Monday, May 30, 2016

Multi colored shawls and Testing Yarn for Color Fastness

I can't stop knitting multi-colored shawls.  I'm not sure why they have captured my love recently because it's not as though I haven't knit multi-colored projects before.  I think a lot has to do with the proliferation of gorgeous mini-skeins sets that are popping up everywhere.  Who can resist mini skeins?  This beautiful selection of mini-skeins was dyed by Hedgehog Fibers and is the first shipment of Simply Sock Yarn's 2016 club.  And you know how I love clubs, risks be damned!  Although I am struggling with how to make a certain club skein of multi-colored neon sock yarn work for me...

But before I talk about how much I love this shawl and this yummy confection of minis, I want to talk about knitting with multi-colored skeins.  As gorgeous as these projects are they are not without their risks and certain steps need to be taken to ensure that your work of art will survive washing without color migration/bleeding destroying it.  This is particularly important if you use a light colored contrasting yarn.  And while commercial yarns seem to be less susceptible to color bleed it can happen with any yarn no matter the dyer and I don't know of any indie dyer that won't acknowledge that color bleed can occur with their yarns.  Parenthetically, if you are knitting with a yarn and notice that the dye is coming off on your needles or hands this is a huge red flag you will have a color bleeding issue.

The following are my tips for working with multi colored yarns with the caveat that they are not a guarantee that you won't have a color bleeding disaster.  They are simply common sense recommendations and tips that I've picked up from various and sundry sources and are intended to reduce the likelihood of color bleed.  You should always consult and follow the recommendations of the yarn manufacturer (or dyer) to ensure the best result. 

Tips to Reduce Chances that Color Bleed will Spoil your Project:

1.  Before winding, knitting, or doing anything at all to your skein of yarn soak the skein in a basin of cold water to check for color fastness.  Do not use hot water and/or soap (including a wool wash) as both can contribute to dye leaching.   Before I immerse a skein in water I like to add additional yarn ties to the skein to help prevent the yarn from tangling and becoming a headache to wind later and also try not to agitate the yarn more than necessary.  If you see that the color bleeds but without an excessive amount of color pouring off the yarn (i.e. enough that the color of the yarn is changing) then this is just your typical excess dye that is rinsing out.  Repeat the soak and rinse cycle until the water runs clear.  If instead your yarn is losing profuse amounts of dye and the yarn is changing color then the dye is not set and you need to contact the seller for the best method to set the dye (this usually involves heat and vinegar) and sometimes the dyer will want to (or offer to) do this themselves.

2.   For it's first soak after you have completed knitting your project, use cold water (without either soap and/or wool wash) and toss in a sheet of dye catcher.  I use Shout ColorCatcher dye-trapping sheets which are very popular with quilters who also have to be careful about color bleeding.  If you feel you must add soap and/or wool wash then do so right at the end just before you rinse to reduce the likelihood that it will leach dye from the yarn and/or allow the dye time to migrate but still give it that fresh smell and feel that we all love.

3.  If your project does not require an aggressive block then there is no reason for a long soak which increases the chances that dye will migrate and stain adjacent yarn and/or lighter colors.  A quick dunk is all that is needed unless you need an aggressive block and a long soak to ensure the fibers relax fully in which case you have to take the risk.  But many of the patterns using multi-colored yarns are garterstitch shawls and unlike lace don't require a long soak so simply don't do it.

The most important tip is obviously to soak the yarn and check for color fastness before knitting your shawl, which can't be repeated often enough.  But just like knitting a gauge swatch no one wants to take the time to do it. However if you have seen some of the wonderful projects that have been ruined because of color bleed then you will take the time as I do.  For an example of an epic fail here's a link to a Doodler shawl on Ravelry. 

And finally a little about this fantastic shawl which is one of my favorites. Ever ever ever. It was designed as a two colored shawl but I saw no reason it shouldn't work beautifully with my set of 5 mini-skeins in contrasting colors paired with a cream colored skein of yarn.  And I was really lucky because fortuitously the pattern elements coincided virtually dead-on with my yarn minis so that there was a natural break in the colors when the design element changed.  This helped because I used all but a negligible amount of my colorful minis although I did have to fudge some of the design to make it work as perfectly as it did  at the end! 

Particulars: Enfilade a Maliha Design by Lisa Hannes; 5 Hedgehog Fibers Mini skeins (20g/87yrds) (first of three monthly shipments in a mini club sold by Simply Sock Yarn); 1 skein (colorway Antler) Sun Valley Fibers 80/20 420 yds; US 4 Circular needles.  Modified patterns to use mini skeins rather than a single contrasting color.  I also slightly modified the use of the contrasting color, particularly at the end when I knit the lilac and dark blue without any contrasting stripes.  This is a very fun and easy pattern to knit and as you can see easily adaptable to multiple colors.

Jordana Paige Bella Bag ~

I was absolutely thrilled to receive this beautiful Jordana Paige knitting bag as a prize for the Breaking Bad Shawl KAL.  I remember seeing these bags advertised in knitting magazines and thinking how beautiful they were.  Now that I have actually used this bag I am in love with it.  It's super tactilely appealing and very stylish and looks just like any other gorgeous hobo bag except that it has lots of pockets and room to stash your yarn and notions. I took this bag along with me on a recent weekend trip and it was perfect and I realized how wonderful it was not to have to juggle both a purse and a knitting bag and still have everything I wanted with me. How cool is that?  

Having just discovered how cool these bags are I was very sorry to learn that Jordana Paige is closing her business. I hate to see a terrific product like this disappear and with it yet another small independent yarn related business. Jordana wrote a really lovely piece that explains her decision to close her business and thanking her customers that you can read on her website.  I also understand a few of her bags are still available.   

What Up Next?

Over the summer months there will be a shift in projects away from shawls (which I have really enjoyed wearing and knitting this cooler than typical Spring in California) to smaller and more portable and summer friendly knits.  I wish our weather remained cool all year around, but that is not the way it works.

Until next time be well, love and and have fun exploring the many possibilities that the mini skein invasion brings! 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Speckles and Brights and How to Wear the Latest Yarn Craze!

I'm loving the current speckles and brights trend!  I know there is a lot to be said for knitting natural colors for wearability and usefulness yadda yadda yadda.  But when it comes to fun summer knitting you can't beat bright color and if you toss in some speckles it's color and brights and fun oh my oh my!

This shawl practically flew off my needles because it was so mesmerizing watching the yarn flow into a river of colorful fabric.  I am always mindful mind you that I do want to actually wear what I've finished knitting.  So my compromise was to pair this neon pink bright speckled yarn with a rich beautiful solid neutral color.  And I am really happy with my choice.  I think the dark solid blue toned down and gave the bright speckled yarn a sophisticated finish. If I had used another speckled yarn or bright contrasting color I think this could have been a little over the top at least here in Southern California.  Maybe in the Netherlands they are wearing all neon all the time but here in SoCal not so much.

This is a cool new pattern called Breaking Bad and I chose it because I happen to be a fan of the TV show (of the same name) and knitting a neon pink speckled yarn seemed to fit with breaking out of the hum drum colors I've been knitting lately.  Admittedly I've chosen something much more tame than cooking meth (as in the show) but then it is the spirit of the gesture and I can also sleep at nights.

Ah, and I nearly forgot!  Another advantage to using dark navy as a contrasting color is that this is a very denim friendly shawl and will fit easily into a casual lifestyle.  It's interesting.  Because our climate is changing to drier and warmer conditions I find that I wear my shawls more than anything else I've knit.  My new style of dressing is to skip the sweater and style a shawl as either a cowl or scarf and I'm good to go.  At least that's the way I wear my shawls.  If you want to see some hilarious tips on how to wear your shawls check out Stephen West's video How to Wear Your Shawl.

Particulars: Breaking Bad Shawl designed by Jessica Anderson (blog: All in a Day's Fun)  1 skein Hedgehog Fibers, Twist Sock, 399 yrds/100g (colorway Miami Nights) 1 skein The Plucky Knitter, Primo Fingerling, 390 yrds/101g (colorway Bohemian Blue).  I slightly modified the pattern at the start so that CC rows 26-31 are stockinette (versus garterstitch) as I think these stitches look best in stockinette.  I also twisted the yarns together intarsia style to prevent any gaps in the fabric in the early segments where the yarn changes color in the middle of the row.  Lastly I shortened the edge ribbing to give it a lighter feel for summer.  A very easy and fun pattern to knit.  Previous projects made with The Plucky Knitter yarns: Stripe Study and Kelmscott Socks and those made with Hedgehog Fibers: CarsonSand and Sea; and Starshower Cowl.

Was that an El Nino?

As the winter rainy season fizzles to an end I have to ask what happened to the "monster" El Nino with the extreme amounts of rain predicted?  Far be it for me to criticize the professionals, but I did invest in an umbrella.  But I'm not looking for a refund on my umbrella, just the rain they promised. It doesn't seem fair to raise our hopes that way and then not deliver.  In point of fact rainfall this season was well below even an average year. So much for the experts and our drought conditions continue.   But I am trying to focus on the positive and the mountains in Topanga did received some rainfall and as a result the wildflowers have been particularly abundant and beautiful.

Until next time be well and love well and have fun breaking out of your typical colors and explore ways that the brights and neons can spice up your summer knitting!  I have a fun month ahead with a trip up to Santa Barbara to visit my parents, a few days in the desert and then down to San Clemente for the Doheny Jazz Festival and I'll definitely be taking this shawl with me!