Spring Cleaning #2

Spring cleaning of another sort.


The cottage is finally nearing completion.  The new French doors are in. The cabinets are getting their finish this week.  The new sofa and chair are in the warehouse, waiting for the construction crap to be hauled away. It was time for me to dig my rugs out of storage.

Today, they came out of the garage and onto the front lawn for a hose down. I first vacuumed them out with the vacuum beater brush, then used the strongest spray I could get out of my garden hose.  After spraying the first side for about 30 minutes, it was time to turn them over.  Guess what? They were still dry on the underside.  I’m never going to worry about the wine soaking through to the floor again!

All the rugs are wool. Left to right:

  • Room sized kilim, approx. 8’x10′ or 12′, purchased about 15 years ago. Provenance unknown. Purchased from Bloomingdales (yes, how authentic is that?)  This will go in the conversation area with my new conversation sofa. It’s possible that natural dyes were used given the variations I see in the rug, but I don’t know for sure.  Woven on cotton warp.
  • Area rug, approx. 2’x3′. Gift from Ian & Sandy. Purchased from Mexico. Handspun, dyed, and woven.  Natural dye.  I even have the receipt somewhere with the plant material used for each color!  Warp and weft are both wool.
  • Area rug, approx. 3’x4′. Purchased from Mexico. I doubt that natural dye was used here since the colors are so even, but I could be wrong (and pleasantly surprised). Warp and weft are both wool.

Having taken a navajo rug weaving class after acquiring these rugs, I have a new appreciation for the amount of work that went into weaving these rugs, natural dye or not.  The ones with natural dyes? Wowza! Even more impressed, given the number of times the yarn had to be put into dye baths to get the saturation you see here.

They are still damp, but I’ve since moved them from the front lawn to hang on fences and tables in the courtyard. I wouldn’t want these babies to disappear before they dry and repacked.

Spring Cleaning

I know. This weekend actually marks the beginning of summer here in the United States, but the summer equinox isn’t for another month, so I’m still good.

I’ve been thinking a lot about projects that have been languishing in various knitting bags around the house, and it’s time to make some hard decisions about these projects. What caused me to stop working on them? Are they worth reviving? If so, what do I need to do to get them going again?

Project #1: Unspun Silk Scarf

unspun-silk-1I actually don’t have a picture of the state of the project before I picked it up. This is a picture of it after I started working on it this week.

Last spring, I had an urge to play with unspun silk hankies, so I dug up a package of Chasing Rainbows hankies in Peacock colorway. I chose a simple 5×5 rib for a quick scarf. I casted on 40 stitches and worked about 4″, then stopped. I don’t know why I stopped. (Maybe I needed a manicure?) In any case, I stuck the whole thing back in a bag with the silk hankies and forgot about it.

This past week, I had an idea for working with unspun silk again.  (Hmm. There seems to be a theme here.  Looking back, it’s always spring when I want to play with unspun silk.  There was at least one other instance of this to support the theory. If it’s May, it must be time to play with silk hankies.) Anyway, back to today. I pulled out a bag of silk hankies and found the knitting with it.

unspun-silk-scarfA few hours of knitting over the course of 3 days, and it is finished. I don’t know if I intended one of those long and skinny scarves, but I chose to finish it off quickly by making a slotted scarf instead. Many, many inches shorter this way!

The finished scarf weighs less than half an ounce, between 10-15 grams. (I really need to get a better scale!) So, one package of hankies (Chasing Rainbows put up is 1 ounce) is more than enough for a scarf.

Knitting notes:

  • 40 stitches in 5×5 rib with 2.25 mm needles
  • at approx. 24″, knit 20 sts, attach new strand and knit the next 20 sts
  • continue working 2 sides separately for 2″
  • join the 2 sides again to close the slot
  • continue knitting as a single piece for another 4-5″
  • cast off

unspun-silk-2I like the sewn bind off, but it’s a bit difficult to work the sewn bind off with unspun. I worked around this by compressing the unspun a bit by rubbing the unspun between my palms, as if I was washing my hands. Do this all along the length of the unspun.

It’s not spinning because the twist goes every which way. But because the silk is so sticky, it stays compressed.  Now, the silk strand is ready to be used for the sewn bind off. The rest is history.

On to the next project!

Spring Cleaning

Lorna's Laces Socks.jpgEquilateral Triangle Hat.jpg

Spring has sprung around here. With a vengence, if my sinuses and bronchials are correct. Just looking around at all the blossoms on the trees, and the pollen on the cars, is enough to induce an allergy headache. And we hit 90F last week. Ah, the joys of California weather.

With my mind on shorts and short sleeves, I’ve decided to sort through all the WIPs. I finished off 2 small projects.

The first is a pair of socks in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock (pictured left above). This is the first time I’ve decided to be super anal and see how well I can create perfect mates. I think I did pretty well, don’t you think? What I did differently than my typical socks:

  • ktbl for the ribbing to keep it neat
  • started my cast on, short row heel (*), and short row toe at the exact start of a color repeat

The second is Lucy Neatby’s Equilateral Triangle Hat (pictured on the right). I love this hat. It’s intended for my Mom, but I have enough yarn leftover to make another one for myself. So, guess what? Yup, it’s on the needles as we speak. I’m using it as my on-the-go knitting, rather than socks. After all, I’m heading into barefoot season. (Yes, I know, that also equates into non-hat wearing season. But I really want this hat. It’s really cute and it doesn’t mush down my bangs too much.)

On to spring cleaning. Rather than starting another project, I started to work through some of my WIPs. Unfortunately, once I got going, I figured out why they stagnated in my piles. One was a EZ rib warmer in a beautify silk/wool single yarn. And it’s just plain inappropriate use of this beautiful yarn. I can see lots and lots of pills after one wear. Riiip! The second is a short sleeved raglan with my handspun. I tried the combined eastern uncross method, and I’m just not happy with the tension. That added to the slight miscount on the increases made me decide to rip it too.

So, that’s 4 WIPs out of the way (grin).

02-moorit-sampling.jpgThis project isn’t on the needles yet, but it’s a swatch of a gansey that I want to make for Martin with my handspun. It’s the moorit merino, approximately fingering weight. I started with 3.25mm needles, and finally settled for 2.5mm needles. The fabric is still soft (not stiff), but shows off the stitch definition well. And it didn’t bias as much from my inconsistent spinning.

That was something interesting that I learned from Judith MacKenzie. If your knitting is biasing a little, change to a smaller needle. It will bias less. You know what? It’s true. As long as you didn’t way overspin your yarn, that is. There’s no hope there. If that happens, you might want to look up some of Kathryn Alexander’s works.

* I used Lucy Neatby’s method of doing heels: drop the working end of the yarn, and use the opposite end of the yarn to work the short row heel. Once the heel is done, break the yarn end for the heel, and start again with the main working yarn. This way, I can control the color patterning on the heels. For self-patterning yarn, this method is much like the afterthough heel in that you can preserve the pattern repeats on the sock.