Friday, December 28, 2012

Mott Canyon Stovepipe, or a hat for Sister Mary

Years ago, I knit a hat for my brother-in-law on the knitting machine. It was kind of unique (I did not make up the pattern), having a top that could be opened or closed, depending on your winter activity level.

He and my sister, Mary, are ardent skiers, having season passes to the local resort. They like nothing better than to head up on a weekday morning after a good dumping, and to be the first ones down the chutes in Mott Canyon.

Mary had mentioned in passing that she would like a hat like her husband's, if that was possible...

Of course it's possible!!

The construction is basically a tube, with a casing at the top, through which an I-cord is passed, enabling the wearer to open/close the top of the hat at will. The construction challenge, however, was how to do the casing... On the knitting machine, it's very easy. Hand-knit, from the bottom up, is a little different. I ended up knitting the casing and top border separately, and grafting 128 stitches to the hat... I'm now really good at Kitchner stitch!

As with my hat, I tried to find patterns that were meaningful and fit my image of my sis. In addition to her Celtic heritage, my sister is a consumate gardener - super green thumb!! She also preserves most of her garden's produce...

It started with  a two-color cast-on, then the Celtic braid that was too tall for my hat, then flowers (or snowflakes, if you want), and ending with leaves. I used what I call "beaded rib" as the unifying element.

 Here is a detail of the casing and the i-cord with the tassel.

 And here's a look at it closed up.

The next one (if there is one...) will start from the top down, which will make the casing WAY easier to execute!

The yarn is one that I designed and had custom spun; 47.2% gray wool (romeldale/montedale/rambouillet cross), 35.3% white alpaca, 10% iron gray kid mohair, and 7.5% white bombyx silk.

This is the first "real" project that I've done with this yarn (I have around 7 lbs. of it), and I really like the fabric. It was knit on size 3 needles, with a gauge of appx. 6.5 sts/inch.

This has the added perk of matching a vest that I knit for Mary out of hand-spun Icelandic, which is also gray and red!!

I still need to block it, but it will be on its way to her soon!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

This is so not ok...

This is a picture of some superwash Merino yarn that was dyed with the Dharma dyes. The socks made from this yarn have been washed twice.
The colors are true in this picture.

WTH? All of the turquoise has mostly washed out. The green was made with turquoise mixed with Golden Ochre (a Jaquard Dye), the purple was Dharma Fuschia and Turquoise. The remaining stripes of dusky turquoise was a mixture of Jaquard Turqoise and black (and maybe something else, I forget). I hate to think what they'll look like after wash #3.

I have emailed Dharma, asking them to email me so that I can send them this picture. When I emailed earlier, asking if I could return the blue dyes because of rinsing problems, they contacted me, and because I had used some, I was unable to return them. Now, I'm really P.O'd, and I want them to take them back. I've also posted this picture on their Facebook page.

The real issue is that I have sold all the yarn in this colorway, along with most of the fiber in the same color mix. The other colorways that I've dyed have also mostly sold, and they also contain the turquoise dye and mixtures.

I know from my own experience (I am not proud of this...), that if something is wrong, most times people will not contact the supplier, but will bad-mouth the supplier to all their friends. This is my biggest fear - that people will think that Fiber Voodoo doesn't know how to dye stuff, and the dye doesn't stick.

I have been dyeing for over 20 years. Because of the issues I had in October, I checked the pH of my vinegar water - it was pH 4. I steamed the yarn for over 30 minutes (I got distracted and when the timer went off, I was in the middle of something else). There is no reason for this dye not to have struck the fiber, particularly since it's superwash, which is a dye magnet.

I will let you know what happens. I'm now reluctant to keep any of the Dharma Dyes, and think I would like them to take them back and give me a refund. I'm going to continue to use my not-so-old Jaquard dyes, which are now stored in the house...

So, in the future, I'll stick with the more expensive but tried and true dyes that I'm used to. This has been a very expensive lesson.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I have a hat!

After the 50+ hats that I've knit for others, I finally knit one for myself.

It was intended to be special, contain elements that are meaningful to me, and above all, to be beautiful.

My family ancestry is Heinz-57, but mostly British Islander, particularly Welsh, Scots and Irish. I've always been drawn to Celtic knotwork and knew that I wanted that in my hat. I also was born in the Celtic month of Beithe (Birch) and thought I'd include leaves, as well.

I used the BFL/Tussah in the Viva OtoƱo that I
spun, after removing it from the inventory at Oregon Flock and the gray Corriedale/BFL X yarn that I spun while at Oregon Flock and Fiber. Since the BFL/Tussah was a gray based fiber, it looked best with the gray background. I tried it against black and brown and neither worked.
 The color is much brighter in real life...

I also wanted to keep the "yurt" style going, but instead of inserted I-cord, I did cables, knit along in the fabric (not inserted).

 When I started it, I used the two color cast on, but forgot to purl the first row, so the bottom curled. ARGH!! I went back and picked up the purl bumps on the cast-on edge, and did an I-cord bind off, which fixed that - Yay!
Knotwork pattern from "Charted Celtic Designs" by Co Spinhoven

Birch Leaves - adapted design
I'm pretty pleased with it. I particularly like the way the colors progress upward through the knitting.

It covers my ears easily, and is warm! Just in time for winter!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trip to the big city, and I was a cowgirl pole dancer

It's been awhile since I posted - not because nothing was going on, however.

I did an order for new dyes from Dharma in preparation for the Portland Handweaver's Guild Fall Sale, which was this weekend. I got some additional fiber porn from Mim, and ordered some yarn from Henry's attic to round out what was left after Oregon Flock and Fiber.

Because I had a dye space out of the weather in the shed, when I mixed up dyes last Saturday, I just left them in there. When I went out Sunday, the brilliant blue had congealed into a granular sludge with dark navy blue water. I called Dharma on Monday, and they said to warm it up. Since I had already tried to reclaim it by running it through a sieve, I decided not to try that. I did use that method on the only other one that seemed to be going that way by putting it in my canner on the rack and boiling water around it (it worked).

I proceeded to dye as normal and found the the colors in the Dharma dyes are enough different from the Jaquard that I was not completely satisfied with the dyes that I was mixing. They were nice colors, don't get me wrong, just not what I was used to getting when I put x amount of dye A with y amount of dye B. I needed the bright blue, so I used my old dye powder, which worked just fine, thank you... Hmmmm

Dyeing done, tagging done (the roving took me 5 hours at Linda's on Thursday morning), we set up our spaces Thursday night and Friday morning before the sale. I did not have a "booth" - I had 4 gridwall sections set up around a support column - the "pole." At first it seemed that it would be extremely challenging, and it didn't help that I set up the grids backwards so that the hangers wouldn't work... Sometimes I amaze even myself with my ineptitude! When I took them apart, I was able to substitute my short ones for taller ones that I rented from the guild, which worked out very nicely:

 So my wares were placed around the pole (I used black plastic table cloth material that comes in a 100' roll for the backing). I adjusted some of the overhead lights, and that was it. The sale has a central checkout, so there was no need to have a table for the administrative stuff. I had brought some knitting, but I quickly became bored with that.  I was talking with one of the other members (they are all very nice and were very welcoming) about it being difficult for me to sit still, and she offered to bring in her spinning wheel. I got permission to use it (normally it isn't done), after explaining that most people thought the roving "snails" were a) hats, or b) hot pads/trivets.  I spent a lot of time spinning yesterday, and then when that paled, started a hat for myself!

So, why was I the cowgirl pole dancer? Last week I was at the local consignment clothing store, and as I checked out, saw some snazzy boots on the bookcase next to the register. Now, it is difficult for me to wear pull-on boots, as I have high insteps and "womanly" calves. So, thinking that it was safe to try to get them on, I tried. And they fit... So, I got them - my middle name should be Imelda! It wasn't until I got them home that I discovered that they are Tony Lama boots - and they've hardly been worn. I wore them Saturday:

I'm an introvert - not in terms of dealing with people, but in terms of how I replenish my energy. By this morning, I was completely dead. That, coupled with the prospect of a snow storm blowing down the Cascades from the north, lead me to leave the sale today early. I put my stuff in order, and Linda graciously offered to take my "pole" down in addition to her booth.

I plied the yarn that I had spun yesterday, and when washing it, discovered another downside to the Dharma dyes. I was spinning a mostly blues roving, and it had taken quite a bit of rinsing when I was done dyeing it.  There was no crocking off on my fingers while spinning - however, there was much more dye that ran out of it when I washed it after plying. I'm not sure that I've gotten all of it out even now.

I'm going to call them tomorrow to see if I can return them. I'm going to stick with my "old" dyes - I think they'll work fine, especially now that the dye solutions are stored in the house, along with the powders. I can make adjustments as I need to with them, since I'm so familiar with how they work. I guess it just proves the old saw - If it's not broke, don't fix it...

I'm now looking forward to more dyeing (with a little less pressure), for some weaving projects I have in mind. I also have 2 sheets of felt that I'm going to make into a jacket, which should be really fun to embellish.

For now, I'm going to make a very quick dinner and go crash!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


And I'm working on a deadline again!!

When I moved in here, I was told I could use about 6 x 8 of a 8 x 16 shed. I worked around it as much as I could, but finally, asked my landlord to clean it out. He doesn't actually own the place - he manages it for the owner who lives near Portland. There was all kinds of, um, stuff in there that had been there forever, it seems, and he hasn't moved it. Since I have lots of tools, and need to store my feed in there to keep it from the Great Red Hoover (see Polymath Chronicles), it seemed like I should get to use it or reduce my rent. In August, he and a helper came and got a lot of the stuff out, and said they would be back to finish it. Two months later, it still hadn't been done. So I called again, spoke to his wife, who promised to get him over to finish it.

I now have the use of the full shed! So, with the Portland Handweavers' Guild sale looming, dyeing to be done, and inclement weather glowering, I set up the dye works in the shed. It's now the Dye Shed. In order for this to work, I needed lights, which I installed, along with the extension cord to feed them. The extension cord plugs into an outlet right outside the back door, which is very convenient. So, here's the set up:

The roaster will sit on the smaller table, along with the dyes and the plastic wrap. The long table will be where the dyeing happens. What's great is that I can take this down and put it away against the opposite wall.

Because of the aforesaid inclement weather, I'll have to dry the results in the living room by the fire, but that's ok.

I'm looking forward to the sale. It's in Lake Oswego (a very posh area), and hopefully people are willing to spend - I'll have a little different type of product than most of the others, with yarn and spinning fiber. It will be interesting to see how it goes. I have an interesting space, not a booth, but something really interesting. I'll explain, with pictures in the next post!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Chillin' at OFFF (and dyeing conundra)

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, that is.

Sue and I shared a booth again, this year. It was great fun, being able to sit and spin, and talk to people and sell stuff.

My marathon dyeing session was fraught with "issues" but everything turned out ok in the end. I was using some new to me roving, American Top from Columbia Scouring. This is a 20-22 micron top, made from US sheep, processed in North Carolina, and dyed by me. It was interesting that the dye took up very erratically on this, so I called Columbia about it. They said (after checking with their dyer) to check that the pH was 4. Mine was 5. So I added more vinegar, got 4, and continued with the last batch. There was a slight difference, but not much.

Gray BFL/Tussah on Left; Merino/Bamboo/Tussah on Right

Mohair yarn on top; Merino Bamboo yarn on bottom

Superwash sport yarn

Note the light colors on the roving at left and the light yarn on right

Kind of dilute color take up (sorry about the shade)
Gray BFL/Tussah on left; Merino/Bamboo/Tussah on right
 So, I called Dharma Trading Co. They have a chemist (or 2 or 3) on staff that you can talk to. I had pretty much narrowed my problem down, but needed to confirm. So, I asked if dye powder has a shelf life. He wanted to know how old my dye was - um, 4-5 years... He said that they were positively ancient, and I needed new ones... Good news for them, bad news for me, as I have another show coming up in November, and need to dye more stuff!!

I re-skeined the yarn, using my antique clock reel. You know, sometimes you just can't improve the mouse-trap. This little gem works so well, and is probably 200 years old, and I love it.

This was The Craisin's first big outing (that's my new car, a cranberry, 2001 Escort sedan). I managed to get everything in except the gridwall, which Sue took in her van. The space below was filled by a medium animal crate, which held 3 chickens for Michelle.

Also in this small space, I was able to pack my Country Craftsman spinning wheel. They look like this (This is not my wheel, just a picture):

Do you see a wheel in here?
 Once I took some of the stuff out, you can see it... In pieces.
I never cleaned off the table -doh!!

It was less than thrilled to be dismembered, but after whacking some pins back into place for the wheel supports, we were off and running.

I actually ran out of room for all my stuff. I'm also a member of the High Desert Woolgrowers, whose booth was right next to ours, so I put the roving over there.

One of the highlights of the show (for me, anyway) was helping a young couple with a spinning wheel. The husband came around the corner holding a frame upright wheel over his shoulder, and I commented that he had a wheel, but it was missing some parts. He asked if I knew what they were, and I did. So he pulled up a chair, and I started explaining what it was missing. As I did this, he started pulling pieces out of a messenger bag that he was carrying. Once all the pieces were displayed, I realized how it was to come together, and proceeded to install them, a drive band, a bobbin leader and had it spinning. I told them (by this time the wife had appeared) how to oil it, and care for it. We also turned it over to see if there were any maker's marks - it was a Clemes and Clemes. They were thrilled - I was thrilled! It's always nice to get a dis/misused wheel back in action.

Later, while talking to a customer, I saw him come steaming back in the barn with a big smile on his face. I pardoned myself for a moment, and he exclaimed that he had found the person who built the wheel! Small world. The builder is going to take it and tune it up, replace all the dried up leather bushings and get it completely renovated. How cool is that!!

I had a very good weekend, coming home with much less than I took. Sue took the wheel home in her van, along with the gridwall, which I will pick up today. I spent one more night at Linda's (we stayed up way too late all three nights, catching up), so I could go by Columbia Scouring in Portland and get more roving, since I was in the area.

Next year, I WILL start dyeing earlier, and I will bring some signs to put out on the lawn (where most of the vendors are) directing people to come see us in the barn. That's the one drawback to being in the barn - there's no advertising of our existence there. Corex signs are cheap - I just need to come up with a catchy statement!

Friday, September 14, 2012

I have a lot of work to do, and a week to do it...

Oregon Flock and Fiber starts a week from today. I always do this (procrastinate), but this time I have an excuse! My contract work has been pretty flat this summer, like really dead, so when I was suddenly inundated with work, I rejoiced! However, I also had this looming deadline, and decreasing time to get it done in. Last night at 10:30pm,  I sent the draft of the last critical plan off to be perused, and went to bed, thinking about how I was to set up the dye kitchen, and where I would start.

I did eventually get to sleep... to be awakened at 6 am by a cat, and noise from the poultry (but that's another story on the other blog...).

So, this morning, I gathered up all the yarn and fiber that I need to dye. OH MY! Some of the fiber is already wound into 4 oz. balls, and some of the yarn has already been re-skeined into 4+/- oz. skeins. The rest needs to be divided. Guess I know what I'm doing today!!

I get my yarn from Henry's Attic - I've had an account with them since the 90's. They sell mostly undyed yarn and fiber, with a few natural colors thrown in (alpaca or cotton, mostly). They have really nice linen, which comes in bleached, unbleached with 2 weights also in black. It's a really good thing that I, a) am not made of money, and b) don't have a lot of storage space, because I love everything they have.

Most of the fiber is wool - superfine merino, merino/bamboo/tussah blend, a gray BFL/tussah, some corriedale top, USA-made medium wool top (big bump), but I also have some really nice silk top.

So here's the before picture:

Stay tuned for the results!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Demo Hat

Since publishing my first pattern (Yurt for your Head), I have found 3 omissions. One I have already fixed, two I discovered while knitting the hat to show at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. I will have to correct the latter, and forward the update to the person who has purchased the pattern. Hopefully, she's not knitting like the fiend that I have been for the last day and a half, and hasn't gotten to that part of the pattern  (the very end...).

So, while these pictures aren't very good - daylight was really waning - here is the demo hat. A note about the colors used: you'd think in this house, it would be very easy to find yarn. You'd be wrong, especially when I was trying to get enough of 2 colors to do the entire hat out of commercial yarn. I mostly knit with handspun, but had a number of balls of KnitPicks worsted (best laid plans...). I had 2 balls of eggplant-y purple, and two of green, but when I started knitting with the green as the contrast, it was very blah. Back to the drawing board. I also had one ball of "tidepool heather," which I really liked, but wasn't sure I'd have enough (I would have, but it doesn't matter). So I grabbed a couple more colors and called Sue. Sometimes, it helps to describe the problem to another person, which leads to a decision. I ended up using 5 colors: Purple for the main color, Tidepool for the secondary color, and the green, amber heather and a tangerine-y orange for accents. The pictures don't show the colors truly, but you can sort of get the idea!

So, Unblocked:

Blocking (even worse light...)

I use my flour canister to block hats on - it's the perfect circumference!

Now to clean up my mess...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fall Wool Gathering Day 2

Today, I was supposed to go weave on the shawls that they always raffle off at this event. I forgot... As it turned out, I wasn't needed, so it didn't matter.

I took my camera today because in talking with Barb yesterday, it was mentioned that she had never over-dyed moorit/brown fiber. Last night, in preparation, I spun and plied three small skeins for her to use in her dye demo today.

Today, she used food coloring, not kool-aid, and the results were fun! She had 3 crock-pots, and asked the onlookers to chose colors for each. We had a blue green, a red and a multi-colored one.

After all the fiber was in and cooking, the participants were told to come back in 20 minutes and the great unveiling would happen.

I should mention here, that with rare exceptions, nothing stays its original color at my house. I will over-dye anything, so much so that my Reno friends called me the Queen of Overdye. That was my response to, "I don't like this color," or, "It didn't turn out like I wanted." Over-dye it!! Correy said that she isn't sure about selling moorit wool to me because I don't leave it brown very often!

So, the unveiling:

In the bluegreen pot, we had gray, white and brown wool, and a champagne mohair.
In order top to bottom: White, Brown, Gray and mohair

In the red we had the same, without the mohair.
In order top to bottom: Brown, Gray, White.
 The same three were in the multi-colored pot:
Top to bottom: Gray, White, Brown
I pulled the brown skein up so you can see all the color
I love using brown. The warmth it adds to the dye is incredible. When all the yarn was coming out of the pots, everyone was oohing and aahing, and exclaiming, "Look at the brown!" I think I made a convert...

I took the Country Craftsman wheel today, so as not to have to deal with the Ashford's tempermentalism. I have decided to put a double treadle kit on it... I was spinning a 50/50 blend of moorit merino and alpaca (that was the same brown). I have another skein that I spun a year ago on an Ashford, but I was spinning more finely today, so I'll just have to keep going with the thin stuff! It's really pretty, and I have a lot more of the roving.

It was really fun to go to the festival and not have a booth. While I'm gearing up for Oregon Flock and Fiber - this will be dyeing central for the next week + - it's fun to kick back and just enjoy it, and not work. Don't get me wrong, I love doing a booth at OFFF. I share a booth with Sue, and we're in the barn - very nice if it rains! It's fun to be close to the animals who contribute to our wares. It's a hoot to watch people, and engage in educational opportunities. I wouldn't miss it.

So, off to ply the yarn spun today, and do some real work...

Fall Wool Gathering Day 1

This year, the Shaniko Wool Gathering parted ways with the town of Shaniko (long story), and became the Fall Wool Gathering held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras.

I decided not to get a booth space for various reasons, but went up for a "few hours", which ended up being all day. I took my Mom's Ashford wheel, which after being torn apart and put back together was working well enough to appear in public. I also took some fiber, but as I picked up some roving that I had dropped off earlier from Creekside Fiber Mill, I decided to play with some of the new stuff! I'm not ADD or anything...

So after assessing my choices, and with the knowledge that I need to knit a hat to go with my first pattern up on Ravelry (yay!), I decided on a shetland roving, from Limerick, one of Mim's ewes. We used to call Limerick, the Brillo Pad. Let me tell you that she is decidedly not brillo-like. At nine years old, she's gotten very soft and silky. I started out with a full box:

The  wool wanted to be yarn, and I was quickly making a lot...

 I had some technical difficulties along the way, however. one of the nuts holding the footman on came off - fortunately I saw it. I put it back on, but it wasn't right, and the whole bold/nut assembly started tightening up on the footman so hard that, a) it was really hard to spin, and b) it was cracking the wood of the footman. I found Curt Fricke (of Fricke Enterprises) there, who had a tool kit, and between us, we got it working again. With the wheel back in action, I was able to ply off what I spun:

There are 3.45 ounces. I made a huge dent in the box:

The reason I knew that Curt had a tool box is this:

I am getting ready to do a production dye run in advance of Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. My little ball winder isn't up to the task of winding 8 oz. skeins into balls for me to breakdown into 4 oz. skeins. He had a number of ball winders in his booth, but this was purple heart - how could it not be mine!

I'm returning to the Fall Wool Gathering today. I helped my friend, Barb, with her Kool-aid dyeing demo yesterday, and it was such a success that she's going to do it again today. But, she's never overdyed moorit/brown before. So I spun of 3 skeins of moorit shetland from the embarrassingly large stash, and we'll do those today, along with her white and gray.

More pictures to come!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Results of Ice Dyeing!

I let the t-shirts, etc. mentioned in the last post sit until Monday (Labor Day), and then removed all their coverings, hosed them off for awhile, and then put them in the washer in 4 batches. This took all day, and into Tuesday because this dye (fiber-reactive) takes a lot of water to wash out. Each load (of which there were four) went through a wash and 3 rinse cycles. When they no longer left color traces on my hands, I hung them out to dry.

The results:

The logo shows up on all the shirts very well, as well as on the tote bags. However, it was really faint on the ball caps, and on only one or two can you tell there's anything there.

All in all, I am (as is Sue) very please with our work!