i'm dyeing here

i've been doing a bit of a purge lately, going through the stash, using it up, getting rid of leftovers, etc. one of the things on my "what do i do with this" list was a sweater i knit ages ago but never wore. it was tempting in merino et soie, which was the wrong yarn - too drapey, when i needed something with more spring - and the wrong colour. i'm not a pink person. why did i even buy pink yarn? i get funny ideas sometimes.

anyway, i frogged it, and planned to re-skein and wash the yarn and see if anyone else wanted it, when someone suggested i dye it. why not? what did i have to lose, if i was getting rid of the yarn anyway? and so soft!

i started by reading up on how to dye your yarn with food colouring and kool aid and whatnot, and when my head was overfull and hurty, i decided instead to just use plain old dye with instructions on it, and headed to fabricland to squint at the various packets of stuff. maybe i'll try food colour dyeing when i have more experience.

anyway, i needed to stick to the warm- and cool- water dyes, since my yarn contained wool, so i ended up choosing a bottle of rit liquid dye in teal, for a couple of reasons: it seemed easier to handle, it was exactly the colour i wanted, and was a better price (when you consider it's enough dye for a full kilo of fabric, and the dylon was only enough for 250g). also, it specifically mentioned instructions for wool and silk on the label, so that seemed a good sign.

i also got colour remover, because i wanted to end up with teal, not purple. for that i chose the dylon, because it included specific instructions for wool and silk. it said, "bring to a simmer, not a boil, and stir constantly for 20 minutes. allow to cool in the solution for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to come to room temperature before rinsing in warm water.

it took far less than 20 minutes to get this light! the solution didn't even reach a simmer, either.

but then i realised i forgot a skein. whoopsie.

i decided to throw it in anyway, why not? a few stirs and the colour was mostly gone. then i set the timer for 10 minutes for the "cool in the solution" stage, and by then it looked the same as the others.

next came dyeing. i had 250g of fabric, so i decided to use 1/3 of the bottle (since the label said "double the amount for really deep colour"). for wool or silk, the label suggested adding 1 cup of vinegar to the mix - since i was using 1/3 of the bottle of dye, i used 1/3 of a cup of vinegar. the instructions for sink-dyeing (as opposed to in a washing machine, which i do not have), said "stir constantly for 30-60 minutes." augh! so i checked the time and started stirring. about 10 minutes in, i noticed the water was clear! this is what they call "exhaustion." once the dye is "exhausted," why keep stirring? i stirred a while longer, just because. maybe 20 minutes total?

amazing. i gave the yarn a rinse - and another and another - until i finally got a bit tired of it. silk will take a lot of dye and give a lot up - i have red silk pyjamas that i've owned for over a decade, and they still turn the sheets pink if i wear them!

i had skeined it beforehand and tied it loosely with scrap yarn. next time, i will use cotton string - because while my merino et soie was fine, the scrap yarn i'd tied the skeins with was a felted melted mess! my skeins were a mess, too. this yarn does not look great wet - like a persian cat. i re-skeined it (and boy, were some tangled) to dry, and just doing that helped it get some of its loft back.

finally i wound it back into cakes. i'm pretty pleased! i think one ball does look a little lighter than the others, but over all they're pretty decent. this is going to turn into a scarf i think!

and this has me thinking of other yarn in my stash i might want to dye... colours i fell in love with and no longer remember why.


back in the city means busy

a week at the cottage, a week on the road, a week of back to school, here we are back to the city routine.

there never seems to be a moment's rest! we got a lot done this weekend, in between hosting and going to playdates.

first off, just for fun, the kiddo and i are working on a science project: the classic baking-soda-vinegar volcano! here's the papier mache shell:

we got the first layer of papier mache done early, so it could dry while we went out to get supplies for all of our planned activities. and i got a hairdo! (warning: terrible blurry pic)

then we made cookie dough (as yet unbaked, sacre bleu) and brownies:

(don't tell the kid they have black beans in them, he doesn't know they have any health benefits.)

then it was time to tackle the dreaded grapes.

i had swept up and tossed a good deal of detritus, but after friday's storm, there was more of that work to do. then, the harvest. harvesting grapes is harder than it sounds. they're above your head, which gets tiring for your arms, neck, and shoulders, and it's hard to see what you're doing. and they are a favourite of wasps. we have three varieties of grapes and at least that many kinds of wasps, all buzzing around angrily. the kid got stung the other day, so i was a bit more anxious than usual, and he, in the role of "basket handler," was extra-anxious. can't blame him.

but, we got all the concords. after washing, picking them over, and removing the stems, we had about 10 lbs.

then came the tedious work of separating the skins from the blobby middles. boring nasty work! watching the muppet treasure island made it a bit more bearable.

Lew Zealand knitting a Jolly Roger

then the straining, the re-weighing, the cooking. ugh. 7 jars of jam, but that giant jug of juice tells you that i only got half the grapes cooked. the rest will just have to wait. i need more sugar and jars.

while waiting for the jam to climb those final few degrees up to the jelly point (about 221f), i got a few rows done on my canadian kal cardigan:

we finished off the weekend with veggie lasagna (sweet potatoes, spinach, and ricotta):

here's a side-view shot:

and for dessert, apple crumble. we picked the apples with our neighbour, fromm a tree growing in the alley behind our houses.

finally, we put a coat of paint on the volcano:

he wants to add a few more details after school, and with his teacher's permission, he'll take it to school on tuesday.


a trip to the fair, or, how to block your knitting without any pins or anything.

just back from another lovely week at the lake, our summer tradition. swimming, knitting, baking, eating, and re-reading evelyn waugh (a new obsession since re-watching the amazing 1981 production of brideshead revisited).

this trip, i pioneered a couple of new methods for blocking!

with no blocking boards, or pins, or any tools at all really, i came up with two methods. for a washcloth: wet it, smoothed it out on a cutting board, covered it with a tea towel, and flattened it with a stack of magazines. later i set it out on a picnic table in the sun to dry completely.

method two, for an alpaca scarf: i was already sitting by the lake when i finished it, so we went for a swim together. then i laid it out along the length of one of the boards - it was the perfect width! - and weighted the corner down with stones, to make sure it wouldn't blow away and be lost forever.

then i treated myself to my annual pedicure while it dried in the sun!

with that done, it was time to get all of our fair entries together. there were many tags to be filled out - i made sure to bring a pile of blanks home, so that next year i can write them in at my leisure. my hand was sore after filling in all the tags.

i did have quite a few entries.

but all's well that ends well. the blocking techniques seem to have worked okay - the designed-in-canada knitalong dishcloth came in second, and the scarf won first prize.

my gloves came in first, too!

here's a better picture:

my pyjama pants won, too! haven't made the top yet, no rush on that as the category is "ladies' sleep pants."

the kid has a full set of prize-winning pyjamas. these will go under the tree on xmas eve.

the argylette cardigan took top prize as well! one of the women accepting the entries joked she might walk off with it!

my "ladies' pullover" was also a hit.

i finished this tea towel at the cottage... a year after starting... can't believe i didn't get a better photo of the finished object! and i left it up at the cottage to fulfil its destiny as a dishdryer, so no photo is likely to be forthcoming. ah well.

i also got a couple of seconds in baking - brownies and shortbread - but no photos.

my mitts took a prize as well.

not everything did though! this hat to go with the mitts? nothing.

and my strawberry jam and pepper jelly were a bust, too.

honestly though? that was entirely expected. i usually overcook jam; this time i overcompensated and undercooked it. and the pepper jelly? well, have a look - the pepper bits are all at the top instead of evenly distributed throughout!

none of my photos won either. but, i did achieve my goal of spreading my wings and entering categories i hadn't tried before. maybe next year!


big stack of entries for the fair!

a few ends to run in, a few photos to mount, but still... a pretty decent collection of fair entries! there will be baking this week as well!


piping and flat-felled seams tutorial!

following the tradition of getting xmas presents underway early enough to enter them in the fair, i just finished a pair of xmas pyjamas for the kiddo. just need to find some buttons and they're done. also did a pair of pyjama pants for myself, top to come later! both were made from cotton flannelette from fabricland. i may be slightly addicted to flannelette.

i have made a zillion pairs of tailored pyjamas, i love them so. kiddo won't wear anything else. the thing that makes them look so smart is the piping and the flat-felled seams. they also make the pyjamas more durable. it's a bit futzy, but i've got my technique down to a science, so i thought i'd do a tutorial.

some of the piping is obvious - the collar for example. sandwich piping between layers of fabric, and sew. but it's the sleeve cuffs that this tutorial focusses on.

note: this tutorial assumes a standrad 5/8" seam allowance. also, to use this technique, you will be applying the piping and cuff before you sew the sleeve/underarm seam.

first, how much hem allowance does your pattern allow? unless you want your sleeves extra-long, trim it off, plus an additional 3/4". for example, if the pattern allows 1 1/4" for the hem, shorten your sleeves by 2".

tear a strip about 2 1/2" or 3" wide along the selvedge edge of your fabric. using the selvedge edge is key: it means one less raw edge to worry about. cut a length of strip the same length as the sleeve hem to use as the cuff. then, cut a length of piping the same length as the sleeve cuff.

sandwich the piping between the sleeve fabric and the cuff strip, lining up the raw edge (not selvedge) of the cuff with the edge of the sleeve, and sew together as you normally would.

then press flat.

next, trim back the excess cord inside the piping pull out about 3/4" of the cord, and snip it off.

pull the fabric smooth so the ends of the cord disappear back into the tube. this will make sewing the seam easier - no lumpy cord to sew through - and the seam will be more neat.

next, pin your sleeve/underarm seam as you normally would, right down to the edge of the cuff. make sure you line up the piping as precisely as possible. sew right to selvedge edge of cuff, leaving a 5/8" seam allowance, and press flat.

snip the seam allowance along the edge of the piping, right up to the seam. then trim the seam allowance on one side of the sleeve to 1/4". leave the other seam allowance, and the seam allowances on the cuff, untrimmed.

press the seam allowances on the cuff open, and the sleeve seam allowances to one side.

fold the wider seam allowance around the trimmed seam allowance, and pin down. all the raw edges of the sleeve seam should be neatly enclosed.

sew this folded edge down against the sleeve. on the right side, this will appear as top-stitching.

almost there!

next, fold the cuff up, just overlapping the sewing line for the piping with the selvedge edge. make sure to line them up well.

on the right side, edge stitch along the piping, going through both layers of the cuff to secure it in place.

now, the selvedge edge of the cuff neatly covers all of the raw edges on the inside...

... while you have a neatly trimmed cuff on the outside!

it's not difficult once you get the hang of it, and in addition to giving a tailored finish, it finishes all raw edges using the machine - no hand-finishing required. i use this method to cuff the legs on pyjama bottoms, too.