Yarn dyeing workshop

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a yarn dyeing workshop that had been organised by The Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers. The workshop was taught by Yvonne from the Dublin Dye Company and took place in the upstairs studio at the Constant Knitter. Now, I need another hobby like I need a hole in the head, but when I saw the workshop advertised I just couldn’t resist – colour and texture are such large parts of why I knit.

And I wasn’t disappointed! Yvonne started the workshop by explaining how the dyeing process works. We were using acid dyes. The dyes themselves are activated by using an acid (citric acid or vinegar), water and heat which allows the dye to stick to the fibre.We learned about create resists, by tying the hank of yarn in a knot or twisting it so that the dye doesn’t cover all of the yarn evenly.

Yarn Dyeing processAnd then we were on to the actual dyeing process. This felt quite daunting at first, to be handed a skein of creamy yarn, a bowl with some water and dyes and told to give it a go ourselves. I don’t think I’m alone in say I felt a bit overwhelmed, but I chose some colours I like and just got stuck in. We got to dye two skeins of yarn, a sock yarn (75% merino, 25% nylon) and a Merino DK, which I have to say was surprisingly generous given that the workshop only cost €40.

Kettle dyedThere were two main techniques we tried – kettle dying and hand paining. I tried kettle dying for both of my skeins as I prefer a semi-solid yarn to highly variegated ones. The sock yarn I dyed a shocking pink but added purple to get some variations in the tone. The DK weight I dyed a turquoise colour, adding first yellow, then blue and then black to different parts of the yarn to create a semi-solid colour. My skeins are currently drying in my bathroom so I’ll go into more detail, with photos, in another blog post. We were only using a relatively limited palette of bold colours so the variations that we all came up with were beautiful.

HandpaintingSome of the others in the group tried hand paining their yarn, again with gorgeous results. I really hope the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers run this workshop again. It was great value and great fun and there’s so much to learn when it comes to dying, I feel like we only scratched the surface. I’ll post photos of my finished yarns later in the week.

Have you ever dyed yarn at home? Do you have any tips for me?

Yarn Review: Hedgehog Fibres Sock

I don’t generally do ‘reviews’ in the traditional sense, but maybe I should? We’ll see. Anyway I loved this Irish yarn, Hedgehog Fibres Sock, so much I felt I had to write a review of it, so here goes…

Yarn Review: Hedgehog Fibres SockA friend of mine (who is becoming a vegan knitter, which I find so interesting) was destashing all her animal fibre based yarns over the summer and I took the opportunity to add some superwash yarns to my stash. That was my criteria – I wanted yarn I could use for baby clothes, as I know this will get used at some point. So I bought three skeins of Malabrigo Rios in Sunset and one skein o f Hedgehog Fibres Sock in Seaglass.

Yarn Review: Hedgehog Fibres SockAnother friend (and knitter) recently had a baby, so I quickly cast on my new favourite baby cardigan, Beyond Puerperium, using the Hedgehog Fibres Sock. The yarn is a fingering / 4 ply weight, made of 90% merino wool and 10% nylon, with around 350m per 100 grams. And even better the yarn is dyed right here in Ireland, in Cork. I used around 65g for the 42.5cm cardigan.

Yarn Review: Hedgehog Fibres SockThis was one of my first times knitting with such a variegated yarn but I must say I’m delighted with the result. I’ve started knitting from time to time at my morning coffee break and several of my colleagues were curious as to how I was creating the multicoloured effect, until I showed them the ball. The overall effect reminds me of camouflage and my colleagues were very impressed.

Yarn Review: Hedgehog Fibres SockBut what prompted me to write this review is how soft this yarn is. I should say here that the colour in the first few pictures is more true to life – the pictures of the FO were taken in the evening before I parceled it up for posting. It’s just gorgeous to work with, I didn’t want to put it down. The stitch definition is also really crisp. I’ve popped the finished cardigan in the wash, and though I’ve only tested it after one wash, the garment really held it’s shape well.

And did I mention how soft it is? Definitely soft enough for a baby’s skin! You all know I’m a yarn snob, so for me this is a great combination of a washable yarn, made from natural fibre, that I really want to knit with. I know not everyone would be willing the spend the €22 on a skein for baby clothes (and I paid half price) but as the recipient is a knitter too I know she will appreciate the beauty of a hand dyed yarn.

Yarn Review: Hedgehog Fibres SockSo the perfect yarn deserves the perfect button, right? I wanted to get some rust coloured buttons to go with this cardigan, to pick out the brown-y tones in the yarn. I popped into A. Rubanesque and found the dotiest little elephant buttons. And even better – they were on sale. I do love a good button, the finishing touches can really make or break a finished item.

I will definitely be going back for more of this yarn, and will be trying more hand dyed, superwash yarns for baby clothes – for the right recipient (you all know what I mean).

Souvenir yarn doesn’t count

A recent trip to London involved catching up with wonderful friends, much beer drinking, some cultural stuff and a visit to a yarn shop. My husband is obsessed into home brewing and craft beers and most holidays end up highjacked by involving *many* visits to craft beer pubs and breweries. In the last few years I’ve been able to balance this out with trips to yarn shops and more recently visits to important libraries. This is called revenge compromise.

wpid-20140711_145827.jpgThis meant that on our trip to London last month that I got to visit Loop in Islington with few no complaints. It’s a really lovely little shop split over two floors. It’s down a pedestrian alleyway and is surrounded by other lovely and quirky shops. I love a good potter, so I do.

wpid-20140711_151301.jpgI had a good look around before choosing my souvenir yarn. Souvenir yarn doesn’t count, you see. Don’t worry, I checked with the sales assistant and she agreed with me that it doesn’t count. I liked her. She talked me through all the local yarns and then left me to happily make my choices. (Sorry for the terrible photo, I only had my phone with me.)

Stitch markers 158As I’ve bought a lot of bright coloured yarns recently I wanted to choose some nice greys. I chose a skein of Islington by Kettle Yarn Co in a light silver called Light Squirelly. It’s called Islington and I was in Islington, you can’t get more local than that! My other purchase was a skein of Titus 4ply by Eden Cottage Yarns in a rich dark grey called Coal.

I don’t know what they’re going to grow up to be but for the moment I’m happy just knowing they’re mine. And souvenir yarn doesn’t count. Right?

Yarn shopping in New York

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m just back from a trip to New York. We had a fantastic holiday and I think I’m still recovering. No holiday would be complete without a visit to a local yarn shop or two. And I was particularly excited about visiting New York’s legendary yarn shops.

Purl SohoThe first we visited (and when I say ‘we’ I mean myself and my husband who sat in the corner and patiently waited for me as I squished and ooh’d and aah’d to my heart’s content) was Purl Soho in lower Manhatten. I hadn’t heard the best things about the customer service at this shop so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the staff were very friendly and helpful. I had a great time there. Sorry for the not so great photo but I was using my phone.

NYC2014 005I picked up some yarns that you can’t get at home. Clockwise from the top left I got some Habu silk and stainless steel, Cascade 220 in Coral and Anis, Madelinetosh tosh merino light in Paper and Night Bloom and finally Purl Soho Line Weight in Timeless Navy and Super Pink. Oh, and a tote bag to make other knitters mad jealous 😉

20140316_163350We also visited Lion Brand Yarn Studio. I loved the display in the window – a knitted Taj Mahal. It really is a work of art. I didn’t buy any yarn though. As a self-confessed yarn snob (and having parted with a fair chunk of cash at Purl Soho) I didn’t really find anything that inspired me enough. But it was definitely worth a visit.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my purchases but while I’m deciding I’ll just sit here petting them.

Where in the world is your favourite yarn shop?

Icord jewellery

Necklaces 001*taps screen* Is there anyone out there? Hello? I know I haven’t been here for a while but I hope there are still a few people reading.

The last few week seem to have flown by and all of a sudden it’s nearly Christmas. As I’m currently working as a Library Intern and disposable income is somewhat scarce, I decided to put my thinking cap on and come up with a gift idea that would be economical, quick and easy but with a bit of a wow-factor.

Necklaces 004My LYS started stocking Embellish Knit which allows me to knit icord really quickly and an idea was born. I had already played with icord necklaces but I wanted to try something a bit more complex. I can’t claim this design as my own because I’m using tutorials written by someone else, but I would like to think I put my own spin on them.

Necklaces 009For the necklace I used a little under three metres of icord and this tutorial for a knotted necklace from Operation DIY. For the bracelet I used about a metre of icord and this tutorial for a knotted cord bracelet from Katrinshine, except that I used one continuous piece of cord rather than two separate pieces. Both necklace and bracelet are secured at the back using a crimp clasp with a lobster clasp. The teeth on the crimp clasps grip the yarn well and feel very secure. I then put a few stitches in the knots to hold them in place and buried the ends on the icord.

Necklaces 007I’ve experimented with different types of yarn and have discovered that not all work. I thought this would be a great way to use up ends of my precious Coolree fingering weight yarns, but alas the resulting icord is too slinky and won’t hold it’s shape. One yarn that works really well is Louisa Harding Orielle. I suspect the 3% Metallic Polymide gives a bit of extra stability (and a gorgeous sparkle to the jewellery too). The necklace and bracelets in the photos are knit in Ice.

I also had some Zettle Panda yarn from Lidl, which works well too. This yarn also had a lovely sheen to it, I have some deep pink and a lovely cornflower blue, but I think I’ll be picking some more up the next time my local Lidl have it in stock. Right, now I’m off to what feels like miles of icord to get all my Christmas presents made.

Are you doing any Christmas knitting? If so what have you chosen and why?

What Type of Knitter Are You?

Ashby 061I’m a monogamous knitter

I rarely have more than one project on the go at one time. I think that’s because I get so excited about my projects that I can’t bear to put them down until they are finished. I have a strong desire for everything in my life to be organised so I don’t think I could cope with multiple WIPs (work in progress, for my non-knitting readers).

The only time I have more than one WIP is if I find a project I’m so excited about I have to cast on *right now*, or if I need to whip up a baby gift.

Having said that I have one two projects sitting at the bottom of my knitting basket unfinished. I started to knit gloves last winter but put them down when it came to adding fingers and haven’t picked them back up again. And I have a bag waiting for a lining and assembly. And I don’t know how to line bags, so that’s my excuse.

Seagreen 001I am a process knitter

I knit for the sheer pleasure of knitting, and the FO (finished object) is almost a bonus. However, I feel like I’m shifting slightly towards being a product knitter and I’m finding it hard to give away my FOs and knitting more for myself. I have more shawls than I can wear, but am loathe to give any of them away.

Part of this is I feel that only people who really appreciate the love and time and effort that has gone into a knitted gift really deserve them. Not everyone gets it.

But for me knitting is a form of meditation. It allows me to switch off my brain and just concentrate on the rhythmic clicking of the needles.

Sunflower 002I am a yarn snob

There, I said it. I am a yarn snob. I love alpaca, cashmere, merino, silk. I love them all. And I don’t mind paying for them. I would rather spend €20 on a special skein from my LYS (local yarn shop) This Is Knit than spend €20 and get a jumper’s worth of acrylic yarn. I did try acrylic, but I won’t be doing that again.

I’m learning though. The more I knit, the more I understand the properties of different fibres. I love alpaca, I love how soft it is to wear, I love how soft it is to knit with. But it’s heavy, and it will stretch. I feel this is the same with all my favourite soft yarns. So I find myself drawn more to wools (sheep fibres). And silk, I love, love silk, knitting and wearing it. But there is no give in silk, so it’s hard to get much stretch out of it in the blocking process.

I will never stop loving and knitting alpaca and silk, but understanding their properties gives me a better idea of what the FO will turn out like, especially after a few wears.

So, what kind of knitter are you?

My Paris

Paris08 124Paris08 098

Paris is one of my favourite cities. I just love the style and the architecture, the food, the language, but mostly the vibe. I love wandering the streets, soaking it all in. Sipping coffee and nibbling at a croissant, watching the world go by. Paris has a rhythm all of it’s own and I have been hypnotised by it. This pattern was called French Cancan and it immediate reminded me of the elegance and style of Paris.

My Paris 003A couple of things drew me to this pattern. First, the beautiful photos provided by the designer caught my eye on Pinterest, I was drawn in by that beautiful cable.

It’s also the same shape as my Colour Affection that I wore so often before the weather got too warm. And finally because I’m working on a group thesis at the moment garter is about all I can manage at the moment.

My Paris 041The yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply which is closer to a Sport weight than Fingering weight. The merino is so soft and the silk gives it a lovely sheen. This shawl was calling out for a muted, more natural colour than I’ve knit with recently so I chose the colourway Water. I think it will fit nicely into my wardrobe as so many of my other shawls are quite bright. It’s filling a gap.

The love yarn, love the pattern, love the result.

Live and learn

Clara dress 013I love this pattern but didn’t particularly enjoy knitting this dress. I had bought some acrylic yarn in Aldi to make some baby clothes as gifts. There were two (very good) reasons for this. One, I wanted to give gifts that could be put in the washing machine. And two, I didn’t want to spend a large amount of money on yarn for a gift that may not get used very much.

These reasons are still valid, but I won’t make that mistake again. The resulting dress is super cute – and practical but I didn’t enjoy the knitting process. You live and learn. I still have more of this yarn left but I think I’ll make some little cardigans with it, they’ll be quicker, which means less time with the yarn. In my head at least.

Yet another shawl – Renita

Semester 2 shawls 050At the beginning of Semester 2 I decided I needed a fairly straight forward project that I could work on in the evenings when my brain shut down. After spending far too much time on the Ravelry pattern search I chose Renita which is  a “shawlette with a shallow triangle shape”. It’s knit side to side so each row only has a small amount of lace that I felt would keep me interested. Blocking really helped to open up the lace and finish the shawl.

Semester 2 shawls 040I used some of my beautiful Coolree yarn, Alpaca/Silk/Cashmere in Hokusai’s Wave. So yummy and soft and  a dream to knit with. The other thing I liked about this side to side shawl was that I could measure how much yarn I was using and when I had used a little left than half I started decreasing instead of increasing to make the most of the yarn I had.

Semester 2 shawls 060I also felt that the shape would be very wearable as a scarf, although now I’m not so sure. I’ve yet to actually wear this. It might be gifted at some point if I find the right person. The yarn is quite expensive so it seems a pity for it to sit unworn, but as a process knitter (rather than a product knitter) that only bothers me a bit. The yarn is so soft, almost too soft so the top rolls a bit despite the garter based lace border.

I Heart Cables

Knitting cable hatMore gift knitting. In tune with my aim to spend as little money this (last) Christmas as possible I decided to knit as many gifts as possible. Having consulted with some of the parents that I know on Twitter, I decided a hat would be ideal for my friend’s daughter.

Christmas gifts 010Looking through the patterns on Ravelry I decided that I wanted a hat with ear-flaps that could tie under the chin. I don’t have children but I can imagine they like to pull hats off. I found the I Heart Cables pattern and then found some aran weight yarn in my stash. Bingo!! I knit the infant size and I’m really pleased with the results. It was super quick and looks so cute. And both my friend and her daughter seem to like it too which is great!!