Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cats + Knitting = ARRRRGH!

Cappuccino decided my felted bag made a nice bed. My guy took this pic of her with her typical "yeah--what." expression.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Farmtown is Evil--Just Add Hallucinogens!

I must own up to a recent addiction. There is a game on Facebook called Farmtown and I can't quit playing it. It is much like SimCity in tone. You start with a plot of land and a self-decorated avatar that represents you as the farmer. You plant and harvest crops, which gains you money. You cultivate neighbors within your coterie of Facebook friends, and send each other gifts that you use to decorate your farm. You can also meet other Facebook folks who are also Farmtownees and add them as work buddies.

I have been working on my ever increasing plot assiduously and carefully building on it. I now have a house, a barn, a corral for my beasts (cows, horses, goats, pigs, etc.), a poultry pen, a windmill, and a few other goodies. I am saving up for a big pond and a greenhouse. I arrange everything to my liking, trying to maximize space and arrange things both practically and aesthetically.

Over the last few weeks, I have had this creeping feeling of deja vu regarding Farmtown. This feeling began when a long time buddy of mine observed once while we were playing, "Wow! Look at this--those avatars are US!". Well, I have finally realized what the cold grue was for me: I am living the novel "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" by Philip K. Dick. Minus the Can-D and Chew-Z, fortunately.

I read this novel when I was a freshman in college and it has been one of those books that has stuck with me all these years. It is chock full of twisted PKD weirdness--odd, surreal images and a picture of future civilization as a very disturbing place. In this case, 21st Century life focuses on living recreational life through dolls Perky Pat and her boyfriend Walt--and-ins for Barbie and Ken), and spending money on "layouts"--elaborate dollhouses with detailed accessories. Through hallucinogenic drugs, you become Pat or Walt and live the beautiful life, which is a diversion from the fact the the world (or in this case worlds, since there are various plantary colonies)is a wretched, messed up place.

OK, maybe I am overstating this whole concept a bit, but I see my avatar that represents me in her little purple overalls, my tidy farm, and plan for sowings and harvests, I start to wonder. Am I living through the hallucinogenic experience of the internet, nurturing this fake farm, interacting with other farmers across the globe? I once harvested the fields of a person claiming to be a Filipina living in Dubai. It was a surreal moment--me at 6 PM home from work on Farmtown and her at 5 AM before work on Farmtown 8000 miles away from where I was. It was weird, but I played on anyway.

And really, what can I say? I LIKE Farmtown and I'll likely play on--that is, until I start seeing characters with robotic hands and steel teeth. Gotta go--my onions are ready to harvest!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fit to be Dyed

My! It's been a month since my last post. I have not been idle during that time and I have plenty to post about. Since I have procrastinated about posting through most of June (read this as "I wasted a lot of time goofing off on Facebook"), I realize the the logical way to approach the pile of material I want to blog about is to work backwards and see how far I get.

Last Saturday, July 11th, I attended my first hand-dyeing workshop. This was VERY exciting for me for a number of reasons. I had never done hand dyeing before and I have wanted to try my hand at this for literally for 18-19 years--almost as long as I have been knitting. I got a book in the early '90's called "A Passion for Color" by Sarah Burnett which really is the seed of my desire to learn dyecraft. In this particular book, Ms. Burnett shows some basics about dyeing yarns with natural materials, and follows this with some of her own designs. The yarns she works with are GORGEOUS. (As a sidebar, however, some of the designs and photo styling for this book are hilariously '80's of the "You Knit WHAT?!" variety. Check them out for a eye-rolling belly laugh sometime.) I was thoroughly intrigued by the dyeing information. When I unearthed the book a while back from the box it had been packed away in during my various moves over the last few years, I found it still had the bookstore receipt. My excitement over the whole dyeing concept is illustrated on this receipt that shows that I actually paid FULL PRICE for the book. Those who know my bargain hunting ways will see that my enthusiasm won over my cheapskatedness.

I have been picking up old books on fabric and yarn dyeing here and there over the years at used bookstores, squirrelling away information, reading, learning. Always, though I have been intimidated about giving this process a try. The equipment, the materials, the techniques--there is an outlay of time and money to get set up and I was hesitant about spending money only to find I was in over my head. I mean, given my background--16 years of biochemistry laboratory experience , a seriously plant-mad family, and fearless cooking skills--I had the raw tools to do this. What can I say? I also had stage fright.

I know I wax rhapsodic in these posts about Northcoast Knittery, and yet again, I feel so blessed to have this resource so close by. It was through the Knittery that I signed up for the class I took. The teacher was a wonderful woman named Linda Hartshorn, who has some mad-fine dyeing skills, let me tell you! The class took place on a grey but temperate Saturday. We were set to dye 6 different colors with natural dyes of logwood (purple), magenta (cochineal), red (mungeet/cochineal), orange (madder), yellow (marigold) and green (fennel/iron).

So, less text, more pictures:

Here are some of the dyeing materials in raw form. soaked woodchips or roots, dried marigold heads, powdered alum, and others:

Some raw yarn that was skeined for the dyepots and very necessary rubber gloves. Next time I will read the glove package better and get a size that FITS. (I got size small. Rats.)

The pots were cooked/steeped on an outdoor propane camp stove and strained to yield the dye.

Prepping fennel for the dyepot. Who knew such a common roadside plant could be so craftable!

Fennel tea for 100? No...DYE!

Marigolds. Pretty flowers here steeping to yield pretty fiber.

Cooked and strained logwood chips.

Some of our efforts on the dry rack. It was interesting to see how a little bit more or less time in the dyepots yielded different results.

The greens are very striking! I left my skein in the fennel pot and iron bath a good long while and got a robust olive green, second from the left.

My final 6 skeins, alternately described by some Facebooks friends as my handyed Pride yarn or George Clinton's hair (I am cool with that! Bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay!)

So the result? I got some rockin' cool yarn, had a blast, learned many new things, am now very much wanting to explore more about hand dyeing yarn. In fact, there is another class at the beginning of August in town at Ink People, so if you are looking for me that weekend, I am booked, baby!