The Trouble With Space-Dyed Yarns

Students in my online classes know my preference for tonal threads, which I dye or paint myself. This project reminded me why I steer away from space-dyed threads in most looping projects.

Looping necklace with shell center.I’ve been meaning to overdye this silk thread, which I acquired some time back. But Mother’s Day kind of snuck up on me this year. Even if it feels more like March than May, Mother’s Day is Sunday. So yesterday I plugged in an audio book and got busy.

Space-dyed thread and shell for looping project.

As-is, the colors of the thread worked with a shell piece I wanted to incorporate into a necklace for my mom. And the colors look like a Florida sunset — perfect for Mom. So I figured I could make it work, despite the weird “puddling” effect I generally get from space-dyed yarns.

Oval start from needle chain.

I used a needle chain start to make an oval piece that covered the back of the shell.

Looping necklace with shell and beads work-in-progress.

Then I decreased to cradle the shell in a silky “bezel”, edging it with a non-picot version of the beading technique in this video.

Shell necklace with beading work-in-progress.

To complete the pendant, I worked more looping, incorporating some beads, around the shell. The neck strap is where the space-dyed puddling became a problem.

Looping necklace work-in-progress.

Mom’s skin is very sensitive, so for necklace straps I generally stick with silk and/or beads — no metal closures. Mom prefers her necklaces shortish, so instead of a continuous piece that slips over the head I planned a two-piece fiber “chain” with a loop and button closure. My first attempt was a double needle chain, which looked awful with the space-dyed puddling. After unstitching that, I used a single needle chain with bead looping along both edges of the chain. The extra thread from the bead looping helped mask the puddles a bit. This is what it looked like while blocking.

Blocking the finished necklace.

I’ve had students do amazing work with space-dyed yarns by carefully cutting out short lengths of the colors they wanted. It’s reasonable to manage all those thread additions in the looping structure. But working in a lot of ends on a long needle chain is not much fun. A Russian join should work on a plied yarn, but I didn’t even try it on this silk. I just decided to live with the puddles.

When it’s worn, I don’t think the splotchy colors on the strap will be the first thing other people notice. What I hope they notice is Mom’s smile when she wears it.


Handmade Holiday

It was close, but Christmas gifts all got finished, mailed, and delivered on time. It was so close, in fact, that until I finished the last three gifts I didn’t take time to photograph anything. But here’s a quick look at those three.

Netted scarf by Donna Kallner

The last thing done was the first thing started. Does that sound familiar? I started this scarf for Mimi’s birthday last winter, but didn’t have time to finish it. It went with me to the Midwest Weavers Conference last summer as an example for my Patterned Diamond Mesh Netting class. I only needed to add some length from the center and work the pattern on the second end. With it mostly finished in my head, this gift kept getting bumped to the end of the list while things I didn’t have figured out got done. When I finally did get it finished, there was no time to block it the way I normally would. I made do with a good steam (cautiously, because of the nylon in the Berroco Seduce yarn — a mixture of silk, linen, rayon and nylon). I prefer to block netting by wetting it and pinning it out to dry. I’m sure there must be a holiday carol about cutting corners to get to the post office on time.

Hobby horse from recycled sock.

We made a hobby horse for our one-year-old godson, who looks just like his grandpa Wayne, who passed away in November. At Thanksgiving, Bill’s sister was sorting through some of Wayne’s things to make T-shirt quilts for the kids. She gave Bill some of Wayne’s socks, and I took a pair for the hobby horse. I indigo dyed the socks — one for the horse’s head and the other to pad the top of a peeled willow stick. The mane is from some felted thick-and-thin handspun. The ears are naturally dyed wool felt. This only got in the mail on time because Bill got on the stick (figuratively) and found a box this horse would fit it.

Felt bag.

For Gus’ big sister, I made a bag that I hope is large enough for her cell phone. One side is from wool yarn I crocheted, felted in the washer, then needle felted with yarn in a contrasting color. The flip side is just two layers of black felted wool fabric quilted together with embroidery floss that matches the blue on the front. I stitched the pieces together with the sewing machine, then worked cross-knit looping on the edge. (That’s a technique I teach in the online class.) For the sake of time, I worked the strap in knit I-Cord, some of it during a fire department training session scheduled for the last night before in-state gifts had to be in the mail. There might be a Dr. Seuss book in that:

I cannot knit and walk these halls / it’s only I-cord, but duty calls. / I know this should be done and wrapped / But I’ll put it away, or I’ll be lapped.

There was one other handmade gift this Christmas.

Warping board made for me by my husband.

Months ago, I told Bill I’d like to have a warping board. On Christmas morning, he brought it in from wherever he’s been hiding it and completely took me by surprise.

I hope your holiday was also filled with handmade delights and wonderful memories!

Studio Conversion Into Santa’s Workshop

Like a lot of Etsy sellers, I’ve shipped lot of other people’s holiday gifts these past few weeks. But I haven’t shipped, or even wrapped, any of my own. Bill is done with his part of the list. The elves (Me, Myself and I) are making good progress. So today, it’s back to the workshop.

Netted bags made with shuttle and gauge to hold holiday gifts.

With three last gifts to finish and three more netting gift bags to make, I should be able to have everything done and ready for Priority Mail shipment by Thursday.

Are the elves busy at your place, too?


The Gift Of Giving

A few years back, I heard a woman in a yarn shop say, “I’m not spending $50 on yarn to knit my grandchild something that will just go in a drawer.” That still makes me sad. Because I have dearly beloved handmade gifts in a drawer, where they make me smile every time I see them, and others in the cedar chest as befits family heirlooms. And I bet you do, too.

This is the last pair of crocheted slippers I got from my grandma. I can’t tell you how many pairs I wore out. But these I stopped wearing before they wore out so I could save them. I don’t remember why I knew they would probably be the last pair, but I did. Picture me smiling every time I see them.

This may be the first pair of crocheted slippers I got from my grandma. I don’t remember ever wearing them (obviously). But my mother saved them, and a few years ago they moved from her cedar closet to my cedar chest (which, no surprise, was hers before it was mine).

This came with them. And yes, it’s stained. The ribbon is broken and frayed. And it still makes me smile.

Whether you’re giving or receiving, a hand-made present gives to both the recipient and the giver. Otherwise, no one would ever make a quilt for anyone but a quilter, or knit a sweater for anyone but a knitter — someone who can appreciate how much time and effort goes into making a gift.

Right now I’m tucked in under a Christmas quilt that was a gift made by my sister-in-law. She’s getting this year’s big gift in a small package. It’s far from perfect. And it’s not quite as large as it might have been, but I think it will stretch out large enough to keep the heron out of her koi pond without distracting from her beautiful flowers.

It was too snowy and windy yesterday to try spreading it out outside. I tried to stretch it out in the basement, but couldn’t get it spread out fully without walking on it. I guess we’ll find out in the spring if it’s large enough, because I think her koi pond got covered with 20 inches of snow yesterday.

Bill and I are self-employed, so we spend time making things when other people might spend that time at a job earning money so they can spend time shopping for gifts. But what we get from making gifts is priceless.

With this one, I get to be an unseen presence in my sister-in-law’s garden while she’s weeding with her granddaughter — something I live too far away to do in person. I got to have a conversation with my husband about nets, snares, and fishing (which is practically a religion in his family). I got to improve my skills at problem-solving when netting with a challenging material (bonded nylon instead of my usual linen or hemp). And I had time to reflect on all the treasures my sister-in-law has given me over the years, the greatest of which is her friendship and love.

I hope this season of giving has given you great  joy in the making, and that what you’ve made puts smiles on the faces of those you love for many years to come. Happy Holidays!

P.S. If you’re not on my email list and would like to be, you can sign up here. I included a free printable “made by” tags file in the last one I sent out, which you can find here.

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Thrifty Gifts For Mom And Moi

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of a cone of silk noil I bought at a garage sale. Yesterday, I dyed yarn for a Mother’s Day gift I need to get started PDQ. The little rice steamer I bought at a thrift shop to use for natural dyeing also works like a charm for small-batch steaming of acid dyes.

And I finally finished and blocked a gift for myself that I’ve been working on off-and-on for more than a year. This freeform looping vest was made from cotton yarn I got from my sister-in-law’s BFF after she cleaned out a relative’s estate. I overdyed the yarn in the indigo vat.

My closer-to-my-size dress form (bought at a garage sale) is still in a local store displaying willow-dyed scarves I have for sale there. This smaller dress form, also from a garage sale, is at least four sizes different from me, so the back looks almost bell-like on her.

On me, though, it skims right where I wanted it to skim, and I love the cross-knit looping edging.

I make a lot of stuff I use, and a lot of class samples. Sometimes, those are one and the same, like this little pouch I made working along with students in the current session of my New Age Looping Basics eCourse. It now holds the card reader for my computer.

But the freeform vest is the largest project I’ve made just for myself and just because in a long time. It’s too casual to be impressive, and 99.9% of the world will look at it and assume it’s crochet. I don’t care. I’m a jeans-and-boots kind of girl, and I love it.

I phoned Mom to tell her I finished a gift for myself so hers might be a little late (since I hadn’t started it yet). She said, “I know you’ll enjoy wearing it as much as I enjoy wearing the things you make for me.” She’s right.

I’ll keep you posted on what I’m making with the silk noil. In the meantime, if you’re looking for an idea for your own gift-making, here’s a link to last year’s how-to on the Mother’s Day Corsage-ish.

Honestly, most of the time I get more enjoyment out of making gifts for other people than out of anything I make just for myself. But I’m feeling pretty special because someone who really knows me and is exactly the same size and shape as I am spent all this time on a gift for moi. I might do it more often.

You could inspire me to do that. So tell me: What’s the best gift you ever made for yourself, or one you’re working on or planning?

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An Heirloom Apron And A Question

Do you have some textile treasure so infused with love it transcends its practical, functional origins and qualifies as an heirloom? When these things come into your keeping, it makes you think about the time and effort that went into their making, and maybe the tools used to create them.

Tatting by Bessie Cooper

Last week my mother gave me her organza apron trimmed with tatting. This is the kind of apron worn at holiday dinners after all the messy preparation work was done, or while serving cake and punch at bridal showers.  My grandmother did the tatting and made that apron, probably before I was born. I can only imagine how long it took her to tat that edging, in between milking cows twice a day, doing farm chores, keeping a big garden, and fixing three meals a day.

Along with the apron, mom gave me Grandma’s tatting shuttle. No gold coin could have felt more precious than that shuttle when Mom pressed it into my palm. I never saw Grandma use it, not that I recall. Instead, her hands were usually busy with a crochet hook during my visits. But I do remember my mother talking about how that shuttle flew in her mother’s hands — and how much work it was to wash and stretch those lace curtains. My mom does not love the act of tatting, yet that shuttle is the artifact she’s treasured all these years in remembrance of her mom.

You may have textile treasures you’re planning to pass down some day. They may even be things you made yourself. But here’s my question: Have you ever given the tool used to make the piece along with the gift?

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Holiday Gift Wrap-Up #4 — Bags For Boys

For my last post on holiday gifts I couldn’t show until after surprise was taken out of the equation, I present a pair of boy gifts and a plea: One of these boys has a birthday coming up, and I need help with ideas!

You may recall that, as a maker, I find boy gifts more of a challenge than girl gifts. Never having been a boy, never having had a brother, never having lived with a teenage boy — that all seems to makes it tougher. My gift vision is clouded with memories of what these male creatures liked when they were 5, what I see on TV, and how much I want them to love us our gifts. In other words, reality doesn’t play much of a role here.

Luckily, economics does. And we don’t have the money to buy safe things like gift cards. So it’s simple: We have to find something to make, and it has to fit into our no-budget.

So I picked up a few extra T-shirts from the R&R bin at Bethesda (25 cents apiece). From that stash I made the two boys four drawstring stuff sacks each. I had a spool of cording on hand, but for the smaller ones I just cut strips of fabric from the T-shirts and stretched it out to make cording.

I also made each of them a 4-layer velcro-closed 2-pocket pouch. How they’ll use them remains to be seen, but they were fun to make.

In just a few weeks, I’ll need another boy gift for the 15-year-old’s birthday. No ideas whatsoever. Suggestions, please!?! Pretty please? Hit the Comments link and tell me what you think. It won’t be just me who appreciates it 🙂

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Holiday Gift Wrap-Up #3 — A Stretch

Like the other girl gift I showed earlier in the week, this present included a pair of fingerless mitts made from upcycled fabric. And as usual, I learned some things making in the process of making this gift.

The fabric was a polyester stretch velvet in the form of a too-small short-sleeved mock turtleneck I bought at a thrift store a while back because I liked the color. Might have paid 50 cents. My very limited experience with machine sewing on a) velvet and b) stretchy velvet convinced me to keep my plan simple.

So I cut a pair of simple mitts from the shirt using a pattern I made from lightweight non-stretchy interfacing (also thrifted, by the way).

If you look closely at the left mitt, the seam fell on the palm instead of along the outside edge of the hand. Yup, I should have cut a full-size sample from an old T-shirt or other stretchy fabric to test the pattern before I cut the velvet. Oh, well. I fiddled with the placement of the thumb hole, recut the pattern, made a sample!!, and got back to work.

There was still enough fabric to cut another pair of fingerless mittens. They’re a little shorter than the pattern. That’s just the way my family likes ’em.

With the rest of the fabric, I pieced together a little hat, pinning and seaming to the intact mock T, which had plenty of stretch to become a hat band. With the wonky piecing, I didn’t have to worry about the nap of the fabric.

I covered the back seam of the mock T with a little fabric flower pieced together from scraps and sewn on by hand.

My older-than-me Singer never handled knits well, so I gave up sewing them years ago. My newer hand-me-down Singer doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles (and I can’t drop the feed dogs), but it handles knits much better.

These mitts were hemmed with a decorative stitch. The hat was put together with zigzag stitching. I’d been fantasizing about getting a sewing machine that would make free-motion stitching easier. Now I’m kind of thinking a serger would be fun.

But for now, I can do everything I need to do with the machine I have. It’s just a tool. If I didn’t have a machine, I could have stitched this gift by hand.

More important than the tool is the habit of sampling: I should practice what I preach!

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Holiday Gift Wrap-Up #2 — Glove Love

Girl gifts are soooo much fun to make! For Christmas, the 16-year-old on our gift list got a pair of shabby-chic fingerless mittens made from old T-shirts.

One of my favorite speakers last summer at the Surface Design Association conference in Minneapolis was Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin. We can thank her for making reverse applique cool, as well as an economic boost to her hometown and keeping lots of T-shirts out of the waste stream.

Two of the three old tees used in this project originally resided in our closet. I was able to cut around the stains. The third was a probably-never-worn machine-embroidered souvenir tee I thrifted for 25 cents.

I layered the fabrics together and cut from a pattern I made by trial and error. I used a chalk marker to position the thumb hole. I think a disappearing marker would work better, if I could find where mine is.

What worked like a charm was the bent shaft scissors I bought some 15 years ago for cutting the reverse applique.

I didn’t buttonhole stitch all the applique edges — just the edges of the gloves, the thumb holes, and along the seam lines. There’s a reason for the prices on those Alabama Chanin garments.

The three-layer thickness and machine stitching I used give these fingerless mitts some body. Maybe that’s only important to me because I remember how frustrating it was when we played dress-up with Jody Newhart’s mom’s opera gloves and they kept sliding down.

Fingerless mittens went to another girl on our gift list. Next time.

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How To Feel Like A Kid Again

This year, Bill did the lion’s share of our gift making, saving just the kids and elders for me. During the 4th quarter of the football game yesterday, I finished the last handmade holiday gift on my list. Together, we got everything wrapped before supper last night. Today, everything is in the mail except what goes under the tree. After the delightful obsession of gift-making time, it’s like going cold turkey.

So I pulled out the pocket loom and made a potholder for myself. I feel like a kid again!

Chance are, none of the kids in our life would have a gift surprise spoiled if I showed you what I made for them. But they’re getting to the age where I’m not so sure. So I’ll save those posts for after Christmas.

What makes you feel like a kid again?

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