Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Kettle dying with Kool Aid and a microwave

Last night I knit up one of my handspun skeins into a little swatch of seed stitch and stockinette. Check out the diagonal pooling action. I've got to admit something. I enjoy pooling. Not sure why people seem to hate it. I suppose that sometimes it can get ugly, but most of the time, I really love it.
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This morning, I got set up to dye the Knit Picks sock yarn. Here's my crew, ready for action.
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I mixed up the food coloring/vinegar/water in the jelly jars like yesterday for one of the skeins, but then I decided to try something different for the other. I'd heard of kettle dying, and was wondering -- would that work in the microwave? I filled a ziploc container with lukewarm water, and put my skein (that had been soaked in mildly soapy water and gently, thoroughly squeezed out) into it. Then Mr. A helped me sprinkle some Kool-Aid on the yarn, right from the packet. Let me just tell you right now: Tropical Punch is RED.
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We sprinkled some Grape on there also, and then Mr. A got to work poking it down in the water for me.
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After a little bit of that, we put it in the microwave for 4 minutes. This is what we got:
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Not horrible, I guess, but not really what I was looking for. It was pretty interesting though, how some of it actually stayed white. I was sure the colors were all going to muddle together, but it was not so.

Anyway, I decided to space dye it with some blue (the same jelly-jar mix as yesterday), and microwaved it again:
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Now it looked like rocket pops that I used to eat as a little kid. Unfortunately though, it looked more like a rocket pop on a hot summer day, or my white shirt after I'd eaten one. I knew that I wouldn't be knitting with this either.

Then we tried dying the whole thing blue. No good.
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So there was only one thing left to do, as far as I was concerned. We mixed up a very strong purple (2 packets of Grape Kool-Aid with some blue food color), and finally, I was happy. It came out this wonderful, complex purple that looks like the way grape juice tastes. I love it. Next to the purple is the "strawberry lemonade" that I also dyed, using the method from yesterday.
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They may look a little funky next to each other, but I decided not to bore you with separate pics.

Lessons learned:
1) Tropical Fruit Punch Kool-Aid is RED
2) Grape Kool-Aid is grayish purple
3) I can always dye something again, stopping only when I like it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

First dye

Last night, as promised, I dyed my handspun. My husband picked up some Kool-Aid colors for me yesterday afternoon, but couldn't find blue. I found some liquid food coloring in my spice cabinet, so I mixed up 1 part apple cider vinegar to about 5 parts water, then added drops of blue until it was the shade I wanted. The yellow is 2 packages of Kool Aid Lemonaid + 1 jelly jar of water.

I stacked the two large hanks together so that I wouldn't have to worry about reproducing a second hank exactly. (I intend to use these two hanks as hats for my little boys and want them to match, because I'm crazy like that.) Using a big, disposable Ziploc container, I draped the yarn and poured whatever color I wanted in that part. Then I poured any run-off back into the dye jar.
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Once the yarn was dyed to my specifications, I poured off the last of the dye in the container, curled the yarn up and put the lid mostly on. Then I microwaved it until any water running from the yarn was clear (about 4 minutes).
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This is what happens when you don't wear gloves:
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After dying and microwaving the yarn a first time, my husband pointed out that the blue was not very vivid (or, in his words "Did you want the blue to be brighter?") Nice way to say that the dye job looked anemic. Isn't he sweet? So anyway, I overdyed the center of each blue section. Since the yarn was already saturated with a bunch of leftover water, the blue ran into the yellow a good deal, which wasn't what I'd really intended, but I like the end result.

Here is my yarn drying. As you can see, the tiny center skein was dyed with a different dye-lot of blue. I forgot to save some from the first two hanks....oh well. I might use it for edging.
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I must say, I LOVE this shade of blue! I'll have to use McCormicks food coloring again.

Next up:
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Monkey on her back

If you subscribe to this blog through a newsreader such as Bloglines, you may have noticed some ancient posts of mine showing up today. That's because I've been updating my FO's so that I can put them in my sidebar. Now both Sarah's and my finished projects are there, and I feel very accomplished. =)

I completely forgot to post about this, but I finally finished the Punk Rock Backpack, just in time for Christmas. My little sister was super pleased with it. She had fallen in love with it while I was knitting it, so I knew that it should be for her. The funny thing is, this is the second thing I ever knit. The pieces were just laying around for the next 6 months or so, and I just finished it last month.
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Pattern: Punk Rock Backpack from Stitch N Bitch
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft (100% acrylic, unfortunately! It is really soft though and washes well.)
My other posts reguarding this project: Backpack, Fibernaturally, On The Needles


Yesterday I finished spinning up a bobbin. I had used more than half of the roving for this, along with what I'd spun on my drop spindle, so I decided to Navajo ply it so that I wouldn't have to worry about two bobbins. Here's my wheel, ready to go. The brown yarn is the leader, tied in a loop at the end, with my single ply tied in a loop onto that.
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This is my bumpy mess of plied wool. It's almost horrific, yet I love it at the same time. I did that!
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After Navajo plying the hand-spindle-spun stuff as well, I realized something. I'm not twisting my singles nearly enough. I read about all of these people overtwisting, so in my attempt not to do a Beginner's Mistake, I made one anyway. Here are my three little skeins. (The tiny one is the last of the roving that I spun on my wheel -- also underspun.)
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Oh well. It's super bulky. I think Polar Bulky, actually. I'm going to dye it and then I'll see how it knits up. My intention is for this to be hats for my little guys.

Friday, January 27, 2006

When a good thing goes very wrong

I've taken down the Knit Olympics poll, because it was making my site take too long to load. The winner of the poll was the hourglass sweater, but I have decided on Picovoli, since I've never knit a sweater, and that seems a little more doable in 16 days, since there are no sleeves. Also, I'm going to knit it in KnitPicks Shine, and you really can't beat the price of that yarn. I'm looking forward to wearing this. The only two other things I've knit for myself are Edgar and BMG Footies (pattern here), which I wear with great pride, so I'm pretty excited about another "selfish" knit.

For this sweater, I'm trying to decide between turquoise, orchid or cream. I lost a cream sleeveless top that I had once, and it's been bugging me, so I'd love to have another. However, this is easily stained, and I have two little men who are experts at that. The orchid is lovely, but I only look good in certain shades of pink. If this has a purple cast to it like it seems, then this might be good. Turquoise can also be really good or really bad on me...It's hard to tell the colors of the yarn for sure, so I was thinking of purchasing a color card...then I realized that I need the actual yarn ASAP so I can start swatching. Hm. Maybe I'll just have to close my eyes and pick.

Did anyone notice something weird in the picture of my multidirectional scarf from yesterday? I didn't. Just in case you were similarly led to distraction by the alluring colorway, let me show you what I noticed last night:
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Does it seem to be growing larger at the live end, or no?

Just in case, I folded it over on itself:
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Yup. I see it. OK. (Deep breath.)

Let's look more closely. Might this be the spot where all good things went wrong?
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Aha! (I'm only saying "aha" because that's what people say when they realize things. I have no idea what I did wrong here, except, wrong it is.)

(Yet another deep breath as my blood pressure soars.)
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I would lay this down until...well, who knows when, except that I really want to wear it. This is a 3 skein scarf. I'm back to skein one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I've got mail

On Monday, this came by UPS:
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I couldn't believe how fast it shipped. I ordered this from their eBay store on Thursday!
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It didn't take long to assemble (pretty much just pushing all the pipes into the right spots; two screws). Drafting the fiber and getting it to twist were pretty simple, but it did take me a little while to figure out how to get the yarn to wind on to the bobbin once it had been spun. I've never seen anyone spin before, so I had no idea what to look for. Probably I could have found a video or done a search online, but then I read the Babe manual a little closer, and realized that I had to manually stop the maidenhead from spinning for a moment while continuing to treadle. Once this was figured out, my yarn got way more consistant, and I settled into a rythem.
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I'm still working on Christmas gifts. I started this on Friday, but it's boring me to death. Yes, that's right, it's crochet. This is the Textured Tweed Clutch from Interweave Crochet, Fall 2005. I'm substituting a smoother yarn (my LYS back home didn't have the material called for), so the "holes" look kind of big. I'm going to have to line this. The bag is for my sister, Hannah.
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One side of the clutch done, one started

I can't crochet and watch movies at the same time though, so of course I have to have something else...
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We've been watching a lot of movies lately. =)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Olympic hopeful

Well, I've decided to plunge headlong into the madness. Most of you are aware of the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics. I considered it for a few days and have finally determined that I will participate. Here are my choices, project wise:

Picovoli because I've never knit a sweater
Hourglass Sweater because it's a little cold for Picovoli, and I look best in boat-neck sweaters with waist shaping
Embossed Leaves Socks, because I've never followed a chart

I'm leaning towards the Hourglass Sweater...I think....

What do you think?

I've already attempted to post about this twice, but both times my computer had a fight with the internet and lost. Hopefully this time I can actually tell you about it. *Ahem*

Here is the slipper in all it's hugeness. I'm showing it the hot dip it's about to take. Somewhere I read that people add vinegar and dish soap, so I just went along with the crowd. A squirt of this and a splash of that, along with the washing machine set on HOT.
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Here they are together, pondering their possible demise (ok, so maybe I was stalling a little, and decided to take gratuitous pictures of the event)
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I threw them into a pillowcase (which turned out to be my white Ralph Lauren one, but who can think at a moment like this?), and rubber-banded it shut so that I wouldn't have fiber clogged pipes.
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Here is one of the slippers after only about 4 minutes. Remember this when you go to wash your sweaters!!
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After a spin cycle to get all the water out, I set them out to dry. They needed a little bit of pulling and prodding to get them to match, and they'll probably need a little more, but that's it! It was quite simple. Now I just need to coat the bottom with some rubberized stuff from Lowes, shave all the fuzziness down, and they'll be ready to hit the mail!
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Pattern: Mohair Ballet Slippers from Felted Knits (Interweave Press)
Needles: #15 circulars
Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun in Onyx (I think!)
Modifications: Since my grandma is into simple and elegant, I didn't use Mohair at all. Instead I held a double strand of plain wool all the way through, and it worked well.
Cast on: January 1st
Cast off: January 2nd

Something I've been forgetting to blog about is this:
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I bought this handpainted spindle and roving from Annie May. She got this to me very quickly. Her stuff is affordable, the spindle is beautiful, and the plain wool is super easy to draft. Perfect for a beginner like me!

Also, check this out! Yup, It's coming in the mail. I really only bought the spindle to learn drafting, and to be able to get my "spinny urges" played out while I saved up to buy the wheel. If I like the wheel enough, my next purchase will be this type. Babe's aren't the prettiest out there, but I like them for the following reasons.

  • They're lightweight and portable (since I'm moving to Germany in the summer)
  • They're inexpensive (because what if I don't really love spinning like I expect to?)
  • They are durable, since they're made of PVC

Some people may consider them to be not a "real" wheel, but for my purposes at this point in my life, this is perfect for me.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dreaming in silk

Edgar is done!

Here he is, in all his glory:
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Pattern: Edgar
Needles: #8 vintage aluminum straights
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden, color #201
Cast on: honestly, I can't remember. I think it was last week.
Cast off: January 18th

The scarf appears to be bigger at the bottom, but that's just because of a funky camera angle that I won't apologize for. =)

Here I am wearing it, along with a serious expression as I wonder why I'm taking a self-portrait when my husband is home.
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I ended up with 11 pattern repeats instead of 8. It was barely over one skein, and I could have stopped at 10 so that I wouldn't have to break into the second skein, but I was finally knitting the blue part and couldn't bear tp leave it out.

This afternoon I cast on for my Multidirectional Scarf, and called my sister to have her measure how wide hers is. Unfortunately she was out, sans scarf, so I had to guestimate. When my husband got home he said it seemed a little wider...so I had to stop and wait until someone can get me the measurements. That scarf was perfect. This one needs to be exactly the same. But I want to knit on this now!! Agghhh!!

While tugging on the yarn during an increase at the beginning of a row, my yarn broke, so I did a little trick that I just learned.

First, I untwist the yarn so that the loose fibers are out there:
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Then I suck on each end a little (sounds gross, but it works better than wetting with water), and twist them together. Then I rub them briskly, and viola! Whole again!
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Solid Socks

Well! My trend of Johnny-come-lately posts continues. Here are my solid socks for the Solid Sock KAL that I completed in the first week of January. Yet another Christmas gift, I knit the first sock on the way home, and the second one in the weekend following. Actual knitting time for these was about 2 days per sock. Not bad! My first try at thick socks, this was fun and quick. I did get bored with the color though. I HATED this heathered grey. As I knit, it reminded me of old hair caught in a drain. It's for my grandpa though, and my husband and I both decided that he would like this color.

I knit the foot a little too long, so I had to rip it back. This was the first time I used the method Debbie Stoller outlined in SnB: insert needle(s) into right leaning side of every stitch down where you want to rip to. Unravel to that point, and once you reach the needles you can just knit off of them onto the right size again. So much easier than trying to make sure that I didn't drop a stitch or anything! Plus, since it's so important to have the right stitches on the right DPN's when making socks, this was a huge help for that too.

The blue needles are the smaller gauge, waiting for the ripping to end.
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So here are the finished socks (they're a bit big for me, since they're for my grandpa):
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Pattern: Thuja, by Bobby Ziegler
Yarn: LB WoolEase in Heathered Grey
Needles: #5 DPN's, aluminum
Cast on: January 1st, 2006
Cast off: January 8th, 2006
Helpful hints: I emailed Bobby for the reccomended foot length, and he gave me this link

These are cozy socks, and the pattern was well written.

Also, I just got this in the mail yesterday:
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Yup, that's right, I'm making the multi-directional scarf for myself. This is color #211, which I think is by far THE best color Noro has put out. Ever.

This yarn was purchased from eBay sellar Yarnbow. They have the best prices that I've found. Including shipping, this cost less than what I would pay at my LYS back home. (!!) So I know you needed the encouragement. Go. Buy more yarn.

Also, (because I can't have enough Noro) I am working on Edgar:
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This is color #201. I love this colorway (although nothing can be better than #211!), but was very dissapointed. The first blue repeat was left out (there was a knot!!), so this scarf will only have blue on one end, and not in the middle.

Since I know everyone's here to gaze at the yarn, here's a nice shot:
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Now the real question is this: Silk Garden says "dry clean only". It's made up of 45% silk, 45% KidMohair and 10% lamb's wool. I'd really like the edges to be perfectly pointy and not twist about. Can I block this? Hmm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

There's Something About Noro: The lovely scarf

This is, hands down, my favorite knit so far. Unfortunately, I gave it to my sister Grace (she, of the lovely hair) for Christmas. Expect to see more of this yarn. I'm making the same for myself, because I must have it.
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Pattern: Multidirectional Scarf by Karen Baumer
Modifications: I used the alternate ending to make both ends squared, although since my sister is clutching both ends of her beloved scarf, that's not so easy to see.
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden, color #211 (3 skeins, NONE left over)
Needles: size 7 aluminum. I used 2 DPN's with one side of each rubber-banded to make "caps" so they would be just like regular Straights. I hate using long needles, so this made me very happy.

This was my "relax and knit" piece. I could do this in the dark; it was so easy. It's knit in entirely one piece, so the only finishing is weaving in the ends. It looks way more complicated than it is. Short-rows. That's all there is to it. I was sad to cast off. But a thing must be finished, especially when destined for the Christmas Gifting.

I must say that Noro Sik Garden is currently my favorite yarn that I've ever used. The huge slubs of silk, the way that it's spun together...ah! It's not the softest yarn in the world, and it is dryclean only, but it's so worth it. Some people have told me of knots and VM throughout, but this was not my experience. The beauty of the colorways are just amazing. I love this yarn.

This is a pair of slippers I finished on the trip home for my Grandma. After I felt them, I'll mail them to her as a late Christmas gift:
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(Currently, they're about a size 15, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they actually do felt down to a 7-1/2!) I'm not really sure why I haven't just felted them yet. I guess I'm afraid something will go wrong and I'll have to start all over again. Not that it took a long time. It would just be annoying. OK, enough. Ever the fearless knitter, I will felt them tonight.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Peaceful Palms - done!

Hi! I am quite late in posting this, but I finished this just before the new year:
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Pattern: Urban Necessity by Colleen Michele Meagher
For knit along: Peaceful Palms
Needles: #6 Boye, aluminum
Yarn: KnitPicks Wool of the Andes
Other post on this project: Fingers
Modifications: Seed stitch instead of ribbing around the base of the mitten cap. If I made these again I'd do ribbing on the inside only and plain on the outside, since seed stitch has a tendency to bulge a little. Also, I didn't do the cable pattern on the outside of the mitten cap because I couldn't seem to figure out where the chart was to do that. Hmm.

They are for my brother-in-law, Keith.

Just before leaving for our two week Christmas vacation up north, I made and mailed these to Sarah, my blogging partner. They were her "prize" for winning the URL contest I had for this site a bunch of months ago. (Sorry it's so late!)

Stitch markers:
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Cute little linen bag to hold them in:
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Of course I made a second set for myself. =)

Also, on New Year's Eve I finally colored my hair "interestingly" again. It always used to be blue, purple, yellow or some such funness, but since getting pregnant with my first little guy, I haven't been able to do too much of that. So while I've got the chance, I had my husband do this for me:

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I almost feel a little silly doing something like this at age 25, but from the front it looks pretty "normal" (although, what is normal anyway?), and I like it, reguardless.

Over my shoulder in the picture you can see the top of Mr E's head. He was in the sling, which makes me look like a little bit of a hunchback from this angle. =)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Podcasts In Review

The list of knitting and craft related podcasts are growing. As I go through my day caring for my little guys and doing stuff around the house, I often have one on. I've noticed, though, that not all podcasts are created equal. You would think that if someone took the time to launch a show, they must have something worthwhile to say. This is not always so. Here, I review the craft related podcasts I have found so far.

KnitCast, by Marie Irshad. The original knitting podcast. Marie's voice is bright and soothing with a fantastic British accent (I'm a sucker for accents). She travels all over Europe interviewing interesting people about their part in the fiber arts community. I'm not a huge Bliss fan, but her interview with Debbie was well thought out, and it's always interesting to hear about the design process that each designer goes thorough. All in all, I would have to say that this is a great show, and probably my favorite.

CastOn, by Brenda Dayne. I said that KnitCast is probably my favorite only because this one is also vying for that top spot. At first I wasn't sure if I liked Brenda, but halfway through the first show, I felt like we were old friends. It's like having your best knitty friend over for a cup of hot chocolate anytime you want. She gets to pick the tunes, entertained you with her knit related ventures, and has the occasional essay. A good time is had by all. This podcast is designed to be an audio magazine. Very cool idea, and well executed.

Stacia's Place by Stacia. So far, she only has one episode. It's about mushrooms. Didn't really hold my interest, although if I was bored enough, I'd go back and try to listen through it again. Hopefully she'll come up with a fiber related show sometime in the future. I've subscribed so that I'll be the first to know.

by Wendy (I think). I can't seem to access the feed, so I can't tell you anything about this one except that it supposedly exists.

unraveled, by Shannon Chower (I think that's her last name). It took me a few minutes to get used to her speech style and accent, but then I started really enjoying it. The show is essentially an audio blog. This is cool, because often I don't get to spend as much time as I would like reading everything in my Bloglines, but I can listen to this while doing something else. Multi-tasking! I love her irreverence. She's funny, although she may not mean to be. She tells of a Christmas knitting project in which she bought all the yarn needed to make afghans for her family, mass produced on a knitting machine. Also, she bought some "crap fun fur" and banged this out on her knitting machine for everyone she knew. She has no shame and tells it like it is. I like this show and will continue to subscribe to her feed.

Secret Knitting, by Daniela. I think that she's Norwegian. Her English is a little halting, which adds to the charm of the show. In each episode she guides you through a pattern verbally. You knit to the sound of her voice, and when you are done, your discover what exactly it was that you were knitting (thus the name "Secret Knitting"). Very fun idea. Unfortunately, with all of my Christmas knitting (which is still not done!) I haven't been able to do this yet, but I plan on making the Secret Lace Socks as soon as possible.

FiberCast by Caroline. Her most recent episode is about raising silk worms. She interviews a silk worm farmer Michael Cook, and it sounds labor intensive but fascinating. I would never want to do it myself (so gross to have worms in the house!) but it made me appreciate silk so much more. Check out Michaels site, WormSpit.com.

CraftyChica by Kathy Cano Murillo. Maybe it's a personal problem. Brenda Dayne likes her. I really didn't "get" this podcast. But then, no one's forcing me to listen. I'll leave this one alone. Listen in if you want to hear all about glitter from someone who sounds like they really like glitter.

Knitting Newscast by Rhonda Bell. The website looks a little dry, but the show notes promise a pretty cool show. I applaud her efforts and motivation to actually start up this podcast, but I think she leaves room for improvement.

There are some other craft related podcasts that I haven't listened to yet, but they don't seem to be very fiber related, so I'm not too interested in them at the moment.

In case anyone has noticed, I'm becoming kind of fascinated with the whole podcasting thing. And I begin to wonder...Would I like to start one too? What would I need for this? Can my computer (an iBook) support it? What kind of mic do I use? Is there even an "in" on my computer for it? How much RSS source code do I really need to know? Do I have the time for any of this? Hmm. I do already have an idea for a show that hasn't been used yet. If anyone has any links that would help me in my quest for more info on this, please share!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Alpaca Adventure

Several months ago, I noticed an alpaca farm down the road from my parent's house. Yes, I used to live there too, but besides the fact that I'm not super observant, I hadn't really touched fiber arts until about 7 months ago, so "Alpaca" didn't mean anything to me. Anyway, a few weeks ago when we were visiting there for Christmas, my mom and I went over to the farm.

The lady who owns it spent several hours with us, talking about fiber related goodness.

She showed me how to needlefelt. The concept isn't difficult at all, although I'm sure that it takes tons of practice to achieve things like these:
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But it made me decide that I definitely need to get some foam and a felting needle. (Shocking, right?)

She has a little shop set up right in her house, where she sells some knitwear as well as these adorable alpaca teddy bears (besides my baby's head, the softest things I've ever felt!):
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I told her that I wanted to start spinning. She has several wheels and spins a dyes quite a bit. She gave me this bunch of natural black roving from the black guy in this group:
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And lent me her drop spindle as well.

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Could that be? Why yes, it's my very first handspun! I need to refer to a guide as to how to do it exactly, because I'm sure it's severely overspun, but it was enjoyable anyway. Last night I purchased a drop spindle on eBay, so now I can spin to my little heart's content.

Here are some examples of her own hand dyed and/or handspun:
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Pretty, yes?

But getting to why we went there in the first place. I had something of a Christmas emergency. Some of you will remember when I ripped out my first attempt at the Newsies hat. Well, I reknit it, intending to give it to my sister Joy. I then bought some Classic Elite Yarn "Beatrice" in brown/tan multi to knit one up for my brother Jom. Unfortunately, I didn't check my gauge with the latter, and ended up with a hat that perfectly fit me. The problem was, Jonathan wouldn't be happy with a light green hat, so...I decided to dye it. That's where Sharon at the alpaca farm came in. She knows how to dye stuff. So she dyed the hat for me. Here it is in the pot, coming up to (barely) a simmer:
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Then we added some vinegar and a spoonful of mahogany powdered dye.
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After pulling the hat out to check for a moment, it appeared to be turning too red, so I added a tiny bit of navy blue. The final outcome was a brownish hat with a purple cast. Sounds kind of bad, but it was actually a nice, masculine color. Unfortunately, somehow I forgot to take a picture. Oh well. Here is the multi hat that ended up being Joy's:
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Classic Elite Yarns "Beatrice" 100% merino wool, color #3276
Newsies pattern from SnB, knit on sizes 8 and 10-1/2 needles

In the end, everyone was pleased with their hats, and have been wearing them often since the gifting at Christmas.


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