Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Quest for Speckled Yarn

I have some really loyal fans over on the ChemKnits Tutorials YouTube Channel.  I love how many supportive comments I receive as soon as I post a new video.  I really wish I was more consistant about posting videos but I can assure you that I am frequently thinking about what I want to try and share with all of you.

I've had "Speckled Yarn" on my "videos to make" list for a LONG TIME now.  I've thought through many different techniques to add small specks of color to my yarn, I just needed to find the time to get it done.  Well after multiple requests for help from all of you, I decided to finally give it a go!

In the following video, I apply dye to yarn, presoaked in a water/vinegar mixture, with an eye dropper.  I heat the yarn in a steamer on my stove top to set the color.  I've never heated yarn this way before, but I wanted to share something different in this experiment.  You can always wrap up the yarn and heat it in the microwave like I usually do with hand painted yarns.

Dyeing Conditions:

  • KnitPicks Stroll Glimmer (Bare) yarn - 70% superwash merino, 25% nylon, 5% stellina
  • Yarn presoaked overnight (although 30 min would be sufficient) in 16 cups of water + 3 T white vinegar
  • Dyes - 6 drops of food coloring in 1/4 cup of water.  (For darker colors increase the food coloring drops or decrease the volume of water.  I had a lot left over.)
  • I squeezed out most of the water before applying the dye. 
  • I steamed the finished yarn in a steamer for 30 minutes over a boiling mixture of water with a big dash of salt.
  • After cooling, I washed the yarn with some liquid dish soap and luke warm water.  

I created a speckled yarn!  I have some other techniques that I want to try out but I'm happy that I finally finished a project I'd been hoping to do for so long.

A photo posted by ChemKnits Blog (@chemknits) on

Do you want sneak peeks of what I'm working on?  Follow ChemKnits on Instagram.  I share many pictures in real time of what is currently on my needles or in the dye pot.  Plus there are sometimes super cute pictures of my kids.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Foxy Orange

I wanted to create the Failynn Fox Cowl for Lucky as soon as I saw it.  This design is a fox eared hood with a cowl, a hat and scarf combined.   When I got some Tuff Puff for my stash from KnitPicks I knew this single ply fluffy yarn would be the perfect yarn for a fluffy hooded cowl.  Unfortunately the yarn didn't have an orange that would work for a fox, so I decided to dye some of the white yarn to get the color I wanted.  Plus, this would give me a chance to create a new dyeing video!  

I need white for one section of the cowl (the construction will be shared in another post).  Before dyeing the yarn, I decided to knit up the inner ears so that I would know I would have enough white yarn. However, looking at the pattern it looks like the ears are knit as one piece, not as a separate inner and outer ear.  I will therefore estimate I would hate to run short on the orange and end up needing to try to match a color of yarn!  

The pattern says that I will only need 125 yards of orange for the toddler size garment (160 yards for child size).  I purchased 5 balls of Tuff Puff at 44 yards each.  Dyeing 4 balls of yarn and saving one white ball should be PLENTY.   Time for a deep breath.

44 Yards is short enough that I won't need a swift to wind it up.  I wound the skeins over my arm to make them into easier to dye segments.

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There was one problem.  I wasn't 100% satisfied with the depth of color.  I used 210 drops of food coloring on 400 g of fiber.  I would have doubled the dye while it was still in the pot but I had run out of red food coloring.  Therefore I decided to overdye the fiber.  

For Dyeing Take 2 I presoaked the yarn in a new water/vinegar mixture (4T vinegar in the canning pot) and removed the fiber to add the food coloring.  This time I added 100 drops red, 100 drops yellow and 20 drops of green food coloring.

FINALLY I had the deep orange that would be appropriate for a fox!  Check out more on my process in the video below.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

DIY Brown Bear, Brown Bear Party Hats

In preparation for Lucky's third birthday party, I purchased most of the items I needed to decorate the party.  I did want to do a couple of crafts, so I made him his own Brown Bear Birthday Shirt.  After a lot of debate, I put the brown bear on the back of the shirt and the number 3 on the front.  How could I incorporate the Brown Bear into Lucky's birthday pictures?  How about a DIY party hat!

I wanted to embellish a plain colored party hat like I did for Lucky's first birthday but it was surprisingly difficult to find plain paper party hats.  There are many handy party hat templates out there, but I I liked the look of the It's a Party Hat template from Give your Octopus a Paintbrush (or 8) blog.  This hat shouldn't need any glue to help it hold its shape.  Combined with thick cardstock (110 lb), I should end up with a pretty sturdy hat.

If I had more printer toner I would print the patter on the hats, but where is the fun in that?  I have a ton of leftover Brown Bear, Brown Bear fabric from Lucky's shirt, why not use this fabric to decorate the hats?  Maybe I will also make some kind of bobble out of the polka dot fabric.

I cut out one hat and did a test of securing a scrap of cotton fabric to the card stock with rubber cement.  It stuck pretty well.  Someone could peel the animal off but it should hold for photos.  How long will a paper party hat last anyway?  (The hats from Lucky's first birthday party are still on display on a floating shelf in his room.)  I even tried peeling off the fabric and the rest stayed on pretty well.  Hopefully we'll be able to get a family picture out of this.

I am only planning to make 5-7 hats (My family + maybe one set of grandparents) with the Brown Bear theme.  I purchased some polka dot party hats that other people can use but the elastic felt pretty short on some of the hats.

To save on toner, I printed two hat templates and held 4 pieces of paper together at a time while cutting.  To make the slit cut cleaner, I used a box cutter to make the slit versus trying to get a pair of scissors in there like I did for my test hat.  So you can't the lines of the templates, I will attach the fabric to the reverse side.

This project is also an excuse to use some of the animals that are cut off on the fabric.  With the curve of the hat I wouldn't be able to fit an entire white dog on the hat, so I may as well use the one that is cut off a bit from the edge.  These ones wouldn't work well for an applique project anyway.

I worried about the placement of the animals a LOT, and finally just decided to go for it.  I attached the fabric with rubber cement and the animals face ROUGHLY in the front middle of the hat.

I wanted to see if I could create bobbles out of the polka dot fabric.  I cut 1.5" strips of fabric, pressed down the edges and then pressed it in half to make a ribbon for the top of the hat.

Meh, I don't love it.  The fabric is too thick.  In my craft box I found some fun multicolored sparkles that I can try to use for the tops of the hats.  Maybe I can use the fabric ribbon I made around the bottom edge.  It won't lay flat but it will finish off the hat and give it a clean look.  I think if I use a glue gun it might work fine.

Even though I liked the idea of putting this on the bottom of the hat, the hats looked SO AMAZING with just the bobbles that I didn't want to mess them up.  Let's stop while I'm ahead and not over embellish.  Hot glue was sufficient to attach these sparkly bobbles to the hats.

There are two choices to secure these hats to someone's head.  I can either find some stretch elastic to tie on like a traditional party hat or I can secure some ribbon and tie it under the chin with a bow.  Hopefully I will be able to get Rowdy, Lucky and Indy to wear these long enough for a photo!

Lucky's birthday party is going to be at a playground.  We have reserved the covered structure, but if it rains we may need to move the party to our house.  Maybe giving kids crayons, markers and letting them DIY their own party hats is an activity we can have up our sleeves.  I did buy a whole ream of paper!

For the chin strap, I cut an 18" piece of elastic.  This length fit me, Keith and Lucky well but was a little too long for Rowdy and Indy.  I think I will cut 15" for Rowdy and Indy, 18" for Lucky and 19" for each of the adults.

On the day of Lucky's birthday, he was so excited to wear his Brown Bear hat!  

Taking the family photo was a little harder than I had anticipated.  I can control my DSLR with my cell phone, but it was hard for me to press the shutter button while holding Rowdy in my lap.  In the end, my mom came up and pressed the button on the phone.  Thanks, Mimi!  

Once I figured out what I wanted to do, making my own paper party hats was a piece of cake!  I know know that I would love to do this for future parties.  Now I just have to decide what I want to do for Rowdy's first birthday!  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Eric Carle Themed Shirts for Lucky's Birthday

After making Lucky some Eric Carle apparel for his birthday, I realized that Rowdy should have something to wear on theme, too!  (I had the knit hungry caterpillar hat already.)

I've never appliquéd onto a onesie before. Well, there's a first item for everything.  I'm expecting this to be a little tighter to work around the machine than a T-shirt but with some luck hopefully it will go okay.

First, I stuck some two sided iron on transfer interfacing to the back of the fabric and then I cut out the red bird.  I ironed the bird onto the onesie and used a zig-zag stitch and white thread to secure it down.  (Stitch 8, Width 4, distance 1.5)  Once I started sewing, I was much more confident for this applique piece.  

I hoped that this would survive washing okay.  When I made the Tie Dye T-shirts for my Wellesley Reunion I just ironed on the applique and didn't stitch it down.  They came off in the wash!  I waited to wash the shirt until after Lucky's birthday but it survived pretty well.  The bird came out slightly wrinkled but a hot iron would fix that up.  I don't think I could have hoped for anything better when attaching a large piece of woven fabric to a knit Tshirt.  

Lucky was so excited when he saw his little red bird on his birthday!  

The rowdy red bird was pretty excited, too.  

While I was working on the red bird onesie, I also decided to make Lucky a second "3" shirt to wear.  This way he has one (the brown bear one) to wear to his party and a second to wear to his friend's party that takes place on his actual birthday.  I don't want to risk washing my new appliques the day before the party so this will let me have a backup in case the first gets cake on it.

The second "3" is going on a size 2T shirt.  I had the 3 all drawn out on iron on transer paper but I accidentally drew the 3 forwards in stead of backwards.  I peeled off the 3 and put it on the RS of the fabric and cut it out that way.

I spent forever trying to center the "3" on the shirt before ironing it down.  Once I had it placed correctly, the ironing and zig zag stitching went quickly.

I really like making shirts.  I know that I want to make some for Rowdy's birthday but that feels far enough away that I don't want to worry about it yet.  Although now that I'm writing this blog post I realize that I need to start looking for base shirts he can wear...

Lucky liked his second shirt a lot, although he was a little bummed that this one did not also have a brown bear on the back.  

In my next post I will FINALLY share the details of how I made these fun party hats out of card stock and fabric.  It was a really easy way to get us all on theme.  Plus we finally got our first family photos of all 5 Browns!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dinosaur Sweatshirts

I loved Lucky's Lion Costume that I made out of a sweat suit last Halloween.  I spent some time on Pinterest researching what other types of costumes I could make out of a hooded sweatshirt.  When I found the dinosaur sweatshirts I knew that I needed to try to make one for myself.

I didn't want to make a "3" sweatshirt for Lucky, especially not after making him two shirts!  But if the day of his playground party is chilly I wanted to give him something special to wear.  (Rowdy's birthday is in January so I know sweatshirts can come in hand then.  I just have to hope that Rowdy, who is just starting 9 month clothes at 8 months, will still fit in 12 month clothes then.)

I had some trouble finding plain sweatshirts that came in both 3T and 12 month sizes.  Finally I found these raglan Jumping Beans sweatshirts at Kohl's.  When writing this post I realized that the sweatshirts aren't 100% identical, but they are close enough that they clearly belong together.  I love making my boys match and I intend to do this as long as I possibly can.  It will make for some fun throwback images once Rowdy grows big enough to wear them, too.

Since the sweatshirts already had two colors, I wasn't sure what color felt I wanted to use.  Maybe if the sweatshirts were all navy I would have picked yellow or orange, but I felt that the grass green complemented the two blues the best.  

Before I cut the felt, I ironed a crease into the sweatshirts so that I would know where to attach the dinosaur plates.  

The green felt was really cheap.  I purchased 4 sheets but I don't think I'll need that much in the end.

How can I cut symmetrical diamonds?  Well I cut the diamonds on the fold.  This way even if the angles are off they will at least fold into a good triangle.  Cut the felt on a fold.  two at a time. Roughly diamonds.  I made Rowdy's triangles even smaller.  I thought it would be cute for it to be scaled with the size of the sweatshirt.

The project did end up taking all 3 sheets of felt.  I have a lot left over and I could have been more conservative with my cuts, but I'm glad that I purchased the amount that I did.  The 4th sheet gave me freedom to figure out what shape I wanted the triangles to be.

I used stitch #6 on my machine which was a slight zigzag or back-stitch.  I wanted the stitches to be a bit stretchy so it didn't immediately pop when the kids pulled on it.

I tried the sweatshirts on Lucky before I closed the plates.  He was so excited!

Before sewing the plates closed, I pressed the felt with my iron and then pinned each plate together.

Lucky's sweatshirt has 12 diamonds pinned.  Rowdy's has 14 triangles.  My scaling wasn't perfect but I think it will still be a cute big brother little brother combo.

I sewed each plate together individually.  This meant that there were a lot of ends to snip off but should prevent the back from being too stiff on a stretchy sweatshirt.  

I finished these sweatshirts a week before Lucky's birthday (a week and a day before the party where he'll have special sweatshirts to wear.)  I was happy to meet my deadline, but unfortunately the weather didn't keep Lucky's birthday in mind so his party ended up rained out.  We moved everything inside, and Lucky still got to wear his birthday sweatshirt for a few minutes before the party started.

While these sweat shirts aren't technically on the Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see theme, I did make these for Lucky's 3rd birthday party.  I just knew that they could ALSO double for Rowdy's first birthday party which is going to be a dinosaur theme.

Hopefully the sweatshirt will still fit in a few more months!

Until January, we can have some fun brother dinosaur snuggles.

Now that Halloween is over, Lucky is already asking me to make other types of costumes.  I am going to wait a bit before I start planning for October 2017, but it is nice to think a little big so I can try to direct him into selecting something I can make!  

These dinosaur sweatshirts feel less like costumes than the lion sweatshirt.  These are much easier for the boys to wear on a normal day without people thinking they're in costume.  I sort of wish that I had made one for myself!