"Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber." Proverbs 31:19 NLT

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Aging with Tea (Dyeing, not Dying)

I've had a pile of white doilies, a piece of Christmas fabric and even a piece of white lace trim, all waiting to be tea stained. The doilies were some my mother crocheted many years ago and were slated for this summer's garage sale. I whisked them out of one of her many boxes, asked for them and got permission to "age" them with tea. She said, "They are yours now - do with them what you want." Oh, goody! The Christmas fabric was from the same set of boxes and had been my grandmother's. Something had been cut out and presumably sewn up. It is little red and green bouquets of poinsettias and was on a white background. White is great and I actually wear white better than tan, but for my house, it has to be tan, or at least beige, all the way.

Well, a couple of days ago I finally had a bit of time and was sick of looking at the pile waiting to be "aged." So, while hubby was out and about, I had him pick up some Lipton yellow-label black tea - likely the cheapest black tea available. He, of course, found the "new-and-improved" version - Lipton PREMIUM Black Tea!! Kinda of defeated the purpose of Lipton yellow-label. But then it is what I had.

The process is much like I showed in Dye-ing for Kool-Aid, but tea staining is great fun, too. I'm sure many people have tea-dyed things and probably there are many blog posts about it. But I will add my photos to the numbers. It is always fun to see how the articles take the tea and taking the photos are an added bonus - at least for the blogger.

Here is the pile before the staining. I thought it was
good lighting but now I can't go back and
re-take - they are stained.

Here's my dyeing supplies. (Oh, wait,
not the water pot, it
doesn't hold enough water.)

I didn't really
know how many tea bags to use
so I used 18, tying them together
in clusters of 6 each. 

Here is my standard dye pot. It is actually a canner but hasn't seen any canning for many years.

I brought the water to a boil with the tea bags floating in it. Unlike preparing tea to drink, I slow-boiled the bags for about 20 minutes and added about 3 Tablespoons of salt. I hear that helps the color be more color fast.

After about 20 minutes I removed the tea bags and inserted the items to be stained. In my excitement, I forgot to wet them all down first, but that would have been the next step before putting them in the tea water.

I kept the heat on low, just below boiling and stirred the items often, hoping for an even staining on everything. The lace trim was no doubt partially polyester, so I didn't know how it would take the stain. And there was a doily crocheted with white crochet string, that had a strand of silver plied with it. I was interested to see how it turned out. So I kept stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting….

After a couple of hours I turned the heat off, covered the pot and let it set overnight.

In the morning I rinsed the items out in fresh, cool water and then heaved them over to the washing machine. I have a new machine and its delicate cycle is very delicate so I actually decided to put the items through that cycle to get a good rinsing.

After the final spin, I simply laid everything out on a carpet in a low traffic room to dry. Except for the fabric, which I dried in the machine with some washed sheets. And here’s the final photo shoot. 
As you can see, some other wool items were also washing at the same time. Those I just soaked in hot water and dish detergent and then rinsed in the same approximate temp that the water had cooled down to. And then I spun out the water before I laid them out on the same carpet. Wool items are very easy to wash if you don’t change water temps quickly and don’t squish them around to “scrub” them.

I'm more pleased with the Christmas fabric now - it's much more "vintage looking." Don't know yet what I will do with it, but I'm quite sure it will be nice. ;^)

Here is the mentioned lace trim and the silver laden doily. I don't think the silver shows up in the photo but it does in person. I'm kind of excited to use it on my coffee table - it's very large. (Oh, the blue looking spot on the doily isn't actually there.) And the lace is not as dark as some of the items so does have polyester in it. But it is a much nicer, vintage-looking piece.

I have tea stained doilies before. In fact, all the ones I use around our living room are aged that way. They are much more pleasant to my eye than bright white.

P.S. As I preview this post, I see that "it" thinks the whole thing is one big photo and caption. It makes the format very annoying and I can't see any easy way to fix it. Hopefully it isn't as annoying to you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Knitting for Christmas and This 'n That

This year's and last year's Christmas preparation was all about knitting gifts. As I mentioned in a previous post, Fiber Snob, I have had a new world opened up to me in the way of yarn. I had always knitted from hand spun until I took that Faire Isle knitting class last October and had to purchase yarn for the hat being taught. Before that class I rarely gave knitted gifts to extended family and friends. I was always spinning with a big sweater project in mind for my kids, husband, or myself. And it was always a major undertaking.

But once I made the hat from class with store-bought yarn in about 2 days, I took off. I gave several Faire Isle hats last year and then early this January, I began knitting lots of things for gifts for this next Christmas. I've made a few a few of these bags, quite a few of these hats, and have just recently decided that my mother needs one of these. So here's what greeted me this morning:
It's another Faraway, So Close shawl - I have really enjoyed making them - this is #3. The yarn is by Grignasco knits and is Loden yarn. It is 50% wool, 25% alpaca and 25% viscose. Very nice! I picked the color Rose but it looks a bit more mauve than I had hoped. But still, I think Mom will like it.

I'm thinking I might make one more of them.

I should also confess that with the increase in knitting, there has been a proportionate decrease in "house keeping" around here. The dust and mail piles will attest to that. But won't Christmas be FUN - if we can navigate around the clutter. 

On another note, we were greeted yesterday morning by something entirely different as we were leaving for my ROOT CANAL appointment. We got up early and just after I sat up and was rubbing my eyes and yawning, the wind and rain picked up dramatically. We got over an inch of rain in about 15 minutes. I was noticing how hard the trees were blowing and wondering if we were in the middle of a tornado. After checking out local forecast, it said "severe thunderstorms," so we figured there was no tornado. Then our power went out and shortly thereafter the 60 mph winds died down. Then we saw this in the front of the house:
Our biggest shade tree in the front had its biggest section, right out of the middle, leaning top side down against it. I am really sad and am going to miss its beauty and the great shade it gave our house against the hot summer sun. Our house faces south and this tree blocked a good deal of the sun. No more.

This is the same tree (actually 3 trees were topped off) and right under all the debris is a bed of flowers, including several beautiful columbine plants. I am really hoping they survive and will be back next spring.

But in the grand scheme of things and compared to even the strong earthquake that struck California this past week, it is a minor loss and we are so thankful nothing fell on our home or on any of us. Thank you, Lord. Still, I will miss the giant oak.  (My husband said that oaks do not bend so when a strong wind comes through, they snap and break. Hmmm, there must be a sermon [or a blog post] in that somewhere.)

And one final item that is sure to bring a smile or maybe a "tsk-tsk", every year at the end of the summer, the city swimming pool hosts Doggy Dip. It is the last day for swimming and is open to dogs! After that day, the pool is closed, cleaned and prepped for winter. There is an admission fee which goes toward the maintenance of the local Dog Park. It is a great event!

Well, while there with our golden doodle,
we spotted this little visitor - she was moving quickly so the pics are not great but:

This little cutie had on a two-pieced BIKINI! I wonder how she did her "doggie duty"??? But she was mighty cute. Say, I bet I could spin her fur.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Good Ol' Knitted Dish Cloths

Yes, yes, I know, you've all made knitted dish cloths - probably learned how to knit by making them. And that is just what I've been doing. I have been teaching a friend to knit. We started with just the garter stitch but she has started the same scarf over many times. She sees a mistake and rips it all out and starts over, so she has not been getting any positive reinforcement for all her knitting. The second time she came over (to learn to purl) I decided she needed to come back a third time and learn to make a dish cloth - something small that she could finish. She needs to begin to enjoy the fruits of her labor or she will give up. So we made a date for her to come over again - after she got the hang of purling. The dish cloth would involve yarn overs. And it would involve reading a pattern. Both necessary lessons.

When I started digging to find my original dish cloth pattern, I couldn't locate it so I googled it. Good ol' google. (Except for that whole, "taking over the world" thing.) This is the pattern I settled on.

Funny thing about all my knitted dish cloths, I had quite a few when I married my second husband but he didn't like using them so I got rid of them. Shortly afterwards he went from drumming for church to playing guitar for church. And, doncha' know, guitarist can't do dishes!!  It wrecks their nails. So I had no examples for my student knitter.

I started working on a standard, garter-stitched dish cloth with the yarn over border, as in the pattern to which I linked, but promptly wanted to mix it up a bit. After my playing around and experimenting on the first example, it looked like this    →

Of course, as you can see, I started out in the lower corner with the standard garter stitch. Then thought, "I wonder what would happen if I used some stockinette on this," and when that worked I settled on a pattern that I would repeat. It would be as follows: (It would be the sections between the corner garter rows and the middle garter section.)

Cast on 4 stitches onto size 6 or 7 needles.
Row 1: K4
Row 2: K2, YO, K to end of row. Repeat for 2 more rows.
Row 5: *K2, YO, K1, P to last 4 stitches, K4
Next: K2, YO, K1, K to end of row. Repeat for 2 more rows.*

Repeat between *'s until you have 44 stitches.
Then begin decrease rows like this:
K1, K2tog, YO, K2tog at the beginning of each row following the same pattern as above, Knit 3 rows, purl one.
Do this until you have 4 stitches. CO and weave in ends.

                                                          *    *    *    *

But when I was finished, I decided that I didn't like the fact that there was a front and a back to a dish cloth. I mean, who ever heard of a front and back to a dish cloth?

  ← So I started another one:

And, voila', the front and the back look the same. It is simply this: do the edge stitches by knitting on both ends and then knit 2 rows, purl 2 rows.

This is the written pattern for it:
Begin as before, casting on 4 stitches.
Row 1: K 4
Row 2-5: *K2, YO, K across row
Row 6-7: K2, YO, K1, P until last 4 stitches, K4*

Repeat pattern until you have 44 stitches and then begin the decrease rows by:
K1, K2tog, YO, K1 at the beginning of every row and then follow the above pattern past the first 4 border stitches.

Not sure if that is written clearly but I hope you get the idea.

By the time my friend arrived I had the second one half way finished. They knit up so fast. And by the time my friend left, she was half way finished with her straight garter-stitched dish cloth. And she is a beginner.

So the morals of the story are: (1) knitted dish cloths are a great beginning project; (2) they are fun for non-beginners; (3) they are practical and make great gifts - even if you've moved past them years ago. :^)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mending Those Darn Socks

My favorite pair of hand spun socks are so warm and cushy, spun with merino wool. Well, I mean, my only pair of hand spun socks. I have made others but I only have one pair of them. But by the end of last winter, I was a little desperate, wanting to wear them, but not wanting to wear them out, because the heels have been wearing thin. So I think I've invented a cure. I'm sure someone else has done the same thing and has likely put it on the world wide web, but I have not seen it anywhere so in my own mind, I invented it. I basically did the first step of darning and then needle felted all the new yarn I inserted. I will try to show it with pictures, some fuzzy (for which I apologize.)

Here is the first heel before the mend with my fingers inside it to show the wear. It appears that I almost waited too long to do the repair - there's not a lot left. But there are no tears or broken yarns. ~whew~

I had found this darning ball in my husband's late wife's sewing basket. I believe it is a vintage one made of maple. I saved it but rather doubted that I would ever darn a sock!! At that point I hadn't even made any socks.
← I proceeded to insert the darning ball into the heel and then, with a tapestry needle and some of the original wool yarn, I picked up some of the worn stitches, starting a row or two above the damage. (If your socks are wool but not hand spun, just use wool yarn, in order felt the patch.) I continued weaving in the yarn until the entire damaged area was covered. And I went down into the insole, which seemed to be weakening, too. I attempted to weave, as in over-under and then under-over. I believe that is what you do when you darn.

Not sure you can see it, but I left a loose loop on each end, just as you must do to weave, to make sure the patch did not pull or pucker.

Here is a look at the entire weaving before I cut off the ends.
Because I have done a bit of needle felting, I have a set of the needles. They are formidable - avoid fingers and legs! OUCH! (Needle felting needles are easily obtained in fiber shops, such as Susan's Fiber Shop. And if you don't live near there, check at your local fiber shop or on-line.)
You take a piece of foam rubber, ~ an inch thick or more, and stuff it into the area you are going to felt. Be sure to have lots of layers between the sock and your legs. If you don't at first, you will. And you'll be glad you did. (Words of wisdom from experience.)  :^)

You then simple poke the needles into the entire area over and over until you have felt. If you've needle felted, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, just do it until you wish you were done. And then maybe you will be...or soon thereafter.

And here is a picture after I finished. A bad picture, I might add. But maybe you get the idea.

Now it is ready to wear for a lot more cold days - once I do the other sock.

I'm pretty pleased with myself. Someone's got to be. :^)

NOTE: From now on, I'm going to reinforce heels and toes while I knit, as in this video.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer Sewing Project

Hello again! It's been awhile - this summer has turned out to be extremely busy. How busy, you ask? It is so busy that I had 2 1/2 weeks worth of "Trivia Today" in my Inbox and didn't even know it until just now. And now that I have that all caught up, I can post about the project I did ALL week long during the week of July 28- Aug 2. All.week.long. It was really fun but was a sewing project, not a yarn related project. Our church's VBS program began the following week and their theme was something to do with Medieval times. All the teen helpers were to be dressed like people of that time. So I made a dear young lady this costume:

Our church secretary, who by the way, made several costumes for the week, had the clever idea to use king-size sheets from Wal-Mart for the bulk of the fabric. It is the line called Home Essentials 200 thread count and the sheets are sold separately rather than in a set. It was very economical. I think what made this one very nice is the "bodice" which is actually a separate vest that snaps in the back. The gold trim makes it eye catching.

All this costume sewing reminded me of my first costume for the my first spinning demonstration. It was in the spring of 1983 and our spinning guild was asked to do a demonstration for the children's library reading program. They wanted us in early America costumes and I had never had one before. I was excited to get started and found this pattern:

This is what I looked like the day of our demonstration - don't you love the 'fro hairdo? I guess I hadn't yet made the prairie bonnet. (I probably did that after I saw the pictures.)                                                                    

The apron was one I found in an old trunk at a junk store. While I was working on the dress we made a visit to my grandma's in Tennessee where we went antique shopping. I had been trying to figure out what kind of apron I wanted and whether I would make it or use one already made. When I opened a dusty old trunk, there was the perfect apron.

I have a few old grainy pictures of our time at the library and here are a couple:

 A few years ago I realized I had most assuredly out-grown that first costume so last year I found this pattern and got busy.

Sewing a pioneer costume is a challenge with all the gathers and yards of fabric to maneuver. But here is the finished product.

And I will post about some of our great Christmas demonstrations - at Christmas time. :^)

NOTE: Just to be clear, I do realize that most of the spinning done out of necessity in early America was done by the colonist. Many pioneer women did not take their spinning wheels out west with their household goods because of space. And bolt fabric became readily available in around the 1830's. (However, many of us have more recent family history that includes a spinning grandmother or great aunt.)

We typically use calicoes for our costumes - probably because they are so pretty. And the wearing of the costumes, with all that sweeping fabric, feels like playing house.