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?

20 October 2017

If It Is Japanese, Can It Be Baroque Or Rococo?

While there are immigrant communities in the Atlanta area, I don't think of Atlanta as a focus of the Japanese expatriate community. When I've traveled to the West Coast, I've been more likely to encounter Japanese knitting magazines, stitch dictionaries, and pattern books in yarn shops than I would here on the East Coast. When STITCHES South was still a regular event, I would acquire a new Japanese stitch dictionary each year, typically from Yarn Barn of Kansas. Eventually, I discovered there are some Japanese book sellers on Amazon.

So, you might imagine my delight several months ago when I encountered a pre-order opportunity for this:
I'm used to dealing with these books entirely in Japanese. This one is translated by Gayle Roehm. I've taken a couple classes from Gayle, (see posts here and here) mostly in how to read Japanese charts and how to do some of the unusual maneuvers required. When I think of Japanese culture, I think of commitment to very high standards of craftsmanship. Japanese knitters do not disappoint. Hitomi Shida is a master.

The book is over 100 pages of complex knitting. I don't know whether to describe these designs Baroque or Rococo. Many involved twisted stitches, wrapped stitches, cables, lace, and even bobbles.
Here's an example, stitch pattern #81 from page 50:
The pattern employs lace and traveling cables, as well as embroidery and beads. The roses are so dainty and feminine!

At the beginning of the book, pages 7 though 17 have a thorough table of symbols and their meanings. I'm used to seeing this sort of thing in Japanese stitch dictionaries. Since this book is translated into English, I can actually read the descriptions of how to work the unusual stitches. If you have other Japanese stitch dictionaries, you might want this one just for these few translated pages.

Patterns are generally grouped in chapters. If you are interested in designing your own patterns, "Pattern Arrangements" beginning on page 88 shows patterns in pairs where motifs have been altered to create new but related patterns. Sometimes this is as simple as shifting a motif so it falls on the half-drop, but other times this involves pairing it with new motifs, adding bobbles, or changing other elements. I've seen other Japanese books where this is used to good effect, such as in a twin set where the cardigan and shell are more interesting together as they have related but not identical patterns.

For most of the book, photographs of the swatches are shown next to their corresponding charts. The chapters at the back on "Round Yokes" and "Edgings," however, have the photographs grouped into chapters and the corresponding charts at the back of the book. I would have preferred to pair the photographs and charts so as to avoid all the flipping around. However, this is a minor quibble.

I don't pre-order a lot of knitting books, as I usually prefer to browse a book before adding it to my library. However, Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible by Hitomi Shida, translated with an introduction by Gayle Roehm, did not disappoint. If you have any interest in Japanese knitting, this would be a fine addition to your library.

29 September 2017

F is for Fickle Felting Failure

First off, I had a wonderful time at Georgia FiberFest a couple weeks ago. There are some swatches I want to make related to the classes I took from Franklin Habit and Galina Khmeleva. With luck, I'll blog about that in October.

In the meantime, let's talk about an epic fail!

Back in July, I decided I wanted to make a felted bag for storing my Majacraft flyers. My mother purchased the high-speed head for me for my birthday. (Thank you, Mom!) While it took a few months for it to arrive, it was worth it. But I realized I now have 6 flyers (not including the jumbo-sized Overdrive). Once upon a time, my spinning bag was the right size. But now, all those helpful accessories don't fit. I decided to make a felted bag to keep my flyers safe and unscratched.

I purchased 6 skeins of Patons North America Classic Wool Roving. This is a nice bulky yarn that will felt when thrown into the washing machine. It isn't too expensive. With coupon, the materials cost came out around $40. I used a US size 13/ 9.0mm needle from my Denise Interchangeable Needle set and worked in 1×1 ribbing. I chose 1×1 ribbing because I knew I could pick up in the ribs to subdivide the interior into separate sections. I also figured the 1×1 ribbing would create a dense fabric when felted.

I started by working a section of 1×1 ribbing 14 inches wide by 10 inches high for the bottom of the bag. Using Gwen Bortner’s encasement method, I picked up stitches on all four sides and worked in the round until the sides were about 9 inches tall. At that point, I seamlessly inserted the dividers using a combination of techniques from TECHknitter, Marilyn Hastings, and Rick Mondragon. Both TECHknitter and Marilyn Hastings use a rib for picking up when making a zipper placket. I used a version of Rick Mondragon's sliding loop intarsia technique to knit up the dividers seamlessly. If you want to see more, here's the video. I was very, very pleased with myself for being so clever. As you can see in the video, the panel joins don't even show on the outside of the bag.

After I completed the interior panels, I bound off three of the four top edges. I worked a rectangle just four stitches/two pairs wider and a little longer than the 14×10-inch bag bottom. I picked up around three sides and worked back-and-forth to make a lip. I finished by making cord ties using a lucet.

By now you may be noticing that one of the things I did not do was make a large swatch, measure, throw it in the washing machine, and measure again. When you do not offer a sacrifice to the goddesses of knitting and felting, sometimes they will not smile upon your enterprise.

 Exhibit #1: Seamless bag, before felting, exterior.

Exhibit #2: Seamless bag, before felting, interior.
Plastic bags lightly tacked with dental floss to prevent the interior spaces from felting together.

Exhibit #3: Felted disaster!

Not sure what to say about this. :-/

The thing that is most peculiar to me is how the dividers did not full the same as the short sides of the bag, even though they were all worked in 1×1 ribbing in the same direction and were all about 10 inches wide by 9 inches tall. Now they are the same height, but not the same length. And that height is shocking — from 9 inches before fulling to about 4 inches, so more than 50%. This means the bag is not tall enough for the flyers. The short sides of the bag exterior shrank from 10 inches to about 7 inches. But the interior dividing panels did not shrink as much horizontally, so now they ruffle. I did try running this through the wash again without the plastic resists — thinking the dividing panels just needed more fulling. Nope — not the solution.

Notice the lid shrank more than the bottom of the bag. That 10×14 bottom is now about 7×12, but the lid is only 6.5×9 even though the lid started out slightly larger! Again, same stitch pattern, same yarn, same needles, same technique. And the lid is now somehow off-center.

I'm really not sure what to do with this. It has been sitting in time-out for the last two months. Do I cut it up? Do I throw it in the compost pile? Do I tack the ruffled dividers together to form a sort of egg-carton pattern and use the bag to store something else (not sure what)? Do I give the thing a good soak and see if it will stretch and reshape? Do I attack it with the multi-pronged felting needle? Do I find a bonfire?

What have I learned?
1×1 ribbing shrinks vertically but not horizontally.
Hubris is bad.
I don't know nearly enough about fulling knitting.

Of course, I still don't have a nice bag for my Majacraft flyers! I haven't decided if I want to try this experiment again (maybe without the plastic bag resists?) or if I should make a bag in 1×1 ribbing but don't full it?

And off topic — yes, this is photographed in the same spot on my shiny new front porch. In the before images, I hadn't done any painting. In the more recent image the wood is white due to the primer. I'm not quite to the point of painting.

29 August 2017

Update from the Controlled Chaos

It has been a very busy month around here, and there's more coming.

The recent past:
out-of-state trip for Mom's 75th birthday
visit from 15-year-old nephew including ropes course, go karts, rafting, and indoor sky diving
trip to Gen Con
stops at Fiber Frenzy and the Woolery
eclipse in Sweetwater, Tennessee

The impending future:
Georgia FiberFest
Mensa Peachtreat 42
Game night at my house
Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair

Cuddly Hubby will be home for Dragon*Con. Also on the upside, the fall issue of Spin Off magazine just arrived at the friendly local yarn shops.

And please look down through the table of contents to page 80.

I wrote the article about eleven months ago, so this has been lurking for awhile. I had a great time writing the article and working with the friendly staff at Spin Off. This is definitely a champagne, chocolate, and flowers sort of accomplishment. If it weren't that we'll be busy with Dragon*Con, I would have a special dinner scheduled when Cuddly Hubby is home.

If you would like to duplicate my color experiment but don't want to dye your own fiber, I noticed when I visited that The Woolery has dyed fiber in neon colors as well as standard yellow, magenta, and cyan. In particular, they have Corriedale top here and Merino top here. And they carry Spin Off magazine. You can call them at 800-441-9665, too.

There are also fiber activities coming up:

Lisa Klakulak is speaking at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance on Friday 1 September at 6 PM. Lisa is an amazing felt artist who has traveled the world for inspiration.

Keith Leonard is teaching classes on blocking, finishing, mistake-fixing, and brioche at Yarn and Y'all in Greenville SC on Thursday 21 through Sunday 24 September. Keith is a professional finisher who has taught at Vogue Knitting Live! in New York.

Eat.Sleep.Knit is now settled into their new home at 1060 Cedarcrest Road, Dallas, GA 30132 (770) 432-9277. They share a parking lot with a daycare center, so look for the daycare sign. Knit night is 4-7 PM on Thursdays, perfect for those weeks between guild meetings.

And a reminder, Georgia FiberFest is less than a fortnight away on 7-9 September! If you want to attend the banquet, be sure to register by Friday 1 September. I'm signed up for a class with Franklin Habit and another with Galina Khmeleva. STITCHES South appears to be hibernating for the foreseeable future. If we want a fiber festival in our own state, then please encourage the organizers and participants by attending the party. Of course, we're also dividing the cake into rather thin slices with Beth Brown-Reinsel at Yarn Rhapsody and Edie Eckman at South Carolina Knitting Guild that same weekend.

And Atlanta Knitting Guild has Marly Bird in October. She will be the speaker at our Thursday 5 October meeting and then teach classes Friday through Sunday. Reminder that early bird pricing ends Thursday 31 August.

Out beyond the horizon —
Registration has already opened for Kanuga Knitting & Quilting Retreat, which runs Thursday 11 January through Sunday 14 January 2018. I'll be teaching the knit swirl jacket, but there are several other knitting teachers. You can choose to immerse yourself in lace, socks, colorwork, or clever technique hacks.

Fiber Frenzy in Berea, Kentucky hosts their Pins and Needles Retreat the first weekend of February (the same weekend as South Carolina Knit Inn). Depending on where you live, it may be easier to go to Kentucky than South Carolina on Friday 2 February through Sunday 4 February 2018. Planning for Knit Inn has started, but neither the class offerings nor registration are announced. If you are a Southeastern knitter, then you'll be hoping for good travel weather the first weekend of February.