Sunday, 19 December 2010

Yarn aficionado

I was thinking, after my latest visit to Get Knitted (my amazing LYS) that I have an obscene amount of not only yarn, but different types of fibres. I love working with different fibres, getting a feel for what each one does and how they would work best with different patterns. I'm really beginning to understand what substitutions can be made from one brand of yarn to another without compromising the beauty of the finished work, as well. Take, for instance, the hat I made for my sister Eileen for Christmas. This hat is made from bamboo, and I had originally planned to make it an earflap hat. Knitting quickly told me it would not work, as bamboo knits up very drapey and flowing, and earflaps would do nothing to keep the ears warm. Therefore, I turned it into a beanie of sorts, which can be worn summer and winter, and she seemed to love it when I gave it to her. It actually calls for merino, which knits up much more sturdy and would work better as an earflap hat.

Contrarily, I substituted a cotton/acrylic blend for the hat I made my mother. The yarn called for is a wool/angora blend. The hat turned out lovely. Two different substitutions, two very different outcomes.

However, all this rumination is little more than an excuse to get pictures in a post that was going to be a very dry listing of all the fibres I either have in my stash or have worked with. There's a pretty comprehensive list on Ravelry that I've just checked, and so I'm going to go down that. Hence, I've used the following: acrylic, alpaca, angora, bamboo, camel, cashmere, cotton, linen, merino, microfibre, mohair, nylon, soy, sugar cane, polyester (I think), rayon (I think), silk, wool and lambswool. I make the distinction between merino (which comes from a sheep), wool, and lambswool because they feel so very different from each other. Most of the fibres have been blends of each other, but I have used straight merino, silk, sugar cane, cotton, lambswool, wool, acrylic, alpaca and bamboo.  It's very interesting to note what they knit up on their own vs. knitting up in a blend as well.

Yes, I spend a lot of money on yarn. But I find that working with cheap stuff all the time makes knitting tedious and uninteresting, so I branch out and go for more exotic fibres, and plenty of different types. It's like having a meal of the same thing every night, or having several different favourites, some plain and easy to make, and some more difficult to make, but more tasty, giving the meal the spark of something special.

I also find myself buying more from independent dyers. This yarn is unique, usually done in small dye lots (or no dye lots) and feels a little more special than something made in a factory by machines. It also supports the yarn industry, keeps things relatively local (unless of course I'm patronising someone from the States), and makes picking out yarn more fun. No two skeins are exactly the same (quite often) and so going through, touching them all and picking out the colours you love and then digging to find something that matches gives buying yarn a thrill. I mean, seriously, would you ever find  yarn like this from Sirdar or Rowan? I do love these brands, but I love the indy dyers more.

Friday, 17 December 2010

New skills

So, I haven't posted in awhile. Part of the reason is that for half of November, I was in America with my family and didn't really have access to a computer very much. I've found that using someone else's computer is like visiting a bed and breakfast; you're never really sure how everything works, despite it all being the same. Anyway, what I lacked in computer time, I made up for in yarnwork time. I acquired quite a lot of new yarn, courtesy of my mother (who got me a bunch of wool) and various shopping trips while I was there. I then learned to crochet, so I've added that to my list of skills. So far, I've made a scarf and a hat, the former in wool from a Jacobs sheep and the latter in yarn from my LYS - a multicoloured merino. I'm really quite pleased with how quickly and easily I picked up crochet. I think it's because I've been knitting so long and understand how yarn works.

I've also been knitting. Since I finished the Christmas present, my big project has been a cardigan out of some lush purple yarn I got from a destash. It's called Mirasol K'acha, a combination of merino, alpaca and silk. I really enjoyed working with it and the sweater, finished yesterday, has turned out lovely. I really have only one gripe with it: either I badly misjudged the length of the arms, or the yarn has gone and stretched itself. The whole cardigan, in fact, seems huge on me. Still, it's warm, and that's what is important. And it looks good.

Another thing I've been working on for ages now is a stocking for my hubby. I've never made socks before, and thought I would start with something that doesn't have to be worn; plus, I had some Christmas yarn that would be perfect for one stocking. Grandma gave me a pattern that she has used for years to make stockings for the family, but it was impossible to read, being a scanned copy of something old and taped together in places. I chose another from the vast database on Ravelry and got to work. At first, it was fine. I did the leg, and then moved into the heel turn. That's when I ran into trouble. First, I picked up the stitches wrong and knitted it backwards, which was picked up by the ladies at Get Knitted when I brought it there to ask why I couldn't get it right. So I ripped back and got it going the right way, only to have trouble picking up stitches - turns out you're supposed to knit them as you pick them up - who knew? :) Once Grandma put me onto that, I had the yarn where I needed it to be, but was still having trouble with the instep. I took it to America for consultation, and Grandma gave me a better copy of the pattern she uses. We managed to get the heel turned, using both patterns - mine, for the numbers, and hers for the sense of it all.

Using two patterns, however, is trouble. I started to have trouble reconciling the two patterns, and then I realised I'd made a huge mistake in turning, and in despair have given up the project as a lost cause. When I went to try and rip the yarn back, it knotted and stuck and I can't figure out what end is up and what is down (figuratively speaking) that I've had to bin over half the skein. That, I think, is the worst part, since I had planned to use Grandma's pattern solely and try again. Now I'll have to source some more yarn and try doing multiple colours, which I'm a novice at. I'll probably use the Christmas yarn for coasters or something, since what I have left has been cut a few times and really isn't suitable for a larger project. *sigh* So that is my Stocking Saga.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Contest!

Not one sponsored by me, but by a company in America who's doing a yarn promotion called Yarns on Stage.

I found out about the promotion and ensuing contest through a woman I bought some Malabrigo from and later some of her own dyed stuff. She was selling all the yarns for the Yarns on Stage and advertised it quite heavily, so I ended up buying a skein of one of the brands, namely Dream in Colour's Smooshy. Each of the yarn makers had a special colourway for their yarn, so I got Dream in Colour's limited edition of Bubble Haze.

All the yarns are sock yarns, so I picked a nice pattern for a shawlette in 4-ply and made it up. The pattern is called Citron, and everyone seems to have made it on Ravelry. It was pretty straightforward, with lots of knit/purl and increasing/decreasing for the textured bits that I didn't capture very well here. The colours were very muted, but made for a good shawl in the end. It's merino, so it's very warm and lovely.

The contest is actually to send in a picture of your FO and they'll take all the entries and judge them. The winner gets money!
All the information is on this link if anyone is interested. A better picture of my shawl is up there, as well as some other entries. There's also a link to the Yarns on Stage main page, describing the whole event and the reasoning behind it, as well as a showcase of the companies and their limited edition yarns - on sheep!

So if you like contests, this is a great one. The yarn isn't cheap, especially with shipping from the States, but it's good quality and good yardage and I had fun, so I thought I would promote it a bit. If you read this and blog, pass on the word.