Two Left Needles

Knitting, spinning and dyeing
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February 2006 - Posts

I like checking my stats each day. Since IE users generally can't post, it lets me know if anybody's out there or I'm talking to myself again. I find it hilarious that getting mentioned on the Yarn Harlot's website spiked my traffic by, oh, an order of magnitude. And climbing. Hehe. Never mind being tickled to death at being mentioned in such a nice way.

I'm so impressed at the range and quality of knitting projects that were tackled. I hope to go through the list, a to z, and see what everyone worked on. Actually, I'll start with the other 3 Monica's that have blogs. Then I'll check out the two Monique's. Then I'll go a to z. :)

Lookie here, it's my gold medal:

So shiny and new.

There were a few folks who were, shall we say, sceptical that I'd be able to finish the knitting in one day. I have 9 words for them: The Lord of the Rings boxed set, extended version. 3 movies spread over 6 DVDs, with each DVD the length of most feature films. I finished spin-dye-knit-a-scarf by mid-disk 4 (I remembered surprisingly little of the first movie so got very little knitting done), sewed in the ends of Arrrgh during disk 4, and finished Gram's sock one during disk 5. I was all knitted out.

The extended versions, especially the second movie, has a lot more exposition, explanation, blah blah blah (read: good knitting time). There were times I appreciated getting more of the back story, but it made for a looooong movie (50 additional minutes in that one).

At the same time, it was really cool watching them back to back to back. Each part in context and fresh in mind made a lot more sense and the emotional throughlines were easier to follow and get involved in. I recommend it.

(Nota buena: Don't start watching TLOTR boxed set, extended version, after 4 pm. Definitely do not start after 5.)

Gram's sock number one, finally complete:

Gram's sock - first sock done

I took that photo to take advantage of the bits of sunlight, with the intention of turning it around in Photoshop:

Gram's sock - first sock done

A little disorienting, no? Take a moment to imagine the angle I would have to stand to take that one.

Gram's sock progresses at a snail's pace. Part of the problem is knowing that, most likely, they won't get much wear and probably not the care they need. Even with still swollen ankles, Gram wears pumps all day long. No room for socks in pumps. Still, it's the thought that counts, so I will continue to plug away.

Norwegian Knits-Along

Arrrgh was unofficially my Norwegian Knits-Along project:

I started it with that intention but didn't officially get added until just before I finished. So, yay, finished my Norwegian Knits-Along project! I'd like to do another before it ends, now that I see it's not so intimidating. Shh, don't tell Scott, cuz I'd rather work with wool next. Oh wait, that doesn't work...

And while I'm being random and scattered...

I realized I've been holding out on you:

Yarn room - partially filled shelves

That's an early pic. The shelves are packed now and I'm still trying to make room and figure out what needs to go. The good news: there's room on the floor for my wheel!

Wow, thank you so much for your comments on spin-dye-knit-a-scarf! (I will be happy not to have to type that again.) I've been fighting a cold the past few days so I hope you'll understand if I don't respond to each comment. Please know they are deeply appreciated.

Anna asked, I also love your cashmere yarn. How did you re-ply it?

I ran the plied yarn through the wheel again and added more twist.

Funny story. (Not "funny haha", "funny I've had enough time and distance I can now laugh at my folly haha".) I was so happy with the re-plied results that I did the same for the larger skein! I added a few S hooks for weight and steamed to set the twist. I think it started out okay, but as I went, I think I added a little more twist, a little more twist. After knitting with it for about 6", I finally gave in, cut the yarn, ran it back through the wheel in the opposite direction to take some of the twist out, steam set it, and continued knitting. Hehe. So you can add or subtract more twist at will; you just need to "tay appention".

Cheryl asked, Possibly stupid question, why do you add the vinegar at intervals throughout the process? Does that make it more effective than dumping it all in in the beginning?

Good question. The simple answer is that was what Hands on Dyeing listed on their worksheet. I had done only one shot deals before, so I thought I'd try something new. My guess is that adding in two stages might allow for a slightly more uniform dyeing experience. But that's just a guess.

Judy said, I'm confused. Did you use a waterbath in the roaster with your yarn and dyebath in the casserole? Nice job. Sometimes if you just let it sit until cool you'll have a better exhaust.

Hmm, I think the answer is yes. I had a few inches of water in the roaster, and then plenty of water in the dyebath in the casserole. It doesn't really match up with anything I've read or seen, but more was an extension of the color experiments I've been doing. I don't have a good thermometer yet (or an immersion dyeing pot), and had a sneaking suspicion that the roaster does not heat high enough for "true" immersion dyeing (sub-boiling). So I hoped the steam from all that water would heat things up sufficiently. And yup, if I were not on an Olympic deadline, I would have left the yarn to cool.

PumpkinMama asked, How much length did you end up getting on the scarf?

Just about 3' 6" pre-blocking, 6" much more than expected!

stephanie r asked, did you choose an established pattern or make it up?

The stitch pattern is from a Japanese stitch "dictionary". I added the twisted ribbing on either side for stability.

It was actually very difficult to find an appropriate pattern, mostly because of my limited yardage. The stitch repeat needed to be as small as possible, yet interesting. There needed to be a reasonable number of holes and an open feel (more stretch). It had to have a stockinette stitch background.


Enough words, more eye candy!


Finished: 2/25/06
Pattern: We Call Them Pirates by Adrian at Hello Yarn
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Pima Tencel, 1 ball yellow (#0258), just over 1 ball black (#7779)
Needles: #5 circulars, and dpn's for the top
Notes: I've done very little colorwork involving more than 1 yarn in a row, so this was a huge learning experience for me. Sadly, this means I knit enough of this hat to have 2 hats, but only have one to show for my efforts. It was worth the effort, look how happy he is!


I didn't like knitting with the Pima Tencel. It's soft to the touch, but it sheds a lot and is not frog-friendly (because bits of yellow get stuck to the black, and vice versa). The pattern was fun, and I enjoyed seeing the skulls emerging. The very top of the hat was very challenging to maintain good tension between the colors and I had to frog back several times.

Scott wore Arrrgh to the grocery store yesterday and got quite a range of reactions, from chuckles, compliments and jealousy, to taken abackness and maybe a bit of fear. Muahahahaha.

Next time I hope to knit with wool or a better cotton blend; and I will not stack my stranding (you can see a bit of a gap over the right eye in the first row of skulls).

spin-dye-knit-a-scarf - blocking
spin-dye-knit-a-scarf blocking


Finished: 2/25/06
Pattern: my own
Yarn: handspun 2-ply 100% cashmere, 2 oz
Needles: #8 circulars
Notes: This is my 2006 Knitting Olympics project, taken from fluff to scarf. I got my wheel and dyes in the first week of February and since then, have way more interest in spinning and dyeing than in knitting. This is my first time spinning cashmere, the 5th thing I've spun on the wheel, my first intention dyeing (where I'm trying to get particular results), first time dyeing handspun, and second time knitting with it. Each stage was challenging for one reason or another, but not so time intensive that it wasn't do-able. Which made it an ideal KO project. It was still very difficult to maintain project monogamy, however. Staying focused was tough. Now that it's done, I look at it not so much as a wearable finished object, but as a completed project and challenge. And I'm very ready to move on to the next thing!

Just because it's called the Knitting Olympics... doesn't mean the knitting part is the fun part. Not for this project.

But, I did pick out a pattern last night:

spin-dye-knit-a-scarf - begun

and managed to knit 6". I weighed what's left and calculated I can make a 3' scarf. Not very long. For a scarf, and to knit.

Thanks for the comments! I'll respond post-scarf.

Stage 2 complete! The dyeing went rather smoothly, all things considered.

Let's see... you saw the cashmere soaking, and the dyebath ready and waiting.

The cashmere weighed 58 g, and I wanted 4% dye = 232 mL dye solution. So far I've been dealing with 10 and 13 gram mini skeins, so this seemed like an awful lot of dye solution. But, well, can't argue with the math.

Or can you?

The red mix that I liked had 1 mL brown to 39 mL red, so 2.5% brown = 232 mL x .025 = 5.8 mL. No problem.

That leaves 232 mL - 5.8 mL = 276.2 mL red.

Um. Hello? Anyone notice that I, uh, didn't check my work? No wonder it seemed like an awful lot of dye solution, it was! Hehe. No wonder it took a while to exhaust all the dye. And it didn't entirely exhaust, either. It all makes sense now.

Anyhoo, flashback to last night. I'm thinking it's a lot but you can't argue with math.

I'm using a casserole dish, the deepest biggest non-melting item I have (that I'm willing to sacrifice). I want the yarn to be able to move about and not be constricted (yarn rights).

8 pm: The dyebath is ready to go, the electric roaster has a couple of inches of water and is preheated to 200 degrees. Deep breath, and in she goes!

KO Cashmere - immersion!

The dye immediately begins to soak into the yarn, but the yarn is a faint pink color. Into the roaster and upped the temp to 350.

8:30 pm: About half an hour later, I figure everything is nice and toasty. The yarn is still quite pink. Time to add half the vinegar (30 mL):

KO Cashmere - pre-vinegar

8:42 pm: Stirred and checked in on things. The yarn is starting to look red! The dyebath is still quite dark.

KO Cashmere - 10 mins later

8:56 pm: Time for the second half of the vinegar.

9:09 pm: Oooo, look:

KO Cashmere - 15 mins after that

I'm tempted to stop, but I figure, well, can't argue with math.

9:26 pm: Stirred. Dyebath almost exhausted. Hmm, this is taking a while...

9:38 pm: Stirred. Almost done!

KO Cashmere - 40 more mins

9:52 pm: Ding! Most of the dye has exhausted, but enough's enough. I let it sit for an hour and even more exhausts. The dyebath is a very faint pink. A very gentle wash and two rinses, with slight bleeding in each one. Which surprises me. I didn't have any bleeding before...

Squeezed, squished in a towel, snapped, hung to dry. And many fascinated adoring gazes before going to sleep.

8:15 am: A few minutes to admire and snap photos before work:

KO Cashmere - final results

The photo doesn't quite capture it, but the color is quite deep and oh so purrrty.

I was exceptionally gentle throughout to prevent felting and my efforts were rewarded. Happy dance!

6:30 pm: Write up blog post and realize you can't argue with math... but you can laugh at the person holding the calculator.

Hehe, yeah, busted. Who knew he read my blog? I thought he was a skimmer.

Gram's not doing so well. This week has been a rough one. It's getting tough, so tough.

A nice dose of color is just what we need:

Dyed Finn

That's the Finn I had dyed, last seen in piles of strips. This is about 4 oz, or equal in weight to the largest batch I have spun to date. 4 oz left, and I foresee it will go quickly. I love watching the colors. I'm a sucker for colors.

Arrrgh - almost done

Is it just me, or does three rows of skulls and crossbones begin to look menacing??

Arrrgh - almost done

Arrrgh could easily have been my Knitting Olympics project. It has been challenging and has pushed me in many ways. More on that another time.

Speaking of Knitting Olympics...

I wasn't altogether happy with the smaller skein of cashmere, it just didn't look good. The skein was very twisty, despite the relatively loose plying.

Then it hit me. Maybe it was under-plied. A skein will twist if under- or over-plied. To test, I took a small section, added more twist, and then let relax to see if it would twist upon itself. It didn't. A-ha!

I re-plied and am much happier. Here is the before shot again:

KO Cashmere - plied

And after:

KO Cashmere, re-plied

And tonight, a little math:

KO Cashmere - soaking



= ???

I plied the cashmere last night. Challenging.

It wasn't Andean plying as I had thought. I wound the singles onto a water bottle, transfered onto my wrist (making a large cashmere wristlet, decadent), and used the inside and outside ends for plying. The hardest part was getting the inner strand free, I don't usually have such a large wristlet. Does this method have a name?

I took it slow and easy, stopped often (in the beginning) to figure out what worked best. I didn't want to overply and make the resulting yarn too tough or wiry; that would negate the softness of the cashmere. I didn't want it too loose or it would look funny knit up. I wanted it juuuuust right.

KO Cashmere - plied
the morning the sun wouldn't come to me

KO Cashmere - plied
so I chased the sunlight

KO Cashmere - plied

I'm pretty happy with this hank. It's pretty darned close to balanced, too! The singles were surprisingly even, I really thought there would be more noticeable variations. Yay!

. . .

Sigh. There is a problem, though:

KO Cashmere - plied
mini mini hank

When I was winding the singles in preparation for plying, the thread broke. So I plied to the 2 pieces separately. Big mistake. The main hank is the later spinning and is fairly even. The mini mini hank is from the beginning, and man, holy thin thread. How the hell did I manage that?? Problem is, I didn't manage it for very long. Or, I didn't like it for very long.

There is a very noticeable weight difference between the 2 hanks. The mini mini seems more fingering to lace weight, while the larger seems more baby weight. In other words, they don't match. They don't match! Arrrgh.

Oops, wrong project.

There's a second problem. There aren't that many yards. I dunno, this one was foreseeable, I just didn't ... see it. The main hank is about 90 yards, and the mini mini about 45 yards. Not sure what to do.

I'm considering dyeing each a slightly different shade. Maybe the thinner one a slightly darker or brighter shade. And then finding a pattern, maybe feather and fan-ish, where I can alternate rows of the thicker with the thinner. What do you think? Any other ideas out there?

Speaking of ideas, thank you so much for your feedback on the color situation! I know I didn't give you much to work with there. I'm happy to say, the color situation is in good shape.

Here I am chasing sunlight again:

KO Search for Red

KO Search for Red
(I don't remember which is which in the above photo, hehe)

(I was a little late to work trying to get these photos this morning. Shhh. Don't tell Scott.)

Work is brightly lit. I brought in my skeins and discovered, to my surprise, that #1 is almost an exact match for the target red. Imagine that.

We're getting ready to move onto the spin-dye-knit-a-scarf stage. Stage 2, if you're keeping track. :)

Being short on time, and red being one of my favoritest colors, I decided to try for the rich red from my red color study. The base is a brown/grey yarn, mine is white. I solicited advice and suggestions and tried out 6 combos (6 jars, 6 combos; I can't make Scott eat salsa any faster).

I liked the darkest intensity, which was a 4% dye solution, so I kept that. This time I worked with 10g mini skeins (12 wraps, I'm catching on), so 40 mL of dye solution did the job (you can see the math in my previous post).

The mixes are:

  1. 1 mL brown, 39 mL cherry red
  2. 2 mL brown, 38 mL cherry red
  3. 1 mL black, 39 mL cherry red
  4. 2 mL black, 38 mL cherry red
  5. 5 mL silvery grey, 35 mL cherry red (because less grey did not seem to make a difference)
  6. 5 mL black, 35 mL cherry red

KO Search for Red

Woah, isn't #6 way black? Strong stuff.

And in the bath:

KO Search for Red

1, 2, 3 and 5 seem like possibilities. Hard to tell until they're dry.

And here's where it gets tough to get any feedback. Not much sun this morning. Not so great photos. But again, I ask you to stretch your imagination and work with me. The colors are somewhere between the wet and dry photos. :)

KO Search for Red

I included the "target" and "red" skeins for reference; red is cherry red on white, and target is cherry red on brown/grey.

What do you think? Be honest, it's okay, I won't bite. Here's another photo:

KO Search for Red

I'm thinking maybe #2, maybe #1. We can rule 5 and 6 out. 6 is too dark, 5 is too bright. And the other black mixes, 3 and 4, seem too muted, too dreary. Well, that's what black does, I guess. Tone things down. #2 is not quite there, though. Other suggestions I received were to add some olive, or a bit of green. Don't have either, but could mix green. But. That's more experimenting. And. Well. Don't wanna. Don't wanna!

Hahaha. So I might go with #2. Unless I look at it again in the sunlight and think, blech. You know?

Thanks for the feedback on the larger photos and your nice comments on my blog. Big photos it is!

It was a crazy weekend, crazy, I say! (yes, we'll all get tired of me saying that, you before me)

Saturday, PumpkinMama Erin and I headed up to NETA Spa Knit and Spin Weekend for the day. What an amazing event!

First of all, Erin is sooo nice, it was really great to meet her and her lovely family. We're both newer spinners that also knit and are getting started with dyeing so we had lots to talk about. She was wearing her bunnycrack scarf and it's just beautiful and so very soft.

It was f-f-f-freezing out, and on the way we ran into some flurries:

The weather started getting rough

that lasted all of 5 miles. Thank goodness.

We arrived safely and parked our wheels in the Gallery room. I have never seen so many wheels before! Here's a terrible picture where all the wheels are just out of range:

Gallery room

But use your imagination: behind those chairs to the left, in the far corners, behind that white table in the middle and that whole gaggle to the right, all wheels. Wheels everywhere!! How cool is that???

Walking around, there were spinners and knitters and other fiber afficionados gathered in rooms, in the halls, in the lobby:

Folks in the lobby

Barbara from BASD (who taught the boucle workshop) was tucked in a corner of the lobby with her sock knitting machine:

Barbara with her sock machine

I have a few knitting machines but had never seen a sock knitting machine before. Cool!

In the vendor area I finally got to see and touch some Grafton Fibers batts (beautiful) and picked one to bring home. I also picked up a pound each of undyed Romney/Corriedale, and Romney for a good price from Nick's Meadow Farm (Barrington, NH). I haven't spun with Romney yet and it was softer than I expected.

We met up with Cheryl, whom Erin knew from a disastrous spinning class, and spent the rest of the day hanging out:

New friends
Erin, Cheryl and me having a wheely good time, hahaha

Why yes, that's my Catharina Rose shawl, second time wearing it out!

The Spa format was casual and the focus was on having fun, learning new things, sharing information, enjoying whatever it is you enjoy doing, be it spinning, knitting, weaving, felting... I wandered around the Gallery room and watched other spinners, chatted with them, learned a few things, realized that everyone figures out what works for them, and you learn as you go.

I also learned from watching Erin and Cheryl spinning and talking to them. My first real BASD meeting was my first time bringing my wheel out, but it was all about the boucle, and not so much about watching or talking to other spinners (it being day 3 with my wheel, I couldn't really spin and talk). Ergo, this was my first time in the presence of spinners with wheels where I could stare all I wanted and ask whatever questions I could think up. Very cool.

It wasn't all talking and gaping. I did finish the cashmere:

KO Cashmere - all spun up!

2 oz. Ahhhh. At long last! Spinning during the day and with good lighting made it go more smoothly than usual. Next, plying, probably Andean. After that, dyeing (and I did some experimenting with reds yesterday so I think I'm almost ready to dye!). That puts me in good shape to actually finish in time for closing ceremonies! I hope. ;)

When I wasn't spinning and chatting I worked on Arrrgh:

Arrrgh - in progress

First thing I came home I tried it on Scott. (Fool me 2 times shame on me...) He said, "Much better" and smiled. Aaahhhh. I've tried it on him numerous times since then; it's almost done!

I'm running out of steam, and I'm sure you are too, so I'll try to wrap it up.

An amazing fashion show with shawls and sweaters from handspuns and handdyes was altogether inspirational and it was wonderful to celebrate our finished works. And post fashion show, the Yarn Harlot spoke wittily about the inevitable uncoolness of being a knitter -- in the eyes of the uninitiated, of course. ;)

Next year I'll be spending the weekend. Oooohhhh yes.

Fiber tumbleweeds
fiber dust bunnies in the aftermath 

Thanks for the nice comments on my skulls! I frogged and reknit back to where I had stopped before, only to realize that the looser colorwork was not making the hat loose enough. Scott very reluctantly and under duress admitted that he'd like the hat a little bigger. I knew going in that reknitting this sucker multiple times was an inherent possibility, nay, a given. So froggy frog frog and back to just before the purl row. I managed to reknit a few rows:

Arrrgh - negative progress

You know, the reason he was so reluctant was because he gets sad for me when I have to frog any project. What a sweetie.

Frogging twice in one night is not fun, but the method I use makes the technical part quite painless (it doesn't do much for the emotional part). I thought I'd share my frogging method with you; I use it for anything more than 1 row.

Olympic Spinning

KO Cashmere

More progress. About 3/4 done, I think. But here's what I'd rather be spinning:

Dyed Finn, split

That's the Finn I dyed last week. I wasn't so crazy about it whole, but split into strips and redistributed, it's calling my name. I walk by the yarn room and stop to gaze longingly.

PumpkinMama asked, Not to get too personal, but I'm wondering why you're not filling your bobbin more evenly? I thought the general idea was to build up a half an inch or so and move to the next hook, going front to back and front again so the whole length gets slowly "coated" with yarn.

Interesting, sounds like a good idea. Thanks for the tip!

As for the why, beyond someone "threading" a wheel and sitting me in front of it (my first time in front of a wheel, which lasted approximately 5 minutes), I haven't had any wheel instruction. I'm winging it, baby! So any help and tips are appreciated.

PS:  I'm trying larger photos. The frogging article didn't work so well with small pics. They feel too big, though. Huge. Flickr doesn't have an inbetween size (boo). What do you think, back to tiny pics?

I put in some good time on the cashmere last night:

KO Cashmere

And then was pooped. Pooped, I say! I'm almost halfway through the 2 oz. It's actually a nice white, but at night that's the best photo you're gonna get.

I'm not gonna say anything about how I think it'll come out. It'll be what it'll be, and I'll do the best that I can, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot in the process. So there.


I've named this project Arrrgh, for a few reasons. It's a piratey hat. Arrrgh. It cracks me up. Arrrgh. And I'm sure to make a lot of mistakes and otherwise be feeling the Arrrgh-ness of it all.

Arrrghh - in progress

Case in point. One repeat done and you can see the cool pattern emerging. Loverly. Then, arrrgh. See the red arrow? See how tight those stitches are? They're positively pinched! I knew I was headed for the cliffs when the skulls looked best stretched vertically. A hat will not be stretched vertically when worn. But I plunged on. Right about the top of the eyes I got into a groove and relaxed my stitches. Big difference. Yeah, you guessed it. I had a "hmmm" moment. Hmmm. Do I need to redo this? Last night I tried it on Scott and it was tight, but too tight? Tough to tell. The needles get in the way.

(In hindsight, I could have moved some stitches to another set of circs and had my answer right then and there. But at the time, I did not have a "hmmm" moment.)

Today I knit enough additional rows with the nicer relaxed stitches so that, trying it on Scott again, it was very clear. Too tight.


Scott had such a sad look. It must be a tough rollercoaster ride for him. The hope, the potential, believing that it may actually happen, seeing enough progress to allow himself to get excited and maybe even a little emotionally attached. And then the setback, disappointment, and expectations of the familiar downward spiral into unrecoverable UFO*-ness... Poor kid.

Arrrgh, this hat will be done, matey. Don't you fret.


* for the uninitiated, UFO = UnFinished Object

Pixie said, "ITS A SKULLY HAT! Er pirates thingy, I AM KNITTING THAT!"

You're good.

It's We Call Them Pirates from Hello Yarn.

Did I mention how much trouble I have knitting for Scott? This hat is no exception. Within a few rows I exclaimed, "I hate this yarn!" It's Cascade Pima Tencel, and I don't know if it's the yarn or the yarn/needles combo, but it slows me down big time and makes my hands tired. Scott was pretty bummed to hear that. Don't worry, Scott, I'll keep on knitting! That's love. ;)

Last night I dyed some more, this time blues:

jars of dye

Before and after:

beginning end

Blue on white/natural:

Blue on white Blue on white

And this is where I say, "Sky Blue is a primary my ass." This is about as dark as it will get. It is sky blue. It's pretty. But a primary, I don't think so.

And finally, blue on brown/grey:

Blue on brown/grey Blue on brown/grey

The lighter values are pretty much lost on the brown/grey, but you can still see hints of it.

Towards the end of the night, I had a bit of a realization. After spinning the cashmere, I will still have to knit it. Hmmm. That will probably take me a few days. Hmmm. I need to get moving on this spin-dye-knit-a-scarf thing!


KO Cashmere

It takes a lot more concentration to spin this cashmere. It's fine, it's slippery, and spun so fine, it needs a good amount of twist. Tough to hold onto it without it getting away from me! This is all I could manage before my mind was pooped. Pooped, I say! Because it's only 2 oz I'm spinning it as fine as is comfortable for me, to maximize yardage. Since I have very little experience, uh, I mean, no experience spinning singles on the wheel, the plan is a 2-ply. When it's not overtwisted, the 2-ply is oh so soft. The fiber feels quite soft while I'm spinning, too.

My mind was pooped but I was still in the mood to work on something. Guess what this will become?

Guess what this is!

Last week my IK Hurt Book Sale books arrived and I'm quite happy with my selection: 

Spinning Designer Yarns is full of instructions on how to make all kinds of novelty yarns, from boucles to beaded and textured yarns.

In Sheep's Clothing has information on a variety of sheep, including photos of the wool, description of the sheep and fibers and primary uses. A good reference.

Hands on Spinning is full of instruction and photos on spindle and wheel spinning, and includes carding, plying and a few projects as well. Looks like a good starting point for a beginner.

Hands on Dyeing is the one I used to take this:

Yarn soaking
mini skeins of yarn in natural and brown/grey,
washed and soaking, each approximately 13g 

and turn it into this:

Red on brown/grey Red on white
mini skeins dyed with cherry red Jacquard dyes in different concentrations of dye

The left and right photos are the same concentrations, just different base yarn. Interesting, eh? The brown/grey gave a very cranberry/claret color which I dig. How can I reproduce that on natural or white yarn??

Here they are dry and in sunlight; the lighter colors are to the right:

Red on brown/grey Red on white

and laid flat; maybe you can see the color gradations better here:

Red on brown/grey Red on white

The colors are better than the photos, the richness of the deeper colors doesn't come through.

It may be obvious to you, but I learned that it doesn't matter how much liquid you put in, it's the amount of dye that determines how deep a shade you will get. For this experiment I emptied 6 salsa jars (will keep Scott busy for the week) and filled with 300cc water. I then added dye in the following percentages: .25%, .5%, 1%, 2%, 3%, 4%.

How does that work?

The dye solutions I mixed up before were 1% solutions: 20g dye to 2000mL water.

For a 13g skein, .25% dye = 13g x .0025 = .0325g dye. Kinda hard to measure, eh? But working with our dye solution, .0325g dye = 3.25mL dye solution. That is measurable.

Why 13g skeins?

Well, it was 15 wraps on my swift. I was shooting for 10g. Oh well.

I filled my electric roaster with hot water, added the jars of water + measured dye solution + yarn, and heated, stirring occasionally. The .25% and .5% jars started to exhaust even before I added acid.

Once it was heated up I pulled the skeins out (with chopsticks; that's how everyone dyes, right?) and poured in 10mL of vinegar. Or was it 15? Anyway, stirred that a lot in the first few minutes to make sure it distributed evenly. I continued cooking for the rest of the hour, stirring occastionally, and watched the progress.

In the end, the 3% and 4% jars did not completely exhaust, there was still a hint of pink in the water; but the rest did. They say you should leave the yarn overnight so the dyes get fully absorbed and all that, but I pulled out the yarn once it was a bit cooled and transferred to similar temp water and reused the jars for the next batch.

Things I learned:

  • lighter shades are tougher to get uniform, probably because the dye exhausts so quickly. Less vinegar and more (gentle) stirring would probably help.
  • dyeing is fun, though high school chemistry was not so much fun
  • I feel pretty confident I can reproduce the results for more yarn by weighing and measuring yarn and dyes
  • I still have a lot to learn!

The next couple of weeks will probably be more color studies, first continuing single colors on the same two yarn shades, and then moving to mixing 2 colors. I plan to make me a color wheel so I know what the dyes will do alone and together, and so I can figure out how to get different intensities. There will likely be a session involving adding black, too.

I keep saying this and some of you may not believe me, but I'm color illiterate. I don't know no color theory and work on gut reaction. When I'm trying to use more than one color yarn, I usually hold it up against any and every yarn I have and go by my gut reaction -- ick, or hmm, or coooool. Occasionally, I think about all this dyeing business and think, what the hell are you thinking? You, dyeing??? Hahahahahaha, good one. But mostly I'm excited about experimenting and playing. Once I've done some thought out experimenting, I plan to go back to being more whimsical and adventurous about the process.

Thanks for your words of commiseration on the Creamsicle T neckline. I'll figure something out.

I also got a chuckle out of your reactions to my Knitting Olympics project. To be honest, I am very apprehensive about dyeing the cashmere, knitted or spun or fluff. It seems like the kind of thing that shouldn't be taken so lightly. Spinning cashmere, on the other hand, I think of as "no time like the present". I don't want to hold onto it like some precious cargo waiting for the perfect project. I have yarn like that and it just sits, waiting, taking up space and adding to my guilt. What's the difference? Between being apprehensive dyeing it and having no problems spinning it, I mean? To me, it's the time put in spinning and knitting. I could have a perfectly good scarf that will be ruined by a craptastic dye job, y'know? Ahem, a perfectly good cashmere lace scarf. Ruined. If it's ill spun it's still usable. If it's spun and knit and usable and I ruin it, my shoulders will sag for a day or five.

Speaking of cashmere, here is the fiber:


Good blogger. [woof]

I took photos of the dye experiment, but I'll post about them tomorrow, I think. I'm too excited about some other photos that just came in:

Round 1: Scared witless Round 2: Getting ready to grab bar

Round 4: Wow! Catch 1

Trapeze School! A good example of pictures speaking louder than words. These are not even the best photos, you can see all the Trapeze School photos or go back and read the story. Thanks to Shuley for organizing a great event!

To prepare for KO dyeing, I have been doing a little experimenting with color gradients. More on that soon.

Today's WTF moment is brought to you courtesy of the T Shirt Sweater.

Creamsicle T is close to done. Ends woven in, just the neckline to finish.

I followed the instructions, pick up stitches, cast off on the next row. No problem. Except, it looked like crap.

Hmm. Where did I go wrong? Not that many ways you can pick up and cast off.

What should it look like? There are lots of photos of the T Shirt Sweater in the book:

t-shirt sweater

Kinda hard to see the neckline. Next.

t-shirt sweater

Hmm, even worse. Next.

t-shirt sweater

It's tiny! Come on guys, show me some neck.

t-shirt sweater

[grumble grumble]

t-shirt sweater

Mostly hair...

t-shirt sweater

More hair!

You've got to be kidding me. Out of 6 photos of this sweater, none of them shows clear neckline details! WTF??? 6 photos people. 6!!!

[more grumbling]

Okay. Let's zoom in on the 3 that showed any neckline. Candidate 1:

t-shirt sweater

[grumbledy grump]

Candidate 2:

t-shirt sweater


Candidate 3

t-shirt sweater


Can you tell what's going on?

Frustrated, I tried... something else. What can I say, attempt #2 was unmemorable. Attempt #3 was rollneck to match the sleeves:

Creamsicle T - almost done!

but it's just not working for me. I think a simple neckline like the photos (what little you can see) works best; I guess I'll have to figure out how to make it so.

(You know, it's probably something really simple that will have me hooting and hollering at my own folly. Really.)

Err... The games have begun!

Last night after work, spinning wheel in tow, I headed to the Framingham Fabric Place for the monthly Knit Club. I had demonstrated spindle spinning the previous month (only because I happened to have it with me) and had promised to bring my wheel next time if I had one by then. Being a beginner spinner I don't know how much of a demo you could call it, but I think I correctly identified the wheel (haha), the flyer, the orifice (to a couple of chuckles), the whorls, the thing that affects your takeup... oh yeah, and the bobbin. See? Mostly technical terminology there, that's good for me! (I'm a "thingie" and "whatchamacallit" kinda gal.) I demonstrated drafting and showed how a little twist makes it yarn. I treadled sans wool so I could explain what was happening. And then I added the wool in and showed it all in action. I believe I said, "that's all there is to it" and got a laugh or two. Yeah, that's all there is to it. That and, uh, practice. Lots of practice.

I proceeded to pass around my 2 oz bags of luxury fibers: 100% cashmere, 50/50 yak/cashmere, 50/50 quiviut/merino. Oooooo. Soooooooft. Lushhhhhhhious. And the reason I had these with me: they are part of my Knitting Olympics.

Stop the presses! Knitting Olympics? You mean, you have a project picked out? You <gasp> decided on something?

Roll the presses, yes indeedy! For my Knitting Olympics challenge I shall <drum roll please>


I feel like a magic performer announcing my next trick.

Yes, and for the extra challange factor, I shall begin with 100% cashmere, which will be much more difficult because of the finer texture and shorter fiber length. (Or maybe just the shorter fiber length.)

Ooooh, aaaaah.

Kids, do not attempt this at home!

Although maybe I should call it "spin-(dye?-)knit-a-scarf". I'm not sure how comfortable I am dyeing yarn, let alone cashmere.

And you see why it's not "dye-spin-knit-a-scarf"? No way in hell am I sticking that fibery cloud into a dye bath. I'd have to strain it to get my fiber out!

If we really want to get technical, perhaps it should be spin-dye-knit-a-lace-scarf. But you know, I'm not that technical a gal.

For now we shall call it spin-dye-knit-a-scarf.

Thanks to MJ and Cassie for their ideas! If not for them my project might be knit-cute-sweater-readjusting-all-instructions-because-I-don't-have-yarn-that-knits-to-gauge, or re-attempt-colorful-tank-because-your-gauge-friggin-bloomed-first-time-'round.

Tuna Melt

Post Knit Club I headed to J. Doyle's in JP for the Team Boston Opening Ceremonies get together. I've never before seen so many projects in their early stages. It was disorienting! Think about it: most of your project lifetime is spent mid-progress; very little is spent having just cast on or only a couple of rows in. I was surrounded by 30+ barely begun projects. So weird.

I met a lot of cool knitters and knitbloggers: Hello Yarn Adrian, Minestrone Soup Mini, Stitchy McYarnPantsThe Bookish Girl Wendy, the jkc project Jackie, Obsession du Jour Kellee, geekpixie Amber; and a couple of familiar Knitsmiths faces: Shireen and Subway Knitter Colleen. Confession: I brought my camera but didn't take any pictures. I suck.

Because spin-dye-knit-a-scarf begins with spinning and I didn't want to get beer on my Joy, I worked on Gram's sock. Sock one is almost done and I'm really happy with how it looks. Here it is pre-Opening Ceremonies:

Gram's socks - in progress

Hmm, further "I suck" factor: no photos of the cashmere fiber. Or progress on the sock.

Seeing these twigs sticking out of electronic gadgetry tickles me.

Creamsicle T sleeve number two is done! Seams are sewn; there's just the weaving in of ends and the neckline to finish. Now that the sleeves are 2" narrower, I have plenty of yarn to knit that neckline. In fact, I could re-knit a whole gauge swatch! I happened across the blog post on negative ease that sparked knitting Creamsicle T smaller than directed. Interesting, no?

Thanks for your kind comments on the sleeve. I thought it looked pretty good but wasn't sure; a reality check helps. I think the finished sweater will look pretty good, but again, I'm not sure. Scott's not much help. First he said, "looks better than before." Well, yeah, but before was not so great. Then, "looks pretty even." Ha! That's his automatic response when I show him my spinning.

Meanwhile, my spinning do-dads arrived (3 bobins and a niddy noddy from The Fold), along with some Socks That Rock:

Socks That Rock
Xmas Rock and Sandstone

These were two of the last of her smaller skein size STR, and 20% off. How could I resist? Love the Sandstone. The photo doesn't do justice to the subtle colors. I wasn't sure what to expect with Xmas Rock, but I like it a lot more than the photo. One of these will become my Jaywalker socks.

Last week I also received some books from the Interweave Knits' Hurt Book Sale. They are only slightly dinged on a corner and were 50-75% off. Woohoo! I'll list them out tomorrow.

Stressed slacker knathlete

Picking a Knitting Olympics project is still kicking my ass. I flip flop every hour or so. "Doable but challenging" is, well, more than challenging for me to define right now. I can do this. I know I can. I'm feeling the pressure. Will I have something to cast on tomorrow night??

I put in some yarn room organization time last night. It felt good to clean things up and make some decisions on what needs to go. There's a corner of the room I can see again! And the sewing machine is accessible once more. I know more yarn needs to find new homes. It's so hard to make those decisions; if I think I might use it, I want to keep it. The problem is, when is might? This year? Within 5 years? In this lifetime? Some might yarns are definitely worth keeping, like good quality basic yarns in non-funky colors. High quality luxury yarns in lovely colors. Beautiful sock yarns... Of course, there are limits to how much is worth keeping. How do you decide what to keep?

You know what I love? Being able to see more of my yarns, and having easier access to it. With the new shelves, I don't have to move 3 bins to get to the one I want. Love it.

Slacker Knathlete

The Knitting Olympics (and the actual Olympics, hehe) begins Friday and I don't have a project yet! I swear I've been thinking about it. Obviously, not hard enough... It's just... I have so many things I should knit soon: a couple of baby sweaters, an afghan or three, socks and a sweater for Scott, socks and a vest I promised Gram last week (what, am I crazy?)... and then there are the knitalongs I'm in... and the WIP list is not getting any shorter. In fact, this weekend, while combing through the WIP list to target WIPs to abandon, I found 2 more WIPs that never made it onto the list, so my count is now 2 higher! What's up with that??

You know, my mom was eyeing my Catharina Rose shawl when it was a WIP and I was worried she'd swipe it. She didn't. I was shocked. While still in shock, I offered to knit her a shawl and asked her what she'd like. You know what she'd like? A black one. A black lace shawl that would go with everything. She wants me to go blind, she does. Add lace shawl to the above list.

You know another thing? I've started only 3 projects this year: anonymous socks (product of startitis), Kiri, and Creamsicle T. 3 projects! I used to do that in a day! 3 projects in 5 weeks, it's a record, I say! Not only that, since I started my WIP Management campaign in November, I've started 11 proejcts and completed all but 4: the 3 listed above, plus Curlycue Scarf started Dec 28. Holy whip them WIPs moly. Dare I say, it works! WIP Management works!

Let's bring it up another notch. After reviewing my WIP list this weekend, I targeted 10 WIPs to abandon. This will bring my WIP count down to 36. You newcomers can stop swooning, this is good news! Down from 67 to 36. That's 72% of the way to my goal of 24. It makes me dizzy, it does. Yeehaw!

And don't even think about mentioning a Stash Management campaign, I won't have it.

Orange Julius

Creamsicle T sleeve reshaping went swimmingly well! Here's the before:

Creamsicle T - puffy sleeve

The cap didn't look or feel right. With the tighter body, looser sleeves were out of place. Plus, it looked like the sleeve cap needed to be a few rows longer.

I took out 2 inches of ease above the elbow, added slight bell shaping below the elbow, adjusted the cap decreases, and crossed my fingers. Since I was working with 2 inches less fabric for seaming, I slowed down cap decreases and added in a few extra rows. Once done, I sewed it in and tried it on:

Creamsicle T - sleeve redux

Not bad! It's definitely snug on my upper arm: no room for growth. The cap has a little extra fabric at the top, so I unseamed and took out a couple of rows.

I'm 80% done reknitting the second sleeve. I'm guessing I'll have Creamsicle T done in time for the Olympics. Hurrah! One project complete to balance the new Olympics project.

Which reminds me. I need to decide on a project!

Thanks for your kind words about my Obaachan, they are much appreciated.

Thanks also for your comments on the Stained Glass yarn; once it's dry I'll try out a swatch and figure out what it wants to be.

To answer a few questions:

Pumpkinmama asked, what was your technique for re-plying? Unply and do again, or send through as two ply just putting more twist in?
I think it was more accurate to call it "ply it some more" vs "re-ply". Basically I ran it through again and gave it more twist. Worked like a charm.

Leisel asked, I like the yarn you're using for your spiral scarf... what is it?
The yarn is from Danette Taylor, it's a superwash merino in Bramble Rose, but feels like a different yarn than her usual, maybe Louet Gems. This was a particularly deep red shade of Bramble Rose, too. Love it.

Linda asked, Oooh, are those Elfa?
You betcha, Elfa shelves from The Container Store, purchased during their annual 30% sale. I'm already planning next year's purchase!

Dyeing Finn

Last week I put the new Jacquard Acid Dyes to the test. The cheap tools came in handy: drop cloth to protect the floor, turkey baster to transfer dye solution to the squeeze bottles:

Very little spillage, though you get what you pay for; $1.69 turkey basters leak somewhat so timing was essential.

Did I mention I bought an electric roaster that same day? Hmm, no? Kohl's was having a sale, it was almost half off... yeah, I've been spending way too much lately. The fun will stop soon...

I soaked two 4 oz portions of Finn roving with a few drops of dish detergent for about an hour, then layered haphazardly into the roaster. Following a combo of instructions from Hello Yarn and Fibernation, I squirted stripes of red, yellow and sky blue (primary my ass), and then added some black over top to darken the lot. I was skeptical, but I figured I'd try the instructions out first and bitch and moan later. ;)

Finn in the roaster

I then added water and vinegar (probably too much), being careful to pour along the walls (roaster, not kitchen) and not on the fiber. Then I added some more water and vinegar because it seemed the water should cover the fiber. It almost did...

3 hours at 180 degrees and a movie to distract me. No peeking! Kinda smelly.

Turned it off and let it cool overnight. In the morning:

Finn in the roaster: cooked

The whitish spots are water droplets on fiber. All morning at work all I could think about was seeing how the fiber turned out! Too bad I didn't get up early enough to rinse and hang.

Here's how it turned out:

Finn, rinsed and dried

So yeah, not at all what I expected. Kinda cool and interesting, though.

Lessons learned:

  • The black did not blend. Or it sort of did. I think I didn't have enough water for the black to migrate around. The darkest areas were along the walls (roaster, not kitchen).
  • The blue is too light. Primary, my ass. It throws off the other blended values and is kinda weird, just doesn't belong in this batch. Although, who knows what it will look like spun up? It could end up my favorite part.
  • I needed more dye. The top layer came out pretty good, but the bottom layer did not get as much color. No wonder the dye exhausted (well, coulda been all that vinegar, too).
  • Love the cherry red.

It seems I haven't posted much knitting content in a while so here's an update.

Curlycue Scarf is now on the straightaway, which I'm doing in seed stitch. The idea is to have a straight section for wrapping around the neck and curly ends to dangle. It goes slowly.

Curlycue Scarf - in progress

Gram's socks are just past the heel, though I think I'll have to rip out and add a few rows after she tries them on today. As long as I'm not redoing the whole sock it won't faze me.

Gram's socks - in progress

Creamsicle T is a big disappointment. When I couldn't sleep night before wheel arrival, I started seaming her. Shoulders, check. Sleeve, check. Pinned the other seams for a try on. Hmm. Not good. Poofs in the wrong places, it does. Poke, prod, no help. Plus, with the mods for a snugger fit on the body, the sleeves looked a bit roomy overall. I've had trouble with sleeves lately, they just don't fit the way they should. Why??

Last night I ripped back, recalculated, and restarted. I added slight bell shaping to the bottom and took out 2" above the elbow. I'll probably have to readjust the sleeve cap shaping, which I've not done before. This may become a debacle. It may go swimmingly well.

On the plus side, the body fits me well, though maybe a couple of rows too long.

The yarn is holding up well to being frogged and reused. Plus, I reseamed the shoulder using it and had no problems.

Creamsicle T - sleeve redux

And in the spinning world

This is the superwash merino, re-plied tighter. That's more like it. Better for socks.

37: Superwash Winter Solstice

And this I call Stained Glass. It's Winderwood Farms Corriedale plied with black commercial textured yarn. I didn't want the colors to clash like they did before, so I plied with a solid. This will be interesting knit up, I think.

39: Stained Glass

Step One: Clear space

Yarn Room Yarn Room

Step Two: Get tools, instructions and spiked drink ready

Yarn Room

Step Three: After carefully measuring to maximize space (only to realize you are limited by the floor trim), level your top track, mark your holes, tape up some paper to catch the mess, and drill

Yarn Room

Step 4: Hammer in the wall anchors

Yarn Room

Step 5: Screw top anchor in place and hang vertical thingies

Yarn Room

Step 6: Rinse and repeat for the right side

Step 7: Place brackets and snap in shelves

Yarn Room

Step 8: Jump up and down with excitement and give Scott hugs

Step 8a: Notice the spiked drink might need freshening up

Working on...

Step 9: Step back and admire the left side

Yarn Room

Step 10: Turn to admire the right side

Yarn Room

Construction is fun, but putting the yarn back in is the fun part! Next will be Part III - Packing the shelves.

This week I learned my last grandparent, Obaachan, mother of my mother, long time tough cookie, talented maker of kimonos and Western clothes, wrinkled face and petite of stature, curly grey hair, lover of plants and flowers, early riser and ever active, cleaning clothes almost by hand well into her eighties, wearer of dark and brown clothes, who could never use the shawl I knit for her in my 20's because it was mottanai - a shame to waste it on every day wear - Obaachan no longer recognizes her children, her grandchildren, her caregivers.

I had been hoping to go back to Japan while she still knew me. I wanted her to meet my husband, to see her face again and hear her stories. Last time I saw her, 4 years ago for her 90th birthday, she pulled me aside, conspiratorially repeated the same 5-7 stories in 20 minute loops, each story leading seamlessly to the next, and the last bringing her back to the first and beginning the next cycle. Paranoia, fear; but also, childhood memories, pride in completing Jogakko (girl's school, maybe the equivalent of middle school), occasionally working at her brother's bar and beating the customers at pool, learning to become a maker of kimonos, surviving the war.

When I visited, I wanted to pick her up and give her a bear hug, hear her laugh at how ridiculous I was yet see her enjoyment of physical affection, something she could never give through most of her life yet she craved in old age. She was strict, never said "I love you", was often brusque and practical; yet I knew she loved me, knew she cared. When I was 12 she took me to the eye doctor, paid for my first pair of glasses. She sewed me shorts, a summer kimono I wore to see tented fireflies in Tokyo. She took me to my other grandmother's funeral when I was 12, held my hand.

I remember sitting in the upstairs room, sitting on the tatami and folding laundry with her. I don't know why I bothered, why she wanted help; everything I folded she would pick up and refold. She liked things just so.

I remember her exasperation at my inability to wake early, my sleepyhead ways. She was always scolding me when I was a child, we were so very un-Japanese, loud English and laughing, sarcastic humor, unsocialized, oblivious. And when I was in my 20's, still sleeping in, still mostly oblivious but with several years of college Japanese helping me, I remember her exasperation melting to shoganai, what can you do? Half hearted scolding with an edge of laughter and amusement.

Inside my heart cries Obaaaachaaaaaan! She doesn't hear, doesn't see, doesn't recognize. Obaachan, I thought I didn't know you. I thought you were a mystery. I didn't know. All this time, all these memories. All this time, you have been a part of me. Obaachan. I love you.

I learned: an hour is not enough time to ply this:

37: Superwash Winter Solstice 37: Superwash Winter Solstice

Speed spinning gave way to speed plying; I don't recommend it. Reckless endangerment.

I think I'm going to do another pass to make a tighter twist. I don't want my socks to wear out too fast. Sound good?

You know, it's the biggest single skein of handspun I own; it's frickin' huge! It barely fit on my bobbin, I jammed it full, and there was still yards left on the bobbins. I hated to cut the yarn but what else could I do?

Even though it's not evenly spun or plied, I like it. I like the colors. I like that I made it. My second wheel spun stuff. Good times, good times.

Yes, yes, the boucle boucle boucle!

I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it, or if I could, that it would look much like boucle. And in fact, in the beginning not only did I have no idea what they were talking about, but when I tried to spin the mohair (gorgeous silky mohair handdyed by Treetop Colour Harmonies) I felt like I'd never spun before. Every time I tried to get the wheel going it stalled out and spun in the wrong direction. I couldn't get coordinated. For a while. I felt like saying, "Dude, I so could do this yesterday!" After a little while I finally got a slow rhythm going, and a little after that, I was comfortably cruising in 2nd. The woman next to me sounded like she was in 4th, but I kept to my pace and hummed.

I had a few other problems, and while it didn't come out as I expected, it also looks just as I imagined:

38: Mohair boucle 38: Mohair boucle

Isn't it just wonderful? I wish you could see it in person, it's so soft and the mohair has a nice sheen and the colors are soft and glowing.


I've joined a coupla knitalongs. Did I mention? Let's see... You knew about:

I haven't decided on my challenge, but I've decided to go the "challenging/new to me" route vs. the "kill yourself and those you love by trying to knit a zillion stitches in 2 weeks" route. I think it's a good decision. Only 1 week to opening ceremonies!

As an adjunct I joined:

Yep, Boston area knitters crazy enough to join the 2006 Knitting Olympics. There are a lot of us. Go Beantown!

This year I wanted to get in on:

Who could resist monkeys wearing socks on all limbs? Those are monkeys, aren't they?

And finally:

I'm mad, I know I am. Knowing may be half the battle, but it doesn't seem to have much effect...

Tonight is my second BASD meeting, and the first where wheels, and not food, are the focus. Aaaahhh, my wheel arrived just in time. Can't wait! They'll be demonstrating how to make boucle yarn. There's a list of, uh, well, not ingredients, but... yeah, you get the idea, stuff you need to make this particular boucle yarn. And one of the ingredients is 3 empty bobbins. Hmm.

Enter speed spinning:

37: Superwash Winter Solstice

Just over 4 oz of superwash merino. I can't begin to imagine how long that would have taken with a spindle. Or the cramp I would have in my left hand and right shoulder. [shudder]

Not that I don't love my spindles; they have served me quite well.

Enough talk. I have an hour to ply it. And wind it off the bobbin!