Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lily Chin

This is another long post, I'm afraid. I tried to put it in chunks for easy reading. I added pictures for those of you who read blogs just for the pictures. Not that I ever do that. Nope, never. *ahem* Moving on.

On Friday Lily gave a talk about what to look for in yarn. A lot of what Lily discussed are things I already knew from working at the shop. It was interesting nonetheless. Everyone knows it is important to swatch for most projects. Not everyone knows that you are supposed to wash your swatch. Even fewer realize that hanging your swatch will give you a more accurate swatch measurement. This is doubly true if you are working with heavy slippery fibers such as bamboo and soy. I think many knitters in the audience realized that what Lily was saying was something our own Lenora has been trying to tell us for some time.

Warning: Digression in to fiber theory ahead

Lily also discussed the properties of yarns. Again, I knew a lot of this from working in the shop and from my own research, but it is almost always worthwhile to hear information presented in a new way. Lily did confirm what I already suspected about superwash merino. The superwash process of stripping scales from wool contributes to the growth of merino garments, especially when agitated. Merino fibers are short to begin with. If there are no scales on the fiber to grab to itself, then it is easier for the fibers to move past each other and elongate. There are no scales to 'lock' the fiber in place.

I think the same must be true for why superwash merino fuzzes up in the washer and dryer. There are no scales to lock the short fibers down. The agitation of the machine makes it easier for all of those short ends to work themselves out and fluff up, especially in the dryer which is just a big hair dryer if you think about it. The fluffing up doesn't bother me if I know what to expect to begin with, especially on socks. Superwash will grow when it hits water. In the washer some of those short fiber ends may work loose. The dryer will agitate more short ends out while fluffing and straighten them much in the same way blow drying your hair would do. I hope that makes sense.

I have always thought the fluffing and pilling was just the way superwash merino is. It is what it is as we're fond of saying, but I know bothers many people. Maybe it is time we stop thinking of superwash wool as being machine washable and start thinking about it being non-feltable? If you machine wash and tumble dry a superwash wool object it will not look the same as it did going in to the wash. To me it can be part of the finishing process, just as you would wash a garment purchased at the store. A brand new t-shirt will never look the same coming out of the washer as it did going in. The same with a machine washed wool. If that final 'fuzz' finish bothers, then handwashing your superwash garment is the way to go. Some may ask why use superwash if you have to hand wash anyway? If the garment goes in to the machine by mistake it will emerge still usable unlike a feltable wool*.

[EDIT TO CLARIFY: In the picture below the bottom swatch is not garter stitch. It is garter and a stockinette lace pattern, which is why it is curling. The wear and fade are what you want to be looking at.]

What does superwash really mean?

Digression Over...for now

I enjoyed Friday's lecture and also enjoyed trying to figure out the stitch pattern for her dress. It was darling, as was all of her outfits.
Lily Chin

I doubt anyone who met me would ever call me fashion forward or even fashion conscious. It may surprise everyone I know that as a child I used to fantasize about designing fashion. I also wanted to be a teacher, brick layer, banker and florist, but that's beside the point. I never dreamed of wearing fashions. Instead my imagination had me sitting behind a drawing board and sewing machine making fashions for others. I have long since recognized that I do not posses the patience, skills or eye to make that childhood fantasy a reality. Since then, my inspiration for designing has atrophied. It is there and I occasionally have a twinge but I never get up and do anything about it.

Enter Lily Chin. Lily gave two related lectures on Saturday. One was called Design Inspiration and the other called Interpreting Fashion Trends. I am inspired. I found myself putting down the needles and picking up the notebook. She gave some good resources for knitwear designers to anticipate trends. Unfortunately, most of the fashion forecast publications for knitwear--such as Collezioni Trends--are very expensive. Like $80 an issue expensive. Luckily this is the age of the internet and googling 'fashion forecast' will get you many sites that provide similar information at little or no charge.

Here is where I apologize for the crappy pictures. They looked darling on my camera screen, but the low light and shaky hand means a bad picture full size. Lily showed us many of her own pieces that were translated from trends. What I found especially interesting was her 'inspiration' pieces. I am obsessed with the sweater on the left. Lily is wearing her own pattern, Grecian Plaits. Can you figure out what the inspiration for the sweater on the left was? This is why I love Lily Chin. Who else would be inspired by the bathroom rug and turn it in to a comfy sweater? I doubt I would make this color and I would probably change some of the elements, but I loved parts of this so much that I ordered the issue of Knitters I thought it was in. Alas, it was the wrong issue. Anyone have any idea which issue this is in?

This is where Lily really shines as a teacher. I was missing one tiny and crucial step to making flawless short rows. It was worth the cost of the class for the 10 seconds worth of instruction that revealed that one crucial step I was missing. The rest of this great class was bonus. I walked away with a lot of ideas on how to use short rows and even more design ideas. Now I just need time to knit!

I enjoyed getting to know her a little bit as a person instead of as a media personality. We have a bit in common, including work experience, both living in one bedroom apartments and vice of choice. Of course, even our similarities had great big differences. She started work at 13 in a factory and I started at 12 at a sno-cone stand; I live in a hovel in St. Louis and she lives in Manhattan; She still enjoys her vice and I miss mine terribly. Still, I enjoyed making a personal connections, especially to a knitter and crocheter I have long admired for her fearlessness. After class I help Lily pack up and take her luggage out. She discovered that her flight had been canceled. I never heard if she made it home easily or not. Hopefully she did!

*Cascade is coming out with a new yarn that I am excited to try. It is not a chemically treated superwash but the dense tight twist allows it to be machine washable without fuzzing or shrinking. I played with a machine washed sample, but I can't wait to get my hands on a ball and try it out for myself.