knit design – OMG Yarn (balls)
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How to Dye Yarn with Kool-Aid

October 3, 2017




Way back when, in 2011, I had just become a stay at home mom and I needed to find some ways to pass the time. I opted to hone my fiber arts craft and spent the days knitting and crocheting.

One day, my mother mentioned to me that I should try dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid. And I did! I was a long process. I didn’t know about putting yarn into hanks yet, so I ended up with a ton of yarn barf.

Of course, over the years I taught myself a few different dyeing techniques and learned ways to make dyeing easier for myself. Recently, I was looking for something to do with my 8-year-old and 3-year-old sons toward the end of the summer break and I decided to go back to basics.

Since speckle dyeing is the trend right now, I wanted to teach the boys that technique, but without using the professional powdered yarn dyes I use. I thought, let’s dye yarn with Kool Aid!

Even better, why not make something for them that they could show off out of that yarn that they made. The idea was instantly a hit with the kids; they always love watching mom dye yarn, looking like a mad scientist in the process.

Here we go!




What You’ll Need:

  • White vinegar
  • A Liquid Measuring Cup
  • One hank of an animal based fiber yarn (we used my OMG Liberty yarn base; a worsted weight 100% Superwash Merino Wool) – cotton and acrylic yarn will not work for this technique
  • One Large Pot (at least 4 QT)
  • Water
  • Stove
  • Kool Aid packets of any flavor without sugar added
  • Ice Cube Trays, at least 2
  • Freezer
  • Sink
  • Dish Soap
  • Laundry Rack or Hanger

Instructions:

Prep Work – Make Kool Aid Ice Cubes

  1. Using hot water, mix approximately 6 ounces (3/4 cup) of water with one Kool Aid packet until the powder is completely dissolved. Use as many different colors as you like, but remember that the colors may mix, so remember your art classes from school. Purples and greens together will end up brown or other weird colors.
  2. Pour mixture into ice cube tray. If you are using multiple colors, use multiple trays. My mixtures of each color created about 6 to 8 ice cubes.
  3. Place trays in freezer and let freeze.

 Prep work – Soak Yarn

  1. Fill sink with luke warm water and add 1 cup of white vinegar.
  2. Place desired amount of yarn in water and soak it for 20 minutes.

 On to Dyeing Your Yarn

  1. Place presoaked yarn in a large pot. It does not have to be in there in any specific way, but make sure the entire bottom of the pot is covered and your yarn lays flat.
  2. Add about one cup of warm water evenly to the yarn in the pot. This is so that the yarn does not burn when heated on the stove. Make sure that there is not too much water in there. The yarn shouldn’t float and there should not be enough water for the colors to distribute through the water.
  3. Place ice cubes randomly on the surface of your yarn.
  4. Put pot on stove and heat yarn on medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Make sure that the yarn does not burn. If your water boils off, add more to the pot.
  5. Remove pot from heat. Your yarn is hot and so is your pot. Use oven mitts to carry the pot and dump yarn in the sink.
  6. Let yarn cool for 10 minutes in sink.
  7. Wash yarn with a little bit of dish soap and cold water until the water runs clear from the yarn.
  8. Hang yarn to dry.




That’s it! You have a skein of yarn dyed and ready to craft with.

3-year-old Sharky chose Grape, Pink Lemonade, and Cherry for his flavors/colors.

 

8-year-old Peanut chose Blue Raspberry, Pink Lemonade, and Cherry for his Kool-Aid flavors/colors.

 

Of course, I started knitting these hats right away.

Want to learn how to make the kids’ cute cabled hat that I made with their yarn?

Kool Aid Hat Preview

How cute are Sharky and Peanut?!

You will need the following knitting skills to complete this project:

  • Knit
  • Purl
  • Knitting in the Round
  • Purl two together
  • Knit two together

The gauge is approximately 5 stitches per inch in the cable pattern.

The pattern is written for use with OMG Liberty (my worsted weight yarn) or Lion Brand Wool Ease (worsted weight). Sizes range from baby (about 12 months) to adult.

Lion Brand’s Wool-Ease is just a little bit different than OMG Liberty, so instructions include the different needle sizes needed.

Tip: I’ve made several of these hats to test the pattern. If you find yourself playing yarn chicken with OMG Liberty in the adult size, use the smaller cast on for stitches, but follow the rest of the pattern as is, it’ll fit adult size too.

Click here to buy the pattern.




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Gritty Photography, Free Spirits and The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

June 28, 2017




 I like photography that stands out. I also like yarn that stands out and speaks for itself. When paired with the perfect project, photography and yarn can certainly make indie dyed yarn into a work of art.

The idea behind the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic design was to have a simple, oversized top that I could wear anywhere AND show off my yarn in a way that doesn’t take away from the speckled colorways I have been dyeing lately.

With the photography, I got adventurous in every way.

iPhone Photography

I use my iPhone for photography these days. Gone are the days where I had the time to grab my camera, take photos, download photos, edit photos, and then choose the best to go into patterns.

I take photos and edit them right in Instagram, send them to myself, and they get done in a much more streamlined manner (if that’s not another blog post, I don’t know what is…haha). The results are more unique photos and way less time is spent fighting with computer software to do what I want it to do.

The photos from the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic were purposefully grittier. They’re a throwback to when photography was new and a bit more of a raw art.

They’re also an homage to my favorite cinema director Tony Scott who experimented with older hand cranked cameras in the movie Man on Fire. The raw cinematography contributed to the die hard emotions of the film and was a way to draw the audience in to the wild spirt that comes alive when avenging the apparent death of a loved one.

I got a little adventurous and took the short walk to our lakefront in order to get a unique backdrop from the Lake Michigan shore. The free spirit in me has always loved looking out onto the lake and seeing nothing but endless skies and, of course, endless possibilities.

Showing off what gorgeous fabric that OMG Rushmore and the new color Newsprint is Dead can do, I created the Oversized Sleeveless Tunic.




Newsprint is Dead

The colorway wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my three-year-old. I was playing with an idea (I’ve been looking for black speckled yarn that looked like newspaper EVERYWHERE) and layered grey and black together. My toddler snuck up behind me and asked, “What you doing?” half-jokingly, because he knew what I was doing.

I asked if I should add another color to the yarn and he said, “Yes! Pink!”

The result: A page of newspaper that looked a little bloody before the dye set. It almost looked like a murder scene. Perfect.

Oversized Sleeveless Tunic

As the pattern description says, as a mom of three young kiddos that are always on the go, I need to wear comfortable, loose clothing that allows me to keep up with all the fun. One of my go-to clothing items is a tank top or sleeveless shirt that I can layer under a cardigan or over a t-shirt.

The Oversized Sleeveless Tunic is designed to be a go-to knit that you can actually wear, be comfortable, and stylish at the same time. Pair this with solid color yoga pants, layer with your favorite tank tops and/or cardigans and knit it with your favorite sport weight, hand dyed yarn.

This design is beginner-friendly and perfect to show off a speckled, variegated, or even solid colored yarn. There’s six inches of ease, so your top will have a gorgeous drape to accentuate almost any figure shape.

It is constructed from the bottom up and in the round. The front and back are worked flat and there is a faux seam on the side that tapers to the under arm.

The day that I photographed this, I walked down to the lakefront and back, and it was just so comfortable that I left it on ALL DAY. I ran to pick up my boys from their dad’s house, I took all three kiddos shopping at Target, and then came home to rest. Mom clothing needs to feel un-impeding of the process of caring for kiddos and this did just that.

It also will go perfectly with a black cardigan I just bought, so it’ll likely get put into the rotation of my mom wardrobe aka the mom uniform.

The pattern is available for purchase in my Ravelry store and my Etsy shop as well. See links below.

Limited time only: The pattern is free in my Ravelry store until July 4, 2017, no coupon code necessary.




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How to Take Your Shawl Game to the Next Level: Applied Lace Borders

May 17, 2017




Shawls are one of my favorite things to knit. They’re versatile wearables, great for every season and occasion, AND I absolutely love how simple, beginner-friendly shawls show off hand dyed yarn.

Now, if you really want to take your shawl knitting game to the next level, you may want to try a couple different patterns with new techniques.

My latest shawl design, the Water Shawl, uses an applied border (aka applied lace border or knitted-on border).

What is an applied lace border?

An applied lace border is a type of border treatment where the stitches are worked at a 90-degree angle to the body stitches. In all seriousness (this is a Melina-ism phrase), nothing special is really done, you’re just casting on border stitches and then working the last stitch of the border row with the first live stitch from the body (k2tog or how you’re otherwise instructed by the designer). Then you turn your work, and the next live body stitch is worked together with the first stitch of the next wrong side border row.

This will all make sense in a minute here.

In the case of the Water Shawl, you end up working the body of the shawl in a top down fashion. Then, on a right side row, you cast on the proper number of border chart stitches and start working them, working a k2tog with the last border row stitch, and the first live stitch from the body.




Dangit, Melina, that makes absolute no sense. Show me some pictures dagnabbit.

I know, I know. So, let me show you, using the Water Shawl to demonstrate:

    1. First, to set up, when I finished working all the charts for the body of the Water Shawl, I turned the whole work so the right side was facing me. Place a marker before your live stitches (to alert you when you get to the live stitches), and then, using the backward loop method, cast on the number of border stitches necessary. In the case of the Water Shawl, I cast on 29.
    2. Work the first row of your border chart/instructions to the last stitch, which will get you to one stitch before your marker like this: 
    3. Slip the stitch from your left needle onto the right, remove the stitch marker, and place the stitch you slipped back on the left needle. Essentially, you’re just removing that stitch marker for a second.
    4. Now, knit two stitches together (k2tog)……and turn so the wrong side is facing.
    5. If you notice, the working yarn is now on the left needle. The next live stitch from the body is on the right needle. Slip that live stitch onto the left hand needle and put your stitch marker on the right needle.
    6. Now, purl two together (p2tog).Do you see how that works? Here’s what it should look like after you purl those two stitches together:
    7. Now you can go on to finish the rest of the row as written.
    8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 ad nauseam et infinitum (until you run out of live stitches).

    Why use the applied lace border in a design?

    The applied border allows for extra drape along the border. The Water Shawl is definitely a huge beast of a shawl and needs all the help it can get to get that swagger going. An applied border seemed like the only option, really.

    I think it also adds a unique dimension to any design. Honestly, anytime I see any knit or crochet item, I’m analyzing its construction (be warned, as an introvert, I’m probably more into your sweater until I get to know you better…lol). With this type of border, your stitches are perpendicular to the body stitches, so as a knitter and a designer, I like seeing the stitches go in different directions.

    Want to make the Water Shawl? Click here to go to Ravelry to purchase or click on the patterns tab above and that will take you to my Etsy store which also has the pattern available.




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Free Pattern: Landon’s Sweet Baby Blanket

April 24, 2017




In an effort to keep all my patterns in one spot, I’m moving this free pattern over to the OMG Yarn (balls) website. It’s an oldie, but a goodie, and I designed this for a (now former) co-worker’s baby.

Pattern

Well, it’s a good thing that I actually kept notes and wrote myself a basic pattern for the blanket I made for our family friend’s baby named Landon, it seems he’s gone viral overnight!  I posted his picture last night on the Midwest Yarn Facebook page upon receiving the appreciation photo – actually, my husband got it texted to him with a follow up saying that the picture was too cute and he might want to hide it from me (because I love baby pictures!).

So Landon’s Sweet Baby Blanket is quite simple to do and it’s a perfect weekend project to whip up if you have a short deadline like I did.

Yarn

  • Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK, 105 yds/50g: 5 balls of main color, 2 balls of the complimentary color.
  • OR any DK weight yarn that will get the gauge listed below.

Gauge

  • 5 sts per in on US 6 or size to obtain gauge.

What You’ll Need

  • 40″ US 6 Circular Needle or size to obtain gauge (I used a US 5 because I wanted my stitches to be tighter together – big or loose sts mean little fingers can get tangled up in there)
  • A tapestry needle to sew side seams and weave in ends.

Glossary

  • MC: Main Color
  • CC: Complementary Color
  • slm: slip marker
  • pm: place marker



Blanket 
Cast on 140 sts in CC.  Work in garter st until blanket measures 2″ from cast on edge.

Switch to MC.

Row 1: Work first row of letter chart (below), pm, k to end of row.
Row 2: Purl to marker, slm, work next row of chart.
Row 3: Work next row of chart, slm, k to end of row.

Repeat Rows 2 & 3 until letter chart is complete.

Continue in st st in MC until blanket measures 28″ from cast on edge, ending on a WS row.

Switch to CC. Work in garter st for 2″. Bind off loosely.

To complete borders, pick up about 3 sts for every 4 rows along side of blanket. Work in garter st for 1/2″. Bind off loosely. Repeat on other side.

Weave in ends. Lightly steam to block.




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How to Choose the RIGHT Yarn for Your Next Project

April 5, 2017




Having good results with any knit or crochet project depends a LOT on the yarn you choose to work with. It can make or break a design and it can determine how much you (or a lucky recipient of your hard work) love to wear the completed item.

As a yarn shop owner, I always enjoyed helping customers pick out yarn for all kinds of patterns: sweaters, shawls, afghans, mittens, you name it. I know some shops like to make the sale, but I liked happy customers, and nothing made customers happier than getting the right yarn every time (or most of the time…). My quaint little yarn shop depended on repeat customers who depended on what I’d picked out for them. Let’s just say that I had a couple repeat customers who had such amazing taste in yarn, I couldn’t wait for their next visit to sit down and page through my catalogs and samples to find just the right yarn that I had available through suppliers (Dear Skacel, your yarn catalog was my favorite to page through and fawn over).

To be honest, I’ve even walked through my local JoAnn’s and helped people select good yarn for a project there – I mean, that’s the kind of yarn I had access to before I was introduced to yarn shops. When you don’t have someone to help you look through yarn or who is pushing the sale of yarn you don’t need or want (yes, there’s such a thing), you need to know what you should consider when picking the right yarn for your next project. So let’s take a look, shall we?

The Project

Of course, the first question I asked was, “What are you making?” Is it a sweater/jumper? Is it a shawl or scarf? Is it meant to be worn next to the skin? Is it meant to be worn over or under something? All of these are important questions. I mean, would you want to wear a scarf next to your neck that has itchy or tough fibers that poke at your skin? Probably not.

Budget

Believe me, I know budgets can be tight too. If you don’t have a big box store nearby, your local yarn shop is the answer, however, those boutique level yarns can get pricey. Not everyone can make a sweater or afghan out of yarn that costs $20 for each 100g ball. Remember, though, you get what you pay for with “economy” yarns.

The small print to read here though is: even expensive yarn can have poor manufacturing, so make sure you read reviews if you can before you buy. I won’t blast any yarn companies in particular, but nothing peeved me more than yarns from manufacturers with poor quality control. Self-striping yarns at $15-$25 per ball with knots in them, abrupt color changes, or out of sequence color changes can totally throw off your project’s aura in a heartbeat.




Yarn Composition and Characteristics

The same yarn may behave differently for different knitters/crocheters AND can behave one way for a knitter but another way for a crocheter.

Ahem, BIG CHUNKY FURRY EYELASH YARN IS NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO CROCHET WITH! Well, at least for me anyway. The fur hides the stitches and they’re sooooooooo difficult to keep track of. I always ended up with weirdly shaped scarves.

If your project needs some drape to it, like for a scarf, shawl, skirt, or dress, you will want to choose a yarn that will do that. Plant or non-animal based fibers are always good for those types of projects (think cotton, bamboo, silk, tencel, etc.).

If your project needs to insulate or keep someone rather warm, choose animal-based fiber blends. Alpaca fibers, in particular, are hollow and thus insulate really well, so you’ll notice that projects made from this luxury fiber will keep you warmer. You might want to avoid alpaca for summery shawls or accessories.

Yarn “Memory”

Projects that require some bounce-back or memory – think projects with ribbing like socks or sweaters – you want to use fibers/yarns that will meet that challenge. Most cotton fibers will create loose, drapey fabrics, so they will lose their shape with wear or added moisture from sweat. As a result, I don’t usually suggest cotton for socks or sweaters.

Notions and Tools Needed

You also need to consider whether or not you’ll be able to use that yarn with all the notions and tools you’ll use to complete the project. If your project needs buttons or zippers, avoid single plies or lofty fibers that will get caught or tangled.

The Wearer

As a mom of three, I LOVE to make little sweaters and things for my kiddos. When you need to knit or crochet for babies and kids, you have to remember that they will fidget, cry, or rip off any clothes that are not comfortable. That’s why I don’t like to use wool for their projects. If I do need to use wool or that’s my absolute only choice, I pick merino wool, which is the softest to work with.




You will also need to consider if the person you are making the project for has any allergies. If they have allergies to specific dyes, like from hand dyed yarn, or to wool, you will need to use alternative fibers that are a good substitute for what you cannot use. Cannot use wool, but need something with memory to it? I am a big fan of Kraemer Yarn’s Tatamy yarn – a cotton/acrylic blend that comes in worsted or DK and is soft, hard wearing, and not quite as memory-free as most cottons.

The Case of Hand Dyed and other Novelty Yarns

Big shocker, I’m going to add a special section about hand dyed yarn. When working with hand dyed yarns or intricate novelty yarns, you want the yarn to speak for itself in the project. So if you’re looking at these kinds of yarn without a project in mind, pick the project to show off the yarn. Most simple, beginner-friendly projects, are GREAT for these kinds of yarns. Single stitch scarves, mostly stockinette stitch sweaters, non-lacy items, those would be the best to choose. If you have a beautifully mosaic dyed sock yarn, vanilla socks are the way to go.

I hope this helps the next time you’re stuck on what yarn to use for your next fiber arts endeavor. Let me know how it goes!




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Adventures in Sock Knitting: Join in on the Sock Madness

March 13, 2017

“Can you make something like that, mom?” My son constantly asks me if I can knit something he sees in stores. My response is the same every time, “I can knit anything, sweetie.” I usually say that jokingly, but as I cast on the socks for the qualification round for this years’ Sock Madness, I realized, I actually can knit anything, thanks to Sock Madness.

If you are a glutton for punishment  die hard knitter but want to challenge yourself in speed and new techniques, you need to join Ravelry’s Sock Madness group (like, yesterday). I first learned how to knit socks when Peanut, my oldest, was a baby. It took a lot of muddling through poorly written free patterns, but eventually, because I’d stuck with it, it became my favorite thing to make. If you check my Ravelry Project Page, you’ll see that I’m not joking.

But why knit socks?

There’s a good Craftsy article on that subject, actually, but I have a few of my own reasons too. When I ran Midwest Yarn, my yarn shop, I always explained the advantages of having handmade socks to my newbie sock knitters:


  • The properties of wool make handmade socks perfect for a wide variety of situations and wearers. I had plenty of customers making wool socks for their husbands (and one male knitter who learned how to make socks just so he could knit them for his wife) because they are hard wearing, warm, and can be worn several times before the need to be washed. Wool wicks away moisture, meaning your feet are not marinating in sweat (you’re welcome for that visual).
  • You can make unique socks for people of all ages and sizes. This is pretty self explanatory, but still, I mean, research shows that people who wear wild and crazy socks tend to be more intelligent (and have superior awesome-ness if you ask me). My boyfriend, Dennis, has HUGE size 12 feet, so I probably won’t be making socks for him, that’d be two 100 gram balls of yarn minimum!
  • They (usually) are very comfortable. I say usually, because, let’s face it, I’m picky about clothes. I don’t like wearing socks made from yarn larger than fingering weight, because I am sensitive and an feel each individual stitch digging into my feet. I know plenty of people, including my mother, who like thick boot socks. Dennis wears thicker (store-bought) wool socks for trudging through winter snow or below freezing temperatures all day (he’s a FedEx contractor, and those guys definitely don’t get snow days).

The Sock Knitter’s Toolbox

Here’s the basics of what you’ll need for knitting a decent pair of socks:

  • Double-pointed needles (wooden or metal, but I recommend Karbonz by Knitter’s Pride if you really get into it) or circular needles for magic loop method.
  • Good Sock Yarn. This may be a controversial statement, but you don’t necessarily need to get yarn with nylon in it in order to have a long-lasting pair of socks. I’m not just saying this to sell more yarn from my Etsy Shop, I’m saying it from experience. I have enough hand-knit socks to not ever have to buy anymore from the store and I wear mine for running, walking, around the house, etc. I have had wool/nylon blend socks fall apart on me, while their all wool counter parts hold up year after year. You want to find a yarn with a good, solid twist/spin to it, which helps reinforce the structure of the sock. Sock designers tend to incorporate a reinforced heel to help too, but with dozens of different heel techniques out there, that may not always be the case. The sturdiest pair of socks I own, made from OMG Calatrava Yarn, a fingering weight 100% Superwash Merino Wool. It has a very tight twist, but it’s soft, and I love it.

    Toe-Up Ribbed Socks, free pattern when you sign up for our mailing list (Knitters)

  • A good pattern. I recommend a good pair of vanilla socks to start. I have a good toe-up sock pattern that I wrote for my sock knitting students. Join our email list (sign up on the bottom, right hand side) and check the box that you’re a knitter, I’ll send you a copy of the pattern, free. If you’re more of an advanced knitter, or would like a new challenge, I would check out some of the previous Sock Madness patterns if you missed the qualifying round for the current competition.

Why Sock Madness?

I recommend Sock Madness and it’s not just because I’ve been a designer for the warm-up round a couple years ago (The Choose Your Own Adventure Socks are now available for purchase on Ravelry). I learned some of the more difficult techniques that I know now from biting the bullet and joining this competition.

German cast-on. Super-stretchy bind-offs. Zippers. Different cuff treatments. Buttons. Steeks. Fair-isle. Mosaic Knitting. They definitely know how to throw things at you for Sock Madness. If you join the group, you can see lists of the patterns from previous competitions and try them on your own.

My finished pair from the 2017 Sock Madness Qualifying Round. I’ve officially gotten the email, and I’m moving on to the next round.

The rules are pretty strict so that people cannot cheat in the competition. As long as you follow the competition rules and finish quickly, you definitely will go far in this competition. The farthest I’ve made it is Round 7, and that was an accomplishment in and of itself. The only reason I was slow that year was because of the birth of Sharky and some health issues that led to temporary paralysis of my left thumb and index finger (talk about a rough couple of weeks).

If you need a cheerleader, I’m happy to be there for you, because sock knitting is so incredibly addicting. That is, if you don’t catch a case of Second Sock Syndrome (the unfortunate reason only single socks get made, sometimes you finish one and aren’t feeling the desire to make the second one).