Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Faire Day at the Fair!

We had a lovely visit to the Minnesota State Fair on Sunday - once again, I am amazed. Good food, great people watching, entertaining rides and really cool Creative Arts entries. As I slog along on Andy's Brown Sweater, I realized that I wouldn't have enough time to make an entry this year. I am . . . okay with that. I'd love to have entered something but only something well done.

Here's the gang - imagine DH as the photographer - at St. Bernard's Church Dining Hall. A Minnesota Tradition.

The good thing about getting to check out the Creative Arts efforts is that I didn't have to ride any spin-y things. I have zero tolerance for exciting rides anymore so I just let Youngest Child get all the glory. I embarrassed my older children this spring when I had to call my Middle Daughter on her cell phone and tell her to "Get over to the Spinning Teacups right now!" so she could take my place before the ride actually started. My three-year old made me sick just by spinning the wheel manually. Here's a snippet of me - just before getting violently ill - taken at our local Como Park Zoo.

And just in case you were wondering if I've been actually doing anything good for a body - I went swimming in the Saint Croix River at Kinnickinnic State Park in River Falls, Wisconsin on Tuesday evening. It was lovely - cool, uncrowded and not too strong of a current. We only did a mile swim but I was ready for bed by the time we got home. Tomorrow, it's biking again.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Saturday Seven ride again

I have to post this a little early because I am going for an early bike ride tomorrow. DH and OD and I are getting ready for the Saint Paul Bike Classic on September 10. We are doing the 30 mile ride which sounds impressive but isn't all that much. I rode 28 miles on Wednesday with OD and it was just fine. The Classic is supposed to be a great ride with live music at the rest stops and lots of camaraderie. Hopefully, no spoke problem. Two rides ago, I broke a spoke and had to walk my bike the last 1/2 mile back to the parking lot.

Today's Saturday Seven are (from left to right) some vintage car games, the last three mugs from a set of six, a bag of classic textbooks, some more training underwear, the first outgrown toddler shorts of the year and some long-unused cookbooks. What is six? Two of my favorite things to wear - turtlenecks. There are only so many turtlenecks one can have. Off they go to Saint Vincent de Paul. I'm thinking about pruning my knitting needle collection next week. Off to go ride a bike!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Indigo Blue Day

I had a little extra time today so that I wound up what looked like a healthy skein of indigo dyed blue faced leicester and admired it for a while. Sad, isn't it? All that hard work and two and one-half balls of yarn. I had been perusing my copy of Interweave Press' Wrap Style by Pam Allen but there just isn't enough yarn. Rats.

It does seem to match the weather we are having today. It was opening day for the Minnesota State Fair and that means it usually is either 93 degrees F. or about 60 degrees F. Right now? 67 degrees F. and rainy. Welcome, Annie Modesitt! It's all for you, baby! I don't go to the fair until Sunday when the weather is supposed to be sunny and 72 degrees so I can't wait! We are serious about our State Fair here. It is worth more than one visit. And the knitting? Fabulous. I've submitted items for judging and while I earned 98 out of 100 points, I didn't even place! Not even a third place! Sad but good in a weird kind of way, to live in a place where knitting is taken so seriously.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Indigo whying?

Okay, this all started out so innocently. I bought six small indigo plants at the Shepherd's Harvest Lamb and Wool Show. It seemed obvious that they would join the many things I am unable to grow. Right next to the zucchini and carrots that I faithfully plant each year and never have to harvest. Because they don't grow.

But this year, the garden was growing incredibly well. Leaves galore. Giant plants. So I decided to harvest the indigo and dye some yarn. So simple.

Well, since I was unable to procure a hot plate or camp stove to dye things outside on - I had to dye things inside. Instead of everyday pots and pans, I used my large canning pot and pickle jars as a double boiler, plastic windshield washer fluid jugs as buckets and my wheelbarrow full of twigs as a drying station. (The wheelbarrow was actually outside.)

I feel like the McGuyver of knitting! The only thing better would be actually carving my knitting needles out of chair legs.

After harvesting about half of each stalk and stripping the leaves off, I actually had quite a lot of leaves crammed into three small jars for the original dye production. Luckily, the women who pushed, er, sold me indigo, gave me instructions on dyeing with them. The vaguely-edible looking mess simmered for about and hour before I strained out the leaves. I think that next time, I will run chop the leaves up first. I think there was still quite a bit of dye left in the cooked leaves. Not too pretty at this stage. They actually smelled like cooked spinach.

The second step involved adding a bit of non-sudsing ammonia and introducing oxygen into the mix. I poured the dye back and forth between my "buckets" until it began to change colors slightly. The mix became a darker, sickly green-blue. Then, the gallon pickle jars came into play. I poured one-half of the dye mix into each jar and added the final chemical step (the technical name - I can't remember), Rit Dye Remover!

Well, I have a fair amount of Bluefaced Leicester roving as well as the two-ply yarn I've spun of it. I dyed the pre-wetted yarn in one pot and some of the wet roving in the other. After a long simmer (naptime for Youngest Child was over by then), I took the dyed objects outside and hung them to dry. Surprise! A lovely blue - I was so please because the original color was a yucky blue green. I read online that they had to dry for 24 hours before rinsing and that seemed to be true because none of the colors washed out during the final rinse.

Unfortunately, the second run with the same dye pots was a dismal failure and everything turned an ugly green-grey. I think I messed up the pH values but I saved the failure skeins to try again with the next batch of indigo.

The whole point of dyeing yarns, however, is that you end up with enough yarn to actually do something with and that might be a little iffy. I could probably get enough from the yarn for a scarf and, if the color held for the roving, a matching hat when spun.

A fun experiment but a lot of work for just a hat/scarf set. Makes you admire all those pioneers! Jonesing for a little color, ready to chop up plants from the yard on the off chance that a pretty color would emerge. I might have to experiment with Rhubarb roots next. Or maybe, those zucchini vines and carrot tops. Not an edible vegetable on the whole mess!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Yarn Tour Triumphant!

After all our worrying, we had a lovely day Yarn Crawling through Minneapolis and the western suburbs. The sun came out from behind the clouds as we drove and the conversation was great fun. Karen, the top bidder on our charity Yarn Crawl, and two of her long-time friends, Mary and Catherine (they all went to high school together!) met us at Trinity School at River Ridge and we drove on to our first stop, Needlework Unlimited in Minneapolis.

Our guide, Brian, knew SO much! Melissa remarked that she'd been to the store many times but she'd never seem some of the specialty yarns areas that he showed us. I'd been looking forward to finding a Noni bag pattern and they had lots!

At the second store we visited, the Yarn Cafe, I ended up with some Noro Blossom for a felted bag. We also had a great lunch including a little pick-me-up - chocolate covered potato chips!

Our final stop, Amazing Threads, was a great treat and the staff was excellent. They had two trunk shows in the store - one of Cascade 220 projects and one of Interweave Press' Knitting Out of Africa. They were truly inspiring - I had to restrain myself and only bring home a little felting project - pumpkins. Unfortunately, our photos didn't turn out. You know what that means - a return trip!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Someone's not wearing any underwear - and it's not me!

I had to post my Saturday Seven a little early because I'll be Yarn Crawling with my friend Melissa tomorrow. The title of this post refers to a family joke. Youngest of my daughters was playing at a new neighbor's house and came out with this statement. "Let's play a game." "Okay," says the neighbor. Youngest Daughter says, "Someone's hungry - and it's not you!"

Well, someone's not wearing any underwear. And it's not me - or Youngest Child. Part of this week's Seven were the toddler training pants that I oh-so-faithfully saved for the next child. Unfortunately, he only wants Spiderman and Nascar undies. Off they go.

More books, both novels and children's books, make up the rest. I could weed out lots more books but that would be too easy. Gilead was read for my book group and I was glad to pass it on. A thoughtful read - especially if you have an interest in religion.

I'll take lots of pictures tomorrow - it looks like we'll be going to Needlework Unlimited, the Yarn Cafe, Amazing Threads and possibly, Clickity Sticks. A good half-day's work!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Knitters Backlog - an unfortunate position

Well, I am really backed up with work right now and its my own darn fault. I've really meant to post yesterday about My Saturday Seven but between cleaning (I hate it but I have some standards - unlike my daughters whose jobs are to clean the bathrooms - and when their standards fall too low, I have to buck up and clean the bathrooms) and biking (a much more pleasant task with some friends and Oldest Daughter - 18 miles on a lovely trail from Saint Paul through Minneapolis and home again) and then, the required Saturday Nap . . .

That I didn't Make It To The Computer. Bad Me.

But, here is my second Saturday Seven. I just love this!

The wicker chair was one I loved and bought at a yard sale. Unfortunately, my family never liked it and just shunted it from room to room. Even Middle Daughter without any chair in her bedroom rejected it. The box is full of odds and ends, mostly from Middle Daughter - two swim suits, a pair of school shoes, a Snoopy teeshirt and a pair of pajamas as well as a few varied cds and movies from my late Mother-in-law. Why we paid to have those shipped thousands of miles, I'll never know! John Tesh and old movies - not a good combination for me but the whole box made for a great contribution to St. John the Evangelist's Huge Sale. They are nearby and a very nice congregation. We attended a few years back but DH couldn't make the break from Presbyterianism. He still goes to early services sometimes.

The rest of the afternoon, I chased down yarn store addresses and created a map for a Yarn Crawl I am co-hosting next weekend with my friend Melissa. We created the trip as our contribution for a Silent Auction benefiting Trinity School at River Ridge and now the bill has come due. Don't get me wrong, any afternoon spent gallivanting about town without my kids or husband at such great yarn stores as Clickety Sticks in Minneapolis, the Yarn Cafe, Amazing Threads and Yarnnzilla will be great. Planning the stops and figuring out the travel route is the big pain but it will be worth it. I just can't wait to actually get going!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Giving it away! The Seven Things Project

I recently meandered through several blog rings and ran into Earthchick's Seven Things Project where I had an "Aha!" moment. This is what I should be doing! Our family has been collecting stuff at an incredible rate the last couple of years (I blame the teenagers but it could really be the result of having Depression babies for parents!) and we just aren't stepping up to the plate on the donations front.

Yes, I've been giving things to a local great big sale every year but there's been an awful lot of stuff that built up and - yep - got thrown away. I think I just got overwhelmed with it all. But Earthchick decided to simplify and just get rid of seven things per week for a year. Anyone can do this! No dumpster required. I'll try to stick to the Seven Saturday plan - photos go up each Saturday - but right now I've got a backlog to show!

The two bags hold baby clothes, there's a baby bath, six yards of upholstery fabric, a basket of adult clothing and books and my favorite - the family baby bedding with Peter Rabbit. I know there won't be any more babies but that made me sad. All four kids used this and I always loved it.

As for knitting - I've been swatching the green yarn for a baby sweater. I hate this part (who doesn't?) but I can never get a swatch just right. I get almost there and then - boom, the gauge flies apart. Three times must be the charm - at least tonight.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Green for a day

I'm still working round after round on Andy's brown sweater but I've been flirting with a second project. I've even found a lovely cardigan pattern for my 16 skeins of Classic Elite Inca yarn but that's a little large. Andy would notice if I replaced his sweater with a Changling Sweater. It will have to wait.

Instead, I shopped my stash and found two skeins of lovely green (limestone) and one creamy (natural) Naturespun as well as my old standby baby gift - the Cottage Creations Babies and Bears cardigan sweater. Which child is the lucky one? Hmm. It may be my mission to cloth all babies in this sweater. I used to knit the more charming round-yoked baby cardigan from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac but that one got a cold reception the last time I made it (hours of work and an heirloom sweater mean nothing to non-knitters - see if I knit that boy anything else!) so I'll use the tried and true this time. Plus, I love this green!