Just Thrumming Along

While watching the Canadian Men’s Snowboarders take both the SILVER and the BRONZE MEDALS Saturday night, I was keeping my hands busy trying a new pattern and new technique – thrumming.

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The start of my thrummed mitts, two rows of thrums complete

In case you haven’t heard, it’s been a miserable Canadian winter.  There’s been snow, and lots of it, and on some days, the temperature has dipped to the mid -20s°C.  In short, Canada’s been Canada-ing. I’ve been wanting warmer mittens for a while now and have been rather intrigued by the idea of thrumming.  So, after a visit to my LYS and riffling through my stash, cast on.

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Preparing the roving to make thrums

This technique has its roots in Newfoundland and Labrador, because, Canada.  Joking aside, the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador has long been tied to the fishing industry, and these mittens would have been excellent for fishery workers, spending time hauling nets and working on the northern Atlantic coast.  A ‘thrum’ refers to waste yarn/fibre from weaving and spinning, and engineering knitters ‘from the Rock’ realized they would make an amazing insulating layer inside the mitt when the thrum is knit with a regular stitch in the pattern.  Some sources say this technique has been in use for hundreds of years; today, I’m quite happy it’s still around to help me combat this Canadian cold.

The pattern I used was Thrummed Mittens by Tanis Lavallee.  If you’ve never done this technique before, I’d recommend either watching a video or two, or perhaps giving this article by the Yarn Harlot a read.

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A peak inside the mitten – just look at that fluffy warmth!

In all, I wouldn’t recommend this pattern, and when I thrum again, I’ll find a different one to make.  It’s written as if you know exactly what the designer means when they say ‘Knit 3, Thrum, repeat to end.’  Never having thrummed before, I had to google to ensure I was doing it right.  It uses the afterthought technique for the thumb, certainly not my favourite (exhibited by my cursing and repeated ‘I hate this’ while removing the waste yarn), and I think I prefer the fit that a gusset provides.  Finally, if you knit the pattern exactly as written for both hands, you’ll end up with two right mitts.  Long story short, the pattern needs updates, but once finished, I’ll certainly have warm fingers.


Want to read more about thrumming and its history?

 

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The Ravelry 2018 Project Challenge

While I may not be a New Years Resolution maker, my competitive nature means that if I see a challenge, I’ll probably join in.  Case in point: The Ravelry Project Challenge.

Launched this year, Ravelry has let users set a goal for themselves in the year, and this is tracked from your Projects tab in the Notebook. Being advantageous, I’ve set myself a goal of completing 24 projects, or 2 per month.  As of right now, I’m behind in the goal, only finishing my Lisa Beret in January.  I’m not feeling too discouraged, however, as I am working on two pairs of socks, both of which have sock 1 of 2 complete, and I’m making very good progress with my Madewell cardigan and my Bigger on the Inside shawl. As well, with February rolling around, one of my LYSs may soon be launching their annual Yarn Challenge, giving me a project to work on and complete throughout February.

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Sock 1 of 2 complete

Long story short: I have a few things on the go and lots of knitting to do.

Are you taking part in the Ravelry challenge? What goal have you set for yourself?

Experimenting with Yarn Dyeing

A few weeks ago, while enjoying the remaining days of my Christmas holidays, I spent an afternoon experimenting with yarn dyeing. I had about 95g of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in my stash – about half was white and half was grey. What would happen if I joined these balls and dyed the skein together?

Here is the yarn skeined:

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I must admit, it looks super cool like this.

In order for the dye to adhere to the fibres, an acid needs to be used, because, science. A common acid to use with dyeing is vinegar, so in prepping my yarn, I added it to my slow cooker with 8 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar, and I let it sit in that solution for about an hour.

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I decided to dye/overdye the yarn purple, and in the past have used Wilton food colours with great success.  I took 1/2 tsp food colour and mixed it with 2 cups boiled water. Mason jars worked great for colour prep.

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See the blue on that paper towel? The purple Wilton makes must use blue to achieve its purple colour. I’m not trying to get a specific colour with this, I’m simply experimenting, so after the yarn soaked for an hour or so, I turned the slow cooker to low and added the dye.

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I’ve only dyed a few times, and I’ve been amazed every time with the process of ‘exhausting the dye.’ This happens when the colour of the water, which at the beginning is a vivid shade, becomes clear, the fibres absorbing the dye that was in the water. You doubt it will happen, but inevitably, this happens:

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Water on the spoon is clear. So cool.

After this dyeing experiment, my skein looks like this:

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And this:

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Seeing it caked, it gave me some pause as to what to make with it. It would make for a very dramatic gradient.  I could unravel and separate the two colours (using a Russian Join to connect them), and make something with the two smaller colours.  There are some lovely hats or cowls with colour work easing the transition between the dramatic colours.

Unhappy with the softness of the purple shade, I redyed it this weekend, using a dye that was such a deep purple, it was like Smoke On The Water was my soundtrack. Once again, I used the crockpot and I’m a lot happier with the final colour.

Having only tried home dyeing a few times now, each skein truly is an experiment for me. I’m still learning the tricks, playing with colours and their vibrancy, and admittedly having a LOT of fun each time while making a glorious mess in my kitchen.

The Stages of Knitting a Sock

With sock knitting, well, any kind of knitting, there are different stages. Sure, there are the technical stages: the cuff, the leg, knitting the heel flap, turning the heel, etc., etc.  I’m talking about the emotional stages.

First, there’s the yarn. Oh, buying sock yarn! I actively have to stop myself from buying skeins and skeins of yarn when I’m in a shop. So many choices, so many fibres. Of course, there’s also the pattern selection, different textures, levels of complexity.

You start with the cuff: you see your project start and watch it grow from essentially a series of loops on a stick to a few inches of fabric. You also see the true brilliance of your yarn shine. Did you choose a solid colour, get to see your self patterning yarn take shape, or are the various colours of the variegated skein doing their marvelous thing?

Then, you start with the leg, the meat of the sock, all stitches dedicated to the pattern.  A few rounds go by and you truly get to see how your choices are playing out. The textures are coming into focus, or in the case of vanilla socks, the satisfaction of endless rounds have taken their start.

I must also ask, is there anything that makes a knitter feel more magical than turning a heel? With a few stitches and a few short rows, you’re turning the direction in which you knit your stitches, from vertically to horizontally.

The foot offers a slight break to a weary knitter, because even though you love the pattern you’ve dedicated many rows to for the leg, you only now have to continue it for half the stitches, while the other half are blissfully reserved for plain knitting for the sole of the foot.

Finally, you get to the toe. After hours of knitting, you know the end is near, and after only a few rows, which inevitably get shorter and shorter, you are finished the sock. Kitchener those stitches, weave in those ends, and take a deep breath. You now get to repeat the process again for sock number two. Sure, the second time around, the feelings aren’t quite the same, having lost an element of surprise, and some knitters need a little more encouragement to get that second sock started. For me, knowing I’ll have a warm pair of socks at the end of it all gets me casting on and starting this process all over again.

Happy knitting!

A Story of Frogging

For Christmas, I made my sister the Katie Beret, which was rather appropriate seeing as her name is Katie. Here it is, finished (although it’s my head being the model):

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It became a lesson in being mindful of yardage, not just weight, when buying yarn. The yarn I initially bought was Indigodragonfly’s DK Matter in the Patina Fey Colourway. Yes, it was the DK weight I needed, but a few rounds into the main body pattern, I realized I may not have the yardage I needed to finish the hat. I took a deep breath, suppressed the sobs, and ripped.

A day or so afterwards, I bought a new skein, this time Malabrigo Arroyo yarn, a sport weight with enough yardage to finish the hat.

Frogging is always such sweet sorrow.

Making Madewell Progress

Since March last year, I’ve been slowly but surely working on a cardigan: Madewell by Joji Locatelli.  It’s a fingering weight project, and because I like, ahem, challenges, I decided to make it with black yarn.  When I’m working on it around others, like at a LYS, people often share their own black sock yarn horror stories (“Never again” is often exclaimed), and on a few occasions I’ve been asked why am I punishing myself. Black sock weight yarn can be a wee bit hard on the eyes. Challenges aside, I love it, and with my wardrobe, a black cardigan will be worn time and time again, hence my colour choice.

This has been a great project to pick up after having put it down for weeks at a time. It’s largely stockinette, lots of knits and purls. Because I no longer feel the urgency of holiday knitting, I’ve been able to dedicate more time towards this project. I was nearing the end of the body, no more shaping increases or decreases, so the knits and purls proved to be great mindless knitting, working on a row or two while watching TV or reading on my e-reader.

I feel like I’ve actually made some progress with it this weekend, finishing the bottom ribbing and starting working on the sleeve.  This is my first experience with raglan sleeves, and I must say I love it. You don’t need to worry about setting in and seeming. The stitches came off the holder, onto a 16″ circular needle and away I knit in the round. Once again, being all stockinette, it’s proving to be fantastic for mindless knitting.

One whimsical feature of this sweater are the elbow patches, a great way to use up a few metres of that extra sock yarn everyone has in their stash.  I had three colours of Manos Del Uruguay that worked well together, so after binding off the main body, I took a break and knit up one elbow patch. They add a great pop of colour to this staple sweater.

Can’t wait to get back to knitting and hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll be able to show off the finished cardigan!

A 2017 Blog Lookback

As 2017 has drawn to its inevitable close and we’ve welcomed the new year, I thought I would use this first post of 2018 to look back at the past year. These are my top viewed posts from the year.

2017 Yarn Challenge

Every year, one of my LYS hosts a yarn challenge: they choose the yarn, participants choose their design. This is my post introducing the challenge.

‘How Many Pairs of Socks Do You Need’

My co-worker asked this question one day at lunch; I thought about my answer and wrote about it here.

Hagrid Was A  Knitter

I loved this post. I love Harry Potter and adore patterns inspired by this series.

A Sontag by Any Other Name

In perusing a 100+ year old knitting publication, they had a pattern looking like a sontag. I looked at their pattern and compared it to Godey’s classic pattern from the 1860s.

Taking Your Knitting for a Walk

Inspired by a post by This Knitted Life, I tried something outside of my comfort zone and tried knitting and walking. I loved it and wrote about my experience.

Story Behind the Sontag

While this wasn’t written in 2017, it was my most viewed post for the year.

Thank you for reading my humble blog, and I truly hope you’ll continue to follow my adventures into 2018.