Wednesday, May 31

Wednesday wandering

We're muddling through the week, quieter without Franz. Nancy came over to dye yesterday. She was trying to recreate my Jungle colorway with better yarn than the knitpicks I used. I was trying for...? I am not sure what. Nancy got a rainbow concoction, I got a candy store. But we were both using new techniques on new yarn, so it was fun and successful in its own way. I strongly suspect both Nancy and I will be doing more dyeing.

I've been giving Zach some Scrabble lessons. I want more competition. Think I will go roust him from surfing and make him play a game before it gets too late. First I will leave you with some views of my neighborhood's future fire station. Any opinion expressed in the photos is not necessarily shared by this blogger.

Monday, May 29

Monday musing

There won't be any new photos on my blog this week, since my husband's camera is with my husband on a raft in Cataract Canyon in Utah. Ought to be a great trip. I am wishing him and the group high water and great weather.

Nancy and Melinda came over to knit and chat and both taught me about color and dyeing. Yes, the dyeing bug has remained unabated. We deconstructed our Koigu and other variegated sock yarns, learning how the different companies paint and were surprised that several of them, including the Koigu, were dyed while on skeins only about 60 inches circumference, then reskeined to a slightly smaller circumference. Although they seem like a million different colors, Koigu only has 4 colors, but with artful bleeding and splashing (I am sure there is more to it than that) they end up with that wonderful variety.

While they were here, I dyed a few small samples of Gems Opals and got really weird results. I was trying for gold, yellow with just the teeniest drop of purple, but the fuzzy edges of the yarn went black, selectively sucking up the purple. The whole yarn was blotchy and odd, but it could be an interesting. Reproducing it to a controlled and nice effect might be hard though. After they left, I tried again with a 50 gram skein I had made of the Opal. I wasn't expecting to make a skein this size; at 112 yards it isn't enough for a sock. However, having gotten up in the wee hours to drive Franz to the airport, my arithmetic skills were lacking. So I figured this was a good practice skein. I remembered reading that superwash wool needed a longer pre-soak, so I did that and think it helped. I was aiming for some subtlety of colors, especially wanting to recreate a greyish blue I had gotten with different yarn. However the results were more vibrant than expected, Jewel tones of Teal, Gold and Purple. Not a very original colorway, but good practice and information.

Speaking of original colorways... There are so many nicely painted yarns out there, why should I bother making my own? Can I try for something a bit different? Just a little more original? I have a few ideas, but need to mull them over a bit before creating and sharing them.

As for knitting, ye gads, I cast on another sock. No, the two socks on the needles aren't even at the heel yet, but I started a new one. Why? Well, the yarn I used for my most recent dye play --- Mustard/Ketchup and the as yet unnamed Blue/purple combo --- is a sport weight 6 ply that wasn't created specifically for socks. The plying is looser, loftier, sproingier than sock yarn. But I really like the way it knits up and I like thick socks. Before dyeing more of this yarn though I need to know three things: how well will it wear, how much yarn is needed for a pair of socks and how well did the 8 jars of color technique work? I am a slow knitter, but can already tell the answer to the third question, it looks great.

Thursday, May 25

Just another dye tutorial

I purchased the wool2dye4 special that contained seven colors of Permalon "C" acid dyes plus some extras (bucket, gloves, spoons...).

I have done some dyeing, learning and blogging already. May 8th and May 8th, May 10th and May 17th.

All well and good. But I wanted more control. Time to get scientific.

The Math

First I made solutions of the seven colors, very carefully measuring 1 tsp of dye powder with 4 ounces of very hot water. 20 ounce VitaminWater bottles are sturdy with secure lids. Four ounces of water equals 24 teaspoons, so one teaspoon of my solution is about 1/25th tsp of dye powder.

This method worked great, because the most dangerous and messy part is handling the fine powder. Once the solutions are made, they are pretty safe to deal with and last for a couple weeks.

The rule of thumb from the instructions is that 3 tsp of dye powder will turn one pound of fiber a dark shade.

So far I have been dyeing a pair of sock's worth of yarn, about 4+ ounces, a quarter pound of fiber. Round up a bit and it seems that 1 tsp of dye ought to suffice for a nice dark shade. That's 25 tsp of solution in whatever combination I can think of.

The Tests

Before having that fun, I made mini-skeins, each skein painted with two colors separately and blended, and blended with just a drop of black.

Six colors (not counting black) combine to make 15 colors. (Remember N Choose K? Good math lesson for the Nerd.) Another fifteen colors when a touch of black is added. Fifteen skeins of very useful information. Now I can more accurately get all those greens, purples, oranges and browns.

Very useful tools for this precision dyeing; a bunch of little medicine cups marked at the 1 and 2 teaspoon level, and a couple of medicine syringes -- very precise way of applying dye solution in measured amounts.

Zach commented that the mini-skein with Fire Engine Red and Sunshine made a nice combination of orange. He thought a skein done in that mixture would be fun. But not so saturated.

Immersion Dyeing

Five ounces of sportweight merino in a skein 13 feet in circumference, carefully positioned in the dyepot to maximize variegation. I want red, Sunshine and Daffodil each individually and in combination. I also want one mixture of red and Sunshine to have just a drop or two of black. How much dye? Well, 25 tsp (of solution, from now on I always refer to solution) would make all the colors bright and saturated. The goal here was a bit more muted. I decided on 8 tsp total. All told, it has 3 tsp of red, 3 tsp of Sunshine and 2 tsp of Daffodil. Probably 3 drops of black. The blended colors were all blended before adding to the water, in my little medicine cups. Then each color was added to the water in semi-random pattern. The syringe was a great tool for this application, adding the different dye mixtures making sure to reach the yarn underneath evenly. Note the dark blotches. Those are dots of red injected in the water. They did not blend with the water at all and a sharp edge between the red and other colors is visible in the finished yarn. Unexpected, but interesting.

Zach declared the colorway a success, but of course he would never wear socks so bold. He thinks I should make myself socks. The colors will look like fire and my feet will feel warm. I think it looks more like ketchup and mustard artfully blended as if on a hot dog.

Now to take advantage of the fact that my dye-pot will hold 8 glass jars. Again, five ounces of sportweight merino, 13 foot circumference skein. Colors desired are blues and purples, using Royal Blue, Turquoise, Fuschia and Black. Here I wanted dark bold colors, so a total of 24 tsps of dye solution. The yarn had presoaked in water and vinegar. I assembled the pot, jars and yarn, with water in the pot for simmering, the acidified soaking water divvied between the 8 jars. Three teaspoons of dye per jar, easy peasy no mess, I made a diagram to tell me which jars got which combinations of color, and used the little medicine cups to measure and pour. I did not premix the colors nor did I stir the liquid in the jars.

After about twenty minutes of simmering, I moved the yarn along a bit so that all had a chance in the dye. In this picture, you may be able to tell that most of the jars have clear water, all the dye absorbed. Turquoise however is quite stubborn and took longer to set. Thus confirming the reason for my previous issue with green and brown ending up yellow and red. I added a touch more vinegar to the jars with turquoise that hadn't been absorbed and let it simmer a little longer.

The final product is very much like what I intended. Can't wait to see it dried and skeined.

Wednesday, May 24

Just another music recital

Endangered Instruments Recital.

All those shiny things on stage are French Horns.

Wildlife spotted in Seattle. Rain making spots too.

Final recital a week from tomorrow.

First plunges into dyes were successful but none were exactly what I intended. The great thing about dyeing yarn is that you can often get acceptable serendipity just be following a few simple rules. Then I started wanting more control.

Now I'm keeping a journal, calculating dye concentrations closely and making mini-skiens to test color saturations and blending...

Sunday, May 21

Piano Recital

Saturday, May 20

A Dream and a Nautie

In my dream I was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Well, I was Buffy in that monsters and demons were seeking me out to kill me, but I was not as strong as she. I did have a protector though, Angel was there, seemed more to be helping me hide from the demons instead of killing them, but I did feel more secure. There was a third person, not recognizable as someone I know. A woman with whom I as Buffy wanted to develop a friendship. Only thing, she was not acquainted with the world of the dark, which made her attractive. Nice to be able to be friends with someone unencumbered. So Angel was helping me as Buffy to hide the existence of monsters from her.

What's it mean? Well, isn't everyone in my dream a manifestation of myself? So I am the woman being chased by demons, and the strong protector helping to keep the demons at bay, and the friendly woman who unfortunately (or fortunately for her) doesn't even know that demons exist. And two parts of me are trying to keep that third part of me from learning of the struggle.

on a knitting note.... I started a Nautie and it isn't cooperating.

Friday, May 19

The Sock Race

My Dye-o-rama pal got her yarn! She likes it! She had even read my blog entry on dyeing it and wondered if I had meant her, with the liking nature element. Emmy lives in Virginia and spends as much time as possible camping at a lake that's special to her --- that's why I thought about foresty colors. She plans on taking the yarn (and small bonus feature) to the lake this weekend for a photo shoot.

It's the great sock race, who will finish first? Koigu B or Socka A? Will working on two socks at the same time make them twice as fast or four times as slow as Koigu A? Time will tell.

"Sock race? How about me? Aren't you going hiking this summer? Aren't you tempted to Trek Along With Me ?"

"Don't abandon us! We want to be knit into socks or wrist warmers too."

And Cece chimes in with "you want to wear me this summer, right?"

Wednesday, May 17

more dyeing, sock yarn and socks

My dye-o-rama pal is getting the PNW colorway; it is in the mail.

More dyeing: I purchased 8 ounces of a dk/light worsted weight yarn and tried to recreate the PNW foresty yarn. Didn't work, but I did get something I kinda like. It was a little too pale and a little too yellowy green, so I tried overdyeing a swatch in blue. The swatch on the right was overdyed, the swatch in the middle wasn't, but it does demonstrate the rolling power of stockinette. Franz says the overdye looks "aquatic."

Now I think I like the original colorway better. What to do with this yarn? I have about 500 yards. Thick socks? Scarf or shawl? Something else?

Sock yarn: Some folks on the dye-o-rama blog are saying that the knitpicks dye-your-own sock yarn is lame for making socks, that it continues to shrink and easily felts. Sigh. If I had known that I would have made more of an effort to find better superwash for my dye pal. Oh well. With my Jungle knitpicks dye-your-own, I have started a fingerless mitten/wrist warmer sort of something.

Socks: My first sock is finally done. It only took 12 weeks.

So I immediately cast on another sock.

Sunday, May 14

Wednesday, May 10

PNW Forest: take two

I learned from my "mistakes" and added vinegar to the presoaking water (and I sprayed some on after painting). I also made sure to steam the yarn longer. It still lost some blue; but I had compensated by making the colors a bit more blue overall. The drying skeins all look so blotchy. Bad '60s tie-dye is the description my supportive husband uses.

But once swatched...

Monday, May 8

Forest Green: Take One

Day two of dyeing, I got more sophisticated. My goal is a colorway that reminds me of the forest, a mix of greens and browns. My secret pal said they were open to just about any colors. However, reading the pal's blog, it is clear that there is an affinity with nature. As my pal does not live in the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to create a colorway that would reflect my local forests.

The skein is about 12 feet in diameter, wound using the very simple warping board I made with some long nails and an old kitchen cabinet door. Although the posts of the intricate warping boards for self-striping yarn make that look like fun, I am just not there yet. Simple variagations it will be. The deck table is prepared with the damp skein on top of the Value Village $2 tablecloth, protected somewhat with saran wrap.

My son decided to help. He has a great color sense, but had been intimidated by the idea of dyeing. I purchased enough yarn for him to dye a skein, but he's been dubious about joining me in this adventure.

I made solutions of each of the seven colors of Permalon dye. Lots of plastic cups and spoons to play around with the combinations, looking for the perfect greens and browns.

Yellow (Daffodil) & Turquoise made a clear green. Yellow & Royal Blue made a greyer, more subdued green. We made four different solutions, from a dark piny green to a light yellow-green.

Brown was a bit harder. Zach finally got browns we liked by making orange (with daffodil & fire engine red) and adding just a tiny touch of blue.

We used the plastic spoons to ladle the colors onto the yarn, keeping about an inch of white space between colors.

Then I sprayed the whole thing with vinegar, wrapped it in saran wrap and steamed it for about 45 minutes.

Here is the skein, rinsed and still damp. Hard to tell from the photograph, but the dark color at top is exactly the dark piny green we wanted. Some of the other colors came out right also, but look! That bright yellow --- not in the plan. What happened to the blue that had been mixed with it? And what's with that red? Again, that is not at all the brown we got from mixing the colors.

Once this is dry, balled and swatched, I expect it will look fine. Good even. Not what I had intended, but that's to be expected. Zach says it looks more like a Jungle, all the greens with bright flowers.

Questions: Why did the dye react like this? I know enough to know that the final color doesn't necessarily look like the color in the jar, or dripped onto a paper towel, but I don't understand why that one corner in particular lost all the blue and ended up yellow and red.

Possible Answers:
  1. The skein was too dry. I soaked it, squeezed out excess water, but it started drying while we were finalizing the color palette.
  2. the dyes didn't mix thoroughly.
  3. I didn't steam it long enough or I steamed it too long
  4. that one corner got too much acid, not enough acid, more heat or less heat that the rest.
Voila! Here it is. Yes, it is foresty, but not our muted green and grey forests, a happy jungle with flowers, parrots and a hint of sky here and there. I love it. It's good enough to send to my pal, but it is also good enough to keep.

Zach was pleased at the process and the result. (Not that he would wear socks like this, of course). He is interested in trying a skein or two of his own. He made a button for his blog declaring that he is "Not afraid to dye".

My next attempt, I am going to try for a similar colorway, but using only the "pure" colors for mixing: Daffodil, Fucschia, Turquoise and Black. After that I want to try more muted --- along my original PNW forest colors, then perhaps.... I think I am hooked.


What with tending to the sick child all week, feeling borderline sick myself, although the
yarn and the dyes appeared in the mail, not much happened to them. Sunday though, I was feeling better and a bit antsy to get started in the dyeing department. I didn't have the patience to make a warping board or set up for painting, so I tried an immersion dye experiement.

Using two chairs to make a longer skein. Perhaps not the most efficient method, but it suited my energy level --- I was kinda fidgety too.

The pot was seven bucks at Value Village.

For immersion dyeing, I placed the yarn (tied well on a skein about 12 feet in diameter) artfully zigzagged into the pot. I added 1 quart water and 10 ml of glacial acetic acid and let the yarn soak while I got out the dyes. Although this looks like a nasty chemical (and it is) it is just concentrated white vinegar. Very concentrated --- poisonous and caustic. 100% acetic acid --- white vineger is 5%.

The Wool2Dye4 kit comes with 7 colors. I knew I wanted three, but I knew they should be similar enough that any blending wouldn't get all icky.

Having no idea how much dye powder to use, I mixed about a half teaspoon of the Fushcia (magenta) with maybe a quarter cup hot water. Looked bright enough so I carefully poured it into one side of the pot. I originally had been thinking red-yellow-orange, but the Fushcia was way too purplish blue, so the next color I added was Royal Blue. The two colors in the pot looked dreadfully patriotic and primary, so I mixed some Royal Blue with Fire Engine Red to make some sort of purplish concoction for the third spot.

Next, low heat for 45 minutes. I evidently used plenty of dye, because I had to do minimal poking to make sure all the yarn got some.

This photo doesn't show the colors very well, but it does show how the long skein combined with three colors worked. The ball being wound shows the colors more accurately.

Final thoughts: I used too much dye, the skein took forever to rinse and I am still not sure all the extra is out. I am happy with the bold colors though. The Royal Blue/Fire Engine Red combination made a really nice blackish purple.

Sunday, May 7

Details tomorrow

Friday, May 5

Do I need captions?

Thursday, May 4

Fun with the Sun

Patti asked about Solar Electricity in Seattle. Yes, it is feasible, but not cost effective yet. About 3 years ago when we did a major home remodel, many of the decisions we made were based on an environmental ethic. Shortly thereafter, I heard a discussion on KUOW about solar power in Puget Sound. I could have kicked myself, since we have a roof with great southern exposure and could have incorporated that into the remodel. Time passed, the cost dropped, global warming got worse, our snowpack (and thus summer hydropower capacity) was dismal, our financial picture said 'go for it'. Psychologically, I just figure it was part of the remodel which cost an arm and a leg anyway.

We use about 5,000 KWh per year. (This is below average.) We have 12 photovoltaic panels on the roof, each on capable of generating up to 190 watts, for a total of 2,280 watts (in ideal conditions). The rule of thumb used by the contractor is that the X watts of panels will produce approximately 1.15X KWh per year in Seattle. We've had the system a little less than three months, and have generated over 600 KWh. I feel like it's been a sunnier than normal late winter/early spring, though. Installation occured right after the most dreadfully rainy and dark Seattle winter I have experienced.

Installation also motivated a change in my behavior and I have reduced our electricity consumption significantly by reducing use of the electric clothes dryer.

Note: for anyone reading this outside Puget Sound, our electricity is dirt cheap. And our power is mostly (but not completely) generated by hydro, not by burning fossil fuels (although dams have their problems also). Twenty years ago I paid over 12 cents a KWh in Chicago. Here and now we pay 4 cents per KWh for the first tier of usage, 8 cents for second tier. We only get billed every two months -- it isn't even cost effective to bill us more often. And that 5000 KWh we used last year? We paid less than $3oo total. However, with climate change and population growth, that is changing. Energy costs, both in dollars and the effect on environment, are going up.

Cost recovery
  • No sales tax on the purchase or the installation (significant in this state)
  • $2000 Federal tax credit for 2006.
  • Net metering. When we generate more power than we use, our meter runs backwards and the energy is available for the rest of Seattle. In the summer, the meter will run backwards enough that we use a negative amount of City Light's power. We will still be billed for the monthly service fee, but that's it. The negative usage will be stored as a credit against usage next Fall. Net metering is done on a calendar year basis, so in the unlikely chance we still have a credit in December, we lose it.
  • There's supposed to be a cost-recovery incentive program, although I don't have the final acknowledgement that this will truly happen. If it does, we will get paid 15 cents per KWh we produce for the next several years. Signs are good, but I am enough of a pessimist not to count on this "windfall" yet.
The cost-recovery incentives could be really helpful to folks installing systems in the future. If the panels and the inverter are manufactured in Washington State, payment goes up to something like 65 cents a KWh. The purpose of this is, of course, to aid the economy with new manufacturing plants in Washington. I don't know what progress has been made on this so far.

There's also a program for selling our "green tag" to power producers. I'm not sure that this still exists or that we would qualify, but if so, we could sell our claims for being green to the big guys for 5 cents a KWh. We would still be able to claim that we have photovoltaic panels and help produce clean power, but we would be very limited on what else we could say, for instance we could not say that we are helping to save the environment with our PV system. We would have sold that right to someone who purchased a green tag. I haven't pursued this yet.

Well, that's all for now. For more information, browse Puget Sound Solar website.

Wednesday, May 3

It's Wednesday

General Update:

My Nerd is sick. He came down with fluish symptoms on Saturday and is still unwell -- fever, sore throat, cough. Whatever virus he brought home is trying to attack me, but my immune system is putting up a fight. Perhaps it has seen this bug before or a close relative. I am not really sick, just bordering on it -- achy, headache, tired, not quite a fever. But it means I haven't got energy to do much beyond providing soup, tea and TLC to Zach and knit a bit. The adorable husband spent some hours over the weekend pulling weeds in the backyard. Yay, I don't have to feel too bad for neglecting the gardening. Partly I am sure he just wanted to get out into the nice weather and out of the sick house, but he was also inspired by reading about invasive weeds in The Street Smart Naturalist.

We watched movies all weekend. Lighthearted fare, easy to watch while sick and easy to knit to. Mrs Henderson Presents was fun and enjoyable, but I did get all teary toward the end -- a poignant mother-son moment in film always does that to me. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was what we expected, having all read the books. Good for a laugh. I would have made Zaphod's two heads differently. Victor/Victoria holds a special place for me. Way back when it first came out I was living in Chicago. One evening my housemate MB and I were both feeling particularly blue. It was probably dark, dreary winter. We went to the movies, choosing this comedy we knew nothing about in an attempt to cheer ourselves up. Well, it worked. We both got in the right mood and laughed our asses off. Franz hadn't seen it and Zach is finally old enough to watch it. I knew it wouldn't be the same as that first time when I was in just the right mood to laugh at all the jokes no matter how slapstick, but it was still a fun romp. Zach was startled to see Julie Andrews in such a role. "That's Grandmere?!" Yes, we are all Meg Cabot fans. More the books than the movies, but we have seen them.

Solar Update:

Seattle Spring weather has been fantastic. Twelve days ago the meter reader came by. I haven't gotten the electric bill yet, (weird, it must have gotten lost in the mail, no biggie, it gets paid automatically) so I don't know what he read, but I went out later that day and the meter read 25476 KWh. February reading was 25054, so we used 422 KWh over two months. That's less than half of our pre-solar panel use. Today I just checked the meter: 25482! In twelve days we have used a total of 6 KWh of city generated power. The rest we generated ourselves.

Knitting Update:

Zach was feeling better enough yesterday to finish his hedgehog. He wants to blog about it himself later. I also got him working on his first sock. Hard to know how to start, because we didn't know what kind of gauge he would get. He started with Wendy's Toe Up formula, but got distracted with browsing through her book. I am sure he will tell us more as he progresses.

I've made some progress in most of my WIPs, nothing exciting, but inch by inch they are moving along. Dulaan sweater, Dulaan cloud hat, Mountain Stream scarf, log cabin blanket and warshrag. Worked on my sock, too, but somehow it missed the photo shoot.

And of course, I started something new. CeCe in Silky Wool. Not the recommended gauge, but going up one size in the instructions ought to make it perfect. I love this yarn.

Dye-o-rama supplies have shown up! I've been contacted by my swap pal and contacted mine. Will wait til next week and we are feeling better before attempting any actual dyeing.