Thursday, January 31, 2008

rainy day knitting

Last Sunday was a gloriously drab, chilly and rainy day. We don't get days like that in Phoenix very often, so I treasure them! It was perfect for curling up in the living room, listening to NPR, sipping tea, and catching up on knitting. First up: here's a little camping kerchief:

It's a 'commission' for a friend, who asked me to duplicate a camping kerchief that she bought years ago in South Africa. Hers was made with one strand of fine, soft cotton and one strand of hemp - it was a really interesting combination, because the cotton kept it soft while the stiff hemp somehow kept it from smooshing shapelessly and clammily against one's head. I couldn't duplicate that, so I substituted LanaHemp's allhemp6 in "deep river," leftover from my hemp camisole. It's basically a garter stitch triangle with ties, knit on size 7s.

(note to world: I'm happy with the kerchief, I swear. It's just that self-taken photos of my face are the bane of my existence.)
(note to self: then stop knitting so many hats!)

Anyways, in addition to this pleasant little kerchief, I finally did the finishing on a felted camera case for my mom. It needed a button and a bit of crocheting 'round the top after, ahem, I felted it down more than I should've. It's Malabrigo in "pagoda," leftover from my sister's ribbed hat.

And in addition that THAT I darned my Fleece Artist socks (only a year and a half old, never worn in shoes, and not worn at all during sandal season (May-Oct), so I can't say I'm impressed with how they've worn). And I fixed some frayed edges on a couple of sweaters. This was all the little stuff that's been sitting in my knitting basket, untended, for ages. I LOVE rainy days!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Make My Day

I'm such a lucky girl - both Cattywampus and Suzy Girl gave me a You Make My Day blog award! Yay! I never get nominated for these kinds of bloggy things - memes, awards, and the like - so I'm very happy indeed.

Now I'm supposed to bestow the same honor on 10 blogs that bring me happiness and inspiration and make me feel happy about blogland (seriously, I'm told those are the official rules). Here they are, with my two cents about what make them so fantastic:

1. Knit Sisters - witty, oh so witty, and fabulously knitty
2. Knitting Iris - gorgous photography, knitting, and dyeing
3. Tres Chic Veronique - lovely, lovely knitting and sewing.
4. Lickity Knit - knitting with highly entertaining self-deprecating humor
5. Riihivilla - inspiring natural dyeing
6. Creative Idyll/Blonde Chicken Boutique - just discovered her, she has gorgeous yarns with interesting stories
7. Craft Pirate - fun, spirited, and reminds me (sniff!) of Boston
8. Cosmicpluto - how does she knit so fast? one of the earliest blogs I read, still keeps me reading
9. Marnie, speak! - gorgeous designs, good storytelling, cute doggies
10. Getting Stitched on the Farm - yay for farms! I live vicariously through her

And for good measure I'll also direct you to two non-knitting blogs that make me happy (consider yourselves nominated too, guys):
PhD Procrastinating - for some fascinating Indian travels and thoughts on the world
The Dinner Bell - for some fantastic cooking with a Paraguayan twist

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

kool-aid yarn in action

So what did I do with all that crazy kool-aid dyed yarn? Well, I got right to work!

Yarn recap: the base yarn here is Andee, a worsted wool/alpaca mix from Henry's Attic. I dyed a portion of it green using lemon-lime and grape kool-aid.
Pattern: my friend wanted a densely-knit cap, so I knit this up on 3s. I just made the pattern up as I went along - cast on 100 stitches, knit in 2x2 ribbing for a about 1.25", increased to 120 stitches, knit straight until entire piece measured 5.5", and then decreased in 12 segments.
Thoughts: I *really* like this yarn, both in the natural cream and the surprisingly soft green. I was super pleased with how this turned out, although my fingers were a wee bit sore from knitting the worsted weight yarn at such a tight gauge!

Yarn recap: the base yarn here is Treadsoft Superwash, from Henry's Attic (frankly, turned out a little thinner than I'd hoped. Also had 8 knots in the skein, which was vexing). I dyed it this shocking, variegated red with black cherry and cherry kool-aid.
Pattern: Vinnland, by the Anti-Craft, on size 1s
Thoughts: looks great until I lift the cuff of my jeans ....

Yeeeaaahhh.... I haven't turned the heel yet. I started these when my sister arrived for Christmas. I worked pretty solidly while she was here through early January, but I didn't manage to turn the heel before she left. They're on hold until I see her next, when I can turn the heel and check if it fits.

Monday, January 14, 2008

back to the dye pot

I've been dabbling with dyeing again, inspired by a book that I'll talk about below. But first, let's cut straight to the dyeing.

I decided to try kool-aid dyeing because I was working on two 'commissions' (a hat for a friend and socks for my sister) in colors that I can't reliably get (yet!) from my natural dyes. For the hat, I wanted to dye an alpaca/wool blend a soft ferny green. I managed to get it by adding a bit of grape to lemon-lime. This photo is washed out with too much Arizona sun, but you can get a sense of the final skein along with my shade samples: lemon-lime (acid green), lemon-lime with a bit of grape(olive), and lemon-lime with too much grape (icky brown).

For the socks, I needed a deep, shocking red. I got the color from black cherry with a little cherry added in the end. It took twice as many packets as I'd expected to get the color saturation that I wanted, but it was worth it! It's so yummy looking I can hardly stand it. The samples in front, by the way, are cherry, black cherry, and grape.

Now, I'm the first to acknowledge that Kool-Aid is the antithesis of my green ethics and aesthetics. But, man, was it easy to dye with. I just heated up some water in my dye pot, soaked the yarn while the water heated, took the yarn out to stir in the kool-aid, and plunked it back in until it soaked up the dye. There was no complicated mordanting, no careful measuring, no uneasiness about using toxic chemicals in the kitchen, no hours of simmering at certain temperatures. I'll definitely play with it again.

That said, it doesn't feed my soul like dyeing with plants. I'm starting to tinker with new plants. Here are three yellows from plants that I can 'wildcraft' in my neighborhood of central Phoenix: from the top, Mexican Marigold, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. The colors are flatter than the rich, golden yellows that I used to get from the goldenrod, marigold, and rudbeckia in my Vermont garden. But it's a start!

And now for the book. I got guidance on kool-aid and the idea of dyeing with eucalyptus from a new dyeing book: The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing, by Linda La Belle. I LOVE this book. Most of the dye books that I have just give basic dyeing recipes, perhaps with a photo or two of the raw material, dyepot, or dyed yarn. This book gives photos of every step for all kinds of complicated dyeing techniques: kettle-dyeing, handpainting, space-dyeing for self-striping, cold-pad dyeing, microwave dyeing, etc.

She shows you what the final yarn looks like as well as how it looks knitted up into a garment -- super useful, since the final knitted garment is often *very* hard to envision from the skein. The patterns that she's written for the handdyed yarns are simple enough to show off the dyed yarn, but with just enough of a twist to make them special. To top it off, she also has interviews with several of my most-admired handdyers, including Darlene Hayes of Nature's Palette and Becky Weed and Katey Plymesser at Thirteen Mile Farm, who focus on natural dyes. I wish she'd gone into a bit more depth on the toxicity of different dyes, and I also wish she'd added more about using natural dye extracts in addition to dyeing from raw materials. But these are minor quibbles that speak to my own idiosyncratic interests. Overall the book is a pleasure to read and a treasure trove of technical information. I'm definitely inspired to expand my dyeing techniques - expect to start seeing hand-painting in the near future!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 Knitting Review

I love sitting down at the start of a fresh year and taking stock of the past year's accomplishments. Put together, it feels like something to be proud of! In 2006, I was pushing myself to develop new skills. In 2007, I think I just went ahead and knit a whole lot of fun things.

My hands-down favorite thing to knit is hats. Lots of 'em. I knit 3 Cambridge Watchcaps, 2 Rivendells, 2 berets (pink, red), 2 basic ribbed watchcaps, 1 Shedir, 1 beanie, and 1 Calorimetry.

And as there seems to be lot of fertility going around, I also ended up knitting a lot of baby items. 3 baby blankets (striped and sprouting), 2 baby sweaters (green cotton and blue wool), 1 baby bonnet and booties, 1 Woodins, and Hobs I, II, and III. I enjoy these little creations, but I never get the pleasure of seeing them used. I have mixed feelings, then, about how great they are to knit.

I had a great time experimenting with garments for myself -- maybe not as sweet to knit as those baby things, but at least I get to see them worn! I made a Forecast, a top-down tee, and a hemp camisole.

I also knit a couple of wraps: lace scarf, little leaf shawl, and a clapotis-style scarf.

Then there's the random stuff: camera case, wristlets and flower, and a pair of toe-up socks that I have yet to blog about.

The biggest discovery of the year, for me, was yarn dyeing. Aside from a little flirtation with Kool-aid, which I have yet to post about, it was really all about the deep seduction of natural dyes. I LOVE these colors. I love the process. And I love that the yarns carry with them a bit of sunshine and organic energy.

My new year's knitting resolution is to go even greener with my knitting this year. My hope is to do more natural dyeing, to focus on organic and alternative fibers, and to be better about knitting from my stash rather than letting myself get swept up into consumerism. Here's wishing you a creative 2008!