Category Archives: Knitting & Ravelry

Dyeing Wool Yarn with Easter Egg Dye (A tutorial)

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When you are an artist, nearly everything has the potential to be an art material. We dyed some easter eggs on Saturday and there was some leftover dye. Which was obviously a great excuse to dye some yarn.

These are 100% wool yarn, dyed using a basic set of PAAS easter egg tablets made up according to instructions: 1/2 c warm water and a tablespoon of vinegar. You can use them following the same basic formula as dyeing with koolaid or food coloring: color + acid + heat.  After we finished dyeing a dozen eggs, I dropped these mini skeins into the coffee cups full of dye and microwaved each one for 2 minutes. I know that wool needs more heat than eggs would be happy with in order to make that dye permanent.

After you microwave it, let them sit on the counter until the liquid is room temperature and the dye is exhausted (ie the water is clear). Don’t skip the heat step, or these colors will be much more likely to fade and bleed. No stirring or playing with the fibers when they are hot, if you don’t want it to felt. And this will only work with yarn that is wool or another protein fiber: silk, alpaca, llama etc.

These are super saturated colors because I had a lot of dye and not very much yarn. I estimate that you could dye up to .5 oz of yarn with 1 tablet and get colors this intense. The more yarn you add, the more pastel the color will be.

For a few, I mixed the colors just to see what else I could get. The top 6 colors are the plain tablet, the bottom four are a 50/50 mix of two colors, which I poured into an extra coffee cup. Interestingly, the green was an aqua turquoise color on my eggs, but true emerald green on the yarn.

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I am sure the PAAS tablets are on clearance at the grocery store today, so I am planning a walk over there to stock up on a few more boxes.  Just because this is fun.  The same thing goes for yarn dyed this way as I said in my yarn dye/food coloring tutorial: Your colorfastness may vary. I wouldn’t make an heirloom knit with yarn dyed this way, but it is super fun for a hat or mittens that will get you through a few winter seasons.

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Mini Mitten Ornaments: A free knitting pattern

mittens2I originally posted these several years ago, but it suddenly occurred to me that I had better get moving if I wanted to get some holiday crafting finished and that all of you might be in the same boat.  These are a really fun way to use up scrap yarn and they go fast.  In fact if you have taken one of my Handpainted Skeins or Intro to Dyes classes, these are perfect for the mini skeins you dyed.  They are also super cute knit as pairs of mittens and attached together with a string. So if you need a little gift for someone or a little holiday decor of your own, here you go.  And happy knitting!


I wanted to knit some tiny mitten ornaments and although I found all kinds of cute patterns using sock weight and other tiny yarn, I didn’t come up with anything for worsted weight, which I have oodles of scraps of.  These mittens knit up in about 15 minutes and are simple enough that you can add stripes and some simple patterns if you are so inclined.  The finished mitten is about 3 inches long.

Materials: Worsted weight yarn scraps, four size 3 DPN, yarn darning needle

CO 12 stitches. (I like them divided evenly on 3 needles.)

K1 P1 ribbing for 6 rows.

K1 P1 KFB P.  Repeat 2 more times.  You now have 15 stitches.

Knit 8 rows.

K2tog, K 3.  Repeat 2 more times.  (12 stitches)

Knit 1 round.

K2tog, K2.  Repeat 2 more times.  (9 stitches)

Knit 1 round.

K2tog, K1.  Repeat 2 more times.  (6 stitches)

Cut your yarn.  Thread the end through a yarn needle.  Pass the yarn end through the last 6 stitches.  Pull tight and then pull the end to the inside of the mitten.  (I don’t weave in ends on this, I just stuff the yarn tails to the inside of the mitten.)

To make the thumb, you will do a short section of i-cord.

CO 3 stitches.  Knit 4 rows of i-cord.

K2tog, Knit 1.  Cast off, leaving about a 6 inch tail.

Thread the end of the yarn through your needle.  Slip the yarn end down through the center of the i cord and use the end to stitch the thumb in to place. A couple of stitches will do it.  I put the bottom (cast on) edge of the i-cord even with the top of the ribbing.

Bury all the ends of yarn inside the mitten.

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Upcoming Class: Handpainted Skeins

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These are snapshots of the student’s work in progress from the last time I taught this class (plus some finished yarn balls).  On Sunday October 25, I am teaching “Handpainted Skeins” for the Weavers Guild of MN.  We are going to focus on dyeing yarns made from animal fibers: wool, alpaca etc and some nylon. I teach how to dye several styles of skeins in this class.  Semi-solids are basically one color but have variations of light and dark.  Self-striping are divided up and dyed in sections so that you can get a striped effect when you knit it up.  Confetti skeins have lots of different colors but can read as one color from a distance.  We will also talk about some techniques for overdyeing, both starting with yarns that aren’t white and learning to overdye as a way of creating a cohesive colorway.  It is a fun fun class and you will leave with several mini-skeins (which we use to practice technique and test out colors) and then you will have time to dye 1-2 of your own skeins.  Class will be held at the Weavers Guild.  (It’s past the deadline to register online, but you can call and still get in!)

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“Stuck in a rut” or “Variations on a theme”?

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I have had scissors on the brain lately.  Maybe because there are always several pairs of them on the dining room table.  (And yet, never any when you go to look for them.  But that’s a rant for another post.)

I started drawing this set of scissors to make earrings.  I do a set of fiber art related jewelry for a local shop.  Button earrings, zipper earrings, earring made from snaps.  And I wanted to add something new to the collection.  I love making laser cut doo-dads and I had a brainstorm to make little tiny scissors from mirrored acrylic that look like Gingher sewing shears.

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Those were so much fun that I also drew some little embroidery scissors and stork embroidery scissors.  I did all the artwork in Adobe Illustrator because I was making vector shapes.  That’s what you need for laser cutting.  But the cool thing about vectors is that once you get them drawn, you can scale them up and down without anything getting rough and jaggedy.  So then I thought, since I have these scissors I should also make a fabric design.  So that’s the design at the top.  Which I think will make really great project bags and I might even make a t-shirt.  Why not?

So then I made it in another colorway.  And then I got on a roll and did a knitting design to match the style of those scissors.  And then a design for lacemakers with bobbin lace and tatting.  (I get a lot of requests for lacemaking buttons through my Etsy shop, so I know they are out there looking for things!)  And then when I showed off these designs to a friend at Textile Center, they gave me a hard time about not having a design for crochet and weavers, so those are in the works.  I’m even considering a skirt design all made of scissors shapes.

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So one drawing of one pair of scissors has now turned into 9 different designs and more in the works.  Stuck in a rut?  I don’t think so. By taking the time to draw those vector shapes, I have now added them to my toolbox.  It’s like finding a new color in the crayon box.  I did the tedious work of making the vector shapes but now I can just drop them in anywhere and play with them.  I am sure that I will get tired of them at some point, but for now the variations seem to just keep coming.

Before and after: hand spun yarn

I bought myself a present of a pretty skein of handspun yarn at the Weavers Guild fiber fair…

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I started knitting it at a band concert…

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And I finished it last night. Pattern is Multnomah.  The yarn is by a local spinner (who seems to not have an online presence) and it’s merino.  It blocked out really nice and smooth and just barely fit on my dining room table.

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Yarn bombing & knitting “on the clock”

I get teased a lot at my day job for being a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to “yarn bombing”.  If you aren’t familiar, yarn bombing is the art of wrapping, covering, or decorating a public space with knit/crocheted “graffiti”.  There is a book written about it (probably more than one):  Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti.  I interviewed the authors of this book once and they are delightful.  There’s an interesting article about yarn bombers here and a very different take on it here (which I find myself nodding at alot as I read).

Yarn bombing can be cool and whimsical and fun.  Just check out a few photos I found online:

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I have very mixed feelings about the “art” of yarn bombing.  Yes, it’s fun.  I get that. I have promised to work with a group of kids yarn bombing some things this summer as part of a community art project.  And I am sure they will have fun.

From the article I mentioned above, there is a quote that stood out for me.  I am not sure I agree with the “beautiful decay” remark, but:

“Yarn bombing exemplifies the ‘do it for the photo’ method of street art. There’s a disingenuousness. … It’s bright and colorful for a day, then it looks gross and someone else has to clean it up.” And it’s no beautiful decay, like the withering of wheatpastes or chipping paint. Personally, I always feel a bit uncomfortable with the awareness that someone put in a disproportionate amount of hours to make such a short-lived mess.

And that is the part that makes the knitter in me just cringe.  Let me explain.

untitled-2This is a baby sweater that I knit for a friend.  It’s little and is about the simplest baby sweater pattern out there.  I know you non-knitters will scoff, but trust me that this has nothing complicated about it, just swapping colors every couple of rows and 3 different stitches.  It’s worsted weight yarn (which is the standard kind of medium weight yarn) so in sweater terms it knits up very fast.  This sweater took about 15 hours to knit and is about $25 in materials.  I wasn’t working to break any speed records and I was probably reading a book as I knit, so it wasn’t my fastest project.

But let’s put that in the perspective of yarnbombing a telephone pole.  This little sweater would pretty much fit right around a telephone pole and cover about 12 inches of it.  So let’s do the math.  If I want to cover a section of the telephone pole as tall as I am (which is a respectable amount of yarn bombing), that’s 75 hours.  Forget the sleeves and the button bands and maybe we’re down to 10 hours for this little bit of sweater knitting.  That’s still 50 hours to cover that telephone pole and $125 worth of yarn.  Even using inexpensive acrylic yarn (which is more typical I think for yarn bombing) and we have the cost down to $25 in materials, but the knitting experience has gotten a whole lot less fun.  Acrylic has it’s uses, but it isn’t nearly as fun to knit with as far as I am concerned.

I can tell you that as a knitter, I have a heck of a lot more things I would like to spend 50 or 100 hours working on.  Now I notice in looking at those yarn bomb photos I posted above, most of those are crocheted.  Crochet (by all accounts) goes faster row for row than knitting.  I am not a fantastic crocheter, so I can’t really compare apples to apples.  I read recently that crochet takes 3 times more yarn.  Even if we assume that you can go twice as fast, that’s still 25 hours to make that yarn bombed telephone pole and 3 times the materials.

And that quote that I mentioned above –  she’s not wrong.  It’s going to get wet and dirty and stretched out and faded and not so whimsical in not too much time.

So here’s my question to you.  Would you put in the time?  If you had 50 hours that you could dedicate to a project, what would YOU choose?  Is it the process?  Or the product, no matter how ephemeral?