All the yarn that's fit to knit!

Come on in, the yarn's fine!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Veni, Vidi, Steeki.

My friends, I hope you had a wonderful holiday.  Are you still recuperating?  I feel like I am!

We had a blast, ate dinner at my sister's house, and it was my parents first Christmas in Chapel Hill, and my daughter's first Christmas, too.  A couple of very nice firsts. 

Another first?  A knitting first for me? 

I steeked.

Having a moment of cold feet here....

Those knitting writers weren't kidding when they talked about having a stiff one or lying down after cutting your knitting.  I didn't exactly have a lie down, but I definitely experienced an adrenaline buzz akin to how you feel directly after riding a roller coaster.  I may have terminal dorkiness, since I would get that systemically affected by yarn. 

It was really nice to steek for the first time at Yarns Etc.  There were several knitters sitting there, it felt somewhat like group therapy.  "We're all going to get through this together, Erin."  "Deep breaths, honey, almost there."  But you know what?  The cut knitting behaved exactly as I'd been promised it would.  It didn't ravel, thanks to some hand stitching I'd done around the basting/cutting line.  The whole thing did not frog itself, and I ended up with a really pretty nice sweater (if I do say so myself).

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Ski Pattern Sampler Sweater.  The wool is Lopi.  My husband is a lucky man.
While I was at the yarn store, I noticed many pretty items that weren't necessarily yarn, but were great when used in conjunction with yarn and knitting (or crocheting).  Have you seen the great selection of buttons? 

Or the ribbons?  Ribbon can look so beautiful laced through evenly spaced holes in a knit, along the hem, at the waist, even at the wrists or laced through a set of arm warmers, perhaps, reminiscent of the lacing on old-time clothing?

These gorgeous colors on the silk ribbon look especially fine.
Sometimes a little something extra can just bring out a hand knit, take it to the next level, as it were. 
And sometimes the something extra is just a gorgeous little runner like this:

Or you could try something like this fantastically unique yarn here:

This is made by Prism, and I believe the yarn is called "Stuff". 

And I fell completely in love with these adorable little measuring tapes. 

Lookit!  A ducky!

I saw a few nice husbands walk into the store back on Thursday, asking for yarn for their spouses for Christmas.  If you received such a gift, lucky you (I made sure my present was yarn!  Lucky me!), and you can come on in to get the little extras you need to make your hand knit shine.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm Not Running The Show

It seems that this week has been one where I learn (repeatedly) that I am not the captain of my destiny...well, not as much as I would like.  Maybe I'm the assistant key grip or something. 

My first clue?  That would have been in the middle of my knitting crunch time.  I had five days to make two pairs of arm warmers for my son's preschool teachers.  They are fabulous ladies, and I was knitting them the uber-stylish Lovisa Arm Warmers, and I even had alllll the yarn I needed from my own stash.  I had oceans of time in which to knit these.  The first one was done by the evening, and I cast on the second one right away.  I was using two different brands of yarn, but they were both the same weight (their differing behavior when they got washed alarmed me briefly).  They also had what appeared to be the amount of wool required to knit the pattern.  I was going to rock this challenge.  But it was not to be so.  Oh no. 

The first arm warmer was fine, and then I had that lovely sinking sensation as I went through the second one.  You know what I mean?  At first you're like, "hmmm, seems like less than half a ball of yarn here.  Oh well, I'm sure I'll have enough."  and you knit on.  Then, you look again and say to yourself "Um, I think it's looking really thin there on that ball..." and you begin to worry, but you keep knitting.  Then you get to the point where it is SO obvious you were in knitting denial, there wasn't a snowflake's chance of making it through without cannibalizing the first arm warmer to finish the second one.  I also set about making some modifications to make the yarn stretch, as I only had one ball of this particular yarn (Jo Sharp DK Merino, in the shade "teal", partnered with Debbie Bliss Merino in a cream color). 

I finished the pair, and went to wash them.  The second they hit the water and I saw them side by side, the urge to whack my forehead repeatedly with the palm of my hand was almost more than I could bear.   My friends, since I had "modified" the second one, it was decidedly....well, look:

Waaah waaaah waaaaaaaaaaaah.

Note to self:  When you modify one, you must modify the other one.  It does not make me feel too good about my brain power that I was as surprised as I was when I looked at them side by side in the soapy sink water.  And guess what?  I still ran out of blue yarn!!!  More modifications to come, obviously.   

I did have some measure of success with the Lovisa Arm Warmer pattern, however:

This was made with some Berroco merino/silk blend I had laying around, and I found a fantastic couple of buttons to finish it out.

I love these so much I think it will be painful to part with them come Christmas. 

Another sign I was not running the universe came about two days ago:

It's sort of hard to see what's going on there, so I took a better shot.  Here:

That is a bajillion gallons of water streaming up from under the road near our home, creating a lot of scrambling for pots and buckets to fill up before all the water was shut off.  In my house, and everyone else in the neighborhood.  For almost 36 hours.  With two kids.  Oh yeah, definitely was not feeling in control there.  But look, here is another finished project:

This is the Hurricane Hat, which made me be able to hold my own at a party where there was some serious Secret Santa action going on.  Made from gorgeous Malabrigo in the much-loved color Azul Profundo. 

I'm cranking out the knits, still psyching myself up for the Steek-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, not to mention a shawl or two, a scarf or two, and another hurricane hat as well as yet another two batches of arm warmers. 

I (most likely) am not going to get everything done on my to-do list in time for Christmas, but I am sure going to enjoy it, especially since I have lots of knits to work on, running water, and this:

Have a very merry!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Solstice, or winter, or that you need another excuse to hit up the knitting store.  In which case I am happy to oblige you!

A Pretty Picture Window at Great Yarns....
It's a few short days until the gift giving season is unleashed upon us, knitters, crocheters, weavers, and appreciators alike.  How are you holding up?  Are you trying to think up one last gift?  Or perhaps, twelve?  Fear not, here are some possible ideas....

Perhaps a fun little scarflette in a snazzy yarn?

A snuggly cowl made with nubby yarn on big needles? 

Everyone loves hats, you know.  Tams, cloches, berets, beanies, yarmulkes, whatever!

A wee cape to warm the shoulders of a loved one?

If you crochet, you'd be amazed how quickly you can crank out a gorgeous scarf like this one....

And Yarns Etc and Great Yarns also have thoughtfully put together kits for fantastic fingerless mitts.

You can't go wrong here, folks.  I bet you need at least one more thing from your friendly neighborhood local yarn store.  

Including having a bit of fun with your fellow knitters/crocheters!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's therapeutic, really.

I'm a passionate knitter.  By passionate, I mean that I feel my way through knitting, that I'm personally, deeply involved in my knitting.  When things go well, I'm deliriously happy.  I've been known to point enthusiastically at other people in public (like for instance, the Durham Museum of Life and Science...ahem) when they correctly guess I'm knitting with Noro sock yarn.  By the way, whoever that was, I'm sorry I freaked you out.  Also, an apology to my friend Liz who was a tragic bystander to that moment.  I probably shouldn't have jumped up and down at the same time as pointing.  I just really really REALLY like knitting.  I get really really passionate about it. 

This is soooo going to be a part of my retirement plan.  Just don't tell my mother.

I also get really passionately disappointed when certain things about knitting do not go my way.  When my stitches don't count out correctly, as in lace knitting.  Or when I forget to double check my cast on stitches and end up knitting a foot long arm warmer that is tighter than its mate.  Frogging 12 inches of knitting tends to make my blood pressure go up, and I start feeling like perhaps I may morph into the Hulk. 

"Don't make me really wouldn't like me angry."

So think of this little story I'm about to tell you as a sort of PSA.  If you struggle with these feelings like I do, take heart.  Read on.

I love some of the tools that come with the knitting territory.  Specifically, I adore my yarn swift and yarn winder.  Maybe I'm easily entertained, but it just makes my day to bust those two things out and use them.  Something about the twirling of yarn (hey, it's dancing!!) and winding it from a pretty skein into a manageable little cake of yarn that beckons to the excitement of casting on for a new project, or serious progress being made about a larger project, it feels like its own achievement to wind a few hundred yards into a nice little compact ball. 

I had bought a wooden swift and a yarn winder a while back.  The swift is a beautiful, fantastic tool.  I highly recommend buying one for yourself or the special knitter in your life.  The yarn winder is also a valuable tool.  You don't necessarily need a swift for a yarn winder, but if you just have a swift, well, that's like having a bowl of soup with no spoon.  The winder is the spoon that makes it all so much easier. 

This ball winder just looked like a winder.  In fact, it was a smarmy little punk of a winder that had a soul full of clothes moths and porcupines.  It loved to eat yarn.  It started out so innocently.  It wound the first five or so balls perfectly.  Then we had a hiccup.  A ball of worsted didn't come out with that uniform drum look to the skein.  It was rather bell shaped...upside down bell shaped.  It was still workable, so I shrugged it off.

My friend came over one day and asked to borrow the yarn winder to wind up some laceweight.  We set it up, and I manned the crank, happy to see hundreds of yards of yarn get wound up without having to use our arms or feet or a chair for winding.  Immediately it all hit the fan.  It was as if we had boiled up eighteen boxes of angel hair pasta and then threw a stick of dynamite into the mix.  Yarn everywhere.  It was a veritable rat's nest.  It even looped under the holder and fouled up the gears of the yarn winder.  I began to feel angry.  Why the &$%@ would you even have exposed gears on a yarn winder?!?  We had several more gray hairs by the time we rescued every blessed yard of laceweight from the rabid yarn winder.  It went into quarantine on the shelf while I questioned myself about whether or not I broke the winder. 

'How could I break it by just turning the handle?' I asked myself.  'Well, you are you,' I answered.  'If anyone could do that, it'd be you.' 

I tried taking it out and winding other yarns, but we never got back to a workably wound ball of yarn.  I took it apart, blew any lint out of it, put it back together.  I tried going slow.  I tried going fast.  I told myself I just wasn't going to get that mad about yarn, for cripes' sake.  I mentioned pitching the yarn winder in the trash, but my friend said she wanted it, that perhaps she could make it work.

Time passed, but the simmering resentment of having a tool that mangled yarn smirking at me from the bookshelf ate at me, I confess.  Perhaps I hadn't been getting enough sleep.  Maybe too much coffee.  I am still at a loss to explain my actions.

One day we hit critical mass.  I pulled it out, told myself I would try again.  I wound two skeins of worsted and it looked just about normal.  I felt like we had made it through our rough patch.  I pulled out some fingering weight, and all h-e-double-hockey-sticks broke loose.  I tried to handle it like an adult.  I did some muttering, pulled the winder apart some more, tweaked cogs and various thingies.  My husband and son retreated upstairs when certain language made an appearance.  I tried to wind one. last. time. 

It chewed it up.  It broke the yarn.

I flipped the frak out.



I came back to myself.  I was sitting on the kitchen floor, bashing the yarn winder, swinging it by its handle into the floor.  I was muttering something about it needing to look as broken as it was behaving.  I could hear Steve telling my son to wait a few minutes before going back downstairs.  Andy asked why.  Steve said (and I quote), "Because Mommy is really mad at her yarn winder right now."


In the middle of what I guess must have been a rage blackout, I heard that and started laughing.  I got up, pitched the little schmuck into the garbage, and went on my merry way.  A wiser knitter (one would hope).  My husband, who somehow loves me in spite of myself, made sure to get me a proper yarn winder from Yarns Etc. for Christmas that year. 

I haven't had a lick of trouble from that one.

I believe that a knitter is only as good as the tools he or she has.  I believe that a knitter should use the best yarn she can (sort of) afford.  I believe that it's OK if my knitting has me seeing red, maybe even crying a little bit.  Or cussing.  Because even though knitting can be very satisfying, fulfilling, and meditative, it can also be quite dramatic.  There can be cliffhangers, tragedies, obsession, love, and hate.  If you've ever felt anything like I felt the day I bashed a yarn winder, know that you're not alone.

However, if no one out there has ever felt that, please don't tell me.  Please also do not send the men in white coats to my house, either.

I'm much better now.  Honest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Best Laid Plans

I had this grand plan.  It was so simple.  Aren't those the two silliest sentences ever uttered/typed?  Every time I get really excited and start hatching a plan, the forces that be start laughing maniacally and get to work. 

I had planned on knitting two sleeves to go with the ginormous sweater I've been gestating for three years now.  I had planned on having oodles of time to knit both sleeves...this was going to be so freakin' easy that I'd sit down to knit and, 45 minutes later, I'd have two sleeves.  I had planned on then measuring the depth of my armholes, measuring the tube o' sweater I had finally, officially,  finished earlier this week.  Then I planned on breaking out the sewing machine, setting a nice line of stitches around my basting and breaking out the scissors for a little steeking.  But that wasn't meant to be, oh no.

Firstly, since I had oceans of time to knit two stranded knitting sleeves, I might as well cast on another project or two, since that's just not enough to occupy my time.  So then I busted out some graph paper, some good old Cascade 220 in black and white, and attemped to design mittens for my knit-finicky four-year old son that must have airplanes.  Not just any old airplanes.  They must be P-51 Mustangs.  Basically airplanes with propellers.  Does anyone out there have a freakin' clue how to do that?!?  I gave it my best shot:

That's my attempt right there.  I'd like to think that the art of knitting can encompass anything.  I've seen many a knitted thing that I didn't think possible.  I've heard tell of knitted boats, bizarre knitted animal attacks, and really teensy tiny knits.  I figured that I'd bang this out and it would totally look like a dang airplane on a dang mitten.  Um, no.  Also, if I try to follow the "rules" I've heard about stranded knitting (no more than two colors per row, no further than five stitches in one color), then you end up adding a lot of little "embellishments" to your airplane graph.  I'm attempting to explain it as flak to anyone who asks.  Including my son.  The palms are really rather nice, though:

Sooooo, after that little experiment, I thought I'd buckle down and start knitting up those sleeves, but then Violet got an ear infection.  It was accompanied by all manner of sad, feverish symptoms that made my poor little girl a very miserable, clingy, unhappy baby.  So, here is what came of my plans:  

Yup.  I'll be generous and say I think that's about 1/3 of a single sleeve.  In fact, since that picture, I have almost doubled its size, so at least progress is being made.  I also had to go to the fabric store and purchase more bobbins for the sewing machine since I sort of cracked the last one.  My sewing machine was originally my mother's.  It is beautiful, and you must treat it with respect.  It is not going to kiss on the first date, and the cracked bobbin was evidence of that.  I was being way too forward with the grand dame, and she let me know, in her dignified way, that I was out of my mind, sewing-wise.  My big plans for a post on steeking will have to wait for another post.  (I hope that might be next week.  I am now going to throw salt over my left shoulder, spin three times counterclockwise, and knock on wood.) 

Meanwhile, my lovely friend DJ gave me a moebius.  Not just any moebius, but a Cat Bordhi moebius:

Behold the Lacy Moebius Cowl!  Gorgeously knit up in Malabrigo Rios, in the color "Arco Iris". 

I just love the gorgeous colors in this.
So, for now, I'm still knitting sleeves.  I plan hope to be steeking in the next few days, but I must admit that it is the same kind of hope that I have when I hope I'm only in the dentist's chair for a little while, and that no cavity/gingivitis/unicorn/explosion is found.  I've been reading up on steeking, and I feel relatively prepared...except for the scissors going cutty cutty on my knitting.  That part gives me a hiney cringe.  There's just no other way to put it.  See you next time.  Oh, and:


Monday, November 14, 2011

What a week!

It is a historic day, at least at my house.  A rare event has occurred.  The last time it happened was possibly at least seven months ago, and goodness knows when it may happen again.

My friends, I have finished a project.


I know.  Me, too.  Stunned.  I have to wash it still, so perhaps not fully done.  I may be penalized for technically lying to you all...and I have to do a teensy bit of grafting to be truly, absolutely done, but really, I'm done.  Honest!!  Oh, and block it...

Anyone else getting reminded of a particular Monty Python sketch?

It's done entirely in Cascade 220 wool, and it's a fair isle yoke pullover à la Elizabeth Zimmermann and The Knitting Workshop.

It's a lot of firsts for me...first pullover, first Fair Isle, first time not following a pattern, first time something I've knit didn't ferment in the "unfinished project" pile, first time using the EPS whirlygig, first time I've knit something for myself that I didn't immediately start tugging and pulling on various parts to make it "fit better".  I did a swatch, got gauge, and then set to measuring myself and figuring out how many stitches to cast on, and the EPS formula did the rest.  And it fits!!! 

It's about 12am in this shot...not exactly my most glamorous time of the day.

I don't know about other knitters, maybe they're serene and confident the entire time they're knitting, but when I was knitting along, as I got further up, the more I became nervous about whether or not this would be a complete disaster of a knit.  One downside to a bottom-up sweater is that you can't shimmy into it to check the fit.  It's a total leap of faith the entire time.  Doing the Fair Isle, I stuck strictly to what wool I had in my stash.  It was a bit more colorful than I expected, and I was a little more worried that I would look like an Easter egg on drugs from the armpits up.  It seems to be all right, though. I modeled it for my son and my husband, and neither of them would lie to my face and say it was pretty if it wasn't, and no one dropped to the floor and had convulsions from the colors.  I'd say that counts as a success. 

I've also been making some fingerless mitts, using the Funky Chunky Mitts pattern I like so much.  I got some Plymouth yarn...and I've lost the label (de l'Air???), but the merino yarn looks really cool even before you knit it up.  Check it out:

I love how fall leaves make any picture look super pretty.

These mitts are a thank you note to someone who gave me a quite a pleasant surprise last week.  Unbeknownst to me, a friend of mine had signed me up for a sort of nationwide secret Santa.  So I received a big box in the mail last week with all sorts of goodies for my family all the way from Washington state!  I'm supposed to pay it forward, and I will, but I just have to give something back to my  extremely thoughtful secret Santa. 

And that's about it for me this week.  I had hoped to be finished with Steve's sweater as well, but that's going to be my goal for this next week.  I'll be steeking with the best of them, and taking lots of pictures to show here!  See you then!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sweatah Weathah

I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween.  My son went as an airplane, which is different than any other day of the year, when he is an airplane.  If I were Super Mom (or perhaps well-rested) I would have remembered to take a picture of him, but alas, I forgot.

We also have had the funk.  The nose-swiping, circus-seal-impersonating funk.  Both the children and I have it, and my husband is somehow immune.  That's probably a good thing,  because we can't handle a man-cold around here.  We still have PTSD from the last one in July.  Violet was up quite a bit last night, gritching about her stuffy nose.  It's really hard to reason with a baby at 4 am, by the way. 

I have been knitting, quite a fair bit, too.  I find that I really go to town on something simple when real life is whupping my butt.  That sweater I was knitting a couple of weeks ago?  It didn't really work out, so I did a mercy killing and started something else.

This is my lovely assistant Violet showing the almost-completed body and the almost-completed sleeve of another Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern, the yoke patterned sweater (Cascade 220 in Denim Heather).  I swear I do knit other things that aren't EZ, I promise.  I'm just...going through a phase.  Maybe I need to branch out.   But right now the endless rows of stockinette are very soothing. 

Here is another project I've been working on.  This is the Landscape Shawl by Evelyn Clark (of Swallowtail Shawl fame).  I've knit this before, and I'm making this for someone for Christmas...which I found out is only 53 days away.  Gulp.  Please don't smack me the next time you see me.  I'm just telling the truth here, folks. 

Anyhoo, this shawl is made from the wonderful, cushy, bouncy Elsebeth Lavold Merino Lace, but in my humble opinion, it is rather thicker than lace.  Maybe more like a fingering weight.  What's nice about the shawl pattern is that it has instructions for different weights of yarn, from lace all the way to worsted.  Each section/chevron of the shawl is knit in garter, seed stitch, stockinette, moss stitch, or reverse stockinette, and it has a nice picot edging along the sides.  What is also very nice about the pattern is that I can actually knit it.  I am missing that part of my DNA that allows other competent knitters to make lace.  I couldn't knit lace if you held a gun to my head, or a flame to my stash.  I cannot even knit the super-popular Swallowtail Lace Shawl that everyone and their blind, three-legged dog can knit.  I've tried three times, and ended up saying things that blistered paint. 

I am also reaching into the mists of time, sifting through the stash for another goody that needs to be finished. 

It's Elizabeth Zimmermann again (sorry, folks, I'm going through a phase), the Ski Sampler Sweater.  My husband has been waiting for this albatross for about three years now, and this year (knock on wood) it's gonna happen.  I am knitting this up in fantastically rustic Icelandic Lopi.  My husband loves that sort of thing.  In fact, as I'm knitting along, sometimes I come to a bit of a twig still in the yarn and you know what?  I just keep it in there and knit it into the sweater too.  He loves scratchy clothing, which strikes me as bizarre to say the least, but at least I'm doing my part to make sure he is itchy-scratchy all over.  My husband is...well, that's another post for another day.  I'll just say he's hard to knit for.  So is my son, come to think of it. 

I'm almost done with the body of this sweater, and then comes the sleeves and then....DUM DUM DUM...I shall be steeking.  That's right, cutting my knitting all up.  Making armholes.  I've never done it before--have you?  I find it makes me nervous that in the books I've read about knitting, whenever steeking comes up, the author invariably recommends you either have a drink afterward, or lie down in a dark room.  Sheesh. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

She Blinded Me With Science

Please tell me you know that song!  Long live the 80s!!

My house is smelly right now.  I've been conducting science experiments.  On yarn.  Veeeeery interesting, I must say.

Let me start with a bit of back story.  I have a friend of mine who had given me a large amount of yarn, therefore he has first dibs on either of my kidneys, should he need them.  But they were mystery yarns.  I had no labels, and they were already wound.  They seemed to be made of wool.  They were rather scratchy.  I was keen to use them, but I also had no idea how many yards there were in each skein, and the weight of the yarn was somewhat less than worsted weight, yet not exactly was hard to say what was going on with them, actually.

I wanted to make some mittens for my son, so we picked out some yarn out of my stash.  He was interested in some of the mystery yarn.  I pulled it out and set to swatching.  But it didn't feel like wool in my hands.  Sort of inelastic, really.  I finished my swatch and washed it and then the weirdness hit a peak.  It didn't smell like wool.  No weird, funky wet-dog/wet-sheep smell.  It was more of a smell reminiscent of leaving your CD in the microwave and setting the timer to three weeks.  That kind of a smell.  The "uh-oh-we-have-synthetics" smell.  No bueno.

Now, I admit, I prefer wool (and I would hardly scoff at cashmere) to synthetics, but they definitely have their place, and I think they're getting better all the time.  You've got to admit, they were freaky-deaky back in the day when they first came out--I think we can all agree on that?  Nowadays, they can be very soft, come in an amazing array of textures and colors, and of course they are machine wash-and-dryable.  On the other hand, they don't do the amazing things that wool (and other natural fibers) can do.  Wool is warm, breatheably warm.  It takes some effort to make wool truly wet, since most liquids bead up on its surface, and (isn't this so cool?) wool exudes heat as it dries.  I read somewhere that in Scotland, in the bitter cold weather, they would dip their wool in water before putting it on (!).  I'm wondering who the first person was to try that little experiment.  "'s so freakin' cold, I'll just nip off to the pond to get my clothes wet before I put them on.  This'll be great!" 

Another plus for wool--it does not burn on its own.  It can smolder, but will extinguish itself once the source of the flame is removed.  That is why wool is such a great thing to put on small children, and why things like nylon and acrylic are a bad idea to put on children, considering those materials can catch fire, burn and melt like gangbusters (shudder). 

I wanted to find out what was up with this mystery yarn.  What was it made of?  Was my nose off?  Maybe it was wool, but I wasn't sure.  How could I find out, you ask?  Easy.  All you need is this:

No one can see my messy kitchen.  You've all been hypnotized.  It is spotless....yesss....

And this:

Lest you think I am some kind of chemist/genius, all I am doing has been done before and wonderfully explained in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's book, Knitting Rules!  Can I confess something?  The first time I borrowed that book from the library, I apparently misplaced my sense of humor there and thought she had written a real Rule Book.  Dork!

So, Stephanie (aka the Yarn Harlot) has this tidy table that shows what to expect when you submerge various yarns/fibers in bleach.  Basically, if it is a natural fiber, it will eventually dissolve in full strength bleach.  Man-made fibers will not. 

The most fun came from testing the yarn with fire, however.  In the beginning, the yarn was looking so innocent...

but the seed of mistrust had been sown.  This is what it looked like to me:

Guess who learned how to doodle on photos today?

I started out with every intention of being a good little scientist.  I had a kitchen timer, a dish of bleach, a candle, a pair of scissors, and the camera.  But after a while, the fumes of burning yarn combined with the glee of burning stuff led to lots of blurry shots of yarn on fire.  It was hard to hold the yarn (whilst on fire, mind you) with my left hand while trying to focus the camera and take cool shots with my other hand.  The first victim sample did this:

Did you see that?  Those three shots all happened within maybe 2-3 seconds.  The fibers shrank from the candle flame (another sign it isn't a natural fiber--cotton, wool, silk will not do that), then flared into flame.  This yarn showed a blue tinge at the base of the flame,

and the smell was enough to knock your socks off.  It also dripped long black crumbly plastic-y ash.  Yuck.  This was a wonderful reminder to me that, as the mother of two small children, to never use such a fiber for their knits. 

The mystery yarn was horrified.

I tested all of the mystery yarn.  I was determined to learn the truth.  And the results?

All acrylic.  All of the skeins shrank from the flame, then went up in flames.  It smelled of burning chemicals.  None of the samples I submerged in bleach ever showed any hint of dissolving, even after 15 minutes. 

I decided to try some yarn that I knew had natural fibers in it.  I busted out some good old-fashioned kitchen cotton yarn:

And the flames were noticeably different.

Here you can see that there are no flare-ups, even though the entire strand is on fire, it is a steady burn.  There is no black crumbly ash, but instead you can see at the bottom of the strand, an ash gray remnant, still showing evidence of the plying done to the yarn.  Isn't that cool?  The smell of burning cotton was akin to burning wood, a relief to my nose at that point.  

I also burned a tiny strand of Noro.  Look away if this is shocking to you.

Noro has all kinds of fiber in it.  Wool, lambs wool, nylon, silk.  And it went up in flames, too, with the old crumbly black ash.  Bummer.

I decided to try some alpaca/wool blend yarn, and was surprised that it also went up in flames completely.  I had hoped that the yarn would behave like pure wool is supposed to.  That is, it would only smolder when flame was applied, and that would cease once the flame was removed.  I finally went for the Cascade 220 wool and decided to put it to the test. 

It did burn a little bit, I was surprised to note.  But the flame was very small and very quickly put itself out.  

All in all, it was a really fun experiment to do.  Even better was when my husband came home after 45 minutes of me burning acrylic yarns and was almost knocked backward by the smell.  "What the $%&# are you doing?" he asked.  I had burning fiber in one hand and our family camera in the other.  I can only imagine what he must have been thinking....

PS:  Even though you may do your experiment at the kitchen sink (handy place to put stuff on fire, and water is easily accessible, just in case), do not presume to wash your burnt yarn and bleached yarn bits down the drain:

PPS:  There is not enough apologizing you can do on a Saturday when the disposal is clogged by bleached, burnt yarn. 

Sign up for our email Newsletter!