Monday, October 30, 2006


Lookie the cute felt ghost and felt envelope I scored from IamSusie in another Craftster swap!

It's basically the cutest ghost of all time.

I think Halloween might pass me by this year though. (work) Any good plans or costumes out there?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Mason Dixon knitting

I noticed a recent spike in hits lately and I was thrilled to see someone obviously really cool is making the band cuffs for the Mason Dixon Knit-along. Yeah!

Which brings me to another point I've been wanting to make. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't done my part in the blog universe and made the list of blogs I read on the side like a lot of you guys do. I want to apologize for that, because I read a lot of knitting and spinning blogs, and it makes me giddy every time I discover someone has linked to me in some way. I should really do the same for others.

The same thing goes for comments. The polite thing to do is to comment on blogs of people who comment on yours. I have been remiss in this regard as well. I've been feeling bad about this for a while, so again, I'm sorry!

I'm glad I got that off my chest. Sort of. I also feel like trying to be cute now to ward off the guilt and self-deprecation I put myself through. Don't look at me, look at the pretty picture!

By the way, these are the Mason Dixon Ball-band dishcloths I made that inspired the cuffs. (free pattern on sidebar, above where the links to the blogs I read should be)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hard at work

-finishing the secret swap items for Craftster swaps (spinning, knitting, crochet, etc.)

-writing new pattern for a secret project (I'll leak it soon)

-writing new pattern for a different secret project (I'll leak it even sooner)

-crafting for bazaar bizarre (knitting, spinning, dying, carding, etc.)

-finishing a Wilton's icing gel dying tutorial (I'll post it here)

-new job: first day worked 10 hour shift. Second day worked 14 hour shift. Today is the third day.

I'm frightened and overwhelmed but also excited. It's okay to be busy, actually.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Kool-aid dying tutorial

I’m sharing here today a method for dying yarn in your microwave. This process also works for carded fiber or roving meant for spinning or felting. There is some casual science involved, but trust me, you can handle it. I am more of an “art girl” so the science bits are likely to be laughable you, if you understand simple concepts like acidity. For me, I’m more interested in the ways the colors happen.

Kool-aid cherry, strawberry and orange:

These directions are only suitable for natural animal fibers including different varieties of sheep wool, mohair, alpaca, and other animal fibers like silk. This method will not work on plant fibers like cotton, linen, bamboo and the like. Also, this method won’t work on man-made fibers like acrylic. My understanding is that these fibers only get stained using acid dye, and eventually the color will bleed and fade. If you have yarn that is a blend of fibers, the wool will get dyed and the acrylic will not. If you have an adventurous spirit, you may get some interesting results this way.

Undyed natural roving:

Kool-aid dying is pretty common and lots of tutorials already exist on the subject. If you do a google search, you will find them. I’m sharing my own experiences here dying in the microwave. Your microwave may produce different results and I’m not sure what to say about that except just do what I did, experiment a LOT. You will learn to enjoy the fragrance of wet sheep and black cherry coming from the kitchen.

Homespun beaded yarn dyed with Kool-aid lemonade, strawberry and orange:

My methods are not exact science. I told you that I’m more of an “art girl.” You must love to experiment and embrace unexpected results. This sort of dying is done in the kitchen, using kitchen tools and equipment, counters, sink and microwave. If you are using commercial dyes, DO NOT dye in your kitchen. This is strictly food-grade dying, got it? Good.

List of what you’ll need:

- gloves
- yarn or fiber
- Kool-aid (one packet per ounce of fiber)
- Microwave safe containers large enough to fit yarn or fiber
- Oven mitts
- Tongs
- Towel
- Damp sponge to wipe up messes
- Plastic wrap
- Jars to measure out dyes
- Wooden popsicle sticks for stirring
- (optional) foam brush for painting (or turkey baster)
- (optional) small reusable jars for storing unused dye mixtures

1. GLOVES: The number one rule of dying is to wear gloves. I know you think you will be careful but it doesn’t matter. Unless you want stained hands, wear gloves. I wear the big yellow gloves meant for household chores. And I wear them every time I handle the dyes. I’m sure the surgical style gloves are useful too.

2. YARN OR FIBER: As stated previously, your yarn or fiber you are dying must be an animal fiber to use this method. I don’t like to dye more than 2 ounces of fiber at a time. I have better results with smaller batches, and I’m less likely to accidently felt anything. Yarn should be in hanks, not tightly would balls or skeins. You need to make sure the dye touches all of the yarn.

3. KOOL-AID: Kool-aid is already acidic and you don’t need to add the vinegar or lemon juice, at least in my experience!

4. CONTAINERS: The containers you use can still be used for cooking since we are using food-grade dyes. I use a set of ceramic bowls in varying sizes for single color dyes. I use large ceramic or glass pie dishes for multiple colors. Use what you have on hand, so long as it can go in the microwave.

5. OVEN MITTS: You will need oven mitts or towels because the bowls will get very hot coming out of the microwave. I’m not exaggerating. USE MITTS!

6. TONGS: Tongs are useful for picking yarn up out of steaming hot water to avoid burning yourself. I also use them to poke around to check if the fiber has taken in all the dye.

7. TOWELS: Towels are important for soaking up extra water that comes out of the fiber and catching little drips and problems. I lay out a big old towel on part of my counter and consider it the “towel station.”

8. SPONGE: A damp sponge is crucial to wipe up messes. No matter how careful you are, eventually there will be a big ‘oops’ and you will be glad you had that sponge handy. Kool-aid stains, trust me.

9. PLASTIC WRAP: I strongly suggest using clear plastic wrap since the colored kind will make it very hard to determine when your dye is absorbed. I use plastic wrap to cover the bowls of dye and fiber when they go into the microwave. Also, plastic wrap is good for protecting your countertops from stains. If you are using the painting technique, you will need to lay out newspapers and plastic wrap to protect your table.

10. JARS: You will need something to measure your dye. You can use a bowl if you like but I prefer a jar or some other container that can be sealed and re-used. Often, I mix up a color and I don’t use all of it, so I just put a lid on and place it in the refrigerator. Also, sometimes I have just a little left over, so I use that as a base to experiment with mixing up new colors. The jar should be at least 8 oz and up to 16 oz for best results. I also sometimes use a big plastic beer cup to mix colors and then pour the leftovers into a small yogurt container to use later. When you see these in your refrigerator, remember that they are not filled with yogurt anymore.

11. STICKS: You need something to stir and dissolve your dye into hot water. I prefer wooden popsicle sticks. I actually use and re-use them a few times before they get too worn out.

12. BRUSH: If you are using a handpainting technique, you need a brush or turkey baster. I like the foam brushes. I also can get away with using these a few times before tossing them out.

13. CONTAINERS: Like I stated before, storing your unused dyes is a good idea if you don’t like to waste anything. It’s not just me. Most crafters are like this, right?

You should now be ready to start dying. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to complete the task without too many distractions. The more you get ready in advance, the better your results will be. Once you are in the cooking phase, you will need to stay nearby and focused.

Undyed homespun yarn:

The same yarn, dyed with Kool-aid lemonade, strawberry and orange:

Start by soaking your yarn. Fill a bowl with hot from the tap water. Use your tongs to smush all the yarn under the water but do not over-agitate. Get out the air bubbles! Once the yarn is submerged properly, don’t touch it again until you are dying. This yarn needs to soak at least 20 minutes, ideally 30. I usually get all the yarn soaking at once, then move on to prepping the dyes.

Now it’s time to mix up your dyes. You’ll want to use about one packet of Kool-aid per one ounce of fiber for vivid, intense color. It depends on the results you are looking for. Use less for pastels.

Mexican flavors of Kool-aid:

Procure a separate jar for every color of dye you intend to use. You can use as many colors as you want, it’s your project, right? Put on your gloves and empty a packet of Kool-aid in the bottom of a jar. Pour hot from the tap water over the crystals and stir with a wooden stick to dissolve. I usually pour in about 8 to 16 ounces, depending on the color and saturation I’m seeking. The amount of dye matters more than the amount of water in terms of the final results. You want less water if you are pouring or painting bold dye on a small area. You want more water if you are dying the whole hank with one color, and need to have enough water in the bowl. You never want the yarn to dry out in the microwave. This is considered a disaster.

Once you have all your dye jars ready to go, it’s time to get the dye bowls ready. If you are dying in a bowl or pie plate, get them ready on the counter in you towel station. Get the plastic wrap ready to go. I like to dye two yarns at once, because one yarn will be in the microwave while the other one is cooling. So get both bowls or dishes ready. If you are painting, lay out newspaper on your table and cover with a layer of plastic wrap. Get your brushes ready to go. Now check the clock, has it been 20 minutes yet? Good.

Homespun bulky yarn dyed with Kool-aid orange and strawberry:

With gloves, take out one hank of yarn and let it drip out into the sink. Gently wring the water out of the yarn until no more water drips out of it. You can also blot the yarn in a towel to remove excess water. For dying with one color, pour the dye into the bowl and lay the yarn into it. Use the tongs or your gloved hands to push the yarn into the dye water, making sure everything is covered. If you need to add more water, carefully pick the yarn up and add water to the bowl, then place the yarn back. To avoid accidental felting, don’t agitate, over handle, or change the temperature of the water on your yarn. Don’t ever run water directly over your yarn. Once your yarn is properly submerged, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to do your second yarn.

Yarn dyed with Kool-aid lemonade, orange, pink lemonade and strawberry:

If you are making a two or three color yarns with pooled colors, set the damp-dry yarn into an empty bowl or better yet, a glass or ceramic pie plate. Arrange the yarn so that it is in a spiral, as close to one layer as possible. Avoid bunching and tangling. Pour the colors gently over the yarn and let them pool in the bottom of the bowl. Cover in plastic wrap and set aside.

To make a handpainted yarn, lay the damp yarn on the plastic covered newspaper. Using a brush or turkey baster, paint colors onto the yarn as desired. This will take longer than you think it will, but you may like the results better. For self-striping yarn, paint sections of yarn at a time. Make sure all of the yarn has taken up some dye and it is all wet. Carefully pick up edges of plastic wrap and roll around the yarn. Set the bundle into a bowl or dish and set aside.

Roving dyed with Kool-aid lemon-lime and Wilton's copper icing gels:

Homespun coiled yarn dyed with Kool-aid grape and strawberry, and Kool-aid lemon-lime and Wilton's copper icing gels. (see roving above)

Once you have your two bowls of yarn and dye ready, it’s go time. Be sure to use your oven mitts, okay? The dye formula is as follows: microwave on high for two minutes. Remove from microwave for two minutes. Repeat until done. The reason I suggest doing two at a time is that when one is resting for two minutes, you put the other one in to cook. The timing works out well. This process usually takes 6 to 12 minutes of actual cooking time. It could take longer if you use a lot of dye. I’ve also noticed that colors with blue in them take the longest. If the yarn starts to boil, stop the microwave and let the yarn cool for at least five minutes. Boiling will felt your yarn. Overcooking will felt your yarn.

Roving dyed with Kool-aid black cherry, grape and strawberry (before spinning):

The same roving, after spinning:

Your yarn is done when the water is clear and all of the dye is absorbed into your yarn. If the water is nearly clear and you’ve gone over 12 minutes, just let the bowl sit, covered, until the dye is absorbed. This will reduce the risk of overcooking. The yarn will continue to absorb dye so long as it stays nice and hot.

Homespun chunky yarn dyed with Kool-aid strawberry and pink lemonade:

When the dying is over, remove the plastic wrap, being careful not to burn yourself. There will be a lot of steam coming out and it gets very hot. Let the bowls of yarn cool until you can handle them. Using tongs, lift the yarn and pour out the water in the bowls. If you aren’t sure that the dye has set, you’ll want to rinse your yarn. The way to do this is to fill a bowl of water the same temperature as the yarn. Good luck with this, I can’t match temperatures unless the yarn is cool. I wait until the yarn is cool and basically dry before rinsing to be safe. Some people add a bit of soap to the rinse but I don’t. Gently wring out the yarn and roll around in a towel to dry. Hang yarn on a clothes hanger and put over your shower head to dry.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Working for the weekend

Do you like my cabled shrug? It's just the sleeves. I based it off of a few different patterns and my own "winging it" and I plan on making more.

So in the I don't know what to think anymore department, I have to report more job news.

It was tedious for you all to read about my challenging last job and we all rejoiced when it ended and I came back to this blog and it was good. (um, I rejoiced anyway)

You feel it coming, don't you? I was called back up for another job. And I took it. But this one will be better than the last one and I plan on having a bit more time on the computer. So let's not panic. (note to self, mainly)

Something interesting! Here's what became of yesterday's fiber friday yarn:

The blender got cold from making margaritas

Yes I am known as knitwit there.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Fiber Friday 10/19/06

FIBER FRIDAY! In the you don't know what you got til it's gone department, I have some yarn to show off today.

There was very little spinning in the last six weeks. I confess. But look at this stuff here.

Stats: 138 yards, 5.4 oz. Thick, thin, but mostly bulky. Single ply with a lot of texture.

Blend of merino, targhee, rambouillet, cotswold, mohair, recycled sari silk, nylon, firestar and angelina sparkle.

I started with a big paper bag (a basket would be more romantic but I believe in honesty) I rummaged through the plastic bins I store fiber in. (a cedar chest, in my dreams) I grabbed handfuls of fiber I wanted to use and tossed it all in the bag.

I sat down to spin and reached in the bag and spun whatever I had in my hand. This worked well for me since I always try to control everything too much. (talking about the yarn, people) And I accidently make self-striping yarn too often.

This fall I think I'm into asymmetry, odd numbers, randomness, unexpected scale and... staying up late.

I don't own the yarn anymore, but I hope it turns into something interesting.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Microscope slide pendants

I scored a cool kit to make microscope slide pendants!

It's the kind of craft I could really get into, like polymer clay, miniatures, silkscreening - oh wait - I barely have time to spin and knit. But I'm getting there.

When you read "oh wait" just now, did you hear the sound of a needle scratching a record? I did. I'm producing a mini movie of a blog in my mind when I type.

But more importantly, tomorrow is the first Fiber Friday in ages where I actually have yarn to show off! I'm so happy to back in the game, people.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

flickr news

Tree House
Originally uploaded by ja_macd.

I was on flickr today updating some albums... and I'm happy to say I've joined the handspun group! If you want to join or just look at pictures of yarnahol, check it out here. It looks like there's 446 photos in it right this moment. That will surely change. I'm adding a couple at a time, so as not to overwhelm.

I caution you all, you may think you are going to casually glance at the yarn, but you may find that the entire afternoon vanishes in an instant as you stare at the pretty stuff. But on to the news!

Okay, as usual I may be slow to catch on to things cool and interesting, but today I spent a little time (is two hours a little time?) creating a business card order. I've wanted them for a long time and then today I saw it...

Moo. "Tiny, wonderful photo calling cards" and you can make up to 100 different images on them. Yes, you read that right. I'll let you know in ten days how they look, because they said that's how long it will take to get here.

And so today I remembered why I like flickr. It's always evolving and seems to stay interesting. Plus I love photography. So when I decided to write about flickr, I wanted to show the first creative commons licensed photo I could find. But it was a cheesy sunset that looked depressing. And then some students on a college campus I didn't know. And then some other weird-not in a good way-stuff.

By the way, you can search terms like "spinning" or "knitting" or whatever you are into. It's a worldwide photo museum in a way. I will share with you one tidbit, searching "spinning" yields a fair amount of spider photos. Nothing can really prepare you for this. Proceed with caution.

Finally I found this picture with the title "tree house" and the caption "actually I believe it's for storage" It was taken in Helsinki Finland by ja_macd. Thanks for the creative commons license!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More swaps

Let's see if I can get this right... Loads of packages are arriving all at once in my mailbox and I'd like to share it with you. It's all crafty, though none of it is spinning or knitting related. (gasp)

First up we have a crochet beanie from glittergirl, a very handy sewn tissue holder from mub, and a candy corn-colored button bracelet and earring set from macgirl_k. The bracelet arrived a bit broken but I have pliers and jump rings and am NOT afraid to try to fix it.

Next up we have Halloween cards from cornflakegirly. She handpainted two of them and the others are ready to be colored in. The small critters under the leaves in the rain is especially precious.

I'm thinking by now you've noticed some funny names. Well, here I am known as Star and on Etsy I am Starathena and on Craftster I am knitwit. I do feel like I should condense this chaos but not so much to actually do anything about it.

Okay, check out the machine embroidered blocks by Cyndiq. They are stitched on to muslin and I'm considering what to do with them. Some people are making trick or treat bags but I don't know that many kids!

Last (but not least) is the bat stuffie from Mikaiyawa. This was a very hot item and I totally scored getting one. I love that we are all drawn to different crafts. I spin yarn and someone else makes velvet bats, right?

When I got serious about spinning I put my sewing machine in the closet and haven't looked back. But I must confess in the far corners of my mind I am entertaining thoughts of what that machine could do. Don't tell anyone though, I'm not up for mending anyone's curtains just yet.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Thanks for the visits

I had this terrible dream that for the last six weeks I was stuck behind a desk in an office building and didn't write in my blog very much. I'm happy to report I am awake now from that nightmare. I'm ba-a-a-a-a-ck!

There was a small awards ceremony over the weekend to celebrate the 10,000th visitor to this blog, complete with a golden fleece statue. You'll notice the number is off, because no one actually caught on until the 10,304th person visited. It's better this way somehow.

There was a lot of food consumed at the festivities including a new snack I discovered at an Indian shop called "Haldiram's Chana Jor Garam" (Spicy black gram snack) Which I am now addicted to. I don't know what "black gram" is but it reminds me of pumpkin seeds. They also had Top Ramen style instant noodles but in curry and masala flavors but I haven't tried those yet.

What's happening this week in the Free World? I am going to send off a few packages for some Craftster swaps, including some Kool-Aid yarn dying kits. Because of this, I will share my instructions with you as well! Bonus feature - dying with Wilton's icing gels too!

This reminds me, I didn't exactly get any cake this weekend. Shouldn't a big celebration to honor the end of a crap job and the 10,304th visitor include cake? And that reminds me, I should get up and start working out again.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

...and I get to drink tea all day

I had an idea. It's no secret I've been counting down the days left at my current job (TWO including today) I thought I'd try something different. In the "if you can't say something nice" department, I'm going to list what I like about this place.

1. My job keeps me from blogging as much, and because I miss it, I've learned how much I love blogging. Thank you for that lesson.

2. The ladies restroom stalls are a perfect robin's egg blue color. And we never run out of soap.

3. It only takes me 15 minutes or so to get to work. Amazing, really.

4. I get to park for free at the Arclight (a centrally located structure next to the best movie theater in LA)

5. They provide bagels on Mondays and Fridays.

6. I sit near a window that has an incredible view. And when my co-workers aren't closing the blinds, I get to enjoy the view.

7. I'm very close to Amoeba (the great music store)

8. I'm running out of ideas. I really wanted to list 10. Okay, powering through. I can look at Craftster when no one is looking.

9. They usually have bananas here on Wednesdays.

10. They hired me for six weeks, and they were true to that schedule.

Did I convince anyone? I'm going to have to set better goals and work a lot harder. What do you like about your crap job?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fall leaf pendant

I swapped a felt bead kit for an awesome fall leaf pendant on Craftster. Cute, right? It's posed on the envelope it came in.

You'll find I write a lot about my Craftster adventures these days because:

1. It is so rad over there

2. Four days left at this insane job. I can't write about much else because all I do is eat and sleep and work...

...and look at Craftster when no one is looking.

You are all on there, right? You can learn how to make anything and it's all free. And don't get me started on the swaps!

I can sort of guess what the pendant is made out of but I won't say. I had no idea until I held it in my hands.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More swap stuff

I got some notions to use in my spinning! I like the colors and textures, should be fun when I return to land of fiber joy.


Five days left and then I can focus myself on spinning, knitting, and blogging in the free world. I've missed blogging everyday. It's like free therapy.

That is, until my next job rolls around... ha ha ha ha

By the way - did you think I wasn't going to say anything about the Cosby sweater pattern? I've got to make something with that!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Final Countdown

Warning #1: I can't put a complete thought together. Welcome to the kind of post an editor would toss! It's random thoughts, free-form. By the way, my job is to write. I'm a writer. Irony? I like breaking rules.

You know what happened this week? I had my 10,000th visitor! I only noticed today when I had my 10,304th visitor. So it hit me... Must've happened this week.

AND only 8 days left at work - then I shall celebrate and that includes a contest, people. Get ready. You've been warned.

You know when you have a week and a half to wait for something but you do the math and it's technically only 8 actual days (because you don't work on Saturday or Sunday) so you say it like that instead because it sounds better? Behold the power of language!

Also, I'm knitting and frogging swatches like it's something fun to do, getting gauge.

Now I have that Final Countdown song stuck in my head.

The end. No editing, people! That is how I choose to celebrate my 10,304th visitor. With changing tense, choppy text and incomplete sentences that are also run-ons, not easy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Swap box

I received some loot from the "My Country Doesn't Have That" swap on Craftster. I scored! After my partner receives I might be able to post a bit of what I sent. But let's enjoy the package together, shall we?

First up TWO CDs of Canadian music, a handmade toque (hat) in lovely colors, a French-English dictionary and some fancy Canadian Tire certificates. I've been thinking about learning French but I don't know how she knew that! I'm also about to listen to the music - I love mixed CDs!

Next up: The coffee collection, Tim Horton coffee with instructions to make a "double-double", cups to drink it with, and a coffee crisp!

Next we have a wild assortment of goodies: Dosai mix, henna powder and safety matches from the Indian community of Calgary, Canadian lip gloss and hair products, Lipton tea, herbal tea and clamato! (clam and tomato drink) - along with a recipe for a "Caesar" cocktail, and a jar of beads!

Also, there are absolutely beautiful silk fabrics and ribbons:

Here are more Canadian goodies including postcards, a rodeo air freshener that smells like campfires, (!) fancy hockey tickets (did you not need those?!), and a magazine (see the headline: "The complete breast guide")

I know by now you're thinking enough, enough. No, there's more. A lot more! (I told you I scored) On to more treats: I think in this case, the picture tells the story! (well, I have to say "Chris and Larry's clodhoppers" may be the best name for a treat ever)

Finally, a fantastic tee that fits me well and looks great! It has my blog name on it, "Keep on knitting in the free world." I love how the world is like a ball of yarn, so cute!

The funny thing is that originally I put on my questionnaire that I wanted any country BUT Canada since I swap with Canadians all the time... I think the organizer read it like: blah blah blah Canada blah blah blah

Now, I couldn't be happier about our being paired together, obviously. I'm trying not to have anxiety about what I sent possibly being inadequate.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another busy weekend

Well I submitted an article for the winter knitty! If they don't want it I will post it here. Hint: It's a last minute gift idea that involves fiber. But it's not exactly a pattern...

Lame hint. Sorry.

I have two weeks left on my soul-sucking job and then hopefully I can re-dedicate myself to artistic endeavors like this blog. I miss spending time more time here. I admit it! Are your dreams on the backburner too?

I also have a lot of sneaky projects in the works and if I find out any of them are going to take off, I'll share them with you. If I find out they are NOT going to take off, I'll write a long self-involved post about my disappointment. Win-win for me either way.

I leave you today with a very important poem by a very important person. It's a good time of year for reflection.

A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?