Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ugly poncho hell

Poncho hell

Honestly, I think the primary purpose of knitting magazines is to prove to all of us that we actually do have some sense of style and taste. I mean, really, by show of hands, who all would be caught dead in this abomination?

Not that ponchos aren't unflattering enough in their traditional diamond shape rendition, this one takes "makes you look like hell" to an entire new dimension. This, of course, is petty and jealous of me and I only write it because I'm a middle aged, overly broad broad who has absolutely no desire to look like a starting quarterback in the NFL. I mean, really, what the hell was whoever thinking when they dreamed up this debacle?

Now you have to admit, the finishing touch has to be the way it swoops up in the front, nicely framing and drawing the eye to that little pouch of floooooooffff right at the belly. If you've given birth, you all know what I mean, regardless of diet or exercise. Niiiiiice.

Why, can someone please explain to me what is the purpose of this design, save proving that the designer really, really hates women?

Okay, end of rant. The meds should kick in shortly and I'll feel just fine. In the meanwhile, I'm going to go yell at the cat. It's been a while.

Talk to you'se all laters; thanks for reading.

Oh, sorry, almost forgot to give credit where credit is due. That poncho and undoubtedly a full and detailed set of instructions for same can be found in this month's issue of Knit 'n Style. They should be paying me to not divulge that bit of information and I'll divorce any of you who go out and make it.

Liz, if you even think it, I'll post pictures on this 'Blog of you wearing it. You know I will...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Okay, it's not knitting but...

My new toy

New toy…just what I needed. More to the point, it’s what I wanted for a long time. Brian will probably rue the day but so far, he’s happy about it. If nothing else, a new camera purchase has prodded me to do a little cleanup duty for the sole purpose of not having anyone else see what a heap this place has become. I’m starting the FlyLady stuff again (reference: ). I had this place almost in shape last summer and now it’s back to its normal state of chaos and I hate it.

Why, of course, am I not showing off pictures from the new camera? Very simple…some damn thingie on the computer isn’t taking to the other thingie which means I can only load the photos from the camera to the laptop and then have YOU KNOW WHO transfer it to the desktop via some date transfer black magic. He promises that he’ll do it WHEN I ask him to. We all know that will last a week, maybe two and then it’ll be like the ‘Blog fix which I asked him to do about a month ago. I’m still waiting. I’m actually waiting until September and if he hasn’t fixed it by then, I’m hiring someone to do it. I have neither the patience to wait nor the inclination to nag.

Isn’t that hideous…the man just bought me a new camera and less than 24 hours after the fact, I’m back in full-time bitch mode.

On the knitting front, and this is a knitting blog after all, so I should make some feeble attempt to parlay the subject back in the direction of textiles, I’ve finished knitting the black felted purse version II. Hopefully, I will manage to sew up the seams today and felt it in the not so distance future, or NOT felt it, which I seem to be much more adept at than felting itself.

In the meanwhile, I see May is just around the corner on the calendar, which gives me an entire month to learn needle felting for the Gagetown Fibre Artist Festival, aka Fibre Options. Details forthcoming but in the meanwhile, if you live in the central New Brunswick/ Saint John River Valley Region, keep June 4th clear on the calendar. I know there will be demonstrations on things all manner wool, including sheep shearing, wool cleaning and preparation, hand spinning (drop spindle and wheel), knitting (hand and machine) and goodness knows what other goodies. I think Liz is slated to do a dyeing demonstration. It’s going to be fun.

For those of you not able to attend it, fear not. I have no doubt it will be ‘Blog fodder for the month of June or better. By then I should know how to operate the new camera and how to actually get the pictures from the camera to the Blog...all that and needle felting too. Yeah, I know; I’m such an optimist.

Talk at you'se all laters; thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

And now for something completely different....

Oh, wow, another month shot and how much closer am I to achieving my goals? Not very, but the wool is all neatly stacked and I’m feeling a little less out of control.

The big rush of the past couple of days had been trying to sort out the digital camera thing. Darling hubby is determined that I’m getting one, sooner rather than later. It’s just such a big purchase; I’m a little leery about plunking the money down, particularly since I’m not sure what I’m buying. I went to several shops looking and I’ve read consumer-buying guides until I’m damn near simple.

So far, the front-runner is the Canon A520 which when are the jigs are reeled is going to set me back $500 or so. Yikes…that is a huge-ish amount of money to my way of thinking and after considerable consideration…. it’s still a huge-ish amount of money.

But I’m having so such fun with this ‘Blogging bit that I can’t even argue too much with the whole idea. I know Brian’s keen on it because I so rarely ever give him something specific that I want. Please, not that I’m self-sacrificing or something. This isn’t the motherhood martyr syndrome kicking into overdrive. It’s about the fact that if I want something, I usually go and buy it for myself, as the approximately 8.7 bazillion metres of yarn in my house will demonstrate.

So, it’s off to Wal-mart after work to see if I can’t get myself yet more confused with mega-pixels and media cards and Lee-yang freaking lee yang. I had the sense to marry a tech guy. Do you all think it does me any good? No, he’s off in the corner yapping with some other computer geeks while I’m busy being overwhelmed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mother was right...Neatness counts.

Neatness itself...

Is there anything more delightful than the correct tool for the job? I’m a-thinking not. On Saturday, I borrowed a ball winder from Trish, at the Pump House on Lower York St, known to civilians as the Singer Store. I have been a winding fool since. I even went over to Liz’s and borrowed back my skein winder and wound balls from skeins. My shoulder is sore from the winding, to say nothing of my ass from having sat on it for 2 days straight.

And it was worth every nanosecond of it. I never really looked closely at center-pull wound yarn balls before but there’s the gimmick: they stack. Neatly even. I’ve reduced the amount of space the stash takes by at least a third and in my case, that’s considerable. Better yet, I can see what I’ve got and I haven’t a million miles of balled up, tangled yarn on every front. I went nuts with the damn thing and spent hours untangling total messes of snarled yarns that had done the Wango Tango in the yarn box. Partially used balls that always go to hell in a handbasket in short order are all back to the corralled state. The only yarn that remains stubbornly unco-operative is that Matrix ribbon yarn, which I decided a long time ago was demonically possessed.

I, of course, have about 8 balls of the stuff. It was a Christmas gift from Brian and Oneida. I wanted to make myself a shawl from it and there was about a meter of the shawl finished when I decided I hated it. It’s “too much”. I like it mixed with another carrier yarn, which serves two purposes. One is that it tones down the sparkle-sparkle bling-bling aspect of it. Second it makes it more manageable. A huge problem with Matrix, or those other ribbon yarns, is that knit on its own, it is an unforgiving bastard child. A dropped stitch explodes. Picking up stitches? Forget it. Pair Matrix with another yarn and all that nastiness does away. It settles down and plays nicely. Bottom line, the “almost finished but why bother because I would never wear it anyway” shawl is scheduled for demolition as I need to recycle the Matrix. Tearing it out now would largely be a waste of time since balling Matrix is like nailing Jell-o to a tree.

But back to the ball winder -- I am here to tell you – NEXT on the list of things to buy. Next I am telling you. I cannot live without this darling little gadget. I managed to get the entire stash, and it is a formidable mountain of yarn, into two Rubber Maid totes. It’s not so scary to dig through the stash.

On other knitting news, Liz’s little blue purse is felted and it is sweet, sweet, sweet. It felted up very nicely. I’ve got the black felted bag back on the needles with about 6 stitches pulled out of the width and about 6 rows added to the length. That should be ready for felting by this afternoon.

In the meanwhile, I think I’ll spend a little time this afternoon, now that I can see the bottom of the knitting basket, evicting some of the dust bunnies from the living room. Bastards are behind on the rent again.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Just for some fun

Mohair scarf

Mohair scarf, detail shot.

Yesterday was a knitter’s dream day. Liz and I got together just after lunch and took some photos of my new scarf and some of her dyed yarns. Then we went over to Singer, aka The Pump House on Lower York St. Trish was working and the three of us sat in the back, knitting, gossiping, telling really bad jokes and surreptitiously drinking vodka and Fruitopia. Nothing outrageous, just a bit of naughty.

We waited for Barb Telford to finish up at the Craft Council where she was gallery sitting and the three of us went out for dinner and of course, knit, gossiped and drank beer. Barb’s an incredible lady. She’s a sheep farmer and a professional knitter and pattern designer. And she’s so willing to teach and mentor. But even without all that, she’s just a lot of fun. I’ve only met her half a dozen times and I’ve really come to like her. She gave me a few tips on felting and confirmed my suspicion that there was a misprint in a pattern I had tried from the Nicky Epstein book.

On other news, I decided I needed a break from the felting. Having things come out wrong, or at least, not what you envisioned, is very demoralizing so I grabbed a ball of The Mohair Stash from Hell. Earlier this year, I scored a mohair/acrylic blend off eBay that was to die for and when the merry-go-round had stopped, I was the proud owner of 11.7 Kilometers of mohair yarn. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet but apparently, scarves are going to figure into it somehow.

This scarf is very simple lace. It’s “Feather and Fan” or alternatively “Old Shale” lace which is a four row repeat. For those of you not in the mood to go dig out one of your knitting books, here’s the basics:

I used large needles, 8 mm and the yarn is fairly thin

Cast on 24 stitches.

R1: K2tog twice, [YO, K1] 4 times, [K2tog] 4 times, [YO, K1] 4 times, K2tog twice

R2: Knit

R3: Knit

R4: Purl

Knit for as long as you can stand it, or 65 inches, whatever comes first. Cast off.

It knit up quickly and it’s nice to have something work for a change. Of course, yesterday, I dug out the country roving and started up on yet another version of the felted purse. Do you think therapy would help with this obsession?

If/when I do it again, I think I will add a selvage stitch on either side just to firm up the edge.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Another nasty "F" word -- Flop

The Odd Ball Knitter pledges allegiance to the flag, fealty to the Queen and sacrifices small cans of brewed malt to the Felting's all in vain.

Not that it was my intention to use this ‘Blog for the express purposes of incessant whining; it does serve that purpose on occasion. Yesterday was the Great Felting and Fulling Fiasco revisited, Episode 27, I think. Okay, there has been some improvement. Yesterday’s attempt at a fulled purse resulted in an “okay” item but so not what was in my head. Again, it’s with the width. The piece shrunk in height and didn’t bloody budge on the width, which when you consider I had made it to accommodate a 20% shrinkage, means my purse is a bagette.

“C’est la vie”, she mutters insincerely, trying to pick up her broken hopes and dashed dreams.

I’ll be able to resurrect the purse of yesterday. It’s not a total lost cause; however, it is not what I was looking for. I have a very specific shape in my head and I will not rest until I have it. You all know what this means…back to Singer. MORE roving. More time, energy and fibre sacrificed only for you all to listen to me next week about how the damn thing didn’t work out. Again.

Liz, if you’re listening, we need to go take some more pictures…I’m thinking this weekend – Sunday? That mohair needs to be captured. For the record, our Liz just dyed the most ass-kicking purply-silvery-pinky-indigoy mohair divine-ness you all ever laid eyes on. And after no small amount of pleading, I managed to score a couple of hundred meters of it from its rightful owner. Apparently I beg better than I full.

And yes, for the record, this is so pissing me off. It irritates the living daylights out of me there is a technique that seems to have the upper hand with me. Darling hubby is just cringing because he recognizes that stubborn little clench in my jaw and knows nothing will deter me now. We’ll be knee deep in discarded projects that didn’t turn out right and I’ll still be obsessing. Hmmmm ... maybe I should call the doctor now and get him to up the meds before this all gets ugly.

Anyway, I’m taking a momentary break from felting (translation: I’m out of black roving until this afternoon) and so I’m into the pile of mohair from hell. I’m knitting a scarf that is very pretty and should use up 200 meters of the bloody 11.7 kilometres of ever-blessed mohair I have in stock.

God, I think I need help.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Felting, fulling, failure and a few other "F" words

One of many felted failures.

Felting and fulling may be the oldest textile known to humankind. This does not mean they are easy. Sure, on the surface it looks all easy-peasy. How many of us have not done an unscheduled experiment in felting when we throw a $250 mohair/merino sweater in the washer and it comes out too tight for a Barbie doll.

I’ve come to the conclusion that things felt much better if they are incredibly expensive, irreplaceable and/or are of a great sentimental value to their owner. For example, when I was much younger, my father did a UN peacekeeping detail in the Mid-East. Like most soldiers, he swapped gear and kit with soldiers from other nations. One of his prized finds was a sweater he had gotten from a British Army officer. It was, of course, olive drab in colour, but it was made of absolutely beautiful wool. It was thick but still soft to the touch and oh so very warm. It lasted all of one week back in Canada. Someone, who shall remain nameless, did up laundry and shrunk said sweater in the washing machine until it could only fit a 13 yr old. This was done entirely by accident; however, the suspicion lingers to this day.

Flash forward some 30 years and yours truly, the Odd Ball Knitter, decided to take up felting as an addition to the repertoire of “what all you can do with wool”. It’s been an struggle for what is so easily accomplished when you don’t want it to happen, cannot be replicated when it’s necessary.

It all sounded so very easy, didn’t it? Just use 100% wool, really big needles, make the item 30% larger than what you want as a finished size and wash in hot water. Wring, twist, agitate, shock with cold water and basically abuse it. Do ALL the things you’re not supposed to do with wool.

Not so fast. First of all, it shrinks less in width than in length. So far, in my items and samples, I’ve had between 20-25% shrinkage in width and between 25-30% shrinkage in length. This is enough to throw proportions of an item out of whack.

There is also no way I can figure on how to predict what the shrinkage is and to tell you the truth, I’ve been pretty disappointed so far. I’ve made a hat that turned out well, but was too small for me. Oneida inherited it. The picture above was supposed to be a small purse but it never felted properly, in spite of eventually being boiled and agitated by hand for nearly two hours. It also had been run through the washer twice before that. It would not felt fully and none of us can figure out why. All we did manage to do was knock the dye out of the yarn, which considering it is Briggs & Little, is saying something. That stuff is damn near indestructible. Part of that I blame on following someone’s Internet instructions where they said to add baking soda to the wash water. It’s the only time I’ve seen that ingredient in any instructions and it’s a mistake I won’t be doing again.

In spite of my continuing frustration with fulling, I’m too damn stubborn (stupid??) to give up. This time I made what I hope will be a purse out of unspun country roving. I knit it on 12mm needles (size 15 US). So far, it’s looking all right. It will have to be blocked and shaped before I have any firm decision on whether it worked or not. If it doesn’t work, someone was will probably hear my screams and there will be a pile of roving and really big needles floating down the Nashwaak River.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Normal service has been restored

Well, I’ve had my fill with the madness of the past month and it’s time to get back to normalcy. I’m reasonably stoic by nature but two family deaths and funerals inside a fortnight is just a bit much and I’m feeling a bit ragged around the edges. I was glad to get to work to start adding structure and stability back into my life.

On the knitting front, I’ve managed to keep busy. After swatching about 10 different edgings for the Trinity Stitch Shawl, I think I’m going to go with the one on the pattern, without any (many) modifications. This pronouncement, should it come to fruition, will just about do our girl Liz in completely. It’s become a bit of a running joke between the two of us in that I’ve yet to complete a pattern as stated in the instructions. Invariably, I see something that needs to be tweaked or down right disregarded in its entirety. The classic moment was the night we were knitting at the pub. About the half way point of the second pint, I started bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t being particularly original in anything I was doing of late. Liz looks up over her mug, at me, at my knitting needles and the project and rolls her eyes, “Yes, I can see that. You’re just turning a sock pattern into a purse, you copy cat.”.

Liz is occasionally sarcastic. That's the primary difference between the two of us. I never indulge in sarcasm. I’m also without fault and have only 7% total body fat.

And frequently,the penchant for pattern modification is not even my fault. For example, this weekend while we were driving to Halifax, I took my new Knitting on the Edge book and a couple of balls of hand dyed yarn to play around. There was an interesting looking scarf and I started in on it. I’m going to check with a couple of other knitters but there’s either a mistake in the pattern or a short circuit in my brain. I’ve turned myself inside out and backwards, and no matter how, I end up with an extra stitch at the end of the shenanigans. I’m going to take a look at it again tonight, just to make sure I haven’t completely lost my mind. Tomorrow, I’ll either be in full rant mode or eating humble pie.

It’s perfectly possible that it’s my malfunctioning brain. I’m willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt right now. A couple of days ago, Liz called to tell me she’s finagled a couple of invites for us to go to the Village of Gagetown to a fibre junkie festival June 3 and 4, where we could indulge in some relentless and shameless self-promotion. I checked my calendar and promptly announced “Nope, can’t do it. Working. Blah blah blah…” and mumbled some vague burblings about trying to get the time off work.

True to my word, I checked the schedule this morning, only to find I’m nowhere near scheduled to work June 3 or 4 or days either side of it. What the hell I was reading, I have no earthly idea. So it’s back to figuring out what I’m going to do in June for my 15 minutes of fame.

Milk that cow, baby….Mooooooooooooooooooo!!!

In the meanwhile, and no need to be hasty here, I'm going to assume it's my malfunctioning brain and not that of the author's that is the problem.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Book'em Danno....

by Cheryl Oberle

by Nicky Epstein

There are few things I like better than sitting down and knitting. I'd elaborate but this is supposed to be a family column. Having said that, reading knitting books comes a close second. The problem with knitting books is they are so damn expensive.

But April has been a particularly tough month on me. First my mom died from complications with Parkinson and now my uncle has passed on from the same. Two family funerals inside 2 weeks is a bit much and so I'm feeling particularly self-indulgent, so I bought both of these. Both of them!!!! Total reckless disregard for the family finances. Screw it.

I've coveted both of them for a while and I'm going to really take a good look at them this weekend. I'll post a review next week.

In the meanwhile, back on the Trinity Stitch Shawl front, I've banged away at several edgings and so far, NOTHING is doing it for me. I've swatched about 8 so far. My rationale for the Epstein book on edgings is that I don't have a really good resource on that aspect of knitting design yet, so I'm hoping I'll find something there to make this work.

In the meanwhile, I've got to pack for a trip to Halifax. Talk at you'se all laters; thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Finally, the end (of the Trinity Stitch Shawl) almost

Yes, I am a Drama Queen...your point??!

As if getting my new curtains hung in the same decade in which they were purchased was not sufficient indication of the Coming Apocalypse, I can now add “finished the main body of the Trinity Stitch Shawl in under a month” to the list of signs of coming calamity.

I’m working out how I’m going to finish off the edges. Liz suggested a knotted fringe which sounds just too easy to me. I’ve got my head wrapped around a lace edging. I swatched two possible lace edgings but nothing’s working for me right now. The first one I tried I think is too wide. It’s coming in at nearly 8 inches wide. The second one I tried is a cable and lace edging but I think the cable detail is lost with the yarn. I might try again tonight with size smaller needles. And you know where this will end up – yup…a knotted fringe, exactly what Liz already suggested.

I’m back to work now and it’s good to start in with a routine again. Of course, give me a week and I’ll be lamenting my lack of time off and how the necessity of honest labour cuts into my knitting time.

In the meanwhile, it’s been a while since I’ve worked the night shift, so this little knitter needs to get herself to bed.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

But the curtains so complement the cobwebs, darling..

Gotha says the curtains are just fine.

. I realize we’re all a-waiting with bated breath to find out if Kate finished the main body of the Trinity Stitch shawl as I threatened yesterday.


Would you people get real? Not even I believed that foolishness yesterday, but it is closer to completion. It’s gotten to that awful stage of shawl development when it’s “will this stupid thing ever end”. The answer is “Yes, it will”. Question is, in which decade and/or lifetime? Ahhh , another imponderable mystery of the universe for our meditative pleasure.

So what did I actually accomplish yesterday? Well, the exciting news is I managed to hang the curtains I bought last Friday. Darling Hubby nearly passed out when he realized that the curtains I just had to have a week ago were actually hung in the same month in which they were purchased. They could have probably used a good pressing before I did the balance beam act trying to lift, clip and hold a 120” of curtain rod, while simultaneously avoiding putting one end or the other of the rod through the computer monitor or the television screen. I really didn’t take much note of the big fold crease in the middle of them, approximately at eye level, until this morning. It’s all right…Gotha Stewart, my imaginary friend, says that gravity will fix all before the end of the decade. Now I just wish she’d get off her arse and deal with the cobwebs for a change.

Actually, the curtains are a bit on the longish side and cover the baseboard heaters. No problem, heating season is over and I can hem them later. You all know what this means: I'll get them pinned for Christmas 2006 and actually manage to hem them 20 minutes before they sun rot and fall off the rods.

I spent the better part of the evening over to Liz’s house, studiously watching the proper professional techniques employed to turn your hands and kitchen tile grout the prettiest shades of yellow, green and a totally funky purple. We had so much dye left over from that effort that we had to use a few miles of Butterfly mercerized cotton to soak up the remainders and that’s hanging in my bathroom drying right now. It’s destined to be a scarf some day.

Few words for you Liz: Barrier Cream. Liz has a professional development conference this Thursday and Friday in the Miramichi. The topic is expanding the cultural tourism market in New Brunswick. Since the Miramichi completely lacks a significant population of Maori warriors with their distinctive facial tattoos, so we thought, purely in the interests of economic and regional development, that the least we could do was decorate Liz before shipping her off to learn how to attract hordes of European tourists to Atlantic Canada. That’s our girl Liz, forever willing to take one for the team.

Also, managed to finish and felt a swatch for a purse I’m designing. The swatch turned out reasonably well. Coming soon…Kate’s adventures in felting but in the meanwhile, I have to get Gotha off her butt and see if we can’t get this place tossed back into some semblance of order.

Talk at you’se laters: thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wrap It Up, Kate....

The main body of the Trinity Stitch Shawl

After a long and persuasive discussion on the merits of hand dyed yarn (translation: torrents of senseless abuse from Liz), I made my first tentative steps towards the dye pot last night. I’ve been experimenting a bit with the Kool-Aid stuff but that wasn’t good enough for our Princess Elizabeth….

I had a skein of totally hideous orange that was just Kool-Aid gone wrong. Orange is not my favourite colour in the universe but I’ve learned to handle it in small doses. There was nothing small or subtle about this visual equivalent of a punch in the face. It kicked around in the Yarn Purgatory (where bad yarns go to find redemption) for a couple of months while I pondered what to do with it…I mean other than burning it.

Emboldened by a fresh case of “Oh, what the hell, I’m not likely to make it much worse”, I dug out the Kool-Aid once again, with the intent of over dying it in red. Cherry to be exact. It worked and I’ve got the nicest skein of tone on tone rust going. It’s beautiful really.

I got a little arty and tied off small sections with waste yarn, just 6-12 strands where the orange had been a lot calmer so there were some orange “highlights” in the yarn where it had been voided. Just when the dye charge was nearly exhausted, I removed the blocking yarn and chucked the whole skein back into the pot to absorb the rest of the dye, which served to soften the edges and make it look less “blocky”.

It really is nice and I’m happy with it and I think I could get into this whole dyeing thing. Like I need another place to stash disposable income and spare time.

In any event, I’d be an idiot to not take the opportunity to learn the art and science of dying from Liz because, quite frankly, and this NOT the best friend speaking but the artist, she one of the best. She’s got a fantastic eye for colour. We actually became friends working on a project that required some custom dying and she knocked my socks off then. I’ll save that story for another day because what I really want to tell you is about packing for an expedition to Liz’s house.

“Bring Vinegar, I’m almost out”. … load one big ass zillion gallon jug of vinegar in the tote bag.

“Bring Beer, I am out”…oddly enough, so am I but the Beer Store is enroute.

“Bring wool”…happily I have 3 skeins of Briggs & Little worsted, natural, all washed and ready to roll.

“Bring Light bulbs, it’s dark in here”. Only Liz would attempt to dye in the dark and worse yet, get away with it. I thought about packing a cot and a blanket but there’s only so much room in a Honda Civic.

Three tote bags and a liquor store bag later, I find myself pounding on her front door. Of course, she won’t let me in. Front door bolted like the Crown Jewels and/or Brad Pitt were tucked inside. When I drag all this plunder around to the back door, and when I let myself in, she’s busy babbling on the phone. Apparently it was a big surprise I was dropping in with half of Home Hardware in tow.

The game plan was this time I would sit and watch the process as she explained each step. We ended up with a really cool skein of teal and navy, which in a stroke of serendipity, completely complements the skein of rust I made earlier. Liz was a bit disappointed because I think she had something lighter and more spring, more tropical lagoon, on the brain. But my skein was lonely for a mate and over-rode the process. For the record, mine smells better.

So what has all this got to do with the Trinity Stitch Shawl pictured above? Absolutely nothing, except this…that sucker is coming off the needles today if I have to knit it in my sleep. While at Liz’s, supervising the dying process, I started up yet another project and so something’s got to get finished. Today. Barring natural disaster or my life taking over.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Introducing "Lizzie's Yarns"

In other news, Liz now has her Blog up and running. You can find it at

Kool-Aid Kapers continued.

Bring on the yarn! Posted by Hello

Okay, enough with the prep work (Apr 9th's column). Let us be getting down to the nitty and the gritty of it all. There are lots of different methods for Kool-Aid dyeing. So far, I'm a stove top woman.

1. Place yarn in large pot and cover with water. Add about 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar. Yes, the pickling variety. It's to make the entire process acidic.

2. Set the pot to heat. The goal here is to bring it to NOT EXACTLY BOILING. That would be sub-boiling. Steam without bubbles. Watch it because the son of a gun is going to want to boil the nano-second you turn your back and of course, our instinct is to bring water to a boil quickly by putting the burner on max. Try medium to medium high. You don't want to be boiling the wool.

3. Mix up your Kool-Aid in a measuring cup with enough water to maintain the liquid consistency. Roughly speaking, count on using 1 package per ounce of wool. I personally think this is for the unadventurous, so I use 2 packages per ounce of wool and usually one for the pot.4. When the whole thing gets to sub-boiling, thinking about boiling, I pour the dye charge into the pot. The yarn closest to where I poured it will be darker while the yarn on the other side of the pot will be much lighter. My work around this is to pour about 1/4 of the dye charge on the 4 cardinal points of the pot. I do this because I don't want my hand dyed yarn to be particularly evenly coloured. I can buy commercial yarn that is all one colour, thank you. If you like a more even colouring, consider putting the dye in the water before adding the yarn and bringing the whole shooting match up to temperature.

5. Heat the mixture for 5 to 10 minutes, sliding the yarn around with a spoon to help the dye staturate the pot. You'll know when you are done because the water will be crystal clear. It's totally cool watching the colour disappear into the yarn, and with mixed colours, you can watch how one colour is absorbed more rapidly that another. When I did the grape sock yarn, the blue was absorbed first and then the red.

6. Turn the pot off and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before removing the yarn and rinsing with cool water. Hang to dry.

Now just a word to the wise...more than the colour gets transferred to the yarn. The smell goes with it, so your lovely purple yarn smells distinctly grape-ish for a while. It eventually goes but I only mention it for this reason. One night when I was out to the pub with Liz, and of course, knitting, I was working with my new freshly dyed purple yarn. About 2 hours into the process, I'm ready to eat the north end of the southbound skunk, and Liz is feeling a bit peckish herself. Twenty-five dollars worth of Chinese food later, we finally figured it out -- our "hunger" was the sole invention of the brain, having smelt "candy" for two hours straight. Like my arse needed that experience.

Talk at you'se all laters; thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Kool-Aid ... not just for the kids anymore.

The totally cool Kool-Aid dyed wool yarn. Posted by Hello

Okay, here's my totally non-technical instructions for dying. I'm going to publish them and then let Liz, our resident expert dyer woman have at them and let me know what's wrong with them.

What you need:

1. Something to dye: 100% wool or silk. This process will not work on cotton so don't even go there.

2. Something to dye in: the biggest pot you got. You want stainless steel or something along that line. I understand cast iron, copper or alumimum will affect the colouring. Unlike virtually all other dyes known to humankind, Kool-aid is a food safe item and the dye (food colouring) is not toxic, so you can use the kitchen ware. You don't need a seperate dedicated dye pot for this process although, I will warn you, you'll end up with a little temporary stain on the inside of your pot that goes away in a few washings.

3. Something to dye with: Kool-aid. By the way, the no name stuff works just as well. Lots of Kool-aid -- I use 9 - 10 packages of it per skein of yarn but I don't speak "subtle". You can go all one colour, or mix and match or make your own colour combos. Avoid the "magic colour changing Kool-aids". They are useless...and oh, do I need to mention, it's the unsweetened stuff -- the little packages? Like we all needed to spend 80 hours of our lives washing the sugar out of that mess. Jell-o, like I've seen on some websites???? You've got to be kidding.

4. Something to fix the dye with: in this case, good old fashioned household vinegar.

5: Some odds and sods: a long handled spoon for stirring, gloves if you have a wedding/christening/fancy dress party to attend in the next few days and if you have no burning desire to show up with green spots on your hand; a timer and 4-6 lengths of old junk yarn, acrylic is fine, it's just to tie the skein and a minor amount of dish detergent.

6. A nice tall gin and tonic, with a twist of lime. Or lemon if you're so inclined. [Ed. note: the actual choice of beverage can be seasonally adjusted without any adverse effect on the yarn or its subsequently colouration.]

The pre-process:

There are two goals here in prepping the yarn for dying. One is to ensure it is clean and free of grease (which will interfer with the dye process) and secondly, to ensure the dye can get to all parts of the yarn or at least to the parts you want it to get to.

Tie it off: I take my skein of yarn and loosely tie it in 4 to 6 places with small pieces of acrylic yarn. Basically, it's a "Figure 8" through the skein. Key thing, keep it loosey-goosey. If you tie it off too tightly, you'll end up with a blank spot in your yarn, cool if you planned it, annoying as hell otherwise.

Clean it up: You may get away without doing this step but if your yarn has been manhandled and fondled and otherwise molested, which will happen in direct proportion to how soft and fuzzy-wuzzy it is, the natural oils from the hands will be transferred to the yarns. The very thing that makes the CSI types all happy, will make your life unhappies. Place the yarn in a large quantity of luke-cool water, add a couple of drops of dish wash detergent and agitate gently. Rinse with larger quantities of luke-cool water and let it all soak for a half hour or so.

If you think your yarn is clean enough, put it in a large bowl of water and let soak for half hour or so. You realize, this very important step is a key opportunity for the essential step of any craft project, namely, refilling the large glass of gin and tonic, and sitting on your backside, feet on a stool, reading a cheesy novel, preferably while hubby makes supper and/or dinner reservations.

Tomorrow, we'll get to the actual dye process. In the meanwhile, thanks for reading

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Sock It To Me...BABY

The Kool-Aid dyed sock

Detail on the cuff

More of the Kool-Aid sock Posted by Hello

In honour of Karin, here's a sock post. For the record, I love knitting socks. Correction -- I love knitting Sock...singular. The second sock is ... well, it's an issue is what it is.

In keeping with tradition, here is ONE single solitary sock, in desperate need of a mate. It might be a while getting a mate because the resident genius making it didn't pay proper attention to where in the yarn varigation she started the cuff and after 4 attempts, I have not been able to duplicate the spiralling band of colour down the cuff. Grrrrrrr.... I'm going to give it one more attempt and then I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do to deal with it.

The official excuse, of course, is that my handy dandy Atti-Turbo circular sock knitting needles are currently engaged on Silas' sock....don't believe a freaking word I say when it comes to "the second sock" excuses. I've even tried to pass off that the dryer ate the second sock but everyone now knows me better.

But, back to this particularly lonesome sock, I thought for a change I'd try the spiral rib cuff. It's really pretty and great if you or the recipient likes "slouchy" socks. For the "tighty socks" people, it would drive them totally crazy.

The yarn would be my old standby -- Briggs and Little 100% worsted weight wool. It's one of my favourite wools to work with because it's tougher than nails. I was digging through a closet at home yesterday looking for something else and found a shawl collared pullover sweater Mom knit in B&L. It looks like it came off the needles yesterday. It could have, if yesterday had been 25 yrs ago.

And while B&L makes some interesting colours, the ones in the photo aren't anything they came up with. It's my first dying attempt, done with Kool-Aid. More tomorrow on that project.

Talk to you's all laters; thanks for reading.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The great shawl debate, Episode 837.

Liz's mohair boucle shawl Posted by Hello

This is a picture of Liz's mohair boucle shawl she mentioned in the comments section of Mar 31. It is gorgeous, utterly. It is bigger than my triangular shawls which has been a constant source of debate between the two of us for a considerable length of time. I suspect we'll still be arguing the relative merits of shawl sizing when we're sitting on the porch of the nursing home.

Just an update on the rest of my life: Mom died April 2, just after midnight. The funeral is today. She had a great life and was deeply loved. Undoubtedly, she would have sided with Liz on the subject of shawl sizes...everything about her was bigger than life.