Thursday, November 29, 2007

Birthday Goodies

My mom spoiled me rotten for my birthday (my dad too, but he was unaware!). I went to one of my favorite yarn stores, Colorful Yarns, when we were visiting my parents in Colorado, and picked out the new Cat Bordhi book plus 3 different types of sock yarn. Before I knew what was happening, my mom had paid for the entire thing, before I could even get my wallet out! She is a schemer!

Here's a better photo of the yarns:

The first one is Dream in Color - Smooshy in the Strange Harvest colorway. I had seen this yarn knitted up recently and thought it was beautiful. Plus it's an extremely generous 450 yards, so it will be great for a pattern with lots of cables or lace, or both!

Here's a closer shot of all the lovely greeny-rusty tones:

Red Rocks Fiber Works created my next selection. The owner, Mary-Kay Tilden, is a local yarn dyer out of Morrison, Colorado. I really fell in love with the combination of fall colors in this selection.

The colorway is called Pueblo and each skein is 185 yards of hand-dyed 100% superwash merino. Mary-Kay doesn't have a website ready yet, but here is her blog. Her colors are amazing and the quality of the yarn is lovely.

The last one was rather unusual as it has different colors plied together, like a hand-spun. It is called multicolor ply sock yarn from Rio de la Plata. The colorway I bought is called evergreen - yellow corn - poinsetta and is incredibly soft. It's 100% superwash merino. It will be interesting to see how it knits up.

After I purchased these yarns it occurred to me that they all have fairly similar fall colorways (although the Rio de la Plata really has pinks too) but I guess that's where I am right now in choosing my latest sock yarns!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Moss Grid

I finished my first moss grid towel, from the Mason Dixon Knitting book. I knit it using the recommended Louet Euroflax sportweight linen yarn in the Sandalwood colorway. It is a gift for my mom and dad and I had intended to finish it before Thanksgiving so I could surprise them with it upon our arrival. Needless to say, this did not happen, and I didn't finish it during our stay either! It is finished, though, and I am pleased with how it came out.

It was rather wonky and baggy looking before I washed it:

Once it wash washed, though, it really relaxed and looked much nicer.

I knit it on a size 4 (pattern calls for a 5) needle as I got gauge that way, but next time I think I would use a size 3 as I am a rather loose knitter and would've preferred the stitches to be a little tighter together. Now I only have about 8 more to make for other gifts!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Stuck in the slump... and out again!

These Grasshopper socks took me forEVER to finish! I am very happy with them but I feel like I have been in a slump with my knitting. We've had several things not go well at home lately, which didn't help, but now I feel like I'm off and running again! I have been finding so many things on ravelry that I want to knit, so that has been very motivating. Plus, now that it is getting colder here I feel the urge to start something more substantial than socks, such as a sweater.

I have one in mind in particular, that I saw at my lys. It is an adaptation of the Shrug This from the One Skein Wonders knitting book edited by Judith Durant. It is hard to believe that you end up with the same sweater, because Cathy, the owner, took the pattern and made both the sleeves and the body longer, so it is more like an open cropped sweater with a one-button closure at the top. She knitted it out of Misti Alpaca Chunky, in the cream color. I think it will be a very fast knit, because the yarn is like a super chunky weight, and the pattern is quite small. Just what I need at this point, instant satisfaction!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Roses in November

This is an example of the amazing fall we are having here in the Midwest. I cannot ever remember roses blooming into the middle of November. What a lovely memory to keep with us during the dreary, cold winter days to come!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Renegade Craft Fair

In September (yes, I know that was a long time ago but hey, I've been busy!) my friend Heidi asked me to go to the Renegade Craft Fair in Wicker Park, a neighborhood of Chicago. It was so amazing. We planned to stay for a few hours before heading to our Stitch 'n Bitch and ended up missing SnB altogether! There were over 300 vendors with awesome items they had crafted. Even their business cards were aesthetically beautiful!

Here are some shots of the things I found there:

I was especially happy to find the cute little bag from

I had seen this bag on her etsy site and hoped to find something like it. Lo and behold, there it was in her booth, waiting for me to pluck it up! It has a fuzzy fleece liner too. I haven't decided what I'm going to use it for yet. It's too nice for make-up. Perhaps I'll use it for all of my dpns!

The other major purchase was, of course, yarn! I bought a lovely skein of sock yarn from traveling rhinos in a colorway called Go Dutch.

It looks even better after I wound it up on my ball winder. I can't wait to knit up a yummy pair of socks with it.

The other 2 skeins of yarn were from Aisha Celia Designs of St. Paul, MN. Her colors were so tempting. I chose a very colorful skein of sock yarn in blues, purples, greens and yellowy pinky overtones.

I really splurged on the handspun skein in particular.

I want to make a winter hat with it and will have to think carefully which pattern to choose so I don't mask the beauty of the yarn with an overly complicated stitch pattern. I'm thinking of the Foliage hat but don't know if it might be too busy?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Our little bumblebee, Fiona, is not very excited but the rest of us are! Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Grasshopper #1

Here are a few photos of the first Knee High to a Grasshopper sock. They are soooo comfy to wear. I'm nearly 1/2 way to the heel on sock number 2. I can't wait to finish these socks!

Friday, October 26, 2007


O.k., I know I don't have a big excuse for not blogging as regularly lately, but the real reason is ... ravelry! I feel like a little kid who can't stop playing with a new toy - it is amazing! I am a far cry from getting all my stash, projects, etc., entered in but I am so enjoying sharing ideas with others who share similar interests in patterns or other outside interests. And I just keep gathering projects to the point where my head is about to explode from trying to figure out what I should make next!

All that inspiration being said, my knitting progress has been slow. I finally finished my first Knee High to a Grasshopper sock (April sock from Rockin' Sock Club) and I just love the way it fits. I'm so glad I decided to knit the size small with larger needles. I think the next larger size just would've been way too baggy around the ankles and up the calf. Plus, with the smaller needles the fabric was knitting up like cardboard and I really wanted something slightly spongier and prettier.

I decided to go with the addi turbo size 1's. I bought one lace needle this time for the top of the sock and it is working like a charm. They only had a size 32" length at the store, and I was too impatient to order a 24" over the internet, but I still went with it and am so glad I did. It is making the lace knitting go much faster than before.

I plunged into the 2nd sock right away and have started it over 3 times. It just didn't look like the 1st one and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. Well, while knitting at my daughter's swim meet tonight I realized that it is because I messed up the initial increases on the first sock! I must've increased every row instead of every other row, so now I have to frog back to the beginning and do it "wrong" again so I will match my first sock! I like it better the way I did it anyway. Somehow It looks less pointy and seems shaped more like my foot. I just don't look forward to starting it over for a 4th time! Urgh!

Well, that's it for now. Sorry no pics but I will post some of the first finished sock soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Knee High to a Grasshopper

I started the Knee High to a Grasshopper sock - the April 2007 mailing of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts - Rockin' Sock Club. I opted to make the size small sock. The pattern offers 2 options - a knee-high sock (which requires purchasing an extra skein of yarn) or a shorter sock. I chose the shorter sock, primarily because I didn't want to have to buy more yarn, but also because many others who have knit the knee highs say that they don't stay up, etc.

I swatched and ended up getting gauge using size 0's. So I went out and bought addi turbo circulars and got to work. The toe box immediately looked tremendously small but I kept going. I could get it on my toe but admittedly it was a little tight.

I followed the directions and started increasing for the gusset when I was about 3" from where I wanted the end of the sock to be. It was still a bit snug, but many people said that they liked it that way so I kept going.

Well, by the time I finished the heel, I was pretty disappointed with the fit, so I decided to frog the entire thing and start over. A week of knitting down the drain! But at least that's better than being unhappy with a pair of lovely socks that don't fit. I wish they'd listed in the pattern instructions the suggested dimensions of the sizes but I think I'm going to knit the same size small over again using the next larger size needles.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ta, Da!

I finished the Petals Collection Bird of Paradise Socks! I only made one noticeable mistake (that I have found, anyway!). I was knitting at a very exciting part of my daughter's swim meet and dropped a few gusset stitches off my needle when I wasn't paying attention! When I picked them back up I somehow overlapped one over the other but didn't notice until I had knitted several more rows and thus decreased several more stitches, so I would've had to frog back quite far to fix it. Usually, I go back and fix such a mistake, but in a way I kind of liked having a reminder in the sock of that moment in time! So, I left it in! Otherwise, knitting them was fairly uneventful and now they are done.

Once again, like my first pair of Sundara's socks (which I will try to post about sometime soon) they turned out a little tight in the instep eventhough I picked up one extra stitch on each side of the heel flap. So, next time I knit one of Sundara's patterns I think I will pick up a few more stitches along the side of the heel to allow more ease (I think she likes a nice tight sock). But they are rather comfy and I think I will get a lot of use out of them.

Now I am off to start the Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Rockin' Sock Club Knee High to a Grasshopper sock!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What I did for my summer vacation

I meant to post this earlier. We had such fun making these videos. Does my hair look like Sting's or what?!?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dyeing with goldenrod and overdyeing with kool-aid

As we drove home from our summer vacation in northern Michigan several weeks ago, I stared forlornly at all of the blooming goldenrod in the fields we passed. I was just aching to pick some and take it home and try dyeing with it. But our car was already so full of junk and so I hoped that I'd just find some when we got home.

So, when we drove down our alley at home I discovered that it grows almost everywhere! I tried it out on some superwash yarn I bought at my lys (I was too impatient to wait for undyed sock yarn to come in the mail so I just bought 2 skeins of Dale of Norway Baby Ull in the off white shade). I think it will make fine sock yarn.

I first mordanted the yarn using an alum mordant. I then made the dyebath by soaking the blossoms in a pot of water overnight and then steeping them for about an hour or so. I put the blossoms in bags made from panty hose so I didn't have to filter out the dye bath very much. The dyeing directions I followed said that for the lighter, less "dirty" shades of yellow to steam the yarn in the dye bath for only about 10 minutes or so. Even still, the color was awfully bright (sorry, no pics this time). It seemed like a repeat of the mullein dyeing but at least this time I was equipped with some packets of kool-aid from the pantry (and some food coloring too).

I was very happy with the results this time. I overdyed the goldenrod dyed yarn with 3 shades of kool-aid/wylers/food coloring. I overdyed with blue food coloring to get the deep aqua color. For the orange I overdyed using a cherry lemonade flavor (or maybe it was watermelon strawberry - I just can't remember!). And I got the lime green colorway just from using lemon-lime kool-aid. The skein on the right was how it looked after dyeing and I rewound the skein on the left to see what the colors would look like mingled together. I need to think of a fun sock pattern to knit to bring out the colors.

My other thoughts are that it might look lovely to dye with goldenrod and then overdye with indigo. So, I made another batch of dye and stuck it in the freezer. It will be a good project for when the endless winter starts to get to me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bird of Paradise Socks Started

I am so utterly behind in my sock club socks! This is the beginning of the Bird of Paradise Socks from Sundara's Petals Collection. This is the FEBRUARY 2007 mailing! How will I ever catch up? Anyway, the colors are pretty and the pattern is very basic - which is nice because I don't have to think too much! I hope to have it done soon, so I can move on to the Socks That Rock April 2007 mailing! Eek!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Sock Stash Goodies

This summer I heard about a new yarn shop, Thistledown Shoppe, that opened in Suttons Bay, Michigan. We were in Suttons Bay for an art show (wonderful show - always takes place the first weekend in August) and I made sure to stop in. The woman who owns it (so sorry - can't remember her name!) was extremely nice. She made it really inviting to want to be there.

I tried to control myself and managed to escape without major damage. I really wanted to find some sock yarn to make my husband some socks but everything I showed him was "too colorful." So, I had to just buy for myself - darn! I bought 2 skeins of Shi Bui 100% superwash merino sock yarn in the Pebble colorway (each skein is 50 g - 191 yards). I just love the mixture of all the natural tones with pale blue. I also bought a honkin' big 100 g - skein of Opal ZwergerGarn sock yarn (75% Schurwolle, 25% Polyamid). I have no idea exactly what it is, as the label is in German, but the color number is 211. It is a lovely mixture of pastels and grey. I tried to figure out just what it is called but couldn't really find it anywhere on the internet. Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing how it knits up. If anyone knows what this yarn is called, please let me know!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Le bikini est fini!

Well, I finally finished the bikini. Needless to say, it was challenging since I had to just do my own thing. Luckily I have this watergirl bikini that fits pretty well and I just used it as a model to follow. The bottom started out pretty well but I got to the end of the pattern and the bikini wasn't nearly big enough, so I just kept knitting until I had the height and width I needed. Fortunately the relationship between height and width was o.k. as I kept knitting, so I ended up knitting and increasing until I had 106 stitches for the size 6 bottom instead of the 82 stitches required by the pattern. It's a little late to wear it this year since the beach-going days are about over, but at least it's done!

Bikini details:
Pattern from Knitty Gritty
Yarn: Cascade Fixation in Magenta (6185), Chartreuse (5806) & Turquoise (2706). Pattern calls for 1 skein of each but I needed 2 for the Magenta
Sizes Made: Top - B cup; Bottom - size 6

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Last-minute birthday gift

Last weekend we were invited to a friend's surprise birthday party and at the last minute I decided to make her a little something to include in the gift. This pattern for a bath mitt was up on my pattern-a-day calendar and so I decided to make one for her! I just went to our local hobby shop and bought 2 skeins of Lily Sugar 'n Cream as the pattern directed. I chose the Painted Desert colorway. Because I knit sooo loose, I had to go down from a size 5 to a size 2! As I got into the thick of it, I remembered how much I hate knitting with cotton. I'm guessing it's because I have such a tension problem and so I feel like I constantly have to pull the yarn tight. It gives me sore hands and wrists after awhile. The pattern calls for size 5 needles but I didn't feel like gauge-swatching for a bath mitt, so I dropped a size and started out with a 4. After several rows it just looked so wide, so I dropped to a 3. It was still way too wide, so I then dropped to a size 2. I thought maybe I'd get away with it this way but it looked weird so I decided to rip out the entire thing and start over using the size 2 needles. I ended up finishing the mitt about an hour before the party! It turned out pretty cute and I really liked the colors. I bundled it up with a soft hand towel and a few bars of nice soap.

I only ended up needing one skein of the yarn, so I'll save it to make a dishcloth or something. I have had my eye on the ballband dishcloth highlighted in the Mason Dixon knitting book. It's actually a free pattern from the Peaches & Creme yarn website. It would be good to make a few and squirrel them away for hostess gifts or something. I'll have to wait until I'm ready to knit with cotton again!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dyeing with Mullein ... and food coloring... and Crystal Light!

I wanted to try some more natural dyeing and saw all this mullein plant growing everywhere. I did some research and found out that it dyes a shade of yellowish gold so I thought I'd give it a try.

Well, as you can see from the photo, it came out rather blah and unappealing. I dyed with 2 different types of natural colored yarn, a Henry's Attic Kona superwash DK weight from my lys and a soft worsted weight merino from Stonehedge Fiber Mill. The superwash was a little more interesting looking because it took more of the dye but I was pretty disappointed with both of them. So, I decided to see what an ammonia dip would do to the yarn. It made it brighter looking but I was still not thrilled with the color. Plus, the yarn from Stonehedge got a little matted up in the dye pot, between mordanting and dyeing. So, I decided to just let the yarn dry and think about what to do with it.

We were still up in northern Michigan, so my options for other dyes were somewhat limited. I decided to try overdyeing it with food coloring. I bought some basic McCormick food coloring at the local grocery store and started mixing. After a lot of experimenting, I came up with a color I liked. I think I used the following proportions in a solution of 8 C water and 3/4 C vinegar: 1 1/4 t yellow, 1/4 t green, 1/2 t blue and 7 drops red. I added the red last so it wasn't mixed in perfectly. I did this intentionally so that the color would be a little mottled. I used this concoction to overdye the superwash yarn and I was very pleased with how it turned out:

So, next I wanted to overdye the other skein. By now, I had used up all of the yellow food coloring so my options were more limited. I played around with the colors but wasn't happy at all with what I came up with. Finally, in desperation, I saw a box of raspberry ice flavored Crystal Light on the shelf. Now, I had no idea if it would even work, dyeing with artificial sugar. I dumped in 7 of the individual packets and really liked the color. It wasn't quite red and wasn't quite pink. My only concern was that it looked like I had burned the yarn when I took it out of the dyepot but it was only a heavy concentration of dye that rinsed out. Here is how the color came out:

This skein really took a beating after all the dyeing and overdyeing, and I was admittedly feeling bad that it had started to felt up a bit, especially given how lovely it was before I started dyeing with it. It still feels soft, it is just more nubby and has almost a handspun look to it. I'm sure I will still use it but I have decided that from now on I'm only going to dye with superwash yarn if it has to be mordanted - it is just not worth it to me to ruin the yarn's texture.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Lovely Alpaca

Every summer it is a tradition in our family to go to the Northwestern Michigan Fair in Traverse City. There is everything from carnival rides and gut buster food to tractor pull competitions and amazing exhibits of produce, handmade goods and 4-H animals of every variety. While the kids make themselves nauseous on the carnival rides and eating greasy elephant ears, the adults head over to see the animals. My favorite of course are the alpacas and llamas. They are so beautiful, graceful and intelligent! This year I was very fortunate to meet Kathy Easter of Northern Dreams Alpaca Farm in Empire, Michigan. I talked to her at great length about her animals - she has about 40 that she raises. She happened to have some alpaca yarn for sale (spun by the same mill where I bought the antique rose yarn at the fiber fair in Charlevoix!). The yarn came from Kathy's alpaca, Daisy. I can't wait to make something from it - perhaps some warm cozy socks if the alpaca will hold up o.k.!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Quilt Hog

I was at a wonderful yard sale recently. This yard sale takes place every summer, and the people who put it on spend the year collecting antiques that they then put out for sale in their yard. I can always manage to find a few interesting things to buy and the prices are very reasonable. This year I came across a fairly large quilt, pieced from vintage fabrics. There is admittedly a lot of purple in the quilt, which is probably why it wasn't snatched up earlier. I liked it though because I am a sucker for vintage fabric and the purple isn't overwhelming to me. I brought it home and my dog, Fiona, thinks it belongs to her! What is she thinking? Notice that her quilt is conveniently positioned beneath! Huh!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

2007 Fiber Arts Festival - Part 2

I also bought some sock yarn at the fiber festival. Now, I know I really need another skein of sock yarn like a hole in the head at this point, but this vendor, Happy Hands, had such vibrantly hand dyed yarns I couldn't pass it up. Here is a photo of some of the yarns from their booth:

The owners are Kim Ogle and Kim Leach, and they are based in Palmyra, Wisconsin. One of the Kims dyes the yarn and the other Kim designs patterns. The sock yarn I bought is on the left, below. It is 75% wool and 25% nylon, and the colorway is called "End of the Day."

My other major yarn purchase of the day was the yarn on the right, above, from Stonehedge Fiber Mill in East Jordan, Michigan (just a few miles from the show).

Now, I have had my eye on this yarn for awhile. I discovered the yarn in the Yarn Shop in Glen Arbor, Michigan a few months ago. Debbie McDermott, the owner and operator of Stonehedge Fiber Mill, mills yarn for many breeders and also sells her own yarn. The yarn I bought is a worsted weight merino and is so unbelievably soft that I have been planning this purchase for several months now. I chose a color called Antique Rose, a heathered coral color. I am planning to use it to make the Bpt hoody from Knitty.

There was another booth that was very interesting called Elizabeth's Designs. Elizabeth Koeppen, of Traverse City, Michigan, sells handpainted yarns and roving.

She wasn't in the booth when I went by, so I don't have much information about her, and I didn't buy any of her yarn, but her friend, who was manning the booth, said that some of her yarns are available in the Traverse City area, including the Inish Knits yarn shop in Cedar, Michigan.

There were also a few animal breeders at the festival. High Tower Farm, breeders of rabbits and pigs, had some angora rabbits and showed how they collect the angora fiber for spinning.

I was hoping to be able to buy some angora yarn but she only had fiber available, and since I am a beginning spinner, I passed on it.

One of the most well-known vendors was Briar Rose Fibers. I had always wanted to see what their yarn looks like. Well, the booth was just crawling with people, so it was a little frustrating getting in to see. Admittedly, they had some pretty yarns but I didn't see anything that really captivated me and the yarns were rather pricey so I didn't buy any yarn.

As we were leaving, I lingered a bit at a booth that sold a lot of lavender products. They were lovely, and smelled lovely too, but we were out of time. I'll have to come back next year!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

2007 Fiber Arts Festival - Part 1

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Frauke, and I went to a fiber festival at Castle Farms, just outside Charlevoix, Michigan. There were over 50 vendors there, selling yarn, fiber for spinning and felting, as well as other fiber-related handmade goods. There were also demonstrations of animals, including sheep shearing and llama driving, as well as spinning, weaving, and even dyeing with natural dyes, to name a few of the activities.

I have never seen so much alpaca yarn in one place. Many of the alpaca vendors raise their own animals and even spin their own yarn. It was so lovely, and I wanted to buy some, but I'm now trying to buy yarn only if I have a specific purpose for it marked out in my mind, so I didn't end up buying any.

I loved the natural dyeing demonstration booth, in particular. When I saw it they hadn't started the demonstrations yet, so I tracked down the woman who was going to make the presentation and just picked her brain for a few minutes. I think her name was Susan and she was very helpful to talk to, since she has been dyeing with natural dyes for several years now. She had a card with several samples of yarn using the same dye source, but different mordants and "after-dips," which was so helpful to see.

I did buy some yarn while I was at the festival. One vendor imports a New Zealand yarn called Touch Yarns. These were the softest, most beautiful yarns I have seen in a long time.
I fell in love with several of the merinos, but the one I chose was 65% merino and 35% possum! It was so unusual I couldn't pass it up and extremely soft. The colorway I chose was a varigated combination of deep reds and greens. The vendor showed the yarn knitted up in a cute hat. I tried the hat on and it was very soft and comfortable, so I bought the pattern too.