Monday, March 28, 2011

Recycled, Upcycled Sweater

...lots of yarn for very little!

If you're like me and buy yarn as if sheep were going extinct, you know that your yarn bill adds up. Very quickly. A great way to get a lot of yarn is by going to the thrift store! While some thrift shops do sell yarn that people have donated, I'm talking about buying a sweater, taking it apart and reusing the yarn for your project! It's cheap. It's awesome. It's a load of fun! Lemme break it down.

In my case here, I knew I wanted yarn I would be able to dye with food coloring. To dye with food coloring or Kool Aid, you have to have it made out of wool of some sort. The higher the wool content the better. Cotton and man made fibers like acrylic do not take dyes very well (I should clarify- cotton does not take food dyes very well.) This sweater here I bought for $4.99 and is 50% wool, 50% acrylic.

The second thing you want to look at in a possible sweater are the seams. Go ahead and turn it inside out. What do you see? If the seams are sewn together like this, then you're golden! That means each piece was knitted then put together with a chain stitch.

However, if you find a sweater that was sewn together with a serger skip it! A serger cuts the yarn while it sews it together. That means that instead of having one long continuous piece of yarn you're unraveling, each row of knitting will be it's own separate string. You'd end up with hundreds of yard long pieces of yarn. Not very useful for knitting.

So now you have to wash your sweater. I hand wash them with some wool wash. You can wash it as it is- in one big piece before you've taken it apart. You can take the sweater apart, wash those separately or you can do what I like to do. After I've taken it apart, unraveled it and skeined it I wash it just prior to dyeing. When you dye yarn, you want the yarn wet. So washing it right before makes sense to me.

Taking the sweater apart is fun but can also be time consuming. I like using a seam ripper. If you look at the chain stitch that sewed the sweater together, you'll notice that it looks like a bunch of arrows on top of each other. If you cut the thread at the top of the arrows, you'll be able to just pull it and it'll unravel the entire seam (think of it like dog or cat food- some bags have that same sort of chain stitch closure when you first buy it.) If you can get that chain stitch undone, it'll save you lots of time!

With this sweater, I am planning on using the sleeves for a different project so I put them aside and just started unraveling the front and back pieces. You can wind it into a ball, wind it onto a niddy noddy (which I do) or wind it around anything else- back of a chair?

My four year old son wanted a blue sweater, so I knew I'd be dyeing this yarn. I had him pick out the colors. He chose Wilton's teal, royal blue and kelly green food coloring. I used the pan method and heated it in the microwave. After I skeined and tied my yarn (to prevent tangles!) I washed it and then soaked it in vinegar water. I gently squeezed out the water and layed it in my casserole dish. I dissolved each food dye into some vinegar water and poured it on top.

Left to right: royal blue, kelly green, teal.

I then microwaved it a few minutes at a time until the water was clear. I pulled out the yarn, let it cool then squeezed out the water and let it dry. I did this will all the skeins of yarn I would be using.

I found this great pattern for a top down, seamless raglan sweater. Fits anybody, any size with any yarn. You knit a swatch, plug in your numbers, do the math and now you have a sweater pattern! It worked great! After I finished knitting Bailey's sweater, I still had enough of the yarn to knit myself leg warmers. And don't forget I still have those two sleeves! All that yarn. For less than $5! Such a deal!

Name: Bailey Blue Sweater
Yarn: recycled, upcycled thrift store sweater yarn
Weight: super bulky
Pattern: The Magic Custom Fit Raglan Sweater by At My Mothers Knee

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chunky Knits

...Chunka Chunka Burnin' Love

As much as I love sock yarn- I have an obsession with sock yarn, I also adore big fat chunky yarn. It's fluffy, it knits quickly and you can make some great projects with it. The only drawback is that if you don't use it correctly, big fat yarn can make you look big and fat in it.

I recently knit some projects with bulky yarn. The first is a sleeveless long tunic by Wenlan Chia called Evening Shell. I was given some money for my birthday and promptly went out and fell in love with this yarn. It's spun as a thick and thin yarn meaning that thickness of the yarn changes. I absolutely love this tunic and plan on making another in cool colors. Maybe blue?

I made quite a few modifications to the pattern. I had to change the amount of stitches I was knitting because my yarn was a different thickness, I used smaller needles and the largest size offered for the pattern is 30 inches. I also didn't knit the body of the tunic in seed stitch. I knit it in stockinette stitch since the yarn itself has a lot of texture. Plus seed stitch with bulky yarn is not flattering. I used four skeins of yarn for the main body and one for the neck and armhole shaping.

Name: Birthday Suit
Yardage: 435 yards super bulky yarn

The most recent chunky knit is Gnomey Hat. I had made this to fit an adult woman. But despite the fact that my gauge was correct the hat still ended up too small! It fits my 20 month old Silas quite perfectly. He already has a gnome hat so I am giving this to my friend Erin for her little girls in trade for some babysitting.

This yarn is soft and is called roving yarn because there is a slight twist in it and is not plied. It feels like you're knitting with wool than with a strand of yarn. I wanted to add some sort of decoration to the hat and thought leaves would look nice. But on more consideration, I thought the leaves would make it look like elf ears. So I sought some advice from my awesome Knit Knackers and they suggested I put a bird on it!

I embroidered the green branch and flowers with some leftover Malabrigo yarn I had. I cut the bird from a scrap of fleece I had and embroidered it with a little design. I love it and can't wait to see the little girls wearing it. I'll also be looking at other knitting projects wondering what I can embroider on them as well.

Name: I Put a Bird On It!
Pattern: Gnomey Hat by Mimi Hill
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Roving, natural
Yardage: 90 yards bulky yarn

Monday, March 7, 2011

Release the Butterflies!!

...The Monarch

For awhile now I've been wanting to dye yarn based around the colors of The Venture Brothers character The Monarch. I finally got to it this weekend.

I used Wiltons icing colors and used the jar method. I dissolved the food coloring, water and vinegar in a jar and stuffed the yarn in and heated it in the microwave.

The best tool for dyeing based on a photo is a color extractor. I used ColorSuckr. It extracts the 12 most used colors in the photo. For my yarn, I used 6 dyes. 3 different purples, golden yellow, orange and brown.

I plan on knitting it along with black yarn to finish off that perfect Monarch look!

Name: Monarch
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool, natural
Weight: Worsted
Yardage: 223 yards

Friday, March 4, 2011

Luck of the Draw

...March Dye Along

This months dye along in Ravelry group What a Kool Way to Dye is called Luck of the Draw. The description says, "The idea is to toss all the colors you own into a bag and then randomly choose three colors for the dyeing. You can use those three colors in any way you choose, so long as you use all three and only those three." Sounds like fun!

The three colors I wound up with is Kool Aid Grape, Kool Aid Lemon Lime and Kool Aid Orange. And this is what I did.

I soaked my skeined yarn in warm water for about 30 minutes. With Kool Aid you don't need to add any vinegar since the citric acid in it allows the color to set.

I placed my yarn in a large pot and added enough hot water that it just barely covered the yarn. You don't want any extra water for this look. If you were to add more water, the color distribution wouldn't be as spotty- they would have blended more. I turned my stove burner on low heat and waited until the water and yarn were hot.

I opened up the orange Kool Aid packet and sprinkled the entire amount all over the yarn. I tried to get as much of the surface as possible. Then I used a spoon and very gently pushed the color down onto the yarn. I left it alone for a few minutes then used a spoon to carefully lift up the yarn. Good, the color was all set.

I pulled the yarn out of the pot and carefully flipped it over and laid it back in the pot. So now I see mostly undyed yarn- the orange part being on the bottom. I took the lemon lime Kool Aid and did the same thing- sprinkled it all over, pushed the yarn down and let it sit for a few minutes.

When the green color had set I pulled the yarn out again and arranged the yarn back in the pot so that any parts of undyed yarn were at the top. I had to use the spoon and my gloved hands to pull apart and situate the yarn. I then only used half the packet of grape Kool Aid and sprinkled it on top. Once that set, I pulled the yarn out again and rearranged it once more trying to get all the undyed parts on the top. I sprinkled the rest of the purple dye and let it set.

I pulled the yarn out, set it on a plate and let it cool. Once it was room temperature, I gently squeeze out the water (it's clear- all the color and dye are in the yarn not the water) and hung it to dry.

At first I wasn't too thrilled about the colors and look. But as it I kept looking at it while it was drying, it sort of grew on me. And then when I reskeined it and wound it into the cake, I fell in love! The yarn reminds me of the African batik fabric I used to see. I haven't come up with a name for it, any suggestions?

Name: Luck of the Draw
Weight: fingering
Yardage: 382 yards