Saturday, July 19, 2008

Late last winter I knit up a Hemlock Ring blanket, but I didn't want to blog about it because it was a wedding present. I'm pretty sure the recipients don't read my blog, but you never know! I had a one pound cone of sunshiney yellow Jaggerspun Zephyr (merino/silk blend) left over from my weaving days. I split the cone into six nearly-equal balls (involving my swift, my ball winder, a kitchen scale and about 3 hours) and then swatched until I got a fabric weight I liked. The blanket knit up very quickly (a couple of weeks) and is the kind of lace I find I really like--each row is easy to memorize and very symmetric. It then languished for several months while I avoided blocking it (because, you know, I wouldn't want to block too early and then get it all creased storing it for several months!).

I finally blocked it in June when I went away for a week. It was a bit tricky in my apartment, since the blanket was too wide to block on my bed and I have hardwood floors. I finally pulled all the cushions off the couch, arranged them on the floor and pinned the blanket to it. I had to do this when I was going out of town because this arrangement left no room to walk through the main room of my apartment! The pins didn't really want to stay in the foam of the cushions, though, so I couldn't block very severely, meaning the blanket is really more of a small throw (and looked pathetically small when I laid it out on my sister's king size bed to show her). It also meant that one petal is shorter than the other 7--I don't know how that happened, but I couldn't seem to block it out because when I pulled, the other pins just popped out. Have I mentioned how much I hate blocking? And yes, after I took the picture I straightened out that curved petal!



I also started a little tank top with some hemp yarn. I ordered veeeeery thin laceweight, delusionally imagining I'd be able to crochet it into a non-see-through, but still light, fabric. Um, no. Using two strands made a nice fabric, but it turned out I didn't have as much time to crochet at my conferences (in June) as I'd hoped, so I didn't get very far. Then I realized it was about 10 inches too big around. Note to self: must learn to do bigger gauge swatches. By then I'd had to admit to myself that crocheting kills my wrists--I'd seen that coming during the sunhat but kept hoping it was a learning thing and once I got a bit better I'd stop doing whatever it was that hurt my wrist. Sadly, no.

At this point, my entire plan was spinning out of control. See, the one time I knit with hemp it really killed my hands, but crocheting with it was fine (as long as I ignored the searing wrist pain...), so I'd bought some more hemp with the plan to crochet. Which failed. So I decided to try knitting with it again. You know, because by this time I'd gone around enough times in my head that I didn't know which way was up! However, it seems to have worked, and I find knitting with it not so bad!??! Two things helped:

  • I boiled the skeined yarn before using it. Yes, for 30 minutes, I boiled it on the stove. Where it crocked (see def. 2) like mad. I let it dry and wound it into balls. Already much softer!
  • it's really fine singles, which somehow seem easier to work with than the tree-stalks I was using before. This could be an illusion, but then I'm a big fan of any kind of placebo effect. What's better than solving your problem without doing anything at all, and with no side effects?


Oh, so my other motivation for wanting to crochet the hemp was that I could work in the round but be less worried about the stitches sliding and the garment sagging. And I was hoping the stiffness of the crochet would render the finished fabric more woven-like in it's drape properties (knitting has a tendency to cling to my extra belly--not so flattering in a shirt, easier to avoid in a sweater, but I wanted to make a summer tank!). To get around the slippy slidey stitches issue, I'm using a slip stitch pattern (Quilted Lattice from BW's 1st treasury) since these, ironically, help prevent slipping later on, and then I'll make phoney seams once I'm at the armpits (drop a column of stitches then knit them up two rows at a time, from EZ).

Whew! Longwinded intro to a small picture of the pattern stitch (in a picture that is a bit too shiny to really see the pattern....):




In other news, the countdown to moving has begun: 10 weeks to go! I'm really excited! I was just back in the states for a week to attend the aforementioned wedding in Boston. That was great--two old friends finally marrying each other. I wintered with the two of them at pole (where their relationship began), so I know them really well, and I was so glad I could make it back for the big day. I also tacked on a short trip to Tennessee to visit my sister and niece (who just turned 7) and my mom also flew down. I tried to teach my niece to knit, but it wasn't so exciting compared to their Wii, unfortunately. Maybe next time!

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