Sunday, March 16, 2008

Check out my Hot New Blog

No posts as yet, but dowdy Blogger is annoying me, so in future, check out my blogging at

I love the new name.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Broke Knitter Dilemma

I shouldn't start whining about how broke I am, especially since I know there are people who can't even afford a $3 skein of acrylic, but I'm going to whine anyway, because I am evil. Ha. Anyway, so I wasted my inheritance and now I have 420 yards of worsted weight yarn that I don't know what to make with. (This is naturally undyed merino from Marr Haven, btw)

I don't want to make a boring hat with it. I don't want to knit a scarf with it. Or handwarmers or mittens. What I really want to do is knit a sweater with it, some simple mindless stockinette, OR, some intricate cabled affair. Here's the problem, I'm not a midget, and 420 yards, less a few swatches, isn't going to make a sweater. I am also broke, so unless I wait and save, 4-5 more skeins of yarn isn't going to arrive on my doorstep.

So, I am pleading you, my readership, to give me ideas and suggestions. Anything!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wool Hypocrites: The Great Acrylic Debate

Why not acrylic?

Wool bad for babies?

Why do people insist they are allergic when...

If you're on Ravelry, you probably recognize at least one of these phrases---thread titles for Yet Another Acrylic Debate. Some begin as simple questions, such as someone who wanted to know if they could knit with wool for babies. All quickly descend into a maelstrom of "wool this, acrylic that"; those who are allergic to wool sing the praises of soy or corn fibers. Woolaholics nearly collapse the server with their lengthy posts extolling that wool is fabulous and perfect and cheap and the perfect fibre for everything, including lingerie. A few timid people suggest that a nice washable acrylic might be nice for a mother of triplets. And ALL have hundreds and hundreds of posts.

Before I start calling names, let me state that I love wool. I buy wool and natural fibers 99.9& of the time. I don't know when I last bought acrylic yarn, which I must admit, I avoid chiefly because the melting factor scares the carp out of me. Anyway, so, just so you know that this post is aimed as much at me as anyone else.

Many of the arguments used by wool lovers against the Red Heart squad usually consist something like this:

1. Wool is breathable, acrylic is not

2. Wool self-extinguishes, acrylic doesn't and it melts and sticks to your skin (this is BAD, for the less bright)

3. They used acrylic once, and their favorite cat died

4. Wool is natural and acrylic is a petroleum product of some kind, don't quote me on what goes into the stuff.

5. People have used wool for thousands of years because of all its awesome qualities and they're carrying on the knitting/crocheting tradition by using only wool.

It's the last point that has bothered me, simply because of this: knitters of the past used wool because that is what they had to knit with. Got that? They had needles, and they had wool, and there was no LYS nearby with Debbie Bliss Cashmere, and no Walmart with the yet-to-be-invented Red Heart. Ergo; knitters have traditionally used wool because wool is all that they had to work with! Wool was the cheapest and best quality material that they could work with. It also washes nicely, yadda, yadda, yadda. They knit practical items for their families and they knit fancy Aran sweaters for the gullible tourists.

When acrylic became available, it had three immeadite advantages to wool. One, it is much easier to wash. Yes, I know there are superwash wools. However, most wool cannot be tossed into any washer AND dryer without worrying over the settings. Two, those who are allergic to wool can normally wear acrylic, AND there are some very soft synthetic yarns while much wool of the past was quite rough.

At this point, wool advocates will say that those who use acrylic are breaking with the past and THEY are carrying on traditional knitting. I'm sorry, but I beg to differ. The knitter who is spending over $100 on Malabrigo for a sweater is much farther from tradition than the knitter who spends $20 for a sweater from washable acrylic or synthetic. Malabrigo isn't practical. Malabrigo is a soft merino that will pill much faster than many other yarns, and it is expensive, and I don't really hear about knitters just happily throwing their Malabrigo darling into the washer. The acrylic knitter is choosing the most economical and practical bang for her buck, and that is really the tradition of knitting. Not hand-dyed short staple merino yarns, not a $30 skein of indie sock yarn, but using the most practical option available to them.

In a word, knitters who use acrylic are probably much closer to the heart and mindset of the 'traditional' knitter than many people (like myself) who prefer to use wool and other natural fibers. I may not use acrylic, but I don't want to be a wool hypocrite, and I wanted to send a shout-out to those who heart Redheart.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Working with Marr Haven

Marr Haven merino is easily the most unusual wool that I have ever worked with.

Now, don't take that as a negative statement---by unusual, I mean just that. Most yarn that I work with, is very processed. Even Cascade Ecological wool is a very clean, commercial feeling yarn with just a crisp woolly scent that I enjoy. Marr Haven merino isn't scoured clean of dirt and lanolin like most wool is---it's put through a more gentle cleaning process that leaves in lanolin and some bits of veg. I was interested in getting my hands on some more Mother-Earth type wool, so I ordered two skeins in natural, undyed white.
When I pulled out the yarn skein, I was surprised at how much there is. 210 yards doesn't sound like *that* much, but it is. Anyway, so I stuck my nose into the wool and inhaled. Whufff---I pulled back, a bit surprised. I don't know how to describe the smell of lanolin. It's very faintly greasy, but with a different twist. The yarn has an interesting feel---very bouncy, and soft. You can feel the lanolin when you touch it, and especially when you work with it. There are little tiny bits of vegetation stuck in the yarn, too, which I didn't bother to pull out because I think it looks kind of nice---like I said before, Mother-Earth yarn.
I washed my swatch, and the water clouded immeaditely, but a few rinses seemed to get it clear. The color of the yarn lightened to a much lighter white color---an unwashed swatch looked rather greyish next to it. It made it softer, too. I tried what the Vogue Cable book called a "Drunken Cable" and I thought it looked a little flat.
I'm toying with the idea of a Zimmermann percentage sweater, maybe the Aran sweater from the Almanac, with this yarn, but I'm not sure yet. I'd have to order more yarn and the book. The idea---of natural wool, natural knitting---is appealing, but I'm not sure how an aran would show up in this soft yarn. It certainly would make a comfortable sweater.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Marr Haven and Tags

So, I come back to my blog and what do I find? I've been tagged by two different people for 7 random facts. Truthfully, I should be posting the rules, but

1. I'm lazy

2. I don't know 7 people that I could tag without feeling weird

3. See 1.

OK, a quick 7 facts about me, then back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

1. I like tragic plays, paticularly tragic Greek plays, but I hate Romeo and Juliet with a passion. It's just stupid the way that it ends, and my most-hated line is when someone tells Juliet when she's a little (young) girl and she bumps her head that she will fall 'on her back' when she has more wit. Yup, let's give it up for oh-so-funny and sexist advice given to a 4 year old.

2. I have lived in WV for most of my life, but I was born in Buffalo, NY.

3. I hate flat places, they make me queasy

4. When I was six years old, I wanted to be a ballerina (?) I don't know why.

5. I had surgery when I was very very young to remove a harmless blob of tissue from my neck, and I still have a scar there.

6. I write poetry, but I frequently mock other poets, because I am evil. Yes, I was the person who was rolling on the floor, giggling, at the last writers group meeting that you went to. No, I can't help it.

7. I am a night owl, and this started when I began to read and I stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning to finish Bobbsey Twin mysteries or Hardy Boys.

OK, Marr Haven yarn. I have a very bad habit of really wanting a yarn, and drooling over it, and then when I go to my LYS, I spend money on yarn I can buy there, because I'm so impatient that ordering online is annoying for me---and this is for yarn that I can't get at my LYS. If I could, I would. So when I kept drooling over their naturally colored merino wool, I finally buckled down and order 2 skeins. 420 yards of squishy goodness is on its way through the mail.

I have much, much more to tell you about yarn and serendipity and another yarn store, but I'm very tired right now, so you'll just have to wait.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Made

a tough decision.

I ripped out the Hemlock.

Let's just say that I hated this pattern. Muchly. At least, this time. Technically, after I finish my Irish Hiking Scarf, I can just buy the other skein and restart Hemlock. Right now, I'm not feeling the love, and so Irish is growing cable by cable. I love cables, by the way. Gretel was cabled. Irish is cabled. And now, I want to do a greasy sweater.

Now, you're saying, WTH does that mean?

Sometimes, I get these ideas in my head. For example, I found my way to the library this Friday, and I plunked down with some of the few knitting books that the library had. To make you understand something, their copies were all the old editions, and they had a copy of Magnificent Mittens, by Charlotte S-C-Whatsherface. Made me want to stuff it into my backpack and sell it on Ebay, but I restrained myself---the poor library probably doesn't have the funding to replace anything, except for those intellectual bestsellers that they have 27 copies of.

Well, snuggling into the gigantic beanbag provided, I started to flip through The Knitters Almanac, but I have to tell you a little story. Once, there was a beginning knitter, and she picked up Elizabeth Zimmermann's books at Borders, and she put them back on the shelf, because the sweaters inside were dowdy and the writer was condescending. The end. I told you it was a little story.

Anyway, (did you guess who the beginning knitter was, yet?) I flipped through the book, and I read, and read, and I really enjoyed it, sans a snotty remark she made about women not understanding the math of her Pi shawl. Um, lady, the math isn't that complicated, get over yourself. I took one look at your stupid numbers and knew what was going on. Big fraggin' whoop. I had never seen this book in Borders or Barnes and Noble, and I immeaditely liked it much better than I had her other books. And, surprisingly, when I reread Knitting without Tears, I liked that better too, but not as much as the Almanac.

Oh, you guessed that the beginning sweater was me? OK, you're right. Anyway, so EZ is going on and on and on about wool, and coincidentally, I had been looking at

They have naturally colored wool, and I have heard that it is very soft, her sheep are treated right, and it's $8 for 210 yards of a non-chemically scoured merino wool. Sounds good to me. Moving on, so EZ is nattering about wool, and sweaters, blah, blah, blah (I swear that woman must have been a PITA in real life, she just meanders---what you say, just like me?) and I started to get this urge. I need to knit a sweater. A sweater with naturally colored wool, with lanolin in it. I needed to knit an aran sweater with naturally colored wool with lanolin in it, and I need to do it now.

So that is my current obsession. I haven't heard much about Marr Haven yarn, aside from the myraids of women knitting soakers from it. Yeah, that's right, knit something so it can wick away 'moisture' from your kid's diapers. Yup, that's what I want to do with merino. Yes, sirree, nothing like knitting something to get pee all over it, oh yeah.* You can even get extra lanolin to revitalize your soakers/knitters/pants. (I wonder if it also comes with a drug that makes it fun to knit this stuff)

I'm thinking that maybe I could order 1-2 skeins of it, and knit a scarf or a hat out of it, just to test it out, and if I like it straight off, frog my swatch and order enough for a sweater. A nice, lanoliny Aran sweater. Slurp. I'm currently ignoring my sweater out of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, because I don't like DK yarn right now, and I'm out of love with the gold-orange color I picked. I am silly.*

*Yes, soaker-knitting mums, I know that soakers aren't meant to be used as diapers, but when you talk about moisture and wicking qualities, and stuff, I've gotta think that pee is getting on this stuff.

*I am silly for insulting both the immortal and untouchable Zimmermann, even though she wrote something sexist that I didn't like, AND for bringing the wrath of soaker-knitting mums on my head. What can I say. If you want to look at thousands of baby items, go to, that's all she's writing about lately anyway.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yarn Decisions

Yarn decisions can be hard, even when they should be easy. The original yarn that I picked out for Gretel violated two rules that are very important to me, and I was stupid to go with it. It was Prairie Silk, by Brown Sheep.

1. It was scratchy, because of some mohair. I'm not down on mohair, just this paticular yarn. It just had this subtle itch that was almost worse than an outright very scratchy yarn. And the yarn that I am almost always attracted to and find easy to knit with is always soft yarn.

2. I don't like the color green very much, and I chose this color just because it matched my jacket.

Even then, when I couldn't get gauge, I hesistated about returning it. Because it made me feel stupid that I had chosen a nasty yarn for the project. But I realized that I really loved this hat, and it really deserved decent yarn. So I returned my unused skeins, and when I searched for another yarn, I was VERY strict with myself. I picked out something that was meltingly soft (Cashmerino Chunky) and in a soft, silky pink color that appealed to me, although I usually don't 'do' pink.

The moment I started knitting with this yarn, it was love. True love, and I knew it. THIS is how knitting should be.

Right now, I am facing what is less of a yarn decision than a knitting decision. Hemlock is kicking my (censored) seven ways to Sunday, and I'm on row 35. I realized I was using an uncorrected version of Hemlock, so I tinked back the entire row, and reknit it, using the corrected pattern. Still didn't work. I figured that since I did it late at night, I must have made a mistake. So I tinked back, reknit, and still it didn't come out correctly. Then, I tinked back once more, counted the stitches, and found out that 10 stitches were missing. I had blithely assumed that I had 136 stitches when I did not.


[As a slight aside, the knowledge that your older sister might be reading your knitting blog means that many creative ways of expressing frustration have been cut off. Long sigh.]

I also, blithely, did not put in any life lines, and frogging lace isn't exactly easy. I'd rather just frog the whole thing and reknit it. This would be my 5th or 6th time that I have had to frog this blanket. What I really 'want' to do is to frog it, and knit an Irish Hiking scarf from it, and just knit the blanket after I've done that. Which is entirely possible since two skeins of Eco add up to 956 yards. 600 for the blanket and 350 for the scarf would leave me with an enormous six yards left. And it would make a very handsome scarf, as it will a blanket, because the color is just so perfect. I love it.

However, I am a stubborn person. Casting on for Irish would probably mean that Hemlock would end up not being knitted. Because that's just me. And, although I'm usually not so persistent, I hate giving up on my knitting projects. I don't mean abandoning them because I'm bored, I hate giving them up because I couldn't figure them out. But...I need a neutral colored scarf...and...and it would be way easier...and, and, you wouldn't have to worry about buying those expensive circular needles when it gets too big for double-points, and it would be a much more portable project, and, and...

Updates later.