The Easy Medal

I’m still working frantically on my main project for the Ravelympics, but I’ve had no choice but to take breaks here and there. Earlier this week, I had several days straight with no legitimate interruptions, so I created a few. I simply had to get up and move around, not to mention do something different with my hands if only for a few minutes. Besides, the snow was melting, and I had two more skeins of the base yarn I’ve been using to snow dye. It was the perfect diversion, since it took about a half hour to set up one day, then it wasn’t until the next day that it had melted down and was ready for the microwave. The third day was for reskeining – a project which tends to make getting back to my marathon knitting sound like a lot of fun…

I used Silver Gray, Spruce, Gold Ochre, Aztec Gold, Chestnut, Olive, and Brown – quite an blend of colors. I was feeling a bit dangerous. 😉 Actually, I picked colors I was seeing outside as the snow pack was melting away, and I just didn’t know when to stop! This is also dyed on the same Jojoland Merino laceweight base I’ve used on my other two snow dyeing experiments this month.

It really just looked like mud once the snow melted through, and I was a bit worried.

However, I’m completely satisfied with the end result!

And I finally figured something out. My colors are different than expected because I’m not exhausting the dyes I’m using. Different parts of the dyes grab at different speeds, and since a lot of this dye is just running through the yarn, only portions of the colors are actually sticking, I think… Right or wrong, I’m totally satisfied with the results I’ve been getting, and from now on, I know I’ll be looking forward to snows that are big enough for me to break out the dyes!

And by virtue of absolutely having to take breaks from my knitting, I not only have two more gorgeous skeins of lace yarn, but I finally earned my first Ravelympics 2010 medal!

All together… Tah, DA-dah, dah, dah dah, dah…

And now, my very short break is over, and I need to get back to that knitting! I’m still not sure if I’m going to get this project done in time!

Ravelympics? Yes!

Anyone who has been following my blog for a while and who is also on Ravelry is probably wondering why I’ve said nothing about the Ravelympics this year. Last time around, I finished 18 UFO’s in 17 days, and I was posting constantly with the latest finished project. This year? Not a peep! That’s because I’ve been putting in anywhere from 10 to 16 hours a day knitting, and in the week leading up to to the big event, I was spending hours charting, planning and swatching for my project. Actually, my Ravelympics project is nearly the only thing I’ve done for the past two and a half weeks, and I’m definitely ready for it to be done! As much as I love knitting, 3 solid weeks of “eat, sleep, knit” on the same project under pressure, has taken a bit of a toll. Besides, my thumb split open about a week ago from doing so much purling with the cotton blend yarn.

I’ve entered the Designer Biathlon – with a little bit of a shove from a dear friend who offered to test knit if I’d take the plunge. I think we are both totally daft, but that’s beside the point! What a project to knit this whole thing and publish a finished pattern during the Olympics! I don’t want to give anything away quite yet, but I will say that it’s a children’s item, and I did take a teaser photo of it the other night, puddled inside out for a few minutes while I ran off to take care of a rather necessary task…

Since I don’t do business related things on Sunday, I have another project going, too. My older daughter asked if I wouldn’t please make her a pair of thick, squishy socks with lots of color, and when she was  home on furlough, she picked out some Lorna’s Lace Shepherd’s Wool, worsted weight, Watercolor colorway. I figured it would be no problem to finish these with three Sundays available, but I neglected to think about all the tasks that were being ignored during the rest of the week – like the hundreds of emails that arrive whether I’m opening my inbox or not, washing my hair, doing laundry… So, barring some really strange sort of a miracle, I don’t think this one will be done by midnight Sunday. Regardless, it has been really nice to have something totally different to work on one day each week!

I have an “accidental” Ravelympics project, too, but since it’s finished already, I’m going to wait until I receive my medal to share it all at once. Besides, I have to get back to work. I  have an awful lot to do before my Sweetheart Lovey is finished!

Only a Week Late

I had every intention of posting these pix last Sunday on Valentine’s Day. Then I met The Skein From Hell, and things suddenly got a bit out of hand.

My second round of snow-dyeing went really well, and if anything, I like the results even better than the first. What I did NOT like is that when I started to reskein the yarn, the first skein was a horribly tangled mass. It took me over two hours to get it sorted out, and I ended up having to intentionally break it at least 3 times in the process. Any other skein would have either ended up in the trash or been returned, but of course, beings as it was one of three hand-dyed in a one of a kind lot, I sort of needed to work it through. It is probably the worst two hours I have EVER spent with fiber in my hands! It didn’t help that I had only about 45 minutes free to reskein, photo, and blog the results…

I made a few small changes, but I’m not sure if they made any difference in the finished project, since I used different colors.

First changes were washing in Synthropol, then soaking in a very strong vinegar solution. Then, although I still didn’t measure my water, dye, and vinegar in the dye mixture, I was much more careful to keep them close. The third change was being careful to put the lightest color on first and progress to the darkest. Colors used were Scarlet, Fire Red, Vermillion, and Burgundy.

After the melting, this is what I had. I could see at least three of the colors, but they looked different than I’d expected. I let everything sit covered in plastic wrap for about 6 hours so it would warm to room temperature. I was hoping to lessen the temperature change shock. Then I microwaved each skein four times for 2 minutes each time – total of 8 minutes instead of 10. Then I let them cool completely to room temperature before washing. I still saw next to no color loss during washing, which pleased me, since red has always been a problem color for me. I also discovered that the heat apparently activates at least some part of the color, as they had become very bright and intense. 🙂 Oh, and the last thing I did differently was to add a squirt of conditioner to the rinse water, which helped the fragrance dramatically.

The truly funny thing to me was that the purple that disappeared from my first project showed up in this one! I used 4 colors that were degrees of red. So where did the purple come from? This looked so delicious fresh from the wash water! It made the perfect Valentine’s Day cake, don’t you think?

Despite all the extra TLC – shorter nuking, slower temperature changes, and gentler handling, this yarn was lightly felted to, as far as I could tell, the exact same degree as the first bunch I did. Thankfully, it didn’t ruin the yarn, but I’m a little frustrated to have not made a difference in that regard.

After reskeining, I was even more pleased with my work. This actually looks like yarn I’ve paid good money for!

And there are clearly four colors in this final project, so nothing disappeared this time around.

I still want to do one more batch of snow dyeing, but my trip to the yarn store last week was canceled by the storm. Now I’m hoping I’ll still have enough snow to do the last colors I want to try.

Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 6:56 am  Comments (1)  
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The Sun Also Shines!

I’ve had these pix for a couple of days, but I’ve been too busy to get them posted. The day after the storms last weekend, it was sunny out, and the sky was an impossible blue. Not surprisingly, I simply had to snap a few more pix with this delightful third background.

Love this guy’s character!

Some things my new camera actually does very well! 🙂

I’ve been wearing my Changeling Socks a lot this winter, and absolutely loving them. 🙂 These are the socks I made under a bit of duress. My students wanted to make socks, and I wasn’t in the mood, but I didn’t tell them that. Instead, I bought some Wendy Guernsey wool from Schoolhouse Press and made the project a bit more fun by dyeing some of it to accent my socks. I started out with a KAL, but quickly decided that they just weren’t going to fit me correctly, so somewhere in the midst of the overly pointy toe, I reverted to Cat Bordhi’s Ridgeline pattern, which, of course, was a perfect fit – if you don’t look at the toes, that is. 😉 The pattern change is what inspired me to name them Changeling Socks, one definition of changeling being something that changes from one thing into another. What you can’t see is the bubbled, peekaboo ankle stripes. More pix here on Ravelry.

One additional comment on the socks… If you noticed a little spare color bleeding into the white, I rushed the dye job, and I suspect now that I didn’t nuke it quite long enough, and possibly didn’t rinse them thoroughly. If that wasn’t enough, the second time I washed them, I didn’t splash any vinegar into my rinse water. They don’t look quite as sharp now, but they are still delightfully warm and comfortable.

A Real Snow Job!

Catching up on my email proved to be a dangerous activity this week! I was already up to my ears (Expect to hear about that in a later post.) with more to do than anyone has a right to have scheduled in their life, but then I went and opened a group post that mentioned snow dyeing. Being a terribly curious sort, I had to do some research. What I found was page after page of instructions regarding snow dyed fabrics with fiber reactive dyes, but not one single note about snow dyed wool yarns with acid dyes.  After some contemplation – and another long look at the abnormal amount of snow we are enjoying – I decided I wasn’t going to let lack of knowledge or information stop me. I’ve done Kool-aid and Wilton’s dyeing, so how much tougher could it be to use the regular chemical dyes? Never mind this whole thing had to be a lark, as I hadn’t the foggiest notion if it would even work with acid dyes in the first place. 😉 However, they were all that was available at my LYS, so I didn’t have a lot of options if I was going to strike while the iron was hot snow was frozen.

Not being a person who makes up her mind easily, I came home from the shop Monday night with 8 (yes, EIGHT) jars of Jacquard Dyes, and seven skeins of undyed Jojoland Merino Wool, which is (predictably!) laceweight. At just $5 per 440 yard skein, I figured a disaster wasn’t going to cost me much this way. 🙂

For my first experiment, I chose 4 colors related to blue: Sky Blue, Emerald, Teal, and Lilac. This is pretty typical “me” as I’m fond of tonal yarns. The combination made me feel safe. I mean, how bad could it turn out with colors like that?

The other decision I made was that since I was flying by the seat of my pants in a completely experimental mode, I wasn’t going to make this a scientific exploration. I’ve been up to my ears lately in having to make everything “just so,” and I decided this project was going to be dabble and play all the way, just to see what happened. I made a few mental notes, measured nothing, and took pix like a crazy person.

So, if you want to play, too, here’s what I did:

1. I opened two skeins of my yarn and dropped them in a bowl of lukewarm water with a bit of Synthrapol and vinegar to soak for a while. I figured two skeins was not much to lose if it went badly, but enough to knit something pretty if it came out well.

2. After some frantic head-scratching, I came up with a dyeing set up. I found a window screen, which oddly enough, I’m not feeling overly inclined to use this week, and laid it over the open top of my washing machine. Presto! I had a workspace at a reasonable height, in a cool room, which was out of the way, and when I was finished, I could run a rinse cycle in the washer and the mess would be gone! That decided, I grabbed my grouting bowl and went out to fetch a huge scoop of snow. One big mixing bowl full seemed just the right amount, once I’d patted and compressed it into shape, directly above the opening of the washing machine. The two skeins of yarn were squeezed out and arranged on top of the pad of snow.

3. Two more bowls filled to the top provided ample coverage for all the yarn. It was all compressed to the limit that my bouncy dye platform would permit, and I was careful to firmly pat the sides and completely cover the yarn. This whole mound was about 5-6″ deep.

4. I filled a rather large mug I no longer use, about half full of cool water and added a couple splashes of vinegar, plus what was probably 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of the Teal dye powder. After stirring it thoroughly, I spooned it over the snow cake, and within minutes was envying those people who are equipped with squirt bottles for dyeing! (That bit of equipment has been added to my wish list!)

5. I meant to grab the purple next, but picked up Sky Blue by mistake. Oh well…

6. So next, I added the Lilac…

7. and finally, Emerald. The colors were filtering down through the snow while I was mixing the next, so there was pretty much always white space available. I really liked the way the snow looked, and by this point, I figured if nothing else, I was going to get some fun pictures out of the project!

8. Now all I had to do for a while was obsess over colored, melting snow! The first thing I noticed was that I’d created the equivalent of a dyer’s snow cone, you know… the way the flavor all runs to the bottom and leaves you with a cup of plain, shaved ice? I was glad I had a nice thick pad of snow underneath. I’m not certain, but it seems as if it would have all puddled in either the yarn or the lowest level of snow above the yarn, and possible muddled the colors otherwise. The second thing I noticed was just how dirty snow is and how busy the birds must have been in the area I scooped. 😦

9. By an hour and a half into the melting process, I finally got to see a corner of the yarn. It was SO exciting, and the corner looked really pretty! You’d have thought I was watching a baby being born! I was running back and forth between my work and my laundry room about every half hour, which is as long as I could make myself sit still. I did get a lot of exercise last night!

10. By 7.5 hours into the process, I was running out of time. Most, but not all of the snow was melted, and I made the executive decision to remove the little pile still remaining in the middle.

I wasn’t sure how long it would be safe to let it sit without attention, so wanted to finish the project  instead of leaving it for tonight.

11. Having no fancy equipment and very little time remaining left me with my only alternative being to microwave for the heat setting portion of the process. I fell back on the “wrap it in plastic wrap and nuke” technique from my Kool-aid experience, but resolved to cook it longer, as I had some problems getting colors to set and read suggestions of longer times in other people’s blogs. I did each skein separately for 5 two-minute sessions, alternating between the two, and flipping them over each time they came out.

12. During the very last microwave time, I heard a quiet, but regular burping noise coming from inside and ran to see what was happening. The vision that met my overly tired brain registered as grotesquely distended internal organs, and it took me a moment to react!

Thankfully, I did turn it off in time. Visions of dye, water, plastic and wool exploding in my microwave were terrifying, especially considering how sleepy I was by then!

13. I let it cool, but not as much or as slowly as I would have liked. When I could handle the packets without burning myself, I slid it out of the wrap. I was totally shocked at the change in my yarn colors! If I’d not been the only person around, I would have thought someone was playing a prank and had substituted two other skeins! The purple had completely vanished, the green was extremely scarce, and where did that bright blue come from? I’m presuming now that the heat activation part of the dyeing process affects colors, but I still want to know where my purple and green went!

14. I let the skeins sit and cool for a few more minutes while I cleaned up the mess, then rinsed them gently in same temperature water, with a bit of Synthrapol, noting with pleasure that there was almost no loss of dye in the water. After wuzzing them, I hung them up to dry and went to bed.

15. Dry, the blue was still brilliant, but not quite as overwhelming. One problem I did have, though, is that the yarn had just started felting a bit. Because of the felting and the bold color blotches, I decided to re-skein it all so I could see what I really had. It went pretty smoothly – no problems from the early stage felting. I’m curious about what  -part of the process induced that to happen, but when I consider that it went from room temperature to freezing for several hours, then was heated quickly and for a long time in the microwave, I’m really not surprised.

I have to say that I’m pleased with the finished yarn, and I really wish that digital cameras did a better job with blues and subtle colors, as the photo just isn’t really accurate. The yarn is rich, but much more gentle – less contrasty – than you’d think from this picture. I’m still mourning the loss of the greens and purples, but what I have is not unattractive by any means. One skein is definitely a bit darker, and has more of a green cast than the other, so I’ll have to knit them with care, either choosing something that would look nice subtly striped or in two barely different colors. I know it’s blurry, as I’m still fighting the new camera, and the colors aren’t spot on, but here’s a close up of the yarn on my niddy noddy so you can see how variegated it really is. I think these colors are a little closer to reality, too, though truth probably lies between the two pictures.

Overall, I’d say it was a positive experience – positive enough that I have another snow cake melting over my washer as I’m typing this. 🙂 The total lack of control in this method of dyeing is a very comfortable place for me. It’s easy for me to become completely paralyzed with creative indecision, and since I can’t really predict where the dye is going to tunnel through the snow when I’m applying it, I don’t have any decisions to make! Since dyeing is totally a “play sport” for me, I’m quite content to just let things happen for now.

Besides, I really need something uninhibited and free this month!

Magical

After all these years, I still feel tremendous wonder at the transformation snow works in an otherwise dreary winter world. We finally had a wonderful snowfall over the last day or so, starting sometime in the afternoon as wet stuff that hadn’t quite ripened, and after a brief respite and some melting, reappearing as a thick, wet, sticky snow that quickly blanketed everything and stuck to impossible surfaces, turning it all into God’s own personal art gallery. I couldn’t resist trying some nighttime shots when I took the dog outside, and come morning, I couldn’t resist taking even more!

Look again… Could that be Old Man Winter, exposed by the careless step of a stray cat?

Even the fence turned into lace!

The streets were very quiet this morning…

Published in: on February 7, 2010 at 9:26 am  Comments (2)  
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Goals Post – January 2010 Recap

So, January 2010 is now history! What a busy month it was, and February looks as if it will be a wild ride, too! I feel like I had a good month of progress toward my goals, and I’ve even done a fairly good job of not feeling impatient that I couldn’t get to everything all at once. 😉

January didn’t see progress on my miniature related goals or any of the remodeling work. I’m a little disappointed about the latter, as winter is flying away at a rapid pace, and there was a lot I wanted to do in terms of painting. The majority of my other goals saw some sort of progress, though, even if it was only baby steps. Enough baby steps will eventually lead to accomplishments, of course!

The most massive project I undertook during January was to get Concerto ready to publish. I just discovered I have one more fix to make tomorrow morning, which is agonizing due to what it is. However, the worst of the work is finished, and tomorrow I’m intending to celebrate! That will be one of my four patterns published this year. I’ve put in a good bit of time on the one I hope to publish during the Ravelympics, and I’ve been knitting whenever I can on my next lace shawl design, so it’s easy to feel positive about this particular goal!

My smaller areas of progress are fairly numerous. I’ve spent several hours sanding my spinning wheel, remembering why she was so easy to set aside more than a year ago. ;o) I finished my BSJ for my first UFO, and I’ve been working on my next one, which I’ve converted it to knitting continental style so I can reach my competency goal for that at the same time. I’m slow – feeling very much as if I’ve just learned to knit – but I AM doing it, and I know that my fingers will eventually learn the new tricks I’m trying to teach them.

Even with my flute wooing me, I’m surprised to find it so difficult to keep up with my music goal. Now I understand why it had been so long since I’d played. It feels good, though, even if I am having to strive for this one! The weekly blogging has been much easier! I’m behind where I would like to be on my reading, having logged only 7 books so far. The intense work on Concerto has eaten huge holes in my reading and knitting time, and I miss it!

For the spinning and CSM, I’ve registered for a retreat that will be populated by crankers and spinners – 4 days of immersion! Surely I can make a pair of socks in that length of time, and there will certainly be at least one person there who is eager to encourage a spinning addiction as well. 😀 If I’m really on top of things, I’ll take my hand cards with me, and some fleece, and perhaps get help with those, too. That will help with my “fleece to finished” goal.

An exciting thing has been gathering everything I need to try some Navajo style weaving. I believe I have all the supplies for a loom, the minimum of tools, and all my yarn – as of tomorrow. I’ve also designed my project! It will definitely be a “squeeze it in” sort of deal for the next while, as February is already full to the brim. I’d be thrilled if I could have my loom put together by the end of the month, though. I really wanted to weave on a tri-loom this year, too, but I keep running up against walls there. I can’t seem to find one to borrow or rent, and I’m loathe to buy one just to make one or two projects.

The annually recurring part of my list has seen a little bit of progress, too. Debt is down, weight – well… maybe a pound, but I’ve been more aware of things the last week, so hopefully will do better soon. My email account is already about 10,000 messages lighter than at the beginning of January, though even at that rate, it won’t be done by the end of the year. I have my Bible verse very securely memorized: ” I have come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness.” John 12:46

And last – and definitely not least – DH is talking rather confidently about us going to Alaska this year – which would most definitely count as “someplace new.”

So, I think I can say that even working around knitting classes and ceilings and all the other stuff of normal life, I’ve had a positive month. I’m exhausted from the Concerto marathon, but still feel very upbeat about everything right now. Bring on February!!!

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