Years ago, a dear friend of mine, who had taken up knitting, asked me why, if I was going to put precious time and effort into knitting, was I using acrylic yarn instead of something really beautiful like wool or silk. Now I am talking two decades or more ago, before there were soooo many beautiful fibers readily available. At the time, I remember feeling a little embarassed, and as usual, I had little of any substance to say. I had come from a lifetime of scrimping and saving, but by then I was earning a considerable income, and even after paying considerable student loans, I could have afforded finer materials.
I pondered the question she posed, and explained to myself that I was just trying out patterns, and if I liked something enough, I could always make it up again in a finer yarn. Kind of like in sewing, it was like testing a pattern by making a muslin (or toile, for our British friends) to check fit, drape, etc.
In the years since my friend posed the question, I cannot recall a single time that I worked up a pattern in a “cheap” yarn, and then chose to do it again in something luxurious. Not once. Now, I haven’t done a lot of knitting (which is too bad, when I consider how much yarn I have bought and stashed). I seem to be more intrigued with making little swatches to try new techniques, like lace, or double-knitting. I have made socks, all in acrylic, but not just because one of my sons breaks out in a rash when wool touches his skin. I have always felt like I was still on the sock learning curve. That, and I thought they would wear better over the long haul. And I’ve made a shawl, and an afghan, but never in expensive yarn. I think the truth is simply that I am a cheapskate. Is that too harsh a judgment? Perhaps I should just say “tightwad”. No, I guess that isn’t any more genteel. But the truth is the truth, I am frugal. Maybe I feel like I can justify good, durable materials to stock on-hand for projects that bless my family without involving any kind of sacrifice. I suspect the next step for me is to commit to making something really special for someone, and invest in the best materials, and have something really lovely to give. It’s scary, though, as it seems it may be habit-forming. In the meantime, I am going to try to use up this kind of nice, but kind of yucky yarn. (I sneaked in a picture of the coffee mug that goes with the Evergreen Ernie dinnerware I spoke of in this post.)I worked up a gauge swatch, holding the yarn double (which was a nuisance, as the yarn is already quite “splitty”. This took me quite a long time, and here’s why. Like many Americans, I have always knitted in the “English” style, where you carry your working yarn in your right hand. I recently watched a tutorial on double-knitting, and the instructor recommended using the “Continental” style for double-knitting. Well, introducing a new handiwork technique is like telling me the cookie jar is full and there is cold milk in the fridge. I had to try it. I knit (and purled) the whole swatch in the Continental style. It was quite a challenge for me. Apparently, when I get better at it, it is faster than the English style. For me, I think that it will take a lot of Continental knitting before it is faster for me than English, but I like having a new technique under my belt.
I found it more difficult to keep a steady tension, and my stitches don’t look quite so regular and even. I tried to show how loose some of it looked on the back, but I’m not so sure the picture below shows it well. About 1/3 of the way down from the top on the left side of the pic, you can see 2 rows (a couple of rows apart from each other) that look a little darker – it is because there is a big gap between the rows, where I knitted a loose row halfway across. I watched some continental knitting video tutorials on YouTube, and learned that Continental does tend to be looser than English. (I recommend this one from CraftSanity.com)I like a fine-gauge fabric, and would have knit it up single, but I was afraid the lacy parts would get a little lost. Even held double, this is still a pretty fine gauge. (4”x4”:28 sts and 39 rows). It is a little larger than the called-for gauge, but I’ll use it anyway, where this is a scarf, and the final dimensions are not critical.
The pattern is free and I found it here on Ravelry; it is shown made up in alpaca, and linked to Ravelry by the Toft Alpaca Shop in the UK.
I took all of the above pictures in the sunniest room of our house, but it’s quite overcast right now. I slipped on my Bean Mocs, and stepped outside to show you why the sun isn’t shining here.This picture tells the story.
It is very windy, too. We’ve had a lot of wind with our storms this winter. See the granite post below? That is supposed to be a lamp-post! The wind blew the lamp right off of it about 3 weeks ago.Here is a pine tree in our side yard: see the bough lying on the ground?
The birch on the right is a gratuitous picture, I just love birch trees. This one is across the street.
Spring starts officially in less than two weeks. I just keep telling myself that.