Dyeing yarn using a sock blank is both awesome as well as HUGELY annoying 5

20150411_190221I had some incredibly generous Ravellers donate some of their sock yarn scraps towards my sock yarn blanket which has been a tremendous help. Seriously, I went from a very lacking variety of sock yarns to now having dozens of different bits of yarn. Lovely lovely lovely people. Then, on top of that, one women even gave me sock blank! (For those who don’t know, a sock blank is a knitted panel of undyed sock yarn that you can use to easily make your own colourways and self-patterning yarn.) When I discovered the sock blank in the box of yarns she sent me I was extremely excited since I had looked into purchasing them myself in the past. I have been waiting to use this sock blank until I had a good opportunity to venture into dyeing, preferably without interruption or husband sighs while I inevitably get dye all over myself and the kitchen. He is a bit of a Tidy McCleanerson, and my inclination towards chaos and messiness can be stressful for him from time to time, and my having gotten dye EVERYWHERE (including on the front door somehow) has made him less than thrilled over the prospect of my doing any more hand dyeing of yarn.

My husband was away from the house for a full 36 hours this weekend. I seized the opportunity!

The same as last time, I didn’t go in to it with a particular plan or knowledge, I just winged it. Why I never go in to these things with a set plan is beyond me. Perhaps I secretly believe myself to be some sort of savant or natural genius when it comes to this type of thing and that I will just magically be awesome at it without trying.

Yeah… right…

Anyway, like I said I just winged this. So, what did I do?

  1. I soaked/saturated the blank in water. I don’t entirely know why, it just felt like the thing to do.
  2. I got out a 9×9 glass baking dish and created a sort of separated bowl and divider using tinfoil.
  3. I laid out the blank in the dish, putting half in the separated tinfoil bowl. Because I wanted short colour repeats I didn’t lay the blank out top half in the dish, bottom in the tinfoil bowl because that would have resulted in one long section of one colour and then one long section of another colour. To get the shorter colour repeats I put the blank in the dish dividing it left to right instead.
  4. I dissolved some blue Wilton’s food colouring in some hot water and a bit of vinegar and poured it into the dish, keeping it out of the tinfoil bowl divider.
  5. I dissolved some yellow Wilton’s food colouring in some hot water and a bit of vinegar and poured it into the tinfoil bowl side.
  6. I added some blotches of red and green along the center section that was held up by the divider out of the two main colours.
  7. I put the dish in the oven at 200°F for about an hour.
  8. Drain, rinse, leave it to dry fully.
  9. Once dry I unravelled it from the blank on to my swift.
  10. I unwound it from the swift, dividing the two strands into two separate balls
  11. I rewound one ball back on to the swift and then rewound it into a center pull ball using my nostepinne. Repeat for second ball.


I am super excited for how it ended up, but I do have some notes:

  • The colours are a little more easter-ish than I intended, mostly because I dropped a bit of pink dye around in splotches on both sides. I think I was intending for it to result in a more mottled look, which did work kind of. Mostly the pink just dispersed throughout making the yellow look orange and the blue look more mauve. Ah well.
  • What a colossal pain in the ass it was unraveling this yarn and reballing it. Holy crap. Now, in fairness part of the problem was that I sort of screwed up when I was unwinding the blank on to my swift. The blank itself unraveled really smoothly and easily, that wasn’t the issue. I started with the swift in a weirdly unexpanded state and then it just got worse and, well, you can see the disaster I created in the first panel of the above picture. (What was that about my secretly believing myself to be a natural genius when it comes to this kind of thing?)square
  • The blank was a double knit one, and reballing those two strands into two separate balls was irritating to put it mildly. I don’t know if there is some magical easier way of doing it, but it took me a long time. I may have to put this question to the actual geniuses on the Ravelry forums to see if maybe they can enlighten me because seriously… it was a pain in the ass.
  • I have knit one square (so far) using this yarn and I think it is pretty fantastic. Turned out basically how I was hoping in terms of the self striping within my tiny block. This yarn would probably look more varigated if I used it for a larger item (like a sock) but the stripes work out perfectly in my little squares. WIN!
  • Despite the huge annoyance I suffered while unwinding and reballing the blank, I still LOVED dying using the sock blank. It was a great way of creating a really cool colour way, really simplified the whole process. No tangles or shenanigans. I also love that it resulted in two identically dyed balls, and I can absolutely see how that would be fabulous if I were going to use this yarn for socks.


So, in summary, I loved using a sock blank for dyeing. I loved dyeing it and loved the end result, so I can overlook the unballing/reballing annoyances.


Oh, and as for my husband’s reaction to my having dyed while he was away? I made a point of cleaning everything up before he got back home so that he would have no reason to be grumpy over any future dye projects, and he was totally fine with it, until he saw the distinctly blue staining on our wooden cutting board… oopsie….

Basic Striped hat (aka.This should not have been this hard)

Simple striped wool cap in grey and greenWHY GOD WHY!  Why do I agree to make things for other people?! Every single time I agree/offer to make something for someone else it instantly turns what should have been a quick and easy project into a behemoth of frustration. I’ve posted about this phenomenon on the Ravelry boards, and I am not unique in this. There are multiple theories as to why knit items for other people are so prone to mistakes and frustration.

– Making something for someone else we get much more focused on it being perfect, so small issues that we’d normally let slide get blown in to huge frog-worthy mistakes.

– Any sort of time crunch results in our normal knitting pace to be accelerated. This results in more mistakes, simply because we’re rushing.

– The added stress that comes with knowing the item is for someone else can affect tension, and that can cause all sorts of problems.

Whatever the reason, I never have more trouble with a project than when I am knitting it for someone else.
Take a basic striped hat, for example. Top down, simple, no complicating design elements like cables or fancy colourwork… I could do that in my sleep and it should have taken max two evenings to complete, right? Well, that would be the reality if I was knitting it for me.

This time, however, I was asked to make a hat by my friend Ryan who was starting a new job and moving to a different city. He wouldn’t let me pay for his sushi lunch as a farewell gesture, but he did mention I think three times during that lunch how he would love a knitted hat. Well, fine. How hard could a basic hat be? Hell, I had four days before his last day of work to finish it and give it to him which would be plenty of time, even with a buffer for “knit for someone else” screw ups.

Yeah, the damned thing took me two weeks. Granted, most of that time was me actively avoiding knitting the hat because I was scared of making another mistake that would necessitate my frogging it and starting over, but still… two weeks! Here is what happened:

  • Got about half way through the hat doing a self-designed stranded pattern. After realizing how hideous the hat was looking I frogged it.
  • Restarted and got about 25% through it only to have my husband remark that the top of the hat was looking pretty nipple-like. He was right so I frogged it.

    Top-Down No Math Hat: The Manly Version

    This hat cast on/shaping method is really tidy and simple and the end result is a really nice looking hat… once I switched to an 8 segment hat. 6 segments resulted in a big knit nipple on top. 

  • Restarted and frogged 2 additional times for nipple-top issues
  • Switched to a 8 segment hat top to create a flatter hat top and restarted for a FIFTH time.
  • I got to the point where I was finished with the increases and liking how it was looking. This then led me to worry about noticing or making a mistake that would have forced me to frog and restart so I sort of ignored the project for a week.
  • Finally, on Sunday, I rage finished it while watching the Daytona 500 (during commercial breaks, and the multiple red and yellow flags)
  • I told Ryan that I am finally done the hat and have arranged for his wife to pick it up this afternoon. (I am also giving her a couple bottles of wine.)
  • Now I am going through the “It isn’t good enough, look at all the mistakes, it isn’t going to fit, why did I put yellow stripes, everyone hates yellow…” crippling self doubt.

I don’t know… I actually rather like the hat and am pretty happy with how it turned out, but I still worry. For example, it fits me great and I find it comfortable and warm without being excessive. I measured his head before I started and his head is only slightly smaller than mine, so I am praying that it fits him as well, but I’m still concerned. Plus, Ryan is so damned polite and gracious that he would never give me any sort of indication if he didn’t like it. Damn him!


Anyway, project notes…

  1. I used Paton’s Classic Worsted yarn in Jade and Grey Mix. Nice yarn to work with though I was surprised at how much dye came out when I blocked the hat. The yellow stripes were done in leftover fisherman’s wool that I had dyed myself.
  2. Size US6 needles were used for the body of the hat which resulted in a nice gauge. Switched to a US5 needle for the ribbed edge. Probably could have gone down to a US4 for the ribbing.
  3. I used the Top-Down No Math Hat: Manly Version method for starting the hat. Pretty brilliant and easy way of doing a hat, and I really like the subtle swirl the technique creates. I will be using this method again. HOWEVER! Doing it with six segments is what caused the nipple-y top problem and things didn’t normalize until I switched to an 8 segment hat, so when/if I make a hat using this method it will absolutely be an 8 segment hat.

    My jogless stripes are far from being jogless. I think it actually looks pretty horrible. :(

    My jogless stripes are far from being jogless. I think it actually looks pretty horrible. 🙁

  4. My cast off (Jenny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast off) created problems. Rather than keeping the ribbed edge all snug and nice it sort of stretched the edge out. It looks fine when the hat is on, but just looking at the hat flat on a table it sort of curls up and out. It really drives me insane. I needed a stretchy cast off but apparently that one created too much bulk or something. Blarg.
  5. I really effed up my stripes. My jogless stripes are anything other than jogless. They are all misaligned and stupid looking. I showed my husband and he had no idea what the hell I was complaining about and didn’t see anything effed up, so maybe I’m overreacting, but I definitely see it and it bothers me.
  6. Speaking of the stripes, I tried really hard to keep them random looking,varying the repeats and widths and colour changes. I am pretty happy with how that ended up.

Stripes Gone Crazy (Part 2)

My knee works as a shoulder shaping model! Awesome!

For my first sweater I think it is going okay. I (thankfully) am not getting fed up or bored with it despite it being stockinette. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I am only half way through the neckline shaping so there are a lot of increases going on to break it up. I also am really enjoying seeing the shoulder shaping happen. Who knew knitting a structured fitted garment could be so rewarding!

The sweater hasn’t been entirely smooth going, though. This IS my first sweater and frankly my first item where following the pattern actually matters. I also feel a lot of pressure (self imposed) because damn, this is a lot of yarn and a lot of stitches and a lot of time invested so it sure as hell better not suck.

Issue #1: It is pretty gappy where I picked up the stitches for the shoulder/arm section. Maybe it looks the way it should but I’m not convinced. I’m still holding on to a vague hope that this won’t be noticeable or problematic once the sweater is done and being worn but I am a little concerned due to the fact that the shoulder area is a part that is inevitably super visible and looked at.

Issue #2: Similarly, along the right hand shoulder where I started doing the increases I ended up with some significant gappiness where the new yarn was brought in. I don’t think I kept the new yarn held snug enough because everything sort of spaced out. I did try to correct it by feeding the excess yarn along to the as yet not sewn in end, but it ended up looking even worse. I ended up crocheting up some of the slack to even things out and conceal it. It definitely looks better than it did, but it still looks odd I think.

Lesson of the day: It actually matters that you put your increases on the correct side of the marker!

StripesGoneCrazyIncreasesIssue #3: I screwed up on my shoulder increases and for the stupidest reason ever. The problem was that I got all cavalier and didn’t pay attention to exactly where the increases should go (before or after the marker), and I also ignored the left leaning vs. right leaning difference. I think I figured “What the heck! As long as I have the right number of stitches it will work out!” Um, no. For a few rows at the top of the shoulder the increases definitely don’t look right. I eventually sucked it up, moved the markers back to where they should have been if I had done the increases in the correct location and I started doing the left and right increases correctly. Lo and behold, things are looking WAY better, way smoother, no gappiness. I will call this lesson learned.

Issue #4: I have the odd row of way-off tension. It isn’t so visible from the right side, but it is painfully apparent when looking at it from the wrong side. I don’t think this is necessarily the end of the world, and I am really hoping that a long soak and proper blocking once done will even it out, but it does irritate me.

None of these are deal breakers or problems that would make me frog and start all over (though the effed up increases comes close…), and so I slog on. REALLY looking forward to getting to knitting my first stripe, but I have about 40 rows to go before I get to switch colours.

And finally, I am impressed with this Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn. I don’t know what I was expecting but it is frankly lovely yarn to knit with, and the knitted material is really soft and smooth. I mean, sure, I’d love to say it is entirely due to my superb knitting skills, but lets be honest… the yarn has a lot to do with it… Plus, it wasn’t stupid expensive. So it turns out the popularity of Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn is well deserved. And for the record, I have absolutely no affiliation with Cascade Yarns and I get nothing for saying I like this yarn so much. I just really like it.


Click here to see every post about my Stripes Gone Crazy sweater, or visit my Ravelry project page.

Stripes Gone Crazy Sweater (Part 1)

(photo from the pattern page)

Stripes Gone Crazy by aletier alfa

Well, I’m doing it. I’m going to make a sweater. I feel like being able to successfully knit a sweater that looks good and is wearable is important, at least in terms of my feeling like an capable knitter. Never one to take on reasonable challenges, I of course chose a more complicated pattern for my first sweater – Stripes Gone Crazy by atelier alfa (paid pattern). Gorgeous pattern if you ask me and well worth paying for, and I HATE paying for patterns. So much more interesting than just a basic striped sweater. The pattern is complicated but seems really well written and clearly laid out with lots of explanations and graphics explaining the different techniques used, which is fantastic.

Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn

Now, I do worry this wasn’t the best choice because it has certain echoes of my Sonar Shawl. Lots of stockinette and stripes of varying widths in fingering weight yarn… Sounds familiar, eh? I am really hoping that because these stripes are done using short rows  and there is a lot more interesting knitting going on that I won’t find it as tedious and miserable to finish. Please god, I hope this isn’t as bad as that shawl was. That said, I do love the end result of that shawl, so maybe even if it is awful to knit it will still be worth it.

After deciding on a pattern I ordered my yarn online. After consulting with others on Ravelry I decided to go with Cascade Heritage Sock yarn. I had originally thought of buying 4 different colours for the stripes to create a gradient or ombre effect, but my Post-Christmas yarn budget didn’t really allow for that. Instead I went with two colours – China Grey for the main colour, and Cerulean for the secondary colour. For the first time ever I ordered the yarn via It took two weeks for my yarn to arrive (damn you, international shipping times!) but it arrived yesterday. First impressions of the yarn are very positive. Really nice texture, soft, the colours are nice. I wish the China Grey was a lighter grey but that isn’t a huge deal. My only real complaint is that the balling the yarn is a big fat pain in my ass. Why the hell haven’t I bought a swift and ball winder yet?! Why do I keep forcing myself to go through the torment of balling things by hand?! Such a pain in the ass and by far my least favourite part of knitting. I managed to ball 3 last night using my knees as a makeshift swift, and each ball taking me about 30 minutes to do. Ugh. But hey, each of them balled up really smoothly, no tangles or knots like I usually get when I ball hanks of yarn like this by hand. And now I have two grey and one blue balled and ready to go.

After taking my measurements I decided to cast on the XL size. I was absolutely convinced I was going to have to make the XXL size and then cross my fingers that even that would fit, but the XL size seems to be almost exactly my measurements. I clearly still haven’t updated my inner size after having lost all this weight (100lbs and counting! Yeah!). I’m hoping for a bit of negative ease so that it isn’t all droopy and baggy.

And so it begins. Looking forward to seeing some progress on this.


Click here to see every post about my Stripes Gone Crazy sweater, or visit my Ravelry project page.



Swirled Ski Cap (and matching mittens) 1


The finished set

For Christmas my sisters bought me a couple balls of Lion Brand Amazing yarn. This was the first I had ever heard of this yarn, but I definitely liked the colour gradient nature of it. (I’m such a sucker for colour gradient yarn!) I really wanted to make something with the yarn they gave me and I found the Swirled Ski Cap pattern. Yes, technically is a pattern for a hat for kids, but screw that. It is a super cool pattern so I made it for myself. Plus, it is a free pattern, and I am a sucker for free patterns.

Note to self: don’t knit hats in flesh tones if it gathers at the top because it WILL end up looking like a sphincter.

I have ended up wearing this set a LOT since I made them. I think they look pretty cute without being too young or silly looking.

I will admit that there was a small issue to solve around where the hat was gathered together at the top… it ended up looking a lot like a big pink sphincter. Disturbing, I know…. No one wants a hat that looks like it has a bum hole! I looked in the project notes of other people who made the hat and they said the same (though they described it rather more delicately than “my hat has a bum hole”…) but were able to hide the sphincter with a pompom. I was asked not to put a pompom on this hat so I didn’t have that option. I did find a very lovely solution though which I will describe in a minute.

Overall I really love this pattern and would make it again. It is quite simple and easy to do and the end result is a very cool looking hat. I also love that the hat and mitts together used up almost all of one ball of Lion Brand Amazing yarn. I think that if I were to do it again next time I would pick up stitches at the top of the hat and do proper knitted decreases to avoid the top of my hat looking like a butt-hole. I’m pretty sure if I had use a pompom as the pattern specified it would have hid the gather, but my workaround looks pretty good, so I guess it is no big deal.


My Project Notes:

    • I used 1 skein of Lion Brand Amazing yarn in the Regatta colourway (with only a couple yards to spare! PERFECT!)
Crocheted edge looks tidy and was really fast to do

Crocheted edge looks tidy and was really fast to do

  • I used ~1/3 of a ball of Loops & Threads Soft & Shiny Solids in white
  • I cast on 45 stitches for the main part of the hat. That is more than the pattern specifies but I have a big noggin and I wanted to make sure it fit. That ended up being perfect.
  • I HATE HATE HATE seeing the purl ridge when colours are changed, so I changed up the stripe pattern. I knit 4 in the main colour, then purled 3 in the white followed by 1 knit row in the white.By doing this I kept the colour change purl rows all hidden inside the hat. WIN!
  • The pattern calls for a big ribbed fold over edge to the hat but I thought that would  make this look too heavy. Instead I did a a couple rows of double crochet to edge it. Looks perfect.
  • I suppose I could have used Kitchener Stitch to seam the two sides together, but I’m lazy and frankly didn’t care enough. Instead I just did a crocheted seam. Super fast, super easy, invisible from the outside. What more can you ask for!
  • The pattern calls for a pompom and man do I ever want one but my husband vetoed it, declaring that this was the nicest and classiest hat I have made, saying how great it looks on me as it is, and saying that a pompom would ruin it. He so rarely has any opinion on my knitting, so fine, no pompom, but I was left with a big pink sphincter looking thing at the top of the hat where it was gathered together.
    Swirl Ski cap Crocheted Top

    A lot better than what it looked like before, believe me…

    I refuse to wear a hat that looks like a bum hole so I crocheted a circle around the top to close it off and hide the sphincter. It actually think it looks really good and my husband is happy.

  • The mittens are basically the same thing as the hat, but I made the purled white rows 1 row less so that more of the colour gradient would shine through. I also finished every white stripe with a knitted row to keep the colour change purl row inside the hat. I knit them using an afterthought thumb 8 stitches wide.
  • The hat and mitts look great, even though the colour gradient has resulted in three pieces with very different colours. My only complaint is that the mitts aren’t super warm. The purled white row is far from wind resistant. Good for normal days, but super cold days require different mittens. Honestly I think the problem is that I used cheap acrylic yarn for the white stripes.