Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Marvels of Food Coloring

Anyone who has ever tried to get Kool-Aid out of clothing knows that it stains like mad, and that some colors are worse than others. Fiber artists of all types use this to their advantage, using those wonderful food dyes to color yarn and fabric and roving all kinds of amazing colors not found in nature.

After reading several instruction posts found on the web (this one from Knitty, and this one are my particular favorites) I was ready to try it with one ball of Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool (465 yards) and some partial balls of Lion Wool (maybe 250 yards). I turned this into a project day with kiddo.

We used our home-made PVC niddy-noddies to skein up the yarn. I had kiddo do the left-over Lion Wool, which were about 120 yards each. I divided the Fisherman's Wool into 8 skeins, about 55-60 yards each.

I set the wool to soak in a warm bath while we mixed the dyes and got everything else set up to go.

Flavors from L to R: Strawberry, Orange, Lemonade, 2 lemonade + 1 blasting berry, Blue Raspberry, Grape

We later added a few squirts of the lemon/berry mix to the pure Lemonade to make it a pale green, as lemon did not show up (face palm!).

Once the yarn was soaked, I got kiddo to paint her skeins using a turkey baster - messy, but effective. The hand painted skeins then got wrapped up in their plastic wrap and put in the top of the steamer for 30 minutes.

While she was playing and painting, I was doing solid colors in the microwave. Each one probably took 8-12 minutes total. I'd hit the button for a 2 minute cook, and then ignore it for a while until thinking "Huh, it's been a while", and then go for another 2-3 minute cook. I'd check on it every once in a while, and take it out for rinsing and cooling when it looked like all the dye was absorbed.

When kiddo got bored and went off to play, I used the last of the jars of dye to paint up the last 2 skeins of Fisherman's Wool, and then steamed them to set.

Final Verdict:
I think the painted and steamed skeins set better. When I put them in a water bath for a rinse, they had absolutely no dye release.
The bowl-in-the-microwave method was definitely less mess and worked beautifully, but there was a little, tiny, eetsy, bit of dye left in the rinse water.

Top Row (L to R): Black Cherry, Kiddo striped skein, Kiddo random skein
Middle : Pink Lemonade, Grape
Bottom: Red painted, Blue painted

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Learning techniques

Sometimes you have to try something you've seen someone else do. It's one way we learn things. It's especially nice to play around with it when there aren't really any consequences, when if you mess up, you have a backup plan.

Thus was the case with the sweater I'm knitting for the wedding in Iowa.

I messed up on the 4th line of the second section of the lace. I didn't notice this until I'd finished the section of lace and said to myself "Why do I have an extra stitch in the last repeat?"

Well, lookee here:

It's a sl1, k2tog, psso. Only I forgot the psso bit, so it just looks like a big yarn over and gives me an extra stitch. And because of it's yo-ness, it makes for an interruption in the nice triangular line of the lace.

I could have left it alone. It's going to be right near the side seam of the sweater, and no one would ever know but me. But the deal with knitting is that you get to make it as perfect as you want it to be. And see that red yarn? That's a lifeline that I cleverly (hah!) put in place after finishing the first lace section.

Nothing to lose, I thought I'd try a bit of lace surgery. Nothing as ambitious as I saw on The Tsock Tsarina's blog a while ago, but it seemed doable.

Step 1: Put all the other stitches on another lifeline - this one going through the stitch markers. It's a temporary needle, and if it worked, I didn't want to put the markers back in place.

Step 2: Take out the needle from the remaining stitches, except the last one. The little DPN marks where I'm thinking of ripping back to.

Step 3
: Thar she blows!!!

Step 4: Use those little bits of spaghetti to knit the rows again. I did it on DPNs just one size smaller than the regular needle.

Step 5: Realize that although the basic purpose of the repair was accomplished, there is still a problem which is unsolvable.
The lace is fixed, the triangle is restored, but somewhere in there the tension of the yarn got completely borked, and cannot be restored. I think there's also a weird, missing edge loop somewhere near the top, though how that happened I've no idea.

At this point, I say thank you to the happy red cotton yarn at the bottom of the panel.

What I learned:
I know lace surgery can be done, and I got really close, but I think doing it right next to an edge like this is a hazard. It's a scary process, fraught with the possibility of introducing new errors. I'll have to try again sometime in the future - hopefully not on this project since it's on a very firm deadline.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quiet times

Just a few days of peaceful home time. It's summer, so there's the round of swim classes and dance classes and such. But that also means that there's long stretches of just kiddo.

Yesterday I wanted to water the lawn anyway, so it was sprinkler time. Nothing says summer like a 5 year old screaming through a cold hose spray.

Following it with popcorn for a snack was just perfect.

I have been crafting, just slowly and in little bits. The unending husband socks have seen some time - they're my waiting-during-classes knitting. Also my watching the kiddo run through the sprinkler knitting.

I just noticed yesterday that by some random miracle the stripes on the two socks almost perfectly match.

I've started the sweater I'm planning to wear for a wedding next month. Below is the rather large swatch I worked to check gauge and make sure I had the pattern errors corrected.

Yes, a sweater. Yes, in summer. Yes, for a wedding in Iowa .... in the summer. It's cotton blend yarn, it'll be sleeveless, and the bottom of the sweater is lace. Paired with a linen skirt, and I don't think I'll completely die in the heat and humidity. But we'll see.

And from the Estes fluff, I've started some spinning. I'm probably putting too much twist into the singles, but this second attempt is going much better than the first.

I think the first time I was trying to go too thin for the way the fiber is prepped, and what I got was very rough - think rug yarn rather than garment yarn. This time it's thicker, shinier, and much softer. I probably should wash and set a sample of it, but I also want to keep going consistently, so I think I'll just play the odds and keep spinning when I've got bits of time. Though it would look nice plied, I'm planning to keep these as singles to get a bit more yardage out of the deal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Finished object

I finally finished the baby blanket for my new nephew. He's about 3 1/2 weeks old now, so it's high time this went off his way.

Pattern: Climbing Roses by Shari Haux; published in "Quick Knits, Cool Projects"
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, color #865
Size: 28 inches x 27 inches
Modifications: Oh, where to start! The pattern is for a full sized adult afghan, this is a baby blanket. The original is to be done in worsted, 220 is more of a DK weight yarn. The major modification was to the corners of the hems. The original has the top and bottom hems overlapping the side hem when finished, making the corners 4 layer thick. I didn't like that idea so I charted out increases at the beginning and decreases at the end to make a mitered corner.

A final wash and dry, and pack this up to send it off. Hope you like it, kiddo!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Beautiful Estes Park

The wool market was terrific. Flat out fun.

We left early in the morning and got up to the market about 8:30am, which gave us a terrific time to wander through all the animal areas before they got hot and crowded. Lovely angora bunnies, wonderful goats of all types, beautiful alpacas, lots of little and big sheep.

Early also gave us a not-crowded browse through all the fiber, yarn, and wonderful things in the vendor barn. Following the 20 minute rule saved us an overwhelming number of impulse buys. I'd gone in knowing I wanted 2 spindles, and having an idea who I wanted them from. It was great to see other options, but I stayed with my first choice - Magpie Woodworks. They were incredibly helpful to a beginning spinner, including encouraging me to really try to spin what I want right from the start.

The first one is what they term a mid-whorl spindle, with the whorl about 1/3 of the way down the shaft (total length about 12.5 inches). It's made of hickory and is 2.1 oz (59 g) total weight. I was looking for a long-spinning spindle to start with, one I could do a thigh roll to get started, but that I could also use for plying lighter weight yarns.

The second is a top whorl spindle made of cherry, 1.1 oz (32 g), with a shaft length of about 10 inches. My ultimate goal is to be spinning laceweight to DK, so I wanted a lighter spindle to work with once I got the drafting and spinning figured out on the heavier spindle.

After the spindles, my next purchase was quite a bit of fluff. Some Romney/Alpaca carded roving, 8 oz of Corriedale roving died with indigo and with an indigo/cochineal blend, some amazing chocolaty combed Merino top, and a Merino/Tussah silk blend that had streaks of purple and white and blue and pink and couldn't be passed up.

The only yarn I bought was a beautiful natural taupe 100% Alpaca fingeringweight from Lambspun. A total of 1330 yards in two skeins that are just buttery soft.

The plan is to use about 900y of it to make Miralda's Triangular Shawl (Ravelry link) from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia. When I know exactly how much I have left over, I'll find another luxurious project for it - probably some lacy, smooshy, cuddly wristwarmers.

I've spun about 3.5 yards of 2 ply from the indigo Corriedale with the mid-whorl spindle, as a little test. It's coming out rougher than I expected, definitely not a sweater yarn for me. Being a product oriented knitter, I needed an idea what I am going to make with the yarn I spin and thus what I really want the yarn to look and feel like. I've decided that spinning to get about 9 wpi in either a single or a 2-ply is reasonable and I should have enough roving of the indigo and the indigo/cochineal combined to make a bag like this, either alternating the yarns within the squares or just having different solid squares. The fuzziness I'm getting from the fiber will make a terrific halo on a felted bag - kind of like Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride.

I like having a goal.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Not dead yet.

For a promising beginning, that was a really long break. Getting sick will do that to you.

I'm still stuck in the distractitis, but I've gotten the baby blanket almost done. Just the sewing of the hems to do, and then I'll post FO pics. Planning to send it off to the little recipient - now two weeks old - no later than Monday.

I've added another layer of distraction by suddenly getting interested in spinning on a spindle. Have I ever spun before? No. Do I have a reason to spin? Well, not really, except that it sounds interesting. Do I think that this really is a way of displacing and not getting other stuff done? Yep.

Luckily, or unluckily, there is a grand opportunity coming up this weekend for playing with fluff and spindles, as well as searching for yarn for projects. Estes Park Wool Market The workshops up there started today, and will go on tomorrow, but I'll be heading up on Saturday for a girl's day out with dear cousin, a fellow fiber fan.

I've been reading everything I can get my hands on for the last few weeks, and think I'll be looking for a couple of spindles (likely a high whorl and a low whorl by these folks) and then seeing what type of fiber I can get in trouble with. My pie-in-the-sky goal is to be able to spin sock to lace weight, but I realize I'll need to start with something thicker. Spinning yarn that I'll really use is the short term goal.

I'll also be looking for fingering and laceweight yarns for a couple of projects, including a shawl.

Pictures of the festival and the fiber and the mess I make with a spindle are sure to follow.