Cherry Bomb Baby

I live in a pile of bricks with a fire puter-outer, a Halloween enthusiast and a pretend lemur, who sometimes admits to being my second son. I have a kitchen for flowers. I know all the lyrics to the Spiderman theme song and (am forced to) sing it everyday. I cook with color. This was a blog mostly about yarn spinning and natural dyeing. Now, it is fair to say, it lacks direction entirely.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Embers in a haystack

This is the first skein of Fletcher's rescue roving I dyed, it was dyed with quebracho red, pomegranate, wattle, logwood purple (I think I browned that out by placing it by yellows and they bled together-WHAT was I thinking?!) and fustic. The yellowest parts were fustic and the little bits of quebracho you can turning up as reddish pinks, or pinkish reds, whatever you please. There's a bit more red and yellow than this picture reveals. The wattle is the tan, straw color. I am undecided if I should ply this against itself or leave it as a single. Its pretty as a single. Although I know most natural dyers have a goal of clear, bright colors, I am still in love with subtly and the typical and easy-to-achieve colors tinged with tans and greys. Well, I also highly value clear, brilliant color with natural dyes-that always feels like triumph, but I still appreciate accidents. Like I said, plain jane toned down colors are what I would be most likely to actually wear. And they are never flat, even a "dull" color has depth and complexity.

I know I said I was going to dye the brown/white and grey/white rescue rovings and then dye some white to match but once I got in there I just started randomly fiddling around. This is only some of the brown/white roving with quebracho red and pomegranate. I'm really into the pomegranate.

I like how its greenish. I was expecting more yellow and it is yellow when you get in there to look at the fibers that were white, but when you step back and look at the whole it looks olive. Love it.

These are both grey alpaca blended with white corriedale. On the left is wattle, on the right is logwood purple with a little quebracho red. I was so excited about the idea of red and this new red that I just started pouring it everywhere. It was a pain to mix though, the extract totally gummed up into these impossibly sticky clumps when mixed with hot water. Maybe it will do better to mix it with cooler water next time.

Two more small bundles of New Zealand romney. In the back is wattle and in the foreground is fustic. I've got to try some indigo overdyeing with fustic. I'm running out of white fiber now!

A bigger 4 ounce bundle of merino dyed with quebracho red. It looks like bubble gum to me. Its really unexpected. I have never used que red before and I don't know what I was expecting-but not this. I was thinking something more orange I suppose, the dye manual (Found it! It was on the bookshelf of all stupid places.) said "coral." I used the leftover dyebath to dye up some of the grey/white rescue roving today.
This is a sad little picture of my logwood purple dyed New Zealand romney. I've got a little left of this in the pot cooling right now and then I think I will have dyed the full 2 kilos that my lovely cousin-in-law gifted me! (And that her lovely sister carried half way across the earth for me.) This picture doesn't describe the fiber very well. I may have to try again. I am always in a rush with this picture taking game, it has to be sunny out-but not muddy, baby J has to be asleep, super M has to be occupied, the cat has to be out of the way, Jupiter must be in retrograde, etc. So, one picture had a fluffy, happy looking bundle all positioned to show off its personality-but it came out fuzzier than the previous picture. And here we have a sad, twisted, skinny looking bit of hair but its semi clear and well, semi purple. So there you have it.

These have all been air curing for about a week or more now. Its time to wash them out-yes, they have not been washed. If the color crocs and I lose a lot I'll post pictures of the changes. I'm hoping for little change since many are dyed with light dyebaths to begin with. In the pot now I've got logwood purple in a higher concentration dyebath, logwood grey, more pomegranate, que red in light concentration, wattle in higher concentration and I think I'm forgetting something. But its been a hell of a day so that is not surprising. I did label everything faithfully this time. I wanted more COLOR this time around. The first time with these dyes I was more restrained, I don't like wasting dye and I wanted to see what I could come up with with just minimal dye but the next go round I'd like to see what these plants can do! I've got two more pounds of fiber ready to mordant and if the stars and planets align I might be back shortly with another pot full of wool for you.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Retinas Are Dying!

My Aunts in Taiwan wear incredible clothes: highly textured, like something out of an infant's touch and feel book, trim, feathers and rhinestones. Sequins are beloved. And color, My God. My partner (I think he will be known as Mr. Partner since he's always thought it weird that I've called him that) so, Mr. Partner and I decided that this desire for insane clothing is something that often happens with the onset of age. My coolest cousin wore only black until her 30s and then she started showing up in BRIGHT green sweaters and red framed sunglasses. I thought this change in her was odd and then I looked at her mother and it seemed apparent that it was just a part of the natural process of aging. And my cousin is Cool in her red glasses don't get me wrong, she is freaking gorgeous and her snot is way hipper than my best fantasy of myself.

In any case, Mr. Partner decided that as you grow older your retinas die and you need brighter and brighter colors in order to see. Or maybe to feel whole. I don't know. For me, I need them to feel whole. Still, when we see very colorful folks walking around we often feel the need to shriek, "MY RETINAS ARE DYING!" Mine died long ago, when I learned to knit:

Poor Baby J's retinas. His must be on total overload, maybe that is why he is such a hurricane. I'm overstimulating him with my desire for bright colors. The hat was my first attempt at navajo plying and it was spun from pollwarth roving dyed in the "parrot" colorway, from Deep Color. I don't know where Claudia got it from and I don't know who dyed it, it is definitely done with synthetic dyes. And the sweater is malabrigo, a cardigan knitted all in garter stitch and in a one piece.

And I have to post this picture. This was taken at the Discovery Museum in Saucilito. My four year old picked out his own outfit. He has been so butch all these years. Just recently we've had a break in that ice. This is his "dancer" dress up. I have to tell you that I love it! I've waited for him to be excited about something that isn't stereotypically masculine for so long now. He is a typical boy obsessed with superheros, swords and racecars, but now he also proudly wears a princess pageant dress and will beat the hell out of you if you try to tell him that your dress is prettier than his. I'll take what I can get. I just enjoyed the fact that my two kids were probably the most oddly dressed in the entire museum that day.

And does this look green to you? Because sometimes it looks green to me and sometimes it looks like some other weird color, never before seen. The off green. It was the garden dyed yellow romney and dipped once in indigo. It is a very different green than the osage overdyed with indigo. I'll have to put them both together for a better look.

And Indigo. I feel closer to whole.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Looking back over this blog I feel the need to post some knitting content. What happens to all these dyed fibers and spun yarns? Does anything happen to them? In fact, I've noticed that we see very little evidence that anything ever happens to them. But, ah, things do happen. Things like, half finished socks! (Ok, and ribbed scarves. But I'm trying not to talk about that.)
Since these are half done and have no mate, this is actually only a quarter finished. The roving is blue faced leister and it is an entirely natural dyed rainbow. It was from a natural dye class and we were to make these socks with it. I have still not finished this months later. I adore rainbows but don't wear them. For the most part my baby is forced to wear my color cravings and walks around in a perpetual state of handmade chromatic clowndom. I'm sure he is grateful that the designated project for this roving was socks.

Two things about these socks: 1. The wool was over mordanted (with alum and cream of tartar), the colors are a joy to knit with but the wool is a bit sticky, it doesn't draft as easily as it would have and the fiber has a stiffer feel. I notice it most in the spinning of it, when I try the sock on less so. Our instructor said this would change when it has been washed but I've also heard that overmordanting will permanently effect your fibers. I've not gotten far enough, obviously, to see what will happen but am curious.

And 2. Our project was to spin the yarn on a drop spindle as a single (the thickness of spagetti) and put extra twist into the yarn. Then, knit it within 24 hours of spinning it, an energized single. Knitting your freshly spun single in this way will cause the stitches to slant heavily while knitting in stockinette. We were to experiment, and so there is weird color work in spots (carding white and black with the colors, spinning marled yarns and such). Some I had to frog because it was just beyond what was acceptable for a respectable rainbow sock. I spun some sections using S twist (clockwise) and some Z twist (counter clockwise) and so there is some textured striping going on back and forth based on which way the yarn was spun. I'm not sure that I like this. In fact, I don't. I would probably have finished these socks by now if they would have been spun the same direction all the way around. Then the stitches look almost like they are forming this neat slanted spiral down around the sock. So, frog it? But then I'd have to re-spin half of the yarn the other direction and re-spin the rest of the yarn to get more twist into it before I could knit it energized.

And finally, when holiday knitting goes wrong:

The above socks were knit for my mother-in-law for Christmas. What went wrong you ask? I stayed up until 3 in the morning working on them. You may notice some weirdness in the gusset decreases and that is why. They are also ankle socks because I started them too close to Christmas and in my mind they feel half finished because of this. I do love the feel of the finished fabric, the yarn is Crystal Palace's Panda Cotton (a cotton/bamboo blend). That said, knitting them was torture and I am not happy with the end result. My pointy Addi Turbo size 0's kept snagging on the tiny threads plied together, my fingers felt pinpricked by the time I was done and I was hating the color pooling before I finished the first sock. Oh, and I don't like ankle socks. At least not these, they just feel skimpy. But not in a good short skirt kind of way. More like a my-ankles-look-pregnant-again kind of way. I guess pressured middle of the night knitting isn't my thing. To top it off, they don't quite fit. Which is why they are back on my feet for this picture.

Next up, FOs that I enjoy and won't complain about!

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Process and Well Loved Things

I just took these out of the pot. After the first batch of garden dyed wool the pot still seemed rich with color so I put some more Romney top in. I also used the rest of my flowers. I usually don't dye this way in a big pot, I was taught to dye with the clever method of steaming canning jars. But this time, I stuck the plant matter into an old panty hose (thanks mom!) and let it steep like tea bags.

Our upstairs continued to smell delicious and not "stinty." Here is the method I was taught: Dyeing in canning jars. Its wonderful for dyeing LOTS of colors in one dye bath. With various finicky dyes needing different temperatures and simmer times this doesn't work. However, we used mostly Earth Hues natural dye extracts and for the most part, you can mix the extracts and dye a lot of little bundles of fiber at once and get a rainbow from just one pot. The other really cool part about this method is that if you neglect your pot and your temp gets too hot your wool is pretty well protected from felting. This is Claudia of Deep Color's method. Now is she super smart or what?

This is what is going to be mordanted and dyed next. Thanks Sandy! Its from Homestead again and its more rescue roving, the grey is half corriedale, half suri alpaca and the brown is half border leister, half suri. The brown is much darker than I expected and its dreamy! It wants to be dyed with something earthy obviously, madder or something deep and yellow or maybe green. I think the grey roving I might dye with logwood purple. And then some white roving to match and then ply them against eachother. Dyeing different fibers in the same dyebath is so magical, the slight variance in the end result is always exciting.

Oh, the white is more of Fletcher's rescue roving (merino cross/suri alpaca). Its a little over 4 oz and all I could cram on my bobbin. I'm working slowly on a second bobbin now. I may have a little pause on dyeing for a while. I have hit a bump in the road and misplaced my Earth Hues Natural Dye Manual. Its a catastrophe-I couldn't get anything done all day. I spent every spare moment distracted and kept looking in the exact same places expecting it to appear. I may have to resort to my 3 year stash of onion skins. Yes, I am serious. I will take a picture of this. The loss of my manual is ill timed since I just got a bunch of new dyes from Kristine at A Verb for Keeping Warm. I picked it up from her house since she is local and I got a sneak peek at what she will have a Stitches-Oh God. Its beyond loverly. But I doubt I can go. I am usually the only one home on the weekend and I don't think I fancy a drive to Santa Clara with both boys.

On to well loved things. I just had to replace the heel of one of these handdyed (not by me), handspun and handknit socks. I gave them to my housemate last Christmas and this year she needed a new heel a year later. I did the same heel repair for my mother-in-law's socks but didn't get a picture of them. I bought pollwarth locks from Deep Color that had been handdyed with synthetic dyes there, I carded rolags and spun them on a drop spindle then knit these densely. These are the kind of winter socks you want in your northern California home that has no heat. The colors are a little funny in places as I used some scraps up from class samples-the dark blue on the left sock, ahem. The heel on the right has been replaced with romney wool, spun on the drop spindle and andean plied.

These have received lots of wear and love as I had hoped. Here they are looking fuzzy:

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