Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dyeing Yarn with Easter Egg Pellets

The day after Easter, back in early April, I made an early morning run to my local supermarket to grab up all of the clearance Easter egg dyeing kits (PAAS Color Cups) I could find.  Well, I didn't buy ALL of them but I did pick up 5 different packs.  Why would a Jewish girl want to dye so many eggs?  I don't want to dye eggs, I want to dye yarn!

Now this isn't my first time dyeing yarn with Easter egg pellets.  These pellets are concentrated dye and citric acid and make space dyeing a ton of fun.  I learned in my first experiment that you want to add some vinegar to the dyebath so that the colors will stick to the yarn faster and you will get less overall mixing.  Will 1 T of white vinegar in 8 cups of water be enough of a supplement?  Watch the video to find out!

You know what I just realized I did?  I left the pot uncovered during this dyeing!  This was totally intentional since I was filming continuously through the color expanding process, but I normally cover my pots.  The water level stayed fine so maybe covering isn't so important.  

I get a lot of requests on the ChemKnits YouTube channel to see what I've knit with the yarn I dyed.  Truth be told, I don't often get a chance to knit with the yarn before I upload the video.  Most of the yarn that I've dyed is sitting in my stash waiting for a project.  The same is also true with my handspun yarns.  I just spin and dye yarn faster than I can knit with it.  Maybe someday I'll have to destash some of this yarn... what do you think?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Dream Knitting Studio - My Latest WIP

This summer, Keith, Lucky, Indy and I packed up and moved back to Massachusetts.  This means that once again I had to pick up all of my knitting supplies and they actually had to live in storage for around 6 weeks! (Don't worry, I did bring some knitting with me to tide me over while we were waiting to move into our house.)

The fact that we are now home owners means that my yarn has a permanent home!  I have a new system to organize my yarn and knitting tools and I cannot wait to share it with all of you.  The walls are a cool toned purple that I'm totally in love with.  When we contracted the painters we didn't intend to paint this room, but then saw that it was included in our quote.  I was so excited that I could have a purple room all of my own.

In the room that is entirely dedicated to my craft (and whose closet functions as my dresser), all of my knitting boxes suddenly seem very small.   If something appears to be missing, it is!  Sandry (my Kromski Fantasia Wheel) is currently living in our spare bedroom while we bring boxes in and out of the third floor.  I'd hate for Sandry to get knocked over as we're rearranging things!

The third floor?  My office is really a walk through space connecting the second floor bedrooms to a third floor finished attic.  Therefore this "bedroom" could never actually function as a bedroom because you'd lose access to a whole floor of the house!

I have a huge 4x4 cube (the Ikea piece formally known as Expedit, now redesigned as Kallax) that I can use to store my yarn.  I previously used a TV stand but the doors didn't stay closed and I was quite honestly out of room.  The yarn was also inside my coffee table, inside another cube with Lucky's toys and spread around the house.  Hopefully the bulk of my yarn will live in this unit.

The room also features a little writing desk and matching file cabinet.  I haven't ever kept files in this but I might just start now.  I now have a lot of paperwork for all of my ChemKnits business so having it in my studio would be useful.

It was finally time to deal with the boxes.  First to come out of the boxes were my books and knitting magazines.  Really just because they are easy to unpack and I wanted to feel like I'm making some progress.

I took a big sigh as I was looking at my yarn.  I know that I need to open the boxes and start unpacking because there are some projects I really want to start working on.  (It doesn't help that I lost my yarn scale so that was keeping me from progressing on one of the projects I currently had unpacked.  This is the real reason I started unpacking my studio as July drew to a close... I haven't even unpacked my clothes yet!)

I have all of these purple bins left over from when Expedit was my dresser.  It was located in a room with white walls so the colors looked wonderful.  Now in my "Persian Violet #1419" (Benjamin Moore color) studio, the purple bins sort of clash with the cool purple walls.  For now, they will work as I start sorting yarn into different categories.  I hope to have a whole box for KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, one of Palette, one for handspun/handdyed, one for undyed fiber...  well this is just off the top of my head so far.  Deep breath... let's go!

One box of yarn down and oh boy is this going to be harder than I thought.  I've already filled 3 bins entirely (handspun, unspun, and undyed) and I have a whole mess of things that are going to be hard to categorize.  I keep my yarn in plastic bags but they get a little oily after a while (likely from wool lanolin, or from something in a previous move.)  They are slightly sticky and I sort of want to replace the plastic but I'm not sure what makes sense.

Wow, I seriously had three large boxes full of yarn.  I don't know if all of this is going to fit!

I don't think the greasy bag feeling is from the yarn, I think it is from the move and plastic bags being in boxes.  I really want to replace all of these bags.  Ugh.

I had to stop with a mess of yarn all over the floor.  I needed a break and a breather.  I was able to look a bit through my stash enough to figure out what I needed to order to get to my $50 KnitPicks cart.  (Why on earth am I ordering more yarn when I have this stash all over my floor?!?!)

This pile is only going to get bigger...
The room is coming together but I still have a lot of organization to go.  How do you organize your yarn?  Given that this studio is still a huge work in progress I would love input on anything that makes your stash management easier!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Search for Crochet iPad and Kindle Covers

iPads are a blast.  Crochet iPod covers have been extremely popular, so it came as no surprise that as soon as the iPad was released, free crochet iPad cover patterns were published. Creating a crochet iPad cover is a simple and easy project that can be accomplished by a crocheter at any level. In this lens, I present to you all of the crochet iPad and Kindle covers that I can locate.

Free iPad Crochet Patterns

There aren't as many free crochet iPad patterns out there as there are iPad knitting covers, but these are among my favorites.

When the platform Squidoo existed, ChemKnits did multiple focused free knitting and crochet pattern searches.  These "lenses" were migrated to Hubpages at the end of 2014, but the Hubpages platform does not like Hubs that contain multiple links, especially if these links go to the same site (such as Ravelry.)  I am reposting the search here on ChemKnits.  I did all of the searching to find this list myself, and the descriptions are of my own writing unless otherwise noted.  Please let me know if any of the links are broken, I am working to migrate many pattern searches at once and may have missed one.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

1,2,3 Sew!

Rebecca, why are you reviewing a sewing book?  You have no idea how to sew?  (That isn't quite true, I can do some basic repairs... but fine I don't know how to sew.)  That's part of the point... I don't really know how to sew and I want to learn!  One of my first treats* after buying our house will be a sewing machine and I want to use this book to help me learn the basics.
*After important things, like law mowers, have been dealt with.  

I'm not sure I would have gone with a book at all, but the book 1, 2, 3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Sewing Projects by Ellen Luckett Baker came highly recommended by a friend who is also trying to learn to sew.  This spiral bound book contains a series of projects to help you learn different techniques and even contains a pocket full of patterns so you can cut things correctly!  (I am still afraid of cutting fabric... I'll have to get over that eventually.)

Given that my sewing lately has been by hand or with fabric glue (sorry all of you stitchers out there!  I didn't want to sew my pillow shams by hand!)  I am really excited by this book. The first projects are tea towels and napkins that will teach you how to hem with folded and mitered corners.  Each project builds on the skills learned in a previous project, until you are making bags and skirts and maybe even a toy!

Not every project in this book is something I would want to own or use in my house, but I can see the value in them to learn a skill.  Do I want tea towels for my kitchen?  No, but Lucky might want some in his (soon to be purchased) play kitchen.

Learning to sew will be more than just an exploration of a new craft for me.  I hope to gain a skill that will be useful in our home.  I love making costumes and have so far made some awesome things without a sewing machine, imagine what I could do if I learn to follow a pattern?  (I am not interested in learning to make clothing for adults, but baby garments and costume accessories seem reasonable to me.)  

Hopefully within the next year I'll be able to start sharing my progress with all of you!  First I need a sewing machine.  Any recommendations?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Toot!" says the Elephant Embellishment

Prepping for a move is hard work.  Back while we still lived in Evanston I spent so much time packing that I didn't have a lot of time to craft.  BOOOOOO!  I decided to take a packing break and make a little applique.

E is for Elephant is a darling little pattern. I love how the ear is a second attached piece.  I used a size E (3.5 mm) crochet hook and KnitPicks Comfy Worsted in Whisker (3 g, 6.5 yards) for the elephant body and Planetarium for the eye french knot.  It felt SO good to pick up a crochet hook and some yarn and create something darling.

Why bother making appliques if there is nothing to add them too?  I suppose I don't see a problem having a bunch of random appliques laying around.  They can always be added to a simple baby hat to make it extra special.  Having some of these embellishments in my knitting box may inspire me for other projects.

A tiny bit of blocking was all that was required to get the trunk to stand up at attention.  Isn't he darling?  What would you put him on?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Knit One - A look back at 80's knitting design

You know a book is a little out of touch when you add it to your Ravelry library and only one of the patterns has been entered into the database.  Hopefully I can do this book justice in this review!

Knit One by Angela King was published in 1983, the year that I was born.  It is only fitting that Keith picked up this book for my 31st birthday at a used book store.  (He paid by the pound!)  You can tell just from looking at the cover photo that this book is going to be a tapestry of dated fashion.  "Whether easy or more difficult, however, the patterns are all stylish, modern and attractively presented."

This is not a how to knit book, but there are some tips ("Some Useful Advice") at the beginning of the book.  Five pages later we're ready to start looking at what 80's lovers can only dream of... the patterns.
  • Snakeskin - Who wouldn't want to create a gold sequin jacket?  You can't even tell that this is a knit!  And did they really travel to the pyramids to take modeled shots for this book?
  • Foxy Lady - a really lovely intricate cabled sweater dress.  I wish that I could predict more about what it actually looks like, but since the sample is in white you cannot see the cabled details too well in the photograph.  Plus the model has her hands in her hair, so it makes it hard to see how the garment hangs.  Ultimately I think it is lovely and could have promise, although I shudder at following all of these cables in written instructions.  If I were going to make this (I'm not) I would translate it to charts almost immediately.
  • Teddy Bear - I have no words.  I will quote the author, "Sporty jerkin crocheted in a thick fleecy yarn teamed with looped mohair.  Very Easy."  (Now I have some words, what is a crochet pattern doing in a knitting book?)
  • Beginners Luck - "Hardly any shaping makes it very easy to knit"  I think "hardly any shaping" could be the slogan of the 80's.
Some of the other patterns could be more classic if styled a little differently.  There are is a cabled vest (School's Out) and many aran sweaters (Carved Ivory, Collette) that could possibly still fit into someone's wardrobe.  Make sure you keep an eye out for poofy shoulders, though!  

Many of these patterns are fairly dated and they are certainly not written for beginners.  Each pattern is kept to a single page and there are no charts.  I am feeling spoiled by the ebook pattern industry now!  Normally when I look at book patterns I want to see multiple pictures to understand what the garment is like and clear instructions.  This book provides neither, but part of the value of the book is looking at the crazy styling choices.  I hope you enjoy the sneak peaks I've provided in this post.  

"Now fashion conscious women can have the satisfaction of creating stunning hand knits for themselves, and for a fraction of the price such designs would cost in the shops."  Oh how things have changed.  I don't think that any knitting designer today would say that you could create knit fashions for CHEAPER than what you could get in the shops.  To replicate a high end sweater would cost hundreds of dollars in yarn before even taking into account labor.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Search for iPod Cozy Knitting Patterns

These days the need for an iPod cozy may seem a little dated.  More and more people have smart phones and use those devices to listen to their music.  However there are still dozens of free knitting designs created to cozy your ipod.  Some of these can be adapted to fit a phone or other small object, and the projects are fast enough that they could be great for a beginner.  I hope that this will help you find a pattern that works for you!  

Misc iPod Cozy Knitting Patterns - Free iPod cozy knitting patterns

Many iPod cozy knitting patterns have ribbing. These are shared here.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sock Yarn Market Bag

I have a lot of yarn in my stash, but a lot of it was not purchased with a lot of thought.  What do I mean?  I mean that in my early knitting days, I picked up single skeins of fun yarns without any idea what I wanted to use them for.  This means that I have a lot of single skeins that are only useful for small projects.  Whenever I am tempted to do a larger project I have to go buy more yarn.  This is a cycle that leads to my stash growing and not using up some of my older yarns.  (I still can't just part with them!)

I have three skeins of Patons Kroy Socks FXin my stash.  I think I bought them back in 2008, back before ChemKnits even existed!  The colors are stunning, but since I only have one ball of each I don't have enough to make a pair of socks.  What should I use them for?  I started searching for a simple, mindless crochet project but I didn't want to make another baby hat for my stash.  Then it hit me... a market bag!  If the first one goes well then this would be the perfect gift to give people this Christmas PLUS being stashbusting.  Sock yarn (wool/nylon blend) might not be as ideal as cotton, but it is still going to be super strong.  Let's see how big of a bag I can make out of a single skein of yarn.

With a ball of Kroy Sock FX in "clover colors" (45 g, ~150 yards) and a size E (3.5 mm) crochet hook I downloaded the free Crochet Grocery Bag pattern and started hooking.  (You will have to check out to download the pattern, but no payment is due since the cost is $0.00)

The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, which is thicker than the fingering weight sock yarn I've selected.  I'm using a slightly smaller hook, but I think that this still should be able to make a decent sized grocery bag.  If not, maybe it will become a toy grocery bag for my son's play kitchen.

Since I want the bag to be strong, I started with a Ch4 ring (as written in the pattern) rather than the magic circle that I usually use to start in the round crochet projects.  I didn't join at the end of the round because the pattern didn't say to do that.  Sometimes for simple projects I can follow along on the computer, but for this project I recommend printing out a copy so you can mark it as you finish certain rows.

This crochet pattern is very forgiving.  I found that sometimes I would make a Ch4 loop instead of a ch5 because I was counting the SC as one of the parts of the chain.  I didn't go back to fix the errors but tried to make an effort to always do a 1 AND 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 count.

This bag stayed flat for a long time.  I'm not expecting it to be bag shaped until the decreases at the end start.  Right before the decrease rounds, the bag is just starting to curl up.  Without any stretching, it is 14" in diameter (flat).  It can be stretched to 16" deep when folded in half like a bag.  18 g of yarn remain at this point.  16 g remain after one extra round.  A second extra round might be cutting it close yardage wise, but I think I'm going to give it a shot.

The first handle went on without a hitch, but I hit a snag (not literally) when trying to do the second handle.  I kept twisting the foundation chain, I messed up the spacing... finally I got the second handle on!

Cute bag right? but I'm concerned that she might be a little small.  Unstretched this bag measures about 12" long (including handles) x 12" wide.

It doesn't look like it would hold much, but look at all of the space with just a bunch of bananas.

Next I tried to hold 6 cans/jars of food or even a gallon of milk!  The bag easily stretches to be the size of a plastic grocery bag, but it has the added benefit of being much cuter.

5 g remain at the end of this project.  I could have knit 2 more rows before starting to decrease.  However I'm not sure how useful this extra length will be.  I suppose it will be less deep if you fit more items in it, the stretch could happen width-wise just as easily as length if you had something wide that fit in the bag.

There is no question that this could be useful as a market bag.  I'm not sure if you would want to use it for really heavy stuff, but it could be a useful holiday gift.  Maybe I'll end up making some more before the year is over!