Monday, October 30, 2006

ISE3 Progress Post 3

Five minutes later and I'm still traveling, and want to thank Holly, my International Scarf Exchange 3 pal, who put together a thoughtful, seasonally color-coordinated (!) parcel for me. Just look at that well-balanced secondary triad.

My ISE3 goodies from Holly

In the parcel there were all sorts of small niceties to delight a fellow knitter: the scarf, neatly tied with a bit of its own yarn; two holiday potholders and three holiday refrigerator magnets (perfect – I was just bemoaning the dearth of Halloween items in my kitchen), notecards, delicious candycandycandy! and a sweet note. I use the past tense because in a trice the scarf was untied and much of the candy devoured.

No doubt every knitter who has progressed beyond dishcloths can recognize the scarf and the yarn at a hundred paces, even when bundled. I did: it's a Multi-Directional, in a gorgeous Noro Silk Garden colorway. I love the way the color runs worked out. It's even prettier in person and it's mine, all mine.

My ISE3 scarf from Holly

Thank you, Holly! [Chortle] I feel spoiled. I brought the scarf with me to wear on this trip, but the weather has turned warmish again, so it's sitting in my luggage. Not to worry, though, I'm sure the scarf will see good use soon enough.

ISE3 Progress Post 2

I'm traveling this week, but wanted to post my progress on the scarf for my International Scarf Exchange 3 pal. Here she is, off the needles but still curled.

ISE3 scarf, curled

Uncurled, she's over six feet (but under two meters) long. The pattern is My So-Called Scarf, worked in neck-friendly Malabrigo Merino in colorway Lime Blue.

To help control shazaaming, I knit from two balls alternately. The technique mostly worked. The scarf began with flattish navy blobs which turned into tallish navy blobs, continued with randomish navy stripes, and finished with roundish navy blobs. Had I used one ball at a time, I suspect there would be significant and ever-changing pooling and flashing.

Scarf begins with flattish navy blobs   Scarf continues with tallish navy blobs   Scarf continues with randomish navy stripes   Scarf finishes with roundish navy blobs

I've sent the scarf to my pal along with a few goodies – I hope she enjoys them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

MORE Rhinebeck

I'm glad I went to Rhinebeck yesterday. On the way it occurred to me that the last time I'd been, the old Kingston-Rhinebeck bridge had been in place. The new bridge is quite spiffy, with shoulders (I've never seen a bridge with shoulders before... hm, wonder if cyclists are allowed to use them). The festival has changed as well. Most noticeably, there's MORE.

There's MORE at Rhinebeck

In general, I like the Rhinebeck vibe. To me, autumn (= sweater weather) is an ideal time for a fiber festival. I like the plainspoken signs advertising fried dough and other fine produce of the Hudson River valley, the earnest young 4-H volunteers, the glorious turning leaves. I'm glad the vendors are predominantly small and regional rather than huge retailers. The live music and juggling and broom guy all add to the pleasant ambience.

Even so, by the time I took this photo, the cumulative impact of MORE had become staggering. It was after I made the newbie spinner's doh! discovery that fiber takes up 'way more space than yarn. After I had given up trying to carry stuff in a succession of larger and larger tote bags and just crammed everything into a garbage kitchen bag, except for the scarf for my ISE3 pal and my Blogger Bingo button. After learning that thundering hordes had descended on The Fold and bought all the Socks That Rock. After the llama parade and the petting zoo with kangaroos, albino boa constrictor, and alligator (???) and the catapult versus trebuchet pumpkin flinging competition. After chicken pot pie and apple crisp and cheese-tasting. Long after the milkshake that Kristen recommended, which was indeed very tasty. Lo, I had reached the point where obsolete interjections and improbable delicacies like deep fried pickles begin to seem intriguing (yea, without the need for wine-tasting or mad science beforehand). It must have been the potent combination of fiber fumes and exhaustion.

I suppose that combination explains why a knit blogger informed me with greatly exaggerated accuracy that I wasn't there. Well, I may not have been all there and I didn't get Bingo!, but I did chat briefly with Bingoists Andrea, Cara, Debbie, Jessica, Mel, and Risa, among others, and even spotted Dolores in the Red Maple Sportswear booth. I also gushed over chatted with Jonathan Bosworth of Journey Wheel, who made my featherweight spindle; Joan Berner of Cloverleaf Farms, who dyed the Blue Face Leicester roving that I won blue ribbons with; and Galina Khmeleva of Skaska Designs, who graciously inscribed a copy of her book Gossamer Webs to me in Russian.

No doubt the fiber fumes also explain the extreme giddiness in the carpool going home. And why I accidentally bought (and drank) a vile diet Vanilla Pepsi ("it was cold") at the rest stop when I meant to get a regular Pepsi. Many, many thanks to Karen, Paige, and super-organized super-motivated Risa for driving!

Once at home, I spun up some micro-skeins. Skeins 1-6 are from fiber acquired at Rhinebeck. Skeins 7 and 8 are from my dyeing experiments for the Twisted Knitters D-S-K-along. Teehee, they look like those collectible STR keychains.

  1. Lincoln lambswool from Four Directions Weaving
  2. Lincoln x in Cappuccino colorway from Barneswallow Farm, Dewittville, NY
  3. Black Blue Face Leicester from Barneswallow Farm
  4. Baby Camel from Barneswallow Farm
  5. Blue Moon Fiber Arts Superwash Merino in Purple Rain colorway from The Fold
  6. Hyperfine Merino (15 microns) from The Fold
  7. Kool-Aid dyed Finn
  8. Kool-Aid dyed mystery blend

I'm happy with them, although I can't believe 7 and 8 look so... preppy.

Not pictured are the tangled messes I spun from the vast quantity of Border Leicester (the featured breed) and Blue Face Leicester that I bought. The samples seemed nice, but what came home with me turned out to be mostly long, coarse hair that's almost impossible to spin. I tend to underspin and yet given the least opportunity these both counterspin with a will, as if badly overspun, and their long hairs interlock into irreversible pigtails. Given I have beautifully behaved, not hairy BFL, I can only conclude this is from an inferior vendor, sold to an insufficiently wary buyer. Maybe studying mohair spinning techniques would help overcome these difficulties, but I'm inclined to think three words apply: caveat emptor and f-f-f-felt!

Anyway, that was my Rhinebeck 2006. It occurs to me that Sunday people have a completely different experience than Saturday people and commuters a different experience than overnighters. One of these days I'd like to take a Friday class (I'm kicking myself for missing this year's with Beth Brown-Reinsel), stay over, bicycle around a bit, tour the mansions and other historic attractions. There really is MORE to Rhinebeck.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My Rhinebeck Lists

My tote bag is packed (it's ready to go).

Tote bag is packed

As you can see, I'm happy to support (literally) the Presby Iris Gardens (Exit 151), a place of special beauty – here's an entire Project Spectrum in irises, from the 2006 open house.

I have my list of Rhinebeck must-sees:

      Fanatica Fibers - A 1
      Anne's cute f-f-f-felting kits.

      Journey Wheel - 22 28
      Makers of my Bosworth Featherweight spindle.

      Moving Mud - 29 L
      Collectible glass shawl closures and buttons.

      Golding Ring Spindles - A 35-36
      Not that I need another spindle.

      Morehouse Farm 22K and 31 F, G
      Coupons! and hospitality at their nearby store.

      Great Adirondack Yarn Company - 22 2-3
      Not that I need more yarn.

      The Fold - A 25
      Just to see how fast STR sells out this time.

      The Herd of Northern Vermonters - 36 P
      No idea who these folk are, but they sound like fun.

      Plus Kristen recommends the milk shakes.

Super-organized Risa, who thinks of everything, is driving the carpool. Lemmesee... I have my Blogger Bingo card, map, directions, and every medium of exchange accepted by vendors: cash, checks, credit cards (no, they don't take yap stones or fractious first-borns). So that's all set.

Deborah asked which socks I plan to wear. Er, dunno. If I manage to finish them (har!), Embossed Leaves, but more likely Queen of the Jungle Stripe, which are comfortable and still have endearingly mismatched toes despite all threats of a coup.

Embossed Leaves are not too likely   Queen of the Jungle Stripe is more likely

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Socktober Embossed Leaves

Ever since I saw Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt in Interweave Knits Winter 2005, I've wanted to make a pair for myself. Now, I know perfectly well that lace is usually more effective in a solid color, but when I saw Socka Color colorway 2419, I couldn't resist trying autumn Embossed Leaves. Seems doubly appropriate as my first (eek) Socktoberfest socks, pictured here on a DIY sock blocker to show off the lace.

I am loving the results. The yarn is fascinating, a marled three-ply in which each ply is also variegated. The combinations are a primer of color theory – so far I've seen complements, split-complements, primary and secondary triads, and more. With so much going on in the yarn, it's an endless surprise to me which colors dominate in the knit fabric.

The pattern as written uses 1x1 rib cast on and twisted rib cuff. I like the look but prefer a more elastic cuff, so replaced them with elastic cast on and 1x1 rib. The charted leaf motif produces true lace knitting (not "mere" lacy knitting), that is, there is pattern knitting on every round and no rest round. The decreases on every round put more tension in the fabric than I usually like, although that extra tension does heighten the embossed effect, useful with such a colorful yarn. I rather think a set up round might be helpful and will try it on the second sock.

I don't believe this. I'm actually looking forward to the second sock.

For a time I was afraid I'm the only Socktoberist starting after mid-month, but if the blogs I've seen are any indicator, it would seem I'm in good company. Even Lolly took a while to respond to her own sock history questions. Here's my responses.

* When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?
The precise moment is mercifully lost in the mists of time, but the month was January or February. I recollect watching winter sports on TV, so I suppose one could consider it a proto Knitting Olympics challenge. As should be apparent from the next response, I'm a self-taught process knitter.

* What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?
Toe up, fully fashioned Argyle knee socks made from worsted and sport weight oddments. Colors A, B, and C were Christmas red, Christmas green, and jungle green, with orange-yellow for contrast. I wanted to learn technique, wasn't worried about the finished product, and the yarn was lying around. The socks turned out well, except they looked like venomous sea serpents. I usually keep my swatches and learning projects – this was one of the very few I threw out. (I had to. Someone who shall remain nameless deliberately frightened the cat with them. Cats have a way of getting back their own – she eliminated from multiple orifices, hid under the sofa, and wouldn't come out. Until that moment, we didn't realize she could fit. Later she took to stashing dead things there.) I learned a lot.

* What would you have done differently?
Lol. Where to start? I don't think I would have picked an easier pattern – the technical challenge was the draw. But I learned that color is important, even in a learning project. That mixing yarn weights can be unwise, but can be accommodated. That figure-8 cast on, heel-turning, and calf shaping aren't nearly as scary as they're made out to be. I'd been told if one could knit Argyle socks, one could knit anything – I discovered I had pretty good skills.

* What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?
There are so many (and I'm always happy to try more)! Currently on the needles besides Embossed Leaves in Socka are two favorites, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock and Claudia Handpaint fingering.

* Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?
DPNs are the default technique, but it depends on the task at hand. IMO, crochet is usually better suited for slippers than socks because the fabric is so firm.

* Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)
Flap is the default, but again, it depends. Incidentally, I've always wondered why heels have nationalities (at least in English knitting terminology).

* How many pairs have you made?
No idea. Most end up as gifts. Production tends to come and go, usually sparked by seeing an inspiring pattern. One of these days I want to try making Debbie New's Maple Swirl Socks (the cover pattern in Socks, Socks, Socks). But not in oddments leftover from holiday knitting.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rhinebeck Bound

I just received my Rhinebeck Blogger Bingo card thanks to tireless Debbie, who slogged through an astronomical number of player and square permutations. I imagine factorials could be involved. My head hurts just contemplating the task.

Debbie and the MOKS tour will be at Stix-N-Stitches (Exit 148) this Thursday! To honor her Gallery of Notorious Knits, I'm taking this old vintage checkerboard shawl to Rhinebeck. (Sorry about the poor photo, it's raining today.) I discovered it this weekend while rummaging through boxes and rotating clothes. It's one of my oldest FOs still extant, the genuine article, a mildly kitschy filet crochet artifact. Groovy! Just the thing for a Blogger Bingo square.

Groovy checkerboard shawl

Alas, there's no documentation. I had completely forgotten about this shawl. I remember loving the yarn, a hazy mohair and bouclé laceweight, but can't remember its name or anything about the pattern. (I do remember modifying the pattern to make the shawl smaller.) Its construction makes its tails longer than the tails of a Shetland half-square shawl would be, which helps it sit securely. For reasons unknown, the crochet is worked Bosnian-style. If anyone knows more, do tell.

I'm looking forward to a fun time at Rhinebeck. But I was disturbed to read about SistahCraft's negative experience at the Brooks Farms booth at MDS&W. That's simply not acceptable. Personally, I think anti-racist shoppers should descend on them at Rhinebeck and, if anything is amiss, register their complaints with Festival Manager Bob Davis (telephone 845-756-2323).

Edited to add: Blogspot was behaving badly when I initially tried to post this post. The delay afforded the opportunity to tack on a "proof of life" photo demanded by group mom Sharon for the ISE3 Exchange. Well, friends, not to worry, My So-Called Scarf is still alive, although it's curled into a fetal ball, perhaps to emulate the roving that's been getting so much attention lately. Ah, sibling rivalry. Uncurled, she's more than three feet (1 m) long.

ISE3 scarf, still alive

Maybe the scarf would enjoy an outing to Rhinebeck too. Roundabout Exit 151, it's usually the socks that have adventures (they have the advantage of portability), but Rhinebeck is a place where shawls (and therefore scarves, stoles, lappets, and even clapotis) rule. [g]

Monday, October 16, 2006

Twisted Knitters: First Dyed Fiber

After a weekend of boiling and toiling, here's my very first dyed fiber, pictured with undyed fiber for comparison, for the first part of the Twisted Knitters D-S-K-along.

First dyed fiber, with undyed for comparison

I wanted a variety of effects, including watercolor, ombré, and saturated colorwheel, so I tried several techniques. From left to right, top to bottom: undyed Finn top, undyed blended roving, roving dyed with purple cauliflower water; two coils of Kool-Aid dyed Finn top using modified hot pour technique; Kool-Aid dyed roving, two coils using spot dye and one coil using cold pour techniques. It's cool and windy today, so I stuck flower-headed pins into the fiber coils to keep them well-behaved during the outdoor photo session.

For fiber preparation and Kool-Aid dyeing, I followed the excellent directions in The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook by Lynne Vogel. For dyeing with plant stuff, I followed hints given in a Peterson Field Guide, Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson. My apparatus was fairly simple: 3-quart (2.8 l) microwaveable containers, one gallon (3.8 l) zip bags, cups, drinking straws for spot dyeing, various containers leftover from takeout, white soup spoons, plastic wrap, mister, electric wok with steamer rack, and microwave oven.

Dyeing in progress

In the photo are (clockwise from the left): mister containing vinegar, dyed and undyed fiber, extra water for steaming, wok, fiber packet waiting its turn in the wok, Kool-Aid dye solutions, bag of fiber steeping in cauliflower water, fiber packet that was microwaved rather than steamed (won't be doing that again). Newspaper under alles, of course.

The biggest suprise to this newbie fiber dyer was the magic of dye exhaustion. The dye solution may start out highly colored and even turbid, but when the fiber has absorbed its pigment, the liquid turns quite clear. I used white plastic soup spoons to monitor the process, but that was hard to photograph, so used saucers for this illustration of the remarkable difference. There really is exhausted Berry Blue Kool-Aid in the upper saucer.

Dyed fiber, exhausted and original dye

Despite the somewhat violent and abrupt-sounding technical terms bandied about – mordant (= biting), dye strike, etc – I found the process actually takes some time and seems to happen primarily during the slow cool down phase. It's very important to let things sit undisturbed until they are room temperature. Patience, or perhaps a capacity for benign neglect, is a virtue.

It's also important to separate roving or top into manageable pieces and to soak them until thoroughly wet, which takes at least an hour. When immersing the fiber, I could feel the trapped air streaming past my palms, an odd sensation that I haven't noticed when soaking yarn or garments. After a minute or so, there was a thermal reaction, very pronounced with the Finn top – the water became noticeably warmer. A 3-quart (2.8 l) microwave container is a perfect size for a one-yard (0.91 m) piece of fiber.

I handled wet fiber very like a jelly roll (kept it supported, rolled it in towels, unrolled it, wrapped it in plastic). Spreading the fiber into a thin layer worked better than leaving it as a thick layer – one can see what's happening more easily, the dye penetrates more evenly, and the fiber packet is easier to rinse and dry. Drying (flat, on towels) was quick and easy. The fiber fluffed up as it dried, although it remained a bit more compressed (not f-f-f-felted) than the undyed samples.

All of the dyes I used – Kool-Aid in Cherry, Pink Lemonade, Mango, Lemon-Lime, and Berry Blue flavors and purple cauliflower water – have distinct odors that I don't particularly like and don't associate with fiber arts. The cauliflower water even started fermenting! The Cherry Kool-Aid had a tendency to migrate and run. All of these infelicities were greatly reduced by careful rinsing. I used the microwave containers to rinse the fiber, tipping the water out. This allowed the fiber to be completely supported while draining.

A week of eating purple cauliflower yielded about two cups (actually more like 500 cc) of inky violet cooking water. When preparing dye from plant material, it's typical to boil the dyestuff for hours to derive maximum pigment; as I wanted edible food, I didn't. Roving placed in the cooking water turned color immediately, but the mass steeped in a zip bag for two days before the liquid began to look exhausted. Because of the acid-base indicator property of the liquid, I didn't want to add a mordant, which is often acidic, to hurry things along. Inevitably fermentation started, at which point I rinsed the roving and discarded the gassy and very whiffy liquid.

Roving steeping in cauliflower water

This is what the zip bag looked like Saturday evening – the cooking water is still strongly colored, the roving is still pale. (The bag had accidentally leaned against something hot and was damaged; I changed it later.)

According to my gardening references, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi are all domesticated varieties of wild cabbage, Brassica oleracea. Presumably it's possible to produce more of the purple cauliflower dye at lower cost by boiling red cabbage. I don't think I'll try that – Julia Child in Julia Child & Company has some observations about the "dismal reek, familiar from bad old days and bad old hotels" that occurs when any member of the Brassica tribe is overcooked.

Incidentally, the cauliflower water-dyed roving retains the acid-base indicator property of the cauliflower water and changes color with changes in pH. Here's three poufs of the roving that were dipped in liquid and dried: on the right, a pouf dipped in vinegar; in the middle, one dipped in water as a control; on the left, a pouf dipped in baking soda water. As usual, the acid reaction happened quickly, the base reaction was slower.

Dyed roving is an acid-base indicator

I assume the spun yarn and the knit item will also retain the acid-base indicator property. It would seem this is a true acid-base reaction, so it should be almost endlessly reversible. Hm... maybe I'll make a hat that can gauge the pH of rain. It will be pink in very acid rain, purple in somewhat acid rain, pale violet gray in pH neutral conditions, and green in alkaline conditions such as being washed in soap.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the results of all the boiling and toiling. The next step will be to spin up these samples, consider the results, then dye production quantities, probably in November.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

To a Goldengrove Shawl

TodayFiber prep I'm occupied with the dyeing segment of the Twisted Knitters D-S-K-Along. It's my first time dyeing fiber and at 8:30 a.m. already I can tell it's going to take a looooong time to do, photograph, and blog. In the meantime, here's a little something that seems vaguely appropriate because it involves alchemy, my SnB wanted to see it, and Modern Yarn will soon be carrying the yarn. Plus there's poetry.

          Márgarét áre you gríeving
          Over Goldengrove unleaving?

                       -- Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring and Fall, 1880

The last time I was at Purl,Alchemy Yarns Haiku or skeins of beauty a veritable avalanche of Alchemy Yarns silk and mohair Haiku jumped off the shelf and hit me on the head. Some people might have been annoyed or dismayed; my reaction: It's raining yarn – hallelujah! No serious damage was done and (what else?) I bought some. This is the Copper colorway. Incredible to relate, it's even more gleamingly silky, more misty, and more wonderful to knit than KSH. If that weren't enough, its long yardage for the price gives excellent value for a beauteous handpainted yarn.

My current pattern obsession is [swoon] Hanging Garden Lace Stole by Sivia Harding (curiously, it's called Hanging Leaves on the chart page). It's got it all: beads! lace! leaves!! Sivia Harding at Knitpicks pricing!!! The combination of fabu pattern and fabu yarn makes me think of Goldengrove... or Lorien.

Hanging Garden Lace Stole in progress

I'm using U.S. 6 (4.25 mm) aluminum straight needles, my favorites for speed; others may wish to use bamboo to tame the slick silk (say five times fast) content. Otherwise Haiku is marvelously easy to work with and almost magically forgiving. It's the only mohair or mohair blend yarn I've used that can be frogged rather than tinked. The color variations are more subtle in the knit fabric than in the skein, which allows the pretty lace trellis and leaves to shine. I like the gossamer texture and hazy bloom, but the lace would be equally lovely and more crisply defined in a heavier, smoother yarn. I'd love to have cotton curtains in the pattern (or linen, but where does one get linen thread nowadays?) – imagine autumn light filtering through the lace.

Some Sivia Harding stoles are worked in two pieces and grafted at the center back so that the lace pattern falls symmetrically; this one is worked in one direction, in one piece. Just to check the effect, I grafted two gauge swatches together – and didn't care for the seam.

Infelicitous seamed gauge swatches

No problem. I'll work my stole in one direction, in one piece. When worn, some of my Goldengrove garden will be hanging, some rising – like Spring and Fall.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Mad Science

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post with recipe and dyeing suggestions! Devorah noted that red cabbage water can work as an acid-base indicator and so too, perhaps, purple cauliflower water. I didn't know that and had to check it out.

The Full Scientific Method would have the investigator formulate H0 and H1 hypotheses and conduct repeatable controlled trials blahblahblah. I just put a small amount of the purple cauliflower water (the cauliflower is purple, the cauliflower water is inky violet in color) in the wells of three saucers. The one on the left got a smidge of vinegar; the one on the right got a smidge of baking soda. The one in the middle was my unaltered control sample. Science!

The vinegar saucer immediately turned a familiar bright pink, the color of pickled red cabbage juice. The baking soda saucer slowly turned a green which improved in brightness and clarity over about two hours. I've read that a weaker acid (lemon juice?) would yield purple and a stronger base (lye?) would yield yellow. Alas, I have neither handy at the moment. The FSM would have the investigator note avenues for future investigation – I'm gonna pass on that.

It turns out there's lots of information available on dyeing Easter eggs and also fiber with red cabbage water (also with onion skins, paprika, tumeric, etc), which I surmise will work with purple cauliflower water too. There are so many possibilities for Saturday's dyeing session that I may need more fiber! Hm.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Mad Science: Purple Cauliflower

Yesterday the supermarket had an arresting display of five colors of cauliflower: white, cream, green, marigold, and purple. I detest cauliflower, but others at home love the vegetable, so I bought a curd.

Purple cauliflower

The tops of the florets are brightly colored, but the stems fade from pink to cream. I prepared it by cutting off a serving-sized hunk, trimming it into smallish pieces, and boiling them in a scant amount of water. That's when things got interesting – the cooking water turned inky violet. Huh. I suppose that's the antioxidant anthocyanins, but I wonder why the reddish pigments seemed to stay in the plant while the bluish pigments were released.

There are any number of vegetables that are fancy colors in the garden and, after cooking, are plain on the plate. But as these florets cooked, the purple parts stayed purple and the whitish parts became purple, too. I'm assuming that's because the cooking water dyed them and not because the heat of cooking activated latent color in the stems. So... maybe the colorful cooking water can dye other things, too? Like... fiber?? Has anyone tried this???

At mealtime, the cauliflower lovers initially suspected they were being served mutant broccoli and protested loudly. When that little misunderstanding was clarified, they tucked in and declared that purple cauliflower tastes just as good as regular. To my taste, there's a faint difference, not unpleasant, discernable just as one swallows, an elusive something that registers on the taste buds at the back of the palate, but I'm the only one who noticed it. Then again, I've never liked cauliflower. At least until now.

I saved the colorful cooking water. We're having lots more cauliflower this week (= more cooking water to save). There will be mad science dyeing this weekend. Happiness abounds roundabout Exit 151.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

The Sweater of Bad Karma

Inspired by Nicky Epstein's pretty felted Fair Isle bag in VK Holiday 2006, I hauled out the partial remains of the Sweater of Bad Karma. (Again. The last time was in June.) Here's the back, a sleeve, the pattern book, color card, and remaining yarn. Notice the scary aura of un-woven-in ends.

Remains of the sweater of bad karma

Back in the mists of time, someone who shall remain nameless asked me to make Rupert and Nessie by Annabel Fox in the cover colorway for her firstborn. I note that said child is now in graduate school, the yarn is discontinued, and the pattern is in Rowan Children No. 1. Perhaps most telling of all, the magazine's price was GBP £2.95.

Rowan magazines weren't always overpriced

Two size changes and two backs, one front, and three sleeves later, the new mother decided she didn't really like the pattern after all. Much testiness ensued. There was considerable bad karma. The ur-sweater joined the great cloud of UFOs buzzing around Exit 151. Maybe I shoulda just frogged it, but I never did. As I recollect, the prospect of ending up with zillions of bits on bobbins was the main deterrent.

Time passed. I gained fresh perspective. The now-vintage yarn, Rowan Designer DK Wool, still is fabulous. I recalled how much I enjoyed knitting the pattern, which is just as appealing as ever, still cover-worthy. I have no use for the sweater, but I could use a felted tote, so back in June I tried felting the gauge swatch. Here's the right (and wrong) side before.

Rupert and Nessie gauge swatch, right side

And the right (and wrong) side after.

Felted Rupert and Nessie gauge swatch, right side

It's amazing how nicely expensive yarn felts, much more nicely than inexpensive yarn. (Huh.) The felted swatch is thick and dense and doesn't curl or ripple. All the loose ends and the carried yarn on the wrong side are visible as lines of color that are fused into the felt. And yet.... Handsome as it is, this was uncomfortably like murdering a sweater. I couldn't explain or escape the conviction that it's the sort of fate that no sweater, however bad its karma, deserves.

Inconsistent omnivore that I am, I look forward to the lamb BBQ at MDS&W; I have no patience with the dangfool NJ legislators who tried to ban runny eggs and now have D'Artagnan of Newark (Exit 142) in their sights. I like my felted tomatoes and rather like the felted Noro saddle blanket in Greetings from Knit Café. Seeing Nicky Epstein's tote made me realize that Fair Isle and f-f-f-felt can indeed occupy the same space-time continuum.

So I'm gonna use the back of the Sweater of Bad Karma for the front of the tote and knit up a bottom and side panels. But what to do for the back of the tote? Hm....

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

National Spinning and Weaving Week

Perhaps others received the memo, but roundabout Exit 151 it comes as a surprise that October 2-8 is National Spinning and Weaving Week. To think I almost missed it all.

National Spinning and Weaving Week posterInterweave Press is celebrating with two book launches, Time to Weave by Jane Patrick and Spin to Knit by Shannon Okey. Each even has its own blog tour. I took a cursory look at Spin to Knit and very much appreciated its profiles of spinners, fiber purveyors, and spindle- and wheelwrights, but decided for the time being to save my pennies for Rhinebeck.

Not to mention I'm furiously knitting Rose of England and thinking about dyeing rather than spinning or weaving at the moment. But in honor of the occasion I hauled out my old handloom, made from a slab of scrap wood and a bunch of brads, and some woven squares. Obviously I once had a smaller loom, but I don't know where it is. There should be a couple of exceedingly long weaving needles around somewhere, too.

Homemade handloom and woven squares

My sister made a patchwork pillowtop out of Weave-It squares, but I never could figure out what to do with my squares, so I'm not going to bother with a demonstration (if you're interested, see Weave-It directions). Must stick to my knitting!

Monday, October 2, 2006

Bought the Kool-Aid

Greetings, fellow Twisted Knitters! While I'm an experienced knitter, I've been spindling for only a few months and have never dyed fiber or yarn, so the first two installments of the Dye-Spin-Knit-Along are a voyage of discovery for me. I've been gathering up the ingredients.

The necessary

Pictured are
  • Resources: Besides D-S-K-Along hosts Margene and blogless Karen, my guides into the unknown are The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook by Lynne Vogel and Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. I bought the beautifully illustrated Twisted Sisters some time ago just for the section on colorwork knitting. Now I'm enjoying the other two-thirds of the book that deal with dyeing and spinning! Spinning in the Old Way is a recent acquisition, but an instant favorite, particularly valuable for its emphasis on top whorl drop spindling and its distinctions between spinning techniques for weaving and spinning techniques for knitting.

  • Fiber: a generous bit of Finn top, purchased from Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine (once DH and I figured out the shop is in the opposite direction of the mighty shipworks). Priscilla Gibson-Roberts writes that Finn is her favorite fiber, having a blend of long hair and short hair that is ideal for soft yet durable socks. It seems somewhat scratchy to me, but I'm giving it a go. After all, Plan B is to buy undyed fiber at Rhinebeck. [g]

  • Dye, otherwise known as Kool-Aid. Seems like a harmless enough way to dip a toe in the pool. I don't think I'll like the residual fragrance(s), so preferentially wanted to try Easter egg dye, but that's a seasonal product and not currently available. Soon ditto Kool-Aid, I suppose. I have some vague scruples about playing with (= wasting) food, but maybe Kool-Aid isn't really food. Curiously, all the formerly blue and green flavors seem to have gone colorless ("invisible")... er, did I miss an FDA memo about unsafe food colorings?

  • Spindles: my Made By Ewe Golden Leaf and my red cedar Bosworth Featherweight, both currently occupied spinning that never-ending braid of jewel-toned Blue Face Leicester (notice how different the colors on the spindles are).

Reading ahead, the directions for steaming a batch of dyed fiber sound rather ominous (two turkey roasters? bricks??). I wonder if my old wok will do – after all, it's designed for efficient steaming. Has anyone ever tried this?