29 January 2014

Planning

If you watch the news, then you know yesterday we had snow in Atlanta. And you know all the roads -- highways, thoroughfares, side streets -- became a gummed-up mess. What I am about to write I am posting because I haven't heard anyone in the media point this out and it needs to be said. [Edit to add: Okay, now I've watched the evening news. Apparently, there are people in the newsrooms who own weather band radios. They noticed what I noticed.]

Yesterday's weather was accurately forecast 24-hours in advance.

Yes. That means on Monday, the National Weather Service was telling Atlantans we could see snow on Tuesday, that the snow would begin in the late morning, and that the accumulations would be one to three inches. What is shocking is that I knew this. I am usually the last person to have any clue about the weather. My approach is to look out the window and respond based on what I see. But somehow this time I knew enough to run some errands Monday evening, sleep, get up, finish the errands, and get back in the house before 11 AM on Tuesday. And I did.

In Mableton, the snow began falling about 11:50 AM. My car was in the garage. My bird feeder was filled. And the used knitter's cats and I were happily ensconced in our home.

Vincent watching birds at the feeder as the snow falls.
I try to be fairly apolitical here on the blog, but it needs to be said: we all need to treat each other better. That means paying each other fairly, whether you are the boss or whether you are the customer. And that means thinking about each other ahead of time and, sometimes, ahead of the bottom line. Lots of people got stuck on the roads because they went in to work. Yesterday would have been a perfect moment for business leaders and/or political leaders to say, "Look, ya'all. There's a good chance we're in for a spell of weather. Stay home. Work from home. Forgive deadlines." Or for business leaders to make arrangements for their employees to have the day off with pay or have the day off and have some way of making up the work and pay at a near-future date. I'm sure many people got into travel trouble yesterday because they went into work; and they went into work because they felt they needed to (for whatever reason: need the pay, need to meet a deadline, need to be a team player).

To quote Marge Gunderson, the police officer in the movie Fargo:
"And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it."

22 January 2014

Progress

You'll remember in fall of 2012 I attended a symposium which gathered people interested in starting a knit and crochet museum. Much has happened behind the scenes since then. Bylaws were written last year and adopted in early autumn. Then those of us on the board went to work on the 1023 form, which is the form filed with the IRS to obtain 501(c)(3) status. That form was filed earlier this month. Hurray! Now we wait for the IRS to recognize that of course Center for Knit and Crochet is a charitable organization.

Last weekend several members of the CKC board attended Vogue Knitting Live! in New York. I was not amongst them, so I don't have any lovely photographs to share. What I do want to share is that CKC has a new website and is soliciting charter memberships. Memberships are $35 and currently new members receive a CKC tote bag as a thank-you.

The thing I most want to share is the vision. I am so proud of the narrative we submitted in our 1023 filing. Please visit the Our Vision page on the CKC website and see what you think.

18 January 2014

Controlling Color

The Sir Thomas entrelac scarf used a long-print yarn, Crystal Palace Mochi Plus. Long-print yarns are yarns in which the color changes occur at wide intervals. Unlike a typical hand-painted sock yarn, in which the color changes are only 2-3 inches/5-8 cm long, long-print yarns often have several yards/meters of color. When rolled up into a ball, long-print yarns can surprise. You'll see a couple colors on the outside, but who knows what is hidden inside? Sometimes that's part of the fun!

Probably the most popular long-print yarn is Noro Kureyon, but more and more manufacturers have been experimenting with the type. Some have completely random color changes. But many long-print yarns have predictable color sequences, they are just very long (many yards or meters). Sometimes the color changes are in sequential order: A B C D E, then more A B C D E. Often they are symmetrical. In those yarns, the color order will be A B C D E D C B  and then begin again at A. If you have Laura Bryant's wonderful book Artful Color, Mindful Knits (Sioux Falls SD: XRX, Inc. 2013), pages 16 & 17 contain some useful illustrations. Page 17 shows what Laura calls "dyeing around the skein" -- i.e. sequential color. Page 16 shows "dyeing across the skein" -- symmetrical color.

Sometimes a single skein will contain most of a sequence but not the full sequence. If you are willing to put in the extra time, it can sometimes be worth it to splice several skeins together in the proper sequence for a large project.

Mochi Plus skeins, wrapped on cards for inspection

So how to do this? For Sir Thomas, I wrapped all four skeins of Mochi Plus around large pieces of cardboard. This gave me the chance to see what I had, and to see if there were any knots or strange spots in the dye lot. (If you are working with Noro, searching for knots and color discontinuities is essential, as they are notorious.) I then stood all the pieces of cardboard up against a wall. This gave me a chance to look at the color sequence.

In this example, you instantly notice the symmetrical color sequences -- ABCBA. I could see some broad stripes of green. There were also a couple stripes of grey with blue in the center and on the edges. When I've done this before, sometimes I will overlap cards to line up colors. Sometimes I'll need to rotate a board 180 degrees. So this is very much a puzzle. In this example, you'll notice the skein on the far right has a wide pale stripe that doesn't appear in any of the other skeins. When I spliced the skeins together, I made sure to put that at the very end of the big skein. Wrapping the yarn on boards also gave me a chance to see what color is at the beginning and end of each skein. Since I was working little entrelac blocks, I didn't worry much about perfecting the color sequence. I was primarily interested in getting the colors to jump around so the blocks would be interesting. I didn't want to end up with a lot of blue and gray all in one end of the scarf and all the green in the other end.

If you remember this shawl from Mother's Day 2010, I used the same technique. But in that case, I broke up the skeins and spliced them so I had one giant ball with a very consistent color repeat. Serendipitously, the length of the color repeat was close to the length of each section repeat in the shawl, which is part of why the shawl is so pleasing to the eye. The color sequence was not random luck but carefully planned.

17 January 2014

Flat Entrelac Joins

This is the third -- and probably most important -- tutorial video for the Sir Thomas entrelac scarf.

This join is a clever use of the sliding loop modular intarsia technique published by Rick Mondragon in the February 1995 issue of Threads magazine. I knew of the technique, but had not thought of using it in entrelac until I met Jay Petersen in the summer of 2011. Jay has done some amazing explorations of entrelac that is three-dimensional, patterned, or reversible. He is definitely the king of extreme entrelac! This technique is but a sample of the reversibility that can be achieved.

16 January 2014

How to Pick Up in Lifelines

Here is the second video tutorial for Sir Thomas.

I am horrible at finding the turning chains when I need to pick up in a selvedge. Hence, I use a vertical lifeline. Thank you to Fleegle for giving this technique such an excellent name! At the beginning of a row, I wrap the lifeline from front to back with my working yarn. When working up from the lifeline, you can treat the turning bumps on the lifeline as if they are real stitches. You can even replace the lifeline with a knitting needle. Sometimes I don't even use a piece of waste yarn, but instead use the cable from an interchangeable set or a circular needle. And since the needle is just for parking stitches, it can be the same size or smaller than your working needle.

15 January 2014

Crochet Chain Selvedge in Entrelac

Here is the first how-to video for Sir Thomas.

Here is how to use a crochet-chain cast-on so that you have chain stitch all the way around the entrelac project and so don't have to break and join yarn between courses. This features my usual crochet chain cast on done with my fingers. You could also use a crochet hook or knitting needles to do this.

14 January 2014

Reversible Entrelac

So far, 2014 has consisted for me mostly of trying to put 2013 to bed. The list of unfinished business has been long.

I have been particularly troubled by a certain entrelac scarf. The very kind folks at Crystal Palace Yarns sent me four skeins of Mochi Plus last March with the specific purpose that they become a scarf similar to the lovely block I had knit for the TNNA Great Wall of Yarn. And according to my Ravelry projects page, I cast on 12 March and bound off 11 May. Not quite as fast as I would have liked, but nonetheless completed in the middle of STITCHES South, Unwind, and the disruption of my life that came from my Cuddly Hubby moving to Maryland. I made notes for writing the pattern. I shot some how-to videos. And on 16 June I even got Cuddly Hubby to take some pictures of me modeling the scarf at Point Lookout State Park, where the Potomac River empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

And yet, somehow, this pattern just refused to finish. During my three-week trek to the Maryland man cave for Thanksgiving, I limited my projects and took the pattern along. I sat in the man cave and test knit and test wrote. And then I came home and discovered that files written in Pages ’11 do not open in Pages ’09. A pox upon Cupertino, California! When Cuddly Hubby came home for the holidays, I was able to open the file on his computer, export it in the proper format, and open it on my computer. Then I just needed to wait for the holidays to end so I could work on it. (For those of you wondering, I don't want to upgrade my computer to Pages ’11 because it doesn't support some of the formatting I've used in my charts written in Pages ’09. It would be no small task to convert/rewrite all my patterns and class booklets. Again, a pox upon Cupertino!)

So, at last, in the middle of January, is the Sir Thomas Entrelac Scarf!

What is so awesome about this pattern, you may ask?

1. It used all the yarn. All. The note I wrote on Ravelry: "Had only 50cm/20 inches of yarn left before weaving in final end." You can weigh your yarn usage and knit until you run out. Maximize your project; minimize your waste.
2. It is almost reversible. It can be made fully reversible -- the pattern is simpler to work that way -- but then you'll get purl bump color blips.
3. This technique can be applied to other block patterns. If you don't mind that half the blocks are oriented top to bottom and half are worked side to side, this can be a very interesting way of joining blocks in an afghan. I'm tempted to work my reversible variation of Lizard Ridge as an afghan joined this way. And if you have a pattern in which blocks are four-way symmetrical, then turning half of them 90 degrees would hardly matter.

This is also the first time I am posting the pattern in a test knitting group. So this will be a new experience for me. Let's hope there isn't too much wrong with the pattern and that whatever isn't right is caught quickly by the testers.

Let me clarify a bit about the reversibility. It is reversible in the sense that it is a checkerboard. Half the squares have stockinette backgrounds running side to side and half the squares have reverse stockinette backgrounds running top to bottom. So when you flip the work, you have the same pattern on the other side. It is reversible in the same way that seed stitch is reversible. If you were to work it with all the knit on one side and all the purl on the other, then it would not be reversible.

I should add that in the model scarf I wanted to avoid purl blips, so that scarf is not quite reversible. The back of it appears at right. You'll notice some ridges run across the scarf, where the joins are not quite flat because I was avoiding blips on the front. You'll also notice purl blips -- dots of color formed from the interaction of different hues and values across a row of purls -- around all the edges of all the blocks.

In the photograph below is another piece of fabric, worked in the same way except that it is fully reversible and, since it is still on the needles, not yet blocked. There are purl blips on both sides of the fabric. In this particular yarn, the hue and value differences are less pronounced, so the blips are less obvious. And this fully reversible pattern is actually a simpler knit, because all the joins and knit ups are always worked the same way. So if you work this pattern, make an informed decision about which way you want to play.

In the resources for the pattern, and in the flat joins video, I do mention two important people who developed this technique. The first is Rick Mondragon, who published the wonderful article “Knit In Blocks of Color — without Bobbins” in Threads magazine No. 57 (Feb. 1995) on pages 44-47. If you have taken my now retired "Unventions" class, I've exposed you to some of my applications for this technique. And I've blogged about it before when I was working on the Puzzlemaker Jacket.

The other person I must thank is Jay Petersen. Although I was already familiar with the sliding loop technique, Jay introduced me to its applications in entrelac. You'll remember Jay from my posts about visiting Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2011. Jay is definitely the king of extreme entrelac, as he has explored three-dimensional, reversible, and patterned versions of it. He has even done some interesting experiments with pentagonal entrelac. His Ravelry page is definitely worth visiting.

Edited to add: Here is the link to this pattern on the Crystal Palace Yarns website.

As usual, the next posts will include the video tutorials for the technique. Enjoy!