Thursday, March 16, 2017

Knitting US Yarn

The last two posts have listed a number of projects that I knitted from stash.  There is still a little stash left to knit, but not much.  As I work my way through the last of my stash, I am developing a plan for replacements.  However, I only want to buy yarn that I will use right away--no more stashing!  Additionally, I want to focus on buying yarn produced by companies that I haven't "tried" previously.  One of the factors I am considering is origin.  I'd like to buy only yarn that is grown and spun in the United States.

To that end, I present:
Imperial Yarn's Denali

Yep, it's not very exciting to look at, but I hope it will make a light and versatile black cardigan.  I have been searching for a non-superwash yarn (I don't like the way superwashed yarn stretches out of shape) for the Newsom cardigan pattern.  I have been fascinated by this pattern for years.  From the first moment I saw it, I liked the unusual construction and feather-light garter stitch edges.  I have a black cotton cardigan that is looking a little over worn.  This will replace it.  The yarn is a soft, drapey, wool/alpaca blend sport weight by an American yarn company, Imperial Yarn.

Imperial Yarn is an Oregon-based company that is invested in the "American Wool Tradition."  Their yarn is available at their website and at retail dealers.  I bought this Denali from Webs, saving a bit due to their lower pricing and discounts.  That means my sweater will cost much less than it would if I had knit it with the yarn recommended for the Newsom pattern.
When I ordered the Denali, I found another U.S. sourced, milled and dyed yarn for a project I wanted to start, a ZickZack Scarf.  The pattern calls for a color-changing yarn with long color repeats.  Unfortunately, either I've chosen the wrong colors or the repeats are too long.

Freia Fine Handpaints Sport Weight

However, I may have found another pattern that will suit this yarn better, one that is cast on sideways so that the color repeats will change in a shorter, albeit vertical fashion.  I hope it works, because I really like this yarn.  It's light, fuzzy and fairly soft.  Also, it will look nice with a couple of shirts I often wear.

I found these two yarns while shopping on line.  It was easy to read the reviews and research the companies through Ravelry.  Since then, I have noticed that Ravelry is providing information, when possible, on the source of a yarn, including the country where the fiber was grown, the country where it was milled and the country where it was dyed.  I started to fave the ones I identified as sourced, milled and dyed in the U.S., but stopped after I found ten companies.  There's a lot of them--at least enough for me to shop through for this year.  Here's the 10 I found so far.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Dull Knitting

I've been doing more to improve my knitting than simply using up older stashed yarn. I have been trying to produce practical sweaters that I will wear often. Here's a catch-up listing of those, as proof that my knitting projects are not all brightly colored. As always, complete details are in my Ravelry projects. Most of these were knit in 2016.

Lifesavers Cardigan pattern, Tanis Blue Label yarn
I never thought I'd knit a sweater with fingering weight yarn, even though I bought it in Canada for that purpose.  Once I finished it, I found I like it. It is just warm enough and very comfortable.
Portage cardigan pattern, Zara yarn
This superwash yarn makes a heavier sweater.  It doesn't have buttons, so is wearable despite the weight.
Wanderling pattern, Elsa Wool fingering weight yarn
This is a fabulous yarn for a sweater, soft, warm, light and lovely to knit.  The pattern is cute, but the cables pull in, affecting the fit in the shoulders.  That's a small defect, though.  I love wearing this sweater.

Lightweight Raglan pattern, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine yarn
Lovely pattern, good in this yarn, but would probably be better in a less elastic blend.  It is a practical sweater, simple and comfortable except for a small itchy spot in the front of the neck.  I can loosen the neckline a little--I tightened it up by shifting the stitches at the welt--or put in a facing in a softer yarn.
Yoke sweater of my own design using cvm yarn from local mill
This wool is very itchy, making it a challenge to design a sweater that I can wear comfortably.  I think it is a success but will know for sure after next winter. 

Gehry pattern, Brooklyn Tweed Loft yarn
This sweater wasn't quite done when I took this photo, but it is completed now.  I have worn it, but wish I'd knit a smaller size.  The yarn is nice and light, but too itchy for me.

Truss pattern, Cascade Cloud yarn
This pattern is not as flattering as I thought it might be and the yarn is heavy. Still, it is a comfortable weight and goes with all my black and gray, as well as blue jeans.

Definitely Susan pattern, Madeline DK yarn, the single spun
Gosh, I love this.  It took me a couple of years to get around to knitting the scarf.  I'm so glad I finally made it because it makes the sweater a lot more fun to wear.  The yarn is superwash but the sweater is so small that it isn't heavy.  Or maybe the Tosh Merino DK is just a lighter spun yarn.

There they are, the sweater output brought up to speed.  I'm glad I listed them, as it points to an issue I've been ignoring for years.  I can't wear most wool comfortably.  I tried to buy more rustic yarn last year, but I found them more itchy than the superwash yarns I've bought in the past.  Since I'm tired of working with the way superwash stretches out of shape, I've concluded that I should explore (shock) acrylic or acrylic blends as well as confining my purchases to alpaca, merino, cormo, or other soft yarns.  Now that I've knitted up a backlog of sweater yarn and explored some of the new options, I can make my purchasing more practical, as I've done with my choice of colors and patterns. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Meaning of My 2016 Knitting

In 2016, a lot of my personal items were damaged by a flood.  This was a difficult time for me, emotionally and physically.  Of course, I kept knitting through the trashing, sorting, treating, cleaning, repairing and restoring that was required.  That I kept knitting, finishing up current projects and starting new ones didn't surprise me.  What surprised me was that I suddenly looked at my stash with new eyes. 

I had a few hanks of yarn that I had chosen for color.  These hanks were pleasant in appearance but overly bright and clashing when knitted up.  Suddenly, during the period immediately after seeing a lot of my personal items looking particularly dirty and soggy, these bright colors called to me.  Something I was never going to knit seemed like the ideal thing to knit.  That was how I discovered that knitting with yarn that is bright and maybe not so beautiful can be helpful in crisis.

Of course, I was reasonable, choosing patterns for accessories that might mix into a wardrobe of neutrals and limiting myself to two projects.  There was a Carlisle scarf with a central color of chartreuse sock yarn.  I found enough sock yarn in my stash to complete the scarf.

Then there was a variegated sport-weight bfl that was a riot of green, yellow, and brown.  I bought some lovely black Anzula Cricket to use with it and produced a Marley shawl that is appalling on the wrong side.

However, the right side is moderated by the black.  Since I only wear such large shawls at home on chilly days, I find the bright colors cheerful on a gloomy day.  The yarn itself is lovely--very soft and comfortable.  If I tire of the colors, I could always dye it black.

I worried while I was knitting these projects that I was wasting my effort.  Now that they are completed, I am happy with them.  I am also happy that they took these yarns out of my stash.

Although these are only two projects, they were crucial in my destashing plan. They took it from a mere reduction of the quantity to more nearly a complete clearing of stashed yarn.  I suddenly became more determined to eliminate my stash.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Finishing up the 2016 knitting

I've always been susceptible to the swings of fashion.  Style trends have an immediate impact on my purchases.  However, when a trend impacts my yarn purchases, it takes longer to show up in my wardrobe--like years longer.  This delay is caused by two factors: first, the time it takes to knit a garment; and second, the task of disposing of the out-of-fashion yarn I own.  Although knitting a wearable item usually doesn't take more than a month or two, using or disposing of yarn I've bought and not used immediately can take years, significantly affecting my desire to be on-trend.

Since my knitting production was being slowed down by a stash of yarn that was old, out-of-date or otherwise not to my liking, I determined to get rid of it.  Some, I knitted up, finishing up hats to match mittens, knitting accessories from yarn left over from sweater projects, and restyling unsatisfactory items. 

First, there was a hat to match those whimsical mittens.  Years ago, inspired by the cover of a Vogue Knitting issue, I worked up a mitten.  It sat as a sort of art piece for years until I decided upon the design of its mate.  The first mitten, in the code of the design, bore the message: I (eye) love (heart) to (II) knit.  The second mitten was graced with I love wool.  I had enough red yarn left over to pair with some worsted weight angora for a similar, if not matching, hat.  There's also a cowl, but it is even less acceptable than the hat.  However, that was one long-planned project done and one small bit of yarn used.  There's more photos of the mittens in this earlier post.

Then there was a cowl to match the hat I knitted when the brioche craze hit. I was happy enough with the hat knitted from leftover sock yarn that I went out and bought yarn for a cowl at the next wool festival.  The yarn is premium alpaca and a joy to touch and wear.

Next, I ripped out an unsatisfactory edging on a shawl and knit a new, softer and simpler one.

Lastly, I knit a stranded hat and cowl set out of yarn left over from another sweater. 
All these final finishing up type projects nearly complete the clean up of my stash.  Encouraged by the result, I planned to completely use or dispose of all the old yarn.  "NO MORE STASH." I proclaimed.

Then nature threw me a curve ball that I turned into a home run.  Never mind that the referee called it a foul, I still hit it out of the park.  I will explain in the next post.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sunset Knitting

This fall, I chose to participate in Karen Templer's Fringe Association knit-a-long for a Cowichan-inspired vest.  Karen selects a few people to participate in these projects, then interviews them regarding their experience.  Since she's done two of these interviews so far, I'm using her basic questions for a "mock interview".  Not that I'm so famous.  I'm just happy to be inspired by Karen and the others in the knit-a-long.

Your choice of yarn was unusual.  Tell us about the yarn and the resulting fabric weight and character.

Last year, the shop manager of our local wool mill brought five hanks of wool to the Taos Wool Festival for me.  I had asked her to bring any remaining hanks matching some I had bought earlier, hoping what she had left would give me enough for a sweater.  I didn't expect her to also bring me something new, but she insisted I'd like it, saying "It's CVM." as her explanation.  It turned out to be a bulky yarn, so I had just let it sit, not having a project for it.  This knit-a-long offered an opportunity to use the yarn, combining it with some other bulky yarn I had left over from other projects.  It wasn't the best choice for this project, since it was a plied yarn and a single would have produced a smoother fabric in the stranded portions.  That was the only drawback, though. The weight was good, thick enough to not have to double-strand and the CVM (California Variegated Mutant) wool is soft to the touch and a pleasure to knit and wear.  Additionally, since the mill produces a semi-worsted yarn, it has a nice rustic feel that, along with the natural color, is suited to the project.  In the end, the unexpected yarn was a lucky acquisition.  I'm so happy with the CVM wool that I went back to the mill and purchased some in a lighter weight for a sweater.

You also chose a different pattern than the one suggested.  What aspects of  your pattern choice appealed to you?  Are you happy with your choice?

The primary reason I chose the pattern I did, which is another pattern by the same company, was the gauge.  I wanted a smaller gauge so that I wouldn't have to double strand the yarn.  The semi-worsted bulky yarn is heavy, with less than 100 yards per 100 grams.  I was afraid that double stranding it would yield a vest that was heavier than I'd want to wear.  As it is, the finished vest weighs nearly 600 grams, as heavy as most of my hand-knit sweaters.  A secondary reason was that the pattern had a couple of smaller motifs that I liked, leaves and snowflakes.  Now that I've seen finished projects with the large motif, I am a bit envious.  I love how graphic and stylish those vests are.

What is the source of your motif designs?

Two of the motifs are provided in the pattern.  The only motif I changed was the largest one.  I replaced the squirrel with two motifs I found in other patterns.  One is a graphic that reminds me of snow-covered roofs.  The other is one of mountains that I modified to include a sunset, as an homage to the reputation of these New Mexican mountains.  Though we have squirrels in the mountains here, they are more famous for their sunsets.

How did you handle the floats?

Again, I was lucky.  Several years ago, I took a class in stranded knitting.  It turned out that it was based on the Philosopher's Wool techniques.  I've been using their method ever since and am fairly well practiced in it.  For this project, I used a combination of weaving and floats, not weaving every other stitch, but not having any floats longer than 3 stitches.  I also kept the floats in mind as I charted the motifs and avoided long floats as much as I could without changing the character of the design.

Did you make any other mods to the pattern?

I added a few stitches to make it larger.  The gauge ran smaller than I anticipated and the bulky fabric needs more ease than I anticipated.  I wish I'd added a few more stitches or been more consistent about using a larger needle for the stranded portions.  For more details on my modifications, see my Ravelry page for this project.

What would you have done differently, now that you are watching the other projects being completed?

As I mentioned, I'd rather have used a single spun yarn.  I'm curious about the collar on the suggested pattern, although I do like how the ribbed collar came out.  I'd like to try the garter stitch collar so I could compare them.  Also, I'd like to try the knit-in garter stitch button band, even if it is harder to switch from stranding to a single color.  I'm holding off deciding until I see all the projects finished and evaluated, but I could be up for knitting another vest sometime.

I've really enjoyed this project and watching the others progress.  Thanks, Karen, you are an inspiration!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Knitting Heavy, Knitting Light

There's no end to the puns I can make with the subject of this post.  I'll pass on that temptation, though, to discuss my latest revelation, which came upon me while browsing Ravelry.  I saw a project page in which the knitter had posted the total weight of her sweater, as though proud of it.  I had never thought of checking the weight of a finished sweater, but now I got my little scale out and began.

I started with the ones I have on hand.  As a disclaimer, I don't mean these to be a fashion show.  Some of the sweaters are nearly 10 years old and none are what I consider a total success.  Hopefully, as I study the information here, I can plan to knit sweaters that are more of a success.

The links to my Ravelry project page for each of these are listed below.  They are in the same order as the photos of each sweater, going from left to right of each row and starting at the top row.

Straight Sleeved Cardi, 240 g., the lightest, less than half a pound.
Raveling Leaves, 244 g., or a mere half of a pound.
Eyelet Lace Pullover, 272 g. or .6 lbs.
Marli Pulli, 318 grams, or .7 lbs.
Effervescence, 366 g., or .8 lbs.
Heart Attack, 366 g., or .8 lbs.
Purple Cabana, 370 g., or .8 lbs.
Bianca's Jacket, 384 g., or .85 lbs.
Darker Rib Cardi, 388 g., or .86 lb.

Of course, it is obvious that the sweaters in the group above are mostly shorter, sleeveless, or knit with something other than wool or alpaca.  There's a couple of exceptions, but those are knit with lace weight yarn held double.  The three in the middle row are the most comfortable of these.  Since they land in the mid-range of the lighter sweaters, weight-wise, I am tempted to say that these sweaters, those between 300 and 400 grams in weight, are the most comfortable weight in this group.  The ones on the top are a little too light--I'd just as soon wear a t-shirt as one of those.  The ones in the bottom row are really too heavy for their construction, being either sleeveless or cropped.

Again, links are below, same order

Argyle Star, 396 g., or .87 lbs.
Green Jeans, 442 g., or about a pound.
Ripple Cardi, 448 g., or about a pound.
Definitely Me, 460 g., or about a pound.
Educational, 466 grams, about a pound.
Bubble Pullover, 498 g., or 1.1 lbs.
PostGrad, 506 g., or 1.1 lbs.
Kitty, 646 g., or 1.4 lbs.
Pocket Cardi, 674 g., or 1.5 lbs.

Those in the top row, right at or a little over 400 grams in weight are fine.  As we go to the bottom of this group, however, we hit a problem.  That last sweater, though light for one that is heavily cabled and reaches to mid-thigh, is heavy enough to cause problems.  It sags; it slips; it's so huge I don't wear it much.  In fact, except for the first four, the weight of these sweaters has an effect on the fit and comfort.  Can I conclude that I prefer sweaters under 500 grams in weight?  Maybe.  Exploring this idea further, I have this one:

Southwest Mitered Jacket, 730 g., or 1.6 lbs.  That's a heavy sweater!  It's worsted-weight wool, garter stitch and oversize.  Still, I wear it when it is cold in the house and we don't want to turn up the heat.  I have one other sweater that may be even heavier.  It is cabled worsted weight wool.  I'll check the weight when I get it out of storage this fall.  As might be guessed, I don't wear it often.

Now to my present knitting.  The problem that began my thinking about sweater weight is my current project.  I may be knitting a sweater that weighs over 900 grams--more than 2 pounds!  It's cabled, alpaca and cormo wool, and half of the alpaca fiber is Suri alpaca.  Also oversize.  Heavy stuff.  Here's the link if you want to watch this potential disaster: Brigid/Erin

After this project, and a couple of more heavy sweaters, I will have rid my stash of old heavy yarn.  When I make my next sweater yarn purchase, I will consider total weight along with the usual other criteria.  I'm eager to try some of the newer yarns that claim to be both warm and light.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Simply Useful Knitting

There's all of summer stretching before me.  Based on recent history, you can bet my plans don't included blogging.  My report for the year thus far can be summed in one word: simplicity.

I've found that I will get more wear out of the simpler knits.  Too bad, because complex and colorful certainly make for more entertaining knitting to me.  In spite of planning to be more practical in my choices of pattern and color, I've still snuck in some excitement.  To the rather plain cardigan above, I added a scarf that can be buttoned on.  The concept came from the pattern, Definitely Susan.  The actual pattern I used was Post Grad.  I'm currently knitting Definitely Susan. It's another plain raglan.  The excitement comes as I replace the lace patterned scarf in the pattern with a two-color chevron scarf, from the now-classic book, Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. 

Last month, I finished the pullover in the photo above, Lilian.  In monochromatic Zara, with a few cables, it meets my requirement for simplicity.  At the same time, the modern styling, with dolman sleeves and loose-fitting body, along with the unusual construction, provided knitting excitement.

I've balanced the blandness of my sweater projects by attempting to knit up my variegated sock yarn. It seems that variegated yarn has finally declined in popularity. Self-striping and semi-solid yarns are currently the rage. The socks shown above are those I've knit so far this year. If I can keep up the pace, I'll have significantly reduced my stash of out-of-fashion sock yarn while increasing my sock wardrobe.

Finally, I produced a largish swatch for a future sweater project. The shawl above, in the Camilla pattern, uses a stitch pattern in its edging that I plan to use in a cardigan. The inspiration for the sweater will be the Viften pattern, but I will update it somehow.  All the sock projects can be found in my Ravelry projects.  For the sweater details, follow the highlighted links in the text.