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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Here In Harlem" book recommendation

I just finished a book of poetry called “Here in Harlem” by Walter Dean Myers. Instead of having a book of poetry simply written by himself with the reader deciding who the speaker is in each poem, he writes “poems in many voices,” giving the reader more understanding of their lives. 

I highly recommend this book for its profound poetry on life. Myers shows the beautiful and the tragic, the lonely and the socialite, the dancing and the weeping side by side in a poignant description of twentieth century Harlem. However, his poems reach across time and space with their universally human themes. 

One of my favorite poems in this book is in a student's voice, talking about wanting to grow old, with a white tiara around her head and be as deep-rooted as her ancient neighbor. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tutorial: Dyeing Yarn

After making my post yesterday, I realized I should probably write a tutorial on how to dye yarn at home without expensive or toxic dyes. The technique I used creates yarn guaranteed not to stripe.

sugar-free Kool-Aid packages (I recommend starting with reds, pinks, and purples. They are darker and adhere better)
Mason jars
saran wrap
new craft sponges
medicine droppers
undyed wool skeins (a natural cream works best)
apple cider vinegar
rubber bands
ceramic bowl
clothesline or something else to dry your yarn on
pot of coffee or tea


1. The night before, soak your skeins of wool overnight in a pot full of 1/2 coffee and 1/2 water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The vinegar will help the dye adhere more permanently to the yarn. The coffee will mute the bright colors of the Kool-Aid.

2. Use a surface to spread out several layers of saran wrap. Kool-Aid actually dyes most things it comes in contact with, so if you don’t want your kitchen counters permanently red, I’d suggest using a card table or a garage counter.

3. Open a Kool-Aid package and pour its contents into a Mason jar. Add tap water slowly until about half-full. Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Do this with all the colors you want to have.

4. Lay your skeins flat and untwisted on the layers of saran wrap.

5. Start sponging the dye onto your yarn randomly in 1-2 inch sections. Make sure there is enough dye to soak through all the layers of yarn.

6. You can also use the medicine droppers to randomly splatter drops of dye onto the yarn.

7. Once you are finished with your skein, roll the skein up into a noodle shape inside the saran wrap it is laying on, making sure to contain most of the dye.

8. Twist your noodle of saran wrap and yarn into a circle. Secure with rubber bands.

9. Place wrapped yarn into your ceramic bowl and put in the microwave for two minutes. The heat “sets” the dye.

10. Let the yarn sit for 15 minutes in its bowl to cool off and to allow the dye to adhere even more.

11. Hang yarn up to dry on the clothesline. You should put more saran wrap on the floor. If the yarn drips, it will stain the floor.

12. Once your skein is dry, roll it into a ball, and begin knitting!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Reading and Crafting

I am trying to finish all my “almost done” projects before August when I move. There will probably be several projects stashed away for when I’m home, but hopefully I’ll get some of the major projects finished.
One of these projects is a hat from “Weekend Hats.” If you haven’t had the chance to look through this book, you should. It has wonderful, knitting inspiration with only hats. Don’t worry about learning how to knit in the round! It is the simplest way to try new stitch patterns. It’s just a tube with decreases on one end. And although there is a gauge recommendation, there is a little less stress that if you were making a sweater. “Weekend Hats” projects are simple enough for a new knitter to enjoy and interesting enough to challenge and grow any knitter’s repertoire. 

I knit a few of its hats over Christmas break, a Green Ruche Beret and a Greenery Beret and was deceived into thinking that since I had picked these two quicker hats, that all of them were that fast. 
They are not.
I cast on for this hat the end of December. Granted, it has sat in a bag for most of the past three months and it is knit with fingering weight yarn. I dyed this yarn back in November with Kool-Aid in my garage. I had had two skeins of plain, cream colored wool leftover from knitting and felting snowmen a few years ago. I ran out of steam to make twenty more snowmen. So I dyed the yarn, and I’m still knitting that hat. I think my gauge is looser than prescribed, but I am not ripping it out. It will join the ranks of adorably slouchy hats.

For those knitters who love the look of variegated and tonal hand-dyed yarn, such as the luxurious Koigu, but can't get over sticker shock, don't despair. I have had all the pleasure of hand-dyed yarn from an inexpensive ball of cream yarn from KnitPicks and several packages of sugar-free Kool-Aid from Food Lion. I made an enormous mess in the garage, spreading out my five Mason jars with their various pink and purple dyes. The longest part was waiting for the beautiful skeins to dry, draped over an obliging clothes line, strung between two different ladders. I think the total cost of the finished yarn (not including the materials such as Mason jars, rubber bands, and vinegar for colorfastness), it will have cost me $7-8 and I still have unused Kool-Aid packages in my closet. 

I am putting together the last square for a blue throw quilt. It was one of my impulse projects. I have always loved blue and white, and one day at JoAnne’s Fabrics, I decided I was going to buy a little yardage from 14 different blue and white fabrics. My mother tried to get me to calculate how much I needed and such. At the present, I need to get a few yards of white fabric to put the four large squares together, and then fabric for the back. Any suggestions? Should it be a blue-and-white floral, stripes, solid?
I have my spring dress to finish. I only have to hem it and but bias-binding on the armholes. I also need to find a coordinating solid fabric to make a cute scarf. Because I had to alter it to fit me, the neckline isn’t perfect and I’d rather toss a scarf over it that have the headache of seam-ripping and starting over. 
I also have a puppy body finished. It still lacks its appendages: arms, legs, and ears. These typically take longer to knit and finish than the body. Each appendage has at least two ends, and it has to be sewn into place on a non-diagramed dog. Um, where should this ear attach? 

If you have any questions or ideas about hand-dying, actually finishing projects, or something else, please leave a comment!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Coffee Girl

Although spring is here, I'm going to post this lovely pastel, Coffee Girl, by my cousin, Hannah Mullaney. Below is my poem about Coffee Girl

Coffee mug, round,
Cupped in cold hands
Clutching cradled warmth
Eyes catch reflection
From glistening drink.
Cooling steam curls
Upward toward sea-blue
Soul-windows lash-laced,
Framed by warm green
Wool cap, crunchy, 
Knit, slip, slide, catch,
Wool that whispered 
On its cool, metal needles,
Now warms cold head,
Against crisp winter wind. 
If you would like to see more of Hannah’s artwork, visit her Facebook page.