Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pardon me while I go faint from envy...

So, there's this conversation on Ravelry from someone aboard the Wool Boat who sells some wool to a gentleman looking to pick up wool for his wife, and the benefits he will get at home if he brings home something nice...

Hold on, hold on...

Wool Boat?!?!

Yes, indeed! It's a real business, a boat that goes up and down certain canals in England, selling yarn to people in small towns where the local yarn shop has closed down.

Here's the web site: Welcome Aboard the Wool Boat

And here's a picture borrowed from the web site of this wondrous thing:

Go and look at the website right now to see the entire glory of the operation.

So how come no career counselor EVER has suggested such a career, combining oh, so many things that I like into one occupation? Okay, so I live on the other side of the hemisphere and there aren't any navigable canals here in the Pacific NorthWet, and the smaller rivers aren't so friendly to boat traffic... but still... England... on the water... yarn...


I think the best we'd do around here is a Yarn RV, driving from town to town, and that's not nearly as envy-producing.

ETA: Also on Ravelry (The Wool Boat group) and Facebook (The Wool Boat FB page).

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kool-Aid + Wool = Whee, color!

Tour de Fleece is long over, but thanks to participating in several groups on Ravelry, some of which had prizes, I won some undyed merino roving and a fistful of Kool-Aid packets to dye it with. So happened that I also had another 4 oz of undyed roving sitting around, and hey, why not dye both at once?

And then came the State Fair where I won Judges Choice for my vest made of handspun, and the prize came with a tote bag full of fiber, which included 8 oz of undyed Corriedale.

Well, that gave me a whole pound of undyed wool to play with! And play I did. I thought that would be plenty to make a generously-sized sontag, using Kay's Tess D'Urbervilles Shawl pattern. Since I want it just for something warm to throw on when I take our leash-trained cats out in the yard on a cold evening, I wasn't worried about making a fashion statement, so the results could be entirely experimental and not have to be perfect.

So away I went. First dyeing session went like this:

I soaked the 8 oz of merino that I had first in hot water and Dawn dishwashing liquid to scour away any remaining oils, so that the colors would turn out as bright as I could get 'em. I poured everything into a colander and pressed out the soapy water, then filled the pan with rinse water and poured the wool in. I rinsed a couple of times with some vinegar in the rinse water to cut the soap, then soaked for a while in water with a couple of spoonfuls of citric acid that I found in the bulk section at the natural foods store:

White vinegar is fine as an acid for acid dyeing, but some folks say that they see a difference in brightness when they use citric acid. I don't know, and since Kool-Aid has citric acid in it, that might be overkill anyway.

A salad spinner is a useful tool for removing excess water without agitating and felting the wool:

I spread a towel and several pieces of Saran Wrap (the real thing, since it's the brand that will hold up under heat) on a table. The jars all have Kool-Aid dissolved in warm water. Different instructions I found had different amounts per cup of water, but really it's not the proportion of dye to water, it's the total amount of dye that matters. I used two packets in the larger cups, one in the smaller ones. I also used purple food coloring from a Neon Colors packet of food coloring, and added a spoonful of citric acid to that.

I laid out the roving like so:

And for this batch I was trying out methods of pouring the dyes. I poured from a measuring cup:

And used a giant syringe that had come from the vet's office when we were treating a kitty's wound after surgery:

I made stripes of the colors that I wanted, and saturated the wool quite a bit. I did notice that the dyes were kind of running on the underside, which meant I'd get mixing and mushy colors in some places:

I rolled up the roving in the Saran Wrap, sealed the ends, and put it in a pan in the microwave. I microwaved 2 minutes, let it rest for 2 minutes, then another 2 min, and so on, for a total of 6 minutes of microwaving. This way it got heated long enough without overheating and overcooking the wool.

After checking that the water was running clear, I unrolled the hot mass, dumped the wool in the salad spinner basket, filled a bowl with lukewarm water, and dunked it to rinse. Again, the spinner was handy for removing water. And yes, you can see here where the colors blended and produced a brick red that wasn't one of the original colors. Meh. Oh, well.

And there it is, looking all hippie tie-dyed and hanging out to dry.

Days later I went to work on the Corriedale:

This time, instead of pouring, I used the brush method. I'd used it before, but had problems with felting the roving in place. However, the brush allowed me to place the dye more precisely and not have problems with it running all over the place. I did use the syringe, too, to add little spots of color here and there:

Again a whirl in the microwave:

And now the stripes of color behaved themselves! Far less unexpected blending, more pure colors:

And this batch now hanging out to dry:

Once I get my current spinning project off of the bobbins, these two are going to get spun into somewhat thick singles, and I'll ply the funky Merino and prettier Corriedale together to make a 2-ply worsted-ish/aran-ish yarn for the sontag. Though they look different, they're both dyed with the same selections of Kool-Aid and food coloring, so the colors are compatible.

The real trick is to hand-paint roving and do all of that soaking and rinsing and handling without felting the whole mass. I did pretty well this time, but I can still see that I'll have to fluff and pre-draft the roving because it's kind of "sticky" in places, sort of lightly felted. There's a real art to this, and I've got a lot of learning to do before I master that art.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yarn Bowl Painting!

You know those paint-it-yourself pottery places? Turns out our local one, Create A Memory, has yarn bowls in stock! One of our knitters, Jean, decided we all needed to do a field trip and check this out. There were a limited number of bowls available, but some of us got to claim bowls, while others had different projects in mind.

The group gathered on a Saturday afternoon at a table they'd reserved for us. There was a big birthday party and some other party going on at the same time, so it was a pretty hopping place!

We started out with plain bisque bowls or cups or tiles or whatever it was that people wanted to work on.

We had some instruction before we got started on how to use the glazes, what kinds of tools are available, and some various tips for painting.

And boy, do they have tools! Bins of foam or rubber stamps, lots of brushes, scraping tools for correcting things or etching, stencils, bottles of base coats, opaque glazes, and tiny bottles with pen-like tips for writing.

The group gets down to work. Everyone has something, adults and kids alike.

I got quite cute with mine. It looks especially twee before it's fired because the colors are still pastel. They'll brighten considerably during firing, so it will be... very bright twee. But hey, yarn themes, so there ya go. Inside, I painted a bowl of yarn and kitties. I used stamps to dab on the kitty shapes, then painted them.

Outside, I borrowed a design idea from a child's cardigan, the Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan, and included a black sheep in the design. The sheep started out as stamps, too.

Jean goes High Art on her yarn bowl with her own take on Van Gough's Starry Night (and added a teeny Tardis, just because):

Jenny went to work on a plain bowl, adding her own free-form swirls.

Mia made a mug with an undersea design, while little Olivia found, of all things, a ceramic cell phone! She chose that as her project.

It'll be a few days before we can pick up our finished projects, after they're fired and they cool.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Oregon State Fair 2013

"Our State Fair is a great State Fair..." If you don't know that tune, you've got a Rogers and Hammerstein movie to watch!

Be that as it may, we made sure to attend this year's state fair, and I made sure to participate by entering some of my knitting and spinning. Last year they monkeyed with the entry deadline and a lot of people missed it, but this year they put it back to where it was supposed to be, and entries, while not as abundant as prior years, were better than last year.

Here are a few highlights of interest to fiber-philes:


And quilts!

And quilts!

Yes, there were lots of quilts! This "chicken quilt" was particularly interesting.

I liked the stained glass effect in this one that made the colors pop.

This was intriguing. The stitching on the black section was in charcoal gray and was in circular designs that made me think of some Japanese textiles, and in contrast to the linear patterns.

My vintage vest in handspun Polwarth from Fat Cat Knits (Esther colorway) took Judge's Choice for items knit from handspun!

My Annis shawlette, from laceweight handpun, took a first.

Clarissa took a third for cardigans. I wish they'd displayed the cardigans a little better than this to show off the lace patterns, but oh well.

A not-very-good picture of my beaded Entomology shawl with its second place ribbon.

Out in the barns, I looked for the presence of fiber animals. The llamas were there.

Milk goats, not fiber goats, but the romping kids were fun to watch. This one is king of the haystack!

And yay, there were angora goats! Mostly the fair shows milk and meat goats, but maybe we'll get some fiber goats, too.

And speaking of fiber, I wandered through the Artisan Village and found Alexandra's Crafts! That's Alexandra on the right and her faithful assistant, showing off their beautiful yarn and spinning fiber. So while other "normal" fair-goers went home with cotton candy, caramel corn, toys, t-shirts, or Sham-Wows, I came home with four ounces of a luscious merino/silk/baby camel blend spinning fiber!

In the end, of eleven things I entered, nine got ribbons: five first place ribbons (plus the Judge's Choice rosette for the vest), two seconds, a third, and an honorable mention. And a bonus! That tote bag in the background is a prize from the Aurora Colony Spinning Guild, and it's full of spinning fiber! Yay!

Plan for next year: Use the yarn that I spun this year to knit things to enter in the "knitted from handspun" category next year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And today's lesson about charitable knitting is...

So there are all these nice ladies in a U.K. knitting group who were "tired of knitting scarves," as one of them said, so they came up with this brilliant idea: Let's knit an entire play village and donate it to a children's hospital for the kids to play with!

What they came up with is beautiful. What small child wouldn't love to play with this?

Skillfully done, knitted in wools with cardboard and stuffing to support the dimensional pieces.

Except... the hospital can't accept it. They're dealing with some pretty sick kids, and all of the toys need to be sterilized before kids play with them to prevent germs from spreading.

There's been some howling about this over on Ravelry: all that beautiful work, how dare the hospital turn them down! But there's also been some rational response, and this is the main message:

Before starting a charitable knitting/crochet/weaving/sewing project, check with the recipient to see what their needs are.

If you're hankering to knit preemie caps, call up the NICU at your local hospital and find out what materials to use and if they need caps. Some hospitals want only acrylic, some autoclave their preemie gear and want NO acrylic because it melts in the autoclave. Also, preemie caps are a popular charitable project, so they may not need caps at the moment. Is it chemo caps you want to make? Check also for fiber requirements, and ask people with experience about suitable yarns to use. Blanket squares? Check that the charity wants squares and has people to assemble them, or if they'd rather have finished blankets. Hats for the homeless? Maybe they want hand-knit hats, maybe they'd rather have large packs of store-bought socks. Afghans for Afghans specifically states that they want only items made with animal fibers for warmth, and only items for their specific campaigns, yet they still get shipments of acrylic garments and used clothing that are completely unsuitable for their work.

Never, never assume that because you put all the work into a handmade project that the recipient will be overjoyed to receive it just because it's handmade by you. This goes for gifts, too. Make sure you know the recipient's tastes before casting on.

Here's an article on the toy farm project: Miniature woollen village knitted by WI members for sick children branded a health hazard.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fall Yarn Crawl! Knittin' the Rails 2013

It's time for another yarn crawl! Like I need new yarn, uh huh. But I need yarnophile company and a day out of town, and I'm up for a train ride, so let's go!

Here we are at the Amtrak station in Salem, waiting for the train. Six of us aboard, and one more to meet us in Portland.

The train pulls in, hooray!

And we're aboard! Fortunately it's not too crowded for this trip.

In Portland, we saw the Morrison Bridge going up. Not sure what for -- we didn't see any large ships in the vicinity.

First stop - Pearl Fiber Arts! They were having their annual stash sale where people bring in destash yarn, bagged and priced, and other folks come flocking in for bargains. Alas, I didn't get a picture inside -- too busy digging through baskets and bins to see what I might want to come home with. I ended up finding two skeins of Noro -- sock yarn for $2 and lace for $5.

We boarded the bus and went over the river to the east side, and hit Twisted for shopping and Rose and Thistle pub (directly next door) for lunch, the only place I know of to get Scotch eggs now that Nelscott Cafe on the coast stopped making them.

Twisted's famous wall o' sock yarn! Lots of local dyers here, and hard-to-find brands.

At the Rose and Thistle, Claire shows off her mad crochet skilz as she went to work on making a better handle for her shopping bag. She made out like a bandit -- a whole bag of acrylic for crafting for only $1, and another bag of odds-and-ends with some sparkly stuff for $2. The half-pint across the table is Jasper, whose mom met us in Portland. He was a handful, talking nonstop, but pretty good the whole trip. He had all seven of us playing "auntie" to keep him entertained.

We took the bus back across the river and back to the Pearl District, where we hit up Powell's Books. Alas, no pictures there, though the bins of Malabrigo as an end cap for the knitting book aisle would have been a worthy shot. From Powell's we walked to the Tea Zone to get some loose-leaf tea, though we were all too full from lunch to sit down for a snack, and just took away a few goodies for the ride home.

From there it was off to Dublin Bay for one last look at the yarny goodness. It's such a lovely shop, it was too bad we were so tired and near the end of our spending money.

Jasper hangs out with mom and some of the others. I won't say he "relaxes" because I think he goes from spring-loaded to unconscious with nothing much in between. Hey, he's four, so it's to be expected.

My loot at the end of the day! A heat-activated disappearing Tardis mug and a book of tea cozy patterns from Powell's, some black currant tea from Tea Zone, the two skeins of Noro from Pearl Fiber Arts, a skein of Madelinetosh lace and some Rainbow elastic from Twisted, and a skein of Three Irish Girls sock yarn from Dublin Bay.

Don't worry, there's still plenty of yarn left in Portland even after we were done.

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