Sunflower yarn + calendars + dyeing pork

I spun the sunflower-dyed fiber last night and it is really pretty! Check it out, posing with the peonies that just opened:

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The color seems even stronger when the yarn is “distilled” down from the fluff stage. The rest of my Friday afternoon and most of today was spent trying to integrate a standalone calendar application into my new shop’s website. Finally, I got it working (breathing major sigh of relief).

My boyfriend spent his afternoon with the Ten Minute Cooking School featurette at the end of Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon A Time In Mexico DVD, making cochinita pibil (recipe link). Given that he doesn’t cook much, this was a fairly ambitious undertaking. I had to hunt down banana leaves, fresh annatto and lots of other fun stuff for him during the week, not to mention buy a new blender and spice grinder.

How does this relate to dyeing? (because it does, grasshopper, it does!)

Annatto (bixa orellana), also known as achiote, bixa or uruku, is a natural red dye. Several Aveda products use annatto as a red colorant, including lipstick and color maintenance products for red hair, sourced from the Brazilian rainforest-native Yawanawa tribe. Some even call it “the lipstick tree.”

Long story short: not much went into the pork, so I think I’m going to have another dye experiment this week. If you’d like to play along, annatto is easy to find in well-stocked Mexican or Central American grocery stores (it was labeled ‘achiote’). It will stain your hands and countertops something fierce, too, so put down plastic or newspapers.

Bored on a Monday morning?

…take the Knitgrrl blog reader survey! Each year BlogAds runs this survey with its member blogs (BlogAds administers the small ads you see on the right sidebar). I’ve known Henry, BlogAds’ founder, for quite a while and this survey is a very good thing because it helps them — and by extension, me — reach advertisers more efficiently and in a way that gives credit to the amazing world of blogs and their readers. He’s done a lot when it comes to giving blogs a new level of respectability as a media source. Of course, you know that already.

If you’ve been to a Yarn Harlot reading lately, you’ve heard her statistics on knitting blogs and BlogLines. Knitters took to blogs like — oh, a sale on Koigu — very early on. I think it’s because we like to talk about knitting a lot, but don’t want to bore the daylights out of our significant others and coworkers. Would they really “get” the tragedy of the Socks That Rock, But Bank That Didn’t Incident? Would they help you track down just one more ball of dyelot X to finish the project you’ve been working on for a year? No. But fellow knitbloggers do, and would.

So, if you have a second to spare on this lovely morning, please take the survey. I’m heading up a new hive of yarn-related blogs on BlogAds and it would really, really help to have more knitters’ opinions in the mix. Even if you only have time to do a page or two of the survey, it will help, so don’t be shy, and thanks!

p.s. Almost forgot one more reason you should take the survey! Each year the results skew heavily male (80/20, 75/25, etc). Since the majority of my readers are women, maybe we can help close that gap a little…

No, I haven’t been hiding

I’ve been work, work, working. This weekend I had a software breakthrough — you’ll know about it soon enough, but let’s just say HURRAY! I’ve also had to put together materials for both the workshops I’m teaching this weekend and for books that publishers have asked me to write, all while getting the Knitgrrl store re-launch stuff going, etc etc.

Speaking of [on the old, non-WordPress-powered Knitgrrl site] I used to stream just the knitting-related items I sold on my shop site into a separate Knitgrrl shop page. But now that I’m changing around some behind-the-scenes software for a more elegant solution, you may soon see some differences in how this site works. For those of you who read it via RSS with some sort of feedreader, I’m not sure, but the feed may change. If and when it does, I will let you know. But if it does, you might not see the message! So, if you don’t notice a new post for a long time, click over to directly.

And now it’s back to work! (I just didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten about you — au contraire — I’m actually doing some very cool stuff for you to check out soon!)

The most useful knitting website in the world

The Walker Treasury Project. From the sidebar:

Every knitter knows that Barbara Walker’s Treasuries are indispensable. We use them constantly for designing, for help with a difficult pattern, and for pure inspiration. Sometimes, though, the mostly black-and-white and small pictures keep us from seeing the full potential of a pattern. That’s where the Walker Treasury Project comes in. We’re gathering high-quality, color photos of all the patterns in all the Treasury books (including Mosaic Knitting) and putting them on the internet as a visual aide to this wonderful collection. Help your fellow knitter by choosing a pattern from a particular book, working up a nice big swatch in a light-colored yarn, and posting it to our blog. We can help you label and categorize everything. Also, keep in mind that we’re not posting the pattern, just the picture!

Although I can use and make charts for knitting, sometimes you just want to see what it really looks like to get your creative juices rumbling.

Speaking of creative juices, I have a sweater on the needles that is calling to me. Photos and pattern to come soon!

Interview with Kerrie Allman

To celebrate the launch of her new site Sew Hip today, I interviewed MagKnits editor Kerrie Allman here for AlterNation. Yarn and fabric, my friends. Like peanut butter and chocolate, I tell you. Sewing is a good skill to have as a knitter — things like Bonne Marie’s excellent zipper tutorial make more sense, you can figure out new ways to fit things, make liners for your bags and heavy, jacket-like cardigans…

Art of Crochet

Here’s a new website for crochet fans to check out: Art of Crochet. You can get two gorgeous patterns for free when you register for the site, there are patterns to buy, a Flickr group and even video stitch guides in the Crochet Academy. Very cool.

And speaking of crochet, this knitgrrl is not stopping with Crochet Style. On the contrary… there’s another project brewing that involves the almighty hook, so stay tuned.

Things you should know about: the Adorn blog

Check it out! Adorn magazine has the most fantastic blog. Of particular interest for those of you who sell your crafty wares, the Craft Fair Circuit category.

Speaking of, tomorrow is Bazaar Bizarre Cleveland and I can’t wait. Why, I even bought new styrofoam heads!

(Ok, seriously, how many times can you say that in conversation? Not often. So I took my chance while it was there).