Giveaway at The Blue Brick

My good friend Shireen is giving away two copies of her lovely new book on making resin jewellery. I have to admit that I’m biased as I had a hand in its production, but my opinion is at least informed when I say that it’s an accessible, thorough, and beautiful introduction to resin.

The earrings above are one of the projects in the book, made with Japanese washi paper. This very pair is now in my possession and they make me delightfully happy to wear them. Visit The Blue Brick for your chance to win a copy of the book.






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Late summer travels

School starts again tomorrow, so I’m glad to have spent the end of my summer relaxing in Montreal. I worked on some embroidery, taught myself how to crochet, and did a lot of lazing around in the parks of the Plateau, Mile End, and Outremont. Now that I’m back in Toronto there’s a definite crispness to the air; fall is around the corner.







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This is really just a test to see if I can post from my phone, as I’m settled in a park in Montreal with a beer (and wisely, no knitting). I washed the skein above, possibly permanently dyeing my bathtub as well, and it turned a dusty rose colour. Bad camera phone photo below:

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Dye, dye my darling

(With apologies to the Misfits.)








After 12+ years in fibre arts–dabbling (and serious study) in spinning, knitting, weaving, crocheting, and more–I’ve never really gotten into dyeing. Always one to ruin a good time with an alarming medical anecdote, I’ve stuck to pursuits that don’t involve potentially inhaling toxic particulates and turning my kitchen into the equivalent of an EPA Superfund site. That’s a bit of an unfair exaggeration, of course, as dyeing fiber can be done pretty safely at home with a few precautions, but nevertheless I’ve done more reading and writing about dyeing than actually doing it for myself (childhood/adolescent experiments with tie-dye notwithstanding, of course).

Then my friends suggested putting their stash of Kool-Aid, Rit, and vegetable dyes to good use, and somehow we all ended up in Shireen’s kitchen, wearing dust masks and gloves, ruining her cooking implements for good and having a great time in the process.








(Nitrile gloves? Check. Labelled dye mixtures? Check. Old pyjamas? Check.)

Dyeing is basically the act of taking dye molecules and convincing them to form bonds with willing molecules on the fiber itself, usually with the help of water and heat. There are dyes designed to work on wool and other protein fibers, dyes that work best on cotton and other cellulose fibers, and dyes that will accomplish the difficult task of adding colour to synthetic materials (note: don’t try this last category at home, unless you live in a well-appointed organic chemistry lab).








We started off using Kool-Aid, which contains acid dyes in the form of food colouring. These will dye wool, with somewhat unpredictable results due to the mixture of colours in each flavour. It’s a fairly easy and reasonably safe way to try out dyeing, and we each dyed a skein in Kool-Aid before trying out Rit.








Rit is an “all-purpose” dye, meaning it’s a mix of chemicals that will dye either wool, or cellulose. (Exactly what those chemicals are is not disclosed by the manufacturer, which is a little troubling.) It’s a bit wasteful if you’re dyeing a single fiber–in our case, we were only working with wool, so the cellulose-dyeing component happily washed away in the final rinse(s). We got some nice results, but I think we’ll go for regular acid dyes next time (and there will be a next time).








My absolute favourite dye turned out to be the vegetable dyes. We used a kit from Blue Castle Fiber Arts, which contains several dye blends, an herbal mordant (a substance needed to facilitate the bonding of dye molecules to fiber, usually a metal salt but here a plant extract), and instructions to walk you through the somewhat tricky process. I wrote about indigo and other vegetable dyes for Interweave a few years ago and have since been fascinated by the process, but I was surprised with how much I loved the results. It’s more difficult, more time-consuming, and less predictable than using synthetic dyes, but the finished results show a depth of colour that you just can’t get with other dye methods.






(From left to right: Rit, indigo, and madder/soapnut.)

I’m eager to try this again, especially with more of the vegetable dyes. I may try a low-toxicity metal mordant (alum) next time to see how it compares to the plant-based mordant. I’ll want to give acid dyes a go as well. And I’m curious to see how the colours hold up to light and repeated washings–I have high-ish hopes for the vegetable dyes, not so much for the Rit. That chocolate-coloured skein on the right is mine, and it’s destined to be a shawl/wrap–more posts to come as that takes shape.

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FO: Hey Hey, My My








Compared to my progress on other knitted items, my version of Reiko Kuwamura’s Hey Hey, My My went by very quickly–I started it in April, worked on it mostly in June, and cast off last week. Already improvement over the year and a half I took to make the Rocky Coast Cardigan.






Hey Hey, My My is beautifully designed. It’s top down, with a cleverly structured yoke, and no seaming. I can’t say I enjoyed doing blackberry stitch in cotton yarn (nor did I get much out of the acres of stockinette), but there’s a certain satisfaction when a pattern comes out really well. I modified the pattern by making the sleeves short and if I were to knit it again (the old refrain), I’d move the decreases to the sides so they don’t show as much.






It’s comfortable, cool thanks to the cotton yarn, but substantial enough to wear this fall. Thanks to Shireen, as usual, for the lovely photography.

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More Montreal

It’s late (well, Toronto late) and I’m done work for the night. I’m thinking about my next trip to Montreal, which is coming right up, and about the last one, whose memories still flood my daydreams regularly. In lieu of a longer post, more from that trip:








Plateau (somewhere).








Breakfast in Mile End (bonus point if you can recognize the location from this shot).







Put a bird on it (St. Joseph’s Oratory).







Parc St-Viateur, and friends.








Le A Bar.

A few years ago, one of my best friends and I watched the Tour la Nuit from the terrasse of La Petite Idee Fixe on Parc. Great night.








Mont Royal.

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“Korean Hands for Cashmere”

About a month ago, I received a gift of about a kilo of yarn from Shanghai. It’s quite soft Merino wool, with an unusual halo of yellow synthetic fibres–I don’t usually wear yellow, but I found some matching buttons to make Kate Davis’ Owls sweater. I’ll probably start it on my upcoming trip to Montreal, which will involve at least 11 hours of sitting on a train.

The label is an odd mix of Chinese, Korean, and English. My experience with yarn from China (i.e., yarn sold in China, rather than intended for export) is limited, but elaborate English names seem to be a common convention. I’ve previously seen Love Is a Responsibility, Like is a Feeling, and now we have Korean Hands for Cashmere (which contains no cashmere at all):








In fact, it’s not even Korean. My initial assumption was that it was a Korean brand being marketed in China, but it turns out the name and the smattering of hangul on the label are just a marketing ploy. The helpful people over in the China Knitters group on Ravelry informed me that other languages carry the cachet of being foreign, and therefore superior, to domestic brands. The Ravelry group also helped me translate the yarn content, given that my Chinese is limited to a small amount of spoken Mandarin (mostly food-related) and a handful of characters:








It’s 90% Australian wool (with the ever important character for “imported” at the beginning) and 10% Japanese toray, which is some kind of acrylic or nylon. Fortunately the care instructions are listed in English… kind of:








I’m guessing the last line is “dry flat.”

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