Monday, 30 November 2009

Simply Marylin

I'm back! I have lots of catching up to do, but I wanted to show off a FO. I finished this before I left. It's the Simply Marylin sweater from Interweave Knits from waaay back in Spring 2004.

oct2009 670

I've been wanting to make it for a while- it's a great casual pullover. Very wearable. I used 9 skeins of RYC Soft Tweed yarn, which is a bulky weight felted single. I dyed it in natural dyes since I got it deeply discounted ($1.50 a skein!) but in a pukey peach color.

oct2009 669

I decided to knit myself the small size. It's meant to be big and sack-like, and that's cute on the model, who is practically swimming in the sweater. Not so cute when you have curves that will actually fill out the sweater.

I made a few big modifications. I knit this in the round to the pits since the seems add bulk. Because of that, I cast on 4 fewer stitches to make up for the selvage stitches. The pattern calls for there to be a cable running up the back as well...I decided to take that detail out. It just seemed odd to have a cable there. I added more waist shaping decreases.

The neck in the original is a huge cowl. I didn't need that extra bulk and most of the FO that people had looked awkward, so I changed the neck and shoulder shaping and I made a square-ish neckline and then picked up stitches and did a few rows of ribbing instead. I like it like this much better.

In the end, I went back and picked up some stitches along the bottom and added a few rows of ribbing. I didn't want to have to be tugging at the hem.

I'm very happy with this sweater! In the pictures, I was about to go out for a hike so I'm wearing a rather confining jiggle-free sports bra, so I'm usually a bit bustier and fill out the sweater better.

oct2009 663

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A Little Break...

I'm headed out of town for a bit (is it odd that I refer to New York City as "town"?) but I'll have a lot to write about upon my return. I have some FOs that I've been lacking pictures of and meaning to talk about, a huge amount of dyeing that I wanted to show you, and a whole lot of stuff I need to list on my Etsy store. Plus, I'm sure I'll have some sort of fibery adventures while I'm away.

oct2009 250

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Not a whole lot of time to spin, but two wheels means I can have two projects going.

Here is the Spunky Club for August, "Zombies" Falkland:

oct2009 419

I'll navajo ply it eventually and make a hat (maybe). KnithoundBrooklyn made a really cute bucket hat out of hers.

This is super special:

oct2009 422

Cashmere! The down fiber class I took at Rhinebeck totally gave me confidence to actually spin a 1oz bump of the good stuff that I had stashed away. I Andean plied it on a spindle last night and I need to count up my yardage. I'm thinking a lace cowl needs be made: this stuff is amazing and soft.

Monday, 16 November 2009

FO: Gothic Blackrose Socks

I have a FO to show! It's the Blackrose socks from

oct2009 434

I'm calling them my Gothic Blackrose...the yarn in Dream in Color Smooshy in the "Gothic Rose" colorway.

2009 203

Smooshy is great- it is dyed so the colors don't pool and most of the colorways are subtle enough to use for lace patterns. Like the title implies, this is a thick, sproingy 100% superwash merino. It makes for a nice cushy pair of socks.

I cast them on top down, two at a time on two circs for Socktober Fest, where knitters went and invaded the local Teutonic establishment for the evening:

sept2009 730

It's pretty amazing I was able to cast on and knit on the first try. There's a lot of empty glasses on that table!

The lace pattern is easy and goes quickly- it's an 8 row repeat with a plain knit row every other row. I like how the lace is placed on the outside of the foot.

oct2009 433

oct2009 429

oct2009 430

It's really hard to take pictures of your own feet.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Perfect Storm

It is windy and rainy, ruling out any outdoor activities.

It is the weekend, which means I don't have to be wasting my day in the office.

The Official Photographer is currently 4,000 miles away. He does not have the ability to protest any messes I might make.

Therefore, it is time to card and possibly dye.

oct2009 256

Question: If the drum carder takes up the entire dining room table and no one is there to witness, does it still make a mess?

oct2009 257

oct2009 301

Answer: Yes, it does make a mess. But I blame myself. It also makes beautiful batts.

oct2009 312

These are already up on the Etsy site, and I'll have more listed soon.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Dyeing Silk Bells

Last week I was able to set aside some time to dye silk bells. While this can be kind of a long and picky process, the end results are beautiful.

Silk bells (or caps, or hankies) are a bundle of bombyx silk cocoons that have been stretched over a frame in layers. I usually buy them in half oz bundles...I wouldn't recommend dyeing more than that at a time unless you want a lot of white to show. They are fun to spin, and you can actually just draft and knit them without spinning if you would like. I'll have more about this process another day.

First thing to keep in mind is that this silk does not want to be wet. When the caterpillar makes itself the cocoon, it coats it with silk gum (sericin) that it produces in order to give the cocoon structure. When you buy silk in roving or top form, it's been de-gummed so it's a bit easier to persuade to take dyes. When they make bells, they don't de-gum as much. It makes it easier to spin, but it also makes it harder to dye.

If you want to dye them (and who doesn't? silk is gorgeous dyed) you need to soak your caps. I put mine in my clean dye pot with about a half gallon of water and a pretty good glug of vinegar.

crafty 001

I weigh them down with something smooth and heavy. The actual bottle of vinegar ended up in there this time. Every couple hours, I would take the bottle out and smoosh all the silk down to try to get it wetter. I actually got busy with some other projects at this point and I ended up leaving them to soak for a couple of days. I would normally allow at least a couple hours time for this, so don't plan on getting to dyeing right away.

Once the bells seem like they are thoroughly soaked, I put on a pair of rubber gloves and gently wring them out. I've been pretty good about the manicures lately, but wet silk will grab on to any rough spots on your skin. It's just easier to handle with gloves and I'm going to wear them to dye anyway.

I get out my acid dyes and a cookie sheet and this nifty wire basket that I got at the dollar store:

oct2009 252

I put the bell on the basket. Then I start carefully applying the dye. I want the silk to get saturated, and sink all the way through. If I did this process just on a cookie sheet, the dye that doesn't get absorbed is just going to pool up on the bottom and make mud. That's fine if you are just doing one color, or don't mind what it looks like when your colors mix. If you want distinctive colors, you'll want to put the bell up on something so the excess dye can drip out when it reaches the other side.

oct2009 254

I use a combination of pouring the dye on the bell directly and then using an applicator sponge to pat it in. I want dye to soak all the way through the layers. I peek a lot on the inside of the bell to check for any white spots. When I've got the coverage on one side, I flip the bell over and repeat on bottom side. These will take up a ton of dye and it will take a bit of coaxing and fussing but the results will be worth it.

oct2009 255

After I'm happy with the dye job, I wrap it up in plastic wrap and let it sit for a few minutes to cure. Then I put it in the steamer basket and put it over simmering water for 20-30 minutes. Silk's luster is damaged by too much heat, so I'm careful that my water doesn't run out from under the steamer and that heat is fairly low.

Once the color is set, I let it cool for a bit. Silk doesn't felt with heat (although agitating will mess up the bell structure and it won't be as easy to spin) but steam does burn me. I try to be patient and let it sit there for a bit before breaking it open and checking it out. I then rinse in a bit of soapy water to get any leftover dye out and let it dry. The end result looks something like this:

oct2009 339

or this:
oct2009 331

and this:
oct2009 326

I have some of these listed on my Etsy store, and there will be more listed in the coming days.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Loop Spin-in

On Saturday, Steph from Loop had her monthly spin-in at her studio.

Shansays brought some pretty dorset that she dyed:

oct2009 259

SargentMajorette, LetsKnitTogether and MagicStix were all there:

oct2009 261

Steph has a pretty sweet fiber mill set up.

oct2009 263

Look! Dueling chakras!

oct2009 280

CathyZ and JimBobSpins played a little chakra duet for us.

Stellina had some "crapalca" that was turned into beautiful roving. Here it is on the mill belt:

oct2009 283

The glitter fairy swooped down last minute and sprinkled pixie dust on it.

oct2009 292

oct2009 294

The end results:

oct2009 295

Definitely no longer crapalca!

The Gaga complex was right near a creek. Venus took me exploring around the area.

oct2009 268

oct2009 273

oct2009 274

oct2009 277

Then I went out for Shabu-shabu and sushi in Bensonhurst with Stellina and Shansays, which was an excellent way to get rid of the sugar withdrawl we were all having (an earlier stop at the Donut Plant was a delightful mistake).

I got very little actual spinning done, but I had so much fun it doesn't matter.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

An Ode to Men's Sweaters

Last spring, I started the Avast sweater for Bry. I don't know why I chose this project for spring, but like all woolie things, it got put down pretty quickly once the weather got warm. It starts out with a cabled band, and I loathe making small cabled things. Way too much attentive time to be following a complex chart over 16 stitches.

Eventually (months later), I finished that tedious cabled band. Now I feel like I can get the rest of the sweater made.

oct2009 245

I'm using Valley Yarn Northampton in charcoal. It's a plain, sturdy wool. Nothing fancy.

I usually make Bry a sweater each year. Every once in a while, I want to knit long mindless fields of shapeless stockinette and men's sweaters fit the bill. The key to wearability success is this: I let him pick the pattern and the yarn color. I know him well enough to be able to predict his taste in clothes (boring) but the knitterly side of me will get carried away as to what he would actually wear. He likes pullovers, nothing too ornate or fancy, but small details are nice. He tends towards grays, browns, hunter greens and navy blues.

My eye is pretty trained when it comes to making something for myself that fits, but I find myself second guessing ease and size when I'm making him a sweater. I take out one of his old favorite sweaters that he likes and is flattering and I use that as a template.

As for yarns, I like to use wool blends. Anytime I'm freezing cold, he's usually comfortable. He just doesn't need a super-warm sweater unless it is meant to be outerwear.

Here's the Cobblestone from last year:


I used Valley Yarns Northampton in light gray. I loved this pattern and I want to make myself one as well. Seamless sweaters are the best.

The Plain Guernsey from Rowan:

knits 019

knits 033

Knit up in Rowan Cashsoft DK, which is a soft, drapey wool/microfiber/cashmere blend. It's a nice light yarn, perfect for a man's sweater. This one got a lot of wear and it still looks great. I had a lot of trouble with this pattern and ended up re-writing it. The pattern as written had a whopping 8" of positive ease, making the smallest size 52" at the chest. That's a whole lot of ease.

The Mixology Sweater from Son of Stich and Bitch:


I used one strand of Noro Silk Garden and one strand of black alpaca doubled. He totally surprised me with his color choice of very 80's neons, but I was more than happy to oblige. It's very warm- he wears it as outerwear.

The Marine Pullover:

Marine Pullover

I can't remember what I used for yarn. Wool of some sort. We were at the Empire Diner in Chelsea when I took that. It's one of those NYC landmark diners that's been around forever and has a high dose of wonderfully greasy comfort food all night and good people watching. When the clubs close at 4am, this place is packed.

I'm off to pick up stitches on the cable band and start 44 inches worth of stockinette stitch. I'm not going to give myself a huge deadline, but Switzerland is rumored to be quite cold. I wonder how much I can get done on this in the next couple of weeks...

PS, Bry won't wear anything around his neck, hats are too warm for him and he doesn't care to have gloves on. He'll wear handknit socks and sweaters. He's picky as hell. The only time I got him to wear a hat was when he was hiking in the Himalayas in Nepal.


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Job Shmob

Work has completely taken over my life this week...I have a pretty big event going on next week and there has been a lot to do leading up to it. My official photographer is off to the Alpine regions of Europe for work for the next month. All the work surrounding that trip has taken up my evenings and energy...finding a place to put the motorcycle for the winter, finding a garage for the car for the next month and all the other stuff that goes with not having someone around to help you out at home.

I have a feeling I will be enjoying my quiet time very much for the next couple of weeks.

Monday, 2 November 2009


I spent this past weekend in Savannah and Tybee turning a rather stunning shade of angry pink and avoiding the ghosts that haunt the old town.

crafty 005

crafty 024

Saturday made for a lovely beach day- mid-80's, sunny and beautiful.

crafty 037

crafty 039

There were dolphins swimming very close to shore.

crafty 045

There weren't too many people in the water but I went for a swim. Something very large and streamline swam waaay too close to me at one point. Three of us saw it in the wave about to break in front of us. The theories of "what we saw" abounded, but alligator, shark and porpoise were contenders to the title. I'm inclined to say it was a shark since I didn't see anything surface to breath. It was quite large. I saw a dorsal fin, but it didn't break the surface. I was content to stay in knee deep water after seeing whatever that was.

crafty 053

crafty 054

crafty 056
Tybee Island lighthouse

Savannah is quite the party town. Like New Orleans, you can drink on the streets. It didn't seem that too many people actually lived in the downtown area, but in the sprawl around it. I'm sure it's quite pricey to buy and maintain the old houses in the historic area.

There were some good places to eat. I would highly recommend checking out the Olde Pink House on Abercorn street. The renovated mansion was a comfortable setting for a rather lengthy meal. The tavern downstairs was exactly the kind of bar I seek out anywhere I travel: dark, cozy fireplaces, lots of exposed beams and antique furnishings, and a piano virtuoso pounding out old jazz standards.

Since it was Halloween, there were lots of characters out:

crafty 061

crafty 059

I did get some knitting time in with all the traveling. There were a few quality yarn stores in the area, but frankly, I was more interested in seeing how many different crab cakes and friend green tomatoes I could sample. I'm pretty sure I could have eaten my weight in grits and collards as well.

Viva Cuisine of the South.