Monthly Archives: August 2012

Authors Behaving Badly: The Seedy Underbelly of Reviewing

Hey Bus Full of Yarn Readers, I know this is a blog about knitting, but we read, we are smart. I thought you may be interested in the ‘pay for review’ portion of this article. Maura

The Happy Logophile

Up until a few months ago, I didn’t realise there was a seedy underbelly to publishing. But all of a sudden, I can’t seem to look anywhere without turning up odd or unpleasant behaviour from authors, publishers, or other members of the writing community. It’s actually got to the point that my husband asks me of an evening, “So, what’s the controversy today?”

“So, what is the controversy today?” I hear you ask.

First, let me run through some of the more recent incidents, just in case you missed them.

The ‘Stop the GoodReads Bullies’ Bullies

Wherein a group of authors sick of being “bullied” by reviewers on GoodReads (who had the nerve to give less than 5 star ratings) start their own website and reveal the real identities and contact information of those reviewers in a clear effort to encourage abusive retribution.

The LendInk Debacle

Wherein a group of vigilante authors use Twitter and DMCA…

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Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 3)

Research.  A word that strikes fear into the hearts of students young and old.  Me?  I love research.  I set about researching spinning with an open mind ready to learn.  I was ready but it was like setting off to kindergarten.  What if I didn’t like it?  What if it didn’t like me?  I had high hopes for this spinning thing.  I had the newly acquired tools set before me like school supplies ready for the new school year.

Amethyst Top & Louet Spindle

Spindle and Top

Time to head off to school.  Which way do I go?  What turns do I take?  How will I recognize my teacher when I get there?  The internet is a marvelous thing.  I started with the place everyone should start: YouTube.  I started with Spinning Yarn on a Drop Spindle – Tutorial with Megan LaCore.  I learned some good information here about the leader and drafting.  Good stuff.  But I was not convinced that this was my teacher.

I did a little research and saw one name mentioned above all others Annie Franquemont.  It turns out, she has a video available on YouTube also.  Great.  I started watching Introduction to Spinning, Part 1.  This video started at a much more basic level.  Was this indeed my teacher?  Perhaps, but I thought I would look at a few more options.  (And, no, I have not yet looked for Part 2.)

Books?  How about books?  The problem with me and books is that I am an immediate gratification kind of person.  So, off to Amazon I went to look for books that could be downloaded instantatiously to my Kindle app on my iPad.  I found two that looked interesting and downloaded the first chapter of each.  I ended up buying them both as they are each good for different reasons.  The first is Spinning in the Old Way: How (and Why) To Make Your Own
Yarn With A High-Whorl Handspindle by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts.  The second is Teach Yourself VISUALLY Handspinning by Judith MacKenzie McCuin.  Great books.  These are going to be fabulous resources as I progress into spinning.

At this point my little brain is full of information.  I have not done one single thing with my school supplies though.  Even though I was uncertain that I had found my teacher, there I was, seated in a classroom with people who knew more than me instructing me on how to go about this thing called spinning.  There was no better time than now.  I picked up my supplies and tried to put together everything I had heard and read and seen.  I put a leader of black wool on my spindle, I broke off a chunk of my purple wool, I pre-drafted.  I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

Turns out, I had no idea what I was doing.  But on I went.  I spun, I back-spun (oops!), I made yarn and broke the yarn.  After about an hour or so, I had a bunch of loose, tight, medium, over-twisted, under-twisted yarn.  SUCCESS!  I made a bit of purple yarn!  See?

Spinning: Attempt 1

My first yarn

I obviously have a lot to learn.  But this is kindergarten, right?  I have a long time to go before I am expected to graduate!  Next time, I will show more about my attempts and display more purple yarn.  Real purple yarn.

Spinning a Purple Yarn (Part 2)

Where were we?  Oh, yes.  I believe I had just determined that if I am going to put a spinning wheel in my living room as a, erm, decoration, I should probably be able to use it.  It doesn’t seem to me that a spinning wheel is an intuitive machine.  There are so many different looks – some very old fashioned, others ultra-modern.  This spinning stuff looks complicated.  Maybe I should not just buy a spinning wheel, but do a test drive of sorts.  I shouldn’t just buy the first available and cheapest model on eBay, should I?  I hear that people make yarn out of fluff with a spindle.  That sounds less, well, invasive on my living room and my pocket book.  But where does one get the immediate gratification?  This is not something you can just pop to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy.  Off to Ravelry to check what the Ravelers have to say!

It turns out there is a large group of people spinning their own yarn.  Who knew?  I knew that Christy (aka Junipero on Ravelry) was spinning some fabulous stuff, but I had no idea how many people were spinning!  I found that the Yarn Barn of Kansas is only about 20 miles from my new home.  Not only do they have what looks like a fabulous c!ollection of yarn, but they stock looms and spinning wheels and the supplies for both.  And they have classes!  Classes that I may be able to attend (depending on when they are offered) and learn new fiber crafts.

A trip was called for.  Immediately.  But how to ditch 2 or 3 kids on the last days of summer vacation and get to Lawrence?  In the middle of the day?  Hmmm…  Turns out that the Middle Child had to go to her middle school for a tour and to get her schedule.  Said Middle Child is definitely the most amenable to fiber arts and yarn stores.  And she can keep a secret like nobody’s business.  So, off we went to tour her school and run (quickly) to Lawrence and back.  The Yarn Barn is amazing.  Worth driving for.  Huge looms, yarn, books, wheels, tools of every kind.  And right next to a Jimmy John’s (#6 no mayo please).  And two doors down from a quilting store!  Is this heaven?

Fifteen minutes later, I was out the door with some Amethyst colored merino fluffAmethyst Merino Top

and a Louet top whorl drop spindle.  Next time, we’ll get into the beginning of my learning curve.  And the tools and web-sites I have used to climb this hill.

Reunited, and It Feels So Good

Call off the hounds, take down the ‘Missing’ posters!  The yarn has been found!  My lovely little girls (they did something good so I am not referring to them as heathens) found the semi-exploded yarn brick shoved in a closet in the basement.  I swear I had looked through every closet in this house and possibly even the garden shed.  Here is what the yarn brick looked like when packed and ready at the old house.

And here is what the yarn brick looks like today.

I am so relieved to have my yarn back.  My Buttercup can see some needle time, my swap yarn is back in my hands!  I guess that means I will have to go on that yarn diet after all…

Breaking Black – Chicago

I broke black.  That makes me sound wicked cool, doesn’t it?

I used just shy of two balls of Fortissima Socka.  This actually involved ripping out the contrast toe/heel of a half-knit sock.  I came to terms that I would never finish that sock, and I ripped.  That is my level of committment to “breaking bad”.

Dye Specifics:

– Wound in 16 inch hanks
– Soaked in .5 cups white vinegar and 12.5 cups water (1 hour)
– Striped on Wilton black
– Squished hanks to fleck color

It needed more, so:
– Dropped into slow cooker w/1 pink Easter egg tablet and 8 drops McCormicks red

Voila!  I broke bad.

Kind regards,


Breaking Black – San Francisco

I saw my lovely friends Carolyn and Kelly talking about “breaking black”, and sounding like “Breaking Bad”, awesome and dark TV show, I wanted to get in on the action. I decided to dye some KnitPicks Stroll Fingering yarn that I had in my stash, using Wilton Icing Color.

I started by soaking my yarn in 1/2 cup white vinegar and about 4 cups of water overnight. The next evening, I squeezed the liquid out of the yarn, but did not rinse it.

I wanted to use this project to test out different concentrations of the black dye. I wasn’t sure how to measure the dye, but decided to just stick a wooden skewer in the dye and count that as “one part”.

I made up four containers of 1/2 cup of water, and added 1 part of dye to the first container, 2 parts to the next, 4 parts to the next, and 8 parts to the final container.

I set the damp yarn out on two sheets of plastic wrap, and used a spoon to pour the different concentrations of dye over 1/4 sections of the skein. The dyed sections started as green in color, and turned purple almost immediately as the black dye reacted to the vinegar in the yarn.

I tried to press the dye mixture into the yarn as best as I could, and then wrapped the yarn up in the plastic wrap, and set it in a steamer, on top of boiling water. I left it in the steamer for about 20 minutes, until the water in the plastic wrap was clear.


The plastic wrap/steaming method is something I’ve used before, and I like it because it generally allows specific sections of dye/yarn to stay separate from each other – rather than immersing the entire skein of yarn in a dye bath. The downside of this method though is that some sections of the yarn can remain undyed.

Here’s how my yarn ended up:

I didn’t really love the color this ended up as, although the section in the upper right corner, which had 4 parts black dye to 1/2 cup of water is the most interesting, since both the brownish red and the teal colors are visible. I reskeined the yarn to get a better sense of what it would look like knit up:

I liked how this looked reskeined, but I still wasn’t happy with it. I decided to dye the yarn again, by immersing the whole skein in a dye bath, made of about 20 drops blue and about 5 drops of green of the Safeway version of McCormick Food Color. Before the immersion bath, I dropped a few drops of red McCormick dye directly onto the yarn. I let the yarn simmer at about 180 degrees F, for about 20 minutes until the water was clear. Here’s my final result:

I really like the final yarn. I like the result of doing two different batches of dye – I’m not sure if I could have gotten this result through just one method or the other. Now the question is just what to do with this…it’s only about 175 yards. I’m thinking stripes? Maybe combined with some red sock yarn I have in my stash?

I just finished another two step dyeing process, and I’ll post pictures and an explanation of that soon!

Breaking Black (Bad) – Upstate NY

Over the same weekend, four of us, in four different places (Chicago, San Francisco, Upstate NY, and New Zealand), experimented with breaking black food coloring to dye yarn. Here’s how it worked out in Upstate New York. The experiment has since been referred to by all as the great Breaking Bad experiment.

I used a full skein (436 yards) of Wool2Dye4 Platinum Sock, which is a superwash merino fingering weight yarn. I soaked the yarn overnight in water to prepare it for dyeing.

I don’t plan out what I’m doing before I start, I usually just add dye willy nilly until I like the results but in this case I actually DID take notes, shocking really! Just for everyone reading the blog. I started out by gently spreading the yarn out in a crock pot and covering it with just enough water that they yarn could be fully submerged but not allow the dye to move freely.

I turned the heat on the crock pot to high and gave the water just a few minutes to start heating up. I then took approximately 1/8th tsp of Wilton’s black concentrated gel icing and added it to 1 cup of hot water and mixed very well until all of the color had dissolved (water turned a dark green).  I then poured the dye over the yarn in a pattern that I liked, making sure to concentrate it in a couple of places

I did this twice more to get a saturated color

I then added ¾ cup of vinegar to set the dye, and let it sit until it hit 170°F to allow the dye set and fully absorb.  The crock pot and yarn was then allowed to cool to room temperature, and after drying it looked like this:

So I decided to fix it with 2 packets of Mixed Berry Kool-Aid (no sugar) added to yarn that had been soaked over night and heated to 170F again (basic difference is that no vinegar is added to the crock pot because KA already has citric acid). I chose Mixed Berry because I thought that blue would compliment the green and purple that I got from breaking bad and help intensify the colors. I was sort of right, and sort of wrong, but the result speaks for itself.

I ended up with this beauty, which I love knit up! The KA seemed to mute the green and intensify the purple all at once, plus it added patches of intense blue. I may add even more blue to it later but I’m leaving it for now.