Saturday, November 5, 2011

Well, I've been knitting a few hats this past couple months. I signed up for the Island Artisan's Holiday Market Place, which takes place the two days following Thanksgiving. Mom and I did this together last year and it was a lot of fun. I will have hats, headbands, gloves, scarves, oodles of yarn, cascades of colorful wool, photo cards of sheep, and various other knitted and felted items. Only three more weeks to get ready! I better get to work!

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wool to Dye For

Whew, it's been awhile since I've posted anything new. Last summer Malcolm and I built a new wool studio that is warm and dry and gets a nice blast of sunshine in the window on a clear wintery day. I've spent many happy hours there this winter spinning colorful yarns and dreaming about knitting them up into something interesting. Some of them I've put up in my etsy store and they've gone out to cool knitters around the country. Here's a few samples:

I've turned our old Airstream trailer into my dye studio where I store my undyed wool, the dye powders and equipment. I have a hotplate, crockpot and microwave oven in there, plus a table outside with a three burner propane stove for the large dye lots. For dye pots I use an old aluminum 5 gallon pot (that I rescued from the scrap metal pile) and a canning kettle... also aluminum. I know, they say you should only use enamel or stainless steel.... but I use what I have and what I have seems to work fine. I have the following dye powders in my stash: Kiton, Cibalon, Talena, WashFast, Jacquard, and Dharma. The last two are the most recently added to my collection. They are all acid dyes for wool. One teaspoon of powder dyes a pound wool to a medium shade in most colors. I keep notes and little snippets of the dyed wool, so I can try to duplicate colors... although the various variables usually result in variations. I like surprises. On a sunny day you will probably see bright spots of dyed wool drying in my garden.

Here's some locks from a lovely Cotswold fleece I bought at the San Juan County Fair last summer, and just got around to dying. I think I will spin it into a multicolored boucle yarn, perhaps mixed with some kid mohair.

Last December I had a booth at the local arts fair. Mom came up for the week and helped out. It was a lot of fun. I look forward to the next one.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lambing Time Again!

Its always nice to feel the rhythm of the earth as the seasons turn. When January rolls around, the ewes are fat and heavy with expectation. Soon the first lamb of the season appears in the barn. Tippy on its little feet and slimey with goo, it noses around the wooly expanse of its mother world, searching for sustenance. By the end of the month the barnyard is full of lambs racing around the field like schools of fish dart in the sea. The lambs grow fast on their mother's rich milk. As spring comes marching in, the returning sun prompts the grass to grow. The days grow warm, the lambs grow fat, shearing day comes and once again the ewes are free of their warm coats and the wool shed is stocked with another year's supply of wool.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coloring Away the Winter Blues

After a short cold spell, the weather has warmed into the 50s, and I hear frogs croaking from the pond, "spring is coming soon" they say. As the rain falls, I think about flowers. Awhile ago I found this funny contraption in hot pink plastic at our thrift store. Some online research revealed that it is a flower loom. I found a Youtube video on how to use it. I made a small bouquet from some yarns I had on hand, but soon found that I lacked bright solid colors in my yarn basket. I did have skeins of natural white single ply that I'd spun from a spool of romney top. It is very lusterous, long stapled and finely spun (probably lace weight, about 20 wpi). I was planning to make a 2 ply yarn with it, but plying isn't really my cup of tea. Instead I decided to dye some skeins of bright colors, and wind up a garden of flowers to chase away my winter blues.

I loaded up my canner with 7 large jars, put hot water in the jars about half full, and hot water in the canner about half way up the sides of the jars. Into each jar, I put about 1/4 teaspoon of dye powder and 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar, mixing each as I went. My skeins were soaking in the sink, and when the colors were mixed, I put a skein in each jar, and poked it around a bit to invite the color in.

The canner went on to the electric hot plate turned on high, on went the lid (no lids on the jars) and I brought the whole she bang to a boil, then turned it down to simmer for about an hour. During this time, I poked the skeins a bit once or twice to even out the dye take up.
When most of the dye was absorbed by the skeins (some of the dye water was almost clear), I turned off the heat and let it all sit overnight.

In the morning my colorful suprise waited for me to reveal it. I lifted the canner lid and found a rainbow.

Since, I have been winding up a plethora of posies in all possible color combinations.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

He loves it!

Kina received his sweater in the mail New Years Eve. He reports that it fits him perfectly. One arm is longer than the other (how did that happen?), but (he says) that balances the fact that one of his legs is longer than the other. He took this photo of himself (I think he just got up, but he says he always looks like that).
Since he lives far from me, I wrap my son in wool for a warm hug every day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finishing Touches

Here it is almost the first of January 2010. The sweater is complete, washed and hanging over the woodstove to dry. It's absorbing some of that good woodsmokey flavor.

My last post ended with the body complete. Next step was knitting the arms, which I did on my Brother bulky knitting machine. The machine has a punchcard for the pattern, and I worked out all the other details before starting. I was a little unsure about the arm length. Kina gave me a measurement, but was this from his armpit, or from the armpit of a loosely fitting sweater, or...? I forged ahead and knit up a 80 row arm. When I took it off and attached it to the sweater, it looked too short. I put it back on the machine and knit another 10 rows, knit another 2 inches of ribbing by hand, and sewed up all the seams. Now it was definitely too long. So I ripped out the ribbing, unraveled about 10 rows and reknit the ribbing. Now (fingers crossed) it's just right!

Next I knitted up the button band and collar. I made the collar nice and tall by knitting back and forth adding one stitch each time from the collar back to the bottom of the front. My mom donated 5 deer antler buttons from her collection.

Then I called Kina and asked him if he wanted pockets (I'd forgotten to ask before I started knitting). He said yes, which meant (gulp) I had to cut slits in the finished sweater front. I've read accounts on how to do this, but have never tried it. No time like the present.

I sewed some brightly colored yarn along the cutting line, stitched on each side of it with straight (sewing machine) stitch, then snipped between the stitched lines. I also zigzaged each cut edge just for extra security. Then I picked up 25 stitches along the cut edge (away from button band), hooked them on the knitting machine needles, knit 30 rows, and cast off, leaving a nice long tail of yarn. I did this on each side. Then I took the sweater up to the house where it was warm. To finish the pockets, I sewed (with yarn) the three sides of the square (described above) down to the inside of the sweater (the fourth side is open for the hand to get in). I picked up stitches along the other cut edge and knitted an inch or so of ribbing. Sewed the edges down and Voila.... Pockets!

Sorry I was so involved in the process, I forgot to take photos of the process. But here's a few photos of the finished sweater!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sweater Continues

A few weeks have gone by. I decided to knit the body of the sweater by hand, and finish it on the knitting machine. Christmas is fast approaching. I warned Kina that I might not get it done in time. He said something like, "no worries".

My last post ended with the pot boiling on the stove filled with yarn and lichen. In the morning, when the brew had cooled, I pulled out the yarn and it was rather a slimy mess, but a beautiful color.

The best way to get the yarn clean is to whip it around your head like a lasso. The wet lichen flies off in all directions. It's a good idea to stand well clear windows, other people, etc (out in the field is best). I always end up with a fine spray stuck to my face, which may in the end be good for my complexion (is that a chin hair or a bit of 'old man's beard'?).

I did three dye pots with the two bags of lichen I gathered on my walks. As you can see, the shades vary from dark rusty brown to a light tan. Some of it turned out varigated (probably due to sloppy layering technique), but I rather like it... almost like handpainted.

Here's the four colors that will make up the sweater, and what it looked like a couple weeks ago. The dark brown is lichen dyed natural grey, and the tan is also natural grey lichen dyed with a weaker solution. The light grey is a white and natural brown mix, and the dark grey is natural from a greying black sheep.

It took me awhile to work my way up through the bird. This is a kingfisher that has gone punk. I think I will outline him in black, so he stands out more. The kingfisher is an energetic bird who has a strong sense of territory and eats a lot of seafood. I hope that when Kina wheres this sweater he won't be distracted by two kingfishers talking to each other across his button band!