Monday, April 21, 2008


I knit myself up a quick, easy and fun project over the weekend called the Audrey Turtleneck Shell. The pattern and the yarn are from Lion Brand - the yarn is Fettuccini in Coppertone:

I got an incredible deal on the yarn. I found it at Big Lots for $1.50 a ball - normally it's $9. So for just a dollar and a half more than the normal price, I was able to get enough to make the entire thing!

I also modified the pattern a little - normally the turtleneck is 10 inches long, but I made it about 6 inches instead. I felt it would be too bulky and goofy looking if I went the full length, and at the same time it's still long enough that I can roll it down.

The only problem I've had with it so far is that the armholes stretched out some when I washed it last night, so I will need to reshape it again. Otherwise it's surprisingly light for a bulky wool yarn and it's a lot of fun to wear.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

More Fun with Kool-Aid

I decided to try my hand at being a little more creative with the Kool-Aid dyeing last night and this morning... I've spun about a pound and a half of the Corriedale I got to make my husband a sweater using my Gratia wheel so far and hubby mentioned recently that he'd like some color in it:

My husband likes tie-dye so I thought I'd give that a go... and I decided to try the microwave technique this time, not really following any directions in particular but going off of what I observed using the stovetop technique. I figure if I botched the yarn I can just make a brown shade by mixing the different Kool-Aid colors together and cover my tush :-)

By the way if my site is the first you've come across in researching Kool-Aid dyeing techniques, bear in mind that it works with protein fibers only, such as wool, soy, or silk. Cellulose and artificial fibers such as cotton or acrylic will not take Kool-Aid dye. The same goes for if you want to color using easter egg dyes.

If you're working with a blend such as wool and cotton or wool and acrylic, the wool fibers will take the dye. It is a combination of the acidic Kool-Aid package mix and the protein in the fibers that make this work together. There are tons of other sites out there that discuss dyeing techniques for all different fiber types and I recommend doing lots of homework so you can decide what technique you want to use and how you want to dye your yarn or fiber.

So here's how I did my Kool-Aid wool, "tie-dye" style. First I put the yarn I'd spun in a resealable bag with just enough water to get it wet and then microwaved it until it was really hot, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes:

Next, I created some colors that I thought would work well within what my husband likes. I made a dark orange/terra cotta shade by mixing Orange and Black Cherry, an olive green using Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade with Orange, and then varying shades of indigo blue and violet with the ice blue raspberry and/or Berry Blue mixed with Grape... the ice blue turned out more purple shades with the grape, whereas the berry blue made more of a blue/indigo color. Here you can see me prepping the colors - I added water that I boiled in the microwave first, which seemed to help the mix dissolve better:

I then took an old oral medicine syringe and squirted/injected the colors into the yarn. The syringe gave me control over where and how much I could put the colors; if you're just working with one color then you can just dump the entire container into the bag and massage it through:

I found that if I didn't take care to inject color exactly where I wanted it, then it would leave undyed patches. Given I was going for a tie-dyed look, that actually worked out very well, but if you're wanting uniform color make sure you get the dye everywhere you need it to go.

From there I microwaved the yarn again to get it very hot. This time because the yarn was already warm from the first nuking, it only needed about 90 seconds... and it comes out scorching so make sure you are using oven mitts to pull it out of the nuker:

Oh and unlike what you see me doing, I recommend using rubber gloves for the process. Kool-Aid is a bear to wash out of your skin, and if you have any cuts or scratches on your hands, the acidity from the Vitamin C in the mix really stings.

After microwaving the dyed yarn I let it sit for a while... the yarn is so hot it'll cook itself. I liked that over the stovetop process because then you can just walk away, you don't have to babysit it. But if you have little ones like I do keep it out of reach - I know I'm being annoying but I can't emphasize enough how hot the yarn gets.
Additionally you will need to massage the yarn from time to time to make sure it continues absorbing the color, so again, keep the oven mitts handy.

When the yarn finishes absorbing the color the water is virtually clear:

At that point I squeezed out the excess water as much as I could. I suggest opening the bag and letting the yarn cool a few minutes, but if you're impatient like me you can just don the oven mitts and squeeze it out while holding the bag open upside down.

From there I hung the yarn to dry:

All right, so I use the rack where we store our mops and brooms to dry my yarn and our calendar is still on February. I have a small place and it's been busy. Work with me...

After the yarn drip-dried for a while, I re-wound it to help disperse the moisture, get some air in between the strands, then put them on a towel in the sun to dry. They're still sitting on the back of my couch, making the house smell fruity... so far my cats seem to understand their normal sun spots are taken and are dozing elsewhere.

My husband is admiring his yarn every time he walks by; he really likes the colors I got out of what I did. I also experimented with mixing things a little differently with various skeins, having the pretreated yarn be wetter or dryer before coloring, and also with sprinkling the dry mix onto the yarn after coloring it but before putting it in the microwave.

These experiments resulted in some color variations as you can probably see, but I think they'll all still go together well when I knit hubby's sweater. I also did try tying off parts of some skeins prior to dyeing to get more of the tie-dyed look and that gave me some nice white bands here and there.

My almost four year old son seemed to show some interest in what I was doing too. If he were older I would have had him help me with the painting process (not with cooking though), but between it being a really nice day outside and his preferring tire swings and mud, he's got his prerogatives :-)

Oh and by the way - yes, I do have a large stash of Kool-Aid, your eyes did not deceive you in previous photos:

I somehow got lucky when I hit our local Big Lots last night. They had boxes of the stuff, 50 packs for 5 dollars - I calculated that to come out to 10 cents a pack, what you'd pay for the generic stuff on a good day. So I stocked up and now I've got enough to keep things colorful for a long time.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Happy Trails...

Hope you're all ready for a long post with lots of pictures. I just returned last night from a trip out to California, where I got to see my daughter go through Confirmation and spent time with her.

We enjoyed our time together, which included an overnighter up in Tehachapi. First, we visited the California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster:

By the way, this is THE time of year to go. As you can see the scenery is almost surreal - the hills are intensely bright orange from all the poppies in bloom, and with the blue sky it makes for an incredible contrast. The pictures we took just don't do it justice at all, you really have to go and see it for yourself. They are also going to have a Poppy Festival the weekend of the 19th at a park in Lancaster that will have festivities, arts and crafts and more.

We then got to see a train go through the Tehachapi Loop:

Finally, we saw the big cats at the exotic feline compound in Rosamond - this serval was a bit friendlier than the bobcat that hissed at us when we tried to take his picture:

We also visited Tehachapi's famous Apple Shed restaurant and gift shop for lunch, where my daughter picked herself up some of their well-known fudge. I am not sure if I like how they've rearranged things since they got new management a couple of years ago but it is still a fun place to visit.

We also indulged in our spinning and needlework aplenty. We found a spinning supplies place in Van Nuys called Stick & Stone where we got an incredible deal - all their fibers and yarn are 70% off right now as part of a spring sale. They were pretty picked over by the time we got there but we found some nice roving nonetheless, and there's still some good stuff left, so if you're out in that area make sure you hurry and grab what they've got before it's gone!

Oh and I also suggest that you call them before you go. The owner told us that she isn't running normal business hours on some days, but if you call ahead of time like we did she will keep the store open for you.

We also visited Skein out in Pasadena. I picked up a pair of handbag handles and a small pack of roving from them. They also had a small knitting group going on while we were there.

I used the handles to create a handbag for my daughter as her Confirmation gift. I knit the bag using circular needles and yarn I spun on my Gratia wheel using Sullivan's roving pack in Heritage colors. My daughter watched me make it but didn't know it was hers until the very end so she was very pleasantly surprised when I handed it to her :-)

I also learned to use Kool-Aid as a dye the right way - when I did my Blue-faced Leicester roving a while back I didn't realize that I needed to follow some important steps, which left my wool on the pale side... mind you I still like how it looks, but this time I got a more vivid color. I found Knitty and yarngirl both had good suggestions for dyeing with Kool-Aid.

I also decided to spin the roving first and then dye it as yarn. When I did the roving first it made the wool kink and stiffen, which makes it harder to draft while spinning. Also dyeing it after spinning helped set the twist.

Here are my results using three packs of grape Kool-Aid on an ounce and a half of roving with varying natural shades that I spun on my Louet Octagon drop spindle:

Oh and yes, it smells as intense as it looks. I took it home with me in a ziploc bag in my carryon and I could still smell the grape through the bag.

My daughter and I also took some yarn she'd spun on her drop spindle and used lemon-lime on it. I don't have any pictures of the end results but it turned out this fantastic bright green - so fun! I'm hoping when she and her Dad get the disc together they've promised me of her pictures from Tehachapi that she'll include a shot of it.

As always my trip to California was too short and it's never easy leaving. It was my home most of my life, and it's always hard to say goodbye to my daughter until I see her again. But hubby has been talking about having all of us go and visit again in the fall, and I will get to see my daughter in the summer... here's hoping I'll have enough time off down the line and that the months in between go quickly.