Saturday, July 14, 2012

Window on the Sea

Tada!  I finally finished another afghan, this time as a wedding gift for my nephew Eric and his bride Ashley.  The concept behind this afghan is a window looking out on an abstract seascape.

The yarn is 2 strands held together - one of KnitPicks Crayon cotton, and the other KnitPicks Peruvian Highland Wool.  The resulting fabric feels fabulous and has a great weight and drape.   I bought the "Bare" version of these yarns - not only are they ready for dyeing that way, but they come in larger skeins (fewer knots).  I knit each of the rectangles in basic stockinette, throwing in an occasional purl row to suggest ripples in the water.  Not the most exciting project to knit, but more portable than knitting a blanket in one piece.

After all nine rectangles were complete I mixed up the dyes.  I used acid dyes, specifically counting on the cotton strand to NOT take the dye the way the wool would.  The result, so I hoped, would be a heathery look with the boucle cotton providing a hint of frothiness or sparkle on the water.   I hand-mixed several shades of blue-grey-green, then added touches of bright yellow to suggest sunlight.  I practiced several methods of applying dye on a swatch, and settled on using a sponge to pat it on the presoaked rectangles. Then I rolled them in plastic wrap and steamed them.  I am really pleased with the result. Each "pane" is different, maintaining the abstract feel.

The next step was to pick up stitches along the edges and knit the pieces together.  Then I picked up stitches all the way around and knit the border with mitered corners.  I don't think I ever counted the total number of stitches around the thing, but it was A LOT.  I had to link together about 5 or 6 Options cables, and broke several in the process due to the weight.  To create a neat stretchy edging I bound off with a mile or so of applied I-cord.  It wasn't until I got the thing off the needles that I could see that it turned out about 40% larger than I planned.  The original lap-blanket-for-two ended up large enough to almost cover a queen size bed!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Citron Shawl

I am pleased to announce a Finished Object.  Yes, another one!  This one is a Citron Shawl that I started eons ago, then let sit untouched on and off.  I finished it during Spindle Camp, then finally dyed it.

The yarn is Filatura Di Crosa Golder Line Superior, 70% cashmere/30% silk, and is gorgeously soft and so light it feels as if it is floating in your hand.  (Happily it was also on sale.) Its only drawback to work with was its color.  Fuzzy laceweight mushroom tan yarn becomes almost invisible in anything but very bright light.  I look pretty hideous in that color, too, so after it was complete I mixed up a pot of dark purple dye.  I was shooting for a little lighter color, but the cashmere sucked up the dye in record time.  Happily the dress I will be wearing it with has darker purple accents to match.

The Citron pattern is really designed as more of a neck scarf.  I added a few extra sections to make it much larger.  I don't think I would have had the staying power to add a ninth ruched section - that's a LOT of stitches per row!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Mitts for Jess

I knit and embroidered these mitts in record time (for me) for my niece, Jess.  One week after graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in Biology, Jess' car was hit head on by a drunk driver going the wrong way up a divided highway.  Jess suffered from a broken collarbone and bad burns on her wrists.  Amazing girl, she went through surgery and having a plate put in her shoulder, then within a few weeks started her summer job as a research tech at the San Diego Zoo.  The mitts are to protect the fragile new skin on her wrists.  Jess is doing great!

The mitts had to be really soft, yet not so warm that they couldn't be worn during warmish weather, so they are made from BeSweet Bamboo.  The yarn has a great hand-paint look with subtle color gradations and is so soft and smooth that it is a pleasure to work with.  Be Sweet is made in South Africa and supports job creation programs and educational development projects in economically depressed areas. The bamboo is listed as "eco-friendly, anti-bacterial, and machine washable".  Perfect for the busy young scientist.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


I've been caught up in preparations for an upcoming trip. Armed with a recommended gear list I have tackled the likes of REI and Amazon, slowly accumulating a small mountain of items. The trip is an awesome 7-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon, so I can't afford to forget anything important. Yet the maximum allowed luggage is 25 lbs. Tricky.

It is going to be HOT in the bottom of the Canyon, so at least the requisite clothing will be lightweight.  Several folks have recommended taking a sarong for light-weight bathing suit cover-up around camp.  I whipped up a standard-size one on the sewing machine and, after experimenting, decided I didn't like the tight knotting or resultant slippage.  So, using an old nightshirt as a basic cutting guide, I whipped up an extra-loose dress out of lightweight cotton. It counts as my first attempt to sew more than a skirt, bag or trailer curtains. 

I will be taking the Nikon Coolpix AW100 and handful of extra chips and batteries. In case the spare batteries are not enough, I have acquired a cool little gadget called the Solio Bolt (cheaper from Amazon). It is a pocket-sized solar charger. It only outputs through USB, so at first it was going to be unusable for the camera batteries. With some searching, I found a battery charger that can be powered by USB. Neither is speedy, mind you, but a workable backup.

Aware that many of the 17 other family members on this trip will be bringing identical cameras and REI-sourced gear, I have pulled out that wonder of modern science, the Sharpie.

First I put my name on my camera. Then I decided to customize my green duffel bag. It wouldn't help much to put my last name on the bag, since at least 5 of the other rafters will have the same name. And there is another Amy on the trip. I went for pictures instead.  (For much more elaborate Sharpie Art, check out the official blog.)
Should be useful to identify the bag in the airport, too. There's still plenty of ink in the Sharpie, but I draw the line at labeling my underwear.

And here's a shot of Saturday's harvest from the garden.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Prickly Harvest

One of the jobs of summer is to harvest whatever I can from my small slice of property that might make an interesting dye experiment.  Every evening after work I go out with my basket and pull off any Coreopsis blooms that have opened.  No doubt my neighbors think I am nuts, since every time something blooms I snip it right off.  The lavender and the Perovskia are safe, since last summer's experiments proved them to be disappointing in the dye pot.  I am looking forward to the blooming of the 6-foot tall sunflower plant that volunteered in the back yard.  It is covered with big flower buds and I hope they open before I leave for my upcoming raft trip. One bloom is open, so the rest should be out soon.

Tonight, after denuding the Coreopsis and the Lingula in the front yard, I tackled the Mahonia in the back.  Let me be clear, I would never have planted the stuff.  It is a vigorous invader from next door.  Mahonia, also called Oregon grape is the plant equivalent of a rabid porcupine.  At first you think, "that's kinda cute" but approach it and you will soon learn it is well protected by painful prickliness.  Any attempt at removing the stuff requires massive gauntlets and high levels of determination.  Then it grows right back. 
Its nickname of Oregon grape is due to the purple berries it produces during midsummer.  Last year I missed harvesting them.  I am determined to try for the blue-violet dye they are purported to produce when used in an acid dye pot.  So I bravely tackled stripping the ripe berries from the plants that are taking over the east end of my backyard.  Garden gloves were too unwieldy - the small berries rolled right through my fingers.  I managed to collect a rollicking 8oz of berries, frequently interspersed with "Ow!", "Ooh!" and other unmentionable phrases.  For every 5 berries collected another 3 dropped down into the bushes.  I eventually gave up from too many punctures, but may attack it again tomorrow.  On the positive side, the purple stain on my hands is persistent, even after a vigorous scrubbing.

All of my harvested plant bits get put into plastic bags and stowed in the deep freeze, far from curious felines.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Spindle Camp 2012

What: 25 or so handspinners spending the weekend together to talk fibers, spin, eat, drink, laugh and swim in the lake. Some camped and some stayed in cabins. All perspired in the 100 degree heat.

Where: Lake Francis Resort in Dobbins, CA. 

When: June 13-16, 2012

This was the 3rd annual Spindle Camp, with spinners from both sides of the hill (and even one from Las Vegas). I took the little trailer (of course). Two years ago we dealt with freezing rain; this year the temps hovered around the century mark. I spent part of each day swimming in the lake. Although the focus of the informal event was on spinning, I spent most of my fiber-time finally finishing the cashmere Citron shawl I started over a year ago. (More about that another time.)

I did not take my usual boatload of pictures, possibly because it was just too darn hot to do much more than sit chatting in the shade, but I did get a few. I am not going to list folks names, in fear that I will get some of them embarrassingly wrong, but suffice it to say that it was great to spend the time with both new and old friends. Most of these pictures were taken with the Nikon AW100, which I am happy to report emerged from the lake without any hint of a leak. If you want to see all 100 or so, you can check out my Flickr set.  For lots more detail about Spindle Camp 2012, check out Sharon's blog: Here, here, here, and here.