The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Flattery will get you everywhere February 16, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 12:08 am
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As someone who can, at best, be described as “fashion challenged,” I feel it is my duty to pass along this link:


Fit to Flatter


This is a series of 10 truly excellent posts by Amy Herzog.  You can view them on her blog by clicking on the title of each post or you can buy the series as a PDF.  The series starts out with a great analysis of body shapes and clothes that flatter them.  Then it talks, in detail, about each design element and how to spot them in knitted sweaters.  And finally, it walks through designing your own sweater or modifying one you love to flatter you.


I read through these and found out that I look best in sweaters with a strong horizontal element at the top and three-quarter sleeves.  Which is great, because I love three-quarter sleeves.  The horizontal element could be a wide neckline, a colorwork yolk, or raglan shaping.  It works, too- I bought some shirts that fit my new rules, and they look great on me!


Because of this, I have changed my mind on the February Lady Sweater, which is fine, since I never started it anyway.  But I still have all that lovely merino/tencel yarn for it.  Right now I’m crushing on the Maple Grove cardigan pretty hard.  Wide neckline, raglan shaping, cropped short- it fits all my new rules.  Plus it looks pretty fun to knit; I love the sleeves.  It was a shock to see it’s not on Ravelry though.  I’ve come to rely on Ravelry when I look at a pattern to see what other people have done with it or how it looks on them.  Not having that extra info makes me feel blind.  Did I really live this way all the time before the internet?!  So quickly I get used to technology, sigh.


Victory is Mine! May 4, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 1:49 pm
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You can dye Tencel with acid dyes.


I am a happy person.


I got my sample of Valley Yarn’s Colrain (50% merino/50% Tencel) last week.  I swatched it first to see how I liked knitting with it.  It was love at first knit; so much love that I made an 8” swatch.  That right there is an early warning sign of a dangerous yarn affair.  Then I washed and blocked the swatch.  When the blocking produced excellent results, I hung it up to see about the dreaded stretch.  After 36 hours clipped to a hanger, subjected to the horrors of gravity, the swatch had grown… (dramatic drumroll please)… 0.00”.  This, of course, doesn’t mean that it won’t stretch into a circus tent when worn, but chances are good that it won’t grow to full big-top size.  Maybe just one of the smaller circus tents, if at all.




The swatching having been such a success, I wound some of the remaining skein for dying.  I soaked the yarn in a vinegar/water mix overnight.  Don’t ask me how much vinegar- I have a bad habit of not measuring when dyeing or cooking.  I used the good acid dye, Jacquard Teal, instead of food coloring.  Food coloring works great, but if I’m going to make a whole sweater then a few dollars for a quality dye doesn’t seem that silly.  I added a little more vinegar to the dye bath while I was bringing it to a boil.  I’m not sure if that helped, since I’m sure the fibers were as “open” as they were going to get from the overnight soak, but I don’t think extra vinegar actually hurts anything, so what the heck.


Again, I never measure, so I have no idea how much dye I put in.  I dunked the whole mini-skein in, waited a few minutes, then pulled some out, wrapping it around a wooden spoon to keep it out of the dye.  Every so often, I’d pull some more out.  When the dye was exhausted (the water was clear), I rinsed the yarn, happy to see that there was no real bleeding.  The color wasn’t quite what I wanted, so I repeated the process.  This time, I left each section of yarn in longer.  The last bit was in for almost half an hour before I decided I liked it.  Rinsing again had no bleeding and then it was off to the dryer.




Beautiful, no?  This is after it was re-skeined to a smaller, prettier skein for photos.


Wait until you see this:




My heart be still.  The order for three 250-gram hanks is already being processed by WEBS.


And as an added bonus, it doesn’t even pill that badly!  I beat up the swatch above for a few days.  And while there is some pilling, it’s less than my CPH, so that’s good enough for me!  Now I just have to find time to actually knit the February Lady Sweater.




Also, why is it hailing outside?  Is it May or isn’t it?!



Searching… April 22, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 11:51 am
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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)

or this:


(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.

106_5183     IMG_1037


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.


The GYS2010 Continues April 19, 2010

Filed under: Knitting Projects — Cailyn @ 1:18 pm
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Damn you, Windows Update.  Or maybe Live Writer.  Whichever of you decided not to save my half-written post the other day when the computer restarted, you’re on notice!




That half-written post was pretty funny; it’s too bad that it was lost.


C’est la vie; we shall move on.  So where did I leave off… Oh yes, the Great Summer Yarn Search of 2010 (for a Cardigan that I’m Not Even Going to Make Because I Haven’t Finished Lowell’s Sweater and even if I Did I Wouldn’t Be Able to Finish It Before I Leave on the 18th of May Because of All the Other Things I Have to Do).

I started this search by looking at the projects for the February Lady Sweater on Ravelry and seeing what yarn other people have used.  This then led to checking out the yarn’s ratings on Ravelry and other projects made with this yarn.  The problem was, most of the star ratings and comments didn’t say anything about how the yarn wears; they mostly mentioned how the yarn was to work with.  And while that is very important (no one wants to work with a yarn that is so stiff that it hurts the hands), I really wanted to know if the finished object pilled or stretched or looked ratty after a while and how it feels to wear: heavy, warm, prone to snag?  So I started searching the forums, then the web in general, for this info.

After a while, I realized that I don’t have a lot of experience with plant fibers when not blended in small amounts with wool.  This surprised me, because I have cotton and linen and acrylic yarns in my stash.  Every year when the weather starts to get warm and sunny, I buy some plant fibers to “try them out” for summer knitting.  But apparently I never made that final step to actually knitting them and seeing how they behave.

So, I have excavated my plant fibers from my stash and added a few popular yarns from the LYS.  I will swatch them, wash them, hang them, and wash them again to stress test these yarns.  Pilling will be exposed!  Splitting will be revealed!  Sag will be analyzed!  And out of the goodness of my heart, I will write about these swatches for you to read!

Stay tuned to hear about swatches knit from:


Cascade Cotton Rich DK (64% cotton/36% nylon)



Berroco Pure Pima (100% Pima cotton)



Spud & Chloe Sweater (55% superwash wool/45% cotton)


As well as:


100_3114 (2)

Top: Knit Picks Shine Sport (60% Pima cotton/40% Modal)

Bottom: Knit Picks CotLin DK (70% Tanquis cotton/30% linen)



And a mystery yarn! (It’s only a mystery because I didn’t take a picture of it and now I can’t remember what it is.)