To Dye For

I don’t think anyone gets into spinning without also becoming a home dyer.  It sort of follows along as you are working with various fibers that taking control of the color becomes a more and more interesting idea.  I’ve dyed quite a bit of my own spinning fiber and sometimes my finished yarns, and I also employ dyeing techniques into my yarn “reclamation” projects, which may involve commercial fiber, inherited yarns, and even some formerly finished objects.

Today I’ve got a combination of the above, with some worsted weight Lopi from Iceland I got at a local resale shop, yardage of pink superwash DK from a commercial yarn company, and some silk- both hankies I have drafted out and rolled up, as well as a bit of sari ribbon.  I’ll be dyeing this in the oven using food dyes.The first thing I do is use a niddy-noddy to measure off 25 yard mini-skeins of the yarns, tying them with figure eights of cotton in three spots. I place them in a glass pan with the silk pieces, and soak them all with a mixture of 1/2 to 2/3 cup white vinegar and 2 cups tepid water for about an hour. I press lightly on the soaking fibers to make sure they get evenly saturated, to maximize the color absorption.

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My young assistant and I are using Betty Crocker Neon and Dark gel food colors for this experiment.  The pink and white of the untreated samples remind me a little bit of blossoming fruit trees we see here each spring in the Northeast, so I think we’ll add some spring greens and a bit of brown to complete that effect. These particular colors can be bought in the baking section of most US grocery stores, and the squeeze tubes they come in help to create defined color breaks if that’s what you want.  To dye wool or silk with an acid dye process, you can also use Wilton’s food colors, primarily used in cake decorating, McCormick’s, or even Easter egg dye tablets.  The addition of vinegar helps the dye strike the fiber, and heat sets it.(Unsweetened Kool-aid mix works the same way, but already includes citric acid, eliminating the need for vinegar.)

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We paint it up with the color tubes as we like, add another cup of tepid water, and place it in a 210 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes.  When the timer goes off, we turn off the oven and let it cool completely before rinsing thoroughly with tepid water.  Usually I let it sit overnight.  The dye is exhausted if the liquid is clear.  After rinsing, I hang the yarn to dry before either twisting it into mini-hanks, or hand winding it into center-pull balls.  The silk hankies can be used as they are, spun into yarn, or blended with other fibers for spinning or feltwork.

Once the pan is in the oven, my assistant needs to get washed up and ready for bed… she’s getting better about keeping the dye off her hands, unlike mom.

 

I recently used this dyeing method with two sets of commercial yarns, experimenting with creating some long color changes by spacing the dye in the pan:

I wonder how this batch will turn out?

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Never felt this way before

 

Nuno felting by Kristina Laurito

 

Working with wool is so amazing!  If knitting and crocheting are fun, and spinning is more fun, these days, for me nothing is as enjoyable as using wool fibers as a jumping off place from which to create one of a kind pieces with the techniques of felting.  In recent months, BG and I have explored felting soaps by hand, needle felting a group of ornaments which we gave to family as Christmas gifts, and creating felted hats and bags using the resist method.

Lately, though, our experiments in dyeing, as well as a few fiber orders that included some silk waste products, have inpired me to take up Nuno felting.  Nuno is a felting technique that incorporates other fibers, oftentimes silk, with the wool, to create lightweight, textured fabrics that are unlike anything else.  Of our recent projects, my favorites are a series of shawls and scarves that incorporate silk fiber, wool locks, vintage lace, and even some common cotton cheesecloth.

The raw materials can vary; I usually order my spinning fiber as undyed combed top, which I can then dye, blend the colors with hand cards or on my homemade blending board, or mix with other fibers.  The below photos show the top as it arrives, and a few braids of it dyed by me with the help of my small “assistant”.  We frequently use Kool-aid packets to dye, which is both easy and fun, as well as economical, since packets cost no more than 25 cents, and can often be had for even less if they are on sale. ( Given that I believe in limiting the amount of sugar and food coloring my kids ingest, I don’t usually let them drink the Kool-aid, which drives them a little crazy, but whatever…!)

I sometimes also order fibers from indie dyers on Etsy, which comes looking like this:

IMG_20160509_132032

Laying out the fibers can take a while, since the wool needs to be laid in thin wisps, but layered enough for the individual fibers to “catch” one another to create the felt, and also to “trap” any add-ins.  Dyed fiber can be used to achieve a multicolored effect, as shown here in this scarf layout done in silk waste, wool locks, and one of our dyed color ways, “BG’s Choice”, my assistant’s interpretation of a rainbow:

 

The process for Nuno felting is simple, if a bit labor-intensive.  Bubble wrap, warm soapy water, nylon netting on top, then lots of rubbing, manipulating that fabric to create the desired textures, rolling with a rolling pin or pool noodle, flipping the whole thing over and wetting and rolling again, and finally a rinse in hot, then cold water and some tossing against a flat surface.  Finally, when the piece has shrunk and felted together to the proper size, it’s dried either flat or on a hanger.

The great thing about this technique is that it’s easy and fun to include textured bits, such as sari silk ribbon, wool locks, even scraps of vintage lace.  Some of the effects of these ” add-ins”, close up:

BG and I have had such a good time with these projects, we’ve got a few more in the works; I think felting is going to stay a regular part of our crafting repertoire.

 

You’ve probably heard that Craftsy is turning five this month –– but have you heard about their big birthday sale? For a very limited time, Craftsy is celebrating with major markdowns on best-selling kits and supplies. Check them out!

http://www.shareasale.com/u.cfm?d=339568&m=29190&u=109848

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A Lot of Handspun, and a Little Bit of Freeform

Yarn, yarn, everywhere, and WIPs and FOs all over the house.  As I practice all sorts of spinning techniques with lots of different fiber combinations, I find I really enjoy blending colors and plying with unusual threads:

A great help in learning different spinning techniques has been YouTube, where so many great spinners have posted excellent tutorials.  Also, Craftsy, which I mentioned in my last post, offers a number of classes on the craft of spinning, very reasonably priced.  I have recently been taking “Drafting From Worsted To Woolen”, with instructor Jacey Boggs Faulkner, and I can’t say enough good things about it.  My yarns improved in texture and consistency within the first day!

Check out Craftsy’s entire roster of classes here:

Craftsy Online Craft Classes

Of course, the more I spin, the more yarn I have, and added to my commercial yarn stash, it’s quite a lot.  I spent a couple of days this month organizing my yarns by color, with BG’s help, and became newly inspired by everything I have on hand.  Looking around on Ravelry and Craftsy, as well as through my collection of pattern books and magazines, led to several new creations, mostly hats and hand warmers, but also a few bags, felted and not, as well as some kitchen items like dishcloths and potholders.  I also developed a dishcloth pattern in crochet for my Craftsy shop, aimed at beginners who want to make something pretty and useful while learning to maintain straight edges in “back and forth” rows.

Sweet and Simple Crochet Dishcloth

As for the handspun, I am liking the way the “art yarns” work as a trim or embellishment to traditionally spun and commercial yarns in projects like scarves and cowls. Here’s an example from my Etsy shop, a pretty cowl knitted in Paton’s Cobbles and my own glittery handspun, a combination of dyed merino and Cotswold locks, plied with bamboo eyelash yarn from my stash:

Super chunky art yarn infinity scarf

Another fun way to use my handspun is in freeform projects.  For those who aren’t familiar with this method, it involves crocheting or knitting without a pattern, letting imagination and yarn dictate the shape of the finished creation, sometimes using add-in’s for embellishment or structure.  One of my favorites is this ruffled neckpiece, which I knitted onto and created a drawstring closure with scraps of trim from our very own, sadly missed, Scranton Lace factory.  After finishing the piece, I tea-dyed the whole thing, along with a pair of vintage ladies’ gloves I picked up at an estate sale in my neighborhood.  This piece is a little steam punk, a little early Downtown Abbey:

Loving traditional spinning fibers as I do, I naturally have to push the boundaries of what can be done, as well as search for ways to save money on what can become a very expensive habit.  This has led me to several experiments with acrylic chunky yarns, an idea I got from one of my lovely spinning groups on Facebook.  Some genius members discovered that the extra bulky yarns that are currently being sold at the big box craft stores are basically spinning fiber lightly plied with thread.  Snip the thread, pull it off, and viola-  something very similar to combed top, for roughly half the price!  Here’s what it looks like, prepped for spinning:

2016-02-04-19-41-39

This is wonderful for practicing techniques like chain/Navajo plying, corespinning, and stacks and coils.  Combined with my efforts at recycling commercial yarns by deconstruction and respinning, this has opened up a new way of spinning.  Some spinners turn up their noses at commercial fibers, especially acrylic, but I think these materials have their place, as a learning tool, a way to reuse and recycle, and also in blends with other, more costly or delicate fibers. More on this in a later post.

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A New Adventure

In between my latest efforts at spinning yarns and experiments with wet and needle felting, I have also picked up hook or needles every day.  Some of the OPP (other people’s patterns) I have recently completed include Urban Jungle and Capucine, both free on Ravelry.

Urban Jungle, a crocheted slouchy by Vickie Howell, caught my attention while I was checking the TV schedule on Create TV’s website for “Knit and Crochet Now”, a cool show that features excellent teachers and interesting patterns.  The Urban Jungle pattern was a link on Create’s page.  It features a puff stitch pattern and a ribbed band.  My initial thought was that it would be a gift for one of my older daughters, but after working it up in just a couple of hours, I tried it on, and discovered that it was one of the most comfortable hats I have ever put on my head.  The deep purple stash yarn I used looks great with my current shade of red hair, if I do say so myself.  Said daughter stopped by later that day, admired the hat, and requested a green one.  So I’ll be getting to that one soon.

Urban Jungle Crocheted Slouchy

 

 

For Capucine,a knit pattern by Adela Illichmanova, I chose a vintage yarn from a box recently passed on by my older sister, a fluffy brown with a very subtle variegation. This hat was for Baby Girl, to go with her purple winter coat, so I cast on with some of same purple I used for my own hat, using a technique I’d seen on ” Knit and Crochet Now”.  I also used some of the same purple (this crazy skein seemingly has no end!  I’ve also done another hat and a pair of socks from it.) for the tassels on each side, and at the back.  The original pattern is embellished with appliquéd birds, but BG instead chose a felted flower to add to one of the tassels.  She looks like a million bucks in it, and I love that we’re coordinated, but not matching.

Capucine

On the original side, I’ve really been making an effort to use up some of my stash with small projects, and in addition to listing the finished object for sale in my Etsy shop, I have written out some of the patterns in PDF format, and opened a shop on Craftsy’s pattern store.  I really like Craftsy, not only for patterns, but their online classes are wonderful!  You get video instruction from top teachers, with the ability to replay each lesson as many times as you want, and also the opportunity to interact with both instructors and classmates with questions, and to share your projects associated with the class.

So that’s my big announcement; I am now a pattern seller!  My first listed paid pattern is a super-simple version of my ever-popular yoga socks, done on double points, with a variation on the bind-off to give a little stretch.  I used another one of my “inherited” stash yarns to make the sample, and wish I had more than one skein of this cranberry and grey mix, which is easily 20 years old, and is long out of production.  (That’s a future post to do with dyeing, something BG and I have been dabbling in since last summer.) Next up for me: using my handspun to create freeform pieces.  In the meantime, you can check out my first listing and the rest of my current patterns here:

Basic yoga sock

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My Head Is Spinning

October marked my one-year anniversary as a wheel spinner, as followers of this blog may recall.  It was at Rhinebeck last year that SP purchased my lovely Lulu as an early Christmas gift, and she has been the kind of gift that keeps on giving.  I spun happily through the winter and spring, but when the hot weather set in, the garden, then the canning, began to take up more and more of my time.  Lulu sat lonely, by the piano ( possibly THE loneliest creature in the house), for several weeks, while I attended to these matters.  After all, I reasoned at the time, we DID budget the garden into this year’s groceries, better use as much as we can, now AND later…

At the start of September, the older kids went back to school (briefly, but that’s another story…)and I sat down at Lulu feeling like I had completely forgotten how to use her.  On a visit to Harford, Pennsylvania, to attend the Endless Mountains Fiber Festival mid-month, I obtained some new spinning Fiber, and realized the stuff I still had on hand was partially felted, which explained the trouble I was having spinning it.  With new materials, Lulu and I were once again moving along nicely on our Fiber adventure.  I decided that although I did not feel comfortable enough as a spinner to commit to Spinzilla quite yet, I would take that first week to spin as much as I could, and devote the rest of the month to becoming a better spinner.  In addition to the Harford haul, I added to my stash by ordering a full pound of undyed American wool roving from Etsy shop FiberFeltnMore, and scoured my local bookstore and the Nook eBook app for books on spinning.

There weren’t many, and I was forced to seek out alternate sources for information on the craft of spinning fiber.

I am currently reading two books on spinning, courtesy of my renewed relationship with our local library.

The first is a classic on the art, “The Joy Of Spinning”, by Marilyn Kluger.  Published the year I was born, it focuses on the history and traditions of creating yarn, as well as the author’s own journey as a spinner.  It gives wonderful advice on making smooth, even, classic-style yarns, the kind favored by past generations to create all kinds of knitted and woven fabrics.  The copy I am reading appears to be a first edition, and I am enjoying it greatly, with all of its vintage appeal.  Of course, the resources section lists vendors and repair people no longer in business, and I do not see even one of the current wheel and spindle makers listed.  The fact of this starkly points out to me how much of a spinning renaissance has taken place in my own lifetime, and the debt of gratitude we modern spinners owe those of the ” hippie” generation like Kluger, who had to travel far and wide to obtain what they needed to resurrect this lovely art, that up until that point was very nearly lost to Western culture.

The second, published in 2008, may well be considered a classic by future fiber artists.  “Intertwined”, by Lexi Boeger, aka Pluckyfluff, explores the making and uses of yarn as art in and of itself.  Boeger’s book gives examples of extreme yarns created by herself and others, and gives directions for fiber preparation and spinning of the unique creations that fill her book, as well as patterns that utilize the yarns in knitting, crochet, and other techniques.

Spinning my way through Boeger’s book while learning both history and techniques with Kluger has been a truly beautiful experience for me: I’ve spun yarns thick and thin, single and plied, full of texture and add-ins and combed slippery-smooth.  And of course, I went to Rhinebeck, had a great time and replenished my stash with some more gorgeous Fiber from our friends at Weston Hill Farm ( the Spun Honey pictured is a 2 ply I did out of 8 ounces of their mixed roving, love the color…), and got some Merino and dyed Cotswold locks to fool around with from two of the other vendors.

SP nearly fainted at the prices charged at Rhinebeck for spinners’ tools, came home and made me a 2 yard niddy-noddy out of PVC from Lowe’s.  We are now in discussions about how to make a blending board so I can create mixed batts.  All of this Fiber love naturally led me dyeing experiments, and Baby Girl has become my 3 year old assistant Dyer, her favorite medium being Kool Aid.

All of this has taught me that it’s better not to spin in a vacuum, even though I have been working most Sundays, and have not been able to attend the local guild yet.  For moral support, I have joined two Facebook spinners’ groups, and am now getting inspiration from them every time I check my news feed.  All in all, October Spinning Month was, for me, a complete success!

Here’s some glamour shots of my October ” babies”:

Spun honey

Spun honey

Hand dyed rovings

Hand dyed rovings

Experiments in dyeing commercial yarn

Experiments in dyeing commercial yarn

Hand dyed and handspun

Hand dyed and handspun

Traditional techniques with natural wool

Traditional techniques with natural wool

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Autumn Inspiration

I haven’t posted in a while, for a few reasons….

This:

K art yarn

And this:

kr

Art yarn

More yarns to come, as to what to do with them…

Stay tuned.

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Squash Epidemic

 

 

Summer squash bounty

 

Most vegetable gardeners become skilled at making the most out of their harvest.  I’ve enjoyed learning various preserving methods that stretch the availability of foods with a short shelf life, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, and stone fruits.  Some vegetables produce in such abundance that multiple recipes are required to handle the amount needing to be preserved.  Zucchini and other summer squashes come to mind.

Since I use them frequently in soups, sauces, and other dishes, I decided to plant a lot of summer squash this year, including classic varieties such as crookneck, early yellow, and straight green, and two roundies that I love to cook with, the 8 ball and the 1 ball.  I also planted several “flying saucer” patty pans, this year all yellow, which are smaller than the white ones I’ve previously grown, simply because the white tend to become a 10 inch inedible triceratops, practically overnight.

What I didn’t realize was that several plants had reseeded from prior years’ gardens, and the zucchini explosion resulting from all these plants may be about to rival our tomato crop in terms of sheer volume.  And I think we have 30 or so tomato plants!  To complicate matters, I’d had the brilliant idea to toss last year’s Halloween pumpkin remains out in the yard as natural compost, not realizing that our local pumpkin patch/Christmas tree farm also grows heirloom varieties. ( This is a good thing- go Roba’s Tree Farm! ) The local fauna proceeded to consume what was left of the pumpkins, as well as any squash we’d neglected to harvest, and deposit the seeds in “fertilized” packages all over the yard, giving us this year about a dozen unidentified squash plants in various non-squash bed locations:

 

self seeded squash 1

self seeded squash 2

self seeded squash 3

self seeded squash 4

self seeded squash 5

self seeded squash 6

self seeded squash 7

Two of these plants I feel can reasonably be assumed to be pumpkins, and one is definitely a butternut – the rest are dropping 8 ball zucchini every other day.  This is in addition to the yellow and green ones coming out of the regular garden.  These little round squash, as I mentioned, are easy to cook with, chopped, grilled, thinly sliced, whatever.  It’s the “traditional” zucch that are turning into Louisville Sluggers while I am daily distracted by the billiard balls, both intended and not.  Every counter in the kitchen is piled with squash, and more come in very day.

What to do?  Sauteed zucchini, stuffed zucchini, zucchini ribbons as refrigerator pickles, zucchini chili, zucchini in soups and jambalaya, raw zucchini “noodles”, and for those squashes that get too overgrown to be tender when used in these ways, it can be grated and added to dishes as a sneaky way to add vegetables without anyone noticing.  One of the best recipes for this I’ve found is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Disappearing Zucchini Orzo” from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a most-beloved book:

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/recipes-summer-disappearing-zucchini-orzo.htm

We had a version of this for dinner last night, and there were NO leftovers.  I do, however, have a lot of grated zucchini still, and so my next effort will be the ever-popular zucchini bread, which can be frozen if there is extra, but always seems to disappear as fast as I can make it.  The grated zucch itself can easily be frozen in zipper bags, allowing for holiday zucchini bread.

Now I do, naturally, have a zucchini-inspired crafty project to share, a knitted hat in a dark teal, shaped kind of like a zucchini.  After using a long-tail cast-on with a US size 6 circular needle, I purled the first two rounds, then worked a single cable pattern of 6 stitches over a narrow purled backround.  The rest of the band I worked in plain stockinette stitch for about 3 inches, followed by two more rounds of purl stitch.  Using yarnovers to create eyelet increases on a diagonal, I knitted for about another 8 inches before beginning a slip/slip/knit decrease pattern, which put the decreases on the opposite diagonal than the eyelet pattern.  After 3 inches of decreases on every other round, I broke the yarn, threaded it onto a yarn needle, and put the yarn through all remaining stitches. After tying off and weaving in the ends, I have a roll-brim, bonnet-shaped slouchy hat with an interesting stitch pattern and a cute cable detail on the band:

zuccharina hat

back view zuccharina

Cable detail brim

 

The yarn I used for this was a stash yarn leftover, I think from one of crocheting daughter’s early projects,  although it was just wound into a ball and had no label, the  behavior  of the yarn makes me think it is Simply Soft by Caron.   I think this pattern would be cute in a bouncy organic cotton, or even a self-striping sock yarn.  Although I’d love to try it out in another yarn, I’ve still got zucchini bread to bake, and a lot more squash to deal with before I embark on this year’s pickling adventure…so I guess it will have to wait.

 

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Filed under Feeding the family, How does your garden grow?, Joyful inspirations, Knitting, Yarny goodness

Currant events

Fresh red currants

Summer has arrived here in NEPA, and as usual, our garden has started to explode with produce.  I really appreciate being able to step out my back door for fresh fruits and vegetables, and the early summer provides a special treat that I’ve never seen at the grocery store, or even at the farmers’ market.  Red currants are considered a superfood, full of antioxidants.  SP planted several a few years back, and we are starting to see excellent harvests.  The light and the soil in the part of our backyard that is closest to the house seem to be great for most fruit shrubs. Baby Girl has been waiting for what seems like forever for the tart-sweet currant berries to ripen, as she loves picking and eating them right off the bush.

Palm currant

Commercial red currant jams are quite expensive, probably because the berries are what you could call a high-maintenance harvest.  Picking currants can be a bit of a challenge, since they don’t always ripen all at once, and the berries tend to hide underneath leaves and even between branches. They grow on long stems like tiny bunches of grapes, and removing the stems can be quite labor-intensive.  Once the fresh berries are stemmed and washed, however, they become very cooperative as a jam ingredient, being acidic enough to eliminate the need for added lemon juice, and even providing their own pectin.

The process for making currant jam is pretty straightforward: bring two quarts of crushed berries and 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a non-reactive pot, add 4 1/2 cups of sugar, cook it to the jelling point.  The finished jam will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week ( it won’t last that long ), can be cooled and frozen for up to a year, or canned using the water bath method as I did, which will keep it for at least as year without the need for refrigeration (again, it won’t last that long!).  For the batch pictured, I ended up with about five half-pints of jam.

red currantscurrant jam cooking

More information on the canning process for fruit jams can be found in my previous post on blackberry jam:

https://kristinalaurito.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/canning-blackberry-port/

Ta dah!  Currant jam!

As usual, a fiber craft also grew out of this project, another beret-style hat. Since canning anything is a hot, steamy, sterile process, the hair has got to be out of the way, and a snood-like slouchy usually does the trick.  I call these hats the “Happy Hippie Hair Holder”, and have come up with many versions over the years.  For this knitted one, I used up the pretty red and brown organic cotton I’d made a mesh headscarf with a few weeks back.  This yarn is soft, cool, and has a nice variegation of deep brown to a berry red very similar to color of the finished red currant jam.

To keep it loose and airy, I used a US size 11 circular needle, did about an inch of knit 2 purl 2 ribbing in a coordinating brown cotton yarn before knitting the body of the hat in a “beehive” stitch pattern, alternating 5 rows of knit with 3 rows of purl.  This stitch pattern allows the decreases to create a flower shape in the center of the hat.

 

 

Rec currant jamcurrant jam flower decrease

I’m happy to report that the finished hat is cool, comfortable and serves its purpose quite well, keeping my rather bulky (more on this in a later post)  hair out of the canning process.

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Filed under Canning / Preserving, Feeding the family, How does your garden grow?, Joyful inspirations, Knitting, Knitting Hats in September, Yarny goodness

Spring Cleaning and Storage Baskets

So what else have I been up to lately?  Well, besides getting the garden going for this year, I’ve been spring cleaning and rearranging our home with wild abandon.  My “refresh and renew” project, as well as chasing after a two year old, has consumed much of my time, and explains the long silence on this blog until recently.

Besides the “green curtain” I created in the kitchen windows, some highlights of my home improvement efforts:

I removed the doors to turn one of my kitchen cabinets into open shelving, trimming it out with some vintage lace.  And yes, I saved the doors and hardware, in case I get over the open-shelf thing in the future.  Right now it’s a great place to store SP’s special beer glasses and collection of growlers, keeping them out of the “break zone” of our family dishware cabinets.

I painted the wall next to and above my stove with chalkboard paint, which we are all enjoying so much, I plan to do another wall, that the kids can more easily get to, perhaps going up the stairs to the second floor.

I painted the kitchen ceiling light fixture a lovely shade of shabby greenish blue, something I’ve wanted to do for years.  It looks great reflected by the mirrors of our “green curtain” wall.

With the exception of  the boys’ bedrooms (Big Brother Number One’s I stayed out of, per his request, and Big Brother Number Two’s I have yet to finish,) I top-to-bottom, corner-to-corner, closet-and-drawer cleaned every room in the house.  (Not that you could tell this if arriving unannounced – pop-ins, beware! I am still the mother of a toddler and two adolescent boys.)

I realized, after getting rid of a LOT of stuff, that I still needed some storage containers that could be used for various purposes around the house.  Not willing to go the route of ugly plastic tubs that always end up broken, emptied by kids to be a “spaceship”, or full of “miscellaneous” (unrelated junk no one uses or needs) items, I decided to make something smaller, that could be easily moved, look good on shelves or in corners, and most importantly be easily WASHED.  Utilizing machine washable stash yarns and recycled t-shirt yarn, I crocheted about a dozen circular baskets.

crochet storage baskets

 

 

 

 

stash yarn storage

 

I primarily use these baskets to store yarn and spinning fiber, as shown, but I also made a pair for my closet shelf, to store smaller clothing items that don’t need to be on hangers, but this may not work out as well as I hoped.  I didn’t realize that a crochet basket full of neatly folded camis and tank tops makes a very appealing cat bed.  I may try a drawstring-top version to solve that problem.

To make the tshirt yarn, I tried a few different methods before deciding that the easiest way for me was to use a rotary cutter and ruler on the bottom “tube” part of a tshirt that had been folded twice over, leaving a 1 inch margin at the top.  By leaving this margin uncut, I was able to then make diagonal cuts in this uncut section, creating one long continuous strip.  Once cut into a strip, the tshirt yarn only needs a quick stretch along the entire length before it can be rolled into a ball and used.  There are a number of tutorials on this floating around on the internet; although she uses scissors instead of a rotary cutter, I still found this one from Joanne L. at craftpassion.com very clear and easy to follow:

http://craftpassion.com/2009/05/recycle-tutorial-making-of-t-shirt-yarn.html/2

I found that a medium-sized basket would use up the yarn made from two XL or three M size men’s tshirts, which were the sizes I’d had in my “donation” pile from the male members of the house, the ball being comparable to the size of one ball of commercially produced tshirt yarn, which was priced at about $10 at local craft stores at the time these projects were done. (It has since gone clearance, and can now be had for half or even a quarter of that price, if you can find it – I guess the fad is over!)  Homemade tshirt yarn is a little bit softer than it’s commercial counterpart, I think from a lack of chemical sizing, but I think that makes it easier to work with while crocheting or knitting, since these stiff fibers can be hard on your hands, especially if you’re working at the gauge needed to create something that has to hold its shape.  Making your own also gives you the option of making the yarn thinner or thicker as the project needs dictate.  Since Big Brothers both seem to stain tshirts on an almost daily basis, I see no end to the supply of materials for making this type of yarn.

I got such a kick out of making the tshirt yarn, it was hard to stop, but I managed to avoid having to make more yarn to create additional storage for all the yarn I was making!  BG likes it too, and she now has her own “knittin” as she calls it, which consists of a couple of smaller balls of tshirt yarn and one of my giant size Q crochet hooks.  Of course I made her a basket to keep it in…

 

 

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Hanging With Houseplants

Continuing on my mission to discover how many useful items I can create with yarn, now carried on alongside my newer mission of how many types of yarn can I create:

Along the course of this spring’s clean/organize/decorate binge, I took down the mini-blinds in the kitchen to wash them, and realized that the kitchen in my house gets much more light without blinds. Now our neighbors are sort of close, with the houses on our block lined up pretty much side by side…so I knew we had to have some kind of privacy barrier, but wanted to allow in as much natural light as possible. Solution? Live plants hung in front of the windows.

I already had one houseplant hanging in the kitchen, to keep it safe from a very nosy cat, and several others scattered about on high shelves, also as a safeguard against said cat (She has a thing about dirt in flowerpots and has taken out a number of plants, including baby tomatoes, a not so lucky bamboo, and a beautiful amarylis in full bloom!). One of those houseplants, a spider plant named “Lucy”, had begun to produce multiple babies, and was also in desperate need of repotting. I had a couple of herbs starting as seeds to eventually go out in the garden, that also needed some decent light and cat protection.

So I knew I needed a lot of plant hangers, as well as a way to string them all up safely, since there is only one plant bracket on each window. I got out white and blue t-shirt yarns (made by me, yay!), gathered up some other stash and scrap yarns, mostly in cotton, and got to work creating a bunch of different sized plant hangers. I used both crochet and some very basic macarame skills dimly remembered from my 80s-era Girl Scouts time. I liked the results of my efforts so much, I will probably do some in more weatherproof fiber to hang outdoor plants.

Crochet can hangerMini macrame in project scrapsT-shirt yarn miniMacrame crochet recycled t-shirts

Meantime, to create my “green curtain”, I removed the exisiting valances and curtain rods, and hung two extra strong drapery rods that I’d purchased at a discount store for about $3 each. These rods are in a dark brown color instead of white, and stand out less than the old white ones.  I hung the plant hangers using a combination of wooden rings and rustic metal shower curtain hooks, both of which I had on hand around the house, and knew where they were, thanks to my rigorous efforts at decluttering all cabinets, closets and junk drawers.  After hanging a few plants, I made space for additions and increased the ” curtain ” effect by adding a few more empty plant hangers.  I then put up a few of the small mirrors I have collected in the center wall space between windows, to bounce the light around, depending on the time of day.

I’m really just loving the natural light in the room, and I have also noticed that the mirrors increase the nighttime glow from my recently painted chandelier.  Next up for this part of the house: a DIY repair of the old screen door on the stair landing to our second floor… Soon we’ll have light AND cross-ventilation!

green curtain

green curtain2

green curtain3

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