Category Archives: Yarn

How to get the mothball smell out of clothing

Two years ago I resorted to storing my winter woolens in mothballs after a particularly nasty clothes moth infestation wreaked havoc on my yarn stash. That was a painful week, throwing out skein after skein of expensive yarn because–grr–the moths had a particular fondness for the skeins that cost a fortune!!! I didn’t want to lose any handknits to those damn pests so rather than relying on lavender, cinnamon, and bay leaves (which repel, not kill), I went the mothball route to ensure all buggers were dead.

Here’s the thing about mothballs: they smell terrible. And yes, I know, they’re terribly toxic too, but my infestation was so great, I figured one or two seasons of mothballs would be a risk worth taking as long as I was careful handling them and I minimized my and my family’s exposure to them. I would not use them if I had young children in the house, and we store off-season clothing in a room where our cat isn’t allowed.

So back to the smell–it seems like mothballs evoke all kinds of different images and memories for people. For my mom, the smell reminds her of walking to school in her winter coat and every time she moved, getting a whiff of mothballs she hoped no one else could smell. My friend says the smell makes her think of “old people.” For me, I think of a metal wardrobe my parents had in the 70s. It must have stunk of mothballs.

Mothballs are a sure bet at killing moths and larvae, but what you can’t count on is getting the stink out of your clothes afterwards. The first year I used mothballs, I did what I thought was the logical thing: I washed all my stored items to remove the residual smell. Unfortunately, not only did it not work, it actually made everything smell worse!!! Drycleaning? Useless, as well as expensive. So I tried some other tactics, such as soaking garments in white vinegar and water (helped a little) and storing them in a plastic container with some baking soda (which maybe masked the odor more than killed it). I also tried lavender sachets and even “Febrezed” some of my more “hearty” knits. Eventually I couldn’t smell the mothballs when I would take the item out of the container or my closet, but here’s the weird thing — if the garment got damp, such as from rain or being in the snow, it would start to reek of mothballs again. So frustrating that I couldn’t get rid of the chemical odor!

Near the end of last winter, I was doing some research to find out if mothballs can repel snakes (nope–snakes can’t smell). I hit on a description of naphthalene, the chemical in mothballs, which said naphthalene gas is broken down by bacteria, fungi, air, and sunlight. WELL! No wonder water didn’t work so well for me! I piled all my woolens in a laundry basket and headed out to our sunny backyard with a bag of clothespins. By the end of the day, all of the woolens I’d hung up on our clothesline were virtually free of mothball smell. For good measure, I aired them out the next day too, and for the rest of the winter, I could wear woolens that didn’t smell as though they’d come out a steamer trunk in my great-grandmother’s attic.

That’s what I’m doing today — airing and sun-cleaning all my woolies for the coming winter. What I do is every hour or two move things around and flip garments over so they don’t get sun bleached, especially if there’s a fold in the fabric. (I ruined a sweater when I was a teen by leaving it in the sun too long with the arms crossed across the body. Learned that lesson early!) Some of the heavier items, like my Aran cardigan, will get a second airing tomorrow. Then I’ll handwash everything to get rid of any dirt or insects that landed on the garments while airing and then store the clothing on shelves lined with lavender and cinnamon sachets.

 

Rrrrrrrrrip … done!

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That’s my Garland Yoke sweater. It took me a little over an hour to rip it out and re-ball the yarn, which I did while watching Project Runway. Enough time had passed between my finishing knitting the sweater and deciding that I’d never wear it so that ripping it out wasn’t painful — in fact, it was very satisfying. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy the act of knitting more than the creation of something knitted, if that makes sense.

I added an afternoon walk yesterday to my daily list of mood boosters and even though it was gray and stodgy outside, the fresh air helped and I was less moody by the end of the evening. Last night I slept well and deeply, so I’m going to take another walk in a few minutes. Today it’s crisp and bright outside.

I was going to post a photo of how Winston greeted us when O and I arrived home this afternoon, but on second thought, the photo may be disturbing to some. He had caught a mouse in the bathroom and couldn’t seem to understand why it wasn’t playing with him anymore. We called my husband downstairs to show him the great job Winston had done — Mr. Hail Britannia is not a big fan of cats, but he does respect a good mouser. Our previous cats have all been pacifists, much to his dismay. Winston is slowly earning his respect.

Kwik Sew 3614 shorts … and September!



Way back in July I noticed a dearth of shorts in my wardrobe. I’m not a big fan of shorts … specifically, I’m not a big fan of how shorts look on me. Mostly because I don’t tan at all and my white legs scare people, but also because I don’t like wearing anything higher than just above my knee. Since I have a spiffy new sewing machine, I decided to make some shorts that met my requirements and I feel comfortable wearing on the hotter days of summer.

Enter Kwik Sew 3614, a pattern I first read about on Sewn. Elizabeth had mentioned how members of Pattern Review raved about the fly construction instruction on these shorts, and after making a couple pairs, I have to agree — fly fronts can be tricky, but it’s smooth sailing with this pattern.

My first pair was constructed out of lavender-colored cotton twill I purchased a few years ago from Fabric Place. I traced and cut a size L and followed the directions for view A (the longest version) exactly, making no modifications. The shorts came out well and I’ve worn them a lot this summer. My only dislikes were having hook and eye closures on the closure tab. I decided with my next pair I’d use a button and buttonhole.

My second pair are the ones I’m wearing in the photos above. I can’t remember where I got the fabric, a navy blue cotton twill … either Joann’s or Sewfisticated Fabrics in Framingham. The button/buttonhole closure works much better. For future shorts I plan to use a contrasting facing on the waistband, as well as softer pocket fabric. I used matching twill to make pockets for both pairs of shorts. They’re fine, but maybe a little bulkier than I’d like.

This is a great pattern and I will definitely get my money’s worth from it as I have plans for olive, white, and red shorts for next summer.

Since I took a bit of a blog break for the last six weeks, here’s what else is going on. My mother and I took a week-long trip to central Maine in August and had a wonderful time. I didn’t take any pictures (bah!) except for a shot of my yarn haul from Halcyon Yarn in Bath.  I’ll do a run down of what I purchased in a separate post.

I’ve been a bit down because my father and stepmother are going through a painful divorce. It’s not a bitter one, just very sad because of the circumstances. I’m hoping that once the smoke clears, things will get better.

Then my husband’s car died. We were down to one car for the last few years, so it has been necessary to do some car shopping. It looks like I’ll be getting a new VW Jetta by the end of the week. It’s funny because VW was not on my “car-buying radar” until I rented one a couple weeks ago and fell in love. Even better, my son loves it and my husband, while not a fan of practical four-door sedans, admits that it’s a smooth, responsive ride.

And oh, that cat you see above? That’s Winston. I’l write more about him in another post, but we decided after a year of having no cats it was time to welcome a new cat into our home … and hearts. We adore Winston … he is a sweet, lovable, friendly guy. And even better,  he doesn’t chase my yarn.

What have you been up to this summer? Are you glad it’s September?

The Yowza Weigh-it Shawl

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I finished knitting this beautiful shawl by Susan B. Anderson last month during a week where it was cold and rainy and I’d already shut off the heat for the season. It was a pure delight to knit–it wasn’t completely mindless because every couple seconds there was a new color change to ooo and ahh over. While knitting, I listened to the Serial podcast put out by PBS. Can’t wait for the next “season” to begin!

I’m a huge fan of Susan B. Anderson’s blog (and vlog, too!), and when she introduced this pattern in May, I dropped what I was doing, ordered the pattern, and promptly broke my yarn diet by ordering the exact color yarn she’d used in her sample (Miss Babs Yowza! Whatta Skein! in the colorway “Perfectly Wreckless.”) I made a mistake and ordered the colorway “Berlin” (which is very pretty, too), but the people at Miss Babs were nice enough to correct my order … that’s what I get for ordering yarn late at night.

Speaking of nice…that’s one of the main reasons why I love Anderson’s blog and vlog. She seems so darn nice, not to mention talented. While I don’t mind reading snark, I can only take it in small doses. I much prefer blogs, podcasts, and vlogs where the hosts leave me feeling a little happier after having read or watched them.  Anderson’s blog is definitely a cheerer-upper for me. 🙂

OK, back to the shawl. Yes, the colors are as vibrant IRL as they are on your screen. The shawl appears to have a woven appearance because of the garter stitch, yet it’s soft and squishy around my neck. I was going to wash it and pack it away for the summer, but discovered last week that it was perfect to wrap around my shoulders on a cold and rainy day … plus, those lively colors cheered me up. I even got a couple compliments on it when I wore it out shopping at Whole Foods. The reason why it’s called “the Weigh It Shawl” is because rather than count rows, you weigh your yarn as you go along and start wrapping things up when you are down to a certain number of grams. I still had quite a bit of yarn left over, but that’s okay because I like having odd balls for my blanket knitting.

Ravelry details here.

I’m off for the holiday weekend. Happy July 4th to my American blog readers, and to everyone else, have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

p.s. Forgot to mention, but I also made the pink cotton lawn blouse underneath the shawl. It’s a bit wrinkly as it had been freshly washed but not ironed. I thought the shawl would look better styled with a blouse.

 

I wear the crown

I now wear a shiny, new off-white crown. I’ll do you a favor and not show it to you. You know that urban legend that redheads need more anesthesia than normal because they have more nerve endings? It’s true … not for every redhead, but certainly true in my case. Two injections of novocaine and I was still feeling the pain. My mouth never got that numb, either. My dentist (who is great, I love her!) can’t get over how much I need. Enough to knock out an elephant …

Anyway, I have a working tooth, and that’s great. I rewarded myself with a quick stop at the bead shop down the street before I picked up O from his friend’s house. (See more about beads below.)

O’s poison ivy is getting a little worse. Today we tried aloe vera and cucumbers, as well as the OTC products I bought yesterday. The cucumber seems to help with itching the best, especially when we pureed it in the Vitamix, spread out out over his arms, and let it sit for awhile. Hey, gotta love a 59 cent treatment!

My brother called this evening and we had a nice chat. He’s out in Oregon as a “Hot Shot” firefighter, putting out blazes caused by lightning strikes and drought. After a couple weeks of fires (which translates into $$$ for him), he’s off to the coast for a few days for some R&R. I’m looking forward to him returning to the east coast this fall — we talked about doing an overnight hike up in the White Mountains, so I’m going to look into an AMC membership. (He wants to stay in one of the AMC huts.) I will definitely be staying away from Mt. Washington this time.  😉

Mr. Raccoon was back last night, trying to knock over our garbage bins. I know raccoons can be pests, but he’s just the cutest guy. Tried to get pictures for O, but when he heard me at the window, he took off.

Crafting

I’ve done some more “research” on Cecelia Campochiaro‘s new knitting book, Sequence Knitting. Ravelry has a page for the patterns contained in the book, which gives one a good idea of the types of fabrics that can be created, as well as photos of simple patterns for accessories. The hats excited me because some of my favorite winter caps are ones where the fabric seems textured. Example: Anne Hanson’s Fartlek.

I forgot to mention the other reason why this book appeals to me and that’s because Campochiaro works in the computer/tech field in Silicon Valley. She started playing around with binary sequences in her knitting and discovered that certain sequences produced interesting textures and fabrics. I’m somewhat left-brained and like math, so this concept *really* tickles that side of my brain.

Craftsy sent me an e-mail today that some classes in my wish list were priced at $19.99 or less until the weekend. One of them was Betz White’s bag making class, so I signed up for it.  I have some drapery fabric remnants in my stash that would make fantastic, hard-wearing bags. Tracy, your excellent results spurred me to sign up, so thank you!

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Another Craftsy class I’m taking is Laura Nelkin’s Knitting With Beads, thus why I stopped at the bead shop this a.m. (Nelkin is a dead-ringer for Annabella Sciorra … she even sounds like her!) When I was at Stitches East last fall, I bought a skein of cream and turquoise gradient laceweight, and I’m thinking it would look lovely as a beaded shawl. I also got the idea in my head to do another mohair cardigan, but this one with slip-stitch beading around the cuffs, neckband, and lower edge/hem.

ETA: Started knitting Helen Stewart’s Pebble Beach Shawl tonight with my gradient lace-weight. So far, enjoying the pattern!

Knitting for Syria

The daughter of a friend of mine from my Thursday morning knitting group is embarking on a very worthwhile Gold Award Community Service Project for Girl Scouts, and when I learned about it, I volunteered to help spread the word … er, a month ago. (I apologize, K!)

But here I am, and here’s what she’s doing: it’s a charity knitting project called Warm Hands, where knitted items are sent over to Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and other countries. Along with the knitted item — which can be mittens, hats, sweaters, blankets, socks, whatever — she asks that you include a handwritten note of encouragement for the recipient. The items will be sent to a school on the border of Turkey and Syria, where they will be gifted to families in need.

More details about Jules and her inspiring work here and specific details on what she’s looking for here. I have already completed one hat and am hoping to get to a pair of mittens within the next week.

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In other news … what a month we’ve had around here! I’ve been running back and forth to Connecticut to care for an ailing family member, managing my son’s busy social schedule, and trying to keep up with all the pressing household tasks that need doing, especially now that spring is officially here and I’ve got that burning need to tidy my life up. My knitting time has been reduced drastically, although I have finished a couple projects that I just haven’t had time to photograph, and now that warm weather is here, I find myself heading to my sewing studio (a/k/a a corner of my husband’s home office). I’ve sewn four tailored shirts so far, and this week started a pair of (drumroll) JEANS. Like I’ve been preaching here for the last year or so, I want to sew clothes for the life I have now, not the life I wish I had, so jeans make total sense for me. Plus, wearing an awesome pair of well-fitting jeans makes me feel like a million bucks.

Making jeans...the fly front.

I’ve finished the hard part of the project — the fly front — as well as the front and back pockets, so all that’s left to do is seaming and topstitching. Unfortunately, my Viking 400 started suffering some internal distress while I was zig-zagging, so I packed it up yesterday and brought it to the sewing machine doctor for some TLC. I could have continued the project on one of my–ahem–four other machines, but decided instead to carefully pin all the seams together so I could try them on. The bad news? They were huge on me. The good news? They were huge on me. I’ve got a fair bit of work to do to get them to fit me just right.

The pattern I’m using is from Angela Kane’s members-only website. I’ve been a member of her site for a couple years, and for $5 per annum, it’s a real value. I’m also augmenting the instructions by watching Angela Wolf’s jean-making class on Craftsy, which I also highly recommend. Angela Kane doesn’t get into distressing the denim, so I’ve learned a lot of good stuff from Angela Wolf, who is the Distressing Diva.

If these jeans go well, I plan to make another pair … with a decidedly Anglophile twist. 😉

The Kelly Cardigan

The Kelly Cardigan, pattern by Erika Knight

The Kelly Cardigan, pattern by Erika Knight

Finally, the cardigan of my dreams!

A few months ago, I started thinking about how much I wanted a cardigan sweater that had a dressier look. Most of my handknit cardigans are knit from practical, sturdy heavy-duty wool and, paired with jeans, look fine. But I could never wear them with a wool skirt or trousers and look, well, polished.

Now I have a sweater I can swan around town in.

This was my first experience knitting with two strands of laceweight mohair/silk held together, and I have to say it was a complete joy. Any fears I had about knitting with this feathery substance were quickly forgotten, especially after I got past knitting onto the cast-on row, the only really tricky part for me. I used KnitPicks Aloft in the color Carbon. My only “complaint” was knitting such a dark color in the dead of winter wasn’t always easy, especially with my poor eyesight at night … but otherwise I loved every minute knitting this sweater. Wearing it is even better. It’s like wearing a cloud. So soft and warm!

Even seaming it was fun! A few months ago, I had purchased a Craftsy course on seaming, which was very helpful since it’s one of those knitting tasks I tend to avoid at all costs. The instructor, Chris Bylsma, is very good: calm, competent, reassuring. I highly recommend this course to novice or nervous seamsters. I prefer the look of a seamed sweater and now that I know I can do a competent job, I won’t avoid seamed patterns any longer!

One note: I put the buttons on the right button band for the simple fact that snaps are used for fastening. The buttons are purely decorative when the cardigan is “buttoned up.”

If you want to read more details about the cardigan, they’re on my Ravelry page.

I plan to knit two more Kelly Cardigans: a red one and a cream one. I’m going to lower the neckband on these next versions, as well as add some torso length to accommodate my long waist.

Utilitarian, fashionable … or both?

Heart Pops Hat

Heart Pops Hat

Kelly Cardigan

Adding moisture to the air

New hygrometer

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Back garage, winter 2015

 

Greetings from snowy eastern Massachusetts!

I’ve been trying to up my game with my knitting this winter, although I was thinking about it this morning and wondering why. You see, I tend to knit a lot of utilitarian items: wooly socks, felted mittens, hats that can be easily spotted by drivers on the road, thick wooly sweaters…these are the types of garments I wear 95 percent of the time. However, I long for a wardrobe that’s stylish — I look at knitters like Leslie and the Rainey Sisters and think, “If only I thought a little more about fashion!” (Haa, just noticed that the Rainey Sisters knit the Heart Pops hat I talk about further on … guess I’m on the right trail!)

As I left the house this a.m., bundled up in simple wool socks, a reflective knit hat, and my bright red mittens–my first ham-handed attempt at felting, complete with wonky acrylic cuffs!–I came to the conclusion that it’s okay to be more of a utilitarian knitter. I’m happy with these items. They work for me and the life I lead here in New England. I’m just never going to be a wearer of delicate lace shawls or high-style cardigans. By the way, the hats above are from a free pattern I downloaded at WEBS called Heart Pops. I’ve been knitting these up in stray balls of yarn I’ve found around the house. I’m not a pink girl, but I’m really loving the pink and white version — so cute!

So all this thinking about fashion is why I chose to knit the Kelly Cardigan from Erica Knight in an effort to look a little bit more, in the words of Project Runway, “fashion forward.” It’s a simple cardigan design, but knitted in mohair/silk yarn, it’s luxurious … and warm! The yarn is Aloft from KnitPicks in the color “carbon.” I would have liked to knit this in Rowan Kidsilk Haze, but I’m sticking to my Yarn Diet in 2015 like white on rice. I’m happy with Aloft … the only part that’s fiddly with laceweight silk/mohair yarn held double is knitting the first row on the cast-on stitches. After that, it’s smooth sailing, unless one has to tink back or rip out stitches. Luckily that hasn’t been an issue for me as this pattern is simple and smooth sailing. You don’t even have to knit buttonholes (snaps are used), although I am going to sew on some jet and crystal ones for some additional pizzazz. I think I could get addicted to knitting with mohair/silk yarn — it’s like knitting a cloud!

The air here has been so dry. A couple weeks ago I was at my doctor getting an asthma check and she told me our interior humidity should be around 40%. We have a large humidifier upstairs, but nothing downstairs, where I spend most of my day. My husband bought a hygrometer, and yikes! Our humidity level was around 20%. So I borrowed a trick from my mother-in-law … when we used to ski out west where the air is even drier than it is here back east, she would fill pots with water and boil them on the stove to add moisture to the air. I go one step further and add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and leftover Meyer lemons. Mmm, our house smells so good! We all notice a big difference with the additional moisture. My skin isn’t as dry and flaky, and none of us have had any nosebleeds this winter. (I also leave bowls of water around the house near our heating vents … not sure if this helps but the water does seem to evaporate fairly quickly.)

Lastly, some photos of the snow in our side and backyards. We’re supposed to get 3 to 6 inches more this Friday. My son has not had a full week of school since the holidays. He may be making up time until July at the rate we’re going with this weather! The snow has not kept the cardinals away this winter … I’m seeing more of them at the feeders. They’re so pretty, but boy! they’re bossy! It’s hard to believe that in a little over a month it’ll be time to plant my peas. Will the snow be melted enough to do so?

Crazy socks!

Crazy socks!!!

 

Well that was some break from blogging!

I’ve actually been quite busy … that and there just hasn’t been enough daylight to take good photos. Not only have I been knitting like crazy, I’ve also been sewing like crazy. I usually knit in the winter and sew in the summer, but since turning 50 in November, it’s like a creative lightbulb went on in my head and I can’t stop making stuff. My 2015 resolution is to buy no new yarn … and yes, I was running around town on December 30, 2014, stocking up for the year, which my son informed was kind of cheating. But whatever. So far I’ve been good, and those socks above? I call them Crazy Socks. A couple days ago I spent some time sorting through my leftover sock yarn, grouping it by colors and winding it into 10- to 15-gram balls. Then I weighed up 50 grams of yarn per sock, bagged the yarn, and now I have enough wool to knit thee pairs of wackadoodle socks this winter. However, I don’t think the pair above are looking too crazy. They’re actually kind of … artistic? Cool? Pretty? What’s fun is remembering what I initially knit from the yarn. For example, the turquoise is CEL Alpaca Sox I used for my stepmother’s Monkey socks, which she loves. There’s some leftover yarn from socks I knit for an ex-friend–I try not to think about her too much, LOL. Then there’s a bit of yarn from a project I can’t even remember (the dark teal). Hmmm.

Other stuff I’ve been working on ….

Project bags I’ve sewn for knitting …

Owls, pattern by Kate Davies

Another Owls sweater, this one for me!

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A new hot water bottle cover, pattern by Helen Stewart of the delightful Curious Handmade podcast from London. I made the heart out of leftover flannel I used to sew a pillowcase for my son at Christmas.

I have other projects to show and tell. But for now, it’s good to be back. 🙂

Upward and onward

Has it been a month since I’ve posted?

In August the knitting bug hit hard. It was around the time I drove up to Bath, Maine, and spent a few hours at Halcyon Yarns. Since then I’ve knit quite a few items, not all of which have been properly photographed, such as this pullover:

Blank Canvas pullover

 

The pattern is Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas, a simple, close-fitting pullover with some flattering waist-shaping. LOVE IT! I was a bit worried that the 36″ size would be a bit snug on me, but I used a wool that has some alpaca in it (Valley Yarns Northfield in the color Tranquil Blue) so it developed a wee bit of drape after blocking. I have gotten so many compliments on this simple sweater — the color, the shaping — that I am making another in the same wool, this time in plum. I may even knit this sweater one size smaller since I’m still “shrinking.” More on that later.

The other project I finished and photographed is a pair of Monkey socks I knit for my stepmother’s birthday this month:

Monkey socks

I haven’t talked to her properly since I mailed them, but I gather through voicemails she loves them. They’re knot in Classic Elite Alpaca Sox. I think the color is Turquoise; I don’t have the ball band handy. My stepmother loves turquoise so I knew this color would be perfect for her. She also has Raynaud’s syndrome, which means in the winter she has to keep her extremities warm or else risk circulatory system damage thus I always have a happy and appreciative person for whom to knit warm socks, mittens, and hats.

Fall is chugging along. I have been dealing with a particularly rough case of Seasonal Affective Disorder for the past two months, which has zapped my energy. It was bad enough that my husband brought me to our doctor and now I’m on medication for it and sitting in front of a full-spectrum lamp in the mornings. I’m starting to feel a bit better, although I’m still not up to my 100% Energizer bunny speed.

I can tell my mood is improving because last night my son suggested I start a podcast and I got really excited as we talked more about it. He likes to do sound editing, and that he shows any interest in my knitting or talking about knitting is like, wow, really? Sign me up!!! So we did a test recording last night, and as much as I hate hearing my recorded voice, it wasn’t that bad so I’m thinking I’ll give this podcast thing a try. What do you think? I plan to talk mostly about my crafting (knitting/sewing endeavors) with a bit of real-life and Anglophilia thrown in.