DIY Magic

My sister and I went to the CGOA/TKGA Fall Knit and Crochet Show in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month. We have plenty of stories to tell from the trip, but by far the most exciting is the one about how we entered a little door underneath a nearly hidden stairway and found ourselves in a magical place called Yarnia.

First, I'll show you what I got. Then, I'll talk more about the shop and its way-cool DIY concept.

We have here 1-1/2 pounds of gorgeous wool—designed by yours truly. The yarn is destined for a cardigan for J—Ann Budd's Cambridge Jacket from The Best of Interweave Knits—and I got enough extra for a hat or mitts. J mentioned that he would like this sweater in a green, tweedy look. I took my own, creative approach to his request. Here's a close-up of the yarn construction:

Six strands of wool in all: dark grey, navy blue, 2 strands olive green, hunter green, and—to add periodic hits of color—a 2-ply variegated in grey, royal blue, and turquoise.

I picked the fiber and color combination from the cones lining the walls at Yarnia.

We're talking hundreds of cones of all types of yarns: wool, silk, mohair, cashmere, cotton, bamboo, boucles, nylons, metallics, acrylics. You name it, it's there... except elastic... but we overheard one customer ask if she could bring in her own cone of elastic to blend with yarn from the shop, and she got the green light. You determine how many strands of fiber you need according to the weight of finished yarn you're after. In my case, I wanted a worsted.

Never fear the calculations. The owner, Lindsey, helps with all the math and has plenty of resources on-site to help you articulate what you want. Once you've selected your fiber combination, she checks out your intended project (if you brought it) to confirm you're making a yarn that will be compatible. You can even knit up a little swatch to see what you think before she makes up the cones! She then cuts off a length of your yarn and uses a McMorran Yarn Balance to determine the yards per pound for your blend so she can calculate the amount of yarn you will need to complete your project.

You purchase the yarn according to weight. After making all the calculations, your cones get lined up on a tensioning rack and wound onto cones using a very industrial-chic cone winder that's so fascinating to watch it's housed near the front window for passers-by to see. I wish I had a picture to show you. If I didn't recognize it would be spectacular overkill, I'd say I must have one of these machines for myself!

I love the way the cones come out. They're like works of art in their own right! The strands of yarn are not plied when they're wound on, so you end up with distinct banding at this stage. Also, because of the way it's wound, the overall color can look very different depending on light and angle.

In case you're wondering how the yarn will work up, I saw many sample garments at the shop, and I can tell you these DIY blended yarns knit up beautifully. I can't wait to see how J's Cambridge Jacket comes out!

And what about price, you ask? Happily, the price also exceeded my expectations. Each cone has a per-pound price tag. Lindsey calculates everything up before she actually winds the cones. My 1-1/2 pounds of wool cost just over $50. Compare that the to Urban Aran I made J last winter out of Cascade Eco wool—which was my most economical option at the time—for just under $50. We're talking about a $4-$5 difference. Pretty amazing given that this time the yarn is custom-designed, don't you think?!

Yarnia is definitely worth a periodic train ride from Seattle to Portland! If airfare doesn't fit your budget, you can purchase pre-made cones online.

Lindsey got her inspiration from a shop in Montreal called La Bobineuse de Laine, which also takes a DIY approach. Read all about it on the Yarnia website.


Little Cakes for Patty Cakes!

The Girlio has asked me to make her some fingerless mitts. It was inevitable. After all, she'd seen me make a pair for myself last fall. And earlier this summer, her father knit a pair of orange Knucks for himself to match his Honda Rebel for those crisp, early summer morning drives to work.

I decided that the bright, green singles I posted pictures of on my Greensleeve's Katherine's Cup spindle last June would be the perfect fiber choice for C's mitts. But first, I had to ply the 170 yards of singles. The result:

Nearly 85 yards of squishy, 2-ply worsted wool, drop-spun and plied on my Katherine's Cup spindle. I picked up the roving at A New Yarn earlier in the spring. Sorry I didn't take a picture of the spun hank before I divided and wound it down into these two sweet little cakes—I know this isn't the best way to display my work. I was just so excited to get the fiber ready to be turned into warmers for C's ever-growing patty-cakes!

I wouldn't normally have thought to make mitts for her in this color, but I found inspiration in this great fall jacket we found her for the first day of third grade.

The jacket looks perfect for all her puddle-jumping antics when Seattle's sunny summer turns to autumn rains later this month!

The color shifts from dark green, through a bright kelly, and into peeks of a cheerful yellow. I'm pleased with how the yarn turned out and look forward to posting pictures of the finished mitts, which I'm pretty certain I will design myself.

Now I need to find a nice pair of puddle jumpers to complement her ensemble!


Lessons Crossing the Continental Divide

Sometimes it's the impulse buys—the ones you look at afterwards with some regret and think, "What possessed me to invest in that?" . . . the ones you relegate to your Ravelry "Trade/Sell" stash, where you hope you'll be able to recoup at least some of your investment but, instead, they sit for months with absolutely nobody expressing interest of any kind—sometimes it really is those buys which result in the most satisfying projects.

Such was the case of my Maizy. What on earth was this die-hard wool enthusiast (i.e. me) thinking when I popped those two little skeins of 82% corn fiber / 18% elastic nylon into my basket?

I'll tell you what I was thinking: "Co00000ol... Corn yarn...." (Read that line with a note of Homer Simpson's "Mmmmmm... Floor donuts..." and you have a pretty clear image of the fiber-induced stupor into which I must have fallen.)

So the Maizy sat for months and months. I would gladly have passed it along to someone else, but nobody would have it. And then, while packing for one of our camping trips this summer, I realized I would be finishing one project before we returned and needed another to have at-the-ready. Short on packing time, the Maizy called to me for several reasons:
  1. I had already identified and printed a pattern—one that had been designed on the yarn by the yarn manufacturer, so I trusted I wouldn't need to stress about running out of yarn the entire way through the top-down construction;
  2. The yarn comes in center-pull put-ups, so I didn't have to reskein it;
  3. The pattern calls for US2 needles, which I viewed as a welcome relief after the long work on my recent stretch of ultimately disappointing US1-needle sock projects this summer; and
  4. Because I wasn't overly invested in wanting these socks to turn out brilliantly, I felt comfortable using them for an experiment... these would be my first-ever project knit entirely Continental, which I blogged about previously in Old Dog.
The result?

My Continental Maizy Lace Socks:

Pattern: Maizy Lace by Cathy Hannigan (for Crystal Palace). The free pattern is available via Crystal Palace.
Materials: Maizy, Neptune 1009, 2 skeins
Needles: US 2 / 2.75 mm
Started: August 1, 2008
Completed: August 12, 2008

Although they were the last of 3 pairs I completed for Summer of Socks 2008, with all the crazy stuff going on in my life this last part of the summer, I never posted them for the final raffle.

I worked these socks top-down, two at once, using Magic Loop. The pattern's not written for Magic Loop, but translates easily.

The simple yarn-over lace features pairs of offset diagonals that don't quite form a perfect inverted V but are perfectly charming, nonetheless.

The heel was written for a simple slip-knit stitch, which I exchanged for Eye of Partridge. I ask you, is there ever a time when Eye of Partridge doesn't make a more interesting choice?

Despite the stitch modification, I did not modify the garter detail flanking the heel flap:

Talk about charming! I may start adding this detail to all my socks from here on out. It creates a lovely frame for a more finished looking heel... and while I point to no higher authority upon which to base this next claim, I could swear it makes the heel fit more snugly. Of course, it may just be the elastic nylon that draws it in.

Overall, the socks fit very well given the pattern's not written for a customized fit.

And while I often find multi-colored yarns obnoxious for their striping and pooling effects—a feature which many people seem to turn a blind eye to in their enthusiasm for the caché of hand-dyed yarns—I actually like the way the colors played out in these socks. No complaints!

Even the Continental knitting went remarkably smoothly. In fact, I think these were one of my quickest knits of the summer. I still instinctively saddle-up Western style, but I became highly proficient at Continental on this project—both knitting and purling (on the heels)—and I'll challenge myself to more Continental knitting in the future.

Maizy is really spongy, and it's splitty in a not-very-splitty kind of way (if that makes any sense). It did take a few inches of knitting to get used to it, but once I did, I found working with the Maizy rather enjoyable. I'd even go so far as to say I'd prefer to work with Maizy again over cotton—cotton just doesn't have enough give to give me a pleasant knitting experience.

And now, a request for you:

Anyone out there know anything about the manufacturing process for Maizy yarn? I'm interested in the environmental impact... You know: just because something's predominantly made from a natural fiber doesn't mean the processing required to turn that fiber into knit-able yarn isn't loaded with so many harsh and damaging chemicals as to make the whole natural-implied labeling laughable. If you have any information about this process or can point me to online resources, I'd be grateful!