Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas and Thoughts on Bernat's Classic Santa Stockings

Once Upon a Time…

Grandma Helen knit the her three grandchildren Chistmas stockings

here's mine

My sister decided to knit the same pattern for her family.  She knit one for her two children and for her husband, and kept her Grandma Helen original.  Santa's beard on hers had disintegrated.  The beard I believe was knit from an angora blend.  Here's my sister's, pre- repair

(This was very interesting to me as an acquaintance of mine just last month said that she herself had a classic hand knit holiday stocking in which the angora beard had disintegrated.  Must've been a feature from the original pattern with suggested yarns…)

The pattern was apparently published by Bernat in  1950 and re-released in the 70's.  

My sister tracked it down and bought a copy somewhere.  Heaven knows why Bernat isn't still publishing it as it seems that these are lovely vintage knitting that folks might spend money for...

I tried using duplicate stitch to fix the stocking, but holes were too big.  So, I watched a youtube video on darning and tried my best.  The replacement yarn?  That sturdy and rugged addictive Crack
Kid Silk Haze. 

Here's the repair…not great but Santa's beard should stay untact for a couple more years!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where does your tee shirt come from? or…thoughts on not-local

A bit of diversion from my usual…Where exactly does your tee shirt come from?

I was listening to NPR the other morning and they were airing a Planet Money segment

They made their own tee shirt from "scratch." You really should watch this.  Basically the voyage is:  cotton grown in Mississippi, to India for spinning, then either to Bangla Desh or Guatemala for sewing, then back to the US.

Here is some natural cotton from Peru…it grows there too.  I love the green tone

It was a gift when we visited  a cotton packaging operation in Lima, here are some bales

I haven't yet tried to spin it…hopefully I won't need a charka a la Ghandi…they've been spinning cotton in India for a LOOOONG time

but who doesn't need a new spinning tool?  Here's a cute contemporary charka from Ashford

OK, diverted by fiber tools... anyway..

So how do tee shirts and their components get from continent to continent?

Interestingly, I was in Savannah about 2 months ago…on River Street with my sis and her family at Octoberfest.  A big Maersk container ship was cruising out of the port.  My brilliant sister googled the name of the ship on her cell and was able to see that it was going from Savannah to Houston.  Houston?  I though these ships only went overseas?  Did you know that you can track the path of a container ship at the Maersk website?  Did you know that Maersk is a Danish company?  Here's a cool site where you can see where their fleet is. And did you know that the Maersk seven pointed star represents the seven seas?  And did you see Captain Phillips?  I was shocked at the small size of the crew…

So, doesn't all of this international shipping crap
er… stuff make you happy that you can know exactly where your hand knit or crocheted sweater, scarf, shawl, mitts or even "tee shirt" came from?   The alpaca farm up the road?  The sheep farm in Vermont?  The angora in the back yard? The cotton grown down the road? And you know…how many cotton tee shirts do you or I really need?  Could we actually make our "tee shirts" local?

Here's one tee shirt that I really do need (from Wild Fibre in Savannah; I have a pink one too)…but where did it come from, exactly?

Well, the label revealed the final step…"hecho en Guatemala."  The brand is "Bella"…I do like the cap sleeves, won't wear  a tee shirt without a lady-like cut...

Ya know, I could have gotten a degree in textile engineering…..Roseanne Rosannadanna would say that I have alotta questions in this post. Would she say "follow the money"?  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Old School

So an old friend of mine dropped by last week,  that was lovely as he and his wife don't live nearby.

He mentioned that he still had a sweater that I knit for him some years ago (!)  I couldn't  believe that he still had it!   He was most gracious and said that it was one of only two handknit sweaters that he owned.  Of  course, I asked him to send me a photo.  Here it is

I could not recall the pattern or the yarn although I suspected that it was Candide yarn…I knit at least a couple of sweaters from this yarn back in the 70's.

I located the pattern quickly at Ravelry

Umm it's the Candide Raglan Herringbone pullover. 

Apparently, according to Ravelry, this tough, long wearing yarn is no longer available through Reynolds, but is still being produced by Briggs and Little under the name  "Atlantic."  

"Back in the day" as some would say, great yarn would last a while...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Southeastern Animal Fiber Fest

I went to SAFF in Asheville last month.  I don't have alot of this type of event where I's too hot here for anything but hair sheep that shed when the weather turns warm, save Carrie and Kurt in Hampton SC.  (However, someone I know spotted a local alpaca, but I haven't seen it).  So, SAFF was pretty darned fun.  Here are some views:




Yes, it's true, I want one.  I got to hold one …  puffy soft…I really seriously thought about coming home with one...

And, my friend Tamara…who led me down the garden path to indigo dyeing, which is truly a gateway addiction leading to more home chemistry experiments with natural dyes

I actually got to spin on this fabulous great wheel. An anonymous bystander actually talked me through the process…thank you, who ever you are!  This wheel was made by Lyle Wheeler of  I want one

Vendor mart…serious fun…can't wait till next year!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dia de los Muertos 2013

It is Dio de los Muertos, the Mexican "Day of the Dead" during which we can more easily commune with our ancestors. Marigolds are a symbol of the holiday, and mine are doing REALLY well now that our weather has moderated, although maybe the composted manure helped too...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Not Quite a Baby Gift

So a few years ago (18 to be exact) I worked with a friend, we'll call her A.  She and I became pregnant at about the same time.

Several months into my pregnancy we moved away and I was busy being pregnant, starting a new job, etc etc.  

Now I usually knit baby gifts for friends but I was so busy that A's baby did not receive a hand knit.

Fast forward 19 years:  A somewhat newer friend, J,  (who also happens to be a knitter) is into Dr. Who.  In trolling about on, I discovered Bigger On The Inside. No, this is not an unseemly name (and heaven knows what unseemly traffic I'll get just for typing those words) but more importantly:  it is a shawl/scarf and its name refers to Dr. Who's conveyance called "The Tardis" which was/is/will be ( think that might be some Dr. Who humor)  a blue English police box on the outside  but a larger space ship interior a la 1960 on the inside. 

(Here's the closest thing I could find during my trip to Wales...a telephone box).

So, I posted the knitty page on FB to show J.

Well, A. spied my post and immediately asked me to knit one for her daughter (who is a month younger than my son). Naturally, I obliged.  As it turns out, A's daughter is a lover of green, as am I. 

I used Knitpicks Stroll in the color Peapod.

My favorite Dr. Who is Tom Baker.  TARDIS, as it turn out, stands for "Time And Relative Dimension In Space".  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Northwoods Farm, my "local" alpaca farm

My LYS is 30 minutes away (I think that's a long ride...) and I have no local local sheep or fiber farms, seeing as how I live in a fairly hot climate (that would be gardening zone 8...).

Several months ago my brother moved from western North Carolina to upstate South Carolina.  He called me excitedly and said "Wendy, there are llamas on a farm nearby!"  I assured him that the animals were probably alpacas not llamas.  The name of the place is Northwoods Farm.

On a visit to see him recently I went to see the alpacas.

I think that this is a group of youngsters. 

 I knew that there was a yarn shop there as well, I figured that it was a small shop selling wool from their animals.

WRONG!  Teri's shop is a vast cavelike treasure trove of fibers and equipment.

Teri also offers many classes, check her out on Facebook.

However, I stuck local, and bought some alpaca spun from their flock

Lovely stuff...will find a project soon for this

Friday, September 6, 2013

Another hap

So...someone to whom I'm related doesn't read my blog, so it makes no difference that I post something regarding her Christmas gift...

She travelled in Skye a couple of years ago and bought some yarn.  It is an itchy business...she couldn't tell me where exactly she's gotten it.

She tried to knit something with it, no luck, and "gifted" it to me.

My inclination was to do another a gift back to her.

I doubled the yarn.  The yarn is cream with some brown.  Makes me think of Scottish Blackface.  Who the heck knows...

I knit a hap square, and added churro handspun from Cassie to do the "traditional"  feather and fan lace border.  Luckily the natural colors look OK together.

You know, on a cold night with no central heating, this would be quite warm!  It's 4" by 4'

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Indigo Dyeing Part Deux

So, in my last post I described Tamara's workshop using a one time dye bath with kit.

Now that I had some idea of what I was doing, my friend J and I undertook an indigo dyeing project using a more chemically-based method for a dyepot that would be reusable

Note the disinterested cat...not a bad thing.

We used Jacquard Products Indigo Tie Dye Kit as we had at the workshop only this time we used the included reducing agent.  Here's J stirring the pot

After introducing the pre moistened fiber, you have to move it around carefully so as to not add oxygen to the dye bath until you're ready to remove it

The fiber comes out of the dyepot green and you watch it turn blue as the indigo oxidizes (combines with oxygen in the room air). Here's a before and after of some handspun cormo from Jupiter Moon Farm

The plies of  my two ply chunky did not take up the dye evenly so there's a subtle barber pole effect

J is planning to cut up some TARN (that is, tee shirt yarn) and dyed some tee shirts  (when I looked up tarn it turns out that "tarn" also means a mountain pool...appropriate that she was dyeing it blue)

In Wales my friend L purchased some laceweight BFL and silk from Bluefaced Yarn Shop  for me to dye for her.  This turned out the best, because the silk took the dye so well and it is lovely and shiny.  Yes, I did get it back into a skein but the takeaway was...tie up those skeins with several extra ties before dyeing!

We pretty much exhausted the dye pot but will do this again!

And finally, here is a video on how to cut a tee shirt into tarn

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Indigo Dye workshop with Tamara

So since learning about Eliza Lucas Pinckney and her critical role in indigo culture in SC, I have wanted to try dyeing with it.  But as it's a little complex I put it off, and so when the Charleston Museum was sponsoring a workshop last month, I had a chance to get to experience and learn about it first. 

I would like to introduce Tamara, our fearless instructor. check her blog out She has recently posted on more indigo dyeing adventures. She also does knitting support!

First, if you try this at home,  I want to state  here...BE CAREFUL!  There are chemicals involved, wear gloves and eyewear and keeping pets and small children away is a MUST!

Some basics about indigo: indigo is not water soluble so for conventional use it is "pre-reduced" and turned into a product with the oxygen removed. This makes it water soluble.  Tamara our instructor used Jacquard Products Indigo Tie Dye kit, which contains indigo that is 60% pre-reduced. There are two options:

1) Setup a dye bath with indigo and water for a one time use bath

2) Setup a dye bath with soda ash and thiox to make a bath that can be used multiple times. These chemicals "maintain" the reduction over time. In this condition the dye is yellow-green on coming out of the vat and when fiber is removed it turns blue as oxygen in the air reacts with the indigo. As the indigo (molecules??) oxidize the dye becomes permanant.  (Shouldn't we have done a chemical equation for this in chemistry class as we were learning about Eliza in history class??!!)

We used option number one and here is a link for the  directions we used (which has both techniques described) , complements of the Earth Guild in Asheville.  The vats were setup for one time use, meaning that they were composed of just water and indigo.  The dyestock was blue in color. Tamara mixed up different amounts of indigo with  water and so some buckets had less amounts of indigo.  Then you could chose how many times you wanted to dip your fiber.  The poster above shows how the strength of the dye and the number of dips changed the hue. There was lots of rinsing between the dips.  

Here are some results

Of course, I wanted mine very very dark blue of my 3 hanks of yarn

I was very happy with the result!

The Charleston Museum also had a small exhibit of indigo dyed textiles  including this

and this