Yarn review: Bernat Baby Blanket Stripes

If you know me, then you know that I rarely knit with a) synthetic fibres, and b) chunky yarns. And yet, when the lovely people (truly, they are a great team of folks!) at Yarn Canada contacted me and asked if I’d like to try a new synthetic chunky/bulky yarn, who was I to say no? I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked their last offer (and even have ended up buying more), so I was happy to take them up on the offer again. They gave me my choice of colours in Bernat’s new Baby Blanket Stripes yarn, and I went with Above the Clouds. A couple of weeks later, and I had three monster cakes of the stuff in a box at my door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essentially it’s a machine-washable polyester chenille, in a self-striping colour way and as the name implies, intended to be used for baby blankets. First I had to dig through my needle stash to see if I had anything large enough, but some US 11s (8mm in Canadian sizing) showed themselves and I cast on with a free pattern provided by Yarn Canada.

You know, as much as I like knitting with finer yarns, there is a real instant gratification factor with a chunky yarn. Knitting goes FAST. Well, faster… I’ll admit I’m still not done the blanket yet, though my cats (or perhaps a new baby in my circle of friends; I’m at that age…) will no doubt appreciate the finished product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also am finding the experience of knitting with it quite pleasant–I tend to associate syntheticyarn with squeakiness (a trade-off for the fact that you can punish it with machine washing), but it’s not bad. I’m also very impressed with the lack of shedding or pilling, which can be a real issue with chenille yarns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The colours are nice and they have some good gender-neutral choices in addition to your standard blues and pinks. One aspect I don’t like is the colour changes–they are abrupt and the different colours are quite obviously and sloppily sewn together with white thread. It doesn’t end upshowing in the blanket I’m knitting but I would expect a bit better quality in that regard for the price (takes about $35 worth of yarn for a baby blanket).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will I knit with this again? Likely not, given my yarn proclivities, but if you do like quick projects, chunky yarn, and the ability to machine wash your finished object, you’d probably like this yarn. It’s soft, sturdy, and cute. Check out the full line here.

 

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Recent yarns for sale

See something you like? Send me an email: lordal (at) gmail (dot) com. Prices are in USD, with a 10% discount for Wellesley alums in honour of Reunion 2018!

 

 

 

 

‘Macaron’ — 125 yards, light fingering/laceweight, alpaca/coloured silk. $20 + shipping. Patterns using this weight/amount of yarn.SOLD

 

 

 

 

‘October’ — 200 yards, sport/DK-weight, overdyed natural grey Bluefaced Leicester wool. Colours were difficult to capture; less green/olive than it appears in this photo, and the orange is more ochre. $30 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn.

 

 

 

 

‘Peacock Ore’ — 340 yards, DK/Worsted weight, wool/alpaca/silk/angelina. $40 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn. SOLD

 

 

 

 

‘Muskoka’ — 180 yards, DK weight, 100% wool (sheep is a cross between Finn and Newfoundland, a rare Canadian breed). $30 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Bellini’ — 1000 yards, lace weight, 100% Cheviot wool (rare English breed). Hand dyed. $60 + shipping. Patterns using this amount/weight of yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Galaxy’ — 730 yards, laceweight/light fingering, black merino wool with blue and white silk. $60 + shipping. Patterns using this weight/amount of yarn. SOLD

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Coming soon…

I’ll be selling my handspun yarns and handmade project bags (also suitable for other uses–the spindle bags make very fine wine bottle carriers!) online. I’ve been selling at various pop-ups and fairs in and around Toronto but it’s time to branch out. Stay tuned, and feel free to send me an email (lordal at gmail dot com) in the meantime if there’s anything in particular you’re looking for.

 

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Indigo, collaboration, science, and new adventures

Last night I gave an invited lecture on indigo dyeing practices throughout the world at the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild. I drew from a couple of articles I had written on the subject for Interweave Press (including this one) and was very well received; as an added bonus, there was a colour chemist in the audience who came up afterwards and struck up a conversation. We had marvelled at how the incredibly complex and non-intuitive process of indigo dyeing (which involves several steps, rather specific chemical reactions, and starting off with plants that show no sign whatsoever of blue-bearing potential) had been discovered independently multiple times throughout the world. I mentioned in my talk that several indigo dye plants (and there are several, if not hundreds!) are used medicinally as well; I wondered if their treasured status as a producer of the rarest of colours–blue–helped foster belief that they held healing and other beneficial properties too. The chemist offered, well, what if it happened the other way? What if the plants were first used medicinally and through the grotesque processes of the human body (her words, not mine, though sometimes apt) people noticed the occasional tinge of blue? (I had ended my talk with a clinical anecdote about the occasional appearance of indigotin, the indigo pigment itself, in certain pathologies in the human body.) And that got me thinking… that makes a lot of sense. And how great is it to have this kind of conversation, about art and biology and organic chemistry and dyeing cellulose?

I’ve missed being in a guild for a long time. I was in a great one in Colorado, where I learned a great deal, but was a bit soured on the endeavour when I found myself among a rather unfriendly group when I first came to Canada. I really enjoyed the people I met last night, though, and was impressed by the knowledge amassed in the room. And did I mention the guild sits out in a small natural preserve with its own dye garden, including a butternut tree?! I do believe it might be time to start connecting with my local artisan community again.

Posted in dyeing, teaching | 4 Comments

Future of the blog…

I first started blogging in 2004; this assumes you don’t count my original forays onto “online diary” sites in the late 90s, and Livejournal throughout my time at Wellesley. I remember graduating and keeping the LJ alive for a while, then switching to Blogger, which led to all sorts of live adventures (for real). WordPress was the next step, but I feel like blogging’s time is past. These days I’m active on Facebook to keep up with friends, and Instagram for the social-media-dopamine-hit. Most of my fibre projects, as well as an awful lot of sheep and horse and science dork (me) photos, are on IG.

Occasionally I get the idea for a blog post that I end up turning into a pitch to one of the magazines I write for. Might as well get paid for it, right? I think I may retire this blog–I might keep the posts upbut relegate them to background and use my eponymous domain name for self-promotion. Maybe I’ll change my mind, though. Who knows.

But rightnow, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some editors to email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Basically my Insta content, right here)

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Legwarmers

So, what’s your favourite thing to knit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lace Leg Warmers by Shawn Glidden(in my own handspun California Red Sheep yarn, courtesy of a sheep named Mastodon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velma by Mia Edvardson(thrift store bargain, yarn was 100% and all of a dollar)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Cables de Faux by Lisa Gaskell(my first pair, hurriedly finished as my plane touched down in Montreal a few years ago)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Ribbed Legwarmers by Carol Wells

(my calves are a bit, er, meaty these days from horseback riding, so this last pair might be more anklewarmers… but I’ll let them count)

Posted in finished object, Knitting, Spinning | Leave a comment

New Year’s Resolution: No Superwash

It’s ubiquitous, superwash wool. Superwash refers to wool that can be machine washed (and possibly dried) without fear of it shrinking and felting to Lilliputian sizes, thanks to one of a couple chemical processes. The first is a chlorinated bath that removes the “scales” from wool fibres, smoothing them out and taking away their ability to lift up and then stick to each other, which is essentially the process of shrinking/felting. All hair has scales, by the way, even human hair–it’s overlapping layers of the cuticle, which is the outermost part of the hair shaft. Wool, especially certainly breeds like Merino, has lots of scales and is especially prone to felting.

Another way to remove the risk of felting is to coat the wool fibres with a polymer, sort of a plastic outer layer that covers the scales. This is all well and good, and superwash has certainly been a boon to the wool industry in general(and has its uses), but it’s not without problems. First, both the chlorination and polymer processes are quite toxic. That last link also gives some info about a less toxic variation of the polymer process, but I’d like to move on to other issues with superwash:

It kind of makes the yarn suck. I know, I know, them’s fightin’ words, but hear me out. Because there are no scales, the fibres become quite slippery, which explains superwash yarn’s tendency to GROWWWWWW when it’s washed. It can be cajoled back to normal size again, but generally not without the use of a clothes dryer, and it adds an extra layer of complication to something that must be blocked (like lace). It also changes the hand feel, especially if there are polymers involved. It’s taking wool and making it, well, more like acrylic. I’m currently knitting a pair of leg warmers from gorgeously dyed gradient wool, but the feel is absolutely terrible in my hands. Superwash strikes again. (Though it should be noted that this varies greatly among mills/producers. Some superwash yarn still feels quite nice.)

While superwash is a handy quality in commercially produced items like my merino base layers for winter sports, I have to ask myself, do I really need machine washability in my handknits? Most of what I knit will be hand washed anyway, especially the lace, and I even hand wash my socks. I don’t need the superwash quality.

So, I end up with my New Year’s Resolution for 2018: I will not be buying any superwash yarn or fiber this year (though I’ll knit with the stuff I already have). Primarily for the environmental benefit, but also because I just don’t like the stuff as much as untreated wool. This may even be a challenge, because superwash is everywhere, and people seem to look for it on the label even if they don’t end up chucking their finished items in the washing machine.

Feel strongly about superwash? Got a nice untreated wool yarn to recommend? Leave me a comment.

Posted in Knitting, sustainability, wool | 4 Comments