Be happy and dye.

I’m not quite ready for my week off of work (which is a little misleading since I did actually work some both Monday and Tuesday) to be over, but at least it ended with some fun. A good friend – Dierdre, mka* Carol – came out Friday to stay for the weekend and among the items on our agenda was teaching me some of what she knows about dyeing with natural dyes. We’ve been trying to get together to do this for some time, but something always seems to come up to prevent us from accomplishing the goal. This time, though, we were determined and Carol showed up armed with both a Queen Anne’s Lace dye bath, a jar of cochineal, and some alum and blue vitriol as mordants.

We pre-mordanted some cotton and wool in both the blue vitriol and the alum overnight Friday and then Saturday morning prepared the dye baths. We dyed the cotton – mercerized mordanted with alum and unmercerized mordanted with blue vitriol – and some unmordanted merino yarn (Paton’s classic) in the Queen Anne’s Lace (all pictures are clickable thumnails; click them to load a larger version):

From left to right: unmordanted merino, mercerized cotton mordanted with alum, and unmercerized cotton mordanted with blue vitriol
Closer shots of the two mordanted yarns

It’s a fairly subtle tan/yellow, with some greenish tinge in the unmercerized skein. At first glance it doesn’t look like it had any effect, but when you realize both cottons started as stark white – not natural – you see the effects a bit more.

We also did some Clun Forest yarn I spun mordanted in blue vitriol, some Paton’s Soy Wool Silk mordanted in alum, and some unmordanted merino (Paton’s classic) in the cochineal, which we ground into a powder to make the dye bath:

From left to right: Clun Forest mordanted with blue vitriol, SWS mordanted with alum, and unmordanted merino
Closer shot of all three yarns

I*love* the colors this resulted in. The Clun Forest sucked up lots of the dye and is a really lovely dark-ish purple, thanks to the blue vitriol. The SWS seemed to pick up more of the reds from the dye bath, and the merino is sort of a subdued reddish-purple.

Because the cochineal wasn’t exhausted, we did an exhaust dye bath of it with some roving – more Clun Forest, and some Romney – a chunk of undyed roving plus some that Carol had died in a weaker exhaust bath previously that she wanted to try to overdye:

From front to back: Clun Forest roving, Romney, overdyed Romney

We didn’t pre-mordant any of the roving, but we did add some Cream of Tartar to the dye bath so it would mordant as it dyed. The rovings are more uniform (likely because they were all mordanted with the same compound) and still quite saturated for an exhaust dye bath. Once it’s dry I’ll have to pull out the yarn I spun from some merino Carol dyed a couple years ago and see if they’re close enough in color to use in the same project.

And to round everything out – and make sure we used up as much of the dye bath as possible – we decided to try for a second exhaust bath of the cochineal, this time adding some blue vitriol directly to the dye bath. It’s much more purple this time due to the addition of the blue vitriol, but it will likely end up fairly light given that this is the second exhaust bath. We threw in a skein of BFL and another skein of the unmercerized cotton.

They’ll soak until tonight sometime, and then Carol suggested that I pull them out of the bath, reheat it and add some more Cream of Tartar, and put the yarns back in to soak overnight. I’ll take pictures both tonight and tomorrow morning to see the changes the additional soaking and mordant make.

During the wait times, I taught Carol how to knit – she’s been a spinner for quite awhile, but never learned to knit which is how I ended up with quite a bit of her handspun for awhile. She picked up casting on and knitting in a snap, but purling is been a bit more difficult (isn’t it always?). All the same, I think she’s well on her way to another fiber-addiction and I’m looking forward to seeing how she’s doing next weekend and hopefully teaching her how to yarn over and some decreases so she can make a shawl she’d like to try.

* mka = mundanely known as; Dierdre is her SCA persona name.


Quick event recap and VSA redux

Wow. Last week both went way to fast and seems like it lasted a lot longer than just a week.

After finishing the tent repair with mom and dad, we came home to prepare for WW which including making a three entirely new outfits in pseudo-Near Eastern style, one for Jack and two for me. Fortunately, the outfits went together very easily (for those who might understand a bit of SCA jargon, the undertunics are basic t-tunics, just a little longer; the pants are essentially harem pants (yes, I know they’re not entirely appropriate for this, but they are quick and easy and comfy); the coats were just basic t-tunics slit up the front). No, I don’t think there are pictures of either of us in them, but if I find someone who snapped a shot or two, I’ll post them.

We were on site from about noon Wednesday until about 10 Sunday morning. It was rather nice to have a long stretch of time camping and an event where my primary responsibility was to co-coordinate the Artisan’s Row. The Row was a bit larger this year, or at least had more arts represented, which was very neat. In addition to the fiber arts (which are usually well represented) – knitting, spinning, sprang, embroidery, tablet weaving, hand sewing, hand braiding, dyeing – we had a couple wood carvers, a few leather workers, at least one calligrapher, a bowyer, a couple bakers (who treated us to some very tasty flat breads), a brewer demonstrating how to make mead, and even for a short time a musician.

The classes we were able to host (period dyeing, bread making, mead making) seemed to go over well, especially since we didn’t get quite as much posted advertising as I’d planned (my fault entirely – time just seemed to get away from me all week and I didn’t get things where they were needed). As usual, I think we learned some things to do differently next time (whenever that might be), including making sure that folks who aren’t necessarily interested in teaching something on the order of a class know they can come to just hang out and work on their projects on the Row. Additionally, a larger (or maybe just more contiguous) shaded space may be necessary as folks tend to want to congregate in the same space and a single shade fly gets crowded quickly which I think discourages folks from just wandering in to ask about what everyone is working on.

Personally, I wrapped up and plied a decent hank of the Clun Forest lamb’s fleece (not all of it, but maybe a couple ounces worth), but didn’t manage to make it up to Baroness Eithni’s dyepot to try my hand at dyeing it. I also started another pair of toe-up socks with the Yarn Pirate yarn I got from my upstream Gnome Swap pal and I really, really, really love how they’re knitting up. Oh, and I worked a smidge on spinning more of the baby camel/tussah silk top from my SP9 pal. I will snap some pictures in the next few days and post them.

On an unrelated topic, but one that I posted on a couple weeks ago, if you are or know someone who is a prospective/current/former college student, or the parent of a prospective/current/former student, please consider taking a few moments to complete a quick survey about what information you think is most important to assist in the college selection process. Feel free to spread the word if you’re so inclined; the more feedback we get, the more useful we can make the finished product!

Hero worship.

My parents are my heroes. It’s really not just a saying.. they can do amazing things. Witness the magic of Mom:

Wide shot of the door, with the new patch
Closer shot of the door repair
Back center right repair/patch
Back center left repair/patch

This was completed in about two and a half hours. The seams are rolled and sealed, so that there are no exposed edges, inside or out. For most of the patches, the rolled seams are on the inside of the pavilion (the patch in the back center left is “inside out” because we had a miscommunication about which side she was working with).

We sprayed all the patches very well with silicone water-proofing stuff, especially at the seams, and then re-sprayed as much of the rest of the canvas with the same stuff as we could; we didn’t quite have enough to do the whole tent, but I noticed when I was rinsing off the bleach water I scrubbed the stains out with that for the most part, the non-stained parts were still well water-proofed, so it was mostly a precaution anyway.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the whims of the weekend..


Hrm.. first a bit of help for a fellow academic:
Bloggers, stand up and be counted! Take the “Public and Private in the Blogosphere” Survey!

Here’s a hint.. if you go, snag the URL for here first ( because there’s a referral question. 😉

Right then.. on to the heart of the matter. I’m going to babble on about pavilions again today. Specifically, I’m going to talk about the poles we use in our French double bell wedge because it’s not the typical design (it’s not that unusual a one, either, just not the most typical).

First up, to give credit where it’s due, we did not make our bell wedge; we bought it from Midwest Tent & Bag (just the canvas); if you go to their website, you can read about the typical pole set up for a bell wedge. Neither did we make (either set of) the poles for our bell wedge; my dad, amateur-only-in-the-sense-that-he-doesn’t-get-paid-for-it all around handyman, made both our first set of poles (two uprights and a ridge pole) and our current set of poles (swingset style).

For those unfamiliar with the SCA, a brief moment of explanation might be necessary. Yes, this is a tent that we actually camp in. No, we don’t camp light. Yes, it is really as big as the dimensions list. No, it really wasn’t that much more expensive than a good modern tent. No, it doesn’t take up that much more room than a modern tent (or at least, it doesn’t have to.. ours does because our poles are *HUGE*, but that was our decision made for our comfort, not a necessity of the tent). No, it doesn’t take longer to set up than a modern tent – in fact, ours takes less time to set up than some modern dome tents.

This is one of many possible styles of period or periodesque pavilions that are used by people in the SCA. It’s not required that you use a period or periodesque tent to attend camping events in the SCA, but living for four to ten days out of a modern tent a couple times a summer gets old fast. Not to mention bloody hot. We have room to put up a full-sized slat bed in this tent, and still have space to walk around and stand fully upright to get dressed. The canvas breathes, so it stays cooler than nylon tents in the heat and humidity. No, it doesn’t leak; when it rains, the canvas swells up and keeps the rain out (you can also buy tents made with treated canvas that are both water and flame resistant).

You might also be trying to figure out why we switched from the more typical pole set up to the swingset style. It’s simply a matter of usable space. When this type of tent is set up, you end up with a floorplan that consists of a center square (or rectangle) capped on either end by a semi-circle. The ridge pole is the width of the center square, so the poles, if you’re only using two uprights, end up coming down in what would be the center of each circle where it meets the square (yes, I’m sure a diagram would help.. try this one, but note that ours has bells on both ends instead of just one), which effectively means you can’t put anything in one of the bells that extends into the center square unless it can fit on one side of the pole or the other. By using swingset style poles, the poles run along the walls of the tent and leave the center fully open.

Right then.. on we go. The key to our pole set up is this nifty little bit (all pictures are clickable thumbnails; click them to get to a larger version):

(viewed from the end)
(viewed from the top, with the ridge pole already attached)

Updated 7/14/08: Those nifty little bits turned out not to be able to withstand the torque from erecting the tent repeatedly and snapped at the end of last season. Dad took a look at the stress points and reinforced things across the ridge to come up with these instead:

This bit was custom made by Handyman Extraordinaire, aka Dad. It’s a work of genius, in my opinion. However, that said, it’s not necessary to have something this custom to make this type of pole structure work. you really just need a way to hold the two poles together at the right angle at the top of the tent and to have a way to cradle the ridge pole. Our nifty little bit just makes this a lot less fiddly. The leg poles for our tent are built around a hollow center pipe, so the little legs on this nifty little bit slide right into the top of that pipe:

Here’s the nifty little bit as it attaches to the legs and the ridge pole (which is the metal pipe extending out behind the legs that you can’t really see in this picture, but it’s the third leg of this tripod). You may notice two things at this point: a) the legs are awfully short – in fact they’re only half as tall as they need to be – because we asked dad to build the legs in two sections each so that we could pack them better; and b) the ridge pole is kinda of short, too.

And that’s because, like the legs, we needed to be able to fit it into our car. So the picture above shows how the ridge pole connects in the middle – there’s just a pipe sleeve over both ends of the pipe that gets bolted with that large eyebolt (which is an awfully handy place to hang a lantern).

So, when you put the tops of each side of the legs together with the ridge pole, you get this:

At this point, the ridge pole is about mid-shoulder height on me (I’m about 5’6″) and the legs are about 10 feet apart. The next step is to drape the canvas over the top of the poles:

.. and then pick up one side of the tent (we usually start with the back because the first side you pick up is a little easier, so it’s better to pick up the heavier side of the canvas first) and attach the bottoms of the poles:

Nifty, eh? Huh..? Oh.. you want to know *how* we attach the bottoms of the poles, too? Oh, fine..

As mentioned above, the poles are built around a hollow center tube (the light grey extending from the wood), so we just drop in a bit of smaller diameter pipe and slide the top and the bottom of the poles together. Strictly speaking, the short bit of pipe is probably not entirely necessary, but it’s nice to know that if the poles got rocked really hard, there’s something more than just that little sleeve holding them together.

To finish with the poles, we just repeat the above with the other side – lift up and attach the bottoms of the legs.

Ta da!Free standing bell wedge without stakes! While the tent is mostly stable at this point – meaning that no one needs to stand there and hold it up while someone else runs around pounding stakes – it’s not really anchored; a good strong wind from either end would cause it to fall to one end or the other. So the final step in securing our tent is to stake it out (not shown because we were just putting it up here to be able to clean and repair the damage mentioned yesterday; we also normally put down a tarp as a ground cloth under the tent, but I knew I’d be hosing it down and didn’t want to have to deal with the tarp collecting water since I knew we wouldn’t be fully staking it). We use 12″ metal stakes and start with the four stakes at the base of each leg, then stake out the center of each bell to get the tension figured out; the bells each stake out about another 4-5 feet from the center square on our tent. The rest of the stakes go in pretty quickly and without much of a fuss.

All totaled, I think we can get this tent up in about 15 minutes, including staking it out depending on the ground we’re trying to drive stakes into. Setting up the inside takes a bit longer – mostly because our camp bed takes about 15 minutes itself to put together – but I think we can, if motivated, get our full kit set up in less than an hour, including the pop-up kitchen fly and table. *shrug*

If I remember to bring my camera to our next event, I’ll try to get pictures of the inside once it’s set up – including positioning of the bed where we have it now and where it used to have to be because of the upright pole placement. And if there’s a great hew and cry, I’ll try to get assembly pictures of the bed (another Handyman Extraordinaire creation).

*SNKC = Still no knitting content.

“That’s funny.. the damage doesn’t look as bad from out here.”

First, I need to distract G because the main part of this post is likely to make her confiscate my pavilion for mistreatment. So here are some photos from my garden at the moment (click the picture to load a larger version).

Yellow daisy-like flowers (no idea what these are; they’re tall and perennial and bloom like that all summer long)

Magenta hollyhock (we have several colors of hollyhock scattered in amongst the rose bushes that line our garage)

Stray morning glory? I just noticed this little guy this morning over along the side of the house by the water meter.. the vine doesn’t look like a morning glory, but the flower sure does!

These are the Gerber daisies I got for the blue pot for the front yard. They’re doing wonderfully there! I really love how much color they add to the front yard.

This is how I know the little stray guy along the side of the house looks like a morning glory. 😉

The first garden box – Walla Walla sweet onions are really the only things visible, but there are also three kinds of pepper plants and two types of basil planted in there.

Those are tomatoes in the middle (Big Mama variety, I think) and garlic. I think there’s also maybe carrots or radishes in there, too.

The last box (far left) has the Yellow Pear tomatoes and some summer squash; the other has the Sun Gold tomatoes and either carrots or radishes, what ever’s not in the second box.

.. and here are some photos of the mildew/mold/something nasty chewing damage to our double bell wedge pavilion.*
Before any treatment:

This is the back center panel, in the lower right as you’re facing the tent. This is the smallest of the actual holes and is surrounded by some canvas that while not actually torn is structurally weak.

This one’s the other side of the back center panel. The damage is much worse here and this is actually the most badly damaged place. The seam that runs through this patch is seamed around a piece of canvas strap which has also deteriorated in at least one place. You can still see the duct tape we used to patch the hole this past weekend in this shot.

This appears to just be stained.. the canvas does look or feel weakened, but we’ll need to keep an eye on it.

Ditto here – no apparent damage, but something we’ll need to watch.

This spot lines up with the spot that’s the most damaged on the back when the pavilion is folded and in storage, but it’s in the door flap, so it’s somewhat less critical. Still, the entire bottom of that panel will need to be patched.

And after some scrubbing with a 1:8 mixture of chlorine bleach and water (as recommended here, from a referral from G), rinsed and left to dry overnight:

The scrubbing opened up the hole a bit, which I expected given how deteriorated the canvas was, but the stain is significantly reduced and I’m pretty sure that anything that might have still been living in the canvas eating away at it is now dead.

Again, this is the worst spot; it’s about 18 inches across to get to solid canvas and at least 40 inches high.

So far, this one still appears sound. The spots above the stain are grass, not holes!

Not to bad. I think this is my “favorite” of them just because the black squiggles from where whatever it was died.

*cringe* Yeah.. not as bad looking as the back, but still a pretty major patch.

The canvas on the front right and back left appears to be fully sound, but the holes in the back center left and right and in the door will need to be patched. The smaller patch is only about 10 inches square, but the two larger patches (the back center left and the door) will require a patch about 18 inches wide by about 40 or so inches tall. The back center left is complicated by the fact that it spans one of the seams of the pavilion (but fortunately not the seam that bears the bulk of the stress from the ridgepole) and I don’t think I’m brave enough to try that one on my own, but we’ll see how I feel after doing the others.

*We discovered the damage last weekend when we went to load the car to attend our first camping event of the year. It’s entirely our own fault – we have a hard-packed dirt garage floor and left the canvas bag the pavilion was stored in sit directly on the floor over the winter and spring. something decided to eat it. The pavilion is structurally sound (we used it last week with just some duct tape to seal the holes in case of rain), but that’s mostly because the rot missed the four main seams that bear the most of the stress. It also helps that we use a swingset pole arrangement (I’ll likely post some pictures of that in a few days) so unlike a normal bell wedge, the stakes don’t have to put the canvas under as much stress for the tent to be stable. Yes, if we leave the stakes loose at the points of wear, the tent sags a bit there, but I’ll deal with a little sag to not have to replace the entire pavilion!

Get it right the first time, that’s the main thing!

As mentioned, I missed a pattern modification to add three inches of length to the Stockings with Clocks before the calf decreases and didn’t figure it out until after the first stocking was completed. Rather than rip back something on the order of 18 inches of completed knitting, I decided to insert the extra three inches into the leg instead. I figured I had a decent enough understanding of the structure of knitting that snipping a stitch, putting stitches back on needles, and then grafting it all together again wouldn’t be beyond my skills.

1) The first step was to work in “life lines” so that as I began unraveling the line of stitches that would be removed, I wouldn’t have to worry about dropping any stitches. I chose a row two rows above the first calf decrease for the lower life line, and then left one row to unravel and worked a second life line the row above that. I used a smooth cotton yarn in a contrasting color and knotted the ends of each loop together so they wouldn’t get accidentally pulled out.

I didn’t try to figure out getting the stitches on the life line without twisting them, but instead picked one “leg” of each stitch and ran the life line through the same leg for all stitches in the round. The hardest part was not jumping up or down a row and I often had to pull the life line back out a few stitches to adjust accordingly.

2) The moment of truth was in snipping the yarn to begin unraveling the sacrificial row. I selected a stitch at the center of the front of the stocking, which meant I’d have to unravel it half a round in each direction to get the two pieces separated and ready for the next step. To be sure that I only cut the piece of yarn I wanted, I pulled the loop of the stitch out slightly with an extra needle.

3) Once the stitch was snipped, I used the extra needle to unravel the sacrificial row. Unlike when you rip stitches back, you can’t just grab the yarn and unravel it because there are still stitches holding the yarn on both sides, so each stitch has to be pulled out separately; it turned out that snipping a stitch half way through the round meant that I didn’t end up having to pull a whole round of knitting’s worth of yarn through the last few stitches. As the stitches are unraveled, the life lines catch and hold the stitches on the two resulting pieces and prevent them from unraveling further.

4) Once the unraveling is finished, you’ll have two separate pieces, each with live stitches held by live lines, and each with a tail of yarn connecting to those live stitches.

5) These stockings were knit from the top down, so in order to make sure that the stitches all line up without jogging, I wanted to add the extra length to the cuff piece. Using the life line as a guide, I placed the live cuff-side stitches back on the same needles I used to knit the stockings and knit an extra three inches, maintaining the seam stitch patterning through every round. Because the seam pattern is two rows and I’d be adding a row in when I grafted the two pieces back together, I ended on the same pattern row as the next piece begins with. To be sure that the two stockings would end up the same length, I laid the pieces of the first stocking over the completed second stocking.

6) The trickiest part with the patterned seam stitches was lining them up so that when I grafted everything together the seam wouldn’t jog. The first time I did this, I was off a stitch and had to pull out the entire row of grafted stitches and re-do them! Learn from my mistake and pay attention as you start grafting to make sure the stitches on the two pieces will line up.

(You’ll also notice in the second picture above the “indented” row – that’s where the original stitches were “picked up” to start the added section; washing and blocking will make that go away.)

7) When you’re ready to start grafting, you’ll need to put the stitches from the second piece on to a needle and make sure they’re not twisted. You can leave the rest of the stitches on the life line yarn until you need them.

8) Using instructions from any of a variety of places – Interweave Knits usually has grafting or kitchener stitch instructions in the back, as will most sock pattern books; I used the instructions from The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie Wiseman – graft the two rows of live stitches together; when you need to work a purl stitch, you’ll want to work the grafting “backwards” from the instructions. As you work, gently tug the working yarn after every stitch to avoid leaving the stitches too loose; you can monitor this as you work to be sure you’re not grafting too tightly or too loosely. When you’re finished grafting, work in all the ends securely.

9) Washing and blocking the finished piece after you’re finished grafting will help remove any unevenness left from picking up stitches and grafting. As I mentioned, the first time I grafted the two pieces together, I was off a stitch and had to pull out the row of grafting. When I re-worked the row, I must have picked up some dust on the yarn that darkened the row slightly. The stockings are mostly dry now and the darkened part is still noticeable, so I’ll have to wash them again using some wool wash to try to get it out.

Stockings with Clocks & SP9

The stockings with clocks, from Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks, with a pattern modification as requested by the largesse project organizer to add three inches to the height of the leg before the calf decreases, are finished and blocking:

You can see the pattern a bit better now that they’ve been soaked a bit, but it’s still hard to get it to show up very much in a picture. Also, if you look closely you can see the graft line on the front stocking – I had to rip out the graft once because the seam stitches weren’t lined up properly and in so doing, must have picked up a bit of dust that got worked in with the second graft line, which is also slightly tighter than the rest of the stocking. I expect with a little wear, it will become less noticeable.

I took a series of photos of the process I used to add in the extra three inches in the first stocking (I was reminded of the pattern modification after the first stocking was already complete and decided adding in the three inches would be faster than reknitting almost the entire stocking – which it was) and will likely post a sort of “tutorial” type thing on it in a day or two.

Oh, and I’ve revealed myself to my Secret Pal from SP9! Everyone stop in and say hi to Barb! She knits and crochets, has just learned to knit socks, and can’t refuse her two gorgeous little girls, even when she’s making something that she really wants for herself. *smile*