Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oregon Flock and Fiber 2010

And so the fiber festival season comes to a close with the second of the two BIG fiber shows in the area: Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby.

There were vendors indoors:

There were vendors outdoors:

There was the usual dazzling selection of eye candy from Dicentra Designs:

Including the amazing Great Balls of Fiber:

There was lots of equipment, including this teeny weeny portable wheel that I coveted (but darn it, didn't get a chance to ask what kind of wheel it was):

There were fiber-fan slogans everywhere:

And in addition to fiber, there were the flocks that make the fiber. There was bunny shearing going on:

There were alpacas admiring their own pictures:

There were llamas, which always look like they think they're cool:

There were rare breeds of sheep, like Jacob sheep:

There were goats, like this cashmere goat, as well as pygoras and mohair on the hoof:

But the best part was lunch on the lawn with good friends followed by spinning and knitting the afternoon away, pausing to wander off to look around, then coming back to watch the equipment while others wander off.

Out of the fistful of bucks I got from selling off old textbooks to the book buyer, I bought:

On the bottom: an ounce of quiviut roving, a skein of BFL roving from Dicentra Designs, two ounces of dyed pygora fiber in midnight blue. On the top, a pound of charcoal grey merino (which I might dye a deeper black for a sweater I have in mind, maybe after spinning it) and... if it can be believed... an entire shetland fleece that only set me back $20! Not per pound, either, but for the whole fleece! It's only a little dirty in spots and should spin up sweetly.

I also came looking for shawl pins and found this one in sterling with amethyst cabochons. 

If I'd had unlimited funds I'd have come back with a lot more, but considering the time that it will take to work my way through this haul, perhaps that's for the best.

Friday, September 24, 2010

veni, knitti, vici

The knitting is done, the weaving in of ends is done, the blocking is done:

198 yds of H*#!! is done!

Would I do it again? Um... given one lonesome skein of something luscious... probably!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Well spun! World Wide Spin in Public Day at the Ike Box

Yesterday was World Wide Spin in Public Day!

Inspired, no doubt, by World Wide Knit in Public Day, World Wide Spin in Public Day is a day to... well... spin in public! That is, take spinning out of wherever the spinning wheels are lurking indoors and get them outdoors so that people can see, hey, people still spin!

Our knitting group organized a WWSIP Day event at the Ike Box in Salem, the community center/coffee shop/concert venue where we meet. The building is owned by the YMCA, but the organization running the Ike Box is Isaac's Room, a non-profit that provides terrific services to at-risk kids. So to give them a hand and say "Thank you!" for hosting our group, we used our WWSIP Day event as a fundraiser and held a raffle to benefit Isaac's Room.

And there I was all afternoon and didn't even think to get my camera out until nearly the end! Trying to get non-flash pictures in the low light -- well, they all turned out craptastically blurry, but I have a couple to share that were less craptastic than others.

We had a good group of spinners, with three or four wheels and several drop spindles going at any one time, as well as two beautiful antique wheels, one from Lithuania, on display. Both will soon be in working order, as their owners got info on our local antique wheel expert, Ron Antoine (contact info in this resource list).

Over the afternoon, two women who had never spun before but were determined to learn came, saw, tried, and were indoctrinated, and one woman who stayed much of the afternoon went home with an armload of raffle prizes. Score!

We also had lots of knitting and general hanging-out going on. Stephania of Three Fates Knitting, our beloved local yarn pusher supplier came with a box of gorgeous temptation.

(If you're wondering about the pastel paintings of cupids and flowers and puffy clouds -- the building was a mortuary for years and years. Eh, it adds character.)

Thanks to several generous donors, the raffle was a success. Some gorgeous roving like this went home to lucky winners:

Along with craft books, yarn baskets, and a gift card for the Ike Box. We raised $158 for Isaac's Room, which, considering how late we got started organizing this thing and how little publicity we had this first year, was pretty darn good. Just wait until next year when we've got a whole year's head start on the project!

Many thanks to the following donors: Blue Moon Fiber Arts for two huge 8 oz hanks of dyed top, Rose and Ram Knit shop for a big 8 oz bump of Shetland roving from their own sheep, Tangled Purls for two hanks of beautiful dyed roving, Teaselwick Wools for Felt Frenzy, Dogeared Books (can't find a link to the shop!) for a big box of used craft books, and our own Betsey for angora fluff from her own rabbits, our Stephania for hand-dyed merino roving, our Laurie for a basket of yarn, and I donated the Ike Box gift card. And a round of applause to Helen for being the main organizer.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

198 yds of H#!! reboot

So, after the whole 198 yds of Heaven fiasco, I did what any sensible knitter would do. I frogged the whole thing, skeined the yarn, washed it and...

...went wild and crazy and dumped the whole thing the dye pot.

Well, the original color was kind of dull, a grayish beige with faint tweedy bits of pale blue and lilac. It's a blend of silk and cotton, so I knew that both fibers would react to the dye differently, enhancing the tweedy look. After soaking in vinegar and water, I dyed it with a little bit of blue at a time, and drizzled some dilute purple onto the yarn in the bowl, making subtle purple variegation here and there.

The results: a pale gray-blue tweed with lilac highlights.

Now, with a new dye job, the yarn's karma should be sufficiently re-set to tackle this pattern again. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

198 yds of H#!! re-examined

So, after ripping out the 198 yds of dubious Heaven, untangling the yarn, skeining it on the niddy-noddy, taking it off because it was wound cock-eyed, de-tangling it again, re-skeining it, and setting it to soak, I re-examined the pattern in the cold, sober light of dawn, comparing written instructions, charted instructions, and photographs...

Oh, #*&#*!!! On an entirely separate page from the chart, it says that the entire chart -- which divided up so that it looks like right-hand edge, repeated stitches, left-hand edge, and waaaaay out on the far side of the chart, the center stitches -- is all the right-hand side of the chart!

::headdesk headdesk headdesk::

Now I'm having an even worse time trying to reconcile the chart with the written directions, which are about to be consigned to the shredder anyway. It probably does scan but I've run out of patience trying to follow both because the way they're written requires a entirely different mode of thinking from the charted bit.

And the written bit still doesn't say, "Here's the center stitch, dum-dum. This is the center stitch right here."

Garter stitch squares, anyone? That's about all I feel capable of this morning. I may be bouncing around in a padded cell before this is done.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Heaven to H#!!

That 198 yds of Heaven that I started? And have been merrily knitting along on? And am 3/4 of the way done with? That triangular kerchief?


It would be triangular the correct direction, if, it turns out, there were YOs on each side of the center stitch.

Which are not indicated on the chart. Anywhere.

And only kinda in the written directions, if you carefully follow stitch-by-stitch, but not explicitly as, "do this, this, and this up to center stitch, YO, knit center stitch, YO..." I only inferred it from comparing the written instructions to the charts stitch-by-stitch and examining the one photo that shows the finished kerchief laid out flat.

The instructions do say that one has to be experienced in knitting triangular shawls to tackle this pattern, that it's not meant to be a tutorial of shawl construction. I didn't expect "experienced" and "not a tutorial" to mean "knitter must be able to infer or psychically receive missing chart directions."

So now my squareish/triangular the wrong direction scarf is heading straight back to the frog pond for a re-do. Damn. And I was this close to finishing. I was gonna have it done tomorrow!

So if anyone else is planning to knit the thing -- and really, except for that detail, this pattern isn't that hard -- let me make one thing perfectly clear: THERE SHOULD BE A YO ON EITHER SIDE OF THE CENTER STITCH. 'Kay, then.

Dagnabit, I conquered Ishbel. This shouldn't be that hard.

Note to self: When finally getting around to writing down and distributing designs currently under production, it would be a really, really good idea to include complete instructions. It's no use leaving out bits and thinking, "Well, EVERYONE knows to do THAT, so no need to put it in the directions," 'cause someone is sure to get pissed and blog about it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fleurette re-fleur-ified

I came, I frogged, I re-knit. The Fleurette jacket, the one that would have fit me back in the days when my cousin called me "Beanpole," is now starting to resemble a wearable garment.

By increasing stitches just before doing the lace panel, it now fits around my hips. Increases on the sides make the top part fit, too. I think if I ever did this again, I'd decrease on the front every 6th row instead of every 4th. I ceased decreasing several inches before reaching the shoulder -- otherwise this jacket would have had skinny little shoulder straps and I might have been forced set fire to the project after all. Since the neighbors might be a teensy bit worried if they spotted me dancing around a flaming pile of purple yarn in the middle of the vegetable patch, I think that's a good thing.

I've now got the shoulder seams done up (the 3-needle bind-off that I'd planned to use just was so not happening with this cotton/linen yarn) and have started the sleeves.

And because the paper I've been writing all summer is now finished, edited, and submitted (crossing all fingers 'cause I really need to get the publication thing going), I rewarded myself -- does starting another project count as a reward? -- by getting out the Rowan Tweed that I won in a scavenger hunt on Ravelry and started the 198 yds of Heaven (Ravelry link) kerchief that I've been hankering to do for a while. The set up rows were painful for no good reason except that my direction-following skills seemed to have gone on vacation without me. When I finally counted the stitches and did what the directions said to do, everything started going well.

The yarn is a silk and cotton blend, a little stiff and papery and not terribly forgiving, but it will soften and mellow after washing. The pattern has both charts and written directions, and while there are a couple of peculiarities about the chart (like -- the center stitch is shown clear over on the left side.. huh?) the rest is smooth sailing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

State Fair: Results

So State Fair season is over, and of the five items that I entered in Textiles, these are the winners:

Third place for my Twist and Shout cardigan -- yes, the same one that took Best of Show in the county fair. But oh, ya shoulda seen the one that took first! Mmm, mmm! Also, first place each for a skein of handspun pygora and handspun 3-ply wool, and second place for a skein of handspun quiviut.

Not only did I walk away with ribbons, but I also walked away with a premium for the best beginner handspinner: a nice hank of hand-dyed merino:

All in all, a pretty decent haul. Of course I'm already scanning the premium book and laying out plans for next year, listing more than I could possibly knit in that time. Some folks drive themselves batty trying to fit all the Christmas knitting in. Me, I seem to be well on my way to driving myself batty trying to fit all the State Fair knitting in. Something about those ribbons makes one go, "Yeah, I'll bet I could win in that category, too! And that, and that other thing, and..."

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to Dye a Rainbow

I was a good little professor and spent much of the summer hacking out two papers that I'd been wanting to write for some time. Yes, I must publish lest I perish, and I'm not even in a tenured position yet. I'd like to be, and so I must publish just to get on the publish-or-perish track. Yesterday I finished the second paper, which is now resting, and I will edit it next week and submit it to a journal.

So today I played.

I got out my copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece that I'd been meaning to do something with ever since I got it back in May. With that, a box of food coloring, and a half-skein of KnitPicks Bare fingering-weight merino (this method only works with protein fibers: wool, silk, other animal fibers), I set to work on one of the projects in the book.

First, you make a dozen mini-skeins of 10 or 15 yards. Soak the yarn in a solution of one part white vinegar to three parts water:

Then you make your stock solutions of dye. A pint of warm water, a teaspoon of yellow, a half-teaspoon of red, and a quarter-teaspoon of blue:

Next, you mix your dye batches. Three of the jars have four tablespoons of the primary colors: yellow, blue and red. Between them you mix your secondary and tertiary colors: three tablespoons of yellow, one of blue; two tablespoons of yellow, two of blue; one tablespoon of yellow, three of blue; and so on around the jars. Already you've got the rainbow effect going. I have four extra jars for the box of neon food dyes that I wanted to try out: fuchsia, lime green, purple, and turquoise.

Then, as you might guess, you add the yarn. Squeeze out the excess vinegar solution and drop a mini-skein in each jar. Let it sit for about 30 minutes:

Turns out I had one extra skein, so I did a rainbow dip: the middle in yellow, one end in red, the other end in blue, and then the blue end in red again to make purple:

After the jars have soaked a while, you heat-set the dye. The quickest way to do that is to send them on a spin through the microwave for about two minutes, four jars at a time (the plastic-wrapped rainbow skein went in, too, sitting on top of a set of jars):

If everything goes well, the yarn should take up all of the dye molecules and the liquid should be clear. If it's not, try another minute in the microwave:

Once the jars are cool enough to handle, dump each one out in a strainer, squeeze out the liquid, and there you are!

I hung the yarn over the shower curtain rod to keep them out of reach of curious kitties while I went to the library, another treat because I haven't made it to our city library all summer. The university library, yes, but not our own library, just for my own self. I came back with Color in Spinning and The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, which will occupy much of this evening.

Once yarn was dry, I twisted it into skeins. Rainbow!

What I found out about food coloring is that the standard red and blue make a pretty unsatisfying purple, which I kind of thought would be the case, based on years of dyeing Easter eggs with food coloring. The purple that's mostly blue is okay, though it has mottling that show that the fiber took up more red pigment in some spots and more blue in others. The half red/half blue one is sort of a dull burgundy, and the mostly red one is sort of brick-colored. This might be because the standard red is more of an orange-red than a pure red. Great for making oranges, not so great for making purples unless you like very subdued, muddy purples. The purple from the neon colors box was much better.

And what do you do with a rainbow of mini-skeins? Um... mine are going into a jar for decoration and color reference for the future. I'm sure other folks could think of other creative things to do with them.

There's also a pattern in the book for a baby sweater that uses small amounts of hand-dyed yarn to make a rainbow yoke. Very pretty. It takes worsted-weight yarn, though, so not a project for my samples.

I can see this being the basis of a very colorful science fair project, too. It might be about color theory, or a kid might just use the primary colors and try to dye protein fiber (wool, silk, other animal fibers), cellulose fiber (cotton, linen, hemp, ramie, or even rayon), and man-made fibers. Comparing acrylic and nylon would be interesting, since acrylic doesn't take up acid-based dyes, but nylon does.

If you've had a hankering to try out a little home dyeing, this is a good book for getting started. Stock up on some undyed yarn and play with it for a while, then you'll be ready to tackle more complicated projects.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A textile history gem in the desert: Théâtre de la Mode at Maryhill

With summer waning, and both DH and I in the throes of the back-t0-school blues (see, one downside to being an educator is that there was no cheering in our household when the kids went back to school), we decided to get out of town for a day and see something interesting. We aimed the car north and then east, taking a drive up the Columbia River gorge, our end goal being the Maryhill Museum. Which I'll get to in a moment.

After leaving I-84 and taking the twisty, windy old historic Columbia River Highway, one of the first stops is Vista House on Crown Point, overlooking the west end of the gorge. Vista House was built in 1916 and recently restored.

From its observation decks, visitors get a view of the Columbia River gorge. This is looking east, the direction we were traveling.

The river cut through layer upon layer of Columbia Flood Basalts, creating spectacular cliffs. Where you have cliffs in this wet climate, you're bound to have waterfalls, and the gorge is full of them. Latourell Falls is easy to visit:

As is the famous Multnomah Falls, perhaps the most photographed waterfalls in the world after Niagara (the upper fall is over 500 feet high):

Once you get past the mountains, you're on the east side of the state, in the High Desert region. Here the cliff faces are covered with dry grass and dotted with sagebrush and the occasional non-native Russian olive.

And that is where, smack in the middle of nowhere, on the Washington side of the gorge (cross the Columbia at Hood River and have 50 cents ready for the toll), you find the Maryhill Museum of Art (if you squint, you can see Mt. Hood in the background).

Samuel Hill, one promoter of the Columbia River Highway, bought over 5000 acres in this area to found a Quaker farming community. He also began construction on a grand house for himself, modeled after his house in Seattle. Loïe Fuller, a pioneer of modern dance and a friend of Hill, talked him into using the house to create an art museum. Why they all thought that a grand house in the middle of practically nowhere would make a great site for an art museum is anyone's guess, but perhaps Hill believed that the town would grow into something much larger. Queen Marie of Romania, also a friend of Hill (who must have had an amazing social life) visited the unfinished museum for a very grand opening ceremony.

The museum now houses furniture and art donated by Queen Marie, a small collection of very fine Victorian art, including some pre-Raphaelite painters, some beautiful Orthodox Icons, an excellent collection of Rodin bronzes and sculptures, an amazing display of chess sets, beautiful Native American art (more on that, since some spectacular textiles were included in that display) and...


Théâtre de la Mode was an odd and fascinating chapter in fashion history. The year was 1945, the location, Paris. World War II had come to an end and Paris was in the middle of rebuilding itself, and that included rebuilding the fashion industry. Paris was, after all, the fashion capital of the world. But in war-torn Europe there was little fabric to be had, and the fashion designers couldn't put together enough to create full-sized fashions to be worn by life models -- especially since the New Look that was about to be launched called for wide skirts over crinolines and far more bows and adornments than anyone could dare (or afford) to wear during the war years.

The solution was to do what fashion designers had done in centuries past: create and dress dolls to display new fashions.

So Théâtre de la Mode was born. Craftsmen created dolls with detailed faces, but wireframe bodies and limbs. Fashion designers dressed the dolls in their newest creations. Then, to show off the fashions in the best light possible, stage artists, including surreal film director Jean Cocteau, created theatrical settings to display the dolls.

The entire existing collection, stages and all, are housed at Maryhill. Nine stages exist, three of which are shown at a time in rotation in a room dedicated to the collection.

This stage, titled Ma Femme est une Sorcière (My Wife is a Witch), features a fainting bridesmaid, several women looking aghast, and the bride flying off on a broomstick through a hole in the roof of the decaying garret, while a city burns in the background. Decidedly a Jean Cocteau confection, n'est-ce pas?

Tonner Doll Company has dolls dressed in Théâtre de la Mode fashions for sale. You can see the Tonner doll (left side) and the original Théâtre de la Mode doll (right side) for each of the dolls offered.

If you're in the Pacific Northwest, resident or visitor, and have time for a drive up the gorge, don't miss out on the Maryhill Museum.

I'll get a report out on more textiles from the Native American traditions when DH finishes processing his photos.

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