Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Overdyeing A Finished Knit

Even after just a few years of knitting or crocheting, you're bound to have some finished projects lying around that never get worn or used. After 10+ years of crafting, I have more than just "some" or "a few"....and with my ongoing quest to declutter my house this year, I've become obsessed with going through these forlorn projects and making some Big Decisions.

Sometimes, they are perfectly fine and just need a new and loving home. Other projects may have not turned out quite right: there might have been some mistakes in the knitting that I thought I could live with, or the yarn was gorgeous but not well-matched to the pattern, or my  taste has drastically changed since I finished making the any case, why on earth did I keep knitting?! Who knows, but I don't feel good about gifting anything that falls into this category to someone else. These projects have been relegated to the "frog pile" (or should I say, frog pond?), to be unknit on those days when I really feel like wrestling with some yarn (believe it or not, it's not unheard of!!).

Most of my unused knits fall into the above categories, but there are a few projects that don't. These are projects that turned out beautifully, with one major flaw: I don't like the color of the yarn I used. It's really a shame when you have a beautifully knit sweater in a great yarn that fits you well...but you STILL don't want to wear it!

Over the holiday weekend, I decided to dust off my dyeing equipment to overdye one such project, the Clavdia Cardigan by Nadya Stallings, which appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. I'd used 3 skeins of Sincere Sheep Tenacious in the St. Bart's colorway - a beautiful sky blue shaded solid that looked so pretty in the stitch pattern...

...unfortunately, I don't wear sky blue, or pretty much any color as a general rule. My closet is filled with black and grey clothes because it's just easier to get dressed in the morning! Anyway, after finishing this project in July of 2013, I'm pretty sure that the only time I wore it was for the photos I took for this blog. But isn't it super cute? The open style is extremely forgiving and it's really the perfect summer cardigan!

After digging around in my dyestuffs, I decided to overdye this sweater Navy. Now, I could have tested the color with the swatch, but I felt pretty confident about my ability to get the desired results - and if it ended up being too light, I could always overdye it again! So, I went for it, and spent an overcast afternoon trying to turn this cardigan into something I would enjoy wearing.

Get Ready To Dye! 
If you are new to dyeing, there are some great everything-you-need-starter kits out there. I used the Gaywool Dyes Lanaset Starter Kit, which is a little tough to find in stores (here's an Etsy shop that currently carries it). This come with complete instructions, a nice selection of dye colors, citric acid, and glaubers salts, plus a respirator mask and gloves.

In addition to the dye kit, you'll need:
  • An enamel or stainless steel dyepot that you DO NOT/WILL NOT use for cooking
  • Cups and measuring spoons that you DO NOT/WILL NOT use for cooking
  • A scale
And that's about it, you're ready to go! 

Here are the basic steps you will follow:

1. Fill the dyepot with water and begin to heat it up to a simmer. If I'm dyeing indoors on my stove, I always crank my exhaust fan as high as it'll go to make sure that any fumes are sucked out of the air during this process. 

2. Wet the yarn, fiber, or finished kit in warm water and add a tiny bit of dish soap. 

3. Measure your dye as recommended by the manufacturer, dissolve it in boiling water in a container and stir. I prefer to mix my dye outside because even though you can't see the fine powder dye with the naked eye, I'm not thrilled at the idea of those particles getting into the air I breathe. Which reminds me....make sure you absolutely are wearing your respirator mask before you start this step. Safety first! 

4. Measure your auxiliaries (a fancy term for the Citric Acid and Glaubers salts, which will help set the dye). I used two separate cups I have reserved for dyestuffs to make it easy to measure, which you can see in the photo below.              

5. Add the dye to the dye auxiliaries and stir, then add it to the dyepot. 

6. Remove your yarn, fiber or finished knit from the warm water soak and squeeze to remove excess water. Then add it to the dyebath! I like to use some old salad tongs I inherited from my grandparents to work the dye through, and reposition whatever I'm dyeing as needed (I'm sure they would approve of this use). Just make sure not to agitate too much, as wool will felt, especially when it is in very hot water! 

7. Let soak for 10-15 minutes, then raise the temperature to boiling. Hold there for 15-20 minutes, keeping a close eye to make sure that it doesn't felt or boil over. That wouldn't be good! 

8. Check the dyebath - if the water is clear, that means the dye is exhausted (i.e., it has transferred from the bath onto your yarn, fiber or finished knit!). You can now take it out of the dyebath, remove the excess water, and allow to dry. I like to wait until the dyebath is completely cooled before I handle the items I'm dyeing, that way I don't burn my fingers through the gloves, plus I also avoid "shocking" the fibers by removing them from the hot water into whatever room temperature happens to be that day. 


For an added bonus, I threw in another swatch in Lhasa Wilderness, a yak and bamboo blend of yarn from Bijou Basin Ranch. I have been thinking about overdyeing my Comfort Fade Cardigan, which is knit with this yarn, but I am not sure that I have the right dyes to handle the bamboo component of the yarn. So, I thought this would be a no-risk way to test things out, and see if I can successfully overdye the swatch before I attempt the actual garment. After allowing the swatch to dry, I stuck it right back into some water and fiber wash and let it sit for a good hour to see what happens. I'm pleased to report that there was absolutely NO crocking, so I can absolutely overdye this project using this same dye method. Oh joy!

I hope you found this blog post useful - if you did, please share the link with a friend or use the graphic below to pin it on Pinterest!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Basics of Brioche Knitting

Last week, I shared a Brioche Cowl I recently knit in a new yarn called Boca Chica Fingering. This week, I'm sharing the basics of brioche knitting with you so that you can give this fun knitting technique a try!

Getting Started
There are tons of fabulous (free!) patterns on Ravelry to help you master the basics of brioche knitting. Here are a few to try while you practice this technique:


As I said last week, if you can yarn over and knit or purl two stitches together, you absolutely CAN knit a gorgeous brioche project! You'll just need to familiarize yourself with the terminology commonly used in brioche knitting patterns. Here are the 3 most important terms to know for brioche knitting:

The Brioche Knit Stitch (BRK): knit the stitch that was slipped in the previous row/round together with the yarnover stitch.

The Brioche Purl Stitch (BRP): purl the stitch that was slipped in the previous row/round together with the yarnover stitch.

Sl 1 yo: this is where you slip a stitch at the same time that you work a yarnover stitch, allowing you to work the slipped stitch and yarnover stitch in the following row or round.

While some of the abbreviations will vary from pattern to pattern, the technique remains the same - you're just making yarnovers over slipped stitches which will then be knitted or purled together on the following row or round!

Keeping Track of Where You Are
Whether you're working flat or in the round using just one color or two, there are a few ways you can "read" your stitches to make sure you are following the right set of instructions at any given time, This is easier to do when working with two colors in the round, because you only have 2 rows (rounds) of pattern instructions to keep track of, rather than 4 if you were working flat.

For two-color brioche, the yarnover in the round you just worked will be "paired" with the stitch in the color you will be working next.

If you are only using one color, you will need to pay close attention to the slipped stitch that is paired with the yarnover in the round you just worked - is it knitted or purled? This will help you match it up to the set of instructions you need to follow. That means that a knit stitch which is paired with a yarnover will use the BRK instructions, and a purl stitch that is paired with a yarnover will use the BRP instructions.

Even if you are working flat, the yarnover trick mentioned above still works, but you will need to be mindful of which set of instructions (right side or wrong side) you are working on.

Tutorials & Resources For Further Learning
This blog post is meant as a jumping-off point, because there are already tons of excellent tutorials and resources available if you know where to look! Here are a few of my favorites:
Of course, you can't beat hands-on learning, so don't forget to ask your Local Yarn Store (LYS) if they will be offering classes, or check for classes at upcoming yarn festivals and events near you. For more brioche knitting patterns (free and paid) and links to my favorite brioche resources, check out my Brioche Knitting Pinterest board here!

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Brioche Knitting Obsession

There's no need to be intimidated by brioche knitting: this technique is actually quite simple, once you get the hang of the somewhat-wacky abbreviations (brk? brp? what??) found in most patterns. If you can yarn over and knit or purl two stitches together, you absolutely CAN knit a gorgeous brioche project!

Brioche knitting produces a wonderfully squishy fabric that looks especially cool when you use two colors of yarn. Believe it or not, two-color brioche is actually a bit easier than single-color brioche because it helps you see where you are in the pattern. And here's another surprising fact about brioche: it's actually easier to work in the round, rather than flat!

Here's why: when working flat, you typically work two right-side rows followed by two wrong-side rows, which means that you work the first right side row, then slide your work back to the other end of your circular needle so that you can work the second right side row across all of the same stitches, then repeat for both of the wrong side rows. For a beginner, that can be a little confusing! However, when you're working in the round, all you need to do is alternate between two rounds of instructions, which are worked similar to stripes if you are using 2 colors of yarn.

There are a lot of great (free!) patterns out there, but one I keep returning to is Emma Galati's Brioche for Beginners. It's easy to follow along and while it doesn't use the "traditional" brioche abbreviations, it explains the technique well (I've knit it several times at this point!).

Recently, I got a chance to try out a brand new yarn called Boca Chica Fingering, which is available exclusively at A Good Yarn (a yarn shop in Sarasota, FL). Each skein is hand-dyed in a color inspired by the Florida keys, and I used a skein of Tarpon and Gator to knit this lovely cowl using the free pattern linked above!

Next week, I will share a photo tutorial to walk you through the basics of Brioche knitting. See you then!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New (Old) Favorites: Duplicate Stitch & Colorwork Knitting

I used to think of duplicate stitch simply as a way to avoid intarsia, but it's also a great technique for weaving in your ends invisibly, especially in colorwork projects. Earlier in the year, I knit the Very Important Villager hat in two naturally-dyed colors of Rambouillet yarn from Shepherd's Lamb. This breed-specific wool yarn has great stitch definition and lends itself well to colorwork:

Fun fact: if you consistently hold one color below the other as you work, the colorwork motif will look crisper (this is known as color dominance). Plus, the wrong side will look just as lovely as the right!

If you're new to duplicate stitch, here is a great tutorial video from Very Pink Knits. I think of it as a 3-step process: you start by bringing your yarn up in the middle of the stitch BELOW the one you want to duplicate, then behind both bars of the stitch ABOVE the stitch you are duplicating. You return the yarn through to the wrong side the same way you started (in the middle of the stitch BELOW the one you want to duplicate).

This technique can also be used to fix mis-cross cables, as shown in this YouTube video - how cool is that?! 

How are you using the duplicate stitch technique in your knitting projects? Let me know in the comments!

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