Day 8: Superwash Wool

As a spinner, it’s important to try new fibers. In the beginning, a lot of us want to “wait until I’m good” before trying exotic (read: expensive) things. We don’t want to ruin our good stuff because our yarn is lumpy or drifts apart or just doesn’t look the way we want it to. There were lots of expensive things I avoided, but other things too – like superwash.

Sarah on merino superwash

Superwash is a treatment that sort of glues down the scales of wool so it won’t shrink. You can put superwash treated wool into the washing machine and dryer and it will look just as good when you pull it out as when you put it in. The fiber tends to be a little flyaway, slicker than untreated wool, and has a hand to it that while you know it’s wool, it feels different. I avoided anything with superwash on the label as a new spinner. I didn’t like how it felt and didn’t like the resulting yarn.

It wasn’t until I started dyeing it for sale that I actually tried it myself. Surprisingly, I like it now. I think the slickness of it put me off in the beginning. I couldn’t control it very well and blamed it on the fiber instead of my inexperienced fingers.

Henriette on merino superwash

And here’s the thing…superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. You splash dye on superwash and you can almost hear a slurping sound. When I’m cold-pouring, I try to get the same amount of dye on each bundle of fiber. With untreated wool, you can push the color around a little and have it soak in. With superwash, you better be sure of where you’re putting the color – because it isn’t going to move!

The colors are intense and my superwash fibers usually have bits of white in the top/roving. I used to just keep putting more dye on to get all the white gone, but now I actually like the bits. It’s soothing to see them coming up when I’m at the wheel and they’re a nice contrast to the intensity of the colors.

Superwash is also very kind to beginning dyers. You can cook it a little longer than you should or let it boil in a pot and it’s not going to be a total waste. I try to be very careful when a dyepot is on the stove or my little propane kitchen is working away on the deck. But you know, life sometimes happens – the phone rings or the dog gets sprayed by a skunk and you have to deal with it before you can get back to the pots. Superwash is forgiving and it’s saved me on a couple of occasions.

One last thing, it’s cheap. Seriously, you can get some great colors on fabulous fibers out there and they won’t break the bank.

Book Review: “It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ “

Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, Paul Deen and Sherry Suib Cohen
originally published: 2007
finished reading: 4 December 2011

I love biographies, always have. I’m in the middle of reading another non-fiction book that’s really bringing me down and needed something to pick me up. Paula Deen fit that bill. I loved that the book sounded the way she sounds on her show (and I’ve been dropping the “g” off all my words for the last several days). She pulled no punches when talking about her life – the times when she was mean to her boys, her failings in her first marriage, approaching her step-children – it’s all there. Instead of making me judge her, these revelations made me like her even more.

I found Deen’s book inspirational in a way that a lot of self-help books are not. This woman struggled a lot with the deaths of her parents, being married very young, having little to no money, and yet she came out on top. This is the American dream. A woman with very few options took the bull by the horns, gritted her teeth, and built herself up step-by-step. She pulled her family up with her and they’re all still going strong. I’m looking forward to seeing Paula Deen cookin’ with butter for a very long time.

How is this related to creativity? Here’s the thing, Paul Deen picked herself up and was her own best advocate. When she finally found the thing she loved to do best, that’s what she threw herself into. That she’s become an author, TV host, product spokeswoman, multi-millionaire is all the result of finding her bliss. If that’s not creative thinking, I don’t know what is.

Edited to add:
I actually wrote this post yesterday. Then discovered that the batteries in the trackpad had died. Would you believe we were completely out of AA batteries? Why did I throw away all the corded mice? I couldn’t post until I got new batteries and re-connected the dang wireless trackpad. It still counts, right?

Day 6: Creativity

Today, I got nothin’. I’ve been trying to take pictures of everything to get them into my Etsy shop. It’s a huge job and exhausting (but it will be worth it when I’m done).

I can’t even show you some of the pictures. My daughter informed me when we were pulling into the driveway that the batteries in the mouse had died. She couldn’t have let me know before we drove past at least 3 places that sell batteries? So the camera is full, the mouse is empty, and I’m tired.

Tomorrow I play hookey and will knit with my friends while watching some version of a Jane Austen story. I’ll be back with creative stories galore.

Day 5: Immersion Dyeing

Orange luxury pack

In August of this year my friend Lynne Vogel was teaching a color/spin/dye workshop at Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire. If you’re a knitter, you should have heard of Harrisville. They do the yummy yarns in the Vivian Hoxbro kits and they do a bunch of other amazing yarns for knitting and weaving (tweeds – mmmm!!).

Harrisville has a giant classroom space as well as room for dyeing. So a couple of years ago Lynne started teaching there and let me tell you, the students are a little rabid. She’s had some of the same people coming for more than 5 years to her workshops. I’m sure it has something to do with her style of teaching and what she teaches, but that’s pretty amazing no matter who you are.

Yellow BFL & Merino pack

This year the class only had about 10 people. We had a chance to split the group into 2 groups and in addition to the color pour technique that I first learned from Lynne, we got to try immersion dyeing. I like to think of it as stone soup dyeing. Essentially, you throw a color in a cold pot and heat it up. You can add the fiber while the pot is cold or wait till it’s warmed up a little and then throw it in. Different colors will strike at different temperatures and superwash soaks up dye like nobody’s business. So you get some amazing results with this combination.

We started with superwash (no chance of felting if we got lazy about watching the pot). Once the dye stock gets to almost boiling, you take it off and let it sit, covered, for about 20 minutes. This gives the dye time to exhaust and also cool off a little. When I’m at home, I let them sit until they cool off enough so I can stick my hands in. I have some of those giant heat proof gloves, but in my haste, I’ve messed up a lot of fiber by being too quick to get my hands in there and the fiber out. If you can wait, do, the fiber will thank you.

Usually, the dye exhausts into the fibers. Sometimes you get left overs. This is where it’s fun. At first, I was trying to completely exhaust so I could start again with a new color. After a while, I figured it was more fun to just throw a little more dye in and see what came about. Then I started experimenting with other fibers.

Red luxury pack

When I came home, the Hub helped me set up a little propane dye kitchen and I went a little wild. It occurred to me that I could do sample packs of fibers. A lot of times new spinners are hesitant to buy something they’ve never spun before (they don’t want to “ruin” it). I put together packets of luxury fibers so that people could try little bits to see if they liked it enough to buy more. It’s been a lot of fun. You never know what’s going to come out.

The luxury packs have 1 ounce each of merino superwash, merino (50)/bamboo (50), merino (70)/seacell (30), and merino (50)/tencel (50). The BFL/Merino pack has 1 ounce each of bluefaced leicester (BFL), BFL superwash, merino, and merino superwash. There’s also a 50 yard skein of wool, the light colors are merino from Australia and the dark colors are Michigan grown and processed wool.

Four ounces of something is enough to play. I’ve spun all the fibers as singles and then plied different singles together. My plan is to take one of the packs and spin and ply every combination to see what I come out with. Then I have to work on some sort of pattern so people know what to do with the yarns they’ve spun. Again, 4 oz is enough to make a cute pair of fingerless mitts, cuffs for a special sweater, or even a simple shawlette. My problem is deciding which pack to experiment with – I love all of them.

Day 4: Glass Marble Magnets

The purple paper stash

I cannot take the credit for this idea. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have become addicted to Pinterest. I kept seeing people repin this blog post and figured it would be fun for the girls to have a go at it. We went to Michael’s yesterday and picked up the flat bottom marbles, glue, and magnets. After homework was done tonight, they sat down and started. I still have a ton of paper from my scrapbooking days, so they’ve raided the paper stash and are having fun comparing what they’ve done.

I was pleased with the flat bottomed marbles. I expected to get the small ones (even though I think they’re too small). Then I found these. They’re about 1.75 inches across and not perfectly round. I think they have a little character to them more than the smaller ones. Apparently, glass is sold by the pound. There were giant bags of small marbles for $6.99. These bags were something like $2.59 and there are approximately 18-20 in each little bag.






Here are Sassy’s first few pieces (purple):

And these are Hens’ (green):
They’re branching out now and trying colors that aren’t their favorites. I asked what who they’re going to give these to and they both looked stricken. “We have to give them away??!!!?”

Day 3: Etsy Shop

I have an Etsy shop. I opened it a couple of years ago because I was dyeing so much fiber and I couldn’t spin it as fast as I could knit it. Then I decided to start dyeing sock yarn. That was a lot of fun too, but again, how much sock yarn can you stash? (Okay, a lot, I know, but it was getting ridiculous).

I spent some time today taking pictures of some of my yarn to upload. It’s kind of a challenge to come up with creative ways to take pictures of yarn, but I try. Here are some of my results. Thoughts? Do they show the yarn to its full advantage? What else would you like to see in a yarn photo?

Kat:

Lula:

 Sarah:

Sassy:

Sharon:

Day 2: Friday Roundup

Friday is going to be the roundup day for creativity. I’ll revisit anything I’ve done during the week and provide any updates as well as look forward to what I’ll be doing next week. I managed to snag the work camera and wow! I had forgotten what a great camera can do. The ease of taking these fabulous pictures made my head swim. I think my search for a new camera is at an end – I want one of these! (Nikon D5000)

Re-pourposed stocking

As it turns out, I could not rip out the beginnings of the stocking. I looked at it and looked at it and couldn’t bring myself to pull out the needles and waste all of that effort. I channeled my knit friend Erica and said – “Hey, it’s big enough for a hat!” So I bound off, wove in the ends, and pulled it on. It’s a bit snug for me, but I’m a pumpkin head. I think I’ll throw a couple of tassels on the points and shop it around. If it fits and someone likes it, it’s theirs.



Stocking 2.0

I cast on again (with about 30 fewer stitches) and came up with this. It’s a lovely start and I’m sure I’ll be able to finish this in plenty of time for Christmas. I thought the stripes were a little small for the scale of the piece, so I increased those as well. In the hat, the stripes are 5 of the dark green, and 3 of the other 2 colors. In the new version, I went with 7 of the dark green and 5 of the others. There isn’t much to see here, yet, but I already like them better.





Lynne Vogel Ltd top (2 different colorways)

I also wanted to share a skein of yarn that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. It’s really gorgeous and while it doesn’t technically fit into creativity this week, I’m still in love with it. If you’re a spinner and don’t know who Lynne Vogel is – go find out! Her etsy shop (here) is lovely and filled with wonderful patterns. She doesn’t dye much anymore, but when you can catch whatever she’s dyed, consider yourself lucky! She also consults with Three Waters Farms to work on colors and occasionally, you can find some of her colors there. (Again, no affiliation with either of these shops, except that Lynne is my friend and there’s that fabulous indie artist thing that I live by.)


Anyway, this picture is a better representation of the colors of this wonderful skein of yarn. I love it!




Up next week: ATC 

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with these fish cards, but they will be used next week in conjunction with the artist trading cards I have. There will be mod podge, watercolor crayons and pencils, and funky paper. Stay tuned.

Day 1: Knitting a Stocking

We have an exchange student from Germany living with us this year. She has really integrated into our family and is a joy to have here with us. Many years ago I knit my own babies Christmas stockings and 2 years ago, knit some for my sister’s kids. It would be weird for everyone to have a hand knitted stocking except for Hens. During my Thanksgiving break, I started.

She loves greens. When she got here, she and Sassy painted Little Big Man’s room for her and it’s a lovely green between Kiwi and pear – bright and airy. Every sweater she owns is green and she’s bought 2 scarves since she’s been here (both green). When I was dyeing in September I did a special colorway just for her and she’s since learned to spin and is currently knitting another scarf of her very own handspun. It’s lovely. (I’ll post pictures when I can get the needles out of her hands.)

H stocking, version the first

It wasn’t a stretch choosing a color. The problem was which greens to choose (green is one of my favorites as well). I got the yarn out, balled it up, and started knitting. One of my continual issues is the denial of how big knitted goods get away from the needle. I look at my cast on stitches and think, “Oh that needs to be a couple of inches bigger.” It almost never does and I end up with this  –>.

Perhaps the ruler is obscured there, but the thing is ginormous – 9.5 inches (almost 24 cm). It’s the scale that’s the problem. If I keep knitting on this many stitches the stocking would be large enough for Jack’s giant. Perhaps I should add sleeves and call it a toddler sweater! I know I must rip it out and start again, but I do hate losing all the work already done. {sad trombone}

Giving props to Kristen Nicholas here. The stocking is based on her No 3 – Yikes Stripes Stocking from her ebook Kristin’s Creative Christmas Stockings. It’s a fabulous collection of 6 stocking patterns that you can knit as is. But she’s Kristen Nicholas, so there are tons of variations for you to experiment with. She has extra fair isle charts, a tutorial on duplicate stitch, embroidery stitches, and gorgeous full color pictures of the stockings – all for $10. You don’t even need to leave your home – buy the ebook and it will download right to your computer or tablet. (I’m not affiliated with Kristen in any way except to say that she’s a fabulous indie designer and I believe in supporting fabulous indie designers every chance I get.)