Saturday, February 14, 2009


I've been doing a lot of knitting lately - more than you'd think, from reading the blog. I was over at my friend's a few weeks ago and she remarked that she had been to my blog and was happy to see I had posted, until she saw it was knitting. She heaped scorn on me. She scathed me.

It put me off blogging about knitting, but then I realised there wasn't much to talk about if I didn't talk about that, and got over it.

I'm making Ruby a third sweater - she lives in Ottawa, she needs 'em - and my uncles chose Mason-Dixon's Fern. Fern is a beautiful sweater, maybe the nicest child's sweater I've seen yet. The original is knit in Jamieson & Smith Spindrift, a 2-ply 100% wool - non-washable. For this family, machine-wash is a must, so I needed to sub the yarn.

Some crocuses for you, to break up all this knit-talk.

The problem is, Jamieson & Smith Spindrift comes in eleventy-one subtle colours, six of which are used in Fern - four different greens, a brown, and a turquoise. All of the colours are gorgeous, heathered shades, muted and harmonious. Once I started looking around for a different yarn, I realised just how rare it is to find those colours in a washable yarn.

So I needed to find a yarn that:
1- is washable
2- is heathered
3- is not too scratchy
4- has at least four shades of green, all complementary
5- cost $55 or less for the whole works.

The planning page from my knotebook.

Suffice it to say, I had a terrible time finding something. I thought I had it with Sisu, a sock yarn in quite a few solid, woodsy colours. I was so confident about that yarn, I even budgeted for it during the planning phase. But Sisu yarns are too clear - they have all been bleached before being dyed, and without the heathered look they just looked so unrefined and clumsy. Plus they didn't have a turquoise.

In the end - and this yarn search took me the better part of six weeks - I found Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine. The only thing this yarn was missing to be a perfect match was two shades of green that were in the original sweater. By this time, though, I was desperate to cast on, so I just swapped in an earthy purple, willy-nilly, for one of the greens. For the other, driven as I was to the last ditch, I threw in a skein of Estelle's Arequipa (Rav link) sock yarn in a variegated green, which happens to contain almost all the other colours in the sweater. I was way over budget by this time, but Who Cares? Chances are I'm going to have a fair bit of at least a few of these colours left over, and socks they shall become.

This photo was taken in bright sunlight. The yarns are actually a lot more muted than they appear here.

I've finally cast this on, and being that it's knit on 2.75mm and 3mm needles, I expect it will take me a while to complete. The knitted fabric, though, is heaven...I wish someone would pay me to make MYSELF a sweater out of fingering weight alpaca on 3mm needles.
Spinning continues to thrill me, and Marianne* and I have made firm friends with each other. I'm spinning an 80% merino, 20% silk top on a high ratio to try for a lightweight yarn I can make lace out of. It's purple. So far I'm enjoying spinning the singles so much, I don't even care if the resulting yarn is knittable (judging from the Beginning Spinners' Group on Ravelry, the chances of my first yarn being knittable is about a thousand to one against).
Marianne Dashwood is the name of my spinning wheel. What....didn't you know all wheels have names?


Shan said...

That yarn picture is simply delicious. It's so delicious I am commenting on my own post.

kate said...

As you know, I LOVE that yarn. Oh and that sweater! And that book. Hmmm, lots of love going on here!

kate said...

And when I clicked on the yarn link I saw why I was confused about the yarn content. This is fine, the one I used was the light (and I think the fine is fairly new, as it wasn't there when I did the big sweater). The fine has the washable stuff, the light doesn't.

Ames said...


Believe it or not, I was going to use the exact word delicious for that last picture. It looks absolutely divine.

knititch said...

it looks great. but but spindrift is washable at the woolcycle and you can give it a short spin. in my opinion every wool is washable in the machine under the right circumstances. i made my poroms i jamieson's dk and washed them ever so often in eucalan in the washing machine. rather irrelevant now but worth knowing for another knit maybe.

Jo said...

Lovely colours - I can't wait to see your version.

Dave Hingsburger said...

We can't wait to see the final product and completely trust your colour choices. Now what's this about a 'friend' trashing you for writing about knitting? The definition of friendship is that you listen to 'even the boring bits' ... I don't know a stitch from a stash but I'll read you anyday on anything. Fie on her, I say, Fie on her.

lizbon said...

a) I enjoy knitting posts. Shame on your friend for complaining about them. A blogger should blog whatever the frack she feels like blogging.
b) that sweater's gonna be gorgeous. Lucky little girl to have such a knitterly aunt.
c) I love it that wheels have names (I think you know why), and I hope (and expect) you and Miss Marianne will be very happy together.

Gwen said...

"Sisu" is a Finnish term that means, essentially, stubbornness, grit, donkey-like digging in of heels. Just an FYI.

I tried knitting my kids sweaters, but it's just so prohibitively expensive. The yarn costs a fortune unless you cheap out, and if I paid myself a competitive rate for putting in about 80 hours on it, I'd be in the several-hundreds, easily. I gave up, thinking I can just buy nice sweaters.

Of course, yours are much nicer than mine would ever be. Obviously.

And, to conclude the longest, most aimless and boring comment in the world, I like your knitting posts.

Cynthia said...

Love the sweater, love the yarn photo. And I've liked Ultra Alpaca a lot when I've used it, too.

And Gwen, the trick to knitting kid sweaters is to keep them in the family! It's a lot of work and $$$ for one year's wear, but if they get worn for a couple of years and passed on to several more kids you amortize your effort ... and get to track the sweater through photos down the years, on one cousin or another.

Anna said...

Knitting is what brought me to your blog. Who is this "friend" anyway? I also love messy tuesdays. More messy pictures please, clean pictures depress me.

Gwen said...

Cynthia, what a great idea! Now I've got to have a couple more girls so I can get my greedy hands on the cousins' old sweaters. The photos never do justice to Shan's gorgeous work; I'm in awe. Honestly.

Penny said...

Jamieson and Smith has some gorgeous colours - I can see why you find it so hard to find suitable subs.

Emily said...

I'm sure your friend is a wonderful person, but what a doofusy thing to say. Good grief, we should all blog about what interests, excites and rewards us.

And speaking as someone with a dog named Mr. Bingley, I heartily approve Marianne's addition to your household. :-)