Wednesday, July 25, 2007

time out

i am working on the final draft of my thesis which has to get to my dissertation committee by friday. and i still have not confirmed a job (but i'm working on that)...and i need to pack and move in three weeks. i am not really complaining. it feels good for once to be stressed out while i'm making progress. bongo knot will resume...once we find a place to settle.

Friday, June 29, 2007

there was an old lady who swallowed a fly...

...i totally understand why!!!'s the summertime, which in my tight attic quarters means humidity and bugs. i don't mean bugs like "my house is overrun with filth" bugs. i mean "welcome to the jungle" bugs. there are all sorts of crazy insects flying and crawling around in here once it starts to warm up. yesterday, i killed like three huge spiders crawling around in my bedroom and then there were two more this afternoon. but what really takes the cake is what happened a short while ago...i go to take a shower, come back to my bedroom, turn on the lights, and there are baby spiders crawling all over the walls and ceiling. i instantly started freaking out, grabbed a handful of tissue, and crushed everything in sight. after the 5 minute genocide, the body count was at least 50-60 would-be-assassins. the boyfriend suggested i get lizards to eat the spiders, but...what happens when the lizard population gets out of control???

Thursday, June 28, 2007

a girl's best friend!!!

okay, so i can't quite afford the diamonds right now, but even this girl feels a natural draw to shiny rocks suspended from brilliant metal. that's right...i'm making beaded wire jewelry. actually, i'm just learning to work in the medium, but i've made a few decent looking stitch markers this week. i am a knitter after all!!

this was my very first effort...using quilting pins!!!

later that evening...stone bead on copper wire.

the next day...assorted beads on copper.

i think i'm starting to get the hang of this thing!!!

speaking of special things...i made a small addition to the bongo knot inventory this weekend. imagine the look one gets in the kitchenware aisle while insisting that your new scale absolutely must measure in grams. i should have worn my "say no to drugs" t-shirt that day. anyway, we welcome our new scale (pictured below with a hank of norwegian wood handspun).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

blue state update!!!

first off, on the subject of my ever-cloudy mood...i have actually been feeling pretty damn fantabulously lately. my 31st birthday passed rather silently, and i reigned-in any urge i had to freak out about getting older while not fulfilling my goals by tossing some clothes into a suitcase, driving to the airport at the crack of dawn, and begging to be placed on the first possible flight to Montreal. yes, boys and girls, i am the first liberal in history to escape to Canada (instead of just dreaming of it). was a short-term escape of only 5 and a half days, but i came home feeling like a million loonies. i found a fab new yarn shop near the Atwater Market, so I purchased a couple of hanks of a sinful baby alpaca yarn for myself and a newborn-green merino to make a hat for Nina's soon-to-be baby boy. the pattern can be found here.

as for me...i've been spinning up a storm in the past week or two. here's a sampling: (clockwise from the top, left) a group shot of my recent spun gold; a gorgeous colorway i'm calling raspberry sorbet because it makes me hungry just looking at it; one of several hanks of undyed merino i aptly named like a virgin; and finally, a funky blend that has grown on me like crazy called norwegian wood.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

healing and planning

it has been a difficult past week or two. most of my family was in Maine at the funeral of my twenty-something year old cousin who was found dead in bed by his college roommate only two days after returning from spring break with his family. i was not there because i was supposedly too caught up in my writing to travel. the funeral took place on the same day as the Virginia Tech shootings. when my mom returned home and we had a chance to speak at length on the phone, my heart absolutely ripped to shreds - not only at the grief my family is feeling for the lost of someone so young, but at the collected sorrow that still permeates the air. i have not been very productive work-wise since then, preferring to spend most of my time in bed, asleep, not thinking, not feeling.

this is supposed to be a craft blog, so i will share what little crafting i have done of lately. i have been knitting!!! mostly making swatches as i plan out future projects. so, in no particular order...

i bought this on ebay years ago. the label is in Russian, so all i know is that it's a mohair blend. i want to make a pretty sweater with it. definitely outside of my usual color range, but it would be nice to embrace a bit of girly glam.
this is from an old, shapeless sweater i recycled last week instead of setting it on fire in the backyard (which was my first choice). the original was a reverse stockinette stitch (pretty much like the back side of this swatch, but i think i prefer it....
...on the flip side (in this case, the front of the stockinette) it's rather bulky: about 4 stitches to the inch on #10's. should be fun, once i decide what to do with it.

this is a very light yarn i bought last summer. it is a silk cotton blend and has beautiful sheen. this is the front of the stockinette. nice, but not the sexiest application of the material.

i very much like the reverse stockinette instead...or maybe something light and lacey. hmm...!!!

and, certainly not least of all, the yarn that will become my "boo pillows". not a frightful-boo, but a in, this will be toss pillow covers for my sweetie-boo. almost makes you think i have a heart, eh?

Monday, April 09, 2007


in my greatest week yet of procrastinating, i added a fab new item to my wardrobe. i purchased 8 ounces of roving to practice using the spinning wheel, but i got the hang of it before the roving arrived. so...there i was, alone in the house for a whole week, with only my incomplete dissertation to keep me company. what is one to do? make yarn of course!!! i decided to try spinning a thick yarn for some sense of satisfaction in actually being able to complete a task. as new spinners, we pride ourselves on being able to produce almost-impossibly thin singles, but sometimes, you want something with a bit of weight to it. problem is, you start thick, but habit and practice kicks in, and the end of the yarn is about half the width of the beginning. i have not fully mastered the technique, so there are thin spots here-and-there, which actually adds a bit of homey charm. the finished product is about 14-15 wraps-per-inch. not exactly chunky by normal standards, but much thicker than my previous efforts. it was so satisfying to spin three full bobbins in an evening of TV watching which required no plying. i let this new yarn sit on the bobbins till the following day so the twist would have some time to set. trust me, this is a worth wile practice in patience.

i recently obtained 6 jars of Jacquard acid dyes [which should make my sweetie-pie think twice about making bets with me in the future!]. i space-dyed the yarn using random splashes of burnt orange, chestnut, and periwinkle. the periwinkle was mostly lost in the fray, but it did produce a few interesting blue-greyish splotches. to be absolutely honest, i was frightened when i first looked at the dyed yarn. i thought i'd made a HUGE error in color choice, and i strongly considered dyeing the whole batch a single dark color to hide my shame. while i was pondering this option, my attention suddenly turned to thoughts of lace knitting [there is nothing like procrastination to fuel the imagination]. i found tons of interesting patterns to add to my collection, but i decided to give the scary yarn a chance at the Halley's Comet Hat - a great beginner lace knitting project. i will let the result speak for itself...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

postcard from the edge

so...the dissertation thing is going as well as can be expected...considering that i could not care less about this whole experience anymore. on a total tangent, i'm having a somewhat pleasant day. i can finally see the carpet in my living room and the yarn stash has been corralled into a pile to be further sorted at a later date. i am considering delving into dyeing with natural materials next. i played around with natural dyes years ago when i worked at the botanic garden, but that a very cursory experience. this renewed interest was inspired by the jar of turmeric in my spice cupboard that keeps staring at me every time i reach for the pepper grinder. speaking of the pepper grinder...

i just had a super-yummy lunch. roasted asparagus with a pinch of salt and black pepper and CRABCAKES with my own special sauce. jealous much???

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

fiber art...???

my best friend went to the Whitney this weekend. we had an interesting conversation the next day about modern art. i will reserve my opinions on that subject for some later date, but i found myself taking a swatch off the needle this morning, and perched on a index card on my keyboard, it reminded my of a Frank Gehry creation.

this yarn will be used for a secret project i hope to get started on soon...that is, as soon as i finish writing my dissertation. the yarn is a fingering-weight wool i found on ebay last week. the swatch was done on #2 needles. i pinned the swatch to the ironing board and gave it a quick blast of steam from a hot iron to block it into shape. [as a total aside, i dropped the container of straight pins on the bedroom carpet and i was in a rush leaving the house this morning, so there is the strong possibility i will forget this fact when i get home, and that will not be pleasant]

the secret project will be knitted in the round on 5 double-pointed needles. i actually find myself favoring them over circular needles for smallish projects. i don't feel brave enough to try making a sweater on dp's yet, but that may change with time. i will post some sort of instructions/directions along with the finished project...whenever it's done.

this stitching technique is called entrelac. it creates the seemingly-complicated effect of a basket-weave, but it is actually quite easy to do. i was fascinated and intimidated by this method for the longest while, but the latest issue of Interweave Knits contains a gorgeous pair of socks designed by Eunny Jang that i MUST make for myself...once i finish the cursed dissertation. so, i started swatching. in addition to the sock pattern, Eunny gives fabulous instructions for first-timers. i started the swatch in bed last night and finished it up over a breakfast.

by the way, this is not the secret project, in case you thought i slipped up. i haven't decided what yarn to use for the Eunny socks, but the swatch is looking mighty tempting, and i will have more than enough left over for a pair of socks. hmmmm....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

almost there!!!

pending a few finishing touches (sleeve trim, button, etc.), the purple nurple is almost complete. i will post a proper picture later, but this is what it looks like as of tonight. and yes, they are real...and they're SPECTACULAR!!!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

bad karma-el..

so...about a year ago i dyed and spun some wool in a colorway i called karma-el (because it brought me great peace to do it). now, my karma-el has turned on me...kinda. i started to make Glampyre's boob holder using this super-fab yarn, of which i had spun only a limited amount. i thought it would be enough for such a tiny project. problem was not enough to contain my not-so-tiny boobs, so i abandoned karma-el with much sadness and despair...

...when what to my wondering eyes did appear, but three whole, complete, gorgeous skeins of Brown Sheep Yarn that i totally forgot existed in the stash. the color is H 01. it was a steal on ebay a couple of years ago and i was saving it for the perfect project. so now, i can rejoin the quest to hold my know what i mean. i've made a few alterations to the original pattern to accommodate my broad shoulders and mighty bosom, but the central idea remains the same. i will post the alterations when the boob holder is done, but here is what i accomplished in the past 36 hours. i would totally aim to finish it tonight, but i desperately need to sleep, so the girls will have to go unheld till some later time. if there's enough leftovers, i will make a pair of fingerless gloves...or, as i like to call them...wrist holders!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

yummy goodness!!!

so...this has absolutely nothing to do with knitting, but it's my creative activity for the day. i enjoy cooking, but i can only do it when i'm in a good mood - which i kinda was today - so i made food for the next few days. i wanted to make my special someone jealous, so i took pictures. most of the planning involved using stuff that was on the verge of going bad, so this is what i ended up with...

this fabulous dish was a quick curry made entirely of odd bits i found in the fridge. i had a dozen large shrimps that needed to be cooked immediately, so i sauteed some onions and chopped ginger, added a couple of bell peppers, some curry powder, tossed in the shrimps, and finished it all with a couple of chopped tomatoes. it is yum yum yum.

for some reason, the yams/sweet potatoes looked good when i was walking through the produce section, so i grabbed a couple. problem is...i was not sure what i wanted to do with them. i ended up sticking them in a 375 degree oven till they were soft and starting to ooze sweet goodness. i can nuke one briefly in the oven and use it as an accompaniment to the curry...or the SUPER STEW!!!

this was the best part of the day. i had some beef riblets (not exactly sure what the cut is called). i cut them up, marinated briefly, then i seared them in small batches quickly and piled them into a casserole. to the same saute pan, i added chopped onion, garlic, ginger, a bit of sweet peppers, and the last cup of fresh pineapple from this week's fruit binge. i tossed this around for a minute or two, squeezed an orange over it, added a giant glop of bbq sauce, and poured the whole mess over the beef. i sealed the casserole up tightly and left it in the oven at 375 degrees till the meat was super tender. it is so amazing. kinda like texas meets hawaii.

Monday, February 26, 2007

view from my bedroom window

it's two a.m. and i am once again wide awake. apparently there's another snow storm in the neighborhood. so, once again, i threw open the window and snapped a few pics for your enjoyment. it was really cool...till the wind shifted and i found myself being pounded by many tiny shards of ice. ahhh...good times!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

...oh baby, she's got it!!!

just a quick post to celebrate the 1-week anniversary of the Ashford Traditional being in the house. this was my 4th attempt at using the wheel. not bad for a first week of wheel work (if i do say so myself). i LOVE navajo plying, so i could not wait to try it out on the wheel. now, if only i could make this kind of progress with my knitting.

(ignore the phantom speckles on the image)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

the great ice storm of '07!!!

in the middle of an ice storm, there i was this afternoon, hanging out my bedroom window to capture a few shots of the winter wonderland.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

my new baby!!!

okay, so it may not be that exciting to most, but there was a new arrival at bongo knot this weekend...all 17.5 lbs of it!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

blue like twilight

this blog was started as a way of documenting the many efforts i make to distract myself from the all-mighty chore that is getting-the-heck-out-of-here; which is to say, completing my dissertation so that i can escape from the arms of academic lunacy and run to the arms of...more....academic...luna......? perhaps i need to rethink my motivation. anyhoo, i am presently engaged in trying to distract myself from the thing that is distracting me from writing the dissertation, which is what i usually need to be saved from, except this one time. i need to write the introduction to a study i devoted two years of my life to. i even have the outline for that intro. i just need to WRITE! and what is stopping me??? for once it's not the overwhelming chorus of voices emanating from my many bundles of un-realized fiber, beckoning me to come, see, touch, feel, nuzzle, and dream of what they might one day be. i do hear them, but my psychic plugs are in, so their cries have no powers over me at present.

what is distracting me from being brilliant is one of those occurrences that can only be described as a matter-of-the-heart. usually the MOTH involves either family, or a loved one. lucky me, it involves all of the above. i will spare you all the details, as that would require a whole separate blog to do it justice, and go right for the effect this is having on me. i have been in tears for the greater part of the past 36 hours. when i am not crying, i am sleeping and having sad dreams, or stuffing my face. sadly, both of those events usually end with more tears. i can't keep my eyes open/dry long enough to write intelligible sentences (as is evidenced here), so i have decided to distract myself from brooding by putting together the long-overdue second posting. that's right! gonna use the old double-distractor trick. if all the known laws of physics are correct, then the universe should either be instantaneously put to right....or implode violently on itself. i am willing to take that chance.

just to orient the reader, i am currently layed-up in bed, which is tucked in a sweet little alcove in my attic bedroom. as you may have noted, i live with bright yellow walls and (mostly) blue furnishings and accessories. at present, it suits the mood....which brings me to the fiber-related segment of this pity party. if you are interested in learning to spin, by far the easiest thing to start with is turning silk hankies into soft, fabulous yarn. it is quick, almost foolproof, and loads of fun. i had a ton of silk hankies (how many silkworms would it take to produce that much???)...okay, not a ton, but a substantial bit, more than i anticipated needing for the project i was contemplating, so i decided to play around with the overflow, in the process producing a fast and easy project (ultimately...eliminating one small bundle of "i'm not sure what to do with this" that would be otherwise added to the stash. YAY ME!!!).

silk hankies are made by first soaking intact cocoons in hot water to soften them up, then stretching them across a rectangular frame, so that the individual fibers are arranged in-no-particular-order, but the whole cocoon once dried will take on the appearance of a "hankie." several cocoons are stretched and stacked on the same frame, so that the finished hankie has several layers, each of which represents an individual cocoon. once dried, the layers are peeled apart carefully for spinning. you can opt to dye your fiber before or after the spinning process. the spun yarn for my original project will be immersion dyed (to produce a solid color), but i wanted to play around with the leftovers before spinning them. just dunking the hankies in a pot of dye seemed dull as i would end up with the same result as the original project (except with maybe a different color). i came across an article a while back about "sprinkle-dyeing" to produce a chance-dyed fiber...kinda like John Cage meets the dyepot.

in a nutshell:

i added about an inch of water to my all-purpose dyepot and inserted one of those collapsible stainless steel steamer baskets you find in the kitchen-gadget aisle of your local market. make sure it's stainless steel, or you may have a bad chemistry experiment on your hands when you introduce certain dyes to the pot. likewise, my dyepot is stainless steel. there should be sufficient water to last 30-40 minutes of steaming, but not so much that it begins to cover the steamer surface. the silk hankies were soaked in warm water with a splash of dish detergent for approximately 10 minutes to ensure that the fibers were open and receptive to the dye. i used a Gaywool acid dye obtained from Copper Moose Farms (i LOVE CM!!!). once soaked, i squeezed out most of the water from the hankies, and began layering them in the steamer. in between and on top of the hankies, i sprinkled some of the dye crystals right from the bottle. i did not measure, but i used about half a capful of the color "musk" for 3 ounces of silk hankies. notice that this is an intense blue color, so you don't want to overdo it, or you'll just have dark blue silk in the end. you want some intensely stained areas, but you also need a good bit of your background showing through for the final effect. in the end, i kept most of my color in the center of the hankies to ensure strong undyed borders. now, bring your water up to a rolling boil, then turn it down low enough to just maintain a steamy environment in the pot, cover tightly, and find some way to occupy yourself for 30-40 minutes. maybe read an article or a browse a cool website or just listen to the magic happening inside your dyepot. you can open the pot to ensure that there is still water at the bottom for steaming. if you feel a need to add water, do so by pouring it slowly along the side to prevent water flowing over your hankies. now, return the cover to the closed position and resume steaming. what you are ultimately looking for is the complete dissolution of the dye crystals into the silk. once this happens. turn your steamer off and let it sit covered for at least 10 minutes. it's the heat that sets the dye in the fabric, so give it time to work. once you are confident that your dye magic was successful, remove the hankies from the dyepot and immerse them in a container of warm water for about 5 minutes. there should be very little dye bleeding into the water, which means that it's all bound to your fiber. if you see significant bleeding, don't panic, just add an extra rinse or two. rinse one more time then remove excess water by rolling the hankies in a towel and hang them somewhere unobtrusive to dry. i draped mine over the top of the shower. now...what to do with a stack of chance-dyed silk hankies???

Friday, January 05, 2007

why oh why...

...did i think it made perfect sense to start the new year by processing my own wool for spinning??? talk about bad ideas! sometime last spring, when i was in the midst of a minor-major breakdown (read: grad school not going well), i turned to spinning yarn as my stress-reduction activity of choice. i can't quite explain how i arrived at that not-so-logical conclusion. personally, i blame it on The Joy of Handspinning. yes boys and girls, the interweb can be bad for your health.

my (sometimes) significant other loved this idea enough to bankroll my initial setup - a drop spinndle and a few pounds of roving. it was A-MAZING!!! i spun myself silly. i dyed my first batch with a combination of Rit dyes i like to call karma-el (left - the skien in the center was not dyed). the remaining roving was space-dyed using Gaywool dyes in a combination that i originally planned on calling desert skyscape (right), but after one look at the end-product, it became the Bill Cosby yarn (in honor of the very colorful sweaters he is so fond of wearing). i eventually exhausted my stock of roving...which brings me to my present predicament.

washing and carding your own fiber is supposed to be economical and fun (again, the evil interweb). i purcased an 8-lb merino fleece that was supposed to contain "some vegetable matter" (read: sheep are dirty animals). my first clue should have been the cat's obsession with the box. little did i anticipate the horror that awaited me when i broke the seal....."SOME VM" my a$$!!!

there i am not quite knowing what to do with this box of fright, so i sealed it back up, stashed it out of kitty-boo's (name has been changed to protect his privacy) reach, and reviewed all my instructions on fleece-washing. apparently, merino fleece is especially dirty and usually requires at least a second washing. lucky me!

in a nutshell:

i loosely loaded some dirty fleece in a mesh laundry bag...

steeped the bag in my dyepot (to which i added a dash of Dawn dish detergent and a handful of powdered Tide laundry detergent) over a super-low flame for about 30 minutes...

drained carefully...

rinsed for about 30 minutes...

repeated washing, and rinsed a couple of times.

i recognize that this is not the best method for washing fleece. many websites (like this one) offer instructions for washing a whole fleece quickly and efficiently in the washing machine, but i did not have access to a top-loading washer during this adventure, so i had to improvise. in the end... i think it was worth it. don't you agree???

Clean FleeceUsing A Pet Brush To "Comb" FibersThe Finished ProductReady For Spinning!!!