Sunday, January 30, 2011

Today Was a Good Day to Dye

I had fun today doing something with yarn that I don’t normally do – changing it’s color. In my early knitting days, I experimented with dying using Kool-Aid, but hadn’t done much more than that. Doug, one of the movers and shakers of our men’s knitting group (Ravelry link), has recently gotten into dying and is making quite a go of it. He set up a workshop today at an Austin LYS, Gauge, and invited people to come try their hand at dyeing. He had a lot of takers! Everything was well organized and I walked out of there with some lovely sock yarn in brown. But a very vibrant brown!
Doug does really cool things with dye. He combines colors in cool ways and isn’t afraid of the bold and bright – like some people I know. What I really love about Doug is how enthusiastic he is about dyeing, and what a great teacher he makes – drawing people in, getting them started, and then letting them run free with their ideas.
He’s done dyeing sessions for his mom’s friends, and his dad even put together a little device to help portion out yarn for dyeing in striped patterns – I’m sure it has a name, but I didn’t catch it. His dad even drove it up from Houston this morning just so Doug could use it today. Nice! Doug has started a website where you can find out about his dyeing and perhaps snatch up some of his lovely work. You can see some samples above, but also check out White Bear Fibers – I’ve added a banner in the Look! section on the right.
I got to Gauge late-ish, and a lot of the activity had dyed (ahem) down, but I got to see a lot of the work other people had done – neat stuff, in some really cool colors. I loved seeing it all outside, drying in the sun. And yes, northern readers, it got up into the low 80s on this, the penultimate day of January. I’m sitting here writing this after 7:00pm, hoping the open windows will cool the house down a bit. I just can’t imagine turning on the A/C in January. Winter is supposed to come back in about 48 hours, but today sure was lovely.
My brown yarn turned out quite nicely. I dyed the whole skein in a watered down version of the chocolate dye, to get kind of a mauve-y effect. Then, I over-dyed a few sections in a slightly less watered down version. Finally, I used a brush to add some full on chocolate-y low-lights. I did miss a few sections here and there, but all in all, it should turn out good. My skein is hanging up in the bathroom right now – I’ll wind it up in a few days. I can’t wait to make some socks out of it.
Thanks, Doug, for a very fun and creative afternoon!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beginning, Middle and End

I worked on several projects this week, finishing one, reaching the halfway point on another, and just getting started on yet a third.

My section of the men’s knitting group contribution to the Blanton tree-covering project turned out better than I would have thought. I made sure that the pink and orange didn’t touch, which helped. I knit three colors in four rows, and then then the fourth color in either 7 or 8 rows. It made a nice flow. I decreased by binding off. In my last post I wrote about getting the yarn. By 9pm that day, I was done. Which is a good thing, because my eyes were hurting.

On Tuesday I managed to finish the first of the January Woodland Winter Mittens. The thumb is nice and long, if a bit narrow. While I can get the rest of the mitten on snuggly, it’s difficult to wedge my meaty man-thumbs into that little tube. I reversed the yarn dominance on the thumb because I wanted the black lice pattern to pop. I like how the colors carry across and match between the thumb and the body of the mitten. I have to do a little bit of weaving in around the crotch of the thumb and for the cast-on, but then this one is basically done. Now normally, I’m a fairly monogamous knitter, but Multiple Mitten Malaise is a possibility here, because Tuesday night I cast on for a…

…new sweater for me! The pattern is called Kerouac by Jenn Jarvis and it’s in the spring 2009 issue of Twist Collective. Don’t snort when you look at the picture of the model. Mine will be a larger size, should have more ease, and I’m planning on making it a bit longer. Also, I’m not messing with the stripes. I’m making mine in a nice gray (Cobblestone Heather, actually) using the new sport weight of Wool of the Andes from Knit Picks. It’s a small-gauge sweater, which was my goal with this. But be careful what you wish for; this thing is made on size 3 needles. It could take a while,  but I ain’t scared.

I’m knitting the sweaters, but definitely not sitting still these days.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mitts & Bits

The January Woodland Winter Mittens are rolling right along. This picture doesn’t quite show current progress, but I’ve just about gotten to the decreases at the top. I think I’m on track – I got to try them on a real live woman with lovely hands and everything. All systems are go.

I’ve definitely changed colors for the last time on the main part, which should speed things up a bit. Then it’s the thumbs – and then another mitten. There must be a mitten equivalent of Second Sock Syndrome, and whatever it’s called (Multiple Mitten Malaise?), I feel it setting in. I’ve enjoyed knitting this mitten, and realize that a mate-less mitten is just about the saddest garment in the world, but I kind of want to knit the other patterns now. Must. Knit. Second. Mitten…

At my men’s knitting group this afternoon, I got my bits of yarn and knitting instructions for my part in our group’s effort to wrap a tree at the Blanton Museum as part of Magda Sayeg’s art installation.  Man – these colors. Any combination of two is within the realm of normality, and really, even any three colors can be made to work. But throw in the fourth, and it’s all quite jarring. I’ve knit with pink before, but this is P-I-N-K. Eye-watering, retina-searing, vision-blurring, glaucoma-inducing, migraine-making pink. But knit it I will. 

I get to a geek out on a bit of math to figure out how to do the decreasing I need to do – I’ve been assigned a section that involves a knot on the tree’s trunk – so it’s going to be fun for all that. Plus, we get to arrange the colors in any kind of strip combination we want. Oh – and we do not have to weave in any ends. Who has ever had a pattern with the instructions, “Don’t weave in ends. Someone else will deal with that.” ? I’d buy that pattern.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


January is named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways, gates, beginnings and endings. An apt name for this month. And, as it so happens, the theme for my latest project.

This week, a package from Knitpicks arrived, containing a bunch of yarn for a cardigan I’m planning to make, plus a kit. Yes, a knitting kit. I’ve never knit from a kit before, but I saw the Woodland Winter Mittens kit in the catalog, and because I love me the dark colors, stranded knitting and the cold times of year, I had to try. It’s quite a bargain, too. Yarn for six pairs of mittens, plus the pattern, for under $30.

Each month’s mitten features a different winter-themed scene on the backs of the hands and a different geometric pattern on the palms. So all of the months bear two faces in these mittens, not just January.  The “winter” months in these patterns run from October to March – a bit of a stretch, I know, but if you had to pick six months for winter, those would be them. And “winter” sounds better than “the months where you don’t necessarily sweat every day,'” as they are known in these parts. I really do like all the colors, although I’m a little meh about March. I decided to start with the January pattern since we’re soaking in it right now. Not sure if I’ll be finishing before the end!

I began this first pair on size 1 needles as called for, but quickly figured out that I was under gauge, so I switched to size 2. Things are better now. I’m having a bit of a time with the needle changes using magic loop – I may switch to DPNs to see if that works any better.

Monday, January 17, 2011

(In My) Solitudes

Apologies in advance to the late, great Duke Ellington.

I finished up my Solitude Socks. Very squishy and very warm. Here’s the recipe, in a nutshell.

I started with a 32-inch size 2 circular needle, then using Judy Becker’s Magic Cast-on, I started with 10 stitches. Using the magic loop method, I knit a row, and then increased every other row until I hit 22 stitches per side, 44 total stitches in circumference. I knit two more rows, then started 2x2 ribbing on the instep of the sock – the row starts and ends with two knit stitches.

When I got to where I wanted to do the short row heel, I used double wraps and started the heel on 8 unwrapped stitches. This is the only part of the socks I wasn’t entirely happy with. Despite double-wrapping the short row stitches, I still ended up with little holes. Janelle suggested trying the no-wrap short row heel technique at Happy Knits. I’ll try to remember this for next time.

After the heel was completed, I knit 15 rows as I had for the foot of the sock, and then switched to 2x2 ribbing for the remainder of the cuff. As mentioned earlier, the front of the sock started and ended with two knit stitches– now the back of the cuff started and ended with two purl stitches. I knit until it looked like I was running out of yarn, then I used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn bind off.

And that’s it! Now I have a nice, thick, warm pair of socks. Thanks for this yarn, Janelle!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I finished up the red Bricker socks on Thursday evening. I think they turned out great. Earlier pictures I’ve taken of these give the impression that the yarn is more of a peachy or coral color. But I tweaked some of the photos using Picnik via Flickr and it got them to look more like what my eyes see when I look at them. I wish I could get my camera to do that.

Speaking of “what I see,” about a month ago I decided that what my 45-year-old eyes were seeing up close was not ever going to come into focus again and my arms were just getting too short. So I got some reading glasses. I haven’t been wearing them consistently for knitting – so much of that is done by feel – but it’s amazing how much better I can see when I wear them, especially for reading.

I’m stunned that this change happened so quickly. Having never worn anything but sunglasses all my life, it’s taking a bit of getting used to. But once I started using them, I was addicted immediately. Now I find myself dealing with all the things that veteran spectacle users are probably quite used to – smudges, positioning them just right, and mostly – where the heck did I put those things?

I’ve got a couple of things coming in from Knitpicks (mail already came today – so much for this weekend) for some projects I’d like to start, but in the meantime I’ve decided to start – what else? – another pair of socks. While digging around for some extra placemats a few weeks ago, I stumbled across some yarn that I’d put away in a drawer to keep away from curious basenjis. Janelle gave it to me as a gift several years ago. It’s Solitude sport weight in a Suffolk/Dorsett blend mixed with nylon.

Suffolk and Dorsett are sheep breeds used more for eatin’ than knittin’, but according to Solitude, they grow a “fine springy wool that is perfect for sock yarn.” Is it any consolation to a Suffolk or Dorsett sheep that they are so versatile?

What I’m making is a pair of toe-up socks in this beautiful midnight blue yarn. Because of its thickness, I’m using size 2 needles, although the resulting fabric is still pretty dense. These will make excellent around-the-house or hiking socks. It’s tough, without being too scratchy. It will definitely hold up to wear. Now I need to remember how to do a short-row heel. It’s been a while since I’ve done one…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chin Picks Win

I nearly spilled my beer when I saw knitwear designer, yarn maker and the fastest crocheter in the world, Lily Chin, on tonight’s episode of Top Chef.

While watching people line up for portions of the Elimination Challenge dishes, I saw a face that looked somewhat familiar and I said to Jeff, “That looks like Lily Chin.” He just ignored me, because I’m always mouthing of during TV shows and movies along the lines of “That’s the guy that played the _________ in “____________”. Jeff is a very patient man.

But then, moments later, she appeared on screen again, actually sitting at the same picnic table with Tom, Padma and Gail. Then she spoke. That clinched it.

I’ve always found Lily Chin intimidating. When I’ve seen her on TV (Knitty Gritty, Knit & Crochet Today, etc.), I just stare in fascination. She speaks and works so quickly and with such confidence. I’m always amazed at her total mastery of all things knitting and crochet-related, and know that I would just be a total butterfingers if I ever had to knit in her presence. I’m sure she’s a very nice person, but there’s just something about her that scares me a little.

Not only does she know yarn and have mad knitting and crochet skillz, she also knows a good piece of fish when she tastes one. She was commenting on Carla’s Smoked Blue Fish with Lettuce Wrap, Pickled Watermelon Rind, Shallots Radish, and Bagel Croutons – the winning dish of the challenge.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


It’s a nice, cloudy, damp chilly day here in Austin – perfect knitting weather. I put on Jeff’s Irish Moss sweater (one of the earliest FOs featured on this blog), and headed down to my men’s knitting group to get some knitting done. I hadn’t really touched the needles since finishing up the Pile-able Pups earlier in the week, so it was good to get back to the Bricker socks. I’ve finished four repeats of the cuff pattern on the second sock. I start the heel after six repeats. I ‘m doing this second sock totally by magic loop, unlike the first sock, the first half of which I did on DPNs. Not this time. I just hate not being able to try socks on myself when I use DPNs.

In other news, our men’s knitting group is going to participate in an art installation put together by Magda Sayeg. She’s known around these parts for covering things in knitted fabric (see example, right), and this time around her aim is to cover the trunks of the 99 trees in the courtyard of the Blanton Museum of Art in early March. Doug went to the organizational kick-off meeting and snagged tree number 65 for Guys in Austin with Yarn.

We’ll be making a trunk cozy out of four colors of Red Heart yarn, including a garish pink, the colorway of which one of my fellow knitters suggested should be dubbed “amoxicillin”. I suspect that may be it about halfway down the third pillar back in the photo above. The colors and fibers (acrylic for maximum outdoor durability) have been chosen for us, but we get to decide how thick we want the horizontal stripes to be. It’ll be kind of  fun to be part of a local fiber-y art installation. I’ll post info and pictures as things develop.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Snips and Snails

I finished the Pile-able Pups! I’m off work this week, so I had time to knit pretty steadily over the past few days. There are a lot of weird roadblocks with these – remembering how to do all those little things that you only do every once in a while – sewing on toy limbs, embroidering, seaming horizontal onto vertical fabric, etc. But, boy, oh boy was it fun. I kept giggling to myself as I finished them up. Luckily, I finished while there was just enough afternoon winter daylight left to get a few pictures. My unpile-able pups were running around outside, and I hoped they might be interested enough that I could get them in a picture, but a squirrel put in an appearance and they had other priorities.

Some things I might have done differently: I don’t see why you couldn’t keep the stitches live across the opening and Kitchener stitch it closed after stuffing it. I don’t really mind sewing a cast-on edge to a bound-off edge, but it does put that little ridge under the fabric. Maybe it helps with stability? Also, I wish my picked-up edges were neater and tidier. That might have to do with the extra tight tension I used so that the stuffing wouldn’t show through. Perhaps if I’d not tensed up so much around the edge stitches they wouldn’t appear slightly puckered like they do.

My Pile-able Pups are pretty roly-poly and not as box-like as I expected. I was a bit dismayed that they didn’t seem pile-able at all right after sewing up the bodies. In fact, they were about as pile-able as three Russet potatoes. Others’ I’ve seen on Ravelry seem much more like bricks. I suppose that’s where the legs come in. If it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be any piling with these three fat puppies – or “less active” as it says on the dog food bags – as if dogs would have their feelings hurt by advertising copy.

I hope little H.J., due in a few months, enjoys playing with these little guys as much as I enjoyed making them.

And I hope he likes green.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Puppy Pile

I’ve started working on some Pile-able Pups for a baby shower next weekend. I’ve always thought these were cute. Janelle knitted a pile-o-pups recently, and I thought this would be a cute toy to knit for a new little boy who’s due to arrive in a few months.

The pattern calls for size 5 needles, but I had size 6 DPNs, so I’m just knitting very tightly. Janelle is right – knitting all those little parts is tedious, but it’s good TV knitting. Here, my very un-pile-able pup, Kate (she likes her space), models a paw. Pona is much more pile-able, but only with people. For the last few evenings, he has spent most of his time curled up on Jeff’s lap. But get out a camera, and he takes off.

The past few evenings, Jeff and I have been watching episodes of Speed Racer on DVD. Because we’re little boys from the 1970s. They are a hoot. In the episode Challenge of the Masked Racer Part 1, Mom Racer knits!

Chim Chim decides to play a prank on Spritle by putting Mom’s ball of yarn on Spritle’s snack plate to see if he’ll put it in his mouth. He does, mom yanks vigorously on the yarn (as one does), and Spritle goes flying. Chim Chim, of course, is quite amused.

Later, Mom sends the boys off to bed as she finished up a few more rows…

Go, Mom Racer, Go!