Saturday, October 4, 2014

Problems and solutions

** To skip the story, and get to the dye fixing solution, click here

We've all been there: you finish a pair of socks, wait three months, weave in the ends, wait for the weather to cool off, and FINALLY wear your beautiful socks. Then, if you're like me and have made a proclamation about *not* handwashing socks (and shopped for yarn accordingly) the next step is to throw them into the "wash with like colors" laundry basket.

Once the laundry is done, you go to fold the laundry and find that your vibrant, rich socks are now, well... not.

Disappointment doesn't even *begin* to describe how I've felt about it, especially given my recent (and drastic) reduction of crafting time.  Add to that the guilt over having enabled a few other folks into buying the same yarn.

So, I Instagrammed and Facebooked about it.


I did this for several reasons. Let's start with the main one- I Instagram-med, Facebook-ed, Tweeted, and talked about these socks on the podcast for about two months during the 30-odd hours it took me to knit them.

Instagram and Facebook are strong enabling tools, and I have bought a lot a completely reasonable amount of yarn based on photos I've seen on both. I have been known to enable others as well, which is really only basic courtesy.

I don't contact dyers privately before posting photos of my socks-in-progress, or when I finish socks. If I remember, I'll tag them in the photo, or tweet at them, because dyers are artists and like to see the fruits of their labor.

Podcast listeners frequently buy yarn they see on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter based on what they see. It is for this reason I think it is even *more* important to show how the yarn washes and wears.

I would like to start by pointing out that the label tells you that machine washing is fine. Otherwise, I wouldn't have bought it.  I have been known to be extremely vocal about *not* hand washing my socks.

"Hand wash only"
I have a responsibility to my listeners. A company's response to quality issues should be public, visible, and accessible to its customers. Louise from Biscotte & Cie was *extremely* prompt in her response- responding mere *minutes* after I had made my post. [HUGE kudos, Louise & Biscotte & Cie.]


I wrote this post when I thought that the issue was done and handled. In the interest of being honest and transparent about the entire process, I am disappointed to have to include the following.

Within a day of the original solution (and blog post) Louise (the dyer) has gone from apologetic (on the podcast Facebook page- public) to aggressive in the comments field of my blog (public, but less visible). This includes changing what she says should be the care instructions, to a full out attack, alleging that I don’t know how to handle my woolens (including changing the story on how I launder to fit the individual she’s contacting). Screen caps, all from public places she’s posted, in order:

 photo Response1_zps621d489e.jpg
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A superwash yarn should be machine washable and dryable, especially if the label says so. The re-statements above are clearly for the purpose of covering up her own short-cut, which is unprofessional and extremely poor business.

There are multiple comments about others having the same issue- regardless of laundering on our facebook page as well as on the original post on Instagram (you can see all the comments on the mobile app: I was also contacted by other knitters via PM on Ravelry who had the same issue.

So, it’s a known issue. When I contacted the shop I bought the yarn from, to let them know about the issue with the yarn, the owner responded,  "As I mentioned before, I haven’t had a need to do any dye-setting with the socks I’ve made out of Biscotte, so hopefully there are plenty of skeins out there that are just fine.”

The operative word there being “hopefully”. Given the response I saw on social media, “hopefully” really just isn’t. I don’t think the shop should be responsible for a dyer’s mix up, but there was no mention of letting other customers know that this is a known issue.

To sum up: the dyer is trying to brush this under the rug, and has no plans to change, and the shop selling the yarn is keeping quiet as well. I am not keeping quiet. As someone who promoted this yarn for two months while I knitted this yarn, I have a responsibility to every knitter I enabled to let them know there is both an issue and a solution.

As for the “solution” of sending me replacement yarn? I don’t want it. I want the socks I knit to be as promised in the skein, finished the way they should have been before the yarn reached the shop. Nobody offered to compensate me for the time lost, because they can’t. END OF UPDATE/RETRACTION

Finally, as a customer I have no obligations to the company. I don't want to recommend a product that has problems. Our money and time are valuable commodities, and I can't in good conscience have my socks come out of the wash looking like they did, and leave it to the company to deal with. This is a much more transparent way of dealing with the problem, and showing the solution from the company's side.

[As an aside, when I've reported dye/felting/knot issues to companies before, I haven't seen *any* kind of public response. I have had *one* dyer do a pre-emptive public blast to her customers letting them know about a potential issue with bleeding, including a generous solution.] 

 There is value in posting to social media; mostly, social solutions. I am lucky to have many brilliant friends, including the incomparable Kate of Gourmet Stash. With nothing to gain personally, she devised a solution so that people who buy beautiful handpainted yarn can solve this issue on their own, preemptively. 

So, there's chemistry.

Chemistry and I have a complicated history.

Fortunately for all of us, Kate broke it down to the simplest parts (after a lot of technical dye information). The following are her instructions (which I road tested and documented with photographs), which I have digested into four simple steps, with a few caveats.


Fixing/Re-fixing dye:

The following is good for 4-6 oz of wool (so, a pair of socks, and then some):

Step 1: Take 1 tsp of Citric Acid. You can buy it at Whole Foods, but the link I posted is a much better value. (For MCN, use 3/4 tsp).  Dissolve it in steaming/hot water. Then, dilute it in about 3-4 cups of tepid water.

Step 2: Let the yarn soak for 10 mins or so and then wring out and "jelly roll" (wrap in plastic wrap), and microwave it for 2 mins on high. If the yarn is discharging dye into the water (turning it a color), follow the following additional steps:

  • Step 2a: Squeeze out excess water. Soak in SOAK wool wash in cool water for 15 mins. Squeeze out excess water. (Water will be very pink. Breathe. It will work out.)
  • Step 2b: Repeat the dyefix instructions in Step 1, *except* do 1/2 tsp Citric Acid instead of a full tsp.
  • Step 2c: "Jelly Roll" (wrap in plastic wrap), and microwave it for 2 mins on high.
  • NOTE: For non-superwash yarns you would want to space out the heat via the microwave. (By that I mean, 1 minutes on heat, 1 minute off, etc. ). You can easily felt your yarn/fiber in a jelly roll format if you have the heat & steam get too high.
  • CAUTION: If you microwave for too long on high, you can fuse the plastic saran wrap to the nylon content in yarn. (You want to be aware of the microwave you're using as well as how high the heat is and the length of time it is in the microwave.)

Step 3: Allow to dry.

Step 3, citric acid mixture treated swatch (unwashed) against the untreated and machine washed sock

Step 4: Launder as per usual.

Step 5: Rejoice.


You may notice that we did the citric acid soak on the swatch instead of on the yarn. That's to show that if you've already knit your socks, you can still treat them without worry.

This is also if you are overwhelmed with the need to start knitting your sock without a) fixing/re-fixing  ("pre-treating") the dye on your yarn (just in case), or b) don't want to knit a swatch and launder normally to see if pre-treating is necessary.

And? The brilliant and lovely Kate said "I can't think of any reason why doing a basic citric acid soak and wring it out, jelly roll it up and nuke it for 2 mins for ANY [protein] fiber or yarn would be bad." [Said, with the above caveats, of course.]

Monday, July 28, 2014


[This is the post I had intended for Mother's Day. Enjoy!]

If you have spent any time with toddlers, you will know that they have a charming fixation with all things "nakee", and it's really high up on the list of things toddlers find hilarious.


Genevieve, being of the toddler persuasion, has embraced the humor of her people. She's also very aware of her clothes when she wears them- so buttons need to ALL be buttoned up. If they're not, she says things like, "Button my dress, peeease! My nakee all fall out!"

... And then I unwittingly told the Nude Flash story to Andrew in Genevieve's earshot. That kid hears *everything*.

The Nude Flash 

When KidBrother Sam was little, and I was in sixth grade, there was a flasher around the local high school. As a kid, I thought the whole thing was HILARIOUSLY funny; as a jaded adult who has watched too many episodes of Law & Order: SVU, it's horrifying.

I told Mom about the warning, and how funny I thought it was, and KidBrother Sam asked what "flashing" was. The word "nude" came in, and he mostly got it.

At one point, shortly after, he had forgotten his towel, and thus, needed to streak across the hall from the shower to get one from the linen closet.

"NUDE FLASH!" he hollered as he ran. (Later, it was explained that the "nude flash!" was to let us know to LOOK AWAY. Not to look at the source of the hollering. Also, no amount of explanation could convince him that "nude flash" is redundant.)

From then on, any time there was a streaker in need of a towel, we would holler "nude flash!" 


Since overhearing the story, whenever Genevieve manages to escape the shower, getting dressed, or getting from the toilet to the changing table, she hollers "NUDE FAAAAAASH!" and streaks around the house until we can catch her. Let the record reflect that she is fast and wily.


She hasn't quite figured out the "shuck your clothes and run" maneuver, but I have no doubt we'll get there. It's the strangest kind of triathalon I'm training for: running, catching, wrangling a nude flash.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Always, always, ALWAYS

I wanted to write something for Mom for Mother's Day. Something funny. But I want to write about this first.

One of my friends sent us a surprise package- wooly treats for Mom and Me from Maryland Sheep & Wool, and a stuffed "tangaroo" for Genevieve- complete with a joey in her pouch. (Sadly, along with other amazing developmental and verbal leaps, Genevieve no longer says "tangaroo".)

"AND a box!"
Genevieve was *thrilled*- she's fascinated by the ideas of kangaroos. She knows they're mammals, thinks hopping like a kangaroo is the bee's knees, and thinks it is AMAZING that they have their babies in a pouch.


It's a fantastic toy, deliciously soft, good weight, with a friendly face. The joey comes out of the pouch, so (against my better judgement) at Genevieve's request, I cut the tags and all the plastic connectors.

"Soft ears!"

Thus began JoeyWatch 2014- where every adult in the house was informed of their part in making sure that (a) the joey didn't get lost and (b) the dogs didn't get a hold of this particularly delicious morsel.

"The same!"
... Which lasted exactly four days before disaster struck. We were putting toys away before bed last night (as usual), and Genevieve noticed that the joey wasn't with Mama Kangaroo.
"Where baby kangaroo?" she asked me.
"Well," I said, regurgitating one of my mother's aphorisms, "I'm sure he'll turn up while we're picking up the toys."
We cleaned and cleaned. No joey. We cleaned the living room. No joey. We cleaned her bedroom. No joey. We cleaned the Big Bedroom. No joey. 

This caused some major bedtime issues, and led to a conversation I wish I had never had to have.
"Baby kangaroo is missing," Genevieve said.
"I'm sure he'll turn up," I said, "I'll look for him some more, later."
"Mama kangaroo doesn't love her baby anymore?" Genevieve asked, very upset.
And then I had a moment, where - simultaneously - my heart broke, and I was OUTRAGED that she had overheard from someone that mamas may stop loving their babies someday.
"Never, never, never," I said, snuggling her a little tighter, "Mamas always, ALWAYS love their babies. I'm sure she's worried about where her baby is and misses him very much. If you were missing, I would never stop looking for you until I found you."

"You help find him?" she asked.
"I will find him," I promised.   
After she went to sleep, I checked the usual places, and sure enough, the joey had fallen between the slats and under the (decorative and unused but for play) toddler bed, and the joey was less than 18 inches from his mother the whole time. I breathed a deep sigh of relief as I tucked him back in his mother's pouch and, mission accomplished, got myself ready for bed.

This morning, when Genevieve woke up (and informed SuperAndrew and me that it was time to "Get movin'! I go get my clothes.") I told her to check Mama Kangaroo.

Happy feet padded down and back our hallway.

"She SO HAPPY to have her baby!" she told me, overjoyed at the reunion, her world back in order.

This is - obviously - not a tale of heroics, but rather, one of love. I don't care if she doesn't remember the specifics, as long she she remembers that I always, always, ALWAYS love her. Because that's what mamas do.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Really happy

On a good weekend, we make a list of things we want to get done, and then schedule the time for it. A big part of the scheduling is (a) if Genevieve can help or (b) if she needs to be otherwise occupied.

I have a complicated relationship with nature and the outdoors, so the yard is SuperAndrew's purview. I think he likes it; I imagine it is very meditative work, the way I feel about folding laundry.

SuperAndrew asked me *something* about pruning the roses, and I suggested that he cut a few for his beautiful wife, because it might make her happy. (Sometimes, when you live in a house with ten enormous rose bushes, you forget that cutting them and bringing them indoors can make a person happy.)

Genevieve was curious to see what SuperAndrew was doing, so we went outside to investigate. Given that our rosebushes have nasty, nasty sharp thorns, and SuperAndrew was using extremely sharp tools, we had the following conversation:

Me: The rosebushes have sharp thorns. Should you touch them?
G: No.
Me: Who touches the rosebushes?
G: Only Daddy. And Mommy.
Me: Right. Who touches the sharp tools?
G: Only Daddy.
Me: Right again.
Once we were outside, watching SuperAndrew, he brought me a rose, and Genevieve said, "Me too, peeeease!"

And then, as SuperAndrew would bring roses over, Genevieve would claim them. (She ended up with six. I ended with two.)**

It turns out, like many of us, Genevieve LOVES getting roses.

Very appreciative
One of the things I do all day long is to remind and reinforce the use of our beautiful manners. To my delight and surprise, Genevieve proceeded to repeat the following phrases (over and over and over) at SuperAndrew. In volumes.

"Smell veyyy good"= "Smells very good"

Aaaank you! Veyyyyy happy!= "Thank you! Very happy!"

Make me happy!= "These make me happy"

And then we enjoyed the roses. We counted the roses. We twirled with the roses. We smelled the roses. When we were done, Gramzie facilitated the placement of the roses in a vase.





Genevieve, while watching me finish this post, "Daddy cut fowwers. Made me reeeeeey happy."

It really doesn't take much, does it?

**For concerned parties, all but one of our rosebushes have roses without thorns. Genevieve *very graciously* let me keep the rose with thorns.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two Easters

I love Easter. It's a fun, low-pressure holiday, and as Genevieve gets older, it's especially fun.

KidBrother Sam mentioned how he loves seeing "last year vs. this year" photos of Genevieve. Brace yourselves.

Easter 2013

Plastic eggs are GREAT!

Chubby cheeks! Pigtails! Bunny overalls!
A lot of Easter was the same - no sugar, lots of family. But it was also very different.

This year, we hardboiled eggs from our local farmer's market, and SuperAndrew donned his seasonal AndrewBunny ears to stay up late dyeing them with food coloring (regular and Neon), like his mom used to. In the morning (after we had Crème brûlée French Toast), Laura the Fairy and I "hid" the eggs.


Genevieve, armed with a colander (in favor of a basket), was delighted by ALL THE EGGS.


Genevieve is a process-oriented kid, so when she was done finding the eggs, she asked Andrew to hide them "AGAIN! Peease."


Aaaaand, again. (Also, this time, UnkieSam hid the empty plastic eggs in the living room.) After three consecutive egg hunts, Genevieve was ready for a nap- which she *asked* for.

While Genevieve was napping, I whipped up the cream cheese frosting for Carrot Cake Cupcakes (from the Baking Illustrated cookbook) for the afternoon's family gathering. AndrewBunny did the artful piping, with juuuuust enough cream cheese frosting.

Shown in our cupcake carrier. Worth every penny.
Once Genevieve was awake, we headed to our afternoon family gathering.

Any time we go to a family gathering, it takes Genevieve a little while to warm up to the crowd. Meaning, she and I usually sit by ourselves somewhere quiet until Genevieve is ready to join the party. Or until one of the older kids comes out to play with her.

On Easter, it was the latter that helped Genevieve transition into her usual social butterfly self, and the egg hunt was ON.

At home, all the eggs are Genevieve's. At the family egg hunt, each kid is told that they can find six little plastic eggs and one large plastic egg each. [The older kids are told, "If you can see it plainly, it's *not for you*."]

Genevieve had a great time, hunting and counting. The pretty plastic eggs were filled with candy [READ: "the devil's sugar"], so I quickly corralled LittleJ, relieved her of her bag of goodies, and with subtlety and teamwork that would BOGGLE YOUR MIND,  Andrew and I deposited the contents of Genevieve's eggs into LittleJ's bag.

Genevieve got to play with the eggs, and she didn't miss the candy on the inside. Win-win. She was happy, showing everyone her eggs, talking about the colors. She thought her day couldn't get any better.

... And then Genevieve discovered the trampoline.

DSC_0199 - Version 2


"Mommy! Come play with me!"
... And if something is great, Genevieve makes *sure* I don't miss out on it. She's thoughtful and generous, and a great trampoline-bouncer.


It was our hoppiest Easter yet.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


A tiny, talkative tongue

A conversation with my dad (GrandpaDahling) about language development in toddlers:

GrandpaDahling: Genevieve is very verbal because you talk to her all the time. Most parents don't talk to their kids as much as you talk to her.

Me: Most people don't talk as much as I do, period.

Mom: [Evil cackling]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fingernail Fairy

Sometimes, I just NAIL this parenting thing.

Mostly because I steal good ideas from my mother. They say plagarism is the sincerest form of flattery, and - with a few small ideas of my own - we're raising Genevieve the way I was raised.

"Quick, grab the camera!" - Mom

I like to try to overcome challenges with Genevieve creatively, kindly, and most importantly, in a way where I can turn a problem into something fun. (This works best after I've had my coffee, and a good night's sleep. I'm only human.)

One of the challenges I've had is clipping nails. I started doing it while she was sleeping when she was a baby, and once she got older, I became The Fingernail Fairy.

Like the Tooth Fairy, the Fingernail Fairy comes in the dead of the night, clips fingernails (and toenails) and - if all goes well - nobody wakes up, and we all get the gift of a DangerMouse who doesn't have Wolverine claws.

The Fingernail Fairy doesn't get the same excellent PR that the Tooth Fairy gets. There. I've said it.

In any case, now that Genevieve is becoming a Big Girl, I've been able to rebrand some previously problematic things as "Big Girl" activities. (I don't bandy the term about all willy-nilly, just for important stuff.)

I happened to be tidying our bathroom counter, when Genevieve noticed the row of nail polish bottles, all lovely, colorful, and most importantly, sparkly, along the edge of the mirror.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Nail polish," I answered, and then - BAM! - my mother's genius kicked in, "You know, Gramzie used to paint my toenails when I was little. If you let me clip your toenails- and you're cooperative - I'll paint your toenails."


Be cool, be cool, I thought to myself, rushing to grab the tiny toenail clippers. You haven't clipped them yet.

I grabbed my own clippers as well, and modeled how easy and painless it is, and then she cheerfully and cooperatively let me clip hers. And then her fingernails. LIKE IT WAS NOTHING.

[This is a big deal. Genevieve has been fine *pretending* to clip nails, but as soon as it was time to get down to business, based on the crying and shrieking, you'd think I was trying to do surgery without anesthetics on her instead of *just attempting* to clip her nails. Hence the necessity of the aforementioned Fingernail Fairy.]

"Great job! That was very cooperative!" I said, positively brimming with enthusiasm, "Pick your color! Let's go paint your toenails."

She picked and we went to the living room, where I parked her in the glider and turned on an episode of Sesame Street (as a treat, and also to guarantee she would sit still until the nail polish dried).

In typical toddler fashion, the thrill was in the chase, and as soon as I went to paint her toenails she was *immediately* suspicious of the whole process. So, what's a mom to do? I modeled on my own feet.

It's been more than two years since I've had a pedicure- in fact, the last time was my 29th birthday, with my friends Jen and Laura, just before Genevieve was born. I worked quickly, and by the end of the episode, Genevieve still wasn't ready. No big deal. Sometimes it's the getting, sometimes it's the having. Whatever works.

Mom came over, and Genevieve greeted her the usual way ("AAAAAAAAAVIIII!" ["Gramzie" for the uninitiated], and *then* was ready to have her nails painted.

"Paint mine toes, peeease, Mommy?" 

So, we listened to some music while I gave her a tiny pedicure.

"Now," I told her, "You need to sit Very Still so that your nail polish can dry. Let's read a couple of books, and you keep your legs straight out on mine."

One pass through The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Happy St. Patrick's Day, Curious George, and her toes were dry.

The funniest thing is that once she was off of my lap, (and her nail polish was dry) she was doing the heel-walk that *everyone* does with wet toenail polish. It was the funniest thing I've seen in ages.

All evening, she was admiring her pedicure, "Mine toes preeeeeddy, Mommy. You toes preeeeeddy, too. Match!"

I can't help but notice that I was thinking exactly the same thing.