31 January 2013

Simple Invention

Because I scheduled two weaving classes in January, there has been less knitting and more weaving this month. I've also been trying to clean house, de-clutter, and wrap up unfinished action items from 2012. Remember that February is Knitting Needle Liberation Month in my house, so I've been liberating needles from stalled projects and swatches as well.

One of the weaving classes I took was with Teena Tuenge and covered weaving in color in double weave. It was during this class it became painfully clear that I need two shuttles. I had been weaving with stick shuttles, which aren't bad but are a little slow. As Teena pointed out, an ideal stick shuttle should be the same length as your warp width, so that you are merely pulling one wrap off the shuttle with each pick. Why some clever soul doesn't market an adjustable-width shuttle stick, I don't know. Possibly it is because most weavers quickly move to the bobbin and boat shuttle system. While not as simple as a stick, it does allow you to keep lots and lots of bobbins around and quickly swap-out colors. In a class where you are weaving with many, many colors, bobbins are key. In a project where you are establishing a couple colors and then weaving merrily with those, sticks are fine. In fact, on my Ashford table loom a stick may work better for those long warps, because the low shed means I can stack more weft on a stick than on a bobbin.
I had purchased a Bluster Bay Swedish shuttle from The Woolery when I attended SAFF last October. It is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The wood is smoooooooth. It is a sensual delight every time I touch it (which, of course, is on every pick). But to work double weave I need two shuttles. Well, dang! That would mean having to phone The Woolery and ask if they have one in stock and order it. Sigh! Or as Brer Rabbit would say, "Please don't throw me in that briar patch!" Of course, I ordered one as soon as the class was over. The wood on the one from SAFF is Tasman gum. This new one is curly maple, (the lighter one at the top of the picture, with the red bobbin) and the finish is so fine the wood grain has an almost iridescent quality. Both bobbins glide across a warp like an ice boat on a pond. In addition to their beauty, they are low profile, and thus work well on a loom that throws a low shed. And the ends are pointed enough to move through the shed, but not so pointed as to catch threads and disrupt the pick.

I should add that the lady who answered the phone and helped me was wonderful. The shuttles come in various woods -- I missed out on purchasing a lovely dark red one at SAFF, as I saw it, set it down, circled the vendor market, and discovered it gone when I came back less than half an hour later. The nice lady at the Woolery was able to describe to me what was in stock -- including the iridescent quality of the curly maple, which is what sold me on it sight unseen -- and my order arrived in two days. (Then again, Kentucky is not that far from Georgia.) I will probably look for an excuse to acquire two more of these, ideally in that lovely red and maybe in purple heart wood.

I also ordered more paper bobbins. Many weavers make their own, but at $6 for 10, I figured the price was worth my time and effort. The trick is, I don't own a bobbin winder. And I'm trying to de-clutter. Hmmm. I thought that surely there must be something in my house that could be used to rotate a bobbin so as to wind on yarn. A lot of people use a power drill or electric screwdriver. Alas, my electric screwdriver (a wedding gift) is too old and will no longer hold a charge. (Pity, as it was much used when we first moved into our house. It was indeed a good present.) I did not want to try the power drill, as I thought it would probably rotate out of control too quickly.

And then there is the spinning wheel. This is a machine designed to make something turn in a circle. Aha! The problem was in getting the paper bobbins onto the shaft. On my dear Majacraft Rose, the bobbin shaft is too thick. I was very pleased with myself for inventing a solution.

Behold, a bent piece of 1/16 brass rod! It was unbent in my gaming miniature toolbox. According to the label, 3 pieces for $1.49 at the hardware store. I threaded a bobbin on each end of the rod so I could more easily guess the center, then bent the rod. I took the bobbins off and continued to bend the rod to the shape you see in the photograph. To use, I attach the loop end of the bent rod to the delta orifice on my spinning wheel. I then thread the two plain ends down a bobbin. Since the ends want to spring outward, the rod holds the bobbin nicely without too much slippage. I support the plain end with my right hand, the thread with my left hand, and I make the wheel turn using my feet. Simplicity itself, and yet quite functional!

24 January 2013

More Fun with Swatching

Just before the holidays, the yarn for the Winter TNNA Great Wall of Yarn swatches arrived. I actually squealed like a preteen when I opened the package! This time I only requested three skeins of yarn, as I have a lot of other work to do right now. Two of the three skeins are long-print yarns. The third, Trendsetter Phoenix, has long-print textural changes. I figured these swatches would be a great opportunity to play with three techniques: short rows, entrelac, and labyrinth.
For Trendsetter Phoenix, I chose the short row technique. I used Alice Yu's shadow wrap or twin stitch technique. The pattern is a variation of Lizard Ridge. Instead of working five plain rows between the short row pattern, I've worked only four. And I've worked those four rows as all knit. This means that both knit and purl sides of the short rows show. I thought this yarn looked good from both sides and that the change from stockinette to reverse stockinette only served to further accentuate the textural interest of the yarn. If the stripes were run vertically, I think this could make a stunning jacket or cardigan.
I used the Crystal Palace Mochi Plus for the entrelac swatch. I used the same techniques in this swatch as in the swatch I made last year for the SEFAA Square Foot Fiber Pin-Up Show. The fabric is flat rather than textured because I used Rick Mondragon's sliding loop method in the joins. This is the technique Jay Petersen taught me in Portland, Oregon in 2011. If you want the heavy texture of traditional entrelac, then use the usual method of joining by working two stitches together. What pleased me about this swatch is how the colors just happened to work out. The colorway is Equinox. By serendipity the colors in the swatch came out so the lights are on one side and the darks on the other. It looks very much as if light is falling across the swatch. It is a lovely effect of a happy accident!
From my previous post this month, you know I've been working on labyrinth knitting. I've been futzing with it for the last couple years, and I made a complete child's jacket several years ago. Debbie New's brilliant technique delights me every time. Plus, I find the knitting itself to be most addictive. The yarn is Knit One Crochet Too Ty-Dy Cotton. I worked out a scheme that produces a spiraling labyrinth. It was a little tricky, as part of the labyrinth keeps going around so that the swatch is square rather than rectangular. The cast-on is in avocado green with the bind-off in orange. And, yes, I did purlwise grafting to join the orange line together. The whole swatch measuring about 7.5 inches square is only 9 rows of knitting (including the cast-on and bind-off in the row count).

And since I am mentioning square swatches, a reminder. The Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance annual Square Foot Fiber Pin-Up Show is coming up in March. Information on SEFAA's site here. The show is unjuried and open to everyone. Just make a square foot using any fiber technique. You don't even have to mount your square, as we'll just tack them to the wall with push pins. (If you don't want push pins in your work, then you'll need to make it ready-to-hang yourself.) The submission deadline is Thursday 28 February 2013. There is a silent auction to benefit SEFAA that accompanies the show. Also, visitors to the gallery should vote for their favorite squares. The winners will be in the 2014 SEFAA calendar. And a special treat this year -- it looks like the show will be traveling to another venue in south Georgia. If you have never exhibited your work, I encourage you to participate. The show is great fun, and we can't expect others to take knitting and crochet seriously as art or high craft if we don't exhibit our work as if it is worthy of consideration.

01 January 2013

Liking the Labyrinth

Happy New Year! I'm a little sorry to see 2012 go, as it was a pretty good year for me. But now it is time to build on the promise of 2013!

One of the classes I hope to develop is about Debbie New's wonderful labyrinth knitting technique. I happen to like this technique a lot. I know many knitters are either unfamiliar with it or balk at it because it comes out of Unexpected Knitting. Mathematically it is interesting, as the concept is based on the idea of a space-filling curve. Because you are knitting a long twisting snake instead of a flat rectangle, you can shape the knitting in three-dimensions. The stitches run in all directions, which  makes the knitting very interesting indeed! And if you have color changes in the yarn or textural changes in the knitting, those elements will highlight the unusual construction.

While I think a labyrinth sweater is an awesome accomplishment, I also think it is good to warm up and learn on a smaller project. To that end, I came up with two labyrinth cubes. The zig-zag cube is knit with alternating left and right turns. While I could have worked it in the round, I chose to work it flat and sew a mattress seam along one edge of the cube. The red edge is the cast-on and the brown is the bind-off. I used a provisional cast-on so that I could use flat three-needle bind off to seam both edges. You'll notice that the seamed edge is actually three edges of the cube that meet at a corner. The pattern across the cube is intriguing, and I found visitors to my home during the holidays were mesmerized. They would pick up the cube and keep turning it in their hands!
Zig-Zag Cube

Labyrinth knitting doesn't just involve left and right turns. You can also knit sections in a straight line, too. The twist & turn cube uses two left turns, two right turns, and two plain sections to form a cube. This cube was started using Magic Cast On (dark blue green) along three edges. I flipped the cast-on to put the purl side up because I wanted a purl ridge along the edge. The work then proceeded in the round. The bind-off edges are pale sage and were grafted together to run a purl ridge along the three bind-off edges.
Twist & Turn Cube
Both cubes are stuffed with two pieces of 3-inch thick foam, cut to 6 x 6 inches. If I did it again, I would probably glue the two pieces of foam together. Even without glue, there is enough pressure from the knitting to mostly keep the foam blocks properly aligned.

Of course, I now realize this could easily be scaled up. For example, a large cube could be used as a hassock. And if you were so inclined, it shouldn't be that difficult to knit a foam chair or sofa.