Back in early March I decided to give Brooklyn Tweed Jared Flood's Bridgewater Shawl (from the pamphlet Classic Elite #9108, Made in Brooklyn) a go. The biggest obstacle to my committing to this project was the laceweight yarn -- not because I don't like it or don't like knitting it but because skeining that much fine yarn into a center-pull ball is the quickest way to what surely must have appeared in Dante's in early drafts of The Inferno as the tenth circle of hell.
Visions of a center-pull ball collapsing in upon itself over time and my gorgeous, vintage Jaggerspun Seafoam Zephyr 50/50 wool/silk (2/18) turning into a hopeless, #%*@&!-ish pile of knots, never to be saved from the tangled abyss, all but paralyzed me.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. I turned to free-skeining. Before you accuse me of having gone over the edge with this one, it's not a drug-induced state! It's this:
I'm more than 3/4 done with my Bridgewater, so that gorgeous round of fiber draped over the arm of the chair doesn't look nearly as daunting as it used to. What you see is about 350 wraps of yarn wound on my 1-1/2 yard niddy noddy. Back when I started, the hank consisted of 921 wraps (1,387 yards)!
To prepare the fiber, I segmented the skein into 9 sections of 100 wraps each and 1 section of 21 wraps. Ties were placed at each of the compass points, and then a larger tie bundled all the segments together at each of the compass points. Here's what it looks like with the few segments remaining:
That unbound bit at the top of the image is the segment I'm currently knitting from.
So how does it work in practice? I drape the ring over the arm of a chair or just put my arm through it and wear it draped over my elbow if there aren't any good arms on my seat. I untie the segment I'm currently knitting from, allowing the yarn to flow off the ring as I work. (Some people advocate wearing the yarn across the body like a pageant sash, but that just didn't do it for me.) If I'm knitting while mostly reclined -- like sitting up in bed or laying on the couch -- I'll bend my right leg and pop the ring over my knee.
I discovered an inexpensive little tool to keep it all straight: a pipe cleaner!
The pipe cleaner lets me easily see my beginning of ring area, wrap up the segments not currently in use, and partition off the segment in use for easy release. Here it's wrapped for storage:
Here it's unwrapped for knitting:
The pipe cleaner is also a good anchor for winding the ring back into a neatly twisted hank at the end of the day. I just hold the pipe cleaner end in one hand, twist into a hank, and insert the other end back through the pipe cleaner end. (Sorry there's no picture of that, but I bet you can figure it out just fine.)
Free-skeining has worked brilliantly for me. Consider me your free-skeining pusher for projects when center-pull balls just won't cut it. I would totally do this again and can't think of anything I'd do to improve upon my system. If you're considering this technique, just know that the careful and methodical tie-up really is key to its success -- and to keeping you from panicking yourself into wearing a funky fiber pageant sash just to be doubly certain you avoid catastrophe.
In fast, after having worked on my free-skeining project this long, I've become so comfortable and casual about it all that on occasion I don't do due diligence in twisting my yarn back up at the end of the night and leave it looking like a spaghetti jumble on the side table!
I have absolute faith that all is well -- and I haven't been wrong yet.
The shawl is coming along nicely, too! I completed the garter square center and am halfway through the horseshoe lace. I'm gunning to finish in the next five days.