Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dipping in the dyepots

This is a picture heavy post, which I usually do not do. I promised lots of pics though on the podcast about dyeing this fleece. If you are interested in the podcast you can find it here or on Itunes.

Spring is really popping up all over my place now, and I have been getting the itch to copy to spring colors. Here's a few that got me thinking of yellows, oranges and greens:

Those lead to my version:

It all started with this fleece, a Romeldale (the white version of the CVM breed) that was a lovely soft fleece but which had some yellow coloring to it that I was not sure would wash out.

There was a pound of the fleece and it was very free from VM and otherwise really nice. Since I wasn't sure I would end up with a nice white yarn, I decided it was time to do some fleece dyeing. After all, there is no better time to dye a fleece than when it is wet from washing. I discuss the whole process on the podcast, episode 28. After splitting the fleece into four different parts and doing two dyepots, with two parts in each pot, I ended up with a dark and light version of yellow and orange.
The orange was much darker than I had planned, my first reaction was, oh my, I've made clown hair. The color is growing on me though, more so than the wimpier lighter version of the orange. It was my plan to card the fiber in mostly yellow batts with the orange striping through the batt, similiar to the orange pollen on flowers. After the fiber dried, I did some sample batts to see how I liked my idea.

The batt on the left is how it looks when you take it straight off the drumcarder. The ball on the right is the second batt I did, pulled off the drumcarder in a continuous strip, which not only makes it more roving like, but also shows more of the orange, which is buried in the middle of the first batt,
I will have too much of the dark orange, so I am thinking about another spinning experiments, of a cabled yarn in orange and yellow. So I did a solid yellow batt (far left) and a solid orange batt (in the middle). I will spin singles from those and try a cabled yarn from those.

The batt on the far right was my attempt to card a batt for a second carding. You can see that it did do the further blending of the orange which I like. But I have a very hard time carding the batt fiber, it was wrapping the small drum of my carder and really not wanting to feed in nice, no matter how small of an amount I tried. I believe this is because I have a fine teeth drum, which works fine with shorter fibers (which the dyed fleeces locks were) but not well at all with long stapled fibers (which is what a batt acted like once it was all carded). It is not going to be worth the struggle to me, just to get that further blending and I will not be carding the dyed fiber more than once.

After I had used the yellow dye pot twice, I decided to add blue dye for a green color and dye some yarn. Remember the summer Ravelry spinning olympics project, where I took raw fleece to a finished project (the cat bed) during the olympics? Well, I have four skeins of that Maine Island yarn still, and thought I would like a color other than white.

Adding the blue dye, without adding more yellow, meant the blue dye struck first, giving the yarn a more blue tone than I had planned. I still love the color, and the yarn is thick and squishy. I plan to knit a version of a pocket stole, something to throw over my shoulders while I spin, knit or read.

Don't you just want to squish it?


Saturday, March 28, 2009

1800 miles and very little knitting

Recently we rented a car and drove south to visit my mother. The round trip mileage is around 1800 miles and we divide the trip into a day and half drive each way. That should mean lots of knitting time for me right? With that thought in mind, I am sad to show the sum total of my travel knitting:

I chose to do socks in the car because it really is a nice small portable project that fits well in the lap space a car provides. And I chose a no pattern type of sock (letting the colors just do the work) to have even less to fool with. I did take the Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles book by Cat Bordi, mostly because I had made one of the sock patterns in that book before and really liked it. She does one sock at a time in the book, but I am a vetern two socks at once knitter and knew I would do both at the same time.

The pattern is actually her first in the book, the very basic sock. I like it for the ribbing all the way down to the heel (I don't really like doing the K2P2 but I like how the sock fits and feels) That's why the photo looks like I got started on the cuffs and forgot to stop, but it really was intentional. I am about an inch away from turning the heel.

The biggest accomplishment of the project was that I cast on the two socks with the circs instead of my usual cast on (with four DPN and knit several rows and then set up both socks on the two circs). I was too lazy to pack the DPN, so it was get the socks cast on, or not knit. Interesting way to make one learn a new skill (grin). It involved much fiddlely stuff, much moving stitches from here to there, and much finger crossing that I was not going to end up making mobius socks. After knitting about an inch I breathed a sigh of relief, all looked right and tubular.

I really do not like the way the set up causes one side to start with a P2. I can prevent laddering of the yarn when doing a knit stitch, there is a knack to tugging both the first and next stitch that causes everything to tighten up just fine. But that type of tugging is contrary to the way a purl stitch falls, and I found myself fighting really hard to try and get those stitches tightened up. It's a sad thing to admit that it took me until at least three inches of ribbing to realize I could just do four knit stitches in a row in that area, I mean, who would notice? But since I hadn't thought of it at the outset, I didn't switch. I am going to call the laddering a 'lacy effect'. Yeah, I am that type of knitter.

While actual at my mom's, I did the last 20 rows of the last chart of the Serendipity (mystery 4) Stole. I did not do the grafting, and still have not done the grafting. I followed all the posts about the shawl on the yahoo group devoted to it, and a pretty high percentage of the knitters had a hard time with grafting lace weight stitches. The designer has given specific directions to purl the back rows of each side in a very smooth, larger and contrasting yarn (like cotton) and use that yarn to show the direction of how the needle and thread should do the kitchner stitch. It helped many to do it this way, others who said they understood kitchner just fine, found the contrasting thread idea very 'in the way' of the kitchner process. I have no idea where I will fall in this debate, and it has me somewhat reluctant to start the grafting. The shawl is stunning, I really want to wear it, I just need to have about a day of no distractions and no urgent plans and get it done.

The other current big project was a partial stash toss one rainy day this week. I am finally starting to get actual pictures and listings on Ravelry of the stash, including some handspun yarns. This involved having the laptop in the stash room, internet on the laptop, a google document for a wonderful yarn inventory spread sheet I happened upon once, camera and many cups of coffee. I estimate I got photos and listings on the excel sheet for about 1/3 of the non fiber stash. I hit a point of being totally overwhelmed, went downstairs, and promptly went to knit picks for more yarn retail therapy. Only a junkie would understand.

Geeky bit alert, trundle on by if not interested, although I think it's really cool.

I had another hurdle too, which I solved just this morning. I have the photos from my camera on the laptop, but my camera takes photos at a nice high resolution, and that ends up being pictures kilobytes in size. And I am only using the free flickr account so there is a monthly limit on the photos I can upload and then show on Ravelry. I have a photo editing software on my desktop (which uses XP) but that software wouldn't work with Vista which is on my laptop. Upshot was I could not convert those massive pics into nice smaller versions for upload and storage on flickr. I looked through many descriptions of many photo editing software, and all would index, fix red eye, crop but not really change the size. I even downloaded the free version of my adobe software to see, but no, I would have to buy an expensive version to get that feature. So I hit the website freedownloadmanager and although it took going through pages of very out of date photo editing software, I finally hit paydirt. It is from a company Arclab and it is called Thumb Studio. It was free, it's amazingly easy to use, it takes your original photo and makes up to three different sizes (and lets you decide on the size) and even lets you bring in entire folders of photos and do them all at once. There are other features too I haven't investigated, but even if this is all it does for me, I am so pleased. The photo above was processed by the software, as well as others in a matter of seconds. I just love finding that perfect bit of coding that some developer sat and said, 'oh I bet someone would like to do this....'

That's all the geeky stuff

I will be traveling again, but driving, so no knitting. I will take the socks and hope to at least catch some time to knit now and then. And I hope to post again before I go, I have been at the dye pots and the colors are ummm 'bright'!