Monday, July 17, 2006

Detergents and Washing Handknits

My new occupation is requiring me to learn a good deal about laundry soaps and detergents. I'm sure you may be skeptical, but it's actually quite fascinating. To make a long story short, I'm going to argue that you should never, ever put woolens in with the regular wash, no matter how 'superwash' your yarn might be. (This has nothing to do with the action of the washing machine, only the detergent itself.)

Here's why: laundry detergent isn't just soap. Besides the cleansing agents, I've learned that detergents contain stuff called 'binders', and sometimes contain enzymes. Binders play several roles in the laundry process. They keep the cleansing agents from clogging your washing machine and building up on your clothes, but they also help keep the water soft and they raise the pH. The cleansers work best in soft, alkaline water, with a pH of about 9. Some enzymes, although they are not as popular in our detergents, may decompose proteins.

So what do we know about wool fibers (and other animal fibers) that makes this information important? As a protein-based fiber, wool prefers an acid environment. That's why you're often instructed to add a splash of vinegar to the last rinse of a wash, and why acid is used to bind dyes to the fibers.

Now, I have to admit, I've been reading about detergents for less than a week. But I've got to think that detergent can't be good for wool, as it produces a consistently alkaline environment when wool needs a more neutral, or even acidic one. I don't think I'll be putting my superwash socks in with the wash anymore.

(Yep, still working on that lace. I've got two repeats, and still have lots of good knitting time today... I'm planning on a repeat a day if I can manage it.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

From one thing to the next

I finished my handwarmers. Trouble is, this was a project to get rid of yarn that I have laying around, but there's still more than half a ball of the yarn left. I already have a Clapotis out of this stuff, and now handwarmers. Any other object would probably be overkill (particularly if I were to wear them all at the same time). Oh well, I'm sure I'll find a use for it eventually.

handwarm finish handwarm on

Here we are, first palm sides up, and on. I took the second photo myself. Don't ask me how.

Upon returning home, I realized that I was going to knit a lace wrap to wear to an upcoming wedding in August. Whoops! After a little confusion starting the project, here is almost the whole first repeat of the pattern, plus the border:

lace dream rep

This is the "Lace Dream" wrap from The Best of Knitter's Magazine Shawls and Scarves. Awesome hand-made center pull ball courtesy of my mom. It uses the "Ostrich Plumes" pattern, which, when stretched out quickly, looks like this:

ostrich plume closeup

I think this is going to be lovely. I'm using Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud laceweight, which has been nice to work with, and it's got just enough fuzz to be fluffy without driving me insane. Now... 18 more repeats and I'm good to go!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Just in time for August

Knitting doesn't have to be seasonally appropriate. Right now I'm working on some handwarmers for the chilly walk down to campus in the wintertime, and for the permanently refrigerated library.

Every time I try to work in the library, I end up falling asleep because it's so darn cold in there. Even in the summer. They could keep the place dehumidified and somewhat warmer than 65 degrees, I swear.

Enter the handwarmer.


Nothing fancy, just some leftover Knit Picks Sock Garden from my Clapotis, in a 2x1 rib, but they're going to help keep me warm. And of course, there's nothing better than an instant gratification project.

handwarmer progress

I'll be done soon, but that's okay... after I came home it seemed as if my stash had grown in the closet. I think that's why my mom never ran out of yarn at home -- it was just like little bunnies in the closet. So I'm going to try and catch up with it. I have a backlog for 6 pairs of socks, 3 sweaters, a shawl, and a felted bag.... and that doesn't count the yarn that isn't earmarked for projects.

I have a new job, an internship, that is a basic 9-to-5 setup. Regular work hours, I've discovered, are fabulous for knitting. I don't bring work home with me, so when I'm home, all I have to do is cook dinner and I have the rest of the evening for me.

I'm so quitting academia for a regular job!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What I did on my summer vacation

I knitted some socks, of course. I have trouble reading in the car, so I would often knit while we were doing some of our interminable driving from place to place. The socks didn't take any commemorative photos in the Southwest.

I didn't get as many done as I was hoping, but, well, it's not a race, folks.

Sock progress

From left to right: I completed the pair of ordinary stockinette stitch socks in Bernat's Sox yarn. They are obnoxious, and I like them that way. Second are the Child's First Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks. The pattern was easy to memorize and fun to do. Finally, of course, are some half-finished Jaywalkers with picot edging in Reynolds Swizzle.

I had to visit a couple yarn stores during my visit. I tried very hard to control myself.

summer sock yarn

The pink is KPPPM from Santa Fe (on sale!), which I'm not sure what to do with yet, and the blue is Brown Sheep Company Wildfoote (half price!!) from Tucson, which is earmarked for some Pomotomus socks, and the green is a beautiful custom hand dye from Blue Swallow Handmade, which I'm going to have to find something truly lovely for.

Right now I really want to start something new. Hmmm...