Sunday, October 29, 2006

Creative stuff....

What a busy weekend! Friday was a holiday (Nevada Statehood Day) so I spent it getting a trailer hitch and trailer electrics installed, checking out campground and travel guides at Borders, and otherwise dreaming happily about my little trailer-to-be. I have been pondering the perfect paint job for her so I made up a template to try out designs. Here is my favorite so far. Since she will live most of the time in my lavender-filled front yard, I think this could be just about right. I have joined Sisters on the Fly, and am now proudly "Sister No. 606". Check out the Caravan Trailers on the SotF site.

Saturday I had my first session of a 2-weekend Japanese Printmaking class at the Nevada Museum of Art. At the beginning of the class, the teacher asked each of the dozen students to introduce themselves and tell their art background. I was a bit intimidated to learn that half the class have MFAs, teach college-level art, or have studied art in exotic foreign places. Toward the end of the day I went around and looked at what folks were carving on their blocks and most of them were using finely detailed ambitious images. My snake design is looking rather cartoonish in comparison. It was lots of fun, anyway, and as part of the class we got to tour the ongoing exhibit of Whistler's prints. I have spent most of today continuing to carve my blocks (and vaccuming any wood shavings that weren't already embedded in my socks). I will be printing one image using three different blocks. Since we will be using watercolor pigments, where the images overlap, the colors will blend. The final image (assuming I did this right) will be of three snakes intertwined against a patterned background. Yes, I know it is snakes again, but they really are easy to draw. Across the snakes I carved the words "SOME SNAKES SLITHER". When I planned this, I had no idea how hard it is to carve "S"es. We get to print next session.

A quick knitting note or two: The red socks came out of the wash wonderfully. They shrunk only the needed amount and they are now soft and thick. The fingerless gloves are coming along, but it turned out the stitch repeat causes the yellow to stack up in an unattractive way. Eileen and Laura have both suggested cures for this, but I have decided to just slog on and see what they look like in the end. The suri alpaca feels wonderful running through my hands and the gloves are knitting up quickly despite the size 1 needles. I'll post a picture when I get further along.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Busy busy fall...

This is turning out to be the busiest fall I can remember. Beyond work, which gets busier every year, I am signed up for classes in both Japanese printmaking and broken tile mosaic, I will be giving a workshop in needle-felting Christmas ornaments, and I am making an heroic effort to dig out my studio. Right in the middle of that, I have fallen for the charms of the perfect little vintage travel trailer. Isn't she cute?! I plan to make customizing her my next big art project. She will be perfect to take to Guild Retreats and Fiber festivals! And just think of all the possible handspun, and handwoven, and handknit items I can make for her! Guess what color I want to paint her...

Amid all this excitement I have finished the red socks. They are a bit big, but that is a good thing. I have noticed that the wool socks that accidentally make their way into the wash not only come out smaller, but they tend to wear like iron. I was planning to try turning them inside out and surface felting them a bit, but maybe I'll just throw them in with the next load of red stuff I do. Now that I have them done, I am allowing myself to start on the fingerless gloves.

Finally, it is just plain gorgeously autumn out there. So here are a couple of pictures I took today around campus.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Results of Red (and a bit of blue)

All of the products of the crockpot are now dry. Except for the now-orange beast roving, which is truly ugly, I can imagine a future for them all. I am dying (and dyed) to start knitting the fingerless gloves, but I must be stern with myself and finish my red socks first.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Crockpot, dyepot, and red, red, red....

In order to launch into spinning the fiber from my last post, I had to clear out a few bobbins. I plyed together 2 bobbins of rather hairy grey alpaca. From its texture I think it must be suri alpaca. The result was a couple of skeins with enough yarn to make a pair of fingerless gloves. I work in a building with 1950's heat/ac and there are times my hands get almost too cold to type. To make the gloves interestingly striped, I decided to space-dye the two skeins. Bright colors would be muted by the grey of the yarn. In the throws of a nasty cold, I didn't have the energy to drag out the dyepots, so I sacrificed my crockpot to the greater good of fiberart. (In the past I have dyed in the crockpot with Koolaid only to keep it food-safe. One experience with acid dyes and it will never see food again. My mother suggests that I label it with a skull and crossbones.) Here is the step-by-step process I used:

I tied the two skeins together at 4 points so that the color variegations would be the same length in both skeins.

I soaked the yarn in warm water for 20 minutes or so, with a little dishsoap as a wetting agent.

I set up the crockpot with two glass canning jars inside.

Shuffling through my collection of dyes, I chose sun yellow, mountain blue, and grevillea (yellow, blue and red). A purist would have weighed out the fiber and mixed up dye solutions, adding just the right amount after careful calculations. I don't do math on weekends, especially not when I don't feel well. So I filled each canning jar, and the crockpot around them, about 2/3rds full of warm water. I sprinkled red into one jar, blue into another, and yellow into the surrounding water.

I stirred each color with a seperate chopstick (very handy items - I always pick up an extra set when buying Chinese food). I set the crockpot to low.

Then I stuck one end of the presoaked skein in the red jar and the other in the blue jar, letting the lengths between drape into the yellow. I put the lid on and left the whole thing to simmer for about 2.5 hours. Then I turned off the crockpot and let it cool for a couple of hours. The aforementioned purist has unending patience and would let it cool overnight. I'm not a purist.

When I rinsed out the skein it ran a lot, but the remaining color is anything but subtle.

Here it is hanging in the sun to dry.

Since there was still plenty of dye in the pot, I stuffed some white wool into the blue and now tomato red liquid (I accidently knocked over the red into the yellow). After simmering for a couple more hours, the blue was exhausted, but the red was still going strong. So I added more water and stuffed a bunch of "Beast" roving into the pot. Then I threw in some yellow roving to be overdyed. The pot was still not exhausted, but what was left became more and more orange. The next morning I threw in even more fiber. Finally exhausted!

All in all, the actual energy required for this project was low and the length of simmering time for each batch of fibers allowed plenty of nap time.

Spinning from Batts

In my feeble attempt to bring order to the chaos of my fiber room, I found a bag of alpaca/wool batts that I bought from Merry Meadows Farm at the 2005 Dixon Lambtown Festival. Having a short attention span, I immediately dropped all my ongoing spinning projects, and set out to spin these soft, luscious batts.

According to the receipt, I have 14 and 5/8 oz of the stuff (who has a scale that weighs in eighths of an oz?). This will be too much for some things and not enough for others. Ignoring all impracticalities, and assuming the resulting yarn will tell me what it wants to be, I set forth. The color ranges of the fiber run lengthwise in each batt.
I rolled the batt like a jelly roll, then pulled it out into roving from the end.This strategy mostly kept the color ranges together. I spun it fine, then plied it into a 2-ply yarn of approximately fingering weight. I love the way the swatch comes out! When I have all the batts done, I'll McMorran it to estimate the yardage. Only then will I be able to figure out its final destination.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Textile Tales II

Here is another of my favorite children's books with textile themes. Ursula K. Le Guin's (yes, the one of SciFi fame) A Ride on the Red Mare's Back is a wonderful tale of a girl from the snowy north who takes a journey to rescue her little brother who has been stolen away by trolls. She is aided by a magical wooden horse toy, and ultimately she rescues her brother with the red scarf she has lovingly knit for him as her first knitting project. The watercolor illustrations by Julie Downing are absolutely beautiful. My copy is signed by the illustrator, who added this little horse drawing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Retreat to Davis Creek

The 2006 CSSW Spinsters' Retreat was this past weekend. The weather was perfect, the company was fine, the Swap n' Sale shopping was great, but sadly I forgot to put the chip back in my camera when I cleared it out to take with me. Sigh. So there are no pictures. To make it up to you, I humbly submit these two pictures from last year's Retreat.
Each year we hold the Spinsters' Retreat at Davis Creek Park in Washoe Valley. Northern Nevada weather being what it is, sometimes we fry and sometimes we freeze. Occasionally we do both in the same weekend. This year the weather gods smiled upon us and it was just right - warm during the day and cold enough at night to make roasting marshmallows at the campfire a necessity. The only casualty of the weekend was the loss of my telescoping weenie fork, which rolled off a rock and was stepped on in the dark. Ah well, it roasted many a perfect marshmallow while it lasted.
The Retreat is all about unwinding with friends and fibers. This year Becky and her daughter Jerica made it all the way from Battle Mountain and Wayne came all the way from somewhere in the general direction of Yerington. Some folks stayed all weekend and some just for Saturday. Linda gave a workshop on fiber preperation, and we all did some shopping from each others' fiber stashes. Saturday night included exploration of the perfect marshmallow roasting technique, along with how to spindle or knit by only the light of a campfire. Each night concluded with the puzzle of fitting 3 coolers and all other edibles into a single bear safe.

Sunday morning we all concluded that it would be fun to have a spring retreat out Becky's direction. Maybe at Rye Patch State Recreation Area. Stay tuned for details. I promise to double check I have all my camera parts next time!