Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Necessity Is The Mother Of Productivity

Tuck Lace scarves

The green one is a different pattern, here is a close up:

Tuck Stitch scarf

I needed a number of presents, and I had to come up with something quickly. I went shopping, but not store shopping, I went stash shopping instead. One pound 8 ounces each color of lovely mohair yarn, good for anything and nothing really. I had not been able to come up with a purpose for it in a couple of years. That would be nice, to make ‘something’ with all that, but what? what could it be that would go quickly, cover the required number of presents and be good enough to be proud of and worthy of giving away to loved ones?

I had thought about woven scarves, at 8 epi x 10 inches wide considering 10% takeup x 70 inches... 155 yards per scarf plus fringes plus loom waste, plus the amount required for weft, roughly another 100 yards. The plan sounded like a good one except I had controversial sources for the number of yards per pound, I did not want to wind and measure mohair yarn of all things, did I really have enough? Sampling in this case is tricky you need to weave at least one complete scarf to know if the end product is worth it, then set up the loom for bulk production. It sounded doable IF I had enough yarn, but something in the back of my mind did not really trust how the mohair would behave on the loom. What if I ended up with a big mess of yarn, sticky warp and a nightmare to weave? I did not have enough time to deal with a mess.....think think think.

Handknitting was out of the question, no time for that, the project had to involve some kind of machine either loom or knitting machine. Off to Ravelry I went, on the machine knitting list there is an ongoing thread where people post completed projects for the month. (it is a spin-off from ‘a garment a month’ something we did a couple of years back inspired by the Cabled Sheep, yes blame me, I was a copycat) There is where you are likely to find things that people are liking and making. Sure enough, Tuck Lace scarves by the bundle. Someone got a pattern from a guild meeting, shared it with everyone, and as quickly as ‘I like it, its easy’ tons of scarves made their appearance.

My next question: Would the mohair knit up easy on the machine? would I get all kinds of hanging fuzz on the gatepegs? Quick answer from another machine knitter who had done a complete tutorial on working with this yarn! Yarn and pattern in hand I went to the machine, 40 minutes later I had a lovely scarf, and then another, and another and another. In about three weeks I had 12 scarves! all the yarn used up, all the needed presents (and then some) ready to go.

Fiber friends are wonderful, all the community is great! The machine knitting community is smaller and we are all learning and unearthing old techniques together, also coming up with new stuff more suitable for current times and available yarns. There is hardly a question that goes unanswered, most of the 60’s hard core machine knitters are still around, and active, lots of new comers available to learn. I am sort of in the middle, I don’t know a lot, I learned bits and pieces from my mom, have read my way through books, handouts, magazines and tutorials, I know more about it than most of the newer generation of machine knitters, but have lots yet to learn.

We are seeing more and more people interested in machines, mostly its people that started out as handknitters and are overwhelmed with huge stashes. There are only a couple of companies making new machines, most of the people have found theirs in a basement, under a bed, in an attic, on Craigslist or Ebay. What is amazing most of these machines get be brought back to life with a new sponge bar ($30) and a bit of oil and TLC. Newer generations, the really geeky ones, are finding ways to connect electronic machines to computers bypassing the expensive connecting systems available. It will only get better. Hopefully the existing companies will keep production going, and maybe the ones that left will come back on board.

….and no its not cheating, you can’t put the yarn on the machine, push a button and walk away...it does not work that way. You have to have a swatch, figure out your gauge, cast on, knit, decrease and increase, cast off, block, steam and seam just like any other piece of knitting. In handknitting it is easy to spot a mistake, you can see both the right and reverse sides of the fabric at any given time, in machine knitting you are seeing only the wrong side all the time. Make a mistake and you might not see it until the piece is completed and off the machine....make a mistake, push the wrong button, forget to thread the carriage and all your work will land on your feet, unceremoniously just with a big ‘broken toe bang’. In machine knitting you really have to understand pattern construction, there are a number of techniques for bands, button bands and shaping that are similar but different than hand knitting. Of course you can buy a pattern and follow the instructions, push the carriage and come out with something wearable, but patterns for modern looks are not all over the place....the whole process makes you a more recursive knitter I think.

…..No doubt things go faster on the machine, disasters are also bigger and not as forgivable as in hand knitting. Do I hand knit? of course all the time! my sticks are my loyal companions every where I go.


fleegle said...

Those are lovely! Welcome back!

Cheryl S. said...

I have some excess mohair yarn I could send you... ;-)

Pru said...

They look lovely and I'm sure will be well received. I particularly like the green one, thanks for the close-up.