Saturday, 12 May 2018

Yarn dyeing with Amy

In October my lovely friend Amy came to stay with us for a few days, and one of the things we both wanted to do was to dye some yarn. I have dyed yarn before, using Kool Aid, and was given a yarn dyeing set for my birthday last year, so decided to go ahead and spend a morning dyeing yarn.

While I have dyed yarn before, it was a while ago, so I started by watching a few YouTube videos to work out what we would need and some basic techniques.* I quickly worked out that while I had a lot of the materials needed, a quick trip to the shops was required to pick up some extra bits and bobs, including a saucepan and some utensils that could be used specifically for the dyeing as you shouldn't mix dye and cooking utensils.

Emergency shopping trip!

Step one was to soak the yarn. Pretty boring, but also essential to ensure the dye penetrates the yarn properly. I bought the yarn from Devon Sun Yarns as her yarns were the best value if you only wanted a few skeins (postage is expensive from some of the bigger companies). We chose sparkly sock blanks and long skeins that could be dyed in stripes (not that we used those as we ran out of time).

Naked yarn having a bath

One of the most enjoyable bits of yarn dyeing was choosing what colours we wanted to use. We didn't have a particular colour scheme in mind, but both agreed that we didn't want to make brown yarn. The easiest way to avoid this is to use colours that don't make brown when mixed, so we chose pink, turquoise, blue and purple. If it did all get mixed together, the result would be pretty!

Mixing dyes

We agreed that it would be fun to dye each of the yarns we had using different techniques and have a bit of a play. I dyed my sock blank as a solid in a big pan of dye. I add the dye to the cold pan, gave it a good stir, added the blank, then heated the whole pan very gently until it all reached a gentle simmer. This took ages!

A watched pan never boils

Amy went for a different approach and painted her blank with spots of dye using measuring spoons.

Adding colour one area at a time
Once the pan had simmered for a bit, I added some darker shades of blue to the hot pan. Then simmered it for a bit longer. As the dye was being added hot, it stuck to the blank instantly, resulted in a lovely mottled effect.

Adding depth to the colour with darker shades

Amy's yarn was set using the microwave while I waited for my yarn to cool down, then we rinsed the blanks out.

Removing excess dye after setting

I also had a skein of undyed yarn that I had in the stash that I decided to wind into mini skeins so we could try out a few techniques. We tried cold dyeing these skeins, them microwaving them to set the colour. We also sprinkled the mini skeins with some neat dye particles to add speckles. This was great fun, and much quicker than the stove top approach!

Cold dyeing mini skeins
At the end of the day we came away with some beautiful yarn - not a hint of brown! I love my sparkly sock blank, and Amy's is so pretty too. I have gifted some of the minis to other people, and plan on using the rest as bright contrast pops in socks. Our day spent dyeing yarn was really good fun, and I'm sure it's something I'll do again (especially as I have now largely forgotten how much mess it made! Maybe I should do it in the summer so I can do the majority of the work outside where I'll be less bothered about the mess!).

The finished yarn
I haven't yet knitted my sock blank up, so I think I'll aim to do that for the Marathon Sock KAL. I can't wait to see what it looks like as socks!

If you fancy dyeing some yarn for yourself, you might like to look at the DT Craft and Design website run by Debbie Tomkies. The site stocks a large variety of undyed yarn and all the dyes and materials you'll need; it's where my dyes came from. Devon Sun Yarns also has an excellent selection of yarn dyeing materials suitable for beginners.

*You Tube videos I found useful:

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Yarnometer: April 2018

March wasn't the best for finishing things, or for not buying yarn.  So what did April bring?

Well, first up, I had a birthday, and birthdays always equate to yarn (or they do here anyway!), so there might be slightly more yarn than you would otherwise guess (unless you've already established that I do acquire quite a lot of yarn, which you probably have...).

Projects finished

April was an excellent month for getting things off the needles, with seven projects completed!

A baby blanket for good friends
A friend and her husband are currently expecting their first baby, so I made them a gorgeous rainbow baby blanket. I loved this project and can't wait to gift it in a couple of months. The FO post will have to wait until it's been gifted, but until then, here's a sneak peak, and you can find out more by looking at the project page.

Witches Brew socks
My son had been requesting socks for a while, so I knitted him a pair at the start of the month. You can read all about them here.

Two baby cardigans
The babies really do keep on coming at the minute, so I whipped up a couple of Entrechat cardigans. This is one of my favourite patterns for baby girls, and they only take a few hours to knit. There will be a FO post in time, but for now, here they are together. I'm hoping to make a third (two-colour version) from the leftovers.

Blanket for a magazine
A lovely quick project that I'm looking forward to sharing in a month or two...

Socks for a magazine
I haven't designed any socks in a bit, and these were a lovely bit of variety. They'll be coming soon.

A children's jumper
You'll have to wait until the autumn for me to share this one with you, but I'm sure you'll all love it!

The ins and outs of yarn

Yarn in
This is quite a large section this month. And quite large numbers. I'm pretty certain May will be better...
  • 2600g (!) for a Mr Men and Little Miss themed blanket that was published in Crochet Now. I could absolutely not resist this, and my siblings kindly obliged with the yarn as a birthday present!
  • 100 g of Suffragette sock yarn. This was a birthday present for me as it's in green and purple, which are my favourite colours. Maybe I can cast them on for Wimbledon (the colours are a perfect match!)
  • 200 g of yarn for socks for my husband. He has been waiting patiently for socks for ages and I think he'll like good old Opal over something softer. His socks take two balls of yarn, so stash-diving was a bit trickier for these
  • 300 g of neutral Stylecraft Special DK* to go with the leftovers from the baby blanket I finished this month. I'll be making, guess what? Another baby blanket!
  • 800 g of assorted yarn that I won in a competition. I fished out the bits I want and will eBay the rest
  • 20 g mini skein that I got for my birthday. It's the perfect shade to go with the leftovers from the Witches Brew socks
  • 200 g of yarn for the Entrechat baby cardigans
  • 100 g of yarn for a baby cardigan. The baby will be arriving in the summer, so I thought I'd try a cotton-acrylic blend*
  • 800g of yarn for the Durumi sweater. Another birthday present; I can't wait to cast this on. I went for Drops Cotton Merino as it was on offer and comes in fab colours
  • 50 g sample of super chunky yarn* from Love Knitting for review purposes

Yarn out
  • 337 g of leftovers returned to a publisher
  • 350 g of leftovers to Knit for Peace
  • 284 g for the magazine blanket
  • 480 g for the baby blanket
  • 50 g for the Witches Brew socks
  • 163 g for the children's jumper
  • 67 g for the magazine socks
  • 60 g for Entrechat 1
  • 60 g for Entrechat 2
So many FOs this month. So satisfying!

Yarn in: 5170 g
Yarn out or used: 1851 g
Total: 3319 g

Fortunately May is all about finishing things, and there will be a little bit of eBaying to move on a few things that aren't going to get used.

Year to date (end of quarter one)
Yarn in: 12267 g
Yarn out: 3161 g
Yarn used: 3141 g
Total: 5965 g

*Affiliate link.

Monday, 7 May 2018

All the cast-ons!

It's a bank holiday in the U.K. today, and, somewhat unusually, gloriously sunny! It's also the start of my Marathon Sock KAL*, so I'm going to make an effort to cast on some new socks today. There are three major options: long-anticipated socks for my husband (he has rather large feet, so the project will be a long one), or sparkly socks for me, or stripy socks for me (both in yarns that have been wound for ages, but never quite made it to the needles). Or maybe all three...

Three projects lined up, all ready to go
Socks that might take a while...
Sparkly firework yarn
Pastel stripes with contrast heels, cuffs and toes

I had originally made the KAL a WIP-free zone, but decided to add a warm-up thread for those who wanted to get a few things finished before casting on something new.** I have more than one or two sock WIPs lying about, so in the past week I have finished one pair of socks and started the second sock on my long-abandoned Christmas Sockalong socks that I started last November. I have no idea why the festive socks got abandoned, the yarn is lovely and the micro-stripes make for an enjoyable project. By the end of the week I think I might actually have salvaged some sock needles!

Starlight express socks!
Christmas in May...

I have one other cast-on planned for today: a baby blanket for a friend. It'll be a second Peter Rabbit blanket, knitted in bright pink chunky yarn, so good and quick once I get started. Today might not be the best day to cast on a chunky weight project as it is rather warm, but the sooner I start, the sooner I'll finish. This blanket will be my big project for my Blanket Along.***

The original blanket
New colours!

If you want me today, you'll find me outside, knitting in hand, enjoying the sunshine! Happy knitting!

*For more details on that, read this post. The Ravelry thread is lovely and busy!

**Full details can be found in the Ravelry thread. To be eligible, WIPs much have been cast on before May 1st 2018; the FO thread will close early on June 1st 2018. To access the thread, you need to be a member on Ravelry; membership is free.

***Another KAL I am currently hosting in my Ravelry group. The thread isn't as busy as the Sock Marathon thread, but there are plenty of inspiring projects, and you can enter with WIPs if you want a push to get something finished. Again you must be a member of Ravelry to join in.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The Marathon sock KAL!

In April it was the London Marathon, which is televised in the UK. Over the morning of the marathon I had various friends texting me about things that were happening during the coverage. As ever, it did briefly cross my mind that one day I could run a marathon, but I haven't run in a very long time (not more than chasing children level running anyway, and before that I was never a serious runner), so it's not something I would naturally do. So instead my mind turned to things that could be done that relate to the length of a marathon. As I was knitting a pair of socks at the time, I idly wondered how many pairs of socks would need to be knitted to knit a whole 26(.219) miles of sock yarn. The answer is quite a lot – 141 pairs of UK size 10 socks to be precise.*

I quickly realised that knitting a Marathon's-worth of socks was going to take rather a long time. But what about if I had help? Which gave me the idea for a new knitalong: the Sock Marathon KAL.

The KAL will be running from May 7th in my Ravelry group, and will continue until a full Marathon's-worth of socks have been knitted! There are a few rules, which I've listed below, but anyone is welcome to join in – the more the merrier! To join the KAL, head over to the chatter thread in my Ravelry group,** introduce yourself, and tell me what you're planning on knitting.

How long do you think the KAL will take? Do you think we'll be done by the 2019 London Marathon?

Happy knitting everyone!


Knit a Marathon's worth of socks: 26.219 miles of sock yarn converted into socks.

  • Any yarn weight, any pattern
  • Must be cast-on on or after May 7th 2018
  • The KAL will close once the full 26 miles of yarn have been knitted
  • You must post a photo of your pair of socks to the KAL FO thread, including the exact number of metres of yarn you used (to the nearest metre)
  • I'll keep a running total for the group
  • To be eligible for a prize, you must be a member of the Ravelry group

  • One prize for the person who knits the most metres
  • One prize drawn from the chatter thread
  • One prize drawn from the FO thread

FO thread template
  • Date cast on:
  • Date cast off:
  • Link to your Ravelry project page
  • Number of metres of yarn used***

*26.219 miles = 42 195 m; each of my pairs of socks uses approximately 300 m of yarn (assuming sock weight yarn at 400 m per 100 g)
**You'll need to be a member of Ravelry to join in the KAL. Membership is free.
***You must use metres for this KAL – 1 yd = 0.91 m

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Cosy memories, crazy notions

One of my friend's from my local knit night has recently started knitting socks and started to accumulate sock leftovers, so is considering starting a cosy memories blanket (a mitred square garter stitch sock yarn blanket). I've had one these blankets on the go for the past couple of years, which I started on a whim just after I started knitting socks and accumulating leftovers, and add to once in a while when the mood takes me, so when my friend announced she was thinking of starting one, I said I would bring mine along one week.

My cosy memories blanket is not in the current WIPs pile - I had to dig it out of the archived, not really a WIP pile - as it's not one of my favourite projects. It turns out I am really bad at knitting very simple projects and tend to mess up the positions of the decreases, even when I use stitch markers; and I don't even enjoy knitting endless garter stitch, which is essentially what a cosy memories blanket is.

The blanket was duly admired at knit night - I had forgotten how large it had become over the past couple of years - and then left in the current WIP pile while it waited to be returned to its more usual home. Somehow from its new home it started to call to me, and when I finished my Witches Brew socks I found myself inspired to add another square using the leftovers. And enjoyed it. Apparently some degree of mindless knitting is a good palette cleanser (especially during the hectic Easter holidays).

This blanket is full of memories: of people and people and gifts. And when the weather has still failed to turn into spring (unless spring really is just meant to be showers and grey cloud) it's pretty cosy to work under.

I have no idea if or when this blanket will be finished. Does anyone ever finish these things? The cosy memories blanket has had several mentions on the blog since I started it, and I'm sure there will be more, but don't ask after it: be assured that it is still here, and it is still loved, even if it never becomes an actual thing.

Fancy knitting your own? I'm using this pattern for mine.

Friday, 20 April 2018

FO Friday: Witches Brew socks

Over the Easter weekend, my son complained that none of his hand-knitted socks fitted him any more. My son is pretty knit-worthy (he is always first to tell me that his hand-knits need washing so he can wear them again), so I decided that as his feet aren't too enormous (they're about a UK 2), I would cast him on some new socks, as requested.

I was clearly feeling in a decadent mood, and decided to let my son choose what yarn he would like from my stash, so we spent a good half hour rummaging through all my sock yarn, and my son fished out these three beauties (don't worry mum, I don't need all three pairs at once. You can cast-on this yarn first...). These three skeins of yarn also happen to be three of my favourites (he has excellent taste, or maybe I've just trained him well). I did think about saying he couldn't have them as they were resevered for me, then remembered that a lot of the pleasure is in the knitting, so I would get to enjoy them that way, even if I didn't get to wear the finished socks. And I do have a lot of sock yarn.

I had planned another sock cast on for the Easter weekend, but as I already own a lot of socks that fit me, and my feet don't grow, I decided that it would make more sense to cast on the socks for my son immediately.

Rather than working out the measurements for a UK size 2 foot, it's sometimes quicker to draw round the recipient's foot (especially if you have them to hand) and use that as a template for the socks; as an added bonus apparently 6 year olds think having your feet drawn round is highly amusing. I did decline the Sharpie he handed me first - I wasn't sure he'd be amused by having a black line drawn on his actual foot...

To make this a quick and easy project, I used the Fish Lips Kiss pattern, which I have memorised. I don't follow the instructions included in the pattern about getting the foot length right as I find it makes the foot a tiny bit long, instead I measure the length of the toe once it's worked, then add an extra half inch and subtract the total from the length of the foot and start the heel at that point (clear as mud? Good).

I knitted these socks back to back over ten days, but the observant among you will notice that the yarn has pooled differently between the two socks. Somehow between the first and second socks my gauge changed slightly (one sock weighs half a gram more than the other). I have no idea why - I used the same needles throughout - and my son either hasn't noticed or isn't bothered. Variegated yarn is funny!

When I got to the end of the socks I weighed the leftovers, and there is *just* enough yarn left for me to knit some socks for me if I use a contrast yarn for the heels, toes and cuffs! I just need to decide what colour to use for the contrast...


Witches Brew socks Ravelry project page
Pattern: Fish Lips Kiss by Sox Therapist
Yarn: 75% BLF, 25% nylon 4 ply from Felt Fusion in the colourway Witches Brew

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018

Last month I travelled to Edinburgh for the annual Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Edinburgh Yarn Festival has been running for a few years, and is one of the highlights of my knitting calendar. So what did I get up to while I was there?

The day started early - I live in Durham, which is an easy day trip by train from Edinburgh, but to get there for doors opening at 10 am still required a rather early start! The weather was a bit of a surprise, with bitter wind and a little snow, and the day didn't have the best start with the ticket machine in the car park being out of order and the only other option being an automated phone line that refused to understand my accent through the howling gale! I did manage to get the car parked in the end though, and just had time to collect my tickets (and grab a coffee to warm my hands on) before catching the train.

One of the lovely things about travelling to a yarn festival by train is spotting fellow knitters - the people in the seats next to mine were both knitting, and from their conversation I could tell they were definitely on their way to the festival. When we reached Newcastle the seat next to mine also became occupied, by a lovely knitter who lives somewhat locally to me, and we had several friends in common (six degrees of separation is definitely reduced within the knitting world!). We chatted the whole way to Edinburgh, admiring each others projects and yarn, which made the journey go super-quickly.

Having been to Edinburgh Yarn Festival twice before, I knew the bus route, so hopped onto the bus and watched as it filled with fellow knitters along the way (you could mostly tell by the assortment of hand-knitted hats!). I had managed to pick up an advance ticket, which avoided a lot of the queueing; I think the staff let ticket holders in a few minutes early to save us all freezing! Getting in early really helps with browsing without the crowds, so I made sure to start by having a look round the whole of the marketplace. There were so many beautiful things on sale, lots of wonderful hand-dyed yarns from companies I was familiar with, and many that I wasn't. The festival is very much geared towards smaller producers rather than larger companies, and it was lovely to be able to chat to the stall holders before the room got too busy.

Rather than wander aimlessly round the marketplace (which is a sure-fire way for me to blow my budget), I had deliberately picked up a couple of skeins from home that I wanted to buy a third skein to go with so that I can knit them into a Doodler. With this in mind, I wandered round the marketplace hunting for the perfect third skein, taking photos of all sorts of combinations to bear in mind for later.

Two skeins in need of a friend
Potential yarn mates

Once I had looked at most of the stalls in the marketplace, I wandered up to the podcast lounge, where I caught up with lots of people I had met before, and met lots of new people that I chatted to as well. The podcast lounge was much less crowded than in  previous years as the organisers had added an extra marquee to the back of the venue to allow seating for an extra 500 people. It really changed the dynamic of the whole event, and for the better as there was a lot more space to just sit and chat and knit, which is what knitters do best!

I decided that it would be sensible to pop out to get some lunch, for a bit of fresh air if nothing else, and handily the venue is right next to a large supermarket, so I braved the freezing conditions (yes, it was still snowing!) to take a quick walk out of the venue and clear my head. Once I'd had lunch I returned to the festival feeling refreshed, and embarked on more chatting and yarn browsing. I finally found the perfect third skein for my collection - a skein from Undercover Otter via the Stephen and Penelope stand. Stephen West was there, and I was wearing my Dotted Rays shawl but I was far too shy to go and say hello!

My perfect skein...
...and here it is with its friends!

While I had been browsing the festival there was one colourway I kept being drawn to: a vibrant mint green with dark purple speckles. A lot of dyers had variations on the yarn and every one of them was beautiful. For some reason the yarn seemed familiar to me, but I couldn't work out why. After another period of sitting and chatting I realised that I already had a skein of something very, very similar at home!

My favourite skeins had a lot in common with this one!

As the festival was drawing towards its close, I had one final browse of the marketplace. It was really starting to wind down as people were heading off, which allowed much more space to browse. I had looked at the Martin's Lab stall earlier in the day, but it was too crowded to see everything, and when I went back at the end I saw a beautiful cowl made from mini skeins, which I knew I would love to knit and wear. Martin's Lab had both the yarn and the pattern (Soul Warmer by Lete's Knits), so I bought both and am hoping to knit the cowl as my advent project this year.

Perfect last minute purchases

My other purchase on my final look round the marketplace was a skein from The Wool Kitchen that I had eyed every time I walked past it. I have no idea what this skein will become but the colours are perfect and vibrant and so, so beautiful. I might just keep it for a bit to admire.

A flash of colour

By this stage I was pretty tired, but still had a couple of hours before my train was due to leave, so I headed to a coffee shop (within a book shop) to have a sit down and rest my feet. After the busy-ness of the festival, the rest was very welcome!

I dozed for most of the train journey home. The weather was still bad and I was grateful that the trains were still running. There were no excited knitters on this train - I suspect a lot of us were dozing!

Were you at Edinburgh Yarn Festival? What was your favourite bit? What did you buy?