Category Archives: recycling

Shetland blues

For the last decade or so, I’ve been buying damaged Shetland sweaters from thrift stores. They had to be misshapen and/or slightly felted and/or have holes – basically unwearable at least not without significant repair.

Most of them are from the late 1970s to early 1990s and in most cases, the colors happen to be ones I wouldn’t necessarily choose to wear or knit by themselves. But I finally amassed around a dozen (not pictured are some more blues, pinks, and greys) and originally I thought I’d knit a giant hap shawl/blanket, perhaps some colorwork accessories, and maybe a Spencer dress

And I bought one that was in quite good condition that I kept to wear as-is.

I love the slogan: “Wool, it’s got life.”

But then I used it in my failed MFA portfolio.

(That patch is easily removed, I just haven’t done it yet. And it’s probably not work-appropriate as it is. And my workplace is hostile and discriminatory towards sweaters – it’s been near 80F in there all winter and I’m reduced to t-shirts which is absolutely obscene in the wintertime and crushing my sweater-loving soul, but I digress…)

But this was the first project that I finally started to use my freshly harvested old Shetland sweater yarn.

The absolute best thing about this Shetland yarn is that it is all the same 2-ply weight (or close enough) brand to brand, decade to decade so it is all freaky great for anything – colorwork especially – so it’s not just another one-off for the scrappy stash. And I haven’t tested it yet, but it is probably the equivalent to, and/or would pair well with, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift yarn.

That patch above obviously used very little yarn, and I was left with quite a bit, yet not much of one individual color from this stripey sweater. (Stripey sweaters are also part of my thrift sweater collecting policy since they do make for great scrappy projects, but this one was happily the same good old Shetland yarn, only it is fairly recent – from the middle aughts most likely).

Recently my mom got new glasses and requested a new (small, more like a kerchief) scarf with blue in it. My stash only had some bulky blue earmarked for another project and some sock yarn with blues, but they seemed a little too crayon-cartoonish. I think buying something was out of the question at the time since I would have had to wait for it to arrive in the mail and/or I’d have been tempted to buy roving instead and spin something, but that would take too long… And I am stash-busting, but do make exceptions for gifts, but I don’t have a solid LYS nearby to pop into and know I could get something appropriate for a fair price (and without attitude).

So I hit the Shetland stash – enough with hanging on to the thoughts of big haps and whatnot – there is still plenty of yarn for that anyway. And I absolutely required a mindless pattern – something I could knit as quickly as I can (which isn’t that fast these days) with near zero risk of frogging and restarting. My mom liked the triangular shape of the Lacy Baktus I made for her a few years ago, and I like the the shape of a slightly asymmetric side-to-side triangle, and that is also the most forgiving for judging yarn amounts, or rather, you don’t need to worry about it at all, just stop when you’re out (the Batkus is my all-time favorite, but there will be a day I’m sure, that I will run out of yarn at the very tip).

And Clara Falk’s Tailwind shawl pretty much fit the bill. I liked that she used an icord edge to hide the yarn tails and wanted to try it out – I liked the icord edge on my Paris Toujours, but it was more of a shallow slip thing that smoothed the end rather than a tube that would successfully entomb loose ends.

And I also wanted to use up most of the blue stripey stuff, but I figured I wouldn’t have enough once the stripes grew long, so I added a purple, navy, and denim-y colored sweater to the mix. The only solid color, a cobalt blue, was from the collar, cuffs, and waistband of the stripey sweater, so I had a safe amount of that one.

I held the yarns doubled in order to get a better gradient and to plump up the weight. I used US9 needles, but probably could have gotten away with 10s – this stuff is so bloomy.

(The semi-felted sweaters can be a bit of a bitch to unravel, but the Shetland is fairly strong and can withstand some tugging, so even though the stripey sweater in particular was at least 3 sizes smaller than what it was originally, I had minimal breakage. Out of the dozen or so of these sweaters, I’ve only given up unraveling one of them, and will use it for mitten linings and such instead.)

I hemmed and hawed through the whole thing about the colors – I don’t like light blues, and I’m always a little ambivalent about knitting with colors that aren’t ones I love – but they had their purpose in making the grade.

But the gradient wasn’t always working for me – perhaps that knitting trend is out, or on the way out, or maybe still peaking? But now it’s done with gorgeous multi-toned, perhaps a little speckled yarn not in early ’80s colors that were meant to be worn with too-stiff, too-high waisted jeans and ivory corduroy pants. And maybe because it was too consistent? I think that is my issue – it’s too regimented: 10 rows of one, ten of another, 10 of another, 10, 10, 10, 10… It needed something to break up the monotony, a wave or another angle, or different stripe thicknesses…

But that isn’t for me to ponder anymore since it’s my mom’s now, and as a scarf/shawl it is spot-on: crazy warm, sheepy yet drapey, and able to be worn in several ways.

And uh, yeah, it’s not a small kercheif like thing that can be tucked under the coat…

Maybe next year, okay ma?

***

And the final verdict on the pattern is that it is a good one – the icord edge totally encased the ends (though perhaps I wouldn’t trust it as much with a non-sticky yarn). My only minor quibble is that edge isn’t quite as stretchy as I’d like, but keeping it loose when knitting helps – I think the pattern mentions to pull it tightly, but I would recommend the opposite. And then I did the icord bind off with US10.5 needles, and that was perfect – there’s about equal give on both ends. I blocked it slightly longer, but it didn’t really need to be shaped much, though the soak made the yarn bloom a little again and erase any final kinks from unraveling.

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Undoings…

Apparently, I’ve got a history of pulling out long-suffering undone projects this time of year.

This braided rug was one of my early publicly declared UFOs – I thought I’d started it earlier than I said then, but I remember the hours I spent cutting and braiding and sneezing in my old work room, and where it sat in various-sized balls and braids gathering dust in an old, but not interesting old, plastic milk crate.

Then I vaguely remember evaluating it a few years ago, deciding I wanted a black center and it had to have green, but I have no memory of cutting and braiding even more – likely more than I’d done the first time around. I guess I finally felt like I had enough snake braid then, and started to sew it (slowly and painfully I recall).

And I got it out once more when I finally scored a zigzag sewing machine, but the distance between the zig and the zag is too narrow, so my thoughts of finally finishing it on a machine went poof. (Though if I’d found another machine with a wider swath of zigging and zagging I’d be back in business.)

Now, we no longer have a need for another rug, though there are a few spaces where one would fit better than a large plastic shopping bag with a heavy round object that is far bigger than a sport ball, but smaller than one of those sitting balls, and the removal of said unwieldy bag of pre-rug would free up space for folded batting or a wine-case sized box.

So once more, I hauled it out, determined to finish it for good.

But I have no desire to continue to sew it together, and I don’t really like it.

But I’d wanted some more tarn to make containers or something, and the new bath could use a rug, or at least a new absorbent black bathmat… so I started to unbraid it…

And now it’s back in its shopping bag – unbraiding apparently takes me about 73% as much time as braiding it, and it’s still sneezy.

I’m thinking that it’s possible I just might have a lifetime supply of tomato ties instead…

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Randomly, near the end of another year

I’ve been trying to feed a few thoughts to bulk them up for a bit more substance – so I can chew on them for a bit, but all of the social and political static and noise has been throwing off my appetite.

The house has been up to its unpleasant hijinx again as well – the boiler finally shat the bed, and gave us a couple of cold weeks followed by a couple of long days with the plumber followed by a much thinner wallet. And then my docile old car got a whiff of the spirits and acted out unexpectedly, but at least not too extremely…

But the silver lining that really isn’t, is that I was already in the middle of another round of selling off shit online. I’m now unburdened of a few more pounds of old art supplies and bulky thrift sweaters that would have made lovely yarn once unraveled, but that were still in perfectly good wearable shape. And I feel better about that too – yes, I feel better about getting a few extra dollars when I need them, but I sometimes feel guilty about unraveling perfectly good sweaters and usually just try do it to ones that are already damaged or misshapen. I’ll miss a few of these – more accurately, I’ll miss the cardigans and bulky pullovers that they would have been re-knit into and became my favorites, but only existed in my brain and likely would have never come close to fruition – so I can’t really miss something that never was and would likely never be, right?

But I still have plenty in the rougue’s gallery of moth-eaten and slightly felted/fulled – all are of varying degrees of unpleasant to unravel, but all will be more truly “rescued” and recycled. I started a new gradient shawl out of a striped Shetland sweater and a few others in greys and purples (it’s not really yellowy-beige as seen above) and it’s a fun little sheepy finger journey right now.

(Other things on the needles have been on them for a bit and have already shown themselves here.)

A good amount of mending has been going on in these parts too – old wool socks that refuse to give up the ghost, outdoor wear that seeks out every thorn, and our beloved wool underthings that wear like iron until they pop an inexplicable hole.

And disappointingly, one of my top wool underthings companies is going under itself. Most of my most worn t-shirts are wool – the non-sport cuts are nice enough to wear where I work and then they can do double-duty under sweaters in the winter or on the trail – I could get by with a minimalist wardrobe with them if I was in to that kind of thing (but when traveling I do). And I pretty much need a layer of sheep’s clothing over most of my body surface once it drops below 75F. And the clothes were largely made in the USA, and pretty much the only things I bought (or received) new (on sale) once a year or so. I really like another company’s wool shirts that are 100% USA wool and manufactured, but their selection is more limited and I’ve sadly had two shrink to crop tops. I am too long-trunked for crop tops.

So ’tis the season for being a little more bummed out (and broke) than usual, but at least the solstice is soon and the ho ho hoing bullshit will go away soon too…

 

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Starting fresh (small and easy edition)

I love my most recently finished neck thing – one of those things that feel like I’ve already had and loved for longer than I have – and it’s even gotten some legitimate wear with the sudden onset of autumn-like temps around here. Both this and the last started as easy, go everywhere projects, but as they grew, I had to toss a not-very-exciting washcloth knit in my bag for easier transport. So instead of working on a few larger long-suffering works-in-progress, I’ve spent the last week or so casting on a new portable project that should stay small and portable to the end.

Socks have always filled this need for me, and that’s what I started with, but they weren’t quite scratching the itch. The yarn and my vanilla pattern are both tried and true, but I liked the colorway of this yarn better when I saw it online – I love the mustardy bit, but not the red and blue that should have been a little more burgundy and aqua – and what I thought was more charcoal, is brown – so they’re yet another pair that look fine with my casual earthy-toned clothes but don’t really work for my work clothes (that are still relatively casual but made up of more blacks, greys, and greens).

So I don’t hate them, I’m just less than enthused, and my preferred sock knitting method can get a little bulky and very pokey once I’m on to both cuffs at the same time, so it isn’t an ideal portable project – better for knitting somewhere once I’m there, rather than during the getting there part.

Next up was frogging a Hap for Harriet I’d started 3? years ago. I still like the pattern, I just didn’t like the fact that I’d have to pay attention to yardage or weight around the halfway point – I prefer to do that when I have more than one ball/skein of yarn – so there’s a good chance I’ll make it, but not with this yarn.

I actually have a small need for warmer weather neck things – times like now when it feels a little off to wear something less than lightweight and drapey, but more coziness is needed than a woven cotton thing can provide. So I started a 2-row rectangular mesh scarf (I’ve more to say about rectangular scarves, but perhaps not now) and it’s already driving me a bit mad, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I need. – BUT – I’m again fearful of the yardage and thinking I should re-start it with 9 or so fewer stitches, but it’s a little fiddly and slippery and I hate the first few rows of anything and this meager inch is already about 3 knitting sessions…

So to take the stress down yet another notch, I cast on a cashmere tube.

It had been a tank top.

Then it wasn’t.

And yes, once again I’m a tiny bit ambivalent about it. It is utterly unfussy, unpokey, and easy (knit a tube until it’s a good loop/cowl length, unpick the provisional cast-on and graft together, done) but decisions need to be made about stripe sequence or not, other colors or not, and inside-out or right-side out or not. I’m thinking I’ll just do a one-row stripe, but then would it look too machine-made? Like something from the bulls-eye store? And varying stripes would look sporty in a way that I am not? Do I even care since it will be a soft cozy thing?

Maybe I need to keep casting-on…

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Path of totality

I can’t stop repeating that in my head – it sounds like a threat, an end game, a complete takeover – but also a great summation and completion of fragmented parts – it is frightening and reassuring. And I know it’s just the term for the visible swath of an eclipse. But it’s a shitstorm out there and it has been for some time, and we keep breeding and uneducating shitcloud seeders, and there will always be a changeable swath of stupidity and a great joining together to make that path more narrow or wide.

I started this knit this time a year ago – we were on a vacation made stressful by either my still jobless status or anxiety over starting a new one, recently taking on a reactive dog, my foot-dragging acceptance of a body that now hurts more often than not, and the election that seemed far off and the candidate who got inaugurated seemed enough of a joke that even the most dense should get, but I still felt uneasy and dubious it would work out in the end. I grew up in a town with a population of more ignorant folks than not. Folks who hid behind religion and “tradition” and practiced tokenism to prove that they weren’t “bad” people, but folks who also tolerated klansmen as neighbors. None of my family lives in that town anymore and few live in the state – we did what we could when we were there, but the path of totality of intolerance was too scorched and wide.

I’m erroneously remembering that this pattern, Isabell Kramer’s Paris Toujours, was designed in response, or as a memorial to (one of) the Paris attacks. But it looks like it was commemorating a happy weekend (maybe there was a knit-along with this after the attack instead?) Either way, I knit it because it was easy and side to side – just the way I like to make and wear scarf/shawls – I’d clearly confused the designer’s intent and blurred yet another violent act of many so I can’t say I knit this as a statement against ignorance. But this kind of knitting feels like my own little path of totality to keep my fingers calmly and constructively moving through another year of shit, coming out at the other end with something soft and warm – and I won’t say safe, since there are no “safe places,” and let’s face it, a scarf could be quite deadly as a garrote, or a gag, or bindings in the middle of nowhere without access to food and drink (though it would make it at least a cozy slow death).

I was a little surprised that I finished it by my secret deadline, and by the end of the summer. I’d started it in the mountains and planned to work on it in another set of mountains later this year, but I’ll likely be wearing it there instead – it’s already my new favorite even in the muggy dog days.

The yarn was from a thrifted JCrew cardigan, slightly felted, in a wool, cashmere, viscose, and rabbit (I’m assuming angora) blend – and it is mad soft and not at all sneezy, with great drape and enough definition.

I would have liked it to be a bit larger – I was hoping that the last band of garter would be twice as wide as the one before it, and I lost yarn chicken twice at the end and had to unknit a couple of times, but it is large enough.

A couple of heads up about the pattern that are obvious for those in the know, but need to be stated for those who aren’t (me), especially if you deviate from the stripe sequence like I did. The stitch counts will be off unless each section is done in even numbers of the pattern repeat, so after the set up, if you want to keep doing lace, then start with row 3 of the lace pattern. I was often off with this, randomly ending up with 2 (as per pattern) or 3 stitches at the end. It didn’t really matter to me since fudge is good to do and to eat, but I kinda preferred ending in 3 stitches – if I did it again, I’d keep up with the 3 (or more) stitches at the end of the lace since a tiny bit more of garter makes the edge a little more stable. And then I can’t really describe this but the first row of garter after the lace makes a row of stockinette, so the lace sections aren’t symmetrical – again, it didn’t bother me enough to figure out how to fix it (a row of purl somehow?) but I think it could make some itchy.

This (or rather another loose variation thereof) will likely be on my needles again. And I’ve got my eye out for another one of these sweaters – wondering if it came in other colors – not that I don’t love this olive though, it’s among of my favorites. And this finishing up older projects thing has been working for me these days although everything that is left is vastly more complicated – but my path of unfinished totality is pleasantly closing in…

 

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Dyeing for a new bathtub

The days of our shitty acrylic almond bathtub are limited.

And I remembered just in time that I had a pound or so of dye to yellowize an old rag rug.

Last Saturday N was out, all current and terrible big house projects were waiting for the plumber first, the dog was deep snoozing, and it wasn’t raining.

I could tell a story about the rug, but it probably wouldn’t be very interesting. But the short version is I got it in 1996 after moving to my former city and setting up an apartment with a few new things from Ikea when all I had before was used – some good used, some pathetic – and it was my first adult-looking space (I later regressed). The rug was originally very peach – in the store it was pale orange, and in my sunny apartment, it was very peach. It was too close to the ’80s and I didn’t want a peach rug, but the room was warmed up for it and I wasn’t going to return it – and – it quickly began to fade.

It was in another apartment, then a house, then in storage, and back to a house – since the first house, it was in my workrooms or places where dripping things on it didn’t really matter. I had been eyeing it for the basement lounge area, but we managed to find a few others new and used and besides, by then it had faded to beige or beige-ish and I had it folded up for a dog bed, but then the dog got furniture privileges and didn’t need it.

It has been washed many times in the big machines at the laundromat, and was still mostly clean, but it still bled a tinge of peach when I tossed it in the tub. (When wet, it was a nice color again…) I thought I had iDye for cotton in a mustardy/saffrony/ochre color, but I think it’s “sun yellow” – not a lemon, but not an ochre.

I didn’t measure the dye, just dumped 3/4 of it in, and I didn’t measure the salt, but it definitely wasn’t enough – maybe just a bit more than a cup, and the water was far from simmering, just tap hot which is almost tolerable to the skin.

It looked like a very terrible chemical spill.

And I muscled it around once in awhile and left it in for a few hours.

I liked the school bus yellow-orange of the water, but knew that could be a bit deceiving.

Then a sloppy cold wash with a little detergent, and likely not enough of a rinse, but that shit was heavy – the water was running a pale lemon though, so it was mostly washed out.

And lugged it out to hang dry off of the high stoop stairs (it’s going to take days to dry).

It turned out both darker and brighter (more intense) than I expected, and it likely could bleed more, but it will most likely end up on the basement laundry floor so that doesn’t matter (but what might matter is that it’s probably too big – 5′ x 7′ in more of a 4′ x 6′ space…)

And since it’s in the basement, it doesn’t really matter that it is a revived yellow instead of just faded beige/peach, but whatever, it will turn any area sunshiney.

(And the tub was actually a bit cleaner in the end, not yellow, but I wouldn’t risk my luck with dyeing in the new bright white tub…)

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Scrap heap to scraptastic

I finished up that scrappy scarf.

A couple of weeks later than I’d liked, but just in time for a late winter blast.

And my mom just got some new burgundy coordinating eyeglasses.

The scrap pile does not appear any lighter, though I used up all of the green, and chose not to use some reds and greys I’d originally picked for it.

I held a strand of thin mohair with almost all of the yarns which really helped to soften a few of the rough ones and add a bit of cohesiveness.

(I also trimmed the fun out of the fun fur…)

(And I really dislike adding fringe – it always seems to take longer than it should.)

I’m tempted to start another right away…

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