Sunday, June 29, 2008

baby sweater done

I haven't had a very productive weekend. I've been battling a migraine that seems to be triggered by TMJ. The only thing that I can think of that may have set this headache in motion is lifting a few boxes when I was clearing out my classroom. Whatever the cause, it's been a bear to endure and I haven't found a way to shake it off completely. It's a good thing that we weren't planning on doing much anyway.

The little sweater for baby Dawson is done and ready to mail. The buttonhole that I went back and added after realizing that a tie closure wasn't a good plan ended up too far down. I stitched it up and stretched another buttonhole higher up and stitched around it to make sure it stayed large enough for the button. The button says Little Lamb and is very cute! I ordered it online from They have a great selection of buttons and even with shipping the package was quite reasonably priced. I'll order from them again. The yarn is good old TLC Cotton Plus, a practical cotton/acrylic blend for softness and washability. I added a bit of length to both the sleeves and body to counteract any shrinking that might be the result of the cotton.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

microwave dyeing question

Laura asked, "I have a sock blank at home crying to be dyed! I've been looking for direction re:microwaving to set color instead of over steaming water - can you direct and/or advise?"

Here's what I do. First add a bit of Orvus Paste to hot water and allow wool to soak in it for about a half hour. Drain and rinse in water that is about the same temperature of the wash water at the time it was drained. You don't want to shock the wool with a big temperature change or it might felt, although the Knit Picks sock blanks are superwash so it's not as big of a deal as it would be for non-superwash wool. Drain and wrap yarn in towels to get most of the water out but leave the yarn damp.

Apply dye to blank as desired. I use Jacquard acid dyes with some vinegar added when I mix the dye with water according to the directions that Jacquard provides. I spritz the blank with a little more vinegar when I'm done if I have further diluted the dyes that I used for that blank (to get lighter colors). Wrap the yarn in plastic wrap. I then set the wrapped blank into two old ice cream pails - I punched holes in one and then set it in the other. That way, any dye that escapes the plastic wrap will drain through the inner pail so it doesn't pool on the blank.

Microwave for about 3 minutes. You want it hot but not boiling. Rest it for a couple of minutes and microwave it again for another 3 minutes. This process can be repeated until the plastic wrap puffs up with steam and the dye seems to be exhausted from inside the plastic wrap.

At this point you can let the yarn cool in the plastic wrap or carefully unwrap the plastic wrap (you don't want to burn yourself on the escaping steam). Rinse the blank in water that matches the temp. of the wool at that point. Drain and wash the blank with water mixed with a bit of wool wash. Rinse until the water is clear. I usually add a glug of vinegar to the last rinse water to help set the dye so it won't run any more. Drain.

Carefully press on the yarn to get rid of as much excess water as possible. Lay flat to dry.

Hope that helps, Laura!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

busy, busy

Today is the last day of school for students. Dan is busy with all of the formal activities involved in year-end in a high school. Grad is tonight. His grandmother is ill and in the hospital so he hasn't had a spare minute in the last few days.

I needed to go into the school and pack up all of my teaching stuff so that next year's teacher in that room will be able to move her stuff in. With much of Dan's and Geoff's help, this is what my family room looks like now.
I'm not exactly sure where it's going to live for storage. It will mean some massive clearing out of other spaces in the house to make room for it. I'm glad that the work at the school is done but I'm not looking forward to all of the work in the house that will need to be done at some point. Sigh.

I was out shopping the other day and got some things that I think will make sock blank dyeing better. I picked up a Rubbermaid gift wrap container because it is the right size to spread out the blank. I got the racks to fit inside the bin to elevate the dyeing surface.
I also bought a couple of sheets of plastic canvas, figuring that I could lay the blank on one before dyeing and it would make it easier to pick up the blank to place on plastic wrap before wrapping and microwaving the wool. I haven't had time to try this contraption out yet but it should, in theory, work well.
And, of course, the bin came with a lid to pack up all of the pieces together for storage.

I did a double-take the other day when Kelly Petkun (!) left a blog comment on this post. Yes, THAT Kelly Petkun, of Knit Picks fame!! She actually read my blog! She had some great advice for dyeing the sock blanks:

Try wrapping your un-dyed, pre-soaked sock blank in a towel and spinning it in your washing machine. Also, add more vinegar to your dye mixes. More vinegar keeps the colors from running. And, if the blank is spun out well, then there is less liquid to ooze into the next color.

Friday, June 20, 2008

comment question

Jeri asked, "After winding (and re-winding) off the sock blanks, are the curlys relaxing? Or does it "need" to be skeined and straightened?"

I was concerned about this too. I'm happy to report that the yarn relaxed very nicely once wound into a ball. I knit a bit of my first blank to see and it is the same as yarn that has not previously been knit.

I just listed the three sock blanks that I dyed yesterday. Check the Dog Lover's Yarn Etsy Shop (link in sidebar)!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

more sock blanks

I dyed some more sock blanks today. Here they are drying.
I layered newspaper on an old boot tray and covered it with paper towel before placing the blank on top to dye. It worked pretty well. The paper absorbed the excess dye so there was less puddling underneath.

I'll put them into the Etsy shop tomorrow when they're dry.

I also dyed this skein of merino/silk fingering the other day. I called it Cherry Pickin' which seems appropriate for this time of year. It's in the Etsy shop now if you're interested.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

sock blank

I got a Knit Picks order last week and finally had time to play with one of their new sock blanks yesterday. It was fun! I like the result but I want to figure out a way to stop the color from running into the others while the dye is setting so will keep thinking about it to see if any great idea pops into my head.

I'm going to try to wind off each strand into its own center-pull ball using two ball winders. I'll let you know how that works.

Another full moon picture. This one from the back yard just after sunset.

I bought some solar lights to put up in the sun room. They change color. Dan thinks they're tacky. I think they're fun.
Edited to add:
I set up both ball winders and put a case of blank CDs on the knitted fabric of the blank to hold it in place and provide resistance for the ball winders. It worked surprisingly well to wind off the yarn simultaneously!

Because both of my hands were busy, I couldn't tension the yarn as it was being wound so the ball are kind of loosy-goosy.

So I just rewound each one to snug them up. The one on the left has already been rewound and the one on the right is still waiting.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kelsey update: a letter from her mom

Dan forwarded this letter to me from school today. I thought you might like an update on Kelsey's condition. The Mr. Z referred to in the letter is Dan so big thanks to everyone who is sending postcards and please keep it up!

"Below is an update about Kelsey's heath. Kelsey freely talks her experience with her tumor ( she told her "story" in a few of her classes), so feel free to print this and post in the staff room for any other teachers who may be interested in the details."

Today (June 12th) we went to see the Neurosurgeon find out the results of the MRI Kelsey had on Monday. He started off by saying the tumor was smaller,,,,, which is what I would hope we would see/hear, since she just had surgery to debulk it 3 months ago, and in such a short period we would hope the tumor was not regrowing. The tumor looked about the same size across (ear to ear) but it did look smaller front to back.
He thought the tumor was showing up brighter on this MRI (with contrast dye "bad" cells can be seen easily, normal cells stay dark).This could mean the cells are becoming more aggressive or it could be nothing. The plan now is watchful waiting, she will go for another MRI in 6 months, or if new symptoms develop she will go for an MRI right away. He could not predict what the tumor would do in the future or what types of treatments they will or will not use. The tumor may have taken all Kelsey's life to grow to the size of a golf ball, or may have only taken a few years. This weeks MRI is the bench mark we will be watching and comparing future MRI's against, to get a better idea of what the future will hold.
Since the surgery Kelsey has an impaired sense of hunger and has recently started to have sleep issues, either waking in the middle of the night for the day, or not being able to wake up at all, even after 10 hours sleep. The surgeon thinks this is part of her body still recovering, but it is concerning none the less.
Kelsey is being followed by the Acquired Brain Injury Program at Wascana Rehab ( a concussion would be mild brain injury, brain surgery is a moderate brain injury and traumatic car accidents or shaken baby could be severe brain injuries). She will be going to Occupational Therapy once a week over the summer, and already learned a few new "tricks" at her first appointment that will help her use her hand better. The OT suggested exercise such as swimming to build up strength on her right side,,, so that very night Kelsey decided try out a swim practice with "masters". She knew the coach from when she swam competitively a few years ago so even though most of the swimmers where at least twice as old as was, she still enjoyed it and is thinking about joining when we come back from holidays.
Thank you again to all the staff at Martin for the concern and support you have shown Kelsey these past 5 months ( a bit longer for Mr Banerjee who was the first to realize something was wrong). Thank you to Ms Stoner for bringing Kelsey back a gift from Italy, since Kelsey was unable to go on the trip. Also thank you to Mr Z, whose friends have been sending Kelsey post cards, Kelsey had been receiving post cards from all over the world, since her surgery, but they had started to slow down , but now she is getting at least one a day again!
Kelsey should be at school for the last day, she has been off sick with a throat infection the last two days, that hit her very hard, the antibiotics did not start working as soon as I would have liked, and she pretty much slept for two days.
Have a great summer!
Donna Rice
(Kelsey Kilbach's mom)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

catching up

It's been a busy few days! Thursday was my birthday, the big 5-0. I chose to live in denial about it so didn't make big party plans. There was a dog show here at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so I spent most of Thursday grooming Darcie's sheltie Kai and Bentley for the ring. Darcie posted some pics on her blog of Kai while we were grooming him. We took the dogs outside after we groomed him. There was a short respite from the rain so the dogs had a chance to run around and play after being cooped up in the house for several rainy days. Bentley found a really big stick and had a great time playing with it.
You can see that he is using every muscle in his little body to tug that twig! He is surprisingly strong. Robbie and Kai are watching with interest but they didn't really "get" his fondness for a tree branch.

Bentley took Best of Opposite Sex to his sister Chloe's Best of Breed wins two days out of three at the show. On the other day, his brother Hermes beat him for the Best of Opposite Sex win so the wins were kept in the family. Chloe is a lovely little Dachshund with tons of attitude and she deserved the wins.

The big news is that Kai took Winners Male two shows out of three to earn 4 points and complete his championship with a point to spare! He is now known as Ch. WillowGlyn 4 Off The Floor. Katie took Kai in for junior handling today and placed second in her class, beating two girls who are much older than her. She definitely has a future in this sport! Darcie got a show photo of Kai's win and one of Katie's win will be coming in the mail when ready. I'm sure that she'll be posting them on her blog if you want to see them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

spinning my wheels, so to speak

After spinning my wheels (not spinning wheels) trying to knit the Regia Bamboo into some kind of socks I decided that I just wasn't feeling the love for the yarn right now and put it back into the stash. To get the fabric I wanted with it would have meant knitting on 1.5mm needles. I may double it with another colorway of Regia Bamboo that I also have and knit socks for cooler months.

My aunt Robin in Killarney, Manitoba called that her first grandchild was born on the weekend. She is so excited!
I found this cute pattern free on the web and started knitting it for baby Dawson James.
It's a nice pattern and I'm enjoying knitting it. However, it closes with a tie woven through the neck stitches. That's not a good idea so I switched it to a button. Of course I had already knit the sweater down to where the sleeves are knit so I had to frog back several rows of the couple of stitches in the moss stitch trim to add a button hole. It was fiddly but it worked. I'm using TLC Cotton Plus yarn so that it will be washable and soft.

I also dug around in the stash for a yarn that would do justice to the Faceted Rib socks pattern from The Little Box of Socks. I think this one will do it. It's Opal Neon 1931.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

bunnies in the mist

It's been raining today. I went out the back gate to take out some trash and noticed a group of rabbits near by in the park. They were hunkered down in the grass in the steady drizzle. They were pretty tame and let me get reasonably close to them with my camera. They must not have been afraid that I was a predator; they're usually more skittish and quick to hop away but they were quite laid back today. The pictures are a little blurry because of the rain and the telephoto lens setting.
I'm not sure what the correct name is for these rabbits. We call them jack rabbits and they are much bigger than your average pet bunny.

I am always so thankful to live in a home that is close to nature. The rabbits were only a few meters away from my yard. How neat is that?

There are muskrats that live in the creek nearby and we sometimes see beavers as well. There are many types of birds, most of which I can't identify as I don't know a lot about birds. Sometimes there are bird watchers with their books, binoculars, and cameras but they generally like things quiet while they watch so we don't usually chat much with them. Once, we even saw chickens... but that is a story for another time.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

more about Kelsey

Thanks so much to those of you who sent me comments that you would send a postcard to Kelsey who I mentioned in a previous post! I found out a little more about the situation and thought I would share it again and urge you to cross-post the information freely. Her story has already been shared in the media and on the internet and there is absolutely no problem publishing her contact information.

Kelsey Kilbach is 16 and a grade 11 student at Martin Collegiate where my husband Dan teaches. She has Astrocytoma. She underwent surgery on March 10/08 to remove approximately half of the cancerous tumor on her brain stem. Doctors have done all they can do to prolong her life but it is unknown by how much. She is terminally ill.

Her grade 11 class left on a trip to Italy in March without her and she was so sad that she couldn't go after months of planning that her mom's friends decided to start the postcard campaign. They thought that since she couldn't see Italy, they would send her pictures of the world to lift her spirits and send some positive energy her way.

She is starting to get postcards from far-away places and her mom's friend says, "You should see the smile on her face when the postlady comes!"

Here is her address again:

Kelsey Kilbach
1434 Royal St.
Regina SK Canada
S4T 5A3

Thanks so much for your help in spreading the word to brighten a young girl's life!

woolen spinning

I have some really beautiful pin-drafted Cormo fiber that I bought from Morro Fleece Works. I decided to try spinning it long-draw woolen. I have never spun long-draw very successfully and thought that this lovely soft fiber would be a good candidate for it.

It's kind of fun to draft ahead of the twist and it's certainly a fast way to spin. However I'm not really happy with the results. Part of the problem is that I need a whole lot more practice to be good at it and part of the problem is that I seldom knit bulkier yarn as it hurts my hands. At least for me, getting a finer yarn from long-draw spinning would be difficult. By its very nature, long-draw is not as consistent as short worsted draw and it's fluffier. Being the control freak that I am, I quite like the short forward draw of a fine worsted wool. I can spin laceweight very consistently and ply two or more bobbins together for fingering or DK weight yarn.
I don't think that I'll finish this bobbin. I'll wind it off and save it for future reference.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

yarn and socks

Here is the Regia Bamboo that I've been playing with. I finally decided that it does not want to be a sock with stitch patterning. It just wants to be a plain vanilla stockinette sock.

This pattern is from The Little Box of Socks. I really wanted the Regia Bamboo to become this pattern but the Faceted Rib Socks will have to wait for different sock yarn to maximize its potential. It's such a great pattern! Most of the patterns from this little box are really nice and quite easy. I know that I'll be referring to it for a long time.

These two skeins of sock yarn came in yesterday's mail from The Loopy Ewe. The top one is Dream In Color Smooshy in the Some Summer Sky colorway. Great yarn but the bottom one took my breath away when I opened the parcel! It's Beyond Basic Knits in the Rhythm & Blues colorway. This is definitely my taste in colors! So pretty! It might become the Faceted Rib Socks or I might use a multi-colored STR for it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


My son Geoff turned 22 years old today. We had a family dinner to celebrate. Left to right, in the picture is his girlfriend Carmen, Geoff, his birth father Glenn, Glenn's kids Sabine, Eugenie, my nephew Christopher, and Glenn's son Oliver. Tomorrow is Eugenie's birthday so we had two cakes!

The rest of the family is on the other side of the table:
Dan, my niece Katie, my brother-in-law Dallas, and my sister Darcie.

Not much knitting or spinning progress to report. I've been starting and ripping several sock ideas using Regia Bamboo yarn. I haven't found one that seems quite right yet. It's funny how the yarn lets you know when you find the right pattern for it. Before I was a Knitter, I would have laughed out loud at the notion that sock yarn has a mind of its own.