Friday, May 31, 2013

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Have I talked about rolags and blending boards yet? It seems like I should have, but I can't find any post about it! I have a mental file folder of posts I composed but never actually wrote down. 

Scott built me my own blending board earlier this year.

Using a blending board is a novel way to prepare spinning fiber. It is like carding, sort of, but the fibers aren't usually carded quite as thoroughly as they would be on a drum carder. It is a great way to keep curly locks in tact or use a lot of add-ins. It is also a gentle way to prepare very delicate fibers. 
Once the fibers are applied to the board, then cigar shaped tubes are drafted and rolled off in to "rolags". Each rolag is spun from the end. They are a breeze to draft woolen-style, but also spin well with a worsted draft. 

A blending board doesn't fully replace a drum carder or hand cards, but it is another tool in the fiber arsenal. You can see a blending board in action in this video from Beth from Blue Mountain Handcrafts. She uses Fancy Kitty's blending board in her video, which I covet. 

Dear Santa, I want a 22 TPI blending board and a mini picker. And a Big Tom Wide drum carder. Actually, Santa, just bring me all the things from Fancy Kitty, ok? 

Ahem, I digress...

Every time I make rolags for the shop, I save a rolag out and spin it up.

Rolags from a blending board can be very smooth, especially if carded fiber is used or the rolags are blended more than once. Rolags can also be very textured, especially if you use locks of fiber, fabric scraps, or other chunky add-ins. I aim for somewhere in between -- mostly smooth, but not fully blended and attenuated.

I sent some of my first rolags to my friend Kara (the spinner, not the Kara that does my FO posts). My first batch was super smooth and made with already-carded luxury fibers. Kara managed 145 yards of a 4-ply sport from the few ounces I sent her. I managed another 600+ yards of a 3-ply from about 4oz.

The rolag used to make the yarn below was slightly more textured than the one used for the yarn above. Just like carded batts, the more you blend the smoother the fibers usually get. The fibers you start with make a difference, too. The pink yarns started with smooth merino, silk and some bamboo. The yarns below started with locks of wool, farm wool, and textured add-ins. When I spin these semi-textured rolags woolen, I get that slightly thick and thin appearance. I love that bouncy, barber-poled, slightly uneven 2-ply texture.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Customer FOs: April

Spring finally sprung and it's finally time to take a look at those April FOs. Yet again we have a great selection of amazing FOs made out of Dyeabolical yarn. You guys really make it hard for a girl to keep her WIP (works in progress) pile down to a reasonable number. I always want to cast on for ALL THE THINGS when I'm writing these posts.

You don't want to hear about that, though. You want to see some FOs, or Finished Objects. A finished object is any item knitted, crocheted, woven, felted, spun or otherwise transformed from Dyeabolical yarns or spinning fibers into another form (e.g. yarn knitted in to mittens, warp crocheted in to dishcloths, fiber in to a felted object, dyed top spun in to yarn).

Anne finished a couple cute little baby items using the cotton warp yarn - these adorable little slippers (project page)

....and this super cute baby sweater. There is just something adorable about baby knits, isn't there? (project page)

I (Kara) finished a re-knit of my Folded sweater using Silkerino - a (discontinued) silk/merino blend. While this yarn is no longer available, the Silky Sock available exclusively at Ewe Knits would be a fantastic substitution. If you aren't in St. Louis, any of the fingering weight yarns would also work and I think Tenacious Tencel would make a great sweater yarn. (project page)

I also finished a pair of Spatterdash Mitts out of Alter Ego in Katatomic. These were so much fun to make and I loved picking out the buttons to go with the Katatomic colorway. I can't say enough about how fun these are in a variegated yarn. (blog post)

From Shannon, a wonderful pair of socks using Super Ego in Golden Afternoon. Sometimes stockinette is perfect to let the colors shine through. (project page)

Emmy Lou also finished a pair of socks in April - these are the Don't Cage Me In Socks out of BFL Hard Twist in the Chocolate Wine & Cherries colorway. Fantastic! (project page)

Rachel was a bit Dyeabolical herself in April, using her BFL Hard Twist in Katatomic and Tenacious Tencel in Wicked City Woman to knit up a Piper's Journey shawl. So. Gorgeous. (project page)

Krystal brings us a little bling in her awesome Hitchhiker, knit out of the Bling Sparkly Sock in Davy Jones Locker. (project page)

Bibliogrrl used her skills with a crochet hook and the Highlighter Orange yarn in Alter Ego paired with a gray yarn to make a fun kerchief. 

Kara the spinner (not me) has some great projects involving handspun this month. First up, she spun this BFL fiber in Malliot Jaune (which was part of the Variations on a Pink fiber club) into a fingering-sport weight yarn...

which she then knit into a lovely Zuzu's Petals shawl/cowl. (project page)

She also spun up 4oz of polwarth/silk fiber into an amazing bulky yarn....

which she then turned into this kid-sized cowl. Looks fabulous! (project page)

Like I said, another amazing month of Dyeabolical FOs. If you would like to see your FO featured here in a future post,If you'd like to see your project featured in the future, just send me a message on ravelry (karamichele) or send me an email at starmonkeybrass(at)gmail(dot)com. Until next time, stay crafty.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Customer FOs: March

Ah, March - seems like it was only days ago that you brought us an unexpected foot plus of snow and knitting time while we were all trapped in our homes watching it fall. It gave folks some time to finish languishing projects or whip up some quick knits. Either way, there were some great FOs in March.

For the uninitiated, FOs are Finished Objects. A finished object is any item knitted, crocheted, woven, felted, spun or otherwise transformed from Dyeabolical yarns or spinning fibers into another form (e.g. yarn knitted in to mittens, warp crocheted in to dishcloths, fiber in to a felted object, dyed top spun in to yarn).

Sheila whipped up a giant Hitchhiker using a couple skeins of Strong Arm Skinny in Queens Tea - I like the little added touch of beads or charms at each point - such a great idea! (project page)

From Ann, a brighter than sunshine Vitamin D cardigan using a cotton/rayon blend. The sweater is even beter in person and would be great in any of the fingering weight yarns available in the shop. Rachel is also happy to dye-to-order if you need a sweaters quantity. (project page)

From Cindy, a great cowl knit out of Superwash Merino Worsted in Jeans Quilt. Lovely! 

Deborah paired Strong Arm Skinny in Carnival with a non-Dyeabolical purple yarn to make a beautiful Strand Of Pearls shawl. (project page)

Wendy brings us another lovely Wingspan using the BFL Hard Twist base in Caucus Race. (project page)

And with that, we close out another month of FOs. If you'd like to see your project featured in the future, just send me a message on ravelry (karamichele) or send me an email at starmonkeybrass(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Customer FOs: February 2013

Hello again from Kara! Well, the tough semester has ended and my mini-break before my summer class starts is coming to a close. So let's catch up on all those FOs you guys finished in the last few months, shall we?

First up we've got the February FOs. If you aren't familiar with FOs, they are Finished Objects. A finished object is any item knitted, crocheted, woven, felted, spun or otherwise transformed from Dyeabolical yarns or spinning fibers into another form (e.g. yarn knitted in to mittens, warp crocheted in to dishcloths, fiber in to a felted object, dyed top spun in to yarn).

Allison knit up the Skew socks using a skein of Strong Arm Skinny in 70s Dress Shirt. This is another one of those patterns that's great for variegated yarn and these socks are a great example. These would look great in any of the colors Rachel has in stock now.  (project page)

From Rachel, the yarn dyer and spinner herself, we have a pair of slippers knit out of a 3-ply sport weight handspun superwash cheviot in Themyscira. A fun, yet practical use of handspun (I always wonder what to do with the handspun I've acquired). (project page)

Tiffanie knit up a beautiful Saroyan using Worsted Weight Superwash in Shades of Olive. (project page)

Bethany knit this awesome necklace using Alter Ego in Whisper & Hush. I love how the yarn pooled on this & it would be great for your leftovers since is doesn't take a full skein. (project page

Michelle used some Bling Sparkly Sock in a custom colorway to knit this gorgeous Iron Maiden shawl. (project page)

Sarah from Yarn Geek Fibers was busy in February spinning and knitting both. 

First up, Sarah made this great crochet cowl/headband using Alter Ego in We're All Mad Here. (project page)

Next she spun a Polwarth/Silk blend in Blood Orange into this great fingering weight yarn... (yarn page

...and knit it into this gorgeous Wingspan. I have not seen a Wingspan knit out of handspun go wrong yet and I keep imagining how great any of the fiber in stock would look spun up and knit into one. (project page)

And that's it for February - as always, if you have an FO you'd like to have featured here, send me (Kara) an email at starmonkeybrass(at)gmail(dot)com or message me on Ravelry. :) 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Perfume Follow-Up

UPDATE : The perfumes are now live in the shop

UPDATE: Hey everyone! The final lineup will be live in the shop a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

Thank you to everyone who tested the perfume scents for me. I definitely will be offering perfume in the shop sometime in the future. However, it isn't my biggest priority, so it may be a few months before the fancy labels & the final scent line-up is ready for Prime Time.

In the meantime, I am still happy to make still make full-size testers for $5, plus shipping, for whoever would like them. Because they are testers, they will not have fancy labels. I would greatly appreciate it if anyone who tests out a scent could fill out a survey.

Here are a few testers ready to ship. Each bottle should last a long time. I use two "swipes" of the Brown Sugar and Fig scent every day for over a month and my bottle is still very full. Testers are filled by weight, not volume.


How do I order?
Email me at Tell me which scents you want and your paypal email address. I will then invoice you. Your tester will look like the bottles above. The testers do not have pretty labels.

Why is there a different volume of perfume in each tester? 
Because they are testers and I haven't yet perfected the fragrance/carrier ratios yet. Also, the testers are filled by weight, not volume. Each bottle will have about 7 grams of fragrance in it. 

How do I apply it?
Each bottle has a roller ball. To apply the perfume, shake the bottle with the cap on, then roll the fragrance over your skin. A little goes a long way. Start with 2 or 3 swipes across your pulse point before adding more. Some people find that the scent lasts all day. Others will need to reapply it throughout the day.

What does body chemistry and time have to do with it? 
How long the scent lasts, and what it smells like on your skin, has a lot to do with your individual body chemistry.Scents can also change or develop over time. A freshly applied scent will smell different than one that has been on your skin for a few hours. Similarly, a freshly blended bottle of perfume will smell slightly different than one that is several months old. The scent in each bottle should last a very long time, but to ensure the best scent, please use your fragrance within a year.
Ingredients? Are they pure, undiluted fragrance?
I use both fragrance oils and essential oils to create the fragrances. It is not safe to put fragrance or essential oils directly on to your skin. They must be diluted to be skin safe. I use a synthetic, well-tested, perfume base to dilute the oils. My base leaves no oily residue.

Do you still make soap? 
Yes! I have been a soap making machine lately. Any of the scents below can be incorporated in to the luffa, cube, octopus or medallion soaps.  

Available Fragrances (These will be periodically updated as I revise my final scent list.)

  • Test blend #1 - I want to call this one "Mowing the Lawn" because that is almost exactly what it smells like. I started with a base of dirt & grass, with masculine undertones and citrus top notes.
  • Test blend #2 - Can I please call this one "Watching Someone Mow the Lawn"? It is very similar to Test Blend #1, but with a top note of spicy floral. It is still a great unisex scent.
  • Test blend #3 - I can't get enough of the tangerine/clove combination. I wear this almost every day. I am curious what other people think about it. It is an awesome unisex scent.
  • Summer Honey (all natural)
  • Eucalyptus/Spearmint (EO/FO blend)
  • Vine Ripe Tomato (surprisingly light and summery)
  • Festival of Lights (apple, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon)
  • Sandalwood
  • Lemon (out of stock)
  • Patchouli
  • Rose Garden (strong and rosey as a rose garden should be)
  • Euphoria (EO/FO blend; jasmine, rose, sandalwood, similar to Aveda* Euphoria)
  • Cashmere and Cotton (out of stock) (pomelo, bergamot, vanilla, sandalwood, musk, hint of patchouli)
  • Christmas Wreath
  • Cedarwood and Sage (EO/FO)
  • Brown Sugar and Fig (Wendy's favorite)
  • Green Apple
  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • Lime Mint - I kind of love this. Smells like a margarita.
  • Lemongrass
  • Cherry Vanilla - This smells good enough to drink. More cherry than vanilla, it smells a lot like cherry syrup. I wear this one frequently.
  • Coconut Lime Verbena
  • Special requests - I am happy to consider special requests for your favorite fragrances or experimental scents.

Shop news

Hi! This week will have a lot of blog posts. I have a lot to say! First, the shop news.

  • I have a new logo! What do you think? It is the first time I have updated my logo since I started the company. My friend Mindy worked on it for me. She did an awesome job!
  • I have had a lot of wholesale orders come in the last few weeks. Yay for me, but it means that the shop is a little low on stock right now while I work on them. I will continue to list new yarns and fibers every week as I finish them, but it will be more like 3-4 listings a week instead of the usual 10-20.
    One of several color cards
  •  Dyed-to-order is totally a thing! Some of you know this already, but recently several new customers told me they didn't realize that I could dye most of my regular bases and colors on demand. A list of available colors and bases are here. You can order in one of two ways -- either purchase one of the dyed-to-order listings or email me and I will set up a listing for you.  
  •  If you clicked the link above, you might have noticed 4 listings for individual colors on specific bases. Those colors were samples that will be featured in the Phat Fiber box this month. 
Perfume testers
  •  Perfume! I am still trying to narrow down which scents I want to feature in the shop this fall. Would you like to help? See my newest blog post for ordering information. The testers are $5, plus shipping. IF YOU WERE AN EARLY TESTER, please contact me once you have filled out your survey. Several people filled out anonymous surveys and I have no idea who to credit. I will be posting a different blog post in a few minutes with all of the relevant perfume information. 
and that's all I have! Thanks! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dyer Things

True or False: The hanks below are all the same dye lot.
TRUE. All of the yarns above are from the same dye lot. I made up a dye bath, mixed it well, put all 3 hanks in the pot at the same time and stirred frequently to ensure even take up.

So why are the 3 hanks so different?  I have theories based on experience.

  • The 2 hanks on the left are both superwash merino. The one on the right is a non-superwash merino. The superwash process leaves the yarn ready to accept dye faster than yarn that has not been treated.
  • All 3 hanks have a tight twist, but relative to each other the hank on the left is the tightest twist and the one on the right is the loosest twist. The yarn on the left twists around on itself and creates resist areas. The tighter the twist, the harder it is for dye to penetrate the resist areas. 
  • Just as the superwash process leaves the yarn ready to accept dye faster, it leaves the yarn ready to accept water faster. I put these hanks in the water dry.The 2 superwash hanks were saturated with dye water immediately. The non-superwash hank floated on the surface for a minute before I was able to gently coax it down in to the bath. The faster the dye can penetrate the yarn and lock on to it, the more saturated the color will be. 
  • Different dyes take up at different rates. There is no such thing as a pure green dye (to my knowledge). "Emerald Green" might be a mixture of brown, red, green, blue and yellow dyes. Dye strikes superwash merino much more quickly than non-superwash merino. The superwash sucks up all the "fast" colors and leaves Mr. Nonsuperwash hanging back to slowly absorb the rest. 
  • Finally, all 3 hanks are merino wool, but the middle hank has 10% tencel. Tencel remains undyed in the presence of acid dyes. If you were to look very closely at the tencel blend, you would notice that the surface of the hank has a very slight sheen to it. That's the undyed tencel and it causes the yarn to look slightly less saturated than its neighbor.