…Marykate. And, in case you haven’t noticed, I am the new Seed Stitch blogger. Since I like to know who is behind the blogs I read, I figured I’d let you know a little bit about me too.
I live in Salem. I spend most Saturday afternoons in the shop knitting, eating chocolate and enjoying the company of other knitters who are way more talented than I am. When I drop a stitch, I look like this:
I love to knit. Two summers ago, life happened, as it tends to do, and I found myself needing something new to do with my hands (I also sew, bake and generally fidget with paper, glue, seashells and thread until something becomes of it). I found knitting after spinning (I know, kind of backwards), dropped the latter for the former and have been hooked ever since.
I am mostly an accessories knitter. I love shawls and cowls and have found myself wading slowly but excitedly into the world of lace. Some of my recently completed or in-progress favorite projects include the Noble Cowl,
the Leafy Baby Blanket,
and the Tiny Human.
Oh, yeah. Did I mention I am making a real live creature? It’s pretty much the coolest work in progress ever. Side effects of growing a baby and being a knitter include: forgetting my fear of/lack of patience for knitting on tiny needles; making lots of garments because when they are that small, I have no excuse not to; and attempting any and all techniques I have been heretofore too lazy to try (short rows? so easy! cables? how can she live without that cabled cardigan?).
But getting back to the blog, I really love to learn about stuff. All kinds of stuff. And I like to share what I learn with you. Although I’ve got a whole bunch of blog post ideas waiting in the wings, I am always up for suggestions. So if you are wondering what you can do with a certain type of yarn, need some good project ideas to use as an introduction to a new knitting technique, or are curious what makes merino, alpaca and cashmere so different from one another, let me know! Leave me a comment and I will do my best to turn it into a post.
The Yarn Crawl this weekend was a huge success!
We hosted three local knitting artisans: Ana Campos, the Salem yarn dyer behind Toil & Trouble; Newbury knitwear designer Leslie Scanlon of Mac and Me; and Knitink Yarn and Fiber dyer and spinner, Ady Bee.
Ana’s soft, subtly variegated yarns made the shop feel like spring.
And she can multi-task! Below, Ana (right) knits while showing a customer her wares.
Leslie showcased her clean, fun style in blankets, clothes and accessories for both babies and adults.
I think I’m going to have to knit these adorable baby booties (above) to compliment what will surely be my favorite hat this winter. It’s the fuzzy white one on the table below in front of Leslie (right).
Ady’s comic book inspired, homespun yarn was so freshly dyed, some of it was still damp!
Of course, she came decked out in her own knitting (above).
If you missed some of the fun, don’t worry! Check back here soon for an interview with Mac and Me’s Leslie as well as summer knitting suggestions, sculptural yarn and more.
Wondering what project you will make when you buy six skeins of yarn and get one free this weekend at the Yarn Crawl? Try one of these six skein plus projects recommended by Seed Stitch staff and regulars.
Michele suggests the Architectural Rib Pullover.
Using 7 skeins of Jade Sapphire cashmere, Michele knit up a ridiculously soft version of this design by Norah Gaughan, featured in The Natural Knitter.
Thinking sleeveless for summer? Mary Lee and Lauren both have Sara Morris’s Shadow on their needles. You can find this vest pattern, which takes 10 (11, 12) skeins, and other great 6 skein plus options in Heichi, a pattern booklet named for Shibui’s tweedy raw silk yarn that inspired the designs.
My pick for spring is Cheri from Rowan’s The Cocoon Collection. I’m hoping to turn this short-sleeved pullover into a cardigan for the perfect changing seasons layer.
Even though the small and medium call for 6 skeins of Cocoon, we all know what happens when we buy just enough yarn for a project. Always get at least one more skein than the pattern calls for. You may find yourself wanting to make modifications to the design or maybe you knit more loosely than the designer. Simply leaving longer tails on your yarn can put you over the called-for amount, so always, always, always get that extra skein. That way, even if your gauge is spot on, you can whip up a matching cowl or pair of fingerless mitts.
Find all of these yarns and patterns at Seed Stitch when you come by Thursday through Sunday at the Yarn Crawl.
One of the first signs of the transition from winter to spring in New England is color. After mild winters like this one and a spring like last year’s, which made only a brief appearance before disguising herself in the heat of summer, it’s color that we notice first. Bulbs sprout and bloom, trees bud and blossom, and spring colors abound on the shelves at Seed Stitch.
If you’ve been in the shop, you know that we have an endless supply of luxurious yarn in colors for just about every season. There are the organic, subtle solids of Spud & Chloe, the endless spectrum of Cascade, and the swoon-worthy hues of Madelinetosh. But what if, even with all these options, you’ve found the perfect yarn for next project but the color just isn’t quite right? Or, perhaps, with the coming of spring, you find yourself stalling before choosing which summer shawl to cast on? Instead of spending hours reading Ravelry project notes and pictures in hopes of making up your mind, switch gears and play with your yarn in a new way. Try natural dyeing!
Dying yarn (or roving, or fabric, or any other fibrous material) is a lot easier than you may think. To turn even the tiniest kitchen into a color lab, all you’ll need is a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and mordants (see below), a pot, sieve and tongs dedicated to dyeing, rubber gloves and a pen and paper to keep track of the variables in your experiments. And, of course, you’ll need yarn!
Because dyeing is a chemical process in which mordants (think of these as the glue that holds the color to the fibers through washing) chemically react with your dye source, try to avoid treated materials; natural, organic fibers are best. We have a variety of yarns that come in a wide range of weights and fiber content and would make great candidates for dyeing. For an organic cotton yarn try Blue Sky Alpaca natural cotton. Both Spud & Chloe Sweater and Outer are wool/cotton blends with light color options for easy dyeing. Those looking for a chunky, 100% wool yarn should try Rowan British Sheep Breeds Boucle. The shop also carries a great undyed sock weight wool that is perfect for experimenting.
Natural dye sources to try include yellow onionskins, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, turmeric and annatto. Surprisingly, beets do not work as color-fast dyeing veggies, but if you want to dye a yarn for a project you won’t be getting wet, beets yield a bright spectrum of pinks. You’ll want dyeing-only tools if you plan on using mordants that can be toxic if ingested in large amounts, such as alum (found in the spice section) or even cream of tartar. If you’d prefer 100% non-toxic mordants, try salt and baking soda or vinegar. The colors you will get from your dyes depend on the chemical reaction from the type of mordant used, the length of time you steep your yarn, and the fiber content of the yarn itself. I always love to see the variety in color I get when dyeing cotton, wool and silk with the same color source.
Think you should stick to dyeing cotton since the warm weather is approaching? Think again. Wool has natural absorbent, antimicrobial and wicking properties, which make it a great fiber for year-round garments including socks, cardigans and diaper covers. Plus, wool is a renewable resource and can be grown organically just like the fruits and veggies you use for dyes!
Come by and pick up a skein or two to experiment with and then come back next weekend for the Yarn Crawl and get great discounts (including a free skein of yarn when you buy six!) on more of our fabulous natural yarns to dye for.
Natural Dyeing How-To
Here’s an easy recipe for 4 oz of wool yarn using spinach, blueberries and annatto to get you started:
To prep your yarn for color fastness –
Fill a12-quart stainless steel stockpot with 6-8 quarts of water. Bring water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp baking soda as mordant and stir to dissolve. Add yarn and simmer in mordant bath about 1 hour. Drain.
To dye the yarn –
For a lovely pale yellow, combine 2 c packed fresh spinach per 1 oz wool yarn, cover with water. Let it simmer 1 hour and let stand 1 hour or longer.
For a gray-blue, combine ½ c blueberries per 1 oz wool yarn and prepare as above.
For a vibrant orange, crush 2 tbsp annatto (per 1 oz wool) using mortar and pestle and boil in 2 c water. To create a variegated effected, dampen the yarn with lukewarm water and use it to wipe off your mortar and pestle (these parts of the yarn will have a deeper orange after dying). Add yarn to annatto water and prepare as above.
Some people prefer to separate the dye source from the yarn, especially in the case of berries. If you don’t mind picking out skins and seeds after, there is no need to separate, but feel free to use a metal strainer that can sit in the pot as you’re dyeing or to put your fruits and veggies in muslin or tea balls to keep them out of the fiber. Personally, I don’t mind picking out the pieces and like to give my dye source lots of room in the pot to steep better. Also, when using wool, don’t agitate your yarn or felting will occur.
The best way to get the color you want is to experiment! Try using different mordants, fabrics and steeping times. Not sure if a particular veggie will give you the color you want? You can easily find natural dyeing blogs and tutorials online, or instead, encourage exploration and ask your kids to pick their favorite (or least favorite) food to use and predict about what color they’ll get. Interacting with fresh fruits, veggies and spices in a fun way may even inspire them to taste some new foods! For best results in getting consistent colors, keep a notebook of all your dye recipes along with photos or samples of your freshly dyed fibers for future reference.
These amazing images my look like oil paintings by a master but they are actually portraits done in yarn by Cayce Zavaglia. Seriously, yarn never ceases to amaze.
We love small business and and not just because we’re one. Supporting small businesses gives you a wonderful opportunity to reinvest your money directly into the local economy. Most local business owners work to also support other local businesses and community activities, so by helping a local business you’re “paying it forward” so to speak. I find local businesses around Salem to be extremely knowledgeable about their product and offer an experience I don’t get in other environments.
American Express is working to help small businesses too this holiday season. Use your AMEX card on Saturday, November 26 at any small business/local shop and AMEX will give you a $25 statement credit (that’s FREE money!) Register your card and read details HERE: facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday and https://sync.americanexpress.com/sbs2011
So join our collective effort to support those small businesses that you love and maybe a few new ones that you’ve always wanted to check out.
With the holidays right around the corner (ok still two months away, but I am a serious celebrator) I always try to think of small projects that will bring joy to the receiver. Well who would be more grateful of a hand knit sweater than a penguin?
Which inspires me to knit this, for no one in particular…