Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Year End Review

I'm not sure I'm ready for 2015. I know I'm not ready for Christmas, but it is already Christmas Eve regardless of me. I am almost finished with one sweater for one of my brothers. This was supposed to have been the year of the sweaters for me. Well, it wasn't quite. Now there's a designer knitting club challenge with my knitting guild that I'm totally stoked about for 2015, plus two KALs that I want to participate in. And I intend to complete the two men's sweaters that are for Dad and my other brother. At least one of those might be part of the designer challenge, but the one for my dad was set to be a simple Henley design. People, I've actually created a spreadsheet to help handle all this knitting in the coming year. It includes the type of yarn, the gauge, and yardage needed. Now, I just need heaps of sweater quantities of the actual yarn.

In more positive news, I found (via a tip from CarolinaSpinner's wonderful Twisted Stitcher Podcast) a bunch of ChiaoGoo fixed circular needles at Tuesday Morning in Asheville. They were all marked at least half price and Mom gifted me with as many as I could reasonably predict myself ever needing. It was such a giant pile of knitting needles that I won't even picture it here. Just ridiculously huge. And I'm already using them. Merry Christmas to me! Thank you, Mom! We also picked up several skeins of Llama Lace by Queensland Collection (100% llama) that were on the shelves there, too. Very nice surprise!

I have recently discovered Instagram. Yes, in fact, I have been living under a rock. Here's my new Instagram account: I didn't begin an account to share my own photos as much as I wanted to access the accounts of many of the blogging and podcasting knitters that I follow. Some are not easily accessible without an Instagram log in.

I've really been getting into the podcasting world more. It is nice to listen to other crafters while I knit. I began with Gynx's The Dyer's Notebook video podcast earlier this year. Now I listen to / watch the DancingGeek, Twisted Stitcher, and FO&Dye. I just watched / listened to the Must Stash Podcast and the 2 Knit Lit Chicks for the first time yesterday. 

On the other hand, I've pulled back from Facebook a bit. FB can lead to some anxiety for me. It has become one of those things, kind of like Christmas cards, that is so often too easy to do with no real sincerity or careful thought. I'm trying to be more careful in many aspects of my life, including what I decide will be a part of my daily influences. I try to control too many things that are impossibly beyond my control, while neglecting the small things that I actually can do something about. I don't always remember that even that must take place in small steps. And I need to acknowledgement my own small steps. It's not all about big benchmarks. It's going to be OK. Right? Right.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Showcase - November 2014

The online crafting community is often a magical place. Sure, there are sometimes heated debates, but, for the most part, it is a generous and uplifting group of folks among whom mingling is a pleasure. After all, this is DIY, not GOP vs. DNC. Independent spirits and thinking outside the box are almost de rigueur. May your creativity sprout wings, roots, or auras!

That being said, there are people and places that act as creative nodes: designers that not only create patterns to follow, but offer new ways of looking at craft; podcasters and bloggers that unite individuals to help maintain the community; small business owners that take huge personal risks to bring their creations to market; and, simply put, some geniuses that humble us all and then raise us up by sharing their discoveries like sunshine.

So far, I've mentioned some of these folks in passing, as links and asides in larger posts. I'd like to dedicate this full post to featuring more individuals and resources that I have found useful or magical or both. Hopefully, even as a die-hard knitter or other yarn crafter (crocheter, spinner, dyer) you may find something here that is new and exciting to you.

I imagine this will be the first of many similar showcases. Although I've been knitting for about ten years now, and finding related online resources for most of that time, I am still new to many things. Such as podcasts. I've only begun delving into crafting podcasts this year. So much to discover!

(Before I begin, I wish to plug If you knit, crochet, loom knit, or machine knit, get yourself over to Ravelry and create a free account for yourself. Once you have a log in, you see so much more information via Ravelry (or "Rav") links. There is a whole, huge, gigantic crafting community that uses Ravelry as their communication hub via groups, forums, patterns, personal messaging, and more. Just do it. You'll be so glad you did. Free membership and so many free patterns, plus a secure way to purchase many more patterns. Plus you'll discover more designers and patterns than any one blogger could ever mention. FYI: As I write this there are 3797 crafters on the Ravelry web site, out of 4.7 million registered users from all over the globe. Join us. We have needles and hooks. We will take over the world! In a nice way.)

  • I think I'll begin with Anna Zilboorg. You won't find an abundance of online information about Ms. Zilboorg because she mostly knits and designs and meditates off the grid. Her Ravelry info is here: I had the honor to speak with Zilboorg and hear her speak at the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild a couple of months ago. She is the author of several pattern books, especially for mitts and socks, but a new sweater book should be announced soon. The book that is important to me, though, is a small, black paperback called Knitting for Anarchists. If your first reaction to the "A" word is to register the book with your nearest book-burning cult, please pretend you never saw this. In reality, knitting anarchy, as Zilboorg explains it, is teaching oneself the principles of how knitting works from the ground up (or, rather, from the loop up) for the purpose of freeing the knitter to think critically and independently about their own creations. This books is not a pattern book, although it does include pattern information. It is also not a how-to book for neophytes. Think about Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting without Tears. Zilboorg's little black book falls into that category of knitting book. Chapter one of Zimmermann's Knitting without Tears is entitled "The Opinionated Knitter". If you can handle that, you can probably handle Knitting for Anarchists
  • I am in love. I came across Kate Davies, a designer at home in the Scottish Highlands, well after the rest of the knitting world's lust for her "Owls" design began to cool. How hot was that design? Almost 7700 Ravelry knitters made it or began it and I know that many more also made it without updating their Ravelry project boards. Here is her Ravelry designer page. She has a brand new book called Yokes: Eleven Signature Designs, with Stories of the Sweater that Changed the Shape of Modern Knitting. It is so fresh that books probably haven't even begun to ship. On her wonderful blog, she traced its progress, each step of research, each new wonderful introduction to a like-minded knitter and preserver of the northern European yoke tradition, each meticulously researched tangent...all the while, pulling from musical and visual inspiration, reaching into her bag of carefully collected history, to create new sweater designs. Then, keeping in mind that her readers had faithfully followed her journey online, she actually shared each design on the blog prior to publication. Not just teaser pictures, but gorgeous photographs taken of all angles, mostly of herself walking fields and beaches with flowing skirts and the new, warm woolen creations. You can see all of the patterns included in the book here: or begin with the first pattern unveiled on her blog and read her discussions of how they developed beginning here: From there, travel forward to see each design revealed. I also highly recommend reading her earlier posts. She is both a talented designer and writer. 
  • Of course you may be familiar with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She recently featured a genius yarn--pure genius! When I purchased my Polydactyl set from Miss Babs I was determined to find some way to put them together in a shawl. I ended up creating a very basic triangle with narrow top angles so that it would be a bit longer than an equilateral triangle would normally be. My aim was to attempt to create even stripes. No way. I would have had to know exactly how much my longest stripe would need in yardage to be a certain width...well, math began to boggle my mind, so I just knit and changed colors as I pleased. Lo and behold, somebody already tackled the problem and created self-striping shawl yarn. Yo, what!? I had no more than bound off when I read the Yarn Harlot post: Are These Weeds? The folks at Caterpillargreen Yarns are GENIUSES. In case you're not familiar with self-striping yarn, let me tell you a little about it. To create stripes that match one another from one sock to another and from one color change to another, a dyer must unwind the yarn they are dying into sections for each color, but in a way that gives them control to rewind without creating knots. All sorts of mathematics may be used to create the exact combination of color stripes desired. But there is a pretty standard measurement for a sock. The vast majority of ankles and cuffs are around about the same circumference, making the work a bit easier. On the other hand, when creating self-striping shawl yarn, you must take into consideration that each stripe will require differing yardage just to appear the same width. And that's just assuming your knitter is only going to use the yarn on a triangular pattern. I am impressed. To say the least. 
  • Tin Can Knits is the collaborative design team of Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel. They offer patterns for free and for purchase. They even encourage others to use their designs for teaching knitting! Besides their own teaching engagements, they also provide online tutorials, usually tucked into their blog posts, like this one on steeking. They even have what they call "The Simple Collection: Learn to Knit with Alexa and Emily,"which is completely free and contains patterns for 1 hat, 1 baby blanket, 1 unisex sweater (adult and child sizes), 1 unisex cardigan (adult and child sizes), mitts, socks, 1 cowl, and 1 scarf. They are all designed to teach the beginning knitter all of the techniques needed to complete each project with linked tutorials (all on that link I provided above). Tin Can Knits rocks!! 
  • In other designer / tutorial news, you may be aware of Ysolda Teague's great designs...but did you know that her Scotland-based studio posts regular technique tutorials and tips? Check it out: Ysolda's Technique Thursdays. I also highly recommend reading her blog. That's how I found out about the next gem.
  • Knitsonik: Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook: A Knitting Book that Shows You How to Turn Everyday Inspirations into Gorgeous Stranded Colourwork by Felicity Ford. This is a truly beautiful book. I want it. If you like stranded colorwork, especially if you want to design some of your own or select your own palette of colors for an existing design, this treasure is for you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inspiration from the mall?

This lovely number can be purchased from Banana Republic, but doesn't it just scream to be made? You can purchase it online here. It is officially named the "Popcorn Stitch Turtleneck Pullover", but the giant chevron screams to me louder than the independent stitch within it. I especially love the traveling ribs over the hip bone area! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yarnish News

I realize I totally skipped posting my SAFF haul. Mom and I went with two other wonderful ladies from the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild and spent a wonderful Friday morning jostling from one woolly vendor to another. I had one main goal. Get one of these guys:

That's one handsome wee Peruvian alpaca. Unfortunately, I paid cash for him and can't remember the name of the vendor. 

These skeins are 100% alpaca from Morning Moon Alpacas. The brown pile are small skeins of yarn made from hair on the alpaca's neck and legs, which is coarser than what you normally find in a skein of alpaca. Nevertheless, they are pretty soft. They were only $2 a piece, so we couldn't help but scoop up some. The larger, white skein is 100% baby alpaca. Super soft. 

I also discovered Miss Babs. Apparently Miss Babs is a non-secret in a loop from which I'd been excluded. I've been living under a rock. She is located not far away; her dying studio is in Mountain City, TN, on the NC/TN state line (north of here). Her mystique comes from her wonderful sense of color and a bit of exclusivity that comes from the fact that she does not work wholesale with LYSs. You can only get her dyed yarn online or at shows. She puts on a grand vendor display indeed. I was totally bowled over by the sheer quantity of color and variety of bases!  And the line to check out was huge! She also designs special dye lots for events in limited quantities. The SAFF colorway was sold out in hours before we even got to the Miss Babs booth. I still don't know what it looked like. 

I have a small issue with overstimulation, though. I simply couldn't pick out a single skein. So many many bases! But I had to get something from my new-found fav dyer. 

So I did this:

This is Polydactyl yarn set in "Funny Papers". These are sets of 7 mini-skeins (133 yards) in 7 different colorways, named after one of the distinct colorways, on her Yummy 2-Ply Toes. In addition to "Funny Papers" (the multi-color), it contained "Coral", "Coos Bay", "Cloak", "Forever", "Oyster", and one other that I can't remember because Mom threw away the wrapper. I was so in love with the colors that I was compelled to cast on something. I finally decided on a very simple shawl that is longer than a basic triangle, one with ends that are more acute. I'm just finishing up a stretchy bind off today.

I also picked up this giant cone of yarn from Miss Bab's:

That is approximately 3800 yards of undyed ("Ecru") Tarte yarn base (fingering weight in 75% superwash merino / 15% nylon / 10% tencel). It was a deal at only $38.00. Mom and I've been playing with the acid dyes again! This is the cone from which I've been niddy noddying some big skeins. 

I've also been working on a new shawl, Briargate by Jen Lucas, in Berroco Boboli Lace (on the needles in the picture below) and Berroco Folio. 

I'll leave you with some nice pictures showcasing our fickle weather. November has been a trip.

Just before the winter snow tease.

The Japanese maple through the craft room windows after the winter snow tease.
Just don't mind that un-curtained's a WIP.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"update" sounds like such a positive word...

I have been emotionally or physically beat, in some form or another, since SAFF. So I haven't blogged. Now I shall whine.

A neighbor who has three adult cows (one being a bull and another being in heat) and a calf needed help moving said cows to a lower field for their eventual transportation to an auction. She was recently widowed and can't take care of them alone. My brother arranged a trade in which we did this in return for fire wood from her 90+ acres for the winter. Also, he would make sure that her wood shed was filled with split wood before we took any for ourselves.

I participated (on foot) in herding said cattle across said 90+ (mountainous) acres. It was beautiful. It was strenuous.

Only to discover that since no one had been actively keeping up the farm...there were gaps in the fence around the lower field.

My experience with cattle farms goes no further than black and white Westerns.

I will discuss that episode no more.

I slipped and fell in the kitchen. It took two days before my muscles and joints began to ache.

Mom made a nifty niddy noddy from PVC pipe. I can now take yarn from cones and make them into skeins. Skeins are easier to dye. The niddy noddy is 18", so it gives me a loop of yarn that is two yards around total.

I had no idea that using a niddy noddy would take muscle or make them ache.

I also had no idea that soaking and dyeing and squeezing approximately 3000 yards of wet yarn would wear me out.

I am sadly out of shape, in case you hadn't already gathered as much.

Halloween brought a cheap thrill for winter. A total tease of snow. Since then, our mornings have been very cold, but days are in the 70s and higher in direct sun light.

Mom was sick and puked one day. Her sinuses were giving her problems.

My niece, who is only 3, was so sick that she spent almost 24 hours puking. Ugh. In between boughts of vomitting, her nose ran.

I am now sick. I am not a pukey kind of person. I simply generate enough yellow and green mucus to fill a small lake. And I breathe out of my mouth because my nose is clogged. Pleasant.

The dogs were spayed and neutered yesterday. Did you know that a 125 pound dog can slither out of the hands of 2 grown men, 2 grown women, even while one of those women (me) weighs 200 pounds and is actually sitting on the dog's back? We gave up attempting to put Samson in a crate. Instead of letting the local humane society take them to the clinic, we drove them ourselves.

Did you know that dogs can express anal glands when they are extremely afraid and stressed? It smells like poop. It is strong. Like a lot of poop. Samson "expressed" himself immediately upon realizing he was expected to go into someone else's kennel. He's not used to traveling or being around so many strangers. Um. We'll work on that.

I had to change clothes, wash hands three times, and open the Suburban windows for hours because of anal expression. The source may have been back there, but it sure smelled like it was oozing from every part of his skin.

I held onto Samson's leash and was dragged at least the length of my body once. Over gravel. Then we knocked over a volunteer. Oops.

In one more day, I expect to feel sore from that trip at the end of a leash.

I am so proud of Samson. He was scared, but was not aggressive at all. He even wagged his tail when he met new people. He just refused to follow instructions.

Samson weighed 125. Lucy weighed 109.

They are currently each sleeping on a sofa in the living room.

But, what makes me saddest is that my hands have been hurting when I knit. Especially my right index finger. Maybe I should try learning Continental?

Friday, October 17, 2014


We have all the windows in the house open. After two days of non-stop rain, we have a glorious, clear day. I did take advantage of the rainy days to dye.

The twisted skein on the left is worsted 100% wool and the loose skein at right is 70 / 30 wool and silk, fingering weight. They were both immersion dyed together. I reskeined the worsted because I was curious to see how it would look. 

Here's a swatch of one of the skeins I dyed a couple of weeks ago:

It doesn't look too bad, eh?

Look what Mom made me!

A table-top horizontal swift, something like what is sometimes called an Amish yarn swift. You can see better below how she used an inexpensive 6-inch lazy susan (purchased at Lowe's) to get the spinning action. All of the wood, including the dowels, were scraps and pieces that we had collected in the garage (we have that kind of household). She added little cork circles to the bottom to protect the table surface. It's heavy enough that it doesn't move while being used.

I do have a store-bought metal and plastic umbrella swift, but it is not very sturdy (at all). We have a clamp on it to hold it at the desired height or width.

See? It doesn't even see fit to take a good picture for me. 
I'm charged with purchasing a nice new wooden swift for the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild's members' use when I go to the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF). I am so looking forward to SAFF! You may have heard of Rhinebeck (the affection name for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival), which happens this weekend. Well, I can't see myself being able to afford the trip, so SAFF is the closest I have, and it's a pretty big deal for this area. Rhinebeck has over 250 vendors (not to mention a much larger livestock competition), but SAFF brings together over 150 vendors and packs them in pretty tight at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, located in Fletcher, right across from from the Asheville Regional Airport. 

Well...the lucky ducks attending Rhinebeck work towards having a fresh new sweater completed in time to wear to Rhinebeck. Regardless of the sweater's design, it becomes officially dubbed the person's "Rhinebeck sweater." I, not being a lucky duck, am working on a "SAFF sweater" this year. This would be the Wayside Lace Sweater that I've been working on:

There are seven days until SAFF. I have worked further than the above picture shows. In fact, first thing tomorrow, I will put in the second arm hole. Then I just need to finish the right front and both sleeves. Then block it. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Full Moon

My sleep patterns are all out of whack. I blame the full moon. Don't try to rationalize my irrational connection. When I decide to be irrational, that's all there is to it.

In related news, my brother came home from work yesterday with a mind to cut down one of our biggest trees closest to the house. No heads up. No pre-planning. Just home from work and wanted to do it right then. Yesterday, as in the eve of the lunar eclipse / blood moon. Coincidence? I think not.

He wanted to do it right then. With no one else to help but Mom, his wife, and me. Really, just Mom. His wife and I observed and documented, phones ready and '911' keyed in, ready for the "Send" button to be pressed. Mom (wo)manned the Chevy Silverado pick-up, with a cable dog lead (yep, you read that correctly) and a heavy canvas tow strip tied to the tree and the truck's ball hitch. My brother worked the chain saw.

It is here that I should let you know that this is not their first tree felling. They've done this many a time. When trees age and become a threat to the house or are just perfect candidates for winter fire wood, it is good forestry practice to chop them down. It helps save other healthy trees from being accidentally damaged if they were to fall on their own, say, during a rough storm.

This particular tree, a giant maple that I keenly admired, had already dropped a warning limb on us earlier this summer, during just such a storm (picture below). The limb happened to have the girth of many of the adult trees on our property. It also chose to land with its top branches close enough to my bedroom window to give me the heebie jeebies. It may have appeared stately and steadfast to my uneducated eyes, but had been on the family's tree-cutting watch list for several years.

Limb landed too close for comfort.
With a well-placed wedge cut and Mom directing the fall, all went well. I'm sure the heavy praying that was going on helped, too. Part of the tree landed where the truck (and Mom in it) had started out! If the lead hadn't slipped as planned, she might not have been able to move fast enough. We shall not dwell.

Here are the triumphant (though bittersweet because I hate to see a dead tree) pictures. As Anne Shirley says in Anne's House of Dreams, "I couldn't live where there were no trees--something vital in me would starve."

Mom is queen of the stump.

Prior to the tree business, there was chicken drama. Who knew having a chicken coop would be like hosting a resident soap opera? Mom and I found the little black Silkie rooster almost dead in the corner of the coop one day. We'd noticed he was being roughed up by some of the bigger chickens, but hadn't worried (enough).

Note: I must admit that we were aware we had overstepped a rather obvious rule of chicken keeping. There's generally one rooster. We knew we had two. But they seemed to get along swimmingly. It was these two large red-brown hens that were causing an issue. Then we realized that these particular hens crowed.

According to my Mamaw, it is never a good thing when a hen crows.

Long story short. About a month ago, I extracted Silkie and we set him up a private space in the garage. He enjoyed solo forays on the front lawn, still in his large cage, just with the bottom removed. When we decided he was strong enough and his cocky attitude had returned, we popped him back in the big coop. But morale was not good. Egg production was beginning to suffer. Our average of 5 per day was down to 3. With 7 hens and 2 roosters. What were they doing all day? We were beginning to seriously think about cooking recipes.

Then, one day, Mom found blood splatters all over the coop and on some of the birds.

Keep in mind that some of these birds were raised by hand by my brother and sister-in-law, plus we move slowly in the coop and pause to stroke many of them. Usually, it is no big deal if one of the hens escapes by wandering past my legs when I'm slowly bringing in the food, which I do by usually keeping the pail low enough that they graze off the top of it as I come along. The wayward hen usually turns right around and follows me into the coop, as long as I notice her and kindly hold the spring-closing door open for her. On the rare occasion that I've had an actual escape, I simply walk slowly and quietly around her, while she's dumbly trying to figure out why she can't just walk through the wire wall to get back inside. Then I slowly get into position and make my move quick. I pin her wings and hold her close to my chest. No problem. Only got scratched once. Not even a very dirty job.

Well, this Monday, I had already delivered the food and filled one water container for the brood. I was returning with a second jug of water. I unlocked the door and bent down to grab the jug. To my surprise, the door burst open and the big rooster came shooting past me! It was the clearest and most opportunistic jail break I'd ever seen. And that fella had absolutely no intention of being returned to that coop. I tried my slow and easy maneuvers. Nope. Not happening. The whole time he was quiet and intent on keeping his movements directed away from that building, while the hens were making a ruckus like I'd never heard before.

At one time, he had nice fancy tail plumage.
I finally decided that if I chased him too much, he might head into the wooded lot behind the house or mosey on over the ridge. I was home alone, so I had to wait for help to arrive. After the fear of losing him, was that of his meeting his end in the jaws of a fox. I've seen two this year. I love foxes, but this rooster is a beaut and I'd hate for him to go out before his time.

Finally, my brother came home, and with the additional help of neighbors, we cornered the rooster and wrapped him in a sheet. (I'd attempted to throw said sheet over him. Did you know a scared rooster will fly really, really fast?)  While we had him in hand, we took the time to stroke him until his poor heart stopped thumping and check him out. He seemed to be fine, just pissed. But while we were standing there, one of the red/brown hens jumped on one of our more petite and docile hens. My brother decided right then and there to separate them. He popped the rooster back into the coop and we pulled out the two red/brown hens. We placed them into separate cages.

Now. I want you to know that I did not select or purchase these chickens. I have never raised chickens until this summer. My experience is limited to spending my childhood with my grandparents, who raised chickens, and helping them on occasion. I identify roosters by that big red comb that stands up on top of their head. But hens have combs, too. So, it never seemed odd to me or Mom that the two hens who were causing all the trouble had combs. They weren't tall, dorsal-fin combs like the other rooster sported. So we assumed they were hens of the same breed since they shared similar feather coloring. Quite handsome birds really.

I don't even have to say it, do I? That's right. We now think that we've had FOUR roosters this entire time. Which explains why we never had 7 eggs at any one time. We think, after spending some time scouring the Internet for rare chicken breed pictures and learning cool things about comb shapes, that the escape-artist rooster sporting the nice, high comb is a Black Copper Marran. The two "hens," which look remarkably like him, but with different shaped combs, may be Golden Laced Wyandottes. We're not 100% sure, but their being roosters explains a whole lot.

Within two days of removing the troublemakers...production is back up to 5 eggs today!

Meanwhile, I dyed my second skein of yarn, this one 100% Merino.

Here are both of them. I'm pretty excited about my first attempts at acid dyeing!

Can you tell I like purples?
I plan on knitting up a swatch to check out how the colors work with stitches before I try to select projects for them, but I'm fairly sure the fingering weight (blues and purples on top) will be a shawl or wrap, and the DK (purples on bottom) will be a hat.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I'm Dyeing

Yarn. I'm dyeing yarn.

Not bad, eh? I finished that skein last night. It's still damp. The base is KnitPicks Bare Stroll Fingering Sock, 75% superwash Merino and 25% nylon. 

Here is all of my accumulated dyeing materials spread out in the kitchen:

I cleaned up the kitchen, put away as many food-related items as I could, and then spread out these heavy plastic signs (upside down) that my brother had picked up from an old job (heavy banners for sales that were bound for the trash). I strapped on an apron, gloves, and a lovely mask, then I proceeded to mix the dye powder (WashFast) with hot water to make 1% solution dye stock.

Before beginning, I wanted to play around with the colors. I picked this little experiment that I'd read about in both Callahan's Hand Dyeing and Rex's Complex Colors. Using Styrofoam egg cartons and a dropper, I placed 10 drops of one primary dye stock in one egg cup, 9 in the next, 8 in the next and so forth. Then I chose a different primary color and did the same from one of the resulting empty egg cups, making sure each one only contained a total of 10 drops. (Or mostly 10. I wasn't completely perfectly precise, ya know?) I used a paintbrush and water color paper to make my own little color grid:

Beautiful colors! I used the grid to attempt my first dye recipes! I also saved the experiment dye by using the little droppers to suck up the color from each egg cup (took forever) and squirted it all into a clean jar. That's the mystery grey color, third on the right, on the chart. I threw that little bit of stock into the final bath to help give the final colors a little deeper shade.

But, it turns out, I have a small problem, besides being new to this and lacking the pH strips to make sure I was adding enough citric acid at the tight time and heating it up at the tight time in order to still get layered colors and, oh, what have you. And that problem is my patience, or lack thereof. Just as in cooking, where a watched kettle will not boil, so will a watched dye pot not dye, apparently. The magic always happened after I'd run away in a huff and returned much later. It seemed like I was dyeing that one skein forever last night!

I do think I threw in too much dye with the first bath, so after the first skein (the one pictured above) had soaked up a deep purple where it was exposed (I twisted it as a "resist" technique for the first two layers), I through a second skein that was loose. It came out a lovely semi-solid, lighter purple. That skein is currently cooling in the dye pot right now. I gave it two more color treatments today.

All the supplies boxed up quite nicely for stashing in our overcrowded craft room.

(Except for that giant stock pot, a giant white plastic tub, and a colander.)

In other knitterly news, I began another project. This one was selected specifically as a travel-friendly project, because toting a cone of cotton around is not a great idea, regardless of how large my purse is.

This is the Jeweled Cowl and the "jewels" are supposed to be beads, but I am not adding beads. It is a loopy long cowl that can be worn to hang long, or doubled and be cozy around your neck. There is a nice shifting lattice pattern, but it is otherwise a simple stockinette pattern that really showcases a variegated yarn. This is Malabrigo Sock in Arbol, which I had purchased at this past April's Carolina Fiber Fest for the express purpose of becoming the Fall of Leaves shawl. I simply couldn't let it sit, pining, alone, gathering dust, any longer. I think it will be lovely as a simple cowl.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall is Here

...and it's not so bad. I usually love this season, but this year just seemed to go by too quickly and I wanted to grasp onto the threads of summer. I'm over that now. These temperatures are so much nicer.

Those blurry red things are fall leaves. 
So, what have I been doing since I've abandoned my regular blog posting? Reading, knitting, sulking. *sigh* It was the weather.

I've given myself pseudo-academic assignments and they've brightened my spirits. First, I'm dabbling deeper into dyeing yarn with acid dyes. In fact, my first sampler kit of WashFast acid dyes should arrive today. I already have four skeins of different blends of yarn, all "bare" or undyed, from KnitPicks.

More dyeing equipment that I've been gathering. For safety, it all has to be separate from what you use for cooking. It was all pretty cheap, too. Measuring spoons, cup, foam brushes from the Dollar Tree, Wal-Mart soak tub and stainless steel stock pot. The pot is just fine for hobby dyeing, but probably isn't heavy gauge enough to work for a business. I already have gloves and some filter masks, also good enough for hobby dyeing, but not for a long-term business dye operation.

But before I could imagine myself doing this, I wanted to prepare as much as I could by researching dyeing technique and color theory. I was also inspired to go deeper into the color research after reading and loving Victoria Finlay's Color: A Natural History of the Palette.  So, I read about color theory and color mixing in Michael Wilcox's Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green. Then I ordered Gail Callahan's Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. Callahan not only offers technical know-how for dyeing with acid dyes, she devotes much thought to color theory, as well. She's developed a variation on the traditional color wheel: her Color Grid (that link has a short video of Callahan demonstrating how to use it). Then, to really bring the color theory and the dyeing together, I ordered and read Susan Rex's Complex Color: Color Mixing for WashFast Acid Dye. Rex not only gives specific recipes (in the form of percentages of primaries to mix), she gives explanations and insight into why certain colors and dyes behave the way they do. I've also been watching Laura Jinks Jimenez (aka Gynx)'s fantastic video podcast series, The Dyer's Notebook. (If you go back to watch her from the beginning, you may need to check her YouTube channel for the earliest videos.) I now plan on creating my own color wheel with either the paints I have (stored somewhere downstairs) or using the dyes, once I mix them into stock. **so excited!!**

My second project is rather nerdier. I've always been an Agatha Christie fan. I read many of her books when I was in high school. I discovered, not one, but two active Ravelry groups dedicated to reading her novels and discussing patterns that may have fit the time periods (early to mid-Twentieth century). One of the groups is dedicated to Miss Marple, my favorite Christie detective. I've developed a personal reading plan to read all of the books and stories featuring Miss Marple in order, comparing how she's characterized and how else she may have changed over time, or how she reflects Christie's personal philosophies on human nature. I want to reread them partly because my mind's eye has been skewed towards my favorite BBC incarnation of Miss Marple, played by Joan Hickson. Also, I think there's more to be found in the texts now that I'm older and not just reading for the thrill of the mystery. These are not "classics" in the Western Canon vein, but they are a snapshot of history. And I just love Agatha Christie.

OK, that's enough of my academic pursuits.

I grabbed Mom and we attended our first knitting retreat! It was a day retreat held at the Lake Logan Episcopal Center organized by the Smoky Mountain Knitters Guild.

We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I took a nice walk after lunch (excellent food). Unfortunately there's no picture of the actual Lake Logan. The retreat center doesn't actually have a view of it. You may (possibly) have heard of Lake Logan. The lumber industry and lumber barons featured in local writer Ron Rash's novel Serena were very much a real presence in the Lake Logan and Sunburst area of Haywood County. The novel is now a movie starring the latest Hollywood movers and shakers Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. This area now brushes right up against the Pisgah National Forest.

I strayed from the gravel road to get closer to the water.

Lake Logan is on the other side of that bridge.

As you can see, it was an absolutely gorgeous day. I was reminded why I love this time of year. And why I need to get outside more often than I have been lately.

For the retreat, we had each brought yarn and had a rousing Chinese or White Elephant swap. Yarn was being picked and stolen all over the room! We all ended up with beautiful new skeins to add to our stashes. Mom got a hand sewn "box" with two skeins of Interlacements Sweet Feet (hand dyed 83% superwash merino, 18.5% merino, and 18.5% Tussah silk) in Brown and Canyonland Plus. I've only got a picture of the Brown below because I've already got the Canyonland Plus on the swift, but it has a similar rusty brown, with some blue/grey going on. Someone told me that they've only ever seen it locally sold at Friends and Fiberworks, and it is apparently discontinued because its not on the Interlacements site.

I received two balls of Noro Ayatori in color way 11, which is a mix of grey tones and a splash of bright yellow in 60 wool / 40 silk.

I'm making significant progress on my Wayside Lace Cardigan. I'm about midway through the back.

Last night I cast on a new project. This is a textured, triangular shawl called Nae by Anat Rodan. "Nae" is the Japanese word for seedlings. I've called mine "Dragon Seedlings" because I'm knitting it out of Earth Guild's Dragon Tale 4/2 cotton (Winter Wood color way). It is coming together very quickly and already has a nice drape.

I also dyed two more of the hand spun skeins that we picked up from Julie Wilson's farm. The first time I used black beans in a cold dye vat. This time I used coffee and set the dye with heat, up to 180 degrees. I think the two colors go well together, but I'm frustrated with the shawl pattern I chose (am I making errors or is it the pattern?), which is Colonnade by Stephen West. I'm also a little frustrated because I can already see how the black bean dye is not "fast". I didn't think I'd see mottling or fading this soon! And I'm frustrated with the texture of the yarn. I'm beginning to be spoiled by the silky stuff. Hrumph.