Monday, 14 July 2014
A few months ago someone from the yarn company Darn Good Yarn contacted me and asked if I would like a free yarn sample. I gave the question of whether I would like to receive free yarn the 0.00001 seconds of serious thought it took for me to conclude that OH YES PLEASE I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE SOME FREE YARN, and the skein of Roving Silk Yarn pictured above was duly sent to me. Which in turn led to me checking out Darn Good Yarn projects on Ravelry to see what other knitters were doing with Darn Good Yarn's yarns, and from there to the Darn Good Yarn website itself.
Darn Good Yarn, founded in 2008, offers a range of yarn that is handmade by hundreds of women in India and Nepal. These women, many of whom live in areas where there are few viable jobs for women, are selected for their skill and can earn a livable wage in their own homes. Not only does Darn Good Yarn give all these women the means to support themselves, they also help reduce waste as the much of the fibres used to make the yarns for a Darn Good Yarn are recycled and reclaimed, such as those used in their silk yarns, which are made from recycled silk saris.
Darn Good Yarn offers quite a full range of yarns, from hand-dyed silk, llama, yak, and banana fibre yarns that could be used for general purpose knitting and crocheting, to ribbon yarns, art yarns, and yarn made from jute, linen, newspaper, and hemp that would be better suited to home decor items, art, or strictly utilitarian projects than to anything wearable. They also offer some fabric, and spinning and felting supplies. The crocheted basket photo above is one of Darn Good Yarn's product shots and is available as a kit containing the instructions and enough ribbon yarn to make three nesting baskets.
This plant holder is another of Darn Good Yarn's suggested projects: it's a bread crumb container covered in newspaper yarn. The instructions are available for free on Darn Good Yarn's website. To be honest, many of the free project patterns on the Darn Good Yarn website leave something to be desired, but then that's often true of the designs offered by yarn companies; their forte is supplying yarn rather than coming up with creative things for a knitter to do with it. So let's have a look at what the users of Ravelry are doing with their Darn Good Yarn.
Ravelry user HaliBea knitted this hip scarf to wear in a student recital at the dance studio she attends. She used Darn Good Yarn's Recycled Resolution Sari Silk Yarn for the project. The play of colour is fabulous, and I'd love to see this idea expanded into a standard-sized shawl.
Ravelry user purple4885 knitted this Malawi Cichlid Skinny Scarf with less than a skein of Darn Good Yarn's Silk Cloud.
Ravelry user BettyBee made this Plush Boxy Bee scarf with some of Darn Good Yarn's Plush yarn and some black yarn from Lamb's Pride. This scarf is woven, not knitted, but it would be quite possible to knit something similar. This piece makes good use of a solid dark colour to tone down a bright, multi-coloured yarn.
Ravelry user babjoysong knitted and sewed this vest using Recycled Sari Silk Yarn Rope Cording and some coordinating striped fabric. She reported that "the yarn is tough, coarse, wiry, and challenging to work with".
This little witch doll isn't knitted or even crocheted, but she is just too wonderful and deliciously creepy not to include. Ravelry user magyarreeddog made twelve-inch Violet the Witch's hat, overskirt, and embellishments from Darn Good Yarn's dyed silk roving, silk gauze and ribbons.
Wednesday, 5 June 2013
This terrific idea for making a chipmunk out of an extra knitted glove comes from the book Happy Gloves: Charming Softy Friends Made from Colorful Gloves, by Miyako Kanamori. There's a full tutorial for how to make the chipmunk on Etsy. Looks like a practical and inventive way to give new life to a wool glove whose mate has disappeared into the ether... and don't we all have those.
You can see more of Kanamori's darling upcycled toys, such as the moose above, on her website. I used to knit toys such as teddy bears from scratch, but it got to be just too much work and too time-consuming. I think the breaking point was 2009, the year nine of my family members, friends, and co-workers produced babies. I now sew them, usually using remnant fabrics from my other sewing projects. People make just as big a fuss over sewn toys as they do over knitted ones, and the children who get them love them just as much. Upcycling knitwear that's in good condition and that would otherwise go to waste is another means to produce toys if you want toys with that knitted look.
Saturday, 27 April 2013
If you're still one of those who indulge in the delightfully archaic practice of reading the newspaper on actual newspaper, or if your local newspapers are so desperate to entice you to do so that they leave freebies on your front porch, you may be wondering what to do with the paper once you've read it. Well, if you're a knitter, you can turn it into yarn and knit things with it. Back in 2007, Design Academy Eindhoven student Greetje van Tiem, from the academy's Man and Leisure department, presented a graduation show project that involved old newspapers into yarn that can be woven into carpets, curtains and upholstery. Accordng to van Tiem, each sheet of newspaper yields twenty yards of yarn.
Italian artist Ivano Vitali, who is interested in zero waste art and was experimenting with tapestries made of backdated newspapers, plastic bags, eggshells and aluminum foil nearly forty years ago, now works almost exclusively in recycled newsprint.
Vitali makes not only art installation, but newspaper garments that are not only quite attractive but even wearable. He produces different colours in his garment by carefully pre-sorting the newspapers before producing the yarn. And these are remarkably well-cut styles, but I can't help wondering what would happen if one got caught in the rain in newsprint knitwear. Mightn't it disintegrate completely?
I don't think for instance, that I'd have the nerve to go swimming in this Ivano Vitali-made bikini.
If you'd like to give knitting with newsprint a try, you might begin by checking out this Craftster tutorial on how to make newspaper yarn.
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Has your favourite wool sweater developed holes? One way to mend the hole, or to embellish a plain sweater, is to needle felt patches over the holes with a small amount of roving and a felting needle. Erica at the blog Honestly WTF has written a tutorial explaining how to make heart-shaped patches for your sweater elbows.
If you want to see a video of the felting patch technique, the one above demonstrates it well. You'll have the option of making the patches in different simple shapes, such as those found in cookie cutters (stars, hearts, trees, Easter chicks or eggs), or if you're feeling really artistic, in more complex creations of your own design: birds, insects, flowers, text, or whatever you like. If you wish to simply mend your sweater unobtrusively, you can try to find roving in a very similar colour, or if that's not possible, mend the sweater with the closest colour of roving you can find and then dye the whole item a new colour.
There are considerations to keep in mind. Felting won't work with synthetic fibres or with superwash wool. To be a candidate for felt patches, your sweater must be natural, non-superwash woolly fibres such as sheep's wool, alpaca, angora, or cashmere. The felt patch, while it may look unobtrusive, will have a very different texture from the rest of the sweater, so you'll have to ask yourself if you'll be okay with that or if you'll be constantly fingering that stiff, lumpy little patch. Needle felting involves fast, forceful stabbing motions within inches of your fingers, and you're bound to stick yourself with the barbed needle at some point in the process, and it will hurt a lot. Felting isn't a quick process, either — darning is faster. The video above, as you can see, isn't real time.
I've never used felt patches to mend my sweaters. I do mend my clothes whenever I can, but I mend knitted items by darning them with the same, or a very similar, colour. And generally my rule is that mending has to be invisible, or at least unobtrusive, or the item goes out. I'm really not into the grunge/Dickensian urchin look. I must admit though that those heart-shaped elbow patches would be adorable on a little kid's sweater, so there might just be some felt patching in my future.
Saturday, 6 April 2013
If you're into upcycling or simply can't bear to let your favourite but worn t-shirts go, Relevé Design can tell you how to make t-shirt yarn. Figuring out what to do with the resulting balls of t-shirt yarn may be more of a challenge. I'm less than impressed by the suggested projects at the bottom of Relevé Design's page, and was underwhelmed by what I came up with via Google image searches and on Ravelry. T-shirt yarn is simply too bulky to use in knitwear. People make pom-poms out of them (for what purpose I don't know), weird rope necklaces, lumpy-looking headbands, and kitschy belts.
I think your best bet is to stick with décor items such as baskets, cushions, and rugs. You'll probably be braiding rather than knitting, and you'll need to know how to work with colour and have a good eye for design in order to get attractive results, because you're going to be working with small amounts of each colour. The classic braided rug seems to be the most generally successful t-shirt yarn project. The beautiful rug above was made by Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated. I bet it feels awesomely soft and cushiony to walk on.
If you've made a successful t-shirt yarn project, feel free to link to it in the comments!
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
A 22-year old student, Imogen Hedges of London's Kingston University, has invented a machine to ravel knitting and wind the yarn into skeins for re-use. I do have my doubts about how much time this unknitting machine would actually save. I've ripped out a number of sweaters and, when you do it, you do often hit tangles that would have to be undone manually, such as the joins where one ball or skein ends and another begins, or where the yarn just meshes to itself. And the knitted piece that is being ravelled out is almost certainly not going to cooperate by sitting still in one place on its little counter as it shows in the picture. That said, the machine, which is made out of a bicycle, is a very clever contraption and a lot of fun to watch in action, and its facility for steaming the yarn as it winds it is genius.