Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

A bad economy

July 11, 2009

means a lot more Ebay goin on in my life.

I’m selling some yarn!  Check it out.  The first listing I’m doing is for 5 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Green Line DK Wool in Hope.  I may be adding some more in the next few days, which I’ll post about here as well.

This large bit of yarn is the 2nd half of a big batch I bought some time ago–the 1st half you may remember became my Cabled Capecho, which I love love love.  This yarn is wonderful (100% organic merino wool) but I’m not sure I want to knit with the same color again–hence the sellage.

It’s definitely time to downsize, and save, and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of other unsexy things, but this may just be someone’s opportunity to grab some yarn they may have bought anyway, but WAY cheaper.  Or your opportunity to impulse buy…ya know, whatever’s good for you.

End shameless advertisement.

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I Dye

April 25, 2009

*This post is a draft from a hundred years ago…but it may have some value for others that foolishly do not buy their yarn from a single dye lot*

Well, my friends, it’s finally finished, my Phildar meshy sweater, made with Rowan Purelife Organic  Cotton in Logwood.  I dyed it (using Logwood natural dye) and did not kill it.  It’s soul is hardened, but it is better for it.  Actually in reality, it’s not nearly as soft as it used to be.  But it kind of went through hell, so I can’t blame it.  I hope that it will soften with wearing and eventually trust me again as a loving owner.

So, I said I would report on the dyeing process and I will.

I had to do quite a bit of research and found some great online resources, mostly through Ravelry, and I also relied on some instruction sheets from the shop I bought my dyestuffs from, Griffin Dyeworks.

So I’ll try my best and share my process in using logwood to dye a cotton sweater–natural dyeing seems to have a different process than conventional dyeing and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, etc) have different prep and requirements than protein fibers (wool, alpaca, anything from an animal).

There are three important steps in the natural dyeing process, which I’ll go over…

1. Scouring

This was not something I was aware would be necessary until I read on a Ravelry forum that cotton yarns are very particular.  If not dyed properly it can be difficult to get bright vibrant colors–especially with logwood (which apparently has been known to fade and rub off pretty quickly).   Apparently cotton yarns come to us with quite a bit of waxy residue, which was very clear to me when I dunked my sweater in some plain old water and soaked it for a bit (in a vain hope that the dye was crappy enough to even out if just soaked) and the water was completely brown.  So in order to remove the residue so the cotton can take dye better, it must be scoured.  I got this scour mess (powder detergenty stuff) from Hillcreek Fiber Studio and followed some simple directions using a big enamel pot on my stove: 5% scour to the weight of the fiber, simmer for half an hour, and then thoroughly rinse.

2. Pre-mordanting

The next step is this thing called mordanting, which *I think* is necessary for natural dyeing only (?) to prepare the fiber for taking the natural dye.  Different mordants are used for different dyes, different fibers and to get different colors with certain dyes (like using iron for darker colors).  There’s a good table here, showing the different outcomes with different dyes using different mordants.  It can also be done two different ways–mordanting before dyeing or mordanting and dyeing at the same time.  I did the former.

So of course, cotton also requires a different mordant than protein fibers: aluminum acetate.  There’s a great blog post on the different mordanting methods for cotton here.

This was also really easy, basically following some simple directions for the alum acetate method: using 5% mordant to the weight of the fiber (or 4 Tablespoons for 1 pound), dissolve the alum acetate in boiling water. Simmer for an hour (longer is fine, too), drain water and do not rinse (though some would argue that you should rinse…I did not).

3. Dyeing

The most exciting step is the actual dyeing.  I used logwood extract, which is a finely powdered dye concentrate.  Logwood is a bark that would require a more intensive preparation than I was willing to do and the extract seemed like a perfect lazyish solution.  I don’t remember exactly how much dye I used, but it was a very small amount–maybe a teaspoon of dye in total.  The kit I bought from Griffin Dyeworks came with an instruction book, and I would imagine any dye you bought would also come with specific instructions.  It followed the same general process of dissolving the dye in a bunch of boiling water and then soaking the fiber for a while.

One interesting thing was the addition of soda ash to the dye.  If you look at the first picture the dye is a reddish purple and in the second it’s a dark bluish purple…it was like magic–it just turned the instant the soda ash hit the dye bath.

The rest needs no explanation.

A 4th obvious step of Rinsing

And finally, Drying

I may have to find a good method of softening this up again…conditioner maybe?

Baby Boom

February 14, 2009

Is there one going on right now?

I feel like everyone is pregnant.  A few of my coworkers, a few of my friends, a few of all their friends, some folks on the television, some knitters whose blogs I read–EVERYONE.  I even had a dream I was pregnant.  I woke up relieved.

I heard an interesting theory that lots of babies are conceived/born during recessions.  Times is tough, so let’s just stay in…

Just goes to prove that long-term financial planning seems to be beyond the capabilities of many people or maybe they’d realize that dinner and a movie is probably way cheaper than a child.

IRregardless (use of that “word” both amuses me and makes me cringe), I have quite a few baby gifts to make use of my knitting skills for my first really good friend who is pregnant, including Knitty’s Op Art baby blanker.

But first, I made the Curly Purly Soaker for a friend/coworker who is also pregnant.  She’ll happily be using cloth diapers and these wool soakers are made for such a lovely eco-friendly practice.

I intentionally used nontraditional baby colors.  As I believe will be appreciated by the receiving mom-to-be.

This is really cute.  I’m not a huge baby person, but this is CUTE, for a cute little baby butt.

I used Cascade 220 in Italian Plum and Charcoal Grey, which I hope will make for a chic little baby of either sex (she’s waiting to find out).  I used short rows which messed up my stripes…but I don’t think the baby’s life will be ruined.  It has a “pleated” waistband made from strategically placed columns of purled stitches.  Simple detail, but I really love the effect.  The pattern was very clear and simple, and it was a fast one night knit…meaning this will be my baby gift of choice for some time to come.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day…a day that might exacerbate this baby boom I think is occuring.

Day #12, A Year of Non-Denominational and Green Hand-makery

January 16, 2009

For my final day in this 12 day series (that extended about 18 days in reality…), I offer you my 2008,  year in review: My first year of green knitting.

As you all know, my goal for 2008 was to only use yarns meeting at least one of my green criteria:

1. Organic

2. Least resource-intensive production (for example, the growing of flax for linen requires little to no pesticides naturally–so while it may not have the organic label, for all intents and purposes, it meets that criteria).  I did try and take into account the resource intensive process of producing yarns from the plant fibers.

3. Natural dyes

4.  Socially responsible (non profit cooperatives, for instance)

5. Otherwise sustainably sourced, such as bamboo, which is rapidly renewable and can actually help prevent soil erosion.

6. Locally sourced raw material

7. Recycled material

8.  From a small farm or is otherwise animal-friendly

Within all five categories are products that are not as “green” as I would ideally prefer, meaning the producers don’t limit their impact on the environment nearly as much as I would like.  However, it is impossible to live a life without impact, either negative or positive, so as time wore on I eased my expectations a little.  Overall, I think I did a decent job sticking to my goals and discovered that there are many more choices than I ever expected–from organic cotton and wool to soy silks, bamboo, and hemp.  Even as the year progressed I would notice more and more “eco-friendly” products come on the market than I could even keep track of.

So I thought I would share some of my findings.

First, there are some great online shops that specialize in green/organic yarns:

Annie Sherburne — For me, this site has served as a fantastic source of information.

A Second Chance — Great shop selling recycled/reclaimed yarn from old sweaters, items handmade from reclaimed materials, vintage clothing, etc.  I really love that the shop is completely dedicated to materials that deserve a second chance–I can’t stress enough that this is as green as it gets.  Also, 10% of each sale goes to Kiva.org (a microfinance organization).

Blonde Chicken Boutique — Tara of Blonde Chicken specifically sources animal and earth friendly fibers and creates beautiful, unique yarns.  I’ve worked with her on some custom yarn and she was extremely helpful.

COLORBOMB Creations — This shop sells really interesting, crazy yarns, three of which are tagged with the COLORBOMB Greenish™ label: ‘(S)craptastic’, ‘Shaganator, and ‘Raggedy’, all made from 100% repurposed/reclaimed materials (like mill ends and vintage yarns, scraps and threads). Like I’ve said before–recycled/repurposed is my favorite kind of eco material.

defaceReconstruct — Lovely Etsy shop with recycled yarns and other pretty goodies.

Earth Friendly Yarns — Self explanatory, decent selection.

Freecycle — A great place to find yarn ready to be discarded by others, therefore not requiring any new production (and it’s associated impacts) for your project–the most eco-friendly option in my opinion.  Even organic production pollutes…it’s just way better than conventional.

Hands and Notions — Yarns come from small family farms and have minimal processing (I haven’t bought anything from here yet, so can’t review personally).

Insubordiknit — She uses alternative fibers, such as soysilk and tussah silk, and eco yarns, like organic cotton to create very cool, funky yarns.

Knit for Brains — Lots o’ vegan yarns (bamboo, hemp, soysilk), but also a great selection of pretty organic cotton.

Martha’s Vinyard Fiber Farm — The purveyor of the oh so fabulous yarn CSA…which I never joined.  Someday…

Midnight Sky Fibers — Has a great menu structure so you can shop according to your values: local (if you’re Pacific NW), vegan, undyed, etc).  They also have this amazing “Recycling” option, where if you add it to your order you are pledging that you will recycle the packaging that your order comes in and you get a discount!  Very cool.

Naturesong Yarns — One of my favorite collection of shops (with Colorsong Yarns), which specifically offers naturally dyed or organic yarns (like Habu and Fleece Artist).

Near Sea Naturals — A fantastic online shop where all knitting supplies and sewing supplies are eco-friendly, from sustainably produced knitting needles to natural elastic and organic thread.  There are also yarns grouped by fiber (animal fibers you can feel good about, plant fibers you can also feel very good about, and blends) and fabrics grouped by type–all of which, yes, you can feel good about.

The Yarn Grove — Great selection of “natural, organic, and hand-dyed yarns.”  Not everything meets my criteria, but there’s a lot of good stuff.

Second, there are a number of Organic Cottons and Blends, and throughout 2008 it seemed like the different brands with organic cotton lines were exploding.  I’m only going to comment on the ones I’ve used, which are quite a few…

Be Sweet Bambino Yarn — This yarn is 70% organic cotton and 30% bamboo.  I LOVE this yarn.  It is so soft, the colors are incredibly rich, and it’s just beautiful with a cloud of cotton wrapped with shiny, gorgeous bamboo.  DK weight.

Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton — This yarn is incredibly soft and I will definitely use it again.  My one complaint is the pilling (which is not insignificant), but again, I would more than consider it for future projects because of the softness, the rich colors and organicness.  It’s also nice that it’s a bulky weight, as many of the other cottons are DK (like their newish Organic Skinny Cotton).

EcoKnit Organic Cotton

K1C2 Recycled Cotton — I haven’t used this, but love the idea of creating recycled cotton yarn.  I wish there was more of this!

Lion Organic Cotton

Inca Cotton

Malabrigo Limited Edition Organic Cotton — Really smooth and beautiful in very rich colors.  It’s not as soft as other organic cottons, but that makes it great for more polished pieces.  There definitely won’t be any pilling with this yarn.  It’s a DK weight, and I highly recommend it.

Nashua Natural Focus Ecologie Cotton (naturally dyed)

Pakucho Organic Cotton

Rowan Pure Life Organic Cotton — Very soft and smooth, with an almost bamboo or silk-like sheen.  I love this yarn, but definitely recommend buying all your yarn from the same dye lot, as the  natural colors can vary significantly.  Also a DK weight.

Sublime Organic Cotton

Tahki Eco-Friendly Yarns

Third, there are a number of fibers that lend themselves to production processes that have a less negative impact than other commonly used knitting materials, such as Linen and other Alternative Fibers:

Berroco Naturlin Yarn

The Fibre Co Organik

(Louet is obviously a major manufacturer of linen yarn, which I decided met my green goals since the production of flax would generally meet organic standards, but is not worth the hassle of certification to many producers.  More information on the benefits of linen here)

Fourth, Organic Wools, etc:

Fleece Artist Organic Wool

Green Mountain Spinnery

Lorna’s Laces Green Line Worsted — I really love this yarn and plan to use the DK weight again and the worsted weight for the first time at some point in the near future.  The colors are chic and the yarn is soft and smooth–really very beautiful.  I highly recommend this yarn–it’s definitely in my top 10, possibly even 5.

(There are many others that I haven’t tried, like the O Wools, but they are available at the shops listed above)

And, last (but certainly not least), Socially Responsible:

Frog Tree Yarns — This company is non-profit and you can tell from the prices–which are extremely affordable for some very very nice yarns.  I’ve used their Merino Melange, which is incredibly soft and lovely, and their fingering weight alpaca, which is equally nice.  I highly recommend these yarns.

Be Sweet — Another favorite of mine in this category. The yarns are gorgeous, great quality, and supportive of job creation for mostly women in South African villages.  The only problem I have found is that they can be difficult to find and are not cheap.

(I also put companies like Manos del Uruguay and Malabrigo in here, because they are small family businesses or support cooperatives.)

There is a fantastic knitting green resource here, with a matrix of many, many different green yarns to give you an idea of what’s out there and what you can try.  Hopefully you can piece them together with some reviews to see what would work best for you.

If you have recommendations you’d like to add, I’d love to hear them.  I’ll continue to update this post with new findings and recommendations.

Day #9, Tomato Petal

January 8, 2009

Hi everyone.

I really wanted to change the course of these next couple of days to write about some substantive goings on, particularly in the realm of normal everyday people making an environmental difference….but I’m sick and busy with a lot of work and other professional goings on.

So, like yesterday, I present to you an ongoing project: my Petal, pattern by Stephanie Japel.  I was inspired by this version (on Ravelry) by Ravelry user Natsuko.  I am basically making the exact same thing, even with her sizing modification using size 6 needles rather 7s.  I loved her entire creation, dress and all and realized I had some perfect Be Sweet Bambino in Coral that needed to be frogged from a yarn-eating Twinkle project that I would probably never ever wear after taking the photos of it for this blog (kind of like my Vogue Twinkle Dress).  I was initially going to make the Gitane Tunic Dress from the new Town and Country book, but after spending $100 on Bambino in black and coral for this project, a quarter of the way through I realized I would still need about $75 more of yarn to actually finish.  The whole thing definitely seemed not so worth the money and trouble.  I still think it’s beautiful and think it would actually be better (by which I mean at all wearable and at all affordable) if I modified the pattern to use 3 strands of yarn instead of 4 and used smaller needles to get a less chunky final product.  But that seemed like a lot of effort…

So I frogged what I had and am going strong on this little cardigan.

A note on the yarn.

It’s INCREDIBLE.  In all ways.  It meets so much of my criteria: socially responsible, organic, low impact dyes, alternative fiber (bamboo); but it’s also crazy soft and the colors are beautiful and rich.  Even if it weren’t “good” and “green”, the yarn itself is just gorgeous and soft like a cloud.  Most perfect for baby stuff, so I just ordered a bunch to make a baby blanket for a friend.

Almost there, friends…3 more days!

Day #8, Wrapped in Stripes

January 6, 2009

I’m back to showing you projects in progress…

This will someday be the Raglan Wrap from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits.  I really love this border, which is an interesting stitch involving pulling yarn-overs over 2 stitches–very simple, but new to me.

Beyond that, the pattern is really basic.

I’m using Malabrigo Organic Cotton in Pimenta and Pacae, which is very nice.  It’s not as soft as other organic cottons, but it’s crisp, in a good way–if that makes sense.  I’m hoping this will be a simple, basic piece that I can wear a lot and throughout the year.

This is not an exciting post.

So I leave you with my WWII message for the day:

ridealonewithhitler

Day #6…Half way there!

January 2, 2009

Ok folks, this is getting difficult.  I knew I didn’t have twelve finished products to share with you, but I forged on with the charade.  So now begins the I-must-atone-for-my-lies-and-show-you-the-myriad-of-ongoing-projects-I-have-which-illustrate-my-inability-to-commit portion of… Twelve Days of Non-Denominational blah blah blah.

I would actually have a great FO to show you had the yarn not completely betrayed me.

Here sits my completely knitted, seamed and otherwise lovely Phildar Meshy Sweater.

It sits soaking in a bucket, anxiously awaiting either its death or ascension to glory at the hands of this first-time dyer.  You will notice that even while it sits in a large bucket of water, it is comprised of two distinct colors–a very light grey and a darker grey-blue.

This was unintentional and not completely my fault.  The yarn I used is Rowan Purelife in Logwood–for the entire sweater, but from two different sources.  In my research, I have found that logwood is very prone to fade and rub off, and natural dyes in general can produce extremely different results in different dye lots.  I still believe the yarn itself is fantastic, I just caution all of you organic knitters out there to buy all the yarn you think you’ll need at once, from the same dye lot.

Because if not, you must delve deeply into the world of natural dyeing in order to fix your beautifully knitted sweater that now looks like a colorblock 80s mess.  I’ll give you full documentation of my dyeing endeavor once it’s completed, but let me tell you–it’s not what I thought it would be.  Dyers will laugh, but I seriously thought I’d just squirt some color into a bucket of water and stick my sweater in it for an hour or so.  But no no no.  I have to scour, then pre-mordant, and then dye.  I have no measuring implements, so it will be improvised.

I’m fully prepared for my sweater to die.  from the dyeing.

Possibly in memoriam, I wish to say that this sweater became kind of annoying to knit.  Quite a bit of knitting through back loops and the excitement of dropping stitches doesn’t come until the end.  That being said, I really am happy with the design, fit, and shape.  It’s very cool and…I think I’m realizing that I may shed tears if I kill my sweater.

The only thing that was a real problem was the sleeves.  According to my non-French-speaking translation of this French pattern, the sleeves are given no shape whatsoever–I mean no armhole shaping at all, just tubes of sleeve.  It looks surprisingly nice on, but when I followed the pattern exactly, the armholes were too small.  My fix was to still drop the appropriate stitches at the end, but pick them up again after creating the ladders and knit a couple of more rows–so no stitches were lost and the armholes would be almost twice as large.  They’re still a little tight, but fit decently.

I’m hoping to get to dyeing this week, so I’ll report back.

Let’s cross our fingers for a real FO, rather than a eulogy.

See you Monday for Day #7!

Day #3, Come a little bit clocher

December 30, 2008

I couldn’t resist.

This is the Sideways Grande Cloche from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits.  The yarn is Berroco Cuzco in Hunter Green, which is a blend of superfine alpaca and Peruvian wool.

I felt I could use this yarn because of the origin of the wool: Peru.  This is important when considering the primary argument of organizations like PETA (one I generally appreciate on the whole) to not use wool, which is that the raising and shearing of sheep for wool is a cruel and inhumane process.  The problem with this argument is that is rests on a practice called “mulesing“, which “is the surgical removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep.”  It’s done to prevent flystrike, which is very gross disease where a fly lays eggs in dirty, moist, protected living tissue (like the bum of a sheep), the eggs hatch, and then the larvae tear up the poor sheep’s tissue causing sores, lesions, bacterial infections and can lead to death.  Flystrike only affects merinos in Australia, since sheep are not naturally supposed to be in the relatively warm Australian environment.

The point is, if mulesing is one’s reason for not using wool (which is completely legitimate), there are ways to guarantee your wool did not come from a mulesed sheep–basically to not buy merino wool that comes from Australia, which is what I try and do. I do want to note that I believe that vegans do not wear wool for reasons beyond this (which are also completely legitimate).  I also want to note that mulesing is being phased out in Australia by 2010, which is right around the corner (!!).

I will fully admit that I don’t actually know if the Cuzco is a good animal-friendly yarn beyond the fact that mulesing did not occur.  The proper thing to have done would be to find a small fiber farm with a good reputation.  Next time.

In any case, I did really like the yarn–soft and beautiful.  And the pattern I thought was genius and very different than any hat pattern I had used in the past.  Knit flat and seamed up the side with a fake cable–I was actually surprised when I read through the pattern.  Not at all what I would have expected.  The shape is quite interesting as well, with a flat top and long body.  It’s surprisingly flattering and functional.

Laura Irwin’s entire book is full of interesting, innovative construction.  Some are things I would never think to make with materials I wouldn’t think to use.  Yet it’s all so much simpler than I would have expected.  Full of surprise, in other words.

Ok, once again, see you tomorrow for Day #4!

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand Makery, Day 1.

December 28, 2008

In the long writing dry spell I found a considerable amount of time to make things, by hand.  I partook in hand-makery, if you will.  (This is not my high point in my long line of making up of words, but I felt like “crafting” wasn’t the right word anymore–and I couldn’t think of one singular noun that meant “artful making of clothing”–which is how I like to think of it.)

In honor of the holidays I am beginning a journey a la the Twelve Days of Christmas.  However, this will be non-denominational (like me) and will involve the making of things by hand (like I like to do).  The Twelve Days of things I have made and not yet shared.

I don’t think I actually have twelve things to share…but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So here we go.

#1   The St. Tropez Pullover

The pattern comes from Wenlan Chia’s 3rd and rumored final knitting book, Twinkle’s Town and Country Knits.  (Though there are even better rumors about a Twinkle sewing book…hopefully soon…)

The yarn is Twinkle’s super big Soft Chunky in French Grey.

This was wholly successful.  I consider this my most eco-friendly creation because while the yarn is just plain old wool (made in China), it comes recycled from my Shopping Tunic, which I finally accepted made me look like a baby elephant.  So I frogged it to  make this sweater that is one of only two Twinkle creations that I wear with any real frequency.  It’s actually flattering.  The length is perfect, the pattern is simple but pretty, the color is lovely and versatile, and the shape somehow doesn’t add 30 pounds like most of the other Twinkle patterns I’ve made.  I only made one change to the pattern, which was to not add the button on the collar.  It seemed unnecessary.

See you tomorrow, for Day #2 of….

Twelve Days of Non-Denominational Hand-Makery!

Merry Christmas! (I mean, Happy Holidays)

December 23, 2008

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Technically I don’t “celebrate” Christmas.  But I love rituals and traditions–particularly those that I know something about and can therefore participate in.   When we can participate in a tradition, it gives us a sense of belonging, which I think most of us desire deeply.
So while I’m not Christian, having grown up with the traditions of Christmas in school, on television and through my friends, I actually really love the holidays–Christmas particularly. Having grown up outside of India where all of the intense festivals and rituals surrounding the holidays of my ethnic heritage and upbringing occur, I tend to feel like they don’t belong to me since I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.    I doubt I know the ins and outs of a true Christmas celebration–and I wouldn’t really want to infuse my holidays with the religious rituals of a religion in which I don’t believe, but everything else–like the ritualistic buying of a tree and decorating it with sparkling balls and tinsel, just has this sweet, warm quality to me.

Above all, I actually like that tomorrow evening and all day Thursday I will be forced to go home and spend time with my parents.  I won’t have a choice to spend that time with my friends or even my significant other, all of whom will be with their families/far away friends/and others that need them at this particular point in time.  Sometimes it’s nice to have my choices taken away and to have the simplicity of life exposed–time with family, cooking, and eating food…and knitting.  Guilt-free time doing the simplest of things.  Maybe even making a wreath of yarn (with leftover organic stuff, of course).