Saturday, August 01, 2009

Soy What?

Figuring out what to do with this lime-and-grey yarn was like living the all-socks version of Goldilocks. The result kept being too big or too small or too ... not right.

What made it so difficult? The colorway didn't help. Mostly, though, I wanted to do justice to the very interesting composition of the yarn. The brand is TOFUtsies. The name gives away part of its composition: soy. According to The Knitter's Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes:

In the 1930's, automobile magnate Henry Ford pushed for the development of a soy-based fiber to help promote the soybean industry. The resulting product, called Azlon, was produced but it never gained widespread commercial adoption, losing out to rayon and nylon. Today the fiber is enjoying a worldwide revival, thanks to the efforts of Shanghai farmer, businessman, and self-taught scientist
Li Guanqi. He took the soy pulp that remains after soybeans have been pressed and their oil removed, and developed a process by which the soy proteins are isolated from the pulp, rendered into a liquid state, and wet-spun with polyvinyl alcohol.

The fiber itself has the luster of silk and the resilience of wool, with a
soft hand, lustrous appearance, and marvelous drape... Soy fiber feels warm, yet it also wicks moisture away from your skin, making it well-suited to warmer climates.

This particular yarn is a blend of 50% superwash wool, 25% soy silk, 22.5% cotton, 2.5% chitin (from shrimp and crab shells). I thought the chitin might be for durability. Wrong! According to, it's in there for its "natural antibacterial or antiseptic property".

All in all, an interesting yarn. The color, too is interesting, being a limited-edition color for the Oc-toe-ber (that's what they called it) shipment of the Tofutsies Sock Club. I purchased it long after the fact at deep discount. Otherwise, quite honestly, why bother with lime green and grey? I bought the yarn from Little Knits, which also threw in the accompanying pattern.

A fact I fought against. The pattern was fine. It was the cutesy story accompanying the pattern that made me grit my teeth and dig in my heels. The designer's mom ... bow on the fiddle ... Ireland, blah blah blah. The older I get, the less patience I have for cute names for knitting patterns. I have even less patience with the stories that go along with the patterns, unless it's about tradition. Then I'm interested.

The yarn was knit - wrong pattern! - and frogged.

And knit - wrong pattern and needles! - and frogged.

And knit - wrong pattern! - and frogged.

And knit - wrong pattern and needles! Again! - and frogged.

And put back in the deepest oubliette of my stash.

Until right before my recent round of airplane travel. I needed a knitting project that was small, mindless, and disposable. The disposable part has to do with the uncertainty of traveling with knitting. If this project were somehow lost, it had to not matter much. Airport security officers can be capricious about knitting, sometimes allowing it on the plane and sometimes not. As my flights were international, I wouldn't have an applicable SASE on my person.

Socks are small. This pattern is fairly mindless, once you knit more than ten rows. And, let's face it, lime and grey yarn is always going to be disposable, even if it is made of tofu and crab shells.

No one confiscated my needles. No one even looked at them, not in Chicago, not in Dublin, not in Paris. At the airport, at the railway station, on the plane, on the train, I knit a little. Pretty soon, I had lime and grey socks made from tofu and crab shells.

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