Sunday, 26 June 2016


well, i ended up changing my mind about waiting to release my new yarn. sylvia convinced me to make it available earlier, and now you can buy it dyed-to-order from my etsy shop! meet the newest addition to the sunflower knit yarn family, rumpelstiltskin.

i named this yarn rumpelstiltskin because of its make-up - 65% silk and 35% linen. it just made sense! and sounded more fun than something like "silken straw", which would also be accurate.

i love this yarn a lot. the two skeins i dyed with mica caps are sitting and waiting for me to get around to knitting with them. i wish i had more time! but i think the design i make with these lovelies won't hit my needles until the fall. ah well, maybe someone else will be quicker than me ha.

i've been settling a little more into my yarn dyeing priorities. with the limited amount of time that i have available to dye on a semi-regular basis, as well as the cost of keeping bases stocked, i've decided to focus primarily on mermaid hair, five of hearts sets, and now rumpelstiltskin. i still have some old stock to sell off, and i'll be able to do a bit of other dyeing for special orders and one-offs, but until anna's fibre csa is underway, i think this will be my main focus. it feels more sustainable, and also features the yarns in my line that i love the most, both for dyeing and for knitting with. and i think if you're going to be selling yarns, you should really love to knit with them too, don't you?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

tttkal 2016 recap

it's the end of this year's tops, tanks, & tees knit-along! i hope you enjoyed yourself as much as i did. i love this annual event that shannon hosts, because it's turned into just the best motivation for me to get a new design on and off my needles. in fact, thanks to this year's extensions, i got two designs on and off my needles, including one that had a false start and a week's worth of knitting that i frogged because i got a better idea halfway through!

this year, it's all about the boxy shapes for me. i don't know if all the shaping and math and yokes for flotsam & jetsam's garments have traumatized me slightly or what, but i was all about the squares and rectangles for both of my tttkal designs. first up, a crop top using shibui knits' cima.

i love this one so much! and i kept drooling over the colour while i knit it, because it is my perfect greyish-purple. i have never designed with laceweight before, because oh my god why would you want such thin yarn you'll never ever ever finish it. but i knew i wanted a particular floaty quality to the fabric, and that this yarn would accomplish that for me perfectly. it's so worth it. (incidentally, i have a three skein project using yoth's mother base that i'll have to deal with in the next year, so let's just think of this as preparation.)

next up, this super loose top that i designed using lichen & lace's 80/20 sock. i have had so many false starts on this design. for ages, i kept imagining it as a tank top of some sort, but i could never really settle on what kind of neck i wanted it to have. i also realized after working on it for about a week, that i rarely design tops that i personally would wear. i mean, i love my top designs, and i know they look great on a lot of people, but i never end up wearing the samples once they're done. especially if they're made from any sort of wool. i think because my body is so terrible at regulating heat, i end up thinking of my base layer as some sort of plant fibre, and then oodles of wool and silk get heaped on afterwards for my other layers. so i got stuck on this design once again, and shifted over to the crop top, and then i realized that wait, a boxy top with a super loose gauge would be the perfect way to have a lightweight, breezy, comfortable shirt layer for summer months. and so i finally got it done!

i'm in the process of getting both of these designs over to nicola for tech editing, and then they'll be ready for test knitting. each design fits a size 30-52" bust, so give me a shout if you'd like to test! i think i'd like to get them out mid-summer, so anticipate about a 4 week deadline once you get the pattern (although it's certainly not set in stone). 

shannon also does a sweater knit-along later in the summer, and although i've only participated once (that i can recall), i think it would be a really great excuse to get another design on and off my needles again. i  have a sweater's worth of yoth's father base (it's so magnificently squishy, i definitely shoved my face into it when it arrived), so maybe the kal will help me move along one of my larger designs for my collection with yoth, or at least get me going on it. the big pieces are always so intimidating, not necessarily even from a knitting perspective, but from the writing and math perspective. there's just so much paperwork and brain matter that goes into a sweater design. and financially, they sell for not much more than a shawl, which generally does not involve grading an additional ten or twelve sizes on top of the sample size. but they are incredibly satisfying, and a good sweater design is just so...well, perfect. so we'll see where i get to with both of those designs when the sweater kal comes along. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


i was  talking with nicola a little while ago about how i've never tried mushroom foraging or dyeing before because i'm so paranoid about accidentally trying toxic ones, and how i was hoping to try it out this year. then a couple of weeks ago, walking to work, i stumbled on a few big collections of mushrooms along the sidewalk and thought, well, if this isn't a sign, i don't know what is. so, after work, i grabbed my foraging basket and went out a-hunting! i got a healthy amount and then brought them home and immediately popped them into my dye pot (a very good decision, considering how many creepy-crawlies decided to come along for the ride). and just look at the result!

undyed on the left, dyed and caked on the right. the difference is clearer in real life, but it is still a gentle colour.

greys are one of the absolute hardest colours to achieve with natural dyes. you can get some incredible browns, and faded purples, and once i managed to get a silver-grey from the remnants of an exhausted logwood bath and black beans. and alkanet can give some gorgeous purple-based greys. but it's not easy. so i am over the moon that my super-local foraging (like, a three block radius from my front door) resulted in a colour that is my favourite non-colour, and such a gorgeous pearly shade to boot!


i did some research and determined that my new loves are mica caps. they pop up after rain, and very quickly disintegrate into a black goo. indeed, while i was gathering the mushrooms, which had popped up overnight, there were already clusters from the morning that had liquified. they grow from wood material, either rotting underground or along tree trunks and stumps. technically, they can be eaten, but even the scent of them boiling in my dye pot afterwards made me nauseous, so i think i'll stick with just the dyeing. 

i've been gathering plans (and plants!) for a collection of small weavings dyed with different local foraged plants. and i also plan on doing small batches of limited edition yarns dyed with manitoban plants. that will become a more established thing once anna's fibre csa gets going next year. i actually can't think of anything more perfect for my nerdy fibreshed heart than yarn dyed with plants i've gathered by hand near home and made with wool spun nearby from my friend's sheep less than an hour's drive away. it is the ultimate dream to me.

this is my new linen/silk blend, which i'm calling rumpelstiltskin. it won't be available until later this fall, but i'm already in love.
in the meantime, i'll do some very limited dyeing with mushrooms on my current bases after the rain. if you'd like some of this extra special yarn and are ok with waiting, please feel free to shoot me an email and i'll send it to you the next time the mushrooms sprout. i think i'll be able to get a good shawl's worth of mushrooms each time (responsible foraging and all that), so the baths will be limited to 2-3 skeins. but i promise it will be the most perfect yarn when it's ready. and it will be oh so special. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

tanis fiber arts blanket kal

well, it seems like everyone is just lining up kals right now to keep me on track with all my projects. tanis is running a blanket kal over the summer, and the rules are pretty simple - knit any blanket, any size, with tfa yarn, and cast it on and off between june 24 and september 5. i know what you're thinking, because i'm thinking it too - ash, you're insane. you already have so much you have to do this summer! are you trying to drive yourself into an early grave? 

ok, ok, but hear me out. my friends are having a gayby early this winter, and i had already decided i was going to knit them a baby blanket using the literal rainbow of tfa yarn that's been in my stash for a couple of years. it's mostly from back when i was making undies, and to say that my work priorities have shifted from that would be an understatement. if i manage to get the time to make anyone undies these days, they're for me, dammit. so i've got nearly full skeins of the whole rainbow, plus a couple of other bright skeins, and i think we all know that i don't really do brights in my own wardrobe. a gayby is the perfect excuse to design a baby blanket pattern, use up a whole lot of stash, and make some rainbows. yes yes yes.

now, my plan had been to get around to this after the summer, but i think having a couple of months to be able to plug away at it with an actual deadline (besides the baby's due date) will help keep me on track. also, that big stash of greens and purples i'd pulled out yesterday is going to be for the throw-sized version of the same design (there's actually quite a lot of tfa yarn in that pile as well), and i'm going to have a tough enough time as is staying on track with that. (it's going to end up a selfish knit, and we all know how bad i am with sticking to those, even when they are a design sample too.) so, let's get the baby version on and off my needles, clear out about ten skeins from my stash, and tick another thing off my to-knit list. 

i have to admit, these fairly-open-ruled kals are kind of my best friends right now. the dates are a little stressful, but they sure do help me stay on target. speaking of which, the #tttkal ends on friday! and i should have the second design ready by then too! woot woot! 

Monday, 6 June 2016


tara swiger is currently running a month-long challenge called "month of biz love", where you spend a month with daily prompts and a workbook to help find your love for your business again. as creatives, it's so incredibly fulfilling and rewarding to make as your career. but deadlines, paperwork, number crunching, and all the other less-than-exciting things we do can dampen that joy. i'm only doing the challenge in the most cursory of ways, because i have so many deadlines this month (note the irony), but i love that about tara's challenges. you can participate as fully or lightly as you can manage, and there's no shame from anyone, only support. today, the challenge is to prioritize, and identify one single thing that i can do to make a difference in my business this week. 

A photo posted by Tara Swiger (@taraswiger) on

my priority for this week is to deal with the final four patterns for flotsam & jetsam that nicola and i have been passing back and forth with edits. they've filled me with so much anxiety at this point that i've been avoiding them and doing basically anything else that still helps my business/my life. i have a confession to make: i always have anxiety about fully completing huge projects. i feel like i have this pattern of going 90% of the way, and then falling back when it comes to the last 10%. so all these deadlines and tasks that make up the publication of my first book are filled with a healthy (or maybe unhealthy) dose of dread - what if i don't do them? what if i fall behind to the point that i can't make it back? what if i just don't publish the book in the end? 

mushroom-dyed yarns in cakes, and an undyed skein beside them. 
at the end of the day, the answer to any of these is that i just don't do a thing i wanted and have been working hard to do. the world wouldn't end. people wouldn't die. there would just be one less knitting book in the world, which in the grand scheme of the universe isn't the hugest issue out there. but i would be disappointed in myself, and that's shitty. and so my anxiety affixes itself to that disappointment and i avoid my paperwork. no, it does not make sense. anxiety generally doesn't care if it's rational, of course. so my priority is to do this paperwork, and complete these edits and get the patterns to their testers, and then keep chugging along with the rest of the work. everything else is a lot more manageable, honestly. it's mostly just this huge hurdle right now that's kicking me in the head.

stashbusting at its finest.

of course, i don't ever really focus on just one thing at a time. i sent one of the four patterns off to nicola a little while ago, and while i did that, i was also finishing off my dye pots for the day, and i sorted out a new design that will help stashbust, which is another longer-term priority of mine right now. my stash is feeling overwhelming these days (i'm sure that's an enviable position to a lot of knitters, but to me it just feeds my anxiety), and i want to work through as much of it as i can as quickly as possible. i'm still in the process of making it a more useful stash for designing, and that means that it's currently a mix of random skeins that i need to clear out somehow and clusters of skeins that actually have a purpose and are cluttering my brain. at least it's helping out my wallet right now.