Archive for May 2012

You come to me on a summer breeze

May 27, 2012

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Pattern: Yolanda by Sabine Riefler
Yarn: Southwest Trading Company Twize (100% bamboo, discontinued), colorway Twen
Needles: U.S. 3 nickel Options 36″ fixed circulars (magic loop style)

You may have noticed that I love to dress my daughter. And the summer is my favorite time to dress her. Light, active, moving, free — what she wears as she runs and jumps and dances is what inspires me.

Two years ago I envisioned her in a sleeveless tunic. I searched for a long time before I found this one. She wore it for two summers. I washed it over and over. But now it’s too small. It’s time to dress her for the next couple of summers.

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Just like last time, I had yarn already selected from my stash that I wanted to use — some of the oldest yarn in my stash, something that had struggled to find a home. But this time a pattern connected with me right away. The lace tunic from Petite Purls, one of my favorite online pattern sources, had everything I was looking for. It looked and felt like the girl I wanted to watch bursting with energy all summer long.

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As so often happens when you have separately, and for different reasons, settled on yarn and pattern, some adjusting was necessary. My yarn knit to a larger gauge. So I figure out the circumference of the tunic’s bottom lace section in the proper size at the specified gauge, then took the gauge of my swatch and calculated which cast-on number in the pattern would give me that circumference. Off I went, and beautiful it was, too.

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But when I proceededly blithely on to the bodice, in a different (non-lace, textured) stitch pattern, continuing to use the numbers from the size for which I had cast on while using the measurements of the size to which I was actually knitting, things went wrong. I finished the front and went on to the back, but the neckline gnawed at me; it seemed way too small, and a couple of the Ravelry projects for the pattern had mentioned a too-small head opening. When I finished the back, the conclusion was inescapable. I couldn’t use the shaping from the smallest size. So I remeasured my gauge in the actual bodice stitch pattern, devised a way to get from my lace-section stitch numbers to the numbers for the larger size, and redid it. Ahhhhh … perfect.

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Why do I love dressing my daughter so much? Because of how much she loves being dressed. A more appreciative customer for one’s handknits cannot be imagined. She exclaims over the silky textures, she reports on its performance in the summer heat, she shows it off proudly to everyone who asks if her mother made it. Most of all, she looks beautiful in it. Like she looks beautiful in everything. Like how beautiful she always is.

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When you’re feeling love’s unfair

May 10, 2012

When I get the itch to try a new craft or technique, I tend to overprepare. I feel like I have to gather all the right supplies, rather than try it out in a form that requires less commitment. I read multiple tutorials. I make the mental rounds of everything I want to have happen, and when I can’t wrap my brain around the process in a way that makes me feel confident I’ll get the results I want, I postpone the attempt indefinitely.

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It’s been at least two years since I first decided to try dyeing yarn with Easter egg color tablets. I bought Paas kits for pennies after the holiday. I snagged a crockpot on Freecycle (most instructions urged having utensils that have been retired from food prep). I bought a few skeins of yarn with pale colors I didn’t especially like, thinking I could overdye them. And then I read tutorials, and more tutorials, and couldn’t find any that described exactly what I wanted to do (overdye, crock pot, Easter egg tablets, semisolid or gentle variegation rather than rainbow craziness), I put it all away and waited until my comfort level magically might rise.

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That day was Easter Eve 2012. We had dyed eggs earlier in the day, and when it came time to dispose of the cups of dye, I just couldn’t bear to pour them down the drain. All that color gone to waste. I pulled out my crock pot, selected a wimpy lavender sportweight yarn, scoured the Ravelry Kool-Aid dyeing group pages for the most relevant set of instructions, and settled on this post, which only differed from my setup by using stovetop rather than crock pot heat.

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My crock pot was small, so my untwisted skein was doubled over on itself a couple of times to fit inside. I soaked it good. Then I sorted my cups of dye. For this first skein, I used all the blues and purples. This was my conservative start to overdying; I didn’t know how much the original color would interact with the new dye, so I went with trying to make this unappealing pastel into something deeper and richer. Following the suggestions in the tutorial, I used a chopstick to create a little crevice where I could pour the dye and have it stay in roughly one quarter of the crock pot area. I pushed the yarn gently in that area to get it into the dye. Then cover on, heat on low, and wait for the dye to be exhausted — that is, to disappear. When that happens, it’s time to move on to the next quarter and the next cup of dye.

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It took all afternoon, one dye after another, but when the last cup was empty and there was no trace of color in the water when I poked the yarn with my chopstick, I was done. Here’s what the water looked like when I pulled the yarn out. Completely clear!

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The yarn goes into a simple lukewarm soapy bath — just liquid handsoap in the sink. I’m just dragging out the suspense here because these poor quality indoor pictures make it so hard to see how it came out. Let’s go to the big reveal!

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First, the before shot. This is my stash photo from when I bought this yarn in March 2010 at Tuesday Morning.

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And ta-da! Here’s what it looked like after being dyed and retwisted.

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I think it came out beautifully. In fact, I did it all again the next day with a second skein of the same colorway, this time with all the red, orange, and yellow dyes.

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And here’s how that one turned out! The dyes covered the original color much better than I had expected. I’m currently knitting this one up into a Lacy Baktus, and it looks for all the world like a mottled red-purple-swirl Easter egg, or maybe a bowl of delicately fruit-flavored hard candies.

What of the green dyes, you may ask? I used them on a much more highly variegated skein whose color mix never really appealed to me. No pictures yet, but the green overdye definitely helped.

Like most things that I agonize over for months or years before I finally do them, it was about half as hard and twice as rewarding as I thought. I almost want to go in search of more cheap yarn in colors I hate just so I can experiment with all the Easter egg dyes I’ve hoarded. Meanwhile I’ll check another item off my knitting life list; I have dyed my own yarn!