Thoughts on the Shop Launch + The Natural Dye Knit Along

 Want to join the Natural Dye Knit Along? Come visit the thread in my Ravelry group  here  for more information.

Want to join the Natural Dye Knit Along? Come visit the thread in my Ravelry group here for more information.

I meant to cast on for the Natural Dye Knit Along the day it began (April 1st), but I was so absorbed in preparing for the shop launch that I decided I needed to wait. After all, this KAL is running for several months specifically so nobody feels rushed or pressured, so I suppose I should relax and give myself plenty of time too, right?

In any case, the shop went live on Monday at 12pm PDT and it completely exceeded my expectations. I thought I’d get a sale or two, but I had no idea most of my yarn inventory would sell out within 45 minutes. I’m still a bit stunned, to be honest, but in the best possible way. Not only do I get the pleasure of seeing the yarns I’ve dyed in the hands of other knitters, but this also means I get to dye way more yarn! Hurray!

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Side note: if you make something with my yarn and you’re on social media, please feel free to share it with the hashtag #awoodennestfiber! I’m so excited to see how it will be used.

Anyway, I’ll be using the earnings from this update to buy more yarn. I’m hoping to have another shop update early next month (date TBD), and I’ll be dyeing in much larger quantities this time around to bulk up my inventory. Also, many of you have made requests for specific bases (more fingering weight and tweedy sock yarn) and dye techniques (more variegated), so I’ll try to keep that in mind when I order as well.

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As for the #naturaldyekal, I’ve finally begun swatching for a cute little summer top for my daughter. This will be my first time working with a cotton + linen blend, so it’s a bit of an adjustment knowing that the stitches won’t bloom, but I’m enjoying working with it so far. I dyed this yarn with Sappanwood from Maiwa a month or two ago and used soda ash to adjust the pH. It turned the dye bath from an orange-red to a dark purple-pink. I think this may have affected the overall tone, but a great deal of the intensity and depth of the color from the bath washed out of the fiber. I’m left with something similar to a dusty, avocado pink, which I don’t mind in the least, though I wish I'd stuck a skein or two of wool in with the bath to see how the colors would compare.

Cellulose fibers are still a bit of a mystery to me. Not just cellulose yarns, but fabrics as well. I’ve heard a rumor that soy milk actually works better as a mordant for cellulose than alum, but I haven’t done any comparisons. I’ve read Botanical Colour at your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos, though, and she uses soy milk with great success.

I’m thinking of including a short clip in my next podcast episode about mordants for those of you who are feeling a bit gun-shy with regards to joining the Natural Dye KAL. Of course, you don’t have to dye your own yarn. You’re plenty welcome to use yarn from another natural dyer, but several of you have mentioned that you’d like to try dyeing yourself but are feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps I can help with that.

Early Spring Cleaning (A Quick Update)

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sixpence socks
happy mountain sweater

Hello friends. It has been quiet here in this space for a long time, but it’s time to dust off the cobwebs and settle myself in with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket. It’s still winter here, but you wouldn’t know it with all the beautiful, almost-warm sunshine and spring blooms outside. Seasons arrive when they want to, regardless of the date on the calendar.

In the past several months, natural dyeing has taken over my life in the best possible way. Actually, I shouldn’t say it has taken over. Rather, it has nestled its way in like a long lost friend or a missing puzzle piece, and has brought color into my neutral-loving life in a way I could never have imagined. Suddenly something I initially thought of as supplementary to my other seasonal occupations - my gardening, knitting and kitchen experiments - has become an obsession in its own right. It’s part of our lives now, and it fits right in.

Last year in October, I made a giant, break-out-of-my-introverted-shell decision and started a video podcast on YouTube to share about my growing interest in fiber-related work. It’s something I had been mulling over for a long time, and it required a lot of emotional preparation before, during and after my first couple episodes (I had to occasionally hide from my phone and computer), but I finally feel comfortable and confident in my decision to put myself out there through the podcast, and I’ve never felt more connected to the fiber community than I do now.

So while the blog has been mostly quiet until now, I have been very busy. The cogs in my mind have been steadily turning, especially over the past six months. I have so many ideas and plans to document and share with you here, and now that spring has arrived, my fingers are itching to dig in the dirt, plant seeds, experiment with plant colors + fibers, and knit (always).

So, for the next few months, you can expect posts about many of the things that have already happened but never saw the reflections they deserved interspersed with some of the newer projects I’m working on now. And for those of you who used to follow me on blogspot, I just want to let you know that I’ve made that blog and all its content private, but I will occasionally re-publish some of the projects or recipes from its archives over to this space whenever it seems relevant. If there was a recipe on that site that you miss, just send me an e-mail or fill out the contact form here and I'll respond as soon as I can. 

Lastly, I started a new group on Ravelry! Please join us if you'd like to chat about anything fiber-related, kitchen experiments, natural dye, or even if you just want to come say hi. 

Gift Knits

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When I first started knitting, after the initial awkward stage of holding two pointy sticks in my hands had passed, I got a bit of a "knitter's high" from the realization that I had this new ability to create. The possibilities were endless, and I wanted very much to share my new skill with everyone I knew, so I drove to the nearest craft store to purchase 10 balls of super bulky acrylic yarn. Everyone recieved a hat from me that Christmas.

Super bulky yarn is kinda magnificent for new knitters because it allows you to complete a small project, like a hat, in a day. It's instant gratification knitting. It really is awesome. If you are a new knitter, I highly recommend making a washcloth or two and then going straight to a super bulky hat, such as this pattern, which I've now knit over 15 times.

Anyway, like many knitters, my tastes have evolved to the point where acrylic yarns rarely hold any interest for me. This can be problematic in regards to gift knitting because while acrylic yarns are super easy to maintain - they can usually be thrown in the washer and dryer, no problem - the natural fibers I prefer to work with these days require different care instructions, and most people don't want to go through the effort to hand wash and lay flat to dry, or they don't know how. Plus, unless you're working with super bulky weight yarn, gift knits tend to be a lot more time consuming, taking weeks rather than days to finish.

That said, I still really enjoy knitting gifts for close friends and family on occasion, but because there are only so many knitting hours in a knitter's life, I have to go about the process a little differently. I have to be reasonably sure the gift recipient actually likes handmade things (because many people don't), and I have to be reasonably sure it'll fit, which means I have to have them try it on before I can gift it. It ruins the surprise, but it's worth it.

That's what I had to do with these socks, which I made for a close friend of mine who is always wearing interesting footwear, and who has shown a healthy appreciation for wool over the years. I ran across this pattern, Father's New Socks by Susan Crawford, and immediately thought of my friend, who just so happened to have a birthday on the way. And I'm really glad I had him try the first sock on before I started the second one because the foot portion was way too big. Unlike store-bought socks, hand knit socks really need to be the right size or they won't fit at all.

The construction for these socks is a little different than any other sock I've knit. First, the colorwork is deceptively easy because it's created with slipped stitches, so there are no floats in the back of the work. However, once you reach the bottom half of the foot, you can no longer work in the round, so you knit the sole first, hold the stitches on a cord, and move on with the instep, picking up stitches on either side of the sole to attach as you go. The instep is pretty finicky and time consuming, but I think it's worth it. I love these socks. They're very warm and squishy, and I hope my friend likes 'em. I know I'll definitely be using this pattern again in the future, and I'd love to use this slipped stitch technique for another type of project again someday too.

For more detailed notes on these socks, check out my Ravelry project page. And thank you so much everyone for the warm welcome back, both here and on my Instagram feed! It's so nice to be blogging again.