Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why Another Baby Blanket?

I've agreed to do something I swore I'd never do again: I'm going to make a baby blanket.  Yep, I've made enough of them that I swore I was over it.  And yet, here we go.

Why do we get fed up with knitting some things but not others?  Why can some of us crank out endless hats and scarves, but we can't stand making up one more pair of socks?  Why do some love colorwork and hate cables?  One of my friends from the LYS hates knitting bobbles.  Every time someone says the word "bobbles", she quietly says "suck".  (Making the joint statement "bobbles suck".)  I crack up every time.

I think we all have knitting skills that we enjoy more than others.  For me, there is little I can do to make a baby blanket interesting.  I've done intarsia, cables, stranded colorwork, and applique, but I think all the repetition just overwhelms me.  (It's flat, no shaping, usually symmetrical.)  I've even designed several, and though they're pretty and technically involved, designing the blankets only gets me so far, and then boredom.

Whenever I teach a class, I ask the students what they love to knit, and what they would never want to knit.  Inevitably everything listed as something someone loves to knit is also listed as something someone hates to knit. There doesn't seem to be rhyme or reason to the combos.  I've had sock knitters say they hate making mittens, shawl and lace makers say they hate ponchos, and blanket lovers say they hate scarves.  The Q&A always elicits laughter as folks realize their common passion for knitting is also grounds for such different tastes in projects.

Who knows?  Maybe this blanket will be the breakthrough blanket that makes me a convert.  I'm doing it on commission, so I didn't get to choose the yarn or the pattern.  Maybe it will be like the dress your girlfriend insists you try on, even though you're completely skeptical.  Then you put it on and it's terrific.  Maybe.

If I were to choose to knit a baby blanket, what patterns would you recommend?  Is there one out there that you love to knit and think is beautiful enough to be worth the effort?  Share a link in your comment.  I'm sure I'm not alone in this.  What's good?  I'll post recommended patterns in the next post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not Just Loreal

When Cybil Shepherd looked into the camera, tousled her perfect blonde curls, and murmured, "Because I'm worth it," she was explaining why she was willing to pay, on average, 70 cents more for her hair color to get the color and feel she wants.  70 cents.  The "Because I'm worth it" campaign went on for years, and was one of the most effective ad campaigns of all time.  It celebrated the fact that the Loreal product was more expensive, and made it into benefit instead of a problem.

I think the reason the campaign was so successful is because women tend to put themselves last - behind the kids, behind their mate, behind their parents... We were raised that all this altruism is a virtue, and it's an expression of how much we care for people.  Deciding 70 extra cents on haircolor was an indulgence was a splurge most women found acceptable and attractive.

I'm here to argue that the same is true in knitting.  We knit for a variety of reasons, but almost none of us knit because we have to.  It's usually because we love it, or we like to craft things with our own hands.  It's our hobby.  And yet, we tend to continue to put ourselves last. 

Do you want to knit with great needles?  Then do it!  You're going to spend dozens of hours with those needles.  There is no point in fighting them.  Find needles that work with your knitting style, and not against it.  Needles with smooth action, that feel good, and have points sharp enough to pick up stitches easily without splitting your yarn.  Trust me, your husband would not spend dozens of hours with a golf club or fishing rod he hates.  (Really puts it in perspective, doesn't it?) Go buy the good needles.  The $3-5 price difference works out to pennies per hour of use.

"I'm not good enough for that yarn yet.  I'm still learning."  Have you ever said it?  Unless you were talking about whisper thin lace yarn, or some other very technical yarn, you were selling yourself short.  When new knitters come to the shop I encourage them to start with great needles and very good yarn.  If anything, folks who don't knit well need good tools and good yarn.  The yarn won't split or pill or stretch while they work it, so they can just focus on learning the stitches.  Remember that good quality yarn can be had for the same prices (and sometimes less) than crappy yarn.  And great quality yarn makes better garments.  After all, your yarn is the biggest element in defining the fabric you create.

Not sure how to tell what's what?  Ask someone at the LYS to grade yarns for you.  It might sound something like, "I need worsted yarn for this project.  Can you show me 4 or 5 yarns that would work, and then rank them by quality for the project?"  The different fiber content, tightness of twist, and number of plies ideal for your cardigan will be different from what's best for someone else's baby blanket.  Get some advice, and think about it.  Advice of this sort costs you nothing, but can easily save you time and money. 

Oh, and color?  If what you love is a handpaint that costs 30% more than the solid, unless it means you can't pay your other bills, buy it.  You're worth it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fiona Goble

About two months ago, I sent an email to Fional Goble.  She didn't know me at all, we've never corresponded before, but I went out on a limb.  I let her know I love her designs and books, and that my readers feel the same way.  I also mentioned that I'd love to do a giveaway of her recent and upcoming books. And she wrote back!  After a little back and forth, we got it all settled, and a stack of books arrived on my doorstep!  The folks at her US publisher, Andrews McMeel Universal, were terrific and supportive.  So now, allow me to more formally introduce you to the work of Fiona Goble.

Ms. Goble's writing style includes a bit of story, and a lot of patterning.  Noah's Knits tells the Noah story in an accessible way for crafty moms and dads to interact with their children.  It includes patterns for 14 pairs of animals, and of course Mr. and Mrs. Noah, all of whom fit nicely in the book's fold-out ark. Each animal has a little fact-filled explanation of their look and their natural habitat, making them a terrific hands-on learning experience for little ones. We have copies to give away, and I can't wait to hear what you think of this book! 

Ms. Goble's book, Fairy Tale Knits is my current favorite of her books.  It tells 6 classic fairy tales, and shows how to make all of the important characters come alive through knitting.  All of her instructions are clear and simple, which I think will boost the confidence of knitters of every level.  This book truly doubles as both a story book and crafting guide, and the toys are adorable.  I have a big crush on Hansel, from Hansel and Gretel, as he's just like I pictured him in my childhood.  And yes, we're giving them away.  (We started last week!) This book isn't available until August for the general public, but we're giving more away this week!

For folks who like to knit ahead to prepare for an occasion, there's The Twelve Knits of Christmas.  All of the characters from the song are represented in do-able patterns.  To knit every character in the correct multiple from the song means knitting 76 toys in total, so a head start is probably necessary even for the quickest knitter!  The swans and milkmaids can also be substituted for characters from The Ugly Duckling and Little Miss Muffett, and the Lords a Leaping can easily stand in for a King as needed.  And yes, we're giving them away this week, too.

All of these books will help you create a bevy of characters to decorate your home, create playthings for the children in your life, and surprise your friends.  The hard part will be deciding what critter or character to make first.  Can't wait to win a giveaway?  All of her US titles are available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The USOC Strikes Back

The USOC apologized today, something it rarely does.  It apologized to all who they have insulted by their letter to  (See previous post for details.)  Sorces indicate there have been tens of thousands of messages conveyed by social and conventional media to the USOC in response to the offensive language since the letter was released yesterday.

The phrasing in the cease and desist statement that offended the knitting, spinning, and crochet community called was the one that was insulting on its merits.  This is the most offensive part:  "A competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."  All  of the rest of the letter is tainted by being in the company of this ugliness, though most of the rest of it is pretty tame.

Today the USOC released this statement:

Statement from USOC Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky:
“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.

The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

First off, did not found the Ravelympics, they are merely the outlet by which it is conducted, much like the Internet did not invent my blog.  Second, I find it unlikely that the letter sent to the founders of Ravelry was, in fact, a "standard-form cease and desist" letter.  The very specific insults would imply that it is, in fact, not a form letter.  That their apology to the needlework community contains this phrasing implies there is some tush-covering under way.  While I appreciate Mr. Sandusky's sentiment, I wish he had familiarized himself with the text of the original letter before speaking.

I am willing to concede that the ugly language in the original letter may have belonged to only one person, the writer, or a small group, a committee, and may not represent the official views of the USOC.  However, once the official letter was out in the world, I believe the only appropriate options were to disavow the statement as being made without authority, or apologize for it.  This does neither.  It's an "I'm sorry, but". 

Mr. Sandusky, we're sorry, too.  Not for anything we've done, but because our support and enthusiasm for the Olympic movement has been so grossly misunderstood as to be considered a viable threat to trademark and sponsorship.  It remains a mystery how knitting in front of our televisions will negetively effect donations and sponsorship, but we wish the athletes no loss of revenue.  We're sorry that no one took the time to understand what the Ravelympics are before dashing off this silly letter.  None of the Ravelympic events charge money, or raise money, and much of the resulting work product is donated to charity.  And somehow, I don't think the USOC would mind being associated with that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seriously, Olympic Commitee...

Okay, friends, buckle up.  If you haven't seen this controversy, you won't believe it when you do.  Ready?

Ravelry pattern and pic
The US Olympic Committee is asking to "cease and desist" the Ravelympics.  It hit the fan today.  (See the short version on Gawker here.)  The Ravelympics involve knitting enthusiasts knitting particular challenges while watching the Olympics.  Yup.  Knitting.  In front of the TV.  It's a big problem to the USOC.  Okay, not the knitting per se - associating the Olympics with the knitting.  To paraphrase a very long legal note, it "demeans" the efforts and nobility of the Olympic athlete's efforts.

I don't get it either.  The USOC sent a lengthy set of "demands" (my word, not theirs) to the dear sweet folks at Ravelry, the 4 volunteer types who support an international knitting community of millions (yep, with an "M") with a website that serves as the international knitting water cooler.  Millions of pattern notes, yarn specs, patterns in whole, words of encouragement, yarn exchanges, needle and hook exchanges, etc., take place on Ravelry every day.  Of these, a remote fraction are involved in the Ravelympics.  Fewer than 30 interactions per day. 

Ravelry pattern and pic
I should make it known that some time ago I was an employee of the USOC. Though I love and support the Olympic movement, I can say unequivically, these dudes are without humor.  So much of the work of the IOC and USOC revolves around keeping things fair, and the incessant focus on rules sometimes makes the athletic nerds myopic.  The larger view is somewhat foggy to the rules people.

The enthusiasm of knitters involved in the Ravelympics is no threat to the general understanding of what the Olympics stand for.  Sale-a-thons and Dance-a-thons will never confuse the public with the 26.2 mile foot race.  Nanny-gate and Watergate will never both be considered to be Woodward and Bernstein's landmark achievement.  And a dude in a Manning jersey throwing a football in the parking lot of a stadum will never be a threat to the talent or effort of either Manning brother.

Toungue-in-cheek tributes are a huge part of the American experience.  This is why you can be married by Elvis in Las Vegas, and why you will always be able to buy your child superhero undies.  T-shirts with great abs and Halloween masks of Nixon are silly, and yet to my knowledge, neither the buff guys at the beach nor Nixon have ever sued.

BTW, the USOC would like to request the various designers and publishers of Olympics tribute patterns remove any reference to the Olympics and/or any depiction of the Olympic rings from the patterns.  ALL of them.  I assume this does not bar NEW Olympic tribute patterns.  Hint hint.

I am completely unaware of any push on the part of the OC of the UK to stop the enthusiastic knitting of Olympic athlete tributes.  In fact, you can buy a book of patterns to knit Olympic athletes in a variety of European outlets.  It's called "Olympknits".  Why is it that the USOC has no understanding of the difference between support and a threat?  I don't know.  Ask them.  719-632-5551.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Knitting is Like High School

Knitting is like high school. 

In high school, we're only sure of one thing, and that is that we're not quite as good as everybody else.  Even the kids we can't stand usually have a skill or two that we secretly admire, and sometimes we can't stand them because they have skills we admire.  Magazines and movies and TV all encourage us to be thinner, prettier, stronger, faster, cooler, and definitely sexier than the average 15 year old can muster, but we long to be all of those things and more.  Everyone attacks these goals in a different way.

Knitting is like that.  We all know a woman who will wander into the knit shop carrying a leather and canvas tote just like the one Nichole Kidman was carrying in People magazine, and they have it full of their knitting.  She knits on ebony Lantern Moon needles, in cashmere, and she pulls out her perfect knitting to ask the shop owner to confirm that there is a mistake.  Not a regular mistake - a mistake only an expert can see, and no one knows how to fix.  She's one of the cheerleaders.  She knits three projects a year, only on planes on her way to and from other continents where she vacations.  You hate her.

There's the knitter who comes in smelling of the two-pack-a-day cigarette habit she's trying to break by "relaxing" with her knitting.  They come in wired on caffeine, and their mostly acrylic knitting is in a tangle only kittens on crack could have created.  Stainless steel Susan Bates needles are usually involved.  They're sure "it's a lousy pattern", and they want you to help them sort it out.  They're the party kids.  Knitting is an addiction.  (Crochet was just a gateway craft.)  They knit for everyone but themselves to prove they don't have a problem.  They churn out a huge amount of knitting (they really need to relax) and often carry their knitting around in a plastic grocery bag.

Then there are the "knitting circle" girls.  They are staples in the shop, though they never appear to be buying anything.  They sit and knit and gossip.  The Knit Picks and WEBS catalogues are frequent topics of conversation when the shop owner is out of earshot.  Their favorite sock yarn is Koigu, but they use a lot of Cascade because "the price is so good for the quality."  Each of them says they aren't a good knitter, while secretly thinking they're better than they are.  There is often wine involved in their knitting process.  They are the girls from a pretty good neighborhood who no one makes fun of.  They carry their knitting in cheap but trendy tote bags, and make a point of wearing their work to the shop.

The weird, artsy kids who were in theater and band are the fugitive knitters.  They bop into the store, usually without a project in hand, forage for supplies, and leave the shop smelling of sandalwood and jasmine.  They reappear only when they need help or to re-stock.  Their needles are borrowed from friends and family, and pairs are often the same size, but different manufacturers.  When you do see their knitting, it is beautiful in a unique and off-beat sort of way.  They usually don't use patterns, and if they do, they modify the pattern to oblivion.  The lovely sweater they are improvising is for a lover about whom they blush.  They carry their eco-friendly knitting in an eco-friendly bag bought at the nearest food co-op.  They make amazing brownies.

Of course, there is the Prom Queen.  She's been knitting three years.  She is a pretty good knitter, and usually the local advocate for everyone to be on Ravelry.  She knows a lot, but always wants to learn more.  How-to articles and podcasts are her favorite topics.  She'll help you with your knitting problems if she can, and probably writes a blog about knitting.  She has a knitting bumper sticker, and wears cute t-shirts with sheep on them.  Attending fancy classes at fiber fairs is part of her regular schedule.  She carries her knitting in a tote acquired at fill-in-the-name-of-a-cool-fiber-fair here.  Her family gives her perfect knitting-related gifts in exchange for the perfect garments she makes for them with aggravating regularity.  If she wasn't so helpful and nice, you'd really dislike her.

The knitting jocks use addi Turbos, only natural fibers, and only the latest patterns from the newest books and magazines.  They don't knit in the shop, they knit samples for the shop.  Knitting an Origami Sweater or Fiddlehead Mittens takes them only a weekend (even though they golf 18 holes both days), and there is never a mistake.  They are pleasure to converse with on every subject except knitting, about which they are absurdly competitive.  Knitting arrives in an efficient, non-descript tote which will never attract a mugger.  It is always blocked.  They don't think of their innate knitting talent as anything special.  Or so they say.

Yes, everybody's here.  I hope we don't have to go outside for gym.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Espace Tricot, Montreal Que - Free Pattern

When I first Tweeted that I was looking for recommendations of knitting shops to visit in Montreal, one answer far out-tweeted the others.  "Espace Tricot" or "Well, of course, Espace Tricot" came up again and again.  Who am I to argue with overwhelming public opinion?

We found our way to the shop on our way out of town.  It's the opposite of Effiloche (see previous post) in many ways.  Where Effiloche is a shop for all needle crafts, Espace Tricot is laser-focused on knitting.  Where Effiloche is large, with casual displays, Espace Tricot is small, with very neat and organized displays.  Espace Tricot is in a new building, full of light, and on a second floor. (See website and blog here.)

Friends and co-owners Melissa and Lisa have done an amazing job of creating a shop welcoming to knitters of every level.  As a person living in a small apartment, I was very impressed with how efficiently and thoroughly the space was utilized.  Yarns, books and notions were laid out in an attractive way that was easy to shop. They had everything a knitter would need, and a variety of price-points was represented, with quality being universally high.

One thing Maggie (staff member) explained to me with emphasis was the pride with which they represent Canadian yarns.  Americans will be well familiar with Koigu, the extraordinary sock-weight yarns, but there are other wonderful Canadian brands to be had.  I found this emphasis endearing, and the yarns to be truly stunning.  (A personal new favorite is a silk cashmere blend from Tanis Fiber Arts.  How did I miss that up to now?)

The knitted samples throughout the store are beautiful.  Although Lisa was busy with customers during my whole visit, I was able to have a few moments with Melissa.  What a lovely person!  She's full of energy and ideas.  She was also very open and patient with the DH walking around taking photos of everything.

As Maggie (a very pleasant and helpful staff member) was packing up my purchases, Melissa showed me one of the original designs available on their blog.  It was a lovely and cozy striped chevron blanket in Cascade Eco Cloud.  It's really cool, but then they showed me the Missoni-Inspired Scarf.   It's a colorful combination Colleen, color-embracing assistant and I (more traditional color palette) can both love!  My queue lengthens, again.

Go to Montreal.  Visit Espace Tricot.  I completely understand why it's Montreal's most recommended.  You will, too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Effiloche, Montreal Que - Free Pattern

Great Pricing on Cashmere!
As I mentioned previously, I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Montreal recently.  Although it wasn't exclusively a knitting trip, I can't imagine visiting a city and skipping a yarn tour, so I tried to fit in a few.

I'll be honest - like so many things in my life, finding Effiloche (French for tattered, frayed, unraveling) was an accident.  My DH looked up a few knitting stores on his iPad, and had me hold the iPad map navigating to him where to go.  At some point I got confused over which little red dot was which, and we ended up at the "wrong" shop.  A professional photographer, he insisted we stop anyway as it is across the street from a camera store.  And into Effiloche I went.

Celine, Julie, and Ginette
They are located in a very Francophone part of town, and are off the tourism track, so I expected everything to be in French, including the conversation.  I'm delighted to tell you that everyone speaks English well, too, so if your French is poor or non-existent, you and the staff will understand each other.  The owner, Ginette's English was perfect! 

Zephyr Sweater
The shop is devoted to a broad base of needle arts, with sewing, embroidery, and knitting  supplies, and lessons are available.  Sewing and knitting supplies are displayed together, which is more charming and less confusing than you might think.  There is a cozy "circle" of couches and furniture to sit and work while socializing and learning.  Many yarn manufacturers were available, and I was surprised to see how good the prices were!  (Montreal is not an inexpensive city.  Not as bad as NYC, but not usually known for bargains, either.)  The everyday prices were attractive, and the sale prices were excellent.  I shopped happily and without guilt.  As is always the case with me, I wanted things I couldn't find, and Ginette guided me around until I had collected all I needed.
Cute Baby Pants!

The women were remarkably personable, the designs represented throughout the store were beautiful (primarily Celine's), and the knitted samples beautifully executed.  I was particularly taken with their consistent ability to match the perfect yarn to a project, so that sample by sample, I didn't imagine making the pattern any other way.  We were offered beverages, cookies, gluten-free foods, and serene smiles.  Click here for the link to the free pattern for the Zephyr Sweater  above.  (Thanks, Celine!)

If you visit Montreal, drop in.  (Not Monday, as they are closed, like many shops and boutiques in the city.)  I'll definitely be back.

Me, Celine, Julie, and Ginette

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wacky Happy Knitting Dance

I admit it.  I have a wacky little dance that spontaneously takes over my body when really cool stuff happens to me, usually knitting related.  It involves a little squealing, jumping, and twisting, followed by a belly laugh.  It is a dance well-suited to an elf in a Disney musical.  I am not a small person in any of my many dimensions, so in the rare instance where my little dance is witnessed, it is usually met with laughter and pointing.  And snide comments for a couple of days.  (Which is fine, because I still have some sort of knitting victory.)  I feel comfortable telling you this because I AM NOT ALONE!

I was embarrassed when I did it when I met Jill Draper.  Her mother totally filled the room with her laughter.  I was embarrassed when I did it when I met Clara Parkes, but at least she didn't see it.  (Not that I know of.)  But then, I met someone who did it when they met me.

Celine Barbeau, knitwear teacher and designer extraordinaire.
I was in a little knitting and fiber crafting shop in Montreal called Effiloche.  I met a thin, petite, beautiful woman with a ton of energy named Celine.  As we spoke, it became apparent that our knitting lives have been oddly parallel, hers in Canada, mine in the States.  She mentioned, "And do you have to check Ravelry every morning, noon, and then before bed every night?"

"Of course!  That's perfectly normal." I said.

My DH, not a Ravelry member or fiber artist of any kind, said,"I can't sleep if I haven't checked it.  And if I get up at night to pee, I have to check it again!"

Because she is seriously addicted to knitting and design, Celine ignored this.  "And when you see the favorites and projects on one of your original patterns starting to climb - "

I interrupted, "I know!  When the first one passes 100 - "

And then it happened.  She bopped into my exact  wacky happy knitting dance.  I grinned.  It's rare that you find your exact twin in any way, let alone in your spontaneous delight dance.

"Look, Dave!  I'm not the only one!"  I cried to my DH.   I couldn't have been happier.  I jumped into my own wacky happy knitting dance, and we jumped and twisted together for a moment in complete understanding.  Thankfully, my husband did not photograph us.  You'll have to see it for yourself.

Celine is cool.  She's a designer, teacher, and author.  More about her, the shop, and Celine's book in the next post.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Montreal and Scarves - Free Pattern

For all of us who feel we've moved past the knitting of scarves, we should think again. 

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Montreal, Quebec this week.  For those who are unfamiliar, Montreal is a city in southern Quebec heavily influenced by the French who settled it over 350 years ago.  It is devoted to the fine arts, and there are museums, galleries and performance art spaces in every neighborhood. The original architecture stands side by side with modern architecture, and all ages in between.  French language dominates, sometimes to the exclusion of English. French food and European style baked goods are everywhere. For those who want a European-style holiday without the expensive airfare or the jet lag, it's an excellent get away.

One thing that is very French about Montreal is the ubiquitous scarf.  Scarves are worn by young and old, men and women, in hot and cold weather.  They are worn with dressy outfits, and shorts and t-shirts.  They are worn around necks, in and around hair, and at the waist as a shawl. People watching from an outdoor cafe, in 20 minutes easily 40 people passed wearing scarves.  It was 75 degrees and sunny. 

As the DH and I sat savoring coffee and croissants, it occured to us that no two women wear their scarves in quite the same way.  Some pile them in multiples, wearing two or three at a time.  Some wear them swept to the side.  Knotted low on the chest is popular, too, sometimes with fringe or a necklace, sometimes without. 

On a trip many years ago, I asked if the scarf was a fashion trend.  "No.  It has always been this way," I was told by a friend.  "People here are less interested in fashion trends, and more interested in self-expresson.  Scarves make expression quick and easy without have to adust an entire ensemble."  She smiled.  "Once you possess a scarf, you don't throw it away.  You collect them through your life.  Each one is a memory and a small work of art."
Scarf Around
The lovely scarf at left is reminiscent of the scarves available in shops.  If you're over the cowl thing and still excited about decorative neckwear, have at it!  It's by Maia Discoe of Maia Spins.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Just a Quickie

While I was in Montreal for the last few days, I went to get a massage.  My French is poor, so the folks at the spa and I limped along in broken phrases until we understood each other.  My therapist was a lovely woman from Columbia who spoke Spanish as a first language, French as a second, and no English at all.  Ok.  Anything worth having is worth working for.  We made it work. We began the massage, and it was lovely.  All was well, and I was magnificiently relaxed.  Then the therapist asked me to roll over.  As I did, the table collapsed.

I rolled across the floor completely unharmed. Once I got over a moment of shock, laughing a belly laugh, I realized that I couldn't assure the therapist I was OK in any language, and I couldn't stop laughing. 

After a few minutes, we got over it and went on with the massage.  I think I'll chuckle every time I think of that for the rest of my life.  I was not the experience I thought I was getting, but I wouldn't trade it!

I'll tell you about the knitting soon!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Working in Vintage Yarns

Have you ever worked with vintage yarn?  Something lovely from a friend's or relative's stash?  Something you stumbled across at a yard or estate sale?  A sweater or knitted coat you unraveled due to damage or staining?

Vintage yarns often don't list a yardage or a modern weight category.  So how do you know?  WPI is your friend.  WPI=wraps per inch.  (See glossary)  Different yarns have different WPI, and that will give you an idea of what needle size will work.  This WPI chart will help you know what weight you actually have.  Yardage is a little tougher.  Sometimes the label will tell you the yardage, but usually just the weight.  You can estimate based on a gauge swatch, or by comparing a modern yarn with similar WPI.

What about the reclaimed yarn?  It will have already been stretched from the knitting, wear and tear of the original garment.  You'll need to wind it loosely into a large letter "O", and in three or four places bind it with some twist ties.  Submerge it in some water with a little Soak, or Woolite, or some shampoo.  Leave it there and come back to it in 20 minutes or more.  Swish it around, and do not  wring it!  Rinse it by submerging and swishing in successive baths of clean water.  Without ringing or stretching, hang it to dry or dry it flat.  Ignore it until the skein(s) are dry.  It's much fluffier, and probably a different color now!  Now you're ready to measure WPI.  Again, compare it with a modern yarn with similar WPI. 

Remember that most vintage yarns will not be superwash, some are not particularly color fast, and vintage fibers often become brittle over time.  If you want to use it with a modern yarn, there may be a big difference in how they launder, and how they block. You may wish to be careful in high tension knits like cables.

How do you know what the fiber is?  The "burn" test will tell you if it's a natural animal fiber.  With tweezers over a baking dish, ignite a 1.5" piece of yarn.  If it self extinguishes quickly and creates a brittle, yarn shaped ash, it's wool, goat, or one of the camelids.  If the ash becomes powder if jarred or poked, it's silk.  If any of it melts, it's a synthetic fiber.  If it just keeps burning, it's likely cotton, linen, or hemp.

Washing any of these should be hand wash only, just on the basis of their age.  The garment you create will last longer.