Fibers, the sequel

It’s just been a relaxing Friday for me. A little knitting, a little web surfing, a little reading, and lots of resting to get over the cold I have.

My web surfing has led me to some interesting blogs and opinion pieces about fibers. The term “yarn snob,” I’ve come to realize, is splattered all over the internet. Some bloggers are proud to identify themselves as yarn snobs. Other individuals attack the yarn snobbery. There’s even a blog article with the title “Avid knitters are yarn snobs.”

Yeah, I just figured out this “yarn snob” thing. Go ahead and say “have you been living in a cave?”

As I am now newly exposed to the term I find it comical that crafters on the internet have decided to turn what kind of yarn they use into a political identity. I suppose it’s inevitable given the facts: knitting and crochet is a hobby for most people and hobbies cost money that is left over after rent, lights, food, etc. The subtle online critiques and support of yarn snobbery seem to boil down to how expensive the natural fibers can be. Defenders of the acrylic yarns are quite correct in pointing out that if they can’t afford to knit with wool, well, time to buy the cheap stuff if the sales have dried up. The yarn snobs have correctly pointed out that acrylic yarns are not sustainable since they are based on petroleum. Basically, the Red Heart Super Saver is a furry ball of plastic.

It’s an all out fiber war!

Since it seems the majority of people who knit and crochet feel passionate enough about what kinds of fibers they use to identify themselves with their yarn I suppose I could chime in as the dispassionate yarn enthusiast. I shall hereby refuse to identify myself with the yarn snobs while at the same time not side with the acrylic lovers. If Elizabeth Zimmerman can be the “Opinionated Knitter” I’ll just be the “Shrewd, Objective, Dispassionate Knitter.”

Reflecting on the projects I’ve completed this year I suppose I am indeed the kind of person who knits without identifying himself with the fibers. For me it’s practicality. My yarn selections have a lot to do with the people who will wear the items and the kind of stitches used in the projects. Let’s see…

I made a double-knitted scarf for myself that is very warm and comfortable and, actually, it’s made from a yarn that is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. I bought the yarn because I loved how it looked (it’s got lots of colors plied together) and it was being liquidated from a local shop. Basically, I went nuts and bought tons of it in various colors and never even asked the clerk about the fiber content. Aside from the scarf for myself I made another one with the same kind of yarn for a friend who loves hers. I’m now finishing another one because her mom saw it and wanted one and it just so happens I have plenty of this particular yarn left over.

I made myself two pairs of merino wool socks, a pair of merino wool socks for the other half, and a pair of cotton blend socks for my sister.

For my other half’s niece, age 3, I also made an acrylic sweater.

The other half will soon receive a cabled sweater made out of acrylic. This is happening by request! Yes, wearers do occasionally ask for synthetic fibers. In this case it is because this very special someone already has a wool sweater and another sweater made of silk that I crafted. My partner just wants another sweater made of another material to even out the wardrobe. I’m thinking it will be great for Fall and early Spring.

Oh yeah, I made my sister a merino wool scarf recently.

I have one project that I started two years ago and it’s still sitting somewhere waiting for me to go back to it: a mohair sweater for me. I’ll get around to it some day…

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Wish List!

I want more books! I have plenty to keep me happy for now: Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns in four volumes, Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns as well as her The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, Debbie Stoller’s Stitch N’ Bitch Superstar Knitting, and Barbara Breiter’s Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crochet. I view these books as essentials for anyone who is really into knitting and crochet. My idiot’s guide has been on my shelf for many years. Of course, I have some other books with patterns and such, but I’m serious about acquiring some new reference books.

This is what I want (and hope to have this year!):


Cast on, bind off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting by Cap Sease

I can’t wait to have this book. Every once in a while I like to cast on and bind off in a different way. It will be nice to have a bunch of these techniques all in one place. I’ve gotten tired of searching the internet every time I want to shop for a cast on or bind off.

Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt

I need a new reference book that is more extensive. This one seems to have everything anyone, from beginner to advanced, could possibly need in a reference book for knitting.

The New Encyclopedia of Crochet Techniques by Jan Eaton

I think this book has enough in it to keep me satisfied for a long time!

Stitch ‘N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller

I just love the title! I’m sure it’s fun to read.


Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch by Nancy Mercant

This book is seriously on my list of priorities. I am very interested in doing some more complex things with the brioche stitch. The best part is that it includes lots of multicolor patterns, according to descriptions I’ve read about it.

I made a scarf in two days!

Thanks to Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns I turned two extra balls of chunky yarn into a very nice, long scarf. I used the Italian Chain Ribbing stitch pattern. Just as Walker says this four row repeat looks like a very elegant ribbing when it’s knit at a tighter gauge. I used US size 9 needles to make this and I am very pleased with how it came out:

The yarn I used was Katia Maxi Merino superwash. I casted on 26 stitches and knit until I used up the two balls of yarn. The scarf is long enough to wrap around the neck three times!
As Walker points out this stitch pattern is good for scarves because the wrong side looks pretty decent:
It’s not great but it’s not ugly, either. The wrong side resembles a lace type of ribbing. Although OK it does not reach the level of elegance that the right side achieves:
Now that I’ve finished the scarf I wish I had thought of casting on with a fancy technique like the picot cast on. I could have binded off with the picot bind off to match the ends. Next time I’ll cast on and bind off with picots because I had so much fun making this scarf that I will make another one, probably with different yarn.
I am very thankful to  Barbara Walker for her four volume Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Anyone who loves to knit really should have this encyclopedia. It’s really pleasurable to use it for projects like this. I sat down with a cup of coffee, flipped through the pages of the four volumes and picked the stitch pattern I wanted to use for my scarf, casted on, and in no time I used spare yarn from my stash and made a beautiful gift. I’ve perused the Treasury volumes so many times. I always notice something I didn’t see before. For example, I noticed that the Italian Chain Ribbing stitch is very easy!

I finished the cotton socks!

My sister’s birthday late Spring / Summer socks for hiking are finished! They don’t look bad.

The technique of weaving in cotton ends by separating the plies and tying them into knots works very well. I mentioned it in my previous post. As you can see, the heel edges are very neat.

I promise not to turn this blog into a sock knitting blog. Actually, I’m working on a scarf (also for my sister). In no time another finished project entry will be here and it will not be about socks!

Cotton knitting time!

I don’t typically knit with cotton just because I’ve been kind of lazy. It’s not that I dislike cotton. It’s just that cotton feels awkward to me for knitting. It’s not elastic, color changes are hard to accomplish effectively because it’s slippery…

I’ve decided to change my habits and force myself to enthusiastically knit with cotton and embrace Spring and Summer knits.

Spring is near and a very special person in my life — who also knits and crochets — has a birthday coming up. I’ve decided to make her a bunch of small stuff, pack it all up, and send it to her for her birthday. A care package from the American expat in Spain to that special person in the USA who deserves some love. My logic: A) it’s a Spring birthday and B) it would be a real bummer for her to receive a bunch of woolen wintery stuff and have to wait a long time to use it. The first cotton project I’ve casted on, which will be in her birthday care package, is a pair of socks. Yeah, I know, I’m on a sock kick. She’s not just getting cotton socks, though.

My planning process: A) will the colors run together? B) I need tight stitches so the fabric doesn’t sag when it’s laundered and dried C) an elastic stitch pattern is needed. Of course the cuff is ribbed, that’s elastic enough. And the main stitch pattern? I opted for seed stitch. It’s elastic and, when tightly knitted, resists the “sag” effect. For an even better effect I chose US size 0 double-pointed needles with sport weight yarn. A smaller gauge will create tighter stitches! I also allowed myself to cheat: my yarn of choice is 50/50 cotton-synthetic blend. The colors won’t run so I can use white and pink together, the fabric will still breathe, the sock will hold its shape better when laundered, and the yarn isn’t so difficult to work with.

So far I have one sock finished. I think it looks pretty good:

Even though I’m happy with my results I have discovered an issue in the process of making the first sock: knitting from the cuff downward means picking up and knitting around the heel. With wool this is not hard to do well. With cotton it has been rough going. I actually had to redo this phase twice. The problem with picking up stitches with a cotton yarn is the fact that cotton plies just don’t want to hold themselves together when the yarn is worked a second time. Picking up and knitting simply implies a second use of some yarn. It’s like knitting some of the stitches twice. The consequence is that picked up stitches around a gusset can look pretty or shitty in cotton, so I’ve learned! However, doing and redoing the pick up process has been educational for me and I’m glad I challenged myself:

It doesn’t look bad at all! However, on the other side of the heel I was not so fortunate. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get the same neatness after picking up and knitting:
It’s not terrible but it looks a little messy. I can, however, fix the white edge stitches by pulling on some legs (no pun intended) so it will look as great on this side as the other. I’ll do that later, when I have the pair finished entirely.
I’ve found that knitting at a tight gauge helps keep everything looking neat when joining in a new color for striping. The cuff has some very neat and crisp color transitions:
I am very pleased with the results I’m getting. When it’s time to weave in the ends (no, I still haven’t done that yet! I’m hiding them from view!) I’ll follow the directions in this video about weaving in cotton ends which looks pretty simple.

Yay! A finished project

Another pair of socks for me! The pattern is available for free on Ravelry and it’s called “Hermione’s Everyday Socks” by Erica Lueder. The pattern is written for knitting on two circular needles but I just used dpns.

It’s a very easy and relaxing project. Although the directions are for a women’s size medium I just knit them at a gauge of 7 stitches per inch instead of 8 and they fit my size 9 1/2 US man’s size foot. I think the style is pretty unisex.

Very useful links

I have been having fun lately surfing the internet looking up different items related to knitting and crochet. I’ve stumbled upon some very interesting material. All of it is free to use.

Knitting Links

Stitches

Good Patterns for Beginners

Crochet Links

Stitches

Good Patterns for Beginners

Designing Help