Tag Archives: gradient

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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Flaming balls of molten lava, ketchup, mustard, blood, candy corn, nasturtiums, atomic fire filled traffic cone roadkill smeared on asphalt in Mordor at sunset superhero sontag

I can’t say I’ve fallen in love with my latest (or any) handknit until it has proven itself wearable with a normal wrapping and unwrapping, pulling tighter or looser, not dipping itself into toilet waters, not catching in turnstiles, and fitting in or out of a coat test drive, but the current heatwave is preventing anything beyond kicking the tires.

I’m still ambivalent and slightly indifferent about it for several reasons, but it was a wild success in others, but first, a recap –

I bought the roving last September – I was (am I still?) on a kick to buy colors outside of my comfort zone – and by that I mostly mean colors that I don’t typically wear because they make me look like shit, but I don’t care how I look to a degree, so I can like and wear whatever color I want to dammit, but I do happen to prefer earthier tones in general…

And it also reminded me of nasturtiums which I love (and I ran out of room to plant this year…).

I got two braids (8oz total) from Fuzzy Frog Fibers because they are very affordable, she does fun and interesting colors, and I like the Dorset wool – springy and strong soft and 4oz doesn’t cut it for me for anything other than a hat, and yes, I can combine them with other things but I’ve already got several combo spins waiting in the wings (including another braid of the same only in my comfort colors from the year before).

I started spinning it a month or so later – I waffled a minute about how to, but I’ve been struggling with making a not-too-overspun single and figured I needed more practice. The Dorset is very forgiving on that front too – didn’t break in the skinny sections and not too sticky to pull out a bit more at the last minute on a big clump.

I also waffled a minute on leaving it as is and spinning each braid separately to have double the stripes/color changes, or combining both for one big gradient – not necessary a skill to practice, but something I hadn’t done before – so I went with that. And the spinning was done by the end of the year.

I sat on it for a bit, thinking about what to make of it – it was going to be a neck thing or a body thing or a poncho-y thing… I felt it needed to be an empowering sort of thing to power through the terrible election and dark days, and almost made this sweater with the molten yarn on the back flappy cape thing, but my gauge was off, the thick and thin yarn isn’t hard enough wearing for clothes, and I haven’t finished something that needs to fit in years, and I wanted to finish it by year’s end.

So easy garter was the answer – and a top-down triangle shawl – a shape which I’m also ambivalent about but thought it was because I hadn’t made one big enough yet. And I cast-on for basically this shawl (I used size 7 needles and about 1.000 yards instead) just before a week’s vacation when rain was predicted – and my gauge was okay and the stitches felt good.

I fell for the few yards of pinky muddled grey and made note to try to recreate this with another spin and/or I’m pretty sure I unraveled a sweater with similar colors.

I knit more in that week than I likely had since the start of the year, or maybe before – no gardening, home improvement, office work, or major cleaning meant my wrist wasn’t in pain and could go for an hour or more knitting sessions.

And then I finished up at home – at a slower pace – and it was a good beach knitting project too – the wool wasn’t too sticky for sweaty seawater sunblock hands.

After washing and light blocking it still smells a bit of the beach (except the rotting sea-things) and didn’t change – I rarely wash garter things right off the needles, but this is headed for plastic summer storage so I wanted it to be as clean as possible.

So in the end I was able to tick a few boxes off: I acquired, spun, knit, and completed something within a year – something I want to become habit – less so on the acquisition end, but I’m almost always able to go to the state fiber fest and want to support the local and local-ish folks, even if it’s only $30 worth of fiber spread out over 3 booths; I finally made a decent (still needs work, but I didn’t have to run it through an unspin cycle at least) single; I figured out my current knitting speed is very roughly only around 700 yards a month; and I made a top-down triangle about twice as large as my last one.

And the jury is still out on the triangle until I can wear it a bit – I’m leaning towards it’s just not my thing (side to side triangles totally are) – but I’m always futzing with the less stretchy edge – tuck in under? fold it out? let it gape? and want more tail and less triangle – maybe this needed to be even bigger, or maybe I should have increased the tails more and the triangle less – I also could have eeked out 2 more rows of yarn, but didn’t want the stress, but there’s probably enough for a picot or other edging, but I don’t really like edging, unless it’s i-cord…?

I can wear it crossed in the front and tied in the back but I feel like I’m smuggling my own boobs, so I’ll most likely do the kerchief thing, or a half drape thing pinned somehow, or the traditional shawl across the shoulders thing…

Or the roll it up and pretend it’s a scarf thing.

We’ll see a few chillier months from now, and maybe N might be game to wear it instead?

But I am definitely in love with the mostly black top portion, and would like to spin and knit a mostly black thing soon, and locate the dirty pinky-grey yarn I think I have… But I have to finish or frog other things first.

 

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