Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hint #1

Okay, a hint on the mystery dye. It's a food item.

It's awfully cold in Montreal, but at least it's not snowing. The weather report says "it's quite nice out." Yeah, right.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What Dyed This Wool?

Strangely, I still can't add a photo to yesterday's post, so here it is, the yarn spun from the turmeric-dyed roving. The white speckles you see are soysilk that I blended.

What Dyed This Wool? Contest! So here's the wool I dyed with the mystery dye.

These pictures are taken in the natural light.

The natural-white corriedale was pre-mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, then simmered in the mystery dye, in two sessions. Hint: The dye is natural. Whoever guesses it right will receive a skein of yarn from me -- probably not the yarn spun from this wool, but something more usable :-). Eligibility: Anyone in Tamami's household is not eligible (sorry Charlie). The Designated Knitters are eligible. Japanese comments are welcome, but to be fair to the other non-Japanese readers, state the answer ingredient in English please (single-byte roman characters).

I went to FlourChylde Bakery at Downtown Novato yesterday to get my recent fix, Cranberry-ginger sables (yum!), and Dion, the owner of the bakery gave me a small ziplock bag of wool samples he got from Yolo Wool Mill, at David Farmer's Market.

Erin, I will bring it to you at next Knit Night. Where else I can get a bag of cookies and wool at the same time? Spells HEAVEN.

I am dreading to go to Montreal. I hear it's about -30F there. I think it was -20F when I was there last February. I guess when it's that cold, ten degrees don't make any difference. Living in the Bay Area, I don't have any clothes that are suitable for the extreme cold. I am not going to go outside -- hotel, office, airport, and that's all.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Pea Soup

Novato is in a deep fog this morning. I love foggy mornings, especially if I don't have to drive in it. I'm sitting on the couch blogging, and my son is sitting by me happily playing Super Mario on his Nintendo DS. I just wish there was breakfast and coffee ready :-)

OK, it's looking like there will be "What Dyed This Wool?" contest soon. The dyed roving is out of the mystery dyebath and drip-drying in the kitchen right now. I might give it another dip in the dyebath before I wash it. I am not sure if I get that done, dry it, and card it and post the picture by Sunday night though. (I'm off to Montreal early Monday morning, and no, I shouldn't be blogging while I'm on a business trip.) Another question is, would there be enough people entering the contest to make it interesting? The visitor and page view count have been increasing slightly, but the numbers of comments have been pretty sad. I guess we'll see the power of yarn (that's the prize).

And as I promised -- Here's how I dyed with Turmeric.
- The wool was pre-mordanted (note that turmeric dye does not require mordant, according to the books I read) with Alum and Cream of Tartar, then dyed with Black-eyed Susans initially, and didn't come out well. Read how it went here, and here. I over-dyed the roving (about 30 grams) first in the turmeric dye bath first, then used the exhausted dye on the spun yarn (about 100 grams). Soak the wool/yarn you want to dye in water.
- One and a half tablespoons of turmeric (just a store-bought spice, and mine was pretty old and stale!) into about five cups of water, and simmer about ten minutes. Don't put wool in it yet! Charlie saw it while it was simmering in the kitchen, thought it was soup and almost tasted it. That's OK, it's completely edible -- the taste aside.
- Turn off the heat, and filter the dye bath with a paper coffee filter. Careful not to splash -- anything this dyebath touches will turn yellow and will not come out if it's fiber.
- Return the filtered dyebath to the pot (I used stainless-steel bowl), make sure that it's cool or luke-warm, and put the wet wool in it.
- Turn on the heat at the lowest point, and heat the dyebath slowly.
- I simmered it gently for about 30 minutes, turned off the heat and let it cool. The wool sat in the cool dyebath for about three hours.
- Gently wash in cool water until the water is clear. Roll it in towels to remove water, then hang-dry.
- Although I filtered the dyebath beforehand (definitely recommended!), while carding the dried wool lots of tiny turmeric particles came off.
- After the wool is dry, it has no smell. Or maybe I just don't notice -- as I love the smell of Indian food. I wouldn't mind wearing a scarf that has a slight aroma of curry :-)
- I have two books that mention Turmeric as a natural dye. One book says the color-fastness is excellent. Another says it's fugitive (meaning, the color will easily fade). Interesting... I'll see how colorfast it is.

Here's what I spun and plied from the turmeric-dyed roving.
-- A photo of spun yarn here --

** Fine. I've read it several times on other people's blogs, but the new Blogger apparently has an issue with uploading pictures. What's the point of the new version if I couldn't even post a picture? I will go brew coffee and try it again after I'm well caffinated and have more patience. Please come back later for the picture!

Friday, January 26, 2007


It's been a busy week, and I have not accomplished much knitting. But, here's the first sock of Broadripple.

I love this pattern. Could easily be my favorite! I will post the details as soon as I'm done with the second sock. I will be on a business trip to Montreal next week, so I hope to finish it while I'm away.

I'm also dyeing wool in the kitchen right now. If it's done well, I might have a contest -- whoever that guessed what the dye is will get some yarn from me. If the experiment fails, the contest would have to wait until I have something that's worth showing! I will know tomorrow evening. Stay tuned :-)

Several people asked me for the details of the turmeric dye, so I will try to post that soon too.

Sorry for being short, but I have to go to bed -- I have a three-hour long conference call tomorrow. Isn't that crazy? Some knitting to be done (sheesh).

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Handcarders arrived today.

Since Mitch was coughing badly today, I was at home with him, so I did a test drive.

From this ...

To this. Pretty yellow fluff.

I'm not even sure if I'm doing this right, but I like the soft fluff I got. Then I decided to blend some of the soysilk I got at Unravel.

90% corriedale wool, 10% soysilk...

Of course I had to spin some. It's like "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie." One thing leads to another... Until I get some yarn.

Soysilk was very difficult to spin on its own. Blended, it's very nice. Also, in the fluffed up form, this blend is easier than just pre-drafted corriedale. Hard to stop!

On knitting front -- I started Broadripple Socks by Rob Matyska. I am using Lorna's Laces Shepherd, left-over from Mitch's socks.

Not much to show yet, but I love this pattern already. Even I can remember the pattern repetitions!

Here in Northern California, it's been cold. I mean, cooooold. I should hurry up on the Column of Leaves scarf....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Blue Sky, Green Meadow, and the Pacific

I found out that grief and lace patterns don't mix. So I spun a lot over the weekend.

This looks bluer than the real color, but it's the same Romney I was spinning on the spindle while we were in Las Cruces. Now I have 80 grams total of plied.

I also dyed. Remember that botched attempt to dye white corriedale with Black-eyed-susans? I decided to over-dye it with turmeric.

Before and After.

I dyed the spun yarn with turmeric too, but the roving came out better, with brighter color. I'm a bit worried though that I might have felted it a bit in the process.... It's matted and doesn't draft. I have hand carders on order, so I'm hoping that the carding will help.

We went for a drive to the coast too. It was beautiful. Made me think of those who are no longer with us -- the last time I came here, it was with Charlie's dad.

"Mommy I'm gonna skip this rock."

Of course some lichen hunting involved. There were lots on the rocks.

And Sheeeeep!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Good-Bye, Punky

May 1991 - Jan 13, 2007
We will miss you

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Things You Learn

I started the second lichen dye vat.

The right is the first vat, started on 12/20. The left is the second, just two days old. If you look carefully, you can see the hue of dark red in the jar on the right side.

From what I read on my fellow Japanese spinners-dyers-knitters blog sites, the lichen dyes develop into burgundy red in just three weeks or so. My first vat is still not there yet -- it's reddish brown, but not much pinkness in it. So I went back to reading the book again -- Lichen Dyes: The New Source Book by Karen Diadick Casselman. According to this book, North American lichens produce orsallia (the purple-red dye) in ammonia fermentation method in 16 weeks! The Japanese species produce the dye in just 3 weeks. Piffle!

I am still hopefull, as I can definitely see the deep color developing. Also, I really haven't been able to identify the species of lichens I used (and the book is not very useful for identification), I may have a mixture of species that might produce the dye quicker...

See the hint of redness (jar on the right) in the reflections on the kitchen counter?

More on lichens -- Charlie went flying with his friend Bill yesterday, and came home with a grocery bag full of dried beard lichens.

Apparently there were "tons and tons" of these around Bill's mountain cabin. Charlie swore that these were taken from the fallen trees (he reads this blog religiously so he knows that we shouldn't harvest from live trees). What a wonderful gift. I have to go get another glass jar so I can start the third vat. And who knows, this may develop much faster? The book says Usnea (the beard lichen species) produce purple dyes, but no indication as to how long it takes.

Things you learn by reading a knitting blog, huh?

On the "real knitting" front, I started Brooke's Column of Leaves scarf with Blue Sky Alpaca Liz gave me for Christmas. Note, readers -- as Brooke says, this really needs to be blocked to show the beauty of the pattern (well, here's my excuse).

It's really a gorgeous pattern, but it sure is hard to knit. I can only do two leaves a night. If I try to follow the stories on TV (like House last night), I make mistakes. So, it will be March when I have enough length to call it a scarf. I won't be wearing a scarf then!

I am also itching to start a new pair of socks. I love knitting socks, and have been happy with the welcome responses I'm getting from the giftees -- except Mitch. I knitted nine pairs last year -- not too bad considering my first pair was done in late April. I plan to complete a dozen pair this year. A pair a month -- sounds right.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Real Men

I found this video on Claudia's blog, and just had to share it.

(The second video "Real Men Weave" on Claudia's blog is pretty amazing too!)
What cracked me up was the picture of two young kids (about 9 or 10?) knitting in the car, so casually, without even looking at their hands. Wouldn't you expect to see a couple of Nintendo DSs in their hands instead?
On the flight back from the Las Cruces trip (I think it was the LAX - OAK leg), I saw a young guy (in his 20's) coming on board with a scarf-like project on yellow acrylic big needles in his hands. Maybe knitting among men is catching up. My son (3 1/2 years old) has been bugging me to teach him how to knit for some time now.

I am looking for a pattern for fingerless mittens to knit with my handspun romney. I love both Wine and Roses Mitts by Jolene Treace and Fetching fingerless gloves by Cheryl Niamath, but my handspun is much thinner than what's specified for Fetching (DB Cashmerino Aran). And it's multi-colored, and I don't think Wine and Roses would look as charming in it. If you know of a pattern that uses sport-weight yarn, and fairly simple (cables are fine, but not much lace patterns), please let me know.... I need to spin a little more so I have some time before getting more desperate.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Trip to New Mexico

I'm back from New Mexico. Calm down, fiber addicts. I didn't go to Taos nor Santa Fe. I was in -- Las Cruces.

We visited Charlie's mom for a week. It didn't rain except for a sprinkle one afternoon, but it sure was cold!! We've visited the only (I think) yarn store in Las Cruces, Unravel, twice. It's a wonderful store, and I'm really mad at myself for not taking any pictures of the store. But here's their website. The store was full of knitters on our first visit -- there were two beginners knitting classes going on, with just one instructor! I wanted to jump in to help teaching some young knitters (and I don't think the instructor would have minded at all) but then I knit Continental... A source of confusion that they don't need at this point.

They were having "Everything 20% Off" sale. I bought some soy silk and tussah silk fiber. Yes, this store carries spinning stuff, as well as weaving!

I brought my drop spindle on the trip, so I spun every day.

Two small balls of romney I spun. They are singles at this point.

And here's the result of plying them together.

Now I have 29 grams of two-ply. More to come.

The soy silk I acquired at Unravel is very difficult to spin -- it is absolute heaven to touch though! I have to study some more about the fiber.

While I was in New Mexico, I finished Mitch's new hat.

Mitch didn't care for it first (he really loves his Griffindor hat I made last year), but after getting so many compliments on it at Unravel, he decided that he liked it.

It really is very cute, when worn. I also finished my cowl with the Noro Silk Garden Liz gave me. I will post the photo next time... as I don't have it now. I never have pictures of myself.

We drove to Organ Mountains several times (it's very close to where Charlie's mom lives).

There were some snow on it, although it's hard to see on the photos.

It's beautiful, but it's very harsh and barren. There are several phases of new housing nearby -- large, upscale estates, probably 1.5 ~ 2 million level houses in Bay Area's standard. The price tags I saw were about $650,000 ~ $1,000,000.

What struck me was the lack of vegetation. No trees.

We are back to work and school as of today. I didn't do any of my New Year's traditions (eating noodles as the new year arrives -- watching some Japanese New Year's Eve TV shows -- cooking New Year's dishes -- talking with my mom on the phone) except for drinking sparkling wine. It just doesn't feel like a New Year to me. I'd better catch up with the Oshogatsu (New Year) mood!

More on the Las Cruces trip on the next post. Happy 2007!