Thursday, November 29, 2007

Green, baby, green.

I have had a glorious week in fiber. In brief, here are the high points:

1) Inky the Squid Boy has turned out to be, not Shetland as I thought, but Corriedale. I two-plyed it anyway, and made something very puffy, slightly shiny, and altogether lovely. I think I shall keep one of the two skeins for myself, and make some fingerless gloves for my mother's husband for an X-mess present. I'm thinking of doing more Corrie as an Aran weight two-ply, and ditching my whole two-ply shetland idea. I may keep the 4lbs of the stuff all for myself, and do some glorious hand dyed, handspun fairisle work with it. Will keep you posted.

2) My skeinwinder, which clamps onto the top of my spinning wheel, arrived in the mail. My previous process for winding skeins involves using a swift clamped onto my dining room table, holding a yarn-filled bobbin on a long knitting needle, and tensioning the bobbin with a beleagered UNO card while I whirl the swift around with my right hand. Thank goodness I have really long arms, otherwise this system would be a total no-go. As it is, it's weird and inconvenient, and if I do more three skeins in a row my shoulder cramps up. My skeinwinder only involves threading the finished yarn up to to the winder, and using the hand-crank to whirl a skein up directly from the laden bobbin. This new device is $100 that will pay for itself in no time, what with all the carrying, tying, cursing, and massaging my shoulder that I'm no longer doing.

3) I have finally gotten the hang of this colour theory thing. I have finally put together some key pieces. My two blues, two yellows, and two reds? (well, magenta and red.) Warm and cool versions of the same underlying colour. Warm and cool. If I want a warm green, I should mix the warm yellow and warm blue. If I want a clear, bright orange, I should mix the cool yellow and the magenta. I know that many people learned this stuff in grade school, but I stopped taking art in grade 6 and never looked back. that's the one piece. The second key piece which I knew about, but wasn't successfully getting to work, was the art of toning down a colour with its opposite, its complement. To tone down red, I should add green. To mellow out a yellow, I should add purple. Put these pieces together and I have successfully created....

4) GREEN!!! Twice in two days, I created more or less the green that I was looking for, and nothing really unexpected happened in the dyepot. I even got a beautiful, even, bright spring green. If you have been reading this blog, you will have heard me complain about the difficulty of managing green, but I'm finally getting it. Expect lots and lots of green coming up.

5) I managed to dye a couple pounds of fiber while my two year old was at home. I usually wait until she's at daycare before I break out the poison and boiling water, but I wanted to see if I could accomplish the task with her underfoot. See, her last daycare day is tomorrow, and I have to see if I can keep dyeing even if she's around, otherwise I'll run out of fiber to spin before December is out.

I have no pictures for you today, because it's dark outside. When I start moving my new fiber inside onto my railing to finish drying, I'll show you some stuff. You'll see some gorgeous carmine red, some fuschia, some spring green and bright blue -- so much fiber all so very pretty that I might even offer some of the corrie for sale.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Inky the Squid Boy

I'm having a peaceful week. I'm working a bit, but mostly I'm coasting. I worked very hard to get ready for last Sunday, and the work paid off -- my stock is high, and full of variety. In fact, when I was struck with a dyeing idea on Tuesday and pulled out my undyed wool, I found that I was almost completely out of the BFL. Time to reorder!

26 lbs of undyed wool is on its way to me, and I'll undoubtedly have a big production week when it comes, but until then, I can regroup, and experiment a bit. I was struck with this idea. Or rather, I was struck with a neat yarn made by someone else, and I stole the idea. The yarn I was knitting with -- just a partially synthetic Patons yarn -- had one ply of black yarn, and one ply of various colours. The effect was a sort of all over tweedy, but with different accent colours. It would be easy enough to dye for -- just make a bunch of pure black, and then short bits of various other colours, joining one to the next as the whim strikes me. Here's the first attempt to dye this style of colourway:

I also did one batch of what I presume is my shetland wool. It was in an unmarked bag. It felt like the shetland, but the differences between the fibers are somewhat subtle, until they're washed. Once it dries, I'll know for sure what it is. I was asked to do some "boy" colours, and I rather like how this turned out -- it's all inky. Dark enough to be manly, but varied enough to be interesting to spin and knit. I call this "Inky the Squid Boy." (I've been watching a lot of Buffy lately.)

Lastly -- this one is brand new. It's a wool/soysilk blend. I ordered a single, 4oz package, just to try it out. My attempts at dyeing a merino/silk blend haven't gone great -- the stuff is touchy! And I hated spinning with it too. So, no more of that. But I have these wool/seacell socks that feel so wonderful, so I thought I'd try to spin enough of the wool/soysilk to make myself a pair of socks, and we'll see how the yarn turns out, how it knits, how it wears. Then I'll consider the possibility of making more for friends or for sale. In the meantime, I still want to show off the dye job, because it breaks my heart with the colourful blendy wonderfulness.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

To market, to market

I'm off to the Coquitlam Farmer's Market tomorrow, and I have never been so ready for a market day. I have 4 bags full of yarn (big bags), a rack of yarn still drying in my bathroom that I hope will be ready for labelling in the AM, and a tote full of the assorted stuff I usually need. Pen, business cards, calculator, extra bags, and a knitting project. Swift, and ball winder -- 'cause I'm a full-service yarn booth.

I'm looking forward to this market. The Winter Market is an annual (indoor!) event, and apparently it's fairly popular. I'll be glad to not have to worry about cold fingers, raindrops on my labels, and wind blowing my business cards away. And I'll be glad to maybe get into the holiday spirit, just a little -- the craft vendors will certainly have some Christmas-y stuff to show.

And I have 11 skeins of sock yarn to sell. That may not sound like much, but honestly the stuff sells so screamingly fast that I've never had this much in stock at once. How did I accomplish it? Spinning like crazy, and not listing. I hope I sell out tomorrow, but if I don't, I'm sure some Etsy buyers will be happy to have a few skeins posted at once.

If you're in Port Moody tomorrow, come visit me at the Social Rec Centre. Yeah I know, the Coquitlam market is held in Port Moody. We're a close-knit community. Or series of communities. That's life in the suburbs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It just occurred to me...

I have a dyepot! And dye! No, I haven't become very very stupid, it's just that a paradigm shift is required. I know all about the dyeing of white stuff. But it didn't occur to me until just today that I could dye stuff that already had colour on it.

Backstory (short): I bought the new Cat Bordhi sock book, and it is blowing me away. After all this time and all this knitting, I didn't think a knitting book could do that, but it did. I decided to make some socks, and I bought these lovely skeins of Koigu to make them with:

I need a bit of contrasting yarn to make some stripes with. I have quite a little stash of leftover nuggets of Koigu, remnants of a long-standing but mostly now cured Koigu addiction. I had a bright orange that might work, but it wasn't quite right. What I really wanted was a forest green. I didn't have that.

But I have a dyepot.

So tonight, I turned this:

Into this:

I'm so jazzed about these socks that I might even post in-progress sock pictures.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Colour Therapy

I had a seriously bad day yesterday, but I had to do some dyeing, no time to sit on the couch with a gin bottle and the remote control. I decided to combat the bad mood with some silly, candy colours. My very favourite. The pictures below are of a rack of blue faced leicester, some destined to sell some destined to be made into sock yarn, then socks. I'm picturing a row of candy-coloured feet as I type.

A closeup:

And some sock yarn drying -- I did some more sedate colours in the last batch, and I'm spinning them up now:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Butcher, Baker...

I'm sitting here reading someone's blog of their year on the 250-mile diet (their more relaxed version of the 100-mile diet), and spinning some sock yarn for Bev, a woman who met me at my farmer's market booth this summer and is now taking my sock knitting class -- knitting her first socks with my yarn.

I'm spinning the yarn and ruminating as I read the blog (did I tell you all I've learned to spin and read stuff on my computer screen at the same time? Bliss.), thinking about this writer's new relationship with a local miller, several local farmers, a local butcher, etc. I'm thinking about how much I enjoy buying a whole loaf of bread from the baker, and asking her to slice it for me. I like buying a cut of meat from the butcher, knowing he created that cut himself. I'm a coffee snob who grinds her own beans just before brewing the coffee, but if I weren't, I'd like buying whole, fresh-roasted beans and asking the coffee person (?) to grind the beans for me. There's just something really nice about picking something whole, something fresh and lovely, and then talking to a real live person who is providing this lovely thing for you, for some final processing of the item. You get to reflect. You both get to feel some satisfaction -- the seller, from seeing that the item that was created with care is being received with appreciation, and the buyer, from knowing that they are receiving something that was made with intent, by a person who has a face, a name, a personality, and a whole life that is now touching yours in this small but significant way.

I reflected on this braid of roving I'm spinning up, and how Bev plucked it off my display line at my booth. She handed it to me, and asked me to spin it into sock yarn for her -- whenever I have time. She told me not to hurry, and I haven't -- we both knew, I'd get to it when I got to it, and we'd see each other several times in the future. There are a few people who regularly make requests for colourways they'd like to see, and there are a few people who see my dyed roving and ask me to set aside a specific braid to spin for them. I had someone ask me to make her "something I can make slippers with...any colour is fine." I made something, and she loves it.

I am very devoted to making relationships as I make transactions. Whenever possible, I eat out at a local restaurant where I know the owner by name, and where my husband attends the informal jam sessions on the weekend. Whenever possible, I buy my meat from the butcher who can tell me which farms each cut comes from, or the one who told me all about when his baby boy was going through a rough crying phase. I buy my groceries from a delivery service that often follows up my emails with phone calls, "just to make sure you're happy with everything," and those phone calls come from the same four or five people, not one of a thousand CSRs located somewhere in the Indian sub-continent.

And now, it seems that I'm on the seller side of some of these relationships. I couldn't be more tickled about it.