Kidlet Knit Part II (Or, the Gateway Sweater)

I’ve been lax in posting my recent projects. I blame the end of the term grading madness, the beginning of the term disorientation and the deeply satisfying and lazy holiday break in-between.

This project, which I made for a certain Little L, is made from my go-to-pattern. I’ve now made three of these sweaters, and it was also the first sweater I made that got me back and knee-deep into knitting. This is probably the easiest sweater to make for those looking to dip their toes into knitting garments. It’s a top-down construction, seamless and easily adjustable. Prior to making this, I was knitting scarves and all I knew were purl and knit. But the ease of the garment and the realization that sweaters need not be so intimidating hooked me in. If ever there was sweater that is the equivalent of a gateway drug, this would be it.

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And while comparing this sweet little sweater to banned substances might be a bit inappropriate, especially as I imagine adorable Little L, with her plump rosy cheeks sporting this sweater in the natural beauty of Vancouver Island, my husband V–in looking at our bank account, the neglected state of our home and my constant distracted state as I count my stitches–might find the comparison completely apt.

Now that I’ve taken up spinning, it’s opened up a whole new world of things to learn and obsess about.

Below is my first ever hand-dyed and hand-spun skein, which I used to knit Little L’s sweater. I’ve wanted learn how to dye fiber ever since I started spinning. In fact, that was one of the reasons we drove as quickly as we could to San Antonio last year. I needed to get there in time to take a percentage dyeing class for fabric (which was one of the most informative and amazing classes I’ve taken!). It was a nice bookend to our time in San Antonio that in the last couple of weeks we were there, we drove to Austin so that I could take a fiber dyeing class at Hill Country Weavers, an amazingly stocked yarn store.

This time, I got to just play with color and focus on how to prep my fiber so I don’t felt it. Luckily, I also had some blue-faced leicester top which doesn’t felt as readily. And so I just used whatever color combinations were provided. What I ended up with is the color of a Disney Princess, a connection I didn’t make until we went to Disneyland on our road trip back to Portland.

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Dyeing my own fiber has made me also realize the importance of color placement in a way that I didn’t quite appreciate. As you can see the dyed colors of the top are more distinct, and after I spun the top, the colors became slightly less vibrant. The fact that the yellow was next to the gray/blue resulted in a slightly green tint to the yarn. I am going to be more mindful next time about how I spin as well as what color combinations I will juxtapose against each other.

In any case, I can’t wait to try my hand at more fiber dyeing. Next up for me is working with natural dyes!

 

 

Percentage Dyeing

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I’ve been meaning to post about one of the first things I did when we arrived in San Antonio–take a percentage dyeing class with the amazing textile artist, quilter and all-around wonderful teacher, Kim Eichler-Messmer. Her work is phenomenal, and what’s more, she is coming out with a new book on dyeing for quilting this November.  The class was offered as part of the biennial Surface Design Association Conference, and this year, it just happened to take place in San Antonio a couple of days after we arrived. I took this as a sign that I was meant to be there, and it was one of the best classes I have ever taken.

Percentage dyeing is a precise, mathematical way of dyeing that allows you to create color recipes that you can then reproduce. It allows you to understand the relationship between different colors and how to quantify the slightest shift in hue and tone. When I tell people about this class, they sometimes just laugh and say, “Why would I want to reproduce a color I just made? I want to try something new! And, isn’t the point about creativity the process of play and exploration?” It’s true. There is a lot of measuring in this class, and you do some math. Maybe it’s the nerd in me, but I love this kind of stuff! I love to know how colors come together. I love being able to track how the different percentages and ratios of water, stock solution and fiber come together to give me the particular gradation I want. I may not want to reproduce some of the colors I made, but I want to know that I can if I need to. There is something incredibly empowering about that.

The top photo is a sampling of my color explorations. The assignment was to choose a series of colors from color chips that you find at a paint store and to reproduce them. I wasn’t able to match them exactly, but I got pretty close.

I came away from this four-day class with a book of color recipes. It is my book of magic potions. This is all part of my eventual plan to start dyeing my own fibers. There. I said it. Now it’s real.