Monthly Archives: March 2009

Killing yarn

In my schedule of planned events, this was supposed to be spring break, and I was going to grit my teeth and jump into dyeing wool and yarn. Instead, there has been job hunting and me being in the beginning stages of a cold. I decided I was not about to let this derail my ambitions, and I set aside today for dyeing.

Patrick has been teasing me when I say things like:  “I’m setting aside tomorrow to dye.” “Today I’m going to be dyeing all day.” “Before bed, I might do some more dyeing, because I’m not quite finished yet.” So I told him I’d call it “killing” so that he could stop being so sad.

He wasn’t convinced that was any better.

In any event, I “killed” 1 pound of falklands and 2 skeins of sock yarn. I had a good time, and even though I blundered through everything, I have some gorgeous products to show for it.

The only casualty was my initial skein in the crock pot, some yarn I got in a swap that I was never going to be knitting with that was really oddly colored. When I got it wet before dyeing, the color bled like mad, and it STANK! Like, skunky stank. It’s dry now, and still doesn’t smell any better. I’m going to pitch it, because I just don’t think there’s any saving it.

I did two skeins in the crock pot, but wanted to try the handpainting method too, and did the rest in the microwave.

I was a bit of a mess initially. My printer is still unhooked, and I don’t have any good books, so I kept running downstairs to check proceedures. For every stage, I would do this, so I got quite a bit of exercise. I finally settled down and decided that if it turned out to be a mess, it turned out to be a mess, and I would be just fine.

My first job was to make dyestock solutions of the powders I have. The literature had me pretty scared of the dye itself, but I was less concerned once the potential for inhalation went away. I scored a bunch of free 16oz bottles from a local business, and I put them to great effect. I also found a good chart for color mixing in a book, and totally ignored it (but bookmarked it for future endeavors).

The handpainting was interesting. First I ended up with way too much dye. Then I had way too little. Can you sense the Goldilocks moment? I ended up figuring out what the deal was: the dye was exhausting right away, and once I figured that it wasn’t a liquid/quanitity thing, but rather a visual coverage thing, I had a much better time of it. My last two batches were just right.

I belong to the school of thought that you just have to jump in and do a thing in order to know what questions have to be asked. I’m also chickenshit, and I love to read up, so things tend to get postponed until I feel I’ve amassed enough information on my endeavor to forge ahead with some confidence. In the end, I jumped, and I now have plenty of questions that are actually useful rather than hypothetical.

I’m still struggling with how wet to leave the fibers when I lay them out. Too dry, and they don’t take up the dye, too wet and it’s just a mess.

I think I should be using more acid for the Jaquard dyes. My red in particular was not very colorfast. No, strike that. It worked fine, it just ran a lot, the only color to do so.

I definitely need to get the rest of the base blending colors. There is so much I want to do, but I couldn’t achieve the colors with my current red/yellow/blue set. I also need to think of an alternate way to work with the gaywool dyes. Since they come mixed with acid, there’s nothing to worry about there, but I just have a feeling they are going to be useful in different ways than the Jacquard dyes.

Mostly I am just mulling things over. When I can find some batteries for the camera, I’ll take pictures and post the fruits of my labor.


Seasonal Focus

With the seasons being so dramatic here in Alaska, I find there’s quite a duality in the way I live.

In the summer I am very eager to be outside, to garden and to have fresh vegetables, to volunteer for labor at friends’ farms and stables, and to generally work towards self-sufficiency and inter-connectivity goals. 

In the winter, I nest like nobody’s business. As the winter progresses, I do less and less socially. I cook, and craft and generally focus on myself and my house and the people and animals living with me.

This is fine, I think much of this is normal human behavior. Moving from summer to winter is gradual and natural feeling for me. The problem comes in the transition from winter to summer. I begin to get the spring itch when there’s still four feet of snow on the ground, and it takes months for the weather to catch up. I am always surprised at how unbalanced I feel when things flip over. I’m always disappointed when, in May, I want to plant a garden, and I haven’t done any of the prep-work required to have a nice garden in this crazy short-but-20-hours-of-light-a-day growing season. I’m always shocked when summer comes and I realize I haven’t spoken to 3/4 of my friends for half a year. I’m always sad when I want to be outside playing, but I haven’t kept in enough physical shape throughout the winter to enjoy dayhikes so I’m exhausted a quarter of the way in.

This year I want things to be different.

Dear Winter…


More decisions

I was up all night with my first ever case of anxiety, and I just told my husband I was screamingly scared of how our money situation is and that I am quitting school and looking for a full-time job since my financial aid never materialized. He disagreed with me, said he was hugely disappointed, and thinks I’ve made a bad decision. He wanted me to wait, but midterms are today and dammit, I’m not going to take them just so I can come home and switch the classes to audit.

Unfortunately, my school schedule precludes my being able to keep several of my classes if I get even a part-time job, so I’d rather jump into the search with both feet, rather than limping through the next few months.

Ugh. Just ugh.


I’m part of a yarn swap group on Ravelry and what it has taught me is that I have bought a lot of things I won’t ever knit with. Being able to trade away things I do not want has caused me to make a pretty solid list of things I *do* want.

In light of this, I made a very personal decision that I will not be going to the upcoming fiber retreat here in Alaska. I’ve been really excited about it for months, especially since I missed the last one, but money is just really tight and frankly, I want to go so I can fondle fiber and spend money.

Instead of spending my money on the experience and a bunch of impulse buys, I’m going to take half the money and spend it on things I really need, or am planning to use. A higher speed whorl for my spinning wheel. An interchangeable needle set. The rest of the yarn I need to finish my spring cardigan. Some blank yarn and some more equipment for dyeing. Several books on techniques that I’ve been putting off. Magazine subscriptions. A new sewing table. Plus one or two fun things.

Yes, this seems like a lot, but it’s *still* only half of what I had planned to blow on a crazy weekend of fun. The rest will go into savings. If we haven’t needed it by summer, I will buy a drum carder.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be rational about the whole thing. Sure, I’ll miss out on the fun of the weekend, but I won’t end up with a bunch of weird things I won’t use, and I’ll have all those truly useful things.