Friday, May 30

dying to dye

The last week or so has been full of work. The play that I'm workshopping culminates with two presentations/performances on Sunday and Monday, and my free time has been spent sewing storage pouches for the props and organizing what else needs to be done. This morning I'll be sewing a baby, something that feels more real and has more weight than the bundle of fabric the actress has been using until now. I'm pretty excited about having a craft project. It's fun to figure out how to make these things. (If only I had more time in my life to sew for myself as well as knit and spin!)

But my mind has been scheming. As we have for the past few years (and my whole life really), in August we're going to spend a week at my parents' house in Maine. As is typical, I have starting thinking longingly for it. I want to bring my wheel this year and spin tons of fiber. I want to lie on the grass and just listen to the wind in the trees. I want to visit the Hope Spinnery (which I've only just heard of but is very close).

And I want to dye. A few years ago, back when I was in my first year of grad school (1999) and doing research on the colors of natural dyes (which is very important if you are designing costumes for a play set anytime before 1856) my mother gave me a book that she had: The Dyer's Garden, by Rita Buchanan. I am not really sure why my mother had the book, but it's been on my shelves since then. Until this week, when I transferred it to my purse and have been reading it whenever I can.

At first I thought I'd just gather what I needed when I got there. Goldenrod (yellow) and Black Eyed Susans (blackish green) grow wild all over my parents' property, so I could just wait till I get there, harvest a bunch and get to work. But then I started to really read the book, and discovered that St John's Wort has some really interesting dye qualities (the color changes drastically depending on very small variations). And, well, I'd like some other colors besides yellow and blackish green.

I'm a little lucky because my father is currently in Maine putting in their vegetable garden, opening up the house and more or less feeding the black flies. I'm also lucky because I am not such a great gardener, and in this case if the plants can be planted in Maine I don't have to deal with keeping them alive. (Witness my window herb garden, which is all dried up)this was basil

So, yesterday I got on the Fedco Seed site and ordered purple basil (purple), woad (blue), dyer's coreopsis (goldish browns, orange), St. John's wort (brown, orange, green) and bronze fennel (yellow, brown, black). I also ordered parsley, cilantro and beets, but those are my contribution to the vegetable garden.

I called my father to tell him to expect some random seeds in the mail, and said that some of them were for dyeing, and I hoped they wouldn't eat the basil (especially when you need 18 plants to dye 4 oz of wool). I wasn't so assured when he was genuinely excited that I'd ordered purple basil seeds (bad sign) but then, with 7 plants to dye from over the course of a week, it might be alright if one of them isn't available. Right?

Sunday, May 25

a finished object

There is much to catch up on, but I have some drafting due tomorrow and so you will get a small entry today.

News news news! I started Teva Durham's Brilliant Retro Sweater (from the Winter 2005 Interweave Knits) 2 years ago, in the spring of 2006. It was a sweater I was pretty majorly excited about-- both to knit and wear. I got the yarn (Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed) from ebay, cast on and knit like crazy. Within a month or two I was done knitting and I started piecing it together.

I distinctly remember sewing on the sleeves while on the bus to Wellfleet, MA, where I worked in July 2006. I had some trouble getting them to fit well, and I was afraid I'd have to reknit the caps. (sound familiar?) Anyway, by the fall of 2006 I had sewed on the sleeves, which in fact did fit. No reknitting required.

But then there was the problem of closure. The original pattern used hooks and eyes to close the cardigan, and I thought it looked strange and uneven. I wanted a zipper. At some point over the winter of 2006-7, I found a very long zipper while wandering along W 38th St. It was about 8" too long for the sweater, but it was the right color.

And then I got really overwhelmed. For some reason sewing on a zipper scared the bejeesus out of me, so I let it sit. The sweater sat in my knitting basket, the zipper was in my sewing notions basket. I wanted to wear it. I brought it to Christopher's cousin's wedding last June, and I wore it then, but was frustrated by its inability to close. And this spring I've worn it a few times, but I've not liked how it flops open. The fabric, which drapes beautifully, also seems to stretch, and I felt like it really needed something to stabilize (and close) it. So on Friday it happened. The Knit Picks catalog had a spread on how to sew zippers in to knitted garments, and it looked not so hard. We made a quick trip to Philadelphia, and I brought the sweater along for the bus ride. And I sewed. It wasn't so bad. By yesterday afternoon it was done, and I can wear it. I think it still needs a little blocking around the zipper (perhaps with a little steam) but otherwise I'm thrilled.
And let me tell you: it is so exciting to finally have the perfect spring sweater!(a tiny last word: I noticed these colors when I was putting away my clean clothing the other day. I thought it was amazing how closely this color combination relates to the yarn I just spun. Am I the only one? Are these colors just in my mind?)

Sunday, May 18

check it out

my fourth handspun.141 yards of hand dyed merino.

I'm happy with how it turned out, but I think I should also consider this yarn a learning experience. Instead of splitting the roving vertically into very thin strips (and essentially pre-drafting, which it seems a lot of people do) I split it in half vertically and spun each half onto a bobbin. Which makes for some very long color repeats.

I'd like to knit it into something fairly soon so I can see what that looks like in a knitted garment. It might be really cool (esp if the color changes are subtle, as I hope they are), but it also might mean that there's a chunk of brown, and then a chunk of green.

Saturday, May 17

catching up

I haven't shown much of my knitting recently. I guess I've fallen off the bandwagon in that respect. The sharing part, not the knitting part. Some of what I've been working on is gift knitting, and so I can't post that here. And slogging through the never ending sweater projects... that's just not so interesting.

But I do have something to show. I made something with my merino handspun! Check it out: In case you can't tell, it's a neck warmer. It is knit flat and seamed. My gauge was off, and it was too wide, so when I'd knit it as long as I wanted it wide (!) I cast off and then picked up stitches from the side. Honestly, it sort of looks like it's supposed to be that way. (At least that's what I'm telling myself.) The pattern is Ilean by Patti Simmons, discovered happily on Ravelry.

I also recently started a tank top. Pattern: Beaded Cami, by Black Dog Designs.

It's zooming along, and the stockinette stitch is perfect for knitting while I'm in rehearsal and have to concentrate on what's going on around me. I know it will be useful, but with the way the weather has been behaving recently I am considering putting it on hold and starting a pair of fingerless mitts.

I actually have a pair of mitts already, or I should say that I had some mitts. I knit a mitt in January, loved it and finished its mate at the end of March. And then I promptly lost the mate. So I have one mitt.Pattern: Chevron Mitts, by TinySushi

The thing about these mitts is that they're knit with tiny needles, and they don't take that long, but it still feels long. And so I'm tempted to take some of my handspun and whip up something really simple. But then, I could probably just make a mate for my lone mitt, and then I'd be alright. And the single mitt could be used.

Oh, the agony! (can you tell I'm on the cusp of casting on something new? And it doesn't really matter to me what that new thing is?)

Thursday, May 15


Last weekend I went to my high school reunion. 15 years. It's really hard to think about and really get a handle on what has happened in that time. I mean, a lot has happened. A lot of good things, things that have steered me in the right direction and to the life I lead now.

College. Internships. Struggling in New York. Grad school. More struggling in New York. Meeting Christopher. Getting my own apartment. Moving in with him. Struggling some more in New York.

Things have really come together in a way that I couldn't have anticipated 15 years ago. When I was in high school I worked very hard not to be noticed, to blend in. I was so, so, so self-conscious. I raised my hand only in the most dire situations. It's taken me a long time to trust my own opinions and aesthetics. (Grad school was a huge help in helping me understand that what I made and liked was often much more successful than something I created to please a professor.)My closest friends from high school didn't go to the reunion, and for a moment on Saturday afternoon I was seized with silent panic as I greeted people who I had barely spoken to in our 13 years as classmates. But I relaxed, and people were friendly, and more and more classmates arrived.

There was so much to catch up on! Pregnancies, children, careers, family. And there were memories to hash out. By the end of the afternoon I was wandering around the school with two women who I had barely seen since graduation, talking about elementary school and various events we we remembered each other being involved in. It was really fun. That evening we all met at a bar in Manayunk and I spoke to another woman who I had been close to when we were in elementary school.

Throughout this all, I was struck by how much we remember from so long ago, things that were so serious and helped mold us into who we are now. Fifth and sixth grades are so horrible, with puberty and kids forming alliances and some kids just developing at different speeds than other kids. (In case you couldn't tell, I was one of the slower ones to catch on to fashion and cliques.) There's also this feeling at that age that everyone else has it together, and I remember feeling so alone, lost and vulnerable. And I thought I was the only one who didn't have it together. Talking to these women gave me a whole other way of understanding what was going on. Clearly we had all had a hard time, and we had all found different ways of coping with it (and talking about our fears with each other just wasn't an option. Interesting since that's how I deal with stress now).

Ok. Here's the revelation, and why I've been dwelling on this all week: no one is as perfect as they may seem. This isn't really news, but knowing that I wasn't the only one with self-esteem issues growing up (even if I thought certain people had it all together) changes the way I felt like I fit into this group. Suddenly we were all flailing around, not just me. And this week the world (and how I fit into it) just feels different.

Friday, May 9


As you can tell, I've been spinning a lot in the past few weeks. I have been working my way through (and using up!) the fiber that Christopher gave me, selecting fibers from that collection that are already dyed or have a tint to them, saving the white fibers for future dyeing experiments.

On Friday evening, while wasting time in the East Village, I dragged Christopher to Downtown Yarns. (he's getting very good at going around yarn stores and squishing the balls) I swore that I was just going to browse, but then it turned out that they have a small selection of hand painted fiber. It wasn't that expensive, and I've never used hand painted fiber, so I bought a little. I started spinning it almost immediately. I love how it's coming out, and I'm anxious to start plying it to see the final product.On Wednesday afternoon I met up with a woman from my knitting group who has done some dyeing, and she showed me how Kool Aid dyeing works. I used grape, Jamaica and pink lemonade on my Shetland wool, and we set the dye in her microwave. I'm rather pleased with how it came out, but I have to be patient and finish spinning my merino from Downtown Yarns. My dyer friend also loaned me a few books on dyeing and spinning, so I've got plenty to keep me busy.

After our dyeing adventures on Wednesday we went to our knitting group. I hadn't been since February, I think. My trip to Germany, the show in Hartford and then Christopher's assault got in the way of my going. It was a very happy reunion. I'm so glad to have that group of folks who are also excited about fiber, knitting, crafts and Brooklyn. I showed them my newly dyed (and still wet) fiber, and everyone took turns smelling it. Because of the Kool Aid, it had a strong grape-sheep-farm smell. Not something you smell every day. The knitting group was exactly what I was needing. I'm so glad I have them.

Sunday, May 4


We received a phone call very early this morning, at 8am. Everyone knows that if you live in New York and don't have children, Sunday before 11am is off limits. You don't even make plans for brunch before 1pm.

It was the Food Coop. A man on the end of the line asked when we were going to come pick up Christopher's backpack, which has been there for several weeks. I had no idea what he was talking about. Christopher's backpack was stolen when he was mugged nearly 4 weeks ago, and we haven't given it much thought since then. Apparently it's been at the Coop, of all places, sitting in the office waiting for us to pick it up.

Frankly, it's a little disconcerting. As far as we were concerned, the backpack was gone forever, along with Christopher's glasses and grading sheet. The man at the Coop said that someone had found it between some cars near the Coop and brought it in, thinking that perhaps a Coop member had left it next to their car while loading up their groceries. It's really nice to think that there are honest people who make the effort to reconnect belongings with their owners. It's just strange to think that something that I associate with pain and sadness has been sitting in a place that I consider a haven of sorts.

I told the man that I'd come get it in the next week, and he sounded irritated. He said that was what he was told last time he called us, and didn't seem to believe it when I told him that this was the first we'd heard of the backpack's whereabouts.

Friday, May 2

another handspun

This is some of the mohair/merino blend that Christopher gave me for Christmas. (the touch of red is from the Gotlandish/merino I got in Denmark. It turns out to need some carding before I can spin it.)It's great yarn, but there are only 84 yards. What can I do with that?

I'm running out of fibers that are dyed or otherwise a color... I could just spin some undyed fiber, but wouldn't it be fun to dye it?? I'm just not sure where to start.