Wednesday, August 27, 2008

S-s-s-s A-a-a-a F-f-f-f E-e-e-e T-t-t-t Y-y-y-y

Safe, dance!

...oh excuse me ;)
We interrupt this blog (and a flashback to the 80's - that was the Safety Dance if you didn't catch the reference ;) ) for a semi-important safety announcement - now that I have started carrying hand dye kits I decided I should remind folks that PPE (personal protective equipment) is one of those necessary, but perhaps forgotten items.

When dyeing, I make sure I wear gloves while handling the yarns - though I still manage to get the occasional blue, purple or green finger now and again when I'm not careful handling the large containers of mixed dye. (I don't dare pick up or handle the containers with wet gloves as it may result in dye all over the floor in case I drop one - I've had a couple close calls before).

The other major piece of PPE I've invested in is a respirator - I had a heck of a time finding one that fit (and fit is very very important - after all, if the mask leaks, it means you're breathing in whatever it is you're trying to save your lungs from!). Until this time, I've been wearing a fairly standard issue particulate mask, available from your local hardware store. I wear my respirator whenever I'm mixing fresh dye stock to save my already asthmatic lungs from further irritation and contaminants from flying dye particles. During the summer months, I typically measure and mix my dyestocks indoors - during the cooler months, I take the opration outside, that way I don't feel as obliged to cover the entire surrounding area with damp cloths to capture any stray dye particulates.

Gloves and dust mask...and an apron if you haven't a mess of clothes you can dedicate to doing dyework.

I'm knitting. Really. I'll show a few days when the projects will hopefully look like I've made some progress!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shibori Knits

Shibori is not easily translated into English from Japanese, but it typically is used to describe methods of dyeing where the fabric is shaped and secured prior to dyeing in order to achieve particular results or designs.

Shibori Knitting plays upon that idea by incorporating different techniques to obtain various textural effects via felting.

Shibori Knits: The Art of Exquisite Felted Knits includes 20 richly photographed patterns that make use of various techniques in their creation. The first section, Surrender to Shibori, primarily makes use of hard "resists" like marbles, corks, golf balls, and cabochons to create bubble-like textures in the felted fabric. The second section, Shibori Creativity, makes use of fiber/yarn combinations of felting and non-felting varieties in an interplay of colorwork to create windows or sections of differing texture (a fine example is the hat on the cover of the book). The third section, Subtle Shibori, continues the play with felting and nonfelting fibers, to create ruffle and spiral textures in the finished project.

It is worth noting that the author of the book is the co-founder of Alchemy Yarns, and all the patterns in the book call for the use of yarns from her company - some brief discussion on yarn substitution is provided in the front matter of the book, though no specific other brands are mentioned. Shibori Knits is a lovely book for those looking for some specific guidance or patterns on venturing into the world of felting or "shibori knitting." It was nice to see some of my own "oops" discoveries tamed and controlled into various projects.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Repurposing your Wool

Ever wonder just what do do with a woolen garment that you perhaps have grown out of (or perhaps it met an untimely demise in an encounter with the washing machine)? Or perhaps you don't care to knit something only to turn around and felt it down, and would rather opt for thrift store finds to run your felting experiments on?

If so, this book may well be for you - Sweater Renewal: Felting Knits into New Sweaters and Accessories. After a very brief primer on fibers and felting, this book jumps quickly into its 25 projects. The projects are broken down into 4 chapters - from quick and simple beginners projects (small ornaments/accessories/cases), to intermediate projects (hats, scarves, purses and a softie), to advanced projects (sweaters, cardis and a skirt), finishing with three projects that you knit and felt back down to size.

The projects in the book incorporate a variety of skills including felting, sewing, applique, crochet and even knitting. Many of the projects do include quite a bit of embellishment, all of which could be customized or omitted as you wish. I personally found the most inspiration in the advanced section, where felted sweaters are either cut and reshaped into other sweaters or cardigans, or even a skirt. I'll definitely be keeping some of these projects in mind the next time I find myself thrifting...or if I happen to have a mishap with any of my own wool sweaters!

Interested in also becoming an advance reader and receiving review copies of books? Looks like Random House might be looking for more bloggers to add to their ranks - you can read about it and contact them here to express your interest!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wet Blanket

...well not for long, what with the dry air of the desert!

cats, as usual, included for scale - Finished in less than a month...actually it appears (according to Ravelry) that I may have finished in about a half a month! As you can see, the blanket is rather non-aggressively blocked - I figure as a blanket, it will just wind up relaxing back down rather quickly, so I didn't bother getting out all the pins to pin it out like a trampoline - though I'll bet that if I did, I'd gain another foot or more of case you're wondering, that blanket is already just over 6 feet across - my cat is very very long. As always, you can find more details on the finished objects blog :)

oh, and congratulations to Eva for being selected by the random number generator - the book is on the way :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Playing Catch Up

My apologies for the disappearing act - I've been off on one of my annual pilgrimages, and manged to get myself stuck overnight in Denver. With many thanks to the wonderful customer service agents (and definitely NOT to the gate agents) I managed to get on the earliest flight possible the following day (on a different airline) to make my destination and my morning appointments.

Where was I at? Why Outdoor Gear Mecca - the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. Rare is it that I can talk technical aspects of fabric, yarn, yarn construction and fiber, without peoples eyeballs glazing over. Interestingly enough, in the industry, by far, most of the folks I was having these wonderful conversations with were men...and I got the impression that they were surprised to find someone who could talk micron count, staple length and fiber blends with.

Before coming back home, I managed to get scheduled into a media tour of some Salt Lake City resorts - perfect for me to see them during the summer rather than in the winter since I haven't skied in years (something about high speeds and ground proximity don't go so well with me).

Here's the view from my room at the Alta Lodge...

Lovely, isn't it? There were deer bounding around on the slopes late in the afternoon - apparently there are also moose and antelope around also. We were also treated to a tram ride over at Snowbird, where the view from the top of the mountain was quite nice (and hey, it sure beat hiking all the way up there ;) )

The next day, I did get a chance to get out and do a hike, up over a pass (I forget the name) right over Twin Lakes and down into Solitude. You may be wondering why I have no photos of wildflowers or the twin lakes (which had overflowed their banks and appeared to be one large lake when I was there) - well, it was mostly because between the altitude and elevation gain, I was much more interested in getting up and over the pass than taking photos :P (and I figure I was kind of already holding up the group quite a bit with my slow pace). If ever you have a chance to visit - or are looking for things to do outside of Salt Lake during the summer, a visit up Little or Big Cottonwood canyons to these resorts would be fun....heck, if you're there in the winter, they have great skiing if you are so inclined!

To my surprise, Alta even hosts a knitters retreat! I suspect the aspens will be changing at that time, and the weather will be cool enough for wool (heck, I was wishing I had a wool sweater in the evening!) - you could spend the day hiking and the evenings knitting - or you could spend the whole day with your wool if so inclined - the area is beautiful, while I was there, I could have spent all day lounging on the deck with my knitting, with the hummingbirds as entertainment.

Stay tuned, I'll have Hemlock Ring progress to post soon :) and tomorrow closes the door on the Taste of Sweet pass it forward book "contest" - enter now if you're interested!

Friday, August 08, 2008

A diversion...

...from fine gauge knitting.

I've had this blanket in my queue for a long long time (let's not speak of the other poor blanket that has been mostly abandoned since last October with only 4 measly miters to its name...maybe I should put that back on the needles, or maybe even make it my travel knitting)


Anyhow, behold the beginning of my Hemlock Ring - I had a big bag of berrocco Foliage at my disposal, and I couldn't think of anything better to put this yarn towards (bulky, somewhat thick and thin)...after all, I certainly don't need a bulky weight sweater down here in the land of 100+ degree days!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

there's always room for dessert.

If you seem to always have room for dessert as I do, or wonder what the fascination is with sweets, you may enjoy this book: The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with Our Favorite Treats. A fun, relatively quick read (unless you keep getting distracted by bringing your knitting to bed like I did), it provides a glimpse into the science and history of Sweet.

Incidentally, now that I'm finished reading my copy, I'll happily offer it up those of you who are interested (US only please, I'll post it off via media mail) - if there are more than one of you, I'll trot out the old random number generator. You have until the end of next week (August 18) to express your interest :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Colorwork Revisited

Once I finished off the Mittens, I decided I was still bitten by colorwork and cast on for this wee project. I still had yarn, and plenty of graph paper....more info here, as usual :)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Wiped Out!

Ever feel like this?

I don't know where all the time is flying to, all I know is I don't seem to have enough of it (it's times like these that I wish I had a time turner...or a clone of myself)! August is here already...and you know what that means? The shop is freshly restocked...the last two weekends saw me covered head to toe in fiber - which means that big pile of wool that was due to be fed to the Beast has all been processed :) There is, of course, a bit more blending to be done now that the fresh box of merino came in...but August will be dedicated dyework - both yarn and fiber, if I can manage it.

Of course, there's quite a bit more in the shop other than freshly blended batts...Orders from my jaunt to TNNA have been coming in and getting added to the shop. I'm now a Louet Stockist (no, I've not yet acquired more wheels - though I *am* tempted, especially by the little Victoria - especially seeing as how my Minstrel doesn't like to go for rides in my car), and I also stock Buffalo Gold and Rio de La Plata yarns too...and don't forget the Malabrigo - I added some new colorways in the various Malabrigo yarns. Here's a peek: