August Dye Experiment

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this yet. Where have I been all summer?

This post is about the Great Dye Experiment that The Gabbers and I had at the end of August. I’ve talked about it on my podcast, but it just feels weird not to have also blogged about it.

So back in August, The Gabbers was playing around with dyeing. She had bought some naked, undyed yarn and some acid dyes and was playing around with both natural and acid dyeing. She invited me down to come play with the dyes to see what we could make, since she knew I had grabbed some undyed fiber from the GnomeAcres fiber stock sale over the summer. I had taken a Friday off to play with Penny (the adorable corgi) because both of my parents were on vacation and she had some separation anxiety over their leaving, so we figured I’d bring my fiber and the dog down to my sister’s apartment. The dogs would wrestle all day and we would dye yarn and fiber.

We actually started out with some yarn and not the fiber we’d been talking about. We’d looped our fiber in the recommended fashion (I’m not sure what book we were using) and were soaking it in vinegar to hold the dye later. She had already soaked the naked yarn she had ordered, so it was ready to go.

The first yarn we dyed was very experimental. We weren’t sure the concentration of dye and how saturated those colors would be, so the first skein was really for us to find our feet. We started out by hand painting the yarn to see how the colors would work. I decided to drip the dye onto my first skein to mimic the speckled yarns that are popular right now.

 

I think both of us were surprised at how low the saturation was when we dyed the yarn this way. I like the result, but it had looked much more saturated before we set the color. We then tried some more hand painting and ended up with a much more saturated yarn.

 

 

 

 Since I’m not intending to replicate this yarn for sale, I’ll explain how I did the color. I arranged my skein on the plastic into a square (ish) shape. I started adding color to the corner sections, then to either side of each corner, and then filled in the straight sides. I have no idea how this will knit up, but I’m excited to see what kind of variegation that created.

Then the fiber was ready to play with. We started out trying hand painting the fiber, since that’s what we had been doing with the yarn. That was kind of a mess. The fiber just drank the dye and stuck to brushes, even when only dabbing straight up and down. I ended up just pouring dye into the fiber and squishing it down to distribute the dye in that section. Luckily, I wanted most of the color to blend well instead of clear color changes in this fiber and I think it worked out pretty well for my pumpkin fiber.

 

By this time, it was getting late and we knew we needed to speed things up if I was going to go home that night, which was my preference since I hadn’t brought anything with my but the dog and some fiber. So then we started working on some immersion dyeing stuff.

I started out with a braid of fiber in some hot water and just dumping some red mixed dye into the water and letting that cook in. When the fiber had absorbed that, I pulled out that fiber and tied some big, loose knots in it. I dumped it back into the water and poured some blue dye in. When that was absorbed, I pulled it out again and tied the whole thing into one loopy knot, put it back in the water, and poured some darker purpley blue dye into the pot. The goal was the same principle as tie-dye. The first layer of dye would be covered in the knots, so other parts of the fiber would have the blue over-dye. Then both those sections would be covered in the big knot and the purple-blue dye would over-dye only part of the fiber. And this was the result:

 

I like the way the colors played, but I don’t think I’ll do that with fiber again. The fiber was so sticky when it was wet and I had to be super careful when I untied those knots. I didn’t want to pull the length of fiber apart and I know I partially drafted parts of it when I was pulling the knots out. Luckily, it fluffed up when it dried, so it’s not that noticeable. 

The I did some more immersion dyeing with my last bit of fiber. This one I mostly just played with the amounts of dye in the pot. I had some of the blue and then some of the purple-blue and I actually got a pretty cool effect due to the fiber being too fluffy for the dye pot. Some of the color really concentrated where the fiber touched the pot and the pot strainer and the parts that weren’t touching the pot or pot-strainer has a much softer color dye.

 

 

 

Then I rushed through dying the last bit of yarn, which actually turned out really nice. I threw some yellow into the dye pot, but there was still a little bit of the purple-blue in the pot, so it ended up a light, soft yellow-green. I tied the yarn in a few knots and tossed in some green, tied it into another big knot, and threw in another shade of green. It ended up being this nice sort of light, tonal green that I really like.

 

And that was my part of the yarn dyeing experiment! Will I do it again? With the space, time, and some money to get started? Sure! It was fun and I liked the yarns I ended up with. I’d love to play with the color dyes more and how they mix with each other, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do it again any time soon. Because of where I live, I cannot block off the kitchen to dye and I do not have the dedicated space for the actual dyeing or the drying. If this is something that I’m really interested in pursuing while I live here, I may pick it back up in the spring and summer and see about using the burner on the grill outside to do the heat setting and the clothesline for the drying.

The only thing I can really see myself doing anytime soon would be natural dyeing with foods. I know onion skins, cabbage, and black beans are among the food items that can dye yarn and I’m sure there are other things that I’m not thinking about right now. I’m definitely interested in doing some more research for that. 

Until then, I’ll just have to enjoy the products of my experiment.

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Canyon and Handspun Socks

Another older FO post! Let’s get this party started. Today, it’s socks!

Canyon Socks

Pattern: vanilla sock
Yarn: Loops & Threads Luxury Sock in “Canyon”
Needles: US 1 – 2.25 mm

 

I tried a couple of new things with these socks. Nothing major, but some tweaks that I hadn’t done in combination. I cast these on with 64 stitches. Lots of folks with similarly sized or smaller feet use 64 stitches for their basic socks, so I thought I’d give it a go. These are a teeny bit loose on me, but that’s not unexpected. I have a loose gauge and it was good to know. I also used the Fish Lips Kiss Heel on top down socks for the first time. It worked out well and is a good option for self-striping socks, I think. They look nice and even with matching heels, since I started the heel at the same color change.

All in all, a satisfying knit. They fit well enough and I learned some handy things to know about my gauge, foot size, and heel construction.

 

Handspun Socks

Pattern: vanilla sock
Yarn: Handspun out of 4 oz Frabjous Fibers BFL in “Dunedin” – chain plied and spun on my Ashford Kiwi 2
Needles: US 1 – 2.25 mm

 

Oh boy. These were an adventure. I made these for the Yarngasm Podcast’s Sock Spin and Knit Along. The goal was to spin your yarn and knit it into a pair of socks. I had a great time spinning the BFL I chose, but looking back on it, I think I needed to spin it a little finer to get more length out of it. The finished yarn was thicker than a fingering weight, so the yardage was a little short for my feet. In fact, if I hadn’t noticed, I would have run out of yarn part way through the toe decreases. Or I should have spun a little of another fiber to do contrasting heels and toes. I would have had plenty of the BFL for the socks if I had done that.

But alas, I had not and I played an epic game of yarn chicken. I skipped a bunch of plain knit rows in the toe and increased the decreases. By the end of it, I was knitting from both ends of the last bit of yarn and had to stop when I had a foot between them because I had to kitchener about 20 stitches for each sock. 

With a commercial yarn, there’s no way these socks would have fit me. Lying flat, even after blocking, they’re almost an inch shorter than my foot. But, because the yarn is thicker than a fingering weight and it was chain plied, there’s a lot of stretch to the knitted fabric I ended up with, so they actually fit my feet fine when I put them on.

I have two other 4 oz braids upstairs that I think would make nice socks like these. When I spin up those, I’m definitely going to be spinning up that other bit of fiber for contrasting heels and/or toes. That was a scary game of chicken and I’m not keen on doing it again, even if the socks turned out alright.

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Dragon Quilt

My dragon quilt! It is done!

I’m still pretty amazed that it’s finally done. I can’t even remember when I started working on this. It was last year sometime during the summer, so it must be coming up on a year now. I started planning this quilt when I nabbed The Weekend Quilter from a listing on Paperback Swap. It’s a neat little book and has a lot of quilt patterns that the book claims can be made in a weekend. I honestly don’t think that’s the case unless you already have your fabric, batting, binding, and threads all chosen and purchased before you begin, but the construction of the ones I’ve really read through do look like something you could dedicate a weekend to and come out with a finished quilt. 

 

 

This one in particular is done using the pattern called “A Piece of Summer” from The Weekend Quilter. You can see that there’s nothing radical about the construction. The squares are about 8”, which makes cutting the plain squares quick and easy, and the pieced squares are done using some pretty basic right triangle techniques, which are clearly explained in the pattern. It didn’t actually take me long to piece together the top. I think picking out my fabric colors took longer. And I like that this top mixes really simple plain squares with simply pieces squares to make this look a little more complicated than it is. 

 

 

I don’t know if you can see from these photos, but the color basis for this quilt are all pulled out of those little triangles of dragon fabric. This dragon fabric has gone through a lot. My mom originally bought this to make my youngest brother some curtains when he was little. Unknown to me at the time of starting my dragon quilt, my mom had also started working on a quilt using this fabric to base her colors on. So my little scraps there? They’re the scraps of some scraps. It’s kind of amazing that you can do that with quilting. The blue and the green also came from my mom’s quilt scraps and the white fabric came out of the collective trunk of fabric in our house. I bought the purple, pink, yellow, and backing fabric from Jo-Ann’s using a few coupons. The red fabric came from a haul that my sister had gotten from our grandma that she used for a photography project in college.

 

I’ve posted about my first quilts before, so I didn’t expect to have any issues with the actual quilting part of making my dragon quilt. I was wrong! First, I tried to quilt this using invisible thread for the top and cotton thread on the bottom. This didn’t work out. The invisible thread kept pulling the cotton up out of the top, regardless of what I did with the machine tension. So I ripped that out.

Then, I thought I’d try doing the blue for both sides, but I didn’t like how that looked on the top, so I ripped that out, too.

By the time I had decided on blue for the back and white for the top, my sewing machine started fighting me about everything. I was using a Singer Inspiration at the time, which I had gotten as a gift about a decade ago. I used it in spurts for most of its life – really heavily for a week or two and then not at all for months. I know I didn’t really take the best care of it because it was my first sewing machine and the poor thing had been dragged to and from college for four years. Not an easy life for a sewing machine. My sister had the same machine and had used it in a similar way and both of our machines started acting up at around the same time. Nesting regardless of tension settings, increased motor noise, and mine started this fun game of jerking the needle to the left every 20-30 stitches so that even the straightest of lines looked terrible. It was awful.

I bought a new sewing machine with my tax return earlier this year, but I kind of avoidable working on the quilt for a while. There was just so much aggravation with the old machine that I didn’t want a repeat of those machine fights. But once I actually sat down with the new machine and the quilt, I flew right through the rest. Only the binding really gave me any pause, but that’s mostly because I’m not great at making binding strips yet, so the back on the quilt had some uneven binding flaps. That was easy enough to fix with some quick hand sewing.

The finished quilt fits the top of a twin sized bed, which I think is probably the case with the other quilt patterns in The Weekend Quilter. It’s a great quilt to do and I’m really pleased that I finished it. It’s now another layer on my bed and it makes me happy to have it around in my room instead of tucked away upstairs in the craft room.

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Ribbed Cowl and Ribbed Hat

If you watched my Youtube video/podcast/whatever episode, you’ve already seen these finished objects. But I have somehow managed to completely miss posting them onto the blog! So here’s fixing that.

 

 

Pattern: This is one that I improvised. I cast on a bunch of stitches and knit 1×1 rib of each color until I ran out.

Needles: US 5 – 3.75 mm

Yarn: Buffalo Wool Company – Splash of Color mini-skeins

I’m pretty sure I cast this one on during one of my snow days in January/February. I remember I was working from home and my work-at-home was moving very slowly. I would spend a minute or two waiting for pages to load or processed to complete, so I just picked up the left over Buffalo Wool Company mini-skeins left over from my linen stitch cowl and started knitting. It was just something quick and simple to put my hands to use and I really like how it turned out.

I’m not sure if I will end up keeping this one. I’ve started a bin for things to gift or sell at a future date. I have a ton of things in my Ravelry queue that I want to make that I won’t use, so I figure I ought to save those things up so that other people will enjoy them. 

 

 

 

 

 

Pattern: I improvised this one, too. I just cast on a fewer stitches than the ribbed cowl, knit 1×1 rib for a bit, then stockinette until it looked like I was going to start running out within the next few rows. I did a couple of decrease rows alternated with straight knit rows until I ran out of yarn, then pulled the end through and gathered up the stitches.

Needles: US 5 – 3.75 mm

Yarn: This is actually the very first handspun I ever bought, which was at a little knit stand at the New York Renaissance Faire about a decade ago. I lost the tag a long time ago, so I’m not sure the fiber content, but the white is super fluffy and the navy blue is more sleek.

This was another stash busting project. I’ve had this yarn for about a decade and it had become several things, but there was never really enough of it for the things that I really wanted to make. I know this sounds crazy, but I just started getting into making and wearing hats. There wasn’t really enough yarn for other things, but there was definitely just enough to make a cozy hat!

 

 

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Commissions for Coworkers Part 2

I’m nearing the end of the list, finally. Five coworkers commissioned 1 or 2 things each all at the same time before Christmas and it’s been nuts trying to get them done. I only have 2 definite projects left, with a tentative idea for a cowl that may end up on the needles, but the end of the coworker list is in site.

In the mean time, here’s a few things I have managed to finish.

 

Giving is Receiving

 

 

Pattern: Giving is Receiving by Uma Padu

Needles: US 5 – 3.75 mm

Yarn: SMC Northern Chunky Brown

I had to modify this pattern a bit because the yarn used to match the hood scarf I made this coworker was discontinued and I had very little of it left to work with, but I think they turned out pretty good. I’ve made enough fingerless gloves by now that I can fiddle with them and the chunky yarn is pretty forgiving to work with.

Graham Hat

 

 

PatternGraham by Jennifer Adams

Needles: US 4 – 3.5 mm & US 6 – 4.0 mm

Yarn:  The Ugly Room in Mermaid Tails and Lion Brand Pound of Love White

I really like the Graham hat pattern. It’s a pretty simple pattern that looks great in a hat. Also, hats are quick and I love this yarn, so it was nice.

Mulberry Hood Scarf

 

 

Pattern: My own pattern

Needles: US 8 – 5.0 mm

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunk in Mulberry

Another hood scarf! There’s really not much else to say at this point about these, except that I am working on getting the pattern written out to put up on Ravelry.

Huzzah!

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Hazel the Humpback Whale

Finished a new stash busting project!

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it. I may have in the Christmas ornament round up in January, but one of my goals this year is to bust stash. There’s a lot of stuff in my stash that has been there since I started yarn crafting over a decade ago. So I’m resolved to use up some stuff before the fall when I buy new stuff from yarn events.

And here’s a stash buster I finished!

 

 

 

 

Pattern: Hazel the Humpback Whale by Bec Brittain

Yarn: Holiday Yarns Grab Bag scraps, Merry Little Lamb handspun scraps

Needles: US 0 – 2.00 mm

 

I was actually intending to use these yarns for more Christmas ornaments. That was the plan. But I went down a pattern rabbit hole on Ravelry and stumbled upon this pattern for a humpback whale, which I found fascinating. I must have gone back to the pattern page half a dozen times to look at Bec Brittain’s Hazel. I knew I didn’t have enough black or dark grey to pull off this pattern, but I thought a scrap striped whale would be charming. 

And she is! She lives on my printer when the paper feed is closed, so I can just look over and see her when I’m sorting things out on my laptop. 

Also, can I just say that I love her beady little eyes? During college, I had an amigurumi phase and bought a whole bunch of safety eyes and I went through a couple of them to see how they would look on Hazel. I ended up using the smallest ones that were plain black, but they pop out nicely out of the green.

She’s about 2 ft long from nose to tail, which is only a little smaller than the pattern says will be produced in DK weight yarn, but I also have a loose knitting gauge, so that was not unexpected.

The pattern could be a little bit confusing at times. There are updates and corrections listed on the pattern page, but I didn’t end up looking at them. I just fudged any differences until I got the right numbers. I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal  on a whale. Organic creatures are not exactly symmetrical and any irregularities from my knitting would look normal on a whale. 

Also, this is a tricky pattern to keep track of. If you’re a beginning knitter or a knitter without plush-knitting experience, be prepared to keep notes or a notebook on you. There are very few repeating rows in the body of this whale. There’s a bit around the middle where there are a few knit rows in a row, but mostly there increases or decreases in every row. There isn’t a set sequence of rows that you can expect to follow due to the shape of the humpback whale. 

The fins are also finicky. The first front fin gave me a little trouble because it was hard to see how the shape was created until I nearly reached the end, which is why there is one front fin and one tail fin that is smaller than the other one. I kept the tension tighter in my confusion over some of the increases and decreases, so the second one knit much more smoothly and a little larger. 

If you tackle this pattern, I’d recommend whip stitching the ends of the fins closed and blocking them out before sewing them to the body. My fins were pretty  scrunched up from being in my hands, which made the ends wavy. I whip stitched them shut, soaked them in water, squeezed out the excess water, stuck them into a folded towel, and lightly pressed them with an iron so that the edges of the fins were nice and defined. Then I unfolded the towel and let them finish drying naturally.

And that’s Hazel! 😀

Sammath Naur, X-34, and a little bit of The Dreaming

Handspun round up!

I showed these off in my video last weekend, but I finally got around to photographing the yarn. I’m working on getting the lighting conditions right and some of these aren’t the best example, but I’m glad I finally got the photos of these.

All of these yarns will be available in the shop on my next shop update!

 

Sammath Naur

 

 

This was spun out of 4 oz of superwash BFL from Highland Handmade’s Edge of the Inferno. This was lovely spin and I’d definitely love to get some more lovely fiber from her in the future. I’m excited to spin up the other braid I got from her booth at Stitches East.

 

X-34

This was spun out of 3 oz of CT grown Merino top from Yarn Crafters. I bought this one at the Coventry Farmers’ Market this past year. It was a little slow for me to get going with spinning this wool on my wheel. It’s rougher than I expected merino to be, but once I got going, it was a good spin. I like how the colors turned out. The final skein in this set is actually chain plied because I ended up with one single longer than the other and I think this color set works well as both a 2 ply and a 3 ply.

 

The Dreaming

This was a little extra Merino and stellina batt that was included in an order of Greenwood Fiberworks Pig Tails mini-fiber braids. It was so sparkly that I had to spin it first because the sparkly bits kept falling out and getting everywhere.  It ended up looking really neat.

 

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Buffalo Linen Stitch Cowl

 

 

This past October I had the pleasure of talking to some of the folks at The Buffalo Wool Co at Stitches East. It’s a really cool company that sells some really interesting bison wool and bison wool blend yarns and fiber. The yarn itself is a little pricey because of how unusual it is, but I knew I had to try some of it. I bought a Splash of Color collection of Buffalo Skies (50% bison, 50% wool) mini-skeins and made up this linen stitch cowl.

And because I really enjoyed how it came out, I wrote up the pattern. You can find my Buffalo Linen Stitch Cowl for free on Ravelry!

Pattern: Buffalo Linen Stitch Cowl

Needles: US 5 – 3.75 mm circular needles

YarnThe Buffalo Wool Co – Splash of Color – Buffalo Skies mini-skeins

Edited to Add 3/1/15: It looks like my Ravelry page is having problems actually providing the PDF link. I uploaded everything the way the pattern publishing guides told me to and I’ve reported the problem with the page, but until that gets cleared up, you can find the pattern here under the Downloads menu item.

Edited to Add 3/4/15: Pretty sure I’ve fixed the Ravelry page! Go on over to Ravelry and check it out!