October 22, 2004

This argument goes in circles.

Before we get on with Stephanie's excellent dye adventure, I'm going to take a minute to respond to a comment of Rams' yesterday. (Don't pity her. She can take it. She's a fine, clever woman with well thought out arguments. She's intelligent, funny and...well, holding an opinion contrary to my own.)

Rams saw that I had started Maddy out on straight needles, and was expecting her (a rank beginner, and a 13 year old one at that) to manage. She writes:

So.....No one else is going to comment on knitting across and purling back (for a beginning knitter) and, God forbid, sewing together to produce a tubular garment? Anybody? Just me out here with the lions? Okay --
(eyes rolled to heaven -- think St. Sebastian stuck full of straight needles. With last breath--)

circular needles. circular needles. circular needles.

(What it is to suffer for one's faith. Meg Swanson, don't tell me you're not lurking out there...)

Here's what I think. I always start new knitters on straights, or at least working back and forth on circulars. I think that it makes for a better start. People who start with circulars often (not always) learn to regard purling as the crabby and difficult sister of the Queen Knit, hold dark and bitter resentment for sewing up seams, and spend their lives searching for patterns knit in the round, complaining bitterly when they are faced with back and forth knitting.

My theory is based on the idea that a knitter comfortable with knit and purl equally, able to sew a decent seam and think nothing of it, is a free and comfortable knitter. He/she can take up circulars later and not lose their "I can do anything", "never say die" knitting attitude. Arans that need seams for stability and are better knit flat? No problem. Garter stitch baby sweaters in the round? Intarsia? No fears. Learning to regard the two stitches of knitting as simple opposites creates a knitter who can do it all. Even become a deeply committed circular advocate.

In my (admittedly limited) experience beginning with straights and /or back and forth knitting creates a knitter who sees knit and purl as sisters. Ying and yang, the two equal parts which make up all knitting. Know these two stitches, know it all. They accept making up as a basic skill of the knitterly, (which is is) and fear no evil.

You may now argue your points. Do not try the "but purling is really too hard" argument. I taught knitting at a toy store. I have 15- 20 six year olds lined up to mock you. (PS. If Meg Swanson read this blog I would die).

Big Dye adventure.
A photo essay with comments.


See me patiently soak the yarn with hot water and vinegar. Despite my personality traits I was able to soak it for the full 15 minutes.


Having been advised by Claudia K. (Countrywool) that this was toxic stuff, I did the mature and decent thing and performed the majority of the process outside. (Well, not outside. It was raining. I did it in the mudroom with the door to the backyard open and tried not to breathe) Here I am mixing the powder with water (in a disposable container) before adding it to Denny's crockpot.

Denny's crockpot has an issue or two, but it beats the pants off of my imaginary crockpot, so I love it anyway. The crockpot has some sort of electrical thing going on, and needs to be unplugged before you touch the water. This is really, really easy to learn. (Since if you don't unplug it...the jolt it gives you is what you could refer to as "a teachable moment".)


The dye is in the water. I unplug, stir, plug wait 5 minutes, unplug and stir.


I add the wet fibre, wondering only briefly if it is going to fit. (I was really worried for a moment there. There's just no coming back from a mistake that big). I plugged back in the crockpot and waited 45 minutes. I wanted a variegated roving so I did not touch the crockpot during this time. No stirring, no peeking, no swirling the crockpot around. The threat of mild electrocution is helpful here.


After 45 minutes I dumped the whole thing into the sink. It needs to cool before it can be rinsed or it will felt. I got myself some "amenities" to help me wait. (Note: watching wool cool is not very interesting. I watched anyway, but I am not a very smart person. Anyone smarter than me would want a book for this part).


I filled the sink and rinsed the yarn. Despite my belief that there was no way that this could have worked (it was just too easy, ya know?) very little dye came off into the water.


Claudia K. said to put it in the sun to dry. This is Toronto in October. I improvised.


Ta Dah!

Before I leave you for the weekend I'll share this. This is what I'll be doing this weekend.


Pity me, for my enthusiastic 10 year old has taken up the french horn and loves to practice. There is no way to explain the completely random noise that comes out of this thing. I believe a noisy, constipated, elephant in heat would find it unsettling. May the force be with me.

Posted by Stephanie at October 22, 2004 1:06 PM