This and That

I dyed the yarn as planned on Tuesday and I have to say I’m quite pleased with the colors.

Unfortunately, I managed to strain my back again in the process.  Different part of the back than the previous strain and I know exactly when it happened.  I was fishing the blue-green yarn out of the dyepot and it came up in one big clump.  Instead of dropping it back in and poking around until I found the 3 separate skeins I just lifted the whole mass up to let it drain.  This meant I was holding several pounds of weight as high as I could reach while leaning forward a little.  Very bad idea.  Fortunately, it’s not a very bad strain and it already feels better.  But it does mean knitting is off the schedule until late next week.

It’s annoying to lose all that knitting time but honestly, I probably wasn’t going to knit much early next week anyway.  My husband and I share a birthday, which falls on Tuesday.  He took Monday – Wednesday off from work.  We’ve not yet made plans but history tells me I likely wouldn’t have a lot of knitting time while he’s home.

I’ve been filling my time going through old (mostly Victorian) knitting books on pdf.  I’ve transcribed/translated some d’oyleys (doily) and counterpane squares as well as a few stitch patterns.  I did a whole set of stitch patterns that had no pics.  I’ve no idea what they will look like but they’re all pretty simple.  It’s amazing how many of these old books have no pics at all.  You just knit and hope it comes out ok.  Even large items, like sweaters, petticoats, waistcoats don’t have pics.  That’s an awful lot of knitting to do on trust and hope.

Of course, photography was still pretty rare at that time and I imagine drawing knitting was a specialized skill, plus it probably added cost to print either one in the books.  It’s just interesting to me that back then people thought nothing of knitting from a pattern without a picture of any kind and these days, if there’s no picture or a bad one, no one wants to knit the pattern, no matter how amazing the pattern may be.  Even the colors of the yarn in the picture can affect someone’s willingness to knit a pattern in today’s world.

I use the word pattern a bit loosely in some of these cases.  Today’s patterns are detailed and exact.  Clothing patterns are graded to allow you to make the size you want.  Those old pattern leave a lot up for interpretation and usually are just one size.  It’s up to you to alter it to fit.  Keep in mind that there was no pic so you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like.  I’ve no idea how one would do it.

Still, for all the flaws and differences, it’s quite fascinating to see what people were knitting and a challenge to read the pattern and try to imagine what the item should look like.


French Quilt Shawl



The first octagon finished and blocked for my French Quilt shawl, adapted from a counterpane pattern in Weldon’s Practical Needlework.

This turned out much larger and used more yarn than anticipated.  I estimate that I can make 3 more in this yarn.  I had planned on 8.  But I now think 8 might be too big.  I think 2 more, for a total of 3 is better and I’ll have to find a new yarn to do 3 more in for a grand total of 6, laid out in a checkerboard.

I had debated doing half octagons and having the shawl be one and a half octagons wide but I don’t think that will look good.

Then I’ll have to find a third color for the in-between bits and the border and edging (or perhaps a fourth color for those.)

This is turning into a bigger project than I thought it would be.  Luckily, the octagons are fairly easy.  I’ve done 31 of 54 rows of the next one just today.  I’m up to 128 stitches per round and it’ll grow to 224 stitches per round so the rest will take a bit longer.

I’m still quite excited about this project despite the issues and despite my dislike of repeating my knitting.  Somehow these octagons don’t feel repetitive.  And there is the satisfaction of finished objects as each part is completed.


New Swatch and some misc


Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible pattern #43

So I did need an extra stitch.  But I only need it for one row so in the future I could borrow it from the edge stitches.  I wouldn’t need it at all if I was knitting in the round.


The first octagon in progress for my French Quilt shawl, adapted from a counterpane pattern in Weldon’s Practical Needlework.  By adapted, I mean not as big.  I’m estimating two rows and 4 columns of octagons, plus the little squares and triangles to fill in the gaps.  There is also a border and an edging.  An interesting though occurred to me while I was knitting this.  I could substitute any doily or round pattern, as long as I could block it into a octagon.  The gap filling bits could be anything I like as well.  I may play with this concept in the future.

I also went thrifting this past weekend.  I found 4 sweaters – 2 cobweb weight men’s merinos in green and brown plus 2 heavier weight sweaters.  I estimate sport to dk weight, both in lambswool.

Both are already unraveled and the black is washed.  I’m planning on dyeing the hot pink.  It’s not my color and is even brighter than it looks in the pic.  I’m thinking about some shade of purple or a toned down red/pink.  I want it to stay fairly light as I want to pair it with the black for a colorwork sweater.  Those vertical stripes on the black sweater were a pain.  Thankfully they were only on the front.  The good news is that they were intarsia and the yarn was not cut.  The bad news is that the yarns were twisted together at every color change on every row.  So I had to untwist them.  It took forever.

My Olympic spinning plans have gone right out the window.  I have spun a little but not nearly as much as I had planned.  I keep getting distracted.  But I am accomplishing things and I’m happy.  That’s all that really matters.

Another Swatch


Pattern 26 from Japanese stitch pattern bible.  This one was fairly easy.

The next one on my list has got me a bit confused before I even begin.  I’ve got it written out but I’m unsure how many stitches to cast on.  And it’s not until row 11 that I’ll find out if the number I choose is correct.  That’s the confusing row.  It looks like there’s an extra stitch to make the pattern come out right.

In other news, I found an awesome sweater this past weekend.  It’s got New Zealand Possum fur in it.  Possums there are an invasive pest and quite different than American possums.  I was very excited to find an “exotic” fiber and didn’t inspect the sweater at all.  Got it home to find that it’s steeked for the front zipper and completely ruined for unraveling.  But it’s an XL so I tried it on.  It fits!  So I washed it and today it’s dry so I’m wearing it.  It’s very warm and comfortable.  Well, mostly comfortable.  I’m not used to wool around my neck and it’s a bit bothersome. Not really itchy but the fiber brushing my neck is not a normal feeling and bothers me a little.  I’ll probably get used to it eventually.

When new, this sweater cost $175.  I paid $5.  Awesome deal.  I’m also quite pleased/amused with the Lord of the Rings themed brand name.

Reclaimed yarns

Last week I was in the mood to unravel and ply some of my sweater stash.  I did pretty well, finishing about half of the pile.  Now I’m left with the ones that are a bit delicate or complicated.


  1. 1480 yards of light fingering weight silk.
  2. 75 yards white, 665 yards blue of laceweight 50%wool, 35%nylon, 15% angora.
  3. 500 yards fingering weight merino
  4. All yarn in this pic are destined for the dye pot.  The big one was unraveled previously.  It is DK weight wool and didn’t need plying.  The yellow is silk, probably laceweight.  There’s some merino and a cashmere as well as a wool/cashmere. I have no ideas yet about what colors to dye these.

I’ve not been knitting much.  Just not in the mood.  I have started a Dwarrow inspired Christmas stocking.  I’m hoping to get the pattern released before Dec 1.  I’ve given up on finding test knitters.  Perhaps when/if I become more popular I’ll try again.  Sometime next week I’ll release the Hap Style Shawl pattern.

So why am I not in the mood to knit?  I’m not exactly sure.  It’s certainly knitting weather.  I have been working on fiber prep.  And there was Halloween decorating.  I have been in the mood to sew, although I’ve not actually sewn anything.  I’ve organized my fabric stash and ordered some patterns and printed out some free ones.  I’ve been struggling for years with the desire to change the way I dress but have been unable to really define my style.  It’s been what I like vs what is practical to wear.  I live in sweatpants, t-shirts and sweatshirts.  I like skirts and somewhat fancier things.  I’ve collected the fancier stuff but don’t wear it because it’s too much work to pick out an outfit or I’m afraid of getting it dirty or it’s just too fussy to wear for everyday.

I stumbled across something called Lagenlook and it’s pretty much exactly what I’ve been looking for. Loose, comfortable layers.  Pretty without being fussy and if I keep cotton as my top layer it’s easy to wash and with this style, if it gets stained I can just stick a decorative patch over it to hide it.  I can keep the fancier clothing for special occasions.  So I’m just waiting for some patterns to arrive and then I’ll be sewing for awhile.

I think that’s enough rambling for today.

A FO and reclaimed yarns


No WIPs but I did finish the last of the three Jacob Shawls.  From getting the fleece to finishing this shawl took me about 2 years.  All natural colors, no dye.  Simple garter stitch shawls.  This Jacob wool is a bit coarse. I wouldn’t wear it against my skin.  The yarn is rustic and uneven but the shawls are still quite pretty.  They’d look good as decor in a rustic country style.

That’s been mostly the only thing I’ve been knitting on for the last few weeks.  I’ve been plying a lot of yarn from sweaters and I thought I’d show that off.

I had two Merino sweaters in very similar shades of plum.  I plied 2 strands from each sweater together to make a 4 ply fingering weight.  I got about 1400 yards.  I paid less than $7 total for the sweaters.

I had some leftovers from one of the plum sweaters so I plied two strands together to make about 500 yards of laceweight.

The last one is 4 strands from a silk sweater plied to make 960 yards of light fingeringweight.  Silk is tricky to ply.  Unlike wool sweaters I plied directly from the sweater pieces.  Unraveling cobweb weight silk into cakes is just asking for massive tangles.  This sweater cost $0.49.


Last is a dyeing experiment.  I was actually trying to dye yarn that only had a small amount of wool – the rest was undyeable fibers.  It failed completely leaving me with a pot of dye.  So I grabbed this yarn.  It’s sportweight (not plied) from a 62% nylon 26% angora 11% lambswool sweater (nylon dyes just like it’s a protein fiber).  I dumped it into the pot dry and it was also too much yarn for the amount of dye/water/space in the pot.  It instantly turned a pale pink (the dye in the pot is supposed to be a deep raspberry.)  That just wasn’t acceptable so I spent the next few hours experimenting.

I mixed up dye in different shades of magenta and blue and started dumping it in the pot, directly onto the fiber, stirring it around to get different areas.  After awhile I was noticing bits that were still pale pink so I started pulling the skeins out of the pot, pouring dye directly on the light spots and then dumping the skeins back into the pot.  Then it seemed like the colors were too contrasty so I pulled the skeins out of the pot and added a lot of the deep raspberry color to the pot and dumped the skins back in.  I wanted to blend the colors together more and not have them contrast with each other so hard.

I ran out of time for the day and stopped for the day.  I wasn’t sure I was done yet but I knew I could always experiment more another day.  As the yarn dried I could see more and more colors appearing.  It’s a very layered look, with colors blending and spotting and just being wild.  I think I really like it and I may not dye it anymore.  Then again I might.  I need to look at it for awhile before I make a final decision.


Unraveling Commercial Sweaters (not a tutorial)

As I said last week, no WIPs this week.  It’s been a tough week of no knitting.  The good news is that my wrist/thumb feels much better.  The bad news is that my sanity is hanging on by a thread.  I did a little spinning and assorted non-fibery things to fill the time but I really missed knitting.  I am knitting again today, trying to ease back into it by taking lots of breaks.  In fact, I am writing this post in bits and pieces on those breaks from knitting.

So to fill the gap of not having any WIPs to show I thought I’d give a glimpse into how I unravel commercial made sweaters and ply the strands to make fatter yarn to knit.  I mostly find sweaters made with cobweb weight yarn and I prefer knitting with fingering weight or more.  These pics are for my dressing gown which is DK weight.  This is by no means a tutorial, just some pics I took while prepping more yarn for my dressing gown.

The first sweater I pulled out to unravel happened to be knit with alternating strands.  What I do with this kind of sweater (and you can’t tell if it’s single or alternating until you start unraveling) is unravel it by hand.  I pull out several rows and pile them up on my knee.  The I wind one onto my ball winder and pile the other into a bin like a long strand of spaghetti.  If you’re careful and don’t disturb the bin too much you can wind from the pile without tangles.  No matter how careful I am the yarn breaks occasionally.  I spit splice (using water from a spray bottle I keep handy).  Once I’ve unraveled the whole piece I splice the end of the pile in the bin onto the yarn on the winder and wind that onto the cake.  Then it’s ready for plying.


The next piece (from a different sweater) was single strand so I was just able to wind it straight onto the winder.  I just fold it in half, lengthwise, hold it down with one hand and wind with the other.  I don’t go too fast.  This one is cashmere and it tended to hang up at the edges a bit.  If I went too fast it would break and I’d have to splice it and that happened anyway on occasion.  Cashmere tends to be a bit on the fragile side and will break if you tug too hard.

Then I had to take a sweater apart before I could unravel it.  First I turn it inside out and remove the tags.  The the neck comes off.  I find the seam and pick and poke where it meets the sweater until I get something loose. Or I find the zipper stitch and cut a few of those until I make a hole between the collar and the main body of the sweater.  The zipper stitch shows as a series of sideways Vs.  If you clip through the Vs (and not the main stitches) and tug around on things, the collar loosens from the body.  Then you can tug and pull and find the loose strand of yarn and basically unzip the seam.  This also applies to the rest of the seams of the sweater.  There is another version that I call the locked zipper.  There is an additional stand of yarn in the zipper which basically locks the zipper and you can’t just pull a strand and unzip the seam.  The rest of the seams of this sweater were locked and I had to cut each stitch by hand with my seam ripper.  I’m fairly sure (I’ve not actually done this so I’m not positive) that the zipper stitch on the seams is very similar to the crocheting you do to stabilize the knitting before steeking.

So what I do for the dressing gown yarn is unravel a piece of a sweater (back, front, sleeves) and wind it into a cake.  The I take a cake from 8 different sweaters and ply those together on my spinning wheel.  I started with 4 grey and 4 black strands but now I’m at 6 grey and 2 black because I have more grey sweaters than black.  I can’t really tell the difference between the two once plied but I am holding the ones with only 2 black strands back to do the collar with, just in case there is a noticeable difference when knitted.  I’m hoping I have enough yarn ready to finish the body and sleeves but if not, this project will have to go on hold until I find more black sweaters.

Honestly, unraveling commercial sweater is trial and error and poking and picking until things come apart.  It’s hard to describe and there are several different ways things can be done.  First, avoid serged seams.  Usually the yarn is cut and you’ll end up with a million short strands of yarn.  If it’s not cut, serged seams are still very difficult to undo.  If the should seams are serged but the rest of the seams are not, that’s fine.  I just cut off the serged shoulder seam and you don’t lose a lot of yarn.  Take the neck off first, then open the side seams, starting at the wrists, going to the hip/waist.  Next take the sleeves off of the body.  Then the shoulder seams and then you have your pieces.

Next is getting the individual pieces unraveled.  Start at the top (the shoulder of the sleeves or the neck of the back/front).  There is usually a sort of zipper stitch along the top of the pieces that need to be undone or removed before the piece will unravel.  Then is just like frogging your knitting.  Just be careful at the edges and at the armpits (it’s most likely to be a bit felted and therefore more difficult to get apart in the armpits.)