Thursday, March 31, 2011

Arigato, Temple Sale.

Here are some skeins of yarn from Japan.  When I visited my sister there, back in the 90's, we stumbled on to a temple rummage sale in the plaza, next to the train station.  I spent a grand total of 1700 yen, and had enough chachkes and dessert and saki sets that I did not need to buy any other souvenirs.  It cost me 35$ to UPS my loot home.
I bought a bag of these cute little 25 gm skeins of yarn at the temple sale.
Today, in yet another futile attempt to find something lost in the stash, they surfaced.  My first question was, what  are they: acrylic?  Wool?  My second question was: how am I going to find out?
Well, the answer is Google translate.  I know what you are thinking.  Sure, that works fine if you can write Japanese. Well, I can't.  So I had to enter likely English words and see what the Japanese translation looked like.
So, the first skein is 45% acrylic, 35% wool, and 20% nylon.  The middle one is 60% acrylic, 40% cotton, and the brown stuff is 55% acrylic, 45% ????  I tried every fiber ingredient I could think of, and didn't get a match for the brown.  The little symbols show wash water at 30 degrees C. and there's no X through the little symbol for the iron.  Whatever it is, I can wash it.
I have 100 gm. of the first kind, and 50 gm each of the other two.  All three are 2 ply, and about half the size of 4 ply sock yarn.  So, perfect for the knitting machine!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Blue Toed Tyrolean Clown Socks

My tyrolean clown is 6'7", with size 13 clodhoppers.  He likes a sock with a deep (10" ) cuff, and needs socks that do not bind anywhere, but stay up anyway.  I always MK the rib as an industrial rib- a k2p2 half-pitch rib which has 30% more stitches than a full-pitch k2p2.  This means that, aside from making humungous socks, the rib part is also eating up extra yarn.  I always plan on three 50 gm skeins to finish a pair of socks for DH.  If I have less than that, he gets blue toes. I'll be running out of blue sock yarn some time in 2015.

This winter, we were helping to host the Adirondack Mountain Club winter outing, and Mark was always pulling up his pant leg to show people his socks.  People would come up to me, and tell me how much they like the socks, and how much DH likes them, too.  I told them this is why I don't make him underwear.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Felting in the Dryer, and Little Zippers

Here are some kids slippers, knit from Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky.  Top picture shows them after felting, lower is before felting.  It is a pattern that I have been working on for a few while, which is why I have knit 11 pairs, not all of them kids sizes.
I wanted a pattern that is simple, quick, in-the-round, and no-sew.  This is what I came up with.
The pattern for the kids' sizes is 16 rows.  No. Kidding.  And it is felted in the dryer- a technique that I got from a friend.  The slippers were about an inch shorter after felting.
I've been wearing a similar pair as house shoes for the past 3 months, and they are holding up very well.

  A skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky is 125 yards, and will make 2 pairs of kids slippers.  You can make these slippers on dp's, one two circulars, or on one longish circular (magic loop).  The slipper is knit from the top down, the last row being the middle of the sole.  Knit the last row with a needle a couple sizes larger, and you can close the sole by 'zipping' it shut: pulling stitches from alternate sides through one another from toe end to heel end, where your yarn end goes in the last loop.  This closing resembles another garter stitch row, and matches the elasticity of the rest of the sole.

This being March Madness, I can tell you that I can knit a pair of these in the time it takes to watch a basketball game. However, as I explained above, I've had a bit of practice. YMMV.

If you would like to have the kids zippers pattern, just send me an e-mail (sharonwue-at-yahoo-dot-com) and I will send it along.  It is copyrighted, so please do not distribute.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about the pattern, especially the 'in-the-round vs sew-it-up' and the 'zipper closing' features.

Meantime, about felting in the dryer:  Here's how I do it.
With the items sopping wet, put them in the dryer with some small towels.  (I use hand towels, kitchen towels, golf towels, etc.  Bath towels are too big and heavy for this job, IMHO.)  Run the dryer on low, or no, heat.  Check every 10 to 15 minutes.  When you check them, work out the toe and heel with your fingers, where the slippers want to bubble a bit.   Don't let them dry out.  Re-sop them, as this is a WET process.  You can only do it in the dryer if YOU provide the WET environment that felting needs.  My slippers were dropped in a basin of water again at 30 minutes in, and, dripping wet, they were flung back into the dryer to continue tumbling. Mine were tumbled for less than an hour, total.  Pull, push them into shape and dry.  If they are still squishy when you are done felting, I spin them out in the washer to speed drying.  After that, I do put them in a (front loading) washer to launder when they need it, but I DO NOT dry them in the dryer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bamboo yarn and snake oil.

What do you think when you see that a yarn is 20% bamboo?  Maybe, how cool is that?  Save the planet.  Natural fiber.
Me, too.
So, how do you think they MAKE bamboo into spinnable fiber and yarn, and why do they do it?
"While specifics can vary, the general process for chemically manufacturing bamboo fiber using hydrolysis alkalization with multi-phase bleaching technology – which is the dominate technology for producing regenerated bamboo fiber – goes like this:
  1. Bamboo leaves and the soft, inner pith from the hard bamboo trunk are extracted and crushed;
  2. The crushed bamboo cellulose is soaked in a solution of 15% to 20% sodium hydroxide at a temperature between 20 degrees C to 25 degrees C for one to three hours to form alkali cellulose;
  3. The bamboo alkali cellulose is then pressed to remove any excess sodium hydroxide solution. The alkali cellulose is crashed by a grinder and left to dry for 24 hours;
  4. Roughly a third as much carbon disulfide is added to the bamboo alkali cellulose to sulfurize the compound causing it to jell;
  5. Any remaining carbon disulfide is removed by evaporation due to decompression and cellulose sodium xanthogenate is the result;
  6. A diluted solution of sodium hydroxide is added to the cellulose sodium xanthogenate dissolving it to create a viscose solution consisting of about 5% sodium hydroxide and 7% to 15% bamboo fiber cellulose.
  7. The viscose bamboo cellulose is forced through spinneret nozzles into a large container of a diluted sulfuric acid solution which hardens the viscose bamboo cellulose sodium xanthogenate and reconverts it to cellulose bamboo fiber threads which are spun into bamboo fiber yarns to be woven into reconstructed and regenerated bamboo fabric.
This gives some feel for how chemically intensive the hydrolysis-alkalization and multiphase bleaching manufacturing processes are for most bamboo fabrics that are promoted as being sustainable and eco-friendly."
This is the same process used for making rayon out of wood fiber.  In the US, Bamboo yarn  made by this process should be labelled "bamboo rayon".  
Design-wise, rayon (whether from wood products or bamboo) take a nice dye, has good drape, wears well, etc.  I'll keep all that in mind when I'm shopping.  But I think I'll keep the manufacturing process in mind, too.  And my scotch soul wants to know why I would pay a premium price for something that's half rayon.
I feel I've been a victim of  marketing  (Look! Green, sustainable Bamboo!), but it was my own fault.  We'd all like to think we are doing things in a greener, more sustainable way.  But it's way more complicated than buying some bamboo yarn.