Saturday, August 13, 2011

Taking a break...

Since I don't have a light box handy, I placed the x-rays in the stairwell window. Study them carefully and you will discern images of my left lower leg, ankle, and foot. In extreme close-up, not possible here, you would notice the spiral fracture of the fibula, sustained when I gracelessly slid on wet grass in the garden five days ago, as I was walking too fast on an incline. Perhaps luckily, I have endured many more painful insults, as the medical world calls them:  natural childbirth, foot surgeries left and right, and several classic ailments of wymmen. This, by comparison, is a piece of stale cake.

For the next five weeks I will be clomping around in a black plastic-and-velcro boot that looks like part of a Power Rangers uniform. That is, unless I have to have surgery--a decision to be made by my nice young orthopedist, Dr. Keith Monchek, next week. Stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, I'm getting lots of knitting, writing, and reading done. My knitting goal now is to finish up several longterm UFOs. One is a particularly upsetting lace pattern that is both boring and uncooperative, the Oscilloscope Shawl. I think it's an attractive garment, and I'm doing it for a friend in pink (her color request). It is absolutely maddening to track correctly, though, and consequently there are a number of obvious mistakes in my work. No frogging for me...I want OUT of this shawl! Not to worry, however; I devised a clever way to camouflage the booboos, as shall be revealed in a future post. I wouldn't recommend this pattern to anyone, unless she is an extremely methodical (anal?) knitter.

Several readers have inquired as to the mysteries I photographed for this blog in July. The first photo of "What IS it?" is a turkey vulture that had been snacking on a dead chipmunk, deposited by Rufus the Tuxedo Cat, in my driveway. At the moment, I am not at liberty to enlighten you about the second mystery--the off-white knitted thingy--inspected by Alfie in the second photo, but like almost everything else in life (or at least in this blog), it too shall be revealed at a future date.

For those of you who read Interweave's Knitscene Magazine, check out my article on LYS in London, "Unexpected Delights," in the Fall issue just released, pages 8-10. As you may recall, I spent a happy few days there in January of this year.

Bessborough Gardens, London, in January! Notice how green it was!

Now all I'm wondering about is which of the many interesting and beautiful neighborhoods I visited has been victimized by the recent hoodlum rampages. There has been a movement among London knitters to counteract this despicable anarchic terrorism with knitted love. I've copied below a free pattern for your enjoyment and possible healing, if you are reading this in the UK, and here's the link to the website. To all of you, Londoners or not, I say: "Keep calm and carry on." That is the best thing to do in situations like this, and knitting is the way to the end.

Knit a London Lovedon Heart and set it free in the city

Norwegian knitter Kaja Marie Lereng Kvernbakken (one of our global Stitch Londoners out there in the world), recently made the OsLove knitted heart pattern to show love and support after the sad events in Norway. This week she has updated the pattern with two new hearts for London, the Lovedon Hearts Knitting Pattern.

Kaja Marie says “My hope is that you will use this pattern, tweak it as you wish, and make hearts, loads of them: To remember what happened in Oslo and on Utøya or anywhere else where a little bit of love is needed. Pin it close to your heart, give to a friend or a stranger, let it out in the wild as graffiti knitting, so that the heart can find whoever needs it. Knit it in any colour, with or without words, knit them and share them.”

Once the clean up is over and the knitting starts again we hope to see these little Lovedon hearts spreading the love.

Woolly hugs to you all. Let's hope that we can unpick the problems and start casting on new rows, where the dropped stitches and tangles in society (that means all of you looters, hackers, greedy banks and sneaky politicians included) are all put back on the needles the right way. Power to the Riot Wombles!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dyed in the Wool, Part Two

Here's how my yarn came out. The first skein I dyed, all Slate-colored, is in the center. The second skein, mostly Mahogany, is on the right, and the third skein, where I got really ambitious and used two colors, is on the left.  I'm not sure if I have enough yarn here for a pair of mittens, but if I do, that's what the skeins are destined for.

Neuroknitter sent me these two snaps of her lovely lace yarn. It's so interesting to see how the coloration of the skein translates into knitting.

What I learned from this experiment:
  • Hand-dyeing yarn isn't as daunting as I'd expected. (Of course, the process was completely streamlined because Neuroknitter had placed all the materials at hand.)
  • It's one of those pursuits that could become as addictive as knitting. As with knitting, the variables offer infinite variety and unlimited depth.
  • Like knitting, it's absorbing, surprising, and fun. And pets can get involved, too.
  • Of course, I could expand my definition of knitting to include hand-dyeing...
  • I must seriously consider:  do I want to become thrall to yet another obsession?
I queried Neuroknitter about her involvement with hand-dyeing. Her responses only confirmed my suspicions about the addictive nature of this pursuit.  "I started about ten years ago," she confessed. A professional weaver showed her how to use dye baths and how to hand-paint skeins.  Later, Neuroknitter set up her own basement studio, and "that's when things got serious. I hope to someday have a real space that is permanently devoted to dyeing...."

"What do you like about the process?" I wondered.

"First," she replied,  "I like to experiment with color combinations.  Second, I like the way the yarn looks when it's wrapped up and ready to cook.  The colors at that stage are so intense!  Probably my favorite part of the process is seeing how the yarn or roving comes out.  An important element of the process is that the risk is low.  Undyed yarn is not especially expensive, nor are the dye or other materials.  I see hand-painted yarn in the store for $20 a skein and know that I can do the same for much less.  I guess I like a bargain!  Of course, when you factor in the time it takes, the $20 price seems more of a bargain."

[On this last point I wonder how many of us knitters are compelled to do what we do--knit, buy yarn in quantity and/or on sale, spin, dye, etc. etc.--by delusions of thrift? Readers, I welcome your input here.]

"What does a successful dyeing project look like?" I inquired. 

Neuroknitter:  "It keeps the color that was applied and the color has penetrated the whole skein/roving.  I've done several projects in which the color combination was not appealing, but usually I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I like the combination.  One of the most successful projects so far was when I took a Georgia O'Keeffe post card and replicated the colors in some roving.  I was quite proud of that.  (see"

What Neuroknitter neglected to mention was the obvious, major benefit of pet participation that hand-dyeing, like hand-knitting, offers. Those of us who work entirely or partly at home are so accustomed to this life-enhancement, that we tend to overlook it. But where would we be without the helpful company of our furry friends?
Brownie: Ready, Willing, and Able!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dyed in the wool, Part One

Neuroknitter graciously invited me to participate in a yarn-dyeing session on Friday, in the historic New England city of New London, Connecticut. She is a fearless knitter, spinner, fibre creator, and such is her sang froid that she actually wore a white tee-shirt while mixing the various dyes in her underground laboratory! I was completely awestruck.

The colors mixed were as follows:  pine green, pear green, emerald green, slate, mahogany. Nervous Nellie that I am, I asked Neuroknitter to forge ahead whilst I, protected behind my trusty Panasonic Lumix, observed from the sidelines. With consummate aplomb she demonstrated the application of the dye to pristine white yarn that had previously soaked in a solution of water and Synthrapol.

After coloring the blank slate, as it were, to her satisfaction, the yarn was then carefully squished to ensure a good saturation of the dyes.

Next, it was enfolded in the plastic wrap on which it had been resting, and cooked for five minutes in the microwave.

At this point, exhausted and depleted, we gulped frosty glasses of iced Earl Grey. Then, as Neuroknitter's yarn cooled in its plastic sheath, I sallied forth on my first attempt. The yarn I'd chosen was a natural wool worsted that had  (my conjecture) somewhat yellowed over the ages. I acquired it as part of an enormous stash someone had donated to the Langworthy Library Knitting Association.

Timid creature that I am, I started with only one color, Slate. Brownie the cat, who skeptically watched our proceedings, approved my cautious approach, I think.

(To be continued in the next post....)