Monday, December 28, 2015

The future's so bright...

The year is ending and I wanted to make a blog post before it did. Although I did a lot of knitting this year, I didn't blog about much of it. There were the little knitting and spinning projects that I took on my hikes that were documented in a few photos. I made two Icelandic sweaters, one for my student midwife.  I gobbled up 7 pounds of hand spun to make a blanket.  I made a few hats and pairs of mittens that were never photographed or mentioned after they were done.  There was very little spinning in 2015.

2015 was all about WORK. We bought our short-sale fixer-upper and moved in at the beginning of 2015. Everything functions at home now, but it still has a bit of a gutted-out look. No trim around windows, no baseboards, and no tile in the kitchen.  It's quite a project but we love our new home.

I also attended 64 births. This doesn't include all of the people I took care of who transferred to the hospital in early labor.  Regarding babies, it's the busiest year I've had in the last decade.

I don't do resolutions but I know some general things that I want to do in 2016. I just joined the Seattle Mountaineers and I plan to do some non-technical mountain climbing. I joined a gym called the Seattle Bouldering Project and I plan on getting a stronger body. As for knitting, I think my next thing will be stranded work. I hadn't really done much of that and I just learned how to pick and throw at the same time, alternating colors (see Latvian hat above).
2016, I'm ready for you!

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Art of Randomness

Being strategically random is an art, not a science. Years ago I heard a radio show about randomness and I recently came across it again: My two current projects engage the concept of randomness.  I wanted to "eat up" a bunch of hand spun yarn (to make space for more of course) so I started knitting a blanket with blue tones. The other project is a woven piece using some random yarns.

In the Radiolab show they talk about an experiment in which there are two groups. One is going to flip a coin 100 times and write down whether they got heads or tails. The other group generates a random list of heads or tails. Then the scientist looks at the two list and immediately knows which list is real randomness. She knows because there are 7 tails in a row in the coin flip group.  The other group had chosen to not make such a long string of the same outcome thinking they were being random.  Apparently there will always be 7 of the same side of the coin in a row for any given 100 flips.

How does this relate to my project? If you were trying to make pleasant looking random stripes and you put 7 strands in a row it would stand out as odd.  So my randomness is not random.  As I'm knitting the blue tone blanket, if I haven't had a white strand in a while I'll add one in---but I'm definitely not counting and putting in the white at regular intervals.  Every now and then I step back from this blanket and ask myself "What color have I not used in a while?" or "Am I using too much of the same color?" I'm starting to run out of certain colors and that is limiting my options.  Will that mess with my perceived randomness?

It's been a long time since I have sat at the loom. This project was a reintroduction to some of the basics of weaving. For example, after I set the warp I couldn't remember how to start. I kept starting the weaving part, but it looked super sloppy. Then I finally remembered to use a header.  I broke a few wefts along the way and had to re-learn how to deal with that, too.

The design involved random wefts and a solid color for the weave.  I wove about 2 yards, took it off the loom, and cut the fringe. I'm not sure what I'll do with it; it's more of a practice piece.

If you are searching for something to listen to while doing your fiber crafts I highly recommend this episode of Radiolab. If you are a compulsive gambler it's a MUST HEAR!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Icelandic Sweater for a Student Midwife

She will wake in the middle of the night, pull herself from her own bed, and drive to you. She will greet you with a smile. She will rub your back and her hands will take away some of the pain. She will encourage you. She will make it safe for you. She will place your baby on your chest and cover you both with warm blankets. She will hug you when she says "good bye".

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Icelandic Sweaters

Before Weaving Works moved to their new location a while back they had a sale in which for $50 you could stuff as much yarn into a bag that would fit.  That is how I got all of this Alafosslopi.  The abundance of Icelandic wool allowed me to explore Icelandic patterns.  First I made a rather large Afmaeli sweater. Using the same pattern but making LOTS of modification I made this grey one. This time I took some of the lighter yarn and over-dyed it, getting these dark purple and forest green colors. 
When it comes to Icelandic patters, there's a lot of weaving in of the yarns to finish the project. I have discovered a little tool to make in go 100 times faster. It's a curved yarn needle---brilliant!  The sweater was suppose to be for me but alas, it's too small. I needed to find someone smaller than me, who appreciates wool, and is not afraid of wearing something that weighs 4 lbs. The perfect receiver: my current student midwife. She's always cold and she doesn't wear store-bought clothes. My only deal with her was that she'd have to let me photograph her wearing it. She agreed.  Now the sweater is blocked and drying. Soon we will take the photos. 

Since I still would like an Icelandic sweater for myself, I made some adjustments with my calculations and tried again. This time I'm going with a button up design. I'm still using the Afmaeli pattern and again I'm making a lot of modifications. Knitting the body is quite boring but I'm just to the part when I can attach the sleeves and start the pattern work. My favorite part! I'm not totally set on colors but the skeins below are what I have to work with.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Good Bye Summer, Hello Fall

Using the yarn from the solar-dyeing project, I whipped up a hat. I'm not exactly sure the dye took perfectly. I had rinsed it well, but without the kind of heat I use on the stove I worried that when I go to wash it someday the color would run out. So I used a black yarn in the hat, not only for contrast but because it wouldn't get discolored if the dye ran.

The pattern is called Icelandic Hat by Astrid Ellingsen, found on Ravelry. It's written in Icelandic so I just looked at the pictures and used the chart for the pattern. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Goodbye Summer

Summer is coming to an end. Here we are on the last day of August and I want to get one last word in about this summer. 
Record breaking hot!
(That's 3 words.)
What do you do when it's 90 degrees everyday? Solar dyeing, of course. Here's a photo of some icelandic wool that I left soaking in cutch and madder root in mason jars for half the summer.

Now the wind is picking up and the rain is starting to fall and I'll be moving inside.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hiking and Knitting...but mostly hiking

 Due to cold fingers and exhaustion, very little knitting got done. I had planned for a light weight knitting project---lace trim. Size 2 bamboo needles and a little ball of cotton string. What I didn't plan for was a hike that was way above me fitness level.

I ventured out into the North Cascades by  myself for 3 days. The first day was the most difficult. I went 8 miles in, mostly uphill.  The second day I left my pack at my campsite and hiked up to Copper Ridge Lookout.  On the 3rd day I hiked out which took 4 1/2 hours but was mostly downhill.

This hike was so exhausting that once I stopped moving all I could do was lay down.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fiber Arts and Hiking

 Heading out for a backpacking trip on the rugged Washington State coast I grabbed my lightest spindle to bring along.  My husband and I hike in about 6 miles heading north from Rialto Beach near La Push.  By nightfall we were isolated by the high tide and locked in to our camping spot.  Our tent nestled up against the cliff on one side and was about 10 feet away from the lapping waves on the other side. I had brought some natural tan merino and some natural black-gray alpaca. My idea was to spin some "sand-colored" yarn. I spun in little flecks of black and gray, giving the tan wool an appearance of sand.  Being that I was so tired from hiking over boulders and giant old-growth driftwood I didn't have much energy to spin. But at the same time I loved having a little down-time with my craft. I'm thrilled to combine my two favorite pastimes: fiber arts and hiking!

Camp site at low tide.
Spinning. Water rising.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Project

The chaos of moving into the fix-er upper has really limited me from dying and spinning. This week I had a some time to start a new project. I had so much fun knitting an Icelandic pattern last year I decided to make another sweater. I had left over Alafosslopi yarn, 6 skeins of light gray and a skein or 2 of a couple other colors. Being that I wanted new colors for the new sweater I decided to over-dye some of the yarn.  The light gray and blue colored yarn at the top of the photo is what I started with.  I used some acid dyes I had laying around.  Now I'm excited to get on with the knitting.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Rewind---spinning, not refined

After spending the last several years focusing on lace weight and plied yarn I wanted to make something lumpy and bulky.  I took some Shetland fleece that I washed with the Dirty Rotten Bastard wool shampoo and gently opened up the locks with hand carders. Then I spun a slubby single with my own version of a long draw.  It was so fun and quick! After soaking and drying under just a little tension, I started making a stocking cap.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Namaste, Dirty Rotten Bastard

I was listening to my favorite podcast, Yarnspinner's Tale, and they did an episode about a new "wool shampoo" called Dirty Rotten Bastard. They interviewed the creator of this product. She claimed it could clean even the nastiest of fleece. After I listened to this podcast:Yarnspinner's Tale Podcast about wool shampoo 
I watched this: youtube video about wool shampoo.

I was sold! I ordered a bottle of wool shampoo "Scour the Scoundrel" and a bottle of "Wash it Dye" from Namaste Farms.  This woman is from a family of shampoo makers so she hired the scientist to help her with a wool wash. It cleans the wool without using so much water. I've always been bothered by the amount of water it takes to clean a fleece so I was intrigued by the prospect of using less.  I also like the way she said that you can handle fleece---something I already knew---how to handle, yet not agitate the fiber. When I'm washing I get my hands in there yet I never felt my fleece.  With wool shampoo you need to squish it into the fiber the way you get shampoo in your hair.  It's all very different than the traditional way of scouring a fleece. You have to be open-minded.

I had the perfect fleece to put it to the test! In October of 2011 I wrote a blog post called Stinky Finian. Why on earth did I keep the nastiest smelling Shetland fleece in the world? I guess I kept it for this experiment---okay wool shampoo, work your magic!

The white wool in the photo above is Stinky Finian.  The other 2 are Shetlands that don't smell so bad. I used the Wash It Dye on Stinky Finian and then I dyed with some Acid Dyes I had laying around.  Then I washed it one more time with the wool shampoo and now it's drying on a towel.
It worked! The nasty smell is gone. The first time I tried to scour this fleece I used very hot water and Dawn. I did soak after soak and couldn't get the smell out. I even simmered it in a dye bath---heat was not helping. This time I used very little water---a little to wet the wool and squish the shampoo in, the water for the dye pot, then a bucket of water for the rinse. The water was not particularly hot, just as hot as my hands could handle.  Can you tell that I'm completely amazed?

Just as the Yarnspinner's Tale podcast recommends, I too recommend watching the youtube video since this is so very different from the traditional way to scour wool.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Settling In

Hallelujah! I'm finally settling in. I hate moving. I never want to move again. I want to live the rest of my life in this house. This whole moving and remodeling thing has really got in the way of my fiber art.  However, there should be a big pay-off in the end---my very own craft room. First we have to construct the basement apartment for my daughter, then she has to move out of my "craft room".  In the mean time I have a nice area in the living room to put my spinning wheel.  I just finished the alpaca I bought last summer on Whidbey Island.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Forest Path Stole

The Forest Path Stole is composed of little blocks of lace the are patchworked together. There were three lace patterns woven through. After one square is done, you pick up stitches along the edge and start another lace square. The edging and the triangles are made of a moss stitch which helps it lay flat.

As I said in my previous post, I spent 8 months knitting this. That's the longest I had ever spent on one project. After many cups of coffee and many hours of knitting, I finish it and gave it to my friend for her 50th birthday.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Knitting and Drinking Coffee

A year ago I decided to make something special for my co-worker. My co-worker is more than just an office-mate or someone I sit next to. We have a job where we rely on each other and need to work together to provide safe care for our clients. We are midwives, caring for people in a close and intimate way. When I'm not on-call I know the moms and babies are well taken care of by Heather. When she is on a break, she can be rest assured that I will do the same.

Planning a year ahead, I took on a big project. First I bought some yarn that was so thin I couldn't work with it and I scrapped the project after a few days.  Then I got this teal wool-silk blend and even though it's lace weight, it was a little bit easier to work with.

It took 8 months to finish this project and I didn't talk about it, blog about it, or take it to work. (Since this project was all I worked on for a long time, my blog entries were sparse last year.)

Knowing that I would eventually write something about this project on my blog, I took photos along the way. When I started out I snapped a shot of the project next to the coffee I was drinking.  That's how my little photo-essay started. Every time I sat down to work on it and I was drinking a coffee, I took a photo. I ended up taking 60 photos!

This one was taken at Empire Espresso.

Outside. Summertime!

I don't remember this one, but I'm in my camping chair.
This one was taken in Canada when we stayed in Peachland.
In Peachland I got to knit everyday for 3 days.
Knitting and drinking coffee in the morning.
In front of the computer, watching Netflix
In my living room.
In my dining room.
Tomorrow is Heather's birthday and before I give it to her I will take one last photo of the finished project.  I will also post a little more information about the pattern.  To be continued...