in which there is a little experimentation

MDSW was good. Strange for us, of course— we were visitors this year, both locals and not- so- locals, holed up in a sweet little Air BnB with old friends in a town we both spent nearly a decade living beside. Surreal is probably a good word.

Maryland gave us a wet welcome, but turned it out for the show; a really gorgeous weekend all around, mid- sixties, maybe seventies, clear skies and all the goodness I’ve come to associate with the mid- Atlantic when she wants to show off in spring. We brought The Kids with us to the show on Saturday and they wandered the fields, ate fair food, watched the shearings; this show is a family tradition, and the idea of missing it seems wrong in a way that interstate moves can’t derail, even if I weren’t there to work.

It was Mother’s Day weekend, a sweet coincidence that comes along every so often; I enjoy when this happens, as it takes the pressure off everyone and gives us something simple to do together. As we all age, this day becomes more and more challenging for many of my friends, and I increasingly wish that it (and it’s corollary, Father’s Day) would be less emphasized by our marketing culture. While it’s galling to say the words out loud, our parents do not live forever, and these holidays can be agony for older folks- and that’s not even touching on the private hells experienced annually by adoptees, foster children, the estranged, the infertile, and those who have lost children. I don’t begrudge those who enjoy the day- I celebrate quietly with my family, and send my dad a card each June- but it might be kinder if it wasn’t so ubiquitous each year. I appreciated that most vendors weren’t making a big deal out of it on the fairgrounds, despite the prime marketing opportunity.

We took the latter half of Sunday to ourselves and took The Kids down to Federal Hill, which was both odd and lovely; I’d had a wicked craving for barbecue, which we managed, and it gave me the chance to peek in on a neighborhood where I used to work, which was sweet. The place was almost deserted (how is barbecue not a big Mother’s Day draw?) which is probably good, because we held that table down for a couple of hours, like jerks. This couple- hundred- miles- between- us thing, it’s kind of awful, you know? Two days isn’t enough, but it has to be, at least for now; we’re making plans for a visit here in New England, but that’s off in the distance.

Driving through our old neighborhood, we saw that the lilac and roses we had planted at our previous home- “the Baltimore house,” we call it now- were just coming into bloom. It’s good- sweet, even- to know that we’ve left something growing there. Other than our children, of course. They grow, they grow, they bloom.

We are safely back in our tiny little house now, multiple pets and all. Upon returning home I immediately fussed over the plants far too much- they might have been lonely! It feels ridiculous (and it IS) but I can’t be the only person who is way over- involved, emotionally speaking, with their plants. Please, somebody, lend your voice and make me feel a little more balanced on this.


It is ridiculous how a good lens can make pretty much anything look nice, right?

While I was at MDSW, I picked up some more dyes (of course). I grabbed a bunch of other things for review in the next issue of Knit Edge, but I’m not going to talk about those yet, because that would sort of wreck things. (I’m REALLY excited about a few of them, though. Morgaine & Lann from Carolina Homespun steered me true this year because OF COURSE they did, they’re so good.) I’m usually more interested in looking for dyes, tools, and gifts rather than yarn and fiber, unless there’s something new happening- I’m still working through stash, and I do a lot of my own dye work. I picked up Greener Shades‘ starter kit so I could play around with their colors; I’ve used them a little before, but never for any serious work, and I like their overall concept.


My dyepot is embarrassingly in need of a scrub, PLEASE DON’T JUDGE. Also any students reading, PLEASE DO BETTER THAN ME, I am a pig person with no standards when I do dye experiments. Or I ran out of Magic Erasers. Mostly it’s the Magic Erasers thing, but I also don’t really care when I’m experimenting, it’s terrible.

I used the Greener Shades yesterday to dye up a blank skein of Skinny Bugga and 4 ounces of BFL top, using the palette I’d posted on Tuesday as my inspiration. It was a little uncomfortable- these dyes are newer for me, so I wasn’t certain how pigmented the powder itself was. I started with a semi- solid base and then moved into a variegated technique, using a very mild citric acid mixture as the base for my follow- on colors. I was really pleased at how light a hand this needed; the dyes are deeply pigmented (far more color than I anticipated for chrome/ heavy- metal- free blues and greens) and they exhaust quickly.


I can see my own tentativeness in the finished project- I wish I’d pushed that Emerald a little harder in order to meet the intended palette, but I didn’t want to risk it overpowering the work. I’m still happy with where I ended up, especially given that this was a first run of a recipe with unfamiliar dyes- it has a sweetly beachy look that I attribute in part to my listening to the latest Alabama Shakes album as I was working. I’m telling you, the music you listen to as you work matters.

As I typed that last line, Rufus Wainwright’s Oh What A World came on over my speakers. I’ve been listening to- and belting along with- this since shortly after I came back from the UK. “Why am I always on a plane or a fast train, oh what a world my parents gave me: always traveling, but not in love. Still, I think I’m doing fine, wouldn’t it be a lovely headline: ‘LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL’ on The New York Times,” set over goddamned Bolero; if you can’t make something beautiful to this, friends, it’s time to sit down and figure a few things out.

With that little piece of loveliness done, I’m going to look up another piece of his that I’ve always loved- the somewhat darker Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk, which actually was part of my England soundtrack- and think about the palette for next week. Here’s hoping your week has been good, and if you needed it as much as we and most of our friends did, restful, too.

  One thought on “in which there is a little experimentation

  1. CJ
    May 12, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Oh man I stopped and turned the car back on to listen to that song. That whole album was a big one for me and it’s just lovely. I love Rufus to distraction. 💗

    • May 12, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Me too. It’s weird, he’s so associated with a period in time for me that I almost forget how much I adore him until he comes up on my iPod and then it’s all Wainwright, all damn day.

  2. May 12, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Greener Shades were my first dyes after Poke, Goldenrod, and the other “laying about the place” dyes. I still hold on to Sunshine Yellow as my favorite yellow; even if it s a bit challenging to dissolve. Missed you this year. Glad to see you made a time of it and I hope you have fun with your new set of dyes. The Amazon can be amazingly overpowering. Don’t say you were never warned. 😉

    • May 13, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      Aaaaugh, Sam and I went hunting for y’all but got distracted by lamb- the sort you eat, not look at, sadly. I’m so sorry we missed you!

  3. May 13, 2016 at 6:17 am

    That album…I loved nothing more than driving and singing along at the top of my lungs! It’s so true that the music we have as the soundtrack to creating matters!

    • May 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      I love this entire album- his big, sad, orchestral sound. Oh, RUFUS.

  4. May 13, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Re: houseplants – I fuss over mine to a tragic level as well. I have an African violet, a Christmas cactus and an aloe plant, none of which are particularly high maintenance (if anything, all three have proven themselves nearly indestructible several times over, in fact), but all of which I poke, prod, analyze and talk to on a near daily basis. They’re like less needy versions of pets, basically. 🙂

    • May 13, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Mine are all low maintenance too, although I’ve a bunch of babies going right now that I fuss over as though they need it- new seeds, but also some Purple Heart cuttings and a ton of baby succulents I’m growing from trimmings that I secretly believe will do better with attention. SO SILLY, but I love them to distraction.

  5. May 13, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    I *LOVE* that song. I got to hear him do it with an actual orchestra once and it was a thousand times better than I could’ve imagined!

    Those dyes look so promising, ooh!

    • May 13, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      I am so envious of that experience!

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