Posted tagged ‘yarn’

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

February 2, 2015


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.


I know all at once who I am

January 1, 2013


Pattern: HoneyCowl by Jessica K.
Yarn: Knit Picks Biggo (50% nylon, 50% merino), colorway Carnelian
Needles: U.S. 11 Harmony wood Options 24″ circulars (magic-loop)

2012 was not about planning. All year, it seemed, events simply overtook me, and all I could do was hang on and ride the wave. In some areas of my life, that was frustrating, as things I wanted to accomplish fell by the wayside and ordinary life ground to a halt, victims of crisis after crisis. But in my knitting, I was able to embrace the tide and roll with the unexpected. Indeed, I often looked forward to it.


Such was the case when Knit Picks offered a free hank of their bulky merino blend Biggo. Free yarn? Yes, please. When it came, the color, lightness, and silky-soft hand reminded me of the Misti Alpaca Chunky I used for my Raspberry Layers. I couldn’t resist finding a one-skein pattern and getting started right away.


Nine days later I was casting off. Extreme texture, vibrant color, a chunky barrier against the cold, a bold splash against winter’s gray. Who needs planning or predictability when life brings you free yarn and the time to knit it?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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


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


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.


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!

With every step you climb another mountain

July 12, 2009

Noel and the kids are away for a few days, and I have lots of big plans on how to spend my free time.  This afternoon the first thing I did after two church services and lunch was to get started organizing the yarn I’ve bought since the beginning of the year.

If I hadn’t gotten tired of standing up — no, scratch that.  If my laptop battery hadn’t run down, I’d be back in the guest room still, sorting skeins, browsing Ravelry, printing out or copying patterns, and packaging yarn and printouts up in plastic or paper bags.  In fact, I brought the Knit Picks section of the stash out into the living room, along with bags, computer (plugged in now) and Sharpie in order to get a little further while I watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 tonight.

Why do I enjoy planning what to knit?  My personal projects club has become almost a religion.  I look forward avidly to revealing the next number.  I strategize ways to make the process more effective.  I look at the boxes of yarn that has accomulated since I resolved to start knitting from stash, and it doesn’t make me ashamed that I’ve bought so much yarn — it makes me happy that I can add some of my new favorite projects to the list that I’m fully equipped to make.

There are certainly many things I could do to improve our living quarters before the family returns on Wednesday.  And I’m going to clean their rooms and straighten some of the piles of randomness around the house, I swear.  Right now, though, the most pleasurable mess there is to sort through is the mess o’ yarn.  And I’m loving every minute of it.

I’m the last chick standing up against the wall

February 15, 2009


When I start getting organized, watch out.  Anything that’s not nailed down will find a box, a shelf, a folder, or a listing on

At the beginning of this year, I found myself paralyzed by my stash. I had so many beautiful yarns — and so many bewildering choices. Yet I found myself jumping at yarn sales and buying souvenir skeins on my travels. Without a plan for most of what I owned, those gorgeous fibers stayed hidden away in my storage cubes, taunting me from my Ravelry stash listing.

So I joined Stash Knit Down 2009. And after finishing my remaining WIPs from 2008 (FLS, Jasmine, Jaywalker, Diamante) and doing a few high-priority requests (Drive-Thru) I’m finally ready to begin with my own personal project club.

Various Ravelry groups are doing “clubs” from stash. A personal sock club, for instance, is sock yarn packaged up with a pattern, just like you’d get from a mail-order sock club — but in this case, you bag up several combinations and select them at random throughout the year. Folks are doing personal fingerless glove clubs, sweater clubs, scarf clubs, lace clubs — you name it.

I decided to do a personal everything club.

18 “big” projects (defined as anything DK weight or heavier). There are sweaters, scarves, wraps, hats, coats, who-knows-what in here.


43 “small” projects (fingering weight) in three storage cubs. Mostly socks and fingerless gloves, but some were packaged so long ago I’ve completely forgotten; there might even be some heavier-weight single-skein bags in there to be knit into hats. This is mostly where the Stash of Precious Yarns resides — those beautiful skeins that you never find any pattern good enough for. Of all the benefits that this stashdown project promises to deliver, I am happiest about the opportunity to knit from the SPY.


16 “cotton” projects, derived from my ever-growing store of dishcloth and craft cotton.


The box of orphan stash — a couple of SPY skeins that haven’t yet met their match, some novelty destined for swing needle scarves once I find yarns to pair them with — is shrinking.


Oh, I hadn’t put in the leftover dishrag cotton yet. Darn it.


But the plan is ready to go once the current WIPs come off the needles. I’ll let choose the order. My aim is to have a large project and a small project going at all times. Small for portability; large for evenings at home. (When the dishcloths will get knit I have no idea — maybe I should develop a strategy for mixing them in with the large projects, which I anticipate will mostly take less time than the small projects, since there are only a few sweaters in that list.)


Is it all going to get knit this year? Doubtful. But I’m sure going to have fun seeing what comes out next.

Bustin’ makes me feel good

December 29, 2008

I succumbed to two year-end yarn sales in the last few days.  Enamored of two jackets in Custom Knits (a wonderful gift, by the way), I scoured Webs‘ closeouts for bulky yarn and settled on Cascade 109.  And because they were cheap, I also picked up some Bollicine Revolution (my initial choice for the sweater) and one precious skein of Ranco.

Then today, when someone posted that Annie Amelia had Malabrigo for $8.50, I pounced — because I needed it for the other CK coat that I covet.  I managed to escape from there without “tossing in” any extra skeins, but not without pain (I really wanted to try that Nature Cotton, but none of the projects on Rav spoke to me).

The thought of those big boxes of yarn coming my way made me feel very guilty.  What about all the beautiful yarn in my storage cubes, alone and unloved?  Even though I did a good job knitting from stash for Christmas (all 10 of my gifts were from stash), there’s still so much of it.  How can I justify bringing in new yarn — okay, for a project, sure, but not random impulse buys — when I have miles and miles waiting to be knitted?

So I joined Stash Knit Down 2009 and got several good ideas for using what I have on hand and limiting the influx.  I want to do all of these (such is my enthusiasm upon attaching myself to any self-improvement plan), but I’ll be happy if I can do any of these, in some combination.

  1. The yarn diet.  In this case, my beloved (and successful!) No-S Diet, only applied to yarn.  In 2009, I won’t buy yarn except on days that begin with S.  That wouldn’t be helpful for the average knitter, but since I have no LYS and buy mostly online, it means that my usual browsing will yield only ideas for later purchases, not immediate cart-filling.  If I still want it once the S-day rolls around, I’ll buy it.  But I’ll wager a cooling-off period will do wonders for me.  And since my most reliable sources of temptation, the Herrschner Yarn Sale and Knit Picks weekly e-mails, come on non-S days, cooling off rather than buying now will be the norm.  “Special days” (allowed in the No-S diet) would be visits to LYSes on trips.
  2. VouchersIelith describes a plan to exchange stash projects completed for vouchers to buy yarn for new projects.  3 small projects earns 1 Small Project Voucher.  2 large projects earns 1 Large Project Voucher.  That way you can still buy new yarn, but only as a reward for knitting from stash.  If I combined that with the No-S yarn diet, then I’d be buying yarn only for projects, and only after due consideration.
  3. The yarn bankToggleknits shares an idea to deposit a dollar (or your denomination of choice) in the yarn fund every time you use a certain amount of yarn from stash (say, a ball).  The money that you deposit can be withdrawn for yarn purchases.  Others have suggested keeping track by yards and allowing yourself to buy half or a third of the yardage you use.  I like this because it might involve keeping a special spreadsheet, which appeals to my geekiness.

It’s not that my stash is out of control — it’s just that it is making me feel guilty.  I’m looking forward to trying some of the Stash Down 2009 group’s trips and tricks (keeping track of yardage knit, picking a month to concentrate on the Shrine of Precious Yarns).  In combination with the other KALs I’m hoping to join, like Obscuriousity, and the ones I’m already a part of but have let sadly fall by the wayside, like Fingerless Glove Fanatics, I hope that there will be plenty of opportunities to pick out something from stash for nearly everything I might want to knit.

It’s beginning to look

December 15, 2008

Nothing went exactly as planned today, and we’re looking forward to the same tomorrow.  Ice began falling from the sky in the morning, and by 1 pm the city schools announced they were closing in 30 minutes.  Snow and sleet made the ground white.  First the roof, then the driveway, then the road turned into a sheet of nubbly ice, like a spun sugar cake decoration.  I messaged Noel not to plan on driving home at midnight tonight from the airport, even if he’s able to fly in.  And the schools have just announced that they’ll be closed tomorrow.  I began to rejuggle my week’s tasks to take account of a twenty-four hour enforced hiatus.

And then the mail came. With a package from the Secret Knitter.

Can you tell what that design is? Here, try this one.

Ring any bells?

Yep, it’s the A.V. Club logo — in dishcloth form. I laughed out loud when I pulled these out. What a tonic for an anxious day.

SK kindly wrote up the pattern so I can make them for all my co-workers:

You see what he did there? It’s The A.V. Club Hipster Dishrag. Because the official phrase of the site is “hipster douchebag.” As memorialized on this bit of swag. This provoked a second outburst of genuine, out-loud laughing.

Oh, but that’s not all. For moi:

Yarn Chef Bouillabaisse. 100% superwash merino, fingering, hand-dyed in Buttercup colors. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

And probably for moi as well (Noel’s not here and I’m grabbing all the gusto I can get):

Chocolates from Pure Imagination.

Could anything else have raised my spirits as high from as low as they had sunk on this icy, dark, lonely day? A smile from a friend can make you feel like a new person, sometimes.