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I’ve now passed my 4th blogiversary — Happy Blog Day!  This prompts a bit of looking back at what I was doing that first month of blogging.  In some ways, things are much the same.

I still love and wear my handspun alpaca mitts.

I still love and make the NYT No-Knead bread.  This post, by way, is my most-viewed post. Lotta bread lovers out there.

I’m still spinning and dyeing.  Spinning much better now, thanks to a couple of classes with the  justly-revered Judith MacKenzie.

The dyeing has turned into a business, with actual profits!  Not huge, not a living wage, but it’s a self-sustaining hobby that pays for cool equipment and classes, lets me meet great folks, and play with color as much as I want.  I’m currently winding off yarn for a commission for Syne Mitchell, who will make it available to her students when she teaches a rigid-heddle weaving class  at the John C. Campbell Folk School. (The blurry look of the winder and swift in motion in this photo is my attempt at an arty action shot.)

But, although we’ve had our share of wintery weather, there haven’t been any more visits from the river otters.

What’s different? Mostly the kids, who don’t show up here too much. My son Erik has graduated college and is navigating the chilly job market while also doing some free-lance writing.  Fingers crossed for two projects being printed and available to the public this year (I’ll keep you posted). He’s also part of the writing team on The Mongoliad, a cool on-line serial novel.  My daughter Alex continues her studies at Savannah College of Art and Design. She’s a Dramatic Writing major, which means scripts, although her writing teacher this quarter is fine with her working on a novel.  These kids, they think one make a living  writing! Fools . . .

The fabulous Syne Mitchell of WeaveZine asked me if I was interested in dyeing some yarn for her upcoming rigid-heddle weaving classes. “You betcha!” I said, and sent her off some yarn to weave a sample with to see if it worked for her purposes. Unfortunately, it proved a wee bit challenging for new weavers to deal with (a bit too fine for a 12-dent reed, worms a bit when woven and washed, also very stretchy), but in the hands of a master like Syne, well . . .

It’s a soft, warm, smooth fabric with an ikat-look effect due to the yarn being handpainted in a regular pattern.  Syne cleverly arranges the warp to make the colors line up in interesting ways.

What’s always fascinating is how yarn changes when crossed with another color.  The warp skein was navy blue, bright green, and yellow, which you can see in the fringe.  The weft, or crossing yarn, was a pale lavender that I thought would play well with the paler parts of the navy.  The final look is cool, spring-like, and just wonderful!  Syne sent it back to me to show off to my customers, but they have to get it off my neck first.  Thank you, Syne!

And a better yarn for her classes is on order.

The Seaview Weavers’ Guild program this month was Cheri Bridges teaching us Japanese arashi-style shibori dyeing. This is also called pole-wrap dyeing — the cloth is folded, wrapped around a pole, bound with a string, then scrunched down to make pleats.  This bundle is then soaked in dye, left to dry completely, then unwrapped.  As Cheri said, “Let it get bone dry, then wait another day.”  This was hard — I really wanted to see how it lo0ked.  But the extra time helps set the pleats, so I resisted temptation.

Here are my scarves, dry:

Sorry about the blurry picture! But I was too eager to unwrap these to check the photo before moving on.

Here’s one scarf, with the string partly undone.  You can see that the string acts a resist, keeping the dye away from the fabric.  The string picked up a bit of dye, so is blue, the white lines are where the string was.  The folds and pleats also act as  resists.

This scarf was white to begin with, then dipped in a black dye solution — the result is greenish grey, perhaps there wsn’t enough dye in the bucket for the number of scarves we put in.

I just love the color gradations and pleats!

The other scarf I dyed was already blue,  shaded dark to light going across the width.  I put it in purple dye and got this:



Last year, I dyed a custom colorway for the science fiction convention Boskone, and it was such a success that we decided to do it again this year.  Priscilla Olson of the Boskone committee and I designed a colorway that was inspired by the dark hard SF written by this year’s Guest of Honor,  Alastair Reynolds. I’m calling it  Star Field, and here is how I make it.

First, I wind a skein of Sterling yarn into a ball.

Then I find both the inner and outer end of the yarn

and machine knit a rectangle using both ends of the ball of yarn.

The result is a knitted sock blank, a canvas to paint on whatever I choose.

I can paint two at time. Here’s my sample for reference, and painting of two more  in progress

Two finished sock blanks — next steps are steaming, cooling,  rinsing, drying.

In the  Damselfly Yarns fulfillment area (the nice table in my office) the finished blanks are labeled.

Here’s a view of three blanks, laid out so you can see the full effect.

Since the blanks are knitted double,  socks can be knitted that have identical gradations of colors.  Or, a scarf can be knitted that will be palindromic: each end one color, shifting evenly to another color in the middle.

This will be available  at Boskone in Boston , February12-14. They will selling them for the low, low price of $25 — such a deal!  After the convention, I will stock Star Field in my Etsy shop for $30.

We are now one month away from Sock Summit, and preparations are definitely moving into high gear.  Base yarn is on perpetual re-order, and I mutter grumpily about how Kraemer’s Sterling yarn is out of stock until too late. The near-constant use of equipment is taking its toll in the studios of indie dyers from coast to coast.  First, Jennifer’s second best dye-pot blew up, then one of my Rubbermaid soaking tubs developed a crack that slowly leaks water.

rose and basin 002 small

The thin grey line in the middle of the picture?  Leaky crack.  I can still use the basin for soaking and washing dyed yarn if it’s in the sink, but next time I’m at Fred Meyer’s Wall o’Rubbermaid I’ll need to get a replacement.

And what have I been dyeing? Sock Summit and Ravelry are  sponsoring a contest for dyers selling in the Sock Summit marketplace, called Dye for Glory,  and I’ve worked up a couple of colorways to enter.  One goes by the catchy name of Clown Barf, a term of affection that knitters apply to particularly BRIGHT colorways.  This is my version:

Clown Barf 009 small

Available in my Etsy shop, of course!

We had a run of lovely warm weather, so the roses have been happy.  Here is a bloom of Just Joey, a lovely apricot rose with a delightful scent that thrives in the Northwest. No black spot!

rose and basin 001 small