Made with the knitting mill

As several weeks ago I bought a knitting mill, I’ve had some time to test it and check what it can be used for. Don’t get lured in by the ads – not EVERYTHING can be made with it. Not every type of yarn can be used. Sometimes it’s a pain. But in some cases it’s the best solution EVER.

1. Scarves

(some random purple yarn combination that was waiting its turn)

20130625_195018

2. Winter hats

(YarnArt Magic Fine; my son made most of it; perfect yarn for mill knitting)

Magic hat

3. Anything you can put together from flat square/rectangular panels and tubes. Ie. simple sweaters, kimono-like gowns.

Here’s a proto-sweater. It definitely has to have shorter sleeves and the bottom redone, but hey, it was the first attempt. 50g for each part (front, back, each sleeve), total is 2 x 100g ball of wool (Big Delight “Marina”). I will undo maybe 5cm of sleeves and make proper cuffs and use the leftovers to finish the neck park. Maybe even make it on the mill, too, and sew at the top. Fits a wiry 7-year-old.

blue brown sweater

What it is a definite help with is re-used yarn. I have taken apart a scarf I crocheted for my husband several years ago. As I’m a bit heavy-handed (literally!) with crocheting sometimes, it was, basically, stiff as a plank and more or less as useful as a scarf. Also, short. So I undid it, producing heap of wooly dust motes and several balls of very curly green and brown yarn. I tried knitting it, stupidly without washing and straightening it first. Pain. However the mill deals with it wonderfully. The fact that its construction helps to tauten the incoming yarn nullifies the curly effect. I knit this scarf as a looong tube, simply changing brown and green balls as needed.

The outcome is more fluffy than items knitted from straight, fresh yarn, and it’s just lovely to wear. Actually, out of the old scarf plus one mistaken ball from a different leftover wool, I managed to knit two very long, warm and soft scarves now. The shorter one is here:

Green brown scarf

Here is another scarf, this one made as a flat panel. Due to the fact that the outcome is all stitched to one side (as if a normal knitting was done in knit/purl/knit/purl rows), it rolls “inside” by itself. Making it actually less flat than the tube scarf.

After this one, I think, all next ones will be tube scarfs. Turning the handle in the other direction is not comfortable, and having to stop at each row end and manipulate the yarn is too distracting. And the outcome isnt’ THAT pretty.

Magic scarf

Even though the mill won’t do ribbing, cuffs etc, I’m just going to buy myself a set of 8-10 DPNs to cover these parts. The milled items can be done almost without looking (just with checking sometimes if I haven’t knit something too long), so I can watch a TV show and just turn the handle. I can spend some attentive time on finishing the work properly :)

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…can you handle afghan?

First, something completely unrelated, but anytime I think “afghan”, I get this song in my ears, hard to get rid of. See 1:04. I get this song – see 1:40. (sorry for the atrocious quality, but the nicer one was removed ;<)

Now, watched the song? So here’s my afghan:

Kocyk

Nasty mobile photo taken with a shaky hand, but it gives the general idea. It’s 150 x 125cm currently, 1,4kg of wool, acrylic, mixed wool/acrylic and some other, unlabeled yarns. No cotton, silk or alpaca, though.

I kind of started with various leftovers from other projects – I separated them into “earth” colours (green, brown, beige, mustard, white), pinkish (all kinds of pink, purple and violet) and others, of which i don’t have enough to make them a class of themselves.

But when the amount of squares or part-squares grew, I saw I have too much of some hues and way too little of others. Meanwhile I ordered a package of yarn in which I got (among others) 4 balls of extremly slick yarn, very hard to work on needles or mill. Hook deals with it easily.

Over time I bought some yarn for that purpose – Crazy Colour in 3 coloursets, some brown Alize yarns, then found some squares from an afghan once planned but never finished, so I added these, with some  framing in brown or green, to blend it in. Some flat plain squares, too.

I crochet on my way to work or back, I crochet on conference calls, on workshops and on presentations. It’s really good I can crochet without watching more than a few seconds, so I’m able to work quite quickly, especially in case of granny squares.

Now, looking at the leftover green/brown/gray yarn I have 350g, which would mean at least another 4-big-squares row added, if I manage to get these properly calculated.

I really hope to get it to some reasonable, useful size.


Shopping list (if I ever go to Finland again…)

As Novita yarns are available only in a limited number of shops, and no shop carries them in Poland, I have created my little shopping list, just in case someone goes to Finland and I can ask them to get me some ;) I have to put it somewhere that I won’t forget…

“Wool” (which is basically wool ;)): black yellow brown (2 of each)

Puro Batik: reddish, blueish (3 of each)

Puro: the only colour left (but if there were others available…)

These are the ones I’ve already tested. Now, I want to check out a few more:

Siru: looks cosy and thick. I’d have to get lots of it, as it’s 55m/50g: red

Nalle Luontopolku: it has spots!

Isoveli: blue and light blue – looks nice and thick. Something just for my son’s school pullover. At least 3 of each.

Well, if I ever go to Finland (or at least Estonia), I’m definitely getting as much as I can carry… ;)


Yarn Review – Rozetti Always Magic

Brand: Always Magic

Producer: Rozetti

Country: ?

Contents: 75% wool, 25% acrylic

Thickness: 180m/100g

Colours: mixes

Unfortunately this very nice yarn is no longer available. I found only a few pictures left on shops’ websites:

Cream/beige/mustard/grey/brown

I found it very good in both knitting and crochet, works up quickly and has great colours.

Here are socks I knitted for my niece and nephew:

SkarpetkiAlwaysMagic

Pros: very nice structure and great colours, yarn doesn’t unravel and it doesn’t easily come apart by itself. Doesn’t scratch. Easy to undo, if needed.

Cons: Well, hard to buy it now. But if I found some, I’d definitely buy, especially the green-blue-brown mix.


Yarn Review – Novita Puro Batik

Brand: Puro batik

Producer: Novita

Country: Finland

Contents: 100% acrylic

Thickness: 200m/100g

Colours: mixes

…and what mixes they are! Just wow, really.

Back to the beginning. I’ve bought green (no longer listed) Puro Batik in Finland last year and it was just lying around for a year and something, waiting for mercy. Finally, I knitted a pair of socks for my son, as he wanted green ones. And it’s soooo nice. Normally, well, 75% of cases, acrylic has this structure that makes it “crinkle” when squished. Well, this one is perfectly silent. It didn’t squeak against my needles, either. It had a very natural feel when I worked.

The finished socks look like this:

Socks

He loves them :)

Now, you see how the gradient-stripes come when knit in small rounds.

Pros: softsoftsoft. Soft. And has great colours. and my fav thickness. And it’s all acrylic, so less chance of someone getting allergic reaction.

Cons: None, really. Apart from the fact that it is, more or less, completely unavailable anywhere outside Finland and Estonia.


Yarn Review – DROPS Big Delight

Well, to pick up after some off-blog-time, here I have for you a new review – DROPS Big Delight yarn.

Brand: DROPS Big Delight

Colour: Many multicolors: Marina, Sunrise, Olive/rust/plum

Content: 100% wool

Thickness: 200m/100g

Country of origin: Turkey

Structure: Very fluffy, single strand yarn, soft. Slightly uneven thickness between colours.

I bought this yarn just because it had such cute colours. First I just choose Sunrise and the Olive mixes and wanted to make a vest, but I went for a poncho. The final outcome looks like this (front, back):

PonchoFront PonchoBack

Each side is 4 100-g balls. Which makes the cost of wool itself around 190 Złoty, which is ~50 Euro. Not cheap, but totally worth it.

And it’s so nice. But it has a tiny weeny defect. Smells. Of. Sheep. And I went out and it rained. And it smelled of wet sheep. I have to wash it until it stops.

However, when working, it is almost perfect. Doesn’t come apart, has 90% even thickness (the dark one was slightly thicker than the bright one) and the colours are simply brillant. I found that good, saturated colours make me crochet faster than a monotone or dull dyed yarn :) The back of that poncho was done in 2 days – I started with a 10x10cm square on Thursday afternoon, crocheted it on Friday at meetings and for half of Saturday. Sewing took another hour, just making sure I matched it evenly.

So, pros: great colours, very thick and even, fluffy.

Cons: very distinctive smell of wool, unless washed with proper soap.

Would I buy more: Hell, yes! Especially if DROPS has another discount action (in May it was 35% in all online stores I use!)


Coloured pencils

I can’t draw. Not really. Of course, I can draw basic shapes, or a simple picture, but people or animals (or shading, or anything more complicated than filled outline) – nope. But I love collecting all kinds of crayons, pastels, pencils and charcoal. Basically, I’m a craft-pack-rat.

At school some classmates used to sing “Kolorowe Kredki” (“Coloured pencils”) at me, as a joke on my pencilcase. Here’s the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg_8euYa5dM

My son, now 7, likes drawing, as most kids do, and produces all kinds of train and car and house compositions, with wonky suns, huge blue clouds and whatnot.

Now, as school requires kids to carry coloured pencils, I just bought a pack of thins and a pack of thicks ;), thin regular ones and thick triangle. Turned out, this isn’t that simple. Until last September, he was mainly drawing on loose sheets or in my notepads, but now he’s filling in pictures in books and it turns out most pencils marketed for children are so hard it’s not easy to use them to properly fill in bigger areas without lot of pressing (which makes school books’ pages distort). Most brands’ leads are so hard that however sharp or used up they are, the trace they leave is very thin and has very little colour.

So, what could I do? I pulled out my collection of pencils, including my just-bought Magic Koh-i-Noor box, Faber-Castell Aquarelle and 20-year old Giotto Naturale. We’ve tested and tried and checked to find the optimum solution for little hand, issues with eye-hand control (which I know very well from 25 years ago) and wayyyyy too much pressure applied. And lack of patience.

Solution 1: Use Aqua-pencils, whichever brand. By nature they are much softer than equivalent pencils from the same brand. We checked Faber Castell Aquarelle, which I bought one by one at some sale long ago in Empik (pencil clearance, if you can believe). Very good colour  coverage also is given by Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth Mondeluz (I have a box of 12 only). But in any case, watercoulour pencils are always a bit more expensive than standard ones from the same producer. Also, picture will get spoiled anytime the kid has somewhat wet hands, which is often in first grade.

Solution 2: Use very, very specific pencils for drawing that advertise their hardness. May come more expensive per item than aquarells, but will last longer. In this case, I tested Derwent Coloursoft. They have a great set of colours available, called a bit fancifully sometimes (“Cloud Blue”), but giving great possibilities. I bought them “for home use”, this way making sure they won’t get lost at school by accident, and providing both my son and myself with great drawing mediums, for which my wrists are very grateful every time I have to colour something when scrapbooking. Unfortunately, level of softness here isn’t equal (ie. “Indigo” has lead much softer than any other I tried, and I’ve bought 26 colours by now).

Here’s just one batch of them – you can see the colour codes (the ones shown actually have reasonable names).

20130425_013441_s

Anyway, it still leaves us with something to put into the pencilcase in that cute little backpack. This way we arrived at the point when I have ordered, quite randomly, several different drawing mediums (a pack of felt tip pens, some oil pastels and some coloured pencils) at Merlin, one of main Polish book-and-everything-else online shops. All made by Stabilo, and so guaranteed to meet EU safety/chemical content etc standards. Turned out these pencils were The Thing. Not to mention they are ecological (wood from managed plantations, eco-friendly varnish and packaged in 80% recycled-paper box; they have FSC certificate).

Solution 3: Stabilo Green Colour. Soft. Nice colours, including more-or-less-flesh (no more pig-pink people). Very easy to sharpen, no splinters or breaks. And if the price is slightly higher than for standard pencils of +- equal brands, I still like them so much I’ll order another pack, just to have them in the drawer. Just in case. This is already waiting for me to pick it up at one of Merlin’s “shops”.

As you can see, yellow is getting used up quite faster than the others.

20130425_011754_s

I wonder how much better my own eye-hand coordination might have been, had I had such lovely tools these 30 or 25 years ago. Well, at least I can make sure my son doesn’t suffer of palm cramps due to nasty, hard leads and indulge in my own addiction by buying a ton of cute coloured pencils. Below my 4 litre box of pencils. Really, 4l. Not full at the moment, as I’ve taken some Derwents out for photos and I also keep my pencil purse in it, which is now out to show the pencils.

20130425_014113_s

Accidental additional discovery: felt-tip pens, which are in most cases also dry and hard, can be soft and easy to use. Again, Stabilo “no drying” ones, linked above. Yay!


Irony (or why I should never wait with shopping)

I put together a cute order of yarns that I really liked in E-Dziewiarka, but put off ordering just to rethink it for a moment. You know, being reasonable and wanting to review the order after a day or two. Today I checked and 4 balls’ prices have gone up. Not much, +- 75 eurocents a ball, but still. Well, I will wait a week more. Maybe something else will go down in that time :)

What I want to order:

Evita

Big Delight (colour 1, colour 2)

Yarn Art Magic (colour 1, colour 2)

(pictures below are from the shop’s page)

    EvitaBig DelightBig DelightMagicMagic


How to store polymer clay

Storing polymer clay is a big topic, considering the prices of better brands and mediocre quality of worse or no-brand stuff.

PC may be stored in different conditions, depending on its state (phase of use).

1. Raw unprocessed PC

2. Raw PC rolled into millefiori canes/formed into parts of the final piece

3. Raw finished objects (things covered in millefiori, raw beads)

4. Baked stuff

So, in order:

1. Raw unprocessed PC

First thing is, raw PC dries. It is affected by air (gets hard/brittle and dry, forces you to use lots of energy to revitalize it), temperature (it gets pre-baked and there is no way to undo this) and various unfriendly substances (it reacts, loses colour or dissolves).

Unfriendly substance may be, among others, water. Water will make a muddy mess out of your PC and it’s hard to clean this up afterwards – I’ve never had that much patience. I won’t even go into solvents and related – just keep your PC as far from the chemicals as possible.

Other unfriendly substance for polymer clay is… any other polymer clay. Of course if they made contact in an uncontrolled way. That’s because depending on colour and brand, this may lead to them sticking together, contaminating or even mixing the colours, if you don’t manage to separate them cleanly. It’s prudent to keep your pc separated into colours, preferably each in a different container.

Some brands of clay have a defect that demonstrates as “bleeding” colours. No idea if it’s the dye or the plasticizer, but at least once I handled black clay which not only was not black, but purple (after mixing with white gave various shades of pink), but black-white millefiori after a while became black-pink. Look:

fioletowe_-_wazoniki_-_i_-_swiecznik

Chemistry also affects what you can store your clay in. As polymer clay is, simply, PVC with plasticizer, when in contact with other plastics of similar nature it may damage it. And in damaging it, its own structure will change (as plasticizer is used up to dissolve the other material), so it’s good to know which materials to avoid. If you unwrapped your clay, you can:

* try to wrap it back in the original wrapping and together with other pieces in a common storage, making sure they don’t touch (meaning that the clay doesn’t touch)

* each piece into an individual ziplock baggie – clay doesn’t react with that easily

Boxes and other equipment, like swirling aids, should be:

* glass

* polipropylene (they have “pp” in a triangle somewhere)

Avoid:

* bottles and jars marked “PET” – when exposed to clay, they dissolve as you watch them

* hard cd/dvd cases – they may seem great ie. to swirl, but they get awful dirty immediately – thats polistyrene, just like ice cream containers (that’s why you should not store clay in ice cream boxes)

2. Raw clay, processed

To store millefiori canes, you can:

1. Cut the cane in equal pieces

2. Take a roll of silicone-covered baking paper and cut piece at least as wide as the cane pieces are long

3. Wrap each piece into that paper tape: wrap one tightly, put the second, wrap around that one and first again, add third and so on, making sure no two cane pieces touch.

4. Put into non-reacting box (best to match length in pt 1 to that box) and put them in such a way that you see the “faces” of canes through the top or, if box is transparent, through the side.

5. All this, with a lid, put into your fridge or, even better, freezer. The canes will be much easier to slice after freezing.

To store elements (pieces of a doll or a box) – flat parts it’s best to layer with baking paper, the more round ones – on something that will not allow them to roll away (VVV of paper, pieces in the “rows”). Remember not to store them for too long, because if they dry, you won’t be able to attach them to the main item.

3. Items covered with clay, beads etc before baking

After covering or finally preparing for baking, we don’t always have enough items to justify heating up the oven (or we plan to create bigger batch of something). Until then, we need to secure them somehow.

It is good to make sure they aren’t exposed to sunlight (colours, chemical structure), water (see pt 1) and dust, which will get stuck to any sticky surface and is hard to remove if the finishing doesn’t include polishing (ie. dolls). From my experience, I recommend lining a baking tray with silicone paper, putting your waiting items there (with appropriate spacing) and… putting them into the oven, if nobody else is using it. Dry, not too warm (yet), no dust and no younger siblings will put their tiny dirty fingers in.

Do not put the items too closely together, as vases or figurines stuck together are hard to pull apart, and sometimes tiny movement of the tray when putting into the oven is enough to move the pieces of clay and get them stuck together.

4. Baked items

Baked polymer clay is effectively plastic. Sometimes crumbly or breakable, but plastic. Heating it up to the baking temperature (130-140 C) doesn’t hurt it, but it shouldn’t be exposed to open fire. Prolonged sunlight exposure can cause colours loss or change, depending on the clay brand.

Clay is easily breakable, so baked items shouldn’t be kept in places where they can be crushed, chipped or can fall.

Baked/cooked clay theoretically should not bleed colour, however due to specifics of some dyes and unknown quality of products of some brands, in case of adding clay elements to clothes or covers, and the need to wash these, it’s best to make an experiment of washing a few beads or buttons in warm soapy water with a sample of the cloth.

Sum up: Pay attention how you store your PC in all its various forms, and you will be able to use it much longer than if you leave it unattended. Nothing more wasteful than creating a bunch of interesting items and letting them get covered with thick layer of dust. I know something about it – been there, done that.


Yarn Review – Novita 7 Veljesta (Raita)

Brand: 7 Veljesta (Raita)

Producer: Novita

Country: Finland

Contents: 75% wool, 25% polyamide

Colours: Mixes of coordinated dyes (way of mixing depends on type)

Weight: All “7 Veljesta” are 100/200 (exactly this or 150/300):

Linnut

Nostalgia

Polkka

Raita

Tweed

I have checked out two colour sets, brown/cream/gray and eyesore orange/purple/green/blue. See top-left on this photo:

IMAG0576

Absolutely perfect beginner’s yarn. Works up quickly, being 1/2, next to no fuzz, and combinations of colours look really nice. Example from the producer’s page. I’d love to try some others sets – maybe the ones currently listed on Raita subpage, especially the green one, and also Polkka, green and blue ones.

Now the brown one is being used as source of tons of granny squares, and the eyesore one is now my spaghetti scarf.

Would I recommend it? Hell, yes. It is a bit scratchy, but working with it is perfectly nice. I wouldn’t make a hat with it, I suspect I would scratch a hole in my forehead, but socks would be nice, and everything like afghans or other home decoration items, too.