Sunday, July 19, 2009

Off to Kazakhstan!

A couple of days ago I sent a package off on the first leg of its journey to Kazakhstan. This is part of an annual project to provide warm clothes for children aging out of two orphanages. What you see here is a gansey-type sweater, balaclava hat, mittens & scarf, all for the same boy. He'll also be getting a couple of pairs of socks (knitted by someone else) and a blanket; the orphanage provides him with a winter coat.

About a hundred years ago, my grandfather aged out of a similar institution. We don't know too much about his life at that time, but I hope people were kind to him. I have enjoyed making these things & thinking about orphanages, charity, family and warmth.

I've also enjoyed it on a more personal basis. I finally had a reason to knit Robin Hansen's Big Waves mittens. They sure are big! I liked knitting mittens with a different pattern on the palm than on the back of the hand; it makes me want to put a pair of Selbu mittens high on my to-do list. And I'm really pleased at the way the woven scarf echoes the waves -- it's made from the same two yarns as the mittens, and I think they look like a set even though they are in different techniques.

Weaving the scarf was fun, in part because I got to use some new equipment:

This is a floor-based inkle loom (a Leclerc Cendrel) which can also be used as a warping board. When I was deciding to buy this loom I liked the idea of having a warping board with a 10-yard capacity, since the one I already had can only manage 6 yards. But I hadn't even thought of the difference FEET would make! This warping board does not need to be leaned on a chair and doesn't fall over -- such a delight! Someday I think I would like to have a warping reel, but for now this is a huge improvement.

I still ran into trouble with my squirrel cage swift. This is a homemade one that I picked up secondhand for only $20. The reason why became apparent when I started to use it -- it spills yarn off the end, like this:

It went from unusable to barely tolerable when I replaced the axles (right word?), which had become bent. But it was still dumping yarn off the outside of the cages unless I repositioned the yarn every few revolutions -- very frustrating. This is worsted weight knitting yarn which can handle some tugging, but I want to make some warps out of much finer yarn. This sort of tangle would be a nightmare then.

Finally I thought to prop the whole thing up on one side, so the trunk was no longer completely vertical. This seemed to really help; once I had wound off the tangled bit there were no further problems. But I still don't feel confident enough to wind, say, a laceweight warp using this swift. It's frustrating. This swift and the picker I used to own have really turned me against equipment homemade by amateur woodworkers. They are almost just right -- but it turns out that those tiny details make a huge difference.

Despite these difficulties, winding the warp & warping the loom took only a few hours. I started winding on Saturday morning and finished the second scarf Monday afternoon -- very satisfying.

I'm also pleased to have used up almost all of a box of yarn. I bought an armload of Germantown worsted for almost nothing in a thrift store about 12 (14? 15?) years ago, back before I was married. I intended to use it for a sweater for the man who is now my husband, and even swatched a few times, but it just never seemed like the right project. And then a few years back I used some of the yarn as the shag for his father's mittens (apparently never blogged but you can see them on Ravelry if you care to) which pretty much put an end to that project. But there was plenty left for a teenager's sweater, and hat, and mittens & scarf ... and there's still one skein left over. That will go into the "misc. worsted" box, or maybe the "blues" box. I'd show you the empty box, but it has already been filled with handspun that used to be spilling out of a basket on the floor. And the basket? Well, let's just say that the floor is more visible now.