Monday, May 28, 2007

Spin Journal #4 The Gray Monmouth Cap

Success! After two trips through a hot washer and a hot dryer, the Monmouth cap shrank to a fraction of its former size, became very thick, and the Cotswold bloomed beautifully, as I had hoped. It took two trips because after the first "felting cycle," Stephen pronounced it to be still a bit too large (it came down over his ears too much). As you can see in the photographs, there's still some indication that the cap was knitted, but it's beginning to get very fuzzy.

One problem I discovered during the first felting cycle: do not felt fuzzy knits with terrycloth towels. I spent about 15 minutes carefully picking little black lint balls off the hat. As they were a different color black than the black in the hat, I knew they must have come from the black terrycloth towel I threw in the washer with the cap to help with the felting. For the second felting cycle, the cap went into the washer alone, and there were no more cotton lint balls.

After the second felting cycle, the hat was smaller, thicker, and the individual stitches in the knitting obscured by the fuzziness of the Cotswold bloom. Stephen tried it on and it gave him slightly goofy, just-fell-off-the-haywagon look that I suspect all these knitted and felted caps gave their wearers. I'm planning on teaseling (gently brushing the surface to bring up the nap) and then shearing the nap to improve the water-shedding ability these caps supposedly had. I would love to use actual teasels--they grow in vacant lots in the Bay Area--but this is the wrong season for them, so the dog brush I use for flicking open locks for spinning will have to suffice.
This has been a good experiment in reproducing 16th century knitting. I designed a yarn with characteristics to achieve a specific finished product, knitted something out of my handspun, achieved the level of felting I desired, and made Stephen something extremely cool that can't be purchased from a sutler or off the Internet.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spin Journal #3: The Gray Monmouth Cap

As noted in a previous post, I decided to knit the gray Monmouth cap with 3 strands of single handspun "Corrie-Cot" (a Corriedale and Cotswold blend), as my singles still seemed a little skimpy for the task at hand. No matter how much I try, I simply can't spin fat singles. I don't have wheels for spinning fat singles--double-drive wheels are traditionally for fine spinning--and it really is difficult for a spinner to go back to fat after learning to spin thin. A great deal of it has to do with concentration: you have to constantly pay attention to how you're spinning, and if your attention strays, you go back to spinning your regular "default" yarn.

I finished the knitting on the Monmouth cap, and took a few liberties with Rutt's original description to get a cap more to Stephen's taste. He thought the first cap was "OK, but..." and then had a list of changes he wanted made. Make the crown shallower, make it more semi-spherical, etc. One thing he wanted that I simply can't comply with is making it a thinner cap. The original cap I made him was out of a 2-ply Merino I spun and hand-dyed with madder, and I used overly large needles to create a cap that was lighter and lacier than a normal Monmouth. But back to the changes. I've listed my pattern notes below.

1) Cast on 60. Join to make round. Mark the join.
2) Knit 3 rounds. Inc 3 stitches spread evenly throughout round. Mark where the stitches are.
3) Knit 1 round, then purl 1 round (this will create the edge of the hem), then knit another round.
4) Dec 3 stitches above the increases while knitting this round. Mark these decreases.
5) Knit next 8 rounds.
6) Dec 3 stitches above the previous decs while knitting this round. Mark the decreases.
7) Knit next 6 rounds.
8) Dec 3 stitches spaced evenly between the previous decs while knitting this round. Mark the decreases.
9) Knit the next 4 rounds.
10) Dec 3 stitches above the first 2 sets of decreases while knitting this round. Mark the decreases.
11) Knit the next 2 rounds.
12) Knit 2, k2tog all the way around.
13) Knit next round.
14) K 2, k2tog all the way around.
15) Knit next round.
16) K 1, k2tog all the way around.
17) K1, k2tog all the way around. You should now be down to 8 stitches.
18) Thread a tapestry needle, cut the yarn leaving a tail of about 6 inches, and thread it through the remaining 8 stitches, then pull tight to close the top of the hat. With another piece of yarn and the tapestry needle, turn the brim and whip it down.
19) Felt the living daylights out of the cap (I throw it in the washer on hot with a couple of towels, then dry it in a hot dryer), and shape it over a head form to get the shape you want.

I'm not putting a button or a loop on this one, as Stephen normally wears these caps under his helm as padding, and the extra stuff can be annoying. The finished cap is quite large; the photos of it are on a styrofoam head, but it's huge on my own head. Next step: felting/fulling the cap.

Felled By The Back...Again!

I can't believe this--just as I'm planning a weekend full of busy tasks, my back goes out once again! So I'm now "back" on muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, and (when necessary) painkillers, trying to keep still once again, and wondering if I'm ever going to get anything accomplished. A bad back is such a trial!

I did manage to finish the layette for a friend's BBQ/Baby Shower, and it came out quite cute, I think. The sweater is from the "Happy Baby" pattern from Red Heart yarns, the booties are from another layette pattern, and the hat is the "Stupid Baby Bonnet" pattern from Maggie Righetti's Knitting in Plain English. I took a few liberties with the pattern (working it up on #6 needles rather than #8s, changing colors, etc.), but it still came out pretty well, and the mom-to-be to appreciate a handknitted layette. She also got a gorgeous handknitted baby afghan from another friend, and lots of the usual "baby" stuff: sleepers, T-shirts, baby toys, a "gift basket" of all the weird things you need to take care of a baby (whoever heard of "Dr. Boudreaux's Butt Paste"?). There were, of course, stupid baby shower games, but the hostess added a twist: instead of all the women being subjected to these indignities, the guys (it was a co-ed BBQ) had to compete. It was a hoot seeing all these big guys trying to drink beer out of baby bottles and guess the contents of different baby food jars. In the end, everybody had a good time, and the mom-(and dad-) to-be got a lot of needed stuff for Junior's arrival in a few weeks.