Saturday, December 8, 2007

Secret project...

What do you think this will become?

Without giving too much away, you probably already guessed from the colors that it has something to do with the upcoming holidays...

Actually, I'm thinking of knitting a Christmas sweater for my brother. All bright reds and greens and reindeer and santa and everything...

HA! I think I've just given my brother a heart attack! (He only ever wears solid neutral colors and can't even bear stripes, let alone a loud red and green sweater). I tried to find a link to a really busy Christmas sweater pattern to really scare him, but I couldn't find any. I guess no knitter would waste their time knitting an ugly sweater...

So, this yarn is not destined to be a sweater, but something else very special for Christmas. I won't say anymore here: I don't want to spoil the surprise! But if you're on Ravelry, you can get a peek of it in my projects.

I'll show you the finished product over the holidays.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ana hat!

The Ana hat is done!
5 days from cast on to bind off... not bad, don't you think? Quite a quick knitalong... Emily finished hers on Wednesday.

The hat is really easy to knit.
First, you make a long rectangle in stockinette stitch. I added a dozen rows to the 22" size, because my row gauge was slightly off. (145 rows instead of 133)

Then you pick up the cast on row (after unraveling the provisional cast on) and one side of the rectangle. Three sides of the rectangle are on the needles, the other one is the edge of the hat. Then you knit all the stitches you just picked up.
Because I had more rows, I ended up picking up 9 extra stitches along the side of the rectangle (109 instead of 100). To get to the desired number of stitches for the folding process (multiples of 20), I did 9 evenly spaced decreases along the side of the rectangle while I knitted all the picked up stitches.

Then comes the folding process. It's basically three needle bind-off in sections.
Transfer equal number of stitches on 2 DPNs, fold (purl sides together), and do three needle bind-off. Repeat...

When you come to the end of the folds, the hat looks like this:

Finally, you start the gathering process to close off the back of the hat and end up with this:

(that's a desk lamp under there, to try to give you an idea of the shape)

I like it a lot. I even planned my outfit around it this morning... If you want to see what it looks like on an actual person, go see Emily's pictures. I need to figure out a way to take pictures of myself wearing my finished objects. My experiments with mirrors have not been successful. Maybe I need a remote control or something... Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My first knitalong!

OK, so it's not an "official" knitalong... Emily and I bought kits to make Ana hats at the Fleece Artist trunk show in October. We were lucky to get our hands on the only two kits available that day. The colors were meant to be: Emily's is teal (always her favorite!) and mine is burgundy.

Emily started hers last week, and I cast on for mine today. I've knitted over 40 rows, so I'm about a third of the way done. It's a pretty quick knit! For all I know, Emily could be done already! I guess knitalongs might be better suited to larger projects... In any case, we can confer about the folding process. The pattern comes with written and photo instructions that make it seem really complicated. I hope it will become self-evident once we get started. I think we'll both be done pretty quickly. And not a moment too soon! We'll need our Ana hats to face the cold weather: it snowed in Seattle yesterday!

Pattern: Ana by Perl Grey
Yarn: Fleece Artist Woolie Silk 3-ply (65% wool 35% silk) in Burgundy (230 meters/100g). Purchased at Hilltop Yarn in Queen Anne (Seattle)
Needle: addi Turbo circular US 6 (4.00mm), 32 inches (80 cm)
Started: December 2, 2007

The yarn feels great, and the colorway is wonderful. Subtle shades of dark pink and burgundy, with a little hint of caramel. It'll be perfect with my caramel-colored coat!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A festival of finished objects (part 3)

Even though the some of the coffee stands on campus are now serving coffee in compostable cups and sleeves, there's always room for improvement. For example, you can reduce the use of cup sleeves with a new reusable crocheted cupwarmer!

This was a quickie! The pattern was published last year in Crochet today! and I remember intending to make one at the time. For some reason, I never got around to it. Other projects kept me busy. But when my friend Nora asked me recently if I could make her a reusable cup sleeve, I remembered the pattern and looked it up.

I set out (with Nora's help) to find a L (8.0 mm) hook. Not an easy task: my multiple LYS carried crochet hooks up to J or K, and then M/N (9.0 mm). But no L. Even JoAnn's didn't have any. I eventually found a L hook at Fred Meyer (go figure...).

I whipped out some yarn out of the stash (originally intended for a scarf, but I didn't have enough for a whole scarf and never found the right yarn to combine with it to make a scarf). The cupwarmer took about an hour to make, from start to finish, including multiple stops along the way to make sure it fit on an actual cup.

Pattern: Java Cozy, by Vashti Braha, from Crochet today! (Oct/Nov 2006)
- Foundation chain: ch 28 instead of ch 19
- Crocheted two additional rows with M hook at the top, to increase the length.
- Didn't do the slipstiched edging (top or bottom)
Yarn: Di.Ve Fiamma colorway 17017 (browns/purples/greens/red), about 1/3 skein (1 skein: 55 yards/50g)
Crochet hooks: L (8.0 mm) and M (9.0 mm)
Started: November 28, 2007
Finished: November 28, 2007

Isn't it nice? It's so easy to make and practical that I'm planning on making myself one, and maybe a few others as gifts... Save the planet with crochet!

A festival of finished objects (part 2)

Remember when I fell off the wagon? Well, I finished one of the kits I purchased that day: the Lu top, by Perl Grey, using Fleece Artist Scotian Silk.

It's a quick knit and the stitch pattern is easy to memorize. It's all knit in one piece from side to side (front-sleeve-back-sleeve-front), so there's no seaming involved. I did run into one problem. The pattern comes in two sizes: medium and large. I knit the whole thing in medium, only to realize that it was much too short for me (it did measure 12 inches as stated in the pattern, but it looked too short on me). The width was fine. I suspected it might stretch out a little when I blocked it, but I wasn't sure. The yarn is 35% silk, which isn't the stretchiest fiber...

So I unraveled the whole thing and started over, casting on the number of stitches suggested for the larger size (to increase the length) but sticking to the number of pattern repeats suggested for the medium size (to keep the width). It did stretch from 14 to 15 inches in length after blocking, and I think it's a much better length than before. It was worth knitting it twice...


Pattern: Lu, by Perl Grey
Yarn: Scotian Silk (65% wool, 35% silk) (375m/250g) by Fleece Artist in Jester(?)(I used a little less than one skein)
Needle: addi Turbo circular, US10/6mm
Started: October 2007
Finished: November 2007

The color is really difficult to capture on film. This is the best picture I could get of it on me:

I really like it! I wear a lot of red and it goes well over a long-sleeved t-shirt or a thin turtleneck. To keep it closed, I'm using a small tulip brooch I bought in the Netherlands years ago, in a town called Delft (best known for their porcelain). Because the color is so bright, I wanted something small and subtle... and tulips go well with red, don't they?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A festival of finished objects... (part 1)

I haven't posted in a while now, but that doesn't mean that there is no knitting going on... (although I hardly knit a stitch during a recent 10-day trip).
So, I have decided to make up for lost time and present finished objects from the last few weeks.

First and foremost, the Clapotis. Yes, I too have succumbed to the lure of the clapotis... like a zillion others. I started it in May using cotton yarn, thinking it would be done in time for summer. Of course, other projects became more pressing (baby gifts, anyone?) and my clapotis lay untouched for a good part of the spring and summer. I finally finished it in late October, right before leaving for a trip to San Diego.

I was slightly disappointed with the finished product, because it was a little too short for me to loop it around my neck. Fortunately, it stretched out during blocking and is now a perfect size. (It gained about 10 inches!)

Pattern: Clapotis, by the brilliant Kate Gilbert
Yarn: Tahki Tweedy Cotton Classic, colorway 268 (orange/teal/lime), purchased at Weaving Works
Started: May 2007
Finished: October 2007
Final size: 15 inches x 65 inches

I followed the pattern exactly. If I were to make another one, I would probably make it narrower and longer. I assume that cotton is more likely to stretch out during blocking than other fibers.

It's now a little cold in Seattle for a cotton scarf, but I'm sure I'll use it a lot when it warms up again. And I love the color: mostly a coral-salmon dark pink, with a little lime green and pale teal. It'll go with everything...

Coming up: other finished objects (the Lu cropped top, and a baby hat) and new works-in-progress (moss grid hand towel, Montego Bay scarf, and bamboo scarf).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Philosophical musings about the world's biggest stash...

I just stumbled upon these images of what might be the world's biggest stash. Clearly, my yarn stash is of amateur proportions compared to this.

My response to those images are an odd mixture of relief (I'm not that bad!), wonder (look at all that yarn!), and concern (am I at risk?). Now, I ask you: should a yarn stash of such proportions be a lifelong ambition or a cautionary tale? In other words, when does "a lot of yarn" become "too much yarn"?

What is the purpose of stash yarn? and when is a large stash a problem? Like any of life's big questions, isn't it all relative? If you have lots of room for it, you're not going broke buying it, and you live a functional life outside of your yarn stash (as it seems to be the case for this woman), it's probably just like any other hobby. Between you and me, it seems improbable that she'll ever actually use all this yarn. At some point, a transition probably occurs from buying yarn for knitting purposes to collecting yarn for its own sake, like others collect stamps or commemorative spoons.

I think it's still realistic for me to think that I'll knit (or crochet) all the yarn I now have in the stash, but how do you know when you cross that line? And what should you do when you get to that point? Stop buying yarn? That seems unlikely. Give some away? Sell it? Or be honest with yourself and admit that you're now a "yarn collector"?

p.s. I stumbled on this link on Annette Petavy's blog, who herself got it from Shannon Okey. I'm not the only one to question the size of my stash in response to those images. Annette Petavy has stopped using a stash counter. She says: "Les pelotes, c'est le bonheur. Et on ne peut jamais avoir trop de bonheur." In other words, "skeins are happiness. And you can never have too much happiness." What do you think?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fair is fair

Well, after having blogged about my nephew's blanket and Raphael's blanket, my friend Nora asked: "Are you going to blog about H's blanket?"
Touché... So here it is!

Truthfully, H's blanket is probably the nicest one I've made. Or the most polished, I should say. That may be because I actually followed a pattern...
Nora didn't want any pastels for her boy-to-be, so I looked for bright colors. This pattern seemed just right.


Pattern: Navajo Throw, from Candy Blankies by Candi Jensen
Yarn: Tahki Cotton Classic, multiple colors. I used the colors suggested in the pattern, except for "lavendar" and "wine" because they weren't available at my LYS when I bought the yarn. I picked the closest I could find.
Purchased at: Weaving Works
Started: August 2006
Finished: May 2007

Now, following a pattern didn't come without a few adventures. Nora's baby shower was planned for late October 2006, and I was determined to be done with the baby blanket in time. I was going to a conference the week before and was more than halfway done. When I got back, I only had about 10 rows to go, and a border to crochet. In 5 days. No problem, right? Wrong.

Because I worked on it on planes and in conference halls, I had the blanket on my lap most of the time and didn't really spread it out. When I got home, I realized that the blanket had gotten narrower and narrower, to the point where my working row was about 2/3 the width of the first few rows. I think I missed a stitch every time I changed colors. I didn't have time to deal with it before the baby shower, so I let it sit (fortunately, I had other gifts planned for the shower). I tried to "fill out" the missing stitches by crocheting additional stitches on each side, but that definitely looked bad, really bad... So, after a few months of denial (hoping the problem would fix itself) I finally sucked it up and frogged the blanket back to the first 3-4 rows. And started all over again.

When it was done, I washed it and blocked it. It blocked really nicely, all soft and drapy. I finally gave it to Nora (or rather to H) just in time for Mother's Day. I think it (secretly) is my favorite of all the baby blankets I made...

H seems to like it...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Here it is!

Yarn from the Yarn Harlot!

In case you didn't know, I won a skein of sock yarn for identifying the "most iconic Canadian song" on her blog. (it was the theme to Hockey Night in Canada)

I received the package today. It contained a nice card, a small chocolate bar (robust dark chocolate, yum!), and a skein of All Things Heather sock yarn in Royal.

It's a very pretty color. Now I just need to find the perfect pattern for this special yarn... Thanks again, Stephanie!

On a separate note, I just finished the Clapotis. More on that another time...

p.s. I didn't win any yarn at the Louet trunk show at Village Yarn and Tea Shop. Guess good things don't come in threes...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

They just don't understand...

Yesterday, Happy Hour with other graduate students:
Friend - "We were thinking of going out for dinner on Friday. Do you want to come?"
Me - "Sure, that sounds like fun... Oh! No, wait! I already have plans on Friday!"
Friend - "Really? what plans?"
Me - "I'm going to a yarn store..."
Friend - (interrupting) "A yarn store!?!" (look of puzzlement and amusement on my friend's face, as well as everyone else at the table) "You can't come to dinner because you're going to a yarn store? On a Friday night?"
Me - "Yes, they're having a trunk show. And I've never been to that yarn store..."

Ah, Muggles... they just don't understand. In the end, the dinner plans are not until 8-9pm and the trunk show is at 6pm, so I can probably do both and not have to explain further why I just can't cancel the "yarn store thing"... (I even RSVP'd! How am I going to win a door prize if I don't go? You know, good things come in threes and all that...)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

By popular request...

OK, not really. One person commented on Ravelry about this baby blanket I made last year for a friend's baby, and she asked if I had more pictures of it. Since uploading all my stash into Ravelry has gotten me pretty close to my monthly Flickr upload quota, I figured I'd post about it here.

This blanket is the first thing I crocheted. Ever. And once I finished it I was convinced I would never knit anything again: I was a crochet convert. I proceeded to crochet gifts for everyone I knew, mostly an insane amount of scarves (and at least one other baby blanket). Since then, I've realized that some things are not well suited to crochet (like socks or mittens), and I go back and forth depending on the project at hand.

A friend of mine tried to teach me how to crochet in the spring of 2005. She's left-handed, I'm right handed. I didn't get it. I went home and I tried to chain and couldn't get the hang of it. Over the following summer, my mother showed me again. Although she hadn't done it in years, my mother is an experienced crocheter. Not counting all the outfits she made for me as a child, she crocheted two (yes, two!) bedspreads, a twin-sized fake granny square for me and a king-sized bedspread for my parents' bed. She managed to slow down her movements enough that I finally got it. And I was hooked! (ha! pun intended...)

My friend had just told me she was pregnant. I had just finished a (knitted) baby blanket for another friend of mine, and I was looking for a new project. The timing couldn't be better. We went to "A La Tricoteuse" in Montreal and she chose a color palette in their range of superwash yarns. She also pointed to a few square patterns in Jan Eaton's 200 crochet blocks.

I took the colors and the pattern book, and came up with a plan. 24 squares for the outside border, with alternating red-navy and navy-red for the inner and outer stripes around blue, green, or yellow middle stripes. 4 nine-patch granny squares in the center (with alternating colors for the flowers) and 4 for the four corners of the inner section. 16 granny stripe squares for the rest of the inner section, alternating red and navy for the inner and outer stripes, and yellow, blue and green for the middle stripes. And I pretty much stuck to the original plan.

Pattern: Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet blocks for blankets, throws, and afghans.
Squares #61 Nine Patch Granny (8), 76 Granny Stripes (16*), and 149 Solid Square (24).
Yarn: Superwash DK by Emu in red, yellow, navy, royal blue, and bright green.
Started: August 2005
Finished: September 2006 (I pretty much set it aside from January to June 2006, so it could have been done much faster).
* My original plan was to make 16 of those. Because some of them would be side by side and this block was crocheted from side to side, I decided to make "strips" instead of blocks. I chained double (or quadruple) the number of chains in the pattern, and went from there.

When I finished this blanket, I hadn't discovered the wonders of blocking and the strips didn't line up perfectly with the other squares. I had to crochet small "joining sections" (in yellow) between the nine-patch-granny squares and the 2-square sized strips at either end of the blanket. And then I sewed the whole thing together. I had a bazillion ends to weave in. Just weaving in the ends took me several hours.

I'm really proud of the final result, and I think my friend likes it too. Last time I visited, it was on the rocking chair in her son's bedroom .

p.s. No yarn yet from the Yarn Harlot. I'm guessing it'll take another week, with the border and everything...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Should I be reading the signs?

I just won more yarn! Well, there goes the yarn fast again... Could it be that the gods of knitting are trying to tell me I actually do need more yarn? I'd be happy to oblige...

The Yarn Harlot herself is going to send me yarn for having correctly identified that most iconic of Canadian songs, the theme to "Hockey Night in Canada".

Actually, I was pretty sure what the song would be even before I clicked on the video. Having grown up in Montreal with a serious hockey fan as a brother, it would have been a disgrace if I hadn't recognized it... On this Canadian Thanksgiving day, I'd like to publicly thank my brother for all the hockey-watching he submitted me to over the years... It finally paid off! ;)

If you got here through the link on the Yarn Harlot's blog, welcome to my blog! It's fairly new, and I hope you like it! But be warned: there will be crochet! Actually, I worked on 2 squares of the Rainbow blanket during Stephanie's visit to Third Place Books in Seattle. Crochet with a little Yarn Harlot mojo... The blanket is now with my nephew in Montreal, and I hope all this visual stimulation will have positive effects!

p.s. In the interest of full disclosure, I let Stephanie know that I'm Canadian (even though I live in the U.S.) I don't know if that will affect her "double points" system.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Falling off the wagon...

I recently decided to go on a "yarn fast". I knew I had a lot of yarn, probably enough to keep me busy for a whole year. In fact, surely enough to keep me busy for a couple of years... The need for a yarn fast was reiterated when I started uploading pictures of the stash on Ravelry. Yes, I finally got in Ravelry two weeks ago!

So, I knew when I decided to go on the yarn fast that there would be moments when the risk of yielding to temptation would be very strong, and even too strong to resist. Today was such a day. Hilltop Yarn in Queen Anne was having a trunkshow of Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Fine Yarn. Both wonderful yarn lines, with beautiful colorways. I already have a bunch of Fleece Artist sock yarn in the stash, and a couple of skeins of Blue Face Leicester 2/8. Their colorways really are wonderful. And it's made in Canada. I knew I wouldn't be able to resist... So, my plan was to allow myself to buy only one skein of yarn. I told Emily of my plan ahead of time and she said she would make sure I'd stick to the plan. Well, things did not go quite according to plan...

We got there at the same time as the two women from Fleece Artist and Handmaiden, a mother and daugher. It took a few minutes for the yarn to be set up, and lots of customers came in. Everyone was swarming around the yarn, petting it, picking it up. At first things went well. I picked up one skein of Woolie Silk 3-ply, a kit for a hat. I was heming and hawing, and finally gave it up to another customer and felt really good that I was going to leave without buying ANY yarn. Emily was getting the same kit, so I could always borrow the pattern from her and use some yarn in the stash to make the same hat. Well, the lady decided that the colorway didn't suit her skin tone and handed me back the skein. What was I to do? It was just one skein, and I was still sticking to the plan... I bought it. And the holiday issue of Interweave Knits. I'm on a yarn fast, not a pattern fast...

There was a little quiz to fill out and prizes to be won. We had to match 5 undyed skeins of yarn with their fiber content, just by touching them. They were made of silk (Silken), silk and cotton (Swiss Mountain Silk Cotton), silk and wool (Lady Godiva?), silk and seacell (Sea Silk), and silk, wool and seacell (Great Big Sea). While we were waiting for the answers, Emily, Rachel, and I started looking at other kits. Emily tried on the sample Lu and Imogen. I had noticed one of the Lu kits earlier, because the colorway was really nice, mostly reds with some blue and a little green and yellow. It's made out of Scotian Silk. So I tried on the sample Lu too. And that's when things started going wrong... It looked nice on me, and the colorway sold me over.

I was going to stand in line to pay when they announced the winners of the contest. I had gotten all the answers right! I won 2 skeins of Handmaiden Cashmere and Silk! It's a new Handmaiden yarn line. Well, I'm not exactly sure what this prize was worth, but it's cashmere and silk so it's a really wonderful prize! So soft... I must admit that as she was handing me my prize, she had two different colorways in her hands and was about to hand me 2 skeins of a dark green colorway, definitely not my usual color palette... I asked her if I could have the other one... Some may think it was bold of me, but I won (and the others skeins were for the runner-up, so I think it was ok for me to get first choice... don't you?)

From what I can gather from the website, I think the colorway is "Peridot". (Fleece Artist and Handmaiden never marked the colorways on the skeins). I've been meaning to knit a lace scarf or stole in pale grey for a while but could never find the right color. This one has a little bit of pale green in it, I think it will be perfect. I just need to find the perfect pattern... any suggestions?

Now that the Handmaiden/Fleece Artist ladies had given me this heavenly soft yarn, I really had to buy the Lu kit to make up for their generosity... didn't I?
So I left the store with 4 skeins of yarn instead of one. But somehow I don't think it's really my fault. I can't help the fact that I won two of them! Maybe it's Emily's fault for not stopping me? Well, it's not like I stopped her either...

Friday, September 28, 2007


I'm very proud of this last baby gift: a very colorful baby blanket!
When I learned last January that my sister-in-law was pregnant, I knew I would have to come up with a very special baby blanket. I waited patiently until she made it to 12 weeks of pregnancy, but couldn't wait to buy yarn until they found out if it was a boy or a girl...

I had to decide on a color palette. I knew the baby's room would be yellow (they were not planning on repainting the room). I wanted something colorful and childlike, and no pastels. And it had to be superwash, of course... I settled on Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted and decided to try on a few colorways. I first bought it in Daffodil, which is very pretty but has too much yellow in it to be used in a yellow room... I had also bought it in Icehouse, which I ended up using for a baby surprise jacket. But what I finally settled on is the Rainbow colorway... isn't it nice and bright? And appropriate for a girl or a boy! So I went back to Acorn Street and bought a whole bag of it...

I remembered seeing a pattern for a knitted baby blanket awhile back that made an impression: the Northern Lights Nursing Blanket, by Handmaiden. (Fleece Artist does a full size version.) I really liked the idea of corner blocks knitted from variegated yarns all assembled together, but I was worried that knitting such a blanket would take forever... so I decided to make a crocheted blanket loosely inspired by the Northern Lights blanket.

I found a crochet block pattern in Jan Eaton's 200 Crochet Blocks . I used pattern #21 (page 44), made up of single crochet stitches. Because I was using variegated yarn, I only used that one yarn for the whole block (no stripes).

I crocheted about 6 blocks between April and the beginning of September 2007. I had other projects going, and was somehow convinced I had plenty of time left to finish the blanket in time for my sister-in-law's due date on September 29. Lo and behold, my nephew was born early on September 4! I had my work cut out for me... My friend Emily was nice enough to let me use her swift and ballwinder to wind the 9 remaining skeins, thereby saving me hours of doing it by hand... From September 5 to September 20, I averaged 2 blocks a day.

I had originally planned on making 48 blocks for a 6 x 8 blanket, but when I got to about 30 squares I realized that 5 x 7 was plenty big for a baby blanket. I started mist-blocking and sewing up the squares as I crocheted the last few ones. When I traveled to see my new nephew, I sewed squares during my layover at the airport (the last one had been blocked that morning). Final sewing took place on site, as well as the two rounds of single crochet edging. One final wet-blocking of the finished blanket, and voila! A psychedelic baby blanket for my very cute new nephew...

Pattern: my own, using block pattern #21 from Jan Eaton's 200 blocks. Same block repeated 35 times, assembled in a 5 x 7 rectangle, and finished with 2 rounds of single crochet edging (single, half-double, single in each corner)
Inspiration: Handmaiden's Northern Lights Nursing Blanket
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Rainbow 601 (9 skeins, with leftovers)
Hook: H/8 (5.00 mm)
Started: April 2007
Finished: September 25, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007


It wasn't supposed to be a baby hat, I swear... I bought some Misti Alpaca worsted from Little Knits last spring. One of the colors was described as "Copenhagen Blue". It reminded me of a friend of mine who wanted to buy a new outfit for a conference in Copenhagen. We spent the whole day shopping for a "Copenhagen Blue" suit. Her birthday is in September, and so I bought the yarn planning to make her a birthday present with it. I had just knit mittens for another friend of mine, so at first I was planning to make another pair of mittens. Hard to resist after using Latvian Mittens, by Lizbeth Upitis. But my friend has the nasty habit of losing her gloves repeatedly every winter... I suspected the same fate would await any mittens I would knit. I had to come up with a different idea. I started looking for hat patterns and eventually stumbled upon the Red Light Special, on Brooklyn Tweed's blog. I had never heard of Brooklyn Tweed's blog before, but I've been reading it ever since. He's a gifted knitter, and his pictures are inspiring...

So, I decided I would knit a Red Light Special Hat for my friend, printed the pattern, put it in a ziploc bag with the yarn, and put it in the "queue". Since her birthday is in early September, I put aside the baby blanket I was working on (more on that later) to knit the hat. I swatched, and got gauge (I swear!) with US 4 needles. I proceeded to knit the lining with US 2 needles, switched to US4 needles when I got to the main pattern and knitted along, admiring the lovely fair-isle pattern as it appeared under my fingers. When I joined the lining to the outside part of the hat, I began to worry. The hat seemed small. I somehow convinced myself that it was because it was still on the needles, and that it would get bigger once I blocked it... Ah! Denial is a strong thing. The finished product is lovely, but has a circumference of about 50cm (not quite 20 inches). There's no way it would fit an adult-sized head! I gave it to my friend Nora, and it's just the right size for her 9-month old son... He seems to like it, and the color brings out his blue eyes. All's well that ends well: she's happy to have a nice handknit hat for her son, and the product of my hard work doesn't go unused... My mistake seems to be that I swatched in stockinette stitch using only the main color yarn, not in fair-isle pattern. It seems that I knit more tightly in fair-isle. I guess that shouldn't be surprising.

Pattern: Red Light Special Hat, by Brooklyn Tweed
My only modification is 1 row of MC between the "turning row" and the beginning of the pattern chart.
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Worsted (100% Baby Alpaca) in 6309 (MC, described by Little Knits as "Copenhagen Blue", but actually "Ocean Mist Teal"), 3620 (CC1, "Scarlet"), 2915 (CC2, "Tangerine"), and 7238 (CC3, "Chartreuse Melange"). The lining is Classic Elite Premiere (50% Pima Cotton, 50% Tencel) in color 5258 ("Twizzler"), bought at Weaving Works. This cotton/tencel lining is so soft, and not at all itchy!
Needles:Prym US4 (3.5 mm), 16'' for the main body, and Addi Turbo US2 (3.0mm) 16'' for the lining. Crown finished using Susan Bates DPNs size US4 (3.5 mm)
Started: August 16, 2007
Finished: August 30, 2007

I've decide this hat is a "prototype" for the hat I intended to knit. I just need to figure out which needle size to use, and I'll knit an adult-sized hat for my friend's birthday. It will now have to be a belated b-day gift... (The baby blanket is #1 priority right now: my nephew was born last week, and was not expected until the end of September... I have a lot of catching up to do!)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Experiment in natural dyeing

When my friend Emily mentioned earlier this year that blackberries could be used to dye yarn, I knew it was something I'd like to try. Another friend of mine has wild blackberries overtaking her garden in August every year. They grow faster than anyone could eat them. I made lots of blackberry jam last summer (in fact I still have a few jars left). So this year, when blackberry season started in early August, Emily and I set out to dye some yarn. Using her copy of Wild Color by Jenny Dean and Karen Diadick Casselman, we figured out what we needed. We went to our LYS (Weaving Works). I picked some thick/thin wool yarn (hopefully enough for a scarf) and Emily chose two skeins of fingering weight merino. I also decided to dye some leftover ivory-colored Cascade 220. We were dying about a pound of fiber.

First step, soaking the yarn in water for over an hour. Then, I prepared a mordant solution with alum 8% and cream of tartar 7%. I boiled the yarn for a good 45 minutes, and then let it soak overnight in the mordant solution. The next day, I picked about 3 pounds of blackberries (I didn't realize how heavy blackberries were!). We only needed a pound of blackberries for our dye bath. I boiled the blackberries and strained them to get the deep pink blackberry juice. We rinsed the yarn thoroughly and put it back in the pot with fresh water and all the blackberry juice. We let this simmer for about 40 minutes, then let it cool a little. At that point, the yarn was a pinkish mauve.
We had to let the yarn sit in the blackberry dye bath overnight, so we divided it in two so that Emily could bring her yarn back home with her. I rinsed my yarn out the next morning and hung it to dry. Emily waited until the next night to rinse hers. We decide against the iron treatment, because iron solutions are somewhat toxic and need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. We didn't want to deal with any of that. After rinsing and drying off, my yarn ended up a pale lavender.

The Cascade 220 actually a little darker shade than the untreated yarn. Emily's yarn is also a different shade, somewhere in between.

The color looks slightly different depending on the lighting, ranging from a dusky grey to a very light mauve. The mordant is supposed to help stabilize the color, so it won't fade over time. I guess we'll have to wait to see how well the color holds up...
I think the thick/thin yarn will make a nice scarf. I'm not sure how I'll use the Cascade 220 yet. It'll have to be something quite small, or maybe part of a fair-isle project.