PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Expectations, great or otherwise

+ 1 comment
You know the saying "caveat emptor?" I feel like that is doubly true since the invention of the internet and the proliferation of monitors with different color profiles.  When you fall in love with the image of yarn on your screen, you can't always be sure that the color you're seeing is the color of the yarn itself.  We've all purchased yarn we thought was a certain color, only to find out it was in fact five shades darker or greener or what have you.

This is doubly true of hand-painted yarns, where each skein is unique anyway, without the added burden of color profiles.  However, I recently received a skein where it was not simply a matter of it being a just different shade or hue than had been illustrated on the screen.  This was a matter of it being almost a completely different yarn.  I ordered what I was expecting to be a vibrantly saturated yarn that resembled green rolling hills, and received yarn that looked like a sad Easter Egg.

I am not going to name any names, because we all have off-days.  These things happen.  But I will admit to being extremely disappointed when I opened up my package and saw pastels staring up at me.  This was not the yarn I wanted when I excitedly purchased it lo these many weeks ago.

So being a good diy-er, I decided to fix it myself.  I soaked it in vinegar and went at it with some blue dye, and this is what I ended up with: 

Which was maybe slightly more vibrant than I had intended.  This is why I don't judge.  Dying yarn is hard, yo.  But I'm much happier with my shocking blue yarn than I was with my pastel Easter egg yarn, and already have the perfect project in mind for it: Regina, by Carina Spencer.

However, those of you who intend to do this yourself, take note - BFL felts.  Which probably shouldn't have been as surprising as it was, but I am impatient, and like to touch my yarn while it's soaking.  That was a mistake.  As you can see, the yarn is still servicable, but it certainly roughed up and each strand got cozy with its neighbors while it was drying.  I had to do some gentle tugging to separate things as I was rolling up the ball.

So note to self: when rinsing out hand-dyed yarn after defacing it, don't swish.
Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vintage Pattern Acquisition

+ Add a comment
Interestingly, being cold sheep does not actually seem to have saved me a lot of money.  The money that was previously being spent on yarn simply gets diverted into pattern acquisition.  And not just your average pattern acquisition, but fairly expensive, vintage British patterns. My relationship with pdf reproductions of vintage patterns is fraught with tension - I like that they provide access to rare patterns, but I hate having to search around them when looking for originals, and am also leery of the copyright issues involved.

 It should probably surprise no one that as a historian, I love vintage patterns.  There is something very thrilling about holding in your hands a pattern that a knitter from a previous generation liked enough to purchase and preserve. I find that the thrill is particularly strong for WWII-era British patterns.  Knowing the hardships that women of that period lived through, and the shortages and privations they had to deal with, I imagine that knitting booklets were one of the only bright spots in a frequently difficult, stressful existence.  When I hold a 1942 issue of Stitchcraft, I imagine the woman who originally received it with her post being as excited as I am to receive an issue of Interweave, and rushing inside to put on the kettle so she could sit down for twenty minutes to leaf through the patterns with her cuppa.

Bestway, Sun-Glo, and Stitchcraft are my favorites - all of which are on the pricier end of the spectrum, of course.  I love Stitchcraft in particular because of the adverts, for wonderful things like Potato Pete's Recipe Book or Bunco's Toilet Paper ("We ask your indulgence if your retailer is temporarily out of stock").

Material culture is fantastic, and as a medievalist, it is not something I'm used to possessing, so I have been - and still am - willing to spend ridiculous amounts in order to own original vintage patterns.  I just can't allow myself to spend time on Ebay and Webs within the same month.

Monday, February 11, 2013


+ Add a comment
Not all that long ago, I came across the Downton Abbey Luxury Yarn Club, hosted by Woolgirl and Curious Creek Fibers.  Now, while I recognize that it is a luxury yarn club, with awesome extras like Wee Ones Dowager Countess stitch markers, $550 is FAR outside my price-range for any club (no matter how much I might have wanted it).  So I lusted, but did not purchase.  

Since the pattern I was most interested in was the Mr. Bates socks, I decided that the next best thing would be to go ahead and design my own.  So I did.

I present you with Bates:

Constructed toe-up, with a combination of cables and twisted stitches on a reverse stockinette stitch background.  I had originally envisioned using a staggered cross cable (one with uneven numbers of repeats between each cable-row - to call to mind Mr. Bates' limp), but found that oddly, the roundness of the cables did not suit the design at all.

The heel is short-row, with a twisted stitch heel flap.  These are men's size 9, but were knit fairly narrow.  The pattern can easily be sized up, however, to account for more robust foot and leg circumference.

The yarn is Malabrigo Yarn Sock, in the Piedras colorway, which was meant to call to mind the khaki uniforms of the British army in the Boer war, when Mr. Bates was the Earl's batman.  This was my first order from Loopy Ewe, and I plan on buying more yarn from them in the future, if only for more adorable sheep drawings.  However, I think the pattern would hold up well in any gently variegated yarn.

The pattern is still being edited, and will be out for test-knitting soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Stash flash #1

+ 1 comment
Hi.  My name is Caitlin, and I have a knitting problem.

Well, not so much a knitting problem, because if the knitting were the problem, the stash wouldn't be.  Let's say I have a yarn problem.

It looks a little bit like this:
Pardon me for *ahem* flashing my stash.  But even this is actually quite an improvement over the state of the thing at the beginning of January, before I buckled down and got organized.  Now each yarn is in a plastic bag, and if I know what I plan to make with it (and I do for about 70% of the yarn in that pile), the pattern has been printed and put into the bag.  And a half hour after this picture was taken, all the loose yarn you see was similarly corralled into ziplock baggies and placed into the storage bins you see in the background.

But no matter how beautifully organized it now is, it's still an overwhelmingly large stash.  Especially because more than of it than I would like is squeaky acrylic or dry and halo-y cotton, which won't cut it for the vintage patterns I now love to make.

I tried going Cold Sheep (ravelry link) last year, which went quite well until it...didn't anymore (yarn is a perfectly acceptable way of rewarding oneself for being a successful grown up, what are you talking about?).  My goal was to make it from the end of May to the end of December.  I made it from May through the end of September.  In penance for falling off the wagon - and boy, did I ever? -  I have signed back on for another three-ish months (til the NC Fiber Fest, in April) of being totally cold sheep, and, as I've already noted, I've pledged to spend 2013 knitting from my stash.

And in attempt to stay accountable to myself, I am also making myself accountable to you.  I will periodically flash my stash, to show that it is decreasing rather than increasing, and will have to publicly shame myself by announcing it here if I do add any new yarn.  Hopefully, you will help to keep me honest and on the wagon for the duration of 2013.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013


+ Add a comment
Look what was in my mailbox today!

Not too terribly long ago, I donated to Three Irish Girls to help get them out of the studio of horribleness. In exchange for monetary support of a certain amount, Sharon and co promised a skein of a special colorway.
And lo and behold, this lovely appeared in my mailbox today:
The colorway is Moondance (as in "a marvelous night for...") and is on the Adorn sock base.  It is beautiful and I can't wait to see how it works up.  Sometimes 3IG's yarns can be a bit...exuberant, but this looks promisingly sockworthy.