Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Dye Garden 2011

This year, mixed in with my vegetables, I'm planting flowers that can be used for dyeing yarn.  After receiving Wild Color by Jenny Dean for Christmas I became excited about expanding my yarn dyeing repertoire with natural materials.  Last month my wonderful group of knitting friends helped me celebrate my birthday with a gift of natural dyeing supplies from A Verb for Keeping Warm, including the book A Dyer's Garden by Rita Buchanan:

Thank you Angie, Karen, Lisa, Amber, and Betsy!

The books have been extremely helpful while I've been learning about natural dyeing.  Wild Color includes a history of natural dyeing, and detailed instructions outlining supplies and methods for natural dyeing using a variety of materials which can be gathered, grown, and/or purchased.  A Dyer's Garden also has a wealth of information on natural dyeing, but my favorite parts of the book are the chapters which provide information on actual garden plans.  The author includes samples of garden plans based on desired colors, required amounts of garden space for each plant, and the numbers of plants needed to dye 4oz. of wool.

I am fortunate to have a big garden space with good soil, but given that I usually fill it up with veggies, the information in A Dyer's Garden about the efficacy of each plant is invaluable.   I've used the book to help me decide how much vegetable garden space I want to give up for my dye plants.  I've planted seeds based on the hopes of experimenting with a variety of color:

BLUE -  Dyer's Knotweed (Japanese Indigo), and Woad
YELLOW, TAN, ORANGE, and GOLD -  Dahlias, Marigolds, Yarrow, and Zinnias
GREEN, and PURPLE -  Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, and Purple Basil

I pride myself on my gardening skills but I've had trouble with one plant in particular.  I now have seedlings of all the plants listed above, including some that are known to be difficult to germinate:

However, did you notice that a primary color is missing from my list above?  Here is my Madder plant, which I ordered in hopes of producing red dye:

The instructions for growing Madder for red dye go something like this:
     Build a raised bed in order to contain the roots of the Madder plant.  Plant a seedling and allow it to grow for two years, or until it spreads to fill a 4 sq. ft. space.  Dig up the roots, and wash them thoroughly.  Chop up the roots and spread them on a mesh rack until they are completely dry and shriveled.   

After reading these instructions, and realizing that this jar from my birthday package . . . 

. . . could be used to achieve the same results, the Madder plant just didn't seem to do as well as the other seedlings.  Hmm, I may have forgotten to water it.

For work-in-progress posts with actual knitting content, please check out WIP Wednesday #36 at Tami's Amis!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another E-MIL-Y, this time for my MIL

One aspect of blogging that I love is that the simple act of writing a post often helps me look at something in a new way.  It was only after starting my last post that I realized I don't have to just keep bemoaning my lack of spring baseball viewing/knitting progress.  I can just pack up my knitting bag and go watch baseball practice! After writing that post, I did just that.

It was a wonderful feeling, especially because my husband was able to join me.  Family time doesn't usually result in knitting time, but that day it did.  My husband and I sat and watched our son play baseball as I cast on for a sweater for my mother-in-law. . . my idea of a perfect afternoon.

Last year I knit this entire Emily cardigan just while watching baseball practices and games.

My mother-in-law tried it on during her last visit and loved it.  It even fit her perfectly, so I am back at it during this year's baseball season, knitting an Emily cardigan out of Malabrigo Twist, this time in Azul Profundo:

I was a little bit worried when I noticed a color change as I attached a new skein near the top.  Then as I took photos of the cardigan-in-progress for this post, I realized that the lighter spots reminded me of the knit clouds on a card my MIL once gave to me:

The image is from a poster by Parisa Tashakori, a Iranian graphic artist, and it states "Create a blue sky for our children."  Looking at it in a new way, I decided that my MIL will probably like the color changes of the Malabrigo.

I wonder if I can finish the sweater before the end of baseball season?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WIP Wednesday - A WIP that is an FO for me!

It's baseball season, and I'm halfway done with a pair of socks as a birthday gift for a friend who is a huge Detroit Tigers fan.  Even though the socks are only halfway there, my work here is done!  That is because Angie and I decided to knit them together for a mutual friend, and we agreed that I would knit the feet and she would finish the legs.

Your turn, Angie!

Angie has a good eye for color, and I think she did a pretty good job finding 2 yarn choices to match the Tigers' orange and blue:

MySpace Graphics

Pattern:  Priscilla's Dream Socks by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts
Source:   Free download can be found here.  The pattern was also published in Interweave Knits, and Favorite Socks.
Materials:  The orange yarn is Madelinetosh tosh sock in "tomato",  and the blue yarn is Miss Babs Yummy Toes Monochrome sport in "regent".  
Modifications:  The original pattern calls for top-down knitting.  I made these seamless by knitting them toe-up with a provisional cast-on.  The 2 yarns we are using are slightly different weights so I knit the heels and toes on US 0's and the rest of the foot US 1's to even out the gauge.

Baseball season is also one of the reasons I haven't posted much lately. I am lamenting the fact that in years past, I was able to knit an entire sweater during the time I would spend watching our son's baseball practices and games.  When he was younger I would drive him to Little League practice and stay at the field rather than driving back and forth twice.  It was a great excuse to sit and knit for an hour or so while I watched the kids play.  Now that he is in high school, I don't need to drive him to practice, and I am busy acting as the volunteer scorekeeper during the games.  Being a normal (is there such a thing as a normal 14 yr. old?) ahem, I guess I mean, typical 14 yr. old, he doesn't really want his mom hanging out at the baseball field unnecessarily.  That would be too embarrassing!  But you know what, isn't it our job to embarrass our teenagers?  Knitting and watching baseball is one of my favorite Spring pastimes.  Now that I'm done with the socks, I just might have to cast on for a sweater and go watch today's practice!

I've missed reading blogs as much as I've missed knitting and blogging lately so I can't wait to see what everyone else is up to on this WIP Wednesday!