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I heart wool.
I do! It’s my favorite thing to knit with. Add a bit a silk and I’ll be drooling like Pavlov’s pooch. I feel really, really sorry for knitters allergic to wool. I know there are many other types of fibers out there to knit with, but really–nothing comes close to wool. Love love love.
I finished my mum’s birthday stole awhile back. Knit, of course, with wool. Blue Moon Fiber Arts Laci, to be exact. Anyway, I finally mailed it to her last week, and I got a very excited phone call last night. She got it. She loves it. She is amazed by it. In fact, she told me she’s going to wear it to work on Monday, which surprised me a bit since it’s kind of dressy. Well, let me show you a picture and let you judge for yourselves.
Okay, this picture is crappy. I had a had time capturing both the color and the lace pattern in the same photo. That one ^up there^ is the color. Here’s the lace pattern.
It never fails to astound me what beauty is contained in lace. And what astounds me even more is what it looked like beforehand. I was a bit worried about the length of this stole as I was knitting it–it was seeming really short, so I knit the required number of repeats, slipped it onto waste yarn, and blocked it. It turned out much longer than I thought it was going to, but it still wasn’t long enough. So I put it back on the needles and knit two and a half more repeats. Before I blocked it again, I snapped a pic.
Can you see the junction? It’s about halfway down. I don’t remember who originally coined the phrase “a big pile of ramen noodles” describing unblocked lace, but dang is that apt. Blocking is the magic wand that makes it all pretty, bippity boppity boo and you’re ready for the ball.
So yeah, we all know that wool does, in fact, block, but have you ever asked yourself why wool blocks? Well, I have. So I looked it up. More or less, here’s the answer.
So, wool is made up of protein fibers, right? Right. Just like our hair. And proteins are made up of strings of amino acids. Amino acids are called the building blocks of life. There are twenty of them. Here is a list, in case you’re interested. So these strings of amino acids are known as the primary structure. Proteins have a secondary structure too, which is how the strings of amino acids interact with each other. The particular secondary structure that wool proteins adopt is called a beta-sheet (not to be confused with a dryer sheet). And it looks like so:
So all of those strings of Ns and Cs and Os running up and down the image are the amino acid chains (the primary structure). They are connected by solid lines–that means chemical bonds. The dotted lines you see going across the page between the Hs and Os are called hydrogen bonds. They are not the same as real bonds–they’re a kind of electrostatic interaction. You can think of it as adjacent molecules kind of holding hands. (Awww! They like each other!) This hand holding between strands makes up the secondary structure, which helps hold the protein together and lets wool keep its shape.
Another thing that helps wool keeps its shape is the tertiary structure. As you can probably imagine by the name, tertiary structure is one step beyond the secondary structure, and is the spatial arrangement of amino acids that are far apart in the chains. Here’s an example.
So the snaking line there is the amino acid chain. S means sulfur, and the S-S things between the chains are known as the disulfide linkages. So if hydrogen bonding is hand holding, disulfide linkages are more like a double arm grasping–you know, like how trapeze artists hang onto each other when they’re swinging around? Disulfide linkages are stronger than just a hand-holding. And these make up the tertiary structure, and again help hold together the proteins.
So what does all this crap have to do with blocking? Well, when you plunge your finished knitting into a basin of water, all of the hand holding and arm grasping lets go. Since there’s so much of it around, the amino acids grab onto water molecules instead of their neighbors and friends. (As an aside, ever wonder why wet wool smells so stinky? It’s those breaking sulfur bonds. Sulfur smells like ass.) As you can imagine, this weakens the structure of the wool, which means you should always be careful when handling wet wool. It can break! But it’s also good, because it means that we can sculpt our finished knitting into the shape that we want it to take. And as the wet wool dries, the water molecules evaporate into the atmosphere, taking away their hands. So then the amino acids in the wool have to grab onto their friends and neighbors again, locking the new shape in. And hence we get beautiful knitted lace, instead of ramen noodles.
Pretty amazing, really.
Okay so, I presume you want to know the details of the stole. Here ya go.
Pattern: Japanese Feather Stole, by Anne Hanson of knitspot
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Laci in Tlingit, a bit less than one half skein (appox 800 yds)
Needle: KP Options, US 6
Started: March 17
Finished:April 19 (the day after mum’s birthday–oh well)
Mods: Knit with smaller yarn (laceweight instead of fingering) on smaller needles, did 13.5 repeats instead of 11.
For: mumsie, on her 60th birthday. With love from chemgrrl.
And like a good scientist, I must cite my sources. I had help from:
Stryer, Lubert. Biochemistry; Fourth edition; W.H. Freeman and Company: New York, NY, 1998.
Bradbury, J.H. Pure & Appl. Chem. Vol 46. pp. 247-253. Pergamon Press, 1976.
Lindley, H. Chem. of Nat. Protein Fibers. pp. 147-191. Plenum Press, 1977. (images came from this paper)
…they want to be close to you! That song is running though my head. I think it’s because of the cacophony of bird sounds I’ve been waking up to lately. The birdies! They are back. I’ve been late for work a lot this past week, just because I’ve been laying in bed and listening to the birdsong and looking at all of the redbuds blooming on the ridge behind my house. So pretty. Here’s a redbud blooming.
But that’s on campus and not by my house. I need to take some more pictures this weekend.
So, wahoo! It’s Friday! Last day of classes! Yay.
Here’s what I’ve been
Reading (Big surprise there. But this book is really good. It seems, though, that if the things in this book are true, there was a lot in the movie that wasn’t. Oh well–it was still a good movie.)
Watching (Scary! Good! And guess who is in it?)
It’s a beautiful day! I’m meeting a prospective grad student in about 15 minutes. I think I’ll take her outside. :)
Have a great weekend, everybody!
Here’s some earth. (photos by me–full gallery here)
Fence on earth.
Wild turkeys on earth.
Trees and water on earth.
Flowers on earth.
Flowers on trees on earth.
Bridge on earth.
Building made of earth.
Here’s some more earth. (photos not by me)
Lemon Lane superfund site, Monroe County, Indiana. Image from copa.org.
Oil and water on earth.
Nothing much on earth.
Happy Earth Day.
So I was woken up this morning by my house shaking. That’s not so unusual, but it usually involves a garbage truck driving by or a helicopter flying over (they look for pot in the woods pretty regularly). Neither was there. It took me a few minutes to realize I was feeling an earthquake. That’s right–in Indiana! It turns out it was really in southern Illinois, but it was enough to shake the windowpanes and the wine glasses here. Weird. (ETA: there was an aftershock around 11:20 EST, too. That was kind of alarming since I was in the lab at the time. Eeek. ETA again: apparently it wasn’t an aftershock that I felt, but a second quake! This one was a 4.5.)
It was even more surreal to me, since I found out last night that I’ll be spending my summer in Southern California, where they actually have earthquakes.
I GOT THE INTERNSHIP!!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! It’s a Science Writing internship through AAAS, and I’ll be learning many new and exciting things in Santa Ana this summer. I didn’t say anything about applying for it here, since it’s really competitive and I was sure that I wasn’t going to get it, but I got it! I got a call last night from the paper, to see if I would fit their needs and their philosophy, and it turns out they picked me because they wanted someone with experience on the internet and with blogging. Yup. Can you believe it? Keeping this blog actually did something for me! (Well, besides meeting all the nice people who read it.:) ) So I’ll be helping out with their science blog this summer. And hopefully learning how to surf. It gets really hot in S Cal in the summer, right? Like how hot? Skin melting hot? Center of the sun hot? I guess I need to start knitting myself some cotton socks!
And that brings us to the most important question: Holy crap, what YARN should I take with me?!? I cannot even begin to fathom how I will pack my stash. Nicole, help! How do you pack yarn for an entire summer?
Man. It’s been an interesting last 24 hours. I’m all a twitter! Between the earthquake and the internship, my brain is all over the place. I guess you could say I’m all shook up.
All right, let’s try to come back down to earth. It’s Friday. Here’s what I’ve been
Watching. Okay. This movie was funny and entertaining, but I had SERIOUS issues with it.
(***Spoiler Alert! If you don’t want to know the plot of this movie, skip to the end!***)
Okay, so movie is about a young bee (Barry B. Benson, played by Jerry Seinfeld) who graduates from bee school and then has to decide what he wants to do with his life. Though a series of adventures, he manages to make friends with a human woman (Rene Zwellinger) and learn all about human ways. In doing this, he discovers that humans collect and sell honey. He gets really mad, and sues the honey company owners. He wins. So then all the bees get to take their honey back, so they don’t need to make it anymore. So they don’t. Work at the hive shuts down, and the bees stop pollinating flowers and such.
So this is the part that really pisses me off. In this movie, the no more pollination means that all of the flowers and trees and plants in the world start dying. Central Park turns brown. Barry’s human friend, who is a florist, has to shut down her business because there are no more flowers. Then she sets off to go to the Rose Parade, since they’ll be showing the last flowers on the planet. Then Barry decides to go with her, steals a float, and takes it back to New York (since there are no bees in California, apparently). They do this, the bees pollinate them, and they all magically spring back to life and turn green and colorful again. Yay, the day is saved. Thanks, bees!
Okay, WTF? The last time I checked, flowers don’t need to be pollinated to survive! They need to be pollinated to reproduce. But will they turn brown and keel over from lack of pollination? To watch this movie, you’d think yes. Also the last time I checked, bees were not the only things that did pollination! Most trees are wind pollinated. There are also other insects that pollinate (flies, wasps, moths, etc.) as well as animals that pollinate. Ever hear of a hummingbird? How about a fruit bat? I’m so angry about this blatant lack of respect for the scientific facts mostly because this movie will be watched by children. Little children who will believe this drivel because they saw it on TV. And probably a lot of parents won’t know any better, so they won’t be able to explain that it’s just make-believe and that stupid Hollywood people have no regard for basic science! Okay, that last line was a bit harsh, but dangit! Why are we mis-educating our children? Because it makes a good story? Bah. Those writers should be bitch-slapped. That’s all. Rant over.
(P.S. I’m totally okay with the bees talking and suing people and stuff. I’m also slightly okay, but a little pissed, that the worker bees and pollinators in the movie are mostly men. Male bees, aka drones, are really only around to mate with the queen. They don’t do anything else. If fact, they usually get kicked out of the hive in the wintertime. So it goes.)
(***I’m done! Start reading again.***)
Anyway. Before I go, I want to say Happy Birthday to Huan-Hua! Go over to her blog and say nice things. She’s a nice person. She deserves them.
And also a very Happy Birthday to my mommy! She’s turning 60 today! I made her a very special something that I hope to show you very soon. But, er, it’s not done yet. But I’m reaaaaal close so maybe by Monday.
Have a great day, both birthday girls! And have a great weekend to the rest of you. :)
You wanted ’em. You got ’em. Here’s what I got at the Fiber Event.
Yarn, yes of course. I got a big bag ‘o yarn (well, not huge, but big).
Two skeins of some green stuff.
mossy greeny goodness
As you can see, I already started swatching with it.
This yarn was labeled “sport weight” which I’m having a hard time believing. It looks kinda like a light worsted to me. Plus, it’s a little scratchy, so I want to feel how it will wash up. Hence, the swatch. I’m not done with it yet, but I’m knitting it on a US 7 and I feel like I could have gone up a needle size. Sport weight. Right.
(That flower, by the way, is a wood anemone. Pretty, yes?)
I also got three skeins of a creamy lovely white.
three little maids from school
This is much softer than the pretty green. And it’s so squarshy and springy! I couldn’t stop squeezing it. That’s a sign from the knitting gods that you need to buy something, you know. Am who am I to deny the knitting gods?
And the last, a pretty pink.
This was a free skein with purchase of the other ones. I do like it very much, especially paired with the green. Maybe another pair of mittens?
So all this wool came from a small spinning company in Michigan called Zeilinger Wool Company. And it was CHEAP. Seriously, I don’t know how they make any money off of it. It was all $1.20 an ounce. So all the wool up there? Six skeins–approximately a pound and a half of wool? Twenty dollars and seventy six cents. That’s with tax. That made my broke ass very, very happy. Nice wool, too. They do take phone orders…
Um. Not Yarn.
All I have to say for myself is, it was Huan-Hua’s fault. She was having a really hard time deciding what fiber to buy in this very nice booth that had all naturally dyed and handspun stuff. So she asked for my help. We spent about 20 minutes squeezing and looking and comparing all this lovely fiber in this lovely booth. So when she finally made up her mind and took her choices up to the cashier, what could I do but grab my own favorite off of the wall and follow her? I had no choice, really.
Um. Did I mention I don’t spin?
Just look at it, sitting there all fluffy and cute, like an innocent puff of cotton candy. I think it’s Corriedale with silk noil bits in it, but I don’t remember for sure. The point it, it’s bloody gorgeous. And my downfall. Obviously. Here’s a close-up.
Oh yes, it was also dyed with Cochineal. So it’s (part) bug fiber dyed with bug dyes. Yay for our little insect friends.
So after I bought that fiber, I decided to go back to a booth that had this other fiber I was drooling over earlier. What the hell, I thought.
It was hard to get a good picture of this, since I didn’t want to take it out of its little plastic bag housing, but it is so effing pretty. I don’t remember all of the fibers in here, but it did contain Wensleydale, bombyx silk, silk noil, Corriedale and merino. I think. Anyway, it contains many nice things. And it’s pretty. Did I mention that it’s pretty?
So yeah, I need to learn to spin now.
I did get one other thing. Bugs!
say hello to my little friends
More Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus), but in the raw form this time. Whole. To get the dye, you have to grind them up. I asked the guy I bought them from about that. “With just a mortar and pestle?” I said. “Sure,” he answered, “or you can just use your coffee grinder.”
Heh. I don’t think the blub would be very happy about that. Although cochineal is quite commonly used for food dyes. Think of that the next time you eat something red.
So I will turn things red and pink with the bugs. Maybe even the creamy yarn I got from zwool. Maybe some sock yarn I’ve been saving for interesting dyeing. Maybe just my cats. (Do you think they’d dye well?) Anyway, I’m looking forward to playing with my new things.
Oh yeah, but I need a drop spindle. Where can I get a nice, cheap drop spindle? Anyone?
After my large dose of fiber over the weekend, that is.
Yup and uh-huh! The gals from my knitting group and I traversed up to Greencastle, IN on Saturday to attend THE FIBER EVENT! And of course, I’m the last one to blog about it (see Huan-Hua’s, Kalani’s, Nicole’s, and Elli’s posts). In fact, Huan-Hua’s already spun up her fiber purchases. I feel like a slacker, here. But hey, since then I’ve cleaned my house, done my taxes, held a review session for an upcoming exam, went to dinner at my in-laws’ house (all yesterday), been arguing with my boss (very very time consuming), writing an exam, and teaching for three hours (today). I’ve been busy. That reminds me, did I eat? Not important. Anyway.
There’s the hallowed place, right by the star. It was quite easy to find, due to that unusual landmark. Couldn’t miss it! It was about an hour-ish drive for us, and I must say I was very well behaved in the car. I think I only elbowed Kalani once. And we saw lambs! None gambling, but they were still cute.
(By the way, yes that is a large felted Indiana. It was outside one of the alpaca booths, so I’m assuming that it’s alpaca. Made with a highly competent hand, I must say.)
It was chilly and occasionally spitting rain, but there was WOOL. EVERYWHERE. It was very distracting. In fact, our little group got split up soon after we infiltrated the outdoor booths. I remember looking up and only being able to locate Huan-Hua. And then we heard bleating! So we wandered toward the source and found sheep shearing!
A sheep getting naked.
Some poor woman learning how to shear. The sheep was highly reluctant (I want some butts!).
Yes, sheepie. This too shall pass.
Sheepies in a pen.
Huan-Hua got some great video of it (here and here), with the spectacular ovine soundtrack. See if you can a) spot my ass’s cameo and b) hear the child-like conversation in the background. I can only make out bits of a high-pitched voice, but that was this little boy, who was maaaybe 6, telling me all about how sheep eat people. He kept putting his arm in the pen, shrieking, and snatching it out whenever a sheep would come near. I guess he was expecting to pull back a stump instead of an arm.
After we had our fill of watching sheep lose their dignity, we wandered over to the other outdoor booths and found the rest of our group. We also found a new friend.
It looked like it wanted to give Kalani a kiss, but dangit if I was too slow at the shutter to capture that. It’s a llama. I think. I always get them and alpacas confused.
After that we got really cold, so we wandered into the indoor vendor parts, where we saw a New England Braiding Machine;
Those yellow and blue things were spinning around. Really fast.
A really really long table full of fleeces;
(it was really long–no one shot could contain the enormity of this table)
And lots of angora bunnies.
Just in case you forgot where we were. Yeah. Indiana.
Here’s a close-up of one of the fleeces.
They were waiting to be judged. I asked an official-looking guy in blue what merits they were judged on, but he didn’t really know. He just raised them, he said. “But I think it has to do with staple length and depth,” he admitted. So I sank my hand into one of the fleeces. It was, um. Squidgy. My hand came out dripping with lanolin. I made sure to wash my hands before I ate anything, which wasn’t until I got home. Cuz this was the type of food we were offered.
Um, yeah. Thanks, but no thanks.
All in all, I had a fantabulous time!
L to r: Nicole, Huan-Hua, Kalani, me (dang, I’m short), Blogless Norma, and Elli.
I think we all did.
Wanna see what we got?
That’s everybody’s, by the way. Except Elli’s. She drove up separately. The stuff on the very right is mine. Here’s a sneaky peek.
And that's all you'll get, since it was all rainy and dark the only chance I had to take pictures. So you have to wait. But I must say, I surprised even myself with what I bought. No sock yarn! And...I got some other stuff. But not telling yet.
Aren't you intrigued? Aren't you curious? Aren't I evil?
I don’t really like doing memes.
Don’t get me wrong, I like reading them. But I get bored when I do my own. I guess I’d rather entertain myself in a blog post with the rapier wit and dazzling charm that I possess in bucketloads. So when orata tagged me a few days ago, I threatened to I fake my own death to get out of it.
But how exactly does one go about faking one’s own death? A google search actually comes up with several step-by-step guides, my favorite being this one (especially the disclaimer). It seems kind of complicated, though. Not really worth it to get out of doing a yarn meme. I do like the idea of getting snatched by Mexican bandits, but I’d have to set up a Swedish bank account to stash money away, and I don’t even have an active passport right now. Not to mention, you know. Money. So I guess I’ll do the meme. Happy? I just won’t do it today. Some time next week, maybe. Or maybe I’ll just wait until everyone’s forgotten about it….Hey look! Kitties!
Okay, it’s Friday. Here’s what I’ve been
Watching LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.
Can you tell I liked it? Oh yeah, and James McAvoy is my new boyfriend. Thought you might want to know.
Oh, and guess what! While finding links on Amazon, look what I noticed is being released soon. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Guess what else? I’m going to a Fiber Fest this weekend. With Nicole and orata and hapagirl and blogless Norma. Ellie will be there, too. We will have fun, even though it’s supposed to be 40 F and pissing down rain. Wool’s waterproof, right?
Have a great weekend, everybody!
I was working part time in a five-and-dime
My boss was mr. mcgee
He told me several times that he didnt like my kind
cause I was a bit 2 leisurely
Seems that I was busy doing something close 2 nothing
But different than the day before
Thats when I saw her, ooh, I saw her
She walked in through the out door, out door
She wore a
The kind u find in a second hand store
And if it was warm she wouldn’t wear much more
I think I love her
(P.S. Didn’t mean to rip off yer style Weez, but it just seemed to work here.)
Hi ho there. Just another rainy Friday post. It has been raining buckets and loads and drachms around here. In fact, all the little feeder creeks around my house? They go into Lake Monroe, and from there the water flows into the White River. Well, ye old White River is approx 5 feet above flood stage right now, so they’ve got the dike at Lake Monroe all closed up. Which means the water by me Ain’t. Going. Nowhere. It’s really odd to see water in a creek standing still, but there you are. And if you’re in a boat, there you’ll stay.
So I’m a bit behind on my Friday posts. So you get multiples today. Curb your enthusiasm, kiddos.
Here’s what I’ve been
The Devil’s Arithmetic (Excellent and sad and horrifying and riveting. This book will strip you down to your soul. And it’s a kids’ book.)
One for the Money
Three to get Deadly
Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Smoke and Mirrors
The Opinionated Knitter (glued to it, in fact)
Sticks and String (I do heart this one–I gave a bunch of other knitting podcasts a try but this was the only one that stuck.)
Radio Lab (of course)
The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars
June Carter Cash
And that’s all the news that’s fit to print. Oh yeah, and here’s a picture of Oscar
just because I don’t like pictureless posts. And because he’s cute.
Have a good weekend everybody! Stay dry, if you’re by me.
Yes, I am SO EVIL! It was a good joke, no? I am sorry if I made anybody sad, though. The funny thing is, *I* started getting all sad when I was writing that post. And after I hit “publish” I was downright depressed. I guess I got into the spirit a little too much. But honestly, everything I said was true (well, excepting all the stuff that wasn’t). You guys ARE really important to me, and I DO cherish your comments and emails, and it DOES make blogging really fun. So yeah. Most of it wasn’t actually bullshit. But, my adviser is really happy with my work right now, so I don’t have to worry about that at least. Finishing, yes. Making my boss happy, not so much.
So. I told the blub all about the joke I played yesterday, and he said I am a Very Bad Person. But I think he was just mad because of the joke I played on him. Want to hear it? Okay!
Background: the blub is a super heavy sleeper. I can stand at the end of our bed and scream his name at the top of my lungs and he won’t wake up. This is not an exaggeration. I have really done it several times.
He is also mostly bald.
And so photogenic!
Anyway, so. Monday night I waited for him to go to bed. He did. Then I waited about 10 minutes or so and went upstairs, a Sharpie in my pocket. I turned on the bedside light, and waited. He didn’t stir. I pushed down on the pillow below his head (thankfully he was sleeping on his side). He didn’t stir. So I uncapped my little friend and carefully wrote “WASH ME” across the crown and back of his head. Still no stirring. I blew on it for a bit, then turned off the light and went downstairs. Heh heh heh. Mission accomplished.
Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this. About 10:30 Tuesday morning, I went down to the restaurant, camera in tow. When I appeared in the kitchen, all the guys back there started cracking up. But there was nothing on Nels’ head! He had taken the directions literally, I guess. I had thought that he wouldn’t have been able to get it all off, but he did. Hmph. So no picture. But I guess Nels didn’t believe the first guy who told him about it. Hee! He thought that guy was playing a joke on him. But when someone else said the same thing, the gig was up. And he washed it off. Oh well. It was still pretty funny! I think at least. He thought it was funny too, but then the pancakes I ordered came in the shape of a devil head with its tongue sticking out. I usually get teddy bears or happy faces. And he made me promise last night before he went to sleep that I wouldn’t write anything on his head. No problem! “Sure, sweetie!” I said, “I won’t write anything on your head tonight!”
But next time, I’ll get a picture right after I do it. Give me a few days. Gotta earn back the trust.
And speaking of earning back the trust, I do have some knitting for you! I’ve had a bit of startitus, so I think I have 5 or so WIPs right now. Pics soon, when it stops being all nasty and rainy and grey here. I guess that means sometime in May.
And you guys do know I love you, right? Big smoochy smoochy poogly oogly wuv!
No joke. :)