Natural Dyeing Class with Liesel Orend

Last weekend, I participated in a Natural Dyeing Class at Eye Dazzler Alpacas and goodness gracious, I had a ball!

On the first day, we learned about dyeing with Cutch, Madder, Osage orange, Logwood, Brasilwood, Weld, and Cochineal. Above, you see my lovely teacher, Liesel Orend, decanting our Cochineal dye.
Allie holds the strainer for Beth, who is decanting the Madder...
Double, double, toil and trouble... Here you see the backs of Robin, Beth, Marianne, and Liesel, and the front of Molly, and if you look carefully, you'll see Allie... Oh, this was more fun than you might imagine!

Molly pointed out how all of the natural dyes match, and here you can see that she is right!

Yes, I'm proud of all that we learned and yes, I want to show off our little skeins. lol

The next day, we learned about indigo dyeing. In the photo above, Marianne has just removed one of the day-glow-yellow Osage Orange skeins from the indigo pot, and it is quickly turning green. The magic of indigo is that it doesn't come out of the pot dyed blue, it turns blue right before your eyes. It is totally cool!

Here are the skeins, with only the dyes. We started with two different colors of alpaca yarn, white and fawn - the white skeins are on the bottom and the fawn on the top. They are so pretty! I can't get enough of them! Left to right - Osage Orange, Cutch, Cochineal, Weld, Logwood, Madder, Brasilwood.

Imagine how insufferable I'll be with photos of the grandchildren? lol.


Remember this barn from Shearing Day? The snow is all gone now, but the view is still breathtaking. Ahhh.... (click for big)

The happy dyers - left to right - me, Linnea, Beth, Robin, Liesel, Marianne and Molly. Allie, the brat, is not in the picture. Gotta do something about that... sigh...

Here are all of the skeins from the entire two-day class, from left to right, madder, brasilwood, weld, logwood, cutch, cochineal, Osage orange and indigo. (Darn my stupid camera - the colors are not true at all! In Real Life, they are brighter than this - especially the Osage Orange.)

The very bottom 2 rows are the yarn with the dyes and nothing else, the white yarn on the bottom, and the fawn on the row above. The next two rows have the skeins which were dyed, then dipped in an iron solution, which made the colors a little muted. The next two rows have the skeins which were dyed, then dyed again in indigo. (The 4 balls at the very top are just some extras.) This is soooo much fun! (click for a larger photo, if you like.)

Contact Allie at Eye Dazzler Alpacas if you would like to know more about her fiber school. There are lots of different classes - dyeing, spinning, knitting, felting, needle felting and others - and they are very much fun! All classes are held at the ranch in Westcliffe, and they nearly always include a scrumptious lunch prepared by Allie.

After a couple of days of dyeing, we visited the source of the fiber - the alpacas! Allie is holding the first baby of Eye Dazzler Alpaca 2007 Cria Season. I think that they named him Cowboy. Isn't he darling?

What big eyes you have!

What a great way to spend a couple of days! I really had a blast.

Cashmere Scarf for Nola

My children sang in a church choir for the past couple of years. Alas, the church closed down (see the post about taking out the pipe organ), so the kids will be singing in a different choir in the fall. Their previous choir director was SO nice and SO wonderful to my kids, that I felt moved to make a nice handknitted gift for her.

Here it is. I hope she likes it.

I knitted it out of "Brighton Rock" Cashmere yarn, from I *really* like this yarn, and knitting with it was a complete joy, and once it is washed and blocked, it is Oh So Nice... but... I don't think that it shows up the lace pattern very well. All in all, I like the scarf, but I was a little dissapointed in the overall lack of lace-definition. Live and learn.

I wrote out the pattern on a gigantic piece of graph paper - presented below, if anyone is interested. The first link is to a photo of the entire chart - other photos are of "close ups" of different parts of the chart. Please feel free to use it if you like. Also, feel free to comment on the merits or demerits of the chart, too. I'm new to all of this charting business, so any criticism is welcome!!! (Towards the end of the list of links is a "key" to the symbols.)

Photo Number 1

Photo Number 2

Photo Number 3

Photo Number 4

Photo Number 5

Photo Number 6 - knitting information "key"

Photo 7 -Key 2

Photo 8 - Key 3

Photo 9 - Key 4

Photo 10 - Key 5

I wrote the chart so that there would be no blank squares. It ended up to be very easy to visualize. Since I drew it by hand, I could angle the decreases so that it sort of curves, just like it does in the knitted item.

In some areas of the leaves, there are more stitches than there are blocks on the graph. In this case, I wrote in the number of stitches with black ink, and circled them in black, too. This simply means to knit this number of stitches, which are more stitches than there are blocks. It works, trust me. This avoids the dreaded "blank square" which makes it so hard to visualize the chart. It works for me, maybe it'll work for you, too?

There are also instances of numbers in green - these are simply the number of stitches to knit - it helps with counting the chart.

I was driven to write the pattern in this way after perusing an old lace knitting book with lovely, detailed charts which didn't look a single thing like the final knitted item. I thought, "There has to be a better way - one which is more visually representative of the finished item."

While this chart isn't perfect, it serves my purposes just fine.

I hope that you can use these pictures, if you want to, that is. Let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to use all or part of the charts, however you wish to use them. I'd like it if you'd credit it to me, but if you are a skunk, then feel free to pretend that you made it up yourself.

I knitted the "back of the neck" in Italian Chain Rib (I think that this is the name?)

which is in one of my Barbara Walker stitch treasuries. On the bottom of the chart, every row of the Italian Chain is charted, but notice that after a few rows, only the right side rows are charted.

Then, I knitted three repeats of Rose Trellis, also in a Barbara Walker book. Next, three repeats of a leaf design that I made up, and lastly, a sort of an embellishment for the edge. To finish the lower edges, I mitered the right hand corner, then bound off the edge in just plain garter stitch, short rowing an extra row or two at the "points" and omitting a row or two in the "valley", then on across the rest of the end of the scarf, and mitering the other corner. All that was left was to kitchener the 3 edge stitches and I was done.

I provisionally cast on at the back of the neck, and knitted to the lower edge of the scarf. Then I went back and just knitted in the other direction from the center back. It was so easy, and you can't even tell where the join is. I provisionally cast on just like you cast on for toe up socks with the Turkish Cast on. This is my favorite provisional cast on. In fact, it's the only one I use.

I'm going to try another scarf, only out of a finer, solid color yarn. Maybe for Emma's cello instructor? Hmmm... I love looking forward to knitting gifts!

What a pretty little volunteer, right in the middle of my yard!


Sock yarn - self striping!

I had a great time spinning this yarn for socks. First, I purchased some roving in yellow, pink and red from my local yarn store. I bought one ounce of each color. Then, I separated each hunk of roving in half, and then in half again, and arranged it like this - red, pink, yellow, red, pink, yellow, yellow, pink, red, yellow, pink, red - and this is the order in which I spun it. I didn't weigh it or anything, just separated it by "eyeballing" it. I did it this way in hopes of some irregularity because I want lots and lots of "barberpoling."

Then, I spun it all, and then Andean Plied it. This is what you see above - the Andean Plying bracelet on my old arm. I'm so much more bothered by the signs of ageing on my arms than on my face - I have to LOOK at my arms all day long, but I don't ever have to look at my face, lol. I pity those of you who do...

I digress...

My plan was to have yarn which ended up sort of self striping going from red to pink to yellow to red to pink to yellow, with stretches of barberpoling in between the solid colors.

In this wonky photo, you can sort of see, if you really use your imagination (lol) the parts which are pink/red and in the photo, I'm plying two pink strands. You'll just have to believe me when I tell you that way down deep, it's all red.

Next, after the pink came the pink/yellow, then the yellow...

then the yellow/red, followed by all red...

...then red/pink, then...oops. It never made it to pink! There was a really long patch of red/pink which went straight to pink/yellow, and then it ended with solid yellow, yay. When Andean plying, what you end up at the very *end* of the two-ply is what was in the center of the original ball of singles. I'm completely happy with this yarn, even though it missed a "solid" stripe. Serendipity!!!

I just love this yarn! It makes me very happy.

I love red and pink together! I love yellow and pink together! I'm not completely jazzed about red and yellow together, but it's OK.

So, that was one of my goals with this spinning project- to spin yarn with spaces of solid color, interspersed with spaces of barpoling. The other goals were to knit a pair of socks on double points (which I've never done before, being a two at once on a circ sort of gal) and to knit at a gauge of 10 stitches per inch. I started out on a set of Lantern Moon needles at size "0." This was WAY too large and my gauge is something like 7 stitches per inch.

This is what you see here. I included this photo to show you my latest in throw-the-knitting-into-the-backpack attire, lol.

See how handy? It works great.

However, since these photos were taken, I've ripped out and re-knitted these socks so many times that I got sick of the project and put it away until I can calm down about the whole thing.

I found some dpns which are sooooo small, and I completely over shot the mark, knitting at 14 stitches per inch, which is way too small for this gauge of yarn. RRRRRIP.

So, I ordered a variety of teeny little dpn needles from, one of the most friendly and accomodating online sellers, by the way, and worked my way through the batch until I found a set which would give me the proper gauge.

Then I put it all aside until I can work up the courage to RIP it all out again and start afresh. Meanwhile, I tried to make a set of circulars out of doll needles and guitar wire because only an idiot would knit an entire pair of socks on dpns I'M ONLY KIDDING, lol.

One thing I've discovered is that I really really really hate dpns!!! I've never knit a sock, or any other tubular project, with them and golly, now I *know* why magic looping was invented, lol.

Next, I'm going to spin up the wool for the other sock, but I'm going to use an as yet undertermined striping pattern and then decide whether or not to continue with this silly dpn rule or go back to my beloved circs. Of course the fact that circs of the tinyness I need don't exist is posing quite the problem... hmmm...