twisted and breaking black


A small gift for our ahijada in Guatemala (sponsor child, mostly we wired her money).

Pretty Twisted from Knitty. A great way to use up odd bits of yarn, though I think I probably made these longer than they need to be…
twisted (3) twisted (1)

twisted (7) twisted (5) twisted (2)

As the yarn was colorful and textured, I just made the simple versions. Check the link above for other versions on the pattern!

breaking black

Apparently this is the holy grail of dyeing yarn with food color. I sort of followed the instructions at the link, but I wasn’t going to be testing the technique on some 0.2 ounces of wool… I just went for it on ~8 oz of alpaca lace.

breaking black (3) breaking black (5) breaking black (6) breaking black (6)

Starting with plain yarn, then dropping some Wilton’s black on the yarn. I started by using the q-tip as recommended in the link, but then moved on to a butter knife to get more into the yarn. I put some vinegar on it, which didn’t seem like enough, so I added more.

Wilton’s black has fd&c red #3, fd&c blue#1, and yellow 5&6. They “break” out at different rates and adding vinegar assists the colors in “breaking”. Or it was supposed to… I don’t know if I added to much food color, not enough vinegar, or what. Fun things were supposed to happen after half an hour or so. Not much happened after a couple of hours, so I put a bit more vinegar on it and smooshed it around. And then went to bed. In the morning, it looked much the same.

So I got all the dry yarn wet with some water with a drop of soap in it. It seemed to work well for the originally pink yarn, but nothing was going on with the white.
breaking black (16) breaking black (22) breaking black (24) breaking black (25)
That last shot is the pink, after microwaving it a bit… there’s still color in the fluid, so it wasn’t done yet. I thought I might have too much color in it, so I rinsed it a bit, and all the color started coming out. Stop! Stop!

I decided to go into full out experimental mode. I tossed all the yarn into a big pot, rinsed the cookie sheets and put that water (it was greenish) into the pot. Heated it up (boiled it a bit by mistake), and after half an hour added a glop of vinegar, and then after another hour or so added another glop. It sat for a few hours cooling while we went to cut an xmas tree.

It sucked up nearly all the color! The water was very faintly rosy. Here’s the yarn, still wet from the rinse. The true color is on the darker side. It’s hard to tell which was which to begin with, but I think the darker yarn was the pink (on the left in the photos below).
breaking black (31) breaking black (26)

Why this madness?

Because I want to knit the Celestarium shawl! It’s the night sky of the northern hemisphere, with accurate star charts. Here’s the Ravelry page about the pattern, which notes the shawl is an accurate view of the night sky from the North Pole in the form of a pi shawl. Eyelets and beads are used to represent the stars. The center bead represents Polaris.

HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!?!?!?! (and talk about madness…)

a birthday and a bug and pots and a vest and rocks and dogs with new haircuts


Boyo turned 17 recently. He wanted a batman cake, and this was what happened. I figured it was a success when his friend took a photo, and then he did too. And it was gone by morning (two boys stayed over).
bd cake (2) bd cake (1)


Look what DH found in the garden digging up potatoes…
tomato hornworm
I thought maybe it was a giant beetle grub, but our entomologist friend said it was a lepidopteran, and we quickly figured out it is a tomato hornworm (which we call tomacco hornworms), late stage pupa. The totally disgusting part is that this thing is alive. It moves. And that loopy handly thing is its mouthparts.


And totally fascinating.


Dad and Linda gave us a fabulous humongous frying pan. We have been at a loss as to where to put it. The oven already holds the two 13″ and the single 8″ cast iron pans. I thought I’d get a pot rack, but the one I wanted (a simple steel bar) is actually relatively hard to find. I did finally find it, for only $16, but then there was the $12 to ship and the extra $10 because I didn’t spend enough.

And so, I bought 4 locally made wrought iron hooks (from Scottish Lion in Round Pond), only $24, and a board from Lowe’s (I got to use the jigsaw and I learned to use the router).

And so this corner,
vest 038 pot rack project (6)
was changed.

The board got up (after a miscalculation on where the stud was… but the initial series of holes in the board got plugged, shhhhhh), and even though I had an idea where the pans should go, I hadn’t marked where the hooks should be… and so…

pot rack project (7) pot rack project (10)

While I was about it all, I extended the knife slit a bit, and really sanded down that piece to the left of the stove. It gets gummy. And re-oiled the rest of the counters…
pot rack project (4) pot rack project (2) pot rack project (1)


I’ve been wanting a vest… this is made with the handspun I made when I was learning to spin. I thought I might have enough yarn for a vest. Turns out, I probably have enough for three vests… I wasn’t sure at first how to close it up, but after wearing it for a day with just a pin, I realized it really needs closure and put in hooks and eyes. There’s waist shaping and short rows for the bust. I’m reasonably pleased with it, but think I might need to add pockets, because my hands keep looking for them (I have a fleece vest that fits something like this one, and it must feel familiar to my body).

vest 076 vest 104

vest 115

vest 116 vest 118


We took a quick walk at lunch today over to the arboretum, where they have some new sculpture on display.

arboretum sculpture (2) arboretum sculpture (4)

arboretum sculpture (8) arboretum sculpture (6)
From one side it looks like a hug, from the other, a face, or a really pointy bum!

arboretum sculpture (12) arboretum sculpture (13)
Susie noted that this black spot is called an enclave. She’d seen some of this sculpture a couple days ago, with some other geologists.
arboretum sculpture (16)

Needless to say, she heard very different things from us than she did from the geologists. WHAT is that? Giant bull testicles! That’s a sexy piece. Cylons! A face! A bum! (these were not things the geologists were saying…)

This piece was made from a single piece of stone… we were strong doubters, but then we were convinced…
arboretum sculpture (18)

arboretum sculpture (20) arboretum sculpture (25)
And Sue was with us, in her hunter orange… we stuck close to her, and nobody was shot.

Pinkish beige on the outside, and black and shiny inside… remind you of anybody?
arboretum sculpture (31)

The bum (face on the other side)…
arboretum sculpture (32) arboretum sculpture (34)
Do you see those mosses growing on the granite? My guess is Andrea rupestris, but I didn’t look closely.

Oh look, they’re trucking in another piece… wonder what it is…
arboretum sculpture (39)

dogs with new haircuts

These are really lousy pictures, sorry!

clipped dogs (2) clipped dogs (3)
Zuzu begging for a toy, and Gravy coming to get one.


Getting ready for Thanksgiving… friends from far are coming, and friends from near will be here too.

We are blessed.

wee bit of knitting, pen1s shaped mushrooms, calendars are out!,

Aka stinkhorn,
Phallus ravenelii, looking rather disgusting after getting rained on.

These red mitts are for Mom. She says they make her arthritic hands feel better. I had wanted to finish them a month or so ago, but at least they’re done. Made of cotton with elastic in it (Fixation). The gray wool ones are for a friend’s mom in VT. I forget what kind of wool they’re made of, something I had lying around.
mitts 029 mitts 027

Remember the Calendar Girls post? Well, the calendars are out! I’m April…

bc calendar (1) bc calendar (2)

Get yours at Rocky Knoll Photography.

Election night… the dogs I was visiting were not especially interested in the results. Sid (the girls’ bro) and another friend’s pal Chester.

sid election night 2 chester election night

In other dog news… the girls got pruned today. Pics soon.

And in other family news, this boy turns 17 tomorrow.
nick nov 2012

Cripes, my photos are all a bit blurry. I think my lens needs cleaning. It’s a tiny point and shoot, Sony T77… do they have a lifespan? Or am I just getting old and shaky?

another step closer

…to finishing the back living room (aka the living room living room as named by boyo when he was 3, to distinguish it from the family room living room that we actually do the “living” in). The living room is probably the prettiest room in the house, and the least used of the downstairs rooms. We close it off in the winter with a blanket in the doorway, and it gets really cold in there.

All summer I’d been noticing a faintly mildewy smell (or more accurately for me, taste) in that room, and when I’d walk by the doorway to go upstairs. It was finally time to take some action. I learned this summer that I have a slight mold allergy, and even with the dysosmia issues, I can still taste mold/mildew perhaps more than smell it. Not especially pleasant.

The beginning

liv rm project (1) liv rm project (5)

liv rm project (2) liv rm project (9)

It’s not too cluttered in these photos, but it is… Stuff just lands there. Camping gear, stuff that should go into the attic, stuff that should go in the barn, stuff that should just go away… Often there is a weight set in there over the winter and/or a bicycle in a stand. The room serves as library, laboratory, and herbarium. There’s a fireplace behind that chest, but we closed it up because of the drafts.

When the house was built, this was originally two smaller rooms. Not sure when they opened it up, but I’m glad somebody did. Now the room measures about 25 feet by 10. This is half of the downstairs of the main part of the house. The other half is the kitchen, which is open into the dining room. Open from the dining room is the ell where we mostly “live”, and where there’s a woodstove.

in progress

Two coats of paint on the ceilings took longer than I thought it would! And then…
liv rm project (24) liv rm project (34)

There was loose wallpaper around the fireplace. Yes, somebody had painted over the wallpaper. I wasn’t going to take it all down, but I had to get up that hanging, loose bit. And then it was hard to stop. And then I had a good time skim coating it (really, I did).
liv rm project (40)

Two coats behind the bookshelves, ceilings done, trim has a coat, and a coat or two on the walls…
liv rm project (46)

There are six windows in this room! When I did the back (red) wall, I just painted the window, but as I did the rest of the room, I realized that three windows needed attention, and I may as well take out and put back in the one with the sash weights so that the cords are new.

things i discovered

The window that had cords hanging from the lower sash, and pulleys at the top of the window case, doesn’t actually have pocket doors to access the sash weights. I have no idea if there are sash weights in there or not! Also, this window glass was cracked, so out it came. It’s still in the barn, waiting for a piece of glass.
liv rm project (60)
Where is the weight pocket???

painting windows pc heat gun
Painting the lower sashes and trim pieces that hold the windows in. The heat gun is a new toy; it allowed me to get the old glazing out of the window with the broken glass without killing myself or the window sash…

Two windows had the sash weight/pulley system replaced with something called a Caldwell Sash Balance. They still make these things, but they are totally different. Generically, these things are called coil spring balances.
caldwell sash balance (6) caldwell sash balance (9)

caldwell sash balance (7) caldwell sash balance (3)
They sit where the pulley goes, and there is a metal strip that comes down where the cord goes, and that open triangular hookey thing goes where the knot goes. All of mine are broken and/or rusted. And the windows need sticks to prop them open.

Do you think anybody makes these anymore? I’ve found a company in the midwest who sells them, but their sizes are a tad different than what I have. I have to call them soon. I have two other windows in the house with these things in them. Pain in the ass. Why did anybody replace the so easy to maintain sash and pulley system???

Be still my beating heart!
I think I just found them!!

I also discovered that at some point the mantel was gold. Bright, shiny, and gold.
liv rm project (66)

The stuffed chair that was in the room is especially mildewy. It came to us with some issues, and they’ve gotten worse. It’s a good chair, but it’ll be ~$700 to reupholster. I may try to do this myself… I mean, what is there to lose?

And now

liv room painted (5) liv room painted (8)
(things still aren’t quite picked up… we need to organize some of the plant specimens… and I never pulled the stuff off of this wall to paint it, but it’s totally covered by cabinets and shelves. Maybe in the spring.)

The oldest books (over 100 years old some of them, but none valuable… they’re all in middling condition or so) are going through an airing regimen to get rid of some of the mustiness… and they got sprayed with Lysol. We just need another sunny day or two to put them out again.
airing old books (1)

What’s interesting is that the wall changes color in the different lights,
liv room painted (3) liv room painted (10)

and the best part?

We’re getting a gas fireplace insert and planning to use the room this winter!

Striped Mushroom Sweater Finished!

It’s actually been finished for a week or two now, but it had to be blocked, and then I had to get pictures of DH wearing it… all the important things, ya know? It’s been two years in the making, but it’s done.

Two years ago I went to Rhinebeck and picked up 11 skeins of plain Bartlett Yarn. A year ago I caked up all the yarn I’d dyed with mushrooms. All the details about which mushrooms gave which colors with which mordants are here. DH’s birthday is in January, and this sweater was intended for his birthday, January 2012. He finally got it mid-September!

Here are a few re-cap pics,
cakes 013 <striped mushroom sweater body

And here it is done,
finished and blocked mushroom sweater (10)

The back, and a sleeve,
finished and blocked mushroom sweater (2) finished and blocked mushroom sweater (7)

And on,
mushroom sweater 009 mushroom sweater 013

Shoulder detail,
finished and blocked mushroom sweater (15)

This is the Real Raggsock pattern from Inger Fredholm’s Knitting with a Smile. I’ve met her and her (late) husband Nils. She’s a lovely person (and he was as well). My pal Alphy is friends with Inger, and I hope she sees this version of her pattern!

More details over on my Ravelry project page for this sweater. Basically I did a bunch of short-rows in the back to account for shoulders. We always think of men as straight up and down, especially DH, who is thin, but men have shapes and these need to be accounted for, just like boobage in women’s sweaters. I made this sweater for DH years ago (another Ravelry project link), without additional length in the back, and it just rides up, about 4 inches in the back! Makes me crazed, but he still wears the thing… even after re-kitting the cuffs twice (and currently the elbows are worn through and the cuffs need to be re-done).

I’m hoping he’ll treat the mushroom stripes the same and wear it all the time.