A friend of mine recently asked for my opinion on the best way to start knitting with wool. She’s been knitting for quite a few years with acrylics and has started wondering what was the fuss about all these natural fibres.
1 What’s good for you?
My friend just wants to put her toe in the water to test things out. I, on the other hand, decided that I needed to go cold turkey on acrylics, especially when I started making garments rather than just scarves.
3 Decisions Decide what you want to make, which natural fibres are right for you. Allergies to wool?then look to other animal- or plant-based fibres. What is your Budget?
4 Test & Evaluate
Test- small projects. Baby clothes, scarves, cowls, socks, wristwarmers are great small projects to get started. Nothing wrong with going with one ball, to get started. Make a large swatch, and see how it feels in your hands, against your skin, see how it drapes. Record your experiences in a Journal.
Get rid of the old stuff: donate, gift, use it up. Replace it with more natural fibres. Or you may consider blends.
The Textile museum in Nettetal is called “Die Scheune (the barn)” in a lovely old building close to what was previously the toll close to the Dutch border. This area along the Rhine is still a prosperous agricultural area (flat fields and wooded area stretch for miles and miles inviting you to get out a bike, and get rolling!).
Images from The Textile Museum; Spinning wheel from De Pannekookehuus (The Pancakehouse).
Earlier, among other things, a lot of flax was grown in the region. Linen was a commonly used fabric. If you wanted it white, then you had to send it off to Antwerp to have it bleached. Of course the Antwerper craftsmen kept their trade process a secret, and built up a thriving trade, in part making the city the bustling trade centre it was and still is.
Next week, Kara Gott Warner’s the PowerPurls Patron StashTherapy Challenge. To mark the occasion, I got this down from the bookshelf. Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying has been around for a while now. (Not quite a classic, yet) It’s sparked quite a lot of discussion in maker circles (among knitters and other stash-keepers) and given rise to a new verb: to kondoize (thanks badassquilterssociety!)
Is stash clutter? I think it depends on where you put it, rather than the yarn itself. If it gets in the way, then it might be clutter. If it is stored thoughtfully, mindfully, aesthetically, then it could never be a bother.
Bringing out all my yarn, putting it in one place and looking at it, has put me in the mood to be brutally honest: Stash doesn’t match well with the values of the fashion revolution.
Stash is interesting- it’s a mix between pre-consumer waste and haul. But not quite both. For one thing, it isn’t quite waste, because it isn’t discarded. How are you going to throw away something you had in your hands for hours, while making something as glorious as this?
Some of it is leftovers, and some of it is haul. There’s no getting around that. It’s a little secret knitters, crocheters and other makers will gladly overlook because we often think there’s something embarrassing or shameful about stash.
Some of it is leftovers, and some of it is haul. There’s no getting around that. It’s a little secret knitters, crocheters and other makers will gladly overlook because we often think there’s something embarrassing or shameful about stash. Or having a lot of stash. I prefer to think of stash as potential. Potential to make something. So having this stuff sitting in plastic containers waiting, doesn’t sit well with me. I’m in fine company of other makers who also regularly go through stash and knowingly or unknowingly practise the Fashion Revolutionista R’s.
Refuse – Yarn diets, or just straight up refusing to buy certain types of yarn unless the producer certifies that it’s GOTS and good to go.
Reduce – Use up what I have, donate or swap for what I will use up. Let’s face it taste evolves. And even if I don’t want this sweater-quantity of tweedy army green yarn, maybe someone else does (hit me up! I will pay postage!LOL!).
Reuse – Yes, I have and will continue to unravel and reuse yarn because that’s the cool thing about yarn (unless it’s already felted), it’s reuseable. Even felted is reuseable, if you know how…
Recycle – Imagine walking into a second hand shop and seeing not just clothes hanging. What’s hanging there is fabric, waiting to be reused. Yarn, waiting to be unravelled and reused (there’s even a Ravelry group for this).The first time I realized that, I was standing in the middle of a thrift shop. I had to step out to get that giddy feeling under control. Whether this last tip leads to stash growth or not, is not for me to say. I’m just putting it out there.
My stash: some of it is second hand, some is vintage, some is swapped. All of it is slow and all of it is loved.
Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home blog is very much worth a look see. Her 5th R (rot/compost ) makes me nervous on behalf of my stash. Until I remembered this picture of how natural and synthetic fibres decompose. Bea had a lovely TEDx talk about her lifestyle, you’ll find it here with 5 other talks about downsizing.
*I called Kara Gott Warner’s Sattva Shawl ‘zero waste’ because when I knit it, I made a few small modifications (a row of eyelets through to break up the plain reverse stockinette body) and ended up with no waste. I bound off (playing yarn chicken beings excitement to an otherwise very calming endeavour) and had such a little fitzelchen (sometimes a semi-made up German word is what one needs for accuracy) of yarn left over, that I didn’t even have enough to weave in with a needle.
The very act of bringing all my stash together made me realize that Stash Therapy can be a cool way of looking at life. First off, I had all this yarn tucked away in three different rooms, not including a container in the cellar. So bringing it all together, is also a bit of consolidation. I can remember, for the most part, how I came by each ball and skein.
I can see how my relationship with knitting took a turn from buying cheap discounter yarns, to higher quality, to organic wool. I can see the risks I’ve taken, trying out non-wool blends, linen, cotton, alpaca-silk.
You’ll see some knitted things in there as well. Those are things I’ve made, and am perfectly willing to frog them and reuse the yarn, if a more interesting idea pops up.
I’ll be doing a Stash Therapy challenge later this month with some Internet knitting galpals. So, I’m excited to have it all out in the open.
Next steps: unpacking and grouping them by colour.
I won this yarn through a Pom Pom Quarterly Pomcast giveaway. A classic case of be careful what you wish for. I was terrified of winning the bright neon skein. And the knitting gods must have been rolling on their clouds of merino, when I opened this up and gasped. None of these pictures truly capture the trus intensity of the colour. Kudos to Linda Lencovic of Kettle Yarn Co. She owns the adjective ‘vibrant’ now.
Name of producer: Kettle Yarn Co.
Location, where grown, milled, spun: in the UK. Not sure about the silk though.
Type of dye: colourfast vinegar-set dyes
Materials: a wool and silk blend. Superwash Bluefaced Leicester and 45% Silk.
Colourway: hot pink, called Padparadscha (rhymes with Maharaja!)
A very soft, silky yarn, it was lovely to knit and handled well. Has a fairly crisp stitch definition. As forewarned, the colour did run a bit during blocking (but nothing an extra splash of vinegar in the water couldn’t cure). Post-blocking, the scarf had a fine halo, which is only visible close up.
I made Yarnmonkey’s Multidirectional scarf, to practice multi-directional knitting. Provides a good pop of colour in winter, especially when worn with navy blue, deep grey, black and white. Even plays well with my camel-coloured coat. Surprisingly, a very versatile colour. Because it is so soft, I tend to reach for it often, right up until the temperatures drop so low that I prefer to wrap up in an extra blanket before going out.
I’ve cast on for my official summer knitting: a new Hiyaku in 100% linen.
While on business in Barcelona, my husband stopped in at a yarn store for me. Ok, I sent him there. I think that was the first time he realized how big/ widespread the knitting community is. The shop and the yarn label is called All you knit is love.
Sofar, it has taken me about ten rounds to get used to knitting with linen. I’ve never done it before, and it kind of reminds me of plaiting grass stalks, or straw, to tell the truth. Which is an improvement. Yesterday, I was afraid that I would pop it. Today, it seems that I’ve somehow intuitively loosened my hold on the yarn, and now it’s going a bit more smoothly. But, is it me or does it dry out my fingers?
Otherwise, the yarn has a fairly smooth appearance, suggesting that it may be either a long line (where the flax grows tall) or a wet-spun (where heat and water are used in the spinning process) yarn. I’ll have to dig deeper, and see if I can find out. The colour though, is amazing! This deep turquoise has me dreaming of the sea. I’m holding the yarn double, and so I hope this’ll be a fairly quick knit.
Wish me luck!
Good Tips for knitting with linen:
Warming up to linen, by Elizabeth Doherty via Quince and Co. (Best tip: knit from outside of yarn).
Finishing with linen from knitbot‘s Hannah Fettig (best tips: joining yarn at edges; weaving in ends with duplicate stitch).
Linen Lovefest – Episode 20 of the now sadly defunct 6bits storybook knitting magazine and podcast. The free gift is a PDF, with product reviews of various linen blends (best tip: rinse before knitting to soften the yarn up).
Design Process pt 1 – Episode 7 of the also discontinued knitfm podcast by Pam Allen (of Quince & Co) and Hannah Fettig (of knitbot). This episode was done shortly after the launch of Quince & Co’s organic linen yarn, Kestrel, and the publication Hannah’s book Knitbot Linen. They talk about those specific yarns, but also about finishing and seaming linen, plus how to care for the fabric.
All thirteen episodes of knitfm are still available and are so chock full of information about yarn and knitting, that it has been described as “like a masterclass.”
I’m one week into Fashion Revolution’s free e-course, Who Made your Clothes? I’ve been learning about the global supply chains of the international textile industry. And of course, I’ve been thinking about Who made my yarn?
I will admit, my stash is all over the place: I have skeins of big box yarn, organic yarns, and artisanal hand paints. The are so many variations of what is sustainable fashion, that I guess each knitter has to think about what’s okay for them. Budgetwise and valueswise. I’m trying to process all this, and set boundaries for myself, so that I can work down my stash and limit new purchases.
For one, I’ve come to the conclusion that synthetics and my skin don’t agree. So, I pretty much limit myself to natural (including animal fibres). There’s a fair bit about yarns on the labels. But not much about where they are from.
In a perfect world, someone in my village would have sheep, raise them organically, of course, shear them, card, comb, and wash the wool, spin it into yarn for my next project. And there are folks who do that. Still, for those of us who also buy yarn from yarn shops, or wherever we see it (yes, in a moment of weakness, I bought a skein at the supermarket), it would be nice to be able to piece together the impact of our hobby on the environment.
As far as I know, name brand yarn companies (here, that would be Lang, Lana Grossa, etc) buy the merino on the world market (Australia produces a major chunk!). The wool is then shipped to either China or Italy to be spun, dyed, and chemically treated if it is going to become a superwash yarn. I’m assuming that Italy comfortably serves the European market.
My plan is to start asking where my yarn comes from. Would be nice to know, don’t you think?