Archive for August, 2009

From Skein to Ball of Yarn

from Twisted in Portland, Oregon.

This is splendid!
I really love Lego, but didn’t have the mechanised type growing up. Just imagine the My Little Pony carriages I could have built if I had! After seeing this video, I’m very tempted to go and buy some now. I’ve been thinking about making my own swift for a while, however I have to admit that if I had a yarn winder it might just sit there…

Alright, I have a confession. I like to wind my yarn by hand. It’s such an integral part of the process of knitting for me that I think that a yarn winder might distance me from the yarn. I’m not sure if I’m being silly here or not because I’ve never tried using one, but the personal contact through winding seems important to me.
Does anyone else have this quandry?


Name that yarn

Until this past weekend, I had never seen Star Wars. Yeah. I’ll let you take that in for a while.

Yes, I knew all the major spoilers and references that inevitably come up in conversation every so often, but those more subtle ones? They just passed me by. I’ve a great friend who is a bit of a Star Wars geek and he decided that enough was enough. He wasn’t explaining anymore and I really ought to see the films. On Sunday we sat down and watched Episodes IV- VI, breaking only to eat and walk dogs.

You know what? It was great and in fact my worst fears were unfounded (those being that as I am a 33 year old woman and not an 8 year old boy I would think the films were boring). In fact I really liked the last two in particular.

Another friend had brought her spinning wheel over and she and I spun yarn while we watched the DVDs. It was pretty relaxing and lent a strangely intense rhythm to the viewing.

Star Wars and Humbug yarns

Star Wars and Humbug yarns

I ended up drop spinning and plying the fatter skein of yarn, now named ‘Star Wars’ during the three films. There’s about  84 yards of 2 ply DK weight alpaca there. As you can see, I named it after what I was watching at the time of its making; after the whole experience of that Sunday afternoon. I’ve never done that before but it felt right. Usually I’ll name the yarn in relation to its colourway (such as the dark and light yarn on the right ‘Humbug’), or sometimes after a thing that it reminds me of in texture or drape.

I rather like the concept of naming the yarn after what I’m either listening to or watching while I spin. Often it is a film or TV programme. It calls to mind the textile artist Michael Brennand-Wood whose work often is titled by song lyrics.

I do wonder though, how much the name of the yarn influences what will be made using it. I have no immediate plans for ‘Star Wars’ nor for ‘Humbug’, which it tones well with. There could be some interesting mash-ups if I put the two together and thought about it too much! It is sure to be epic though.

IngridNation Folksy Shop

Between knitting a secret commission, designing a winter project and putting together a Folksy shop, I’ll admit that I’ve been ignoring the blog somewhat this week. However, I’m pleased to announce today that the shop is finally open and is stocked with a range of knitted brooches with more designs and other accessories to follow. Here’s a taster, but please go and take a look for yourself!

Cupcake Brooches

Cupcake Brooches

Scroll Flower Corsage

Scroll Flower Corsage

Dyeing with Food Colouring Tutorial

I knit, I sew, I spin, sometimes I even crochet. It was really only a matter of time before I started to dye. Strangely enough, it was the one part of my Textile Art degree that I really disliked. It was messy, time-consuming and frankly, I wasn’t much good at it. Perhaps because I didn’t persevere for long enough.

Recently I have been frustrated that I can’t find the right colours in commercial yarn that I want for my projects. The green isn’t lettuce enough, the blue has too much yellow undertone, or there is always the same  mustardy brown in every variagated colourway of Noro (I dare you to tell me I’m wrong on that one).

I decided to take another look at dyeing. It seemed the only way. Knitty have a good tutorial on dyeing yarn. I adapted this and mixed in some elements from a 1970s handicraft book of my Mum’s to come up with my own recipe for dyeing using food colouring. It is cheap, fun and doesn’t require any special ingredients or equipment.

You will need:

  • Wool yarn (light coloured)
  • Large microwave-safe bowl
  • Jugs for mixing colours
  • Cup measures
  • Colander (optional)
  • Teaspoons
  • White vinegar
  • Food colouring (liquid kind)
  • Water
  • Access to a stainless-steel sink and a microwave*

*You can also do this on the hob, but I’m not sure of the timings.

This recipe dyes about a 50g skein of wool, but you can always adjust the measurements for more.

1. Make the yarn into a skein for easier handling. Use either a niddy-noddy or wind it round the back of a chair. Tie it loosely in four places.

2. Soak the yarn in a mixture half and half of white vinegar and water for a couple of hours, making sure it is completely wet. The vinegar acts as a mordant which keys the yarn to take up the dye.

3. Mix 1 1/2 cups of water with 1/3 cup of vinegar and your food colouring. Depending on the colour intensity required, use up to about a teaspoon. If like me you want to use multiple colours, divide the water and vinegar mix into smaller jugs before adding the colouring.  Test the colour with the corner of a piece of kitchen roll and adjust as you need.

4. Before dyeing, gently squeeze out the yarn and place it into the bowl. If you are using mutliple dyes, arrange it as you see fit.

5. Pour on the colours as you wish. If using only one colour you can turn over the skein a couple of times to ensure even coverage.

6. Microwave on full power for 5 minutes. Allow to cool before repeating for another 5 minutes.

7. After cooling, drain and rinse the yarn in cold water in the sink until the dye is out.

This may take some doing, especially with yellows, it seems…

8. Gently squeeze the excess water in a towel and air dry the yarn flat.

Ta-Da! The finished product. It has been nicknamed ‘Piccalilli’ by my Mum after the violently coloured condiment that my Nan was so fond of making.  Personally I prefer ‘Nasturtium’.

This yarn will go on to be used for knitted brooches and probably some cat toys. I haven’t tried washing any of the yarns that I’ve dyed in the machine as yet, so I can’t tell you how they fare. I probably wouldn’t recommend knitting socks out of it unless you were sure about the washing! The combination of heat and vinegar is meant to make the dye colourfast, but never say never.

I hope you have fun making your own colour combinations or overdyeing those boring wools in your stash to recycle them into something vibrant and new.

P.S. If you are messy like me, you can get the food colouring off your hands (or face) with biological washing powder.


I went to see Andrew Carnie’s exhibition ‘Seized out of this World‘ a couple of weeks ago in Winchester and came out with mixed feelings: I think because it was something so personal to me. What was most interesting for me was seeing somebody else’s artistic interpretation of temporal lobe epilepsy. It is the first time I have come across work on the subject in real life.

Using figurative, electrical and medical images projected onto layers of cloth, Carnie was able to engage more than just the visual sense. The hanging sheets rippled and undulated as fans blew air onto them from the sides, distorting the images as they merged. That he had used 6 slide projectors gave a rhythm to the piece. In the darkened gallery it was all encompassing.

It was a very different experience to mine although at times evocative of my own. I’m not sure whether Carnie has epilepsy himself or not, but it brought home to me that everyone’s experience is different. Of TLE and of seeing art.

The visitors’ book and the comments of other people while I was there was fascinating. I often think that the comments are as much part of the exhibition as the art. Ranging from ‘calming and meditative’ to ‘disturbing’ and ‘nightmarish in a Tim Burton kind of way’ the comments proved that this piece had moved them. Isn’t that what art is all about?