Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hand-Dyed Yarn Love

Lately I've had an insatiable tendancy toward handpainted yarn. I suppose it began with my purchase of one of Stefanie Japel's hand-dyed hanks in the Hope colorway. Here's a peek:

The muted spring colors are absolutely gorgeous on this worsted 100% bamboo yarn. Stefanie included directions for a scarf with a choice of three different stitch patterns. She also sent a couple of beaded stitch markers and a "Glampyre Knits" magnet. I have it on my fridge holding up the handwritten note she enclosed! I've only knit with bamboo once and it was perfect for warmer weather wear. I'm excited to get this on the needles.

While I waited for it to arrive, I played around with dyeing a couple of hanks of my own. This was my second attempt at dyeing and painting yarn.

Here is a collection of blues and teals on 100% mercerized cotton yarn:

It's not the greatest picture, because the actual yarn looks better in person. I have started a simple linen-stitch cowl and the result of the colors together is a very denim-y look. It's definitely no masterpiece, but it's pretty enough for my second try. I guess I'll get some photos when it's finished.

Next, I figured I would try working with wool. In the little bit of research I did, I read that wool is easier to dye and generally produces better results than non-protein fibers. As a beginner, I would agree that it was a lot easier.
Here is a food-coloring (with vinegar) experiment on 100% wool yarn:

I loved the way this wool came out. It was a lot nicer to work with than the cotton. And since I was using food colors, I knew when the yarn was ready, as all of the dye was absorbed and the water was almost clear. It was a neat experiment. I'm planning to buy some acid dyes and play around with it more over the summer, since I probably won't be doing a lot of knitting. Mobile's summers are not exactly conducive to knitted items, especially not wool!

Since my appetite for colorful yarn had not been satisfied, a bit of perusing through projects on Ravelry turned up these fingerless gloves by dawn76. I adore them! As soon as I found out that the Hazel Knits yarn was available for purchase through Etsy, I bought it! I hoped that the color would be as beautiful in person, and it did not disappoint! Have a look:

The colorway is Olympic Rainforest. I'm not sure if my feet are worthy of this sock yarn, so I'll probaby use this 400 yd hank for some sort of scarf. Or I might be a total copycat and make the same fingerless gloves that inspired the purchase. Then again, I could just marvel over it and never knit a thing with it.....

My last and most anticipated splurge was something I had my eye on and almost missed out completely. I found a really awesome collection of hand-dyeds called Fresh From the Cauldron (FFtC) on Ravelry. To my delight, one of the limited edition colorways was inspired from the Twilight series! The artist's username is Squibstitcher, and she has an Etsy shop. I didn't know if she was still dyeing any of these Twilight-inspired yarns, and when I checked her store, there were none for sale. I was very excited when I read on the FFtC group page that she was taking custom orders for colors in the series up until February 28, and then the colors wouldn't be dyed again until possibly 2010. I believe it was 2/27 when I contacted her on Etsy and requested three hanks. Thankfully, I had made the cut. All three hanks arrived yesterday and I couldn't wait to take pics.

  • The first is titled Bella Swan. I believe these colors are perfect for her character, as blue is Edward's favorite color on her. It is a beautiful arrangement of blues and silver.

  • The next is titled Edward Cullen, obviously for his "liquid topaz" eyes. The color is so warm it is just like sunshine in the middle of summer.

  • I love all of them, but the third is definitely my favorite, titled Forks, WA. I have always loved green, and these shades of green combined with silver and a touch of gold is perfection!

All three hanks are a merino/silk blend sock yarn. It has a great sheen and is ultra soft. I highly doubt I'd allow any of this beautiful yarn touch my feet. I've never attempted knitting a sock and I certainly wouldn't want to use this to practice. I've no clue what it will be used for, but I had to have it!

I must sing praises for Etsy. I've browsed the site over the past couple of years and gotten ideas for different things. The yarn I bought from Stefanie was the first purchase I ever made. All three transactions went smoothy and the site is easy to use for communication. I have pledged to buy handmade! I think it's very important, especially in these difficult economic times, to support people who make a living with their art. Someday it could be me!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What a Ride!

After spending most of Saturday sitting at my sewing machine, I am happy to announce that my newest baby, the Quirky Queen Cardigan is complete! The journey of this sweater has been the most enjoyable knitting experience I have had to date. Knitting is definitely a hobby that hasn't ceased to excite me after over four years. It just keeps getting more fun!! Here she is:

The idea for this sweater came from one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Anthropologie. When I had first seen it in the fall of 2008, I hadn't been drawn to it. When I saw it on Grey's Anatomy, I fell in love.

The design process turned my brain a little wacky for a few days, which might be why I decided to start knitting at the waistband. I measured the smallest part of my waist and knitted a simple six stitch cable until it measured just a bit shy of my size. I allowed two purl stitches on either side for selvedge. Then it was back to the drawing board. The fact that this sweater is almost seamless wasn't a design element, it just happily turned out that way! I did some measuring, picked up stitches around the edge of my waistband and began knitting the top portion. I separated the front from the back when I reached the armholes and knit the back first, then each front.

I had a hard time deciding what to do for the peplum of the sweater, so I settled for a 2 x 2 rib. I felt a little defeated at the time that my brain was a bit too fried to come up with something more creative, but in hindsight, I am most happy with that choice.

It was also pretty difficult to come up with the collar I wanted, so I designed that portion while I was knitting it. I probably could have done a better job with it by doing short rows instead of m1 increases, but it's good enough for me. Besides, short rows confuse me!

The sleeves were easy, which I only thought then because I had thrown my reservations out the window by the time I knit them, again an "on the fly" design. I scribbled down my stitch numbers and decreases only so that I could replicate them on the second sleeve. I probably should have taken the time to analyze what I was doing a little better, because they didn't come out exactly the way they were supposed to. I knew I wanted a puffed sleeve, but even after sewing the pleats, they are a little too loose. I might go out and get some smaller coverable buttons and make another pleat at the bottom edge and attach a button, but I'm not sure if the sleeves bother me enough to go to the trouble.
I seamed the sleeves and set them in with my sewing machine only after I attempted to do it by hand. I won't say it was any easier, but it was definitely quicker and produced a better look. Sewing the knitted fabric by machine is a bit trickier than it may seem.
By the way, her name is largely a result of the season of her birth, Mardi Gras, which has a lot of royal themes. I had thought she would be ready right around Fat Tuesday, but me and deadlines are not great friends!

Somewhere along the ride, I realized that the sweater I was knitting didn't look anything like the eclectic Sylvan Scene by Leifsdottir sweater that inspired it. I doubt I could have ever replicated it exactly, but that's why it was such fun - for the first time, it seems more like my design. Well, if you forget that I copied the idea of the big buttons and knitted loops.

Here is a (terrible) shot of the back:

Here's where I reinforced the buttons and loops from the inside:

My husband was like, "that looks raggedy", with a confused look on his face, when he saw what I had sewn on the inside of the sweater. Obviously the man didn't realize that it was exactly the vintage look I was going for. Besides, this Queen has her Quirks! Sometimes men are so clueless! Anyway, here's a shot of the tag I made for it:

I played around with it, and I will probably add an applique' or some other kind of embellishment. I need to get some custom tags made...

Anyway, the Queen is ready enough for her debut, and that will probably happen tomorrow at my office. There's no telling what some of the clueless guys I work with will have to say about it (or what their looks might say). Maybe it will be good enough to write about....!