Feb 24, 2009

Wool Overdose

So, there I was quietly spinning,
with a group that was doing the same,
when down sat a girl with a bag full of wool,
and, truly that bag is to blame.
For in it were such lovely fibers.
That bag contained all shades of green.
I thought, "If this were mine to work with,
I'd knit a nice 'meadowy' scene."
So, we talked about methods of dying,
and sources where wool could be got.
I left with leads on a new dealer,
and big plans for my old crock pot.
I should have known then there'd be trouble.
(The LAST thing I need is more wool!)
But I promised, "I'll just buy a little,"
(Said while twitching and starting to drool).
The next part is hard to remember.
This truly is worse than it sounds.
In a two-minute on-line transaction,
I (somehow) procured 15 pounds.All I need now is one secret panel,
leading to hidden storage...a lot!
At the very least there is no doubt in my mind,
I'll be needing a bigger crock pot.

The End

Each individual bag in the arranged "ensemble" (nice word for what has happened here) contains enough fiber to knit a hearty sweater, if I were one for knitting sweaters. I'm especially fond of this beautiful cinnamon brown. I expect there will be a great many doll projects to post in the coming months.

Feb 21, 2009

Seagull Feather Yarn

While searching for a favorite drop spindle I found this old experiment from many years ago. I had just started dying my own wool when I read that any protein fiber can be permanently dyed with Koolaid, vinegar, water and heat. I remember rushing out to the Lake Superior shoreline and collecting a nice helping of seagull feathers. (Seagull feathers are so very white...)

That was back when I could be classified as a "recreational user of wool". I was not an addict yet so, my husband would still ask things like, "What are you cooking? It smells like pickled fruit juice." He would then sink his head down into the steam to take a peak... It would require a mighty explosion for him to ask me anything like that today.

I spun the feathers right into the yarn then knitted a little swatch. You will notice it is still on the needle. There was no real "master plan" here. (Good thing floor looms aren't as cheap and easy to come by as knitting needles. Imagine how cumbersome it would be to store 500 work-in-progress weaving projects!)

Feb 18, 2009

Seahorse Carousel Bag

The above picture shows the fiber I've blended (wool, wool and sparkly blending glitz), the 2 ply yarn I've spun, and the assorted beads that have been strung onto the yarn which was then overspun again at the spinning wheel and then wrapped around a nice even stretch of cardboard.

Here's a closer picture of the cardboard wrap. There is a lot of excess twist in that yarn. Look at the top edge of the cardboard. Each bead is separated by its own wrap around. Now to crochet across the top of that cardboard edge to keep all of that excess twist from escaping at either end of the line-up.

Once a few rows have been crocheted the cardboard can be removed. Each wrap twists back upon itself trapping the bead in place and creating a fringe that is the length of the wrap. Using this method I can make extremely long or short fringe by altering the size of cardboard used.

This bag is for my very lovely, almost 10 yr. old neice. (Happy Birthday Isabella!) Fear not. There are no actual sea horses involved in this project. I'll post a final picture when it's completed and ready for gifting.

Feb 12, 2009

Knitting In the Dark

My latest project was quite straightforward and easy but, very important to my long term goals. I knit most of this simple scarf (at left) without looking.
It is the not-so-secret wish of every fiber addict, and here I'm speaking specifically to those whose method of fiber abuse is knitting, knitting, knitting, to develop the ability to do so with one's eyes closed or without having to look at the row at hand.

Why? Well, you'd no longer have to wait for movies to come out on DVD. With the ability to knit in the dark a visit to the theatre with family or friends wouldn't represent a 2+ hour period of withdrawal.

You could knit in the dead of night when concerned loved ones think you are sleeping-no telltale head lamp or flashlight to give you away. Who knows, perhaps this ability would lead to the ultimate achievement: the capacity to knit while sleeping.

Well, it's not for me to convince anyone. You're either addicted to knitting or you're not which translates to you either get it or you don't. At this point in my life it became imperative that I learn to knit without looking. Now I can knit under the table at dinnertime. Now I can knit without having to look under or over my glasses (I can remain in denial about needing bifocals).

Now I can knit in dangerous places where constant vigilance is vital to my survival. I'm thinking of places where balls, bats, batons, mallets Frisbees, etc. can come hurtling my way. What if I'm ever asked to keep a look-out or help on a stake-out? Now I can do so while knitting. A more likely scenario: this ability will help me to appear to be paying attention during PowerPoint presentations. (I fervently believe a knitter can pull that off better than a non-knitter as we are able live vicariously through what our fingers are doing.)

Mostly, I just want to be able to enjoy subtitled movies again.

A word of caution, this technique is not for when you are using the hard stuff. If you've spun some fine gossamer thread, if you've incorporated half a pound of seagull feathers into a woolen novelty yarn, if you made a fingering weight out of some mystery fluff you collected that time your son's pillow exploded, well, save those yarns for when you plan to peek at your work!

Feb 8, 2009

Treadling On the Fringe

I found some great little sea shells for bead working and decided, as a weekend project, to make a very small woolen fringed bag. Above are the fibers from a previous dying session that I chose to match my shells: a light dull navy blue at left, and a strange orange and olive blend at right. In the center is a little bit of sparkly blending glitz...just for fun. I was shooting for a mossy, mermaid kind of action in the yarn.

This isn't the best of pictures, a bit flat/lack-lustre, but perhaps you can see the heather of mossy colors somewhat? The picture doesn't give a good idea of the diameter of this yarn either. That is far easier to see in the next photo.

The yarn had to be spun very fine and then plied back upon itself (andean 2-ply method). I needed it to be on the "thready side" so I could string the shells on. Below you can also see the size of the holes in these shells! Normally I wouldn't necessarily choose to spin tiny thread but, these beads were on sale and to this spinster-woman that's the same as throwing down the gauntlet. The challenge was on the minute the beads became half priced.

This bag could hold a silver dollar or two but not much more. It is hanging on a beautiful vase my daughter gave me for my birthday. Thank YOU Teal! (I love that crazy vase.)

Once all the shells were strung onto my home spun I threaded this now beaded yarn back onto my spinning wheel and overspun it by inserting a great deal more twist. No longer a balanced yarn it wanted to ply onto itself again (a.k.a. cabled yarn). This time I plied the yarn over itself trapping beads between each measured (fringe) portion. Once that part is complete the whole thing is crocheted into permanent position and dad-blast-it if I'm not addicted to this too now! I Just ran out to get more shells and pursue the whole thing again in mauve. Why must each and every woolen project be like trying to eat just one potato chip?

Feb 5, 2009

Retro-Roving ~ A Christmas Card Inspired Dye Session

We are having a very nippy February up in the North woods of Wisconsin! It's a great time for cozy, indoor projects. Naturally, all of my indoor projects (and a great many of my outdoor ones for that matter) involve wool.

Dad gave out the best, old holiday cards this past Christmas. He found them in a box in the basement. Retro-cards are great fun and this one was especially beautiful because of that wonderful, glowing blue effect that was given to the snow. Illustrations with blue-tinted snow somehow always take me back to Winter childhood adventures of sledding, building snow houses and other assorted jubilant activities that accompany the sparkly white fluff of Winter. So, last weekend the sparkly white fluff of wool became my indoor Winter playground.

I greatly value Deb Menz's work with color/dying as it relates to fiber/hand spinning. Her book, Color in Spinning is incredibly inspiring and a super resource from which to embark on one's own dying adventures. I have mixed up all of her recommended 1% dye stock solutions and enjoy experimenting with formulas and recording them in my personal dye notebook.

I selected 4 colors on Dad's retro Christmas card and did my best to recreate them in the dye cups. Using stencil brushes I dabbed and dotted these dye solutions onto a long, 2 oz roving of soft, white wool.

Warning: Dying wool is an addiction in itself. It all starts innocently enough with koolaid, white vinegar, water and wool on the kitchen stove top. Voila, those first brilliantly bright, fruit-scented fibers lead you deeper into this new-found adventure. Soon you're totally "immersed" in the process. Time to get more "scientific"...wash and colorfast dyes, the metric system, beakers and gram scales...

The picture at the top of this post shows the roving, the Christmas card and my little microwave-safe steamer. I have a microwave in the studio just for wool dying. (I ran across it at a thrift store and it is an absolute luxury!) Before obtaining this ginormous, old microwave I did all the heat setting, steaming of the painted rovings and simmering of the immersion-dyed wools, outdoors on a camp stove. So there I'd be, out in the bitter cold, stirring a large cauldron of billowing steam while standing in the snow...that will get the neighbors talking. Now I can hide away in my secret dye lab any time of the day or night, rain or shine and mmmmmmmwwwwhhhaoahahahah! Is there no end to the madness? Other great thrift store finds for wool dying: electric rice steamers and old crock pots! Once they become tools of the fiber frenzied they can never be used for food again.