Tag Archives: wool

What is Milk Fiber?

Milk Fiber from China

Good question. What is milk fiber? And what do we know about it? Well, people like to spin it into yarn and made fabric from it. And it’s soft and silky. And it’s looks pretty. According to the fiber people over in China, it also is beneficial to human health, is anti-bacterial, and “has the functions of nourishing and taking care of skin.” Riiight. Now we are getting into some fantasy land spin-doctor stuff. That sounds like a marketing ploy. So let’s go digging and find out exactly what milk fiber is, and why it’s so darn special.

Ok, to start this journey, it’s important to know where milk fiber came from. According to Euroflax Industries, milk fiber was invented in 1930’s in both Italy and America and was called “milk casein.” Huh. Who knew? And here I thought it was some newfangled invention. But apparently it’s been around for a while. For a long while, actually. Crazily enough, casein was invented way before the 1930s – apparently they’ve discovered that many churches from the 14th and 15th centuries were painted with casein-based paints – the colors are still bright and unfaded even to this day! Well, apparently this milk casein stuff is great for paint. But how does that connect with milk fiber?

bhgreenjerkin21

From the National Bellas Hess F/W 1946-47 Catalog of “Ara-Fab Fashions”: a 2-piece Aralac/rayon blend jerkin set embellished with felt motifs in kelly, blouse not included; $4.98; misses 12-22

Apparently “milk casein” fiber was used in many clothing and household items in America and Europe during the 1930s and ’40s, says Joan Kiplinger of Fabrics.net. It was a substitute for wool, which was needed by men on the front lines. However, it fell out of use after WWII ended and newer, cheaper synthetics such as nylon grew in popularity. The fiber was blended with other natural fibers and known under the brand names of Aralac, Lanatil and Merinova, for those of you checking your vintage clothing labels. While these brands’ fabrics were very similar to wool and could be dyed by the same processes, apparently there were some flaws with the milk casein fiber – namely, that it was not as strong and firm, nor as elastic as wool, and the fibers “mildewed easily” when they got damp.

However helpful this information is, we still don’t know how milk fiber, or milk casein, is made, and therefore what exactly it is. The websites selling milk fiber aren’t particularly helpful, as they simply talk about dewatering and skimming milk to make the fiber, like it’s some sort of cheese. Which it is not. Cyarn is particularly vague about this, saying simply that they:

“…manufacture the protein spinning fluid suitable for wet spinning process by means of new bio-engineering technique…

Hm, that sounds mysterious. So now it’s a protein? Ok, let’s back up a bit and find out what “casein” is. Maybe that will help us out. According to Wikipedia

Casein (from Latin caseus, “cheese”) is the name for a family of related Phosphoprotein proteins. These proteins are commonly found in mammalian milk, making up 80% of the proteins in cow milk and between 20% to 45% of the proteins in human milk. Casein has a wide variety of uses, from being a major component of cheese, to use as a food additive, to a binder for safety matches. As a food source, casein supplies essential amino acids as well as some carbohydrates and the inorganic elements calcium and phosphorus.

Ok, so now we know that “casein”, which is the protein in milk, is what is used to make the fiber. So then, is milk fiber edible? Is it just like making or eating cheese? Here’s another clue: the Wiki article mentions that fiber is made from “extruded casein.” This article from the Science in Farming website, says:

The conversion of the casein of skim milk into textile fiber is not a process that can be carried out on the farm. The casein must be made by a controlled procedure possible only in a dairy plant or a plant making casein exclusively. The conversion of casein into fiber requires the knowledge and experience of textile engineers and equipment similar to that of plants producing viscose rayon. The casein is dissolved in alkali, various other substances are added, and the solution is extruded through the fine apertures of a spinneret into a bath containing acid and dehydrating and hardening agents.

Spinneret In Action

Ok, there sounds like there are a lot of chemicals involved in manufacturing milk fiber. So definitely not like making or eating cheese, then.  Another article, Some Fibers From the Proteins, gets a little more in-depth in its explanation:

The casein is dissolved in water that contains about 2 percent by weight of alkali to make a viscous solution with 20 to 25 percent protein. The next step is to pump the filtered casein solution by a metering pump through a platinum-gold alloy disc, or spinneret, which has thousands of fine, accurately placed, and uniform holes. The solution, streaming from the holes of the spinneret, is immersed in water that contains an acid. The acid neutralizes the alkali used to dissolve the casein. The small, continuous fibers are then stretched, treated in various solutions, and collected by the spinning machinery. The tensile strength of the yarn is enhanced by stretching the fiber while it is being tanned with aluminum salts and formaldehyde. The action of the hardening baths can be accelerated by heating, and the fiber can then be stretched much more than at low temperatures. A further treatment is needed in order to make the fiber resist the boiling bath commonly used in dyeing wool.

In case your eyes just glazed over, what that brain melting paragraph just said was that the proteins from milk have to be dissolved in water and then processed through various chemicals in order to try and make them solid again. Now, there are some chemicals in there that I’m not wild about, as they sound dangerous, but according to some of the websites selling milk fiber commercially, the milk fiber industry was granted the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 green certification for international textiles in 2004. So, I wonder, how different is the manufacturing process today?

milk_fiber3

Production process of milk fiber

I found a clue at the Doshi Group website, which mentions that milk fiber is a “graft copolymer of casein and AN.” They even provided this cute little chart showing how they make milk fiber. As you can see, the process is very similar to what was described in that 1940s article above. There’s the dehydrating of the milk to get to the protein, dissolving it in alkali, and the spinning and drying to turn it into fiber. But interestingly enough, there’s a little stop before spinning called “graft copolymerization.” I think this is a big clue. Let’s go find out what that mysterious “AN” is.

Ah ha! I searched for a long time to find this, because nowhere on the Internet could I find the words “AN” and “milk fiber” comingling together. But finally, I hit pay dirt. An obscure Chinese science article from Dong Hua University, Shanghai in 2000 did a study of the effects of acrylonitrile (AN) being grafted onto casein. They concluded that “AN-g-casein fiber is a new type modified ‘silk-like’ fiber for wide application.” According to The Textile School, to manufacturer milk fiber, casein and acrylonitrile are grafted together chemically. They dilute alkali and forcing these solutions through a spinneret into a coagulating bath:

A fiber consisting of a copolymer of casein protein (25%-60%) grafted with 40%-75% acrylic monomers, of which at least half is acrylonitrile, has been developed in Japan under the tradename Chinon. The casein dissolved in aqueous zinc chloride and grafted with acrylonitrile is wet or dry spun into fibers. It dyes readily with acid dyes, but basic and reactive dyes can be used also. The fiber is marketed as a substitute for silk.

Ding ding ding! So what do we know now? Modern milk fiber is a blend of casein protein and acrylonitrile, most likely to strengthen it and prevent some of the problems that the original casein fiber had. But I still have questions. Like, what’s acrylonitrile? According to Wikipedia it’s a chemical compound that’s an important monomer, or binder, for the manufacture of useful plastics. This website does a great job of demonstrating how it’s made. However, they also mention it as being a pollutant, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the German MAK commission have classified acrylonitrile as a human carcinogen. Whoa, scary! But the American Chemistry Society clarifies things a bit:

Chances are that acrylonitrile touches everyone in some way every day. Acrylonitrile is the key ingredient in the acrylic fiber used to make clothing and carpeting…telephone and computer casings and sports equipment; and in nitrile rubber, which is used in the manufacture of hoses for pumping fuel. Acrylonitrile is used to produce plastics that are impermeable to gases and are ideal for shatterproof bottles that hold chemicals and cosmetics, clear “blister packs” that keep meats fresh and medical supplies sterile, and packaging for many other products. It is also a component in plastic resins, paints, adhesives, and coatings.

Ok, so not that scary. You don’t want to try eating acrylonitrile or being near it when it’s burning, but touching things made from it won’t immediately hurt you either. But we have learned a very important fact: acrylonitrile is a “key ingredient” in making acrylic fiber, and is the raw material in making acrylic yarn as well.

So the answer to our question, “what is milk fiber” has been answered. Milk fiber is a blend of casein protein and the chemical acrylonitrile, which is used to make acrylic. It’s made using a process that is similar to rayon/viscose, but because it’s a regenerated protein fiber and not a regenerated cellulose fiber, it reacts like wool. That means that it dyes like wool and even smells like wool when burned, according to Kiplinger.

Interestingly enough, while slogging through all of this research in an effort to discover everything I could about milk fiber, I discovered that it does in fact have antibacterial properties. While the “milk slurry” is being chemically mixed and spun together, micro-zinc ions are added. This creates zinc oxide while the product dries, making it bacteriostatic. Also, according to Doshi, they do not use formaldehyde as one of the drying agents anymore. Though I do doubt their claims that fabric made from this fiber is good for the body and can “nourish skin.” Since it’s made in a way that is similar to rayon and acrylic yarns, it does nothing more to your skin than any other fiber. If you want your skin to be nourished, I recommend using some lotion instead.

UPDATE: July 27, 2011

Since writing this blog post, the conversation about milk fiber and its relationship with AN (acrylonitrile) has exploded, even being featured on major news sites such as HuffingtonPost. Thanks so much for your interest, everyone, and I always appreciate links back to my research.

I’ve come across a couple of extra pieces of information I think are really important to know about milk fiber. The reason that milk fiber hasn’t become a huge phenomenon is because of an issue of supply and demand. Apparently it takes about 100 pounds of skim milk to make 3 pounds of milk fiber. Now, my relatives are dairy farmers, and they have one barn full of dairy cows, so I have trouble fathoming the idea of enough cows to make just one roll of milk fabric. So face it, milk fiber is always going to remain sort of exotic and harder to get.

Also, milk fiber isn’t as eco-friendly as we all first were told. According to Finn + Emma, an organic children’s clothing company that actually practices what it preaches, traditional dairy farming has a big negative impact on the environment. Combine that with the inhumane way some dairy animals are treated at mass-production farms and the eco-friendliness aspect goes out the window. Ouch. Granted, I use lots of yarns that aren’t eco-friendly, but it just goes to show that you can’t always trust the hype.

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Peeking into the stash

It occurred to me tonight that if I’m excited by the new yarns I acquire and stash, perhaps other people might be thrilled by them as well, non? My best friend have a game that we occasionally play where we call each other and invite the other to take a tour of our newly stashed yarns on Ravelry. Tonight I thought I’d let all of you take a peek with me as well. So here we go, diving into the stash!

First up is a yarn that I am absolutely in love with. I’m a big fan of cotton blends – give me wool and cotton or silk and cotton and I’m as joyful as a pig in mud. But even cotton can get a little boring sometimes. Enter Farmhouse Yarns Silk Spun Cotton, to mix things up a bit for me.

Farmhouse Yarns Silk Spun Cotton in Rose Heather

This yarn is divine. It’s a worsted weight blend composed of 60 percent cotton, 32 percent lambswool and 8 percent silk. So that’s cotton with all of my favorite blends! It’s silky and creamy and wooly all at the same time, making for a totally squishable yarn. Plus, the way the yarn blends up creates these awesome little tweedy flecks of color in the fiber. From a distance, the Rose Heather colorway I own almost looks like its reflecting the light from the sun, because little bits of yellow poke out from it and give the pale pink color a warmth and depth it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Farmhouse Yarns Spilk Spun Cotton in Rose Heather

I fell in love with this skein so hard that I immediately searched through the destashes on Ravelry and nabbed myself a second skein. I’m really pleased with the yardage on this yarn, too. With just two skeins I have 400 yards to work with, which is sort of exciting. I think that a spring short-sleeved top made out of this would be perfect.

The second yarn I’m sharing with you tonight is brand spanking new, as it just arrived this week in the mail. It hails all the way from New Zealand, and it’s a from a little company called Skeinz. Skeinz is actually the in-house brand for a woolen mill in New Zealand called Design Spun, which is one of the three major mills in the country, and spins up a whole bunch of popular yarns. Their mill store is Skeinz, and they have slowly been expanding their wares and their branding. These little beauties are the product of that expansion.

Skeinz Perendale Premium Blend DK in Smokey Teal

This yarn is 100 percent Perendale wool in a really fabulous colorway called Smokey Teal. The color is slightly brighter than a petrol blue, and the fiber is simply fantastic. I’d never heard of Perendale wool, which is what first intrigued me about the yarn, so I immediately looked it up. According to the American Sheep Industry Association

The Perendale originated in New Zealand from crossing the Border Cheviot with the Romney breed. They are an open-faced, medium-framed breed that produces bright, lofty, long-stapled, medium-wool fleeces. Developed as an easy-care sheep, they are both hardy and highly adapted to marginal forage-producing areas.

I’m excited about the idea of the long staple, which is similar to Blue-Faced Leicester wool. A long staple means that whatever I make out of this wool will pill less, thereby lasting longer. It’s both sturdy and soft with a great body, and the best part is that this yarn is really affordable. Not only is the US dollar stronger than the NZ dollar right now, but the shipping to the US for a sweater’s quantity of yarn is only like $8, which is sometimes what you pay for Priority shipping within the US.

Now you can imagine what happened with this yarn. As soon as my three skeins arrived I squished them and said out loud, “I must have more.” I contacted the woman I’d swapped with to get these, and begged her to give me everything she had. It was a little bit like a druggie saying, “Hit me up, man!” A sweater’s worth of yarn in Smokey Teal may just be in the mail to me next week.

Skeinz Perendale Premium Blend in Smokey Teal

My third skein is actually something of a surprise to me, at least with the “loving it” factor. Now, everyone knows I’m a huge fan of Manos del Uruguay yarns, and if you give me a minute I’ll talk your ear off about them for ten. I know plenty of people that are Malabrigo Junkies, but I’ve never fallen into that category. It may have something to do with the fact that my Malabrigo socks got holes in them immediately. But that’s another story. I think that Malabrigo’s new Twist base is worming its way into my heart – literally! Just look at this wormy, squishy skein:

Malabrigo Twist in Liquid Ambar

I got this yarn at Eat.Sleep.Knit. this week, a sort of extra thing I tossed in my buggy at the last minute to use up my gift certificate there. I fully expected that I would wax poetic to you about the Sanguine Gryphon Bugga that I had purchased in that order. But while my new Bugga is gorgeous and lovely and I’m thrilled that ESK is now selling it, somehow this new yarn just has me all twisted up.

Malabrigo Twist is a rich, warm and squishy aran weight baby merino wool yarn that has 8 plies for added strength. It comes in a bajillion gorgeous colorways, and I find 150 yards an acceptable yardage for this gorgeous handpainted effect. As is typical with things I fall in love with, I’ve just gone back to the Eat.Sleep.Knit. website and moaned a little over the 2 skeins that are left. I’ll resist, though. For now.

Ok, that ends our grand tour of my stash for this month. Thanks for taking that little stroll with me through my newest stash acquisitions!

My Swappy, Scrappy, Oversized Scarf

So once upon a time I saw this fantabulous scarf that a friend had knit in the linen stitch pattern. It was thin and long and highly variegated and looked like it had been woven and she had knit it out of a ton of fingering weight scraps. I was enchanted. So enthralled, in fact, that when she offered the scarf up in a swap I claimed it in a snap. But though I loved it, I wanted more. The thin scarf wasn’t enough to whet my appetite, and as winter approached, I decided I needed to make one of my own.

So come January, after a few weeks of collecting yarn scraps, I started knitting my shawlscarf. Linen stitch and knitting lengthwise was a completely new territory for me, and I vastly underrated (or overrated, depending how you look at it) how much yarn and stitches I would need to complete this scarf. So in my enthusiasm, I cast on 600 stitches. I know. I am insane.

There was a definite learning curve, and I certainly had to frog early on, but I kept plugging away. Part of the reason this scarf just never stopped is because I am meticulous, and wanted my colors to blend properly. And so I found myself with A LOT of yarn. I worked off and on for 12 months to make this scarf. There reached a point where I knew I should stop but I wanted to fit in all of the awesome yarns I had accumulated, so I didn’t stop!

But finally, after almost a year, I came down to the end. I cut myself off, I chose an end yarn, and I finished it. It. Is. Finished. Stick a fork in it. My Swappy, Scrappy Oversized Scarf used over 2,000 yards of fingering weight yarns (not all are listed, as some were unknown) and is absolutely perfect. Wide enough to cover my ears, nose and throat but with a thin enough fabric to scrunch when I need it to. As I was knitting it, I wasn’t sure if I was crazy or inspired, so to have the finished product be exactly what I wanted makes me inordinately pleased. I started this Jan. 29, 2010 and my goal was to finish it up before it’s one year anniversary. I did it, finishing while visiting a friend on Jan. 15, 2011. Yey!

I must say that this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever knit. I’m not one for wildly variegated colors and crazy, off-the-wall fabrics, or anything like that. But I just couldn’t stop knitting this. I love it. 🙂 Oh! The crazy teacup pin was a Christmas gift and comes from this off-the-wall Etsy shop called TillyBloom.

Stash Storage 2011

I photographed my stash storage situation last January, and thought that this was an appropriate time to repeat the process … and assess the damage. cough Yeah, I’m slightly embarrassed about how much bigger my stash has gotten!

Stash Storage 2011

Left Stack
– The green plaid bag I bought in Mehico is up at the tip-top, and that is full of fiber for spinning, which, since I swapped most of it away, is basically a bunch of little wee bits from Phat Fiber boxes. Below that is a bin about half-full of Manos. That reminds me I should be collecting it more. 😉
– Underneath that is a new bin containing silk and rayon. They used to share a bin with my cotton, but I…collected too much cotton. Anyways, rayon needs to breathe for best preservation, so there’s plenty of space in a bin all to themselves. Half-full.
– Next bin down. Cotton. Cotton, cotton and more cotton. I do like cotton. This bin is packed. No more cotton for me.
– Sweater yarns are on the bottom. I think that large container has my Noro Silk Garden for my shawl and the Misti Alpaca Chunky I have saved for a cardigan. Basically, I keep big lots in the big sweater bins, even if they aren’t technically sweaters. Mostly full.
– My large canvas bag of acrylic, sock scraps, and LYS novelty yarns didn;t make it into the picture. So sad! Half-full.

Center Stack
– My little alpaca bin is on the top. It actually isn’t as full as it should be, in my mind. But that’s only because I have a ton of alpaca that was moved into sweater bins, so these little one-offs hang out here. Also stores my exotics, such camel, llama, and cashmere. Half-full.
– My Big Wool bin is next. This contains any wool yarn that is sportweight or up. I’ve got a nice little corner in it designated for handspuns, and also my Blue Heron merino silk hangs out here. Another one of my most-used bins, which is why it’s in a handy to reach place. Three-fourths full.
– More sweater yarn. Moving on. Mostly full.
– The bottom bin contains my neglected mohair and angora. I keep them there together because they are both sheddy, and I figure that they can shed on each other instead of everything else. 😉 Half full.

Right Stack
– Ah, here we are at my sock and lace yarns. Please note that the top bin lid is not closed. Because it is too full. That bin contains my 100% wool sock yarns. I’ve pared it down and down and down and everything in there I have earmarked for a sock project. Full.
– The next bin is my nylon sock bin. This bin contains sock yarns that are blends. Most have nylon in them, but I think one or two have rayon instead, and since that is a strengthening fiber as well, I keep it together. This bin size actually used to be flip-flopped with the 100% sock bin, but I decided after my hole-y disaster with my Malabrigo socks that I would switch them, in an effort to increase my nylons and decrease my 100s. Half-full.
– The third bin down is smaller and even though it says “Non-Sock” it actually does contain sock yarns. But these are yarns that are either not suitable for socks or have been either designated for non-sock projects. My Queensborough Laurel’s Lofty is stored here, for example, as well as all of my shawl yarns. Mostly full.
– The bottom bin is all laceweight, all the time. Lord knows why I have so much lace! Actually, I do know, it’s because a bunch of it is for my Earth Striped Wrap, so all that Kidsilk Haze takes up a lot of space. Full.

Ok, that’s all! Next time I’ll try to post about some of the projects I’ve finished up lately.

Too hot to knit

It’s been too hot to knit. Even in air conditioning, with my limbs freezing, the wool slipping through my fingers makes me sweaty and uncomfortable. I’m trying to finish a boatload of projects – among them, my ill-fated Lost Scarf (it was supposed to be finished during the finale of LOST but a shortage of yarn led to its abrupt hibernation) and several tiny projects, that, if I just focused on one of them a day, I’d quickly whip into shape. But, like Alanis said, it’s just been too hot to hold any yarn, so instead I’ve found myself expressing my creativity in other venues – namely, making more stitch markers!

Enjoy another picture-heavy post (I swear, they all are these days) and remember, you can check out more of my work in my Etsy shop, Exchanging Fire, or click on the photo of the stitch marker set that attracts you to follow the link to that particular listing.

Take My Breath Away
“At the end of the day, faith is a funny thing. It turns up when you don't really expect it. See, once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you, and once in a while people may even take your breath away.” - Meredith Grey, Grey's Antaomy



Sunshine Flows
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir



Dappled in Violet Twilight
“Inside, the cathedral is a Gothic forest dappled in violet twilight and vast with quiet.” - Wendy Insinger



Time Enough in the Desert Hills
”This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.” - Mary Austin



Mad Honey Disease
”There is a toxin, refined from the nectar of the rhododendron ponticus, infamous in the region of Turkey bordering the Black Sea for its ability to induce an apparently mortal paralysis. Enough to deceive even a medical mind as tenacious and well-trained as yours. It's known locally as...mad honey disease. What's wrong with Gladstone? Oh, he's just demonstrating the very effect I just described. He doesn't mind.” - Holmes in Sherlock Holmes, the movie

To Defend Your Knit

So this weekend my church had a rummage sale, and I scored two fabulous WWII-era knitting booklets. While I don’t have much interest in most of the patterns inside of them, I do love anything to do with every day historical pieces such as this, so I read these front to back anyways. And I found some gems! I’ve decided to share a couple of the patterns with everyone.

The first book I came upon was called “Knit for Defense,” a title that makes me want to salute and say “aten-shun!” It’s a Coats and Clark book from 1941 that features Chadwick’s Red Heart Knitting Worsted yarn, which is, shockingly, a wool fiber (Yes, Red Heart did once upon a time sell wool, and only wool). There are a variety of ridiculous patterns and images in it, such as knit helmets and chest protectors and male models looking noble while they hold cigarettes and pipes, but towards the back I found two great sock patterns that got me slightly excited. They are very nice, very basic, and I actually want to knit one of them up as soon as I find some appropriate yarn for them. I’ve put a few notes in brackets to help modern day users make them more easily, though I tried to preserve the look of the original, which is why you’ll see some amusing abbreviations. I hope you enjoy them!

Plain Sock No. S-112
“Men never have enough socks. These comfortable and warm socks are absolutely tops for correctness in the Service.”

Materials:
Chadwick’s Red Heart Knitting Worsted, [or any dk to light worsted weight wool yarn that gives you gauge]. 3 skeins (2 oz. skeins) for each size).
4 double-pointed bone knitting needles No. 5, (4 mm.) size [size 6 US].
Gauge: 5 and 1/2 sts makes 1 inch, 7 rnds make 1 inch [22 stitches and 28 rows over 4 inches].
Sizes: Small (Medium, Large)

Cast on 50 sts loosely. Divide sts on 3 needles and join, being careful not to twist. Work around tightly in ribbing of k 1, p 1 for 4 inches, decreasing on last rnd of ribbing to 44 sts (46 sts, 48 sts).
Work around in stockinette stitch (k each rnd) for 2 1/2″ (3″, 3″).
Next rnd: *K 1, k 2 tog., k around to within last 3 sts of rnd. Then sl 1, k 1, p.s.s.o., k 1. Work 1 inches straight. Repeat from * once more. There are now on needles 40 sts (42 sts, 44 sts).
Work straight until piece measures, in all, 10 1/2″ (11″, 11 1/2″.)
With spare needle, knit from first needle 9 sts (10 sts, 11 sts).
Slip from 3rd needles onto other end of spare needle (for heel) 9 sts (10 sts, 11 sts).
Divide between 2nd and 3rd needles (for instep) the remaining 22 sts. Turn and work over the heel sts only, as follows: 1st row: * Sl 1, p 1. Repeat from * across. 2nd row: Sl 1, k to end. Repeat these 2 rows alternately for 20 rows (22 rows, 24 rows).
Next row: Right side facing, sl 1 st, knit 9 sts (10 sts, 11 sts).
K 2 tog., k 1, turn. Sl 1, p 3, p 2 tog., p 1, turn. Sl 1, k 4, k 2 tog., k 1, turn. Sl 1, p 5, p 2 tog., p 1, turn. Continue in this manner, always working 1 st more on each row before deceasing, until there remain 10 sts (12 sts, 12 sts).
K 1 row. Slip all instep sts onto 1 needle. With free needle, pick up along left side of heel 11 sts (12 sts, 13 sts).
With 2nd needle, k across the instep sts. With 3rd needle, pick up along other side of heel 11 sts (12 sts, 13 sts).
With same needle, k across half of the heel sts. Slip the remaining heel sts onto the first needle. There are now on each heel needle 16 sts (18 sts, 19 sts).
Dec. for instep as follows: 1st rnd: Knit around. 2nd rnd: On first needle k to 3 sts from end, then k 2 tog., k 1. 2nd needle: K across. On 3rd needle, k 1, sl 1, k 1, p.s.s.o., k to end of rnd. Repeat these 2 rnds alternately, until there remain 40 sts (42 sts, 44 sts).
Work straight, until piece measures (from back to heel) 8 1/2″ (9 1/2″, 10 1/2″). Or two inches less than desired length, when completed.
To shape toe: 1st rnd: K to within last 3 sts on 1st needle, k 2 tog., k 1. On 2nd needle, k 1, sl 1, k 1, p.s.s.o., k across to last 3 sts from end of needle, k 2 tog., k 1. On 3rd needle, k 1, sl 1, k 1, p.s.s.o., k to end of needle. 2nd rnd: K around. Repeat these 2 rnds alternately, until there remain 12 sts (14 sts, 16 sts). Weave these sts together; or bind off, fold and sew.
Press through damp cloth with hot iron.

Spiral Sock No. S-111
“These spirals are easy and so much fun to make. Besides, the absence of a definite heel makes them wear like iron.”

Materials:
Chadwick’s Red Heart Knitting Worsted, [or any dk to light worsted weight wool yarn that gives you gauge]. 3 skeins (2 oz. skeins) for each size).
4 double-pointed bone knitting needles No. 5, (4 mm.) size [size 6 US].
Gauge: 8 rnds make 1 inch [32 rows over 4 inches].
Sizes: Small (Medium, Large)

Cast on 48 sts loosely. Divide sts on 3 needles, join, being careful not to twist and work around in ribbing of k 2, p 2 for 3 inches. Work in patterns as follows: 1st to 4th rnds incl: * K 4, p 4. Repeat from * around. 5th to 8th rnds incl: K 3, * p 4, k 4. Repeat from * around, ending with k 1. 9th to 12th rnds incl: K 2, * p 4, k 4. Repeart from * around, ending with k 2. 13th to 16th rnds incl: K 1, * p 4, k 4. Repeat from * around, ending with k 3. 17th to 20th rnds incl: * P 4, k 4. Repeat from * around. 21th to 24th rnds incl: P 3, * k 4, p 4. Repeat from * around, ending with p 1. 25th to 28th rnds incl: P 2, * k 4, p 4. Repeat from * around, ending with p 2. 29th to 32th rnds incl: P 1, * k 4, p 4. Repeat from * around, this moving 1 st every 4th rnd to work Spiral Pattern. Work in pattern until piece measures, in all, 19 inches for small size, 20 inches for medium size, or 21 inches for large size. Work 1/2 inch straight in stockinette stitch (k each rnd).
To Shape Toe: 1st rnd: * K 6, k 2 tog. Repeat from * around. Work 2 rnds straight. 4th rnd: * K 5, k 2 tog. Repeat from * around. Work 2 rnds straight. Continue thus, knitting 2 rnds straight between each dec. rnd 3 more times. Work 1 rnd straight on remaining 18 sts. Weave sts together; or bind off, fold and sew.

Playing around with handspun fun

So, I recently received some lovely handspun in the mail as a gift. It’s truly lovely. I mean gorgeous. It’s a great, super-soft blend of seacell and merino, with a nice, even twist, great color depth and gentle variations.  I think it’s fabulous. For those of you interested, it was handspun by a fellow Raveler named capsforqueers, and her yarns are amazing.

Anyways, this yarn is great but it has one little flaw. There isn’t much of it. At 98 yards, it’s only about 65 grams worth of yarn. This, obviously, doesn’t make many knitted items. I had a couple of appropriate “small skein” patterns picked out for it, but when the yarn arrived I realized that the patterns I had thought were so great for the yardage, they weren’t really appropriate for the handspun.

So I made up  my own pattern! Well, to put it correctly, I am currently “making” up my own pattern. It’s not quite finished yet, and every once and a while I hit a roadblock and find myself scolding it quite ferociously. This yarn stands up to frogging and tinking quite well!

I’m pairing it with some lovely Reynold’s Rapture in a dark pink and the two together look amazing. The idea is to take two yarns that have very short yardages but complement each other and put them together to create a truly unique and “stinkin’ cute” design. Stay tuned for more news shortly!