Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I've been struggling to master our "Singer Chunky Knit" knitting machine, using up quite a bit of "our" yarn in the process.
"Our" yarn comes of course from the Bartlett Yarns mill in Harmony, Maine, where our sheep's fleece is mixed up with every other sheep's fleece to make a standard blend every year. But in return for depositing fleece each spring, we get credit on yarn, which makes the yarn roughly 1/2 price.
I seem to have the basic stockinette stitch down, including increasing and decreasing, with elaborations such as doubled over, knitted-in hems, and chain-stitch bind-offs.
The result is I can now make sweaters with doubled over bottom hems and sleeve ends, and rolled or doubled-over collars. And after some trial and error, I'm beginning to make them fit. Although neither of these fits exactly, they fit after a fashion and can be worn, unlike my first effort, which is already unraveled.
The first shuftie is of one I made for Aimee, using a sweater she wears fairly frequently for sizing, and the plain undyed yarn, a light gray color.
The second, taken in the bathroom mirror using the flash, which came out funny, is the one I made for myself, following the traditional mountain and fell rescue pattern of striped chest and sleeves, using the Unity College colors of green and white.
I still haven't mastered the ribbing yet. I know I can do it, because twenty years ago when I had my first knitting machine (but no sheep and no yarn of my own), I managed to master it. All you do is unravel every second or third or fourth row of stockinette on the machine, and knit it up backwards by hand with the latch tool. I remember how, and even gave it a try last week, but this wool is so, well, woolly, it was hard to see the strands, even on the wide spacing of this large gauge machine.
But then I went to the optician, and he told me my eyesight was changing. I'm getting more far-sighted, although I'm still technically near-sighted, and my glasses no longer work close in. But I don't need bifocals. The optician showed me that if I just take my glasses off, I can see close work very well!
This was of course a major revelation. Go figure? How many years have I been struggling to read the fine print on labels and such and never realized I could just take the glasses off? How stupid am I?
Don't answer that question. Especially if your name begins with Aimee.
So I plan to make a fourth sweater now, using the traditional LL Bean Maine rag wool style with the deep scarf collar, and this time I will knit up the sleeve hems with ribbing if it kills me. But not the bottom hems. I haven't the patience yet. Doubled over is fine by me.
At the price we pay for the reduced price yarn the materials in these all-wool sweaters cost from 12 to 15 dollars. Off course, that doesn't count all the sheep-feeding and shearing and gas. As with our live lambs and meat, we might break even, if we actually needed all these sweaters and hats and gifts we knit.
The greatest financial benefit from owning a small flock of sheep still seems to come in reduced mowing costs.