The Wool Cycle

I moved house in the summer, and got myself a brand-new fancy-modern super-duper Samsung washing machine. It’s got all sorts of wonderful features and functions, including this rather interesting cycle, labelled simply “Wool”.

20161206_122614-copy

Intriguing…

Now, I’m a huge proponent of washing woolies – yes, even those that aren’t superwash! – and having had front-loaders for years, I’ve never been afraid of using the washer’s spin cycle, but I must confess I was a bit nervous about a full machine wash for my more important handknits. And having consulted the manual, I got a bit worried: the manual states that the cycle is only for woolies that are labelled as machine washable.

(The spin cycle on a front loading washing machine and on many of the newer top-loaders, the ones that don’t have a central agitator, is actually very gentle on your garments. The spin cycle relies on centrifugal forces to fling your items against the side of the drum and leave it there, while the water spins away. After a soak, my handwash loads get thrown in the machine for a spin. Yes, even the most delicate of my knits and other handwash pieces – lingerie, and the like. When I was shopping for a new machine, the presence of a spin-only cycle was critical to me, I won’t buy a washing machine that doesn’t let me do that.)

I’ve been promising to try it the wool cycle for months, but had been avoiding it. I’m working on a big writing task right now, and in my keenness to find a distraction, I decided that today was the day. Rather than start with a precious hand-knit sweater, I decided to do a trial load: I threw in some wooly tights (store bought, low wool-content, marked machine washable), a store-bought wool and alpaca blend sweater, clearly labelled hand wash only, a pair of alpaca-blend handknit socks in a yarn that is marked superwash, but I know doesn’t do well in the machine, and a handknit swatch in a yarn I know that felts.

20161206_122645

My ‘volunteers’.

My resolve only wavered once, when I looked at the settings of the cycle: a warm wash, spin set to ‘low’, for a full hour.

20161206_152831-copy-2

Okaaaaaay….

I threw everything in, with a cold-wash detergent. (Honestly, if these were my best hand-knits, I would use a wool wash. I’m a big fan of Soak.)

I loaded up the machine, turned the dial, crossed my fingers, and pressed go. I got no work done over that hour, as I kept wandering to my laundry room to have a look. The door is opaque, so I wasn’t able to actually see what was going on, but I looked at how the machine was moving, and I listened. According to the Samsung website, what distinguishes the wool cycle is that the drum only moves “horizontally”. Remember, it’s not actually the presence of water that causes felting – it is agitation or friction. (Although a temperature shock can also cause a bit of felting, it’s really not the key factor.) It seemed clear from the noises the machine was – or more to the point, wasn’t – making that there is essentially no rotation, and therefore no opportunity for the garment to experience any  friction.

An hour later, the washer sang its little end-of-cycle notification song – a musician friend tells me that it’s Schubert – and I rushed downstairs. I must confess I hesitated a little before I opened the door.

But I really needn’t have been worried: everything came out clean and wonderful, unfelted and undisturbed. Everything was fluffy and soft and nice.

20161206_152752

Fab!

I will definitely be doing that again! I will note that when I talked a bit about this on Twitter, a couple of people reported less happy experiences. It seems like there’s a load size limit – the larger the load, the larger the pieces, the higher the risk of felting. That does make sense, since a tub full of wool will have more opportunity to experience friction. And some machines are probably more gentle than others. If you’ve not used it before, I’d recommend experimenting with swatches and perhaps a store-bought sweater or two before you put your favourite handknits in.

Does your machine have a wool or hand-wash cycle? Have you tried it?

WWW: City of Craft, STEELwool commemoration, “Abominaball Snowman”

Steelworkers at the University of Toronto, experienced knitters and beginners together, have contributed to an installation, STEELwool, in recognition of Bill 132, a program against workplace violence and sexual harrassment. 132 scarves were displayed yesterday at all three of the University’s campuses. The date of the installation, December 6th, was chosen specifically: it marks the anniversary of the event known as ‘The Montreal Massacre‘, a shooting at the University of Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, in which 14 women were died, targeted specifically because of their gender.


If you’re in the Toronto area, this weekend’s City of Craft show is definitely worth a visit. A celebration of all things handmade, the event runs all weekend, and features 60 vendors, representing some of the best makers from our region. There are also workshops and installations.

City of Craft is a collective of craft-engaged arts organizers who aim to build community in the Toronto craftscape, support independent craft businesses, and encourage the larger community to get involved with crafty happenings in the city. We organize Toronto’s largest independently-run, juried craft show each December featuring craft-based installations, free workshops, and craft-related programming in local businesses and galleries, attracting approximately 4,000 attendees.


Love this! It’s pretty saucy, full of terrible puns and cheeky language… definitely NSFW for innuendo and woolly nudity… Make sure your sense of humor is fully operational, and maybe put headphones on?  The “Nudiknits” winter film: The Abonimaball Snowman. 


Some women are going for a walk in Washington this coming January. They might need hats.

Spinning Gifts

Looking for a gift for a spinner or looking for some things to leave as fat hints to your loved ones?

Here are a few things I loved this year that I’d like to give to my spinning family:

 

Port Fiber!

Port Fiber!

 

Fiber, of course – either a braid, a set of braids, or a club subscription. Getting fiber never gets old! I have a lot of go-to dyers, but for 2017 I want to spin dyers that are new to me or ones I haven’t spun in a long time. One of dyers I can’t wait to try is Casey of Port Fiber.

Blending board – I have a Clemes and Clemes blending board and I use it a lot. It’s so much fun making wild rolags to spin. Smaller than a drum carder, and bigger than hand cards, plus it sits nicely in your lap while you watch tv on the couch.

 

Louet cotton cards

Louet cotton cards

Handcards – Thanks to Beth Smith’s suggestion, I now have handcards that I can’t stop using. Louet extra fine cotton cards work better for me than any other cards I’ve tried.

Yarnitecture – My book! I wish I could give a copy to everyone that spins or is even thinking about starting to spin.

Massage – This is one of my favorite gifts to give and get. There is a lot of repetitive motion in spinning, be good to your body and get all of those kinks smoothed out. It’s feels so good!

 

Spin Off and PLY

Spin Off and PLY

 

Subscriptions to magazines – I read both Spin Off and PLY Magazine, every issue. I learn from them and get so many ideas for projects and experiments. Supporting these two magazines supports our whole fiber community.

An event – I wish I could buy all of my spinners fully paid trips to the retreat of their choice (plus a new wheel and a pony). Failing that we like to make plans where we go together. You can also make a contribution to a trip or buy them a local class.

 

A wheel – Know anyone in need of a new wheel? I highly recommend Schacht’s new Flatiron. It’s is a fast wheel, I can go from fat to super fine effortlessly. Plus I like the way it looks!

 

What are your favorite spinning gifts to give and get?

 

 

Save

WWW: Hexagonal Needles, Scarves in the Park, How Much is Lifetime’s Worth of Sock Yarn?

The makers behind the needles.

You might not be familiar with the hexagonal needles made by Indian Lake Artisans. They’re a beautiful product, made in the US – and it was all inspired by an experimental attempt a knitting with pencils.


I’ve seen a number of initiatives like this pop up in recent years, and I think it’s an excellent idea: leaving scarves and other winter accessories in public parks, where those in need might find them. This CNN piece highlights one such project, in Manchester, New Hampshire.


The Centre for Art Tapes, in Halifax, NS, is a not for profit artist-run, charitable, organization that facilitates and supports artists at all levels working with electronic media including video, audio, and new media. Their latest artist in residence is Merle Harley, who explores the parallels between codes, algorithms, and systems within electronics, and knitting and weaving patterns.


sockforlife-top

How long would it take to work through this?

Notification of this contest arrived in our mailbox with the subject line: ‘Important Cause: Win Socks for Life’. I wasn’t sure, at first, if the organization in question was giving away actual socks, but upon further investigation, I discovered that YarnCanada is giving away “a lifetime’s worth of sock yarn” . This, of course, begs a discussion about the average sock knitter’s production. The prize includes 123 skeins of sock yarn, a variety of fibers and weights. How long would it take you to use that up?


Opinions on arm-knitting are divided, but I do love the speed with which you can create an apparently highly fashionable giant blanket. I find the gif of the designer working on her project really quite soothing.

Yarn Fest 2017: Registration Is Open!

yf-primarylogodate-location

Registration is open for next spring’s Yarn Fest. 

Kate and I are both teaching again, we had a great time last year!  Yarn Fest has a freshly deigned, easier to use website, including an at-a-glance workshop schedule to help with planning classes to take. There’s an early bird discount of $15 off workshops until January 1, 2017. Use the code EBDYF17 when you check out.

Kate is teaching:

 

  • The Pi Shawl (3 hours): Thursday
  • Two Socks at Once SBS (3 hours): Thursday
  • Fiber Care & Blocking (3 hours): Friday
  • Math for Knitters (3 hours): Friday
  • 2 Socks War & Peace (3 hours): Saturday
  • Pattern Writing (3 hours): Saturday
  • Custom Fit Socks (3 hours): Sunday

I’m teaching:

  • Fractal Frolic (3 hours): Thursday
  • Cheaper by the Dozen (3 hours): Thursday
  • Adventures in Plying: Color and Texture (6 hours): Friday – New for 2017!
  • Yarnitecture (6 hours): Saturday
  • Fractal Frolic (3 hours): Sunday

Who remembers #fiberfairwage? The initial teaching contract for this event wasn’t so hot, but Interweave did a great job working with instructors to come up with a fair contract for this event. There is a great selection of teachers and classes for 2017!

Are you coming this year? What are you taking?

 

Save

Double or Nothing : Double-Knitting Giveaway!

Double or Nothing!

Double or Nothing!

Alasdair Post-Quinn is the undisputed king of double knitting. His first book Extreme Double-Knitting enticed a legion of knitters into more complex double-knitting that they thought they’d ever knit. He’s back this December with Double or Nothing: Reversible Knitting for the Adventurous.  First covering and expanding on some of the content of his earlier book, Alasdair then dives into double-knit textures, double-knit intarsia, double-knit entrelac, double-knit cables and double-knit lace. New to double-knitting? You can learn from the beginning. Love double-knitting already? Up the ante — Double or Nothing!

 

Alasdair is offering a copy of his new book as a giveaway and he’s adding his Craftsy class, Adventures in Double Knitting to add even more double-knittingto your life.

A few designs from Double or Nothing.

A few designs from Double or Nothing. You can see more on Alasdair’s website.

Our usual giveaway rules apply. Leave a comment on this post between now and midnight eastern time, Friday December 2nd, 2016. One comment will be chosen at random to answer a skill testing question. If the commenter answers correctly they will win the double-knitting package.  Giveaway value $69.94.

Save

Save

WWW: Knitting as a Political Act, The Sock Machine, Fashion Inspiration

I really enjoyed this profile of Karida Collins, the owner of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Karida is clear-headed and honest about the challenges of running a “creative” business.


Just in time for your holiday gift list… a lovely new coffee table book, “People Knitting: A Century of Photographs”. Lots of wonderful pictures at the link.


Photo courtesy CBC. Undated image from late 19th/early 20th century documenting a sock machine in action.

“How a Sock Machine Helped Win the First World War”. These sock machines were a marvel of modern technology at the start of the 20th century, and they played a remarkable role in supporting armed forces in both of the World Wars.


Knitty columnist and knitting historian Donna Druchunas blogs about the role of knitting in protest, knitting as a Political act. Important.


Eye candy? Design inspiration? Ideas for your next project? Whatever, it’s just nice to see a handsome man in a handsome sweater. GQ Magazine offers up a list of 10 chunky sweaters they have deemed fashionable for this winter. Sadly more sweaters than men, but still very nice to look at.

And Vogue Magazine offers up some suggestions for styling knits for winters. I’m not ever going to be able to afford to buy anything they suggest (although holy cow if I win the lottery I’m absolutely getting myself some of those cashmere leggings), but I love these fashion spreads for ideas and inspiration!


I think this is wonderful. If you’re out and about in cold weather, keep an a couple of pairs of warm socks with you, and hand them out to those in need.

They don’t have to be handknits, of course. Any socks are better than no socks.

What Will You Spin Next?

*Spinning and knitting, spinning and knitting, rep from * to end of the weekend.

*Spinning and knitting, spinning and knitting, rep from * to end of the weekend.

In the US the big Thanksgiving weekend is coming up. Some people look forward to the food or the shopping. But my people, spinners, look forward to uninterrupted days of spinning, knitting or fiber prep.

This is also the weekend that, before the crazy of the December holidays, I like to reflect on what I want to spin next in 2017.

This weekend I will wear only stretchy pants, there will be football (Go Blue!) too much food and a ferocious amount of fiber. I have plans to card for color, spin for a few accessories, knit swatches in dark movie theaters (Dr. Strange and Moana) and generally wallow in fiber. I really need the comfort of fiber and the feeling of doing work that doesn’t require wifi or electricity.

While I frolic in my fluff I’ll keep a notebook handy, writing down any ideas I have for 2017. I have a few things that are tickling my interest – more spinning and color (with a little weaving thrown in), exploring new-to-me dyers and making things beyond swatches with my handspun.

What are you excited about spinning, learning, making in 2017?

If you are in the US what will you spin this weekend?

Obsession Thursday: All Tully, all the time…

Not really. But at home, it kind of is. He’s such a different bunny from any I’ve ever cared for before.

Last few nights, he’s decided he enjoys jumping on me when I’m on the couch and demanding to be petted. This, as you can imagine, is not a hardship for me. Except when I stop. And he decides I need to be back at it. So he tells me with a not-gentle nip. He’s still a baby, and only 3 weeks since his neuter, so testosterone is still in him. He gets the high-pitched bunny squeal of pain in return, which is a language he understands. Eventually, the nipping will stop. Or get gentler, anyway.

Meanwhile, I’ve been posting these videos the last few nights. People tell me it’s very soothing to watch. So here you go.

Should you want to see more of these, you can follow me on Instagram. That’s where I post them.

WWW: On Solace and Symbols

Craft as Solace.  “Beauty is not trivial. Connection is not trivial. It inspires us and lights us up. And when we are alive we can’t help but find hope.” Yes.

On a similar note: On the handknit scarf as symbol.


There was a fuss last week in the UK when news broke that department store John Lewis was planning to reduce their haberdashery (I do so love that word!) offerings. They’ve since reversed that decision, and this piece explains very nicely the value of this corner of the shop, “A trip to John Lewis’s haberdashery department is a journey into the centre of a Venn diagram of properly nerdy interests and interests which are culturally associated with women.”


Amazing: a knitter from Baltimore, who has been knitting for 17 years, has made 92 sweaters. More extraordinarily than that fact alone is that each is a unique creation, designed by the knitter, depicting a place in the world. “As an avid traveler with a satiable wanderlust, he knits sweaters that represent both his excursions and the places he dreams of traveling to.”


The Inclusive LYS program. Fly the flag.


Not specifically knitting, but still wonderful. An acquaintance of mine, Dai of Toronto, who has an excellent eye, has recently been to Iceland. Her Instagram feed is a wealth of delights, beautiful images of this most beautiful country.