Saturday, September 02, 2006

Beginnin' With Linen...

Despite it's still slightly damp state, I opted to try knitting up a little swatch of the freshly spun linen yarn around ten o'clock last night. This Sheep is not generally known for her patience...

As this was my first attempt at flax spinning, I decided to view the experiment as a learning experience and not one that would result in a useful finished object. This seemed like a good strategy for maintaining solid mental health and self image. I've got school starting in a couple of days and need to be well-defended for my opening day with the students. I completed a small sample and plied two singles into what amounted to a lace weight yarn. I'm finding that I have little choice but to spin it quite fine. I'm thinking that the sport weight I'm shooting for is going to require at least a three ply. The whole thing was boiled/simmered for about an hour then hung to set and dry. I then popped it onto a pair of size 1s and began a seed stitch swatch.

Never knit with linen yarn? Wondering what the experience might be like? Here is a close approximation:

Go to your odds 'n ends drawer and find yourself a ball of twine. No, not that one. That's the good one. Grab the one that you bought a the 99 cent store that time because you became convinced that you might someday find yourself in dire need of twine and that this might be a cost effective way to keep your home and family prepared in the event of a twine emergency. Now, soak this twine in a salt water solution...heavy on the salt. Dry it in the harsh desert sun until it is evenly crisped.

All set? Good. Now, knit something with it.

That is pretty close to the sensation of knitting with linen. I might have tossed the whole kit 'n kaboodle, save for the fact that Ann & Kay have asked that I trust the yarn. They assure me that, after washing, this will be the softest, drapiest and most beloved of items. And since they had the courage to write a book filled with patterns celebrating the humble dishcloth and that they do not fear the garter stitch, I will heed their words. I will trust that the yarn which is currently on the verge of severing my index finger will soften and become more nurturing.


The Angel Kitty Flannel PJs are in stark contrast to the stiff and scratchy linen yarn
It does have a neat look to it, though. This despite the fact that I may have underplied the yarn in places. I think my new mantra may need to be, "you cannot over-ply the cellulose fibers." It is somewhat hard to resist the old habit of watching for that extra bit of twist. But I've noted that the bits where I might have thought I'd overdone it are the ones that actually look the best.
I'll keep working on the swatch, get it washed up and report the results. If you've already spun or knitted with linen and know what awaits me, feel free to sit back and enjoy the show. You have earned the right by blazing the trail ahead of this behind-the-times Sheep. I anticipate that I will have some highly entertaining mishaps in the immediate future!
However, as a monument to Hope, I have my Mason*Dixon book placed prominently for inspiration. Here's hoping there is a Chevron Stripes Hand Towel in my future!
SA

11 comments:

camadsmom said...

It looks pretty on the neddle. Good luck with the stiffness. I like your kitty cat Pj.

Julie said...

Can you put some soap (or detergent, or whatever) in the boil water for the last fifteen minutes or so? That might have the same effect as running it through the wash, and soften it a bit.

Or do what they used to do in Ireland and beat it with a stick. They still might do that in linen manufacture, matter of fact. You've gotta break down the fibers, mechanically. It's the only textile fiber I know of where that's a good thing.

Nice jammies. :)

Anonymous said...

It will get softer with use and washing but I, personally, still prefer to weave with linen rather than knit. That said, I have seen some lovely things knit from linen so have fun experimenting.

Ijust read the last post about how you started spinning and thought I'd tell you my story. My husband gave me a spinning wheel for Christmas one year. He had seen one at a house where he was attending a meeting and talked to the owner about where to get one. He said it just looked like something I'd like to do. That was 28 years ago and I would be willing to bet that he has regretted it at times. I became obsessed! But he's still at it. Last Christmas he gave me a Golding ring spindle, the one with the owl in a tree with silver moon and star. I think he's a keeper!

Vicki in So. Cal.

debsnm said...

I have always thought that it would be so cool to be able to take wool all the way through to a finished garment. I've been reading a lot of spinners' blogs, and I'm really intimidated, but I think I still might want to try it some day - maybe.

trek said...

Who cares about the linen: I love the cute pink pjs.

Beth said...

Your swatch looks great. Not twiney at all. :) I'm envious you're getting to wear flannel pajamas already!

Sheila said...

The reason I haven't spun flax (or cotton) is that I only spin what I enjoy knitting, and I can't get past the aching finger joints that I get from knitting with cellulose fibers!
If you can stand it though, it does make a beautifully draping, ever-softening fabric once done and washed (I know cuz' I suffered through a couple of knitting projects with cotton and linen).
Aren't flannel PJ's the best?

Lori said...

Love, love, love the jammies!

Veggies,Crafts & Tails said...

I love linen ANYTHING! One of my fav. fabrics too, except for the wrinkles lol.

Love the PJ's too, the Mitz says they are the cat's meooooooow....


HUggs, G

Teri S. said...

I tried spinning linen years ago and quickly gave it up. A friend had kindly dressed the distaff for me, but my attempts at spinning the stuff quickly turned it into a mangled mess. My hat's off to you for forging ahead with the project. I'm sure the end results will be worth it.

hillary said...

You are far braver than I am. Knitting with linen is bad enough. I can't imagine spinning it.