Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Swap-O-Rama-Rama dress

Last weekend I went to the Maker Faire and there was a big tent for Swap-O-Rama-Rama. Swap-O-Rama is a concept where you bring old clothes to donate and you can swap it for other people's cold clothes. But this was more than a simple clothing swap- the extra "rama" means you could also use the clothes to make new stuff. It's a swap-and-upcycle DIY kind of thing. They had sewing machines all set up for people to use and designers to help you with your ideas.

I brought in 2 zipper hoodie sweatshirts and 2 long sleeved v-neck tops.
I kept one of the v-neck tops to make into a dress. I just knew I wanted to make a skirt for it but I didn't know what kinds of fabric I'd find, so it was going to be a spontaneous project.
This is the finished dress.
swap-o-rama-rama dress 006

The top is the black v-neck shirt I brought in.
The skirt is a charcoal grey knit skirt I found there, I was able to just cut off the waistband and sew it to my top. That made a very simple dress but I wanted more "oomph".
I found a shirt with a rayon print fabric I liked. I cut strips from it to make a ruffle for the bottom of the skirt.
swap-o-rama-rama  dress 003

I finished the bottom hem of the ruffle with the serger they had there. It was threaded with turquoise thread, which didn't really go with my project at all but it takes forever to rethread a serger so I just went with the serendipity of the moment! I think the turquoise actually adds an unexpected visual punch.

Then I found a really TEENSY miniskirt, like size XS, in the cutest black and pink chiffon print. It was lined in plain black chiffon. It had a handkerchief hem which I decided would look cute as a 2-layer ruffle on the 3/4 sleeves. It would break up the solid black and grey a little more, and make the dress less severe and Amish-y. The sleeves remind me of a Stevie Nicks kind of vibe.

swap-o-rama-rama  dress 001

For the last touch, I added a drawstring waist to make it less sack-like. I recycled the belt from the grey knit skirt, and just sewed a casing to the waist seam where I had attached the top and the skirt.

swap-o-rama-rama  dress 005

I am a bit bigger than my dress form so the dress is not as loose and drapey on me as you see here, but it's not skin tight either.

swap-o-rama-rama  dress 008

But I think this might be a dress I would actually wear, for fall & winter. It's enough black that it's well within my comfort zone, but it's got some more feminine touches to break it up and not look boring. I like the mid-calf length, especially with boots in the fall.

I like how my dress came out!
I could have done something similar with clothes I already had, or with goodwill finds, and I have done that in the past. But the Swap-O-Rama-Rama was a fun experience and I got to get rid of 2 big bulky hoodies which hopefully someone else made into something cool! I noticed they were both gone from the donation tables when I left so I hope someone got some good use out of them. (or maybe someone just wore them home, because it was rather unexpectedly chilly and windy that evening!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scarf made from self-striping yarn

self striping scarf 001

I finished knitting the scarf made from my hand-dyed self-striping yarn. This is the Dolcetto yarn that was supposed to be purple and black, but came out purple and dark brownish-purple. It's still pretty cool, it's not the colors I was trying for but luckily it is still colors I like.

I really liked the process of dying the yarn and then knitting it to see how it would come out in the final garment, so I have continued with the experimenting. Today I dyed some yarn with food coloring and it will be self-striping with yellow and green stripes. Pictures coming soon, as soon as it is dry.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movie Review: Hereafter

**This review will contain spoilers**

Last night I watched the dvd of Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie is about 3 different people dealing with the concept of what happens after you die, the existence of an afterlife, etc. It's kind of an odd coincidence, I had this movie in my Netflix queue for a couple of months, long before my best friend died a week ago. Then I had returned another movie the day after she died and this was the next one that showed up in my mailbox. So I have been thinking a lot about life and death lately for obvious reasons, and it seemed like good timing to watch the movie.

There are three main characters in the movie, who don't know eachother. It's really 3 parallel stories. One of them is a French woman who has a near-death experience. Well not really "near", she basically dies, but then is resuscitated. She has a conversation with her lover, and asks him "what do you think happens after you die?"
He says, it's just lights out. Nothingness, the void. That's basically my feeling, at least it is what I have always hoped death would be (when thinking about my own death). I don't beleive in heaven or hell, reincarnation, or god. I don't want to go on or come back or any of that, I just want to cease to be. There's always been something very peaceful and comforting to me about that perfect nothingness.

But in the movie, all 3 characters have some evidence that there is something after. The woman has been there, and seen it. The man is a psychic, and can communicate with spirits of the dead. And the young boy has lost his twin brother and still feels a connection to him, the "ghost" of the twin saves him from a subway explosion.
Of the 3 stories, I found the little boy's story the most compelling. Before the twin brother dies, the movie did a wonderful job of establishing the very close and intuitive bond the brothers had with eachother, almost like two halves of one person. So when the older, more confident twin dies, you really feel the loss and grief of the other boy. The 2 child actors (twins in real life, obviously) were so good in this movie.
The ending was happy for all 3 characters, which was a relief after all the grief and sadness but was also a bit unrealistic, too "deus ex machina" for my taste. It would be nice if real life worked that way. I hope there is a happy ending for my friend's husband and children, some where down the road.

It did make me think about my friend who just died. I still don't beleive in an afterlife, but she definitely did. She was really into the paranormal, ghost hunting, stuff like that. She went on a ghost hunting weekend run by the TV show Paranormal State, which she was a big fan of. The memory of my friend will always live with me so that is a form of afterlife I guess, but I don't beleive in ghosts in the literal sense. But, I do think it's comforting to think of her still having some kind of presence to watch out over her young sons. I want them to have a thought of mommy as their guardian angel, or something like that. It's hard enough for most adults to contemplate nothingness, but a 2 year old and a 4 year old should not have to face it.

Anyway, I recommend the movie, it's very good. Clint Eastwood has turned out to be such a great director, who would have ever thought it after that low period with the monkey movies.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Yarn Dyeing Project

Today I finally finished my yarn dyeing project.

I started with two types of yarn.
1. Nature's Choice Organic Cotton yarn, in "Almond". This was basically off-white, an unbleached natural color.
2. Sensations Dolcetto (a very soft blend of wool and cotton), in a Lavender color.

yarn dyeing project

What attracted me to these yarns was their very soft texture. I have really sensitive skin, and many yarns are too scratchy to wear directly touching my skin. My neck and face are especially sensitive and sometimes have eczema in winter, so my scarves and hats have to be very soft.
(most wools, for example, are not soft enough, but the Dolcetto blend of lambswool and cotton is exceptionally soft).
The unfortunate thing is that both of these yarns only came in a very limited selection of light colors, and I prefer deeper colors. But, I decided that I would experiment with dyeing since they were natural fibers.

I bought two colors of dye.
iDye in Purple
iDye in Black
This type of dye can be used on any natural fiber- both animal and plant.

yarn dyeing 007

My idea was to make a self-striping yarn with the Dolcetto. I wanted to make a scarf that would have alternating skinny stripes of lavender, purple and black.

My first step was to knit a few inches with the yarn in the gauge and width that I would use for the scarf. Then I unraveled it and measured how many inches of yarn was used per row.
Once I determined how long each color segment needed to be, I set up two kitchen chairs far apart in a room. I started winding the yarn around the two chair backs to make a large loop. I tied off my loop in the middle and then I planned to dip one side of the loop in purple, and the other side in black.

The plan for the off-white cotton yarn was simpler. I had two skeins of it, so I was going to dye one of them solid purple and the other one black. Then I would knit with them doubled up to make it chunkier and have both colors showing.

I started the dyeing process with the purple dye. I used both salt and vingar as a mordant, since one of my yarns was a blend of plant and animal fibers.
Generally you use salt as a mordant for plant fibers (cotton or linen), and you use vinegar as a mordant for animal fibers (wool or silk).

I used a large pot on the stovetop instead of the washing machine method. This allows you to use hotter water and the cleanup is easier. It's the recommended method for dark colors.
I put one of the skeins of cotton yarn into the pot, and suspended the Dolcetto yarn over the pot so that half of my large loops was submerged in the pot.
I also threw in a white cotton eyelet top that I got at the thrift store.

The results were very good!
The cotton yarn came out a deep, vibrant purple.
The Dolcetto also came out nice and dark.
The eyelet top came out more of a greyish-lavender, but it was very pretty.

Then I got busy and did not have time to do the black dyeing until the next month. I finally did that today and it was my final step in the project. (not counting the actual knitting!)

I followed the same process I used with the purple dye. Salt, vinger, large pot on stovetop.
I made sure to leave the yarn in the pot a long time since I wanted a nice deep black.
I decided at the last minute that I wanted to make the natural cottton yarn variegated black and grey, so I left half of it soaking for a long time, and just gave the other half a quick dip in the dye bath.

My results were puzzling, to say the least!
The black dye came out purple.
This is the off-white cotton yarn after dyeing it "black". It's not completely dry yet.

yarn dyeing 006

This was supposed to be black and grey, from a long soak and a short dip in the black dye.
Instead, it is dark purple and light purple.

Then I left the Dolcetto yarn soaking even longer, over an hour.
This is the result:

yarn dyeing 004

The top lavender section is the virgin yarn as it came.
The left side is the "black" dye, not completely dry yet.
The right side is the purple dye, completely dry.

You can see that the black is a different shade of purple, it's most reddish while the "purple" dye is more of a blue-violet.
But both of them are purple.
My purple and black stripes are going to be purple and purple stripes.
otherwise known as : PURPLE.

I also tried to tie-dye the cotton eyelet shirt in the black. I twisted it into a rope and then tied it up with rubber bands and twine. The idea was for it to be black with purple spiral designs.
That came out purple and purple, as well. No black, no grey. Just variegated purple.
It's still drying, I will take photos after it's dry and ironed.

So my conclusion at this stage is that they accidentally put purple dye into the black dye package. I don't think I did anything wrong, as far as mordants or soaking time.
If I had not soaked it long enough, then it should be grey, not purple.
If I didn't use the right mordants or not enough, then the colors should run and fade to grey.
But none of these mistakes would account for the black turning purple.

It also could not have leached purple dye from the previous dye job, because the yarn I was dyeing black was the "virgin" sections, and the eyelet top had been thoroughly rinsed and machine washed, it had no excess dye still in it.

So it's a good thing I like purple, I guess.
I might still try to re-do the black section on the Dolcetto with another brand of dye.

Update, May 15

yarn dyeing 008

this is dyed first with the purple dye and then black on top of it.
The areas at the bottom which were not tied up with rubber bands, and which the black could completely penetrate, are actually lighter than the areas that were tied up and kept from the black dye.

yarn dyeing 011

Hat knitted from yarn that I dyed.
Using 2 strands of yarn: One solid dark violet-purple, one variegated with dark and light burgundy-ish-purple.
100% organic cotton

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dead Skin

Snakes shed their skin all in one piece. I wish I could do that. I have eczema and I shed my skin in teeny tiny scaly flakes, constantly. It's like dandruff all over my body and face. It's worst on my face. The scaly dead skin is very itchy, and when I finally exfoliate it all off, (which I have to do very slowly and gently, every day) it feels some relief but the skin underneath is bright red and raw. It feels better but looks worse.
The eczema has been bad lately from stress, and from the high pollen counts. Mostly stress, it seems like everything I am feeling and not saying just comes out through my skin. I guess some people might think it's my terrible personality or my sins manifesting itself in my skin. Like the Portrait of Dorian Gray.
I shed so much dead skin every day, you'd think I should be a whole new person by now, but it's still just me.
How many layers until I get to the chewy center of this tootsie pop?