Thursday, September 15, 2011

yes, that time of year again!!!

Dang! can you believe school has been in session for over 2 weeks now and i have not had the time( too busy making wild blackberry jam and starting new knitting projects!!!) to post my freaking out woman picture yet. it is customary on my blog to have a minor freak out when school starts again as i realize all my "good intentions" of catching up over the summer has fallen thru the wayside once again.

it's usually centering around math. who the hell wants to do math over the summer????? only the twisted and insane! so i post a picture of how i feel about this. For those of you that don't know- i homeschool. down to one child now. 8th grade math makes my brain hurt!!! have you figured it out? i am numerically challenged. have been all my life! during the school year- i have a math tutor to help us out.
i attend these tutoring sessions as well- so that maybe just maybe my brain can grasp these alien unattainable concepts.

Friday, August 26, 2011

harvesting color!!!

i normally use acid dyes when i dye my fiber but sometimes i like to experiment with natural dyes. i have this amazing natural dye book "harvesting color" by rebecca burgess. the book has recipes and knitting patterns!

i so love it that she didn't use capital letters in her title! kindred spirits!!! anyway-i don't want to digress on that issue. this book is a must have for anyone wanting to dye with plants. i noticed that she had a recipe for dyeing with french broom(genista monspessulana)- a non-native invasive plant species that grows everywhere by my house- yipee! i'm always thinking of uses for invasive plants but never really come up with much. i decided to try dyeing with the broom!

most natural dyes require mordant of some kind to get the dye to stick to the fiber and stay there. many of these mordants can be pretty toxic. i prefer to stick to mordants like alum and iron. i prefer the rusty iron water technique i learned from the book.
actually my first gallon of iron mordant water was gifted to me from my friends claudia and birdsong. birdsong has her own natural dye CSA called Nature's Cauldron. gotta go check out her website!

they put a couple handfuls of old rusty objects in a gallon jar with water and white vinegar.

i especially liked the old horse shoe. i then set it the sun for many weeks and the water turned cloudy orange.

after the iron water was strong enough- thanks to the power of the sun, i simmered my skeins of superwash merino in the iron water for about 60 minutes.

dang- sorry the picture came out so dark!! hope you get the idea! anyway i was amazed at the color of the mordanted yarn.

i thought it was pretty in itself! unfortunately my soft buttery merino became very dry and harsh feeling:( maybe that's why my own hair gets so dry and brittle- we have very high iron content in our well water. i let the skeins sit for over a week before dyeing them. rebecca states in her book that she achieves better colors this way.
then i gathered 2.5 pounds of french broom. i will definitely harvest in the winter/spring next time as the plant easily pulls up by it's roots in the wet weather-hence getting rid of the non-native invasive plant.

i cut the plant matter up into smaller pieces so it would fit in the dye pot.

i ended up having to use 2 pots as there was so much french broom. i boiled the chopped up plants for about 80 minutes. i then let the dye pots cool overnight and then reboiled the plant matter for another 90 minutes the next morning to fully extract the dye.
while the yarn soaked in hot water i strained the plant matter out of the dye and combined the 2 pots of dye. the yarn soaked for about an hour and then i simmered the skeins for about 80 minutes in the strained dye bath. the color came out a deep dark army green- my camera won't capture the color no matter what i do.

This is NOT the color in anyway. the color is more like color of old dark green army pants- remember back in early 80's when wearing army pants was hip? for any of you that henna your hair- it's kind of the color of the henna paste.

it's not like this either- i'll repost the picture if i can get a better one.

All in all the experience was good- much more work than my acid dyes but i like the idea of using the invasive plants for something. not too happy about the harshness of the yarn but i'm going to try a soak in some hair conditioner to see if that helps.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

a bit of a catch up!

dang things have been way to0 busy; can't even manage to get a weekly post in-so much for a lazy kickback restorative summer! thought i'd update ya'll on what i've been creating lately. i decided to a 12 in 12 sock challenge for 2011. that's knitting a pair of socks per month this year. i'm a bit behind.

here's my july handspun socks:

they aren't that bright in real life. i knit a sweater for my new darling niece Rory Mckenzie. my camera was having some sort of fit-the picture turned out horrid.

i actually finished a sweater i started 3 years ago. remember this?:

i dyed the yarn eons ago! it's my mr. green jeans! feels so good to complete something. i even got to wear it at a very special occasion- soon to be blogged about. stay tuned!

i love the sweater! it's one of those everyday kind of sweaters.

i spun an awesome roving i got at stitches this year from wool candy. I made a cowl from it. and now fingerless mittens.

here's another roving i got at stitches- from girl on the rocks. the hard part is what to make with it!!!!

i hope to get caught up in the blogoshere( is that a word?) soon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

sadness is an empty chair

the wild animals have been well fed this week. sadly we lost both Kitzie and Pilsner to predators. it comes with the territory when you live on the frontier. i know their life span is shorter when they are allowed to come and go as they please-but they sure had a grand life here. Pilsner and Kitzie were very happy cats.

this is the chair that Kitzie napped and slept in every nite next to my bed. it's empty now.

we know the predators got them as they never ever stray. they are always right by the house and never miss a meal. first i noticed Pilsner hadn't been nagging me to feed him in the morning. then blue was viciously barking to get out in the middle of the night- liam heard a cat scream right outside his bedroom window. the next day we found a trail of blood(and no Kitzie) from the trail by the house going far into the woods- possibly a coyote bringing food back to her pups. the neighbor is also missing 3 cats.

it's the cycle of life, i know. i'd rather they went this way then a senseless death like getting hit by a car. They were the best cats- even thought Kitzie(aka luca brassi) drove me nuts sometimes. we will miss you! here's a tribute to the the little and not so little buggers!

Pilsner-born on this very hill- what a handsome fella. everyone who knew him was astonished by his size. he was our zen cat with a hint of devil in him- just a hint. like when you walked by a chair he was sitting in, he would reach out and snag you. then pretend he didn't do it!

Our little Kitzie.

Kitzie actually has 3 blog posts-possible more. you can check them out! her love of fiber, her lust for chicks, and her ability to tangle yarn.

thank you Pilsner and Kitzie for enriching our lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

from snow to sand

hubby got some time off so we decided to do some day trips close to home. one really neat thing about living in california is there is so much diversity of terrain. we happen to be very fortunate in that we live close to so many awesome and beautiful places. -after a very cold spring, summer is finally here and we spend most of our time outdoors which is why my posting is so lacking these days.

we began with a hike up the loch leven trail- a steep trail that always kicks my butt-we were sure shocked there was still so much snow.

the trail was hard to find at times, lots of falling down but we trudged on. a late lunch break in the snow gave us the much needed energy we needed to get to the top. i think i was verging on tears at this point- but we were so close i wasn't gonna give up!

we followed the footprints of Sasquatch when we couldn't find the trail.

when we finally reached the lake-it was still iced over! what a great color the lake was-a true ice blue.

can you see the snag(above) liam and i are standing by? check this out- i love snags!

wildflowers galore at the start of the hike. this was my favorite. pussy paws i believe.

we made it down before dark-soaked soggy feet, tired and haggard. took us 3 hours to hike up and 2 hours to come down-that was with lots of shoe skiing:)

WE MADE IT! my favorite tree on the hike- too awesome.

well, we didn't get enough snow hiking cause we just had to do another. after a day's rest we headed up 49 to the gold lakes region. our first trail attempt to round lake was just too snowy. so we tried the bear loop trail and it was perfect. breathtakingly beautiful.

where i'm standing below there were mountain lion tracks in the snow the size of my whole hand. tried to photograph them but they just wouldn't show.

it was a fabulous hike. and to think we live so close to all this.

we were on a roll-but we decided to leave the snow and hit the sand.

pescadero beach!!! we headed down to san jose to the national insulator show and decided to take the scenic route. this beach was full of drift wood shelters.

liam made one of his own.

doing some pondering.

the ocean soothes my soul and calms me deeply.

we spent the night in san jose and got to the insulator show at the perfect time. our boy collects insulators-since the National was so close this year we just had to attend. it wasn't as big as i thought it would be-but there were some awesome things to see. all kinds- we even saw a miller twin pin insulator that cost $32,000. yes, you read that right-it's not a typo- 32,000 freaking thousand dollars. my favorite booth was the $1 a spin wheel. you got to spin the wheel and what ever number you got coincided with an insulator. i was lucky-scoring this amethyst insulator.

after returning home from the insulator show- we got ready to go to the downieville classic- the most awesome mountain bike race ever!-right up the road from us. the finish line is right in town.

i was so inspired by the race i got the crazy assed idea that maybe i could do the race by the time i turn 50. if i really work hard. hmmm......since there is no local roller derby team to join-i thought maybe this would be a fun idea. maybe i'm nuts.

okay-okay enough of boring you with our vacation. i promise exciting fiber posts soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

bluegrass camp2011

liam and i just go back from bluegrass camp-at the grass valley fairgrounds. here's was our cozy home away from home.

what a fabulous time. liam took mandolin with john reischman. he really enjoyed it. i took beginner clawhammer banjo with wayne erbsen. i was very frustrated with my class as it was suppose to be clawhammer from scratch for total beginners-i was overwhelmed and felt like a total----better not use that word-i don't think it's politically anymore. but i still got a lot out of it. i'm really inspired to practice and i want to get my fiddle in working order and start playing old time fiddle.

the really cool thing about bluegrass camp is there are people just jamming everywhere! here's liam with friend thomas jamming a bit.

every morning we had our 3 hour intensive class. then all afternoon and into the night there are elective classes that just rocked. in fact it was really hard to pick which one to go to. i took contra dance, clogging, old time banjo-accompaniment for singing with debby McClatchy, another beginner clawhammer class by ivan rosenberg. jamming 101 with sid lewis was a hoot! very funny guy. by the end of the day we were pooped. i got about 10 minutes of knitting done the whole time we were there-and i thought i'd get a pair of socks finished-ha!

i want to give a big thanks to hubby who took care of the homestead while we were gone!

i leave you with a jam video of liam, thomas and his friends playing cluck ole hen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

i'm lovin it

back in september of 2010-i joined a criminal minds mystery kerchief knit along. wow- that was a mouthful to say-or rather read. anyway, weekly clues were given along with a funny story involving the characters of criminal minds- a t.v. show i don't even watch-ha! i don't have t.v. but hubby streamed a few for me so i could at least understand the story a bit and see the characters.
i used a knit picks yarn -merino and silk blend which i kettle dyed a soft brick red. this kerchief or rather mini shawl was too fun to knit- i didn't know what the shawl was going to look like- it was amazing to watch it unfold from my needles. each week was a new and different lace pattern. what a great way to try new lace patterns. i loved knitting it and love the finished shawlette.
i didn't like my dye job though. i like semi-solid dye jobs- but this wasn't going to cut it. the parts that didn't take the dye as well were a horrid beige color. you can't tell by the photo -but take my word for it-it was ugly!!!! here's the shawl after binding off- before blocking.

i wanted to over-dye the shawl but was worried that simmering in a dye bath would felt all my precious efforts. advice from friend and master dyer sara.....she suggested i do it in the oven! yes, another oven post...but not as disgusting as my last oven post, i promise! i soaked the shawl in warm water.

while the yarn was soaking i preheated the oven to 250 degrees. after soaking for about thirty minutes i put it in a light dilution of the same color. don't ask me for details as i just winged it and hoped for the best.

i didn't want to contaminate my oven so i put the dye and shawl in an enamel pot. gee- now the whole world knows i need to clean my oven!!! i left it there all afternoon- several hours. then turned the oven off and let it cool completely before taking out. next came blocking time. i never blocked this way before- with the item folded. but that's what the directions said to do- i'm a sucker for directions-----most of the time.

i hid the blocking board from the cats-behind closed doors mind you. ah, they love napping and or scratching on a nicely blocked piece of wooly fabric- grrrr!!!! don't get me started. here's the end result. can you say "i'm lovin it?" and i'm not talking mcdonalds here!!!

a bit of a close up for ya! the color is more like the top photo-at least on my monitor it is.

yes, i still have a few loose ends to weave in-but yes, i finally finished it-hooray for me! stay tuned for more finished objects!!!