And how I kept making tantalizing references to a giant project? Well, that project was DOOMED!!! It was the yarn, not me. We really tried to make our relationship work. We called in the assistance of vinegar, shampoo and hair conditioner. Repeatedly. But its abrasive personality remained the same. Finally, when the Experts from that megamind, the Internet, recommended ammonia, I put my foot down. We’re done, baby.
It began innocently enough. Ravelry commentors and blogs said that Harrisville Shetland started out scratchy because of the coning oil, but bloomed into a much softer fabric. Based on these recommendations, I bought the yarn. It was scratchy, like string. I washed the swatch. Yes! Blooming and softening! I waited for it to dry and draped it round my arm. Shriek! It still felt like Scotch-brite!
Now it’s only fair to say that the yarn makes no claims of being soft like merino or cashmere. Nor did I expect it to. It had a reputation for ‘rusticity’. I could take rusticity. Where I draw the line is at actual prickliness. It scratched and prickled, and I do not have sensitive skin.
Then started a long line of internet searches (ask me all the various combinations of search terms for softening wool). Based on those, I washed it, soaked it in hair conditioner, wrapped it in plastic and left in a warm place, even added vinegar to the final rinse. I doubt I’ve ever done so much for the
yarn hair on my own precious head. But the swatch refused to soften to non-prickliness.
So I tried imaginary microscopic analysis. Oh look at the tangled structure of the yarn. It is woollen spun after all. But what have we here? Stiff and hard plant shreds! I zoomed out of the imaginary microscope and picked out every bit of vegetable matter that those dratted sheep must have walked through. It remained prickly.
Thus, it was time for plan B. If the planned sweater had been for myself, I could have talked myself into respecting its rusticity and stubborn character, and how connected I would be to the living, breathing sheep that alchemized wool with their bodies, from the random molecules of the universe. But it was destined for someone with sensitive skin, who had, moreover, been traumatised by scratchy woollen garments as a child. Clearly, I had chosen the wrong yarn for my mission to reinstate wool back into his favour. Ok, so it was my fault, not the yarn’s. Fine!
Plan B details:
a) Knit sweater in soft yet sturdy merino blend. Line cuffs and neck with Malabrigo, so that the subject of the wool-love-mission is converted to a wool worshipper for ever.
b) Turn the already knit sleeves into leg warmers for myself – just add ribbed cuffs.
c) Since I actually like the fabric produced – only not next to my skin – and I have tons of yarn, knit a nice winter dress / tunic. It might take me a couple of years, but with the fabric’s crisp stitch definition and light yet wonderfully cohesive feel, there is a good opportunity to make something spectacular. We shall see.
PS: I’m not planning to wear the tunic and leg warmers at the same time, obviously!