I will be heading to my first fiber festival this weekend! I have been on yarn tours, popped into many yarn shops around the world, and even dreamed about Rhinebeck, but I have never landed at an actual fest. So, I will start small with this weekend’s Wild and Wooly Fiber Expo at the Cuyahoga Fair Grounds in Middleburg Heights (11am-5pm) in cohoots with Tiffany Perry the new and wonderful owner of The Artful Yarn in Chagrin Falls, OH. I am bringing some of my yarn for sale and to show you what my take on plant dyed yarn is all about. Like the best things in life, there is a bit of a love/ hate relationship with plant dyes. But I find myself always coming up with new tactics, “best practices” ideas and favorite bases and plants.
The past few months I have tried out some interesting yarn bases, all made of fibers that I believe give a nod toward sustainability. Above, the first photo is recycled wool and Tencel. Tencel is a cellulosic fiber obtained from wood pulp. The yarn has a slight sheen with nice drape, good for school mascots (which is what my test knitter knitted with it) but more likely a great shawl, wrap or capelet. I am also bringing some 100% US produced Organic merino wool, second photo. These would be great for hats, wooly mittens and house slippers (all very nice gifts). Finally, I am bringing along my colorways “Sunrise Over Lake Erie” and “Midnight at the Lake” (third photo) in a wool/hemp blend. These too will be great for anything for which you want that extra snuggly feel. The hemp creates a nice and soft bloom. These were a challenge to dye, but I figured it out and they look great.
Interested in trying plant dyeing yourself? I have a few kits available with the wool/hemp blank and some “mostly madder” dye and starter directions. I am always available to answer your plant dye questions. But beware, it is a trial-and-error process, greatly aided by dyers and internet wisdom (and sometimes impeded). I look forward to seeing you there. Stop by and say “Hi”, I will be at The Artful Yarn tables from 11am-1pm. Knit Naturally!
Alas, I see why I love Isabell Kraemer’s pattern, she is thorough, thorough, thorough. So one of my customers pointed out that the instructions on the Darling Hat were not as clear as they should have been. When I instruct to repeat the pattern 6 times, this is around the hat. You will only work the chart once vertically (6 times around). I hope that clears things up. The photo does indicate this, but I realize I did not include a large enough photo to help anyone. Any more questions please let me know.
I do hope the approach of winter is treating you well. We all have many projects on our needles, I completed several with my yarn and several with other’s. All gifts of course! Who gets to knit for themselves these days? Dyeing is done for the season, which is nice, I am working on a pattern for early Spring, and I will take note of how it leaves my head to get to yours more closely this time.
Hi to all those who are new to my blog. I try to keep it infrequent and only blog when I am doing something new. I am. So as the weather gets crisp and cool, I am on the lookout for new ways to stay warm and cuddly. I found a Tencel/recycled wool blend yarn that has piqued my interest. First it is beautiful, wound well, and sustainably sourced. It is crisp and has a unique structure that will really show off some of your stitch work. Dyeing this in natural dyes results in a slightly heathered look that is just wonderful. Here is my artful shot of my first two skeins:
I seem to love pink and red, but I want to use some of my oak and walnut and barks to get some interesting tans/browns/grays on this. Blues will be a winner too. This is not in retail yet; I will put some more shots here as I dye. if you think this is something you’d like to let me know. It will be 100g hanks, 380 yards of fingering. You can always reach out to me at thedarlingyarn@com. This is a great yarn to give natural dyes a try on. There are a lot of great things that one skein can make, hats, mits, snoods (BTW saw the cutest doggy snoods for Halloween, I think next year I am going to get a pattern out for those, so adorable). Anyway, I digress, enjoy stocking up on yarns for the winter, and then be sure to enjoy the knit. The journey is as important as the finished product. Sort of like life, eh?
So I finished the Pure Local rectangular shawl with the pattern designed by Knitterella and available on Ravelry. I created four sets of plant dyed yarn, 6 colors (very similar but not exact) to the ones in the shawl pictured. As it goes with plant dyes you cannot recreate exacts. But I think the new sets are even more beautiful. The sets are available in a Darling Yarn project bag at The Artful Yarn in Chagrin Falls, OH. I love this shawl, it can be wrapped around, folded in half and draped over cool shoulders, it can be a statement piece draped around your neck and hanging long. It is just beautiful and with so many design elements no matter how you wear it, it is a show.
I spent much of the summer not dyeing or knitting as I was engaged in helping my mom (a.k.a. Momma Darling) find an Independent Living apartment, moving out of her home of 50 years and selling that home. It was not an entirely enjoyable experience but one that was necessary and a part of all of our lives at some point and will be for me and my children someday. Acknowledging that you need to move to a place that will help you thrive in your older years is a tough thing to do, you have substantially changed your relationship to the world. I tried to help my mom focus on the positives and to recognize the “passing of the torch” that we were doing. Then I turned and began to see my own “passing of the torch” to my young adult children that are in the nascent years of engaging with the professional world and building their own lives independent of our home and assistance. It’s all good, the circle of life, and I vow to be the best circler I can when it comes to my big moments of change. On that note I gave a lot of thought about the permanency of what I will leave behind. I want to leave less. I do not need my stuff to be here a hundred years after I am. I want to do better on Earth, to leave it better for my kids. That led me to back to my yarn. I give a lot of thought about what I am producing as a yarn dyer and what my goals for my “products” are. I am excited that I create living colors that combine to create living garments. I am reenergized to keep creating skeins of beautiful, natural dyed yarn for your enjoyment too.
Over the years I have come to realize I am a solid yarn color girl. (Ask my friends who yarn shop with me, it’s the sad bland truth about me). I do love all those amazing looking bursts of color splattered all over each other that some very talented Indy dyers (that very much deserve your attention and business) create pouring from the shelves of the yarn stores, but I am never as thrilled with the end result as I am when I am working with individual colors. That’s just how I roll. Hence my decision to focus on individual colors on the skeins I bring to you. I also decided to keep with the kettle dye process, because as bland as I can be, with my single-color choices, I do like a little variety. This is where living color comes in, my skeins have gentle variation, some more than others because some colors and materials allow for more variation. The kettle dye (which lend itself to variation) is perfect for natural plant dyed yarn because much of the beauty of these dyes come from this variation and from the living color lifespan. Natural dyes will change a little over the years, some more than others, and by years I mean many. These are not dyes that will look the exact same 50 years from now (not like our plastic bags do even after floating in the lake for a few decade- actually even those fade). All that talk about permanency above? Natural dyes have less permanency than synthetic dyes, and won’t outlast your great grandchildren. Well they will, but they will look different. How much? It depends on the dye and if there is a mordant and the dye process used. With this in mind I created the living palette (photo above) for the Pure Local shawl by Jill Sielinski, found on Ravelry. I wanted to create a long, eye catching, rectangular wrap and here it was! Jill, known as Knitterella on Ravelry, designed her pattern in honor of their local yarn store for LYS Day 2022 and she hit a home run (her pattern is available for purchase on Ravelry). So, I ran with it too. The colors I chose are “outside the box” for many but I loved getting this kit together. This was not a go to the shelf and pull colors and see what works. That is not how natural dyeing work. This was- choose a range-I chose red, yellow and browns. Choose the pots, plants, mordants and modifiers and get to work. What I came up with truly astounded me, and as with most photos, the one above does not do the colors justice. From left to right, Madder with iron; black walnut; black walnut with iron; avocado; marigold; avocado with iron. All the yarn was premordanted, dyed with heat, cured then washed to ensure the best light fastness and colorfastness. My sample shawl (below, and not yet done- did I mention I had a busy summer?) is dyed with similar dyes, but I chose some deeper colors for this kit. Also, as I mentioned, depending on the water, strength of the plant material, time of day (not really) and mood of the dye pot (also not really), colors vary in hue each time I dye. This means that each dye session will yield new and beautiful (but different) sets of colors for this shawl. I cannot exactly recreate the same color (dye lots are a big thing for natural dyes), nor do I want to, that would make hand dyed yarn boring. These unique kits are available at The Artful Yarn, there are not many. But I will dye for more kits soon if you miss a chance at getting these. The yarn is 50/50 merino wool and mulberry silk. Each skein is 240yds. Six skeins per kit. This is a pretty big project. This will be a conversation piece as well as a little warmth on cool night.
I hope this shawl inspires you. There are some neat techniques and things you probably have done before but need a refresher. Enjoy and feel free to contact me about my yarn email@example.com .
Also, I vow to stop lecturing on Natural Dyes and how they work. Now you get it, its in my website too and we can just focus on the beautiful pieces we can create. It’s sort of like a knitting circle with our mothers, including Mother Earth.
We all have to try new things. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. We are always better off for the effort even if it is something we can file as tried that, probably won’t again. I sort of feel that way about monochromatic Eco printing. I took a class online from Irit Dulman, an Israeli printing artist that does gorgeous work. There is always the danger of starting with someone like this because there is no way your own work will even approach hers. Anyway, I succeeded in a few things like finding some great Ohio plants that work very well for monochromatic printing, nine bark and smoke bush, in particular, with some other interesting results that could play into cool stuff if I kept it up. The moon sides were particular great at transferring. I did not find anything that transferred both sides like eucalyptus does. But, really, I love dyeing yarn, perfecting that with new light and colorfast colors and pushing those boundaries. Writing patterns to go with the yarn has been fun as well and something I will continue to pursue. I am a knitter, a sometimes crocheter and not an Eco printer, for the time being at least. It is definitely fun and interesting to try if you get the chance. I definitely won’t be pursuing it for profit! Maybe a t-shirt.
I have finally been able to zero in on a kit for an adorable hat that I designed to be knit in The Darling Yarn 50/50 mulberry silk/fine merino fingering yarn. The colors I chose for the kits are all locally sourced and “foraged” with the result being beautiful hues of smoky walnut, heather and broom. When I recently traveled to Scotland to visit my kid, I was overwhelmed by the beauty in the Hebrean Islands and brought that inspiration to this project. I look forward to bringing more kits that celebrate nature and our ability to create beauty within the natural world. The kit will be available at The Artful Yarn by the end of this summer, just in time for cool weather to bring out some of our favorite knits!
By now you are familiar with the photo below- drying yarn on my otherwise unused warp board. This time it may look a bit drab. So apparently when one dries daffodils you get a very muted yellow- more straw than daffodil. This isn’t unwelcome- a great many of us do not choose to walk around in bright yellow clothing. This was the same result I achieved when I dried golden rod. Marigolds are a bit hardier in terms of color retention and when I used them this winter, I got a stronger yellow orange. But this is all for my records and of little interest to you- except perhaps that these are all grown locally, picked by me and used with the least amount of water I can use- luckily this is not that difficult as soaking baths and exhaust baths are very reusable. The newest thing I tried was simmering rhubarb leaves to make a mordant solution. Mordant, you will recall, is that stuff which helps the yarn hold on to the dye we choose to use. With plant dyes, mordants are a must for colorfastness. Typically, I use alum to keep my life as toxic free as possible. For rhubarb I headed the warnings, donned rubber gloves and a good mask (for some reason, I just happen to have dozens of those lying around) and set up outside away from my house windows! The result looks promising, the yarn definitely took up the solution. Now the proof will be in the pudding. I will allow these skeins to dry then dye these skeins over the next few days. I can’t wait! I am all out of rhubarb leaves, but if it works, I have space for more plants. Also, I am dying mulberry silk yarn that is wonderful and very elegant. I will get this available as soon as I can with a cute hat pattern. In the meantime, do yourself a favor, look at your projects and work on the ones that bring you the most joy -or at least the ones that will reduce your feeling of dread of the unfinished projects. Think about how you approach knitting and crochet and slow down and enjoy. Be mindful of your yarns, your patterns and those for whom you knit. Life keeps going at the speed of, well life! Make sure you don’t miss it.
It is tough to look around the world and see so much to do to “fix” things. I believe that the laws of the living are more about trajectories and the journey than solutions and the destination. In that vein, I want my “living with nature not against it” trajectory to be better today than it was yesterday. Years ago, I turned to look at what our home “produces” and how I can make that better. From gardens, to dyeing, from soaps making to crafts, from furnishing to dinner- I seek to make things healthier, better quality, sustainable and appropriate. When my kids left the house mostly for good, I went through cupboards of craft items and thought WOW we really accumulated a lot. I was not proud. I was able to hand down a great deal of what was left to families nearby with children and I found this fantastic shop in Cleveland called Upcycle Parts Shop that receives usable craft supplies for resale to a variety of outlets including providing resources for teacher. Check out their website. Please be mindful, like thrift stores, they only accept true usable stuff. In fact, they limit what individuals can bring in, not because they want to make it inconvenient, but because we as a society have not quite figured out how to donate items that will be used and separate that from trash that we need to learn to part with (or not buy in the first place). I may sound sanctimonious here, but I am talking to myself as much as anyone! Anyway, enough preachin’ more knittin’.
The big Rs come into play when we knit or crochet as much as anywhere in life. As you are choosing your next project, keep this in mind.
Knit with intention. We feel pressure from social media to constantly turn out new bigger, better, brighter projects. STOP. Slow down. Thankfully knitting today does not require us to create every article of clothing needed by everyone in our family. Instead, we get to choose what items get our time. Choose wisely. Choose good quality ethically sourced yarn and spend the time on each project that it deserves. Choose a yarn that will be successful for your project with guidance from your local yarn store. Think carefully about where each project will end up, how it will be used. Care about the work you do. Care about where your supplies come from and of what they are made.
This is harder with yarn crafts. But you can do it in places. I use leather salvaged from an old chair for the soles of my knitted slippers. I have used the good sections of an old duvet cover to attach to the wrong side of a stranded baby blanket to keep little fingers and toes from snagging floats. I have made t-shirt yarn for baskets. I can imagine a number of uses for yarn made from strips of fabric- rugs, place mats… Finally, look in your stash and see what you have to use. It pains me to say that, as I sell yarn, but don’t let those gorgeous skeins you bought 5 years ago stay tucked away out of sight in bins. Visit them periodically and be inspired to use them.
When we think of recycling we usually think of plastic. Plastic has its place, just not everywhere. Ask about yarn made from recycled wool, cotton and plastic. There are a lot of great options that keep waste out of the landfill and oceans. Learn which yarns contain plastic (acrylics, Superwash yarns) and when you use them, learn how to wash these yarns to reduce the amount of microplastics shedding. Other ideas to “recycle” -Share unused yarn with friends. Your trash may be someone else’s treasure. Take that wool sweater you felted by accident and cut it into squares and felt it some more, it makes a great trivet or potholder! Compost- if your wool yarn is NOT Superwash, it can be composted. 100% cotton can as well. This usually applies to large projects that have lots of scraps, but you can also compost that Shetland wool sweater you made years ago and shoved in the back of the drawer, you know the one with one arm longer than the other and the waistline that just doesn’t come down far enough.
Maybe there is not a great deal of room to save the environment in the world of knitting. But living with intention in one place can change your trajectory in other places too.
The best part of being “out of session” is you get to experiment a lot, knit a lot and find new great things. I have spent December and will spend January dyeing new yarns, a mulberry silk/ wool blend that is natural, non superwash- but yes, the silk worms do not get to become moths. This is a fact I will need to weigh. It is a beautiful yarn and takes color very well.
This is in marigold and avocado, a double knit hat size 3 needles. I am making plans to dye the rest of this, choosing which colors I love. I kinda love these! Next I wanted to knit with and wear my merino wool in worsted weight. I had some yellow, not usually my thing for a whole garment but I am so happy I did. This is the Felix cardigan, I love it. I did take the buttons off and replaced them with penguin buttons. My daughter said I looked like a preschool teacher, but hey I am channeling my inner Antarctica. By the way the sweater is shone on the same weekend, different light. It is still very very bright yellow!
Ok, so then I wanted to check out exactly what a certain color combo looked like. These photos are not well lit, but I achieved my goal. When you go buy a two color skein, what will happen when you knit?
These were natural and avocado. I like the look a lot on this simple 2×2 ribbed hat. I knitted that up in a night for my kid to take on a ski trip- will they ever know what we really do for them?
OK, so the big reveal is the CHICKEN PANTS as we have come to call them at my house. They are actually Hosenmatz by Mayumi Kaliciak and Antje Litzmann once published in Lanade in 2016, now available free online. You can locate the pattern via Ravelry. I have made many pairs of these pants from the pattern. In the past I had used a fingering weight and a smaller stripe but I wanted to try out The Darling Yarn Company’s alpaca sport and it is perfect! So soft!!!!!
Now you see why we call them CHICKEN PANTS. Anyway, these are knitted in the smallest size and are, as expected, a size I would call 3-6 months, instead of 0-3. This is a yarn substitution which, happily with babies, works well. The belly cuff and ankle cuffs can fold up or down to help with size and accommodate some growing (as they do so quickly). The only thing I will do differently in the future on these is indeed use the smaller needle on the belly cuff too so it will be a bit more snug. There is an option to add an I cord for larger sizes if you look through the pattern. If you look at the ankle cuff close up you can see the bind off is a ribbed bind off. I went through a gazillion videos and pdfs to find a ribbed bind off that was not overly cumbersome but still worked very well. I really like this bind off and will teach it in an upcoming class at The Artful Yarn this Spring, along with the other skills needed for these, German short rows, ribbed cast on, jogless stripes. Oh what fun. The other question these answered, as they are washed and blocked is THE COLORS DON’T RUN. I get asked that a lot. You can see no color migration to the natural wool from the yellow.
OK, so there was a lot of yellow in this knitting session. It happens to be my favorite color (not necessarily to wear) and it is a very happy color. There are many other colors available at the store. That is all for today- I need to get a baby blanket finished too. I am doing crocheted starburst granny squares in Mrs. Moons Plump DK, it is finally getting finished and is so cute. I will put it on Instagram once it gets all put together.