Overkill? No, overDYE

After a brief leave of absence involving extreme nausea, I have returned!

I am just finishing up on a side-to-side lace sweater from Sandra Knit Trends

Gotta love blocking.

As you can see, the ribbing is in a significantly different shade than the body. This was not intentional, it was “GAH, I’ve run out of yarn and now I have to order more!”. I’m sure I ordered brown, but the batch was more gray…

So, let’s find out about overdyeing! Because I believe that will solve my problems. The yarn is 100% cotton, so it should take dye well if I use a cold-water fibre-reactive dye.

There are a few good articles on appropriate ways to overdye yarn before it has been knitted up, the principles are helpful. Colour-matching when it is a single garment is a different matter and pretty much a lost cause in this case. I have limited range of dyes available around here, so Ill probably go with the low temperature Gold Cross dye or with RiT available from a pharmacist near you!

I’m going to try to over-dye with chocolate, to see if it will bring the ribbing areas close enough to the body colour so as not to be noticeable. If that doesn’t work, black is always in.

So now that I have done my research – all that remains is to acquire the dye and have at it!

How not to pay for patterns, ethically – Part One

Knitting on a shoe-string isn’t just about the yarn. There are heaps of sources for free patterns, including but not limited to Ravelry, Knitty and Garnstudio DROPS. In my experience it is much easier to visit a website that collates free patterns rather than to google individual free patterns.


Most knitters-on-the-net are already all over the Ravely. It’s a fantastic website that collates not only free patterns, but also existing paid patterns AND provides a launching pad  for new designers trying to get started. There are forums that provide information and insight. It is completely free to use once you have created a profile. It also provides a way to catalogue your own resources.  You can record your tools, yarns and pattern books. When you see a pattern you like it’s a simple clicky-clicky process to add it to a list of your favourite patterns so you can easily find it when you are ready to use it. Did I mention – FREE?

Knitty is a free magazine that pays it’s way through selected fibre-related advertisers. Also home to fantastic community, Knitty has an alternative, indie vibe and the patterns range in difficulty from absolute beginner to really quite tricky. Every issue contains brilliant articles ranging from “help me” to techniques to new products to thoughts on life and living. Archives are easily accessed by either garment type or issue number. Very awesome.

DROPS design.

Garnstudio publishes their patterns in 14 languages. They are focused on providing very good quality yarn below market price and on designing beautiful garments in an international market place. Their philosophy can be found on their “about” page and is well worth reading. For our purposes, their website is full of absolutely free patterns with no sign-up required to access them. Obviously, their patterns are designed with their yarns in mind and there is plenty of advertising incorporated into the site and the patterns.

The patterns are set up as a webpage with an option to print and to share on Facebook, which is pretty nifty – I like the option to show your fibre-y friends what you are looking at. It’s easy enough to copy and paste into a word-processing document if you so desire (which I usually do because saving webpages is just a big old pain in the butt and the results are generally fairly crappy).

Their patterns can be on the ambiguous side and they aren’t always super-easy to follow. There is a lot of “work in st. st. for 14 inches decreasing evenly until 46 st. remain.” Fine for experienced knitters, but not always great for beginners. Read through before you start, make sure you are able to figure out what they are talking about or jump on the ravelry forums and ask for help (always include a link to the pattern and details of what section you need assistance with).

Lion Brand.

As with Garnstudio DROPS, Lion Brand are providing free patterns in order to promote the yarns they make. I can’t say it bothers me, because the patterns are still FREE and you can make a decision for yourself whether you want to buy their yarns or not. I must admit it does squick me out a little that they carry a Martha Stewart yarn range. There is just something creepy about that woman.

Back to the point! Lion Brand require that you create a username and password to access their patterns, you have to give them an email address but you do not have to subscribe to the newsletter. I have chosen to subscribe because they don’t bombard you with emails and it’s handy to see what their new patterns are like. It’s another case of patterns in webpage format – no option to download a .pdf (irritating). The vast majority of their patterns are super-simple and basic.

Let’s not forget the public library which often has both knitting books and magazines. If they don’t have what you want there is often a process by which you can request that they purchase it. It is best to keep in mind that although nobody would stop you if you were to photocopy a pattern out of one of the books, it is an ethical faux pas. Knitting it while you have the book on loan is one thing, but outright reproduction is just not classy at all.

The Never Ending Dressing Gown

When I started the project I understood that it was a massive undertaking. Little did I know how very long it would drag on…

I began knitting the Dressing Gown published in Romantic Style by Jennie Atkinson. *Sigh*. I look back now and can recognise how my ambition got the better of me. But it’s so beautiful! And it will be so comfy!

This is my progress after almost three years – pardon the slight blurriness (my daughter is ten and is working towards a career in photography so she takes a great many of my photos).

Whenever I work on this I think of the Earth’s Children books by Jean M. Auel, I devoured the first four whilst knitting this.

I bought 24 balls of Dinamico wool from ICE yarns – 30% wool, 40% acrylic and 30% polyamide. The yarn has only a little of that plasticky, sticky feel that acrylics often have. I’ve found that the softness of the yarn overall makes this slight plastickyness easy to overlook. Originally, I used Symphonie Knitpro interchangeables but the yarn just did not slide well on the wood and it slowed me down to a frustrating degree, therefore I was ridiculously happy when the Nova tips arrived as a Christmas gift (a year after I began the garment). Honestly, I would have been ridiculously happy anyway, those Knitpro needles are the best knitting investment I’ve ever made.

This is all the yarn that I have left, and there is a LOT more left to go on the gown. I have used 8 balls so far. I am a leetle worried that I won’t make it. Dinamico isn’t even being made anymore, and past experience tells me that even if I could order another batch it likely wouldn’t blend. Eeep.  I find it all a wee bit irritating, since I always check the approx length in a ball and the weight when I substitute yarns, and both matched. It rankles even more because I ordered an extra FIVE balls. I’m tempted to just cross my fingers and plow onwards. If worst comes to worst I will consider a contrasting edging… maybe in cream?

I employ the Never-Ending Dressing Gown as a motivator. You see, this is the one I’ll pull out to work a few rows when I am between projects and I’m deciding what to do next. It is so tedious and the progress made is nigh on invisible, I find it really encourages me to figure out what the hell I’m going to do next so I can put this mo-fo down and get on with it!

This is Pixie, she likes to help Mommy knit. The collective unconscious would have you believe that cats are the ultimate knitter’s companion and yarn menace, but I contend that chihuahuas are far more insidious a threat to your stash and make much better lap warmers. My cat Ben (God rest his soul) was never interested in my yarn or my lap. Pixie, however, has been banned from my studio upon penalty of no cuddles! She has brought this upon herself – largely due to the tangles of yarn I have found strewn up the length of the hallway the few times I forgot to close the door.

Obviously knitting is SUPER FUN since Mommy does it so much…

Welcome aboard!

Welcome! Before we get to the knitty-gritty I need to say thank you to my beautiful and inspiring shoe-making elf, Jen. She was the first person I told about my idea for a shoe-string budget knitting blog and she threw the title out there. Of course, I immediately snapped it up. Jen is one of the most talented and intriguing people I have had the privilege to know. The woman makes custom boots for roller-derby! Is there anything cooler?!? I think not!

Since this is my first post, I invite you to have a look at my mission statement which sums up what I’m trying to achieve here. I love a beautiful yarn, but many are not within my limited means. I aim to record for posterity my trials and tribulations as I substitute and review low budget yarns. There will always be a trade-off between cost and quality, I seek to find a balance.

This may not inspire confidence – I’m going to open with a bang and show you something that is somewhat of a failure…

From Knitting Little Luxuries by Louisa Harding, the Catherine Purse.

I skipped the tension square. You can tell, can’t you? The pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn,  and I used a sport weight. I knew that the purse would be just fine due to it’s style. I anticipated it would have a looser weave and look “lacier”, which it did.

The variation in size was a suprise to me, it has turned out less a purse and more a beach bag. I’m not worried though, I’m happy with the result and I know the intended owner will be rapt in it.

I used around a ball and a half of Moda Vera Soya, a 4-ply made of soy fibre (just call me Captain Obvious) pretty close to sportweight. It has very cotton-like qualities and properties, but feels more “crumbly”, papery and dry. There is a tendency to stretch and droop (as this piece illustrates) which means that if you don’t knit it extra tight, it doesn’t show stitch definition very well. Therefore, I’d recommend knitting tightly with this yarn, maybe going down half a needle size. The yarn will loosen up to where it “should” be. Another note: it doesn’t hold stretch very well so once it has stretched that’s it – it’s out to stay.

I originally purchased the Soya several years ago at an end of season sale at Spotlight, heavily discounted. Three 10 ball bags of Soya in orange, white and blue/green respectively. I say blue/green because my household is in constant debate. I see green, my fiance and daughter see blue. Go figure. I live for those end of season sales… a ball of yarn originally worth $5 or $6 going for $2 or less a ball! Ooooh, I’m feeling a little flustered at the thought.