Dyeing a little inside

The other day I attended a workshop at The Scrap Exchange, with artist Katherine Soucie, who specializes in (among other things) acid dyeing pre-consumer industrial waste.  I wasn’t sure what all that meant, but essentially we ended up with a giant pile of white nylon hosiery in various manifestations that we tied, scrunched, clamped, and otherwise threw into dye pots of all colors of the rainbow.

We learned how to mix up our dye solutions from powder and water and a little bit of Synthrapol (industrial soap), heat up our dye pots, and watch the magic happen in a no-waste method including re-using dye pots multiple times for different colors.

Fortunately other workshop attendees were experienced creative types that pulled out PVC piping and tie-dyeing techniques to produce some really interesting results!


The artist dyed a wall full of industrial waste fabric in the week leading up to the workshop and used it to create an exhibit in the Scrap Exchange’s Cameron Gallery.

I’ve been intrigued by her use of this material as fabric from which she has created amazing patchwork fabrics that have been sewn into wearable fashion.  Check out some of her fashion portfolio here.

High in the Andes, Keeping an Incan Mystery Alive

Check out this article on Incan khipus – I tried to embed the narrated photo essay, but without success….

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE RAPAZ, Peru — The route to this village 13,000 feet above sea level runs from the desert coast up hairpin bends, delivering the mix of exhilaration and terror that Andean roads often provide. Condors soar above mist-shrouded crags. Quechua-speaking herders squint at strangers who arrive gasping in the thin air.

Rapaz’s isolation has allowed it to guard an enduring archaeological mystery: a collection of khipus, the cryptic woven knots that may explain how the Incas — in contrast to contemporaries in the Ottoman Empire and China’s Ming dynasty — ruled a vast, administratively complex empire without a written language.

Archaeologists say the Incas, brought down by the Spanish conquest, used khipus — strands of woolen cords made from the hair of animals like llamas or alpacas — as an alternative to writing. The practice may have allowed them to share information from what is now southern Colombia to northern Chile.

Few of the world’s so-called lost writings have proved as daunting to decipher as khipus, scholars say, with chroniclers from the outset of colonial rule bewildered by their inability to crack the code. Researchers at Harvard have been using databases and mathematical models in recent efforts to understand the khipu (pronounced KEE-poo), which means knot in Quechua, the Inca language still spoken by millions in the Andes.

Only about 600 khipus are thought to survive. Collectors spirited many away from Peru decades ago, including a mother lode of about 300 held at Berlin’s Ethnological Museum. Most were thought to have been destroyed after Spanish officials decreed them to be idolatrous in 1583.

But Rapaz, home to about 500 people who subsist by herding llamas and cattle and farming crops like rye, offers a rare glimpse into the role of khipus during the Inca Empire and long afterward. The village houses one of the last known khipu collections still in ritual use.

“I feel my ancestors talking to me when I look at our khipu,” said Marcelina Gallardo, 48, a herder who lives with her children here in the puna, the Andean region above the tree line where temperatures drop below freezing at night and carnivores like the puma prey on herds.

Continue reading “High in the Andes, Keeping an Incan Mystery Alive”

Moth eaten – lesson on how not to store woolens

First of all, I have returned from a trek to New Orleans, where I have been reunited with the remainder of my stash. Normally, I would not store a stash, but I left the country. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Somehow the yarn was fine, but I certainly learned my lesson about last-minute storage of wool rugs in cardboard boxes.

And I also learned my lesson about storing thrift-acquired wool coats from the Navy in plastic bags – though at least this is salvageable.

Has anyone else had this problem?

When I put these into storage over 2 years ago, I did not know that woolens should be stored in brown paper bags, according to somebody I spoke with in the past couple of months. Bugs, including moths, will eat through plastic (I wish I could show you the shredded bag that the coat was in) but they can’t eat through cellulose. This site also mentions cleaning as a method to warding off the moths and recommends storage in airtight containers, which is what saved the stash.

This site, however, recommends wrapping loosely in acid-free paper and storing in a box with airholes. Hmmm. It also debunks the myth of moths ‘eating’ wool – apparently the holes are caused by some liquid excreted by larvae. Ew. I prefer to envision ‘moth-eaten,’ thank you.

Upon further googling, there seems to be some conflict as to the best method of storage. Here is a summary.
store in airtight container, bugs can’t get to them;
do not store in airtight container, wool can’t breath and could rot;
use mothballs but not directly on fabric;
do not use mothballs, they are carcinogenic!
store in clear plastic bags to increase light – moths like dark places;
do not store in plastic bags – bugs can eat through them!
use cedar chips or store in cedar containers, but sand it periodically to release the cedar goodness;
– the repellent properties of cedar are overstated and while a good cedar chest is helpful, bugs can still get in cracks.

You can see that it’s hard to know what to do.

Non-conflicting opinion(s):
– clean woolens before storing (I guess yarn doesn’t count);
– store in a cool, dry atmosphere;
– examine once a year;
– quarantine things that have been attacked by bugs.

[crap! I took the One-Sleeve Wonder out of the wool wash – this sweater should have been my first finished sweater way back when, but as you can see…it has problems. And now – I just noticed two moth holes! Here is one – right next to the sleeveless right armpit.]

And – some gratuitous kittie porn – what is happening here??

a) Artemis has swallowed Max’s head
b) During their extensive naps, their heads have morphed into one
c) My two cats have been replaced by a double-bodied demon
d) other?

Knitting and Quilting at the USPS (Happy Holidays)

I hope you all are having a cozy and delicious Thanksgiving Day.

Re:knit has a post about new holiday stamps that feature knitting – [thanks to Laura for the heads-up].


The text from the USPS 2007 Commemorative Stamp site says the following:

In recent years, knitting has become quite popular again, both in the United States and internationally.
Inspired by traditional Norwegian sweaters and knitted Christmas stockings, Stahl decided on “something cozy” for this year’s holiday stamp issuance. She used a computer software program to draw her original designs and convert them to stitches and rows. Then she downloaded the information to an electronic knitting machine and used it to knit her creations. The machine’s smaller stitch gauge didn’t provide quite the effect Stahl was hoping to achieve. So she transferred the designs onto punch cards and used a different knitting machine that works something like an old Jacquard loom and has a larger stitch gauge. Stahl scanned the finished pieces into her computer and retouched the photographic images to ensure that all the stitches aligned properly. The result is a set of four colorful and “cozy” stamps that will add an extra touch of warmth to seasonal correspondence.

The Gee’s Bend Quilt series of stamps was released back in August, and I find them inspirational as well. If you click here, it will take you to a larger view.

And the USPS tells us this:

…art director Derry Noyes chose photographs of ten quilts created between circa 1940 and 2001 by African-American women in Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

Noted for their unexpected color combinations, bold patterns, and improvised designs, the quilts of Gee’s Bend are also remarkable for the humble materials with which they are made and the humbler circumstances in which they are born. Until recently, necessity limited the quilters to fabric from everyday items such as flour sacks, old dresses, and worn-out denim and flannel work clothes. Stains, mended holes and tears, faded patches, and seams all became integral parts of a quilt’s design and ensured that the materials, as well as the quilts, told the story of Gee’s Bend.

Not Knitting

I am working in central Africa right now, and was pulling 14-hour days last week (training 8-6 and then going to the office till 9:30 or 10pm), so I haven’t had any time to knit or to blog! Also, internet access has been a bit patchy.

I’ve been carrying my Swallowtail Shawl around in my backpack, thinking that I’ll just pull it out when I have free time, but I’ve been somewhat thwarted:

– hot weather and sweaty hands
– uh, NOBODY ELSE knits so it’s not socially acceptable in public
– lifts in pick-up trucks over bumpy roads
– dropping to sleep exhausted at the end of the day

Airplane trips are always a good time as well, and flying to/from Turkey, I made a lot of progress. But coming here last weekend, I did a lot more reading than knitting. I finished A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and On Beauty, and started reading The Roots of Wild Madder.

The latter I found at the airport in … Boston? I thought it would be appropriate considering my recently ignited interest in carpets from my trip to Turkey. The idea for the book was a good one – follow the path of his questions regarding the origins of carpets and where the motifs and materials come from. I think the author had a very interesting series of travels and has a lot of great stories, but the writing is a bit stilted and not very sophisticated. Even though I find the subject matter intriguing, I am having a hard time finishing the book…

But ultimately I want to compare his experience in a couple of different countries to mine in Turkey with five different dealers.

And that comparison will have to wait, since now I have to work. The backlog of blog posts just keeps growing!