Thursday, October 14, 2010


Last week I finally got around to playing around with food coloring and wool yarn. I used the directions here , except I used the cheapy liquid bottles you buy 4 to a box at the grocery, since I figured that's what most kids would have access to. I used about half the tube of green, and tried dyeing my felted swatch, along with some other yarn.

It started taking up the dye immediately, but didn't really get to nearly "clear water" conditions until it spent about 30 minutes at 350F. I showed the kids this photo of what that looked like:

By the way, we didn't do this in class because, among other things, it took way more time than we had. I have to go flying out of there right after class to get my kids to a different place for different classes, so I don't have time to get everything spread out for drying. At home I simply plopped everything on the back porch:

They did get to see the finished products, though:

Check it out -- I didn't move the items the entire time they were in the bowl, and the top of the felted piece ended up darker than the bottom.

Next I'm going to cut up my felted piece and make it into a Christmas ornament.

After showing the kids the exciting dyeing stuff in class (and telling them that, no, I didn't think it was a great idea to try dyeing their hair this way, although apparently one of the girls had once tried using KoolAid and it came out a very unexpected color), we moved on to GAUGE SWATCHES. Which was significantly less fun.

I had made 3 swatches using the same yarn and the same number of stitches (rather random on the rows). I blocked them, too, since you must "do unto thy gauge swatch as thou shalt do unto thy finished knitting". Or something like that.

I had marked which swatch was made on which sized needle by making either eyelets or purl stitches in appropriate amounts.

And then, most cruelly, I insisted that the 2 girls who are planning on making mitts START MAKING GAUGE SWATCHES. Aaaaahhhhhrrrrg, the moaning and gnashing of teeth! It's so booooorrrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnngggg! Actually, one girl had already made a small swatch, and her gauge was way off, so she had to make another. And, get this, it had to be more than, like, 2 rows of knitting.

Really, I tried to talk to them about the trials of making an entire garment and then realizing that your gauge was off, and how crappy THAT was. I also gave them a bit of a talk on figuring out size -- negative ease versus positive ease, etc. Overall I think the kids who'd decided to make something unfitted, like scarves or more dishcloths, were feeling pretty good about their decision since they didn't need to mess with the dreaded gauge swatch.

Meanwhile, at home knitting -- I'm working on the Totoro hat, and have the mouth done in intarsia. It will be outlined in black after the knitting is done.

(Don't tell the class, but I didn't make a gauge swatch. I figure after this many years of knitting I know about what's going to happen, since I invariably knit more loosely than the pattern. Also, a hat is about the right size to be its own gauge swatch.)

Also, the other morning I became convinced (for no good reason) that the class needs to see examples of knitting with slightly more unusual materials, so I decided to knit some wire . I stopped by and got the wire and beads, then took them to Thalia's voice lesson to string up the beads on the wire before starting the knitting.

Annabeth and I were counting out 134 beads on one of those little tables in the lobby, putting them in groups of 10, and Annabeth bumped the table, sending beads scattering. Guess what I'd never noticed before -- the new carpeting in the Dayspring lobby is pretty much these exact same colors. And now it's crunchy with hidden seed beads. Oops.

Anyway, looking forward to trying this when I finally get a chance to sit down and pay attention to what I'm knitting.


TaraChristiane said...

The girls are going to love you one day for making them knit those gauge swatches... really, they are.
I am so impressed with your knitting class notes.

Bridgett said...

Ugh gauge swatches: you don't make them do them for washcloths and scarves, do you? Otherwise, yes...necessary evil.

But everything else in this is Relevant To My Interests. Next spring I'm teaching art at the girls' school and we're doing fiber (since I know it).

Ami said...

I've said it before... but you are so talented!!

So I have a question for you. If I bought some wool sweaters at Goodwill and felted them (my understanding is that basically one washes and dries them hot hot hot a couple times) would you tell me how to make an ornament out of 'em?

I was thinking maybe star shape or round and sew with the big yarn needles (not allowed to use the sharp ones with kids at work) and then glue sequins etc...

Is that hopelessly amateur?

Gail said...

Ami, that should work. I wasn't going to bother sewing layers together -- I'm just making it a single layer. But it would be really cool to get multi-colored sweaters and put them together various ways.

By the way, you might want to put the sweaters in pillowcases before you wash them -- they can generate a lot of lint, possibly enough to gum up your washer. Wash on hot -- it's the hot water and agitation that opens the little hairs so they can felt. The drying method isn't so important.

Bridgett, I didn't even care what size needles the kids used for the dishcloths, let alone gauge. And the scarves they're interested in don't strike me as gauge-dependent either. What I didn't tell them about gauge swatches is that sometimes you do everything according to the rules and your gauge is STILL off.

Bridgett said...

I have a sweater that fell victim to that, in fact. Frustrating. Ami: definitely go with the pillowcase. My machine repairman showed me what was clogging up my hoses and it was all wool felty stuff....