Category Archives: Tutorial

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.

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.