Cochineal Yarn and a New W.I.P.

Hello everyone! How are you? I am so sorry for my blogging absence! I allowed life to get in the way, and that’s my only excuse. Anyone getting in the mood for some fall/winter knitting? I know I am. This is a good time to get out those w.i.p.s you’ve put to the side and finish them! It has been getting cool here at nights, and today is just the most perfect, cloudless day. Fall is coming! Now onto some yarn news:Instead of delving into the indigo dye vat, I decided to try another cochineal project. I am pretty happy with how these turned out: a very nice soft seashell pinkish lilac with a new yarn that has a great heft and feel to it. Just the kind of yarn you can’t wait to dig your needles into.

Yarn specs:

  • 85% alpaca, 15% bamboo
  • 3-ply sport weight
  • 5 oz., 320 yds.

Other knitterly things in the works is a mosaic project I am currently working on for a class I will be teaching soon. If you’ve never tried your hand at mosaics, it is a rewarding knit and fairly easy to accomplish. It consists of a lot of slip, purl and knit stitches. You work with two colors, one at a time for two rows with some pretty spectacular results! Here is the pattern I’m using:

PaintBoxes Cowl by Susan Ashcroft

My version:


What others have to say on the subject:

  • Twist Collective – great photos, information, links and charts.
  • Barbara G. Walker‘s book (the queen of Mosaic knitting) is a great resource.
  • Her Ravelry page offers many inspiring designs.
  • Purl Bee offers a fresh take on this technique with a blanket and also gives three other color options.
  • Knit Freedom has a good introduction to mosaics.

What new techniques are you trying? I challenge you to challenge yourself! Have a good one.

xoxo Shannon

a journey into dyeing

IMG_2931How do you like my somewhat crude setup? Hey it works, and we are having California weather right now where I live! So nice, not sure what I will do however when winter comes. But delving into natural yarn dyeing I am.

IMG_2932In my dye pot: a skein of 75% wool, 25% nylon fingering weight in a cochineal bath. It looks like it would come out a dark purple right? But lo and behold not to be. See below. This actually looks pinker than it really is. It is more of a lilac color. For those of you who might be wondering, cochineal is a parasitic insect found on the paddle cactus that is laid out to dry and ground up into a fine red powder. Or you can even buy the bugs themselves and extract the color that way.

IMG_2940 IMG_2939 IMG_2941I am really happy with the color and on my first try! So encouraging and doing it outdoors is very enjoyable. Any other newbie yarn dyers out there? Or experienced ones too. I would love any pointers/tips.

IMG_2936Meet my newest plant acquisition acquired at the local grocery store: “Cheyenne Spirit” Coneflower (Echinacea). I truly adore this color, and would love to find a way to replicate it in a dye pot.

DSCF4853 DSCF5511 DSCF6732 DSCF6764 DSCF7245 DSCF7277 IMG_1613DSCF7452DSCF7603Nature’s offerings and being able to curate and replicate these wondrous hues to me is nothing short of miraculous! Some of these flowers could be possible dyestuff. To which can be added, different tree barks, avocado skins, onion skins, walnuts, the roots and leaves of many plants, too many to mention and on and on. My next venture will be with Indigo. So stay tuned!

 [Update: the finished product:] 

Woolful has featured several hand dyers of yarn in these podcasts.

Youtube video featuring Alternative Apparel’s dyeing process.

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit”, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

xoxo Shannon

My Knitting Bucket List

I think we knitters need a bucket list of knitting patterns we would like to accomplish sometime in our lives! Don’t you agree? This list could get pretty long, right? So I will try to be discriminate and weed through the many designs in my Ravelry library and list them here for you to compare, to inspire and to challenge. I will keep the list fairly short, say to maybe 10 designs? This list includes sweaters, shawls, a hat and mitt set, a cardigan,  and a moebius cowl:

“Coda” by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

This design has great little details that make the whole finished project have a big impact. I especially like the detailing coming down from the neckline.

“Aranami” by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

I have never seen anything come close to this in the design elements, the gradient color change, just the overall finished project.

“Ashby” by Leila Raabe

Love the way the yarn shines through in the stitch pattern and definition. This is a Brooklyn Tweed design and the yarn is Shelter, a worsted weight. It has such a richness of depth, color and drapes the body beautifully.

“Moody House Set” by Elinor Brown

This would be a great first-time color work project. Elinor used Plucky Knitter Primo worsted which I think was a great choice! Love the design at top of hat and around edge of hat and mitts

“Reine” by Alexis Winslow

Here is another Brooklyn Tweed design from Wool People Vol. 3, knitted out of Loft, fingering weight. A classic, elegant but casual cardigan that is a must have for any wardrobe.

“Damejakka Loppa/Flea” by Pinneguri

This was a pretty popular project on Ravelry, showing 130 people crafting it. Pinneguri always produces great color work. She has been at it a long time. Check her out here.

“Reversible Smocked Hat” by Elisa McLaughlin

Everything about this called to me: the color, design, pattern. Elisa designs mostly hats, see her Ravelry page here. An errata page can be found here as well.

“Halligarth” by Gudrun Johnston

Brooklyn Tweed seems to have one thing in common in all of their designs: a very good classic sensibility with a twist. What makes them classic is the designs at times but also the yarn used. Not trendy yarns, but yarns that offer great quality, color and stitch definition.

“Turbulence Cowl” by Laura Chau

This does look like turbulent waves in an ocean which has been achieved by using short rows and stripes. This very sculptural look is what definitely appealed to me as well as the color combination used.

“Sperry” by Amy Miller

What a great take on a three-quarter length sleeve and shirttail shirt! Add stripes and you’ve got a fun sweater to whip up in no time. It is a top-down raglan which shouldn’t be too hard. The last one I made knit up in a flash. I love just about everything Amy puts out.

“Funchal Moebius” by Kate Davies

It doesn’t get much better than Kate Davies and her great color work, not to mention the brilliant designs she comes up with. I bought this pattern and have intended to make this for some time now. What’s holding me back? For one thing, I procrastinate a great deal, and I get intimidated easily. I must do this, I must! This is one of my all-time favorites. LOVE the reversed patterning!

A list like this is almost impossible to compose but still fun to put together. I would really like to know what some of you would include on your list. Let’s compare, shall we?


Designer of the Week – Wendy Bernard

Hello all, I have been on vacation, hence my absence last week! I thought I might be able to get a post in, but it was just too tempting to languish and do nothing but enjoy others’ company, the sunshine and my knitting. I’m sure you can relate.imageThis is where I spent my time. Now you understand, right?

Now, for the designer of the week. Wendy Bernard has been a favorite for some time as I own most of her books she has published. “Ingenue” from “Custom Knits” was my first top-down sweater project and was a wonderful initiation into this type of construction. The pattern was easy to follow and execute. I loved the process and the final outcome.

Ingenue“, Custom Knits.


DSCF7207collageHer designs are so well thought out, classic and feminine at the same time, while offering a chance to “make it your own”. For instance, with Ingenue she suggests you could make it an off-the-shoulder sweater and goes about telling just how to do that. If you are interested in “unleashing your inner designer” with improvisational techniques she instructs on that as well.    “Custom Knits 2” continues on in the same vein. “Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary“, one of her more recent publications, is a wonderful compilation of more than 150 stitch patterns to use knitting top down, bottom up, back and forth and in the round. A great book with concise instruction, good choice of patterns and a few designs thrown in as well.

Staghorn Vest“, Custom Knits 2.
Royal Cable Vest“, Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary.

Custom Knits Accessories“, a resource for customizing your accessories.

Skipper Poncho“, Custom Knits Accessories.

Other Wendy Bernard resources:

Any of you out there trying to improvise on a design? Desire to be a designer? Wendy’s books would be a great place to start for inspiration, help and just plain good instruction.

Now go knit and do good.

xoxo Shannon

Designer of the Week – Joji Locatelli

Just today I cast on one of  Joji’s shawl patterns, Ley Lines. I think it is going to be a good one! What initially attracted me to this was the unique way she designed the directional patterning of the p2 k2 rib. I’m using the yarn I mentioned in my last post, love it so far!

IMG_2859 IMG_2862Also, how do you like my new yarn bowl? My super talented neighbor is a wood worker. I told him he should look into making yarn bowls. This was only a few days ago mind you, and low and behold last night he brought this to me. I am in awe. Isn’t it a beauty?! I think I first found Joji on Ravelry, then pretty soon started seeing her in other places. She just had a design (mimic) published in Brooklyn Tweed’s Wool People Vol. 9 (see below). This t-shirt dress looks so comfy and easy to knit to boot! I know it is a top-down construction beginning with shoulder-shaping knit flat to the underarms and changing to circulars down to the hem. The great thing about top-down knitting is you can try on as you go and make it however long or short to fit your needs.
 What I love about her work is her classic sensibility, unique and interesting touches she sometimes adds as seen below in her “On the Road Again“, and just plain beautiful feminine designs. This is a removable cowl, how ingenious is that? See how the buttoned tab leads your eye down to the pattern? Love that! This is in my Ravelry library as a must-knit.

Other favorites …..Opposite Pole“Her Ravelry page describes this is as a cabled cardigan with reversible collar and set-in sleeves, a circular shaped garment which can adapt and fit to your body shape. Who doesn’t want that?

Where to find more of Joji:

Soooo, go “knit, do good” today!

xoxo Shannon

It’s A Wrap

imageI don’t know what has come over me. Is it the new Madelintosh “Dandelion” (shown above) and “Pashmina” yarn I just acquired? Or is it all of the great wrap and shawl patterns out there these days? I have this desire to knit either one and that did not used to be the case with me. I know for a fact designers like Brooklyn Tweed, Martina Behm, Melanie Berg, and Stephen West just to name a few, have certainly influenced me. I was never too excited about this type of garment in the past to be honest. More and more, however, due to great yarns and innovative designs, they have caught my attention. I’m thinking they’re just a great thing to always have on hand in the car, on a plane, a bus, the subway. If you are anything like me, you get cold easily and a little extra coverage is always a good thing, even in summer!shawl collageUpper left: Exploration Station by Stephen West; Upper right: Drachenfels by Melanie Berg; Lower left: Tubularity by Martina Behm; Lower right: Guernsey Wrap by Jared Flood.

As I look at these, I ask myself are there any similarities in these designs that are drawing me to them? I think moreover, it is the use of color, design and texture. I know for a fact I am not drawn to the more lacy, airy patterns. It has to have some oomph for me, whether it be a lot of texture, color, combination of patterns or a mixture of all of these.

Offerings from the web:

Any shawl/wrap knitters out there? I would love to see what you are doing! Shoot me an email, send a picture. I am getting ready to cast on for my very first shawl with this:

imageIs this yummy or not? This is the Madelinetosh “Dandelion” in glazed pecan I mentioned earlier. It is a 325 yard fingering weight skein composed of 90% superwash merino wool and 10% linen. It has the most wonderful look and feel to it. You can see the little bits of linen coming through, lovely!

I’m thinking of the Travel Shawl by Veronica Avery from her Knitting 24/7 book.

Well, I hope I have inspired you to go out and knit a shawl or wrap!

***Update or correction I should say – the Travel Shawl as mentioned above calls for a DK weight not fingering!

Annie Cholewa recently cast on for Spighe di Grano. Hmmm, maybe!

xoxo Shannon