Posted on 10 Comments

Hyrna, an Icelandic Shawl, & Continental Knitting

Completed Shawl!

My time spent in Iceland last year holds a special place in my heart.  So many good memories of such a beautiful country, warm people and happy sheep!
I keep meaning to write more blog posts about my trip…they ARE coming…but as I’ve said before, it’s so hard to capture the experience in pictures and words.
Recently though, I completed a shawl from a yarn kit I bought while I was in Reykjavik.  It was a yarn kit created by Gudrun Bjarnadottir, the owner of Hespa.  Gudrun takes Einband, a single ply Icelandic wool yarn, and dyes it naturally, mainly with native Icelandic plants.
Perhaps letting her speak for herself is a better idea:
“I teach Botany at the Agricultural University of Iceland at Hvanneyri. I spend all my spare time collecting plants and coloring yarn. I also make my own yarn from the Icelandic wool. Plants, knitting and nature are my favorite things and I am so lucky to be able to combine them all in my work and life.” (Etsy Owner Description)
At the end of  our Hiking with the Elves tour, we had a workshop run by Gudrun.  She explained her process and discussed the various plants and lichens used to create the various colours of yarn. Continue reading Hyrna, an Icelandic Shawl, & Continental Knitting

Posted on 1 Comment

The Magic of Blocking

Over the weekend, I experienced some…shall we say….incredibly effective blocking results with a crocheted item.
I am now the proud owner of an XL skull shawl 🙂
It has been in process for the past few weeks.  I wasn’t making it to fill an order or anything, it was more of a side project. Something that may actually end up being for me 😉 Continue reading The Magic of Blocking

Posted on Leave a comment

Asymmetry and Variegated Yarn – Interesting Dichotomy

I have spent a lot of time looking for asymmetrical crochet patterns online and I have a pretty good library now of possibilities.  Not sure why but such shapes are more pleasing to my eye than the typical triangular shawls…as much as I like making those!
Most recently, I have also learned that asymmetry affects the resulting variegation from dyed yarn…unexpected, but makes sense.
A few weeks ago, I was on the hunt for a new pattern.  I wanted something easy and brainless.  A pattern I could memorize and work on in the car, while travelling, or while relaxing and watching the last season of House.
This one fit the bill!
So easy to make! A simple sc/ch/ch/sc repetition that created a gorgeous and dense (almost knit-like) fabric. I used a sock yarn, Blue Faced Leicester and nylon blend, which I chose due to the gorgeous popping colours!
What I didn’t realize was that the variegation would slowly change due to the increasing width of the body of the scarf.  You can see the change in the above picture.  The initial tail (top of pic) has some very short, repetitious strips of colour.  They start to fan out slightly until they culminate in three large spots in the middle.  From there, the variegation thins out even more and takes on a more edgy, jagged striping pattern.
Worth noting for future projects….asymmetry will affect the variegated results.
Overall, I continue to quite like the result.  It’s chic and classy!
Oh, and it’s up in my Etsy shop 🙂

Posted on Leave a comment

To Spin or not to Spin…Red & Turquoise for the win!

I spent a good chunk of today sitting on my front porch with Maddy, my spinning wheel.  It was a gorgeous day and I wanted to be outside…but I also wanted to spin, so I did both.
It got me a few looks as vehicles passed by and my neighbour paused at one point to ask if “that thing really works?” to which I said “Uh huh.”
I forget sometimes how odd spinning seems to those who know nothing about it.
So, I sat on my porch and started working with a heathered red 100% wool roving.  A good amount of time was spent fussing with the tension as the darn yarn kept breaking as though I hadn’t spun it enough to give it strength.

All the ends that kept breaking....
All the ends that kept breaking….

Continue reading To Spin or not to Spin…Red & Turquoise for the win!

Posted on Leave a comment

Arm Knitting – Go Pee First!

Last Friday, a friend came over for a crafty evening and we decided to give arm-knitting a try!
We used this video:

and, no word of a lie, 45 mins later, we had cowls!
If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s simple and fun.  The initial start was a little rocky, but that’s pretty much like any new craft.  The first time it’s awkward.  You need to check your tension, concentrate on what you’re doing so you don’t miss a step, be prepared for some chafed wrist skin (hand cream afterwards is a bonus)…oh, and
Nothing more awkward than yarn hanging everywhere while you try and do your business! *blink blink*
Now that we have that out of the way….Pictures! Continue reading Arm Knitting – Go Pee First!

Posted on Leave a comment

Newbie knitting: Jumping in Headfirst!!

The beginning of a shawl!
The beginning of a shawl!

Doesn’t look like much but it’s the result of over an hour of knitting with the help of videos and online forums!
I’m a newbie knitter and recently, after finishing a shawl that was completely garter stitch and yarn overs, I decided I wanted more of a challenge.
A friend suggested a shawl pattern by Stephen West.
Definitely a challenge for someone who has spent the past few months garter stitching over and over!
I am now headed into Row 9 and have had to learn (or relearn) techniques like:
Purling! Haven’t done that in awhile
Yarn overs between knitting and purling
And stuff like this:
yo, sl1 wyif, k1
It’s difficult but I think I’m getting it!
I have been using YouTube videos and online forums to figure it out.
It’s amazingly satisfying it is to finish a complicated row…a row where you were pretty much talking yourself through it and trying not to panic….to then count the exact number of required stitches on your needle at the end! Yep, did it right!
More pics to come!
Oh, and a shout out to Indigo Dragonfly! I’m using their sock yarn and it’s fantastic!! Soft merino/cashmere/nylon blend 🙂
Onwards and upwards….or downwards in the case of this pattern!
Wish me luck!

Posted on Leave a comment

Blocking with Rods: a yarn artist’s best friend

Today I completed my very first knit shawl.
It was ordered by a friend back in October and I have to say thank goodness she was so patient with me as it took some time!
I had no idea how long a knit shawl would take me and expected that it would be similar to my various crocheted projects.
Yeah, not so much.
It didn’t help that I chose 5mm circular needles to make it…perhaps larger would have been better for my first large knitting project….but regardless, I washed and blocked it two days ago and today, it is finished!

Completed knit shawl!
Completed knit shawl!

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post.
When I blocked this piece, I decided to use these metal rods that I picked up at a hardware store months ago.  They are heavier than the rods you use for blocking lace, but for this worsted yarn and open edging, they were perfect!
I saved so much time by weaving the rods through the edging and then simply pinning them out with my T-pins.
Close up of the metal rod I used for blocking
Close up of the metal rod I used for blocking

Metal rod pinned by T-pins
Metal rod pinned by T-pins

You can find these at any hardware store I believe and only cost me a few bucks.
The only downside that I could see was that the edges were somewhat rough, so I had to be careful when weaving them through the stitching.
Otherwise, a perfect time saver!

Posted on Leave a comment

Hardest Part of Crocheting a Victorian Capelet? Nope, not the crocheting…

I have recently been quite inspired by the various knit and crochet projects coming from the fans of the new “Outlander” show.
I read the first few books long ago, and I admit I have yet to watch the show, but the patterns and the photos are incredibly inspiring!
What’s more, the costume designer purchase many of the knit pieces on Etsy!  You just never know who is going to be buying your items! ….But I digress.
There are some groups on Facebook dedicated to recreating the pieces on the show, but they also share similarly inspired pieces and patterns.  Amazing resources for those of us fibrefreaks who can’t get collect enough patterns!
I recently decided to experiment with a new yarn and crochet a capelet.  I was thinking it may look traditional, perhaps a little victorian…..
It started as a simple plan…crochet a smallish rectangle and add a button or two.
…but it became much bigger than that!

One of many ways to wear this piece
One of many ways to wear this piece

The colours in my experimental just-want-to-see-if-this-pattern-idea-will-work yarn turned out to be quite lovely and they deserved….nay, they demanded more than a simple button.
In the end, they required lace crocheted borders, ribbon/netting lace edging, three of my favourite metal spiral buttons and a removable bow.
For the first time in a long time, I had to pull out my sewing machine!  And it felt amazing!
You may think that crocheting this piece was the hardest part of this project.
The yarn was quite bulky and the rectangular body crocheted up in a couple of hours tops.
The hard parts were
1) Choosing the lace to use for the edging….
Lace 'splosion!
I hadn’t opened my lace drawer in many many months.  At first, it wouldn’t open, but when forced
Lace ‘Splosion!!!
I had no idea I had SO MANY different types of lace in that wee little drawer!  And to make it even more difficult, I only needed two small pieces so even the remnants of lace gone-by were candidates for this project.
One after the other, I held a lace up to the piece to gauge whether it would work.  I considered, I experimented, I asked friends….finally settling on, wouldn’t you know it, one of the first pieces I pulled out!
variegated cowl close up ribbon
So, lace work done, I moved on to….*sob*
2) Choosing the buttons!
Buttons here, buttons there, buttons freakin' everywhere!
I started by gathering the buttons I thought I had.
And I kept finding more.
And more.
In bags.
In boxes.
In purses.
There is no reason for *any* item of clothing in our house to require a button!
Because I apparently have buttons for all occasions!
Pretty awesome, yet to decide on one set of buttons….shall I just say there was some swearing involved.  As well as some “set down the buttons and come back later!” moments.
Which ones.  How many.
I think this part was harder than the darn lace!
But eventually….finally…I chose a set of three buttons that I purchased over a year ago and that have been waiting patiently in a shoebox all this time for a perfect project to come around.
Spiral Buttons
The final addition was a bow of lace that I sewed up and added with a pin so it could be removed.
Feeling pretty satisfied with myself at the end of it all.  This lovely piece is now up for sale on my Etsy shop and I’m already thinking about making another.
Although I really wish I could find more of those awesome spiral buttons!!!

Posted on Leave a comment

Yarn fun: Experimenting with Natural Dyes

Top: turmeric Middle: Red Cabbage Bottom: Red Onion Skin NOTE: Skeins in this shot haven't been rinsed since the initial dyeing.
Top: turmeric
Middle: Red Cabbage
Bottom: Red Onion Skin
NOTE: Skeins in this shot haven’t been rinsed since the initial dyeing.

Last week, I signed up for a Natural Dyeing course that took place over two evenings at the Knit Cafe here in Toronto.  It was a small class, only 5 of us plus the instructor and the store owner.  A great size because we were able to chat, ask lots (LOTS) of questions ;), plus the space isn’t huge so it was a comfortable setting for the 7 of us.
I went in knowing a bit about dyeing yarn as a friend and I experimented recently with food colouring, but we had used vinegar as a mordant and stuck with food colour gels. In this class we learned to used alum/cream of tartar as a mordant and we dyed with food and food waste….it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot!
The first evening we washed our wool and then placed it in a mordant bath.  
Washing included placing the wool in water mixed with a squirt of mild soap (like Dawn) and squeezing the wool to ensure it was wet and to get rid of air bubbles. We heated the water for about an hour to remove any dust, dirt, chemicals etc.
I thought our wool looked pretty darn clean but the water at the end was pretty brown!
The mordant we used was 20% alum and 6% cream of tartar.  The percentage refers to the weight of the mordant compared to the weight of the fibre that was to be added.
We filled large stainless steel soup pots with water, brought the water *almost* to simmering and added the mordant mixture, followed by our wool skeins.  The pots remained on the heat for another 30 mins or so, until the class ended.
The wool stayed in the mordant overnight and the next day, the teacher went in about an hour early and turned all the pots back on, bringing the water back up to *almost* simmering.
Then….we starting mixing up the dye pots!
A) Red Cabbage
The first dye pot used red cabbage.
IMG_5701 IMG_5702The bottoms were chopped off we could simply peel away the layers.  We used almost the whole cabbage except the very middle where the colour started to lighten.
IMG_5707 IMG_5714
Then we added water and brought it to a boil.  When the dye water is 50 degrees, you can add the wool and continue heating until you are *almost* boiling.  You don’t want a rolling boil as that agitate the wool and result in felting.
Well, in this case, we added the wool before it reached boiling….due to limited time and the fact that the small burners we were using were having a hard time bringing such large amounts of water to a rolling boil.
We also left the cabbage leaves in the pot with the wool….again, due to limited time.
It appeared to be dying the wool a pinkish-purply colour but in the end, the colour softened quite a bit and wasn’t the vibrant shade you would expect.
B) Turmeric
Gloves!  Gloves, gloves, gloves!  Plus garbage bags or some other plastic protection….
Turmeric will dye *everything*.  You, your counter, the wall…so be warned! 🙂
Use tongs to place each skein into its respective pot…but be sure to keep the turmeric tongs separate!

It is a gorgeous colour and well worth experimenting with…not to mention it smells pretty good…unlike the boiling cabbage!
In this pot, we placed 800g of turmeric, two large bags.  The instructor had a nylon bag that she told us she always uses with turmeric.  It allows the water to flow throughout the spice and it keeps the granules from getting caught up in your fibre.
In terms of heat, it was prepped similar to the cabbage prepping mentioned above.
Pretty!  But oh, so dangerous! :)
Pretty! But oh, so dangerous! 🙂

C) Red Onion Skins
Again, another food item that I sort of expected to equal a brilliant dye colour, but didn’t.  As you can see, minutes after we added the yarn to the pot, it had already started to turn.
Red Onion Skin dye pot
Red Onion Skin dye pot

All of our yarn stayed in the dye pots for about an hour to an hour and a half.  Again, our class had limited time so the point was really to experiment with the dyes and learn about the process so that we could return home and practice ourselves.
IMG_5741Hard to capture the colours properly due to tungsten lighting next to a patio door with natural light…but as you can see, they all turned out a bit different.
On the Left: Turmeric
Brilliant goldenrod yellow
If we had had the time to leave it longer, we were told that it would have become more of a deeper orange.
Trying to be artsy with my turmeric yarn!
Trying to be artsy with my turmeric yarn!

In the middle: Red Cabbage
The photo above makes it look pink, but it resulted in more of a slightly pink but more blueish grey.
IMG_5728  The initial picture at the top of this post captures the colour much better.
On the Right: Red Onion Skin
This gave us a yellow-brown colour.  Quite pretty actually!
We each had purchased our own wool and you can see clearly in this picture that different yarns take dyes in different ways.  The front skein ended up much darker but the process was the same for both skeins.
One other cool thing we learned about was the use of Iron to darken and sometimes completely change a dye colour.
A piece of the red cabbage yarn was used as an example.
First, the instructor boiled a rusty NAIL…well more of a STAKE than a nail but whatever it actually is…it deserves capital letters! 🙂
Any rust would do.  You grab a bunch of rusty metal bits and boil them.
Ignore the yellow yarn. This was at the end of the night when we discovered that there wasn’t enough iron to dye anything more.

Then you dip in your yarn and in many cases, it changes almost immediately!
The little piece sitting atop the skein in the middle was dipped in the iron water.
The little piece sitting atop the skein in the middle was dipped in the iron water.

I’m hopeful that you can see the difference between the little piece in the centre of the pic above and the remaining skein wrapped around it.  That little piece was dipped into the iron water and turned a gorgeous warm blue-grey.
Here’s another shot:
I tend to prefer darker colours so I’m thinking there will be a lot of iron in my dyeing future. 😉
So yep, I learned a lot and hope to do more yarn dyeing in future!  Unfortunately, my present kitchen has next to no space for such an endeavour.  Time to move! 😉
One more picture to share….
Near the end of the second class, I asked if there would be enough turmeric left in the pot to dye a shawl.
I had had this shawl on hand for about a year, crocheted it myself, but the winter hues and icy colours weren’t doing it for me.
With 800g of turmeric in the pot, there was *definitely* enough so I also dyed my shawl.  I prefer the warm autumn colours to the previous colder ones so I consider it a successful experiment!
Dyeing Yarn Before & After Turmeric copy