16 February 2018


I had tea last weekend with a dear fiber arts friend. She brought a treat for me — a pair of Clemes and Clemes wool cards. These came from a stash being dispersed because the fiber artist had passed away.

In the picture, you can see an uncleaned card on the left, and a cleaned card on the right. The cards looked used. It didn't help that the wool in the cards was a brownish color. Were the cards still sound, or were they beginning to rust?

I cleaned the cards by:
1. Using a small-gauge knitting needle (like a US 0 or 1) to dig out the wool scraps.
2. Dragging a pet brush through the combs.
3. Carding a little waste wool.

The first step is just like it sounds. If you use a small needle, you can slide the stick in between the teeth and pry up the wool scraps. You may be surprised by how much better a card will look after just that step. In the picture above, that was all I had done to the card on the right.

When I used the pet brush, I held the combs over the sink. The pet brush bristles are not as sturdy as the card bristles, which means they yielded to the card's teeth. The sink was full of lots of little bits of dirt when I was done, but the cards looked cleaner.

I have a "waste" fleece. It is useful for things like dyeing experiments, stuffing, or felting repairs. In this case, it was also useful for cleaning the cards. The last step was carding a little wool. The wool came out gray, indicating it had pulled some dirt off the cards.

In the end, there were lovely cards lurking underneath the dirt and old wool. They aren't perfect, but they are serviceable. Sometimes older tools get neglected. But sometimes, just like the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, all they need is a little love.

17 January 2018

Mirrored Increases

There are many, many ways to increase in knitting. This is different from crochet. Increases in crochet are easy — just work in the same stitch again! But in knitting, we have different ways to increase. Very often, these methods result in a slant. In other words, the method produces an increase that does not have bilateral symmetry. If you are working two increases close together, you may want to work them so they mirror each other, with one increase leaning one way and the other leaning the other way. This will produce bilateral symmetry that pleases the human eye and mind.

One of my favorite ways to do this is with a make 1 increase.

There are three basic ways to execute a make 1.
1. Lift up the running thread between stitches and work it, typically twisted shut.
2. Create a yarn over on the previous row or round, then work it, typically twisted shut, on the next row or round.
3. On the previous row or round, cast-on a twisted (backward) loop on the right needle; then work it on the next row or round.

All three of these methods create identical architecture. All three of these methods can create either a left-leaning or right-leaning stitch.

My favorite way to make mirrored make-1 increases is method #2, by using a yarn over and a reverse yarn over. You may wonder if this takes too much thinking. Actually, this method requires very little thinking, other than deciding whether to work yarn over then reverse yarn over or vice-versa. Here's the principle:
yarn over, worked through the back of the loop = left-leaning
reverse yarn over, worked through the front of the loop = right leaning

You might think you have to remember which way to work the yarn over or reverse yarn over, but that's not really the case. It is obvious when you go to work the yarn over or reverse yarn over that one way will twist it shut and the other way will keep it open. You can tell this as soon as you insert the needle, even before you have completed the stitch. All you really have to remember is whether you are working rev-yo, k1, yo or yo, k1, rev-yo on the previous row or round.

In the first image (above), the increases lean outward. The right-leaning increase is on the right side of the center spine and the left-leaning increase is on the left side of the center spine.

In the second image (below), the increases lean inward. The left-leaning increase is on the right side of the center spin and the right-leaning increase is on the left side of the center spine.

In both of these pictures, I've stretched the fabric in an embroidery hoop to open it up and make the structure more visible. Normally, gaps and holes would be less obvious.

Neither method is "right" or "wrong." It is simply a matter of taste. Which one do you like best? Do that.

I should add that I learned most of this method from Candace Eisner Strick. The yarn-over method is especially handy on projects with every-other round increases such as toe-up socks or top-down raglan sweaters. Normally if you put your work down, it is easy to loose your place and not know whether you are on a plain round or an increase round. With this method, it is obvious. If you come to a yarn over or reverse yarn over, then work it twisted shut. If there isn't one, then you need to make a yarn over or reverse yarn over. Clever!

31 December 2017

Rounding Out 2017

I realize I've been rather un-chatty the last few months. So, what has been happening?

The autumn knitting did not all go according to plan. I started off with a plan to have a new class on short rows. Gabi suggested I pick a good project to sell the class, so I chose "Dreambird KAL" by Nadita Swings. There are over 3000 of these on Ravelry. It is a popular pattern, and I figured I would just knock mine out over Dragon*Con weekend. Well, it turns out this is not the easiest pattern to follow. There are a couple places in the pattern where people are making tweaks. I think I started and ripped this thing three or four times before I finally figured out what I liked. The pattern is worked in feather-like sections I call a "quill." Each quill typically took 2-4 hours for me to knit, depending on how much I concentrated and whether I made a mistake and had to rip back. My shawl has 21 quills. But, the final project is flattering.

In the end, I completed re-wrote the pattern. When I read the comments on Ravelry, I am not the only person who has done this. I did teach the class once and have it on the schedule again in 2018. And I think several people have purchased yarn for this pattern but aren't taking the class, so the sample has been good for the shop. I like to think that in the long run, the hassle will be worth it because this class will be popular and recurring. We shall see.

Then I eagerly dove into a circle jacket in reversible lace. I spent a lot of time swatching to figure out the math for center-out reversible lace. I like to think I'll post that when I'm ready to post the jacket. If you took a class from me at SAFF, then you probably heard about this because I was bubbling with joy and enthusiasm and pleased with myself. I worked happily from the center out. Then I placed armholes on waste yarn and worked a couple more inches. Then I opened the holes, picked up for both sleeves, and started working sleeves two at a time. After about a dozen rounds, I decided I should have worked short-row sleeve caps. So I've needed to tink both sleeves. I am kicking myself, as if I had just tinked one round a day, I would have been done a month ago. And I am concerned that the four skeins I have won't be enough yarn, or that I will need to make some other adjustments so I have a circle jacket rather than a circle trench coat. But the yarn is gorgeous and working up beautifully (sorry, no photos, yet). When I find where I left my mojo, I'll pick it back up.

Then there has been the travel. If 2016 was the year of little travel, 2017 has been the year of lots. And this is in spite of the fact that Cuddly Hubby and I talked about a trip to Paris over the end-of-year holiday but didn't do it, as neither of us had time to plan it. The end of year went something like this:
Thanksgiving weekend
Weekend at Cincinnati Regional Gathering (great party only 8 hours away)
Weekend of major snowstorm (another tree limb across the driveway)
Weekend in Washington D.C. and Maryland (Vermeer at National Gallery = two thumbs up)
Christmas weekend
New Year's weekend

And there were other crafting distractions. I had some colored cotton on the spinning wheel. Please don't throw me out of Georgia for writing this, but I have to admit that spinning cotton is not my favorite. It took me from July to December to spin 128 yards of 2-ply cotton. I paid a whopping $1.10 for the 28 grams of cotton at the Smoky Mountain Spinnery fire sale earlier this year. So this was really more about learning and practicing. It started out like this:

Notice the warm caramel color. When I finished the yarn, I boiled it in washing soda to deepen the color. I ended up with this:

It is a little more root beer-colored. The brown darkened and the warm tones lessened. On the plus side, the spinning wheel is now free for other experiments. I did a combo spin — spinning bits of fiber from different hand-dyed braids — when I was demonstrating spinning at the Mableton Storytelling Festival in October. I haven't posted a picture of that skein yet, as I plan to finish a few more and post the group. Unlike the cotton, that was a very satisfying skein. Special thanks to Jillian Moreno for her video 12 Ways to Spin Variegated Top. I would not have had the courage to try a combo spin if I hadn't seen her beautiful results.

And for some reason, the snowy weekend inspired me to finally put a warp on my loom. Checking the receipts, I purchased the yarn in spring 2014. I had even done a sample warp to test the pattern. Again, no pictures yet, as I plan to post more about this later. Let's just say I'm doing a snowflake twill on 8 shafts. I have watched Laura Fry's essential reference The Efficient Weaver video multiple times. Thank goodness I have both taken her class and purchased the video. However, I think Laura is a warp whisperer. She'll do something in two minutes on the video that takes me fifteen or thirty. And the number of mistakes I have made is humbling. Threading errors. Sleying errors. Crossing threads. Thank goodness I had one overall rule — never surrender the cross. (For you non-weavers, that's the spot in the wound warp where threads cross each other. It prevents threads from moving out of order.) But, after much perseverance, I believe I am almost ready to weave the pattern. I think everything is threaded and sleyed correctly. I've woven a couple inches in plain weave in a thinner thread so I can fold over the hem. I even took the time to hemstitch the beginning. Now I just need to figure out from my 1000-day-old-notes which one of the five treadings I wove is the one I want to weave and exactly which treadling and tie-up that was. This is a moment when I must trust my younger self.

Then again, for some reason my younger self in a moment of optimistic ambition put "1×1 Wonders" in the proposals for South Carolina Knit Inn 2018. I have been toying with creating this new class and I have notes about what I want to teach in it. Well, it got accepted. In fact, the class is full. So I'd better have a new handout and class ready to go the first weekend of February. Towards that purpose I've knocked out a quick version of "Twisted" from Lynne Barr's marvelous Knitting New Scarves. The yarn is about half a Caron Cakes from Michael's.

Notice the three-dimensional form.

And, while the whole thing looks like stockinette, it is actually a combination of stockinette in the round and 1×1 ribbing. Since reversible lace is based on ribbing, I am trying to develop a series of related classes that would make a good unit to teach at a weekend festival. While I am a little time-crunched right now, I will be glad later that I put this class together. And South Carolina Knit Inn is my once-a-year opportunity to test drive a new class.

And, sometime this month, this blog turned 10 years old. Thank you for following me through a full decade of fiber experiments. Back when I started this blog, I hadn't done any spinning, weaving, dyeing, or felting. I wasn't even on Ravelry. Tomorrow, I will have to choose among multiple fiber crafts as I decide whether to watch college football, the Harry Potter marathon on HBO, or a backlog of curling. Wishing everyone a happy crafting start to 2018!

24 November 2017

Is Faux Bohus Trendy?

Ah, yes, today is Black Friday. Perhaps you, too, have discovered your inbox and mailbox overflows with catalogues and coupons.

I was flipping through the J. Jill catalogue on the way to the recycle bin when I discovered this:

It is a bit Bonus-like, don't you think?

At first, I wondered if the similarity was coincidence. Then I read the description: "Shimmering Fair Isle Pullover."

If you are familiar with Bohus sweaters, then you know "Blue Shimmer" and "Pale Shimmer" are famous patterns. This J. Jill sweater also bears similarities to "The Large Lace Collar" and "Large Swan."

This is definitely a modern take. It is tricky to see, but the pattern does incorporate beads. Some of the rounds incorporate fuzzy yarn. In typical Bohus patterns, the shimmering effect is created by subtle color changes from round to round. In this machine-knit version, the effect is created with a textured yarn.

I'm a bit biased. I don't think this is as spectacular as a true Bohus. On the other hand, if you don't care to purchase a kit from AngoraGarnet and take the time to knit it up on 2mm/US size 0 needles, or spend even more money and effort to find a real vintage Bohus; then this may be a quick way to get a Bohus-ish fix.

22 October 2017

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

First off, I can't take credit for the picture. I found this on the Etsy store WandererWoods. This is someone making beautiful oversized crochet hooks and other wooden items, including kitchen utensils. The shop is listed as out of Kamyanets-Podilsky, Ukraine. I have no doubt the goods are lovely. I think this picture is beautifully photographed. However, as someone who both knits and crochets, there is something glaringly wrong about this picture (and others in this Etsy shop).

Answer: The pink fabric is knit not crochet.

I'm not trying to be mean about this. One of the things Center for Knit and Crochet has noticed is how much confusion there is between the two crafts. A lot of time, this doesn't matter. Does a non-crafter care if the scarf is knit or crochet as long as the scarf is warm? But for those of us who may want to write about these crafts, or even conduct scholarship, this confusion is maddening! And here we have the peculiar example of a wood worker who is making crochet hooks but does not know how to use one. Perhaps someone will be kind enough to make him a piece of crochet fabric?