Pysanky, my first dyeing



My very first exposure to dyeing wasn’t on yarn, or fiber, or even fabric.  It was on eggs.  Sounds pretty average, right?  Hard-boiled eggs, vinegar, dye pellets?  But I’m Czech and Ukrainian (with a wee smattering of Irish and Scottish), so these were not your standard, American Paas Easter eggs, with crayon drawing and pastel colors (We did those too, so that we could play with them and eat them!).  My first real dyeing was on Pysanky, traditionally decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs.


Pysanky is basically batik on eggs, a wax resist dyeing process.  A small cupped stylus (a kistka) is heated with a candle flame and used to apply thin lines of beeswax, and the eggs are dipped in a series of alkaline dyes between layers of wax, from the lightest colors to the darkest.  Then the dye is melted off with a candle flame, and the eggs are sealed with glossy varnish.  This is all done, at least with my family, on intact, raw, room temperature eggs.   I think you can tell from that description that this would NOT be considered a kid-friendly process these days, but I grew up in a non-coddly household and learned pretty early on not to stick nasty work materials in my mouth and to respect fire and sharp objects, or else. 

So now the smell of melted beeswax brings on instant childhood nostalgia, thinking of all those happy hours with heads bent over our work at the kitchen table, learning to melt the wax without creating too much soot, applying delicate lines of wax, learning which colors layered best.  And the magic of holding your wax covered egg next to the candle flame, and wiping away the beeswax to reveal your brightly colored creation.  I learned all of this from my mom, who taught classes on Pysanky, and created amazingly detailed eggs.

My Grandma Tarasovich used a different method, sticking a straight pin into the eraser of a pencil to make a stylus, then dipping it into a candle to gather wax, making teardrop shapes in pattern, and then dyeing the eggs in solid colors, like this:


Image: Better Homes and Gardens

So began my love of pattern, color, and appreciation of handcraft and a bit of elbow grease.  Oh, and obsessively detailed work.  Thanks, Mom!

Interested?  The lovely folks at Learn Pysanky have online tutorials and links to suppliers and workshops.


Erin Go Braugh! Knitted Shamrocks

Vickie Howell has a cute, fast knitted shamrock pattern on her craft blog this week, great for St. Paddy's festivities! 

It uses scrap sock yarn, and she shows you how to use iron-on crystals to glam it up.  I'm thinking of using beads or tiny buttons, since I always have them on hand in my heap of craft supplies.  And I'm never at a loss for sock yarn scraps, so I can imagine these in KSD colorways, Grass, Goldbug, Liam.  Snazzy!  I wonder if I can whip up a couple to wear to the St. Pat's party at Ms. Molly's this weekend?

Leather cuff bracelets

Between the Lines has a great, quick tutorial up for an easy leather bracelet, made with one strip of scrap leather.  I just happen to have a pile of scrap leather, bought on impulse at Earth Guild in Asheville, NC this fall.  There was a big shallow bin of every sort and color of leather, for something like 50 cents an ounce, so I couldn’t resist, although I had no real plan for how to utilize it.  But I took a few pieces home in my suitcase.

So never one to leave well enough alone, I’m imagining a cuff with 3 wider strips, with a tad of embroidery along the length, and a great vintage button.  Guess what I’ll be making this weekend?  Now where’s my thimble?

New Pattern- Snakehandler Collection

Cabled cowl, fingerless mitts, and headband, with button detailing, knit in Kitchen Sink Dyeworks Eco Merino DK.  The “buttonholes” are created by the first row of cable twists!

Size: headband & mitts- women’s medium/large, cowl- one size fits most

Finished measurements: headband- 20.5" x 2.75", length can be adjusted; cowl-20” circ. buttoned, 6.5” wide; mitts- 8” length, 6.5” circ around hand, will stretch to fit.

Yarn: DK or light worsted, mitts shown knit in Kitchen Sink Dyeworks Eco DK, 100% organic merino 145yds/2 oz. mitts-145 yds, cowl- 200 yds, headband- 85yds.

Needles: Mitts -size 6 straight & DPN. Cowl-size 6 straight Headband- size 5 straight.

Gauge: mitts & cowl-20 sts & 24 rows = 4” in St st. Headband- 22 sts & 28 rows=4” in St st.

Notions: cable needle, tapestry needle, mitts-4-5/8” buttons, headband-2-3/4” buttons, cowl- 4-3/4” buttons

PDF pattern, $6.00

FREE online class

There’s been a lot of chat in the internet craft community about the joy and power of FREE, as in sharing creative works for free to spread goodwill. I love this idea, sharing tutorials and ideas, but I wanted to take it a step further. So here’s my next big thing, a free online class where I’m not only sharing knitting knowledge, but giving you the opportunity to share some free, too.

Visit my class site to sign up for a completely free online video class on how to knit socks with the Magic Loop technique. The class project is a teeny pair of toddler socks that can be (but don’t have to be, your choice, no pressure) donated to Children in Common. CIC helps provide warm clothing and other assistance to children living in orphanages in Russia and the rest of the former soviet Union.


Julep Beret

I have a new pattern available this week, the Julep crochet beret! This highly textured slouch beret is an easy one-skein project in sock weight yarn. By using thinner yarn on a larger hook, the puff stitches create a delicate, airy texture that is perfect for showing off the soft shading of hand-dyed yarns.

Size: Women’s M/L, 11” diameter
Yarn: one skein Kitchen Sink Dyeworks Merino Fine, 390yds per 4oz, or any similar fingering weight yarn
Hook: size G/4mm, or size needed to obtain gaugeGauge: 11st and 12 rounds=4” in circular puff stitch
Notions: locking stitch marker or coiless safety pin, tapestry needle

PDF pattern available for $5.00

Gilding the Lily

…or the acorn, as the case may be.

This pendant had an unlikely origin, that my dog, the sweet but crazy Leelu, once again jumped the fence and I had to track her down on a neighboring block.  On my hunt, I found a few fat little acorns and stuffed them in my pocket.  Later, looking at them, I decided to try to make a crocheted cap just to see what it would look like, and this is the result.  I think this is one of the tiniest, most delicate things I’ve ever made, and I want to make a few more to see what may come of it.

acorn is 1″ tall, leaves measure .5″ long
size 20 cordonette cotton thread, 1mm hook

I may try some even thinner tatting thread and a smaller hook on a new one,  just to see what it would look like