Tuesday, March 30, 2010


You know, I've been doing this yarn dyeing stuff for a pretty long time now. Just over seven years. I do it alot too. For the first few years I did it every day for eight or ten hours. Nowadays I don't do it quite so much, but I'm still at the dye pots a fair amount of the time.

I like to think that I kinda know what I'm doing. I'm not going to say that I know everything about dyeing a skein of yarn, but it's been a long while since something really flummoxed me. Last week, I was flummoxed.

You see, a couple of months ago I'd gotten a sample of a sock yarn that intrigued me. It's a blend that has an unusual fiber in it and I wanted to do some pretty serious testing of it before I made a decision about whether it would make sense to add it to the Lorna's Laces stable of yarns.

The first thing I did was dye up a few skeins. Then I dithered around trying to decide which socks I wanted to knit. After more than my usual hemming and hawing, I picked Chouwa from Judy Sumner's Knitted Sock East and West.

I got one sock knit up and because I sometimes have a little trouble with second sock syndrome, I put on my singleton and wore it while I cast on number two. I usually wait until both socks are finished before I wear them, but I was doing some testing here. Strictly scientific.

After having worn the sock I tossed it in the washer and dryer. Much to my surprise, the washed socked looked darker than the ball of yarn I'd been working from. Darker. I was totally befuddled. See what I mean?

Aren't things supposed to fade the more often they are laundered? What was happening?

I finished up the other sock and tossed it in the washer and dryer and now I have matching socks. We're pretty sure that the color changes have something to do with that "unusual" fiber I was telling you about. I want to keep the fiber a secret for now, but there is some serious potential here.

We've got some more testing and some further mulling to do with this stuff. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Travelling Woman

I wish I was a traveling woman, but alas, it is not to be this spring. Last year at this time I was in Paris. Dang, that sounds good right about now.

So, instead of a spring break trip, I decided to make a Travelling Woman Shawl. It's the latest in my obsession with the small shawl. I realize that a shawl is not really a fair trade off for a vacation, but we all have to make do from time to time. (Not pouting. Really. Well maybe a little.)

I've pretty much been wearing one of these shawls every day since last fall. It's a really nice, versatile garment. While we were in the throes of winter, it acted as a scarf, one of the many articles in the arsenal against the cold. You know the drill.... sweater, hat, mittens, scarf.

Now that it's getting nicer outside, they can act as their own little piece of outerwear. Oftentimes, having something wrapped around my neck keeps me warm enough that I don't need a jacket.

This project went off without a hitch. I don't think I tinked a single row. That's not to say that my lace skills are good, just that they are less dismal. Every time I get a little better at reading the knitting and visualizing how what I am doing is supposed to look. I'm also learning to recognize mistakes when they happen and how to fix them before it's too late. There's something vaguely puzzle-like about the whole thing.

The yarn here is something I picked up last summer at Sock Summit. I've lost the labels so I can't tell you exactly what it is.

Next on the needles is a pair of Chouwa Socks from Judy Sumner's Knitted Socks East and West. I got one finished over the weekend. With any luck, the second will be done this weekend.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beautiful at any age

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.” –CocoChanel

I was at a friend's house last night for dinner. One of the other guests had gotten botox injections a few days earlier. I haven't really seriously considered having something like that done and I hope I continue to be content with the march of time as it makes itself evident on my body and face.

When I got home from dinner this was in my inbox. At 92, I think my mom has aged beautifully. My fingers are crossed that I do so with as much grace as she has.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interweave Crochet Spring 2010

Interweave Crochet's Spring 2010 issue is featuring this fantastic shawl. It's called the Forest Petals Shawl, designed by Karla McCalmont. It's worked in Lorna's Laces Helen's Lace and shown here in the colorway 204 Daffodil.

We've had such a long winter and the end is nowhere in sight around here. The bright happy color somehow makes me believe that spring is just around the corner and that there will be a time where I can leave the house wearing a bright dress and a cheerful wrap.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Little Fussy

A few things have happened around here in the past couple of weeks that have made me fussy. You'd think I was a two-year-old with all the fussy. Instead of subjecting you to a series of woe-is-me posts, I decided to just get it all off my chest in one sitting. I'd really like to hear your feedback, but completely understand if you'd rather not listen to me whine and just skip today's rant.

Fussy #1

Awhile back, I got a note from a woman asking me about our superwash yarns. She told me she had been reading online about the process and wanted more information.

Dyeing yarn is a magic mix of art and chemistry and I was happy to oblige. I like teaching people about what I do and how it works.

I explained what I know about superwash yarn. I'm not a chemist but over the years I have learned a little about how the wool is treated so you can throw it into the washer and dryer without disastrous results.

In a nutshell, wool fiber has scales on it. When wool gets wet and rubs against itself those scales lock together and you get felt. Superwash fibers are treated so those scales are smoothed out and can't lock together. There are a couple of ways to do the smoothing. One is to have an acid soften the edges of the scales. The other way is to coat them with a polymer. All superwash yarns use one process or the other, sometimes both.

As it turns about, the woman who contacted me is an environmental activist and intended to quote me and publish my remarks. And it was in a less than flattering light. I don't really mind so much that it was less than flattering. What bothered me was that she didn't tell me she was an author and that she was getting information for the record. Had I known I was going to be quoted, I would have combed my hair and put on a clean sweater.

Actually, I wouldn't have changed a single word of what I told her. That's not the point. The point is that it is common courtesy to tell someone that they are speaking on the record. It is also best journalistic practices. Everyone who is writing should follow them. From the New York Times all the way down the line. Even if the only person who reads your blog is your mother.

Fussy #2

I got an email from a woman the other day didn't like the way her yarn was behaving. It was twisting and kinking up on itself while she was knitting.

I told her I'd be happy to replace it and asked her to send it back to us. Part of the reason I asked her to do that was so that I could send it to the mill and have it tested. Quality control is a huge priority around here and if I need to bust the mill's chops, I need to show them samples, not just pictures.

To make a very long story short, she didn't think it was reasonable for Lorna's Laces to ask that she return the yarn. She wanted to keep the yarn and have us just send her more. Have her cake and eat it too.

When did it become OK to demand a company send you free stuff without returning the original goods you purchased? Do people call Nike or Levi's or Mr. Coffee and tell them that something is wrong and have them send out more without returning the original? And why wouldn’t you handle this through your retailer first?

We work very hard here at Lorna's Laces to make sure that the product that goes out the door is first rate. We have a giant box of millends in the corner to attest to that. But I won't deny that sometimes something slips past us. I'm just not sure that buying a skein of that slippery yarn should entitle you to a two-for-one.

Fussy #3

A note came across my desk from a woman who had picked up a copy of Lorna Miser's Faith, Hope, Love, Knitting. I still get two or three email a year for Lorna.

Anyway, the woman said that she had purchased the book intending to copy a few of the patterns and then return it the next day. I couldn't believe my eyes. Fan mail and copyright infringement all wrapped up in the same package.

I sent her a nice email thanking her for keeping the book and did my best to encourage her to buy patterns in the future. I explained that designers like Lorna have to make a living from the royalties they derive from the sales of their books and patterns and that every sale makes a big difference to them. I hope she understands.

Sometimes I get the feeling people are just trying to take advantage and it doesn’t seem right. Or maybe I just need a vacation.

Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

For Kylie

Look what Stef brought in!

This is another one of Rebecca Danger's designs, Penelope The Empathetic Monster. Kylie's birthday is this weekend and since Stef won't be here tomorrow, she brought her in today. I just can't get enough of these guys.

Kylie is kind of partial to John Deere colors. Part of it might be her Australian roots. The other part is simply that the colors please her.

I wonder why certain colors please us and others don't. When we were kids, one of the fundamental questions we all had to answer was "what's your favorite color?" Did kids with the big box of 64 crayolas have an advantage over ones who only got the 16 or 8 box? Do we develop a more sophisticated color palette over time? Do vision changes associated with aging determine how we dress or decorate our homes? Goodness, I'm full of questions today and I don't have an answer for one of them.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Podium Finish

I am very happy to report that I achieved a podium finish in the 2010 Knitting Olympics!

I absolutely love how my Karen Shawl turned out. Amy Swenson wrote a nice pattern. It was one of those patterns that I had a little trouble envisioning when I read it through before I started, but once the yarn was on the needles it unfolded perfectly. I love a pattern that works like that. Perhaps it is the mystery?

I finished with the knitting on Saturday afternoon and blocked it overnight and I've pretty much been wearing it ever since. Of course the crew here noticed it and complimented me on it, but so did a woman at the grocery store. I am always so tickled when a total stranger notices my handknits.

It is worked in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the color Echo. Echo is an interesting color. It's kind of a greyish brown or brownish grey. I picked it because my winter coat is deep brown, but I think it would work nicely with a black coat too. Echo is like that, it makes friends easily.

I don't know why I had such a hard time with the third lace repeat on this. After all, I did the first two with no problem at all. It was probably the knitting gods giving me a smackdown because I was feeling all smug about how quickly it was going. They are powerful beings and can be vengeful if you get too vain. You'd think I would know not to mess with them by now.

I am amassing quite a collection of these shawls. I think there are still more of them in my future. Even though I did have to frog this one a bit, I think I might be ready for a bit more challenge in the lace. Hmmm....

Oh and before I forget. Thanks to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee for organizing the event and to Franklin Habit for creating the gold medal that you see on the sidebar.