Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Christmas Scarf

Sometimes I just throw myself in feet first into a project. I kind of did that this year with the scarf I made for my sister-in-law. It motivates me to learn what I need to do to complete it, and it gives me a very identifiable end date...a hard deadline. Making homemade gifts before Christmas is upon you can be a little stressful, despite all of the years we've done it, and this project was among the more stressful projects I've completed. The weaving was fun and changing out of the colors was interesting. And since it was for a gift, it was important that it looked perfect! In the end, I learned many things (I'll elaborate a little below) about how to do color changes with weaving and the result was better than expect (and very well received!)

When I embarked on this project, I initially took one skein of handspun from my stash for the weft. Then I thought that might be a little too boring for my sister-in-law, who works as a top level landscape architect at a swanky firm in Philly and is also an amazing abstract painter, so I rummaged through my handspun stash for a bigger variety of weft yarns to sift through as I wove. She would love it anyway, but I wanted to really give her a statement scarf. I think I nailed it!

Here's how I started the scarf with my Kromski Harp loom:

I'm getting the hang of making a slightly looser weave. I kind of messed up a little on a previous project (I'll talk about that later), but this scarf turned out perfectly flexible and soft.

Sometimes, I have a hard time realizing what I'm reading and turning it into the setup when it comes to weaving. I used to be unable to wrap my head around the description for making a heel for knitted socks. After reading several posts about how to make string heddles, I finally put the things I had been reading into context when I was sitting there at my warped loom and making all kinds of weird loops with my waste yarn. I give you, my version of a string heddle! You loop every other yarn with the waste yarn, put it on a heddle stick (or anything you have lying around, like I did), then to secure the strings, I made a simple crochet chain along the top:

I wasn't sure how I was going to deal with weaving in all of the ends I would be making with this project. While I was weaving, I just always added in a new yarn from the right side so the tails all hung out on the right side. I made sure to leave enough of a tail so I could weave the tail in all the way to the opposite edge. I was worried about having so many short tails to weave in and what that might do the finished project--I didn't want it to be lopsided!

As far as weaving in the ends goes, I just wrapped the end over the last warp yarn and ran it back through the weaving, wrapping the tail yarn around the woven yarn. It gave it a plied look. I secured the tail through the last warp yarn on the opposite side of the weaving by pulling the tail yarn through the middle of the warp yarn (the tail yarn bisects the warp yarn perpendicularly). I hope that makes sense! I didn't get a shot of this securing method because I was trying to finish the project and take it off the loom before I headed to America.

In the picture above and below, you should be able to see a few lines where the yarn looks extra puffy. That is where I doubled the yarn back on itself to weave in the tail. The thin yarns blended in more smoothly, but I needed to do something different for the thicker yarns. For the thick yarns, I untwisted the fiber, drafted the fiber thinner, retwisted it, then wove the thinner yarn back through the thicker yarn, burying it inside the weft yarn. I may need to do a video on this since it's difficult to explain clearly. For the plied yarn, I pulled each ply apart and wove them in like I did for the bulky singles. When I got all of the yarns woven into the scarf, I kept the ends long. I washed the scarf, dried it, then reshaped it and rolled it flat with a rolling pin. Once it was completely dry, I snipped all of the tails close to the fabric. This step allows me to only cut the ends once, not twice. There are a lot of woven in bits!

I finished the fringe with knots at the top, and kept the length on the long side--about six inches. The scarf was around 72 inches, 6 feet, and the fringe bumped that up to a total length of about seven feet. Needless to say, you could wrap this around two times and still have plenty of length left over to tuck and twist and wrap and fold however you wish. It's glamorous for LA style, yet warm enough for chilly Philly. My sister-in-law travels a lot, so this versatile scarf will always be rolling in her carry-on!

I hope your holiday projects went well, and as always, feel free to share your works of art over on Facebook!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dream in Color Shrug Review #2

I already did a vlog review of this pattern, but I thought I'd do a follow-up now that I've made the shrug from this pattern twice. If you missed the video, I'll post it below:

I washed the shrug and the yarn poofed up a little, so the pattern is slightly muddled until you put it on. You can see what I'm referring to in the video. The body helps stretch out the pattern, so I think I needed to use a larger needle or thinner yarn. I'm a tight knitter, and a consistent one, so I managed to get the right gauge but the pattern isn't as clear as it could have been. Oh well, the orange shrug is very warm and cuddly. :)

You can kind of see how the pattern looks somewhat obscured in these two photos (the one above and below). I think this is what might happen if I used a fluffy handspun, so if you plan to use handspun for this pattern, you should try to make a smooth, maybe even plied, yarn. Or you might change the needle size to be the next size up and make the knitting slightly tighter than it would be normally.

If you want to customize the look of this pattern further, I would recommend reducing or adding a pattern repeat in the wave pattern to accommodate your needs. This is especially useful if you want to knit this with an inflexible yarn, like pure silk or cotton.

If you dislike short sleeves, or want to remove the turn up cuff feature (the ribbing), you can make the sleeves 1 repeat longer (20 rows of the full pattern) and make the cuff half this length (or shorter!). Because there is no shaping involved, it's very easy to make these changes on the fly. If you want to make this a long sleeve, I would experiment with decreases along the edges first. Decreasing one stitch at the start of each row is a popular type of gradual decrease, though you should measure your arm to get the decreases in the right spot so the garment fits best. What I have done in the past is measured the circumference of my upper arm and wrist and calculated how many stitches I need to decrease from the upper arm to the wrist so that I get a fitted sleeve. For example, if I needed to decrease 42 stitches in a 21 inch sleeve, and there are 4 rows in an inch, I would decrease 1 stitch every other row. That will give you the perfect custom fit.

I decided to knit my next shrug with Malabrigo yarn (because it's decadent!), and chose the 50/50 silk/merino blend to make a luxury shrug. I was a little concerned about the silk content and how it might be too droopy in a shrug, so I used a smaller needle than it called for. I needed a size 8, but used a size 6 needle for this yarn. I wanted to make it slightly more fitted feeling than the wool version to counteract the inevitable drape of the silk, and the result turned out nicely. I attribute the nicer stitch definition to the yarn being thinner and unplied.

The only problem I had with this version was the yarn. Sometimes Malabrigo dye batches aren't consistent throughout the entire lot. I bought four skeins of the same dye lot, but three of the four had very different hues. One was very saturated with dark blues, one was saturated with yellows (two of the four skeins), and the third was a paler version of the first. As a dyer, I know that these things are possible. You need to be very accurate with how you apply the color to the yarn (or water) for consistent blending. I took notes on how I did this so my kettle dyed colors not only had the same hue, but also the same consistency in the kettle dyed patterns (that was so they would muddle together in the same way every time). But, I did what I could and used the darker blue for the cuffs and the paler version for the majority of the shrug.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a choice for the last bit of the pattern and had to switch to the yellow version for a few rows. It doesn't bother me too much, but I'm a little sad that it's noticeable. I could have circumvented this problem if I alternated rows with the different skeins, but...meh...I don't really care that much. I've worn this one a couple of times and no one has commented on the color issue.

The finished silk/merino shrug turned out to be about 3/4 the size of the orange shrug, which is a nice size for the yarn I used. Since it didn't fluff up as much as the pure wool, the pattern is a little more obvious. It's very sleek and luxurious, and I can't wait to pair it with a little blue dress. :)

I think the next time I make this pattern, I'll use some handspun for it. I'll whip up some light worsted weight plied yarn and 500 yards later, I'll cast on this pattern again. This will go a long way to helping me develop my own shrug pattern like this, since I'm not usually happy with most shrug patterns. What do you like in a a shrug pattern? Customizable options? Shaping? Cables? Yarn overs? Post in the comments below and I'll think of ways to incorporate them.

Happy Holidays everyone! <3

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Change of Plans...

So, this is it. The last day I'll be in Korea is today/tomorrow. Why? Well, it has been a whirlwind week. As many of you know by now, I've been planning to head back to graduate school since I want to get an advance degree in archaeology, which will lead into a PhD in Landscape Archaeology. I applied to the long-distance MA program at the University of Leciester during the Summer of 2013, but due to a change in jobs, I couldn't pay for the tuition without loans. I deferred my enrollment for nearly a year, then I decided: life is too short. I applied for their campus based program and got my letter of acceptance last month. But I'm in a unique situation, living in a foreign country and needing to request for a student visa in the UK. For many complicated reasons, it's best for me to be in my home country for visa preparations, so that means I'll be staying in America while Mr. IT Guy heads back to Korea at the end of our holiday stay.

I had less than six days to prepare for this moment, and it has been bittersweet. Living in Korea has been difficult, and I've gone through several adjustment periods. Some days, I'm happy to live in a big city where I can get pretty much anywhere I want with a cheap subway ticket (like, $1 to travel anywhere I want in Seoul!), and it's nice getting inexpensive, high quality healthcare which is extremely accessible. On other days, I'm filled with a sorrow because I can't do many of the things I used to do back in the States, like getting a cheap, but delicious loaf of artisan bread, buying clothes which fit, and having access to inexpensive gyms so I can train martial arts. I've been feeling a little melancholy this week since I'm basically moving out.

With the backdrop of Christmas, our mood is at odds with the holiday cheer. We've been looking forward to this holiday since September, and now that it is nearly upon us, we feel a little sad. I've never been more than a week apart from Mr. IT Guy, and a year and a half is quite a long time to be apart from him. And when he does come back from our holiday, he'll be walking into an empty, Jen-free apartment. The most maddening part for him is coming back and needing to finish packing up my stuff to send home. It feels strange. Once we get home and are with family, these feelings will pass. The holiday will boost our spirits. The social interaction with our old friends will improve our moods. And a year and a half apart can be made easier with vacation visits, Skype, and every day humdrum musings. That's not so bad, especially since it helps me achieve the dream I've had since I was 4: to be Indiana Jones, but the girl version.

And what will happen with Expertly Dyed? Well, I hope to be in full-swing, at least until I head to school, then we'll see. I'm even planning to head to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Festival in Crystal Lake this summer. I'm packing up everything, fiber, carders, wheel, the works--and you'll see more videos and blogs in the coming months too. Even stuff about dyeing! I'll maybe even get drop spindles into the shop now! Everything for ED will be easier in the States than in Korea, so I hope to polish off the list of videos you have all requested from me. Dyed top and batts will come to the shop regularly, so you always have something wonderful to choose from. It'll be great, and I'll be able to save extra money for grad school.

So, until I come back to Korea, or if I do, farewell. You provided such an important, invaluable lesson about life, and I think I can carve out a place for me nearly anywhere our jobs take us. Living abroad isn't easy, but I'm glad I did it...and I'm happy to do it again. Thank you to everyone who has helped me make Korea a little more bearable, and to those who have given me advice to gain some semblance of sanity while I worked through the various coping mechanisms of the result of culture shock.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Being Extra Thankful! Mini Batt Giveaway

Well, I wasn't quite prepared by the overwhelming number of people interested in my giveaway this year! Last year, I was thankful for many things, and though the response for the giveaway swelled my heart, this year's giveaway is shaping up to burst my a good way. As I mentioned before, I anticipated an even split for the batt/handspun for the giveaway, but I guess more of you are spinners than I realized! So, due to a small oversight on my part, and the lovely responses from you all, I have decided to give away another batt.

I carded up a mini batt to resemble the first one I made for the giveaway, but it is completely unique. The winner will receive this batt:

Inside: merino, bamboo, tussah silk, angelina, wensleydale locks. I blended it twice, so it's soft and poofy!

Total weight: 58g, about 2 ounces

And the lucky winner is:

...Carrie Anderson! Send over your address details to me ( and I'll get this mini batt shipped off to you. Again, thank you to everyone who participated, and I'm happy that I can thank some of you so personally. <3

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Results of the Being Thankful Second Annual Giveaway!

I double checked the tallies, and we have two new winners of the Second Annual Being Thankful Giveaway! First, I want to thank every single person who stopped by to read the blog, follow me on twitter, and join our group on Facebook. I couldn't be the teacher I am without your comforting and supportive comments. :) Second, there was an overwhelming response for the batt/magazine part of the giveaway, so hang tight for a few days while I think of what to do for those who didn't win anything...there were a lot of you who wanted that batt! I had hoped for a slightly more even split for the handspun and batt, but it would appear that most of you are spinners (or soon to be!). Last, let's bring on the results.

As I mentioned before, I was going to use a random number generator ( to generate the winners. For the Handspun, we have:

...Barbara-anne Nash! You are the lucky winner of the handspun. :) I really hope you like it and enjoy crafting with it.

Now, for the batt/magazine:

...the lucky winner is Amy Connolly! I hope you enjoy the batt and the extra copy of Spin-Off magazine.

Winners, please send me your mailing address: I will get these items shipped off to you as soon as I can! Again, thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway. And if anyone was curious, here are the results of the cranberry/gravy question:

It was practically an even split! And, as always, I will kick off December with a new coupon: FLASHSALE15 for 15% off a purchase worth $10 or more from my Etsy shop. I'm letting you in on the sale a week early! Enjoy the discount and first pick of my items before I open up the sale to the Etsy community. Thank you all for making this year great! <3

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Being Thankful: Fiber Arts Giveaway!

Have I thanked you today? Here's my big 'thank you' to all of you. Why? Though I don't say it, I appreciate you all for being with me every day. Especially right now. It's tough being creative when there aren't many people to share your creativity with, and when I share things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, I really feel like I'm part of a community. I hope you do too. Now, I'm not one to be overly girly, emotional, or touchy-feely, but you all give me the warm fuzzies all the time. :) As I've said in the past, it's all of you that keep me inspired to keep doing what I'm doing. Sure, I've had difficult times with Expertly Dyed, but it's always you and your enthusiasm which motivate to be a better teacher, creator, communicator, and business owner.

One of the fabulous aspects of being a small business owner is that we can affect change. Ten years ago, commercial stores were just starting to pick up on handknits as 'the next hot item.' Five years later, fabulous styles and yarns were being incorporated into commercial handknits. Now, wool is coming back into style. And who got it there? Small businesses like us, who care about our product, the quality of our product, and the impact it might have on our environment. I'm especially enthusiastic about this trend since wool-based products removes more petroleum based products from our households, uses a great renewable resource for clothing and padding, and prevents sheep herders from having to burn wool since no one wants it. Baby steps, but we're making national, and perhaps global, changes.

Now, without further adieu, let's show off the giveaway:

This batt is 113g and light as a feather! Inside: merino, bamboo, silk noil, angelina, sari thrums, mohair locks, angora firestar. The finished batt is divided into two batts, but are extremely similar. This batt will go to one lucky winner (details are below!).

And to boost your skills at the same time, here is my extra copy of Spin-Off magazine to add to the batt giveaway:

So, you'll get one blended batt and one magazine for this giveaway.

But wait, there's more! To accommodate those who aren't spinners yet, I'm adding handspun to the giveaway. Here's the yarn:

The awesome stuff in this yarn includes: merino, pulled silk, bamboo, angelina, tussah silk, angora, yarn, cormo, and lots of other bits of this and that. It's very squishy. :) It's a 2-ply bulky yarn with about 80 yards in all. The whole skein is just about 4 ounces, and there is plenty of yarn to make a chunky hat, mitten cuffs, or a cowl.

To be clear, here is what you will get for the giveaway:
  1. Blended batt and magazine
  2. Handspun yarn
Here are the details of how to enter to win. There are numerous ways to get your name into the hat for the drawing.
  1. Follow my blog! (Post in comments below)
  2. Follow me on Twitter! (Tweet at me so I can give you an entry)
  3. Like my Facebook page! (Post on my page so I can give you an entry)
  4. Choose which item you want for the drawing (either batt/magazine or handspun)
  5. Name them! What would you call the batts? or the handspun? (post below or on Facebook)
Those will give you one entry each, but you can get multiple entries. I'll post mini-challenges on my Facebook page from now until November 28, 2014, and if you participate, I'll give you another entry. I'll announce the winner via random number generator on November 29, 2014. Lots of entries means your chance of winning will be higher!

Also, here's how the batt looked before. I made two, very similar batts and blended them together to make one giant batt:

Extreme closeup!!: 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dye Brand Color Comparisons

The dye brand testing is over, at least for the goals I originally set, so now it's time to chat about the characteristics of the colors produced from each brand. (If you haven't followed my testing, here are the links for the reviews of Brand 1, Brand 2, and Brand 3.) It's easy to assess the differences in colors when you look at them in person, but since computer monitors might be tuned to different parameters than mine, I'll do my best to describe the colors. Here we go, The Yellows!:

Brand 2 is missing because the dye powder refused to be combined with water to form a solution. Now, Brand 1 and 3 yellows turned out to be nearly the exact same shade. That isn't too surprising, since most dye companies will have similar yellows. The thing which I noticed most between these two yellows is the quality of the color. If I compare the wool or nylon fibers, the yellows are very similar. However, when I look at the two silk samples, I can tell that the yellow from Brand 3 yielded a stronger hue than the yellow from Brand 1. That said, Brand 1 covered the fiber more evenly than Brand 3 (there were fewer white spots on the Brand 1 samples).

The Reds!:

I actually liked all of the reds, and I was a little surprised how similar they turned out to be. Brand 1 (on the left) turned out to be a paler ruby red, especially on the merino. For all of Brand 1 dyes, the colors turned out significantly paler on the merino than the other fibers I used. Brand 2 was the perfect sexy red you would see on the lips of an attractive model with smooth skin...and you would be extremely tempted to buy that lipstick. The goopy consistency of the dye solution didn't make the fiber sticky, which I feared, but the goopy-ness made me worry that I wouldn't get consistent colors from batch to batch. It turned out a bit more splotchy than Brand 3. Dye Brand 3 had the best dye coverage on the fiber, but it isn't quite so ruby red as Brand 2--Brand 3 turned out to be slightly more orange-y on the nylon fibers--it turned out ruby red on the merino and silk.

The Blues!:

The blues were a pleasant surprise. The blue from Brand 1 reminds me of the deep sapphire blue of the Heart of the Ocean (<---you remember this reference, right? It was the hottest item in 1999), but only on the silk (which was splotchy) and the icicle nylon. The dye didn't take very well on the merino (which looks grey-ish blue) or the BFL. Brand 2 reminds me of the caribbean ocean. It has that tropical hue which makes you think about sandy beaches and vacation. It also dyed the fibers extremely well. Brand 3 turned out to have a mix of 1 and 2 colors, so it's a brighter sapphire blue color than Brand 1. It didn't dye the merino as deeply as I hoped, but the resulting blue is a nice middle-of-the-road hue.

The Blacks!:

First, black is a difficult color to obtain on wool in general. Further, to get a deep shade, you usually need a 3-4% DOS (depth of shade = saturation of color), but in all of these samples, I used a 1.5% DOS so I could compare how well the dyes dyed the fibers. When I want to make a darker black in the future, I'll increase the DOS. Brand 1 produced yellowish blacks, though this yellow tint was diminished on the icicle nylon sample. The merino black was most severely tinted yellow when compared to the others. Brand 2 has no yellow tint, but it dyed the fibers the poorest of all the samples. The merino actually just looks grey, and I don't think it would turn out significantly darker even with a deeper DOS. Brand 3 also has a yellowish tint, but it is only a slight tint--it can only really be seen on the faux cashmere. The merino dyed to the best, darkest, shade than the other two. I expect the 3-4% DOS with dye Brand 3 to return the best results overall.

I know pictures on a computer screen aren't the best way to discern the differences between slight shade differences, but I hope I have elucidated some of the reasons why I went with dye Brand 3. So, what's my plan for these samples? Well, I don't really need to keep the full ounce for each color of each brand, so I think I'll be making some batts in the near future. Yay! Have you found these posts helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: PLY Magazine Winter 2013 Issue, Part 2

As promised, here is my personal journey in making woolen yarn, I was inspired to keep trying after reading the Winter 2013 PLY Magazine issue. I've mentioned several times that I'm just not very good at spinning woolen yarns, and I think many people fall into my boat. I learned how to spin worsted first, and kept using that method before I even knew that woolen spinning existed. And when I did learn about woolen spinning, I was too interested in leveling up my worsted spinning so I could make usable yarn. Now that I think I'm pretty good spinner, I'm interested in developing and leveling up my woolen spinning skills. Since I've already gotten a handle on worsted spinning, I get a +5 bonus to Dex. :)

For those of you who are still getting into spinning, don't fret. There's no right way to learn how to spin, or do things in an established order. The mere fact that fiber needs to be twisted just enough to make yarn will help correct any issues you have in making yarn, so let loose and make yarn! There are plenty of people out there who have learned various methods simultaneously, and if you're this kind of person, hopefully someone will post some extra tips in the comments below. *HInt*

I've attempted to make woolen yarn over the years, but something would go wrong, I wouldn't know how to fix it, then I got frustrated and left it alone for a while. I keep coming back to the woolen method because I don't want to be defeated by something, which for many, is so easy. So, while I was reading this issue of PLY I was reading it with the goal of learning, rather than just weighing its content for my audience. Before spinning woolen, I needed to prepare my fiber. I grabbed my blending board, which I've been using more and more lately, and made about 100g of rolags. The way you build up fiber on a blending board is an art, so I will delve more into the details for that in a later post.

I used my super soft Orry merino fiber (from MMFWOOL), super soft dark brown huacaya alpaca (from Santa Claus Alpacas), and cashmere (Mongolian) to make the rolags. Mr. IT Guy complained of having cold ears during the winter, so this fiber combo would erect a barrier to the wind. I layered the fibers down so that the cashmere was sandwiched between the merino and alpaca. Cashmere usually has a staple length of less than 2 inches, so it is important to blend them together like this so the spinning is smoother. I can't remember how many rolags I had in the end, but it was probably around 25, about 4g each.

I set up my wheel with the larger whorl, and I also made sure that the uptake was a little greater than I would want it to be for spinning a worsted yarn. These two things help keep the yarn from becoming overtwisted. The larger whorl gives you a little more time to adjust the diameter of the yarn as twist enters the partially drafted fiber, and the faster uptake also gives you something to pull against as you draft away from the wheel. I didn't use just one article from the PLY issue to help me spin my woolen yarn, since there are so many useful hints throughout the whole issue. I kept it closeby as I spun so I could troubleshoot quickly. Perhaps they should offer a special spiral binding for those who want to lay the magazine open next to their wheel!

Generally, I was holding the fresh yarn with my left hand towards the wheel, pinching the twist, and pulling away from the wheel with my fiber (right) hand. It was tough going at first, but I managed to spin the whole skein this way. With my 4g rolags, I was able to get 4ish draws per rolag before I needed to add in a new rolag. I learned that you don't want to try to spin too much fiber at once since your arms are shorter than you think. :) The two difficulties I faced most frequently were muscle cramps in my pinching hand, and keeping the diameter from varying too much. These issues will resolve when I get better at woolen spinning, and the hand cramps will go away when I stop using two hands to spin woolen--most people only need one hand.

The results of my best attempt are:

The yarn turned out better than I hoped, and would only get better. After skeining it up, I washed it vigorously in hot soapy water, then rinsed it in hot water. I didn't want to shock the yarn too much, but I did want the fibers to hold onto each other a little more. I smacked it in the tub a few times, then gave it a few snaps by pulling the skein taught between my hands. I let it dry without any weight, and the yarn was very well balanced--a contrast to my earlier purple yarn that I posted about. In all, I made a worsted weight woolen single with about 178 yards.

Then came the project! I picked out a masculine cable hat pattern from ravelry, and made a custom fit for Mr. IT Guy. Once it was done, I wanted to felt it just slightly so it would prevent all wind from penetrating the fibers and making his ears cold. I didn't record the total amount of shrinkage, but I would guess that it shrunk about 5% from its original size. I had some extra yarn leftover, so I made a giant pompom for the hat. That was a brilliant idea, since now Mr. IT Guy looks so gosh darn adorable when he wears the hat. And the best part of this project is: Mr. IT Guy's ears are safe and sound in their little warm hat.

(I'll post pictures of the hat when the sun isn't shining so brightly through our windows!)

Woolen yarns have their place among the spinning world. Their helical structure traps heat beautifully and makes the warmest mittens, hats, and scarves. Whether you have a drop spindle or spinning wheel, this issue of PLY should be on your reference shelf.