The Natural Dye MAL

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Last year I had so much fun hosting the Natural Dye KAL that I’ve decided to do it again. This year, however, I’m changing the name from KAL (knitalong) to MAL (makealong) to be more welcoming to crocheters and weavers, and I’ll be extending the MAL from three months to a whole year, from the first day of summer 2019 to the first day of summer 2020, to enable those who want to dye their own yarn by encompassing a full range of seasons with which to harvest and forage for plant material, no matter which hemisphere you reside.

Interested in joining along? We’d love to have you! Here are the rules:

  • The Natural Dye Makealong will run from June 21st, 2019 to June 21st, 2020

  • Enter with as many finished objects (FO’s) as you’d like. The more FOs you enter, the more likely you are to win.

  • To join, make any knitted or crocheted project using naturally dyed yarns. You can use yarn that you dyed yourself or that you have acquired from another natural dyer.

  • Please take a photo of the yarn before you use it and tell us a little bit about it. If you dyed it yourself, what did you use? If you purchase from another dyer, do they give any information on what they used?

  • Double-dipping with other K/CALs is allowed.

  • WIPs are a-ok.

  • Use the hashtag #naturaldyeMAL for your WIPs and #naturaldyeMALFO for your FO’s on Instagram

  • Prizes will be drawn from the FO thread on Ravelry and the Instagram Hashtag #naturaldyeMALFO

  • Prizes are TBD

If you have any questions, please leave them here under this post or in the Ravelry group chatter thread. And please make sure to sign up to my newsletter below for updates as well. I look forward to seeing your natural dye experiments! Happy making.

Early Spring Cleaning (A Quick Update)

sixpence socks
happy mountain sweater
happy mountain sweater tip

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. 

Fall Knitting and Thanksgiving Traditions

Happy November! We three stayed in for Halloween last night, and watched reruns of The Walking Dead, our favorite spooky show. Life has been super busy lately, so it was nice to stay home, sippin’ tea, listening to the crazy rain and wind outside.

My pillow project is coming along nicely. I’ve made three wool/wool-blend cases so far using yarn from my stash. Mostly just yarn that I purchased back when I first started knitting, like Fishermen’s Wool and Wool Ease, but these are covers that will be used for the pillows on the living room couch, so I know they’ll get a lot of wear and tear as the kid gets older.

What I’d really like to be working on right now is another wool garment or two for Ella. She’s growing out of the little knit dress I made for her while I was pregnant, so it fits more like a tunic these days (which is still really cute, imo). Problem is, and most new moms can attest to this, knitting for a baby when you have a baby (and a part-time job) is almost impossible. I know I’ll have more time for crafting as she gets older, but right now I’m soaking up all the cuddles, and watching her come closer and closer to full mobility. Ack!

Anyway, now that Halloween is over, I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving, which just happens to be my favorite holiday. I love any excuse to gather together with my closest friends and family over delicious food and hot mulled wine.  I know families tend to have slightly different traditions surrounding the holidays, but one that seems to crop up a lot is the tradition of going around the table and saying what you’re thankful for. In the past, I’ve had trouble with this tradition because the things I’m thankful for are typically quite personal to me, but I very much appreciate the opportunity to reflect on the positive things that are happening in life.

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, what are your Thanksgiving traditions?