Studio Saturday

It's a lazy Saturday here.  We dropped Grandma off at the airport for her trip back home, which is always a sad sort of thing, so we decided to do nothing of any consequence for the entire morning.  We have succeeded admirably.

It's been a studio day.  I set out to do some straightening up, and instead, immediately picked up my first experiment at knitting with silkworm handkerchiefs and decided to knit some more on it, instead of sorting out the room.  It's such a pretty color — if the hankies hold out, I think I'll try to get a scarf out of this piece.


I also stopped to press a scarf I dyed earlier this week.  The fabric is a Wool/Silk blend.  I'm very pleased with it.


I never made it back to cleaning up, because Ollie showed up, wanting to college.


He is always fun to watch because of his fierce concentration, but he seemed happy with his work.


Just about the time he finished, Ellie showed up, wanting to make a card for a friend.


And really, I realized it was absolutely hopeless.  There was no chance of organizing yarn because the basket had been taken over by a very contented Hermione.


I was not about to be the person to disturb her, so we've called it a morning and our contentedly lazing our way into lunch. 

I think we could all use a lazy studio Saturday every once in a while.  I'm very happy to be having one today!


Drum Roll Please

And the winner of the silk hankies is…….

……#10 – Kathy.

You have Ollie to thank for pulling your number.

Please email me with your shipping address and I'll put your silk hankies in the mail to you.  We'll all look forward to seeing what you knit with them.

And if, like me, you are curious about how silk fibers are worked from cocoons, here is a fascinating (and quick) video showing cocoons being stretched over frames in a store in China.





Easy Play Silk Gift Wrap — Naturally Dyed


Who knew it could be this easy?  I decided to do a quick experiment with Tumeric, a big piece of silk, and a little bit of time.  Ignoring all of the directions I found on the web, which suggested I boil the Tumeric in my pot, let it sit for hours, then carefully strain the dye bath before immersing my silk, I dumped a 1/4 of a cup of Tumeric into my big boiling pot.  I took some care to whisk it in until all was thoroughly dissolved.  While all this was going on, my big square of silk was soaking in some water (to open up the fibers to accept the dye more readily and evenly).  I plunged it in.


I spent several minutes gently stirring for even dye distribution.  I pushed down the air pockets that formed.  And then I left it to sit, walking by to stir it every few minutes while keeping the pot just below a simmer for 45 minutes.  I turned off the pot and let it sit for a couple of hours to cool.


That lovely golden color is brighter than it will be when the silk is dry, but I had no runoff issues while rinsing it off (although my pot does seem to have taken on a permanent tinge of Tumeric, which is fine by me since it is one of those herbs that is medically beneficial).  I did rinse carefully to get off the fine Tumeric powder I saw here and there on the silk, but the color is very even across the piece.

The possibilities from here on are unlimited:

  • overdye it with another color for a crackle effect
  • stamp holiday motifs on it with paint
  • sew on some beads or ribbon
  • applique
  • print out fabric gift tags on the computer and sew onto the silk

I haven't quite decided where I'm going from here, but I'm really happy to have an easy, naturally dyed gift wrap that can be used again and again (if the kids don't swipe it for a superhero cape or butterfly wings).  Please let me know if the comments if you do your own reuseable gift wrap and have any ideas to share!



Eco Friendy Gift Wrapping Option For The Holidays – Hand Dyed Silk

As the holidays approach, I wanted to share a great idea for green gift wrap with everyone. 

For years, I dyed large squares of habotai silk that were used as children's toys.  The are called playsilks.


They're beautiful and great for kids to play with.  It's easy to make a do-it-yourself version for an inexpensive and completely reusable gift wrap, that has the fringe benefit of being one of the best children's toys around.

You can buy a silk blank for less than the cost of one of those cute little gift bags at World Market.  Dharma Trading, a long time purveryor of tie-dye supplies, has them in 35 and 44" squares, as well as a host of other sizes.  And although they're plenty pretty on their own, you can sizzle them up with just a little bit of effort.  Dharma has a washing machine dye packet (this silk does just fine in a gentle wash cycle and a low temp dryer run) that looks interesting here.  But you could just as easily swish them around in a bowl of koolaid — Paula Burch has great directions for silk tie-dye, but you could just as easily do solid, in your microwave.  Best of all, it's quick and easy.  And, you can use a big chunky rubber stamp dipped in paint (I like Lumiere's for stamping on silk — the gold and silver are the perfect holiday touch) for some extra holiday decoration.

If I was a really good blogger, I would have pictures lined up for you showing you the steps, but I've never been one of those good do-the-holidays-in-advance kind of people.  We're strictly a last minute sort of operation around here.  But having spent the better part of the last week in bed with what may be the worst and longest lasting virus ever, I've been reduced to web surfing on my laptop in bed in between long naps, which actually got me thinking about wrapping gifts in advance.  I ordered some silks last night so that they would be ready to dye when I was ready to wrap, and I suddenly thought what a great idea it would be to share our tradition of playsilk gift wrap.  So, get your supplies ready, and I'll make sure to post as I work on mine.  And keep in mind it's both incredibly easy, and something your children will love doing with you.

You could even use natural dyes.  One caveat here — because most plant dyes require the use of a chemical mordant, alum is a common one, to set the dyes, "natural" dyeing can be much more difficult and also involve greater environmental impact than some commercially produced dyes.  But, you can achieve a nice range of semi-permanent color with powdered tumeric, which won't require a mordant.  Or you could spring for this interesting looking but rather pricey kit for new natural dyers (let me know how this one turns out if you get it!)


If you become addicted to the process of dyeing silk (and it really is addictive; it's so easy and the results are so beautiful), I have an old tutorial on the crackle dye process pictured above.

And, if you need inspiration for more environmentally friendly, recycleable holiday wrapping options, take a look at this video.




The Drop Stitch Scarf

As a knitter, I either have a dreadful case of attention deficit disorder or I am a highly efficient, multi-tasker.  I'm never sure exactly which one it is.  I do seem to have a knack for working on multiple projects at a time though, and just this weekend, as I'm working steadily on my cabled afghan and almost ready for the finishing ruffle on my Far Away So Close shawl, I suddenly became infatuated with Christine Vogel's Drop Stitch Scarf Pattern.

I've actually been intending to knit this pattern since the first time I stumbled across it.  I like the airy look of the dropped stitches.  Last night I printed out the pattern and this morning I looked through the stash for a likely yarn.


I ended up pulling out some Elliebelly Basilisk in the Cleo colorway.  The yarn is similar to the pattern yarn in blend — 50% silk and 50% merino wool, but is a somewhat heavier weight, more of an aran than the DK weight Lady Godiva yarn from Handmaiden that the pattern was written for.

This scarf looks gorgeous in every photo I have ever seen.  But, I'm having my doubts as to whether Cleo was a good colorway choice.  I understand that this scarf requires significant blocking when finished to open up the pattern, so I'm keeping an open mind.  I'm worried that it needs more of a rainbow colorway though.  Before deciding on Cleo, I looked at some handspun that was in my stash and considered both  some of my own Alpaca that a spinner did in a DK weight for me and some unknown handspun, but rejected them both because I thought it might be too much color and pattern all at once. Now I'm wondering — did I pick the wrong yarn?

I'm going to go forward with Cleo.  It's a fun and simple pattern to knit and I need something easy and portable for travel the rest of the month.  The Afghan has become too big for a travel project and I need a break from the Barn Raising Quilts squares.  So Drop Stitch and I will travel together, and we will see how it turns out in Cleo.



Afghan Progress



I've made it through two full repeats of the 14 row cable pattern, and am into the third.  I've used about four of the 16 balls I dyed for this project, so based on the size I'm feeling increasingly confident I have enough for a good sized blanket.


I tried tarting up the contrast on this picture in Photoshop so you could see the cables a little bit more distinctly.  I've chosed to do a very basic eight stitch cableover reverse stockinette, with four stitch bands of stockinette separating the cables.  Although I had a little bit of cable anxiety, this patterning is so easy that after the first repeat, you can just read the stitches and put the pattern away. 


The yarn is wonderfully soft.  The Merino content is giving it good stitch definition, but it's warm (I'm guessing the Alpaca) and very soft (must be the silk).  I could have knit this on larger needles to get a loser gauge I suppose, but I'm fairly enchanted with the firm, structured fabric flowing out of this uber-bulky yarn on size 11 needles.  As it gets cooler here, I'm trying to knit faster.  This is a piece of knitting that is definitely going to get a lot of love and use.



How to Knit a Bird’s Nest

Thanks to some inspiration from the good knitters at the PurlBee, I've knit a nest.


Isn't it fun?  Instead of stuffing, I've used dried lavender blossoms in my eggs.  This nest will ultimately perch in one of the walk in closets, perhaps the one where much of my yarn is stored, as a deterrent to moths.  These first two eggs are knit from Manos del Uruguay's Serena, a lovely yarn that would make a fantastic little baby sweater.  I'm going to knit a few more from Blue Sky's silk/alpaca blend.