Knitted Poppy

Memorial Day 2016 come and gone , but this little poppy pattern would be perfect for next year, or  for Veterans’ Day, which is coming  up fast.   Most knitted or crocheted flowers tend to be fluffy or floppy, but Lion Brand’s poppy is smooth and simple. Nice by itself  for a pretty, summery pin, or for embellishing bags, hats, sweaters, or just to wear on special days to show gratitude to generations of vets.

The pattern is free, but you must be a member to access it. Free and easy to sign up.

Pattern

 

Huntley Gift Bag

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If you love to crochet, head on over to Little Monkeys Crochet , a blog full of cool patterns in all sorts of categories. The one that caught my eye is this pretty bag, made with about 275 yards of  medium weight cotton using a couple of stitches on a size H hook. It’s a free pattern, and Rebecca gives permission to sell things made with her free patterns so long as credit is given. The finished bag is 9″L x 3″W x 6″H. It looks easy enough to make larger or smaller.

This looks like a perfectly portable summer project, especially for a plane trip. No needles to scare security. One summer I lost an $18 pair of knitting needles at Charles deGaulle Airport checkpoint…. Now I bring plastic. Or crochet.

Sigh. Here’s the pattern. Thank you, Rebecca!

Plants for Dyeing: Comfrey

I’ve been doing natural dyeing for a long time, and was always exasperated about the absence of a good plant source for the color green. Paradoxical, isn’t it? But the green coloration in plants is due to the presence of chlorophyll. In fall, the chlorophyll ceases production and gradually disappears, leaving the leaf’s true color to show. Once, while making a dye with fern fiddleheads, the only plant material available that early spring day, I discovered to my dismay that I’d left my brass kettle at home. Had to make do with the iron one, and had a pleasant surprise. The result was a lovely, soft gray-green.

But fiddleheads are around for just a short time every year. I needed a source available in the summer. Comfrey to the rescue. This plant has many advantages, the primary one being the size and abundance of its leaves. Making comfrey dye is easy: Simmer the leaves, about a grocery bag full, in about a gallon of water for about 1/2 hour, then remove the plant material. Submerge wet, alum mordanted wool into the bath and simmer in an iron container for another 1/2 hour or so. Olive green should be the result.

Using brass, glass, stainless steel containers will not yield the same results; probably a watery yellow will emerge, but who knows? Natural dyeing is more art than science.

Comfrey in New England is a perennial known for its abundant proliferation. Its tiny flowers start to blossom in  June, but the flowers aren’t used for dyeing. Medicinally, comfrey has been used to treat bruises, sores, broken bones, hemorrhoids ( there they are again), gout and joint pain. It used to be eaten in salads and tonics but has been found to cause liver damage.

Before and After Felting -When Size Does Matter

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I’ve been doing different kinds of felting for several years now, and people sometimes ask how I know how big to knit something when I want it to be a specific size after it’s felted. The simple answer: it depends. You have to know your wool. Some yarns, like Paton’s merino, shrinks for me by about 1/3, so I always knit things made with that yarn about 1/3 larger. Other yarns, like those specially designed for felting, I’ve found shrink far more, at least by half and sometimes more. The only way to relative certainty is to knit a swatch, measure it, felt it, then measure it again and calculate the difference. I know this is heresy in the eyes of some felters, but I’ve been known to spin wet knits in the dryer set on medium, let it tumble for about 2 minutes, take it out and check the size, and repeat as necessary. Works for me.

This bag was knitted with Lion Brand Monet yarn, which unfortunately has been discontinued.

One Cable Hand Warmers

imageToday I discovered my next ” muffatees” project. At the Connecticut  Works festival this afternoon, which was held on the beautiful grounds of the Avery-Copp house museum in Groton,  I sold a pair of cabled arm warmers that were cabled from fingers to elbow. They were very pretty, but felt too bulky for my own use and I never wore them or made any others. When I arrived home,  I found that a very similar design for shorter mitts had  magically appeared in my email,  from the Blue Sky Alpacas newsletter.

The pattern is free, but you do have to create a free account to access the download, which you can get here . The beautiful worsted hand dyed yarn shown is named “Petunia”, and should work up quickly on the recommended size 9 (US) needles.