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 .....

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy July 4th (Belated)!

Another holiday weekend has come and gone. Why isn’t every weekend a three-day weekend? My weekend was filled with friends, family, fireworks, knitting, shopping (and other various errands), spinning, relaxation and good eats. Now it’s back to the day-to-day and the almost overwhelming desire to nap in the afternoons (seriously – am I the only one?).

We saw a very respectable* fireworks display on the 4th. We went up to the 14th floor balcony off Alley Theatre’s Board Room where we had a totally unobstructed and perfect view of the whole thing. Free food and beer came along with it, not to mention no crowds, air conditioning and clean, flushing toilets. THAT is how you celebrate July 4th.

Sadly, this was the best photo I could get of the fireworks. No one has ever complemented my steady hand.

*Please note: I say respectable because it simply seemed smaller and rather “eh” this year. Usually I am thrilled with Houston’s fireworks, but this year they just didn’t seem as big, or as long. I was told it was due to our recent rainstorms, they were worried about the chemicals mixing with the water and contaminating the bayou, but I don’t know how true that is.

I finished up another sample hat, this one made from some kind of Classic Elite Angora blend. I have the ball band at home and will update the post later, when I (someday) remember to look and post the information.

Doubly- cute because it's reversible! Top photo is stockinette, bottom photo is reverse stockinette.
It took less than two balls to make a medium-sized beanie hat – and it took two balls because I held two strands together. Resulted in a very lovely, soft, warm and tightly-knit beanie cap that I think will make some snow bunny (get it? Angora? Snow Bunny?) very happy someday.

I also finally took some photos of another beanie I made a while ago:

This one is made with Queensland Collection, a thick and thin 100% wool that I’ve had for about three years and only finally figured out what to make with it. Now I REALLY don’t know what to do with the small bit that’s leftover.

Other than that, I spent a little time at Knitting in the Loop helping them clear out their old inventory (bad LYS for having a 50% off sale … don’t you know I’m on a yarn diet? That’s like putting free red velvet cupcakes on my desk with flowers and a puppy … completely irresistible), spent some time spinning (no photos of that because I want to surprise you with the end product … it’s going to be lovely), and just being lazy with Dear and his little sister. All in all, a great weekend … and a great week to follow! My birthday is this Thursday, and I have developed a special talent for dragging the single day out to last an entire week. Just part of my charm.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dyed in the Wool

I mentioned earlier I have some Super Top Secret Happenings happening. Well, some of those things are still staying Super Top Secret until some other Super Top Secret things Happen (am I confusing and repetitive yet? Good.), but in the meantime I’ve been receiving some orders from Ye Olde Internette.

I’m working on gathering supplies so that I can start to offer things up in my Etsy store. It has, up until now, remained dormant and empty, woeful and sad because I was always working on projects for myself or dear loved ones rather than the yarn-buying public. As part of my Super Top Secret Happenings, I’ve decided to get off my arse and get my store going. A super excited blog post will happen when the store is live with products, but for now: photo fodder.

This is a whopping order, mostly from Wool2Dye4 and a bit from Paradise Wool. This is 3 bags equaling 30 skeins of un-dyed superwash fingering weight yarn; 1 bag equaling 10 skeins of un-dyed superwash DK (double-knit) weight yarn; 1 pound of Alpaca roving; 1 pound of Blue Faced Leicester roving; and 1 pound of Corriedale roving. Any guesses as to what I’m going to do with it?

That’s right. This is 8 jars of various colors of Jacquard acid dyes. Dyeing is hopefully going to commence this weekend (may the Force of Enamel Pots be with me when I visit Goodwill and Salvation Army), so stay tuned for plenty of adventurous posts chock fulla bright colors, kitchen misadventures and stained fingers.

In the meantime, I’ve been spinning like a crazy spinning spinster lady.

That’s almost 3 full ounces (2.95 if you look closely at the little scale screen) of hand-spun 100% merino roving. The colorway is English Garden and I just love the name. It’s mostly green with bits of blue and purple run throughout, and a random ribbon of yellow tossed in to make me go “Squeee!” (I never thought I would be so easily amused as to be spinning with the same merino roving for a week and get excited EVERY TIME that wee little bit of yellow comes up. I just love seeing how it mixes in and what it looks like with the other colors. What a thrilling life I do lead.) I’ve got another bobbin about half-full and am planning on making this a 3-ply … two plies of the English Garden and one ply of un-dyed Merino and Alpaca roving that I have from my first drop spindle class. I think the colors are going to be lovely and manly together and they will be knit up into a very lovely and manly scarf for Dear. After all, we have cold times in our future … but that’s yet another Super Top Secret Happening that must stay put for another post.

As for now, Happy 4th of July weekend! Have fun and be safe – I still remember stories my mom would tell me when I was young about young’uns blowing their fingers/ eyes/ ears/ hair/ feet off due to irresponsible fire cracker lighting. Did anyone else have to read Follow My Leader every year around this time?