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???