Thursday, August 30, 2012

Indy's Bday Bandana

I love my puppy, Indy very much. Now that he is an "adult" (at 1 year old), he deserves some knit clothing. I really wanted him to have something special to wear for his first birthday, and I decided that since he is still my baby that we could do some mother/puppy matching with the Hitchhiker Scarf.

I knit Indy's version of this scarflette on size 4 knitting needles using KnitPicks Palette (17 g) in Brindle Heather. (Indy is a Brown, after all!) The color is actually one of the ones that I used in his puppy stocking last fall. I actually measured my hitchhiker scarf on him when I was knitting it, noting that 16 teeth would be the perfect size for him.

I did not follow the pattern instructions for the last repeat on Indy's stocking, because I wanted it to have a pointier edge. I think that I like this better than the blunt edge and will continue this on all future versions of Hitchiker that I plan to knit.

Indy had a very happy birthday. He ate his first hamburger at a bbq, went to the beach to swim in the lake (without his scarf!) and had many homemade dog treats. Keith and I had a lot of fun, too!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby Robot

Don't forget the robot! My cousins are expecting a little boy this fall, and I knew that I wanted to make something special for the first baby of the next generation in my family. It shouldn't surprise you that my family is very crafty, and I wasn't sure how many hats they would receive so I wanted to make something a little less common. I turned back to the free Mini Motif Baby Mittens pattern for some adorable little robot mitts.

In my post about the monkey mitts, I forgot to take a picture of the back side of the mitts. The simple stripped pattern gives this stranded project a nice rhythm.

Once again, I used size 5 knitting needles and Shine Sport yarn. This time I used a bit more yardage, 17 g of Black and 8 grams of butter, but you could still finish three sets of mitts out of two balls of Shine Sport.

In addition to being a great baby shower gift, these mitts are fantastic if you want to try stranded colorwork for the first time. There are a few long floats, but the charts are really simple and the project knits up super fast.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dyeing Cakes

It is time for some more fun dyeing tutorials! I saw a fun thread on Ravelry by a woman who decided to dye a whole cake of yarn, rather than winding it into a skein. I just had to give it a try! The result was a beautiful asymmetric skein of variegated yarn.

Rather than being a slow transition of color, there is a high amount of variegation along the skein, but with gradual shifts of the colors that are within the smaller sections. The yarn above, which I named Rocky Shores, is a brownish grey that transitions to a series of blues. I plan on using this yarn for a shawl, which I think would highlight the color changes well.

I use to have a big issue with asymmetric yarns. If I wasn't going to make a hat or scarf, what could I make out of them that would please my eye? If the colorway is super asymmetric, then socks or mittens won't match at all. I took the cake dyeing technique a step further and wound two strands into a cake of yarn. This technique is similar to how a sock blank (knit tube) would typically have two strands knit into it. Now I can end up with symmetric (or identical if you cut the yarn) skeins! The pictures below show the color progression as the cake gets wound into two skeins.

The deep vibrant purple on these skeins is only concentrated for a fraction of the yardage. I imagine starting with the darkest color and doing some kind of toe up socks. There still might be pooling differences, but these socks will look like a matched pair.

A full written tutorial of this technique will be up on AllFreeKnitting in the coming weeks.

Monday, August 20, 2012

No Pattern Knits

No Pattern Knits: Simple Modular Techniques for Making Wonderful Garments and Accessories by Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer intrigued me the moment I saw the title. A book of knitting patterns that are not knitting patterns? What on earth could this be about? This is a book about modular knitting, creating small shapes and joining them together to form a bigger item.

There are really good photo tutorials for beginning knitters, so if you don't know much before starting out you won't feel completely lost with this book. The Demonstration of how to knit a square (diagonally), and what makes a square is a good one. I never thought about using a paper template. This allows people to knit out of different yarns with different stitches without worrying about gauge and stitch calculations. The joining shapes tutorial is really fantastic and provides many different options.

I can see how modular knitting can be much less intimidating to a beginning knitter, but you cannot claim that these are no pattern knits. Sure, someone with the knowledge of how to make these shapes can create their own afghan, pillow and other flatish items without a pattern. But how will someone be able to create a sweater without looking for some kind of instruction? The book walks you through a bit through the design process, but I think the leap of someone creating complex modular shapes to knowing how to incorporate these into a sweater is a big one. (Of course, if they have the book sketches aka. patterns then they can proceed.) That being said, this is really only an issue with the title of the book. As an instruction on how to create different shapes in many different ways, this book is INCREDIBLE. (The book does contain some actual patterns, including booties, a ball, a scarf, sweater hat and bag.)

Like with any knitting, once you make a couple modular sweaters you may be able to try one without a pattern, but I don't think anyone will go straight from knitting shapes to creating complex garments as those shown in the actual patterns. Do I think this book is a good resource? Absolutely. Do I think this is a no pattern technique? Absolutely not.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How To Make Tie Dye Shirts, Decor, and More: 18 Tie Dye Patterns

FaveCrafts (a sister site to AllFreeKnitting) recently gave me the opportunity to go back to my childhood. When I was in 4th grade, my class tie dyed T-shirts, bags, socks and anything else cotton we could get our hands on to raise money for the local animal shelter. In college, the chemistry department had a Tie Dye fun day each year where you could Tie Dye your own lab coat. (Two of these T-shirts are still my favorite cheer-me-up shirts to wear.) So when FaveCrafts asked me if I would be interested in playing with a Tulip Tie Dye Kit, and I JUMPED at the opportunity.

I think that it is my love for tie dyeing that got me to start dyeing yarn in the first place. I always loved the creativity (even if I tend to stick to the swirl/spiral method), mess, and colors. This time, my creativity with the Tulip Tie Dye Kit would be to dye yarn and yarn based products (see the end of this post.) Before I opened the free eBook "How To Make Tie Dye Shirts, Decor, and More: 18 Tie Dye Patterns" I was excited to see how others interpret the use of these fun dyes.

The book is broken into three different sections, T-shirts and Wearables, Home Decor, and Tie Dye Techniques. The T-Shirt techniques are very different from the ones that come with the kit. I've used syringes, squeeze bottles, and eye droppers to apply dye to shrits, but I never thought about using sponges. My first reaction to the Cobbled Bicolor T-shirt was wonder at how they achieved the cobblestone effect (which is explained quite well.) The other techniques include making a Dappled Heart, Plaid, Starfire Explosion and a really cool Scribble Scrabble that brilliantly takes advantage of color mixing.

My only complaint about the eBook is that I wish there were a few more step by step photos of some of the tie dyeing techniques (especially for the dappled heart). They are explained quite well, but since the dye spreads during the 6-8 hours it takes to set, it would be nice to see how much white space is left on the shirt at the beginning and if that changes towards the end.

Working my way back to the beginning of the book, you see a lot of great non-T-Shirt tie dyeing options. These projects include a beach towel, crochet pillow, lunch bags, and a wreath. When I took a closer look at the Summer Lovin' Crochet Pillow, I realized that they didn't dye yarn... they dyed T-shirts! These shirts were then cut into strips and then crocheted into a heart shaped pillow. What a brilliant idea! I've seen people use T-shirts as yarn before, but I never thought about dyeing the fabric before cutting it into yarn. Without reading this ebook, I probably would have cut the strips first and then dyed it like I conventionally dye yarn. My crochet skills are limited, but I now have a strong desire to tie-dye an old sheet, cut it into yarn and crochet a "rag" rug... What an inspiration!

The T-shirt and Wearables section is technically all top/shirt based. I learned a few great things from this section. Tulip carries a lot more Fthan Dye, they have fabric spray paints, Fashion Art Resist (which makes the shirt NOT absorb dye) and even fabric glue. This section has a lot of step by step guidance, including in my favorite project of the whole eBook, An Apron to Dye For. But, Rebecca, you said that this section was all shirt based... At first glance this looks like an apron that you would purchase, but then you realized that the apron is constructed out of a T-shirt. The project is accompanied with an excellent step-by-step schematic showing you exactly how you should cut the shirt. (I would recommend using a shirt much larger than you normally wear.) I love the uniqueness of this idea!

So what did I do with my Tulip Tie Dye Kit? Well I took this opportunity to dye some cotton yarn and completed knitting. Fiber is fiber, after all. Written tutorials for How to Tie Dye Cotton Yarn and How to Tie Dye Knit Projects are available on AllFreeKnitting to accompany the below videos.

I still have half of the dye from the kit left (dry in packets.) I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for next, but you can bet that I plan on playing with Tulip products more in the future! I can say for sure that the How To Make Tie Dye Shirts, Decor, and More: 18 Tie Dye Patterns eBook has left me inspired.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Strauss Monkey Mitts

Everyone knits baby hats, so sometimes I look for something a little different to give to expecting parents. I mentioned in my search for monkey knits for babies that some good friends of mine have a monkey theme for their nursery. When I discovered the free Mini Motif Baby Mittens pattern I knew that I had found a winner, and not just for monkeys. There are also buterflies, penguins, robots, owls and other cute creatures to knit onto these thumbless mitts (meant to protect a baby from scratching itself in addition to keeping tiny hands warm.) I have no idea how large a baby's hands actually are, but according to the designer these are meant for 0-3 months of age.

I knit these darling mitts on size 5 knitting needles with KnitPicks Shine Sport yarn, one of my go to yarns for baby items. 3 balls of yarn is more than enough to create three different pairs of mittens. This project consumed 7 grams of the brown (Bison) and 16 g of the cream.

I know that I will be knitting more of these mitts in the future... and the charts are so fantastic that I may need to incorporate those into other projects, too!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Spinning my Hand Dyed Roving

This is what I have been dreaming about for so long... dyeing my own roving and then spining it into yarn. As soon as I started dyeing yarn myself, I realized that you can combine colors in so many more ways if you start with the fiber itself. In the following video, you can see my first experiences with dyeing wool fiber.

Some notes right off the bat: 100% silk is MUCH easier to spin than wool. Wool splits a lot more easily. For the first time, I am really learning how to draft the fiber. I think the silk helped give me confidence going for a really thin spun fiber, and now I am learning how to draft, pinch and slowly let the twist go into the fiber.

This makes me really want a spinning wheel. I don't have the most coordination, but I think that being able to keep both of my hands focused on twist and drafting while using my feet to keep the wheel spinning will be easier than using 2 hands where I want three. (By the time I prepared this post for publishing, I have had the opportunity to try out a spinning wheel. I love it, and I really want one!)

Clockwise Clockwise Clockwise. In some of my previous spinning I got confused about the direction to spin my spindle. Spin clockwise, ply counterclockwise.

The most striking thing I realized while winding this skein onto my handmade niddy noddy is how much I have improved over the course of this 100g of fiber. My spinning is getting much more even, and I think that with plying it would be a very regular yarn. (I don't have bobbins or a second spindle to use for plying, so that is another beast that I will save to learn at another time.)

When winding up my yarn I broke the strand twice, producing two knots. OH well, still not bad for my biggest spinning project yet! 198 Wraps around 4 ft niddy noddy (handmade woot woot) - 264 yards of yarn. I am waiting for a WPI tool to know what size the yarn actually.

This is by far the prettiest skein of yarn I have ever made (which isn't saying that much since my spinning projects are limited.) I love the muted colors and how there are so many twists of color. I am so proud of this yarn that it is going to be hard to find a project where I want to knit it!

Before I spun my hand dyed roving, I figured out how to turn it into a pretty braid. This is a great way to store your fiber if you aren't going to start spinning it right away.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Test Knit Criss-Cross Hat

I love having the opportunity to test knit a project. The Bisous hat is fast knit that looks more complex than it really is. The design was fantastic, and with a little editing, this became a really fantastic pattern. The pattern includes a full photo tutorial of the X technique.

I asked the designer if I could knit the hat in a variegated yarn (KnitPicks Chroma in color Galapagos) and I'm glad that I did. I love the way that the colors move up through the hat, making it more than just striped.

The hat when it was just a little too short for my head.

I knit the hat on size 6 knitting needles and consumed 60 g (~120 yards) of Chroma. I knit the hat as directed first, but found that it was a little too short for my head (it would fit a young adult really well.) I ended up doing 6 rounds of the cross stitch before starting the decreases (when the hat measured 6.5" vs 5.5")

I'm thrilled to be on this designer's short list for testers now. The only thing that makes me sad is that I haven't had any time to test knit recently. (I finished this project back in April.) I'm thrilled to have this pattern in my library, and I hope to explore smocking and criss-crosses more in the future.

ChemKnits Designs Ravelry Group

Dear ChemKnits Readers,

I finally took the plunge and created a Ravelry group dedicated to ChemKnits designs. The group will be a place for you to share your completed (and in progress) ChemKnits projects, discuss yarn dyeing, spinning and much more. I always enjoy feedback from my readers, whether it is questions, suggestions, constructive criticism or even just complements.

In the future I hope to host knit-a-longs, dye-a-longs, contests, pattern testing and more through the group... but this is all really up to you. Your participation will set the tone for the group, and I cannot wait to see what we will explore and learn together.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Ears and Antlers

Sometimes I never knit a complete project, and that isn't because I've abandoned it. It is because I'm helping someone else finish a project! My SIL asked me to help make some ears and antlers for her Deer with Little Antlers Hat. After some debacle with the lost package back in December, I was finally to finish the requested 3 sets of ears/antlers. These hat accessories were knit with brown Artesano Aran/size 10; pink KnitPicks Palette/size 5; and white KnitPicks WOTA Sport/size 7 needles.

I decided to only lightly felt the antlers, to let my SIL shrink/shape them to the desired size. I felted them all at once in the sink, and while I tried to leave the tails clear to help sew them to the hats, they tails felted into a messy ball.

I hope to see some photos at some point on how the final hats look!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Venomous Tentacula

Venomous Tentacula has been in my queue for a long time. When I received the pattern in a RAK (random act of kindness), I knew that I had to cast on immediately. I purchased some Malabrigo sock yarn in the color Solis and broke out my size 7 knitting needles. I decided to leave the beads out the first time I knit this pattern because I couldn't really tell how they would add to the look.

I chose size 7 needles so I could make the yarn stretch a bit further (I may not be able to do as many repeats, but I will get a size I like.) I like the density from other shawls I've made with fingering weight yarn and size 7 needles. Also, I couldn't really see any of the beading in any of the pictures on Ravelry, so I decided to just cut them entirely from my project.

This is my first time knitting with a Malabrigo yarn. There is more variegation in the yarn that I expected from the color on my order, but I think it makes the yarn even more delightful for this project.

Knitting the newly cast on stitches is a little slow, but it is easy to keep track of your pattern progress without using any kind of marker. I was a little concerned about the gaps that formed, and I didn't see much difference when I twisted stitches as suggested in the pattern. I test blocked the first few sections of the pattern and found that these gaps became invisible, so I stopped twisting stitches for the rest of the project.

I love the suggestion to keep track of the amount of yarn you have left. This will allow you to make the biggest shawl possible out of whatever kind of yarn you have.

Notes from the Pattern: Increases
  • 98 g of yarn before I cast on (long tail cast con)
  • 91 g remaining after 4 repeats.
  • 87 g remain after 6 repeats.
  • 82 g remain after 8 repeats. (16 g consumed)
  • 77 g remain after 10 repeats. (Δ5 g/ 2 repeats) The side edge measures 9.5" without any blocking. The lacy edge is well over 12" (again, without any blocking.)
  • 71 g remain after 12 repeats.
  • 65 g remain after 14 repeats.
  • 58 g remain after 16 repeats. (It looks like I will do 18 repeats before starting the decreases.)
  • (After row 3 on round 17, I only have 68 sts before the marker. Given my calculations, there should be 69... Looking down the shawl I don't see a missed increase. One stitch off won't make a huge difference in the overall shawl, but I need to make sure I remember all of the increases! Looking down, it looks like I forgot the increase somewhere in round 14. This isn't a huge deal, since you cannot tell unless you look REALLY hard. I think that this mistake will keep the end symmetric with only 3 sts left before the marker when I bind off during a round 6!)
  • 54 g remain after 17 repeats. I will try to sneak one more in....
  • 50 g remain after 18 repeats. There are 74 sts before the marker (I only had one missed increase!)

Notes from the pattern: Decreases
  • 47 g remain after 1 repeat (#19 overall). 70 sts remain before marker.
  • 44 g remain after 2 repeats (#20 overall)
  • 37 g remain after 4 repeats (#22 overall). 58 sts remain before marker.
  • 32 g remain after 6 repeats. (#24 overall)
  • 26 g after 8 repeats. (#26 overall) 42 sts remain before marker.
  • 22g remain after 10 repeats (#28 overall) Throughout the whole decreases, I have been confident that I was going to make it to the end, but now I am really feeling good since 2*10 repeats left = 20, making at LEAST 2 g remaining.
  • 17 g remain after 12 repeats (#30 overall.) 26 sts remain before marker.
  • 13 g remain after 14 repeats (#32 overall) 18 sts remain before marker.
  • 10 g remain after 16 repeats (#34 overall) - 20 sts remain before marker
  • 7 g remain after binding off.
  • I ended the 18th decrease repeat after row 5. K across row 6 (no binding off) and then bind off on row 7. I used a stretchy bindoff (K, Ktog tbl) in place of row 6 so it would match the cast on edge better.

Blocking made a HUGE difference with this project, and not just for the vines. Without blocking the sideways garter stitch was tight and made the shawl really tiny. The ruler on the above pictures may be a little hard to see, but the shawl really bloomed when it was pinned out.

Ultimately I'm glad that I didn't add beads to this shawl. I still cannot really see where the beads would go, and there would be so few that it wouldn't really add much to what ended up being a really easy pattern to follow.