Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Colour change

I've noticed a pretty substantial change in the colours I've been knitting with lately.

A few years ago, the colours I would wear were very predictable. Red, white, blue, black.
The reds were usually bright, the blues more royal and navy than baby.

More recently, yellows and greys are more prominent, though the blue, white and black have stayed as a consistent base.

When I first started knitting, I stuck to my favourite colours. But I've definitely notices more recently that there has been an evolution in the colours I'm buying. A couple of years ago I really got into my purples and greens. These are colours I still don't consider very 'me' but I love my purple beanie very much. The blues in the stash are very bright rather than navy. There's a heap of yellow and a fair amount of teal. The one thing they have in common is that they are all bright or jewel tones. And this is where things have gone a bit strange for me.

I started knitting a scarf a few weeks ago with my Vanitas DK. I started with Knowledge, the royal blue skein. Out of the three colours so far, this one is the most 'me' in the whole scarf.
Then there's Wealth. Some have called it a pale gold, others say it's more of a camel, but either way, it's never a colour I would've previously considered knitting. I would've said it wasn't rich enough for me.
And then comes the Mahogany - the latest colour change. It's not necessarily a red, or a brown. Like the previous skein, it seems to change. The colour is definitely not as definable to me as other reds I usually use. 

And I'm really liking it. I'm liking that I'm starting to appreciate colours I wouldn't normally be drawn to. I don't know why my perception is changing, but I'm definitely excited about the possibilities for my expanding colour palette, and the creativity this can bring to future knitting projects. 

I think I will have to introduce a grey as the next scarf colour though - it still needs to be a little bit me!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Getting ready for a Portside adventure

Sometimes when you learn a new skill, you get to a point when you feel like you kind of know what you're doing. Yesterday I reached that point.
I finished my Grainline Studio Portside Duffle Bag at home, by myself!

I am beyond excited at this finished object. I've been in search of the perfect weekender bag for a long time, and I'm so pleased that I've made something in favourite fabrics instead of buying one. I've used an old wool blanket, some scrap denim and some of the leftover fabric from out wedding that served as tablecloths.

Most of the bag was already constructed, but I had what in my mind is the most confusing bit left to do - adding the lining. I've never added a lining to anything before, and it took me a while to figure out that the easiest way to attach it to the zip was by turning the whole thing inside out.

My hand stitching isn't the neatest in some places but I'm happy with that. It will remind me that I still have lots of practising to do! I also really struggled sewing the ends to the body of the bag. I really need to work on easing in seams - the whole sewing a straight edge to a curved one is still very puzzling!

I think what I'm most excited about with this project is the confidence it's given me to just give new makes a go. I never thought I'd be able to make a bag like this - I never really thought a project like this was even an option. 

I know this bag is going to get a lot of use. It's such a good size for a short trip away or for carrying a lot of stuff. And you know, for the next week or so at least, I'll probably just carry it around the house for hours on end. I'm cool with it.

Big thanks to Dresses & Me, where I got the pattern, and Sew Love Tea Do, for putting up with a heap of questions and supplying the wool and denim.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Simple Saturdays

Today I'm making a conscious effort to have an easy Saturday. 
So many of the weekends lately have been taken up with out-of-town trips, social occasions and the day job, that I've decided to make no plans for the next day or so. 

Unusually for me, I got up early and went to an outdoor yoga class. Probably the best start to a Saturday I've had in ages. I rode my bike there, spent and hour on the mat and felt beyond refreshed.
Then I came home and made breakfast. This is also unusual for me - normally I'm straight to the cafe for brunch. I'll admit, I did end up going to the cafe after breakfast for a coffee, but it was unplanned and was a very good idea.

The rest of the day will be spent knitting. A simple knit no less, the kind of project required for taking it easy. I'm knitting a new scarf just in time for the autumn, in garter stitch but knitted on the bias to add a bit of interest. I'm making it up as I go, but hope to write up some instructions once I'm finished.

I'm using Outlaw Yarn's Vanitas DK in Knowledge and Wealth. This is amazing stuff to knit with - just right for a little bit of luxury. It's an alpaca and merino blend with a bit of drape.

I've decided that garter stitch is the most under-rated stitch ever. I just love it. As much as I love cables and stocking stitch, sometimes the way to let a yarn shine is to avoid fussy stitch patterns. 
Garter stitch makes me think of warmth and keeping cosy when I'm out in the elements. There's something really rustic about it, something homely, made for keeping warm.
And as autumn slowly comes, keeping warm is the goal.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Knitographer Interviews… Midnight Yarns

I stumbled across Andie McDonald's colourful yarns recently, and I had to find out more. Midnight Yarns is quite a new offering to New Zealand's indie dye scene, but Andie has big plans for her bright skeins. I chatted to her to find out more.

Tell me a little bit about your fibre journey - when did you learn to knit and how did you take the step from knitter to indie dyer?
I haven’t actually been knitting for all that long. I learnt to knit as a kid. Knitting skipped a generation in my family so my gran taught me one holidays when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was determined to make a scarf, but after one very sad looking attempt with numerous holes and dropped stitches, I gave it up very quickly.

When my oldest was born, I was hunting for a new hobby that I could do. Something caught my eye about crochet and I thought, yea, why not, I could give that a go. So off I went to buy some yarn and a crochet hook, then sat in front of youtube one afternoon during his nap learning how to crochet, which lead me into making a number of random things, as you tend to do when starting out.

Like most mums, my family comes first and life is busy. My dyeing is done outside of their needs and when I can get a bit of time to myself which often means I need to wait until my husband has a day off or until after they are in bed at night. If I have an idea that I can’t get out of my head I sit down with my eldest and will jot down notes on paper and get him to help me choose colours, which can end up with some interesting choices from him. Every now and again I can sneak in dying a singular skein when the kids are playing nicely and I’m just playing with some techniques or colours and not worrying too much about the final result.

I do dye for myself, but I also quite enjoy knitting with yarn from other indie dyers.  

I was inspired to give knitting a go when my second was about 6 months old. There were a couple of friends of mine who I admired as knitters and it was around this time I was becoming a lot more aware of the yarn community and noticing all the patterns I couldn’t (yet) make. Once again I sat in front of youtube during nap time and learnt how to knit, though this time I had some wonderful online support.

Knitting has quickly taken a preference over crochet for me, I love both for different reasons but find knitting sings a bit closer to my heart.

With my dying journey, I had seen someone do some dying in a crockpot in a facebook group which is what inspired me to give it a go. I was aware of indie dyers but hadn’t looked into it too much. I sat on my hands for a bit thinking ‘I don’t need another hobby’, but curiosity got the better of me and I skeined a ball of white yarn and put it in a pot with some food colouring. I was hooked at it quickly grew from there. I spent a lot of time reading and experimenting and learning about yarn dying. I moved onto using acid dyes, got some tools specifically dying and started making some bolder choices in what I could see.

Tell us a bit about Midnight Yarns! What makes Midnight Yarns different from the other indie yarn dyers in New Zealand?
Midnight Yarns was started because I had too many colour ideas in my head to dye and knit for myself. I was talking to one of my very clever knitting friends one day and told her my dilemma of not being able to decide what colours to dye because there were too many to choose from and she encouraged me to dye to sell.
I think the wonderful thing about indie dyers is the way we each see colours differently. You could give the same picture to each indie dyer and would get many different results, each being a bit of themselves in the final product. Which is what I am bringing through Midnight Yarns. A different set of eyes on colours and a bit of myself in every skein I dye.

You have three standard bases and five different dye styles for your yarns - tell us a bit about the yarns you've chosen and the way you create your yarn colours.
My three standard bases (Sock, Wool and Merino) are locally sourced within New Zealand and are fantastic bases to use for a wide range of projects. I have my eye on some specialty bases as well which I hope to be able to offer in the near future, which include a mixture of superwash and non-superwash yarns.
I create the yarn colours a couple of different ways. Sometimes I use the dye colour from the powder. If I don’t have a dye powder in the colour I want, I will mix 2 or more together before it is applied to the yarn to get a different colour or shade. I may also overdye parts or the whole skein to get the look I’m after.

Which colours have been the most popular so far?
I’m finding rainbows are very popular. There is something fun and happy about them, and both kids and adults alike enjoy wearing items made out of rainbow yarn.

How do you go from an idea for a colour to a finished product - is there a lot of experimenting?
Sometimes the thought just appears in my head and I can see the colours clearly and within a couple of minutes I know exactly how I’m going to dye a skein and what colours are going to be used. Other times I will use photoshop to help clarify my ideas with the colour palette then it may still take me a while to decide quite how I’m going to dye it up. And yes, sometimes it’s just experimenting and having fun.  

Where does the magic happen and how do you fit in your creating around your young family?
The magic happens in between my garage and my kitchen. We are in the process of organising our laundry to be redone which will become my new dyeing spot once it’s completed, which I’m very excited about because I won’t be competing with dishes!

What has been the biggest learning curve from being a hobby crafter to becoming a craft business owner?
I think it’s definitely been streamlining my process from the start to finish. When you are a hobbyist dyer, you can flit a bit between what you are doing and in what order you are doing it. If your skein gets tangled it’s annoying but not really a big deal because you can spend time untangling it. However what I’ve found is with dying to sell, if your process of dying is unorganized or you end up with multiple tangled skeins that are going to take you a good few days to untangle, it’s not really worth the time.

When a hobby becomes a new form of income, it can be hard to keep doing the hobby in your spare time for fun. Do you still knit and dye yarn for yourself or have personal craft projects on the go?
Ooh yes! I have too many projects in my head to just be able to stop knitting. It’s also a good hobby to have with kids around because I can pick up and knit a bit at a time, put down to go help someone with something, pick up again etc. I’ve also taken to doing more knitting in public over this summer while we’ve had lots of time to just go out to parks and playgrounds and the kids want to run around and be crazy.

Where do you see Midnight Yarns heading in the next year?

I would love to move into doing both pre orders and attending some yarn markets. I’m also hoping to work with other indie dyers and indie designers on some collaborative projects. And most of all I’m really just looking forward to dying some funky colours and seeing how people use them in their projects.

You can find out more about Andie's yarn at midnightyarns.co.nz and on her Facebook page!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

First sewing project of 2015 - Grainline Studio's Portside Duffle

I haven't been near a sewing machine much at all this year. With weekends away and general summer goodness, I've been spending more time outside and away from the craft room, doing my best to finish old knitting projects before embarking on anything new.

A few weeks ago I bought the Grainline Studio Portside Travel Set pattern from Dresses and Me. I've been wanting a new duffle bag for a while. Between large tote bags and a suitcase, I don't really have anything suitable for a few nights away that's small enough to be carry-on luggage.
I'm quite fussy when it comes to bags - I tend to like my luggage to be pretty classic and utilitarian, suitable for husband to use if he needs to (on the condition it doesn't get trashed).

With a few more trips away planned over the coming months, the time has come to do something about it. Enter sewing machine and a trip to Geoff's Emporium for hardware.

I'm using heavy-duty second-hand denim for the base and a grey wool blanket for the top. I've matched some navy webbing for the handles and straps, all finished with silver D-rings and snap hooks.

The inside will be lined with a bit of sunshine - more of the yellow and white gingham I used for my Margot PJs. 

Most of the pieces are now assembled - the sides are all ready to be sewn together and I need to insert the zip. Figuring out how to attach the lining is going to be my biggest struggle, never having made anything with a lining before!

So far though, it's been a very fun make. Lots of straight lines and basic techniques; I've been able to sew most of it so far without help, so I'm definitely making progress. My plan is to get it all done by next weekend - I can't wait to start using it!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The crisp cold.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I had a fab weekend! There was no knitting involved - I decided to take a few days off knitting after finishing Amelie - but there was knitwear.

A couple of amazing things happened. Two very special friends got married in Queenstown.
Beyond exciting. There is nothing more fun than a weekend away for a wedding - even better if it's in one of the most magical places on earth! A happy coincidence was that my parents were also in the most magical place on earth celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary! So much love all around.

And the highlight for me - the cold happened. That crisp, fresh air that fills your lungs. The kind where you might want a cardigan or to wear socks between your feet and your shoes. There was  tiny bit of fresh snow on the mountains. 

Of course, I was prepared. Little scarves waiting since last winter to be worn.
Several pairs of knitted socks. And it took me literally 30 seconds to dive into a yarn shop as soon as we got there. 

There's something about the cool weather that leaves me feeling completely refreshed.
Auckland has been so hot and humid that it's left me a bit uninspired and less motivated than usual. But now I feel much more myself, and even though I'm back in the warm, if I breathe deeply enough I can feel a little bit of the cold still. I'm ready to get knitting again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Autumn and Amelie

I didn't post over the weekend because I set myself a deadline. That deadline was to finish Amelie. 
I did finish all of the knitting on Saturday. On Sunday I spent most of my morning drinking coffee and sewing seams. And today I finished the neckline and sleeve cuffs. 

It's now March. The second day of autumn. I started this dress last winter in August, thinking I'd get it done in time for summer. Luckily, the weather doesn't think it's autumn and this cotton dress is pretty thick, so I think I'll be getting a lot of wear of it in the coming months.

Never have I knitted so much moss stitch in all my life. I love the fabric it creates, but man, it is so slow to knit! I'm definitely looking forward to knitting a few smaller, instant projects before starting on my next big garment!