The Need for Knit

When I started this blog last February my first post was a fairly detailed explanation of just why I call this blog  Knitting In the Apocalypse.  Please feel free to go back and read that first post.  But, put briefly, the premise is this:  We all face crises in our lifetime.  Those that are capital Apocalypse, the things that affect many people on a large scale and the lowercase apocalypse, the things that are mainly our own personal wrestlings.  I, like many people, find solace and therapeutic value in working with my hands.

In my recent interview with Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer she mentioned this very thing.  She said that she was often most productive in her knitting during times of great stress, that the very act of picking up her needles caused her heart rate to slow and her tensions begin to ease. There’s even a podcast on YouTube called Stress Knits for the same reason.  It’s a common theme.

There have been a lot of changes for me in recent years.  Moving from Asia back to America, working in fairly stressful jobs, and simply the ups and downs and frustrations of normal life.  Like Maggie, I find myself reaching my needles more often during those times of high stress.  Each and every time I do, especially during those times, it is as if I discover its benefits all over again.  I will reach the end of a day, I will find a comfortable spot, pick up one of my projects and as soon as yarn flows over my fingers and the fabric grows and moves across the needles I think to myself,  as if for the first time, “I really LOVE this!”.  It’s like magic.

Right now, there’s a feeling of lowercase apocalypse happening.  There’s nothing dire happening.  Everyone’s healthy and projects and goals I have are inching forward, often more slowly than I’d like, but forward is forward.  In fact, if there was something even smaller than a lowercase version of this, that’s where I’d be.  The only things I have to stress me are that my garden needs weeding very badly,  my chicken coop is still not built, and some unexpected car repairs came up.  Annoying to be sure, but really, really small in the grand scheme of things.

So I was a little taken aback with how stressed I was feeling.  My logic and intellect recognized the “ordinariness” of these things, but my nerves just plain didn’t care.  But then it slowly dawned on me, in dealing with all these things the amount of time I was actually spending with my knitting had decreased pretty drastically.  I am rarely without a project bag close to hand to be sure, but I just hadn’t been able to reach for it as often.

The epiphany happened during one of the times I actually did get to sit for a bit with the Taina shawl I Tainahave been working on.  As I began knitting and I had that “I REALLY love this!!” moment, as I always do, I suddenly realized just how little time I had been spending doing this.   Like anyone who requires medication to manage mental or physical health issues, I saw at once that I had gone off my meds.  I’m thinking my family realized it before I did :).  But once I did catch sight of it, I knew I needed to get back on track.

This was really good news.  It meant I had an easy, tried and true solution AND it meant some of my languishing projects were going to get the love they needed.

I currently have 3 projects on the needles.  Besides the Taina shawl I am working on my Vanilla Latte socks and a double knit square for a blanket I am making.

I would have to say that currently Taina is my favorite.  Other than having to watch carefully on the rows that create the eyelet patterns it is simple garter stitch and very relaxing to knit.  It is definitely a good go-to when you want something to help you just recenter yourself and breathe.

As I mentioned in One for the Road I like to have things that challenge me in my knitting skills.  While knitting the Vanilla Latte’ sock I have been learning to Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  This has definitely been a challenge, but I think that once I get the hang of it, it will be one of my favorite heels.  In fact, once this pair is completed I plan to make several more pairs using it to become confident in it before learning a new heel technique.  Perhaps I will try the Strong Heel since Maggie was such a fan of it.

In terms of progress I am about to close the toe on the first sock and preparing to start the heel on the second.  Since I am very close to finishing my shawl, I think this pair will get the attention it’s been lacking and will be completed very soon.

Finally, I’m working on a double knit square.  Here is where I have to be mysterious and covert.  This is for a blanket I am intending to give as a gift for someone who may or may secretnot read this post.  So I must deprive you of the details for today.  But once this blanket is finished, which will be quite awhile I’m afraid, I will post pictures and tell you about the fun and trials and travails of creating it.  I am so, so close to the end of this particular square, but I made some mistakes in the last row I completed and had to put it down and take a break before I went back to it with fresh energy to see if I can deal with them.  Because there is a knit stitch and a purl stitch for each stitch it takes a good long time to do make things in this style.  I am literally 3 rows away from completion of this square so I am dreading the thought of not being able to repair it.  I may have to call in extra help on this one.  But I have every reason to hope it can be rescued and I can look forward to beginning the next one.

Breathing and Knitting.  Knitting and Breathing.

My apocalypses shrink in size if I remember to make time for these things.

I REALLY love that.

Peace,

Jamye

P.S. Finished Object!!

tainaclosetaina

 

 

 

Living and Dyeing

I love getting packages in the mail.  Who doesn’t?  When I was in elementary school there was a song we learned in music class called the “Wells Fargo Wagon”.  The first line was:  Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a’comin’ down the street.  Oh, please let it be for meeeee….”.

It was the UPS or FedEx of its day.  Whenever I see the trucks for either of these companies, that song pops into my head.  True story.

It’s been a good week for me. Because packages.  I have decided to start exploring the wilds of dyeing my own yarns.  I’ve spent enough time drooling over the yarn porn of the various Indie yarn dyers and decided it is time for me to join the fun.

This past week I ordered a variety of supplies to get me started.  I had already ordered a copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan and begun reading it. I’ve been scavenging my cupboards and garage and thrift stores for tools that can be dedicated to dyeingbookthis process.  THIS week I finally started ordering the fun stuff.  In the mail I received 3 undyed skeins of wool of various type and weight, a sampler pack of 6 dyes, citric acid, a  yarn swift, and ok, so I threw in a new set of really pretty straight knitting needles.

Don’t judge.

Naturally these things all arrived the day before Father’s Day weekend.  This is a big event at our house and almost all of Saturday was spent cooking, with occasional spurts of cleaning.  We definitely had a great time with our family get together, but this also kept me from getting on with the fun!!!! 

I am not a patient person.

After I had ordered the supplies (but before they could arrive) I decided to do a bit of experimenting while I waited.  I happened to have on hand the remnants of a skein of undyed Tibetan Yak wool that had been given to me as a gift.  I had knit up a really nice cowl in the natural color but I still had a small ball left.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching knitting and dyeing podcasts.  As a result I had seen various ways of dyeing with food coloring.  I had undyed wool.  I had food coloring.  I had materials on the way.  I did not have patience.  Time to start.

I wasn’t really worried about perfection this time,  I just wanted to begin learning the process.  So after watching some tutorials,  I just jumped right in.

Without really measuring I pulled out several yards of the yak wool, pulled the white vinegar and food coloring from my pantry and got rolling.

For my first attempt I wanted a good purple that was more on the red side rather than blue.  So after my yarn had soaked and the water and been brought up to heat I started adding in the red and the blue.  I stirred the colors together and dipped a white piece of paper towel in to get a sense of the shade I had created until I was ready to try.  When I was done I had a very respectable reddish purple that I dubbed “Untrod Grape”.

untrod

This picture is not the greatest, it definitely shows as more brown, but in real life this is a nice shade of red-purple.  Take my word for it.

I’m working on my lighting.  I promise.

This, of course, only spurred me on.

 

Time for another tutorial on a different technique.  So:

I wound off another few yards of yak wool and went for phase 2.  From what I’ve read and heard I know you have to be careful when using multiple colors or you are just going to wind up with muddy water.  Which sounds like a funky colorway name, but not really what I was aiming for.

I only had the basic four set food color pack and I was curious to see how the colors would interact together.  After the prerequisite soaking in vinegar water, I carefully arranged my wool in the warm water.  I did careful drips of alternating color repeating each color twice.  I let this simmer together just long enough to start to have some blend but still retain each color.

I was a little surprised at the end product:

I think if the simmer time would have been slightly shorter the original colors would have been more obvious. Still, I’m not displeased with the result.  Since it has very Autumnal colors and tones to it, I decided it should be called October Hike.  I think this would look very nice as a cowl with a denim jacket.

I find it rather amazing the wide range of colors and tones you can create with just 4 very basic colors.  With my new stock of colors waiting for me and far more to choose from when I’m ready, it makes me feel like the possibilities are endless.  I like that feeling.

In both attempts I was just going by instinct and playing in my choosing, mixing,  and blending.  But when I truly get started I plan to keep careful notes and compile all the techniques and color recipes I like best into a notebook.

When fiber enthusiasts shop for yarns and wools,  some shop for just the right materials for an already planned project.  Others find inspiration as they browse and select yarns and colors for an as yet to be determined item.  I do a little of both.  Some skeins I just cannot walk away from even if I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with it.

I suspect my experiments with dyeing will be much the same.  I’ve now taken one yarn dyeing class and done these two attempts at home.  Each time I really liked what I wound up with but each time it was a little different than the picture I had started with in my head.  I think that is true of almost any creative pursuit though.   I am certain, with time and practice, I will be able to produce and repeat the colors that I want.  I also think that the creative Muse is a whimsical mistress and always has a glint of mischief in her eye when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

To the discoveries ahead,

Jamye

 

 

Studio Loading…..

I hope you can all forgive me for the brevity of this post, as well as how late I am in getting it posted.  If you read Floods, Fibers and Family you will know this is a busy time for me.

What is relevant for us here today is that my daughter and her family have relocated to their new (and awesome!) home.  This meant (Oh, Happy Day) I could reclaim my studio which had been converted into a bedroom for the duration of their stay.

So this week has been a spring cleaning/ rearranging/setting up my studio.  In the midst of this I have a friend who has downsized and gifted me with some furniture she no longer had need of.  This included two really great shelving units perfect for a studio.

Here are some pictures of the “work in progress” shots from the studio:

studio1

Studio2

studio3

studio4

This is not even remotely finished, of course.  It WOULD be if I didn’t have to also clean the rest of my house! Sheesh.  But I’m pretty happy to get  this rolling again.  This is my Creative Think Tank and I’m looking forward to the projects I will make, the skills I will learn and going “confidently (or more like, determinedly) in the directions of my dreams.

 

See you all next week!

Jamye

asif

….or the studio.

Floods, Fibers and Family

It’s been quite an interesting weekend in our little spot on the Earth.  I don’t have much to relate to you in the category of Finished Objects or new Works in Progress, but I think, once you’ve read this article, you will understand.

In a recent discussion with my knitting buddies, Jen and Maggie, I learned about a Yarn Con held annually in Chicago.  This was the first I had heard about it and I was EXCITED.  I really, really want to go to one of the larger festivals and Chicago is only around 6 hours away so this was a reasonable goal for me.  But when I went online to check when it was being held, I was disappointed to discover it has already come and gone for this year.  THIS will be a goal added to my New Year’s Resolutions for next year.

However, in the meantime I was looking forward to a smaller, but much closer event, the Boonville Pioneer Fiber and Music Festival, which was being held only 30 minutes away.  I can be content with that… for now.  Being budget conscious (whether I want to be or not) I set aside an allowance of spending money.  NOT that I don’t already have some lovely yarns all lined up in queues waiting patiently for their turn for love and attention, but if I go to a concert I want a T-Shirt (BOSTON!) and if I go to a yarn festival, same principle applies.

As it happens, this Festival fell on a very busy weekend.  My oldest daughter and her family had been staying with us while they were house hunting. This had taken several months, but they had finally found an amazing place in the area they wanted and THIS was the moving weekend.  Ok.key

Next up, my second daughter’s birthday had been the past Thursday, so we were celebrating that at my house.  No simple cake and ice cream.  Our family likes to get together and cook Chinese food together due to living in China for several years.  This was what she wanted to do for her birthday.  Ok.

wok

And THEN the rains came, and came, and….well, you get it.  Suffice it to say, there was a lot going on in that 48 hour time span.

However, the disappointment of having been denied Yarn Con being so fresh I would be going to the fiber festival.  I dutifully put in the address to my GPS in order to find the most efficient route there.  However the heavy rains meant having to find alternative routes to reach my objective.  Fortunately, I was vaguely familiar with the area so I could make adjustments without becoming completely lost.  It may have been my imagination, but the GPS lady did start to sound slightly miffed when I continued to disregard her directions (since I didn’t pack my snorkel) but eventually I arrived safe and dry.

Sonya
Sonya on the left with her smirky-smile

If you read Yarn, Colors, and Friends you will recall Sonya, who taught me my first ever yarn dyeing class.  She was the co-organizer of this Festival and had clearly done her hard work.  There was an interesting variety of vendors at the venue.  Although the Fiber Arts figured heavily in the theme there were also those who brought their local honey, pottery, quilts, and a variety of other crafts.

After taking a tour and chatting with several people, I finally settled in at Sonya’s booth to sit, knit, and chat with some of the others there.  One thing I enjoy most about doing this is being able to engage in interesting conversations about knitting, yarns, fibers, current projects and knitting techniques with other people who are as interested in these things as I am.  Being a person who is both verbal AND passionate I cannot help talking about the craft that I love, but with my non-knitting friends and family if I am not careful, I look up to see that I have carried on too long, the eyes have glazed over, and it’s time to find more “Muggle-y” topics to talk about.

During the course of this conversation I talked with a woman who had grown her own cotton to harvest, card, and process into yarn for knitting.  I was fascinated by this.  This is exactly the kind of thing I would love to do, although I would probably choose a wool of some kind.  It was a very enjoyable time.

Since my weekend was still packed with the many other things, listed above, I had to wind down and head back.  But not before picking up two really beautiful skeins of yarn, fiberista

some progress keepers,

stitch

some beautiful pottery buttons for future projects,

and a button to flash at my husband (the chocoholic) the next time he mentions my yarn stash.

chocolate

It was brief, but sweet.

 

The next day was an endless stream of moving boxes, watching children, cooking, and eating going from one thing to the next almost without pause, but it was wonderful.

My oldest daughter and her family are moved and getting settled into their very own home after renting for years.

We were able celebrate my second daughter’s birthday with time together and really good food.

Am I tired? Very.  But a good tired.  We are reorganizing our house back to functional again, with a studio and work room (more about that later) and at the end of the day I relax with a drink in my hand, yarn in my lap, as I scroll through patterns dreaming what to make next.

To the Fibers that knit us together (yes, I went there :),

Jamye

wine

Yarn, Colors, and Friends

This past Saturday I went to my first ever yarn dyeing class.  I have been itching (not dying, avoiding bad puns here) to do this for a long time.  In the last few months as a part of my knitty, fiber-loving journey I decided that this was the next stop.  As I watched podcasts and explored the many and wonderful online shops that sell hand-dyed yarn and saw all the amazing colorways and creative and intriguing names I knew that this was something I wanted to do.

My lovely pussy-hat wearing and proofreading friend Jen knew Sonya, owner of City Stitch Yarn Shoppe  who teaches a variety of classes and she arranged one to teach us how to dye.  Jen and I were joined by our friend Maggie Orr.  Maggie is a designer on Ravelry with numerous beautiful patterns both free and paid.  You can find her patterns on her Maggie Menzel page.

The day of the class was beautiful day and only a 30 minute drive to the location (music blasting).  Sonia, our teacher, was the ideal instructor, full of experience, sound information, and with a personality that kept things both calm and fun.

While the skeins of undyed yarn (100% Merino) were soaking in hot water on the stove to prep them for taking dye, we chose our colors.  Since we were working as a group we had to agree on 5 colors between us.  We settled on Gunmetal Grey, Teal, Orange, Purple, and Dark Blue.

Sonia had set up a screen laying over plastic containers for each of us.  When the skeins were ready each of us laid ours in a long oval donut on the screen just over the containers. We needed to work while the yarn was still hot so each of us began selecting the colors which were in squirt bottles, like the ketchup bottles you would see at a diner, and began applying the colors.  We would apply a color here or there, another color, step back and contemplate the look and then chose which color was needed next.  Once we were satisfied with the look, we carefully flipped the skein over and repeated the process on the other side.   We checked for sections that had not been reached by the dye and “filled in the blanks” with more color.

Once we were happy with our products we carefully squeezed the yarn with our fingers to help lightly blend colors that were adjacent to each other.

The next step took us to the sink to rinse our yarn with hot water until it ran clear.

Then Sonia said, “This is the part where the neighbors look at you funny”.  We all trooped outside and, right on a busy street, swung our brilliant lassos of yarn to spin out as much of the moisture as possible.

Jen, who lives near the shop, offered to take them all home to hang and dry and bring them back to the shop for skeining before Wednesday Knit Night.

We were all so excited to begin dyeing that none of us thought to take pictures of the class.  But we did capture the end results.

Here is a pic of mine in the drying stage:

handdyed

Now keeping in mind that, while we each chose different colors to work with, we were still drawing from the same pool of 5 colors.  Here are each of our works in the skein:

3skeinsI love how the very different results show the creativity and personality of each one of us.  So amazing the endless variety and artistry that each of us can create.

We, of course, had a great time selecting fitting names for our colorways. The top skein is my “Galaxy Dust” since it has a darker tone but with pops of color.  The middle skein is Maggie’s, it hinted at a green pool inhabited by goldfish.  This became “Koi Dreaming”.  Jen’s with its deep blues, greens,  and grays made us think of the colors of the deep ocean.  So it was christened “Mariana Trench”.

After bringing it home I caked it up and then knit up a small swatch to see how the colorway knit up.  This was my result:

cake

This lighting is not ideal, but I can say I’m really pleased with how this is working up.  It is a fingering weight yarn, but has no nylon, so I will not be making socks with this one.  I’m considering a Space-themed shawl to touch on both the name of this colorway as well as my recent shawl knitting streak.  But I’m going to sit and admire it for a while before deciding just what it should become.

I’m really looking forward to digging deeper into the art of yarn dyeing and exploring the variety of colorways that can be created.  To that end I’ve purchased :dyeingbook

I can’t wait to read, learn and experiment.  Soon I expect to see strands of color hanging from my back porch as they dry.  Oh, the joy.

In other News:

For those of you who enjoyed Yarn, Spring, and All Good Things and are wondering how our chicks are doing.  I am happy to report that they all seem to be thriving.  They have graduated from brooder to coop but have not yet made their first foray outside.  I check on them regularly and while I hope they will become more accustomed to my presence, right now I am still a big, scary monster, it seems.

Things are greening up around the homestead and I’ve been doing a roll call of herbs to see what has come back this year. So far Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Balm, and Mint have shown themselves.  I’m considering what will be revived or added to the herb garden.  Today I potted Basil, Cilantro, and sowed some German Chamomile for tea.  There will definitely be other additions, but I am still choosing just what those will be.

Since I’m still reveling in the joy of the creative process my wish for you is that you will thoroughly enjoy whatever creative outlet you claim as your own.

Peace,

Jamye

 

 

Yarn, Spring, and All Good Things

Any day yarn arrives in the mail is a good day.darngood

Any day baby chicks come home with you for your first flock is a good day.

chicks

Any day you can spend time with two of the cutest boys on the planet is a good day.

cute

I have had a seriously, extravagantly, perhaps unfairly good day.

Forgive me for reveling, but everyone deserves a day like that from time to time.  I’m grateful for the ones that come my way. Continue reading “Yarn, Spring, and All Good Things”

One for the Road

I’m not that monogamous.  But only when it comes to books and knitting, my husband doesn’t have a thing to worry about.couple

Many knitters refer to themselves as being Monogamous–sticking to one project until its completion or

NOT Monogamous–having a variety of project on the needles at the same time.

I fall firmly in the second camp when it comes to this. Continue reading “One for the Road”