Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What I did before Summer Vacation...

Or fun with 2nd graders...

My daughter was in 2nd grade this last school year. In 2nd grade in her school they are "very highly encouraged" (I almost tested this description of the attitude about participation, but I handicap my daughter enough by my other oddities so I figured I'd be nice and go along) to enter the science fair. Being an evil mommy (see above), I decided to subvert this experience to my own ends. So I conned my daughter into deciding to investigate wool dyeing. Specifically the question of whether lemon juice would help set dye as well as vinegar. Cause, after all, vinegar is stinky.

I won't bore you with details about all the scientifically accurate stuff we did. We measured everything carefully, we tried varying amounts of lemon juice and vinegar as well as multiple colors of dye, we tested colorfastness, we tried multiple setting methods, we did a control with neither vinegar nor lemon juice. And we ended up with a lot of 10 yard lengths of dyed yarn in various colors. All of them really strong because the amount of dye we used (we used food coloring) was a lot more than we probably needed to (although it did all exhaust into the yarn).

And now I know I can use citric acid instead of vinegar and it has a good chance of working. I'll have to do further tests for myself with the more common fiber dyes of course but it was worthwhile. Now I just have to figure out how I can subvert next year's science fair experiment to my own ends. Muahahahah!

Not satisfied with this victory over the school system for some reason, I then did the spinning and weaving demo for her classroom that I talked about earlier and they evened the score I think. Because more than one parent (always a bit bemused by saying it, and more often than not, a parent of a boy) mentioned later how their child was still talking about it, and because the kids had begged to have a chance at using the spinning wheel itself, I conned a friend into helping me do spinning wheel demos for them.

She often teaches spinning to kids at demo days around the area and I think is still my friend despite being swamped with 2nd graders for a while. We took wheels into my daughter's classroom and treadled while the kids drafted fiber to spin yarn. Everyone managed to make yarn, and one girl managed to make quite thin yarn so ended up with quite a long length of it. It was fun - though very stressful in a way. I'm not great with kids despite having one. It was particularly overwhelming when they all wanted to try to do both treadling and drafting with not much classtime left. Or when the boys wanted to see how fast they could make the wheel go around. Or when someone would reach toward the wheel while it was spinning. Still, no one was injured so that probably makes it a success from a certain point of view. I think most of the kids enjoyed it. And I do think my daughter will be fairly good at it eventually. I hope we'll do some spinning together this summer vacation.

We're only a week into summer vacation so far so I can't tell yet how much I might be able to get done fiber craft wise. Fingers crossed more than I have the last month or so. In the mean time, this week I did get a few things done.

Knitting: I went to Alison Jeppson Hyde's book signing at Rug & Yarn Hut yesterday and scored myself a copy of her book of lovely shawls, Wrapped in Comfort. It's a great book. As I looked through it I'm pretty sure that the only times I didn't think "Oh, that's pretty," I was thinking either "Oooooh!" or "That's beautiful!" instead. There's both charts and written instructions for each shawl (which is great if you're like me and need both) and little story for each one with a little info about how that shawl came about. I always find it interesting when authors do that. Little peeks into how other people's minds work is always interesting to me. (Probably why I'm enjoying blogs so much now that I've discovered them.) And a section of nice quick explanations for the basic stitches used in the patterns. Which is good for people like me who forget how to put the needles in for a "p2tog tbl" in between times I've done them. I'm the poster child for "use it or lose it" I think. I'm spoilt for choice on which project to do first. And it was lovely to see the shawls in person. I just wish I 'd had more time to look at them closely. I must remember to leave the rest of the family at home next time instead of trying to fit something like this in with the other errands.

I made it almost all the way through Act 1 of the Sidewinders. But I don't see any point to posting a new picture yet. I will at the end of Act 2 but so far it doesn't look a whole lot different than it did in the previous post. Same with the Inside Out socks which have a few more rows on the shorter sock than last time.

Spinning: I'm paused in the spinning of the brown Romney on the Columbine (see below) But, I wanted to play with my new hand spindle so I've been spinning some "almost vintage" fiber. It's a multicolor merino I've had for oh probably at least 3 years, maybe as much as 6 years now. I found it in the recent scramble to find fiber for the teaching of spinning to small children. No I didn't give them this. This is mine! Grrrrrr! Mine! Look how pretty it looks on my new spindle.

Since I took my Columbine to DD's school for the second hands on spinning day for her class, the tension got changed from when I was spinning my brown Romney. If I'd been smart I'd have made sure to note where it was set to before I took it in. But I wasn't smart and the kids got to it. Not to mention I adjusted it myself in order to get a better ratio for the kids. So I decided that before I sat down and futzed with it to try to get it back to the right place for the Romney I'd play with some color there as well. So I started spinning some merino/viscose (another almost vintage fiber) in a nice bright summery color called "Saffron" (I bought it before I saw any episodes of Firefly possibly/probably before the show even debuted but even still, I giggle a bit when I write or type that name now that I have seen it.)
It's a bit slick and I'm having trouble spinning it evenly but I'm gonna persevere. I think it might make a nice bright scarf or something. I've got about 8 ounces of it left I think. Which even allowing for some mis-steps should be enough for a scarf.

Weaving: I took a loom to my daughter's school along with a wheel and cd spindles the first time I did the little talk and teach thing. This is what my loom looked like after I got it back home:

Every one off the ties and only held in by the warp. Sigh. I was so demoralized (I was sure I had put it in the car in such a way as to prevent exactly this mess from occurring and I was also so sure it would take forever to straighten out) that I just hauled it back into the house and put it in a timeout corner. Like it was the loom's fault. Poor thing. Well, Friday I finally sucked it up and fixed it. It took me maybe 10 minutes. Sometimes I'm such a dingbat.

The kids had woven about 11 inches worth of randomness on it during their time on the loom. I'm thinking about weaving another 11 to 12 inches with a feltable wool in worsted or even bulky weight and then felting the resulting strip. The cotton would not felt, obviously, but then I might be able to fold it with the felted half in and stitch up the sides to make a small bag of some kind out of it. Then I could give it to the school next year to auction off in their fund-raiser. This may be a dumb idea. Not the least of reasons why, would be that either it won't sell at all (none of the other parents having any interest in something their kid did the year before) or worse to my mind, I might end up asked to come and do demos in more classes next year when they find out about it. Still, it shouldn't take that long to weave in the wool so I think maybe I'll at least do that before I take this off the loom and start a "real" project. I have to wait for a new reed anyway before I can start that project. Here's an idea, maybe I better go order that reed....

Dyeing: I needed some cheerful child friendly colored worsted weight washable wool and didn't have any. So I got out the dye crockpot and some KoolAid ('cause the studio is still not accessible so it was KoolAid or food color) and made a mess.
When I get it knit up if I don't like the way all that white works in I'll over-dye the finished object, I think. I kinda like the total randomness of it right now though so I'm waiting for the finished object to decide.

Speaking of my office/studio, it's on its way to existence again. Soon I'll have no excuses for how slowly I produce stuff. Well, fewer excuses anyway.

Monday Morning (my daughter's old bedroom - she moved into my old office/studio - I can't believe I got away with leaving it baby style this long)

Wednesday Morning (no more cracked lath & plaster, Yea!)

Thursday Morning (insulation in place - that'll be nice next week, let alone next winter)

Friday Morning (sheetrock half done)

Saturday Morning (all walls, except one in the closet, sheetrocked and the screws patched)

There's still a bit to do but it's moving along very quickly. I'm so excited I'm squealing inside. I think by next week I might be painting. WooHoo! To clarify any misconceptions: No I'm not doing all this myself. I'm paying an expensive but skilled gentleman to do it for me. If I were doing it we'd still be in the first section of pulling out all the lath and plaster. And we'd be there for weeks probably based on past experience. The painting I will be doing. If I don't manage to con DH into doing it.

Now it's time to go order a reed and then write out my line by line for Act 2 of the Sidewinders so I can keep going on those.

Finished, Started, and Still Slogging Along

Finished: The Spring Things Shawl is finished! Woo Hoo!!! See?
In that photo it's blocking (duh - they can see that, silly) and clearly I need to work on my blocking technique but in my defense this is my first shawl, my first attempt at blocking anything, and my joints were acting up. I blocked it on some 2' square foam blocks made for exercising on. I got mine at Target. I know Wendy got some somewhere else which is what gave me the idea to try it of course.

I used Zephyr and size 4 needles so it ended up a little on the small side with a wingspan of 60" and a drop of 31" after blocking. At the time I started this shawl, I was making it for a nice petite young lady so while I knew it might be smaller, I felt it was fine if it did end up smaller. Now, I shall have to think what I am going to do with it now that it is done. I'm thinking of sending it to my mother's cousin in England (also a nice petite lady) who is very ill and who had done a lot of knitting for my daughter before she got sick. I've been thinking it over for weeks now as I finished the shawl and I have a slight problem. A lot of the time I think it turned out nice enough to be a gift for this wonderful woman but then my inferiority complex jumps out at me and I fret it would be not right for some reason. I tried it on and got hubby to take this photo:
It's not that great a photo, I've got nowhere here inside or out that doesn't look pretty yucky at the moment (that is the least yucky view I think - sad eh?) what with everyone being sick in rotation for months and dead sprinkler systems and remodeling and whatnot. Also, I'm not a model. And also apparently not clever enough to put the shawl on without bunching it at the neck. Still there it is for what it's worth. I'm still not sure what I think about sending it on to my dear Auntie.

When my DD saw it blocking she said "That's pretty, Momma." Then, "can you make one for me, Momma?" I said yes. She said, "Only without the beads?" I said yes again. Then I asked what color she wanted and she asked if I could make it without the lace. While thinking, "Well, yes but then it won't be this shawl will it?" I said I could, and further negotiation ensued. Resulting in, I am apparently knitting her a plain striped shawl in red, white, and blue. I figure if I stall long enough she'll change her mind again so I'll wait for a bit before I go hunting for yarn.

Started: I could resist the call of Nona's Sidewinders no longer and started on my "Snakes on a Strawberry" socks despite still not being finished with my "Inside Out" socks. But I haven't gotten very far. I've already had to rip back once because not only had I started with a larger size 1 than I did my gauge swatch on, I also screwed up one row very early on but didn't realize it until I was almost to the heel shaping. Ok, full disclosure: I knitted an entire additional row while arguing with myself about whether or not I had made a mistake. Despite knowing deep down I had. I do sometimes wonder about myself. Did I think I was going to convince the sock to swap its stitches into the correct pattern on its own just by continuing to knit? Denial ain't just a river in Egypt...
I think the yarn (Spunky Eclectic's sock club yarn - color "Strawberry Fields") is going to look pretty nice in this pattern. I did make one itty bitty change to the pattern because my stitch gauge was a tiny bit off on the smaller size 1 needle but I like the fabric so well for that size needle I wanted to use it anyway. I hope my maths were right and they fit properly when they are done.

Still Slogging along: I'm still slogging along on the Feb Rockin' Sock Club socks (the Inside Out socks) and on the French Market Bag. I'm expecting the June Rockin' Sock Club sock kit any day now and I think to keep from feeling too out of the loop I might start them as soon as they arrive. That will mean I'll have three pairs of socks on the needles at once. There's something scary about that. But then I think, "that just means I have a choice about which socks to work on at any given time and choice is good right?" Possibly I'm deluding myself.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When is a pair of striping socks still not a pair?

When one of them has wider stripes, obviously. (Warning: photo heavy post ahead)

Anyone out there have a clue why my Feb STR club Inside Out socks are doing this?
To recap, I had started with the now shorter sock and it was pooling not striping. When I got the second sock to stripe I checked gauge and learned that the first sock was different. So I ripped it back to the set up row after the toe and reknit it. This time the gauge between the two socks matches. Exactly, as nearly as I can tell until I can find my steel rule that is marked off in 100ths of an inch.

So (she wails, confused) why are the stripes on the longer sock twice as wide as the stripes on the redone one? I'm fairly certain I managed to start the second sock at the exact same point in the color repeat as the first one. I certainly pulled out more than a couple of yards worth of yarn from each half skein ball to match up to.

Some days knitting is just fascinating.

In other news, DD's room is finished, she is mostly moved in and I think (hope etc) that I should be able to start having her old room ripped out to the studs on Monday. (Deep inside, where I hope it won't jinx anything, I am skipping about singing - out of key, naturally - "I'm getting my studio back! I'm getting my studio back!")

Ok back to knitting. I've gotten about 75% of the way through the bottom of the French Market Bag.

I've had to rip that out too many times too. I'm stuck for a bit since I've filled that circ and I don't really want to do the Magic Loop thingy with this bag. I need a longer needle, but not too long. I tried to buy one at a LYS on Saturday. And that trip made me 0 for 10 on buying something I want or need in that particular store. In fact, the only time I have ever bought anything there was the first time I went in and wandered about and found a couple of skeins (I don't recall which now) that I could buy in LYS support mode. Every single time I want or need a specific something they don't have it. It's surreal. It doesn't even matter if I call first. It's also annoying because it is, naturally, the closest LYS physically. But I might as well give up on them. I mean really, 0 for 10?!?

I didn't manage to meet my deadline on the Spring Things Shawl. I just couldn't knit fast enough for long enough each day to be sure I could manage it. And then we realized that the bride, despite being nearly half our ages, was also probably twice as practical as we were. So, we gave a much more practical wedding gift instead. It was probably smart. But I was still a bit depressed for a while. Here's a little close up of the beaded section that sort of shows them off.
The whole shawl isn't pictured because it just looks like a rat's nest, albeit a very clean white one, so I'll wait to show off the whole thing until it's finished and blocked.

I took a little break for a few days to mourn the loss of impracticality, and since then I've slowly been working on it now and again when I have enough time to finish a row in one sitting. I finally finished Chart C last night. Now I just have 6 rows of edging and I'm done. I still really like this shawl and suspect that the moment it is finished I'll be casting on for another one. I think maybe in silk this time. I have a very pretty Handmaiden SeaSilk that is calling to me.

As are two skeins of Claudia Handpaint Lace...

and a skein of Handmaiden 2 ply cashmere (I think the color is Glacier).
Although the cashmere is not asking to be a Spring Things Shawl. The cashmere thinks just being cashmere is enough and it thinks being a simple wide triangle (or whatever it was called) from Victorian Lace Today would be nice. Of course, it hasn't tried to find nice lightweight beads for that sucker and I have.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why'd it have to be snakes?

Among others, I check out Nona's blog nonaKnits pretty much every time I check blogs. I find she's always got something interesting for me to learn. So when she started talking about knitting socks sideways I was fascinated. I followed along and as soon as she announced a pattern I started thinking which yarn I could use.

I had a skein of Spunky Eclectic sock club yarn (Strawberry Fields) that I hadn't been able to find a pattern I thought would show it off well.

I fell in love with the idea of using this skein for the Sidewinders socks. So I started swatching. US size 2 needles (3.0mm ones) gave me too few stitches per inch (about 4 5/8" for 30 stitches). So I ripped it out. US size 1 needles gave me too many stitches per inch (3 11/16" for 30 stitches) but I liked the fabric so I just switched needles and kept the swatch. And I'm glad I did. I found I had a US 2 that was 2.75mm so I tried that. It gave me closer to gauge but still too few stitches per inch (4.25" for 30 stitches) and I don't like the fabric as much as I do the one from US 1s. The 1s give me something that feels like it will wear ok for socks. The 2s (both but the 3mm ones were even worse) felt too open to wear well.

The section below the purl row is the US 1s swatch. Above the purl row the swatch is done on the 2.75mm US 2s. You can click to enlarge that photo but I don't know if it will be possible to see the difference in the photo nearly as much as you can feel it.

The row gauge I am getting for the US 1s section is 10 rows per inch on the dot. The row gauge for the pattern is 10 rows per inch. So I am good on row gauge. But there's math to be done to figure out what to do about the stitch gauge.

I'm getting 8.135 stitches per inch on the US 1s. The pattern is written for 8 stitches per inch. So in order to get the same number of inches of knitted material I will need about 1.6% more stitches than the pattern calls for for my size foot. If I were getting gauge I would be knitting the one that is 7-8w. So I'd be casting on 116 stitches. Adding on 1.6% more would mean I'd need 117.9 stitches which is darn close to 118 stitches. A difference in length of 1.6% is only a bit more than 1/8 of an inch so I suppose I might be able to get away with just knitting the size 7-8w and not worrying about adjusting. Except that my left foot is actually 9.5 inches long and I hate short socks. I don't like long socks any better though, and they'd end up long if I went up in size to get one that the circumference would fit on and the length wouldn't be short on. So, in the end I think my solution will have to be going with the size pattern as written unless it looks obvious that I can just add in a couple of stitches in the foot and not worry about the leg section being a tad short. If I can't figure out how to add stitches to the foot maybe I'll just hope I don't feel fidgety about that missing 1.6%.

I'm definitely sick with some sort of sinus issue so if you see a flaw in my maths please tell me. It would be a kindness.