Round the Needle

Wash those socks! April 02, 2016 17:07

Green sock

I make a lot of hand knit socks, and eventually hand knit socks get holes in them.  My usual method of darning is to say, “Oh darn!” and drop the pair in the trash, because I think it’s easier to knit a new pair than to repair the holes.

However, there are exceptions.

Last month Ray showed me a hole in the bottom of his current favorite pair of socks.  I was a bit puzzled, as they’re knit from a workhorse yarn that almost never wears out, they’re only two years old, and he only uses them as slippers.  I just didn’t understand how they could have gotten a hole in the sole this fast, if at all.

Then he said the magic words. “It’s not like I washed them a lot.”

Hmm.  I probed a bit to see what he meant by “a lot.”  Well, turns out what he meant was “never.”  As in, “I have been wearing these socks for two years and I have never washed them.”

Before you get carried away with “Ew!” and “Gross!” let me tell you that he is not alone.  I have heard this story before from friends about their husbands and socks.  They don’t wear them often (the socks, not the husbands,) sometimes only as slippers, and they are not smelly or visibly dirty (again, the socks...) Since they are hand knit, the men (and sometimes women) believe that it’s best not to machine wash them, and never think to hand wash them. Then the socks get holes in record time and everyone is puzzled.

The answer:  Wash those socks.

Dirt is abrasive and dirty socks will wear out faster than socks that you keep clean.  Even if you can’t see dirt, or smell a funny smell, your socks are picking up dirt, especially if you wear them as slippers.  That dirt builds up in the soles and begins to wear away at the wool fibers, like tiny pieces of embedded sand paper.  Then you get a hole.

When I took a good look at Ray’s socks I found the fabric around the hole was a bit stiff.  That’s what happens when it gets dirty, and the stiff fibers are more prone to breakage.  It’s easily remedied by a quick wash, and the beauty of most sock yarn is that it’s superwash.  That means even if you gently hand wash every hand knit you own, you can almost always machine wash your socks.  I lay mine flat to dry when I’m done, but I know people who send theirs through the dryer with no problem. (NOTE OF CAUTION: don’t try this with socks knit from non-superwash yarn. You will end up with small, felted shoes for elves.

You can hand wash your socks if you like, but the truth is that hand washing doesn’t really get them clean.  It works wonderfully for sweaters, cowls, and even hats, but socks get DIRTY.  A gentle soak and swish will result in dirty water, but it will also leave a lot of dirt behind in the fabric to chew on your wool sock fibers.  If those socks are knit from superwash yarn, toss them in the machine, set it on a gentle cycle with cold water and get those puppies clean!

Now, back to the hole in Ray’s socks.  As I said, these were a favorite pair.  I knitted them two years ago while he was in the hospital, from one of my favorite yarns that is now out of production.  Nicely cabled and very stretchy, he says they are one of the most comfortable pairs of socks he has every owned, so I conceded and agreed to fix the hole.  I located some matching yarn, and thanks to this knitted patch repair method that I find MUCH easier than darning, they are almost as good as new.  If he keeps them washed, they should last a long, long time.

You might want to run along now and check your sock drawer.   I think you might just find some things that need washing!

 


Happy Halloween! October 31, 2015 17:25

Yes, it’s Halloween. The happy fall holiday that for most folks means pumpkins, ghosts, costumes and trick or treaters. If you’re a knitter it also means, “hey, you better get some holiday gifts done.”

This Yellow Seed Stitch Beret is the perfect quick      holiday knit that still feels like fall. Chunky yarn,   lovely fall color, and an easy project. I’m headed out on a flight to Portland tomorrow, and I’m taking this project along. The yarn is yummy Julie Asselin Ankara in warm autumnal Jaipur.

We do a bit of traveling this time of year, and I always like to have a project to take along. Something easy to memorize, so I’m not digging around for my pattern, and relatively small, so I have a sense of accomplishment when I return. By Thanksgiving I plan to have a few of these hats finished up – one for me, and two more for gifts!


Getting your Geek Chic On February 26, 2015 05:30 1 Comment

Behind every special yarn is a special hand-dyer. Each of them has a unique way of producing artisanal yarn, and a unique set of inspirations stoking that creativity.

Geek ChicGeek Chic yarn has been a Knit Addiction favorite since we opened our doors. The label says it all: every skein is hand-dyed, one of a kind. While they may be similar to one another, each is a little different, with a personality of its own.

The quirky pop culture names are just fun, drawing from Doctor Who, Harry Potter and Star Trek, among others. There’s simply nothing like knitting Bigger on the Inside from Exploding Tardis, or chuckling over the perfect red skein of Expendable Crewman.

The talent behind the yarn is dyer Jolene Meurer, and she has a special touch for finding the right color for the right name. A few years back Ray requested socks knitted from Minion in Wookie. The unusual part about the request? Jolene didn’t have a color called Wookie. He wanted me to ask her to create it. “She’ll know what Wookie should look like,” he said, and he was right. She produced a perfect skein of Wookie yarn.

Jolene has been dyeing Geek Chic yarn in her Sanger, California home for about eight years, and it’s been a developing process for her. “Online friends were dyeing, and it looked like fun,” she says, “So I got wool yarn and some Kool-Aid, and put them together in a crock pot. I spent a year or two playing with Kool-Aid, Easter egg dyes and some other food dyes, before deciding to switch to acid dyes to get the colors I wanted.”

Geek ChicThose colors are an expression of Jolene’s personality and interests. “I love most things Geeky,” she says.  “When I am really into a book/movie/video game, I want to be able to express that artistically.” That expression translates into yarns that make the perfect gift for the Whosian knitter, would be Narnian, or Pottermaniac.  

Jolene is quite successful in capturing the personality of her favorite characters in her colors. Her 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctor color ways are particular favorites, and usually get snapped up as soon as they come in.

“Sometimes people have a signature color,” says Jolene, “Like Link always wears green.” But there’s more to it than that; some of it is her excellent color intuition.  “Most of the time it’s more of a feeling that I have about the characters’ personality,” she says. “For instance, the 11th Doctor is very playful and energetic, so I saw him in bright colors, while the 9th Doctor was disturbed and somber, so I saw him as dark colors.  Sometimes, a color way is the combination of the two; Ginny Weasley has orange for her hair and pink for her femininity.”

Geek ChicAll the colors are special to Jolene, but she has a few favorites “The first time I used 42 was to make a sweater for my niece, so it always makes me smile,” she says.  “I am a Ravenclaw at heart, so I love the combination of Rowena and Steampunk or Don't Blink.  The new launch of Dr. Who was a jumping off point for me to own my geekyness, so I am quite fond of the 9th Doctor and Rose Tyler.”

Like many creative folks, Jolene is multi-talented and devotes a good chunk of her non-dyeing time to her efforts. “I do just about everything crafty.  I spend most of my time knitting, but I also enjoy spinning, weaving, crochet, and sewing.”  

And like many of us, her pets are partners in the crafting.  “I think I spend more time convincing the cats to let me do these activities than actually doing them,” she says.

We have Geek Chic Minion and Fairy Dust in all the fun colors! Take a look and choose your favorite.


Sighted at Stitches West February 22, 2015 14:17 1 Comment

One of the best parts of the yarn and fiber world is sharing our passion with other people who understand what we do. This weekend I visited Stitches West in Santa Clara, California and mingled with thousands of yarnies, breathing in the fiber fumes while taking a look at what’s out there for those of us who love some good yarn.

For the uninitiated, Stitches West is a fiber festival. That term covers a lot of territory, but in this case it means four days of classes, seminars and dinners, as well as a marketplace full of yarn and yarn-associated stuff. Anyone can go, so it’s always a good place for me to see what people are actually buying, and what’s going to be newly popular this year.

I hung out for a day in the marketplace to see what fiber fanatics are searching for right now, and saw some definite trends. I know we all want to be individuals, but really, we all like to be a bit trendy sometimes, right? Here are the top hot items I saw:

Color Gradations – We saw this begin a year or so back, and it’s growing. Lots of new lines with long, slow color changes, and lots of patterns to support them. If you like our Frolicking Feet Transitions, you’re on the leading edge of the trend.

SofJulie Asselin Colorster Colors – For the past few years we’ve seen a movement toward jewel tones and intense colors. That seems to be swinging in the other direction now, with colors that are not quite pastels, but definitely softer and less intense. Just this morning I saw a fashion column referring to colors from nature, and I think that’s an apt description. Our examples here are Julie Asselin’s yarns in Anemone, Shiitake, Tidal, and Labyrinthe.

Wool – Okay, wool is nothing new, but we’ve seen a lot more blends and exotics (yak, qiviut, possum) for several seasons. Merino seems to have climbed back up to the top of the heap. Pure merino was getting snapped up everywhere, followed by the merino/cashmere/nylon blends. Cashmere was also up there this time around, with a lot of affordable options.

Spinning – Lots, lots, lots of spinning fiber in amazing colors, and lots, lots, lots of spindles being sold. I chatted with a number of folks making their first spinning purchases and learned the affordability of a spindle was pretty attractive. It gives the opportunity to try out spinning without a big financial commitment. Unlike yarn, mixed spinning fibers were the favorites – especially colorful batts with several different wools, silk and even bamboo.

One of the great perks of a fiber festival is meeting authors, designers and yarny icons. As soon as I got inside I made a beeline for the StephenBe booth to meet Steven West. It was truly a swoon-worthy moment. He’s one of my favorite designers, and puts out great modern patterns. He’s gracious, funny and much, much taller than I ever imagined. Steven just wrapped up the Mix Tape Tour with Stephen Berg of StephenBe Designs, and together they present some of the best new designs in knitting. They also have Kickstarter campaign running to get a knitting reality show off the ground. Take a look and watch the pilot, it’s a kick. Says Stephen Berg, “We’re going to knock those Kardashian b(*&$es right off TV!”

So that’s a wrap (and maybe a turn) from Stitches West 2015.


The story in your knitting February 16, 2015 09:00 2 Comments

SamanthaYou know the time of day; you've just come home from a long day of work, or maybe it's your Saturday "you-time." You put on your cozy clothes, those fuzzy socks you love, sit on the couch and turn on a good podcast, or music, or your favorite television show to listen along to while you work on your project.

Something phenomenal is happening - while you're working and you're memorizing your pattern, you're listening to your show and you find that the words begin to play into your work. Each pattern row is woven with the information from the voices and sounds you're hearing.

Your project becomes something special at this point. You listen as you figure out a tough spot in your project. You listen as you un-knit that row you totally messed up. You listen as you re-knit the row and make it look perfect again.

Then the project is done, and you give that sigh and force yourself from your comfortable spot on the couch to go make dinner. When you return to your finished piece and run your fingers along the cables and the slips, you remember the exact words and feelings of the voices from your program, and the project becomes a special bookmark in your life.

The next big thing February 15, 2015 11:48 1 Comment

YottaWinter is the time to start thinking about cozy, soft knits - both for projects and for wonderful things to wear. Even better if they’re quick projects. That way you can both knit and wear them before spring arrives!

This is truly the year of the big yarn. I don’t mean the “next big thing yarn,” I mean BIG yarn. We’re seeing chunkies and bulkies pop up everywhere this autumn, and nothing is more fun than a special hand-dyed bulky. Julie Asselin’s Yotta is my new favorite.

Here’s the thing: I’m not always a bulky yarn fan. They can be rough or they can look like roving for little kids. It takes a special bulky to win my heart. It has to be soft enough to feel good in my hands and garment, and look sophisticated enough to create a nice look. Yotta does both.

MelanieMy sample skein arrived in a variegated (I’m offering Julie’s lovely semi-solids to you) with a range from purple to orange. The texture is soft, not toothy at all, and it has a brushed hand that makes you want to pet it. The single strand is thick, like a pencil roving, but has enough twist to stay put. It also feels like it’s the tiny bit felted, meaning it’s going to hold up nicely when knitting.
Yotta gauge
I wanted to find just the right pattern, so I chose one that Julie herself designed for Yotta. Melanie is a cross between a cowl and a necklace, and interesting combo that lightens up the thickness of the yarn. It’s available for free on Ravelry. Yotta would also make a great Gap-tastic Cowl.

You can see the wonderful stitch definition here. This a fashion-forward, modern-looking yarn. Anything you choose to make with it will have a young, edgey vibe. This is the yarn to take down to your local coffee house, grab a cup, then sit outside on the sidewalk and knit. And when you’re done, do the same and wear your new cowl.


Talking with Julie Asselin June 14, 2014 16:06

Julie_3

Have you ever been to a really big yarn show?  You know the kind I mean - the kind with acres of booths full of fantasitc yarn you've never seen anywhere else.  You know that feeling you have when you stand in the doorway, really excited and wondering just how you'll choose the perfect yarn to take home with you?  That's kind of what it feels like to choose yarn for our store.  Sometimes I seek it out.  Sometimes you tell me what you like.  And sometimes it just kind of arrives right on my doorstep.  That's the case with our newest yarn from Julie Asselin.

One morning in June I got this message on our Facebook page:

"Hii!
My name is Julie and I own a small hand dying company in Québec Canada.
I'm contacting you because your shop seems really lovely and full of things I would have picked out myself!!!!"

Really, how could I resist an opening like that?  I'm always looking for something new and unique.  Plus, I have some relatives in Quebec, and the yarns on her Facebook page looked nice, so I said I would take a look.  Boy, am I glad I did.

In the coming weeks we learned a number of things.  First, Julie is the only person in years to be able to spell and pronounce my name without assistance (In case you didn't know, I was named after the French woman my grandfather brought home from Paris after WWII.  She was not my grandmother.  Ask me about it some day and I'll tell you the story.)  There aren't many Michelines here, but it's a rather common name in Quebec.  That point alone might have moved me to buy her yarn.

 

Next, we learned that although Samantha has had two years of French, she has not learned any useful words pertaining to knitting or yarn. I was hoping there was an opportunity for extra credit, now that she can translate phrases like "fingering weight" and "superwash" into French, but there isn't.  I think her school should seriously take a look into their curriculum.

Finally, we learned that Julie is producing some seriously sweet yarn up there in Canada.  We engaged in copious oohing and aahing over the samples she sent, both because of the color and the feel. Her semi-solid colors are softly heathered, and when you look close, have a myriad of subtle hues.  The sample skein in Ancient Gold looked like a golden yellow at first glance, but closer examination showed variations from a warm bronze to a pale gold, with some green and brown tones thrown in.  I was captivated by her single-ply offerings.  I've come to love the stitch definition single-ply yarns give your projects, but they tend to be delicate and break easily without the structure of multiple plies.  Not Julie's yarns. They hold up every bit as well as a multi-ply yarn, while still showing off your stitches with the smooth single structure.

I really love Fino Simple, her fingering-weight single-ply merino/cashmere/silk blend, so it's one of the two I chose to debut on the website. It's hard to describe how it feels.  Light, soft, magical, like knitting with butterflies or kittens.I'm working on a pattern for a textured cowl that shows off that the lovely color and structure.  I'll post it here for you when it's done.  Meanwhile, I suggest Geology Shawl. The skeins are a generous yards, meaning you could make a pair of socks and some fingerless mitts, a hat and gloves, a large scarf or small shawl.  It also means crocheters can complete a hat, scarf or mitts with only one skein.

Since creating beautiful yarn is such a personal effort, I thought I would let Julie introduce herself, and her yarn, to you in her own words:

Tell us a little about yourself and your yarn

I've been a knitter for most of my life. I started at four being taught by my mother and grandmothers. I am always curious about learning new techniques and making projects that teach me something. Aside from knitting I also like to cook. It's a passion I share with my husband Jean-Francois (I often share recipes I like on my FB page!) and I'm a big music fan.

I made a lot of research about fibers and the yarn making process when starting my yarn line. Quality is really important to me. All the yarns that I use are spun in Canada and in the US. I'm constantly collaborating with the mills to create great bases. I like to be involved.

How long have you been dying yarn?  How did you get started?

I've been dyeing yarn for three years now, selling it more seriously for a little more than one year. I started because, like a lot of dyers, I wanted colors/fibers that I couldn't get anywhere else. I started looking online at tutorials and took a shot at it. Soon I started making some for my friends and eventually my LYS started carrying it. I started receiving calls from other stores and decided to invest more time in this business. It is now my job.

What do you think makes your yarn special?

I come from a fashion backround so I'm always thinking ''Do I want to wear this?'' ''Would that make a great sweater?'' I want my colors to mean something . When I look at a color I have to think ''This is exactly what I was looking for!'' I want that to translate to my customers.

What are your favorite colors and what inspires you?

Quick answer would be: All of them! But that's too easy. It changes with seasons and with what inspires me at a certain period. I'm definitely more of a black person in terms of neutrals, and right now i'm big on reds and blues...but ask me again in a couple months and it could be green or pink! My inspiration comes from nature(because where else do you get better color combinations?) and from food. A lot of my colors have food names! Also sometimes, I just sit and like to look at pictures/art, listen to music and some colors will come to me.


We have Fino Simple and Hektos in six colors each, including the lovely Ancient Gold. We're looking forward to adding more of Julie's yarns and colors in the next few months.  Keep your eye on the store, but better get some of er yarn to knit while you're waiting.