Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tea Things

So the madder was fun, and it produced a beautiful brick orange, but it wasnt' the colour I was hoping for so more experimentation is in order (I want RED!!!). We dyed a bunch of roving as well as a skein of 100% cashmere slated for The Pretty Thing
I have developed a tea obsession. Mom and I went to Foxglove (a garden store on Saltspring) and bought a couple of tea bushes, which caused a exploration into the mechanics of tea making (Wikipedia is the greatest website on earth!) I learned a whole bunch of cool things about tea, like how it is processed and that Black, Green, White and Gun Powder tea are all tea from the camelliea sinensis plant but processed differently. This caused me to go to the local tea store and buy some fancy black tea, because I have had good tea before, but never had REALLY good tea. I bought some estate (estate means it's all from one place and not blended from a variety sources) TGF-OP1 Darjeeling. TGF-OP stands for Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, the 1 means it was 1st flush, or the first harvest of the very first buds. There are MANY acronyms to denote the quality of tea and this is one of the higher ones (although 2 or 3 levels down from the highest, that's pretty good considering there are about 20 levels of quality in tea, tea bags like Lipton or Tetley are just about lowest level of quality you can get by the way).
It was the most amazing tea I have ever had in my entire LIFE. It didn't have that bitter taste that most black teas have and it was juicy and delicious. It was so good that the next day I went back to the tea store and bought a bag of Assam tea and 2 bags of White Tea. I didn't get any green since I am not a huge fan of green to start with.
White tea is the fanciest of teas, and I bought the fanciest of the white teas (pretty fancy shmancy eh?) it cost a bundle but I wanted to try it. It's called Dove Silver Needles. This tea is picked from the first buds only from the very ends of the first leaves of the tea bush. There is only a 2 day window in which to pick this type of tea before it gets too old. The tea leaves are procesed minimally and don't got through the fermentation process that black teas go through. Most tea looks like little black sticks but this tea looks like fuzzy white tea leaves. It is the best tasting beverage I have ever had in my entire life. I can't even describe except that it's incredible. It's expensive as hell, but the really good, expensive tea leaves can be brewed multiple times and often don't come into their flavouring until the 3 brewing. White tea can be brewed a max of 4 times (the 4th time isn't that grea tbut passable), black tea can be brew 5 times. So at $16.50 a 25gm bag really good white tea seems insanely expensive for dried leaves. But at less than 2 gms of leaves per cup of tea and 3 brewings per, it ends up costing 46cents a cup of tea. That's not bad for the best beverage on earth. Really good blakc tea costs less than 25 cents a cup.
Plus you feel super cultured and foofty woofty when drinking expensive tea, and you can't put a price on that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What'sa Madder You?

The past few days have been filled with fibrey goodness!!! I have knit 3 hats in as many days. 1 luvverly merino red random cable hat (not that's not the name of it, I really just did random cables as I went). One Silver Thaw Noro Hat-plain stocking stitch. And one Noro Kujaku Hat that I did short rows for the front of the brim and it's really quite flattering.
(You can click on photos to embiggen)

Oh and I also knit a baby sweater with a hood a few days ago-it took me a full 4 and a half hours to knit and that includes the designing of the pattern and ripping back and reknitting 3 inches...I love big yarn. It's my first finished baby project-I think I have gotten over the whole jinxing thing...try to ignore the giant ball of sari was a moment of weakness.

My Mom and I have been dyeing with Madder root this evening and it's terribly fun. Mom grows Madder in her garden (incidently my tarantula is named Rose Madder because she is a rose hair tarantula, after my favourite Stephen King Novel of the same name, but I digress...) Madder is purported to make an incredible red and has been used for thousands of years (madder dyed cloth has been found in King Tutankhamun's tomb). I spent a lot of time on the internet trying find out how one is supposed to dye Madder root and discovered that everyone has a different way of doing it and they all think that everyone else doesn't know the proper way.
Working under the theory that ancient peoples doing dyeing might not always used proper scales and measuring techniques (although I am sure that master dyer in some ancient advanced civilizations did use controlled techniques, I doubt the layperson bothered.) I came up with a recipe that was fast and easy.
Step one, we dried the roots on the stove-we then discovered that we didn't need to dry the roots and added fresh roots to the pile.

Step two-chop the roots into little itty bitty pieces. This was annoying with dried roots and hard on the wrists, but incredibly easy with the fresh ones. It occured to me that all the recipes used dried roots because the majority of people don't have fresh ones available. We ended up with the equivalent to 1 oz of dried root.

We added the chopped roots to a pot of hot, but not boiling, water. More than one person said that boiling it can turn the dye brown. We'll have to try boiling it on purpose sometime to see what shade of brown-wouldn't it be wonderful to get a rich mahogany?
Below is a picture of the pot of water immediately after the roots are added. Literally, I added the roots, picked up the camera and took a picture. Look how red it is!!!

We then crushed 30gms of calcium carbonate (aka Tums) and added it to the root bath. The calcium carbonate ensures you get a true red rather than an orange red. It also imparts a nice minty flavour. Below is the dye bath with Tums.

Next step (and I didn't get a picture) was to mordant the wool. We did this by adding 50 gms of alum (maybe 2 tbsp)and 1 tsp of cream of tartar (both avaiable in the grocery store in the pickling section-you can sometimes find alum at the pharmacy) to a pot of warm water, stirred until it was dissolved and added 75gms of superwash wool top and a skein of homespun shetland (maybe 75gms)
After the wool had been in the mordant for half an hour and the dye bath had been cooking for about an hour and half (at very low heat on the woodstove, perhaps the equivalent to low on a slowcooker) I could handle the suspense no more and took a sliver of rinsed, mordanted wool and added it to the dye bath for half and hour and ended up with this gem.

The colour is amazing and the camera adds more of an orangey tone than is actually there. I would describe it as raspberry.
It's beautiful!!!
So unable to handle it any longer I rinsed the mordanted wool while mom strained the dye bath (no spinner wants to pick out a billion bits of wood and bark while spinning) and tossed in the wool.
This was a little anticlimactic as we had prepared enough dyebbath for 75gms of fibre and on a whim added the Shetland.

The result so far seems to be a variegated coral-yellow colour with little difference to the shetland. We'll leave it over night so it sucks up as much of the dye as possible and see what the resultant colour is. Meanwhile, there is a whole 'nother pot of madder root (even more than the first batch) sitting on the warm stove waiting for tomorrow.
So far the experriment has been SUPER succesful. The only thing keeping the wool from being a rich raspberry is the volume of wool versus dye. It was super easy to do and with enough root will produce colours as bright as commerical dyes.
By the way you don't need to use heat at all with madder. You can soak the roots for 24 hours and mordant overnight or for a few hours, and then have it sit in the dye bath until the dye is exhausted and you have the colour you choose. This method makes a dye product (protein fibres only) in a couple of hours-I'm impatient.
Later this week, dyeing with walnut shells and possibly making ramie from nettles.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Right Here, Right Now

I am scanning photos, renaming files, eating soup, drinking pop, listening to music, reading blogs, and posting on this blog...all at the same time.
That's why I like knitting it's simple.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where did the monotony go?

Ever notice how distractions equal your threshold of distractedness? For example, if you knit a gigantic king size garter stitch coverlet (I am not exactly sure what a coverlet is but it sounds rather large) and you had nothing but 6 billion stitches of insane monotonous knit stitches(...I mean 1 stitch for every human being on the planet...that would make me consider committing genocide...) than nobody will speak to you for days. The phone will not ring. The people in your house will content themselves with non-communication, the cats won't meow at you when they are hungry and there will be nothing on TV.
On the flipside, if you try to do something that requires even a modicum of attention span, like oh say...working at home-everybody wants to be around you. The phone will ring (don't worry it's not for you, that would be a pleasant distraction, but you will have to stop working to give the phone to someone else). Some kid outside will slapshot a puck at your house so that it sounds like a truck drove into your home. The neighbours, after 4 months of blessed silence will decide to play really loud music (loud enough that I know they were playing Aerosmith's version of Come Together, an altogether laudable music choice but definitely distracting). Someone will ask to borrow money and then attempt to make small talk ("What are you doing?" 1 guess as to how difficult it is not to answer "Apparently working so I can earn enough money to lend you some..."). That person will probably come back later asking questions that they could discover the answers for themselves if they cared to. Although I will admit that my bitterness over the multiple distractions have made me a little intolerant of inane conversation.
I find myself in a rather hypocritical mood, at this point I am not really pleased with the fact that things have to balance out.
On the bright side, I did manage to knit a baby sweater. My first completed baby project!! I have been waffling around finishing baby stuff (I still have a baby kimono that needs to be steeked and has been waiting since August). It just feels like jinxing. But yesterday at the yarn store I realized that I could probably knit a baby sweater in super bulky yarn in 4 hours or less and hot damn! I was off to the races!!!!
I knit a design-as-you-go hooded baby cardigan in a lovely olive green merino yarn (Fleece Artist, Big Merino). Less than 4 hours and it has a hood!
I like how it turned out so much that I may write the design down and put it on Ravelry (OK that's a wee bit ambitious I admit, but it could happen...really).
It's a rather therapeutic little sweater even after it's finished. I wanted to gnaw my way through the drywall and shove my head through and scream at my neighbours to turn down the music. and then I looked a the sweater and thought "Oh look at the baby sweater!"
so easy to easy to please...a woman of extremes I am.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Viva Canada!!!

I never thought I would say this, but I love a reality show. I have been avidly watching Battle of the Blades and thinks it's the greatest reality show ever. How can you get more Canadian than combining Hockey Players with Figure Skaters? Of a fan of both sports, I think it's a brilliant idea. The fact that they are skating for charity helps me justify my enjoyment of it.
For those of you that don't watch the program 8 retired NHL players have been partnered with 8 figure skaters, and they have to learn how to do pairs skating with all the crazy lifts and presses. It's fantastic because almost all the hockey players are gigantic (except for Domi of course) and all the figure skaters are tiny. I love watching the big manly men let loose and try to be graceful, it's fantastic!!
I don't always agree with how the voting goes, and I am very glad that the final say goes to the judges. It's pretty obvious that a lot of people vote for their favourite hockey players rather than the better skaters. I think the best pair is Isabelle and Stephane, but Battle of the Blades is not being played in Quebec, so they have been on the chopping block 2 out of 3 weeks. Because of this, last night I pulled out my computer and voted for them a bunch of times. I don't think I have ever voted for a TV thing before but I had put aside my ethics for the sake of the better skaters.
Battle of the Blades? The perfect example of how Canadian Culture can shine through our immersion in Americana!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Giving Thanks (a blog title like a million othe blog titles in Canada today...)

I love to knit. I love to spin. I used to hate knitting, but loved spinning. Eventually I got to the point where I realized that I was going to have to do something with all the yarn I had spun and I begrudgingly sat down to knit.
Knitting used to be a chore for me. I am left handed and couldn't quite get the hang of "american" style knitting. Forget about learning to crochet, there are fewer instructions for left handed crochet than for knitting. I created a modified knitting technique, that was very strange looking but worked very well for me, but it wasn't good enough. At my fastest I still considered myself to slow. So after learning a bit more about knitting from other knitters I decided to try to knit continental. It took a while to learn and my hands hurt a LOT but I learned quickly because I already knew how to knit, I was just learning a new technique.
Today is a great day because it is know 10:40AM and I have already taught my youngest stepdaughter how to knit. She has knit about 8 rows of a potential scarf- although I think it may end up being a cowl, much more stylish and faster to knit. She is 9 years old and she can spin and knit!!
Knitting for me is like meditating, it gives me something tangible to focus on while at the same time creating something. I love making things. I think it's the greatest thing in the world to be able to pass that joy onto someone else! Especially now that I have another knitting friend to hang out with (she is already talking about goign on ravelry and knitting patterns.)
Take heed my friends, I have converted yet another disciple to our following!! MUWAHAHAHAHAH!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009


My husband pointed out to me that reading about knitting is also not knitting...
I think I married the right man...

I Only Knit Tiny`s Sweater

Fall is here, and I must say I have never been so excited by the season! I have always enjoyed fall, I love the crisp air and how everything manages to smell clean and delicious, even in the city. But this fall in particular I am excited about. This fall I am a fully addicted knitter and spinner and I am nesting. What a perfect combination for the season. Lately I have been knitting a lot, spinning often and gotten back into dying now that it's not so hot that the dye pot turns my house into a vinegary sauna.
Tiny's sweater is coming along slowly. I knit the first ball of yarn in one day and that was a huge mistake. The yarn I am using is called Samband. It is a discontinued Icelandic Lopi. It is incredibly inflexible for a few reasons a) it is single ply so it doesn't have the boing of a 2ply. 2) It is Icelandic wool that hasn't been dehaired so the hair holds it together more than straight fleece does (think mohair). iii) This wool is at least 3o yrs old. Stored very well, but despite that it is very, very dry-which obviously lends nothing to the elasticity of the yarn. Add into that that I am knitting it at a firm gauge and it has cables...well that spells pain. The 2 subsequent balls of yarn have taken nearly a week each to knit. I can't do more than 4 or 5 rows at a time because it hurts.
Now I had vowed that I would knit NOTHING else until I was done this sweater. This is not an entirely unreasonable goal for me, I have knit other sweaters to the exclusion of all else. So while I was knitting only Tiny's sweater...I was knitting very little because I could only knit 10-15 rows day at most, and that was all I knit. That drove me pretty batty for awhile until I realized that spinning is not knitting. (C''s SO not cheating...) so I did a bunch of spinning. Then I realized that dying is also not spinning, so I did a bunch of that too. Soon I was nearly in the full throes of fibre induced euphoria, and still not knitting very much. it was great for a few days, until I got to the point where I realized that i was significantly increasing my yarn stash (good) but not decreasing my stash at all because I wasn't really knitting (bad..ish).
I knit an alpaca scarf out of roving. That doesn't really count, because it only took an hour and a half to knit, and everybody know that if you don't reach that critical threshold of several hours, it`s not really knitting.
Than I knit a pair of mittens. This also didn`t count because I knit it out of handspun that I specifically spun for mittens and I was experimenting with mitten design- i am trying to design a better fitting mitten both in the the thumb and the top of the hand. It`s going very well so far. It fits my hand fabulously...although apparently not everyone has hands shaped like mine...
Right now I am knitting a hat from some red and plum colour Blue Faced Leicester wool that is plyed with sky blue bamboo. this also doesn`t count because I am knitting it to donate as a door prize for the Kamloops Arts Council AGM on Tuesday.
So really...
I have only knit Tiny`s Sweater...