I learned to knit 15 years ago, in Guam. More on that later. In late June, Chloë decided she didn't want to do fencing anymore, and instead she really wanted to learn to knit. Whaaaa! Of course, the practical side of me thought of the financial benefits of that, but the emotional side of me was so excited to share this craft I have come to love with my firstborn!
After a heavy-duty search on Ravelry for the right pattern for Chloë to learn on, I had the girls pull out everything in my rather extensive yarn stash. It was a scarf; Chloë decided to make it for Sophia. I went yarn-diving in search of as many yarns as I could find that were suitable for this project. It called for a lace-weight and a fingering-weight yarn to be held together throughout the piece, so I pulled everything out that fit. This beautiful aubergine Cherry Tree Hill yarn (note the care instructions) was the first one chosen by Sophia.
Suri alpaca, like this yarn, is made from the suri alpaca and has less crimp than huacaya alpacas. According to wikipedia, this makes it more suitable to woven goods than knitting ones, but we shall not be deterred!
This light grey Anzula "Haiku" was the next yarn selected by Sophie, in fingering weight. The "weight" of a yarn refers to it's thickness, in simple terms. It's often measured by the number of times you can wrap it around a ruler in one inch (WPI or "Wraps Per Inch") and/or the number of stitches you can get over 4" (usually a range, depending on appropriate needle size and a knitter's personal gauge). Fingering, then, has a WPI of 14-30, whereas a laceweight yarn will be 30-40+ WPI.
In keeping with the pattern's original yarns used, I added a merino/bamboo/nylon blend to the alpaca. Notice that everything I chose was hand-wash only; Chloë and I will have to learn to handwash our woolens together, because I used to bring everything to my pal Stephanie located in Chesapeake, Virginia, when we lived there. I haven't washed my own since living there, because I haven't really worn my handmade woolies in that time (for no particular reason)! No time like the present...
This Alpaca with a Twist blue was added because the three of us decided that it was light enough (more cobweb weight than laceweight; cob is finer than lace) to combine with the other two and that they would fit the pattern better and blend the colours well.
Unlike the scratchy Red Heart acrylic yarn on which I learned to knit, because it was the only thing available on the entire island of Guam where we were stationed at the time, I love that Chloë gets to start on luscious alpacas, merino, and bamboo. Oh, and silk. Forgot the silk. So yummy. For those of you who think I am a yarn snob: well, I am, but I used it so extensively during the begging third or two of my knitting and crocheting career that I developed a skin allergy to it. No fun! I had a lot in my stash, so I ended up donating almost everything with acrylic content to not-for-profit endeavors.
In keeping with my desire for Chloë to have better yarns and better equipment and an easier learning experience than I ever did, we have another present (the first ones being sweet yarns)!
It's a swift! A beautiful new Stanwood Needlecraft birch-wood umbrella swift to replace my last one, which is missing a part. What is a swift? Well, as explained in more detail in this Knit Like Granny post, a swift is often used with a ball winder (more on that in a bit) to knit unwieldy skeins or hanks of yarn into easy-to-use center-pull cakes.
I plunked down a bit more moola than I did for my last swift, but the Stanwood is bigger and nicer. We quickly found it out has some cons, like the vice clamp being large and difficult to place because of that opening. Chloë (who was doing this because I want her to learn every step of the knitting process and really feel connected to the process and her finished product) had to try several surfaces before we decided on this side table.
This swift was a big larger and stiffer than the previous one, and I was manning the camera (duh), so Rob stepped in to help open up the umbrella part of the swift. There's another con: those cotton or hemp or whatever ties at each corner catch the yarn during the winding process. But it's a beautiful swift, and I suspect that will ease with time and use.
Just like my old swift, my old ball-winder had a missing part, crucial to proper operation. So I replaced it, and again I plunked down slightly more cash than I did for the old one. So here we are again, like the swift, with Chloë having the inaugural use.
Because it was new, we had a few trial-and-errors with the ball winder, too. After a few tries, we were able to place it across from the swift and fortuitously at the same height as the swift. We also had to move the furniture around a bit to get the distance and tension right. Oh, the struggles of a knitter are real.
The first yarn that Chloë wound was the Alpaca with a Twist Fino. The hank opened up to be quite large in circumference, so Rob once again stepped in to help Chloë open the swift to the right setting.
The umbrella part was difficult to open at first because, well, Chloë and I didn't quite know what to do. This one looked similar but functioned different from the old one.
Ahhh, finally got it there. Isn't it beautiful?
The next step for Chloë was to untie the little bits of yarn holding the hank into a hank. She'd never done that before, with my knitting projects, because I didn't let her. Usually, I wound fine (read: expensive) hanks of yarn only, and I didn't want them to get messed up by the kids putting them on the swift incorrectly. But again, I wanted her to feel fully invested into this process, mainly so she would appreciate everything that went into her own finished product at the end. And a little bit of hard work never hurt anyone, right?
Step Number Whatever: Learn to thread the yarn from the hank on the swift, into the slits in the ball winder. That's probably called something, but ask Rob - I don't know the names for stuff. Because this cobweb-weight yarn was so fine, this proved to be a challenging class for Chloë. It kept slipping out of the unnamed slits.
Ultimately, we decided to tape down the end of the yarn Fino yarn onto the upright thingy in the ball winder with medical tape, and then Chloë was off and running! Er, winding.
So as you can see, the swift holding the hank of yarn was set up, the ball winder was set several feet apart and busy winding up the yarn into a center-pull cake, and the sun was quickly setting.
After a few mishaps with slightly adjusting the speed of the winding process, turning onto changing the tension between the two machines, leading to having to stop and restart after fixing the yarn, Chloë ended with a slightly hiccuppy cake with a belly button. She worked hard for it, and she deserves to be proud of it, hence the hand flare, there.
Yay, Chloë! It really was a lot of work and took about a half an hour, so she took a short break to enjoy the glow of a new yarn cake. ;)
Isn't it pretty? So pretty.
After the sun had set last Wednesday night, Chloë was ready to wind hank two of yarn. We could have placed the two machines in slightly better situation, making the feed arm of the ball winder a little unwieldy while cranking the winder. Sophie stepped in to offer assistance with the feed arm, and Chloë accepted her help. I loved that this process was such a family affair!
Much faster than the first ball of yarn, Chloë's finished second ball appeared. It was lovely - and no bellybutton this time! Chloë is a fast learner when she's interested in the subject matter.
Then we all took a break to view the Strawberry Moon outside, the same night that the ringed, superior planet Saturn was opposite and at its closest, biggest and brightest in the sky. So exciting! I'm a bit of a star-gazer, so here is that Strawberry Moon over our little cul-de-sac.
Back to work for the girls to wind hank three into a lovely cake. ♪ ♫ What's gonna work? Teamwork! ♫ ♪ (Thanks to Wonder Pets for that tune.)
Cake Número Três was quickly finished, and yay, she was done with the swift and ballwinder! She learned quickly that there was, um, a learning curve to using both. And oh, my gosh, time to learn the process of turning sticks and string into a finished piece of art!
Mmmm, hello, my pretties. Come to Mama! Well, come to daughter, I guess, because she had done all the work and now was ready to actually use the stuff. The fancy alpaca, merino wool, bamboo, and silk stuff. I can't wait to see her go! Stay tuned for the post on that, and thanks for visiting ye olde fashioned blogge!