Saturday, August 25, 2018

August Update

August is a good time to clear out and make space in the chest freezer. For me, that means taking the remaining bags of whole pecans from the last harvest and cracking them so there will be lots of nuts ready for holiday baking. The nutmeats take less room than the whole nuts, and the chickens just love picking through the shells. Everybody wins. 

While I was busy shelling nuts, my single zucchini plant was sneakily producing baseball bat-sized squashes. No worries--these make wonderful zucchini spaghetti when run through the spiralizer. Even the very largest ones still taste great. 

In my last post I described my experiment with gradient dyeing of yarn. Here is what that yarn looked like out of the dyepot and when knit into a baby sweater. I'm hoping there is enough yarn from this dye batch to complete the sleeves. Gracie the cat looks pretty confident that all will work out.

The gradient-dyed yarn with the accidental white spots from being tied too tightly

The white spots showed up as random flecks, which Gracie and I actually like. 

In between experimental dye pots, I was working on this Easy Peazy Shawlette from a skein of Mineville Wool Project sock yarn in the Solar Flare colorway. I finished the piece in plenty of time for my sister's birthday. She liked it! and she put together the perfect outfit to go with it, including several of her handmade necklaces. 

August is chile harvesting time here in the Mesilla Valley, and the high school Future Farmers of America had a fundraiser/green chile roast. It was like a big party--country music, lots of kids in cowboy hats and boots slinging big bags of freshly roasted chiles around, and the wonderful smell of chiles roasting over an open flame. It was a great reminder of why we live here. 

BZ photo

When we got our twenty pounds of roasted chiles home, we cooled them in ice water, drained them, and packed them into quart ziplock bags. Now you know why I wanted more room in the freezer! Now we have bags and bags of chiles ready to use for green chile cheeseburgers, chiles rellenos, enchiladas, burritos, and all the other delicious New Mexican dishes we love.

BZ photo

I've been working on the last paint details for the living room. I scrubbed down all the old worn thresholds and painted them to match the rest of the room. Henry helped, as you can see from this photo taken between coats of paint.

My morning walk has to take place a little later now since the days are growing noticeably shorter and my old starting time is quite a bit before sunrise. The crops are growing well in all the fields we pass, but the ditches are now empty and the farmers are irrigating with groundwater from wells, instead of ditch water from the Rio Grande. 

The view is the same, but the ditch is empty now. 

In addition to the views, we also come across the occasional bit of wildlife!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Still Playing With Color

I spend a lot of time messing about with fiber. I used to spin a lot and still have my wheel, just waiting there. I mostly knit these days, but long ago I did a lot of fleece and yarn dyeing. I used natural plant materials (lichen was my favorite for the smell) for dye along with chemical mordants (alum, chrome, iron, to name a few). And I still have a set of acid dyes, which are used with care. 

Times have changed and there are some great ways to dye using a crock pot or microwave and non-toxic substances--food grade dyes like Kool-Aid, food coloring, and even Easter Egg Dye. 

There is a wonderful article called Turquoise Dreams about the food coloring dye technique I tried out the other day. It can be found on the blog called Maiya Knits, Mayhem EnsuesPlease read it for complete instructions, measurements, and timing. I'll just give you the highlights of my own experience here. 

Even though it was a pretty hot August day in my kitchen, I enjoyed this first experience of dyeing with food coloring. One advantage of using food grade coloring instead of acid dyes, or even natural dyes requiring chemical mordants, is that regular kitchen tools can be used. When I used acid dyes long ago they had to be used with bowls, pots, and utensils kept separate from our regular cooking utensils. 

After reading Maiya's blog, I couldn't wait for my order of white yarn to arrive, so I used a skein of light yellow fingering weight yarn from my stash. The color was Semolina.

Note: Food coloring will dye only natural fibers.

 Following Maiya's directions, I wound the yarn into 5 interconnected smaller skeins.

The skeins were first soaked in plain warm water to relax the fibers. This photo makes the yellow color look funny, but it's still the same as in the first photos above.

The dyeing process involves a crock pot and a dye solution made from McCormick's Food Coloring in blue and green, with some white vinegar added. 

Four of the skeins go into the pot, and the fifth skein is quickly dipped in and immediately removed. After 10 minutes the second skein is removed, the dye is replenished; and this continues with different timings until the last skein is finally removed. 

The drained and cooled skeins are gently washed, rinsed, and hung to dry. You can see from the photo below that I tied the skeins too tightly in several places, which gave an unintentional tie-dye effect. Lesson learned! However, the thought of tie-dying yarn is intriguing...

I wish that I had managed to get a greater color difference in the top three skeins, but I had used up all of my tiny bottle of blue food coloring. I hope the color change shows better when the yarn is knitted up.

When I wound the skeins into cakes, I started with a bit of the original Semolina color. I would have liked all the yarn in one cake but it got too big for the ball winder. You might be able to tell from the photo that the outside of the right cake is just a little lighter than the inside of the left cake, so the yarn would be used from the middle of each cake, starting with the lighter one, to make the color gradation go from light to dark.

Next time, I'm going to try some more overdyeing, only this time with Kool-Aid! I'll report back.