Archive for March, 2007

Missing Tanks

You know spring the bug is biting when my kids pull out their flip-flops, and I start to daydream about knitting sleeveless pieces. Seattle knitters can vouch for the lovely, warm day we had on Wednesday, which made me think about what I would wear this summer when we spend a month in New Hampshire with Lance’s family.

Last spring I knit two great pieces, which I tried to find in my archives today, but they seem to have escaped. The leftover yarn bits from Michelle Sorensen’s Baccarat Player Tank went into the crochet flower scarf. Not only could I not find the page I’m sure I created, I couldn’t find a decent shot that showed the beautiful drape of the yarn and lovely shaping of the garment.


This was the best that I could get. It is hard to believe that I don’t have a better picture because I wore it all summer. I’m tempted to knit another one because it is a bit bigger than I’d like, but still comfortable and elegant.


My other favorite tank last summer was Tivoli by Grumperina. Again, I’m astonished that I don’t have a better picture showing the excellent fit and simple construction of this tank, which couldn’t get any more comfortable. I’m tempted to re-knit this one in a smaller size as well since the ample armholes require layering another tank to prevent unsightly bra exposure.

Any Experienced Wool Dyers?

I’ve made plans to spend this weekend in Vancouver with my mother sewing my cape with the felt blanket I scrounged from Goodwill a few weeks ago. Beautiful beige that it is, I thought it would be perfect for dyeing a bright color using food coloring. I’ve tried Kool-Aid and was only moderately pleased with the results. Food coloring sold as a paste, used by Melissa the Baker, gave me much better results, with the exception of the purple shades.  


Exhibit A: the freshly dyed hanks of Lamb’s Pride dripping dry outside


Exhibit B: a fulled bag that spent five weeks pool side last summer; by the end of Sophie’s swimming lessons, the vibrant magenta and purple tones had all but disappeared, though the turquoise stayed true and the green color was started out pretty subdued.

With that experience under my belt, I’m approaching the process of dyeing my wool blanket with trepidation. I want to make sure that the color is even and that it doesn’t fade. In the past, I dyed the wool on the stovetop in the biggest canning pot I could find. However, I need to leave the blanket in fairly large pieces because of the pattern I’m going to use, so I’m tempted to try dyeing it in the washing machine. Will the hot water that comes out of the faucet be hot enough? Will the dye bath cool off before the dye has set? How much vinegar do I add to a large load in a conventional washing machine? On Pat Sparks’ list, I read a recommendation to add 1/4 cup of vinegar for a quart of water, but how many quarts does my washing machine hold? I’m looking for some feedback and suggestions.

Making a Piece of Flat Felt

I recently posted pictures of a box I created from a piece of flat felt. It seems only right to show the steps involved in creating a piece of flat felt. My method is derived from instructions available on Pat Sparks amazing Feltmaker’s List FAQ. Variations on these instructions are provided in the first two books I picked up: The Art of Feltmakingby Anne Einset Vickerey and The Weekend Crafter: Feltmaking: Fabulous Wearables, Jewelry & Home Accents by Chad Alice Hagen.

Start by laying out a batt with alternating layers of wool roving. If you want a heavy, thick piece, try using a coarse wool like Jacob or Icelandic. I wanted my piece to be supple and pliable enough for sewing, so I used dyed New Zealand merino wool top. I also wanted it to be fairly thin finished, so I created two layers with my green base color, and then added bits of accent color and silk noil. Four layers of merino will give you a thicker fabric that is still very soft. Pat Sparks also has a great reference chart listing how well various wools felt.


Pour a little hot, soapy water over your batt. I use a squeeze bottle because I can control how much water I add to the pile. You can’t really go wrong with soap, but in this very first round, you don’t want the fibers swimming in water as they won’t hold together as you’ve placed them.

With a sheet of bubble wrap under my batt, and a piece on top, I rolled it up using a wooden handle I stole from our croquet set.


Roll this package back and forth until you are bored, which isn’t very long for me.


Unroll the bundle to check on the progress. Tuck in the wispy ends if you want a clean edge, pull and tug it square if you are hoping for a uniform shape, and rotate it 90 degrees to ensure even felting throughout the piece. Add more soap and hot water to help the felting process along; the excess will squeeze out the ends of your bubblewrap bundle.


Repeat the process several times until the piece feels finished. If you plan to cut out the felt to use as inlay, you may want to stop as soon as the fibers start to hold together.


To achieve a firmer piece of fabric, you will need to spend some time fulling it, which for me, means just rolling it up and working it longer; other options include throwing or dropping the piece of felt, or rubbing it on a washboard. 

Fiber Spoils

leaf_vessel_finished.jpgI sold my first piece! For last night’s school auction, I donated a Felting Workshop for six people. To promote my donation, I brought four pieces for the table: the Swirl Vessel and the Orange Leaves Vessel, a pair of slippers and some sweater soap.

When it was time to leave, Lance retrieved my samples and brought them back to the table where I was engrossed in conversation with another parent. She instantly asked if I would be willing to sell one of the pieces. When I agreed, she chose the Orange Leaves Vessel and the sweater soap which had very similar colors of orange, cream and burgundy. Her home is decorated in a very thoughtful, deliberate manner; I’m so pleased she chose to add my vessel to her acquisitions.

As I walked back to the car with Lance, I started to daydream about all the fiber I would buy with my profits.

Sea Felt

Writing this blog can be an odd exercise because I generally lag one day behind my projects. I have exciting news, and several new projects created today, but first I need to write about Saturday’s projects.

After spending the morning at aikido and a toy store hunting for a birthday present, I really wanted to get creative after lunch, but Sophie and Owen wanted my undivided attention. When faced with this recurring tug-of-war, felting is my first choice.


If you can beat ’em, join ’em! Sophie made a treasure box while Owen mashed his favorite colors and played with the warm, soapy water.


I’ve been itching to experiment with layering silk on my pieces since seeing it used here and here. Since I didn’t have any raw silk at home, I added some snips of Fleece Artist Sea Silk yarn, made with wool and seacell, and some recycled sari silk yarn. As I laid out the bits of yarn, it started to remind me of a sea anemone. Afraid the silk wouldn’t adhere to the wool, I layered a few wisps of roving on top of the yarn, though it turns out that was an unnecessary precaution.


The second piece used bits of prefelt cut into leaf shapes layered over little bits of black and brown roving.

These pieces both feel unfinished, but I’m not sure whether to cut and sew them into boxes, or just embellish them further to create wall art.


Part way through the second piece I started to think about my costume for the auction, which was themed “All Aboard”. Lance came home from a shopping foray to Goodwill empty handed. A helpful employee suggested he go as a commercial fisherman since they generally wear jeans and a t-shirt out on the boat. I wanted to wear my new FlipSide hat, which looks a little like a sailor hat, so I decided I would be a sailor overboard with some seaweed wrapped around my neck.


I love the way the recycled sari silk blended with the roving, and the way different colors stand out along the lariat. Today I worked on some ambitious embellishments for the lariat; this piece will be emerging from the sea in the next few days.

Reading Cables

Now that my dining room table is cleared of all sewing detritus, it is safe to pick up my knitting again. Rogue came out of the bag where it had been hiding since Wintergrass.


It took six tries before I was able to get my needles going in the right direction on the right front


(is that stage right, as I wear it; or right as you face me), but once they were properly situated, it started to fly.


I love the simplicity of the side cables.

A friend has started a new bookclub; we held the inaugural meeting of the Knapsu Readers this week. I needed something simple to bring with me, so picked up the sleeve from Café Bastille Cables.


Instead of knitting it flat as I did the last time, I’m trying knitting in the round using magic loop. I’m not sure what will happen when I get to the sleeve cap, nor how hard it will be to seam it in the round to the body of the sweater, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.


Lorette posted a great tip for keeping track of your sleeve increases. Attach the total number of increases to your cast-on tail, and then mark them in your knitting as you go. Keeping track of 9 increases every six rows drives me crazy! Luckily the cable on the sleeve crosses every six rows, so I know my increase is the row after the cable cross, but the markers make it easy to keep track of how many more increases I need.

Show Me Your Undies

Michele’s clothing and underwear drive for Jude-Anne Hospital in Haiti got a super boost this week from some generous readers.


Walkyria sent this box containing several packages of ladies underwear and newborn onesies.


Plus a check from Caroline was spent at Goodwill this morning on eight packages of new ladies’ underwear.


We cleaned out the used underwear section and found two cotton housedresses, not a common item in our market.


A reader asked if I would post pictures of Michele in Haiti. For privacy reasons, she doesn’t have any pictures of the mothers in the hospital. A friend sent me this picture of Michele and Nestor, a Haitian MSF employee in the pharmacy


and a picture of the Jude Anne Hospital.


Thanks for your comments and encouragement. They are greatly appreciated.

Frog Prints

I can’t believe it is finally done. This behemoth took so much longer than Owen’s duvet cover, mostly because I decided to finish all of the internal seams properly by overcasting each one. I also broke up the strips into smaller pieces, creating more of a piece-meal effect.


Overall, I love how the colors work together. The big chenille frog appliqués look great as a counterpoint to the little frog print. The whole piece represents hours and hours of work from tie-dyeing and overdyeing the plain flannel, to harvesting the frogs from a recycled shower curtain, to sewing it all together. I worked for nine straight hours on it Monday (thanks Lance for taking care of dinner, bedtimes and running to Feral Knitters for me), and then another three hours on Tuesday to finish it up (sorry to the Fiber Gallery Knitters for skipping, but I just had to finish).


I’d like to say I’m ready to retire the sewing machine, but I’ve got a pair of jeans ready to patch and the kids have been asking for more lunch bags.

First, it is time to fold some laundry; we’ve been dressing straight out of the laundry hamper for a week because the dining room table was too full of fabric to do any folding. Then maybe pick up the knitting? Oohh. What about some more felting?

Bobbin Winder

My husband, the engineer, decided last night as we were falling asleep, that their had to be a solution that would speed the winding process. Perhaps I haven’t shared the math publicly: our fair isle yarn coop has to wind 24 sets of 320 yarns with 5 yards of Shetland 2 ply on a floss bobbin. This equals a little under 8000 bobbins. Gail has already wound 24 balls, averaging 35 minutes to complete one color. Taking into consideration the winding Gail has done, and four hours at the Greenwood Library on Sunday, we have about 140 hours of winding ahead of us.  


After a bit of fiddling, he settled on a simple solution: a cordless drill and a binder clip.


He started by laying out two pieces of board on either end of his workbench, exactly 2.5 yards apart. My swift is mounted to his router table at the far end of the workbench. After measuring the exact length,


he attached a bobbin to his drill,


and let it rip.

Lance’s bobbin winder brings the task of winding on ball of yarn down to 16 minutes. The only problem with this whole system is that you have to work in the garage and it is 40 degrees outside.

In case you want to see the master in action, I took a 30 second video:

On Your Mark

The first gathering of the Fair Isle Winders was held today at the Greenwood Public Library. Ten knitters arrived with ziploc bags, scissors, umbrella swifts, chocolate, nutter butters, grapes, curry almonds and chocolate almond bark.


Kristi and Angela started by organizing the Jamieson and Smith yarn. They matched all of Linda Pahdoco’s labels with the yarns, and double checked the ball bands against her list to verify that we were all calling the yarn by the same name.


Thank you Linda for your meticulous work. It made everything so much easier to have these neat little packages bundled together.


Gail arrived with 24 balls of Jamieson already wound off into bobbins, earning the “Eager Beaver” award after spending thirteen hours winding before the party had even started. Denise spent the afternoon labeling these sets.


Jessica wound hanks of Jamieson and Smith onto bobbins,


as did Margarite, Marian and Naomi; all three left with a case of tennis elbow from repetitive counting and winding.


Linda K. painstakingly worked on labeling the bobbins so we could keep our Jamieson & Smith away from the Jamieson yarns. Considering the critical mass of knitters we have, don’t you think we could convince one of those two companies to change their name to something a little more original? How about the Shetland Wool Co.?

When it became clear that we could make a significant dent in our inventory if we just had more bobbins, Linda picked up her phone and started calling around to see which of the lys and fabric stores had bobbins in stock. When the Ballard Joann Fabrics said they had some, she dropped everything and ran out. Ten minutes later, she returned with sixteen packs. Yeah Linda K!


Denise brought a birthday present for Angela: a bonsai potato kit. “Everything you need to bonsai a potato (potato not included)”; Denise supplied a sprouting potato so Angela could get started right away.

After four hours, it was time to divide up the rest of the yarn and send everyone home with balls to finish winding at home. We’ll meet again at the same place on April 22nd to organize our complete sets. I’ll be mailing boxes out with yarn, bobbins and labels to those out-of-state knitters who have offered to help. As they say, “…many hands make light work”. Thanks for pitching in everyone!

Flickr Photos