Monday, December 29, 2008

The Scrunchable Scarf and Something I Learned

So, here is the purple Scrunchable Scarf, all finished and ends weaved in.

Pattern: Scrunchable Scarf by Susan McConne (free)
Yarn: purple mystery yarn, bulky
Needles: US 10, bamboo
Size: CO 17 sts. It's a bit short (less than 4 feet long) because I bought less than a full skein.
Made For: my friend Jeanne

Remember how I complained about how the yarn (which I'm pretty sure is Lionbrand Homespun) was bunching up because the thicker parts kept getting pushed back? Well, I finally discovered that I didn't have that problem if I just held the yarn correctly. Yes, fellow knitters, I have been holding the working yarn between my right thumb and pointer instead of wrapping it around my fingers. I am ashamed after having read countless books and websites illustrating the correct way to hold the yarn and yet still holding the yarn the wrong way. Well, at least I learned.

So for now, I'm an English knitter, but am trying to learn Continental whenever I'm working on a simpler stitch and with a yarn that doesn't split so much. It's kinda awkward, but maybe I'll get the hang of it. It seems very useful when ribbing or double-knitting.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My name is Mallory and I am a fiber-holic.

Admitting the problem is the first step!!

The next step is to show off what I bought :D I bought these a little while ago, but finally got a Saturday with good light, so I could get good pictures. (Today was a huge picture-taking and internet-updating day.)

Blue Moon Fiber Arts had a 15% off de-stashing sale and I just had to take advantage of that, since I had never bought from them before. I got Icelandic in Basan. It's quite soft, but my yarn smells a bit like vinegar... The colors I got were brighter than those on the website, which I was quite happy with!

I also bought 2 skeins of Twisted in Tigers Eye. It's really pretty!! (I love tigers!)

You remember when I gushed over some yarn from Dragonfly Fiber Design in an earlier post? Well, I bought some. Woo! Here's the merino lace in Auburn. Pretty browns and purples blending together :)

And here's 3 skeins of soy lace yarn in the Tea Rose colorway. Pale yellow with a little bit of shine.

I also got a holiday present from my brother (i.e., I picked it out and my brother gave me his credit card number so I could order it). It was banana silk yarn from an Ebay store that sells natural yarns from Asia, including recycled sari silk and wool/silk blends. The yarn itself is quite cheap, but the shipping is high, so I would recommend buying multiple items. Be nice and they'll give a great shipping discount (I got 4 skeins shipped for the shipping cost of a single skein).

Ok, now I won't buy any more yarn.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Spin Me Right Round

Yippee! Look at what I got in the mail the other day:

Cool, huh? The Etsy store I bought it from burned my knitting title into it. It's 12" long and weighs 1.6 oz. It's much easier to use than my smaller circular spindle. See what I did?

(pretty, huh?)

It's my second handspun - merino superwash in metallic gray and a little purple. I'm not really sure what weight it is... kinda light-worsted I think... Oooo, look how even the thickness is... Wanna know my secret?

It's pencil roving! Ha! No (pre-)drafting required! Actually, it was pretty nice to just get used to the action of spinning without having to worry about fiber thickness or little nubbies/veggie matter that might be in it. I purchased my roving from an Ebay store called The Special Tea Shop. She has TONS of fiber (in addition to other crafts like jewelry and soap-making). You can buy 1-oz packages or bundles up to a pound in weight. She has excellent communication and ships like lightning. I put her on my favorites list :)

A month ago, I bought some "loose roving" from another Ebay/Etsy seller called fraydknot. This was before I had even gotten my hands on a spindle (I think this fiber and my first spindle arrived at around the same time). If you've looked at the pictures from her store, you'll see two things: marvelous colors (sunlight helps, I'm sure) and the fiber has not been combed or carded - not a good place for a beginner to start. I bought 2 different colorways from her for a total of about 5 oz.

This one is called Rose Marie.

When I first received it, I had no idea how to spin it, so I spun the white alpaca first. Later, I asked some friendly folks on Ravelry how I would get started. They said that it would probably be better for it to be combed/carded but that it would be possible, but difficult, to spin straight from the bundle. Now, hand carders and fiber combs cost around $50 or more (though I just found mini hand carders for $11...), so I started thinking about just selling or trading off the fiber. But last night, I decided to give it a whirl. I spun straight from fiber handfuls. Sort of. At first, I grabbed the more linear pieces, but those started running out, so I set down the spindle and started "drafting out" some of the remaining clumps of wool by teasing them out into longer pieces. Then I kept spinning. It was a little slow, because I had to inch the twist up the fiber clumps to "capture" all the frays and curls into the twist, but I think I'm getting used to it! The yarn is wildly uneven, definitely novelty yarn, but I think it looks cool! The beginning part is much more uneven than the parts I spun later.

It's taking me a while, so I'm still not done with the 2 ounces I bought, but it's nice that I can actually spin it instead of trading/selling it off.

As for actual knitting, I've finally finished something! Well, technically, half of something. I have started a pair of the Hand/Wristwarmers and I've finished one of them. However, I found that I was knitting really tightly, I think because it was my first time using DPNs and I didn't want loose stitches at the needle joins and I didn't want the aluminum needles to fall out. So... it is too small - I can force it onto my wrist, but it's pretty tight, especially around the hand/palm. But, seeing as how they're my first mitten-type-things, I don't want to rip it all out, so I think I'll finish the other wrist warmer and give them to someone with smaller hands.

I s'pose this incident demonstrates the value of swatching and determining gauge...

I also started Quant, an entrelac headband, with the Cool Splashers-dyed yarn I showed a while back. I'm not extraordinarily far, but I'm getting used to it. Here's what I have so far:

Impressive, eh? Haha... I stopped at the first diamond, because I wasn't sure how to "pick up and purl" the 6 selvedge stitches on the base triangle. I searched some entrelac tutorials but none of them really explained it. But today, I found the Knitting Help video on "picking up stitches and knitting" that demonstrated it really well. So I'll try that next. If anyone has other tips/explanations, feel free to comment :)

And one last thing... I picked up that "Simple" Blanket that I started long ago and frogged back to the row below the lace row. It's still on hold though, because there are so many cool things I'm starting. Ha, if you haven't noticed, I seem to have knitting/fiber ADD... I have 5 WIPs (well, 4, I just need to weave in the ends on the purple Scrunchable Scarf), have started spinning and dyeing, and I have over 300 projects in my Ravelry Queue. Eh. At least I'm having fun :)

Hey, look - it's Berniece!!

Puppy pictures! She's so cute :D

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Yummy Yarn (That I Can't Have)

I'm pretty sure I looked through these two fiber stores for at least 2 hours at work today. I'm such a bum sometimes.

Dragonfly Fibers has really beautiful colors and is actually pretty affordable. If I hadn't already spent lots of money on Ebay and Blue Moon Fibers (hey - they had a de-stashing sale!) and the Knitting-Warehouse (it was also on sale! And tigers are my favorite animals!), I would totally buy her Auburn Squishy Lace Yarn. Mmmmmm!!! Pretty browns mixed with touches of deep purple - an excellent color combination :D This Summer Kisses Sock Yarn is also really pretty. Another genius color combo!

Sanguine Gryphon Fiber Arts not only has an awesome name (wink!), but also has really nice earthy and rich colors with names like Fig Tree, Ice Flower, A Fire is Smoking, Sharing Immortality, and... Nasal Explosion? Hehe...

I just read a Ravelry thread today talking about how the name of the yarn/fiber can actually have an effect on its appeal. I completely agree! I think that naming a colorway can be pretty important and some names can "entrance" people, as one poster said, and when you're selling fiber, entrancing people can pretty good for business ;) Especially when most of them have fiber addictions already!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

First Yarn Dyeing Experiment! + Lessons Learned

Before I dye my handspun, I decided to try dyeing some yarn I bought a while ago (on sale too!) with Kool-Aid-type stuff. So at the store, there were two brands of drink mix: Kool-Aid and Cool Splashers. The Cool Splashers were 50% cheaper (read: 10 cents less) than the Kool-Aid and contained more ounces of powder per packet, so, being the cheapskate I am (usually), I bought the Cool Splashers ;)

The yarn I used was one ball of white Novita Florica sport weight wool (50 g, 1.75 oz). It was also superwash, which I think is a good idea if you're dyeing yarn for the first time. You can stir and disturb the yarn all you want and don't have to worry about felting :) (Which is probably why sock yarn is so popular to dye!)

The first thing I did was to re-skein the yarn into a super long loop. Here it is twisted into a long hank:

(With winter coming, my bathroom was the only one with enough light to give a good picture... which is weird because it's on the north side of the house.)

Then I soaked the yarn in 1/2 cup of vinegar and enough water to submerge it all. Fiber floats, so I weighed it down with some ladles. I'm not sure if that's really necessary because of capillary action, but I did it anyway.

Most people say to soak it for at least a half hour. I let mine sit for an hour and a half. Meanwhile, I prepared the dyes. The general rule of thumb is 1 packet per ounce of yarn, but I wanted super-bright colors, so I emptied 2 packets of strawberry, orange, and lemonade into three separate glasses and added 1 cup of the same liquid in which the yarn was soaking plus 1 extra tablespoon of vinegar. Pretty colors!

(Pom Tea is awesome!)

I then divided my yarn loop into three, roughly equal sections and submerged them into the glasses.

Then, I filled the pot with water and put it on the stove:

Unforunately, the glass with the orange drink mix cracked and orange dye leaked into the pot.

After leaving it like that for about 10 min to let the yarn soak up the dye a little more, I took it all out. The yellow dye was pretty much exhausted (not much could be done about the orange...), but the red wasn't quite done.

So I decided to finish it all with the microwave. Here they are after microwaving on high for 2 min x 2.

You can see that the color has pretty much gone out of the liquid, leaving it cloudy or clear. The water was still hot, so I let it cool in the glasses/plate for the better part of a day. I then took it out, rinsed it with cold/room temp water. No color leaked out. It was pretty cool! I let it hang to dry, with the red hanging at the bottom, just in case.

Later, I decided that the yellow section was not strong enough, so I re-dyed that section. I microwaved 2 cups of water + 1/4 cup of vinegar for 2 min and mixed in one packet of lemonade drink mix, submerged the yellow section of yarn, and let it sit for about a half hour. By that time, the dye was exhausted. (Additional internet surfing revealed that drink mix is one of the easiest things to dye yarn with and you may not even need vinegar or very much heat at all... unless you're impatient I guess.) I let the water cool a little and then washed the yarn in warm water, which turned out to be a mistake because a little of the red/orange bled into the yellow section. It's not really that noticeable in an individual strand though. Here it is after it dried (sorry for the yellow-ness of the picture again):

And... (drumroll please...) here it is re-skeined into a smaller hank:

I've realized that there's really no reason to re-skein like this if you're going to knit from it because you're just going to have to re-wind it into a ball. However, I think the idea is to see all the different colors next to each other. And I have to agree with Presents Knits: yarn really is prettiest in the hank :) I liked these colors so much I made it into my blog header, yay! (PS - image edited with Picnik, a genius online image-editing website, which is, of course, free!)

And finally, lessons I learned:
  1. Don't use cheap wooden chopsticks to mix the dye. It absorbs some of the dye and the splinters (because they're cheap) get caught in the yarn. Use plastic utensils instead. I switched to disposable spoons halfway through.
  2. Using the microwave is a lot easier than using the stove. Especially if you're cooking-impaired like me :) And if you are going to use the stove, get a big enough pot so the water comes close to the level of the dye in the glass/jar.
  3. Don't use cheap glasses. They crack.
  4. For Cool Splashers drink mix, 1-2 packets of strawberry is probably enough for an ounce of yarn. Use 2-3 packets of orange and 4 or more of lemonade to get saturated color. Or maybe try Kool-Aid for the yellow.
  5. Until you know that the color won't bleed (especially in warm/hot water), rinse each section of color separately.
Here are some sites that helped me get started:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hello Blogger-People!

After a little research (and creating accounts on a number of different blog sites), I've decided to move my blog from Mindsay to Blogger. Mindsay is very nice, extremely user-friendly (it has improved a great deal in the time I've been there), has some great people, and I feel a loyalty with it since it was my very first blog site (for my "regular life" journal), but it doesn't have nearly as many features as Blogger does... although I've just noticed that Blogger does not have an Undo/Redo option on the Create Post page. Additionally, Mindsay requires that people sign up for an account in order to comment, which is unfortunate.

Out of the few (free) blog sites I looked at and sampled, Blogger was perhaps the most user-friendly and intuitive to navigate.

So, here I am :)

I had so few posts on my Mindsay blog that I just copied and pasted them over to this one (since Mindsay isn't on the list from which to import posts).

A Couple New Projects and... My First Handspun!! Yay!!

So I've started a couple new projects. I am ignoring that darn baby blanket for a while because I found a few mistakes that I made 4 rows ago and I don't feel like ripping it back right now. Boo.

Anyways, here's the scarf I'm making for my dad:

And I just realized that I took a picture of the "wrong side" of the scarf. The other side is the actual stitch, but this side looks pretty cool too I call it "Dad's Brown and White Rice Scarf." (I'm not actually sure if he'll like it... he already has a scarf and my dad likes to keep things simple... usually.)
Yarn: Love Knit (Brown Sepia 1205), Caron Dazzleaire (Off White 2615)
Needles: US 15

Holding the two yarns together, CO 16 sts
Purl one row, substituting a K1 for the last st
Row 1: sl1 wyif, *K1, P1, rep from * until last st
Row 2: sl1 wyif, P rest of row, substituting a K1 for the last st
Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until desired length achieved, ending on Row 2

* sl1 wyif = slip 1 as to knit, with yarn in front
I also started the Scrunchable Scarf:

[Note: Because of my sleep/work schedule, I have been "forced" to take pictures at night. I don't like the pictures I took with flash, so you are stuck with these yellowed photos.]

The pattern's real easy and very pretty, and the yarn is very soft, but not too easy to work with. The loopy parts keep getting pushed back and scrunched up. I bought it from Ebay without a label, so I don't know which brand it is. Eh, we'll see how it goes.

AND... now for a pretty exciting bit. I just spun my own skein of yarn!!! I bought some undyed alpaca fiber from Ebay (where else??) and used Megan LaCore's Videos (1 2 3) to guide me.

So here's the fiber. I pre-drafted a little to smooth it out and take out some leafy/veggie matter. I didn't get all of it out, so my yarn's a bit dirty. Eh. I still think it's cool I intentionally left the fiber a little uneven to make the yarn sort of thick-and-thin (intentionally = I just didn't try very hard to even it out because I knew I wouldn't get it very even in the first place, it being my first time spinning and all). Also, here's my drop spindle!

And, here's half of it spun up.

Here's all of it wrapped around a chair back and twisted into a mini hank. (As you can tell, like a proud mama, I took TONS of pictures of my first handspun )

Then, I heated some water on the stove in two big pots to near boiling. I squirted a little Dawn dish soap into one and carefully submerged the yarn into it. I let it soak for a few minutes and then carefully (!) transferred it to the other pot of water only and let that soak for a while (I read that disturbing the yarn too much can felt it). Then, I took it out, wrapped it in a clean towel, and squeezed it to take out some water. In order to let it fully dry and to set the twist in the yarn, I hung it up overnight and weighed it down with a can of Progresso soup. But, I think I put too much twist into the fiber - some parts of the yarn kinked up on itself and when I took off the can of soup, the hank didn't hang straight and twisted a little (i.e., it wasn't balanced... I think this is the right terminology).

And finally, I re-wound it into a much longer skein to prepare for dying.

I haven't done the dying yet, but will post pictures up when it's done.

That's it for now!

[Note: Originally posted Nov 24, 2008 on my previous blog.]