Sunday, September 28, 2008

I. Would. Dye for. U

Yesterday I had the great privilege of attending a workshop taught by superstar local dyer Karida Collins, proprietress of Neighborhood Fiber Company. I first encountered Karida's hand-dyed yarn at Knit Happens in Alexandria, VA. In fact, my very first post on this blog highlighted her yarn.

So when I found out that she was offering this workshop, I jumped. I've often wanted to try dyeing but felt intimidated by all the extra equipment I would need to get (less space for yarn!). Also, Yarn Widower would have a fit if I goofed up something in our apartment and had to sacrifice the security deposit - times are tight.

Karida greeted all four of us warmly at her charming home in Mt. Ranier, Maryland (just outside of DC). Since it was threatening to rain, we spent most of our time in her home studio.

Here's Karida during our discussion of color theory. Yes, that's a dust mask sitting on her head. Safety first.

Actually, lunch first. Karida had prepared a lovely spinach - goat cheese quiche with pasta salad on the side. Complete with iced tea infused with mint from her backyard garden.

After lunch we got down to business. Karida put us to work. We each got four hanks of sock yarn pre-soaked and ready for color. It was interesting to see how each of our approaches was so different. I was a little shy and hesitant at first - dabbing a little color here and there. My tablemate Heather was far bolder - she jumped right in and mixed it all up. After our first hank, we all oohed and aahed over each other's work, compared notes and then went back to experimenting.

Here are two of my skeins.

I named the first one DNA electrophoresis. Karida suggested Spring Flowers which is a far prettier name. The second one I named Citrine Supernova. Can you tell that I'm a science geek at heart? I didn't take pictures of my last two - I was too busy dyeing.

After the application of dye, we heat set the color in the microwave and soaked the yarn before rinsing. Karida did all the grunt work (mixing the dye, cleaning our brushes, rinsing and drying) freeing us to play with color.

It was a good day. Yarn, color and dogs. Karida's two rat terriers - Honey and Trixie kept us company and provided editorial commentary. Apparently, growling = good.

Say wha?

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Lace Knitter - who me?

I've been knitting lace. To tell you the truth, I'm a little surprised at myself. For one, I've never been a lace enthusiast. Over the years I've been slowly graduating from Doc Martens to Danskos and finally to the occasional stiletto heel but I've never been a very fancy girl and certainly not a wearer of lace. Despite my recent girlification, lace has never once entered my wardrobe (well, not on anything fit for public display). It just seemed too uber feminine for this former tomboy. To me, lace was too reminiscent of doilies under the Hummel figurine collection. Something that was just purely decorative had no place in my heart.

But the thing with purely decorative is that they're often so purdy. Especially knitted lace. And once I got the hang of the yarnover before purl thing, I had to give it a shot. So I started knitting Veronik Avery's Lace Ribbon Scarf. Not too girly, no floral patterns - just nice elegant almost geometric lace. No crazy chart to follow. Easy-peasy! I ended up using the wrong yarn for the pattern though. Noro Hotaru - beautiful slubby multicolored yarn with each strand looking like a branch studded with cherry blossoms. Beautiful but not a great yarn for this project. Someday, I'll knit this pattern again with a quieter less flamboyant yarn.

I was inspired by the Hotaru's resemblance to cherry blossoms and the lovely warm weather so my next lace project was Melanie Gibbons' Hanami Stole - another geometric lace design. For this project, my yarn choice turned out to be perfect. Linen laceweight from Rio de la Plata. Before seeing this yarn, I had never considered linen as a lace yarn even though I suppose back in the day, linen showed up in a lot of lace. I had initially roped two local friends from ravelry (the ever so talented Jooney and Waffleking1) to do an informal knitalong but alas our schedules proved too challenging and other projects too alluring so we haven't met in a while. Unfortunately, this also means I haven't worked on it for a while. Well, I almost have the basketweave part done...

And in the middle of all this lace madness, I remembered that my beloved mother-in-law's birthday was just about a month away. And I had the perfect pattern for her. My most ambitious lace project yet - here is a little teaser (mom-in-law hasn't received it yet; hopefully by the time I post about it, I'll have some nice pictures of her modeling it).

Suffice it to say, I am converted. Lace is my new best friend. Sure, I'll wear lace (as soon as I'm finished with the Hanami stole - I shall wear it!). And continue knitting lace. It's fun. I like the total absorption that learning a new lace pattern requires of me. I like the leap of faith as I dutifully follow instructions, puzzle out mistakes, rip back and reknit to be finally rewarded with a discernible pattern. Lace. It's something magical to turn a bunch of string into a well-organized beautiful thing.

So bring on the lace, I say! Although the Yarn Widower draws the line at anything resembling a doily. And he threatens marital strife when Hummel figurines are mentioned.