Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

My good friend Lesley has an important birthday coming up, and I wanted to sew and mail her something special to have on her birthday. Because she is an avid knitter, the first gift I thought of was a knitting bag!

IMG_6723I bravely chose one of my favorite fabrics that has been in my stash for years: this birdsong print by Echino. I also pulled out some of my dyed fabric to select a color for the lining. It was kind of a no brainer though, as Lesley’s favoritest color in the whole world is purple.


I spent some time measuring, drawing, sketching, and planning, as I wanted to use the narrow 1/2 yard fabric to the last 1/4 inch.

IMG_6725To keep the vertical orientation of the birds, each bird panel for the sides of the bag was 9 inches. I wanted to rectangle to be wider for a wider bag, so cut and sewed side panels on each which would become the sides of the bag.

IMG_6726Next, I began to work on the lining. The pattern just called for two rectangles cut the size of the outside rectangles, but I knew I wanted to get a little fancy with my lining. I wanted to make two pockets, one open and one zipper. Here, I cut the open pocket square, folding and ironing in the sides. For the top side of the pocket, I folded down twice, to keep a hemmed edge, and stitched the top and bottom sides of this fold.

IMG_6727On the larger lining square, I chalked in a rough idea of where the bag edges and bottom would come to, so I could place and sew the pocket in place. I then sewed around three edges, and added in a pencil pocket on the side too!

IMG_6728Here’s a close up of the pencil pocket. On each corner, I reinforced with a triangle of stitching to make more secure.

IMG_6730Now for the zipper pocket! I’m quite proud of this one, and floored by how easy zipper pockets are. Thanks to the power of the internet, a quick google search came up with this awesome and easy to follow tutorial on sewing a zipper pocket. The first step is to cut out your pocket square, and sketch a skinny rectangle one inch from the top of our pocket square. Draw a line through the middle, with two triangles on either end. Sew this zipper pocket half to the bigger lining square, going around the outside of the chalked skinny rectangle. Trim both layers along the middle line, and in the edges out to the corner.

IMG_6732Through the hole I just cut, I turned the pocket inside out, pressing the edges neat. I then lay this over the zipper, and sewed around the edges of all four sides.

zippersAnd the front and back of the zippers! Pretty nice, huh?

IMG_6738The last step for the zipper pocket is to take your second piece of pocket fabric and sew it to the first, folding and moving the larger lining square out of the way.

IMG_6740And presto chango my zipper pocket is ready to store precious knitting items. Whew. All that for lining. Now, ready to start to sew the bag!

IMG_6742For the bag and lining squares, I sewed around three edges, then cut 2″ squares from the bottom two corners to create the gussets and shape of the bag. The pieces are then pulled apart and edges lined up matching seams and sewn again. The result is a square block open at the top. I set these pieces aside and went to work on the handles.


I cut the handle fabric from the bottom green portion. Folding the rectangles in half and ironing, then folding the edges in to the middle and ironing, and then folding the folds in half, I finally stitched each edge.

IMG_6745I pinned each handle to the right side of the lining, measuring from the edges to the middle and matching up each side. I sewed each handle piece onto the lining. Getting close now!

IMG_6746I inserted the lining into the bag, right sides facing (lining right side out and bag outside out), and sewed around the top, leaving a 4″ hole for turning (and making sure the handles were tucked inside). I flipped the bag right side out through the hole, ironed the entire seam flat, and top stitched the whole way round.

IMG_6749The bag is basically complete now, but there is one more step that sets it over the edge into cute. Pinching and pinning, around three sides of each side (sides and bottom), I tucked, pinned and sewed an 1/8 inch in to create a defined edge. This last simple quick step gives the bag character and support.

IMG_6751I followed the grocery tote pattern from the book One Yard Wonders, with a few variations, including overall smaller dimensions, no interfacing, and pockets. This is the second such bag I made, the first for myself as a test. The only thing I did different in the second bag was to make the pockets higher, especially the zipper pocket. On my original bag, the zipper is so low in the bag it is hard to open and close and access.


I hope Lesley will have many lovely hours knitting with this bag. Happy Birthday Lesley!

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For the past two weekends, I’ve been experimenting with dyeing with used coffee grounds. I first read the idea in the Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes book, and since did a bit of research online and on ravelry. I’ve begun to notice, that with natural dye recipes, much as there is in cooking, there are many recipes for the same thing that vary slightly. I’m beginning to be more flexible with my interpretation of these recipes, and still achieve results!


I wanted to see what difference there might be between mordanted fibers with alum and without. I began last Friday with mordanting the fibers with alum. First, I weighed the fibers. Lesley added in some roving to spin to the mix, and I added some cotton to see if it might take up the color, in addition to some wool yarn for knitting.

IMG_4913Next, I calculated 10% of the fiber weight, and measured out my mordant, alum. Bringing a pot of water to boil, I added the alum until it was completely dissolved, then added in the fibers, and simmered for an hour.

IMG_4915After rinsing the mordanted fibers, I hung to dry. I’ve read that mordanting up to one day ahead of dyeing helps the fibers retain the color brighter.

IMG_4918On Saturday, I boiled used coffee grounds and water for half an hour, then let sit overnight. I found Starbucks was great for getting the grounds. They have whole bag fulls for free ready to go behind the counter if you ask (most folks use them for garden compost). In my pot, I had 1/3 coffee grounds to 2/3 water.

IMG_5013After letting the coffee brew sit overnight (and did our house smell lovely all night long!), Lesley and I strained out the water from the grounds. The grounds did seem to settle toward the bottom, and it was easy enough just to pour off the top.

IMG_5019We brought the coffee brew up to a boil again, and added our fibers, mordanted and unmordanted alike. After reaching a boil, we simmered for thirty minutes, then let sit overnight.

IMG_5030On Monday, we rinsed, and were quite pleased with the results. The yarn took up the color well. The mordant (surprisingly) gave the fiber a lighter color, in the picture above, with the golden brown. The cotton (not surprisingly) didn’t take up much of the color at all.


Being so pleased with the results, I went ahead and did one more batch this weekend. It doesn’t take much time if blended with other household activities. The pots of water take time to get up to a boil, and the rinsing takes a few minutes, but other than that it comes together quickly.


This second time, I did one skein mordanted with alum and one without. I used more coffee:fiber ratio, hoping for a darker color. I did not let the coffee brew sit overnight, or the fiber in the dye sit overnight. I went ahead and did all the dyeing and rinsing in one day. Other than that, I followed the same steps as above.

photoOne surprising discovery for me is that coffee is quite oily. My pots, buckets and measuring cups all were left with an oily residue which took hot water and soap to get clean. The yarn does have a little bit of coffee grounds still stuck to it. As I wound the skeins into balls, I was left with a dusting of coffee grounds on the table. I’ve starting knitting a shawl with the yarn, and find I need to wash my hands after knitting as there’s a bit of oily residue left on the yarn. Lesley suggests once the shawl is complete, washing it in a wool soap bath.

IMG_5052All in all, a very successful experiment. I’m pleased with the results, and enjoying already using the yarn to knit. Of course, getting cotton to absorb color will remain a challenge.

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A few months ago, my good friend Lesley, an avid knitter, started a Thursday night knitting group amongst our bevy of ladies. Always being one to love a crafty get together with friends, and having never tried knitting before, I was up for the adventure.


Of course, the instant I decided to start a knitting project, I wanted to dye the yarn. Lesley suggested this wool from Flint Knits as one she liked. I purchased six skeins and dyed them yellow with rabbit brush flowers. You can read more about that and see lovely pictures here.


Many of us were interested in knitting a sweater, and Lesley suggested the February Lady Sweater as a good beginning sweater to knit. At the first Thursday Night Knitting get together, I wound my skeins into balls.


Then, we learned to cast on.


And then we learned to knit. And then pearl.


The February Lady Sweater is knit from the top down, so here’s the beginning stitches, which would be the neck on the finished product. Sweaters have such humbling beginnings, don’t they?


The garter stitch went quickly, and soon it was time for the button holes. Yikes! Three of them. Soon, the top shoulder piece was done.


Then began the body of the sweater, learning yarn overs, knit two togethers, and the like to make the lacy pattern. I enjoyed the challenge of following a pattern and the look of the lace as it emerged.


Soon, the lace body was getting long enough I needed to try it on for size. Looking good!


The knitting nights continued, and soon I was on to the sleeves. There were a plethora of knitting projects being made, from little knit animals to scarves, hats, and quite a few February Lady Sweaters. Through it all, Lesley tirelessly troubleshot our mistakes, fixed dropped stitches, helped interpret patterns, and encouraged us to continue on despite the odds.


And just in time for Christmas gifts, the sweater was finished. Last step, blocking. I’d never heard of this step before. We got the sweater wet, lay it out on soft tiles, then pinned and stretched it into shape, leaving it for a few days to dry.

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For the last piece, I sewed on big wooden buttons, wrapped it up, and presented it to my sister for Christmas.

IMG_0039What’s next? I’ve been knitting a scarf over the holidays with the remaining rabbit brush yarn. Another challenging and complicated lacy pattern. More on that when it is complete!

What have you knit recently?

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