I love the odd ducks group on ravelry’s swaps. The topics are often off the wall and inspire the best and most creative crafting from all the members. I’m trying to get a package finished to ship out. It’s due at the end of this month, but it looks like I’ll ship in the first week of July. I hate being late, but I am one of the best spoilers out there and it takes a while to properly stalk a person and craft a package that will leave them breathless.

The swap I’m working on right now is the Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog swap. Everything has to be themed around that movie. For starters, I decided to make my partner a needle gauge. She knits socks constantly and most store bought needle gauges don’t go small enough for sock needles. I’ve noticed most gauges stop at size 0 and I’d like them to go to 000 or smaller. Conveniently, guy pal has a great set of drill bits and a drill press AND was willing to help me.

I first cut out a shape on my scroll saw pulled from the outline of a man on a restroom sign. I just added a little neck in before cutting it out of craft plywood from Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I sanded it lightly and started figuring out what size holes I would need. Knitting needles are measured in mm and the drill bit set I have access to is in inches. So I spent quite a while with a calculator and digital calipers trying to decide if I wanted to go with a .072 or a .068 inch bit for a given hole. I drilled all the holes with a little help from guy pal. His drill press and I aren’t good friends. He and I got holes drilled to make this needle gauge go from size 000 to 10.5 and tested the holes with my own needles to be sure they were just right.

Then I took the cutout shape with holes home to draw a Captain Hammer on it. I figured that it would be great. I could include on the gift tag that it was from Dr. Horrible’s knitting bag. He does seem like the type that would have a voodoo Captain Hammer as his needle gauge if he knit.

Then a few weeks later, I saw a new forum post by my partner indicating that she didn’t really want anything Captain Hammer. So I erased the Captain Hammer drawing and started drawing on a Dr. Horrible. I figured this too would be ok. The tag could just reference the last line of the film by reading, “It’s ok, he won’t feel a thing.”

After finally being satisfied with the new drawing I pulled out the box of acrylic paints and set to work. After finishing painting the Dr. Horrible needle gauge, I ended up re-drilling all the holes because the paint had closed some in just a little bit. Next time I may drill all the holes after painting so I’m not doing the work twice…or be more careful with the paint.

While painting the needle gauge, I also painted the awesome chair that Dr. Horrible has in his lair. He sits in it holding a picture frame with a picture of Penny in it when he sings about handing her “the keys to a shiny new Australia.” Everyone in the swap group seems to really love this chair. When I was out shopping at a local thrift store, I found a picture frame shaped like the big chair! It was filthy and the paint job was really bad–not at all Dr. Horrible.

I cleaned it up and painted it to match the one in the film. It combines the picture frame he’s holding AND the chair he’s sitting in. I think it should score me some mad creativity points. It’s really a shame for the sake of photographing them that he’s not smaller and the chair’s not bigger. That chair is really HUGE in the movie!

Remember, while I may not be able to duplicate the chair frame due to the strange find at the thrift store, if you need a custom needle gauge, leave me a comment or send me a message on etsy! They are a time consuming task, but the result is totally worth it! I’m sure I’ll be making another one for each swap I’m in and a few more generic ones for my store. It’s so unique while being sturdy enough to handle getting tossed about in a knitting bag and functional enough to please even the most difficult swap partners. It’s also super easy to make them fit different themes if you’ve got scroll saw skills!

I decided I need to see how well cake yarns sell on etsy compared to my soda pop yarns. The most obvious way to do this I figured was to make some and see how well they sell. So I dyed this one tonight. I’m not dyeing cake yarn with the same speed as soda pop yarn because the hand-painted dyeing process takes much longer than the kettle-dyeing process AND I really like to contemplate my colors when I paint.

For this yarn, I took a light blue soda pop yarn and over-dyed it with Wilton cake colors and acid. All color added to this once natural color yarn I bought is food-grade. I let the colors blend a bit and cooked them in. The finished product has been washed several times, including one soak in Woolite to be sure it’s ready for you to use.

Dyeing of yarn is a learning process and why I try out a hank of each new technique to make sure the yarn is nice to work with, clean, and colorfast. I learned the hard way on my hippie cake that incomplete rinses after cake dye can lead to very pink fingers that leave pink smudges all over the house. Now I’ve implemented a 3 part hand-wash cycle after every dye, regardless of what dye is used. Now there are no more pink hands. I have noticed that yarn turning hands and even wooden and bamboo needles fun colors is not a problem unique to hand-dyed yarns. One of my dear friends showed me her discolored bamboo needles a week or so ago. The color was caused by some bigger box commercial yarn! I would have thought that big companies would have developed a 3 stage wash cycle like I have. They’ve been dyeing yarn for longer than me.

Anyhow, I love this finished yarn. I still need to get it packaged up in a proper cake with a candle, but I’m quite hung up on what to call it. Does anyone have any ideas for this colorway? I think it looks like a candy, taffy or cotton candy. Maybe something like Cinderella colors or some other combination of the Disney princesses. Do any of you have ideas as to what to name this fantastic colorway? While it is one of a kind, I would like to have a proper name should I create a similar yarn later. I am keeping a ‘dye book’ with rough recipes for each yarn along with a small sample. This way I’ll get more predictable results as I gain experience. Check back on my etsy store to see the first cake yarns starting to appear! I’ll be rolling out cake yarns in addition to my soda pop yarns in the month of July!

I just finished my first fair isle project! I’m so excited. The technique was much easier than I’d anticipated. I used the Boku yarn that I found at my favorite local yarn shop, Table Rock Llamas. The pattern called for Noro, but they assured me Boku was a better quality yarn and cheaper. Gotta love the more affordable stuff! The black yarn I used is left over from a felted sheep I did out of a kit I was given years ago before I knew how to even knit. I used the pattern “FakeIsle” on ravelry, and though the name implies it isn’t fair isle, it really is. However, since the Boku/Noro is self-striping yarn it looks like you used more colors of yarn than you really did.

It took a bit of time to get used to holding two yarns in the same hand and switching back and forth between them without tangling them all up. The pattern is pretty easy, but I don’t recommend it for a beginner because it breaks a fair isle rule! In fair isle you should never have a single color for more than 5 stitches because of how the yarn is carried across the back of the piece. This pattern uses more than 5 stitches of one color making it VERY difficult to not have those parts of the hat come out too tight. It does come out quite nice looking though. It’s a satisfying project and not so large that beginners are likely to get frustrated by excessive new techniques. It’s just the right size to try out fair isle. I may have to design a better beginner fair isle hat. I do have a hank of Boku left in the same colorway and probably enough black Cascade 220.

I made the larger size of the hat since the last time I tried to make a nice little grey hat it came out too small. This hat came out too big. My brother and my guy pal both could wear the hat, but complained that it was a little tight and odd feeling at the top due to those tight rows where there are more than 5 stitches of the same color in a row. Here is my brother, Scott, sporting the cap.

So I started the September Scarf several times and the pattern sucks. I’m sure it’s got an error or two. So I picked another pattern rather than try and deal with the September stuff. I really just hate that month. I found this pattern for the Villandry Lace Scarf that looks nice and doesn’t require too much yardage. This hippie yarn was dyed on a thrift store find of 166 yards, not my usual natural wool of over 200 yards that I dye. So don’t try the September Scarf, it sucks.

Yay! I’ve received my first custom order of my self-striping hippie colorway! I’m still waiting to hear back on the thickness of yarn and the yardage requested. Remember, if you are ordering a custom cake, you get to pick everything, the colorway, the weight yarn, the yardage, literally everything. It will be a one of a kind, just for you cake of yarn.

To celebrate, I’m starting my first project with one of my own colorways…naturally the tie dye style hippie yarn! I’ve decided to use the pattern “September Scarf” available for free on ravelry. I’m kind of interested in the pattern just because of the name. I have a special history with the month of September. Both of the hit-and-run accidents I was in were in the month of September. There has to be some kind of awesomeness about starting this pattern right as the first hearing is getting underway–the finishing of one September while another begins. Some cyclical thing I guess. I’m also completely in love with how great my size 9 knitting needles look with this colorway. Check it out:

These are just the Hobby Lobby brand acrylic needles. They’re one of my favorite to use. They’re very slick so the yarn doesn’t catch.

A new goal in spinning

June 25, 2010

I’ve gotten good at spinning a bulky yarn, and just wound a ball last night of more than 150 yards of hand-spun, single-ply lace weight, which while a little over spun to maintain strength, has a very consistent thickness. I’ve got some stunning Merino that I’d like to spin into sock yarn, but I’m not quite sure if I can pull of that just yet. I’m considering getting some nylon thread and trying to spin around that as a core, or maybe spin close to a sock weight single ply and ply in the nylon thread. I’m not sure, but not that eager to spin it yet either. I’ve just been too into dyeing and contemplating some very unique colorways. All my dedicated readers should anticipate a sweepstakes in the near future to enter by voting on which lines and colorways of yarn will be released next!

Then today while looking across ravelry.com for an exciting project to try using my Hippie colorway on, I found this yarn from insubordiknits and I feel the intense urge to pull out my spinning wheel, some dye, varous fibers, and of course my needle felting supplies!

She calls her colorway vitreous humor and sells them for $50 a hank of 75ish yards, with a total of 10 eyes spun into each hank. I’m a fine needle felter, so I think I need to make yarn with needle felted items spun in! I want eye ball yarn so badly, but she’s got a waiting list of 125 people according to her store. I’m thinking I could do my own! Then I might have to figure out what other creepy handspuns I want. Do I just want eyes, or do I feel some skulls (which I’ve needle felt before) or maybe random vertebrae and a kidney. I sure hope if I ever find a Mr. Hairballz that he’s not going to mind a scarf made with anatomical heart yarn! I can already see that being a huge seller. I do tend to fall for the geeky guys, so maybe a hat out of keyboard yarn would be more appropriate. Think of the geeky hats that could make! I’ve never really thought much of art yarns before this (though I’ve admired the creativity and look of my fellow Odd Duck swapper, studioloo’s art yarn, but never considered using any, much less spinning it myself. So big kudos to insubordiknits for finally getting me to take the dive into art yarn!

The Soda Yarn is Here

June 23, 2010

The first of the first soda pop yarns has been listed on my etsy store. I will continue listing them as they sell. Here’s the whole lot ready for a knitting party or some serious spunk in your swap packages:

If there is a color you absolutely can’t live without, conovo me on etsy and I’ll get it listed in a reserved listing just for you!