Monday, August 25, 2014

AWOL Blogger Found!

She's been having all night reading binges and eating beef quesaritos. (I've given up keeping normal people hours. Normal is relative anyway.)

I finished Sharon Ashwood's Possessed by a Warrior and Possessed by an Immortal, published by Harlequin in a double-novel format last night. They are part of a series and should be read in that order. I highly recommend them for paranormal romance readers. They don't have a lot of magic in them. The setting is modern. Ashwood offers a fresh spin on most paranormal critters, which is nice. Plus, a must for any romance that I read, the heroines are strong characters. (They can't compare with Mercy Thompson, but what mere human woman can? I love me some Mercy.)

I have also been knitting. Here are some finished objects:

This is the Head in the Clouds Cowl by Susie Bonell, which I knit in Berroco Remix, colorway Merlot (my Rav link).
This is Valdai by Norah Gaughan, also knit in Berroco Remix, Merlot (my Rav link).

This is Sturgeon by Norah Gaughan, knit in Malabrigo Arroyo, colorway Plomo ("lead" in Spanish) (my Rav link). I'm really excited about this one because of its unique structure. You might not be able to tell, but it is a wrap / shawl. The three points that you see at the bottom-right (kinda of looks like one half of a six-point star) falls across your shoulders, or front. The other side is actually two long tails. The cast on edge was actually all across those three points and the bind off was in the center of the three inner points, in the middle of that straight line that defines the two halves. Decreases (lots of them) created the points. The yarn was wonderful to work with. I love Malabrigo. 

I have actually been awake during some daylight hours. Really really. You may remember the picnic at Julie Wilson's farm. Mom and I scored six skeins of hand spun, undyed Shetland wool/mohair/alpaca that day. Each skein is about 200 yards, sport weight. We didn't get the chance to dye it using the acid dyes that were available for the dyeing class in the barn that day, but we decided we'd either leave it natural or do some research and dye it ourselves. 

I did some research. We first looked into natural dyeing. Mom used walnuts to dye reeds for making baskets in the past. 

We considered Kool-aid dyeing, but decided we couldn't bring ourselves to put Kool-aid on that nice fiber, especially when we were unlikely to end up with colors that either of us would actually wear. 

So, back to natural dyes. Natural dye sources are abundant on the mountain, which is a big reason for our serious consideration of this route. There are lots of drawbacks, though. Colors are limited. Most processes to extract the color are time consuming. Also, many fade with direct exposure to sunlight and frequent washing. (Just another reason to keep reading and eating in bed all night, right?)

Then we discovered this really cool chick, code named Gynx of Gynx Yarns, and her video blog / podcast. She runs her own business selling hand dyed yarn. She is so helpful. She makes her shows educational. She answers viewer questions. Suddenly, using acid dyes wasn't so intimidating anymore. 

But, there's no room in the budget for acid dyes right now. And now I was itching to dye something! This is what I did. I narrowed down the natural dyes to those that were most easily prepped and produced colors Mom and I both liked. Coffee. Black beans. Yep, black beans. 

We went with black beans first. I soaked two bags of dry black beans in tap water at room temperature (which was pretty cool due to a nearby A/C vent on the kitchen floor) in a big, stainless steel pot, covered, for two days. (Just so you know, once they plump up a bit, that gives you a bloody big pile of black beans.) Then, we soaked two skeins of the yarn in plain water (luke warm to room temperature) for about two hours (I was overshooting for good measure). I mixed a mordant (that's the mixture that helps the dye fix to the yarn) of 3 teaspoons of alum and 3 teaspoons of cream of tartar in a smaller container. (This mordant recipe is based on the dry weight of the yarn and comes from Sasha Duerr's Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes, a very good reference.) I created a mordant bath, also in luke warm water, to which I added the wet yarn. I left the yarn to soak in the mordant bath for well over three hours because we ended up leaving the house. Oops. No biggie. The yarn only soaks up so much and the more mordant, the better. When we returned, I first used a big strainer to remove the beans from the dye bath. Then I removed the yarn from the mordant bath, gently squeezed excess water out of it, and placed it into the dye bath. I left it in the dye bath over night, poking at it occasionally to ensure all parts of the yarn got into the bath. (Note to self: use more water next time. Or less beans. What in the world am I going to do with them all? I love black bean burgers, black bean hummus, black beans and rice, but just looking at the sheer amount of them makes me want anything else!)

Around lunch, middle of the third day of this whole process, I pulled out the yarn. After a long rinse, a good squeeze, and hanging under a canopy to dry in the late summer mountain breeze, this is what we have:

Isn't it beautiful!? Obviously, this is a comparison picture. The second dyed skein is identical to the blue one. We have four more undyed skeins.

Tomorrow, coffee. I've saved our leftovers for a week. I'll also make a fresh pot, or two, for the dye bath. Dyeing with the coffee won't take as long because I'll use heat to extract the color. I'll use the same mordant recipe and prep the yarn the same. 

**Check out the Tumblr account, Quick Knitting & Crochet References, which I've been updating with all sorts of new links.**

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