Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gardening, Riding and Knitting into Spring

Not many pictures to share, so you'll just have to read.

Weather here has been funky to say the least.  We started seedlings indoors, with the exception of peas, onions and three types of carrots which we direct sowed.  Peas are doing great and we eagerly anticipate eating them.  We've had to construct a trellis for them already and they are beginning to climb.

We put the seedlings out Friday to begin hardening for planting, but John is thinking we need to bring them in tonight as evening temperatures are still dipping too low.  Thusly, our tomato plants are dismally small still.

The lettuce we were growing indoors has bolted to seed, so we'll be starting a new batch soon.  We should have foreseen this and started one already... but hey, we haven't been eating much lettuce lately.  The indoor broccoli continues to grow well, but then again, we have never done broccoli before, so we aren't too sure what to expect.

Haley has been giving John fits all Spring since we put the cherry and pear trees in.  Seems she likes to dig for the root ball.  I thought John was going to do her in a couple of times.  Finally caught Chica helping her with the excavation, so now both girls are on watch.  We are still avidly trying to train away this behavior.  So far the cherry tree is growing well, despite the root disturbances.  The pear tree continues to struggle, even with weekly "Root Stim" treatments.

I ride my motorcycle to work on less windy days - which sadly hasn't been as often as I'd like - to save money on gas.  The wind has been unbelievable.  I still contend this is the birthplace of tornadoes.  John and I went for a ride Sunday - 320 miles up to Sipapu Ski Resort / Tres Ritos area and back.  Winds were so awful on the return trip, my bike was gusting all over the place.  I'm still recovering.  It was fun, but exhausting.

I've been knitting like a mad woman.  I designed a new shawl pattern this month, as well as a market bag pattern that I've already made available on Ravelry for free download.  I have a class coming up in June - Knit Research & Rescue - which I'm very excited to teach.  I've also recently started spinning my own yarn.  I put all my "fiber" news on my knitting blog: JesseKnits  Feel free to drop in and discover how obsessed I really am.

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Pattern: Cotton Carry-All

Perfect for towels, bathing suits and summer reads for the beach OR cans of veggies, boxes of cake mix and quarts of juice from the grocery, this wash and dry stretchy mesh carry-all is flexible enough for all your needs, and strong enough to get you where your going.
Bag is worked in the round top down. Tab handles are worked back and forth, then I-cord, returning to back and forth and sewn onto bag body for added comfort and strength.
This pattern is available as a free Ravelry download for a limited time only.

Dyeing Again...and Again... and Again! to Achieve Enlightenment

I've continued my self studies into dyeing yarn.  Recently I was challenged to do an "over-dye" project, which basically means taking yarn that was already dyed - either by hand or commercially - and dyeing it again.  To accomplish this project, I chose to start with some yarn I had dyed with KoolAid and Easter Egg dyes.  It was a pretty yarn... I refer to the colorway as "NH Lupine" as it ranged from pinks to purples and greens, much like the Lupine flowers so common to New Hampshire.

Again, as in the original dye process, I soaked the yarn in water and vinegar for about 20 minutes, then I repeated the dye process with a contrasting color.  My son advised me on selecting an appropriate color.  He's 10, and actually very artistically inclined.  Interestingly enough, when I described the original colorway to him, he said it would be "most effective to use a primary color" (his words!) in the over dye process, because "using secondary colors could make the colors muddy".  Right he was.  After a quick zap in the microwave, I had a gorgeous skein.  Adding blue to the pinks, purples and greens ENHANCED the yarn beautifully enriching the shades to deep purples, plums, blues and deep greens.   (You may need/want to click on the above collage for a closer look at the color transformation.)

As much as I liked the original dye job, I LOVE the overdye effect.  From this project I learned a couple useful bits:

  1. I don't have to settle.  Just because I dyed it once doesn't mean I can't dye it again.  If I don't like something, I can dye it again (and again) and make something I love.
  2. Over dyeing provides a richness and depth of color single process can't.  
Now, I'm not sure why this second lesson didn't occur to me right from the start, but dyeing can be a layered process, much like painting or (better example) screen printing.  I decided to put this to the test last night.  For simplicity, I stuck to my son's advice and worked only with primary colors.

I took 3 skeins of Nature Spun Fingering Weight in Ash and dyed it with food coloring in a Red and Yellow variegated pattern.  The result was yarn with red and yellow spans, with slight orange blurring at the meeting points.

THEN, I over dyed the yarn using blue food coloring.  No special tricks here - I dropped blue food coloring into a bowl full of water, a splash of vinegar, added yarn and cooked this concoction in the microwave.

I checked the yarn, decided I wanted more depth and repeated the process, adding more dye and cooking it again, and yet again until I was satisfied with the outcome.  (Ok, the truth is I was out of blue dye, but the events coincided.)

The depth and richness of color is amazing (pictured left).  The variety of shades and range of color... breathtaking.  The completed project isn't just a Green, Blue, Purple variegated; instead it is a variegated yarn with dashes of red, yellow and orange and full spectral ranges: Greens from spring to fresh pea, kelly to forest; Blues  from sky to dark cornflower, teal to navy; and Purples from violet to plum, and eggplant to lavender.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In Which I Learn to Spin My Own

Friday I took my first yarn spinning lesson from my friend Tara.

Tara is one of those quintessential yarn experts.  She has raised her own livestock, sheered, prepped and spun her own yarn, woven and knit said yarn, and studied and taught all manners of yarnie crafts.  AND, if that wasn't enough, she's also developed the most authentic Doctor Who Scarf Patterns you can find - going so far as to travel to England to inspect, color match and measure original scarves to develop patterns after.  But, I digress.

We started with building our own tools.  We sanded dowels and drilled pilot holes, screwed in cup hooks, then assembled top whorl spindles.  Tara explained the history of spinning... beginning where the caveman began.  (Did I mention I love learning origins!?!)  And then the fun began!  We worked for about 3 hours on this lesson. Above you see my first spindle with my very first yards of single ply.   Tara wisely advised me against letting my perfectionist take over, handed me bat for homework and sent me on my way, anticipating I'd be clamoring for my plying lesson by the end of the weekend.

There is something incredibly addictive about hand spinning.  Maybe its the rhythm of it, or the quiet mind that takes over and lets you daydream about what wonderful creation this fresh new yarn will become.  I equate it to knitting in the round... you just can't stop, and will pass many hours in short time.

If you have ever had the inclination to learn it, please follow up.  Even if you never complete a full skein, just to know the history and understand the work and process that goes into making that wonderful material is worth it.  You'll come away ever more enchanted.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Pattern Coming... A Shawl!!

I'm currently test knitting a new pattern for release - my first shawl design.  I'll have pictures for everyone just as soon as it is done.  Again, I've taken inspiration from my love of Harry Potter and all things Magical and based this pattern on high wizard fashion, incorporating the look of dragon scales into the lace pattern.  I'm using KnitPicks Stroll (superwash sock weight) in Tuscany Multi - a truly gorgeous combination of dark reds, with burnt orange/terracotta and deep green accents.  Wonderful yarn to knit with at a fabulous price!

(No, they don't pay me to say nice things about them or supply me with yarn or any promotional offerings - I just plain love them and want you to share in the joys they bestowe.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program - Level 1

It is official.  I have received my packet and begun my journey toward becoming a Master Knitter.

Supplies for TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program Level 1.

Already I have learned sooooo much.
  1. Obsessing over your stitches will make them WORSE, not better.
  2. Learning a new cast on can be daunting, no matter how simple the technique, if you are under pressure.
  3. And finally, the program is designed to make you hate each basic stitch one swatch at a time until you wish you had never taken up knitting.  I say this half in jest.  Currently I'm working on my third swatch which features Seed Stitch, and I know I can do this beautifully, but as learned under item 1 above, obsessing makes your knitting worse and eventually you become so frustrated and hyper focused, you want to snap your needles.
In all seriousness, if you want to improve your knitting, I highly recommend this program.  I knit constantly, everywhere.  I am literally 1/100th of a mile from knitting 2 miles of yarn already this year.  I get a lot of practice.  But, when you focus to meet specific requirements, you make minor changes, learn about the anatomy of each stitch and tweak your personal technique to perfection.

Just don't waste time obsessing.