Thursday, February 28, 2008


Spring comes early in Arizona. The grass is greening up. The apricot trees are blooming. The grapefruit are sweet as can be. And I've celebrated by starting a very springy sock indeed.

The pattern, appropriately, is called 'Primavera.' Yarn is Fleece Artist Merino Sock in 'Rainforest.' It seems so yummy and fresh to me, and it's knitting up speedily.

I have to admit, though, that the warm weather makes me realize how much I missed having a cold and bracing Vermont winter. As long as my body thought it was autumn (which is what an Arizona winter feels like), it didn't miss winter. But now that we're headlong into spring, I really feel like I've skipped a season.

And soon it will be too hot for socks! So I'd better back to my needles ....

Monday, February 18, 2008

two reasons I'm getting less knitting done

My New Whorls

His New Wheels

(It's hard to knit when you're spinning. And it's hard to knit in that passenger seat!)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I made this sweet little heart for Mountain Man. It's knit with cochineal-dyed licorice twist, lined with pink cotton fabric, and filled with lavender flowers.

The pattern is 'Lavender Heart' from Pretty Knits, with some modifications. In addition to changing the yarn, needles (6), and overall size, I made it by knitting one large rectangle in the front stitch pattern instead of two squares in contrasting yarn and stitches. I handsewed it. And I made it so the 'wrong side' is on the outside (it's more subtle than the ribbed 'right side').

It's a nice little pattern that I'm sure I'll use again and again for gifts. But I'm sad to say that I can't say the same for the rest of the patterns in the book ....

I was very much drawn in by the title and the concept of girly, lux knits. But in the end, it came off as too much frilly frippery for my taste. Too many ruffles, beads, bows, and flowers. And too much frenetic mixing up of textures and colors. I do like a few of the simpler patterns -- namely, a kidsilk haze stole (Anisette) and a delicate tunic-length cardigan (Isobel) -- and may make them yet, but I do wish they came with charts instead of just line-by-line instructions.

I'm disappointed because I really did want to like this book. But, these days, even romance has gone modern! I'm more likely to look to the stronger, body-conscious lines in books like Sensual Knits, Fitted Knits, and Knitting Lingerie Style.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thank you, Phoe!

All my trolling for contests (in the name of WiKnit) has paid off, big time. I won a prize in a fantastic contest that Phoe was throwing for her own birthday.

It came so nicely packed up, a tidy bundle in orange crepe paper, tied with colorful yarn, and accompanied with a sweet note on cool stationery. Savage that I am, I immediately ripped the package open and unwound the hank to see the yarn in all its glory:

The yarn is Fleece Artist merino sock in the Rainforest colorway. It's a gorgeous handpaint of blues, purples, and greens. In addition, Phoe gave me a handbeaded necklace with opaque blue glass beads and sparkly crystals. This is such a kind gift that I can hardly believe it.

And to think that she sent it halfway across the world to a stranger to celebrate her own birthday!! May we all cultivate such generosity. Thank you, Phoe, for the gift and the inspiration.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

dyeing experiments

After my foray into kool-aid dyeing, I've come back to the natural dyeing full force. It's felt like an exciting challenge to learn all about what I can dye with from this new landscape. So in the past few weeks, I've tossed dozens of plants into the dyepot -- our kitchen gives the distinct impression that Macbeth's witches are our houseguests! Here's what it looked like as I was 'loading' the dyepot, with pomegranate rinds drying in the sun:

I have a big enamel pot with a few inches of water in it. For these dyeing experiments, I just pack the large pot with mason jars, each with a plant sample (anywhere from a few teaspoons for something like turmeric to a few handfuls for a plant I'm unfamiliar with). I bring it to a boil, simmer it for about an hour, and then leave it for a few hours to cool. Then I'll add mini-skeins of wool -- alum mordanted or unmordanted -- and simmer those for an hourish.

These were the dyes from my kitchen (turmeric, carrot tops, chamomile) and neighborhood (all the rest). Unless otherwise noted, they're alum mordanted. Starting at the bottom and moving clockwise, we have: cochineal (yes!! I found some growing on a neighbor's cactus), pecan hulls, pomegranate rinds, unmordanted eucalyptus, eucalyptus, rosemary, chamomile, unmordanted carrot tops, carrot tops, turmeric exhaust with a pomegranate mordant, and unmordanted turmeric.

The turmeric is fantastic but not very light-fast, although the pomegranate rinds are supposed to help it (I'm interested in them more as a source of tannin mordant than a dyestuff). The carrot tops were a real surprise, and the fresh cochineal is divine. All in all, I was exceedingly pleased with the results.

The next task was to explore the desert plants. Mountain Man and I spent a day rock climbing in the nearby McDowell Mountains, and I came back with a backpack stuffed with plants: jojoba leaves, desert mistletoe, creosote bush, willow, ferns, and many others that I couldn't identify. Here they are, layed out on the counter in the evening:

The results were rather disappointing, with muted, washed-out colors. Some of the brightest yellows came from the most odiferous plants - creosote bush and turpentine bush (named because they have these smells). But I am curious about the pale reddish color that I got from the mistletoe, which is on the bottom, so I may try working with that to see if I can find another way to extract it.

And that's it for now! I've got another set of samples simmering away as I write this, but it's time to focus on the knitting again for a while ...