Monday, December 26, 2016


I finished these socks yesterday, gave them a good soak, and dried them over a floor register so I could wear them sooner rather than later. Aaaand they are too long for me. I don't know what happened, but somehow I knit an inch too far. Were these knit top-down, I would just tear out the toes and shorten them. But they are toe-up and I don't feel like messing with them and hey, my SO needs a new pair of socks, right? At least, he does now.

Pattern: Short-row toe and heel basic socks, by Wendy D. Johnson
Yarn: Simply Socks Yarn Co Poste Yarn Striping (Seattle Coffee Blues) and Simply Sock Yarn (Natural)
Needles: US1
Modifications: Contrasting toe, heel, and cuff

I have a habit of picking colors, be they paint chips or yarn, by their names, as I am a word person, so I couldn't resist this self-striping yarn. My SO is a visual person, and he has been admiring these. We basically wear the same size sock, except his feet are a bit longer. These should be a perfect fit.

I noticed the pair he wore yesterday are getting thin in the toes. Knit in 2011, I think they are holding up remarkably well. I knit them top-down and still have some leftover yarn, so I can fix them up without too much angst. Meanwhile, this pair will make a nice replacement (for a nice man!)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

We now return you to our regularly scheduled knitting

While cleaning up the fiber studio (for the umpteenth time), I not only discovered I have TWO paper grocery bags of fingering weight yarn (enough for a lifetime of sock knitting), I also found a project bag containing a skein of yarn and a pattern for a hat. I had tackled this project once before, but was flummoxed by the title of the pattern - Corkscrew Hat - and the fact it did not actually form a corkscrew. I decided to give it another go, using US7 needles, but the yarn, a blend of wool, silk, and mohair, kept breaking. So I switched to US8 needles and gently knit myself a scarf.

Pattern: Mistake Rib scarf
Yarn: Cascade Casablanca, colorway 12
Needles: US8
Modifications: See below

Since I had only one skein, I kept the scarf narrow, casting on just 39 stitches (Old Norwegian). Then it was sl1 k1 *p2 k2 repeat from * to last stitch, p1, ad infinitum. Suspended cast off.

It's too bad this yarn misbehaves (and has been discontinued) as the colors are lovely. Russian joins rescued the breaks. I gave it a good soak - no bleeding - but did not really block it. Instead I folded it over a floor register so it would dry quickly and I could wear it sooner. It is just barely long enough.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Only one day until xmas

This hat has been done since Monday as well. I started with one pattern in mind, then began experimenting: knit from the bottom up instead of top down, provisional cast on, added Fair Isle, knit ear flaps like short row sock toes, etc. I'm amazed it's finished AND I am pleased with the result (although, like some of my other Fair Isle hats, this one is a bit snug).

Pattern: Based on Amelia E., by Amy Miller
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, colorways 816 (Gray), 854 (Navy), 253 (Desert Sun)
Needles: US7
Modifications: A LOT!

Amelia E. is knit top down, but I didn't like trying to knit 8 cast-on stitches in the round. I didn't want to pick up stitches for the ear flaps, though, so I provisionally cast on 100 stitches. Then I embellished the plain stockinette with Fair Isle designs. At the crown, I decreased four stitches evenly, then started each section with a k1, ssk and ended each section with a k2tog, with a round of plain knit between decrease rounds.

Back at the lower edge, I picked up and purled a round so I could hem the bottom. And then I get confused. Somehow I ended up with a hem (good) while maintaining 26 or so stitches for each ear flap (also good, but I had to change the purl stitches to knit to eliminate an unsightly ridge). I tried knitting the ear flaps like sock toes, but there were major gaps between the fronts and backs of each one. So I reknit them, like short row sock toes, with the tip being 4 stitches wide. Then I sewed down the hem.

Instead of my usual i-cord tassels, I braided like I braided 4-strand lanyards at summer camp: wrap rightmost strand under two and over one, wrap leftmost strand under two and over one, repeat ad infinitum (or 12", whichever comes first). Each "strand" was actually two strands of yarn, with half in gray, a quarter in navy, the rest in orange.

I knit this hat before discovering this KnitPicks tutorial. Some of the floats are a bit longish. Since the yarn is superwash, no felting is going to help anchor them. Hope the recipient treats this hat gently.

And now I am DONE with xmas knitting!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Only two days until xmas

This hat has actually been done for a while, except for the pompom, which I added last Monday. And then my laptop went to Windows 10 update hell FOR DAYS. I was on the verge of taking the damn thing to Best Buy and reverting to Windows 7 when something resurrected it. I wish one of those so-called Microsoft techs (IT'S A SCAM, PEOPLE!) would call me now so I could give them an earful, just for fun.

Pattern: Based on Little Rabbits Hat, by Michael Storey, published in Easy Fair Isle Knitting (currently no Ravelry link)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in colorways 901 (Cotton Candy) and 871 (White)
Needles: US6 (for ribbing) and US7
Modifications: Knit in the round (who knits Fair Isle flat?!?), substituted cat motif (from same book) for rabbit

The pattern calls for DK yarn, but since I used worsted, I cast on 84 stitches. BUT it is still too snug, as demonstrated by the photo below - the cats are all stretched out. Someday I will knit Fair Isle hats that fit.

My countdown to xmas may seem off to you, but my family celebrated on xmas eve (a Danish custom, I believe), so to me, xmas is on the 24th.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Only 12 days til xmas

I made a rookie mistake with this pattern: substituted worsted weight yarn for the DK called for by the pattern. But there was a reason behind my goof-up. I had been working on other Fair Isle hats and they were turning out too snug, so OF COURSE casting on 136 stitches did not raise any red flags.

Pattern: Plaid and Diamond Fair Isle Beanie, by Martin Storey
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in colorways 854 (navy), 816 (gray), 253 (desert sun)
Needles: US7
Modifications: used worsted weight yarn instead of DK; knit in the round instead of flat

After blocking, the hat became YUUUGE. Not wanting to waste an otherwise perfectly good hat, I resoaked it and threw it in the dryer with the rest of my laundry. It is still a bit loose, but bound to fit somebody with a big head.

I haven't done much colorwork, and due to the fit problem I was experiencing, I turned to this tutorial on KnitPicks. Not only does their technique anchor floats, it evens out the knitting. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Only 13 days until xmas

This version of this pattern is actually the first one I started and was somewhat experimental, so it is for me and my hunting season hiking. I added a white crocheted border, to soften the orange, but didn't like it. I don't look good in hats to begin with, and the front flap was doing me no favors, so I removed that as well. As knit, the hat is a bit too deep for my head, so someday I may rip back the i-cord strings and flaps and about an inch of hat. Someday. Maybe.

Pattern: Amelia E. by Amy Miller
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in colorway 1952 'Blaze'
Needles: US7
Modifications: removed the front flap; i-cord strings

Trying to start it from the top down using metal DPNs was IMPOSSIBLE. The needles kept slipping out of the initial eight stitches. Consequently, the crown looks a bit wonky. I broke down and purchased some bamboo DPNs, so I wouldn't have this problem going forward.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Only 14 days until xmas

Another "hunter orange" hat, this one for my granddaughter. I decided to add some Fair Isle, just for fun, but my floats must be too short, as the result is kind of smallish. I resoaked it and tried stretching it on a styrofoam head form, which helped but also stretched out the hearts.

Pattern: Amelia E., by Amy Miller
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, colorways 1952 'Blaze' and 871 'White'
Needles: US7
Modifications: Fair Isle designs, i-cord instead of twisted cord, added pompoms, skipped the front flap.

This hat is knit from the top down, which made the hearts look kind of odd because the V's of the stockinette are upside down in the design. My Fair Isle experience is rudimentary at best, and it shows. But I do like doing it - much less boring than plain old knit, knit, knit.

Granddaughter's favorite color is pink, but she told me the other day that she is trying to not like pink so much. Otherwise, I doubt she would have accepted this hat. She did comment on the strings - too long, in her humble opinion.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Only 15 days until xmas

I haven't posted xmas knitting for a while, but it has been ongoing. This is another "hunting season" hat, something to wear for a walk in the woods.

Pattern: Amelia E., by Amy Miller
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, in colorway 1952, 'Blaze'
Needles: US7
Modifications: Instead of attaching twisted cord to the ear flaps, I made i-cord with the yarn; didn't tack down front flap.

Photographing adult-size hats without an adult-size model is challenging. The styrofoam heads from JoAnn are not large enough. Also, this hat turned out YUUUGE. Fortunately, the intended recipient says it fits fine. He particularly likes the aviator style - keeps his forehead warm.

This pattern is knit top down, meaning you cast on eight stitches using four DPNs and try not to drop the needles or twist the stitches. A challenge.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tedious fun

I've attended several dyeing workshops (dyeing with acid dyes, natural dyeing, natural dyeing including indigo, shibori dyeing with indigo) and dyed with KoolAid a couple of times, but I had yet to try natural dyeing on my own. I've been accumulating equipment and ingredients and yarn and books, but had not yet pulled the trigger. Part of the problem has been my reluctance to mordant the yarn. But then I noticed that some natural dyes do not require mordanting, so I decided what the hell, go for it.

Many dye books present the topic as experiments in color, and no matter what you do, that is what hand dyeing is, as reproducing the same results consistently is a challenge, more so when using natural dyeing materials and techniques. This led me to a really tedious step in the preparation for yarn dyeing: winding single ounce mini-skeins from larger skeins. I'm glad I did this because I really was just experimenting, but OMG, was it ever boring. After a while, I decided I had enough 1oz mini-skeins and started making larger (and LARGER) ones.

For yarn, I chose naked Cascade 220 and Lambs Pride. Both are worsted weight, but Cascade 220 is 100% wool from Peru while Lambs Pride is 85% wool and 15% mohair and made in the USA. They produced different results, which is good to know in case one is mixing fibers for dyeing. The Cascade 220 comes in 3.5oz skeins while the Lambs Pride is in 4oz skeins. Behind my yarn choice is the idea that I will take all my naturally dyed yarns and knit something like an adult-sized baby surprise jacket.

Relying on the book Wild Color, by Jenny Dean, I started with the idea of dyeing with tumeric because tumeric root is now available in the produce section of some of my favorite stores. But then I read that tumeric is frequently combined with pomegranate, and hey, this is pomegranate season, so I bought some of those, too. Tumeric is not very colorfast, regardless of mordenting, but pomegranate rind naturally mordants the yarn. So no pre-mordanting. BUT. I did decide to apply color modifiers afterwards, ammonia for the tumeric and iron for the pomegranate and pomegranate/tumeric blend.

Cooking minced tumeric roots

I initially chopped the tumeric root by hand, but then threw it all into a mini-grinder. For the pomegranate, I just rough chopped it. If I were to do it over, I would not chop the tumeric as fine, as it was difficult to strain all the bits out, and I would maybe mince the pomegranate rind more so, as that is where the tannin is.

Cooking chopped pomegranate

I worked in the kitchen, even using one of my kitchen pots for a dye bath. This is usually a big NO-NO in hand dyeing - you are supposed to keep dye equipment separate from kitchen equipment AND work in a well-ventilated place like a garage and not the kitchen. BUT. I was dyeing with FOOD, so come on. Even the iron for the postdye bath was food grade.

Tumeric dye bath (before straining)

I think I simmered both the tumeric and the pomegranate for about an hour, then let them cool to room temperature before straining. I created a dyebath with just tumeric, one with just pomegranate, and one with a mixture of the two, maybe 2-to-1 in favor the the pomegranate. The plain tumeric became a cool-dye bath - I added the yarn but no heat. The other two were hot-dye baths - I added the yarn and brought the baths up to simmer (and I think simmered them for half an hour). Then all three sat overnight.

Pomegranate bath (before straining)

The next day, I rinsed each skein in running water since they were small and this was easy to do. By now, I had abandoned the kitchen in favor of the laundry room where there is a utility sink. Some of the plain tumeric skeins received an after treatment in an ammonia bath. This is supposed to pink up the color, but I didn't see much of that. It wasn't clear how much ammonia to use or how long to let the yarn soak, so I tried again the next day with not much change.

Iron afterdye

Some of the plain pomegranate and pomegranate/tumeric skeins received a post treatment in an iron bath. This "saddens" the colors. It doesn't take much iron and the yarn doesn't need to be in the bath very long. Everything was well rinsed after the after treatment.

Identification system

You may be wondering how I kept track of which skein had which treatment. I tried planning things out ahead of time, with minimal success, primarily because I was not sure about what I was doing. But I did label the skeins as I wound them into minis, then replaced those labels with plastic ones for the dye process, matching numbers/letters between labels and skeins. This worked okay, as long as I remembered to write down which skein got which treatment.

Note taking mess

This whole process was quite tedious, but then came the big reveal - colors! These photos don't capture the more subtle differences between the different treatments, especially the "pinking" of the ammonia, but the results were very interesting. One thing I learned is, if I am going to go through all this trouble to hand dye yarn, I should pick colors I actually like (yellows and greens are NOT in this group).

Tumeric, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Tumeric, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), ammonia afterdye (R)

Tumeric, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), ammonia afterdye (R)

Pomegranate, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Pomegranate, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Pomegranate, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Cascade 220, pomegranate (L), pomegranate and tumeric (R)

Lambs Pride, pomegranate (L), pomegranate and tumeric (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Cascade 220 (L), Lambs Pride (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Cascade 220, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

Pomegranate and tumeric, Lambs Pride, no afterdye (L), iron afterdye (R)

There are hashtags on Instagram for #helpfulknittingcats and #helpfulweavingcats. Here is a pic for #helpfuldyeingcats.