Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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!]


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!


Just in time for Valentine’s Day

I went to Dream in Color’s website to see their photo of a particular color of Smooshy, which is how I learned that they’ve got some new colorways. I clicked on the pictures to get a closer look—and began to see a theme in the names:

  • Rose Anguish
  • Humdrum
  • Naked Shame
  • Apathy
  • Vague Unease
  • Bitter Malaise
  • Forget Me
  • Milky Spite
  • Icy Reception
  • Mild Tedium
  • Blue Sulk
  • Callous Pink
  • Damp Pillow
  • Deep Regret

Much as I would love to tell people that I was making something in Apathy, Vague Unease, or Bitter Malaise, I never wear those colors (if I had to assign apathy a color, it would be some utterly meh shade of gray, but this yarn is gold; the other two are yellow-greens). But saying my new project is in a color called Forget Me, Icy Reception, Blue Sulk, or Callous Pink would be fun too. Something to look forward to for a future order!


2013 by the numbers

I’m having way too much fun with pie charts.


It’s a bit misleading. I’m not that fond of brown, but a set of six brown dishcloths pushed the total ahead of larger but fewer projects in other colors.


More crochet than I thought I would manage this year. Again, credit those dishcloths!


2013 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week—Day 5: Something a Bit Different

Day Five (Friday April 26th): Something A Bit Different
It’s the annual challenge to blog in a way different to how you normally blog. You may choose to create a podcast, or vlog, create a wordless post or write in verse. You’ve already stretched your wings with an infographic, now it’s time to freestyle. You can post on any topic you like, but be sure to post in a style different from your usual blog presentation. There’s not too much guidance for this one simply because the more varied the posts are on this day, the wider the sources of information for other bloggers will be. Bonus points if you manage to work your house animal in somehow.

Today’s prompt has confirmed what I already knew: I create best with structure. Given a prompt that says basically, “do anything except what you normally do,” my mind filled with silence. So since I was staring at my stash anyway, writing about its colors, I give you another infographic. I figure, having only done one other infographic, this is hardly my normal blogging style. Plus, I get more use out of all that color analysis!

Infographic of stash colors.

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2013 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week—Day 4: Colour Review

Day Four (Thursday April 25th): Colour Review
What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects. Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.

Only after writing this part of your post should you then actually look to see what colours you have used in your projects. Make a quick tally of what colours you have used in your projects over the past year and compare it to the colours you have written about. Compare this, in turn, to the colours that are most dominant in your yarn stash – do they correlate?

Now think back to your house animal – do the colours you have chosen relate to your animal in anyway – if you are in the house of peacock, for example, are your projects often multicoloured and bright?

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 4 banner

This prompt comes at a bad time for doing it exactly as written. Over the past month or so, I’ve been reorganizing my stash, which means I’ve had a fresh look at much of it lately. In addition, having just finished a project two days ago—which will get blogged about once I’ve gotten past Knitting and Crochet Blog Week—I’m deciding on my next portable project. (The Wedge Pullover is #1 in my queue, but between writing for KCBW, a work conference tomorrow, and Yarnover this weekend, there’s no way I’ll even be doing its math until May. Meanwhile, I need something to take to that conference and to Yarnover.)

But I can certainly talk about my favorite colors for knitting and crocheting. Almost everything I make, I make for myself. Almost everything I make for myself is clothing or accessories. Which means that even though I like lots and lots and lots of colors, I try to work with the ones I think I look best wearing: the cool, muted pastels. When I’m standing in a yarn store or flipping through a catalog, I hope that any yarn I might like comes in pink, blue, lavender, and/or green. I’ll vary at times, usually towards a darker, brighter shade of the Four, but I’ve been reminded over and over again that no matter how lovely the warm colors are, I can only handle them as accents. I’m getting better with neutrals, too. I’ve rarely tackled anything besides off-white, and I’ll probably never want to wear a pure white or pure black sweater, but I’m starting to see grays as attractive colors. This must be some sign of maturity, right? (If I’m not wearing the item, the color restrictions are off. Bring on the golden yellow, the orange, the bright red! Or more pink, purple, blue, and green, for that matter. Although maybe not the two sets together.)

So what colors were my 2012-2013 projects?

  • Pink/aqua/yellow.
  • Shades of purple.
  • Blue/purple/gray.
  • Mottled light blue and green.
  • Pink/lavender/gray.
  • Periwinkle.
  • Navy/purple/green.
  • Orange and olive (a gift for an orange-and-olive-wearing friend).
  • Indigo.
  • Magenta and gray.
  • Royal blue splashed with purple (a gift for another friend).
  • Lavender splashed with warm pink and muted gold.

Yes, with exceptions for gifts, I’ve been good about sticking to my preferences. As for the stash, there’s slightly more variety there, but not much. Some yellow yarns are there, leftover from blankets or destined as accents. There’s more gray yarn there than in my projects, since I’ve only just started acquiring it in any quantity. Ask me this question again in a year or two, and there might be more gray projects and less gray stash. (Or not. Might be more gray projects and more gray stash.)

And to answer the final question, does any of this relate to my house mascot, the Monkey? Not unless there’s a species of green or purple monkey I was unaware of. Brown is one of the colors least represented in my stash. It can be lovely—we’re talking the color of chocolate here, after all—but I’ve never cared much for what I look like wearing it. Perhaps there’s a color that symbolically represents monkeys rather than literally, but I can’t say as I’m thinking of one.


Colour lovers

It’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week again. This year, I know about it from the get-go. Whether or not I manage to come up with 7 posts is another matter entirely, but that is my goal this week. I have one, anyway! Assorted thoughts on color follow.

Day One: 23 April. Colour Lovers

Colour is one of our greatest expressions of ourselves when we choose to knit or crochet, so how do you choose what colours you buy and crochet or knit with? Have a look through your stash and see if there is a predominance of one colour. Do the same with your finished projects – do they match? Do you love a rainbow of bright hues, or more subdued tones? How much attention do you pay to the original colour that a garment is knit in when you see a pattern? Tell readers about your love or confusion over colour.

I usually knit/crochet sweaters for myself,  so I choose the colors I wear the most often. Those colors are what I’ve decided I look best in. In what I suspect is a combination of natural inclination and training, there’s a great deal of overlap between those colors and the colors I love. The overlap isn’t perfect: my favorite color of all is egg yolk yellow, which makes me look unnervingly ill even as it boosts my spirits. Luckily for my sense of fashion, Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful became a bestseller just I was going through my impressionable teenage years. As everyone got into analyzing their seasons, I decided that I was a Summer, a type that generally does best in cool, muted pastels. Hello pink, lavender, light blue, and cool green, goodbye yellow (now relegated to my coats and occasional housewares). It does make putting outfits together easier. When almost everything in your wardrobe falls in a relatively limited range of colors, it’s almost a challenge to make a combination that clashes.

More than once, I’ve heard the criticism that the seasonal color palettes, or any other system that claims that some colors work for you and some don’t, limit your choices. Why wear black and avoid orange just because someone who’s never seen you says that you should? Well, these writers only have as much authority as I grant them. I think of their books as suggestions that I’m free to take or reject as I choose. Like advisers, the writers have given me ideas, but in the end, it’s my decision as to what colors I spend my money on.

Every now and then I wonder if pink would be my favorite color to wear if I hadn’t read Color Me Beautiful. Do we decide on our favorite colors and then find them in the world around us, or are we exposed to certain colors so much that we decide they’re our favorites? My childhood bedroom was painted yellow, and it’s really hard to shake the suspicion that that had a lot to do with my choosing a color that comparatively few people have as a favorite.

While I only wear certain colors, there aren’t all that many colors I hate. Having read a number of color books over the years, I’ve learned that what I love about any color is its saturation, the technical term for the intensity or vividness of a color. I love pastels, I love brights, I have even gained a healthy respect over the years for the neutrals—hey, there are actual skeins of gray yarn in my stash (really!). But when the colors start getting grayed out and losing their oomph, I lose interest in them. An honest gray is a good and wonderful thing; a blue which has had so much gray added to it that it might as well be called gray leaves me cold. In the meantime, the ability to love many colors is an advantage. The times I’ve had the opportunity to knit/crochet for others, in colors that I normally don’t wear, have been times that invigorated my knitting and crocheting.

What’s your favorite color(s)? Do you have a reason why, or is it just something you’ve always liked, no questions asked? Do you wear it or prefer to admire it from afar?

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Color(ing) books

This hasn’t been the greatest week for me crafting-wise. I took my new ridged shrug project off to a crafting day with friends and at the end of the afternoon, I’d added 6 inches to the project, but lost 5 stitches somewhere along the line. At a gauge of 2 sc = 1 inch, the shrinkage was noticeable. Rip, rip, rip.

The very next day, I finally realized what was bothering me about the scarf I was knitting. I’d managed to start the first half with the wrong end of the yarn, knitting the colors in the reverse order of what they had to be to make the pattern come out right. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure this out until I’d knitted 8 inches or so. Rip, rip, rip, RIP.

So instead of going into greater and gorier detail about the recent set-backs in my crafting, I’m going to write about color knitting books instead. I love books on color and color theory, and I’ve read a couple of them recently, so the topic is on my mind. Really, given how little I actually use the things, I don’t need a lot of them. They pretty much all cover the same territory: little swatches of color that start out simple and end up in complicated combinations. At this point, I have a small collection of them, mostly “wishful thinking” books. I barely work with computer graphics, printing, painting, and so on, but I have several books aimed at that audience, where the swatches have RGB and CMYK values listed. I haven’t found them to be much use for knitting or crochet, but they’re great for admiring—just pick one, open it, and gaze at all the pretty little color swatches. [sighs happily]

Color Works: The Crafter's Guide to Color by Deb Menz

Well, if one of something is a sample, two is a set, and three is a collection, then I’ve finally got a collection (a sub-collection, anyway) of color books that are meant for knitters. Color Works: The Crafter’s Guide to Color goes into color theory just as deeply as my other books do, but Deb Menz’s examples are all from 9 crafts: spinning, knitting, weaving, hand embroidery, bead embroidery, surface design, machine embroidery, pieced quilting, and paper collage. There really is a difference between looking at flat spots of ink on paper and looking at photos of knitted swatches, beaded swatches, woven swatches, and so on. And unlike the other two color/knitting books, Color Works comes with a set of tear-out color tools that you can use to help you choose colors for your projects, as well as a pocket on the back cover to store them in. I appreciate the thought, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to tear them out—it feels too much like vandalizing the book! Menz also includes a chapter in which she talks about designing projects for each of the 9 crafts. Still, she only gives each craft one page of pictures and one page of explanation, and even with knitting, I didn’t find that enough to be helpful. If you want to read about color theory, definitely consider this book, but if you want to focus on knitting, you may want to consider one of the other books as well or instead of Color Works.

The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques by Margaret Radcliffe

You can guess the focus of The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques from its title. No modern book on color can get by with minimal examples, but even so, I think that Margaret Radcliffe’s book has wonderfully lush photography. She says at the beginning that this “is not a color theory book,” but she covers the basics of hue, value, and saturation in her first chapter. And that’s the end of that: after that, it’s all about how various knitting techniques affect and are affected by the colors you use. There are chapters on stripes, pattern stitches, stranded knitting, intarsia, and other techniques. There’s also a chapter on multicolor yarns, which isn’t really a technique, but I’ll happily forgive her, since I could use some practical suggestions on how to bring out the best in those yarns. Oh, and there are also chapters on finishing touches (cast-ons, bind-offs, embellishments) and designing, and a large appendix to refresh your memory on basic knitting techniques. And a bibliography if you want to read more about what she’s discussed. And did I mention that there are lots of clear, rich, photos?

Exploring Color in Knitting: Techniques, Swatches, and Projects to Expand Your Knitting Horizons by Sarah Hazell & Emma King

Last year, another book on knitting and color was published: Exploring Color in Knitting: Techniques, Swatches, and Projects to Expand Your Knitting Horizons by Sarah Hazell and Emma King. Of course, I picked it up. Sure, it might have duplicated Color Works or The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, but I was willing to take the risk (more pretty pictures!). And as it turned out that there isn’t much overlap between them after all. Exploring Color in Knitting is another book that focuses on color theory, so yes, that’s like Color Works. But color theory explained solely in terms of knitting is a different beastie altogether from color theory explained in general terms that apply to several different crafts. But even if the two books were exactly the same in that regard, I would still treasure Exploring Color in Knitting for the practical tips that the authors included, especially how to re-color a Fair Isle design. I’ve seen several Fair Isle sweaters with lovely patterns worked in colors that were also lovely, but would make me look, well, not-so-lovely. I can find a use for this guide!

So the results? I think The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques and Exploring Color in Knitting both belong on the knitter’s bookshelf, as they complement each other. Color Works is a nice book to have around if you have the space, but its contents are mostly covered by Exploring Color in Knitting. However, if you do any of the other crafts in Color Works, you’re likely to find it more useful.