A Love Knit Up

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What is it about yarn?

What is it about a yarn that turns out to be more expensive and harder to find than it seemed at first? I have a bunch of balls of Filatura di Crosa Luxury yarn. (Luxury is the name of the yarn, not a value judgment on Filatura di Crosa.) I don't particularly like this yarn, even though it's 100% silk: it's fingering weight but it's 5-ply, which means that unless you're watching the knitting very carefully it tends to split. It's very smooth, but for some reason in most lights it just looks like a cheap cotton, not a silk (although as soon as you touch it you realize it's too smooth for cotton). What is the point in knitting with yarn that looks like a cheap cotton, but is much more expensive? And the colors I have aren't great: I have a couple of balls of white, a couple of balls of a dark beige, and a few of a lighter beige. Until about ten minutes ago, I figured I just need to find a good way to use this yarn up and make room for better yarns in my stash.

Then I started experimenting with designing some lace patterns (just because I finally have time to do that!) and I thought that I could use the yarn to experiment on. It's natural fibers, its smooth, and it's a light color, which means it would show the pattern well. I also thought that I'd look it up online, in case I wanted to make a shawl out of it (to use up what I have) and needed a couple of extra balls. I had bought all of the yarn in various sales (it's a long story) for an average of about $2 a ball. It can't be that expensive online, right?

Wrong. The only place I could find it was in the largest online yarn stores (most don't even carry it anymore) at $18.50 a ball. And, suddenly, I'm loath to use this yarn. It doesn't matter that I curse it constantly while I knit with it. It doesn't matter that I think the colors suck. Now I'm looking at the yarn and thinking "is experimenting with it really worth it?"

But I am going to be strong. (Yes, I will, and don't look at me like that.) I know I don't like this yarn, and that I will never knit with it unless I really really have to. Thus I will experiment with it and ignore my irrational back-brain which makes unhelpful comments like "but you won't be able to get more!" (regardless of the fact that I don't want more) and "but it's so smooth and nice to knit with!" (even though, although it is smooth, it is not nice to knit with). I will make it. Just watch me.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rest and Relaxation

So I'm finally completely done with everything! No more finals, papers, grading, anything!

My last final was on Thursday. On Wednesday night I had a horrible dream that my final started at 7:15 and that I missed it. I woke up, jumped out of bed, and started getting dressed as quickly as I could: it was already 9:30, and finals started at 9:15! I'd already gotten completely dressed and was brushing my hair when I realized that yes, while finals started at 9:15, my final was at 2:15. That I had set the alarm correctly last night for noon, so that I could get as much sleep as I needed, and that there was nothing to worry about. But by this point the adrenalin had already kicked in and I couldn't get back to sleep.

Friday I was finishing up grading, which took forever and was incredibly boring. But since then I've done nothing but read, sleep, and knit. (It's been very nice, I might add.) I've been working on Ljod and on the Spring Blossoms shawl that I mentioned earlier. They still look pretty much like they did before, though, so there is very little progress to be reported. I've also started the Raku Suri Stole, made out of Alchemy Yarns' Haiku. (Which is 40% silk 60% mohair and absolutely gorgeous. I love it, although it's my first lace experience with lace yarn, so I'm having some minor difficulties. I think my needles aren't really sharp enough for lace with such a thin yarn.) If you want to see what it looks like so far, imagine four bamboo needles with a mess of noodle-looking lace-weight greenish-yellow yarn hanging off of it. (Here is a picture of the general yarn, the color I'm using is called "Dragon.") It doesn't look like much. I'll post a picture after I block it.

There's a thunderstorm going on outside. I love thunderstorms.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I don't generally give advice (as I need it much more often than I can give it!) but here is something I learned today.

Suppose (like me) you at one point did not have a ball winder and swift, and therefore you valiantly rolled balls by hand out of all of the yarn that you used. Suppose, that after a certain period you obtained a ball winder and swift. And, one day, you look at all of your balls of yarn and think "Wouldn't it be nice to wind all of these into center-pull balls? I wouldn't even need to use the swift!"

Let me tell you what you should do at this point. You should go out, buy some embroidery floss, and start an oversized pullover. Or pull out your nails with a pair of pliers. Or maybe just jump down a flight of stairs. Because, all in all, all of this will be less pain than what you would be subjected to if you tried to put your plan into action and wind all of those balls. A ball of yarn that is quickly being unwound (say, by putting its end in a ball winder and turning the crank) jumps around like mad. It jumps as high as four feet in the air, picks up all sorts of dust and dirt, and tangles around any furniture within sight (even if it's several feel away from where you originally put the ball of yarn).

When I saw that this was happening (not that I tried this, of course, this is all a theoretical discussion) I tried putting the ball of yarn into a bag and closing the bag almost all the way (so that I could still pull the yarn out). What happens when you (theoretically) do this is that the ball of yarn jumps up, catches on whatever is holding the bag closed, and sits up there, next to the hole, adamantly refusing to unwind.

Next, I tried putting the ball into an empty garbage can. I figured that the ball won't jump out of it that quickly, and that I don't mind putting in back in occasionally. It turned out, however, that balls of yarn are very very good at climbing up the walls of garbage cans and jumping out. The first time it jumped out was two seconds after I started turning the crank. The second time it jumped out was five seconds after that (the first four being taken up by me finding the ball (where it wedged itself under the armchair across the room) and putting it back in the garbage can. The garbage can tactic was clearly not working.

In the end, I ended up solving the problem by putting the ball back in the bag, and holding the bag closed with my hand, so that I could push the ball back down when it would jump up. Seven balls of wool later, I have a friction burn on my hand, my other hand is really tired from turning the crank on the ball winder and jerking at the yarn when it tangled, and my usually-neat center-pull balls are crazy contraptions with loops of yarn jutting all over the place. I think pulling my nails out would have been easier, faster, and less painful.

But now I can use this damned wool for making felted bowls.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Knitting Journals

I'm getting really frustrated with the available knitting journals out there. I would think that it wouldn't be that difficult to design a knitting journal: make a notebook with each page having a couple of inches devoted to data (gauge, yarn, pattern location...), and a large section devoted to notes on the pattern. Have the opposite page have a large blank area; either all white, or half white half knitter's graph paper. Sounds pretty obvious, no?

But there are no knitting journals out there that are like that. They're all stuffed with reference materials (which is great, but what is the knitter's companion for? and most of the time I don't need the references in my journal; I only need the notes on the pattern I'm making), have LOTS of space devoted to vital statistics, and almost nothing to notes on the pattern. In 5 years I likely won't care that I managed to knit pattern X and have a photograph of what resulted; I'd rather know that the shaping on the shoulders was nearly impossible to accomplish and that I ended up changing it, or that the pattern was completely incomprehensible until I swatched several times and finally understood it, or that I couldn't seem to get gauge and so ended up modifying the pattern to fit my gauge. That information is more important than the fact that the sweater had a 20 inch back length, no? (I agree that yarn information is important. But you don't need 2 inches of page reserved for it.)

I own two knitting journals: one really cheap one I got from Joann, and the Stitch 'n Bitch journal. The first one has pages that look like this:

(The vital statistics section is marked in blue, the comments area in red.)
Problems: Not enough room for comments, no places reserved for sketching and notes on the pattern stitch. This journal doesn't close when you open it (because of the spiral binding), but it does have a hard cover over the binding, which means that it doesn't lie flat and can't be wrapped back on itself. It's small, but it isn't really something you'd carry around with you.

The Stitch 'n Bitch journal, on the other hand, has some absolutely brilliant ideas which are unfortunately ruined by other unfortunate design choices. On the plus side, it has these great design pages,

which have graph paper (although not knitters graph paper) and a sketch of a person that you can put clothes on. Which I think is cool. (It also has some knitters graph paper later in the book, but I didn't take a picture of it.) In addition, the project pages actually have a much larger space reserved for comments:

(The area for comments is marked in red, the vital statistics in blue. The green section is the amount of room reserved for the yarn type, which I think is greatly overkill.) It also has a nice area for writing down your measurements, and an explanation of what to measure. However, the book has some very striking defects. First off, it doesn't stay open; it ha a glued binding, which makes it stiff until you break the binding, and then it becomes floppy. Secodly, it only hasroom to record 12 projects. 12! Who only has 12 projects? (It also has 14 pages for "things I want to make". If I started recording everything I want to make, it would take much more than this notebook.) It also has room to record 30 kinds of yarn I have in my stash. This is silly because as far as I know there are only two kinds of knitters: those who buy yarn for one project, make it, and then go on to another one (and so have no stash, and don't need this), and those who have a huge stash, don't even try to remember everything they have, and trying to make them record only 30 kinds of yarn they have is silly.

This journal has 200 pages. The first 120 are the design pages and the knitters graph paper pages, which are just great. The last 80 have the above things, a few references on stitches, and a few pages on how to design sweaters. All of these could be removed and only make the journal better. Technically, it is supposed to be a "design journal"; but in that case, why put in all of the pages about "things I want to knit"?

Anyway, enough ranting about journals. (I'm trying to design my own, but I'll post about that when I've developed my ideas a little more.) An update on what I'm knitting:

I've finished the gene scarf. (This is incredible for me, because I hated the pattern by the end (even after I found the mistake in the chart and fixed it), it was going very slowly, and I kept wanting to throw it out the window. But now it's done, it looks great, and here it is:

(A note for people making this: it curls unstoppably before it's blocked; after I blocked it, it looked great.)

I've also started working (again) on the silk lace shawl I started this summer. This is a square shawl worked from the center out on circular needles. At the moment it looks like this,

a huge pile of awful yarn. I have faith, though, in the magic of blocking, and I persevere. I wasn't counting this as a project twoards my limit of four before, because I was certain I could never memorize the pattern (and so it doesn't count while I have other things to do). This weekend I tried it again, and I had the pattern! Just like that! Either I'm a better knitter than I was this summer, or I had actually almost managed to memorize the pattern last year. I'm using Filatura di Crosa's 100% silk fingering weight yarn (whatever it's called). Two notes about knitting lace: don't use 5-ply silk yarn (you can't tell when you're splitting the yarn unless you watch it like a hawk), and don't use metal needles; the slipperiness makes things like ssk very difficult to do.

Lastly, I've finally started Elsebeth Lavold's Ljod! Here's what it looks like now:

(I only started yesterday.) It's not as yellow as it looks; the sun made the color look brighter than it is. Actually, this pattern is what is causing the rants about knitting journals. It doesn't have row-by-row instructions, only a general explanation of how to lay out the pattern and do the shaping. It also has a lot of "at the same time"'s. So I want to write out the key points in the pattern: at 4", when the shart pattern is done etc. I can't write in the book (it's a nice book), and I don't feel like I can write in either of my knitting journals (the first doesn't have room, and in the second I'd need to cannibalize a design page, which feels vaguely like lying). There should damn well be room to sketch and note right next to the place where you record all of your pattern stuff. But I'm starting to rant again. I'll stop now.