February 9, 2018

How to Dye Fabric with Coffee & Tea

There's a lot of buzz about fabric dying with coffee and tea on flosstube lately. I love flosstube; I've  learned some wonderful techniques and been introduced to some gorgeous patterns by the stitchers brave enough to post those videos. I even discovered Sampler & Antique Embroidery magazine on Nicole's Needlework and bought her copy on Stash Unload!

Yes, I've gone full in on the cross stitch.

A few weekends ago I had a free afternoon and the weather was terrible. I recently discovered Priscilla & Chelsea on flosstube and decided to follow their tutorial on dying with coffee and tea. (I've since come across Vonna's Baked and Basted tutorial - I think what I did is a combo of both.) I'd already purchased some cheap 14 point Aida from Walmart - not that I ever use fancy fabric, my eyes can barely do 18 count Aida, but since I had no idea how this experiment would work out, I thought I'd try it with little investment.

I saved some leftover coffee from the pots we brewed the day before (we drink a LOT of coffee in my house) and had some English Breakfast tea bags available. Here's my setup before dying in my very old kitchen:

I wet the cloth before I put it in the dye pot mainly because that's how you do when you dye yarn. I added 5 tea bags, about 3 cups of leftover coffee (with espresso which turned my fabric darker than expected so be forewarned if you, like me, love strong coffee), and 2 tablespoons of instant coffee. 

After 30 minutes, I took the fabric out and laid it on parchment on a cookie sheet all scrunched up. 

I put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 200F. I did check it a few times but didn't realize that the underside would get darker than the top.  After I took it out of the oven, I discovered I had some pooling of coffee that made some really dark spots that almost looked like burn marks.

So I dipped the fabric back in the bath (glad I saved it) which removed all the mottling and the spots although it did make the fabric darker. I then put the fabric back in the oven and left it in for 20 minutes.

Much better.

The fabric was slightly damp when it came out of the oven and very wrinkled. I decided to iron it before hanging it to completely dry. This didn't seem to affect the color, and I got the worst of the wrinkles out.

I'm using this fabric with Little House Needleworks First Corinthians and Classic Colorworks threads. This is my first experience with "fancy thread", and it looks great on this fabric! 

One bit of disappointment with that fancy floss: my Nutmeggie was NOT what is pictured on the pattern. The color is supposed to be a variegated plum, but this skein had a lot of peach in it. Here's what the Classic Colorworks thread looked like for me:

123Stitch was very nice about refunding my money for that color. Customer service even checked their other skeins and they were all like that. Nell from the Little Yellow House Crafts talked about this on her podcast recently, and now I'm hesitant to order any more fancy floss online. I have another LHN pattern that uses silks that I can only get online, so I'm not sure how I'm going to get that floss. If any readers have suggestions or have had a similar experience, please let me know in the comments!

In the picture above, I switched to DMC and now my door looks lovely.

I also completed this quick stitch from The Primitive Hare (it's free!) using DMC I had in stash on some 14 count Fiddler's Cloth Aida I dyed in the same way:

I've been working on the LHN design quite a bit this month, especially during the "Off the Grid Friday Party". If you aren't a part of that event, go over to Facebook and search for that group. Lots of great stitchers and flosstubers participate - f you join us, say high during the next Friday party!

February 8, 2018

Cross Stitch Crazy!

In my last post, I mentioned that I've neglected my knitting in favor of cross stitch. If you'd asked me back in October when I was floating on the post-Rhinebeck high if I'd ever put aside my knitting, I would've responded strongly and definitively.


But then I went to the flea market.

Spring, summer, and fall find my family at flea markets and estate sales. My daughter has an etsy shop where she sells her finds after she cleans and fixes them up. It's been a nice bit of income for her since she is a perennial student now working on her Ph.D. The rest of us just like looking, and my ex's dog Tipton likes the attention. Here he is actively anticipating the fun of the flea:

We had a stretch of nice weather in early November, so the family set out to a local flea market. I made my daughter promise not to let me purchase anything Christmas; I have more than enough Christmas decor and am trying to scale back.

Needless to say, I broke my rule. I found a stamped cross stitch linen towel kit with poinsettias on them. I haven't done stamped cross stitch since I was a kid, and the last cross stitch project I attempted was just too much for my eyes and the q-snaps too heavy for my wrists. I still have some plastic hoops I used back in the 90s and figured I could try those with these towels. After all, the kit was $1!

I started these in mid-November and finished them Thanksgiving weekend. I don't like how you can see my threads on the back (I've never been particularly neat about anchoring my threads) so I bought some fabric to line them with. Of course, I have yet to do that; it's a good summer vacation project for this teacher!

Here's what they look like finished. That gold thread is torturous to stitch with - so glad it was just used for those accents!

Since completing those towels, I managed to stitch the Heart and Hand Santa from 2002 in December (love his flag) and The March Sisters by Primitive Hare in January:

I even attempted the "coffee tea dye" process that's all over flosstube these days. I'll share my experiences with cheap Aida and leftover espresso in my next blog post!

Do you cross stitch and knit? How do you balance your projects? Do you sometimes prefer one to the other? Let me know in the comments!

January 29, 2018

In Praise of Red Heart

I realize that I probably lost a significant number of readers with that title. If Red Heart was a high school girl, she'd be from the wrong side of the tracks (albeit she'd embrace who she is). Mean girls (i.e. members of certain Facebook groups) regularly shun her and fiber shame those who befriend her.

Confession: I'm a secret mean fiber girl.

By that I mean I've defended knitters for using Red Heart, but I've stayed far far away when choosing yarn for my own projects based on that rep. It never softens up, it squeaks on the needles, it's rough against the skin! No thanks.

Then Tanya (@bzmama on Instagram) released her Land of the Midnight Sun Shawl last month. The official photo is beautiful:

I've neglected my knitting for a few months now in favor of cross stitch, but this pattern brought me back. I love the cream tweed sections with the contrasting navy blue, so immediately checked out the pattern on Ravelry.

Red Heart? Really?

Yes, really. That cream yarn is Red Heart Fleck, 100% acrylic and a pleasure to knit with. I started the shawl yesterday and haven't looked at my cross stitch since. My progress as of lunch today:

This pattern knits up quickly, mostly stockinette with the contrasting rows knit with eyelets (yarnovers) then knit on the wrong side to create a ridge of purls. Just enough to mix it up a bit but not so much that you can't knit this while on cafeteria duty with 300 teenagers!

You can definitely use leftover yarn from another project for the contrasting color. I plan to use green yarn of the same brand (Plymouth Yarn Tweed Worsted) for the later rows since I don't have a lot of the blue. The pattern is that versatile and really easy to memorize!

I'll post my finished shawl when it's complete. Let me know in the comments if you give this pattern a try, and if you do, please use the Red Heart. Like me, you may change your mean fiber girl ways!

December 31, 2017

The Best of 2017

Every year I do a "best of" blog post, and 2017 is no different! In this post, I'd like to share with you my top 5 books read this year and my top 5 patterns knit this year. Keep in mind, they may not have been published this year; 2017 is the year I discovered them.

Top 5 Books I read in 2017

My number one favorite book of 2017 was So Big by Edna Ferber! If you haven't listened to the last episode of the podcast and you're interested in this book, please do! Interesting fact, quite a few new listeners downloaded that podcast in December, and I'm not sure why, but I am thrilled that so many people are interested in Ferber. While her stories may not be as enlightened as those written in the 21st century, for a woman writing in the early 20th century about racism and sexism, Ferber is refreshing discovery!

My other favorites in no particular order are:

1. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham (reviewed in the February episode of the podcast)

2. Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood (reviewed in Season 2 Episode 2 of the podcast)

3. Thornhill by Pam Smy: A novel that is very similar in structure to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, part prose, part illustrated novel. Smy's work follows separate stories of two girls, one in the present and one in 1982, that converge in the story of just what happened at Thornhill Institute. This is not a children's story even though the publisher places the age range at 10 - 14. This book deals some very troubling issues including suicide; I wouldn't give this to a teenager younger than 16, and I would definitely discuss the book with them after they read it. That said, it is a great psychological thriller for adults told in a very unique way!

4. The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser (reviewed in Season 2 Episode 5 of the podcast)

Top 5 Patterns I Knit in 2017

My absolute favorite pattern from 2017 was the Gigi cardigan by Devin Ventre. I made this out of the Jacob sheep wool from my family's sheep farm and wore it to Rhinebeck this year. The pattern is knit top down with short raglan sleeves and a generous cut to hide what the designer and I call our "mom belly". This pattern is very well written and suitable for someone who hasn't knit many sweaters (this was my second one ever). 

Here's a picture me in the cardigan with the fantastic group of knitters I go to Rhinebeck with each year:

photo courtesy of @andeekf

My other favorites in no particular order are:

1. Classic Octopus Hat by Molly Kent knit in Pembroke worsted in the colorway Copper Agate and Cascade 220 in the color Pacific. Still have no idea why octopuses, but I love this hat now that it is ridiculously cold in the northeast.

2. Caring Cowl by Alexis Winslow knit in Bernat Dimensions yarn, a big box acrylic yarn in lots of shades of pink that I am also wearing quite a bit this winter. This yarn mimics handspun in that it's thick and thin but in a uniform way since it's a machine made yarn. I love this yarn in this pattern - so squishy and warm and bright pink! Here's a classroom selfie:

3. My One Nation, Under God hat pattern inspired and created for my principal. It's a free pattern; details and the pattern can be found here.

4. North Country Mitts by Andrea Mowry knit in yarn from the Wooliers indigo dye kit. I wrote about my experience dying this yarn on the blog and recently knit the yarn into these very simple mitts. The chevron pattern created with purl stitches makes for a unique look, and I used about 80 yards of the yarn to make them. I bought a 9" size 7 circular needle to make these and love it! While I use dpns on many patterns, I find them fiddly and will probably poke my eye out with one someday, so these small circulars are a treat! I also didn't get any "ladders" using them although I've started using 4 dpns rather than 3 when I do go that route, and my laddering has been drastically reduced.

September 27, 2017

Season 2 Episode 6: Book Chat - Edna Ferber

Below is a transcript of the podcast for those who would rather read a blog post:

I decided to read Wuthering Heights again (because I love everything Bronte almost as much as everything Austen) at the end of June and finished on July 4th. The date is significant because when I went looking for my next read, I thought I would give American classics another chance. I love British classics especially from the 19th century and have since I was in high school yet I consciously avoid American classics.

The blame lies with sophomore English lit and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not just The Scarlet Letter, which I really disliked, but his other works especially The Marble Faun which I had to read and present to the class and was such torture that I refused to read any 19th and early 20th American author for the past 4 decades.

It was bad.

I thought I’d start revisiting American classics with The Grapes of Wrath because I love other John Steinbeck books especially East of Eden but couldn’t find a copy anywhere, probably because it’s assigned as summer reading at least in this part of the country. I read an excerpt in high school and hated it (not as much as Hawthorne, but close). I thought it was worth another look almost 4 decades later.

I eventually found a copy while visiting my parents in Texas, but in the meantime, I picked up Giant by Edna Ferber at my library from their small classics section. I love this movie (James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, oh my) so figured I was safe choosing this book to start my summer of American classics.

Boy was I ever!

September 18, 2017

Using Up My Stash with the Greta Vest

Over the summer, I decided to update my stash spreadsheet. I know I can put my stash on Ravelry, but I'm an old school girl who likes to make spreadsheets then "visualize my data".

It's a gift or a curse, not sure which.

After completing said spreadsheet, I realized I have a lot of yarn. Like 75 separate line entries of yarn. I'm not at the point where I want to recognize that I may have a problem, but I am ready to put a hold on any more yarn purchases.

So, yea, I'm going to New York Sheep & Wool again this year. Might not buy quite as much yarn as I have in the past which gives me an excuse to stand in line at Jennie the Potter!

But I digress.

If you've been following the blog, I'm almost finished with the Gigi sweater for Rhinebeck out of Jacob sheep yarn from my family's farm that I had in stash. I also discovered during my stash dive that I had 5 balls of I Love This Wool by Hobby Lobby in terra cotta burried at the bottom of my largest yarn bin. (Yes, there are multiple bins.)

I know, I know, shopping at Hobby Lobby can be controversial, but I bought this yarn a number of years ago while visiting my parents in Texas when Hobby Lobby was closing out this brand (a real shame, it's a very nice acrylic/wool blend). Trust me, many a summer afternoon has been spent in a Plano, Texas, Michael's, Joann's, or Hobby Lobby with my Mom and daughter wallowing in all the crafty possibilities!

While I didn't have enough for a sweater, I did a quick search on Ravelry, and found I had enough for Greta (above), a cardigan vest pattern by Christina Wall. Like a good knitter, I swatched and found that the I Love This Wool yarn blocked to a perfect gauge for this pattern using the suggested size 9 US needle size.

This pattern also has a lot of garter and stockinette stitch, good old mindless knitting for a teacher facing the shock of back to school brain.

I started the body portion this week, and my Greta is knitting up quickly. Could I possibly have TWO sweaters finished by Rhinebeck? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but you never know! I do recommend this pattern especially if you, like me, need to knit from stash and don't have a large quantity of one type of yarn to make a sweater.

I'm looking forward to wearing this fall color next month ... and clearing a place in my stash for a few new purchases at New York Sheep & Wool!

September 11, 2017

Dottie Angel Frock for Short Round Mom Bodies

Last summer, it seemed like the Dottie Angel Frock pattern was everywhere. All the knitting podcasters and bloggers were suddenly sewing, and this was their go-to pattern. There were sew-alongs, tutorials, Instagram posts, a host of Dottie Angels populating the internet!

So, of course, I wanted a Dottie Angel frock.

I made quite a few of my own clothes in high school and college after my mother taught me to sew. She made most of my and my sister's clothes when we were kids, mainly to save money, but also because my mom is really good at sewing! In fact, she used to make clothes for Barbie in her basement sewing "room" to sell at local craft fairs to raise money for our Christmas presents.

Mom even made my wedding gown in a very 1980s peach complete with puffy Princess Di sleeves.

So the thought of making the Dottie Angel Frock wasn't especially daunting for me, but I just ran out of time last summer to make it. At the start of this summer vacation, I began binge watching seasons of Project Runway which prompted a real desire to "make it work" with that Dottie Angel pattern. I wasn't sure the dress version of the pattern would be particularly flattering on me, so I opted for the blouse version that hits mid hip.

All the Project Runway contestants make a version of their pattern in muslin before they create a garment, so I decided I would do that too. I cannot recommend this enough if you decide to make this pattern and are short (5' 1" on a good day), round (aka "mom-shaped"), and / or are over the age of 25.

The first sign that I don't have a model's body came when I made the tie-backs. The placement of these ties not only hit me mid-bust but no matter what the placement, they were not the least bit flattering. I'd prefer not to look like the world's oldest pregnant lady.

After ditching the tie-backs, I tried my first French seams on the sides which went very well until I tried the garment on. Too tight in the bust, huge sleeve holes, hem at my knees.

Mom to the rescue! While visiting my Mom with my daughter in early July, we got into a discussion about sewing. Sarah (my daughter) asked Mom about alterations, and Mom had lots of good advice! One was to raise a garment at the shoulders if the fit in the length was off. She was so right! I moved my shoulder seams down approximately 2" and voila! Bust fit great and the sleeves were spot on.

I also wasn't fond of the contrasting pockets, so I followed this option and made pockets of the same material as the frock (which in my case was the shirt version).

After those adjustments, the pattern when pretty well although all that seam binding and basting got a bit tedious. The neckline, the shoulders, and sleeves are all finished with binding tape which is very neat, and I'm sure will guarantee a longer lasting garment, but I did miss the days of sewing a straight seem and at most taking the pinking sheers to a seam to prevent unraveling!

Finally the hem! So tempted to do a traditional foldover hem, but decided to stick with the pattern and use the seam binding. This took WAY too long what with basting it twice, trying to sew on the right side and not catching all of the binding, then sewing on the wrong side and still having a bit of trouble with that. The only time I had to get out my seam ripper was on that hem!

If I make another one, and I think I will in a light wool for fall, I'm making a foldover hem. What took me 3+ hours will take less than 1/2 hour with this approach, and it will most likely be neater than the hem I ended up with on this version.

Have you made the Dottie Angel Frock? Did it work out for you as written or did you have to come up with some "hacks" as I did? Please share your experiences (and any questions and feedback) in the comments below!