Oct 30
Decorating and stencils
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As Scott and I are reworking the studio spaces in our house, I thought I would stencil something around the top of the walls in Studio B that pertains to what I do. There are three short walls and one long wall with which to work. The order of these walls are starting at the hallway to Scott’s room, the hall bath and the media room: Short wall, long wall, short wall and short wall. So here it what I came up with for these walls.

Short wall: To weave or not to weave…
Long wall (above window 1): as the world spins…
Long wall (above window 2): we are all knit together…
Short wall: to teach something worthwhile…
Short wall: and in the end we dye.

The walls are a rich slightly orangey-yellow and I was thinking of painting the words in navy blue. It encompasses what I do in that studio space, it actually reads well and says something else, too, for those who do not understand or get the fiber references. What do you think?

Of course, I have not ran this passed Scott, yet, but I think he’ll go for it.

Oct 28
Time to give your opinions!
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Okay, folks! Here is what I want to do. It’s hard to know who all is reading this blog site (although according to my stats, you are from all over the world!), and I’d love to have some feedback from you on what you like, dislike, want to see more of, what to see less of, etc. You get the picture.

So, from today through the bewitching hour of midnight on Friday, October 31, 2008, I will take all the comments you make and randomly chose one of the commenters to win the Thermograph yarn I handspun in September. Click here if you want to see it and its particulars again.

Remember, I am asking your opinion of this site, what you find interesting, what you couldn’t care less about, likes, dislikes and all that jazz. Constructive criticism.

Depending on how well this “contest” goes, I would be willing to do more later to give away some of the items I make or extra yarn and/or supplies and tools I no longer need, etc.

Oct 26
Quiet weekend
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I think it is the weather that is making me so tired, but I’ve been very quiet all weekend. For those of you who know me, this is a strange occurance as I am rarely, if ever, quiet.

Yesterday, Scott and I went to the Midland Arts and Antique Mall in downtown Indianapolis. His sister, Missy, has a wonderful booth there and we had been told she had added several new items and rearranged it quite a bit. I’ll say she has! The booth is full of some of the most interesting items and we enjoyed going through it very much.

I lucked out at the antique mall yesterday, too, although not in Missy’s booth. I love old mystery books, and I remember reading Ellery Queen novels when I was in high school. Well, they are no longer in print, and they are very hard to find. When I do find some in antique or used book stores, they are usually the ones I already have. Well, yesterday, I found FOUR that I don’t already have! Four new to me books to read at night before going to sleep. I am thrilled to pieces about this!

Today started the next semester of the figure drawing open studios at the Indianapolis Art Center and it was good to see everyone. Two of our friends have art that have been accepted into shows! How wonderful for them!!! One of the shows is in Richmond, Indiana, and the judging is a week from Thursday night. I hope Scott and I can get the chance to drive over there to see it and see if the artist has won anything. She deserves it as she is a VERY talented artist.

Not much creative-wise was done this weekend – I’ve not been up to it mentally – but I thought I’d show you my progress on the Faux-Cable Library Shawl I am knitting. I love the yarn and the pattern, and it is fun to knit.

The “cables” are created by YOs and either SSKs or K2Togs. There is a definite rhythm to knitting this and it is going faster than I thought it would considering I only get to knit on it at lunch hours, mostly.

Also, I spun last night while watching Cities of the Underworld and again at the art center today. This Copper King is spinning slowly because of the fineness – definitely going to be lace weight. I have started the second half of the first four-ounce package, so I am 1/4 of the way done with the spinning part. I’m anxious to get it done because I have other fiber trying to get my attention. Small bags of colorful roving tumble out at me when I walk by or turn up in odd places when I am looking for something else. If I didn’t know better, I’d say there is a conspiracy going on here.

As it is, when I get done with the first bag of the Copper King, I may take pity on some of the other rovings I have and spin a couple up quickly. But then it is back to the Copper King. It is lovely! Originally, I had intended to sell this yarn, but now I don’t know. Part of me would like to spin up some dark brown silk in lace weight and use it as a warp and the Copper King as the weft of a shawl or something. The dark brown would make the coppery-silky weft shine out and glitter! We’ll see.

Oct 24
Things are about to happen!
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Scott and I have been dissatisfied with the arrangements of the rooms in our house for some time, now. Last night, after some discussion, we have come up with, what we hope, will be a solution to this. Basically, we are about to do some room swapping.

We have tried, in the past, to have some joint studio space – rooms where we both have set-ups so we could work together on our separate projects. Well, in theory, this sounded like a great idea, but, in actuality, it hasn’t worked. One of us usually takes over the whole room and the other cannot work at all.

Case in point: My 8-harness, Herald loom is in what we call Studio A (the largest of the upstairs bedrooms). This is where Scott spends the vast majority of his waking hours drawing, coloring and doing his part of the Johnny Saturn and other business stuff. What has happened is I cannot even get to the 8-harness loom right now, and I want to. On the other side of this coin, Studio B (the living room) has been completely taken over by me and my supplies and Scott can’t get to his painting supplies. With the weather being such that he can no longer paint outside, this causes some difficulty.

Other rooms have become unusable, too. The library (room at the top of the stairs), for example, is so crowded with bookcases and has very little in the way of lighting that it is hard to do any research. Also, the exercise equipment is in an area (Studio B) that renders them unusable, which, with winter coming, just won’t work.

On top of this, we now have enough hardwood flooring to redo the floors in Studio B, the hallway and Scott’s room.

So, here is what we are planning to do. Studio A will be totally Scott’s. We will move my Herald loom out, my computer and mailing center out and move in his painting supplies in their places. This will give him the opportunity to get to all his equipment and supplies without my stuff in the way. Of course, this will give us the opportunity to Fall clean this room, which it desperately needs.

The library will be split up to a certain extent and moved to appropriate areas. The art books will be in Studio A, the weaving and dyeing books that have overflowed out of my room, will go to Studio B, and the rest will go to the media room (master bedroom) in newly built, floor-to-ceiling bookcases (the chance to play with our woodworking tools is good!). This will clean out the old library allowing us to Fall clean it and turn it into the new exercise room (and also means we will have to haul the treadmill upstairs, but we don’t want to think about that until we have to do it).

Studio B will be completely mine with my books in bookcases, both my floor looms, and my dyeing equipment all in one place. My own studio space – cool! Even my fiber and yarns will come down and be where they should be – where they will inspire me to be more productive. And it will have nice, hardwood flooring that only needs swept and mopped and not vacuumed and shampooed.

The current media room, like I said, will be revamped with built-in, floor to ceiling bookcases for the remaining library and will house the TV, VCR and DVD players along with Scott’s musical instruments and recording devises. This will be a room I will rarely be in (except to clean it), but that’s okay by me. Most of the books coming down to this room are Scott’s history books and his reference books, anyway.

And when will we do this? Well, the plan is to begin Thanksgiving weekend with the cleaning of Studio A and the removal of my stuff from that room. We will have three days in which to get this accomplished and I believe it will take all three days. As each room is done, I’ll post pictures of the new and improved work areas.

One good thing this will allow us to do is go through all closets, cabinets, shelves, etc., and purge our house of all unnecessary items. I believe half our problems have to do with too much stuff crammed in too little space. Since we cannot afford to build on to the house, we need to get rid of some stuff. Lots of stuff.

This is the plan, anyway.

Oct 21
Some indigo results
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Would you like to see some of the results from the never-ending dyepot this weekend? I thought you would!

Well, I’m going to show you only those items that aren’t solid blue. You’ve seen solid blue things here before. Instead, Here are the T-shirts I tie-dyed:

And then there is one of the sock yarns I did.

This is the one where I wound the skein as tightly as I could, then doubled the skein on itself. Once it had dried, I turned it inside out and did the same thing. I think it’s cool with its three different blues and white coloring. These ought to knit up to be pretty socks. I’ll see if I can borrow the finished socks to show you.

I’ve been reading about different bloggers’ trip to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. I am more than a little jealous as it sounds like a wonderful place to visit. Maybe, one of these years, I can get there. There are fiber festivals here in central Indiana, but sheep, too. Hmmm… Sounds wonderful!

Oct 20
Webcomic Reader’s Choice Awards 2008
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Primarily, I know this blog is about the fibery things I do and am interested in, but there is another side to Benita and that is as a comic book writer. The comic book I currently cowrite is Johnny Saturn.

Scott and I started Johnny Saturn off almost five years ago. It was meant to be a one-shot, black and white comic book to showcase our writing, Scott’s art and us as a team. This one-shot (32 pages in length) was then split into two issues and enough pages were added to boost each issue to 24 pages, and it was colored, plus it was serialized on the web. This is when things really began to take off for us.

Since then, we have completed seven issues (6 are in print, the 7th is awaiting printing), issue 8 is off to a exciting start, the graphic novel of the first 5 issues (entitled Johnny Saturn: Synns of the Father) is for sale at amazon.com, borders.com, barnesandnoble.com as well as on our site at www.johnnysaturn.com.

During all this time, the comic has continued to appear (currently on Mondays and Wednesdays on www.johnnysaturn.com and Tuesdays and Thursdays on www.graphicsmash.com) on the web and the following it has gained has been huge! About a month and a half ago, we found out we had been nominated for the Webcomic Reader’s Choice Awards in the writing and art categories. What we didn’t know, until yesterday, is that the character I created, the villain, Dr. Horation Synn, had been nominated under the Antagonist category, and our main character, Johnny Saturn created by my husband, Scott Story, had been nominated under the Protagonist category.

Last night, we received an email stating that we were among the top 5 winners in the Webcomics Reader’s Choice Awards, and we were ecstatic! What we found out later is that Dr. Horatio Synn won 1st place in the Antagonist category and Johnny Saturn won 3rd place in the Protagonist category! Isn’t that wonderful?

So, it is with great pride that I send you the following link to the Home of the Webcomic Reader’s Choice Awards, Frumph.net. And it is with greater pride that I put these banners here in this blog post.

If you haven’t read Johnny Saturn, please do so. Go back to the beginning and read it for it is a great story. And now it is a great, award-winning, story!

Oct 19
Dye Day 2008 and Beyond
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Well, I promised you the scanned in results of Dye Day 2008, and here they are!

I, also, decided to take samples from 13 of these and overdye them in the never-ending indigo dye pot (more on that in a minute). So here are the samples from the overdyes. I think they came out beautifully!

More about the indigo pot: Well, I tie-dyed two T-shirts, one an XXL and one just an L in sizes, tie-died two cotton hankies, redyed one of the sock yarns for Susan (I, originally, had made a very tight skein out of it, then doubled the skein again, so this time, I turned it inside out and did the same thing for better indigo coverage), and scrunch-dyed the cochineal silk scarf.

And will you believe, I could get more color out of that pot?!? I’m giving up on it. It may not be exhausted, but I am!

Sometime before the end of today, I’ll upload more samples into the Natural Dyeing gallery. I found the samples I had done from Marsha’s last Dye Day in 2005 and will add those as well as the ones in this post.

Today is a cool, but sunny day, so Scott and I are going to take advantage of it to go out to the Indiana Transportation Museum so Scott can get some plein air water color time in. I’m taking the Faux Cable Library Shawl I started on Friday to knit on – after I run around like a madwoman and take pictures. I love old trains!

And then, Scott and I are driving out to pick up enough wood flooring to redo Studio B (living room), the box hall, Scott’s room and all the closets associated with these rooms. I’m hoping to have enough left over to do the hall bathroom when we remodel it in a year or two. The actual flooring replacement won’t happen until late January, but it’s nice to know the materials are waiting for you!

Oct 18
The never-ending dye pot
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I set up the indigo pot last night on my stove and it looked beautiful!

Three and a half hours and over two POUNDS of yarn later, it still looks beautiful. I finally quit and went to bed at 10:00 last night, not only because I was getting sleepy, but because I couldn’t think of anything else to stick into it. And the colors I have been getting are dark! I expected some lightening of the blues at some point – would have welcomed them actually – but they never came.

So. As I slept, my brain worked a bit, and I thought of more things I’d like to have dyed indigo. I have sock yarns for myself (I dyed three 100 gram skeins for the lovely lady who lets me use her farm for Dye Day, Susan Markle), some white T-shirts I had intended to iron on Johnny Saturn propaganda, but which will now be tie-dyed, the cochineal-dyed silk scarf from a month or so ago, a couple more cotton hankies for future over-dyeing (I’ll probably tie-dye these, too). By that time, SURELY this pot will finally stop putting blues onto fabric and yarn. If not, I may measure out a cotton warp and tie-dye it, too. At that point, I will probably give up, as much as I hate to waste it.

I don’t know what I did right this year. This has been the most successful indigo pot I have ever had. If it keeps going much loinger, I may have to name it and give it its own room.

Oct 17
Stranger than odd…
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Okay, remember my telling you about the failed alkanet root with tin dye pot from Monday? Well, the tale gets even stranger.

The Shetland yarn I had placed in that pot was clearly damaged when I removed it. It had shrunk by about half, the yarn was as tough as cotton and it was white. When I went through my samples yesterday morning before work, and rinsed them all out, I left the damaged sample in the dishpan soaking in the water. I figured it was a wasted effort and I saw no reason to hurry up and wash it when I needed to get dressed for work.

Now fast forward to this morning. I prepared to take my shower and started to take the dishpan of water and sample out of the tub. Then I noticed that the sample was no longer white, but a brownish color. So I rinsed it, washed it, and rinsed it again. Now it is a slightly purple-ish tinged medium brown. I am totally confused, puzzled and flamboozled with this sample. But it will get added to the sample card from Dye Day, now, rather than just getting ignored. It has earned its way to getting recorded.

Also, as I went through the dried samples last night, I noticed that one sample is missing altogether and one sample had been taken out of the dye pot too soon and was barely tinged with color. I have enough full-strength dye liquor of this dye left, so I will heat it up tonight and redye the pale sample, The missing one was the copper pot, and that will simply have to wait until I decide to premordant a bunch of yarn with copper. So, if all works out well, Sunday should see all the samples up from Dye Day.

Also, tonight, I am going to use the last of the thio-urea dioxide and indigo solutions left from Dye Day to dye enough Shetland to knit the bottom, sleeve and neck bands for a sweater vest I want to knit using all the Shetland Natural Dye samples from over the years. I’ll knit it in the round up to the V-neck and sleeves, and then be careful to match the stripes on the rest as I go. I think the indigo blue bands will frame it nicely.

When I get that done, I’ll take half of each sample from Dye Day and overdye it in the indigo just to see what colors I get. I’ll have that to show you as well on Sunday.

And I just started knitting a pattern called A Faux-Cable Library Shawl. I am knitting it out of some hand-dyed, worsted weight yarn from Araucania in a gorgeous, mottled, dark green color. This will be a Christmas gift so I need to get going on it. When I get far enough to actually tell what it is supposed to be, I’ll take a picture of it to show you. Right now, all I have done is the provisional cast on and three rows. Scott is planning to set up and do some painting at the Indiana Train Museum in Noblesville on Sunday, so I’ll take this with me to work on while he paints.

Now to go and play with Dye pots!

Oct 16
Dyes that don’t hold true
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I love the color you get from annatto seeds, but the color is fugitive in that it will fade. According to J.N. Liles’ book, it will fade pretty quickly, but, perhaps, I’ve been lucky. There is an obvious fade between last year’s hankie and this year’s, but at least the fade is a “true” fade and not one where it turns bleah tan or just goes white. True fades are those that stay the same color, just becoming lighter versions of that color.

As you can see, the color on the left (from the hankie containing the annatto seeds for the dye pot for 2007) is lighter in color than the right side one, which is from Monday’s dye pot. The 2007 one has not been in direct light, in fact, the room it resides in gets a little of the morning sun only, and is a pretty dark room most of the day, and this piece of cloth has been in a stack that never gets direct light. But, it still has faded, although I like the color, I know it will continue to get lighter over time.

This is rather like the dye pot I did a few years ago with purple cabbage leaves. With tin, it came out a Kool-Aid grape color, but that has faded to a very soft blue-gray color. It’s a pretty color, but it is not the vibrant purple it was when it came out of the pot.

The year I did the “weed dye” experiment, I dyed some Shetland yarn with “bramble” or raspberry shoots. The color was wonderful, but it, too was fugitive, but this time rather than fading, it grew darker over time. Look at the sample below. I laid these samples out in order of value from the lightest to the darkest. You can see that the raspberry shoot samples no longer fit in the spots they hold. They are darker than they should be. Very interesting to me as most of the other dye plants I tried that year have held their colors very well.

Continuing on with fugitive dyes, the following holds two examples that did not fade “true.”

There are two samples of Pokeberry here, one done with vinegar (the second from the top), part of which was held in no light for a year and the other which was allowed indirect light. The part held in darkness for the year had stayed close to its original deep magenta color, but since it has been allowed out, it, too, has faded, although not quite so much as the part allowed in the light the entire time. The bottom sample is pokeberry that was cooked in straight acetic acid (from the photographic chemical supply house). I was told by a very reliable source that this would create a pokeberry dye that would not fade from its deep magenta color. I wish I could see this person’s samples, because, as you can see, mine faded. This sample has not been allowed much light, either, and is mostly kept in a binder on a bookshelf and sees the light of day only when I am teaching, demonstrating or otherwise using it as an example.

Also, look at the very top stripe – it is logwood. When this was done, it was a nice, dark purple. Logwood is another natural dye that will not fade “true.” It usually fades to brown, but I have some samples that faded to a near black in color. Since black is rather a difficult dye to get in natural dyes, I like the black logwood. The rest of the stripes on this sample are pretty much the same color as they were when they were first dyed.

I guess I am not disappoint as much as some people are when colors I get from my dye pots change over time. Oh, there are some colors I’d love to stay true, annatto seeds being one of them, but most colors that change can be gotten by other means that stay fast and true. And, I have a bit of a scientific mind in that even though that fades are interesting to me in that I get to watch how they change and note that part of natural dyeing as well. Say, if I WANT to get that nice, soft blue-gray color, then I know to dye my wool with purple cabbage leave with a tin mordant, and wait a year. It’ll get there.

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