Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Few More Words About Red Scarf Project 2009

Yesterday, I was able to finish this for The Red Scarf Project:

This is Malabrigo worsted in Bergamota, but I think the color could have been called Pomegranate, don't you?  As I mentioned in my last post, this is Imagiknit's Shop Sample Pattern #32.  I used about 1 1/2 skeins of the Malabrigo on US10 needles to get a 68 in. long scarf (after blocking).  I am just squeaking by with the scarf guidelines on this one.  The scarves are supposed to be 5-8 inches wide, and 60-70 inches long.  The guidelines are pretty specific because the idea is to give away a good quality (and unisex) scarf that is big enough to wrap warmly and comfortably around someone's neck, but not too big and bulky to fit in the limited space available in the care package.
I wanted to send in a 2nd scarf, but not being sure I would finish another one by the December 15th deadline, I delved into my box of scarves which are already knit, but still new, as in never-been-worn, to come up with this one:

This is My So Called Scarf (Ravelry link) in Manos del Uruguay's Mulled Wine colorway.  It just so happens that this pattern is also from Imagiknit's great selection of shop patterns which are free with the appropriate yarn purchase.  Again, I feel like I am just squeaking by with the guidelines on this one, this time because of color.
So, I checked in with Norma via email.  I immediately got a very nice response from her with an a-okay for this specific scarf, and a more general description of the color guidelines.  Basically, you want to stay away from pinks and other pastels that might be considered babyish.  So, if you are checking your stash for the Red Scarf Project, it doesn't have to be red.  Any unisex color you think a college student would want to wear is just fine.
Maybe you would like to participate, but you don't have time to knit a scarf to be mailed before December 15th.  Well, at Norma's regular blog you can also enter to win great knitting-related prizes with a $5.00 donation.  If you do want to knit a scarf though, you can check both OFA's website, and Norma's Red Scarf Project Blog for a list of free patterns.  Happy knitting!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for so much! I truly feel like one of the luckiest people on the planet to have my friends and family, our pets, our health, the roof over our heads, and the food on our table.
As this is a knitting blog, I also want to say how especially grateful I am for the craft of knitting, for yarn, and last, but not least!!!, for my circle of knitting friends. They fill me with admiration, and keep me laughing...a damn fine combination to have in friends!
When I am filled with gratitude, I like to give back a little something. So, during this Thanksgiving week, I am devoting all my knitting time to work on a scarf for the Red Scarf Project 2009.
I started writing a note about the Red Scarf Project days ago, but never finished, so it didn't get posted.  Then I saw this blog entry by Norma, who has taken on the role of official cheerleader for the Project.  She writes that the scarf donations seem to be falling short of their goal this year, so I feel it is even more important to get the word out about this program.  It was created by the Orphan Foundation of America to include hand-knit scarves in Valentine's Day care packages for college bound foster youth. 
I am now halfway done with this:

It is one of the patterns that Imagiknit gives away with a yarn purchase at Stitches, hence it's elegant name: "Shop Sample Pattern #32".  I thought it would take a long time to knit, but on size 10 circular needles in Malabrigo, I am about half-way done after just a few days.  I just might have to knit more than one.
I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mushrooms to Dye For

I thought I would share what I've learned so far while using our recent mushroom haul in some yarn dyeing experiments. 
First, I was asked for more information about this hat:

I knit this in Cascade 220, which I dyed with 2 different kinds of mushrooms.  Both the pale yellow main color and the chartreuse stripes were created from Boletus edulis, or Porcini.  One can achieve lighter or darker colors from the same dyebath, depending on the ratio of mushrooms to fiber.  Or, as I did in this case, by dyeing a second batch of yarn in an "afterbath" or previously used dyebath.  The taupe-like shade was created with a Hydnum imbricatum, commonly known as a Hawkwing mushroom.  I've been searching unsuccessfully for more Hawkwings ever since. 

When I made this hat, all I knew was that you prepared a dyebath by cooking all or part of the mushrooms, and that you could add alum as a mordant.  I was operating under the assumption that any mordant was better than none, in terms of achieving a more saturated color. 
My husband is waiting for me to knit this Klaus pattern from Cocoknits.  I already have a number of skeins of yarn dyed from Porcini, so now I need a contrast color.  So, after our last mushroom hunting trip, I decided to be more methodical.  I read more about the mordanting and dyeing process in The Rainbow Beneath My Feet:  A Mushroom Dyer's Field Guide.  This book gives recipes for various mordants including alum, chrome, tin, copper, and iron.  However, I've used only alum and iron.  I have gathered from reading other sources that many people have stopped using chrome, tin and copper because of their toxicity. 
I made two different dyebaths by cooking one pot of Boletus edulis, and one pot of the single woody mushroom I found.  I had high hopes for this second mushroom as it is commonly know as the "Dye Polypore".  I used three different yarns, prepared three ways:  no mordant, alum mordant, and iron mordant. 
Here are my results: 
(This blog post is starting to feel like science homework.)

Porcini Dyebath:

Dye Polypore Dyebath:
These photos did not capture the colors accurately but you get the idea.  While none of these colors fall into my favorites category, I am so happy that I went to all this trouble.  Now I know that alum brings out yellows, and iron enhances greens.  And sometimes no mordant at all is even better.  I still have one more shot at getting my hands on some Hawkwings this Fall.  If it works out I will use that to dye more yarn for Klaus.  If not I will use more Porcini with iron mordant to aim for that olive green pictured above.

Soon, back to sweater finishing...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday Knits (FO - Jaywalker Socks)

I know it's Monday already.  But, I'm showing off the socks I finished on Sunday, so that I can cast on for my next pair of socks, "Sunday Swing".    And  I wanted to show you my new favorite pattern by Carol Sunday.

First, an FO!  I am the only morning person in my family.  I love being the first one up.  Especially on Sunday mornings when we don't have plans, I enjoy knitting while the house is still quiet.  I take my cup of coffee into the living room where the morning sun is coming in the window and pick up my current WIP.  Yesterday, I did just that and finally finished these:

Pattern:  Jaywalker Socks by Grumperina
Yarn: 2 skeins of Lorna's Lace Shepherd Sock in the Motherlode colorway

Now I have my US 1 needles free for the next pair of socks which will be Sunday Swing, by Krystel Nyberg, from the Summer 2009 Knitty.  I like how Grumperina's version of this pattern came out, and plan on using her modifications.  Angie and I are going to have our own mini-knit-along.  Does anyone else want to join in?

The new Twist Collective is up.  I've just had a chance to skim over the new patterns and so far my favorite is this sweater.  The pattern, by Carol Sunday of Sunday Knits, is written for yarn from her own line of yarns.  Each of her 4 yarns comes in the same 2 weights, so they are interchangeable in her patterns, and they come in a beautiful range of colors.  Last year I knit her Sunday Scarf.  She provided great customer service when I bought the kit from her, and her pattern was well written.  I have a feeling Kelmscott will be jumping ahead of some other items in my Ravelry queue.

I'm still working on yarn dyeing with the mushrooms.  More about that tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So I Married a Mushroom Hunter

As I was typing yesterday's blog post, our neighborhood had a power outage.  I lost my internet connection, and by the time I got it back I forgot to add one more detail about our mushroom imbued week.
In case the photos didn't make it clear enough, we have been inundated.  I've cooked mushrooms for eating, and for preserving, every day since we returned from our 2 day foraging trip.  We've had mushroom burgers, mushroom sauce on pasta, mushrooms with eggs, and mushrooms in soup.  We have mushrooms on the counter, mushrooms in the refrigerator and freezer, and mushrooms drying in the dehydrator.
So, Thursday, my husband came with me to the grocery store to pick up other ingredients for a Wild Mushroom Soup recipe.  Halfway through the store visit, I look down in the cart, and what has my husband put in there?  A bag of mushrooms!
I was about to ask if anyone could possibly explain this to me.  But then, I figured it out.  I remembered how that one last skein of sock yarn just seemed to jump, all by itself, into my shopping bag at the Stitches convention.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mushroom Madness...

Bear with me, it does come back around to knitting...
Last weekend we visited our favorite Fall mushroom hunting area.  We made it in time for one of the lushest mushroom picking seasons we've ever experienced.  Usually we are happy to find a few here and there.  It is not uncommon for mushroom hunters to discuss in depth the formula for success for that particular season in hopes of predicting where to find more mushrooms.  For instance, what altitude they are growing at, whether they are in the grass, or under pine needles, or next to particular shrubs.  This year, when a new arrival asked for a hunting tip, our professional mushroom hunting friend simply replied, "Look down."  Everyone had some success:

I meant to write about our adventures sooner, only I've been too busy cooking mushrooms:

My husband has been hunting for Boletus Edulis, or Porcini, as they are called in Italian cooking, ever since his grandfather introduced him to the activity when he was 5 years old.  I have learned to recognize a few different edible mushroom species over the years, but the porcini is by far my favorite to cook and to eat.  On the other hand, our son has yet to acquire a taste for them, but still loves the hunt for these edible treasures, which means more for us!    And now I have an another, ulterior motive for encouraging this family activity...yarn dyeing!
First, synchronicity on the road trip:
Our usual route to our mushroom spot takes us through the Bay Area.  Not wanting to face that kind of Friday night traffic, my husband decided at the last minute to drive a different way.  This alternate route took us through the town of Ukiah, where we stopped for a meal.  To my surprise, this advertisement was on our dinner table:
It just so happened that a last-minute decision had put us there on Nov. 6th, and it just so happened that the nearest art gallery was the one with the "informative displays of mushroom dyes by local artist".  I spent as much time as I could soaking up the available information, and got to chat with a teacher, and board member, of the International Mushroom Dye Institute.  It was amazing to see the earthy tones of yellow, green, pink, orange, brown, and even purple, produced on wool and silk with mushrooms!  I hope to return sometime for a workshop. Meanwhile, I can't help but appreciate how life's little coincidences work out sometimes.
The next two days we were out with our baskets during most of the available daylight.  With the porcini being so plentiful, I felt free to take time to try to find and identify other mushrooms.  We use guide books and we are sure to never pick and eat any we can't positively identify.  Our favorite books include All the Rain Promises, and More..., and Mushrooms Demystified, both by David Arora; as well as The Rainbow Beneath My Feet, by Arlene Rainis Bessette. 
Parts of the porcini themselves are good for dyeing.  Here is a hat I knit out of last year's mushroom dyebaths: 

I like how the hat came out, and my husband is waiting for me to knit him a whole sweater out of porcini dyed yarn, but I've been hoping for some variety.  Last weekend I did find other mushrooms, but only one I thought was worth keeping for dye experiments. We are just about done handling the porcini that are still good to cook. Then I plan on making some dye baths with the leftovers, as well as one with a woody mushroom I found.  I hope to post photos of that process this weekend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Little Stitch & Pitch = Lace Pullover Progress

  Aside from news, a nature program now and then, and my son's addiction to The Simpsons, we've never been big television viewers.  So we've never opted to pay for cable reception.  We're happy to wait for shows we want to watch to come out on Netflix (or Hulu, as I discovered when I had the flu).  Ever since the switch to digital we have reception to one channel.  When we have visitors, it seems like what they miss most in our virtually TV-free zone is sports.  Now, no offense to sports fans, but most sports on TV make my eyes glaze over.  But the one sport I do like to watch is baseball.   Maybe it's just because my son plays baseball, and I've learned enough about the game to enjoy it.  But also, watching baseball does seem to lend itself to knitting.  I hope to make it to an official Stitch N' Pitch game someday.  Anyway, a happy coincidence is that the one channel we can watch broadcasted the one sport I like to watch this week.  I wasn't really rooting for either the Phillies or the Yankees.  But, what a wonderful distraction it was, after saying good-bye to Geisel, to hang out on the couch with the family, watching all those talented players, while finishing up the lace portion of my silky merino pullover.  It also helped that these two cuddled with us while we watched:

Harpo, who actually likes watching television.

Sister, who is just in it for the cuddling.

I tried on the pullover before binding off.  It is currently both a little too snug and a little too short for my liking.  But according to my gauge swatch, it should fit after the process of washing and blocking stretches out the fabric.  I sure hope that gauge swatch wasn't lying to me. 
One of my favorite knitting tricks is to go up a needle size or two, in order to bind off loosely, yet evenly.  I knit the stockinette portion on a US 6, and the lace portion on a US 4.  After trying a size 7 on the first few stitches, I ended up using a size 8 to bind off.  Still not perfect, but like I said, I am counting on the magic of blocking:

I'm hoping to work on the sleeves this weekend, and move on to the next project soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Good-bye to a Friend

Yesterday we said good-bye to this guy: 

This is where Geisel could often be found at mealtimes. He would magically appear in the kitchen whenever we were having chicken or fish for dinner, even before we started cooking.  He knew he wouldn't get any by getting on the counter.  So he would sit politely on a barstool, just like a person, waiting for a tidbit.
Over 15 years ago, at the Oregon Humane Society, he climbed onto my shoulder and didn't let go.  He was great company ever since.  Luckily, he was pretty happy, healthy, and spry, up until last week when he became ill.  It was a gift, in a way, to know in the last few days that his time was limited.  We were able to put in some quality time with him, giving him a scratch on the chin while he enjoyed the warmth of the heater, and letting him have a few more hours hanging out in the sun in the yard.  We will miss him.