Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Let's Talk About Color Fastness in Hand Dyed Yarns

Hand dyed yarns are all the rage, but checking for color fastness is not a popular topic that the average crafter is excited to discuss. When you've just finished a project and are dying to wear it, even taking time to properly block it can be a tough sell. But checking hand-dyed yarns for color fastness is an important step to take when washing your finished projects, especially if you're doing it for the first time.   

If the dye is properly set in the yarn, you shouldn't have an issue with colors bleeding (also known as crocking) when you wash them. However, factors such as the soap you use to wash your project and the mineral content of your water (which is ever-changing in a lot of places) can affect the fastness of the dye. While a little bit of color release is actually normal for any dyed yarn or fabric when it's washed, it is NOT normal to have the color of your water change dramatically. If it does, that means that the dye was improperly set.

There's truly nothing sadder than having a little excess dye running into a lighter color and marring an otherwise lovely FO.  Here are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening, starting with (you guessed it) actually testing for color fastness.

Color Fast Test Option 1: Prewash skeins BEFORE you knit with them, especially if they are highly saturated colors. such as reds, yellows and pinks, which are particularly susceptible to bleeding. Not only will this step let you know if your yarn is at risk to bleed in the future, it will also reduce the amount of color bleeding in subsequent washes. Translation: it's win-win.

Color Fast Test Option 2: If you forgot to prewash (or, let's face it, just didn't want to!), do the mason jar test! Add some cold or tepid water to a jar, add a tiny bit of your preferred fiber wash, and then add a small amount of the yarn you'd like to test. Shake it around and let it sit for a bit to see if the dye starts to seep into the water. If your water is clear after several minutes, you probably don't have to worry about the colors bleeding when you wash your project.

HOWEVER: You can never be too cautious when it comes to hand-dyed yarns, and when are using something bright with something light or undyed, and ounce of prevention can save you a lifetime of regret!

Using my own recently-finished project as an example, I'll show you some easy ways you can reduce crocking during the  blocking process.

First, let's talk about the project: I knit the Cacoxenite shawl by Hunter Hammersen with one of my favorite yarns from Bijou Basin Ranch, Lhasa Wilderness. This is a blend of yak and bamboo, and in particular, bamboo is a difficult fiber to dye. The gradient skeins I used were actually test dye lots,  which means that there may or may not have been a learning curve for the dyer in question. Because I'm insane, I threw caution to the wind and decided to pair these vibrant gradient cakes with a few skeins of undyed natural cream Lhasa - and no, I didn't prewash the cakes before knitting with them. I like to live dangerously!

I took it as a good sign that absolutely no dye rubbed off on my fingers or needles when knitting with it, but I still decided to test the dyed yarn with the mason jar test mentioned above. Even after letting the yarn soak for hours, the dye didn't bleed, but I still felt the need to take extra steps to prevent any unfortunate mishaps when washing this shawl for the first time. Here are the 3 things I did to make sure this project still looked great after a full immersion wet block:

First, I added a Shout! Color Catcher to the water. You can get a box of 24 for less than five bucks at Target, and let me tell you - that is completely worth the peace of mind.

Second, I made sure to use very cold water, because warm water can encourage the release of dye particles.

Third, I quickly removed the project from the water after soaking for only a few minutes - the longer you leave it in the water, the greater chance you have of your dyes starting to bleed!

Before I show you my gorgeous finished shawl, I have one more tip to share with you: Add vinegar to the wash water to help set the dyes.

Most dyers use a stronger form of citric acid to do this during the dye process, but vinegar is just another form of citric acid that you most likely have in your pantry! While this trick doesn't work for all dyes/fibers, it can never hurt....provided you don't mind it if your yarn smells a little vinegar-y of course!

I hope these tips give you confidence in using hand-dyed yarns with undyed, natural or very light colors in your next project.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Quick Knit: One-Skein Shawl in Lhasa Wilderness

I've kind of been in a funny place with knitting lately; either I'm slooowly knitting myself a sweater (or two!), or I'm looking for an instant-gratification project like a hat or cowl. But when I had a chance to try out Drama, a new variegated colorway dyed from Bijou Basin Ranch's Emotions Color series, I wanted to make something a little bigger than a hat or cowl.

The Emotions Collection on Lhasa Wilderness (yak/bamboo blend) features hand-dyed colorways from MJ Yarns!

A few weekends ago, I went through all of the printed patterns I've accrued over the years and rediscovered a lot of great patterns I'd forgotten about! One of them just happened to be the Gradient Serendipity shawl, which was designed especially for this yarn, but with a catch: back then, the skeins were much smaller.

The pattern originally calls for two 180-yard hanks of Lhasa Wilderness to make the smallest size; since then, they have bumped up the yardage in Lhasa Wilderness to a whopping 340 yards. 

Now, you 're probably thinking "two 180-yard skeins adds up to 360 yards, weren't you worried about running out of yarn as you knit?!" The answer is  - NOPE! I remembered having some yarn left over the first time I knit this pattern, so I was pretty confident that I could eke out the smallest size of this shawl using just one of the larger skeins of Lhasa Wilderness.

What I was more focused on was how the variegated colors would knit up. When you lay the skein out flat, you can see that there are 3 large blocks of color which create 4 different color sections as you knit:

Sometimes, these long color repeats can "flash" or "pool" which means that the same colors can stack on top of each other as you knit and create sometimes-cool (and sometimes-not-cool) patterning. My hope was that they would knit up with more of a space-dyed effect; sometimes, dividing the skein in to two balls of yarn that you alternate working from can achieve this when regular knitting from the skein can't. So, I knit up two swatches to see which method - regular knitting or alternating ever 2 rows (rather than split the skein I just worked from both ends of the ball) - looked best.

The results? They pretty much looked identical! Go figure!

Since the pattern uses short rows and the shawl is knit the long ways, I decided to take a chance and knit from just 1 ball of yarn. Once you get past the lace border, the rest of the shawl flies by in easy-peasy garter stitch short rows. I finished it in less than 2 weeks and here is how it turned out:

I really like the way the colors knit up, and this is one of my all-time favorite yarn bases from Bijou Basin Ranch. There are lots of great hand-dyed colors available on Lhasa Wilderness here on their website, I hope you'll give it a try if you haven't knitted or crocheted with this super-soft (and durable!) yarn!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Back To Blogging (Kinda Sorta)

Sorry for running silent, but I've been fighting burnout for quite some time and just needed to take a break... not just from blogging, but from spending every waking hour online. It's kind of a requirement for my job, so spending time online outside of those 40ish hours each week has become less and less appealing to me. Sadly, this blog has suffered because of that!

Self care has become the name of the game, starting with spending more time offline. Rest assured, I'm still crafting, but I'm also doing things like decluttering my house (my, we've accrued SO MUCH STUFF in the 7 or so years we've been in this apartment and I'm totally drinking the #konmari kool-aid!), reading comic books, spending more time working out/getting into shape, and trying to finally "adult" a bit (basically this translates as finally going to the dentist after many years of procrastination and dealing with the tooth issues I've been ignoring during that time).

I've also been reflecting on a lot of things relating to crafting, starting with my completely out-of-control yarn stash. I really want to find uses for the yarn I already have, or find some place to donate unused stash if I don't have actual plans for it. I've also been thinking a lot about the kinds of projects I like to make vs. the ones I actually use. How many hats/cowls/shawls can one human use? I have a small rotation of accessories I wear regularly, and the rest sit in storage. Clearly, I need to donate these unused items to people who need them and will actually use them.

Lately, I've also been getting the urge to do some charity knitting as a way to put something positive out into the world. Frankly, the daily news is quite depressing, and there are days I feel quite powerless in the face of this raging dumpster fire. Perhaps you can relate? So other than donating money to causes I believe in, I've started looking for ways I can use my crafting skills to make the world just a tiny bit better. Currently, that means making bears for the Mother Bear Project and knitting some blue hats for the #hatnothate project.
Just finished this adorable bear for the Mother Bear Project!

I'm not sure if this is a topic anyone would like to hear more about in the future, but it is something I plan to do more of going forward. Also, I would love to hear about the charity knitting/crochet projects you enjoy supporting, so please feel free to leave those in the comments!

Last but not least, I want to assure you that I really do have some new blog posts in the works! I plan to share them in the not-so-distant future (topics include brioche knitting, using duplicate stitch to weave in ends in a colorwork project, dealing with color fastness in hand-dyed yarns when you have a very light color used with a very saturated color....y'know, that kinda stuff).

I would love to resume weekly blogging, but I also don't want to go straight back to burnout, or throw up a half-assed post just for the sake of blogging. Even if sporadic, I want to keep sharing useful content with you, and I hope you'll still be interested in reading it whenever that happens.

If so, I highly recommend clicking here to get all future blog posts delivered via email so that you don't miss out on any new posts. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Crocheted Ottoman Cover in Brown Sheep Burly Spun Yarn

Over the years, I've worked with tons of Brown Sheep yarns (these are the projets I've made since Ravelry became a thing). They were one of the first affordable yarns I found outside of a big box store that didn't sacrifice quality, not to mention they were my introduction to completely natural fibers. At the time, I had no idea that they were also sustainably produced, and I certainly didn't connect that I was supporting a small, family-owned business which in turn supported American agriculture by sourcing wool fibers domestically. I just knew that I liked their yarns because they came in a fabulous range of colors and weights, and that was good enough for me!

I've seen their Burly Spun yarn in shops, but never had a chance to work with it until now; the kind folks at Brown Sheep sent me 4 skeins of Burly Spun in the Arctic Tundra hand-dyed colorway for review and I had a crazy notion in my head that I would make a felted entrelac door mat with it. Sometimes, my crazy ideas actually work out, but I just couldn't quite get the hand of knitting flat entrelac, and didn't feel like putting too much time and energy into solving that problem. Then I noticed that our ottoman cover was in desperate need of a wash, and that gave me an idea: what if I crocheted a new cover for it?

I bought it several years ago from World Market, and while I like the look of the big ropy yarn, it always bothered me that they just tied knots where the yarn was joined (I mean seriously?!) and left them hanging out on the right side of the fabric. I suppose that they would have caused an unsightly bump if these knots and yarn ends were moved to the wrong side of the fabric...but it still seemed a little half-assed to me, even for a mass-produced product.

It was a completely happy accident that the Burly Spun yarn perfectly matched the ottoman; using a 12mm Ginger crochet hook from Knitter's Pride, I whipped up this cover in about 5 days' time (honestly, you could make yours faster if you aren't easily distracted by other projects like me). Here is the pattern I followed, with notes on where you can modify yours to fit any similar ottoman. Enjoy!

Crocheted Ottoman Cover in Brown Sheep Burly Spun Yarn

  • 3 skeins Brown Sheep Burly Spun, shown in Arctic Tundra (it's always a good idea to have a "safety skein" when working with hand-dyed yarns, which is why I had 4)
  • 12mm crochet hook, I used one from Knitter's Pride's newest line, Ginger
ch - chain
sc - single crochet
dc - double crochet

Gauge: Gauge is not critical, especially if you are able to measure your work against the thing you will be covering. Just make sure that whatever hook size you use, you are happy with the resulting fabric.

To make the cover, you will begin at the top:

Ch 5 and join to work in a circle.
Ch 1 (first stitch of round), sc 5 stitches into circle.
From now on you will be working in a continuous spiral. I recommend marking the first stitch in each round so that it's easier to keep track of where you are.

Round 1: sc twice in each stitch - 12 stitches.
Round 2: *sc twice in 1 stitch, sc1, repeat from * to end of round - 18 stitches.
Round 3: *sc twice in 1 stitch, sc2, repeat from * to end of round - 24 stitches.
Round 4: *sc twice in 1 stitch, sc3, repeat from * to end of round - 30 stitches.

Continue in this manner, adding 1 stitches in between increases until you have the desired diameter of the thing you are covering (note - it's better to be slightly smaller than the diameter, rather than exactly the same or larger).

To cover the ottoman shown here, my final round was: *sc twice in 1 stitch, sc10, repeat from * to end of round - 72 stitches.

Turning Round: sc all stitches through the back loop without working any increases.

After the turning round is complete, you will work all stitches in regular sc without increases until you've reached the desired length of the thing you are covering.

Eyelet Round: Ch 2, *work dc in 3 stitches, ch 1 and skip next 2 stitches, repeat from * to end of round. To close final eyelet, slip 1 into the first stitch of the round and pull it through the final stitch on your hook.

Work 1 more round in sc, fasten off.

Work a chain long enough to run through eyelets and cinch cover shut to secure at the bottom.

Now you're ready to enjoy your ottoman once more! I'm pleased to say that this new cover has also received the prestigious feline seal of approval - and us humans love it, too.

This yarn was so lovely to crochet with, and I have 1 skein left over which I am now using to knit a cowl. This will definitely be my go-to choice for any bulky, quick knits (or crochet projects!) in the future.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Creativation 2019 Recap

Last year, I went to Creativation for the very first time, and I absolutely loved it. I've been going to industry trade shows ever since I started working at Stitchcraft Marketing, but until attending Creativation, they have all been focused entirely on needlecraft (knitting, crochet, needlepoint, etc).

Obviously, I love yarn and knitting, but every waking moment is filled with it, so it's really a fresh of breath air to spend time seeing other creative crafts outside of the yarn world. This year, I found myself drawn to a lot of the paper crafts - cardmaking in particular kept catching my eye, Some of the display samples were absolute works of art, far cooler than anything you would find in a card store. I wish I had taken more photos, but this is the only one I had on my phone:

Concord and 9th
The Edible Arts booths are always worth checking out because they make the most incredible things that I couldn't imagine eating, they're so spectacular. Last year I was delighted to spot a few knitted cakes in the Satin Ice booth, so imagine my surprise when I saw this:

Satin Ice
Wow! You can't tell from far away, but every piece of that cake has a realistic texture for the yarn, knitted fabrics. It's stunning. The cake artist (I assume that's what they call themselves) behind it was doing live demonstrations showing how she creates the knitted designs in fondant, and she was working pieces for a new cake:

Some of the big-box yarn brands had eye-catching display; I loved this wall of Pantone colors on the back of the Lion Brand booth, which was so big, I couldn't get it all in one shot:

Red Heart's pom-pom version of Starry Night also tickled my fancy: 

My other favorite part of Creativation is the Make & Takes, which are fun, free crafts you can do in a booth and take home with you. There were lots of fun washi tape crafts (I decorated a plastic storage container and a clothes pin), but one of my favorites was learning how to do an image transfer onto packing tape in the Scotch Brands booth. Here are the votives that my colleague and I made at the show: 

I will definitely be playing around with this technique and I'm sure a tutorial will be appearing on this blog at some point. 

Invariably, I come home with some swag, although I really try not to these days - I have so much stuff as it is! However, the Sizzix booth had an irresistible sloth brooch make & take that I ended up bringing home to finish, since I am epically slow at sewing (hmm, seems like a bit of irony there, no?). I also brought home an adorable DIY cat ornament kit from Fabric Editions, in addition to all of these other goodies: 

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, expect to see lots of these things pop up in upcoming Timelapse Tuesday videos and other posts! You can also see more photos and video from the show by visiting my Instagram profile and watching my Creativation highlights: 

I'll be contributing to a post for the Stitchcraft Marketing blog covering the craft trends spotted during the show later next month, but here are a few things that struck my fancy while walking the show floor:
Letterboards and funny quotes aplenty.

Cacti and succulent motifs are still super popular. I like the idea of plants I can't kill!
Avocados are the new llamas.
Kawaii amigurumi!
Yarn craft is still very much doing Hygge (not pictured: Red Heart even has a yarn called Hygge). I fell in love with these oversize mitered square pillows from Caron.

Macrame is having way more than a moment!
Now that I'm back from the show, I'm excited to try some new-to-me crafts when I need a break from knitting, crocheting and weaving. I can't wait to share them with you - let me know which crafts interests you most in the comments!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review: Cabrito Mohair Yarn from Manos del Uruguay

Confession: I've never knit with a brushed mohair yarn. I'm not sure how this has never happened in the 15ish years I've been knitting, but it's true. Sure, I've used yarns with mohair blended in, but I've never used this type of yarn in a knitting project.

So, I absolutely couldn't say no when I was offered a skein of Cabrito yarn from Manos del Uruguay, and my choice of a "companion yarn" if I so chose. Why two different types of yarn? Cabrito is a lace weight, fluffy yarn that plays well with others. When held with a different yarn base, Cabrito provides softness and a beautiful halo, while the companion yarn lends some strength and structure.

The Fairmount Fibers design team has a lot of fabulous free patterns designed especially for Cabrito and other yarns from the line (if you're wondering, Fairmount Fibers is the North American distributor for Manos yarns), and I decided to knit the free Ambrose Hat Pattern, which calls for both Cabrito and Alegria Grande. I've used the fingering weight version of Alegria, but not the worsted weight version, so both of these yarns are actually new to me!

Just the right amount of halo....
The hat pattern was a simple knit: the 1x1 ribbing is worked all the way through to the crown shaping. It was perfect for on-the-go knitting, I just wound each skein into a center pull ball and then used my two-grommet Yarn Pop project bag to keep both balls secure while in transit. I was impressed with how much the seemingly delicate Cabrito could hang with being tugged and jostled about; not once did the strand break, no matter how much abuse I subjected it to.

The Alegria Grande was buttery soft and squishy, and I loved how the variegated color (Acero) knit up without pooling or flashing. I thought that the semisolid color of Cabrito (Steampunk) would add more grey to the mix, but the effect ended up being really subtle, and I think I like it that way! The pom pom is made with just Alegria Grande, so you can see that there really isn't a noticeable difference in colors between the pom and the knitted fabric using both yarns.

What I really love about this yarn is that you can truly feel good about using it because it's certified Fair Trade, and the Manos del Uruguay cooperatives have an excellent reputation. That means that the artisans in the co-op are given a fair wage and access to health care and education; the animals who produce the fibers are treated well, and the environment is not compromised throughout the process, either.

As for the finished hat, it's incredibly soft and unbelievably warm. I was going to give it away as a gift at some point, but after wearing it a few times and not wanting to take it off, I've decided to keep it for myself!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Another So Faded Sweater

This might be the first time I have ever knit a sweater for myself twice, but I wear the first So Faded Sweater that I made so much, I decided to knit another one!

This time, instead of destashing a hodgepodge of fingering weight yarns, I purchased a set of skeins specifically for this purpose from an indie dyer I discovered at last year's YarnCon, Black Cat Fibers.

My color palette is Vamp, Dirt Nap, Alchemy and Quarry, dyed on the Nomad Sock base, which is a 4-ply fingering superwash merino/nylon blend (75/25). Each skein has a generous 463 yards, so I have a nice bit of yarn left over in each color, and as you can see, this sweater ended up being tunic length! 
Hooray for handknit sweaters!!
Just like the first one, it fits great and I love wearing it (can you tell?!). The yarn feels nice and soft against my skin, but I think it will wear well over time. I can't believe it took me eight months to knit this thing....even for me, that's slow! However, it was usually the first project to go to the backburner once a deadline popped up. I'm just glad I finished it in time to wear on Christmas day! 

Project: Fade Away
Pattern: So Faded by Andrea Mowry
Yarn: Nomad Sock from Black Cat Fibers