Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reader (e)mail

Yesterday's post hit a nerve with some people, and that's a shame, for I didn't intend to insult anyone or rub salt in what are fresh and raw wounds. For someone who expressed a similar sentiment but in perhaps more eloquent terms, see here. In any event, out of respect for the victims, I've shut down the comments for that post so we can move on and let the grieving and investigatory processes take their course.

In the meantime, I have two reader questions. Maybe you will have some ideas in addition to those that I thought of. Elizabeth asks

I’m a new spinner (got my wheel in November) and I just dyed up some Wensleydale roving (pics on my blog). It’s SOOO pretty and shiny and I want to knit a lace shawl out of it but almost everything I’ve read says that Wensleydale is best used for outer wear, weaving, even rugs! Is it possible, do you think, to spin Wensleydale smooth enough to where it isn’t prickly? I sampled a little on my spindle and yes, it has a halo much like mohair. I’m going to try spinning it from the fold on a low ratio and see if that produces a less hairy yarn. Would you have any other suggestions to offer?


I am stumped for other suggestions, and wonder if there's really anything one can do to fight against the essential nature of Wensleydale, which is to have relatively long fibers. Any of you more experienced spinners out there want to take a crack at it?

CCR wrote:

I found out that a good friend is pregnant, after years of hoping, and with twins! Having just seen a fellow knitter complete Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket, I am encouraged to think I can do that, twice, but I'm not sure what yarn to use. I want it to be soft (for the babies as well as for me as I knit) but sturdy (so they last a little while), and machine wash and dry (for the sake of the parents), and not too expensive for the sake of the budget. What would you recommend?


I tried to email you personally, CCR, but for some reason the email got bounced. I think that the hardest part is finding a yarn that can be machine dried. A lot of yarns are superwash but not a lot of yarn manufacturers recommend machine drying. The only two possibilities I can think of (and please, for the love of God, don't mention R** H***t -- I think it's way scratchy for babies and will make them sweat) are (1) Plymouth Encore, which is 75% acrylic/25% wool, comes in lots of colors, is reasonably priced (between five and six bucks for a 200-yd skein) and is sold a lot of place, including my beloved Rosie's. and (2) Gems Merino, which is the only other yarn I can think of that specifically says you can machine dry it. Gems is 100% merino wool, comes in fingering weight and a dk-weight, pretty colors, and is also around $6 for a skein, at least for the fingering weight. (Also available at Rosie's.) Both of these are soft enough for babies and relatively easy care.

Any other suggestions?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for responding to my post! I don't feel so bad being stumped, knowing that you are as well! I agree it's best not to fight against the nature of the wool; I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something. I'll be keeping an eye on your comments!

elizabeth@trailingyarn

Stacey said...

Rowan all seasons cotton - I have a sweater made from it and I machine wash/dry it and it just gets softer! What about trying one of the new KnitPicks yarns? Swatch up a sample and wash/dry it.

Stefanie said...

Mission Falls 1824 Wool & Cotton are both machine washable and can be dried on the tumble dry low setting of your dryer.

Deborah C. said...

I like the Plymouth Wildflowers DK yarn, it is 50/50 cotton acrylic. It feels nice and soft, wears well, is machine washable and dryable, and comes in lots of nice colors. I made a baby blanket from the Vogue Knitting on the Go Baby Blankets book, it was a Barbara Verishnik slip-stitch design that worked very well with this yarn. I think would work very well for the Baby Surprise, too.

SarahA said...

For baby things I love love love sugar and cream. Not very fancy, but it's cheap, 100% cotton and I find that the more you wash it, the softer it gets. It's a little hard on the hands, but it's thick so it knits up quick. You can find it at michaels or Joanns.

Meghann said...

I just got some Ella Rae Amity, which is like Plymouth Encore, a 75/25 wool/acrylic blend. I like it quite a bit and find it a little softer than the Encore.

Sarah said...

Knit Picks Shine (available in sport weight and worsted weight) and Lion Brand Wool Ease (similar to Plymouth Encore) are economical, easy-care options.

Jen said...

I love Rowan Wool Cotton (or Debbie Bliss Wool Cotton, same yarn, different colors) for babies. It's 50/50 merino and soft cotton. Washes and dries just fine. It's very soft, nice sophisticated colors. Also, I just washed and dried a Rowan Cashsoft DK sweater, and it shrank a little vertically (in a HOT dryer!), but was otherwise perfectly fine. There ain't nothing softer than that yarn! So if you did a swatch, you could calculate your gauge based on the dried size and be fine.

mindy said...

For Elizabeth, you could try spinning a very thin yarn, then wash it in some shampoo, and use conditioner in the final rinse (Suave is fine) then swatch your lace to see if you like the results. When I'm spinning mohair fine, I use a low ratio and pretty loose tension. Hope that helps some.

For CCR, I agree about Encore- soft and lofty, and washes and dries very well. I just made a baby sweater in Carol's superwash sock yarn, and I thoroughly enjoyed knitting with it and the sweater is very soft. I don't know about throwing it in the dryer, though. Has anyone tried that w/ the BBF superwash yet?

Ellie said...

As someone who has experience with the pattern (it's great! - just keep track of your decreases and increates), I recommend both Encore and Lorna's Laces. I love the color and weight varietys of Encore and the variegated color options make very fun little sweaters. Lorna's Laces is a bit more expensive but is 100% superwash wool (can't remember the breed, if specified) and has amazing colors.
Have fun!
Ellie

Kit said...

I have had a lot of success with superwash sock yarn in the dryer on the low setting. Lorna's Laces, Regia, Opal, Koigu - have all handled the dryer on low. I've done baby things that way with a lot of success. I also have found that cashsoft can handle the dryer on low. A worsted weight superwash that can handle the dryer and has not been mentioned is Classic Elite Basic Wool. It comes in a good assortment of colors. I find Lion Brand's Wool-ease to be too scratchy for a baby. Their Cotton-ease is back out again, though, and is very soft.

Carol said...

Sock yarn -- what a brilliant idea! Regia Silk anyone?

Mel said...

I bought a wensleydale batt from Grafton Fibers at Spa and have played with spinning it a bit. I love the shine, but I've pretty much decided that it's going to work best blended with something else. If spun tightly enough to hold it together, it's just too firm a yarn, in my opinion. Others may differ, I suppose,and I certainly don't consider myself to be particularly experienced, but that's where I come down on the matter.

Anne C. said...

For the Baby Surprise (fun sweater!), Tahki Cotton Classic, 100% cotton, machine washes and dries quite nicely, even though they don't say to dry it in the dryer (I don't think they do, anyway). I made a baby blanket for a granddaughter w/Saucy Sport. It was rough while I was knitting, but I washed & dried the swatch, it softened up wonderfully!

amy! said...

I've done a couple of Baby Surprises in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted, because it's supposed to be washable, but I admit I haven't tested it.

What I have tested are Cascade Superwash and Mission Falls 1824 Wool (albeit the older version). The Cascade was a super winner there. See my write up from a couple of years ago.

Kim said...

I second the KP Shine, and also add in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, which is pricier but also machine wash.

mches808 said...

Carol,

Don't let people shut you down b/c you may have rubbed their fur (um, yarn)the wrong way. It's your blog you get to post your opinions and people are free to agree or disagree. Isn't THAT what America is all about? Oh I forgot it's just about the right to bear arms.

Mary

M-H said...

Mary, I'd like to point out that Carol isn't, strictly speaking, posting in America (meaning the US) - she is posting in cyberspace. Many people from other nations, meeting here in cyberspace, value freedom of espression as well. Maybe their value systems differ from yours in some respects, but I hope you don't assume we don't value it because we are outside the US.

Marilyn said...

I've spun a lot of Wensleydale and I use a worsted draw, which helps to keep it under control. Mel is correct--if you put too much twist into it, you'll ruin it. However, I enjoy spinning it very much. I would highly recommend Romney for a beginner, if you have not spun too much, particularly on a wheel.

It's been many moons since I had a baby for whom to knit, but I used Cotton Classic for Baby Liz, now almost 15, and Encore as well. Check out the Surprise Surplice Jacket in this issue of Vogue. A nice twist on the oldie. Keep your fingers crossed that daughter Corinne will become enceinte this year so I can knit baby goo-goo stuff.

mches808 said...

m-h
I appreciate your comment and although I am not familiar with cyberspace values I'm sure they roughly coincide with mine. I still stand by my initial comment that it is Carol's blog and she is free to post HER views and people can agree or disagree.

Barb B. said...

I've used a lot of different sock yarns for all kinds of baby things. Most wash and dry in the dryer quite well. If you're not sure, knit a swatch, measure it, and throw it in with the blue jeans (that's my torture test) The stripey ones and the fairisle fakes come out really nicely for the surprise, and the left overs can make a pair of wee socks to match (or a hat).
On the Wensleydale, spin up a wee bit and ply it. Wash it. Knit a lace swatch. (Just a random eyelet pattern would work) Wash and block. See if you like it. A bit of work, but better than spinning up a whole whack and finding out you hate it.
Barb B.

Carol said...

Aw, lighten up, M-H, Mary's a lawyer. She can't help herself. Reciting the preamble to the US Constitution is her idea of foreplay. ;)

Plus she's a friend of mine and I can assure you she is no jingoistic ugly American. Quite a cosmopolitan, open-minded and attractive one.

Although it does raise an interesting question as to what law(s) govern cyberspace. If I'm writing from the US, I'm protected here, but if something is written in one country and read on the internet in another, I wonder ...

ccr in MA said...

Oh, Carol, you and your readers are great, thanks so much for all the wonderful suggestions! (I don't know why the e-mail bounced back, I'm so sorry: I have a love-hate relationship with technology.) I'm going to print them out for future reference.

I still want to do the Baby Surprise Jacket pattern, but anyone who's looked at my blog in the last week will see that I chickened out on it for right now. This is my first foray into sweaters, and I went for very, very simple. The yarn I'm using is Ella Rae from Amity, like Meghann mentioned above, which has been quite nice to work with and is machine wash and dry. My LYS owner helped me pick it out, and I'm pleased so far. The first sweater is partly done (body and one sleeve), and just needs a second sleeve and the neckband. Then it's time for the second sweater. And baby sizes are so cute!

Anyway, I'll stop hijacking the comments now, but again, thank you for considering my question, and love your blog!

Julie said...

I knit a Baby Surprise Jacket with Dale of Norway Baby Ull held double and size ten needles, and it came out a nice toddler size - my daughter's 19 months old and has been wearing it about six months. The sleeves are a little short now, but I think there's still enough stretch in the garter stitch to make it to September, when I may well knit her another.

You might want to consider doing a toddler size - use the same pattern with a heavier yarn and larger needles. That way the kids will have light jackets for next fall. Usually babies get so much infant clothing they can't wear it all, but not that much clothing in larger sizes. Food for thought, anyway.

Whatever size you knit, I strongly suggest using superwash wool - the fabric breathes and is great for all kinds of conditions, from indoor chilly to an underlayer outside in freezing temperatures.

And the BSJ is a really fun knit.

M-H said...

Sorry if I over-reacted. But it's a little weird to read things like this in cyberspace - it gets me every time. Of course it's Carol's blog and she can write what she likes! If you read my blog you'd know that I stand and fall by that article of faith. But what does that have to do with US ideas of the freedon of speech? Would I have fewer rights on my blog, which is written in Australia where we don't have these rights in our constitution? (correct answer: no!)

What I'm questioning is whether is useful to conceptualise her blog as being 'in' the US (and bound by US ideas of freedom of speech) or whether might be intersting to conceptualise it as being part of a much wider world of communication, bound by its own rules.

Legally this is probably tangled. I'm not talking legally. Out of my field.

Angel said...

I used Knitpicks washable merino wool- (Swish I think its called) for a baby blanket and it washed and dried really nicely- plus its super soft and nice to knit with. I highly recommend it.

Jen said...

Dreambaby DK is lovely to knit and easy-care as well. The colors are kind of pastel-y but I've always wanted to knit a sweater for me out of it!

Thanks for the link to that blog.

Ted said...

The things about spinning fine yarns is that -as a general rule- the finer the yarn, the more twists per inch you need for it to hold together. Mel and Mar have cautioned against high twist.

Margaret Stove (who routinely spins spiderwebbing) once told me that "when spinning finer for items to be worn, don't forget you need finer fibre so you have plenty of air trapped in it. Otherwise it will feel hard and look dense and lack warmth." (That's a direct quote from her email.)

I agree with other commenters that sampling is the way to go, but, honestly, when I think about spinning laceweight, Wensleydale doesn't leap to the front of my mind. I'm told it'll make a good 3ply sock yarn at about fingering- to DK- weight, though.

Not sure this comment helps.

Carol said...

Ted, your comments always help. Mwah.

Dharma said...

So funny that Deborah (early in the comments) mentioned Plymouth Wildflowers. I am just starting a project for my 2 year old niece using that yarn. I chose it for easy care. I am sure that her mother will not machine dry but it's nice to know that she *could*.

Anonymous said...

I think the best thing to do for babies is to make socks or blankets. You can never have too many socks or blankets, and the socks seem to fit for a longer period of time than, say, a sweater or hat. I had a baby a little over a year ago, and of all the hats I made, there was only one she was able to wear for more than 2 weeks. I would also avoid the more expensive yarns for blankets since babies spit-up, throw-up, have leaky diapers and such and that stuff sometimes...just...will...NOT...come...out!!!!!

AmyS

Lillian said...

For the baby surprise sweater, because it's hard to tell what's what as you're knitting it, 45 stitches is the back width - check out gauge to see what size you'll end up with. Worsted weight is likely to get you something bigger than newborn size!