Sunday, July 23, 2006

Blanket Fever

Thanks to the lovely Ann & Kay of Mason-Dixon Knitting and to their recently-published book, there's been a virtual blanket-knitting craze, as of late.

Case in point:

And many, many, many other knitters and knit-bloggers are doing the same.

But perhaps none as prolific as Tilkkusisko from Finland, who has knit and/or pieced together a whopping 107 blankets and counting! Not all are log cabins or mitered squares, but all are unique and beautiful. You can view all 107 blankets, spread across three albums, here. (Warning: to those on dial-up -- her albums & photos load slowwwwwly).

I'm floored. Amazed. If you read her blog you'll see that her profusion of knitted squares and rectangles stemmed from a bout of severe depression from which she has since recovered. Tilkkusisko is a living example that, from great pain can come great beauty. And all those lovely blankets are being donated to charity.

Part of me gets the blanket-knitting craze: it's simple, mindless stockinette or garter stitch. It's a way to use up stash.

Part of me doesn't get it: it's boring, mindless, never-ending, stockinette or garter stitch. And they're blankets. In July. Hhhhhhhhhot.

I think I'll stick with sock-knitting for now.

But, I do want to knit a baby blanket, shawl, or throw sometime in the near future, but perhaps not until fall, when average daily highs are below 80ºF.

I go knit, off and on, with a prayer shawl knitting group at a nearby church, and although I love the idea of it, I really dislike the yarn that they use, which is typically the 100% acrylic, machine-washable, machine-dryable Lion Brand or Red Heart variety. I fully understand why this yarn is used - it's inexpensive, the resulting knitted item is easy-care, and the recipient therefore doesn't have to worry about hand-washing or dry cleaning, which is an unnecessary additional burden if they're ill or grieving. Also, some folks, especially if they're ill and receiving chemotherapy, can be particularly sensitive to animal fibers like wool.

But I hate knitting with acrylic yarns. And so I've been on a quest, for awhile, to find a perfect alternative yarn. My criteria are as follows:
  1. Non-wool
  2. Non-acrylic
  3. Bulky/Super-Bulky (preferably 2.5-3.0 stitches/inch) - for fast knitting
  4. Machine washable & dryable
  5. Reasonably affordable (can cost more than acrylics, but not as much as novelty yarns or cashmere)
A tall order, I know, and probably impossible to fill.

I think I might be on to something, though. KnitPicks has a bulky, 100% pima cotton yarn called Spinnaker that I've been eyeing for awhile. It meets criteria #'s 1 - 3. This week only, it meets requirement #5, as it's on sale for half price. Therefore, my only concern is requirement #4. Does this cotton yarn really require hand washing? Really?

And so, I'm in a quandary. Do I plunge in and buy up a shawl/throw/blanket's worth of that yarn while it's on sale and still available? Do I just buy a hank, knit a swatch, wash and dry it and see what's what? I can't wait too long, as the sale is over on the 28th and the yarn may even be sold out prior to that.

I've been searching the web over for reviews of this yarn. Searches on Google, Google Blog Search, and Knitter's Review, and questions posted to Knitty Coffeeshop and Knitter's Review Forums have yielded nothing. I even posted a question to our local knitting groups' Yahoo forums, also with very little response. Not one person in knitting cyberspace, that I can tell, has knit with this yarn and posted anything to the internet about it. (Perhaps that is why this yarn is on sale and perhaps doomed to discontinuation in the very near future.) Oh, I've found a few opinions, but every single one of those are from folks who have yet to touch or knit with the yarn, and therefore, in my opinion, don't count.

Is this yarn so horrible that no one has even been tempted to try it? Am I still too new a knitter to be able to screen it out via a more mature knitter's novelty-yarn goggles?

I'm just not sure.

Stay tuned - I will make some kind of decision before time runs out and may post it here.

Clara - where are you when I need you?


Robin said...

I'm with you Mary...I don't like the same yarns you mentioned nor do I like the thought of knitting a blanket in July, especially with the weather we've been having here lately!
However, I am thinking of Christmas and have started my 4th pair of socks! The thought of having a pile of wool in my lap with 90+ degree weather....yuk!
I've started putting all my "scrap" yarn in a bag for a log cabin "quilt"!
Keep Cool!!

Melanie said...

While I've not used Spinnaker, I have used Shine a LOT, and I wash and dry it with no problem. With cotton, as long as you wash it on the delicate cycle, it'll probably be ok. You know at least you won't felt it!

Also, my log cabin blanket is in TLC Cotton Plus, which I'm sure no MS&W vendor would stoop to selling (cotton and acrylic - oh my!) :-):-)

Krista said...

You could also knit something double if you find a yarn you like that doesn't meet your gauge.

I'll see if I can find someone whose used Spinnaker.

Liz said...

A few thoughts on Spinnaker. I personally find Cotton to be heavier than wool or acrylic. Bulky cotton? Even heavier. Seriously, a worsted weight cotton sweater will weigh a few pounds more than the same sweater in wool.

Your best bet may be a cotton acrylic or polyester blend. Sadly I don't know of any commercial yarns to recommend to you, but i thought I would add my thoughts.