Knitting by Judy @ 11:55 PM

unblocked swatches
unblocked swatches

Dear Knitnana,

I love the Star Of Evening shawl you are knitting with Zen Yarn Garden in the Meezer colorway. Thus my reply — Why?!?!? – when you emailed that you were ripping it out. Because, you said, it’s superwash so it can’t be blocked.

My first thought was… Really? I don’t recall every pondering this particular question before. Certainly the socks I knit — which are mostly some variety of superwash merino — benefit from the blocking I give them at their first bath so that they photograph well.

And that got me thinking. Why can’t it be blocked?

Animal fibers shrink and felt (with varying degrees of success or failure, depending on your point of view) because of tiny scales on the fibers that open up and then lock together. Wool is made washable by one of two different processes: either an acid bath is used to strip off the little scales, or minute amounts of polymer are used to glue the scales down. The wool loses its ability to felt. But does it lose some other essential wool-ness that allows it to be blocked?

Obviously an experiment was in order.

blocking swatches
blocking swatches

I knit two swatches using a chart from one of those wonderful Japanese stitch pattern books. This is the second book in this series that I’ve purchased. I don’t read or speak a word of Japanese. But the books have beautiful photographs and charts, and illustrations of what the more unfamiliar chart symbols mean, so an adventurous knitter can puzzle it out. The patterns appear quite unusual and lovely to my American eyes. The first book is all knit patterns, mostly lace and cables (often combined). This book is 1/2 crochet, with not only patterns for larger objects, but some gorgeous edgings and appliqués. Many of the knit patterns feature embroidery, beading or two color stranded or slipped-stitch knitting where one of the yarns used is metallic (are you drooling yet?).

I chose a pattern mostly at random, but avoiding the beads and embroidery and such. It was a 16-stitch/8-row repeating pattern. I added an extra repeat of the first 6 stitches so that my swatch was symmetrical, plus a 2-stitch garter border on both sides, plus an extra stitch to match an extra in the pattern – total 27 stitches. I repeated the rows three times, or 24 rows, plus a 2-row garter border on both ends – total 28 rows.

Both swatches were knit on the same needles — US #5 (3.75mm) from my Denise set.

blocked swatches
blocked swatches

The first picture shows the unblocked swatches. On the right is STR in Blue Brick Wall – a 100% Superwash merino fingering weight sock yarn. Every good experiment needs a control. Mine is on the left. I couldn’t find any non-superwash wool in my odds and ends. This is Frog Tree 100% Alpaca fingering weight. It’s approximately the same WPI as the STR. It’s not wool, but it felts if you so much as breath on it hard, so as a control it meets that test. I had hopes that it would block nicely.

You can see that both swatches are approximately 4″x4″ unblocked. I think you can also agree with me that they would benefit from a bit of blocking. But not too much, because this pattern has some dimensionality that I don’t want to lose.

In the second picture, I have wet-blocked both swatches by pinning them out to 5″x5″. I felt that a 25% increase in both directions was probably sufficient. It opened up the YOs, but didn’t completely flatten the pretty twists on each side.

After pinning, I gave both swatches a goodly spritz with water, then left them for 24 hours to dry.

close up and personal
close up and personal

At the appointed time, I unpinned the swatches. To make this a really fair test, I picked up both swatches and tossed them around a bit, as though they were objects that I might wear for a day. After scrunching and tossing and smooshing and all, you can see in the third picture that both swatches lost a fraction of an inch in size – not much bounce back here for either yarn. On a 60″ wrap, it would work out to less than 1″. That doesn’t seem excessive.

The last picture is a closeup so you can see that, despite the difference in the texture of the yarns themselves, the stitch definition after blocking is pretty similar. (I also just noticed that in the last two pictures the alpaca swatch is upside down.) The alpaca bloomed a tiny bit, and the finished swatch is softer. Which is no surprise because it’s alpaca and the STR… isn’t… although it’s a very nice, smooshy wool.

Both swatches still have quite a bit of give in them. I think I could have blocked them more severely, but I’m not sure that I really would have wanted to. I’m quite happy with the results of both swatches.

So I think, by the results of my little experiment, superwash wool blocks quite well. Of course, your mileage may vary. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to knit a swatch, block it, and the decide if you like the results.

Thanks, Knitnana, for bringing up such an interesting question. I can’t wait to see what yarn you decide to knit your shawl from and the results (which I am sure will be lovely).


Knitting by Judy @ 8:56 AM

Salish Sea Socks
Salish Sea Socks

I did managed to get a bit of knitting in this weekend, in and amongst other things that vied for my limited attention span.

I have made the Salish Sea Socks (Cat Bordhi’s brilliant pattern) longer in the feet and re-knit the heels. I used the instructions for the narrowest heel (more or less), and they fit my foot reasonably well. I am pleased. There is the requisite pooling of colors over the instep. But somehow I don’t mind it at all in this yarn. It sort of fits in with the watery theme.

I have about an inch or so completed on the legs. There’s nothing tricksy about this stitch pattern and it’s easy to memorize, so I think I should have these completed within the next couple of days, provided I can get some decent knitting time in.

And then… what will be next, she pondered? There are the two skeins I wound before going out of town last week — Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Pioneer and Blue Moon Socks That Rock lightweight in Pirates Booty — and they are calling my name.

But this weekend, I also picked up from Bobbie what you see in the second picture.

Things I Learned From Knitting
Things I Learned From Knitting

There was a signed copy of Stephanie’s new book, Things I Learned From Knitting (Whether I Wanted To or Not)

And there was a skein of a special Blue Moon STR colorway called Knitters Without Borders. Proceeds from the sales of the books and the yarn went to Tricoteuses Sans Frontières (Knitters Without Borders).

Now, I realized it’s a leap of faith to ask someone to buy yarn for you, sight unseen. I mean… it could have been, well… pink or something. I figured that best case I’d like it, and worst case it all went to a worthy cause and I could have a contest or something because someone out there amongst my gentle readers would like it.

Gentle reader… you can’t have it. Or at least you can’t have this skein. I’m not usually taken with multi-colored yarn that has a lot of white in it. But I am making a big, big exception for this yarn. I love it. And the more I look at it, the more I love it. And I’m already plotting what it will turn into. Stay tuned.

You can’t have my skein, but I understand that it will be available directly from Blue Moon in the not too distant future. So keep checking back with them. And you can have your own skein. 😉

Knitting by Judy @ 11:20 PM

jungle animals, moose, mice and kitties
jungle animals, moose, mice and kitties

On Saturday, a group of Seattle-area knitters rode the early train down to Portland for a little crawl through the Pearl District yarn shops. Bobbie helped to arrange for a few PDX Knit Bloggers to meet the train and welcome our fellow Northwest knitters to Stumptown. Since I had never been to two of the Pearl shops (what can I say – we have over 20 yarn shops and I just can’t make it to all of them all the time), I thought it would be really fun to join in.

But I wasn’t going to buy any yarn, because my stash is feeling sufficient right now. I especially wasn’t going to buy any sock yarn.

I wish I had snapped a picture of all of the knitters milling around the station when the train came, but user error messed my pics up. Charisa, who had spearheaded the yarn crawl, had name tags for all of us that entitled us to discounts at several of the stores, and a handout with a map and such and gave everyone last minute instructions. A very nice Amtrak employee asked me if I needed any directions or maps and what time would be all be back? He looked a little confused when I told him that I live here, but smiled and said that I thought the visitors had it all in hand.

The groups split up so that we didn’t overwhelm the shops by hitting them all at once. I needed to find a free place to park my car for the day, and several of the PDX Knitters joined me in the search. Our first stop was Dublin Bay, where I finally got to meet Chrissy. On a little rack towards the back of the store, I found these really cute little buttons. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. But they’re so cute, I just had to have them. And they’re not yarn.

If you’re reading this through a feedreader, go on over to the blog and pop up the picture so you can see how cute the buttons are. I’ll wait right here.

a friendly gesture to cold dancers
a friendly gesture to cold dancers

As I turned from the button rack I saw a knitter clutching Zen Yarn Garden skeins. I had already ignored the siren call of Fleece Artist and Handmaiden, although I did pet a lot of yarn. All the yarn, I think.

The colors of the Zen Yarn Garden were so pretty.

From Dublin Bay a few of us walked down to Knit Knot Studio. Along the way we came across these poor, cold statues dancing on the sidewalk. Hand knits were offered as a temporary warm-up. They looked so cold.

Knit Knot Studio is a tiny but cute little yarn shop that’s packed full of really yummy things like naturally dyed silk and handspun cashmere.

Look what I found someone said, holding a skein of Noro Kureyon Sock.

I love Noro colors, but not necessarily Noro yarns. I have two sweaters knit with Noro, and both times I became annoyed at having to pick twigs and such from the fiber. And what’s with the knots? For what we pay for that yarn, can’t we have one continuous strand? Especially since the strand after the knot always starts with some totally random color, leaving the poor knitter to decide whether to ruin the flow of the stripes in the finished object, or buy more yarn in the hope of matching. I’d felt some of the new sock yarn, and it seems so stiff and scratchy. Not fun to knit with. I just didn’t have much desire to knit with Noro sock yarn, and had said so.

But the colors were so pretty.

post-crawl knitting
post-crawl knitting

From Knit Knot Studio we hopped on the streetcar, which conveniently stops right in front of Knit Purl.

At Knit Purl, a skein of JitterBug leaped off the display and into my arms and demanded to be taken home. The color was so pretty.

Then I saw a really lovely colorway of Lorna’s Laces that I had never seen before.

Teresa came over to say hello and laugh at my sock scarf.

I’m not buying any sock yarn I told her, as I grabbed some Schaeffer Anne off the wall. The colors were so pretty.

Teresa started laughing hysterically, as did others who heard me. Are you going to completely change your personality? Teresa asked. Judy without sock yarn? hahahahaha


sock yarn?  What sock yarn?
sock yarn? What sock yarn?

L-to-R, top: Zen Yarn Garden in Cafe Au Lait and Creamsicle, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Pioneer, Colinette JitterBug in Morello Mash
L-to-R, bottom: Noro Kureyon Sock (the yarn I said I’d never buy) in S184, Schaeffer Anne in Toni Morrison. hmmmmm do you see some strong themes with these colorways?

Well… the buttons aren’t sock yarn.

After At Knit Purl, I decided that maybe I’d done enough damage for the days. Leaving the Seattle knitters to their fate (I believe a spin through Powell’s Books was in their near future), we headed over to Starbuck’s for a cuppa and a slice of pumpkin bread.

In the picture, you can see that we whipped the knitting out again while comparing hauls.

On the chair, you can see The Wings Of A Dream in a glob by my purse. I had just messed up by forgetting a whole row with beads. But all was fixed. I have finished the first wing and started on the second wing. I’m still hoping to complete it in the next couple of weeks. We shall see.

I had a great time on the crawl, despite the damage to my pocket book. It was great fun getting to meet all of our northern knit-buds. I hope they crawl down this way again!

First, just a bit of non-yarn-related info: #1 Son has managed to purchase the ticket for his out-of-the-country trip in January. Of course, he has absolutely no money left and will have to live on water and the good graces of others, but he has 30 days left to figure out how to earn a little spending money. I am, actually, quite proud of him.

In more yarn-related news, I really, really want to show you pictures of the Pacific Northwest Shawl, but the weather refuses to cooperate. As I type this, it is snowing gently and the light is completely flat. According to the weatherpeople, we are expecting a humongous storm later this weekend. But one site reports the chance of scattered sun this afternoon. Should that happen, I will run quickly out and snap as many pics as I can in the hope that I will get one or two worth sharing. But even inside, there’s just no light.

Ann in Richmond mentioned that I had the presence of mind to record the whole repairing-the-GGG process. In reality, after standing across the room, swearing in abject horror, the first thought that really came to mind was I so need to blog this. I grabbed my camera before even edging in for a closer look. How sadly geeky does that make me?

But all of this is not what I really want to talk to you about today.

The Knitter's Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn

All knitterly creation stems from one simple element: yarn. It is the baker’s flour, the jeweler’s gold, the gardener’s soil. Yarn is creation, consolation, and chaos all spun together into one perfect ball. It’s a simple concept, twisting fibers together into a continuous thread of yarn. But the variety of fibers, blends, and spins is truley infinite. So is our relationship with yarn. We love it, we covet it, we are knocked senseless by it. Yet sometimes we are baffled, thwarted, and betrayed by it.

Clara Parkes (of Knitter’s Review fame) begins her wonderful new book, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn, with that lovely, evocative paragraph.

I immediately wanted to know more. And more. And more.

Want to know how wool and silk are the same (or different)? Where cashmere comes from? What the term worsted really means? Why silk sometimes stinks and how to de-stink it? How viscose is made? What’s good about acrylic? It’s all here. Section 1 contains a ton of information about all of the different fibers, from angora to yak, the special properties of each and how to evaluate them.

Not a spinner? (note: I am not) Never been up close and personal with a llama? Section 2 explores how yarn, from indie to mass-marketed, is prepared, spun and dyed and where you can get organic and minimally processed yarns and fibers in all stages of preparedness.

There is a whole chapter on pills. Not the kind you swallow here, gentle reader, but the kind that form on sweaters (and hats and blankets and scarves and…). Parkes not only explains what to do to remove pills, but also why they form in the first place and how to evaluate a yarn to determine its pill potential. I now have a much better idea of why my Noro Silk Garden jacket always pills like there’s no tomorrow, but my Noro Kochoran sweater, although it is much fluffier and fuzzier, does not.

from Cabled Tea Cozy
from Cabled Tea Cozy

Section 3 begins with an exploration of plies, and why we as knitters care. Starting with single-ply yarn and continuing through various numbers of mutiple-plies, Parkes explains how the twists cause the yarn to behave and how knitters can work with that behavior. Following the guidelines here, knitters can match yarns and patterns that will work together. Did you know that simply rewinding a skein of single-ply yarn will stop its tendency to bias in stockinette stitch? I didn’t either, but Parkes explains how and why. Following the chapters on plies are chapters on cabled yarns, textured yarns, and neat things like boucle and chenille. Section 3 ends with a chapter on why yarns felt, why sometimes they won’t, and how to get the best felting results.

Every chapter in Section 3 includes patterns, and every pattern includes a note from the designer about how the yarn was chosen to work with that pattern. And what designers! This is a who’s-who list, gentle reader. Knitters from adventurous beginner to experienced knit-guru will all find patterns here to pique their interest. There are one-skein quickies and lace, blankets and sweaters, bags and socks. You will want to knit them all. Or at least I do.

The book ends with a reference section. How to take care of your yarn, with special notes on different fibers. Determining WPI and yardage requirements. The standard yarn-weight numbering system vs. the older non-standard systems (i.e. #1 = sock / fingering / baby), along with typical gauges and recommended needles for each. A list of abbreviations, including how-to instructions. A recommended reading list; designer bios and a glossary.

I love yarn. I love all the yarns. I love to gaze and fondle and squeeze and pet and smell. Even yarns I would never in a millions years knit with, I love. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn is devoted to such sheer fibery knowledge, with tons of gorgeous yarn-pr0ny pictures, that my inner yarn-geek is fed in the best possible way and I want to just grab my nearest needles and start knitting up a storm.

This book instantly earned a prominent place on my reference shelf.

We can’t all be yarn whisperers, but with The Knitter’s Book of Yarn in hand, we can at least understand our yarn and learn to work with an appreciate it even more than we already do (if that is possible).

The book ends perfectly: Let the journey begin.

Knitting by Judy @ 10:47 AM

the outside of the barn
the outside of the barn

The weatherman warned of rain on Saturday, but it was not to be. Although a bit drizzly when I first got up, by the time I left the house the sun was breaking through the clouds. I picked Melissa up early (go visit Melissa and see the gorgeous yarn she spun), because the plan was to meet some of the other PDX Knit Bloggers for breakfast at the Hawaiian Cafe, conveniently located right next to the barn.

This is the outside of the barn. I want you to see this picture, gentle reader, because I want you to note the sheer size of this place.

Breakfast took a little longer than expected. And then I needed to move my car so restaurant patrons could park. And then the lot by the barn was full and I had to turn around and park between the barn and the road. And all this means it was about 10:15 before I actually stepped foot inside the barn.

the inside of the barn
the inside of the barn

And this was what it looked like inside at about 10:30. Already things were beginning to be a little picked over. And there was a scad of stuff and another scan of knitters there breathing in the yarn fumes.

There were tables down both of the long sides of the barn. To the left of the camera, the tables held cone yarn, books, and a few snacks lest we become faint from hunger (not much chance of that for me after a humongous breakfast at the Hawaiian Cafe). The tables on the right side held grab bags, sheep-to-shoe kits and roving. In the back are racks (it looked like the same racks used at OFFF) holding tons of sock yarn, laceweight, silk, bamboo, mohair, just tons of stuff. And twirly racks of sock yarn, too. People just sort of grabbed stuff willy-nilly and then went to the tables in the middle to sort out what they had.

I want you to pop up this picture and look at the pile in front of the woman on the right towards the middle. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.

Yes, that was a typical haul.

That’s Tina sitting to the right of the pillar with her back to the camera, taking it all in.

blogless Pat from Longview
blogless Pat from Longview

This is Pat from Longview (sadly blogless). Her selection is on the windowsill next to her.

You can see why she looks happy.

Yeah. Wouldn’t you?

By the time I finished chatting with Pat and got in line to pay, the lovely Blue Moon ladies had run out of the big plastic tote bags, but offered a couple of the small bags for my purchases. I think they later ran out of those as well.

When we left around 11:00, there wasn’t much left but there were a lot of happy knitters.

my haul
my haul

And this is my selection. I was very careful. I didn’t want to load up on sock yarn. I looked for cone yarn and unusual fibers in largish quantities. I also bought a sock-club t-shirt, mostly because the back says Notorious Sock Knitters. Who could pass that up?

The cones in the back are 100% cotton. The green on the left is called Quince and the sunny gold on the right is called… Golden Sun (go figure).

The cones in the front are a 100% viscose mini-boucle. On the right is Black Cherry and on the left is Moss. Pictures do not do justice to the way that red simply glows.

When full, each of these cones holds more than 2000 yds. I have no idea if I have full cones or not, but I do have enough to do something really nice with. I have not yet decided what. Stay tuned.

In the front are two lightweight STR that are marked as mill ends. I think they might be slightly off color Ravens. The one right in front is black with hints of blue and purple, and the other is black with hints of teal. When I picked this yarn off the rack, a knitter standing next to me said but it’s black! I replied No it’s not! and held it in the sun streaming through the windows. OH! she said, and started selecting a few skeins herself.

The yarn to the right of my cones belongs to the famous MonicaPDX who shared my sorting space. I will let her tell you about it. Go visit her, where I sure she will post a blow-by-blow.

Knitting |Miscellaneous Musing by Judy @ 5:59 PM

Kat tagged me for this meme. So here are the answers to 38 things about me that you may or may not want to know.

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night? Linda at Tangle Thursday Knit Night, who shares my abiding fondness for blaring Jethro Tull on the car stereo.

2. What were you doing at 0800? Working. Fortunately I sometimes get to work from home.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Working. See above.

4. What happened to you in 2006? At the beginning of 2006 there was the first publication of Judy’s Magic Cast-On. And #1 Son moved away from home. I don’t thing there’s any relation between those two things. They’re just both significant.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud? I love you, but you can’t sit on my keyboard while I’m typing. (To Captain Kidd, one of the resident cats.)

6. How many beverages did you have today? Three cups of coffee and two glasses of water.

7. What color is your hairbrush? Red.

8. What was the last thing you paid for? Lunch yesterday — a turkey burger and fries.

9. Where were you last night? Tangle for Thursday Knit Night until 9:00, then home.

10. What color is your front door? White. Boring, maybe, but nicely set off by the dark gray-green siding.

11. Where do you keep your change? In an antique post office box that has been turned into a penny bank.

12. What’s the weather like today? 50’s. Foggy this morning and now drizzly.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? Butter Brickle. Unfortunately no longer available. Cherry Garcia runs a distant second.

14. What excites you? Knitting! Fiber! Friends! Kids! Books! Work! (yes, really) Turning leaves! Blue skies! Life!

15. Do you want to cut your hair? No. But it could stand a little trim.

16. Are you over the age of 25? Oh, my! That was long, long ago!

17. Do you talk a lot? Sometimes too much. Other times not enough.

18. Do you watch the O.C.? Never have.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven? Yes, several Stevens and Stephens.

20. Do you make up your own words? Of course! What would be the fun in using the same old ones all the time?

21. Are you a jealous person? Not usually. But sometimes. I try to get over it quickly.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’. Alice.

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’. Karen.

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?
#1 Son.

25. What does the last text message you received say? From #1 Son yesterday — huh? — thus revealing the depth of our typical texting communication

26. Do you chew on your straw? No. But I eat my ice.

27. Do you have curly hair? Mostly yes. Except for that one recalcitrant straight lock.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to? The Blue Moon barn sale! :mrgreen:

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
There are very few rude people in my life. I can think of one. But I will not name that person.

30. What was the last thing you ate? A piece of licorice chalk

31. Will you get married in the future? I don’t plan on marrying again. Once was enough.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
Happy Feet

33. Is there anyone you like right now? I like lots of people. I don’t have any romantic designs, if that’s what you’re asking.

34. When was the last time you did the dishes? This morning.

35. Are you currently depressed? No.

36. Did you cry today? No. Not planning to unless I watch a sad movie tonight.

37. Why did you answer and post this? Because Kat tagged me and it was a slow blogging day since I’m still slogging away on The Great Green Glob.

38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey. I’m tagging a random (very, very random) five out of the whole long list of amazing PDX Knit Bloggers. Gentle reader, you should visit these fine fiberistas!

  • Translate
  • Thought of the Minute
    • True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.

      (Nikos Kazantzakis)
  • Word Of The Day
  • Current Weather

Wayback Machine
  • Present Future
    • Fri, Jun 14 - Flag Day (1 day)
    • Fri, Jun 14 - Friday! (1 day)
    • Sun, Jun 16 - Father's Day (3 days)
    • Thu, Jun 20 - until 06-22 Black Sheep Gathering, Eugene (7 days)
    • Thu, Jul 4 - Independence Day (21 days)
    • Thu, Jul 11 - #1 Son's Birthday (28 days)
Stuff I Gotta Do

Follow The Leader shawl


entrelac wrap


Arabesque shawl


Jubjub Bird Socks


I Mog Di


Peacock Feather Shawl


Honeybee Stole


Irtfa'a Faroese Shawl




Fatigues henley sweater


Jade Sapphire Scarf


#1 Son's Blanket


Cotton Bag