Saturday, May 29, 2004

Another typical San Francisco day... 

...in San Diego!


Grey, and cold, gray, and cold...

Really, I guess I'm just bitching so I can look back in August and try to capture the sensation of actually needing to put on a sweatshirt and walking with chilly barefeet through the water on the deck from heavy rain-like mists.

I finished knitting the 36" Homespun critter cozy. It looks like shite, but I still need to weave in the ends and give it a shelter caliber test wash (that is to say, on hot with a bit of bleach, to make sure the ends don't fly out and it doesn't just dissolve).

Perhaps I'll post a pic later, but I'm really excited because it means I can start my wool/silk blend cardigan--yay! Because what says summerwear more than a wool/silk bouclé?!?


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I love... 

...that even though Tahoe is a dog, he is still very much a little boy and LOVES his new tank toy:

He loves to bite it over and over and over and over to hear the tank "diesel engine and tracks" sound.

Libélula couldn't care less about it, unless she starts to think he's having too much fun. Then she takes it away. But since she can't eat it, she loses interest pretty quickly and he gets it back.

I love my kids.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

Washing wool yarn... 

Inspired by Jenifleur's less than Macbethian [but still irking] predicament, I thought I'd post a quick pic heavy tutorial in washing yarn, because there's no such thing as a stupid question unless it's a question that can be answered by one minute of googling, and I looked for about ten minutes and didn't find a good explanation of an easy method.

I could have sworn when I googled, that I'd seen a good online tutorial of washing wool yarn, but I must have been remembering images from these two handy sources:

  • The first (Twisted Sister's...) is more about dyeing, but has detailed info about washing and drying. The Spinner's Companion has info about using a niddy-noddy, yarn weights, washing, figure-eight ties, etc. Very handy resource for the beginning spinner.

    It's actually really easy to wash your wool. I do it all the time to get any spinning oil out and set the twist on my handspuns and it's really no big deal. But you would want to be extra careful with 1375 yds of laceweight because untangling it would be a sonofabitch. ;) The topic recently appeared on Techknit as well, (washing hemp in this case)and there are a lot of advantages to washing your yarn before you work it.

    Anyway, here's how I wash wool:

    You need to put it in a skein. If it's in a ball or on a bobbin you can make a skein by using a niddy-noddy, the funny looking thing on the right:

    If you don't have a niddy-noddy, it's cool; you can use the back of a chair, or wind it around your elbow and thumb. You can also make your own niddy-noddy out of pvc pipe. The May 8th entry of As The Yarn Turns has great, simple instructions on how to make your own niddy noddy from PVC pipe. An unfinished Ashford niddy noddy is about twelve bucks, if you're going to do much dyeing/spinning/washing you'll probably want to invest in a niddy-noddy as I found elbow skeining a pain in the er, wrist.

    So, it's on the niddy noddy, or looking like a big loop, an untwisted skein:

    You'll want to secure it at at least four fairly equidistant points with a figure-eight tie. I like to use a yarn that stands out in a contrast colour. Some people don't bother to do this, but it makes it easier for me and helps prevent tangling...and gives me something to do with those yarn scraps that are too long to really "just throw away," but too short to really use as part of a scrap yarn thing.

    Here's how you do a figure eight tie:

    Divide a section of the skein in half and thread the contrast yarn halfway through.

    Wrap it around one side and push it through, you will have one end coming out one side, and another end coming out the other side of the skein

    tie those loose ends together around the other half of the divided skein

    Do this about three more times, around the skein, more times if you are dealing with a wily skein which has given you reason to believe it will try to tangle itself as soon as you immerse it...sometimes you just get that vibe...

    Pop it off the niddy noddy. Or not, if you weren't using a niddy noddy in the first place ;P

    So, next step is to take it to the sink.

    Obviously, you want to make sure your sink is clean and free of any harsh chemicals or icky foodstuffs you don't want in your yarn.

    Place yarn in sink, place plug in drain, move faucet to a position in the sink farthest away from the skein, and turn the water on. You'll want the water as close to room temperature as possible.

    When washing wool, it is important to not "shock" it in anyway, no rapid temperature changes, and no agitation--which is why you don't run water right on to the skein unless you want it to tangle or mat. In the Twisted Sister's she mentions the formula for felting--AHA, i.e., Alkalinity, Heat, and Agitation. Two of these together can produce felting.

    So, I fill up my sink, and I rub a little bit of dishwashing liquid on my hands and foam it off in the stream of water. Dishwashing liquid does the job just fine, I like Trader Joe's Lavender and Tea Tree Oil 'cuz it smells good and it's pretty mild, but other people swear by Dawn. I'm pretty sure it's all pretty much the same:

    If you've got a stain, or you're concerned about the dye in the yarn, you can add some vinegar. About two tablespoons per gallon. Trust me, you'll be rinsing it and it won't smell like salad dressing or cat piss. I promise. The vinegar will help break down soils or oils and add acidity as extra insurance against felting.

    Squeeze the skein gently under the water to ensure saturation and let it soak for a little bit.

    At this point, it's about your preference.

    When I'm washing after dyeing, I let it soak for about five minutes, then gently spread the skein under the water, sort of spreading out the yarn, handling it only where the skein is tied. If I didn't figure8, it tangles, but I am "a dictionary definition of the word spaastic," after all. [Beastie Boys "Professor Booty"]

    Then, I pull the plug, and as the water's draining, I gently squeeze the water from the skein. Keeping the skein pushed against the opposite side from the faucet, with the plug in the drain, I let in fresh water, gently squeezing the skein to ensure saturation.

    You repeat this until the water is clear, and there isn't any more soap or dye running from the skein.

    Drain, gently squeeze as much water out as you can against the side of the sink, and lift out by the figure8 ties, holding them at opposite ends so the weight of the wet yarn is fairly equally distributed.
    Next, you have a few options.

    Some people put skeins in their washing machine on the spin cycle to get even more water expelled from it. When you take it out, it will feel almost dry.

    I was too lazy too walk down my stairs and past the garage to the laundry room, so I just held one end of the skein in my hand securely and whipped it around my head like a bull roarer. Then I switched hands and ends and did it again. Don't do it inside as the skein will lengthen and you might end up hitting something (or someone) with a wet whipping skein. My dogs think it's pretty neat when I do this, like a high mild sprinkler on the deck, and I feel like a wild woman.

    If it's fairly early in the day, and a nice day, you can just put a hand inside it on either side and stretch (like a quick wet block) hang one end on a plastic clothes hanger with another plastic hanger at the bottom and a very light weight on the hanger and hang it outside. Preferably not in direct sunlight, in case it heats up too quickly:

    In this case, the light weight was a dog toy, which the dogs had shown no interest in until I hung it up, so while I type, there is actually a pair of my running shoes hanging from it, as I didn't want them to pull it down by their toy.

    Some caution against using a weight, as it can stress the yarn and overstretch it so it loses its bounce. I've never used anything heavier than a pair of shoes, and never had a problem with stressed, overstretched, or bounceless yarn. YMMV, as they say.

    Other people dry their yarn in the skein like they dry their sweaters, squeezing out excess moisture by rolling it in a towel and then laying it out in some well aired place to dry.

    Whatever you can get away with.

    Okay, so I hope that was helpful at least to one or two people out there. Some people may say, "well, that's like, duh...so obvious." But I don't think it really is. We all have to learn some time, and it is really easy to end up with a tangled felted mess if you're just fartin' around.

    And I suppose, to others, with all the pictures and description, it might seem like a big hassle, but even with doing a load of dishes, and cleaning out the sink so I could wash yarn in it, making the skein and taking pictures of the process, it only took twenty minutes.

    If you do more than one skein at a time, it's the same, but for drying you might want to use one of those multple clothes hanger thingies like this one I bought at Target:

    Good luck, and have fun.


    Friday, May 21, 2004

    I love... 

    I love how Tahoe sleeps like a little person with his head on the pillow...


    Sunday, May 16, 2004

    Just cruisin' 

    Been doing a little knitting. I tried to put this button in my sidebar, but it messed up the webrings text menus (somehow, and I wasted a half hour tweaking it so I'm stumped what made such a difference to them that suddenly their texts were three times their font size and centered when I hadn't changed a thing within their code. I'm going to have to break down and buy a "HTML for Dummies" book because I find this blogdabbling endlessly fascinating and frustrating. I want to have a cool, pretty blog like JenLa's. ;)) Anyway, I'm currently working on a big dog critter cozy for the:

  • in some LionBrand Homespun I bought when I was first learning how to knit, for baby blankets and a cozy for my grandmother. It's a little late to knit a hospital bed snuggly for my grandmother, and all the babies we know are now rough 'n' tumble toddlers so I guess we'll have to wait for the next spawning season amongst our circle of friends to make baby blankets. And I don't feel like holding these skeins in my stash that long. These critter-cuddler blankets are really a quick way to use up that "WTF Was I Thinking?!" stash yarn. I remember reading somewhere that animals with handmade blankets in their kennels have higher/faster adoption rates than those without. How shallow is the human race, now really?

    I tried to wind a ball of Nandia Cashmere's silk/cashmere laceweight from the skein yesterday. Talk about WTF moments; who skeined this stuff? I wound perhaps 50 yards in a half hour before accidently breaking the yarn trying to undo a knot. The yarn weaves in and out on itself within the skein, not cool with an 800yd laceweight skein.

    I'll be honest, I have those "I have the best husband in the world" moments all the time. But the other day was a big one for that, as he put down his PS2 controller [and he was playing a brand-new game, too] to help me wind up this mondo-hank, a pound of mohair-silk boucle in parrot/crayonbox colourway my mother-in-law bought me as part of an early birthday present (another reason I have the best husband in the world is because he has pretty cool parents)It is spread across our coffee table (okay, it's a wire dog crate with a woven doormat from Nicaragua on top but we put our feet and cereal bowls on it, so we call it a coffee table) and my shoes (new! comfy!) are there for scale.:

    The colours really pop when it's in its skein ball:

    Not so much when it's in a center pull ball(about a half hour later]:

    Yeah, that's right, I gots big, fuzzy balls. What of it?

    I'm going to make a cardigan with it, though I'm waffling, maybe my three readers can help:
    Thinking crayonbox colourway, worsted weight bouclé, roughly 1200 yds (it's okay, I'm pretty small, it should be enough for something simple)
    which style do you prefer?


    The Mandarin Faux cardigan would be without the center panel and with buttons, but I kind of dig the StarTrekkiness of the collar.

    Since I've posted that pic here, of the model in the MF Cardigan, was anyone else as creeped out by her as I was? She is so skinny and her hair so thin, she looks like she's losing it to anorexia. Or chemo. Not funny, but this model really bothered me--I don't like to flip the pages of a knitting magazine and be sidetracked by worrying and an overwhelming urge to mail frozen homemade chicken soup to a complete stranger. I was glad to see my favourite model was back in the newest IK. The one who modeled the Dolman Updated sweater. Yep, I guess I need another hobby if I'm worrying and keeping track of things like that...


    Monday, May 10, 2004

    We're back! 

    We had some pretty amazing experiences, and we learned a lot about each other.

    And we're getting a divorce.
    No, just kidding. Actually, it sounds smarmy, but we really learned a lot about trusting each other and our instincts, and--who cares!?! This is a spinning and knitting sort of blog, right?
    Check this out:

    That's a weaving in progress we saw at Arnulfo Mendez's workshop and storefront La Mano Magica in Oaxaca City. His work is absolutely incredible. After we looked at his weavings, we couldn't really get too excited about the other pieces we saw in Oaxaca City. When we go back and explore Teotitlan del Valle hopefully we'll have saved enough to buy something spectacular and close to his caliber of work.

    As part of the fiber tour group in Chiapas (led/organised by Eric Mindling we saw some amazing parts of Chiapas. A regular whirlwind tour: Palenque, Misol-ha, Agua Clara, Agua Azul, San Cristobal de las Casas, Chamula, Zinacantan, Tenejapa, San Andres, Aguacatenango, Amatenango, Comitan, Chincultic, Tenam Puente, and Santa Magdalena...not necessarily in order.

    Check out these cool ladies of Chamula. One is carding wool while another spins it:

    Also in Chiapas, the little group was invited to lunch at the house of Pedro Meza, the man who runs Sna Jolobil, a weavers (and other crafts as well) co-op in San Cristobal.

    Writing that last sentence really makes me think how we (as in, this on-line americanised world of lists and blogs and Jo-Ann's and Michael's) have devalued the word "crafts." When I see the word "crafts," honestly, I think "crap." --people glitter-glueing magazine scraps to old tissue boxes or crocheting loo roll covers-- but the weavers and other craftspeople of Sna Jolobil (pronounced Snah Ho-lo-beel) produce amazing works of textile art. And co-operatives actually mean a lot to members and make a sort of difference in their lives that I'm not really qualified to delineate. We were told that traditionally, Mayan women generally aren't allowed outside of their family much, and families can be so isolated as to form their own dialects, but co-ops forming and the meetings can get women out of the homes to meet and talk to other women outside of their own families, and provide a little bit of income too.

    Anyway, we had a wonderful time. But we're really glad to be back home.


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