New and Revised FOs

Several days ago I finished my blue summer sweater and complained that it felt too big.  Remember?  Well, I put it through the washer and dryer and I think it’s a little smaller.  What do you think?



I also did a chain stitch (an embroidery stitch) all around the neckline so that it wouldn’t stretch too much:

I think it’s better.  It feels better and that’s what counts.  I will wear it for sure now!

Two days ago I finished sewing a summer top that I wanted to get done before we head off to California.  Of course I didn’t make the pattern as directed.  That wouldn’t be like me at all!

I was supposed to put in a zipper in the center back.  I didn’t.  With the deep v-neck I didn’t think it would be a problem to get in and out of it.  Well, I think if I make it again I’ll use fabric that has a little stretch to it, or I’ll put in a zipper.  I can get it on and off, but just.

On the inside, the pattern instructions would have you finish the band around the middle like this:

That just seemed silly to me.  Why leave it with interfacing showing when everywhere else in the top all those sections are lined?  So I cut some other fabric I had and lined it.  Better, yes?

I’m very happy with how it turned out and I would like to make another one.  Sewing time always fights with knitting time.  You know who usually wins.

While DB was taking these photos this afternoon he also took a few of the cat, who is still with us.  How can an animal move less, and more slowly, every day and still be hanging in there?  He’s still cute as ever.

My Own Bird’s Nest

Last Wednesday night I went to a one evening class at DIY Textile School to learn how to make something from fabric and “stuff”.  I ended up making a bird’s nest and I have to say I’m darned proud of it.

We had to bring a glass bowl to use as a mold.  We then proceeded to cover it with whatever stuff we wanted, using gel medium to glue it down.

Ginni had lots of stuff on hand we could use to cover our bowls with.  She had bright colored silks and organza fabrics.  Feathers, string, ribbons, wood fibers, etc etc etc.  I was inspired by the small bowl shape and all the natural things on hand to use.  I used wood fibers soaked in water and stretched out, feathers, and plant fibers that looked like stuff birds would love to pick up and carry off to build with.

Here you can see a couple of other projects being worked on.  At the left if are a couple of finished vases made bright colored fabric and fibers.

At the end of the night we wrapped our projects in plastic wrap to take them home to dry.

And when I got home I unwrapped it, but left it still on the bowl form, and hung it upside down on a bottle to dry.

A day later I took it off the glass bowl and it looks like this:

You can see that it’s translucent and all the layers of stuff show up.  Here’s a photo of the inside, looking down into it:

Those white string bits are actually bleached wood bits that were soaked in water first to make them flexible.

It’s still not super hard and sturdy, but I will paint some paver pol on the inside which will make it hard and water tight.  You could actually cover a glass vase using this technique, paint it with paver pol on the inside, and use it as a flower vase.

Here’s a photo of another example the teacher had made.  It’s simple, but really beautiful.

I also learned that you can use this technique to do loads of things.  I now have big plans to transform our small downstairs WC.  It’s covered in ugly white wallpaper and frankly needs a complete remodel.  No money for THAT, but I can cover those walls with fun stuff like paper fish, cloth fish, photos of fish, shells from the beach, rushes from the dunes…… it will be amazing.


Katy's Cozy Crafty Corner

One Thursday night every month, Katy hosts Katy’s Cozy Crafty Corner at the Nieuwe Anita in Amsterdam.  All kinds of crafters are welcome and this last Thursday night there were some non-crafters also there.  The place was packed!  The photo above is the front of the space, with the best light.  The bar area on the right serves coffee and tea and the most amazing cupcakes ever.

There’s also a room behind the camera, and a bar serving craftinis.  I didn’t partake of the hard beverages, but they sure looked good.  That room was also full.  The place was so full that we ran out of chairs and people started sitting on the floor.

This was only the second time I’ve been to Katy’s.  It’s usually late for me since the party really gets hopping after 9 and I still have to get back to Haarlem afterwards.  I will certainly try to go more often as it was echt gezellig.  If you are in the Amsterdam area and are interested in coming by, drop me a message in the comments and I’ll send your email address to Katy.

Handwerkbeurs Rotterdam

NE handwerkbeurs 2010

Friday I, and several of my knitting buddies, went to the Ahoy in Rotterdam for the Handwerkbeurs.  This beurs (fair, show, convention of sorts with stands set up for each company selling goods) is held twice a year, once in Rotterdam and once in Zwolle.  This was my first time going to Rotterdam.

I had also signed up for the class with Nicky Epstein (the woman in purple above).  Man this woman has some energy!  She was talking and moving a mile a minute the whole time.  Several times she was asked to slow down since the Dutch women couldn’t follow her shotgun English.  And luckily Brent (from the Utrecht SnB group) agreed to translate.  The photo above shows my favorite of her designs that she showed us.  I like the fact that it is architectural and not typical of knitting patterns.

What did I learn?  Not a lot actually.  I did learn (or rather reconfirm) that nearly everything I want to learn about knitting I can learn from a book.  That’s how I learned to knit, and until two years ago I had never taken a class in my life.  The only reason I continue taking classes is to meet the designers and find out their story.  THAT is interesting to me.  How do they feel about their craft?  What gets them excited enough to continue doing what they do?  What are their lives like?  Frankly the only technique I’ve learned from a class, and really needed a class to learn, was brioche knitting.  A brioche class from Nancy Marchant is worth every penny.

I didn’t buy much at the beurs itself.  Why would I when I have a house full of yarn?  I did buy yarn from the “Belgian Boys”  Bart and Francis.  They have the most unique yarn anywhere.  I bought 100g of 100% soft silk, undyed,  that I can’t wait to try dyeing!  It’s really beautiful stuff.  I also bought some glow in the dark thread from them.  That could be fun in the winter.

I also bought buttons.  Lots of buttons.  “Henk” (Ravelry name) showed me the button stand and that was all that was needed to get me filling up a basket of lovelies to buy.  What will I do with them?  I don’t know.  But they were too nice to pass up.  It’s hard to find good buttons in this country so when you do, don’t pass them up!

My best purchase, and one I’m very excited about, is my new floor lamp!  I bought a daylight lamp that makes big light for working under or just sitting under.  I think this will have a double advantage – I’ll have good light for knitting during the long dark winter AND I’ll have a daylight lamp to sit under every day to help with my SADD.  It’s already so dark here!  The sun doesn’t come up until after 8 and it’s dark before 6pm.  It’s only mid-October.  Soon I’ll be going to work and coming home in the dark.  I’m so curious to see if this lamp makes a difference to my panic stricken feeling deep in the winter (“I have to get out of here!” feeling).

In general I was a little disappointed in the Rotterdam version of the Handwerkbeurs.  It was too quiet.  There wasn’t a good buzz in the place.  I don’t think the sellers did as well as they do in Zwolle.  The one thing that was better than Zwolle was that there were no classes in the middle of the floor with teachers trying to teach over the noise and busyness of a fair.  That’s really a silly way to organize a class!

And that was Rotterdam.  Tot Zwolle!

With Some Success

Last weekend I dyed some yarn, with some success.  I think I was just a little too ambitious.  I only have 1 big canning pot and one smaller “spaghetti” pot and I dyed 6 skeins.  In one afternoon.  With natural dyes.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I started the process on Saturday by mordanting the yarn in alum and cream of tartar.  Man that stuff stinks when it’s cooking!  It kind of upsets my stomach.  I don’t think it is poison or anything, just yucky.  I had the windows and doors open and the stove fan at full force.  Still.  Also on Saturday I made the dye baths.  I had some logwood left over from my first natural dyeing experiment, so I put that in a cut up stocking and boiled it for a few hours, then set it aside to cool.  The dried weld plant I bought at UK Knit Camp Market from The Mulberry Dyer.  Same story.  Put it into a stocking, tie the knot at the end and throw it in the pot to boil for a few hours.

Then the fun began Sunday.  First I dyed the yellow.  I put two skeins into the pot with the dye bath and put on the heat.  After about 20 minutes I could see it was turning a dull dark yellow/brown.  This was not what I was after!  I wanted that big bold bright yellow that I had read about.  So I quickly got out the trusty laptop and Googled “brighten weld dye” and found out that my water is too soft.  If you want bright weld color, your water has to be hard, with chalk in it.  CHALK.  Damn where was I going to get some quickly?  I Googled “chalk” and went to a wikipedia page all about chalk and found out that it is the main ingredient in antacid tablets.  RENNIE!  I know we have some somewhere.  I went upstairs and dug through cupboards and found a pack of 18 tablets.

I took one tablet and threw it into a glass, ground it up, then threw it into the pot.  Nothing.  Then I dipped out some of the pot water into the cup and ground a tablet into that.  I could see the water turning bright yellow!  Ha!  It works, you just need more tablets.  I ended up throwing all 18 into the pot.  And cooked.  Look what I got!

merino dyed with weld

The first and middle skeins were the first 2 in the pot.  The skein at the very top was thrown in after about 45 minutes.  The lightest skein was just an afterthought when the cooking was done and I took everything off the stove.

What DIDN’T go well was that I stirred too much and the darkest skeins are a little bit felted in places.  They are still good and very usable, but I will have to be more careful next time.  I was doing all that stirring trying to get those tablets to dissolve and mix in!  But good colors, yes?

I’m going to keep the first one (at the bottom of the photo) just like it is.  It’s the best one.  The others will be overdyed, with indigo to make green, and the lightest I’m not sure yet what I will do with it.

So, by then it was 4 in the afternoon but I hadn’t even started the logwood yet.  I cleaned my pots and threw in the logwood dye and yarn.  It seemed to me right away that I had too rich a dye.  The color was kind of brown.  Good old Google came to my rescue again.  I read on a few sites that if your logwood color is brown it means too much logwood, not enough water.  I drained off half the dye water (which I didn’t keep because I had nothing to put it in!  Must get more dye pots!) and filled in more water and carried on cooking.  Again, great color.  I’m really happy with these.

merino dyed with logwood

So, now all I have left to do is indigo and I’ll have a rainbow of colors (red and orange from the first session, yellow and purple here, and blue and green with the indigo).

I bought a very small indigo kit, also from The Mulberry Dyer.  I’ve never dyed with indigo and it sounds very very complicated.  I’ll have to sit down and really think about it before starting.  But I can’t wait.  I have 2 skeins of undyed wool left, plus the yellow to over dye.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the purple dye stain off my tiled sink…..

Yarny Days

No, the above photo is not spaghetti with some weird tomato.  That’s yarn in a pot of dye.  Results coming up later in the post.

Ginni came over yesterday and we dyed yarn all afternoon.  I wanted to try some natural dyes and she wanted to come along.  I had never tried natural dyes before and was really curious to see what would work and what wouldn’t.  I’d spent a lot of time looking on the internet, and also reading a book or two.  I thought I had found flawless recipes and had all the needed ingredients.  You just never know what will happen with naturals dyes, as we found out.

As you can see above, besides seeing Ginni, we had only 1 big pot and 1 smaller pot.  We had to be really organized to try the 3 colors we wanted to try.  To prepare for the day I had mordanted 4 skeins (they were all fingering weight, 100% wool) with alum and cream of tartar the day before.  They would be used to dye with logwood and madder.  My recipe book said that to dye yellow with black oak I didn’t need to mordant ahead of time.  Ha.

We boiled up the logwood (held inside a cut off piece of stocking) and then cooked up 2 skeins of wool in it.  We let it cook, just below the boil, for about an hour.

Second we tried the black oat.  We did a 1-pot deal with the mordant and dye all in one pot.  This was not successful at all.  The yarn looked nice when we took it out, but it also all washed out afterwards.  Pfffff.  We should have mordanted ahead of time so that the dye would stick to the yarn, not to the mordant in the pot.  Next time.

Then we cooked up some madder.  Wow did that impress with the amount of dye solution produced and the resulting color!  We dyed 2 skeins in madder and then with what was left of the bag of madder we poured in more water, some alum, and 2 more skeins of yarn.  This one we let sit overnight hoping that would help the resulting orange to stay in the yarn.

Ginni got experimental with a few skeins and tried logwood exhaust overdyed with madder exhaust, which came out a lovely salmon color.

Here are the results:

From left:

2 skeins Logwood, pre mordant in alum and cream of tartar
2 skeins Madder, same mordant as above
2 skeins Madder, lower temp, no pre mordant, alum in the pot with the dye
1 skein Logwood exhaust overdyed with madder exhaust
1 skein Madder exhaust, no pre mordant
3 skeins Black Oak, which washed out, only the slightest change from undyed

I’m really happy with how this all came out, except for the yellow of course.  The colors are muted and old world-y and lovely.  Once I get them caked up I’ll post more photos.  I already have plans for the purple, red and orange together.  They’d make a lovely brioche vest.

Yarny Nights

It’s been warm this week.  We’ve had a couple of summer showers, but mostly it’s been warm and sunny and beautiful.  I’m so glad I’ve had this week off work and could fully enjoy it!  Above is a photo of Utrecht, taken Tuesday night.  It was MUGGY and warm that evening but still it just wouldn’t rain.

I went to Utrecht Tuesday night to visit the Stitch ‘n Bitch group there.  Carla invited me and told the group I’d be bringing Yarns Apart yarn to show.  Everyone was very welcoming and it was a gezellig evening.  I’d be happy to go back again, all the way from Haarlem.

The next evening I went to a knitting class taught by Chris Bylsma, organized by EFN and hosted by DIY Textile School.  What a lovely lady she is!  Also very knowledgeable and wonderful teacher.  I’d take another class from her in a minute.  The usual suspects were there, which made it of course another gezellig evening.  How many gezellig evenings can you stand in one week?

Trying my Hand at Hand-Dyeing

The above photo was taken yesterday afternoon, and shows my hand painting set up for my 1 skein of yarn.  I was going to put the best photo of the effect on the top here, but that would spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it?!  You’ll have to look through the whole blog post to get to the good stuff.

Above you can see my table up in the attic where there are normally clean clothes waiting to be put away.  Not yesterday!  Instead I covered it with newspaper, then made a rectangle of plastic wrap where the damp yarn will be laid out.  The pot in the center holds the yarn that soaked in water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  That soaked over night even though such a long soak wasn’t necessary.  I just ran out of time the day before to actually do the dyeing.  The jars of dye are:  red, yellow and green all-in-one acid dyes (which I bought from Tall Yarns at iKnit London last summer).  The jar of blue dye is actually 3 packets of Kool-Aid.  I didn’t have any other blue to use.

Above you can see how I laid out the yarn and painted it with dye.  I had not yet done the green at the top of the photo.  I could really tell the difference between the acid dyes and the Kool-Aid.  The acid dyes, especially the red, took very little of the liquid to achieve a completely saturated color.  The Kool-Aid on the other hand had to be dabbed with dye water over and over again to get the color in the yarn.  It was a lot more work than the acid dyes.

I tried my hand at bleeding the colors together to get an orange.  This worked pretty well.  It took very VERY little red on the brush to overpower the yellow.  I did some blending too between the yellow and blue, but the Kool-Aid dye didn’t play very nicely and didn’t blend very well.

After making sure everything was as saturated as possible, and there was no dye water running around to contaminate the other colors (meaning, that all the dye was taken up by the yarn and the water around was pretty clear), I wrapped the plastic wrap around the yarn.  I then put another layer of plastic wrap (in 4 pieces) around it, from the top and wrapping around the bottom.  This made a pretty neat package without anything leaking out.  I then coiled it up and it was ready for steaming.

The day before I had bought a plastic colander that I thought would fit into my biggest pot.  Unfortunately I don’t have a big canning pot (do you have any idea how hard it is to buy canning supplies in Europe?  Darn near impossible.).  This worked out just fine though.

The colander fit perfectly and the pot lid laid nicely on top.  I put about 2 inches of water in the bottom, brought it to a boil and steamed the coil for 20 minutes, then turned it over, and steamed for another 25 minutes.  I then put the coil outside in the back garden to cool off.

It looked kind of melty and weird and I really didn’t know what to expect when I unwrapped it.  I let it cool completely without disturbing it.  The plastic wrap actually came off without too much trouble and only melted a little to itself.  The yarn looked amazing!  Here’s a photo of it drying upstairs, after I had rinsed it for 5 minutes continuously.

Look at those brilliant colors!  Wow! 🙂

This morning it was completely dry and I twisted it up into this.

And then I couldn’t help myself.  I caked it.

I just love it.  I can’t wait to make socks from this.  I know, they will be very colorful, loud socks.  But they will be MINE, all mine.  I tell you, dyeing yarn is magic.  I can’t wait to do it again.

Oh, by the way, I learned everything I know, and used instructions found in two books:  Teach Yourself Visually Hand Dyeing by Barbara Parry, and Dye One Knit One from Tall Yarns.  This is also the place I bought the yarn and acid dyes.

This is just too much fun not to try for yourselves!  It’s not rocket science.  Go on, make a mess and have some fun!

p.s. I didn’t tell you about measuring and making the skein to dye.  The skein originally measured about 60 inches around.  I wanted to be sure to get stripes and not just dabbles of color.  I wound the skein into a cake, then set up my swift to measure about 92 inches in the center, then reskeined the yarn.  I divided that measurement into 4 for each of the 4 colors.  I have no idea now if that was big enough to make striped socks.  I’ll just have to see when I knit it up.  I have a feeling it will be just 1 round per color, which will be OK, but I would have rather had 2 rounds per color.  We’ll see!

A Kind of FO

As some of you might know, I was busy sewing stuff before heading off to California in October.  Back in June we went to Paris and in between being sick as dogs, we managed to get to a fabric store where I bought some PERFECT white silk fabric.  Above you can see what I did with it!

Back in May, Mandy found a wedding bolero on Etsy that she really liked.  We were chatting online one night and she sent me the link to it.  I immediately wrote back “oh heck I could make that easily”.  Next thing I know I’ve volunteered well and truly.

I first made a TEST bolero from some cheap cotton fabric.  It had 2 different sleeves and the front and back were different lengths.  That was all on purpose.  I mailed the test bolero to Mandy for her to check out and try on.  It fit her perfectly and she picked out the sleeve type and length.  Then I had to get up the courage to cut into that silk fabric!

I’m pretty proud of that bolero.  I had kind of a pattern, for a top, that I bought, but it was only to get the general shape of the front curve.  I had to make up all the ruffles and remind myself how to invisibly line something like that.

Unfortunately, it was so warm on the day of the wedding that she didn’t wear it during the ceremony and I didn’t wear my knitted shawl either!  Later, after the wedding and reception, we all met up for the after-wedding-party at a bar in Chico.  I walked in and was just THRILLED to see her wearing the bolero.  She still had her hair piece from the wedding in her hair.  Isn’t she adorable!  Love you Kiddoo.

Yikes! Stripes!

photo by Eunny Jang
photo by Eunny Jang

I was lurking on Ravelry, on a dyer’s forum called “Love to Dye“, when I came across a topic about self striping yarn.  Eunny Jang has a fantastic “how to” on her web site which will explain how to dye yarn like the above, which turns into this when you knit socks from it:

photo by Eunny Jang
photo by Eunny Jang

She dyed this with Kool-Aid, another cheap and easy method for dyeing.  Reading Eunny’s blog post makes me really excited to give this a try.  Anyone up for it?