Knitting with mismatched Malabrigo

This Malabrigo Finito is a trickster. First  of all, it snuck into my stash in a most surprising way. Knitting Union is a collaboration of three great designers: Tonia Barry, Susan Mills, and Kim Barnette. In 2019, Knitting Union sponsored a summer-long knit-a-long. You got one entry for the prize basket for each Knitting Union item you knit during the KAL. Well, I can be a bit prolific. Plus three months is a long time. I ended up inadvertently stuffing the prize box because I really do like a lot of their patterns. It turned out that I won the basket. It was filled with a wonderful assortment of yarn and knit-related goodies, including just over 1000 yards of Malabrigo Finito, a fingering weight merino.

Malabrigo does not come in dye lots. I am not meaning to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the photo above is true to the color of my Glitter colorway–at least on my screen. You can probably spot the problem. The bottom three skeins are a fairly close match. The 4th skein from the bottom is a good bit darker than the bottom three. And the top skein is in between. Conventional knitting wisdom says I should have alternated the skeins. Oh please. I just hate doing that! The few times I’ve tried it, it turned out to be an unpleasant tangle and an unpleasant knit. I had the idea, undoubtedly not a new one, that the right pattern could hide the differences between the skein somewhat effectively.

I have to apologize that the color of the Glitter colorway is going to bounce around in this post. It simply refused to cooperate in consistently photographing the way the eye sees the colors. I tried it outside. I tried it inside. I tried it on a cloudy day. I tried it on a sunny day. Same for natural light and artificial. So prepare for the color of this yarn bouncing around through this post. The yarn is the brown shade you see above. It is not as gold as my finished shawl photos make it appear. And, despite its name, there are no sparkles in Glitter.

This is Helen Stewart’s Floating Shawl. She’s Hells Bells on Ravelry. Stewart is a very prolific Australian designer who I did not know until Floating Shawl made its way into my queue. It has all the traits I look for in a good shawl pattern. It is generously sized. After blocking, mine is 24 inches at its deepest point and measures 56 inches across the top. It is a mix of an easy relaxing knit with slightly more challenging sections. And the crescent shape assures that I don’t have the point of a triangle aimed right at my butt. Perfect.

Floating Shawl gave me some good ways to hide the fact that my Malabrigo skeins didn’t match.  Here’s what worked well for me and involved almost none of the dreaded alternating skeins. I started at the neck edge with the lighter two skeins. Moving from light to dark helped make the color changes look like a planned progression. I started a third skein in just after an eyelet row, a sort of natural divide. Then, over 6 garter ridges, I alternated that 3rd skein with one of the lighter ones. I started a 4th skein at the lace section, another natural divide where the eye can be tricked into seeing the new pattern rather than the new shade.  And then I used the final skein at the start of the last garter stitch section all the way to the end of the picot bind-off. This was only possible because (as reported by a few other Ravelers) this shawl took closer to 800 yards than the 950 the pattern called for. And I had 1000 yards in my 5 skeins.

Floating Shawl turned out to be a calm, relaxing knit. I thought that the lace section, with more than 500 stitches, would be difficult. It wasn’t. Every wrong side row was the same easy repeat. In the first lace row I set markers every 16-stitch repeat. That worked out well.

What did I do with my extra Finito? These fingerless mitts are Melanie Berg’s fingering weight freebie: Rainy Day Mitts.

I used 48 grams of yarn for this pair, including the weight of 8 rounds of the blue star stitch detailing.

My only modifications were that I added 2 rounds to the hand area just below the top ribbing. I’d have added a few more rounds but I wasn’t sure of my yardage. And I picked up 7 stitches in the gap area of the thumb, rather than the 5 that the pattern called for.  My gap just wanted more stitches picked up. In the 6th round of the thumb, just before beginning the ribbing, I decreased 2 stitches on the gap side so that the 2 by 2 ribbing before the cast-off would line up properly.

Now, how did I hide the differences in the colorway? I didn’t. Not one bit. If anyone decides to point that out while I’m wearing them my fingers will be free to tweak their upturned nose.

I was prepared to not be pleased with these mitts. The pattern just looked a little long in the wrist and plain in the design.  But, just the opposite, it turns out that I really like this pair. I’m happily keeping them for me. And the sweet star detailing is just enough to dress these up.

A sad knitting story

I attended a knitting retreat in late 2018 and was totally gobsmacked by the beautiful colors of Sun Valley Fibers MCN Fingering weight. Such depth of color. Such choice of colors. This is what I purchased, influenced by the sample of Melanie Berg’s On the Spice Market that the booth showed in exactly these colors:

That’s surely enough to make any yarnie get the needles clicking.

Berg’s pattern is beautiful. I’d had it in my queue to knit almost from the time it was first released. I’m a big fan of mosaic knitting, which is what that middle section is.

I had a blast knitting this and thought I’d done a good job of working up my Spice Market.

As my favorite 4-year old would say, “Ta da!”

I debated about whether I should wet block the shawl. I often don’t block garter stitch, but it looked to me like the sections of wider color blocks at each end of the shawl could use some evening out. So I put the shawl in cold water to settle into a soak. I returned to the basin within a few minutes to see if the shawl was sinking and saw that vivid red dye had leached into the water. I removed the shawl from the water within 5 minutes of gently starting the soak.

This photo doesn’t quite do justice to how much the antler shade was stained pink. But when your eyeballs  compared the off-white sections on the red end with the off-white sections on the green side, the definitely pink cast was very obvious. And the red leachate looked particularly bad in the narrow strip of off-white between the two reddish blocks near the end of the shawl.

Knowing I might try to remedy this, somehow, I carefully dried the shawl flat–with no application of heat. Not from the furnace heating vent. Not even from the sun.

I consulted the yarn gurus on one of the main Ravelry forums and heard that some have had success removing dye by re-washing the garment using Shout ColorCatcher. This stuff:

The sheets are meant to be placed in the washing machine to catch color.

After crying in my diet Coke for a few weeks, I filled my sink basin with cold water, dropped a color catcher in, and then added the shawl. The color catcher sheet almost instantly turned a deep pink, as tons more dye leached out. I quickly removed the shawl, cleared the basin, refilled it with cold water and another sheet. I added the shawl and AGAIN, the basin filled with red and the color catcher was overwhelmed with pink. I used about 20 basins of water and 14 color catcher sheets before I gave up. The sheet (and the water) eventually turned a lighter shade of pink.

Here’s what my Spice Market turned into:

All of the antler shade, the off-white, picked up some dye and turned sort of dull looking.

 

And the red end of my Spice Market? A particularly yucky shade of pinkiness. I’m confident you feel my pain.

I reviewed the yarn on Ravelry and commented on the dye run off in early June. Another knitter, 2 months before me, had the same problem with the same string of shades and her On the Spice Market. There’s no reply from the company on either of our Ravelry reviews. I also private-messaged the company through Ravelry on June 2nd and have yet to receive a reply. Disappointing.

I believe I’ll likely knit another On the Spice Market. It’s a wonderful shawl pattern. I won’t use Sun Valley Fibers MCN fingering though. And color catchers doubtless have some wonderful uses. I can confidently say that they definitely sop up dye. But, for this yarn, not enough and not fast enough. I am not a happy camper. I own two other skeins of this yarn, both in strong colors. I intended to use them together. I’ll not be doing that.

I also recently washed my Crimson Leaves Cowl knit in the same yarn, in Sun Valley Fibers crimson leaves colorway. I washed it in cold water and Euculan. It bled dye like the proverbial stuck pig.

Drachenfels and Summa Stripes

This is Melanie Berg’s Drachenfels. It’s named after Germany’s Dragon Rock. Wikipedia describes Drachenfels as a hill between Königswinter and Bad Honef in Germany, in the North Rhine-Westphalia area. My, my. This is exciting. I not only made a pretty nice shawl, but I’ve also learned how to type an umlaut on my Mac keyboard. (Option key, the letter “u,” then type the letter you need umlauted.)

Berg’s pattern is available for purchase on Ravelry. But my copy was included in a kit from Craftsy. The kit is still available, for $23.40. $23.40. How can they do that? The pattern alone sells for about $5.40. I purchased the “Air” kit: Caribbean, Moss, and Oatmeal Heather. When the kit arrived I bemoaned that I’d not purchased, Fire, Ice, Energy, Earth, or Water. Because I thought Moss and Caribbean would look awful together. I was wrong. It works.

The yarn is Cloudborn Fibers Highland Sport. 100% wool. I never heard of it before. But at this price, why not? The yarn is actually pretty nice. Much better than I expected. It’s not the softest yarn on the planet. And there are some fuzz balls to pick out here and there. But not many. And there were no knots. In a few places it was evident where a new strand had sort of been woven in. I made my own join instead. A spit splice worked great.

I am absolutely satisfied. I worked mine a bit under gauge because a few folks on Ravelry reported that they ran out of yarn with the Craftsy kit. But I had a lot of yarn left from each of the second hanks of each colorway. I used up 875 yards,

You must love garter stitch for this one. And I do. In fact, here’s another mostly garter stitch small shawl.

This one is by Meiju, of Meiju Knits. It’s her Summa Stripes Shawl pattern. Meiju is a talented Helsinki knitwear designer. I very much enjoyed knitting this one.

I used Shalimar Yarns Breathless, a DK weight in 75% wool, 15% cashmere goat, and 10% silk. Decadent, I know. In my defense, I purchased the yarn quite awhile ago, on sale. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Meiju uses a very interesting technique for carrying the yarn along the edge. You do a two-color knit in the front and knit in the back. Clever. I’ve already gotten a lot of wear out of this shawl.