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.


Maia said...

So much in this post! Hopefully I won't forget to comment on anything.

I love that you are creating fiber addicts and even the boys are still talking about it. You are a good fiber citizen, spreading the "gospel".

Many production dyers use citric acid (powdered form) instead of vinegar because it is cheaper and more compact. But, don't tell your daughter. It was a great science experiment.

I would LOVE to see the shawl book the next time we get together. I am working up to a shawl. Once I decide on a pattern that is.

I love the fiber on your spindle. A pretty and gentle colorway. I love that saffron too. ;-)

I am looking forward to see your Sidewinders. I am almost done with my second pair, NYB (not yet blogged).

AlisonH said...

I am delighted you like the book! Thank you!