Monday, April 16, 2007

Faina, I just met a girl named Faina

Are you all humming West Side Story now? Then my job here is finished.

Faina's Scarf

Yarn: Blue Sky Alpacas Royal Alpaca, color 707, Patina, which I overdyed grass green. 288 yards/100g per skein, 2 skeins. I had 22g left over - about 60 yards.

Needles: Crystal Palace bamboo circulars, 3.5 mm (US 4)

Pattern: Faina's Scarf, available from Fiber Trends. Knit as part of the Faina Scarf-along!

Mofications: None besides my modified SSKs (explained below).

Notes about the yarn:
This stuff is fantastically, rub-your-cheek-against-it soft. I admit, had a gift certificate and splurged. I'm a little embarassed about the cost but this yarn is awfully nice stuff. Wen worked a project with it and thought it was softer than the cashmere she was using for a differnt project.

The alpaca's got a gorgeous drape to it. However, there's this one incongruous thing: as soft as it is to touch, it's just a little bit scratchy on my neck. Stupid neck. Enh, not scratchy enough that I care. I did manage to fluff it up a bit during the dyeing process, perhaps that's the cause.

The patina color was more brown than I was expecting, so I overdyed the yarn with an emerald green mix (1/2 primary yellow, 1/2 primary blue), hoping I would get mostly vibrant green toned down a bit by the brownish base color. I used Jacquard Acid Dyes purchased from Dharma Trading Co. I'm very pleased with the final color. In the pictures you can see some subtle shading, which is what I get when I try to dye wool yarn a solid color but I like the very small variegation.

For some inexplicable reason it's very hard to capture the color as I see it. Even natural light and neutral background doesn't do it. On the other hand, the yarn looks different even to me in different lights (I LOVE colors that do that), so I shouldn't be too hard on the camera. This blocking picture isn't soooo far off:

This yarn doesn't take a lot of frogging. After 3 ripped out beginnings, my cast-on was looking a little tired. The yarn didn't seem spun particularly tightly (who'd do that to gorgeous, drapey alpaca, anyway.)

Notes about the needles:
I used the same size needle as recommended. I probably could've gone down a size (or 2) but I liked the fabric produced with the 3.5 mm. I prefer bamboo or wood for lace; they are grabbier than metal, I naturally knit lace loosely, and I like to have more purchase on all those YOs and passovers. Bamboo also gives me a bit better control over stitch shape. I use circs almost entirely because I'm a big klutz and if I can drop a needle somewhere inconvenient, I will.

Notes about the pattern:
Very nice, well written, and not too difficult. I didn't run across any errors. At first, it seems as if a many-row-repeat (was it 100?) would be hell, but this one is very predictable. Not that I was able to memorize it, but I didn't have to watch the chart for every stitch after I finished the first body repeat. It's also very clear when you've made a mistake and forgotten a yarn over, and slightly less clear but still obvious when you've done a decrease wrong (or forgotten one). The stitch count stays constant each row during the body. I found the best preventative for errors was to stop and admire frequently.

I did modify the SSKs. I ripped out the beginning several times, once because my left-facing decreases (the SSKs) looked very sloppy. Instead of:
slip-as-if-to-knit, slip-as-if-to-knit, transfer both back to the left needle then knit them together through the back loop, I did:
slip-as-if-to-purl, slip-as-if-to-knit, transfer both back to the left needle then knit them together through the back loop.
I got this idea from the book Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets, Expanded from the Editors of Threads. For some reason, this straightened out my leftware decreases. They're not perfect, but they're not sloppy-looking either.

Old SSKs

New S(p)SKs

I've never slipped every stitch of every row before for a selvedge, and I found with this lace I had to be EXTREMELY loose in slipping the first stitch or the edging was far too tight. This was especially true for the beginning and end of the scarf, where the stitch count is increasing and decreasing, respectively. I ripped out the beginning a couple times because I was not allowing enough give on the edges.

I wove the ends in because my Russian joins look like crap with plied yarn. The yarn is fuzzy enough to grip itself firmly, and the ends are hidden either along the cast-on edge, cast-off edge, or in the seed stitch border and don't show at all. I was unhappy about how crappy my cast-on looked, so I used the weaving-in-the-ends opportunity to make it look a little better. The fringe also helps hide some of it.

Fringing! This was my first fringed scarf and I actually enjoyed it, despite the fringe boredom I've heard of. I made my fringe groups 3 strands each, about 21" length before folding in half. I chose to do fewer fringes than the picture, but did 4 instead of 3 fringes across the bottom (I learned this from quilting: if you try to divide something into 2 equal parts, it's very obvious if the middle line is even slightly off. Dividing an area into 3 instead of 2 makes the lines dividing the sections much less noticeable).

I fringed every 4th stitch up the sides, and I specifically did not tighten any of the knots until I had the fringe exactly how I wanted it. Then I tied the lower knots so that I liked them, then trimmed each grouping to approximately the same length from the scarf. Can you tell I'm anal-retentive about my fringe? It's like a Rorschach blot test, except I don't know what it says about my personality that I Enjoy the Fringe.

Blocking: I don't have blocking wires, so I used the thread-crochet-cotton-up-each-side method to get a mostly-crisp edge. Blocking helped to orthogonalize the wonky stockinette stitches, although it did nothing for my decreases. Alpaca doesn't have any give like wool does, so it's easy to get messy stockinette.

Also: wet alpaca smells BAD. I don't care how royal it is. Yes, I did a full, submerged-in-water wet block.

All in all, a fun knit! It went much faster after that first body repeat, once I realized the logical progressions of the pattern. Me and my glamorous Faina! (y'all can just ignore the head. Also, when did I turn blond?)


Carole Knits said...

Thanks for all the details. It's absolutely gorgeous!

Joan said...

It's always nice to read a new post from you, and the lovely Faina is a great bonus. Congrats!

Terri said...


Thank you for sharing all the little details.

pacalaga said...

Very very nice. Are you the first Faina finisher? Augh, now La will be on my case to work on mine... ;-)

Jenn said...


And I love Blue Sky's Royal too... I haven't been able to bring myself to buy any yet. I'll live vicariously through you for a while! :)

lori said...

Oh, that's just beautiful! I frogged half a Faina, early in my knitting life, because of sloppy SSK's. Now you've inspired me to get it back out and try again. Thanks! For the pictures, and the details.

kmkat said...

Faina is gorgeous. You did a lovely dye job. And I especially like the blocking photo, where the pattern looks 3D!

Kristen said...

Wow, that was detailed. Amazing work - AMAZING! Was there a contest? Did you win? Because yours is the first finished Faina (alliteration!) I've seen so far. It's beautiful.

I've heard of (and done it myself) slipping the SECOND stitch of a SSK purlwise, but not the first. I'll try that the next time I feel like my SSKs aren't matching the beauty of my K2togs.