Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Weaving Wednesday: Handspun Scarves Aplenty

I finished another handspun scarf, and I think I'll have to keep this one for myself because I absolutely LOVE how it turned out!

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I used some commerically-made black yarn for the warp (I lost the label, it's leftover from some project!), and then the weft is a 3-ply handspun yarn that I spun from 8oz of hand-dyed BFL fiber from Nerd Girl Yarns in the #hashtag colorway.

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Here's where I love the archive that both Ravelry and blogging provide: I would have never guessed that this yarn dates back to July 2014! Also, you can read more about the structure of this yarn here - it's an opposing ply, which is a little different than what I usually spin when making a 3-ply.

There's quite a bit of yarn left over, and I'm wondering if I have enough to make another scarf. But for now, I've put on a warp for another new project, which was going to be another funky destash scarf, but then I realized that the yarns from my other recent weaving projects all looked quite nice with the grey warp:

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As you can imagine, I am starting to have a bit of a scarf surplus*, and thinking about selling some of them in my Etsy Shop. Not sure if any of my dear readers are interested in getting themselves a one-of-a-kind handspun scarf for themselves or their loved ones, but I would love to hear your thoughts either way. Currently, I'm wrestling a bit with pricing, and thinking about offering a discount to friends/family/blog readers...and that's as far as I've gotten!

Thanks for stopping by, I have another finished project to share with you on Friday!

*And, if I'm being honest, a handspun yarn surplus!

Friday, July 21, 2017

FO Friday: Yipes Stripes

Today I have a very long-awaited FO to share: a stripey lace weight infinity scarf that had been on the needles since September of last year!

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At times, it seemed that it would never end - after all, I was using lace weight yarn and needed to knit quite a bit of length before it could be called done....although I may have gone overboard:

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I used up nearly every yard of the light grey yarn, and it was a fantastic travel project since the pattern was so easy to memorize. Our road trip to Kansas City last month was the perfect opportunity to finish it once and for all! I'm so glad I did, because it's going to be awesome to wear this fall - Tthe angora is so soft and lightweight, but surprisingly warm....and look at how many times I can loop it around my neck (pardon the crazy eyes...invariably that happens during the photo shoot!)

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Pattern: Arnhem Loop, available for free on Ravelry
Yarn: Bijou Basin Ranch Seraphim - I used 2 balls of Smoke and 1 ball of Eggplant.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WIPs: Dueling Shawls

After all of the finishing I did last month, I've been holding my number of WIPs to a reasonable number, but I couldn't resist starting the Wonder Woman Wrap by Carissa Browning. It seems like everyone is going crazy for it on Instagram and Ravelry (where it's available for free)!

I'm knitting mine out of lace weight yarn: a yak and silk blend from Bijou Basin Ranch called Shangri-La. It's so shiny and lovely, and I think that the airier fabric will be a nice complement to the shiny, slinky yarn. Aren't the colors gorgeous?

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After knitting several swatches with various sizes of needles, I decided to use the size called for in the pattern (US 4) so that I can still get a fairly large wrap. The difference in final wingspan was more than 10 inches from US 3 to US4 - crazy, right? Since I'm using larger needles, I have to be careful to knit slower and tighter than I am used to - usually I just fly along and let blocking take care of the rest, but my swatches showed me that the stitches will look must better after blocking if they are reasonably uniform to begin with. Challenge accepted! 

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My goal is to finish in time for Wizard World here in Chicago next month; I'm not great at cosplay, so this is the closest I'll probably ever get to dressing up for a comic con! 

I haven't abandoned my Inauguration Consolation shawl; over the weekend I started knitting the second color:

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Thanks for stopping by - I have another FO to share with you this Friday, see you then! 


Monday, July 17, 2017

Learning Curve: Bent DPNs for Sock Knitting

Note: This piece was first published in Fall 2016. It was originally a "donation" (i.e. I wasn't compensated to write it) for an e-magazine that is no longer available. Since I really like this piece and I didn't grant exclusive rights, I want to finally share it with my readers. Also, I was asked SO many questions about these bent DPNs when I was using them last year! Perhaps it's a little belated, but I hope this answers everyone's questions about these interesting needles.

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I've been knitting socks on DPNs for over ten years. For much of that time, my preference was one-at-a-time, top down projects, although I did dabble here and there with toe-up, two-at-a-time, and magic loop. Those experiments never really stuck, as I was always drawn back to the tried and true. I’m sure I’m not the only knitter who feels this way!

It wasn’t till recently that I’ve felt the need to step out of my comfort zone once more: last year, I decided to give two-at-a-time socks another try (top down, of course…I’m not willing to go THAT far) using some very long fixed circular needles via magic loop. Why the change? The idea of finishing the pair at the same time without having worry if they matched was alluring. Also, not having to worry about losing a DPN while knitting on my the go, never to see it again, was another plus. I’ve lost a lot of DPNs on trains and buses over the years; though DPNs are my first love, I'm definitely starting to make friends with magic loop.

One of my slow burning sock projects this year was inspired by last year's Scoreboard KAL with the Knit Purl Hunter: I am knitting my husband a pair of socks to commemorate the winning 2015 Royals baseball season by assigning colors to home and away wins and losses to create a striped pattern. Second sock syndrome isn't something I'm usually afflicted with, but I was pretty sure that I'd knit the first sock and never start the second because I was totally daunted by having to repeat the strip sequence perfectly. Two-at-a-time just seemed like a no-brainer.

When I was at H+H Cologne earlier this year* (an international trade show for the craft and hobby industry) as part of my day job with Stitchcraft Marketing, I came across bent DPNs by Neko Knit. I was intrigued by them: there were only three in the package, and I had a hard time envisioning how to use these boomerang-shaped needles. Luckily, a very tall German woman gave me a live demo on the show floor, and I purchased two sets to try out in the name of science. When I’m using them, they seem to pique the curiosity of my fellow knitters, and I am often asked what I think of them.

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Here’s what I've concluded while knitting my first sock project on them:

  • They're basically a hybrid of magic loop and DPNs - you work each half of the sock on one DPN, as you would magic looping, but you slide the stitches and knit as though they are regular DPNs.
  • I find them a little awkward to use, most likely because I am so used to regular DPNs and magic looping. One side of the curved DPN is often flopping about and occasionally gets in my way. I assume this subsides with practice!
  • A plus is that it is much easier to join in the round without twisting using the bent DPNs than the other two needle types, at least in my opinion.
  • The plastic is quite flexible and though I don't consider myself a rough knitter, I'm pretty worried about snapping them as I work.

Ultimately, I don’t think I am ready to make the switch to using bent DPNs exclusively, but they are a fun and novel way to shake things up if you find yourself in a sock knitting rut. You can check out their website for more info; I haven’t spotted the needles at very many yarn shops in the US, but I did happen to stumble upon them recently at Maker’s Mercantile.

*March 2016

Friday, July 14, 2017

FO Friday: Hooray for Handspun

Not long after I finished the Cozy Memories blanket, I had the (possibly insane) idea to try crocheting a blanket with all of my leftover of handspun yarn. Perhaps my reasoning was that crocheting was faster, so certainly I would finish this blanket faster than the last one, which took one and a half years to complete. If that's the case, I was right on the money, because I started this on July 31 of last year, and it was completely done and blocking by the end of June!

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I used a large crochet hook (size N, or 9mm) and just alternated single crochet and double crochet as I pleased while using whatever random bits of handspun yarn happened to be nearby. The crocheting part was finished by the end of April, but I spent most of May procrastinating weaving in all of the ends. Finally, I decided that if I took it on our road trip to Kansas City last month, I would probably weave in all those fiddly ends out of boredom - another notion that ended up paying off.

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I always have tiny scissors in my purse, but they must have gotten lost at some point - I discovered somewhere in the middle of Illinois (or maybe it was Iowa?) that I was completely scissorless. No matter, the gas station we'd stopped at had some very affordable nail clippers, which can work quite well in a pinch. Curiously, I remembered to pack the wool needles that are ideal for bigger yarns, and so I returned home to Chicago with all of my ends woven in, feeling like I was REALLY winning at life. Small victories!

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Kind of a challenge to get this entire thing in frame!
Although I have only been weaving since January of this year, I decided it was time to attempt an all-handspun weaving project. I warped my loom with some 100% merino I'd spun for last year's Tour de Fleece (if memory serves) and used a superwash merino weft spun from a few hand-dyed braids from Cloudlover that I'd been hoarding (more on that here).

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I had a lot of tension issues in this project, mostly of my own making - I didn't do a great job of separating my warp while winding it onto the beam, and the paper I used was too thin and crinkling in unfortunate places, which only added to my list of problems. If I had to do it over again, I would have used card stock or perhaps even some pick up sticks to keep warp separated and the tension even. Live and learn, right?

Despite these circumstances, the resulting warp looks pretty darn good. It's big, soft and warm - just hat you need this time of year, right?!

Thanks for stopping by. Have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Some Things Old, Some Things New

After a productive weekend, I am down to just two knitting projects on the needles: the shawl that I started last week, and a new hat project using some yarn I'll be reviewing soon.

For the shawl, cashmere is the yarn of choice yet again - I'm knitting the Inauguration Consolation pattern using 3 colors of yarn from Lux Adorna.

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I started a new hat project using a free pattern from Ravelry, Lake Reed by Asita Krebs. The yarn is a new option from Dalegarn called Lerke Pluss, and I'm excited to give it a try. I think it'll be great for this cabled stitch pattern!

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I also resurrected my Dillinger hat from time out (if you recall, I'd made a glaring error in the colorwork several inches back). On Sunday I frogged to where I got off track, and now I've resumed knitting - so far, so good...and Robing REALLY wanted to be in this shot, incidentally:

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I warped a new project on my loom this week, another scarf using some handspun yarn:

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And, of course, I am still spinning away for the Tour de Fleece (I'm sharing my daily progress on Instagram if you are interested). Speaking of handspun yarn, I have TWO finished projects in handspun yarns to share with you this Friday. Thanks for stopping by - see you then!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Yarn Spotting at the Ballpark

I have a vague recollection of reading something about how some US textile mills began supplying yarn for the manufacturing of baseballs as a way to survive when production moved overseas, but I was still surprised and delighted to see this display during a recent visit to the Royals Hall of Fame:

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Who knew that there were THREE different kinds of yarn inside every baseball?! Turns out, the construction of a baseball is a very precise science - and yes, each yarn has exact specifications for fiber content and constructions that must be met.

While I was doing a little more research about the yarn-baseball link, I turned up this really cool blog post about a visit to one of the very mills that produces yarn for Major League Baseball, and I also discovered a short-lived team call the Lowell Spinners, which is worth reading about.

You never know where yarn or fiber will pop up next!

Friday, July 7, 2017

FO Friday: The Mystery Revealed

Over the holiday weekend, I finished my project for the June Cashmere Mystery KAL! This was a free pattern using 1 skein of June Cashmere Lace Weight yarn - you could totally do 2 skeins if you are so inclined, however! I used up nearly every bit of my 1 skein of lace to make this cowl:

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That little bit of yarn is the total amount I had left over after binding off!

The reason I decided to do this MKAL is because it was choose-your-own-adventure style - that is, each week you had at least 2 stitch patterns to choose from, giving you lots of options to create a finished project you're sure to love. Here's what I did to create mine:

Crochet cast on 180 stitches and knit 1 inch of garter stitch for border, which took 8 g of yarn.

Clue 1: Six repeats of Dot Stitch pattern. Purl 1 round.
Clue 2: Two repeats of Chevron Stitch pattern. Purl 1 round.
Clue 3: Three repeats of Mock Cable Stitch pattern. Purl 1 round 
Clue 4: Two repeats of Double Diagonal Stitch pattern. Purl 1 round.
Clue 5: Rows 1-12 of Triangles Stitch pattern. 
Garter stitch for (nearly) 1 inch. 
Bind off.

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So here's where I got a bit off track: I forgot to weight my yarn before starting Clue 5. In fact, I didn't remember to do so until I was halfway through the stitch pattern - at which point I discovered that I had just 6g of yarn left! Oops! 

Luckily, the halfway point for the stitch pattern I chose ended up working pretty well as the ending point, so I just switched to Garter Stitch, working as much as I dared before binding off. If I had this to do over again, I think I would have worked fewer repeats of the first clue - then everything else probably would have worked out as I intended. But, I think the resulting cowl looks great...just check out those lovely stitches:

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You can still get the patterns by signing up here. I think there is also a coupon code you'll get towards your yarn purchase - I highly recommend treating yourself to some of this luscious cashmere. You deserve it!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New WIPs!

It seems like forever since I had new WIPs - but now that several long term projects are officially off the needles, I think it's time to start some new, exciting things! I still have some babies to knit for, so the first cast on over the long holiday weekend was for a striped baby sweater:

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After I finished my June Cashmere MKAL project (which I'll be sharing this Friday), I decided that starting a shawl project would be a just reward. I bought the Inauguration Consolation project kit at TNNA back in January and have been wanting to start it ever since, but deadline knitting and guilt from too many WIPs held me back.

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I do still have the Dillinger Hat on the needles, and I still need to work up to ripping allll the way back (about 8 rows I think?) to fix a rather large mistake. I'm hoping I finally feel up to the task this coming weekend - it's such a cute hat, I would love to finish it soon!

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Believe it or not, that is all that I have on the needles right now. Since I'm participating in the Tour de Fleece, I'm going to try to limit my number of active knitting projects to the magic number of 3. It feels good to have the WIP basket cleaned out to start out a new month!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fiber Friday: Tour de Fleece

I just returned from a long weekend visiting family in Kansas City, only to realize that the Tour de Fleece has snuck up on me. I can't believe that it starts tomorrow!

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I'll be spinning with Team CKT again this year, which is a super laid-back team hosted by one of my fellow Team Louet Spinners and host of The Corner of Knit and Tea podcast/blog, FluffyK.

After spending half of this month traveling, I feel woefully unprepared for this event. Luckily, the point is to spin every day the tour rides and the amount of yarn you spin is less important (if this were Spinzilla, I'd be screwed!!). I was hoping to take stock of my stash and have a more specific plan for this event, but the reality is that I'll have to fly by the seat of my pants. On the plus side, I have plenty of fiber to keep me going:

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At least I'm not in danger of running out of spinning fiber....

Are you going to spin during this year's Tour de Fleece? I'd love to hear about your plans & progress during this event!

Friday, June 23, 2017

FO Friday: Look Familiar?

There's nothing wrong with your monitor - this IS the exact same baby sweater I posted last week, but with different yarn and buttons. I had a baby shower to attend recently and needed a project that I could work on while traveling, so I turned to my go-to, the Seed Stitch Yoke Cardigan. I knit the sleeves two-at-a-time on the way to TNNA, and started the body of the sweater on the way home.

A few monkey wrenches popped up once I got home (namely, losing an entire day to being flattened by a nasty cold I picked up at the show), and I very nearly didn't finish in time to gift this to the intended recipient. Somehow it all came together, and my iron had the good graces to break down only after I'd finished steam blocking this project into presentability. That was lucky!

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Tip: Add a sample of wool wash to your gift!
Also lucky was finding the perfect buttons in my stash, something I hadn't thought through when choosing the yarn color (incidentally, I used Knit Picks Swish Worsted in Sour Apple). I'd purchased these cute buttons a year or two ago from Fastenation Studios (I think they're now called Wild Flower Button Studios?) and for some reason I just like the way they look - it all somehow works.

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I do have a few more babies to knit for, but I'm planning to to expand my horizons for pattern choice (and I'm taking suggestions for worsted weight baby sweaters, if you have any).

Thanks for stopping by, have a crafty weekend!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WIP Wednesday: MKAL Math

I got a little behind on my June Cashmere MKAL project due to the trade show and a bit of deadline knitting for a baby shower I attended last weekend. I'm now back on track, having started the third clue which came out last Friday:

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Here's what I've been doing so far:

Crochet cast on 180 stitches and knit 1 inch of garter stitch for border, which took 8 g of yarn (so, that's what I need to save for the border and bind-off at the end).

Clue 1: Six repeats of Dot Stitch pattern. Purl 1 round.
Clue 2: Two repeats of Chevron Stitch pattern. Purl 1 round.
Clue 3: Three repeats of Mock Cable Stitch pattern (1/3 of the way through). Purl 1 round.

I am enjoying working this yarn, what's not to love about cashmere? This yarn in particular has a very cool story, as the fibers are collected directly from Kyrgyz shepherds living on small family farms along the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia (learn more here).

There are two more clues left in the MKAL, and I'll be sharing my progress over on Instagram as I knit through them, in addition to updates on this blog of course. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 19, 2017

#ManosMonday: Knitty Sweater

At the end of last year, my friend and colleague Mari asked if I would be willing to knit a sample of a new design of hers that would be coming out in Knitty in 2017. The idea is that my project would combine commercially-spun yarn with a handspun (by me, of course!) accent. I'd get the yarn and fiber to spin and knit with, and could keep the resulting garment. Of course I said yes!

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We both picked out our yarn colors in the Fairmount Fibers/Manos del Uruguay booth at the January TNNA Trade show, and a few weeks later, a lovely box of yarn and fiber arrived on my doorstep. Originally, I think this sweater was supposed to be in worsted weight, but at some point it became a sport weight sweater, so I admit that I was a little nervous about finishing in time for our  photo shoot in early April - historically, I am a pretty slow sweater knitter (see: chunky weight cardigan that's been on the needles since last August).

By some small miracle, I finished in time for our scheduled shoot - Mari lives in Raleigh, NC, but since we had a mutual workshop in downtown Chicago scheduled for April, we thought that would be a fantastic opportunity to work in a quick photo shoot.

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I did much of the finishing work in said workshop, including sewing on the buttons. After our workshop ended, we headed over to Grant Park to take photos before Mari headed to the airport to return home. It was a bit of a nailbiter, but I think we pulled everything together quite well, and I am absolutely loving the result.

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One thing that didn't occur to me AT ALL was the fact that I'd see my face on Knitty (eep!). I was even on the blog, which I wasn't expecting at all!

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The Details
Pattern: Bosco by Mari Chiba (queue here on Ravelry)
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Clara & Merino Roving
Buttons: Akonye Kenya

Besides loving how the hand dyed and handspun yarns look together, I also love that they are Fair Trade. In fact, so are the buttons - when I spotted these handmade bird buttons at the Quilt Show, I knew they'd be perfect for this project.

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I'm really excited to see what colors people choose for this sweater!



Friday, June 16, 2017

FO Friday: The First of Many Baby Things

Seems like there's another wave of babies in 2017, and I haven't been very proactive about preparing it, even though I had plenty of advance warning. My sister's request for a baby sweater and hat to gift to my nephews' babysitter flipped the switch for me, it seems - now I am knitting like crazy to get a few more baby sweaters knit up for my friends who have either just had a baby, or will be having one later this summer.

My go-to book is 60 Quick Baby Knits, and I used two skeins of Berroco Vintage to knit the Seed Stitch Yoke Cardigan and Rolled Edge Cap. Aren't they cute?

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I happened to have the perfect buttons on hand, which I'd bought last summer with the intention of getting ahead of this baby wave - then I got distracted by a bunch of other things, as so often happens (at least for me). Here's hoping I'll have a few more cute baby knits to share later this month!

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Thanks for stopping by - have a crafty weekend! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Summer 2017 TNNA Recap

Yesterday I got back from the TNNA summer trade show, which returned to Columbus to the delight of pretty much everyone, judging by how busy and lively the show floor was for most of the weekend. My measurements are 100% unscientific, but it seemed like there was way more activity when compared to the rather quiet January show in San Jose.

The company I work for, Stitchcraft Marketing, created a community art installation called #StitchLove, which was on display in the TNNA lounge in the center of the show floor. It was the brainchild of my colleague Mari and I am so proud of how it turned out - we all are!

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L-R: Mari, Me, Leanne & Ben.
Seeing everyone's contributions was really cool, and by the end of the weekend, the wall was quite full!
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Although I'm pretty sure I didn't get a chance to check out every single booth, I did see some pretty cool things while I dashed from meeting to meeting. I was really psyched to spot Katrinkles, whom I discovered on Instagram last year. They had some new stitchable ornament kits - a cardigan sweater and socks - that I simply must get!!

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And I loved this display by Artfil in the What's New section - what an awesome use of Weavettes, and a clever way to display yarn in general (sure wish I thought of it first).

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Besides seeing all of my friends at the show (which was awesome), one of the highlights was having my photo taken with an alpaca, who also let me pet him a little. He was very soft!

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There was also a very handsome llama who was not as cooperative when it came to photos:

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You wanna take my photo? I don't care!!
He might be entertaining notions of photobombing Pearl Chin in this one, though - naughty llama!

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I was trying really hard not to bring home tons of yarn, since I already have plenty in my stash, but several mini skeins ended up in my luggage thanks to the quick thinking of Benjamin, who happened to be in the right place at the right time when Dream in Color posted on Instagram that they were leaving some yarn that didn't fit in their luggage in a specific location for the first person who could get there! If Ben hadn't shared this yarn booty with the rest of us, I would have brought home way more beer than yarn; this way, I think I achieved the correct ratio.

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I'll be sharing a post about the trends I spotted on the show floor over on the Stitchcraft Marketing blog soon, so keep an eye out!


Monday, June 12, 2017

Tips for Overdyeing Yarn

It's inevitable that some DIY dyeing experiments don't go as planned - sometimes, the multicolored palette doesn't look as good in real life as it did in your head, or your semisolid color turns out lighter or than intended, or your skein has unfortunate dye spatters or, worse yet, bare spots. Oops!

When bad things happen to good yarn, don't fret - you can always overdye your skeins to cover a multitude of dyeing mishaps. You may even get a prettier color in the process, as adding layers of color can add depth that simply can't (easily) be achieved by a single dye session.

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My crock pot that's dedicated for dye projects!
When I dyed yarn at Lorna's Laces, we would frequently overdye mis-dyed skeins of yarn to create one-of-a-kind colorways which almost always ended up coming home from me. In fact, the first time I dyed a multicolored colorway (Mixed Berries), I forgot to add one of the colors to the repeating sequence. Once the dye is set, it's pretty tough to fix such a big oopsie, so we overdyed it with a deep purple and it looked a-MA-zing. I ended up knitting my grandmother a pair of socks with it; you'll have to forgive the poor quality of this photo - this project dates back to 2008 and my photography skills were not so great back then.

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The key to overdyeing is to choose a color that is complementary to the color or colors in your skein - otherwise, you'll just create a big brown mess. Of course, if a big brown mess is what you're going for, go head and overdye that yellow skein of yarn with green! But it would probably be much prettier if you used an orange or red color to overdye it. 

A while back, I dyed these 3 skeins of yarn with Kool-Aid and didn't achieve the full-strength green I was going for. What's more, there were lots of bare spots on the yarn where the dye didn't set properly. While they would probably knit up into a lovely variegated natural-and-baby-green fabric, I would really prefer a deeper hue.

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If you want to get a deeper version of the same color (and remember what your original dye recipe was), that's easy - mix your dye at half-strength.

If you want to get a totally different color, that's ok too! Depending on the level of intensity desired, I would mix the dye anywhere between 1/2 - 3/4 strength. If you can spare a little bit of yarn to do a test dye before hand, that will help you adjust the strength accordingly. Of course, if you don't mind the occasional surprise, you can mix up a batch of dye, toss in some yarn, and hope for the best. I do this quite a bit and have yet to be disappointed with the results.

Recently, I attempted a gradient set of skeins using the mis-dyed yarn mentioned above and some Gaywool dye I had on hand (the color I used is Lucerne). I started with the recommended dye recipe on the package for the amount of yarn I wanted to dye (12g) and got a fairly nice green color. From there, I mixed stronger batches of dye for the other two skeins of the gradient. This will only help you if you're using the same kind of dye as me, but here are the water-to-dye ratios I used to overdye my skeins: 12g dye, 10 cups water; 15g dye, 10 cups water; 18g dye, 10 cups water. Basically, I used the same amount of water, but added 3g more of dye each time to get these results:

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There are tons of ways to dye yarn; here are some resources to help get you started:
I'd love to hear about your favorite dye tutorials in the comments!

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