Friday, June 5, 2009

Hank and Me

As I continue my discovery tour of yarn, I have found something surprising. Paying more for yarn doesn’t mean it’s going to be easier to work with. I bought yarn at both of the local yarn stores I stopped in. The garnet colored worsted I got to make a shawl came in sort of a twisted hank rather than a ball or whatever the shape is called that Red Heart and Vanna’ Choice come in. With the Red Heart or all the yarn I’ve gotten at Michael’s or Joann’s, you just find and end and begin with your project. Not so with Mr. Hank.

I’ve heard you can use the back of chair to drop it over while you wind a ball. You can use a friend’s hands to hold it while you roll it in a ball, or you can use a yarn swift. I bought one a while ago, but had never used it. It looks kind of like the underside of an umbrella and comes with a twirly thing that makes the actual ball. I tried to put Mr Hank on the swift and threaded onto the twirly ball maker, but instead of turning it into a nice orb, he turned into a nightmare of tangles. I did finally manage to painstakingly untangle the mess and hand roll it into a ball, but luckily I was watching television which at least made the two hours it took entertaining. Of course, I was sure I had done something wrong.

The next day I took the rest of the yarn back to the store where I bought it. I had noticed they had a yarn swift and thought if they showed me how to do it, I’d be home free. Well, it turned out Mr. Hank 2 was all twisted and even with hanging it on the yarn swift the correct way, it took an hour and a half to wind a ball by hand because it had been badly twisted by the manufacturer. I asked the store owner why the yarn came in hanks and she said it was all about marketing. If it were in balls, shoppers would squeeze them and mess up the yarn. So basically it’s for her convenience, not her customers.

I will say that Mr. Hank 3 did work on the yarn swift and flew into a ball in a few minutes. The same for the hank of yarn made from recycled sari’s.

The cashmere yarn I got last week did come in a nice workable ball, which I certainly appreciated.

When I tried knitting with the garnet yarn it seemed okay to work with. I made a gauge swatch for the shawl and it didn’t split or knot up. I figured that was the least it could do after the pain I went through turning it into balls. And for all that effort, each ball wasn’t that big. All three together barely make one skein of Vanna’s Choice.

The sari yarn was a different story. It doesn’t like being unraveled. The threads come loose and become kind of a halo that grabs onto everything around it. I decided simple was best with it and am making a skinny scarf with double crochets on a big hook. Even though it didn’t want to be unraveled, I fought with it until it came undone. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I had gotten mixed up about which side was up on the scarf and started the next row on the side of it. I am pleased to report that after starting over, it is now going the right way. However, when I picked up some Lion’s Brand cotton yarn to make a scarf, I sighed with relief and my fingers flew and any unraveling that needed to be done was a breeze.

I have big plans for the pink cashmere. I found a pattern for a ruffly scarf that should be beautiful. The question is how will it be to work with?

The good part of all these problems is they are material for the next crochet mystery.

By Hook or By Crook came out Tuesday. Berkley does such a great job with covers. The colors of my three book’s covers look so nice next to each other. I already stopped into a Borders in downtown Chicago and signed their stock. Saturday I’ll be signing books at the Printers Row Book Fair at the Mystery Writers of America booth from 1-3. And next Sunday, I’ll be signing books around noon at the Encino Barnes & Noble along with other members of Los Angeles Romance Authors.


Sheila Connolly said...

The yarn swift is that sort of accordian/umbrella thing, right? You see them now and then in antique shops. It must be a nice feeling to be balling yarn the way it was done a century ago (even though some modern manufacturers seem to have lost the logic of the process). Of course, the over-the-chair thing works, as long as you're patient (and don't have cats who want to help).

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that the hanks of yarn were for the purpose of deterring people from squishing it in their hands and messing up the yarn! Who would have thought! The yarn swift scares me, so I beg the sweet women at the yarn shop to roll it for me into those little cakes. I have triedthe back of the chair method, and Sheila is oh so right when it comes to cats who liketo help. I have had more than one giant tangle from my cat. ( beware of husbands who like to help also!)
Betty, I love the new book. I am about halfway through, and enjoting every minute!

Betty Hechtman said...

Sheila, I am going to try the over the chair method. My cats don't seem interested in yarn.

Cher, I can see your point about the yarn swift scaring you. The woman at the yarn store made it look easy. When I tried it again, the yarn fell off into a tangled heap. I'm glad you're enjoying the book.

Marlyn said...

Betty, I use the "chair" method and it works fine.
But most yarn shops will wind a hand for you if you've purchased it there.

Julie (Chloe's mom) said...

Betty, if there's a trick to the swift, it's to untwist the hank into that big loop with the ties around it, then lay the swift on its side and slip the loop over it. Try to make sure the loop isn't twisted. (Imagine a wide rubber band, flat as opposed to twisted.)
With the swift still on its side, open the umbrella mechanism until the big loop of yarn is held firmly, almost tight. Then, and only then, set the opened swift with yarn on it upright and clamp it to the table or other surface. Now you can carefully snip the knots off the ties so you can find the starting end. The yarn should feed onto the winder as well as it's going to. (Fluffy yarns are harder, as you know.)
When I'm winding I always use one hand to turn the crank, and the other to gently tension the yarn coming off the swift/cone/ whatever. If you stop winding for a knot or tangle, be sure to stop the swift spinning as well, or it will shoot yarn all over.
I don't think the put-up in hanks is to defeat shoppers, actually, but just the way the spinner is equipped to prepare it. Or maybe it's just choice. Certainly never stopped me from squeezing! Give the swift another try, it's a lot faster than the chair-back.