All posts by Rachel Brockman

Day 5 of Winter

Today we’re introducing the Nutmeg Hat and Mitten Set. The neutral set is incredibly wearable for men and women alike. Personally, I love working with undyed wool. It is rustic in appearance and goes with nearly anything. While I’m a lover of color, I equally adore the natural shades of wool. You can see more of our Deluxe Worsted Naturals collection here.

This set features all over cables and a contrasting cuff. I wanted to give this set a professional finish, so I used the long-tail tubular cast-on method.

I can easily recall a time when I felt intimidated by the Tubular cast-on method. Like many things in knitting (and in life), we often perceive new things to be more challenging than they really are. This cast-on method is one of those things. If you look at the Nutmeg set, you’ll notice that the 1×1 Ribbing seems to run seamlessly from the right side to the wrong side. Notice the lack of a cast-on edge in the photo below. You can’t tell where it was cast-on. That is the beauty of a tubular cast-on.

It takes more time than most other methods and it feels a bit fiddly at first, but it’s well worth it. It’s by far my favorite method when I’m using 1×1 Rib.

If you’d like a closer look at each photo, simply click it.

To begin, place your yarn over the needle, leave a long tail as you would with a traditional long-tail cast on. You can use a slip knot, however; I do not so that the cast-on stitches are as invisible as possible.
Hold your yarn in place with your index finger.

Separate your tail and working yarn with your thumb and your index finger. You’ll do the same way you would for a regular long-tail cast-on.
Notice that I’m tensioning my yarn the same way that I would for a regular long-tail cast on.
Working from front to back, bring your needle under the yarn around your thumb.
Bring the needle up through the center.
Working from front to back, bring the needle over the yarn around your index finger and dip underneath it, then underneath the yarn around your thumb.
Correct the tension in your yarn. You now have two stitches. Notice how there is not a bump across that stitch? This will be a knit stitch.

The motion for a purl stitch mirrors the knit stitch.

Working from front to back, bring the needle over the yarn around your index finger, dipping below it and bringing the needle back through the center.
Working from back to front, bring the needle over the yarn around your thumb, dipping below it and then below the yarn around your index finger.
Correct your tension. Notice that this stitch has a purl bump. This is a purl stitch.

Continue in this manner, alternating between knit and purl stitches until you have the required number of stitches.

Notice the difference between the knit stitches and the purl stitches.

Once you have the correct number of stitches, carefully turn your work. I highly recommend using your index finger to hold the last stitch you cast on in place. Now you’ll begin working the first foundation row.

Once you’ve turned your work, grab your working yarn and slip the first stitch purlwise with your yarn in front.
Bring your yarn to the back.
Knit the next stitch through the back loop. This will untwist the knit stitch.

Continue to slip the purl stitches with your yarn in front and knit the knit stitches through the back loop to the end of your work. Turn your work. Now you’ll begin the second foundation row.

Just as in the previous row, slip the purl stitches purlwise with yarn in front.
Knit the knit stitches normally–there is no need to knit them through the back loop because these stitches should no longer be twisted.

Repeat the last two steps to the end of the row

On the next row, simply work in K1, P1 ribbing by purling the purl stitches and knitting the knit stitches.

This is what your finished cast on should look like.

Once you’ve finished casting on, you can join your work in the round (as would be the case for the Nutmeg Hat and Mitten Set). There will be a small space you’ll want to seam. Typically I do this just before weaving my tail into the project.

This method works for projects that are knit flat or in the round. It gives your projects such a neat finish. It’s also much more stretchy than a traditional long tail cast-on.

You can find the link to the Nutmeg Hat and Mitten set here.

Day 1 of Winter

Over the next 12 days, we’re releasing a series of kits designed by the Universal Yarn Design Team. It’s a cozy, wintry collection of accessories that make perfect gifts–for yourself and your loved ones. To accompany the kits, we’d like to share a blog post each day. This series will highlight special aspects of each pattern and include inspiration, tips, tricks, and a few tutorials. For Day 1, we’re introducing the Blue Spruce Socks.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved evergreens and conifers. I’m not sure if it’s because of their fragrant needles and bark, or if it’s because their beautiful colors brought me joy during long and endlessly grey winters. Whatever the reason—I’ve always been drawn to them, so it’s no surprise that I designed the Blue Spruce Socks for our 12 Days of Winter collection.

These socks are warm, cozy, and a joy to knit. If you aren’t a fan of stranded colorwork, don’t fret! The Blue Spruce motif is achieved through slipped stitches. One color is carried at a time and only the stitches requiring the working yarn are knit—the rest are simply slipped purlwise. It requires twice as many rows, but the overall effect is very similar to the appearance of stranded knitting.

In addition to colorwork, the small details make this project ever so special. It features a 1×1 Twisted Rib cuff and an Eye of Partridge heel. My favorite detail is the slip-stitch stripe just before the contrasting-color toes.

You can find this kit, Day 1 of our 12 Days of Winter collection here.

 

 

Spice Box Color Kit: The Stratification Shawl

One of the yarns I’ve fallen most in love with since joining the Universal Yarn design team is Fibra Natura Dona. This yarn is simply gorgeous. It is soft, plump, and has excellent stitch definition. We have a variety of great kits that use Dona, but I was excited when Amy asked me to contribute to our Color Kit lineup. My design is the Stratification Shawl.

I love the Spice Box palette. These are, without a doubt, my kind of colors. I love warm colors and earth tones. I spend much of my free time outdoors and draw inspiration from the colors and textures of landscapes. I already knew that I wanted to incorporate stripes into the design, so I revisited some photos for further inspiration.

The Spice Box palette made me reminisce about a trip I made to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. During my trip, I was mesmerized by the beauty in the strata, or rock layers, in the landscape. Similarly, I loved the way flora sprinkled pops of color into neutral desert landscapes. I’ve included some of the photos that inspired me to include the bold green and coral stripes into the shawl.

This shawl is a pretty straightforward project. It features top-down construction and increases occur along the sides to create a crescent shape. An alternating sequence of simple stripes is elevated with a knit-purl stitch pattern. Dona shows off the stitch pattern perfectly. Finally, the shawl is finished with an I-Cord bind off. It is an excellent project for both beginning and more advanced knitters. I sincerely hope you enjoy this pattern as much as I enjoyed designing it!

 

Natural Dye Series: Part II

Happy Halloween! Nothing will make you feel as though you’re creating a witches’ brew like dyeing with lichen. It’s a unique way to get into the holiday spirit.

In the second installment of the Natural Dye series, I’m going to show you how to use lichens as a natural dye. If you thought the marigold dye from Part I was fun, you will love this installment. Remember the foamy, magenta liquid in the jar from Part I? That’s the lichen dye.

This dye takes about a month to prepare, but it is well worth the wait. Something about it is magical because you’d never expect such a vibrant color to come from a leathery, grey-brown lichen.

For today’s tutorial you’ll need:

  • A glass jar – canning jars or recycled sauce jars are perfect
  • Measuring cups
  • Ammonia
  • Water
  • A handful of umbilicaria pepulosa (pictured below) – this type of lichen is abundant on boulders, and there are several variations. For results closest to mine, try to find this lichen. You may achieve different results with another variation, but that is part of the fun of natural dyeing!

Before you get started, I want to include a note on ethics and lichen dyes. Unlike our marigold tutorial, in which I grew and harvested my own plants, lichen dyeing requires you to search public and/or forested land. Be considerate and mindful of your impact on the land and how you may be disturbing the ecosystem. Do not collect more than you’ll need – a little goes a long way. Avoid scraping lichen from stones as much as possible as lichen is slow-growing and may not regenerate. I went out on a windy day over the weekend and found more than enough on the ground surrounding the boulders.

Once you have your lichen, you’re ready to go. To achieve a magenta dye from umbilicaria, an ammonia extraction is required. After you’ve collected your lichen, place your handful into a jar.

Next, create a 50/50 solution of water and ammonia. I’ve measured out 1 cup each. Pour the solution over the lichen, leaving about an inch of air at the top of the jar. You should notice the solution briefly change to a brilliant shade of red or purple that will fade to brown.

Close the lid tightly and shake to your heart’s content. Give the jar a few shakes each day for about three weeks. Once a week, take the jar outside and carefully remove the lid and swirl the contents of the jar to allow oxygenation. Repeat the process over the next few weeks until the liquid is purple or magenta. This process can take more than three weeks. Do not rush it– it is a practice in patience. I’ve dyed this way many times and have found that I can achieve a gorgeous dye after about a month.

Since I already have another jar of concentration ready to go, I’m going to dive into dyeing.

For this part of the tutorial you’ll need:

  • 1 skein of Universal Yarn Ready to Dye Superwash Merino Worsted Weight yarn.
  • Jar of concentrated dye
  • One stainless-steel pot that you don’t plan to use for cooking – I purchased mine for a few dollars at a thrift store.
  • Tongs – they don’t need to be stainless steel but choose some that you won’t use for cooking.
  • Measuring cups
  • Water

In Part I, you used a mordant to help fix the marigold dye to the fiber. That step isn’t necessary for this lichen. In fact, it can actually dull the color.

Fill a stainless-steel pot with 4-5 cups of water and place your yarn inside. Set aside for approximately 30 minutes.

Pour off approximately 1 cup of the concentration into the pot. Gently stir and turn the yarn to incorporate the dye into the water. I suggest you open your windows for ventilation as you’ll be warming an ammonia solution over the stove-top.

Bring water to just under a simmer. If you have a thermometer it should be about 190 F. Allow the yarn to soak in the dyebath for approximately one hour, occasionally turning the yarn gently with your tongs. Notice how brilliantly saturated the color becomes.

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Remove from the heat and allow the yarn to cool in the dyebath overnight.

Remove the yarn from the dyebath and thoroughly rinse. I do recommend a gentle detergent or wool wash as the ammonia can be quite pungent. Hang and allow to dry completely. Then, pat yourself on the back for your patience. I told you it was worth the wait!

I’m working on a pattern that uses the yarn from Parts I and II of the Natural Dye series. In the future, I’ll show you how to use natural dyes on some of our other Ready to Dye yarns.

Natural Dye Series: Part I

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of warm colors—the trees are changing, goldenrods are abloom, and my marigolds continue to flourish. All of these things—leaves included, are wonderful resources if you’re interested in dyeing yarns naturally.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post some tutorials on naturally dyeing yarn, all using our Ready to Dye Collection. First, we’ll use marigolds to make a gorgeous golden dye. Then, we’ll dive into an especially exciting dye: umbilicaria lichen. Finally, we’ll work on a project that incorporates the colors of both yarns. I hope you enjoy this series!

For this collection, I’ve chosen our Superwash Merino Worsted Weight yarn. It’s plump, soft, and perfect for a satisfying quick knit. After dyeing your yarn, I promise you’ll want to knit it up immediately.

For today’s tutorial you’ll need:

  • 1 skein of Universal Yarn Ready to Dye Superwash Merino Worsted Weight
  • Approximately 100 g of marigolds
  • Alum – you can find this in the baking/spices section of your grocery store.
  • Two stainless-steel pots that you don’t plan to use for cooking – I purchased mine for a few dollars at a thrift store.
  • Tongs – they don’t need to be stainless steel, but choose some that you won’t use for cooking.
  • A kitchen scale – I can’t recommend this one enough. Although it isn’t essential, if you’re a knitter, you should have one! It’s useful for much more than dyeing.
  • Measuring cups/tablespoon
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Salt
  • Water

The first thing you’ll want to do is create your mordant. Mordant is what fixes the dye to the fiber.

  1. Dissolve 1 Tbsp of alum into ¼ cup of hot water.
  2. Fill a stainless-steel pot or bowl with enough water to cover your yarn so that it can move freely.
  3. Pour your mordant into the water.
  4. Add your yarn and soak for about an hour.

While your yarn is soaking, you can prepare the dyebath.

  1. Fill your stainless-steel pot with enough water to allow your yarn to flow freely.
  2. Dissolve 1 tbsp of salt into the water.
  3. Pour ½ cup of vinegar into the water – salt and vinegar help to brighten the dye.
  4. Add your marigolds and use the tongs to stir the pot.
  5. Bring to a simmer over your stovetop. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. Lower the temperature so that the water is just under a simmer. If you have a thermometer it should be about 190 degrees F. I’m a bit irresponsible, and I usually eyeball this part. I haven’t had any issues yet, but use a thermometer if you’re worried.

Remove your yarn from the mordant bath. Gently squeeze (do not wring) the excess mordant from the yarn (you can place the remaining mordant into a jar to save it for another dye project if you’d like). Carefully place your yarn into the dyebath.

Continue to soak the yarn in the dyebath over low heat (maintaining a temperature just under a simmer) for approximately an hour. Gently turn the yarn with your tongs occasionally. After an hour, remove the pot from the heat. Set aside to cool. I usually leave my yarn in the dyebath overnight.

Remove your yarn from the dyebath and thoroughly rinse. You can use a wool wash or gentle detergent if you wish. You’ll need to gently shake out bits of flowers and plant matter.

Hang and allow to dry completely.

Finally, admire your results!