2019 by the numbers

2019 was a year of a lot of knitting (and crocheting), but not a year of a lot of finishing. I came out of the year with nine projects completed: if not as fantastic as 2018, still more than twice the production of 2017 (the Year of Barely Knitting).

Starting with the big(ger) picture, here’s what I made:

You could argue that there isn’t enough difference between shawls and shawlettes to justify making them two different kinds of projects. It’s mainly a question of size. But if nothing else, the chart is more interesting with more categories in it.

So what colors were these nine projects?

PINK AND PURPLE FTW! And did this surprise any of you? Ha.

Next up: the crafts involved:

I keep saying I want to crochet more. I ended up crocheting less this year: that 11.1% represents one crochet project. But I did it!

And what kinds of yarn did these nine projects use?

Again, less variety this year. You’d think that all the projects I’m doing with fingering weight yarn would at least reduce my supply of the stuff, but I’m managing to bring it in faster than I can use it up (surprise, surprise).

Plans for 2020? I don’t have actual challenges this year like I do for reading, but it looks like staying at home is giving me more crafting time. (Hey, look: I finally wrote this blog post!) I’m trying to emphasize the calming, focusing aspects of knitting/crochet over sheer production, but I really enjoy the zing of finishing something, so there’ll be some internally-generated pressure to accomplish things. But if the point is to enjoy myself, then that’s not a bad thing within reason, I figure.

Dyeing II: Fun with acid dyes

Last month, I went to a knitting retreat. The knitting retreat, really, as I haven’t gone to any others and I attend this one faithfully. I took exactly one photo of me knitting and several photos of nature. Crosslake was probably at the peak of its fall color and I would’ve been out in nature a lot more except for the sleet/snow mix we had for much of the weekend.

This year, I participated in the dyeing class. It was taught by the owner of Lavender Lune Yarn Company, who lives sort of nearby. The cost of the class covered one skein of undyed yarn—your choice from a variety of different weights offered—and you could buy more if you wanted to. Not knowing if I’d enjoy yarn dyeing, I went with one skein: a standard hank of fingering weight yarn (465 yards (425 m), 75% merino and 25% nylon). If nothing else, I have umpteen potential patterns to use that with!

Tempting though it might sound, one does not just hurl plain yarn into a pot of dye and hope for the best. We started by soaking our skeins in water and citric acid. The acid sets the dye, which is why these dyes are called acid dyes. After it had a good chance to get thoroughly soaked, remove the yarn and put it in a pot with plain water to cover.

It’s hard to see in these photos, but the pot is on a burner. We heated the water to a simmer, and then started adding dye.

I hadn’t really given much thought ahead of time to what I wanted my dyed skein to look like. As the teacher talked and I looked over the jars of powdered dyes, I decided to go with a light indigo or lavender. I learned that because my yarn was a mixture of wool and nylon, it would be possible to speckle it. Dyes behave differently on different fibers, and I guess they diffuse too much on pure wool yarns to speckle them. So now I was aiming for a pastel blue-to-purple color with specks of dark purple and maybe some bright pink.

This did not quite come out as intended.

I started by putting a small amount of a dye called “Peri My Winkle” into the pot. I figured it’d dye the yarn periwinkle, which I think of as a blue-purple color. What I got was cobalt blue. And as I’d been unwittingly generous with how much dye I put in the pot, it was quite bold in spots. The end result was lovely—it’s just not what I had in mind.

Next, just to see what would happen, I “injected” the yarn with a dark lilac dye in places. You can tell from the drops on the spoon and in the syringe that this, at least, was the color I expected! Mix the dye with some water in a cup, draw it up in the syringe, and squirt it into the yarn without stirring it around.

This, at least, seemed more successful. So I went ahead and sprinkled some fuchsia dye in spots over the yarn, hoping to get the sprinkled effect. It sort of worked. I think I may have put more dye altogether into the pot than the yarn could absorb. Several rinses later, it’s still turning water pink.

Anyway, here’s the final result. Not what I imagined, but quite nice.

Do I want to dye more yarn? Yes. Although I’ll only be working with acid dyes in classes, either at future retreats or in other venues. These dyes are more hazardous to work with than Kool-Aid. You shouldn’t use them in pots that you put food in, it’s not healthy to inhale the powder, and I doubt I should be pouring the waste water down the drain. I don’t have a good working space in my apartment for dyes, nor do I have space to store dyeing equipment. And have I mentioned the large stash of yarn I have that’s already in pretty colors? But a class every now and then would be fun.

2018 by the numbers

After 2017’s disappointing total of four projects, I’m delighted to have found my knitting/crochet spark again. Thirteen projects completed in 2018! Knitting and crochet were a great stress reliever this year. I deal with words and language a lot: I’m a librarian, I love to read, I write blog posts and journal a lot. It’s good for me to do nonverbal things like tangle yarn into pretty patterns.

So here are the colors of the yarns I worked with this year:

Pie chart of colors in my knitting and crochet projects.

This chart tends to look pretty much the same year after year. I know my favorite colors, and that’s where I put my efforts. And every now and then, a surprise color pops up, like peach this year.

Pie chart. Knitting: 84.6%, crochet: 15.4%.

Obviously I knit more than I crochet. But I finished two crochet projects this year. Yay me!

Pie chart of yarn weight percentages in my 2018 projects.I’m pretty pleased about this. I didn’t get a project done in every yarn weight out there—no sport weight, no chunky, no jumbo—but I managed six of them. I like working in different yarns, but there are so many tantalizing patterns for fingering weight yarn and I know they’ll (usually) be good for near-instant gratification, so it takes an act of will to work projects in other weights. By the way, that’s my first lace weight project ever.

I’m doing my best not to put pressure on myself with weighty goals this year. I hope to do more than just fingering weight projects this year, but I’m not formally making that a goal with numbers and criteria. If I have a good reason to use some other color besides purple, pink, blue, or gray, that’ll be wonderful, but again, no pressure. Just me, the yarn, the needles and hooks, and enjoyment.

2017 by the numbers

This was not the year of goal fulfillment in any aspect of my life, and certainly not in my knitting and crochet. Fifteen projects in 2015, nine projects in 2016…and four projects in 2017. Technically five, I suppose, but one turned out so unsatisfactorily that I’m inclined to frog it. Well, this makes the pie charts simple, anyway.

So here are the colors of the projects I did this year:

Pie chart of projects by color.

Pink and purple: no surprise there. I’m a bit startled to see that blue-green not only got into the chart in the first place, but half the projects I did were in that color. Well, one was pretty much that blue-green, and the other was more like turquoise (bluer), but close enough for a pie chart.

Pie chart of projects by craft.

[sigh] That one project that I’m considering frogging was the year’s crochet project. Without it, the chart is a mite monotonous.

Pie chart of project yarn by weight.

In this, at least, I had some success. Last year, of those nine projects I completed, eight of them were in fingering weight yarn and one was in super bulky. This inspired me to try to work more projects in different weights of yarn. Ideally, I was going to finish one in every weight, and while that didn’t work out, I did at least get beyond The Very Heavy and The Pretty Light.

Of course I’d like to do more in 2018. More than four projects, anyway, even if they all end up in fingering weight. I’m trying my Diversity of Yarn challenge again because I enjoyed it, and it did put more variety into my knitting. As always, I have high hopes of doing more crochet.  And, well, we’ll see what happens.

Dyeing for the hesitant

I’ve been reluctant to learn to dye my own yarn. Many dyes are more toxic than I’m willing to deal with. Even if I managed not to poison myself, I wasn’t sure how to safely dispose of the waste. And while natural dyes may be safer, the colors haven’t appealed to me. Kool-Aid dyeing sounded like my best option if I was going to try this at all. Luckily for my crafting bucket list (no, not really—I don’t formally have one), the November meeting of the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild was a hands-on session on Kool-Aid dyeing. Years ago, I bought a hank of Knit Picks Color Your Own fingering weight yarn and still hadn’t used it, so this was a fine opportunity. The Guild set up tables so that we could either dye the yarn a solid color (my choice) or use pipettes to dribble different colors onto the yarn.

Undyed fingering weight yarn.
My yarn.

The major drawback to Kool-Aid dyeing is the limited color selection. Kool-Aid tries to imitate fruit, so there are several shades of pink/red/purple, but only one shade each of orange (orange), yellow (lemon), green (lime), and electric blue (“blue raspberry,” which is about as natural as it sounds). I thought the orange was the loveliest of the lot, but in the interests of dyeing the yarn a color I would actually wear, I decided on watermelon, which makes a coral pink. The recommended ratio was one packet of Kool-Aid for each ounce of yarn to get an intense color. For my 100 g (3½ ounces) hank, I went with three packets of watermelon and half a packet of blue raspberry, hoping that the hint of blue would cool the pink down, maybe even make it a bit purple.

Yarn, a large plastic bowl, and several packets of Kool-Aid.
All the supplies: yarn, bowl of water, Kool-Aid.

The major hitch was a shortage of microwave ovens. There was good attendance at this meeting, which is great for the Knitters’ Guild as a whole, but made for delays in the dyeing. I used one of the smallest ovens and discovered that my bowl wouldn’t fit inside. I had to try two more bowls before I found one that would work, and each time I moved to a smaller bowl, I lost dye bath in the process. Good thing I wanted pastel yarn. Then the oven was too weak to heat the water quickly. You have to get the dye bath hot enough that the yarn soaks up the dye, leaving the water more or less clear. I could see that my yarn was pink, but after six minutes in the oven, the water was also still pink (if less so) and hadn’t made it past tepid. Aargh! Meanwhile, the line behind me was growing. I decided to take my chances, and moved on to rinsing the yarn. If the difference in temperature between the yarn and the rinse water is too great, the yarn may felt. There’s this to be said for tepidity: I didn’t have to wait for my yarn to cool to rinsing temperature. Running water, a bit of dish detergent (no one was really sure what the detergent was for, except to reduce the smell of Kool-Aid), and the yarn was ready to be taken home and left to dry.

Yarn in pink dye bath before and after being microwaved; second photo shows pink yarn.
Pre- and post-microwave: the yarn has absorbed much of the dye, but you can still see some in the water. The milky cast to the water comes from the blue raspberry Kool-Aid; it was opaque white for people who used that color alone.

The end result is yarn that is a nice shade of salmon pink with a delicate fruit scent. It’s a warmer color than I was hoping for, but it’s not orange by any means. And now that I’ve been reminded that I own this yarn, I may even make something with it (!).

Pink yarn.

2016 by the numbers

I see from rereading 2015 by the numbers that “I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects.” Rest assured, I didn’t. I managed nine projects in 2016. No, nothing was wrong. I just found other things to do that weren’t knitting or crochet.

First up, the colors I used in projects last year. Not that there’s a theme here or anything.

Pie chart of dominant project colors.
One of these colors is not like the others…

Okay, now there’s a pie chart I could wear. That’s my everyday wardrobe (with one little exception). Oddly, gray, the color I used the most during 2015, is nowhere to be seen. I’m currently working on a gray sweater, though, so if I finish it this year, it’ll count.

Pie chart of project craft

Well, this certainly wasn’t the Year of Crafting Variety. That 11% represents one project. On the other hand, I did do one crochet project. But I definitely want to do more crochet in 2017.

Pie chart of project yarn by weight

No, not much diversity in my project yarn weight either. I enjoyed the projects I did (most of them anyway), but I’d have liked to have done more of them in something besides fingering weight yarn. And when I did do a project in something besides fingering weight, I went to the other end of the yarn weight spectrum altogether. No happy mediums in 2016!

My plans for crafting in 2017? Still up in the air. More crochet, different yarn weights, and maybe even more colors if that happens to work out. But above all, enjoyment, even if I end up doing a year of nothing except knitted projects in fingering weight yarn.

2015 by the numbers

Yes, I’ve decided this is going to be an annual feature of this blog. Whether or not anyone enjoys reading it, I enjoy putting it together.

The first number, of course, is how many projects I finished in 2015, which is fifteen, nicely enough. No, I’m not shooting for sixteen projects in 2016. That’s a slippery slope that will eventually lead to my being in my 80’s and trying to do fifty projects in a year. Let’s not go there.

I love color, so I track the dominant color in my projects. I don’t love too much math, though, so I count this by the number of projects I’ve done, not by how much knitting I’ve done in each color..


Admire the yellow while you can: I almost never do projects in it despite the fact it’s my favorite color. (It comes from the Little Lion project.) And purple made it in here this year: yay! But gray dominates again. When did I become someone who knits so much in gray?


I did much better than expected when it came to doing more crochet. One project last year, five projects this year. It’s not that I’m trying to make it an even split each year; I just want to do more crochet than I have been doing.



But then again, diversity of yarn weight went down. I knitted in laceweight and DK last year as well, and fingering wasn’t so dominant. Although it was knitting small fingering weight projects that let me finish fifteen projects this year.

And what’s coming up for 2016? I’ve got some unfinished projects in fingering weight yarn on the needles, and it would be nice to do another sweater, but other than that, I haven’t really planned anything. I’m letting myself not feel like I have to do another fifteen projects. If it happens, it happens, but there are other things I want to do this year as well! [gasp!]

Coloring with knitting and crochet

By popular demand, a quick and dirty guide to how to make a picture like the one I did for 2015 Knitting & Crochet Blog Week Day 3. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 13, but I suspect a lot of photo editing software could do this. What you need is the equivalent of the APE command Paste Into Selection.

1. I started by getting my black and white picture. I drew mine using Paper by 53 on my iPad, mostly because I don’t have a good setup for drawing on my desktop computer, but if you do, have at it. You could also scan a picture from a coloring book if it didn’t have a lot of detail.

drawing of a tree by a lake

2. Figure out what colors you’ll need for your picture. Now go through all your knitted and crocheted items and take close-up photos of the ones that are in those colors. (Don’t forget your UFOs.)

3. Get all these photos onto your computer and do any photo fixing you want to do before getting started on the main picture.

4. And now the fun begins. Open the drawing in your photo editing software and choose an area to color. Select that area. (I used APE’s Quick Selection Tool.)

5. Keeping that file open, open the photo of the color you want to use and select an area. Copy this selection.

6. Return to your drawing. Using the Paste Into Selection command, paste your copied selection into the area you’re coloring. In APE, you can use the Move Tool to move your copied selection around, which lets you put the prettiest bits where we can see them. You may realize at this point that your copied selection is too zoomed in or zoomed out for the effect you want. If that’s the case, cancel out and go back to your color photo to tweak it and make a different selection. Or, if necessary, take another picture of your project.

7. When you’re satisfied, deselect this area, which fixes your color in place.

8. Choosing another area, repeat steps 4-7.

9. When the whole picture is the way you want it, save it and do whatever you were planning to do with it.



2014 by the numbers

I had fun analyzing my crafts last year, so I decided to inflict more craft data on you again this year. I finished nine projects in 2014. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but hey, Viajante took time. Lots of time.

First, the dominant color in my projects, by number of projects. I did three small- to medium-sized projects in gray, and Viajante, despite its size, was only one project, which is why it looks like I knit more in gray than pink (not so!). But I’m not obsessed enough to start counting how many yards of yarn in each color I used, so this is as good as it gets.

Pie chart of dominant colors in projects.

I’m surprised brown made a return appearance, but I did knit a brown cowl for someone. (All my brown projects are for other people.) But how did I manage to avoid doing any purple projects this year? Even the two projects I frogged were pink.


Only one crochet project in 2014. Well, maybe I can do two in 2015. We’ll overlook the fact that there aren’t even very many crochet projects in my Ravelry queue.

But surely there was more data I could analyze—only two charts seemed a bit too succinct. Hey, I could look at yarn weight!


That was a bit eye-opening. I feel like I knit almost exclusively with fingering weight yarn nowadays, but there’s a fair variety of weights in that chart. Okay, the lace weight yarn was held doubled and treated like fingering weight, but it was lace weight.

On to 2015!

Playing with wire

There are too many crafts out there to keep up with (not a complaint!). Last week, E. told Suncat and I about a community ed class on Viking weave that she was planning on taking, and invited us to join her. The class was called, enticingly, “Viking Weave: Knitting with Wire.” Weaving or knitting, I’d never heard of it, and although Suncat couldn’t make it, I decided to give it a try. It was just a one-shot class, which promised to be an interesting way to spend an otherwise mundane Thursday evening. Suncat found a video on YouTube and sent it our way, so we did go into the class with a vague idea of what we might be bringing out of it.

Viking weave in process
The weaving.

The instructor had provided all the supplies and equipment, saving us from having to go out and buy stuff without knowing what we were doing. This looks like a craft you could get into without a huge initial financial investment, especially if you already do beading. The class description had stated that silver, copper, nickel, and bronze wire would be available, but I hadn’t realized there would be all sorts of pretty colors to choose from. E. and I independently decided we liked the same color: rose gold. (Although the deep green was really tempting—perhaps a future project, if I can find it on my own.)

Generally, the class went well. The major problem was that while the weaving is easy to get the hang of once you see it done, the teacher didn’t have any way of showing the class as a group how to do it. She had to walk around showing each student how to get started, and later on, how to finish it off, how to attach the findings, and so on. Although that gave me plenty of time to slip over to an empty table and take a picture of the work in process without disrupting the class.

Viking weave bracelet
The finished bracelet.

And yes, the weaving itself really is easy to learn. You use a bit of scrap wire to form a daisy of five loops that you stick on the end of the dowel. You then take a length of your wire and make what is in essence a twisted stockinette stitch cylinder. Like embroidering with a needle and thread, you poke the end of the wire through a loop, go to the next loop, make a little loop in that loop with your wire, and around. For the next round, you pass the wire behind the little “x” at the bottom of the previous round’s loop, loop it around, and move on to the next “stitch.” When your work is long enough, you remove it from the dowel and pull it through a succession of increasingly smaller holes in a draw plate. This evens your work out and compresses it. My bracelet started out at 13 mm and ended up at 5 mm in diameter.

The instructor had samples for three kinds of weaves we could do. I chose the single weave—what I just described—because it looked like it would make the thinnest, most delicate-looking bracelet of the three. E. went for a double weave, where instead of weaving your wire through the round you’ve just completed, you weave it through the second round up. Other students went for the triple weave, using the third round up. These variations make the piece progressively thicker and denser, but they also consume wire faster. I had enough to make a bracelet, with even a bit of weaving left over, but other people, including E., had to either add more wire or decide to make something else with their piece.

I like Viking weave enough to want to try it again sometime. (E. was also enthusiastic about it.) I just don’t know how many wire bracelets I need, even if they’re in different colors, and I don’t think I’d be likely to wear necklaces made this way. But maybe learning more about it will give me more ideas of what to do with it.