Maple candy!

Having read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a child, it appears that I share with several friends a long-harbored ambition to make maple candy on snow!

Well, we have a snowstorm: 6 to 8 inches so far (15-20 cm), and we may get as much as a foot (30cm). Hopefully I won’t lose power; I’ve taken some pictures.

I can't take a good picture of the snow in my yard without daylight, but here's a bush right outside the door.

Advised by the top three Google hits for “how to make maple candy with snow”, we boiled half a cup of maple syrup with a tiny bit of butter up to 230 F, gathered several bowls of clean snow (but for acid rain), and ladled patterns into them, let them cool, and ate chewy candy.

That's my sister Diana in the background! I gathered, she poured.

The longer you heat the maple syrup, the harder they get; but leaving them in the snow longer made some of them a bit harder anyway.

Keeping them is tricky: I’m sticking some in the freezer on the bowls of snow, because I’m afraid melted snow may dissolve them. Oh, also, do NOT use a paper towel except for preliminary drying. Wax paper. I told Diana to deal with the last few, and she got them stuck to the towel! Later: the frozen ones are great.

Sad roving is sad, but fixable

For once, I’m posting about something I made that is less than awesome.

As you may or may not know, I’m selling my wool and yarn at a craft fair on June 27. (If you’re in the Boston area, you should totally come!) As such, I’ve been spinning up a storm. My 3 boxes of alpaca fleece finally arrived mid-May, and since I returned from Europe, I’ve been doing a bunch of carding. I also have been dyeing a bunch of merino rovings, most of which are up on my Etsy store.

I also bought 16 drop spindles, so I could sell them to people interested in spinning:

Last night I went on a dyeing spree. The first batch came out lovely. The second batch not so much. It was my own fault. Usually I’ll send the wool through the spin cycle of my washing machine to get out the excess water, and it works just fine. But I did it a second time for these rovings, and they felted:

There were 8 total that suffered this fate. I was pretty upset. They’re salvageable as yarn, but I can’t sell them as roving, unless it was to someone who knew what they were getting into and at a heavily discounted price; just enough to recoup my losses. Better to have it be yarn, where no one will know I messed up.

How does one salvage sad, sad wool?

By pre-drafting!

Drafting is the process of drawing out fibers in order to spin them. Usually I’ll do this as I’m spinning. But when wool is felted or otherwise uncooperative, I’ll pre-draft. It’s also useful if you want to keep the repeats of colors.

I pull off strips of the felted wool, separating it until I have strips that are small enough to spin and are no longer felted. Here is me splitting some wool

(As you can sorta see, my fingers are still discolored from the dyeing spree.)

In the end, you get a pile of small strips, and you can no longer tell that they were originally felted:


And it helps to have housemates who like pulling things apart. This way I don’t need to do all the pre-drafting myself.

29.5 lbs of wool

Looks like this:

(Actually, that’s not the entirety of it, because I had to take some wool off of the roll in order for it to fit in my cabinet.)

And yarn desk 2.0:

Dyeing (and other cool things)

My hands currently have a blueish tinge. This is because I spent the afternoon dyeing wool and yarn with a non-blogging friend, and didn’t bother with the whole gloves thing.

The process wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be.  We laid out saran wrap and then put down the roving and painted it in sections.
Here are the results:


The green and purple yarn in there went to my friend, for all the help that she gave me today. The rest is going to go in my Etsy store when it dries and I can photograph it properly and braid it. (Which I may link to if the powers that be think it’s not inappropriate to do so.)

I also made myself gloves last week. Gloves that fit. I had never made gloves until now; I had been really afraid of them. But they were so quick and easy! And they are the first pair of gloves that I’ve owned that fit, ever. I took the photo before I had a chance to weave in the ends, but it’s enough to get an idea of them.

From Craftiness

Finally, there’s more alpaca yarn from my friend’s alpaca farm. I’m spinning all of the fleece from their farm, and in return I get to keep half of it (or half the profits if I can manage to sell it; not sure if that will actually happen). Here’s one of the 3 skeins that I put in the store. It is rose grey.

From Craftiness

Experimental Knitting

…in which curiousity kills the silkspinner.

I recently found some interesting variegated gold yarn and made an extremely simple scarf for my grandmother, pictured below.

littlegoldscarfUpon finishing, I was left with an impractical skein and a half extra of the yarn, not enough to really do anything with. However, I also had a tiny amount of some purple flax yarn my sister had recently brought me, and the two looked fairly nice together.  Clearly a bicolored project was in order.

At this point it occurred to me that, while I’d been learning about cabled knitting for the past year, I hadn’t seen many projects featuring multiple yarn colors and cables.  I wasn’t sure if this was because a) mixing colors in a cabled project and producing a nice effect is difficult or impossible, b) sane people reasonably think that you shouldn’t distract attention from intricate patterns with unneeded complexity, c) said projects existed and I merely hadn’t seen them, d) that sort of thing makes a project awfully hard to block, or e) other.  Ergo I decided to find out if I could knit a small scarf with gold cables but purple background.

The answer to this question turned out to be yes, I could, but only if I was clever in my choice of pattern. My first attempt turned out to be wrong in every respect — the pattern had the cable strands staying in one place and twining around each other, such that the large stretches of unbroken background tended to clump displeasingly and it was hard to tell the crossings of the gold strands apart from the color changes in the yarn. I switched patterns to one that had lots of cable strands moving rapidly over the background  (found here, originally sent to me by hobbitknitter: This attempt went rather better, although it was still troublesome that the background yarn was slightly thicker than the cable yarn. The other way around might have been better.  Finally I wound up with the following.

DSCN0031experimental scarf

I’m fairly pleased with it. I think eventually I might try a larger project of the same kind, although of course that would require a good deal more planning.



I wanted to make tangrams for my school, and I discovered that lined 3”x5” index cards are perfect for making tangrams! This is because the distance from the top line to the bottom line is exactly 2.5” and the lines are 1/4” apart, so the middle line is marked.

To make tangrams out of an index card:
0. You could cut off the top and bottom outside the lines if you want, to give yourself straightedges and not get confused. Or you can do that at the end, and use another index card for a straightedge and perpendicular.
1. Fold the index card in half, to make two squares, and trace the resulting line. Draw the diagonal in one square to make the two big triangles. Make sure to check that the two diagonals meet at the center card-line, thus:

It's hard to see, but the topmost index card is showing the diagonal on the bottom, which meets the pencilled line in the middle.

It's hard to see, but the topmost index card is showing the diagonal on the bottom, which meets the pencilled line in the middle.

2. Start the diagonals in the other square, but only to the center point of that square (which, again, you can find using the index card’s middle line). Now you have the medium-size triangle.

3. Using the other index card to make a perpendicular line, draw a vertical line halfway up in the middle of the second square. Mark the same line at the top. Now you should have the square and one small triangle.

4. Draw the last diagonal from the side of the card to the midpoint of the top line, so that you have the parallelogram and the other small triangle.

I am in the Madrid Café at 45th and Sansom, Philadelphia.  The owner was happy to try tangrams.

I am in the Madrid Café at 45th and Sansom, Philadelphia. The owner was happy to try tangrams.

I also discovered a tangram alphabet, whence the title picture.

Finally, I made my own “paradox.” I’m sure this has been done and googling will reveal it; nevertheless, I invented it myself. 🙂 Having gone back to tangrams with a much more mathematically trained mind than I had as a child, I always consider the lengths of sides and parallel positions and so on, so it’s much easier to solve tangrams and to puzzle out things like that.

Wait, one of the squares has a hole in it...

Wait, one of the squares has a hole in it...

Cables, cables, and more cables

I’ve been working on a lot of projects with cables recently. I made an alpaca scarf for myself, with celtic knotwork, from this pattern, slightly modified to add a 2×2 cable on each side. (This also results in the scarf being 42 stitches per row instead of the original 32. This was mostly unintentional, but cool anyways.) I spun the dark brown yarn myself.

From HRSFA yarn
From HRSFA yarn

I then decided that I also needed a pair of socks for myself, since when I was making a pair for a friend, I tried them on every so often, and they were really comfy. Originally my socks were just plain old socks, but I thought they were a few stitches too wide, so I frogged what I had. (I actually went on a bit of a frogging spree that day and took out a few other unfinished projects that really needed to be restarted or scrapped.) I started anew, and this time decided that the sock wanted a cable. I charted out a pattern which was based on part of the middle of the scarf.

From HRSFA yarn

I ran into one difficulty, which is that in the scarf, there was a right side and a wrong side, and on the wrong side you knit the knit stitches and purled the purl stitches, moving nothing and crossing nothing. On the right side you did all the cabling. You could easily tell which row you were on and what needed to be done.

However, with the sock, there is no wrong side because it is knit in the round. Thus, every other row is a row without cables, and if you lose track of where you are it isn’t always instantly obvious whether or not you just did a cable row.

Still, I managed to finish it. Now I need to make a second one, and then I will have a very shiny pair of socks.