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Knittastic March 12, 2011

Posted by J. in Sticks and String.

So, I don’t know if I blogged about my semi-recent adventures in dyeing.  I had a bunch of linen/cotton blend yarn that was all a natural ecru color and realized I’d be more likely to use it if it was in different colors.  Being a cotton/linen blend I also knew that Rit dye was my friend.

I’d used Rit all the time back in my costuming days.  We usually did it in the washing machine, but I’ve always been a bit leery about putting dye in my own washer, and I also wasn’t sure if skeins of yarn would behave in the washing machine.

I bought a box of navy blue dye and a box of a chocolate brown dye and decided to do three skeins blue, three skeins brown, and leave 4 natural.  Only I had quite forgotten what a huge pain in the ass dyeing is.  Well, not the actual dyeing, per se.  That was fine.  I used the stovetop method whereby you put some water and the dye in a pot on the stove, get it real hot and plop the fabric or yarn in.  I did it and the colors took beautifully.

It’s the rinsing that wears at your soul.  I can’t tell you how long it took to get the rinse water to run clear.  I shudder to think of how many gallons of water went down my kitchen sink drain trying to create yarn that wouldn’t run later when I washed the sweater, and that was after giving it a cold water and vinegar bath to help set the color a little better.

But finally, the water ran clear and I could hang it to dry on the porch.

Later, I wound them into neat yarn cakes.

And now they are currently being worked into a sweater for the Bug.  The body is done and I’m about halfway up the hood.  She’s said she wants elbow-length sleeves, so those will go on last.  I’m looking forward to seeing it washed and blocked.  It’s still a bit nubbly and uneven in it’s pre-blocked state. 

I decided to go with the more mature colors partly because Bug is growing up, and also because I figure if I don’t use pink or purple Dave might eventually get to wear it.  Unless his sisters give him shit about wearing their hand-me-downs.  Which they might.  Hell, I would.

It took awhile for me to get to the sweater that I’d been working on in my head because I had promised a customer a baby sweater.  She liked my offerings at a craft fair and asked if I would make her a custom knit for her impending grandchild.  I said sure, and she came by the house with a pretty easy pattern and some lovely, top o’ the line yarn to work with.  I did the sweater up for her and she liked it so much she asked if I’d tackle another one.

This comes under the heading of “quit while you’re ahead.”

The second pattern was by Sirdar and in my opinion is completely overwritten.  It’s is for a sweater that can be made with long or cap sleeves, a round or a v-neck, and size ranges from newborn to size 6.  That’s a lot of variables to figure out.  I wish I had a copy of it right here so I could give you a sampling of what the directions look like.  You wouldn’t believe it.  It required the Rosetta Stone to decipher.

It’s a gorgeous little sweater, but DAMN. 

You can see where you start at the bottom with one stitch pattern, move to the middle section and work a different stitch pattern before moving on to the third stitch pattern.  And when you start the third pattern, which is a mistake rib and doesn’t look like the picture until you’re quite a few rows into it, you also shape the armholes and neckline so there are increases and decreases all over the fucking place. I had to pull it out three times and had to go on Ravelry to see if I was the only one who thought the top was indecipherable.  I was not, and I got some really helpful tips and finally got it into shape.

I got to the sleeves and had to lie down.  I put it away for a couple of days.  Again, three different stitch patterns plus working increases up the sleeve to the top where you’ve got that weird mistake rib again and then the shaping at the top of the sleeve.

But, I finally finished it and it came out truly lovely.  And I really liked that mistake rib so much I’m planning to use it on some sweaters of my own.  Plus, I found this sweet crackle heart in my grandmother’s button box that worked just perfectly.

The lady not only bought the yarn and the pattern but she paid me for my time and effort and threw in a bunch of really nice wool (she clearly has expensive taste in yarn!) that she said she’d never get around to using if I’d like to have it.

Then I had a couple of small projects that I didn’t take pictures of but totally should have.  I made a felted pouch for a blind friend from church to carry her folded up white cane in.  And I fixed the sleeves on a sweater for another friend.  And I really wish I’d taken a picture of the baby set I made for my new nephew.  I don’t know why I forgot.  Perhaps they’ll send us a picture of him wearing it.  That’d be cool.

Oh, and the other thing I’ve been working on is gloves.  It’s no secret that I love to knit mittens, but I’ve had a lot of trouble finding a glove pattern in a worsted weight that wasn’t going to be more of a pain in the ass to knit than was worth it.  I broke down and downloaded a glove pattern that uses sock yarn and even ordered the sock yarn, but I don’t much like working with lightweight yarns.  I don’t like how they feel in my hands.  It’s hard to explain.  I think it’s why all my forays into lace knitting have ended badly.  In the end, I didn’t enjoy the process because it was a bad tactile experience.

Hey, I hate prime numbers.  You think it’s weird that I don’t like the feel of working with thin needles and yarn?  Sugar, please…

That’s why this baby bonnet I’m working on is using a double strand of angora.  I started it using it a single strand and on tiny needles but I just didn’t like it.  It was a lovely, fine, soft fabric, but just really un-fun to work on.  I doubled it and I love how it feels.  I went with a textured stitch that I think will make it warm and soft and cuddly when it’s done.

So anyway, the gloves.  I started with a pattern suggested by one of my Knitters and I got as far as the thumb gusset before realizing that I wasn’t going to like how they turned out.  Up until the body of the glove, it’s the same as knitting a mitten and this pattern had me making a thumb gusset that was going to be too long to suit me.  So I changed it to the thumb gusset I always use on mittens.  Then the way they described how to section off the fingers by putting your hand in it and measuring where to put the fingers with safety pins seemed kind of dumb.  What if you’re making these for someone else and you don’t have their hand…handy?  What then?

So I used my knowledge of simple anatomy to figure out how to divide the stitches for the fingers and long story finally shorter, I wound up chucking the pattern and just making my own.  I’ve got the medium size written which fits Larry perfectly, so I gave them to him, and I worked out the numbers and test knit one that’s smaller.   A bit too snug for me, but I have giant Man Hands.  (Could be why I don’t like working with small yarn, when you think of it.)  Once I figure out the larger size, for bigger hands, I’ll have it up on Ravelry, no doubt.

And I think that’s all there is to report.  Larry T. just called from the hospital where he’s visiting with the new baby and has reported that the hat and sweater set went over like gangbusters.

*thumbs up*

And now I’m going to make a spot of lunch for me and the boy, and since the girls are in Boston for the day with their Tanta and Larry is in Keene, I may settle in for a quiet afternoon with my needles.



1. Karen - March 12, 2011

Love the baby sweater. I have been working on a pattern for ages — love the sweater, but it’s written in Danish, and I don’t speak Danish. Try figuring out the decreases, etc. in another language! Maybe with a new granddaughter coming, I’ll go back to working on it. It’s knit of DMC Pearl Cotton, makes a fabulous sweater. I just wish they made the large balls for US sales.

Love to knit with fine yarns and threads. It feels awkward to knit with worsteds. I’m working on a lace weight scarf now of cashmere and loving it.

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