Wednesday, March 27, 2019

C2E2 & DIY Ninja Headband Tutorial Using Upcycled T-Shirts

2019 is the 10th year of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (aka C2E2), and I have been meaning to go pretty much ever since it started. Of course, back when it started, I worked a crappy service industry job and never had the weekends off. Over the years, various excuses have piled up, which ranged from not being in the country during the event (that one time I went to Germany for the H+H Trade Show) to forgetting to buy tickets (oops), and all points in between.

But at long last, I can check this off my list: last Friday, I went to my first ever C2E2!

Technically, I was there on official client business, researching cosplay and trying to make some connections with movers and shakers in the cosplay world. I truly admire those who cosplay, and do it well because that's never been my skill, though I am feeling inspired to give it a try this year. My problem is always coming up with a good idea - the harder I try to think of something, the more my mind blanks out.

But when I was thinking of creative ways to use all of the t-shirts I cleared out of my closet/storage thanks to my ongoing #konmari project, I came up with an idea to make a Ninja headband from one of my favorite anime series, Naruto. I'm not sure if this will become a full-fledged ninja costume or not, but I sure had fun making it, and it was a great way to put one of the many mis-printed t-shirts from the Shalloboi West Coast Tour of 2008 to good use.

Here's how I made my headband:

Using an OLFA rotary cutter, mat and ruler, I cut a 3" wide strip across the bottom of the t-shirt.

Note: If your shirt is long enough, you could make a vertical cut and then you don't have the side seams on the finished headband. They don't actually show up when you're wearing it, but if it bothers you to know they're there, this is a good option to keep in mind.

Next, I cut a 5.5"x2" rectangle of grey felt for the forehead protector and did a Google image search to find a nice traceable image for my preferred village symbol (the hidden leaf). I absolutely can't freestyle my embroidery, so I printed it out and waited for a sunny day to use a window and a fine-line sharpie to trace the symbol on my piece of felt before embroidering it with the floss held double.

Then I used a pair of scissors to cut the corners of the felt to be a bit rounded, and pinned it to the t-shirt, tacking down the top and bottom of the headband at the same time. I opted NOT to seam the rest of the t-shirt fabric, betting that the seam created by sewing on the forehead protector would be enough. When you wear it, you can't really tell the difference, but you could completely seam the top and bottom if you are so inclined. Again, if that's something that bothers you, then it's worth the extra effort!

Once you're done, you can wear with pride! Here I am with my favorite Ninja (Kakashi) and Ninja Tool (an OLFA rotary cutter):

When I was at C2E2, I wore the headband around my neck (some Ninjas do that!), although I have no photographic evidence because I was still getting over a cold and didn't feel photogenic. But here are some general scenes around the show so that you can see what C2E2 is all about!

I bet this Kisame cosplay was even more amazing from the front!

Need a lightsaber?

This just made me laugh.

Was pretty psyched to see some craft brands at the show!

 Caught my pal Heidi of Hands Occupied knitting during a wig talk!
Artist Alley is one of my favorite features of comic cons.

The show floor is huge - comics and nerdery as far as the eye can see!
I'll definitely put C2E2 on my calendar for 2020 - who knows, maybe I'll be there in full cosplay!

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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!