Camp Loopy 2020: June Challenge

img_20200609_084552As June comes to a close, I can honestly say that I didn’t feel rushed when working on this month’s knitting challenge. Though I chose to work a pair of color work double lined mittens, which essentially means that I knit two pairs of mittens, I don’t think a 400 yard project in a month is very challenging. Last year I had a lofter goal of knitting one adult sweater per month and found myself unmotivated to follow through with it in the end (In June I was successful, July I knit a scarf and August ran into September because I knit other things). This summer feels different because I feel like my creativity has been struggling to keep up with the amount of knitting that I’ve been doing.

Here is the prompt I had to work with this month:

Camp Loop 2020 June Challenge

The June challenge includes combining elements to make something new. What does that look like?

You can combine two (or more) different colors together. Here are some ideas –
From The Loopy Ewe website: Edith CowlVictoria HatHouse of Faberge CowlMerida MittensOranssi CowlAlbuquerque SunsetMagical Thinking, and Quindici.
From Ravelry: Jupiter CropRock It TeeThe ShiftOdyssey Shawl, and Breathe and Hope.

Or you can combine two different yarn materials together. (Combine different weights, or combine different bases. Or add a different material like beads to your yarn project, etc.). Here are some ideas –
From Ravelry: Ashbury Park ShawlImagine When (beads on points), Lily of the Valley ShawlMorningstarCalan Mai (combining two weights plus beads!), Charmayne, and Musicality (with beads).

Or you can combine two different patterns together to make something unique. Like taking the neckline from one sweater and adding it to another. Or the stitch pattern from one thing, and combining it with another pattern. Or the edging from one shawl to add to another. There are so many options with this one!

Since I’ve already mentioned that I worked a pair of lined color work mittens, it may seem obvious that I went with the first challenge: mixing two or more colors. This is true, I mixed red, charcoal and yellow together and am very happy with the results. I also happily took it a step further and knit the lining in a different yarn base to mix materials as well. Not to be an over achiever, my goal was to provide my partner with a pair of mittens to keep his hands warm (also to stop him from stealing my mittens).

img_20200609_164006
Pattern: Fiddlehead Mittens
Yarn used: Woolstok in Red Rock and Cast Iron, Road to China Light in Topaz

 

On going off the beaten path

94404582_725926194612925_8566214286488109056_nIt’s that time of year, there’s mud everywhere and people are remembering that it’s nice to go outside. For those of us who hike through the winter, this means getting up a little earlier to beat crowds to trails and having a backup plan in case everyone wants to hike the same trail you do. COVID-19 seems to have caused an increase in the number of people looking to get out. This is awesome and we’re excited to see so many people enjoying nature, minus the few people we’ve run into that don’t respect the trail (Don’t light fires in the middle of the brush! There’s a lot that can burn right now! Also, please clean up your trash.).

With everyone looking to hike, we’ve taken to seeking out trails that require all-wheel drive and some grit to get to or generally harder trails. We actually drove up to one mountain, only to turn around and attempt to access it from another side! It would have been an amazing story if we had been able to locate the trail and walk on more than an old logging road. Not that I’m complaining, it was absolutely gorgeous back there.

img_20200422_113123It seems as though our hiking habits have leaked into my knitting again; I’m currently working on another Flax Light by TinCanKnits and couldn’t help but deviate from the suggested “fingering” weight that the pattern calls for. For all of the sweater’s ribbing, the plan is to hold a skein of Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Lace-Garn that’s been sitting in my stash double. For the rest of the sweater, I’m holding the Lace-Garn with Stacy Charles Fine Yarns Luna Effects. The result is this fuzzy (and a little tacky) sweater that makes me feel like I belong on the original set of Full House. I can’t help but get excited as I set the sleeves aside and begin to take on the body, good thing I live in the mountains and might get to wear it on a cool summer night.

The crazier undertaking has been converting Azalea from a thin strap tank-top into a short-sleeved sweater. The body of the tank is simple enough, minus some cool lace at the bottom, and knits up relatively quickly. Once those pieces are knit, you’re supposed to pick up stitches and knit 3 rows or so to make straps. In other words, once you’ve knit the body it shouldn’t take much longer to complete the project. But I’m a knitter and what’s the point of knitting something if you can’t make it what you really want?

Using the yarn I bought in Spain, I enthusiastically knit the front and back pieces. Then I took a deep breath, picked up the side stitches and knit sleeve caps. Sleeve caps are really cool! I’ve never done them this way before, but I knit a different sweater that has you seam them on at the end and really like the way it makes the sweater fit. After knitting the sleeves, I seamed the sides and tried it on with my fingers crossed.

00100lrportrait_00100_burst20200422085305802_cover-3It fit! The armholes weren’t too small and the lace bottom hung nicely despite my first attempt at the single crochet seaming technique. Then I looked up and noticed how low the neckline was. I cannot stress how deep the v on this v neck was.

The problem with knitting is that you begin to run out of ways to fix problems as the problems appear closer and closer to the end of your project. At this point, I wasn’t going to pick up stitches and work a few decrease rows to make the neck smaller because I wanted the seam to line up with the ribbing. So I held my breath and picked up the many stitches required to start the neckline ribbing… only to be excited when it worked!

Overall, I’m happy with the way this tank turned t-shirt turned out. There are a few things I would do differently – like lengthen the body and skip the 6 rows of stitching before starting the sleeve caps — but it was a great experiment!

On that time I sewed a dog bed from pillows

The first moment where I felt like a homeowner was not putting the key in the front door. Nor was it having to call a plumber due to a leaking pipe. Painting didn’t do it, paying the mortgage didn’t do it. No, my first moment feeling like a homeowner comes from buying curtains and hanging a curtain rod.  More specifically, agonizing over choosing the correct curtains and hoping they matched everything else that I had decorated my living room with.

The same feeling emerged a few weekends ago when I purchased new pillows for my bed. This time, I laughed at the feeling because I’ve been purchasing pillows every few years for the last 10 years or so. This was not a new event, but man was I proud when I laid down on my new pillows and drifted off into a deep sleep.

There was nothing wrong with the pillows I had replaced — other than having gone a little flat for my side sleeping habits — which is probably what lead to the “I’m a homeowner” feeling. In other words, I don’t think it was purchasing the new pillows. I think it was the desire to repurpose the old ones.

Two pillows sewn together using mattress stitch.Enter my dog Loche. Due to various reasons, he found himself in need of a new bed (probably the number one reason is he’s spoiled and needs multiple beds around the house). Between the old pillows and the fleece fabric sale at Joann’s, it was destiny.

The first thing I did was spray the pillows with Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Home Spray (I don’t have fleas, just thought it was a good idea and I like the smell). Afterwards, I broke out my hand sewing skills to sew the two pillows together using mattress stitch. In my mind, this would allow the two pillows to stay connected as Loche situates himself on the bed. Knowing that Loche prefers to nuzzle between pillows, I sewed the indents facing inwards and the fluffier bits facing outwards.

A zipper being attached to fabric using a sewing machineThen I took my fabric (~2 yards of fleece) and folded it into a square. The first thing  I attached was the zipper, which I stuck on the shortest side so that I didn’t have to invest in a giant zipper. Then I sewed the other two edges closed and added the pillows. I ended up with just a little bit of extra fabric, which I put on top of the bed so that Loche could nuzzle into it.

The result? A cute little dog bed for <$20! Does he even use it? He kept trying to climb into it while I was “trying on” the pillow cover — and then he napped on it all afternoon. I think it’s safe to say this project was a success.

Loche on his new dog bed -- a navy bed with smores on it.

On deciding to crank out a few hand-made gifts after all

An in progress photo of a baby sweater with both sleeves set aside on stitch markers. The body of the sweater is just about ready to be bound off.
Harvest, knit in Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Pure held double

A couple weeks ago, my sister announced that she was pregnant with her first child. As I eagerly await the gender reveal*, and hope that they don’t change their mind on learning the sex of the baby, I realized there was no reason I couldn’t cast something on my needles to add to their Christmas gift. They’re excited, I’m excited, I have some yarn that looks like a rain forest, new born sweaters don’t take very long…. so it looks like I’m taking back what I said about not knitting for anyone. (Remember that post I wrote about it’s ok to change your mind?)

Naturally, as soon as I said that the flood gates opened and I started to think about whether or not there was anyone else I should be knitting for for the Holiday season. I’ve had my loomed warped for a month or so with a table runner I’ve been working on for my mom, it now has an end of December deadline on it. I found this interesting/simple sewing pattern for handmade hand warmers and have a handful of friends that spend their time ice fishing or generally suffer from cold hands. In other words, I made it less than a week before caving and creating a spreadsheet of projects to complete before the end of the holiday season.

I can’t help it! The desire to keep people warm is in my DNA, as is the desire to create. So on that note, I have some last minute gifts to crank out. Here’s to my sanity!

upload_medium2.jpeg
Completed Harvest with matching Barely hat

*I’ve read a few articles discussing how gender reveal parties are inconsiderate to future transgender children. I will love this baby no matter what, but will also enthusiastically knit little tutus if it’s a baby girl (unless she’s anything like me, then she’ll stop wearing them in favor of outfits more equip for climbing trees). I can’t help it, they’re so stinking cute. To be fair, I would also knit them for a little boy, without judgement, if he wanted them.

On habitats: Part 3 Synthetic Plant Fibers Continued

The “On habitats” series is designed to help me (us) take a moment and reflect on where the fiber in our yarn comes from. Part One of this series looked at Natural Plant Fibers, Part two: Synthetic Plant Fibers took a look at tencel, bamboo and corn. We’ll finish off synthetic plant fibers this week with soy, rayon, and modal.

soya-83087_960_720
https://pixabay.com/photos/soya-beans-soy-bean-legume-green-83087/

Soy: According to Interweave, the first time soy was used as a textile was in the 1930s, when Henry Ford produced car-seat upholstery by blending soybean and sheep’s wool. Soybeans have a high protein content and are currently being produced in large quantities by the United States and China.

There are five main steps to creating soybean fiber, the first being the extraction of oil. Soybeans are cleaned, cracked, decorticated and dehulled before being conditioned and steeped in hexane. The hexane solution collects the oil, which can be extracted and reused. The soybean is then passed through a steam pipe to be rinsed of the solvent.

Next, the soybean is soaked in a 1% sodium sulfite solution for around an hour then filtered. This results in a creamy-white powder that is then dissolved into an alkaline solution. This solution is then allowed to age until it develops the proper consistency for spinning. The fiber is then formed by wet spinning or forcing the spinning solution through a spinneret.

Finally, the fibers are treated to baths that help it develop stretching and hardening properties. From here, the fiber can be blended and dyed.

This process doesn’t appear too bad, until you begin to look into the beans themselves. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the soybean industry is causing widespread deforestation and displacement. Many are calling for transparent land use and an increase in proper safeguards, but until those come to pass this may not be the best yarn for an environmentally focused individual.

texture-2119287_1280
https://pixabay.com/photos/texture-tree-annual-rings-2119287/

Rayon: Rayon has an interesting history as an alternative to silk starting in the 1860s when the French silk industry was threatened by a disease affecting the silkworm. In 1885, Count Hilaire de Chardonnet patented the first successful process of creating a silk-like fiber from cellulose and is considered the father of rayon (despite more cost-effective ways of being created nowadays).

The major sources of the cellulose used for creating rayon include pine, spruce, hemlock, and cotton linters (residue fibers which clung to cotton seeds after the ginning process).  Regardless of whether wood pulp or cotton linters are used, the materials must be processed to extract/purify the cellulose. This results in sheets that are steeped in sodium hydroxide, dried, shredded into crumbs and aged in metal containers for 2-3 days.

Next, the crumbs are combined and churned with liquid carbon disulfide and then bathed in sodium hydroxide again. The honey-like solution (look and feel) then has any dyes or delusterants added before being filtered and stored to age (4-5 days).

After aging, the solution is forced through a spinneret and into an acid bath. Once bathed in acid, the fiber can be spun into yarn.

Unfortunately, the chemical by-products of rayon have received a lot of attention as they generate a lot of water and air emissions (the worst being zinc and hydrogen sulfide). Producers are currently trying different techniques to reduce pollution, and as the demand for rayon grows so does the demand for new technologies that make rayon better and cheaper.

beech-472095_1280
https://pixabay.com/photos/beech-tree-forest-late-summer-472095/

Modal: Modal comes from pure beech tree chips and is more or less a variety of rayon. The main difference between modal and rayon is that rayon can be made of variety or materials, while modal is only made from beech trees.

In other words, modal is made using the same process as rayon and has the same concerns. That being said, like rayon steps are being taken to make the process better and cleaner.

Main Takeaways: I think the main thing I’ve taken away from my readings on synthetic fibers is that there is no way to make them perfect. Even if the process to make the fiber is sustainable, the farming technique often isn’t (although the same can be said about cotton, which is not synthetic). All in all, I’m not sure there are many changes that I will make to my knitting — as I work mostly with animal fibers — but the curiosity around using bamboo yarn is no longer there. As this project continues, it will be interesting to learn about how chemicals are sneaking their way into my knitting. I may end up breaking my spinning wheel back out and going straight to the sheep! Or at least upping my yarn snobbery to organic yarns, depending on what I learn about man-made synthetics and animal fibers.