Saturday, 29 September 2007

McKnitty's guide to dyeing

Before I start with my guide to dyeing sock yarn let me set the scene. I am having a new floor put in and I am living in chaos. There is stuff everywhere and the sofa from the front room is in the hallway on its side. I am doing all I can to stay out of the house because it is too stressful to be here. Only Granby seems happy at the state of affairs because he has bagged a duvet and is nice and warm. Unfortunately Ezzie's mum is in hospital at the moment, so we also have Pippa (her dog) in the mix as well. It's not ideal for yarn dyeing, but if I can dye yarn in these conditions, anyone can!

But, as dutifully promised, here is my guide to dyeing sock yarn.

1. Get your stuff together. You will need a skein of yarn, Kool Aid, water, jug, a bowl, a microwave and rubber gloves. Whatever you do, don't forget to wear those babies!

2. Mix your KoolAid with water until you get the desired colour. I know that some people are really scientific about this and say so much powder to so much water. I don't have any of that. I let my eyes be the judge.

3. Soak the amount of yarn into the dye. Take care to soak all the area and not leave patches of white. Then put the yarn in the microwave for two minutes. Leave it a couple of minutes, then blast it again for another two minutes. When the colour has left the water, you're ready to repeat the process with your next colour.

4. When you have dyed your yarn and you're satisfied with it leave it to cool down. Then rinse it thoroughly in cold water. Your yarn will be quite hot from its time in the microwave so don't rinse it straight away as this could cause it to felt.

5. Then you just leave it to dry and give your one-off skein a name. This yarn is called 'Saddo sock yarn' because it is for Ezzie to cheer him up with his Seasonal Affected Disorder. He suffers terribly in the winter with this. Hopefully these socks will give him something bright during the darkness.

You might have noticed the turkey baster in my photos. You can use this if you want to add splashes of colour here and there. I did that last time and it's nice but the splashes can turn into purple (which I wanted) or brown (which I didn't) I'm quite happy with this lot, so I'm not going to bother today. Believe me it is good fun and doesn't take long.

I hope that answers any questions Wheezy. Let me know how you get on!

Dyeing dedication

This post is dedicated to Wheezy and her dyeing.

I have just started dyeing a skein of yarn and will be posting photos and instructions soon. Give me half an hour girl!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Knitting update

I've been busy on the knitting front. I bought some blue and white wool for a little boy who's a Wednesday fan and having chemotherapy at the moment. This wool is going to become a hat to keep him warm in the winter. I had wanted to use Rowan Wool Cotton, which is one of my favourite yarns, but the blue wasn't bright enough and the white wasn't dazzling enough, so I've had to settle for these Sirdar yarns.

I went to the Baa and bought some undyed sock yarn and Kool Aid. I am desperate to start dyeing but I have to wait until Shona is here because she missed out last time. I have ideas for the sock yarn and am going for striking colour combinations. The difficulty will be convincing Shona that it's what she wants as well.

I've put the colours together as I think they should go.

Now I know September is supposed to be about Stash-busting and all I've shown so far are purchases, but I have managed to use up existing yarn. The first toe-up is now finished and was scrutinised by Caroline at a meeting last night. She seemed pleased. I cast off as I normally do but loosely but I really missed grafting the toe. It didn't feel as satisfying this time. Nevertheless I think the sock is lovely and I liked having only a small amount of yarn left at the end. The trouble has been the lace pattern. It has slowed me down so I am not going to do the second one until the October holidays when I have more time to concentrate. Ezzie keeps teasing me that I have 'Second Sock Syndrome' but I don't. It will get knit and promptly in October.

I have started a Christmas sock from the sock stash for my Uncle John. It's Opal Rainforest in Pfau (peacock). I'm a big fan of the German language, but Pfau is such an ugly name for such a stunning creature. Despite the name, I really love the colours and disagree with the saying that "blue and green should never be seen without something in between". Utter rubbish. They work a treat.

I went out on the town last night - knitting. I had a great night and enjoyed myself loads. Rather inevitably I didn't come home empty-handed, but I didn't buy anything. Caroline taught (ha!) me to spin. I had a go but I don't think I got the hang of it so she has sent me home with a drop spindle and wool. I am going to have a go because I love the idea of spinning yarn and making my own sock yarn one day. I strongly suspect this will be another October Half Term project because I am busy at work at the moment and I can only cope with easy projects. It's amazing to think that a piece of wool and a drop spindle can be turned into usable yarn and then into usable garments.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Answers on a blog please

I need help from the knitting community. Caroline has written in the comments that if the heel turns the sock by 90 degrees, then it is a heel. Look at this picture. Does it look like I have turned the sock by 90 degrees? In my opinion, I have. But I need reassurance. It's a long time since I used a protactor and haven't got one in the house. Please leave a comment because I can't knit further until I know.

Progress on the toe-ups

Well, the jury's out about these toe-ups. In my last post I was wondering whether to start again with them. Seconds after putting my thoughts "out there" in cyberspace, I ripped them back and started again, thereby not having Caroline's wisdom in the comments for how to proceed without ripping back. But, actually I'm glad because the second attempt is a lot neater and it gave me a chance to practise wrapping stitches. Once you get crack them, they're actually no bother.

The trouble for me is that I never feel I know where the pattern is going. With my regular cuff-down socks and heel flap I "get" what's going on. With these socks I've felt bemused throughout. I have completed the first foot and have down the short row heel and so am now on the leg. But it's weird because I don't feel like I've "turned the heel" and I thought that was compulsory with socks. It seems you just make a heel and join it all together again. I think there's less knitting but I miss the heel flap and gusset.

I did add a lace pattern. I'm not sure anyone else will like it, but I do. In white the pattern would look like those school socks I used to wear as a lass. Trouble is, I don't think you can see the X pattern so well from my photo. If you squint a bit you might be able to make out something, but don't bank on it.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Toe-Ups?

Not me!

I have finally managed to overcome my demons and start a toe-up sock. I can't say it was easy because it was jolly well difficult. It started with crocheting a provisional cast-on and didn't get any easier from there. But, about an hour and half later and a lot of neck ache from studying so intensely, we have the start of a sock. The trouble is that it's too small. I originally cast on 30 stitches but they seemed to big, so I started again with 24 and now I'm tempted to rip it back and start with 30 again. These socks are for my Auntie Paula because she will love the colour and feel of these socks and at the moment they are only good enough for a child and Shona can't have two pairs of socks when everyone else has only one.

Thanks to Caroline for persuading me to bite the bullet. Both she and Lucy had sent me personal messages via the forum with patterns to egg me on. The instructions from Caroline are really detailed, which is exactly what I needed because wrapping stitches meant nothing to me until a few hours ago. I know I've seen Caroline do it before but until the needles and yarn are in your hands, you don't actually know how to do it.

The more I think about it, the more I think I am going to rip it back because I think it wouldn't take as long a second time and it would be good to get it right. Also, I'm interested in adding more challenge by putting a lace design in. The one I'm interested in is on the left and is called the 'Lozenge Lace Panel'. I think it would add interest to what is otherwise going to be a plain sock. Or am I just running before I can walk?

Saturday, 15 September 2007

What to knit next?

A very short post.

I have almost finished Shona's Christmas socks and don't know what to knit next. I have to knit more Christmas socks but can't decide what. I braved the stash today and came across some lovely RYC Cashsoft yarn which would be ideal for socks. I bought it ages ago for a Sheffield Forum Knitalong, but the pattern was so difficult that I decided not to bother. I really would like to knit toe-up socks and raced to the Wool Baa to buy circular needles. When I got home and had a look at the pattern on the web, it looked so complicated that I couldn't face it alone. I think I will need to start that at the Wool Baa's group meeting for help.

That still means I don't know what to knit. I could opt for some faux fair isle as I have plenty of the stuff. But I want more of a challenge. I think I will hit my Stitch Reference Book and consider something original from there. It's not a good feeling not knowing what to do next.

Friday, 14 September 2007


Stash-busting September seems to be having a greater impact upon me than I expected. With my frugal knitting ways I need discipline and the ability to resist temptation to buy yarn. This I am managing, but I am also managing to resist other temptations. This week I have been to bed before ten o'clock each and every night. This is previously unheard of; I love watching the 10 o'clock news and then Newsnight and always think that the tiredness in a morning justifies the knowledge from the night before. But this week I have got out of bed feeling so refreshed and with a spring in my step. It's like I've just discovered a miracle health cure and I am keen to continue.

The downside to "early to bed" is that I'm not getting as much knitting done because I like to knit and watch tv and 10.00 - 11.20pm is key knitting time. So, whilst I am being disciplined in so many areas of my life, knitting progress is decidedly slower. The progress with Shona's sock is not too great when you consider I finished the first sock on Monday. I'm determined to finish the second this weekend.
In other news, work is going well at the moment. I have been working hard and staying late most evenings. There is a lot to do and I just laughed when I discovered my budget. Clearly school is employing my stash-busting techniques to resources. But, I'll carry on regardless and make the best of the situation.
Ezzie enjoyed his birthday yesterday. We went to the cinema and watched 'Two days in Paris'. We just turned up and asked for recommendations from the guys at the box office. It was quite funny, but they should have warned us it would be quite rude in parts. We had a nice meal out as well, and best of all we were back before nine so I could get my beauty sleep.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Stash-busting September

Having spent four out of the last seven weeks abroad, my finances are not too great at the moment. I am having to show restraint in so many areas of my life. I went to town yesterday and the shops are full of beautiful winter clothes and I had to show unprecedented resolve not to nip quickly to the changing rooms to try on some of the many lovely things I saw. Anyone who knows me well can vouch for my love of winter and winter clothes. There are many positive things about summer, and having an allotment it's vital for vegetables, fruit and flowers. But to be perfectly honest, I just tolerate summer. I don't enjoy it and I'm glad when it's all over. I am counting down to pay day because on that day I will be buying my winter coat and my winter wardrobe will begin.

In light of this month's belt tightening I am also having to restrain my yarn purchases. The sensible part of me knows that I really don't need any more of the stuff but I love buying it and having lots of it around me, and I'm sure my love for yarn and knitting is linked to me being a winter person. I went to John Lewis and saw some gorgeous new yarns but walked away empty-handed. I went to the Wool Baa and could have bought so much lovely stuff, but again had to resist. (I did buy something, but it's not for me, so it doesn't count, right?)

When it comes to my knitting, I am looking on the positive side and seeing this month as an opportunity to reduce the stash and become reacquainted with some old friends I haven't seen for a while. I have so many balls of yarn that are beautiful in their own right, but they have been neglected and shoved to the bottom of my yarn bag. In many ways, I'm actually being more creative and experimental. I have now finished my Mum's Monkey Christmas socks. I used the remaining hand-dyed yarn for the cuff, heel flap and toes, which was a really good way of using up the tidbits because I really wanted to make some use of this unique yarn. I now have lots of the plain green yarn left, but I am going to employ the same technique when I knit the other hand-dyed sock yarn. I think coordinated cuffs, heel flaps and toes are actually really effective and add a little variety to your knitting.

I decided to use remaining sock yarn for my next pair of socks. They were supposed to be for my youngest sister, but they are not going to fit her. I've cast on too few stitches and thought it would be okay because I am using 3mm needles. Instead, they are now for Shona, who will love their vibrancy. The main sock is the remaining Colinette Popsicle yarn and the 'interest' comes from the remaining Colinette Florentina yarn. I actually think they work really well together but purple and green are one of my favourite combinations. My Grandma has always loved these two colours together and I love them because it reminds me of the Sufragette jewellery in Green, White and Violet (Give Women Votes).
Stash-busting isn't so bad after all.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Back to work...

... and it really wasn't that bad!

I started my new job today and I felt a bit out of my depth, but I'm not going to know everything straight away and having met with various people and had various meetings, I actually feel quite excited about it all. There's a lot of work to do, no doubt about it, but I'm looking forward to getting my teeth stuck in.

No further news on the knitting front, except the new Magknits is out and I love the Kaibashira socks. I felt sure I would knit them, but they are knitted on two circular needles. I love my dpns far too much and don't want to knit on circulars. It just sounds too difficult. I like the socks because they are a Feather and Fan pattern. I'm wondering whether I would be able to work out a pattern of my own for dpns. Surely by now I can? I have worked out that I am on sock 28 at the moment, which I consider to make me quite accomplished at regular socks. I think I enjoy knitting Monkey socks so much because they challenge me a little more. Maybe making my own pattern (albeit from someone else's inspiration) would be a good thing for my Knitting Development.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Home Sweet Home!

I got back from Madrid earlier today and I cannot express my happiness at being at home. I may have to go to work tomorrow, I may have to get back into the old routine, I may have to do boring chores like washing and shopping, but I don't care because I am home. Don't get me wrong, Madrid was great in so many ways, but I could not have stood another moment in that crazy house and I am so pleased to have my own space, freedom and stuff.

I'm tempted to rant and rave about the accommodation and the proprietor but I am going to heed the advice of 'Destiny's Child' (always a good source of wisdom) and say "I'm not going to diss you on the internet", but believe me I am sorely tempted. Some of the other people there had been there six months; how they stood it, I'll never know. There are just too many anecdotes to mention.

Anyway, this is just a quick catch-up post. Here are Ezzie's Madrid socks. He has tried them on and they are a perfect fit. I have also tried them on and they are too big and baggy for me, so there can be no getting round it, he is indeed the recipient.

Yesterday I finished this sock, which I think is female and will then be going to my Mum for Christmas. I have taken Caroline's advice and used up my own hand-dyed spare wool for the cuff, heel flap and toes and used a plain Opal sock yarn for the bulk of the sock. Jill helped me choose the colour for the plain bits and I think the green works particularly well. The pattern is Monkey again and I like it because it is not difficult but gives a lovely effect. I think it works better with the plain sock yarn. Have any of you guessed where this photo was taken?

I went to the Bernabeu stadium yesterday, home of Real Madrid and just had to take this photo. There can't be many people who have taken photos of their handknitting in the stadium.