Posts Tagged ‘yarn’

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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I got some nice sock yarn in from the wholesaler recently, and ordered some more dye, and slowly but surely, I have been preparing for a shop update, in between stirring batches of sweater-yarn custom orders. The sweater yarn comes in one-kilo hanks that have to be wound into more manageable quantities, but although I complain, if it doesn’t get tangles (which only happened once), it’s not too painful a process, and I forgive this yarn almost anything, I like it so much.

So, first up, some sweaters-in-waiting:

I have to say, I’m pretty excited by them, especially as I get to knit by proxy this way. If someone goes to the trouble of buying or bartering for a sweater-quantity of yarn in the color of their choice, I think they are quite likely to knit with it. And I love to see my yarn knit up. That tempting skein of pretty sock yarn is just so easy to buy, and leave in the stash. Ask me how I know?

That said, I would naturally wish to encourage the purchase of as many random skeins of sock yarn as my loyal Midnight Sheep fans feel inclined to indulge in. Please don’t let me stand in your way. The actual purchasing opportunity starts on Thursday – 5 November, at 5 p.m. EST, which is when I will officially be restocking my Etsy, but the preview photos are up on flickr now.

This update will be all sock yarn, using that new base I mentioned earlier. It looks like a nice quality, classic sock yarn – 75% merino, and 25% nylon, and it is superwash. The yardage is good, too: 460 yards/100g.

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In fact, I made, or at least completed, several things today.

First up, the mystery knitting I started just yesterday. I can tell you almost nothing about this yet: it’s under wraps. Embargoed. But I can show you the yarn it was made from (in an astonishingly short time – it took longer to block than to knit).

This is handspun yarn from rhubarbbear, who has an Etsy shop worth looking out for. I was lucky enough to get it in a Ravelry swap, in exchange for this glass mezuzah case (A fair exchange?) I have wondered what to do with it since I got it, and then it self-selected for the Mystery Knitting project by dint of being the only yarn I had in the appropriate weight (so while it turned out to be perfect, there’s the argument for Stash, right there). I don’t think the tiny swatch is giving too much away.


In silversmithing it is essential to have a couple of different projects on the go at once, as after every manipulating process, there is a cleaning process (pickling), when you have to wait before you can manipulate the silver some more. To write out the entire silversmithing process is if it were a knitting pattern would result in something like this:

Cut, *solder, pickle, anneal (heat-strengthen), bash, pickle, solder, pickle, anneal, bash some more, pickle* polish…

That’s pretty much the sum of it, as far as I can tell.

So I’ve worked on two things. The less exciting, and fiddlier, of the two was beveling one of my glass cabochons. The fact that adding a bail ruins the look of some pieces is what drove me to take up silver in the first place, and the result is satisfying, while the process was quite dull. Probably it’s dull because the result (barring accidents) is predictable. And because it’s insanely fiddly and relatively intolerant of imperfections. An accident would almost certainly not be a happy accident where beveling is concerned. So I look at this and primarily, I breathe a sigh of relief.

Mostly though, I offer you the aforementioned bronze-age artefact. I have been fiddling away at this for a couple of weeks in my new silversmithing class, as I may have mentioned. I decided on a bracelet in copper as a cheaper way of learning basic techniques than ruining good silver would have been. A few things became quickly apparent, first among which was the fact that it seems to be harder to saw than silver. But then it seems easier to bend. I don’t understand it, and I could be completely wrong, but that’s been my impression.

So first, I cut a shape out of copper, the shape being very largely determined by the length of the available piece of copper and very minimally based on my sketch of what I thought would slip on my wrist (a vague, leaf-like shape cut rather haphazardly out of paper). Then I filed like a demon (and swore like a trooper throughout). Then I bashed the metal a bit, beause it was pretty badly scratched, and I had devised a cunning plan called ‘texture’ to mask this fact. So I bashed with a couple of different hammers, then I put the copper through the rolling mill a couple of times wrapped in rather random texturizing elements (Plastic mesh from a bag of lemons, if you must know), and then I used some sort of dental-drill-type thing with strange burnishing/scuffing attachments – one looked like a miniature chimney sweep’s brush, another like a metallic cotton bud…

Next I partially flooded the copper with silver. This, the cheapskate’s version of silver plating, involved snipping off tiny shreds of silver and melting them onto the copper. I couldn’t get the piece hot enough with the standard blowtorch, so I was also given a much bigger thing that looked more like a flamethrower and had the childish delight of working with flame in both hands. As some fool had put a paper tissue down on the surface, that caught fire during all this and I chose to disregard it (I figured a tissue couldn’t burn for long, and it didn’t look likely to set fire to anything else, soit wasn’t a problem: my teacher doused the flame, and my torch and my hot copper, and I was a bit put out). Cowboy? Me?

Then I shaped it roughly round my wrist and when I tried it on, it proved to be sharp enough to be sold as part of a luxury home suicide kits (‘Slash your wrists in style’). OK. Next plan, bend back the pointy ends, and in fact bend all the edges slightly outwards, and file again for good measure. Then polish with rouge, pop in the polishing tumbler for an hour and pull out –

– something that really looks as though it has been freshly dug from a prehistoric burial site. I have to report that whatever it looks like, it’s very comfortable, fits me perfectly, and pleases me greatly. When it stops pleasing me, and starts embarrassing me, I will bury it discreetly in the garden and hope it confuses some unsuspecting archaeologist in a couple of hundred years.

So I give you ‘the Cardiff Torque’ copper/silver, date unknown:

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I’m so excited to have found this.

Mary loves designing hats, and she’s recently got into the fun of knitting socks (although she did have to be dragged in the sockward direction kicking and screaming pretty lustily). Me, I just like reinventing the wheel, and doing things like unventing the afterthought heel – done mid-sock with a perilous crochet provisional cast-on (which never, ever unzips for me, in either direction, and I’m clueless as to why). All in all, this new pattern in the Fall ’09 Knitty looks like it might appeal to both of us.

I’m so tickled by the think-outside-the-box quality of the hat-heel sock. I might have to dye some really special short-repeat stripes for a striped heel-and-toe yarn. After I’ve dyed my custom order of a sweater’s-worth of chartreuse. Which is only waiting on me hand-winding the kilo of satisfyingly sheep-scented merino, and finding a very, very big pot.

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The two-year-old had a ball today. Unfortunately it was my ball, and I didn’t want him playing with it. Here’s why.


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Well, I haven’t been on an Official Holiday for a few years, and it’s even been a couple of years since the 12-hour flight to (and from) the in-laws has been accomplished. So I haven’t had the Holiday/Aircraft Reading Decision Drama (HARDD) to deal with. The plane reading part is definitely the worst. The long-haul flight book trauma is the worst of all, especially if you are a tantalizingly far way through a book shortly before you are due to depart on said holiday.

Quick quiz. What kind of HARDD-bitten traveler are you? Assuming you are one at all.

Do you –

  • a) just take the book you’re reading and hope for decent movies for after you’re done
  • b) take that book, and a another one for after
  • c) as above, but a with very, very long book for after (to hell with ‘too heavy for carry-on’)
  • d) as above, but with a choice of books for after, because you never know what mood you’ll be in by then (to hell in a handcart with ‘too heavy for carry-on’)
  • e) make damned sure you’ve finished the current book before you go because you’re congenitally incapable of carrying aboard something you know you’re going to finish (it’s ‘inelegant’)

I’ve always been an e. If there’s less than 10% of a book left, I find it hard to travel with. I have been known to rush to the end of a perfectly delightful book in order to tick it off like an item on the packing list, and I have been known to carefully plan the pre-flight countdown period to ensure the problem doesn’t arise (this is like the pre-Yom Kippur caffeine weaning). I have also been known to stay up absurdly late to finish the book in question, but that was before I had children, and learned to value sleep.

So, contemplating this problem for the first time in a while, I realized that I now had simultaneously both more problem and less. In other words, enter holiday knitting.

So firstly, what kind? What pattern(s)? What needles? What yarns? How much? How many projects? The Book-in-Progress has close kin, in the knitter’s WIP (Work in Progress, incidentally a much more complex creature altogether). I left the zebra/ring-tailed-lemur socks in progress at home, but needed the needles, so had occasion to do a bit of nifty work with the oh-so-misnamed “waste yarn” (you know by now what I think of that particular concept), but took some rubbish socks I’ve just started and am not actually very interested in, and some self-striping caked yarn for if I got desperate and lazy at the same time, and some solid red yarn I thought might make nice socks (and the 50g skeins were an inducement, since there’s a limit to my benevolence towards holiday yarn-winding) and some merino/silk blend yarn and the pattern for a shawl. Most of this went in the hold luggage, to be fair. I mention it merely to delineate the extent of the problem. Also, because it took many holiday-prep hours to produce this traveling mini-stash.

On the plus side, it was still a lot lighter than the product of equivalent indecision in books. Altogether, maybe one book’s worth all told, and it would certainly keep me fueled in entertainment for a lot longer. Not that I didn’t take books too, of course. Just not so many.

There was just one more problem. The crazed-lunatic-security-personnel problem. The guy – outbound – who made me take off my watch, in addition to my necklace, and my shoes (I’m afraid I did not facilitate this: I made them give me paper shoes to put on, because I said I didn’t fancy walking on the airport carpet after a million other feet). Thank you. You were so busy explaining why my watch was a potential menace that you failed to notice the certain danger inherent in five cocktail skewers. I’m quite sure you wouldn’t have let me board with them if you hadn’t been so fiendishly distracted.

Coming back, I had half a shawl’s-worth of garter stitch on the needles (and they were needles I didn’t care to lose, either) so I was more concerned about them being taken away. Never mind that they were shorter, and less sharp than pencils. The cable was 24 inches long. Perhaps someone would consider it a strangling hazard. You never know. Or maybe the 550 yards of yarn was a strangling hazard. I was worried, I’ll admit, but I’m a high-risk kind of gal, so I stuffed the whole lot in a bag with assorted toys and – yes- pencils, and hoped.

And then I made the Beloved prove his belovedness by sitting next to the children while I knitted my smuggled shawl all the way home. And actually, now I think about it, that was quite generous of me, because he, poor lamb, was quite out of holiday reading and woudn’t have had anything to do on the journey if it weren’t for the wee Beasts to keep him busy.

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A swift is a thing I’ve coveted for a while. They do, however, cost more than I am willing to pay, and as it known, I have a slight DIY-Heath Robinson streak (but only for the easy stuff, and nothing involving drills, of which I am pathologically scared). So, once I read about the Tinkertoy swift, I realized that was the one for me. I particularly like the following about it:

  • it is both beautifully modular and perfectly collapsible,
  • it comes in a handy storage tin,
  • should it outlive usefulness as a swift, it can be recycled for children to play with. Elegant, that.

The problem was that swifts are expensive, but easy enough to come by, while  Tinkertoys are cheap, but almost impossible to find in the UK. I tried eBay several times with no success. I gave up, tried again and gave up again. I tried going to the hardware store and buying dowels and sticking them into Fimo (fail, I know why and it’s not interesting). I tried another ingenious swift made out of coathangers (fail, dunno why). I tried begging for one on a Ravelry swap board. Then, as I was doing that, in the interests of due diligence, I tried eBay one more time. and got lucky. An extremely vintage, nearly complete set of pre-1932 Tinkertoys in pretty good nick and original packaging. Apparently they can be dated because colored dowels were introduced in 1932, and this set doesn’t have any.

So I immediately set to work, avoiding all use of the word ‘toy’, not wishing to give the children false hopes or the wrong impression. No they can’t spin it, I told them, it’s for my wool to spin on. I think they think it’s my wool’s toy, on which it goes for a ride. A swift ride. And so it does, and it works just fine. I ‘m completely thrilled. It has considerably more elegance than the plastic-comb-nostepinne, but partners it perfectly. There is a model for a k’nex ballwinder out there, but I’m not sure that’s for me.

Oh, and I quite like the yarn, too.

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