hooting and howellering

I have written in the post on Thursday that my daughter and I are finishing a pattern for an owl. well we are getting closer to releasing and I thought  that I would talk a little about the yarns I have been using for my minis specifically for the owlet. I am giving away a kit with a pattern for the owl. Included in the kit is almost everything you need to finish an owlet. You will need to supply the knitting needles and thread and a sewing needle and a little stuffing to finish.

Oh and about 5 hours of time to unwind and relax and knit.

the yarn is a sock weight merino wool blended with nylon. When I get the yarn it is naked. Ok it undyed. I take it up to our cabin and play with it out in my garden. I start a fire in our fire pit and set a pot of water on a swinging grill that I can move over the fire or off if it gets too hot. I am not terrible scientific about this–I really just play trying this and that until I get a result I like. I have a few books that I read with recipes that are written by people with far more knowledge than I have. But usually I just play combining things and using plants just to see if they willing to give up some of their color onto my yarn.

Sometimes I am disappointed and just get a pale tan color and other times the colors are vibrant and almost neon like this yellow. A pale color doesn’t do much for me. And one that is too shockingly yellow is too intense to use in my stranded knitting. So then I over dye. In the fall of this year I foraged in the morning loading my pockets with walnuts that had fallen on the ground. My pocket were like the cheeks of a squirrel gathering acorns for the winter. I dug the nuts out of the husk and put the husk in a bucket of water to soak. The walnuts I put out for the squirrels to steal away. The walnuts quickly gave up their color and in a week I was throwing hanks of yarn in the bottom of the buckets and letting them soak up the rich browns in the water. My buckets are still in the shed and I am using to over dye some of the yarn that is either too pale or too bright for my projects. some of the yarn like the one above is perfect from the get go. The golden yellow color of the dried dahlia blossoms is beautiful and I won’t alter it one bit.others like this one is enhanced by dipping the skien a second time.It allows me to tame the yellow and oranges a bit and soften them and also to create richer browns that have layers of color. I never know what I might get the same flower that I try in early summer might yield a different color in the fall. And just because a flower is orange doesn’t mean the yarn will be orange in fact it probable won’t be. My colors are not as intense as they might be if I used chemical dyes but I love them and as I knit this winter they remind me of the promise of warm days and sunshine to come.

so what do you have to do to win a kit, just post a comment or better yet subscribe and become a follower of my blog and tomorrow when we release our pattern on Ravelry I will draw one person to win a kit and pattern.

updated to note that the pattern is released now and you can find it here

Ravelry: Howell the Owl Pocket Pal pattern by Mary Jo Martinek



  1. Heidi Rosin said,

    December 17, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Great work and another great pattern! 🙂

  2. Sara said,

    December 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Wow – I loved reading all about how you dye your yarns from natural materials – very impressive. How do you make the colour fast? Do you have to be careful about washing items made after? I would love to win an owl kit (I have a small thing about owls!)

    • whatzitknitz said,

      December 17, 2011 at 10:59 am

      I wash my woolies by hand and haven’t had any trouble. the things I dyed 5 yrs ago haven’t faded a bit.
      I have a thing about owls too.
      ps I also have a thing for ravens and crows so come January I will knit a couple of them.

  3. Dawn said,

    December 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I like to dye with walnuts too. They are so abundant here and the colors are so rich. Are you releasing your owl pattern? I have some “orphan” skeins of yarn that I have dyed with this and that and I think the owls would be a good project.

  4. Julianne Walbridge said,

    December 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    WOW, WOW and WOW.
    I just buy my wool.
    I love the colours you end up with very Owly.
    BTW I’m a Tawny Owl at a local Brownie Unit and my friend is Snowy Owl.


    • whatzitknitz said,

      December 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      A hoot back Tawny owl.
      nothing wrong with bought wool I love any kind of wool.
      I have been having fun with my wooly experiments though and there are lots of great sites with info for dyeing. I am sure your Brownie unit would get a bang out of trying this– I have been saving up onion skins to dye with. And if I were doing it inside I would use my electric roaster( really big crock pot) set on low.
      For the flowers and plants I dye with I always work outside because just because it is natural doesn’t mean you want to breath the fumes.
      next spring you could grow marigolds or cosmos or dahlias and use the blossoms to dye with too.

  5. sophietd said,

    December 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    We have done tie-dying with the Brownies and they loved it. We made ourselves pink neckers.


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