Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Knitting Small Toys Tips from Tails&Snouts

Have you been knitting for awhile, but have been stuck in a rut of knitting the everyday scarves and hats? For awhile that's where I was. Knitting hat after hat until one day hats became so routine that I threw down my needles and proclaimed "no more hats for me!" So I've decided to compile some of my knitting toys tips.

I can't make the claim that I've been knitting toys forever, but I have been spending a large portion of my time learning new methods of knitting and discovering new items to create. First of all if you're first learning how to knit toys start off with flat knit patterns. This way you're simply knitting back and forth on two needles. Once you get good at flat knits you can begin to think about knitting in rounds, which can be more complicated for people due to the increase in needles as well as the fact that most knit toys are small. Since most knit items are smaller items they usually require smaller needles, I always use size 5 bamboo double pointed needles. Bamboo needles are best in my opinion due to their ability to grip the yarn being used and lower the change that a stitch may slip. When it comes to the yarn it may be a personal preference, but it's best to use worsted yarns with knit toys. personally I enjoy using Lion Brand's superwash cashmerino yarn as well as Paton's bamboo silk yarn. Both being smooth and soft, which is best for a knit toy. Also with knit toys, whether you're knitting in a round or knitting flat, you do not need to block it since the item will later be stuffed. Always when it comes to the point of the stuffing, don't over stuff. If the stitches start to pull away and you can see the stuffing through the yarn then you are most likely over stuffing or using the wrong sized needles or yarn for your cute little toy. If you want a toy to be larger or smaller without adjusting the pattern just increase/decrease the needle and yarn size. Bigger needles with thicker yarn will lead to larger tos, while smaller needles and thinner yarn will lead to smaller toys. after awhile you may be able to figure out how to switch a flat knit to a round knit, like I've done with knitting patterns before. In some cases to create a round knit all that must be done is the joining of the stitches into a round, which may not work in all cases or with all patterns. Just be aware that knitting small toys can get frustrating, you may even have to take it apart and knit it all over again. I've done that countless times. But I have never found more satisfaction in knitting then when I comply a little knit toy.

If you'd like any specific tips and advice feel free to post a comment :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to Dye Yarn

Now that I'm on summer break I finally have time to work on the blog. So I decided it would be a fun idea to give a little how to on dyeing yarn.
What you'll need:

  •     Water
  • Vinegar
  • saran wrap 
  • Acid dyes of your choice
  • yarn to dye
  • plastic cups
  • paint brushes
  • Small bowl that isn't used for food (microwavable) 
  • Large bowl to soak yarn in
  • Gloves (unless you want multicolored hands)
  • Either a table you don't mind getting dyed or an old towel and a large piece of cardboard
  • Mesh bags optional if you want to throw yarn into spin cycle 
First start off by soaking the yarn in a water vinegar mix for about 5-10 minutes. Enough time so that the yarn has absorbed as much of the liquid as it can. If the yarn is not given enough time it will have dry spots where the dye will not be absorbed, leaving white spots. Once the yarn has been soaking for awhile remove from the bowl and allow the excess liquid to drain out of the yarn. 

As the yarn drains set up your area. For me I first laid down my large piece of cardboard then placed my old towel over it. Then placed a large sheet of saran warp to place the yarn on. 

With the yarn placed on top of the saran warp have your acid dye prepared. To prepare the acid dye just place a small amount in the bottom of the plastic cup and add water. Now you can start to dye/paint your yarn, but don't forget your gloves. You can paint your yarn any color or in any pattern you want.  For this yarn I was doing different shades of one color by adding more water to the dye as I painted. Don't forget to paint both sides of the yarn. 

Once you've completed your painting it's time to wrap your yarn. Take both long sides of the saran wrap and fold it on top of the yarn. Next take the short ends and fold those in. 

Next roll the saran wrapped yarn into a roll.

Placed the rolled yarn into the "no food" microwavable bowl and put into the microwave for 1 minute. Once the minute is up let it rest for another minute. Then put the yarn in for 1 more minute. After that take the yarn to the sink and let it rest for a bit. Then carefully, with water running, remove the yarn from the saran wrap. The yarn may be extremely hot so be careful not to get burnt. Once the yarn is out of the saran wrap rise the yarn till the water runs clear. 

Lastly find a place to hang the yarn where it can dry. Once the yarn is finished drying you get to become the proud creator of your own hand dyed yarn. 

I swear acid dyes aren't that scary

I personally love acid dyes, but I hear so many people say that they're terrified of them. I swear that they're not as scary as you think, but if you still feel that way just stick with kool aid dyeing. The reason that so many people find acid dyes so scary, in my mind at least, is due to the fact that acid dyes can not be used in anything that may be used for food or cooking. Which is a valid reason to avoid using them, but there are solutions to this. I actually use either old paint brush when I dye, when are those every going to come in contact with food, or an old crock pot. Typically I either use the crock pot for single color dyeing or to soak the fiber with vinegar in. That's also the reason why it's called acid dye, vinegar is used to set the dye into place. Acid dyes also provide a wide array of different colors where you can have more control over the intensity of the color. While I've found with kool aid dyeing that it produces a more pastel effect, which can be the exact color you had in mind. If you would like to use acid dyes I'd go with Jacquard acid dyes. I've tried a few others where the colors appear nice, but either have a coarse texture or don't produce as intense of a color.