Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's so annoying!

I think it is, anyway. Well, many things are, but the one that's really rankling at the moment is the variable availability of yarn. Allow me to explain. I'm typesetting an... interesting paper at the moment, 37 pages of tables, graphs that have to be redrawn from Word, illustrations to be inserted (which means re-numbering all references to all illustrations in the paper). Trust me, it's not fun. When I can't bear it any longer I unearth 'Scarf Style' from the stacks of paper around me and consider a problem. There are lots of things I want to make for me, starting with 'Lady Eleanor', but I need to make something for my incipient brother-in-law. I can't give K a gift and not have something for J: it's not fair. (On our birthdays my parents always gave one decent gift to the non-birthday child.) I could knit him his own Wedding Socks (I have the yarn ready) if I asked K his shoe size and she knew it. But he might have immense feet and I really don't want to spend this summer knitting socks to a deadline! I gather he was envious of the handwoven silk/wool scarf I sent K last Christmas. He would like a scarf of his own, and I'd like to knit one for him (weaving comes later, when I'm better at it). 'Forbes Forest' is a possibility, but it will require time and thought and there's something about 'Interlocking Balloons'. I just can't stop looking at it. But can I find a yarn? It seems to be a strange weight: 175yd/160m per 4oz/114g (why can't they give a 'standard' stat, eg 70m/50g?) Lovely mix of merino, alpaca and silk: stretchy for the cables, soft, and a sheen to show off the stitches.

Rummaging through UK online suppliers found Debbie Bliss Baby Alpaca Silk, but no merino/alpaca/silk blend in a single colour or very subtle blend that won't overwhelm the pattern. The Alpaca/Silk is very nearly the right weight, but it doesn't get a particularly good review on Wiseneedle. In theory I could order something from the US, although the three weeks or more it would take to arrive would force some frenzied knitting to finish scarf and a top for me by the end of July[1]. The original yarn is available, but they haven't replied to my email asking if they'll ship to the UK. It seems that for a while they stopped making the yarn. I suspect some knitwear designers write patterns for 'that wonderful yarn they found on holiday' without considering whether or not anyone trying to knit the pattern will be able to find a substitute, let alone the original. I understand why, but it's frustrating, especially when most patterns are written in the US for US yarns and I'm over here in the UK... anyway. I can find thinner yarn, pure alpaca at c. 100m/50g, but that would make the scarf thinner and it's only 9" wide to start with, and it wouldn't have the weight/sheen of the silk fraction. And of course there are thicker yarns, but I want to make an elegant scarf, something that flows rather than smothers. Bother.

(time and digital information flow)

Now that's interesting. I haven't found that before. The average weight is right, and... oh, that's pretty. The person whose URL I gave for the scarf knitted it in an alpaca/silk blend and seems very happy with the results. Handspun would presumably be a bit looser... now, that does look nice. The DB alpaca/silk was said to shed and pill, and this could be worse, being handspun, but... oh, look, that one's lovely. I suppose that if it didn't work for the scarf I could make a different scarf... even garter stitch would look elegant in *that*.

I was so certain I wasn't going to buy any more yarn this month, but this is an emergency, right?

[1] The sea silk hasn't arrived yet so I've just cast on for the Shell Tank from Knitting Nature.


Alice said...

Sarah, I'm sorry I can't add any useful comment on your yarn problem. At least you don't sound confused by it all (as I am), just frustrated. But it sounds like you've sorted it out.

I wanted to tell you that I've heard a couple of people have really had problems with the Knitting Nature patterns, due to errors in them. Oh, I can't remember who it was but I'll try. I'm not trying to warn you against it - just to make you aware.

Alice said...

Aha - found them!

Check these out:



sarah said...

Thanks, Alice. I've sort of sorted the yarn problem, if not I've added to my stash... no, no, I'll make that yarn into a scarf of some sort, regardless!

I've seen several comments about problems (worst seems to be the Basalt Tank), so I'm keeping an eye on the KAL. There's at least one finished Shell Tank without major problems, and someone's finished the Roundabout Leaf Tank and posted corrections. Some of the designs are intriguing, it's such a shame that all the models appear to be surviving life without hips and there are errors in the patterns.

Alice said...

Well, the things you learn every day! I had to look up "KAL". Now I know.

Sorry about all these comments. Couldn't find an e-mail address for you.

Joanne said...

Just for reference, handspun should pill less than commercially spun yarn because fibers in handspun are generally more carefully prepared, and spun more tightly than what is spun on a machine...

also (and I know you don't want to hear this from me) why do you worry so much about the yardage--it's a scarf! Just get close to what's called for and move on to knitting it at a gauge you like. As a designer, I find that no matter what yarn I use, it causes someone a problem. That is because so many knitters don't want to substitute--they want to use the EXACT YARN in the EXACT COLOR in the pattern.

What they don't realize is that often, I don't choose either the yarn or the color. The yarn company or magazine does. I just try to adjust my design to their choices...

sarah said...

Thanks, Joanne. The handspun arrived this morning, a soft parcel smelling of the same woolwash I use. I'll post a decent picture of it when I make up the work I should have been doing while gloating/winding a ball/knitting just a bit to see what it feels like.

I didn't mean any insult to designers, or to hurt their? your? feelings; if I have, I apologise. It hadn't occurred to me that you don't get to choose the yarn. I suppose your life as designer is similar to mine: have a good idea, rough it out, like it even better, present it to client, client specifies fonts, colours, demands changes. Sometimes so many changes it's not my design any more. Life as a knitter will get easier as I handle more yarn and learn more; it would get easier faster if I could see/feel an assortment of yarns other than Rowan/Bliss locally. I live in hope, but I'm not holding my breath!