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Friday, February 18, 2011

Dyeing of frustration

For some time now, I've had a very large, heavy ball of cotton yarn sitting in my stash.  Periodically, I'd look at it and think about what to make from it, but it was just so...plain.  And try as I might, I couldn't remember why I'd even bought it in the first place:  aside from being plain, its texture (a bit rough), gauge (worsted, which I don't really care for), and the lack of stretch in unknitted form left me unmotivated.  For me, yarn should be all about dainty softness--give me DK or smaller with a fine hand!  I finally concluded that it must have been on a clearance shelf and that I did have an idea of what to do with it when I bought it, but that was so long ago...!

utterly uninspiring

Then a few days ago, as I browsed through some of my books, I came across a drop stitch shawl knitted in hand-painted yarn.  As I looked over the stash, my eye fell on the cotton...sure, the gauge is a bit bigger than this design calls for, but couldn't I use a larger needle and take a few of the stitches off the end and do less repeats of the pattern rows?  Certainly this has been done before...and then I could paint it!  I envisioned myself standing in the backyard with the glorious fabric draped over the clothesline, splashing and spritzing this color and that and creating a masterpiece.

Reality, however, often has a way of rearing its ugly head.  Anyone who has ever worked drop stitch patterns (this one has three wraps per stitch) probably knows this must be done on a long circular needle (since straight needles are too short and the project gets unbearably heavy) and also probably knows that the wraps, on the knit row back, get stuck and twisted and tangled moving from the skinny cable part to the firmer, (sometimes much) larger needle, and each row can turn into a terrible, time-consuming pain.  Ordinarily, knitting is a wondrous experience for me, but in this case, the thought of facing one more of those "knit, dropping wraps" rows just depressed me.  I was tired of looking at this thing after so many days and had too many more ideas crowding forward and crying to be next on the needles.  I gave up.

This is not to say that I would frog the whole thing and revert to that giant ball of cotton again.  Thinking about that was even worse!  Instead, I decided to bind off and consider it "a thin wrap" or even "a wide scarf."  And hey, I could still paint it, right?

As it turned out, the "thin wrap" would be too thin, so a scarf might work...but as I tried it on, draping it this way and that, it seemed a little too long for a scarf.  Then it came to me:  sew the top in the same way many hoods are made, and voila!  Hooded scarf--not too long, not too crazy.  I got out the big sewing needle and made it happen.  Now, to paint! 

A trip to the store quickly put that notion on hold:  a variety of paints (in huge bottles) cost more than I wanted to invest in this thing, nor would I use it all, and I certainly did not want bottles of fabric paint sitting in the (already crammed) cupboard for months while I racked my brain trying to figure out how to use it up.  Sigh.  As a last resort, I trekked over the dye department, happy to see that dye was certainly cheaper and in manageable amounts, and hey, single colors can be nice, too!  I talked myself into the royal blue, and now the thing is cooking up:

I haven't done any dyeing for some years, so hopefully, I've done it right.  About three more steps should yield the finished product, and then I only have the dilemma of what to do with the half ball of cotton that remains...but I can't bring myself to talk about that right now.

And here's the finished scarf!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Small self-sufficiencies

A couple of days ago, I recommended The Natural Soap Book and The Soapmaker's Companion by Susan Miller Cavitch to a friend, as I've used home made soap (yes, it can be ugly, too) for years now.  And, since I hate wasting anything, I knitted up a "soap saver," a cotton bag that is not only eco-friendly but also quite good for exfoliating while showering.  The soap saver works this way:  when soap gets too small to manage comfortably, just open the bag and drop it in.  After a while, those small chips add up to make a nice self-sudsing scrubby.  Probably the best thing about a soap saver is that it can be knitted in any size that fits comfortably in the hand and from any weight or type of yarn that is washable.  I like cotton for its texture and natural fiber content.

If you want to knit your own, you don't need to be advanced--any beginner who can do garter stitch will find success!  Just find the yarn you like (remember, wool and wool blends will often felt, so I'd avoid those) and use a larger needle to make a more open weave in your work.  For worsted weight cotton yarn, I used a 10 or 10.5 needle; small balls of scrap yarn will do.  Cast on about 25-30 stitches.  Knit every row until it's the length you want.  5 to 6 inches should do it (it will stretch some when wet, due to the flexibility of the stitching).  Bind off the last row loosely and fold the piece in half lengthwise.  Sew up the side seam and across the bottom to make the bag.  

With a crochet hook and remaining yarn, chain a length suitable for a drawstring (you'll want one long enough to thread through the open top and have enough left over to hang the loop over the shower knob).  You can also make i-cord if you're experienced in that or just use a pretty ribbon that can get wet.  Thread the drawstring through the top of the bag and draw it tight.  Tie the drawstring together at the ends with a knot, and you're ready to save those lovely homemade soap chips!

Since I'm planning to knit up a couple more in the near future, I'll post some pictures when they're done!

Happy knitting!

Monday, February 7, 2011

We like purple.  It's my mom's favorite color, and when I found this leftover ball in the stash box, I knew I had to make something with it!

This is one of the first hats I designed.  I actually didn't even write down the pattern but just winged it as I went along, not realizing at the time I wouldn't be able to recreate it exactly later.  Now I write everything down!

This is Lucinda.  She models beautifully, doesn't she?  And she hasn't had a bad hair day yet!

Here we go!

Well, I've done it--set myself another task to keep up with.  And I'm going to try, because I think that crafters everywhere can benefit from hearing others' thoughts and ideas and techniques.  As time goes by, I learn a lot from others, whether it's knitting and crocheting or any other skill that takes practice to hone.  Like many who work with fibers, I practice...a LOT.  Then, when people tell me they're impressed by something I've made, I feel good, as anyone should.  However, I realize every day that I still have a lot to learn, and I hope that by sharing my accomplishments, experiments, and even failures with others, we will all somehow be better off.

Now, I have a sweater on the needles waiting for me!