Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am flying to Texas in the morning!

So if you don't hear from me in the next week or so, I probably haven't died, I'm just up to my eyeballs in family reunion.  ;)  For any who may be wondering, I decided to bring a very basic star stitch scarf (crochet) and a sock (knit) to work on while in flight.  The TSA website insists I can have my knitting needles, and I made sure to only bring wood ones, so I should be safe.  But nervous.  The project on metal needles is in my checked luggage, and if it gets lost I am going to be PISSED.

...I'll have to let you know how all this goes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yarn on a Plane

I'm worried.  We're going to be flying to Texas this week to visit family, and I have no idea what I'm really going to be able to take on the plane.  I know that the official TSA rules are readily available online, but the fact of the matter is, any overzealous gate agent can decide that those rules don't apply today, and sorry you are not allowed to have that thank you very much.  On the other hand, it's a freaking long flight.  Plus waiting in the airport.

So, I have a plan.  Sorta.  Basically, I figure that a crochet hook, as long as it's not too small, looks less threatening than knitting needles... in addition, it's cheaper to replace if it ends up in the garbage at the gate.  We'll see how well it works.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The first week of school, it has eaten me.

Yup, been quiet around here for longer than I like to let it be.  Behind the scenes however, it has been a madhouse.  A madhouse I tell you!

First of all, I'm still trying to catch up from when I was sick.  Fortunately, I only have on pattern to go from that time.  Unfortunately, I have had to find a new tech editor (if you're out there, hi new tech editor!), which always makes me nervous.  Also, I have a sample I'm supposed to have done by mid November.  In laceweight.  That is lace.

That was nothing new, but the first week of school is.  The big one is starting kindergarten, and the middle one is starting preschool.  This means that the week leading up to this week was full of orientations, paperwork, evaluations, and doctor appointments.  I wish I had done more of this during the summer, but I didn't receive any of the paperwork until about a week and a half ago, so that wasn't exactly possible.

So, if you could give me a week or so, I'll get back to my usual fibery extravaganza.  In the mean time, I will continue to update my facebook and twitter feeds.  I definitely have time for 144 characters.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dyeing with the Kids

We had loads of fun this week.  I decided it was finally time to try dying unspun fiber.  I waited until the littlest one's nap time, and got a pound of Navajo churro fleece to soaking in my big pot.  I wrapped the wool together like a package with a piece of scrap yarn, hoping to make it easier to manage.  It really didn't.  So I got it out and put in the rack from my boiling water canner (it has handles!).  That helped a lot.
Next we got the wool out and let the excess water drain off.  I should have done a better job on this step, but the kids were SO EXCITED to start with the colors!

The big one was in charge of the blue, I was in charge of the green, and the little one was in charge of the yellow.  Each color was three packs of sugar free Kool Aid.  I am very glad right now that I use only food dyes, because at one point or another both kids decided to taste the dye stock.  To add to the fun and excitement, we used a nasal aspirator (I couldn't find the turkey baster) to spray the dye onto the wool.
Yes, the rack is sitting in my wok in that picture.  It was just the right size, and I needed something to catch run off!  Then into the pot it went to heat set.
It simmered and simmered until all the dye was sucked up into the wool.  Now, there's one thing about this wool that I didn't mention before -- I used a cold water scour on it, so the lanolin was still in.  Navajo churro sheep don't produce a lot of lanolin, but this means that the more lanolin any given part of the fleece had in it, the less dye it took up.  I'm hoping to get a cool heathered yarn when I card it all together and spin it.
Loads of fun and excitement for all ages!  And now I have green wool.  And a rusty canning rack.  It turns out that the thing wasn't meant to withstand as much acid as I just put it through.  But hey, next time, I'll rinse it better.  We still had a great time!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Fun New Toy, the Trindle

Those of you who were following me during the Tour de Fleece know that my favorite spindle biffed it.  Just dropped it one too many times.  I guess that's why it's called a drop spindle.  So I decided it was time to upgrade.  Also, to not make a spindle right now, because I don't have the time or energy to mess with it.

As I was approaching buying a spindle, I encountered one problem over and over again -- short spindle shafts.  Making my own spindles led me to do some pretty intense experimentation, and what I found out is that I like spindles with insanely long shafts.  My old favorite, in fact, had a thirteen inch shaft.  Which I now realize is insane.  I had a hard time finding spindles with shafts over nine inches that weren't boat anchors!

So that was the first thing that drew me to the trindle -- trindle shafts are ten and a half inches long.  The second thing was how customizable they are.  The arms of the trindle stick into a neoprene hub, and since neoprene is so grippy, you don't need to use any glue.  Thus, the arms (which are sold separately from the shaft) are interchangeable, as well as very reasonably priced.  For fifteen dollars, you get a new set of arms and a functionally new spindle!

I was sold right there, however, there's one more thing that I discovered once my trindle arrived -- trindles are freaking fast.  This is definitely a production spindle!  Because it is so extremely rim weighted, it spins forever at high speeds.  I'm not the fastest drafter ever, and I can finger flick my trindle and have it still spinning when it hits the ground.  That being said, a trindle might not be the best first spindle ever because of this.  If you don't draft fast enough, all kinds of wacky things happen, as that spin energy has to go somewhere.

I'm also waiting to see how much fiber I can cram on there.  Because there is no whorl, you can't make a cone shaped cop, you have to make a football shaped cop.  Not what I'm used to.  That being said, it's doing pretty well so far, so I'm hopeful.  I doubt I can cram two ounces onto it like I could the old favorite, but it should be pretty good!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fiber Thoughts: Rayon

Rayon from sugar cane.
This post will contain information on all kinds of rayon -- bamboo, sugar cane, the regular wood pulp kind.  I can hear a few of you out there saying "ka-whaa? bamboo is rayon?!"  I feel relatively certain of this because of how frequently I see threads on yarn and fabric forums announcing the "secret" of bamboo fiber.  Yes, that silky soft stuff is, in fact, rayon made from bamboo.  There is a non-rayon bamboo fiber out there, however it is more like flax, and doesn't really resemble the more common rayon from bamboo at all.

So, what is rayon?  Rayon is a manufactured fiber made from cellulose.  You can make rayon from just about any plant source, but there are three that I've seen.  The regular old standard rayon that has been around forever is made from wood pulp.  Rayon made from bamboo has been enjoying significant popularity due to it's purported environmental friendliness and antibacterial properties.  I have recently found several yarns made from rayon made from sugar cane, as well.  "Bamboo viscose" and "sugar cane viscose" mean the same as rayon.

All rayon has some properties in common.  It is a smooth, silky fiber.  Rayon has excellent drape, but not so much memory, so it works extremely well for lace applications.  It is also extremely durable, so it works well as a substitute for silk in blends that need that soft silky sheen, but also need to be easier to wash than silk.  Rayon is also (surprisingly) highly absorbent.

The main differences in the rayon types are, quite frankly, questionable.  Bamboo rayon in particular is touted for being environmentally friendly, and it is indeed more environmentally friendly than regular rayon, as bamboo can be grown very quickly with little or no pesticide or fertilizer use.  However, the chemicals used to process the bamboo into rayon are pretty toxic, and the process requires large amounts of water and energy, so it really isn't the Gift to Gaia that it's occasionally billed as.  Bamboo rayon is also claimed to have antibacterial properties.  While bamboo, the plant, is indeed naturally antibacterial, the amount of processing involved in making rayon makes it fairly unlikely that those properties make it to the final fiber.  It is possible, however I have searched extensively for the supposed study showing that bamboo rayon is antimicrobial, and have not been able to find it anywhere.  The best I can come up with are references to a Japanese study... however, the study itself does not seem to be available anywhere.  And I can read and search in Japanese.  Given that the majority of bamboo fabrics are made in China, I deeply suspect that the study is the invention of a manufacturing company.  I could of course be wrong, and if you know of a reference, please point me at it!

So, is there any difference between the types of rayon?  I like to think there is.  It feels to me that bamboo rayon and sugar cane rayon are smoother and more silk-like than wood pulp rayon.  Sugar cane rayon, in particular, has a delightful sheen to it.  This may, however, merely be a manufacturing difference, and not a material difference.  So seriously?  Know the basic properties of rayon, then use your own fingers and eyes to pick an individual yarn.  That will probably serve you better than knowing the plant source of the fiber.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: Moonshine

I am a yarn and fiber nerd.  I freely admit it.  So when I saw the interesting construction of Moonshine, I had to give it a try.  Moonshine is 73% nylon, 10% kid mohair, 9% wool, and 8% metallic, however the different fibers aren't simply blended together.  The yarn is two plies, one of which is actually a knit tube.  This ply is smooth and shiny, and contains most or all of the nylon and all of the metallic fibers.  The second ply is much thinner, and a blend of most or all of the wool and all of the kid mohair.  This leads the yarn to be smooth to the touch, yet have the fuzzy halo of kid mohair.  It's very soft, and the little glitzy bits of metallic fiber are a fun compliment, rather than an unnecessary distraction as metallic fiber often is.  The color repeats are quite short, which means less chances for unpleasant pooling.

The one downside I can find to this yarn is that, like all mohair yarns, it is incredibly difficult to frog.  Seriously, that halo is like freaking glue once a stitch is formed. But that's the way all yarns with halo are, so if you want halo, you're just going to have to be darn sure what you're doing with it before you start.  My advice is to get an extra ball for swatching, because you're going to want to do as little frogging as possible.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Drowning in WIPs

I just thought I would post this, so you can all laugh at me.  I am up to my eyeballs.  First, there is the sweater of doom:

It is actually mostly done, but I still have to grade the pattern, which is pretty much the bane of my existance right now.  Then there's the sock design for Knit Picks:

A series of embarrassing math errors happened in this one.  The math errors are fixed, but with all the frogging I had to do, I feel like I wasted a lot of time.  Then there's the couch quilt:

This one is completely done, except that I don't have any batting, and no money to buy batting until next week at the earliest.  I even made the binding strip.  There is literally nothing more I can do on this until I manage to aquire some batting.  So of course I started another quilt:

This is square one of thirty six for a bed quilt for me.  I have a long way to go.  And of course there's my knitting in the car project:

A pair of plain jane two at a time socks.  I don't get how two at a time is faster than one at a time.  I'm pretty sure that I, at least, am slower this way.  So yes, doomed.  Up to my eyeballs.  Also, my thumb still hurts from when I sliced it making dinner the other day.  Go, me!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Panda Cotton

In all honesty, I think I like every Crystal Palace Yarns yarn I've tried.  Panda Cotton is no exception.  It is a fingering weight 59% bamboo, 25% cotton, 16% elastic nylon plied yarn.  I think it's an excellent choice for wool-free socks -- it is soft and springy and durable.  I freely admit that my Panda Cotton socks aren't very old, but they seem to be showing wear at a rate comparable to any of my wool socks.  It also comes in 50 g (as opposed to 100 g) balls, which I think is a perk.  The smaller put up makes it easier to get exactly how much you need if you are doing a larger project, yet isn't so small that it causes problems in smaller projects.  The yardage is pretty good at 182 per ball.  This is slightly less than most comparable wool yarns, however I've found this to be pretty standard.  Cotton just weighs more per yard than wool does, as far as I can tell.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Susan Bates Quicksilver crochet hooks

These are my very favorite crochet hooks.  Made out of a special heat treated aluminum, they are smooth and light weight.  The most important thing to me, though, is the head -- these, like most Susan Bates hooks, have an inline head.  The head is slightly shallower than most Susan Bates hooks, however they still have that nice sharp edge so I find that it took some getting used to, but is not a problem.

The thing I really like about these hooks is the finish.  It feels almost powdery in the hands, and is very smooth for speedy hooking.  It isn't, however, TOO slippery -- I'm happy working with these hooks on everything from grippy wool to slickery bamboo.

The one issue I have with them is how easy it is to damage that finish.  That being said, I have kids who like to do thinks like repeatedly drop my hooks on the concrete to make them go "p-ting-ting!"  So my experience with that may be skewed.  But my kids aren't allowed to touch these hooks.  They are my favorite.

Do you have something you want me to review? Needles? Yarn? Notions? Drop me a line! marusempai at gmail dot com Put "Maru reviews" in the subject line.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So my daughter wants to learn to weave...

... so I need you weavers to level with me.  What am I getting myself into?  She tried a floor loom at Estes Park, and a rigid heddle loom at the county fair.  A floor loom is out of the question.  No space and no money.  A rigid heddle loom, though, seems to my innocent self doable.  It doesn't take up much space.  Apparently if you use two heddles you can make it work like a four shaft loom, so it's fairly versatile.  Seems like a good idea.

Or is it?  I mean, you go through yarn really fast when you weave, right?  That probably means the kid will end up with her own yarn stash.  Or I will at least end up buying lots more yarn.  And then there's the question of what to do with the random strips she makes.  We only need so many scarves and pot holders.

And what happens if I get into it?  I already have a very doom-y number of projects lying around my house at various levels of completion.  And my stash occasionally begins to frighten me.  Or maybe I can let her use up the less loved portions of my stash.  There we have it!  This is not just an education project, or a keep the big kid from scaling the house project, but a stash reduction project.  She likes weird acrylic yarn.  Heck, she likes ALL yarn.  This definitely has some possibilities.

Yeah, she's probably getting a little loom for her birthday.  Gotta start 'em young and all that.  And she can operate a loom by herself, unlike knitting, crochet, and knitting looms.  Because mommy already has too much yarning to do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Broomstick crochet is making me mad.

Super duper slow progress, but progress none the less.
But it's not the pattern's fault, or the technique's fault.  It is entirely my own dang impatient self's fault.  First of all, none of the stores around here carry knitting needles big enough, so I had to make a makeshift tool out of a dowel.  I sanded it carefully and rubbed it with oil.  It is still way too grippy, even for my very slippery bamboo blend yarn.  So that's frustration number one.  Frustration number two: the loop row is SO FREAKING SLOW.  I'm sure it's a matter of practice.  I'm sure I will get faster.  But right now it's slow and I'm frustrated!  My other issue with it is if I screw up either the loop row or the crochet row, I have to rip out back to the beginning of the loop row.  I can't get the loops back onto the stick to save my life.  Sigh.  The result is so pretty!  I guess I need a break from it.  Maybe I'll work on those colorwork mittens that have been sitting untouched on my desk for so long.

And this is how I ended up with so many random WIPs lying around the house.  And to think, I WIPed down once already this year.  I'm doomed, but in a fun way.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Crochet Cables, the Tutorial!

Way back at the dawn of time (well, in January, but that feels like forever ago), I promised y'all a crochet cables tutorial.  I can finally knock that one off of the list of resolutions -- I have a lovely article in the premier issue of Crochetvolution in which I hope all cable questions will be answered.  It's titled "Crochet Cables -- Oh, Yes I Can!" and is available right now.  I hope you like it!