Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Michael Phelps and Me - Part 3

Yesterday, I left you with the agony of defeat. Today - the thrill of victory.

The night of the peas and carrots I went to bed discouraged. This bag was pledged on a deadline! Then, just before I woke in the morning, I had a dream. I dreamt I was walking through a palace in India. I was admiring all the beautiful textiles - curtains, bedspreads, pillows - in those brilliant, Bollywood colors. As soon as I woke up, I knew what to do. Before I'd even had my coffee, I dug out some polymer clay beads I'd made two years ago to match a skein of sari silk yarn. There was that same orange, along with the other colors you see in the bag above.

The red is Jamaica Kool-Aid which is a hibiscus flavor, the yellow is Mango (another ebay obtained color), and the pink is Slammin' Strawberry Kiwi mixed with a little Cherry to make it more intense. The Mango is a bit more saturated than you see in the photo, and it smells divine when in the crockpot.

Once I had the yarn dyed, the rest was a lot of work but relatively easy. I am a blazing fast crocheter and the design itself was simple. I made a 4" X 17" rectangle for the bottom of the bag in single stitch (it's the orange thing at the bottom of the bag in the photo). The rest of the bag was simply a single stitched tube sewn to that bottom rectangle. I changed colors when I felt like it. The handles are knitted I-cord sewn to the inside of the bag. The top row of the bag has metallic gold thread crocheted along with the Jamaica yarn. The gold was to honor Phelps as well as my other Olympics favs, the men's and women's US beach volleyball teams.

When the bag was sewn together, Helen Brown at Helen Parker Textiles let me felt the bag in her shop's washing machine. The Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool felted beautifully in just one cycle through the machine which is NOT the case for every wool. When it was dry, I posted it on Ravelry at the Bag'NTote Backstroke Finish Line. I had done it in 8 days.

But that's only 1 of my 8 medals! And what do the Red Sox and Barack Obama have to do with the other seven? You'll see next week. I'm off to house and cat sit until Monday. If you are very, very lucky, I'll get a photo of that cat I'm taking care of. He's so gorgeous he was named Romeo.

- Maureen

Michael Phelps and Me - Part 2

If you're of a certain age, you'll remember the intro to the ABC Wide World of Sports: "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat." Defeat was definitely in the air when I came up with this dye job.

My plan had changed, so the project needed brown yarn. I dyed a nice big skein with the odiferous Tamarindo Kool-Aid and got rust instead of brown - a faded rust that would never go with the bright orange. What to do with this skein? Back to the internet I went and found a reference to mixing Tamarindo with Lemon-Lime to get a forest green. OK, evergreens are still part of the autumn forest, right? Back to the crock pot with all the precious Lemon-Lime I had, only to be found at a supermarket about 20 miles from home (Hannaford's in West Peabody).

The above photo is what I got - faded rust with blotches of green. This disaster is known on Ravelry as the "peas and carrots" yarn. Hideous. My fault - I had misread the post about the colors. You don't overdye Tamarindo with Lemon-Lime - you mix the two flavors together in the initial dye bath. Knowledgeable people also said that if you want a good brown, you should mix together Orange and Grape. Have not tried that yet.

Kool-Aid dyeing fact: Kool-Aid is an acid dye. If you read the ingredients on the label, the first ingredient is citric acid. To remove Kool-Aid dye from yarn, you need a base to counteract the acid. Baking soda in water is the gentle, accessible base recommended. Have not tried that yet either, although one of these days, the peas and carrots are going for a baking soda bath.

As you can see, Kool-Aid is rich in food coloring. Hence its use as a dye. If you stick a hand into the dye bath to push the yarn down so that it's completely submerged, you will have an instantly dyed hand. For example, a person in Rockport possibly might have had a bright orange hand. (Useful to know if you want to be an Oompa-Loompa for Halloween.) To remove the dye from your skin, you can simply rub it with baking soda. Yes, I have tried that and it works.

So now I have normal colored skin, overcooked peas and carrots yarn that I can't use, and bright orange yarn that I have to use. But with what?

Believe it or not, the answer came to me in a dream.

- Maureen

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michael Phelps and Me - Part 1

Maureen here. What does an AARP-eligible non-swimmer from Rockport have in common with Michael Phelps? We both got 8 gold medals. His you know about. Mine were from the Ravelympics. Ravelry is a website for knitters and crocheters. The Ravelympics were held during the actual Olympics. We were to begin our projects during the actual Opening Ceremonies and finish them by the end of the actual Closing Ceremonies. We posted our planned projects on Ravelry, and the idea was that the project(s) were to be a challenge.

Medal #1: Boy, was my tote bag a challenge. I decided to Kool-Aid dye yarn, crochet a large tote bag, knit the I-cord handle, and felt the whole shebang, all during the 17 days of the Olympics. Mind you, I had only Kool-Aid dyed yarn once before. I found information about
the color orange being used as a protest against China's continuing repression of human rights. So I decided on orange. First I had to skein all my yarn (Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool) on a yarn swift so that it would dye evenly. This was permissible before the Opening Ceremonies, so off I went to Roseann Hunter's inn to use her swift. I spent 3 and a half hours doing it and came away with my first event injury - muscle spasms in my back. Good thing Advil is not considered a performance enhancing drug by the Ravelympics Testing Lab.

Next, I completed my dyeing research with the help of some very nice people on Ravelry and started my Kool-Aid dyeing in the crockpot as Leslie had previously blogged.

I used the Mandarina-Tangerine Kool-Aid and my yarn came out construction cone orange. That was NOT going to go with the pale peach and coral I had planned. After I let it dry for a day, the color did not mellow at all. I then tried overdyeing the orange with some Tamarindo Kool-Aid, a Latin flavor that I could only get on ebay. It's a brownish color with an odd odor when combined with the water and white vinegar in the crockpot. Alas, it didn't have much effect. So bright orange I had.

Plan B: I decided to do orange, brown and red. I still had the orange as my blue state, liberal protest and the colors would be nicely autumnal. Ha! That's what I thought.

Part 2 of this story tomorrow.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yarn in the Crockpot, Jewelry in the Steamer

Being a Taurus is appeals to my practical nature to find another use for something that I already own. It appeals to my cheap side too.
I used to have an ultrasonic cleaner that heated the water and then vibrated to clean off any buffing compound left in the nooks and crannies (hard not to picture an English muffin). Most days it was on for eight hours or more. Then I discovered that I could buff something, put it in a heat proof mug or bowl COVERED in water with a squish of Dawn detergent (trust me on the brand choice)) and microwave for about one minute. At this point I do some stretching exercise. Using an old toothbrush I gently dislodge any stubborn compound. If I do that ten times a day the equation is something like; eight plus hours of electricity vs ten minutes of electricity.
OK, now let's talk steamers and crock pots. As I write, Maureen has yarn lounging in a bath of Lemon-Lime Kool-Aid in the crock pot. She is overdyeing a skein that was previously dyed with Tamarindo Kool-Aid. Evidently you need the crock pot for the heat to set the color better. Nearby, on the stove is the beautiful steamer my Uncle Herbert gave my mom many holidays ago. Inside are shawl pins and Cable Needle Necklaces. The steamer basket allows me to agitate the hot water to clean everything at once. I always laugh to myself when I visualize the response if my New Your City living uncle who rarely cooked saw his gift being used in this manner.
Anyone have any blender suggestions?
Blog On!