Things I’ve learned this week

1. It’s a good idea to make sure the pieces of fabric are facing the correct direction BEFORE you sew them together and add two rows of decorative top stitching.

2. That sewing back and forth thing you do at the beginning and end of machine-sewn seams? It does a good job of holding things together.

3. Seam rippers are awesome.


Hanging Project Storage

I recently saw a really interesting post on ravelry, talking about organizing projects using a whiteboard to keep track of ongoing projects and bags hanging on hooks to hold the projects, and immediately started thinking about how I could make it work for me.  I tend to start more projects than I finish, and individual projects often languish for long periods of time without any progress (and sometimes I even forget they exist….).

I decided to put five nails (angled slightly upward so bag handles don’t slide off) in a row above my desk to hang project bags on.  Instead of a whiteboard to organize the projects, I wrote the name of the project in marker on a scrap of paper and punched a hole at the top of the scrap to hang it on the nail with my project bag — I felt this would be easier to keep track of for me.

HangingBagOrganizerAs you can see, the two bags on the left are cloth bags, while the other three are sturdy plastic bags. The plastic bags are fine, but since I want to be able to grab a bag and take it with me, they’re not ideal — they’re very crinkly sounding for working during meetings or on the bus. I’ve just been to the local used craft supply place and picked up some cheap fabric to make some less noisy bags.

My plan is to put every project in a bag, and not start a new project until I have an open nail for it to hang on (if somehow I have a project that won’t fit, I plan on just hanging the label on a nail to take up that space). What I have there now is, sadly, not all of my ongoing projects. I have at least three more that need to make it up on the wall once I clear out some of the current ones (such as the giant bag on the right labeled “Mending”….I’m hoping that having it blocking me from starting a new project will give me motivation to finish those boring but necessary tasks).

….wait, is it cheating if I’m planning on making some project bags for the wall and don’t currently have a bag on the wall to put them in?

Knitting while walking and a cautionary tale

No, I didn’t stab myself.  Just to get that question out of the way before we get started.

Anyway, I’d read a while ago about people knitting while walking, and I’ve been wondering about it ever since. Turns out it’s really easy if you can knit without looking at your work — having a heavier weight, non-splitting yarn helps a lot (I was using Red Heard Super Saver).  I got quite a ways into the brim of a hat while walking to the store the other night:

Knitting while walkingThen I realized that “round 1” of the pattern was really “round 1 after you finish those eight rows of ribbing we buried in the paragraph about casting on”.  Lesson learned: always read your pattern carefully and consider highlighting anything you know you’re going to forget.

It’s a baby!

Baby plant, that is.  I bought a teeny tiny (~2″ I think) succulent to replace the fern I lost to sunburn last fall.

Succulent1It’s super cute! I’ve never had a succulent before — anyone experienced with them who has any tips? I know not to water it too much, but I’m not sure how to tell when it needs more (it’s kinda spiky and fills up the whole pot so I can’t stick my finger in to test the dampness of the soil).


Adventures in Dyeing, Ch. 1: I Hate Pink

I was given a very small amount of a pink nylon yarn. PinkDye1

Ordinarily, given its color and small amount, I’d just use it as stuffing, but I’ve been meaning to knit a small sleeve for my cell phone to protect its screen from scratches when it’s in the same pocket as my keys, and this yarn would be the perfect amount. Since nylon can be dyed like wool, I decided to see if I couldn’t come up with a color I liked better – my goal was a warm, possibly slightly variegated, brown.

To do acid dying, you need three things: dye, acid, and heat (oh, and water). For dye, I had some gel food colors. For acid, I used a splash of plain white vinegar in my dye water and soaking water. For my heat source, I chose to use a slow cooker, since my stove tends to have irregular heat and my microwave is positioned in such a way that taking hot dye water in and out would be problematic.

I began by winding the yarn on my DIY niddy noddy, tying the hank with some cotton string so it wouldn’t tangle, and putting it in some warm water with a splash of vinegar to soak for half an hour or so. PinkDye2

Then I prepped some green gel food coloring by mixing it with water until it was fully dissolved, and added a bit of that mixture to my slow cooker along with water and another splash of vinegar (as you may be able to tell by now, I didn’t really measure anything…), and heated the whole mixture up until it was steaming.

I added my yarn, and let it cook until the water was no longer green (indicating that the yarn had taken up all the available dye).

PinkDye3 PinkDye4

I then let the water in the slow cooker cool until I could reach in and grab the yarn. I made sure to use rinse water the same temperature as the still-warm water in the slow cooker (this would be important with wool, as sudden changes in temperature can contribute to felting, but I’m not sure it was really important here). There was no color coming out in my rinse water, indicating that I’d done everything right and the dye had fully bound to the yarn! The only downside was that I now had a particularly bright green color…

PinkDye5After drying the yarn fully, I repeated this process with different colors. (Here’s where I started to have trouble.)

My next dye was red (red + green = brown). I used just barely enough water in the slow cooker to cover the yarn, and dropped the red in various places on top of the yarn instead of putting it in the water before adding the yarn, in the hopes that this would give me a nice variegated brown. I definitely got variegation (picture taken during soak for next round of dyeing). Taken during soak for next round of dyeing

Patchy green and red isn’t a good look, so I mixed up some brown dye from some green and red dye and put all the yarn in that dye bath (in the microwave this time). I knew from my research that red strikes (attaches to the yarn) fastest, so I wasn’t too surprised by the results…

PinkDye7 PinkDye8

I couldn’t get the green dye to exhaust (leave the water and attach to the yarn), even though I left it for a long time. I think what happened was that I reached the point where the yarn couldn’t take any more dye part way through my last dye bath, so the red that was dyed first blocked the green from attaching to the yarn. It’s not exactly the color I was looking for, but a dark dusty red is a color I can live with, so I’m pretty happy with my first experiment in dying.




Finishing Lily’s Sweater

I knit my dog, Lily, a sweater a little over a year ago, making up the pattern as I went along. It fit remarkably well (she’s wearing it in my avatar), except that the belly was a little bit too loose. It was nice that it went over her head and forelegs easily, but her back legs would sometimes get caught in the sweater.  I’ve been meaning to make her a belt ever since…

The belt itself is a narrow band of sideways herringbone stitch.


Then I picked up stitches for belt loops and knitted a narrow band just long enough to contain  the belt. I attached the ends to the sweater with something vaguely resembling kitchener stitch.


I marked the different parts of the final product in this picture because they blend together so well (which I’m quite happy about).


Here’s Lily modeling the finished project!  She’s slightly less happy about it than I am, but that might have something to do with me putting her in a wool sweater on a warm spring day to check the fit…


Yarn Laundry Day

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a couple of yarns in need of washing for various reasons. The first two are from knitting projects that I’m not going to finish, and so just a dip in hot water to relax the kinks from being knitted.  The third is a ball of sock yarn that I picked up at the local used craft supplies shop for $0.50 — it’s never been used, but is quite old.


I wound them all into hanks on my niddy noddy (from last post), then put them one at a time in a bath of warm water and a little liquid laundry detergent.


After letting the yarn soak for 15 minutes or so, I gave the yarn a couple of gentle squeezes, drained it, and rinsed. I discovered that my used craft supplies store yarn, despite not having any scent when dry, smelled awful and turned the water yellow after washing. That one went through an extra wash and soak in vinegar water before rinsing.  After rinsing, I hung the long hanks from plastic coathangers in my tub to let them drip dry. (Don’t hang wet yarn from metal coathangers. In related news, cream of tartar will take rust stains off of yarn.)


Finally, I wound the clean and unkinked hanks into nice cakes.  My longest yarn made such a big cake that I had to slip a toilet paper tube over my ball winder to have enough room to hold it all.

WindingYarnNow I just need to finish some of my ongoing projects so I can start knitting with this…