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Posts Tagged ‘yarn’

I’ve had so many things going on over the last few months that I’ve mostly failed to blog about any of them. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been too busy doing to be writing, but mostly, it’s been more a matter of failing to organize my thoughts well enough to write them down. And then, time goes by, and with it another project (or ten) and the moment passes.

Anyway, here’s another ‘one I made earlier’. It started with a shawl. No, further back, it started with a KAL on Ravelry in the group devoted to probably my absolute favorite dyer, Twisted Fiber Arts. (Seriously: I can’t in all honesty recommend clicking that link. It’s not safe. Your money, possibly your life-savings and the deeds to your house, will be in the hand of the ultra-talented Meg before you can say “CVV number”). A Ravelry friend had destashed a double-length ‘Evolution’ skein to me a few months ago, and here was a chance to use it. These are skeins dyed in a gently evolving gradient of colors, some of which can be quite alarming on their own, but which always seem to work miraculously as a continuum. I really don’t know how Meg does it, but she does, time after time.

While I was as unsure as my friend had been about the colors (it was the salmon pink on one end of the gradient that bothered me), I was sure of two things: one, the yarn itself was an exceptionally high-quality blend of merino and silk that would be a pleasure to knit with (even in salmon pink); two, the final combination would probably prove as entrancing as every other TFA yarn I’ve used (and if not, would make a great gift). Also, I seem unable to resist a KAL, although I’m not sure why, and daren’t stop to analyse it. So, given that I had no other clear plans for 660 yards of luxury yarn in a random color I didn’t think I liked very much, I joined in and set to making a ‘crazy lace’ Citron shawl.

Now, Citron is a shawl of mind-bogglingly boring construction and curiously satisfying effect. It is semi-circular and comprises alternating sections of plain stockinette with sections of ruched stockinette (i.e. twice as much endless stockinette per inch of fabric). And of course, being a shawl, that means it’s knit flat, which in turn means that half of all that endless stockinette needs to be purled. Yay. Go me for the project from Hell.  Well, crazy lace improves it considerably. It means that you replace the normal stockinette portions with whatever lace chart you can fit into the stitch count and eight or ten rows. That’s pretty good fun, and suits me very well, as I’ve noticed I tend to get a tad bored with a lace pattern that repeats itself more than about four times. Also, I decided to use the ruched portions (which would, while eating yarn, and taking hours, also at least hide a multitude of sins) to learn to knit in the continental style, with the yarn in my left hand. (This in preparation for a humungous colorwork project – another KAL – about which, certainly, more soon.)

So, anyway – cutting to the chase, eventually I had a semi-circular shawl that used 657 of my 660 yards, and where the final section rows were 650 stitches long. That’s a LOT of stitches to purl. But hey, the yarn was nice, and the long rows made short work of the salmon pink, and lo! the whole thing was soft, an interesting color, and a pleasure to wear.

At least, it would have been if the dratted thing hadn’t kept slipping off my shoulder every few minutes. It’s a problem as old as humans wearing garments, I suspect, and the solution is a pin.

Now, shawl pins I do have. I’ve made several since I started metalworking and collecting handknit shawls. But none of them was right for this shawl. And I did have plans to try out another design, which looked as though it would do the trick.

So I went back to approximately the third century, and whipped up a Romano-Celtic classic: a pennanular cloak-pin in sterling silver. You pin the shawl, and then twist the ring closed to secure it. It does the job perfectly. Simple, but effective.

I am utterly thrilled with the notion that a design so simple, and so ancient still works and still has a job to do for someone living in the twenty-first century, and I’m tickled that, despite the many centuries of technological advances made by other people, it’s still pretty close to cutting-edge for my own humble metalworking skills. And as a side-note, I’m additionally more than a little amused at quite how perplexed the other students in my class are by my predilection for  such peculiar artefacts.

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It occurs to me that I make a lot of things, and think I’m going to blog about them, and then don’t. Either because the moment seems to have passed, or because I’ve been busy making other newer!shinier! things instead. So, it’s suddenly struck me that No, it’s not ‘Cheating’ to show them off when they are past some strange number-in-my-head, like, 24-hours old. So here, we go: the first in what might possibly be a series.

This particular One I Made Earlier really does have some kind of seasonal time-limit on getting showed off, so I figured it makes sense to start with the ‘November Spinning Challenge’ thing.  Alright, it’s not November any more, that much I grant. But bear with me.

One of my friends on Ravelry has been throwing out challenges in the spinning group we both belong to. The idea is to get people trying some new things, extending their range, and generally exploring and experimenting together.  Her big idea for November started with distributing portions of some of the worst and most unpleasant spinning fiber known to man. No-one ever quite worked out what this was, and all I can say was it felt like plastic, tested as wool, was the most lurid colors imaginable, and gave severe rugburn while being plied. (Some minor rugburn was also reported by several individuals at the spinning stage.) All I can say, rather terrifyingly, was that the person who gave it to her, had originally been planning to spin and knit a sweater from it. I shudder to think.

So, everyone got given 120g of this stuff, and the brief to spin at least half of it, and use at least some of each color (plus not more than one other yarn/fiber) to make a seasonal ornament of some kind for our assigned partner.

My partner honored the original sweater plan by making me a miniature one (as well as a handful of cute aliens, from a completely different yarn she’d spun either on another occasion, or merely as an antidote, I’m unsure which):

And so what did I make? I have to say, I love it. I knew my partner had two small kids (and celebrated Christmas, as she knew I didn’t), so I thought a holiday puppet might be fun. I’ve never knit a puppet (or any kind of toy, in fact), but inspired very loosely by the Estonian Sheep puppets from Interweave (available here), I decided to have a go at making one up as I went along. (Note: if you intend to try this, and I do encourage you, please use nicer wool: this hideous stuff was too much of a pain to even contemplate swatching properly. It was so horrible, I don’t even make any apologies for not swatching. My recipient almost certainly had issues arising from this that she was too polite to mention, but between ourselves, I’m glad it came billed as a puppet for a seven-year-old and a three-year-old. That’s all I’m saying.)

I started with the decorative two-color long-tailed cast-on I learned at Knit Nation this summer (which deserved a whole post on its own), and continued with some rather desultory colorwork on the body. ‘After a bit’ (when I thought I might run out of green yarn) I decreased for the neck, did some fairly random shaping for the head (pretty much a lucky guess based on the most cursory glance at the sheep pattern above) and then went to town with lashings of i-cord. Darned on some eyes and a nose, and I give you —

Kippi’s Bright i-deer –

 

You can probably tell how much fun I had posing the little guy before I sent him away. The rough wool made really sturdy i-cord, and I was able to get it to stay in various positions without the use of the pipe-cleaner I’d planned – and failed – to run down the middle.

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Perhaps I should have thought to mention in advance that I was feverishly preparing to list a few things in the Etsy shop, but I was so busy working on the update that I didn’t get around to it on Friday, when the process started. So here’s some fiber-y eye-candy, with apologies for the delay:

 

As I largely follow my own whims, and I’ve been all about the fiber lately, this has been a spinning-oriented update, but naturally there’s some yarn too:

Should I mention that some of the yarn is the most gorgeous, to-die-for soft sportweight sock yarn, in an obsession-inducing MCN blend (merino, with 10% nylon and 10% cashmere)? This stuff is like crack for knitters – I could not possibly comment on rumors that I may have earmarked quite a chunk of the current batch for myself. And I placed quite a small order, and some of the rest is already sold, or spoken-for. So, it was probably cruel to even bring the subject up: pretend I never mentioned it.

There’s still a fair bit more to come, however, including more yarn, more fiber, and for the first time, some jewelry: those spindle earrings, and some of my glass pendants with knitted wire –

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I want to start by saying that I have pretty high regard for the standards of the John Lewis Partnership, the eponymous department store chain and the Waitrose supermarket division. I think its goods are generally of superior quality; its ethics are less lamentable than most large-scale retailers; and the somewhat cooperative model of ownership warms the cockles of my little red heart. Staff seem happy; suppliers (at least, those I know from my local farmers’ market) have nothing but good words for the company.

When a spiffy Waitrose opened up in my town exactly two years ago, it improved my life more than I care to admit. Shopping went from being a terrible chore of agonised decisions over the least-worst option (mostly to do with the constant tug of the much cheaper own-brand pushing small-scale independent producers off the shelves and my desire not to contribute to the hegemony of the supermarket giants by buying it), conducted in poor lighting, concluded by the insult of an outrageously long wait to be checked out by a surly, incompetent, abject specimen of human misery, the whole horror topped and tailed by a battle to cram my rather small vehicle into a parking space of churlishly mean proportions and slide myself in and out between the SUVs on either side.

In contrast, the local Waitrose is an oasis of wide-aisled, naturally-lit calm, filled with high quality produce sold by seemingly happy, friendly people (tellingly, after two years, staff turnover has been very low, and they still all seem happy and engaged. You might think it odd that Vladimir Putin – or is it Daniel Craig? – appears to have a second job in  a supermarket, but honestly, if you’d seen my local Waitrose, you wouldn’t be quite that surprised. I’m a little scared of him, frankly, but everyone else is certainly very friendly. And Vladimir probably just doesn’t have a naturally warm demeanor. But I digress).  Anyway, generally Waitrose is a joy (although I deplore the shocking tendency to insane over-packaging). If there is a queue of more than two people, they open another checkout. Really. Why, even the parking is a joy. I have never once had to breathe in before slithering between my car and an encroaching SUV. Mostly though, I feel comfortable in the belief that they have not consistently and relentlessly squeezed everyone along the supply chain until the pips squeaked in search of an extra penny of profit, and that one way and another, the food I bring home may cost me a tiny bit more, but that overall, my retail pound is spent in a way that creates the best ‘value’ for the greatest number compared to any of the other  local supermarkets.

All that said, I expect certain standards from John Lewis, including a degree of honesty. So I can’t explain how horrified I was by what I saw in there the other day. It should have been funny, and would have been if it hadn’t been so outrageously cynical. Anyway, they seem to have introduced a new range of luxury toilet paper. Now, let’s leave aside the environmental impact of luxury toilet paper, because I can see that if people want to buy it, they might quite reasonably want to sell it. Still, I’m struggling with this concept.

Extract of what? In the interest of fairness, I should point out that there are two other varieties – extract of jojoba, and extract of aloe vera, both of which are plants, and I can see how one might derive ‘extract’ of these. But what in heaven’s name, might ‘extract of cashmere’ actually be? Has someone waved a goat over the vat of paper pulp? Have they distilled goat pee and added a little of that to the mix? Is someone playing with test tubes of goat DNA? My mind is officially boggled. Insofar as ‘cashmere’ is a protein fiber, I don’t see how you can ‘extract’ from it in any meaningful way. (I might be wrong. I’m not a chemist.) If there is actual cashmere fiber in there, why doesn’t it just say “with cashmere”? Why is the packaging completely silent on the details? Why is there no actual amount of any goaty goodness referred to among the ‘ingredients’? Maybe because, whatever this mystery extract is, it’s present in some homeopathic-type amount? Naturally, if you are reading this because you are a knitter, spinner, or otherwise crafty fiber-lover (and I’d say the chances are high), you are aware of how wonderful cashmere can be. And how a small amount, like, oh, I don’t know, one or two percent, wouldn’t really make that much difference to the handle of a yarn. So, assuming that it’s not ludicrous (big assumption, but let’s be kind here) to want to wipe your bottom with cashmere paper, how much cashmere would be needed for you to feel it anyway? All I know is, whatever number you came up with, if there were that amount, it would most certainly be mentioned on the label. In the meantime, I think that they are just using the word ‘cashmere’ to trigger connotations of luxury and softness. Which is fine, but please, ‘extract of cashmere’? I suggest it should be renamed, in the interests of honesty. Maybe ‘extract of claptrap’, ‘extract of bunkum’ or the more thematically appropriate ‘extract of pisstaking’, ‘extract of bullshit’ or ‘extract of  marketing crap’.

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With an election looming, and my mood glowery and looming, I was glad today of a distraction.

I have been waiting for this to arrive since some time last week. Originally I hoped to bring the baby home with me from Wonderwool Wales, a couple of weekends ago, but I had to order… and wait, and then see out a bank holiday weekend. But today, my waiting was mercifully over, and I entered into the newest  phase of my fascination with wool.

8.15 a.m.

3 p.m.: I am continent. I am restrained. I am adult. I went to my silversmithing class, came home, finished binding off a sweater neck, put a child to bed, and only then get out the Swiss Army knife.

4. p.m.: the thing isn’t even set up, and already it’s a kid magnet. I realize how very smart I am to have bought a folding model.

5 p.m. I have only a few minutes before I need to go to a parents’ evening at the high school. Do I really need to talk to that maths teacher? I definitely have moments of genius. Picking up a hank of effectively pre-drafted pencil roving may just have been one. Either that, or I’m a spinning natural (I know where the smart money is on that one):

For my next trick – and I’m already developing a sense that this is foolishness – I’m going to play with some native Welsh Black wool. Call me sentimental, but I want Welsh wool to be my first proper spinning. Meanwhile, look ato those singles.

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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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This is a short message about wool.

I love wool. I really do, and that’s evident from the fact that I’ve been playing with quite a lot of it recently (more than usual). Some has been sold to the nice lady at the local knitting shop, some has been traded for, er, more-but-different wool with some people I know on Ravelry. Some – quite a lot – came in this week from a supplier, and some – just a little – has made it into a tiny Easter Uprising of Wool of my Etsy shop today.

There’s even a very little of a new cashmere blend sock yarn, which is squishy beyond my wildest dreams, and is currently inspiring dreamy colorways like ‘A Cloud in Trousers’

And yes, there is still a lot of wool lying around my house. And now that I’m enjoying the new, even more unwieldy and unreliable pleasure that is fiber, I’m about to put in another large order for that. Because you can do some really seriously cool things with fiber. And if you can then sell it to people who actually know how to spin, well, you may just have helped bring a thing of beauty into the world. And who can say better than that on a fine spring day?

Nice stuff, huh?

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