Saturday, 23 February 2008

Frugal knitting

I have been lusting after the Yarn Harlot's new sweater from the moment she first started talking about it on her blog. It took me about two weeks to acquire a copy of the pattern and, since then, I've been pondering the question of what yarn to knit it in. Worsted weight doesn't exist here and Paton's yarns are hard to find (ironic since Patons and their parent company, Coats, are British).

In the meantime, I've had these balls of yarn lurking in the bottom of the knitting basket. They come from a crochet sweater disaster I made in the 1980s. The pattern looked good (still does but very Eighties). However, I didn't do a swatch and didn't get the correct gauge so the sleeves were all out of proportion. At the time, I cobbled the sweater together and wore it for a while. Several years ago, I ripped it out, rolled the yarn into balls and it's been lurking at the bottom of the knitting basket ever since.

The yarn is Cleckheaton's 12 ply pure wool, which is equivalent to aran weight. I figured that, if I had enough, it would make an adequate substitute for the Paton's Classic called for in the pattern. (A WW2 leaflet on recycling yarn says that unravelled yarn is slightly thinner/lighter than it's original weight.) Theoretically, what you see here is 1kg of yarn - that's what the original pattern called for and I don't recall having any left over (mind you, I couldn't find it if I did). When I weighed it, it turned out to be 750g. I've almost finished the Soft Sweater (finished the last sleeve three days ago) so, last Saturday, I proceeded to prep this wool for reknitting.

As you can see from this close-up, it's a bit knubbly and fuzzy from previous use. Since I didn't wash it after I frogged it, it also still shows the imprint of the crochet stitches.

I started by winding the yarn into hanks around a chair back. Turned out that one chair is too narrow, so after the first one I used the clothes horse instead. I tied each hank in four places, using left over sock yarn.

When I had three hanks, I dropped them into a bucket full of warm water and took it outside with a towel. Rolled each hank up separately in the towel and wrung out the water before hanging them on the clothes-line to air-dry.

Somewhere, I remember reading that if you weight down the skeins, it'll stop the wool getting all curly. (It worked.) If you look carefully, those are 1 litre jugs of Kirkland Maple Syrup which I brought home from Canada in my suitcase.

Voice of experience: if you are recycling white wool yarn, do not hang it in full sunlight. It will yellow. I learned that the hard way when I frogged the UFO from hell.

Last night, I hand rolled the three hanks back into balls (NB, I couldn't get the first, single-chair-back hank back on the chair) and began to swatch for the sweater. At this stage, I have two worries: yardage and gauge - more about those later. Washing the wool has smoothed out the old stitch indentations, if you eyeball it it looks smooth. But you can still feel tiny nobbly bits from where the yarn has felted slightly and close up it looks a little fuzzy (originally it was a smooth-finished yarn).

- Pam

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