Tuesday, March 30

Two new cat toys -- Bun Bun & Kitty Tweets

Here are two new kitty toys to make. Bun Bun is knit and Kitty Tweets is crocheted. Both are great ways to use up scrap yarn.

Bun Bun is an easy-to-knit little bunny toy. One of my test knitters said her husband took the first one she made for her kitties. He called it his Minimalist Bunny. LOL! The distinctive bunny ears and powder puff tail make it recognizable.

Knit it on size 8 (5 mm) straights with about 12 yards of worsted weight yarn. Then invisibly seam it down the front using garter stitch grafting. (Don’t be afraid, it's easy and there’s a tutorial.) Stuff and sew the bottom closed to use it as a cat toy or leave it open and stuff with a candy egg or wrapped candies for an Easter basket treat. (Run the yarn tails through the bottom edge to make a drawstring to keep the candy inside.) Bun Bun is 4” high. All proceeds from pattern sales will be donated to Pet Refuge (www.petrefuge.com).

Kitty Tweets are cute little birdies you can crochet up fast for your kitties to play with! Using a size H hook and about 12 yards of worsted weight yarn, you can whip one up in a flash. The finished toy is about 4” wide x 2” high. A great project for scrap yarn. Stuff these with polyfill and a little catnip as you add the border.

These patterns are formatted as fold up brochures when printed on both sides of a sheet of paper.

Kitty Tweets is available as a free download on Ravelry. Click HERE to find the pattern.

Bun Bun's pattern is available through my Ravelry pattern store. All money from this pattern is donated to Pet Refuge.

For more information, visit my Ravelry pattern store to see all my available designs, current pricing information, and purchase pattern downloads.

Friday, March 26

A Leafy Hug Shawl

I knit this powder blue shawl in January after seeing the Travelling Woman Shawl. The yarn is Lornas Laces Shepherd Sport. The shaping intrigued me so much that I decided to try my hand at designing a similar shawlette as a special gift. Though it's a beautiful shawl, I really didn't like how the lace looked at the front edges of the shawl from the steep increases that shape it. (Orchard Hill was my solution to that design dilemma.) However, so many people have asked me to write up the pattern for this shawl, I decided I would.

May I introduce A Leafy Hug Shawl. The dark purple shawl in the second picture was knit by one of my test knitters, Maria Hart. (Thanks, Maria!) She used 400 yards of Monarch Sock yarn from Fly Designs in purple. This is a beautiful superwash merino sport weight yarn. I've enlarged this shawl a little from my original shawl.

This leaf bordered shoulder shawlette begins at the neck with a plain stockinette section and changes to a beautiful leaf lace border. Increases are worked on both right and wrong side rows that cause the top of the shawl to grow quickly. Knit in sportweight yarn, this shawl blocked to 62” wide along the neckline and 20” long at the center back.

The pattern includes both written and charted instructions. You'll need a size 7 (4.5 mm) circular knitting needle and about 400 yards of sport weight yarn to knit it. The heavier yarn and larger needle size make it a fast knit!

For more information, visit my Ravelry pattern store to see all my available designs, current pricing information, and purchase pattern downloads.

Tuesday, March 23

Runes Stole

The Runes Stoles is an easy but striking lace design to knit in garter stitch. (Psst…you can knit it in stockinette too!) Use size 7 (4.5 mm) needles and about 700 yards of fingering weight yarn. The blocked size of this stole is 23” x 85”.

My friend Janet test knit this pattern for me. That's her photo of the completed stole. Don't you think it turned out great? I do! Thanks, Janet!

The 8-page pattern includes both a lace chart and complete line-by-line written instructions. Knit with three balls of Knit Picks Palette, the yarn cost to knit this stole is only $5.97! (This is before the price increase.)

The Runes Stoles is the stole version of the Homeward Bound scarf.

This pattern can be found in my Ravelry pattern store.

For more information, visit my Ravelry pattern store to see all my available designs, current pricing information, and purchase pattern downloads.

Monday, March 22

Using Easter Egg Dyes on Wool Yarn

Easter is coming and so are those clearance sales on Easter Egg dye. Wanna try your hand at dyeing some yarn with it? I'm no expert but I will share some instructions I put together for a dyeing workshop I did with my knitting group several years ago.

Knit Picks Bare yarns are very inexpensive and great for dyeing experiments.

Wool yarn or roving (Animal fibers or silk. No cotton or acrylic.)
Old clothes, a shirt, or apron to protect your clothes.
Plastic silverware for stirring colors
Plastic wrap
Ziploc gallon size bags or clear plastic or glass containers
White vinegar
Cups to hold mixed dye
Vinyl gloves (or you'll have dyed fingers for days!)
Easter Egg dye tablets
Squirt bottles
Boiling water
Paper towels for cleanup
Newspapers to cover surfaces

Fill a sink with enough warm water to cover your yarn. Mix in a good splash of white vinegar before adding your yarn. Soak yarn for about 10 minutes until there are no dry spots. (Don't add vinegar if the color you want to use will split. See note below about mixing colors that split.) Drain the yarn after it's been soaked. Do not wring or twist. A plastic colander works great to drain the yarn or squeeze it gently to remove excess moisture.

While you're waiting for the yarn to soak, mix the colors you want to use. I usually mix my dyes in glass jars or mugs that I can put through the dishwasher. Put each color in a different cup. Boil some water and pour it over the dye tablets. Stir to get all the dye to dissolve. Now you're ready to pour, splatter, paint, or squirt the dye onto the yarn. :)

For one color:
Place yarn inside a Ziploc bag or clear container of some sort. Add pre-mixed dye to bag along with enough liquid to cover yarn. You may need to turn the bag later to get the color evenly through the yarn.

Lay yarn out on plastic wrap and pour, squirt, dot, or paint on different colored dyes as desired. Leave 1" between colors or they will bleed together. Turn the yarn and do the other side if you want good coverage. Wrap plastic around yarn; place inside a clear plastic bag.

Tie dye:
Wrap bits of plastic wrap around sections of the yarn and tie tightly or rubber band off to keep the dye from hitting there. Dye as desired. You can add water to bag or not as desired. Adding water will mute the color.

Roving or fiber: Wrap in bridal tulle to stabilize while coloring and draining.

Seal bag (or container); set in sun to cook.
A temp of 165-180 degrees will set dye. (Temps at boiling or above will felt your wool.) About 90 minutes on a hot, sunny day should do it. You can put a test piece of yarn in the bag to use to check to see if color is set. (If it isn’t set you’ll wash all the color out.)

Not a sunny day?
You can also set the dye in a microwave, crockpot, etc. Watch that you don’t felt your fiber in the microwave by getting it too hot. Be careful not to melt the plastic. It might be better to place your yarn in a glass container instead. In the microwave, I added some water to the yarn, covered it with a lid, and cooked it for 5 minutes until it was very hot. You may want to check every minute or so to make sure you don't damage the yarn.)

Let the yarn cool down before you rinse it. Remember, agitation and hot water will felt wool! Rinse the cooled yarn in tepid to cool water. The color shouldn’t bleed (or not very much) if the color is set. (You can check to see if your dye is set before you rinse it. Pull a few strands out far enough that you can immerse them in water. If the color doesn’t bleed, you’re ready to rinse.) Hang to dry.

A Note About Easter Egg Dyes:
Read the package instructions. Some colors split if you add vinegar to the dye. Be aware of this fact unless you don't mind what color(s) you get. If you're using non-vinegar dyes, don't presoak your yarn in vinegar. Add the dye to your wet yarn and let it cook for awhile before you add some vinegar. Adding the acid at this stage, should stop the color from splitting.

You can't always tell what color a dye tablet is just by looking at it. If you want to find out without mixing then all up, here's what you can do. Dampen a paper towel. Take a dye tablet and touch it lightly to the paper towel to see what color it is.

Mixing Colors:
Add more water to lighten or mute a color.
1 tablet + 1 ounce yarn = bright color.

Primary colors: red, blue, yellow (can’t be mixed from other colors)
Secondary colors: orange, purple, green and other colors can be mixed.

Mix your dye tablets up first and then use them to form other colors using this chart as a guide.

To get this color, mix together these colors:
Apricot - 2 parts orange + 1 part yellow
Aqua - 5 parts blue + 1 part green
Blue Violet - blue + small amount of red
Brown - red + green
Chartreuse - 2 parts yellow + 1 part green
Coral - 3 parts pink + 2 parts yellow
Lavender - 5 parts pink + 1 part violet
Marigold - 3 parts yellow + 1 part orange
Orange - yellow + red
Peach - yellow + pink
Purple - red + blue (can be a tricky color to achieve)
Red Violet - red + small amount of blue
Teal - 9 parts blue + ½ part yellow
Yellow Green - green + yellow

Wednesday, March 17

A cat tale :)

I should never leave balls of red yarn laying around. Pookie loves red and he can't resist the lure of balls of yarn. (You'd think I never make him any toys but I do!)

This is what I saw this morning when I went into the living room. See the red yarn on the floor? There's more but I couldn't get it all in one picture. Pookie stole a ball of yarn off the end table in the upper right hand corner of the picture. He then proceeded to roll it all over the living room, around the tables, into the kitchen, and finally down the stairs to the basement before it all unrolled. He lost interest in it once it wasn't a ball anymore. :)

This yarn was from some that I rescued several weeks ago. I had a huge box and grocery bag of acrylic yarn in the basement that, at one time, I was going to knit into cage cozies for Pet Refuge. That was before certain ancient kitties decided to do something bad to the yarn. (Believe me, they lose their minds when they get really old.) The yarn had been sitting on a shelf downstairs because I am too frugal to throw away that much yarn and didn't have a clue how to save it.

I spotted it on the shelf several weeks ago and got the nutty idea to wash it in the washing machine. I stuffed three zippered laundry bags full of yarn balls. So full that I thought they couldn't possibly move around. Oh, oh, you can see what's coming, can't you?

I put the bags into my front loading washer along with detergent, Oxyclean, cat enzyme cleaner, and a shot of white vinegar for good measure. Set the machine on hot water and let it run. When the buzzer went off, I opened the door and went "Oh, no!" One of the bags had burst open and I had a huge yarn blob. A little of the yarn in the other two bags that hadn't come unzipped was in knots too. The balls of yarn were dripping wet. Any more bright ideas?

Most people would probably have given up and thrown the whole mess away. Not me. LOL!

I couldn't put this mess through another spin cycle to remove more water (and create even more knots). It was also too wet to put in the dryer. If I had been crazy enough to do that it would have turned into one huge tangle! LOL!

I cut the tangled blobs off the remaining yarn balls. Squeezed them to remove as much water as I could. Laid them out on some wire shelving in our family room near our wood pellet stove to dry. After 24 hours, the tangled blobs were dry but the balls were still wet. Now what?

The yarn balls really needed to be skeined and hung up to dry. I couldn't use my wooden swift for the job as all that water would wreck it. What would work instead? Hmm, how about using the end of the counter in the kitchen? It was about the right length for a skein and the water couldn't hurt it. Took me a couple of hours to wind 25 balls into skeins and tie them up. Wet yarn is a little hard on the hands too. Now instead of a bunch of wet balls of yarn, I had a big pile of dripping skeins of yarn. Now what?

Where could I hang these up to drip and dry? I had visions of hanging it in the trees. But it was freezing outside and snowing. That limited my options to inside the house. How about the bathroom over the tub? That'll work. I have an extra shower rod that I've used to hang my dyeing experiments to dry over the tub. Found some extra shower curtain rings and put them over the rod before mounting it over the bathtub. I hung some of the skeins with the rings and tied the rest to the rod. Left them there overnight to drip. The next morning I moved them to the family room where they finished drying in another day.

With all the yarn that I rescued, I have enough to make a couple more scrap yarn blankets. The balls of yarn on the end table were from the last yarn blob that I had untangled and forgotten to put away.

And if you're wondering, yes, washing the yarn got rid of all the dirt and kitties cooties. :)

Friday, March 12

Flying Diamonds Shawl to crochet!

Introducing the Flying Diamonds Shawl. It's hard to believe that it has been seven years since I designed this shawl!

This is a beautiful diamond lace patterned triangle shawl to crochet. From a distance it looks a lot like a knitted lace shawl. It is crocheted from the neck down like traditional knitted shawls.

You'll need about 650 yards of sock or fingering weight yarn and a size G hook for the shawl. Mine measured 62” wide x 31” long once I blocked it. I used almost 3 skeins of JL Yarns Vinca yarn for the pictured shawl. It's a wool and nylon blend with long color runs. The yarn also has a softer twist which gives the shawl great drape. I didn't have a model available so here it is draped over a lamp shade.

Flying Diamonds is fast and easy to crochet using double crochet and chain stitches. The border contains a few treble and half double crochet stitches. Here's a close up of the lace pattern and the edging.

As of January 2014, the 3 page pattern was revised to include computer drawn charts and a new border.

The 5 page pattern can be found in my Ravelry pattern store.

For more information, visit my Ravelry pattern store to see all my available designs, current pricing information, and purchase pattern downloads.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 4

Mailbox roadkill

It's been sunny for the past 4 days. Yippee! This winter seems to have been so long. The weatherman says we had snow on the ground all but 3 days this winter. The days have all been so dark, dreary, and overcast too. I feel like I'm emerging from a cave into the sunshine again.

Here's Pookie outside walking along the south side of our patio room. Can you see the emerging spring flowers along the edge? At the very bottom of the picture you'll see a little purple. Here's what it is! It's some purple crocuses starting to bloom!

Several Saturdays ago someone killed our mailbox. I had a big black rural mailbox out by the road. It was a present from my mom. A woman driving a Yukon SUV ran it over. I was looking out the office window at the time and wondered why our mailbox went flying down the road! It took me a minute to figure out what had just happened.

I went out to retrieve the mail since it had just been delivered a few minutes before. The wooden post the mailbox had been mounted to was broken off at ground level and the mailbox was laying halfway across the yard with some of the mail scattered in the snow. (Here are pictures before and after. Hubby had already taken the battered mailbox away.)

I picked the mail up out of the snow and headed back to the house shaking my head and muttering when a vehicle pulled into our driveway. A lady got out and said she mowed down our mailbox. At least she had the integrity to come back and own up to what's she had done. For some reason she felt the need to pick up the mailbox and the wooden post and put them back where they originally were. LOL!

She apologized and said she was reaching for something in her purse when she drifted off the road and hit the mailbox. (Answering a cell phone?) After talking for a few minutes, she gave me her name and phone number and said she would pay to replace our mailbox. The only damage to her SUV was a small crease and black mark on the front bumper and a loose parking light. If she'd been driving something smaller, hitting the mailbox would have done a lot more damage to her vehicle.

Problem #1:
The ground is frozen and there is no way to put up another wooden post to hold a mailbox. That meant we had to shop for a metal mailbox stand mounted on a concrete base. It took two stores before we found one and that only after I asked if they had any. They were outside the exit door where you only saw them on the way out of the store. Go figure!

Problem #2:
The mailbox and stand was too heavy for either of us to lift. (Hubby was less than a month out from hernia surgery at this point.) And it wasn't going to fit in the car either. We asked our next door neighbor if he would go pick it up with his truck and put it in place. He was nice enough to do this for us on Monday. We have good neighbors. :)

I called the lady who hit the mailbox and gave her the replacement cost. I also asked her how her husband reacted when she told him she had damaged their SUV. She said he was upset for about 10 minutes but was glad she wasn't hurt. She said she would mail me a check. The check did arrive by the end of the week. (There are still some honest and decent people left in the world.) Thankfully by the time it arrived we had a mailbox to receive it. LOL!

Hubby said it was lucky that neither of us was at the mailbox getting the mail when she drove by. There could have been more than the mailbox damaged. :( I've had a few close calls from people who seem to find it amusing to speed and drive as close as they can to me as I retrieve the mail.

The one bad thing is the mailbox we now have is tiny and won't hold much. I'll have to wait for nicer weather before we can replace it with another big mailbox.