zondag 9 maart 2014

New dyeing experiments

Last week I've been dyeing again. Man, how I love messing around with dyes and colors...it feels like I'm back in preschool, legally creating a big colorful mass! Only this time I took it a step further. Instead of just pouring some nice colors over my fibers, I wanted to follow a plan. Don't get me wrong, spontaneity can be a very good thing when creating stuff (and you can always say: "that turned out just like I wanted to!", even if it didn't...because who knows? :P), but being able to actually work towards a result I imagined beforehand can be very usable sometimes.

I had been thinking about practicing my 'color skills', when I was going through the pictures of my weeks in the Dolomites. If you've ever been there, you might have seen the 'Enrosadira': the stunning sunset that sets the sky - just above the mountainous horizon - on fire in the most beautiful shades of reds and purples. I always take pictures of this phenomenon when I get the chance, so I have quite a lot of them (though they can in no way replace the real thing, you just gotta see it with your own eyes...). But the Dolomite mountains have more to offer! When the sky is clear and cloud free, it can be worth the effort to get up early, so you can observe the sunrise. The mountains slowly become visible, first in icy dark blue colors, while the sky above them turns soft pink until the sun peaks over them. Different colors, but just as stunning as the 'Enrosadira', this so-called 'Alpenglow'.

Suddenly an idea formed in my head: I should try to make two colorways out of these appearances! I opened Photoshop and got busy, ending up with two color schemes full of very challenging colors. I don't think I've got any of them ready to use in a pot, all the shades had to be prepared by mixing several dyes together. I wanted practice? Practice I got ;)



I imagined these colorways to work quite well for sock yarn (I can totally see a cozy pair of knitted up socks in these shades!), so I ordered two 100g undyed hanks and set up my dying materials in the garage a couple of days later (annoying my mom who constantly has to step over dye pots...sorry mom!). I started with 'Alpenglow', which turned out to be the easiest colorway. I'm pretty proud of the result!

Nice huh? I really love the different shades of blue! Although I mostly used acid dyes (Jacquard), I also added a touch of blueberry Koolaid, which came out surprisingly vibrant (and smelled lovely among the strong vinegar smell, heheh..).
Next up was 'Enrosadira', which gave me a bit more troubles. In 'Alpenglow', I didn't use any yellows, but in 'Enrosadira' I obviously did. I mean, the band of sky just above the mountains is deep, golden yellow in its purest form! The problem I didn't foresee (but should have, because it's quite logical), is that when you use blue and yellow next to each other, greens will appear. And thát's a color that doesn't appear in the Enrosadira-sky...
Unfortunately, I couldn't prevent some bits of green, unless some over dyeing. Lesson learned: next time be more careful about what colors to use next to each other.

Still, I'm also pretty happy with how the 'Enrosadira' sock yarn turned out. It's darker and deeper compared to 'Alpenglow', just like the actual skies. And I learned a couple of new things about mixing dyes! It's not as hard as I thought, I really expected a lot more 'muddy-ness': that ugly brown color that appears when the colors just flow over in each other, instead of forming nice gradients. I have to stay aware though of the fact that different fibers take up the dyes differently. For my last dyeing experiments I used alpaca, which definitely gives other results!

Both of the yarns went into my shop, because I already have way too much yarn anyway and simply can't knit up anything. (Besides, when it comes to socks, I'm the slowest knitter ever...).
If you're interested, check out 'Alpenglow' here, and 'Enrosadira' here!

So...already having made a mess in the garage (and annoying my mom) anyway, I thought: why not proceed with some roving? A little while ago I ordered a big bag of superwash roving from WorldofWool.com, which was just laying in a corner, pitiful and without any color, screaming to be taken out and join in the coloring fest. Who'd be able to resist? When I made the 'Alpenglow' and 'Enrosadira' colorways, I quickly found out how addicting it is to make these schemes. (Did you know there are also apps for your phone that can do this?! Check out RealColors, ColorView and ColorSchemer for example!). So I made some more, only this time instead of photographs, I decided to use artwork.

Growing older, I'm starting to appreciate artwork more and more. I can spend hours discovering artists, new ones ánd old ones, and marvel over their works. It's one of the great advantages of our digital age, having an endless art museum in my laptop! Sometimes I even feel a kind of hunger for art, like my creative soul is craving food in the form of illustrations and paintings and pretty handmade things. Not necessarily to buy, but just to look at and be inspired by. That probably sounds quite weird, but still I wonder if anyone else recognizes this hunger? It's simply a longing for beauty, that can be such a sweet and soothing thing in this (sometimes so harsh) world.

Okay, before I get too philosophical, I'll tell you what I did. I went to my Pinterest account (one of my favorite places to still the hunger) and picked out a couple of nice artworks, from different artists and in different styles. I made color schemes of the illustrations, just like I did with my photos, and used two of them to dye some roving. Besides having to study the illustrations and their colors more intensely than I would otherwise (which is good practice and feels like a good meal, when it comes to the hunger), I can also show yóu guys some works of my favorite artists and just simply spread the inspiration! My plan is to do this more often, not only with roving or yarn...I'd love to make some rolags and combed blends and maybe (mini) batts as well! And who knows...perhaps also a fiber mix, pre-dyed, ready for you to use for your next project?

For the first roving, I picked an illustration by Victo Ngai called 'Leap'. I was drawn to it in the first place because of the fox (foxes are just plain awesome, like everyone knows), but studying it longer I became impressed by the color use, the smooth curvy lines and the specific structure of the trees.
Victo has a very distinct style, I can totally imagine why she was honored with several medals and awards. Yes, 'she'. Victo sounds like a boy's name, but it's actually a nickname derived from 'Victoria'.  You can check her out at victongai.tumblr.comHere are some more works by the talented miss Ngai:

The second roving was inspired by an illustration called 'Bike Rider', made by BukuBuku. That's a silly name huh? I tried to find out where it came from, but ended up only with the girl's real name: Silvia. Anyway, she's another talented illustrator who makes very cute and kawaii-y drawings. A completely different style, but one that makes me happy! (And: a fox, again!) If you're up for more, take a look at hellobuku.blogspot.com.

For 'Leap', I could partly use the same colors as I used for 'Alpenglow'. 'Bike Rider' demanded for something else though: yellows, reds, blacks and a bit of soft pink. I think the roving turned out just as happy and cheerful as the drawing itself!

Just like the sock yarns, I put these rovings in my shop. They're both superwash (no felting!) and around 4 ounce. Who's gonna spin up these lovelies into something pretty?!
Click here for 'Leap', and here for 'Bike Rider'.

If there are any artists or artworks you'd like to see processed into colorschemes, rovings or other fibers, please leave a comment! I'm open for suggestions, and always happy to find out about new illustrators and painters.

Oh, before I take off, one last warning: wear a mask when preparing your dyes. I normally do, but thought I could just pour over a teeny tiny bit of powder from one pot into another - I should've known better. I had a little accident (don't ask), and fuchsia colored powder was flowing around. Even though I quickly covered my face and ran away, when I wiped my nose at night, my snot was bright pink (sorry for grossing you out here, let it be a warning :P ).

zaterdag 1 maart 2014

The Rosie Project, Sheldon Cooper & Temple Grandin

Shoot! During my last four weeks in Italy (guiding ski tours again, check my blogpost from last year to see what I've been doing) I wrote an almost finished book review blogpost in the Notes-app of my Iphone. And now it is gone! It just somehow disappeared...how the heck did that happen?! Aarrghh...and I liked this book só much! Now I'm gonna have to write it all over again. I simply can't let you guys nót know about this book. Thank me for it later ;)

So...the book is called 'The Rosie Project', it's the author's (Graeme Simsion) first work. And he did a great job, I really hope he's gonna write more of such heartwarming books! The main character of the story is Don Tillman. Don is a single man, working as a genetics professor and reaching the age of forty. So far nothing strange huh? But Don is a bit quirky, a little different from the average person, and definitely a lot more obsessive. He plans his life from minute to minute. He hates being too early (waste of time) just as much as being too late (violating an appointment). He even plans his thinking! Cognitive activities can be executed while cooking for example, because when you eat the same thing every monday, and every tuesday, and wednesday, etc...the attention needed for preparing the food is reduced to a bare minimum, you know. Now thát's efficiency ;)

Several covers...I have the left one, but I really like the one with the bike!

However amiable in his quirkiness, you can imagine that Don is perceived as a bit 'odd' (to put it mildly) by the people surrounding him (he has only two real friends: his colleague professor Gene and his wife Claudia). The fact that he takes everything (and I mean éverything) literally doesn't help either. Ask for 'the event in a nutshell' for example, and Don will think about the actual event taking place in a literal nutshell... While Don has to give a genetic's lecture to a class full of kids with the Asperger's Syndrome and their parents already at the beginning of the book, he never links this syndrome to his own behavior. Even though he finds the Aspies' reactions and questions extremely sensible and explicable (in contrast to their parents' behavior, who try to shush them down and make them not 'act so weird'), the penny just doesn't drop.

Reaching the age of forty, Don finds it's time to find a life-partner. Unless several dates, he hasn't had much luck so far in romance. But Don's optimistic and tackles this problem like everything else in his life: he just plans it to the tiniest detail. And we all know how easy (...?!) it is to plan love! Our professor comes up with the genius idea to make a questionnaire to select possible future partners. In his eyes, the huge amount of questions will be a perfectly efficient way to end up with a convenient spouse. The respondents have to fill in their alcohol consumption (correct answer: moderately), IQ, punctuality, weight, STD's and favorite fruity ice-cream flavors (which is actually a tricky question, because the ice numbs your taste-receptors and you shouldn't be able to distinct the flavors from each other at all...like everyone should know, duh!).

Don calls his quest for finding a partner 'the Wife-project'. You won't believe it, but it actually provides him with some suitable candidates...which he doesn't really like at all! The whole project becomes more and more confusing for Don, especially when he starts to develop feelings for Rosie, probably the most UNsuitable candidate according to the survey. So much for planning love.

One character Don really reminded me of was (you probably already guessed it if you're a Big Bang Theory fan) Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Sheldon must be one of my favorite television characters (Jim Parsons plays him só well!), which might be one of the reasons I also liked this book so much. Sheldon and Don share many traits and peculiarities. It's wonderful to see them find their way in life and love, despite feeling such a stranger on this world sometimes. I remember once reading about someone with autism in one of Dr. Oliver Sacks' interesting books. This person explained that life with autism in our world could probably be best compared with being an anthropologist on Mars, to make 'normal' people understand how it feels. It's one of the best explanations I ever read and it always stuck with me since.

Temple Grandin and Claire Danes, who plays her in the movie.

Another person I was reminded of while reading 'The Rosie Project' is Temple Grandin. Not too long ago I watched a movie about this amazingly inspiring lady. If you're interested in autism/Asperger's, or just in inspiring people in general, you should most definitely give it a try! Temple was diagnosed with autism at a very young age and suffered from severe delayed speech development, besides many other problems. Nevertheless she ended up as a university professor and doctor of animal science, receiving honorary degrees from many universities. She works as a consultant and engineer in livestock industry and animal behavior. Being a primarily visual thinker and having a visual memory (meaning that her memories are like full-length movies in her head that may be replayed at will, allowing her to notice a lot of small details), Temple uses her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment. Besides, she is also an activist for the rights of autistic persons, gives lectures on this subject and wrote several books about autism.

I've always had a weak spot for people with autism, and Asperger's in particular. There was even a time in my life when I wondered if I might be an Aspie myself. Being labeled with things like highly sensitive, gifted, OCD-ish and anxiety-disorder (never officially diagnosed though, my mom didn't got me tested, unlike Sheldon's mom :P) it wasn't difficult to see the similarities with the Asperger's syndrome. It seemed like all my traits, thoughts and feelings that made me sometimes feel so different from my peers, came together in this syndrome. But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I'm not a real Aspie according to the official inclusion criteria (and what's in a name anyway? Labels definitely help sometimes, but can also be the cause of even more problems and constrictions at other points!). Life can just be extremely overwhelming when you're a teenager growing into an adolescent, especially when having to deal with the traits mentioned above. I survived ;) Things are still going better, and I learn to value my own unique character, including its peculiarities. Still, the books I read about Asperger's helped me a great deal in learning how to handle specific parts of my personality. Which is probably also the reason why have that weak spot for Aspies. I just think the world would be way less interesting and diverse without them...

The people (both fictional and real) I mentioned earlier are just a couple of examples of people with Asperger's or (high functioning) autism and their potency. A commonly used term for non-autistic persons is 'neurotypicals'; people with 'normally wired brains'. I don't know about you, but language like that makes me all the more interested in the neuro-A-typicals...I can't even imagine how things work in their heads (or how hard it must be to live in a world filled with people who don't really get you), but try to think of what they can do! Invent, research, create and solve in ways that neurotypicals won't ever come up with! On the other hand I do realize that things are probably a bit romanticized in the examples above. It would be stupid to think that all Aspies have such a wonderful and understanding group of friends as Sheldon, or find so much luck in love as Don, or get the chances Temple got. I believe many of them struggle so hard that they need all their powers to survive on a foreign planet, with no energy left to actually invent, research, create, solve, or just even share their unique thoughts and views. I hope that the story of Don might play a part, even if it's just small, in encouraging people to appreciate eachother, especially the one's who act and think a bit different from the rest. Because there's always more then what meets the eye. Why not search for the uniqueness in others a bit more, instead of always trying to fit in?

Now start reading, and come back later to thank me for bringing this book under your attention, even though I had to write twó reviews for it ;)

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