northern hemisphere, is a commodity in such remarkably short supply that I knit for two weeks without any inkling something was amiss. In other words, I didn’t have a clue until yesterday, when I actually took the project into the living room and sat by the window for a few minutes as I multitasked puzzle supervision and owl knitting.

The moral of the story is simple: I urge you – for the love of God, don’t try to match yarn by artificial light. And above all, never ever knit from hand-dyed wool without alternating skeins. Ever. Even if they come from the same dyelot.

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