Tuesday, September 30, 2008

what I did on my summer vacation (finally)

This is old news by now, but I finally got pictures of some of the dyeing I did on my yarn retreat. I did a lot of the usual sock yarn, but I also tried out some new stuff: spinning fiber, some really awesome brushed mohair yarn, and some absolutely luscious alpaca/merino/silk yarn.
On one big experimental day, I dyed a whole bunch of different things in the same colorway. It's one of my favorites: wildflower. I think it's interesting to see how the different fibers took the dye. Here's the brushed mohair.

And this is the alpaca/merino/silk yarn.

It's even better in person. After dyeing all this sock yarn, I've mostly stopped wanting to keep the yarn that I dye, but this stuff is so soft and so gorgeous, I totally want to keep it.
I also did spinning fiber that day. Here's some BFL, still the same dyes.

And finally, a 70/30 merino/tencel blend. This is the one I got from Little Barn because the 50/50 stuff I really wanted is on back order.

Again, the tencel is definitely not integrated with the wool, so it makes those white streaks. I kind of like it, but I'm still eager to get the more blended 50/50 stuff.
I've done some other colorways, too. Here's Beach Dreams in BFL.

After the first batch I did where everything came out so dark, I'm really pleased with how these came out. My first festival as a vendor is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I need everything I dyed and way more to be ready. Meanwhile, the spinning fiber (these and more) will be up on my Etsy shop by tomorrow morning.

Monday, September 29, 2008

pseudo book review

After stalking The Friday Night Knitting Club on the library's card catalog (or whatever it's called in these newfangled times), I finally happened to be at the library on the day it was waiting to be reshelved, and I got one of the nice employees to find it for me. "Yay!" I thought. "Something light and fun, and bonus: it's about knitting!"
Well. I'm not going to go into details in case anyone hasn't read it yet, but it has a sad ending! I was furious! I know a lot of people like sad movies and sad books, but I have never understood why. Maybe nobody else gets a really bad headache whenever they cry like I do? Whatever the reason, when I read a book, or worse, watch a movie, I want to be happy. I want to laugh, and maybe some minor sad thing can happen, but don't do anything drastic like killing off characters I like! Life is sad enough, and I get plenty of chances to cry. In fact, lately even many happy movies make me cry. So don't frickin' make me cry when I'm trying to take a break from all this and just be entertained! There are so many movies in which this is done in a way that seems totally gratuitous to me. The characters go through all this stuff, conflict, denouement, blah blah blah, and finally they make it and if you ended the movie right there, it would be a perfect happy ending, but then they add five minutes to the end where the main character is suddenly run over by a log truck or drowned or something. Why why why?!?!
I know not everybody feels this way, so I think there should be a rating system for movies and books, based on the Greek symbols for comedy and tragedy. Just put a little smiley face on the ones with a happy ending, and put a frowny face on the ones with a sad ending. Then everybody knows what they're getting and people like me don't have to stand there scrutinizing the cover for keywords like "bittersweet" (always a dead giveaway for a frowny) or "you'll laugh and cry" (ambiguous).
So. I warn you all. The Friday Night Knitting Club is a frowny. It's a good book, I liked the characters, it's well written; if you don't mind reading frownies, I recommend it. But you won't see me at the theater when the movie comes out--I won't be there unless I completely forget about the ending, which I have been known to do. (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants anyone?)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm back

My yarn retreat was fabulous in every way, and for once I actually accomplished my entire to-do list. Design ads? Check. Dye lots of yarn? Check. Dye some spinning fiber? Check. Spin? Check. Knit? Check. Go for walks? Check. Relax? Check check check!
Of course, today is freak out and try to get to work on time after six days away from schedules and alarm clocks day, so I rushed out the door without much in the way of pictures. But here's a taste of what's been going on.

There is currently so much wet yarn and fiber, I ran out of room in the bathroom and had to hang some in the closet. That's how crazy things have been in yarn land. In other words, I had a blast.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

finally, some spinning

I had to spin the sample wool I dyed to make sure it worked (woe is me), so I finally got some spinning in!

This is the BFL that I showed in this post. At one end, the color spots were very small and close together, so as I was spinning the singles, it just looked like black. I was very disappointed. But as I went on, I got to some bigger spots, and I started liking it better. Then I Navajo plied it.

Even the "black" parts have depth and interest, since they're not true black but very dark blue and red mixed together, and the other parts really set it off. I was surprised to be very happy with this yarn after all. And it was a dream to spin, not felted at all, so my process will work. Off to dye more!

Monday, September 22, 2008

some relaxation time

As part of my yarn retreat, I decided to take a nice long walk in the woods (at least one). I headed up to Monte Sano to enjoy the day.

There was some dryness in the air and a very few colored leaves, but basically, it's still looking like summer up there. And I haven't done much spinning lately, but somebody has!

Monte Sano is one of my favorite places to go for peace and comfort. I always feel like I'm home there.

After I got back, I was looking through my pictures and found some I never posted from The Knit and Crochet Show, which I attended in New Hampshire in July. The Crochet Guild of America hosted the conference and held a crochet contest. The winner was a gorgeous crocheted wedding dress that was shy come picture time, but there were some other cool entries.

I especially like the under-the-sea themed freeform afghan or wallhanging. And check this out.

A crocheted pizza--isn't that a hoot?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

isn't it ironic? don't you think?

So I'm taking a couple days off work to dye and recover from all the upheaval in my life. Thus I finally have stuff to write about, but I'm away from my house and my job, so no internet! D'oh!
Anyway, the yarn retreat started with the delivery of a big fat bunch of yarn and spinning fiber.

Oh yeah. I dyed a few samples last night. It's really interesting how different fibers react to the same dye. Here are a brushed mohair yarn, a BFL roving, and my regular superwash/nylon sock yarn, all dyed the same colorway.

Kind of amazing, isn't it? The colors come out very dark and more to the blue end of the spectrum on the roving, and much less saturated on the mohair. In fact, that's the only time I've ever seen the gray dye actually look gray instead of more of a pale blue-green.
Also, I got a little sample of a merino/tencel blend from Little Barn to try out.

I really like this. I didn't expect the tencel to leave such obvious streaks like that--I bought some 50/50 merino/tencel that somebody else dyed, and it had the tencel distibuted more evenly, resulting in an overall luminescence. But this stuff, even if you look at it before it's dyed, you can tell which fibers are the tencel. It's a cool effect, too, just not what I was expecting. I'm eager to see what it looks like spun up. Unfortunately, I don't have a washing machine to spin the water out of everything--I just have to wait impatiently for everything to dry.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the scarf continues to rock

The scarf project is totally working. It's enticing me to knit all the time, and sure enough, it's starting to feel much smoother again. And today we have a picture!

Unfortunately it's impossible to capture the perfect gorgeous fuzzy feel of it on the blog, but it's there. And in person, it looks all official, like it was knit by someone who knew what she was doing. Yes, it's about the simplest thing ever, which is part of what allows me to enjoy it so much, but seeing it coming along so well still makes me feel accomplished. And I'm going to finish it before winter, and my mom is going to love it. I couldn't wait to leave work to work on it yesterday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

love the scarf

Well, I undid the beginnings of the scarf and started over. That was way too many stitches--it would have been about twice as wide as I wanted. I got it going again real nice. Too bad I forgot to take a picture--duh!
Anyway, knitting with this yarn (Suri Merino) feels great. Perhaps when I'm done I'll feel up to tackling the Feathery Lace Stole, but if not, I don't care at this point. I'll just find something else to do with thick, soft yarn like this project. It's such a pleasure. Maybe I'll do the Vanda sweater from Knitter's Magazine. That's the one that said "Easy--go for it!" And being at Little Barn this weekend reminded me that I do have an excellent source for inexpensive superwash yarn in a drool-worthy assortment of gorgeous colors, right here in town. Oh yeah.

Monday, September 15, 2008

new stuff

So I was working some more on the original swatch for the Feathery Lace Stole and managed to get off by one stitch somehow. This time I did not throw any tantrums, however, just set it aside. Now I have no recollection of where I left off, but at least the thing is still in existence if I ever want to try again.
Meanwhile, I wanted to do something and not screw it up, so I got out the crochet. Remember this yarn?

It's Mohair Thick n Thin from Cherry Tree Hill, and I think the color is Sugar Maple. I decided that it should be a warm shawl for ME! So I broke out the huge-o hook and started crocheting.

It's a mill end, and although it seemed huge in the hank and wound into balls, it soon became clear that I would not have enough yarn to make this thing as big as I wanted. But I noticed something amazing: the fiber I got at the Michigan Fiber Festival is almost exactly the same colors.

I spun a bunch of this into yarn while I was in Michigan.

Ironically, the Mohair Thick n Thin is sort of commercial faux badly spun homespun, and I'm putting it with my actual homespun, which is pretty skinny and even and well spun (in this case anyway). It looks overtwisted, but that's just because I let some of the singles rest before I plied, and it hasn't had a bath yet. I probably should have done that before using it, but I was so excited that it would work, I couldn't wait for all that. And this is crochet, so it shouldn't really matter.
Incredibly, I finished the whole thing this weekend. It's super warm, too. Of course, I couldn't get a decent picture of the whole thing to save my life, but here's a closeup.

Meanwhile, I have concluded that I'm simply out of practice with knitting. In February, when I re-learned how to do it, I was so excited, and I was practicing at least a few rows every night, and it started feeling smooth and comfortable. Then I almost finished a hat, got stuck, and haven't really touched it since then. That would be, um, about five months ago. Yeah. So I decided I should pick out something simple and start practicing again. Something with some nice thick yarn--this sock yarn is driving me crazy.
So I was up at Little Barn on Saturday, and I decided it was time to treat myself to some really nice yarn. I probably spent 20 minutes petting and rearranging the alpaca, trying to figure out which color to get. That yarn is such a fabulous deal, I've been intending to buy some for months, but I just can't figure out what to do with it. Even with a mission, I couldn't quite pick any. But then I spied some Suri Merino from Plymouth Yarns, and I touched it, and it was love.

This is going to be a scarf. It's really ruffly, which means I cast on way too many stitches and it will be really wide if I don't undo it and start again with fewer stitches.
This yarn is so fabulous. I love the color, I love how it feels, and it's a dream to work with. Now I understand why people knit all the time! This project makes me want to make a sweater. I realize that an alpaca sweater knit out of worsted weight yarn would work for about one day out of the year in Alabama, and I already have a sweater that has dibs on that day. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, September 12, 2008

witch hunt in yarn town

So I've been dyeing like a maniac and too tired to write. But the results are pretty awesome.

I intended to go at lunch today and ship the order I've been working on. I got it all into display skeins and almost all labelled. Very happy. But then I remembered, one skein had a weird little part where some fiber that didn't take the dye was plied in with the rest, resulting in a funky white and purple barber pole. I wanted to make sure that one didn't get sent with this yarn.

It's in there somewhere! Sigh. And the only way to find it was to take the labels off and unfurl them until I found it. You can imagine how happy I was at that realization this morning. They were only all labelled already because last night I took the time while the yarn was steaming, which I usually use to wind skeins for next time, to do all this twisting and labelling. Then to have to undo them all, or hopefully not all unless the barber pole was in the very last skein!, well. If I were a cartoon, I would have said something like this: !#$^#^*$%&(*$^&@$#%@#$%!!!!

I did eventually find it.

Somehow I remembered it as being a lot bigger. And now I have this mess.

I still may be able to ship it at lunch time, though. Maybe maybe. Besides sticking the labels back on, I still have to reweigh them all to make sure there aren't any runts, pack the box, and do the invoice. Yeah, I'm crazy. (But perpetually, unreasonably optimistic! That has to be worth something.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Last night was knitting night, and I gave myself the evening off and went. I've been wearing myself out lately, and I thought it would do me good to get out among nice people and relax.
I started a new swatch for the Feathery Lace Stole, this time with thicker yarn and smaller needles, and things were going much better. The other swatch really doesn't look as stupid in person as it does on the net, but this swatch was still better. The knitting felt less awkward, and I was loving the interactions of the colors.

This is the point where I'd normally put a picture and say "see how cool this is? Total love." or something like that. Well.
This guy came over to our large collection of knitters and started talking to us. There was the usual "Wow, that's really cool what you're all doing. I could never do that." "Yes you could." "No I couldn't." "We'll teach you if you want." that seems to be mandatory whenever anybody approaches a group of knitters. Then the guy said he's a photographer and would like to take pictures of us for his personal projects. He was cute and funny and seemed a bit tipsy, although he said it was just from coffee. Anyway, the whole thing was so entertaining, I totally forgot where I was in my pattern and messed up my knitting. Undid it, but messed it up again. Then when I went to undo it again, I dropped a stitch. As I was trying to recover that one, three more made the leap and disappeared into oblivion. At this point, I threw a total temper tantrum like a two-year-old, yelled "I give up!", whipped the needles out, and frogged the whole thing in like two seconds.
Of course, two more seconds later the remorse set in and I thought about how when everybody else screws up, they pass their knitting over to somebody with a clue and get it fixed. Oh no, not me.
Thus I have nothing to show you today. Even a big triple chocolate cookie and some very easy crocheting did nothing to soothe my spirit.
I've given some consideration to Sarah's comment two posts back about knitting vs. crochet and one not really being any fussier than the other. Sarah is wiser than I am by far and has been doing both crafts for much longer than I have, so she's probably right. But it may be the case that crochet just suits the way my brain is made better. You never have to worry about a whole bunch of your stitches committing suicide with crochet, for one thing. And it's certainly true that being able to follow a pattern is a useful skill and that following a pattern is harder than following the vision in your head, but for me, that's not even a comparison that can be made between crochet and knitting. With crochet, I just make stuff. I made one thing from a pattern once, but otherwise, I just make it up as I go along. With knitting, I can't do that. It's not even that I think of things to try to figure out how to do and then can't. I don't even get to that point. I'm a blank. I'm stumped. This pattern inspired me, so I decided to try it, but it wasn't like I could have just made something up instead. I just don't seem to be able to do that with knitting.
Anyway, it's not that I'm going to quit knitting and only crochet from now on. I still like the idea of knitting, and I'm sure that if I keep practicing, eventually I'll get good at it. I'm constantly amazed by the folks at knitting night--someone will ask one of the really amazing knitters how long she's been doing it, and nine times out of ten, the answer is three years or less. Also when I was knitting all the time, I was a lot better at it than I am now, even though I had just started. Lately all I've been doing is working and dyeing, and everything else has gotten clumsy from neglect. I need to find a better balance in my life. Meanwhile, perhaps I should stick to the totally mindless for knitting night, but I think I am going to break out the Kidsilk Haze and start this stole. Adventure calls.

Friday, September 5, 2008

ready for the weekend

"More dyeing, less sleep" has been my motto this week, and it's definitely catching up with me. If I don't fall asleep at my desk today, I'll be pleased. (This rain is not helping!) But I temporarily have some space for my dye studio that I don't have to break down and set up all the time. I'm trying to make the most of it. (Oh yeah, and there's the small matter of an order needing to be shipped out...)
Anyway, last night I did one of my favorite colorways.

That's what it looks like wet. A little bit drier:

This is the best I've ever liked the purple--it usually comes out too dark or too blue, but here it is almost exactly as I envisioned.
Also, I have some exciting news: my yarn is available at The Woolly Workshop in England! Check it out: Fire Lizard Studios at the Woolly Workshop. I think this is too cool for words.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

risking the ire of the mohair

I finally started the Feathery Lace Stole! Well, maybe that's overstating things. When I bought the Kidsilk Haze, Meg (of Yarn Expressions) recommended trying the pattern out first because this kind of yarn is really hard to frog. So I'm doing a swatch or possibly a scarf first with some Fire Lizard mill ends.

I guess that's how it's supposed to look--as far as I know I haven't messed anything up except casting on one too many stitches. Maybe it will look more organized when I've done more. Or maybe I should have gone with smaller needles. My reasoning was "They say use size 8 for the Kidsilk Haze, which is teeny tiny skinny, and this sock yarn is thicker, so I should use 10.5s for it." But I think they just picked such big needles for the Kidsilk Haze to leave room for the fuzz halo around the yarn. When I crochet, I always use a hook way bigger than is supposedly appropriate for the yarn, but somehow in knitting that seems less comfortable. Or maybe if it was just a few sizes bigger it would be ok, but the jump to 10.5 needles from the yarn's recommended size of 0-2 is just too much. Yes, I'm starting to feel a bit foolish here.
Anyway, as advertised, the pattern is super easy to remember. I've already just about got it memorized. The only thing I don't like about it is the SKP that happens periodically. Does anyone have any advice on this? Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I move the stitch to the right needle, knit the next one, and then when I try to pass the first one back over the second one, it's really tight and I have a hard time grabbing it with the needle. Or could I substitute some other decrease that's easier? I love k2tog, which also appears in the pattern, but I'm assuming that slants in the opposite direction?
Yeah. So the Kidsilk Haze can either sit there impatiently feeling neglected (even thought I pet it and admire it every time I walk by the coffee table and see it there), or it can be honored to be the only yarn I've ever done pre-project knitting experiments and research for. I recommend the latter.
Is it because I learned to crochet first that knitting seems so much harder and fussier? Or is it because I crochet only easy stuff that I make up myself, whereas I'm knitting other people's patterns? Or is knitting really harder and fussier?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

more yarn (what else?)

Dudes. I was playing with some new dye last night.

Love love love! As usual, it's not quite what I expected, but it's totally great. And I believe this is the first time in the history of the world that yarn has successfully been photographed in a bathtub! (Well, maybe not, but it's certainly the first time it's worked for me.)
I've made some improvements to my process, so I'll be able to be much more productive with the dyeing now. Obviously, I'm very pleased about this. And when my motorized skein winder arrives from Crazy Monkey Creations? I'll be unstoppable.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I stood up the Kidsilk Haze

I broke my date with the Kidsilk Haze--all I did was sleep and dye this weekend. I didn't even tell it definitely no, I just kept saying "oh, later, for sure." Very inconsiderate. Do you think it's mad?

It looks put out to me.
I didn't dye nearly as much as I had hoped, either. I was just so tired! It's a good thing we had the holiday weekend--I was probably headed for an illness if things had continued as they were. Meanwhile, I did create two new colorways.

I love dyeing, but my absolute favorite part is rinsing the yarn after it's cooled and seeing for the first time what it will really look like.