Sunday, January 22, 2006

2006 Knitting Olympics

When Stephanie Pearl-McPhee offered the idea of knitting as an Olympic event, I was quite happy to take on the challenge. After all, we will be spending substantial amounts of time in front of the TV, and a lot of knitting happens under those circumstances. See for Knitting Olympic details. :-) I have been in training since I took on this challenge. This has entailed finishing a sweater currently on the needles, which is the same pattern I will be using as my Olympic event. It has taken me quite a bit longer for this sweater than the 16 days of Olympic competition, so will be a worthy challenge. I will be altering the pattern from a pullover to a cardigan with buttons, and making it to fit my son's girlfriend (who, thankfully, wears a smaller size than I do). We went on a yarn hunting expedition & came up with a lovely combination that is pretty darn close to gauge (so I'll be fudging the math a bit, too). It is a combination of Harrisville knitting yarn + Misti Alpaca sport weight carried together. The Harrisville gives body that the alpaca lacks, and the alpaca gives warmth & softness. What a great combination! I've swatched & will be ready to start when the time comes (2/10/06, lighting of the Olympic flame). The "training" sweater body is done. I have left to do the hood & sleeves.

And Now for Something Completely Different: PUZZLE MANIA

Night before last the kids came over to do laundry. We ended up playing a game of Scrabble, and then after that, got sucked into the puzzle that was in progress on the dining room table. I am happy to announce that we finished it at 1 a.m. Way cool puzzle. . . challenging, but not too. . .

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's Not Raining Again Today

Yippeee! After a near record-setting stretch of rainy days, we have another Non-Raining Day! What a lovely morning, with sun casting its golden rays across the lake. Thought I'd better take a picture, because this is, after all, Western Washington, and we all know it's not gonna last.

I'm spending this lovely day inside, after a brief morning pooch constitutional, picking mohair locks, dyeing mohair locks, and washing fleece. The fleece is the tail end of a honey-colored CVM (literally, the tail end). We're in the dingleberry department here, and I've pitched the truly nasty bits, and cut the icky tips off of the areas that appear to be salvageable. It is now in its final rinse. The fiber is wonderfully crimpy. The locks started off at about 5" in length, but after washing they're more like 3", quite soft & cushy. The color, earlier honey, is now more creamy. I love CVM. More than merino, I think. Not nearly as greasy.

The mohair is from Martha, a charming angora goat that I met at the Monroe Fair. This is the *third* washing for this fleece. This was her yearling fleece, and this has been my first experience washing mo. So I guess when I heard that I'd need to use *really hot* water, I thought it'd be comparable to washing a really greasy sheep fleece. Not. Even. Close. I have the water heater cranked up to its highest setting. This does not make my hubby happy, because each time he turns on the faucet in our bathroom, the pipes vibrate & sound like a jackhammer. Yes, he always knows when I've been washing fiber. I've used Dawn and/or Palmolive, with/without Simple Green/denatured alcohol. I'm using OxiClean now, and it actually seems to be doing the trick! I should add, too, that I'm now opening up each & every little lock of this fleece. This treasure will be going into my "Fiber IRA" & should last quite awhile.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Robin & Her Shawl

This is my son's wonderful girfriend, Robin. We adore her (and hope we get to keep her, but that's up to the two of them to decide). She is wearing a shawl which I made a couple of years ago, and I had just never found the right person to wear it. It was made of handspun tri-color Shetland yarn, and woven on my tri-loom. I thought of giving it to her at Christmas this year, but you probably know the feeling. . . the thought that maybe she wouldn't like it. . . maybe she'd feel obligated to wear it even though she didn't like it. . . maybe she'd consider the color boring and would put it in the bottom of the closet where only the cat would ever see it again, and then it would be put into the Goodwill bag and eventually, its new owner would throw it into a washing machine where it would shrink & felt and then be wearable only by a midget. No, I really like to give gifts that I'm pretty sure somebody would like & use.

Well, it was chilly at our house. It just is, this time of year, especially in the breakfast nook, where with lots of windows the light is best for reading, studying, & knitting. I offered to get her a shawl to help keep her warm. She said she'd really love it if I'd knit her a sweater! I cannot begin to tell you how happy this makes me. Not only does it appear that she'll be with us for a long time, long enough at least for me to knit her a sweater, but she actually really likes the things I make! So that will work for me, but in the meantime, there's this shawl. She put it on & loves it! So far, each time she's come over she has it on, tucked under her coat & it seems to help keep her cozy while she's here. I am one happy Mom.

As for the Cotswold Fleece . . .

. . . I am not so happy. I took it fully out of the bag to wash it. Cotted. Most of it. Stuck together & felted even before washing. (This is what can happen when you don't carefully inspect a fleece prior to purchasing. I was charmed by its lustrous, silvery color.) The fiber that is usable, however, is lovely. So I went ahead & washed it, hoping to pull apart some of the nasty tangles afterward. (Note - I have washed many, many fleeces. I am careful, and the felting was there *before* I washed the fiber.) I did email the nuns on Shaw Island, and hope to hear back from them. I'd really love to just put the fleece in the mail & return it to them, telling them specifically where to put the fleece, but I don't think you can talk to nuns like that.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Janice's Drudik Wheel

Last time I posted, I showed a picture of my dear friend, Janice spinning at a Drudik wheel. It was the first time she'd ever seen one, let alone getting a chance to spin on one. Well, Janice has now put her name "on the list" for a Drudik wheel. Her wheel should be ready in 2012. Mrs. Drudik told Janice that Mr. Drudik is now 75 years of age. We are all praying for his continuing good health and strength, and Janice promises me that she will *not* be hiring a hit man to help shorten the list.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Happy St. Distaff's Day!

Yesterday we celebrated St. Distaff's Day, homage to a non-existent Saint, but in reality a day to mark the return to spinning after the Christmas holidays. About 150 members of Northwest Regional Spinners' Association and friends gathered in Mountlake Terrace, Washington for the day. Our car was filled with four occupants, four wheels, and all necessary supplies, and we drove from Bellingham, a little more than an hour north of Mountlake Terrace.

In Old England, St. Distaff's Day was celebrated a few days before the return of the ploughmen to their work, so it was typical of the fellows to gather & harass the spinners by setting fire to their flax. Then, of course, the spinners would retaliate by hurling buckets of water to put out the fire & drench the ploughmen. I am happy to report that there were no ploughmen there yesterday. Of the few gentlemen in attendance, all were cordial fellow spinners, or in related or compatible industry. (Thank you, Gentlemen!) We all had a wonderful time, enjoyed the bond of friendship & scents of fiber and luscious soaps, and nibbled from the generous table of cookies & other tasty treats.

My dear friend, Janice, who has been spinning for a little over a year, had an impromptu lesson spinning silk/merino on a Drudik wheel (be still my heart). Is he still maintaining his list and producing wheels? I hope so, because I truly think she needs one.

We, of course, filled the car with goodies to bring home. Janice & I could not resist splitting a Cotswold fleece, from the nuns on Shaw Island in the San Juans. It is soaking right now and I can't begin to describe how lustrous the locks look. Then, of course, there were countless colorful dyed rovings which made their way home as well. Not to mention the natural ones which are yet to be dyed. Way too much fun, as is always had in the company of kindred spirits.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Off to a Good Start this Year

Thought I'd post a couple of photos of recent knitting projects. Among the Christmas gifts this year were felted clogs for Dear Granddaughter, whose shoe size is quickly approaching my own, an earflap hat made with handspun yarn (granddog/wool) for Son-in-law, and socks for DS's Girlfriend. The other photo is (background) Lotus Blossom shawl (pattern from Fiddlesticks) recently completed, another earflap hat (this one for DD), and hand-dyed socks in progress.

Just a few words about the socks in progress. I'm using superwash wool yarn from Henry's Attic (pretty sure). It was natural, undyed color, and since I seem to need brown socks this year & couldn't find anything really exciting (can brown be exciting?), I decided to dye this yarn. I used some reds, blues, & turquoise in addition to the brown dye, and dyed this yarn in a crockpot. The color placement in this yarn was completely random. There will be no self-striping here, just random highlights.


I use Jacquard Acid Dyes. Works great on wool (mohair, silk, feathers). The dye comes in powdered form. The powder is mixed with water. (Wear a mask while mixing dyestock - you don't want to inhale this.) I use 500 ml bottles of drinking water from the store, and add a teaspoon (5 ml) of dye powder for a 1% solution, or two teaspoons (10 ml) for a 2% solution of dyestock. You can take off the mask once the solution is made.

The yarn/wool roving/locks/feathers/silk needs to pre-soak in a vinegar/water solution for awhile before dyeing. Amounts & times are not specific, but I usually figure 1/4 - 1/2 c. vinegar/gallon of water, and at least an hour to soak. (Silk does best if pre-washed with synthrapol & soaked for a long time, like overnight. The dye will penetrate the fiber more easily.)

After soaking, remove fiber, add some dye (if you want reproducible results, you need to measure amount of dye per amount of fiber), stir, and add the fiber back into the pot. I use either an enamel canner or crockpot, both of which I've purchased from Goodwill. They are both used only for dyeing. Heat until steaming. The fiber doesn't need to boil. The fiber needs to reach about 180 degrees & stay there for minimum 20 minutes. Do not agitate. When I added the random highlights, I just poured small glugs of dye randomly onto the yarn.

Cool gradually. Do not try to reduce the temperature quickly, and do not agitate or you're likely to end up with felt.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


We have had a quiet celebration of the New Year. Dear Hubby is on call over this holiday, and has been in & out as his job demanded, which left me here to my own devices (mwahahahahaha). I have spent much of the time knitting - a great, relaxing wind-down from the hectic but jolly holidays last week. The tree is still here, the fire still burning in the fireplace, and I am here with my cup of coffee & knitting projects, and the pooch. Today, I finished a pair of socks and knitted an entire hat while flipping channels between "24" reruns on A&E & the Monk-fest on USA Network. (The dog was unimpressed by my knitting accomplishments, despite the fact that the hat was made of handspun wool/granddog fluff.) The weather has been stormy - lots of wind & rain, and it feels very nice to be home with Miss Moof, even if she's not exactly in awe of my creative endeavors.

My one rant concerning the New Year, is Why In The Friggin' Hell can't the calendar manufacturers decide on a standard size for wall calendars and just stick to it??????? I changed ours today, only to discover that the new calendar that I had so carefully selected did not fit in the wooden calendar frame that I've had for many many many years. It was about 3/8" too large to fit in the frame. I nearly shredded the thing to pieces while attempting to trim it with the paper cutter. Hubby to the rescue, since he has infinitely more patience than I, and he was eventually able to cram the *^%$#@ thing into the frame. All this, so that we can look at brightly-colored sunflowers this year, instead of pastel birdies or Americana houses. I'd love to delete, entirely, calendars from my life, but alas, I'd never get to any appointments or meetings without it, and some of those are, well, essential.

I have to apologize for the lack of photos today. My camera seems to have gone on vacation somewhere (without me). Or perhaps it just vanished into the black hole that seems to migrate inside our house. In any case, I'll try to make up for it later.

May we all have peace in the New Year. Cheers!