October 31, 2003

More MittenMania

Happy All Hallow's Eve to My Dear Readers, especially new reader and beginning blogger Robbyn!

In honor of Halloween, I bring you a pumpkin sweater. No, not a pumpkin-orange sweater, not a sweater with an intarsia pumpkin, not a sweater ribbed to look like a pumpkin, not a sweater that someone has spilled slimy pumpkin innards on—a sweater for a pumpkin. A Kooky Kraft? Absolutely!

Knitting Knews
Flush with success from the Ugly Pointy Orange Mitten, I'm knitting what I call the "Mary Mittens." Dear Reader Mary was curious about my tendency to knit things too small and, try as I might, I couldn't argue with her since the Acoma Sock, the Arboretum Sock and the UPOM have all came out too small to be worn (although, in defense of the UPOM, I used a child's mitten pattern and knew it would be small). However, Mary's gentle "tweak" motivated me to get over my lackadaisical self and knit mittens that actually fit, hence the "Mary Mittens." And here it is, a perfectly-fitting right-hand mitten! Granted it flirts with being Ugly and Pointy, but its very wearable. The Gory Details: Variegated Plymouth Encore worsted weight yarn (more jewel-toned than the picture shows); 40 stitches around from cast-on to kitchener; size 5 needles for the cuff and size 6 for the hand; based on dribs and drabs of instructions from four different mitten patterns, and a lot of creative improvising.

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My experience with the UPOM taught me that I could expect oogleh gaping holes at the base of the thumb so that is where I got creative. On the front, I picked up all the stitches that were on waste yarn as I was supposed ta'. On the back part, however, I picked up as many new stitches as I could cram into that small area, about 8. Then, on Rounds 1 and 2, I k2tog'ed all the new stitches until only 2 stitches remained, which is what I was supposed to pick up in the first place. It's not perfect but there's only one tiny gap left and, as an indirect consequence, the fabric of the "y" between the thumb and index finger could give Kevlar a run for its money.

Although in an ideal world I'd have two mittens, the one mitten was completed none too soon since we had record-breaking cold weather this morning. One hand in your coat pocket, one mitten-clad hand scraping the ice off your window, and Bob's your uncle. ("Bob's your uncle." What does that mean, and what does it have to do with mittens, ice and commuting to work?!!!)

(A final note: I now stand even more firmly by the Mitten Effect I noticed when I took the UPOM to work. When I finished the Mary Mitten, I gave it to K to look at. She immediately put it on her hand, made a mitten puppet out of it and started "barking" it at me and Frankie...and then turned quite red when I pointed out that she had fallen under the influence of the Mitten Effect. I guess it's just a thing we humans do. We can't help it.)

Dye Garden Dyegest
While we wait for me to get off my lazy duff and dye with the salal berries, here are, to me, interesting photos about everybody's favorite subject, composting.

The history: Despite being an avid, one might say obsessed gardener, for a long time K had no interest in making compost, although, to be sure, I nipped Yorkie-like at her heels about it. Fortunately, she was interested in small-scale woodworking so, one day, she, as we say, "whapped together" a compost bin out of some 1" x 4"s and disinterestedly tossed some vegetation in it. And now, four compost bins later...

The composting bibles would have you believe that you have to carefully nurse and tend your compost piles, controlling the heat, the humidity, the dampness, the contents, the layering of the contents, the critters within and so on. In true K fashion, she does none of these things yet still churns out yummy, friable black gold. Here, a pictorial:

The Beginning: A Bouquet On Moss. Who knew that compost piles could look this fetching?

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The Middle. Eventually the bouquets, moss, twigs, grass, leaves, flowers and apples from the apple tree break down into this:

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The End and, in a way, The Beginning again. After sifting, the compost looks like this. Pretty spiffy, no?

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Posted by Ryan at 09:10 AM | Comments (4)

October 29, 2003

Safe and Sound in San Diego

Sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and house are fine, if you discount the ash blanketing their neighborhood, the toxic, oxygen-depleted air, the fact that you can't see anything in broad daylight, and the fact that 300 of their neighbors' houses have been obliterated. Sigh.

Sister sent me this link to some remarkable and heartwrenching photos of her Scripps Ranch neighborhood. I think this photo of a swimming pool sitting serene and blue in the middle of all the devastation is amazing. (By now you should have figured out that I try to keep my blog on the light side, but this is an event which strikes too close to home for me to ignore. The light-heartedness will return soon, I promise, especially since I want to tell everyone I found the piece of wayward toast!)

Knitting Knews
As a diabetic, The Mysterious K is plagued with cold fingers, especially during our cold and rainy winters. Since she is a graphic designer and spends hours a day at her computer, cold fingers can be a real problem. So, how to warm up your fingers but still be able to type? Why, with "Typing Toasties," of course! Below, a (fuzzy) picture of K's Typing Toasties, one of my very first knitting projects. They were knit flat (what did I know from double-pointed needles back then?) out of a wonderfully soft slate-gray alpaca.

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Now that I think about it, the Typing Toasties may well be be responsible for my becoming so deeply and so quickly enmeshed in the world of knitting. A few minutes after K put them on I could already tell that her fingers were getting warmer. I was intrigued by the thought that I had knit something that made a difference, albeit on a small scale, in someone's comfort and quality of life. From then on, I was hooked! The good news? K has lost some weight lately and the Typing Toasties have become too big for her so a new, smaller pair is on the top of my knitting list.The even better news? I have another skein of that same alpaca in my stash!

Dye Garden Dyegest
Two days ago I received a comment on the blog from, remarkably enough, the son-in-law of Judy Green, the woman who wrote "Natural Dyeing with Northwest Plants," my favorite natural dyeing book. To say the least, the book is quirky. It's small, orange, has funky little drawings, and the font makes you imagine that it was laboriously typed on an old typewriter at a formica-topped kitchen table. But it has a good karmic-y/feng-shui-y feeling about it; it's nice to just hold. From the day it arrived in the mail, K and I have been curious about its history so I emailed the commenter back with questions about the publication of the book. He then forwarded my email on to The Judy Green. What fun! Perhaps now we'll learn a little more about this little book that has helped me in so many ways over the last few months.

Posted by Ryan at 11:21 AM | Comments (9)

October 27, 2003

Good Thoughts, Please!

Please send thoughts of encouragement and hope and a mentally-projected bubble of protection to my sister and her family whose home is threatened by the Southern California fires. Last I spoke to them, they were packed and ready to evacuate. Sister, let me know how things are going!

On a lighter note, you know you own too many push-button operated things when, in the course of one weekend, you try to unlock your car with your TV remote control, and you try to change channels on your TV with your cordless phone.

Knitting Knews
The network administrator where I work is one of the most remarkable young people I know. He has been deaf and mute since birth but is the most amazing communicator, thanks partly to a great sense of humor and a complete lack of inhibition. It is not uncommon for him to leap up out of his chair and flail and dance and bounce around a conference room, acting out what he is trying to say. People who aren't used to this are, of course, startled but for the rest of us it's just business as usual for this odd little company.

A few of us have learned some American Sign Language and eat lunch with him every Tuesday. We frequently end up laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. Of course, this is all quite confusing to the other people in the lunchroom who only hear long periods of silence punctuated by sudden, loud and, to them, inexplicable outbursts of laughter.

What does this have to do with knitting? Well, he and his equally charming wife (who is also deaf but not mute) had their second child last week. I bought this yarn this weekend to knit socks for the new little one. Something to knit that's not mittens—Callooh! Callay!

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Dye Garden Dyegest
An end-of-the-season, flowerless, "good-bye" photo from the dye garden to all My Dear Readers. The Mysterious K is in the process of cleaning it out and cutting down the annuals—especially those honkin' big sunflowers—for her compost piles. With the flowers that I have left and the jars of dye that I kept, I may be able to keep dyeing for a little while. I'll continue posting pictures as long as I can. On a happier note, plans are already in the works for a larger dye garden next year!!

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Posted by Ryan at 09:53 AM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2003

Raptor Rapture

A particularly unlovely Seattle commute... It’s a rainy day and you feel weighed down by sullen gray skies, oily raindrops, and exhaust fumes as you inch slowly homeward along the bridge. Then your eye is caught by a dark form circling gently in the sky. You look up, shrug, and think, feh, another red-tailed hawk. But experience tells you you should look again, just in case. And there it is. The flash of white in back. And, a second later, the flash of white in front. And then an ordinary commute becomes an extraordinary commute as you realize you are driving home in the company of a bald eagle.

In this city, this happens more than you would think—I've even seen bald eagles flying over my own yard—but it's still an awe-inspiring experience every time. (Of course, after my last entry, we all know they're just waiting for torrential rains to bring them Highway Salmon Surprise.)

Knitting Knews
TA-DA!!!!! A picture of my obscenely pointy, way-too-small but officially completed mitten! The fact that it's orange and we are exactly one week away from Halloween? Purely a coincidence.

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A special thanks goes out to Jean who sent me the URL to the pattern I ended up using. Thanks also to Vaire, Rebecca, and Mary for their support, inspiration and pattern suggestions during The Great Mitten Adventure.

Showed the mitten around the office and noticed two sociological phenomena. First, no matter how small the mitten is, everyone will try to put it on, focusing especially on getting their thumb crammed into the thumb part. Secondly, once the mitten is on, everyone, no matter how mature, intelligent, sophisticated or self-possessed, will immediately go all giggly and googly and silly and, most likely, make a little mitten-y "hand dog" and bark it around the room. Ah, the magical effect of mittens.

Dye Garden Dygest
A swatch of yarn dyed with dahlias and an ammonia afterbath. The actual color is a lot less orange than this, more like orange-tinted caramel.

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And, as promised, the variegated dahlia swatch. The light mustard is the original color and the orange is where I added the ammonia. Really an unlovely color combination, sort of as if a baby spit carrot puree all over King Midas's best outfit, but I am tickled at having created what passes for real variegated yarn!

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Posted by Ryan at 08:54 AM | Comments (6)

October 22, 2003

Where is Noah When You Need Him?

rain.gifAs some of you may have experienced (my Dear Readers from Seattle), some of you may know (my Dear Readers from Oregon), and some of you may not know (my Dear Readers from the other 48 states, Australia (hi, Dot!) and anywhere else), this Monday Seattle experienced its heaviest rain on record, 5 inches in 24 hours. (In Seattle and the 'burbs, it's considered a bad storm when you have to drive around the salmon on the highway. No, not an urban myth. Highways, salmon—all true.) This freakish downpour led to Issues With the Pseudo-Adopted Cat.

Lemme 'splain about the PAC: On the one hand, he is old, he is skinny, he is sick. (I know this because he keeps sneezing little kitty-sized drops of goo all over my knitting. Lovely.) On the other hand, he does not belong to me and even wears a collar testifying to this fact. On the third hand, as I've written in other entries, I am a critterophile so my heart really goes out to the big old tom. On the fourth hand, he seems strongly drawn to me and my house, even though I've done nothing to encourage this. (Wait. How did that box of cat food specially formulated for older cats appear on my kitchen counter?) On the fifth hand, what are his real owners thinking leaving a cat outside in that kind of all-time crappy weather? (Shutting up. Getting off soap box. Putting soap box back in soap box closet.)

Monday, after it had been raining in sheets for hours and cars had started floating away all over the city and it was salmon rush-hour on the highways, I came home to find a sodden PAC huddled on a sodden Welcome mat on my sodden front-door stoop. No prob. Scooped him up; took him in; dried him off; gave him a snack from the non-existent box of cat food; and plopped him on "his" yellow lap blanket, where he slept for the next six hours, bestirring himself only to sneeze on my knitting. But then it was time for all good bloggers to go to sleep, so what to do about Monsieur Poosie? I couldn't bear the thought of putting him out but I couldn't keep him inside either because, well, see "Belong, Me Not" above.

The PAC was in full agreement with the "not going out" idea. When I opened the door for him, he trotted straight toward the opening, noticed the rain, blanched (which is hard for a black cat to do), and put on his brakes. To encourage his decampment, I booted him gently on his skinny old heinie but his front paws were braced so hard I only succeeded in hoisting his butt up in the air. So, if you had been a fly on the wall, you would have seen me outside, at midnight, in my bathrobe and slippers, in the worst rain in Seattle history, cobbling together a little cat shelter for him, lining it with old towels, laying plastic sheeting over the stoop, and putting the shelter on the sheeting. This time, a slightly firmer boot in the heinie and the PAC shot straight from the warm, dry house into his warm, dry kitty shelter, curled up and went to sleep. Sweet dreams, old tom!

Now, what to do about this dripping bathrobe? And is that a sniffle I feel coming on?

Knitting Knews
Thanks to lots of hand-holding (pun intended) by My Dear Readers, I have almost finished one child's mitten. (It was supposed to be adult-sized but "best-laid schemes o' mice an men" and all that.)

After looking at the many different patterns sent to me, I'm now starting to see why I was confused. There are a trillion different ways to knit mittens! Some patterns have a rib cuff followed by a plain stockinette area followed by the thumb gusset; some patterns go straight from cuff to gusset. Some patterns have a long gusset; some have a short one. Some have you knit the entire thumb hole in waste yarn; some have you cast off half of it in waste yarn and then cast on new stitches to make the other side of the thumb hole. If you cast on stitches for the other side, some have you make as many stitches as you cast off, some have you make just two or three stitches and snug the hole up. Hallelujah! I do not feel quite so much as if someone hit me with a stupid stick!

Dear Reader Vaire sent me some extremely helpful photos of mittens in progress. In return, it is my honor to post this picture of beautiful gloves she knit.

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Dye Garden Dyegest
After fussing over it like a mother hen for two days, I think I managed to make a variegated yarn which is more than just pathetic and minute smudges of light color on a 99.999% dark background! Picture of dahlia-dyed, variegated yarn swatch on Friday!

Posted by Ryan at 09:39 AM | Comments (3)

October 20, 2003

MittenMania

One of my most important possessions is this pair of mittens knit for me by my mother, made all the more precious because my mother was not the rosy-cheeked, wiping-her-flour-covered-hands-on-her-gingham-apron, chuckling, sitting-by-the-fireplace-and-knitting type of person. Quite the opposite, in fact. (Note to Big Sister: Am I right, or am I right?)

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The problem with these mittens?

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My secret? Inside I wear these ghastly mass-produced items, given to me by my Abuela (grandmother). Uglier than sin but wonderfully soft and insulating, and they fill up part of that three-inch gap at the top of the outer set of mittens. Since it doesn't get that cold here in Seattle, you would think two pairs of mittens would be overkill, but the result is perfect: a self-contained, warm, dry, summer-like biomitten. Of course, I'm sure I look ever so dorky driving my spiffy, sporty convertible wearing old, blue, pilly, freakishly overstuffed mittens but, hey, ma' Momma knit these for me! You have somethin' t'say about my Momma? Do ya?

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Knitting Knews
Speaking of mittens, I started knitting a pair this weekend, but, frankly, I am completely befuddled. When I started knitting socks, I bought the "Learn to Knit Socks" pamphlet, the equivalent of "Sock Knitting for Dummies," and it was ideal for a first-time sock knitter. Now, if I could only find the same thing for mittens...

Anyway, with little bits and pieces from the Net, from My Dear Readers, and from an atrociously bad mitten pattern I bought from my LYS, I took my first stab at knitting a mitten this weekend, using for adornment the pattern from the March 13 page of "365 Knitting Stitches a Year." The gusset for the thumb looks like it is going to be way off so I'll either have to reknit the mitten or have my thumb surgically moved 1" to the right but I'll still plow ahead with this project and see where it takes me. Oh, and I'm using Lamb's Pride Worsted and it is i-i-tcheee! Hmmmm, maybe my Abuela's mittens aren't looking so ugly after all...

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Dye Garden Dyegest
Dyed with dahlias last night. Got a bright metallic lemon yellow. Tried to make variegated lemon yellow and orange yarn by applying little bits of ammonia. The bright metallic lemon yellow yarn is is now all orange. Drat. Time to do some research.


Posted by Ryan at 01:10 PM

October 17, 2003

Cross-Cultural Communication

The wonderful restaurant we go to for special occasions always makes the event a little extra special by scattering rose petals on the table and giving you a card commemorating the event. As enlightened a city as Seattle is and as hard as the restaurant tries, however, everything comes a cropper when it comes to same-sex relationships. When I called the restaurant to make the reservations, the end of the conversation went as follows:

She: Is this for a special event?
Me: Yes, for an anniversary.
She (fishing for what to put on the card): Mr. and Mrs?
Me (simply answering in kind and not associating this with the card): No, Mrs. and Mrs.
She: Oh.

And so, thanks to my inexact response and her not knowing she should probably inquire further as to what our two last names are, this is what was in the card:

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We had a good, long chuckle and happily brought the card home with us.

Something similar happened at the Space Needle. They also ask if the dinner is for a special event and use that information to alert the maitre d' ahead of time so he can wish the diners "Happy (Special Event)" as he seats them. The maitre d' did not wish us "Happy Anniversary" but, not having celebrated an event at the Space Needle before, we didn't know anything was amiss until about 20 minutes into our meal when he rushed over all atwitter and wringing his hands and wished us "Happy Anniversary" in an anxious voice. He then proceeded to apologize profusely and explained in one long breath that he saw the "special event" information on the reservation but thought it had to be in error because we were both women and two women couldn't possibly be celebrating an anniversary because we couldn't be together in "that way" but the hostess had explained the situation to him and he really felt bad and he was really sorry and he would know better in the future and, well, "Happy Anniversary" again. And again. And again. And again. We reassured and thanked and calmed the poor man and went home with full tummies and a great new story which we have happily trotted out many times over the years.

Knitting Knews
I am pleased to be able to present the finished Arboretum Sock which, yes, I hauled kicking and screaming over the finish line the night before Guild. I misted it with water, put it on one of my infamous cardboard sock blockers and, by 6:00pm the next night, it was ready for its debut into society.

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Don’t be looking for a mate any time soon. As I mentioned before, this sock is too small, for my feet at least. I need to either add stitches, maybe go from 60 to 64 stitches or more, or knit it on size 3s, but I think that would cause the vine pattern to lose some of its crispness.

On a brighter note, generous commenter Jean Silver has written up for me left-side and right-side patterns for continuing Le Vine down Le Foot. (She confesses that she did some of the patterning while in a meeting! A true knitting rebel!) Thank you, Jean!

I also learned it pays to have friends in high places (and to write about them online every Monday, Wednesday and Friday). At the Guild SockFest, the board members had been asked to come up with categories of socks to which to award prizes. They came up with categories such as “Smallest Sock,” “Longest Sock,” “Sock I Could Never Knit Because It Has So Many Colors,” “The Sock That Best Reflects the Fact That We Meet in a Church,” "The Sock with the Most Stitches per Inch," and, last but not least, Janine’s unique category “The Sock I Have Been Watching Be Knit Online.” Guess who won that category (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Thank you, Janine, you sly fox, you. My prize was this kicky assortment of novelty fibers that are crying out to be knit as accents into a black sock, I think. A perfect prize for someone who, as I’ve said many times before, needs to learn to think outside of the box!

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Dye Garden Dyegest
I found a never-ending supply of salal berries in, of all places, the parking lot of my workplace. Last week, rather than hustle straight to my car, I headed across the parking lot and deep into the salal bushes, clutching an (unused) one of Frankie's poo-bags, and spent a Zenish 1/2 hour picking berries. I have about
1 1/2 cups. Rumor has it that salal berries make blue dye but the berries look suspiciously dark purple.

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What happened to the salal plants in the dye garden, you ask? Well, although K watered frequently this summer, they still died the Death of a Thousand Thirsts. Two of them are in Plant Hospital and just recently recovered enough to rustle their leaves once for "yes" and twice for "no." Next, surgery, medication, and months of physical therapy. Or we could just buy new plants.

Posted by Ryan at 09:33 AM | Comments (7)

October 15, 2003

A Special Day

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Happy 17th Anniversary

To "The Mysterious K"

Thank you for...

Helping make the dye garden, the blog, the blog pictures, and our new cyber-blogging-knitting-dyeing-commenting friends possible

Unceasingly and uncomplainingly watering the dye garden
even though it means hauling that long, heavy hose aaaaaallllllll the way
across the yard day after day

Not laughing when I ended up putting the birdbath right in the exact center of the dye garden even when I tried to put it slightly off center
to be stylish and creative

Being the inspiration for some of the blog stories

Being good-humored about the stories you inspire even though I occasionally
take a jab or two at your expense

Being bold enough to leave comments occasionally, even though you thought
you never would in a million years

Putting up with a freezer so full of bags of frozen flowers there is no room for food

Never complaining when I leap up at the oddest moments and say,
"Time to take photos!"

Never complaining when I arrange your things in weird ways
to "stage" my pictures

Never complaining when I say, "The batteries are dead on the camera,"
even though you know I expect you to fix it even though I used up all the power

Listening patiently to my stories about how this brown swatch is different from that brown swatch

Not laughing at the fact that I talk about brown so much now even though I used to tell you your old brown couch was the ugliest thing ever

Laughing only a little bit when I got yellow dye all over one of my favorite shirts

Listening patiently while I describe e-v-e-r-y minute of
what I did at Knitting Guild

Lending me your food scale so I can weigh the skeins of Henry's Attic
to make sure they are just right

Not jumping when the plastic cup on the food scale hits the floor for the umpteenth time when I pull the Henry's Attic too hard

For not minding that tonight I will be at Sockfest instead of with you (but we'll make up for it with dinner at Palisade tomorrow night!)

And, even though this has nothing to do with the blog, for being the best cook ever!

From the "Not-So-Mysterious R"

Posted by Ryan at 08:32 AM | Comments (10)

October 13, 2003

Kool, Not Kooky

How beautiful is this Huichol Indian yarn art? Or this piece? Or this?

And since this is a full-service blog, here are directions from DIY.com on how to make yarn art. (Although, according to this site, it is not truly Huichol yarn art unless it is created while "experiencing the Sacred Peyote" and I see no mention of peyote on diy.com's materials list. Hmmmmm.)

Knitting Knews
My fingers, elbow, wrist, and the tendons that connect Body Part A to Body Part B resent mightily the Arboretum Sock but I think we are on track to finish on time, thanks partly to a gray, rainy and blustery stay-inside Saturday followed, astonishingly enough, by a gray, rainy, and blustery stay-inside Sunday. And thanks also to K, who foresaw the gray, rainy, blahblahblah, and got us a passel of videos to watch.

I was also able to knit a little on the sock at the Highly Secret Project rendezvous but was mostly focused on working on the HSP and scarfing down pizza, Martinelli's, and cheesecake. Okay, in the honest order: Mostly focused on scarfing down pizza, Martinelli's, cheesecake and working on the HSP.

The gray, rainy, blahblahblah has me thinkin' about knitting some mittens next. Dear Readers, do you have any suggestions as to good on-line mitten patterns? I've started the cuff from this pattern but have had to up the needle size twice (which is unusual) and I find that the cuff is still strangulation-tight so I hae me doots about the pattern.

Dye Garden Dyegest
As promised, below is a picture of the swatch I knit from my first foray into variegated yarn. The pinky spots are all that was left of the hollyhock purple after the Ammonia That Ate Seattle was applied to the yarn. Feel free to laugh. Trust me, my feelings will not be hurt. Much.

(BTW, this colorway's name? "Hollymmonia" or maybe "Ammonihock!")

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Posted by Ryan at 10:58 AM

October 10, 2003

A New Source of Spinnable Fiber?

If you're going to be in Carson City, Nevada on November 1, why not swing on by this competition?

Knitting Knews
Below, a photo of the front of the Aran pillow blocked and pinned on my jury-rigged blocking board (a piece of cardboard cut from the side of a box, with a 16" x 16" square drawn on it as a template, and covered in plastic wrap so I could still see the square but the cardboard wouldn't get damp). The catch? All those pins stick very upside-down-porcupine-like out of the bottom. Ow, ow ow, and ow.

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Still arm-wrestling with the Arboretum Sock, and am painfully aware that I'm running out of time, the Sockfest being this Wednesday and all. Let's see if I can explain the problem: The decreases and the yo's are not distributed in a balanced manner so when I divide the pattern in half, a decrease in the first half "loses" its corresponding yo because the yo lands in the other half. I start out with two halves of eight stitches each and rapidly end up with one half having seven stitches and the other half having nine, and then can't do a repeat because the repeats all start with eight/eight. My head is spinning.

Stop the presses! K just pointed out to me that Sockfest conflicts with our 17-year anniversary! But she knows that I Need (in the way that sometimes knitters Need yarn or Need a pattern or Need to knit) to go to Sockfest but, fortunately, she Needs to go to a workshop to learn how to buy and use a router so she has signed herself up for one on the same night. Are we romantic or whut?

Lastly, I've been "called up" to work on the Highly Secret Project this weekend. Yahoo!

Dye Garden Dyegest
Below is a photo of two swatches showing the results from the madrona-bark-plus-ammonia dye experiment. One, as always, is the inevitable Plain Old Brown. That one I achieved dyeing the normal way (simmering the yarn in the dyebath). The other one is a beautiful soft peach color, similar to the Crayola Crayon called "Flesh," that is, until Crayola jumped on the politically correct bandwagon, changed the crayon's name to "Peach," and started selling this instead. (Wait a sec'. How did I go from discussing a madrona yarn swatch to discussing racial bias in one frickin' sentence?)

Anyhoo, back to the swatches: The second color (which is a little more tan and a little less pink than the picture shows) I achieved by pouring dye on the skein and steam-dyeing it, using the "Twisted Sisters" method. A lot of the dye washed away when I rinsed the skein but I love the color it left behind, so much so, in fact, that, on my way from Point A to Point B in my house, I occasionally make a detour through the kitchen just to visit it. (Once again, I need to get out more...)

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Posted by Ryan at 12:39 PM

October 08, 2003

Sigh...

Last night the only real excitement I had was when I got to open a new tube of toothpaste. Really, that was the highlight of my night. I need to get out more.

Knitting Knews
The front of the Aran pillow is off the needles. (I originally wrote, "The Aran pillow is finished" but quickly realized how grossly inaccurate that was. What about blocking? What about finding a surface to block on? What about knitting the other side? What about blocking the other side? What about purchasing the pillow form? What about sewing the back and front together? What about inserting the pillow form and seaming up the last side? My vision of a finished pillow, glowing slightly and surrounded by angels and heavenly music, is receding rapidly into the distance.)

Many thanks to the folks working on the Highly Secret Project who, unbeknownst to them, inspired me to take on the pillow. And they continue to inspire me, nay, nudge me, nay, zap me with a cattle prod as I think about what to do for the back. As I mentioned before, the pattern calls for a plain checkerboard back but I am being encouraged to—gasp!—design a back of my own! K, on the other hand, says, just slap a piece of cloth on the back and get it over with. I think this is because she is eager for the pillow to take up residence on her new leather recliner.

Dye Garden Dyegest
Made two failed attempts at making variegated yarn, using the plastic wrap and steaming method described in "Twisted Sisters." First, used a spoon to dot a skein with what I thought were judiciously small spots of hollyhock dye. The judiciously small spots immediately expanded and bled together to make one solid skein of grayish purple yarn. Then, remembering my magic elixir, ammonia, I tried to make green spots on the purple by dotting ammonia all over the skein, a little more restrainedly this time. Taking its cue from the purple dye, the green expanded and bled to cover 90% of the skein, making me the proud owner of the ugliest green and purple variegated yarn imaginable. Some of my Dear Readers have exclaimed, not possible! There is no such thing as an ugly green and purple combination! Bless you, Dear Readers, but we are not talking the beautiful purple and green of a rainbow, or the purple and green of a lush lilac blossom against a field of leaves. We are talking bruise colors here, ugly grayish purple all smooshed together with a sickly green, light spinach color. I will post a picture soon and let you judge for yourselves.

I have, however, not given up. Yesterday I stopped at a pharmacy and picked up some kind of squirty, eye-droppery thing. I think it's actually designed for doing unspeakable things to your child's ears, nose or bottom—I'm not sure which—but hopefully it will help me control the dyeing process a little more.

Posted by Ryan at 10:11 AM

October 06, 2003

Long Live Kooky Krafts!

My wonderfully daft blogging "pen pal" Anne posted in her blog a link to this, thus inspiring me in a moment of utter insanity to Google on the words "tampon" and "art." In my naiveté I thought, surely I won't get any hits on such a preposterous search string, but 19,156 hits later, I bring you this, one of my finer Kooky Kraft finds. Do enter the site; the additional photos and captions are a hoot.

Anne has also sent me another wonderful example of a Kooky Kraft based on feminine hygiene products but that one has to wait until closer to Christmas to be revealed (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Anne, wink, wink, nudge, nudge). As always, stay tuned!

Knitting Knews
Good news and bad news about the Arboretum sock. The good news: Finished the heel, love the heel.

leafsockheel.jpg

The bad news: Figuring out how to continue the vine pattern down the foot was so frustrating I solved the problem by, well, working on the Aran pillow instead. Sock, what sock?

One of my commenters (and new Knitting Guild acquaintance), Mary, asked for the pattern for "eye of partridge" heel so, Mary, of the two versions I found on the Net, here's the one I used. This pattern basically uses alternating rows of sl1, k1 and k1, sl1. The staggered s1's are what make the diamond-y pattern.

Row 1: (wrong side) sl1, purl cross all stitches
Row 2: (sl 1, k1) across all stitches.
Row 3: sl1, purl across all stitches
Row 4: sl 1, k1, (k1, sl 1) across all stitches
Repeat rows 1-4

Dye Garden Dyegest
Semi-disappointing results with the sunflower dye, or maybe I'm just ready for some other color besides brown. In the case of the sunflower dye, I was hoping I'd get something more brick-y or magenta but, no, just brown, although with a nice, subtle plum tone. Below, the swatch. The darker areas aren't variegation, just evidence of my losing the battle with the squirt bottle when I was pseudo-blocking the swatch (just visualize a cartoon character with an over-pressurized firehose).

sunflowerswatch.jpg

Actually, the Never-Ending Browns redeemed themselves somewhat when I was inspired to take this photo of all the browns together (from top to bottom, walnut, alder cone, sunflower, marigold and bracken). For some reason, this photo has a lovely feng shui-y calming effect on me, which is quite odd since brown is one of my least favorite colors, right up there with orange, powder blue, and mint green.

brownswatches.jpg

Next entry, the interesting results from the madrona dyebath...

Posted by Ryan at 10:40 AM | Comments (8)

October 03, 2003

Keys, Keys, Who's Got the Keys?

Came home last night. Unlocked the front door. Dumped my knapsack, sweater, knitting, book, papers, all the crap I tote to and from work. Decided to go back to the car to get the Henry's Attic skeins. Realized I had lost my keys. No, really; I had lost my keys after one nanosecond in the house. Went into Search Mode. Dumped out everything from the bazillion different small, medium and large pockets in my knapsack. Dumped everything out of my knitting bag. Moved and thus annoyed the PAC (Pseudo-Adopted Cat) to rummage around in the blankets on the bed. Checked my mailbox in case I had left the key in there. Checked in the recycling bin, just in case. Out of desperation, poked gingerly and hesitantly around in my putridly rank kitchen garbage can. Gave up. Called K, the Miracle Finder of Lost Articles. K drove over. Pointed to my keys which were hanging on the key hook. K drove home.

Growing old—fun, fun, fun!!

Knitting Knews
Finished the five repeats of the vine pattern for the ankle of the sock. I have to say, I am likin' this design! Next, eye of partridge heel, and then on to figuring out how to run the vine pattern down both sides of the foot, since some rows of the vine have 16 stitches and some have 15, so I have to figure out which side gets 8 stitches and which side gets 7 on the "off" rows. (Oh, my God; I'm boring even myself with this paragraph.)

Did a few more rows on the Aran pillow, which I am also likin'. What a pleasure to have two intriguing and enjoyable projects going at the same time. But I really have to get away from green. Blindingly bright pink for the next project, I think.

Dye Garden Dyegest—The Dye That Ate Seattle
I should have known from the uniquely gross brown color of this steeped yarrow that this would not be one of my more successful dye projects:

yarrowdye.jpg

In fact, it never got past the first few minutes of simmering. Oh...my....God. The smell!!! One of my dye books warns that yarrow smells pretty strong and unpleasant but, I repeat, oh....my...God. It smelled like eau de methane combined with rotting, sinus-reaming, nuclear-powered lemons combined with the slimy green smell of flower stems that have sat in water too long. OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod. The putrid concoction is now gagging the worms and pillbugs in my compost, and I've started steeping the madrona instead. Never again!

Posted by Ryan at 08:20 AM | Comments (10)

October 01, 2003

Keyoard Emergecy

K spilled iced tea on her keyboard yesterday. How do I know? Because a few seconds after the moment of spillage I received this email:


     Rya

     Ispilledieteaoykeyoard.Guesswhihkeysdo


She now has a new keyoard. I predict she will not be drinking ietea near her new keyoard any time soo.

Knitting Knews
Biding its time in the background while all the Rowanspun and Arboretum Sock drama has ensued, the aran pillow has also progressed. Here it is 3/4 done; 24 more rows to go (for the front, then Lord knows what I'm going to do for the back. It's supposed to be all checkerboard but 16" x 16" of nothing but checkerboard—gack!).

aran2.jpg

Dye Garden Dyegest
The Dr. Muto video game has degenerated to include a giant three-eyed gorilla that kills enemies by smashing them between his enormous palms or bouncing on them savagely with a super-colossal butt, and a mutated spider that excretes, with great farty sound effects, little globs of green goo that explode, killing everything within a ten foot radius. (How do they come up with this stuff?!) Perfect entertainment for the tedium of churning out 1/2-ounce skein after 1/2-ounce skein after 1/2-ounce skein of Henry's Attic.

Posted by Ryan at 08:47 AM | Comments (5)