July 30, 2003

Kooky Krafts Kontinued...

Kontinuing in the Kooky Krafts vein, from my sister, this link to knitted teacups.

And yesterday I came across this, a slightly creepy combination of taxidermy and furniture.

And this bead artist does some kooky, wacky, silly and amazing things.

Knitting Knews
Such as it is, here is a photo of the beginning of the Acoma Sock. It's not the best photo I've ever taken but I blame that on the 95 degree weather we're having, a slight case of dehydration, and a strong desire to run screaming from all forms of wool. Okay, lemme 'splain the photo:

1. The yarns are actually terra cotta and pine green, not the Christmas red and Christmas green that appear.

2. The funny little green line which runs down the left side of the sock and appears to interrupt the pattern is actually a seam-type thingy that runs down the back of the sock. I say "seam" but it's actually an MCW (Major Cop-out Workaround). I added it to push the stitch count up from 45 to 48, and it's also my lame solution for camoflauging the "jog" that would appear at the seam if I used two colors all the way around. And, well, suffice it to say I photographed the wrong side of the sock in the first place. (Did I tell you about our 95 degree weather?)

All the photo problems aside, I'm pretty happy with the sock. You can see that the triangles are starting to inch around in a "swirl" fashion. The picture shows the sock 19 rows into the pattern. I think the effect will be pretty cool by the time I finish the 45 rows I predict I'll need.

Working with the sock inside out has turned out to be quite easy and is really helping with the length of the "corner" strands. Thank you for the encouragement, Sheila!

acoma2.jpg

Dyeing Dyegest
Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, blogging, and online groups, 30 seconds after I told the Yahoo natural dye group about my blog, I "met" a local lady who took pity on me because of my walnut-gathering fiasco and wanted to donate to my dyeing efforts a gallon of black walnut dye that she has had languishing around for 12 years. My "vision," if I even had one, for the Dyeing Project was that I wouldn't buy anything other than plants and seeds. Preprocessed dyes were verboten and I had to be able to gather everything I needed from K's yard, my yard, the yards of family members, or our respective neighborhoods. Using a walnut dye made by someone else maaaaaay be playing a mite footloose and fancy-free with the "vision" but (a) I DID collect walnuts, just not very successfully and (b) I didn't have to buy the dye, thanks to Pam's generosity. My conscience is clear. At any rate, here it is, my gallon jar of prime, grade-A, 12-year-aged, USDA-approved black walnut dye!

walnutjuice.jpg

Uh, now what?

Posted by Ryan at 11:27 AM

July 28, 2003

Why I Am Not an Artist...

On the Yahoo natural dyeing group, I read a message about creating leaf “prints.” The exact details are lost in the mists of time (all right, all right, it was only last Friday) but, theoretically, you can put a pigment-heavy leaf between two sheets of paper, apply pressure to the leaf-and-paper “sandwich,” and produce a beautiful leaf print. Well, nothing would do but I had to try this simple, intriguing craft this weekend. I picked a large mint leaf and a large purple plum tree leaf, placed them between two sheets of white paper, placed the paper on K’s cement patio and beat the whole shebang with a flat rock. Needless to say, all I succeeded in doing was riddling the paper with hundreds of holes, thanks to the rough surfaces of rock and patio, and fusing the paper and the leaves into a sticky and fibrous white, purple and green mess. Not exactly the delicate green and pink filigree prints I had envisioned. Still, as a by-product of this experiment, I've discovered there’s something to be said for bashing gleefully away on something with a rock. I felt oddly calmer when I was done, even as I picked up my failed experiment with two fingers, held it as far away as possible from my skin and clothing, and tossed it into the garbage can.

Knitting Knews
Started knitting what I am now calling the "Acoma Sock" after the Acoma pueblo where the piece of pottery that inspired me was made. The stranded knitting is going all right on the flat sides of the sock but I’m still getting puckering when I transition from one needle to the next. Lucy Neatby recommends turning the sock inside out when you knit, to force the strands to be longer and looser. Perhaps I need to try this.

Still, the color combo is gorgeous. It's worth plugging away at. Picture soon.

Dyeing Dyegest
“Ced” from the Yahoo natural dyeing group asked me how colorfast the green dye from the purple plum tree is. Frankly, I haven’t been doing any colorfastness testing but Ced’s email motivated me so, Ced, if you’re out there, this photo is for you. Results in a few days!

plumtestswatch.jpg


Posted by Ryan at 10:29 AM | Comments (4)

July 25, 2003

Children Can Be Very Useful!

I recently started reading the postings on the natural dyeing group on Yahoo. As I scanned down the list of subjects, I saw, as expected, “natural dyeing with mushrooms,” “natural dyeing with indigo,” “natural dyeing with cosmos,” “natural dyeing with calendula,” but I was brought up short when my eyes fell on “natural dyeing with children.” So, what part of a child do you suppose will give you the brightest, most lightfast dye?

Knitting Knews
Still struggling with the Navajo pottery design for my sock. I got a better "swirl" effect but it's based on a repeat of 34 stitches. 34 stitches = smaller-than-Lilliputian sock; 68 stitches = Bunyanesque sock. Argh! I'm determined to (a) have the pattern meet up along the "seam line" and (b) use some luscious pine green and terra cotta sport-weight yarn from my stash but getting the design and the stitch repeat and the strand-length limitations and the yarn weight and the gauge and the needle size to all cooperate is driving me completely barmy. K is encouraging me with great zeal but I suspect that's because she envisions a new pair of pine green and terra cotta Navajo-patterned socks in her sock drawer at the end of all this.

Dyeing Dyegest - A Milestone!
Last weekend I dyed with the first official dye garden flowers, the marigolds. Results: The 3-inch test piece I threw in (wet, this time; I remembered!) came out the most amazing burnt carrot color. But of course, that was a function of the ratio of a teensy piece of yarn to four cups of dye matter. The 1/2-ounce skein came out gold, not a honey brown like the alder and not the bright shrieking yellow of the dandelion, somewhere in between. While the color isn't particularly inspiring, it has a beautiful light metallic sheen, a first! The color on this yarn truly shimmers. More than once this weekend I found myself turning the ball of yarn around and around in my hands and staring at it fixedly and all aquiver, the way a cat stares at a flashlight spot on a wall.

marigoldyarn.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 08:20 AM

July 23, 2003

If You're Wondering What To Do With Your Spare Time...

I don’t know quite what to make of this site. It’s noble yet creepy, interesting yet weird, fascinating yet repellent and, most importantly, flirts ever-so-slightly with being a Kooky Kraft: http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/bandages.html

Knitting Knews
Here is a test swatch I'm knitting for a new pair of socks. I'm trying to echo the feel of this piece of pottery by Native American artist Dorothy Torivio but I can't quite qet that special "swirl" effect. On the bright side, the two-color stranded knitting is going much better than my last attempt, after which I swore I would never knit with two colors again. That sock turned out Lilliputian in size, inelastic, and with very irregular stitches. Blech. Fortunately K's mother is also Lilliputian in size (although not inelastic and has no irregular stitches) and she was more than happy to receive the socks.

basketpattern.jpg

Here is another example of Dorothy Torivio's work. Now, if I only had $3,360 dollars plus tax and shipping burning a hole in my pocket.

Dyeing Dyegest
Here is my favorite Dye Garden Project photo that we've taken so far, a veritable smorgasbord of dyestuffs. From the top, clockwise:


  • Koppertone dahlias (purchased from Swan Island Dahlias; grown in what we call DahliAlley in K’s garden)

  • Fire Magic dahlias ( again, purchased from Swan Island Dahlias; also grown in DahliAlley)

  • Calendula (grown from seed; planted in the dye garden)

  • Coreopsis (grown from starter plants; planted in the dye garden)

  • Marigolds (grown from starter plants; planted in the dye garden)

  • Center: Cosmos (grown from starter plants; planted in the dye garden)

flowerheads.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 12:45 PM | Comments (3)

July 21, 2003

Ryan and Tommy's Excellent Adventure

For the last couple of weeks, my kitchen has been smelling rather rank, in fact rotten and "green" enough to make one's eyes water. Assuming the smell was coming from the sink drain, I threw everything I could think of down there: degreaser, baking soda, vinegar, and a special bio-cleaner with sludge-eating critters. I even squirted some perfume into the drain but, take my word for it, perfume and "green rot" is a loathsome combination. Nothing worked, so Saturday morning Tommy Da Plumbah arrived. Well, quel adventure we had! First he snaked the drain, then he used high-pressure water to clean it out. In the process of squeezing himself into the impossibly small space under my sink, he grabbed the pea-trap -- which immediately crumbled to dust in his hands. Then, every piece of piping under my sink followed suit, falling to dust or springing holes and leaking. $500 and four hours later, I am now the owner of beautiful, new, strong, shiny plumbing under my sink.

Which would be all well and fine if I hadn't discovered the next day that the smell actually came from a pungent boxwood hedge outside my kitchen window.

Knitting Knews
Here is a picture of the finished left side of the Egg Yolk Sweater. See the little two-inch pointy part at the top? I had to frog it four times, thanks to two occurrences of the Mysterious Goober and two major fubars of the rib pattern. The pattern is still a little fubared but I give up. And now, apparently, I’m supposed to repeat the whole thing but mirrored and backwards and upside down and inside out for the right-hand side. Surely you jest!

yellowsweater1.jpg

Here's the main problem I'm having with this sweater. Maybe someone can explain how to solve it? To make the little "nubby" columns, on the wrong side, you do a yf, slip as if to purl, yb. In the main part of the pattern this works just fine because you're next stitch is a knit. No prob. BUT, when you're decreasing for the raglan, sometimes the very next stitch is a purl. How can you purl your next stitch if your yarn needs to be in the back?

Dyeing Dyegest
Purple plum leaves are a natural dyer’s dream!

First, when I poured the hot water over the leaves to steep them, an earthy dark purple color immediately started to leech out. By the next morning, all the purple color had leeched into the water, leaving the leaves completely green.

When I simmered the leaves and water, by way of a test, since I hadn’t had the foresight to soak some small pieces of yarn, I threw a three-inch DRY piece of yarn into the pot. After a minute or so, it turned a dark brownish purple. However, when I rinsed it, the purple washed away and the test piece turned a bright yellow, a truer, less-acidic yellow than the dandelion color. I was intrigued, even letting out a little “Wow!,” but I was also a little disappointed because Lord knows I can make yellow dyes, both on purpose and by mistake.

When the dyebath was finished simmering, I put the standard ½-ounce skein of wetted yarn in and simmered it. Like the test piece, it became a nice brownish purple but, when I rinsed it, the color remained! It mellowed out to a rich grayish-brown with light plum overtones, a color a co-worker called “mushroom,” the perfect description. Then, on a whim, I put some ammonia in the dyebath and, to my astonishment, the dyebath immediately turned a deep purple-green. (This turns out to be a little less astonishing than I first thought, thanks to grade school color theory. The ammonia is lemon ammonia so it's yellow. Purple + yellow = dark green.) I simmered another skein of wet yarn in this second color. This second skein turned the most astounding pine green. So, out of this one batch of dyebath, I got bright yellow, “mushroom,” and pine green. My jaw is still scraping the floor. In fact, over the course of the day, I kept revisiting the test piece and two skeins to make sure it wasn’t my imagination.

Oh, you want a picture, did you say?

plumleafresults.jpg

Unfortunately, none of the books say anything about the light-fastness of plum leaf dye but even if the yarn were to fade completely back to the original off-white color tomorrow, this magical experiment would have been worth it.

(Poor K. I’m forever showing up at her door with newly dyed skeins of yarn. It’s her job as my partner to “ooh” and “aah” over the yarn, the same way it’s my job as her partner to be unutterably fascinated by the compost bins she built, but she finds herself stuck between genuinely wanting to support what I’m doing and yet wanting to say she thinks most of the colors are pretty day-um ugly. I think the mushroom color was a little more than her graphic designer’s sensibilities could handle…)

Posted by Ryan at 10:30 AM | Comments (5)

July 18, 2003

Kooky Krafts, Kontinued...

Continuing the Kooky Krafts theme, from my new blogging amie Anne of Creating Text(iles) comes a link to a site that shows you how to make a Jesus figure using a toilet paper roll. There are So Many Things Wrong With This, not the least of which is the fact that you start with a cruelly dismembered Jesus, head here, arms there, and then you glue all of His poor scattered body parts to a toilet paper roll, which used to hold toilet paper, which used to be on a toilet paper holder, which used to be in bathroom, which is where you go when you… Egad. http://www.dltk-kids.com/bible/mjesus.html

And, here, thanks again to my sister, the Kooky Krafts Kween, an apron made out of fast food wrappers. And, on this same site, I came across this which I just cannot buh-lieve.

Knitting Knews
Last night I indulged in my favorite escapist event of the month, Knitting Guild, and we had what apparently is an annual event, a picnic at one of our local parks. You know, you try so hard to look cool, just casually knitting away like all the other knitters, but it's hard to do when you've positioned your chair on an uneven spot on the ground and you, your chair, your yarn, your needles, your pattern and your project keep falling over. Eventually I wised up and moved the chair to a flatter spot but not before making two or three spectacular displays of flailing arms and legs. Oh, sure, I’m cool, all right.

Even the squirrels weren’t impressed with me. I tried to foil one squirrel’s raid on our potluck cornucopia but, instead, found myself engaged in an unending game of maypole around one of the beams of the shelter. Sly Señor Squirrel positioned himself on the other side of the beam from me so I couldn’t “see” him and we just went around and around in circles, his tiny squirrel claws scrambling madly to keep him on the opposite side of the beam. I could just feel him thinking, “Good luck, Toots. I can keep this up aaaaaaaaaaallll day.” Eventually I went back to my knitting, he continued on to the food. By way of revenge, later on I piled my plate extra high. No, really, it was for revenge.

Some lovely ladies helped me with The Mysterious Goober at the top of the Egg Yolk Sweater. They started by holding up the sweater, holding up the pattern and pointing out that what I had done and what the pattern showed weren’t even faintly similar. Just what my ego needed after having done two or three faceplants out of my chair and having been bested by a squirrel. But they reassured me by saying, “Maybe it’s the pattern.” Yeah, uh-huh, the pattern. Suuuuuuuuure. On the positive side, they got me all excited about the project again so I should make some good progress this weekend.

Dyeing Dyegest
Next project – dyeing with purple plum leaves. How gorgeous do these look?

plumleaves.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 08:45 AM | Comments (2)

July 16, 2003

Picture, Thousand Words, Blahblahblah

Oh…my…Gawd. Who knew that when I posted my off-the-cuff and tongue-in-cheek comment about depositing one's boobs in a drop-off box for a mammogram that three weeks later I'd be adding a frickin' illustration! But thanks to a priceless link sent to me by my sister, I am indeed in that astonishing position. And to make this all even more remarkable, it's knitting-related -- I kid you not! Suffice it to say, I imagine this is what the mammogram technician's in-box would look like on a very busy day. http://central.com.au/artmed/amb/bru.html

Knitting Knews
I finished the first Opal Brazil sock. So much fun to knit. Kicky, kooky colors. Had to wear it, natch', so, since it's a good 85-90 degrees here, I spent most of the evening wearing my new wool sock on my left foot and nothing on my right, in hopes that that sartorial combination would keep my body at an even temperature.

BrazilOpalSock.jpg

Dyeing Dyegest
My hunt for my personal Questing Beast -- in my case, green dye -- has taken a turn for the better. I tried the bracken dyeing experiment again, this time a little more conscientiously, without, out of sheer laziness, flinging leaves, liquids and yarn arbitrarily into the dye pot. The end result? A lovely, warm sage green, much darker and more sage-y than this picture, in fact.

brackensample.jpg

Posted by Ryan at 09:08 AM | Comments (5)

July 14, 2003

Requiem for a Ball

Remember my posting about the cheap-o Victorian gazing ball made out of one of Frankie’s plastic balls? The original photo as a reminder:

gazingball.jpg

And here, a new photo, showing the remains of the Victorian gazing ball after one encounter too many with something sharp.

deadgazingball.jpg

Now that her ball is in this shape, Frankie's favorite thing to do is “kill” it by shaking it viciously to snap its little purple plastic ball neck. All she really succeeds in doing is beating herself quite smartly about the face. Needless to say, we encourage her to do this as much as possible because, well, we get some good laughs at her expense.

Knitting Knews
Not much to report in the knitting area. I did discover that I had stirred up some mild but intriguing controversy with my comments about knitting with plastic. No regrets, though. I learned some things I might otherwise never have learned, and was exposed to some amazingly creative things I might never otherwise have been exposed to!

Saturday night I did some knitting on the toe of the Opal Brazil sock while I was watching a movie in the dark with K and some friends. When it came time to turn out the lights, I assured and reassured everyone that, heck, yeah, I could knit in the dark, no problem. When the lights came back on again, the new section I had knit was unrecognizable as part of a sock. Shhhhhhhh. Don't tell!

Dyeing Dyegest
True to my word, I went and clipped large wads of parsley off the parsley plant. Not so true to my word, I also cut right through one of K’s plastic drip watering tubes. I got The Look.

parsley.jpg

When I put the hot water on the parsley, unlike the other steeping plants which just look like, well, plants in water, the parsley, being delicate and edible and herby-y and all, immediately metamorphosed into parsley soup. As I do with all my steeping plants, I put the bowl of parsley soup in K’s garage. By the next morning, her garage smelled as if someone had tried to conserve retail space by combining an Italian restaurant with an auto body shop.

Dye-wise, this story has an unsatisfying ending. I got no color from the parsley, just that same light yellow I got from the foxglove. At first, I thought the light yellow was a cool, unique color but now I know it's plant code for "neener, neener."

Posted by Ryan at 09:44 AM

July 11, 2003

May I Introduce You to My Pissy Side?

Five minutes after I posted my less-than-complimentary comments about knitting with strips of plastic I was made aware of two examples of passably nice things knitted with, yes, plastic! Looking at each item, I found myself pulling my mouth down in a semi-skeptical yet semi-approving way, rubbing my chin, nodding my head slowly, and saying “Hmmmmmm.” Melissa at LooseEndKnits referred me to the web page of Katharine Cobey (loads slowly), a knitting sculpturess whose oeuvres are knitted out of a variety of media including wire, plastic, and different kinds of wool. Sure enough, there on her web site were two bona fide sculptures knit from plastic, specifically – and I find this fascinating – the yellow “danger” tape police put around crime scenes. Still, I wouldn’t want one in the middle of my living room. You?

And then, after following a random blog-blog-blog-blog-blog-blog breadcrumb path, I ended up here where I coinkidentally found a purse knit from strips of black plastic bag. Who knew that if you cut a black plastic bag into strips, knit the strips into a purse, and slapped a faux pearl button on the side, it could look, and I say this grudgingly because I’m not gracious when proven wrong, half-way decent?

I guess my newly-consciousness-raised self now understands the concept of knitting with plastic for the sake of exploring a new medium. What I still don’t understand is knitting with plastic to (a) save money or (b) save the environment.

Let’s consider the "saving money" angle, shall we? Ya’ have ta’ collect the damn bags, perhaps wash them, wait for them to dry if you wash them, perhaps organize them by color, check them for holes, cut them laboriously into same-size strips, wrap the strips into balls or skeins, and then spend however many hours knitting the strips into an admittedly free but obscenely ugly tote bag, wreath, bathmat or Christmas angel, when a twenty-minute trip to the thrift shop and $3 would have accomplished the same thing. Yes, you saved a few shekels but you bartered away ten hours of your life in return... A fair trade? I say nyet!

Now for the dubious recycling angle. People, people, PEOPLE! Knitting something out of a plastic bag does not magically make the bag less of a threat to the environment. In fact, now, rather than exist for a gazillion years as a plastic bag, it will exist for a gazillion years camouflaged as part of an, again, obscenely ugly tote bag, wreath, bathmat or Christmas angel. No, really, how is that better?

(Sigh. Now I'm doomed. Whenever I express a strong opinion about something, it inevitably comes back to haunt me. Now I can be sure that somewhere, somehow, through some quirky, unpredictable twist of fate, I will find myself locked in a room for a long time, with plenty of food and water, a pair of scissors, some knitting needles, and a large pile of plastic bags.)

Knitting Knews
"Finished" the front left side of the Egg Yolk Sweater. I say "finished," because the pattern threw some curves at me, and I ended up with a lumpy-bumpy something that was not quite a cable yet not quite flat at the top of the button side of the piece. I am not a happy camper. Will frog. Will tweak pattern. Will reknit. Will be a happy camper, damn it!

Photo of frogged sweater. Took out an inch or so at the top.

eggyolk1.jpg

Dyeing Dyegest - O, Happy Day!
As if being paid the compliment of being asked to do a natural dyeing presentation weren't enough; as if having an absolute blast preparing for the presentation weren't enough; as if having a groovilicious time doing the presentation weren't enough, a few days ago I received in the mail a "thank you" card signed by all the people who attended, and snugly tucked inside the card was a gift certificate to a local LYS. Does it get any better than that?

thankyou.jpg

On the not-so-groovilicious side, another reader informs me that I am not the owner of a large pile of black walnuts. I am the owner of a large pile of walnuts, yes, but English walnuts, not black walnuts. Big, fat pooh. Time to check the books to see if the really see black walnuts, or if they just say "walnuts."

Ack! Another comment just came in from reader AJ saying that, again, I AM the proud owner of a large pile of walnuts, but I'm the proud owner of the wrong part of a large pile of walnuts! Apparently walnuts have three parts: the nutmeat, the outer woody bit, plus another outer hull. I have the nutmeat, the woody bit, but no outer hull. I'll give you three guesses which part you dye with.

Reader Janet has also given me some intriguing ideas about dyeing with parsley. K has The Parsley Plant That Ate the World growing in one of her smaller beds and she recently made the mistake of telling me it was getting too big. Parsley plant, meet garden clippers; garden clippers, meet parsley plant.

Posted by Ryan at 08:39 AM | Comments (5)

July 09, 2003

Duck! Milk!

My sister and I have a wonderful shared e-hobby: Finding web pages about insanely wacky crafts for adults. This all started when I stumbled across knitting forum discussions about knitting with strips made from supermarket plastic bags*, and it mushroomed from there. The very fluid rules for this game go something like this: The craft has to (1) appear online; (2) be by and for adults (jelly bean art created by kids – natural; a mature adult sitting in a dark, lonely room gluing jelly beans to piece of paper – not natural, albeit infinitely more entertaining); (3) involve the use of an unusual medium; (4) be either freakishly weird or amazing and astonishing; and (5) make us snort milk out of our noses. Sadly, a lot of milk-snort-worthy URLs have already been found, enjoyed, and forgotten by the two of us but here are a few surviving examples:

Anyone out there wanna play the game?

*My apologies if I offend anyone with my implied comments about knitting with plastic bags but there's probably no one out there to offend since I’m preeeeeetty sure the people who knit with plastic bags are the same people who will blanche, shriek, and desperately pound the Back button on their browser when they find out this blog is written by a gay person. And that, my dear readers, is as close to discussing politics as I will ever come in this blog.

Knitting Knews
My friend Sheila at FiberRavenSoiree firmly but nicely encouraged me to do a gauge swatch for the Egg Yolk Sweater, especially since I’m substituting a thick worsted for a chunky. Grumbling all the while, I did the swatch and got surprising results. According to the pattern, on a size 10.5 knitting needle, I was supposed ta’ get 19 stitches over 4” but I got 17 stitches instead. Apparently my heavy worsted is chunkier than the chunky or perhaps I knit tightly. I frogged the sweater (all 2” of it; no big) and started again on size 10 needles. (No, no second gauge swatch. I’m slowly becoming convinced of their value but I’m not up to doing two swatches for one measly project yet.)

Had to frog the toe of the Opal Brazil sock because the pattern I'm using said to stop the foot 2.5" before the desired length of the sock and start the toe but, post-toe, I discovered that my particular yarn/needle/tension combo only gave me a 2" toe. Unless I want to wear the socks with my toes all curled up inside, I need to frog back to the foot, add another 1/2" and retoe. (That's what I love about knitting. You can make up words like "retoe" and people will think it's a real word.)

Dyeing Dyegest
A break from Ryan’s Excellent Dyeing Adventure. Instead, a couple of pictures of the dye garden as it looks now. For your enjoyment, a "before" picture…

birdbath2.jpg

And a couple of "after" pictures.

dyegardenmature1.jpg

dyegardenmature2.jpg

In the "before" picture, see the tiny green speck in the dirt behind and to the left of the birdbath? In the first "after" picture, see the huge muscle-bound bruiser of a sunflower in the middle? Yep, one and the same plant! Any day now, we expect to find this sunflower ensconced in K’s overstuffed chair, brewski in one hand, remote control in the other. And you can be pretty sure it won’t have wiped its roots before it came in.

Posted by Ryan at 08:43 AM

July 07, 2003

Oh, Deer!

Back from a weekend at the "in-laws'." A very Norman Rockwellian place, that: A small riverside farm with two horses, a tiny barn complete with dusty antique carriage, a twee vegetable garden, lush flower beds, apricot trees, peach trees, goldfinches, hummingbirds, quail, salmon frolicking in the river, and a mule deer who nonchalantly walked through our Fourth of July picnic (before saying the deer equivalent of "yoiks!" and flinging itself into the river).

Visiting the in-laws is always a nice down-home respite, although I quickly tire of being the WLA (Weird Lesbian Aunt) and getting the hairy eyeball from the children. After all, I'm not hasn't-come-down-from-the-attic-in-twenty-years weird, I know I'm not their aunt, and I'm certainly not a le...oh. Nevermind.

This visit, I did have an ulterior motive for visiting Rockwell-Land. The beautiful roses, lilies, and dahlias share the yard with two gi-normous black walnut trees, which the natural dyeing books say have good dyeing potential. Before we left today, I "went shopping." Below, my loot:

walnuts.jpg

Before I use the nuts, apparently I'm supposed to put them in a paper bag and beat the crap out of them with a hammer. Where is Freud when you need him?

On a completely different subject, the "Oat Couture" baby was born last week, after, I believe, 48 hours of labor. Now we're trying to figure out whether it took the mother longer to have the baby or me to knit the sweater (which is fixed and finished). Below a black-and-white picture of the sweater because the blue just keeps coming across washed out:

asweaterbw.jpg

Knitting Knews
Any minute now, I expect the Knitting Police, in their lace-knit riot gear, to come pounding on my door since I did very little knitting at the in-laws'. I believe, however, that I do get extra credit in The Big Knitting Book In The Sky for knitting for two hours in the dark the night before the trip (thanks to a stiflingly hot night, a need to keep the doors open, a need to keep the lights off in order not to attract bugs, and, as always, a need to knit).

Despite a slow down in the knitting frenzy, I have made good progress on the Opal Brazil sock. How much fun are these colors?

selfknitsock.jpg

Also, below, a picture of the finished Lorna's Laces socks for K:

mysocks.jpg

Dyeing Dyegest - Dandelion Delight
For my next attempt at dyeing with plentiful, ready-to-use, already grown, already blooming, immediately available plants, I used dandelions. The reference books say you can use the flowers alone; the flowers, stems and leaves together; or roots. Again, my impatience dictated what I was going to use. I wanted to start the dandelions soaking ASAP and I wanted at least three cups of plant material so I decided to use both flowers and leaves because I could gather the amount I needed pronto, instead of picking flowerhead after flowerhead after flowerhead or digging through hard dirt for roots. I was thrilled to have K and her neighbor join me in wandering through the neighborhood picking the dandelions. It felt like one of those “since the dawn of time” female-bonding moments, to me, anyway. I started picking the dandelions by myself but then the neighbor got drawn into it and soon K did, too. Under normal circumstances, they could care less about dyeing or gathering dyestuffs, but somehow we just all ended up side by side picking the bright yellow flowers. It was very cool. If you start dyeing, I wish you a moment like this…

A picture of the dandelions soaking.

dandelionbowl.jpg

I soaked the dandelions in the water for a couple of days, and then simmered them. Imagine my frustration at seeing the dandelions make yet another brown dyebath! I put the yarn in and, sure enough, it turned a disappointing brown. One of the books said that sometimes adding ammonia would help so I threw a glug of it in. Nothing happened. Argh! Still, determined to see the process through to the end, after the yarn had simmered for the prescribed amount of time, I took it out and rinsed it. I was astonished to see the brown color fall away, leaving a lovely golden yellow! The yarn still has a “natural” look about it which is hard to describe – maybe it’s the ever-so-slight acidy overtone – but there’s no denying it’s yellow. Such fun! Now I have a mini-stash of honey-colored, beige-colored, chiffon-colored and yellow-colored yarn. Now for that elusive bracken mint green!

dandelionswatch.jpg

FYI, I was hoping to post a picture of the foxglove yarn but the photo came out looking beige, not the delicate chiffon yellow the yarn really is, so no photo.

Posted by Ryan at 09:53 AM