Thursday, February 23, 2017

Not Knitting Socks...

I have been bitten by the cable bug.

I started with a pair of cable socks, but these are a disaster, because I can never get them to fit right. It takes me multiple tries...right now, these are awaiting frogging:

[too-small socks awaiting their frogging]

The yarn is Tosh Sock, which I'm not in love with. The colourway (cove), yes, but the quality of the This particular skein fell into short ends - it had breaks every few meters. Very frustrating to knit with, and hence I'm not in a rush to frog them, either. So they will languish for some time....

Meanwhile, my urge to cable has not diminished. So I've been knitting an Aran sweater for my son's birthday:

[St. Enda sweater for my son]

This is my first Aran, ever! The pattern is one of Alice Starmore's (St. Enda), and is truly spectacular. I made some very minor modifications: managed to carry the small cables on the cuffs into the main body, and modified the neck by making it really long and folding it inwards. 

The beautiful yarn is from a lady in my knitting group, she bought it in Scotland or Ireland decades ago and it had been languishing in her stash. She wanted to give it a good truly is wonderful stuff. Not soft, but a nice crisp yarn with good body.  Heirloom quality that won't pill or sag. The colour is impossible to photograph, it's a dark teal/green with lots of flecks in it. 

I'm now knitting an Aran for myself - my own "design" (ie. just pick a few cable patterns from your nearest stitch dictionary). Again it takes some time to get the width right because even knitting up swatches isn't really good enough...I usually start with the sleeves (in the round) and use them as giant swatches, but even so it took me 3 times to get the back width correct. 

[Misty thinks it's hers]

This yarn is from Beaverslide Dry Goods - their Fisherman's 3 ply - and it is quite soft, with little elasticity, so not as nice to knit with as that green stuff, above. My hands get quite tired from it. But the cat seems to like it. It's spun in Alberta from Montana merinos, so pretty local.

Finally, I have my eye on this beautiful design, which I'm hoping one of my menfolk will desire as much as I. I'm thinking of using Briggs and Little, which is a Canadian yarn I've recently tried for the first time - very springy and woolly.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Metal Needle Care

I've had issues with needles tarnishing, as well as the electroplated nickel actually flaking off. Let's review:

Addi needles are made of brass. Their "Turbo" and "Sock Rocket" lines are further plated with nickel. The "Turbo Lace" line is not nickel-plated, but has the hollow brass tips coated with some kind of protective resin. If you are nickel-allergic, these may be an option for you.

KnitPicks metal needles are made of nickel-plated brass.

ChiaoGoo and Hiya Hiya make stainless steel needles, with no plating or coating. These are marginally less slippery than nickel-plated needles.

Those old-school pearly grey metal needles by Inox and Prym are made of (powder-coated) aluminium. These are the least slick of the metal needles.

Needles tarnish rather easily, especially the nickel-plated ones. It's mostly due to the oils in your hands, and gets especially noticeable if you let the work sit for a time. I find that wiping the tarnished needles with a microfiber cleaning cloth (like I use on my glasses) is usually enough to get them shiny again. If not, use a mild degreaser like vinegar. Windex and a paper towel works as well.

[tarnished Ni-plated needle. It's just dirty.]

Nickel plating is done by a process called "electroplating", which requires the underlying substrate (brass, usually) to be super-clean. If there's any grease or dirt around during the manufacturing process, the electroplating won't adhere properly and can flake off later. It is really annoying, the flakes end up in your knitting and the needles get noticeably textured. The underlying brass layer shows up, see the photo below. Cheaper needles (like KnitPicks) have a higher rate of plating failure than the more expensive ones. If your needles exhibit flaking, call customer support. They'll send you a replacement.

[needle showing plating flaking off]

Powdercoating is tough as nails, and I've never had any of my needles so much as show a chip. Even keeping them clean is hardly required.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Depilling Experiment

I tend to prefer "rustic" yarns over soft ones like merino, polwarth, cashmere, angora, and alpaca, because I find these fine fibers start to pill terribly after a while.

Here's an example. This is a home-spun, handknit cardigan I did about a year ago. It has about 50% merino in it - the blue colour, especially, has  high fine-wool percentage (75% merino/polwarth). The higher percentage, the bigger the tendency to pill.

[handspun, hand-knit cardi (my own design)]

After only a year of wear, the underarm areas (on sleeves and body) as well as the bottom blue band, are really starting to pill fairly badly:

[pilling under the arms...]

[...and along the bottom]

The sweater has lost its "dressy" appeal for me.

After reading up on pill removal, I did some experiments using:
1. a hair clipper (the kind I use for my husband's hair),
2. a battery-operated device that supposedly sucks in the pills and cuts them off,
3. a cheap comblike tool with a very rough metal surface, called a "d-fuzz-it" and I think made by Dritz, costs like $3, and finally,
4. a piece of pumice ("sweater stone")

[hair clipper]

[battery-operated defuzzer]

[D-Fuzz-It comb]

[piece of pumice stone - don't ask me how they made it blue]

The only one that worked well was item 3.

The hair clipper / beard trimmer is scary to use, you have to watch like a hawk that those blades don't get too close to the knitting. Then, the fluff that it does chop off just stays on the sweater (and sticks) so it doesn't save any work from just picking off the pills by hand.

The batter-operated vacuum thingy is worthless on bigger pills. It doesn't have the strength to remove anything. Don't waste your money.

The comblike tool  has a rough surface that collects the pills. It requires a firm hand, you scrape across the sweater and it collects fluff. It works extremely well. It takes a lot of stuff off, and yes, this wears out the sweater. "Pilling" is "wear". In other words, fine wools don't wear well. Which, I remind you, is why I'm not a big fan...

The piece of pumice (a type of volcanic stone that's also used to remove callouses from your feet, I got it from the manicure section of my local drug store for a few dollars). You rub it across the sweater. More expensive are "sweater stones", which are exactly the same thing in block form. I found this thing very effective as well, but it was much more awkward to hold and maneuver across the sweater. It also felt much more aggressive than the comb and seemed to remove more fuzz.

But, after once-over with the defuzzer, my sweater is looking much better.

[...after a go-over with the sweater "comb"]

[ more pills!]

[Here's the pile of fluff I took off the sweater]

I'm now going over all my "soft" sweaters with this little thing. It's going to live in my top drawer!