Monday, July 27, 2015

European Adventure

We're back from our trip, which included a Rhine River Cruise.

The Viking Sun was our ship. Crew and staff were outstanding, and we had a great time.

My fears that we would be sleeping in hammocks in the engine room proved to be ungrounded.

We saw some great old castles.

Walking around some really neat towns and cities provided plenty of exercise, but we also climbed all 509 (I think) steps up the steeple of the great cathedral in Köln (Cologne).

The trip was not entirely devoid of fiber fun. In one castle, Marksburg, we saw this great old loom, along with spinning wheels, and carding and combing equipment. 

The visits in various towns yielded some great quilt shops, like this one in Koblenz.

A member of the Viking staff found me this great yarn shop in Cologne. The yarn was much less expensive than for the same brand in the U.S. They seem to be an outlet for Lana Grosse.

In Amsterdam, this yarn-bombed bicycle caught my eye, which then drifted into the store, taking me with it with DH following close behind. 

This place gave me goosebumps! In the middle of old Amsterdam, with real estate at a premium, I was delighted to find a very nice classroom space upstairs and lots more yarn, including some lovely Zauberballs at a good price.

I got less knitting done than I expected, because we were so busy, but the occasional bus ride and sitting with morning coffee aboard ship provided some time for knitting, and sometimes an occasional chat with fellow knitters. My Coral Reef Shawl is coming down the home stretch. I'm now on the last pattern repeat before the border. Whoo-hoo!

The first Fair Isle Flower sock is moving down the foot. This is the last photo I've taken of it, but the foot is further along.

I also CO the Monkey socks in Stroll "Dogwood Heather" because I wanted something entertaining to work on for the plane trip home. I'm about halfway down the ankle.

I get a lot of teasing for being an elderly iPad nerd, but this nice lady aboard our ship is ten years older than I am. She was out on deck during the day we sailed through the valley with all the castles using her iPad to take photos.

We had a nice visit with relatives in Finland before coming home to get ready for visits from the kids and the grands. In Finland we enjoyed some relaxing time at various relatives' summer cottages, which included sauna and lake swimming.

Now our children and grandchildren are visiting. Bedlam.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Three Years Before the Mast

Ah, the call of the sea!

We should be ending up our visit in Finland and getting ready to return home right about now. Internet is unpredictable on our travels, so instead of my usual fiber fun I've written this blog post ahead of time about the three years we lived aboard a small sailboat and how we got to be there.

When I was in 7th grade, my father bought an old wooden sailboat. It was 30' long, not counting the bow sprit, which is where I liked to hang out. The following two summers, we sailed around Cape Cod. We would pull into a port, my father would take the train to work in Boston and then return a few days later to sail to another port. We had a lot of adventures, and I loved it.

Fast forward to 1970. DH decided to go back to school after working for an oil company for four years. I came up with the idea of buying a sailboat to live on, using the proceeds from the sale of our then current home. After he got used to the idea, he agreed. He applied to schools on the coast of California where there were suitable harbors and settled on the University of California at Santa Barbara. We found a sailboat we could afford big enough to live on (barely), a Columbia 26, and acquired a slip in the harbor.

This is not our actual boat, but it was identical to this one, 26' long, with no bow sprit. We named her Neptune's Revenge, because DH got seasick at first.

We were able to get power and telephone, but needed to haul ice for refrigeration. We used an alcohol stove for cooking. I used a cart to carry our groceries, laundry and ice down the dock to our slip, about as long as a city block.

Our Timo was 2 1/2 when we got the boat. All his toys had to fit into a small hamper. He slept on a berth that made up into a couch in the daytime. We could bathe him in the sink if we had to.  He went to daycare while I worked. The bathrooms were on shore, as we were not allowed to flush into the harbor, and the water in the showers was often cold. I did a lot of knitting and learned to crochet. We had just enough room on the floor of our hanging locker for my Featherweight.

Timo started swimming lessons at the nearby pool. He soon turned into a fish.

DH decided to do his dissertation on the San Onofre Breccia, a rock formation that is found along the California coast and on the islands offshore. During the summer vacations, we would take off and sail to locations where this rock is found. He would row ashore and do his field work, taking our standard poodle, Tammy, with him. Timo and I would sit in the cockpit and read library books or fish, or we would climb into the water and swim. If there was a beach, we would go play in the water and make sandcastles.

When Timo was five, our daughter Karen was born. We put her bassinet on one of the seats at the table, but she mostly slept with us in the berth in the fo'c's'le. She liked to read with Daddy up there, too.

In nice weather we could hang her Johnny Jump Up from the main boom, so it could hang down through the hatch for use. She started swimming lessons at three months, and soon she could swim like a fish, too. Learning to walk was easy for her, because she could reach from one berth to another easily. 

Sailing with an additional child was a little more complicated, especially when I was needed to hold the tiller. Timo work a life preserver all the time the hatch was open or while walking on the dock, and when we sailed he was also tethered to the boat. Tammy wasn't though, and sometimes she would decide to go for a swim, so we would have to come about to pick her up.

By the time Karen was walking well, we moved off the boat. Not long after that, we moved inland, to start new adventures. I've never regretted my three years aboard the Neptune's Revenge.

Monday, July 13, 2015

To Everything There Is a Season....

A time to be born and a time to...dye. At my place, summer is a good time to dye using the method I like best. The sun-tea method with Kool-Aid and food coloring.

I'm sort of a health nut, so this is the only purpose I ever put Kool-Aid to, but it's a good product for that. I started out with the instructions I found on Knitty

The instructions are mostly designed for top-of-the-stove or microwave, but being a health nut, I'm also concerned with using renewable energy when I can, so I use the sun-tea method, mentioned in passing in a small side bar in the Knitty article.

I have two sun-tea jars dedicated to dyeing. 

I made a lace shawl a few weeks back, using lace-weight yarn left over from the gown I made for Miss Daphne's naming ceremony, back in July, 2010.

I don't know what I was thinking when I calculated how much lace-weight yarn I would need, but after making the gown and bonnet, I ended up with about 500 gm of Knit Picks Bare Merino Wool Lace Weight yarn (now called "Shadow," like the predyed version), most of it already wound into "cakes."

I really enjoyed making the shawl, as well as wearing it, so I decided I needed to make more shawls, but not all in "Bare." The line of Bare yarns are designed to be dyed as well as knitted or crocheted up as-is, so....

Here's the finished yarn:

Here's how I did it. I had about 4 oz. to dye, including one of the cakes and what was left over from the shawl. The instructions said to use one packet of "dye" (Kool-Aid) to one ounce of yarn, so I used four packets: two cherry and two orange. I added a few drops of black food coloring to grey-down the color a bit. I soaked the yarn in some warm water with a few drops of mild dish soap while I mixed the dye bath in my sun-tea jar. You don't need to add vinegar to the water you mix your dye in, as the drink mix is pretty acid, so I just used warm water. (No sugar, of course!) I added the yarn and more warm water to cover, and put it out in the sun. About an hour later, the dye bath was clear (exhausted), so I knew it was ready. I wanted the kettle-dyed look, so I didn't turn the yarn over during the dyeing process. The pups and I went on a hike instead.

Because I didn't turn the yarn over and open up the hanks of yarn during the process, the dye bath didn't reach all of it. The effect is nice in the finished yarn, though. It came out lighter in some places and darker in others.

If you want a yarn that's consistently the same color all over, you will need to open up the yarn and turn it several times during the dyeing process. Use tongs or rubber gloves for this, or you'll be wearing your dye for a while. (Your skin qualifies as an animal fiber for the purposes of this project.) This is because to dye with Kool-aid, the yarn has to be all or mostly animal fiber, although nylon will dye nicely. (My sweater dryer, made of nylon net and a PVC frame, has dye spots on it from previous projects.) Cotton won't take up this dye. This is why you want to be sure you are wearing old clothes you don't care about or 100% cotton fabrics. A cotton apron in a dark color (just in case) over your clothes is perfect. Since wool comes from an animal, it's perfect for dyeing with Kool-Aid, and my yarn is 100% Merino wool.

I rinsed the yarn in water close to the same temperature as the temperature of the dye bath and handled it gently, so the yarn wouldn't felt/full. I put vinegar in the first rinse and then Kookaburra Wool Wash in the last rinse. One disadvantage of dyeing with Kool-Aid is the lingering scent of (phony) cherry and/or orange, which eventually goes away. Neither is my favorite scent. The Wool Wash and vinegar seemed to take care of that problem, although in the past I've had to smell it all the time I was knitting the project.

Since I still had lots of leftover yarn and more hours of daylight, I decided to try tea dyeing. I found instructions here.

I used pretty much the same method except I didn't worry about getting my hands in the "dye bath." I was careful not to spill on cotton clothes, though, as tea will stain cotton, which means you can use this method to dye cotton.

For this batch, I used eight black tea bags in hot tap water. I poured in a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar, just in case. Very old tea works just as well as fresh tea, so this is a good use for tea that is past its prime. I was looking for a light color, so I didn't leave it in too long, but kept checking every 15 minutes or so. I don't think the tea dye bath "exhausts," but I'll have to experiment and report back in a later blog post.

You can get different colors from herbal and green tea, so it's fun to experiment with. Heres what I ended up with:

The original yarn (I still have more to dye), is on the left, and the tea-dyed yarn, on the right. Now I have yarn for two lace shawls and they aren't "Bare" anymore. For me, the hardest part came at the beginning and the end. because I had already wound up my yarn and didn't want the kind of regular pattern you can get from just putting your cake of yarn into the dye in a dish, I had to get out my knitty-noddy (which my wonderful DH made for me out of PVC pipe) and rewind it into hanks. Since it was lace yarn, this took for-ev-er! Then when I went to wind my yarn into a cake again after it was dry, the yarn kept flying off the ball winder. I finally got out a new TP sleeve to fit over the shaft of the ball winder, bent the bottom edge in so it wouldn't slip, and had no further problems, other than it still took for-ev-er even when it worked correctly. 

I was happy with the result and look forward to dyeing the last of the leftover lace-weight yarn on another nice day.

On almost any sunny day in the summertime, you can hear me paraphrase the famous Klingon battle cry: "Today is a good day to dye."

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Watch for my regular blog, returning July 27th.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Reruns

I'm on vacation, so I have some special blog posts scheduled.
Today you will get to read more about our vacation in Oregon in July, 2011, which included the quilt show at Sisters on July 9th. You can see all my photos from this event here. I thought you might enjoy another look at it, since it's coming up next weekend. If you are close enough to go, do so. it's well worth it.
The quilt above (from 2011) was my favorite, but there were a number of quilts that were close to beating this one out! On top of that, some of the ladies from Gees Bend were there, signing their book and occasionally breaking into song. Here are some of them in front of The Stitchin' Post, the quilt (and yarn) shop that sponsors the show.

The quilt show was a girls' bonding experience with my new DDIL, who is a knitter, but not a quilter. She enjoyed the quilts, though, and was impressed with the variety.
These two little girls proved that life doesn't have to hand you lemons before you could make "Lemon aid." I think they were giving away more photos than selling their product, though.

For you spinners, the Tour de Fleece started shortly after we left on our trip. Stanzi, my beloved Kromski Sonata spinning wheel went along. Together we completed 88 gms. of Stroll spinning fiber from Knit Picks.

It was some I had dyed recently using food coloring. Here's what my finished yarn looked like. My three-ply was 150 yds and 15 WPI, so close to the fingering weight I was aiming for.

Remember the little supported spindle I picked up at a friend's garage sale? I'm still looking for a good support for it*, but a plate works fine, and I'm getting a very fine singles from it. I can even use it as a drop spindle once some twist has built up. This is some of the 100% merino I had left over from the Pacapoo I blended before Christmas.
*The spinner I bought it from actually had a little pedestal for it. No need to find a support.

Last week I mentioned my trip to the Beaverton Fresenius dialysis clinic to help Eevi Emminger, founder of Mitts of Steal, deliver fingerless mitts to patients. The pair I had just finished was snatched up by this patient, hot off the needles, and a hot colorway, too. This is the only photo I have of these mitts. I used Lorna's Laces sport weight superwash yarn.

Another knitting project, Daphne's Bees' Knees cardigan from Mary Scott Huff's The New Stranded Colorwork, is coming along. I'm using Knit Picks Stroll tonal and bare, and some old Knit Picks Essential from my stash. Since this photo was taken, I have finished the body and am ready to start on the sleeves, but I got sidetracked with some socks to work on during my trip to Portland for Sock Summit next week.

The pups go to the groomer tomorrow, thank Heaven! They are quite scraggly from all the fun while camping, as you can see from this photo taken at Suttle Lake, near Sisters.

For cuteness this week, though, I offer up this photo of the newlyweds in front of their new vacation home:

Yes, we went with them on their honeymoon. (Actually, they are planning a "Minimoon" to Crater Lake later on. This was sort of a dry run for setting up the tent.) They have no air mattresses, so they borrowed the seat cushions from our dining area in the trailer. Very comfy!
July, 2015:
Boy, does this bring back memories. As you read this, DH and I should be on the Rhine River on the Viking Sun, possibly docked at Breisach, Germany, celebrating our 50th anniversary a couple of months ahead of the September 15th date. Daphne has grown out of her Bees Knees sweater, and so has her younger brother, Zachary. DS2 and DDIL2 have two children, Soren and Johan. Rocky and Sunny are living the good life at Camp Barkalot in Salt Lake City, where they get to play with new friends until we get back. Watch for special blog posts while we're gone and some fun photos from our trip when we get back.

What's on my needles: The Coral Reef Shawl and the Fair Isle Flower Socks. Watch for posts/updates with progress, if I have Internet
What's on my iPad: Still Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carrier. Also The Poignant Sting: Homage to Jane Austen's Emma, by Sherwood Smith on the Kindle app.
What's my app of the week: Blogger. It finally works well.
What's in my wine glass: The big bottle of Nathanson Creek Merlot. I've mentioned it before, but with the frog on the label makes me think this would be a good wine to drink if you have to frog your knitting project. (For nonknitters, "frogging" means you have to "rip-it, rip-it."

Note: This blog post was produced entirely on the iPad and its big brother, the MacBook. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for or cleaned.