Posted in Machine Knitting

Ravello Sweater

My goal in 2017 is to knit all year round. I was a bit knitted out after all the pink hats for the Women’s March on Washington and Jordan’s letterman sweater. When I returned to my machine in March I found myself making a lot of rookie mistakes. The best way to avoid skill slide I suspect is to knit all year.

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Organic Cotton Plus reached out to me in January about possibly partnering on a blog post. The fact is I don’t partner on posts, test patterns or sew for other people because I don’t like deadlines. So, I immediately wrote back to say thank you for asking but I have enough fabric and I hate sewing under deadline. Except my email bounced back to me. So, I went on their website to get a correct email address. While poking around I saw they had yarn. And, I thought, “Oh! Do you now?”

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Needless to say, my new email to them said I’d be delighted to partner if I could use one of the naturally dyed wools from their website,  if it was possible to get enough for a sweater and if I could wait until March before posting anything  (I was in the middle of Jordan’s letterman sweater, I desperately needed to sew jeans, I promised to sew a prayer shawl for a bar mitzvah and I was wrapping up an on-site consulting gig so I knew I just didn’t have a bunch of extra time). This timeline and the yarn worked for them, so GAME ON.

I selected the worsted weight wool in Natural, Deep Black and Indigo to knit the Ravello Sweater from Isabelle Kramer.  The yarn comes in hanks with a “Sustainable Stitches” label.

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Organic Cotton Plus uses waste material from plants to dye their yarns. The leftover waste from the dyeing process is biodegradable. Compost and irrigation water is used to grow dye, medicinal plants and food crops for the Indian families in India involved in the dye group. Now, as an all-electric car driving, home composting, and soon to be urban gardener (#GrowFoodNotGrass) this warmed my liberal snowflake heart.

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I wash and wet block all the pieces of my garments before I seam them up. Sometimes it’s because the yarn comes oiled (glides through the machine easier). But, mostly I find a nice block makes seaming a million times easier as the yarn has relaxed and it’s in the right shape. The yarn has beautiful stitch definition. And, when made up on my Brother 270 (a bulky gauge machine) it really looks like a hand knit!  Also, the natural dye process is ever so slightly uneven in the way that hand-dyed yarns are. So, it didn’t look commercially made which I also really like.

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So, I was hopeful that when I did my first wet block I’d be able to get rid of some of the dye transfer I’d noticed in the garment. The Deep Black  in particular gives off a light dust when wound in to cakes and run through the machine. I also noticed there was color transfer to my hands from working with yarn. I reached out to Organic Cotton Plus about the amount of dust and dye transfer. They let me know that I received a first run of the product and have enacted better quality control to eliminate this problem.

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The second issue I had with the yarn were my blacks are two different dye lots. Now, I only noticed this after the first wash. Organic Cotton Plus does say that their vegetable dyed yarn may not be as colorfast as traditional chemical dyes and can fade ‘over time’. So, I think I have two dye batches vs the quality of the color.  But, like the dye transfer/ crocking  I see, no one else seems to notice.

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After washing, I could see that the smudgy coloring I’d noticed was still there. And, overall the natural cream was a bit dingier and I could see that the blue also bled a bit. Now, this could all be chalked up to using such extremely different colors in one garment, something I will probably be hesitant to try again. But, I would definitely NOT recommend it with a black or a non-chemical dye that has a higher chance of running.

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Would you like to talk about the elephant in the room otherwise known as my neckline? So, I wanted to try an i-cord trim for the neckline. I found two helpful videos from

Susan Guagliumi

and Diana Sullivan

and got to work. Unfortunately, the i-cord bindoff didn’t work perfectly for me. And, you know what? That’s ok. It’s my first time trying it. It’s not perfect. Heck, it’s not even acceptable. But, I did it. And, I’ll do it better next time. This is a casual sweater that I won’t be wearing to business meetings and I’m okay with how it looks.

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Now, the conclusion to this long tale. I attempted to use some dye color remover. The dinginess of the yarn really bothered me. And, as Jeanne pointed out it made it look like there were mistake where there weren’t. So, I used some dye remover, with hot water in the hand wash cycle of my machine and the entire sweater shrank to a size unwearable by me. While I’m a little sad to not have it in my wardrobe, I have a friend who I think will love it. And, the excess *did* come out. But, lesson learned. Even if the directions say start with hot water, maybe start with cold and wash it by hand. And, I did love this sweater on me so I’ll be reattempting it soon.

13 thoughts on “Ravello Sweater

  1. Beautiful work! I wonder if pretreating the yarn before working it would help with the dye colorfastness.

    1. I would absolutely try that next time. I liked the yarn a lot! But, particularly for machine knitting the dust just got everywhere. Maybe a nice soak in the tub before knitting would do the trick.

      On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 2:52 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:

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  2. Such a great sweater! And so many learning opportunities! The stitch definition of the yarn is superb. I’ll go take a look at the yarn.

  3. You take very exciting chances and with that comes the possibility of less than perfect or even fail. But it’s the best way to learn as you clearly know. Good luck with your creative process!

    1. Thank you, Karen! I try and remind myself I’ve only been doing this a year and it’s just not going to be perfect. I’ll get there!

      On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 5:15 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:

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  4. I think it’s awesome that you are trying new techniques and experimenting with new yarns. This is all a learning experience and there are bound to be some bumps in the road. I can’t wait to see your next version – because hey you knit stripes and they matched!

  5. I was going to ask about pre-washing (or soaking) the yarn as well. Also, I wonder if the color catcher sheets would work when washing the pieces before blocking, or if they work best swishing though the water like in a washing machine. And what about Synthopol and Retayne (sp?) – I know they are used more for fabrics, but maybe they’d help with yarn color bleed & transfer issues? After some hideous results using color remover trying to rescue RTW sweaters that were washed with the wrong thing, I’m very leery of using it on anything but white.

    It’s too bad is shrank, but your friend will get a really cute sweater! Sigh…someday I *shall* get out my knitting machine and learn to use it and Ravelry!

    1. Pull our your machine 😁 So, I did use Synthopol and color catcher sheets in the wash. Where I erred I think is the hot water. In retrospect, I wish I’d made my gauge swatch with warm water (which I normally do). Then, I know the sweater could have withheld a warm water dye removal process. Or, I wish I’d used a color catcher sheet when I first blocked the sweater. That would have taken away the overall color bleed I think. But, maybe not the markings throughout the sweater. And, my friend I wanted to give it to told me she’s allergic to wool! So, I just tried it on again. It’s a bit cropped on me now. But, the sleeves were long to begin with and now are bracelet length. So, I may be able to still make a go of it! I’m learning so much with machine knitting. It’s a little odd feeling like a beginner again. But, also eye opening.

      On Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 8:42 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:

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  6. Aw man. After all of your work, it’s too bad the sweater shrank! It’s still a nice sweater and you now know what to do to make the next one extra fab. =)

  7. Really nice job! So sorry about the shrinkage. And just delighted to hear about incipient gardening!!!! You really might be interested in ‘keyhole gardening’….I can point you toward some resources….

  8. Good job, too bad you couldn’t keep it. I feel sort of bad for OCP because I just posted a review similar to yours: it was not really damaging but also not glowing. I’m happy with the finished project though and would buy from them again.

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