Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mounds of Wool in 100+ Degree Heat

It's been extremely hot over the past several days in California - 104 degrees F/40 C on Friday in Vallejo. This would seem to be an inopportune time to decide to wind my entire cone of Webs Shetland wool into skeins, but I think the heat got to my brain and I indeed decided that this was the right thing to do. And now that it's done I'm glad to have the whole thing not only in skeins, but washed to boot! Coned yarn tends to be flat and ugly right off the cone and needs to be washed to bring out its true nature. The astonishing thing was how much the whole mass of it bloomed after washing. I knew it was going to be around 4,000 yards / 3.657 meters but the shear size of the mound was a surprise. This wild-looking pile is all 9 skeins heaped together after they had dried.

Using the wonderful clock-reel with built-in yardage counter that my Dad built for me, I wound off 500-yard /457 meter skeins at a time. I got 7 full skeins at that size, plus two smaller ones, off of the 2.2 lb / 1 kilo cone. After tying up each skein in 4 places to keep the yarn from tangling, I immersed them all in buckets of warm water with a generous slug of Eucalan wool wash. I like Eucalan because it's a no-rinse formula. The less handling given to wet wool the better, in my opinion, to reduce the risk of felting. I let the skeins soak for 30 minutes before carefully pressing out as much water as I could, and hanging the skeins outside to dry. Given the weather this didn't take long at all. So now the skeins are ready to knit whenever I decide what I want to knit, which is still very much an open question. There's a beginning gauge swatch in the photo; I've knitted up a bit on size 3 US / 3.25 metric needles, which makes a nice fabric, and have just begun on size 4 US / 3.5 metric needles, which is coming out a bit loose for a garment but might be fine for something lacy. The yarn is still not the softest stuff I ever handled so I doubt it will be knit into something that will be against my skin in any way.

Since I was already behaving inappropriately for the weather conditions, I continued the trend by working away on the Must Have Cardigan. Both sleeves are now done and the back has commenced. The only major modification I've made so far is to cross the centre diamonds in opposite directions so they will mirror each other. I'll repeat the mirroring on the body as well, especially since the back has two panels of the diamonds side by side. It would just look weird to me to have them both cross in the same direction.

I have also experienced a major frog attack. This pile of remains is what's left of a Chanel-style jacket I made a while back, and while the jacket looked great it made me look like a small, tweedy, purple whale. Not what I was after, so off to the frog pond with it. I have finally finished the unpleasant task of finding all the buried ends (lots of these as there are 3 colours of yarn in the jacket), picking out the seams, removing the extremely well-sewn-on buttons, and unraveling the double i-cord borders. Now all that's left is the rather pleasant task of unraveling and winding the yarn into balls. I find it easier to wind unraveled yarn into balls on my ball winder and/or nostepinne, and then will rewind it into skeins that I can wash to get the kinks out.

In addition, my good friend Catherine gifted me with a sweater she made but doesn't like that I will also frog. It doesn't fit me as is (it doesn't fit her very well, either, which is why she gave it away) so I will soon convert it back to being usable yarn. I haven't taken a picture of it yet, but it's knit out of a double strand of Plymouth Yarns Bulky Alpaca in a charcoal grey - very, very wonderful yarn! As it's doubled there's probably quite a bit of yarn in it but I don't know for sure how much, so I look forward to exploring it's possibilities once I have the reclaimed yarn in hand.

I will leave you with a picture of beautiful roses from my garden. The garden is an enclosed courtyard and is very much a work in progress, or more like a work waiting to commence. The building was abandoned for about 20 years before Thomas and I made our studio and home here, and the rose bushes somehow managed to survive all that time with no one taking any care of them at all. I have now found that in general the less I do to them the better, and this bouquet is the fruit of my non-labour. Enjoy!

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