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I wasn't born with wings, so I'm trying to make my own
Thursday, February 22, 2007  

I'm still having trouble shaking off the cobwebs of my little hibernation, so instead of gathering up the energy for one big post, I'll dole it out in dribs and drabs. I can't believe how much I feel like I need a day off. Especially considering I just had Monday off. It's been a rough week.

Anyway, last Wednesday, I got a surprise day off due to abomindable weather here in Cincy. The business I work for shut down on Valentine's Day, so I actually got to spend the whole day with my sweetie, which was the best gift I could have asked for. It was a wonderful, relaxing day and I got a lot done, including finishing my Swallowtail Shawl (too bad all that lovely relaxing wore off so quickly). So, a week later, here are some pics of her!

A detail shot of the nupps and edging:
And on, but headless, because when I am tired I look completely stoned. Not a look I want out there for whole internets to see:

I had wanted it to block out a bit larger than this, because I was worried that at this size, it would look too small on me, but I'm very happy with the way it looks. Which is good, because by the time I was done blocking her, she was a screamin' and would not stretch out any more. I have a very pretty vintage/antique art deco brooch with small diamonds and sapphires in white gold that is very light-weight, which I think will be the perfect thing to hold this on when I wear it. I'm really happy with this project. It was a fast knit, I love the pattern, I learned something new (nupps), and it's a very pretty bit of lace. And it's dead soft. I highly recommend the Jade Sapphire 2 ply cashmere for this project. There's plenty to complete the shawl as written, and it's a lovely little piece of heaven to wear (and knit). And even though my fingertips got a bit blue while I was knitting, not much dye released when I washed it. So, all in all, a thumbs up.

And one more thing I forgot while I was off hibernating - Kimd asked in comments why I wanted to have two monitors at "command central." Kim, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get around to answering you. I would email this to you, but blogger wouldn't give me your email address. A few jobs ago, when I was a bankruptcy paralegal, my firm tried to go paperless. When we prepared a bankruptcy motion, we needed info from a lot of different documents to prepare the motion, so they gave us all two monitors, so that we could have the motion up on one and the document files up on the other and we could get the information without constantly minimizing and maximizing different windows. I got used to working that way and I find it very convenient for many different purposes. For instance, when I blog I can keep my photo editing software open on one screen and edit photos as needed while still keeping the blog editor up on the other. This way I don't have to click back and forth during blogging, and I don't have to prepare ahead of time. Also, while I am loading a video or something, I can have something up on the other screen to work on, but know immediately when I'm done downloading. OR when I'm playing a video game on one screen, I can have a web browser up on the other screen to quick access to hints and tips for the game, or some entertaining reading when all the monster killing gets too tense. There are a million and one other ways I use it, but I won't bore you with those! Basically, it's just a handy tool for me. I hope that answers your question! If you'd like more info on how to do it, email me and I can point you toward the links I used to help me get set up.

And on one last happy note, I just had to share that I got paid to knit today! We're doing a knitting book right now, and the woman illustrating the technique section wanted some samples in hand for certain techniques. So, I brought in some yarn and my needles today and spent some of my work day making samples for her. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have this job. I can't believe I tricked them into hiring me :-)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007  

Sorry for the blog pause, I was busy hibernating. Actually, I got a lot done about my absense, and hopefully I'll have some time to write about it all tomorrow. Until then, I wanted to write about the fiber I conquered yesterday :-)

So, yesterday was dye day and it went SO well. It didn’t go as planned (what does?) but I’m very happy with the results anyway. Sunday I was really starting to stress about it - I am such a perfectionist and things did not seem to be going according to my “master plan.” I wanted to get all the calculations and dye mixing done on Sunday while I was at my parents’ house so that my mom and I would be ready to dye on Monday. But then the calculations took longer than I thought they would (thanks to typos in the formulae in Color in Spinning), so I only had the dyes for one colorway (out of four) mixed by the time I left on Sunday. And out of the only finished batch, one of the colors didn’t look right in the bottle. I was starting to feel overwhelmed by all the time and materials I had already put into this process – I had mixed my dye stocks, created plans for colorways, found the colors and formulae in the sample notebook, calculated all the dye, water, and dye assist amounts, and mixed up some of the dyes for Monday. Hours of work, already! And even with all that, I hadn’t even done the actual dyeing! I started to feel that pressure, that “this had better not just go right, but be freaking PERFECT, after all the work I’ve done” stress. That “Perfect or Bust” feeling. And I was working myself up nicely into a stompy, huffy little princess hissy fit – and then I discovered the fibery wreckage in my living room (more about that tomorrow. There was a kitten involved. Of course). Sunday night was not a good night to be me (or be around me, for that matter. Poor Mark).

Monday morning, I was feeling much more relaxed about the whole thing (ah, the wonders of a good night’s sleep). I decided not to let my craziness ruin my day off. I had planned out four colorways, and I was really excited about all of them. On Sunday, I felt like if I couldn’t do them all, IT WOULD ALL BE FOR NOTHING, but I could tell that I wasn’t going to be able to do four in the time we had dedicated to dyeing. On Monday, though, instead of being in denial about that and rushing around trying to finish and then being crushed when we didn’t, I just accepted that we wouldn’t get all four done, I’d just do my best on whichever ones we did, and we’d do the rest another time (this may be one of those “duh” things for some of you, but this is a BIG STEP for me).

Even with that attitude adjustment, I was still debating how to handle the one dye that didn’t look right. I wanted a very particular blue for a colorway, and I had found one I liked in my dye sample notebook. This particular dye formula was featured in a couple of different places in the sample notebook and in both places it appeared totally, completely blue. BUT it was made by mixing a blue dye and a red dye in equal amounts. To me, that means purple. And the dye in the bottle looked purple. But the samples were blue, the EXACT blue I wanted. So the debate was, should I follow my instincts and mix a different blue, or should I blindly follow the notebook? The colorway I was doing already had a couple of purples and it didn’t need another one. It needed blue. This was my first time using these dyes, so I didn’t have any experience to draw from. I had three different blues, maybe this one was so bright that the recommended amount of red just toned it down without making it look purple. Wouldn’t the experts know better than little ol’ me?

In the end I decided to split the difference. I used the dye purple-looking dye I had already mixed, just so I could see what it would turn out as, but I also mixed my own blue, just to make sure that I actually had SOME blue in the colorway. I’m glad that I followed my gut, because that dye that looked purple and sounded purple, but was blue in the notebook? Yeah, it turned out to be purple. When am I going to learn to quit being such a ninny and listen to my gut?

Ok, so enough talk, talk, talk. Time for some pictures!

The first colorway was inspired by a couple of different violet (the flower, not the color) colorways I’ve seen online, dyed in a sock hop-y style, with plenty of white between the dye spots. Here’s the just-painted roving

And here’s the rinsed, dried, fluffed roving

Yeah, that didn’t turn out as planned. The dye spread quite a bit, so there’s very (very, very) little white left. Clearly, I’ll need to perfect this technique. I applied the dye on this one with squeeze bottles, and I think that was part of the problem. I’ll try using brushes next time for a more controlled application. So, this one didn’t turn out at all like I planned it to, but I like it for what it is. I’m going to try again for what I originally planned. I’m going to use more than one green and they’ll be brighter and less olive-y than what I used here. I’ll also dim down the blue quite a bit. The blue portions here are from the dye I mixed up on the fly to replace the one I wasn’t sure about. I meant for it to be lighter, but I mixed it quickly and didn’t pay enough attention to the dye/water proportion, so the dye ended up being a darker shade than I intended. But I actually think that the way it turned out works better here than the blue I had planned on. I’ll just want a lighter blue for the “colorway in my head.” So, room for improvement on this one, but I’m happy with the results in spite of all the “flaws.”

And here’s round two.

This colorway is modeled after this yarn that Claudia created, although it’s obviously a different way of achieving the result (she dyed her colors separately, then blended). I’m ecstatic with this colorway! Obviously, I won’t have the “whole story” until I spin it, but right now it’s exactly what I wanted. I love the colors. But again, one of the colors (green) didn’t look right in the bottle and I had to strike out on my own. I felt much more confident after the first experiment. And this time I got EXACTLY what I wanted. I am prouder than a peacock over this colorway. I cannot wait to spin it! I think it is totally gorgeous and I think it will make some beautiful yarn for a new shawl (why, yes, my arm is a bit sore from patting my own back).

When I rinsed out these rovings, not even a smidge of dye came out. The dyes were completely exhausted. And the rovings don’t appear to be felted at all, unlike some of my early dye experiments, which I didn’t handle with utmost care. And the silk content (50%) gives the rovings such a shine! So far, I consider yesterday a total success. The proof will be in the finished projects, so I may not know the whole truth for awhile, but for now I’m really happy. And I can’t wait to do it again (and again and again). It was the perfect first attempt – I learned a lot from my mistakes, but the mistakes didn’t ruin anything. Yay!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007  

Mmmm... birthday cake
Mmmm... birthday fleece

So, from those two pictures, you'll get a flavor for how wonderful my birthday was. The theme of my birthday party was Mardi Gras, complete with masks, beads and a baby for the cake. It was a lot of fun and it eased the pain of "getting older." I also got a pound of this lovely Cormo/Rambo cross fleece as a little present for myself for my birthday. I love it already and can't wait to process it. I know it's not for everyone, but I love, love, love processing my own fleece. Since I pretty much ONLY spin gossamer weight, I don't need to do much to get enough for a project. I can see how it might get monotonous if you wanted to process enough for, say, a sweater. Even I don't think I love processing fleece THAT much. I don't know why I haven't gotten around to this fleece yet, except that it's been a very busy week. I couldn't even tell you why or how it's been so busy, because there's nothing of consequence going on, but it seems like my time is being spent on a gazillion little things that need to get done. It's death by a thousand cuts week here at Chez Butterfly. And, of course, my fiber work is the first to suffer when things get crazy. Last night I pulled out my wheel for the first time in almost a week and got some spinning done. Oh! and I got a new camera for my birthday, so look, there are some decent pictures now! Yay! Here's the spinning:
Swallowtail got derailed briefly, but she's now back on track. I finished the bud portion pretty quickly, then did some practice nupps (I've never done them before and didn't want to learn them on the actual shawl) and away I went on the nupps. But, we went to Mark's brother's house for the Stuporbowl and I guess the stress got to me because I messed up the pattern in several places (his family and I are oil-and-waterish). I tried dropping back and rebuilding the stitches in the places that were wrong, but I wasn't getting it right. I could get the right stitch count, but the knitting was wonky, and not that "it will block out" wonky. So, after debating it, I decided I'd rather add a couple of days to the shawl knitting and have it "right" when it's done. Besides, who really minds re-knitting cashmere? I think it's so nice, I knit it twice. And thanks to waiting on Mark at the eye dr.'s today, I'm almost back to where I was. I really do love this yarn and a bit of web surfing shows me many, many more gorgeous colors. My mom doesn't like "frilly" stuff, she likes functional stuff, so I'm thinking of knitting a Swallowtail for her, but in a thicker weight of this luscious cashmere yarn so that it's warm (functional) and pretty (frilly). Then everyone wins :-D

Another birthday present this year was the rest of the dyes I need to work with the Deb Menz dye notebook I received for Christmas. The "boys" (Mark and my dad) both have to work on President's Day, but my mom and I are off, so we're planning a big ol' dye blitz. Toward that end, I mixed up a cubic buttload of dyestock this weekend.

So I'm ready to go. I have a bunch of yummy fibers for dyeing and I'm now combing through the notebook putting together colorways. I'm a happy girl. And here's one last thing I'm happy about: I'm now blogging from what I like to call command central!

It took a lot of hard work and elbow grease, but I put this puppy together and now have the workspace I wanted in the computer and craft room. I am ecstatic with it! I now have the deskspace for my 2-monitor set up, a desktop I can do my writing on (or eat my dinner off of), and an Ott lamp in the second of my two main crafting spaces (I already had one in my other main crafting spot). After that cramped little tower, this is pure heaven. I feel like the queen of all I survey. As I should :-D

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