Saturday, February 16, 2013

Slow progress

Today its all about slow progress, I cleaned out my wip basket yesterday, and found:

  1. a colour work tam (two years old),
  2. one and a half pair of colour work mitts (nearly a year old and on 2mm needles),
  3. the first ten rows of a shawl (now frogged),
  4. an Elizabeth Zimmerman Pi shawl (six or seven months old)
  5. the start of a pair of socks,
  6. and most of a fine gauge cardigan.
There almost was a purple strip - but that is now done, and now the shawl that came to nothing is frogged that leaves me with five works in progress, the eldest being two years old. Im slightly uncomfortable with that, not having so many wips but that some have been sitting so long.

Some new projects are love at first sight, you know when something just has to be knit, other projects are selected to fulfil specific needs. The tam was for a tam class, the pi shawl because I had nothing suitable to take to knit night, the colour work mitts were also for class. For now I don't have a plan, other than to deal with the wips somehow, and by that I mean complete them - but that is the first step, and that is all I need to do right now.

The long purple strip is done - I'll fill in the details later as this is part of a larger body of work. I used yarn from the local mill, a 200g skein of merino, alpaca, and angora. I cast on 41 stitches using 4.5mm needles and knit a central panel of Horseshoe pattern with a wide boarder of moss stitch. Horseshoe can be found in Barbara walkers Treasury of Knitting patterns, on page 209.

I had a breakthrough on the cardigan, one sleeve done, and the other well and truly started. The cast off bothered me a little, I tried a tubular bind off on the single rib. In such a fine yarn it looked wimpy, so I frogged it and worked Jennys surpisingly stretchy cast off. That looked so much better, I think I also discovered I had been working the cast off 'wrong' until now. For some reason I had only 'processed' a stitch when switching from knit to purl in a k2p2 rib, this time I was working on a k1p1 rib so processed every stitch. The bind off looked different, not better, not worse but different, maybe more zig-zaggy. Given it was said to be super-stretch I worked the cast off with the same needles I worked the rib in - and it is super super stretchy. I like, I liked it so much I also spent the rest of that night casting off the hem as well. I had put the hem stitches on a holding thread until I had decided what cast off to use. It seemed more prudent to test on the smaller cuff with fewer stitches than the larger hip section.

    I've also been getting ready, and so far have 8 book blocks ready for my bookbinding class at Unwind. The class is only a few hours so I will show how to stitch a book block, and have one or two there for students to practice on, but I wont get them to make their own book block, that would take too long. Instead I will supply each student with their own blank book block all stitched and taped, ready to go. I was extra lucky in that a local firm had a clear out of letterhead paper, so I scored a large pile of nice thick luxury white paper to use in these blocks. That way we can get into the fun stuff of making and covering the books. If you are into details the top blocks are made using 'proper' book binding tape, the lower blocks with twill tape from the haberdashery shop. Bookbinding tape is starched and easier, but I suspect makes for a book with a stiffer spine. This sort of stuff is all the detail that is missing from bookbinding instruction books, and for good reason. A book with that sort of detail would be tedious to read.
    I've a few more blocks to make, and then I need to sort my self for the Woollen spinning class. I'd really like to have the class spinning woollen within the first 10 minutes or so, and then once they can, move over to making rolags and preparing the fibre. That might seem backwards but I think once you know how to do something you are in a much stronger and more informed position to select and prepare materials for doing it. Anyway - to have them all spinning that soon means have a few rolags for each student - no big drama - I just have to settle in and make them.

    I've got my first night class for printmaking this Tuesday, so am looking forward to being distracted by that, and our students all start their study this week (tomorrow!) - so they will keep us all busy. There is also a wonderful new book, Knitting, Fashion, Industry, Craft by Sandy Black, brand new (published in Sept 2012). This book deserves its own post, not to be buried deep in a housekeeping post - so I plan to a proper review next post.
    Till then, take care - na Stella

    Saturday, February 09, 2013

    A little knitting, a little scratching

    I have been knitting, its just that I've also been distracted. There is a visiting exhibition on at our public art gallery (DPAG -Dunedin Public Art Gallery), of etchings, GĂ©RICAULT TO GAUGUIN Printmaking in France 1820-190, which is on from the 15th Dec 2012 - 17th Mar 2013.As always the community education program is excellent, and as part that  a serries of talks, lectures, and guided tours was organised. Also in keeping with their long tradition of encouraging people to get active and 'do' art, explore the media, there was a three day workshop. Three days of print making --- count me in. Some where I had a vague notion of learning more about printmaking so I could explore adding title pages or book plates to my books, after visiting the exhibition I was also inspired by the highly naturalistic nature of the prints on show.  I do appreciate abstract art, and mix-media collaged works, but deep down I'm in stop and look with jaw dropping awe at a lifelike drawing, or street scene captured in detail by the hand of a talented artist.
     So until Thursday I knit, on the long purple lace with the moss stitch edges -- its over three feet now, and should be five. I'm expecting to get to five sometime this week, at which point I will have to make some decision about what to do with the remaining yarn. Thursday morning I abandoned the knitting and headed off to class.
     The first day, Thursday, we played with dry point etching, on plastic sheets. We scraped and scored and sanded and made all sorts of marks that would capture ink. We inked up, and used the etching presses, we had fun. Well I had fun, and the rest of the class all said they were having fun.  The second day I went armed with more knowledge, and an idea. Dangerous things ideas, but better used than ignored. The second day, Friday we were introduced to zinc plates, which meant etching - and allows for a wider range of tones.  which brings me back to my idea - of something I could print.
    For as long as we have known Yoyo, our cat,  she has liked to sit in containers. Not any container but in pot plant containers, again not just any - but ones that are shallow and just the right size. Weird what cats will do, in summer and winter she seems happiest sleeping, sitting or even crouching in a dirt filled bowl outside. I've long given up trying to understand what goes on in that wee fur covered head, now I just accept that is what she does and we leave a few garden pots half fill of dirt just for her to use. Over the years we have all learned to spot 'Cat-in-a-bowl', and admire how well she takes command of such a small space. I went armed with a blog photo from way back in December 2011, and drew my Cat-in-a-bowl. Then because I was thinking of printing in terms of books, and books have text - I added the words Contained like a cat in a bowl. I played with other words, and adding a frog, but kept coming back to cat in a bowl. I liked the suggestion that a cat is not really contained in the bowl, but sits watching - ready to leave.
    Keri, one of the tutors made use of modern technology to reverse the image so my text would be readable when printed.
    Friday was spent preparing the plate, beveling the plate, covering the plate a protective ground (hard ground if you want details), transferring the image, scratching the image through the ground,  etching the pate in acid (in a well maintained ventilated fume box), and cleaning off all the acid and ground. I finished up on friday with a print of my line drawing of Yoyo, and plans to add lighter and darker grey tones the following day.
    The third day, Saturday was spent learning about how spray paint and shellac can be used to create tones with the etching process. Then we were asked to proof our final plate - here it is compared to the line only version.

    Once we were happy with the result we were challenged to print an edition of three on good cotton paper. Apparently there is a huge skill in  reproducing prints from a plate such that each print looks like the first print. I don't have that skill, yet. Every print is a result of fresh ink being applied and the excess wiped away, wiping a little more or a little less and the  print is a little lighter or darker. Saturday I developed a huge appreciation of the engraver and printers craft and a desire to learn more. Three days was not enough. There were other media, and other techniques that were introduced but that I just couldn't include in this work without turning my cat in a bowl into a propper dogs breakfast.
     In case you were wondering about the small embossed mark on some of the prints. Neil Emmerson , the lead workshop tutor called this the shop Chop. He explained that not only was it important to note the artist who made the image, but also the print studio in which the image was printed. As part of that he has a Chop which he makes available to all those who use his studio at the School of Art. Neil being Neil - tends towards the subversive, and he loves to call his teaching studio the P-Lab, short for The Print Laboratory, at the Dunedin School of Art.
     I enjoyed myself, and while I recongise that etching and printing etched pates is far too time consuming to become part of my bookmaking practice on a regular basis - I want to do more, I have no idea where this will lead, but the etching and printing process fits nicely into the kinds of line and tonal drawings that I like to work on. I enjoyed this so much so that I have enrolled in the night class. Eight weeks of classes, Tuesday nights, six to eight. There are spaces - if you are keen please join me, classes start on the 18th. When we began to work on zinc, I cut my plate in half, with the aim of using the first as practice, and the other half to do something when  I understood the process more. Now I have enrolled in the evening classes, I've coated the remaining plate in a hard ground and begun to etch the Cat-in-a-bowl again.  The practice plate is on the left, the second time around plate on the right. This time I think I will make the background grey so Yo-yo's whites can be white, and I won't have such a hard time removing ink from the plain areas of the plate.

    There will still be knitting, I even have plans to print something knitting related .... how could I not?
    There just might be a little bit of printing mixed with the knitting for the next eight weeks.
    na Stella

    Saturday, February 02, 2013

    Not knitting, but pinking

    Here in New Zealand many schools have uniforms, selected clothing that must be worn by pupils. Somehow the little cubs have ended up at a slightly different kind of school, one that combines primary and intermediate schooling. Primary schools are split, with about half requiring a uniform, and half not. The cubs schools has no uniform, even when the pupils are officially in intermediate classes where they would usually wear a uniform.
    Why am I telling you this? Well school uniforms comes with requirements, to wear them neatly, and properly. Shirts tucked in, socks pulled up. The requirements usually extend to jewelery, and hair and body adornment restrictions. Eldest cub is uber conservative, and is comfortable with his new uniform requirements that come with his switch to high school.
    Little cub is not so conservative, and realizes that as many of her friends head off to intermediate school, and the restrictions that life with a uniform brings that she is exempt. Before Christmas our wee dark blond cub planned red hair, and we promised it would be done before she starts school tomorrow. Today we did it, lightened her hair, then add red-corvette dye ... and got bright pink.
    Bear is not sure what to say or do, like Toby he is uber conservative. When little cub was preschool and wished to wear fairy wings to town - bear didn't like it. I stood up for her and asked if you couldn't wear fairy wings when you were three years old when could you wear them? I feel the same about pink hair, if it isn't ok when you are ten, then when? Plus this way we hopefully get the whole experimental hair thing out of the way early, and avoid punk or worse when she is in her teens. I am in denial about tattoos and body art ... hair I can allow, the others not so much.
    Yes there has been knitting, all the current projects are longer, but I thought you would rather see this.
    Take care