Dr Who 50th Anniversary Scarf – knitted on a mill?

ImageSo, in the 50th Anniversary Episode of Dr Who (“Day of the Doctor”) the assistant to the Chief Science Officer of U.N.I.T is wearing a reboot of the original Tom Baker scarf. I believe, from careful examination of the episode (see screenshots) that this is knitted in a continuous stockinette tube on a machine not unlike the Prym Knitting Mill.

The material has a similar gauge, width and drape as long scarves I have knitted on the Prym Knitting Mill Maxi. The only other contender for the construction of this scarf is 1×1 rib, and in no scene does the scarf show any sign of a purl. Moreover, the gaps between the colour changes do not have the characteristic second stripe that a purled colour change has at any stage – suggesting a lack of purls.

Finally, the original Dr Who scarf was a glorious mistake on behalf of the knitter who created it – they sent sample colours and the knitter misunderstood, thinking they wanted a stripy bohemian super-scarf. And it was beautiful, and iconic. For the reboot it only makes sense that the more commercially available and ‘modern’ looking stockinette would be used as it is the easiest to produce. It could even be produced by an enthusiastic member of the production team who had found a knitting mill on Amazon or at Toys R Us and decided that they could make this scarf (and its stunt doubles) quicker and cheaper than having someone hand-knit it in garter stitch (certainly quicker and easier than 1×1 rib…).

This could just be a personal bias, but I honestly think that the evidence is there for a Prym Knitting Mill Maxi Dr Who scarf, I’ll be casting on one ASAP and I implore all Whovians with mills to join me!

How to prepare an Alpaca Fleece for Spinning

I was recently lucky enough to get a hold of a baby alpaca fleece. I was thrilled to open the bag and see this:

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“So clean”, I thought, “almost no preparation required!”

Then I pulled it out, un-rolled the fleece and found this:

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Vegetable matter, mud and some stuff I just didn’t want to think about…but then all babies make a mess, baby alpacas are no different! This is easily resolved, however, when you notice that the engrained muck is all at the ends of the locks.

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Simply take a pair of scissors and cut the dirty tips off the locks. You should only lose a centimetre or so, and this doesn’t affect its ability to be spun.

The big twigs, leaf litter and such that are caught in the fleece just pull out by hand. Be pretty thorough with this. Small bits of leaf and dust will just fall out when you are drafting, but bigger ones can ruin the look of your yarn if they end up in your final product and ruin your finger if you accidentally spin a splinter into yourself, learn from my mistake there!

Now you’re ready to go! No washing required, alpaca doesn’t have the grease that sheep’s wool does. Also, the softness makes it felt too easily, so just wash the finished yarn.

This process takes a while, it took me 45 minutes to process about 150g of raw fleece. However, the fibre is soft and wonderful, but grippy enough when spun from the fleece that even a beginner like me can manage it.

Dying wool fibre with just coffee, water and vinegar

Knitting and coffee are two of my favourite things, and I discovered this morning that I can combine the two into one, awesome activity. I was googling to see if there was an easy way to dye wool fibre, as I have a lot of it and thought it’d be exciting to create my own colours, but many of the dying processes called for difficult, time consuming methods or chemicals I didn’t recognise and certainly didn’t have around the house.

So, I summarised all I had read, pared it down to what was in the cupboard and experimented. My most successful colourway resulted from an out of date jar of instant coffee diluted in three litres of water, in which I boiled 50 grams of wool top in my rice cooker.

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I pre-soaked the wool in a 1 part vinegar 10 parts water solution for 45 mInutes and then just draped it oer a wooden spoon so alternating sections were submerged in the coffee. After 30 minutes I pulled the spoon to the back of the pot, removing some of the dyed wool from the coffee and left the remaining in for a further hour – this did not seem to make much difference, colour absorption seems to be at maximum after 45 minutes with istant coffee. I also had 25 grams fully submerged for the final hour and it turned out much the same colour as that with 30 minutes of exposure.

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Here are the dry, plaited finished products ready for spinning. I am certain that strict adherence to chemistry and dye preparation could result in more vibrant colours, but as afternoon projects go, this one is quick, cheap, entirely non-toxic and super easy. Plus, your kitchen smells like a coffee shop, which I think is a bonus!

Hello, internauts!

This is my first ever blog post. Isn’t it exciting? I plan to blog about the Prym knitting mill Maxi I recently received. It is a wonderfully simple (if ocassionally temperamental) machine, but with a bit of imagination and a habit of making stuff up as you go along (which is easily acquired) I think great things can come from it.

The first thing to note is that it really likes arcrylic wool, which is handy because arcrylic is my favourite, too. It’s versatile, doesn’t scratch and can be given to anyone regardless of fiber allergies/preferences. It is also cheap, abundant regardless of the quality/range knitting shop you’re in, and can be washed with relative ease and less fear of shrinkage than other wools. Although – disclaimer here – you can ruin it in other ways, which I’ll have a little rant about later.

Secondly, guage is not adjustable as far as I can tell, it knits a big guage regardless of the weight of the wool and regardless of how tight you keep the wool feeding into it. But the size of the things that come out of it can be adjusted by the type of fiber you put in. 100% wool does not stretch as much as arcylic, I have yet to try 100% cotton but I imagine this would be the case, too, as I knitted a baby hat in a cotton/wool/arcrylic blend DK and it came out big enough for a 6month old. However, arcrylic stretches prodigiously, especially certain kinds, Patons DK stretches to fit anyone and so with the number of stitches used for the baby hat and a little added length, the guage stretches to fit my adult head very comfortably.

Finally, for now, the machine is very quick when you get the hang of it – but it takes some getting used to. At first, particularly with panels, I wondered if I wasn’t better off just knitting by hand (where my decade’s history in knitting lies), but with a little perseverance and ten frogging sessions I made a very successful and comfortable tube beanie. Then things took off, my projects got faster and neater and within a fortnight I was making christmas knits faster than I could ever have hoped by hand. As the machine doesn’t do binding on/off the edges are live, which allows for my colourwork or lace cravings to be quickly and easily met on a project that would otherwise have taken weeks of stockinette.

I’m off, for now, but I will be back to blog some more, so have a nice day and happy knitting!