Bendy Report 2018

It’s been two years since I last went to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show, and on that visit I bought mainly fibre for spinning. I more than made up for it this year. Last time I went alone, but this time I had the company of a friend – and ran into another on the way home. Both of them are knitters, and one is also a spinner and weaver.

I had quite a to-do list, from visiting a seller of looms to approaching a publisher of books about an idea I’ve had for a while, eating the same scrumptious lamb rolls I had the last two times and visiting Bendigo Woollen Mill.

We decided to visit the mill first, because I’d seen a little video describing the contents of their show survival kit and I rather fancied it, and numbers were limited. For $30 you got this:

Plus a sachet of hot chocolate (drunk), a pack of mints (forgot were in my bag), a bottle of water and a calico bag (given to my companion in yarn covetousness).

It was good value because I wanted most of the contents, which is pretty unusual in ‘showbags’. However, there are always a couple of things in them that I don’t want:

That’s a bookmark, badge and stitch markers. If anyone (within Australia) wants them leave a comment and I’ll post them to you.

I took my smallest wheelie suitcase with me to be kind to my back, and (theoretically) limit the amount I bought. Going to the mill first meant I wasn’t tempted to buy more than what was on my list because I knew I’d have it with me for the rest of the day, and I should leave space for other purchases. This filled about 2/3 of the bag:

The blue is ‘8ply alpaca blue fleck’ had been brought into the back room just that morning. The grey is ’16 ply recycled fibres’ and is lovely and soft. There’s a ball of Bloom in ‘wine’ colourway and multicoloured sock yarn in ‘purple green multi’. And the only yarn from the front room is a ball of 10ply cotton in ‘sky’, which I want to try machine knitting.

We headed to the show next, had lunch and made our way back through the sheds. I found the Louet dealer, who didn’t have floor looms as I’d hoped, but we talked about me going up to her workshop in Sydney later in the year. I spent some time at the Ashford stand and bought two large shuttles and bobbins – just in time for the blanket I just finished warping up – and a book of weaving patterns from an old manuscript.

At Glenora’s stand I bought some more 8/2 cotton and chenille, a ball of Ashford 8ply and a part for the Knitters Loom that broke a few months back that I didn’t know you could buy.

And I had mentally decided I wanted to buy a handful of single skeins of pretty or luxurious or interesting yarn.

From left to right: yak (white and chocolate) and camel (brown) yarn from Ochre Yarn, Australian grown and processed cotton (the first in recent times) by the Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, a lovely soft green yarn for a hat that matches my Green Stripes Jacket by Kathy’s Fibres, and a multicolour yarn that caught by eye by HalfBaked HandDyed.

And lastly, a cone of boucle saori wool, a handy mini crochet hook set and a sock darning mushroom:

When I first visited the show in 2007 I took photos, watched demonstrations, looked at all the animals and watched sheepdog trials. In following years I added the fashion show to that list, but as the show grew in size I didn’t have as much time for looking at animals and trials. Now I’m pretty much down to lunch and shopping. I didn’t bother with the fashion show this year now that it doesn’t include handmade items.

Today I’m exhausted. I expected that and planned to do not much more than write a blog post, add my purchases to the stash spreadsheet then put them away, and maybe do some weaving.

Will all my yarn acquisitions fit into the stash? No. Not even half! But I did stick to what I planned to buy except for the one small cone yarn – and I didn’t find any rug yarns. And some of it will be used straight away. (I’m looking at you, you lush green skein of green. You’re going to become a hat very soon.)

Dusk

Back in 2010 I bought one and a half kilos of Ton of Wool cormo yarn, inspired by the locally-grown and made philosophy. RSI stopped me knitting in 2011. For a while I intended to weave the yarn, but I didn’t want anything white. Dyeing would fix that but it was expensive yarn and I’d read that it was hard to dye.

Wait long enough, and I stop being precious. I’ve already posted about the dyeing. The result certainly wasn’t consistent. But in the intervening years I’ve grown to love the look of natural dyed garments, with all their organic beauty, so I didn’t mind.

The colours remind me of the sky when you look the opposite direction to the setting sun. Purples and a touch of orange. So I’m calling the garment Dusk.

The pattern I used is “The Weekender” by Andrea Mowry. Modified to knit on the MegaBond. It was an easy conversion of a fairly simple pattern. Much faster than the Green stripes Jacket.

Sewing up had to wait until the jacket was done. In the meantime the Addi circular knitting machines arrive and I whipped up a hat to match:

When I’d finally sewed up all the seams, washed and blocked it, Dusk proved to be quite, ah, roomy:

Is there a trend for boxy oversized jumpers with skinny arms? If there is, then Dusk it rocking it. Not that I care much about being trendy. I wanted a warm, cosy jumper and that’s what I got.

And I like it.

Lagoon Scarf

So one of the batches of yarn I decided to knit up straight away to make room in the stash contained two balls of California 8ply in the ‘lagoon’ colourway.

I started cranking thinking I’d see how the colourway played out then separate it into sections to make hats out of. But once it was off the machine it said ‘scarf’ to me. The way the ends curled up appealed, so I simply did a stitched stretchy bind off.

The idea of attaching little pom poms around the ends also appeals, but I used up all the yarn. Maybe I’ll find a skein at the Bendy Show.

Green Stripes Jacket

So. Many. Ends.

But I got them all sewn in eventually. Then moved on to the sewing and ribbing.

Machine knitting is fast, but any finishing I need to do is slow, especially if there’s ribbing to hand knit. I don’t want to get another bad case of RSI. Thankfully there isn’t much sewing involved in this pattern – just two seams.

You can see in the next pic that the design adds extra fabric at the sides, in an arty drapey way.

It doesn’t hang as well on the dress form as it does on a person who has, you know, arms. But getting around to modelling anything myself these day is more hassle than it’s worth. First there’s getting changed into nice pants or a skirt and a matching top, then there’s picking a spot with good light in winter, and lastly there’s wrangling the other half into taking the photos.

You’ll have to trust me. It looks good on, and it’s comfy and warm. I’d like to try making a woven version.

Speckle Scarf

Last year at the Canberra Festival of Wool I bought this lovely speckled alpaca yarn. It is soooooo soft!

I made a tube on the Lincraft machine, and once I’d reached the end of the first ball I knew what I wanted to make on it: a braided scarf. However, at the width Aunty Lyn makes I wouldn’t get enough length to make a scarf once it was braided. So I waited until the Addis arrived and cranked out a long length of tube on Yoda.

This made exactly enough yarn to braid into a good scarf length. I separated it into three pieces then joined the ends – first by trying a kind of staggered three needle bind off but that wouldn’t sit neatly, so I simply gathered up the stitches on the remaining thread then sewed the three ends together in a flat stack.

I reckon a tassel would look good at the ends, but I’d need another skein of the yarn. Who knows? Maybe the maker will be at the Bendy Show.

Circular Economy

Meet Tube-bacca and Master Yoda:

They’ve joined Aunty Lyn (in the background) to make up a small family of machines. Judging by the chatter on the Ravelry and Facebook groups dedicated to circular knitting machines, this is pretty normal.

As soon as I had them out of the box I set up Master Yoda and stared cranking. 500 rows of my usual test yarn later I had not only confirmed that the machine works smoothly and faultlessly, but that 200 grams of 8ply yarn is enough to make a shortish plaited scarf.

Which I then frogged. It is test yarn, after all.

After using the machines a few times I soon wanted a better set up than clamping it to the table. So after thinking about it, then discussing the options with Paul, I came up with this simple solution: a table extension with a hole on either end. My design, Paul’s carpentry skills:

What I love about this solution is it’s flat and portable. I found I’m more comfortable clamping it to a stool, as the height is better for my back.

I tried plain (flat panel) knitting today, but kept getting dropped stitches. It’s likely to be the yarn’s fault as much as beginner’s fumbling.

Overall, I love these machines. They are fun and simple to operate and knit up yarn fast. I’ve ordered a book of patterns and watched lost of YouTube videos to get ideas for more.

But my adventures in cranking have hit a bit of an unexpected hitch: lack of suitable yarn in my stash. This terrible state of affairs may not last long, however, as I am planning to go to the Sheep and Wool Show later this month. But that raises another thorny question: is there any room in the stash for more yarn?

Mean, Green Machine Knitting

The yarns I’d dyed seemed to take a loooong time to dry. The blue-green yarn was dry by the following weekend, thankfully, so I started the project it was for. The pattern I’d settled on was the Garter Wrap Jacket from Bendigo Woollen Mills, which a weaver had shown the Weaving Matters group a few gatherings ago as a design it might be possible to make on the loom.

The jacket is a big rectangle with two slits on each side. It’s knit from the long side up. Even with a double-width Bond I didn’t have enough needles for it, so I turned the rectangle 90 degrees. I made the arm slits a bit longer than on the pattern because it’s easier to sew them up than to cut them longer. And, well, I do have longer arms than the usual knitting pattern in my size allows for.

That meant I needed to knit three sections, join them to knit the middle section, then separate and knit three more sections. At the same time, I had to combine three colours of yarn in a pattern that would use them all up at the same rate.

I weighed the yarns and worked out the row sequence would have to be: 2 light green, 2 black, 3 dark green, 3 black, with some extra black allowed for some ribbing for the sleeves.

It wasn’t hard to memorise the row sequence, but it was fiddly to keep swapping the yarns around so it took many, many more hours to knit than I’d expected. Still, the result looks fabulous.

The next part is sewing in all the ends.

All 350 of them.

This is taking quite a while.

Cranky – in a Good Way!

A few months back the local Lincraft store closed down. They had a sale, and among the many bargains I picked up was this circular knitting machine for, if I recall correctly, about A$50:

I gave it a try, taking a series of pics on my iPhone…

It could be a hat:

Or could be a sleeve:

Or one legwarmer:

Or a hat for two people:

Much giggling was had. Then I put the machine away and mostly forgot about it as I was swept up in sewing with handwoven fabric. But the other day, while I was waiting for my dyed yarn to dry, I figured it would be a way to scratch the machine knitting itch. I dug out some skeins of beautifully soft alpaca yarn I bought a little over year ago in Canberra.

And I got cranking. However, this second tube confirmed my suspicion that the machine was the right size to make small children’s hats, not adult ones. I could get the tube onto my head, but it was really too stretched out to make a comfy, attractive hat. I decided I would knit a hat on the Bond instead and use the rest of the yarn to crank out a plain scarf on the Lincraft machine.

But just in case I was doing something wrong on the machine, I looked up circular knitting machines on Ravelry and did a quick google. Next thing I knew I’d lost an hour or two in YouTube. I learned that there was a version of the machine I’d bought released in the US that was pink and white, and that it was rather good for the price. The Addi King was the best, however, and the right size for adult hats.

So I googled and it came up in Amazon for over A$600. WTF!!!

Some more searching and I found it for half of that on eBay. Then I found a shop in Germany selling the machines for a far more reasonable price… and a $90 shipping fee! So high postage costs partly explained the crazy prices I was seeing – if it was travelling to the US and then to Australia the costs would be astronomical. Direct from Germany was better, and the price came down considerably if you shipped two machines – the small Pro and larger King model.

I did think about it for a little while before I succumbed to temptation. Now I just have to wait for them to arrive.

Dyeing to Knit

The Squares Jacket got me thinking about how I’d like some new knits in my wardrobe. Of course, I can’t hand knit any but I could drag out the Bond Sweater Machine. But did I have any yarn that would work? And patterns that wouldn’t be too hard to do on the knitting machine?

The stash presented two possibilities: either I finally get around to dyeing and knitting the 1.5 kilos of cormo yarn, or I combine smaller batches of yarn to get enough for a garment.

The cormo yarn has intimidated me since I bought it, because it is beautifully soft and therefore easy to ruin when dyeing (and I know I’ll have to dye it because I don’t want a big fluffy white garment or blanket), and I know the maker had some trouble getting it to dye evenly.

The smaller batches were a mix of frogged projects and leftover yarn. Some I’d already matched up. But once I removed anything that wasn’t machine washable I had to reconsider those matches. Some were flat colours, others were variegated from previous dye jobs.

I bought and printed a few patterns and studied them, seeing how well they’d adapt to being knit on a machine. Hand knitters tend to prefer knitting in the round these days, but increases on knitting machines are easier done on the sides, so I have to divide patterns up into smaller pieces and sew then together. The first pattern I looked at turned out to be knit from the top down with raglan sleeves, and trying to convert it did my head in so I abandoned it. I found two more that would work. One was for 10ply, so I decided the cormo would be for that. The other was for 8ply, so it would be for the mixed batch of yarns.

Then a couple of hours dyeing turned into a day of frustrated plans.

The first mistake was mixing up a batch of orange dye by accident, because the label had faded to yellow. I wanted to overdye a blue yarn with yellow to make a variegated green. So I set the orange aside and started again. Only instead of a nice green I got khaki. So I overdyed that with a blue. Which worked but left me with a much darker result than I’d intended.

The dye bath was still very blue so I tipped it into the orange and got a nice forest green. I divided it in half, diluted it and dyed the cormo in two batches. The first batch came out looking great but most of the dye rinsed out and I was left with… various intensities of orange.

So I grabbed the remnants of another blue and some magenta and black sample packs and threw them into some fresh water, divided it into quarters, and dyed the cormo again in hanks of three. It came out… a very pale patchy mauve with dark purple areas and some lingering orange bits.

Which was better. I noticed, as I squeezed out the hanks, that the water beaded off the surface of the yarn. So maybe it still has lanolin in it. Well, I don’t mind the mauve-with-orange bits result, and I don’t seem to have ruined the yarn, and the blue-green is okay, so ultimately I got what I needed.

Now for the machine knitting bit…

Wear

While knitting garments, back when I used to knit by hand, I was probably not thinking too much about what state they’d be in after five or ten years. I was more worried about whether they’d fit properly! I realise now that I expected that, if everything else went well in the making, by creations would last a lifetime.

Not so much, it turns out.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how expensive the yarn was, or if it came from a high end brand. That’s no guarantee it won’t shrink or felt with wear and washing. Wear mostly. I wash my woollens very carefully. The Squares Jacket was knit from Jo Sharp yarn. Here it is now:

I can no longer blame putting on a few kilos for it not fitting well. The sleeves are about 5cm shorter. I doubt my arms got longer in the last 12 years.

Wear.

I suppose that’s the rub (no pun intended). Wear will felt wool as well as rough washing. I don’t feel like I got enough wear out of this jacket, though. I’m sad that we’re parting.

I’ve considered adding a panel at the sides and underarms, but the sleeves will still be too short. I’ve considered using the sleeves to widen the body at the sides and make it a vest but I have no yarn to finish the armhole edges and I have more than enough vests for someone who doesn’t wear them much. And the jacket really is a bit too felted. I wouldn’t give it to the op shop. I’ve considered throwing it in the machine to properly felt it then sewing something out of the felted fabric… but what?

At least it’s a natural fibre and will break down if I throw it out.

I am sad, but more than that… as my collection of handknit garments dwindles it reminds me that I can’t just get out the needles and add more. My hands, too, have suffered irreversible damage from wear.

Though I could set up the Bond and get creative will what I make just shrink and felt over the next few years anyway? If I look at the garments that are still in good shape at least I can note which yarns have stood up to wear and seek them out again. Or find the leftovers in my stash and combine them.

Which is where I headed next. Away went the sewing machine and out came the Bond Sweater Machine. And the dyepot. Stay tuned.