Monday, February 13, 2012

Mega Knitting!!

**Update, I have had a few readers ask questions in the comment section below. I have tried to comment and answer them there. **

I have an announcement, I have officially lost my marbles, but in a creative way. Oh, also I may need to rename my blog "Mrs. B Knits", because that seems to be the way my posts are going these days.
The knitting bug has bitten be pretty hard, along with some other creative bugs that cause me to make things with an uncontrolled passion (some say obsession) and determination.

This giganto craft in particular sparked me right away. About a year ago I taught myself how to knit, and I quickly started googling inspiration for extreme knitting (sounds like an oxymoron, as knitting is usually associated with grandmas sitting on there doily covered couches). I occasionally saw really large gauge blankets or throws that looked so plush and exaggerated, but in my search for large yarn I was coming up unsuccessful.
Until I found a pattern and how to make your own mega huge yarn! Then it was on, like Donkey Kong.
Pattern found here at nocturnalknits.com

First I needed giant needles. Although the pattern suggested using PVC pipe with duct tape tips, that was just so not my style. Plus I wanted something I could keep and display in my crafting room. Something classic, so we went with wood.
5 foot tall just over 1.5" in diameter or 40mm thick needles. Mr. B crafted these babies out of a giant 10 foot long dowel, think of the rods in your closet, and two fence finials for the ends. I finished them in a Minwax finish that was perfect and dried in no time.


Then I needed the wool. I had to start with roving. Its basically sheep's wool that's in a long continuous strand of combed fibers. Here is my box of 7 pounds of Merino sheep wool in superwash un-dyed natural color.


This is what it looks like when its "out of the box" it's on long continuous super soft ribbon of cotton candy like wool fibers.





To prepare the roving for knitting I needed to "felt" the wool to make it stronger by tightening the fibers together and also making it less prone to shedding. This process was time consuming but actually fun. I rolled the long strand of roving into white sheets.


Here I am rolling....and rolling. It took 4 king size sheets total to roll up the 7 lbs of roving.




Each sheet was tied up like a sausage to keep everything in place.


Then I tied all 4 sausages together.


Then it was time to Felt! I got the bathtub going with the hottest water possible, a bit of detergent and that's all you need.


Well there is a bit of exercise to it as well. I put on my goulashes (they are really heavy) and got to agitating. Basically your feet act as a washing machine, turning up the water, stomping the hot water through the fibers and really moving the wool around. I did this for 5 minutes, then ran clean water through it and then smashed most of the water out.



The sausages took a couple rounds in the washing machine in the spin cycle to remove the majority of the water. This worked really well actually, I was quite surprised.

I laid out a large thick comforter in our sitting room floor, and zig-zaged the damp roving out over it to dry.
I have to say if you are going to do this be prepared for a very strong wet animal odor. It smelled like there was a wet sheep herd in our house "something fierce". I then made the fantastic mistake to light some incense, and immediately our house smelled like you had walked out into the streets of another country. It was not really pleasant, but luckily it didn't last long.


This lengthy process is basically to make the fluffy delicate wool strands go from this.


To this.
Photobucket


After the wool dried on the floor overnight, I split it in half vertically to cut the diameter of the strands in half. The pattern said to do it this way, but if I had to do it again I would split it first and then felt it. It would be way more work, but I think the end product would be better.
Here are the two giant balls of yarn being made from the split up large strand of roving.


Tada!
All ready to knit! Finally :)



And I'm ready to cast on!


That's when Mr. B went for a ride on his newly rebuilt Triumph, he took Yoda with him and left me to my knitting.



He came home to this! It's not a great shot but I'm at the half way point here, and just after this was taken I quit knitting for the evening.


This is where it got pretty heavy. The next day I finished the rest with some help. The needles got so heavy and my arms were sore, so it was a two person effort from then on.


This is my mini ball leftover from the project.


Here it is!
The pattern asked for a slightly different number of stitches, I changed it a bit. Mine ended up being 50"x60"


So Mega Throw is pretty awesome. It's the plushest thing in our home. It is like a knitted sheep skin rug. It's so cushy you could sleep on it like a mattress. I don't think I need to mention how heavy it is.


This is a close up of the stitches, they are about 2.5" wide each.



Now that it's done I am really enjoying it. I don't know what my next crazy project might be but I know when I get tired from it, I'll have this plush beauty to cuddle up with when I need to.




**updated 2/16/12***
I decided after living with Mega Blanket for a few days that the shedding and amount of wool it was leaving on everything it touched needed to be controlled. Now I knew it would do this, but to prevent it from happening as much I ended up "felting" it again after it was knitted up. I wrapped the blanket in one large sheet and threw it back in a tub of soapy hot water, put my boots on again did a little dance on it, then put it in the washer for the spin cycle once more and laid it flat to dry.

This is pretty much the process it will go through every time it needs to be washed so its perfectly fine for the blanket and it helped a lot with its shedding issue! YAY!

It does still shed a bit but not as much as before.



33 comments:

Robin @ 3 acres & 3000 sf said...

OMG you need to make me a blanket like that! I'd like a tan one though. Such great texture and it looks so warm. Not sure if I'd like how heavy it is though. You are so adventurous.

Robin @ 3 acres & 3000 sf said...

See I've had this throw linked for a while and I love the bottom detail. Is there a name for that style?

http://www.laylagrayce.com/Products/Sefte-Maya-Boucle-Hand-Woven-Throw-with-8-Braided-Fringe__SEF21.aspx

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

Hi Robin, Thanks for the kind words. My blanket is 7 pounds total, so it's a beast. It actually feels really nice on top of you, but its very warm!

The throw that you linked is gorgeous, and the Alpaca wool should be super soft. It is flat woven though (not knitted) and the fringe on the bottom is done in a knotted technique to get that great diamond pattern. I've actually done that before for a project, and it's not too difficult, but I don't flat weave. I'm sure the price tag is worth the quality.

Robin @ 3 acres & 3,000 sf said...

OK thanks. I know nothing about knitting as you can see. : ) I'm sure it's a great blanket but there is no way we'll be buying it as it's half decorative. DH loves to sleep under warm blankets but I like to say cooler at night so I wouldn't be using it. Plus I'd hate to worry about staining or snagging something that pricey.

Darsana said...

This is so amazing/You are so amazing! Thank you for documenting the entire, laborious, fascinating process--I loved reading about it.

Would you ever do it again?

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

Darsana, you are so sweet! Thank you. You know at first I probably would have said no, but now that it's been a while since I've made "Mega Blanket" I would have to say YES!
Not that I need another blanket of mass proportions, but if someone else wanted one, I would take it on again!

Mary Mickelsen said...

How is the shedding now? Also, does it pill up a lot? I kind of want to make these for Christmas presents this year, but I don't want to give my relatives something that will fill their houses with fuzz!

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

@Mary
I did wash it again in hot water attempting to felt the wool together a bit more to prevent the shedding. It did help, but it still sheds. It's the nature of the beast. I love it anyway, I just make sure not to wear black when I snuggle with it.
I would have to say there might be a way to avoid this if you skipped making your own giant yarn out of roving and bought a pre-made super bulky or the biggest yarn you could find and doubled tripped or even 4 times it over and adjusted your gauge to make it work. I think Pickles Yarn has a yarn called fat & happy that looks nice, not sure how much you would need though. http://shop.pickles.no/en/products/yarn/pickles-fat-happy/

Debbie Mueller said...

I have been wanting to make a blanket like this for some time now - thank you so much for the preview of what it 's going to take! Where did you get your roving? Do you order by the pound?
Thanks!

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

@Debbie Mueller

Hi Debbie, it is quite the process, but worth it in the end!
I bought my roving at my local Spinning and weaving store. They normally stock it in large quantities in the normal sheep wool, but I wanted Merino sheep's wool so they ordered it in for me. 7 lbs to be exact.
If you want an online source this is the site recommended by the author of the pattern http://www.thesheepshedstudio.com/NewSuperpage.html
And if you want to check out the original authors FAQ's they are very helpful and are on this link http://nocturnalknits.com/about/giganto-blanket-faq/

us4byrds said...

You did such a great job documenting the process. It is nice to know what I am getting myself into. Did you graft the ends of the wool together before you felt it or after?

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

@us4byrds I didn't have to needle felt (or graft) the ends of the wool together because the large spool of roving I ordered came as one continuous strand. But if you need to with your roving, I would suggest using a felting needle to graft ends together before you wet felt it.
Good luck!

Paube said...

I ordered 18 lbs. of roving to make 3 blankets for Christmas. I'm not sure if I'm felting it right (I'm trying a sample). It seems to be coming apart more. I'm also afraid if I split it first, it will be too thin. Does the water need to be super hot?

Paube said...

P.S. It doesn't look as thick and fluffy as yours after it was split218

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

@Paube
I did split it after I felted it. If your roving is too thin I would suggest felting it first, and yes in very hot water, the hottest possible. Have you bought the pattern from http://nocturnalknits.com/ I highly recommend getting the pattern if you want to succeed with your project. I couldn't have done it without it. Remember all wool will act differently too, I used superwash Merino wool.

Good Luck with your 3 blankets!
-Mrs. B

Eims Eims said...

SO creative! And you sitting there with huge needles and yarn makes a great photo :) hope you're enjoying the blanket!

Attemptthisathome said...

That is SOOOO awesome!! I would love to make one, where did you buy the wool from? Thanks heaps, enjoy your knitting!

Malmys said...

Amazing!

mcnamon said...

how long did the actual knitting take

Mr. + Mrs. B said...

@mcnamon The knitting took about 2 hours or so. Not very long at all. It's really only a few stitches, but it was so heavy it took a bit longer than normal.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely amazing!
I have to ask though, doesn't Superwash wool NOT felt?

Viena Jayde Alander said...

This is absolutely amazing!
I have to ask though, doesn't Superwash wool NOT felt?

fanis said...

Is there anywhere I can buy ready to go super big yarn that it's not crazy expensive? Amazing job !!! Bare with me guy here

Anonymous said...

Bilby Yarn in Western Australia carries roving like that above but also in lovely natural colours plus dyed. Seven Pounds would be approximately 3.2 kilos of roving for this project.

Brenna Slaby said...

Thank you for the detailed yet simple tutorial! I'm brand new to GIANT crochet, and this was full of good tips to follow. I have 6 pounds of roving just waiting on me to build up my confidence. (Also, I'm in LOVE with the area rug in your "roving ball" photos...gorgeous!)

Cherry said...

Beautiful work!

I am a novice but want to try this out. I much appreciate your detailed instructions. As I have already started knitting the blanket before coming across your article, I will have to felt it after the knitting is done. How much can I expect it to shrink during the felting process. Does your blanket shrink each time you felt it?....did it stop after the first felting?

Johan said...

Hallo Mrs. B, (Nicole) we are pensioners living in Cape Town, South Africa and appreciate your help and advice on how to do felting. (The best guidance on the Internet). We are battling to succeed, so far we used sample lengths, very hot water, spin drying, tumble drying, sun drying, hair-dryer drying, comforter drying but the end result is a flat yarn, no fluff and "dead" in appearance. (we have also in 50% of the testing split the roving beforehand.) Some advice that will give us hope? (This stuff is very expensive) Thank you for your time and advice. Jan and Lyanne.

Neil Nash said...

Nice service,Incredible work.Thanks.
oversize blanket throw

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Throw Blankets | Electric Blanket | Drum Heaters | Mirror Defogger

Limpetly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Limpetly said...

It looks like you didn't get a reply but I strongly suspect that you're using untreated roving. "Super wash" roving is what Nicole used and it's actually not supposed to felt at all, which is why it's fluffy and unfelted after all the water/heat/abuse. Your roving was likely untreated and thus will felt like crazy as soon as it's exposed to heat,detergents and water. It sounds like your wool did exactly that. That's the problem with wool roving, it isn't really meant to be used unspun and if you don't pre-felt it at least to a degree, it will disintegrate over time and shed everywhere. So, basically, your options are to find a way to felt the wool more gently, find super wash roving to do this technique, or use it untreated and be prepared for a very fragile and fluffy (shedding) finished product

Limpetly said...

It looks like you didn't get a reply but I strongly suspect that you're using untreated yarn. "Super wash" yarn is what Nicole used and it's actually not supposed to felt much at all, which is why it's fluffy and infected after all the water/heat/abuse. Your wool was likely totally untreated and thus will felt like crazy as soon as it's exposed to heat,detergents and water. It sounds like your wool did exactly that. That's the problem with wool roving, it isn't really meant to be used unspun and if you don't pre-felt it at least to a degree, it will disintegrate over time and shed everywhere. So, basically, your options are to find a way to felt the wool more gently, find super wash roving to do this technique, or use it untreated and be prepared for a very fragile and fluffy (shedding) finished product.

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