Fruit of the twine

Yarn Review: Cotton Classic by Tahki Stacy Charles

Posted by yarnberry on May 17, 2007

Here’s an example of a mercerized cotton like I posted about yesterday. I’ve been using Cotton Classic in the beginner crochet class I’m teaching, and I have to give it a rave review.

The Scorecard for Cotton Classic by Tahki Stacy Charles

Fiber content: 100% mercerized cotton

Gauge: Advertised as 20st to 4″ on a 4mm needle. My swatch was only 3.5″ wide on a 4mm needle.

Colours: Vibrant and lustrous, with a wide range of choices.

Yarn feel: This is a great yarn for beginners, especially crochet beginners. The yarn has a woven/braided texture, so it doesn’t split easily. It is a little easier to split with knitting needles, but with a crochet hook it’s very easy to grab. Although it has a silky appearance, the yarn is not too slippery and friction keeps it secure on the needle or hook. The texture makes it very pleasant to work with.

Washing and wearing: It washes and blocks very well, and does not appear to lose colour when washed. I haven’t put it through much wearing yet, but it seems to be a tough yarn that won’t pill easily.


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What is mercerized cotton, anyway?

Posted by yarnberry on May 16, 2007

One of my students asked me this in class, and I didn’t know the answer. Now I do.

Mercerized cotton is chemically treated to make it strong, silky, and more receptive to dyes. The cotton is treated, usually with lye (sodium hydroxide), while it is under tension. Then it is washed with water and acid.

The mercerization process was invented in the 19th century by John Mercer, an Englishman. Mercer (1791-1866) was a dye chemist, a handloom weaver, and a calico printer. He invented a number of weaving devices and dyes, including special orange dye used for calico fabrics. At age 59, he perfected a mercerization process using lye, sulphuric acid, and zinc chloride. His process did not become popular at the time because the chemicals were expensive and the treated fabric shrank by about 25%. Apparently he patented the process in 1850, but I haven’t been able to find the patent online.

Later, the German inventors Richard Thomas and Emmanuel Prévost discovered that if the process was done with the fabric under tension, it would not shrink and would become even more lustrous than with the original process. The charming illustration below is from their 1898 US patent application.

Freeman, M. S.  (1997).  "mercerize." A New Dictionary of Eponyms. Oxford Reference Online: Oxford  University Press
"Mercer, John 1791-1866."  (1997).  Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 6th ed. Chambers Reference Online: Harrap Publishers Ltd.
"mercerize, v."  (2005).  In McKean, E (Ed.), The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd Ed. Oxford Reference Online: Oxford University Press.
"mercerization, n." (2001).   OED Online: Oxford University Press.
Thomas, R. & Prévost, E. (1898). U.S. Patent No. 600,827. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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Abandoned projects

Posted by yarnberry on May 15, 2007

I came across a blog post the other day about knowing when to abandon a project. Unfortunately, the location of that post has vanished from my mind (and Google won’t pony up the goods). I’ve been thinking about this, however.

There is real virtue in knowing when to give up on a project, frog or re-purpose it, and move on. Our creative energy can get tied up in the obligation of unfinished projects. How many of us are holding off from starting that exciting pattern because we really, really ought to finish the half-completed one that is sitting in the closet — the one we realized halfway through that we don’t actually like, we just haven’t admitted it yet?

I’m happiest about abandoning a project when I can turn it into something else that I like better. I’ve partly solved that problem by making a scraps box, where I keep all of my gauge swatches, false starts, mistakes, and leftover bits of yarn. Today, I started crocheting those pieces together into rectangles for a crazy quilt. It’s amazing how the most scraggly mistake can look quite put-together once you tack it into shape with some single crochet. And there is a relief in letting go of a project that just wasn’t right for me, in whatever way.

Some other projects I’ve abandoned in the last few months:

  • The crocheted fisherman-style sweater I was planning to make for my husband. Crocheted cables really should not have to be that thick and ugly. I thought about just altering the pattern to make the cables and bobbles more attractive, but then decided to keep looking for something I really loved. (This knitted sweater from Vogue Knitting Winter ’07 is also a contender, but I haven’t found a suitable yarn yet.)
  • The abstract afghan I started last fall. I still like the idea of this afghan, but I’m not enjoying the method any more. I want something a little more sophisticated. As I type this, I’ve just realized that I should add the squares I’ve completed so far to the scraps afghan, and just start from scratch on the abstract one.

What project have you abandoned recently? Is there a project you should give up on, but you haven’t yet?

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Free Pattern: Work Your Way Up String Bag

Posted by yarnberry on May 14, 2007

Check out the pattern and photos for the string bag I’m teaching in my beginner crochet class..

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WIP and FO Report

Posted by yarnberry on May 13, 2007

Current works in progress

  • Oddments sweater: Still haven’t shortened those sleeves.
  • Textured stripe baby afghan: In progress
  • Various patterns I’m designing: At the planning stage.
  • Knitted baby kimono: Just have to finish that last bit of sleeve. Then I get to write up the pattern. *sigh*
  • Lys sweater from Berroco: Looks like a great stash buster. I have all the yarn collected but not started.

Finished objects

  • Numerous hats, scarves, neckwarmers and washcloths: Done and given away for Christmas without taking photos. Sorry.
  • Baby hat: Done.
  • University colours scarf for my dad: Done, and unfortunately somewhat wonky.
  • Lacey ruffle scarf: Completed and pattern is posted.
  • Zen scarf: Donated to by Stitch n’ bitch white elephant exchange, where it was turned into an excellent purse.
  • “Work Your Way Up” string bag for beginner crocheters: Done and being used in my class.

Moved to the backburner

  • Modern art afghan
  • Turkish vest
  • Bags made from scraps and gauge swatches.

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The blog is back

Posted by yarnberry on May 10, 2007

Well. A lot can happen in six months. I finally gave up on trying to redesign Blogger to my taste, and I’ve moved over to WordPress.Things I have done in the past six months:

  1. Learned to knit, finally!
  2. Started teaching a crochet class at my LYS.
  3. Become increasingly interested in the history and cultural impact of handicrafts.
  4. Started a group to submit a plan for a small pattern design company to a business plan competition. Then we decided to drop out when we were told the judges prefer pie-in-the-sky internet business plans.
  5. Finished my first sweater.
  6. Catalogued my yarn stash and started a list of potential stash-busting projects.
  7. Been given a lovely new camera that will make photograph yarn and WIPs much more fun.
  8. Almost, almost finished my degree.

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Please excuse the mess

Posted by yarnberry on November 5, 2006

The blog is going through a little bit of construction while I revise the template. Hopefully I will be able to figure out how to make the archive links work in blogger.

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A while of quiet

Posted by yarnberry on October 21, 2006

I haven’t posted for a while, as I have a variety of projects on the go that are close to fruition but not quite there yet. Instead, a photo of my cactus that has started blooming:

As for the various projects I’ve been working on:

  • Sweet CAL sweater (almost done, I need to finish a sleeve and tighten up the neckline)
  • Scarf for my dad’s birthday (done!)
  • Sari silk handbag (almost done, I need to finish the strap and lining and then write up the pattern. I think this will be my first “for sale” pattern.)
  • Handbag made from gauge swatches / stitch experiments / mistakes (One side is finished.)
  • My first table at a Bazaar (done, and a useful learning experience.)
  • Opening an Etsy store (I’ve figured out pricing for what I have, I need to get some stock photographed and get started.)
  • And of course, the rest of my WIP stash that I’ve been ignoring for while…

And a little teaser of the Sari-silk bag and the Swatches bag:

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Current Project: Abstract Afghan

Posted by yarnberry on October 8, 2006

An update on a project I’ve got in progress. I need to get working on it again, as Christmas approaching!

The plan is to make an afghan to complement this room:

Here is the design I came up with:

And finally, here are the squares I’ve finished so far.

The pattern itself is cobbled together from a couple of places, including an old 1970s afghan pattern, some square patterns I’ve found online, and some that I’ve made up as I’ve gone along. The basic background square is from Nellie’s Easy Square Lapghan The yarns are a mix of Patons Canadiana, Classic Wool, and Decor.

I’m making great progress on the Sweet Sweater. More on that later…

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Yarn Review: Estelle Watercolours

Posted by yarnberry on October 3, 2006

I’m using Watercolours by Estelle yarn for the Sweet sweater, and I’ve really been loving it.

It’s mohair/acrylic, and has a different texture than other mohairs I’ve worked with. The fibres are long and straight, so they’re a bit easier to untangle if I need to pull out a few stitches. Although I wouldn’t want to try and pull out more than a few.

The dark colours (merlot, navy) and highly saturated colours (geranium) are especially impressive, and very lustrous. The variegated pastel colours are a little more flattering to my skin tone, and remind me of a Monet painting.

I was finally able to get a few decent photos of the yarn today. I picked up an additional colour, Blues Teals, for the edging of my sweater.

Blues Greens on the left (shade 21) and Blues Teals (shade 27):

Blues Greens alone:

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