Monday, December 25, 2006

Look What I Got for Christmas

... a beautiful drop spindle, of a beautiful cherry wood and brass ring. The photo doesn't show its beauty. I will post better pictures soon.

I spent a few hours today spinning Romney I got at Sebastopol Apple Fair in the fall.

Spinning with a spindle is fun! A bit easier than the wheel, I think -- a little more control. Now I can spin pretty much anywhere -- thank you Santa (a.k.a. Charlie)!

The Father and Son socks -- both with Lorna's Laces (Daddy's -- Worsted, Blackwatch. Son's -- Fingering, Georgetown).

Back to spinning, now I know why people prefer to dye the roving, instead of dyeing the spun yarn. It's so much more fun to spin beautifully dyed fiber. I should get busy dyeing my white corriedale.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas day.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

All is Bright

I used to dread the Christmas season, but I have to admit that I'm starting to love it now. It's still a problem that the days preceding to Christmas are so short, and I don't even know where they go.

On the knitting front, I've done Mitch's mittens ... It's been very cold in the morning, and he needed them.

I never thought I'd be knitting mittens -- living in this climate, I've never been so cold that I needed to wear mittens, except for maybe three mornings out of a year. But it's a different story for the little guys.

I've made a crocheted hat for him last year, with a matching knitted scarf, in Griffindor colors. He still loves them, but now he wants a green hat.

Here's where I am.

The mittens and hat are done in Araucania NatureWool.

(Reluctantly) On the dyeing front, here's the result of the Black-Eyed Susan dye.

I'm utterly disappointed with this. It came out like a dirty wool color. Would have been better left in its natural white. Agh.
I plan to overdye it with onion skins.

I've started the lichen fermenting process. Ever since I've started collecting lichens, I've been surprised by just how much we can find unattached lichens on the ground in the park. I've already collected enough to start a second batch.

We went to the famous Christmas House in Novato this evening. I couldn't believe that I didn't bring my camera with me! It was amazing. When we stepped out, there was Santa on his motorcycle greeting the visitors. The little guy was elated.

The streets are lined with the luminarias. This is truely one of the prettiest, the happiest things I can think of. Too bad that this is just once a year....

Mitch has gone to bed, Santa has gotten his cookies and milk, and all is calm at our house.

Happy Holidays to all of you.

Peace on Earth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dyeing -- First Attempt

Sunday -- Mitch and I went to the Cheese Factory to feed the geese. It was before lunch and was not crowded. It was beautiful.

There were no geese. Not even one. Piffle. The blackbirds and one gull were invited on a feast instead.

I had promised Mitch chocolate milk. The last time we were there, they had chocolate milk. This time, no milk of any kind. Ah, excuse me, but isn't this a cheese factory? Did you use up all the milk to make the cheeses?

And it was cold. Mitch didn't have a hat, and I didn't have a warm jacket.

But -- Eureka! There were lots of lichens on the lawn.

There was a big tree with the lichen-covered trunk (I didn't even look up to see what tree it was -- my eyes were glued to the lichens), and all around the tree, the lawn was littered with the pieces of the precious green schtuff. Mitch helped me collect them.

These are all "found" lichens, all about 15 grams of them. If you are wondering why I was excited to see the "found" lichens, read my post on Dec. 17.

We came home and then harvested the black-eyed susan flowers from our front yard. They were looking pretty sad, and the frost may take them soon anyway. I thought I'd experiment with dyeing my yarn with them.

After we were done with the flowers, we came inside -- and I found that Mitch had a fever. Oh dear. I felt terrible -- it must have been too cold. I was just telling my mom on the phone that we've been staying healthy this year, not even a sniffle. Apparently I spoke too soon, or I jinxed it.

Mitch's fever spiked up early evening, to 103F, but Ibuprofen finally worked and he went to bed. He stayed home from school on Monday and Tuesday. This is the first absense from school since he started last July.

The dying with black-eyed susans is not turning out the way I was hoping for. I thought I would be getting a pale, muted green -- right now it's brown. Not even pretty deep brown, it's just a palish tan shade. Like a faded Pepsi stain on your favorite white T-shirt type of brown. Peh.

This is the picture of the corriedale roving just placed in the dye bath. It was mordanted in Alum. Now after several simmering sessions, the fiber looks in the color of the dye bath. Stale coca-cola color. Or Pepsi.

Oh fine. Tomorrow, I will start the lichen fermentation process.

We (notice the Italicized 'we,' ladies?) are going to have to post some real knitting stuff soon, or the readers who visit us via the knitting ring will start to wonder. But my knitting is not very exciting lately! I need to find a good project.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cold Saturday

I shouldn't be doing this at four o'clock in the morning -- but I couldn't sleep.
It was a gray and cold Saturday. While the boys watched some morning TV, I went out in the backyard and collected some lichens from the roof.

Lichens are used as a natural dye, and I've been reading on some Japanese blogs about interesting and beautiful results, so I can't wait to try. I'm supposed to ferment this in ammonia for several weeks, so if I can get that process started today, maybe I can dye some wool in January.

Lichens thrive only in clean air. It takes time to grow, and I'm not supposed to harvest from living trees in quantity. Imagine my excitement when I found there were lots on our roof.

I've recently bought some books on natural dyeing, and Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book is one of them. It's more like a text book, complete with annotated bibliography, and I've been enjoying reading it. The author recommends that we only use "found lichens" for dyeing -- take a walk after a storm and pick up the ones that are found on the fallen branches, etc -- Wouldn't that make a nice walk? We might need to take our Radio Flyer wagon for after-rain walks to carry all that fallen branches.

Here's today's harvest, about 5 grams, just from the edge of the roof that I was able to reach on a step ladder. Now I have 20 grams total, and I think it's enough to start a small batch.

Oh yeah. Yesterday's Liz's Happy Hat complement count -- "What a pretty hat!" -- 1.

OK, I'm going back to bed, hoping to get some sleep... I'm sure you'll hear more from me soon about lichens!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Crazy Week, Holiday Knit Night

Look, ma! Another pair of socks.

Sock number 9. Will I shoot for 10 for the number for 2006? I'm not sure yet....

These are done in Lorna's Laces, worsted, Blackwatch. I know I said this before, but I love the yarn. Now I'm a big fan of Lorna's Laces. The problem is that the colorways are so beautiful, I just can't think about doing any patterns -- so without much hesitation, I go with the vanilla pattern. Pretty, but so boring to knit! It's a lot to do with my personality, but I won't go into that today. Oh yeah, I used just one hunk to do these pair. When I was done, I had about two meters of yarn left. Phew...

It was a crazy couple of weeks at work. It's a lovely time of the year to do a reorganization -- my position is spared (I actually have a mixed feeling about that), but it will have a dramatic changes in the coming months with regards to the reporting structure and the extent of responsibilities. I am not thrilled about it, and I am losing sleep over it. I try not to think about it until next year.

So you see, I am glad that I (and the boys -- they now look forward to Knit Night as much as I do) went to Knit Night at Erin's last night -- BKN (Before Knit Night), I'd have just lie on the couch and brood about how exhausted/stressed/bummed I am. Instead, now I have friends to see, thoughts to share, laugh together and let it all go, all as we work on something wearable. This is way healthier.

We had an unplanned holiday gift exchange. And I got an extra!

This is a hat knitted by Liz -- if I'm right, this is her Finished Object Number 1! It's done in Noro, and I think it's beautiful, but Liz thinks it's ugly. Her family, even Little Nicole, makes fun on it. So Liz was about to throw it away -- I took it.

Honestly I think it's lovely, and it fits me perfectly. I have some trips to cold climates coming up, so this will come very handy. I will wear this. But I will also keep in mind that there may be a family laughing at me for wearing it -- Thank you Liz! I will call it Liz's Happy Hat.

Since I was project-less (see, I'm still totally avoiding to work on Moll), I wound up the "Cheap Felting Wool Yarn" that I spun a while ago, and started a hat. (Well, I didn't know I was going to get an already-knitted hat!)

This is the first time I tried knitting the yarn I spun! I'm not sure if I should have waited until I had my Corriedale yarn ready for something, but I can't decide what to do with them yet -- dye or not to dye, what color, what kind of dye, what to knit -- just way too many things to decide. They'll have to wait until I have some spare brain cells.

Here's first couple inches... Before deciding that I need to use bigger needles.

Nobby, bumpy and felty (it's spun felting wool after all), but I really like it. There's definitely something to creating something from just a couple-handful of fluffs.

Mitch shows off his drawing. "Look, Mom. Yarn!" I'm so proud of him.

With lots of Holiday activities and travel plans coming up with all of the knitters, we are not sure when we'll get together next time. Ladies, if I don't see you before Christmas, Happy Holidays to you and your family -- I really enjoyed being with you this year, and appreciate your friendship. I love you all!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Finally Fixated

When I came home, there were boxes sitting by the door. One of them was from Webs! The long awaited Fixation was in it -- and a whole lot more.

I finished the second sock of the Lace Wings in twenty minutes. It's a bit loose around ankle, but I'm still hoping that they'll shrink after a wash. I really love this pattern, and I will try another pair sometime, but I might make it longer next time -- and maybe size 2 needles, instead of 3?

Pair number seven. Now I have an almost-full ball of Fixation in this colorway... OK, another Mitch socks.

What else's in the box from Webs? Of course I couldn't just buy one ball of Fixation. I got a bunch of Araucania NatureWool -- they were on sale! I have been good on my stash control, so I think this is acceptable. After all, this is Christmas time, and I finished the project at work, and... and... It's been pretty stressful at work for the last several days. Yarn hoarding must be better than drinking heavily, right?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Mood

We went to the Tree Lighting at Downtown Novato this evening. Unfortunately the picture of the lighted tree didn't come out right, but here's the City Hall... and Erin. We had a party of five families -- eight kids altogether.

Mitch got to wave at Santa.

After this, we went to FlourChylde Bakery and had a bite, knit, chat and some good laughs. This is a great place, everyone. Finally Novato has a place to sit with a cup of coffee, great sweets, and unwind. Beats the heck out of ... the chain cafe with green signs.

I finished Mitch's socks. He doesn't know what he's getting for Christmas, yet. These are my pair number 8, I think. I have fair amount of Lorna's Laces left, so I'm going to get the same colorway and knit a pair for myself. A skein and a half should do it, right?

Knit Night was again a blast, and here's the proof.

Doesn't he look like one blissed out gorilla?