Sunday, December 30, 2007

gansey, part 1

About a week before Christmas, I started working on a gansey for my three-year-old. I'm mostly following Knitting Ganseys by Beth Brown-Reinsel, with patterns out of Cornish Guernseys and Knit-Frocks by Mary Wright. I'm using the Northcott pattern for the main body, and a seed stitch variation for the upper parts of the sleeves. The yarn is a wonderful, silky soft BFL/merino/kid mohair blend that's a natural brown.

I first heard of ganseys when my husband bought one on our honeymoon. His is very plain, with some decorative stitches at the shoulder and armhole only. Like his, my kiddo's gansey is reversible (the neckline is unshaped, so there is no front or back side, so it will be easier for him to dress himself) and has triangular neck gussets. And of course, it has my favorite feature, the diamond-shaped underarm gusset.

I've made the body and started one sleeve, but somehow I strained my arm on Christmas Day and haven't been able to knit since. My shoulder hurts and I've got a bad case of tendonitis--it's not just near the elbow, but along the whole length of my forearm. I'm going to lay off the knitting for another week and see if it improves. I've been icing the tendon and doing stretches, but I think time is going to be the real healer here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

to shrug or not to shrug

I think I'm giving up on the aran cabled shrug. My yarn (silk/wool/cashmere Noro Kabuto in a rich claret color) is gorgeous, but it's got that thick/thin thing going, and also has some color variegation so the finer details like the double seed stitch just aren't showing up. In addition, it occurred to me that maybe a petite person shouldn't wear something that has an 8" wide cable section going across her shoulders. I think I might get overwhelmed by it.

I do have some natural bulky BFL that I could dye, if I really wanted to knit the shrug. The patterning would show up so much better with a smooth-textured yarn. But the thought of dyeing 2.5 lbs of yarn and then spending 30 hours knitting it up, only to find that it looked terrible on me ... well, that thought definitely gives me pause. I'm going to knit a little more of it, stretch it across my shoulder, and see if that gives me a better sense of how it might look.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

the mysteries of postal delivery

It would actually cost me less to ship this little cozy to Australia than to someplace in the U.S. How strange is that?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

countdown to my HBK vacation

In October, I decided to take December off from business knitting, so I started ramping down custom orders then. Now I've just got a few left to go before my much-needed vacation. My current order has run into some glitches, so last night after my little one went to bed, I found myself with nothing to knit. It was a really weird feeling. I ended up knitting and embellishing a caffeine cozy for next week's Venus Vanguard stocking, but now tonight I'm feeling adrift again. I don't think I've gone a night without knitting since July, when I was camping in 90+ degree weather and had zero interest in handling wool.

I am SO looking forward to doing personal knitting next month. I'm going to finish my aran cabled shrug out of a Noro wool/silk/cashmere blend. (Only without the bobbles--I didn't like how they looked.)

Then I'm going to work on a sweater for the boy. I'm thinking about knitting a little gansey with traditional stitch patterns for him, out of some incredibly soft BFL/merino/angora that I have. Gotta get that book out of the library again so I can start designing it. Maybe I'll even finish the Jaywalker socks that I started lo these many months ago. Can't wait!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

unraveling ribbing

I've always wondered if I could just unravel a waistband on a pair of pants, if I wanted to add some inches to the rise. When a good customer of mine commented on how much she liked a pair of longies I had for sale, but that the rise was a little too short, I figured it was my chance to find out.

First I unraveled the cast-on edge. It took a while, but I was prepared for that. My hope was that it would unravel pretty readily after that. Alas, that was not the case. The ribbing was K2P2, so every two stitches, I had to draw the loose end through a loop. (Should have taken photos, but at the time I was just trying to get it over with.) Of course, the more stitches I unraveled, the longer the loose end was, and the time it took to draw the extra yarn through got longer and longer. I spent about 30 minutes undoing two rows, then gave up and cut off the waistband with a pair of scissors. Unraveling stockinette was a snap--just like unraveling it from the other end of the work.

I picked up stitches and added about half an inch, then did the waistband in matching semi-solid yarn. Also added some length to the inseam, but that was a really simple fix. No heroic measures necessary.



These longies are knitted from Lindon merino, dyed by Three Irish Girls in the Barrett colorway (trim is Murphy, also by TIG). I love how Lindon merino feels--so thick and cottony and marvelously soft. Sadly, I don't like knitting with it. I think I need 5.25 mm needles, but knitting needles only come in 5.0 and 5.5 mm sizes. I'm always fiddling with my tension as I knit and can never quite get comfortable. I also don't seem to have the right knack for dyeing it. It makes me sad, since I want so much to love it, but we appear to have irreconcilable differences.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


The inspiration for this colorway was serendipity. (Maybe that's what I should have named it; I've always liked that word.) I was weaving in ends for two different pairs for longies at the same time, so I had a pile of yarn snippets in all sorts of different colors. A few of them happened to clump together and I thought, hm, that's pretty. What about if I add this snippet? And this one?

I was getting ready for the Mythical stocking at Venus Vanguard and thought maybe this would work for a Venus colorway, in honor of our patron goddess. But after I dyed it, it didn't really make me think of Venus. I toyed with variations like Modern Venus and whatnot, but didn't come up with anything that caught my fancy.

Then when I was working on the listing for my Arthur caffeine cozy, I started thinking about The Mists of Avalon. It's such an original interpretation of Arthurian legend; after I read it several years ago, it felt like the true version of what really happened--all other tellings of the story seem wrong. The book is told from the point of view of Morgaine, a priestess of the Goddess. When I thought about her, I knew I'd found the right name for the colorway.

It really is nice to finally have a reliable black dye to work with. It opens up a lot of options for colorways that I've been thinking about but couldn't dye until now.

Monday, November 5, 2007


This is a colorway that's been rattling around in my head since last spring. When I started thinking about the Venus Vanguard "Mythical" stocking this week, I originally wanted to call the colorway Firebird. My husband said, "Like that cheesy sports car?" So I polled some of my friends, and nearly all of them thought of the car before anything else.

The red in this skein is actually a lovely deep cherry red, though it looks a little pink in this photo because of the way the (indirect) light reflects off the yarn. I like this colorway--nice and vibrant, a great antidote to the November blahs.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

October roundup

Ravelry's project feature is proving to be unexpectedly useful. Before, I had never tracked how much I could crank out in a month. I always figured myself at a pair of longies every five to seven days, so I thought I was only making four or five pairs each month. Thanks to Ravelry, I now know that in October, I knitted seven pairs of longies plus a pair of fingerless gloves that ate up three days because I kept experimenting with different patterns. I also got two other pairs of longies started in the last few days of October, both of which were giving me gauge problems. If I hadn't had to repeatedly unravel one pair because I was trying to solve both sizing and pooling issues (the yarn was considerably thinner than its label would have you believe), I might have been able to finish off another pair.

Anyway. It's nice to know that I'm producing much more than I thought I could, even when I run into unexpected snags.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

just in time for All Hallows Eve

A pair of longies in Dashing Dachs' Ghostie colorway:

This is the second DD colorway I've worked with, and the second one where I had problems with colors stacking in vertical columns. I tried adjusting my number of stitches a bit, but couldn't get it to not stack while still getting the measurements I needed. So I ended up alternating skeins in the body of the pants. I thought I'd have to alternate skeins with the legs, too, but the yarn ended up pooling in cascading diagonal stripes, which I thought was OK.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

a happy discovery

When handpainting some BFL in my Glacier colorway today, I noticed that the blue was bleeding pink into the areas that I'd been planning to leave white. By the time I'd finished, parts of the skein were fuchsia.

So I thought I'd try rinsing the undyed sections. I definitely didn't want any pink, and I figured that rinsing couldn't make it any worse.

And it worked! Except for the bit that I absent-mindedly rinsed with hot water--that set the pink, but a little bit of overdyeing fixed that. I ended up rinsing the entire skein, which washed out the extra pink but otherwise left the colors exactly the way I wanted them. I was afraid that all the colors would run together or that everything would wash out, but instead it was the ideal outcome. Most of my attempts to fix dyeing mistakes usually make the yarn unusable, so I was very happy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Zen Child longies, plus some gloves

I forgave the Full Belly Farm yarn for some of its imperfections after I blocked the longies. They smoothed out wonderfully and have a fantastic texture. Look Ma, no lumps!

Don't you just love the colorway? It's even better in person. I should've taken a closeup photo so you could see the subtle shifts in color, from turquoise to emerald to seaweed and aqua.

Denise of Zen-Child also sent me a rainbow colorway to work up. At first some of the colors were pooling all on one side of the pants or the other, but once I unraveled and decreased the total number of stitches for the body, the color distribution evened itself out nicely. This pair is knitted with Marr Haven yarn, a non-certified organic merino/Rambouillet blend. It pills a bit and isn't as silky soft as other merinos, but has that plush, squishy feel that Targhee has. And I was struck by how lightweight it was, given that it's a heavy worsted yarn (my gauge was about 4.25 sts/inch). The longies weighed 6.25 oz, compared to the FBF longies at 7.5 oz. Same size, similar gauges, but more than an oz difference.

I also cranked out a pair of fingerless gloves. I looked around for some grey machine washable yarn, but didn't see any that were quite the color I was looking for, so I dyed some aran BFL in a grey somewhere between medium and charcoal. My original thought was to do a pair with K4 P1 ribbing, but I got sidetracked by Soy Silk's fingerless glove pattern (link goes to a PDF file), with pseudo cables on the cuff and up the back. I knitted one glove and didn't care for it--the pseudo cables had an inverted pyramid shape that made the glove sort of baggy under the palm, and the way the pattern is written (or possibly the way my hand is shaped), the cables weren't centered on the back of my hand. Scrapped it and experimented with a baby cable cuff, then scrapped that and went back to my original concept.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

WWBN and DD longies

It's been a while since my last post, eh? Lots of longies were finished, but I've been too busy knitting to update. For some reason, it's been easier to throw stuff up on my Ravelry projects page. I guess it's because I enjoy clicking the progress bar to 100%. Hey, I'll take a sense of accomplishment where I can get it.

First, the pair of longies that were going to a customer as a surprise. These are knitted with aran Blue-Faced Leicester, dyed by WWBN in the Rustic Blues colorway. When I placed a custom order for this yarn, the photo in the WWBN gallery was of bright and deep blues mixed with dark brown. By the time I received the yarn, the photo had changed. I wasn't too happy about that, but I was able to sell this as a custom slot so it all worked out. And it really is the softest BFL I've ever knitted. I had been puzzled by WWBN's description of BFL as "poor man's cashmere." This stuff more than deserves that name. The waistband was pooling in a really unattractive way; I had to alternate skeins and it still wasn't ideal, but got the job done.

And here's another custom with a WWBN colorway. This one's called Ocean Rock. Yarn is Big Blue BFL--not as silky soft as WWBN's aran BFL, but still pretty nice. I spent some time trying to fix some pooling in a leg and gave up after several attempts. Then the patterning shifted and it fixed itself, thankfully.

This pair is knitted from organic merino dyed by Dashing Dachs. I had a bit of trouble with stacked lines of colors, if that makes sense, but I added a few stitches and it was fine. Took me some experimenting to figure out the right needle size for this yarn--mfg's suggested size is 10-11, but I used 8.

Got a few more finished items to post if it ever stops raining around here--fingerless gloves and Denise's FBF longies.l

Monday, October 8, 2007

joining the ravelry

Got my Ravelry invite last week (my ID is huckleberrymama) and it was fun till today. I've started listing my projects, looked at other people's projects with the same yarn to see what needle size they're using, and browsed for sweater patterns for my kiddo. A really nice resource, with cool features like automatic links to people's Flickr accounts and their blog posts about their projects, so you can really get a good sense of how a pattern will look in a variety of yarns and what sort of pitfalls you might run into while knitting it up. It organizes the enormous explosion in knitting blogs and photos in an incredibly useful way. Plus (NERD ALERT) I like looking at what my friends are working on, and what yarn they just bought.

But then today I fell in love. I discovered the ISO/destashing board. Now that's the way to a girl's heart. Not to mention her PayPal account.


My knitting seems to have slowed down a bit lately, as I've been fighting the good fight against pooling on three different pairs of longies. But I did finally finish up a couple of pairs this weekend. One is a surprise, so I'll wait to post photos till the customer has received them, but I will say that I knitted them from aran BFL dyed by Wooly Wonders by Nada, and that their BFL fully lives up to the hype. It's the softest, plushest BFL I've worked with yet.

The other pair is for Jenn of babyMACH for her new baby. Knitted from single-ply Galenas merino, dyed by Three Irish Girls. I had to play around a little with the number of stitches to avoid some unattractive striping and color stacking, but since the baby has not yet made his/her grand appearance, I had some flexibility with measurements.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

rain, rain, go away

I stock on the first day of the month, so the last few days before are always busy. This month it's been especially last-minuteish. I've been trying to photograph my yarn and knits for five days now, but it won't stop raining.

I've got photos of everything, from when I run outside during a break in the rain with a pile of yarn in my arms. But something's off in a lot of them--I didn't primp the longies, so the drawstring is askew, or the legs are crooked, or the color of the yarn isn't true despite my best efforts at photo editing.

I've got some friends who have set up a little homemade photo studio in their wood shop. Maybe I'll be paying them a visit today.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

yarn review: Full Belly Farm

Denise of Zen Child dyed some Full Belly Farm yarn and sent it to me to knit up. It's a two-ply, organic worsted yarn that is made from Rambouillet, Lincoln, Suffolk, and merino wool.

I love the dye job that Denise did--a lovely, variegated, and completely NON-POOLING colorway of greens and blues. But the yarn itself? Not so much. There isn't much stretch to the yarn, so instead of gliding over my Addis, I had to pull and tug the knitted work every few stitches, which really slowed me down. It was also somewhat thick and thin, so it's got that nubby thing going on. It doesn't drape smoothly, like most of the yarns I've been using lately--makes a very stiff fabric. It's a little bit like a lumpy, nonstretchy Targhee.

And the VM! All the comments I've ever seen about this yarn mention the significant amount of vegetative matter. I'm convinced they must encourage the sheep to wallow in brambles, because I've never seen so much VM in a skein of yarn. Last year I had some fleeces from non-coated, free-to-roam Clun Forest sheep processed and spun for me, and have knitted up about eight or 10 skeins of it. One skein of FBF has probably double the amount of VM from those skeins combined.

And to top it off, instead of each skein weighing 4 oz like the label says, the two skeins knitted up only weigh 7.25 oz, and that's with a 12" circular needle still stuck in it. I used every bit of the yarn that I got and am three rows short of finishing the longies (wahhh!), though if I'd gotten the full amount of yarn, I should have had about 60 yards to spare. I'm not a fan, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

recent customs

I've been in the middle of four or five different projects lately, what with waiting for items to dry so I can embellish them, needing something I can work on in the dark when I put the boy down for the night (I sit with him with the lights off until he falls asleep), and procrastinating about weaving in ends. But I finally managed to finish up two of them.

The top one is knitted from aran BFL, hand-dyed in my Pearl colorway and embellished with my flowering plum design. The second is the paler variation of Banana Fish, dyed by wonderful Kimberly at Beemer Knits, also on aran BFL, and finished with my chainstitch cuffs. I wish the photos were better--I'd love to go to a Crate & Barrel photo shoot and see how the pros do photo styling.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jaywalker, Part 1

I dyed my Moonlight colorway on my lovely new BFL sock yarn:

I was finding Full Belly Farm yarn a little annoying to work with (more on that in another post), so I put it aside for an evening to start the Jaywalker socks. I was really curious to see how the color repeats would work up.

So I also decided to do the socks toe-up, because I've never done that before, and to do short rows with wraps, also a new thing. Tore it out halfway through the toe because I found the wraps really difficult to see with sock yarn, and changed to the YO short row method instead.

All was well and good, until I realized that I'd measured my foot too loosely and the sock was going to be too big. I went ahead and did an inch of the pattern, just to see what it looked like. A much more basic stitch pattern than I'd realized, so once I redo the toe, it should be a relatively quick knit. But oh, how I miss working with size 8 needles! This size 1 thing is a little painful to someone who mostly works with heavy worsted yarn.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

FedEx, I think I love you.

All day I've been waiting for my latest shipment of BFL to arrive. It was loaded onto the local delivery truck at 8:30 this morning, and FedEx usually passes through my neighborhood in the early afternoon, so I thought I might get a chance to dye some of it this afternoon.

After 6 p.m., I gave up hope of getting it today. But then, at 7:34, someone knocked at our door. It was the lovely FedEx man with my box of aran and sock BFL yarn. The sock yarn, which is superwash, is already in 100g skeins. I've been wanting to try the Jaywalker pattern forever, so I thought I'd dye a test skein of the sock yarn for a pair for myself, so I can start figuring out lengths of color segments and whatnot before I offer sock yarn in my store. It's going to be hard to not dye some tonight, but I've got some flowering plum longies to finish knitting (I'm about two inches and a cuff away from the end), with two more pairs of pants waiting in the wings.

Speaking of which, I'm going to try listing my current customs (by customers' initials) on this blog. This summer, my knitting time has been broken up quite a bit and I've been jumping around from project to project for various reasons, whether it's waiting for payment or clarification on measurements or some such, so I hope when my customs list is public, I won't look like too much of a ditz. If I start getting a reputation for ditziness, I'll take the list down. :)

making money with a hobby turned business

Last year, I spent 50% more on my business than I earned. That was fine with me for the first year, what with startup costs and figuring out pricing and so on, but I didn't want it to become a habit.

So this spring, I made some changes in my business-related spending. One was to only spend what was in my PayPal balance (nearly all payments to me are made through PayPal). If I don't have enough to cover the purchase, I don't buy it. If I buy something locally, I immediately transfer the cost from PP to my checking account to cover it. This ensures that my business is not costing me money to run, at the very least. It just about killed me when there was a yarn co-op in August that I wanted in on, but I was $30 short and stuck to my guns. And honestly, I have not seen a shortage of yarn around this place because of it.

Another thing that helps me figure out what I'm making (since I'm really bad about entering all my expenses and income into my spreadsheet) is resetting my balance each month. At the end of each month, I figure out what I'm going to spend on supplies the following month and transfer anything that's left over into checking. That gives me a general sense of how I'm doing.

And the third recent change was to stop buying yarn that other people dye, unless I can't live without it. Most of my orders are complete customs, where I dye specific colorways. It didn't make any financial sense (though, naturally, it made plenty of emotional sense) to buy commercially dyed or HC yarn, just to have it sit in my stash. I broke this rule a lot in July and August when a LYS was going out of business, but it's okay to fall off the wagon for a 70% discount, I figure.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


I bought some organic wool yarn in August, planning to knit up a pair of skull & crossbones longies like these for the pirate stocking:

Of course, I've run out of time. So I thought about offering it as a semi-custom slot. Anne suggested doing just a semi-custom hat, since that would take 1.5 nights instead of a week to do. Gotta decide soon. I've got three customs left to do in Sept, and three already lined up for October. So the timing would be really tight, if not impossible. Seems a shame not to do it, though. I could always offer it as a semi-custom in late October or November instead.


My husband said, "You're going to name your yarn after some old rope?" So the colorway has gotten yet another name--just plain Smoke.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Sometimes naming a colorway is easy. I have a specific inspiration so I pick a name that's related. Other times, I fuss and fret, trying to come up with just the right word or phrase.

I knew I wanted to do a black and silver colorway for the pirate stocking at Venus Vanguard. Originally I thought I'd name it after Captain Jack Sparrow, him of Pirates of the Caribbean fame, but after I'd dyed it, it just wasn't flamboyant enough. Jack is all about flash and dazzle, reds and golds and liquid eyeliner. This was too subtle for him.

So I tentatively named it Shadow, but then the pirate connection was lost. The fussing and fretting commenced.

Today, I got the name. I've been reading a lot of Patrick O'Brian this summer; I'm working my way through his Aubrey/Maturin novels, which are set during Great Britain's war with Napoleonic France in the early 1800s. Captain Aubrey has a phrase for when his ship must make all possible speed; he says, "We must crack on like smoke and oakum." Oakum is the loose fiber that you can get by picking apart old ropes; they used to use it when caulking wooden ships. So I take the phrase to mean that they must fly as fast as a wisp of smoke or oakum.

And there you have it: my new colorway is named Smoke and Oakum. I'll post a photo this weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

my precious.

I got some new black dye and was fooling around with some dyeing techniques. I was trying to see if I could get silver or grey on the skein without having to overdye. Part of the technique included ignoring the dye manufacturer's instructions and adding citric acid to the dyepot.

The black came out with a strong reddish cast and no silver or gray areas, so I overdyed the skein in purple. I was using 3-ply 100purewool merino, which tends to do this dreadlock kind of thing during dyeing. It can be annoying to reskein, but it also makes the uptake of the dye very irregular, leading to some really neat results.

Behold, a new colorway--Black Pearl. Just in time for the pirate stocking at Venus Vanguard. I love how there are all sorts of shades of purple. I will confess that I've taken it out of its plastic bag just to admire how the purples and lavenders melt into one another. Geek.