Category Archives: Techniques

Episode 22 – Art for Fiber’s Sake

Somehow this episode became all about art inspired knitting or the other way around.

I talked about my current sweater projects and knitting a new skirt for myself. I also share about my first attempt at freeform crochet.

We’re available on both iTunes and Podcast Alley. Just check for “Cloudy with a chance of Fiber.”

Episode 22

My first attempt at freeform crochet

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Filed under Art, Challenge, Craft, Creativity, Crochet, Knitting, Podcast, Stash, Stuff I made, Sweater, Techniques

Using one very long circular needle

Hat done with one large circular needle

Hat done with one large circular needle

I’ve been of the practice lately of buying only long circular needles >47 inches (60 inch lengths preferably).

Here’s why this is a good idea:

  1. You can do different sized projects from socks to lap blankets all with one needle.
  2. Which means you don’t have to spend money on different lengths of circular needles or in some cases DPNs.
  3. You can do two socks, fingerless gloves, legwarmers, and any tube-shaped knitted item at once using the “Magic Loop Method.”

You may find at times, when you are binding off things at the top of the crown of a hat or a closure that the cords on your needles may not be flexible enough to work smaller circumferences. In this case having a set of double pointed needles (dpns) is helpful. So if you wanted to set yourself up with a practical or sparse kit of needles, I’d say having for each size of needles 1 circular set with >47 inch length and one set of 5 dpns in the same size might work instead of have several different lengths of needles in the same size.

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Podcast Episode 5 is Up… Ready for Warmer Knitting Weather

I’ve been experiencing the worst allergy symptoms for the past week or so. It’s as if the powers that be decided to dump a big cloud of pollen and mold over me and have it follow me everywhere. Finally, it let up and I was actually able to put this podcast together.

Episode 5 – Warm Weather Fibers

Rachel shares some great tips for using Ravelry to manage your projects and stash. I talk about my latest obsession: Crocheting with Wire. Best of all, we interviewed Cheri Clark of the Naked Sheep Knitshop on knitting with plant fiber yarns… just in time for that warm weather around the corner. It’s just not as fun to knit or crochet with itchy wool when it’s hotter than 80 degrees outside.

Crocheted necklace made with copper wire and glass beads

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Filed under About Me, Crochet, Knitting, Portland Knitters, Reflection, Techniques

Owls

Owls Sweater in Cascade 128

Owls Sweater in Cascade 128

I forgot to post the link to this pattern. You can find it here: http://needled.wordpress.com/designs/

I can’t wait to teach a class on how to make this sweater this October. This is a great sweater for beginners to sweater knitting.  Not only is the body and the yoke knit in one piece, it’s done in bulky weight so you could potentially finish your sweater in less than two weeks.  I’ve read of people doing it in a week, but I can’t imagine the strain on your hands after constant use of bulky gauge needles.

Again, I did both sleeves at once using the magic loop method.  I found it’s easier to keep my sleeves more uniform this way. One thing I adore about this sweater is how the waist shaping is done by a series of increases and decreases done on the back side of the sweater (see image below).

Waist Shaping of my Second Owls Sweater in Universal Classic Chunky

Waist Shaping of my Second Owls Sweater in Universal Classic Chunky

If you’re interested in taking the class (and live in the pdx area), it should fun. This is a great sweater for people who are starting to consider knitting  their first sweater. I’m excited to be able to share the experience for knitting this pattern with others. Here are the class details (you can also view an abbreviated version on the Naked Sheep’s website):

Owls Sweater Class:

Saturdays (October 3, 17 and 24)
10:30am-12:30pm

Have you always wanted to make that perfect sweater as a gift for a special friend or relative this holiday season, but you don’t have loads of time? Knit in bulky weight yarn this stylish sweater makes the perfect quick knit gift.  Also, this sweater requires very little sewing or seaming. Natalie will help students customize size dimensions for the pattern if needed. She can also convert the pullover pattern into a cardigan version if desired.  Students will learn how to make two sleeves at a time using the magic loop method.

Notions & Supplies Needed:

  • Large tapestry needle
  • Cable needles (if you are new to making cables)
  • 24” circular needle in appropriate size for yarn used
  • 32” or greater circular needle in appropriate size for yarn used. If you are using the Magic Loop 40″ circulars are highly recommended.
  • Optional: 40-50 buttons or large beads for owl eyes

Recommended Yarns:

Any bulky weight soft yarn.

  • Universal Yarns Chunky Classic
  • Cascade 128
  • Cascade Soft Spun
  • Eco Wool or Eco +

Not recommended: any boucle or fur yarns.

Prerequisite Skills:

Advanced beginner. Students must be able to Knit in the round as well as increase and decrease.

Once you get the sleeves done its smooth sailing all the way

Once you get the sleeves done it's smooth sailing all the way

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Filed under Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Patterns, Portland, Portland Knitters, Stockinette, Sweater, Teaching, Techniques, Wool, Yarn

Swatch Day and Blueberry Socks

I know I said I was going to write about swatching as part of my process in the whole “Raglan Sweater Series” of posts. I lied.

I know a lot of knitters don’t like hearing the “Sermon on the Swatch.”  Maybe it’s just part of the lesson. Knitting a whole sweater that doesn’t look or fit right. I’ll be honest. I have had this happen to me… more than once. As a result, I now swatch.

That’s all I’ll say on this subject for now.

I did have time today to swatch a few yarns I’ve been wanting to try… some yarns for spring: a cotton/hemp blend, Silky wool, and a mystery yarn from Yarnia that I purchased at last years Knit & Crochet Show (Fall). It’s a mystery because I lost the tag.

I’m a little worried that the Coto Canapone (cotton/hemp) is a bit heavy and stiff, but I think it will soften up after washing and blocking.  I’ve heard some really great things about using hemp and I’ve swatched some pure hemp before. It was a bit too harsh for my liking, and I realized that it would take many washings before I could get it to the softness I wanted. Though perhaps I should think of this as a trade off for the fact that hemp takes a lot longer to wear thin than cotton.  Apparently hemp had quite a history as a much used textile until recent times.  Perhaps with the economy being as it is… more people will turn to having durable clothing items rather than disposable ones they replace or trash every year.

I’m quite charmed by the Yarnia yarn.  Unfortunately the photo of the swatch I took doesn’t reflect the different greens\ and purple shades in this gorgeous yarn. Some people have noted that they find the loosely spun plies difficult and splitty to work with, but I’ve always felt that if you take proper care, even splitty yarn can make nice fabric as long as your knitting on the ‘snug’ side.

From top to bottom, Coto Canapone, Silky Wool, & Yarnia 'mystery yarn.'

From top to bottom, Coto Canapone, Silky Wool, & Yarnia 'mystery yarn.'

I was also able to finish my pair of Heritage Paint socks for the shop model for my “Toe up Socks” class coming up.  I have to say, this yarn is pretty fantastic. I think it’s pretty durable and still fairly soft with no itch. Plus it’s pretty inexpensive and the yardage is huge… 437 yards a skein. I found that the solid colors of this yarn are quite a bargain at around $12-13 dollars a skein. That’s a good price for yarn for handknit socks that should last quite some time.

My Blueberry socks in Heritage Paints

My "Blueberry" socks in Heritage Paints

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Filed under Fibers, Hemp yarn, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Lace, Portland, Portland Knitters, Socks, Stockinette, Stuff I made, Teaching, Techniques, Yarn

Experiment #3: Planning a colorway

Dyeing cotton fibers is such a pain. Not only do I want to make sure that the pain is worth it, I want to make sure I get it right the first time.  Not to mention, I’ll be using my precious Artfibers cotton (Rush), and I really don’t want to over-dye any of this stuff.

I’ve decided to knit up the skeins of blank cotton yarn I have with a knitting machine and then paint these long blanks by hand using a color combo of four (see below).

(clock wise from the top left) Black Cherry, Brazilnut, Dusty Rose, and Raspberry

Four colors of Dharma Fiber Reactive Procion Dye: (clock wise from the top left) Black Cherry, Brazilnut, Dusty Rose, and Raspberry

This may sound a bit geeky, and I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but I used a graphics program to ‘plan’ out the color on the blanks.  I think I’ll actually dye a test blank in leftover dyes that I’m not crazy about using one of the patterns below. Pattern 1 will result in a graduated dye dispersal. Pattern 2 is a recipe for plain striping. Pattern three will create broad strips of color with blends of the dye colors in criss-cross patterns dispersed throughout the fabric.

I want to know what the color patterns will be like in a large panel of stockinette knitting (say for a sweater).  If only my math and programming skills were sharper, I could actually create a program that would help me estimate the staggering of the pattern based on the length and width of the knitting and the stitch gauge. Actually, I could probably do it if I had the time, but for now, I’m just going to have to rely on both my imagination and powers of estimation.

Pattern 1

Pattern 1

Pattern 2

Pattern 2

Pattern 3

Pattern 3

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Filed under Colors, Colorwork, Cotton, Creativity, Dye, Dyeing, Dyeing_yarn, Knit, Knitting, Math, Project, Stockinette, Sweater, Techniques, Yarn

Needed some color to brighten up my winter

Hopefully we’ve seen the last of the snow for now. Hopefully.

I meant to post more photos from the dye work I did in December. I finally got around to snapping pictures of the more of the skeins of yarn I dyed.  Here they are for your viewing pleasure.

Northwest Woods (probably for a pair of socks for my brother Ted)

Autumn Fire

Amazon Parrot

Note, I’ve discovered the fine art of squeezing the dye and painting the right amounts of yarn.  I was happy with all my colourways except for one. I didn’t include it here, it was supposed to emulate the colors in a peacock feather, but i think I should have used more dark green. I need to overdye this yarn or repaint it.

Sample of the Blouson from Interweave Knits

I also dyed a good deal of peruvian cotton (about 17 skeins) for the 1824 Blouson pattern.  Let me tell you, dying cotton (and I assume other plant fibers) is a royal pain in the ass.  It wasn’t so much the pre-washing of the fibers in a solution of synthropol then soaking them in a soda ash solution, or dissolving the large amounts of salt into the dye water before adding the urea solution and dye. I REALLY REALLY hated the process of washing out the excess dye and other chemical badness in the yarn after the dyeing was over. Ick. I could never truly felt  that I got it ALL  out. On top of that I’m not sure I want to make a simple stockinette stitch pattern like the Blouson… since dyeing this yarn was such a labor intensive process. Two or three skeins of the yarn are a bit darker than I expected. I think I may have soaked them in too much soda ash solution, but I don’t mind the color imperfection. I think it adds more appeal and a hand-fashioned look to the final product.

Not to mention the warning on the package of the dye said something like… the state of California warns that this produce may cause cancer!!!!

I have decided that I will dye up a few more batches of cotton yarn, just enough to use up the dyes I purchased and from now own I’ll only dye wools, animal fibers and nylon. Or I’ll use Kool-aid and other foodbased dyes.  I have a sweater’s worth of Artfibers Rush I need to dye and some skeins of mercerized cotton. Maybe I should invite some friends over… “Hey, share the cancer!”

Luna dyed with Seafoam & Grey Mist (formerly "Sunlight" yellow)

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Filed under Colors, Colorwork, Cotton, Craft, Creativity, Dyeing, Dyeing_yarn, Eco, Fibers, Fun Stuff, Knit, Knitting, Socks, Stockinette, Techniques, Wool, Yarn

Dye Party Extravaganza

Dont drink the Kool-aid. Use it for dyeing

Don't drink the Kool-aid. Use it for dyeing

I had a yarn/fabric dying party yesterday with some friends.

I have more pics of the finished yarns I need to share but here are some of the original batch of Kool-aid dyed yarns we finished yesterday afternoon. The Dye party was a huge success. We used my old kitchen microwave to set the dyes in the yarn and fabric. All items were wrapped in microwaveable plastic bags and zapped for about two minutes and then two minutes again to set the dye.

The Kool-aid dyes worked suprisingly well especially with the superwash wools. We also did a batch of acid dye yans/fabrics. I did dye some dupioni silk which turned out quite well. I discovered that my Eco wool didn’t take dyes very well. probably because there was excess lanolin there even after a thorough washing with synthropol.

I will post pictures of those as soon as I get the time 🙂

Rinsing set dyed yarns & fabric in a bucket

Rinsing set dyed yarns & fabric in a bucket

More yarn photos:

Cascade Eco Wool in Acid Dye Colors

Cascade Eco Wool in Acid Dye Colors

My Sock Yarn in Blues and Brown

My Sock Yarn in Blues and Brown

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Crafting an amigurumi menagerie

Happy little guys on the couch

Happy little guys on the couch

I’ve been making Amigurumi (Japanese Crochet Dolls) animals lately.  I was able to crank out two over the week-end. Actually, I’m scheduled to teach a course on the subject at the Naked Sheep Knit Shop, so I’ve been busily crocheting away.  In the process, I’ve discovered that I really like the fact that you can sculpt so many shapes with single crochet. All of the dolls, I’m sharing here are based on a common design from a Japanese pamphlet book.  However, I adjusted the body parts and to create different animals.

Alfie the Amigurumi Chihuahua

Alfie the Amigurumi Chihuahua

Amigurumi Rabbit - unnamed as of 8/12/08

Amigurumi Rabbit - Mortimer (named by Jeremy)

I’m currently finishing up a third doll, an elephant. The ears were an interesting little sub project. I realize now that I should take better notes while I’m designing these things. I’ve discovered that with crochet, I need to actually work the design out by hand before I can start writing things down.  For the ears on this elephant, I experimented with adding two flaps to a short chain of single crochet… the first attempt looked too much like butterfly wing that I ended up frogging it.

I’ve also discovered that I like working with mercerized cotton yarn better than 100% wool to make these toys. I suspect that a good sturdy acrylic yarn would also make a good choice for these types of project.

Amigurumi Elephant without the eyes

Amigurumi Elephant without the eyes

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Filed under Amigurumi, Crochet, Patterns, Techniques, Toys, Yarn

Special Sweater

Saranac Body

Saranac Body

Two sleeves on a long circular needle using the Magic Loop method.

Two sleeves on a long circular needle using the "Magic Loop" method.

——————–

So my husband… has been so wonderful working on our kitchen. I’ve discovered that he’s been quite a whiz at the DIY. The other day, my anxiety went up when he was working on the electrical, not because I don’t have faith in him, but because even when you take precautions… WORKING ON THAT STUFF CAN BE DEADLY. I stood by watching and wary with the cell phone handy just in case.

So I’m making him a special sweater just because he’s been so terrific. It’s the least I could do. He’s not big into cable or aran sweaters, so I had to pick a fairly simple and comfortable pattern.

I’m doing an altered version of the Saranac from Knitty.com in Knit PIcks Comfy yarn. No open collar because he’s just not that kind of guy. I’ll probaby join the sleeves at the yoke using Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions in Knitting Around.

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Filed under Knit, Knitting, Patterns, Project, Stockinette, Stuff I made, Techniques, Yarn