fiber arts

garter-stitch scarf and update on Wool-Eater blanket

I noted over on Ravelry that I’ve started a new project. This is an extremely easy project, a scarf which is basically garter stitch all the way through (knit all stitches, repeat). To mix it up a little, I’m using two yarns held together as one, for the first time.

This has been pretty simple, though I’ve had to check and make sure I was not throwing the yarn backwards once or twice — after a while, my brain starts thinking counter-clockwise is clockwise. I’ve also not dropped any stitches so far, which is amazing — and probably due to the fact that I’m not ever using the purl stitch, so there’s no chance of my forgetting to move the yarn behind or in front of the tips of the needles. For this project, I’m using a Bernat acrylic self-striping sock yarn (Bernat Sox, mentioned below) and a Brown Sheep fingering-weight wool yarn (I think this is technically a light-fingering weight yarn: it has 3 plies instead of 4, and was in the lace section of the LYS where I bought it).

I should mention here that I really, really see why many knitters like to use natural-fiber yarns more than acrylics or other synthetics. The wool in the Brown Sheep yarn is much warmer (and lighter, and less dense, and probably more fire-retardant) than the acrylic, and aesthetically, it’s just so much nicer to know that you’re working with a natural (“real”) fiber instead of what’s essentially plastic in the form of a fiber. I mean, microscopically, I’m sure the scales and structure of wool help to insulate much better (after all, they’ve evolved for this!) than something which is microscopically smooth.

Acrylic is great if you need really big quantities, because natural fibers are so much more expensive that a handcrafted wool blanket or similar huge project, like a cloak, would be prohibitively expensive. But I’m really having a lot better feeling about what I’m doing right now, working with the wool, than working with 100% acrylic.

Of course, the scarf I’m working on is half acrylic, half wool because of the twin yarns. I’ve made something with the acrylic before, and it does soften up in the wash. But since my Convertible Cowl (Lion Brand Homespun, acrylic) and filet-crochet (Bernat Sox, acrylic) experiments, I’m really hoping that acrylic isn’t generally a poor insulator. But I think I was told in my Fibers class that it is — in which case the wool might be able to contribute warmth that the acrylic wouldn’t otherwise have.

Hopefully, the acrylic can at least help to keep the scarf from felting and shrinking too much. Technically, the Brown Sheep yarn is supposed to resist felting, but that’s no guarantee. The most I can do is wash it in cold water and possibly by hand. But to be honest it’s probably going in on the Extra Delicate cycle, unless I can find a clean bucket to wash my wools in (and then squish them).

I also understand now why some people dislike the “pooling” of color that can happen with self-striping yarns. I’ve run into this, though I don’t know why it pools in some areas and isn’t …what’s the word… there isn’t a pattern to the pooling. The Brown Sheep yarn though is a solid color, which is getting kind of heathered in with the other, so it’s helping to break up what would otherwise likely be an annoying geometric color pattern.

The only technical problems I’ve run into so far are the twisting of the yarns together in my hand, and what happens when one yarn lies directly on top of the other on the needles. Hopefully, though, the latter will get worked out in the wash…and the former I may be able to mitigate by being careful about how I wrap the yarn around the needle.

I know, this wouldn’t happen if I were using the European Pic method. But I’m not, because I want this first project to be a success, and I’m still clumsy at European Pic. Plus, I may work at a different gauge with that technique than with the American method, so I can’t even with good conscience practice with both on the same piece.

I also restarted work on Winter’s Dust (the 100% acrylic crochet blanket) today, which went surprisingly quickly…but with that project, it really is all about chipping in small amounts of work at frequent intervals. As the project gets bigger, it seems that the work slows down, though it doesn’t; the amount of work that gets done is just proportionally smaller when compared to the whole. I probably could have at least gotten into the fourth round of diamonds if I put the same effort I worked today, into starting a new motif.

It’ll likely be some time before I’m finished with either one of these projects, but I already know that I want to do something with Irish Moss Stitch and a jewel-tone wool for a later project. I’m thinking stole. ;) I do already have a woven wool stole, I think I just love it so much that I’d like to make another. :) Six months until Fall kicks back up? ;D

And then I did find an alpaca-blend yarn recently that felt just wonderful, but I saw no price for it, so I didn’t chance it. It was almost like angora, that one.

I’m not sure how much yarn this scarf I’m knitting now is going to eat up. I’m about to break into a new skein of Brown Sheep…and let me tell you, it gets eaten up faster with knitting than with crochet. I can always get a new set of colors to pair with the self-striping Bamboo and Ewe sock yarn, if I use too much of the Brown Sheep on this project (I had not been planning to continue this current project past a sample, until I saw how well it was turning out). The thing is I only bought one ball each of turquoise stripe and purple stripe Bamboo and Ewe last time…so there isn’t a big color lot in my reserves, there.

But maybe I can practice with them and then maybe branch out into some more vivid blues or something.

fiber arts

update on Winter’s Dust (Wool Eater blanket)

I’ve restarted work on Winter’s Dust — the lapghan I was making late last year.  What I can say at this point is that I think if I ever make another of these, it won’t be out of 100% acrylic yarn.  I’ve been using what I’ve crocheted so far to cover my lap at the computer.  It is very bulky and heavy, and it doesn’t really insulate that well.  However, I’m wondering if this will change once it’s washed and gets a chance to fluff up.

After making the cowl out of Homespun and feeling the wind rip right through it, though, I suppose this is just a learning experience.  I don’t think I really believed my Fibers instructor when she said that acrylic was not warm, but I see what she meant now.

I have a cotton thermal blanket that is warmer than this one…

I suppose the problem lies in where one could get enough yarn out of a warm fiber to make a blanket without breaking the bank.  Maybe it’s just better to sew a blanket…

fiber arts

progress…sometimes you can’t see it, but there is progress…

It’s amazing how when I’ve followed pattern instructions, the resulting fabric turns out nearly exactly like the photographs.  That likely won’t be the case all the time, from what I’ve read.  Or maybe it will, and the photos are at a bad angle.

Have I just been lucky?  (Or unlucky, if I thought it would turn out better than the photo?  Or if the photo didn’t really show how poorly insulating the final product would be?)

I’m really glad I picked up those books.  It actually helps, a lot.  I think I have the American version of the knit stitch down.  I’m working on the American version of purling.  It just gets so repetitive sometimes (along with the uncertainty that comes with learning) that it gets boring, even though I *am* learning something.  I’ve gone back to working on the crochet out of boredom, but I suppose maybe this just says that I’m getting to the point where I don’t have to do straight garter stitch anymore.

I was working on a swatch which began as garter stitch (k) with all stitches twisted — this is before I figured out that it was the wording of how to do the knit stitch that was difficult to understand, and that because I was following what I thought they said, not what the picture showed, my fabric was physically twisting to the right.  It took comparison among four different sources to make sure that the image wasn’t wrong.  Then when I did what the graphic said, I could see how what the picture showed could be described in the words I’d hitherto misunderstood.

It’s kind of weird when you get to a certain point in your life, and instead of being the “smart kid” who has all the answers, you end up being a person who very definitely does *not* have all the answers.  Adjustment period.

Anyhow, the positive thing about having done that swatch is that I don’t think I missed any stitches (except for once, I had 12, until I cast on 4 more stitches and made it 16) though I did have to pull out several because I did something wrong and I didn’t know what it was.  That gave me practice with individually undoing loops — which wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.  Just thread the tip of the left needle into the space where the yarn comes out, then when the stitch is slipped, pull the extra loop out.  Not hard…

I got my 20%-off coupon for the yarn store in the mail today.  Hahahahaha.  I should figure out the project I want to work on next, before I buy expensive yarn, though.  And I should probably finish my blanket and this cowl I’m working on.  I want to make something that will be somewhat functional, not just decorative.

I had been thinking about making something with mohair, but if I use the pattern I have, I’d need to xerox it and take it to the yarn store with me, so I know I’m getting the right weight of yarn.  As I recall…I think they had three different types of mohair last I checked.  Maybe I’ll work on that.  I could do one of the lace capelet patterns I have.  Only problem is that I may need giant needles…ugh.  Though maybe it won’t be as much of a pain as using a too-big hook.  The only thing is that I have no idea how I’m supposed to weave in a tail if what I’m making is lace.

Oh, right.  I want to learn the cable cast-on method and the long-tail cast on.  I know where I can find directions for the first; though maybe there’s another copy closer than I think.

I guess that’s about it.  I’m trying not to get too discouraged with the Wool-Eater blanket.  It’s just that it’s becoming so hard to see it growing that it gets a bit tiring.  Plus, I don’t know how long my yarn will hold out.  I did some calculations and apparently, even though I have most of a skein, I’m going to have to break a new one to finish this row of diamonds?  I can’t help but feel (or hope) that my calculations are off…I haven’t had to do math in so long.  And I really wanted to end the blanket on a maroon or navy row, not on green.  It makes a big difference to the way the entire thing looks.

I guess maybe I should stop worrying and just keep going and buy a new skein or two if I need them…and just rip out one or two rows so there isn’t a noticeable color change.  The worry is paralyzing, and I want to get this done sometime.  Sis said that I could stop at a certain number of rows and just add on to two sides to make the thing rectangular, which isn’t a bad idea.  I’d have to work out *how* to do that, though.

I suppose I could do gradual decreases and have the blanket come to one or two points…I could practice with the trial square I made and that bright green Vanna’s Choice that I got for some reason.

There’s the not-knowing-when-my-dye-lots-end-thing, and the fact that the yarn is cheap.  Big project, cheap yarn.  Kind of bites.  Not a pleasure to work with, aside from the color.  When I wash it, it’s supposed to soften.

(“You just keep telling yourself that…”)