Distractions

So I’ve discovered two addicting things that have consumed my time this last week. Neither of which are new phenomenon, but both have fascinated me.

Distraction #1: Recycling sweaters for yarn. This knitting kick I’ve been on has been glorious, and in my internet research, I came across a blog called Cosy Makes in which the writer speaks at length about dyeing  and knitting with yarn pulled from thrift store sweaters. This sounded like an interesting feat, and also an inexpensive way to both get interesting yarn and to get test yarn for learning how to dye.

The guidelines are simple: go to a thrift store or yard sale or that pile of sweaters you don’t like for one reason or another, and examine a sweater really closely. First, what do you notice about it? Is the yarn bulky or fine? Is it soft or scratchy? Is the sweater in good shape, or is it pilled? Is it a nice color? If it isn’t, it might be fixable, if it’s a natural fiber. So check the tag. What’s it made out of? There are benefits to the different types of yarn. Wool felts and takes dye well. Cotton dyes well too, but it is heavy and does not felt. Mohair is hard to untangle. Linen and silk are crisp. All of these behave differently. And that’s only the natural fibers. The man-made ones? I’ve decided that unless they’re in with a natural fiber, they’re not really worth my time.

The next step is to check the construction. What do the seams look like? Quality sweaters will be knit with continuous pieces of yarn rather than cut from whole cloth and serged. Serged yarn is almost useless. The best seams are stitched in such a way that one strategically cut thread and a good yank will completely unzip a seam. Otherwise, the bindings need to be painstakingly cut by hand.

Once you have a sweater in its component pieces, you can start unraveling. The yarn needs to be contained as it comes out, or you will end up with piles of yarn ramen. Some knitters like the crinkled yarn, but if you want it to be straight again, you can either wash it or steam it and hang it to dry. Afterwards, skein it or roll it however you like, and then you have a quantity of yarn ready to use.

If you think that a sweater can take perhaps 10 or more skeins of yarn to knit, and natural fiber yarn is at least 5 to 10 dollars a skein, getting a sweater’s worth of yarn for the $5 or so you paid for a used sweater is quite a deal. If it takes me four hours to unwork a large sweater in a particularly nice fiber, that’s potentially $150 of yarn I’ve gotten myself. That’s well over what I make an hour.

It is a lot of work, but it is quite simple and very meditative. I haven’t been in a mood to listen to music lately, and I don’t like “watching” movies or shows when I’m busy with my hands unless it is something I know by heart, so this left me with a gap, filled brilliantly by my second fascination: Podcasts.

Not having an mp3 player (the angst over whether or not to get an iPod deserves its own post), I have missed out on the gratification of having a selection of music to carry around with me, and podcasts just seemed out of the realm of my interest. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that I could, you know, listen to podcasts on my computer.

The podcast that opened my eyes is called Cast-On, a variety show by a woman called Brenda Dayne that includes music, jingles, essays, guest hosts, adverts for other podcasts, reviews of books and patterns, discussions on knitting and podcasting and life, all wrapped up in a neat hour-ish long radio show. I’m only about a dozen shows in, but I’m completely hooked. My favorite part has got to be her sweater section, where she talks about sweaters she has knit and the lessons she has learned from each of them. The introductory song is about Mr. Rodgers, and makes me smile every time I hear it. From this single podcast, I have branched out to others, and I’m currently coming late to the game, and having a blast getting caught up.

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