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 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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hot New Group

Like a lot of the country we’ve been experiencing extreme heat. I’ve managed to survive by claiming a spot on the old wooden swing out in the side yard. It’s shaded by a maple tree with a trunk that measures about 170 inches around. It was planted over a hundred years ago when our farmhouse was built. The bark on the tree and the wood on the swing have acquired a lovely shade of gray-green over the years. This is the first time in the twenty-some years we have lived here that the swing has experienced such extensive use. Usually the east wind off of Lake Michigan, a couple of miles away, has been too cool for prolonged periods of swinging. But this week, “cooler by the lake,” a phrase popular with local forecasters has a welcome ring. Yesterday, winds from the west cancelled out any lake effect cooling. We suffered along with the rest of you. 

My time on the swing has been spent working on a pair of socks for myself. Yes, I’m trying again. I decided to make anklets this time. The heel of the first sock has been successfully turned, and the simple round and round stockinette of the foot easily managed by my over heated brain. A new dishcloth is taking shape from the strand off a cone of variegated cotton. No grand design, complicated stitch or mitered square, it’s just plain old back and forth garter.

During the many hours of happy swing stitching, I have not been alone. I have acquired a new group of knitting companions. Just like at open knitting at Spin, my LYS, the number of attendees varies. Here, the group numbers from one to twenty-nine. That’s the number of strutting, clucking, pecking chickens my son lets loose in the yard each morning. The “girls” seem to appreciate the shade of the old lichened maple, and the taste of the lilies of the valley that grow under the bridal wreath that borders the swing. 

A Welsummer among the shredded lilies of the valley.

We enjoy a cluckish companionship. A Buff Orpington occasionally hops up and sits next to me for a short visit. A silver- laced Wyandotte circles the swing, pecking at my knitting basket after completing each circuit. 

A basket pecking Wyandotte.

When they flock around, peering up at me, I’m not sure if they are clucking compliments on my yarn selections or offering helpful technical tips. Looking at their tiny heads containing tiny chicken brains, I realize that I may be reading too much into our conversation.

After a while, one hen will wander off to some other shady spot with others casually following, or the whole flock will suddenly flap-run noisily across the yard’s expanse. They’re all under the far apple tree now, but I know that sooner or later my new group, my knitting biddies, will be back.

Be cool, and good stitches.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Yarn Yarn

This yarn started with a lunch date with my cousin, Jackie. We meet in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, which is about half way between where we live, she in Barrington, IL, and I just north of Alaska, WI. This is a semi-regular, semi-annual affair. I arrived early in order to check out the Cedarburg Woolen Mill. I entered the shop where I inquired about purchasing some wool. The clerk made a phone call to a lady who met me in the back hall and led me down into the basement. There were the milling machines and piles of fleece to be carded, and piles already processed, and wool related tools. A cloud of wool lover’s heaven in a basement! The lady showed me what she had available and I selected some merino roving. Putting the large ball in a container near the ancient scale, she wound a smaller ball from it and weighed it until it was the amount I requested. She repeated the same process with a beautiful natural dark brown roving.

Since that lovely afternoon with my cousin, I have been working away at my merino roving, 2 ounces here, 4 ounces there. Two examples can be seen in my April 28th post, “Friday is Dyeday.” The yarn I’m writing about today was spun from a little over 4 ounces that were dyed with Greener Shades Dyes. I presoaked the roving in a 3:1 solution of water/vinegar for 30 minutes, then gently squeezed out the excess liquid. I placed the roving in what I call a snaky arrangement in the bottom of my dyepot which contained enough water to make the wool “squishy” (a technical term meaning not covered, but enough to prevent burning while the steaming process takes place).

My dye record indicates that I used equal amounts of GS’s, Ruby Red, Sunshine Yellow and Sunset Orange. I poured the dye solution randomly over the yarn, and with a gloved hand gently pressed down on the roving to make sure it had contact with the dye. I covered the pot and steamed the wool for 30 minutes at 170 degrees. When the water was clear, I knew that the fiber had absorbed all the dye. I let it cool, and rinsed it without agitation, for I try to make felt only when I want to.

When my roving was dry, I divided it into eight long strips of pencil roving, being careful to mark with a knot of yarn the beginning of each strip. I spun four pencils each on two bobbins. As each pencil was ending I attached the next section at the yarn knot end. I thought that would help produce a more coordinated stripe when I plied the yarn from both bobbins. It would have, if each pencil had been the exact same thickness, and if my spinning had been very precise. Since I’m not a machine, it didn’t happen. I really didn’t expect it to, and I’m glad it didn’t. I love the effect I achieved.

I designed a simple lace and bobble scarf for the yarn and I’m very satisfied with the result. The 4 ounces was enough to make the scarf which measures 5 ½ inches wide and 55 inches long. I was glad that I decided, from the beginning, to use a lifeline at each repeat of the pattern. I ended up having to use it twice. It was well worth the minor inconvenience. (See a lifeline in my May 12 post, “Mellow Yellow.”) I kept an eye on the amount of yarn I had left, and when I thought that I would not have enough for another repeat and the end rows, I ended the repeat I was working on, knitted the end rows and had a small ball of .2 ounces left.

My ball of merino roving is shrinking fast. I think I need to email Jackie and see when she’s free to “do lunch.”

Happy stitching and dyeing and spinning.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

 Its International Yarn Bombing Day

And I almost missed it! Today I received a box in the mail from Sievers School of Fiber Arts. It contained three new Louet spinning wheel bobbins that I ordered the day before yesterday. What great service (Thanks, Ann). Last year on IYBD I was at Sievers enjoying a week of Batik when someone reminded me of yarn bombing which I had been introduced to the year before. While my waxed fabric was in the dye pot, I took time out to go to School House Beach and make my small contribution to the day. 

The wonderful Washington Islanders are very protective of their beautiful beach as you can see from the sign pictured below.

With that in mind, I used cotton crochet thread to form a net around one of the smooth rounded rocks that the beach is famous for. 

No rock beings were harmed in the process.

The net form was my tribute to the fishing culture that still remains, reflecting the rich heritage of this island of Native Hurons, French missionaries and voyageurs, and Scandinavian settlers.
If you aren’t familiar with yarn bombing I would suggest you get a hold of Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti, by Mandy Moore and Leane Prain. And if you plan to take part in this interesting art form, please be kind to the environment.
Happy Stitches.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My First Creation

Cutting a wee door and wee windows out of an empty cigarette package is the first craft activity I remember. The little house was built for either the Viceroy or the Chesterfield family. I was sitting on the living room floor at the feet of my mother, who was supervising my use of the scissors. She said I was three years old.

That was the beginning of a long list of craft projects that I have worked on in my nearly sixty-eight years. My cousin Barbara, who lived next door, and I used to hand sew doll clothes. We were pre-Barbyites. Our 18 inch dolls, Susie and Clarissa, were fun to sew for, and had quite the extensive wardrobes. A neighbor, who owned a Boston bulldog, taught me to crochet. That project was a small purse about the size of an index card, and it was made of shiny, navy blue cord-like material. I don’t recall crocheting again until, as a young mother, I made two granny square afghans. They were done in popular colors of the 1960’s, cream, gold, avocado, and orange. Gifts to my mother and mother-in-law, they have returned to me. 

Another neighbor introduced me and some other girls who lived on our block to sewing.  And I was fortunate to live half a block away from the local high school where summer classes were offered in sewing. When I picked out the fabric for a peasant blouse and matching dirndl skirt, my mother gave me some good advice. She suggested that the white background I had selected would soon be boring and that the same fabric with the yellow background would please me longer. She was right. I’ve reused her suggestion many times over the years.

I see that swanky Lake Drive has been mistakenly substituted
for Larkin St. for some of us.  This album clip  is from  the local
 Shorewood , WI paper, perhaps summer of 1950.

While raising five above average children (We live in the vicinity of Lake Wobegon.) I fit in a little knitting, a little weaving, some batik, puppet making, and quite a bit of sewing. Do you remember Aunt Lydia's Rug yarn? That is what I used to weave the pillows pictured below. Spinning was not yet in my repertoire. And the choice of yarn was not as plentiful as today.

As the nest grew empty I took courses in ceramic, graphic arts, and painting. When my children started filling their own nests, I started quilting baby blankets and then “big bed” quilts. I took classes at the University of Minnesota’s Split Rock Arts Program, embroidery from Ilse Aviks, and shibori from Ana Lisa Hedstrom. I spent a number of glorious weeks on Washington Island at the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County attending classes at Sievers School of Fiber Arts. They included dyeing with Mary Curran, where my mind was opened to the wonderful possibility and mystery of color; tapestry weaving with Sarah Swett, where I learned the intricacies of painting with yarn; and felting and dyeing with Chad Hagen, where I first fell in love with dyeing wool. Stephanie Robertson took the terror out of the silk screen process with her casual, free approach. But the class I took repeatedly was Mary Jo Scandin’s  Batik. OOOOOOH, Batik!

A couple of years ago I looked around at all my supplies, materials, and notebooks, and decided, instead of being an art supply collector, it was really time to call myself a fiber artist. I have tried many media, but have become master of none. I have decided that is okay. That's why the subtitle of this blog is “enthusiasms of a deliberate dilettante.” Mr. Webster defines a dilettante as--a person who pursues an art or science merely for amusement; a dabbler. That may sound like a negative to some, but I say that I relish the opportunities that have presented themselves as I have dabbled, not to mention the wonderful, talented, understanding, and sharing individuals I have met along my path.
And I hope to meet you there soon.

Good Stitches.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Family, Friends, and Fiber

Last week began with a Mother’s Day soft ball game with all of my five children and their families present, and ended with lunch with some of my Tuesday knitting friends after we attended the 18th Annual Door County Shepherd’s Market. In between there were two water aerobic sessions, open knitting, and coffee with my friend, Ginnie,  http://kewauneecountyhistory.blogspot.com/ Her knowledge of and enthusiasm for sharing local history are astounding.

At the Shepherd’s Market I saw fantastically spun art yarns, and beautiful felt pieces and baskets. The vendors encouraged handling the wonderful array of natural and dyed fibers. And the funny faced, shorn alpacas brought by Kele Alpacas hummed their discomfort of being away from their field fellows. I purchased the roving pictured below from Nora Ahlen of Homestead Sheep and Fiber Products, Baileys Harbor, WI. It is an aqua and gray cloud of Romney, Wensleydale and silk noil.

Kathi Cascio of Apple Hollow Fiber Arts, Sturgeon Bay, WI offers fair trade Ghanese baskets among her fiber and related products. It was hard to chose from the plethora of wonderfully patterned baskets. I chose a small one to hold a ball of yarn while knitting.

Right now it contains the beginnings of an Elizabeth Zimmerman bonnet from The Opinionated Knitter. My version is in stockinette and will be embellished with embroidered flowers. I’m using the bonus yarn pictured a couple of posts ago.

One additional stop made after the Shepherd’s Market was to Jenny Ribbens’ Red Sock Yarns new location in Fish Creek, WI. Her move was well timed for the beginning of the Door County summer tourist season. No knitter’s vacation could be complete without a visit to a local yarn shop. Congratulations, Jenny.

Good Stitches.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mellow Yellow Scarf 

I finished a scarf yesterday. It was something simple I designed when I needed a project that didn’t require much concentration, but wasn’t boring either. I chose a mellow yellow as a rest from all the intense multicolored dyeing and knitting I have been doing. 

After I finished it, I spread it out on my bed to examine it. I placed tiny post-it notes where I noticed things I would change when writing up the instructions. When I started the scarf, but before I started the pattern with the bobbles and yarn overs, I didn’t think to include the yo’s next to the garter stitch edge. So I noted that on a post-it. I also decided to remove the first bobble. I made another note for that change.

At the other end of the scarf I wanted to omit the two yo’s that are part of the bobble, yo repeat. They looked out of place. Another note. I also needed to add another row to the garter stitch border at the end of the scarf.  The green yarn was there as a "lifeline" in case I made another mistake and had to rip back to the beginning of a pattern repeat where there was a plain row of stitches. I, finally, worked that out after a couple of frustrating periods of one step forward and two steps back.

After pulling the green yarn out, I blocked the scarf, and rewrote the instructions. If you would like to make this scarf click on mellow yellow scarf  under Pages found on the right hand margin of this blog. The pattern is free.

One of the aspects of knitting that I find myself enjoying most is the fun and satisfaction of working out my own patterns. I can follow a pattern, but find that if I have the basic stitch counts and techniques down pat, I can play with the rest. I like doing variations on a theme. When I was quilting, I would start with a central panel and build outward until I obtained the size I wanted. I loved playing with my scraps. Now, I have a whole new set of toys- yarns, needles, spinning wheel, dyes. If you are like I am, you know the joy of it all. If you are timid about designing, GIVE IT A GO! The challenge, including fixing mistakes, and the eventual accomplishment will tickle you from the inside.

Good Stitches.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

I’ve created a monster.

Well, actually, I’ve created two, fraternal, not identical twins. I just finished my first pair of socks. Let’s just say that during gestation something went slightly awry. While I was working on the ribbing of the first sock, I showed it to my Tuesday knitting friends. I said, “It seems so loose. Is that right?” They replied, “It will be all right.” By the next week I had turned the heel with no problem, and was working my way down the length of the foot with some skepticism.
I said, “This is really big.”
The Tuesdays asked, “Did I do a swatch, check my gauge?”
“What size needles are you using?”
“That’s kind of big.”
“I matched my gauge and needles to the directions.”
I took out my handy dandy Boye Knitting Gauge and measured again. I was one stitch off my original count. I was knitting looser. Pshaw!
One of the Tuesdays said, “One stitch per inch is going to make a difference.”
I knitted on, deciding that these would no longer be my first hand knit socks. They would be my son’s first hand knit socks. When I got home, I measured his feet, twelve inches. I finished the sock and showed it to my friends. They were speechless, but smiling. Slightly daunted, I started the other sock. Could I duplicate my mistake? The answer? Well, not really. First, I started the toe decrease too soon. I tinked several stripes and tried again. I still didn’t end with the same color at the toe, but the cosmic they knows that one foot is always smaller than the other. This way my son can figure out which is which, and be able to say the red toe is for the smaller foot. He has graciously accepted the banded pair, calling them his, “lounging socks.” And I have not yet succumbed to single sock syndrome.

Sock One and Sock Two.

Toe One and Toe Two

Get in-gauged and Good stitches.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday is Dyeday.

Tuesdays are called Holy Tuesday at my house. That is because my family knows that that day is sacred. Nothing else gets scheduled for Tuesdays because that is the day I go to the “open Knit” at my LYS, SPIN. And Fridays are Dyedays. I try to do some dyeing every Friday. Yesterday I decided that I would dye some merino roving that I purchased at the CedarburgWoolen Mill as a gift for my daughter-in-law, Gay. She and I have been dyeing buddies for some time. We have dyed at her mother’s house in Florida, and then in Wisconsin, and at Siever’s School of Fiber Arts, where we have taken Batik classes.

I dyed two lengths of roving using Greener Shades dyes recommended by Deb Menz in her Interweave DVD, Dyeing in the Kitchen. Menz’s book, Color in Spinning, is also an invaluable source and guide I rely on. The first length of clean roving was pre-soaked in a warm solution of 3 parts water and 1 part vinegar. After gently squeezing out the wool, I placed it in the bottom of an enameled dye pot with enough water to make it as Menz refers to, using the technical term,  as “squishy.” I then poured the prepared amounts of dye over the wool, and with a gloved hand pushed down gently on the yarn to insure that the colors would blend, and that there would be no white spots. I then heated the pot to 170 degrees for 30 minutes.

An example of the dye card I try to keep for each job.
First length of roving dyed for Gay recorded on above card.

The painted the second length with the same colors, but in lighter shades. This wool I rolled up in plastic wrap, placed on a steamer rack in my pot, and steamed for 30 minutes. Both lengths were then rinsed gently and hung to dry.

Yarn painted for Gay.

Dye card for yarn painted for Gay.

This morning they were dry, packaged, and mailed in time to arrive on Gay’s Birthday.

If I have left over dye, I either mix them together or add some other color to it. I added some ruby red to some left over amethyst and dyed some Lion Brand Fishermen's wool for my bonus yarn of the day.

Amethyst - Ruby,  gem of a yarn.
Needless to say, Tuesdays and Fridays are my favorites.
Happy days, happy stitches, and to Gay, Happy Birthday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Good intentions vs. Reality, and a good idea

I try to keep a binder journal of my projects, but it isn’t always up to date. Ideally, the plan is to have a record of each project I do so that I can repeat it, share it, or, perhaps, develop it for sale. I use plastic sleeves to store a copy of the pattern that I can write notes on while I’m working. Sometimes the pattern is from a published work with its source recorded, in case I want to find it again, or cite and credit the designer. If it is my own design or riff on a published design, I store my notes and charts in there, too. The sleeve also contains a photo of the finished product, and a sample of the yarn used, with its label or record card, if it is hand-dyed or handspun. Here is an example. I made two hats adapted from a pattern in Baby Beanies by Amanda Keeys Her photos of those darling children make knitting her patterns irresistible. Thank you Amanda! 

Scanned images for my Knitting Journal file.

I used the pattern “euro bebe,” as my base, using solid and multicolored Plymouth Yarn’s “Encore” from my LYS, SPIN located in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. I added a section of my first attempt at bobbles. The second hat was made from yarn that I dyed after spinning. It included my first faux Fair Isle yarn. This sleeve, actually, contained most of the items I listed above.  Like I said, ideally, this is the plan, but I am way behind on the actual doing phase. (Lunch Break)

While eating my peanut butter and banana sandwich, I had a different idea for keeping my journal. I tried using my flatbed copier to make pictures of my work and yarn info to place in my binder. It is an acceptable option. Then I had another idea. Maybe some of you have already thought of this and are doing it already. In that case, YOU ARE BRILLIANT! Instead of using a binder, I have decided to use my scanner (I love my scanner.) and computer to keep my info, thus freeing up precious shelf space for another dyeing, spinning, or knitting tome. And I’ll save on paper and toner, too. 

Now I know what I’ll be doing the rest of this afternoon.  My scanner is all warmed up, and my bin of projects, patterns, and yarn samples awaits. 

Happy Stitches or Scans!