Adventures in yarn dyeing

Nothing beats adding new fibre related knowledge to my brain. Evidenced by the number of knitting patterns and technique books, I have littered around my apartment. So when my favourite LYS, Where the Wildflowers Grow Gallery, mentioned they had a workshop where I could dye my own double knit sock blank, I jumped at the chance to attend. If you’re not familiar with the term, a double knit sock blank is a flat piece of fabric that’s machine knitted with two strands of yarn held together. You can purchase them undyed or pre-dyed, and the idea is that you would either knit directly from the fabric or wind them into cakes or balls.

Before: Undyed Double Knitted Sock Blank

Brimming with excitement, I drove to Perth-Andover on a windy Saturday morning to dip my toes into a new experience. To start, we were all given our sock blank that had been soaking in a water and vinegar mixture so the dye could really penetrate the fabric. The dyes were already premixed for us, and I was happy with the variety of colours we were able to experiment with, so I decided to just go wild. Without thinking out a plan, I dipped my foam brush and began adding colour to the fabric, determining the placements as I worked my way up. In the end, I looked upon my sock blank, soaked and dripping with dye, colour everywhere and decided to add a speckled design on top of it. Because why the hell not? I was in full-on experimentation mode, and I loved it.

Once we’d ensured the fabric was thoroughly saturated with dye, we wrapped them up and put them to steam for a while so the dye could set in the fabric. This meant that I had some waiting to do, so I took the opportunity to browse the store and pick up some yarn goodies to replenish my stash. And if you didn’t already guess, I ended up buying A LOT of yarn. (I write A LOT, but it’s probably becoming my new normal.)

For next steps, we were told to wash the yarn in lukewarm water. I decided to do this part at home, and once unwrapped, I heaved a sigh of relief when I touched the material, and there was zero dye transfer to my hands. (This meant that the dye had successfully set in the fabric.) Washed it, laid it flat to dry overnight and woke up the next day ecstatic with the end results. 

After: Dyed Double Knitted Sock Blank

It’s funny because typically the dyeing part would have made me nervous. Weirdly enough it didn’t, and it’s probably because I decided to just wing it and be at peace with the end results. Was I a little nervous? Yes! Because you’re adding dye to white canvas and it seems pretty permanent. Did this deter me in any way from just having fun with it? No. 

What did full me with apprehension was the thought of having to wind my blank into cake form since it is a two-stranded piece of material. Every single time I thought about it winding it, I was haunted by the vision of all the tangles such an endeavour would yield and just couldn’t bring myself to it. In fact, I was fully prepared to just leave the blank as is and turn it into a decorative piece in my apartment, like a lovely runner for my coffee table. Luckily, it didn’t come to that because one of my fibre friends offered to help me, and I readily accepted. It took both of our ball winders going simultaneously, clips and sheer will but we managed to get it winded up with ease.


Aren’t they gorgeous?

As for now, I can’t wait to get this yarn knitted up and finally try my hand at knitting Two At A Time (TAAT) socks. It’s been on my list of techniques to learn for a while, but I think I’ll tackle it once all the Christmas knitting is completed. In the meantime, I’ll continue to gawk at these beautiful cakes of yarn until I cast them on my needles. Think I’ll definitely be keeping this pair. It’ll make a great Birthday present if I do say so myself.

Home

There really is no better feeling than the joy of returning home. As much as I love Canada and I thoroughly enjoy my time living in this country, there is always a flutter of excitement that beats within my chest as the plane starts landing and the beautiful mountain ranges of Trinidad come into view. I’m also one of those passengers that sported the biggest smile possible when the pilot announced that we’d successfully landed and the weather was a whopping 30+ degrees.

Piarco International Airport
Piarco, Trinidad

Going home always gives me the chance to reconnect whether it’s with friends and family or the local meals that fill my tummy and spark some of my earliest memories, and this trip was no exception. Typically, I’m one of those individuals that need at least a week of vacation to really get into the spirit, but this time was different. Whatever the reason may be, I threw myself into my time there with such gusto that by the time we boarded for Tobago my entire being was in a constant state of relaxation.

When visiting, I usually end up spending most of my time on the island of Trinidad (it is where I was born and where most of my friends and family reside). Still, this visit I got the chance to show my partner another part of the country when we ventured to Tobago for the weekend. I was thrilled that we were able to book a visit this trip since my partner has always wanted to go, but the timing just never worked out for us before.

For accommodations, we booked a suite at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort hotel, and I will say that besides the facilities needing a bit of a facelift, the level of service and the food is top-notch. Every meal we had, from breakfast to dinner, was exquisite, and the service was impeccable. I have to give them kudos for having fantastic staff who really understand the true meaning of hospitality. (Additionally, any place that provides me with a cold towel, a glass of rum punch upon arrival, the chance to pet multiple friendly cats and direct access to a beach gets more than a couple points in my book no matter how it looks.)

Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort
Tobago Plantations Estate, Tobago

Our second day there, we got into our rental car and made our way to Castara Village and Black Rock. Now, I’ve been to Black Rock before, but this was my first time going to Castara Village, and I must say that this part of our trip produced quite the adventure as we drove up the winding and narrow hillside. I, particularly, was sweating profusely as it had been some time since I’d driven on the left side of the road and being so close to the edge of the cliffside was not fun. I have to give it to my partner thought he provided navigation services, and although I know he was nervous on the drive, he really tried not to show it at all. In the end, we survived, and we’re here to tell the tale, so mission accomplished. Plus, we got to see so many beautiful hummingbirds, local birds and views of the sea when we stopped at Castara Retreats (an eco-lodge) for lunch and refreshments that it made the drive absolutely worth it.

Castara Retreats
Castara Village, Tobago

On our last day, before returning to Canada, we decided to continue our newfound habit of driving up winding roads to have an early morning beach frolic at Maracas Bay and then capped the afternoon off with a visit to Fort George. Both incredible places with the most spectacular views. At Maracas we stared and admired the sea as we listened to the waves crash upon the shore, and the fort sits high above in the hills and we were able to simply bask in the beauty of the island (well the parts we could see anyway).

Fort George Historic Site
St. James, Trinidad

All in all, it was an incredible trip, and I can’t wait for my next visit. For now, I’ll deal with the fact that I left +30 weather to return to Winter in Canada. And of course, the cold and the snow has settled in, and we’ve still got months to go before it warms up. Can we all say brr, it’s cold in here? Lucky for me I have a suitcase full of seasonings, pepper sauce and snacks to get me through.

Maracas Bay
Maracas, Trinidad

So it’s Fall now and while it is my 2nd favourite season, I’ll admit that it was really hard to say goodbye to Summer. Like sobbing uncontrollably while cry singing “you are my sunshine” on the floor, hard. Luckily, Summer decided to go out with a bang by giving us a gloriously warm day and I spent it basking in the sunlight and soaking up as many rays as I could. 

As excited as I am for Fall to begin (completely ignoring that the shift means that Winter will soon follow) I’m also very excited to release my first ever published pattern to the blog (the first of many I hope).

So without further ado, I’d love to introduce you to The Beach. This cowl design was definitely a labour of love and allowed me the opportunity to become exposed to another avenue of the knitting world and continue my goal to learn and try as much as I can.

Inspired by my childhood memories of going to the beach while growing up in Trinidad, the Beach cowl evokes that memory all too clearly for me. Perfect for all seasons, it’s my take on a portable version of the beach I can take with me wherever I go. In fact, I specifically choose the stitch pattern because it adds a distinctive swirl to the colours of the yarn and mimics the continuous dance of the waves as they form and crash onto the sand. I’ve lived in Canada for 7 years and while I have enjoyed any time spent on the water here, nothing has refreshed or rejuvenated my soul like a dip in the warm salty waters of the Caribbean sea.

You can access your free copy fo the Beach Cowl below:

Special thanks to my test knitters Judith, Lila, Sally and Stephanie for all of their hard work, questions, feedback and for utilizing their lovely skeins of yarn to knit up samples of my pattern. I could not have gotten this far without their enthusiasm and help and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Quick Note: The pattern will also be available for free on Ravelry by tomorrow at the latest.

So after I wrote my previous piece on the blog, I made a promise to myself that I would engage in some self-reflection and work on learning to be more patient. Identifying the issue was a significant first step, but I knew I wasn’t going to accomplish any growth by just sticking with the status quo, so I decided to do the work.

Easy to say. Hard to do. But I did some research on ways to incorporate more patience into my life, and since I always have a project on the go anyway, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and mix in my knitting to help me along the way.

But first, I had to come up with a plan. It was all good and dandy to say that I was going to exercise more patience when it came to my knitting but a whole other ball game to figure out exactly what I needed to do to accomplish that goal. In the end, I had to ask myself the question “What kind of project has always humbled you?”. As quickly as I asked it, the answer came to me, “Shawls”.

Now this felt very kismet since I’d already been playing around with the idea of doing a summer series on various Shawl projects but didn’t think I’d have enough time to get it off the ground. It gave me the perfect opportunity to pivot on the idea while still giving myself a challenge. I’d work on the shawls I wanted to knit up on my list for this summer, but since my goal was to take my time and slow down the process, I no longer had to worry about the time aspect. And before anyone asks, I’ll say right now that I love knitting shawls. I’d even say it’s one of my favourite items to knit. However, I have a habit of liking shawls that are quite big and sometimes they have stitch patterns that are quite repetitive, so by the time I get halfway through my fingers get itchy, and I usually find myself just pushing towards completing it so I can move on to something else.

This time, however, would be different, and it was. I carefully combed through my Ravelry and found the Geology Shawl pattern sitting in my queue, selected my Log House Cottage Yarn from my stash, and away I went on my journey to add more mindfulness to my knitting. My little effort to think more about the process, the feel of the yarn, and the craft and put it above my need of having a completed project.

The purple just pops off the screen.

And I’d say so far; I’m doing well. It was a struggle at first, but with every loop, stitch and row it served to remind me why I fell in love with this craft in the first place. Sometimes the drive to posts steady content consumes me, but I have to remember that I am not a machine meant to pump out pretty things quickly. I’m a human being who is crafting a beautiful item with her hands. That is not something that should be hastened or rushed. Every moment of it should be appreciated and respected.

Patience

Patience. I will admit, I don’t have a lot of it, and I feel that the older I get, the more impatient I’m getting and being a knitter hasn’t helped me one bit in this realm.

Colour me typical but I live in a world of instant gratification, and I will be the first to admit that I find myself annoyed at how long a project is taking or I get bored by the continuous repetition of a pattern. As much as I try to adopt the practice of slow knitting, I usually end up racing to the end so I can revel in the finished project and bask in the feeling of fulfilment that it gives.

So of course, when I finally finished the Ishneich shawl that I’d been working on, with breaks, for about two years the radiation my happiness was giving off could rival that of any nuclear object.

Cables! So. Many. Cables.

This shawl is hands down one of the hardest and most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on or completed to date and would not have been possible without a lot of help from Trish, quiet days reading the pattern line by line, a row countdown (to keep hope alive and help maintain sanity) and lots and lots of swearing.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ll be taking a vacation from cables for a while. I think I deserve it.

Custom Made Happiness

Winter sucks! I mean I will admit that it is a beautiful time of year when the snow falls slowly, and everything looks so fluffy and nice but then the cold and ice sets in and it becomes nothing but a vast wasteland of nothingness where no one smiles anymore, and we all feel confined to the indoors. I’ve been in Canada for 6 years, and I’ve heard every bit of excuse/advice on how to “make the most” of the Winter time. And while it’s comforting to think that so many out there actually have positive feelings about this time of year, I must state that I am not their target market for these conversations. I grew up with sunshine in my bones, and the inability to feel the warmth of it hit my face as I bask in its golden rays does nothing but add to my absolute disdain for this icy weather. Now I try to remain at least a bit positive, one must in these dire times, and so while I absolutely can not stand this time of year I am reminded that I can always find solace by dabbling in the fibre arts, and so I focus on knitting things that bring warmth and colour to my life. Mainly because it relaxes me but also because these items aid me in my constant focus to retain every bit of body warmth I can hold on to so, in the end, I shut my mouth and knit myself a sweater.

Now when it comes to this specific sweater, I have to admit that I did enjoy the pattern (It’s called Brick, and it’s free on Ravelry) but the thing that brought me and continues to bring me nothing but absolute joy… is the yarn. And this particular yarn makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because it was explicitly dyed for me and it exceeded way beyond my expectations.

To tell you about the yarn, I have to also tell you about the dyer because I fully believe that Nicole Frost, of frostyarn, imbues every bit of her lovely soul into the yarn that she creates and she managed to create an experience for me that I sometimes find hard to put into words. This was my first time engaging in a custom dyed yarn experience (I found her while drunk scrolling through Instagram), and from start to finish, I felt like she wouldn’t be happy until I was pleased with what I was purchasing. Not only was she engaged in the conversation and open to answering all of my many questions but she also completely understood where I was coming from when I mentioned that I was concerned about neon or bright rainbow colours because they tend to look comical on my dark complexion. With all of the information in hand, she recommended we look at something more jewel toned and shared pictures with me of the work she’s done in the past and how they were knitted up by some of her other customers. If there is one thing I like about shopping, it’s about making as informed a choice as I can and being able to see examples and have her walk me through different ideas was so helpful and made me feel even more confident about my purchase.

When the yarn finally arrived, I couldn’t help myself. The colours were so amazing that I actually took it outside and had a mini photo shoot on my deck to try to capture its jewel-toned rainbow goodness. But alas everything has its time, and it’s place, and the yarn sat in the cupboard for awhile while other projects garnered my attention (I mean to be fair, my brain doesn’t think about knitting sweaters in the summer) and I would take it out periodically just to stare and gently caress.

This winter though, I needed it. No scratch that, my soul needed it and I cast away all other projects and started the sweater with no hesitation. Honestly, it took me a month to complete, and that’s the fastest I’ve ever knit a freaking sweater because I knew how much joy it would bring me to knit up these amazing colours against the stark, dreary and snowy white environment I’d been enveloped in since October.

Whoever says you can’t custom make your own happiness, apparently doesn’t have a sweater made from their own custom made yarn.

Another day, Another pair of socks

Hello faithful readers. I am back on the East Coast, and if I’m honest with myself it feels terrific! Okay, so I’ve been back for a while now, but I was suffering from the worst case of writer’s’ block. I had some ideas ready for posting that I thought was blog gold but then I got back, and I was hit by the worst summer cold, so the ideas started feeling outdated, and I decided not to post them. So without the creative juices flowing and the inability to put thoughts to digital paper I instead focused my fingers on knitting. I was slightly hoping that I would manage to get some projects done and knit away the block. And guess what? It worked!

The past couple of days I’ve been knitting and knitting, and after I post this and put my laptop down, I’m going to start knitting again. Weirdly enough, the fatigue has not settled in at all this summer, and my fingers have been working the needles over time.

Mostly, I’ve been making socks which blows my mind to think about because I have a whole blog post dedicated to why I didn’t enjoy knitting them, but I’ve apparently gotten over that little issue. Because….

I knit the pair above for my partner using Ancient Arts Yarns in the colourway “West Coast Waterfall.”

And then I knit this pair for a friend in Diamond DyeWorks (I lost the tag so I can’t remember the colourway).

Also, I went to my favourite LYS in Perth and picked up the Uneek sock kit, which has been a unique experience (did you see what I did there?) and cast on for another pair.


I never actually thought I would fall victim to the sock addiction crave but I guess I’m on my way there. I should be fine. Don’t send help.

Kingston

Just like this bunny, my new job has me hopping from place to place.

So it finally happened. I packed up my bags and moved to Kingston for a month. I always find it amazing how you can know something is coming up in your life but still feel emotional when the day finally arrives.

Well, the day came and went, and while my emotions are still all over the place, I was really proud of myself for managing to get on that plane and not take my entire yarn stash with me.

Now for some this may not seem like an actual issue but for me, I had a hard time merely wrapping my mind around what skeins would make the trip with me. You might be laughing right now, but it was tough guys!

The yarn for the dovetail shawl. A mixture of Louet Gems and Sweet Georgia yarns.

Yet, I managed to put my big girl pants on and not to bring my entire collection with me by sticking to projects I knew I could potentially get done in time. I put the Celtic shawl back on needles because it needs to get done and packed a sock project I started before I left. I also packed the yarn for the dovetail shawl and some spare (what I like to call emergency) yarn because it’s pretty, speckled, locally dyed in NB and all of that criteria reminds me of home.

(Also, I just knit the cutest pair of socks with yarn I got from the same NB dyer, Diamond DyeWorks, and it is now one of my favourite pairs. I’ve worn it every day since blocking it so of course, I had to pack another).

I’m walking on rainbows! Woo-oh.

Spring is the time for everything with colour!

Luckily, Kingston is right on the water of Lake Ontario (it’s also a university town), so it eerily reminds me of Fredericton and helps me feel a little more settled. I’m not much of a big city gal, so it’s nice to be staying in a small, quiet community for the next four weeks. I’m here for work so posting might be limited but be sure to follow me on Instagram for quicker updates to my little adventure.

I might even be able to sneak in a quick visit to Knit Traders in downtown Kingston. Ha! You thought I wasn’t going to buy yarn after bringing so much with me, didn’t you? It makes me happy that I can still keep you on your toes 🙂

 

Solace

Aha! I refused to let April fly by without putting out a blog post, and I’m glad I’ve finally managed to put thought to digital paper.

The last couple of weeks have been quite hectic and with my upcoming move to Kingston, ON (just for a month) I’ve been focused on soaking up as much of home as possible.

The great news though is that after every work day, I’ve been finding solace, and reflection time, in my knitting. And it’s been heaven just to unwind, pick up my needles and get to work. And boy have I been productive.

I finally finished the love socks (that I’ve been waiting to make for forever) and gifted them to a friend of mine as her “something blue”.

Aren’t they cute? I just want to smush them.

And knitted up a pair of fingerless gloves just for fun.

I have chronic hands are always cold syndrome and these will fix that quite nicely.

Getting all these projects off my needles means I’m close and closer to working through my list of patterns to try. I had to put some away on waste yarn until further notice, but I’m hoping to get them all completed and blocked before the end of the year.

That seems like a reasonable and attainable goal. Now I just have to reach it.

Connections

I’ve been travelling a lot lately for work, and my mind has fixated on the concept of connections. Now, I’m not talking about the connections one must take to get to their destination but instead those moments when you connect with another human being who was nothing but a complete stranger to you only a second before.

I will admit, out loud, that I am a bit of a nervous flyer and while I try to maintain a modicum of calm and friendliness around me before boarding the metal death trap, once I board I’m definitely not the type of person who likes to chat during the flight. In fact, I’m that person wearing noise-cancelling headphones, looking out the window, or focusing intently on my knitting. I try to do, whatever I can to politely not make conversation with the person next to me. I even managed to surpass myself this last trip and created my own portable sensory deprivation chamber (patent pending) by adding an eye mask to my flight toolkit (which already includes the aforementioned headphones and travel pillow), so I could sleep, and stay asleep until the plane safely touches land again.

However, my flight from Charlottetown to Toronto took an unexpected but pleasant twist. I sat down in my seat, surrounded myself with my comfort kit, smiled at my seatmate (fully intending to ignore her and dive deep into dreamland) and then spent the next 2 hours of the flight engaging in conversation. I’m not sure what happened, I was fully prepared to knock myself out for the next couple of hours, so I didn’t have to think about the fact that I was that high up in the sky but once we started conversing we just couldn’t stop. We talked about our lives, our partners, I told her about my dad and she told me about her adopted daughter. We spoke so in-depth that we were both shocked to hear the pilot announce that we were landing and it wasn’t until we were collecting our luggage that we realised we’d never actually exchanged names. We both laughed at that because we didn’t need to know each other’s names.

In the end, we were just two strangers, from opposite generations, sharing stories about their lives with each other, knowing we might not ever see each other again and it was wonderful.