Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hemp for the Gold!

I'm an active lurker on the community website, but recently I participated in the ravelympics. What is ravelympics? Here is the official description:
"The First International Ravelympics Summer 2008 are open to any knitter or crocheter on Ravelry ready to challenge themselves to complete a project (or projects) within 17 days during the Summer Olympics."
I joined Team Chicago and I signed up for the Home-stuff Hammerthrow. I had been planning on making some hemp washcloths and this was the perfect opportunity to get me to actually do it. They turned out great:

I used 100% hemp yarn called allhemp6. It was the first time knitting with hemp for me and I really liked it. I got three washcloths out of one 12-dollar skein, which is a lot cheaper than buying uglier ones online already made. I think next time I can get four out of a skein if I do the math right. I also bought a bunch of raw-looking natural hemp yarn and I'm making more washcloths out of that. It's not nearly as nice to knit with, but the end result produces a lovely organic cloth that will perform up to Olympic standards in the kitchen.

The reason I used hemp is because hemp has natural anti-bacterial properties and will not mildew. Hemp fabric also gets softer the worse it's treated so it is a real work horse of a cloth that takes no special care.

I'm a hemp lover now!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Crafting around the house

I recently moved into a new apartment, not to mention a new state and city. Most people look at me like I'm crazy when they find out I left the Sunshine State for the Windy City, but I know they're secretly thinking to themselves, "Why wouldn't she move here? It's Chicago!"

Chicago is a major place to be. It's hip. It's cool. It's young and old. People who live here care. There's more to life here than golf and hospitals. Even though sometimes it is odorous and cold, I love being in this city.

I also love having a place to decorate. I have made plans upon plans to beautify my space, but I've only finished a few of them.

The first project that was finished first was a new dog bed cover for my little buddy, Basil, a yorkshire terrier.

He doesn't use it because he sleeps on our bed instead.

Next, the bathroom got a dressed up dresser and an extra large shower curtain.

They were made from an Ikea duvet set. I love them.

The living room windows were treated with some screens.

My cousin made these for her place and I loved the idea so much I made some for my place.

I'm also reupholstering three antique chairs.

I have one of them almost done and a second halfway almost done.

I made one of two kitchen curtains, but I made it wrong so I still need to re-sew it.

I have plans to make some type of light and airy living room window curtains to bring some color up onto the walls, but I haven't found the right fabric yet.

After these projects, I hope to get back into dyeing and crafting for a living. Even though I do have a full-time job, I am thinking I may be able to pull off crafting enough stuff to have a booth at one of the many craft fairs this area has. I've been to three so far and I've only been living here four months!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Today is a good day to dye

Okay. I'm going to try dying as a part-time job. Introducing my latest Etsy endeavor - DyeFi!

I've really taken to dyeing and I want to take it even further. Setting up a store dedicated to it is a good way to give me incentive to do just that.

I'm going to sell my dyed yarns and wool rovings, the dyeing kits from craftlings, and custom niddy noddies (contraptions for wrapping yarn into skeins).

Here's what I'll have to do to make it work:

I'll have to attempt repeating batches of dye lots. I have never tried to do this because I couldn't. I don't write down what I do. I'm like a mad scientist who has powders and droppers and color all over the place. But I really would like to start a catalogue of what works and what I like so I could make more of something if I wanted to.

I'll have to get proficient using real acid dyes. I have them, and I've been experimenting with them a little bit, but I need to get a lot more hands on experience with them. I have ordered a color chart that has 93 colors on it. When that gets here, then I can really get serious about colors!

I'll have to find plastic paints in the colors I want to paint my noddies. I can find some colors, but mostly boring colors. I want pink, dang it!

I am also hoping to add, if I'm feeling ambitious enough, hand-spun yarn (spun from my hand-dyed rovings) to the lineup, but probably not. I only know how to spin on a spindle and I'm not very good at it yet. I can't imagine I would be able to make it worth my time to sell handspun. However, I rarely make a profit on my creations. Selling what I make is more like a way to feed the need for more supplies.

Even though I'm not making any money from crafting, I am breaking even which creates a nice balance in my life. Enough to keep me going happily. I'm hoping dying is just the thing to push me over the borderline and into the profit margins!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Craft Buggery

For my birthday this year, one of my sisters got me a little book called "Craft, Inc.: Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business," by Meg Mateo Ilasco (Thank you, KTO!). I have begun reading it and enjoying it as the author introduces the reader to the possibility that people do make crafts for a living and so can anyone who has the creativity and the drive to do so. However, I'm stuck on the section subtitled "What's Your Creative Bug?" on page 16 of Chapter one. I don't know what mine is! That's my problem!

Meg's criteria for what the reader should choose as his or her crafty bug are:

1. "It's important to start with an endeavor that comes naturally to you."
2. "...look to your previous creative habits as a child or teenager."
3. " should be something you love to do regularly, maybe even every day."
4. "Would you do it even if you weren't paid to do it?"

I love dyeing yarn, but I definitely don't think I could dye it on a production scale, which is what I would need to do in order to make a living at it. I don't have the space or the resources. I'd have to have a separate kitchen and vats and stuff for that.

But when I hold dyeing up to Meg's criteria, I can answer yes to all of them. I even experimented with tie-dyeing as a kid and loved it.

If I love it, I should do it, right? I could build a shack or rent a space and fill it with ovens, burners, vats, swifts, drying cupboards, shelves and all that. I could hire people to help me unwind and wind the yarn into long circles.

I could have a secret recipe book containing all my color combinations that I keep under lock and key in a safe behind one of the loose bricks in my office wall.

I could attend craft and yarn festivals, host dying workshops, donate colorful yarn to charities, clothe the homeless, feed the hungry...I could save the world!!!

Yeah, whatever. I'll keep reading and maybe something will click that helps me figure out what I want to do and how I want to do it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pink hat for a baby...

or for a baby octopus?

This hat turned out tall for a baby hat. But I still like it. It's my first lace item. Well, I think it's lace. How should I know? I don't know knitting. It has holey things and I had to do k2togs, YOs, and pssos so I'm calling it lace.

Boy. This thing turned my knitting world inside out.

First, I was not getting the holes where they should have been. I thought I was doing my YOs too tight. It turns out I've been doing them backwards.

Second, every time I had to do a k2tog, I would grit my teeth and grip my needles with the strength of a vice just so I could fight it into the fronts of the stitches. The needle did not want to go in there! I almost gave up on this hat because of the k2togs, but I'm glad I didn't.

Instead, I looked for some support on an online forum. Was it just me? Or was k2tog the secret bane that every knitter had but no one talked about? Well, I wanted to talk about it because I was tired of doing it.

After some discussion and watching of videos that showed proper knitting techniques, it turns out I have been purling upside down for the past five years! That's why I find it easier to knit into the backs of the loops when doing a knit stitch - and why knitting into the front of stitches is nearly impossible.

Once I started doing my YOs the right way and knitting two together through the backs of the stitches, everything was honky dory. And now I'm hoping for a baby with an octopus head or a conehead like those aliens, the Coneheads. Then my hat will be a perfect fit!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why knit socks?

I finally figured out why people like to knit socks so much. I haven't ever knit a pair of socks myself, but I realize the reasons for the appeal.

1. It's because socks are a small enough project that they don't take forever to finish.

2. It's because a pair of socks is a small enough project that it usually only uses one skein of sock-weight yarn. This is pretty inexpensive when compared to a sweater or 6-foot long scarf.

3. It's because there are twists and turns and infinite patterns that keep the project interesting.

4. It's because those yarns dyed or spun all different colors that make one go ooooh and aaaah when seen on the shelf while one secretly thinks "I wish I could wear those crazy colors, but they're just not me..." is the perfect yarn for a pair of socks because socks will only be seen by oneself, close friends, and family members.

5. And my last reason socks are so popular is because they are a very useful accessory. I may not wear socks every day, but I will wear four or five different pairs in a week. Such usefulness lends itself to the adage that one can never have too many pairs of socks. I guess that depends on how many dresser drawers one has devoted to socks, but, still, a lot of socks will fit in just one drawer.

Now, I haven't conquered my trepidation of DPNs and I don't care much for circular needles because of how tangly they feel, but I definitely hope I get over all that so I can knit myself at least one pair of socks in my lifetime.

I've already started scoping out sock patterns I like:

My cousin is knitting these for her wedding and, after seeing her progress, I fell in love with them.

Leaf Lace Socks:
The leaves on these socks are gorgeous. I would be proud to wear a pair of these and even prouder to say I made them!

After I finish the pink baby hat and then my sweater, I will try a pair of socks. I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Presto Chango

Remember that pink yarn I dyed a little while back? Well, I turned it into a baby sweater. It is really pretty and cute and everything I imagined it would be.

The pattern is Presto Chango by Valerie Wallis. It's quick, fun, and surprisingly easy, even for a novice knitter such as myself. I haven't knit anything more challenging than a scarf before this, so, that should give you an idea of how experienced I am. But my attitude toward knitting changed somehow this year, otherwise I wouldn't have attempted this little garment.

If I make another one, I will shorten the sleeves by three stitches on each sleeve. I might also decrease the width of the back by four stitches, but I dunno. I'm also going to make a hat out of the same yarn and, if there is enough left, a pair of booties.

I don't know how that flip from "knitting is bad" to "knitting is good" got switched in my brain, but I am even going to attempt to make an adult-sized sweater for myself. I have the pattern picked out and I'm waiting on the yarn I ordered to arrive.

Yes, this is the year I become a real fiber artist. Spinning and dying my own yarns and then actually using them! I thrill me.