Thursday, October 14, 2010

Awwwww! Widdle booties!

These are about the cutest booties on the planet. Every time I whip one of these out, it incites a cacophony (look it up) of squeals from everyone nearby. Even men. It's true. I've seen it.

They're wee widdle UGG booties!!! Aren't they cute? I have to admit, even these booties are completely adorable. They're knit out of Berroco Suede (discontinued, grumble grumble) and Berroco Plush for the white fluff at the top. I found a free pattern online a few years ago and now have the pleasure of teaching a class for these booties at the LambShoppe in Denver (click the link for the full list of their classes and instructions on how to sign up). Right now they're scheduled on November 13 and November 20 from 3-4:30pm. That may change -- after knitting up the sample, I think I'll need longer than an hour and a half, but I have some other classes that day (Knitting 101 at Fancy Tiger). Call the shop if you want to sign up; if it changes, you'll be notified.

I also finished a hat.

Shown here on Gwyneth because it's too big even on me. Everything looks big on Gwyneth, so I figured this would work out well. It's EZ's Dairy Queen hat pattern, and I knit it up from my first handspun. I've considered tossing it into the washing machine to tighten it up a bit, but I have the feeling I shall be smoted upon if I felt my first handspun. I'm keeping it as is for now -- it might be good to wrap my hair up in on certain days.

Still have a lot on the needles, and becoming a little overwhelmed with it. I agreed to do a knit-a-long starting in November that will be my first lace project. Another EZ pattern, her circle shawl from Knitter's Almanac. I might keep it to her pattern, but I'm tempted to try this gorgeous thistle pattern I saw on the cover of a book years ago.
Upon closer inspection, it might be even more advanced than I was remembering it, which makes it grossly intimidating for my first lace project, especially when I'm knitting so much already. Perhaps I'll just keep it to EZ's instructions and not overthink it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

WiP Parade

I've been doing a poor job lately of posting about my works-in-progress. I always have a few projects cast on because I like different projects for different moods. Combine that with the fact that I'm trying to get samples and products done for an upcoming craft fair (my first!) and I have quite a to-do list. I have so much that I decided it was only making things worse trying to keep everything in my head, so I'm making lists throughout this week of upcoming projects I need and want to work on, tasks to do, future blog posts and anything else. It feels kind of good to get things down on paper, but I picked of a helluva time of year to start turning my alarm back on. It's starting to get cold and that makes me want to stay in my cozies and knit all day, rather than go to the gym and get as much done as possible.

First off, I finished a beaded scarf that I was knitting up as a sample for the LambShoppe. This is Gilda by Twisted Sisters.
This is my first attempt at knitting with beads, and I did enjoy it. The scarf is beautiful, I love the way the colors work together and the yarn creates a bit of a pattern ... it reminds me of a mermaid's tail. I made the longer-and-skinnier version and had a bit of a headache with the yarn. The skein had a knot in it which made transferring the beads a process I had to undergo twice. The yarn also had a very high twist to it, so pushing the beads further up the strand meant the yarn started to twist up on itself like a hula hoop champion (sorry, was that cheesy?). I ran out of yarn with two rows left, which was frustrating, but I think no one will really notice. Overall, it's a gorgeous scarf -- but too short for my taste.

I'm also getting a start on my Christmas knitting already. I'm calling these "Ribbed for her Pleasure," and they are for my nature-loving aunt who lives in the California mountains.

We do a name exchange every year, and this year I drew Janet's name. I figured socks would be perfect, and green and purple are her two favorite colors. I did 2x2 ribbing all the way around and across the instep because I wanted to add a little texture to the yarn without taking away from the pattern it was creating. It's also my first successful short-row heel, and I'd never thought I'd say this: but I think I'm a convert.

This is a sweater I'm knitting for Dear. It's the Cobblestone Pullover by Jared Flood {Rav link}, and I'm loveloveloving it. Knit with Cascade Yarns Eco 100% wool. The ballband isn't near me, but here's my Rav link, and I'll do a full report when it's finished.
This is my go-to project when I want something warm in my lap and comforting un-dyed wool running through my fingers. Mmmmmm.

I'm working on another sample, this time for Fancy Tiger. I'm doing a craft trade with Emily -- I knit up this sample for the shop and she's making me a sweet-ass project bag that I'll post photos when we make the trade.It's interesting to knit with. It's about like knitting with thread, so it's a little slow-going. The stainless steel "thread" is pretty cool, though -- you can stretch it out to it's full capacity and it stays there, but you can scrunch it right back up again. Nifty.

This one is going to take a while. I'm finally knitting an afghan {Rav link} for me and Dear, and it's going to be gorgeous. Knit entirely with Plymouth EcoDuo in the five colors the LambShoppe carries, it's a gorgeous blend of 70% alpaca and 30% wool. The alpaca makes it super soft and the touch of wool will give it some extra strength to avoid stretching. The seaming of the mitred squares will also add stability and I'm thinking this blanket is going to be with us for a very long time.

As for spinning, I'm working on a couple things for the upcoming Fancy Tiger Holiday Handmade Craft Fair in December. I'll have some of my yarn for sale there and I want to make sure I have plenty to go around. I'm spinning through my stash because ... well ... I have plenty to spin through.

Last but not least, I was talking to one of my classes last weekend, and they were asking me about the proper way to care for their wool sweaters. I thought I would give a quick step-by-step here, because it's really so incredibly simple and totally worth the little extra time it takes. If you care for your wool garments properly, they can last you for years and years.

If your garment contains 50% or more of any animal fibers -- wool, merino, cashmere, alpaca, mohair, angora, etc. -- you want to hand wash them. Be gentle when handling wet garments, and use cool or room temperature water. Animal fibers do something called felting, or fulling. The individual animal fibers have microscopic scales on them; hot water makes those scales raise up, and those scales interlocking is what causes felting, compacting the fibers together and shrinking the fabric. Sometimes you want to do this on purpose to make a nice sturdy purse or pair of slippers, but usually for sweaters you want to avoid such a thing.

First step, fill your sink or tub with room temperature water and add in a little bit of wool wash -- you won't need much. You can find wool wash at your local yarn store (LYS) and brands like Eucalan and Soak are easy to come by in shops. You can also use Woolite or Ivory Snow.

Once your sink/ tub is filled, submerge your garment slowly and gently squeeze it to get the water into all of the fibers. Do not agitate -- gently squeeze. Let it soak like that for at least 15 minutes.

Once your garment has soaked, drain the sink or tub and gently squeeze excess water. Lay out a towel flat and place your garment flat on the towel. Roll the towel up and walk on it to squeeze excess water. Lay your garment flat to dry and re-shape if necessary. Ta-daahh!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tunisian Delight

Part of what I wanted to do while I was "for real" job hunting in Denver was to hone the skills that I have and learn new ones at the same time. I wanted to get better at spinning -- be more consistent and be able to spin yarn of a specific weight on purpose (you know -- other than either really bulky or really thin). With this project, I got to kill two birds with one stone, which made me all kinds of excited.

Tunisian crochet is something that not a lot of people practice anymore -- at least, I'm only starting to learn about it and see a few projects here and there. You use a looooong hook with a stub at the end -- so it looks like a knitting needle, but with a crochet hook at the end.

Photo ganked from Google.

I was recently introduced to a new blog called Nikki, in Stitches. She recently did a post on Tunisian Crochet and her efforts at learning the craft. Her post was not on the type of stitch I had seen before, so I went to YouTube and found a tutorial (I used this one). Turns out what I wanted to make is called Simple Stitch (easy enough, but apparently also called the afghan stitch) and after about 10 minutes, I was crocheting away.

I used the yarn I had spun up from Tanis Fiber Arts' Prism colorway (read about my adventures spinning it here). I love the way this yarn turned out -- I purposely plied it so that the colors would match up randomly, and when I saw another Tunisian Crochet scarf I knew that it would be the perfect way to showcase the beautiful colors. (Here's a link to my Ravelry project page.)

Tunisian crochet is kind of exciting because it manages to look like nothing else -- it's kind of knitted, kind of crocheted, kind of woven. There are other stitches that mimic knitting even closer.
It's a little on the short side, but I like it anyway. I may wear it a couple times and then perhaps gift it to a deserving niece or cousin somewhere.

I also finished a really great book this week. I read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender, recommended by my wonderful mother. The main character in this book, Rose, discovers at an early age that she can taste other people's feelings in the food they cook. She discovers her mother's depression, the baker's feelings about his girlfriend, and so much more. She copes by eating heavily processed foods -- chips, vending machine snacks, frozen dinners -- anything that's so heavily processed it has no emotion tied to it. She tells the story of Rose and her family - her brother's reclusive-ness and strange disappearances, her mother's struggles with her private life and what her friends are facing. I really enjoyed this book and thought Aimee Bender did a wonderful job with the prose style and describing what Rose is feeling throughout. The ending was a little ambiguous for my taste, but it suited the rest of the story -- you don't really know what happened, and neither does Rose, so it's okay.

I love a good book, so I'll be talking about those that I read here a little more. I wish I could knit and read at the same time ... that would be wonderful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Needs Gold Toe?

Here I sit, knitting away ... trying to finish up as many projects as I can. Problem is? Everytime I finish something, all of my unfinisheds seem to have multiplied. At any given point, I'm working on at least two or three projects and lately that seems magnified. On the needles right now, I have a pair of socks (my own plain vanilla sock pattern), the Cobblestone Pullover by Jared Flood and a Tunisian crochet scarf. Last night at the LambShoppe, I volunteered to make a beaded scarf (Gilda by the Twisted Sisters) as a sample. (It seemed like a good idea because it's a small project and a free way to try beaded knitting. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I'm also still half-shopping around for yarn for an afghan for Dear and I, not to mention my multiple spinning projects.

So I have to stay pretty strict with myself about finishing a project before starting another one. I have to remind myself that it's just as rewarding to finish a project as it is exciting to begin a new one. As much as I dislike weaving in ends (it's a necessary evil), I don't dislike it enough to let a project sit around because I haven't done the finishing steps for it. Sometimes I get a finished project that is not quite what I had in mind in the first place. With that in mind, I give you the Orange Toe Socks.
I started these for Dear because I hated hated hated the Noro Kureyon I was using for the first pair I started for him. I purchased two balls of Ambiente by Schoppel Wolle in what I thought was a very appealing fake Fair Isle pattern (I just love that fake Fair Isle patterning sock yarn). I noticed the small yardage (135m per 50g) on the ball but figured I always end up with leftovers so I should be fine. As I knit happily along, enjoying watching the patterning reveal itself, I realized that I would be short by quite a bit. Like, the entire toe. I explained it all to Dear and he voted for the orange that was a dyeing mistake I made a few weeks ago that he fell in love with. The first one turned out so that only the toe was orange ... the second one fell even shorter by about an inch before it was time to start the toe decrease.

Both balls of the same yarn, same dye lot, purchased from the same shop on the same day. What a freaking rip off. These are a Men's size 11 and I fell FAR short of a full pair. I wear a Ladies' 11, and would also fall far short of a full pair from two balls of this (not cheap) yarn. As much as I like the pattern that comes from their yarn, I am not planning on buying this yarn ever again.

I promise I'll have pictures of other projects up soon ... in the meantime, have a great weekend and happy knitting!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hills are Alive with the Sounds of Needles Clicking ....

It's been over a week since my last blog post, and I can only claim self-pity. I had a short time where I was feeling massively sorry for myself for one reason and another and last night I decided it was time to snap the fuck out of it and get back to work. Money is looking a little tighter than we originally anticipated so I've begun the search for full-time gainful employment (gag). I have received little to no response (the little responses I've received have all been to the effect of "the position has been filled.") and frustrations are abundant ... but that does not mean I should be neglecting my original plan of making some money with my knitting and dyeing. And so, I bring you the finished Elijah (Ysolda Teague's link):

Isn't he cute? (Here's my Rav link, by the way.) He's for a friend of mine in Houston who's little boy just turned one. We agreed to trade this elephant for some web banner and logo stuff she's doing for me. I'll also be working on another one for her sister-in-law, although that one will be in a slightly less colorful yarn. I do love the way he turned out (he's very soft and squishy). My only problem is that there was no good color to use for his eyes -- nothing would stand out against all those bright colors. I ended up with white and added the eyebrows to make him look less creepy. He's my first knitted toy, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Definitely fiddly at the points where I had to pick up stitches for his body, arms, legs and ears, but not as bad as I thought. I hope Thadd likes him.

I did manage to finally get my Etsy store up. It has the yarns that I've hand-dyed (available in both fingering and DK weights) as well as photos of the hats that I can custom make for gifts. The hats are totally customizable -- color, yarn, etc. Take a look and send me an email if you'd like to place an order!

Last Thursday, I woke up at 5:30am for no real reason and lay there for about an hour until Dear's alarm went off. In that hour, I decided that the only thing I really felt like doing that day was making a pair of lovely fingerless gloves.

Aren't they Fetching? I knit mine up in Malabrigo worsted, the colorway called Paris Night that I got for half price at Knitting in the Loop's big sale back in July. I have about half the skein leftover, so I could easily make another pair for one of Dear's sisters or something. They took me about 10 hours total to knit up, and I was thrilled to have them for our weekend trip to Vail.

What's that? Oh, yes ... our weekend trip to Vail. My wonderful Mummy came to visit for the weekend, bringing with her her dashing boyfriend, Bill.

We spent one night up in Vail and then the second night back in Denver. We had a great weekend of beautiful scenery, great food and even better company. They were are first visitors to our new home here in Denver, and we had a great time. I miss my mother terribly and I already can't wait for the next visit.

The purpose behind the trip to Vail was to see the Aspens changing -- we saw quite a few, and they're mostly yellow. But the skies were so clear and you truly could see forever.

Makes me want to put on an apron and start singing songs with a slew of darling Austrian children.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I may be a cheater ....

I've noticed lately that I have a monogamy problem. I'm always thinking about starting new projects and what's next up on the needles. I'm never happy with what I have going at the moment, looking for the next cheap (or not so cheap) thrill, trying things on in my mind. I try to stay faithful, especially when I've promised projects to people. But really, what's a girl to do?

I've got two pairs of socks on the needles right now, both for Dear. I finished the first whole sock from the first pair the other day, a really manly color combo from Noro Kureyon (mostly wool with some nylon and silk). They look lovely, very manly (my own plain vanilla sock pattern).
The only issue is I hate this yarn. I hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Knitting with this yarn frustrates me to a level that can only be soothed by chewing it into a thousand tiny wads of thick wool spit balls. It's a single, so it twists up on itself without even the slightest breeze, which means that it gets random little knots in it constantly. It's rough and scratchy and not smooth even on my nickel plated DPNs (my favorites). I really wish I didn't still have half a ball of this shite left because nothing would make me happier than to throw it on the fire and watch it shrivel and smoke until it's never to be seen in my project basket again.

So I distract myself with something cuter: Elijah, by Ysolda Teague.

He's only missing ears and eyes, and then he will be ready to go to his new home back in Houston. I hope Thadd likes him (even if he is a bit late for his first birthday ... I don't think he'll remember that in the years to come).

I got to play with some fiber this week, too. Some from my Phat Fiber box. First up, Orange Jello. The tag didn't state what the fiber is, so I'm afraid I don't know. It was a little compacted, but spun up easily after some pre-drafting.

I wanted to practice my Navajo plying, but it wasn't coming off the bobbin smoothly at all -- it kept breaking. So I finally gave up. That's when I noticed

Sorry for the carpet being in focus rather than my fingers, I couldn't get my camera to focus properly.

Seems like graphite stains where I was pinching and drafting from. I don't know if this is dye or some other chemical treatment, but it was kind of sticky and not very pretty.

I also spun up some 100% alpaca from Crooked Fence Alpaca Farms (purchased at Fancy Tiger).

It spun up a little thinner than I was planning, but I got another chance to practice the Navajo plying and it turned out really lovely. About 37 yards of 100% un-dyed Alpaca. It's in the natural grey and black of the original animal. I might sleep with it under my pillow and pet it lovingly.

And check out the pretty colors:

Two colorful plies of Tanis Fiber Arts' Prism roving. Spun up into approximately 42 yards. I don't know what I'm going to make from this (child's hat? Tunisian crochet scarf?) but whatever it is will be a bright pop of color. I split the strip of top in half and then spun each half separately. Then I plied them together, purposely keeping them random. It's a little embarrassing to admit the small thrill I got when the colors would match up and then combine into two totally different colors again. I can't wait to see it knit up into something.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


It's like kismet. You know how when you do something totally and completely new, unexpected, terrifying, etc. and things just fall into place? It seems like no matter what comes your way, anything and everything that could go wrong, well ... doesn't? That's kismet. And ladies and gentlemen ... that is what I am living.

I am, by nature, hard on myself. I think everything I do should be done perfectly, the first time. If I don't get a new technique or pattern done right the first time, then what the fuck is wrong with me? Why didn't I see that coming? I should do it RIGHT, dammit. Sometimes it takes me a few wrong tries and a few days of frustrated tears before I calm down and realize ... wait ... I've only been here 16 days and I've already accomplished all of that? Wow. Not bad.

And then you see a view of the mountains and you forget about all that crap and just wonder at the beauty for a few minutes.
Coming back from Boulder, where we spent a lovely day last weekend walking around and buying under-ski-clothes. The view on the way there was even more breathtaking, but I was on the phone and didn't get to my camera in time.

And now, Things That Make Me Go "SQUEE!"

I began a project for a friend of mine as a trade -- she's going to do a couple of web ads for me, and in exchange I'm making her Elijah by Ysolda Teague. It's the cutest knitted elephant perfect for wee little ones with wee little hands itching to grab on to something. Jennifer is a hippie by nature, and so she asked for a tie-dyed Elijah. He's being knit out of Berroco Comfort DK, perfect to wash and you couldn't ask for brighter colors.

Obviously, not quite finished. This is the head and body, still awaiting arms, legs and ears. I'm really excited to see the finished elephant ... this is my first knitted stuffed animal and while fairly complicated, it's not as frightening as I expected (after that first bout of previously aforementioned frustrated tears).

I finally got the chance to purchase my own Phat Fiber box. Phat Fiber is a monthly mystery box compiled by independent knitterly folk looking to spread the word about their hand-made products. Each box is a little different but shares the same theme (this month is "Africa"), and they sell out faster than most Muggles would believe a box of fluff and string can sell out (two sale times in one day, and each sale sells out in less than 4 minutes. I'm not kidding). But look at all the pretty!

I haven't cracked open any of the packages to start playing yet, but I fully plan to sometime this week. I'll do individual reviews as I play, but an initial listing of those who participated in my particular box are:

(click name to see their shop or site)
Neurotic Knitterz
Light Brown Hare (who I purchased from for my Damsen shawl; she's a peach and a doll, and I highly recommend her yarns)
Lexi Spice
To-Ply Fiber Arts
Plum Crazy Ranch and Fiber Art
Lil Bit of Heaven Fibers
Color Bug Yarns
Orange Jello
All For Love Of Yarn
Island Yarn
Farmgirl Chic
Fiber Fancy
Out of Step Dyeworks
Spinning a Yarn
Feistywoman Designs
and patterns featured from Brenda Brauner, Maggie Fangmann and Treasure Goddess.

My particular favorites, based on nothing other than initial touch and fondling are these three lovelies:

Clockwise from top, that's black alpaca and superfine merino from Natchwoolie; "Storm in a Teacup" fiber from Spinning a Yarn; and a blended batt of 75% merino and 25% baby camel from Feistywoman Designs. I'm super excited to try spinning with baby camel, but I think I need to watch a little more of my "Start Spinning" DVD so I can spin off a batt properly.

In the meantime, I am continuing my work at home to get my own Etsy shop up and running -- rest assured, when it is set to go, I will be posting a big fat blog post here to let everyone know. In the meantime, you can visit me on specific Saturdays at Fancy Tiger, where I will be teaching their Knitting 101 class from now until the end of November (and hopefully beyond). I'm also in the process of beginning work for the Lamb Shoppe here in Denver to take over some of their web stuff and perhaps pick up a floor shift or seven, and I will be sure to post about those things as they develop as well.

Just a quick moment to thank everyone who has supported me as I start this new chapter ... especially Dear and my mother. I couldn't have done this without the confidence that you instill in my when my own falls a bit short, and it does not go unnoticed. So thanks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Posting from a New City!

It's been a while since my last post, and for good reason. In the last month, I quit my job, said goodbye to friends and family, moved to Denver, Colorado and have spent the last two weeks unpacking, organizing, meeting deliveries, re-connecting with friends from high school that live in the Denver area, exploring the neighborhood and the city-at-large, hanging out at craft nights and stitch-and-bitches ... and oh yeah ... knitting. And spinning. And dyeing.

Those in the Denver area can look for me to be hanging around Fancy Tiger and the Lamb Shoppe. I visited both of these shops when I vacationed here in October and May, and have attended a craft night at Fancy Tiger already since moving here (and plan on attending more -- and their classes -- and the store in general). I'll be bringing samples of my dyeds and spuns to the Fancy Tiger Craft Night and the Denver Downtown Stitch and Bitch {rav link}, so if you like free stuff? You know where to find me.

It's a photo-heavy post, but I've done a poor job of remembering to take my camera with me when I go out exploring. So these are projects I've been working on, but expect to see pictures of neighborhoods and hang-outs as I get back into my old habits (I only just dug out my camera cord today, otherwise this post would have happened a couple days ago. I searched everywhere for that damn camera cord -- boxes, crates, drawers of junk, places I thought I had seen it. Turns out? It was in my nightstand drawer, where I always kept it. Right).

First up: Tulip Monkeys! {project page}
Knit from the Tulip colorway by Tanis Fiber Arts. The yarn was gifted to me for my birthday by my friend Katie, and I cast on within a few days -- something I don't usually do. I just love the colors and wanted to do a pattern that would really make the variegated stand out. Cookie A's Monkey was perfect. I love love love these socks and cannot wait until it's prime sock-showing-off weather. I also got some TFA fiber (in Prism and Tulip) for my birthday that I'm looking forward to playing with. Stay tuned for that one.
I've been playing with some dyes, too ... after promptly staining my kitchen counter bright blue (stupid turkey baster not sucking up dye properly), I came up with a color I'm really pleased with. Meet "The Grass is Always Greener."

Some other experiments that I haven't decided will be repeated yet or not -- I rather like the blue and yellow, and the orange is definitely ... well, orange.

Before we left Houston, I somehow managed to spin up four full ounces of Pigeon Roof Studio's Chrysanthemum roving. I bought this months ago -- I loved the colors and thought if I had something I was excited to spin, I would practice more.

Turns out I was just crap at spinning with a drop spindle. As soon as I got my wheel, I was totally hooked and gave a little "squee" of delight when I dug this up out of my stash.

No idea what the yardage is, but it's a nice strong 3-ply (my first Navajo ply), and it's a yummy BFL. Softened right up in my wool wash bath and I can't wait to make a hat from it so my cute little ears don't get cold.

I whipped this out for a neighbor of mine -- an unusual custom request, but it was fun nonetheless. A Dirty/Clean sign for her dishwasher so she and her boyfriend will no longer put away dirty dishes, or re-wash clean ones.

And this one I just finished last night (holy crap, I've been busy these last two weeks ... no wonder I haven't been blogging). The Frock Camisole {rav link} from Interweave Knits, knit up in a Knit Picks pima cotton blend.

Expect to see lots more of me in the coming weeks! I have lots of work to do and many things I'm working on developing, but it's a resolution of mine to keep my camera with me more often and get over my shyness of photographing seemingly random objects and situations. Denver is a great city and it has lots to offer -- I'm excited to be a part of their craft revolution and spread the knitting/ spinning bug as much as I can.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

Prepare for a long-ish post, as I have some super photos and it may be my last post for a week or two ....

Dear and I are freshly back from Chicago, where my Big Brother got married. It was a fun weekend filled with family and good times, and I wish them both nothing but happiness in their new life (lives?) together.

We saw Dear's sister and two of his nieces in Millenium Park when we arrived. We saw some awesome faces:

Crown Fountain, Chicago

And some shiny distractions:

The Bean

I saw one of my very near and dear friends, Tim:
If you're in Chicago, visit Hazel.

The obligatory prom photo taken post-wedding:

If one more person asks when we're getting married ....
The happy couple:
Rx: Roburt and Xelina

This is pretty much the entirety of my mom's side, minus a cousin and his family (who lives in Korea -- we'll let him off the hook this time):

From L to R: Dear, me, my Mom, Julie, baby Gracie, CJ, Calen, Sally, Jade, Jake, the Funny Grandma, Nan, Barb, Janet, Josie, Dan)
My mom's mother (called the Funny Grandma since we were wee little ones. Can you guess why?):

My Dearest Nana:
She didn't teach me to knit, but she's a wonderful knitter and cross-stitcher herself. There should be a statue in a park somewhere of my Nana - she is a National Treasure. Forgive my shiny face, it was approximately 834 degrees centigrade at the reception.

And I can finally officially announce my super top secret secret. I've given notice at my job (effective July 29), and as of August 6, Dear and I will be moving to Denver, CO. Dear works for a small oil and gas company that has corporate offices both in Houston and Denver. He's been in Houston for a year and a half and has been itching to return to the mountains and drier climates. It was never my plan to stay in Houston forever and he is my Sweet Baboo, so I'm going with him. It just felt kind of funny to post something on-line before letting my employer know I would be leaving (who knows who's Googling my name nowadays anyway).
Part II of the super top secret secret is that when we move, I'm going to attempt a start at my own business. I'll continue posting blogs to spread word about what I do, but my Etsy store (currently filled with nothing) will have a more steady stream of items for sale -- mostly hand-dyed yarns and rovings, but some hand-spuns as well. I plan to have my store in full effect (watch for my ads on Ravelry and the Fiber Cooperative, and for me to participate in the Phat Fiber Sample Box). In addition to the store, I will be making hats and ski masks to sell at shee-shee boutiques in the various ski resort towns around the Denver/ Ft. Collins/ Colorado Springs areas (this part is a little less fully formed in my business plan ... one step at a time). I'll be working part time simultaneously, but my hope is to not have to return to an office day job again, if I can help it. (Send me happy mental thoughts that the Fancy Tiger will choose me as their new sales associate!)
SO in the meantime ... please be patient with the less-than-frequent blog posts. I'll try to squeeze one in here and there, but with two and a half weeks before move date and all the little details that come along with moving out-of-state, I'm just not sure how often I'll be able to post. I'll still be knitting (it does keep me sane) and spinning when I can sit still for any length of time. I'm still honing my skills at dyeing but Ravelry has been (as always) helpful in showing me where I go astray and so trial and error? Here I come.
The over-dyed Cherries and Cream ... now more of a tie-dye that still needs a name. Thoughts?

Wish me luck, blogosphere, and I'll see you a Mile High in the air!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How much is too much?

Another eventful week has passed, and while there was plenty of knitting and other fiber-related goodness that occurred, I don’t have many finished objects to report. Last Thursday was my birthday, and I was fortunate enough to spend it with all those who are close to me and everyone gave me lovely and generous gifts. One of my personal favorites is this great project bag from Bad Amy Knits (here's her store and her blog).

I finally narrowed it down to this one after squealing (silently) at my desk for about 45 minutes. So much cuteness.

It fits a sock perfectly, and I’m just thrilled with it. It came with a cute little sachet and stitch marker, and I highly recommend her shop for project bags and cute little accessories.

I also got lovely yarns and fibers from various artists, all of which will be featured on here in the coming months as my super duper top secret project starts to unfurl. I’ll be able to spill my guts soon enough, but in the meantime I’m still working on honing my skills. (This book will also be of help, thanks Big Brother!) Saturday, I spent some time dyeing with acid dyes for the first time. I started out soaking the yarn in the 21-quart enamel pot I bought at Target in a vinegar and water solution (read below for why that’s not always a great idea).

I love the smell of wet wool and vinegar in the morning.

I let it soak overnight, according to some article I read online somewhere … don’t remember which one, but I remember reading that it was recommended to let your yarn soak overnight, especially if it’s superwash. In theory, this helps the fibers open up and take the dye easier. So the next morning, I dump out the vinegar water soak and refill with enough water to almost cover the already-soaked yarn. I mix together my dye (sorry, no photo … my hands were covered with dye) and shake it up in a jar with some additional water and vinegar solution (about three parts water to one part vinegar). Then I dumped the dye into the pot and poked it around with a shish kabob skewer. Set the heat to medium-high and poked it over the next 30 minutes with the skewer.
Hot wet wool, vinegar and dye smells GREAT when mixed with the smell of scrambled eggs and grits. Just ask Dear.

After the dye was exhausted (meaning the water was clear), I turned off the heat and let it sit for a couple hours to begin cooling. Since the wool is superwash, I didn’t have to worry about it felting, so I drained the water before it was fully cool. That’s when I discovered that my dye hadn’t taken to all the yarn – an effect that I had not intended, but looked pretty cool nonetheless … kind of tie-dyed, but with only two colors. Here it's soaking in the sink.

Turns out (this is where I explain why the vinegar to water ration was apparently not a great idea) that I used way WAY too much vinegar. Soaking the yarn is always a good thing so that you’re not using so much dye to moisten the yarn … it helps it relax and takes up the dye faster and more evenly if it’s soaked and as clean as possible (this part can be done with wool wash or shampoo). I should have simply soaked it in water for a couple hours (overnight not necessary), then added my dye solution (also without vinegar) and mixed it up into the yarn until I was satisfied with the dye coverage. THEN add … get this … a couple of “glugs” (technical term) of vinegar, and stir gently. That’s it. I used 4 cups of vinegar where 4 tablespoons would have been more than enough. The kitchen and my hands stunk like vinegar for the rest of the day. The dye reaction that I got is because it was so saturated with the acid in the vinegar that the dye just grabbed on wherever it touched first. Here's the worsted hanging up to dry:

And the fingering:
In short, I still like the colors I got … I’m going with Cherries and Cream for the name. But I’m going to experiment a bit and try overdyeing to see if I can’t get a more even effect.

That same night was my birthday party … we had a fantastic dinner with some great friends in downtown Houston and then went upstairs to a bowling alley and had some more good times. Here’s one of my favorite photos of the evening (there are more, but I haven’t gotten the disc yet).

Aren’t we cute? I think it's hilarious how my face is mushed into his .....