Dyeing with A Hundred Ravens

Last fall I met Kate, aka A Hundred Ravens, at the Fiber Festival of New England. When I say “met” … I mean I drooled over the yarn and roving in her booth, bought some of each, and staggered on to the next booth.  Our whole group of mad knitters agreed her colors were most excellent.  Later on, I spun up the gorgeous teal roving I bought from her, and made a cowl.  At some point I joined the Ravelry group for A Hundred Ravens. I noticed (how could I not!) that Kate was looking for designers to make patterns featuring her yarn.  Since I knew I’d be doing a second collection of one-skein shawls, highlighting indy dyers, it seemed like a match made in heaven!

Eventually we both got organized at the same time, and Kate invited me over to help dye the yarn for the shawl I was designing — wow!  I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  I dug around in my stash, turning up an undyed skein of rustic wool from a farmer’s market, plus I asked her to help my fix some “problem” yarn I’d received as part of a friend’s destash. Then, like a crazy person, I visited Mind’s Eye and bought two handfuls of merino roving and a big skein of Kona sport superwash. Yes, that’s right … I showed up on a stranger’s doorstep with a whole bag full of undyed stuff.  I have to admit I was a little worried that I would overstep the bounds of good guest manners….. but Kate was super welcoming and said I could dye any and all.

Let’s start with the yarn I was there to “help” dye — Iachos in the Styx colorway (newest iteration). Throughout the afternoon of dyeing, please know that the majority of work and so forth was Kate’s — she directed me and let me play, and I’d stammer out “maybe green?” and she’d produce a magical deep emerald color. So, credit goes to her in all cases — any mistakes are mine to own.

My two skeins of Styx:

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Next up: my farmer’s marker wool. I’ve had it since 2009, and I always wanted it to be robin’s-egg blue with brown spots (you know, like the real eggs).  That’s all I had to say, to turn this …

9215 Signal Rock Farm undyed wool yarn

… into this:

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It’s like magic! 🙂  I put on the brown spots myself, with a juice box straw.

I brought six skeins of KP Shimmer in a … shall we say, “difficult” colorway: Grape Hyacinth  Quick side story … some months ago, a totally unrelated person gave me five skeins of this exact colorway.  She had swatched with it and been unable to find anything that worked.  Laceweight yarn, with short color repeats of deep purple, bright white, and anemic mint green:

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It’s one of those colorways that looks ok on the skein, but the color repeats are so short, and the contrast so great … it’s really hard to knit it into anything that looks remotely nice. I read through the project notes for Grape Hyacinth Shimmer, and was shocked by the amount of frogging and the number of people who planned to over-dye the finished object.  I also didn’t find any projects that looked amazing … bah.  So, those five skeins went to “for sale or trade”

1330 rehomed lace yarn

Goodbye, crazy yarn! May you turn magically into something pretty.

Imagine my consternation and surprise when I opened up a big bag of free “good” yarn from a friend …. and saw six more skeins of this obstinate colorway. What?? I guess no one knows what to make of it. Thanks to the wonders of an expert dyer, I was able to turn this …

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… into this:

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Now I have 2600+ yards of totally pretty lace-weight yarn. If I can track down my copy of the Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting, perhaps this will become a Rose of England.

One important thing I learned from Kate is that superwash wool takes up dye like it’s going out of style, and untreated wool just lies there, looking wan and hopeless.  I really, really lie the “Ashes of Roses” look to this roving …

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… but you’d never guess we’d dipped it in rich purple and black. For the other hank of roving, Kate sent me home with a bottle of green dye. I put the roving in a bowl full of dye and microwaved it for 8 minutes. Heat did the trick!

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Last but not even a little bit least, my kona sportweight — totally beautiful.

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Thank you Kate! It was awesome to dye with you.

FO Friday: Handspun Chicken Mittens

I made something out of yarn that I made!

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Project: Handspun Chicken Mittens

Pattern: Fried Chicken Mittens

Designer: Ellen Mason

Available: FREE! on Ravelry

Yarn: my very first handspun yarn

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Fried Chicken Mittens is my very favorite “just a mitten” pattern.  The way the thumb increases are done make for a superior fit!  I knew I would be a bit short on yardage, and my handspun yarn was in two or three different weights.  I started with the most irregular/bulky/fuzzy yarn at the cuff, and knit less cuff than called for.  I knit the mittens two at a time, so that if I needed to turn them into fingerless mitts, they’d be at the same point.  I joined in the mid-range yarn shortly after the cuff, and then swapped to the best yarn as that ran out.

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I knew I would be cutting it VERY close.

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As you can see, I ended up short by the tip of one thumb.  I stole a bit of yarn from the first batch spun on my new spinning wheel, and called it good.

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FREE Mystery KAL: Lace Shawlette

I am very excited to announce my very first Mystery Knit-Along: Crushed.

As I have mentioned, I am working on a three-pattern collection of lace shawlettes.  Each one is made from a single skein of sock-weight yarn.  I’ve finished the samples and written the patterns for the first two, and I’m in the process of testing them. The third will be done soon.  I will be offering one of the patterns FREE as part of a Mystery KAL during the month of November.

I would like to invite all my readers to join this KAL.  I will be hosting it in the Remily Knits forum on Ravelry.

Mystery KAL icon (300)

Here’s a rough schedule:

  • available now: Pre-Clue (a swatch pattern)
  • Nov 8th: Clue #1 (setup and first few rows)
  • Nov 15th: Clue #2 (main body pattern)
  • Nov 22nd: Clue #3 (border)

Cast-On Monday: Socks That Rock (May 2012 Club Shipment)

The odd-numbered months bring YARN in the mail! Specifically, gorgeous hand-painted sock yarn from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, from their sock club line.  Yay!  I think we’re still in the spoiler period, so I will follow rules and say only that the colorway is beautiful (stash page here), and that I’m doing the not-sock pattern (project page here).  If you click on links, that’s up to you — spoilers abound!

New Pattern Release: Mhara Baby Blanket

Introducing my latest pattern: Mhara Baby Blanket! Mhara means “sea” in Gaelic.

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Pattern: Mhara Baby Blanket

Designer: Rachel Henry (that’s me!)

Available: for $1.99 through Knit Picks IDP or $2.50 on Ravelry

Yarn: Knit Picks Brava Bulky in Tranquil

Design/Skills Needed: This fully reversible baby blanket is worked on the bias in garter stitch. Step-wise increases and decreases are embellished as you go with crocheted waves. Explicit directions for stroller- and crib-sized blankets are given, but the pattern is easily adapted for larger or smaller blankets. This pattern includes complete photo tutorials for the step-wise increases and the crocheted embellishment. For ease of printing, these tutorials appear at the end of the pattern. Experienced knitters may print just page 2 for complete pattern with no extraneous photos or information.

Familiarity with crocheting is helpful, but not necessary. Almost any yarn will work with this pattern, provided you use appropriately-sized needles.

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CO Monday: Emperor’s New Mitts, March 2012 RSC Socks, and Tute Catkin

Last week I received the latest shipment from the BMFA Rockin’ Sock Club! The March 2012 yarn is to DIE for.  Can’t share photos yet, of course, but I will soon!  I’ve decided to make the sock pattern this month — it’s perfect for the yarn.

I also cast on for my very own Catkin! I’ve loved this pattern for quite some time, and I think it will be stunning in Mad Tosh Light in “French Grey” and “Byzantine.”

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I hope everyone in the knitting world took time to cast on yesterday for Louise Zass-Bangham‘s new design, The Emperor’s New Mitts. I did, and I don’t regret it one little bit! I elected to use the recommended yarn, Rumplestiltskin (100% pure spun gold), Unicorn (100% rainbow), and Jason (golden fun fur).  Of course it took extra care and time to place the 3000 gold beads, but I think you would agree that the results are worth it!

Here is Julian modelling my new mitts — very pretty, no?

0918 J blocks photo

New Patterns Released: Twins and Entwined, Cabled Mug Cozies

Announcing my two latest patterns: Twins and Entwined, two cabled mug cozies!  Both are available FREE on Ravelry, so go download a copy today.

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I designed this pair of patterns for my upcoming “Intro to Cabling” class at the Hub Mills Store. The class is two hours long and costs $20.  I’m offering it twice in the near future, on Saturday, April 21st, and Saturday, May 19th, from 10AM – noon.  “Twins” is the simpler of the two patterns, intended for the knitter who is totally new to cables.  “Entwined” is a bit more complex (though not as much as you might think!), meant for a knitter who has done a bit of cabling before, or an adventurous novice.

If you’d like to take my class, call (978) 408-2176 or email yarn@hubmillsstore.com to reserve a seat.

Both cozies take less than 50 yards of worsted-weight yarn, plus two buttons, and can be finished in a single day.  Both are also appropriate for learning how to cable without a cable needle — something I will also teach in class, because I think it makes cabling SO much quicker and easier.

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Zombies Heart Brains: Mini-Skein Swap

I have succumbed to hexipuffs!

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My goal for 2012 is to make one hexipuff each day … but of course I started in February, and sometimes I miss a day, so my tally so far is a mere 20 of 366. I was also hampered by a distinct lack of the right kind of sock yarn.  I have a scrap blankie also in the works, and for that one I am restricting myself to yarn from socks/shawls/etc. that I have actually knit — it is more of a memory blanket, and I love looking at the squares and remembering the projects I made with that yarn.  But, for my beekeeper’s quilt, I’m being a bit snobby — I want to use “fancy” sock yarn only, and have no repeating colors.  It says something about my knitting habits that I was able to make 20 little puffs that meet this requirement, using only what I had lying around. But aren’t they pretty?

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In order to get enough different yarns, I have jumped down the mini-skein swap rabbit hole. The basic concept is that 19 or 20 mad knitters totally sane people agree to each take a perfectly good 100-gram skein of sock yarn and chop it up into 5-gram miniature skeins, good only for hexipuffs, blankie squares, and the like.  I’ve signed up for six different swaps so far, and the first batch arrived yesterday, hooray! This swap had a “rainbow” theme — each swapper signed up for a color and went from there. Joy! I actually knit four hexipuffs last night (the last four from my own stash), so that I could give myself permission to start in on this batch.

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Which all brings me to … Zombies Heart Brains! I’m hosting a swap!  The theme, naturally, is zombies — all kinds.  As of this writing, I have filled 14 of the 19 slots — which means 5 slots are still open to you, dear reader.  Allow me to tantalize you will some of the yarns already in the swap.  Surely you want 5 grams of each?? 🙂

 

Sock Yarn Review: Socks That Rock

I have knit a lot of socks.  As in, there are 50 pairs of socks on my project page on Ravelry.  That’s not even counting socks that were ornaments.  A lot of these socks were gifts, but I have kept a couple dozen pairs for myself.  I wear pretty much exclusively hand-knit socks, summer and winter.  I put my socks through a LOT — they are worn in hot, sweaty sneakers at outdoor dog agility trials,  in boots on snow-tubing trips, and nearly every day in my favorite pair of black leather shoes.  About the only abuse they don’t get is being worn alone — even indoors, I usually have slippers on my feet. In the beginning, I took sock yarn at it’s word, and I used to machine wash AND dry all my socks with all the rest of the laundry.  Eventually I decided that my socks had a hard enough life already, so now my socks get medium hand-knit treatment: I machine wash them in a separate load on the “hand wash” setting (cold water, intermittent agitation), and I hang them on the banister to dry.

I’ve noticed that some brands hold up better than others, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you, dear reader. This post will be the first in a series of sock-yarn reviews. I will address the aspects of sock yarn that are meaningful to me: beyond the initial pleasure of creating the socks, how do the socks wear?  Propensity to felt, pill, fade, or shrink can ruin a beautiful pair of socks, and I’ve had a few brands become card-board stiff over time. Please allow that this is only my personal, unscientific opinion!  All usual disclaimers apply.

The target this week is one of my favorite brands of sock yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight and Socks That Rock Mediumweight.  For the last few years, I’ve been a member of the BMFA sock club, which ships yarn and two gorgeous full-color patterns every other month.  I adore their base yarn — a tightly spun, springy fiber — and their dyer creates vibrant, gorgeous colorways.  It is a joy to knit with, whether in plain stockinette, lace, or cables. Here are the seven pairs of socks that I’ve knit over the last few years with STR, along with the date I finished the project:

Cascadia (Feb 2010)

Still soft, mild pilling and felting (toe and heel), mild shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:

9655 Cascadia socks9630 Happy Go Lucky Cascadia

Now:

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Secret Garden (April 2010):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), mild shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

9900 BMFA STR March 2010 socks

Now:

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Firecracker Corners (Jan 2011):

Mostly soft, moderate pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

1339 firecracker socks

Now:

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Jan 2011 RSC Socks (Jan 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:
1939 Jan 2011 STR Social Network

Now:
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Mar 2011 STR (May 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading. ALSO — I had to darn a hole in the leg already, and another hole has appeared near the cuff. I think this is a fluke for this particular colorway (possibly even just this skein), as I have never had any trouble with holes/breakage with this yarn before or since.

Then:
2357 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Socks

Now:
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Problem:
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July 2011 STR Socks (Oct 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading.

Then:
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Now:
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Shoreward Socks (Jan 2012):

Still soft, no pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, no fading. (These socks have only been worn a handful of times, and likely will fade and pill at least a little bit.)

Then:
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Now:
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Conclusions:

Softness: 5/5

Pilling: 4/5

Felting: 4/5

Shrinking: 4.5/5 (do not wash/dry with regular laundry)

Fading: 3/5 (some colorways fade more than others — red/pink seem particularly vulnerable)

 

 

Average: 4.1/5

I will continue to buy STR yarn. I don’t think it holds up well to regular laundry treatment, despite being “superwash.”  After I switched to gentler laundering, I no longer had a problem with shrinkage.  I expect all my socks to felt a bit at the toes and heel (tennis shoes! summer!), and pilling a bit is also expected.  I have been disappointed with how faded some of the socks became — after all, the gorgeous colorways are a big part of the draw for STR yarn.  I would be hesitant to buy a lot of red/pink yarn from them (although I still love getting it in the sock club!).  I may try a vinegar bath with any future red/pink colorways.