Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tutorial: Cutting Felted Sweaters into Yarn

I received another question on Ravelry that I am going to answer here (with the questioner's permission, of course).

Here's the question:
How did you frog/cut the recycled sweaters into yarn?
I have been re-purposing materials for years. So glad I have a rotary cutter and mat. Can I make yarn from old fleece robes and sweatshirts? 
The questioner, verbosemom on Ravelry, was asking about my (free!) Sediment pattern, a blanket made from scraps and recycled materials. It looks like this:

More importantly, though, it started out looking like this:

So the knitter's question was, first, how did I make those yarn balls from what used to be sweaters? (See those moss-green balls in the middle, for example? Those were a wool sweater that I cut into yarn.)

To Make Felted Wool Yarn via Cutting

1. Buy a 100% wool sweater (or any animal fiber sweater: wool + mohair, for example, would do. For cashmere sweaters, see below.*)
2. Throw it in the washing machine to felt it. Felting makes the fibers cling to each other so that, when you cut, the wool doesn't unravel. 
3. Dry it in the dryer.
4. Lay the sweater out flat. Using sharp shears, cut the sleeves off straight in line with the body, so the sweater is now a rectangle. (A sleeveless sweater would work, too.) Next, cut straight across the body at the armholes, removing the yoke of the sweater from the body. Now you have a tube where the body of the sweater is.
5. Starting at the bottom of this tube, cut in a spiral. Cut thinner than you think you should, to the point where the yarn almost gives way and breaks—but doesn't. Cut in this spiral, around and around, for ever and ever, until you reach where the top of the tube. This process should create a lot of yarn.
6. You can cut each sleeve in a spiral as well. More yarn.
7. Lastly, lay the yoke of the sweater flat. Trim off any sharp corners. As best you can, cut the yoke in a spiral too.
8. Done! You now have lots of yarn. It will be super-chunky most likely, unless the sweater you started with was of a super-fine gauge. 

*The Cashmere Exception

1. Follow the directions above for a cashmere sweater, but don't dry it in the dryer. You don't want to felt it to death.
2. You can cut the cashmere more finely to create a finer-gauge yarn. It might break some, but that's okay. Do some spit-splicing
3. Don't knit Sediment. Knit a hat or scarf or something really soft and cozy that will touch your skin.

Can I use a sweatshirt?

Verbosemom's next question had to do with cotton materials, such as a sweatshirt. To be honest, I've never tried. A sweatshirt is a knitted cotton, which, it would seem, might unravel some when cut. But the knit gauge is so fine, that it might not matter, especially if the sweatshirt is old and pilled. I wouldn't recommend using a woven cotton simply because it would be hard to knit with—there would be very little give in the material (knitting with cut denim is hard). 

Fortunately, verbosemom has agreed to give the sweatshirt project a try and show us here at the Knittyprofessors the fruits of her labor! Stay tuned for photos of her yarns and perhaps even the beginnings of a project.


Some experienced knitters have given us some wisdom on the sweatshirt question in the comments below, so check it out. Thanks, y'all!

-- Katie Rose

Sunday, January 13, 2013

FO: The Mid-Mod Living Room

More on the mid-mod design front. The living room, finally, is finished. We hauled out the Christmas Tree (sniff...) and in its place, put in this great console that we restored:

Then, I found this Stanley telephone table at a local antique shop in Carrboro. It comes complete with a mid-century cigarette burn, even.

Here's the FO:

-- Katie Rose

Monday, January 7, 2013

Moving & the Knitting Groove

It's amazing how moving to our new home has gotten me back into the knitting groove. I think it has to do in part with the fact that I have a new studio space to work in, so my yarn no longer lives in boxes and laundry baskets.

I also think it has to do with the house itself. We have bought ourselves an atomic ranch. This house looks like it could be on the set of Mad Men. We freaking love it. Michael and I have always loved mid-century/Danish modern style, especially the woodworking, and now we have the house to match. We spend our time hunting used furniture places for more pieces. Here's our living room, which is still in progress. Can you say "clerestory"? Love it.

Yesterday we found this handmade drop-leaf walnut table from the 1960s. Tapered-legs. Smooth joins. This thing is awesome. Michael took one leaf off (and I carefully wrapped it in an old quilt to store it) and he's using it as his desk.

So, the home design thing is definitely spurring the creativity.

I also found a local knitting meetup that gets together twice a month. If I can manage to keep my eyes open past 8pm, that'll be a lot of fun, too.

Lastly, I wandered into my new local yarn shop. Mostly I just touched everything. (Isn't that what LYSs are for?!?) and then bought all the yarn from the oddballs basket. Here's the haul:

I'm particularly intrigued by this fingering-weight mercerized cotton. Hmm.

--Katie Rose

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Adrian's Lines

Adrian (my elder son)'s second-favorite thing to do, after building drag-racers with Legos* (and he is extraordinarily good at building drag-racers with Legos) is lining things up. Anything. He just wants to line it up.

When he woke from his nap yesterday (early. after 30 minutes. like, can we even call that a nap?), he came down and joined me in my (new!) studio. He hadn't seen the studio since it had become all snazzy. He asked if he could play with the yarn. I said, Of course. He started touching skeins and moving them around and smooshing them together.

And then, predictably, he started lining them up.

First, though, I had to talk him out of unwinding everything. I explained, using 3-year-old logic, that if you unwind the ball, it will cease to BE a ball. He got it.

I'm not sure how he decides which colors or sizes go together in his lines of things. But he always looks very serious when he is doing it.

He didn't even notice that I was taking his picture. Usually I get out the camera and he dives under the couch. I haven't put the lines of yarn-balls away yet. They're too cute. 

--Katie Rose

*I just want to note that, Jordynn, as a Canadian, insists that the plural of "Lego" is—wait for it—"Lego." Like "sheep" and "sheep." I think that's nuts. What kid wants some "Lego"? I think, though, she might be technically correct. So I'm putting a footnote here to acknowledge her technical correctness.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The New Studio, and Zorro

Like most professors, even non-knitty ones, I do a lot of work from home. My studio serves as both a writing sanctuary and a creative space for fiber arts. I have always really liked having all of my creative work in one space together. The challenge, of course, is getting the different materials to coexist nicely.

We moved at the beginning of December (more on that in another post), and the new house has a great studio space. It's a large room in the walk-out basement. I claimed it as my own as soon as I saw it. Last night, to celebrate New Year's (and because we are LAME), my husband and I finally got the furniture into the space and cleaned it up. (Thank you, husband!)

Here's a short photo-tour. First, the view when you first walk in:

That's a small kitchenette to the left, complete with 1965-vintage stove for dyeing wool. Sweet! (Love the avocado green, by the way.)

Here's the view from the other end of the studio. This is more of the "knitty" end. You can see that I have two desks. One is more of a "serious" desk, with my second monitor and a bunch of supplies. This secondary desk only has a Tiffany lamp on it, and it sits next to a big window. This one is for those moments when I need to get away from the business on my other desk or for when I have a friend come over to work.

Now, the yarn! The yarn! I still keep it in the dollar-store wire racks because I can't find anything I like better. (I use zip-ties to keep the shelves intact.) 

Ain't nothing better than a stash. The purple bins in the background are filled with raw wool and roving. Which leads me too...

My carding station! Michael had some furniture stored at his warehouse (he has a very interesting job that requires a very interesting, and very large, warehouse. Go here: atlasstageworks.com). One piece was a table he made when he was younger (as in, 16 or so) that mounted on his great-grandmother's sewing table base. It weighs a ton, so it is perfect for mounting the drum carder on. Of course, I had to test the carder, so I made that butter-licious roving you see there while Michael watched. 

Next, there's the antique cabinet that looks like it's straight out of Zorro. In it, I've stored WIPs, FOs, sewing projects, and mending. I've never had such a nice-looking place to store stuff that essentially is ugly to look at. The top drawer is great, too—it's holding odds and ends. 

Below is a picture of Promenade that you can see through the metal fixtures of the furniture.

The top of the Zorro unit is covered in the contents of my knitting bag, contents that desperately need to be organized. First, there's my aptly named fun-fun-fun* bag. I got this in Tokyo and have used it to hold knitting notions ever since. But it always gets full of the wrong things and empty of the things I need most. 

Then there's the never-ending challenge of figuring out how to store one's interchangeable needle collection(s). I have Denise, Bamboo, AND Harmony (from Knit Picks). I tried this gigantic Della Q bag but it isn't doing it for me. Ideas, anyone?? 

And then there's the regular circulars, which inevitable turn into this rat's nest.

But it's fun to discover old sketches of knit designs. This one looks interesting. Maybe I'll try it out now that I've found it again. It's dated from last June. Where did the time go?

It's time to reassemble the wheel. (See my Beech Tree forest out the window? Yes.)

And I found this cross-stitch piece done by my mother-in-law Mary inside the Zorro cabinet, because the cabinet used to be hers. I'll keep it on the mantlepiece.

Lest we forget, this is also a room for writing. My journals have officially filled up an entire shelf on my bookshelf. They'll be moving on to shelf two when I finish this next volume. Crazy.

And a little reminder about why I'm here, for those times when I get discouraged. 

Does anyone else have links to virtual tours of their studios? I saw pictures of Ysolda Teague's once, and that was jealousy-inducing. Indeed, it looks like she's gone and published pictures of it again. Go check it out, and be jealous, too.

--Katie Rose