14 April 2014

STITCHES South 2014

This was a somewhat different STITCHES South for me, and not just because of the new venue. I taught two classes this time, one on Thursday and one on Saturday. There were some knitting classes that intrigued me, but they were opposite when I was teaching. So I ended up taking only one class -- Tailspinning with Esther Rodgers.

For that class, I wore the scribble lace I made last summer using the corespun yarn I made last year in Esther's corespinning class. I was surprised by how much people seemed to like that shawl. It isn't complicated knitting. It is an important reminder to me that sometimes simple really is better, especially if the materials are of high quality.

This year, I learned three different ways to tailspin yarn. I'm thinking about making another swirl jacket, but this time with my own handspun from my stash. I may acquire some locks from Jazzturtle so I can have some crazy fringe fun around the edge. As always, if you have the opportunity to take spinning classes from Esther, do. Her enthusiasm for fiber is infectious, and her pacing is perfect. Even if you feel you are an all-thumbs spinner, Esther can help you make beautiful yarn that honors the fiber.
Left to right: Wensleydale wool, Mohair goat, Teeswater wool, Suri alpaca
As far as I can tell, my teaching mostly went well. I used a projector and camera set up for the first time, and that seemed good. However, that set-up was borrowed, so now I need to think about what equipment I ought to acquire. Time to invest in myself. One student did rightly realize I should have stressed that the shawl class was about triangular shaped shawls. I am truly sorry I missed emphasizing that in the description; and I must not have had the photograph of three triangles linked properly. When I think of a shawl, I immediately think of a triangle. It just didn't occur to me that others think of rectangles or circles, and that's my own blind spot. Mea culpa.

I did do a little bit of damage in the market. One nice thing about the Georgia International Convention Center is the parking is quite close to the market. It was easy to make some purchases, go stash them in the car, and then come in and make more. I generally try to hunt rather than gather, but it isn't always easy. Yarn Barn of Kansas has to show up with the books, including more Japanese patterns and stitch dictionaries I can't get from anyone here in town. Carolina Homespun came this year, bearing spinning and weaving supplies. She had three of the first four issues of Ply magazine. And thank you to my friend Marilyn who spotted the Lunatic Fringe weaving kits in the booth.
As you can see, these are twelve bright colors that I like to think will be fabulous no matter how they are woven. I have quite a bit of teaching coming up during the next three weeks, but I am thinking that about mid-May it will be time to get out the 8-shaft loom and play!

The rest of the stash enhancement consists of a skein of sock yarn from Knitting Notions so I can finally do the Carolyn Jacket I bought in the North Georgia Knitting Guild auction in 2009. I also gained a skein of lovely Cascade Yarns Forest Hills lace in a brilliant turquoise. It is a silk-wool blend, already wound in a ball and ready to go, with 785 yards on the put-up. Unless I'm working something too dense like garter, this should be a one-ball shawl.

There were some new vendors in the market, in addition to old favorites. I did not buy any dichroic glass buttons, only because I don't currently have a sweater waiting for buttons. But I hope Mitchell Larsen Studio will come back next year, because I now want to knit a cardigan just so I have an excuse for glass buttons!

I did purchase a lovely wooden lucet from cabinetmaker Stephen Willette. He and his wife were all the way here from New Hampshire, partly for the show and partly to drop their son off to hike the Appalachian Trail. I don't know if they will come again. The wood tool is truly a thing of beauty. A lucet is used to make a braid with a square cross section. The braids can be delicate cords, but they can also be large and curled into a spiral to make a rug! I am thinking the very large white alpaca fleece that is probably too coarse for clothing could become a thing of beauty and usefulness with this little tool. Plus, there is a sort of magic about this ancient trick on two prongs.

03 April 2014

Concentric and Hyperbolic

It is time again for Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance's Square Foot Fiber Pin-Up Show. For those of you who may not remember, this is the show where the only requirements are the item should be made with a fiber technique and fit within a 12-inch square. The show is open to everyone -- you do not need to be an individual member of SEFAA to enter. And there is no entry fee. And the show is not juried. All you have to do is fill out the form and get the item to SEFAA Center, either in person or by post.
This year will be my third year participating. I love this show. I love the wide range of work -- embroidery, silk painting, quilting, surface design, dyeing, handspinning, felting, crochet, and knit. And, since I'm on the board of Center for Knit and Crochet, this is my moment to remind all you knitters and crocheters that this is an opportunity to exhibit work. As you already know, I feel very strongly about this. People who don't quilt or weave take quilting and weaving seriously because those artists put their work up on the wall and stick a gallery tag beside it and invite people to really stop and look and it. Non-crafters don't appreciate knit and crochet partly because we don't exhibit. We don't give people the opportunity to stop and look at what we do. And we don't take a moment to educate them on the time and skill required. This needs to change if we want people to preserve and value our heritage.

The entry deadline for Square Foot Fiber is Wednesday 9 April. You can find the form on the SEFAA website here. There is a monthly members' meeting on Monday night to hear Cas Holmes speak, so you can just drop off your work then. Or you can drop it off when you come to view the Japanese Embroidery Show.

And for those of you wondering about the above photograph, here's what I did.

The yarn is three-ply handspun made from a 100g roving dyed as a rainbow. I stripped the roving into thirds; so I then had three smaller rainbow rovings. Then I took 1/3 of the red off the end of one roving and stuck it on its purple end. I took 2/3 of the red off another roving and stuck it on its purple end. So now I had three rovings in color order red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet with one roving that stopped at violet, one roving that had a little red at the end, and one roving with a lot more red at the end and a lot less at the beginning. So I had something like this:
I spun each ply and then plied all three together. Of course, if my spinning had been even and if my splitting of the roving had been even, I should have ended up with a yarn that started red, then became 2 red plies with 1 orange ply, then 2 orange with 1 red, then 3 orange, and so on. But my work wasn't even, so it all went a little off the rails at the end. And the red dye wasn't colorfast for some reason, so the red has faded and become much more coral. But this is an experiment I'm willing to try again.

For the knitting, I started at the "red" end and cast on for a center-out motif. For a five-point motif I worked double-increases in five locations. The rhythm between increase and plain rounds is a bit syncopated. Work an increase round, then one plain round, then an increase round, then two plain rounds. For the most part, I worked yarn over, knit the center stitch, yarn over for my double-increases. I also worked one wale twisted midway between the increase lines. I did that partly for decoration, and partly to make it easier to keep track of what I was doing. I made up lace as I went, à la Myra Woods.

The method for the ruffle is of my own devising.
Run a lifeline through a round. You'll need to pick up in this round later.
Work k1, yo, k1 all in one stitch, then yo before the next stitch. Repeat this sequence around. You have quadrupled the number of stitches.
Now work 1x1 ribbing. All the knits from the previous round should be knit, and all the yarn overs should be purled.
Work a few rounds as established in 1x1 ribbing -- I typically did only 2 or 3 rounds.
Bind off using Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off.
The 1x1 ribbing is the same on both sides, but more importantly, it has structure and is willing to stand up as a ruffle.

After binding off the first ruffle, I knit up new stitches behind it. This is why you need that lifeline. Trust me on this, you do not want to try to figure out what is and isn't a stitch. If you are very clever, use a circular needle or the cable from an interchangeable set as your lifeline.

To make the motif more like the Tudor Rose shape, I worked some shaping rounds based on feather and fan stitch. This meant I worked multiple increases grouped together and multiple decreases grouped together. This stacking and gathering of shaping will cause the fabric to bias and wave. Since I was working from the center out, I just needed to be sure that the multiple increases were always two more in number than the decreases. This is the same shaping as the well-known pattern Hemlock Ring.

I then worked a second ruffle. For this ruffle, I worked two rounds plain, then broke the yarn to change color, worked one round plain in the new color, and then one round to bind off.

Once again, I knit up from behind the ruffle to work the green background. This time I shifted the increases to fall over the troughs from feather and fan. This helped skew the motif backed towards being round, so it would fit on the ring.

To attached to a 12-inch shiny metal ring I again used the magic of k1-yo-k1 all in one stitch, then yo before the next stitch. Every time I made a yarn over, I threw the yarn around the ring. Then I worked the ruffle to the end, just as I had the other ruffles. Picking up that first round with the ring already in the stitches was fiddly, but I persevered.

I will probably go fetch a small "D" ring at the big box craft store, and attach it to the back to create a hanging hook. I'm not quite sure what one would do with this item. Although I suppose it does look like a knitted version of a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign.

02 April 2014

Too Beautiful

For those of you who love to gawk at fiber arts, please don't miss the current opportunity. The Japanese Embroidery Center has an exhibition at SEFAA Center through 8 April.  You can view the exhibition today or Thursday from 10 to 4 or again on Monday and Tuesday from 10 to 4. SEFAA is hosting a Cas Holmes workshop this weekend, meaning SEFAA Center will be in use and not open to the public.
Students from the Japanese Embroidery Center are staffing the exhibit and acting as docents. They can answer your questions about the various techniques. My thanks to one of them, Christine Kellogg, for graciously permitting me to take a detail promotional photograph of one of her pieces. I wanted a picture to give a hint of the beauty that awaits, without showing you all too much, as you need to treat yourselves.

There is quite a bit of silk and metal threads stitching; all very precise. The silk couching securing metal threads is often laid in to form patterns. I was particularly struck by a piece composed entirely of metal threads on a black background. There are some special stitch techniques that mimic braided cords. There are even a couple pieces in which thread is laid in horizontal lines within the fine grain of the fabric to form a pattern. Embroiderers twist the silk, thus making decisions about the texture of each thread. There are also some techniques that involve adding dye or metallic color to the background fabric. As with much Japanese art, the aesthetic merges an interest in natural forms with a love of complex geometry and an appreciation for exquisite craftsmanship (craftswomanship?).

If you are an individual SEFAA member, the monthly members' meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 on Monday will also afford you an opportunity to view the work, but without benefit of docents to answer your questions.