Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Re-engineering the Mason Dixon Hand Towel

It has been my intent to make a Mason Dixon Hand Towel to give with some dishcloths, but the button on the tab bothered me.  It isn't in the center.  The designers use an even number of stitches to create the mitered towel and the tab.  An odd number of stitches would allow for a larger buttonhole to be centered easily.  Also, they start at the bottom up and work to the tab.  

If I can get away with starting with fewer stitches to cast on and count, I will.  So, last Friday, while dear grandson took some longer than normal naps, I set out to re-engineer the hand towel.  The tab is 9 stitches with a 3 stitch, one row buttonhole and then from there, I more or less just looked at the picture and went with appearances rather than attempt to use the instructions to count backwards to make the same number of increases to mimic their towel from the top down.  I used 12 rows of stockinette with 3 ridges of garter stitch in between.  It was an easy project, off my needles by Saturday afternoon.  Now to find the perfect button, maybe a daisy, ladybug, or frog. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

How Did That Happen?

This started out as a project to use up wool scraps but suddenly I was spending just over $18 dollars at Craft Warehouse for more wool yarn to coordinate with just the blue and variegated Kool-Aid dyed scraps for a yarn basket or bag that could sit in my living room without clashing with the decor.  Now I have more leftovers to use up. 

This project was a learning experience.  I have wanted to try felting/fulling a knit project and knitting basket/bag seemed perfect.  My past projects were either unintentional or a sample flat knit that has now qualified for potholders.  After searching Ravelry for felted bowls and baskets, I settled on A Petite Felted Bag by Ann LimWanting a bigger version, I began with the 4 stitches/8 sections on the bottom but increased until I had a round base of 128 stitches and then worked upwards as instructed.  

I hit the panic button when I realized that the rather wimpy Cascade 220 worsted weight yarn was too fine to felt into a sturdy basket with only a single strand as instructed by the pattern.  A Google search turned up another bag with a round base and buttonhole handles.  Figuring if I ended at the top with the brick red yarn that had a heftier hand for worsted yarn, I might have a bag that would be sturdy enough for a knitting project.  I used the new pattern as inspiration only as I was working from the base up.

Figuring that I needed enough height to prevent the base from pulling up, I continued knitting until the my bag was 15 inches tall.

I chose not to use much of the off-white Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool because I was unsure how well it would felt/full.  The variegated yarn in the base is the same but dyed with Kool-Aid.  I was pleased to find that it is very densely felted and with only one cycle in my top-loader.

The felting/fulling process began with soaking the bag in a pan of warm water with 2 cups of white vinegar to soften the yarn.  After 40 minutes in the vinegar bath, I dumped the bag in a bed pillow cover with a zipper (past felting experience in only a mesh bag resulted in much wool lint clogging our 60 year old pipes requiring a visit from a plumber) and put it in my top loading washer with a heavy navy towel.  On the lowest water level with very hot water, the contents of that load went through a very turbulent agitation for 9 minutes, followed by a cold rinse.  

The results was very satisfactory.  The bag is now 10 inches high and 32 inches in circumference and stuffed  with a round bowl in the base and nearly all the plastic shopping bags I could find in the house.  Drying may take awhile, though.  Our pleasant sunshine is now drippy rain.  I may have to set up a fan to speed up the process.

If you would like more details on how to make the bag, download the pattern/instructions:  Round Bottom Buttonhole Handles Bag

While I am posting on my project, I am going to use some space to comment on the terms felting and fulling.  If one wants to be terribly accurate and base their word usage on the ancient process of thickening woolen fabrics after weaving, fulling is the correct term.  Felting actually is the matting together of non-woven fibers.  Unfortunately, word usage changes the meaning of words and now, knitters commonly refer to felting knits to make them denser and sturdier.  One would have a hard time finding a current book on the process using "fulling" in the title.  Felting communicates as few understand fulling and its history in the textile industry. 

June 21, 2013 Update:  Recently, the bag was soaked in Shaklee's Basic H and hot water for a half an hour and then agitated again.  The bag is now smaller and is stiff enough to stand on its own.  Petite but the bag is now a perfect small project bag at about 7 inches tall and 6.5 inches across the base.  The pattern recipe has not been updated with new pictures.

With a recent gift of off-white wool yarn lurking in my stash, dying and felting another bag are tempting me.  A perfect project for lazy summer days!