Saturday, February 27, 2010

re:View Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock

Few people are able to take the experience garnered from helping their children with a craft project and turn it into a full-fledged business venture. Black Bunny Fiber’s Carol Sulcoski, however, did exactly that. After experimenting with Kool Aid, Ms. Sulcoski switched to professional dyes and took her friends’ suggestion by posting her hand dyed yarn on Etsy. From there, she moved to her own website where she—with some assistance from bunny Charcoal, after which her business is named—continues to dye and sell yarn and spinning fiber, including wool from endangered breeds which she sometimes finds at fiber shows.

Ms. Sulcoski’s approach to dyeing produces a wide array of colorways ranging from the more subtly shaded Algae and Grape Goulash to the bold variegation of How Now and Paper Parasol, so even those who prefer a the calmest color scheme will likely find something to love. In either case, the colors are a richly saturated visual treat. How Now caught my attention and, over the holidays, someone was kind enough to give me a skein of Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock yarn in that very colorway.

I've never actually giggled while winding yarn because it was so soft it tickled my fingers. Blue-Faced Leicester certainly falls into that category. BFL, according to the Blue-Faced Leicester Union website, is classified as a longwool breed. This means that, typically, the wool has a longer staple length—between three and six inches per strand—and micron count of about 26. In layman’s terms, the lower the micron count, the finer the wool, and the finer the wool, the softer the end product is likely to be, which is exactly why the yarn tickled my fingers when I wound it up. And that’s also why the finished yarn is such a delight to knit with.

That the yarn is soft has already been established. While not as tightly spun as some sock yarns, it’s still spun tightly enough to have a slightly bouncy texture and—joy!—lack of splittiness when confronted by sharp, pointy DPNs. There’s a subtle sheen that shows up in low light and is probably impossible to photograph, but it only adds to the experience by enhancing the visual appeal. Even finding a pattern to suit the wild unusual color combination was less of a challenge because, perhaps not by coincidence, Ms. Sulcoski also happens to have provided a solution in the form of the book Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn, to which she and a number of well known sock knitters contributed patterns. My hank of How Now is slowly turning into a pair of Whirlpool Socks, and I’m very pleased with the results.

Black Bunny Fiber's BFL sock yarn: soft, shimmery, splashed with saturated colors. It’s hard not to develop a soft spot for it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

The first time I knit something with my own handspun, the yarn was fairly inconsistent in terms of thickness and wpi. The Beltaine Hat turned into a Beltaine Bag, and it's still waiting for me to sew the lining in place and actually knit a handle. Sigh.
Maybe I've gotten more practice and enough muscle memory, or maybe it's that I have more control with a spindle than I do with the wheel, but the yarn was consistent enough not to have the same gauge problems as my previous handspun project. The scarflette is finished, and it's a lot brighter than I'm accustomed to--I'm a slightly more somber, cool color person, but I'm trying to branch out into.. um.. happier... colors. I appear to have succeeded beyond my wildest aspirations. O.o

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Socially Climbing Vines

The unexpected can be oddly pleasant. I finished my Strangling Vines last night, dunked it, and pinned it to the ironing board; it's amazing how much the yarn relaxed and softened in the process. Not only did the yarn relax, but by the time the scarf was dry enough to photograph, I found out that its blocked length exceeds my height by about eight inches. O.o
Anyway... here's the finished, blocked, almost completely dry scarf. The colors are pretty accurate and the lace pattern shows fairly well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Red Hot Pokers

They're not the prettiest flowers, but they work as yarn. It took me about a week to ply all the handspun using the Navajo plying method, and today I dip-dyed it with a mix of KoolAid and Wilton paste. I'm pretty proud of it. Now, assuming it dries in time, and I get my other Ravelympics project finished, this will magically turn into a Pearl-Barred Scallop Scarf. Or, in the very least, a scarflette.. I have no idea how much there is in yardage, but it's roughly 1.8 oz of even rougher fingering-to-heavy-fingering-weight yarn.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When It Freezes Over...

Yesterday was rotten. I left for the grocery store at about 11 because the forecast called for more snow; when I got back at about 11:30, the power company was very kindly blocking the street. Our street is never more than one and a half lanes under the best of conditions due to parked cars taking up the other half of the other lane, so with the remaining snow having been pushed into huge heaps by the plow, we're reduced to one lane--Gods forbid that you should meet a car coming in the opposite direction when it's like this, because one or the other of you will end up having to back allllll the way to the nearest intersection in order to let the other pass. And Gods forbid that any emergency services should need to get through..
"Twenty minutes," said the young man who was directing traffic at the intersection.
I thought I'd go get a cup of coffee, linger for twenty minutes, and come home. I was wrong. Got back to the entrance to our street and saw a blue VW Beetle on the other side of the power company truck; some poor college student was trying to get home or to work or to someplace other than a one-lane-dead-end street. The young man who was directing traffic said the Blue Beetle had been waiting for about twenty minutes, and when he asked his colleagues if they would let me by, the response was a snappish "No!"
So off I went again, but not for another cup of coffee. I called all my friends who lived locally and all of them were either at work or not at home, so I couldn't seek refuge. I could have gone to the university library, but since I don't have a parking sticker, I wouldn't have been able to park on campus--forget metered parking! With the snow, it's nearly impossible to find a spot, and I didn't feel like jousting for one with a student desperate to get to class. I could also have gone to any of the shops or restaurants in the business district, but again, I probably wouldn't have been able to find a place to park. So for the next twenty minutes, I drove aimlessly around the town and when I finally felt like making another attempt to reach my domicile, I was surprised to see a police cruiser commanding the power company truck to move.
When I got home, mom was in quite a state and told me that she needed to be taken to the doctor PDQ. So off we went...
The moral of the story is this: The municipal government is utterly unprepared and ill-equipped to cope with emergencies of any kind. The administrators seem incapable of coordinating with emergency services or the utility companies to even prepare for any possible disasters, which is the exact opposite of the way it should be. Of course, if you're a merchant who has a shop in the business district, chances are the ambulance will be able to get to you even if hell freezes over, never mind that the little people who actually live here might have fallen off the cliff into the frigid waters of the Potomac River, or fallen down the stairs and broken both legs, or suffered a coronary or a stroke due to the frustration and powerlessness that results from the inadequacies of the town's administrators.

On to happier topics, sort of. Since I spent part of my day yesterday waiting for mom to come out of the doctor's office, I got a fair bit done on one of my Ravelympics projects. Strangling Vines is a nice, easily memorized pattern of yarn-overs and decreases, so I didn't actually have to take the pattern with me. It's a nice pattern, but the yarn I chose probably wasn't the best option among all the things I had in my stash. Earthly Hues does gorgeous work with plant dyes, and I hoped that the pattern would do the yarn justice--and the other way around. The Foxfire colorway is a mix of autumnal browns and reds that are knitting up into a lazily zig-zagging pooled effect that everyone seems to like but me!
Silly me. I decided to spin a bunch of white yarn, ply it, dye it, then knit it for my second project. So far I've plied about half the yarn using the Navajo plying technique in the second video I posted; the spindle shaft is filled to the point that the combined weight of the yarn and spindle keeps pulling the yarn through the hook so the spindle slides down. After I get the yarn plied, then I get to skein it. And then I get to dye it. And then I get to wait until it dries... and then either reskein it or just wind it into a ball before I use it. *sigh!* At least I've picked a pattern and have a vague idea of what colors I want to use, so I'm heading in the right direction. I think...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Frozen Wasteland

Everyone around here is sick of snow. There were even reports of people suffering extreme cases of cabin fever who, in the throes of the mania resulting lengthy confinement due to bad weather, threatened the snowplowmen with injury if their roads weren't plowed right this minute. That, however, was in the city. Some of the news articles about snow-related silliness were cause for much hilarity, like the fellow who wore dress pants while using an oar from a rubber raft to dig out his car. O.o
Here at Chez Duchesse, sanity has endured. Mom's baked cookies (twice!), I've been trying desperately to finish spinning the yarn for one of my Ravelympics projects, and knitting like a madwoman. I've spent more time watching Murder, She Wrote than I care to admit, and I'm ready for the first bit of green to reveal itself and proclaim the coming of Spring.
Even the snow seems ready for winter to be over.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow, snow, go away!

I'm sick of snow. We got a hefty 27 or 30 inches last week which, according to Yahoo exceedes D.C.-area snowfall mentioned in Thomas Jefferson's journals. The bad news is that we're due to get more snow over the next few days; the National Weather Service claims it's supposed to be between 10 and 20 inches.
I think I'm ready for Spring. NOW.