Friday, August 31

Coming to a store near you


Ready for Erika to pick up tomorrow, destined for The Yarn Forest.

Wednesday, August 29

The smell of vinegar in the morning

Looking at this photo:

one might get the impression that I've been dyeing today.

No, that's not quite it though. Long time readers of my blog know I started dyeing wool last spring as a lark, encouraged by the great dyeorama swap of 2006. I took to it like a duck to water, just loved the combination of technical details and artistic play. I dyed way more yarn than I could possibly knit, thought about selling some, but chickened out. That process seemed overwhelming and only for those folks who have more self-confidence than I sometimes feel. So, instead of filling my house with hand-dyed yarn, I stopped.

I've knit some, given some away, but still it was nagging me that I didn't take the plunge and sell some. The biggest benefit of that would be that I could dye some more. Well, Erika has seen my yarn, she's even knit socks from it. She got intrigued with the dye bug as well. But Erika adds something I was missing, an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. We talked and talked, we dyed yarn, both together and separately and The Yarn Forest is born. It's an Etsy store for now, if it takes off, it will become a stand-alone store for more convenience for shoppers and sellers. She has "soft launched" the store but we hope to have a variety of yarns and colors available real soon now.

I went through my accumulated favorites getting them ready to list. One thing had been nagging me, though. I learned a lot through trial and error and didn't fully come to understand how to completely set the dye until I had been dyeing for a while. Since I could not remember exactly when I had dyed these skeins, I was nervous about selling it. Especially since I had had a terrible experience with a commercial yarn where the dye had not been properly set. Erika was able to take advantage of my experience right away. Just ask her how obnoxiously I demanded that she have patience and steam long enough and let the yarn cool for a long time before letting her look at her first hand-dyed! It was worth it though, her first skein rinsed completely cleanly.

This morning, I gave these precious babies a bath. As I immersed each one into the water, I held my breath. Would it bleed? A very small bit of bleeding and fading over time does seem inevitable. Even my koigu socks faded. I cannot promise a no-fade-ever yarn. The skeins that only very very faintly colored the water or left it sparkling clear passed the test. I rinsed them, added a touch of vinegar to the last rinse --- just to be sure --- and left them to dry in the sun.

The skeins that didn't pass are all getting a little help. These are immersed in vinegar-water and sitting in the sun. That will set the dyes better.

Next, they dry and get reskeined (they were skeined by hand and now I have a niddy noddy for a more professional and uniform size) and the next big test: how can I photograph them accurately? I've tried a variety of methods, but just am not good at photographing the colors well. See my flickr set of hand-dyed yarns, a mixture of yarns, some that will be for sale, some I have knit with, some in progress. Some photos stink, a few show promise. I just have to figure out a reliable way to photograph them well. Comments would be helpful.

One last thing, if anyone has read this far. What would you like to see in a hand-dyed yarn? I've dyed several base yarns and have my favorites, but what are yours? My signature yarn, the main one I have dyed, is a lovely, soft merino. I love this yarn. It knits up beautifully and feels so wonderful. But, it is thicker than most sock yarns and it is not easy care. It will felt if you machine wash it. But I do like my socks and wrist warmers and sweater and throw. I think this would make wonderful baby clothes for the parents willing to hand wash.

Therefore, I, like Erika, have been experimenting with more traditional sock yarns, mostly superwash. We are liking some of them a lot and will continue to look for more.

Virtual Vacation Swap

Originally uploaded by madorville
I got a virtual vacation to New Hampshire, courtesy of Amanda aka nhknittingmama. Although I got married in NH, I haven't spent much time there, so it was fun to get the tour.

Amanda sent maps and brochures along with some candles with scents evocative of New England, a note pad with a beach theme and a note pad with a rooster. I don't know if that's a New England thing or because she knows I have a chicken. Either way, I can never have too many note pads. There are some postcards, soap and even some genuine beach sand. I like to place candles in shallow trays anchored in sand, so that will have a good use as well. And a cotton bag Amanda knit using her own pattern, which was included in the bag along with some gum and candy. The yarn is a beautiful dark green, a color I love, hand-dyed by Amanda. She says it is her first foray into acid dyes. Wow. Given the quality of this color, I am sure she will enjoy more dyeing.

Saturday, August 18

Multiple topics in one handy post

First: Happy Anniversary to me! I've been extra stressed lately and I forgot all about it. I don't feel too bad because so did my husband. It wasn't until I read Canadian Dorothy's blog that I realized what day it was. Turns out that she and I have the same wedding anniversary. So go over there and wish her and her husband many more years of happiness.

Second: Although I am really good with numbers in general, and dates in particular, for some reason, I can never remember my wedding date. I wrote three checks yesterday, all of them accidentally postdated, since my brain insists that we got married on the 18th. Oops.

Third: We went out for dinner, and while it was fine, it was less than perfect. We ended up taking Zach, so not necessarily a romantic getaway, but logistically it made the most sense. Time for romantic meals sans offspring are being planned. As we have rediscovered our inner carnivores after a long journey into vegetarianism, we were hoping to go to Jak's for bacon cheeseburgers. Alas, we got a late start and the dinner rush was underway, the wait was an hour. So we walked across the street to Ciao Bella. We'd had some really nice meals at the old Ciao Bella, but have only been to the new location once, and it wasn't memorable. Last night was memorable because of the awful service. Was it because we had our teen with us on a Friday night? Was it that they noticed we came from Jak's? Whatever reason, they treated us like dirt the whole evening. And my salmon was way overcooked (but the rest of the food was good). Not that they were too crowded or busy with much besides stopping to flirt with the two thirty-something blonds at the next table. I am usually a generous tipper. But last night, no way.

Fourth: I managed to get a lot of errands done yesterday and for the first time in weeks, felt that I had gotten several monkeys off my back. I almost have some monkeys off the needles too. This one just needs a wee bit of decreasing then some grafting. The second sock is at the heel turn.

Fifth: Anyone who's been reading my blog for a while knows that I have enjoyed dyeing yarn and that I am a bit of a math geek. I think that the geekiness is one of the aspects of dyeing I most enjoy. I like to take the time to make very long skeins, so the final result is a bit unusual in that it won't pool or stack in the same way as many hand-dyed yarns. That's not to say it won't pool. I have seen hand-painted yarn with that assurance, but I just don't see how anyone can make such a universal claim. My latest endeavor involves at PVC niddy-noddy that makes skeins more than five yards in circumference. Using a dye process with multiple mason jars simmering in a roasting pan, I can make skeins that won't repeat their color pattern for 190 inches of yarn. But there are still so many factors, the colors may still stack or pool. It all depends.

This swatch is done with Brown Sheep Wildfoot that I dyed using the above long skein method. It has 75 stitches, started on US1 needles, I switched halfway to US0s. The ribbing on US1s gave 5.25 rounds til the yarn color sequence repeated. The stockinette on US1s resulted in 5.5 rounds til the colors repeated. After changing to US0s (and going from about 9 stitches per inch to almost 9.5 stitches per inch) the colors repeated at 5.75 rounds.

What does this mean? Well the long skein and the fact that it took at least five rounds for the color sequence to repeat means that even hugely wide socks in a pattern that takes lots of yarn ought to be able to get a couple three rounds before the color sequence repeats. That should alleviate a lot of dramatically disturbing pooling issues. However, it won't remove them. If the color sequence repeats at exactly N or N+.5 rounds, one could easily get a stacking issue that looks especially nice or especially unbalanced. And having a the sequence repeat at other intervals might end up with nice spirals or weird streakiness. You just never know, do you?

Tuesday, August 14

Sunday's cooking

For a photo of this in the dye pot, see Erika's blog.

Friday, August 10

Some Summer Fun

Our two weeks with a Japanese Home Stay guest flew by. I had been so anxious, but Hitomi turned out to be a wonderful guest and is now a friend. She was able to relax and feel right at home, fulfilling the philosphy of a foreign exchange program. Of course she was the tour coordinator and seasoned traveler, not a high school student on her first overseas trip, so it was easier for her. I heard that the high school students all had great homestays as well. We met one of the two teachers whom we took to Stitch & Pitch. This was her first trip outside Japan and she was having a blast. However, I heard that the other teacher was finding the whole trip kind of stressful. We taught Hitomi an American idiom to describe that sort of person: High Maintenance. She laughed and agreed.

Hitomi likes to hike, so what better way to show her around than to take her to the mountains. We did the easy Barclay Lake hike, with its dramatic view of Mt Baring looming 3000 feet over the lake. I didn't get any photos. Before coming home we detoured a bit on Route 2 to Skykomish, a small town with a big problem. For about 100 years, the railroad has dumped or leaked or spilled fuel and who knows what else onto and into the ground. In order to clean it up, just about every building in town is being picked up, the contaminated dirt dug out and hauled away, then clean fill poured in and the building restored.

Our second weekend we had more adventures. Saturday we hiked to Snow Lake, a popular hike with an easy access trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass. The parking lot (a large lot for the Alpental ski resort) was quite full and we had to wait in line at the trailhead at the self-register station (because we were bozos and didn't notice that there were two(!) registration stations) but the trail did not seem crowded and the lake front was even less so.

The Japanese student group had been to Snoqualmie Falls, but a local bus driver who got lost (argg) meant that they hadn't had much time to walk around. So we took Hitomi back, on the way home from Snow Lake. No pictures, but if you ever watched Twin Peaks, you've seen the Falls.

Sunday, our last day to be tour guides, we took a quintessential Seattle trip on a ferry boat. We took Metro downtown and walked on the Bremerton Ferry. Not that we wanted to do anything in Bremerton, we just grabbed lunch and came home, but because it's a pretty ride. This was the last day of the airshow and the Blue Angels buzzed the ferry as they were playing around getting ready for the show.

The water was full of jellyfish, more than I had ever seen. The view of Seattle was clear and pretty (yes, that's the space needle above Hitomi's head) but we didn't see any orcas. I don't think I have ever seen them from the ferry though.

Our tour-guide hikes with Hitomi served a second purpose. With an upcoming backpack, we especially need to get some hiking in for conditioning purposes.

Our family vacation will occur at the end of August, a 4 day loop of the High Divide in the Olympic Mountains. This area is popular, so to keep it from being overrun, the National Parks requires reservations and permit. Franz called and got our campsite reservations, plus information on the bear can requirements. Bears? Yes, checking the trip reports of the Washington Trails Association, black bears are common.

Yesterday, I took Zach to REI for new boots.
clerk: NOLS trip?
me: No, we're going to do the High Divide.
clerk: You mean in the Olympics?
me: Yes.
clerk: Awesome. I was just there in June. In one afternoon we saw 7 bears and some cubs. They were having so much fun, eating berries and glissading on the snow.
me: Seven Bears! I'd heard they were around. Now I am really worried about getting eaten.
clerk. Nah, black bears don't eat people, they just maul.

Thursday, August 9

Swans or peacocks?

Time for a question.

For Mystery Stole 3, I dyed some yarn. Melanie, the stole's designer, said that the theme would be best expressed in a black or white stole. (we now know that the theme is Swan Lake; a ballet I have not seen.) I chose to make a very dark green kettle-dyed yarn. This swatch is a pretty good representation of the result, which ended up more blue-green than green.

I kept up with the clues, knitting the stole, up through clue 3. Does it look swan like?

It's nice, but I am not feeling the love. Perhaps I am just not a stole person. Or maybe my idea of a stole is more like a wrap --- wider than 20 inches. My finished Leda's Dream is a generous 24 inches wide and I love how it wraps around me, but this one won't. The yarn, Henry's Attic Carrera, is lovely, but I just don't think it's the right weight for the stole. So I set it aside for a bit.

Meanwhile, after finishing Leda's Dream, I've been hankering to start something new --- Fiddlestick's Peacock Feathers Shawl. I dyed some yarn, Zephyr, thinking that I wanted something similar to the Carrera, a subtle variegated blue-green but also with an occasional blip of red and yellow, peacock-like. Well, I , um, forgot to add black so I got completely different results.

It's pretty, but not what I had in mind. So now I am stuck. What to do now? Should I keep going with the Mystery Stole and the Peacock Shawl or should I frog the Mystery Stole and use that yarn for a new peacock shawl?

Times like these sure make me wish I could knit faster. Then frogging wouldn't seem so harsh.

Monday, August 6

Leda's Dream

Summer is in full swing, but Fall seems to be in the air here in Seattle. All it took was one chilly morning to get my neighbors, friends and random strangers at the grocery store all talking about --- and looking forward to --- Fall. And rain. And grey skies. Seattleites tend toward two camps: those that complain that only a dozen days with temperatures above 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) does not a Summer make and those who complain that four days of temperatures above 90 degrees (32 C) are just too damn many and when it is going to get rainy and cold again.

Me. Well, I'm in the latter camp. Sure, I am happy we've had enough warm weather that my tomatos are going gangbusters, that we've had so little rain I haven't had to mow the lawn for a few weeks, but shortening days and the need to put on a sweater occasionally are not things to mourn. I know we still have many weeks of good weather, more berries to ripen, more time to play and hike and camp.

A little crispness will give me a reason to wear something soft and cozy, Leda's Dream Stole, design by Melanie Gibbons. This was Mystery Stole number One. I wasn't even a knitter when she created this knitalong, but she sells the pattern for two bucks. Very clear instructions, very clear charts, well worth the investment.

Now what I really need to invest in is blocking wires. I blocked this by pinning it out and it looks much better than before, but still doesn't look finished. I'll get some wires and redo the blocking.

yarn is one strand of Zephyr and one strand of Madil Kid Seta knit together. Both are dark grey, the slight variation in the color along with the silk content of each yarn make for a rich depth of color I have found impossible to photograph.
US 6 addi lace needles.

  • slipped the first stitch of every row.
  • used a centered double decrease (slip 2tog, k1, pass slipped stitches over) instead of the slip 1, k2tog, psso in the pattern, except, I used the angled decrease for the wave edging.
  • cast on 12 fewer stitches that the pattern called for, and knit fewer repeats (26 of the Wing of the Swan pattern)
Blocked dimensions: 24x70 inches.