Introducing the Gimli

It's been percolating all summer, finally it's here! Our work with Echoview Fiber Mill on their Nubby Silk line of DK weight yarn inspired this hat and mitt set. Worked with a Latvian braid detail, the set is satisfying to wearer and knitter alike.

Echoview is producing a kit in several Nubby Silk colors to be carried at their Weaverville mill location, the Biltmore in Asheville, the Omni Grove Park Inn and other select locations. We can help you with a custom option here at the shop!

Check out the Gimli Slouch & Mitts on Ravelry!

We're putting together some tutorials for you on a few topics, including the Latvian braid featured in the Gimli, so keep an eye on this space.

Kool-aid Dyeing: Punch Drunk Color

My other summer project was to dye with Kool-Aid. I first read about it over at Knitty and I knew I had to try it myself. Turns out it's super easy! I only tried to work with one skein at a time, but I'm sure the process can be scaled up with some testing.

1 skein animal-fiber yarn, weight 2oz
2 packets Tropical Punch flavored Kool-Aid
lidded, microwaveable casserole dish
fork/spoon for poking and stirring

Kristi Porter says to use about 1 packet of Kool-Aid per ounce of yarn, which I did. She also says that superwash yarn picks up color even more vibrantly, although my skein of Baatany DK looks pretty darn vibrant to me.

Newly-dyed Baatany DK, Tropical Punch Kool-Aid, and a natural skein for comparison.

Newly-dyed Baatany DK, Tropical Punch Kool-Aid, and a natural skein for comparison.

My process:
For uniform, kettle-dyed look, untwist skein and loosen ties. For monochromatic, variegated look, untwist, loosen ties, and gently re-twist. Rinse yarn thoroughly in lukewarm water.

Mix desired number of Kool-Aid packets into half-full casserole dish. The ratio of water to dye does not matter. The ratio of dye to yarn is all that matters. This may not make sense to you until you have dyed a skein, so just go with it. You'll want enough water to mostly dissolve the drink mix and cover the yarn.

Poke yarn into water with fork or spoon. It will want to stick out, and it will stick out a little, but make sure there aren't any super tall bits.

Cover and microwave in 2-minute intervals until the water starts to clear. As the dye soaks into the yarn, the water will look less and less like a ghastly Halloween display and more like a bowl of clouds and yarn, then finally it will clear completely and appear to be a bright skein of yarn in a bowl of water. After about 6 minutes of microwaving on whatever setting you use for normal heating, while the water is still cloudy, you should be able to just let the whole thing rest while the dye continues to soak into the yarn. This could take as little as half an hour but it's not going to hurt anything to leave it as long as overnight, if you need to set it aside.

When the water is clear or the yarn has achieved the level of color you want, rinse the yarn in lukewarm water. It will smell like Kool-Aid! But it won't be sticky because the mix is unsweetened. It will be colorfast! Although you'll want to treat it and the garments you make from it like your other hand knits.

I draped my skein over the porch railing to dry, and then brought it inside. I still haven't decided what to make, it's just so pretty the way it is.

What I Felt

So everyone here went a little crazy for felting this summer. We had the Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket, we saw several Noni designs, notably including a lovely Bedouin, and then the independent projects began. I wanted to get a better feeling for how felting changes knitted fabric, so I made a simple rectangular sack. I use it inside my gigantic tote for my tablet and its accessories, but with a closure and handle it'd be a great little purse on its own, I think. Anyway, I documented the process and thought I'd share it with you in four steps.

1. Fulling, not felting.
Technically, what all us knitters are doing is not actually felting. Felting describes the process at the level of individual fibers, yes, but refers specifically to the making of felt from unspun wool batts. Wool that has been spun and knitted , crocheted, woven or otherwise and then doused in hot, soapy water is fulled.

2. Love's labors lost (about 20-30%).
So I cast on 64 stitches on size 11 circular needles with some Cascade 220 held double. I worked approximately 70 rows in garter stitch, then cast off and closed the bottom at the same time with a 3-needle bind-off. It measured nearly 15 inches from top to bottom and about 12 across. Here's how it looked:

Outside. Maybe if your eyes are keen you can already see the trouble brewing here. That's the tablet that will eventually be stored in the sack!

Outside. Maybe if your eyes are keen you can already see the trouble brewing here. That's the tablet that will eventually be stored in the sack!

Inside. I just tied off and left the ends out instead of weaving in.

Inside. I just tied off and left the ends out instead of weaving in.

(If I do more of these, I will almost certainly work flat and just sew a seam or 3-needle all the way around. Maybe you like doing garter stitch in the round, but I am not a fan.)

3. Fulling of surprises.
I knew that I could lose about 30% from the top-to-bottom measurement and around 20-25% across. I also knew that fulling in the washing machine, with no bag or pillowcase, would give me the fluffy, furry problem pictured below, but I did it anyway as an object lesson in Taking Precautions. HOWEVER. I did not know that my gauge on the red section was SIGNIFICANTLY different from that of the rest of the sack. I left it in the machine a cycle or two more than I thought I needed, trying to see if I could get the top to shrink down a bit more. Here's how the tablet sack looked at stage 3, the semi-disappointed stage:

The washing machine's unbridled enthusiasm made all the fluffies, which are immune to all the shop's horses, men, and de-pillers. I turned it inside out before I tossed it in the washer, knowing this would probably happen. I took off the towel lint with the de-piller, turned it right-side-out, and trimmed some of the more obvious fluffs near the top before continuing.

The washing machine's unbridled enthusiasm made all the fluffies, which are immune to all the shop's horses, men, and de-pillers. I turned it inside out before I tossed it in the washer, knowing this would probably happen. I took off the towel lint with the de-piller, turned it right-side-out, and trimmed some of the more obvious fluffs near the top before continuing.

4. The shape of things.
You can see in the above photo that I lost about 4 inches top-to-bottom, and about 2 across. Not quite the percentages I was expecting, but given my vastly differing gauges, I may have thrown a wrench in the numbers myself. I did manage to even out the top and bottom a bit, stretching and manipulating the bottom to pull it out a little wider while the piece was freshly wet. I then wrapped a book in a large zippered freezer bag and stuck that inside as a form while it all dried.

Much more even here. This is the outside of the sack, which was on the inside for the fulling process. Much neater than the fuzzy inside, which was turned out in the washer! Eventually I brushed/de-pilled all the flotsam visible.

Much more even here. This is the outside of the sack, which was on the inside for the fulling process. Much neater than the fuzzy inside, which was turned out in the washer! Eventually I brushed/de-pilled all the flotsam visible.

It took a couple of days to dry, partly because the weather was cool and rainy those days and partly because the thick wool was quite wet when I hauled it out of the wash cycle. Nobody can see the gently fluted shape that still kind of bothers me, but I'm not sure I believe them.

The sack is still large enough to hold the tablet, a Bluetooth keyboard, charging cable for it and my phone, and my phone. And some knitting stuff, because everything I own is a knitting bag. I'm pretty sure there are knitting markers in some of my shoes.

The takeaway? Felting/fulling is fun! Do it!

Lace Musings Cont.

Continued from the August newsletter...

The foothills are waking  and no other vehicles slalom down the Saluda Grade tandem to mine. Fog lays thick over Columbus and Tryon, and for several heartbeats I see it clearly: mist reaching across the countryside, miles in every direction, before I plunge in myself and become lost. In the clear air I’ve left behind, an archipelago of peaks stretches into watery sunlight, above the lapping fog—but now I can see no evidence of it. That vision is past.

Beside me on the seat is the knitting bag I always carry. I’ve been prepping the Lace III class coming up in August, so the bag holds a silvery-soft ball of Findley alpaca-merino-silk, a pattern, and almost exactly three quarters of an Estonian lace scarf.

I remember working every stitch, and it takes no imagination whatsoever to bring forward the feel the scarf’s silken web in my fingers, the slide of loop over needle as the fabric builds. The memory is so powerful that for a moment it supersedes the foggy road, and I become this evening’s me: happily looping the lovely yarn into the final length of scarf, picking up stitches around the edges to knit the border.

According to one theory in physics, there is no present, and the only elements of time that exist are the past and the future. The math that works this out is mind-boggling, but today as I drive the practicality of it all hits hard. The delicate web of fabric I plan to teach is not only a remembrance of my own past, it reflects the collective skills of a millennia of individuals being launched, smiling, into the indeterminate future. The time this lace has spent in my hands connects me both to the laces of my forebears and to new people I will be too dead to meet (especially since I just nearly drove over a Honda in the rotary getting off of I-26 at 108 in Columbus).

The headlamps don’t come on automatically in this old blue truck; as my heart rate returns slowly to normal, my left hand reaches for the dash and does the work. Click, Click. Lights are now on. Such a fleeting present, like my vision of the hilltops in the fog and the near miss with a Honda in the rotary, exists in the spaces between the stitches of the past and the future.

Seasons at Kniticality

Time for my favorite photos of the summer!

To the left is my skein of Kool-Aid-dyed Baatany drying on the porch rail, below are some of my other summer favs from around the shop grounds. The seasons here never fail to bring new delights.

Aug. 14 Special Event: Unwinding

Meanwhile, Back in Saluda and Kniticality are partnering to bring you UNWINDING: the ultimate combination of good company, fine wines and brews, and knitting! We'll show you the basics if you're new to knitting, or just bring your project and enjoy a pleasant afternoon with friends. Meanwhile, Back In Saluda has an excellent selection of wine and beer in addition to unique local crafts. Meet us next door at the Wildflour bakery for lunch at 1!

Projects & Possibilities: Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket

So there's been some excitement over the little felted bag with the big, funny name. I thought I'd take a moment to talk a little about how I combine yarn colors and show you some alternates for the Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket.

First of all, our favorite wool for felting in solids and heathers is Cascade 220 Worsted. I combined two of these with our newest variegated line, Wisdom Yarn's Poems, to make the original bag. At the bottom of the post I've put a couple of slideshows featuring different combinations of these two yarns.

5 Ways to make bold color work for you

It can get a little hairy combining variegateds or different brands of yarn but this project has three things going for it--one, that we're combining solids with a single variegated, two, that the variegated is the odd-brand-out, and three, it's going to be felted, so some of the differences in apparent in the unfelted yarns will become much more difficult to detect. This leads us to...

1. Match fibers first

Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket and other felted projects have the benefit of ironing out issues that can arise when combining yarns that have differences of spin and shine. There's no reason you can't mix and match in regular projects, but it requires a bit of a deliberate approach. For example, I like to pair a rich, shiny, single-ply with a muted multi-ply for colorwork in a variety of weights. 

2. Start with the one you love

I always start a color combination outfit-style with one element that I absolutely love. Then I poke around and find a color that it either accents, or that provides an accent. If I add a third color, I decide how strongly it should interact with either the main or accent color and look for colors in that strength.

3. Choose color figuratively

I prefer non-literal (figurative, even) coordination over perfect matching, although you'll see some matchy-ness in the slides below. I'm also a bit of a sucker for color trends, so I have to watch myself to make sure that not everything is oatmeal and aqua or seafoam and blue or somesuch.

When I say non-literal coordination I mean that instead of finding the exact same purple shade as I see in a colorway, I might go for a dusty purple that makes the original seem more vibrant. Or if there's a hint of peachy pink, I might grab a strong coral and let those two play on each other. Color wheels are a great help with this--you can ratchet up or down the intensity of your combination and still remain in the same set of relationships by keeping in mind your colors' position on the wheel while dealing with saturation and shade rather than hue.

4. You don't have to like it to understand it

Not a fan of actually using variegateds? You can still learn a lot about what you like and why it goes together by examining variegated yarn colorways and the individual colors that appear in them. Quantity, duration, proximity and shade are all useful to note.

5. You don't have to like it forever

Sometimes the most agonizing part of choosing great colors is committing to those colors. Remind yourself that you'll make other stuff! Take pictures of color combinations you love that you don't end up using! Let yourself enjoy what you pick--it should be a fun part of making a project, rather than the worst part.


Ultimately, choosing color is super personal. No one can say that this or that color is always wrong, or even that it's always (or ever) wrong for you. If you want to embrace a few restrictions to ease the process of decision-making ("I'm a summer") then go for it, as long as what you're using and wearing makes you feel happy.

Solid/Solid/Variegated Slideshow:


Solid/Solid/Solid Slideshow:

Projects & Possibilities: 3N

I love this's an over-sized I-cord wreath! I pinned this earlier today, made it last week. It's hanging in the shop, on the door to the classroom. Took maybe 40 minutes, including the time I took to obsess over fluffing and arranging. I added some other things here and there, but I've slowly removed them all because the yarn and needles are so beautifully simple together. The needles themselves are an antique pair given to my Mom by Joyce Lennert, one of our long-time knitters.

These are the instructions I posted with the pin...let me know if you have any questions or if you make one!

Grafted I-cord wreath (no needles needed for actual knitting)...make I-cord until you can tuck the cast on end into the live end, then graft onto the set of stitches above the cast on. Helps if you make your cast on and first row a little tight. Wrap remaining yarn into jaunty ball, hold in place with skewer or dowel. Attach to wreath base, stick in needles and you're done! Measures approx. 15" across.

If you haven't followed our Kniticality Pinterest board, take a look! I'm indexing our samples there as well as pinning items of interest and other lovelies.

Laura Hudson: A Brief History of Yarn in Video Games

A screencap of  Loom , a Lucasfilms Games title from the '90s.

A screencap of Loom, a Lucasfilms Games title from the '90s.

Check out this great post about fiber arts and gaming! It leads with the upcoming EA title Unravel that Mom linked to on the Kniticality Facebook where you play as a little tiny bit of yarn. Turns out that games have tried a number of times to find a good tie-in to knitting. This new game, physics- and adorable-ness-based, looks to be the one to do it right. Or at least cutest.

Another '90s game: Bubsy.

Another '90s game: Bubsy.

Be aware: this is a BoingBoing post, and their writers sometimes use adult language.

Wherein A Sock Is Chosen

Everyone's getting ready for Christmas in July but we're cooking up our August offerings as well. We do lace in August and we're including a lace sock this year but there are too many beauties! We need your help choosing a sock pattern for August!

You Are The Sock Chooser *
Pick a sock!

Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket

No other title needed, really, I think. This mysterious thing with the super long name has been appearing here and there with promises of pictures and explanations and lo, they materialize at last. Here it is, the Farmer Maggot's Mushroom Basket, a totes cute felted shoulder bag with a wide bottom and fold-over closure:

(It has little brass feet under its belly, SO CUTE. Next time you're in the shop, flip it over and give it a look.)

Christmas 2x

Knitters have a Christmas season bar none--sometimes gift-planning for next year starts before this year's presents are even unwrapped!  We like giving and receiving handmade gifts, but it can be easy to spend the summer months procrastinating; imagining the perfect gifts, browsing patterns, starting and putting down a zillion projects. Then fall zips right by and there's no time left! Mom's hunted down, designed, and organized five great gifts to keep or stash for the holidays. It's the perfect solution to the holiday time-crunch.

We call it Christmas in July and it's a pretty cool setup! Each gift is easy and attractive, and can be completed in one session. Each class is only $15 and is offered twice--once in the morning for all you early birds and once in the afternoon or evening for the rest of us. Sign up for all five and get a discount! It's a great way to knock out or get a head start on your handmade gifts and still have plenty of time to enjoy the summer weather.

Registration will be open online and in-store.

Download the Christmas in July calendar as a PDF