I have finished the Internet. I have wandered far and wide in search of something and have not found it, so I must have finished the Internet. (The zebra did it.) And despite Rule 34, I never ran across some merino getting it on with a bit of cotton.
Remember that cardigan that I was kind of thinking about making? The one that the last two posts have been about? Well, I have come to my senses. Somewhat.
I have accepted the reality that I will not be able to make the February Lady by the time I leave for VA. (First, I spent a great deal of time trying to convince the laws of time and space that they really didn’t need to apply to me. After all, they have so many other things to do, why worry about one little knitter? Shockingly, they didn’t go for it.) But the bright side to that realization is that I am no longer confined by the summer heat of VA in my yarn choice. Given that it may take me months to finally find the time to start this project, I can choose whatever yarn I want. Well, so long as it’s not too expensive. I decided pretty fast that I wanted a wool/Tencel or wool/bamboo yarn, dyed semi-solid. I am addicted to the shine that the rayon/wood fibers bring to the party. I think this cardigan will look great with that shine. Also I like semi-solids way better than solids. I’m just crazy that way.
So what was I looking for that I couldn’t find on the whole World Wide Web?
Semi-solid or handpainted merino/Tencel or bamboo worsted weight yarn that won’t break the bank in sweater-quantity. Doesn’t exist. Plenty of gorgeous fingering weight yarns in those blends. A few solid-colored DKs. And an even smaller number of solid worsteds. A few 100% bamboo yarns that looked interesting. But no worsted blends that fit my criteria.
What I wanted was something like this, in worsted weight:
(MightySock in Iris from Abstract Fibers)
(Merino Tencel from Wolf Creek Wools)
I used the Wolf Creek one to knit a last-minute shrug for a bridesmaid dress last summer. I love the yarn and I feel so stupid that I didn’t buy more of it at the time so that I could have made the sleeves longer on the shrug and thus use the shrug more often.
I must have spent days looking for this perfect yarn. Every ad on Ravelry, Knitty, and Interweave Knits was followed, every FLS project on Ravelry was looked at. I just couldn’t find it.
Then I realized that this was exactly the kind of problem that I had learned to spin to solve. There may be no merino/Tencel yarns out there, but there are plenty of pounds of that blend, hand-dyed and all, for the spinning. And then, of course, I realized that I have yet to produce a yarn that is a) thicker than fingering weight, b) plied well and c) actually knittable. It would likely take me a year (if not longer) to spin the 1,200 yards needed for this project. I mean, 4 oz of fiber seems like a never-ending project. So that was out. (To be honest, I really tried to convince myself that I could do it and it would be easy. Apparently, there is some part of me that is still coldly logical. Who knew?)
So I went back to the metaphorical drawing board and thought. And thought. And thought… WEBS’ in-house yarn brand, Valley Yarns, makes a worsted merino/Tencel blend called Colrain. It only comes in solid colors and there’s only 109 yards in a ball. That’s 12 balls to make the sweater- 24 ends to weave in. But they sell the “natural” yarn in big hanks of 545 yards. Fewer ends to weave in and I can dye it myself, thus getting the perfect amount of semi-solid. I’ve dyed small batches of wool often enough, it shouldn’t be too hard to do a huge batch.
Now, wool and other protein fibers (and for some reason nylon) are dyed with acid dyes. Plant fibers are dyed with reactive dyes. Tencel, bamboo, Modal, etc, are plant fibers, even if they are manufactured. This presented a problem. Can you dye the same yarn in an acid and then a reactive dye? Will that hurt the plant fiber?
After another exhaustive search of the Intarwebs, I found out that Tencel actually can be dyed with acid dyes. It won’t take the dye quite as well as wool and will be a muted shade, but it will dye. I’m not that big on bright jewel tones anyway so muted shades sounds great to me. But I didn’t know for sure how well it would dye and that’s a lot of money to spend on a sweater’s worth of yarn if I’m not sure that it will work. What if I couldn’t get the shade I wanted? What if the Tencel didn’t take the dye at all and the yarn ended up streaky? What if I hate the yarn itself? Does it pill? Wear well? Does it end up looking dingy after a wash? Does it stretch and how is the stitch definition? I was obsessing over the fact that I just didn’t know anything about this yarn and was I willing to buy three 250 g hanks of yarn sight-unseen and then find out if the yarn split or pilled or took dye like crap?
That’s when I realized that I was being an idiot, ordered one 109 yard ball of Colrain for $3.99 and a color card (just in case), and waited impatiently for it to arrive.