Sunday, May 27, 2012

Triple the Fun!

I found out on Monday that I needed a shower gift for a upcoming baby shower on Memorial day.. and then they told me it was a TRIPLE baby shower.  Eeek!  I was starting to panic until I remembered the Wee Ones Craftsy Class I blogged about here.  Aha!  Problem solved!  I pulled out some of my favorite baby yarn (Martha Steward Extra Soft Wool Blend) and got to work. 

I decided to make one each of the bunny, elephant and hippo:

and while they were certainly cute... they just seemed to need a little something extra to make the gift complete, lol!  So I took a look at the nearest fabric store and came home with these three fabrics:

To turn into these, following the lined drawstring bag tutorial I blogged about here.  I also printed off some of my free "Knitting Gift Tags" to attach to each package.

I was also browsing my local Goodwill for some sweaters to unravel, and came up with the idea of including a board book that fit with each individual animal to include in the gift... so here are my completed gift packages!

I hope that this inspires you as well.. in case you have any gift giving in your future!  Here's hoping all of the intended recipients fall in love with them as well :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012



[uhn-rav-uhl] verb, un·rav·eled, un·rav·el·ing or ( especially British ) un·rav·elled, un·rav·el·ling.
1. to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.).

My first attempt at unravelling a sweater and recycling some yarn! There are quite a few tutorials out there on the internet these days, and here is a summary of what I have learned about the process (in case you want to try one of your own!)  The first step, of course, is to find a sweater (or two) to unravel. The main things to consider are:
  1. Weight: There are lots and lots of sweaters out there made from very fine yarns, which can be quite difficult to take apart. For my first attempt, I looked for worsted, and sport-weight yarns.
  2. Fiber content: I only wanted sweaters with natural fibers because (in my opinion) it is just not worth the time or money for acrylic, so be sure to read the tags. If there is a small percentage of nylon or acrylic, it will be less breakable and therefore easier to unravel, so a little man-made fiber content might even be preferable!
  3. Condition: It seems as if many wool sweaters end up in the thrift store because they were accidentally tossed in the washing machine, and a felted sweater will not unravel; an unfelted sweater will have a clear outline of each individual stitch, and you will be able to see through the fabric when it is stretched.  Also, be on the lookout for stains or holes that might affect your finished yarn.
  4. Seams: To get long lengths of usable yarn, your sweater must have sewn or crocheted seams (rather than serged). The easiest sweaters to unravel have crocheted seams (you will see a small crochet chain up one side of the seam).

 I chose to start my un-ravelling adventure with a 100% wool, purple sweater, and a Fair Isle cotton/nylon/wool/angora blend in a beautiful red/orange color.

 First, I turned the purple sweater inside out, and looked for the chain stitch along the arm seams.   What is a chain stitch, you ask? A chain stitch is the use of 1 or more continuous threads (no bobbin) to create a stitch. The chain stitch can be easily pulled out by pulling the right thread (like a potato bag). Taking apart good seams pictured above can be very fast and easy. If you start at the right end, undoing the seam is as easy as pulling on the yarn end - the seam comes apart like magic.

 After "unzipping" the arms, I did the armholes, and the neck band, which left me with four, separate pieces to start unraveling. To unravel the sleeve, start at the shoulder end and try and identify where the bind-off ended. You might have to make a couple of snips to get at a yarn end. When you find it, and start pulling, you will see the "live stitches" that every knitter can identify! At this point, I placed the yarn end in my ball winder, rolled the piece to unravel into a tube (so it could unwind more evenly) and started cranking away at my ball winder. It is very, very satisfying to see the piece unravel into lovely yarn right there in front of you!  If you need more information about any of these steps, I found this blog post to be very helpful!

I unraveled the red sweater in a similar manner, but it was a little more complicated because of the Fair Isle portions of the sweater. However, I was able to do both sweaters in a couple of hours. At this point, I was left with this:

Now you will have several balls of yarn, and you are ready to turn them into hanks for washing and stretching. If you have a niddy noddy you are all set... but for the rest of us, a couple of chair backs work just fine. I count the number of times I wind the yarn around and multiply that number by the diameter of the chair backs to calculate my total yardage. At this point, you can tie the ends of your yarn in a figure eight to hold them, and then add several more figure eight ties around the hank to keep it from getting tangled.

Now you will be left with several large, very kinky hanks of yarn that are ready to be washed and stretched! Fill a sink, tub, or large bowl with warm water and some wool wash or mild dish soap and stir. Gently push the yarn down into the soapy water (avoid using hot water and any agitation so that no felting will occur) and then let the yarn soak for at least 30 minutes.

After soaking, rinse the yarn with room temperature water, gently squeezing out the excess water. You can then roll the yarn up in a towel and apply pressure to get out some more moisture, or use your salad spinner :). Extra kinky yarn needs to be stretched to help straighten it out. I hung my hanks up on plastic coat hangers with a "canned food" weight to help stretch them out as they dry.

Once your yarn is completely dry, it is time to ball it back up by either placing it back on the chair backs to re-wind, or using your swift and ball winder. Since your recycled yarn does not have a ball band, make sure you label it with your fiber content from the garment label, and your calculated yardage (because you will not remember in 6 months.... trust me!!)  In case you are wondering, the total yardage for the purple wool was about 1200 yards... not bad for $4.99!

I also whipped up some of these yarn labels so I can keep all that pertinent information with my yarn.. feel free to use them for your own, non-commercial purposes :).  Just click on the picture to download the .pdf file from DropBox.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Another foray into the murky art of dyeing your own yarn... this time with Kool-Aid!  Three packets of Mixed Berry Kool-Aid to be exact!

I used the same yarn as with the Easter Egg Dyeing Experiment, the Red Heart & Sole with Aloe.
 I wanted to try dyeing a self-striping, graduated color this time so I wound the skein around three chairs (wrapping each chair 5 times before moving onto the next chair), and I continued wrapping each chair 5 times until I ran out of yarn.  I cut twelve small pieces of yarn to use as figure-eight ties, to make sure I would be able to untangle my mini-skeins after I was done dyeing the yarn.  I made sure to tie my figure-eight ties loose enough that the dye would be able to easily penetrate underneath the tied area.   

When my yarn was all tied up, I slipped the mini-skeins off of the chairs and let the whole thing soak in some luke-warm water for 30 minutes while I prepared the dye bath.  The dye bath, of course, was insanely simple to make... just dissolve three packets of Mixed Berry Kool-Aid in about 4-6 cups of water, and let the bath come to a simmer.

After the yarn was done soaking, I just squeezed out the excess water and dipped all three mini-skeins (still attached to each other) into the simmering dye. I immediately removed the first skein & left the next two to soak about 3 minutes, removed the 2nd skein and left the last skein to soak about 5-6 minutes, and then removed the whole thing to rinse, pat dry, and reskein into one big skein for a final hang to dry.

So, here is my first attempt at Kool-Aid dyeing; I'm going to call it “Blue-ish” :)

One skein of Red Heart & Sole is more than enough yarn for a pair of toddler socks, and so I set to work to improve little E's wardrobe :)  Here she is modeling her latest pair (I love the way the stripes came out!)  Here is the Ravelry link as well!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Bevy of Project Bags

Well... this year I learned how to knit fair isle, completed my first shawl, and dyed my own yarn.......... what next?  Why, a knitting swap on Ravelry of course!  And while I was at it, I packaged up a couple of mini-swaps for some friends so they will have a welcome suprise in their mailbox this week. 

Using this tutorial from "In Color Order", I cut out and sewed several of these drawstring knitting project bags, complete with inner yarn guide (to keep your ball of yarn from pulling out mid-project) and an outer loop to store some handmade stitch markers.

Here are some close-ups of each of the individual, fully lined bags, with coordinating stitch markers:

The dragon themed bag has a coordinating "Wonder Wallet" from Lazy Girl Designs, with some knitting themed mini-charts tucked inside.  Here are all of the fun goodies I sent along with the dragon bag:

I also sewed up a Japanese Knot Bag using this pattern from (do NOT use the Martha Stewart Japanese Knot bag instructions....... do not, do not, do not......) I also included the lovely fabric flower from this tutorial by WiseCraft, and an accessory pouch and sock needle case.

After I sent my package off to my recipient, I recieved this package from my "secret" swapper; a coffee-themed bag based on my coffee obsession and two (2!) bars of Dove chocolate...

I also had fun typing up some handy knitting charts (that you can laminate and stash in your project bag) and a "Knitting Emergency Kit" that comes with a poem and a small bag of M&M candies.  You can download both of these goodies from DropBox by clicking on the pictures below.  Happy Knitting!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Day-Glo Hand Dyed Yarn

I was browsing my favorite knitting blogs the other day, and came across this post by Simply Knitting, "DIY Self Striping Sock Yarn with Easter Egg Dyes".  The very next day, my local Goodwill had a set of 6 Easter Egg dyeing kits marked down to a dollar - so the dyeing was on!

I picked up some ivory colored "Heart and Sole" at JoAnns with a 50% off coupon, and armed with my neon colored egg dyes, set off on my very first dyeing adventure!
At this point, I decided to make my self striping yarn in three colors, so I wound the skein around three chairs (wrapping each chair about 10 times before moving onto the next chair).  I also cut twelve small pieces of yarn to use as figure-eight ties, to make sure I would be able to untangle my mini-skeins after I was done dyeing the yarn. 

After I was done tying the yarn, I slipped it off the chair backs and placed my separate (but still attached) mini-skeins in water with a little vinegar to soak for at about 25 minutes.

While my yarn was soaking, I prepared my dyes by following the package instructions.  I knew I wanted to use the yellow, orange, and pink - so for the yellow/orange dyes, I dissolved each dye pellet in its own ziplock bag with 1/2 cup warm water plus 3 T of white vinegar.  The pink dye does not call for any vinegar, so I just added it to its own bag with just the 1/2 cup of warm water.  After my yarn was done soaking, and the dye pellets had all dissolved, I placed each mini-skein of yarn into the corresponding baggie.   I did leave a teeny bit of white at the point where the yarns meet, because I assumed that the dye would wick up the yarn and I didn't want the colors getting too muddy where they meet.

At this point, I placed the whole ensemble into my microwave, and zapped it on high for 2 minutes, followed by a 2-3 minute rest period.  I repeated this cycle (squishing each mini-skein around in the dye during the "rest phase") about 3 times.  Then, I placed the bags into the sink to cool down (about 15 minutes).  I was able to rinse each mini-skein separately, because of my double sink, which insured that there was no overdye from the other colors.  I just ran the yarn under cold water until the rinse water ran clear (which took almost no time at all).  After squishing out the excess water, I put the yarn into my salad spinner to cut down the drying process, and then hung the mini-skeins outside in the shade to dry.  After they were dry, I placed the mini-skeins back on the chair backs, and wound the yarn into one big skein...

Yes... it is definitely a tad Day-Glo... but I know AT LEAST one little girl who will squeal with delight for anything made out of this yarn!  Speaking of which... I couldn't wait to cast on and see how these were going to knit up, so after a couple days of knitting, Little E now has day-glo socks, lol!

The socks are just my standard magic loop, using the directions from Kelley at KnitPicks (love those free videos).  For sizing: I measured around the widest part of her foot, and came up with 6.5 inches…. so minus 1” of negative ease gives me 5.5”…. and with a gauge of 6 st/in, that gives me 33 stitches to cast one. I rounded up to 36 stitches for an even number for the ribbing.

After modeling them, Little E says, “Oh mommy…. can I wear them forever, and ever? They sooooooooo bee-utiful!” (THAT is what a mommy longs to hear, lol!)