Discourse and Q&A with Bonne
Marie Burns of ChicKnits.com
la la, this is my favorite time of year. Let's shout
it out together:
"It's Sweater Weather!!!"
wearing them or making them, La Bonne Tricoteuse is
in her ultimate element in the late autumnal northern
hemisphere. The only problem is that she can't knit
as fast as the ideas are coming to her.
If your mail is any indication, this seems to be the
case with a lot of Knitty readers! Thanks for all
the great e-mails and questions you've sent my way.
I've answered a lot of you individually but here are
a few for the round table:
reader Afton Koontz: How come when you felt an
item, the rows [how long it is] shrink more than the
stitches [how wide it is] and sometimes it's even
shrinking all around?
Bonne Tricoteuse: If this were CSI, I'd have my
man Bill Peterson [whom I actually went out with once
when I was too young to know better] put a piece of
yarn under his microscope and let you take a look.
You would see that wool is made up of vertically overlapping
scales. These scales make the wool [or the hair of
any mammal, like alpaca or goat] have a natural springing
characteristic. The diameter of the fiber stays stable.
make yarn, you take long fibers and combine them in
a twisting process called spinning to merge and lengthen
the fibers into one continuous piece. So when you
shrink a fiber, you are naturally making smaller the
structure that CAN change. The scales stack up tighter
on each other but the diameter changes much less.
Heat and agitation with abrasion cause felting. Different
yarns felt differently depending on the fibers used
and the way they are spun. I felt things by washing
them in hot water with two pairs of blue jeans and
a little Dawn Dish soap. Scrubbing Hot Bubbles = Felting.
note: For more on felting, take a look at Kathy
Wortel's article in this issue of Knitty.
From reader Martha Uniack: I love Mon Tricot.
I have been trying to find out if they still publish.
Do you know?
Bonne Tricoteuse: Unfortunately Mon Tricot is
no longer. But it will live forever on eBay! Try this
love the Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionaries [around
reader Maggi Tinsley: I
have a sweater I knitted in the mid-'80s and I'm thinking
I'd rather it was another garment. The yarn is delicious
and was expensive, so I don't want to lose it, but
the cable doesn't even show because it's tweedy [silk/wool
blend in turquoise/purple], and the cardigan is too
big, and one sleeve was just made wrong so even though
I've re-seamed it trying to fix, all that's left is
more bulk. Can I take the whole thing apart almost
20 years later? My one expert-knitter friend opines
no: "I think the yarn is so set in its present form
that it would look awful reknitted." Say it isn't
Bonne Tricotuese: You have struck platinum with
La Bonne. I am the Diva of Deconstruction! The Reigning
Queen of Reconstitution. The Frog Princess of all
process, done carefully and patiently on wool or wool-blend
yarns, will eventually yield a brand new garment.
1. Take out all seams carefully. Use a darning
needle to help undo knots.
2. Unravel the knitted piece slowly. At the
same time, wind the yarn around a cardboard box about
12-18 inches high, 12 inches wide, and about 2 inches
thick. You are making skeins, so when you have a decent
handful of yarn on the box, tie it in four places
with scrap yarn loops. I trim all the loops except
the one nearest the free end of the yarn so I can
find it easily later.
3. When all your yarn is skeined, fill a big
sink with lukewarm water and add a couple of handfuls
of shampoo [after all, wool is hair!]. I like to use
Mane'n'Tail Shampoo & Conditioner for washing all
4. Soak your skeins for ten minutes. By this
time you will witness the MIRACLE of the relaxation
of the loops and start screaming. [Uh, maybe not if
you're not me.]
5. Swish them around a little and let soak
another 10 minutes.
6. To rinse, drain the sink, refill it and
add a couple of handfuls of hair conditioner. Let
soak for 10 minutes.
7. Gently lift and squeeze out excess water
and put the skeins in a bucket or bowl so water doesn't
get all over.
8. Lay out the skeins flat on a towel and roll
up. Leave for one hour.
9. Lay out the skeins on a new dry towel and
let air dry overnight or until completely dry. Some
people hang their skeins but I find this puts too
much stress on the yarn and destroys its elasticity.
10. Wind 'em up, baby, and make yourself a
brand new sweater.
reader Katie: I was wondering which type of increase
would be best to use here, where it says "Increase
1 st each end of every 6th row 5 times: 90 [96, 103,
110, 115] sts." Also, where it says "Armholes and
Neckline Bind off . . . Dec 1 st at each side every
other row etc." does this mean using four needles?
Two for each shoulder part?
La Bonne Tricoteuse: Oh goody! We get to go
visit the fun folks over at DnT. They generously provide
the internet knitter with some
animated demos which will take the mystery out
of increasing and decreasing.
Bonne prefers the Make-One increase, which uses the
"bar" of yarn between stitches on the previous row.
You can see it in action
here. This increase is both easy to do and almost
invisible after working.
you are binding off at each edge, you use two needles
as usual. Just increase or decrease at the beginning
and end of the specified row, and then continue in
If there is some center shaping to be made, you still
use two needles but do one side at a time. The side
you're not working on is kept on a stitch holder until
you're ready to work with it. Then you just slip the
stitches off the holder and back on your needle and