Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mindless VS Mindful

As I’ve been whining about for the past week’s worth of posts, I don’t enjoy having to concentrate when knitting socks. For some reason it doesn’t bother me when I’m knitting other things like lace shawls or sweaters. Perhaps I should just suck it up and knit with my mind fully engaged on the process. After all, I profess to be an experienced knitter. I’ve been knitting for over 50 years. I’ve taught knitting workshops. I’ve written magazine articles about my knitting. (Don’t go looking for them. It was a very long time ago and at least one of the magazines is long-ago defunct.) I ought to know what I’m doing with the sticks and string by about now, doncha think? And if I’m not enjoying it, then why the heck am I doing it? OK, I’m sucking it up. No more whining. I’m going to finish the Pomatomus Socks quietly and courteously. And then cast on somethingelsequick.

While I’ve been knitting scaly socks, my mind has been wandering around in interesting places, including thinking about yarn. I have lots of opinions about yarn, both commercial and handspun. Somebody mentioned recently that they couldn’t knit a certain yarn without starting to sniffle and itch, but it was ok after the finished article is washed and blocked. It never occurred to them that they could skein up the yarn and wash it before they knit with it! To me, a long-time spinner, that approach is a no-brainer. Almost all my handspun yarns get washed before I use them. They’re dusty, dirty, greasy and/or have carding oil or anti-static spray on them. Maybe even animal secretions and soil. Why wouldn’t you wash them? Store-bought yarns have much of the same stuff plus the addition of many grubby hands handling them all the way from the manufacturers to the shop you bought them in. Ewww…Doesn’t it make you want to wash every yarn before you use it? I don’t usually bother though unless I’m dyeing it, in which case it gets a wash before and a rinse after dyeing and then yet another bath after it becomes an FO. Or is that “a” FO?

Now if you had a dust allergy, it might make the difference between having to avoid a certain yarn or being able to knit with it. Or perhaps there is a spinning oil or dye chemical that isn’t completely washed out of the yarn and you’re sensitive to it. If you have physical problems with a yarn, it may not necessarily be the fibre itself but something in the processing or handling instead. That’s not to say that you can’t be allergic to wool or other animal fibre. I just don’t believe in jumping to that conclusion before you’ve tried eliminating all the other components that might be in there first.

I also have a few thoughts on the best way to block your socks. There’s a tutorial for making your own sock blockers from plastic coated metal coat hangers here. There are plastic ones, Sintra ones (whatever that is!), fancy wooden ones, and even some fabulous painted ones (I’d mount these on the wall as art because they’re gorgeous). But I don’t really like sock blockers. I think they stretch all the life out of your socks. My sock blocking method, if you could call it that, is to wash the finished socks in hand-hot water with a small spritz of shampoo (you could substitute your favourite wool wash here), rinse, roll them in a towel and stomp on it to get out the excess water, and then pat them out into shape on my ugly but very useful Arborite bathroom counter. (Browns and golds. Guess the era.) Let the socks dry naturally, flipping occasionally to help them dry faster and there you have ’em — nice flat smooth socks suitable for gift giving. Of course if they were for me or T-Man, after that first gentle blocking, I wash them in the washing machine and hang them up on the clothesline with clothespins on their toes so they never again get such special treatment! They seem to survive ok, but remember these are made from superwash wool and nylon sock yarns, not delicate handspun or 100% non-superwash wool or anything. If that were the case I’d continue with a more gentle wash. Not to mention never wear them for fear of them wearing out instantly! Been there; done that; not worth the effort.

And just to clarify for the commenters on my last post, the washcloths/dishcloths can be used for either kitchen or bath. They can be knitted or crocheted. Just try doing a search and you’ll find patterns for a zillion-and-one varieties. And no, Sharon, he doesn’t leave them in sticky balls! He hangs them up on the rail on the back of the bathroom door very neatly. We’ve been married for over 36 years so he’s well “negotiated” by now! (I won’t say “trained”. Heh.) But your place must be less humid than my tiny old bathroom without a fan. Or maybe your washcloths aren’t as thick or the yarn isn’t as absorbent as the one I had? Or maybe you keep it warmer inside. Right about now my house is about 16 C.


Kat said...

Louisa, I don't get the whole knitted face/dish cloth thing either, so don't feel bad.

Nadia said...

My man's trained: he's making me dinner right now!

Anonymous said...

You may be right Louisa - I DO have open windows in both kitchen & bathroom - where two big skeins are drying at the moment & I keep it cool too. I think its healthier to put a sweater on!! And I like my dishcloths big & thirsty - I make em out of Bernat kitchen cotton on smaller needles. And they last forever!! And I'm with you on socks - I throw em into the wash, give em a shake & pin them up to dry by the toes. Unless they're handspun. Then I do as you do or the pixies will be wearing them.