Friday, November 27, 2015

The Thing with The Doodler - or: How Everything Went Wrong

Do you have coffee and cookies? Something else to eat and drink? This is going to be long! ;-)

A few weeks ago I got word about The Doodler pattern, the new mystery knitalong by Stephen West. I've never participated in a knitalong before, and I'm usually not very spontaneous about knitting projects as I spin all the yarn I need myself and need time to do so. When a friend decided to participate on the day the first clue came out, I jumped in, though - admittedly after peeking.

I decided to buy the yarn needed for the project, as I didn't think I'd have time to spin three skeins of about 366 m each. And that's where the problems started: I live in a very small town, and although there actually is a yarn shop here, it's also small and they don't exactly have a wide range of yarns. Nothing special, nothing hand dyed or anything, just the standard assortment, and the finest yarn is 320 m / 100 g. The pattern called for 366 m / 100 g, so I thought it would be close enough and tried to decide on colours. I'm really, really bad at that! I always grab the teals and turquoises (which seems boring after a while), and I am bad at combining more than two colours. I took a very long time, and even asked the shop owner for advice, which I usually don't do as I like to find my way around shops and decide for myself. She was very nice, though, and very interested in the shawl I wore that day, which I had knitted from my own handspun, as usual.

I decided on purple, green, and black. Nice and somewhat halloweeny without orange ;-) I went home and started knitting immediately, but I was not happy. I didn't like the texture of the yarn and the knitted part, and I really thought the purple and green looked muddy together.

I kept knitting a bit longer, but also kept getting more and more unhappy. So I went back to the yarn shop, on Saturday, just before they closed. The shop owner was really nice again, she tried to help, and even took back the one ball of green yarn I hadn't started on. I decided on white instead, went home, frogged the first attempt and started anew.

(Not the best picture with my slacks, but hey, it was the weekend!)
I liked the colours so much better! However, I still didn't like the texture, I thought the yarn was too heavy for a shawl, I disliked knitting with it, and I missed my handspun... So, on Sunday I decided to take the time for spinning the whole lot, after all. I really wanted a cozy knitting weekend, I didn't feel like spinning at all, but to the wheel I went. I decided to dye one of the skeins, as if spinning wasn't time-consuming enough, but I just didn't have the colours I wanted. 

I didn't want to dye with professional colours for various reasons, but decided on easter egg colours instead. Less messy, quicker, usable in normal dishes in the microwave. I discovered I didn't have any blue left. Too bad, as I was imagining a smoky greyish blue at that time. My best friend read about my frustration on Twitter and offered to give me all of her easter egg colours, so I went upstairs, happy to have an easy solution - until it was clear that the easter egg colours where nowhere to be found. I sorted through my stuff and realized I had some coloured Koolaid left (which I bought a long time ago for dyeing), so I unpacked it. 
There was blue, but it turned out more of a bright turquoise in the end, and honestly, I couldn't stand the smell! I tried mixing colours, but I was not happy with the outcome. It was an artificial-looking green in the end and I threw it all out, and, sighing, dragged out my dyeing equipment which I hadn't used in years. In fact, I had never used it in the new flat, and with the new stove - otherwise I'd have known the pots wouldn't work with magnetic induction... By this time, I was so unnerved, I nearly cried, and I was thinking about giving up. In the end, my husband and I decided we could buy a new large pot and I could use the one we have for dyeing (once used with acid dyes it shouldn't be used with food again), so I went to work. Instead of the smoky blue I decided on something darker, and I liked the colour in the pot - a teal so dark it was nearly black. 
When it was done and I took it out I realized I had bound the skein too tightly, and some parts were left very light. I felt the project was hexed, but I continued anyway, hoping the light parts would result in a lively look (spoiler: it did! ;-)).
(The colour is not right in this one, but it was the best I could do)
I decided for white viscose for the second yarn, and I am still amazed at the outcome. I can't believe I managed to spin this so evenly, and I love the shine and feel. Fantastic fibre!

So, with spinning two yarns, dyeing one of them and drying them both it was Monday evening before I could restart for the third time, but I think the outcome is so worth the lost time! I knitted a few wedges, and I was so happy, for the first time since I started the project. 

The project grew and I loved it. I loved how the lighter parts turned out, and although I usually don't like white too much, I loved the contrast - and the viscose yarn!

The colours are very off here, but I wanted to show you the shape. My cat thought it was very interesting and wanted to be part of the whole thing ;-)

A week or so later I finally decided on colours for the third yarn. The pattern said, a sassy or dark, dramatic colour would be a good choice. I wanted dark grey, but decided on bright purple mulberry silk and purple angelina for sassiness (Twitter helped with the purple - I wasn't sure at first).

I wasn't thrilled when I saw clue 2, to be honest. A garter stitch cable thingy? Honestly? It grew on me, though, and it was knitted from the wonderful, soft, shiny viscose yarn, after all! (I'm a fan - could you tell? ;-))
I'm using some cute, glow in the dark dice stitch markers for clue 3 (made them myself, of course), and I like this part so far.

I'm still a little behind on clue 3, but I saw that clue 4 is relatively small, so I hope I will finish the whole thing in time.

It's been a very interesting experience so far, and I have to say the Ravelry group support is fantastic! There are a few things in the pattern which were new to me, and I went to the discussion board hopeing that someone could answer my questions - but I didn't even have to post them, as other people had had the same problems and the answers were already there!
By the way, if you'd like to see other people's Doodlers, they usually use the hashtags #westknitskal2015 and/or #theDoodler on Twitter and Instagram.

Shortly after clue 3 came out I went to Berlin for a short trip, and when I visited the Wollrausch yarn shop, the guy behind the counter was also knitting The Doodler! We had a nice chat. I also spent some wonderful knitting time at LuLa's, and if you ever go to Berlin you absolutely must visit Marc and Andy in the Ragù Knitting Café - best place ever! (And they speak English)

Have you really read all of the sad and yet happy story? It really turned out very long. Thank you! :-)


Monday, November 9, 2015

Harry Potter Art Yarn Advent Calendar (Book 2) - Now Available!

I am very, very happy to announce that The Amazing Harry Potter Art Yarn Advent Calendar is finally available! The story of The Chamber of Secrets retold in 24 yarns (read more about it here), complete with quotes and descriptions. One was reserved even before the whole thing was completely finished, and it has already sold, but there are 5 more in the shop. There will be no possibility of a respin, so it's limited to these!

If you order now it should definitely arrive in time, though I can give no guarantee. Shipping usually takes a few days in Germany, about 5-7 days within the EU, and about 10-14 days overseas. Parcels to Russia and Canada might take longer, judging from experience. The shipping price is higher than for my other yarns, but that's because I'll buy a tracking number and extra insurance just to be on the safe side with this unique work of art.

If you'd like one but you're not sure about the whole surprise thing, I will gladly send you a list of titles, full descriptions, and / or a link to the photos I took.

If you're just interested in pictures, I am happy to say I will do another virtual advent calendar thing, revealing the yarns from December 1st to December 24th here on the blog :-)


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