Tag Archives: yarn

Sabbatical?

I can’t claim to have been ridiculously busy since I last wrote, but I have done some things. The lack of writing is more due to the spotty internet at my apartment and my still-unhappy laptop keyboard that makes bringing my laptop elsewhere to write uncomfortable since it necessitates not only my laptop but also that pesky (i.e. huge) USB keyboard.

Things that happened:

  • My grandmother turned 80 and went down to Mexico to celebrate. That’s an interesting story all on its own, which I may put in another post. Don’t worry, though, she’s safely back home now.
  • We had the first real snow storm of the year, and then an almost-blizzard. We only got 6 inches of snow each time, and never got real blizzard conditions, but just south of town the roads were awful and they had to close the highway for a full 12 hours. I love living on the great plains.
  • The almost-blizzard meant that we had a snow day, so I didn’t have to substitute in a 3-year-old class. I really don’t like teaching 3-year-old classes.
  • I did teach many more private lessons than usual, which is good for my finances, but bad for my free time.
  • I had a master class with James Sewell through my company, which was wonderful.
  • I started on The Great Apartment Re-Organization of 2012. I’ve been doing a little every day, and things are slowly starting to take shape. My biggest accomplishment is that my dance shoes and accessories are all organized, and so are my tights. Everything was in there before, but now it’s in order.
  • I continued with progress on my various projects.

First up is my awesome dance stuff organiation:

My Blackberry Bramble Beret is coming along, with just the very top to complete. I got a lot done on it during full-cast rehearsals, and I’m now in the final stretches. Of course, this means that the pattern is no longer totally predictable with the way that the cables and decreases come together, so it’s gotten harder to bring it to rehearsals.

To that end, I started Queen Silvia from Nancy Bush’s “Knitted Lace of Estonia”. I’m using my 2-ply superfine alpaca laceweight from Dharma Trading Company. I can’t even begin to express how soft this yarn is. I thought that the ball of yarn was soft, but it’s so much better knitted up! It has just the right amount of halo to make it a bit fluffy without distracting from the lace pattern.

I also picked up several more books from Knit Picks during their sale:
200 Fair Isle Motifs” by Mary Jane Mucklestone
100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet” by Lesley Stanfield
75 Birds Butterflies & little beasts to knit and crochet” by Lesley Stanfield

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The Knitter Who Can’t Touch Wool

I’m allergic to wool. More specifically, I’m allergic to lanolin. It’s not just wool that can give me hives, it’s everything from lotions to soaps. And by “give me hives” I mean “give me some of the worst hives you’ve ever seen, where I get itchy bumps that swell up and get flaky and huge and gross and last for at least a week and can leave a scar when all I did was touch that darn sweater in the store.” This means that I didn’t even try to knit with wool until a couple of months ago.

It also means that trips to the yarn store are downright painful. Not only can I not buy the stuff, I can’t even walk up to the display and run a finger over a skein. Yarn-buying excursions are well-thought-out events. I first check the fiber content by very carefully picking up a skein by the ball band or asking someone to check for me. Wool, especially where it’s labelled by breed, is dangerous. If it’s highly processed, that’s a good sign; superwash varieties are usually fine, percentages smaller than 20% are sometimes okay, and anything labelled “organic” should be treated with great caution. You know how some knitters like to pick up yarn and smell it? Apart from the fact that getting unknown yarn that close to my face is incredibly dangerous, if the yarn has that nice, rich, wooly smell, it means that it has lanolin in it.

Alpaca and angora fibers are usually all right, as long as they’re used in conjunction with other safe fibers. Mohair is like this, too, although I’ve never tested any 100% mohair yarns, so I’m not sure if this is due to processing or the nature of the fiber itself. (As an aside, I’ve considered adopting an angora bunny or two. I grew up with house rabbits, and loved it. The majority of rabbits shed a lot, so I’d might as well get some fiber from all the plucking that I’d end up doing anyway. On the other hand, I also love the Mini Rex breed, which doesn’t shed, and my apartment right now doesn’t allow pets, so we’ll see.)

Once I’ve checked the fiber content, I pick a couple of yarns to test. I rub a skein against my inner forearm, and wait for 15 minutes or so. If I don’t have hives by then, I’m usually all right.

For example, Knit Picks Wool of The Andes ought to give me hives, because it’s 100% wool, and labelled by breed (a cross of Merino and Corriedale). I only bought a little bit of it the first time that I ordered it because I was so nervous. Knit Picks is a relatively safe brand for me, which I think has to do with the fact that they’re using faster, harsher processing techniques; a lot of small producers’ products are especially dangerous for me.

Now, Wool of the Andes doesn’t give me hives, per se, but if I knit with it for too long, it does make my hands very chapped and dry. If I let it go for too long (more than about 30-45 minutes of knitting) my knuckles will actually crack and bleed, which is clearly good for neither me nor the yarn. If I stop to wash my hands and reapply my super special sensitive skin hand lotion, things are better, but the handwashing itself takes a toll. The yarn is better after I wash it, too. In fact, the felted heel patches that I made for my fuzzy pants lo these many weeks gone are perfectly fine. I’ve even touched them to my face and neck with no adverse reaction. I’ve also soaked some Wool of the Andes in dish soap, and that seemed to clear up the itchiness just fine. Unfortunately, soaking whole skeins risks felting the whole thing, so I’ll continue knitting and then washing for now.

So, to those wool-allergic knitters, have hope! Try more highly processed fibers, test carefully before you buy, wash well before you wear, and if you come up with more ideas, let me know.

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Organize All the Things

My apartment is a wreck.  First up, the books.  There just isn’t enough space for all of them.  There are books on the shelves of the bookcase, books stacked on top of the bookcase, and books stacked in front of the bookcase.  There are also books sitting on my desk, books sitting on the sewing table, books next to my bed, and books all over the living room.  If I didn’t agonize over the purchase of each and every one, or keep perfect track of the books from the library, I’d swear they spawn.  The shelves are literally bowing under the weight.

The next issue is the knitting stash. It used to fit in two small under-bed storage bins, which don’t actually fit under my bed, but lived in the front closet. It spilled over into another, larger bin, which is really supposed to be for extra bedding. (In my defense, I didn’t actually buy that much more yarn.  The majority of the Great Stash Expansion of 2006 was just my liberating some of my high school era stash and Granny’s stash from my parents’ house.)

Then I got a large photo backdrop that didn’t have anywhere logical to go, so it joined the yarn and bedding. There wasn’t room for any more yarn, so my most recent additions are stacked on my desk. The extra bedding got shoved (semi-neatly) into the upper part of my bedroom closet, which meant that a large part of the fabric stash had to get removed to the living room to make room. As I got more fabric, it got stacked next to the existing pile, making an ever bigger pile in one corner of my living room. It’s also mixed in with supplies for a dress form that I haven’t gotten around to making yet; I need an assistant.

I also ran into problems when I bought my sewing machine and accessories this summer. For one thing, I drastically increased the amount of fabric that I have (see fabric pile above), and for another, the thread, seam rippers, machine needles, presser feet, bobbins, zippers, bias tape makers, pin cushions, and cutting tools exploded out from the small shelf that had previously held them. They’re currently stacked on top of the shelves in some nice boxes, and some flimsy plastic bins originally used to hold salad. A large faction have taken up residence on the sewing machine table, and don’t have anywhere else to go.

My dance clothing has always been an organizational hurdle. I have tens of leotards and pairs of tights, because I wear them in mass quantities. Then I have the wrap skirts, pants, fuzzy pants, shoes, more shoes, legwarmers, sweaters, and even more shoes. To go with these, I have a foam roller, back roller, foot roller, massage balls of varying size and density, Band-Aids, extra deodorant, industrial strength toenail clippers, baby powder, shoe deodorizers, extra pointe shoe ribbons and elastic, special needles and thread, assorted Thera-Bands, Icy-Hot, Badger Balm, ice/heat packs, and the list goes on. They currently reside in cloth bins next to the front closet, but these bins constantly get mixed up when I go digging for the particular warm-ups or shoes that I want.  They’re full to overflowing right now, even with many of the warm-ups in the laundry or in my bag at the studio.

(Yes, there is a bottle of dish soap sitting next to the dance clothing.  No, it doesn’t belong there.  It’s just taking a rest on its stressful trip home from the grocery store.  I wouldn’t want to traumatize the poor thing by forcing it out too soon.)

It’s gotten to the point that this requires action. My plan:

  1. Get under-bed bins to hold all of the yarn.  You heard me, yarn.  I said, “all.”
  2. Organize the bedding into the bins freed up by the above yarn organization.
  3. Get some wire shelves to hold the fabric stash, and a sheet or a simple cover to protect against dust.
  4. Get an over-the-door shoe organizer to hold the dance shoes and small accessories so they don’t end up falling to the bottom of the bins.  Hang it over either the front door or the closet door.  Then, spread out the large accessories and warm-ups into the bins so that I can actually find things.
  5. Get another small bookcase to hold all of the knitting/sewing/craft books to free up space on the original bookcase.
  6. Get actual bins (not flimsy, easily crushable, salad containers) to hold all of the sewing business.

Target had better get ready, because I’m a woman on a mission.  Tomorrow.  Or maybe this weekend.  But definitely before Coppélia opens.

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Heavy Package From Knit Picks

It was the books.  Those lovely, lovely books.

First, Knitted Lace of Estonia, by Nancy Bush, was a delightful surprise. I usually buy books that I’ve checked out from the library or obsessively researched, but I wanted this book after seeing some of the patterns on Ravelry. I trusted that with Nancy Bush as the author, and Interweave Press publishing it, it would be a good book. When I actually looked through it, I got to discover the wonderful first section, with information on the origin of Haapsalu shawls, complete with plenty of photographs. Then came the patterns, beautifully photographed, charted, and with notes on construction. Finally, and perhaps the best surprise for me, was a section of traditional stitch motifs, photographed and charted, sourced from old publications or simply learned from the Haapsalu knitters themselves.

Then, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn and The Knitter’s Book of Wool, both by Clara Parkes. They’re just as wonderful as I remember from when I checked them out from the library in December.

The Knit Picks Stroll sock yarn is great, too. This is the same yarn that I’m using for my fuzzy pants, and I’ve been pleased at how it knits up, so I decided to go for that same superwash merino and nylon blend for a hard-wearing baby toy. I’ll knit it up on some US 0 needles, which is smaller than the US 1-3 range that is recommended, and gives a thick, relatively stiff fabric. It will hopefully help to keep the shape of Hazel the Humpback Whale. The Midnight Heather colorway is a lot more green/teal than it appears on my computer screen, but I think I like it. It does correspond with Knit Picks’ description of “an intense dark blue color with black undertones […] with the flecks of blues and blue greens that add visual interest.” The teal flecks make me think of light filtering through ocean water.

For comparison, this is, from left to right, Patons Lace Sequin in Aquamarine, Knit Picks Stroll in Midnight Heather, and Knit Picks Stroll in Black:

The Dove Heather shade that I chose for Hazel’s markings is a bit more creamy than I had thought, but I think it will still look lovely as an accent color. It’s a creamy, almost pale oatmeal base color with tiny strands of black and gray thrown in. Knit Picks uses the word “slate” to describe it, but I’d say it’s much less blue than that implies. Still, don’t the colors look nice and whale-y together?

Now, I’m off to chart Hazel and get some more done on my slowly-but-surely progressing fuzzy pants (which now have more than 10,500 stitches) and pointe covers.

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Distracted Knitter, Bad Sewer

Seamstress?  Sewist?  Whatever it is, the apartment is nowhere near clean enough to cut fabric in, and my Denver Fabrics order is supposed to show up tomorrow.  It’s going to be so sad to get a big box of wool and not be able to do anything with it.

The thing is, I’ve been spending too much time trying out my new knitting style.  I’m still knitting some on my fuzzy pants every evening, but I’m in love with my new way of holding yarn, so I’ve been knitting and ripping little scrap-yarn swatches over and over.  I know it’s pointless, but it’s addicting.  I’ve started to think that I need a new knitting project for all of that excess energy.  New knitting projects don’t require a clean apartment what with balls of yarn being more compact and portable than large pieces of heavy fabric that needs to be pre-washed, carefully dried, ironed or steamed, laid out, marked, cut, and basted before anything really useful happens.

You may recall that one of my current projects is a pair of mock-cabled pointe shoe covers to use as warm ups at dance.  I had bought some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes for them. When it arrived, it seemed strange that I should have so little yarn for such a big project. I then figured out what went wrong: I scrupulously calculated the necessary yardage based on a rough calculation of the gauge that I’d be using and the surface area of the completed project, but I forgot to account for the fact that I, apparently, have two feet.

(I find myself compelled to mention here that I have a degree in mathematics.  I had several very good and entertaining professors, but one of the most memorable moments was when Professor C. walked into class early and heard someone complaining about how this math course was so much harder than previous ones.  Professor C. responded, “This is not math.  Calculus?  Differential equations?  That was math.  This is mathematics.”  So here I say, I’m pretty good with mathematics.  But with math?  Not so much.)

Now, having realized this serious error in the math, I think I should use my pretty purple wool for something else.  I’m considering a beret and a pair of gloves.  I really like the Ashwyn Beret and Meret for lacy options, and the cables on Nine Dwindling Cables, Laurel, and Brambles are very pretty. Then again, the color would look nice with my Cornflower Cowl so I might do some skinny cables like those. Whatever I do, I’ll either be finding or making a matching glove pattern. I’m bad at making decisions. Feel free to tell me what to do or offer more pattern options.

(Also, am I the only one who feels like a creepy stalker type when I comment on another person’s blog?  It’s like offering unsolicited advice to a stranger on the street, but from even further away, which is somehow worse.  “Oh, hello.  I just reached through the internet to spy on you and comment on your life.  Have a nice day!”  Conversely, I love it when I get comments from random people whom I’ve never met before.  Maybe I’m just too socially awkward for this whole interacting-with-other-people thing.)

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Yarn Vomit

I tried to pull my Stroll yarn from the center.  It made the skein very, very sick, and it puked out a whole knotted wad of yarn.  I’ve since shoved what came out back into the middle, very carefully hollowing out a little spot for it so it doesn’t interfere with anything, and am planning on working from the outside like I was for the swatches.  This is a total bummer for my planned airplane knitting.  When I’m knitting at home, I can set the yarn next to me on my armchair and unroll it as needed, but on an airplane, there isn’t enough room for that, and I don’t want to set my nice, clean yarn on the unknown entity that is an airplane seat.  Other people’s butts have been on there!  There are probably decades’ worth of farts trapped just under the surface waiting to jump into an unsuspecting yarn skein, and who knows what actual vomit, or at least spilled pop, lurks on the hard surfaces?

I’m toying with the idea of winding some center pull yarn cakes, but I don’t want to hand-wind that much yarn and I don’t have a swift or ball winder.  I think I’d go insane.  The inevitable seems to be putting my individual skeins in individual plastic bags (the horror!  the waste!  the crinkly sound!  the static!)  and then setting them in my lap while I knit.  I think I’ll survive.

I don’t know why this is causing such a problem.  I’m doing fine with the yarn for my pointe covers in a plastic bag.  At least it’s not having to move around in the bag, as the Stroll skeins would have to do in order to unwind from the outside.

My life is very dramatic, isn’t it?

UPDATE: I wound two center pull yarn cakes because the yarn just wasn’t working in the plastic bags.  It only took me 20 minutes per ball, but I’m not quite insane yet, and the yarn is much, much easier to work with this way, so those 40 minutes saved me hours of aggravation.

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What Is Woolly Nylon?

For my fuzzy pants, I wanted a strong, warm knit fabric.  I’m using a 75% washable wool, 25% nylon sock yarn, Knit Picks Stroll Sock Yarn, but, especially with the washable wool, I wanted to add a bit of extra strength and shape retention.  The swatches I knit stretched a bit when washed and hung to dry.

I’d read of woolly nylon, and when I asked at my LYS, everyone said that it was a good idea but they didn’t carry it, so I ordered some from JoAnn.  I was a little skeptical, mainly because I didn’t quite know what it was and couldn’t find any pictures of what it looked like off the tightly-wound spool.  But here it is:

Before I cut open the plastic cover on the cone, I still wasn’t sure, but the second I pulled the tail loose, I knew that I’d seen this stuff before.  It looks like the same kind of nylon that’s used in the microfiber tights that I wear for ballet, and, let me tell you, that stuff is strong.  I have some pairs of tights that I’ve been wearing once every week or two for the past 5 years. I can’t wait to see how it holds up in conjunction with the yarn.  It’s relatively stretchy, and I think it should provide what I want without cutting into the wool.

For size comparison, here’s the spool of 1000 m of woolly nylon next to the two most common sized Coats and Clark thread spools:

And, just for the sake of keeping me going, here is a gratuitous shot of the progress on my knit boots:

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