Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yarn Review and a CONTEST!

Exciting things have been happening here at Maison du Splinarella. First off, I've finished something! After spending over 3 months working on my Cabled Aran Vest, I needed something quick and cute that I could whip on and off the needles, something springy that I could wear right away and enjoy.

I picked the Drop Stitch Scarf, by Christine Vogel. And I knew just the yarn I wanted to make it with: Tess Microfiber Ribbon.

I'd been hearing about Tess Microfiber Ribbon on The Knitmore Girls Podcast for months. Jasmin had been raving about the stuff, saying it knits like water and is perfect for cool and comfortable summer tops. I had, therefore, been delighted when I won a skein of it in the Knitmore Girls' "Do Some Good" contest earlier this spring. I could hardly wait to finish my aran vest so I could cast on my scarf.

So, here are a few details about the yarn:

It comes in generous 150g/333yd skeins for $25, although today the website shows them on sale for 25% off -- get 'em while you can! The colorway I used is #832411, a rainbow blend that transitions from red to orange to yellow to green to blue to purple to pink and back to red again. The colors are bright and vivid, a riot of tropical flora. The yarn itself is a true ribbon yarn with a width of about 1/8"/3mm by my measurement.

I knit up my scarf on US size 8 Knitpicks Options, the nickel-plated tips. At first, I found the knitting fiddly. I almost never knit with ribbon yarns, so that alone took some getting used to. The yarn is quite slippery, and for the first few rows I felt as though the project were in danger of slipping right off the needle tips. As the scarf grew longer, the weight of it was just enough to pull the yarn down onto the needles and get rid of that slipping feeling. The ribbon tended to twist and kink as I knitted it, which may just be a function of ribbon yarns and not a reflection of this particular brand. Fortunately, any twists that found their way into the knitting straightened themselves out in the finished product with no effort on my part. The yarn is so slippery that the twists just seemed to fall right out as soon as I lifted the scarf. I found myself frequently poking the tip of my needle into the ribbon (again, my inexperience with ribbon yarns was the culprit), but even though the Options tips are somewhat pointy, they never actually managed to pierce the ribbon. I did, however, snag the ribbon on just about anything that was remotely snaggable: a slight crack in a fingernail; the rough skin at the edge of a finger. In that sense, it was very much like working with silk. I would definitely recommend a good sugar scrub before taking up the Tess.

Overall, I liked this yarn. Except...I found a knot in the skein.

I debated about whether to even bring this up. After all, I received the skein as a prize in a contest. Free is free, and who complains about free, right? I can certainly understand a dyer wanting to provide prizes from mill-ends or seconds, and knots are part of that territory.


After I found the knot, I checked the label thoroughly. It's not marked second, or mill-end, or anything else to indicate that it's not a first-rate, grade A skein of yarn. Now, I find knots in big-box yarns all the time. I don't like it, but kind of like mill-ends, I also figure it's just part of that territory. Big-box is big-box for a reason, and part of that reason is price point. A knot or two finding their way into the occasional skein, while not desirable, is probably unavoidable.

But, I expect more from high-end yarns. Again, price point is an issue. If I'm going to pay $25 for a skein of yarn, I want that skein to be just that: a single skein, not two mini-skeins knotted together. Then, there's the issue of this particular yarn. It's a microfiber ribbon. The instructions on the label say "Use fabric glue such as Fray-chek to seal ends & fasten." Not only is it impossible to join ends in a somewhat invisible manner (via a Russian join, spit splice or the like), but the yarn is so slippery that it needs to be knotted and then glued together. You better believe I want as few knots as possible in my project. Finally, this isn't a big-box production employing hundreds or thousands of employees in factories worldwide. It's a small producer who, I assume, must take a fairly hands-on approach to the production process. I would hope that a knotted skein would be pulled aside, labeled as a second or mill-end and priced accordingly. Ultimately, I would have to think twice before paying MSRP for this yarn simply because, if this is an indication of what can be expected in a first-rate skein, I'm not sure I would be willing to spend quite so much on it.

So, there's my review. I like the yarn, I love the way the finished product looks, but that knot really bugged me. Finding a knot in any skein of high-end yarn bothers me, which is why I almost never knit with Noro. But that's a story for another day.

And now, on to a CONTEST!

I just finished reading Sweater Quest, by Adrienne Martini. Adrienne tells the tale of her quest to scale the knitterly equivalent of Mount Everest by knitting Alice Starmore's Mary Tudor sweater over the course of 12 months. I won't say much except that I really enjoyed it, and now I'd like to pass my copy along for someone else to enjoy.

Entering the contest is simple: Leave a comment on this post by next Thursday, April 28. Tell me about your own knitterly equivalent of Mount Everest. I'll pick one winner by random number generator. Please include your ravelry ID in your post so I can contact you by PM if you win. And if you're not on rav...why aren't you? Go sign up: I'll wait. Or, if you insist on remaining rav-less, please do make sure I have some way of contacting you in case you win. I'd hate for you to miss out on your prize because my mind-reading skills aren't up to snuff.

If you like what you read on my blog, sign up to follow me -- there's a box in the sidebar where you should be able to do that. And if you feel extra inspired, please feel free to make a small donation to the Spina Bifida Association of Northeastern New York. My younger daughter has Spina Bifida, a birth defect that affects approximately 1 in 1,000 pregnancies and is the most commonly-occurring, permanently-disabling birth defect in the United States. SBA of NENY does a great job providing families like ours with support and advocacy, and every penny they can raise is both important and needed.

OK, public service announcement over. Go play with some fiber, check out the links on this post, leave your comments and keep your fingers crossed. One lucky winner will be announced next week!


Brook said...

I have read your post. I have clicked links. I enjoyed your review of the yarn actually. Detailed practical descriptions of how it actually works up are good to know. I agree about the knot bit, I don't bust out the big bucks(to me $25 for one skein is big bucks)I would be a bit put out with that. I'd be a little willing to give the benefit of the doubt on it, but I'd still email the company and let them know about it. The people giving the yarn away had no idea it would have a knot so no worries there. On another note, I live in a part of the country where spina bifida occurs at a slightly higher than normal rate and appreciate your efforts to educate about the importance of folic acid to women of childbearing age. Ok, enough rambling. Have a great day!

My8kidsmom said...

I am in the bit of a knitterly quest right now :) A friend and fellow knitter asked me to knit the lace dream shawl for her and I just found out she needs by this.monday. Yikes!! Let's see how much I can get done!
knots bug me too....

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vanessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vanessa said...

sorry reposting made a boo boo lol

Well I have been knitting 7 years now and I have knit all sorts of stuff. A good friend of mine wants me to make this Tarot bag for her cards... well let me tell you... I am having more trouble reading the pattern than anything I have ever made lol. I told her it will get done... Tomorrow( sunday) I am heading to my friends for a knit together I AM going to get that bag done tomorrow~! lol. I love reading your blog ... the book sounds good I liek to read just about anything.I know all to weel about birth defects ... I have lost 5 pre term and I have 2 living daughters that SO FAR knock on wood are very normal and keep me on my toes.
Ravelry ID is mrsbrooks
email vanessalbrooksATgmailDOTcom
my website( 0ne of them)

Marsha said...

This review and post really struck a chord with me. I was a knitter for many years, well over 30 ok before I ever evolved further than just a little knit and purl. I had made more hats and scarves and dishcloths and afghans than anyone should ever admit to. But I had never done actual real lace. I knew I loved how it looked and was scared to death of it.
Well Fast forward to May 2008. I really wanted to make a specail birthday gift for my SO's mother, whom has taken me into the fold as if I were one of her own. Another knitting friend was hosting a KAL for a beautiful lace shawl. Quite intricate and very daunting. Well what did I do? I jumped in with both feets. Probably some other folks feets too! I ordered the yarn, and all was fine. Til it arrived that is. I'm supposed to knit with THIS?????????? Heart failure almost over just how small it was. Oh but it was so pretty. So I thought, and cried, and prayed and worried. Finally starting day came.
I cast on and immediately failed. Frogged about 15 times before I got past the first 5 rows with no errors.
Then comes gardenning season. Planting,weeding, watching, not much knitting. Then harvesting, canning, freezing. Even less knitting. CRAP! It's a week before the birthday. I am not even close to being done. SO I wimp out and order flowers and a plant and send an IOU for the real gift that is to come later.
Novemebr the garden is finally done and all that out of the way. Time to knit finally. So back to my nemesis I go. A row at a time and sometimes tinking...not guts enough to frog at this point. Mind you nothing even remotely resembling a lifeline or markers was used. Bright of me huh? But the craze that year was becoming a "fearless knitter" Ok I can do this so on I went.

Well I am happy to share that by Christmas that year the shawl was completed, blocked and delivered. I also managed to complet an Irish Hiking Scarf for the father as well. :-)

I climber that mountain of leaves and lace and I won, I conquered it.
Now if only other things in life were so conquerable.

Rossellastra said...

My knitting challenge? It's quite dumb, I'm trying to knit the Revontuli Shawl with his charts.
It's my first time I knit with a charts patttern and that I knit a shawl, I've finished the first chart and I've made a mistake yet ^____^

I'm Rossellastra.

oriocookie said...

My Mount Everest is the Reversible Celtic Pattern Baby Blanket by Wipinsanity. You see I am 10 wks pregnant and I am hoping to have it done by the time the baby arrives. Challenges to this are that I have never done anything double knit and the general consensus is it takes 5-6 months to do. You have to have absolute concentration when doing it and I have a 2 yr old. LOL It will be interesting and has been dubbed the CRAZY BLANKET by my friends.

my rav id is oriocookie

Kristen said...

I've decided to knit a small lap blanket for my grandma and I'm really struggling with the pattern I chose. I've had to back out probably 30% of the rows I've knit because I'll miss a yo or make another small mistake and end up with the wrong number of stitches. I've finally figured out that I can't be too distracted when I'm working on it, and the finished section does look nice. But I would really like for this project to be done, blocked and on grandma's lap!

globalite on rav.

-Sam said...

I have several Everests!
Knitting: A sock yarn blankie with unique yarns in every 2" square...I did the math once, and the number of squares is scary!
Quilting: I want to make a "Dear Jane" quilt (again, a project in which each block is unique!

I followed your post from the RAK forum on Ravelry, and I am RainyMonday there!

Adrienne Martini said...

Thanks so much for running this contest. It's great to see what other knitting Everests are out there.

Knit on, y'all.
- Adrienne

CH said...

"Shipwreck Shawl" would be a big knitting achievement for me. I just keep looking and wishing and drawing up the courage and determination to committ.

Merry T said...

My Everest knitting is a pair of curtains for the front door of my house. I decided to knit them because my then-husband was building the place with his own two little hands, and I decided I wanted a touch of my hands-on skill on display as well. So I found some crochet cotton in burgundy (to match the living room walls) at my LYS (which is 75 miles from my house - not so local!), and started swatching, using a shawl pattern from Cheyl Oberle's "Folk Shawls". After several failed attempts, I found a needle size that made the most of the pattern and materials, and started knitting away. I cannot express my dismay at the slowness of the progress. But the pattern was coming along beautifully, so I soldiered on.
Since the original pattern was written for a shawl using worsted weight wool, I had no idea how much crochet cotton these curtains would require. I had only picked up two balls at my original purchase, and when I was done with them, I went back to the shop to get the four more balls that I figured I would need to complete this project. There was no more burgundy on the shelf, so I spoke to the shop owner, to see if there was more out back, or perhaps it was on order. Her next words caused my heart to nearly stop - "it's not being made anymore". Here I am, over a year into this pair of curtains, and only two-thirds of the way down the first of the pair, and the material is no longer available. My dismay must have been very obvious, because the shop owner immediately offered me a chair, then she trotted off to make some phone calls - and SHE FOUND MORE! it was at someone else's shop, elsewhere in the country, a different dye lot, and I had to buy a package of six balls, but who cares?!?!? The remainder of the cotton eventually showed up in the mail, and I once again knit away on the curtains. The dye lot difference is practically visible from the Space Station, but again, who cares? It helps to tell the story.
I am still working on the second curtain, because I have so many other things to knit for other people, but I still count these curtains as a WIP, not a hibernator, and for the purposes of this contest, I will equate their progress to climbing Everest backwards, without oxygen, on crutches. :P

My Rav name is MerryT

Syeda's hobbies said...

I follow you and I am a selftought knitter. Love to knit every thing, socks shwals, sweater and knitting a estonian lace shwal by Nancy Bush.
ravelry Id: syeda

JoyceAnna D of DesignDolcezza said...

Hi,I'm ERMELLINA on ravelry.

My Everest is starting a big project and seeing it to completion without starting 10 other projects. Don't believe me? Check out my project page and see all my WIPS!

Unknown said...

My Everest Quest is to knit an aran sweater. As my dear friend says, I have a "squirrel brain", and I know the concentration needed makes it a true Everest for me. :) samm@ravelry

Amy said...

OOPS...delete on my previous post so I could repost with my RAV ID = knitterofhats.

This fall, after knitting for a fews year...squares, rectangles and NO PURLING, I decided it was time to learn to knit socks. So, I signed up for a sock class at my LYS. However, it was for a pair of lace, top down socks. YIKES!! The owner said I could just do a plain sock in the class. Well, after pondering that, I jumped in a knit those two lovely lace socks. What a big job for me...lace pattern work and socks all at once. I love them and remain oh so proud. Thanks for the giveaway!