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Posts Tagged ‘Yarn’

I said I wouldn’t overdo it this Christmas. You know, with the whole knitting thing. Last Christmas I made myself a little crazy and I swore I wasn’t going to do that to myself this year.

But somehow I can’t seem to stop myself from knitting hats. They’re so cute. They’re so quick. They’re like little woolly potato chips.  (Okay, that sounds pretty gross. Did anyone else just image an old sticky potato chip found in your cardigan pocket?)

It all started with my husband’s Christmas hat. He gets a new one every year.

Made from handspun yarn.

Made from handspun yarn.

 

I’m hoping this is going to be our “thing.” When he’s 80 he’s going to have a mountain of hats. He has this habit of not losing things. At some point, that may become a problem. Maybe senility will kick in and help us out with the hat problem.

  • Anyway, it started out with my husband’s Christmas hat.
  • Then I knitted a couple more because I had some scrap yarn in my stash that was just right for hats.
  • Then I decided to knit a hat for my niece. I knitted that hat like I was a jazz musician. Total improv cables. It turned out great.
  • Then I realized my new little nephew needed a hat too, so I cast one on. He may need multiple hats. Babies lose hats all the time, right?

This is a troubling hat trend.

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I was sorting my Ravelry projects page the other night and came to a startling realization: in the last few years I’ve knitted myself a LOT of sweaters. The hand-knit side of my winter wardrobe is getting pretty respectable. Without trying too hard, I could probably wear hand-knits every single day. This brings me to an important question: what should I do with my commercial sweaters?

I’m wearing my commercial woolens less and less often. I have a few favorites, and a few special-purpose items (like my Icebreaker winter running gear). But most of my mountain of winter woolens don’t get much wear anymore. Why wear the turtleneck you bought on sale at TJ Maxx when you can wear the similar, but much more special sweater you knitted while watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Here’s the thing though: there’s a certain security in owning a set of sweaters I don’t care that much about. My hand knits are specialspecialspecial.  I wear them gently and wash them with care. My commercial sweaters…I don’t actively try to be destructive toward them…but if a cat snags a claw in them and make a hole, or if I get a molasses stain on the sleeve, it doesn’t matter so much. The only thing I have invested is money .

I’ve come to a critical, woolen juncture, just as many knitters have before me. There’s only so much storage space in my home for sweaters. If I want to go on knitting sweaters, I need to start getting rid of some. Stuff comes in, stuff goes out. Donate them, unravel them, whatever. They need to move along.

Am I ready to start jettisoning some of these commercial sweaters? Am I ready to depend on my knitting skills to outfit me for my real life?

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I’m so into stranded color work these days. No matter what, I’ve got to have at least one stranded project on the needles.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a simple stranded mitten pattern on Ravelry called January Mittens. I decided this project would provide a good opportunity for me to experiment with a fibery phenomenon called yarn dominance. 

A few notes about yarn dominance: When you knit stranded color work (let’s assume we’re talking about just two colors), one yarn is always coming from above and one is always coming from below. The yarn coming from above has to travel just a little farther than the yarn coming from below and, as result, that “above” strand is just a little bit tighter. This tightness makes that stitch smaller and the yarn recedes into the background. The lightly looser strand coming from the bottom does not recede; its larger stitches stand out, loud and proud in the foreground.

Playing around with yarn dominance can make a big visual impact in your stranded color work.

Like this:

I knitted one mitten with the dark gray yarn held dominant, and one mitten with white yarn held dominant. Can you tell which is which? It’s subtle but it’s definitely there.

*     *     *    Veering off topic   *     *     *

In stranded color work, if one yarn is playing the dominant role, what role does the other one play? Submissive?

That makes my knitting seem so much more outre and exciting.

*     *     *     Veering back on topic     *     *     *

I’m having trouble deciding which mitten I like better. I might actually like the one with white yarn held dominant. Some of the details in the pattern jump out more when they’re not drawn so strongly. Veeeerrry interesting. 

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It’s going to be 80 in southern Minnesota today. The leaves are still firmly attached to the trees and stubbornly green. But in a few weeks all of that is going to change and I’m going to be ready.

Over Labor Day weekend, I finally finished weaving in the ends on my Plum Island Pullover.  It’s a simple, gansey style sweater, with a slouchy, comfortable shape. The pattern is by Alison Green.

The decided to knit this sweater during one of those rare moments of yarn-related serendipity. I had a pattern I wanted to knit and exactly the right yarn in my stash, the right yardage and everything.  How often does that happen?

I used Imperial Yarns Columbia in the Indigo Heather colorway.

 

 

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During a recent visit home, Mom and I took some time to play with her new Pat Green Duncan drum carder. For those fellow fiber geeks who want to know, Mom has the hand-cranked Blender/Carder 8 Inch Hand Crank model. I don’t have anything to compare it to as it’s the only carder I’ve ever used; however, I can report that it was easy for a beginner (me) to use. The only hard part was attaching the drive band.

I brought most of a scoured Jacob fleece with me to share with Mom. We spent a couple of happy evenings sorting through the fleece, picking out some to comb, some to tease and card, and some to flick and spin from the lock. We were a bit overly ambitious  and, in the end, spent most of our time on the fleece chosen for carding.

Teased locks loaded into the tray and ready to be carded.

Teased locks loaded into the tray and ready to be carded.

Separating the fiber from the carder.

Separating the fiber from the carder.

Rolling fiber off the carder using a handy-dandy paper towel tube.

Rolling fiber off the carder using a handy-dandy paper towel tube.

After the carder was loaded up and couldn’t take on any more fiber, we used a little metal tool to make a break in the tube of fiber. Then we rolled the fiber off the teeth carefully using a cardboard paper towel roll. After that, the batt of fiber was divided into two or three strips, and the carding process began again. Each batt made three passes through the drum carder before it was (finally) rolled off for the last time.

A small but growing mountain of batts.

A small but growing mountain of batts.

One thing I didn’t realize before diving into this process was how slow it would be. I’m used to using hand carders and I know how slow those are. I just assumed that carding on a drum carder would be faster. It probably is. But it sure doesn’t seem like it. You have to crank slowly and evenly so the fiber will take up properly, standing there all the while, shifting from foot to foot, trying not to daydream. It helps to have someone to talk to, or a podcast to listen to. I understand why people who sell fiber for a living spring for the motorized carders.

One thing I was very pleased with was the amount of junk the carder removed from the fleece. It was already exceptionally clean, but had a bit of  stubborn vegetable matter and dirt caught here and there. The carder took care of it.

A slowly growing pile of junk on the table underneath the drum carder.

A slowly growing pile of junk on the table underneath the drum carder.

 

 

 

 

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Imperial Yarn, I am taking this opportunity to publicly applaud you for two things you are doing right.

Thing 1: The way you tie your tags

The tags are securely attached, but with a firm bow, not a knot. That means I don’t have to trim with a scissors. That’s a little bit more yarn that doesn’t go to waste. I don’t always have the patience, or even the ability to untie the knots that yarn companies use to bind their hanks together.

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Thing 2: Tags that can be re-purposed

I greatly appreciate it when companies make thoughtful choices with their packaging. Some sort of label or tag is necessary when selling commercial yarn. Ball bands are secure and provide lots of surface area for printing text and images, but they’re fragile and easy to lose. And they really have no utility once they’ve been removed. Tags are often not much better, in my opinion, as they are too stiff to roll up and stuff into the center of a yarn cake and too small to be re-purposed as anything else. Plus, a lot of yarn companies (hello Quince and Co.) attach them to their hanks with such long loops of yarn attached that they seem to be promoting this tangling problem.

Imperial Yarn uses nice large tags, bound closely to their hanks, so they don’t tangle.  And those tags are exactly the right size and thickness to serve as coasters. I don’t know about you, but I think a home can never have too many coasters. My knitting is usually accompanied by a drink of some kind: hot tea or wine in in the winter, a cold beer or iced tea in the summer.  As an added bonus, knitters like me are littering their homes with free advertising for Imperial Yarns. A complete win-win, in my opinion.

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Hats off to you, Imperial Yarn.

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My Saturday at the Shepherd’s Harvest Wool Festival in Lake Elmo, MN.

Rabbit Agility, it’s a thing.  4-H shows off the skills of their highly-trained rabbit athletes. They all seem to like to hide in the tunnel at the end of the course. 20140522-092403-33843080.jpg

Spinning wheels galore.  I had plans to try out that great wheel, but never got around to it. Next time… 20140522-092431-33871222.jpg

Luscious yarns and kits. I managed to be really good this time and didn’t buy much yarn. Just a couple of hanks from a favorite vendor, Winterwind Farm, who sells CVM blends. 20140522-092500-33900394.jpg   20140522-092457-33897497.jpg   20140522-092502-33902176.jpg

The grand prize for rebranding . Because anything that says “Cashmere” has to be a luxury good. 20140522-092503-33903042.jpg

Where I went a little crazy, was in buying fleeces. Pretty, pretty fleeces. Nice presentation too. It looks like they climbed a tall ladder and snipped a bit of cloud out of the sky, then wound it up and plopped it into a basket. I started with just one, but then ended up winning a couple more in the silent auction. I honestly didn’t expect to win either of them.

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Animals 

I wonder what breed of sheep this is?

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This male llama had to be kept penned separately from the herd. He was also the only one who hadn’t been sheared. A bit aggressive perhaps?

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Mama goat and her two kids, I assume?

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