My current work in progress:

Sundew,by Martin Storey, knit from Rowan Softyak DK, using 3.25mm and 4mm needles.

Archives for December 2008

Mea culpa

Well, yeah, I totally should not have referred to dyeing with henna “non-chemical.” As a couple of you pointed out, henna is a chemical. I should have said “non-commercial hair color.” Or maybe “non-man-made chemcials.” Mea culpa.

It was interesting to read comments from several of you who have been doing henna dyeing, and to see that you have had the same positive experience I had.

I had one comment from some who strongly believes I am full of it, and she told me so, but in a very nice way. She claimed that she can get results just as good as mine from $3.00 store bought hair dye. This intrigues me. While this may be true for her (as everyone’s hair is different), I can tell you I have never, EVER, gotten decent coverage of my grey with commercial hair dye, be it $3.00 dye or an expensive salon job. The henna and indigo I used covered every blessed grey hair on my head. (While I am less than 10% grey, it is mostly around the temples, so it shows badly when I pull my hair back.) And I’ve never had a commercial dye job that did not fade almost immediately.

Whether it stays covered and non-faded remains to be seen. Time will tell. 🙂

This is sort of what it looks like today in artificial light — but in real life, it’s not quite this red.

I did email the commenter back and asked her if she has ever tried henna dyeing so that she has a basis for comparison, but have not received a response.

Anyhow, your mileage may vary. Anyone who has done both have any comments to support the theory that I am full of it and $3.00 hair dye works just as well to color, condition, and strengthen your hair?

And I can tell you, my hair looks even better today. The color has deepened slightly and my hair feels fabulous. I did use twice as much WEN conditioner on it in the shower this morning (yep, still shampoo-free) because, as another commenter pointed out, the lemon juice I used to activate the dye release in the henna can be very drying, so I wanted to make sure I conditioned enough. I rinsed it out thoroughly and ended up with soft, thick shiny hair.

I’ll take a picture a few days out, when I’m pretty sure it has reached its “final” color.

This is still a knitting blog, and I am still knitting, by the way.

I’m about at the halfway point on my Hanging Garden Stole.

Progress has been somewhat slow because I’m not spending as much time as I’d like working on it. I’ve got other non-bloggable stuff I need to be working on. My conscience nags at me when I don’t work on them, so less of the fun stuff for now. 🙂

Stoopid conscience.

Lucy is pleased (some might say smug) that she is a natural beauty.

A Dye Experiment

This is not about dyeing yarn, so if you’ve come here for knitting content, you might wanna skip over this entry and come back tomorrow. 🙂

A few days ago I stumbled upon this website: Henna for Hair. Be forewarned: if you have any interest in stuff like this, you’ll spend hours there.

I really like the idea of using something other than chemicals for dyeing my hair, so I did my research and ordered up some body art quality henna and some indigo. Henna will dye your hair red, but if you add indigo to the mix, you can achieve brown. Less indigo and you get reddish highlights, more indigo and you get brown. There’s other stuff you can add to make a cool rather than a warm brown.

Well, if you are interested, check out the website above, and you can read all about it.

I mixed 100 grams of my henna with lemon juice to make a thick paste — it needs the acidity to activate the dye release. I threw in some ginger to make it smell better. Henna naturally smells like hay, which isn’t too bad, but not one of my favorite scents. After letting it sit long enough to release the dye, I mixed 25 grams of the indigo with enough water to make a thick paste and mixed it in with the henna paste.

Then comes the fun part — applying it to the hair. This is a very messy process, so I put newspapers down in the bathroom (Lucy really enjoyed this part) and donned rubber gloves. I slathered it on my hair and covered every single hair from root to tip. After smooshing it all in thoroughly, I wrapped my head in plastic to keep the moisture in and waited.

How long to leave it on? the instructions tell you to leave it on from 1 to 5 hours, so I split the difference and left it on for 2.5 hours. You want to leave it on long enough for the dye to penetrate the hair well. Henna is pretty permanent because it is absorbed into the hair’s protein and really colors deeply. It’s also very good for your hair and strengthens it and gives it shine.

So after 2.5 hours, came the long and messy process of rinsing it out. I rinsed out as much as I could with water, and then slathered on a lot of conditioner and combed that through (no easy task) and then rinsed thoroughly.

I am very very pleased with the results.

Here is a “before” picture:

You can see the lovely mousy color with grey at the temples.

Here is an “after” picture:

And this is “after” in direct sunlight:

According to what I’ve read, it will darken/deepen a bit over the next couple of days. I got great grey coverage and the color on the roots blends nicely with the rest of my hair.

Once she discovered that there was to be no game with newspapers, Lucy lost interest.

Some Random Stuff

This morning I shared a very special moment with my car:

I confess to one extra trip around the block for the sake of the photo op.

It got very cold last night and there was a tiny sprinkle of snow.

Note how the flag is standing straight out — there is some serious wind going on right now. I will confess to having opened my window a little while ago, but the wind was too strong (40 mph) and rattled the screen alarmingly, so I closed the window. I’ve not yet turned the heat on, but the temperature is supposed to be between 14 – 22 degrees tonight so maybe tonight is the night. You just never know.

I’ve done some work on my stole:

And Miss Lucy is hunkered down on her cozy cushion.

So, basically, all is right with the world.

Questions! And Maybe Some Answers!

Y’all have asked a lot of questions over the past couple of days. 🙂

The most frequent question asked about yesterday’s post was where to get the knitting symbols font. Now, if you questioners had read instead of skimmed, you would have seen that I plainly said in yesterday’s post that I had talked about the fonts a couple of days earlier. 😉 The info about and the link to the fonts is in this post.

There was a question about why I don’t create charts in Excel. I do, particularly for large projects, like lace shawls. But I create my sock patterns in Word, and my experience is that a Word table works much better and is far more predictable than an imported Excel table.

Your mileage may vary.

Back to my work in progress.

There have been some questions about the yarn I am using — Tilli Tomas Demi-Plie silk. Is it worth the money? As I have no recollection of how much I paid for it, I cannot answer that. 😉 But I can tell you that it is lovely yarn. Very, very nice to knit.

Also some blocking questions. I did not block my work in progress before I photographed it the other day, but I did spent quite a lot of time artfully arranging it and stretching it out so it would look its best before photographing it.

This does need to be blocked. This is what it looks like in its unblocked state.

You can wet-block silk, but what I will do is block it with my steam iron. Because it is a simple shape, a rectangle, I can do that. And carefully steaming the silk, in my experience, works. That is actually how I blocked the Midnight Lace Stole I just finished.

Because my yarn is a bit heavier than the yarn called for in the pattern, I’m not concerned with stretching the piece out to make it as large as possible. All I want to do is to stretch it enough to open up the lace and steam it to set it.

Okay, gotta go knit. And cater to the little princess.

See Wendy Chart

I’ve not made much knitting progress so far this week, so I thought I’d share with you how I create a knitting chart in Microsoft Word.

As an example, I’ll create a chart template for a sock, because that’s what I do most.

My socks are often 66 stitches around for a size medium, so I will be making a chart the encompasses 33 stitches — half the circumference of the sock.

I’m using Word 2003 for the PC for this demo, but it’s pretty much the same in newer versions (and the MAC version) as well.

Start Word with a new document, and from the Table menu, select “Insert Table.”

I want 33 stitches across and 10 rows, so I set the dimensions at 34 and 11. The extras are so I can insert stitch and row numbers. I set my column width to .18″ because from trial and error I know this will work for a chart of u to about 40 stitches that will fit nicely on a letter-sized page.

Here is your resulting table in your Word document:

Click on the little box with the plus sign in the upper left corner to select the table, and from the Table menu, select “Table Properties.”

Make your row height .18″ and specify “exactly.”

Click on “OK.”

Open “Table Properties” again and select the “Cell” tab, and choose “Center” for the vertical alignment. I discovered that I need to click “OK” in every tab (and that closes the menu) and then re-open the menu in order to save all my changes.

In the “Cell” tab, click the “Options” button in the bottom right corner.

Uncheck the “Same as the whole table” option and set all the cell margins to “0.” Click on “OK,” then click on “OK” on the “Cell” tab to close the menu.

You should now have a table with perfectly square cells.

Next, we want to remove the borders for the first row and the last column on the right, because these are where we are going to put the numbers for the stitches and rows, so they are not part of the chart.

Select the table again and choose “Table Properties” again from the Table Menu. Click on the “Borders and Shading” button at the bottom of the menu.

In the resulting menu, click on “None” to remove all borders and click “OK.”

Now using your mouse cursor, highlight all of the table except the bottom row and the righthand column:

Go back into the Borders and Shading Menu and this time select “All” for the borders. You now have a table that looks like this:

Now you need to set the font for the cells. Highlight the bordered cells, and from your font list choose your knitting symbol font (that you have conveniently already installed — see my post from a couple of days ago.) Set the font size at 8 point, bold. Set the horizontal alignment to centered. Then highlight the bottom row, and set the font to Arial Narrow, size 8, normal, and set the horizontal alignment to centered. Do the same for the righthand column. Once you have inserted your numbers for stitches and rows, your table looks like this:

At this point you can save your table as a template because you’ve got all the settings the way you want. You can easily add or delete rows and columns to this base table to make different size charts.

Here’s a chart with a bunch of knitting symbols I threw in as an example:

When you print it from Word (or create a pdf from it), the greyed-out lines around the numbers do not print, so you get a nice clean-looking chart.

There are a number of different ways you can go about creating a table in Word, and of course you can vary the size of the cells, and use bold or colored lines to delineate pattern repeats, etc. But this is a quick demo of how I do it. I hope it’s been helpful.

Lucy sez:

“It didn’t do a thing for me.”