Bad Blogger is Back

OMG, how long has it been? 7 months since I last posted? I feel like the worst blogger ever. The best news is that we're all still alive and kicking. Although we almost lost Chloe earlier last month.

We didn't know that she had a tick somewhere on her, even though we carefully check over both pups whenever we are down at the lake. The only thing I can figure is that it was between her toes, since that's the only place I hadn't checked. We could tell she had been gradually feeling poorly, but attributed it to the heat. Until one evening she seemed so disoriented and her legs were just collapsing under her. She was refusing food but drinking water and was still wanting to go outside to use the bathroom. We had put flea and tick stuff on both dogs earlier that day and I thought maybe it was poisoning her, so we washed it off. We made her comfortable and decided to forego the emergency vet clinic because we were afraid the stress would kill her. We took her to see the vet the next day, who reassured us that the flea and tick meds could in no way have made her sick, but that she had some kind of bad infection. They took samples and sent us home with some antibiotics. As Mr. Criquette was shaking out her blanket to settle her back in (she was still terribly weak at this point), he saw something fall out.

It was a hideously large, dead tick, as big around as a dime. The flea and tick meds had apparently killed it. So he called the vet back immediately, who then was able to diagnose with her with a tick-bourne disease and put her on the right antibiotic. It was an almost miraculous recovery, and within 2 days, we had a big, bouncy 12-year old puppy! She has been so happy and frisky since then. We are so grateful. And sweet little Abbie had literally stayed by Chloe's side the whole time she was sick, curling up on the blanket with her, which they never normally do. Needless to say, they have both been getting extra love and treats!

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Soaking up the sunshine

Checking for bunnies

Last year, I realized that I had let knitting take over my free time so much that I was becoming isolated from friends and family. I had also taken up quilting in the spring, and work is going as strong as ever. So I decided to put more time and energy into re-building old relationships and starting some new friendships as well. I had always taken my relationships for granted and finally came to the realization that I, being an introvert, have to "put myself out there" so to speak, and give relationships the same amount of focus and time that I had been putting into knitting. It has really paid off in a more balanced life, although most days I would prefer to be hiding at home knitting or being on Ravelry or blogging. So that's why I'm not around in the blogosphere very often. But I'm like a comet and I inevitably have to swing by from time to time to visit my blog (it's the only close to a diary that I have) and check in on my friends here.

I have also been so fortunate to have my brother and his wife, and then a week later, my sister and 14-year old niece for nice, long visits. We got lots of good quality time together, with lots of laughing and loving being together. Here's a picture of us girls, snapped in one of the rare moments we weren't running around somewhere or eating.

This is my expensive yarn-loving niece who is slowly learning to knit, but prefers to raid my stash and ask for me to make her something squishy and warm. This time, she was immediately drawn to my carefully hoarded Madeline Tosh light merino in Logwood. Fortunately I have enough to make us each a nice slouch hat or cowl. After all, I have to enable the next knitting generation.

I've also been in somewhat of a knitting slump this summer. It's not because of the heat, since I don't mind staying inside with my yarn and air conditioner no matter how hot. But I haven't been inspired by a pattern or yarn in a while. I have made a couple of cute baby hats for friends with new grandbabies, and have cast on and gotten a few inches into some little shawls, that have ended up being frogged, and have been slowly slogging away on an afghan to donate to a victim of the Joplin tornados, but otherwise, have nothing much to show. But I do keep to my resolve to knit at least one row of something a day, which just has to be good enough for now.

Hope you are all having a good summer and finding lot of ways to beat the heat!


Stash, Stash, Go Away

It's hard enough to believe we have finished the first decade of the 21st century, but even harder to believe January is almost over. The holidays felt like they snuck up from nowhere and ambushed us before we knew it. And then they were over.

Mr. Criquette and I went to New Orleans, but everyone was grumpy and out of sorts, so it wasn't one of my family's best celebrations by a long shot. One of my SIL's had to have emergency surgery the day after Christmas and no one knew if she would be able to walk again (fortunately, she will thanks to intensive rehab for the next 3 months). There was some good news, too - one of my nephews is engaged and I will have a new niece before the end of the year. And now it's over, we're back home, and I have started knitting with a vengeance.

I am part of a Ravelry group for Malabrigo lovers and someone started a stash down challenge. Since we got our little lake house, I have put myself on a strict budget, and yarn purchases are one of the victims. Plus, when I had to buy yet another huge Rubbermaid bin for storage, I knew I had reached the "I will never knit this much yarn in my lifetime" stage. And that just made me sad. I managed to donate 2 trash bags full of mostly yarns I had purchased early in my addiction, before I had been introduced to the finer things in knitting life. This freed up one bin and some floor space in the overflowing craft closet, which motivated me even more.

My next step was to borrow Diane's brilliant idea of putting yarn into brown paper sacks, closing them up, and then when she finishes a project, she has one of sweet pups choose her next one. I went through my stash and picked out yarn that had been purchased without specific projects in mind, and paired them up with a pattern and then I put both in a bag together.

The projects:

My new LYS:
I think it's working because I am 2/3 of the way through January and haven't bought a single skein! Destash! Destash! Go Criquette! And I actually have 2 projects that I started and finished so far this year.

A slouchy hat for my hand-knit loving niece:

And a start to my Christmas gifts for 2011:

It's amazing what the girls will do for lamb jerky treats!

Although belated, I wish everyone a new year full of love, health and, of course, good yarn!


In Which Criquette Rediscovers an Old Friend

Today's special guest is an old friend. We last visited about 7 years ago. Although she looked a little, well, dusty, she really hadn't changed a bit (wish I could say the same about me!). But, you know how it is with old friends, as soon as you get past that initial awkwardness, you settle down into the friendship again, and this is just what we did.

Since she was here to help me with a project, we got down to business right away. No messing around, that's how my friend Elna is. She was helping me make something special for a couple of swaps I'm in. I had already prepared everything the night before, so we could get started first thing in the morning. Can you guess what we're making?

If you guessed small project bags, you guessed right. And here's my friend, Elna, hard at work:

Didn't know I could sew, did you? My mother forced me to learn when I was in 5th grade. Our family had 4 kids at that point (the 5th came along the following year), and so money was a bit tight. I was going to have to make most of my own clothes. Which I did until shortly after college, when I had enough money of my own to finally afford a wardrobe that someone else had already made for me. That was what I considered a luxury. To this day, I still cannot stand the thought of making clothing, but it is somewhat reassuring to know that if I ever did have to resort to sewing clothes or going naked, I could make the more appropriate choice.

By the time Mr. C and I were on our 2nd home, I asked Santa to bring me my own sewing machine. I had taken an intense interest in making my own comforter because I couldn't find one already made that I liked. After that turned out much nicer than I expected, I made a couple of easy quilts. Then I decided to tackle lined drapes with an upholstered valence, which I loved, which led to me re-upholstering some chairs I picked up at an estate sale. I also made lots of fancy pillows for myself, family and friends. I was really into the sewing thing, and that was about the time I was getting bored with crochet and cross stitch, which had filled my time from college to the "sewing era".

Then we entered the 5 years from hell, during which we lost all 4 parents, a SIL, and our first kitty and our wonderful dog, KC. Our house was struck by lightening, which started a fire and fried all of our electronics and caused some moderate water damage to our second story. Right after the house was repaired and all of the electronics replaced, we had a robbery. The thieves stole the usual stuff (TV's, computers, my grandmother's silver) but also stole my sewing machine. (They were actually nice burglars, because they filled the cats' bowls with food, and left a big lipstick kiss on a mirror, and they didn't trash anything so we were lucky).

I did replace my sewing machine, with Elna. But I had lost the time and interest for sewing. We built the house we're in now, my practice boomed and best of all, I discovered and fell in love with knitting. Elna sat in the back of the coat closet, collecting dust and cobwebs.

But that all changed when I saw some cute little project bags on the 'net and realized that I could make my own. Then a couple of weeks ago, I did something that clinched the deal. I had my first quilt shop experience. And let's just say I might have come home with enough little piles of fabric to constitute a tiny stash. And last night, I cut out the pieces for 2 cute little bags, pulled Elna out of the darkness, cleaned her up and put her back to work. It's like we never lost contact. It feels good to see old friends.

There is something about autumn that really revs me up and gets my creativity overflowing. Here are some of my FO's from the last 2 weeks:

This is a clever little bookmark that I made to fit an oversized paperback. While you are reading, your can wear it on your wrist and when you're ready to save your place, it's right there. Now I have no more excuses for dog-earing.

I made some stitch markers for a recent holiday swap. I also made the fall dishcloth.

I got a jump on Christmas by making these 2 little sheepie ornaments while catching up on some tivo'ed Grey's Anatomy on Friday night.

Criquette, as usual, goes looking for mischief when the weather turns cooler. This time she found this ribbon and dragged it out of my craft closet to the dining room where she proceeded to create a "Happy Autumn" greeting to all of her fans.

So from all of us here in Criquette World, Happy Autumn!


Part 3 The Wilton's Dyeing Experiment

This is the rest of my Wilton's Supersaturated Dyeing Experiment. The next colors I tested were the Ivory and Brown.

Both dyes behaved very well. I didn't have any problems with breaking or exhausting for either.

Now for the surprises. Here are the Juniper Green and Cornflower Blue. If you are looking at these thinking they look black, you are right. Both of these turned out black at high saturation. The Juniper has a warm cast to it, and the Cornflower is a true, deep, cool black.

I also tested Wilton's Black and a new dye I found in the cake section at Michael's, called Duff's. The Wilton's behaved well and did not break at all. It has a slight brown cast to it, though. I really like the Duff's. It is a thick, smooth liquid that dissolved immediately in warm water. The color turned out a solid black without any breaking.

Here is a comparison of the 4 blacks I got. As you can see, the Juniper and Cornflower more than hold their own against the Wilton's Black and look as good (to me, at least) as the Duff's Black.

My conclusions are that I can get really beautiful, deep colors using 1 1/2 tsp. amounts of Wilton's dyes. However, using this amount of dye requires letting the yarns sit for longer periods of time because most of them take longer to exhaust.

At this amount of dye, it was easy to get dark, true blacks. Of the 4 blacks, I would probably use the Cornflower Blue if I were looking for a true, cool black. I would also prefer to use Duff's Black over Wilton's in terms of the ease of mixing as well as the nicer color. The only downside to the Duff's is that it comes in a 4-pack. If you don't need the other colors, it is not cost effective.

So after the big experiment, I took the leftover white yarn and mixed up a test batch of brown, royal blue and a mix of lemon yellow+a bit of orange. I was not paying close attention and added too much vinegar at the wrong time, but I really like the resulting mess. It actually comes very close to matching a skein of hand-dyed yarn I purchased some time back at my lys.
It's going to be made into either toddler socks or a hat for the next afghans4Afghans campaign.

In other knitting news, I volunteered as a first-time test-knitter for someone in my Malabrigo swap group. I am making the cutest hat out of alternating skeins of Malabrigo worsted. It is so cute, I can't wait to finish it and then be able to show it off. As always, I have way too many projects on the needles, but sooner or later, they seem to get finished.

Finally, I have a couple of pictures of the cabin. We are going down next weekend for the inspection. I plan on doing an inventory of what is already there and what we will need to get. It's furnished, but not accessorized and I don't remember what has been left with the kitchen. Since I didn't get pictures of the inside, I'll be sure to that as well. And of course we are taking Chloe and Abbie so they can check out their new playground! Once it's ours, we also plan on taking the kitties down with us for long stays.

Isn't it cute? I can't stand having to wait until the end of the month for it to be ours. But it will be just in time for my birthday!


The Wilton's Dyeing Project, Part 2

Continuing with my Wilton's saturated colors project results, next are the greens, blues and purples.

As I commented yesterday, the greens and blues gave me some surprises. The first greens that I tested look almost identical:

Leaf Green/Kelly Green/Moss Green

I let these soak in their dye baths 30 minutes after the last nuke and the leftover dye water in all 3 was still green when I removed them. The Leaf Green is a bit lighter and you can pick up a little more of a yellow cast on the white sample. The Kelly Green doesn't show the blue cast I was expecting, although if the blue needed more time to absorb, that would explain it. The Moss Green is the same depth of color as the Kelly green, with a touch more yellow.

The blues surprised me by not breaking. Since they received the same time to sit in their dye baths as all the other colors, they may not be fully saturated in terms of the blue dye - they may be much deeper if left to sit longer.

Teal/Sky Blue/Royal Blue

It was hard to get an accurate reading of these 3 colors because they all seem to not look quite green enough (compared to the real-life samples), if that makes sense.

Delphinium Blue/Aster Mauve/Violet

On this next group, the Delphinium broke so badly you wouldn't think it's supposed to be a pretty violet-blue. I have no idea where this one color went so wrong, since all of the blues were treated alike and the others did not break. The only explanation I have is that it needs to rest in the dyebath for a much longer time than the other colors and maybe that it needs a lot more vinegar.

With the Aster Mauve I was expecting that ugly 80's muddy pink color, but I got a beautiful pinkish-purple the color of thistles. The violet, which also showed no signs of breaking, is a very dark, very rich, true purple. At this saturation, though, it's almost black.

Tomorrow I will finish up with the neutrals and reveal something very interesting (at least to me).

And, just because she hasn't put in an appearance in a while, here are a couple of totally gratuitous pictures of the cuteness that is Criquette:


The Wilton Dyeing Project (Part 1)

With the most beautiful time of year almost upon us, I have been dying to dye some yarn in a colorway that captures my favorite time of year. One of the challenges I am finding with using food-safe dyes is that I have a hard time getting really saturated colors. I want to dye some fall and winter skeins, but didn't know if I could get the deep, vibrant colors I have in my head. And a good, true black is very hard to come by. So I decided to use some of my research background to run a little experiment. It actually turned out to give me lots of information without needing to blow up the kitchen or commit acts of violence on small lab rodents.

My little project took place over the past 2 weekends. It took longer than I anticipated after my kitchen microwave died and I had to make countless trips up and down the stairs to use the one in the basement. But it all came together and I am ready to share my results. And I am all about the multi-tasking, so with that many stairs climbed, I could skip working out and use the time to work out with yarn instead!

To begin, I got 3 base yarns and cut 5' samples from each. They were Cascade 220 (white), and Paton's Classic Wool (natural and grey). I wanted to see what differences the colors made on overdyeing, to see if I would be able to get the results I wanted on white yarn, or if I needed to start with a deeper base.
Here is the naked yarn:

All of my samples were pre-soaked in lukewarm water with 1/4 tsp salt and 2 drops Dawn added. The excess water was squeezed from them before entering the dyebath. All of the dye was mixed using high concentrations of dye:yarn - 1 tsp diluted in 1 cup boiling water. The water was allowed to cool off before adding the yarn. I let the yarn sit in the unheated dyebath for about 30 minutes before nuking in on high for 2 mins, cool for 3 minutes. I added about 1/2 tsp vinegar before the second and third heatings, then let the yarn sit in the heated dyebath until close to room temperature, probably about 20-30 minutes. I then rinsed it well, until the water ran mostly clear.

Here are the results, grouped by color:

Pink, Rose Petal, Rose

These were a bit of a surprise - the pink, which I thought would be lighter than the other two actually ended up more of a wine color. In general, the Rose Petal was a bit more coral and the Rose more of a lipstick pink, other than that, they were pretty similar.

Next are the reds - Creamy Peach, No-Taste Red, and Burgundy. (I am missing the other reds in the Wilton collection. When I get them, I will add them to the samples.) The burgundy is so dark it looks brownish-black almost.

The dyes in the orange family actually "took" the quickest, almost exhausting the dye. The orange is very vibrant, whereas the Terra Cotta and Copper look almost identical. Also, there is almost no variation among the 3 base colors with Terra Cotta - they are virtually identical. Copper is one of the colors notorious for breaking, but this batch didn't show any sign of breakage.

The yellows are probably my favorites of all the colors I tested because they look different than I expected and because they are incredible autumn colors in their super-saturated state.

These colors didn't give me any problems. But the next batch, the blues and greens were a different story. I'll show my findings in Part 2.


Criquette Returns (With FO's!)

Since I haven't seen my little blog in a while, I thought it was time to check in and see if it's still here. And time, once again, to catch up. First, here are some of my projects that I have made in the past several months:

Malabrigo worsted hat for the Malabrigo swap:

A lavender and rice-filled neck pillow for my rav friend, Laura:

My 3rd Montego Bay scarf for the Odd Ducks' Sea and Ocean swap:

Bella's Baseball Scarf from "Twilight" for my darling knitted-goods-loving niece (which was my first, but not last, attempt at cabling):

JJ Scarflette (some early Christmas knitting):

And my very favorite - my first shawl! Knitted from my first (but not last) skein of Wollmeise:

I've been getting more and more involved in hand-dyeing with food-safe dyes. Creating the colorways I have in my head is so exciting! Here are my favorites so far:

Of course, I am staying busy taking good care of the fur-babies. Nothing new with them, they are all still running the show here on the little house on the prairie.

And we have been sneaking down to the lake whenever we can, which isn't nearly enough. So we have finally decided to take the plunge and get our own cabin down there. That way, we can go whenever we want. There's a place we have our eye on, and we may put in an offer this week!

And of course, working my crazy-long hours. I had to hire 2 new therapists to take some of my referrals since I wasn't able to get people in for months. Neither one of them knit, but I won't hold that against them.