Friday, May 04, 2018

Washing out

Front view, finished!
Back view

So, the washout with cellulosic dyes (on linen, cotton, rayon) is a long process. I generally wait the 24 hours to cure, then rinse in gradually warmer water, then do a hot wash with Dawn dishwashing liquid, then hot rinse. This seemed to take forever, and I finally threw the whole thing ( vest, 2 sckein scarves, 2 yards of fabric) into my washer, with some regular detergent, and ran it on hot. This yarn, after all, is advertised as machine washable, so...

Laceweight skein
When i removed it from the wash, I was disappointed by the amount of lint that was shed by the yarn, and the fibers everywhere. I was really worried I had ruined it! But after drying in the dryer for a bit, and unraveling the extra at the top and finishing the shoulders, I hung everything to dry overnight, and was very pleased in the morning! The green did not take as well as I had hoped, and there were a couple of white spots where somehow the dye did not penetrate ( despite pre-washing), but on the whole, some success! I hope to do more of this this summer, and to write up the pattern for the Jonquil Vest..

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Gradation Dyeing

Now that it is spring, (and nearly summer), it is warm enough to dye ! I like to batch my Procion-dyed cellulosic fibers outside, when it is over 75 degrees out, and yesterday was set to hit 86. Which, for the beginning of May, is strange. Everything in the garden grew 6 inches yesterday!
I have been possessed by gradient yarns, and the idea of smooth color progressions on linen yarn. I wanted to try my hand at making my own, so I dug out my old knitting machine and tried to knit a blank on it. That was an exercise in frustration, as my machine was not cooperative, and I despaired of achieving my aim.
Over the winter I had designed and  knitted two lace vests in some white alpaca/wool yarn, and dye-painted them with acid dyes, which was very fun and satisfying, so I wanted to try the same process with my favorite Euroflax linen yarns. I managed to knit one vest, and then did some research and found this lovely gizmo: NKOK Singer knitting machine
This is marketed as a toy, and it is a wild pink plastic, but does work surprisingly well for its cost, which was an amazing $23. As I intended to use it for knitting dye-able lengths only, it was a bargain, and certainly a useful item. It worked pretty well, after I found some clamps to attach it to the table and got the hang of the tension and speed of rotating the little crank. My arms got very tired! And I had to untwist the resulting tube many times, but after 2 hours, I had a useable length of knitted yarn. After knitting up two skeins of linen into 6 ft snakes of yarn, I was ready to mix up the dyes.
I wanted a progression from green to turquoise to blue, with smooth color transitions, and being a more casual and not so scientific dyer, I was not sure which of the 5 blues I should use. I have a lot of Procion MX dye powder which I have used over the years to dye cotton fabric, and loved the color I saw at the Prochem booth at MQX show, which was Intense Blue 406, but I also had Bright Blue 404. I figured I could use all four colors and see how they turned out, so I made up 3 cups water to 6 Tsp urea, and made concentrate as follows:
1 tsp Brightest Green 711 in ½ cup Urea water
3 tsp Turquoise 410 in 1 cup ureawater
2 tsp 406 Intense blue in a cup of ureawater
1 tsp 404 Bright blue in ½ cup ureawater
Then I divided my dye into 13 plastic cups which I numbered.
So #1 was all green,
2: 7 Tbsp green and 2 tbsp turquoise
3: 5 Tbsp green, 5 Tbsp turquoise
4: 2 Tbsp green , 7 Tbsp turquoise
5: Turquoise
6:  7 Tbsp Turquoise, 2 Tbsp 406
7: 5 Tbsp turquoise, 5 Tbsp 406
8: 2 Tbsp Turquoise, 7 Tbsp 406
9: all 406 Intense blue
10: 7 Tbsp 406 and 2 Tbsp 404
11: 5 Tbsp 406, 5 Tbsp 404
12: 2 Tbsp 406 and 7 Tbsp 404
13: all 404

Meanwhile, the yarn and vest ( and some PFD cotton I had in my stash) were soaking in Soda ash and water  ( ½ cup soda ash to ½ gallon water).
Once I was ready, I squeezed out the soda ash solution, and laid out the vest on top of the fabric, and , using a sponge to apply the dye, with gloved hands, began applying the dye in numerical order, onto the vest. One of the “scarves”( 500 yards of Fibra natura laceweight linen)  I divided into 12 equal sections with locking markers, and dyed that one  last, skipping the green so I went directly to jar #2. The other “scarf” was one skein of Euroflax, and I did a more spontaneous progression. Leftover dye was poured on some remaining white cotton I had in my stash.
Using a sponge was great, as I had more control over the placement of the color, and could dab it on, blending the colors as I went.
I dyed everything in plastic bins so I could let it “batch” for 24 hours and remain wet and undisturbed. No one wants cats with blue paws!
Tomorrow: washout and dry!! It is so hard to wait!!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lily of the Valley Vest

Sometimes a project can make me insanely happy. Knitting this vest, playing around with the stitch pattern and tracking it down became an obsession for me during June. As our world is so interconnected, we can find amazing inspiration from all over the world. I fell in love with the German version of the Lily of the Valley lace stitch pattern, after seeing the gorgeous garments ( and ), and shawls using this lace pattern ( Lily of the Valley Rosea shawl by Alla Borisova, Raspberry Dream Stole by Dagmara). I found the original pattern motif in a book from 1983 I bought on Ebay ,( pattern here: ) which is in the book: . As I don't usually knit shawls or dresses, I set about adapting the lace fabric into a vest. Swatching clued me in to the irregularities of the lace pattern as originally designed ( stitch count in one rep goes from 19 to 47), so I tweaked and modified and swatched and re-charted the design to get it to lie flatter in the linen yarn and be easier to knit. Calculating the cast on number was tricky, so I went with my numbers for the Floral vest in the same yarn, and was pleased to find this lace to be roughly the same gauge. Width of each repeat turned out to be a wonderful 5 inches, so aiming for 40 inch sweater gave me 8 repeats to work with, a nicely manageable number. I made the first one a bit longer than my other floral vests ( 96 rows to the underarm instead of 80), and while I liked it, I think I prefer it shorter. I like where the leaves fall on my body., and it was really fun to knit. So, I had to make 3 of them in order to write up the pattern.

I finally published it today, deciding to make it a free pattern because it is only in one size. Hopefully others will enjoy knitting it as much as I did...and I think I might need to make one in black...If you want to knit it, the pattern is available here:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Apple Crisp ( gluten-free, vegan and sugar free!)

After a bit of tinkering and many experimental trials in the kitchen, I have come up with a delicious and not too dietarily indelicate recipe for Apple Crisp.

                  Gluten Free Vegan Apple Crisp,   May 27, 2016
This version is not very sweet and has a delightful texture. Serves 6, or heat individual servings in microwave for 30 sec. and top with vanilla ice cream. Heaven in a bowl!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
For filling:
5 Medium Granny Smith apples, cored and diced. Can leave peel on for extra texture
1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ginger, pinch of cloves

Mix together in an 8X10 or 9X9 baking dish

For topping:
Mix together:
1/4 cup almond flour
1  cup gluten-free  old fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsp chia seeds
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp Cinnamon

Melt 3 Tablespoons coconut oil in measuring cup (30 sec in microwave). Pour into topping mix and mix together. Spread this mixture over apples in baking dish.
Bake for 45 minutes until top is lightly browned and apples are bubbling. Cool and serve hot, or refrigerate, covered, for up to 4 days. Serves 6:    approx.     260 calories per serving.

I think I will make some right now...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seasons will pass you by...

Spring is coming around again, here in unpredictable Massachusetts. The urge to see greenery and growing things leads me to dream of gardens, and inevitably, to my mother, who was a passionate gardener for a lifetime. I revisited my photo archives recently to find photos of her gardens and the dramatic rock ledge beside the house, and found a few from last June. My mother loved her garden and enjoyed seeing what came up every spring. I  miss being able to drop in and see her and the garden. And I will always love blue flowers!
Campanula and ferns cascade in the rock wall

Dianthus in one of the raised beds

View of raised bed filled with alpines

Campanula flowering in the chinks of the rock

Lush flowers in the chinks of the rock 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Zigs and Zags

 I became enthralled with Chevrons last year, and have had a lot of fun knitting chevron sweaters and cowls recently. The knitting of course, has helped with grief, as whenever I am designing something intricate and complicated I must get focused on it for a while. The knitting is designed to be smooth sailing, once the basic idea is worked out.

 This sweater was a joy to knit, in my favorite colors. I wrestled with writing the pattern for six months, and had several lovely knitters test my instructions. Of course, I had to test them myself, so I knit  two more sweaters:

 Then the opportunity to design a cowl came along, as my Local Yarn Store, Fabric Place Basement, was having a "yarn tasting" and requested a pattern using Cascade Yarns. I chose some lovely yarn and made the cowl at the top of the page. Of course, I had to make one for myself in blue:
If you would like to make one for yourself, the cowl pattern is here Ziggy Cowl  on, and the sweater pattern is here:
 Raglan Cardigan       Happy Knitting!  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Goodbye Mom.

Margaret Whitestone Riggs 1930-2015

Every generation stands on the shoulders of those who paved the way, and my mother was one of those rare individuals who was a trailblazer. Despite growing up in privilege in the 1940s in a nice house in Bronxville, NY, with a car at 16, piano lessons,a cook and a private school education, she was the only child of two working parents, and I think her vision for her future included giving back to the world. She always wanted to become a doctor, but it was daunting in those days for a woman to excel in the sciences, and to defy traditional expectations of marriage and domesticity.
In pursuit of a degree in biology, she transferred from Gaucher College to the University of Wisconsin, and as luck would have it, went on a blind bridge date with my father. She knew instantly that he was the man she would marry, and brought him back East to meet her parents. My grandmother did not much like this Midwestern boy with the threadbare shoes, and threatened him with a frying pan! But they were married in a small ceremony after graduation, and eventually moved to Hastings in 1957 to raise their three children, and begin a lifelong passion for alpine rock gardening. In fact, she bought her last home sight-unseen, because of the rock ledge, which she and my father converted over the years to a showplace garden of rare and exotic alpine plants, in between traveling all over the world with my Dad to see gardens and enjoy the sights in Russia, China, Turkey, Egypt, Poland, France, and England in her later years.
My mother threw herself into being the best mom possible, learning to cook, driving us around, helping with homework, enjoying coffee with the neighbors and teaching us useful skills: study hard, be nice to everyone and clean your room,which have stood me in good stead all these years. But she yearned for more than just “housewife”, and went back to work in her 40s, taking graduate courses and eventually getting a Masters degree in Human Genetics in 1975 at the newly started program at Sarah Lawrence College. She was fascinated by the issues involved in women's health, and campaigned vigorously for freedom of choice, marching on Saturdays at the clinic in Dobbs Ferry with her friends. She was an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood, and my parents always worked at the yearly auction in Irvington. In fact, much of her furniture was purchased at the Planned Parenthood auction over the years.
My mom loved her career, and worked as a Genetics counselor until 2 years ago when she retired. She continued to keep up with the latest journals and always knew more than the doctors she worked for, confidently reassuring patients and family alike, armed with knowledge and experience.
My mom was passionately involved with her friends, her kids and her 5 grandchildren, who met weekly for Sunday dinner at her house, where she always fed us and encouraged us all in our pursuit of our dreams, especially scientific endeavors. She was always ready with a baked good for those in need, and called cooking her solace. When times were tough, the smell of banana bread always made you feel better!
My mom was broken-hearted to lose my dad 13 years ago, and in fact had a triple bypass soon after. But she soon adopted two cats, whose antics and predatory habits served no end of worry and amusement, and comforted her so much. It was a challenge to maintain her fabulous garden after my dad died, but she soldiered on, working at her job until 2 years ago when the doctor she worked for retired, playing bridge and keeping busy. She started studying astrophysics a few years ago, and loved to discuss the expanding universe, black holes and cosmic radiation...
My mother was a complicated, generous, brilliant and witty person, who could work a room like nobody I ever saw, befriending and getting the life story of strangers in an instant. She made those around her laugh, and was unfailingly fun to be around, even in times of illness or difficulty. We will miss her laugh and her quick repartee and her reports on the doings of everyone around her. I will miss most her support and encouragement of me, my children and my husband every day.

Jeri Riggs October 20, 2015