Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Adventures in Sock Dyeing

Close-up of the lace
I knit socks. It's more fun than a 5000-piece puzzle, and a lot more useful. Plus, it's impossible to have too many socks, unlike hats. People only need one hat, maybe two. It's also the only way I can have socks where the heels don't poke out of the top of my shoes like an extra pair of noses. The fact that I get to stick my feet in front of people's real noses and show off my wicked cool socks is just a bonus.

The last pattern I knit was called Screaming Girl Lace by Heatherly Walker and it's available for a small fee on Ravelry. The real fun with these socks happens after the knitting, though, because you knit them in white yarn and then you splatter-dye them with red dye. I knit them up with some Valley Yarns Charlemont because I had almost a full skein left over from the lettering on my TARDIS socks.

I've never dyed socks before, but the internet is my friend so I headed over to DyeYourYarn and psyched myself up. No matter how they turned out, my socks would be one of a kind. As usual.

Splattered and drying
My friend Mel came over on Saturday and we got down to business. I slipped on a few plastic grocery store bags, then the socks, and stood on a paper bag. Mel squirted red food coloring on my socks. She went for the "arterial spray" effect and I smeared the bottoms of the socks around in the puddle we created. It was brilliant! Totally original CSI!

We left them to dry on a rack in the garage and tried to scrub the red off our fingers, but even my pumice stone wasn't up to the task.

On Sunday morning, to a round of Breaking Bad jokes, I commandeered the candy thermometer and the pot Dan uses to make chocolate syrup. I added the vinegar, then the socks, and heated the whole mess to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Then I added more vinegar, waited until the temperature reached 180, and turned off the heat. (I'm generalizing, here. For accurate instructions, please visit Dye Your Yarn.) My socks sat on the back burner, cooling, until after dinner. I behaved myself and did not lift the lid, but I will confess to attempting to peer through the condensation on the glass. It didn't work.

Cool rinse, cool rinse, cool rinse... the dye ran a lot more than I expected. I know the directions I followed were for hand-painted yarn, but I thought the vinegar was supposed to keep the color from bleeding all over the place.

Bleeding! Because I used red dye! And the socks are called Screaming Girl!

Almost as bright as the sun
My new socks are fiercely bright. It's best if you wear sunglasses, and don't look directly at them for more than a second or two. If you must stare, please use one of those pinhole eclipse viewers. I've no doubt that when I wear my Screaming Girl socks, heads will turn...away from the blinding glare. But it's all okay, because nobody else has socks like these. Also, the vinegar bath made the fabric, which is already 20% silk, so soft I want to rub my face in them. Before I put them on my feet. Because after would be weird. And beyond my abilities.

But a teeny bit of me pines for those arterial-spray socks. So I ask you, citizens of the internet: Does anybody know if there was a way I could have kept the rest of the socks white? Because I have enough of the Charlemont left for a pair of footies.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

REVIEW: The Tail of Emily Windsnap

This month, the kids read The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler. I'll admit, this one was far more popular with the girls than the boys. Still, everyone had fun sharing what they thought would be the best and worst things about being a mermaid or merman. Ned* was even brave enough to admit to the group that he thought the book was "pretty good."

Emily Windsnap and her mother live on a boat and Emily has wanted swim lessons for years. Maybe it's her mother's inexplicable fear of the water, maybe it's something else, but Emily is never allowed the lessons. One day, she finally prevails. After her first foray into the pool, though, Emily begs to quit the lessons. The worst thing in the world would be for her classmates to discover what she has just learned: Emily is a weirdo, a freak... a mermaid. She may be afraid for her classmates to learn her secret, but that doesn't stop her from sneaking out to test her new tail and fins at night. She befriends another mermaid and finds herself intrigued by the world beneath the surface of the water. Finally, someplace she feels at home!

A quick read, The Tail of Emily Windsnap is a fun book with twists that adults will likely see coming. However, my daughters and their friends figured out most of those twists right alongside Emily, so the book hits it target audience at the right level. With Emily having one human and one merfolk parent, the theme of love knowing no boundaries is central, but it's not necessarily a slippery slope. There are families of all sorts in our book club, so I chose to keep that part of the discussion focused on the general idea that love is love.  Emily's story contains plenty of other themes to concentrate on which are far more pertinent to kids' everyday concerns, like what makes a good friend, the difference between having one best friend versus several good friends, and whether or not disobeying a parent (or other adults) can be anything other than foolish.

Hennepin County Library in Minneapolis, MN has a discussion guide with some thought-provoking questions as well as a bunch of fun ones. Orion Books provides this teacher's guide, which has interdisciplinary lessons and activities, many of which can be easily adapted to suit smaller groups of kids.

There are three more books in the series. Though I haven't read them yet, Emma is looking forward to getting them.

And oh, yeah... our post-discussion snack spread included sushi, Swedish Fish and doughnuts with extra sugar.

*a pseudonym