Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Still backwards and forwards, but growing

The bubble sock grows, slowly - but steadily. I spent one evening charting out the effervescence up the leg, well one evening and several attempts at charting, until I had something that looked irregular but could be charted over a repeat. The sock heel I'm using is eye-of partridge, and I'll provide a link to a how to, and I plied one of the spun yarns, so one done, one to do, and one still being spun - all misty grey blues.

So after several iterations, and the cartoon like crumpling of paper when it became obvious that the chart I was working on had a flaw, I ended Sunday night with a chart that seemed sensible. Remember that I was trying to capture that kind of effervescence that happens in a fizzy drink, as streams of bubbles rise, at first constant streams then nearer the top more random. I 'invented' two chart symbols, one for a complicated rearranged decrease of 5 stitches into 3, and one for a five stitch cable where the outside stitches cross over but the middle three stay where they are. I'm continuing to look for a more formal way to chart these. As I knit I realized that some of my bubbles were lining up, so I omitted/deleted one or two from the chart. I think it is working, maybe a little less of a transition from constant bubbles to random, but I've only got the leg length to work in.

Now, last post Cool City Stitcher asked what heel pattern I had used, I imagine the question was about the eye-of-partridge stitch on the heel flap. It is a simple slip stitch pattern, slipping every alternate stitch on the right side un-knit, and purling back on the wrong side. If you line up the slipped and knit stitches you get a subtle corrugated effect, if you offset them you get a dimpled effect. Persnikety Knitter at the house of grumpiness explained it well with a chart and all. If the question was about the heel shape, well its a traditional flap construction knit toe up, with several techniques borrowed from all sorts of sock patterns that I've knit over the years, I'm happy to explain further in a separate post if needed.

And last, this is the latest yarn off the wheel, Vintage Purls limited edition hand dyed cashmere-merino-silk. 112 wraps of my 1.85m ninny noddy, makes 207m. Beautiful grey blue - destined for something special, wristers or a wee scarf ....something that uses it all. Fingering weight and after a stiff wash it bloomed nicely and evened out well.

So there is just some Wabisabi-fibres angora merino alpaca mix to ply (Matt is taking a break just now but I'll be first in the queue when he starts dying and selling again - he has interesting fibre blends and preparations like pencil roving), and a sock to finish, and a Tam, and more to spin and lots to knit. Tomorrow I get to hang out with the South Canterbury Creative Fibre guild and guests at their open day, with Morag from Vintage Purls. We are both speaking, and I've read the invite - it says birthday cake so I guess this is a celebratory open day for the guild. If you are near Waimate and fancy some fibre fondling (there will be sales tables) do drop in.

Take care
na Stella

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One step forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards ...

Forwards and backwards describes this weeks progress quite well. I've been working on my Bubble sock, in my handspun from Vintage Purls sock pencil roving and I have had to frog and tweak a few times. That is just how it goes when you are not following a pattern, there is an element of risk and the price of that risk is sometimes the result isn't quite what you thought it would be.

Since the last post I have knit the lower leg of the sock three times, yes three.
First - I knit the leg of the sock continuing the pattern that I had established on the foot, the coin cable that I thought looked a little like streams of bubbles like one finds in an effervescent beverage. Going with that inspiration I wanted the bubbles to start separating and spacing out up the leg just as they would in a glass of fizzy drink. Now this plan was developing as I knit, rather than being fully formed before I started. I like that kind of design process, where the result isn't fully known before you start but it makes working slightly less linear.

So first I had to muck around working out how to form single 'bubbles'. After a few false starts I think I managed a rather nice round bubble, but I realized that the spontaneity of bubbles drifting upwards wasn't quite there. I had just thought I'd randomly work bubbles every now and again and that would work, but it didn't work. Turns out that I like things with a pattern and regular and find random hard to do. So I frogged the sock back to the top of the heel flap and started again with a new plan.

Setting out to chart irregularity seems like a complete oxymoron, but that is what I ended up doing. There were a few false starts with the chart, and I had to work out how to show the techniques - and in the end the chart reminded me a little of a diagram that I remember drawing in high school physics. Something to do with electricity maybe?

Then the moment of truth, I tried the sock on and discovered that all those little cable crosses to form the bubbles effectively reduced the stitch count to the point that the sock was a tight fit. Oh the sock fitted but not easily, and that didn't seem like a good thing for a sock I wanted to wear.

I had one of those moments when something really obvious suddenly becomes apparent. When I knit the individual bubbles I had to increase at the lower edge and decrease at the upper edge to stop the sock flaring as the cable cross compressed the knitting. The solution to the 'too tight' sock was to set up less stitches into the pattern repeat above the heel and increase for each bubble strand as I had for the individual bubbles.

One sock that fits nicely, or perhaps part of a sock - and a few more fiddly details to add into my chart. I had charted my effervescent bubbles over two columns of bubbles which worked out nicely into five repeats around 10 columns - but might have looked a tad 'regular'. With setting up with fewer stitches I now had 12 columns of bubbles, so I'm thinking a repeat over 3 or 4 columns might look more irregular than a repeat over 2. I'm off to play with my chart more - mostly so sock number two can be like sock number one.

There has been spinning, I've finished two bobbins, which now need plying - and not much other knitting at all. Winter seems to have returned - despite officially being three weeks into spring here, we have hail, ice like rain.
So I'm off to make a cuppa-tea, and find a ginger nut, and settle in with a pencil, knitting graph paper and see how irregular I can make a graph for effervescent bubbles.

na Stella

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New project - old project, both going well

Yes, a new project, and one that has been lingering on the needles has been 'reactivated', although I might have stalled on that one again. Interesting invites at work, and lovely things in the mail box. Things I knew about (as in I have ordered), and things that I didn't know about and were surprise gifts.

First the new project, because that is how it is, new stuff just seems to get more shelf space. I knew the next sock project after Bears Bunker socks would have to use my handspun sock yarn, and that I wanted something that didn't involve being welded to a knitting chart. Not mindless but memorable, not boring but portable. The sock yarn had been calling me, it was handspun earlier this year using a new product, Vintage Purls Sock pencil roving, a super wash merino blend with 25% nylon to withstand the rigors of sock life. The 100g of pencil roving spun up into 420m - pretty much perfect for a sock yarn. After a bit of to-ing and froe-ing with my Barbara Walker treasuries I settled on a round mock cable, worked with traveling stitches. I'm working on my standard 2.25mm sock needles, and so far it is working up nicely.

So nicely in fact that I'm already up to the gusset increases. I'd have to say that the yarn knitted looks 'handspun' but knitted looks surprisingly even. And I'm loving the way the colour changes are resulting n stripes unlike any that you would get with a dyed-in-the yarn yarn. I briefly thought this should be for the youngest cub, with her pink and purple preferences, but nah - its for me!

The 'other' project on the needles, a colour work tam, started way back in January of this year (and its now September!) finally made its way out of the project basket and into my hands. I sat down and knit the wee people I had charted out. Now I was totally inspired by Kate Davies Paper Dolls and used the idea of paper dolls as a starting point. I found a chart for girls and boys holding hands, in McGregor's Traditional Scandinavian Knitting on page 99. I charted this out way back at the beginning of the year to use the Shetland yarns I had bought while in Shetland - and realize it has been a whole year since then. I keep looking at this and wanting to show anyone who is around my 'little people' !

Instead of working the dancing couples in one colour I worked mine in several colours like the Fair Isle colour work but I kept the background unchanged. As I worked the wee people I made minor modifications to what I had charted. Sometimes what is planned doesn't work as well as imagined and needs tweaking. I went for a darker colour for the little sweaters and for the faces than I had originally planned - just to get more contrast. I've marked my changes in pencil on the graph but will rework the chart once I decide what to do with the crown. That is my sticking point right now, as I'm looking for something in keeping with the little dancing people.

During the week a few parcels arrived at home, one is tucked away for eldest cubs Christmas - its a 1940's USA vintage plane spotting manual from ebay that fits well with his current interest of all things to do with WWII aircraft. I just hope I remember that I've bought it and where I've hidden it when Christmas finally comes. The next was a book that I ordered, Shaping Sustainable Fashion edited by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen. This is fantastic, I was lent it by a colleague and by the end of the first day had placed an order for my own copy. Finally a book that goes beyond the green-message of that we have to do 'something' but fails to say what that could be. Shaping Sustainable Fashion is divided into four sections - source, make, use and last. In each a variety of workable options are reviewed and balanced up. Finally - there was a wonderful surprise in my letter box from J, a Peruvian Spindle and pencil cases. Shown is mine, the cubs have theirs in use, and Bear had a packet of McIlhenny Co Hot Cinnamon Candies with Tabasco which he shared but the littlest cub found far to hot and spicy! The pencil cases amaze me, the embroidery is a straight stitch machine and free form, and the effect is spectacular considering the utilitarian nature of the equipment used. I want to take this to work and show everyone what can be done with a simple sewing machine and reinforce that complex embroidery machines and computer control systems are not the only solution.

And I have been spinning, but its all blue grey and looks the same ...so I'll spare you more photos of blue grey singles on the bobbin.

na Stella

Saturday, September 17, 2011

FO and interuption to service

Today there is a Finished Object, a pair of socks, and a slight interruption to service. Our wireless died a week or so ago. We run Apples Timecapsule as our back up and wireless system and the Airport just died, no lights, no sound, no sign of life. Long story short is that we have had a week of no wireless, internet available on only one computer. I never thought I'd be miss technology but I did - mostly as the competition for the only internet-ed computer was stiff amongst the bears and cubs. Apple have been amazing and when they couldn't repair the Time-Machine they replaced it - which means a long back up session and using the ethernet cable to speed that up - and so no internet until that is done. I'll be back when it is done should be 24 hours or so with no technical glitches.

In the meanwhile - on Friday I finished Bears Socks, Revival in Bears Bunker, so I'm settling in to finish the other project on the needles - Tammy.

Take care
na Stella

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We found one!

So like any 'normal' crafter, I have trouble keeping to one path. Already there is knitting, spinning, dying, fibre prep (less of that although my carder is getting more use these days), sewing things, finding-restoring- and using fountain pens, and recently bookbinding. I say normal because most of the people I know are like that, a strange blend of monkey-see-monkey-want-to-do and intelligent curiosity about how something other people can do works. I do understand that there are people in the world who don't want to make things, or modify things or even customize things - but those people scare me. They do, I find it rather freaky when people don't have interests or hobbies or something in their lives other than making money and keeping the house tidy and the lawns mowed - where is the fun in that? So, when I found out you could make your own books, journals with nice paper and that stay open and have lovely colorful covers I wanted to see if I would like doing that. Seems I do like doing that, so after a few trials with the internet as a resource I hunted out the bookbinding section at the library and learned more.

Dangerous stuff - learning, makes me want more, makes me want to try other things, other ways of binding, makes me want to explore other methods and other materials. From the moment I understood that if you press something under a heavy weight while glue is drying it will dry flat ... I wanted a book press. So for the past month or so, whenever I have been in a the kind of shop that sells old things, surprisingly often, I have looked for a bookbinding press. I've asked and been told that 'you don't see many of those these days, bookbinders snap them up - I've not seen one in ---- oh 10 years or so'. This weekend Bear suggested we drive up to Hampden to check out the old equipment shop there, perhaps stop for coffee and lunch ... and look! A bookbinding press, this thing was investigated, found to be working, paid for and in the car before any one else could even get a look in - we were the only ones in the store at the time. Look it is pretty much identical to the one the cover of a library books I have borrowed. I can't wait to clean it up and make the pressing boards and put it to use ...

I have been knitting, and this does at time purport to be a knit blog, so here is my recent knitting progress. I finished the wash cloth, using 34g of luxury Rowan organic cotton. That left 14 g of luxury Rowan organic cotton over. Now 14 is enough to want to use, and not enough to plan something to use it all up.

I was inspired by Frankie Brown's Ten Stitch Twist to start a spiral and knit until I ran out of yarn. I modified the center somewhat, using a made up and not recorded mix of increases and short rows to increase from 4 stitches to 8 stitches around the first complete circle, then Frankie's method to shape the spiral, and blend it to nothing when there was nearly no yarn left. I ssk'd the last stitch to one of the edge loops to join the spiral to itself. On the reverse side the spiral appears as a chain.

Bears Bunker socks are growing, as fast as twisted stitch pattern socks will ever grow. I am loving the signature points on the dpns that I have to knit these on, they make twisting and traveling stitches easier than blunt needles.

And - I've been spinning, fine singles that is destined for 2 ply - with any luck approaching lace weight - an ongoing goal of mine. This is an amazing blend from Matt at Wabi sabi fibres, Merino, Alpaca, Angora, and Silk in a colour way called River stones. This was spun very predictably in a semi worsted, short forward draw. Next up is some Cashmere blend from Vintage Purls, that I am thinking will be spun from the fold. I did a little bit of pre drafting last night and considered the short cashmere fibres and how best to spin them .. and I wonder if from the fold might give me a more consistent fibre supply. This week I discovered that my SpinOff subscription has lapsed, and I had not had the last two issues - so I promptly ordered back issues and re-subscribed for the next two years. In doing all of that I went thru my Spinoffs and rediscovered several articles about spinning - fancy that!

take care - Stella

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Learning new stuff is hard,

really really hard. Hard work, finding new ways to work your hands and remembering new timings .... last weekend was a reminder of what my students are going through most days. At the same time, learning new ways to do things is one of the most exciting things ever. Full stop. No argument - up there amongst the best times ever!

I do have some photos of my spinning from the Jacey Boggs workshop hosted by Majacraft and Vintage Purls in Dunedin last week. No photos of the class, I did take a camera but totally forgot to make any photos while I was there. I also have some new knitting, mindless knitting, the kind one needs when faced with challenging learning. One of the things I wanted to learn in the workshop was more about mastering making yarn, to have more techniques and knowledge so I could be more in control of what I was doing when spinning. I didn't expect to fall in love with some of the 'art-yarns' but I did, and mostly because I realize that a 'good' art yarn is not an example of bad spinning, or poor spinning, but mastery of spinning and I want to be there at that level.

First up Jacey had us spin thick and thin, reminiscent of beginner spinning but so much nicer. Balanced, and soft and lofty and regular. Wow, that alone was worth the workshop and makes me want to knit something really simple to show of the yarn texture ... what could I knit ... oh a Baby Blanket! Yes my standard handspun answer - but so right for this yarn, or a scarf maybe?

Having lulled us into a false sense of security, and having warned us she taught the 'most difficult' things first and saved the easy stuff for when we were tired at the end' Jacey then went on to the 'more difficult stuff'. I was as memorized by her teaching as by what she was teaching. Especially when Jacey explained that it was going to be hard and new and difficult and frustrating, and if we went home with three sort-of-right in a row then we had the skills to practice at home.

Some where in here, there are at least three working presentable coils, and there is are two variations on coiled yarn. Not pretty but evidence of learning.
Here is one that looks pretty, from day two of the workshop, a one step coil yarn ..... that if done right is balanced. Mine isn't done right, and is all twisty and kinky ....

At home I had sat down and tried again, using Jacey's dvd as a reminder. I here is my second attempt at coils, not quite there yet, my coils are loose and fluffy rather than firm and coiley (is that even a word?). Still with this one I feel like I have mastered the top and the bottom anchor - which means that my coils however fluffy and malformed don't move around ... next step smooth even durable coils.

But once at home I had a second go and look balanced coiled yarn! Jacey's new one step balanced coiled yarn! Soft, squishy and balanced!

and a closer view of the coils - there were times that I lost the balance between plying and covering - but my hands were getting better at the rhythm that was needed. I think this one has potential for small batts of precious fibre and making each batt go further ..... by sneakily converting it into a thick luscious squooshy yarn. I even see the potential of fibre with sari silk and sparkly bits and all sorts of exciting things mixed in. Those batts that in the past I didn't quite see the purpose of only because I didn't know how to spin them into interesting usable yarn.

And knowing that learning involves my brain and that can be slightly debilitating I started a new project - Mindless. Rowan cotton into a seedstitch wash cloth with garter stitch bands.

Just what I needed.
Normal blog service will resume next weekend ... as I'm here at home and not away from home doing fibre things. there is a felting workshop on but I'm being strong - I do not need to felt slippers, I do not need to learn to felt slippers .......I do not need to learn to felt slippers from Machiko yet ... I can learn to felt slippers from Machiko some time in the future not this weekend .... but it would be fun wouldn't it?

Na Stella