Thursday, May 31, 2007

Articulate Scientists and Ancient Systems: 2 articles in the NYT I found interesting

Two things I love in life:

1. An articulate Scientist: a Scientist that can write an article about science that makes sense to a non-science person (like myself) is a miracle worker. I really do wish that I could understand the periodic table. No, maybe its more that I wish I _wanted_ to learn what the periodic table really means through science experiments. But, I don't. So, I depend on you articulate scientists to give me the low down. So if you feel that it has been some time since you have had a little Mr. Wizard, click on the above link to read about nitrogen and why we unknowingly crave the smell of fertalizer...?

2. Oh ancient systems. . . the root for my love of textiles. They reek of humans long long ago drawing rules, systems, and boundaries. From textiles, I can see humans mapping out there thinking process. However, this article is not about textiles it is about food. Specifically, dabbawallas in India. Let's backup for a minute. In India, many people still value and want homecooking even when they are at the office. We are not talking leftovers. We are talking about new, yummy, fresh cooked meals. A dabbawallah is a man, not figuratively speaking, really a man, that goes and picks up the food from the wife/ woman of the house, pedals it across town, and delivers it to the working man. Oh, me too! Can someone go to Illinois and pick up a meal from my Grandma and bring it 2000 miles to me? Anyway, I love to observe how India deals with change and their age old systems, habits, and duties.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

God, give me another set of hands please! Interweave Knits Summer 2007

It was gloomy and cold this morning. Adrienne, Cleo, and I decided to take a car ride over to Marin to Dharma Trading Co.. They are a great dyeing resource. Plus, their is an awesome Peurto Rican restaurant in San Rafael named Sol Food. At Dharma Trading, I picked up the Interweave Knits Summer 2007. I have to say its a pretty good issue. My only regret is that I am inspired but can't possibly start another project right now. AN extra set of hands would be prefect right about now. Instead of knitting, I thought that I'd use my inspiration to at least write about them. I want to make the Notre Dame de Grace. Oh, it look sso cozy. Motorcycle Chica Gloves -- hot! Garter Stitch Pup for Miss Cleo. And, Boot Socks. So if anyone out there is knitting these things, let me know. I would love to live vicariously through you!

Needless to say, the sun came out. It was nice and hot so we took a long hike in Woodacre. Knitting -- sunny hikes -- knitting -- sunny hikes -- how can one decide?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Natural Dyes: Madder, Logwood, and Black Walnut

We have just completed another round of dyeing and the fiber is hanging on the drying line. I feel satisfied. And looking forward to spinning some of it.

We made stock of:
logwood (labeled as grey but I suspect it is purple)
balck walnut
and mixtures of all 3.

We also tried three different dyeing techniques: dunking, marbled, and hand painted.

Photos coming soon.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Flicking Wool

What could be better than sitting outside on a warm Californian afternoon hand carding newly washed fleece and drop spinning? Maybe sitting on an island. Other than that, not much.

Last Sunday, I went ot Fleece Day at Deep Color studio. We leared how to choose a good fleece, wash it, flick it, card it, and drop spin it. I am pleased that after a year and a half of spinning, I am able to now focus on the intricacies of the different kinds of wool and their individual charachteristics.

I learned two important things when shopping for a fleece: buy a fleece that has little vegetation stuck in it and has been sheared recently.

We washed mystery fleece from Sonoma County, Romney from Australia, and Icelandic fleece from Tongue River Farm in Montana. Pictured above from left to right. We spun these as well as brown Polwarth (my personal favorite) and Finn.

I acquired a new tool called a flick carder. It is similar to an animal brush but has a longer handle -- thankfully making it harder to put a hole in your knuckle. You use the flick carder after you have washed the fleece in order to get out any small bits of debris before you start carding.

A year ago, I took a slightly shortend version of this class. I thought to myself, "I'd have to be crazy to go through all of these steps". Well, times have changed. I am getting closer to the idea of moving out to the country and taking the time to process my own wool. Now the question becomes -- Do I have my own animals or buy from local ranchers?

We are so inspired by Fleece Day that we have asked my mom to fly out from Minnesota to take a road trip to The Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon. Stay tuned to see how we put our skills to the test.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Podcasts: Pointy Sticks, Sticks & Strings, Craft Borg

Yes, I accept I am a bit slow. I figure about three years behind in the blog world. I try to give myself some breathing room and remember that four months ago I had a full time job. And before that lived in India, in the middle of the desert, where the internet took thirty minutes to load, and then time out altogether. OK, fine I will also admit that my friends have always teased me on being resistant to technology. They call my house the 1800 house as they watch me happliy de-evolve from spinning wool on my wheel to my hand spindle, and from buying roving, to preparing a fleece for spinning. Point being, in my own life, by creating a blog, I have come a long way.

Last weekend, I went to Fleece Day at Deep Color studio. ( I will get to the fleecy part soon) While we were sitting around carding and drop spindling, two tech saavy knitting bloggers were talking about their favorite podcasters. How they loved to pass the time knitting and listening to people talk about yarn, patterns, and knitting news. What a novel idea. Hmmmm, podcasters....I have seen that button on my itunes. I was intrigued. And, I might not be that far behind in the podcast world!

I started my search closest to home and went to the Itunes music store. Here, I found Pointy Sticks, Sticks & Strings, and Craft Borg (and the non-fibery podcast of This American Life -- I am so naively pleased to find that I can listen to whenever I feel like it).

I downloaded the most recent episode of each, listened all afternoon while knitting away on the Alvaros Sweater. Given that one episode of each is probably not a large enough sample to base a strong opinion, my watered down opinion says that I liked Pointy Sticks best. I thought that Christine and Staci were witty. I liked their discussions about community and kntting shops. I thought they made a very good point about how knitting shops should take more consideration of what bloggers/ podcasters are talking about, what kind of products they desire, etc. I also appreciated with how candid they were in reviewing yarn and patterns (They were reviewing Lace Style).

I have found as a new blogger -- somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer amount of other knitting bloggers -- and somewhat removed. It almost like I don't know where to begin. I really enjoy reading others blogs but the podcast gave me a whole new appreciation for internet based community. I really enjoyed hearing Christine and Staci's voices and their laughter. It brought another layer to the stories and the photos found on blogs. While the internet and blogging has been a great way for knitters and fiber enthusiasts to meet one another, I am excited to continue discovering new podcasts and seeing how podcasts are going to shapeshift the current fiber environment.

P.S. While looking for new podcasts, I came across Lets Knit2gether. Video podcast. Very cool.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Felt Scarf

Last weekend, I went to a beginning felting class at Deep Color studio in Kensington.

I had tried felting once before. Last Christmas, I decided that I wanted to felt a tree skirt. We were really into a hobbit themed Christmas tree. We made sparkly mushrooms and gnome houses out of pine cones. Pretty cute really. The tree skirt was supposed to take the tree one step further. I think I was caught in some romantic childhood memory of Minnesota's autumn ground covered by the first winter snow. Oh, how nordic. We designed the tree skirt to be like the forest floor -- greens and browns -- overlayed with purple felt leaves. Over this layer, we planned to applique pieces of cream felt that would resemble snow. Then, we were going to accent with sequins and beads, hoping to create a winter wonderland... did I happen to mention that we came up with this idea about 2 weeks before Christmas? I rushed out, bought a "how to felt" book, a bunch of colorful Corredale, and a bar of olive soap. We made a decent go at it. We were able to complete half of the forest floor but it looked kind of sad. Needless to say, we never completed the tree skirt. We ended up using a white sheet.

When Claudia, my felting and spinning teacher, called on Friday to offer me a space in her beginning felting class, I excitedly confirmed looking forward to repairing my broken relationship with felt.

First, we practiced basic felting skills. Learning how to layer, how to apply warm water and soap, and how to slowly build up pressure.

Then, we really got going and made a scarf. I have been trying to exercise bravery when it comes to color so I chose this bright blue color. Here, are the results.

Now, I just need to keep repressing the idea to make a 5 x 7 felted area rug.

Friday, May 4, 2007

busy, busy, busy! dye garden, alvaros sweater


I am so excited it is May and that summer is right around the corner.

This week, I worked hard on my soon to be dye garden. We tilled the soil and sowed the seeds -- cosmos, dahlias, correopsis, maroon correopsis, and chrysanthemum. My urban garden is sweet -- but small. . . I am running low on room.

There are three of us who share this space. Because our house is small, we want this little garden space to function as so many things. . . parking for our bikes, meditation, bar-b-ques, organic dyeing resource, organic food source, and there are probably more things that I am missing -- oh, yeah, the miniature dye studio is back there too! It is very clear that the space is pretty much full but I can not stop myself from thinking "hmmm, where could I fit indigo or madder?"

Garden photos coming soon.

Other than that, I have been working on the Alvaros sweater slowly but surely. I am on round 3 in the sweater pattern. Every time I think that I am going and things are going well and that oh, this is not hard, no problem. Something crops up. A lost stitch. I read the pattern wrong. I was cross eyed for a moment. Sometimes I just trick myself into thinking something is wrong when it really isn't. I would take a photo of it except you might ask yourself if I really have done anything at all -- like I said the progress is slow but constant. I hope that in two weeks I will have made enough to take a photo and post it. That's a good goal.