It is certainly odd to think that over a year has passed since I last had the time or energy to consider my knitting. I've been working through projects and sending them off, but I haven't taken the time reflect on them. My son has now passed his first birthday, I think it is time to return to this space, and devote a bit of time to project enjoyment and reflection.
I think that rats can be a sensitive subject. There are people in this world who love rats more than any kind of animal in the same way that there are people in this world who love dogs or cats or birds, etc. I often wonder why I delight in a squirrel my my stomach flip-flops at a rat loose in the world. To truly love rats is to join a fellowship. If you know a rat lover, tread with caution. If they have revealed themselves, they are giving you very personal information.
Tread lightly, but it is also good to celebrate. I wanted to make something for my friend's birthday, and serendipity intervened. When I have a little downtime, I will often drift over to Ravelry, and brows a feature there called "pattern highlights," a recommendation engine where new patterns are pushed to you based on things or designers you've knitted or liked. (If you go to the main "patterns" tab, the highlights are on the right hand side, half way down.) Because I had knitted a few patterns from Sara Elizabeth Kellner (Rabbit Hole Knits), and liked a few more, her new patterns always show up in my pattern highlights. Her cute little Rats! pattern showed up there, and I knew I wanted to make it. Here is the result:
As with all the Rabbit Hole Knits patterns that I've done, there is a lot of beautiful attention to shaping the piece through increases and decreases. The pattern is worked in the round, so there was very little seaming, and because so much of the shaping of the finished creature is done while knitting, I think this would be a good beginner toy project because it is much less dependent on finesse while stuffing. Using worsted weight yarn, the pattern is designed to come out somewhere close to life size, so I didn't have to make adjustments. This piece is worked on size 4 needles.
[Edit: As I went to compose a new post, after a year of time away from this space, I found this post hanging out in drafts. I am back and I will start using this space to document my projects once more. Consider this a demi-restart with more to come later.]
Just a few more bits and bobs of finished projects that have come through in the past few weeks. I expect this might be the last post for a little while so I wanted to be completely caught up!
Here are some blue shoe covers for my dad for Father's Day. They are designed to cover a gentleman's dress shoes while they are in his suitcase to keep shoe polish from getting all over everything. The pattern is free through the Lion Brand website. I did alter it slightly, only knitting for 12 inches, instead of the 14 inches called for by the pattern because my dad isn't a big footed guy.
I just couldn't resist making one more toy for my baby, this super cute little puzzle giraffe. It comes apart into three pieces, but is also very sturdy when assembled. I really love the face, and the yarn was all stuff I already had in my stash, so it was a great free project. With the circle spots sewn on the outside, and all the nooks and crannies, I think this will make an easy to grab baby toy. The designer, Dedri Uys, has designed a lot of other puzzle animals as well, and when I get a chance I look forward to making her octopus (free pattern!), and this sweet little fish.
This poor mini Nessie (a mini replica of the Hansi Singh Loch Ness Monster pattern) had been hanging around with one fin for at least a year! A few nights of eye strain and he's finished and now lurking in our onion bowl in the kitchen. Much like a larger counterpart that I made a few years ago, his neck has a quizzical turn to it.
And finally, no this isn't for my baby! Some friends are having a baby in August, and my husband and I just wanted to send them a little sweet something. I found the pattern for this infant sweater just too cute to resist. It is designed to keep the baby's back and arms warm while leaving their chest open for skin to skin cuddling. I used a self striping sock yarn, and was even able to let go of my fastidious tendencies and let the arms not match up perfectly. Of course I still had plenty of sock yarn left over after making the sweater, so I took an extra day or two and made this little hat to match.
And with these projects I'll sign off for a little while. I would imagine I will still steal a little time to knit, but I doubt I will finish any projects :) I'll try to check in again soon!
And what is this you spy, the last of the wedding blankets! At least for a bit.
I loved making this blanket. I took just enough liberty with the pattern that I felt like I was making it mine.
Speaking of which, I could write a whole series of possibly not that interesting, emotionally fraught posts on the process I went through to find a pattern I liked for this blanket. I ordered out-of-print books, I scoured the internet for the pattern for a particular cable I found on Pintrest, I designed an entire blanket by selecting cables from Barbara Walker's encyclopedic guides, only to find, upon starting to knit it, that the dimensions would never come out right, that the drape of the fabric was too stiff, and what was I thinking anyway picking these cables, they were way too fussy, and how would I ever know how much yarn I needed? Finally I just took myself aside, said "you are making yourself crazy, just go find a nice pattern you like," and so I turned to Ravelry and found the very nice Burridge Lake Aran Afghan. I wanted to make it slightly wider, I wanted to make it easier to attach the three panels, and ultimately i simplified the finishing on the edges, and I could handle that amount of alteration, whereas I just couldn't start from scratch.
I added two more columns of cables to the blanket to increase the width. I did slip stitch edges on the sides of the three panels so that I could crochet them together easily, and for the edges along the bottom and top I picked up all the stitches, knit several rows of the trinity stitch that appears in the panels, and then finished with an i-cord bind-off that i grafted to the column of knit stitches on the edges.
I had thought I might do something else with the top and bottom edge, or I wondered if I should have done one more row of trinity stitch, but it is fortunate I didn't, because in the end I had this much yarn left over:
This couple is getting married so soon and I'm so excited for them! Because of my own impending big event I sent them their gift early and they are reportedly already enjoying it, though I hope from afar in this heat!
It has been the time to make things for babies, my own as well as other people's.
First off, I've been busy making hats for three new to the world little girls.
Two of the hats are the Poppy pattern that I have used before and find simply adorable. It lends itself to as much or as little embellishment as you like.
The hat on the left has two simple green leaves, and is reminiscent of a cherry to me. This was my first time working the pattern in worsted weight yarn (the pattern is written for nearly any weight of yarn and nearly any head size, a great, great pattern!). This was a commissioned piece for a friend to give to her brother's granddaughter.
The hat on the right was made for a friend who's little girl is due right around the same time my little baby should be coming along. She loves sharks, so I thought it would be fun to try to make a sweet girly shark. I think I succeeded. I spent about a minute trying to design my own shark, but ended up feeling like, why reinvent the wheel? I found the perfect shark pattern on Ravelry, and consulted the book 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet: A Collection of Beautiful Blooms for Embellishing Garments, Accessories, and More to find a flower that would allow the shark to swim among the stems. I settled on the forget-me-not (which is also available for free on Ravelry!) .
It is time for babies right now! My cousin and her husband recently had a baby and I wanted to send something special to their little one. They also had a girl, but instead of doing another Poppy, I wanted to try something different. I found this pattern on Ravelry and thought that it stood out from other patterns in this style because of the way the decreases fall in the leaves, looking like stems. All three of these hats are made with acrylic yarn because babies are not mindful of how hard it is to wash wool.
Of course I've also made a few things for my own baby!
Hooray for this crocheted hippo! I love it. Puzzling over the colors was a little bit stressful, just trying to keep an even distribution and representation of each color, but the shape is so great, and I stuffed it well (with this weird slightly more "natural" stuffing), so it is very good for squeezing and hugging. I was able to almost finish the whole thing over a long weekend while my husband was camping. The yarn is all super wash wool in sock weight.
I also made a floor blanket for the baby. I've included images of before and after the border was added because the true colors of the yarn fall somewhere in the middle. Somehow I just never got a great photo of this one! I picture taking this blanket with us to parks and on visits to give the baby something soft to lay on. My sweet mom splurged and bought the yarn for me, which is a beautiful hand dyed super wash wool from Tanis Fibre Arts (Tanis also designed the pattern). I'm so glad I was able to work this pattern with a nicer yarn! I think what really makes this pattern is the wonderful subtle differences in the colors. The hand dyed yarns have a depth and variation that commercial yarns just wouldn't have. I often ponder that consistency of color was probably prized over all in yarn dying, even 20 years ago, and now it is the subtle variation of the hand dying process that catches our eye. So it goes, I suppose.
And I have one more wedding blanket to post about, but I'll save that for another day :)
The following are some slap dash directions for making a tiny sweater to go along with your big one. I myself needed to do this because I'm in the process of making a tiny human to go along with my big one :)
Just as a reminder, back in November I finished an epic sweater for my husband, and to commemorate the effort, we are posting daily pictures of his adventures with his sweater at http://ebenandthebear.tumblr.com/. Making a little version of the sweater seemed like a perfect way to welcome our expected little one.
I knew I didn't want to design the whole sweater from the ground up, so to start with, my first task was to find a sweater that matched the general shape of the original sweater, and had the same sort of fabric properties, in this case, stranded color work, so that I knew it would adapt smoothly.
I found these two likely candidates:
Each of these little sweaters is knit with stranded color changes, and has a general ski sweater vibe. I went with the red sweater on the right because it is knit in a lighter weight DK yarn, and thus the stitches are a bit smaller, and so I would have more stitches to work with in developing my baby bear graph for the front. I went through the pattern counting rows and inches to figure out how many rows tall the design area would be.
With pattern decided upon, and general stitch area to be filled known, I just needed a cute little bear graph with which to fill it. In the past when I needed to alter a graph, or create a graph from scratch for a knitting project, I just used trusty graph paper and a pencil, and then went over it with pen when I was satisfied. As anyone who has tried to design their own graphs for knitting has found that knit stitches are not square. Depending on your design, you might get an awkward surprise (like a short fat owl instead of a cute little round one, an issue I encountered several years ago) because you mapped out a perfect circle on square graph paper, and knit stitches are wider than they are tall. Enter knitting graph paper, which is made up of rectangles. Happily, there are a lot of places on line where you can print off single sheets of knitting graph paper. So, I printed off a few sheets, ready for a night of erasing.
A great/frustrating thing about the internet is that new things are popping up there every day, and you have to find them for yourself! I'm not sure why I searched or what I searched, but I found a website, Tricksy Knitter, that will let you plan out color charts for knitting, for free! It is a very easy to learn interface, and I'm so excited to have found it because it made this task, which is tricky at best, a bit easier.
As with the sweater pattern itself, I don't believe in re-inventing the wheel, and so my next step was to look around the internet and see if I could find a graph for a baby polar bear. At the very least, I figured, if I couldn't find one that worked perfectly, I could find something I could scale down. Well, color me shocked, I couldn't! I found plenty of cross stitch patterns, for example, that were great, but they just didn't translate into the medium I was using. I also found several graphs for baby polar bears that my husband dismissed as "too koala like."
Here is an early attempt that does, in fact, look like a koala on all fours.
Okay, that was a no go. I had done image search after image search, and I found plenty of photos that I liked (try image searching baby polar bears, it is pretty much wall to wall white fluff.) I queried my somewhat more technologically advanced husband, couldn't some program pixilate a photo enough to give me the shape I wanted? Couldn't it extend the back end of this photo a bit? Obviously there was no program that was just going to magic up what I wanted, but maybe my rudimentary photo shopping skills could come into play. I selected the best photo for my purposes, and opened it in a free online photo editor, a Photoshop lite, called Sumopaint. Maybe if I could get a grid pattern over the photo? But actually something much better happened. I traced the photo with thick lines, making the alterations I wanted, and only tracing the parts that were most necessary to make the image make sense. Then I could remove the layer with the actual photo, and just have a line drawing. Then, in my knitting graph program, I could redraw the same general shape freehand, and make alterations to my heart's content, but know that I liked what the base shape was.
A lot of alterations ensued,
Yay, a basic baby bear! As you can see in the final graphs, a few more tweaks were made. I realized I had been drawing the graph as a negative image, when what I wanted was a white bear, so I went through and changed it all around. My husband had the inspiration for half circle eyes instead of dots, which turned out to be infinitely cuter. All in all we are talking about a 4 hours process from start to finish, but I'm so pleased with the result:
I went ahead and extended the graph to be the whole front, so that I could fill in the rest of the area in a way that would mimic the original sweater in a scaled down way. After that it was all done but the knitting. Or so I thought.
Well, the knitting, and a lot of ends to weave in due to some thoughtless designing on my part, but it only took an afternoon watching friends garden to get the job done and I'll know better next time.
I feel as pleased and satisfied by this project as the little bear cub looks :)
Sometimes I find I have to search for inspiration for a project, and sometimes inspiration walks by at the fair.
This summer (almost a year ago!) my husband and I went to the Scottish Highland Gathering and Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA. We saw sheep dog competitions, birds of prey, and endless halls of Celtic goods for sale. We even ate some not at all event appropriate food, I think I had a burrito. What really caught my eye, however, was this tote bag:
I would tell you to squint your eyes, but that doesn't really help. The picture is blurry because I was not brave enough to stop this grandmother and child to ask if I could please take a picture of her cheap nylon tote bag. Instead I ran behind this woman, as surreptitiously as I could, casually trying to capture this crazy rainbow in the wild.
I chased this woman to take this picture because I knew I was seeing something important! There is something about the color combination and progression that I find unexpected and irresistible. I didn't know what I was going to do with it at the time, I just knew I needed to have a way to remember it.
Thank goodness an opportunity to use this progression presented itself, or I might have exploded! As I started looking for patterns for a baby blanket for a good friend (the same one who got this sweet little pink set seen here recently), I was so excited to be able to put this discovered rainbow to use.
I found a lovely baby blanket pattern that would highlight the rainbow and I ordered yarn. I ordered my yarn based on softness, washability, and color selection. Right before starting the blanket I realized that the slippery, cotton/beech wood, very soft and smooth yarn I had selected was going to be at major odds with a pattern that demanded a color change every 4 rows. My heart sank as I thought about how many ends I would have to weave in, and how they would all work themselves loose because the fiber would have nothing to hold on to.
Thankfully, I realized I had recently seen a pattern for a stunning adult afghan that was graphic, modern looking, and most importantly, would highlight my color choices, (and was free!). Worked on smaller needles and smaller yarn, I figured I would have to end up with something baby sized. And it worked!
Using sport weight yarn, and US size 4 needles, the blanket came out 34 x 44 inches (instead of the pattern's 52 x 74 inches in worsted weight). I am so pleased with the way this came out. While I was working on it I got to revel in and gain a whole new appreciation for my found rainbow. As I added each new stripe, the new color would informed and improved the others. I was so impatient to get to the blue at the bottom, because I knew it was going to pull everything together and really finish the whole look and feel of the blanket. As I worked on it, people would say, "that's nice," and I would say, "yes, but it really is going to look different when it's finished," which only makes people say "well, it looks nice now." At which point I just try to take a compliment. :)
I had intended this blanket to be a light spring time blanket for this baby born in January, not knowing that the northeastern United States is apparently never going to thaw. So I guess it is an "inside blanket?"
Though most of the country is covered in snow, and I'm sure it is ideal knitting time, our house is getting hot enough in the afternoon to make you sweat! Not exactly motivation to pick up wool. But I've been able to get several small projects out the door despite the not so conducive temperature.
My bow tie wearing husband requested a knit necktie like his brother's. I took to heart the lessons I learned from the first knit necktie I made: a.) it takes a lot longer than you would think to knit a long skinny strip, but b.) what really take a long time is sewing down the ribbon backing! No, I kid, (but those things are true and should be taken into account if you are planning on knitting a necktie.) I did the actual knitting for this project over Christmas break, and then stuffed it in a bag, with the already purchased ribbon backing, dreading giving up the knitting time to sew on the backing. The perfect opportunity presented itself when we hung out with friends on the only cozy rainy Saturday we've had all winter. I was able to sew on the backing ribbon without thinking too much about what I was doing or how long it was taking due to the good company. This tie did go faster than the last tie because the yarn was a little heavier weight, a discontinued Knit Picks sport weight, and so, because of the heavier weight yarn, fewer stitches were required to get the same width.
One of my co-workers, who works in rare book preservation, and her husband, who is a sculptor, built a tree-house dollhouse for their granddaughter. I haven't seen pictures yet, but she described it to me, and asked if I would make some animal dolls for it, specifically a black cat doll. My co-worker's granddaughter has a pet black cat named Chubby that she loves very much, and my co-worker had attempted to find a black cat doll, but hadn't had any luck. I asked her about what size, she said "egg sized." I'm always happy to make requests, and mostly with this kind of project, I just want to make sure that I'm spending my time making something that the person will like. I first went to Ravelry and searched for tiny cat, tiny bear, etc, to get a good sense of the patterns already available. I settled on this cute little bear pattern, which was only slightly annoying for having to seam up the back of the body and the back of the head. I did i-cord legs and tail, and adjusted the ears and eyes to give them a more cat-like appearance. Though the legs aren't hinged, the tail provides ballast, so that the cat does sit up. My co-worker relayed that her granddaughter recognized this little version of Chubby right way, so, mission accomplished!
A UFO is knitting speak for an Un-Finished Object. I'm not sure, however, if that label can be applied if the project never got started to begin with. I had this beautiful madelintosh yarn sitting around since February 2013 to make a cowl for myself. It was one of those projects where I saw the sample and just had to make it. I started the project as Christmas knitting on planes and by the fire, etc. It was a simple to memorize stitch pattern, only one yarn used at a time, and just going around in a loop. I worked on it off and on, not really sure how wide I was going to make it. I started noticing that most cowl patterns were 7 1/2 inches wide. I finally measured the cowl that was just hanging out and realized i was only 1 1/2 inches away from being done. So I finished it in on sitting. But then, I just wasn't right for me! And it really was one of those "not right" situations where you just know it isn't getting better. I know I picked out green yarn because I don't wear that much green, but, I still don't wear that much green! So I sent it off to a friend and it has found a happy home.
Finally, birthday socks for my sweet Valentine of a mother. These were a fun pattern, definitely improved by using the Felici yarn from Knitpicks with it's wide stripes. It's a great yarn for socks, very soft, and excellent for esoteric patterns. These socks are started at the cuff, then knit the entire back, and then pick up stitches in a U shape around the opening and just knit back and forth, decreasing, until a final long graft closes up the front. I know that probably sounds like garble, but trust me, picking up the stitches evenly was the only annoying part. I even got the color repeats to basically match up!
Unbelievable that I have not written about the bear sweater yet, but it seems like the perfect way to end the year. I'm not even sure how to start writing about this project except to say that many years ago, I saw this picture, and fell in love.
Falling in love is never simple though, is it? First, this pattern, the 7901 Polar Bear from the Dale of Norway pamphlet #79, is out of print. There is one company that will sell the individual patterns from the book with the yarn needed to make it. If you want the entire pamphlet, it comes up infrequently on eBay for astronomical sums.
At first, I went the more "reasonable" rout and was given the kit with the bear sweater pattern for Christmas in 2010. And then I let it sit. The whole thing had seemed so unattainable when I saw the prices of the pamphlet on eBay, that to have the pattern and have the yarn was comfort enough.
Here is where the story gets a little murky for me. Clearly I had always intended to make this sweater for my husband. We bought enough yarn back in 2010 to make the XL size. He would mention the project periodically with interest. And yet, I was still skeptical of his actual commitment to the sweater. I think, understandably, a nut who falls in love with sweaters would also be defensive about other people loving them too.
At any rate, after some needling on his part, I did start the sweater. I knew it was going to be a long and involved process, so in the beginning, I took notes:
December 2012 - Opened the long-ago purchased yarn and pattern. Looked to see what substitute colors I had selected. Felt regret. Looked on Ravelry to see what needle sizes people were using given that the finished sweater will be too small for Eb.
4/18/13 - Took sweater apart again back to the ribbing. Didn't like the purl row after ribbing or the false seam stitch. Re-visiting, it seems that two handed color knitting clicks a lot better then it used to [Ed. note: I had started continental purling at this point], the tension looks much more even.
What I think these notes show more than anything is that if you work on a project for an extended period of time, your skill level may change demonstrably over that period and you have to start over, a lot, to be happy with the finished project. I really want to share that starting over is a major part of any major project for me. Catching up to the place where you started over is fantastic, but I don't look at starting over as failure. I rush through starting projects, I don't swatch just as much as the next knitter, but also, I know that by not swatching, I'm going to have to re-start, maybe several times.
You will note that these entries jump from December to April. The sweater was finished in November. People have been asking me how long it took to make, and it really is impossible to say. I made several afghans, many socks, and lots of other fun things this year. All told, this would have probably been a 6 week project if I could have just sat down and worked on it.
Also, this sweater involved a sewing machine steek. It was terrifying and also very quick. It came out more bulky than I would prefer, but also it was the first time I've tried something like that, so I'm willing to say that my next one will be better.
In the end, I did buy the entire pamphlet off eBay, and for not as much as it is sometimes posted. Not only do I love the bear sweater enough to own it properly, but also, it has a brother moose sweater pattern which might someday grace this space.
That good sweet husband from April has been true to his word, and we are having a good time documenting this joint art project. Please check out Eben and the Bear Sweater if you are so inclined for daily updates on their doings. They are also famous on Facebook ;)
Some elements of Christmas crafting were right down to the wire this year! I finished two gifts on the 23rd. Whew!
I started with the best of intentions. In September I began socks for my father-in-law. He is tall, so he has size 12 feet. I always forget and then slowly remember that it takes twice as long to knit a men's size 12 as it does to knit a woman's size 6. Math, I know, but it always comes as a shock to the time budget in my head.
I'm very pleased with the way these came out. It is my own pattern. I started with grey toes and a red foot, but quickly realized that it would be much better to have a grey foot with a red toe. All the color transitions are joggless. It is one of those little touches that make you feel good.
The stripes around the top were the trickiest part. I knit the first round of the color change without purls and then did the next row in the ribbing pattern. The result is that there are no jogs and no purl bumps to disrupt the straightness of the lines. It's the small details that keep this knitter interested. I would just like to mention that the grey yarn is KnitPicks Stroll. I was pleasantly surprised at how soft and pretty this yarn is and I would definitely enjoy making more socks with it.
Two years ago we went on a day trip to Western Massachusetts to visit my brother-in-law. Of course we stopped by to visit Webs, the Northampton brick and mortar location for yarn.com. I had had a small amount of forsight and tried to pre-plan some projects to shop for. One of them was a cute fox hat for my brother-in-law. I've had that yarn sitting in the "ready to go" project area of my stash ever after. This year, I decided that I would bring the project along, and try to complete it before we went home from our holiday visit. Well, surprise! This project was started on the 21st and finished on the 23rd. Maybe my time estimator is just broken. It was wrapped up and under the tree on the 24th and was warmly received! I was worried because the recipient has now moved to New York City, but city living can’t make him fancy and he's still the same guy at heart. He was excited to receive it and I was thrilled at how much he wore it while we were there.
I loved the yarn on this project. It had subtle color changes, but because I was holding the yarn doubled, there really wasn't any pooling and it is nice and thick and squishy. The yarn is now discontinued, which is why it was in the sale room at Webs.
And finally, this is one of the loveliest things I've made in quite a while. I absolutely did not think I had the time. All the time that the fox hat yarn has been staring at me, so has some very fine white cotton crochet thread. This year, I intended to make a crocheted edge on a linen bread cloth for my mother-in-law. I had an antique pattern I loved, but when I finally sat down to work on it, like most antique patterns, I could not get the gauge. My little squares of fillet crochet came out very rectangular. I came to this realization on December 15th, and we were flying out on the 20th. I hope to go back to the project, but at that point in the holiday season, I simply did not have the heart to fret over something that might never work out. I had seen this china doll pattern at the end of October when it was first posted on Ravelry, and immediately knew it would be perfect for my MIL for Christmas, but even then I didn't think I would be able to finish it in time. Well, after the fillet crochet debacle, I decided I was just going to get the doll done. Late nights for a week and I did almost have it finished. Somehow, mine came out slimmer than the pattern must have intended, because the clothes didn't fit. But the construction was simple enough that I was able to decrease stitches around and increase rows so that she has some very nice fitting underthings. The pattern is from Rabbit Hole Knits. She has lots of cute patterns, including a walking suit for the doll.
The main alteration I made to the pattern was to make the doll blonde instead of brunette. For her eyes and mouth I used bits of yarn from my father’s socks from last post. The dyes leaking into each other just made the most beautiful subtle colors, and I’m happy I got to feature them. Her cheeks were painted on with watercolor paint, which seemed like a very authentic touch. I love the use of bobbles around the hairline to give her curls.
And finally, the last of my little projects, Christmas Tree Christmas tree ornaments. Again, this year things were not timed out well, and I had another pattern I wanted to do but ran out of time! I like the ways these came out though. The tree was quick to do, and these used up all my stash of green sport weight yarn. I used a glue gun (not my favorite) to attach tiny buttons for ornaments and lights or garland. They fit nicely into flat mailers.
This is going to be a photo heavy one!
In October, we dyed yarn! Yarn dying always seemed a little more messy than I like, but it also seemed like a fun way to interact with the fiber. As regular readers may have noticed, I make a lot of socks for my mom. It is easy because her feet are the same size as mine, it is quick because those feet are little, it is fun because she likes funky stuff so I have a lot of freedom. Also, because she lives in the southeastern US, she doesn't have much use for anything else made of wool! She is also super crafty, so I knew she would enjoy dying the yarn for her own socks.
We ordered dyes and sock blanks from Knitpicks. Sock blanks are pieces of pre-knitted fabric that have been knit using two strands of sock yarn held together. They basically look like long loose knit scarves. The idea is that you dye them, and then unravel them and knit them into socks two at a time. The particles of dye are not healthy, so we suited up and mixed up the dyes.
From information we found online, we dyed the yarn in patterns with a basic idea of what was going to happen on the socks. Stripes might translate to dots or stripes depending on their direction and thickness. Blocks of color on the block might make blocks of color on the sock, or they might make general ideas of color broken up and mixed with other colors in thin stripes. I like control over my projects a little too much to love this, but it was fun. My mom dyed two blanks, my husband dyed one trout inspired blank, above on the left, and I dyed one, begrudgingly. I felt stressed out about it all the way through, but I like the way it came out in the end.
All per instructions, after we dyed the yarn, we wrapped it up in plastic wrap,
and steamed the little yarn wraps to lock in dyes. The smell was not great, and the pots can never be used to cook food again, but we were able to pick up the pots for not much at the Salvation Army before hand.
Here is what a sock blank looks like in the process of knitting.
And before I get on to the result, here are some socks I made for my mom to give her on this trip. They were an atonement for us not going home for Thanksgiving, but also, they were super fun to make! They are the Kalajoki pattern (the Kalajoki is a river in Finland, and these definitely have a flowing vibe). They knit up very quickly and required enough attention to keep them interesting. I changed the pattern a little bit by using the yo-yo heel. Also I finally got to use this beautiful Trekking yarn that I had not been able to make work in other patterns.
So, here are some hand dyed hand knit socks:
I went with the old reliable Skew pattern because I know it fits my mom's feet, and also I wasn't sure how the yarn was going to act. I think the nicest thing was the depth of the coloration of the yarn caused by the inconsistency of the dye application. There were some light spots, and some colors that weren't part of the original dye scheme, but came about through the dyes combining on the wool. I can certainly understand why, years ago, they were so thrilled to be able to get machine dyed, consistently colored yarns. Now we want to see the hands and the process. Especially in something you dyed yourself, it is fun to see the hands. I'm sure an experience dyer would not be as pleased, but thankfully my perfectionism doesn't extend that far.
I also did a pair for my dad! This is just my old reliable "man sock pattern" that I've been developing and feel pretty satisfied with. Finished just moments before mailing, they came out great! These were the result of long vertical stripes of dye. I'm dying them in the shot above on the right. Again, really pretty surprise colors showed up where the dyes overlapped. That overlapping happened because we didn't add vinegar to the dyes before we applied them. No regrets here on that front!
And the bonus project for this time around is a rather old one, but they came out great, so I'm sharing. I was planning to make 4, which, is just not going to happen for a while, so here they are, I'm calling the project finished. Here we have an example of inadvertent pooling that I've resolved to be okay with. I hope they have a festive vintage feel, cause that's what I was going for. They are 100% cotton, crocheted from a free Red Heart pattern.