Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Days And Dyeing Yarns

There has been a bit of a binge on yarn-dyeing chez Celtic Memory. Partly the sense of spring in the air - it's been chilly enough these past few days, but nevertheless the sense of things speeding up is unmistakeable. The mistle thrushes are building in a pollarded eucalyptus, the robins are squabbling with the bluetits over the best nest boxes, and the dearest little baby rabbit has appeared in the rose garden.

He's a little bit different this munchkin: if you look closely you can see he has only one ear. There don't seem to be any scars or signs of trauma, so we wonder if he was actually born that way. It doesn't affect his appetite or his joie de vivre and his little sister (who appears briefly from time to time, she's a little shy) plays with him as happily as if he were the handsomest brother any girl could wish for. Which indeed he is.

Well of course he's called Van Gogh. What else could we christen him?

But back to the yarn dyeing. I skeined up two lots of the Rescue Shetland from the Shed in the Woods and one of a rather nice sockweight lambswool I got from Texere Yarns. Used scarlet and yellow (Procion), which blended into orange where they met, and hung them out to dry in the dancing breeze.

Pretty bright, huh? I almost had to put on my sunglasses to look at them. Still, we learn by doing.

Trouble developed, though, when it came to winding up the dried skeins. While the lambswool came through beautifully, the Shetland broke every few yards. I took extra care, not pulling it at all, but it simply separated at these inexplicable weak spots which had certainly not been there before. So regular were these breaks that I wondered if it had been the placing of the yarn against the rim of the dyepot for too long, or perhaps a twist in the skein? At a loss to understand it, and would welcome opinions.

The increased activity could also well have to do with the lull in Sock Madness. Round Two has finished and we are nervously awaiting the onset of Round Three with the release of an entirely unknown pattern. You get into a sort of frantic habit of knitting every second, every moment, and that's hard to break. So you look for other projects, other short-starters, to keep you occupied, instead of worrying, trying to second-guess the organisers of this hugely successful (but hugely stressful) event.
As all those participating will I am sure agree, though, it has been a lovely competition so far with regard to friendliness, helpfulness, general camaraderie among contestants. Even when you know that only so many can go through, everybody is still so positive and nice that it's a totally happy time.

(Just don't ask me to be positive and happy when I'm frantically trying to untangle mistakes at 3 am within the next week or so... )

The slight glitches with the yarn dyeing might have had something to do with it, but it has to be confessed that Celtic Memory yielded at last to Lisa Souza temptation. Well, how could anyone log on to that site and not be seduced, drawn in, scrabbling for her credit card even as she stares in disbelief at the stunning colourways? How I kept to ordering just three I do not know. Here they are:

Elektra -

Can't-elope -

- and Emerald City.

Aren't they unbelievable? Lisa is a pet, and emailed me yesterday to say they'd just been posted. How long do you think they'll take to get here? HOW LONG DO YOU THINK THEY'LL TAKE TO GET HERE? I CAN'T WAIT! WANT THEM NOW!

Peadar came to mow the lawns the other day, and since I was wearing my bright CTH Fall Foliage Glitz socks (trying to see if they will soften a bit with use), I demanded that he admire them. He chuckled, but then, quite out of the blue, told me of a Kate O'Neill who, long ago when he was young, used to come to their farm every year at the same time, to knit socks for the whole family. They would provide the yarn, she would stay for a week or so, being given her bed and board, and would make the socks to measure. Now isn't that a nice bit of local history? And I had no idea! Now that I do, though, I shall ask around a lot more. I knew about tailors who travelled around and made the clothes required in different households each year, but I hadn't known about the socks.

He also mentioned the women who were experts at cutting 'sceallans' or the chunks of potato with the eye, for planting. They too would go from house to house at the right time of year, trading their expertise for bed and board. Isn't there a lot more history out there than we dream of, or than the experts are interested in?

Ignorance was geting irritating, so a short-row toe-up sock was essayed yesterday. Used a leftover ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino as it had good stitch definition and I could see what I was doing. Managed the provisional crochet cast on (thanks Deb, fellow Sock Madness contestant for all the really helpful and clear guidance) and didn't find the short rows too difficult (although picking up two wraps along with a stitch was a little awkward).

Here it is in progress, with the provisional cast on still very much in evidence (yes, you can tell DH was off working, can't you? I am simply not competent with a camera).

and here is the completed toe, ready to gallop up the foot. It is certainly great fun being able to work away, knowing there is no grafting waiting for you at the end, but still I feel the cuff-down is more practical, because you can more easily repair a worn-out toe. Nice to have both options though.

Some of you have courteously enquired after Tasha (more properly, La Princesse Natasha de St. Petersburg II) who appears rather less often than Muffy and Sophie in these pages. Tasha doesn't put herself about much, preferring elegant seclusion, but she does permit the occasional image.

Here she is in her palanquin, at ease and elegantly charming as always.

Muffy the Yarnslayer resents that private palanquin muchly and can't go by without muttering insults. From this picture you will however see that the whites-of-eyes are not confined solely to Muffy. Tasha may be a grande dame, but she's no lilybud when it comes to a scrap.

Must go check again whether the yarn requirements for Round Three of Sockmadness have been posted yet. Who would have thought one contest could capture the imagination and competitive instinct of so many knitters?


Dez Crawford said...

Breaking for lunch ... ALL of those colors are luscious! Yours and Lisa's. Are your skeins singles? If so it would be interesting to ply them together with the dye sections offset. Or ply them together with a black/charcoal single, it would look like lava.

Jo, I have had that same problem of yarn breakage at regular intervals with yarns that have been coned up for long periods of time. They seem to want to break at the same distance where the yarn would have changed direction on either end of the cone. In each case the problem diminished toward the center of the cone. I don't know if it is just dry-rot/ageing at the point of stress (the edge of the cone) or if that is just a handy spot for moths to nibble at.

Now this potato business is just plain weird. My irish grandma would use an apple corer to dig the eyes out of potatoes when she wanted to start a few plants in her garden. She would take out a tidy little plug about the size of a wine cork, soak it in water overnight and poke it in the ground. Must be in the genes.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the toe up socks, interesting to try but so much easier to take out and reknit the toe of the top down type when they become worn. It's also easier to take out the toe to change the size on a pair you got too long or short when knitting for someone else when you knit them top down.

Charity said...

It's all so amazing, Jo! :0)

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

We have a raccoon in our yard without a tail! He gets no welcome from our Cairns, I can tell you! Oh yes, does Muffy, the Yarnslayer, like Angora?
As I was reading about your lawn mower and the story of the sock knitting gal, I could see a story coming on for your work, Jo.
Oh yes, Shelley's retreat next year is March 28 - 30. Richard could come and photograph the northern migration of the Grey Whales!! I'm only saying!

Elinor said...

Your dyed yarn looks great! I love bold colors for yarn!!! I'm with you on the toe-up socks. I think it's a good skill to have but I'll stick to my top downs! I think they're sturdier in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Love your dyeing. Thanks for dog photos, I've been missing the girls. Awwwwww for the baby rabbit, is he Vincent for short? Totally jealous of your Lisa Souza. Want to know how you like it and have my fingers crossed for swift passage.

But Peadar's sock knitting story is just too wonderful. Wonder how many socks she had to knit?

Another way to knit toe-up, just in case you're worried about yarn shortage but want an easy way to replace toes or whatever, do a provisional cast on where you would normally start your toe and go up. Then you pick those stitches up later and knit the toe.

rho said...

Loving the colors of the yarn you dyed - very Springy.

I also gave in to the Lisa Sousa call and was quite pleased with myself that I limited my purchases to 3 skeins also.

I am beat - have been trying to get together things for taxes to drop off at the accountant - Think I put it off long enough since they are due the 15th of April - guess we will be filing for an extension....I really really hate doing taxes.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jo,
I vote for a moth!

Colors are luscious...of the new ones you've ordered, the middle one, cant-elope reminds me of a placenta, but that's probably because I'm up to my eyeballs in them at the moment, being in the midst of lambing. Really cute little lambies...see photos on my blog, if you want:

Ms. Knitingale said...

Oh, dear...that Can't Elope is simply BEGGING me to get some, too! How lovely...wonder what you'll make with it? Love the new stuff you dyed as well--not a bit too bright!

Fiberjoy said...

Great disappointment to have the dyed yarns breaking. Those colors are cheerfully striking.

What clever names Lisa Souza dreams up for her yarns!

Artis-Anne said...

Great yarns shame you had one break; I agree with Dez on that cause.
Those Liza Souza look gorgeous , think I might give in also !!
Good Luck on round three & I too look forward to seeing the next pattern ;)

Anonymous said...

I can certainly see the allure of the beautiful sock yarns from Lisa. They are stunning colour combinations. You will have fun working with them, for sure.

What a good idea of angeluna's re the provisional cast-on. I think I might try that on my next socky pair.

Best of luck to you for round 3!

Anonymous said...

I want that rabbit for a pet! Every year I go through this, and I thought I had escaped without pining for a bunny, but now I've seen Van Gogh.

Good thing the bunny barn at the state fair is months away, or I'd be out there picking one up.

Artis-Anne said...

PS: I have the will power of a gnat :( & have ordered some sock yarn and some lace weight alpaca from Lisa !! Well as I can't see me getting to Coinette for at least the next two weeks I had to have something :) and sock & lace yarn are my too exceptions in my yarn diet , oh and fleece !!
Good luck on Wednesday we are away until then but will catch up with you when I return :)

Anonymous said...

I was interested by your travelling sock knitting lady yarn. How many socks do you think she could have knitted in the week? How many would a family need in one year? I'd have thought sock-knitting to be an on-going chore troughout the year for the females of the family. As it happens, my grandmother was an itinerant dressmaker, and did go to stay at farms to make the dresses for a season for the daughters of the house. In fact, I have her sewing machine and have used it in an emergency.

Wendy said...

the scarlet and yellow is wonderful - love it, shame about the yarn breakage.
I think the idea of board and lodging for knitting socks is wonderful...wonder if i can get my family and friends to go for that...i need a sign "will knit for food"
Am pondering my yarn for round 3, I have some lovely Natural Dye Studio yarn and some Opal - depending whether I think the pattern something worthy of NDS or if I think it will be a gift in which case I'll use the Opal!!!!
Good luck with Round 3

pacalaga said...

You can always think of the toe-up part of the sock as a giant provisional cast-on, if it wears out and you want to reknit it. Simply cut on little strand, unravel it slowly, picking up stitches as you go, and knit the toe like you're used to. (I swear, it's not that hard, and if the sock has a hole in it, you're not ruining perfect knitting anymore anyway.)
What a cute little bun! We live in the city and don't get much in the way of wildlife, unless you count the neighborhood kids! :-)
Oh yeah, and I LOVE the beautiful dye job on those yarns. Makes me think of the desert version of bird-of-paradise around here.

pacalaga said...

These are the flowers I meant - don't the colors match your yarn just perfectly?

Denise said...

I'm glad that you've discovered Lisa (isn't she great?), did you get the Sock! or the Hard Twist Merino?

Now I'll have to think up a different surprise for my visit!