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8 Yarn Dyeing Tips for New Dyers

August 14, 2018

So, you want to take the leap and start dyeing yarn on a bigger scale, eh?Or maybe you’ve never tried dyeing yarn, have not dyed much, and are still learning the process?




I have been dyeing yarn since I became a stay at home mom in 2011. I wanted something to do, my oldest son was the easiest baby to take care of in the world, and it was just plain time to take up knitting again. Since then, I’ve played around with different yarn dyes, dye techniques and perfected a few different processes until I launched OMG Yarn about a year later.




Over the years, I’ve refined my process, learned how to be a lot more flexible, and even took time off from dyeing yarn before coming back as OMG Yarn (Balls) last year with my very own unique way of dyeing.

If you’ve just started your fiber arts journey or have even been on this road a while, you know that there are so many ways that dyers do things.

While I won’t share my specific dye recipes, I am always happy to share some of the little tricks of the trade that I’ve acquired over the years that have helped my yarn be my favorite to work with.




So, here are 8 tips that I’m passing on, just for you:

 

  1. Knit (or crochet) with your yarn often.

    Always make time to work with your yarn. If you do not enjoy working with your own yarn, how will you convince customers to buy your yarn? When I started dyeing yarn, I just dyed  hite skeins of yarn I could get my hands on at the time. I wasn’t too terribly happy knitting with it.It was not until I had opened my yarn shop that I had gained some connections with different sales reps to try different yarn bases from different mills until I’d settled on a supplier that had many options to grow my yarn line and that I enjoyed working with.
  1. If you do not like a color you just tried dyeing, work with it.

    Sometimes how you dyed your yarn just does not sit right with you. Whether it’s because the colors did not do what you thought they would, or the yarn itself (or the dye) did not rise to the occasion. Your dye job may still be salvageable. Remember, your personal taste in color may not reflect your customers’ taste in color. Try working up a swatch of the yarn in knit or crochet and see what you think.Better yet, see what other people think. Even if it does not make it to your final repeatable colorway lineup, you will have a couple one of a kind skeins that people will snatch up from your shop or your booth at a show.

 

  1. Soak animal based yarn blends in a vinegar (or citric acid) solution prior to dyeing yarn.This kind of goes without saying, but I will reiterate this one. Vinegar or citric acid is very important for dyeing animal based fibers. The acid helps colors strike better on yarn. Some dyers even add the citric acid to their dye when doing speckled colors, because the powder will stay localized with the dye and strike quickly.




  1. Let yarn cool down before rinsing/washing and then rinse/wash with cool or room temperature water. This is another one that people do not often think of in the yarn dyeing process until they find that their dye is washing out a lot. If you did not use a ton of dye and the color is just not staying in the yarn, the water may just be too hot or you did not give yarn enough time to rest after dyeing. Letting the yarn rest is an important step. It’s almost like the dye keeps setting after you remove its pan from the heat. After cooling down, do what you’re going to do to finalize your dye technique process and let it go hang to dry.

 

  1. Wool based yarn a little rough after dyeing? Use vinegar or glycerin (soap) to soften it. This is one I learned recently. I have a yarn base that is very energetically spun (high, tight twist) so it felt a little rough to a handful of people who’ve felt this yarn base. Because I’m a perfectionist, this just would not do for me, so I sat down and did a little online research about softening wool. Now, after I finish dyeing my yarn and doing a final rinse, I let it sit in another bath of vinegar or Hemp Castile soap (a plant based glycerin product). It made all the difference. Even the yarn that I thought was soft and fluffy to begin with felt amazing after drying.




  1. For faster dry times, spin water out of your yarn in the spin cycle of your washing machine.

    My final step before hanging yarn to dry is to always spin water out of the yarn. It was something I started doing just after being commissioned for a 350-skein order. Now, I could’ve gone out and bought three or four more dry racks, but that was not going to work for our house – I had to put dry racks on top of a patio table so our old dog would not pee on or stick his little boogery dog nose onto the yarn – it still would not change the fact that it was taking at least 24 hours for a full rack of yarn to dry. Instead, it meant spinning out as much water as I could during the spin cycle of our washing machine. Dry time went down to about 8 hours or less. Drying was especially quick on a hot, sunny summer day with a good light breeze. I finished that order with time to spare with my three kids being in the house too!




  1. Find a good yarn dye that will work with your particular setup. I spent a lot of time researching yarn dyes and what supplies/”chemicals” were necessary for the dyeing process. I started out with Kool Aid and food coloring dyes, because I still wanted to be able to use the pots and pans in my kitchen to cook meals with (and other dyes require you to use separate pots and pans). Once I found that I could not get certain colors, I researched other dyes and settled on one that had a similar process to dyeing with Kool Aid/food coloring and chose that set of dyes.There really is no specific brand that I’d recommend, but Jacquard and Procion dyes usually are the more widely used. You will also use different ingredients when dyeing cotton, so be aware, dyes do not always work with all yarn.




  1. Lastly, try multiple dye techniques before deciding on what you will use for your signature dye technique. I always suggest this, mainly because my personal dye technique is a cross between a couple different techniques.I wanted to a quick process like how it was doing solid yarns, but not just rely on solid colors in my line up. I also love the speckle dye trend, so I could always pair a solid color and speckle over the top of the solid color.

You know what process will be best for your setup and the dyes you use.

What do you think?




Let me know if you’ve tried any of these above and how they’ve worked out for you!

Let’s Get Down to Business: Tips for Marketing Your Fiber Arts Business

November 14, 2017




I see it all the time, and not just in the fiber arts business. Entrepreneurs so excited to hop into business and they either do their work and flourish; or they skip steps and go out of business just as quickly as they started.

No, there is no magic formula to making a business work, and certainly not in the fiber arts world where there are so many subjective variables that contribute to a successful endeavor. We can, however, work on the things within our control and hope for the best.

As someone with experience at the business end of multiple service-related industries (health care, hospitality, and fiber arts to name a few), I like helping people try to realize their dreams of owning or running a successful business.

In a previous blog post, 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting or Growing Your Fiber Arts Business,I talked a little bit about avoiding the mistake of “not sticking to a marketing strategy”. I’d like to expand on that a little and talk about a few of the do’s and don’ts of marketing your fiber arts business.

In further posts, I’ll get into some social media marketing tips, but for now, let’s talk in general. Shall we?




THE DOs OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

  • Establish your tribe: This is the latest jargon for find your niche, aka your corner of the market. Determine who you want to be your primary customer base and stick with it. Do some research. How old are they? Are they male or female (I know I’m super simplifying gender here, but if you’re marketing to a specific niche of the gender spectrum, establish that and own it)? Is your tribe more likely to buy from you online or in a physical shop? These are all things you need to define in your business plan, because marketing is a BIG part of what you’ll be doing to keep your business up and running.
  • Show & Tell: Show and tell all the things that make you unique. Make it obvious what your specialty is. OMG Yarn (Balls), from the yarn side, specializes in unique dye techniques that include speckle dyes and combinations of multiple dyeing techniques. I also offer patterns that can be used on my yarn or some of my favorite LYS-caliber yarns that you can find in big box stores. I mean, not everyone can afford $25 a ball to make a sweater, right? Show some of your life behind the scenes, get people interested in what you do and some of how you do it. Share your favorite color ways. Knit/crochet with your yarn or spin with your fiber. Show people why it is the best. Most of all, show your personality. Let people care about you and your business.
  • Expect to spend most of your time marketing your business: This is a big one. You will not be spending all your time knitting or dyeing, you’ll be spending it talking about your business or chatting with other business owners like yourself. I dye yarn once a week right now, but I spend about 20-30 hours a week hanging out with the Mildly Offensive Fiber Artists, MOFA admins, testing my own patterns over and over again (and coordinating testers other than myself), giving away copies of my patterns, planning Instagram posts, working on blog posts and coordinating guest posters, and so much more. The hard work is to paying off too!




THE DON’Ts OF MARKETING YOUR FIBER ARTS BUSINESS

  • Don’t skip your market research: Let me repeat that for those of you in the back: “DO NOT SKIP YOUR MARKET RESEARCH”, it will be your undoing. Why would you put all your money and effort into a business and self-sabotage by not doing your prep work. You wouldn’t knit a $5,000 sweater with the wrong needles or yarn, spending a year knitting it, only to throw it out, would you? Not on purpose.
    • If you’re opening a brick and mortar shop, make sure your market is not saturated. That means, check to see how many yarn shops are within a 5- to 10- mile radius and see what they’re doing. If there’s already at least one, probably not the area for you, even if you THINK you could do better. When I closed our shop, we were doing well, but two yarn shops opened just before then. My business model limited overhead costs and had a lot of what I called side-hustles. It paid for itself and eventually some bills for at home too.
    • If you open up in a market where there’s only $75k or less to be made, you’re taking money out of your own pocket and that of the other shops (aka you’re limiting your market share). Also, do as I mention above and make sure you differentiate yourself from the competition. If they carry a lot of a certain brand, carry a different one. If people are looking for that specific brand, be willing to send them to that store, because guess what, they’ll be more likely to send people to you when they don’t carry something you have.
  • Don’t skip any other part of your business or marketing plan: It doesn’t have to be a 90-page doctoral thesis on the yarn biz, but you do have to plan things. A simple business and marketing plan for your business could be 1-5 pages of bullet points that include your mission (your overarching goal), vision (how you expect to achieve that overarching goal), and the financial piece (how much you will invest and reasonable expectations for income and expenses).
  • Don’t expect to copy exactly what other businesses do and be successful at it: You may not have the certain magic that makes their business plan works. For example, don’t expect to do everything StevenBe does, because YOU ARE NOT STEVENBE, YOU ARE YOU. What makes you magical? That should always be part of your business plan. If you are the brioche master, show it and own it. If you like loud, unique color combos, make that known. Make it your life.

Get it now? Seriously, you’re more than welcome to contact me for questions or more tips in this department. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now (I got my MBA in 2006 and have been in business management in some capacity ever since).

Overall, DO HAVE FUN. If it’s your passion, it won’t feel like work.




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Free Pattern/Recipe: Rhonda’s Crochet Fingerless Mitts

November 2, 2017




What I love the most about crochet is that you can free form design things. Knitting involves a lot more math and a lot more plotting before you get started.

That’s definitely what you get when working with the pattern that Rhonda Green sent me to use as a free pattern on the site.

With Rhonda’s  Fingerless Mitts pattern, you can use any yarn and the hook size that the yarn calls for. The instructions are more of a recipe for what to do to make these mitts.

What You’ll Need:

  • One 100g ball of your favorite weight yarn (for our mitts, I used OMG Rushmore, a sport weight yarn)
  • One E/4 (3.5 mm) crochet hook or size suited to yarn
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry Needle (for weaving in ends)

Gauge/tension is not important here, since this is a recipe for any weight yarn you choose.

Crochet Techniques You’ll Use:

  • ch – chain
  • dc – double crochet
  • dc2tog – double crochet two together
  • sc – single crochet
  • sl st – slip stitch





Skill Level: Beginner

Rhonda’s Crochet Fingerless Mitts

Ch 35 or enough to go around your wrist. Join into ring, careful not to twist chain.

Hand/Wrist

  • Round 1: Ch 2. Dc in each ch around, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 2: Ch 2. Dc in each dc around, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.

Repeat Round 2 to desired length.

Thumb Shaping

  • Round 1: Ch 2. 2dc in first 2dcs, dc in every dc around to last 2 sts, 2dc in each of the last 2 sts, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 2: Sl st over first two sts. Ch 2. Dc in every dc around until 2 sts before end of previous round, ch 5 (or as many as needed to fit around thumb), sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 3: Ch 2. Dc in every dc around, dc into each ch from previous round, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 4: Ch 2. While making a dc in each dc around, decrease the number sts needed to reach original stitch count evenly across the round using a dc2tog to decrease one stitch, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.
  • Round 5: Ch 2. Dc in every dc around, sl st into top of beginning of round ch.

Repeat Round 5 until mitt is the desired height.

Secure and cut yarn. Weave in ends.

Optional Thumb Instructions

You can include as many rounds of sc stitches around your thumb hole if you prefer. Rhonda usually makes them with a long thumb, in mine I made only 2 rounds of sc sts, because that was my preference.

I love the yarn Rhonda used here! As you can see, you can make the thumb as long as you like. 🙂

Enjoy!




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Guest Post: Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 2)

October 5, 2017




Now that you’ve met Shirley Will of Faery Craft, let’s get on with how to make a petticoat.

Petticoats Are Sew Awesome, Let’s Learn How to Make One! (Part 2)

What You Need:

  • 8 or 9 yards of 72″ wide netting (tulle, crinoline, etc) –  I use very stiff netting and advise my customers to wear stockings so it won’t feel scratchy. For a friend’s wedding, though, I used a softer chiffon; she’s on the autism spectrum and needs non-scratchy fabrics no matter how many layers. It didn’t “poof” as much, but it still looked gorgeous.
  • For the waist layer, you can use a different fabric, such as wedding satin – One or two yards is fine, depending on your measurements. You’ll be doing the calculations first, so you’ll know in advance how much you need. If you go this route, you’ll only need 8 yds of netting for the ruffles.
  • 48 yds of ribbon for the hem – I use a narrow ribbon, either ⅜” or ½”. You can use either a matching or contrasting ribbon.
  • Wide, double-faced satin ribbon or blanket binding, a couple of inches larger than your waist measurement – You can also double over a strip of fabric to make your own waistband, but after dealing with all the ruffles, you’re not going to want to deal with much else.
  • One or two large sew-in snaps – depending on the width of your waist ribbon.
  • Sewing thread – matching or contrasting, depending on the look that you want.
  • Lots and lots of straight pins
  • Rotary cutter – You’re really going to want one of these. If you don’t have one and want to start a petti before you can buy one, see if you know someone who will let you borrow theirs. You can certainly cut the strips with scissors, but the cutter makes it so much easier that it’s ridiculous.
  • A way to measure your strips as you cut – You’ll see me using a rotary cutting mat, and it has gridlines on it. These are pricey as heck, so if you don’t have one yet, I’d suggest faking it. You can mark out the width you need with masking or painter’s tape, which works on cutting tables, floors, and even carpet. You’ll need to maintain a constant, even width, so doing all this is to your benefit, trust me.

OK, got everything? Let’s get to cutting!




You’re going to need a total of 8 very long strips of fabric; 9″ wide and 8 yds long. For a shorter petti you can use narrower strips, but generally the length of your skirt depends on how long your waist layer is. This is why I sew up the ruffles first; it comes in handy in figuring out how much length you still need. Oh I know, you can measure it all out beforehand – but reality sometimes messes with you, and this way is much easier.

OK, so there’s my pile of 8 yds of net. Now to unfold it. I cut one layer at a time. They all NEED to be exactly the same width, or else parts of your petti are going to be shorter than others. How do I know this? NO REASON, LET’S MOVE ON, SHALL WE. *wink*

This picture was taken later at night so the colors look different.

Here’s one strip cut and folded up off to the side, and the second strip started. I use a metal yardstick to hold the edge down. I put my left hand over to the other side of the 9″ mark to steady it, but be sure not to pull, because netting will stretch a bit. Now sometimes my cut line does wobble, but I haven’t strayed more than ¼”, so I should be OK when I stitch the layers together.

You’ll get exactly eight 9″ wide strips out of a length of 72″ wide netting. Get that all out of the way first; this part doesn’t take any brainpower, but it is the most annoying; it’s all cake & pie from here! 🙂

Maybe they won’t be ALL 9″ since netting bolts usually say ’70-72″ width’. But that’s ok, most of them are close!

Do your six strips for the bottom ruffle at 9″. Measure what you have left. Mine wasn’t a full 18″, it was only 15″. So, I cut it down the middle for my two strips for the middle layer, which is now 7 ½” wide.

Now that they’re all cut, sew the strips together – sew two together and set aside, then sew the other six into one big, long strip. This is what I do, but if you only want to gather half the petticoat at a time, leave the two middle fabric strips alone, and sew the other six into two 3-piece strips.




I use a light-weight needle on my machine, like for chiffon. I don’t put a stabilizer or anything under it; it’s never been a problem for me.

I sew a straight stitch seam down, just my normal stitch length. I keep my left hand on the fabric to guide it, but don’t pull tight, or it might pucker.

Without cutting the thread, pull the fabric toward you, turning so that you can sew the seam allowance down. Open up the fabric and lay flat, pushing the seam flat off to one side. I try to push all the seams in the same direction, but when all the ruffles are gathered, you really won’t be able to tell.

Once you’re in position, sew down on top of the seam allowance to keep it flat. I use a zig-zag stitch here, but you can use an overlock stitch or even a decorative one. I use a cute vine-style stitch for my wedding pettis.

Now the fun part (or “fun” depending on how you deal with repetitive action, lol). I knit and crochet, too, so I’m good with it. If you’re not, just keep reminding yourself how cute it will be when it’s done.

The no-gather technique is this … find the middle of each set of strips. Pin together with right sides together; this will be the edge that the seam will be on. Here’s a pic of the two middles. Yes, I commandeer the whole living room floor for this! If you have a nice recliner or something, you can drape the excess fabric over the arms.

Now, without twisting the strips, slide your fingers along the edges until you find the beginning of the strip. I work to the left, but it really doesn’t matter. Pin together right sides together like you did with the middles.

In the picture above we see the middles pinned together, and off to the left, the beginning of each strip. In the center, the piles netting left to pin. I did say you’d need lots and lots of pins! If you’re only working with half the petticoat at a time, it will look the same, but the fabric piles will be smaller.




OK, now. See those piles of fabric strips? Time to find the center of each one! I do the top first, since it’s smaller. I pull the two pinned pieces together, and keeping it folded, slide my fingers along the edges until I reach the center. I mark the center with a pin, and let the two edges fall back open when I set it down. Sometimes I’ll actually pin it to the arm of the couch or something so I don’t lose track of it.

Then, I move to the other pile of fabric and, using the exact same technique, find the center. When you do, mark it with a pin in case you drop it. Not that I do this all the time or anything. But I do.

There’s the second set of “middles”, with the beginning of the strips off to the left there. Mine are pinned to the carpet, right sides up. It doesn’t matter how you keep track of the right sides/ top of strip, as long as you do. It’s easiest for me to make sure the head of the pin is on the right side, but if you have a different way that works for you, go for it. The only thing that matters it that it makes the process easier for you!

When you find and pin the centers, it doesn’t have to be done with mathematical precision. You’re just ensuring that you have an even distribution of ruffles all around your petticoat. Some video tutorials of ruffles start with people just sitting down at the sewing machine and scrunching up the longer side as they go. This stresses me out! I keep thinking “how do you know it won’t be more ruffly on one side?” “how do you make sure you don’t end up with extra at the end?” Well, this is what I do.

Eventually, you’ll be able to just stretch out both arms and reach both “middles”. Here, the midpoint that you’re looking for, of the center petti tier, is to the left, and the one of the bottom tier is to the right.

This is about as close together as you want to get your pins. I used to pin them down flat into pleats, but it doesn’t make any difference in the way the finished petti looks, so now I just scrunch it up and guide it under the presser foot as I sew. Much like those brave video tutorial teachers, but with pins in the middle to keep me from scrunching too much or too little.

Keep pinning, moving to the right, continuing to find the centers of the pinned … loops, I guess? You’re going to end up with a top strip that lays flat, with the much larger bottom ruffle pinned in even bunches on top of it. At this point, I’m settled in with a nice beverage, with many, many yards of tulle draped all around me. When I get everything to the absolute center pinned, I’ll have to stand up to start finding the centers again. I’ll continue to pin from the left to the right, so that by the time I’m done, I’ll be at the opposite edge of the petticoat.

At this point, you probably see the advantage of doing half of the petti ruffles at a time. I’ve done it, it is easier. When you get both halves pinned and the seams sewn, you then sew the two halves together at one of the side seams.




All pinned? Sew the seam along the top the same way you did between the strips. The initial seam is done with a straight stitch, sewing down all the scrunches/gathers. When you’re done, open it up so the fabric is flat, push the seam allowance down, and go over it with a zig-zag stitch, or whatever you’re using. I push the seam downward toward the hem, but like I said before, it doesn’t really matter; you can’t really tell when it’s finished.

It does make a difference if you don’t sew it down at all. Not only does it look more polished, but it’s more comfortable to wear, especially if you’ve used a stiff crinoline.

Well, we’ve reached the end of Part 2 of constructing a petticoat! Part 3 will arrive soon. We’ll see you then.





Photos belong to Shirley Will of Faery Craft.

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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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Let’s Do a Yarn Study: Alternatives to Wool Blends for Crochet Shawls

August 28, 2017



Oh my goodness! Why would I even do a write up about yarn that isn’t mine?!

Well, I’m a small-ish independent dyer, designer, and fiber arts business owner and I certainly am not at the point where I have all my bases covered yet (see what I did there?). That means I have friends and family that may not be able to use my yarn due to wool allergies, cost, etc.

It doesn’t mean that these people cannot get the most out of my patterns or even patterns that I highly recommend for my yarn or a good alternative.

I’ve decided that, since I am a former yarn shop owner, and like to be inclusive of everyone, even people who aren’t using my yarn for whatever reason, I want to pass on my recommendations. I do it for the love of yarn.




What do I mean by a yarn study?

Sometimes you see stitch samplers for crochet, knit, cross-stitch, which are basically studies on different techniques.

In this case, I’m working the same project in different yarns and comparing the qualities of each yarn in the hopes to better understand different fiber content, stitched fabrics, and thus inspiring new designs in various yarns.

For this yarn study I chose the Swagger Shawl by Barb Mastre Stanford because it’s a quick crochet project and with less experience designing for crochet, I felt that this would be the perfect opportunity to play with different yarns for crochet projects. And she so graciously designed it for OMG’s expansion back in 2014.

The yarns I chose are:

  • Caron Cotton Cakes
  • Lion Brand’s 24/7 Cotton
  • Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted

The yarns I chose are good Worsted weight cotton alternatives to OMG Liberty, which is what the Swagger Shawl calls for.

Cotton Yarn: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Cotton yarns that are wallet-friendly are notoriously rough and not always the first choice for a shawl that you would wear next to your skin.

When you are lucky to find a good cotton yarn that is soft AND relatively inexpensive, you notice that it has a wonderful drape, but can lack “memory”, meaning it doesn’t always bounce back from stretching.

It is because of its drape that cotton yarns can be good for shawls and other accessories including home décor items.

So here we go!




OMG Liberty (Pictured at the top)
Fiber content: 100% Superwash Merino Wool
Put up: 220 yards per 100 gram skein

  • Pros: OMG Liberty is fluffy, takes up dye very well, and has excellent stitch definition. When crocheted for the Swagger Shawl it maintained its springiness and drape.
  • Cons: As I mentioned in my introduction, price for larger projects with OMG Liberty might make this yarn cost prohibitive for some. That’s exactly why I did the yarn study. It’s $22 per skein, so you’re talking 66 bucks to make this shawl, plus the cost of the pattern.

Here are my recommended alternatives if you absolutely have to make this shawl (or any other project that might call for OMG Liberty).




Caron Cotton Cakes
Fiber content: 60% Cotton, 40% Acrylic
Put up: 211 yards per 100 gram ball

Added on at the last minute after discovering this new yarn at my local Michael’s store, I included Caron Cotton Cakes, because I thought that Swagger would look pretty awesome using this new yarn.

  • Pros: Pricewise, you’re only talking $4.99 a ball at Michael’s (or less since we’re nearing the end of cotton yarn season in the US). This yarn feels like chenille or microfiber fabric, so it is amazingly soft. I also like cotton/acrylic blends because it adds a little bit of memory to your stitches without losing any of the drape from cotton and this yarn certainly lives up to that. The self-striping aspect of the yarn made the shawl itself look unique compared to the other samples I crocheted.
  • Cons: The only issue I saw with this yarn was one ball had a knot in it like it had been cut and tied to complete the ball. This is something that occasionally happens with all yarn companies, so not necessarily a con per se.




Lion Brand’s 24/7 Cotton
Fiber content: 100% Mercerized Cotton
Put up: 186 yards per 100 gram ball

  • Pros: Pricewise, you’re only talking $5.49 a ball at JoAnn Frabrics (or less since we’re nearing the end of cotton yarn season in the US). I like mercerized cotton yarns for baby items, so this Lion Brand equivalent was screaming my name. It has a beautiful shine and drape in the finished shawl. I am loving wearing it around too.
  • Cons: It’s a little rough to touch, but it is hard wearing. With blocking, the yarn softens up a bit.





Knit Picks’ Shine Worsted
Fiber content: 60% Pima Cotton, 40% Modal
Put up: 75 yards per 50 gram ball

  • Pros: At $2.99 a ball, this yarn is at a great price point as well, but you will need 6 balls of this to make the Swagger Shawl. It is soft, shiny, and the drape is magnificent. This is the softest cotton blend I’ve found so far, and I’m happy that I tried it out! The yarn blocks well and even held up to me ironing it.
  • Cons: With a 50 gram put up, it means more ends to weave in. Other than that, I experienced one knot, but as I said earlier, I know that’s normal so it’s not a con for me.

Since gift season is quickly approaching, I’m sure you’ll want to use some of these good alternatives on your Swagger Shawl.

Here’s a link to the pattern: Swagger Shawl by Barb Mastre Stanford

Let me know how you like the pattern and feel free to tag OMG Yarn on FB or Instagram when you make yours!




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Put Down the Yarn Balls for a Minute: Let’s Make Some Slime

July 12, 2017




As a work from home mom, I need to find a good balance of work and play. That means sometimes I have to put the yarn down and pick up some fun activities that the kiddos can enjoy.

This time, my not-so-little Peanut had been BEGGING to make slime. I gave in. Of course, with this being a trend, and even having seen a YouTube goddess on Good Morning America with her own slime recipe, I had to try it.

The problem: All the slime recipes contained Borax. I make my own laundry detergent, so this is a common household item for me, but I also know that it destroys my skin if I touch it with my bare hands. I can only imagine what that would’ve done to my kiddos’ hands.

And because we do things with the OMG Factor, we needed to make bright and glittery slime without the requisite glitter epidemic that follows (I usually refer to this as glerpes, because once you have glitter, you have it for life).

My instructions are for one batch of slime which is enough for one child.

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 6oz bottle of Elmer’s Glitter Glue
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons Contact Solution
  • OPTIONAL: You’re welcome to add little things to the slime like toys, those little styrofoam balls, or whatever you like to make your slime even more awesome for your kiddos. I opted to add “Slime Ballz” that I found at Michael’s.

Other supplies:

  • Measuring spoons – Tablespoon and teaspoon
  • Mixing bowl – You might want to use disposable bowls or ones that you don’t care if you don’t use them again for anything else
  • Wooden stirrer – Like a paint stirrer or popsicle stick used for craft projects
  • Ziplock bags – For storage

Making slime is so easy, even 3 year old Sharky helped!

Instructions

  1. Pour the glue into the mixing bowl.
  2. Add the baking soda to the glue and stir until it’s completely mixed in. The glitter glue will look cloudy when ready. OPTIONAL: If you’re adding any toys or other things to your slime, this is the step where you add them.
  3. Add the contact lens solution. The mixture will start to harden quickly, so stir as much as you can before it turns into a ball. It will also stick to the stirrer, so you can pull the slime off of there when you get to the next step.
  4. Knead the slime by hand. Knead your slime into the remaining contact solution in the bowl like you’re making bread. The contact solution will make the glue become less and less sticky.
  5. Enjoy your slime! Play games with your slime. See how far you can stretch it. Mash it into a ball. Whatever you want, the sky is the limit.




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Quick Crochet Tutorial: How to do a Standing Double Crochet

July 5, 2017




You know I love to do ALL things fiber arts, right? That includes crochet.

I’m always knitting and always crocheting and sometimes things don’t always work out how you like them to, so you learn to fudge it, scheme it, or just plain make it work.

The goal of the site is to help cut out some of the scheming to make your projects look better by actually teaching some of the complicated stitches you might come across in your patterns.

Standing Double Crochet: A Brief Tutorial

I came across the standing double crochet while working on a cute little crochet sweater for Sharky two Christmases ago.

Even with almost two decades of crochet experience under my belt, I had never heard of this stitch which was being used to start rows of stripes along the front of his sweater. Sorry, I just remember what pattern I was using.

I initially shared the short tutorial on Instagram back in 2015, but it’s time to put this all in one searchable place that both you and I can come back to for reference. So, here we go:

Using the photograph above as a guide, complete these steps…
1. Yarn over hook twice. 2 loops on hook.
2. Insert your hook into the stitch, draw up a loop. 3 loops on hook.
3. Yarn over and pull through two loops on hook. 2 loops on hook.
4. Yarn over again and pull through two loops on hook. 1 loop remains and you’re done!
5. Once your next stitch is completed, your tail is tucked into the work.




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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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Learn to Knit: Continental Knitting

April 13, 2017





Now that you’ve learned how to cast on your stitches, how about learn how to knit and purl those stitches, eh?

Knitting is made up of knit stitches and purl stitches, and just like with crochet, you can hold the yarn in your left hand or you can hold the yarn in your right hand. The difference with knitting is that the stitches themselves and the direction in which you knit do not change with how you hold your yarn.

I’ve come across several conversation threads where crocheters are learning to knit and were searching for left-handed knitting vs. right-handed knitting…nope, knitting is funny that way…the stitches are the same no matter what.

Choosing how to hold your yarn is a matter of comfort or preference. I’m teaching you about this one first, because it’s the trickiest and takes longest to master. I will say this: those speed demon knitters use this style of knitting. So you’ll be a fast knitter once you master this technique!

What is Continental Knitting?

Continental knitting, also known as German or European Knitting, is a style of knitting in which the yarn is held in the left hand and the right hand uses the knitting needle to work the stitches. You can be left- or right-handed to knit this way, so it’s kinda misleading to call it left-handed knitting (read: just don’t call it that…LOL).




What you’ll need:

  • Yarn (of course) – In the video below, I used Vanna’s Choice yarn. It’s 100% acrylic and one of the softer wallet-friendly yarns that I like to use for projects.
  • Knitting Needles – Choose the needles suggested by the label on your yarn. For this demonstration, I used US 9 circular needles (beginners, use straight needles – they come in a package of two with nothing connecting the two needles). You will need both of your knitting needles.
  • Patience – It’ll take some time to learn how to knit and usually I took an entire 2-hour class period for teaching my students how to master the stitches. Don’t get frustrated, every one takes quite a few tries before they get it.

Before you start…

Cast on a good 24 stitches or so using the long-tail cast on method I taught you.

Watch the video (and subscribe to my YouTube Channel)

In the video I started out with some stitches already worked, so that it was easier for you to see what I’m doing. The long-tail cast on actually knits on some stitches for you anyway, so it’s like a bonus row already done for you.

You will need to hold the needle with all your cast on stitches in your left hand. The tension on the working yarn is kept by using your left finger as demonstrated in the video.

Knit Stitch

  1. Hold your yarn in back (behind the needle).
  2. Insert right needle from front to back.
  3. Grab the working yarn with your right needle. Remember, the working yarn is the yarn that is connected to the yarn ball. Make sure you are not grabbing the tail from where you cast on your stitches.
  4. Use the needle in you right hand to pull that working yarn through the stitch to the front.
  5. Complete the stitch by using the right hand needle to pull the loop you started with off the left needle. The working yarn loop that you pulled to the front is now on your right needle.

Congratulations! You’ve knit your first stitch. Keep practicing that knit stitch for a couple of rows until you get the hang of it.

When you get to the end of a row, all your loops are on your right needle. Take that needle and move it to your left hand with the tip facing toward the right, like how you started the row.

Once you feel like you are ready, try the purl stitch (in the same video).




Purl Stitch

  1. Your yarn is held in front for a purl stitch (in front of the needle). Uh oh! What the bleep does that mean?! At the beginning of a row, it’s easy, just swing your yarn to the front. If you’re in the middle of a row, bring the yarn to the front in between your two needles NOT over the top of either needle (that will create yarn over, which means extra loops, and your project will start to grow…you don’t want that).
  2. Insert your right needle from right to left. Check out the different angles of my video in order to see what that looks like.
  3. Use the right needle to wrap the working yarn around. This is the tricky part. Watch this section of the video many times. Yes, it’s that important. To be honest, I have a hard time describing this part in a written fashion. You may think to yourself, “but if I just grab the yarn with the needle and pull it through the back, that’s easier!” Unfortunately, if you do it that way, your stitch is twisted and it is not a proper purl stitch. Use your left finger to help wrap the yarn and stabilize it.
  4. Once your working yarn is wrapped properly, pull that loop out through the back (as shown in the video). Like with the knit stitch, use the right hand needle to pull the loop you started with off the left needle. The working yarn loop that you pulled to the front is now on your right needle.

You did it! You can knit!




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