Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coloring Your Yarn

I have finally tried my hand at dying yarn!

It's something I always thought about trying, but most sources will tell you that you must use often harmful dyes, which require masks to use, and require you to discard any utensils you use during the dye process. I am not comfortable using a chemical that I have to have a mask to be around, especially when I can't mask up my pets.

Then I stumbled upon a site that outlined how to use vinegar and food dye to color your yarn, with the same result, without the harmful drawbacks - and it's a frugal alternative to buying single acid dyes that cost 5 dollars or more a piece. I had me a spare skein of bare yarn lying around, and I decided it was time to try this out.

Implements Needed:

1. A skein of bare yarn, be it alpaca, merino, or wool. (I used 100% wool, from Knit Picks)
2. A clean sink (Time to get those dishes done!)
3. At least 2 cups of vinegar.
4. A set of food coloring. (Mine were McCormick)
5. A working crockpot. Because it's food coloring, you will not ruin it!

The Night Before:

Note: The crockpot isn't on during this step, I just didn't want to dirty two dishes unnecessarily, and when we do "cook" the yarn, it'll be in this dish anyway.

For starters, I grabbed my crockpot, poured 3/4ths cup of vinegar in, and then added some water. After getting my yarn settled in this bath, I added enough water to just cover my yarn, popped the top on, and walked away. You'll want to let this sit overnight, if you really want your yarn to absorb your colors. If you don't want your yarn so bright, you don't need to do this soak. I did end up checking on it later on, and added more water as the yarn had absorbed some.

The science here is, really simply, the vinegar is an acid that works to open up all the crazy little fibers in our sheep hair, so that when the color and heat are introduced, all the color can be soaked up. Without the acid, your yarn won't absorb the color, and you'll be the new owner of a skein of off white, or oddly brown yarn.

The Next Day:

In a nice clean sink, drain the water off and gently rinse out the yarn. Don't go too crazy here, just give it a quick run under the tap, I did this when it was still in the crockpot bowl. Refill the water so that it's just covering the yarn, you can add more, so that your dyes float around more and mix more, but that's up to you. Then add 1/2 cup of vinegar.

Pop it back into crockpot heating mechanism, put it on high, and wait until the water is hot enough to steam. Roughly 2 hours, depending on your crockpot. Do your nails, take the trash out, or whatever it is that makes you happy. (Knit, perhaps?)

Near the tail end of the heating process, it's time to make your dyes! If you are using gel, or any food coloring that isn't liquid then you absolutely have to dissolve it in boiling water. I used liquid food coloring, so I didn't have to worry about that.

I used a 1/2 cup of water to dilute each color in. I made them pretty dark, but once added to the pot
 and the water therein, they lightened up. I'm sure there's an art to this sort of thing - but don't look at me for the secrets, I haven't figured it out yet. Then I did what other dyers would probably say is a bad thing, a very bad thing indeed, but I skip to the beat of my own drum, dammit - I grabbed my spoon, lightly held sections of my yarn down, and added a few drops of color here and there. Right from the bottle. I swished the spoon around some, and then finally walked away when I was happy with the witches' brew before me.

Now your yarn sits. It's out of your hands. My yarn sat for about an hour to an hour and a half before it had soaked up all the color. My water was 100% clear, seriously, your water should look like this. (Which is actually what my water looked like after the yarn was removed for rinsing.) If it doesn't, the yarn has not absorbed all the color it can.

I was pretty satisfied with my first yarn dyeing, so I turned off the crockpot, and let the yarn alone until the water was room temperature again. I really don't recommend getting hasty and skipping this step, you're using an animal fiber here, and the chances of felting all this beautiful newly crafted yarn is just too high. Now, if the coloring wasn't exactly what you were expecting, it's fine to add more coloring and then let it sit until the water is clear again.

Once the water your yarn is setting in is room temperature, it's time to give it a rinse. I dabbed some baby shampoo in my hand, got it nice and bubbly and very lightly washed the yarn out in cold water. Rinse it out real nice like.

I then threw it in a lingerie bag, and put it through the spin cycle in my washer (which is a top loader). This step isn't necessary, I just wanted to get as much water as possible out. If you don't have a lingerie bag, and don't want a tangled mess of yarn, just wring it out as best and lightly as possible.

Then it's time to hang it up as best possible, as I did, to dry. I tried to have it drape across two hangers, for even drying. My final color was a little more pastel-y than I had anticipated, so next time I will definitely be going heavier with the food coloring added, but I'm still pretty pleased with what I got. I even have the perfect project.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Christmas FO #1

My first Christmas knitting project is complete!

I know it's simple, but I also think it's very chic in it's very own way. And hopefully my little sister will agree.

Pattern located here:

All credit for the pattern to The Purl Bee. I found this pattern via Ravelry.

For those who don't know about the forum visit: Knitting Paradise

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Twisted Stitches

Using cables in knitting is an easy way to incorporate both feminine and masculine touches to a project. Using a Celtic knot can make a pair of mittens interesting and strong for your special man friend, and just a braid can make a hat pretty and beloved by a mother or sister. In this tutorial, I'll be showing you how to cable without having to use a cable needle.

Before we get started, I'd like to cover a few basics about this technique. For one, it's not my favorite way to cable, but when you've left the house with your project, find yourself with time to kill, and then realize you didn't bring your cable needle along this technique can be a real life saver. There are drawbacks, however. My rule of thumb for using this technique is simple - if I'm doing more than a 6 stitch cable, meaning if I'm actively cabling any more than 3 stitches, I won't use it. The work gets too tight, and it's much too easy to lose those stitches and unravel hours of work - which doesn't save anyone any time. But when used over a small number of stitches, it can help speed you up by taking out the repetition of picking up and putting down your cable needle.

Left Cable (Often LCT, LCB, or C(#St)B)

A left cable twist is a cable that will point, or go off to, the left side of your work when the right side of your work is facing you. To create a left cable twist, the cabled stitches will be held to the back of your work.

Right Cable (Often RCT, RCF, or C(#St)F)

A right cable twist, on the other hand, will go off to the right side of your work. To create a right cable, the cabled stitches will be held to the front of your work.

And that's it! It's really that simple. Usually cabling is done with a cable needle, or just a double pointed needle, where you'll slip the stitches onto the cable needle, hold them in their respective place while you knit the stationary stitches, and then knitting off of the cable needle. This makes it easy to not lose track of stitches, or have them come unraveled. Cabling without a needle is a little (or a lot) more daring, but if your cable pattern is a simple braid, like the example above, or is a cable pattern worked over a small amount of stitches, I think you'll be just fine.

Left Cable Without a Cable Needle:

1. Work up to the stitches that would normally be cabled. Now, skip the normally cabled stitches (in my case it is the first two stitches of the stockinette panel) to the next two (again, this in my case, your pattern may be worked over three, or more stitches). Insert your right hand needle into the back of these stitches.

2. Here's where it gets scary. Mentally steel yourself, my friend, it will all be alright. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

Now you're going to slide the preceding stitches (the 2 that would normally be slipped onto a cable needle) off the left hand needle, and slip the two stitches you just went into the back of onto your right hand needle. (Do this slowly, don't jerk your knitting around, and you shouldn't have any problems.)

Taking your left hand needle, scoop those free stitches up. Again, do it slowly. Going fast is instinct, but if you jerk too much you're bound to have those free stitches unravel at some point.

Now you're going to pull the 2 stitches your transferred to your right hand needle up and slip them back onto the left hand needle, in front of the two previously free stitches. (I kinda messed up and didn't get a picture of that, sorry!) Now all you have to do is knit across the now cabled stitches. Easy peasy. Essentially all we did was rearrange the stitches on the needles themselves, instead of doing it with the help of the cable needle. 

Right Cable Without a Cable Needle: 

Now we'll move on to the right cable steps. A right slanting cable calls for the stitches to be held behind the work. As you can imagine, we'll be reversing the directions above. Again work up to the stitches you'd normally slip onto the cable needle, skip those stitches and insert your needle into the front of the two stitches (or whatever your pattern specifies) after. 

Just as before, slide the stitches to the tip of your left hand needle, letting the first two stitches fall free, and pulling the stitches you went into off the left hand needle, and on to the right hand needle. Using your left hand needle, pick up the free stitches. Then slip the two stitches transferred to your right needle back to the left hand needle. 

And then all you do is knit along as normal! 

We're done! That's how you cable sans the actual cable needle. As always, if you have any questions feel free to comment, email, smoke signal, or telegram! But the first two really are ideal. 

If a video would work better for you, I have found the couple listed below helpful. 


Monday, September 17, 2012

And It Begins

I got a new laptop! It's nothing too fancy, but it will do the job for the time being (I plan on updating all the fancy stuff once the PCS is handled.) I'm ecstatic to be back in action, and I'm itching to pump out some patterns and new knitting and crochet postings.

The season for Christmas knitting is upon us, fellow knitters! I've been feverishly clicking through the pages of Ravelry (the last few weeks on my phone) trying to find the perfect patterns that are perfect for the special people in my life. Men, of course, are always the hardest recipients to knit for (What do they want? Scarves? Hats? Gloves? Remote control snuggies?!) My husband actually made it easy for me this year, with direct requests. But I still have a brother and father to scour the lost annexes of knitting on the internet to please.

I could also buy them more traditional gifts, but what's the fun in that?

Here are some links to a few of my Christmas knitting projects, and some of my all time, go to favorites.

Bella's Mittens - I've got to be honest here, I've never seen the Twilight movies, nor read the books. But I fell in love with the look of these mittens. A couple of my gift list friends will get these, in different colors, obviously. They're a relatively quick knit, and I found that cabling these without a cable needle wasn't too tight. (Post to come on that!)

Katherine Hat - I just finished one of these for my very own mother. The cabling ends up costing your more in yarn than average hats, but the finished piece is just gorgeous.

Shroom - With a nice bulky yarn, this hat is ideal for that quick project, especially for someone who falls into that younger category, and may not be too fond of intricate fair isle, or cabling work.

Skyrim Dragon Mittens - These are by no means a quick knit, and I wouldn't recommend them to a new knitter. But gosh darnit, they're a beautiful finished piece and they will ensure that the gamer in your life will be your best friend forever.

What is your go to Christmas knitting gift? A hat? Maybe a nice set of mittens? Share the patterns to help ease the worries of the rest of us!