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Am I Blue

Dear Ann,
Of course I’m blue–didja hear about the Yankees? But, being a resilient person when it comes to sports, what’s been getting me down is Soccer Pullover. The KayCam reads the soccer ball motif as white, but trust me–it’s a lovely shade of baby blue. Which would be fine if soccer balls were baby blue, but they’re not. And what are we trying to achieve, in intarsia, if not accuracy and realism?
I’ve spent yesterday and today trying to get right with God about this. What befuddles me most is that I have done two previous projects mixing the darkest indigo shade of denim with the ecru, without the slightest tinge of blue creeping onto the white. My conclusion: it’s the washing machine.
In the basement of my old apartment building, we had three banged-up, well-meaning, coin-op Maytags. When you turned the dial to ‘hot wash/cold rinse’, they really tried, but it generally worked out to ‘warmish wash/coolish rinse’. And they were big. They held a lot of water. The whole procedure, from filling up the tub to final rinse spin, took about 30 minutes. Maybe clothes didn’t get too clean, but they didn’t get much of a chance to dye each other, either.
With the new apartment came a very intimidating German washing machine installed by the previous owners. This machine has nothing on its dial as namby-pamby as ‘hot wash/cold rinse’. Temperatures are calibrated in degrees, and those degrees are Fahrenheit, liebchen. Being all about efficiency and thoroughness, it holds a gallon of water and runs for a full 1 hour and 54 minutes. So when I set the Uberwascher to 170 and let it go through its paces, the effect was literally to steep Soccer Pullover in concentrated blue dye.
Afterwards, I did get out the Clorox and the Q-Tips. I did dab a little bit on the back side of two of the white sections. I tried to channel my inner Denim Person (did you see those sweaters in Denim People that were “decorated” with bleach—-shriek!). But my nerve failed me. I decided I could live with the blue, and the hope that if I keep up the 2-hour washes, it will fade over time.
But now that I’m right with God about that, I need to get right with Kate Buller about this:
Or rather, Kate Buller needs to get right with me. The trouble with this pullover pattern is that the sleeves are not set in. With drop shoulders, the shoulder seam hits the wearer partway down the arm, adding to the length of the sleeve by an amount that is hard to determine before you sew the seam and put the person in the sweater. With set-in sleeves, you can check that the length is okay by measuring the wearer from wrist to armpit; with drop-shoulder sleeves you don’t know exactly how much overhang there is going to be. So when Kate told me to knit the sleeve to 10 1/2 inches, I took it on faith. I added 15% for the denim’s shrinkage, bound them off, and flung them in das waschmeister.
When Joseph tried on the body and I held up the sleeves to it, it was obvious that they were too short. So I had to unravel the bind-off and add some length. I’m not worried about the color difference. The yarn is the same dye lot, so with a couple of washings it will even out. To amuse myself I put in a band of 2 x 2 ribbing to match the trim on the sleeves and edges. (Yes, this was amusing, I tell you.)
So that’s my story. I’m not happy about any of this, but it’s still going to be a cute sweater, and more importantly, after a year or two of Joseph rolling around in the gravel in it, I’m going to get what I long for: faded, ratty, ragged denim yarn to rip back and recycle into something totally rootsy.
Love, Kay




  1. What soccer ball? I’m too mesmerized by the short row/three-needle bind-off.
    OK, so I admit I did a Google for “light blue soccer ball” in hope of finding some legitimate example of a soccer ball that was light blue. I knew it would make you feel better about all this. The closest I could come was an item I found at the web site called http://www.bodycandy.com, which features a Light Blue Soccer Ball Labret.
    Kay, do you know what a labret is? If you’re needing a link, well here you go.
    Sorry not to be more helpful. I’m feeling a little a) old and b) queasy.

  2. Have you tried Oxy Clean. I have used it before to clean up color bleeds. Just throw a scoopful in the wash and wish.

  3. Sorry to hear about the soccer ball. In Ohio, they have a product at the grocery store (don’t remember its name) that is basically chlorine bleach in gel form. Very powerful. Very dangerous. Might work…
    Also, be careful with the dropped sleeves. You never know until you stitch them up how they’re really going to turn out. My first sweater was dropped-sleeve; I finished one sleeve, scoffed at its shortness, and added several extra inches. The sleeves on this sweater now double as a muff. It was supposed to be a present for my father, who in fact wears it and insists it’s just the thing for his cold hands. But it’s really funny-looking.

  4. What a pain! I think you’re right about the efficient German machine though. By the look of the colour difference on the sleeves they lost a lot of dye on the first wash. Sometimes efficiency is a bad thing!!! The interstartia ball looks very cool though and I’m sure Joseph will love it.

  5. I’m sure the baby blue will gradually fade after a few uber washes ! I have a Bosch.I love my Bosch ! It talks in centigrade,and when it says 90 C it means it.
    As you know about denim all will be fab in time. :0)

  6. Well, you’ve gone and proved one theory, anyway: In all the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on my daughter’s theater education, I learned that if you want something to look white onstage, you make it — yes, light blue. Hm… veddy intedestink… That’s about all I have to contribute, except to say that “I told you so.” At least I think I did. It seems familiar, and I think I left the comment. Or maybe I’m just dreaming again.

  7. In Munich I once used a washing machine that had a setting beyond “heiss” — ”kuchwasche.” It’s like Spinal Tap; it goes to eleven.
    What about that product that promises to get rid of dye that’s been washed in from another article of clothing? If I could remember the name in my addled brain, I would.

  8. The question is, “How more blue could it be?” The answer is, “None. None more blue.”
    Must get my mud-flapped bottom to the video store to rent Spinal Tap immediately!

  9. Kay, next time use “Shout Color Catcher” in the wash it soaks up the dye in the water and helps prevent the color bleeding.

  10. I’m so glad that you have a long term plan. The short term one would be driving me nuts.

  11. OK I’m freaking out at the idea that Shout Color Catcher soaks up the dye in the water. HOW COULD THAT BE TRUE? Soaks it up to where? Little sponge pods in the water? It just Goes Away? Who’s thinking up this stuff?

  12. I used some samples of that Shout Color Catcher (it’s a sheet — kind of looks like a thick Bounce sheet) and was impressed. That might be the trick!

  13. Oh, darn. But you know what? I really think that’s some excellent intarsia. So what if it’s a baby blue soccer? I’ve seen orange/black soccer balls, red/black soccer balls…I once saw a neon green[!]/black soccer ball. Just say you did it on purpose ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. ….teary eyed about the soccer ball incident, kay, but….pale blue soccer balls are definately a fashion statement…. not to worry. joseph’s friends will all want the pale blues, just you wait……can you continue to use ye ‘ole coin-op maytags in the old apartment building, for old times sake?….. or….send ’em on to CA….my 26 year old maytags are still a chugging and a purring!

  15. Can’t add to the blue-removal discussion, BUT – did anyone else notice that she knit this just to use her son as a human “stone-wash” cycle so she can “rip back and recycle into something totally rootsy”?
    Because, really, that’s nuts. She knit it up to break it in to undo it and re-knit it when the yarn is really in a good way.
    Nuts. And brilliant. Because who wouldn’t kill for that yarn in two years? And how else could you get it that way? Two years from now, we will all wish that had had the foresight to knit our blue soccerballs now.

  16. Sorry, I meant to post the “Shout” link
    no affiliation just a satified customer, that needs to remember to use the color catcher when I wash my denim creation.

  17. Amber–LOL. I am busted. Not only am I turning my son into a human stone-wash cycle, I am casting on a denim pullover for my daughter as well. She requested it herself when I was knitting one for her brother, but then, that was all part of my scheme, wasn’t it?
    Is it so WRONG to plan ahead? I mean, they’re going to outgrow the sweaters–that is not my doing. This way, instead of passing along a ratty sweater to someone else’s kid, who is probably going to refuse to wear it on account of it having a baby-blue soccer ball on it, I can recycle that ratty sweater. How very ecological and downright life-affirming of me.
    Vicki & Kathleen, I am a little worried about these Color Catcher sheets. I fear that someday all that swallowed-up blue dye will come home to roost, just when I’ve got a load of whites in the machine. Not trusting of technology here. What if it sucks all the blue out the dark shade? I’m not ready for that level of stone-washing. The kid has to wear the sweater for a while.
    I noticed in one of my Rowan mags a picture of Martin Storey himself, the King of Denim, wearing one of his indigo denim jackets; it had ecru cuffs that had turned a distinct blue, and Martin looked as if frankly, my dear, he didn’t give a damn. (Apparently his washing machine is not a laid-back Maytag.) It’s the way it is. I’m getting all Zen about it.
    We move on. We knit something else. We put a cute family member into the sweater, and everything’s o.k. xoxoxo Kay

  18. Synthropol! Synthropol! That’s what you need! It is a powerful detergent that is used to rinse the dye out when you dye fabric (or yarn too, I think). You can order it from Pro Chemical and Dye http://www.prochemical.com, or dharmatrading.com. I have also come across it at Pearl Paint, an art supply store in Chicago. I use it for fabric dyeing for quilts, but anytime my sons dastardly red socks bleed onto something, or any such accident, a wash with a little synthropol nearly always does the trick. Hope this helps and good luck!

  19. Anything called Synthropol has to be good. Industrial.

  20. I think I’d rather order it from Dharma Trading than from Pro Chemical. Do you think Color Catcher is just Synthropol Lite?
    I’m going to start with Color Catcher, move up to OxyClean, and then if it’s still blue, I’ll fry it in weapons-grade Synthropol.
    Thanks everybody! I’m leaving it blue, for now. Here’s to better living through chemistry, xox Kay

  21. This spirited discussion on washing machines, nifty cleaning projects, and other laundry related matters has been most interesting to me. That said, I think your blog should be renamed:
    MasonDixonWashing.com. Just a thought!


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