waking up

March 20th, 2012 by mia

I wasn’t sure that the hop would survive the winter outside, even in the pot. But there’s one sprout a fingerlength long, and another just starting to poke through. I guess that means I should get around to cutting the old vines down now, and figuring out a better way to support it this year. I was thinking about putting the pot in the corner of the patio, and then stringing lines from the mast to the house so the hop could make a kind of shade over that corner; we shall see.

I still have yet to cut out last year’s dead growth. Part of it is because I’m lazy, and part of it is because I didn’t want to just throw them in the trash but I didn’t have anywhere else to put them. Branches I take to the brush pile at the recycle center, but I feel bad dumping stalks and things there; not sure why.

But I have a compost bin now— or rather, I will have it as soon as the battery finishes charging and I can use the drill again. Which gives me a place to put all my yard and food scraps, so I don’t feel quite so bad about putting them down the garbage disposal or in the trash.

Later today I plan to start some leek and chile seeds. I should have started the leeks earlier, but I can’t count. Oh well; if they’re late, they’re late. I don’t have a place to put the seedlings at the moment, anyway.

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just awesome

January 5th, 2012 by mia

The filename of this image, which was posted a while ago to a Ravelry group that I can’t remember the name of, is “dmcseriesv_model6a.” Some googling turned up the D.M.C. Library series, which covers all sorts of thread work from embroidery to tatting to crochet and others, most of which were published in the early 1900s. I found scanned copies of some other volumes in the series, but not this one.

I want this book, if only for this image. I think it is made of awesome.

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the knitting machine adventure: part 1

January 1st, 2012 by mia

You may remember the knitting machine that I found at the thrift store a few weeks ago. I finally found the time to lay everything out and take pictures of them; the pieces, at least. The two boxes of patterns and notes I haven’t even started to go through yet.

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thrift store score

December 16th, 2011 by mia

This time, from the Greenwood Wildlife thrift store:

According to a tag on the back, this was “Created especially for you by members of Thrilled to Pieces Quilt Club, Lafayette, Colorado, 2005.” A second tag says “Autumn Evening Judy Kurtz Jan 2005.”

Also at the thrift store: A 1980-ish electronic knitting machine. No, really.
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updates: dyes

October 23rd, 2011 by mia

The gorgeous magenta juice I got out of the prickly pears is no longer magenta. It’s this:

I had it sitting outside on the patio to stay warm so it wouldn’t mold. It stayed beautiful for quite some time, and then overnight the color vanished. The only explanation I can think of is that it got too hot one day, and the color browned.

I plan to try again, but I need to find a bigger container to roll the pears in so I can de-spine them faster. As much as it amuses the cat, it’s kind of a pain to only do three at a time.

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in progress: cactus tuna dye

September 23rd, 2011 by mia

Our next-door neighbor has a patch of prickly pears. He planted them so he wouldn’t have to water or mow that corner of the lawn, but he’s never eaten or done anything with the pears.

Opportunity!

In addition to the spines, prickly pears also have clusters of tiny little hairs with barbs on the end. They’re nearly impossible (for me) to see and remove without a magnifying glass and tweezers, and they’ll work themselves under the skin and be very annoying. Don’t want to eat them, don’t want to get them into the yarn.

First I tried searing the glochids off with the gas grill. It was hard for me to see when they were gone, and since my tuna were so small it was hard to hold them with tongs. There’s also a good amount of juice that came out and is now making sticky spots on the burner.

I also tried scouring them off in a jar of sand. This seemed to work well, it just took a long time. I’m wondering if it might be better to rig something up with a larger jar and a rocking chair, because rolling it back and forth did make my leg tired after a while. At least the process amused the cat.

The inside of a cactus tuna. These are pretty small– about thumb-size– and very seedy. After peeling and de-seeding them, there really wasn’t enough of the flesh and juice left to be worth the trouble! (The juice tasted good, though.) I think if I want to cook with tunas, I’ll just go get them from the Latin grocery.

Fortunately, I don’t need to peel or seed them to make dye, so I’ve been picking a few every day (that is, poking them with tongs and retrieving the ones that fall off the plant), sanding the spines off, and adding them to the jar to ferment. When I reach a critical mass– or when I get tired of sanding them– I’ll add some yarn and see what it does.

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results: avocado and copper dyes

August 29th, 2011 by mia

From left to right: Ammonia and pennies, vinegar and pennies, avocado peels-n-pits. These were started at the beginning of July and let to sit outside for about thirty days.

I thought I had a picture of the copper jars after I got the pennies out, but I can’t find it. So you’ll have to trust me– the vinegar jar was that nice pale blue you see, but the ammonia jars was that kind of deep saturated electric blue that jumps off the shelf and assaults your unsuspecting eyeballs with the sheer force of its blueness. It was so blue that it deserves not only capitalization, but italics as well. It was Blue.

In this picture, though, the ammonia jar looks black. Not because it’s concentrated– because there’s a mysterious black precipitate coating the inside of the jar and the pennies. I have no idea what it is, and I’ve been afraid to try and clean it off because I’m not sure if it’ll come off at all. (Not that I’ll be upset if I can’t save the pennies, but I want to save the jar!)

I strained the avocado bath though a paper towel into my big depot. This may have been a mistake.

Yarns in the avocado pot. The nice rosy-pink yarns in the top two-thirds are alum-mordanted and unmordanted skeins; the slightly brownish yarns in the bottom right corner are copper mordant.

Following an article in an old issue of Spin-Off, I simmered these for an hour on the stove– or tried to, at any rate. I didn’t let it get to a violent boil, but there were a few points where it was at an energetic simmer.

From top to bottom: two skeins each of alum mordant, no mordant, and copper mordant.

One of these sets was dipped in vinegar afterwards, and one was dipped in ammonia. I’m not sure which is which now– neither one changed the color enough for me to be able to see it. The set at the top looks a little darker here, but that’s an artifact of the way I set up the photo. In real life, they’re the same.

I am unhappy with the results of this test. It’s not that I don’t like brown, because I do (and they’re a very nice shade of brown) but I feel like this was a lot of time to get a color that is easy to get from other sources– for example, straight off the animal. I know I’ve seen alpacas in this color before.

Other people that I’ve read about have gotten shades of red from brick to rosy beige out of avocado parts, so it should be possible for me to get them also. I’m not sure what I did to not get red with these, but it could have been several things.

Things to try next time:

  • Using distilled water instead of tap; the dissolved minerals in ours may have changed the color.
  • Scrub pits and peels much more vigorously and make sure I get every little bit of flesh off before making the dyebath; flesh will reportedly turn it brown.
  • Let the yarn soak in the dyebath for a time, instead of simmering it; heat reportedly breaks down the dye and turns it brown.
  • Don’t strain the avocado bits out of the dye bath, or strain them through a mesh; I may have inadvertently strained out too much of the dye by pouring it through the towel.

    Anyway. That’s the avocado experiment; I have more (well-scrubbed) pits-and-peels in the freezer waiting until I have a larger quantity to play with.

    On to the copper!

    Ammonia on the left, vinegar on the right. This picture was taken on the same day that I strained the pennies out, on the 9th of August.

    The same jars on the 14th of August, after sitting outside on the patio for five days. Vinegar on the left, ammonia on the right. It’s not an artifact of the camera or lightning– the ammonia-copper jar really did turn brown.

    Unfortunately, by the time the skeins were dry the sun had gone away, so I had to take the rest of the pictures inside.

    From left to right: Two each of no mordant, alum mordant, and copper mordant from the vinegar-copper jar, and then two each of no mordant, copper mordant, and alum mordant from the ammonia jar. All skeins have had excess liquid squeezed out, and are still damp.

    The vinegar skeins all look the same to me. I wasn’t expecting much of a change in the copper mordant skeins, but I’m surprised (and disappointed) that the other four didn’t turn at least a pale blue-green. The swimming-pool-blue liquid behind them is what remained after I took them out.

    The ammonia skeins . . . surprised me. I was hoping they’d stay the same violent blue that the liquid had been, and I have no idea why it changed color when I put the yarns in. The beautiful copper liquid behind them is what remained after I took these skeins out. The skeins themselves are a strange mix of a lovely rich brown and a slightly greenish grey. There’s no difference that I can see between mordants.

    From top to bottom: two skeins each of alum mordant, no mordant, and copper mordant. The untwisted vertical skein on the left is one of my sample skeins mordanted with copper for comparison.

    After they’d had a few days to dry, these skeins all have a very faint greenish cast to them. It’s very hard to see except in the right light, though. I will probably not be continuing any experiments with copper and vinegar.

    From top to bottom: two skeins each of alum mordant, no mordant, and copper mordant.

    After I thought about it for a while, I decided that while I’m not keen on the combination, I actually do like both of these colors, particularly the brown. However, I’m not sure how I got them. I suspect that since the skeins weren’t completely submerged, one of the colors comes from contact with the air in the jar– but I’m not sure which. They’re strong enough colors, though, that I think it’s worth trying again.

    Things to try next time:

  • Distilled water instead of tap.
  • Use a different source of copper that hasn’t been handled by as many people; I stripped the grounds out of some scavenged romex, and I can use that instead of pennies.
  • Try to find actual clear non-sudsing ammonia; mine says it’s non-sudsing, but it lists “surfactant” in very small print in the ingredients.
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    catchup: plant dyes

    July 7th, 2011 by mia

    First dye experiment: black bean soaking water. I used two pounds of black beans from the local Sprouts, soaked them overnight in just tap water, and then poured off the water and let the yarn soak in that for about three weeks on the front porch. The beans themselves got cooked and pitched into the freezer.

    I didn’t get nearly as much scum as I expected– just a little on the top– and no mold or stankyness. I suspect that the jar’s getting our strong afternoon sun every day may have heated it up just enough to retard growth, but not enough to change the color.

    I used two skeins each of three mordants, and gave one skein of each mordant a five-minute vinegar soak afterwards.

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    in progress: garden & dye

    May 27th, 2011 by mia

    While other people were preparing to be Raptured, I was preparing to dye.

    I decided a while ago to try copper-penny dyeing, as something to hold me over until all my plants grow up. Instructions on the internet are multiple and don’t always agree, so I decided to take the basics (copper, acid/base, time) and wing it.

    Some folks use (pre-1982)pennies, some use copper pipe, some use copper scrubbies. It seems like, providing that they’re all pure or mostly-pure copper, the only difference would be in the surface area. Does that matter? I have no idea, but I decided to test it. Since I only have two large glass jars, I decided not to bother with the pipe.

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    in progress: garden

    May 2nd, 2011 by mia

    Several weeks ago, when Sadie had her paleontological adventure in our backyard, I planted a hop.

    This is not a skeletal hand holding a stick. It is a hop rhizome, or an underground section of stalk that’ll become a clone of the plant it was cut from. Hops are generally propagated from rhizomes, since only the cones of female plants are used for beer. Read the rest of this entry »

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