Tag Archives: wool

Inspiration: It’s Way Too *#^@ing Cold

We are firmly in the SECOND cold snap of the winter, here in Seattle.  Seattle, where I was promised damp, cloudy, and 40s for most of the  year.  Seattle, where I moved to get away from the excessive cold of the Midwest, and the ridiculous hot of the South.  Seattle, where I expected to wear nothing but wool sweaters and flannel shirts for 90% of the year.

It is currently (at 11:30 in the morning) 27 degrees.  27!

And, there’s snow and ice all over outside.  (In November!)

It’s not right.  It’s not fair.  And I don’t like it.

All I want to do is roll myself up in a big wad of roving and go into hibernation until the temperature is back in the 40s.

Unfortunately, that’s not really approved of by society in general, so I suppose I must make do with the next closest thing.  Thrummed knitting.

Thrummed knitting involves working little tufts of roving into your knitting (traditionally mittens, but right now I would consider murder if it meant I could get my hands on a thrummed sweater).  It’s a little futzy, but not terribly so.  And, you end up with knitting that’s completely lined with glorious, fluffy wool (think of shearling, but knitted, not leather), and dotted with cute little heart-shaped stitches.  I can’t think of anything better than walking around with my hands (and feet) swaddled with woolen goodness.

Try these mittens, for some traditional thrummed action:

Yarn Harlot Thrummed Mittens by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Outside:

2895409293_91de82094a_z[1]Inside (I know, right?!):

2873388824_e07708cb94_z[1]Or, if you’re like me and have ice cubes instead of toes, these slippers would be fantastic:

Cadeautje by Ysolda Teague

cadeautje_medium2[1]Now, I’m off to go see if I can fit another sweater over the one I’m already wearing… Wish me luck!

Oh, the Humanity!

There is nothing (NOTHING) worse in a knitter’s life than pulling out a sweater, or a scarf, or even a ball of yarn and finding that THE BUGS have gotten to it. Not yarn barf, not having to rip out an entire sweater, not even carpel tunnel. Nothing.

It doesn’t happen often, but it happens once in a while. A year ago, I pulled my winter hand-knits out of storage and found a big hole in my wool coat, and a chewed-through spot in my husband’s favorite hand-spun alpaca scarf. It still gives me the heebie-jeebies to think about. Ugh.

And, last week, I was digging through my yarn stash, and found a skein of yarn with little cobwebs and eggs on it!  (Needless to say, that skein went immediately in to the trashcan.  You gotta get rid of that business stat.)

There are a couple things you can do to avoid this terrible, terrible situation. (Although, be warned, I am no Orkin Man, or even someone who’s particularly good at cleaning.) Here’s what I do to protect my yarn, fiber and finished knitting:

First, if I am going to put something in storage, I’ll put them in plastic to keep out the bugs. Big plastic storage bins are perfect for coats and sweaters, and ziplock bags work well for accessories and skeins of yarn. (I did not do this with my coat last year or that skein of burgundy wool… which was probably part of my problem.)

51erG3aACqL[1]Second, I make sure to keep my woolens out of dank, musty, moldy, or damp places in my house. If you have a newer house, or don’t live in somewhere as damp as Seattle, you probably don’t have to worry about this so much. Bugs and mold need a source of water, so if you keep your woolens dry, you prevent pests from setting up shop in their folds.

And, third, I now have cedar hangers in all of my closets. I’m 80% sure that it’s a placebo effect, but cedar has been used as a pest deterrant for hundreds of years (think about cedar chests). I don’t have a cedar chest, because all of my furniture comes from Ikea, but you can buy blocks of cedar, cedar hangers, cedar sachets and about a million other cedar-y things to hide in your closet and deter pests. (And, cedar smells good… bonus!)81866[1]What do you do to protect your handknits?

Know Your Neck Warmers

It may seem odd, but did you know that spring is the perfect time of year for scarves, shawls and neck-warming devices of all kinds?  They add just enough warmth to a light spring jacket that you can stand to wait at the chilly bus stop in the morning.  And, when it warms up in the afternoon, you can just shove your scarf into your bag for the commute home.

But the question remains, what kind of neck-warming device is right for you?

Perhaps a scarf is best for you?  Scarves are… scarves.  I don’t think I really have to define them.  Long, skinny, warm.  They are usually worked in thicker yarn and a denser stitch pattern than stoles or shawls

Noro Striped Scarf by Jared Flood

475926102_16053747ec_z[1]Of course, scarves are traditionally rectangular, but sometimes scarves can get a little crazy, like this one:

Wingspan by maylin Tri’Coterie Designs

2012-03-03_01_Wingspan_medium2[1]Shawls, on the other hand, tend to be lacy or light in some way.  They are knit into interesting shapes, most traditional shawls are triangles or half-circles (although you can find shawls in almost any shape).

Haruni by Emily Ross

Haruni-0001-ps_medium[1]Citron by Hilary Smith Callis

4185481652_ce7acd1bc1_z[1]Hitchhiker by Martina Behm

CIMG7960When a shawl and a scarf get mixed together, you can end up with a stole.  Stoles aren’t as common as the other two, but they are still totally gorgeous and practical.  They are essentially just a super-wide scarf (upwards of 12 inches across), but they’re usually very delicate and fancy, often knit with lace and beads.  A stole is the perfect choice to be worn with a fancy ball gown or to a wedding.

Seascape Stole by Kieran Foley

2518633229_a7e2951036_z[1]As fancy as a stole is, a cowl is completely functional.  It’s a tube of fabric that you slip over your head.  Imagine it as a scarf without ends to tuck into your collar, or a turtleneck without the sweater.  Super comfy cozy, and perfect for those times you don’t want to mess with getting the ends of your scarf tangled.

Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho

6235518543_46ba4d5d58_z[1]What kind of neck warmer is your favorite?

Pattern: Seedling Mitts

I’m legit!  I’m a real live pattern designer now!  Of course, I’ve been writing patterns for quite a while now, but so far, they’ve all been self-published.  Yesterday my first pattern published with a legit publisher went live!  It’s very exciting.  I feel all grown up!

The pattern is for my new Seedling Mitts, and is available on Knit Picks through their Independent Designer Program.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey’re little fingerless gloves that would be perfect for puttering around the garden on a cool spring day (like today).  They are knit up in Knit Picks Palette, which is a really nice hard-wearing wool that comes in a million colors, but if you don’t want to buy the yarn online, you could use any fingering-weight yarn.

My favorite part of the pattern is the little slip-stitch patter around the edges of the mitts.  It’s surprisingly easy to do, but it looks super complicated and cool when it’s done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, drop by Knit Picks and pick up a copy of my Seedling Mitts pattern!

An Apology

Dear Acrylic Yarn,

I would like to offer you a heartfelt apology.  I know I have been less than charitable about you in the past, and would like to clear the air between us.

Please understand that I meant no personal insult by my comments.  I was blinded by my own prejudice.  I have scoffed at yarn lacking natural fibers.  I have laughed at Red Heart Super Saver and rolled my eyes at Caron Simply Soft.  I have never given you, Acrylic Yarn, the time of day.

This last week and a half that we’ve spent together has been wonderful.  I picked you up out of desperation- the Ice Storm was coming, and I didn’t have enough sock yarn to keep me entertained while I was stuck inside.  You were the only yarn I could find within walking distance, and I was desperate.  It was with trepidation that I purchased you, after all, could yarn that cost only $5.99 per pound really be worth it?  Could I really make a worthwhile sweater out of acrylic?

I should never have questioned you.  You are softer than wool, and are knitting up into a lovely dense fabric.  Because you come in such large quantities, I haven’t had to worry about joining in new skeins of yarn.  And, my sweater is going to be wonderfully cozy and warm, and totally washable.

Thank you, Acrylic Yarn, for giving me a second chance.  Thank you for showing me my mistakes, and please forgive my ignorance.  I now know better than to be so judgmental against you.

My sincerest apologies,

Allison

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(The yarn I’m using is Loops & Threads Impeccable, from Michael’s, in Clear Blue and Chocolate.)

Oh Yeah! Dying With Kool-Aid

IMG_5541_edited-1

Dying is super fun and rewarding (and surprisingly easy).   It’s a great way to play with yarn when it’s too hot to sit around with a big pile of sweater on your lap.

There are a million ways to dye yarn, but this is the easiest one I’ve found.    You probably have everything that you need in your kitchen right now. I’ll do further yarn dying posts about more complicated dying processes later, but this should get you started (and you end up with a whole bunch of fruity-smelling yarn).

Please note, this will only work with wool or animal fibers (cashmere, angora, silk, etc.).  Dying other fibers (cotton, linen, anything synthetic etc.) takes a lot more effort as well as some fairly toxic chemicals, so I don’t bother with that.  But doing this is super easy and fun.  It’s a little like making magic potions, and you can do it with kids, if you’ve got some around that want to help.

You’ll only need a couple things to dye your wool:

  • Wool.  Duh.  You can use a wool blend, but know that the wool fibers and the acrylic (or whatever) fibers will take up the dye differently, which can give you a heathered look.  Superwash wool works well, and you won’t have to worry about your yarn getting felted in the process.  You can dye colored yarn or white yarn, just know that if you start with dark yarn, you’ll never dye it so that it ends up lighter.  If you’re trying to get bright or pastel colors, start with white.
  • Kool-Aid (in the color of your choice) I’m using “Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade”.  Get the kind in packets, not the kind in the big tubs with sugar pre-added.
  •  Water-From the tap.  Nothing fancy.
  • A non-reactive pot in which to do your dying. A stainless steel, enamel or non-stick pot works well if you’re trying to get a solid (or mostly solid) color.  Copper or cast iron pots can cause weirdness when you try to dye in them.

So how do you do it?

  1. Soak your yarn in warm water.  Make sure it’s nice and wet through.  If the yarn is wet to start with, it will take up color more evenly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Mix up your dye.  Just add a packet or two (or three or four) of Kool-Aid to a pot full of water.   It’s better to err on the too light side than the too dark side, since you can always add more color, but you can’t remove it.  I’m going for a pastel blue color, so I’m going with just one packet of color.  Heat up your dye until you just barely start to see little bubbles.  Don’t actually boil the water, but get it close.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. When your dye is steaming hot, and just about to start simmering, turn the heat way down and throw in your yarn.  Submerge all your yarn at once, and poke it around a little bit, so that each strand of yarn gets plenty of exposure to the dye.
  4. Set the color.  Keep your dyepot nice and hot, until the color transfers from the dye water to the yarn.  You know you’re done when the water is no longer colored.  Adjust the temperature to make sure that the dye stays nice and hot, but make sure not to burn or boil the yarn.  (Most Kool-Aid flavors will end up turning totally clear.  I picked one of their lemonade flavors, which they put something in to turn the water cloudy.  You’ll never get lemonade colors totally clear, but as long as the water turns white instead of blue (or yellow or whatever), you’re good to go.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Carefully (without burning yourself) move the yarn to a colander, and rinse the yarn under hot water from the tap.  Slowly lower the temperature of the rinse water until you can touch it without burning yourself.  Don’t immediately shock the yarn with cold water, because it can damage the yarn and cause felting.  Once you can touch the yarn without screaming in pain, keep rinsing out the yarn, gently flipping and turning it until no more color rinses out of the yarn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  6. If you are happy with your color, hang up the yarn to dry.  If you want to add more color (this is called over-dying) go through the steps again with more dye.
  7. Knit something fabulous with your new hand-dyed yarn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA