Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women’s Day
Isn’t it wonderful how so many women around the world are tied together with sticks and string? Teach someone to knit so he or she can benefit from this joyfilled and powerful union.


Happy stitches.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cunctator, yes, cunctator
This is a new word to me, although it describes me to a T. I found the definition to this crossword hint in my Websters. It means a person who delays. The actual word that fit in the puzzle was procrastinator, a word I’ve been familiar with wayyyyyyy too long. And it describes what I’ve been doing since last Friday when I had an experience to share with you. My excuse for the delay was that I was tired. Last week was very busy, but it ended with a lot of fun.
My granddaughter, Gretchen, and her friend Helen wanted to tie-dye some socks. I volunteered to help with this project they were doing for school. They had purchased cotton socks at my suggestion. Let me tell you, it is not easy to find just plain unadulterated cotton socks. We ended up with 80% cotton after finding some with as little as 46%.

I dropped off my supply of marbles and rubber bands earlier in the week so the girls could have that all done. On Friday we were ready to dye, 22 pairs of socks! I had premixed dye solution in six colors. We proceeded in an assembly line fashion using the low immersion technique of dyeing. 



We placed four pair in each bucket. The girls decided to use two colors in some buckets, including green and gold for “Packer” socks. Other combinations were yellow/orange/red, and red/purple/blue. 


While we waited for the dyeing process to finish the girls had fun mugging for the camera. 


After the initial rinse we removed the bands and marbles. 



I’m always excited to see the lovely combinations of colors that result from low immersion.  

The results showed where the synthetic fibers were located, mostly in the foot area. The anklets and upper sections of the socks took the dye well. 



There will be some very Happy Feet at school. And besides the beautiful socks, some wonderful, colorful memories were made.


Gretchen and Helen ROCK!!!

There, I’ve overcome this episode of cunctation. Have a great time getting ready for the holidays.
Happy stitching and dyeing.

Friday, November 9, 2012


The Dye is Cast

It is official. I am an “indie dyer.” During the summer, the owner of my LYS, Spin, asked me if I would be interested in dyeing yarn to sell in her shop. She thought that knitters who vacation in Door County would like to take home a souvenir of their visit. The colorways would be reminiscent of the scenic splendor and sensual experiences of the area; the reds and greens of apple and cherry orchards, the silvers, yellows and oranges of Lake Michigan sunrises, the pinks, blues and lavenders of sunsets over Green Bay, the foot warming tans of the sand dunes. I liked the idea and worked on developing samples using sock yarn. Who wouldn’t like to wear a pair of socks that regularly reminded them of a vacation in Wisconsin’s version of Paradise?

You may know me enough by now to know that I love to play with fibers and color. So my first three yarns are dyed using a variety of techniques.

“Cherry Parfait” is pink and white with alternating sections of several rows of variegated pinks, and a row of pink and white faux fair isle stitches. The faux effect was accomplished by tying stripes of recycled plastic grocery bags at intervals to resist the pink dye. It has been received with comments including “delicious,” and “mouthwatering.”

“Quiet Side Sunrise” (The quiet side refers to the Lake Michigan side of the Door Peninsula.) consists of hand painted areas of sunrise color dyes with the majority of the skein dyed silvery grays. After wrapping the painted areas in plastic wrap and placing that portion in a baggie atop a section of pvc pipe sitting in my dye pot, the rest of the skein is immersed in the pot of gray dye and all is heat set. When knit in the round, this yarn produces a mostly gray fabric with occasional horizons of promising sunrise.

“Autumn Door” highlights the spectacular fall colors that lure many visitors to take a drive north for a nippy fall weekend. I dye the whole skein the color of the wheat and corn fields.  With this as a background, I continue to add color. I use a winding device, similar to a warping board, to produce lengths of yarn that I can divide into areas of different colors. The finished product is a striped yarn.

My son drilled holes in one by four boards so that I could place pegs on which to wind the yarn. Four boards are clamped together to form a frame. I calculate how long each segment of color I need, add up the segments, and wind that amount onto the pegs. I tie some areas for faux fair isle stitches, in this case, the purple of seasonal asters. I mark lengths where I will dye the colors of bright fall foliage, and other areas that will represent evergreens. After carefully placing each segment of yarn to be dyed in its own baggie, I pour in the dye and manipulate each baggie to insure that the yarn receives the dye. After resting, both myself and the yarn, for a half hour, I place the yarn in the microwave to heat set the colors. 


After the yarn cools to room temperature it is washed, resist areas are untied, and it is hung to dry. 

I LOVE PVC PIPE!

I replace it on the winding board.


Finally, it is wound back into a skein, labeled, and ready for Spin.



I work on one skein at a time, and although the dye formulas and preparations are consistent, it is the nature of hand dying that variations are to be expected. 

And that is the beauty of manual labor. 

Happy stitching and dyeing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Candy Corn, love it or hate it?

I like candy corn, but I realize this is not a universal taste. I limit myself to one bag a year. Purchased around Halloween, and rationed to no more than 10 pieces at a time, it still doesn’t last long enough. And this year I made a big mistake. I bought a bag on the way to my Tuesday “open knitting” session. I wanted to buy the right yellow yarn for a Candy Corn hat I was going to make. I opened the bag to share with my “peeps” and decided to leave most of the bag behind so I wouldn’t be tempted to finish it off on the drive home. To my delight, there was some left the next Tuesday. It is all gone now.


I’m pleased with the way the hat turned out. A number of my knitting friends asked for the pattern so I was glad to share it. There are going to be a lot of grandkids walking around with candy on their heads. There is a free pattern for you, too. You’ll find it under PAGES in the right margin. It is sized for a child.

My daughter-in-law, Gay and I had a great time together yesterday visiting a couple of fiber shops. At Knitty Gritty we both found some roving to dye and spin. She selected two tones of gray Romney, while I came away with 200 grams of white Shetland. We had a very pleasant visit with Dan, and met Cindy as we were leaving. Check out the Wrucke’s site at knittygrittyshop.com. We spotted the sign for Sheeping Beauty Fibre Arts as we were driving home and made a u-turn to visit with owner, Luci Williams. She shared her enthusiasm for all things fiber, especially, teaching the growing, processing, spinning, and weaving of flax into linen. Her site is www.sheepingbeautyfibrearts.com. She is also the coordinator of the Wisconsin Spin-In. More on that can be found at www,wispinin.org.

I’m home today. It is a lovely rainy fall day. And like most us in this parched country I heartily welcome the rain. I’m going to finish now so I can do what we all love to do on a nice rainy fall day, knit or spin or dye or crochet or read about it.

Enjoy your ration of Candy Corn, and happy stitches.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Monkey Mind

Usually monkey mind is something I suffer from in the middle of the night when I‘ve been mentally stimulated too close to bedtime.  Right now it is a beautiful late summer Saturday morning, and I’m finding it hard to zero in on a subject for this post. My first idea was to write about the end of the summer and how it affects our Tuesday open knit group. I’ve been going long enough now to see the pattern of the comings and goings of my knitting friends. The population of Door County ebbs and flows with the seasons. It is a vacation spot for many escaping big cities like Chicago, for snow birds who spend their winters in Florida, and teachers enjoying their summer hiatus. There are a few of us who live nearby. I’ve become one of the regulars, missing a rare “Holy Tuesday,” like when I attend a week up at Siever’s doing batik.

A detail from one of my batik dish towels made at Siever's

Wow, that led right to another subject I was pondering. I’ve had the feeling lately that something has been missing from my summer routine. And summer is over. Batik, Seiver’s. That’s it! I didn’t go this summer. I didn’t attend a workshop at U of Minnesota’s Split Rock Arts Program either. But I understand that program no longer exists. For the last 10 years I’ve been enjoying these two venues, learning and practicing fiber arts with wonderful teachers, and meeting many talented and friendly student artists. It has been great reuniting with batik artists year after year, hearing what has happened in their lives during the intervening months. My daughter-in-law has been among them. We’ve shared accommodations, delicious meals at Washington Island restaurants, class camaraderie, and dye pots. What a Joy! That’s what I missed this summer.

My batik inspired by a photo of a surveyor's mark .

While I miss my annual batik friends, I get to be with my knitting friends every week. What an amazing gift it is to belong to such a group. We share so much. It’s not just the help we give each other with knitting problems, that binds us. That kind of help you can get online. The real sharing is what is happening in our lives. And, yes, what one says at knitting stays at knitting. So I won’t be spilling any beans here. One thing I find very encouraging is that even the most experienced knitters still have occasion to “tink.” I like the fact that there are no yarn snobs, or knitters vs. crocheters. The “open” in open knitting is just that. We are a group that takes pleasure in the efforts of everyone, hats to socks, scarves to prayers shawls, pot holders to afghans, subtle to flamboyant. There are those who do gorgeous projects in their comfort zones and those who relish the delight of success arising from trial and error. It’s all good. AND WE LAUGH!
If you belong to a knitting group, you know what I’m talkin’about. If not, GET THEE TO A GROUP!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Wool Tickles

I’m not referring to the physical sensation of wool which can range from luxurious and sensual to down-right itchy. I’m talkin’ the tickle from the inside when you get to play with it. I have spent the last month playing with my dyes and my fibers. I get such a kick seeing what happens with colors blending, bleeding their lives into each other, making new colors I hadn’t thought of. The unexpected, unplanned, or accidental, turn out to be so rich, complex, and sometimes stunning.

I tend toward formal arrangement in my art, planning, and calculating for predictable results. I am working on being less controlling.  Seeing the beauty of the unplanned has been very encouraging to me. I’m beginning to welcome the possibilities of results that are actually better than my original ideas.


As I have been playing, I’ve been recognizing how each different process produces very different outcomes. Each step changes the fiber’s color or appearance. The color of the roving concentrates as the fibers twist with each other. While spinning, it thrills me to see one color morph as I draw another shade or color out gradually from the dyed roving. Add multiple plies and we’re adding another whole dimension. And yarn spun from colored fiber, either dyed roving or card blended, is much different from dyed yarn.

My planning self likes the wide range of possibilities of dyeing yarn. I’ve done batik and shibori, so, naturally, I needed to try resist dyeing with yarn. 


Having done some stranded and fair isle knitting, I tried dyeing for a faux fair isle effect. Recycling plastic grocery bags, I cut strips to tie areas I wanted to resist the dye. In some cases, I dyed the yarn then added the ties and over-dyed. 


One can get pretty predictable results. Swatching reveals the general effect but that varies with gauge and stitch count. I was playing with sock yarn so I swatched in the round. 


Once I saw what I had done, I couldn’t wait to adjust the tie pattern or try another color combination. The possibilities are endless, especially if I welcome the unexpected.

I’m going back to my Dyeary now. I’m going to giggle out loud while I play so my family will know how much fun I’m having.

Giggle often. And Good Stitches

Monday, July 23, 2012


Musical Rooms


“Are you taking over another room?” This is a refrain I have heard numerous times from my husband during the twenty-some years we have lived in this old farmhouse. He writes. He sits at the kitchen table with his computer. That’s all the room he requires. Me? I craft. Need I say more? There are five rooms downstairs. Of those, the kitchen is the only room I spend time in regularly.

Upstairs is a different story (pun intended). There is our bedroom/sitting room where I knit and read. My studio contains, well, studio stuff. It has been used for dyeing, spinning, felting, quilting, puppet making, and various other enthusiasms. There is an area that contains my desk, shelves of reference books, and archival boxes holding genealogical materials. In a previous incarnation, this room was a family/TV room.

My son’s bedroom has been inhabited over the years by several of his siblings. Most recently, it held my quilting stash, which has been packed into bins and relegated to the basement.

What is now a bathroom, had been a big walk-in closet and then my darkroom. Thanks to digital cameras I no longer need to closet myself in the dark with smelly chemicals, but I still sometimes mourn “real” photography.

The final two rooms are small with no heat. Remember, we are talking 1890’s “old” farmhouse. One has shelves and bins of supplies and equipment for batik, shibori, felting, and var... oth... enth...s.

The other was set up as an ebay room. Shelves hold stuff we thought we could sell. My son and I catalogued, and photographed all the items, but never actually committed ourselves to spending the time selling. This is the room that is about to be repurposed. It will become my “Dyeary.”  I will also do my carding in this room. But first, I need to empty it. Yup, more bins and boxes for the basement. We cannot, must not get rid of anything!

We are still experiencing uncommon heat. Algoma is on Lake Michigan. It’s a place where people come to cool off. Right now Algoma is 91 degrees. The Dyeary will be a dream until an 80 degree day, possibly 85. For now, I’m going to finish my second sock.

Be cool and Good Stitches