Thursday, 31 January 2013

The results of gradient dyeing....

I was going to wait to Woolly Wednesday to show the results of my gradient dyeing, but I am too excited to wait..

You may, dear reader, remember that I experimented with gradient dyeing a few weeks back - well I can only say success..................

Firstly the single roving that I dyed with Dark Teal and Lemon Yellow.

Total weight 140 grams Polwarth and Tencel Blend

Where the teal and yellow met I got a lime green which was great, unfortunately in the cooking some of the teal got on the end so the lemon lime bit got a bit splodgy.  Also the tencel didn't take any dye at all - that's the shiny white bits on the second picture.  The reason that there are big bits of tencel is because I didn't request five passes for my custom blend from World of Wool.

Spinning - to spin this I divided the roving/top into two down the middle and spun from dark to light using a short forward draw.

I did take lots of photos of the process, but I won't bore you with a series of pictures showing the different shades on the same bobbins, nice as they are, just take it as seen.  I also had to remove a lot of the tencel which has no strength of its own - wasting nearly 15 grams of fibre!

I two plied the yarn and this is the result:

Just enough for this:

Now the to the second experiment - this was 100 grams of I think Polwarth.  For this I divided the fibre into four equal amounts.  Using a dye solution of 1:10 I dyed each separately reducing the amount of dye solution (you can see pictures of this on my previous blog) and I got this:

In hindsight I should have done this in a pan rather than the microwave, as this would have given a more even tone, but nevertheless I got one very dark, one dark, one medium and one light as planned.

Again for spinning I divided each quarter in half and spun first the light, then medium and so on.....

I wanted lace weight and that's what I got - it was a fabulous spin (super fine without a break and absolutely no effort), again I used a short forward draw (quess who's been watching spinning vidoes lately??) and the result is just under 600 metres from 99 grams................ of perfectly plied yarn

This is the skein straight of the Niddy Noddy - not a kink in sight!

Drum roll please, introducing Shades of Merlot a skein of superlusciousness IMHO.....

As you can guess I am rather pleased with myself - have done a little series of bunny hops of happiness and Mr S is more than a little cheesed off with having to look again at the skein with pretended delight..

Next an attempt at Colour Shifting Yarn similar to these!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Pondering an holey question

I have wondering why so many shawl patterns use garter stitch?  As I have spent much of the last week in bed (see earlier post) and not really having the inclination to do anything that required too much thought or exercise I have been idly surfing the web on my new Samsung Tablet at the same time trying to become familiar with what all the little icons do!  Mostly I have been trawling through the patterns on Ravelry - especially patterns of shawls. I have always associated shawls with light airy knitting, full of yarn overs and knit two togethers, work with fine lightweight (lace) yarn on a slightly larger needle.  While there are lots of patterns that fit that criteria, there are many more that don't!

So what is a shawl?  The dictionary defines shawls thus:

Shawls (plural of Shawl) Noun 'A piece of fabric worn by women over the shoulders or head or wrapped around a baby'.  But then there is the Tallith/Tallis which is a shawl worn by male Jews, with a ritually knotted fringe at each of four corners, worn at morning prayers.

Historically the shawl is a square, folded into a triangle, or a triangle shaped woven cloth worn mainly by women around the shoulders for warmth and also to cover the head. Evidence suggests that shawls in this form have been worn for millenia, with denser fabric being used in the colder regions and lighter more flimsy fabrics in warmer climes.  Shawl brooches and pins are common finds on archaeological digs in this country from Viking women.


When it comes to knitted shawls a well known free encyclopedia defines the shawl (which by the way comes from the Persian Shal) as triangular shaped garment usually knitted from the neck down with or without shaping.  Another defination stated that each shawl consists of two triangular side panels, a trapezoid-shaped back gusset, an edge treatment, and usually shoulder shaping, worn over the shoulders - nothing about lacy patterns.  I did come across a wonderful blog post on the subject of shawls which seemed to confirm that shawls were not historically light or lacy.

So historically it seems that the shawl was a practical item of clothing, more often than not woven in wool for warmth.  The modern shawl it seems became popular as a fashion item with the introduction of the pashmina from India in the 1770s.  The paisley (name partly for the pattern and also the place in Scotland where such shawls were manufctured) shawl, was  woven using a traditional motif from Kashmir the stylised cone-shaped motif known as the boteh, was popular in the early 19th century.

Google shawls and you get images of the paisley shawl and similar, do the same with knitted shawls and you get pictures that include the delicate lacey shawls of my dreams, but also many that obviously are knit in garter stitch.

So I have come full circle - what constitutes a shawl?  It seems that any knitted, crochet or woven fabric constructed in way that ensures it can be worn over the shoulders is a shawl.  So it seems that I must accept that garter stitch shawls are as 'correct' as lacey shawls and not get bogged down with too many yarn overs! But garter stitch is sooooooooooooo boring , but because it is sooooooooooo easy to pick up a stitch from the row below the one you're knitting you can't relax at all!! 

Who knows I may one day finished that striped garter stitched shawl that I started on January 1st 2013, but I wouldn't hold my breath.................

Thursday, 24 January 2013


I am as happy as the next person to share - thought, ideas, equipment and the like, but I do so wish that other people wouldn't be a free with their germs..............

I recoil with horror to those people who 'bravely' struggle into work, coughing and sneezing and so spreading their germs to all an sundry, or me in particular.  While the perpetrator is most likely to back to normal health in a couple of days, for some, the common cold can mean several weeks of misery. Unable to have the flu jab because of allergies I have hope that I can avoid people with colds and flu-like symptoms.  But that is not always possible - ten days ago I came in contact with such a brave soul and for over a week I have been running a temperature, coughing up enough phlegm to float a battle ship in and coping with a pounding head, and aching jaw - I have not been able to sleep properly - needing to prop myself up (in bed and out) to keep the racking cough from completely taking control.  I haven't had a full nights sleep, nor for that matter has Mr S, nor have I been able to leave the house or really do anything crafty - all because someone thought that it was OK to go into company with a streaming nose and cough. 

Yesterday I felt up to plying my gradient dyed yarn (the first time in a week I have touched my wheel) and have to say that I am really pleased with the result


Although the blend of Polwarth and Tencel had its problems.  This was a custom order from World of Wool and being new to the business of custom blending I only asked for 2 passes - this was a big mistake, and meant that the tencel was not blended, but sat on the fibre rather than being integral as this picture of the dyed fibre shows

There is a lovely sheen, but tencel on its own is weak and doesn't take the dye, and I lost over 15 grams in waste - lesson learnt!  Waiting the wings is a whole kilo of Polwarth and Silk that had 5 passes and is so beautifully blended I can't wait to dye and spin - just need to get rid of this cough and pounding headache and I'll be all systems go....................

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Essential gizmos or are they?

(pic from

This rather strange looking object on the left got me thinking that nowadays there are so many so called labour saving devices that we seemingly can't do without.  This device is a skein ricer or squirrel caged swift or in other words a wool swift for skeining yarn.

Swifts come in many shapes and sizes from the umbrella swift, which rather unsurprisingly looks like and umbrella without the covering, windmill swifts either upright or horizontal both of which come in either metal or wood.  My grandmother would have been completely bemused as to why anyone would want/need a device like this.  She used her arms and taught me to do the same.  Likewise the Niddy Noddy, when I came back to knitting and took up spinning were a complete unknown, I balled yarn from skeins using my own two hands - despite Mr S offer to hold up his hands as he had done many times in the past for his mother!
Does modern technology negate the need to learn these old skills?  Lovely as these two skein swifts are, they aren't very portable, neither are the umbrella and windmill yarn swifts - both are not exactly what I would call carry around items - but everywhere I go I have my hands and arms - case proven perhaps?  Not that I haven't got a yarn swift and a niddy noddy and very useful they are for measuring the yardage and I have to admit that I can't hold my arms at exactly a yard circumference!
 Another seemingly essential piece of equipment is a ball winder, check out this for the ultimate ball winding set up - looks fab, but you can't relax when winding yarn on such a set up.  I like to sit and wind my yarn into balls while either watching, listening or reading, thus accomplishing two tasks in one.  This method does mean that I need yarn bowls to stop my lovely round balls of yarn from bouncing of across the floor!  Here Mr S comes into his own, by turning the most gorgeous yarn bowls
But then ball winders are quicker, but I find that unless they are put on a yarn caddy you are apt to get tangles!
So another example of one labour saving device requiring another to make it work.....
One piece of equipment that I find essential is the Lazy Kate, but they have been around for centuries, so isn't a gizmo as such.................but again it isn't necessary to spend a fortune on fancy designs, back in the summer and away from in the caravan I improvised a lazy kate from a wine box and two knitting needles (the first picked up from the supermarket free and the other bought for 50p from a charity shop) - job done!
The moral - hands came before machinery, are cheap and always with you!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Gradient Dyeing - the sequel..

A while back I wrote up my experiences when I tried various methods of gradient dyeing - the most successful was with four beer glasses, did the job but was rather restricted as I could only dye 50 grams of fibre at a time.

Well since then I have been thinking of ways I can dye more and still get that lovely progression in colours.  I have scoured the web for ideas - some people described crawling around on the floor with the fibre laid out in a long length as the way to get the desired effect!  I can't do crawling (or walking for that matter) so that was out.  Another suggested a 'cheat' way of making rolags of carefully graded colours and then spinning - this would most likely give a result similar to Loop's Bullseye Bumps which I have to say I love and if it wasn't so ridiciously expensive to buy from the US I would have several in my stash by now!  It's not that I object to paying the 20% VAT but the admin charges are ludicrous adding upwards of £11 to the overall cost excluding the actual VAT - this would make the cost of a 5ozs bump £40+ postage of £6.40 which makes it £9.26 an ounce (28grams)!

So how does one get the desired long colour changes - well obviously you can lay out the fibre, paint and cook!  Sounds like a recipe............. well I have just tried this

150 grams Merino and Tencel Fibre
25ml of 10:1 dye solution in Turquoise and Yellow

Soak until saturated in a solution of Citric Acid/Water and smidgen of Washing Up Liquid
Lay the wet fibre out, (laid mine out like this) and begin with the darkest shade.

I started with turquoise at a depth of shade one and reduced the amount of dye until I had 2.5ml left - then I did the same with the Yellow, finally I mixed the remaining Turquoise and Yellow together to get a Lime and finished off with this.  Hopefully I shall get a top that begins with a dark tone fading to very pale which then gradually changes to lemon and finally ends up a very pale lime.  We shall see and if I had remembered to take photos throughout the process so could you.  But I forgot in the excitement  of knocking over a tumbler of dye solution............  Fortunately it is all cleaned up now and no permenant damaged was done........................

For my second experiment I am dyeing 100 grams of Merino and Silk with a new to me dye that I bought from Corkwoodonline in Aubergine.

This time I have divided the 100 grams in four (25grams each)
First 25grams I dyed with a solution of 10:1 at DOS 1 (that is 25mil of dye solution)
The Second with 15ml, the third with 7.5ml and the fourth with 2.5ml

When I spin these up I shall divide each into two and spin from dark to light and then 2ply, thus I should have a skein that does what it says on the tin.......................

Top, the dye solution, next with added fibre and the third the cooked fibre in the most brilliant colour - very pleased with this......

The third option that I have considered is to either buy three of four aready dyed merino tops and either blend or spin them in sequence. 

Back in the Auntumn I bought this pack at the World of Wool and I thought that I could card them into one long roving - but then how do I get one long rather than the usual rolags that a drum carder produces - what I need is a commercial carder......................

Everything is now dyed and cooling.................. will have to wait to see how things have turned out!!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Of Designs, Stitches, KALS and Knitty Things

First Woolly Wednesday of 2013 and with December now a distant memory January heralds new beginnings and New Year Resolutions, which often included the promise to finish off all those works in progress that are clogging up needles and bobbins. 

This year my 'wips' are as many as ever - in fact there is is one poor project that has been languishing/hibernating on the needles for a whole twelve months!  The reason for this is KALS or Knit Alongs - I am addicted, and just the suggestion of  a Mystery one is enough to send me rushing to my stash.......... or more often than not to the Internet to purchase the appropriate yarn.  In fact this December I have done two!

The first, now an annual event, is the Advent Stole/Scarf KAL which starts on December 1st and ends appropriately on December 24th, so instead of opening a door and eating chocolate you get a pattern and knit, a great way of getting in shape if you intend to over indulge over the holiday period.

It is also a great way of trying new stitches in a limited way, for if you don't particularly like a stitch you know that this is the only time you will do it!  It has it origins in the stitch sampler common in the 18th and 18th centuries before the time of written or charted patterns.  An excellent book on the subject of lace samplers is Knitting Lace by Susanna E Lewis which not only explains the reasoning behind these lengths of knitted lace, but also provides 100s of lace stitches - a definite must have!

My second knitting KAL, this time knit over the twelve days of misrule, began on the first day of Christmas, so instead of getting a Partridge in a Pear Tree I got the first 50 rows of a Lace Stole.  I hadn't seen any of Monika's designs before so had no idea what I had let myself in for.......... well I needn't have worried, it is a fabulous design, far, far too good for a stole - an absolute work of art!

This photo was taken at the half way point shows the intricacies of the design, but the pattern is well written and easy to follow (only available free until Sunday 6th January) you need to be very very careful that you don't purl a YO together with a stitch on the reverse............

But what of designs - I have been busy on my first real knitting pattern, not just something that happened but a project that had a proper beginning - I wanted a cover up that would suit me as a wheelchair user, while also being a stylish garment that anybody would want to wear and I came up with a square poncho - named for the place that saw its first wearing - Seaton Beach.

Knit in stocking stitch with an eyelet increase the poncho can be made as big as you want, a real one size fits all.  It also has a contrast detail around the lower edge that is repeated on the cowl neck and is knit in Bulky Yarn.

I used Knits Pick Wool of the Andes dyed in charcoal and raspberry colourway.  Being a bulky yarn this made it a very quick project and I have shared for free on Ravelry!  This is the first proper pattern that I have shared and I have had some lovely comments - my real reward will be if somebody other than me makes it!!

With January a new year of shawls can begin - had hope that the challenge would be 13 Shawls in 2013, but it is only going to be twelve again this year, although I shall probably do more.  The first one is a................Mystery KAL and bit off my usual sort of shawl - no K2tog or yarn overs, but I  believe that it does you good to step outside your comfort zone once in a while. 

This is a merino/cashmere sock yarn dyed, raspberry, chocolate and lime, the main colour chocolate divides the other two, with the raspberry and lime never being next to one another - or so the pattern blurb says!  It starts with a fringe, not the most interesting of knits and having knit the 70 little stems I noticed right back near the beginning I had changed sides - this was a 11.30pm and I was more than a little annoyed to say the least................ But with the new day I realised that I didn't have to frog and start again - I just cut off the offending stems at the beginning and knitted nine more at the other end - disaster avoided................. no one need ever know....

Of course it won't end there, I have already signed up for two more beginning in February..........

Happy New Year!

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