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07/29/2009 July 29, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in dyeing, kidlet, photography, spinning.
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More photos today. Forward momentum, slow but steady.

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things BFL

i make things BFL

I am really loving this yarn, it was an experiment. It involves mixing up a crapton of dye and was very fiddly but I think the results are worth it.

i make things worsted

i make things worsted


Kidlet was particularly handsome today so I made him submit to an impromptu shoot before I took him to camp.

I love this outfit – Jenn got him that shirt and I think it’s hysterical.

Kidlet

Cheesy fake smile.

Kidlet

Kidlet

I’ve never really converted my pictures to black and white before – it’s much, MUCH more forgiving. Why haven’t I done this sooner?!

“Look up. No, higher. Don’t tilt your chin up, just look up with your eyes.”

Kidlet

Kidlet

To try to get him to smile I asked him what would make him happy and he said, “Strawberries!” so I said to him, “Think about strawberries!”

Kidlet

Kidlet

He is truly his mother’s son.


Kidlet

Kidlet

God, I love that kid. More than life itself.

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07/28/2009 July 28, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in dyeing, spinning.
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I managed to take a few pictures today. That counts for something, doesn’t it?

I don’t have any names for these though.

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

i make things merino seacell

I guess I’ll have to drag my motivation back here kicking and screaming.

Joy’s visit! July 7, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in dyeing, food, spinning.
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It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Joy’s last full day here in Maine. Wahhh! We’ve had a great time even though we’ve only had about a day and a half of not-rain in the entire time she’s been here. Talk about a bummer. I really wanted to make it back to the beach again and do some quality sitting around on the deck around the chimnea but sadly it just isn’t to be. Next time.

Yesterday we did a whole lot of dyeing – we took advantage of the nice weather Monday afforded and the empty counter tops in my kitchen thanks to the ant invasion. Poor Joy – she’s had to deal with ants and all of my kitchen appliances sitting out on the floor in the extension while we battle them. I tried the greenish way of getting rid of them by putting Borax out for them to presumably eat and carry back to the nest, eradicating the whole mess of them, but after a week there were even more ants partying down on the counters than there were before so Michael bought some sort of highly toxic ant bait that resulted in scores of dead ants piled around them the next morning. Hmph, fine.

Joy just pointed out that in their zeal to escape the toxic poison, the ants actually crawled up into the Borax traps and expired there. What an insult.

Anyway. Dyeing. We scored a couple of bags of yarnz from the LYS, I guess I can say she’s my supplier now as she gives me a sweet discount if I buy in bulk. We also cracked open the 22# bump of Falkland I’ve had stashed for a couple of months awaiting Joy’s arrival. I’ve weighed out at least thirty 4-ounce bundles and the damned thing is still bigger than Margaret.

We set up a couple of kettles on the stove, a few crock pots and I have a lidded enamel turkey roasting pan that fits two skeins of yarn or four ounces of roving. We started a bit late around 3pm as I was anal retentive about setting everything up and in the next 3-4 hours dyed around 25 skeins of yarn and at least 10 bundles of roving. Honestly I’ve lost count. They were hanging outside on the clothes dryer, warming happily in the late day sunlight so we left them overnight figuring they could finish fluffing in the morning. Sadly we woke to find it pouring outside so we’re considering adding the descriptor “rinsed in pure Maine rainwater” when we list them to sell. My house is currently filled with hung up bits of wool dripping water all over the place. It’s sort of homey in a “crazy yarn lady” way.

For further confirmation that someday we will indeed take over the world, Joy and I discovered that we have very distinct and different methods of dyeing that yield unique results. It’s kind of cool – the stuff I prefer to do isn’t what she prefers to do and vice versa. It sure made it easier as we weren’t fighting over resources. She also brought her Cushing’s dyes with which I had very much fun. If we could accomplish what we did in just a few concentrated hours, I can’t even imagine what we could get done in a permanent dye studio 2-3 times a week for, say, five hours at a time. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that invisible trans-US bridge from Montana to Maine.

I am tippy tapping away on Joy’s swanky laptop (of which I am covetous) while she sits beside me on the couch knitting a really giant bag. No, it’s really giant. Like I could fit both of my kids in it giant, with room for the cat. She’s going to felt it when she’s done knitting (it has to get to three FEET long, like whoa) and I feel bad for her washing machine. Maybe I’ll recommend she go to the laundromat.

Another yay fiber thing was finding some amazing waste roving at the fiber gallery – they had a huge trash bag full for 0.75 an ounce, I’m not sure what it is but it’s snow white and so soft. It’s from the Jagger mill so it’s not perfect like combed top, but I combined some of it with some colorful silk/cashmere mill waste and it spun up in a super soft, nubbly and wonderful yarn. So wonderful in fact that we went back today so I could buy three more pounds of the stuff. It was even cheaper with the volume discount.

I used the studio’s drum carder to card up a bunch of it – I had sat and hand carded probably about twenty batts last week and was tired of it. I really need a drum carder someday, talk about useful. Anyway I got a huge bag of the stuff for a song and I love it. I’ll have to see if it felts, I’m pretty sure it will.

After visiting the fiber gallery we headed back to Kennebunkport as we were on a mission to find Cushing’s. I had to call for directions as the rain started coming down so hard I couldn’t see the lines on the road. We did make it there and now I know exactly where it is so I can finagle a visit there when we bring the kids (“Oh look honey! Cushing’s just so happens to be right there! I’ll just be a minute.”).

We rang the doorbell and I wasn’t sure what to expect – it was housed in a gorgeous old farmhouse and barn in a very swanky part of town. The woman who answered the door, Jillian, was probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She was so happy to help us find dye and talk about dye and show us the sample book and talk about dye some more, not to mention she called us “girls” which instantly make me like her because I’m shallow.

We bought dye, of course, and since we came to the studio she put my name in their files so I will now and forever receive the volume discount even if I’m just ordering one packet of dye. That totally rocks! While we were chatting Jillian said, “Hey! Let me get you some dye technique handouts!” and came back with a sheaf of paper covering eighteen different methods. We both stood there with our eyes wide and thanked her. I practically clicked my heels together. I also wanted to try rug hooking so I bought a very small kit and asked if I could have a different background color and she said, “Sure!” and swapped out the wool strips and cut me a new backing on the spot. Talk about customer service! This place could be very dangerous – less than an hour away and super nice. Definitely worth the trip, Joy and I couldn’t stop talking about it as we drove away.

By this point we were ready to gnaw off our own arms out of hunger so we drove up Route 1 and discovered there are a hell damn shit lot of antique stores on Route 1. And tires. And dentists. And storage facilities. DO THESE PEOPLE NOT EAT?! We nearly stopped at a “saloon” (no shit, it was really called a saloon) until we saw a creepy middle aged gentleman leaning out of the open porch in the pouring rain staring at us. Joy held her arms out in front of her with her hands splayed open and said, “No!” Then we saw the attached seedy motel and the signs “no burnouts – no loud acceleration” and decided that perhaps this wasn’t the kind of place for us.

We ended up in a shitty little joint in Biddeford that proudly advertised “PIZZA – SANDWICHES – FRIED FOODS” on the sign outside and discovered that chicken takes a long time to cook. Either that or the dude behind the counter just didn’t want to make chicken right now. I mean, come on, it’s a fucking fryolator for cripes’ sake. We ate something edible and drank something potable and used a bathroom that was nasty (no, not together) and then hit the road.

On the way back we stopped in Portland to pick up our mugs from the paint-your-own-ceramics place, which was cool, then came home. I got one of those befrigged culinary chain letter “Amish Friendship Bread” starters from Jenn and had finally gotten around to baking the bread this morning so we had some of that, which was good (the kids friggin loved it) and I sneaked a bag of starter into Joy’s stuff to take home, heh heh. She said later, “You know, I’ll take one of those starters if you want me to,” and I replied, “Yeah…I already put it in your stuff.” Hopefully it won’t explode all over her suitcase on the plane.

Whew. Well, that’s a lot of what we’ve been up to. I’m going to relinquish Joy’s laptop back to her and I’ll probably update again once I’m back to work on Thursday (wah) since I’ll have to turn my computer on again eventually.

Yarn and green stuff May 30, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in Crafty, dyeing, food, kidlet.
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I pulled some photos off of my camera so here you go.

First, we did some major cleaning up last weekend and as a result I was able to do some dyeing again. It was nice to have my space back, things tend to migrate out to the extension and build up, mostly recycling stuff and kid clothes that need to be put into storage, things like that. Every few weeks we go through and clean everything out. Here’s my dyeing table, it’s nothing fancy but it does the job. I love my ghetto $4 GeeDub crock pots.

Dye table

I mentioned winding a huge skein for self-striping sock yarn. Here’s the setup, what I like to call The Definition of Torture. Ugh, SO not worth it, especially when I realized that after dyeing I need to rewind everything all over again so it’s in a usable size skein. And this is two skeins worth, so it needs to be split. Blarrgh.

Yeah, so not worth the effort.

I mentioned kidlet made clown barf, and I wasn’t kidding. I do have pictures of the yarn rinsed and dried and it’s not quite this saturated, I’ll post them when I’ve got them.

Kidlet's clown barf

The only other mildly exciting thing is that I read an entry by one of my favorites who was expressing her love for green smoothies. Being curious I read up on them and they really resonate with me, check out GreenSmoothieGirl.com for details.

Michael and I have already discussed multiple times the idea of moving to more of a whole foods diet and even more of a raw foods diet. Being diabetic he would benefit from it and being overweight it can only help me, and anything that is good for the kids is something I’m interested in. Having so little time and brainpower to get organized has been a challenge, however. I read the website and decided that I wanted to try this for myself – I figure if I can drink one green smoothie a day to start, just to get the hang of it, I can decide if I want to go further than that. I don’t have an industrial strength blender but the one I have works okay, I just have to add the initial greens little by little until it gets enough in there to keep things going.

Yesterday (Friday) I made my first smoothies – I went to the farm stand in the morning where I picked up an obscene amount of green thingies – spinach, red and green swiss chard, endive, parsley, lettuce (for salad), and then a good assortment of other things including bananas, apples, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, nectarines, a coconut, two dozen eggs, cheese curd, dates, carrots, potatoes…I actually had to use a cart instead of a handbasket and even with overfilling a banana box and having a bag to carry in addition to that I only spent $50. It was only that high because of the more expensive items like the coconut and the cheese. I love our farm stand – our usual purchase is 3-4 bunches of organic bananas, a bag of apples, 1-2 dozen eggs, 1-2# baby carrots, tomatoes, an onion or two, lettuce, celery, and sometimes pears for under $20. I feel very lucky to live in an agricultural state.

Anyway. I brought my huge bounty home and decided to mix up something simple so I used spinach, green swiss chard, parsley, strawberries, banana, and a few dates for sweetness. It was really tasty and I felt very full afterward. Best of all I ate more spinach in that one smoothie than I’ve probably eaten all month. It’s amazing how a huge handful of greens becomes a very small and compact volume of smoothie. What a great way to get our fresh veggies! I hate salad dressing and I hate eating salad so this is perfect. I made a glass for Michael and asked him to try it – I think he tolerated it, so I’m going to keep making them and offering them to him.

When kidlet got home from school I asked him if he wanted me to make him a smoothie – I’ve made fruit smoothies for him before, usually from frozen fruit and yogurt. He loves them. So I made him one with lots of fresh strawberries, a banana, a couple of leaves of green swiss chard, a small handful of spinach and a couple of ice cubes. I tasted it and it had a very slight green flavor to it (kidlet doesn’t like “green stuff” in his food like herbs) so I added a small amount of maple syrup to it and he LOVED it. He drank the whole cup I gave to him and the rest that was in the blender. I didn’t tell him that he just had a serving of swiss chard and another of spinach. That’s my little secret. It was kind of a reddish-brown so to hide that fact I put it in a kid’s cup – we have about a million of them from when we go out to eat – and put a color-changing straw in the top that was blue and turned purple when cold. He couldn’t tell what color it was so he didn’t have the opportunity to be weirded out by it.

It really was quite easy, so I’m going to go ahead and keep doing this “one a day” method for a week, maybe two, then work my way up to doing more. I’m really glad to have found this because I was sprouting a few months ago and enjoyed doing that a lot, only I couldn’t figure out what to do with all those sprouts! I just have a cheapie jar with a screen top and it made more sprouts than I could choke down. Now I can use them in smoothies! Yay! To celebrate I dusted off my old jar and set it up with broccoli seeds tonight. Kidlet and I are doing it together as a project, I’m going to take pictures every day and then print them out so kidlet can make a little folder or something with them in it.

Here it is, sprouting, day 1:

Sprouting, Day 1

It might not look like much but trust me, within a week that jar will be filled to bursting. I did this with alfalfa seeds a few times and the volume of sprouts that came from 1-1/2 tablespoons of seed was incredible, the jar was packed tight.

Just trying to find ways in my everyday to get moving, to eat better, to make changes. Little by little.

So many projects, so little time. May 25, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in Crafty, dyeing, kidlet.
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I’ve been doing some thingies over the weekend – haven’t had a chance to sit down and do any sewing, sadly, as it takes too much prep and too much awakeness that I haven’t had. I have picked away at dyeing a bunch of stuff and I made a ton more buttons and thumbtacks as I can cut out little circles all at once and cover buttons all at once and glue them together all at once so it goes in stages. I really want to make a bunch of pincushions, I found the one I had made here after getting home from Montana last Autumn and squee, so cute, only it would go a lot faster if I sewed the pieces together using my machine, which I haven’t done yet.

I also decided to try my hand at self-striping sock yarn. It’s an easy enough concept, there are a billion tutorials online about it, so I grabbed a big hank of Treadsoft and put two 6′ tables together end to end. I figured I could put the hank on my umbrella swift and walk back and forth, wrapping it over each end. The thing I didn’t think through is that over 900 yards of yarn really goes a long way and it’s very tedious to walk to and fro, not to mention my umbrella swift is one of those wooden jobbies so while it doesn’t seem all that heavy to pick up, holding it out at just the right angle so I didn’t get the yarn snagged on it while walking was exhausting. Both of my arms are sore in strange ways.

Anyway it took me about 20 minutes to make one uber-skein and then I dyed it in blue-green and what I thought would be a blue-purple but ended up just purple. I can’t wait to get some new dyes, the ones I have are what I bought initially and are a pretty limited set of colors. Sure, I can mix stuff but it would be a lot nicer if I had the hue I wanted at the start. The blue-green ended up really pretty, though, and gave me some ideas for a technique using this colorway. Which means I’m wrapping another giant skein right now, I’m just taking a break to write this :)

I dyed up the rest of the merino seacell I had on hand, I love that stuff. I’m going to see if I can buy it in bulk from Melodi if she can offer me a good discount, otherwise I’m going to try and find a supplier where I can buy it wholesale since I have my EIN. I also dyed eight ounces of a merino, alpaca and tussah silk blend which, when I bought it many years ago, I thought was pretty awesome and a bargain at $18.50 (umm…yeah). It’s surprising to me just how much I’ve learned about fiber in the time I’ve been working with it. I definitely know what is better quality and what is not these days and almost all the stuff I bought the first year I went to the Fiber Frolic was crap. This blend seemed soft and nice enough, but once it got wet it is literally bristling with guard hairs, some of those suckers are four inches long! I don’t see how I’ll be able to get them all out so I’m hoping maybe I’ll come up with some brilliant idea for it because I’m not really keen on selling it as-is.

I let kidlet dye some clown barf yarn from Easter egg dye I had bought on clearance a few weeks ago. I discovered that you really need to let those little tablets dissolve completely before adding the vinegar or else they erupt and make a huge mess. I also discovered that food-safe dye stains everything, and I mean everything. At least the acid dyes I use don’t do too much staining if you clean them up quickly enough, but the Easter egg dyes are epic. They stained my stainless steel sink. I filled up some squirt bottles and let him go to town on a couple of skeins of Knit Picks and tossed them in the oven to heat set the dye. They’re really…um…colorful. Heh.