29 March 2009

splitting a skein into two balls

I am usually not a stickler for many things. I've never been called a neat freak or anal retentive. But when it comes to doing things in pairs, such as gloves, socks, or sleeves, my tiny inner symmetry banshee comes out screaming.

I have joined a few sock clubs and have bought other small skeins of yarn to add to my stash of sock yarn. Often times, it is sold in small skeins, but more often it is sold in one huge 350-500 super skein. Because of my whole symmetry thing, I prefer to knit pairs of things at the same time on two circular needles (good how-tos can be found here and here). It's fine if the yarn is all one color (then you can knit from the outside strand and the inside strand), or if you have two small skeins (like the ones knitpicks sell). However, things get tricky if you are working with a hand-painted single skein. I personally want the colors to match up and go in the same order, which wouldn't happen if you just knit from opposite ends of the yarn.

Here is my method. First, I take the skein and put it onto a swift. I found mine on ebay for about $20-30.

Next, start to wind the skein into one huge ball. I have a cheap ball winder that I got at Joann.com for about $20 or so. It gets the job done, so money well spent. It takes all of 3-6 minutes to wind a whole skein.

Once you have the entire skein in a ball, take it off the ball winder, and put it on a scale. The more accurate, the better. I have one that can weigh in grams, which is a lot more precise than ounces. I think I got mine for about $20 (sense a theme?) from a website that sells soap-making supplies. Always go with what's on the scale rather than what the manufacturer lists. For example, the label lists this as 155g, but in according to my scale it is 172g. Make sure you write it down! It's easy to get distracted and forget.

Once you have the weight, pull the end from the center and put that onto the ball winder to make your second ball. Keep the original ball on the scale. Start winding away, noting the weight as it goes down. I would also recommend holding the yarn loosely between your fingers to not only add a bit of tension, but to help keep the ball on the scale.

Once the scale approaches half of your original weight, you can clip the yarn. Since I have that whole symmetry thing, I compare the color on the center-pull of the new ball to the halfway area between the two balls. This way, the two socks/sleeves/gloves will have approximately similar color changes in the same places.

Ta da! That is pretty much it. Now you should have two balls of about the same length and weight. It's not totally scientific, and I doubt highly that it's 100% accurate. For that reason, I'd say to not use a pattern that is cutting it close in terms of yardage. If you have a pattern that requires 420 yards, and you have 400-410 yards that you just split into two balls, I'd skip it and go with a pattern than requires fewer yards. I'd personally would have a conniption fit if one sock came up a few yards short!

03 March 2009


I finally got around to blocking my shawl. I finished knitting it a few weeks ago, but kept forgetting to block it.

I rinsed out the finished piece in the sink and let it sit in the water for a few minutes. I squeezed out the excess and pinned it into place. I don't think it's all that much larger than the unblocked piece, but I only had 440 yards of the yarn to work with. I do think it's a bit wider, but not really too much longer, unfortunately. Still, I think it'll be a good size for a fancy (wide) scarf, though I suppose technically it's a bit too small to be a shawl. Maybe.

We'll see how big it it tonight after it's had a chance to dry, and I can photograph it on an actual person (me) instead of flat.

06 February 2009


Still trucking along on the shawl. I am only getting a bit of time on it during my commute to/from work and a tiny bit in the evenings before I pass out.

The pattern has been memorized. After a few repeats, it's really easy to get into the flow of it, and just knit away. It looks a bit on the small side, but I think it'll block out to a good size. I hope.

19 January 2009

return of the Arggh Lace Monster

I cast on for the Woodland Shawl. I read the directions too literally, as the first few rows are kind of vague. She says "begin pattern" so I took that to mean "row 1 of pattern" instead of the pattern set-up row. Confusion! I almost threw it out the window and started crying because I couldn't figure out why everyone kept saying "omg this is so easy!" and I was having such a hard time. Duh.

After I realized my mistake, I frogged back a few rows to the edging. Now it's coming along very well. It's pretty fluid since the repeats aren't insane and the stitches are easy. Hopefully I can speed through this!

I am using 2 skeins of discontinued KnitPicks Memories to do this. My yarn is only about 440 yards, while the pattern uses 460. Hopefully this won't make a substantially shorter wrap. I have messaged someone on ravelry who has some extra skeins up for sale, so hopefully I'll hear back about that... just in case. I plan on wet blocking it too, so maybe I can get some stretch out of it when it's all done.

18 January 2009

Kool-aided yarn

I went with 5 packs of Cherry, 1 pack of Soarin' Strawberry Lemonade, and 3 packs of Grape. I added them to a nearly-full 4-quart pot on my stove in room temperature water. Meanwhile, I soaked the wool (4 oz hank) in the bathroom sink for about 20 minutes. Then I added it to the fruit-stravaganza mixture. I squished the yarn to help get it integrated into the dye. (My hands smell like candy, and they're a bit stained... should have worn gloves. Oops.)

I put the heat on low for about 20-25 minutes. I could see that the dye was being exhausted before the water even hit 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The water went from very dark and nearly opaque to a translucent/slightly cloudy color at the bottom of the pot. Once it looked almost completely exhausted, I turned up the heat for a few minutes, put the lid on, then turned off the gas. I let it cool on the stove until it was lukewarm, then I rinsed the dye out in the bathroom sink.

The color is similar to a burgundy-blue colorway I bought on ebay. I wasn't 100% of what to expected from the colors I chose. I think I added too much grape which made it a bit dark & muddy. But overall I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Now that I know how easy this is to do, I have a few skeins of undyed sock and lace yarn I've been thinking of dyeing. But I think I'll need to hit up the grocery store for more Kool-aid (or possibly food coloring) first.

Here's the dried yarn. The color lightened a bit once it wasn't sopping wet. It has a nice burgundy-brown-blue thing with a few purple & mauve sections. I actually like the results much more than I thought I would!

Meanwhile, I'm casting on for the Woodland Shawl. I am making these for a friend's birthday present (I offered her to make something, but she didn't seem to mind if it was knit, jewerly, or whatever else, so I decided to knit). I keep having frustration with lace, but this one seems to be a little less daunting than the others. Fingers crossed!

Experiments with kool-aid

I just received my January yarn from Elliebelly. It is the first time I have gotten a colorway that I don't really like. It's blue-white-yellow-pink-brown. Not very me. Rather than trade it, I am going to try to overdye it using Kool-aid. (There's a good tutorial here, and a good site with color swatches here).

The yarn is a merino wool/seacell blend, so I am not sure how well the color will take (I've never dyed seacell before...), but it should change the color enough for my purposes.

I have a bunch of packets to choose from. I am thinking of just overdying it with a bright red (Cherry), a bright orangey-red (Soarin' Strawberry Lemonade), or a combination of a red & purple to get a red-violet color (Cherry + Grape). I'm leaning toward the latter because I think it'll add a nice tone to the existing colors in the yarn.

Updates to come!

12 January 2009


I am almost done with the Stulpen gloves. Except that I just realized I did the increases incorrectly for the thumb gussets, so I'm going to have to rip out the last 2-3 inches of work and start that all over again. HAHAHAHA. I've already redone the cable once already, and now I have to start it all over again!

Well, at least I learned how to read the cable chart without having to refer to the key. And I found out how to do the cable so that they are mirror images. But, I think I will put these on the back burner for a while and knit something else for a while. I will also make sure that I read the directions carefully! Maybe I'll even finish them before winter ends. But then again, my hands are always freezing, so whatever.

I subscribed to a few sock clubs. I did the Blue Moon sock club. I love their raven series, so that was enough to sway me to try a subscription. Some of the designers this year look amazing too. It was expensive, but I used some of my Christmas money for it.

I also (re)joined the Elliebelly sock club. Her colorways are nice, and she's one of the more affordable clubs. This one is only 3 months, though, so that's also a plus for saving money and not ending up with 34098 skeins of unused yarn. I'm also doing the Neighborhood Fiber Co. sock club (a 6-month subscription over one year), but the yarn is now a month delayed—I still haven't gotten December's yarn (woe is me).

Maybe I should be knitting socks...