Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun with kitchen garbage...

But first, I wanted to show you the hat that I knit from the really bright skein of yarn in the last post. I intended to post this the very next day, since that's when I knit it...honestly I think the yarn was still slightly damp. My first Navajo Ply...a little over spun, but look! Handspun stripes. How stinkin' cool is that?
And now! Fun with kitchen garbage. I have a few personality traits that Manimal finds incomprehensible, and sometimes downright irritating...there are more, but I repress them. He has no idea how much garbage I haven't hauled home off the side of the road...I was thinking for awhile about scavenging couch cushions from all the nasty old couches that get hauled out to the curb...the couch is awful, sure, but there's probably some good foam in that cushion. I come from a long line of garbage pickers.

Anyway, for the last year or so, I've been saving my onion skins in a mason jar, much to his confusion, to say the least. He even asked, in a tone of voice that some might have described as derisory, if I was planning on transporting this jar of garbage to the new house with me. Of course! That's valuable dye stuff.

A long time ago, one of my mother's friends told me that the key to dying with onion skins was to have "a lot" of them.
Turns out that one mason jar, so packed full that you literally can not fit one onion skin more, plus another overflow jar, when turned out into my largest "common use" stock pot (not the mega five gallon stock pot in other words), is A LOT of onion skins. This is probably a 3 gallon pot, and it's two thirds full of onion skins.
But, oh lordy, look at that color! I'm still sort of flabbergasted by the whole thing, and I'm sure that the man of my heart will be disappointed to learn that I am not only going to continue saving my onion skins...but now I'm on fire to experiment with all sorts of other things that usually go down the garbage disposal.

Here's the quick and dirty if you want to try it at home. Apparently no mordant is needed when dying with onions skins, so all you have to do is put your skins in the pot, simmer for an hour (don't boil, as that apparently can ruin the pigment), then strain out the skins, and add your yarn. Simmer for another hour and then leave over night. Voila!
For comparison I brought out the skein that I dyed with walnut husks. I thought that was amazing at the time, and I suppose it still is for something I picked up out of my backyard, but the onion skins definitely take the cake.
"What? Are you taking pictures of something? You must be confused, because I was standing behind you, and obviously there is only one thing worth taking pictures of around here. Silly momma."

Ragnar...getting in touch with her crunchy granola side.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Fibery Goodness...

Long time readers might possibly remember the "free wool" sweater. This is a sweater that I have been working on, literally, for years. The history, briefly: "free wool" from a local mutton farmer, remarkably nice for "meat" wool, I picked the shit out of it myself before sending it to the mill to be washed and carded. This was early in my spinning career, so my only option for spinning it was on a drop spindle (which I made myself, not bragging, just mentioning it as part of the story of how attached I am to this baby). I am not a huge fan of two ply yarns, so I spun it as a three ply, which ended up being a sort of sport weight. I started spinning it into my fantasy sweater, that is, a cardigan, cabled, with a hood. It started out being Fiona Ellis's Celtic Icon, but I wasn't a huge fan of the cable on that sweater, so I substituted an Elspeth Lavold. Ran out of yarn half way through, and was rescued by a friend who happened to have some lying around in a closet. Did I mention? Drop spindle, three ply?

So what did I do last Friday while I should have been working in the studio?

I frogged it.

I finally realized that there were just too many problems with it, and as I am always telling my students, it's worth it to rip it out so that you end up with something you really love. Firstly, I learned to spin making this sweater, and there were at least three distinctly different weights of yarn in it. Secondly, the wool that I got from my friend is just different enough in texture that I know it will bug the shit out of me. Thirdly, in the four years that I have been working on this my gauge has changed signifigantly, making one half of the front and inch longer than the other, and one sleeve an inch and a half longer. Forthly, I have a lot more experience with sweater design now, and I feel like I can make something that I'll really love.
So here is about half of the sweater yarn (still haven't ripped it all out yet). The yarn on the right was the "heavy" weight that isn't going to be a part of whatever I ultimately knit out of this. Turns out having undyed yarn in the house was just too much of a temptation, and I found myself out in my backyard at 5 o'clock in the evening, picking up last years walnuts to dye it. It didn't turn out quite as dark as I'd hoped, but I'm pretty amazed by the results. This is my first experiment with natural dying. I have some onion skins that I've been saving, and I think the "light" weight has a date with that dye pot.
And finally, I spent some quality time with my spinning wheel this weekend. I was throughly sick of the project that I have been working on, so I bought a little splurge package of roving at Woven Art. It had very distinct bands of color, so I abandoned my usual "long draw" method and worked at keeping the colors as separate as I could...of course when I was done I couldn't bare to ply it with anything, so this is my first experience with "Navajo Plying." There are some overspun sections, there are some "coiled" looking sections...but over all I am totally in love with it. I was actually intending this to be the first of the "pay it forward" items, but when all was said and done the skein was only about 50 yards long (navajo ply definately robs you of some length), and I wouldn't want to give someone a skein of yarn that wasn't long enough to knit something out of.

Besides, I have a pregnant friend, and I think a baby hat would be just the thing to show off those stripes.

I am so impatient to knit with this that I am going into the bathroom every half hour or so to "see if it's dry yet," (that would be fondle it, since of course I know it couldn't possibly be dry yet.)

Ragnar...such a god damn hippy.