Monday, September 29, 2014

Knitting the NM Throw; yarn etymology

One of the side benefits of my knitting is the way projects evoke memories. Of course, my current project usually evokes an immediate memory if I pick it up to work on it after a break of a day or two--a precise memory of the time and place that I last touched my knitting comes back to me. There's another time and place memory attached to some of the things I knit, the time and place where I bought the yarn. Regarding yarn shops and fiber festivals, my New Mexico throw evokes multiple memories.



Most of the yarn can be considered New Mexican, at least to the extent that I purchased the yarn from mills located in New Mexico. The two main yarn sources are The Natural Twist and Tapetes de Lana.

I first bought the Natural Twist yarn a couple of years ago at the Estes Park Wool Market. While it was a Colorado venue, the yarn was purely New Mexican. I was thrilled with the dyes Ruth Baldwin used in her Enchantment Series and purchased hanks of Mi Casa, Dixon, Chamisa and Ancient Red, planning to make stranded pillow covers. Luckily (for my current project), I lost interest in pillow covers. However, it wasn't until I began knitting afghans last winter that I thought of using Ruth's yarn in a throw.

Last year, while organizing my yarn storage, I realized that I had quite a bit of leftover worsted weight yarn. Naturally, I decided to knit it up--I never throw out yarn! I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my oldest wool, plant-dyed churro from the now-closed La Lana Wools in Taos, produced a great garter-stitch fabric. I had purchased an exorbitant amount of churro yarn years ago, planning to crochet an afghan. I cranked out over 60 little squares before I lost interest.(Again with the project abandonment--that's not usually my deal.) I used about 50 of the squares in a pillow cover and a rug. Even after knitting the center of the rug with the churro I hadn't crocheted into squares, I had yarn left. That's when I put the leftover yarn, the leftover squares and other leftover worsted weight wool together and made a lap blanket, thereby stumbling upon the discovery that the churro knits up nicely in garter stitch. If the churro yarn was, as I had long suspected, produced by the Mora Valley Spinning Mill, I concluded that their other yarn might make a nice afghan as well.

I was seriously considering knitting this blanket when I found The Natural Twist booth at the Salida Fiber Festival last year. I bought a few more hanks of the yarn whose colors are named for the Land of Enchantment and reflect the tones of adobe and the desert.



While at the festival, I was happy to find the Mora Valley Spinning Mill booth. I had paid a visit to their shop, Tapetes de Lana, earlier in the year, buying much of the yarn I used in this project there--the shop offers yarn at a 40 percent discount.

Last year's fiber fest allowed me to finish off the demands of this project preparation, at least as much as I thought was needed. I took my purchases back home and put them in a bag with the pattern book. Then I dug through my yarn stash to see if I had any other bulky weight yarn that might fit the color scheme. That's when I chose the gray yarn. I had purchased it several years ago in Gunnison, Co.



Back then, there was a small yarn shop in Gunnison. The owner, who named the shop Passion for Yarn and Beads, had a small but varied stock of yarn. Amongst it was a locally hand-spun natural yarn that some of the local knitters had used for Aran sweaters. It was far too itchy for me to wear, but I couldn't resist buying a couple of hanks for my stash. This rustic yarn worked quite well with the yarn from the Mora Valley mill. (I don't think this shop is open now. The last time I visited, it was only open a couple of days a week or by appointment. The owner had taken a full-time job.)

The last bit of yarn I used is neither rustic nor hand-spun, but it is memorable. I purchased it one day when I was taking a class upstairs at Serendipity Yarn and Gifts in Buena Vista, Co. The shop manager, who was nearby attempting to bring order to the crowded shelves, commented that there was too much yarn in the inventory. "Everything on the floor is half-price.", she stated, sparking pandemonium among the shoppers. We took an immediate class break to shop. Things really got even crazier when the manager started knocking yarn off the shelves and onto the floor. Downstairs, she poked a bin of Arucania, setting off a yarn avalanche. I sat down by it and ended up selecting more than enough Arucania for a knee-length sweater. The leftovers are in my NM throw. Not New Mexican, but certainly associated with a very nice memory.


Just think, as you knit your current project, whatever it may be, wherever you got the yarn, you are not just knitting a scarf, shawl, sweater or sock. You are knitting a memory.
See my previous post for more on my New Mexico throw.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Painting my Knitting

I've occasionally used the Paint program to plan an afghan.  I just draw rectangles and paint in the colors--on the computer, that is.  My artistic talents are limited--can't draw a straight line without a ruler.  Besides, I prefer the ease of changing colors within the Paint software.

For my current afghan, Cynthia's Afghan from Sally Melville's The Knitting Experience Book 3: Color, I made a replica of each square as I finished it.  Here's an example, square number 29, with brick and chamisa as the final outer dark colors.


Then I used the collage function in Picasa to arrange the squares.  Actually, Picasa chose a random arrangement.  I just fine-tuned it to align the darks and lights with Sally's diagram.  Then I put all the squares out on the guest bed and played switcheroo with them until I had a layout where no two colors were adjacent.  If all this seems a little over-engineered, let me explain:  Sitting in front of the computer doesn't strain my back as much as bending over the guest bed.  I can move the little photo squares around much easier than I can move the actual squares. After I arranged the squares to my satisfaction in Picasa, I used the corresponding numbers to arrange the actual squares on the bed. 

Yes, I tagged all the squares with a number.  Believe me, those numbers were real sanity-savers.  When I misplaced squares, I just referred to the layout and the numbers to find their proper position.

Now that all is arranged, I'm knitting all the squares together and adding the edging.  Here's the layout collage.


And the actual afghan.


Off to the left in the photo above is my next project, one I couldn't resist starting before I finished this one. Taking a square that I didn't use because the colors layout was too different, I'm continuing the log cabin pattern with the leftover yarn. In the end, I will have a large square--I don't know how large it will be. I'm already thinking I might buy more yarn for it! Anyway, once it is big, but not as big as my Cynthia's Afghan, I will use it as a blocking/felting test. The pattern suggests that you full (slightly felt) the afghan by washing it and then putting it in the dryer on low heat for a bit. I think this rather rough wool will benefit from fulling. However, I am afraid that some of the darker hand-dyes may bleed. If I full the large square, I'll be able to decide if I want to full the afghan. Finally, here's a close-up.


And a link to the Ravelry project page.

My, those blocks are a bit askew. I definitely need to find a way to block it without having the colors bleed.