Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hey Hey, Let's Knit a Beret!

Okay, so it all started three days ago when we were loading the kids into the truck for a jaunt up to chilly Port Townsend. Everybody had a warm hat except me. I was reduced to wearing the kitty hat I knit for my 10 year old when she was a toddler. This was ridiculous. I grabbed some yarn I spun and dyed with madder root and whatever needles I thought might work and knit my way up to P.T. and back. I kind of winged this hat at the beginning then when I got home I found a pattern I could loosely follow for the remainder of the hat (namely the decreases).

I must say, I have Elizabeth Zimmermann to thank for this fearless leap into knitting improvisation. I love that woman.
So here's what I did:
I did a gauge swatch (thank you, Mrs. Zimmermann) to figure out how many stitches to the inch I got from my yarn with my needles. 4 stitches to the inch. Okay, I knew I was going for a 21 inch circumference around my head so I just multiplied 4x21=84. That was how many stitches I cast on. I worked a garter stitch brim for about an inch then doubled my stitches all at once by M1 (knit in the front and back of the same stitch) all the way around . Now I had 168 stitches and I just knit in the round like crazy until I determined it was time to decrease. From then on I pretty much followed the instructions at Purl Bee.
When I was done the thing pretty much looked like a shapeless mass:

So I washed it , spun it out and shaped it around a large dinner plate to dry into a beret-like shape. Here's a top view. I like the irregularities in the dyed wool:

Then I put it on a rack over the wood cookstove to dry more quickly. I'm impatient, I know.

I stuck a pin on the thing and viola! A hat! I may have to needle felt a flower or something to decorate it but for now this will do. And now I have something warm to wear that doesn't' have a kitty on it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

To Dye For

Omigosh. How much fun is it to dye yarn? Lots! How scary is it to risk ruining the wool you spent hours spinning and plying? A bit...

My friend Mary and I have knitting and dyeing aspirations for the new year. Thanks to a couple Christmas gift certificates (thanks Connie and Mom!) I signed up for a beginning Fair Isle class at our wonderful local Churchmouse Yarn and Teas. I needed a few colored yarns for the class so I thought I'd try dyeing my yarn with Wilton Food Colors. They're concentrated, they're safe, they're color fast and they're cheap ($1.49 each at Wal Mart). What's not to like?
I started with Shetland roving I spun and triple-plied. I thought the grey wool would keep the colors a little muted. Yeah, right. Here's the yarn in a burgundy dyebath mixed with a little lemon yellow. I wasn't sure about it and almost threw it out but my 10 year old encouraged me to "be bold!" so I did and plunked my yarn in anyway. It's not the true red I was looking for but I like it. Look at the dye bath color opposed to the yarn color. Weird... The exhausted dyebath was totally green as I poured it down the sink.
This is Wilton's Royal Blue. I'm taking this off the heat now to cool. I think it's about done.
And this is Wilton's Lemon Yellow.

Here they are in the colander along with a ball of the undyed original grey yarn.

Here they are all done, cooled, rinsed and hung up to dry. They're a little bold for my taste and next time I will use less dye so the colors are a little softer but all in all I think they will be fun to work with. I think I'll dye another skein a little lighter shade of this blue and then I'll be done for my class. There are some great articles at Knitty about this process and I highly recommend them.
I encourage you to try this. It's really fun!