What’s on my Needles This Weekend (and a little bit of science)

May 1st marked the start of Kino Knits Graduate Your Stash KAL.  What is that you may ask? Well, Mary came up with a great idea – use the oldest thing in your stash whether it be yarn, fiber or a wip and finish it up during graduation season.  You can read about all the rules and prizes in her Ravely group.  I loved this from the minute she talked about it on her podcast.  I set of in search of my oldest yarn.  Two things to remember – 1. I’ve only been knitting for just about 13 years and 2. I didn’t really start accumulating yarn for the first few yearn.  I was more of a recreational knitter.  I didn’t realize that at some point you stop being able to knit all the new yarn you buy as fast as you buy it.

With those disclaimers – my oldest skein of yarn was from 2006.  It took awhile to confirm the date because the trip was pre-Facebook for me and I quickly learned that anything I can’t date on Facebook, I can’t date at all!  I also learned that my digital picture storage is a disaster that needs to be addressed soon, but I digress.  I went to Oregon with a knitting friend and we visited a yarn store in Eugene.  It might have been Soft Horizons Fibre but I’m not completely sure.  (note, this is where the second disclaimer comes in – I just figured I would knit it right away…)  Also, this was pre-Ravelry for me so I wasn’t really tracking any of my knitting or yarn store visiting.  Anyway, I bought this awesome skein of yarn and all the hand-written tag said was “Labrador”, 200 yards, $28.  Nothing about fiber content. I feel like I bought it because it was unique and made there at the store but who knows??  I wound it into a ball and what a ball it is!

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It looks kind of woolly – it’s got fibers at least.  I searched Ravelry for a pattern and found a free pattern called Stash Busting Project Bags and Bowls which just happens to be written by my friend Molly in California so that was fun!  It’s a great free pattern for felted bags and bowls – there are five total options and she does the yarn requirements by weight so you can use up that stash!

Right after I wound the ball I took the yarn ties from the skein, put them under hot water and used my scrubbie sponge to agitate them.  It looked like they were thinking of felting and they definitely smelled like wet wool so I forged ahead.  But, I need to know if this yarn will felt.  So, I posted a picture of the bowl I started on Instagram and got some interesting suggestions.

My blogging and Instagram friend Missy, from Missy’s Crafty Mess mentioned both the burn and bleach tests to determine fiber content.  I did a little research and set off to experiment.  I started with the bleach last night.  Basically, you snip off a couple inch piece of yarn, place it in a glass jar, put a tablespoon of bleach over it, put the lid on and wait and see what happens.  From what I read, if it was fizzing that was a good sign.  Leave it overnight and if in the morning there is no more yarn then it should be wool.  I definitely had fizzing going on not long after capping the “jar” (the only glass container with a lid that I had was a salad dressing bottle…).  This morning there was still yarn left in the jar but it was very broken down and there was not much left to it which leads me to think there may be some other fiber mixed in with the wool.

This morning my Dad was coming over and I asked him to come a few minutes early because I needed to burn some yarn and take pictures so was in desperate need of a third hand.  I set it up with a big glass bowl and a large cup of water (for safety) and I cut a piece of yarn about six inches long and then took my candle lighter to it.    While it’s burning you note whether is self-extinguishes,  the smell, the flame and what remains to try and determine fiber content.  I found a great fiber burn chart on ditzyprints.com.  The yarn did extinguish when the flame was removed and it did smell really awful.  What remained was the yarn – I felt like I was charring a pepper because every time it burned I could scrape off the char and find more yarn underneath so it did not fall neatly in any of the burn chart boxes.

You can see how small of a flame there was – it never really “caught fire” and these embers were what remained and the fibers are still very intact under the char.  I’m pretty convinced at this point that it is mostly wool but there is either some other fiber spun in or there is some sort of coating on the yarn.

I finished a bowl with the yarn and may attempt to felt it tomorrow while I’m home doing a ton of other things.  Fingers crossed it will felt!  If it does I will use up the rest of the yarn making additional bowls.  I’ve decided to start a gift/donation box of knit items so when I need a gift or someone asks for a donation I can go to my box and pull something out. These will make great gifts, if they actually felt!  If not, back to the drawing board for a new pattern for what’s left of this mystery yarn.

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