On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Yup, The Yarn Had Other Ideas

That yarn that I bought for the Effortless Cardigan clearly was looking for a major makeover.  I started a February Lady Sweater (a pattern I've been meaning to try for  a couple of  years, and got a new enthusiasm for when my daughter made one for herself and said how easy it was).  Every single person in the family indicated either by look or actual expression something along the lines of "do you REALLY like that color?"  Now I must admit that I'd had my doubts about the color myself.  I bought it because it was the type of yarn I wanted and it was the only color the store had with enough skeins to make a sweater for me.  My doubts really came from the fact that, while it might have been a decent color for me before my hair started to go gray, it really didn't work all that well with the graying hair.  It also was sort of the color of baby sheep poop.  So I could kind of see the all around objections.

So, I abandoned the project for awhile.  We ended up in the midst of a hospitalization for my husband (for brain surgery no less), and many, many doctor's appointments.  I needed something to work on so I started a very easy shawl and finished up my daughter's socks. Reskeining and dyeing yarn simply didn't work into the schedule.

Finally, I got the time to reskein the yarn (a several hour long process), and begin figuring out what I wanted to do about changing its color.  I pulled out my bag of Jacquard dyes purchased several years ago at the Sheep and Wool Festival, thinking that I had a nice cocoa brown in there that would be just perfect.  Alas, no cocoa brown to be seen.  What I had was various shades of red, purple, and blue.  I decided to do a test dye using several different colors.  I got small jars and put a piece of yarn and some hot water in them, then I added just a smidge of dye.  I tried vermillion, cherry red, sky blue, and teal.  Then I simmered the jars in my steamer/dyepot for the requisite amount of time.  The colors were all pretty fantastic, although none of them were the color the dye stated.  The blue came out a very, very deep blue (not quite navy), the vermillion came out rather a maroon, the cherry red was a sort of rusty red, and the teal came out something between a teal green and a hunter green.  After examining them closely and looking at the options in my wardrobe, I decided to go with the teal dye.  The next step was to actually dye the yarn.  That meant soaking it in hot water for a bit and then popping it into the dyepot and stirring for a half an hour.  Then I had to wash it to get the excess dye out, then I had to spin it in the washing machine to get the excess water out, then it had to hang overnight to finish drying.  The next day I had to begin putting it into balls, no easy task since yarn that's been through the dyepot always seems to get a bit tangles.  It was a several hours job (even more hours than the re-skeining had been).  However, it was worth it.  The color is lovely, and the sweater knitting has commenced.

Thanks to Ravelry (and a tip from my daughter) I've made it past the garter stitch yoke, through the separating of the sleeves, and onto the gull lace without many glitches (I did have to start it twice because of a bone headed mistake somewhere in the increases and I forgot to stay in garter stitch at the button band for one row which required me to go back and redo eight stitches over six vertical rows).  This particular lace pattern is easy to remember which means I can take this project with me to meetings etc.

The yarn now appears to be happy in its present state.  It's so much easier to knit with a color you really like than with one you're trying to convince yourself to love.  So all's right with the knitting right now.  The yarn is no longer asserting an ugly side to its personality (it was very uncooperative in its former color) and now I'll I have to hope (since I haven't actually really tried this puppy on yet), is that it's actually going to fit.  It should, I'm getting gauge, and the garter stitch and gull lace should be reasonably stretchy anyway.

The other thing I've figured out is that as much as I love Addi-Turbo needles for their slickness, I'm having a really difficult time knitting for long periods of time with either the Addi's or my metal double points.  I can knit comfortably with bamboo needles for much longer periods of time, although I do get frustrated when the stitches don't slip as easily as they would with slicker needles.  However, knitting without pain is worth the frustration.  I also have figured out that using yarn loops for markers may work okay when you've only got four markers in a row, but when you've got markers every 7 stitches across 320+ stitches the yarn loops begin to get annoying.  I ran out of nice plastic markers with this project, and so I've resorted to safety pins, not as nice as the commercial makers, but better than the yarn loops.  I'm thinking about going to Joanne's and buying some jewelry making pieces that I can use to make my own markers.  I've seen some really pretty ones at the yarn store, but I think I can make for less than I'd pay for them.  I've also seen some really cool ones (like scrabble tiles for example) on other people's blogs.  So apparently markers have become a new novelty for knitters.  My current commercial markers are simply the ones that look like safety pins.  I actually like them in a project where I need to move markers around a lot, but they aren't strictly necessary to this project.  I just need markers that slip easily (and preferably don't go flying across the room when I slip them too quickly).

As I've rambled on about the knitting, you may have wondered about the brain surgery, and how I can seem so calm.  Well, it was weeks ago, my husband is back to work, and as far as brain surgery goes, the surgery itself was pretty uncomplicated.  The overall prognosis is another matter.  The tumor was a metastasis from a melanoma he had removed from his arm in the fall, and it looks like we may be heading into drug therapy to try to ward off another metastasis.  At the moment he's had radiation at the surgery site (which fortunately was just on the surface of the brain), his most recent PET scan was clear, and well we're moving on from there.  I'm not always calm, although knitting has been a calming presence through all of this.  I've driven on  slippery roads I didn't think I could, I've dealt with the claims department at the insurance company in an organized calm manner that I didn't know I had in me.  I've put one foot in front of the other on days I would have simply hidden under the covers all day.  The prayers of friends and family have kept me going and an at least weekly reception of the Eucharist has sustained me in a way that I never could have imagined two decades ago.

It's been a roller coaster winter.  Not only have we had brain surgery to deal with, but three weeks after that my daughter delivered her second baby by an unexpected C-section (well unexpected up until a week or so beforehand) because her little boy was stubbornly in a breech position.  Everyone came through that well and now they are adjusting to life as a foursome.  I had a marvelous (an exhausting) few days taking care of my granddaughter, and now I'm back home again and trying to pick up the threads of normal life that got completely dropped in the middle of January.

This was supposed to be a winter of quiet knitting and spinning.  It's been a winter where some knitting has gotten done, but the spinning wheels continue to gather dust in corners.  All my plans have been put on hold so many times that I've pretty much stopped making plans.  I'm taking one day at a time, and trying to keep at least one easy to travel project in my bag to carry with me.  I've been very thankful for a cell phone, a Kindle, a knitting project that doesn't require a lot of thought, and easily eaten foods (soup and pudding works for better for me in a crisis than deli-sandwiches, however).

Oh well, that's the winter so far.  Not being an adrenaline junkie, it's had far more excitement than I would have preferred.  I have to say that knitting truly has been a gift in the middle of all this.  I knit through the surgery quite calmly, just as I knit through two previous surgeries fairly calmly.  When I think back to the absolute panic I was in when my husband had surgery on his leg when we were in our early 30's and I didn't think to pull out some knitting, I know that having a knitting lifestyle has been helpful.  Stephanie Pearl McPhee talks in her most recent book about the time of the great not knitting, but thus far knitting rather than not knitting has made a lot more sense.  I think it provides a sense of routine that makes the abnormal situation at least feel somewhat normal.  At a time where I had to remain calm and optimistic being able to sit down and simply knit stitch after stitch helped me to do that. 

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