Monday, November 28, 2011

Post Turkey-Weekend randomness

First and most important, unless it costs forty-five dollars a skein, buy more yarn than you think you are going to need. I’ve been working on a baby blanket since August. The pattern is blocks of moss stitch*, and blocks of seed stitch** fleur-de-lis on a stockinette*** background. I love the way it feels, but I’m afraid you can’t tell the fleur-de-lis are fleur-de-lis.
So, I decided that I'd do a fleur-de-lis in reverse stockinette stitch in a corner. This means I'm going to have to make one more row of blocks than the pattern calls for. I bought just enough yarn for the pattern. Just enough. I fretted about running out of yarn and had set the project aside. Yesterday, I explained my issue to DH and he suggested calling HCW and asking if they have any of the dyelot left. I did, they did, I now have it in my hot little hands and I’m going to try to have it done by the end of next week. I may be a bit delusional.

Another reason for having leftover yarn from a project is repair work. Here is my favorite sweater:

It's the Central Park Hoodie.
Here is the hole in my favorite sweater:
Aw, darn!
Here is the extra skein of yarn I bought just in case I needed it when knitting the sweater:
I’m so glad I hung on to it; it will make fixing the sweater much easier. Notice I didn’t say easy, I’ve never darned anything and I’m kind of afraid to. But, I’ve read a bit on fixing socks, and Yarn Harlot has posted about cutting a hole to fix a cable, I should be okay. I’ll let you know once I’ve gotten up the courage to try it.
Another thing I've discovered is that when deciding to knit for charity, do not volunteer right before the holidays and the holiday knitting. I’ve got three skeins of yarn that need to be turned into three Jayne hats**** for the Austin Browncoats. I’ve got a little time because they aren’t due until the end of January, but I’d rather be knitting them in May.
Finally, for the love of all that is holy, do not try to drive from Austin to Dallas the day before Thanksgiving! It took us six hours; I think it is supposed to take three. The rest of the way to Memphis was easy, although getting in at three thirty in the morning was a bit rough. Also, if you are driving from Memphis to Austin the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it is worth it to get up at five in the morning. It is so much better arriving at home while there is still some daylight, even if you started the journey driving in the dark. 

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of family, fun and good food. And now it is time to get a few more rows on this blanket before partner yoga.

Next time: The other two classes I took at Kid 'N Ewe. Both classes will probably be combined into one post because 1) it was a while ago, and 2) I didn’t take as many pictures because 3) they were both spinning classes. 

*Moss stitch is where you knit two, purl two across a row. The second row you knit your knits and purl your purls. On the third row you knit your purls and purl your knits. That counts as your first row, repeat.
**Seed stitch is where you knit one, purl one across a row. And then you knit your purls and purl your knits on the second row.
*** Stockinette is knit across a row, purl across the back. Reverse stockinette is where you consider the back the front, useful for making stitches pop, cables are usually done with a reverse stockinette background.
**** Watch Firefly. It’s a great show. It was canceled. The fans are called browncoats.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lye to me.

The second class I took at Kid ‘N Ewe was Creative Soap Making. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't my favorite. It wasn't really the fault of the class. I was hungry and cold by the time I got there, so not in the most receptive mood. Also, while I had no preconceived ideas about using indigo to dye, Martha Stewart had colored my opinion of soap making. Can't be hard if it's a family project, right? I now know the soap making Martha is talking about is taking soap and adding ingredients, not at all the same as making soap.

Soap is not very complex; to make it you need three things: water, lye and oil. If you want to make soap quickly and efficiently you also need a thermometer, two bowls, two spoons, molds, non-stick cooking spray, a hand blender, and a Crockpot of some sort. Also, you should use eye protection and gloves, and have paper towels and vinegar on hand. The vinegar neutralizes the lye, should you spill it on yourself.

First we heated up our oils. We used a combination of Crisco, olive oil, and coconut oil. You can use the Crisco and olive oil by themselves, but the coconut oil supplies the lather.

I think this is for frying turkeys. If I were to do this at home I'd use a little crockpot.

We went outside and mixed our lye with the water.* This creates an exothermic reaction; the water went from room temperature to in the neighborhood of 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. We poured the oil into a separate bowl and took its temperature. We wanted the oil and the lye/water mixture to be at the same temperature, that way they can cool down at the same rate.** Once both the lye mixture and the oils hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we poured the lye into the oil and stirred continuously. We were looking for when our soap got to trace.***

In order to get to trace without exhausting ourselves, we used the hand blender and gave it a good pulsing. It’s a fairly thick mixture so we gave it quick pulses, rather than sustained ones, or we'd have burned out the motor. Once we reached trace we poured the soap into molds that had been sprayed with non-stick spray. Then we mixed scent into the soap in the mold.

Our workspace once we were done.
We let the soap sit over night. The teacher was going to cut them into bars in the morning, but they were too soft. So, I took mine home in their containers.
Still fairly caustic.
You want your soap to mellow for at least a week before you use it. Or, if you don’t want to wait, you can heat it in the oven at 250 to get it to mellow faster. I haven’t done the research on that, so I’m just going to wait.

Another way to add scent is to make the soap, let it mellow, then chop it up, melt it, mix in the scent and let it set again. That way the soap is less caustic and won’t break down the lighter fragrances. I’ll see how the soap turns out, but I may be doing this later. This, by the way, is the "soap making" Martha talks about.

Will I be making soap for Christmas? Probably not. The likelihood of me spilling lye all over the house and myself, the time it takes to make, getting the temperature just right, the scents I’d want, all add up to... not this year. Crochet it is.

*There’s no picture because this is the kind of dangerous part and I didn’t want to be distracted. Also, once you’ve got your gloves on, and have lye on them, you don’t want to take them off until you are done.

** You can reheat the oil as often as you want but the lye-water reaction is a one time thing. If it gets too cold before you mix it into the oil you need to toss it out and start again.

***Trace is where when you lift up the spoon out of the mixture and drizzle a line over the top, the line stays visible for a moment on top of the mixture before being reincorporated.

Monday, November 21, 2011


You know the glut of fiber photos I keep talking about? Well, here they are:

Yes, I live in Texas.
Wish I’d gotten some of the gray, but it was gone by Saturday when I bought stuff.
These are silk hankies.
Silk hankies are silk cocoons spread out on a square form, one on top of another. They are dyed together and then the spinner pulls them apart to spin with each individually. Knitty has a good explanation of how to spin with them.

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
I did not come home with a bag of unwashed fleece. It was a near thing though; it’s hard turning down that much merino fiber for ten dollars.

I love this little bear.
He’s sitting on the shelf above the white bear fibers yarn. I know the guy who dyes these, he's very nice, you should give him money.

I didn't end up getting a spindle from these guys. But aren't they pretty?

Lots of merino fiber.
There's cotton, camel, cashmere, carbonized bamboo and other wool.
This is from the Spinning Silk into Gold stall. I got a bunch of fiber from them.

This is a silk lap.
This was also at Spinning Silk into Gold stall. It’s like a giant hankie, expensive but so pretty.

I love the way they set these up, from cool to warm.

It's good to have options.
This is fiber from the Rainbow Dyeing in One Pot class.
Next year, I may buy myself one of these pots and take the One Pot class.

I loved every color combination at this stall. I'd have loved to walk home with most of these.
This is the box charkha that I talked about a while ago.
This was at the Yarnorama stall. Once I get a whole lot better at spinning cotton, I’m thinking about getting one of these. Maybe.

Me at my wheel... wait a minute.
This was kind of cool, kind of creepy, but not something you overlooked.

I love how steampunk this sock knitting machine looks.
This is the bad hair day hat, knitted out of art yarn with large mohair locks. Isn't it great?
Goat on a rope.
This goat is where the mohair comes from. He was very soft, and wanted to eat the flag that was covering the table next to him.

This is a drum carder.

 It’s a fast and easy way to mix colors and fibers into a batt. Notice the adorable little spinner waiting for her batt.

Yes, the bearskin rug is knitted. No, I have no idea how they added the teeth.
Considering all the wonderful fiber that was there, and all the fabulous yarn, I think I was fairly constrained in my purchases.
Angora, baby suri alpaca, bison/silk, camel, cashmere, cotton, carbonized bamboo, mohair white and dyed, merino/cashmere/silk superwash merino white and dyed... I think that's it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Indigo-go or Stand Back, I'm Doing Science!

The first class I took at Kid 'N Ewe was dyeing with indigo. I had no idea that it would appeal to my love of chemistry. This post is a bit heavy on the science, so if you are truly science averse you should move along, for those willing to stick it out I promise pretty pictures along the way.

The major issue with indigo dyeing is that indigo is not water soluble. So you have to mess with it’s chemistry in order to use it. First you take the indigo powder and suspend it in warm water. This is referred to as indigo paste, but, while I understand it’s a defined term so there’s no reason to argue with it*, I think it’s too liquidy to call a paste. Then you take some hot water and add an alkali and a reducing agent** to the mix to create “indigo white.”

Do not boil indigo!
That's Christine from spinning straw into gold, teaching us not to boil indigo. The temperature needs to be hot but not boiling (around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, do not exceed 140) for the reaction to be happy. After allowing time to pass for the reaction to take place, you end up with something that looks like this:
Green/brown? I thought indigo was blue.
The stuff on the top is called “the flower” which is essentially unreduced indigo. (This is where I get to say one of my favorite chemistry jokes: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate. I didn’t make it up; I wish I had.) If we were going to be very careful about what we were doing we’d scoop the flower off so that the unreduced indigo doesn’t cause crocking.***

We tried both organic and chemical dyeing. The reducer for the chemical was hydrosulfite, the alkali was lye; in the organic vat the reducer was fructose and the alkali was pickling lime. I love the idea of using organic sources (knowing how to do something in a post-apocalyptic world/learning how something was done pre-industrial age is fun), but you can get predictable results if you know exactly what you have in a solution.

In order from left to right: organic made the day before, organic that day, chemical the day before, chemical that day.
 As you can see the indigo "white" can range in color from green to amber. Pour your solution of indigo white into a vat that’s been prepped with a bit of the alkali and reducer. We decided to use the organic one Christine had made the day before, and the chemical we made in class.

Not pond water.

I know it is green; I swear it dyes things blue. Let it sit for fifteen minutes to four hours. There seems to be a lot of waiting for stuff to react in indigo dyeing. If you are in a hurry, although I’ve not tried them yet, I think Kool-Aid or acid dyes are probably going to be your best bet.

Then you put on your dish washing gloves, or borrow them off someone else if you didn't bring your own, and dunk whatever it is you are going to be dyeing. If you are using the organic vat you want to hold it above the bottom of the vat (there’s icky stuff at the bottom) but completely in the solution so that the dye permeates equally.  In the chemical vat you can drop your item off and have a cupa, as long as your cupa takes less than two minutes. The vat is rather alkali and if you left it in there for long it would end up destroyed.

When you take your dyed thing out, it’s kind of an ugly green color. As you open it up and expose it to the air you can watch the blue spread across as the extra hydrogen atoms in the indigo white react with the oxygen in the air returning it to indigo. It's really cool to watch.

Hang your items to try for 10 to 15 minutes then repeat the dunking until you attain the blue you are looking for, or until class is over. You must dunk your items at least twice in order for it to be chemically stable.

The lighter ones were dyed with the organic dye.
 We attempted to dye silk and wool fibers and found that the silk takes dye like fish takes water, while wool is not a fan.

They were all dunked once, but look at the range of colors.
You have to be sure that your vats aren’t too alkali (you are looking for a PH of 8 to 10) or you’ll end up stripping the dye as you are adding it. Kind of like when you try to add a second coat to your nails while the first coat of nail polish is still wet.

We put our finished pieces in plastic baggies full of water for transport. Once I got to my sister’s place, I poured some white vinegar in to neutralize the base and then hung it to dry.

 I was planning on giving this scarf away at Christmas, but I’m having a hard time giving it up. I think this class was the one I most enjoyed, but I’m probably not going to set up an indigo vat at home. Well, not yet.

*I dislike terms that are misleading. Atom means “cannot be broken” so how do you have sub-atomic partials? I know atom is now the word used for “the smallest particle of something that is still that thing.” But if you are going to use that explanation then what is the difference between a molecule and an atom? The molecule of indigo is the smallest part of indigo that is still indigo. I think they just got all excited and named things atoms too quickly. Okay, rant on poor naming conventions over.

**Reducer in organic chemistry means something adds hydrogen atoms to a molecule. In the case of indigo two hydrogen atoms are added to make indigo white. See above rant.

***Crocking is where the color rubs off of something dyed. The way to fix crocking for indigo is to place the item in a water bath with a little bit of alkali and a little bit of reducer mixed in. That way the unreduced indigo gets reduced and attaches itself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kid N Ewe tips.

As promised I took a whole bunch of pictures this past weekend at Kid N Ewe. Lots. So, while I’m going through them and organizing my thoughts, here’s a little list of things I learned at my first Kid N Ewe:

1. Make sure you know how many buildings there are in the festival. I felt rather silly when, after walking around one large room for three quarters of an hour, someone pointed out there were two other buildings to check out.
2. Bring cash. It’s not immediately apparent that you need cash. Most venders take plastic – there’s an iPhone app that allows them to swipe and send you a text receipt. (I love the world we live in.) But if you want to EAT anything, you need cash. I was booked from noon to 6, without a block of time to run to an ATM, so I was fairly loopy by the end of the first day.
3. If you are doing any dying, you need to bring the right supplies. Full dish gloves, the latex ones are too short, and gallon size zip top bags are a must. Also, it’s great to wear old clothes to dye in, but be sure to bring an old coat because it can get a bit chilly.
4. Lye itches before it burns. If you are using it (to dye or make soap) be sure to pour some vinegar on anything that itches, better safe than sorry.
5. Life would have been a whole lot easier, and I think I would have gotten to know more fiber folk, if I’d rented a room in Boerne rather than driving to San Antonio to stay with my sister. But I would have missed playing Killer Bunnies, watching Mean Girls, and hanging with my sister and her friends. And that would have been a shame.

Next time: A glut of photos.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kid N Ewe. I can't wait!

I’m almost ready to go to Kid N Ewe. The classes I’m taking on Friday are Indigo Dying and Creative Soap Making. If all goes well I may be giving out handmade soap for Christmas, if not crochet it is. I'd like to take Etsy 101and I Love Color, but they are at the same time as the Indigo class and dyeing wins out.

Saturday... I'm not sure what I'm going to do. My sister is getting a group of people together to go to Wurstfest but she’s not planning on leaving San Antonio till 7pm. I could go to Kid N Ewe that morning and meet up with her in the afternoon, but there just aren’t a lot of classes I want to take. There's a Beginning Tatting class that I'm interested in, but that's pretty much it. The One Pot Rainbow Dyeing sounds great, until you read the required gear list. It includes bringing your own heat source and large enamel pans - that’s not going to happen. The other idea is hang out in San Antonio and play Killer Bunnies until it's time to go eat sausage. I guess I'll see how I'm feeling that morning.

On Sunday, I’m taking A Spinner’s Workshop. I’d rather take Spinning the Exotics, but the Exotics conflicts with the class I’m really excited about, Cotton Spinning with a Tahkli Spindle. I’ve got a bunch of cotton that I’d love to be able to spin without fighting my wheel.

I’ve signed up for the classes on Friday and Sunday, so I have a reserved spot. If I do end up going on Saturday, I’ll probably be able to pick up a class or two. Either way I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures. I may bring home some fiber, and some yarn. I know, you're shocked.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wedding. Old and new friends. A disappearing car? Fugetaboutit.

Thursday DH took the day off so he could get to K&S’s rehearsal on time. He decided that since he had the day off, he might as well get that new car that he’s been talking about for over a year. He was late to the rehearsal, but he did have a shiny new car. I was a little cold towards the car at first, but I got over the fact that it was not the FIAT 500 by the end of the evening. We went to the BBQ rehearsal dinner at K’s family’s place and it was a laid back affair. K’s family is from New York, and the Texas drawl mixed with the Long Island accent was an uncommon blend. It worked though.

Just before we went home, I had a flash back to college. We were hanging out in the evening, trying to leave, but having too much fun. It was chilly, but not cold enough to make us go inside. The place was different, but the people, the mood, and the chill in the air were the same. And I wished that B and K&V lived in town. Hanging out with old friends and wishing they lived in town was kind of the theme of the weekend.

Friday I got off work early and hung out at S&P's with R&K and B. That night was the batchelorette party. We went out to dinner. Turns out drinks taste better out of anatomically inspired straws. Then we went to Main Event. I was reminded how much I love DDR and found out that the 3D movies, where your chair shakes when you run into something, are a lot of fun. And for a bachelorette party, what could be a better name for a mini-golf course than this:
Although, by the time we got here we could have made a double entendre out of anything.
We met up with the bachelor party and hung out till the wee hours. There may have been some celebratory drinking.

Saturday was spent recovering from the night before. We watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I was rather insistent. The group that was hanging out is no stranger to video games, so I felt they needed to see the video game, music video, romance movie. I think they dug it.

Sunday I got up wicked early to be down in Kyle by 8am to help set up for the wedding. If you want to get to know people there is nothing like preparing for a wedding. I got to know both the bride and groom's family quite a bit better than I had previously. K's family is a hoot, and S's mom is a whirling dervish of artistic energy. I loved them all. I also learned wrapping chairs with fabric is back breaking work. We were mostly done by noon, so I headed home to shower and change.

On the way back to the wedding site, DH called to say that everyone was okay, but the brand new car had been in an accident. It was t-minus an hour to the wedding and S, the groom, was stuck on the side of the road talking to a cop along with the three groomsmen and an usher. We got it sorted (car was towed to somewhere in Buda to be dealt with later, we have insurance it will be fine), and we got everyone to the wedding in time to finish the last touches.

Almost done.
It was an outside wedding, and the weather cooperated.
Fabulous Harry, I love the feathers.
The decorating inside the hall was excellent.

And they carried the peacock theme inside too.

The flowers were amazing.
I love the sparkly butterfly.
And the cake was both modern and sweet.
Also, very tasty.
But my favorite picture is one DH took.
Picture by DH
It was a beautiful wedding. And, despite the disappearing car, a fabulous weekend full of new friends and old. I wish they all lived in Austin.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


This coming weekend will be spent playing with old friends, K and S's rehearsal dinner, K's bachelorette party, maybe a bit of yoga with DH, and K and S's wedding. It's going to be awesome. And I'm going to be tired. I'll get DH to take lots of pictures, but it might not be till later in the week that I'll post about it.

And then the weekend after that is Kid n' Ewe! I'm taking Friday off to learn more about dyeing yarn and fiber. Anybody wanna go with me?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

This Death Star is not quite operational...

So I tried to make the Death Star pumpkin.
I started out using my usual tools and got this far:

It wasn't working as well as I wanted, so I went to Jerry's Artarama.
And bought these tools:
The funky shaped one, on top of the yellow sponge, is fabulous at scraping the inside of a pumpkin. I don't think I'm ever going back to my spoon.
It's so smooooth!
Then I continued carving away:
But it took a really long time, and I'd other things going on. So I finished up the lines and called it done.

And forgot to take a picture of it until today. That's why it looks deflated.
The first Death Star didn't turn out so hot, either.