Over the past couple of months, I have put a lot of time into knitting a car blanket for my father in law. It’s a lap-sized blanket made up of garter stitch squares (4 x 5) finished with an I cord border. The direction of knitting alternates with each square giving it a patchwork appearance. I’m going to knit and sew a pocket onto one edge that the blanket can be folded up into. I used all stash acrylic: three colors of Caron Simply Soft (black, black tweed and dark red) and some random grey yarn I picked up somewhere. The blacks give it a nice base and the red and grey are because my father in law is an Ohio fan*.
It was a little tricky to figure out how to construct the blanket without having to seam all the squares together. Ultimately, I just started with one square and left the stitches live on waste yarn. I picked up stitches along one of the selvedge edges and knit a second square. I kept doing that, leaving all stitches live, until eventually I had to attach the selvedge edge of a square I was knitting to the live stitches from the end of another square. In other words, I attached live knitting to stitches on waste yarn, but at right angles. Depending on how the squares were oriented in relation to each other, I just knit either the first or last stitch of every RS row together with one of the live stitches. It worked out well. Then, when all twenty squares were knit, they were all attached already and no seaming required! The outer edges were a combination of live stitches and selvedge edges. I just worked an attached I cord around the edge, picking up stitches from selvedges and working live stitches as they came. The end result looks very polished.
I don’t love acrylic in general, but it was the right choice for this project. I want it to be durable and machine washable. If it gets ruined, I don’t want to mourn the fiber that went into it (mourning the hours of work is bad enough). Working with the CSS was easy enough but working with the unlabeled grey acrylic? Absolutely awful. Turns out it is just a slightly heavier weight than the CSS so, when I used it, I went down a needle size to keep my gauge somewhat consistent. Knitting it at that gauge was truly hellish. It’s very coarse when knit up and has almost no give to it. It made my hands and arms sore to work with it for any length of time so I had to pace myself.
At one point, when the blanket was nearly done, I started second guessing myself. The grey yarn was just so different from the CSS. I looked at it closer. It had a slightly heathered appearance and some of the fiber looked kinky or curly. It was so very coarse. I started wondering who in their right mind would make such an awful acrylic yarn. It seemed a little too hairy to be acrylic. Maybe it was actually some crazy Shetland wool. Maybe, as soon as I washed the blanket, the grey squares would felt and ruin the whole project. Maybe my father in law would have some crazy allergic reaction to it and I’d never live it down (that would probably be worse than the time I broke my mother in law’s nose with my daughter’s head).
I figured I was crazy and just kept knitting. However, doubts lingered. Today, after I finished the I cord, I decided I had to know for sure, once and for all. I decided to do a burn test. Simple enough, and something that I’ve done any number of times. Usually, I hold a snippet of the yarn in the kitchen sink and burn one end of it. After a little bit of it has burned, I run water over it and then examine the charred bits. If they crumble away into soot, it’s a natural fiber. If they are melted together into a hard glob, it’s synthetic. I started off the same way today but, instead of using a lighter, I grabbed matches. I lit the yarn, watched it for a moment, and then somehow the decision making part of my brain punked out. I don’t know exactly what happened, but somehow I ended up trying to extinguish the yarn and get molten acrylic off my left hand, forgetting I still had a lit match in my right hand. Yikes. I escaped with two very minor burns on my left ring finger and the firm knowledge that the grey yarn is just the crappiest, nastiest acrylic known to knitting.
Looking at it now, it looks pretty clearly like a bulky weight yarn instead of aran. CSS is listed on rav as aran, but I find it works up like a regular worsted instead. Any lower quality acrylic knitted at such a tight gauge is going to feel pretty icky. I just psyched myself out! In any case, I have almost none of the grey yarn left, and the blanket is looking pretty sweet (as is my cute stripey model)!
In the meantime, I needed something new to knit. I’m nearly halfway done the Betsey shawl for my mother in law, but I’m finding it very hard to work on. Even though I have it on a 40″ circ, the stitches are still very bunched up and hard to slide. My hands get sore pretty quickly so I’m just working on it in small increments. I wanted something I could just cruise on, so I cast on for another Barley hat for one of my daughter’s besties.
I have the ball band for this yarn, so I won’t have to go through any dangerous shenanigans!
Happy (safe) knitting!
*Please note I don’t get involved in sports at all. I’m just customizing the gift for the recipient.