Sunday, December 8, 2013

Accessory bag

I saw a post in Ravelry concerning having a "day of the week" bag for knitting projects - take the appropriate bag with you when you leave the house - never be bored with the same pattern.  To save myself from having to transfer tools and accessories from bag to bag, I used Anita Goodesign pattern from an embroidery demo to make a small bag for knitting accessories to take with me.  I ordered extra needle gauges and sets of cable needles for duplicate bags from

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Handknit market bag

Last year I won a door prize somewhere, a ball of red cotton yarn.  The yarn was Debbie Bliss eco Fairtrade collection in red (color 32613, dyelot 9102801)  I've been wanting to knit a market bag in cotton or linen,  so I started with a free pattern from "Elisa's Nest Tote" I started off on the wrong foot when I decided to knit every row, making a garter lace, instead of dutifully knitting 1 row and purling one row.  When I could see after the first 24 or so rows that it was going to be smaller than the bag I wanted, I departed even more dramatically from the pattern by making the rows knit so far into the "bottom" of the bag and picking up the stitches on circulars and knitting around.   The door prize yarn only went about 1/3 of the way up the side of the bag that I wanted so I delved into my stash and got out a couple of balls of Bernat "Cot'n Soft" that I've had for ages.  The red sticker price tag on the label said "$1.00" so the total cost of the bag was $2.00 (plus whatever the seminar cost!)  

I returned to the pattern to get inspiration for the bag handles.  When the bag was almost as tall as I wanted I decreased every fifth stitch to bring the top in and keep the bag from flopping open, and changed to garter stitch (knitting in the round it is knit 1 row, purl 1 row).  After knitting six rows garter stitch I counted and I found I had a total of 78 stitches. I decided I wanted the short sides of the top to be 1/2 as long as the sides, so I divided by 6 and planned on 13 stitches at each end and 26 for each long side.    I counted the stitches and decided I wanted the applied I-cord on the entire long side length.  I did not plan that the applied I-cord would take up (and by that I mean shorten) the long side, but I am still pleased with the outcome.

What do you think?

(Edited 12/4/2013 to update yarn)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Love it! Crowd-sourced Machine knitting Christmas sweaters

You can promote safe celebration with Budweiser and knit a row of a Christmas sweater at the same time using Budweiser's knitbot app.  If you tweet #jumpers4des a line will be printed!

Dye Lot #26, continued

The yarn has been soaking up dyestuff from the dye vat since I last wrote - 7 days ago.  I briefly brought the yarn up to a simmer on my camp stove in the garage, protected from the wind and snow, and let it simmer for about an hour, then allowed it to cool naturally. 

The color appeared to be a deep rich walnut brown, almost black. 
We were away the last two days visiting relatives for Thanksgiving.  It is good to be back home, and I couldn't wait to see how much more color had been absorbed.  After rinsing, though, it is a much lighter color, almost what I would describe as "chestnut".  I hung the skeins on the patio to dry in today's brisk breeze.  They should be dry by tomorrow. 

I really was expecting a darker color, but I do like the color that I got.  Since I am pleased with the color,  and the dye vat is far from exhausted, I will also wind some sock yarn off the cones and use more of the same dye vat - it will be dye lot #27.  I will not pre-mordant the sock yarn wool, to see if I achieve a different color.   For dye lot #26 I used 1 quart (1/3 of total) of leftover alum mordant from previous (goldenrod) dye lot as a pre-mordant.  Alum is supposed to "brighten" the color. Black walnut is not supposed to need a mordant for color-fastness.  If I get serious about this, I will need to start being more precise about these recipes.  Every book I have ever read on dyeing mentions record-keeping as very important in order to be able to achieve repeat colors. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dye lot 26 - Black Walnut

Our neighbor asked if I wanted black walnuts which grew an abundant crop this year. I eagerly agreed. He mentioned a recipe his mother made, some kind of hard candy with black walnuts on top.  I mentioned that my purpose for gathering the walnuts would be to use their husks for dyeing wool.
Now that the trees have dropped their leaves, if you don't know where the trees are, they are a little more difficult to spot.  The bark is deeply furrowed, and older trees are tall.  For some reason, most of his trees had poison ivy on the trunk but I am not sure if there is any real relationship.  I found the trees by finding the walnuts in the fields and on the lane, many were hiding among the leaves. 
I gathered about a bushel of nuts and their hulls into an empty feed sack, then made sure that there was plenty of plastic and cardboard and plastic under the sack in the back of my car, so that the liquid pressed from the hulls would not seep into the carpet. I noticed that just carrying the feed sack along resulted in my jeans being stained with the brown-black dye.   After separating the hulls from the nuts, I added water to wash some of the remaining dyestuff into the kettle.  After letting the hulls sit in the water overnight, I strained the hulls out and poured the resulting dyebath into a plastic 5-gallon bucket.  I am trying the cold dye method, because after the experiment with the dandelion roots my husband objects to cooking any dyebath on the stove, claiming that "it stinks up the house".  It is too cold and windy outside to consider using the Coleman stove, so the cold water option will be first choice. If I can achieve a desirable color, I won't simmer the yarn in the dyebath. Note that I used nitrile gloves, the walnut stain is fairly hard to get out.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival

Third Coast was a blast.  The organizers did a wonderful job, getting absolutely world-class instructors like Barry Klein of Trendsetter Yarns and Lily Chin, holder of the world's record for fastest crocheter.   I attended classes with these two.  Candice Eisner- Struck also taught, I was sorry that I  could not attend all the classes.  Class size was very small so we got lots of up close and personal time that would not have happened at a larger venue like Stitches.

I was embarrassed for Detroit that the knitters here did not turn out in greater numbers.  The event was held at Wayne State in the spacious and light-filled McGregor conference Center.  Security seemed to be fine, if that is the reason for the low turnout.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Two at a time, toe-up socks

I am using instructions from Melissa Morgan-Oakes, using yarn I hand-painted with Kool-Aid dyes during a demo at Wolcott Mill last year.  The yarn is very soft, a fine wool with 15% nylon.    On this pair, I lost track of what I was doing on the toes, and didn't realize the odd pointy toe shape until I had knit quite a ways past the toes.  My solution is going to be to finish the socks, try them on, then decide if remediation is needed.  If it is, I will clip a thread and re-knit the toes in the traditional direction. I am sweating whether I will have enough yarn left to make much of a cuff.

Monday, September 30, 2013

GRAMKC Fall Seminar in Grand Rapids

I attended the Grand Rapids Area Machine Knitter's club fall seminar, with Carole Wurst from Rocking Horse Farm and Carol Scott from Chicago area as demonstrators.

Too much information to report all at once!  I was very inspired by the knit-woven bags that Carol Scott demonstrated. Quick and easy, and a great way to use up novelty yarns.   A tiny sample of these bags are shown below.  

Her samples were beautifully blocked and labelled.  They clearly demonstrated the difference in the neatness factor when using various techniques to finish on the wrong side of the garment.

Carole Wurst covered a variety of machine-knitting basics including G-carriage operation including  turn around cams, her versatility tuck pattern in a number of different garment designs including the ever-popular but perpetually-renamed cowl, infinity scarf, smoke ring, or hood.   I purchased a card punched with this pattern as well as a pattern for an "artistic" sweater with an asynchronous front.

Goldenrod natural dyeing

After bringing the dyestuff to a boil, then letting it cool and stew for a couple of days, I cooked several 100-yard skeins of yarn for a couple of hours in the goldenrod tea, then turned off the fire and let the skeins sit in the dyepot to cool off.   Once they were cooled off and able to be handled without burning myself, I fished them out with a bamboo spatula and hung them over the back of an aluminum-frame chair to catch the afternoon sun and breeze.   The next morning I brought them in to dry further on a rack in the laundry room, since we planned to be out of town for a few days. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spindle and dyepot

So much has happened since my last post!  Mostly that I have been working lots of overtime at work' to the point that I made myself sick from stress and worry.  Why?  I can't answer.  I have hobbies that should keep me from stressing, I just have to remember to DO them.

For the last few weeks I have been spinning at night while watching TV.  I finally finished up the bag of teal roving I bought at Fiber Fest in Hastings several (many) years ago, and have started a new bag that is a mix of lavendar, navy and royal blue.  I love, love, love the color blend.  When I saw it in the booth at Michigan Fiber Festival in 2006, it called me across the aisle to buy it.   The roving was prepared by Ozark Carding Mill in Missouri.  I know these things because I left the receipts in the bag.  At the time I paid $3.00 per ounce for the bag of fiber.  

I received "The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes" by Sasha Duerr yesterday and looked through it last night.  She equates natural dyeing with the Slow Food Movement.  I fantasize for a moment that I could live the color-filled natural-dyed life that she describes.   The idea of taking  time to experience the natural world and the environment while going through the process of clothing my body with art producd by my own hands is infinitely more appealing that working under pressure to meet software project deadlines in a corporate setting.   I know that my coworkers appreciate my efforts and that the software project will ultimately support a more efficient manufacturing process to meet the low-price needs of the consumer - but the end result of making my own clothing is so much more immediate and gratifying, not to mention relaxing.   Is it practical? Not sure.  Do I appreciate my job? Yes! Is it hypocritical to daydream about having the luxury of time to spin, dye, knit a single garment? If I paid myself at the my hourly rate, the resulting sweater would cost thousands of dollars.  True, it would be a one-of-a kind work of art. Could I afford it, without the luxury of my corporate job? Probably NOT!

Once upon a time I caught the idea  "Start to weave, and the universe will provide the yarn." It's probably a famous quotation, but right now I can't attribute it.  I decided today that if I start to dye, the universe will provide the dyestuff.  The goldenrod has been in bloom for the last several weeks and is starting to form seedheads.  I thought today would be a great day to go and pick some for the dyepot.   I had not been in the field for more than 10 minutes when  VERY LARGE white-tail deer jumped out about 20 feet frm where I was picking and bounded across the field.  It gave me a start.  Amazing that I had not noticed it before it jumped up and leapt away.

When in the field, I found other flowers in bloom with the same color, so picked some of them as well. I'd like to identify the plant.

There were a lot of insects foraging, just like me.  I noticed honeybees, bumblebees, a wasp I had never seen before, Asian ladybugs, yellow striped beetles.  I was very careful to let these fly away before putting the flowers in my bag. 

Once I came inside, and put the flowers into the dyepot and set it to simmer, I found other hitchhikers. There were a lot of spiders and some tiny black beetles.  Maybe if I were a Buddhist I would have carefully set each one free outside my door, but I chose a more expedient method of crushing them in a paper towel as they climbed out of the water.
  I set the dyepot to simmer while using the bread machine on the counter to knead some dough for hamburger buns for dinner.

The house is filling with a pleasant herbal aroma.   I will let it simmer for several hours, then strain the resulting "tea" and use it.  In the meantime I will measure out a few 100-yard skeins of  undyed yarn using the niddy-noddy, to compare to my new yarn meter from Annie's Attic.   I measured a purchased skein earlier and noticed that the label said 99 yards, the meter measured 109 yards.  I'd prefer to use the meter instead of havng to count the rounds on the niddy noddy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

So, lately, the recurring theme in my mind is "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, Open the eyes of my heart - I want to be with you... I want to be with you.."

These are the words of a hymn, but it is also the theme running through my reading from E.F.Schumacher's "Guide for the Perplexed" to "The Cloud of Unknowning" by Anonymous, and more..

How to express this in knitting?