Monday, November 7, 2011

A Purpose in Repurposing

During the summer of 2010, I purchased a wool Banana Republic vest from a local Goodwill.  It was a beautiful garment, but unfortunately was too small for my once-petite-but-now-a-bit-plump frame.  I carefully unraveled it, a difficult process as some of the yarn in places had actually almost melded together.  After a few days of tedious activity, I’d unraveled the whole thing, and I then wound it into a large hank, washed it, and hung it out to dry.  The result?  Beautiful yarn with honeyed tones. 


The next step, of course, is to create something—I’m thinking a cabled cowl.  But before I undertake that endeavor, I have to decide the size needles I need.  Is this yarn “chunky” or “bulky”?  I’m still a bit of a novice knitter in many ways.  I’ve tackled some complicated projects, but am impatient sometimes and haven’t studied gauge and yarn weights.  I’m ashamed to say I’ve only made one or two swatches in my three years as a knitter. 

But I’ve decided that I need to expand my education and refine my skills, so I’m going to create a swatch using 11 needles and then do another one in a larger size.  I’m also determined to learn how to discover the weight of yarn in ounces or grams relates to yardage and consequently to appropriate needle sizes, so that maybe I can continue to be a bit lazy and avoid creating swatches for simple projects, such as scarves and cowls.

In the process of attempting to learn such information, I found a great resource site, and, surprisingly, its creators are close to home—in Gastonia, NC, which for me is only 45 minutes away.  Here’s a link to their Yarn Standards chart:  http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/weight.html.

This discovery of yarn weight information led me in a completely different direction, however, but I suppose an easily distracted mind is a prerequisite for creative endeavors—or at least for embarking on numerous ones at the same time. 

When I found the yarn chart, I also found information about teaching knitting and about a charity program entitled “Warm Up America.”  While the Council sponsored an essay contest and provided free materials to educators in the past, it is not doing so now, but their website still provides clear information about teaching knitting and a link to instructions for creating uniform afghan squares for donation:  http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/patterns.html.

My blog last week was devoted to my endeavors to teach high school students to knit.  (I’ve included a few more photos of my students below.)  I was excited to find this opportunity for charitable work, not only because my students can collaborate on a worthwhile venture, but also because the task of creating an afghan (or afghans) is a manageable one (or like most projects it seems to be, until the actual work gets going).  The knitted and crocheted squares are a mere 7” by 9”, so students should be able to finish a square by Christmastime and the onset of colder weather.   The Council’s web page not only provides instructions for young people and adults to learn how to knit, but also gives instructions for some other techniques, such as the seed stitch, so that the afghans can be created to include texture and interest.  Creating part of a large project such as this might also serve as an impetus for students to learn how to knit or crochet or to improve their technique by experimenting with patterns. 
An ambitious knitter, the student on the right, whom I taught to knit last week, is already reading a simple pattern to create a textured scarf. 
This student is using a Nifty Knitter here, but she's also started another project knitted with needles. 



I’m not certain whether the Banana Republic vest will find its way into a future warm covering for a needy person (as the Council recommends using worsted weight yarns and corresponding size 7 needles), but, it and its former owner—who graciously donated it to Goodwill—all played a part in what I hope to be a unifying and worthwhile activity for the students in my English IV class, fiber arts club members, and any other interested persons in my school community.   




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