Monday, November 20, 2017

Chain or Navajo Plying

Sometimes - OK, for me, rarely - you want to maintain the striping nature of space-dyed roving. The usual technique is then that you use so-called "chain" or "navajo" plying, creating a three-ply yarn that maintains the colour sequence of the single, and produces a variegated yarn rather than  one that is"barber-poled".

Admission: my chain plying sucks. Mostly because I get no practise at it, since I'm not a big fan of self-striping yarns. But also because I suspect my technique simply isn't very good.

I recently came across an excellent video, that features Sarah Anderson showing you how she executes chain plying. It was a revelation to me. I tried doing it her way, and found that the positioning of her hands really helps the process. I used to pull out each loop before plying it, leading to a jerky, and hence uneven, plying job, but her way of doing it is much smoother and makes a better yarn.

One trick is that you need to have the right tension on your single. A tensioned kate is really indispensable here. You need a tension that will feed easily enough so that you don't break your single (it's a pain to deal with broken singles in this technique!) but not so loose that the loop in your chain goes all squirrely. I tried my cheap version of a tension box - weaving the single through the rails of a rail-back chair - but this is hard to make adjustments to once you're set up, so doesn't work as well at all.

In the video, it looks like Sarah is wearing a skirt, and her single comes from her right on the floor somewhere, but I find it easier to wear pants so I can feed the single up between my legs. That way my hands are naturally positioned in front of me, and they stay there.

Another tip is that chain plying does not "average" the thick/thin variations of your single well. On the contrary, it tends to emphasize irregularities! So if you want even yarn, then you need to be able to spin a nice, consistent single first.

The last tip is that I tend to overply using this technique - the hand motions required slow me down considerably - so I find that I need to do this on my slowest whorl, and treadle gently. This is hard for me to do, because I'm so used to speed (I usually spin and ply on my highest whorl, double-drive style). Perhaps if I practise this more, I can get faster...

Anyways, my first try after watching her video resulted in a much improved yarn. Still a bit overplied but clearly I'm getting better!

[slightly overplied, but much improved, chain plied yarn]

[here's what I made from it. You can see the self-striping in action.
pattern: slightly modded Kindness Shawl by Jaala Spiro, free on Ravelry]

This is now a technique that I'm willing to try more often!

Monday, November 13, 2017

How Do I Love Thee, Zauberball?


There, now that that is out of the way, I can wax lyrical about one of my favorite yarns: Schoppel Zauberball Crazy. And if Schoppel would now like to send me some yarn love, I won't complain ;)

Zauberball is Euro-style sock yarn, 25% nylon/75% wool, thin (420m/100g), 2 ply and non-merino. It is not soft, but has a high price point all the same. Lots of knitters don't like this yarn because for the price they want soft. If you are into "soft",  this yarn will disappoint.

Thanks to the zero merino content, though, it wears quite well - no felting or pilling. I did, however, have a pair of Zauberball socks that wore through badly after about a year - holes in unexpected places all over the sole - though I suspect it was because my teenaged son was wearing the socks while longboarding - his shoes had holes in the same damn places as the socks!! Pro Tip: do not wear handknit socks when longboarding!

I've found that some of the dyes will fade over repeated laundry cycles, some colourways more than others. Since socks get washed a lot, it helps to be gentle with the detergent you use, if at all possible. I have had one colourway (2100 "domino") - which is starkly black and white - fade and bleed quite quickly, with all the white bits going grey. It seems to me that the bright colourways fade more quickly. But in general they look good for at least a couple of years.

Zauberball is a self-striping yarn with a very long colour change, and every ball is slightly different, so you are not going to be able to easily create identical socks using it. If you are a stickler for matching socks, this yarn isn't going to make you happy. But it's that same quality that makes it most excellent for "fun with colour". This is where this yarn really comes into its glory! Below I show you some of the socks I have knit using it, for your viewing pleasure. I've noted the colourways and patterns on the photos.

It's important to note that to get the look created in these photos, I wind the skein into smaller balls (at least 2 per sock so 4 smaller balls if I do 2AAT) and then use alternating balls for the (horizontal or vertical) stripes, or the wedges. This enhances the contrast between the stripes. The only socks where I didn't do this were the Zarathustra socks below - those display the natural colour rhythm of the skein, the contrast being provided by the plain grey of the Regia.

[pattern: Cookie A's Wedge sock, 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 3136 "der lenz ist da"]

[pattern: 2x2 colourwork using 2 ends of the ball, 
garter toes and FishLipsKiss heel,
Zauberball Crazy colourway 1564 "frische fische"]

[pattern: 2x2 ribbing, 6-row stripes from 2 ends of the ball, 
my own afterthought heel; 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 2137 "wurzelsepp"]

[pattern: Cookie A's Wedge sock, 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 3136 "blasser schimmer"]

[pattern: Caoua Coffee's Zarathustra socks;
Zauberball Crazy colourway 2312  "piano bar" 
combined with plain grey from Regia]

[pattern: 2x2 sprialling colourwork using 2 ends of the ball, 
my own garter afterthought heel 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 2092  "my sweet side"]

[pattern: 2x2 ribbing, 6-row stripes from 2 ends of the ball, 
my own afterthought heel; 
Zauberball Crazy colourway 1564 "frische fische"]

Have fun, sock knitters!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Remembrance Day

Over the last months, I have been spending some time on a community art project.

I was very inspired by this one, where a group of Australian women started a memorial project for their veterans. Like Canada, Australia (and New Zealand and Britain also) use the poppy as a symbol for their war veterans.

My knitting group got pretty excited by the idea too, so we decided to start a local version, and started shopping the idea around to other knitting groups around the Lower Mainland.

We ran a public wet-felting session so non-knitters could contribute. It was a lot of fun and I think it touched a lot of people. We had men participate and even some children!

We've collected over 600 poppies this year. A group of us spent a weekend zap-strapping them onto a backing for the display. It looks truly amazing.

[the Poppy Project blanket on display]

Our local Royal Westminster Regiment has been very encouraging and their museum has lent us the kit for the display. We made it into our local paper and hopefully with the display looking so fantastic, it will encourage more participation next year!