Monday, December 28, 2009

Needle Felted Santas!

I figured I'd better post these pictures before Easter comes and no one cares anymore. These are four Santas a local lady commissioned me to make for Christmas this year. These guys are all made from 100% wool and dry needle felted. Basically I use a special barbed needle to poke, poke, poke the wool, compressing and shaping as I go until the doll is firm and in the shape I want. I use a wire armature in all my dolls so they can be gently posed.
There are many wonderful tutorials on the internet if you'd like to learn more about needle felting.
Here's all four Santas. I apologize for the lack of scale. The largest is about 14 inches tall:
This is the smallest. A traditional Santa. I liked his bald head too much to cover it up with a hat:Here's a close up of the Old World Santa along with the small traditional guy:
And here's a close up what I called the Jolly Old Elf (left) and Cartoon Santa:
Here's the cartoonish Santa outside. His wrists and ankles are exaggeratedly small. He was fun to make:

You can't see it but Old World Santa has a red tassel hanging from the back of his hood. I think he's my favorite.

Here's the Jolly Old Elf outside among the holiday greens. He has vintage shell buttons down his shirt. His hands gave me trouble:

Well there they are! I have some more one of a kind needle felted figures almost done and I'm hoping to get my Etsy shop up and running to offer them for sale. Will post when they're available.
Thanks for letting me share!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Songs, 2009

It occurred to me that every year I seem to glom on to certain Christmas songs. I gravitate toward a new favorite every year and can't seem to get enough of it.

So here are my top picks for the last few years along with my unsolicited opinions. Be warned: I'll be discussing older singers and songs here. Sorry, but I have no desire to hear Jessica Simpson, SheDaisy or 69Boyz's interpretations of any of the following. (And it also can't help but occur to me that at this late date I have about a million other things I should be doing rather than writing down these opinions. Oh well. Christmas procrastination comes but once a year.)

A couple of years ago I was all about Santa Baby sung by Eartha Kitt. Who can't love her sexy delivery and the hilarious, blatant greed the lyrics espouse? Favorite: "Santa Baby I forgot to mention one little thing. A ring. I don't mean on the phone...."While I love everything about this song I would rather stick a pine needle in my eye than listen to Madonna's recent pouty, babydoll interpretation. I can't switch the radio station fast enough when this comes on. Madonna, the material girl? Please. Sorry Madge, you ain't got nothin' on Miss Kitt, the original material girl. Don't let go of that mink! Grrrr!


But this year it's all about Nancy Wilson's That's What I Want for Christmas. Here we have the absolute antithesis of Santa Baby's gimme greed. "Anyone can wish for all the trinkets in the window. Some can even buy the things they see. But the presents that I want you'll never find in any window. Bring me love and bring it just for me." It's a wildly romantic song, musically perfect. I love how she effortlessly hits those high notes:


A close runner up this year is Lena Horne's Jingle All the Way. Her joy and enthusiasm is infectious in this recording. She sounds like she's having the time of her life, and who wouldn't be with a band like that backing you up? It's my fantasy karaoke pick:


Last year I was crazy about Dean Martin's Baby it's Cold Outside. What a great song! Synopsis: A lady friend has dropped in for a short visit with Dean but now she needs to get home. He tries to convince her to stay. For every excuse she voices why she needs to go he has a more compelling reason why she should stay. The interplay weaves back and forth as such:
She: My sister will be suspicious
He: Man your lips look delicious
Until finally she relents:
She: Well maybe just a half a drink more
He: Never such a blizzard before
Dean sells this song with a suave charm that's irresistible. Heck, I'd stay with him, nicotine stains, martini breath and all.
The original version is sometimes credited as a duet with Doris Day but if you listen closely you'll hear a soft chorus of female voices, not just one. While Dean carries this song wonderfully on his own this version lacks the intimacy and interplay of the one-on-one lyrics.

While I'm usually not a fan of modern singers caroling with the deceased I have to say I break from tradition here and endorse the newer version with Martina McBride singing opposite Dean. You can really hear her side of the song. It works:


But whatever you do please don't picture Miss Mc Bride and Dean Martin together acting out this song in a modern music video. If you do the age difference suddenly turns the cozy banter into a decidedly creepy and inapropriate exchange. And Dean morphs into a lecherous old drunk determined to make this sweet young thing his latest victim:

She: "I ought to say no no no sir" He: "Mind if I move closer"
She: "The answer is no" He: Ooh darlin' it's cold outside

Hey! No means no, you jerk!

Clearly the only sensible course of action is for Martina to throw his drink in his face, knee him in the crotch and make a run for it, blizzard or no blizzard.

But please don't think about that. It kind of ruins the song and I'm sorry I brought it up.

And lastly, I know I won't be making any friends here espousing my dislike of Michael Buble. I'm not sure where my distaste originates but it has something to do with Sinatra. Sorry Michael, you're not Frank and you never will be. Get over it and move on with your life. Sing commercial jingles. Better yet learn how to play the piano, set your tip jar on top and park yourself in the corner of the lounge at the Holiday Inn near the airport. This is a more fitting use of your talents. Because every time I hear you I picture good old Nick Winters (or Summers, depending on the time of year):


Thank you! Thankyouverymuch! I love you all! I'll be here all week!

Merry Christmas!

PS-Perhaps in a fit of musical rebellion my husband has recently become infatuated with The Ventures Christmas album. Don't miss their rendition of Sleigh Ride. Because if there's a musical style that glorifies the birth of our Lord and Saviour better than surf guitar I just don't know what it is..

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fruitcake? Fruitcake!

I understand why fruitcake has been given a bad rap. I won't go near the stuff in the store. Too sweet. Too artificial. I do like most homemade fruitcake and I especially like the one I make.

Why do I make fruitcake? There are many reasons. Because I can make it well ahead of time and it just gets better. It's money in the bank. I love the convenience of pulling some out of the fridge and slicing it up when guests pop in. It's perfect with tea or a hot toddy. I travels and ships extremely well.
Because when your friend Clarice also makes fruitcake you can swap and have more than one kind!
But most of all I love fruitcake because within each bite I recall the tastes of the the fruit of summer coupled with the nuts and spices of autumn infused with the heady spirits of the new year. What could be better?

So why this post about fruitcake? Because after making at least a dozen fruitcakes every year for a solid 13 Christmases now I feel like I've got a couple tricks to pass along that might make things easier for the novice:

1) If you dry some of your own fruit like I do cut it up in a large dice before you dry it. (It's much easier to cut up the fruit fresh rather than after it's dried.)

2) Make your cakes as early in the season as you can. Before Halloween is ideal, though around Thanksgiving is fine too. I have a friend who makes her fruitcakes in January for the coming holiday! (The amazing part is her recipe has no booze and yet the cakes keep very well!) It's so nice to have these done before the Christmas rush starts in earnest.
3) My biggest tip: Do not bother with cheesecloth or brushing on the booze. It's so messy and time-consuming! Note my method of dipping the cakes in the brandy. All sides get covered well and it's so easy!

This recipe is nothing more than dried fruit and whole nuts barely held together with a bit of applesauce cake batter and aged in apricot brandy. It's like everything you like to nibble on in one tasty package! Use whatever fruit and nuts you have on hand or are partial to. I like to go heavy on the apricots because they're tart and contrast well with the sweeter fruits and the batter. I dry my own apricots every year especially for Christmas baking because I hate the sulphered, tasteless apricots in the store. If you have a source for apricots that actually taste like apricots, go for it. If not, consider drying your own. I dry cherries, figs, prunes, pears, apples and apricots each year for my fruitcakes. The combination varies each year depending on how our trees produce and what I can pick up by the case from the farm stand. I make up the difference from the bulk section of the store.

You want 10 cups of dried fruit, cut into a large dice:
Here's a suggested combination:
2 c apricots
1 c cranberries
2 c figs or cherries
1 c golden raisins
2 c pears
2 c apples
Pour 1c apricot brandy over this fruit, cover, and let it set for a few hours or overnight until it has softened a bit.

Now get your nuts together in a large bowl. I like to go heavy on the hazelnuts and pecans but again, use what you have or like. One year I happened to have a lot of brazil nuts and they were lovely in the fruitcake.
A total of 7 cups assorted whole nuts:
3 c pecans
1 c almonds
1 c walnuts
2 c hazelnuts, lightly toasted and skins rubbed off with a dishtowel

Sift together the dry ingredients:
3 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves

Whisk wet ingredients together in bowl:
4 large eggs, beaten well
1 3/4 c brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 apple or pear sauce
3/4 c melted butter, cooled
1/2 c molasses

Got everything together? Now comes the fun part. First, throw the flour mixture over the nuts and mix well:
Then combine the nut/flour mixture with the fruit (in the biggest darned bowl you've got):

The last thing you do is pour the egg mixture over all this and mix until you don't see any more flour-coated fruit or nuts:

Then divide this chunky mixture into 8 or 9 greased mini loaf pans. Be sure to pack it down so it fills the corners:

Bake at 300 degrees for at least 1 hour. Shift the pans around halfway through baking. When done the cakes should be a deep mahogany color and spring back when touched.
Let cool for 15 minutes then remove from pan. (I like to firmly tap the pans on the counter on each side so they let go. If some fruit sticks to the pan just press it back on the cake. It will meld back together. ) Let cool.

In a regular sized loaf pan (preferably glass) pour at least 1/2 inch of apricot brandy:
Dip each side of every fruitcake into the brandy and set in a waxed paper-lined pan. Wrap the whole pan up well and refrigerate.
Don't have room in your fridge? No worries. Your cakes will probably be even better if stored at cool room temperature. Find a cool spot in your basement or even your garage. Put cakes in an airtight, tamper-proof container out of the way and let them sit for a couple weeks.
After a couple weeks have passed in storage, take them out and repeat the dipping process once more.
You're done! You can wrap them up individually for gift giving. I like to cut a few loaves in half and wrap up these up too. (Dip cut side in brandy). I like to wrap them in plastic wrap or waxed paper and cover this with aluminum foil and finish with a red ribbon. They'll be at their best in a couple more weeks but for now your work is done and the rest is all pleasure!
And just in case you think kids don't like fruitcake? My 6 year old saw the cakes cooling on the rack and he said "Fruitcake! Yum yum diddly dum!"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sculpting, Salsa, and That Darned Maid

Certain people (you know who you are) have been nagging me to post something to my blog. I'll admit I am way behind on this. After my dad died I had visions of throwing myself into a creative whirlwind, transforming the ideas in my head into tangible objects and generally getting back into the swing of things.

But alas, it's been a slow process.

My creative space is still the repository of many of my dad's papers and things that I have to go through and organize. AND we adopted a kitty a couple months ago and she terrorized my poor canaries so much that they (and their large cage) have also moved into the studio (so we can shut them safely behind the door). So my favorite creative space is very much occupied right now. BUT-
I'm so excited because I just signed up for a fun, creative, figurative sculpture workshop with an artist I've wanted to work with for a long time, Debbie Fecher Gramstad. She's technically a wonderful sculptor but more than that her work has expressive emotion, freedom of form and movement that I find so exciting.
I've been communicating with her via email for, geez, a couple years now and either because of timing or my family obligations I've been unable to sign up for her workshop. Well I have time now SO I DID IT! It's a small workshop of 8 students held in Debbie's studio for 3 hours every Tuesday night for 6 weeks! I can hardly wait until it begins in October ( **sigh** so far away) .
So after I registered for her class I e-mailed her to ask if there was anything I could do to prepare for the workshop. I was thinking I could practice something.. like forming hands out of paper mache or sculpting a series of my kid's faces in all their moods out of butter or something. You know, something technical like that. (Coming from a family of musicians I know very well that one prepares for a workshop by practicing arpeggios, scales, or the Bach inventions to get your fingers loose and your mind tuned up. I was thinking along these lines.)
Know how she told me to prepare for her class? This is a direct quote:
"The best preparation you can do is to visualize how much FUN this is going to be! And then …let go and be open!"

Wow. I'm not used to that kind of preparation.

Did I already say I can't wait? Well I can't. I think I'm looking forward to having permission and a specific time each week to let the right side of my brain take the stage for a while.

SALSA! (The condiment. Not the dance)
So hubby and I canned 27 pints of salsa yesterday. The salsa is tasty, it will save us money and is very satisfying to see lined up on the shelves with the other preserved food. (Because, you know, if the economy collapses I simply must have something into which to dip my black market tortilla chips.)
The link to the recipe is here. I figured those many positive reviews couldn't all be bogus. I tripled the recipe (but I did NOT add 3 cups of jalapenos!) and added cilantro and fresh lime juice.

Anyway, I peeled, seeded and diced 20 pounds of tomatoes. I started processing the tomatoes early in the morning before my family woke up in order to get a head start. And I have dried tomato seeds on my jammies to prove it. In fact, the whole business really did make a mess. Which leads me to my next subject:

She really does a crappy job. I'll admit, this house can get to be a mess. But honestly, that maid of mine is a total incompetent. It's almost like she doesn't exist at all. I curse her regularly. And for some reason, cursing her lack of work ethic and general incompetence makes me feel better about having to do her job. The kids are used to this and share my opinions. "That darned maid" they say. "Yeah.." I sigh.

Sometimes I halfway believe she's there but this is only when I'm so tired from the day and so totally exhausted at the monotony of cleaning the kitchen *yet again* that I forget (or block out?) that it was me who actually did it. I'll walk by on my way to the back door and think "My, she did a nice job tonight!"

I guess this is why I keep her on. That and I really don't want to have to pay back employment taxes if I fire her and she gets vengeful and turns me in to the IRS. Hey, she said she wanted to work under the table! (She just doesn't want to clean the floor while she's under there.)

Plus she's the closest I've ever had to an imaginary friend. Okay, imaginary incompetent know what I mean.

I'll stop now. More to come, I swear.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Millet Polenta

Okay, this isn't an exciting post full of pictures about my latest project. That's coming, I promise. But I tried a new recipe last night and it was SO GOOD I had to share it with you.

It was a warm day and we hadn't had beans in a while so I cooked up some black beans and made a Southwest-inspired black bean salad/salsa kind of thing. I put in a lot of fresh lime juice and cilantro. It was good.

Then I recalled a particularly good version of this salad that I made out of a Lorna Sass vegetarian cookbook a year ago. Then, as I tend to do , I looked up the recipe online after I had already made the salad. (You know, to see how I *should* have made it.) Anyway, this recipe came up.
While it's not the exact recipe I was thinking of I thought the Millet Timbale aspect of it was intriguing enough to try. I had all the ingredients on hand anyway. So I made it. Let me say it was awesome. I've made millet polenta before but something about the scallions and the addition of the buttermilk takes this one to another level. It's tangy and rich and wonderful. I had some underneath my black bean salsa and poured the rest in a pan to solidify. I'm trying to think of something else to slap on top of it today.
Lorna Sass' Millet Timbales (Polenta)
3 scallions
1 cup hulled millet, picked over and rinsed
4 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk, plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper

Trim off the root ends of the scallions, then cut the white and light-green parts crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces, keeping the white parts separate.
Place a medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the millet; toast it for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently until the grains become fragrant and begin to pop. Gradually add the boiling water, being careful to avoid the initial rush of steam from the pot. Add the white parts of the scallions and the salt, stirring to mix well. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, stirring once or twice, for 15 to 18 minutes, until the millet is tender and most or all of the water has been absorbed. Some grains may still have a little crunch.
When the millet has become tender, whisk in the oil and enough buttermilk to create the consistency of a soft polenta. Add the scallion greens and stir to combine. Season with the pepper, and add salt as needed.
If you wish, divide the millet mixture among the ramekins; let it sit for 3 minutes. Working with one at a time, place an individual serving plate over each ramekin and invert so the millet is dislodged onto each plate. Or pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Let it cool, solidify then cut into squares.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm Coming Back.....

Just a quick note to let everyone know I'll be back soon. My dad's memorial service was a couple days ago and now I have no more pressing obligations. The garden is coming up, I just picked the first of my roses and the creative juices are starting to flow. I am SO done with knitting socks for a while....
Thanks for all your heartfelt messages. This past 18 months have been very difficult but they've certainly taught me a lot. Not the least of which is that death is inevitable so I should breathe deep of that wonderful late spring fragrance in the air and appreciate my life.
I like something Tasha Tudor once said. I have this quote pinned on the wall in my studio:
"But it's interesting to go back in ones mind, over what you've done in your youth, and then you realize that every day that passes you have one day less in this fantastic world, and you should make the most of it. But I think so few people appreciate what a privilege it is to live in this beautiful world. And it is a beautiful world."

Monday, April 27, 2009

To Those Who Mourn

My dad left this earth this morning.

I like the following excerpt and would like to share it with you:

To Those Who Mourn

For that is the real truth:
man is a soul and has a body.
The body is not the man; it is only the clothing of a man.
What you call death is the laying aside of a worn-out garment,
and is no more the end of the man than it is the end of you
when you remove your coat.
Therefore you have not lost your friend;
you have only lost sight of the cloak
in which you were accustomed to see him.
The cloak is gone, but the man who wore it is not;
Surely it is the man that you love and not the garment.

C.W. Leadbeater

Thanks to everyone for your kindness and support during this difficult time.

Love, Angie

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cancer and the Washing Machine

My dad is a musician. He is dying from colon cancer with diabetic complications. He is spending his last weeks at a wonderful Hospice Care Center. I visit him every day. He is bedridden and can't do much of anything for himself anymore. His gradual physical (and now mental) deterioration has been difficult to witness.
Hardest of all for him has been the loss of fine motor control in his hands due to diabetic neuropathy. He can no longer play the piano. More than walking, more so than even going to the bathroom by himself I believe, he regrets this loss. And what a wonderful player he was.
Though classically trained in piano and French Horn he has a great love for jazz and a fabulous ear. Interesting chords, harmonies, progressions and improvisation interest him tremendously. From the time he was barely out of his teens he played jazz piano for extra money while in the Navy and later on in college. After he landed his steady job in the horn section of the Seattle Symphony in 1964 he still played clubs and traveled up and down the West Coast with a jazz combo during the breaks in the symphony season.
Over the past few months while he's been in and out of nursing homes, various physical therapists have looked at his chart, noted his career as a musician and wheeled him up to the nearest piano. The idea was that the exercise of something so familiar and ingrained in his "muscle memory" would help him recover some movement in his hands. When he tried and his hands couldn't act upon his brain's commands it only broke his heart. He refused to continue with the therapy.
Today I slipped away from my dad's bedside for an hour to run some errands and pop into the local thrift shop. One of the first things I found was a beautiful, traditional Aran cardigan; hand knit in 100% natural cream wool . The label said "Hand Knit By Jane Manheimer". And what a sweater! It was so well done I found myself congratulating this unknown woman out loud as I examined her handiwork.
"Jane, look at your gorgeous cables and bobbles and diamonds! Oh my gosh, you knit back and forth on straight needles and sewed it up, didn't you? You didn't knit in the round? No? Knitting back and forth in these patterns is so difficult! And look how well you finished it! Wow! You really know what you're doing. I see no mistakes at all. I wonder who you knit this for?"
Anyone looking at me certainly thought I was nuts. I fit right in with the homeless guy two rows over in the men's section, babbling drunkenly to himself. But I was so truly so excited I wanted to grab the nearest shopper by the arm (even the drunk guy) and make them appreciate Jane's talent and skill as evidenced by this perfectly knitted sweater.
Then I tried it on.
Yes, it was too small for me but it wasn't too small because it was knit for a child or because I was too big. It was too small because some idiot had thrown this beautiful product of Jane Manheimer's skill, time and talent in the washing machine and ruined it. The washing machine had not only shrunken the sweater, it had misshapen it in such a way that no one of any size could ever properly wear it.
Being a great lover of recycled sweater projects I tried to think of a use for Jane's poor, shrunken sweater. A part of a doll? A throw pillow? ????? Thinking that the use would come to me if I carried it around long enough, I hugged the sweater as I browsed. I reluctantly hung it back up before I left. I don't think I have the heart to cut into Jane's sweater, even in the hope of resurrecting it.
Then it occurred to me that Jane Manheimer and my dad have a lot in common. My dad's diabetes and cancer are the idiot and the washing machine, ruining the results of skill, time, talent and love.
I got back in the car and drove the few blocks back to my dad. Later as I drove home I regretted that I had to leave both my dad and Jane's sweater behind.
I only hope Jane never knew what became of her lovely sweater.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Granola Bar Love

Remember what Alvy Singer says to Annie Hall when she asks if he loves her? "Love is too weak a word." he says. "I lerve you. I luff you. There are two f's."

Oddly enough, I think of this very exchange when I eat one of these granola bars. My sentiments surpass love and move on to lerve. And I don't go there often.
These bars are crunchy. They're chewy. They're sweet but not too much. They're a treat that's healthy enough to grab for a quick breakfast.

Now that I've talked them up so much you'll try the recipe and shrug. "Eh? " You'll say. "What's the big deal?" Maybe you won't luff them. But I'm willing to bet you'll like them pretty well. What follows is the recipe that I've tweaked and that I like. The parentheses show variations that you may prefer to the original.

Chewy Crunchy Granola Bars

2 c rolled oats
1 c unsweetened coconut
1 c sliced or whole almonds
1/2 c oat bran (or wheat germ)
1/2-3/4 c dates, diced
1/2-3/4 c dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit)
3 Tb butter or coconut oil (or canola)
2/3 c rice syrup (or part agave, honey or maple syrup-any natural liquid sweetener)
1/4 c Rapadura (or sucanat or brown sugar)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix oats, coconut and sliced almonds (if using) in 9x13 pan. Toast in a 350 oven for 5-10 minutes or until lightly toasted. You may have to stir this once halfway through. (If you're using whole almonds toast separately and chop)

In large bowl combine oat bran (or wheat germ) with dried fruit. Mix well to keep sticky fruit from clumping together. Add oat mixture to this when it's finished toasting. Lower oven temp to 300.

Line your 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and grease it.

Combine oil or butter, liquid sweetener, Rapadura (or brown sugar), and salt in sauce pan. Bring to boil and cook 2 - 3 minutes. No more! Take off heat. Stir in vanilla.

Pour over oat and fruit mixture and stir well to combine. With wet hands, press into pan.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned on top.

When cool enough to handle use aluminum foil to lift the whole thing onto cooling rack. Cut into bars. Store airtight.

Tips and Variations
If you use a sweeter sweetener (like honey) use dried fruit on the tart side (like cranberries). If you use mostly rice syrup (not so sweet) go for a sweeter fruit.

Chocolate Chewy Granola Bars: Sprinkle with chocolate when bars come out of oven. Spread it out as it melts.

Sweet and Salty: I haven't tried this yet but I think it would be GREAT in this recipe: Simply replace the almonds with 1 1 /2 cups salted mixed nuts. Proceed as usual.

And don't forget to enjoy one of those lerve-ly granola bars with a double short soy latte with a bit of orange peel and lots of foam. Ooooo! Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hey Hey, Let's Knit a Beret!

Okay, so it all started three days ago when we were loading the kids into the truck for a jaunt up to chilly Port Townsend. Everybody had a warm hat except me. I was reduced to wearing the kitty hat I knit for my 10 year old when she was a toddler. This was ridiculous. I grabbed some yarn I spun and dyed with madder root and whatever needles I thought might work and knit my way up to P.T. and back. I kind of winged this hat at the beginning then when I got home I found a pattern I could loosely follow for the remainder of the hat (namely the decreases).

I must say, I have Elizabeth Zimmermann to thank for this fearless leap into knitting improvisation. I love that woman.
So here's what I did:
I did a gauge swatch (thank you, Mrs. Zimmermann) to figure out how many stitches to the inch I got from my yarn with my needles. 4 stitches to the inch. Okay, I knew I was going for a 21 inch circumference around my head so I just multiplied 4x21=84. That was how many stitches I cast on. I worked a garter stitch brim for about an inch then doubled my stitches all at once by M1 (knit in the front and back of the same stitch) all the way around . Now I had 168 stitches and I just knit in the round like crazy until I determined it was time to decrease. From then on I pretty much followed the instructions at Purl Bee.
When I was done the thing pretty much looked like a shapeless mass:

So I washed it , spun it out and shaped it around a large dinner plate to dry into a beret-like shape. Here's a top view. I like the irregularities in the dyed wool:

Then I put it on a rack over the wood cookstove to dry more quickly. I'm impatient, I know.

I stuck a pin on the thing and viola! A hat! I may have to needle felt a flower or something to decorate it but for now this will do. And now I have something warm to wear that doesn't' have a kitty on it!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

To Dye For

Omigosh. How much fun is it to dye yarn? Lots! How scary is it to risk ruining the wool you spent hours spinning and plying? A bit...

My friend Mary and I have knitting and dyeing aspirations for the new year. Thanks to a couple Christmas gift certificates (thanks Connie and Mom!) I signed up for a beginning Fair Isle class at our wonderful local Churchmouse Yarn and Teas. I needed a few colored yarns for the class so I thought I'd try dyeing my yarn with Wilton Food Colors. They're concentrated, they're safe, they're color fast and they're cheap ($1.49 each at Wal Mart). What's not to like?
I started with Shetland roving I spun and triple-plied. I thought the grey wool would keep the colors a little muted. Yeah, right. Here's the yarn in a burgundy dyebath mixed with a little lemon yellow. I wasn't sure about it and almost threw it out but my 10 year old encouraged me to "be bold!" so I did and plunked my yarn in anyway. It's not the true red I was looking for but I like it. Look at the dye bath color opposed to the yarn color. Weird... The exhausted dyebath was totally green as I poured it down the sink.
This is Wilton's Royal Blue. I'm taking this off the heat now to cool. I think it's about done.
And this is Wilton's Lemon Yellow.

Here they are in the colander along with a ball of the undyed original grey yarn.

Here they are all done, cooled, rinsed and hung up to dry. They're a little bold for my taste and next time I will use less dye so the colors are a little softer but all in all I think they will be fun to work with. I think I'll dye another skein a little lighter shade of this blue and then I'll be done for my class. There are some great articles at Knitty about this process and I highly recommend them.
I encourage you to try this. It's really fun!