Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Are You Prepared for Fall?

I am. I realized that I now have 4 knitted garments to wear in the fall and even winter.  I never got the opportunity to wear my Channel sweater, having finished it just as the weather started warming up in early May. I have the Owls sweater just waiting in the wings for a cool October day. Plus, I have last year's good ol' February Lady at the ready too.  And now I also have the B.O.B., which stands for "Button On Blanket."

I had gotten seven hanks of a very coarse and itchy rustic locally-produced, bulky-weight, 100% wool yarn when I was on vacation on Vermont this year.  I fell in love with the color: a lovely marl of the natural gray of the wool and red, resulting in an overall mauve-ish look with some red flecks.  Here's a close-up shot of the front cabling that shows the coloration really well:

My friend, Marsha, knit one of these about 3.5 years ago.  It's a great pattern for using up that not-so-soft, bulky-weight wool because it's meant to be worn as an over-sized, bundle-up cozy thing over clothes, rather than as a delicate, next-to-the-skin cardigan.  The pattern lives in our shared Dropbox of patterns, so I figured I'd give it a go.  The B.O.B. comes in three size instructions (33", 39", and 46").  None of those sizes really works for me.  Although, in retrospect, the 39" would have been fine.  So I decided to split the difference between the 39" and 46" and make a 42".  The end result is more like a little coat or jacket.  It's well over-sized (even for Busty McBooberson, like me), but I think that's a good thing. Someday, I will get pictures of myself wearing these things for reference. I swear.

I don't think I've ever knit a project that didn't pose SOME problem (except maybe for the February Lady) and for the BOB it was the yarn's overall texture.  This yarn is scratchy. It is itchy. It is coarse like sandpaper. What to do? I researched ways to soften up wool.  I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but my research turned up several recommendations to use generic shampoo and conditioner.  After all, wool IS a form of mammal hair, and that is what shampoos and conditioners are made to clean and manage!

So I spent a whopping $.89 each on freesia-scented VO5 shampoo and conditioner for normal hair.  I gave the B.O.B. a gentle bath in the shampoo after it was all done (sans buttons).  And boy howdy did it need it.  My fingers would get filthy after a few hours of knitting this.  I thought it might have been dye, but it was just dirt.  Maybe the yarn was on the shelf for a long time and it was dust?

Then I let it sit submerged in cool water with about 1/4 cup of the conditioner mixed in for a half hour.  I did a quick rinse, as best I could --- this thing was HEAVY, laden with water.  Then I had to hold it it my arms and let it drain off as much as possible.  No wringing or twisting, as this would felt if I breathed on it wrong. I got soaking wet in the process. Then I laid it on towels on the bathroom floor and pressed out as much water as I could.  Then I laid it on more towels on blocking mats on the dining-room table. It didn't need much shaping or stretching or pinning.  I only used about 6 pins to hold the button plackets into place.  That's it.  It took about 6 days to dry and then I sewed on the buttons.

It is MUCH softer.  I can still feel that it would be a little itchy if worn right against the skin, but practically all of the coarseness is gone.  So I am quite happy with the result.  My one complaint is the scent.  It smelled great when I was using it.  But it seems a little over-powering now.  I'm hoping that wearing it out in the open air a couple times will diminish the fragrance a little.  I would have gotten traditional-scented VO5 (you know, the golden stuff, which is a scent that is really nice, to me anyway) but the grocery store didn't have it! So, if you ever get some wool yarn or wool with mohair (a real "bastid" for itchiness), I recommend shampooing and conditioning! 

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course.  So what I SHOULD have done was shampoo and condition the yarn BEFORE I knit it.  It would have been infinitely easier to manage the open hanks of yarn.  But I didn't even think about it until I got 1/2 way through knitting the B.O.B. 

Now I'm knitting a pair of Tardis socks (yes, I'm a Doctor Who fan).  I'll blog about those after I am done.  And also I am trying my hand at real lace knitting with lace-weight yarn.  I've done plenty of lace patterns before on dishcloths, scarves, hats, baby items---even the February Lady is a lace pattern---but never with true lace-weight yarn. I'll blog about this experience soon too (preview of coming attractions: OY VEY).

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