This Must Be Thursday

What are you made of?

Last week, I talked about the gauge of yarn for a pattern.  This week, let’s talk about what the yarn is actually made of.  There are lots of different factors in this.  There are subsets to my subsets.  I want to be super clear, Dear Reader, this is literally the barest of factors.  My goal here is not to get you to the point where you think you know something.  Rather, I want you to get to the point where you realize you know nothing, and likely never will.  I know, I know, that sounds terrifying….but, it doesn’t have to be.

Yesterday was Halloween.  We dress up as something else, we try to scare ourselves and others, all in good fun.  Today is Dia de los Muertos.  In Mexico, this is the day when we honor our antecedents.  I think people try to put these two days together on the same continuum.  However, I disagree with that practice.  Halloween is about confronting our fears.  It’s about making fun of what’s scary.  Which is great!  However, the Mexican culture doesn’t seem to find the same things scary.  While a skeleton is typically terrifying for an Anglo person, it’s a canvas for a Mexican person.

Broken-Column-Frida-Kahlo
Broken Column

My words don’t do this distinction justice.  I encourage you to read some magical realism.  Or, here…this is a Frida Kahlo self portrait.  If you read a bit about her life, you’ll find it was horrible.  This portrait shows the constant pain that she lived with.  It also shows, however, the beauty she was able to make with that pain.  I don’t think I could do that.

 

Shocking no one, I have digressed greatly.  I intended to point out that not knowing doesn’t have to be scary. We have been taught that the unknown is scary.  What if, instead, we had been taught that the unknown was an adventure? What if we took these experiences and learned from them, and moved forward, and put forth our lessons to learn new things?

Lets talk about fiber content really briefly with a spirit of learning and adventure.  We’ll hopefully learn just enough to whet our appetite for more.  Waiting For Rain calls for a cashmerino.  So let’s start there…right after I rant about these dumb mash-up names…like labradoodle.  These aren’t even portmanteaux!  They sound ridiculous.  I know, it’s a living language, and I’m just being old–but c’mon!!!

This particular blend has wool, cashmere, and manufactured fibers.

th1XDW6MVT
Look at all that fiber!!

Wool: There are literally entire books written about the specifics of different wools. I have been told that The Field Guide to Fleece: 100 Sheep Breeds & How to Use Their Fibers is a good place to start. Let that sink in.  100 breeds.  A place to start. So, you see why this will not be at all exhaustive?  As a rule, wool tends to be springy, and have a good memory.  This means that it will be easier on your hands while knitting.  It will tend not to “sag” or “grow”.  Wool is generally warmer, so not often good for warmer climes (either the knitting of, or the gifting to).  Wool, unless it is treated, is not generally machine washable…so it will need special handling for cleaning.  DO NOT think that wool is scratchy and gross.  The reason those fulled wool blankets feel gross is because they have little ends sticking out all over the place, what you knit will not have that construction, so your hand knit item won’t be gross.  Merino is actually one of the “softer” wools.

 

thGM5D685M
I spared you creepy eyes, and gave you fabulous hair!

Cashmere: Cashmere actually comes from goats rather than sheep.  Isn’t that cool? whatever you do, don’t think about their creepy eyes staring at you when you are cuddling that cashmere sweater.  For reasons I’ll likely go into in a spinning conversation, cashmere is super soft and can be spun much thinner easier than “wool”.  However, it is stupid expensive, so you will almost always find it mixed with something else.

 

Manufactured fibers: This is as helpful as “artificial colors and flavors” in the ingredients list of food.  Manufactured fibers could have structural purpose, they could provide elasticity.  They could provide washable-ness.  They could just be filler.  IDK.

Other fibers you might see commercially include, but are not limited to:

thESP7GDJM
Life cycle of the Silk Moth

Silk: this is the cocoon of the silk moth.  The fiber has a beautiful sheen.  It can also be spun incredibly thin.  These two factors make the yarn/fiber “slick” rather than fuzzy.  It is incredibly breathable and rot resistant.  For this reason, items made of silk do better in tropical climes.  Silk is technically a protein fiber, however, it doesn’t always act the same way as other protein fibers.  It is a thing all its own.

 

thHWSOX9LE
What are you looking at? 

 

Alpaca: living in the PNW, alpaca farms are literally everywhere.  LITERALLY.  Alpaca is super soft, but doesn’t have good memory.  So, a sweater made of pure alpaca will tend to get longer and longer the more you wear it.  Because it doesn’t have the crimp or scales of wool, it doesn’t felt as easily as wool, but it still felts.  This lack of crimp makes it less “springy” but more drapey.  Llama is actually much like alpaca, but coarser/more durable.  Likewise, baby alpaca is softer/more fragile.

 

Cellulose:  There are a lot of cellulose fibers (plant-based) for the vegans out there. They don’t tend to be as springy as protein fibers.  This lack of “give” can be more difficult to work with and tire your hands quicker.  This also means that fewer things will come out in the blocking.

cotton
Cotton before harvest.

Cotton probably comes to mind.  You’ll mostly want to consider if the cotton is mercerized or not.  If it’s mercerized, it won’t soak up as much water…which makes it better for garments.  If it’s not…it’s incredibly absorbent, which makes a good wash cloth.  Bamboo is a fun baby fiber because it tends to be softer than cotton right off the bat (cotton tends to need several washes to soften up).  The hidden bonus of bamboo is that it is not only machine washable, it is also naturally antimicrobial.  Linen and hemp are also available, but both take *a lot* of washing to soften up.

 

There is often a hardiness/softness tradeoff in fibers.  The trick is finding the correct balance for what your project is.  For the protein fibers (with the exception of silk…which is all sorts of different on all sorts of levels), I look at what the animal looks like.  I can see what some of the prevailing characteristics of the fiber are just by looking at it on the animal.  See how the sheep is all big and warm, and kind of felted? but the merino is sleeker and softer looking? Think about which animal you’d rather use for your project.  An outer sweater doesn’t necessarily need to be very soft, but it needs to be durable.  Whereas a neck scarf may not need to be as durable as it needs to be soft.  Again, shawls are the perfect project to play with yarn.

Before I sign off this extra long post, I wanted to talk a bit about the interplay between fiber and gauge.  We talked about how wool tends to be warmer, so it may not be a good idea to make something intended for a summer item.  But, what if we used a thinner wool? Alpaca is super drapey, but what if we wanted something a bit more sweater like? We could use a larger gauge wool, or smaller size needles to make a firmer fabric with the drapey fiber.

Do not message me about all the fibers I “forgot”.  I probably didn’t forget.  I was super clear at the beginning that this was not going to be comprehensive. On second thought…do message me.  I’ll tell you what my experience with those fibers have been.

Oh, and here’s bamboo.  Just because it breaks my brain that bamboo makes such soft yarn.  th8OB995PU

This Must Be Thursday

Size isn’t everything…right?

Friend S has wanted to do a sort of knit along.  Basically, she and I doing the same project at the same time.  A part of this, I think is so that when she comes upon something weird in the pattern, I can hopefully help.  Another part is that we live over an hour away from each other.  Even living in the future, it’s hard work to maintain friendships over that distance.  So, needs must.

I was able to cajole her into coming to a retreat at the end of last month.  (We are both making efforts) The retreat piggy-backed on OFFF (Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival).  While there, she found the pattern she wanted to work on–Waiting For Rain. Let me just interject right here how appropriate the title is since the PNW has had a dearth of rain.  I think I’m withering away. The featured image is the shawl we will be embarking on.

Eventually, I will do a post on choosing a pattern, and what to look for.  For right now, lets just assume this was done, and we are now looking at yarn for the project we’ve chosen.  The easiest thing to do, of course, is to use the yarn in the colorway the designer recommends.  You know me better than that, though, right? Each aspect of yarn can be chosen to match the pattern, or be different to the pattern (look at me being all British).

Yarn has many qualities to look at/for.  The least of which is color.  Picking a yarn (in my opinion) solely on color is like picking a car or house on the basis of color alone.  You can do it, but I will judge you–harshly. We will ignore color for now.

Gauge is generally one of first things I look into. This means how thick the yarn is…lace weight? bulky? If you like the general appearance of the piece the pattern designer has as an exemplar, you’ll want to choose a yarn of the same/similar gauge.  Please, Dear Reader, do not think you have to limit yourself to what the designer recommends.  Remember, it’s recommended to wait 20 minutes after eating before you swim…who does that?

20181025_101243.jpg
Called for yarn weight. Disregard guitar cable

I mean, unless you’ve eaten your weight, and might explode.  Otherwise, do whatever makes you happy.  Shawls are a perfect project to play with yarn substitution, since surprises aren’t as catastrophic in a shawl.

This particular project calls for a fingering weight yarn and size 6 needles.  I tend to knit pretty close to what most designers call for, so I’ll go with that.  I have friends who tend to knit looser, in which case, they may use a size 4 or 5 to get the same results.  Likewise, those who tend to knit tighter would go up to 7 or 8.   I could go on and on about needles and construction, but we’ll also forgo that conversation for now.

20181025_101234.jpg
Thinner yarn. Same guitar cable.

All else being equal, if I go with a thinner yarn, using the same needles, then the fabric I create will be looser, and airier, than the designer intended.  This may also have the effect of making a project more “drapey” than it otherwise may have been.  It may be less sturdy, and/or less warm.

If, however, I use a thicker yarn, the fabric will be denser. It will tend to be stiffer, and will impede airflow. The project could go from being a lovely spring shoulder warmer to something better suited to the wilds of northern Finland.

Please note, none of these effects are inherently good or bad, they are just different.  While you do have to be prepared for the consequences, consequences can be good things.

20181025_101248.jpg
Bulky yarn. Ack! the cable spawned!!

When we discuss fiber content, we will talk about some ways you can offset some of these effects, or how some of these effects will be necessary to offset the effects of the fiber you *really* want.

Now, if we use a commensurate needle–size 4 needle with a thinner yarn, or size 8 needle with a thicker yarn…then that is another way to adjust size.  The smaller needle/yarn  will make a smaller project with the same density of fabric.  The larger needle/yarn will make a larger project with the same density of fabric.  This can be a fun way to adjust sizing on a pattern which doesn’t go into the size you want.  However, if you are doing this on a garment…please, please, please gauge swatch.  There will be math.  Lots and Lots of Math. Or, you can do what I try to do, and make a garment, and trust it will find it’s own home.

Adjusting yarn thickness and needle size can affect the amount of yarn you will need as compared to what is recommended.  My personal belief is to have way more yarn than you think you need.  I recommend this to all my knitting friends.  The fact that this means I get to receive all their leftovers (seriously, 1/2 my yarn wall is hand me down partial skeins) is just a bonus.  But…if you are spending all that time and money, you don’t want to run out of yarn.

20181025_101312.jpg
All three sizes for comparison.

Also please note…there are *tons* more sizes of yarn than just these.  In the US, commercial yarn manufacturers have sizing charts on the ball bands.  I cannot stress enough that this is a guide only….kind of like the movie ratings.  (There are R movies that a reasonable teen can watch, but PG 13 movies I wouldn’t want them to come near)  A size 4 (worsted) can vary greatly in thickness between yarn lines, and then you have so many indie spinners and dyers who may or may not subscribe to those conventions.  Or, the dreamy yarn your friend brought from Europe….or…or…or

So as with other things in life, size matters…ish.  Within a certain range, who cares? But…get too big or too small…and well…you need to make adjustments.  Again, not better or worse, just different.

 

Scrap-urday

Madrona day 3

The thing with these events is that sooooo very much goes on all the time.  You try to take in everything and tell the story, but there’s just SO MUCH. I feel like a toddler going “and then…and then…and then…no wait, first…and then…” I can’t tell everything all at once, so I’m sure Madrona stories will end up in future blogs.  Today was my big day.  I took 3 mini classes.

The morning class was social media.  Frankly, we just went over Instagram.  I learned a bunch.  But clearly not enough. I *thought* I had successfully linked my Instagram to the La Tejedora Facebook page.  However, the featured photo did not end up  going to Facebook. The featured photo is of a lot that has been abandoned for at least the last two years.  However, the spirals are new since last Madrona.  I saw that on my walk down to the hotel from my Airbnb yesterday morning.  Of note, I now need to make sure to add my Instagram to this blog (but not tonight, please not tonight).  I’m latejedoracrafts on Instagram. Huge shout out to Debbi Stone for putting up with all the myriad ladies with all our various skill levels.  My poor friends had to put up with my live-texting my frustrations with a particular classmate.  There’s so much to tell today, that I won’t get into her issues (or, more accurately, my issues with her) this post.

The one complaint I have about the mini-classes is that there is not any transition time between classes.  My first morning class was 9-10:30, and my next class was 10:30-12.  Which would be fine, except it was 3 floors down, and the other side of the hotel.  I got to run, run, run.  Pam, thankfully, agreed to have my 10:30 stuff for me, since she was taking that class as well.  I made it, and all was well. Amelia Garripoli (I apologize, I’m not sure of her current online presence) taught small loom weaving.  20180217_104337.jpgWhen I sat down and opened my notebook to be ready to take notes, I found this.  I don’t remember which kid had done this, but I’m thinking it was likely Thing 1.  This was a random notebook from the house, and this was done a long time ago.  But, how fun to find it!

Pam informed me that I was taking notes for two.  And she kept trying to tell me I was going to be teaching this technique at CRABS in April.  Um, no.  She can teach it at CRABS, or at the Yarn In in July.  It’s very interesting, and I look forward to playing with the technique some.  20180217_111830.jpgThe round part will be woven to make the top of a hat.  My plan is then to pick up and knit down.  I’m planning on using twined knitting to keep a similar texture.  We’ll see how this experiment ends up working.  There was also a technique for continuous weaving which should use a Danish Scarf Loom–which may or may not exist anymore.  I didn’t play with that technique, but it plays with the idea of what is the warp and what is the weft.  This is what I want Pam to teach this summer since the idea is completely fascinating.  Weaving is really Pam’s area of expertise more than mine.  We’ll see…

Then, lunch and  resting.  Otherwise known as doing my homework for my 3:00 class.  My poor calves are killing me from all the hill walking and stairs.  My goodness, the stairs!  Prior to Madrona several yaers ago, I thought Tacoma was flat.  I always knew that Seattle was super hilly, but I never really thought about Tacoma.  I was wrong.  So very, very wrong.

Three P.M. brings us to Anne Berk.  And Zippers. I hate zippers.  Not like in life.  But in crafting.  I don’t sew zippers.  If at all possible, I work around zippers, or try to talk MaryAnn into doing them for me (she won’t…she tells me she’ll show me..how rude!).  Adding zippers into knitwear?!?!?!? Madness!!  I mean, there are so many cool sweaters I could make Poopie, but they involve sweaters, or modifying them to not have zippers.  Which is work.  So I haven’t made them (I’m sure that’s the only reason *eyeroll*).  wp-1518925463438.jpg

There are prohibitions in all walks of life about trying to join un-like things.  No spinning linen with wool.  No using steel screws in aluminum.  No joining machine woven with hand knit.  But there are always ways to make things work out eventually.  wp-1518925488242.jpgAnd so it is with zippers.  As you can see, in a very short amount of time, I learned how to add a zipper to knit fabric.

My fear of zippers has been conquered!! This isn’t to say that I won’t still have some trepidation about working with zippers, in the future.  I mean, I’ve spent years and years being afraid of them.  Bad habits are hard to break.  But, if I am aware that I have a tendency to fear and avoid zippers, I can keep working on that.  Eventually, I won’t have any problems with zippers, and may eventually even learn to love the zipper!

It’s been a long day, and I have an all day class with John Mullarkey.  It is a design class, so he probably wants me to be awake for it!  I’ll sign off now.

Monday Musings

And so it begins…

OK…I’m starting my first blog post.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  When have I ever let that stop me? OK…often.  I’m human.  But, I’ve been inspired.

There have been a lot of little and not so little things that have prompted me to make this (for me) giant leap.  I miss writing.  I used to write short stories, poems, and who knows what else.  However, one of the “drawbacks” with being surrounded by incredibly talented people is that I end up comparing myself to them, and find myself coming up short.  So, I let it slip by the wayside.  Now, I *could* journal.  But I am so weird about that, I get to thinking that I must do it daily, or I must do it a certain way, or…. Yeah, like I said, weird.  Somehow, I never got into letter writing.  Plus, many of these posts would be super weird to be received as a letter.  I can imagine Margot’s phone call now.  She would be all worried that I’d suffered a stroke, or something.  That’s not actually true.  She would be super happy to receive even the most rambling of correspondence.

Some good friends have a project starting, and they asked for some help.  But, for reasons unimportant to this endeavor, I need to have a blog, or a podcast.  Since I sound weird recorded, and DO NOT need the TV 10 lbs (not to mention my technical skills, time, and capacity for terror are not sufficient), I am blogging.  I was already kind of kicking around the idea of a blog, but wasn’t really sure if I’d have anything to say.  It probably would have stayed just an idea except I was asked for help.  I’m still working on saying no to people.  I’m getting better.  According to the people I’ve said no to, I’m too good.  I still think I have some ways to go on that, though.

I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll start at the beginning.  At nine, I learned to crochet from my Aunt Char.  My first project was a potholder.  It’s a super simple pattern, and great for beginners.  However, my tension was all over the place.  I’m not sure where you, Dear Reader, are in the crafting spectrum, so if I over-explain, I apologize.  Tension is how tight or loose you work the yarn.  Uneven tension creates uneven fabric. In my case, the potholder was not the flat, double-layer fabric it was intended to be.  Rather, it laid flat on one side, and the other side had a mound…like a bubble rising from inside.  My dad made fun of it. I cried.  My mom said (not for the first, nor last time)  “Don’t worry, honey.  We’ll take it to Grandma Bonnie.”

The next time we went to visit my grandma, we took my deformed, red variegated Red Heart monstrosity to her.  I reluctantly passed over the potholder, and she was so excited. She told me how the bubble actually made the potholder fit better in her hand.  Even at nine, I knew she was lying to me to make me feel better.  It was hideous, and should be burned–except it was Red Heart, it would just melt.  Except….

Except, she kept that stupid potholder until literally the day she died.  And she used that potholder.  She didn’t keep it to pacify her distraught granddaughter, she kept it to use it.  And use it she did.  When she died, that thing was frankly gross…and not from my handiwork.  It was like the Velveteen Rabbit.  Nothing had worn off of it–did I mention it was Red Heart? and not the cool stuff we have now.  The nasty stuff from 30 years ago.  It was stained and melted, and just really unusable for anything.  My grandma wasn’t lying to me.  She wasn’t trying to make the best of a bad situation.  She just really thought it was cool that the potholder conformed to her hand.

I’d love to say I learned from that something profound, like “even in flaws, perfection can be found”.  I was nine.  I learned nothing.  But, clearly, the experience stayed with me.  And I built upon it.  Just like anything else.

I know this post doesn’t have pictures.  I’m learning as I go, and I wanted to get a post out so I could see how it works.  Also, I have no pictures of the potholder.  Who takes pictures of potholders? Remember, when I was nine, digital cameras were not even thought of.  And if my dad laughed at the potholder, he would have been furious over wasting film and processing on it.  Even by the time grandma passed, digital photography was just beginning.  We ended up throwing out the potholder.  I’ll try to do better on future posts.

Huh, WordPress says this is over 700 words already.  See, I do have lots to say!  Not sure how much is interesting to you, Dear Reader, but this felt cathartic to me.