on books that every knitter should consider reading

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn. There has been a lot of conversation about designers using expensive yarn in their projects and if you’ve been following the blog for a while you’d know I don’t have a ton of money to spend on yarn right now. When you combine that with “I want to do my own thing” you find yourself in a place where you need an understanding of how you can use yarn to your benefit. Clara Parks walks you through this process by providing information on how different fibers work up. This includes information on warmth, drape, pilling, when to use single ply vs triple and so much more. Despite the textbook appearance, this books is both interesting and informative. I can honestly say it provided me with several “oooohhhhh that’s why that happened” moments and has empowered me to manipulate yarn to work for me.

Knit to Flatter

Knit to Flatter. I’m not someone who spends a lot of time thinking about what to wear or how clothing looks on me, but this was an interesting read that changed my views on sweater making. What I mean by that is it’s the first time in my knitting career that someone pointed out most sweaters are designed with a specific body type in mind and you have the power to knit them for your body instead. For me, this often means ignoring waist shaping because I like a boxy sweater, but Amy Herzog also provides insight into manipulating stitches to add shaping where your body needs it. Herzog also had some great tips about loving your body too (like stop looking at it sideways!).

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting. Or anything by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the yarn harlot) for that matter. The Yarn Harlot is entertaining and fun to read, if you can get you hands on an audiobooks she’s fun to listen to too (and reads her own books!), but this is a book I keep on my shelf when I need to help people understand my world of knitting and why I can enjoy it for hours at a time. Having read everything I can get my hands on, I will caution you that the themes of her books do start to repeat themselves.

The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater

The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater. Another enjoyable collection of Essays written by a knitter. This one puts the boyfriend sweater curse into perspective and makes you think about whether or not knits are destined for someone. Something I can’t help but agree with.

Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece

Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. I had the pleasure of attending a class taught by Gail Callahan and I cannot stress enough how she has changed the way that I view color. Callahan’s philosophy goes beyond the color wheel (literally, she created her own grid system) and has you daydreaming of dying your own yarns. This is a book that I reference time and time again.

Harvesting Color

Harvesting Color. Honestly, I haven’t done as much as I could with this one. That being said I love the idea of foraging and would love to apply the activity to my craft as well as to my cooking. Rebecca Burgess provides beautiful pictures and detailed information about where to find plants to dye in different colors and how to use them. It’s one of the books that I’m inching to take out of storage so I can start plotting for next year.

Looking back on 2019…

It’s that time of year again, everyone is reflecting on their previous year and setting goals for the current one. As I sit here reflecting on all that I have accomplished during 2019, it’s hard not to feel some pride at what I have done, even amongst the things I didn’t do.

In 2019 I:

  • Didn’t hit my knitting goal of 35 projects or 16,000 yards (whichever came first). But I did spend time experimenting with sewing, embroidery and weaving. Enjoying new techniques and the thrill of learning something new. I made my first dress and wove my planned project.
  • Didn’t use up my stash before investing in new yarn, but I did buy yarn sparingly and found creative ways to use up the yarn that I have. I’m currently working on the …against all odds (Max) sweater in two yarns that were gifted to me at different times. I never would have paired the two yarns together without the goal of using what I have, in fact they probably would have just become socks while I waited for my new yarn to arrive (which wouldn’t have been the worst thing).
  • Didn’t redo my kitchen or fix any windows, but I did repaint everything minus the kitchen and organize my space to reflect how I use it most. I found curtains to accent my guestroom’s walls and artwork to hang in my bedroom. While none of these things involved a major facelift and didn’t really teach me new home-owning skills, I feel more at home than I did when I first bought my house and feel confident that it will continue to feel like home.
  • Didn’t run the covered bridges half marathon that I fundraised for due to a foot injury, but I did run a race in Northern Maine that gives back to the town that it’s in (More on that in the next few weeks, it was so much fun! I can’t believe that I haven’t written about it yet).
  • Didn’t vacation in any new places, but I was able to visit Chicago for the first time due to a work conference and saw Hamilton (it was fantastic, thank you for asking). I was also able to explore a new part of Canada during another conference.
  • Didn’t swim in the lake I live on. While this is embarrassing, I did swim in the CT river for the first time and jumped in several brooks while hiking.
  • Was my sister’s maid of honor and gave a speech that I struggled to read because it was so heartfelt.
  • Tried and failed at the whole online dating thing. But I did meet some interesting people during the process and had a date for my sister’s wedding (which in hindsight means my family met someone way before they should have, and he didn’t even stay the whole time…). When it was all over, I found someone when I wasn’t looking who I am very grateful to have in my life.
  • Took measures into getting my debt under control and am feeling less stressed about money.
  • Attended my first Renaissance Fair and will maybe attend a different one in 2020. I’m told by one of my new friends that the one I went to was actually not that good of one.
  • Made new friends and made an effort to put myself out there more. As an introvert, this involved a lot of “putting on my party pants” and reminding myself that I would have fun when I got there and could always leave if was didn’t. This allowed me to meet more crafters, gamers and my first experience dyeing with natural dyes!
  • Tried out being a DM for Dungeons and Dragons. It was actually very fun, too bad the group didn’t last beyond the initial get together.
  • Participated in my first trail races, what a fun way to push your mind and body while being surrounded by like-minded individuals. Loche also ran his first race this year, I can’t wait to participate in it with him again next year.

I spent 2019 trying to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, something that I felt I struggled with following graduating from library school. After two years of go-go-go, it was easy to see that I had lost sight of why I found enjoyment in the things that I did and the places that I went. As I rediscovered who I am, I found myself coming out of my shell, having more confidence and being happier. I could not have asked for a better year, despite the challenges that 2019 poised.

Dyeing Experience with Smooth Rock Tripe

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It finally happened, I caught the natural dye bug. As I hike through the woods, I find myself wondering what color different things would bring to my yarn. Spending hours thumbing through beautifully illustrated natural dying books (Wild Color, The Modern Natural Dyer, and Harvesting Color, to name a few) piqued my interest, but it was not until my coworker started showing off her hand-dyed yarn that I started to become invested.

Fast forward almost a year, my coworker created a bath of Smooth Rock Tripe that she picked up while in Rhode Island and soaked for three months. The resulting dye bath looked very similar to grape juice, a dark rich purple, a color that our yarn sucked up happily and willingly.

This time around, I dyed three skeins: two of 100% wool (worsted weight) and one that began as a golden yellow. The color of the yarn post-bath and rinse is different from the dye color and the color of the yarn while in the bath. The smooth rock tripe created a cooper color when mixed with the golden yellow and a matte purple when allowed to sit on the 100% wool skeins — a very different color from the initial bath and my expectations. In other words, not exactly the look I was going for on the worsted yarn, but I’m still happy with the results.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of the cooper yarn. It will have to be used as an accent color or in a very small project. 440 yards of worsted weight is a good amount, however, I foresee at matching hat/mitten set in my future (or perhaps a wide woven scarf).

My coworker left behind some cooper water, which should create a green dye bath, and some dahlia water, which should create a yellow-orange color. I’m leaning towards dying over the worsted yarn to see if I can create a warmer color, or perhaps something with a bit of variegation. (If I end up dyeing over the worsted weight yarn, I’ll make sure to document what it looks like.)

All in all, I still feel the same way about dyeing (and spinning, when I think about it); I don’t have enough control of what I’m doing to provide me with the results I thought I was going to get. While this isn’t a bad thing and experimentation is fun, it would be nice to be in a place where I do have control and can plan out my projects.