Tuesday, 31 March 2015

creature comforts

i have a new pattern out, and this time it's a freebie! meet the newest pattern from my when nature fought back collection. you can download creature comforts now from my rav store

thanks to my very adorable and photogenic friend ashtyn for modelling for me!

creature comforts is a very new pattern that came about quickly. my auntie, who inspired and modelled prairie fire, has some pretty major health issues, so when she asked about getting a hat that could keep her head from getting chilled inside the house, i wanted to get one to her as quickly as i could. we tried a sample i already had in my cabinet, but it wasn't quite right, so i got a skein of malabrigo arroyo in black from wolseley wool and set to knitting. i opted for a garter stitch brim, because it's comfier and a looser-feeling fit to ribbing, and then went with a stockinette body that didn't have too much extra slouch. i knit it up over a couple of evenings and it turned out to be exactly what she was looking for. of course, then i had to knit one up for myself. i had some more arroyo in my stash in glitter, and knit another one up and popped on a burr oak button from salvaged earth designs (which you can now find over at ram wools as well as directly from carson). the sportweight is perfect for multi-seasonal wear, and the blank slate means you can do all sorts of embellishments (or not!).

i'm super happy with how creature comforts has turned out. it's great for stash-busting (which i'm trying to do more of), and uses only about 135 yards of wool, meaning it's a great one for those random 50g skeins of lusciousness (like quince & co. chickadee). it uses 3.5mm/us 4 dpns or circulars (if you prefer magic loop). i love that it's such a quick knit. i got into a groove the evening i was knitting my own hat and stayed up until 1am to finish it and sew on the button. convenient timing, since the following day it was snowing again but hovering around zero degrees. yet another addition to my handmade wardrobe this year!

i'm making this one a free pattern, but i encourage you to take the money you would have spent on the pattern, or whatever amount you are able to spare, and donate it to your local cancer care centre, or whatever research centre is relevant for your own comfort hat. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

mindless-selfish-social knitting

my week off from non-fibre work is primarily being spent around my dye pots. but it also happens to happily coincide with cluster festival, which is one of my favourite events in winnipeg. several nights out at art events means i need a largish social knitting project to drag around, but basically all the designs i'm working on right now require at least some focus (minus the one with yoth's big sister, but i need to do a whole lot of math and swatching before i can really get started on it). what better excuse to get started on a selfish knit, especially one that adds to my handmade wardrobe challenge, fills an important hole in my sweater pile (specifically, a lightweight handknit cardigan that's a bit fancy for evenings out), AND uses my naturally dyed yarn? yup, i'm casting on escher.

i'm very excited about this one. to be perfectly honest, i still need to dye up two skeins of sock for c1 (i plan on testing out dried mulberries and am crossing my fingers i get a lovely grey), but i can at least get started on it. i'm using one skein of my gradient sock, dyed with onion skins and logwood, for c3 (the centre back panel and lower arms), and a skein of glitter sock dyed with a very concentrated logwood bath for c2. i am still drooling a little bit over how dark that particular skein turned out.

the glitter sock is actually much darker in real life.

it'll be interesting to see how the arms work out with the gradient. i'm trying to decide whether i want to figure out how to work out the same-ish tone, but i think i might like the patchwork effect in the end anyway. and considering that the pattern's yardage only calls for about two-thirds of the skein anyway, i don't even know how much of the gradient effect will come into the piece. it'll be a colour adventure!

A photo posted by Ash Alberg (@sunflowerknit) on

speaking of cluster fest, last night was opening night and it was an inspiring time. i ended up with notes all over my hand after i got ideas for several projects thanks to the plumes ensemble and couldn't find my notebook quickly. so now i am sketching out yet more long-term plans, which will remain under wraps for a while, but which are making me very, very excited. and tonight is yet another show, so perhaps i will keep my notebook at the top of my bag. between now and then, i have yarn to pre-mordant, an indigo vat to prep, a shawl to finish (test knitters, get ready for a callout), and taxes to do. i do love having time off. i get so much stuff done!

Saturday, 21 March 2015


happy spring equinox, lovelies!

i am loving the warmer weather. i'm a much happier hippie in my spring/fall layers than in extreme summer heat or winter cold. i get to wear lots of wooly things while not freezing my butt off or being so hot i get cranky. the one thing i could do without during the change of seasons, though, is my terrible joints. they get cranky when the weather shifts, and it results in all sorts of fun things, like sore knuckles and painful knees and cracking hips and stiff backs. i've been visiting physio quite a bit lately, but thankfully they're right where i work. 

the very first sunflower knit kit ended up going to my girlfriend's fundraiser, which was held thursday night. it was a trivia night and raffle draw, and i laughed quite a bit when i saw that the kit was in the "hipster prize pack." considering the kit was for a flopster hat, that sort of makes sense ha. it contained a printed copy of the pattern, a lilac wood button from salvaged earth designs, a couple of stitch markers made by me, a skein of my worsted wool naturally dyed with black beans and yellow onion skins, and a set of wooden dpns. normally, needles wouldn't be included in the kits, but i figured it was best to cover all bases with this one. i wanted the kit to be something that even a beginner knitter would be comfortable with, and that was neutral enough that anyone who won it would be happy to wear what they knit. i really loved the way the colours of the dye distributed after reskeining - they went from an almost copper green to the purple of bean shoots! our team really didn't do well on the trivia portion of the night, but it was still a lot of fun. 

i've taken a short break from the ecoprint shawl for the trunk show to knit my auntie a hat. something i didn't share when i released prairie fire was that we knew before i even knit it for her that she has terminal cancer. she mentioned earlier this week that she wished she had a hat for inside at home, and her sister and my mum piped up that i probably had something. we tried out a design sample i had in my cabinet, but it wasn't quite right. so i called wolseley wool to set aside a skein of black wool (mona grabbed a skein of malabrigo arroyo, which was exactly the type of yarn i was thinking for this) and my mum picked it up since i knew i wouldn't get to the shop until the weekend. and so i've knit a simple and quick cozy hat for my auntie. eventually, i'll get another one knit up and release a free pattern for it, because i think having access to gifts like that is really important. there's a whole lot of ethics and politics and thoughts around handmade gifts for loved ones and tough times, but i don't really feel like getting into that. suffice to say, the pattern will be available eventually, and if you really want to put money towards it, my suggestion is to donate whatever amount you're able to afford to your local cancer care centre, or whatever local research centre is relevant to you and your own gifted hat. pay it forward. in my mind, the love in handmade items is one of the most important aspects of craftivism.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

self-indulgence, maybe

around my birthday, i like to treat myself to something i wouldn't normally indulge in. for the past few years, that something has been yarn (surprise, surprise!). last year, that took the form of a sweater's worth of tanis fiber arts' green label to knit up my ease sweater. 

this year, i'm looking into yarn clubs. it's a pricier purchase that does not and cannot easily be for a specific pre-planned project, simply due to the typical yarn club's premise of a custom colourway that's a surprise for its subscribers. which is awesome, because who doesn't like a fibre surprise from your favourite dyer, but it's hard to plan a design when you don't even know what colour or fibre you'll be getting. or it's hard for me, at least. i work very much by colour, and a slight difference in hue can totally throw off a planned design (it has on several occasions). but hey, for my birthday, which is next month, why not treat myself without the pressure of purchasing for a planned design, which is currently my attempted purchasing rule to curb my stash. i will admit, this self-imposed rule is only semi-successful.

my to-knit-soon basket is a bit full right now...

i looked into several options, and it seems as though regardless of who i opt for, i'm looking at a summer purchase just due to the timing of most dyers. they follow the seasons, which is a natural thought. i would do the same if i were to ever offer yarn clubs with sunflower knit yarns (a plan which is lovely, but so far into the horizon it's not even really worth dwelling on). i checked out the following yarn clubs:
-hedgehog fibres (despite never knitting with their yarns or even coming into contact with them in real life yet, their photos make me drool)

grand lake was one design for a pro-verbial shipment, verb's yarn club. 
in the end, i've opted for verb. there are a number of reasons for this, including a) i've been dreaming of their yarns for years now and have never had the chance to play with them; b) i really want to try playing and designing with other naturally dyed fibres, and verb is so well-established with such lovely bases it seems like the perfect fit; c) their club comes with extra bits too, including a pattern for each shipment and discounts for their store which is full of other lovely things; d) shipping and handling is already included in the price, which is just nice because it's less math to do and you don't have to contend with international shipping headaches; e) you get four shipments instead of three: and f) there are notes from the dyer! how cute is that? 

this is creating, in vermilion. how incredible is that colour?
pro-verbial runs for a full year and begins in the fall, so i won't actually be able to treat myself until the summer. which isn't ideal timing considering i'll be traveling a wee bit, but i can plan it into my budget! a belated happy birthday to me, set to arrive around my unbirthday. it seems fitting. 

do you subscribe to any yarn or fibre clubs? which ones are your favourite?

Saturday, 14 March 2015

pick up

i've been going at a good little clip with my knitting lately, which is very nice considering the number of deadlines and side projects (besides just working full-time) that i have going on. i still have some dyeing to do before the trunk show, but that's all been booked into my week off over spring break, when i can dedicate myself to my soon-to-be indigo vat in between cluster fest events. this week, i finished a shawl for an art award submission and whipped up a pair of gather handshoes for the dark woods kal! perfect timing, especially considering how things are starting to warm up around here but not enough to warm my poor fingers. 

i knit the pair using the leftovers from my flopster sample. there's still some leftover! seriously, i'd be super pleased even if it wasn't my own yarn. the original colour, which i got from a second bath of madder, was very peach/coral, which looked a bit ridiculous next to my skin. so i took some leftover logwood and madder baths, both with iron in them, and poured them together into the dye pot. i wrapped each handshoe around a thai basil leaf, bound them, and popped them in the pot. they simmered for an hour and a half, then hung out with no heat overnight. 

i wasn't totally sure about the new colour initially, but i'm much happier with it now. and i'm very happy to have a non-melted pair of handshoes in my wardrobe again. and i'm especially happy to have fit a selfish knit into a single day, especially with my current queue. i do have to remember that making for myself is just as valid as design work or knitting a sample or submission.

i'm going to try keeping track of my handmade wardrobe journey online. you can find the facebook album here and of course you can follow my instagram for more frequent posts. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

preparations and side notes

last week, i picked up a niddy-noddy from local woodworker wayne capar of natural knot wood. he's the one who my mum secretly commissioned to make me a yarn bowl for christmas after meeting at manitoba fibre fest last year. i contacted wayne a little while ago to see if he made niddy-noddys because i couldn't find any in shops at the time, and i was nervous about ordering one online because a) the american dollar vs. canadian is crap right now and b) different shaft lengths give you different wrap lengths, and different woods are more or less dense, and basically i didn't want to spend money on something that arrived and then was uncomfortable or unwieldy when i have to wrap thousands of yards on it before the show (never mind after the show). 

see the difference the re-skeining makes in distributing the dye results (top has not been reskeined)? and also tidying up those messy skeins that get pulled out of the dye pot.

it turns out that wayne hadn't made a niddy-noddy before, although he's made oodles of other fibre notions, and he was happy to do some research and figure out a prototype. lucky me, i get to be the tester! i have the 18" shaft right now, which will give me 2-yard wraps, and i'll be picking up shorter shafts soon. wayne is looking into making niddy-noddys with interchangeable shafts, which i 100% support. i have some wrapping to do, then once we figure out all the little bits and bobs and details, he'll hopefully have them ready for sale soon. my prototype is made out of cherry wood, and is just beautiful. i've had a lot of luck lately making connections with wonderful wood artisans! i attached one of carson's caragana buttons to a sample flopster for the show. pics to come once i mess around with my mannequin heads (they may as well look good since i'll be using them at the show anyway). 

of course, i'm also a very squirrelly personality, so when a friend commissioned a couple of necklaces from me, i was more than happy to oblige. winnipeg is lucky to have shakti for natural jewelry supplies. i needed to pick up more chain, and while i was picking that up, i found more stones that were just too perfect to leave behind. the coral stones are red quartz and the blue is kyanite. i'm a big proponent of handmade wardrobes, from undies through outer layers, and while my time realistically does not allow me to make nearly as much of my wardrobe as i would like, i love quick and satisfying projects that add those perfect finishing touches to an outfit. also, i'm a total femme (despite rarely having the energy or desire to go high-femme - if i can't run for the bus or play in the woods, the outfit in question rarely makes the cut).

i've been thinking quite a lot lately (thanks in part to instagram and hanging out with kelly and making all of the plans) of challenging myself to make as much of my wardrobe as possible, starting with this next year. of course, working a full-time non-maker job cuts down on my making time, and i spend my off time primarily knitting and dyeing. so i don't have oodles of time to sew new dresses, or coats, or anything like that really. even my selfish knitting is relegated more to knitting design samples that i later add into my personal wardrobe (and even those have to be ready to head back into "show mode"). but i firmly believe it's worth the effort. and for the things that i can't make, i'm trying to source the majority of other items from other makers. i've been a conscious spender for years (with more success at some times over others, and pretty much directly attached to my income - class very much plays into the ability to choose ethical over cheap). this is just a further extension of it, especially as i try to source my making materials from eco-conscious/ethical/local sources as well. i plan on making as many parts of the when nature fought back outfits as possible, and sourcing other handmade pieces when i can't. i hope to be able to showcase as much of it as possible when i get around to the actual lookbook.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

trunk show & yarn launch

i'm so excited to finally officially announce my trunk show at tara davis studio boutique here in winnipeg! it will be thursday through saturday, may 7-9 at tara's shop (246 mcdermot avenue in winnipeg's historic exchange district). i'll be there all day on thursday starting at 11am, knitting and available for chats! tara is an incredible lady who is an absolutely amazing supporter of local and canadian artisans, and i am so honoured to be doing my first official sunflower knit show at her shop.

the storefront at tara's, which always features the loveliest window displays.

i'll be hanging out near the back of the shop with all my things because we wanted a good amount of space to display everything. i'll have knitted samples on display (so you can try on designs in case you can't decide which pattern(s) you like best) and oodles of things for purchase. you'll be able to find:
-stitch markers
-my line of naturally dyed yarns and fibres, including sock, gradient sock, glitter sock, merino/silk spinning fibre, alpaca bulky, worsted, and my most special yarn option, eco-printed sock blanks
-printed patterns (with codes for digital downloads)
-kits with my yarn and patterns, including deer heart (soon to be released), welcome to the wonderground (currently being test knit and to be complete with mini skeins!), flopster, and even double scoop (since that continues to be my most popular design by far)

and again, i'll be there for the first day! probably wearing a bunch of things i've made ha. even if you're not a fibre nerd or don't know any fibre nerds, tara has an amazing selection of handmade gifts for everyone on your list. or you could just treat yourself! the show will be happening during the next exchange shop hop, so pop by tara's to chat and browse and shop before you head on to other independent shops in the area. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


i have a new obsession, and it's consuming my creative mind. last night's dyeing adventures only added to it.

ahem, not last night's results. this was from a few days ago.

i've been playing with eco-printing since last summer, after being inspired by kelly and caitlin. instagram fed my fascination, to the point that i decided to take some organic jersey that i had bought for dyeing but never got around to and finally got around to it. i eco-printed on it without really expecting much, considering the luck i have with dyeing cellulose fibres. but it worked, and i was in awe! i posted it on instagram, and a little while after that, kristan made a comment about eco-printing on knitting. that made me excited too, but since i didn't have anything ready to be printed on right away, i decided to try printing on a sock blank, and then seeing how that knit up once it was unravelled.

these are last night's results.

the first sock blank that i worked on caked up beautifully, but it was the second one that i started knitting with. it's destined for an art award submission, so i'll have a separate blog post dedicated to it that will appear at a later date. by this point, i had already figured out a design made specifically for the ecoprinted blanks and was planning on dyeing up a skein of my normal sock yarn to go with it. last night, i dyed up a skein using a very strong madder bath and some iron mordant to deepen the colour. then i grabbed a sock blank and laid out avocado peels, thai basil, and eucalyptus leaves, bundled it up, and plopped it into the dye bath after the first skein. as i put them together to dry, i realized that this latest blank was the perfect one for the design sample, along with the madder skein. they make me so happy, i can't even describe it. other yarnies will understand my glee. 

they're very pretty in cakes, too...

i was also thinking that maybe other people would like the ecoprinted blanks too. i decided to pull aside some of the blanks i'd bookmarked for gradients and use them for eco-printing instead. i'll be selling them at the show (more news on that TOMORROW!!!) in their original blank form so that people can admire the before effect prior to doing their own unravelling. the blanks can be knit straight from one end (one end "locks" and the other unravels easily, so if you choose this option, make sure you knit from the correct end). or you can cake or wind them up, like i did. i like the cake option because of how it looks and also because it means i can knit from either end.