Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A 'Short' Answer.

Hello, internet world!

Sorry about the lack of blog last week. There was confusion. And unsureness. This program seems to think 'unsureness' is a word, but I am unsure. Just go with it. Katharine will be blogging next week, so that will be an exciting change of pace! Meanwhile, you're stuck with crazy old me!

This week at Stitch n' Bitch, many exciting things happened- but many exciting things often do.

Clara was working on a smaller, and closed counterpart to her big papa tube. It looked like a sock, so she tried it on. Best.Sock.Ever:

I should also mention that this device is crochet, not knitted. This girl is the whole package! Also, Madeline was quick to point out that she is dressed like a pirate. All she needs is a parrot. or an eye patch. or a peg leg. or, you know, all of the above. Halloween is coming up!

Speaking of Madeline, here is an almost finished cotton-wool sweater!:

second sleeve almost completely finished! We won't get to see it finished next week because she's ditching the booming metropolis of Kirksville for a visit to Albuquerque (which I did not spell correctly without spell check. Close, but no cigar...) but the week after that, certainly. I wonder what her next project will be! whatever it is, it will surely involve new and exciting yarn to pet!

Mary's pile of accent scarf is getting ever so much longer:

I love it! I love it all.

Check out Katharine's progress on her fingering weight cardigan!

It's knit with palette (which I might have told you) and I was informed this week that she did not swatch. The daredevil. It will be a lovely cardigan regardless, though. She has some bulky yarn lined up for a cowl in the future, in case she needs a break from all that fingering weight.

Katherine is making speedy progress on her Halloween costume (she's got the right idea. Start early.):

It also has a matching skirt. Not finished yet, but she has a whole month, so progress is being made!

Megan is making a table runner:

Check out that lace pattern! I hope it's not a terribly long table!

We had two new people join us at Stitch n' Bitch this week:

Bri, who is making a brightly colored scarf:

Fabulous! Mary showed her how to purl, so now we'll be expecting great things.

And I forgot to ask our other guest's name: She was invited by Katherine (Katherine, not to be confused with Katharine, or me- Kat... there are so very many...) and was learning to crochet: she seemed very intent on her learning:

I am still working on my rainbow sweater- a little over 2/3 done with the back. I had a hiccup where the stripes didn't match up (which makes absolutely no sense, but it's yarn, and it does what it wants)... I seem to be back on track now, though. Soon, I'll be starting sleeves! I also got a new shipment of yarn in a few days ago- two pairs of socks, and two extra balls of rainbow for the sweater, just in case.

Group Picture! Everybody do something with your face!
And quite a group it is!

Jordan came a little late, and I forgot to snap a picture, but she is working on finishing up that set of golf club covers... and her Dad asked her to make another set! The nerve! We agreed that there has to be an intervention. Things are getting out of hand. However, in anticipation of being done For Good with the golf club cozies, she is excited to be thinking about knitting things for herself! In her excitement, she asked me a dangerous question: What kinds of yarn are there?

We were talking about Knit Picks, and other yarns, and where to get them, and how we knew they would be soft. Jordan enjoys knitting with Simply soft, and was worried other yarn would be expensive. We talked a little about it, but it was near the end-half of the group had left for the night already, and so today's lesson (remember my knitting history lesson?) is about my experience with different types of yarn!

A quick note on yarn weights. They go like this:
Bulky: is bulky...
Worsted: is average 'normal' yarn. A lot of sweaters are made with Worsted. Unless you're Katharine.
Fingering: one half the thickness of worsted. For shawls on the thicker-but-not-too thick side, and thin knits that could be accomplished with worsted as well. Holding two strands of fingering together will give you close to the same gauge as worsted.
Sock yarn: fingering weight yarn with a percentage of nylon in it. Nylon keeps your socks from getting holey. You can use sock yarn for things other than socks, I promise.
Lace weight: around one half the thickness of fingering weight yarn- this weight is good for wedding shawls and other very thin knits. Things knit with lace weight wool can still be surprisingly warm.

We'll start with animal fibers:

Firstly, and most obviously, Wool:

There's a million different types of wool, and some of it is best suited for carpets, while others are better for sweaters and hats. The most recognizable breed of sheep for garment yarn is the Merino, and its wool is very soft indeed. If you're going to knit something that will be next to your skin, Merino is a pretty safe bet. Softness can be affected by a number of things- if your wool is blended with something softer, then it will feel softer. Sock yarn can sometimes feel softer because there's a bit of nylon in it.
Also, if it is spun tightly, it might feel less soft than if it is spun loosely, and single ply yarns often feel softer as well, but are more likely to pill. There's a certain balance there, because the tighter it is spun, generally the more durable it is. If there's a micron number listed wherever you're buying your yarn, look for something under 30. Anything above that, most people find scratchy. A micron is a unit of measurement that is pretty standard for measuring the width of a single hair. Merino usually runs about 20 to 23, average.


these guys are so cute. Also, they look silly when they're shorn. Alpaca yarn is very, very soft. Like, a lot. It has a bit more of a sheen to it than wool. It can't take the same beating that wool can, so I wouldn't use it for gloves. It tends to fuzz up, which is either very good, or very bad, depending on your project. If you want to make yourself a sweater that will make people want to hug you with a very strong magnetic pull, then Alpaca can do that job. It has a light halo of fuzz that will make you the softest person on the planet. It may pill a little, but you can cut off the pills, and they will stop after a few washes.  On the other hand, if you make a hat, it won't pill at all, because it's a hat, and hats don't rub against anything the way sweaters do. Alpaca can get as small as 10 microns, for those of you keeping score at home. It's pretty slippery to knit with, but not in a bad way. It's really just different. Awesome. It's important to swatch with alpaca because it is more likely to grow, shrink, or stretch than wool.

I've not shown you silk worms. You can look them up, if you like. They just look like caterpillars.
Silk is spun by silkworms, and is generally known for its drape, and its shine. Silk isn't especially warm, but if you want elegance, you've come to the right place, Unlike alpaca, it has an excellent stitch definition. It's very soft, but without the fuzzy halo. It can also increase the stitch definition of other fibers if it is blended with them. I like silk for shawls and wraps, but you can use it for anything you want to have excellent drape. I should also mention that the process by witch silk goes from those little white cocoons to yarn is some kind of voodoo of which I am not currently familiar. I had a friend who went to Japan and tried to explain it to me, but she didn't know yarn, and I didn't know silkworm-farming, so the whole thing ended with no knowledge gained. I've been told they unravel the silk in one long thread, but this sounds difficult.

Those are the major animal fibers, I think, so I'll move on to plants:

 Cotton! cotton is very practical, but a lot of people don't like to knit with it because it doesn't have elasticity. Things knit with cotton tend to sag, but if you account for that in your pattern, it's not a problem. It's extremely durable, and you can just throw it in the washing machine, unlike most other fibers. It may get a little fuzzy, but that depends on the yarn specifically. It has a pretty wide range of softness. I read an article in a spinning magazine earlier today about a woman who spun yarn out of cotton balls, which I believe is a crazy thing to do, but she did it anyways. One could make a light summer wrap out of cotton- drape wouldn't be an issue, and it would keep the sun off your shoulders without being too warm. Also, dishcloths, and face cloths.

Linen: Slightly less used, and sometimes expensive. Knitting with linen is like knitting with grass. Once you wash it, though, it magically becomes soft. Then, it magically becomes softer every time you wash it after that. It can also sag, and has little elasticity, but so many people love the feeling of it that it doesn't matter. Its heaviness allows it to drape a little better too. It's good for cool, summer knits.

Bamboo!! A personal favorite of mine. Bamboo is naturally antimicrobial and 10 times more absorbent than cotton. It can be processed a lot of different ways, so the yarn can be anything, really. It's good for baby clothes because it's super soft and low maintenance (did I mention super soft?) It has a drape and sheen like silk, and a pretty great durability as well, in my experience. A bamboo-wool blend is very similar to a bamboo-silk blend.

The most important thing when knitting with a new fiber is to swatch it, to see how it will behave. Or, not, if you're adventurous. Also, If you're not sure how durable something might be, you can make a little mini-hank (or swatch) of it, and attach it to your key chain for a week or two, and see if it ages nicely.

I'm sorry if you knew all that already. Also, I ramble, I know. It was a lot longer than my history of knitting...I don't know if I meant for that to happen. Mostly, I just really like talking about fibers- and that was the short version! Blame Jordan. She asked me that dangerous question.

Just one last thing: I learned to spin yarn properly a few days ago! I though I couldn't do it, but it turns out I was just doing it wrong. So, there will be many hand spun projects in my future!

1 comment:

  1. hello, um I think I've told you guys about the Craft fair on Nov. 10 at village 76. I was wondering if We could co sponsor it? Mostly cause I want to put up posters around campus but we could get the word out about stitch and bitch to people who wouldn't normally hear about it at this fair. Of course the offer stands if any of you guys want to have a table to sell your stuff. There is no table fee, we just split the cost of advertising afterward, I know Katherine and I will have tables. That;s two members of S&B, so let us spread the word there by helping sponsor the event?