Tag Archives: thrift store sweater yarn

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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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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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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One from the scrap heap

I need to lighten my stash, I’ve been wanting to start some scrappy projects, and I needed a gift, so once again my mother will soon be the recipient of a project that might go very wrong, but I’ll still finish it and give it to her (like this hat).

scrapheap

On the heap are several unraveled thrift sweaters including a few that had [abandoned] intentions of becoming pussyhats, one or two from last spring or early summer, a never-ending cone of (I suspect, but I still haven’t tested) faux or partially faux, mohair – fauxhair? from the Cascine market in Firenze several years ago…

boot-redo-firenze

…a few balls of wool from the big box craft store that I got on the cheap nearly, or over, a decade ago to make into felted bags (I still haven’t put the handles on a couple I made around that time, but I do see myself eventually making more, so it’s not urgent I use it all up), the last bit of my kool-aid dyed yarn, and finally, and possibly regretfully, some novelty yarns – yes, a “fur”(must be under the other stuff in the pic) and some metallics. I kinda sorta like metallic yarns – if mixed well enough with wool, they feel okay and fancy up a handknit – I wear this batkus with a tiny silver thread that never shows up in photos at least once a week:

baktus3-restaurant

And recently unraveled this one…

…but I’m not so sure about gold since I don’t wear it, and I should put it in this project, but it’s just enough to make a shawl-thing on its own, so I don’t want to shortchange it. But I think I got a few balls of metallic yarns with the intention of making some knitted jewelry – ropey lariat things – but the coppery one seen above and below is fairly thick and unpleasant on its own, and most times I’d rather have a scarf, so that is no longer an intended project…

But for a long time I’ve been wanting to make some grand, chaotic, scraptacular feather & fan/old shale shawls.

A perimenopausal aesthetic has taken over and I want more drama in my knits.

I took a baby step toward this with this shawl from a few years ago that I thought I was going to sell, but have kept to use while being utterly stationary at the computer.

spring-shug or shawl

It’s made up of two sweaters – one was a blue Shetland thrifted one, and the other (I wore in the ’90s) was an Italian multicolored mohair mix that I doubled, and that was a mistake – I ran out of it before I got the length I wanted. But it’s wide, and some days I think of making a dramatic shrug out of it, or just adding more length with the blue wool, but it functions well enough for what I use it for, so best leave well enough alone.

But my mom needed a more practical scarf and I needed to finish it in a reasonable amount of time, so I’m going sideways on big, but not too large, needles with nearly all garter stitch except for a wavy-making row every 4 or so.

It now has the fun fur and hot pink silk from an ’80s skirt and it’s drunkenly teetering on the line of fuglytown…

…so it’s time for more metallics and even louder colors, right?

 

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February follies…

Yes, I jinxed it.

After a gorgeous day in the 60s that permitted a few moments of bare vitamin D-sucking arms in the yard…

We woke up to this, and a snow day:

And snow days are not the barrel of monkeys when you don’t get paid for them, and then have to go in to work on your normal day off, and have to reschedule the electrician, and everything gets pushed back a week, and it’s not that big of a deal but yet sets your nose out of joint for a bit.

But the snow was only half of what they predicted and over halfway gone now.

I broke my commitment to finish shit first and cast on for a new project.

In my defense, it is a gift, or might be a gift…

It will either be fabulous or fugly – if the later, it should breathe its last breath in a few more rows, but each row takes me about 20 minutes.

And my wrist is acting up again – I started another spin last week too – I need to find a good balance of a bit of spinning to keep my wrist strong, but not too much, or not to rough/hard/nasty wool to exacerbate it.

This is rough/hard/nasty wool – bit’s o’shit I’ve gotten for a buck or so at the fiber festivals –  and a bit of some very lovely soft alpaca that I feel like I’m wasting, but I never had a good plan for it.

The plan for this is a bulky, uneven, rustic 2-ply yarn to be knitted up into mittens, and likely lined with an un-unravelable thrift cashmere sweater. At least that’s the plan now – I do need some mittens, but this yarn will be hell to knit up.

And does anyone need the bottom part of a Morse sewing machine case?

morse-case-bottom

It’s a pretty standard case, so it would fit most average-sized vintage machines (I had a Singer 66 in it) but it won’t necessarily match up to other Morse tops – I had this issue – and it’s in semi-rough shape, but still sturdy. It’s free to a good home, but I’d appreciate shipping reimbursement or some sort of trade. I’ve offered it on ravelry too, and will likely drop it off at the ReStore (or possibly try to sell it online) by the end of February otherwise.

(And I’ll likely find a cheap-can’t-be-passed-by machine that needs a case right after I get rid of this… but that kind of thinking has left me with 25+ years of shit to purge/sell now…)

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