Sunday, October 04, 2015

Blue, I'm blue

I've attended several dye workshops, all geared toward yarn and roving, but ever since reading about shibori on Mason-Dixon Knitting, I've been yearning for a class on resistant dyeing. Yesterday, my wish was answered. Fort Wayne Parks sponsored just such a workshop, at the Botanical Gardens. Yee-ha!

The instructor, Lorelei VerLee, was the offspring of missionaries and spent most of her childhood in Japan, where her fascination with intricate fabric design began. She is now the Executive Director of Creative Women of the World (whose store front I must visit for xmas shopping). Both she and her assistant wore skirts of shibori.

Lorelei made a point of using equipment and ingredients that we could easily procure, including an indigo dye kit she purchased from Dharma Trading Co. To provide the resist in resistant dyeing, one can use just about anything, from ceramic tiles to cardboard tubes, from rubber bands to binder clips, from marbles to chickpeas. We each received a length of cotton to experiment with and a hemp scarf for a "final project".

For my experimentation, I tried several methods: folding the cotton like an accordion, first in one direction, then another, then sandwiching the cloth between ceramic tiles held in place with rubber bands; wrapping cloth around marbles and chickpeas, holding the objects in place with rubber bands; gathering the cloth like shirring, using needle and thread (this technique was a fail for me - too loosely done); wrapping rubber bands successively around the cloth to form a little tower; and folding the cloth like a flag and clamping with binder clips. (For the record, this step and the step of removing all the resistant materials can be quite tedious.)

Next came the fun part: after wetting the cloth, it was dipped in indigo for a while (a few minutes?), then the magic happened.

(It was during the post-dye bath rinsing where my hands turned blue-ish - it would have been nice if we each had a pair of latex gloves for this step. Most of the dye washed off when I did dishes that night, though.)

For my scarf, I wrapped the cloth around a cardboard mailing tube and secured it with rubber bands. I am not very happy with the results - too much white - so I may take it to the store and re-dye it, as Lorelei will have the vats available for a couple of weeks.

All this was accomplished in about two hours, which was just barely enough time. I didn't get a chance to chat up any of the other participants, although (from eavesdropping) I learned there were at least one or two knitters, some master gardeners, and who knows who else.

I always come away from these workshops with grand(iose) ideas of future projects. One that might actually happen is making a shibori sampler using 12" squares, sewing them together in a patchwork, then quilting the result to use as a curtain in my bedroom. I am also curious about using other dyes, like henna.

So many ideas, so little time.

Friday, September 18, 2015


What exactly constitutes a work-in-progress (WIP) vs. an unfinished object (UFO)? Does a certain amount of non-productive knitting time need to pass to transfer a particular project from WIP to UFO? Or maybe it is location, WIPs floating to the top while UFOs sink to the bottom of the knitting basket? If something gets transferred from knitting basket to closet, then it definitely becomes a UFO, but what about all those good intentions that remain? Maybe if the knitter gets a grip on startitis, those quasi-UFOs can bubble up and return to the realm of WIPs.

The Easy as Pie blanket is a case in point. What usually happens to stall a project is a snag of some sort, and in this case, I could not reconcile the instructions to pick up 49 stitches along the edge of a square with the fact I could come up with only 48. That, and the onset of summer when knitting wool feels just plain wrong, relegated this project to the bottom of the knitting basket. Now that autumn is trying to ease summer out of the way, the blanket squares have emerged. Some commentary on Ravelry verified that there really are only 48 stitches to be picked up, so I feel vindicated on that point, but now I seem to be short a square. Did I lose one or what?

Fortunately, between my notes on Ravelry and this blog, I was able to ascertain that an earlier snafu left me with the choice of either making a 3x5 blanket or knitting another square to create a 4x4 one. My circles are not divided between two motifs as the pattern dictates but spread out over seven, so I have two squares of most motifs and three of two of them - except for the missing square, of which I have only one. No one else would probably notice, but my knowing that one motif would be represented only once in the blanket is something I can't live with. So now I need to make another square, but it has been so long since I knitted that part of the pattern that I am feeling a little stuck, AGAIN.

Meanwhile, the bathroom curtain is almost done, STILL. All I need to do is bind off while picking up stitches along the way, to create the sleeve for a curtain rod. That is ALL. What holds me back is the need to baste that row of stitches to be picked up, to make sure I stay on course while binding off. Why is that so difficult for me to do?

Sometimes I think my issue with finishing a project is that the end marks the Day of Judgment. Will this knitted object turn out how I envisioned? Will it fit? Will the recipient (even if it is me) like it? Will it look homemade vs. handmade? Will others mock? Will its flaws scream at me every time I look at it?

Despite all the socks I have knit, even they can be daunting to finish, but since they are usually meant as xmas gifts, they get done, the results be damned. I haven't knit many pairs this year, but they are the epitome of portability when it comes to knitting. I might not actually work on them while dragging them hither and yon, but I like the idea of having something at hand in case the need arrives.

What about you? What's your excuse for all those UFOs? I know you have some.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Turntable is DONE

August 12 was National Vinyl Record Day, and I tried to finish the Turntable shawl then. It was not to be, though - the knitting was completed August 13, then it sat for a few weeks before I finally gave it a quick bath and gently blocked it.

Since this is knit from alpaca, I didn't block it all the way to the dimensions in the pattern, as alpaca has a tendency to stretch. Still, I was within a few inches.

Pattern: Turntable, by Hilary Smith Callis
Yarn: Alpaca in undyed dark brown (suri/huacaya alpaca blend from Raval and Tess) and natural beige (suri alpaca from Zathura), from Turtle Creek Alpacas
Needles: US6 (bound off using US8)
Modifications: none

This is one of the easiest shawls to knit, as it is garter stitch all the way. The only tricky part is the increase rows, and they are tricky only because of the mindfulness required to execute the increases instead of knitting merrily along. But even if you mess the increases up a bit, the pattern is very forgiving.

One problem I have had with shawls is when out and about, as the shawl rarely works under or with any of my coats. This soft beauty, however, can serve as a scarf in transit, then shift to shawl duty once the coat is ditched, the perfect solution to chilly restaurants in winter. I anticipate getting a lot of use from this baby.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Some progress

Everyday, I knit a bit on each of these projects.

The curtain gets a minimum of two rows per day, 200 stitches per row. I estimate I am about halfway done, plus 10% for shrinkage, plus curtain rod sleeve.

When I started the shawl, I knit ten rows a day. Now that there are 295 stitches on the needles, it too gets knit at least two rows a day. (The next row is an increase row, then it will be 319 stitches.)

The curtain requires a lot of counting, not so much the shawl, except for the increase rows. Some days I am tempted to work on something short and sweet, but we all know where that path leads - more UFOs.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The trouble with denim

Denim is one of those yarns where I like the destination more than the journey, because it is so inelastic. Unfortunately, it also shrinks lengthwise, so one needs to knit about 10% more than the measuring tape indicates. And since, I am knitting a curtain, there will also need to be a bit extra for the sleeve for the rod.

This is going to be one heavy curtain. Linen (another inelastic yarn) would probably have been a better choice, but denim is what I had, so denim is what I knit.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The trouble with shawls

Most shawl patterns start with about 3 stitches. Initial progress seems rapid, despite the increase rows. But once there are over 200 stitches on the needles, things bog down a bit.

The photo above was taken around row 98, 223 stitches. I'm now on row 112, 247 stitches. The finished shawl will be 176 rows, 391 stitches. Gah.

Thursday, July 02, 2015


I had every intention of making pompoms for my golf club covers. In fact, I did make some. My g'daughter glommed onto the first one, the second one turned out okay, the third one fell apart when I tried to tie it off. Then I decided I was not a pompom kind of girl.

Pattern: Basic Golf Club Head Cover, by Sheila Toy Stromberg
Yarn: Purl Essence Sincerely Baby, colorways 'Sincerely Pink' and 'Sincerely Gray'
Needles: US8
Modifications: fancied them up with Fair Isle interspersed with solid stripes to indicate the club number (no striping on the putter cover)

Since I play on a par-3 course, I don't have much call to use more than one driver. And I find fiddling with the covers to be a PITA. However, the covers are cute and add a bit of panache to my tired old clubs.