Sunday, February 08, 2009

Obligatory West Coast "Signs of Spring" Post


It's the time of year for us West Coasters to start tormenting those of you in the rest of Canada with images of burgeoning spring. I wouldn't be so cruel as to post pictures of the snowdrops that have been up for a few weeks, but yesterday I did notice the buds on this tree outside our building are ready to pop, and I couldn't resist snapping this shot. (It may be some consolation to see that the skies here are still cloudy and wet.)

I am working on a pair of sweaters that have been commissioned as an anniversary present for a friend's parents. It's been quite a challenge to come up with a pattern that will honour the requirements of everyone involved: flattering and wearable for the recipients; reflecting the love and artistic eye of the giver; and fulfilling the design standards of the maker (me).

I have come up with a Cowichan-style cardigan with intarsia images symbolic of different aspects of my friend's parents' lives. I wanted to use Briggs and Little 4 ply wool - it's a sturdy, springy yarn from an historic Canadian mill in New Brunswick. My local yarn shop only carries the 2 ply, and a limited colour selection at that, so I ended up buying lots of white, planning on dyeing it and knitting with 2 strands. I needed a light warm beige, easy peasy, right?

I haven't done a lot of dyeing lately, so I reviewed my notes and merrily set to mixing stock solutions and soaking the yarn. Then my inner mad scientist took over and the kitchen started to resemble a laboratory with smoking beakers and bubbling cauldrons. Halfway through I realized that I had used Procion MX dyes instead of Lanaset, and had a momentary freakout. But, guess what? Procion works just fine on wool as long as you follow the recipe for acid dyes, which, thank God, I had. So I learned something!

Of course, all that wool jammed into two big canning pots, and complicated by trying to dye a pale colour, resulted in no two skeins being exactly alike. This I am actually happy with, as knitting from two skeins at once should give a bit of a marled effect, and add a liveliness to the background. Luckily, the rich red colour I wanted for the motifs was available at the store, so I didn't have to dye that as well.


My bathroom is now gaily festooned with dripping skeins of yarn. I can't wait for summer when I can work outside.

To help me out, here is the Indonesian mermaid/angel/goddess who hangs in my bathroom and is supervising the drying of the yarn. She has her work cut out for her. I want to start knitting tomorrow.

4 comments:

  1. With such protection, your work can't go wrong. What a charming mermaid!

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  2. what a lovely plan for the sweaters!

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  3. Anonymous7:25 PM

    And here I thought all you had to do was buy a big pile of wool and click away with your needles while watching TV and munching popcorn, then PRESTO-BINGO, two sweaters are born! I am really looking forward to seeing them. I know my parents are going to go into ecstatic sweater fits. Make sure you sew in the exclusive Heather label so they can show all their friends who knit the masterpieces. Throw in some business cards too. Never hurts. Thanks for doing this job. Jean-Pierre

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  4. I hope I will get to see the sweaters, too! Does that mermaid's tail have a crab claw at the end?

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