Thursday, January 13, 2005

New Year, New Projects in the Works!

The Christmas gifts are all completed and given to their recipients. Everything that needed adjustment or finishing up is done. Now I'm free to play with something just for me!

I've been spinning for a summer sweater off and on since last summer. A fellow spinner and HGA rep, Teresa Simmons, posted that she had obtained some "sari silk" and offered a special price. As a weaver myself, I'd always been horrified by the waste of a half-yard or more of warp threads on every warp I put on my floor looms. Taking the waste silk and recycling it into yarn sounded intriguing.

I had actually seen some of the recycled silk yarn at a shop in Indianapolis when I was there on a trip last winter. I loved the colors and the feel, but remarked to my DH at the time that I could do a much better spinning job - the yarn was way too thick for my taste.

So I ordered a pound of the "sari silk" from Teresa. When it arrived, it was pretty much what I expected - bundles/skeins of warp threads about 18-36 inches long, with tabby-woven headers to keep the threads in place. I decided to work on the dining room table - not always the best place, but I knew I could get this job done before suppertime. I carefully took each bundle apart and got a sharp pair of dressmakers' shears from the sewing closet. I added a large brown paper grocery bag, placing it on the floor next to my chair. Then I began cutting each set of warp threads into 5- to 6-inch lengths and dropping them into the grocery bag. As I reached the headers, I found that I had already made the decision on whether to unravel that header or not, and placed them in two piles.

When I had worked my way through the pound, I had approximately 12-13 ounces of spinning fiber. That's a pretty good yield - I usually get only about 8 ounces of spinnable fiber from a pound of wool or alpaca or other animal fiber. But I didn't think it was enough for a sweater...

After thinking for a day or two, I emailed Teresa and bought another pound of "sari silk". I went through the same process, with one change - I had to dye about a quarter of the second pound. It was orange, and I not only don't care for orange, I absolutely cannot wear it. I truly do look like a candidate for "worst mortuary mistake of the century" in anything orange. That's challenging when you live in the immediate neighborhood of the University of Tennessee! But I overdyed the orange with burgundy and got a beautiful deep port-wine color shot with glints of metallic threads I hadn't even seen until the dyeing was completed!

Again I set up the dining room table and cut the various lengths into spinning fiber. My DH and I were off on a vacation the next week, and I took the fiber along - and my spinning wheel! The Rose is a really good traveler, luckily, and doesn't take up a lot of room. I played with the new fiber during my vacation, learning how best to spin it. I finally started carding the handsful I pulled from the bag lightly, then spun a very thin singles very tightly - to keep the slippery threads locked into place. I then navaho-plied into a fingering-weight finished yarn. The navaho-plying kept the various colorways together nicely, and the yarn was beautiful, with a slight halo from escaping ends. But after a single bobbin of 400 yards, I had to put the project aside for Christmas gifts.

New Year's Eve, with the Christmas projects behind, I started spinning another bobbin. The spinning went quickly, and I finished up the next bobbin before I went back to work on January 3. It was time to begin designing my sweater while I spun the final bobbin. I knew that would go much more slowly, since I can't find nearly as much time to spin when I'm working!

I pored over my books, bought a new one, and finally made a decision that I think will make the most of the yarn and still be a wearable design. Long sleeves were out, as were cap or sleeveless styles - I wanted a three-season sweater. A short- or three-quarter sleeved raglan should work. A raglan style worked in the round will eliminate seams, which would interfere with the drape of the silk fabric, yet still give enough structure to keep the garment from "growing" too drastically. And at least if it does grow, it won't pull up or bulge at seam lines!

Sampling helped me make a decision to knit the fabric at a gauge of 5 stitches per inch on size 6 needles. That should also help with stretching, as should a 1-inch seed-stitch border at bottom, sleeve cuffs, and neck. I like a simple crew neck, although I might change that to a more scoop-necked design when I get that far.

I started knitting last weekend, and have already finished about 10 inches of the body, and most of the first skein of yarn (400 yards). I've also been spinning for awhile each evening, and am almost finished with another bobbin of singles. Based on what I have so far, I should be able to finish easily with less than a pound of fiber.

Goody! That will leave me some to play with later on. I keep envisioning a soft wool carded with bits of this silk in a shawl, shrug or sweater for my daughter. Or perhaps even another summer sweater, if it can be stretched that far. After all, she can wear sleeveless styles for another couple of decades, and is much smaller than her mother!

The fabric I've knitted so far is so pretty! The picture is at the top of this entry. Even the men I work with are impressed, and several can't get over the feel of the fabric - because it's fuzzy, they think it should feel harsh. The weekend is coming up, and I can get a lot more done - I hope!

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