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19 posts from May 2011

31 May 2011

The merry, merry month of May!

It was a busy month!

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I missed a couple of days but made them up right away and managed to take a macro (more or less) photo for every day of the month. It's heavy on the red because May was also the first month -- and "red month" -- for Project Spectrum.

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I am very happy. I thought I'd take more photos, but I have a feeling that will increase in future months. I did a lot of dyeing -- and there was a lot of prep for the whole project that took place during this month. I'm very happy with my experiments and am in the process of knitting up my project for the month. It's a baby sweater and will be finished before long!

I had a great weekend! We took a little road trip on Saturday to Saving Grace Salvage Co. in Berlin, WI, and also dipped down to Green Lake before heading home. Boys were waiting! Annie and her husband were up with the little boys -- they're so much fun. I went to the zoo with them on Sunday -- and am sporting a poisonous tree frog tattoo on my left bicep to prove it. Heh. I dyed some yarn and wound some yarn and hung out with my own kids and ate good food and went on a bike ride (the 14-mile cemetery route in an hour!) and cast on a new project and knit in the sun -- because yesterday was not only Not Cold, it was HOT! -- and... it was just a great holiday weekend. The way they all should be.

27 May 2011

The standard of perfection...

I'm all but finished with the second pair of Ragtop mitts and have a great idea for photographing them -- and I'll be doing that this weekend! There might be a puppy involved, too. Meanwhile, I sort of panic at the thought of bare needles, so there was a need for a new project (yes, a NEED).

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Virtually indestructible, the standard of perfection...

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it's little (angelic) Susan Bates!

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I'm not sure where this "Circlon Whisper Smooth Nylon Circular Knitting Needle" with the "perfect ball points" and "precision tapered points" came from, but it was the only circ I had in the size and, more or less, length that I needed. I soaked it in hot water, as the package suggests, to loosen up the curl a bit and cast on! Circs not being my preferred type of needle, I am loathe to go out and buy one if I can make do. And, yes, I did consider modifying the pattern to knit it in pieces, but I also have a pile of sweaters waiting to be seamed... an activity that always seems to take a certain (and, apparently, infrequent) alignment of the stars. The needle is pink -- a very, very soft pink that I think comes only when a much brighter color has faded -- a very nice contrast to the black cotton I'm knitting. It's actually quite a nice needle, as far as circular needles go.

Inspired by an outfit (top half, at least) that Kalinda was wearing on The Good Wife a few weeks ago, I'm knitting Gretel. Heheheh. Yeah. Archie Punjabi and I are pretty much opposites in body type, but I thought that maybe this idea could work.

The further the day progressed yesterday, the more it seemed like Friday. There was a good vibe at work, lighthearted and even jovial, which felt really great. While a great weariness came over me on the way home, I was mustered by a second wind and started to prep the yarn for my last "red month" dye job. I'm feeling a little all over the place but getting a jump on the weekend projects. I've chosen a pattern (or three) for my project and settled on the yarn, so will be dyeing for that, and also playing around with over-dyeing 95g of already-red yarn left over from another project.

Besides dyeing and knitting, plans for the 3-day weekend include a trip to an architectural salvage place (or two) with Rusty, and playing with two little boys who are coming with their parents for a visit tomorrow. I hope to get a bike ride in between raindrops, too; it's going to be cold, but I scored a lightweight zippered layer on sale the other day. TGIF! I'm ready for the weekend.

25 May 2011

$113.56

I was preparing for and celebrating a big trip and my blogiversary a couple of months ago, and had a contest. You may think that I'd forgotten about that... and maybe I had... but I remembered a few weeks ago... and then kept forgetting to figure the winners and blog it... or I was distracted by yarn (or brownies).

Ahem.

The idea was to guess how much change was in the jar I took to the bank. The person who came closest without going over, with a guess of $107.23, is (blogless) Kathy! I've sent you an email, Kathy!!

I turned to random.org to choose a random winner from all entries -- the lucky number between 1 and 47 is #13 - another Kathy, my old (in blog years) friend kmkat!

What are the chances of that?

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What's a post without a photo (or two)? I was happily surprised to bring home a dozen farm-fresh eggs yesterday, straight from a co-worker's hen house! Aren't they gorgeous? I scrambled a couple for supper last night, and they tasted good, too!

 

24 May 2011

Long on photos, short on words

On Saturday, I grabbed Kate and headed up to the Door County Shepherds' Market at Whitefish Bay (so much more than a) Farm. My only purchase was some raffle tickets (and, apparently, not winners) and a niddy-noddy from a local craftsman. It's a nice little market in a beautiful setting; enough variety to keep me happy, it is very much a spinner's market and I still have my blinders on in that department.

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Sheepies! We walked to the less populated side of the pen to snap some photos, taking care not to startle the sheep. Right about the time we thought we'd captured the best we could, they started munching moving in our direction and came quite close. That little white lamb was just adorable.

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We'd noted some rural abandonment on the way, so stopped for some more photo fun on the way to lunch at The Cookery. I branched out and tried a new-to-me sandwich, but still with cherry chutney as an ingredient. Yum!

The trilliums are blooming -- the ground was covered with them in many wooded areas. The peak time for cherry blossoms is a ways off yet, though, and will surely be past their prime when I go back up again with Katie & Ali in mid-June to do the 25-mile Ride for Nature. Maybe I'll find a reason to go before then -- I love that such a beautiful place is an easy day-trip.

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We stopped at Wood Orchard Market for cherry pie filling, and also found asparagus -- it's probably the freshest asparagus I've ever had!

It started to rain as we made our way down to Algoma and The Flying Pig -- Kate has been wanting to check it out, so we took a little diversion on the way home.

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My lilacs are blooming! Not a fan of bugs, usually, my first reaction last night was to get that little bugger in focus!

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They sure smell wonderful, too.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, I have appointments at both the dentist and the eye doctor! They're both great, and I've already picked out my glasses (sunglasses for cycling!), but I do hope to fit in something a little more FUN than that on my day off.

* * * * *

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Remembering a fun few days on vacation with Sharon in Las Vegas a year ago!

 

21 May 2011

A perfect (yarn) storm

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As I photographed my three test batches of dyed "red" yarn, I thought about which I liked best (or what I might do differently) for the project hank, and also about the project I might knit and which yarn to use.

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{ M o r e   W a n d e r i n g   T h o u g h t s }

I realized how much "test" yarn I'll have, if all goes as planned, at the end of Project Spectrum -- and in a wide spectrum of colors -- and found myself wondering what I might possibly do with it all! 

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{ S q u a r e s   C a m e   T o   M i n d }

I have measured, cut, wound and labeled eight full hanks of different fiber/weight yarns into nearly 200 test hanks -- it's a lot of yarn! There's a laceweight, a DK, two worsteds, and four fingering. There is at least one full hank of each for a TBD Project Spectrum project.

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In a perfect storm of inspiration -- color, pattern, shape -- I have decided what I'll do with all of the fingering weight tests. The nature of the PS beast means that this will be worked on slowly over the next seven months and will, thus, be revealed slowly. It will be a blanket made of squares, possibly some mitered squares -- and the whole thing will probably continue to develop, as these things do... 

I am very excited!

19 May 2011

The truth is...

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...for all intents and purposes, I've quit! (Have I mentioned this at all?) I have been a habitual consumer of caramel-colored carbonated soft drinks for as long as I can remember -- it's now probably for more years than I was a smoker -- and I've all but stomped on the can and kicked it to the curb!

This is pretty huge. I really haven't talked about it much because it sort of happened without my really making a decision about it or thinking that I had to "try," and... would it stick? Is this the real thing?

I've drank it all over the years -- Coca-Cola, TAB (that was a hard loss), (I didn't really buy New Coke) (um, I guess most of you didn't, either), Diet Coke and, for the past several years, caffeine-free Diet Coke.

Except for coffee in the morning, milk with most meals, the rare glass of wine or beer and the even more rare glass of water, all I ever drank was Coke. And I drank a lot. Heh. Many a special trip was made to the store over the years because we were out of Diet Coke -- it's the only thing other than milk or half & half for coffee (or cigarettes, back in the day) that would merit such a trip.

So, lately, the past couple-few years, I've been growing more aware of... lots of Things. Food -- where it comes from, how it's grown/produced, prepared/processed. Ingredients. Quality. Flavor. Nutrition. Benefit. Chemicals. Detriment. Exercise. I bought (and rode and raced) my bike. I watched Food, Inc. I read Michael Pollan. I've learned that Food Matters.

I've been striving to do better, to stay on course, to keep it real.

I decided to cut back more on the carbonated beverages -- this started a little while before we left on vacation, so let's say in early March. A few days before departure, my perpetual 12-pack at work ran dry and I decided that I'd wait to replace it 'til we returned; I also forbade myself from "borrowing" from co-workers.

We've been back for over six weeks and I still haven't replaced it. I may have a glass at home in the evening, but ENTIRE DAYS -- a surprising number of them -- have gone by without the bubbly passing my lips. It seems a little UNreal.

Instead, I've been drinking much more water, a little more juice, the occasional smoothie, and a lot more tea (sometimes combined with juice or smoothie). Cordless electric water kettles were everywhere we stayed in the U.K. -- so convenient and easy! I bought one for each of the girls for their birthdays, and also for us.

I feel better -- and I mean that literally. There's something very different about the way my body feels to the touch -- less puffy or something, and like my skin is more attached. It's sort of freaky. I noticed it first when I'd put my hands on my hips (something I do more than I realized) -- they're still plenty soft, but a lot less fluffy. I remember a massage therapist exclaiming many years ago how "spongey" my skin felt to her, and I wonder... Well, I sort of wonder "What the hell?" I know that soda can cause bloating -- but all over? I've noticed the same changes in my face, arms, even my legs. I could also be losing a little bit of weight -- certainly not enough to account for these changes -- but I don't know for sure because my scale was pissing me off a while back (in the way it would or would not work, not because of what it said!) and now it's gone.

Anyway, these past few years have been full of changes -- little changes, big changes, intentional or otherwise -- and it looks like the trend will continue.

17 May 2011

Ragtop

I'd finished mitt the first and cuff of the second before we went on vacation. Mitt the second was to be my travel knitting, 'cept I didn't do any travel knitting. Not a stitch.

I've been busy with lots of other things since our return (hello, sudden urge to knit a cardigan!) but found myself with nothing on the needles the other day, so I pulled out mitt the second.

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I finished last night, ends woven in and everything! Sadly, it's chilly enough that it felt good to wear them, too. I have enough of this yarn to knit another pair -- if I maybe shorten the cuffs by a few rows. One of these finished mitts weighs 1.05 oz., the other 1.10, and I have 2.10 oz. remaining. Or I may use the yarn for something else and knit the mitts with another yarn -- maybe as part of Project Spectrum!

The details: Susan's Ragtop knit in Brooks Farm Four Play, purchased a million (or six) years ago at my first Rhinebeck. I'll get some better photos, eventually; we're up close and personal for Macro May -- and the colorway works well for this month's Project Spectrum!

16 May 2011

Hearts drip

"Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."
--Albert Einstein

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Guess what?! My bleeding hearts are blooming. It's been either too wet and/or too windy for photographing flowers outside, for the most part, so I've been cutting them and bringing them in.

I've been using an old juice pitcher as a vase. It's just like one my Grandma had -- round, with a horizontal rings/rib design, but tipped. I suppose I should get a good photo of the pitcher/vase, but I'm betting that many of you know the one... maybe your Gran had one, too. It's a tiny little thing. I remember that she'd buy little 6-oz. frozen juice concentrates -- and I associate those with her, too, because she's the only person I ever knew to use them! I am enjoying it very much as a vase.

I don't remember for sure, but I'd bet my last dollar that Grandma had a bleeding heart. I know that pink was her favorite color, so it would most likely have been an old-fashioned one like mine.

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I went to a sale of heirloom flower and vegetable plants on Saturday morning -- they had mostly vegetables, so that's what I bought; four varieties of tomatoes, two of peas, two of basil, and a soybean. (I think that's all.) As soon as it warms up (there are stupid frost warnings tonight!), I'll get my green thumb dirty and we'll see what happens!

 

13 May 2011

Hi, back in Scotland now

Not really. And I was going to post something else, but I read a few entries on Facebook from a photographer friend who is vacationing with her family in Ireland right now, and I felt a pang...

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Truly, a wee hieland coo. Right at our B&B.

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And the grown-up Highland Cows.

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And our gorgeous breakfast egg-layers in West Kilbride.

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The so amazingly beautiful and breathtaking Scottish Highlands.

*Sigh*

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Some perspective.

Happy weekend! Ours is going to be cold and gray. Good sweater sewing-up weather, I guess.

11 May 2011

What can I say?

I'm a complicated woman. I love red velvet cheesecake brownies AND my red bicycle!

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Okay, maybe not so complicated, as there is a very direct relationship between brownies of any sort and riding my bike! Ha!

The bathroom project is underway. It wasn't intended to be a project and it sure wasn't on the list of Things To Do this year, but shit happens. Haha. Yeah, I can laugh because none of that was really involved. Anyway, it WORE ME OUT! I didn't even DO that much, but being constantly ON all day, in case I was needed, was very draining. That, and the weather -- which is warmer and wonderful, but also more humid and it's so sudden -- didn't we just have 8" of snow a couple of weeks ago? Plus pollen in the air and all that...

I was still pooped all day yesterday, but managed to stop at the bike shop on my way home where I bought a new saddle with slightly more padding. (Yeah, haha... if only my natural padding was in the right places.) The goal is not have to suit up in the padded bike shorts every.time.I.want.to.ride. I'd like a rack and some sort of carrier, too, but man there's a lot to choose from and it's not inexpensive, so I need to think on that for a bit.

So I managed to get the new bike seat home last night before I collapsed. Tonight, I pulled my bike out of the shed and looked (unsuccessfully) for a wrench to change out the seat. We've been surrounded by bad weather all day, saw some rain this afternoon, and it's still threatening -- so I wasn't really going to ride tonight, anyway... and I put my bike back in the shed. The weather doesn't look to be awfully cooperative for the next few days, but I have high hopes for next week when...

Training shall commence! I'll be riding at least 55 miles (and maybe 75) in this year's Best Friends Gourmet Bike Tour in July, and the 14-mile bike leg of the Waterloo Fit City Triathlon in August on a relay team with my sisters! I rode 25 miles on the Gourmet Bike Tour last year and had the longer routes on my mind for this year even back then. I AM SO EXCITED to do the triathlon with my sissas!! Last year, Annie did the run and one of her friends did the swim; this year, Ann wants to swim and our sister Karen will run! Karen and her husband have begun the Couch to 5K training program (I believe *I* sent her the link to that a couple of years ago); and in similar fashion to my buying a new bike seat and bringing it home, Annie went down to *look* at the pool yesterday.

Haha! Red velvet cupcakes will be the exception around here for a while; the other kind of "good" food will soon be plentiful -- CSA deliveries begin in just about a month!

09 May 2011

Progress report

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It's wild. And colorful. And I like it! There's a lot of weaving in to do before sewing up commences. I could have carried the yarn, but I always end up with tension problems. After the weaving in and sewing up of Parcheesi, this seems like a piece of cake!

I've the day off today, if you want to call it that... off to help hubby with some toilet fixing. (Ick.)

08 May 2011

Red-faced redux (with dessert)

I am an idiot.

When I was eyeing up and lining up my cardigan pieces, fronts to back, I was aligning the NECKLINE of the fronts with the ARMHOLES of the back.

Twice.

Had I unfurled the pieces -- just once...

Thank goodness I fully unfurled before beginning to rip. I did re-do the cast-off edge with short rows and live stitches so I could three-needle bind-off/join with the back at the shoulders.

And I made pretty good progress joining the LEFT FRONT to the RIGHT FRONT before noticing that the back... THE BACK???... was still sitting before me.

I had the right sides together, at any rate.

Lord.

I finally matched the fronts to back correctly, right sides together, and the deed is now done.

After my delicious Mother's Day breakfast this morning -- smoothies, strata, scones, lavender cupcakes, and red velvet cheesecake brownies -- I set it to soak while I did a little shopping with Kate, and then sat outside in the sunshine to pin it out.

Rusty delivered lunch to the pergola.

Can it be Mother's Day everyday?

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Here's the recipe for the Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies. I had to bake them 10-15 minutes longer than stated in the recipe, and I would advise heavy-duty aluminum foil instead of the cheapy stuff.

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Mmmm, yum.

 

Mom

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Happy Mother's Day!

 

06 May 2011

Red-faced

I was red-faced with both anger and embarrassment last night when I put away my knitting after having discovered that I completely misread the directions for armhole shaping and binding off for the front of Tempest. That would be completely screwing up TWICE because Tempest is a cardigan and there are TWO fronts. My first consolation is that they were the same and so at least there's some consistency in my screw ups. Heh.

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I'd been wishing that I'd left live stitches to do a three-needle bind off of front and back at the shoulders, so my second consolation is that I can have a do-over! I've already short-rowed the back shoulder shaping and am ready to put all those stitches on a holder while I re-do the fronts.

That leaves me red-faced with only embarrassment -- and not even so much. Who cares? The sky is blue, the sun is shining, methinks spring may have finally sprung, and it's only knitting!

The sleeve/swatches have already been knit and blocked, so once the shoulders are all squared away, I'll give the body a bath, do some sewing up, and point for home. I don't think I've mentioned this project much. It turns out that I'm using two of the "Highland Holiday" hanks dyed at Old Maiden Aunt Yarns paired with some Noro Silk Garden Sock in a colorway that ranges from hot pink and lime green to purple and black; I'm cutting out the hottest of the hot pink (it sears the eyes) and, um, it's going to be a colorful sweater. I'm shakin' up the black-and-gray (with hints of brown) wardrobe.

I'm excited to be heading for the finish -- seems like it's come quick -- and, at the risk of proclaiming high hopes to the world and then failing to produce, I feel a finishing frenzy coming on!

05 May 2011

Blood(root), sweat, and tears

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I haven't done any natural dyeing on my own yet. I considered doing it this month using bloodroot (RED!), but then read a cautionary tale -- not only about bloodroot, which isn't even included in Jackie Crook's book (mentioned yesterday), but about other natural dyestuffs, as well -- and decided that I shouldn't impulsively rush in and start digging.

I was setting up to do a particular type of dyeing and figured I should just continue as planned. I have an enormous (and spreading) bloodroot population in my back garden, which is blooming like crazy right now! It's not going anywhere and I know where to find it -- if and when I decide to go down that path. And maybe I'll decide it's not worth it and find something else to use, instead. That bloodroot grows beneath a big black walnut tree! I definitely want to explore some natural dyeing, but I need to plan... and I just haven't made it that far yet.

I am so intrigued by Birdsong's new Natural Dye Plant CSA, Nature's Cauldron! Read all about her new adventure here. It's fascinating!

* * * * *

I had the day off yesterday and the sun was shining -- it was the best day of the year, so far! I spent the afternoon sitting out in the pergola, winding mini-skeins of yarn from all of the mini-balls I'd measured and wound. I didn't set out to do them all, but it was SO nice to sit out there. Now I need to label and tag all those skeins and that prep work (more than I'd imagined) will be finished!

04 May 2011

A little bit of red goes a long way

It was six years ago that I took a class in color that included some hands-on dyeing from Lizbeth Upitis and Joyce Williams at a Yarns by Design Spring Midwest Masters Seminar. I was (am) completely enthralled by them and took three classes from that dynamic duo over the weekend, but color and dyeing is the one that's really stuck (specifically, the over-dyeing and Kool-aid).

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I knit these booties with the Kool-aid yarn I dyed in that class.

About three years ago, I was moved to order some Jacquard Acid Dyes and several hanks of Bare yarn in various weights from KnitPicks to try some dyeing on my own. I'm not quite sure what spurred me right then, but I'm sure there was a good reason! I'm also not sure what happened to my enthusiasm.

Then, of course, I was over the moon just a few weeks ago over the very small and personal dyeing workshop in Scotland with Lilith at Old Maiden Aunt Yarns. One of the best parts was doing it with Katie & Ali and feeling their excitement!

When we returned home, I found and took stock of all the dyeing materials I'd stashed. Project Spectrum came along and provided the spark to nudge me even further -- like, all the way! Let's DO this thing. I located the books about dyeing that I'd requested (and received) for my birthday in 2007, found a couple more, and then set out to gather tools -- containers, measures, stirrers, pots, etc.

These are the books aiding me in my colorful exploration (you can never have too many books):

The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook by Lynne Vogel;

Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan;

Teach Yourself Visually: Hand Dyeing by Barbara Parry;

and Natural Dyeing by Jackie Crook.

Next post: More about natural dyeing!

03 May 2011

...all these reds will be very different

If one says "Red" – the name of color – and there are 50 people listening, it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different. --Josef Albers

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Dear Mother Nature,

Flowers blooming in a greenhouse window (Crown of Thorns) are very nice, but I should like to see some flowers blooming outside. Really. A whole bunch of 'em! It's time. Maybe some leaves on the trees, too. And you know what else? I should not be seeing even one snowflake of any type falling from the sky on May 3rd. I'd like to ride my bike outside soon -- without having to wear snowpants. Thanks.

Lots of love,

Vicki

02 May 2011

Red is...

...the ultimate cure for sadness.

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I think I will agree with Bill Blass on that point!

 

01 May 2011

Red letter day

Red numbers, too.

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And so it begins, Project Spectrum 5: The Basics.

On Saturday, I measured and wound nearly 200 little balls of eight different types of yarn (variations on the themes of fiber and weight) in preparation for Project Spectrum. Almost all of them are still waiting to be wound and tied into little mini skeins of yarn for various dyeing experiments.

Hopefully, these little experiments will develop and become more sophisticated over the next several months -- as I become more comfortable with the whole process. For now, I'm very excited to have a) tied one skein of each type of yarn, b) mixed up some dye, c) calculated some calculations, and b) turned this bare yarn red -- Fire Red! -- and without turning too much of anything else red in the process. (I wore a red shirt).

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It's also Macro May!

Next week, I plan to pull out the dye pot again and try something else. I hope to riff on PS with the dye pot about three times each month, trying different recipes, techniques and ideas, before deciding on how to dye the skein of yarn that I have set aside for each month/color and choosing an appropriate project. I sort of tried to do that in advance, but I think it's one of those things that's just going to have to happen; hopefully, I'll "hear some voices" and figure it out.

Outside of gathering materials, that's pretty much how I've approached the whole project -- figuring it out as I go along.

What's going to happen next!?

"1, 2, 3 Red Light" by bubblegum band of my youth, 1910 Fruitgum Company!

 

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