Tag Archives: sweater

Oh camel, my camel…

I went to Morocco* in early 2001.

I froze my ass off, so I bought a huge sweater from a man who was knitting them on the street.

Camel-front

  He said it was made of camel hair, but it was also dirt, vegetable matter, shit, and even a dead tick.  And it had a strong pissy odor.

But it was warm.

I washed it well when I got home.

But then it was thoroughly and viciously attacked by moths in the great wool annihilation of 2002.  Obviously I had not washed it enough, for the little wriggly f*ckers ate it up like it was smothered in delicious shitsauce.

I washed it well again, and again, and sealed it up and froze it for months.

A year later, in 2003, while spending time in New Mexico, I found some Navajo Churro bulky yarn scraps that somewhat matched the colors.  Some of my fixes and mends were good and blended well, some not at all, as seen in the right half below.

Camel-back

I wore it around the house for a few years, but not often because it was a bit sheddy, and I’d still get poked and annoyed by residual vegetable matter.

When I moved a few years later, I was still dubious of its trustworthiness and I feared that it could still have moth eggs – I didn’t have any evidence of them, but instead I felt a ghost of an ominous presence.  Not wanting to potentially infest our new place, even with phantasmic creatures, I triple-bagged it, froze it again, and didn’t bother to deal with it for a few years.

However, after a month  living with a not-quite-working-right furnace, and wanting its warmth, I just dug it out during the Polar Vortex to wash it once thrice more and assess its condition.

Camel-detail

I still can’t get over the beautiful greys and browns.

But good god, it was still a dirty beast and a few more holes and seams opened up from the wash – but it also softened quite a bit.  I’ve got some tri-color Jacob fleece that I could spin to make a convincing mending yarn, but I may just keep up with my more motley repairs and call it full of character.

(And please let that be all that it’s full of.)

*An awesome trip, and I was quite lucky to get there before all hell broke loose here months later.  I’d share pics, but those were my pre-digital (better) days.  I went with my mother who was approached by a man with an offer to trade me for a camel.  I think she had to think about it for a minute – the camel was quite lovely and had blue eyes.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under knitting, travel

Swirt, skeater, or skiter?

I love Stephen West’s Swants.

I love wool, I love stretchy pants, I love recycling, I love projects with quick gratification.

However, even though I have a mountain of old sweaters and went looking for more, I still can’t find the perfect Swantsable one (though I’ve already named mine Swousers).  I’ve got long-ish, muscular-ish legs so I need a fairly big sweater and I want my Swousers to be more pants than knickers (although I love the shorter style of Kate Davies’s Sweeks) and I want them a bit thicker too – like an adult version of a soaker, only in the reverse rather than being disgustingly diapery – for keeping out cold and damp or snow.  I hate snow pants because they swish, swish, swish and are made from synthetics, so I’d like thick wool sweatery pants for wintertime activities instead.  So I must wait until the right big, long, thick sweater comes along.

Until then, I made a sweater skirt…

swirt-back-sun

Or Swirt.

But that name already has certain sexual denotations I just learned about when Googling it… so perhaps it should be a Skeater or Skiter…

It started out as a thrift-store-found hand-knit South American sweater that had been shrunken and felted/fulled a bit (by its previous owner) making the body dense but the sleeves short and tight.

swirt-sweater

I cut off the arms, slit open the neck, sewed a hem at the top, sewed up the sides (put a zipper on one), and added a couple of hook and eye closures.  My only complaint is with the sweater itself – the star motif on the front was cropped by the neckline, so I didn’t have much room to spare for the waist.

swirt-detail

I was imagining that I’d style it for a photo with a new pair of grey and black wool tights (thanks K!) and a pair of cute but impractical boots I almost never wear anymore since I work from home, but instead I got to field test it in a more rugged fashion almost immediately thanks to Hercules.

In cold weather I literally freeze my ass off.  Even with wool unders, base layers, and pants I feel like my southerly cheeks are still flirting with frostbite.  And my knees suffer as well, though I hooked them up with a quick fix last winter.  But the Swirt kept my bum and knees warm!  It was about 19F and I also had on wool long johns, wool-blend leggings, and those bulky army-surplus wool gaiters, and I was fine.

swirt-deer

Even the deer were enviously eyeing my woolies.

swirt-back

So one day I’ll have my Swants/Swousers, but for now the Swirt/Skeater/Skiter will do.

Leave a comment

Filed under hiking, recycling, sewing, thrifting

Gradually getting kooler…

I’ve been wanting to start dying yarn for quite some time, but we currently lack the space, ventilation, and decommissioned cookware.  So I finally got around to dying with the stuff you can’t technically die from, but I certainly wouldn’t want to ingest, though millions do.

Kooldye

Yep, good old Kool-Aid – and I stand by my opinion that the stuff really is truly horrid, but I’ve been wanting to try gradient dying with this tutorial and it’s cheap and I thought readily available.*  A [not so] brief aside about my relationship to the beverage – the only positive thing I can associate with it is its endearing camp name of “bug juice.”  We always had bug juice at summer camp, though I don’t remember drinking it.  Why?  Because I barfed fruit punch flavored Hi-C** as a small child and have always carried the world’s worst aversion to the scent/smell/taste/whiff/hint of fruit punch (and bright red beverages to a lesser degree) into present day.  In fact, that is partly the reason that my only fear in life is anything to do with vomit – both my own and others’, and the pile on the sidewalk, or the remnants in the bowl in a public restroom, or boats, or amusement rides, or pregnant women, or drunks, or babies, or children, or hospitals and doctors offices, or even the offhand comment by someone that her/his stomach feels a little funny, can send me into a tailspin of fear and trembling.  The other reason is my second grade teacher had me clean another student’s puke off some wooden puzzles.  I was above average for my redneck school, so I was off quietly reading to myself – an Encyclopedia Brown book in fact – when the teacher was conducting a reading lesson to the rest of the class.  I was absorbed in my book, and didn’t notice what happened in the back and the subsequent sudden shuffle of students and a teary girl running out of the room.  Then my teacher sweetly asked if I could help her, and being a generally obedient child, I did.  Usually the teachers wanted to rub their excess hand lotion onto you (which seems mildly horrifying now), or help watering the plants, or straightening the [outdated] books.  No, I was presented with a stack of puzzles covered in chunky upchuck and told to take them to the restroom (or maybe she called it washroom) and clean them off.  I did.  I think I cried.  I think my mom raised holy hell at the school afterwards.  But all I remember is the spilled stomach contents and it haunts me to this day.

But back to the dye job.

kool-sweater

I started unraveling this thrift store sweater around the time we moved a year ago so I never finished it and have only recently found the box in which it was shoved.  I hate to unravel something hand-knit even from a big company that most likely exploited the labor (though I have no proof of that so don’t sue me) but this was a late 1980s, early 1990s monstrosity with gaping drop shoulders that reached the naval.  Maybe I killed something really important to fashion history – I killed it for its pelt.

kool-yarn

The wool is good – very sheepy.  It was knit with two strands held together to make for a bulky weight – unplied you’ve got twice the yardage at a still generous worsted weight.  I wanted at least 150 yards, so I wound off 100 thinking I’d go the worsted option and then have 200.

kool-dye

I bought several packets of the evil drink mix, though I was disappointed that there was no green or blue – what about lime or blue raspberry (even though there isn’t such a thing as a blue raspberry on this good green earth)?

What follows are notes to myself that I’m sharing so use the tutorial or check out the What a Kool Way to Dye group on Ravelry for technical details.

kool-little ball

First bath was two packets of lemonade, and one of watermelon.  The lemonade was basically useless as yellow, but it helped turn the pink slightly more coral.  My ball was pretty dense and I was sure the dye didn’t get very far so I wound off all of the first color.

kool-balls&pot

Then I left it out of the pot and stuck the bigger remaining ball in.  Second bath was a packet of tropical punch and one of orange.  This is where I nearly lost it, and unfortunately only later found out that cherry is basically the same color and I never had to endure the fruit punch in the first place.  I can’t even begin to describe the odor – artificial flavor and scent, wet wool, the sh*t that was stuck to the burner and burning, and the remnants of eau de thrift store. (The sweater had already been washed once but the yarn hadn’t had its second bath yet).  I couldn’t take it for very long, so before the liquid had gone clear, I rinsed and wound this around the little pink ball so the last undyed layer was on the top.

kool-mold

Then added one grape packet to the pot and sprinkled on another directly to the ball.  It looks like mold.  It smelled like hell.  But the grape covered up the worst of the fruit punch stink.

kool-soak

Then I soaked it a couple of times in cold water and vinegar.  I hoped that the vinegar would help with the stink, and it did to a degree, but I’m still picking up a whiff I’d rather not.

KOOL-SKEINED

I don’t know the color fastness of the final product, and it’s faded a bit after drying, but I don’t mind if it fades a bit more.  I suspected that the plies would felt and they did, so I’ll probably end up using this as 100 yards of bulky weight yarn.

And yeah, wear gloves.  I did except for the one time I really should have been (see top pic).

*The fancy grocery stores that we as food snobs frequent do not stock the stuff, so I had to visit a grocery on the other side of the tracks to find it.  But it is one that I will return to as I found lower prices on a few things I buy, and smaller sized things – though that is a crime – the smallest portion is always the most expensive in terms of the price per serving and the poor gets screwed with that, but for some things, I only want a little bit since I end up having to throw larger portions out.

**Never give a child with a stomach ache anything that contains food coloring.

4 Comments

Filed under dyeing, recycling, thrifting

New England travels – much hiking, some fiber time…

We spent a much extended holiday weekend (turned week and a half) in the White Mountains last week.  N is hiking all of the “4,000 Footers” and I am choosing a few as well, but preferring to collect mountain ponds and the smaller lesser-trod peaks and loops.  On the few days when he’s up at an ungodly hour to hit the trail solo, I’m groggily but happily thinking about my chunk of knitting time free of any electronic, human, or stuff distractions.  We usually rent cabins when we go to the woods and hunker in among the trees, only going out to hike or get ice cream and this time was no different, though we encountered extreme plan-changing weather and were greatly distracted by plagues of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

The only times when I’m truly and massively productive is when I have the ability to only work on a handful of things and I’m in a quiet place, save for bird yells and other nature song.  So spinning wheels, sewing machines, computers, phones (I don’t even have a “smart” one to begin with) and boxes of neat sh*t stay at home and I just bring along some balls and needles.  Good times.  I’ve been sweating over a shawl that I’ve been trying to design (more in a future post) and have been trumped several times over by reversing the pattern and some simple math for increasing and decreasing.  I just can’t get my brain to have an ‘aha’ on this one, but I finally worked out the left and right main portions and just need to figure out the ends and center now, but I might need yet another week in a sylvan sequester to finally conquer it.

New England-new pattern shadow on wall

Here is a shadow tease of some sample bits in worsted.  It isn’t earth shatteringly different or unique, but I haven’t found anything quite like it yet out there, so I’d like to offer the pattern for sale at some point, or at least get the whole damn thing worked out so I can knit it in the special yarn for which I’m itching to work.

New England-new pattern shadow

Part of the time we were there was downright frigid so I took my favorite old cardigan.  I patched the elbow hole with a mini-skein of Pigeonroof Studios handspun.  I love the colorway but don’t know what it is.  The patch is a little heavy for the thin sweater and looks a little bit like an eyeball, but it is a comfy cup for my elbow.

New England-elbow

I also finished a test knit that I love from a designer who makes fabulously fun patterns but it will not be released until next year.  I used Quince & Co. yarn for the first time which I’ll go into further in next the post.  N and I had a fun photo shoot with it utilizing the river and the the cellar’s stone wall.  In addition, I brought part of the cotton blanket and my latest Lacy Baktus along, but didn’t work much on either one.  The power went out on our last night there, so I was able to do a couple of feet of a blanket strip in the dimness since it was white.  While making the test knit, I learned to do applied/attached icord, so now it is a consideration for trimming the blanket – it will depend if I end up wanting a couple more inches of border or not.

New England-Mt Hale

But most of the time was spent on the trail.  We had to cancel our hut reservations for the first two days due to total white-out of freezing fog and snow.  When we finally got out, it was a slippery sloshy wet cold mess and made for some hiking misery on my soggy-ass part since I lacked good/newer waterproof gear (N thankfully hooked me up with a new jacket later on).  The first hike was up Mt. Hale and luckily the sun had returned, but you don’t see the bitter winds (or my bad attitude from having clumps of wet snow eggs plomping down from the trees and onto my head, down my neck, and penetrating my duds – I was wearing wool of course, so hypothermia was kept at bay despite the soaking).

New England-Mt HedgehogBut in just a day or so the weather turned gorgeous and we had a lovely time on Hedgehog Mountain, but then the next day the weather became stranglingly humid and sweltering in the 90s, and hiking became soggy again – this time from the inside out.  After that, I preferred to put the needles down and just sit in the cold river right outside our door.

New England-river

Leave a comment

Filed under hiking, knitting, spinning, travel

My old cardigan friend, (damn you golf again), and bullying because of thrifting…

I’ve had this c. 1950s/60s men’s alpaca cardigan sweater since the late 1980s.

cardigan full

It was among my first “thrift scores” and I have loved it ever since.  It warmed me through the amalgamated post-hippie/punk/ folk/college-rock years dubbed “alternative” (or “art-fag” if you were stupid and from my neck of the woods), a dabbling of grunge, a decades long love of emo-ish hardcore, and even got away with looking like a hip “boyfriend” sweater the last few years.  It’s been paired with Sex Pistols t-shirts and vintage hippie skirts, over-sized R.E.M. t-shirts and leggings, strategically torn jeans, boot cut jeans, and then leggings again.  I’ve mended it many times, but my elbow finally poked through one of the sleeves the other day.

cardigan hole

So at the moment, it’s not doing very well – I don’t think I want to sew on the classic professorial suede elbow patches, so I may go with some wool tweed.  And I can’t get Weezer’s Undone out of my head to save my life (even though this isn’t what the song is about).

Highly uncharacteristically of me, I never noticed or looked up label before until now…

cardigan label

And oh holy hell, what have I got here, something to do with golf again!?!?

Yep,  Gene Littler was a golf champ and probably got his own line of sportswear in the 1950s or ’60s.  At least he had good taste in fibers and got behind a smart timeless design…

But back on the subject of thrifting – I’m not quite sure when and how I got started.  Like most families in our rural area, we had a single modest income and were extremely conservative* with money.  Our food budget was supplemented by a lush garden and the slaughtering of our chickens and rabbits.  Horse camp?  Nope, I couldn’t go, or any other childhood activity that required fees.  Clothing was homemade, handed-down (yes I wore my brothers’) and never purchased at full price.  However, as a small child, my mother liked dressing me in Polly Flinders hand-smocked dresses from a previous decade.  I believe she found them in consignment shops or garage sales and recognized some of the quality handiwork that went into them (possibly from sweatshops in the ’60s maybe?).  And thankfully she stopped acquiring them when my tomboy-hood banned all things smocked, gathered, and frilled, but I believe this is what set the precedent for obtaining used clothing.

I also have a clear memory of the second grade and being on the outer ring of a group of girls surrounding a lone victim wearing a dress I had secretly liked but was clearly from an earlier generation – a blue pinafore or jumper** with colorful embroidery (I think it was a pattern of small fish).  The ringleader of the mean girls, whose name I recall was actually Ashley, taunted the girl (I’ll call Pam) without her realization of what was happening along the lines of:

Ashley:  [Sneeringly] I like your dress Pam.

Pam: [Shyly blushing and looking downward] Oh, thank you!

Ashley:  Where did you get, it?

Pam: [Brightening] Oh, I actually found it at Goodwill!

Ashley: [Sneering even more] What is that?  Is that a fancy new shop downtown?

[Ashley’s friends break out in cruel giggles]

Though this taunting was pretty tame, I am ashamed now that I didn’t punch Ashley, but I pretty much knew from then on I wouldn’t be friends with her or the others for the next ten years at school.  I remember going to a small birthday party for Pam at the local trailer park once, but shortly thereafter something started to go terribly wrong with her or her life and she often just cried by herself on the playground.  Though the school was tiny, I lost track of her.  She was one of the first to die from our class after graduation – I don’t know what happened.

Knowing I too was on the fringe and would never be a cheerleader, jock-cock sucker, star athlete, or sweet hometown homecoming queen, and I’d always have a long strange ethnic name in a sea of Smiths and Jones, was not the same religion as most of my peers, came from a liberal outspoken family, got good grades, was a band freak, was tall for my age and flat-chested to boot (then), and even the stupid fact of being the only one with a summer birthday and never having the class recognize it, and therefore me, gave me a solid f*ck-all-ya’ll attitude that the “alternative” culture embraced.  So even though I was shoved and locked in lockers, voted off the lunch table, and hid in the bathroom whenever dodge-ball was assigned, I knew life was better outside of that shithole school and town.  Thrifting was an escape, a way to time-travel, and it felt good to occupy the fabric skins of others who had passed through their shitty youths and were on to something better.

Though once in a while I did think about how the former owners of my duds could have died long lonely deaths, or still be around and be even more miserable than me…

*Conservative only in personal finance, certainly not in politics – many in the area were crazy right-wingers and their children are probably teabagging preppers these days… hopefully they don’t believe in voting.

**Brits call sweaters and pullovers “jumpers” but what do they call the sleeveless dress that you have to wear a shirt underneath?

3 Comments

Filed under recycling, thrifting

More progressions than halts…

I finished spinning the dirty Romney “Rhinebeck blues” roving (and I did in fact originally photograph it with the wrong Shetland sweater that matches it and will be frogged if I need to stretch out yardage).  I’m not sure what I’m going to make with this yet although I know it will be something more along the lines of outerwear since I doubt I’d want to wear this next to my skin.  This will be stored indefinitely at the moment while I work on some other projects this summer.  And silly me, I forgot to count the yardage before I skeined it for the photo…

rhinebeck-finished

During our woods weekend last month, I got out the old long-suffering UFO cotton blanket and came up with a plan of how to finish it.  I ripped out a green stripe/strip that was nearly finished just because I’d have to make another and I didn’t want to.  Instead it will have a couple of narrow white stripes and then a border of green…  I think.  I may take it with me to another upcoming woods trip to hopefully finish or at least complete the body.

cotton blanket

And I just finished a short-sleeved sweater that has yet to be mentioned in public because it was another very long-suffering UFO and I was considering tossing the whole thing in the frog pond.

chocolate top detail

chocolate top full

It is the the Chiton Pullover by Melissa Wehrle, and yes it was on the cover of the Winter/Spring 2011 issue of Knitscene.  It was the first time I got a magazine (hit newsstands in 2010) and got some yarn and started right away.  I don’t know why I didn’t get the recommended yarn (which is quite lovely) but I think I wanted a cotton blend, and I know I wanted dark brown, and what I got was very inexpensive.  But it ended up that I really didn’t like this yarn – Elann’s Luna – it is slick and splitty, had lots of knots and broken parts, and of course is without the elasticity and sheepiness of wool, so I found I didn’t feel like working on it very often.  I also fear the weight of the cotton will pull it downwards – the pattern is already long-torso friendly which I love, but things could get too long.  I originally wanted it to wear in my former overly air-conditioned office, which I no longer have.  And I also didn’t really consider the practicality of somewhat thick, but short-sleeved sweaters – indoors your torso is cozy but your arms goose-bumpy and then you go outside and your arms are comfy and torso is sweaty…  not to mention the added impracticality of having to wash the damn thing nearly every time it’s worn due to the odoriferous nuances of summer armpits.  But it’s done and I’ll keep it around for the time being.

And the latest spinning technique I’ve attempted is Navajo or chain plying.  And I suck at it.  But I found a good use for the redwood roving as my f*ck-it-up-all-I-want-because-I-don’t-care  practice fiber.  And I’m glad I used it because I would’ve destroyed some great new hand-painted roving instead, but now I need to make an old-fashioned three-ply out of it which I was hoping to avoid.

N-ply

Yarn only Roebling could love.

And I also discovered I’ve been spinning left-handed.  I’m ambidextrous in many things except writing and continental knitting (you’ve noticed I don’t do a lot of stranded color work, eh?).  But it was a little surprising that when I switched to right-handed, I sucked, so southpaw spinning is the way for me.

My other publicly proclaimed UFOs from months before?  The sweater quilt is packed away to discourage summer moths, I’m still picking at the shirt quilt, and the rug and a couple of others I’ve yet to mention…?  Well, let’s not go there just now… but at least there are fewer than before, right?  Do I get a cookie?

Leave a comment

Filed under knitting, spinning