Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knitting the Queue

I have been toying with the idea of knitting my Ravelry queue in the order it is listed. The rationale is that I added those projects to my queue for a reason, but I am always being distracted by the oooh shiny and knitting the newest patterns. The items in my queue, some going back to 2007, are perfectly good projects that I still want to knit so why not knit them? Blogging is easier with a knit-along and I do need blogging help sometimes, so I began thinking about Knitting the Queue as an ongoing project.

When I conceived of Knitting the Queue several days ago, my Ravlery queue was at 5 pages and 130+ items. I viciously trimmed that number down to 79. I cut anything that didn't appeal to me anymore, any pattern that had a lot of negative reviews, any pattern that just looked odd on large women, any pattern that  I just don't see myself wearing (lace, not that lace isn't perfectly lovely) and any pattern that was too similar to any other pattern. Then I cast on projects 1 and 2 last week and cast on for project 3 yesterday.

These are the rules I devised for myself:
  1. Knit the ravelry queue in order they were added.
  2. Adding and removing items from the queue is allowed, but rearranging the order of the queue is not. 
  3. Deleting items from the queue is allowed. 
  4. Non-queue knitting (such as simple socks, dish cloths and hats) are allowed and encouraged for several reasons: a) for times when mindless knitting is required; b) because I'm down to 2 pairs of socks and 0 dish cloths and really need to stock up; c) in case several difficult or large queue items stack up next to each other; d) in case of a delay in acquiring the materials for the next queued item. 
  5. An queued item may be knitted out of order if, and only if, that queued item needs to be knitted as a sample for an LYS or for a show out of Dyeabolical yarn. In this case the queued item will be considered Work Knitting and not Fun Knitting. All Knitting the Queue projects should be fun and not work.
  6. Knitting the Queue may be dismissed without prejudice should it become Not Fun Anymore.

I cast on for my first 2 projects earlier this week.
Project #1: Square 1 for Lizard Ridge Afghan
Work in progress. 2 days to knit this first square. I decided to use Noro Silk Garden instead of the Noro Kureyon the pattern calls for. I like the Kureyon colors better, in general, but I know from experience that Silk Garden can take a few rides through the washer and drier without felting. I have really furry cats. Washable is good, even if it is only a limited amount of washability (is that a word?).

Project #2 
Swiffer cover made from kitchen cotton. I am seriously impressed at how well this works with my Swiffer WetJet. I will definitely be making more of these. 

Note: I try to keep this blog strictly about Dyeabolical yarns, fibers or patterns. Many Knitting the Queue projects are not made with Dyeabolical yarn, fiber or patterns. For the sake of continuity, I am making an exception and including those projects in this blog, rather than posting those projects to my non-Dyeabolical/personal blog as I normally would.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New FO: Tussah Silk Cowl

Pattern: Destroyed Cowl

Yarn: Dyeabolical Tussah Silk (limited edition)

Modifications: I used a 10.5 needle instead of the 8US it called for. I cast on fewer stitches and knit it a little bit longer. I was going for something I can wear indoors and in spring rather than something for warmth. I blocked it aggressively lengthwise, which narrowed the fabric. I would cast on the right amount of stitches and knit it a few inches longer than called for the next time I make this with this yarn.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Knit and Caboodle Sock Club

I have some great news! Knit and Caboodle, in St. Charles, MO, asked me to be their dyer for the May installment of their sock club! I dyed the yarns up last week and this week has been spent rehanking them. I can't reveal the color yet. It is a surprise! All I can say is that it is bright and beautiful.

Contact Knit and Caboodle to sign up for the sock club by calling (636) 916-0060.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Customer Knits!

I had two friends and customers show me their projects made from Dyeabolical yarn this week.

The first was dance mistress and knitter extraordinaire, Deborah. She is making a pair of socks from Strong Arm Sock Yarn in color 162.*
Crafty and Crap wove these great napkins from a skein of Dyeabolical 5/2 Cotton Warp. This is one of her first weaving projects. Didn't she do a great job?

*Color numbers are either unrepeatable colors or colors that are dyed using a method that produces greater variation between skeins, or even within the same skein, than handpainting does.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cotton Slub Baby Sweater

The Cotton Slub yarn has been a great seller for me. How often is it that you can make an adult sized cami, tank or sweater for $40 or less? I know of at least 5 February Lady Sweaters that have been knitted from 4 or fewer skeins of Cotton Slub, at least 2 Isabelle sleeveless sweaters and 1 Slinky Ribs sweater.

I usually have 5 or 6 sweaters worth of Cotton Slub in stock, but I am running low right now*. Everyone seems to want sweater quantities and that's great! I do have Perfect Turquoise, Peculiar Purple and a new seafoam green in sweater quantities ready to go once I get pictures taken of them.

Not everyone buys 4 skeins at a pop. That leaves me with an odd number of skeins left. What to do with those colors that have enough skeins left for a project, but not enough for a full sweater? Baby clothes are a great option. As are potholders, wash clothes, camis and scarves. I hope these sweaters, and projects I'll be posting in the near future, inspire you to make your own Cotton Slub single- and double-skein projects.

This cute baby sweater below took just over half a skein of yarn (56g of a 109g skein) for the smallest size. There is plenty left over for sleeves, a cute hat or (and?) booties. Your total cost for the yarn? $10, plus shipping.

Yarn: Cotton Slub in Brilliant Blue (the color is most accurate in the first picture)

Pattern: Boheme by Allegra Wermuth (Ravelry link)

Needle size: 4US

Pattern Modifications: The only modification I made for this pattern was to work the 4 edge stitches on each side in garter stitch. The button holes were too far over for my tastes, so rather than rip and reknit them (as I should have done), I sewed the button holes closed and used a button small enough to slip between the stitches closer to the edge.  I will move the button holes closer to the edge the next time I knit this pattern.

 Notes: Cotton Slub should be handwashed or machine washed gently and air dried most of the time, but the occasional machine wash/dry won't hurt it. This is going to be a shop sample, so I gave it the full machine wash/machine dry/steam block treatment. If you do this, be sure to wash your garment inside out, as you would with any knitted garment you throw in the machine.

There was about a 7% shrinkage, as expected with cotton yarn. The fabric softened quite a bit and the stitches evened out. I took a steam iron to the sweater after washing to relax the fibers back to their previous length and recovered most of the 7% shrink.

Yarn: Cotton Slub in Wisteria 

Pattern: Pearl Shrug by Kristen Rengren

Needle size: US 4

Pattern Modifications: Omitted sleeves

Notes: I was in a hurry to get this sweater finished for a gift, so I steam blocked it instead of giving it the normal wash/dry/steam. I am not worried about shrinking with this sweater. It came out big and could stand a little shrinking.

This baby vest took 3/4s of a skein of yarn. It calls for for sleeves and I had enough yarn to do them, but the pattern just looked a little odd with them so I ripped them out. I don't think this was a pattern issue. I think it was a gauge issue on my part. It is still cute, no?

 *Knitorious in St. Louis, MO has plenty in stock! I dropped off about 10 colors to them last week.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patty's Sale

Save Green! Use coupon code "GREEN" and receive 20% off all purchases in my Artfire Studio for the next 24 hours.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Washing Winter Woolens

The sun is shining (sort of), birds are chirping and my seedlings have developed their first set of true leaves. That can only mean one thing. It's Spring! It is time to pack winter away!

The previous few winters were not cold enough for us to pull out the wool sweaters more than once or twice. We only had a few scarves and mittens to dunk in Eucalan and all of our wool socks were washable. This is the first year that it has been cold enough for us to have accumulated and dirtied enough wool things for this to require ...duh duh duh....A Plan.

Our plan is multi-faceted.
1) Ship some or all of it to trusted cleaners. I sent the non-machine washable sweaters and coats to the cleaners. I wouldn't send hand knitted or even nice machine sweaters to just any cleaners. I have had sweaters comeback crunchy with dry-cleaning solvent and frankly, that's kind of gross. My current cleaners hand washes and blocks my sweaters better than I can. I preauthorize them up to a certain dollar amount to fix snags, missing buttons and holes. Sending sweaters to the cleaners costs a little more than handwashing, but they can do all the sweaters at once and they come back ready to store for the summer. I have heard from customers that some cleaners will even block your newly knitted and crocheted blankets and stoles. What a great option for those of us with limited space!
2) Wash by machine. Many of my accessories and a few sweaters are made from yarns that can make the occasional trip through the washer and a rare trip through the dryer if necessary. Any hat, glove or sock made from sock yarn will get the thorough treatment. More delicate but washable items, such as a woven rayon scarf, will be put in a lingerie bag and washed only. Some machines have a handwash option. Take advantage of that if you have it (I don't) but BE CAREFUL, especially with softly spun singles or any other fiber that felts just by looking too hard at it. Just because the setting says "Handwash" doesn't mean it is really as gentle as washing by hand.

2a) Wash by a different kind of machine. I bought a hand cranked tub that is supposed to make washing your woolens very easy to do. I let someone else do the first woolen load, which was a batch of wool roving. They put very hot rinse water in after washing the roving in cold water. That roving felted in less than 2 minutes. To be honest, it was a wool designed for felting so I shouldn't have been surprised, but still, 2 minutes? If you are going to use one of those hand cranked tubs BE CAREFUL to keep your water temperature even and that what you are washing is made from a fiber less likely to felt quickly. [Update: I sent a dingy and raggedy merino wool stole through the washer yesterday, intending to felt it and cut it in to pet squares. It didn't felt and the colors came out as bright and beautiful as the day I cast-off. Some wools don't felt as easily as one might think. Some felt by looking at them.]

3) Wash by hand. I am hand washing any accessory that won't make it through the machine or that I don't want to pay the cleaners for. Lightly worn items will get their usual dunk in Eucalan and warm water. Heavily worn items will get special treatment.

I tend to wash my woolens at a higher temperature than other people do, but I am okay with taking the risk. Washing at very high temperatures, especially if you agitate it, can potentially damage or felt the fiber.  I do very little agitating, so I think the bigger risk of washing at very high temperatures is that some dyes will fade if the temperature is too high.

There is an excellent chart on wash- and light-fastness of various dyes here. It is a little technical, but I think the most important part is this:
the washfastness numbers for acid dyes are in no way comparable to the same numbers for other classes of dyes! The washfastness numbers here, for acid dyes, come from observations of the effects of gently washing the dyed item in cool water, at 105°F or below—only 40°C!—whereas the washfastness numbers for cellulosic fibers are for washing in water at a temperature of 205°F —96°C"
In other words, wash your woolens--especially your brightly colored woolens *ahem*--at lower temperatures than  you wash your cottons and linens. If you have ever done a load of laundry then I bet you knew that already. [Disclaimer: I am the handwasher of the house, but not the machine launderer. Despite a lot of discussion about how woolens ought to be washed, my socks routinely go through the wash and dry at scalding hot temperatures. Bless his laundry-doin' heart. I'd rather have slightly faded socks than be the one dragging the laundry cart down 3 flights of stairs and up a hill to the laundromat.]

I was going to give my process here, but then I found a much better tutorial on Fuzzy Galore's site. This is how I wash my heavily worn items, except instead of Dawn I use synthrapol since I have plenty on hand. I found a lot of other interesting and well-written articles on the site, too, so click around.

4) Store it away. How long are you storing it? I have talked about my multi-faceted approach to inventory storage before. The short version is clean and dry fibers, plastic bag, plastic box, herbal repellents, cool room. I do something a little different for my woolens. The sweaters and accessories I will be pulling out again in 6 months are cleaned and stored loose in a plastic tub. If I will be storing for more than 6 months and it is not a precious heirloom then I put that item by itself in a plastic bag inside the tub. The plastic tubs are just a matter of preference, but they do off-gas which causes yellowing and they retain moisture, which can encourage mildew.

It is better for the wool to keep it store in acid-free paper or muslin in a clean and safe place. It is better for my own peace of mind to keep everything in plastic. If it were a precious heirloom in this house, then it would get wrapped in muslin and stored in one of those blue Ziploc Flexible Totes  that have the mesh band at the top. It is a good compromise between protecting from wool pests while allowing the wool to breathe.

And...there we go! Winter is packed away, or it will be soon. Welcome Spring!

[Thank you to all the photographers who let me use their pictures under a Creative Commons license.]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Off With Her Red! (Again!)

There is only one skein left of Off With Her Red! and Hookah You?  It is a repeatable color, but I won't be able to dye more of it for at least a month due to other obligations.

I used a skein of Strong Arm in Off With Her Red! to make this collar for my Alice in Wonderland swap partner. I'm confident she doesn't read my blog so I think it is safe to show this here. The pattern itself could use a little polishing, but the design is brilliant. The pattern is a modification of Knitty's Tudora called  the Post Apocalypic Tudora. The collar stood up all on its own until I left the ruff on the head in a humid room overnight. Unless the knitted fabric is very tight the collar will eventually fall, humidity or not. I used a styling trick, aka jamming a pin in to the foam, to get the color to stand up in the pictures. I only needed one pin to coax the collar in to standing again, so I suspect that making the button band taller and adding more than one button would have the same effect. Jessica Foamhead doesn't mind when I jam her full of pins, but you probably want to avoid that styling trick on yourself. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New retailer: Laumeier Sculpture Park

I'm on my way to Laumeier Sculpture Park in Sunset Hills, MO to drop off some yarn. What's this, you say? Yarn? At the Sculpture Park? Yep. Yarn at the sculpture park.

Laumeier is currently exhibiting Mark Newport's Self Made Man. Newport does the knitted superhero costumes that are often mentioned in knitting publications.

The curator and I got to talking about yarn and community in general when he suggested that the gift shop might want to carry some of my yarn for the duration of the exhibit. Wow! Yes, of course! I am so flattered! The shop manager and I put our heads together and now the Laumeier gift shop will be carrying a small selection of my yarn for the duration of the Mark Newport exhibit. I'm excited!

The exhibit is open during the park's normal hours, but there will be a special Knit-In with the artist on April 3 at 2pm in the park. I will definitely be there with my knitting group. I am certain other knitting groups are planning on going. I hope you come, too. Knitter's represent! It should be a beautiful day!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Shop Update now with extra name dropping

I listed the Alice Colors (Off With Her Red, Mock Turtle and Hookah You), along with several other one-of and semisolid colors.

My creation

Prior to making the shop update, (here comes the name dropping) I spent the afternoon with Franklin Habit...

...learning the importance of aluminum foil and tissue paper in the art of photographing knitwear. He said important things about aperture, white balance and shutter speed, too, so it wasn't as if this were The Crafting with Franklin Hour, but that aluminum foil trick totally was worth the price of admission. I never would have thought of it myself.

None of these pictures are great. They are just quick snapshots, but see how different they are. They were taken all within a few seconds of each other all in the same spot.

Without white balance or aluminum foil
With white balance

With white balance and aluminum foil. 

With white balance, foil and 30 seconds in photoshop
Cool, huh? I knew about white balance before, but I was missing some tiny trick to really make it work as well as it could. I had been holding the camera up facing the back of the light tent, and then getting up close and personal to take the picture. The light is different at the back of my tent so I should have been doing the white balance closer to where I was actually shooting. It's minor, but I think it will make a huge difference once I pull out my table top studio lights. Speaking of, someone yesterday asked me what I used and I couldn't remember the brand. I use Kuhl Studio Lights and I love them.

And now, I'm off. This has been a hugely busy week for me, what with having to make up time from last week, going to the 3rd funeral in 3 weeks and working on *squee* a few wholesale orders. I think today I'm taking the day "off" to sit on the couch and knit up samples. That is, if I could ever step away from this computer....


Friday, March 5, 2010


I'm working on some Alice in Wonderland inspired colors! This is what I have so far--the top green one is "Mock Turtle" or some variation of that. I haven't decided yet. The second green one is very similar but much lighter. It is a one-of dye lot, not an Alice color but I like it anyway. The black/red is "Off With Her Red!" The final picture is "Hookah You?" They will be listed in Etsy and Artfire over the weekend:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Paste Crafts, BFL Update, Show Update

  • I just dropped off a huge batch of colorful felting fiber and some sock yarn at Paste Crafts in Soulard, MO! I am so excited to have product at Paste. They are a small neighborhood business that offers supplies for multiple crafts and carries many handmade, one-of-a-kind, artisan-produced products. They have classes, too!
  • I have updated my Artfire and Etsy shops with the Superwash BFL roving. The same rovings are listed in both shops. As a vendor, I prefer Artfire, but I started on Etsy and that's where most of my customers are. Have you looked at Artfire? It doesn't have as much selection as Etsy but seems much easier to navigate from a customer point of view. 

  • I rearranged my show schedule slightly. I was going to do a show in March, but it won't work out for me this year. Instead I committed at Tower Grove Farmers Market May 8, July3 and October 23 from 8a-12p. I am looking at doing a show in Webster Groves in June and hopefully will get back in to Strange Folk this year.