Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yarn gnomes. It's the only reasonable explanation.

This craptacular pile of yarn barf represents my Saturday and Sunday evenings' fibre-related work, and has absolutely nothing to do with weaving. Whoops. I pulled out a brand new ball of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece to swatch something, and hilarity ensued.

DH congratulated me on my debacle (pronounced "de-ball-cle". HAH.)

I have continued to work on the group-project woven pillow with the hand-dyed, hand-spun weft. For all my time, I haven't made a lot of forward progress, and not just because of the above distraction. At one point, I had about two feet of the pillow woven (2/3 of the first half, 1/3 of the whole thing), but then I realized that I hadn't staggered rows of the new skein with the previous one when I started the second skein of weft. The point where the second skein started was an obvious shade change. So a couple weeks ago I ripped out over a good foot of weaving.

When I started again last week, this time staggering the two skeins in alternating rows, I had some problems with the edges. On one side, the final warp thread wasn't being caught by the weft. I ripped out about 6-8 inches again, and figured out that on the right side I needed to run one shuttle of warp thread under the other before throwing it, so that it would bind the right edge. I still don't really understand how warp edges behave in weaving. I want to go back after this and really figure out double weaves on my rigid heddle, beyond just reading a pattern draft. I'm pretty sure that will help me to understand this problem.

Very late Thursday night, while at a friend's place for our weekly Thursday Night Crafts, I figured out the edge thing and wove 8-9 inches again. I need to get the front side of this pillow, three feet of weaving, off my loom some time Monday, so that it can go to the embroiderer, who will most likely be visiting that evening.

I also continue to work on the Double-knit Hat from Hades. I haven't ripped out anything on it recently. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one. It's amazing, though - I sit down to do a single row, and I'm asleep before I'm half-way through. Who needs a sleep aid? I have the double-knit hat.

Finally, I've started a few new super-secret knitting conspiracies.

More details eventually. Mwa Ha Ha. Just as soon as I finish untangling the rest of that skein.

Seriously, how does that happen? I have no good explanation.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One of those rare memes worth posting

Because the world needs more voluntary goodness. From elisem:

Reply to this post (even just a "hey" will do), and I'll tell you one reason why I like you. Then put this in your own journal, and spread the love.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Magpie Telegraph System Active

Elisem is having another sale.

And she has hairsticks.

And oh, these hairsticks. Did I mention they can double as shawl pins? I'm also awfully fond of these necklaces.

Given how crazy that double-knit hat is still driving me (let's not talk about the 6-7 rows I had to rip out again yesterday), this is necessary shopping therapy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hat... boring... losing... consciousness...

I've been trying to finish the double-knit hat that I started for DH here, then ripped out and started again here. Yes, that's right, I've been working on this damn thing since March. We're into the cold weather now, so I've been thinking he could probably use it before, say, next spring.

I feel like, for a "simple" hat, I'm not getting very far. I was trying to turn it into my "subway project" at first, but with my transit ride into downtown only about 15 minutes, I could barely get around two rounds, which on this hat, being 2-layer double-knit, is really a single row. Every time I try to sit down and knit on it in the evening while we watch TV, I doze off. Not even a steady stream of old X-Files episodes (we're on Season 4 now, working through the series) can keep me awake while I knit this hat. So I haven't been progressing very quickly.

I have no idea how close this is to being done.

Last week, I had him try it on, and thinking that it looked to be about the right time, I spent a day or so on decreases. When I had him try it on again, it was pretty clear that the hat wasn't actually deep enough (by at least a couple inches), so I ripped out the decrease rows. But at least now I know how to do them.

Faced with the prospect of more tedious solid-colour double-knit stockinette, I became a little crazed. For yuks, I tried putting in some simple colour work, thinking maybe that would spruce it up enough to keep me interested. It kept me interested all right - and frustrated enough with how it was turning out to rip it out after five rows of hell. I was trying to do it without charting it out, and I had what barely passed for my "pattern" thoroughly screwed up. And to be honest, the two colours don't have enough contrast to make a pattern worthwhile anyhow. So this will be a 2-solid colour hat, despite my best efforts.

Now, I'm working out various ways of doing rounds that will allow me to keep the two sides separate, yet not have to knit each round twice to finish a single row. It's not crucial that the two pieces remain separate, it's not like it will matter for this hat, but I feel like I have to find some challenge to keep me interested here. Since I moved it over to a long cable in order to magic loop the decreases earlier, I've left it on the long cable and will just continue to magic loop it the rest of the way.

For a while I was doing a half-round of one colour (i.e. knit or purl one colour, slip the other colour the whole length), then I would transfer all the stitches back onto the left needle and do the other colour before moving the cables around to do the other half of the round. Then - and this was very exciting, to be sure - I figured out how to hold and carry both colours of yarn and work with them together without twisting them so that I can alternately purl with the one, then knit the other. That way I can do a single round of both colours in one pass, but the sides remain separate. This trick is not letting the threads twist.

Yes, I know, it's amazing. I've re-invented the wheel.

And then... then? Wait for it... I figured out how to do it while riding the subway and bus!!

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Tomorrow, I need to put up the Hell Hat and do some swatches for a new super-seekrit joint project. In other words, I might get the hat done by spring.

If I don't light it on fire first.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I swear I'm not really a dyer, Part 4: The second annual dye madness day (BYOP), and "black enough"

The final installment of this year's dye adventures, at long last. It occurs to me that we have officially been in our house for a year: we closed on Black Friday 2007 (an accident of Realty and Lawyers over which we had little control), and then we spent the next week and a bit moving, a van-load at a time. We had to be out of our old apartment on Dec. 4, 2007. That makes this post appropriate - I guarantee I would never have undertaken most of this year's the dye adventures if we hadn't acquired a basement, a working kitchen, and a backyard!

Audrey the Indigo Vat had a magnificent final outing of the season over the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend (mid-October), when she was very carefully packed up and transported across town to my friend Helena's house a few days ahead of our annual* Dye Madness day at her house. Helena cared for her and kept her warm, feeding her some de-thawed, mushed up, organic bananas - after the traumatic ride, Audrey was a little gassy and needed to settle down, eat, ferment and reduce for a couple days.

Why not have the dye day at my house? You see, Helena has a magnificent dye garden, and Audrey was more portable than the garden. I requested that folks BYOP**, if they could, so that we would be sure to have enough to pre-soak things. One can only generate so much urine on one's own. In the end, with the help of the others (and also my reluctant but patient husband, who eventually learns to accept the Crazy), we had plenty.

Last year we did cochineal, weld, and madder berries. This year, though, the main plan was to dig up some of Helena's now 3-year-old madder and work with it fresh. The weather was perfect, and nearly room temperature outside - on the second weekend of October! We actually worked up a sweat, attacking the raised beds with gloves, shovel, spade and much glee. We hosed down some huge balls of bright-carrot-orange roots that looked for all the world like strange sea creatures, chopped it up and into the pot it went. We only dug up a little corner of her madder - and there was still plenty for each of us to take some home, and she still has 3/4 of her madder plants growing:

Freshly killed madder roots, drying in my basement

We weren't sure how the madder would go - the one experienced madder dyer in the group had never used it fresh from the ground and chopped roughly. She suspected it wouldn't give us anything too far into the reds or too dark. She was right - we got a nice salmon - but towards the end of the dyebath we did start seeing the reds come out a little. It will be interesting to see what we get later with the roots that we're drying, as those will be ground up more finely.

We also found a bush of Dyer's Broom growing in her garden, so we pruned it back a little and made a small pot of that with alum. We poked it dubiously throughout the afternoon, as the water didn't seem to be getting much colour into it. But after a good 90 minutes of cooking, it finally started to suck colour out of the leaves. We ended up with a nice light greeny-yellow.

Audrey was in fine form for the day, thanks to Helena's kind care and feeding after her rough ride. She performed well, and gave us everything from a medium blue fleece (a 5-hour soak) to some lovely light blues on roving that was only left in an hour or so, to a nice overdye of some patterned tan fabric.

As we were packing up our wet samples, we suddenly realized that we had, without really planning it that way, done the a primary colour set that day:

L - R: Indigo blue, fresh-killed dyer's broom yellow, and fresh-killed madder salmon

And then there was the added bonus: as we were standing around surveying the wonder that is Helena's dye garden, one of the ladies noticed that right next to us, very near the house and suspiciously close to where we had been chopping up weld plants the previous year, were three tall stalks of weld. It appears the seeds took root between cracks in the concrete. Nature is nothing if not persistent. Helena was happy for us to pull it and make it go away, so the lady and I split it.

Surprise weld, the best kind!

All the participants in the festivities agreed that our second annual (BYOP) dye day was a great success, and we all look forward to next year. And if Sharon Ann is reading this, your half of that weld has been packed up and will be in the mail to you soon, I hope (as soon as my mother comes up for a visit, which should be in the next couple weeks, before Christmas).

In other dyeing adventures, I continued my quest for black by once again trying to overdye this unfortunate colour, which I achieved by way of the weld on the left overdyed with Indigo to make the teal in the middle,, then overdyed in a cochineal exhaust bath. I had originally just tried this in a walnut bath with no additive, but there was no noticeable colour change, since the walnut bath would only add a nice brown to it.

This time, I bit the bullet and added a touch of iron powder to the dyebath. The smell was not as horrifically rotten-egg-like as I anticipated, but it certainly wasn't great. This time, though, I was very careful not to inhale deeply while standing over the pot, and often held a wet towel over my face when I was near it.

Liles (1990: 184-5) recommends an oxalic acid mordanting prior to the walnut-iron dyebath for a good black, but I didn't have a ready source of oxalic acid unless I wanted to buy over a pound of it, so I just went with the iron. I spun up a couple yards of it for my friend to finish the embroidery project that we needed it for:


So there we have it. Bridget's 2008 adventures in dying.

And just in case you forgot: I'm not really a dyer. We swears, precious. We swears.

* Two years in a row makes it annual, right?

** P = Pee