Thursday, November 20, 2008

Because I can't show you any of my stitching...

I borrowed this from Anna and CinDC

1. Political show - Countdown with Keith Olberman. I like Hardball too. (It seems I'm getting slightly less conservative in my old age)

2. Picnic food - DH's smoked brisket

3. Mixed drink – gin and grapefruit juice

4. U.S. President – George Washington (all because of Barry Bostwick)

5. Kind of student to teach – ones that listen

6. Hobby you do or wish you still did - I stitch, I take pictures, and I travel

7. Sports commentator – Bob Costas, and sometimes Cris Collinsworth. Troy Aikman, when he's NOT with Joe Buck. Least favorite? Tony Kornheiser, who has singlehandly ruined MNF, a feat I didn't think possible after Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh.

8. Sport to watch on TV – Dallas Cowboys football. Okay, football in general. I am a junkie

9. Animal to have as a pet - cat, dog, fish, pony

10. Halloween costume you have worn – I haven't worn a costume since childhood. I don't like Halloween

11. Kind of dessert - anything involving chocolate and raspberries

12. Comic strip - Baby Blues

13. Style or make of footwear - Reebok. I'd like to be the girl with cute shoes, but let's face it. They don't make cute shoes in size 10.

14. Ice cream flavor - Cotton Candy with Poprocks, marshmallows and sprinkles. Yes, I am a child when it comes to ice cream

15. College or university president – What? Seriously?

16. Internet news source – NYTimes.com

17. Vacation spot - Maine

18. Wine – Pinot Noir, or wines with clever names and/or animals on the bottle (except for Yellowtail). My current favorite is Pinot Evil, featuring the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak no Evil monkeys on the label. Funny AND tasty. Or perhaps Goats do Roam, a South African wine. I'm also a big fan of Frei Brothers Reserve Pinot Noir. As wine and food go together, yes, I can go on all day about this.

19. Way to waste time instead of working – I have many

20. Student excuse for late work – Somehow I am getting the impression that this meme is teacher-centric.

21. Reality show – Survivor. And here's something I can't believe I am going to admit publically. We've watched the Making of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, followed by My Big Redneck Wedding. And for a real trainwreck, Bridezillas. Even if these girls are playing it up for the cameras, they still all need to be slapped.

22. Jewelry on a man – A watch. DH is not big on jewelry - he wears his watch, wedding ring and engagement band. That's it.

23. Pizza topping – bacon, pineapple and hot peppers (banana peppers)

24. Children's movie - The Princess Bride. Although I don't think it's really a children's movie.

25. Celebrity you wish would retire - Jessica Simpson. I hate her.

The Hard Way... back up for grabs

If you're interested in reading the advance copy of my friend Julie's book, The Hard Way, it's back up for grabs again. Stop over and visit Linda, who will be drawing a winner on Friday (tomorrow). And while you're there, be sure to check out Linda's photos of her holiday decorations. She's got some gorgeous vintage pieces on display!

If you want to know more about the book or pick up your own copy, it's available at Amazon.com or most any other book buying source you use. The book even has its own blog - The Hard Way.
Monday, November 17, 2008

Fair & Square Round #10

I know I haven't been posting stitching pictures lately, but everything I'm working on has been secret stitching for F&S exchanges and PIFs. However, Cyndi just posted that she received the squares I sent her for Round #10, so here they are.

Celtic Knot by American Whimsy (out of business)
Stitched over 2 on 32 ct. Antique White with Crescent Colours Thread
in Carribean Waters and Fancy Green Nancy

Cyndi had a Michael Vickery design on her wish list and I thought this would be a nice design for her. I also sent along a skein of my own handdyed thead, this one in Red Maple.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Six Random Things

I have been tagged by the lovely Meari to share six random things about myself, according to the rules.

The rules are as follows:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know your entry is up.

So, here are six random things about myself:

1. I collect short story anthologies - in particular, the "Best American Short Story" editions put out on a yearly basis, each featuring a guest editor. I just picked up the 2008 edition edited by Salman Rushdie.

2. In 1989, I participated in the inaugural parade for the first President Bush with my high school marching band.

3. Tom Petty is my favorite singer. I've seen him in concert over a dozen times. I own most, if not all of his albums (I'm missing a live album or two)

4. In second grade, my class hatched baby chickens and ducks in an incubator. I've loved baby animals ever since.

5. I still love the Little House on the Prairie books. I can take or leave the television series.

6. I don't usually eat the bottom bun of a hamburger, and I dip my fries in mayonnaise.

I have tagged:

1. Rachel (Does the Noise in my Head Bother You?)
2. Rachel (Willing Hands)
3. Rachel (What Looks Like Crazy)
4. Laura (Maude & Mozart)
5. Julie (Julie's Stitching Journal)
6. Sue Fitz (Fitz's Stitching)
Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Feast #3... um # 175? Okay, #4.

As I was reading the questions for Friday's Feast #3, I thought they sounded very familiar. As it turns out, they were recycled into Friday's Feast #175, which I've already answered. So it's on to Feast #4.

From Friday's Feast: A Buffet for Your Brain

Appetizer: What kind of car do you drive? If you could make an even trade for any other car, what would you want to drive?

I currently drive a Toyota that is soon to be replaced by a Nissan Altima. Originally, I wanted the Xterra, but we just can't justify it with the price of gas. Maybe someday.

Soup: Take your phone number and add each number together separately (example: 8+6+7+5+3+0+9=38) - what's the total?

This is a dumb question, but I'll answer it. 40. Which includes area code. Because that's how we dial.

Salad: When were you last outside, and what were you doing?

I went out to get the mail last night.

Main Course: What is your favorite restaurant, and what do you usually order there?

I don't think I really have a favorite restaurant. I definitely don't have one here, since we just moved here a little while ago, though DH and I are big fans of breakfasts and have tried out a few in the area. For breakfasts, I like combination plates because I am usually in the mood for French Toast or pancakes, but I know that I will be hungry again a little while after eating, so I like something with eggs as well. Scrambled, if you please. With bacon. Oh, speaking of breakfast, I do have a favorite breakfast place, which I know I've mentioned before, on the coast of Maine at Pemaquid Point. Naturally, I order the blueberry pancakes.

We try to avoid chain restaurants, especially when we travel. I like to go on Chowhound.com ahead of time and look for recommendations. I've never been steered wrong there yet.

When it comes to Chinese food, I generally never stray far from the General Tso's chicken (which I know isn't real chinese food), and I love spicy tuna rolls and Philadelphia rolls when it comes to sushi. Yeah, I can pretty much talk about food all day.

Dessert: Name 3 things in which you occasionally indulge.
  • Chocolate desserts - chocolate cheesecake, brownies, etc. Especially with raspberry sauce.
  • Day long movie marathons, usually with one of my closest friends who loves the same movies and we know all the lines.
  • Spa manicures. Most of the time I do my own, but there's something satisfying about having someone else do it for you.
Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm dying over here!

First, many thanks to Rachel for her AWESOME floss dying tutorial. Because of Rachel, I not only didn't throw out the Rit Dye I had already invested in, but I picked up a few awesome techniques, including steaming the floss. Worked like a charm.

And now I am sure you are all very curious as to how I turned out such lovely flosses. Behold, based on Rachel's methods, I present to you my adventures in floss dying. (You will definitely want to read both mine and Rachel's, as I am sure I will leave stuff out. Important stuff.)

First things first. Invest in some floss dying equipment because most dye companies and websites will tell you that your equipment will no longer be food safe. Which means don't grab a bunch of bowls out of the cabinet for dying, then eat your cereal out of them the next morning. I don't know if a spin through the dishwasher will render them non-lethal, so why take chances? I hit up the kitchen section of my local dollar store and purchased the following:

a plastic mixing bowl with a pour spout (spout not necessary - any mixing bowl will do)
glass custard dishes / ramekins
chopsticks
disposable cookie sheets
ice cube tray
plastic measuring spoons

You will also need a large piece of plastic to protect your work surface. I used a disposable plastic painters drop cloth from the local home store. (as a side note, these are far too slippery to be used as an actual drop cloth when painting). Latex gloves are also helpful - you can usually find them at a beauty supply shop, or near the pharmacy counter at the big box discount store.

I used an old ice cube tray (we have several we no longer need) for mixing colors, and several glass pipettes (eye droppers) with rubber bulbs. You can get the ice cube trays at the dollar store, and I've seen plastic pipettes in the craft stores. You may also want to try a scientific supply house if you have access to one. And of course, you will need floss, dish detergent (I used Dawn), white vinegar, plastic wrap, plain white paper towels, boiling water and various and assorted dyes. (And you can use a regular food-safe pot or tea pot to produce the boiling water as it will not be coming in contact with the dyes.)

A Note on Dyes: Rachel speaks out against using KoolAid, and I agree with her assessment. Use dyes intended for fabrics. Now, you can either use Rit Dye or specially formulated cold water dyes for tie-dying. These are fairly easy to find at craft stores or online, and there are several good resources detailing the techniques for these types of dyes. (Check here as well). There are plenty of websites that tell you NOT to use Rit dye, but I had already invested in several colors and chose to go that route. Overall, I am satisfied with the outcome and would use it again. However, at some point I will probably experiment with cold water dyes as well, just for fun.

My personal recommendation is to purchase the Rit Dyes in their liquid form. Yes, they're more expensive, but they're pre-mixed and FAR less messy / hard to mix than the powdered dyes. If you have the choice between the liquid and the powder dye, go for the liquid, especially when it comes to the darker colors, like black and navy blue. In fact, I would strongly recommend against purchasing the black powder as it is flat out a total pain in the ass to mix properly.

You don't need a LOT of different colors, as you can make almost anything from red, yellow and blue (or cyan, fuschia and yellow). Start with the basics and work your way up from there. Experiment. I purchased Scarlet Red, Rose Pink, Dark Green, Dark Brown and Royal Blue in liquid, and Black, Yellow, Kelly Green, Teal, Pearl Grey, and Navy Blue in powder. I also purchased a box of Rit Color Remover. (More on that in another post). I would never, never, never purchase the dark colors in powder form again. Never. Check out the Rit Dye Website for available colors and ideas. They have some pretty good recipes on their site.

You also don't need to mix up a LOT of dye, especially if you're not dying a lot of floss. Mix up more of the basic colors like red, blue and yellow, but go easier on the other colors, especially black. A little goes a long way, and quite frankly, you're never going to accomplish a deep, dark black on your own. Go for DMC 310 and use the black dye more as a tint than an actual dye color. Also, black is super hard to mix and tends towards little red spots (grains of undisolved dye) that will wreck your work. Did I mention I highly recommend using the premixed liquids?

Are you still with me? Now comes the fun part. First, set up your work area:



I used our kitchen island, which was covered completely by the disposable painter's cloth. You can see how I have the glass dishes set up on the disposable cookie sheet, and the floss laid out according to color.

Really, the sorting was just for show, as was the notebook you cannot see in this photo. My original intention was to have my scientist husband apply his excellent and exceedingly thorough work habits to this process, and as you might have guessed, it didn't work out that way. I had grand plans of carefully measuring the dye, recording said measurments, and creating recipes from which to successfully generate consistent batches of floss. Yeah, not so much. The word "recipe" should have been a dead giveway, since I can never seem to follow them. This makes DH completely insane. He likes consistency and measurment (which makes him a fabulous baker, but cautious cook) and I like throwing things together willy nilly. After about 10 minutes of my random mixing and refusal to actually measure anything precisely, he gave up and went in the other room to watch football, leaving me to my wild ways.

Back to the process. First, I mixed up the dyes. I recommend / insist / demand that you mix any powdered dyes away from your dying area, as powdered dyes are teeny tiny little particles that can get EVERYWHERE. Some sites recommend using a mask when working with powdered dyes, but I'm just not that paranoid, and I'm working on a very small scale. I cut off a tiny corner of the Rit Powder packet and sprinkled some into a small, clean mustard jar (which is now part of my dying kit). I added hot water, a splash of vinegar, and a drop of dish soap and shook it for all I was worth (with the lid on, of course). And shook it some more. Then shook it again. Then I poured it into a glass dish in the dying area and added the boiling water. No, I didn't really measure any of this, and yes, I am well aware this is making some of you very nervous.


I repeated the mixing and shaking process with the rest of the powdered dyes, carefully folding over each packet, clipping with a paper clip and sealing in a ziploc snack bag for storage. As for the liquid dyes, I shook the bottle vigorously, then added the dye to a glass bowl with hot water, a splash of vinegar and a drop or two of dish soap. Supposedly the dishsoap opens up the fibers and makes them more receptive to the dye. I don't know if that's true, but it worked for me.

I prepped the floss by removing the labels and throwing caution into the wind. If I'm not going to measure correctly, why bother keeping track of what color floss I was dying? Most of it was one of the following colors: Blanc, B5200, 3865 and Ecru. I also went through my skein stash and pulled out some extra tans, greys, and pastels, just for experiement's sake. I highly recommend this as I got a fantastic autumn-y color by dipping tan floss into red dye.


As you can see here, I suspended the floss on a chopstick and dipped it in a vat of warm, slightly soapy water. Several websites recommended using Sythrapol for cleansing the floss ahead of time to remove dirt and oils that may impede the dye from penetrating. You can get Sythrapol in the craft store with the dying stuff, but it's expensive, and several well respected sites said dish detergent was just as good. And cheaper. And it works. So there you have it.

For the first batch of floss, I used a wire tie to hold skeins together, but ditched that idea for the second batch, chosing to just be a little more careful. The floss stayed together slightly better with the wire ties, but the ties ended up being tedious to remove. I'm all about making things less tedious. The floss rested on the chopstick, in the water, until I was ready to use it, at which point I squeezed it out and laid them out on a paper towel, like so.



I then went to town dripping dye on the strands using the pipettes. Sometimes I mixed up colors in the ice cube tray, sometimes I use a clean dropper to add a little water from the floss vat to the colors in the mixing tray to dilute them. Really, I just had fun with it and experimented. Sadly, I do not have a picture of a batch of dyed, pre-steamed floss, as I was working with nifty purple gloves and was afraid to get dye on the camera (or drop it into a bowl of water). Or it could be that I was so caught up in playing around that I forgot to take pictures.

I would suggest keeping batches of like colors together. The first time I dyed, I went a little nuts with expeimenting and ended up running a few colors together unintentionally. The second time, I worked in color families (shades of red, shades of blue, etc.) and it worked out much better, especially when it comes to wrapping them in plastic. Your floss should be thoroughly saturated with color, but not dripping wet. Dripping leads to bleeding onto other flosses (not as noticeable when you're working with one set of colors at a time). If necessary, pat out the excess watery dye with a paper towel. The white paper towel is also handy for testing out dye colors before you drip it on the floss.


Then do your jelly roll o'floss as Rachel describes, rolling the floss up in plastic wrap, one floss skein at a time. Be sure to roll it in the plastic enough times to separate it from the next floss (that pesky color bleeding again). The chopsticks come in handy here to maneuver the floss and get it into place without dirtying your gloves too much. Always be aware of where you are putting your hands and what you are touching, since it's incredibly easy to transfer dye unintentionally.

Now you will steam the floss. This is something else I neglected to take a picture of, but basically, I used an old pot with a lid and a roasting rack set on top. The flosses went on the rack, the lid went over the floss, and rested on the rack as well, and I steamed the bejesus out of those flosses. Rachel recommended 10 minutes, but once again, my experimental nature prevailed and I let them steam in batches for at least 20-30 minutes. Could be slightly more, could be slightly less, who knows? I don't keep track of these things. I flipped them over occasionally until I thought they were good and steamed, then took them off and let them rest in the kitchen sink until they cooled.

Once the packets are cool, carefully unwrap and start rinsing each skein of floss until the water runs clear. Be careful not to rinse over the other flosses. I rinsed in hot water, then a little cooler, and was surprised that I didn't get a whole lot of run off, except from the reds. The reds were a little harder to rinse, and I used a little more dish soap with them to make sure I was getting all the dye out.


This is what they looked like, steamed, cooled and rinsed. They're still wet, which is why the colors look brighter than they actually turned out, but I still think they came out great. I then draped them over a drying rack, carefully spaced out so there would be no accidental bleeding (I rinsed until clear, but you never know.) And this is what they look like on the drying rack in my dining room. (Don't get too upset - they're all dry, which is why they're touching. Also, I didn't move the drying rack into the carpeted dining room until the flosses were dry. I did not want anything dripping on the carpet. Not that there was a whole lot of dripping because I squeezed them pretty dry, but better safe than spotty carpeted)


There you have it. My adventures in floss dying. If you're thinking about trying it, go for it. I had fun doing it, and will start collecting floss on sale all over again so I can do another batch. Or perhaps invest in a cone of DMC (which is over 2000 yards) and dye even MORE floss. I do caution that this can be VERY messy and has lots of disaster potential, especially if there are children or nosy pets around. I used gloves, or tried to, mostly, and still ended up with some dye in my nail beds. (Lots of scrubbing, some lemon juice and later, some peroxide, helped tremendously)

It will cost you some money to get started for the equiment (less than $10 at the dollar store), the floss and the dyes. I mostly used coupons on the dyes and picked up floss on sale, but definitely check out your grocery store for the dye - mine sells it cheaper than the craft stores. And expect to devote a couple hours to this process, especially if you're dying a lot of floss. You can even make it a party where everyone bring a bottle of dye and the flosses they want to do. Be creative, have fun, and experiment! You're not being graded on this!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

Okay, maybe not a chicken dinner, but there are flosses to be had, my fellow stitchers. And a bit of news. Since the election went so well yesterday, I was inspired to revisit the skeins of floss I have yet to twist up and put away (yes, they are still on the drying rack in the dining room. I'll get to it, I swear) and pick a few more to give away.

And the flosses go to:

American Girl - Wendy (Wendy Home at Work)

Candy Corn - Jennifer (Running with Scissors)

Sweet Pea - Kathryn (Threads of Desire)

Rainbow Sherbet - Cathey (Pumpkin Patch & Co.)

And the Bonus Flosses -

Election Day and Rock the Vote (similar to American Girl, not as much white): Laura (Maude and Mozart) and Courtney (Santa Stitches)

More Candy Corn (as fun as this was to make and as cool as it turned out, I am just not that into Halloween) - Barbara (Mainely Stitching) and Angela (A Bit of This and a Bit of That)

Ladies, please email me at sweetpeastitches @ yahoo.com with your mailing addresses and I will try to have these out to you by the end of the week.

Thank you to everyone who entered and left such wonderful, encouraging comments. I have been mulling over the idea of selling some of the threads, either on Etsy or as custom dyed threads. If anyone is interested in the threads and would like to purchase some, please feel free to email me and let me know. Perhaps we could work something out. I can't guarantee I can exactly replicate the colors, but I can come pretty close, and if you were looking for several skeins of the same color, I'd could dye the entire set at once.

And if you didn't win this time, don't despair. I had a blast dying the threads, and this most likely won't be my last giveaway. Stay tuned to this station for more details. :-)

Thanks also to the lovely folks at Random.org for their ListRandomizer.
Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Sisterhood moves to Canada

Lucky Claire is the next recipient of the Sisterhood of the Traveling pattern, so be sure to check out her blog. And be ready to enter when it's time for her to move on again.

Welcome to the Sisterhood, Claire. Can't wait to see what you do with her.

Close ups of the floss colors

I thought you might like to see close ups of the floss colors I am giving away. I took these outside this afternoon so I could take advantage of the gorgeous weather we had today, not to mention the sun!


American Girl

Rainbow Sherbet


Sweet Pea


Candy Corn