Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I dyed!

In the spring of 2008, I received my first lace shawl kit from the inaugural Year of Lace Club. It was the Phoenix Rising shawl designed by Sivia Harding. The colour was a gorgeous orange. I completed that shawl (in record time, I might add) and the end result was beautiful.... but it was orange. I am blonde and orange is one of those colours that I just can NOT wear. It makes my hair look orange and brings out the most unattractive skin tones. In the end, I decided to give it to my friend Christina. A beautiful brunette.... with perfect colouring for orange.

She has only been able to wear the shawl once. It has been a very difficult colour for her to wear with her existing wardrobe and although she, also, loved the colour... it sat in her closet, looking lovely, but mostly unwearable. We were discussing her impending move to Egypt and the need for shawls there, when the shawl came up in conversation. I decided right then to try to dye it. I've never dyed anything before (well, I did dye one shirt with RIT, but that doesn't count). I asked around for bits of advice, chose a dark red and blue and dove in.

First I soaked it overnight.

Then I started the dye on the stove. According to the directions I needed 2-4% of the dry weight of the shawl, but I had read to use more for silk and decided to use 6g of Crimson Jacquard Dye. I also thought I'd add just a touch of Brilliant Blue (about 2.5 ml), to deepen the red and add a darker cast. I then took the plunge and dunked the shawl in the hot dye bath. I cooked it just below boiling for about an hour and then began the rinsing process. I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed.... and the shawl just kept bleeding. The original freshly dyed colour was a dark raisin... almost brown, but with a definite red cast... it was lovely.....
I kept rinsing.... and the shawl kept bleeding.... I finally called Annie and she told me to dump a bunch of vinegar in the pot.... I did so and almost immediately, the dye stopped bleeding..... I did a few final rinses and then blocked the shawl.... and OH.MY.GAWD did it turn out nice!!!! The resultant colour is a rich cranberry..... and GORGEOUS! The pictures just can NOT do it justice...... I am VERY tempted to not give it back to Christina...... although, I will, of course.....

I AM going to hunt for that colour of yarn though and make a stole out of it..... it is the perfect red.........

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post-Christmas Doldrums

It's over for another year. The excitement, planning, gift knitting, cleaning, cooking, decorating and various other preparatory activities of Christmas have kept me engaged and excited in the lead up to the big day..... but... almost immediately following .....came the crash. The work listed above, but in reverse, now seems overwhelming and depressing. This year it is made worse by the fact that my best friend in the entire universe is moving to Egypt on January 3rd. We have become an inseparable force in the five and a half years that we have lived together in the same city (we've been friends for more than 15 years). We are each other's support system and closer than is probably normal. I have other close friends that are wonderful and supportive and I know I won't be alone (and certainly not in Christina's shoes.... alone in a foreign country where a woman's role is defined by men), but I am devastated. I've been trying to hold it together and be positive and strong, but now that Christmas is done, that is becoming harder and harder to do. I had a meltdown last night after dropping my Dad and Caren off at the airport. We had such a nice visit and they are wonderful company and the kids love them...... Their leaving was enough to break me down...... I'm feeling better today. I have a list of things to accomplish and I think Christina's boys are coming over for the day while Christina assists the packers. Work helps, knitting helps and the kids help, but I can feel the sadness and loneliness hovering on the edge of my vision (or is that tears.... feels the same to me). I am determined to keep it together until after the 3rd.... then I can have a nice private meltdown...... until then.......

On a more positive note here is a picture of the Christmas knitting I completed and sent as gifts. I also finished a hat for Dale that is not in the picture.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Countdown.

Only EIGHT more sleeps to Christmas and I'm looking great (on the Christmas Extravaganza front, not the physically attractive front, although that's not bad either ;) ....).

  • Christmas Cards finished and sent?? Check.
  • Christmas Parcels wrapped and mailed?? Check.
  • Christmas decorating??? Check.
  • Christmas Tree decorated??? Check.
  • Christmas presents purchased and wrapped?? Check.
  • Christmas dinner planned and pre-shopped?? Check.
  • Christmas knitting??? CHECK, CHECK. I've even had time to knit an extra and do some spinning which I also hope to include as a gift.
  • House cleaned?? Not yet, but I've got EIGHT DAYS... well, I've got 4 days until guests arrive, but still......
  • Christmas Baking?? Again, not yet, but I don't bake very much anyway (we're not big baked goods eaters), so I'm looking good there too... I'm basically planning to bake sugar cookies and make fudge.... big whoop.
  • Christmas Dinner prep??? Nope... not done this yet either. There isn't that much that I can do. I plan to make a potato casserole that freezes well, but that's about it.....

All in all, I'm disgustingly well prepared.... bring it......

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Adventures in Fleece. Part 2

8 down, 10 to go...... My thoughts on each of the first half (almost) of the Super Fiber Sampler that I started to blog about many months ago.... (which are also being recorded on my stash page on Ravelry).

My first sample was the Polwarth; I loved working with this fleece and super soft yarn was the result. Carded and spun from rolags. Resulting yarn is approx. 11 WPI

The Polwarth

Border Leicester was next. It washed up from golden yellow to white (I actually liked the original colour, but while reflecting on the CAUSE of that colour, I quickly changed my mind). I didn’t like the feel of the fleece even after washing. It seemed very coarse in comparison with the Polwarth, I would even go so far to call it "squeaky and plastic-y" feeling. Combed, but had a lot of waste wool… not sure if that is my fault, the combing’s fault or the sheep’s fault (I, rather highly, suspect its mine and with some further research have discovered that combing does leave a lot of waste). Resultant yarn is approx. 10-11 WPI, a beautiful cream, but coarse… wouldn’t use it for anything. Maybe it could be blended in small amounts with something softer to add some strength and luster??? Although, honestly, I doubt I would buy it again and so, probably won't find out.....

3) Icelandic: I did the stove-top method of washing this fleece and really liked it….. although there was a lot of VM left in the locks, the rest was very clean. Have combed it and did not find any separate layers although my understanding is that it should have two layers. It pretty much combed out as one length and I had much less waste than the Border Leicester. On reflection this is most likely due to the fact that I did a much better job of washing the Icelandic fleece. It feels coarse in comparison to the fine wools, but is softer than the Border Leicester, I would consider it if I needed something with strength, maybe even blending small amounts with something softer for toes and heels of socks??.....

4) CVM: Very soft and greasy even before washing…. I’m definitely preferring the “fine” sheep breeds so far…. I even prefer the smell.. more sheep-y, less poop-y…. I messed up when I was spinning this and plied a section in the wrong direction and then underplied when I realized and corrected my mistake, but I'm still liking it... the colour is particularly nice.

5) Corriedale: Another soft fine wool. Doesn’t feel as greasy as CVM, but I love how soft it is….It feels a bit coarser (coarser in comparison to the other fine wools I've processed so far) now that it's spun and washed, but would still be a nice wool for cardigans. I wouldn't use it for anything next to the skin, but I am slightly sensitive to wool and even find some merino slightly itchy (I wear it anyway! I'm determined!)... I carded and spun this from rolags, but my prep wasn't very good and the resulting yarn is a bit slubbier and less even than I'd like.

Here are the singles of Corriedale, CVM and Icelandic (left to right in photo)

6) Perendale: This is a longwool, but the softest of the three so far (my initial pre-wash impression). Well, crapOla...... I stove-topped the hell out of this wool.... I washed the wool on the stove and then was doing the first rinse (also on the stove)...... I decided to turn off the stove and let the rinse cool and soak for a bit while I ran out...... I came home to the worst FunkE smell Eva! Sort of like a.... rotten boiled eggs served in a manure infested barn, kind of smell..... Apparently, I only THOUGHT I turned off the stove and my wool cooked for a good two hours....... The resulting mess was partially, but not fully, felted and I decided not to bother with it...... Perendale now rests in the garbage......

7) Cormo: This is by FAR my favorite so far. It felt lovely even when dirty and even though I slightly felted it (I think.... I'm not sure if it was felted or just compacted as it combed out quite nicely), I decided to comb it and use it anyway.... and I still love it......

8) Romney: The softest longwool I've done yet. Because I felted the Perendale, I can't remember which is softer, but I'm pretty sure the Romney is... It was one of the easier to process and combed out with very little waste.

The main things I've learned so far:

1) It's OK to be harsh when picking though fleece. Throwing out the matted bits, the really short bits and the combing leftovers is fine.... The sheep police are not going to break down your door and arrest you for throwing perfectly good wool in the garbage, even if you cut off the tips of the locks with scissors.

2) I need an electric spin dryer. Perhaps "need" is the wrong word, but I want one and a salad spinner isn't going to cut it for me.... (I like my gadgets). Drying time needs to be cut down so that I can do my own laundry and use the drying rack for clothing, rather than just fleece. I also need to pick up some Tulle. I found I had to do a second and third cleaning with a pillowcase and my sweater bags were too small making it difficult the lock structure.

UPDATE: I did purchase a spin dryer and LOVE it! It is fantastic for all of my handwashing items.. I haven't used it for fleece yet, but I set the twist in my last 2 of this batch and the resulting yarn was almost dry. A heavy knit sweater dries overnight (with a fan) using this gadget..... I bought mine from The Laundry Alternative. The small countertop fits 3 light knit sweaters (store bought or fingering weight) OR 2 medium knit sweaters (dk to aran weight) OR 1 heavy sweater.

3) Combing/carding is hard on my wrists. I don't think washing/prepping a fleece is something I'll do all the time and it'll take me a while to finish this sampler because of it.

4) Washing/prepping my own fleece has taught me a LOT about wool (and I even understand more about spinning worsted vs. spinning woolen!) and I think this Fibre Sampler is an invaluable tool.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Posting problems....

I haven't posted in nearly three weeks. Not because I have nothing to say (I do), but because of the whole "Christmas Knitting" thing. I have worked on nothing but Christmas knitting since my last post. I did start a long arduous post about parenting, but decided it was too heavy and tossed it.

The good news is that I've nearly finished ALL of my Christmas knitting, including a couple of add ons. I have one big project and one smaller one to finish that are "must dos," but that aren't actually due until Christmas, so the pressure's off. I'm also hoping to squeeze in a hat for Dale and a cool scarf/mitten idea for Chey (which is started, but on hold for now). I took a picture of the pile before I shipped off the items to be shipped, but I won't share that photo until after Christmas..... Did I mention that I have 3 weeks left??? I RULE!!

I've also decorated the inside and outside of the house (except the tree), written my Christmas Letter and sent Christmas Cards and even wrapped about 1/2 of the presents..... all Hail the Christmas Goddess......