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.



Gir Hat

I’m interrupting my 30 days of knitting posts to write about an actual finished knit. I took a break from sweater purgatory, aka knitting sweater bodies in stockinette, to make my oldest son a hat. I haven’t knit hats for my boys in a very long time; one of my goals for this fall is to knit one for each of them (and maybe the cats & dogs too, so they don’t feel left out).

I asked Brandon, a college freshman, what kind of a hat he wanted and he texted me 2 drawings. Do you know the cartoon character it’s based on?

B's hat, sketch 1
Insomniac Steven is not the cartoon character the hat is based on. I’m not sure who Insomniac Steven is; he told me and it instantly flew out of my mind. I should probably ask again.
B's Hat, color drawing
The colored version of Insomniac Steven and his hat.

I have to admit something before I tell you who the hat is based on: I didn’t see the teeth at first. Someone else pointed them out to me and the whole essence of the hat (and Steven’s costume) took a dark turn.

The hat is based on Gir from Invader Zim. Gir is a quirky robot who’s come to earth with Zim, an alien banished to earth to keep him out of his leader’s hair while they do important things. Zim disguises himself as an elementary school kid and Gir as his dog, complete with a dog custume that zips up the front. Brandon has another Gir hat made from fleece that I bought on etsy 6 years ago but I think it’s too small to wear and worn out.

The original Gir hat that I got on etsy. The tongue was glued on and promptly fell off after I snapped this picture.

There are a lot of knit, crochet, and fleece Gir hats out there. All of them are cute, like Gir. None of them are vaguely sinister, like the one Brandon drew. So I poked around on Ravelry for some basic hat-with-ear ideas and ended up borrowing elements from several hats and throwing in some elements of my own.

The bigger eyes for @mistiggan's Gir hat came in & E modeled the finished hat. The eyes don't have a button back, so I attached bar pins to the back of each so he can take them off when he washes it or pin the eyes to other things. 👀
Ethan modeling his brother’s finished hat since B is 3 hours away.

I got the yarn, Buttercream Luxe Craft Soft Knit Solid, on sale at JoAnn. There were other lime green yarns that would have worked, but this is a tube of finely knit nylon jersey fabric and it was more interesting, and softer & smoother, than the other available yarns.

The brim (is it still a brim if it doesn’t flare out? I should check my hat terminology…) of the hat is hemmed to keep it sturdy and eliminate curling altogether. The top seam of the hat is grafted; I could’ve used 3 needle bind off, but I wanted an unbroken transition from front to back. The ears are made by sewing a line to make triangles at the top corners of the hat – easy peasy, not like the short rows I initially envisioned. The black faux seam is slip-stitch crocheted from the inside of the brim around to the front and back of the hat, then to the back inside brim.

The eyes – oh the eyes. What a saga. Brandon picked the eyes out from a selection of eyes I found on etsy; I really didn’t want to make felt eyes and then stitch them to the hat – they would’ve prevented the hat from stretching where they would have been stitched (or glued) on. So he chose the eyes and I ordered the 16mm size because the shop, SteamPunkDream, doesn’t offer button back eyes in any other size. As you can see, 16mm was too small.

These 16mm eyes are way too small. I should've known & ordered the 30mm eyes too. Even 30mm might be a smidge too small, but I just ordered them because you can never have too many dragon eyes - Halloween is coming!
The beady original eyes. Now I have a spare set of eyes to play with.

The 30mm eyes don’t come with a button back, so I used Modge Podge Dimensional Magic to attach bar pin blanks to the backs. Voilà – now he can take the eyes off before he washes the hat and move them around if he wants.

Eye pins curing.

Now: to write the pattern or to not write the pattern, that is the question. I think Buttercream might be discontinuing the yarn I used, so I’d need to find something else and make another. And get test knitters. I realized the other day that asking for and organizing test knitters is what’s really holding me back from writing the pattern for the Hourglass Scarf. I need to get over that.

15/30 Least Favorite Pattern

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 15: What was your least favorite pattern and why?

Oh dear; I hate to publicly dis anyone, especially someone’s creative endeavor, so I’m just not going to name the project or pattern. I needed a special pattern for some hand spun and decided this free lace shawl pattern would be perfect. I started the pattern a frustrating 3 times before understanding the various charts and comprehending that there was a mistake in the originals. I promptly recharted it using Adobe Illustrator (my preferred charting software) so it would be correct, understandable, and so it would fit in my chart keeper. The 4th time I started it, with my new charts, it went swimmingly and it was an enjoyable knit after that.

Now, this was a free pattern and while the pattern notes instruct the knitter to read the original blog posts (I did after the 1st or 2nd cast on) and mention a yahoo support group for the pattern (I avoid yahoo when I can – it’s clunky and there are more elegant solutions for pattern support, like Ravelry groups or really anything else except maybe MySpace), I thought future knitters of this pattern would appreciate my charts. They very well may have, but the designer asked me to remove them from Flickr & Ravelry (back in the day before you could upload photos directly to Ravelry). Other knitters before me had created their own charts and, ignoring the mistakes in the original, she put all these redone charts down to “people preferring their own way of charting lace.” She also didn’t want to get bogged down providing support for for a free pattern. Although I asked once more for her to update the charts (with any correct chart, not just mine), in the end, I respected her request and removed my charts from public view.

The end result for me is that I won’t be taking a chance on any of this designer’s paid designs. Sure, you could make the case that designers put less into free designs and sure, I understand not wanting to support a free pattern when you’ve got a stable of paid patterns to look after. But I also judge a designer on the content of their patterns, free or paid. Were I to offer free patterns, as I’ve contemplated doing in the past, I would treat them as advertising for my other designs and hope that if people like the free one, they might try a paid design.

Anyway, there’s no way I’m going to gamble money (granted, not very much money) on one of this designer’s paid patterns based on the quality of this free pattern and her refusal to acknowledge or fix the problems in it.

14/30 Worst Fiber or Yarn

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 14: What’s the worst yarn/fiber that you’ve worked with and why?

Aside from Lion Brand Homespun, which is the worst and which I already complained about on Day 7, I’m going to call out two sock yarns: Knit Picks Risata (discontinued) and SWTC TOFUtsies.

Socks I #nofilter #handknit #instagram
Risata Socks view 1

Risata sat in my stash for a few years before I used it to make toe up cabled socks that I improvised. It’s an elastic sock yarn, which makes tensioning it a little tricky. It’s also splitty, meaning the plies in the strand of yarn separate easily, and, as it turns out, it makes my legs itchy when I wear these socks. I would make these socks again with another yarn and a few changes and am glad (sorrynotsorry!) this yarn is discontinued.

Socks II #nofilter #handknit #instagram
Risata Socks view 2

SWTC TOFUtsies was my very first sock  yarn purchase. I wanted something interesting to make a baby blanket for my nephew, the first on my husband’s side of the family. I was attracted by the machine washability and the fiber content of TOFUtsies: 50% superwash wool, 25% soy silk, 22.5% cotton, 2.5% chitin, made from shrimp and crab shells – how cool is that?!? I got 3 (4?) skeins of 3 colors thinking I’d make a baby blanket using the yarn doubled and use the leftovers for socks. Here is my first attempt, which just didn’t look attractive to me:

So Called Blanket Progress Close
My So-called Baby Blanket, based on My So Called Scarf by Allison Isaacs

I decided that knitting the yarn double wasn’t going to work well, especially with the Tickle Toes colorway (the bright rainbow one) – it just looked fugly. So, I came up with this: a double knit baby blanket using size 2 (2.75mm) circulars to knit both sides simultaneously in the round. Aside from this quickly becoming tedious, I discovered that the yarn is super splitty and not all that easy to work with. Do you sense a theme in what I dislike in yarns? Yes, if it’s splitty, I don’t like it. I’ll work with it, but it will make me periodically angry (weird to be angry at a yarn, but there it is).

It took me 3 months to finish the project but I did it! Seven years later, my nephew still snuggles with the blanket every night, so it was worth all the aggravation in the end.

TOFUtsies Baby Blanket progress picture


10/30 Favorite Pattern or Designer

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 10: Do you have a favorite pattern or designer??

Kelmscott; I’ve gotten lots of compliments and thanks for this picture – apparently people didn’t think they could wear this sweater with jeans.

Yes: I really love Carol Sunday‘s designs (her designer page on Ravelry is here). I’ve knit two of her patterns: Kelmscott and Old Town. I learned new knitting and garment construction techniques with both patterns. I liked Old Town so much that one of my WIPs is another one that I hope to finish before the weather gets chillier so I can wear it early & often.

My first Old Town

In addition to great pattern quality and challenging techniques, Carol is responsive and supportive in her Ravelry group and on Ravelry in general. She commented on my Kelmscott project before I cast on to recommend that I go down a size from what I was planning to make, which I did with great results. I’m also fairly certain she read through my extensive notes after I finished. I highly, highly recommend her patterns!

3/30 Other WIPs

30 Day Knitting Challenge Day 3: Do you have any other WIPs (works in progress)?

I have a few in-progress designs, both of which I’ve knit but haven’t yet written the pattern for (I put the pro in procrastination). The Hourglass Scarf, last blogged about here, and a cuff and choker set last blogged about here.

Design WIP: Hourglass Scarf
Design WIP: unnamed choker & cuff