We interrupt the scheduled programme…

…of joyous creativity to announce a tragedy.

At 8.00 this morning, the Clarice bag departed this world.

This beautiful, vibrant – nay, fluorescent creature went into the washing machine last night for felting. Sadly, this morning, it was found in a semifelted condition, almost completely bereft of Kool-Aid colour.

The only colour to survive, however slightly, is the one I dyed with Turmeric (yes, the spice. It’s pretty good, no need for acid, salt, nasty chemicals – just spice and boiling water. Works for cotton too).

And not one photograph did I take before I put it in the washing machine.

So, what did I do wrong? I did a fair bit of research before going into this, and all of it suggested that Kool-Aid dyed wool felted pretty well. Slight fading but not too serious, more of an advantage given how eye-wateringly bright Kool-Aid can be. A quick whizz though my sources reveals no mention the optimal wash temperature, though: my machine was set for a boil wash, which, in retrospect, was probably too hot. It was stupid o’clock in the morning, I’d stayed up to finish it ready for felting, and I was overcome with the desire to have my widdle baggie-waggie first thing in the morning: not my best chemistry thinking time.

Back to the drawing board, then. I still want to make this, but I’ll do some test swatches and try a few different temps first. I’d also like to re-jig the chart: Coss seems to assume square rather than rectangular stitches, and comes out very wide and short when knit up. It produced a lovely oblong shape for the bag, but the flowers were a bit stretched.

So, I return you to your normal scheduled programme with this cautionary bit of advice: don’t wash your Kool-Aid dyes at 90deg until further notice.

ETA: When life gives you lemons, stick ’em down your blouse to make your boobs look bigger! I’m going to use the bag to learn to steek! and maybe needle-felt! Not that I see myself making anything that ever requires either skill, but I’d imagine you could do a zombie some damage with a felting needle…

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Monster Post III – Rav Rave!

This is me, wearing my February Lady cardi, ensconced in the First Class carriage, crocheting a mobile phone sock, on my way to UK Ravelry Day 2009! It’s a bit fuzzy because the train was vibrating with speed, but it’s the best of six or eight that I took, including a charmingly smeared one of my bum as a particularly sharp jolt knocked the camera out of my hand. Nonetheless, it is proof, if such were needed, of my attendance.

I abandoned Tiny Husband and the Mighty Offspring at silly o’clock for a Saturday morning, and tore off determined to arrive for the opening. Sadly, it was not to be. The bus to the centre arrived later and took longer to travel than I had allowed for, so all was in full swing when I arrived.

It was actually a little intimidating walking into the hall knowing it was full of fibre enthusiasts. I didn’t dare take my rain coat off at first, for fear of people throwing tomatoes at me for my February Lady blasphemy. Or something equally irrational. I got a coffee and sighed over the lovely cakes I daren’t even breathe around, and checked out the competition. But despite the tight confines of the entrance hall, everyone seemed quite jolly, pushing and shoving their way round very politely. I risked putting the raincoat in my shopping trolley (for, friends, I was on a mission), sucked in a fortifying breath, and tried a little eye contact. No tomatoes. Oh good. Then I saw Rooknits, who organises the knitting meet-up that I, er, occasionally attend, helping hand out programmes, and wearing – yes! – her own FLS. Completely different to mine, barely skimming her hips in a variegated purple Malabrigo, and just looking so much lighter. Mine is, you know, heavy. Cotton. A quick word, and I went to pick up some goodies, including a Rav badge.

I had not scheduled anything for the morning to give me a chance to wander round and soak up the atmosphere. On my way into the main hall, a couple of people stopped me to look at the FLS, and one took a photo. The Knitter magazine, which was sponsoring the event, had a photographer there taking pictures of individual knitters in their finery. I made sure to walk past slowly and ostentatiously, and they totally ignored my orange and black 60s-inspired take on the world’s most popular sweater!! Which didn’t improve my misgivings about it… And as if to add insult to injury, on my final  promenade, the photographer’s assistant – or the fashion director, who knows – dived shrieking towards me – and grabbed the woman behind me. Who was wearing an ill-fitting, sangria-vomit-coloured… sack thing, that she protested she hadn’t even had time to finish seaming or weaving in on (which was very obvious) before coming to the event. It was a shambles, but the PA/FD just would not release the poor woman, dragging her kicking and screaming up on the stage and propping her up with threats and menaces as she tried to hide her face in shame inside the lopsided half-sewn collar… Maybe it was some hellishly expensive yarn – they always seem to look like some variant on puke – or a pattern by some high-flown designer. I clearly don’t have good enough taste or fashion sense to tell. Maybe – no, undoubtedly – it would have looked better properly finished and blocked. Who cares – I was miffed, insulted, ready to throw the bloody FLS in the trolley, certain it was every crappy thing I worried it was (tacky, ugly, unflattering, laughable, grannyish…). Sometimes I am a very small person.

The hall was bustling quietly. Someone was doing a demo of spinning in historical costume, on a very large, very homemade looking wheel. I couldn’t place the era, and don’t know enough about spinning to identify any more than that, and was still feeling too shy to stop her and ask questions. There was a selection of fabulous felted hats, some military, on her stall, but sadly none for sale. The most amazing thing was a set of carders (?) that I didn’t even see until I was leaving the hall later. Instead of bristles, they had large burr seeds attached! That just amazed me. Of course, what would you use before manufacturing gave you the option of inserted-bristle brushes? It’s so obvious and ingenious.

I wandered about for a bit, looked everything, then headed out into the bucketing rain to wander round the stalls. The first thing to see was this adorable pair of alpacas. There were a few people, as I passed back and forth, who bemoaned the terrible conditions the poor little things were suffering in the rain. I inadvertently sniggered the first time I heard one, earning a glare, but really? They come from the Andes (full of alloo-ARRRR!), which is Spanish for ‘some of the most extreme environmental conditions found on this planet’: Coventry must be a cake walk for them. They certainly seemed to be coping with the downpour and the crowds with typical camellid insouciance, though of course they may just have been stoned on the comparatively oxygen-rich atmosphere.

I bought some alpaca fibre at another stall, lovely deep black stuff that I will one day pluck up the nerve to spin. However, I was really after Jameson and Smith’s stall. I wanted to get a colour card (done, and then some – I think I got every colour card there!) and possibly some yarn. So I picked up 10 skeins in a lovely honey green, which I hope to run up in a Japanese pattern from Hitomi Shida’s 250 Couture Knit Stitch Patterns, to which I treated myself on YesAsia. I also somehow accidentally walked off with some 1-ply cobweb in a lace scarf kit. No idea how that happened, or how that huge sack of Shetland spinning fibre came to be in the bag with it – if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that lace and I are not mutually compatible. And my first response to thread is to whip out a steel crochet hook visible only under electron microscope – not big fat knitting needles! And it’s PINK!!! Gooey, sickly, sugar-pink at that. Nonetheless, I cast on Meg Swansen’s talk and did a respectable amount before having to rip back due the inevitable stitch-count issues.

In the afternoon, I attended a natural dyeing workshop, run by Debbie… Barton? Sorry, the name is gone. There, I went a little mental, discovering previously unsuspected enthusiasm for the Madd Colorzz as long as I was in charge of the dye pots. The result is the red and green ball on the right – the ball on the left is some leftover mordanted Jamieson & Smith jumperweight that we were told to take away. I dyed it a lovely deep gold with onion skins – not terribly even but mouthwatering. I mean that btw, I’m dribbling on the keyboard just thinking about it. I call them Rhubarb and Crumble respectively. There might be enough for a faux Fair Isle tam, but I’d probably best knit it from the top/centre down just to be on the safe side.

I also picked up some smaller size KnitPicks (now Knit Pro in the UK) interchangeable tips and longer cables to go with my kit, and some of their multi-coloured Symphonie wooden cable needles – not that I need them, or will ever likely use them, as I think the scoring on them would tear up the yarn, but I can’t say no to a cable needle… Tried to get some Soak, but the only bottles left were scented and didn’t appeal. Was sorely tempted by Poems of Colour, but it was sold out too apart from the stall copy. I did finally settle on The Opinionated Knitter, and got it signed by Meg Swansen!

Meg’s talk was great fun. She read briefly a few extracts from her mother’s books – mostly The Opinionated Knitter, which at this point I hadn’t bought. I’ve always liked Elizabeth Zimmerman’s tongue-in-cheek humour, and it translated well in the talk. Most of the talk was taken up with answering questions from the floor on any and all topics related to Elizabeth, Meg herself, Schoolhouse Press, etc. I hadn’t expected any laugh out loud moments, but there were plenty. At one point, someone asked about the February Lady Sweater, and whether Elizabeth would have approved of this adaptation of the Baby Sweater on Two Needles (Knitter’s Almanac). In her reply, Meg asked for all the people in the hall wearing a FLS to stand up – and at least 20, probably more like 30, stood up! I may have lost my stitch count at this point. All different colours and fibres, on all different sizes and shapes. After the talk, when I queued up to get my new copy of The Opinionated Knitter signed, Meg was very complimentary about my fitted FLS, and asked a lot of questions about how I’d done it (yes, I know I have to put something together about that). So, sucks to the The Knitter! Validation from the foal’s mouth!

Momma gotta brand new bag!

I do! I will!

I’ve been having a go at dyeing wool, using Kool-Aid (right, top) and food colouring and vinegar (right, bottom). I have loads of undyed 4ply which I am probably never going to use up otherwise. The plan is to double-ply it and knit and full (felt) myself a bag. I love Clarice Cliff so I just had to get a copy of Melinda Coss’s Art Deco Knits when it came up on eBay. I’ve had it for a while but the designs are so 80s that I’ll never knit anything from it. However, it would be a pity not to make something. So I thought bags. The first one with be a straightforward knit-up of a sleeve, but if/when I do more, I might try to mimic the shapes of Clarice Cliff’s pottery as well.

I wound off approximately 2oz (50g), skeined it on the back of a chair and tied it loosely with waste acrylic yarn. I washed it in cool water with a little liquid soap, making up the dye bath while it soaked briefly. The Kool-Aid dye bath consisted of 2 sachets dissolved with cool water, in a microwaveable pot (I used a soon-for-the-bin micro pressure cooker) – except for the purple (top, far right) for which I used 4 sachets. The food-colouring dye bath was approximately half a bottle (20ml) of Supercook food-colouring and a good glug of Sarson’s Distilled White Vinegar, in cool water. I didn’t bother rinsing the wool clear of the soap – I read somewhere that it actually might help the dyeing process – and lowered it into the dye bath, adding more water to make sure it was completely covered. A good shuggle of the pot to mix it up, then into the microwave for 2-minute bursts – mine has a default setting of 750W – with 2mins rest between, when I poked it a bit with a whisk to keep it under the bath. For most, the dye bath was clear after about 4 or 5 bursts like this. I then left the wool in the depleted dye bath overnight to cool, though it only needs to reach room temperature. I washed the wool gently in cool water to remove any excess dye, and left it to dry on a radiator. I’ve double plied two already into pullcakes with my Daruma Home Twister (left).

The results of the dyeing were overall pretty fabulous, even if I do tootle me own flute. The colours on the whole are clear and vibrant, and I’m particularly pleased with the good, dense black, which I really didn’t think would come out well at all. Instead, it’s about the best of the bunch, much better than the pic shows. The food-colouring green is lovely too – a nice strong organic sagey colour. I’m very fond of the Kool-Aid turquoise (second from left), and the red (second from right) is lovely and pure too. The food-colouring blue is a huge disappointment though, all patchy. It was my first attempt at food-colouring dye: on some advice from tinterwebs, I soaked it overnight in the dye bath before zapping it. Damn you, tinterwebs! Once more you bring me wrongness! It was actually worse than it looks now: I cooled it, added more blue and, in a fit of poorly-remembered colour-theory madness, a splash of red and zapped it again. It’s better, but it suffers from the madd colorz yet, poor fluff. Saying this, I could probably whip up a bidding frenzy of Wollmeisian proportions on Etsy with the foul stuff. Many’s the fool would promise me their firstborn* for it…

Next time, I will make sure to loosen up the strands within the skein, and tie them VERY VERY LOOSELY indeed. So loosely indeed that they were virtually UN-tied. Even though I thought I’d got them loose enough, they still affected the dye penetration on the first batch. It doesn’t matter much, since I’ll be using them double-plied and then felting.

The Kool-Aid colours are, from left to right:
Orange and Lemonade (one sachet each) – light, bright orange
Berry Blue – turquoise
Lemon-Lime – bright sap green
Black Cherry – reddish-brown marroon
Watermelon Cherry – peachy pink
Tropical Punch – pure red
Grape – mid-purple. Not entirely successful.

Other craftiness: a forgotten pair of socks. Sue me. How many pairs have I done? These are claret, ribbed in the leg and down the top of the foot. And another pair, 5-row stripes in red and navy blue. And yet another: Tiny husband’s Regia Bamboo socks are finally finished. And as if that wasn’t enough, a dinky pair of ankle socks for Ickle Baby Cthulhu from the left-over Bamboo. The photos are crap. Don’t know what’s wrong with the camera.

I also made myself a fake Fair Isle tam. Not that I couldn’t make a real one, but I saw the patterns and thought “Oooh!” and “An excuse to use some of that variegated Teddy Picasso** in the camouflage colourway that I unaccountably like so much, without people necessarily catching me out being hypocritical”. So I went at it like a demented thing, so maddened by the promise of fiendish skultammery goodness that I didn’t check stitch counts or anything, finished it in 24hrs – and promptly lost it to the offspring. Seriously. I spend ages working out significant and meaningful Aran symbols for a tam for him, and he won’t touch it. I risk my mental health at the eight legs of monstrous yarn worshippers to make him a Spiderman hat that lies despised and cobwebbed in a corner until I give it to his friend Harryweb. Not to mention all the unbelievably cute little hats for which I don’t even have photos, because they got chucked out of the pram! But let me even day-dream about a hat for someone else – TH’s BS Johnson, my fake Isle tam, his Spiderman hat now that it’s Harryweb’s… – and he WANTS IT NOW. The bottom two pics are his response to mild suggestions that he give Mommy back her special hat.

“Ye can tak awa ma dignity, but ye’ll nivver tak ma tam!!!”.***

TTFN
K

P.S. I treated myself to a spinning workshop for my birthday!! Now, once I get a proper spindle…

* – What, precisely, is the attraction of the firstborn? Why does everyone want them? Why the elaborate schemes to get their mitts on them? I say this as a firstborn myself. Though perhaps the fact that no cannibalistic witches/wrathful gods/strange little spinning men wanted me makes me bitter. And envious.

** – This is the DK version of the chunky Teddy Colourama for IBC’s ‘special jacket‘.

*** – Sunday Post Translation Services, Inc.