Sunday, November 21, 2010

Organizing The Studio

It is high time to organize the studio. Most of the paper mess has been shredded and either added to the backyard composter, or sent for recycling.

What A Mess!

The shelving unit for the closet area is Ivar from IKEA. The closet doors will be coming from The Home Depot. I'm staining the shelving unit in a deep rich red mahagony - even though it will be hiding behind closet doors. But that's alright. It will look nice when the doors are opened...

I had originally decided to paint the whole room a medium blue, but, ah! I changed my mind. I went with a few walls in Ralph Lauren - Regent Metallics. Color: Duchess Blue. The other walls I'll paint with 'regular' paint in a light neutral color. Maybe something like this. The trim is in classic white!

I still need to create a little door for access to the plumbing and bathtub that are located in the next room. There was a smaller opening when I bought the house but I opened it up more for easier access. It was just drywall though so I want to build a 'real' door out of wood. It'll need a knob too, to keep the cats out. They love to get in there and play hide and seek, but I'm worried that someone may get stuck back there one day. Right now it's sealed off with a board and weights :)

The shelving unit in this little cubby-hole is LACK, from IKEA. It came in a shiny white laminate and it's going to stay that way. This is where I'll keep some of my soap making supplies. Right now SweetGeorgia has populated this space.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Colors of Fall

Azalea Bonsai
Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather and the smell in the air. And of course I love the colors of fall. I'm not so bonkers about the time change though.

A lot of the leaves on the trees have already fallen, but here is some color from the potted plants on the deck.

Hosta Turns Pumpkin

Azalea Buds for Next Year's Bloom

Thread-leaf Maple

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Basket Weaving Workshop

Chain Motif on Basket

Yesterday (Nov 13) was an exciting day. The Guild had a workshop with Margaret Trussel of Vulcan's Rest Fibers - a basket weaving lesson for beginners.

We met bright and early at the Howard County Fairgrounds. Margaret brought a lot of materials with her. She even brought a huge amount of woven baskets for us to admire. Me? I brought some supplies too (coffee, tea, hot water heater, pumpkin pie and lunch for Margaret). What I didn't bring? My camera :(

Originally the idea was that we'd be weaving a tote basket with straps. I skipped the part about adding straps. I just wanted a basket to sit on the floor in the studio - filled with yarn, or a cat or two.

Basket Base


One of the great things about this workshop is that Margaret brought supplies in many different colors and sizes so everyone finished up with a different looking basket at the end of the day. Mine is rather understated, simple, clean. I also tried my best to get tight edges from the beginning. As I worked my way up the basket, I continued to kept it tight so that I'd get some draw-in. This way the base of the basket is slightly larger than the top. Closer to the top I started letting things relax a bit so the top part would have straight sides. I really like how it turned out...

Ta dah!
Fjola, Caught In The Act! :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Harvest: Japanese Indigo Seeds

I left a few of the Japanese Indigo plants in the ground so their flowers would have a chance to mature and produce some fresh seed for next year. Now it's time to harvest.

Fresh Japanese Indigo Seeds from the Garden

One thing I found interesting: the stubs (down to the ground) of the harvested plants sprouted back up and they too have produced flowers. Already! I was going to dig up a few to bring inside to mature, but after picking through, I think I have plenty. I understand that is one way to get seeds when the weather outside starts getting chilly. I guess they do a decent job of self-pollinating in the warmth of home.

Now they need to dry for a day or so and then I'll store them in a paper bag until time to plant in late winter.

So much fun :)
Full of Seeds
The Indigo Forest

Saturday, September 11, 2010

PJ's in Blue

Japanese Indigo In Flower
Wow! Today was awesome! I harvested the Japanese Indigo this morning (The woad and weld didn't quite make it). It hit me not long ago that summer was fading. August had come and gone and the nights are getting cooler (yes!). I was hoping that it wasn't too late to use the leaves to dye a pair of my pajamas (PJ's), better known by me as loungers. I should have done this a few weeks ago...

The indigo had been growing in the side yard all summer long. It did very well even though the plants never got really full. They branched out and got nice and tall, but they never seemed to fill in the space that I gave them.

Plucking off the leaves didn't take me long at all. I was just worried that I wouldn't have enough to do much with. The book, A Dyer's Garden, by Rita Buchanan, suggested 8oz of leaves to dye 2 - 4 oz of fiber/yarn. I crammed them into a glass jar, hurried them into the house, weighed them in another container and ta dah! I had 7.9 oz.

Stop! There's No More Room!
I followed the directions in the book with the exception that I used Rit Color Remover (from the grocery store) instead of Spectralite. My supply was old and I feared that it wouldn't work. I used .5oz of Rit in a cup of warm water and then added that to the pot and slowly stirred.

Cooking Down
While the pot was 'doing its thing' I took my jammies and gave them a quick wash and spin. Then I took some rubber washers and pulled some of the material though them in random places for a tie-dye look. In a few spots I used large washers with smaller ones over the area to give a 'circle in a circle' look when the dyeing was done.

Indigo "White"
Spots of Blue - And The Usual Coppery Scum
The bottoms were dyed after the top had used up some of the dye, so they were a bit lighter. I gave them a second dip. They too had rubber washers on them. Still a bit lighter, but it was time to wrap things up for the day.

And now - more pictures!

Indigo On Cotton
Drip! Here You Can See Some Of The Indigo Is Still In It's 'White' State
Shirt: Front
Shirt: Back w/"Circle In Circle"
Bottoms: Front

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Little Lillstina

Lillstina Counter-balance Loom - Sweden

Well, not so 'my' is my Lillstina! It belongs to my friend, Maria, who lives in Reykjavik, Iceland. Since she couldn't move it with her, due to lack of space, I'm the current foster parent. I'm saving up for when the day comes and I have to purchase my own. Eek!

And not so little is 'my' Lillstina! It measures a wide 46" across! The widest piece I have ever woven on the loom so far has been my rug, at 24".

A few of you have asked about pictures of my loom, which is something that I never thought of, and I don't know why. I'll take more at a later date, once the studio has been cleaned up. I'm trying to decide on a shelving unit and paint colors.

And that horrible green scarf. Ugh - since you can see the warp on these pictures I think it fitting to show you the disaster. The colors were just awful together and my beating wasn't right on.

I played a bit with another color yarn, treadling for the Earl's Canvas - getting ready to weave my scarf. Back to the loom to tie on the new warp...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Dye & Fiber Garden

  Japanese Indigo Growing In The Garden

Of the 72+ indigo seeds I planted this spring, I got a whopping 17 plants that actually grew. Something tells me this isn't nearly enough to do anything with, but I'll tend to them anyway and see what happens. Maybe I can dye a finger or two.

What happened? I was not paying attention is what happened. I thought I was purchasing one packet of fresh seeds. When the box arrived, I was wondering why it was so large - I mean I thought I had ordered a small packet of seeds. But when I opened up the box - there was one lonely indigo plant. Ugh. I went back to the supplier's website and sure enough - it was one plant that I had ordered. They didn't even have seeds for this year. So where did I get my seeds from? From the same supplier, but it was the previous year. From what I understand, Indigo seeds (Japanese Indigo seeds at least), must be fresh in order for them to germinate. I found out the hard way.

The cotton is growing nicely - one plant is huge, one plant is medium, one plant is small and one plant is dead - LOL

Cotton Flower Bud Forming

They are certainly getting enough heat and sun. I recently had a tree removed from the other side of the fence because it had been so badly damaged from the monster snow storms we had this past winter. Now the garden gets so much light. The plants love it. I just noticed the other day that the large cotton plant has flower buds forming.

I'm growing the four three cotton plants just for fun, and to see how they fare in this part of the country.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Acid Green Disaster!!! :(

Ugh! What have I done? The scarf for Melissa was turning out horribly hideous so I stopped! Perhaps a picture or two in a later post.

I'm seeing her for dinner tonight and again tomorrow for a picnic lunch with the (former & present) gang from Icelandair.

I have recently joined an online study group for crackle weave and I will talk with her about a different design using this technique. I'll see what she thinks about getting rid of the royal blue and red and picking up orange and purple.

I do still have the one scarf for myself to complete, which is the same threading as what is on the loom now, so I'll bust that out and then get on with the crackle.

So, more on that, later...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Melissa Acid Green

I recently found out that my good friend and former manager, Melissa Andretta, will be in town from cheery ol' London. She asked me for an acid green scarf, with blue and red stripes, a long time ago. A long time ago, I purchased the yarn and wound the warp. It's been sitting on the shelf ever since.

I'll be meeting with her on 9 July 2010, with a gift!

Must... weave... scarf...

All wound on the warping board

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Playing With The... Stand Mixer?

Yes, that's right! I have been playing with the KitchenAid mixer. Making butter! Cindy and I were talking at work about making 'things', and I got to wondering, if you could make butter with a KitchenAid mixer. Well, you can! It can be a little messy mind you, but you can make butter - yummy home made butter. Now, making butter is a rather expensive thing to do, unless you live near a farm (or have your own), because the cost of heavy cream is generally more than purchasing butter out right. But what the hey? I wanted to try it. So, I did.

Once again, I didn't take pictures of the process. I was not planning on posting it. WeaveThings / Butter? Hmm, but I say again, what the hey?

I did do a little test. I purchased 3 pints of organic heavy cream. Let them sit out to reach close to room temperature. Then one I poured into the Black & Decker food processor with the plastic blade. It fluffed up super quick and then just stopped. I had to keep taking off the top and scraping the foam down. It wasn't too much fun, but I did produce butter!

The other two pints I poured into the stand mixer with the metal whip. I started it off on medium speed (so it would not make such a mess) and then turned up the power once the cream started to froth up. While the mixer was going I used a rubber spatula to push down the sides. When the stiff peaks form, just let the mixer keep going. The whipped cream will eventually break down and you will see it start to turn a light yellow. Then it will start to look like what I call 'hotel-style scrambled eggs'. At this point, I switched out the metal whip for the paddle attachment, and turned the power down to low.

Shortly after, it happened! Liquid separated from the 'scrambled eggs' and then the paddle started to get caked with butter! I poured off the liquid (buttermilk) and then added water to the bowl to 'wash' the butter - you need to make sure you don't forget this step, otherwise it will go bad if you leave buttermilk in with the butter. I wrapped the bowl with a heavy towel and turn the mixed on low and let it slosh for a bit. Then I poured off the water and did it again, about 5 - 6 times, until the water ran clear. Then I pressed out the water and placed the butter back into the mixer bowl and added a touch of salt and whipped it on high for a few seconds to incorporate the salt. Nice and tasty. Next I scooped some of the butter into a glass container, and the rest I wrapped up in plastic wrap. Then, into the refrigerator to firm up. The bowl of liquid in the photos is the buttermilk!

Next, some yummy buttermilk waffles from the new issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine that just arrived yesterday!

WeightWatchers, you'll just have to weight! Ugh  :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

3N1: The Spinning Monster

Last night the spinning monster hit me so I went downstairs where the wheel was hiding and started to play with some fiber.

Spinning Singles:
First I decided to spin up some hand-dyed Panda fiber that I had dyed a bit ago. I wanted to see how it would handle if I spun a 'kinda' thick singles and then finish it the way Judith MacKenzie McCuin suggests in the Spring 2010 issue of Spin-Off Magazine - "Spinning Pleasantly Plump and Silky Singles" (her lustrous yarn on the front cover was 50/50 wool/silk).

The spinning was fun and fast. The skein was just like a scrunchie when I slid it off from the niddy noddy - just like Judith said. The finishing was a bit messy, as I used Judith's method of sloshing the skein around in hot soapy water with a plunger (brand new of course and just for yarn), and then into cold water and then hot, cold... a good squeeze in a towel and up to dry.

I'm sorry I didn't think to take pictures of the process, but here is the outcome.

The 'Perfect' Skein:
... next up was some Bluefaced Leicester that I had purchased from my friend Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns. I dyed up a small lot a few weeks ago and this was some 'extra' that I wanted to play with. It's dyed in purples, blues and grays and felt so soft to spin and ply.

Usually when I take my skeins off from the niddy noddy, I usually get some, to a lot, of twist. This time? The skein hung nice and straight. Perhaps watching Judith spin on her new DVD's, The Gentle Art of Plying helped.

I decided not to wet-finish it just yet. Just in case I do use it in a weaving project. It's best to wet-finish the cloth after weaving, instead of the yarn before. Just more advise I've received from Judith. She is such a joy to work with.

The Coil:
I confess, this didn't really happen last night. It was about a week ago, shortly after MD Sheep & Wool.

The inspiration this time came from the Winter 2009 issue of Spin-Off Magazine - "Coils: Adding To Your Art Yarn Repertoire", by Jacey Boggs. I had read the article over many times and found it very easy to understand. Just takes a bit of patience and practice to get it right when you're actually doing it.

I certainly need to keep up and practice at it. Some of the coils have no definition, others somehow just got lost, some slid a bit before I could anchor them, but some, a wee few, turned out quite nice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dyeing With Marigold

Last years Marigold Garden yielded quite a bit of flowers. I did, however, forget to harvest the plant tops as I did in the previous year (they're still in the freezer). I harvested the fully open flowers at least once a week. My mom also assisted and picked marigolds from her yard and saved them in her freezer for me. After each harvest, I weighed, bagged, labeled and froze the flower heads. I have enough for quite a bit of yarn/fiber.

I used alum to mordant just one skein of a nice silk/bamboo (51/49) yarn from Dharma Trading Company. While the yarn was simmering in the solution, I started up another pot with the flowers, complete with their sepals. I did an experiment and found that without the sepals, the solution was yellow, and with them, a brilliant orange. The yarn weighed in at 100g, so I used 100g of flowers as well (100% of weight).

I let both pots cool overnight.

The next morning I removed the yarn from the mordant solution. With gloved hands I gently squeezed the yarn to extract as much of the alum solution as I could. Then I rinsed it in plain water a few times and into the dye pot it went (strained of the flower heads). I slowly raised the temperature up between 165-170 degrees (not quite simmering point due to the silk). I let the yarn 'simmer' at this temp for about 40 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and let the whole thing cool overnight - again.

The next day I washed and rinsed the yarn and hung it up to dry.

The color didn't turn out as expected. I was hoping for more of a golden-orange. But I have to admit, I love the clear gold that was produced. I can't complain about that.