24/30 Design and Dye

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 24: Have you ever made your own pattern or dyed your own yarn? How did it turn out?

Yes to both.

I have several patterns for sale on Ravelry and etsy, which all started with the Owl Honeycomb Blanket. That wasn’t actually my first pattern, just the first one I actually screwed up the courage to write, have tech edited, and published (I didn’t know about test knitters then). The rainbow sock yarn baby blanket (probably) was the first pattern … oh wait, no, no it wasn’t the first pattern I made up. I had a special button in my collection and made a felted belt specifically for it. I got the wool from the shepherd on ebay, which was special also – I love the greens in the yarn and it was one of my first all-wool yarns.

The belt with the special button and special yarn -the special belt.
Detail of the special button.

Now, yarn dying – yes, I’ve done that too. The very first time, I unraveled an angora-wool-nylon blend sweater and dyed it with KoolAid.

Recycled sweater yarn dyed with KoolAid. The skein is sitting on the last remaining piece of the sweater, a sleeve.

In the Spring of 2011 (2010?) I took a natural dye class with two friends at The Art League of Alexandria, which I really wish I lived closer to (I live over an hour away) so I could take advantage of their classes more. That class started me on an exploration of natural dying that I’ve only recently finally admitted has fallen by the wayside. If you’re curious, I documented most of it on flickr and on this blog, but here are all of my sample skeins, Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool in white mordanted with alum, copper, or iron and tossed into the dye pot with larger quantities of material.

Natural dye sample skeins. Some of the natural dyes represented here: cochineal, indigo, walnut, osage orange, avocado skins & pits, dandelion, marigold petals, lichen, onion skins.

Natural dyeing is a lot of work, so I also branched out to dye/over-dye with Jacquard Acid Dye, Rit, and most recently, Dylon (that Emergency Project). Dyeing is fun, even though when it’s a lot of work. It’s fun to see how the dyed yarn or fiber turns out. If it turns out badly, you can always overdye it with a darker color, keeping in mind that a pure black is very difficult to achieve; basically, you have infinite chances to dye something a color you like, it may just be darker than what you originally hoped for.



17/30 Beloved Project Ruined

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 17: Have you ever had a project that you loved become ruined? What’s the story behind it?

Hoo boy; it’s been a while and I still mourn this loss, even though I made lemonade out of lemons.

In late 2005, I splurged on the yarn for my third sweater, Kristin Nichol’s Aran Pullover from the Winter 2005 issue of Interweave Knits. This was my first or second issue of Interweave (I had subscribed to Vogue Knitting around the same time) and I was super excited about this sweater – it was love at first sight. I loved it so much that I decided to splurge on the yarn, making my most expensive purchase to date: Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed. I chose color 116 Ivy: deep forest greens with flecks of red and yellow. I’d never worked with yarn so soft.

The pattern was great, the yarn was great, the finished sweater was great. This was pre-Ravelry and before I took advantage of the website that came bundled with my email service (I paid for my email so I’d have privacy, no ads, shell access, and could use Pine, a text-based email program), so I don’t have pictures of the finished sweater.

The sweater and I lived happily ever after for two years, until one fateful day when my husband decided to “help” me and do laundry. At the time, I was doing laundry for 5, including a toddler, and an 8 and 9 year old, so he really was genuinely trying to help. I had tossed the sweater into the basket with the other dirty laundry knowing that I would be the one to do the wash. But I wasn’t. And my husband didn’t realize that the sweater couldn’t go through the washer and dryer.

It was tragic.

I held onto the felted sweater for a year before deciding to repurpose it around Christmas time; I made 3 Christmas trees out of it with some vintage beads that were very sentimental (my great grandmother gave to my mother, who gave them to me) and that I’d been saving for a special project since I was a little girl. I still get a little thrill when I pull them out at Christmas; they are very special to me.

Xmas Tree Trio
The felt Christmas tree trio
Cabled Xmas Tree
Cabled portion of the sweater front. Seed beads from my bead stash. Topper is vintage bracelet pieces and vintage glass square bead.
Xmas Tree: Short Spiral
Ribbed portion of sweater; beads are strung on wire and attached loosely to the back at intervals. Topper is tube beads & silver beads.
My Favorite of the Xmas Tree Trio
Vintage beads mixed with seed beads that are hard to see. I’ve had most of these beads since I was a kid; they are my grandmothers’ and great grandmothers’. This tree gave me a chance to actually look at and display all of them and was the first one of the three that I made. My favorite!

So Many WIPs and an Emergency Project

Funny, I went on vacation and still (mostly) kept up with this blog, but then we came home and I didn’t post at all last week, not even the easy Wordless Wednesday & TBT. I have plenty of knitting-related projects to talk about, though.

I took my Old Town cardigan on vacation hoping to chug through the sleeves, which I finished over this past weekend. I also took along a smaller one-off project that I still haven’t added to Ravelry: a cuff and choker using an interesting stitch pattern, crochet cotton, and size 0 (2mm) needles. I made the cuff first and then wasted a day stringing beads on the crochet cotton for the choker.


Beading didn’t go as expected; really I need to string beads on both legs of each stitch or pull an entire stitch through the bead because of the stitch pattern. I’d rather do the latter, but the beads I had on hand were too small for this, so I did what anyone would do – researched beads and ordered some 6/0 beads, which should be big enough for the crochet cotton, along with what I hear is a handy tool, the Beadle Needle, from EarthFaire. The beads and the Beadle Needle are here, but I have other things I need and want to work on before I dive back into the cuff and choker.

My design plan for the choker and the beading fail

While on vacation, I visited Salty Yarns on the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD and came away with yarn to make hats (and maybe mitts) for my boys (Mirasol K’acha) and a Cheshire Cat gradient mini skein sock yarn kit for my Mom, who just had her birthday. She loves purple; I had a hard time choosing between the Mimsy and Phantomwise colorways and almost got both, but came away in the end with Phantomwise.


When I got home and started thinking more seriously about my Mom’s gift. She’s been knitting a long time but mainly with worsted weight craft store yarn (meaning: acrylic). Knitting sock yarn is new for her and she’s not really online, so I can’t just tell her to look on Ravelry to see what other people have done with their Wonderland Yarns – I’d have to do that myself and choose, which I did. Out of all the possibilities, I think she’ll like the Dreambird KAL best. She doesn’t like things close around her neck, lace, or frilly things so I think this is a good choice from that perspective. I also think it’s a good match skills-wise; the short rows might be challenging, but challenging is good. The only thing I worry about is that the needle size, US 2 1/2 (3mm), is going to be a mental stumbling block.

As with the beading project, in order for Mom to make the Dreambird, I needed another hank of yarn for the background color and needles. Webs to the rescue – Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Ink is on the way with needles and two Lavishea lotion bars (one for her, one for me) because they work really well and aren’t greasy.

There’s more! But not much more … just two more projects:

Before we left on vacation, my fingers slipped and I ordered a Bohus kit from AngoraGarnet – The Green Wood arrived on Saturday. I wanted to start on it immediately, but I was almost done with the sleeves for Old Town, so I made myself finish those first. And I made myself sew hooks and eyes, my choice of fastener, on the choker and cuff. Unfortunately, I managed to cut a strand of the crochet cotton on the cuff while trying to correct the placement of one of the hooks. I’ve set it aside to repair later in favor of winding all the yarn for the Green Wood and swatching.

AngoraGarnet yarn for the Green Wood: 50% merino, 50% angora, 100% soft and fine

The last project is kind of an emergency of my own making. A friend of mine is expecting her second baby in 3 weeks. We’re both really bad at keeping in touch and setting up get togethers, but I reached out to her yesterday and set up a lunch for Saturday. For her first baby, a little girl, I knew she was going with an owl theme and came up with The Owl Honeycomb Blanket, my first pattern. But for this baby, a boy, I don’t think she’s chosen a theme. I’ve been thinking about creating another cabled baby blanket, but also kept thinking that I have plenty of time to do that.

Well, my procrastination got the better of me once again. Yes, I’ve been here before, though last time I had all 3 weeks and made Super Quick (boy do I wish I’d taken notes). I’d really like to have the blanket done by our lunch on Saturday, so I’ve been to Jo-Ann already today and am ready to make the magic happen again with 3 giant skeins of Bernat Handicrafter cotton. I think I’m going to write a post every day (or nearly every day) with my progress. We’re taking my oldest son to college Thursday-Friday, so I’ll have 3+ hours of car knitting each day. And this will be a good distraction from and consolation for the fact that we’re taking my oldest son to college.