Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coming to a Close

The past couple of weeks have felt a little like autumn - things are changing, the weather has been cool, kids are back in school. The exception is my job - it feels like late spring or early summer! Construction seemed to get off to a very slow start this year and we are now in the heat of the building season.

My life has been a chaotic mess as of late. Kind of like when you are deep cleaning the house and you have the "storm before the calm" messes everywhere - that's where I've been for the past month. My knitting has helped me stay focused. It's a great way to meditate on issues and has brought me some peace. I pray that God will watch over me and my family and I pray that I am making the right choices. Faith is sometimes challenging for me - I seem to always want things my way, right now and I don't "Let go and Let God" when I really should.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Time for Washcloths

July has been a time for washcloths - literally and figuratively. I had set a goal to knit nine washcloths this month so I would have a dozen cloths (I had three stashed from last year) to add to Lana's donations to a local charity and tonight I finished my last one. It has been a month full of life's ups and downs. When life hands me lemons - I knit washcloths. It's prayer knitting - and I've been doing a lot of praying this month. Maybe August will bring a little sugar and water - because a nice glass of lemonade sure sounds great!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Fine Finish

Well, the weekend is coming to a close. I have been home for four and a half lovely days and I am trying hard not to think about going back to work tomorrow! It has really been nice to kick back and enjoy being at home. Though the long weekend started out on Wednesday afternoon with a mammogram (gosh - I had no idea turning 40 was going to be so much fun) it is ending quite nicely with freshly "painted" yarn drying on the fence. And my neighbor just sent over the best homemade cashew chicken I've ever tasted - yum!

The Baby Blanket squares/rectangles are finally complete! I have passed them on to Fern who is going to crochet or sew them together and crochet a nice edge. I truly feel like a weight has been lifted! That blanket was "in progress" for over two years! I had mentally promised it to two other babies before this one (no, not my baby - puhleeez) and I thought it would never get it finished. But once I dug it out of the closet and got rolling on it - it wasn't that bad.

Today I finished dyeing the recycled mohair sweater yarn. It was a hot and mostly sunny day - so I thought I would try solar dyeing with Kool-Aid. I think I got pretty nifty results. It was super easy - the easiest method I've tried so far actually. For the solar dyeing I used three smaller skeins - I estimated them to be 1/4 - 1/2 ounces each. Here's the steps I took:

  1. Soaked yarn in warm water for 20 minutes.
  2. Placed about 12 ounces of water, a few drops of food coloring, and two packets of Kool-Aid/drink mix (see color concoctions listed below) in a one gallon zip top baggie. I did not use vinegar on this batch - I had read that the citric acid in the drink mix is enough to set the dye.
  3. Mixed the water and the drink mix.
  4. After soaking yarn I squeezed out the excess water.
  5. Placed the yarn in the plastic baggie and squished it around really good.
  6. Put the yarn baggies out on the sunny deck.
  7. Every so often, went outside to squish the baggies.
  8. After the dye had been exhausted, poured out the excess water.
  9. Let the yarn baggies set out in the sun to get nice and steamy.
  10. After getting a good steam - I brought the yarn in let it set until it was room temperature.
  11. Rinsed the yarn.
  12. Squeezed out excess water and hung to dry.

The three skeins on the right were solar dyed. What I've noticed about the solar dyeing is that it is not quite as consistent as the stove top method. I think this is because the the shallow depth of the dye bath in the baggie leaves some yarn "uncovered" - but I like the effect. The skein on the left I dyed on the stove because I had about 2 ounces to dye. Color/flavors are as follows (from left to right) -

  • Black Cherry (Kool-Aid brand) - five packs and about half a gallon of water (stove top method.)
  • One packet Cherry Watermelon (KA brand), one packet Tropical Punch (Kroger brand), and about 5 drops neon pink McCormicks food coloring.
  • Two packets Grape (Kroger brand.)
  • One packet Lemon-Lime, one packet Berry Blue, one packet Blue Raspberry Lemonade, and about 6 drops neon blue food coloring - I was going for turquoise and should have used a little less Lemon-Lime, so I tried to compensate by adding more blue!

So that's about it. I spent time with family, ate some really good food, talked to an old work buddy, picked up a few goodies at the thrift stores, started knitting a washcloth, finished knitting The Baby Blanket, and played with color. Though not what some would call truly productive, I sort of feel like I accomplished a bit this weekend!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

As Time Flies

Have you ever had one of those weekends where you go, go, go all weekend long but on Sunday night you realize you haven’t really accomplished anything? I guess I had one of those weekends. Of course Saturday it rained like mad all morning and into the afternoon, but that didn’t stop Fern (my ex-mother-in-law) and I from hitting the thrift stores. We headed out to Ebenezer to hit the Saturday $2 per bag sale. It has been over 15 years since I’ve been there and well, it hasn’t changed much. In fact, they may still have some of the same things they had then! We dug and dug and managed to find some deals. I found a ball of cotton and some sort of other fiber slubby yarn, a couple of CD’s, a movie, a bra (yes, a bra), a shirt, some shorts for Mike, and the cutest little Baby Gap pajamas. Not bad for $2. Fern picked up a stereo, a little rocking chair, and a bag of $2 goodies. Aly was with us but she stayed in the van – she’s way too cool to thrift and used her van time to text message and listen to her i-Pod. Typical teen past-times that can be done most anywhere – as all you parents and grandparents know. We ate lunch then hit the Blind Thrift Store to add to our bargain hauls – Aly sat in the van and ate a banana split while she text messaged and listened to her i-Pod, what a multi-tasker.

I did frog a sweater and got bunches of lovely green yarn. I am calling the yarn Green Eagle – the sweater was an American Eagle Outfitters. The yarn is a wool, angora, and nylon blend – soft and chucky. I picked up one of those coffee mug racks at the DAV Thrift Store and Mike attached it to the fence with hooks so I can move the rack indoors in inclement weather. Here’s a photo of the Green Eagle after it was washed and hung to dry.

Another yarn related note – The Baby Blanket I started in 2006 is out of hibernation. Fern told me one of her granddaughters is having another baby and has requested I knit the baby a blanket. The Baby Blanket (yes it has been around in its unfinished form long enough that it has earned a title) is one I started for a friend of ours who had their baby during the ice storm of 2007 – I didn’t complete it. I then intended to finish it and give it to another one of Fern’s granddaughters whose baby was born about seven months ago – I didn’t finish it. This time I will finish! So I made a pact with Fern – I will finish the squares if she will crochet them together. Deal – we’re cookin’ now!

Saturday evening I watched The Bucket List. I would like to make my own bucket list one of these days. I don’t think so much about kicking the bucket too soon, but I do realize my life is turning a curve. You see, as of July 1st all my kids will be teenagers. Aly will be a junior in high school, Tab a sophomore, and Levi in 8th grade. I think I am feeling pre-empty nestish. Instead of a bucket list I should make a before-they-fly-away list. You know - the things I want to do as a family before they begin their own adult lives. One thing on the top of the list is take my trip with Tab. Levi and I went to Florida, Aly and I went to California, now it’s time for me and Tab. I only have a few more years and she will be off to college – so we need to make our plan Tab! Another thing on my list would be a family trip to Washington D.C. to see all the monuments and museums. Of course there are little things to do too – like playing in the fountain at Jordan Valley Park, going to a ball game, going fishing for a day, and having the kids photo taken at a portrait studio. Those are just a couple things I would like to do, I wonder what Mike and the kids would add to the list?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Colors of June

June has been a busy month - at work and at home. We celebrated Tabitha's 15th birthday, Aly got her drivers license (yikes!), and Levi - well he's just been hanging out 'being bored' so far this summer. My husband Mike has been piddling around the yawd (that's his east coast pronunciation of yard) - it looks great by the way. The construction world is moving slowly into the busy season this year - a lot of rain and a slow economy. But things have picked up quite a bit and it looks like July, August, and September will be slammin'.

My knitting projects have pretty much been on hold. I do break out the shawl every now and then and complete a few rows. It is quite large and I have so many different yarns it requires it's own plastic tub for containment - it's not exactly a portable project! What has me distracted is this Kool-Aid dyeing and sweater ripping stuff! It's crazy, cool and I am currently obsessing! Below is my version of Sunburst - Kool-Aid style.

The basic recipe I have been following is the one at the link over on the right side of your screen. I have been using the stovetop method but have had a little felting issue that needs to be addressed. I am thinking that the simmering process is the culprit and that I need to just bring the water/Kool-Aid mix to a simmer or slow boil then add the yarn and turn the heat off. I'm pretty sure it will still absorb the color and possible eliminate the felting.

Here I've dyed Lion Brand's Fisherman's Wool - this is a continuous skein of about 240-yards - so each color is about 40 yards. I used the following for each color:

  • Two packets of Kool-Aid (Colors left to right are Berry Blue, Grape, Cherry, Orange, Lemonade, and Lemon-Lime)

  • About 10 drops of McCormick's food coloring (Blue, purple.......)

  • 12 oz. water

  • 4 oz. vinegar

  • A dash of salt

After soaking the yarn in hot water for about 20 minutes and bringing my Kool-Aid concoction to just below a boil - I placed the yarn in the Kool-Aid pot and simmered until the color had all (or most all) had been absorbed by the yarn. Then cooled until I could handle it and rinsed with the same water temperature as the Kool-Aid bath. That was it! I still want to play around with more colors and food coloring - I want to try Wilton's as I've read it is a good food coloring with more color choices.

For any readers of my blog - I wish you a wonderful and colorful summer. Happy knitting (if you knit- if not you should try it) - peace, love, hope and joy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Sweater to Dye For

The photo above is the sweater (well, yarn that was previously a sweater) I had written about previously. The sweater I was hoping really was mohair because I wanted to try overdyeing it with Kool-Aid. Yep - mohair and maybe a little bit of something else. I ended up with about 5 ounces - well, that's what my $1.00 kitchen scale said - of periwinkle bliss.

After frogging the sweater Friday night I started experimenting with Kool-Aid using the microwave method. I wanted to see what colors would work as an overdye. I started with grape, Berry Blue, black cherry, and strawberry. I laid my skeins out on Saran Wrap and set forth to explore the world of dyeing. First I hand-painted a small skein using a turkey baster and a little of each color - this was a little tedious and the dyes pretty much ran together. I ended up ditching the strawberry and dyed three test skeins solid with remaining colors. The picture to the left shows the test runs. The skein on the bottom is the yarn before dyeing, left is Berry Blue, then black cherry, grape, and the varigated on the right. I loved the berry blue - it really surprised me! I really liked the black cherry too.

Saturday I had decided to split the batch of undyed skeins and dye them Berry Blue and black cherry. I started with berry blue - some of the skeins took more of the blue dye than the others so I did not get an even color on the whole batch. I ended up playing with more colors and going for the varigated look. I'll post pictures later - as they are outside drying as I write.

If you haven't tryed the Kool-Aid dye - you should. It is fun, cheap, and easy. I will put a link to the guide I used to get started. I can't wait to experiment with more colors. I picked up a few more sweater to frog - one is a cream colored cashmere I paid a whopping $2.98 for! It may become my next Kool-Aid victim! I found Kool-Aid on sale for 10 cents a pack. I totally stocked up - at that price I figure what I don't use for dye - we can drink!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thrifty Swift Time

Success!!! The PVC pipe yarn swift is complete! My husband and I had a lot of fun building it, the build went quickly, and it didn’t cut into the pocketbook much. Shopping for materials probably took longer than assembling the swift and the total cost (including sales tax, excluding outrageous transportation cost) was $18.30. I did a digital photo shoot of most of the process and thought I’d post some photos and instructions here for other thrifty knitters to use as a guide.

WARNING! I’ve taken ideas from other do-it-yourself PVC swifters before me - so this not an original design by any means. I do not want to infringe on any copyrights or offend anyone – so just in case, I apologize in advance. Now on with the show.

The Stuff

(1) 10’ stick of ½” PVC pipe ($1.52)
(4) ¾” to ½” PVC reducing tees ($.53/ea.)
(12) ½” PVC end caps ($.29/ea.)
(2) ½” PVC crosses ($1.28/ea)
(1) 4” lazy Susan ball bearing assembly ($3.49)
(4) 11/64”x ¾” thumb bolts ($.45/ea.)
(8) #4 x ¼” steel washers ($.06/ea.)
(8) 5/8” nylon washers - not sure what the inside diameter is ($.15/ea.)
(8) #4 x ¾” metal screws - rounded top with Phillips head ($.06/ea.)
Small amount of contact cement (or you could use PVC glue)
Yard stick or measuring tape
Marker or pencil
Saw (we used a jigsaw – but I imagine you could use about any type of hand saw)
Electric drill and drill bits (we predrilled all holes using a bit one or two sizes smaller than the bolts and screws we were using)
Screw/bit measuring guide (to aid with the step mentioned above)
Phillips head screwdriver

The Steps
  1. Measure and mark your pipe sections. You will have (12) sections, as follows:
    (4) 12” sections
    (4) 11” sections
    (4) 7 ½” sections

  2. Cut your pipe sections and remove any burrs.

  3. Predrill one hole in the center of one side of each tee. You will be inserting the thumb bolts into these holes – so use a bit that is at least one size smaller than the diameter of the bolt. This will give you a snug fit to aid in stability.

  4. Insert the thumb bolts into the tees. Screw in just until you can see the bolt on the inside of the tee. You will be inserting these over the PVC arms and want them to slide on easily.

  5. Assemble the base by inserting the (4) 11” pieces into one of the crosses. Use your glue on the pipe ends and inside of the tees to hold pieces in place.

  6. Center the lazy-Susan over the PVC cross on the base assembly. Using a pencil or marker, mark the hole placements on the bottom plate of the Susan onto the PVC pipe.

  7. Using a drill bit at least one size smaller than the metal screws – predrill the holes you marked for the lazy-Susan.

  8. Place the metal washers on the metal screws.

  9. Center a nylon washer between the hole on the lazy-Susan and the hole on the PVC pipe – screw the metal screw through the hole on top of the Susan and into the hole in the pipe. The nylon washer is sandwiched between the Susan and the pipe – eliminating the gap between the two.

  10. Repeat steps 8 – 9 for the remaining three holes.

  11. Assemble the bottom of the swift by inserting the (4) 12” pieces into the remaining cross. Glue the pieces to the cross but it is important not to glue your pipe ends on yet.

  12. Place the swift bottom assembly on the ground or other flat surface.

  13. Follow steps 6 – 10 to attach the base assembly to the swift bottom assembly.

  14. Assemble the swift posts by inserting the 7 ½” pieces into the ½” opening on the PVC tees.

  15. Slide the post assembly over the bottom assembly arms. If you have already glued the end caps to the arms on the bottom assembly, you will be kicking yourself about now.

  16. Glue the end caps onto exposed pipe openings.

  17. Adjust your posts to your desired skein size. Snug up each post by turning the thumb bolts. Remember – “lefty loosey” and “righty tighty.” Do not tighten thumb bolts to snug - the PVC can be easily stripped by overtightening.

  18. Grab some yarn (or a thrifted sweater to frog) and take her for a spin!

So that’s it. I am really pleased with my swift. I thank my husband for his time and his patience with me. He even let me use his jigsaw! We argued a bit over different opinions when it came to the engineering aspects of the project – but all in all – we had a good time and were both proud of the end product.

I had disassembled the mohair sweater I wanted to frog last night and got it ready to unravel. So as soon as the swift was complete I got to test it out. One note about mohair – small protruding hairs tangle making the sweater unraveling process less than smooth! Oh, but how nice it is to skein-as-you-go in lieu of skeining from a big pile of yarn on the floor!

I did not have time to try the Kool-Aid over-dye. You know, I hope this mohair sweater I’ve been blabbing about is mohair (remember, handknit sweater – no tag) because if it isn’t a protein based fiber…..well I won’t think about that right now - remember, this is an experiment. So next weekend – I’ll try the dye. After the dying I’ll need to wind the yarn into balls and take some nice photos to post on here and Ravelry. Man, it sure would be nice to have a ballwinder and a collapsible PVC lightbox. Hey, honey………….

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Aim High and Shoot Low

Okay - I haven't totally purged all I had anticipated but made pretty good progress. The kids went through their clothes and shoes and we freecycled all. I couldn't believe the pile of stuff accumulated - the kids clothes and shoes were so tiny looking - obviously it's been a while since we cleaned out closets! Sadly, the freecycling did not go as smooth as the first time and I learned a few good lessons on how to fine tune my posts and replies. Live and learn and do better the next time, eh? I still need to tackle the linen closet and bathroom - maybe if I have a sudden burst of energy today I will do that.

I may be side-tracked and lead astray by my latest yarn-brain project. You see, I am on a pretty tight budget and must try to refrain from costly yarn and fiber related purchases - I am weak and this is not always easy for me. Needless to say I dare not venture to the local yarn store very often (which is only a mile from my house) and when I do I try to head straight for the clearance bins. But I do lust after good fibers and all tools of the knitting trade. So being the thrify knitter that I am - I keep my eye out for froggable sweaters at the local thrift stores and am always on the prowl for knitting tools. Yesterday I found a handknit mohair sweater for $1.98 and want unravel it and try overdying the yarn using Kool-Aid.

It would be much easier to unravel and skein using a swift - if only I had one. Soooooooo........ I recruited my super-smart, patient, ingenious, and loving husband to help me build a pvc pipe swift!!! I'm so excited!!! So far we've spent about $17.00 on the parts and pieces and I don't think we will need anything else, but you never know. So with any luck, today I may be "a froggin' me some mohair." Why yes, I am an Ozarkian native - why do you ask? Anyway, off to build a swift. Happy knitting all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Urge to Purge

Maybe it is just the spring cleaning bug - but as of late I have been feeling the need to unload a lot the "stuff" my family has accumulated over the years. I've just got to unload! So this past weekend I went through my dresser and closet. Goodbye size 9 jeans I will never wear (and haven't in at least five years) - goodbye shoes I thought I just had to have. I put the clothes and some magazines on Freecyle and they were gone within an hour! I love Freecycle!

I even went through my yarn. Yes, the stash is a little skinnier now. I donated acrylics to Lana (aka knitandpray) for her good works with Newborns in Need and the local animal shelters - she rocks as a charity knitter! I have "donated" some yarn to my husband's flea market booth - maybe yarn will help buy food this month!

I must continue to lighten the load. The purging this week will relieve my house of access sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels, kids clothes and shoes, arts and crafts stuff, books, and hopefully kitchen stuff. I will most definitely be freecycling most - if not all of this "stuff." I know Mike may want to try to sell some stuff at his upcoming yard sale or at the flea market, but I love the idea of passing on what you don't need to others - free of charge. I just want in all gone and if someone else can use it......yippee - we all win.

Monday, May 26, 2008

'Tis a Journey

This was one of those weekends that just didn’t turn out how I had planned – and I thank God for that. I am blessed with a wonderful family. I was able to slow down this weekend and appreciate that fact.

We went on a short day trip to Arkansas Sunday. Of course, the girls didn’t want to go (Aly was nursing a recently broken heart and Tab was crampy), Levi was game but concerned about eating and my husband was disappointed that he wasn’t driving. We went anyway. Mike relinquished the wheel, I told the girls they had no choice, and I fed Levi shortly after leaving the house.

The ride began quietly as the children sulked and listened to their MP3 players. However, a few miles into the trip Tab began talking, Aly started to smile, Mike tried to enjoy the scenery, and Levi was full and content. It rained most of the time we were in Eureka Springs, the yarn shop was closed and we only spotted a couple of art cars. But during the trip back, listening to the kids sing together in the back seat, I was reminded that sometimes the ride is better than the destination.

Though I didn’t get to attend the art car parade, visit the local yarn shop in Eureka Springs, plant flowers, or clean out the closet – I did get to see my oldest daughter grow even more and learn a life lesson in love/losing love, I saw Levi and Tab bond and laugh, I started a pretty groovy new knitting project with yarn I already had, I got see joy on my husband’s face after he planted the flowers of his choice, and I didn’t clean out the closet.