Washing Up In Style ~ Take II

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This is a blog update for my original post back in January of 2013 to which I have modified the pattern slightly to give a symmetrical border to the washcloths as well as to account for the weight (thickness of yarn) difference from Bernat’s Handi-Crafter cotton to KnitPick’s Dishie.  With KP Dishie being slightly thinner, I have added extra stitches and pattern rows to get the same size washcloth as when knitted with Bernat’s yarn.

I have actually become a cotton yarn snob, KnitPick’s Dishie has won me over and aside from the Christmas speckled washcloths I am making for gifts this year, moving forward I will be treating myself to working exclusively with Dishie yarn.  It is actually cheaper and has more yardage per ball than Bernat’s.  PLUS, it is a tighter spun fibre, smoother and knits without splitting. (Gee, I should maybe get some free yarn out of this plug?) ;)

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A quick, easy to memorize pattern transforms cotton yarn into brightly coloured squares worthy of anyone’s cocina.

Materials Needed:

Bernat Handicrafter Cotton – 42.5 g / 1.5 oz. (1 Ball per square, if using different colours, allow a half ball per square)

OR

KnitPick’s Dishie – 80 g / 2 oz. (1 Ball will make 2 washcloths and you will still have some leftover!)
4.5 mm (U.S. # 7) Straight knitting needles

Gauge: It isn’t important with this project.

Directions if using Bernat’s Handi-Crafter Cotton:

Cast on 38 Stitches using the Thumb Method (sometimes called ‘e-loop’ method) or the Long-Tail Method, either of these give a nice, stretchy cast on edge.  Perfect for beginners, it is very easy to do and you only need one needle to do it.

Border: Knit 6 rows (garter stitch – see note below before starting)

*Note; if using the Long tail cast on method, once you cast on, Knit 5 rows (garter stitch), THEN proceed to pattern below

Slipped Stitch Waffle Pattern:

Row 1: Knit
Row 2: K3, purl to last 3 stitches, K3
Row 3: K3, *P2, S1 (slip next stitch knit-ways, keeping the yarn at back of work, but do not knit the stitch, just pass it to the right needle), after slipping the stitch, bring yarn to the front for the purl stitches, repeat from * to last 3 stitches, K3
Row 4: K3, *K2, P1, repeat from * to last 3 stitches, K3

These four rows make one pattern set.  Work 14 pattern sets for each dishcloth.

Ending Border: Knit 6 rows (garter stitch)

Bind off stitches loosely and weave in ends.

Directions for KnitPick’s Dishie Yarn:

Cast on 41 Stitches using the Thumb Method (sometimes called ‘e-loop’ method) or the Long-Tail Method, either of these give a nice, stretchy cast on edge.  Perfect for beginners, it is very easy to do and you only need one needle to do it.

Border: Knit 6 rows (garter stitch – see note below before starting)

*Note; if using the Long tail cast on method, once you cast on, Knit 5 rows (garter stitch), THEN proceed to pattern below.

Slipped Stitch Waffle Pattern:

Row 1: Knit
Row 2: K3, purl to last 3 stitches, K3
Row 3: K3, *P2, S1 (slip next stitch knit-ways, keeping the yarn at back of work, but do not knit the stitch, just pass it to the right needle), after slipping the stitch, bring yarn to the front for the purl stitches, repeat from * to last 3 stitches, K3
Row 4: K3, *K2, P1, repeat from * to last 3 stitches, K3

These four rows make one pattern set.  Work 15 pattern sets for each dishcloth.

Ending Border: Knit 6 rows (garter stitch)

Bind off stitches loosely and weave in ends.

Be creative in your colour choices, as here is an opportunity to make a bold colour statement in your kitchen without using paint.  Bright pops of colour are mandatory in my kitchen.  On  the plus side, if you have bits and bobs of leftover cotton yarn, use them up for additional washcloths that can be delegated to laundry room duty.  Heck, use them in the kitchen or bathroom, no matter the colours as long as they work, and work hard they will.

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Cake Dyeing Experiment

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Sounds yummy doesn’t it?  Cake Dyeing….  Unfortunately no yummy cakes were baked, dyed or consumed for this project.

Cake dyeing is taking a skein of yarn and winding it into a “cake” with a ball winder and then dyeing it.  The word “cake” came about due to the resemblance of the wound yarn to a stacked layer cake.  This creates a centre-pull “ball” of yarn to knit from.

Ok, enough of word origins, on to the experiment!  I found 3 balls of sad looking yarn in the “free bin” in our condo craft room.  2 were an ugly golden-yellow colour, the third was a really ugly greenish-gray ball of what surely came out of a swamp.  No wonder they were cast off from whoever put them in the bin.  Nobody wants butt-ugly wool.  So I rescued them a few weeks ago with the intention of brightening them up in a dye experiment.

Enter cake dyeing.  The process where you wind yarn into the cake shape and submerse it up to half its height in a dye liquid, flip and do another colour and you come out with a wonderfully colour-patterned yarn.

DSC04434First off was to soak the 2 gold ones in water and citric acid (or vinegar) to prep the wool to accept the dye.  I then took a roasting tray with a rack and placed enough water in it to come up to halfway up the cake of yarn.  I then added my dye stock which was 1/2 tsp of Wilton’s Icing Gel red food colouring to half a cup of boiling water, stir to dissolve and dump in.  I also added another 3-4 tbsp of vinegar too.

DSC04439Add your yarn and bring the temp up to 170F and simmer for about an hour.  I carefully flipped the cakes over and let the second side soak for another hour.  Turn off the heat and left them to cool.  Once cool, rinse under the same temperature water, wind back into a skein and let dry.

The results are 2 very bright skeins of yarn now worthy of knitting.  I call these 2 skeins “Orange Sherbert”.

DSC04461Now with the other skein of butt-ugly greenish-gray yarn, I omitted the pre-soak to try and get the colour absorption to slow down.  Which worked a little too well as the colour didn’t penetrate as far into the cake of yarn as I would have liked.   The other steps were the same except for not pre-soaking.

DSC04453I added 1/2 tsp of cornflower blue Wiltons Icing Gel to one half, after an hour, flipped and added 1/2 tsp of violet.

The result?

DSC04468Burple ~ which is a combination of Butt Ugly and Purple.

I will re-dye this one solid purple as I really don’t like how it came out.  But heck, that is why they are called experiments as you never know exactly what you are going to get!

Deborah

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I’m Not A Deer Hat & Scarf

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I thought I made a post last Fall about the hat that I knit for deer hunting season….but upon close inspection of past articles, nope, found nothing.

To back track a wee smidgeon, last Fall I went for a walk, around the first week of November, or whenever deer hunting season (with guns) starts in Ontario.  As I am walking down the road (my daily ritual), hunters in full gear on ATV’s whizzed by me with their guns strapped to the backracks.

Hmmm I thought, not a good place to be out walking with all these hunters around with nothing to differentiate me from the woodsy surroundings.  So when I got back to the Homestead, I opened my laptop and promptly placed an order from Knitpicks for their Swish yarn (super durable and excellent for hats/scarves and mittens) in their “Hot Tamale” colourway.  This ought to make my head a beacon as I walk in the wooded areas I thought.

After a week, my hat was done and I was safely able to continue my walks without fear of being mistaken for a deer in the bush.

20151113_074908_medium2Pretty bright there eh?

I had ordered 3 balls of the yarn with the intention of making either mitts or scarf out of the rest, but once hunting season ended and winter set in, the hat was set aside for a less toned down version and the remaining yarn set aside until the right project came along.

Enter my last post (Atomic Sunrise), after experimenting with food colouring and turning out a vibrant skein of yarn, the project leaped to the forefront of what to do with both the handspun/hand dyed yarn and the leftover hat yarn.

I scoured the Ravelry website for a pattern that would utilize the amount of yardage I had on hand as  I didn’t have enough for a full blown winter scarf, but plenty for a shorter, narrower “Fall” scarf that would be enough to cover the neck from chilly Fall air.

It took some time to locate one I liked out of literally hundreds and hundreds of patterns, and settled on one called “Dragon Skin“, because the pattern looks…well, like dragon skin!

I started with the part ball of leftovers, which was really about 85% of a ball, then used the handspun, followed up by the last full ball of the Hot Tamale and voila!

DSC04277 DSC04274A scarf that matches the colour intensity of the hat, albiet with a strong textural difference.  Sure, it may not be matching and symmetrical, but heck, I like to live dangerously.

I am looking forward to this coming Fall to be able to flaunt my hat and scarf to the hunters like a matador waving a red cape to a bull!

Deborah

 

 

 

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Atomic Sunrise & Goosebumps

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I tried something new on the weekend and ended up with an Atomic Sunrise and Goosebumps.  No, those are not new cocktail ideas…although they could be, I will have to think on those a spell.

Anyway, back to my new adventures.  I have oodles of Wilton’s Food colouring gels in the kitchen not being used up since I don’t bake as much as I used to (lots of reasons, and hubby being one of them).  With closing the Northern Homestead for the winter, all my natural dye supplies are up there waiting for Spring to arrive and me with it.  So instead I went looking for another way to flex my creative muscle on two freshly spun skeins of yarn.

Food colouring and Kool-Aid are 2 very good mediums to use on animal fibers (wool, alpaca, silk, etc.) but they do not work on plant based fibers (cotton/linen/hemp) so skip those.  The added bonus of using food based dyes is that it isn’t harmful to ones health as some of the natural dyes and mordants (or acid dyes) can be and you can use the same cooking equipment as you use for your home cooking.  For the natural dyes, I have a whole set of pots/utensils just for them.

For the making of my food colour dyes, I employed the use of my crockpot.  A great heat source that you don’t have to coddle like a pot on the stove.

First up was to soak the yarn in an acidic solution to help bond the food colouring to the yarn.  I let the 2 skeins soak overnight in a pail of water mixed with 2 Tbsp of Citric Acid (Fruit Fresh) or plain White Vinegar or Lemon Juice would also work.  The Citric Acid I had on hand to use up along with the food colouring.

Studio_20160222_093344Next was to plop the yarns (processed one at a time) in the crockpot with just enough water to cover the wool along with 1/2 cup of white vinegar or lemon juice.  Let it heat up on high for about an hour and a half or until the temp reads 150F.

Studio_20160222_093508While the yarn is coming up to temp, take 3 glass jars (or however many you need for each colour) and using wooden popsicle sticks, scoop out about an 1/8th of a tsp of gel colouring and smear it all around the insides of the jar.  Pour in half a cup of boiling water and stir to dissolve.

Studio_20160222_093412When the yarn has come up to temp, pour the dye in whatever colour pattern you like.  Try to keep to the same colour families (like red/orange/yellow or blue/green/purple) or you’ll end up with an unpleasant brown (unless that is what you are going for).

Studio_20160222_093435Do not stir, just place the lid on the crockpot and let it sit for an hour or until the water in the pot has turned clear.  This means the colouring has been exhausted and sucked up by the wool.  Remove the lid, turn the crockpot off and let it sit until the yarn returns to room temp.

Remove from the crockpot, squeezing the water as you go and rinse in the sink in the same temperature water as what it was sitting in (or you risk felting the wool with a shock in water temperature).  Hang to dry and voila!

Atomic Sunrise and Goosebumps.

Studio_20160222_093546Studio_20160223_093107 I named the blue/green/purple Goosebumps as it reminded me of a cover of a Goosebumps Series (R.L. Stein) book that my son read long ago.  As soon as the skein came out of the crockpot, that is what I though of.

The Atomic Sunrise is self-explanatory and is actually a lot more vibrant (think neon) in person.  I have a ball and half of bright orange wool left from my “I’m Not a Deer” hat that I knit last fall for my daily walks during deer hunting season so I will combine them into a matching scarf.

So now I must get back to the spinning wheel(s) to make some more yarn to dye with in this newest creative outlet.  If you want to try this at home but don’t want to spin yarn, you can over-dye commercial yarns (wool/alpaca/silk, etc only – do not try on acrylic as the colours won’t take) or you can buy ‘bare’ yarns from various yarn companies to play with.

Enjoy and let your fun side out!

Deborah

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The Great Avocado Dye Experiment!

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Yesterday I posted a recipe using avocados, and in that recipe I said to save the pits and skins for later use.  I guess I *should* have been more specific, but I thought it would be interesting to see how many people would be wracking their brains wondering what the heck would you use them for.  I mean, they are inedible after all, and unless you are wanting to grow an avocado tree, why save the pit?

So here is what I do with them….

To one 500ml canning jar, I added 3 oz of chopped avocado pits. Combined 3/4 cup of boiling water with 1/2 cup ammonia and added it to the jar. Topped up to about 1 1/2” from the top.

To another 500ml canning jar, I added 3 oz of chopped avocado skins. Combined 3/4 cup of boiling water with 1/2 cup ammonia and added it to the jar. Topped up to about 1 1/2” from the top.

I screwed the bands down snugly on the jars and the heat/steam from the boiling water  sealed the jars after about 15 minutes.

DSC04087Here on Day 1, the colour starts almost immediately, but it is necessary to let the jars sit for a minimum of 30 days for the colour to develop, if you tried it now, you would not get any colour to stick to the fibers, it would mostly rinse away.

Here they are on Day 3 they are darker, but they still need to sit.

20151202_091140_medium2I put these jars up on November 30th and left them until after Christmas.  Close to one month later while we were up at the cottage, I finally cracked the jars and dyed 2 skeins of yarn.  The larger skein went into the skin dye, which looked purple/green, the smaller one went into the dye made from the pits, which looked rosy-red.

Here are the results…

Studio_20151229_110736_medium2The skein on the left was in the skin dye bath and it came out a gorgeous, soft beige colour.  The pinky-rosy one on the right was in the pit dye bath.  The colouring on the skein from the skins was much more even, but the pit dye bath took up the dye very unevenly, so it was a more rosy/tan mottled look.

I really liked the colour of the skein from the skins and have another batch fermenting now, but will let the jars sit much longer this time to deepen the colours.

** Tip if you are going to try this ~ when you first get the pit out of the avocado, chop it up into small pieces immediately, if you wait, the air gets at it and it turns rock hard and you will be unable to chop it.  I store pits and skins (washed) in ziploc bags in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch with.

There, aren’t you glad you asked? If you want to dye yarn (or fabric), this is what you can save your avocado skins and pits for. ;)

Deborah

 

 

 

 

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2016 ~ The Year of the Wheel!

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Happy New Year to everyone!  Yes, it has been awhile, but how many of you had the time to try and keep up a blog AND do all things Christmas-y?  Baking, cooking, shopping, wrapping, visiting, etc?

That is my defence and I am sticking to it.

I can also add spinning, knitting and weaving into the above as many of you who follow me on Facebook can attest to as I  regularly post pics of FO’s or WIP’s (Finished Objects or Work in Progress) to brighten the days of those cruising on FB.

Now that the holidays are fading in the rear view mirror, it’s time to concentrate on a New Year.  I have a couple resolutions, but these ones I am sure to stick too.  I gave up on the ‘must lose 10 lbs!’ or ‘stop eating chocolate!’ resolutions a couple years back.  Moderation is the key, you can still have your chocolate, just make sure you walk that stuff off the day you eat it.

My resolutions this year are to refine and hone the skills of my latest obsessions um…hobbies.  Weaving and Spinning.  I am well on my way in the weaving world, but there is always room for improvement and while spinning is a fairly recent craft, I am generally happy with where my spinning skills are at, but again, there is always room for improvement.  I am spinning yarn to not only knit with, but to weave with on my looms.  There is something so satisfying from taking a lump of fluffy fleece and turning it into yarn, then weaving it into a finished product.  Whether it is a scarf, blanket or fabric for clothing, it’s like taking raw food ingredients and assembling them into a Five Star restaurant type meal.

To aid me in my quest to hone my spinning is the addition of another wheel.  Yes, I clearly hear you when you scoff – “another wheel?! she’s turning into the crazy cat lady of the fibre world!”  No, not really, as there are many others that have many more wheels than I do.

20160105_134117Each of these 3 wheels are vastly different in function and spinning style.  The one on the far right, the small, boxy shaped one is a Spin-Well.  Made in the 1930′s in Sifton, Manitoba, she is the youngest of the herd and is a workhorse of a wheel.  She was built mainly to make thicker yarns, but I love her for plying 2 or more yarns together as the bobbins on her are just huge.  This is the one that I *obtained* from my Aunt & Uncle a year and a half ago that started me on my spinning odyssey.

Next up, the one in the middle, is the wheel I picked this past summer.  She is a sturdy little wheel that will spin miles and miles of thinner yarn, and even though her bobbins are small, I can fill them to the max and then use the Spin-Well for plying.  I am not sure on her pedigree as there is no maker’s mark on her but she is similar in style to the Young family of wheels (there were 4 makers in the family) from Nova Scotia back in the 1800′s, which is where she came from and is estimated to be between 150 and 200 yrs old.  She is in exceptional condition for her age too.

My latest wheel is the largest of all, she certainly didn’t look that big when I picked her up yesterday.  Not until I brought her home and set her beside the other two – eek! her drive wheel is huge!   This means she can spin thinner yarn, faster than the others.  This wheel also has no maker’s mark but the owner said she was made in Quebec, which is info she received when she obtained the wheel last year.  I am currently on a hunt to narrow down her style/maker and while she is similar in stance to a CPW (Canadian Production Wheel), she lacks the tilt-tension which is the key to her not being one.  She is also very, very similar to a Louis Bisson, but again, lacks a very important detail, a swooping treadling piece along  with no maker’s mark.  She was incredibly filthy too, I spent a good hour cleaning her up with Murphy’s Oil Soap (excellent product for any wood furniture), she now functions as she should and looks much better for it.

20160106_081914And if I haven’t sounded crazy enough, I have names for all the wheels (and looms too).  As soon as I brought the new wheel home and sat her beside the other two, she just paled in colour against them…so I named her Blanch.  The Spin-Well (Grand Dame I call her) is much darker and Beth, is more reddish-orange in tone, so I have Grand Dame, Beth and Blanch.

I am looking forward to finding out as much as I can on these wheels, as well as to further my knowledge and skill in using them.  Cheers to 2016! ~ The Year of the Wheel will be a fun journey!

Deborah

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2015 Summer Vacation

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*Hello*!

Can you see me waving?

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No, not the loon (who seems to be waving) but me! ;)

Long time, no chat everyone!  Totally my fault though as the past year has been nothing short of controlled chaos (and I use that term loosely).  Last summer hubby and I started getting our house ready for sale, meaning de-cluttering, purging, building a new bathroom, gutting and renovating the original bathroom and sprucing up the property.  All that effort eventually paid off, even if it tried our patience (and bank account) as we sold promptly this past March in 3 days.

After that it was on to the next challenge, finding someplace else to live.  We bought a lovely 1+1 bedroom condo apartment on the 8th floor overlooking Lake Ontario, and located about a km from our previous home.  Once we took possession, we then spent a week priming and painting over very garish colours and moved in at the end of May.  I spent a month trying to organize things to suit the new space, especially the kitchen, I probably spent the majority of time in there trying to find a good fit for what I use, when I use it, etc.  After that, it was on to figuring out what furniture that we brought with us would work and tossed what we couldn’t use.  We had already tossed our sofa and chair set prior to moving as they were well loved but no longer suitable.  So after living in the space for a month or so we decided what would best fit the space and then went furniture shopping (ugh, there really needs to be a better way to shop for furniture than walking into a big box furniture store and being immediately corralled by salespeople), anyway, we selected a sectional sofa and a new chair and got the heck out of dodge.

With the condo somewhat settled, it was time to split the big city and head north.  Prior to the end of June, we had not been up that much due to all the moving ruckus.  My vegetable garden was in place and growing nicely and wasn’t in need of much attention until later in the season but we did make sure to set up the automatic timer/watering system and let nature take its course so to speak.

So I packed up the car with a LOT of stuff.  Not just food and the usual household items needed everyday, but all my fun fiber stuff.  My small Cricket loom, knitting needle case, yarn galore, a very large tote full of alpaca fiber that I want to card for spinning and some already spun yarn ready for the next new *hobby*…dying with natural materials as well as planned sewing projects.

I then spent 2+ months spinning, weaving, swatting mosquitos, knitting, sewing, dying yarns, swatting mosquitos, kayaking, gardening and swatting mosquitos…which were really brutal during the later half of June through to the end of July.

DSC03409August saw my busiest month in the garden as it was starting to pump out tomatoes by the ying yang, there was a lot of processing to be done.  Over the span of a month, I probably roasted a good half bushel of cherry tomatoes (slice into 1/4″ slices, layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast at 225F for about an hour and half – awesome on pizza or in any pasta dish) and canned up jars and jars of stewed tomatoes and pickled Serrano/Jalapeño peppers.  I also made 2 batches of my Chipotle Peach jam, one for me and one for my daughter.  I  had also wanted to make more blueberry jam, but I was too late in going picking (others that were on the ball picked all that there was in the wild patch nearby) as well as we had a very dry summer so a lot of the plants were shriveling up from the heat and lack of rain.

DSC03404During the past couple months, I started dying skeins of handspun yarn with natural materials.  Birch and Oak leaves, Marigolds (seen here drying in the sun) andDSC03373

Tansy flowers (which are highly abundant weeds here in the north, like Goldenrod), Onion skins provided a lovely shade, which I dubbed “Antique Gold” as that is what it reminded me of,  take a look at the skein to the right of the bright yellow one and see if you agree.  DSC03369I then tried 2 attempts with a plant called “Phragmites australis” aka Common Reed.  It grows along roadsides and highways all over Ontario and is actually considered an invasive species by our government, so I did my part of hacking off the flowy flower heads to use as a dye.  I had seen someone else (on the internet no less, so it had to be true right?) attain a lovely shade of green using this plant.  What did I get?

Gray – with very, very faint hints of green and red streaks running through it (really strange actually), but very cool looking (the skein on the left in the above photo).  Apparently, so I am told, I need to harvest the flower heads in July, I had picked them in August so that is the only difference between what I had seen online and what I actually attained.

If it is one thing I have learned about dying with natural materials, is that you are never quite sure what you are going to get when you pull the skein out of the dye pot…take the vivid yellow skein of yarn that I dyed with Marigolds…talk about bright!! It is almost neon yellow, clown yellow I call it.  I saved the dye liquid and over-dyed another skein that was dyed with oak leaves earlier and it came out a similar colour to the onion skin dye.  After that, there was still colour left in the pot, so I placed another skein of yarn in and came out with a nice, mellow yellow that is similar to the Birch leaf dyed skein (Birch leaves give a gorgeous, clear, sunny yellow colour).

DSC03473All these variations of yellow dyed skeins are destined for a weaving project, which will be the subject of another post down the road a while.

If the above doesn’t sound like I wasn’t busy enough, I spent some time carding up the aforementioned tote of alpaca fleece.  This is what it looks like before carding (middle of photo), and this is what it looks like after (on the left). DSC03482Nice, fluffy tubes of fleece (called rolags) ready for spinning.  Carding takes all the fibers from a fleece and arranges them neatly in one direction, easier to spin that way, plus it gets out any remaining bits of hay, dirt and dust.  This needs to be done on a nice calm day so you can sit outside and have all the bits float away outdoors instead of covering the inside with alpaca fuzz.

Not to be forgotten, my Cricket loom got a workout in July when I cranked out 6 scarves destined for gifts this Christmas.  DSC03218Nor did my knitting, I am currently working on a sweater made from Cotlin (blend of cotton/linen) yarn, but it has been on the back burner the last couple weeks as we had a spell of hot weather that makes it uncomfortable to try and knit a large item in the heat so I switched to a pair of socks and now finishing up a hat made from yarn that I spun ON MY NEW WHEEL!

11947550_10155969213730291_964574286738722593_nIsn’t she just gorgeous?!  She is lovely and old and estimated to be over 150 years but doesn’t look a day over 30.  She spins like a dream too, a nice, smooth and even action.  Then I went and did something stupid, I was trying to get the full bobbin off the flyer and snapped the flyer in half….I then spewed out a string of very un-lady-like verbage which would make many a sailor blush.  So the flyer has just been replaced by a fellow I found nearby to the southern home that makes and repairs spinning wheels and I am back in business.

Now don’t think I just sat on my tush and knitted, spun and wove all summer.   I also did some heavy lifting, in the form of wheelbarrow-fulls of sand and dirt.  We had a pile of sand that I had started to sift and relocate as where it was situated, the fella that plows our driveway in winter kept heaping snow laced with driveway gravel on it.  So I painstakingly sifted about 2 yards of sand and wheeled it over to its new home off the side of the driveway (after depositing more on our beach along the way).  This was a 2 year project as where it was located, could only be done after mid-August or you were swarmed by skeeters, plus, if it rained, well, that made pushing the sand through the home-made sieve really challenging.  With the stretch of hot sunny weather a couple weeks back, I managed to get the rest of it sieved and moved….then, last week I had 2 yards of dirt delivered….for…. my new garden bed!!!

DSC03385I am so excited!  Hubby built another raised garden bed for me, a twin to the existing one which basically doubles my gardening space.  We spent this past Sunday morning moving dirt and filling her up, she looks beautiful and I am so excited for next Spring’s planting and will spend this winter getting my seed selections and layouts done – woo!

Well that pretty much gets you all caught up on my summer antics, there was more, but these were the highlights.  So what did you do on summer vacation?  Would love to hear what you all had going on so leave a message below!

Deborah

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Dyeing With Marigold Flowers

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This year I had an abundance…..no…an over-abundance of Marigold flowers around the Homestead.  They not only provide cheerful, sunny, colour to my garden landscape, but they are also perfect companion plants in vegetable gardens as their somewhat obnoxious smell wards off harmful insects, as well as luring the pollinators towards my veggie plants.

So what to do with this overabundance of flower heads? Well, you can’t eat them, but you can use them to dye yarn with.  Which makes sense since I have been spinning up a passel of yarn in the latest hobby craze to enter my life.

Dyeing with Marigolds is easy on the environment and easy on protein fibers (wool, alpaca, silk, etc.) plus you hopefully get to relive some of that bright, cheery colour in your yarn long after the last flower head keels over from the touch of Jack Frost.

First, cut as many flower heads as you can and set them out to dry.  This will take up to two weeks as there is a lot of moisture in them.  I picked bright orange ones as well as some darker reddish-orange heads thinking I would get a different tone…more on that later, meanwhile, are these not the most colourful things you have seen?

DSC01848Once dried, take some scissors and cut the petals off the flower heads, you can save the seeds that are inside the flower cap for planting next year if you like, but be forewarned, you will have oodles of seeds if you keep all of the remaining heads. Heck, you could package them up and sell them to the neighbours, which could be a nice little side business in the Spring for you.

Anyway, back to dying…..If you have a food scale, measure out 2 ounces of each flower head colour.  In a stainless steel or enamel pot (make sure they are *old* pots, once you use utensils for dying, they are not be used again for cooking, garage sales and thrift stores are great places to get used utensils), add 2 litres of water and bring to a boil.  Boil for one hour, then using a fine mesh strainer, strain out the petals.  Then let the dye liquid cool for about an hour.

DSC02131While you are boiling the flowers for the dye, you have to prepare your yarn to accept the dye.  This is called mordanting.  If you do not pre-mordant your fiber, the colour will not take as boldly as it should and it will fade/wash out over time.  Certain fiber types call for certain mordants as well as what type of dyes you are using.  Since I am using natural dyes on protein fibers (like wool, alpaca and silk),  you can use vinegar or alum (potassium aluminum sulphate).  There are precise ratios of mordant type to weight of fiber, so make sure you have a scale handy to measure your fiber.

DSC02143This newly finished hand spun corriedale wool, 3-plyed worsted, weighed in at 3 oz., believe me, it is as soft and squishy as it looks.

I used vinegar to mordant the wool as it was handy and seeing as I was up at the northern homestead, an exhausted alum dye bath isn’t to be sent into a septic system so I pretty much had no choice but to use the vinegar.  I measured out one cup of plain, white vinegar to 4 cups of water.  Place your yarn in the water, gently pressing it down to soak all the fibers, BUT, DO NOT STIR or AGITATE the fiber or it will felt.

DSC02147Slowly bring the mordant bath up to 180°F over about 30-40 minutes.  Keep the temperature constant and let the fiber soak in its hot tub for one hour.

Drain and rinse the fiber in the same temperature water as any sudden temperature differences will felt the fiber.  Squeeze out as much water as you can (do not wring).  You can use the fiber right away to dye or hang to dry and dye later.  If you dye later, you will have to soak the fiber for at least an hour in water prior to dying.  Seeing as my dye and fiber were all set, there was no need to hang to dry.

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I had two skeins that I coloured separately.  The 3 oz. skein went into a pot of boiled reddish-orange petals and a small, leftover skein went into the bright orange flower petals.  Was I surprised at the results.  The small skein took on a lovely, mustard yellow hue, but the larger skein came out builder beige.  I was quite surprised, considering the dye bath was rosy-orange in colour.

DSC02157After I removed the skeins from their respective dye baths, I added the orange petal dye bath into the rosy-orange dye bath, then gently placed the larger skein of yarn back in and brought it back up to temp.  I let it sit there for another hour and the colour darkened somewhat, but it wasn’t the same hue as the smaller skein.  It came out more camel coloured.

DSC02168It was an interesting experiment(s) to say the least.  Once dry, I knitted up a hat with the larger skein, mind you, the colour shown above are not truly representative as to the finished product.  I was having a hard time getting a true colour to show on the day I took the photo (it was gray outside), the picture below is what it actually looks like.   With the leftover yarn from the hat, I knitted up a coaster with it and the darker yellow skein, then felted it.  It now graces my office desk as a place to keep my tea mug.

DSC02276_medium2I am now anxious to try my hand with other natural dyes in different hues, but first I need to spin up some more yarn…and I have just the fiber too…..Alpaca, in all its soft and snuggly glory… coming soon to a drop spindle near you.

Deborah

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From Sweaters To Soups To Spinning

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It’s hard to believe how fast *summer* flew by.  By summer, I mean that bright yellow thing in the sky that was supposed to give us heat for oh…say about 3 months or so?

Not this year.  We had snippets of heat, but certainly not what we are used to.  Rainy too.  Good thing I have a home-made recipe for killing moss, because I need to use it on my hair to get rid of what’s now surely growing up on my head.

With Fall snapping at my heels, it is almost time to pull out the soup pot.  First I have to use up what is left in the freezer though from late last Winter/early Spring.  I had a one cup container of my Madeira soup and a half cup of filling leftover from my Black Bean & Wild Rice Enchiladas in the freezer…hmmmm…what if I?  Hot damn, but that was a marvelous notion that popped into my head.  Combining the two made for a thick, chunky soup (albeit a small portion) that warmed me to my toes with the amazing flavours of Mexico and Spain united.  Love it when a spur of the moment experiment comes together.DSC01934

After that awesome dinner of experimental leftovers, I sat snuggled under an afghan, with a cup of cocoa at my side and yarn and knitting needles in front of me, I can now officially concentrate on attending to my UFO’s (un-finished objects).  Nothing like a blast of chilly air to spur one into getting that sweater or pair of mitts finished.

I had been pre-occupied with spinning the past few weeks and my knitting was sitting there pouting at the neglect.  My latest hobby has seen me perfect the technique of the drop spindle in taking soft, fluffy fleece and spinning it into yarn.  It is so cool to see it materialize before your eyes.  The trick is to keep it spun into yarn and not have it fall apart from being under-spun, or so tight and kinky it reminds you of Shirley Temples trademark bouncy curls.

Now that I finished spinning a practice bag of dyed brown English Wool roving into several bobbinfuls of *singles*, it was time to learn to ply two of them together.

Plying is like magic.  It takes 2 (or more) strands of hand-spun yarn and twists them together like a rope, automatically smoothing them together seamlessly into a beautifully finished product.  The end result is a balanced yarn that drapes well and doesn’t try to kink up on itself.  Magic!DSC01908DSC01881

Pardon the crude “Lazy Kate” (a nifty item that holds 2 or 3 bobbins of single spun yarns to be plied together), necessity is the mother of invention and empty tubes of toilet tissue/paper towels make great bobbins while a box and knitting needles allow them to be unwound for plying.

Now that I feel comfortable spinning on a drop spindle… I *accidentally* acquired a brand new (well, new to me) toy.  A few days ago I took a run up to visit an Aunt & Uncle in Northern Ontario.  Leaving from the Homestead makes it only a 2 1/2 hour drive vs. a 7 hour drive from the southern home.  My visit was well worth the trip too!  My uncle’s mother owned a spinning wheel and from the time he was a tot, my uncle remembers his mother sitting down to the wheel and churning out bundles of hand-spun yarn to be turned into sweaters, socks, mittens and hats, after all, this was Northern Ontario, where the average winter temperature is a sustained -25C or lower.  Lots and lots of fleece was needed to  keep the family warm.

As no one else in the family wanted this treasured piece of history, they graciously loaned it to me.  What a beauty this machine is too!  With an interesting history to boot as to the manufacturer.  I won’t bore you to death with the details, but it came from a small company out of Manitoba in the early 1930′s that ended up starting the Mary Maxim yarn company.  For those interested, google Sifton, Manitoba and the Spin Well Mfg Co.DSC01892I brought my latest treasure back to the Homestead and once she is given a good cleaning and oiling of particular parts, she will be put through her paces to see if she can still deliver some hand-spun yarn.  Which I am sure she will have no problem with, it will be me learning how to use her to make yarn from a bag of fluffy fleece.  Spinning on a wheel is very different from a drop spindle, there are drive ratios to figure out, drafting to re-master and controlling the take-up.  Do I know what these mean yet? barely…but I will update y’all as I go.

DSC01895Meanwhile, I have a couple trays of tomatoes and Serrano peppers that are calling my name, so I best be off to the kitchen to process them.

Until later, stay warm and happy spinning!

Deborah

 

 

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How Come There Isn’t Enough?

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I need more time.  24 hours in a day isn’t enough….

24 hours in one day
- 8 hours for sleeping
- 1 hour for eating
- 8 hours for working
- 3 hours for “domestic chores”
- 1 hour for errands/etc.
= 3 hours a day for knitting/fiber related hobbies….

Seriously

How am I supposed to get these projects done?

DSC01793This is what I have on the go at the moment (not counting the project that is currently on Bob the loom, whom is missing from this photo…sorry Bob). I have a sweater just started (the lovely gold/brown yarn), a hat completed, but matching mitts need to be knitted too, BUT first I need to finish spinning the yarn to knit the mitts. I also have a pattern created by moi for fingerless mitts (the purple coloured item) that not only needs to be finished, but needs to be written up so I know how to make them again and a *short* afghan to be made for hubby who is always complaining I never make him anything.

Oh, and throw gardening/yardwork into the mix cause it is summertime and canning season and…. well you get the idea.

I know…poor me.

Something needs to go from this list, either work, or sleep….and I am fairly certain I will make the wrong decision.

Deborah

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