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Mish-Mash Post

I have no idea how it’s been almost a month since I last posted. I sure don’t feel like I’ve been sitting around doing nothing. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I have much to show for my time away from the blog. So this post is an assortment of things that come to mind, most with photos. These are not in chronological order, or any order.

In my last post I reported that I was going to go kayaking. I did indeed, on Black Creek. It was a stunning day, temps in the high 70s. RIT maintains an amazing launch for their integrated paddling program. It’s actually wheelchair accessible, and is available to the public any time RIT isn’t actively using it. The launch is amazingly easy, and you’re guaranteed to not get wet feet either getting into or out of the water. There’s a very cool double arched bridge you paddle under on Black Creek. You can just see a bit of the second arch on the left of my not-so-well-taken photo.

bridge on Black Creek

That was on April 10. Then we had snow, rain, below freezing temps, and nothing that called me back to the water. Finally, on May 2 the morning was very pleasant and I decided to postpone my morning walk and go kayaking. I went to the place closest to me, a little public park with a launch onto Irondequoit Creek (to the left) or Bay (to the right). Although we’ve had a decent amount of rain lately, we’re still in an overall precipitation deficit, and the water in the Creek was low. That also means that the launch was, um, a bit ugly. Especially after the great launch noted above. Still, I had the Creek to myself at 8:30 in the morning, and got an hour in before the sky darkened and I decided I had to leave.

I did see that someone – beaver? muskrat? other? – had made themselves a nice little home in the bank. There was another entrance not far away, and I’m assuming they were connected by a tunnel in the bank.
critter home in the creek bank

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I continue to have fun with sourdough. Sometimes I’m really happy with the results, other times not so much. This was a loaf I particularly liked.

cheddar-pepper sourdough loaf

I added some grated sharp cheddar cheese to the batter, along with black pepper, cayenne, and crushed red pepper. It was just the right amount of cheesy-ness and peppery-ness for me. If only I’d taken any kind of measurement of how much of anything I added….

Today I made some sourdough crackers. The brown ones are very nice. The lighter ones are just okay, and I doubt that they’ll keep well. (After posting I baked the crackers a bit more in my toaster oven to crisp them all up.)
sourdough crackers

I’m confused. I had them in the oven for longer than the recipe called for and they still didn’t get very brown. I think my oven must be off as this is a common occurrence, but the confusion is that my sourdoughs always cook in the appropriate amount of time. I guess I just have to get an oven thermometer and check it out.

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A house I pass by regularly had a few of these little beauties in their garden this morning. Never saw them there before. I’m usually pretty good with flower ID, but this has me stumped. The flower bud looked like a tiny rose. I’d estimate that the whole thing was about 2″ tall. And those leaves are pretty distinctive. Anyone recognize this?

tiny rose-like flower

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I get ideas in my head and can get pretty obsessed with trying my hand at things. I pretty much always have socks on my needles, and gradient dyed sock blanks were intriguing me. I rarely work with wool so all my dyes are made for plant-based fibers (cotton, bamboo, Tencel, etc.). BUT. There’s a woman, Rebecca, who blogs and has YouTube tutorials as Chemknits, who has experimented with dyeing wool yarns with everything from fiber reactive dyes to koolaid to food coloring to skittles. So I watched a bunch of her tutorials and jumped in. I successfully dyed a sock blank with my hyacinth and eggplant fiber reactive dyes.

dyed sock blank

A sock blank is made on a knitting machine. I bought three double-knit blanks. That means that each blank is made with two strands of yarn, so that when I dye them, I will have two identical balls of yarn, one for each sock. I’m not a person who can get into wearing 2 different socks.

I’m very happy with this as my first venture down this particular rabbit hole. Here’s a sock I’m knitting with the yarn, about 3/4 done.

knitting with dyed sock blank

That dye experiment was so successful I decided to try to use the same method with a pair of cotton leggings. Hmmmm….This is the exact same hyacinth dye I used on the wool. Nowhere near as dark.

dip dyed leggings

So I mixed up more dye, same color, in various strengths and hand painted over those leggings. Still not excited.

hand painted leggings

My perisistent/stubborn self would not be bested by these leggings! I mixed up MORE dye – hyacinth and navy mixed together, and did a modified version of immersion dyeing, gradually pulling out the legs throughout the dye process.

immersion dyed leggings

I can tell you I won’t be going through this process again with the other pair of leggings I have to dye. I’m not sure what I will do, but it won’t be trying 3 different things!

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I made 2 more warps of towels. The first was yet another Ms & Os draft. It didn’t do exactly what I had in mind, and what I’ve seen others accomplish, but they are certainly fully functional towels.

8 more Ms & Os towels

Although I’m intrigued with how others achieved some cool effects with Ms & Os, I decided I needed to move on to other drafts and other colors. In my stash-busting effort, I went with a variety of greens, with a few blues, purples, and a pink thrown in the mix. I’m calling these Moss Creek, partly for the color, and partly for the ‘bubbly’ section that is very reminiscent of water running over little rocks in a stream.

8 Moss Creek towels

The towels are up in my Etsy shop, as are some other things. I plan to list more scarves and wearables in the next several days, as I have my Mother’s Day sale going on and want people to have plenty of options.

To do that, I’ve had to take more photos of my shawls and scarves. Towels are pretty easy to photograph. Other things? Not so much. I do not have a good location in my house. Period. I’ve tried hanging sheets as backdrops, both indoors and out, and I end up spending a lot of time in Photoshop trying to clean up the background, still to end up with something that I’m not happy with. I recently asked for and received permission from my neighbor to try to use their fence as a backdrop. If I wasn’t spending so much time writing this post I would have tried it out today. 🙂

potential photo backdrop

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My daughter’s nanny got Covid, so I’ve been helping out with childcare. The other day I took the little one to the zoo. He mostly wanted to climb on their wonderful new climbing area. I’d guess it’s 40′ wide and 80′ long, perhaps larger. Mostly made with fallen trees/logs and ropes. Some of those logs were planed on one side to make a flat surface for walking on, and they were attached aat various heights and angles. It was great fun for little kids!

zoo climbing area

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A friend of mine told me about a project sponsored by the Rochester Central Library called Knit Democracy. It’s a very cool concept: a collaborative knitting project AND a method of learning more about how our electoral system works. So of course I signed up. I completed four ‘building’ blocks and four ‘window’ blocks and submitted them. I’ve since gotten more yarn and as soon as I’m done with the socks I’ll knit more blocks.

blocks for KnitDemocracy project

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Last for this post, I also signed up for another stint of writing postcards to swing states. They send you the postcards, the names & addresses, and the script. You hand write them out and provide the stamps. I’ve committed to 400 postcards this time around! I’m aiming for 10 postcards a day, 40 days total, to get them all done. I think I’m on day 8. I’m hoping it encourages people to vote.

postcards to swing states

I’ve done my part…

…to stimulate the economy. That’s what those checks from the feds were for, right?

You may recall that last year I got an inflatable kayak. I loved it, and went out on the water pretty much every week. Until I couldn’t. Why? Leaks. Leaks which were patched and held. Until they didn’t. And were patched again, and failed again. Finally it was too much for me and I gave up.

In February I started calling marinas and boat sellers looking for a professional to do the needed repairs. No one would do it. Most weren’t even interested in talking to me. One kind man explained why he no longer did such patching…because those patches always fail. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not, no predicting the when.

So I did a lot of thinking and talking, and finally decided that I didn’t want to give up kayaking. Yet if I was going to buy a kayak it had to be light enough that I could load and unload it by myself, and do so easily enough that it wouldn’t discourage me from getting on the water.

By March 1 it was time to go visit Oak Orchard Canoe & Kayak and talk to the experts there. And reader, I bought a kayak! I made a lot of decisions that day and put down a deposit. I returned April 5, had the roof rack installed, and picked up my boat!

kayak on top of my car

This sweet little boat weighs just 32 pounds, easy enough for me to pick up and carry a short distance to the water. (And all the places I went to last year, a short distance was all I needed to tote my kayak. If I decide I need to carry it farther, I can buy a set of wheels.) I bought everything I needed to load and unload this boat independently, and to store it safely in my garage.

kayak in my garage

I brought it home on a Monday. On Tuesday I put it on my lawn and did some practicing of getting in and out of it. Trust me, I am not a graceful person, but I’m pretty confident I can do it.

I also practiced loading and unloading it onto/off of my car by myself, without a pro standing by me and saying, “Now do this.” My first load took me just over 16 minutes, and that included me doing something wrong with the tie down straps, twice, and having to re-do it. Unloading took only about half the time.

I was really eager to get out on the water, and Thursday was slated to be the day – beautiful weather.

Then a conversation with a friend convinced me otherwise. Although I almost always went out alone last year, I didn’t start until late May. Now, even though the air is warm, the water is very cold. So there will not be a lot of other kayakers on the water to help if trouble ensued. Much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew she was right. 🙁

BUT! Today is a new day. A young woman I’m FB friends with has invited me to join her, her sister, and her mother-in-law for a paddle in a nearby creek this afternoon. YAY!!!! I’m VERY excited! In fact, it’s time for me to go outside and load the boat so I’m ready when she calls with confirmation of the time.

Good things are happening

Good things like not one but two batches of towels finished and listed in my Etsy shop. First up is that neutrals warp I talked about in the last post. The towels turned out great, if I do say so myself.

8 neutral towels in Ms & Os

You can see that although I was able to ease in the hem, it still flares a little, but I’m okay with it.
natural Ms & Os towel

In fact, I liked the towels so well that I decided to put on another warp in that Ms & Os structure, although designed differently. A threading error and reed sleying error, both of which happen often, and I was off and running with a warp that alternated stripes of color with natural, undyed cotton.

8 Ms & Os towels form a flower

The colors in these towels make them brighter than the neutrals, but still not as colorful as my work tends to be. 🙂

8 folded towels in a stack

Now, I’m working hard at using up my stash. That means using both color combinations and yarn sizes that are a bit of a stretch for me. This towel warp has 8/2 cotton (natural), 10/2 cotton (peacock and burgundy), and 12/2 cotton (goldenrod, pink, and sage). I therefore had to sett the yarns differently to make sure I had a good quality cloth at the end. I sett the 8/2 cotton at 24 ends per inch (EPI), which is my standard for towels, the 10/2 at 28 EPI, and the 12/2 at 32 EPI. I’ve never mixed setts in a single warp before and wasn’t sure how easy or difficult this would be to accomplish, and how the finished fabric would look and feel.

Well. The combination of 16 ends in each of the colored stripes and a 12 dent reed made adjusting the sett super easy. And the finished fabric? It’s a tad lighter than my usual, especially since I used those same yarns for weft, but that means that if you want to get your hand inside a glass to dry it, this towel will serve better than my usual. Of course, I can’t remember the last time I dried my dishes; they simply sit in the drainer overnight. But the weight and feel of the fabric? I bet most people wouldn’t even notice the difference. It’s all equally stable and functional. One more tool in my belt that I will need to use as I proceed. 😀

I started by weaving one towel with each of the six colors in the warp. As I wove I liked them all, the darks and the lights. But with a warp for eight, I had to pick two colors to repeat. Sure I could have used entirely different colors, but I didn’t have anything in my stash that I thought worked well with everything. I ended up doing a second towel each in the goldenrod and natural. And honestly? When all are finished these ended up being my favorites for sure.

goldenrod Ms & Os towel

I feel like there is a lot to learn, a lot of creativity left in the Ms & Os structure, and so have a third towel warp, again designed slightly differently, measured out and ready to beam. But I plan to stop there and give my customers something more like my rainbow blocks. At least that’s what I’m thinking at the moment. Only time will tell, though. Stay tuned…you may be the first to know. 😉

The hits just keep on coming

…if you consider a dope slap to your own head as a hit, that is. The mistakes, aka poor choices/unwise decisions, haven’t stopped yet. Let’s stick with the weaving for those cards for now.

I wanted to get 3 cards across the width of the warp. At 3″ each I could just make it, if I sewed my stabilizing stitches on the machine carefully, just far enough apart for me to carefully cut between those lines. I appropriately switched to a light cream colored thread for this task so that I would be able to see the lines for my cutting.

Sewed the four rows of stitching. Also sewed some stitching width-wise so I could cut off a length and make sure everything fit.

WHAT?!?!?! Not even close!! HUH?!

Are you ready for dope slap #2?

Sure, I knew that the card blanks I ordered had 3″x3″ windows. But I just hadn’t planned for the fact that what you’re going to put into those windows needs to be larger than 3″x3″. A 4″ square will do it. So even with all my work to add extra ends to each selvedge, there was no way I could get 3 cards across. (You may be thinking that I didn’t number that dope slap correctly, that it should have been #1. You’d be wrong. Dope slap #1 was sewing those lines on a yard or more of fabric. Should have only done a small amount for my sample.)

So I played around and realized that I could reasonably get two cards across the width. But only because I had taken all that time and energy to add threads to each selvedge. It would have been too tight otherwise. (Refer to Mistake #7 in the last post) Whew!

Thankfully, one of my earlier errors (Mistake #5) that caused me to put on lots of extra warp also came in handy here. If I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t have had enough woven to make my cards.

After figuring out how to get two cards across the width I went back to my sewing machine and sewed four more lines of carefully close stitching and cut them apart. I also sewed lots of rows of stitching width-wise and cut them apart there. I decided that in real life I was the only one who would notice, or care, about the earlier rows of stitching that now show through my window.

Today I assembled 30 cards. I’m not sure how many I really need, but I think that will do it. I have extra fabric and extra card blanks if needed. And the good news is that I am pretty sure I will retain lots of those lessons and not make those mistakes again when it’s time to plan next year’s cards. 🙂

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While all that was going on, I decided to warp for more towels. I’m working on stash reduction, so decided to forgo lots of color for some great neutrals. Here’s half of my warp measured out on the warping mill.

measuring out a neutral towel warp

While I have some favorite drafts for sure, I also like to try new things. Or at least new to me. Weaving has been around for centuries and many (most?) drafts have been around for a long time. I’d never woven Ms & Os and decided that it would work great with my neutrals, adding a bit of texture.

Beamed, threaded, sleyed, lashed on, wove a header, and found a threading error. Undid part of the lashing on and fixed that error, re-lashed, evened out the tension, wove another header, found another threading error. Did that yet a third time. I wouldn’t ever give myself a dope slap for a threading error; those things happen. But when I found that first error, why didn’t I look more carefully and find the second? And then when I found the second why didn’t I find the third before I proceeded and had to undo again? DOPE SLAP!

Ms & Os is a very simple treadling, and I was flying along on that first towel.

neutral towels on the loom

While under tension on the loom, weaving almost always appears flat, even weaving that will have texture later. The warp tension is the reason for much of that, but also the threads don’t have a chance to shift widthwise until the piece is off and in water. So while I was liking it, I wasn’t loving it.

Weaving proceeded. Eventually there was enough length woven that I could see the underside of the cloth. Uh oh! Where are these long floats coming from?

Warp floats on the loom

I went back to my computer and checked the back of the design in my software. Nope, that shouldn’t happen. Double check the tie up – oops, I’d made an error. Again, not the first time, and likely not the last time, but not worth a dope slap.

I stopped weaving for a bit and thought. Would I unweave 2/3 of a towel? No, I would not. Would I simply call that a loss and start where I was to weave the towel? I could, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have enough length to get 8 towels out of the warp them. So I decided to keep weaving that towel, figuring I could turn it into a bag or something that had a definite wrong side so the floats wouldn’t matter.

I wove the remaining 7 towels on the warp, cut everything off, and looked at what I had. You know what? I really liked these towels, even before I’d wet finished the to develop the intended texture. I didn’t want to lose that first one, and I knew that the 8-end floats I had were far too long to be useable as a towel.

No problem. This is a very simple structure and needle weaving will be easy. If you’re one of my regular readers you’ve heard me talk about how I hate to needle weave. But this time I decided it wouldn’t be hard and I could do it. So I set to work.

It wasn’t hard, but time was being eaten up at an amazing rate. And while I could listen to an audio book, I couldn’t watch anything on TV as I needed to pay attention constantly.

Lots of floats in neutral towels

I timed myself for a bit. It took me an average of 10 minutes to correct one warp thread for the roughly 21″ needed. That’s not bad, right? Yeah, not until you realize that I had 62 threads to fix. 62 threads x 10 minutes = 620 minutes = more than 10 hours!!! How long would it have taken me to cut out that warp when I first saw the mistake on the loom and start again? Maybe an hour. Dope slap!!

So now all the towels are off the loom, the needle weaving done, the towels washed, dried, and pressed, ready for hemming. Hmmmmm….

I’ve already said I knew I’d get some texture with this weave structure. I could have, and should have, realized that meant that I shouldn’t do a plain weave hem. Plain weave spreads warp threads out to their maximum allowable width. So of course, after wet finishing and the draw-in that would create the desired texture, the hem fans out.

Ms & Os hem flair

Since I hand hem my towels, I MAY be able to ease the hem in with my hemming. Or I may not. I SHOULD have woven the hem in the same Ms & Os pattern. Even if I had used a much thinner weft for the hem, I think plain weave would still have given me a flair. I’m not giving myself a dope slap for this error, but it is worth a big sigh.

And then what happened?

Although I said in my last post that I wasn’t going to share info about what I’m weaving for my 2021 Christmas cards, I changed my mind. After all, it’s not like they’re gifts that need to be kept secret. Besides there’s a ton of info to share. This warp has been, ummmmmmm, problematic. If my experiences can help someone else avoid the same mistakes, great. Or if I revisit this post in the future to avoid the mistakes, also good.

winding warp for candy cane cards

So I started with a draft I’d seen someone else weave online. It appears that it came from someone (Dawn?) on Ravelry, but I’m not positive about that. In any case, it is certainly reminiscent of candy canes, so seemed perfect to me. I didn’t have the bright, saturated colors I wanted so decided I’d just go to my local craft store and buy a few balls of crochet cotton.

I went online and gathered information. That was Mistake #1. The site I found told me that Aunt Lydia’s size 10 crochet cotton was roughly 1,900 yards per pound.

So I determined a sett of 21 ends per inch and calculated what I’d need to make my cards. That was Mistake #2.

In my inexperience with crochet cotton, I thought it was all mercerized. Mistake #3.

I planned out my warp carefully. I wanted to warp it wide enough to weave 3 cards across. So I put extra white threads in between some of the candy cane stripes to leave me enough room to cut them apart.

The night after I had the warp beamed I was in bed and suddenly realized I had made a major error in my warp calculations. I wanted to warp for 30 cards, but my math went wonky, and I’d put on enough warp for 90! Mistake #4. Oh well, the yarn was cheap enough. I’d weave it all – only 120″ after all – and maybe I’d get an idea to do something else with the extra.

Now I’m threading the loom, and I can feel that this yarn isn’t mercerized at all. (See Mistake #3.) Not sure why I didn’t notice this in the prior steps, but I hadn’t. The craft store didn’t have enough white in Aunt Lydia, so I bought mostly South Maid #10. I could see it was the same size, and thought it was the same. Wrong! We’re up to Mistake #5.

It’s okay. The yarn doesn’t have to be mercerized for the cards. So I lashed on to the front apron and started weaving. WHAT?!?! This sett of 21 is WAY too loose. Mistake #6.

candy cane sett way too loose

So I cut it off and resleyed to 24 ends per inch. Lashed on again and started weaving, enough to know that 24EPI would work. But wait! Now the width of the warp went from 12″ wide to 10.5″ wide. Could I still get 3 cards across? If not, my layout was all wrong. I spent some time looking at things carefully, and decided that I could, if I was really careful with my stitching and cutting, get 3 cards across, but only if I added some white threads at each selvedge. I guessed that 8 at each side would do it and measured out my threads. I cut off the 6 or so inches I’d already woven, threaded the new ends, sleyed the reed, and decided to tie on instead. For me it’s a bit quicker than lashing and I don’t need to worry about using up too much warp length – I have plenty.

About this time I did what I should have done at the beginning. I used my McMorran yarn balance to measure the yards per pound of this yarn – almost 3,000. No wonder 21 EPI was too loose!

Time to get back to weaving. Now I’ll tell you that I have never been successful at adding more than a thread or two on the selvedges without problems. I don’t know how other weavers manage it. The weights on my warp are either too heavy and pull the ends too tightly to make a straight fell line, or they’re too loose and the edges are wobbly. I fiddle and adjust and try again. I weave slowly and mess with the threads constantly. I put on my homemade temple in an attempt to help. Nothing works and I am very frustrated. I think we’re on Mistake #7 now.

candy cane BAD selvedges

The selvedge is loose, lumpy, and wavy. I could handle the waviness as it would be hidden in the card, but the lumpiness would present a problem. And the weaving was going very slowly as I attempted various strategies to correct it. Finally I had to walk away from the loom.

Last night I decided the best thing to do was to once again cut off what I’d woven, this time about 18″, pull the remaining warp forward through the heddles and reed, tie the 16 new ends on the back beam, and re-beam it all with the same tension. I did that this morning and weaving FINALLY went smoothly.

weaving candy canes FINALLY

When I ran out of the South Maid yarn and started on the Aunt Lydia’s, I immediately saw that Aunt Lydia is mercerized; South Maid is not. See Mistake #5.

Today I got the rest of the warp, about 90″, woven, washed, dried, and pressed. The machine stitching, cutting, and card making remain to be done. I wonder how many more mistakes I can make during that process.

Oh yeah – I got my Better Than Peeps towels up in my Etsy store. Thanks to ever-supportive family & friends, I’ve already sold 3.