Monday, November 19, 2007

Silver lining

The upside to being unpregnant?

FryDay and Beerball.

I may not be very eligible for the ball part of it -- repeat ACL surgery isn't on my agenda -- but I can damn skippy do the beer. And if I don't deserve a fried Snickers bar, who does?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rhetorical question

Is there anything cuter than watching your babies play hide-and-seek with each other?

Sometimes I really love being a mother of twins.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Katherine's Box: a photo essay

Here, have some cute baby pictures of Katherine and Claire fighting over The Box.






Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brought to you by the makers of OxiClean

Because randomness is all I have today:


In the last 24 hours, the dogs have:

  • thrown up half-digested kibble up all over the sofa
  • stolen a diaper -- a POOPY diaper -- and chewed it up, also all over the sofa
  • pooped on the floor, because it was too cold out for their dainty selves
  • peed on the floor, ditto on the dainty selves
  • thrown up more half-digested kibble on the living room rug

Anyone want three standard poodles, gently used? Alternately, can anyone give me instructions for re-upholstering a sofa in poodle hide?


At 14 months, the girls are not really talking very much. They say Mama to me, Da for Daddy (inconsistently), uh-oh, "da" for dog, bye-bye, "ba" for ball and book, and "da" or "dit" or "dere" for pretty much everything else.

However, their understanding of language is accelerating. Yesterday, I asked Claire if she was hungry, and her face lit up and she RAN to the kitchen. I've not made any effort to teach her "are you hungry?", or tried to say it repetitively. Apparently, though, I say it often enough for her to pluck it out and realize what it means. It's the first ambient-language phrase I've really seen them understand.


One of the other things that we are becoming very clear on is the concept of "mine". We have this green plastic tupperware box, ostensibly for toy storage, but in reality it's primarily for sitting in, and sometimes putting on one's head. It is quite clear to Katherine that the box is HERS.

Claire is the dominant twin in most regards, and Katherine generally allows her toys to be taken away without much complaint, but she defends that box with life and honor. If she sees Claire get in the box, she immediately gets furious even if she isn't currently playing with it. If she's in the box, she cries whenever Claire comes near, and I've seen her head-butt Claire to make her go away. The only thing Claire is allowed to do with the box is to turn it over and stand on it. Why that's different, I don't know, but the bottom line is that the box is Katherine's.

It's so amazing, watching them turn into people.


Did I mention that they are climbing?

Katherine only took her first few steps about a week ago, still mostly gets around by knee-walking, and doesn't even seem particularly interested in the whole idea. And yet she'll turn that stupid green box over, use it as a step-stool to get onto the sofa, and stand there teetering and crowing over her achievement.

Claire's even worse -- she is trying to climb up the outside of the stairs. She hangs on to the baluster and tries to stand on the part of the treads that sticks out past it. I give her two weeks at most before she figures out how to start scaling it.

Like little monkeys, they are. Or, rather, like little monkeys with a shocking disregard for gravity.


I'm in the 2ww at the moment, and I think I had what could have been implantation cramping last night. I'm going to be a little bit disappointed if this cycle doesn't work out.


The great stroller debate is over, and I bought the Jeep Wrangler SBS. Even leaving aside the question of price, I actually liked this stroller better than the more expensive models I test-drove. It doesn't fold as easily as the Combi, but it does well enough; it drives easily one-handed, fits through my front door, and is lightweight. The major downsides are the lack of storage space and snack trays, but neither of those meant a lot to me anyway. I think we're going to be pleased with it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fiber: Cherie Amour dye attempts #1 and #2

Here's what I'm starting with -- undyed wool, and Jacquard acid dyes in Emerald and Black. My goal is to achieve a soft sage green, something akin to the Leaf colorway here.

Acid dyes aren't really acid -- the acid in question is actually vinegar, which you add to the dye bath to set the color. However, they come in powder format, and you do need to be careful handling the powder, especially if you have, say, a history of landing in the hospital for breathing problems. Plus, it's hard to measure out powder like that, or to combine two different powders without getting them all over your kitchen. So the first thing I did was to CAREFULLY combine some powder with water to make a 1% dye solution (1 gram dye to 100 grams water). This is basically like a big jar of food coloring, easy to measure and mix with other colors.

The amount of dye you need is determined by the weight of the yarn you're dyeing, and this is where ugly math starts. You should use 2% to 4% of the fabric weight in dye -- if you're dyeing 100 grams of yarn, you should use 2 to 4 grams of dry powder. That's fine, but what if you're only dyeing two or three grams of yarn?

That's where the beauty of the 1% dye solution comes in. My first test batch was only about 2 grams of yarn, so 2% to 4% is 0.04g to 0.08g of dye powder. I don't have a kitchen scale that measures in those kinds of units, but if you remember, we've got our giant jars of liquid dye, and we can work backwards from there. I put in 1 gram of dye and 100 grams of water. So, if I want 0.04g of dye, I can just take 4 grams of dye solution (0.04 g * 100 g h2o / 1 g dye), and thanks to the magic of math, I have the correct amount of dye.

Batch A

I prepped the yarn for dyeing, and then stood around doing the math to get the right amount of dye. Since I wanted a relatively soft color, I decided to only use 2% of the fabric weight in dye, or 4 grams of my dye solution. The Emerald dye color is a fairly bright green, and to get the sage color I was after, I toned it down by using a 3:1 green:black ratio, 3 grams green solution and 1 gram black.

I prepped the dye bath as per the instructions, added my yarn, and put it on the stovetop to boil. I used a very tiny amount of vinegar to set the dye, based on the manufacturer's recommendations of 1/4 c vinegar per pound of fabric. The math on that is painful, and I eventually wound up putting the vinegar in solution as well, to get a total vinegar amount of 0.25g (basically, a few drops -- a quarter of a 1/4 tsp).

The result is the bottom yarn. It's definitely soft -- too soft, in fact, and with not quite enough green in it. It's a nice celery color, but I don't want a whole sweater in that color. So, back to the drawing board.

Batch B

This time, I cut off 5g of yarn, to make my math a little nicer. To deepen the color, I decided to step up to using 3% of the yarn weight, 0.15g dry powder, 15g of my dye solution. I changed the green-to-black ratio to 4:1 green:black, or 12g green solution and 3g black solution, so that it would be more green and not as gray. I also decided to just pour in a glug of vinegar, thinking that perhaps I didn't have enough vinegar in the previous batch to help the dye penetrate the fiber.

As you can see from the photo above, those things made a BIG difference. Batch B is much, much more saturated, and the green is deeper. I think it's mostly due to the extra vinegar -- even the first batch had a lot of dye in it, more than enough to really darken the yarn.

I think that this color is very nice indeed. It's darker than what I'd intended, but it would be quite flattering to me. You can't see it in the photo, but there are subtle variations in the color, and it gives the yarn a lot of depth. I'm going to turn it into a small swatch to see how I like it knitted up.

I am debating whether to make a third batch and see if I can hit on the sage green I originally wanted, to compare it with the olive Batch B. I'm thinking of using 2% of the yarn weight in dye again, and adding about a teaspoon of vinegar, rather than the coupla-tablespoons from Batch B.

I'm still a little nervous about dyeing the whole pile o' yarn, but these two test batches are encouraging.


Because I don't have a knitting blog, and because I am too lazy to think of a good title for one, I'm going to talk about fiber stuff here for a bit. Now that I'm on Ravelry, I'm wanting to do some more detailed journaling. BTW, if you have gotten hooked on the Ravelry smack, email me at for my Ravelry handle, and I'll friend you -- I love having friends!

I've been knitting for, oh, a year and a half now, and crocheting for a bit longer than that. In that time, I've made baby hats and adult hats, blankets and toys, scarves, booties, baby dresses, and several pairs of socks. However, I've never yet knit myself a sweater. This is mainly because my weight has fluctuated so wildly in that time, with the infertility gain and the pregnancy and the massive postpartum weight loss. I haven't been the same weight from one fall to the next in literally six years, and I haven't wanted to sink the time or the yarn cost into a sweater I'll only wear one season.

However, I've stabilized recently, and while I'd still like to lose a few more pounds, I'm not really working hard to do it, and it won't really be enough to affect my upper body size too much. So, I finally decided it's Sweater Time, and Cherie Amour from the latest Knitty stood up and yelled, "knit me!"

I have heard from several people, including Jo, that the yarn called for in the pattern is perfectly delicious. Sadly, I couldn't find a colorway I liked. As a general rule, I don't much like highly variegated yarns, especially on large garments. See how, in the pictures in the pattern, the yarn goes all stripey at the waist, and then there are large chunks of the various colors in the lacey part? That's called pooling.

Variegated yarns are notorious for doing this, and while I'm kind of OK with it in the context of a sock or a scarf, it's just not my thing for a sweater. It plays funny tricks on the eye, which in turn can be less-than-flattering on the body, and obscures the prettiness of a lace pattern. So I knew I'd have to go for a solid-colored yarn or a semi-solid, with very subtle color variations.

Unfortunately, we are currently and temporarily local-yarn-store-less here in my city, until it reopens under new management sometime this fall. I shopped around on the Internets a bit, ordered a test skein, knit a swatch, hated my swatch, and then knit another swatch with some of the bulky-weight wool that's destined for the girls' Christmas stockings. (Which I now estimate will be completed for next Christmas, or possibly five Christmases from now, based on my complete and total failure to actually put yarn to needles for them.) This yarn worked -- gauge was right, and I liked the fabric I got -- but unfortunately, none of the available colors really floated my boat.

This is the part where I decided to get brilliant. See, you don't HAVE to confine yourself to the pre-dyed colors they offer for sale. If you like, you can buy the undyed version of the same yarn, and dye it your very own self. I promptly ordered a bunch of skeins, and some green and black acid dyes, and started plotting how I'd go about creating a nice weathered-looking sage green. Never mind that I'd not once so much as tie-dyed a shirt at summer camp. No, I was going to figure out how to dye, and make myself the One True Perfect Sweater Yarn.

At this point, if you are wondering whether it is a good idea to do a sweater's worth of yarn as your very first dyeing project, the answer is no. Happily, I came to that conclusion as well, and for once I didn't have to figure it out the hard way first. I've dyed two small test batches, just a few yards cut off a single hank, and I feel like I'm actually getting close to ready to do the big scary dye of all yarn. I just need to acquire a few more supplies at Wal-Mart, and figure out where and how I'm going to set up six skeins of wet not-necessarily-colorfast wool yarn to dry.

I now see how people get addicted to dyeing yarn. Believe it or not, there's a whole cottage industry centered around hand-painting and hand-dyeing yarn, mostly sock yarn, and now I know why it exists. I'm very much a product knitter -- I knit because I want to make the things I see in my head -- and if I start dyeing my own yarn, I can get EXACTLY what I want. I have a mile-wide streak of do-it-yourselfism, and the idea of dyeing my own yarn is tremendously appealing.

The idea of spinning my own yarn before dyeing it is also appealing, but really, don't I have enough on my plate?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween Costumes

Katherine was less than thrilled about her costume, and refused to have anything to do with the halo.

Claire got the biggest kick out of her costume -- I had to pry the devil horns out of her hands at the end of the night. She was the perfect little devil!

We did not trick-or-treat with the girls, because I didn't get home from my doctor's appointment until nearly 7, and it's not like I need the candy. However, they were tremendously entertained by all the trick-or-treaters, so a good time was had by all.

About the costumes:

I bought the horns, halo, and pitchfork, but I made the dresses myself. I sewed them by hand, I might add, as my sewing machine chose Halloween morning to crap out. Note to self: next time, try starting the costumes the weekend before Halloween, not the morning of.... They won't win me any needlework prizes at the county fair, but they served their purpose.

These are actually the first "real" garments I've ever put together, other than some long-ago doll clothes. I didn't use a pattern, just improvised straight dresses with drop shoulders from the babies' measurements. I should have made them A-line, because the straight dresses were difficult for them to move in, and 2" of ease was just barely enough. I had a little trouble with the open side of the neckline, where it meets the sleeve, but the second dress was better than the first, and I think I understand how to do it.

All in all, not too bad for a novice seamstress, I think. I'm planning to recycle the idea, and the horns/halo/pitchfork, next year, and I will have a much better idea of how to go about the sewing.