Love and Mending

I wasn’t always a knitter. Nobody in my family really taught me how to knit. (I think my grandmother tried once when I was seven. It didn’t take.) In fact, I only started knitting not long after I started dating Brock. He would meet me in Lawrence after my knitting class let out of the Yarn Barn and we’d go eat noodles at Zen Zero. Even then he was asking me if I would knit him a sweater. I started with a scarf, a little reluctant to commit to a whole sweater so soon.

Brocks Sweaters

I did finally knit him a sweater in 2011, ignoring all the boyfriend sweater jokes everyone made as I worked on it. The classic Cobblestone turned out really great! So great, that last year, I decided to knit him another, The Ishmael Sweater. He has worn one of the these sweaters every day the weather has been less than balmy for the last two years. I take it as the deepest, most loving of compliments that he wears them so much. He understands that when I knit for him, it is an act of love.

And he has just about loved these sweaters to rags.

Holy Sweaters
The elbows on both sweaters look like this. I have patched the green one multiple times. He has only just worn through the elbows on the red one.

Armpit Hole
He also somehow managed to completely rip out the kitchener stitch from one of the underarms. I was hoping this year’s sweater would be finished before the red one gave out, but no such luck. It’s also still January, so he’ll be needing something warm to wear for at least the next two months, but I managed to sneak these away for the afternoon.

Knowing that all my careful elbow mending only lasts a few weeks, this afternoon I finally purchased some of these at JoAnn:
elbow patches
Leather elbow patches. Let’s see him wear through these!

I started with the red sweater, because the mending was simpler. I sewed up the holes on the elbows (though perhaps not as neatly as I would have done had I not been intending to cover them up) and then I closed up the underarm again. I gave the whole sweater a good rubbing with the sweater stone, and then sat down to sew on the arm patches.

The nice thing about these patches, is that they already have holes poked in them, which I think is why they cost so much more than just a regular old swatch of suede. However, the holes were the perfect sewing guide, because I am a lousy hand-sewer with no patience.

But after about an hour’s worth of work, I had a smartly repaired sweater.
Repaired Ishmael

You’ll notice the patches aren’t in the same place on each sleeve. While aesthetically, I would have liked to have them match up perfectly while the laid on my work table, I decided centering them over the most worn parts of the sleeve would be more practical. And sure enough, as soon as Brock tried it on, the patches didn’t look at all lopsided, but covered his elbows perfectly.

How We Made our Wedding Invitations (and how you can too)

Our wedding invitations all went out this week–which means a week ago Brock and I spent a lot of time putting them together. We’re throwing this wedding on a super tight budget, so every bit of money saved is a good thing. We discussed what we wanted to do a little bit, and spent a lot of time browsing etsy debating whether we should buy a downloadable, printable package or find a local artist to design them for us. We even debated making them completely from scratch ourselves. In the end we compromised a little bit. I was able to score the base of the invitations themselves in a clearance at Michael’s. Finding them was complete serendipity, but I was able to get all the stationary and stickers for the whole shebang in one day for a fraction of what you would pay a printer. Plus, we were able to include some very specific information for our guests regarding the pot-luck dinner and food allergies with no added costs.

The outside of the invitation, which, I think, was meant to be a birthday invitation, is fun and kind of quirky. The bright yellow envelop sets a cheerful mood and the elephant balancing on a ball is the perfect metaphor for putting on a wedding, but in a fun way, because he’s wearing a party hat! Plus, Circus. The inside, however, was completely blank. Stark white invitations are no fun at all, so I gathered my supplies and with a little design help from Brock, we were able to put the invitations together in one afternoon and evening.


A little colored paper, a glue stick, some free fonts, a little time writing, and some funky scissors were all we used.

Here’s the whole experience from start to finish, just imagine the detritus of making them isn’t there.



invitation open


We glued the actual invitation into the card and included three inserts: a note concerning gifts and explaining why the wedding is gluten free, the call to action with the URL for RSVPs, and a label for whatever food dish they choose to bring listing common food allergens outside gluten so there’s no guessing and no accidental sickness.

My favorite part was probably going through the sticker book that matched the stationary. There are some creepy stickers in there.

creepy mustache sticker
What’s that all about?

So here’s what you really want to know, how much did all this cost and can you do it yourself? The cost breakdown is below and you can absolutely do this yourself.

Stationary: $15.00 (for 10 sets of 6)
Stickers: $3.00
Ticket-Edge Scissors: $1.99
Colored Paper: $15.00
Shipping Labels: $2.00 (estimate because I purchased a giant package of printable shipping labels ages ago)
Stamps: $20.70 (About 1/3 of our invitations have been hand delivered)
Fonts: Free (from here)
Design and Labor: Time

Total: $57.69*

All that, and the invitations are exactly how I want them to look. It’s pretty brilliant.

*I did not include the cost of ink in my accounting, because we have a laser printer, and the toner it takes for a job like this is negligible. However, if you are doing a project that involves color, please do not disregard the cost of printer ink.

How to Plan Your Christmas Knitting*

Like most years, I am doing a little bit of Christmas knitting, though I am getting a late start on it because of the sickness I have been suffering from. I am doing much better, thank you for asking, just a bit of a cough left is all.

I meant to start my Christmas knitting just after Thanksgiving, but there is so much more to Christmas knitting than simply gathering yarn and needles. It takes planning–a careful handle on time management to get it all done and still sleep in the week leading up to the actual holiday. Here’s my guide to getting it all done right.

First, clean the house and rummage through closets to make space for the Christmas decorations and later for all of the Christmas presents that are going to come in. If you are like me you will likely find a set of needles or two that might come in handy for the actual knitting part–or yarn you forgot you had. How handy! Aren’t you glad you did that?

Then decorate the tree.

Try to be tastefully spare, if you can.

Next, it is imperative to try out a new Gingerbread Cookie recipe.

I find that Gingerbread Monsters go very well with a bit of Earl Grey–good way to cozy down to knitting a pair of mittens.

Then of course comes the most difficult part of Christmas Knitting: putting away all of the projects you really want to work on until you get through the stuff you have to do for everybody else.

Then get distracted and start a new project!

Finally, you are ready to cast on.

Make sure to do the most luscious project first. This one is 45% silk!

*Alternatively, The Procrastinator’s Guide to Christmas Knitting

How to Spin Thick n Thin Yarn

Lately, I have been spinning a lot of thick n thin yarn for commissions or just for fun. I thought it would be fun to share how I do it.

First, choosing a top is always rough. There are so many good colors and good dyers out there. Lucky for me, I found this little bundle of forgotten Corriedale Cross at the bottom of my spinning fiber bin.

The first thing I like to look for when spinning thick n thin is a top that’s been dyed to have short color repeats.

This isn’t exactly necessary, but I find it more aesthetically pleasing, plus it’s more fun for me to spin.

Then, like with any spinning project, I pull out a little tuft of fiber and measure the staple length.

About five inches. For this sort of project this is particularly important if you don’t want to be fighting while you draft out your thick parts.

Now, for this next step, some folks may call this cheating, but I just call it good sense. I separate the top into 1 ounce bumps and then split each bump lengthwise until I have a pile of skinny strings of roving.

Which I then roll into little nests for the sake of keeping neat and not having a pile of fiber fall into my lap every time I need to choose a new strand.

The point of doing this is to peel the fiber down to size you want the “thick” parts of your yarn to be. I find that a good rule for fitting the the orifice on my Lendrum is to keep things about as thick as a sharpie.

Another advantage to drafting this way: you get a lot of practice joining. By the time you spin 4 oz. of fiber, you’ll be a pro!

Wheel Settings: I turn my wheel to my slowest ratio and have my take up set fairly low. It’s important to get enough twist into the yarn while keeping the thick parts lofty. My best advice is to play around with your wheel to find the best settings for you.

Spinning Thin: When you start spinning, draft as you would normally, choosing a comfortable weight for your “thin” sections. (It’s important not to go too thin, otherwise it’s difficult to get enough twist into it.)

Spinning Thick: Remember your staple length? Jump your drafting hand back that many inches, leaving a thick section, and start drafting for “thin” again behind it. Then just keep going, drafting and jumping as often as you feel you need to. Don’t worry about making it even, because the whole point of this yarn is that it is uneven.

I definitely think this sort of thing works better on fibers with longer staple length, Corriedale, BFL for instance. I’m not saying it can’t be done with merino, I’m just saying you’ll have to work a little bit harder to get enough twist in so that it doesn’t fall apart when you take it off your bobbins. (Yes, this has happened to me.)

I am in love with this Corriedale Cross wool (Crossed with Lincoln I believe, which is also SO FUN to spin.)

I always let my bobbins set overnight before I skein this up. Since it’s a singles, it just makes me feel better about the strength and integrity of the yarn.

After your yarn is skeined and tied up so it won’t tangle set the yarn by soaking it in your favorite wool wash. I do agitate it just a little bit to slightly full the thick parts. Fulling lends some extra integrity to the thick parts, they are less likely to pill or break. After the yarn is done soaking, I also sometime thwack it again the (round) towel bar in my bathroom for a little bit of extra fulling. Then set out to dry and you’re done!

My favorite application for this kind of yarn is a funky cowl or beret.

How to “Tie Dye” Yarn with Food Coloring

I discovered a fun new way to apply color to yarn last weekend that I couldn’t wait to share.

Tools needed:
Liquid Food coloring in colors of choice. (I used the McCormick’s Neon)
Latex Gloves
Skein of yarn
Wast Yarn
Wool Wash / Soak
Plastic Wrap
Microwave Safe Dish

Step 1
Tie waste yarn in three to five places loosely around skein to avoid tangling soak in warm water with a glug of vinegar for at least 30 minutes

Step 2
Prep your dye space by placing a layer of newspaper to protect your work surface. Then a layer of plastic wrap large enough to accommodate your skein of yarn. (I used superwash merino/nylon sock yarn)
Gather your dye materials and gloves
After thirty minutes, wring out your yarn well (but carefully so it does not felt) and place on work surface.

Step 3
Wearing your gloves, drip food coloring onto yarn in quantity/color combination of your choice. I used all four colors, and quite a bit of food coloring.

Tip: flip yarn over and separate strands to ensure even coverage. Otherwise, you’ll have color on the outside of your skein and white on the inside.

Step 4 (the fun part)
Scrunch your yarn together. Remember, you’ve tied it well, so go crazy. Scrunch and punch. Toss it around like it’s a pizza crust. Knead it like it’s bread dough. The point is to spread and mix the colors.

Keep going until the color is spread pretty evenly

Step 5
Wrap in plastic wrap on the table and place in microwave safe dish*

Microwave for 2-5 minutes, depending on your microwave to set the dye. (Mine was perfect at three minutes).

*This method is only recommended with food safe dyes unless you have a microwave and dish completely dedicated to dyeing with professional grade acid dyes.

Step 6
Remove from microwave and allow to cool completely.
Rinse in your favorite wool wash and allow to dry.

Now you are ready to create away!

This skein is available now in the Tiny Dino Studios Etsy Shop if you just can’t wait!