11 June 2017

Persistent and Stubborn

It all started with cleaning out the stash.

After I acquired significant new stash at the fire sale, I needed to put it all away. I do have a wall of not one but two Ikea 5×5 cubbies. That's 50 cubbies! (By the way, while you can fit two of these flat-packed into a 2007 Honda fit along with yourself and a 6'2" cuddly hubby, it is maybe not the best idea. Re-roll that Wisdom check.) Revisiting the stash reminded me of dreamed-about projects yet unrealized. And I needed to use up yarn and fiber so I could make more room. There were six skeins of Noro Kureyon Big, a bulky-weight yarn. I knew I wanted them to become an up-sized Jester Tentacles Bag. As that looked like a quick way to generate open storage space, I gleefully cast on.

I had made a previous Jester Tentacles Bag that turned out too small to be useful. This time, I changed the math a little from what Cat Bordhi wrote:
MCO 70 90 becomes 140 180
     k 75 95
   wy 25 35
     k 5 (unchanged)
   wy 35 45

I worked the möbius cast-on. I made the strap. I made the interior bag at the same size as the outer bag in the original pattern. I worked three of the eight tentacles. And by this point, I had used up 4½ skeins. I began to suspect I might need another skein. I ripped and re-knit the strap so it used less yarn. I asked five different people on Ravelry if they could spare, sell, or trade any Kureyon Big. No luck. I let the project languish in time out for a month. Then one day, I decided just to go for it! I finished the remaining five tentacles and knit towards the bottom. As expected, I came up short.

Since I am a spinner, I decided to try making my own matching yarn.

I started by scanning Kureyon Big at 12,800 dots per inch (the picture below is about 0.2 inch/0.5cm diameter). What looked like purple and black at normal magnification looked like this instead:
If you read my post last summer about optical illusions in spinning, then you know a little about optical mixing. Part of why Noro colors are so beautiful is because they are optically mixed. When magnified, dark purple and blue-black become bright green, fuchsia, purple, violet, and aqua. This is also part of the joy of spinning. Many yarns are dyed after they become yarn. When you dye fiber and then blend, you get the complex color beauty of optical mixing.

I decided to use a freebie merino fleece to mimic Noro. Please add "recalcitrant" to a long list of reasons this was a free fleece. I even tried letting the dye baths soak overnight, but the color would … not … take. Finally, I gave the already-scoured fiber a rinse in Dawn dish washing liquid. I put about 5 grams of fiber in each jar, added dye bath and a splash of white vinegar, and set the jars in a large pot with water. I brought the water up to a simmer and let it stew for an hour, similar to what you would do for canning. That worked. I got the fiber to take the color.

But even with the dye taking and some play with mixing different colors,  I still couldn't quite get a color match. And I began to worry that my handspun wouldn't felt at the same rate as Noro.

Finally, in a fit of pique and frustration, I decided to search the Internet. Surely there would be some Noro Kureyon Big out there somewhere.

No. No, not so much.

But, there were some Noro products on Webs. They had something called Noro Rainbow Roll, which is basically Noro pencil roving. Ah, ha! Except, it didn't come in the colors I needed. Phooey! But they also had Noro Kureyon Air. Kureyon Air is a super-bulky yarn rather than bulky yarn; but it came in a coordinating colorway. I purchased one skein.

When the yarn arrived, I took it to my Majacraft Rose wheel and, using the slowest whorl (4.25:1) and a large (plying) bobbin, I deconstructed the yarn. It divided into two pairs.

This looked suspiciously like barely-twisted pencil roving. Using the same whorl, I ran the pairs of roving back through the wheel, this time twisting to hold it together. There was a lot of editing to maintain the gradient by breaking off and rejoining back and forth between the two separate sources. But in the end, I had transformed a 2×2 cable yarn into a 2-ply yarn. I ended up with 210 yards.

At that point, it was easy to finish the knitting by simply working round and round to the bottom. I used dental floss to tie in plastic bags resists (to keep the tentacle pockets from felting closed). Then it was just a matter of throwing the whole floppy purple octopus-thing through the wash.

The bottom of the bag looks a little different — the colorways weren't identical. But I think it looks like an intended design feature, rather than a mistake. And I am pleased with the size. The largest tentacle took an entire skein of yarn. It is, however, large enough to accommodate my favorite no-spill travel mug. And other tentacles will accommodate a cell phone or wallet.

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