Acts of Knitting and Nerdery

A co-worker has a baby, I make a hat. That’s just how it works, you know?

The latest co-worker baby, a girl, arrived in February, and I have been trying to make a hat ever since.

Trying.

And, ohhh, is it trying.

The yarn was simple enough. I recycled a bunch of yarn from an old Banana Republic sweater, a soft and fuzzy fingering weight angora/lambswool blend that would be great for a soft and warm baby garment. I decided that I wanted to do something yellow with pink accents, and thus dyed it up like so:

Yellow Pink Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn

Recycled angora/lambswool blend dyed with Kool-Aid flavors Pink Lemonade, Peach Mango, and Piña Pineapple.

It turned out much brighter than I had intended, but I like it. Still very girl-baby.

Then I set out to find a hat pattern that worked with the yarn.
And this is where everything has gone horribly wrong. Read more…

The Secret of NIMH is one of my favorite movies from my childhood. I found it on DVD a few years back and had to bring it home with me. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it held up all these years later. In the movie, there’s a black crow named Jeremy who has an obsession for collecting yarn.

Secret of Nimh - Jeremy's Love Nest

I can sympathize. My yarn stash was piling up in my living room like Jeremy’s love nest. So today it was cleaned up and put away and I have a living room again!

I also finished two projects yesterday, which passes for exciting news around here. The first was the long awaited Pioneer sweater. The verdict?

Read more…

I did it! I finished the green hat!

 

Slouchy Ridges Hat

Green, slouchy and warm!

 

And I finished unraveling the PINK sweater!

Read more…

I finally, FINALLY finished unraveling the Ralph Lauren sweater! I had band-aids on my fingers at the end since pulling the yarn was cutting into them so hard that they were on the verge of blisters and blood. That would have been no good.

Anyway, if my ad hoc yarn measurement technique is any good, then I got about 1300 yards of super sweet merino/mohair fingering weight yarn out of it. Next, with any luck at all, I will be going from this…

Ralph Lauren Sweater from a Thrift Store

to this…

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The purple-blue yarn I dyed on Friday night has finished drying, so I wound it into hanks this afternoon and took pictures. I named this one “Blueberry Cobbler”.

Blue and Purple Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn

I used roughly 400 yards of the merino/mohair blend I recycled from the Ralph Lauren sweater. It is lusciously soft. I need to make something awesome with this yarn.

Read more…

So, this is a knitting blog, and all I’ve been talking about is unraveling sweaters and dyeing yarn. Which are definitely related to knitting, but which are not actually knitting.

HEY LOOK I KNITTED SOMETHING!

Pop Rocks Moebius Cowl  

I’m calling it the Pop Rocks Cowl. Why Pop Rocks? The colors on this yarn remind me of candy, and the color shifts so quickly that every stitch winds up a different color. Done up in in a seed stitch, it’s a mess of candy-colored pebbles.

Do be honest, I don’t think it’s all that pretty. However, the color is much better than the photos let on. WordPress likes to desaturate the photos I upload, so this looks rather faded and muddy. Which is a fair assessment and the reason I called the yarn “Hot Mess”.  Regardless, it was very satisfying to make something from yarn that I’d reclaimed and dyed myself. Very good experiment, will repeat with better yarn and better patterns!

Here’s the pattern if you’re interested.

Pop Rocks Cowl

You’ll need:

  • Roughly 2 hanks of bulky weight yarn
  • Size 11 circulars with cable at least 40″ long

Cast on 137 using Cat Borhdi’s moebius cast on
P1, K1 until 5” wide. The odd number of stitches cast on will naturally result in a seed stitch pattern.
Purl across 1 row
Knit across 1 row
K2tog, YO across 1 row
Knit across 1 row
Purl across 1 row
K2tog, then P1, K1 rib for 2 rows
Bind off with Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off and weave in ends.

I blocked it gently to get the edges to lay flat since the lace edge made it want to curl. I added a little garter stitch modification to the pattern to hopefully help avoid that. If you block it, it should wrap around your neck three times. If you don’t, it’ll go around twice.

I preferred the length before blocking, and now I’m considering giving it a run through the washer and dryer to tighten it back up. In hindsight I’m also thinking the seed stitch would be better as a 3-row detail, or that I should have ditched the seed stitch entirely in favor of a simple 2×2 rib the whole way. This pattern would be much better with a solid color. The color variegation requires something cleaner and simpler.

Ah well, live and learn. I’m working on the Soft Cables Moebius Scarf with that chocolate brown alpaca yarn now. I’m calling that one Bonny + Issy after the alpacas named on the label as the yarn’s source.

This is the Ralph Lauren sweater I found at the thrift store last weekend. There’s a sort of nerdy glee that comes with the willful destruction of an expensive designer sweater.

80% Merino Wool, 13% Mohair, and 7% Nylon. It’s not felted, but it is extremely fuzzy and soft. The uberfuzziness is making the unraveling into slow work since fuzz likes to grab onto fuzz. It’s kind of like trying to unravel yarn made of velcro. But it’s all coming out in nice, long pieces of this gorgeous fuzzy yarn, so the extra effort has been totally worth it. Besides, it keeps me busy while I’m running through a Downton Abbey marathon (thank you, Amazon Prime!)

So far I’ve only unraveled the cowl, and it’s becoming clear that I’m going to get a crap-ton of yarn out of it.

Yes, “crap-ton” is a technical term. Highly technical.

Anyway, I’m going to wind up with a lot of fingering-weight yarn in this ultra fuzzy merino/mohair blend. Clearly it’s begging to be dyed. I’m thinking at least some of it will be done with a modified version of the ice cube method – dye a base color in the crockpot first, then use the ice cubes to paint on different shades, and possibly finish with an overdye pass to deepen or tone down as needed.

As to color, I’m thinking shades of green. Because clearly I don’t have enough green yarn. What about those seven unused cakes of Berroco pea soup mix fingering hanging out in my stash, you ask? Obviously those don’t count.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of unraveling old sweaters to reclaim the yarn for other projects for awhile now. And with my plans to attempt yarn dyeing in the near future, the two notions seem to dovetail nicely. What better thing than to unravel a thrift store sweater, dye it, and then make into a very cool, completely different object?

So yesterday morning I took a box of old clothes to Unique Thrift Store. Of course, it was just an excuse to go dig through the sweaters. I came away with five, four of which are dyeable with labels like Banana Republic, Express and even a super soft Ralph Lauren angora. The fifth is a soft, dark mottled acrylic that I can’t dye since it’s not an animal fiber. I just liked the yarn. Those five sweaters cost me a whopping $15. I figure that for $3 a pop, I don’t really care if my initial attempts at unraveling are complete disasters.

Of course, I couldn’t resist ripping into one of them right away. I was so excited that I forgot to take a “before” photo, but it wasn’t anything special. It was an off-white chunky 100% merino wool cardigan with a few cables on the front. What I thought was a bulky yarn turned out to be three strands of what looks to be fingering weight yarn held together, which probably was not ideal for my first attempt at unraveling a sweater, but in the end I wound up with five hanks of soft but very kinked, 3-ply super bulky merino.

Reclaimed Yarn from a Thirft Store Sweater

Here’s a closer shot of a single hank.

Merino Wool Yarn Recycled from a Thrift Store Sweater

Basically, I wound these into balls as I pulled the yarn out of the sweater, then wheeled it onto my swift, which was attached to the back of a chair so that it ran kind of like a ferris wheel. Tied it off in three places to keep it from getting tangled, twisted them all up and voila.

Later, I soaked them in a dish soap solution, then let them hang dry to get the kinks out:

Reclaimed Merino Wool Yarn

Yes, those are canned goods that I’m using for weights. (And no, I haven’t taken down my Christmas stockings yet. Shut up.) Once they’re straight and dry, they’ll be twisted back up into hanks until I’m ready to dye them.

I’m hoping I can accomplish something a bit like this yarn by tilly4u on Ravelry. It was done entirely with Kool-Aid and food coloring. Gorgeous.

Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn by tilly4u

If you’re interested in how to unravel sweaters to recycle the yarn, check out these great tutorials:
How to Unravel a Sweater to Recycle Yarn by Neauveau Fiber Art
How to Recycle Yarn from a Thrift Store Sweater by Craftstylish