Not just a hobby, it's a way of Life

Archive for the ‘dyeing’ Category

The year so far

I have a plan. (Don’t I always?)  Or maybe a goal.  Anyway, what I would like to do is record stuff that happens in life so that I have a back-up memory when we’re trying to figure out when the last time was that we saw Ramblin’s parents or dear family/friends Ragged and Cynical.  So, since I’m behind this year, I’m afraid you’ll have to settle in for a bit of a catch-up.

The first weekend of the year found us heading south to see Ramblin’s parents.  He took off Friday so that we could leisurely drive down and arrive in the daylight.  If we leave after he gets off work at this time of year, we would arrive well after dark.  We had a good visit and found a few treasures at the ‘junk stores’, as Ramblin’s momma calls the second-hand resale shops.  My big score was a Teavana infuser pitcher for $2.  I’ve discovered/became obsessed with loose leaf tea and cold brewing said tea.  This pitcher is perfect for making iced tea.

The next week, we were supposed to get all kinds of wintry mess, so it was good that we traveled the week before to see his parents.  I decided that the warmth right before the impending storm would be a great time to dye yarn!  Now, you’ve heard of micro-brewers of beer, yes?  Well, indie dyers are like the micro-brewers of yarn.  I consider myself a nano-dyer.  I’m not at the capacity of amazing people like Knitting Notions, but I can make little batches of stuff that I tend to squeal and eee over.

yarn drying

Yarn pile

That’s really just a tiny, tiny bit.  However while dyeing 100+ skeins before the storm hit seemed like a good idea, I kind of forgot the whole rinsing and accommodating the drying of said skeins in the house.  I was not going to brave the ice and snow and cold to get to the yarn room.  But it worked.

The next weekend, Jan 20-21 was ice-free, so we traveled down to the family farm to check in on my uncles.  The family farm house is the gathering spot for Sundays.  They all live at their own homes, but they are very close to the homestead.  We travel the farthest, at a little under an hour.  Our family has owned the land for five generations, and there is five generations’ worth of junk there.  You could argue some of it is treasure, but much of it is junk.  What astounded me is last fall, after years of talking about it (long consideration before taking action is a family trait), my uncle was contacted by someone who scraps to clean up the place.  Car bodies, farm combine bodies (that had sizable trees grown up around them), and scrap metal of all sorts was finally hauled off.  Two outbuildings that had been collapsed for a good 15-20 years and the treasures/junk inside them are being cleaned up.  I would have taken before and after pictures, but I never imagined there would be an after.  I really thought it would fall to me and Ramblin’ to take care of it.  But it is looking great.

On Jan. 25, Ramblin’ and I celebrated 21 years together.  He reserved a cabin in southern Illinois, and we traveled down on Thursday to enjoy some time away from it all.  The main draw of the cabin was the hot tub.  With my connective tissue disorder, aching is a reality of daily life.  The buoyancy of the water plus the heated jets is so restorative.  If I win the lottery, a hot tub is the first purchase.  I do not play the lottery, so I’m not sure how that’s going to happen.  We spent the extended weekend soaking and eating oreos.  So. Many. Oreos. I regret nothing.

The first weekend in February, there were chances for ice/snow, so we decided to stay in.  Of course, the weather promised never showed, but it was nice to have a weekend of down time.

The next weekend, there were chances again, but we didn’t believe them.  Besides, I needed to get my tax papers to my uncle as we have all of our taxes done together because of the farm. We woke up to a glazing of ice.  The roads didn’t seem too bad, but the further south we went, the worse they got.  Bridges were particularly treacherous.  As there is a fairly long bridge between us and the farm, we opted to turn around.  At this point, I would like to mention that the weather had been consistently cold this year.  Lots of single digit highs.

However, the next weekend was going to be warmer and no ice, so we took that opportunity to visit Ragged and Cynical.  We finally determined that the last time we saw them was June of last year.  Too long, but busy lives get in the way sometimes.  It was great to see them and catch up.  I also discovered a Starbucks drink I don’t mind at all – the Blonde Espresso Latte.  It doesn’t have any of the bitterness I’ve come to expect from there.

We subjected them to a movie made locally to us.  (Sorry about that, guys.)  It wasn’t very good (okay, it was awful – mostly the f-word, which is fine when used for a purpose, and questionable filming technique), but you do have to give the creators credit for taking the leap and putting it out there.  If we wait for perfection, we might wait our whole lives.  “Done is better than good” and “Perfect is the enemy of good” are common phrases that essentially push us off our rumps to do something.  That is the root of my procrastination, but what do I miss out on waiting for things to be just so?

So this past weekend, we finally made it down to the farm – and I forgot my tax papers.  Argh!  So, I’ll have to get those down at some point so we can get the process started.  All of the uncles were well. (There’s been a couple of hospitalizations they’ve neglected to inform me of in the past.  I swear it’s like herding cats.)  More of the buildings were cleaned up.  We did pass some fairly high water on the way down, and the backwaters are coming up in our field.  The house is probably about three miles from a smallish river, so not in danger, but the woods and part of the farm ground do flood pretty regularly.  We didn’t get nearly the rain threatened.  The farm wound up with about 5″ for the week.

And lest I forget – the Olympics!  I love the Winter Games.  We’ve been binge-watching pretty much anything NBC wanted to show us.  We even got Sling TV for a month just to have another option.  Yesterday was our first post-Olympic evening, and it felt a little sad.  But now we can catch up on all the other shows that we put off.

I’ve been knitting up a storm.  So much so that I have not done any spinning or weaving.  I have so many plans.  But today I should finish off yet another big shawl wrappy thing, so maybe that will push me to get a warp on the loom.  One thing that is slowing me down is on Saturday I developed back spasms while grocery shopping.  It’s left me pretty much unable to do much of anything, but today it finally feels more like sore muscles from a hard workout than an injury, so some gentle strengthening exercises are in order.  The irony is I just started slowly getting back into exercising a couple of days last week (I don’t think the two are related), and that put a temporary halt to that.

In other news, I got Ramblin’ a ‘pro-sumer’ coffee roaster.  We had been roasting coffee beans with an air-popper, which did a surprisingly decent job, but it was obviously limited.  I didn’t know what else to get him for xmas, and I wanted it to be something good.  This has adjustable roast profiles and can roast up to a pound of beans at a time (in comparison, the air-popper did about 3 oz).  I believe he was pleased and simultaneously peeved that I spent what I did, so he retaliated by getting me a bath bomb press.

So let’s talk plans for this year.  One goal is to add craft shows to my lineup. My ‘day job’ has taken a serious turn, and it appears it will no longer be sustaining.  So, other avenues will have to be found.  For right now, I can’t make a living off of my creativity, so I will need to find another ‘day job’, but I might as well stick a bit more than a toe in and see what happens with the other creative pursuits.  I’ve always approached it as I like making things, and selling things means I get to make more things.  Otherwise the house just fills up.

Yay!  You’ve made it through my year so far!  I can’t promise how often I will post, but I know I need to record things for my own benefit, and maybe some of you will be entertained as well along the way.

Back again!

Wooo, look at me posting again! (still don’t have the app downloaded though)

As you can probably deduce from the lack of posts and sheer volume of yammering when I do post, it’s been a bit busy ’round here.  In fact, even though there are still things percolating, last Thursday was really a point where I could take a breath and go, “Whew!”  What does a knitter do at that point?  She (in this particular case) casts on socks.

And then, once she finishes that pair in three days, she casts on a shawl out of the skein of yarn she simply could not bear to part with for the yarn crawl.

(Yes, I know you can see these in the widget on the side bar, but isn’t this more personal like we’re actually talking about them?)

I know I have more things looming (ha – weaving joke!  Yes, there’s also a bunch of stuff I need to weave), but for right now, I’m enjoying the relative freedom to do whatever I want for the next couple of weeks.  Just so long as what I want to do is make about 60 pounds of soap and dye skeins and skeins of yarn.  Fortunately, that’s exactly what I want to do.  :)


So, I made it back before summer.  Impressive!

What have I been up to?  Probably the biggest thing is that I have become a contributor to the Phat Fiber box.  It’s a monthly box people can snag full of yarn and fiber samples from independent dyers.  While it’s probably a bit premature, I do love dabbling in the dye, and this should be motivation for me to do that.

It’s weird that I should need motivation to do something I enjoy, but there you go.  As the list of hobbies grows, naturally some are going to get pushed to the side.  But also, regardless of how productive I can be, there’s still time that is simply wasted.  I don’t want to  be running 24/7, but I also don’t need to play Facebook games when there’s more fulfilling stuff to do.  So if there’s external pressure, I’m hoping I’ll be a little more focused on doing things that bring me joy.

And if I make a little money in the process, even better.  With my primary (“day job”) continuing to decrease adjunct financial opportunities, I realize the only person I want in control of my destiny is me.  Being at another’s whim is rife with uncertainty; I want to be in control of my destiny because I’m really the only one that cares about it.  Does my employer (not my boss – she’s awesome) care that cutting hours affects my life?  Nope.  It becomes more and more apparent that if I’m going to have to stitch together multiple jobs to make ends meet (the reality of many adjunct instructors in higher education), I want those jobs to be something I enjoy.  I don’t want to teach for half a dozen colleges with students who don’t want to learn.  I want to dye things, and spin things, and weave things.

So, each month I’ll send Crys some yarn to toss in a box, and we’ll see what happens.

Somewhere 1

And in other late breaking news . . .

I’m buying a loom.

No one who knows me should be surprised by this.  Fifteen years ago, I went to a spinning guild gathering.  What brought me there was an interesting path.  I’m an English major, and I love to tell a story, so you might want to get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in.  I’ll wait.

Let’s start at the beginning.  My mom and grandmother were both talented crafters, though my mom never would have considered herself such.  She and my grandmother made beautiful lace crochet.  My mom also crocheted fun things for me.  Naturally, I wanted to learn to crochet, and I did.  I don’t remember how old I was when I first started, but let’s say it was somewhere around age eight.

My mom was friends with my friend’s mom.  Sue was just an awesome person and also crafty.  Then she took up knitting.  Since we spent a lot of time together, I got to see all of her wonderful projects.  I was amazed at how fabric-like knitting was where crochet was decidedly bumpier.  Of course, I decided I needed to do that, too.  Sue lent me the book she learned from (The All New Teach Yourself to Knit booklet by Evie Rosen, in case you’re playing along at home).  What’s great about this book is it has very clear illustrations for both the English and continental methods.  Sue had picked up the English method; I chose continental for its resemblance to crochet.

I dove right into knitting.  I practiced a small swatch of about 10-15 stitches.  I knitted, I purled, I knitted and purled, and then I decided I was ready to knit a fisherman’s sweater.  And I did.  That’s how I roll.

This area doesn’t have a lot to offer in the way of enrichment.  However, about an hour away there was an annual craft fair held on the museum grounds.  This was not your usual ‘teddy bears with lace glued on them and wooden cutouts of people’s backsides’ show.  Oh, no.  It was a juried fair, so there were artisans from all over.  There washand-thrown pottery, blacksmithing, fine art, and a woman, Rosalie Truong,  with angora rabbits.  Oh yes.  She had handspun angora yarn, dyed by her as well.  The softness!  The colors!  Up until this point, the spinning I had seen was with natural-colored fiber, so it really wasn’t anything I was interested in.  But now I saw the possibilities before me, and I knew I needed to do this.

In addition to her angora, there were other spinning fibers, and I bought two bags of a purple merino with firestar blended in.  I told her I wanted to learn, and she pointed me to the fiber arts building, saying that a spinning guild was set up there for a demonstration and that they would be thrilled to help a new spinner.  So off I went.

There were several women set up with their spinning wheels, mostly spinning the same natural fiber as I had seen before.  I told one of the women that I was interested in learning how to spin after seeing Rosalie’s booth.  She told me to get a drop spindle and learn on that.  Hmm.

I went home and ordered a drop spindle kit from one of my knitting catalogs.  (Note: don’t do this)  I received it in the mail, and the spindle appeared to have been cut from a 2″x4″, the wool was neppier than any neppy thing you’ve ever seen, and the instructions were less than clear.  After several tries, I laid it aside.

The next year, I went back to the craft fair, checked in with the spinners, and reported my progress, or lack thereof.  One woman said that she would be happy to teach me, but she would be leaving to winter in Florida soon, but once she returned in March, we could start my lessons.  Excellent!

There was a group of knitters I met with in the biggest town around us, which was about 60 miles away (told you this area doesn’t offer much).  That month, a woman pulled out all these beautiful yarns that she was going to make into a Kaffe Fassett sweater.  She was discussing how she had hand-dyed her handspun yarn for the project, and I was all over that.  “You spin?  I would love to do that!”  She told me that I should come to her spinning guild’s get-together in a couple of weeks, and they would be happy to teach me to spin.  I wasn’t going to have to wait until March!

That Sunday, I showed up at the event, trusty drop spindle in hand.  “No,” she said, “We’re going to teach you on the wheel.”  She had me sit down at her wheel and practice treadling.  First your feet learn what to do, then your hands.  I spent about an hour treadling, learning to start and stop the wheel.  Then we added the fiber, and I learned what fiber should look like.  Not the cruddy stuff sent along with the lumber-mill-reject drop spindle.

After I had spun on her wheel for a while, another woman invited me to spin on her wheel.  For the uninitiated, spinning wheels are very much a matter of personal preference.  What one person adores, another may despise.  Now, the first wheel I used, a Schacht Matchless double treadle, is a very, very nice wheel.  However, when I sat at Chris’s wheel, a Majacraft Suzie, I knew that was the wheel for me.  Later in the afternoon, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that a couple of women were watching me.  “I hope I’m doing this right,” I said.  “Oh no, you’re a natural,” one replied.

I should also mention that during this get-together, there were dyepots over a fire.  People had brought spinning fiber to sell, and naturally, I had to give dyeing a try.  So actually that day, two passions were born.

I went home, mind abuzz with possibilities.  I researched the wheel I had fallen in love with and discovered that Majacraft had just released a new wheel built on the same principles as the Suzie, but a bit more fancy – the Rose.  So, a mere four days after first touching a wheel, I ordered my Rosie.  Drop spindle, schmop spindle.  (Although afterward I got a quality spindle, and it is much, much better.  Then Ramblin bought me a Golding, and, well, Reason #189 why I love Ramblin)

Now, also during that day, another woman let me try her wheel.  It was a single treadle, and I learned that I don’t care for single treadling.  But as I was trying it out, we were discussing various things, and I mentioned my knitting.  “I would love to do that,” she said.  I was puzzled. “But then, what do you do with your yarn?”  I pictured her spinning up a yarn, winding it into a ball, tossing it over her shoulder into a mounting pile in a corner, and turning back to the wheel.  “I weave with it.”  Note that I did not immediately have the desire to weave.

So I’ve had many happy years of knitting, spinning, and dyeing fibers.  I wasn’t against weaving; I simply said I didn’t need one more hobby as I barely have time to do the things I want to do with my current hobbies.  Also, there’s all that finishing.

It was a friend’s beautiful Lunatic Fringe towels that created a hairline crack in my reserve.  What can I say – I’m a sucker for all things rainbows.  Still, I resisted.  Then The Loopy Ewe started carrying rigid heddle looms, and people were posting their weaving projects on Ravelry.  Then the Fat Cat Knits group started posting pictures of woven fabrics made into gorgeous bags.  I began pricing the rigid heddle looms at The Loopy Ewe.  Then one day one of my friends, out of the blue, declared, “I want to learn to weave!”  Sigh.  “I’ll learn to weave with you.”

A friend had a loom for sale.  No, we’re going to Europe; I have no place buying a loom when I’ve never even woven the first thread!  And it was big, a Schacht eight harness 46″.  Surely I shouldn’t start with something impressive as that, should I? (with my history for diving in with both feet, I still don’t understand my hesitation at this point)  But I did email her about it.  And several other friends for their advice about getting into this new endeavor.  And then it got put aside with travel, teaching, and life in general.

Fast forward to the rigid heddle class from this past Saturday.  My friend and I went to River Wools in Terre Haute to be indoctrinated.  By the end of the day, we both had scarves we were quite proud of for a first effort.  All it did was whet our appetites.

I posted all over about my scarf, (See my scarf?) and a friend sent me a link to a loom for sale.  It was a good distance away, and another person had inquired about it.  But that was enough to get me thinking.  I checked a few sources and then remembered the loom my friend had for sale.  I hadn’t seen any mention of it on our discussion boards, so I thought perhaps she had sold it.  But I emailed anyway.  And she still had it.

So, that’s how I’m getting a loom.

Why I Love Ramblin: Reason #248

Over the weekend, we were wandering around the local behemoth store and found ourselves in the crock pot aisle.  I spied the nifty three-in-one model that would allow you to dye three different colorways of yarn (yeah, they say it’s for cooking, whatever) at a time.  I commented to Ramblin that would be pretty sweet to have because of the color possibilities.  And then we moved on.

Today, Ramblin had to pick up some things at our local slightly-smaller-behemoth store, and when he got home, he said he had a surprise for me.

dye crock pot

It’s even better than the one we saw earlier.  I love this man.

Just because all this school stuff is getting boring

viola handspun

viola handspun closeup


This is some yarn I finally finished up last night.  How it came to be dyed is an interesting story.  I was dyeing a sock blank for the first time, and I had put waaaaaay too much dye on it.  It was going to turn into a mess if I tried to roll it up for steaming, so I grabbed this bundle of wool, plunked it in for a quick soak, and smooshed it onto the sock blank to mop up the excess dye.  Turned out beautiful.

The original sock blank had a zigzag of neon green going down the middle of the blank with red-purple and blue-purple in the alternating triangles.  The sock blank was a much deeper color that this fiber, but since I put the acid in with the dye, more of the pigment strikes on application, leaving fewer particles in the runoff, hence the lighter shades.

It’s a fingering weight three-ply yarn, about 700 yards.  No idea yet as to what it will become.