Preparing for winter

Scarf and gloves from hand-dyed wool.

Every year, around autumn, I start thinking “Man, I could really use a replacement for item X”. And like always, I start but don’t finish, loose interest in it and it ends up in the pile of hibernating items or it gets frogged.

This year, I’m aiming for a head start. While I’m still thinking about what I’ll make for Christmas, I’ll make everything else.

On the list are: a pair of light gloves, a pair of double knitted fingerless mittens for over the light gloves when it gets a little chillier, a hat, a shawl/scarf, a hoodie, pyjama pants, a pair of pants, a sweater and add to the never ending pile of socks.

As you can see in the picture above I’ve already started and finished: a pair of gloves and a shawl. Both items are knit from the same wool (undyed sock yarn, 80% wool/20% nylon), which I hand-dyed using acid dyes & my microwave oven. The colors didn’t exactly came out the way I wanted, but were close enough for me to still be happy. And since I’m not about to waste any yarn, I’m going to use it all!

I started on the mittens 3 times now, but frogged them… first I had selected the wrong yarn (it was gorgeous and handspun by my mother but the wrong choice for the project), then I tried out the double knitting and decided on a different tactic for the ribbing around the wrist, and then I wrongly decided I needed to cast on less stitches than last time, and it ended up too tight… so it’s frogged for a third time and I’ll get to it… after the hoodie.

The left shoulder of the hoodie in dark purple merino.

I found this hoodie on ravelry a while back  and I bought it and printed it a while back because I love the big cable on it and the hood… That being said, I’m heavily adapting the pattern because I don’t want the waist shaping & fit, I’m using a different yarn and I decided I wanted to use the measurements I used for my fisherman’s sweater (which I love and adore because it’s naturally dyed, handspun and knitted by me, and it was frankly totally uncomplicated to knit).

And when I was knitting yesterday, I decided I would go crazy doing the small cable on the front center and back center of the hoodie and traded it for moss stitch because I’ve got a thing for moss stitch…

The color though, doesn’t come up right with my awful phone camera… I already edited it a bit to reflect the colour a bit better but, honestly, it should be a dark purple/aubergine.

The yarn is merino from the sales bin, I grabbed 12 balls (miraculously from the same dye-lot) and dashed for the register… the label said 10 balls for a sweater and I counted two for the hood… and now I’m crossing my fingers hoping that I’ll have enough yardage. A part of me wants to go back and pick up two more… just to be safe. But then I’m thinking, what am I going to do with the leftover yarn?

So I’m knitting. I haven’t finished my sample piece on my drawloom yet (which I was going to this summer). I’m working on a pair of summer pants that’s another trial for the winter piece I’ll be making. And I’ve got spinning to finish. God knows when I’ll get it all done because school is starting again next week, but I’m hopeful.

Preparing for winter

The C of Red

Red wool, dyed with cochineals and/or madder root.

I’ll be honest, this picture is not an adequate representation of the actual colors, there’s a) my color perception that loves reds, b) the accuracy of my camera and c) the calibration of my screen. Anyway, I did my best, in different lightings and this is the least bad result.

But enough about the quality of my photos, what on there is what is important: dyed fiber!

After reading weird weekends’ post about crushing bugs, I had to go and get me some bugs. Yes, as a vegetarian, who rescues spiders from the kitchen sink, I went to go buy cochineals to dye with.

I left with 10 grams of cochineals, some Allum and Tartaric Acid, and an unreasonable excitement about the future crushing of already dead bugs.

At school, in the module dyeing and binding off of last year, I had the chance of dyeing with cochineals on wool, or at least see my teacher do it. She obtained a bright fuchsia, which isn’t really my color, definitely not on its own. So I classified cochineals as something I would never dye with unless I there was nothing else available. But seeing weird weekends post, I had to change my mind. That red!

That being said, two weeks ago, I had to stay at my parents’ place to babysit their pets. So I packed my bugs, mordants, fiber and got busy. I stayed true to weird weekends’ recipe when it comes to timing and the mordants I used. But I wanted to try dyeing two shades so I used following mordant proportions 30%/20% (Allum/Tartaric Acid) and 40%/10%.

I made four portions of my wool, 2 of them went in the 30%/20% mordant and the other two in the 40%/10% mordant. I put one portion wool prepared with each mordant in the the cochineals dye bath and then put the other two in a dye bath with madder root.

In the picture it is hard to see but the two sachets are 2 different shades of red, one is more burgundy and one a little more orange-red. The 40%/10% and 30%/20% wool in cochineals following recipe I’ve linked when it comes to timing. I did filter the cochineals with a coffee filter before I put the wool in!

Now the top strands are madder root. When those two came out of the dye bath at the same time the cochineal strands did, there was no difference between the two strands although the mordants had been different. They also came out lighter than I intended, so I decided that they simply hadn’t been in the dye bath long enough. Nonetheless, I put them to dry next to the cochineals and went about preserving the dyebath I had made.

Because I hadn’t put in any salt or acid in the dye bath it was good to be used again, so I put the residue from the coffee filter back into each dye bath and canned them. (The word canner makes me think of a tin can, which is not what I used). Now my jars were sealed, I stored them at home in my cupboard, awaiting the arrival of my own canner.

Lo and behold:

Now the canner had arrived and since I still wasn’t very happy with the madder root dyed wool, I grabbed my gloves and got back to it.

Firstly, I made some oxalic acid by boiling the rhubarb leaves. A small part of the acid I mixed with water and put one part of the madder root dyed wool in. That jar, together with the jar with acid I put in the canner for an hour and then left them out on the counter to cool down. The next day, when the wool had dried again (without rinsing), I put it in the cochineals dye bath, the other strand that I had left untouched, I put in a nylon stocking and put it in the madder root dye bath (with the madder root itself still in it). Both dye baths I warmed to 60°C for one hour and then left it until I came back home from work. Then I warmed it again for an hour, again left it to cool and then I pulled the wool out of both baths.

The result are the two strands at the top of my first picture. The strand I dyed with madder root only is the lightest color, but still I obtained a deep orange bordering red. The strand I dyed with cochineals after, became a shade of red lighter than the orange-red I had obtained with the cochineals only, but still darker than the madder root only one.

So, 4 shades of red, ranging from deep orange to burgundy, which I’m very pleased with. Hopefully sometime in the following weeks I’ll find some time to spin it as well :)

The C of Red

The shawl that wouldn’t end

It took a long time. It was a struggle to finish it. And now it is done.

Isager Tokyo Shawl

I’m glad it is over. It feels like I’ve knitted for ages on this shawl but my first post on this blog tells me that it has only been a month or so, it definitely feels longer.

I blocked it sometime last week and I’ve woven in the ends this weekend. And now I’m contemplating on what I’m going to do with it. I’m partial to keeping it, since it feels warm and woolly but it’s stil very light and shawl-y. I’m 100% sure I will never wear it as a shawl, maybe I’ll hide in it when I feel chilly. But it -most likely- will never leave the house if I keep it.

I might try blocking it properly once I’ve found a surface that will easily let me do that. Maybe then I’ll consider giving it to someone who I know will treasure it for what it is worth.

Anyway, once you understand the badly written dutch pattern, the shawl is an easy knit, suitable for knitting meetups, tv-watching and whatnot. Zero concentration needed. The only thing I’ve done is put a stitchmarker  on every k2tog on the row, so I wouldn’t forget to do that. Not that I never forgot and never had to go back and fix it. But at least the stitchmarker made me remember that I had to do something at that point in the row.

But enough about this one. I’m definitely done with it. Now I need something brighter, like the sock yarn that’s been teasing me for a whole month or the better part of the last two weeks, since I’ve gone through my stash. You’ll probably understand that I couldn’t help my self and cast on: one pair of socks (to knit on when commuting), the start of my sock yarn blanket (long term, no deadline project) and a definitely more brightly colored shawl. It’s all fingering weight yarn and exciting! More on this soon!

The shawl that wouldn’t end


I haven’t written in a while, but to start off the new blog, I’ll talk about this new shawl I’m knitting. It’s a matter of rolling back into it.

Now, this shawl we’re talking about, was love at first sight. I was unsuspectingly visiting a yarn shop in Leuven, when it happened. I stepped outside, saw my mother -who had exited earlier- standing at the shop window looking up. And there it was the most interesting piece of knitwear I had seen all day, the Tokyo shawl from Isager.

Isager Spinni & Alpaca


I just had to bring it home! I had already three other projects on the needles (which is against my principles) but I just had to start this one. I opened the package, looked at the instructions and … frowned. The only instructions I had were obviously translated into Dutch, and aside from mentioning color A, B, C and D, which were obviously the Spinni colours, it lacked the information on what the Alpaca yarn was for. Clearly, for the amount of money I paid, a clear pattern was not included.

Ravelry saved me though, people who had knitted it before mentioned you needed to knit the two yarns together, the Spinni and the Alpaca. Eureka!

Now I’m quite a few rows into my knitting, nowhere near finishing, but enjoying it very much. It is quite an easy pattern, once you figured out what the instructions mean.

I can’t wait to show you the end result!