Let’s run away and don’t ever look back

Posted February 2, 2015 by donnadb
Categories: yarn

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Saturday was a blank canvas. Noel away at a film festival, Archer away at a Quiz Bowl tournament, Cady Gray happily engaged in her own activities. I got out my crock pots and the 14 balls of yarn that were stored with them — yarn with beautiful fibers but disappointing colors. Yarn that wasn’t quite a blank canvas, but still invited scribbling.

I started with a plan, and took some photos to keep it in mind. This pale pink color of silk/merino blend, called “Blush,” I thought I’d overdye in red and orange.


Hm. Not what I was expecting the red dye to do — it’s a purplish rust. But the orange, now, that was orange. Maybe all orange from here on out.



Ah yes. Much better.


You know, there’s nothing really wrong with these 100% merino balls in this shade of blue. It’s just … not the kind of blue that lights my fire. It’s kind of a safe blue. A boring blue. I thought I might try to deepen it with blue and purple overdyeing.


Just what I had in mind.


When I dropped the dye tablets for the third skein, they were all blue — no purple. Identifying these Easter egg dyes from the tablet appearance is a terribly inexact science — red, blue, and purple can look very much alike. Huh. I think I’ll run with it.


But just to swing the pendulum the other way before I’m done, let me use all red on one of these blue skeins, see what happens. I thought I hated this when it first came out, but now it’s growing on me.


For these last four balls of even paler peach — barely-tinted, really) — silk-merino blend, in a bulky weight this time, I thought I’d try to mix the dyes a little more, get some blended green out of yellow and blue.


Uh-huh, kinda like that. There were several places that were the original color after the first dyeing, so I overdyed these with an additional coat of yellow.


For the one second from left, the original blue in the blend was the PAAS “teal” shade, and I added an overwash of “denim” at the end. And in the weird sage-shades one on the far left, the blue was PAAS “denim” color throughout, resulting in a much more muted green that was toned down even further by the final wash in blue.


If you asked which group looks more like yarn I’d be attracted to on the shelf or in an online photo, it’s definitely the blue group.


But these Creamsicle skeins, even though they’re far from something I’d reach for when buying yarn, are the ones that intrigue me the most. I keep thinking about how I might use them. They present a challenge — a lovely challenge.

Call me at the station, the lines are open

Posted January 16, 2015 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , ,


Pattern: 198 yds. of Heaven by Christy Verity (rav link)
Yarn: Ella Rae Lace Merino Worsted (100% merino), overdyed
Needle: U.S. 7 Knit Picks Sunstruck wood 26″ circulars (worked flat)

One of my favorite things about knitting, at a certain level of competence, is that you can create things that would command luxury prices in a boutique — but in actuality can’t be bought anywhere, at any price.


Here’s an example. This started with a poor orphan skein of yarn at Tuesday Morning that had lost its label . Sight and touch made it obvious that it was a bouncy merino, and I initially pegged it as Fibernatura Yummy, a sportweight I had bought at the store before, with a similar twist. But careful examination showed it was heavier, and a colorway not found in that yarn. My curiosity piqued, I searched stash photos on Ravelry until I determined its true name and nature.


Then into the dye pot it went, with my favorite Easter egg colors — spring green, denim blue, and teal — dumped directly from the dye cups that had held eggs the day before. Pure alchemy. You be the judge.


It sat in my stash, a reminder every time I caught sight of it of its priceless singularity, until the moment I decided to make my mother a lace scarf for Christmas. That moment came one week before she was set to visit. I had a deadline.


With a day to spare — a day needed for blocking, at that, so really right at the nick of time — my version of this popular pattern came off the needles. There are 5523 other scarves like it on Ravelry. But this one is mine, the utterly unique and unrepeatable combination of serendipity, experimentation, and technique.


Gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Anyone who appreciates beauty would crave it, even with three or four figures on the price tag. But it’s not for sale. It’s for Mom.

I’ll show you the ropes, kid

Posted January 12, 2015 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , , ,


Pattern: Purl Ridge Scarf by Stephen West
Yarn: Debbie Macomber Blossom Street Collection Fleur de Lys (90% merino, 10% cashmere), colorway 405 (overdyed)
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 26″ circular needles

Some projects take the long way home. This one started with a find at Tuesday Morning — yarn of a beautiful fiber, but an ugly color.


That’s … brown. Not really the rich, autumnal brown that sometimes draws me in. Kind of pink-undertone brown. Not even just drab — really actively off-putting. Hard to photograph, probably. Uninspiring, to say the least. I couldn’t imagine an entire garment in that color. But the single-ply yarn was beautifully soft. I knew I could turn it into something better.


Here are the five balls I bought (all they had, of course), skeined up and overdyed with 2 red PAAS Easter egg dye tablets dissolved in a tbsp of white vinegar and 6 oz. of water, kettled in a crockpot on low for half an hour. Much better — a shade of bright brick red with the original brown shade showing through in places. Now, what to make?

I settled on this scarf, long in my queue, awaiting just this kind of semi-solid colorway to show off its depth of texture. I made the whole thing, dear reader, from one laboriously engineered hemmed edge to the other. I worked on it, off and on, for four months. And then I unraveled it, the whole thing, cutting the yarn where I had spit-spliced it (or just wherever it refused to stop sticking together, as is the nature of single-ply yarn so often. I just had to face facts. It wasn’t what I had hoped. It was kind of stiff and flat, not soft, lofty, and textured. The hems I tried didn’t work out at all. This yarn was too beautiful for such a fate. Back to the drawing board.


Ah yes. That’s better. Simple hits of garter-ridge texture on a smooth stockinette background. Soft, flexible, inviting. All the color shows through with no fuss. Why didn’t I do this the first time? I gave it to my sister-in-law for Christmas, thrilled that it had turned out so perfectly.


CG kept making exaggerated faces as she modeled this scarf, then bursting into laughter. I kind of love this shot — she’s in motion, blurred and ecstatic, but the scarf is in crisp focus. Finally that beautiful fiber has found its purpose.

Make the pop go rock

Posted January 6, 2015 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , , ,


Pattern: Insta-Hat by Lee Meredith
Yarn: The Twisted Purl Merino Merino Wool Tencil Thread
Needles: U.S. 10.5 Harmony wood Options 24″ circular needle, magic loop style

New year. New start.

Lee Meredith is a designer known for her quirky sense of style. She’s especially associated with the oversize zig-zag — a texture or color pattern that veers first one way, then another, over the course of a hat or cowl or glove. After Christmas, she began posting daily clues on Instagram for a hat pattern in bulky yarn. Done with holiday knitting, done with book writing, done with 2014, and committed to a “stashdown” in the new year, I was primed for something exactly like this.


It only took five days, maybe a half-hour a day, and that includes the day I spent doing clue #3 wrong and ripping it out. Then, the pom-pom. Out came my beloved jumbo Clover pom-pom maker, truly one of humankind’s greatest achievements. Look at that big fluffy thing. The thick parts of the yarn just spread out in an irresistible texture. It’s glorious.


I have a cube in my massive yarn-storage Expedit for single skeins — leftover balls from bigger projects, or just orphans I picked up here and there. When you buy yarn at craft fair stalls from local producers, sometimes one skein is all there is of any single thing. That’s the way it was with this thick-and-thin, thread-to-roving skein spun by Cyndi Minister. I bought it five years earlier, at my church’s Christmas market. I’m pretty sure my five-year-old daughter, whom I would teach to knit within weeks of that purchase, had something to do with the selection.


And here’s that girl, now age ten, plopping on a just-finished hat for a holiday walk. New year. New start. But keep the precious things from before close by, and watch them transform.

I’m a fool to think something so impossible

Posted June 21, 2014 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Pattern: Princess Franklin Plaid Collar by Franklin Habit
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light (50% wool, 50% alpaca), colorways Redwoods Mix, Blueberry Mix, and Pea Soup Mix; Aslan Trends Santa Fe (85% merino, 15% nylon), colorway Crudo; Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport (100% wool), colorway Caution
Needles: U.S. 2 nickel Options 24″ fixed circulars, magic-loop style



Pattern: The Age Of Brass And Steam Kerchief by Orange Flower Yarn
Yarn: Knit Picks Diadem DK Special Reserve, (50% alpaca, 50% silk), colorway Copper
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 36″ circular (knit flat)


Pattern: Julia’s Cabled Headband by Pauline Chin
Yarn: Mirasol Yarn Miski (100% llama), colorway Gold
Needle: U.S. 7 Harmony wood Options 16″ circulars (knit flat)

Ravellenics 2014 was a bittersweet experience. Political chaos and controversy tore the group apart, and fractured the moderating team that had worked together for six happy years and three previous Olympiads. We weathered the Great USOC C&D Debacle of ’12, but we could not recover from early mistakes handling politically sensitive issues. Yes, in a knitting competition with imaginary prizes, there are politically sensitive issues.


But even though it put me at odds with old friends and colleagues, I worked hard to stay engaged and to keep the event going. When the dust settled and the actual knitting began, I got busy on two major projects right away. One was a quest to use some of this lovely yarn, an alpaca-silk blend. I finished knitting this simple scarf while at a symposium on science and religion at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.


The other, and by far the most difficult challenge of the Ravellenics, was this cowl, which was knit flat in stripes and grafted together (poorly) before single strands of contrasting colors were woven perpendicular to the knitting direction, through the garter ridges, to create the plaid pattern. It was demanding, exacting, time-consuming, and utterly magical. I spent four solid days weaving, watching the Games, and dreaming about what colors I would use to make another one.


In the very last days of the competition, I hurriedly cast on for my last planned project. I got this skein of llama yarn in a swap with another Raveller. The theme of this Ravellenics was stash, and this beautiful soft buttery yarn had been sitting in mine for way too long.

I’m balanced in so many ways between what I spent a long time building, and what I want to come next. Sometimes you’ve got to clear out what you’ve accumulated. But I’ve never been able to just throw useful things away. I want to make something beautiful with them if I can.

Clap your hands if you feel like a room without a roof

Posted March 7, 2014 by donnadb
Categories: Knitting

Tags: , , , , , ,


Pattern: Irish Coffee (rav link) by Thea Colman
Yarn: Dream In Color Classy (100% superwash merino), colorway Nightwatch
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 40″ circulars (magic loop style)

Christmas is a time to say I love you, as Billy Squier reminds us every year. Knitters say I love you with little accessory projects like the ones I blogged about two months ago. And then, at least in my case, we say I love myself with big satisfying garment projects.


Like this top-down cabled tunic vest. It’s not the biggest project; it used under 1000 yards of yarn. That’s why I chose this pattern. I had 1000 yards of yarn that was the yarn I wanted to use, and I wanted to make something in the sweater category, but that’s not enough to make most sweaters for a gal of my size. I was sweating as I approached the end of whether I’d had enough to finish even this, but I finished with maybe 100 yards to spare; not really close.


A sweater of any kind can’t be too relaxing; you’ve usually got multiple counts going on as you do raglan increases and measure the depth of the front notch and ribbing and set up for cables and do waist shaping and all that, at the same time or in rapid succession. (My awesome Sirka counter, a Christmas gift from Noel, made it easy.) But I upped the challenge for myself even further by alternating skeins of this hand-dyed yarn. First time I’ve done that; I used the technique (and placement) for switching from this video. My switch point was right before (thus, working top-down, to the right side of) the front cable panel. I didn’t bother switching until I got to that point, since pooling (if it were to occur) would be noticeable mostly in stockinette. It turned out to be easy and effective.


The other thing that gave me a few moments of anxiety was the fit with superwash yarn. You hear a lot from knitters about their superwash garments “growing” (because the yarn slides through stitches freely and doesn’t cling to itself, having been treated to remove the scales from the fiber) during wear, or in the wash. After I finished knitting, I took a deep breath and machine washed this on cold, then tumbled it to a damp-dry condition before blocking. Perfection. I had notice in my swatch (which I treated the same way) that washing worked like magic to smooth the fabric, rendering the stitches so even you’d swear it was done by machine. The professional look after washing was striking. Here it is just off the needles (with CG gesturing as she explains what she likes about it):


And here it is blocking:


I’ve worn it a dozen times, and it holds its shape perfectly and looks (dare I say it) smashing.


Sometimes what you start doesn’t turn out to be what you need. More often than I deserve, I get exactly the boost I’m looking for from the knits I finish. I love the way they make me look and feel. I take pride in being able to clothe myself, to flash some style beyond the bare minimum I default to in my infrequent shopping trips. Thanks to an irresistible yarn and the perfect pattern, the time I invested here was transformed into pure joy.

I just need to catch my breath

Posted December 31, 2013 by donnadb
Categories: Crocheting, Knitting

Tags: , , , , , ,

Has everyone gotten their Christmas packages yet? Probably not; I know at least one went astray and might not be reunited with its recipients until the calendar flips over. Nevertheless, how can I let the year end without wrapping up what I made for the holidays?


Pattern: Luxe Cowl by Margaux Hufnagel
Yarn: Lion Brand Martha Stewart Crafts Roving Wool (100% wool), colorways Snowdrift and Persimmon
Needles: U.S. 13 Harmony wood Options 16″ circular

I actually made two of these, the other in a winter white. This red one went to my mother-in-law Libby; the white one I hope will soon be in the hands of my niece.


Pattern: Crocheted Square Washcloth by Stacey Trock
Yarn: Red Heart Eco-Cotton Blend (75% cotton, 25% acrylic), colorway Vanilla
Hook: Tulip Etimo 5.0mm (H)


Pattern: Waffle Knit Dishcloth by Debbie Andriulli
Yarn: Aslan Trends Pima Clasico Cotton (100% cotton), colorway White
Needles: U.S. 6 Sunstruck straights

Libby also requested some easy-care, throw-em-in-the-wash, bleach-the-heck-out-of-em dishcloths. I dug around in the stash, found some non-colorful cotton, whipped ’em up.


Pattern: Rikke Hat by Sarah Young
Yarn: Knit Picks Gloss DK (70% merino, 30% silk), colorway Robot
Needles: U.S. 4 (band) and 7 (body) Harmony wood 16″ circular (half-magic-loop style)

My lovely model is lovely, but I wish I’d gotten a picture of this hat on Noel. I made it for nephew Daniel, and it is a terrific style on a fashion-forward man.


Pattern: Astronomer by Veronica O’Neil
Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% merino), colorways Black and White (not sure what yarn the gray stripe is)
Needles: U.S. 8 Harmony wood Options 16″ circular (half-magic-loop style)

Boy, this turned out handsomely. I made Bowdoin College colors for nephew Sawyer, who runs cross-country there. The turned hem is a polished touch. And the yarn knit up crisp and even. A professional-looking effort, maybe my favorite of the season.

IMG_1205 IMG_1202 IMG_1204

Pattern: Mini Sweater Ornament With Cables by Emily5446
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal (in Gypsy), Knit Picks Essential Kettle-Dyed (in Spruce), Knit Picks Felici (in Arugula), Cherry Tree Hill Sockittome (in Birches, not pictured)
Needles: U.S. 1.5 & 2 Nickel fixed Options 24″ circulars

I made a handful of mini sweaters to put in random stockings. The Birches one (made of leftovers from an as-yet-unblogged Sockhead Hat) managed to hop in a stocking before I had time to photograph it. In 2014 my leftovers are all devoted to hexipuffs, so I hope they enjoyed these last gasps of freedom.

I hope your holiday of giving was as warm as mine! See you next year!


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