Monthly Archives: November 2012

So fast, so warm

Guys, I don’t want to go so far as to say that this chunky yarn is knitting itself, but, well. This afternoon I sat down to knit up a wee tiny kid size mitten for my mittens class this weekend (so we can all get at least one mitten finished during class time), and I think it took me less than an hour. I’m pretty sure that even included the weaving in a couple of ends and pouring myself a cup of tea. Hot damn.

Nov22-WeeMitten

[The little mitten above is in Sweet Georgia chunky, 'snapdragon' colourway]

Then I picked up the second chunky cabley hat I started last night (to double-check that the notes I wrote up for the purple one I did last weekend still work…and they seem to, which is a bonus for the folks who are currently testing this out for me), and I’m about three decrease rounds away from finishing that. And about one glass of wine away from starting a pair of matching mittens. (I’ve decided it needs mittens). I went and did the mental math on the hat and even with a bit of fiddling with cables, and the time it took me to rip out and re-knit the ribbed brim because I’d cast on the wrong number of stitches, I’m still coming in less than four hours on that one.

And you know, I’m not saying I don’t love the sport weight and worsted weight projects I’ve also got on the needles right now that are each more than halfway done…

Nov22-GreenCables

Wait, I lost my train of thought. I was thinking about warm matching mittens.

If you need me I’ll be with my yarn. Catch you next time!

(P.S. The yarn is all still Sweet Georgia superwash chunky, in case you’re curious. It’s basically awesome.)

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The weekend in knitting

This past weekend, I:

1. Did not let the bulky cabled hat idea get the better of me, and got pleasant results on attempt #4. It turned out to be not at all what I was planning when I started with attempt #1, but sort of morphed its way there, as knitting sometimes does. (I’m writing it up. Also, that Sweet Georgia chunky holds up well to ripping-out and re-knitting, I’m here to report.)

Nov19-Hat

2. Visited the Purple Purl for their 5th anniversary festivities on Saturday. May all such fabulous yarn shops thrive for 5 years and well beyond! Happy birthday, Purple Purl.

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3. Learned that the “icing sandwich” is a completely valid method of eating a cupcake, especially if they are mini ones.

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4. Taught some fabulous and friendly knitters at Ewe Knit, the newest yarn shop in the Toronto knitting community. They are well stocked and, if the classes I have taught there are anything to go by, have quite a few enthusiastic (nay, fearless) knitters already.

Nov19-EweKnitClass

5. Started some chunky mitts for a class sample at the Purl, and hot damn if these don’t go by fast. I think the cuff took me half an hour. Every winter I ask myself why I don’t knit more with chunky yarn, and every time I fail to come up with a solid answer. This stuff is warm and fast!

Nov19-ChunkyMitts

It was a busy weekend and I’m looking forward to some cozy knitting time this evening.

Happy knitting this Monday! May you have a fun project and a refreshing beverage waiting for you at home.

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The week in knitting

So, somewhere in there I blinked and the week passed by. I know that I was doing things in there, for sure, but now it’s Friday and somehow it seems like I should have more to show for it, knitwise. But I’ve made progress on a few things, stitches are accumulating, ideas are swirling around, and happily enough, this turned out to be the week that one of my summer projects went live. I’m delighted to say that the Winter 2012 issue of Twist Collective has arrived, and I’m in it! Allow me to present Burrard, a cabled cardigan just right for cozy winter wear. (Photos by Carrie Bostick Hoge for Twist Collective)

The cardigan uses Green Mountain Spinnery New Mexico Organic, which is a DK/light worsted wool and was absolutely a treat to work with. This sweater is just right for something a little bit wooly to let those structured cables stand out. I’m pretty sure I will be casting on one for myself before the season is over, because, well, I want one too. I hope you’ll enjoy perusing the entire Winter issue, though, because the entire selection is really fabulous.

In other news, my current sweater in progress is making its way, and just lacks about a sleeve and a half and some finishing. It’s in my favourite go-to yarn, Cascade 220 Heathers, and I’m enjoying how it’s turning out. (This is, incidentally, the long-awaited sister sweater to Royale, and will be a cardigan – with a few tricks up its sleeve, which I’ll be sure to tell you all about later when it’s done!) Just need that final push to get ‘er done.

Nov16-Duchess

Also in this week in knitting, I’ve been trying to come up with a chunky cabled hat pattern, because of this gorgeous Sweet Georgia chunky merino I’ve had sitting in front of me, and dangit if it’s not the simplest things that can trip you up. What you see here is attempt #3, but you won’t see it for long, because it’s about to get ripped out. The knitting brain wants what it wants, apparently, and I think attempt #4 might be the final one – might. (Further bulletins as events occur, film at 11, etc.)

Nov16-Hat

There has also been some stockinette knitting, some sidelong glances at the ribbed sock in progress that’s been in my handbag for about two months now, a lot of yarn stash pondering, and an invigorating exchange with Fiona yesterday about knitting her Bonnie sweater since I’ve had the pattern and wool sitting idly by, ready, for about two years now. (Except I’ll probably throw in some waist shaping, add a bit of length if my yarn quantities allow, maybe cardiganize it, you know. The usual.) Hey, it’s coming on winter and a knitter’s hope springs eternal, what can I say?

This weekend I look forward to more knitting, and paying a visit to the Purple Purl in Toronto, where they are celebrating five years of business. Hurrah for local yarn shop birthdays!

Have a great weekend knitter friends, I hope you get some good knitting time in.

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Wool is always the right answer

I’ve spent the past week doing a bit of a creative re-set. It turns out sometimes your brain can’t just turn over from one set of finished projects to a new set with lightning rapidity, so by the middle of last week I eventually gave myself permission to just knit whatever I felt like knitting and then sort it out later. Which worked out pretty well, as did a weekend of teaching, because now I am back to wanting to knit All The Things. Colour-work things in particular, since I taught a lot of colour-work this weekend. That portion is under development now, as I work through a few charts and knitting plans (some for me, some for later designs), and I’ve got other fun things to work on too.

Nov6-SweetGeorgia

This weekend I snagged a few skeins of chunky merino wool from Sweet Georgia Yarns, at the Purple Purl – the brights are too fun to pass up and those will be turned into some shop samples in the form of chunky mittens, and the purple, well, I think that’s going to be a hat and maybe some fingerless mitts for me.

Nov6-DuchessCardi

I’m also making good progress on a new sweater in Cascade 220 that I cast on post-Rhinebeck. It’s something new with my pet favourite of twisted-stitch Bavarian style cables, that I’ve been wanting to do for a while – no more waiting, I decided! It’s cold out and I want more sweaters, and a fun new design in the process.

In conclusion, knitting is great. High knitting season is nigh, and me and my stash are prepared.

What have you cast on this week, fellow knitters? I hope you’ve got some fun yarn to play with this week!

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What a pill

I’ve been taking another round of photography classes this term, which has been pretty good for the learning. Since both classes are mostly lecture style and photography takes place on our own time (a fact which is rapidly becoming clear to me, since I still have quite a few assignment photos to take in the next month), it means I’ve gotten in a bit of knitting time during class. By now everyone knows that I’m The Knitter, and one woman who sits behind me was chatting with me one evening before class started. It turns out she also knits a bit, and she asked me more about the knitting – specifically, “how do I stop things from pilling?” And then she pulled out a pair of soft alpaca fingerless mitts that had pilled all to heck. Many of you are probably nodding your heads and already know exactly why those mitts were pilled up, but if you’re curious to know more about this, I thought I’d do a bit of a post about it.

Nov1-Pilling-Socks1

Pilling is an unfortunate side effect of most knitted or woven garments. If you go to your closet (or take a close look at your rugs) and look at any of your commercial or handknit sweaters, you’ll probably notice some amount of pilling on most of them. Probably you’ll notice some similarities amongst the locations of the pilling, or the kind of garments/fibers/yarns that seem to attract it the most.

Pilling is what happens when the fibers in your yarn encounter friction, when in the knitted state, and then start to come apart into little bits of fuzz. The amount or rate of pilling depends on what you have done to encourage or discourage this from happening. For knitted garments this is most likely a factor of: the amount of friction, the type or ply of yarn, and the kind of garment or how it is worn/used. We encounter a lot of friction with knitted garments because they are worn on our bodies, which move a lot, and also because knitted fabric is designed to stretch and move with us – more so than woven fabric, for example.

Most garments will generate pilling very quickly in specific areas simply due to how they are worn. Take socks, for example. In the above photograph I’ve got two different socks knitted in the same yarn (Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, a plied superwash merino wool yarn). My Phellogen socks (in sequoia orange) are on the left, and my Revival socks (in composition book grey) are on the right. I knitted the Phellogens just over 1 year ago, and the Revivals about two and a half years ago. Just looking at the top of the feet there isn’t actually much noticeable damage other than a bit of colour-fading, and that’s as it should be – most of my shoes are slip-ons that leave the top of the foot visible, so there isn’t a lot of abrasion to be expected across the arches. On the other hand, if I were wearing these a lot with Mary Jane style shoes with a strap across the top of the foot, I would be likely to see some fuzz there in a nice neat line.

Nov1-Pilling-Socks2

The heels, of course, are a different story. The grey Revivals have 2.5 years of wear to show for them, and it’s visible along the heel flap. Every time you slip your foot in and out of a shoe, the heel rubs against the back of the shoe and generates friction – ta-da! Pilling like nobody’s business. The orange Phellogens on the other hand have only 1 year of wear (and are competing with more socks in the sock drawer for wearing time to boot, being 1.5 years behind the Revivals), and so have had less opportunity to generate pilling.

The best recourse against this – or rather, to delay it further, since it’ll happen no matter what – is to knit socks more tightly, to prevent friction between stitches, to knit socks with nylon spun into the yarn (not so coincidentally, many “sock yarns” are so named because they have a small amount of nylon content in them), or to use reinforcement thread at the heels and toes where abrasion is most prominent. Or, knit dozens and dozens of pairs of socks so each pair won’t wear down as quickly. (Personally this is my preferred option, and why I always have a pair of socks for myself on the needles).

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Sometimes pilling isn’t a matter of wear so much as the yarn itself. Generally, the softer the yarn feels, the more likely it is to pill. Soft yarn which has been plied very loosely or not plied at all (“single spun” yarns) is a big culprit here. It’s a big tradeoff because yarns that are soft are sooooo comfortable to wear, which is why we keep buying them. Either you can have yarn that doesn’t pill as fast, or you can have yarn that feels like purring kittens – but I have yet to encounter a yarn that does both.

My pink Hourglass Sweater knitted in Malabrigo worsted is the best example I have of this. Malabrigo worsted is a fabulously soft single-spun merino wool. It’s super comfortable, warm, and cozy, but this is now an indoorsy-at-home sweater on account of the pilling. This yarn is soft and snuggly, but once knitted it will start to pill all over, just on account of the yarn that’s going into the fabric.

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Probably the least pilled part of the sweater is the front neck, because it’s the part of the sweater with no draping, was knitted last, and never gets bumped against counter-tops, purses, desks, or coat sleeves – in other words, has had the least done do it. Still, washing has to happen eventually, and even hand-washing with wool wash (as is best with most hand knits) will help it to encounter some friction.

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Nov1-Pilling-Gloves

One specific place you’re likely to encounter pilling are on the mitts you wear the most during the winter – the palms of your hands take a lot of wear, holding bags, gripping bike handle-bars, opening and closing doors, getting beverages spilled on them from carrying your travel mug around, and so on. My Chilly Podsters above are a good example of this, only a year old and they’re nice and fuzzed up on the palms.

The dark brown worsted-weight gloves below are a couple of years older than my Podsters and both are knitted in Ultra Alpaca which is pretty balanced between sturdiness and soft-ness. They have also seen some wear but you know, that plied wool/alpaca really does behave well. Those brown gloves have survived being lost out of my pockets and run over by cars in an intersection (later safely retrieved and washed), and are still doing okay. Even with the pilling, knitting still wins the points here, is all I’m saying ;)

Nov1-PillingGwendolyn1

The other usual suspect for pilling locations is the under-arm of sweaters, again because that’s where a lot of abrasion takes place. We are constantly moving our arms up and down throughout the day (that is, unless you should happen to not have use of your arms), so it’s no wonder that this is the first place you’ll start to see pilling on sweaters. My Gwendolyn cardigan finished late last winter hasn’t had very much wear yet but I can see the very early signs of pilling there under the sleeve. After the under-arm, for similar reasons the inside of the sleeve and near the side seam are next to follow with repeated wear.

There’s no foolproof way to prevent pilling completely, but you can make choices with less pilling in mind if it is a concern for you. For starters, working with plied yarn will reduce the pilling because more plies add more stability to the yarn, and the more stable the yarn the less likely it is to succumb to abrasion. The finer and softer the fiber (ultra-fine merino, for example), the more likely it is to have problems holding up.

Nov1-Pilling-Venezia

You can also help by putting more action into the knitting – snug tension produces stiffer fabric, but also sturdier fabric. This also applies to techniques that add more tension to the garment – cables and colour-work, for example. I pulled out my rendition of the Venezia pullover, (in Knit Picks Palette) which is a few years old now, and was pleased to discover that yes, in fact, it has held up pretty well. Granted, it isn’t worn as often as some of my other sweaters, which would certainly have an effect here, but stranded colour-work fabric has more going on than regular fabric – usually more snug tension, for one, thanks to the two-stranded process, but also the fact that those strands add up to a layer of floats behind the work. The floats end up taking some of the abrasion along with the outer fabric and it balances out a bit.

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Essentially, the only un-pilled garments out there are ones knitted in plied wool and then never worn. But the upside of this is that if your knitwear degrades a bit from pilling, then hey, I guess that means you should knit more things and get some more things to wear? And that is never a bad plan. The more pairs of socks you have in your sock drawer, the less time each one spends in rotation and therefore less wear and tear. But if you’ve got a “favourite” sweater, pair of socks, or mitts that you wear more than anything else…well, it’s only a matter of time. In that case, pilling is a sign that the knitwear is doing its job – being worn – and there’s no way any of us can look down on that. Grab your sweater stone or old dull razor and pick off the pilled bits of fuzz and keep on  enjoying the coziness.

Have a great Thursday evening! With some fabulous knitting in it, I hope.

(More for your reading pleasure on the subject:)
Is this yarn going to pill? – Knitting Daily article
Removing pilling from hand knit sweaters – Ehow article

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