Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Someday, Son, If You're Really Lucky, You'll Inherit All My Tjap

I could not resist taking my first step into the world of batiking using Indonesian copper tjaps. They are a tool used in batiking. I thought they would be pronounced "tajap" or perhaps "jap", but it turns out they are pronounced "chop". Go figger.

The tjaps come in a variety of designs. Dharma Trading claims they are hard to come by, so they created a special mailing list, and whenever they get a pile of them, they send out a note and the crafting world goes wild. They say the last round sold out in 24 hours, and I'm not surprised. They must have a lot of interest, because their website heaved and whined when I got my mailnote and tried to look at them. In the end, I bought just one:

It will either end up being well utilized, or simply an interesting piece of decor. I am not sure which. I am not overly fond of working with wax, as I am messy and end up getting wax everywhere. But this does look interesting, and I certainly have a ton of different dyes that could be used. So we'll see.

This is a better idea of what they look like, from a site that has some really lovely ones, Batik Timbal:

They have a handle on the back to make dipping into the wax and then pressing onto cloth easier.

Yumm... Pickled Bunny Yarn

My cousin Michelle Pettinger was commenting on Facebook that she was looking for a recipe to dye t-shirts with leftover juice from canning beets. My thought, of course, was that intentionally canning beets rather than throwing them in the road was akin to mashing up lima beens in order to make a yummy lima bean butter. And of course I can't help but wonder if Michelle and her family will end up smelling like canned beets if they start soaking their clothes in beet juice.

Nonetheless, I have finally found a purpose for my canning jars, which I have been carrying around with me since college, for no good reason that I can think of. I found them under the kitchen sink, and now they are full of yarn.

Pickled Ocean Bunny Yarn
This yarn is made completely from angora that I dyed with my friend Val. My friend Cheryl Dunn provides me with the angora. I buy everything she produces, as it is my personal opinion that you can't have too much angora, not under any circumstances.

It is the colors of the ocean; greens and blues and greys. Sometimes when I was working with it, I thought it was more blue than green. And other times, I thought it was more green than blue. I honestly can't say for sure. It is fluffly, lumpy and bumpy, plied to itself, and just dreamy to hold on to. I am tempted to make it into a scarf, but worry that with my limited knitting skills, I would not do justice. I think, also, there is not enough yarn to make a scarf, so I was thinking that perhaps I should spin up some more angora... some white, maybe?

If you think you could make something delightful out of this, do let me know. Perhaps we could trade your knitting services for some of my stash. I do, after all, have quite a collection of fiber, yarn, and roving upstairs where my husband can't contemplate its magnitude.

So, for what it's worth, I think that this yarn would look fabulous as a scarf to complement a t-shirt that I bought at Coldwater Creek:

I must confess, I bought this shirt and brought it home, and my boys were so complimentary about it, that I started worrying about what would happen if I spilled something on it. So I marched back to the store, intent on buying another one. But then I got to thinking that if I were going to be the most gorgeously clad tee wearer, then I should share the wealth, so I bought two, one for me, and one for my dear sister-in-law Pat. I haven't gotten around to mailing it yet, but I am quite convinced that she will look wonderful in it.

I would save it to send as a Christmas present, but I'm afraid I can't remember anything, so it would end up eventually mushing into my laundry and before long I'd be sitting around trying to figure out why I have three t-shirts that all look alike. Sooo, it has got to go into the mail this week, come heck or high water.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Patrick Green Drum Carder on Craigslist

I just came across this on the Rochester craiglist:

Drum Carder- Patrick Green - $400 (Gates, NY)

Gently used Patrick Green Deb's Deluxe Drum Carder for sale. Used for preparing wool and other fibers for hand spinning. Includes doffing stick, brush, and 20 pages of notes and information that it came with. I bought this new and used is a little bit. It's in excellent condition. Sells new for $525.

I would buy it myself, but am fairly sure there is something in my marital vows about limiting the number of drum carders to two. I have a Patrick Green Electric Drumcarder, and I think it is the bee's knees, and I have Tom Anderson's manual Fancy Kitty drum carder.

But I must confess - and please, don't tell my husband - that even when you have two drum carders, you cannot help but suffer from drum carder lust as new ones become available. I have this same issue with vacuum cleaners.

If I were going to buy another electric drum carder, the one I would buy is called the Fancy Kitty Big Tom. My non-electric drum carder is a Fancy Kitty, and my adoration for this brand stems partly from having worn out the belt within the first six months. Tom replaced it free and didn't even make fun of me for finding a way to beat the belt off the carder so quickly.

It looks like you can control the speed on both the little drum and the big drum on the Fancy Kitty Big Tom, which looks really cool to me. I can only affect the larger drum on the Patrick Green. To properly appreciate the Big Tom, look up "electric drum carder" on youtube - the demos I've seen have these fiber artists just slapping the fiber down willy nillly. I have to be relatively careful with the Patrick Green to make sure I don't overload it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Treasures from This Summer's G-Sales

Oh yes, I do so enjoy a nice garage sale. For me it is like boutique shopping in a foreign city. One never knows what treasure will be found. My son and I like buying those incredibly useless toys that they advertise on tv; once you take them home you realize what a big waste of money they are. For example, the Crayola Crayon Making Machine, or whatever it is called. You only have to melt one crayon before you conclude that there are better ways to waste your life away. $1 for that knowledge. The Easy Bake Oven, a tried and true device that I remember well from my childhood. For a mere $2, my son quickly realized that you can make a lot more brownies a lot faster if you put them in a big pan in the oven.

But it is the fiber and craft related treasures that are the most interesting to me, of course. This year I felt very privileged to find the following:

1. Adirondack Backpack - I bought this because my mother's family is from the Adirondacks, and it seemed to me that I should have something displayed in my home that suggested as such. $20, worth every penny. Of course, I couldn't help but try to think of something to put in it.

This led to:

2. Canvas painting of a sheep. Which rolls up nicely in the Adirondack backpack, because I can't figure out what to do with the canvas painting of the sheep. Sigh. But you see, I had to buy it to remember why I want to try my hand at painting canvas floor mats. Now you're getting it, aren't you? This is all about having a collection of inspiration, just sitting there, inspiring me. Oh, wait, I just remembered, I bought the canvas painting of a sheep because I thought my friend Denise would like it. And then I got it home and thought, "Why would anybody want a canvas painting of a sheep?" But still, it is inspiration.

2. Teeny weeny handpainted baskets, one with a sheep on it - Honestly, I can't think of any purpose for these, but they look pretty sitting on my shelf. Given my feelings about sheep, you would think I wouldn't like to honor them, but really, the sheep just make me itchy, not... well, let's say witchy.

The wee  baskets, combined with this very cool Honeoye Falls basket that I did not paint myself (but did find at a garage sale), are my inspiration for floor cloths, described in Next on My List. Of course, I am waffling between something primitive versus something artsy and flowerly, like the paintings at Highland Hospital.

3. Those things you use when you are using a loom - $4. What a buy! Do I have a loom? Errr... well, no. I had a couple, but they were too big and cumbersome, and I honestly have no clue how to use them. But I liked the weaving utensils just the same.

If worst comes to worst, I theorize I could use these as a weapon in the event of a home invasion. "Wait a minute! Are you wonking me over the head with WEAVING TOOLS?"

4. An Indian wood cut - I went through a period a few years ago where I just LOVED watching Japanese wood cuts go for sale on ebay. Do I stamp designs on fabric, thus justifying the purchase? Errr... no. But if I were going to stamp designs on fabric, Japanese wood cuts would be at the top of my list.

Now I've just spent a few hours wandering on E-Bay, trying to find those wood blocks again, and of course I can't remember what they were called. I thought they started with a "k", but I've looked for Japanese wood blocks, wood cuts... the closest thing I found was "batik stamp", but those are made of copper. On, they have Indonesian Copper Batik Tjaps, but they sell out within 24 hours of arriving. This just leads to the inevitable question of when I should start investigating batik, a whole 'nother line of art interest. The closest I've found for wood blocks are at Zanzibar Trading. Sigh... now I find myself dithering over whether those copper tjaps are more interesting than the Indian or Japanese wood cuts.

5. Containment systems... sadly, I seem to have inherited a desire to put things in things, on things, over things, within things... So lately I've been buying glass jars of assorted shapes and sizes, within which to store my lovely fiber, because what good is it if you can't see it?

It kind of looks like I've taken to pickling my yarn

6. If you're going to have containment systems, then you sort of need a shelf. So I bought a shelf.

7. Magazines about knitting. Honestly, I should be shot for that. But I have these shelves, see, and magazines look nice on shelves. I'm not going to include a picture of the magazines, because I don't want you to know how many magazines about something I don't know how to do are in my house. Now if someone would come out with a magazine about knitting relatively rectangular things without actually following a pattern, because that requires too much attention, then we'd surely have something worth photographing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

She Spins, She Knits, SCORE!

My friend Theresa Jeane's tool of choice at a Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild meeting:

Hmmm... I'm thinking that maybe I should get one of these spindles so I can spin in the car. Not while I'm driving, mind you. Well, not usually, anyway.

Socks, Socks, Socks! Is That All You Can Think About?

So, if you suffer from fiber obsession, you see fiber opportunities everywhere you go. I have to admit, it gets kind of silly after a while. There I was, picking out new sandals, and look what came in the box:

Knitted Sock Display Stands

My friend Theresa Jeane also made these lovely socks, which of course are displayed on my handy display stands:

Yeah, we all need a little more socks in our lives, don't you think?

What Happened to Benny's Blue Bunny Yarn?

Ah, yes, think back to when I wrote about my favorite yarn, Benny's Blue Bunny Fiber is Ready to Be Knit! This particular yarn was a combination of 50% angora and 50% alpaca.

It took me a while, but I finally found someone who was up to the challenge. My friend Theresa Jeane used a combination of knitting and crocheting to make the most lovely sweater. I am afraid I am not doing it justice in this picture due to my hair issues. I have since sought counseling and am now the queen of the curling iron. I have no explanation for the stern look on my face - there we were in sunny Florida, on a lovely beach, and I went to a lot of trouble to haul all my knitted treasures to Florida just so I could get my husband to take a nice picture of me on the beach...

To reward Theresa for her fabulous work, I am trading this lovely concoction of hand-dyed carded moreno and alpaca fiber:

A Mother / Daughter Tag Team Project

This was one of my projects during the winter.

I really like blending caramel and light blue; they are favorite colors of mine.

Mom made this super cool hat from the yarn. Now I have a bunch of leftover balls of yarn, and I've been thinking of making a matching scarf... sort of a combination of knitting and weaving on my Weavette looms. Stay tuned...

Next on My List

I've finished spinning up the blue cashgora. I haven't decided what to do with it yet, though I do have an idea. Last week I sat around watching youtube videos, and I garnered a couple of ideas of things I want to try. First, I've always wondered how you drum card fiber into roving, instead of a batt. I found a video by Ruthann McCaulley that showed how to do it. I definitely want to try that out. I have blue silk that is the same color as the cashgora... I could blend that with sari silk and alpaca, perhaps, and then spin that up and ply it with the blue cashgora. Maybe add in some firestar... I have gold firestar. And I have blue firestar.

I've also been thinking that I would like to try painting up some canvas floorcloths. Canvas Floorcloths is the site that caught my attention. I must confess that if you walk into my front entrance and want to take off your shoes, you'll find yourself setting them down on a Santa Claus floormat that I bought at Walmart. I'd be embarrassed, but there are so many other things in my life to be embarrassed about that stepping on Santa in August seems to pale.

Anyway, you buy a prepainted floorcloth, and then paint away. I searched the web looking for examples of ones that I liked, and became convinced that the floorcloth makers of the world don't have one up on me. I think I could do better. I was thinking of trying to stencil some scene from the Honeoye Falls area. And then yesterday I was over at Highland Hospital (another long story), and they had the most amazingly cool painting on the wall. It was HUGE. Like 20 feet wide by 30 feet tall. I was totally inspired by that, and thought that it would be cool to make a floorcloth with flower designs. Downstairs in their radiation area, Highland has this super cool artwork on the walls of flowers that I presume are based on x-rays. Also very cool. Anyway, I may have to come back to all this.

For my next project, I also have been thinking about making a tablecloth from felted and woven fiber. I want to make a patchwork quilt that would go over our dining room table when it is not in use. I want to use a combination of wet felting and needle felting and embroidery and even weaving on my wee looms to make this concoction. But I have to mull over this idea for a while, as I haven't quite decided where to run with it.

The Dark Side of Angora

It seems that there is more to the question of what to do with angora than I had first realized. You'll recall, my friend Denise suggested I spin "straight bunny" - so, no blending in of alpaca or wool. In terms of things that make you go "ummmmm", spinning just bunny is the way to go. Just imagine spending hours on end feeling that luxurious fiber.

However, sadly, bunny has no crimp.

In a crimpless world, my friend Denise explained to me just yesterday, if the knitted angora item gets wet, it becomes limp. Inevitably, your angora item will become rather limp over time. So to compensate, you must either blend the angora in with some other crimpy fiber, or accept the limposity (my very newest word... some day I'll tell you about fartalicious, another new word). If you accept the limposity, then you just need to knit something that lends itself to limposity.

A shawl. A scarf. My friend Denise says that somebody from the Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild made a hat that was actually an angora hat then a wool hat, with the angora hat becoming the lining and brim of the wool hat. Using circular needles.

I own circular needles, but I'm not going to go getting all circular on you now, because I honestly have no idea how to use them. But my Mom likes to knit hats, so consider this my request to my friend Denise to the lady at guild or whomever else might have it to please let me have the pattern for the angora lined hat. I will then hand the task over to my Mom, who likes to knit hats and knows how to use a circular needle.

Now, just in case nobody comes back with a pattern, I have been googling, and I see another approach at:

This lady felts bunny into a strip and tacks that into the interior of her hat. I'll have to think about that. You can imagine that for me, if you're going to use bunny, it's bunny all the way.

Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm starting to wonder if all of the hats that my Mom has knit along the way couldn't be refurbished to include an angora lining. Wouldn't that be decadent?

It's All in the Presentation, Honey

So last week I decided that I needed some all out decadent, hedonistic joy in my life. Unfortunately, I had just weighed in with my son's Wii Fit, and had it chastise me for letting days pass without regaling it with my shoddy Wii Fit hula hooping skills, so heading to the store for more chocolate didn't seem like the right way to go.

So instead, I pulled out my last fiber purchase from the Shepherds' Market in Rush, NY. Yes, it was there that I got a bug up my butt and insisted on buying all the marine blue dehaired cashgora that Black North Fiber had to sell. Sorry, when I indulge, I do not do it in snippets. Nosiree, I suffer from a completion obsession, so I cannot leave anything behind. People who buy an ounce of fiber and then make a sweater or a trenchcoat out of it are to be admired, but they are not me. I never know what will be made of my spun creations, and I hate to think that I might go back to the vendor and discover that someone else has bought the last bit of something for which I need more, more, more. So I ended up with a collection of this lovely soft fiber. And so I began to spin.

And spin.

And spin some more.

Up close and personal with the cashgora. How's that for a color?

Now, my normal procedure is to complete spinning one project before starting the next. But life took a turn for the worse, and I found I needed to raise the bar on my decadent, hedonistic joy in life. So I went upstairs and pulled out the bunny.

Oh, yes, the bunny.

But, it was kind of dark upstairs when I had this epiphany, so I stuck my hand in a bin, felt up the contents until I hit the land of angora, and dragged down the bag and started spinning. Straight from the bag. No extra prep.


The spinning went pretty well. Normally, I blend the bunny in with other fibers, but my friend Denise had advised me of the virtues of spinning "straight bunny", so that's what I did.

In the morning, in the true light of day, I discovered that my bag o' bunny didn't look all that good. In fact, I worried that I was creating ugly bunny, a diservice to the angoras of the world.

So I stopped and switched back to the soft cashgora and discovered a terrible terrible thing.

Once you spin bunny, you never want to go back.

Yes, it's true. That wonderful cashgora felt like I was spinning macrame twine. So I switched back to the ugly bunny. Then back to the macrame twine.

Please note, you should not conclude from this that cashgora isn't a lovely soft fiber. It is merely that the bunny is so overwhelmingly softer than just about anything else that the cashgora temporarily lost its luster for me.

Then back to the bunny. More ugly bunny. And then, suddenly, in the light of day, I noticed that the ugly bunny was spinning up LOVELY. Yessir. You might want to fight your way into my house and wrest the spun bunny away from me. It is that nice.

Somehow, the ugly bunny, which was festering in a Glad Bag looking all muddled, with a piece of masking tape stuck to the bag that just said "Bunny", has turned into a delightful meld of grey (I overdyed some grey in there, apparently) and all the luscious colors of the ocean. Stand back. I am now feeling so utterly complacent in my satisfying decadence that I am actually thinking of KNITTING THE FORMERLY UGLY BUNNY.

oh glory be, I am BACK!

Please forgive my extended disappearance. Life got away from me. But now I am back, so please forgive the tidal wave of blog entries coming out.