Hi. I’m not dead. I am in grad school though, which is surprisingly close to dead as far as normal life goes.
There have been many changes in my life besides grad school. I have a ginger man I am rather fond of, along with two cocker spaniel dogs, and I went through a drought of little to no crafting. However, I have returned to it with a vengeance, as knitting and a bit of crochet seems to be on effective way to claw back what sanity I have between reading journal articles and writing.
I work at a chain craft store part-time, and decided I’d try out a new acrylic line we’ve brought out. I recently had a birthday, and thought it would be amusing to demonstrate how to make big box yarn look like some indie ombre hand-dye off Etsy. It’s actually pretty easy.
It’s a cute yarn; it isn’t labeled as a chunky weight but at 3.5 stitches per inch on my set of 8s, I’d say it is. Using my niddy noddy, I transformed my awkward glasses wearing nerd into a indie princess.
Funny how it works, right?
Sorry for the disappearance. I’ll be around a lot more.
I’ve already told you about the yarn store where I work. Great little place. What I don’t think I’ve mentioned is that my boss also owns a sewing store right next door. They carry sleek Swedish machines that can do everything from smoothly threading your needle to fighting against fear, fire and famine. Well, that might be an exaggeration but they can sew pretty much anything you can name.
I’m not a sewer. I don’t sew. My mother sews and she’s owned various models of machines over the years. She was mostly self-taught. What she failed to do was pass on any sewing knowledge to her daughters. Mainly this is because my mother and we daughters tend to get along as well as a porcupine and a tar pit. We love each other but the romantic idea of passing on craftual knowledge to the next generation isn’t one that works for us.
So what’s that?
Earlier this year I took some basic sewing lessons at the store next-door. This was at my boss’s behest and why would I complain? I was getting paid to learn how to tame the Swedish Machines. It wasn’t until earlier this week that I seriously considered actually…making something. Then yesterday, I walked into work and there was a large box of fabric bolts for the other store. I started to paw through them and I fell in love. So I thought, OK. Maybe a pillowcase. They can’t be hard. They’re giant rectangles, right? Rectangles are easy.
I asked my boss about it and she was thrilled. I think she’s just been waiting for me to be infected. All I had to do was buy the fabric. Perks of being an employee: I don’t have to pay for the lessons and I can use sewing machines that I could never buy. So today, I picked out 3 fabrics. I had a vague idea of making it from just one fabric but oh no. Pat said she had just the cutest pattern ever and I admit, I liked the idea of variety. The main fabric was called Sparkling Paris. I liked that. I liked the kitschy cute combo and a few hours later, I’m still thrilled…
with my kitschy, cute TOTALLY SEWN BY ME OMG PILLOWCASE!!!
Yep. There it is. Sparkling away. It has fancy ‘French’ seams. I didn’t even know that seams had ethnicities before today. However, I am THRILLED. And also hooked. This is not good. This IS.NOT.GOOD. I have knitting. I can crochet, even Tunisian.
I do not need to sew.
I do not need a fabric stash.
I do not need stacks of adorable pillowcases with a different one for every day of the week.
Gee, that would be really cool…
But going to college will do that to you. To date, I don’t think I’ve picked up a pair of needles in a solid month. This is the longest time that I have gone without knitting since I started! Everything’s boiled down to paperwork, books, buying all the crap you didn’t realize you’d need, more paperwork, classes, getting to know your teachers, paperwork and again, more paperwork.
Did I mention that paperwork *sucks*?
I’m hoping to get something cast on over the Labor Day weekend, however. Any advice on what would make a good project that I can shove into my backpack and haul around campus?
One of my friends, Jen, is doing a wonderful thing on her blog, The Sarah Winchester of Fiber Arts. She is giving away stash, people—to raise money to raise awareness and education about multiple sclerosis. Yes, this is her very own stash. Donate $5, and you’re eligible to win yarn from Handmaiden to Malabrigo. That is what I call sacrifice. Here’s the original post with more information, posed in a much more eloquent way than I’ve presented it to you. I’m just gaping at her generosity.
HOWEVER, any knitter knows that other knitters just don’t like to be left out of some good old-fashioned charity. Rita, a talented indie dyer behind Castle Fibers, is donating some special limited edition sock yarn, and Jen’s personal friend Tia is donating 15 skeins of sock yarn for a special raffle for those that donate $100 or more.
The new goal is $1,500, people—and let’s face it, how many times do you get the chance to get yarn for doing a good deed? I’ll answer that: very few. So if you have an extra $5, or $10 or even more that you can donate, head over to Jen’s blog, and make yourself and others feel very, very good!
I can’t actually post pictures of my current knitting project, because it’s a surprise for the recipient. So look at these beautiful pictures of yarn in the meantime.
That, my darlings, is a skein of Malabrigo sock yarn in the Eggplant colorway. It doesn’t have quite that exact blue undertone that you’re seeing in these pictures, but it is in fact, purple, a fact that doesn’t come through in most pictures. For some reason, this colorway tends to photograph as grayish-brown. It’s really a deep, subtle purple shot with a few strands of lighter purple and at a quick glance, can look almost black in certain lights. It is exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally squishy, and I want to cast on for a pair of socks RIGHT NOW.
I am refraining from doing so, however, because I must finish my sekrit knitting project first. Once it’s no longer a secret, I’ll post pictures because it is very beautous. Let me just say that after knitting with fingering weight on size 0s, I’m rocketing through this project that uses sportweight and size 3 needles.
Yes, there’s a book titled, “The Joy Of Knitting,” but this isn’t about the joy of knitting. It’s about the joy of yarn.
I didn’t understand it until I came home this Saturday with some beautiful Sublime Organic Wool DK in a delicate, heathered gray. It will become my next sweater. But not yet. First, I have a hat to finish. And I want to slow down, stop casting on new projects. The weather in West Virginia has let go of summer, finally, and the chill is making thoughts of warm handknits alluring and comforting.
But right now, I am just enjoying the yarn. It’s sitting next to me in the yarn store’s red and brown checkered bags. I reached over and squeeze it quite often. It is very soft, soft in that warm, bouncy woolly way; that delicious spring that you can’t get in cotton or acrylics. I am enjoying this yarn. I am not knitting with this yarn.
I realized a few days ago that I hate knitting with acrylic. You have to understand me: I haven’t knitted with acrylic for over a year now, but not because I entirely discounted it. I thought that if I needed a washable yarn sometime, I could fall back on Caron Simply Soft—maybe a blanket for the dog or something. I remember Simply Soft fondly. It feels silky in the skein and comes in good colors. My younger sister bought red, white and green skeins to make a scarf for herself.
She was working against a deadline, so when I asked her to braid my hair, she handed me her scarf and said, KNIT!
That’s when I realized that I hated knitting with acrylic. It had no life. It felt crunchy and sticky and stiff in my hands. I sat there, gaping, as I wrapped the yarn around the needles and realized that it felt like I was knitting with plastic tubes or something. I hadn’t realized how I had become so used to natural fibers—perhaps, I hadn’t realized how spoiled I was.
So now I’m sitting here, and squeezing my organic wool and thinking: hmm. Maybe I should take advantage of this zen mode to knit on my WIPs…
because God knows I’ll be casting this on tomorrow.
I have not abandoned my blog. There, I wanted to say that first, because I know plenty of blogs that I used to enjoy reading that someone abandoned. Secondly, the reason that I have not been posting is because my camera cord has officially disappeared. I think it was stolen by a mysterious white ferret that we found in our yard. My younger brother was startled to find a tame ferret in our yard, obviously abandoned or lost. We did the right thing. We bought a cage, plenty of food, we loved our ferret.
However, the ferret apparently did not like us, and disappeared almost before a week was out. My camera cord is also missing. I am searching Ebay for the correct cord and am considering a memory card reader as a good alternative if the only seller I can find is, “CHEEPCHEEPELECTRONICZ,” with a 60% positive rating and shipping is $12 from Hong Kong.
I do have yarny goodness. The UPS woman (yes, woman, not a man) brought a package from Peaches & Creme. I am not ashamed, I like dishcloth cotton and I am participating in a Ballband dishcloth contest. The Ravelry fan group for the Pisgah yarn company is extremely active on Ravelry and I have until November 15th to knit the original Ballband dishcloths until my eyeballs melt and pour from my sockets.
If you don’t know what the Ballband dishcloth is, you might have seen it in the first Mason-Dixon knitting book. Here’s a link to a picture and the pattern online. It wasn’t actually designed by the authors, it is Pisgah’s own company pattern. If you go to your local Wal-Mart or craft store and pick up a ball of Peaches & Creme yarn, (not to be confused with Sugar’n Cream) you can find the pattern printed on the inside of the label. You use two different colors of cotton yarn to make a textured, cushy dishcloth that is really fab at absorbing water and, if you make it smaller, really good at scrubbing, too.
My Wal-Mart has limited colors of P&C, so I broke down and ordered directly from the Peaches & Creme website. I am now rolling around in crisp shades of green, lickable reds, a pale pink and a icy lemon to pair with some chocolate to make some cute and delicious looking dishcloths—I’ve also got some blue, a deep purple that just pops—I’ve got about 12 balls. All colors that I can’t get locally.
I know dishcloths aren’t exactly the hawt thing to knit. After all, it costs $1.69 a ball for Peaches & Creme, which totally means it’s low-class. Despite the fact that many of the positive reasons for knitting socks also apply to dishcloths—portable, quick, comes in many colors, practical—it’s just not as chic to knit something that doesn’t cost $25. Sense the sarcasm?
Don’t get me wrong, I love socks and sock yarn, but there’s a definite snobbery involved if the only reason someone doesn’t knit dishcloths is because it’s cheap. Now, some people can’t stand cotton, or it hurts their hands very much. They also might just dislike the finished object. But there’s something to be said for a project that costs under $5 and makes a beautiful, usable knitted object. I think that’s definitely in the line of traditional, practical knitting.
Gnomes are stealing my darning needles.
That seems the most reasonable explanation. I have bought 2 of these handy, blunt-tipped needles from my local yarn store. The third time, when I explained that I had lost yet another needle? Pat looked at me sympathetically and told me to just keep this third needle, no charge.
I’m not sure what the gnomes are doing with 3 darning needles. Given the sheer amount of crap under my bed, they could be constructing little gnome houses. Actually, there could be entire gnome village under there and I would never know. It’s been awhile since I checked. Maybe darning needles make good support beams?
I have also blamed gnomes for stealing several halves of straight needles that I have but oddly, they always turn up after I’ve bought a replacement pair. I have 3 pairs of size 7 needles and I am not joking. They don’t steal yarn or circular needles of any kind, but I’m starting to feel a little uneasy. Maybe it’s a good thing that I keep the yarn in a tub with a snap lid.
You know…just in case.
I just realized today that knitters will save the world.
Today, after my annual eye exam, I got to spend some time at Borders. I’ve slowly been reading through this cheerful stack of featured books about how we’re all going to hell in a specially designed handbasket. Barbara Ehrenreich, that kind of thing. I picked up this book called, “Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.”
Cheerful reading, I know.
The basic premise of the book is that modern technology and the modern lifestyle has eroded our attention span, and the deep thought required to sustain a society. People reflect less, don’t take the time to disgest information. They don’t have spaces of silence. We place equal value on virtual communication as we do on actual contact with…gasp…human beings!
The author argues that this means that we will be heading into a technologically advanced but still declining modern Dark Age. People will lose (and have lost) their ability to dwell and muse and think about one thing, one subject, on problem. They’ve lost their ability to not do.
That’s when I realized that knitters will save the world. Not just knitters, but weavers and crocheters and spinners and everyone that is helping to preserve these ancient crafts. I put down Distracted and proceeded to thoughtfully advance the coming Dark Age by doing two things that once. I knitted my lace shawl and I listened to some podcasts.
Knitting—at least, a lot of knitting—requires that kind of concentrated attention. Lace, for instance. It took long, extended periods of times when I pushed aside everything else so that I could focus on nothing but slender silver stitches. Now that I’ve gotten the feel of my pattern, I’m experiencing a special kind of zen when I’m working on this now. I feel confident. I feel focused. I’m slowly creating a delicate, impossibly intricate fabric, dreamed and imagined up by other knitters, hundreds of years ago.
My cabled beret sucked me in like that, too. I was zoned out, in that famous flow state in which I continued to knit, row after row, even when my hands hurt. Believe me, that hat is not perfect. I flubbed a bit of the tubular cast on. There are tiny mistakes that only I notice. But I still felt that.
In a curious twist of serendipity, I was listening to the 66th episode of the Cast On podcast. Brenda had Cat Bordhi on her show and Cat said something that really connected with me, something that seemed to pull together my scattered thoughts into a whole.
- “Knitters, when you bring them into knitting, there is something that rises through the knitting that is…it’s like a deep hum or a deep rhythm, something primal and simple and peaceful…*”
That’s what will save the world, I think. Not cloth grocery bags, sustainable energy or organic yarn, as wonderful as all of those things are. But returning to that deep, concentrated energy, that kind of unthinking thinking that comes to people in different ways. I’m not trying to sound all guruy, because I’m the last person on the earth to turn to for advice, but I think people need distractions when they force themselves to live lives that they dislike. When they skim over the surface and never connect with that creative power that they have. Maybe it comes to them through carpentry. Or pottery or heck, designing car engines. For many people, it comes through knitting.
And that’s just fine.
(*That was my transcript of what she said, I edited a tiny bit for clarity. Go listen to the show yourself.)
I have rediscovered how much fun knitting podcasts can be. I found my mp3 player and I started to browse iTunes in search of some new knitting podcasts. I immeaditely fell in love with a podcast called The Manic Purl.
Chrissy Graham has a low-key, chatty podcast that she’s structured into certain categories: knitting news, what’s on her sticks, what’s off her sticks, and book and yarn reviews. She’s podcasting from Vancouver, BC, Canada, and I have to say this: as a totally obnoxious and nasally American, I looove her accent.
I also browsed her website and after I saw her hand-dyed yarns…omigosh…they’re really amazing. Among the many independent yarn dyers out there, she really stands out, which is hard to do.
So, brazenly, I shot off a note to Chrissy, asking her if she would like to do an interview about her podcast and her 100% natural yarn dyeing. Chrissy very graciously accepted and I had loads of fun doing this interview. If you’re reading this, Chrissy, you’re an interviewer’s dream! And here’s the interview, and I will link both the podcast and her yarn website, Yarn Sprout, at the end of the post!
Genuine: What prompted you to start podcasting?
Chrissy: I’ve been listening to knitting podcasts since Knitcast was the only knitting podcast out there. Honestly, I’d dreamed of podcasting ever since I heard the first episode of Knitcast. Finally, after years of dreaming about it, I decided to jump in and make it a reality.
Genuine: I love the name Manic Purl, but I was a little curious about how you came up with it and what it meant to you. Could you explain a little bit about that?
Chrissy: I live and breath knitting, and those who know me know I’m knitting obsessed. When I was looking for a name, I wanted something to reflect the obsession. From “obsessed” I jumped to “mania” and from there I arrived at “manic”. If you look at the definition of mania you’ll find that it doesn’t only pertain to a serious mental illness, but is also defined as “excessive excitement or enthusiasm” (Dictionary.com). It was definitely the latter that spurred me to use the word manic in the podcast title.
Genuine: How has feedback from your listeners affected the podcast? Has it helped to expand your ideas for future shows?
Chrissy: The feedback from my listeners has been really positive, and more than anything, it has reaffirmed my idea of having a fair amount of structure in the podcast. For the most part, I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying that they like the podcast, but not a lot on how to make it better, or for future shows. I’m hoping to hear more feedback from my listeners in the future.
I have definitely gotten the impression from my listeners that they like interactive things, like knit alongs.
We also have a Manic Purlers group on Ravelry!
Genuine: I know that you tend to keep advertising to a minimum in your podcast, which I appreciate, but I was really interested in your website that sells your yarn, Yarnsprout. How long has Yarn Sprout ‘been in the works’?
Chrissy: Hmmm…that’s a difficult question. In a way, Yarn Sprout has been in the works for many years. It has been my dream for as long as I can remember to have my own yarn dyeing business. I’ve watched so many new yarn dyers open up shops in the last few years, and I didn’t want to be just another dyer doing the same thing as everyone else.
I’ve always been passionate about natural dyes, but hesitated to offer them for sale due to the lengthy process required to dye with them, as well as the greater expense involved.
After a few years of mulling it over in the back of my mind, I decided to just jump in! Yarn Sprout has been really well received so far, and I’m looking forward to many more years of providing high quality naturally dyed yarns (and fibers) to knitters.
I really struggled with whether I’d mention Yarn Sprout on the podcast, but I decided that since the podcast is also about what I’m up to, I couldn’t really leave it out.
Genuine: One particular phrase caught my attention, it said that your yarn is 100% naturally dyed. I only know a little about dyeing, so maybe you could explain a little bit about natural dyeing and how it differs from perhaps the more ‘traditional’ dyeing methods
Chrissy: Most people are familiar with acid dyes, and other synthetic dyes. Most of the dyeing that goes on in the world today uses synthetic dyes. Synthetic dyes are more readily available, generally easier to use, and less time consuming to dye with. Natural dyes are what were used before synthetic dyes were available.
Before dyeing the fiber, it must be mordanted. Mordanting prepares the fiber in a way that will allow it to accept the natural dye. I use a mineral salt called Alum to mordant all my wools. Alum is the least environmentally unfriendly mordant, and I’m comfortable using it in my kitchen. Other mordants include tin, copper, chrome and iron. Chrome is extremely toxic, and I do not use it under any circumstances.
The mordant used does influence the way the natural dye will turn out on the fiber.
Natural dyes come from many different plants, roots, barks, and even some bugs. Most of these dyes are particularly sensitive to pH, and will yield very different shades based on the pH of the dye bath.
Natural dyes must be extracted before they can be used. Some roots, barks and flowers must be simmered in water to be extracted, others can be added right to the dye bath containing the mordanted fiber.
Genuine: This brings me to my next question; I see that you and your husband, Stuart, are both involved in the business—do both of you dye?
Chrissy: Stu and I are both involved in Yarn Sprout, but he doesn’t do any of the dyeing. He’s more of the business side – he gets to do all the fun stuff like dealing with the government, and taxes, and fun stuff like that.
He’s actually quite helpful with running to the post office, and making things to make my life easier. He built me a proper skein winder last month, so I didn’t have to niddy noddy every skein of yarn.
For the most part though, Stu is the business side of Yarn Sprout. He’s a great consultant, and I couldn’t do it without him.
Genuine: I’ve really enjoyed your podcasts about lace, so I had to ask: are you considering adding a laceweight yarn to your yarn line in future?
Chrissy: Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m really looking forward to adding a laceweight yarn to the Yarn Sprout family. I think that the vivid semi-solid natural colors will be stunning on a laceweight merino silk. I’m also considering some laceweight alpaca.
Genuine: Are there any future exciting plans, whether about the podcast or Yarn Sprout, that you would be able to share?
Chrissy: We always have lots of fun stuff in the works here! You’ll have to stay tuned to the podcast for the latest. As for Yarn Sprout – we’re looking forward to adding new yarns and colors – I’m working on the fall line right now. We’re also looking to add fiber and a bunch of cool accessories in the near future.
I’m so excited to be able to podcast and run Yarn Sprout, and I am certainly living my dream.
Genuine: And thanks again, Chrissy, for taking the time for this interview!
If you’re interested in the podcast, you can find the show notes and links to download the episodes at the Manic Purl blog!
If you want to buy her yarn, check out the Yarn Sprout website! She has beautiful, naturally dyed sock yarns and I am serious: this is not just another yarn dyer. Her color sense is definite and subtle, with more solids and semi-solids than you sometimes see, on some delicious base yarns. Also, the plus is that the shipping is a flate rate of $6.50, and that’s from Canada to the US!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this interview as much as I did! Happy listening everyone!