15 December 2015

More Knitting in Japanese

Yesterday I showed you swatches from Gayle Roehm's "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs" class. Today I present the swatches from its sequel, "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs." In this class, Gayle labeled the swatches with numbers instead of letters.

Swatch 1 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
 This first swatch is a "basic" Japanese lace pattern -- that is, it has action on both right and wrong sides. Although it is a stockinette-based lace, the increases and decreases push the wales in different directions to create a surprising amount of movement and texture.
Swatch 2 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Gayle called swatch 2 a faux paisley. Like the dogwood lace swatch B in yesterday's post, the chart has large open area of white space that are disconcerting to the uninitiated. The top of each paisley also has a strange maneuver that is sort of a cross between a cable and a decrease. Once again, something you want demonstrated to you in person.
Swatch 3 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Like yesterday's swatch F, swatch 3 uses multiple wraps to create texture. It is hard to see with the black yarn, but there are over-sized stitches that create texture. This bears some similarities to a stitch from Merike Saarniit's "Fiendishly Difficult Stitches" class.
Swatch 4 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Swatch 4 shares some commonalities with yesterday's swatch C. Once again, there are lots of short rows in the middle of the fabric. This time, the short rows are combined with cabling on the wrong-side return row. The long strand is an unavoidable element of the design. Of course, if you threaded some long bugle beads, the effect might be flashes of light playing off the high texture. Who thinks up this stuff?

Swatch 5 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Again, I've worked this in a dark yarn so it is somewhat difficult to see. The right portion is a lace motif common in Japanese patterns. The left part of the pattern contains a section of wrapped or bundled stitches. It is this left section that contains several strange maneuvers -- multiple wraps, slipping or parking stitches that are reincorporated on later rows, and bundling several stitches together.
Swatch 6 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
What can I say about this one? Two colors, multiple wraps, passing stitches over and through, knitting through the back of the loop -- might as well put up a sign saying, "Do not attempt without a sherpa" or "Why merely knit or purl the next stitch, when there is so much else you could do?"
Swatch 7 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Japanese knitters do not distinguish between knit and crochet the way we in the West do. Swatch 7 reminds me of the Solomon's Knot pattern from crochet. This knitted version involves knitting up a stitch from a strange location and then immediately making a decrease. There is also yarn over patterning on the wrong side return rows.
Swatch 8 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
This circular pattern reminds me of a Gothic rose window. The chart was written out flat, with lots of big gaps in the columns. In typical Japanese fashion, the details are well-considered. The wales of knits are twisted stitches, making them pop off the reverse stockinette background. Twisted purls are used to close yarn over increases.
Bonus Swatch 9 from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Because the class did not fill completely, Gayle had some extra bonus handouts. This last swatch I've had to photograph rather than set on my scanner, as it is too big. I think it was a bonus swatch from this class rather than the other, but I'm not quite sure. I've worked it in a long-print yarn to show off that the motif is not worked from the center out. Rather, it is cast-on at the diagonal and worked as a decreasing triangle with a cabled border on both the left and right selvedges. The next quadrant is picked up along one of the cabled sides from the previous quadrant. In the end, the first and fourth triangles are sewn or grafted together along the miter. Between the twist and the diagonal lines, the square has a strong feeling of motion. And once again, how many people would think of knitting a square as four triangles picked up on the bias?

14 December 2015

Knit in Japanese

Last month I gave a short talk about Japanese knitting for Atlanta Knitting Guild. Pam is leading the guild on a knit-along incorporating techniques from around the world. Ideally we would have had either Gayle Roehm or Fleegle come talk to the guild about Japanese knitting. Since I had taken two of Gayle's classes, I filled in.

This led me to pull out my notebook of class handouts. When I took that first class at STITCHES 2009, I was not in the habit of keeping my swatches. Rather, I learned in class, ripped back, and reused the yarn. I also put all the handout pages in one page protector. Now I know better. Now I put each page in a separate protector and I put the swatch in with the page, so I can see what it was I did. After giving my presentation for AKG, I decided to knit the missing swatches and revisit what I had learned.

If you have a chance to take a class with Gayle, I recommend it. Over the past five years I have gathered about half a dozen Japanese stitch dictionaries. They are often innovative and inspiring. Gayle will teach you what you need to know to read the charts. And she shows you how to do the strange maneuvers. In today's and tomorrow's posts, I'll show my swatches so you can understand why these patterns are so intriguing and why you would want to take a class or two on how to make them.

This first set of swatches labeled A through G were from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs."
Swatch A from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
I recall referring to this chart as the "shock and awe." The chart looks fairly plain, but there is a little box on the side with very strange marks in it -- circles of varying sizes along with vertical lines and some crossed lines, too. That box explains how to make this rather crochet-like pattern that involves extreme increases and decreases. Truth is, since I didn't keep the original swatch from 2009, I'm not 100% sure I've worked this correctly. Maybe it is just because I knit it in fuchsia, but the motifs remind me of small roses.
Swatch B from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Swatch B looks to me like a dogwood blossom on a lace background. The chart again looks very strange due to the extreme increases and decreases. Columns of the chart are split into strips. This pattern also has action on every row -- definitely not for the beginning knitter!
Swatch C from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Swatch C bears a similarity to chart A in that the chart does not look scary until you look at what the little box on the side means. This highly-textured pattern looks a little funny when flattened on my scanner. The maneuver here involves working short row tabs and then turning them before continuing across the row. Who thought of that?
Swatch D from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Then there are the Japanese patterns that are just plain show-off acrobatics. Bobbles, cables, twisted stitches, and some sort of dipping down across several rows maneuver that Gayle called a "blackberry" stitch -- the bud-like texture inside the cabled ovals on the right edge. The blackberry stitch is something you want someone to show you in person. Why knit the next stitch when you could just knit up a new stitch anywhere?
Swatch E from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
I've purposely blocked swatch E quite flat. This is a short-row pattern similar to the famous Lizard Ridge blanket. The chart is a bunch of triangular grids separated by open spaces. The pattern is a wonderful scallop shell well-suited to long-print yarn. If you don't stretch it flat when you block it, the shells even bow outward a little like real seashells. Wouldn't this make a fabulous blanket?
Swatch F from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
The purpose of swatch F was to explain how to handle a non-standard symbol in the chart. In this case, the pattern is produced by purposely messing with the gauge via double-wrapped stitches. I've seen condo knitting -- using two radically different-sized needles on different rows to create patterns -- but I don't think I had previously encountered varying stitch sizes on the same row to create texture.
Bonus Swatch G from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
I think this last swatch was a bonus swatch. The chart wasn't all that difficult to follow, although it did contain a twisted purl that helps make the stockinette motif pop off the reverse stockinette background. It is the sort of subtle refinement typical of Japanese crafting culture.

Tomorrow: swatches from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs."

05 December 2015

A Little Too Much Perspective?

Most weeks I follow the nightly news fairly closely. The last few weeks have been an exception, since I was traveling over the holiday. And this week I haven't followed too closely, as I've been catching up from being away for nineteen days as well making preparations for the upcoming end-of-year holidays. Like most Americans, I heard about the horrible mass shooting in San Bernardino on Wednesday. On Thursday, I skipped watching the evening news since it appeared the entire broadcast was still covering that story. And then this morning, my dear friend Andy sent me an e-mail.

One of the people killed in Wednesday's massacre was someone I knew.

In this picture of the speech team (scanned from my yearbook), my dear friend Andy (left), myself (center), and Hal (right) are leaning against the tree. Coach Phillips is on the far right, next to Hal. (If anyone knows whatever happened to Jim Phillips, Andy and I would both love to know. It may be a cliché that coaches make a positive difference in young people's lives, but it is true nonetheless.)

I guess I didn't recognize the name because he was reported as "Harry Bowman," whereas I knew him as "Hal." If I recall correctly, Hal was my prom date in 1984. I don't remember now how many people I asked before I got a "yes." Five? Seven? Hal was a freshman and I was a senior way outside most of the social circles. Since prom is a milestone, I thought it important to attend, even though I had never attended a school dance. Andy's original date was also from the speech and debate team, I think, but she broke a bone and had to cancel. Andy did find a back-up date on short notice, but our original plan -- a double date amongst friends -- collapsed. I remember the night being short; and I remember Hal's sister liking my dress choice. And I think I remember his mom being nice and taking pictures.

There are people we don't think about much. They were part of a chapter in our lives that was so far back, it is in a different volume. They may be ancillary characters to our own narratives, but we like to think that their lives went on, and good things happened, and life was happy. It is so very sad and shocking when it does not. My deepest condolences to Hal's family, and especially to his two daughters. I grew up missing a parent. I know that through the remaining milestones of their lives -- graduations, weddings, births -- there will always be a hole where that missing man should be; there will always be a touch of bitter when the occasion should be sweet.

23 November 2015

Pathmakers

I recently had the opportunity to travel in the Washington, D.C. area. If Rome can be described as a place with a church on every street corner, then Washington, D.C. can be described as a place with a museum on every street corner. So many to explore! If holiday travel takes you near our nation's capital, may I suggest spending a couple hours at the National Museum of Women in the Arts?

I'll start with the premise you are using the trains, as why would anyone want to drive in Washington, D.C.? Disembark at Metro Center (red, blue, orange, or silver lines). Follow the signs to the 13th Street exit (it is at one end of the Red Line platform). Turn right as you exit onto 13th Street and walk two short blocks to the museum. You'll see the short end of the museum -- it is built on one of those funky wedge-shaped lots so ubiquitous in Washington, D.C. -- and need to walk around to the New York Avenue side to enter.

The museum building is a beautiful example of classical architecture. (You can tour it virtually here, as part of Google's Art Project.) The entrance area is fairly cosy, and you'll need to enter the gift shop to purchase your ticket ($10). Once past the main desk the interior opens into a great hall with chandeliers and the sorts of staircases you find in old movies populated by beautiful women making grand entrances in couture gowns. Yes, I like Beaux Arts architecture.

If you've read my résumé, then you'll notice near the bottom my master's thesis was "Women in Art: Documentation and Discussion of Their Inclusion in Art Historical Texts from 1900 to 1991." Walking through the permanent collection galleries here is like visiting old friends or meeting for the first time people you've only read about. But I'll surmise that maybe you don't know these names. May I suggest you head to the special exhibitions space and take in Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today?

Pathmakers (on exhibit through 28 February 2016) focuses on the role of women in design. As such, it has a lot of decorative arts -- really awesome, fabulous decorative arts from mid-20th century to today. There is plenty of fiber art, although most of it is weaving rather than spinning, knitting, or crocheting. Alas, the museum does not permit photography of special exhibitions, so I'll have to give you a taste using their materials and plenty of links. I should state right up front that their press kit did not focus on the items that most interested me.

Ruth Asawa holding a “form-within-form” sculpture,
1952; © 2015 Imogen Cunningham Trust;
Photo by Imogen Cunningham

For knitters, Ruth Asawa's work is intriguing. The item in the exhibit is Untitled (S. 407) from about 1952, and is similar or identical to the one in the picture. The sculpture hangs from the ceiling, dangling. The copper wire mesh looks like drawing in three dimensions, drawing in the air. Because of the twisted stitches, I am not sure if this is twisted-stitch knitting, or sprang, or nålbinding, or something else. The sculpture is human-sized with forms inside of forms. Are the smaller forms caged in? Or are they safely protected from a dangerous world? The layered forms create lighter and darker areas similar to lines and cross-hatching in an India ink drawing or traditional engraving or etching.

Don't know what to do with old knit or crochet blankets? You may recall Marietta Museum of Art made them into a building-sized yarn installation. Michelle Grabner has come up with a different solution. (When you follow the link, look for the images that are untitled from 2014, mostly white, with enamel on panel.) She stretches the afghans across panel, then applies black spray paint. She removes the afghan, leaving a sort of negative print. Then she over paints most of the black areas using high gloss white enamel paint. The resulting images are geometric without being hard edged. They are somewhat ghostly, almost as if the blanket decayed into dust and left behind the marks on the canvas. The enamel adds subtle texture -- gloss versus matte as well as slightly raised (like a thin pebble) versus flat.

For knitters the real highlight is three works by Mary Walker Phillips. Wall hanging (the link takes you to an interactive image) from 1965 is a small black lace arrangement. It looks a little like a deconstructed shawl. I found Rocks and Rills from 1966 to be especially intriguing. (See a small image here, when it was in a previous exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.) The work includes double-knit pockets enclosing pebbles. There are also small bobbles or knot stitches, some lace, and a surprising number of horizontal chain stitches. I am not sure how the horizontal lines were made -- did she bind off and then pick up stitches? (Edit update: Creative Knitting: A New Art Form by Mary Walker Phillips explains how the horizontal lines are made. In the 2013 new & expanded edition, she calls it "Horizontal Stitch" and explains it on pages 74-75. She credits Trude Guermonprez with the innovation. Work a left-crossing 1 over 1 cable. Then put the last stitch on the right needle back on the left and repeat.) Unlike the first two hangings, which are smaller pieces about the size of easel paintings, For Paul Klee from 1963 is a large hanging on the scale of tapestry or history painting. It uses a lot of condo or triple (quadruple? quintuple?) wrapped stitches that I think are then twisted several times before being knit. The final design resembles weaving with its rectilinear grid, but also architectural elements such as an ironwork door.

Olga de Amaral, Hanging #57,
ca. 1957; Hand-spun wool,
87 x 43 in.;
Museum of Arts and Design;
Gift of the Dreyfus Foundation,
through the American Craft Council,
1989; Photo by Eva Heyd
If you are a spinner or weaver, there are several items worthy of your attention. Olga de Amaral's Hanging #57, ca. 1957, is made from handspun wool. The tapestry(?) weaving has multiple overlapping and intertwining layers. There is quite a bit of weaving by Dorothy Liebes, including swatches and samples illustrating her design process. I was particularly struck by some large-scale weaving involving shiny fibers such as Orlon and Fairtex or even aluminium. Polly Apfelbaum has a large-scale installation inspired by Marguerite Porter Davison's classic book of weaving patterns. And Hella Jongerius's work on the North Delegates' Lounge at the United Nations is also thoroughly represented, with a reproduction of part of the curtain and lots of woven samples and color swatches.

Before I end here, let me include a side note about The Textile Museum on the George Washington University campus. Right now they are running two exhibitions. The photography exhibit takes up two floors. The photographs of China from about 1870 will give you a broad sense of place — landscape, culture, and people from a variety of socio-economic classes. However, it only has a few (albeit spectacular) textiles on exhibit. The basement-level exhibit of paintings and textiles from mid-Asia were okay. I do not believe I saw any knit or crochet on display. The focus on photography and painting was disappointing to me. I plan to visit the museum another time, and perhaps will see objects that are more exciting to me. For this holiday season, if you want to see splendid textiles go to the National Museum of Women in the Arts first and then to The Textile Museum if time permits.

10 November 2015

Worst Needlepoint Stitch Ever?

Back in my teens and twenties, I was not knitting. Instead, I was working cross stitch, embroidery, and canvas work. All of these are slow techniques, with canvas work often being very slow. There are several reasons for this. First, the entire canvas is often covered. Even if you only worked say, five stitches per inch, that would be 25 stitches in every square inch. The squared part of the equation is not your friend. (Area = side × side) It multiplies up fast.

Secondly, canvas work is sometimes done with novelty threads but sometimes worked in silk or cotton stranded floss. When worked in floss, the directions usually specific a specific number of strands to hold together. These strands are stroked into place so that they all lie parallel on the surface of the canvas. Every up and down of the needle is more like up, down, stroke into place, tug gently to settle. Not fast. But because the threads are highly directional, the effect is multiple subtle tints and shades of the same hue. The directional sheen thrown off from this technique can be spectacular.

Years ago my mother purchased a small canvas work kit, "Strawberry Trellis Pincushion" at Winterthur museum in Delaware. It is based on a pocketbook inscribed "Henry Row 1794" in their collection (accession # 1964.0811.) The colors matched her living room. I agreed to make it up for her.


Normally, I am happy to do this sort of work. I recognize the slow pace, but I also find it can be meditative. It is nice to get lost in the steady progression of a beautiful piece. It is nice to enjoy the beauty your own hands can produce. Many canvas work pieces also have a variety of stitch patterns or thread types. About the time you are bored with one area, you change threads and pattern and move onto a fresh, new, exciting section. Let me state for the record, that is not this piece!

I was reminded of this piece this week when I attended a program about American embroidered samplers at Textile Appreciation Society of Atlanta. Dr. Lynn C. Tinley, independent scholar and adjunct history professor, Oglethorpe University, was the presenter. Dr. Tinley showed slides of beautiful samplers. Many of the samplers used cross stitches counted across unbelievably fine linen. But some of them also used queen stitch, which is the stitch used throughout the strawberry trellis pincushion.

Why is it called queen stitch? First off, it uses lots more thread than regular stitches. You might need to be royalty to afford it, particularly if you were using silk imported from halfway around the world. Because stitches run in both directions, it produces a lovely, subtle sheen reminiscent of silk velvet. And it covers the canvas quite completely on both the right and wrong sides. But it is a royal pain to work. As you can see in the detail, the stitch is a diamond shape. There are four long vertical stitches tacked down with four small horizontal stitches. What makes this stitch a special pain is there will be places in the pattern with ten(!) sets of threads in a single hole. It is even slower to work than counted cross-stitch.

 One of my goals for 2014 (last year) was to finish abandoned projects. I can not even tell you what year I started this thing, as there were times it sat untouched for at least a year or two, clamped into the embroidery stand in the corner of the living room. It was about half done when I picked it back up in the summer of 2014. I made it a point to work on it while watching Crossbones (the pirate show starring John Malkovich on NBC that only ran 9 episodes). I continued to work on the dang thing while watching evening newscasts. I'm not sure how many hours are in this project, but I would guess between 50 and 100. (For scale, the whole project is about 4 inches on a side, or just over 6 inches across as displayed en pointe. The detail above is one inch high by two inches wide.) Also, as the entire project is the same stitch worked in the same pattern over and over, there was nothing to break up the monotony.

By the time I finally completed this annoying little thing, my mother had redecorated her living room and changed the color scheme. She had the piece for awhile, but then gave it back to me. I haven't decided if I should frame it or mount it in the top of a box or turn it into a pincushion. A good project is one that looks beautiful and, ideally, is less work than it seems. Even if it takes time, the time spent is pleasant because the journey is enjoyable. This project is the opposite. It looks okay but not spectacular, and no one who hasn't worked queen stitch will have any idea what a pain it was to work or how boring or how much time it soaked up. Hence, I am wondering is this the worst needlepoint stitch ever?

04 November 2015

SAFF 2015

This year was the year of the big change for Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. For as many years as I have attended — I think my first was in 2008  SAFF has shared the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center with a tractor show. SAFF attendees entered the fairgrounds on the Fanning Bridge Road (north) side of the grounds; and SAFF used the McGough Arena as the main vendor area and the Sales Arena as the overflow, with animals in the various barns. This year the main entrance was Gate 7 on Airport Road, which is at the southern-most end of the fairgrounds, just as Airport Road turns west and becomes Boylston Highway. Animals were in McGough Arena and the Sales Arena with some overflow to the barns, while vendors were in Davis Arena with overflow directly next door in Barn F. The fleece sale had its own space in the Boone Building -- a large log cabin. About the only area that didn't change was the Expo Center still hosted workshops.

I taught my usual hectic schedule. I am deeply grateful that I still get to teach at a show that now has teachers like Abby Franquemont, Franklin Habit, Judith MacKenzie, John Mullarkey, Esther Rodgers, and Nancy Shroyer. The range of classes is fantastic — spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing, felting. On Thursday I saw a class outdoors in the parking lot dyeing fabric and yarn with an indigo dye pot. My Friday afternoon class did not make, so I had a few hours to walk around and shop. I did not get farther than the vendors and the fleece show, which meant I missed seeing all the adorable animals. Ack!

What got me stuck was I walked into the fleece show while Judith MacKenzie was judging the wool.
(Apologies for the awful photo, at left.) If you are either a spinner or a shepherd and you ever have a chance to watch Judith judge, drop everything, sit yourself down, and listen. Each fleece she checked for breaks and consistency. She talked about what made a fleece good or bad for hand spinners. She also talked about the categories for fleece — fine, medium, long, and primitive/double coated. Sometimes Judith would state that a particular fleece had been entered in the wrong category. Several times she mentioned that a fleece was a lamb's fleece and wasn't dense and full across the back, but stated that the fleece showed good characteristics and should be shown next year. The grand champion was a black Gotland that won not only because it was a beautiful colored fleece, but because there are fewer Gotland genetics, making the combination of color and good fleece qualities especially difficult to achieve. The reserve grand champion was a black medium fleece with perfect block-shaped staples and tight crimp. I gasped audibly when it was brought out, even before Judith began judging it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was too busy teaching on Saturday to run over and bid on it. I was also very well-behaved in the market because my Majacraft order had arrived at the shop and I knew I needed to pick it up on Tuesday. I don't see the results of the fleece show listened on the SAFF website, which is a shame as I am already hoping to stalk the reserve grand champion shepherd next year. By the way, I bumped into Esther on Sunday. She was leading a group of newly-trained tail spinners in choosing fleeces. Esther purchased the gorgeous black teeswater that won Judge's Special Choice. I walked away knowing the beautiful fleece went home with a first-rate spinner who will show off its winning qualities.

The Skein and Garment show was in the Davis Arena, just across the hall from the vendors. There was very little weaving entered this year. Weavers, where are you? I did not write down the names of anybody; and unfortunately they are not listed on the SAFF website as far as I can tell. I show these possibly blurry photographs to give you an idea why when you attend SAFF you should be sure to duck into the Skein and Garment show!

 Felted art. Starry Night got a blue ribbon, and the landscape on the left got red.

Skeins of handspun, after judging. The overall winner is the bulky, multi-colored art yarn piled with black. Core spinners, take notice! The yellow-pink-violet-turquoise gradient lace weight in the foreground was impressive, too. Perhaps it will show up next year as a finished shawl?

Best in Show was this felted coat. Again, apologies for the picture quality. There was no shortage of impressive felting, including a 3-D felted swan and a 3-D felted carousel horse with beaded embellishments. There were also some knitted items, especially circular lace shawls. In general, I thought the felters ruled the Skein and Garment show, followed by the handspinners.

Now that SAFF is over, I have a break in my schedule over the holidays. I didn't get into any of the spring shows, other than South Carolina Knit Inn. But that doesn't mean that I don't have decisions to make. Most of the spring events open registration in November. Decisions, decisions.

South Carolina Knit Inn, Greenville SC, 5-7 February 2016. Class listings on 16 November. Registration opens 30 November. This one fills up more or less immediately.
STITCHES South in Nashville TN, 31 March through 3 April 2016. Registration opened 2 November. Early bird registration (better prices) ends on 29 January 2016.
Interweave Yarn Fest, Loveland CO, 31 March through 3 April 2016. Registration is already open.
PLY Away, Kansas City MO, 21 - 24 April 2016. Registration opens on 11 November.
Unwind, Blowing Rock NC, 29 April through 2 May 2016. Registration opens on 8 November.
Maryland Sheep and Wool, West Friendship MD, 7 & 8 May 2016. I'm not yet sure when registration opens, as it looks to me as if the class listing is still from last year.

Speaking of Unwind, they held a reunion party on Saturday night at SAFF. It was great to see Nancy, Sue, Marie, and many other familiar faces. With a little luck this might become yet another annual reason to drive up to North Carolina to enjoy the turning of the season and the gathering of the fiber lovers.

16 October 2015

Spinzilla 2015

Last week was Spinzilla 2015. Spinzilla is the week-long spinning competition/excuse to ignore housework. Last year I spun lots of little sample bits from my stash. I still have quite a few sample bits in the stash, but most of those I didn't want to spin during Spinzilla. I didn't want to spin the cotton, because that isn't fast. I have quite a few undyed exotic fibers, but I'm thinking about dyeing them and making mad batts, so those weren't ready for spinning. And I have several fibers I hope to corespin, so those weren't ready, either. This year I chose much less interesting spinning than last year.

I started with some Ashland Bay color fusion top. Last year I spun the same top in the mixed berry colorway. This year I spun the cyan colorway. This was commercial top with some color variation but not too much -- mostly tints and shades of the same hue or closely-related hues, rather than a mix of many disparate colors. I purposely spun a fine three-ply. I ended up with a little bit leftover, which I turned into a 2-ply. The final yarn looks like a solid color, but has just a little variegation. (I am thinking the photo of the finished yarn better represents the color than the photo at left.)

The other fiber I chose to spin was carbonized bamboo I purchased in the 2013 STITCHES South market. This is one of the those fibers I purchased just because it looked interesting. The fiber is a mat dark gray almost black. How much more black could it be? The lack of shine makes it look like it was extruded from a black hole. Darth Vader or ninjas would wear this! I also spun this up as three separate fine plies and then plied them together. I got over 500 yards out of 4 ounces/116 grams. This single skein incorporates more than a mile of spinning.

To accomplish this much spinning in a week, I ended up tethered to the spinning wheel for most of the weekend. I watched all my backlogged television recordings, including the second half of Once Upon a Time, season 3, (the story arc with the Wicked Witch of the West) and all of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Has anybody else noticed that when Rumplestiltskin is at a spinning wheel, the position of his body and hands in relationship to the wheel rarely makes sense? If Robert Carlyle ever comes to Dragon*Con, I must ask him if he knows how to spin.

Monday night the spinners from The Whole Nine Yarns Spinzilla team gathered at the shop to show off their accomplishments and measure their yarns. As you can see from the photograph, most of them used much more colorful fiber than I did. According to our team leader, Chris, we accomplished 24,687 yards of spinning, or about 14 miles!

16 September 2015

Tubular Monochromatic Double Knitting

The title of this post is a mouthful!

One of the themes running through my knitting life this year has been double knitting. For those of you who are regular readers, this is no surprise. I enjoy the challenge of double knitting. I also enjoy the finished result. Knitting can often have obvious right and wrong sides; and I love that double knitting can be a way to make something that is beautiful from every direction.

Earlier this year I finally succeeded in purchasing a copy of the expanded 1994 Schoolhouse Press edition of Notes on Double Knitting by Beverly Royce. Most knitters think of double knitting as mirror-image positive-negative patterns in a thick fabric, such as the example below.


Beverly instead explored tubular double knitting. What is that? Tubular double knitting is using double knitting techniques to create tubes or pockets. "Regular" double knitting uses two yarns on each row. In fact, it is a great way to reproduce patterns that can be reduced to binary pixels. Tubular double knitting instead uses only one yarn. Each row is really a round. The "right side" row works half the stitches and the "wrong side" row works the other half the stitches. Two passes — one up and the other back — equal one round.

I had already explored some of this with a double-knit cabled scarf some years back. And I was aware of how this technique could be used to make stockinette tubes, such as glove fingers. But I had not understood the potential for making tubes with patterns until I read Beverly's book.

This year I happened to be in town for The Whole Nine Yarns' Christmas in July event. When I am in town for it, I try to contribute an original pattern. Since I was in the mood to play with a new-to-me technique, I came up with the Southern Hospitality Washcloth.


The center of the washcloth is a pocket that will hold soap. You can make the opening on the back large enough for a whole bar of soap, or small so as to use only those little scraps that are too large to throw out but too small to grasp in the shower.

Three different ways to bind off 1×1 ribbing.
I came up with three different ways to bind-off the border, which is 1×1 ribbing. In this case, I'm using ribbing as a reversible edging. If I bound off with a stretchy bind-off, it might ruffle. Oddly enough, a tight bind-off is needed. For a beautiful, couture bind-off, cut the yarn leaving about 4 yards and Kitchener graft the ribbing edge (example at top). For an easy bind-off, use a very small needle and bind off in pattern as tightly as you can (example at bottom).

Another way to bind-off is to work a Japanese (flat) three-needle bind-off (example at middle).

This is usually done over stitches on separate needles, but in this project, I already had all the stitches on one needle. Here is video of how to work what is essentially a three-needle bind-off but without dividing stitches on to two needles.


This works on 1×1 ribbing and would also work on double knitting. For those of you who like it written out:
  • slip one knitwise with yarn in back
  • slip one purlwise with yarn in front
  • reverse yarn over
  • pull through all three loops on the hook.
(The first time you do this, you will pull through only two loops on the hook, because you won't have the previously bound-off pair at the start.)

The pattern given out at Christmas in July was abbreviated. The version I've posted on Ravelry has more photographs as well as more options and more written-out instructions. At the moment, I've listed it as a free download. I will probably change it to a paid download, but I wanted people who were at Christmas in July to have a chance to get the pattern first. I've also put this on the schedule as a class on Saturday 10 October. I don't think the pattern is all that difficult, but if you've never done any double knitting and would like some supervision, the class will help.

14 September 2015

A Little Too Ambitious?

I've just come off what was even for me a rather ambitious schedule. Cuddly Hubby was home for not quite two weeks. Hurray! Home really is home when Cuddly Hubby is here.

Also visiting was our dear New Hire Buddy. New Hire Buddy and I get along well, as we both LOVE board games. Plus, New Hire Buddy was working on a five-person cosplay of Mystery Men for Dragon*Con. He accomplished quite the scavenger hunt on Ebay to find all the pieces of his Mr. Furious costume; then more time with scissor and glue to make the costume just right. It worked well to be finishing up in our house, where I could supply half-a-dozen different types of glue, or paint, or other craft materials. He even got contact lenses so he could walk around without his glasses; and he shaved off his beard and had his hair cut and dyed to match his character. That's serious cosplay!



 Yes, we attended Dragon*Con, as usual. I did one new costume this year -- a rogue. I used a fabulous cloak I purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool from Greentree Weaving. I purchased a black cotton pirate shirt in the Dragon*Con market -- a big thank-you to the merchant who brought shirts in sizes small to XXL and in a breathable material. (I did see someone faint outside in the heat while waiting in line. She was wearing something that looked good but probably was acrylic or polyester.) I also used a mask, which was strange to me as I would say, "Hello," in passing to friends who didn't recognize me. Duh! After the convention, I had one day to unpack/re-pack.


Then I took an all-day crochet class with Myra Wood. Thank you to Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance for offering the class. While I don't crochet often, I know enough to be past learning the basics. I appreciate the opportunity to move up the learning curve. I learned several things:
  • How to make a picot without a big ugly hole in the bottom.
  • How to work packing cord.
  • How to weave in an end as you work.
  • How to join motifs the Japanese way.
  • How to use a half-double crochet to join a motif in the round
  • How to read crochet charts.
  • Where to find Russian and Japanese crochet resources.




Combination of market purchases and swag from Georgia FiberFest 2015.
The day after the crochet class I headed down to Columbus, Georgia for the 4th annual Georgia FiberFest. The market was fairly busy on Thursday and some on Friday, but less so on Saturday. That was a shame, because the variety of vendors was excellent and they all brought good stuff. I was planning on buying very little, but failed to behave myself due to the wonderful offerings! (Notice the nice glass eyes for felted critters, or the beautiful monarch butterfly barrette.) Unfortunately, there was a lot going on last weekend. Atlanta Knitting Guild had Myra Wood teaching knitting classes. Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild had Madelyn van der Hoogt teaching deflected doubleweave. The Whole Nine Yarns had Purljama. And for our Jewish friends, there was the new year holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Even with modern technology, it just is not possible to be in more than one place at one time.

The Friday dinner was excellent this year. As the cost of food at the convention center had gone up, the organizers moved the dinner offsite and hired a five-star chef. The meal included both beef and chicken. The mixed vegetables were delicious and unusual, as they included edamame rather than lima beans. The dessert was especially interesting, as there was a thin cracker flavored with lavender. And pretty much everybody in the room won some sort of door prize. (Thank you to Yarnhouse Studio for those two lovely skeins of golden sock yarn!)


I do want to especially call out Kromski for a big thank-you! Kromski was the corporate sponsor of the show and until they did so, I did not realize that their North American office is based in Georgia. They had a nice booth with their full range of spinning wheels, rigid heddle looms, and tools. The vendors and teachers got unfinished travel-size niddy-noddies. I hope to get some clear polyurethane at the hardware store to give mine a proper coating. Kromski also donated fiber samples to the goodie bags. Since not everyone spins, a few of those migrated into my hands. Those chunks of ready-to-spin fiber will be handy come Spinzilla in a few weeks.

20 August 2015

Why Tubular

I recently acquired a free skein of yarn and pattern. I could have tossed it in the stash, but I figured a one-skein hat pattern could be knit up almost as fast as I could put it away. And, really, I am trying to keep the stash at a manageable size. As it was, I cast-on one day and finished the hat the next.


The pattern is Oh Yum, Bubblegum Slouchy Hat by Eleanor Swogger and the yarn is Kraemer Yarns Perfection Tapas in color 9038 Elderberry. By the way, they do have an adorable commercial featuring a car sweater on YouTube.

I'll probably toss the hat in the guild charity pile. I don't typically wear hats all that much. Plus, I have a cloak with hood that I plan to wear a lot whenever the cool weather returns to Atlanta (probably not until October). At this point in the year, we've had 95°F weather for so long I don't remember when it wasn't summer. (I do love that summer is five months long in Atlanta.)


I did want ya'all to notice I used a tubular cast-on for the 1×1 ribbing. In this case, I used a crochet chain cast-on with waste yarn to cast on half the needed number of stitches. With project yarn I knit across the waste yarn. Then I worked k1 off the needle, p1 in the purl bump on the wrong side (similar to making a tuck stitch) to get into 1×1 ribbing. That also doubled the number of stitches so I could reach what was called for in the pattern. This edge is equivalent to a bind-off of Kitchener grafting over 1×1 ribbing. The edge is also stretchy and in pattern. In fact, it hardly looks like a cast-on at all, as the ribbing seems to simply spring into existence. While these details are not absolutely necessary, it was good to get in some practice. I should be able to reproduce these couture details on a project that calls out for this level of attention, such as a sweater. This technique would also be worth trying on top-down socks.

16 August 2015

Gadget

I believe I am not the only knitter who likes gadgets. There's something charming and appealing about a trinket that makes a task just a bit easier. I am not only a fan of fiber arts, but I am also a big fan of board games and all things geek. Earlier in the summer I attended Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. Not quite Dragon*Con — what is? — but still very nice. The vendor hall was very, very large. And mixed in amongst that merchant horde was CritSuccess.

CritSuccess is a company that makes dice rings. What are dice rings? Dice rings are spinner rings with the spinning part marked off in numbered increments. They can be used in place of regular dice. In fact, one of the advantages of dice rings is they can be manufactured to any number set you desire. Do you need a seven-sider so you can roll days of the week? No problem! Do you need weighted numbers -- a set where some numbers are more likely to come up than others? Again no problem -- some numbers get a larger space than others. And unlike dice, which need space for rolling, a dice ring can be "rolled" right on your finger, without needing any clear space on the crowded table. And since you never let go of it, it is not likely to end up down between the sofa cushions, under a chair, or lost at the bottom of the bowl of Cheetos.


It is not, however, the dice rings that I found appealing. CritSuccess also makes counter rings. What is a counter ring? It is a dice ring that clicks rather than spinning freely. Gamers use them to keep track of game variables, such as hit points or victory points. If you are a knitter or crocheter, you can use these to keep track of rows or rounds, as you would with any other counting device. These rings currently come in black, gold, cobalt blue, and rainbow. As you can see, I recently took my rainbow counter ring out for a test drive on a hat project. Stylish and functional! Good for knitting, and ready for gaming at a moment's notice.

13 August 2015

How We Feel About Fiber

There's a reason I consider Vincent a top-ranked knitter's or spinner's cat. It is not just because he loves crafts. He can put into body language what humans instead put into words.




Yes, Vincent, you can haz fleece.

04 August 2015

Off Topic -- Marketing?


Sometimes I think I might need a Twitter account just for these sorts of tidbits.

An envelope arrived in our mail, marked as an "invitation" from Harry & David. This is, of course, the retailer known for glorious baskets of perfect fruit (at a price point reflecting the time and care needed to attain that level of perfection), typically given during the end-of-year holidays. I've sometimes wondered what Harry & David does during the off-season between January and September. 

Apparently, they attempt to sell sand to the Saudis . . . or in this case, peaches to people who live in Georgia.

--------experience-------
THE FIRST PEACHES
OF THE SEASON

I already have. In fact, I regular patronize two different local farmers' markets, plus I live a mile from three groceries stores and a new Sprouts Market opened in Smyrna. We've had peaches for over a month already. Why would I want to ship in peaches from three time zones away when I can buy directly from the orchard hand-picked tree-ripened peaches grown within an hour's drive of my house?

If any of my readers work for Harry & David, I am deeply curious to hear whether this direct-mail campaign is effective in the Southeast.

Maybe next year they can try to sell me something that doesn't grow here. Tree-ripened first-picked mangoes, anyone?

03 August 2015

Symmetrical Yarn Over Net Pattern

It has been a busy summer with lots of travel. While I usually don't mind travel, I've done enough at this point that I think I get one victory point for every day in August in which I do not move my car. I am ecstatic to be sleeping in my own bed, working on my own projects, and having time to share my most recent discoveries.

One of these discoveries is an interesting maneuver and stitch pattern. It started when I saw my mother wearing a commercial sweater with this pattern:


Non-knitters probably don't notice anything about it, but knitters may notice the pattern is symmetrical. Not a big deal, you might think. Think again!

There are a number of ways to make a fabric with holes on the half drop. Most of them are not 100% satisfying. In the examples below, odd-numbered rows are always right side.

Swatch #1:
Multiple of 2 stitches.
Row 1: alternate yo, k2tog.
Row 2: p all.
Row 3. alternate k2tog, yo.
Row 4. p all.
Repeat these 4 rows for pattern.
This does produce a mesh. If you look closely at Swatch #1, you'll notice the zig-zags of yarn alternate thick and thin. It is possible to make a mesh similar to this in which the decreases stack to create horizontal lines moving across the fabric. In either case, the fabric has thick and thin areas — thin corresponding to yarn overs and thick corresponding to decreases.
You may think the solution is to use a centered double decrease (ddec) — a 3-into-1 decrease such as slip 2 together knitwise, knit 1, pass the 2 slipped stitches over.

Swatch #2:
Multiple of 3 stitches.
Row 1: yo, (alternate ddec, double yo), end with ddec, cast-on 1 {replaces a yo}.
Row 2: p2, (alternate [k1, p1] in double yo, p1), end with p1 in single yo.
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k1, yo, (alternate ddec, double yo), end with k2tog.
Row 6: p1, (alternate [k1, p1] in double yo, p1), end with p1 in single yo, p1.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
Here the problem is that the 3-into-1 decrease means you've lost 2 stitches not 1. To keep your stitch count constant, you'll need two yarn overs for every centered double-decrease — yo, ddec, yo. When you line these up next to each other, it mean you have to work double yarn overs — yo, ddec, yo, yo, ddec, yo. On the wrong side row, you have to make two stitches from the double yarn over, usually by knitting and purling into the giant hole. The combination of knit and purl in the yarn over will create a bump near the top of the hole, slightly disrupting its shape.

Furthermore, it is hard to stack a yarn over directly above a centered double decrease. If you look closely at Swatch #2, you'll notice the subtle asymmetry in the pattern, as that central wale must go either left or right to go around the hole directly above it. Another way of thinking about it; since there are two stitches coming out of the hole but the decrease is over three stitches, the double decrease can not be centered on top of the double yarn over. Would a promising alternative be to substitute ssk and k2tog for the ddec, so as to allow the wales to split and travel around the hole? Swatches #3 and #4 seem to be moving closer to a solution. There are two choices.

Swatch #3
Multiple of 4 stitches.
Row 1: yo, (k2tog, ssk, double yo) across, end with k2tog, ssk, cast-on 1 {replaces a yo}.
Row 2: p1, (p2, [k1, p1] in double yo) across, end with p2, p1 in single yo.
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: ssk, (double yo, k2tog, ssk) across, end double yo, k2tog.
Row 6: p1, ([k1, p1] in double yo, p2) across, end [k1, p1] in double yo, p1.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.

Swatch #4
Multiple of 4 stitches.
Row 1: yo, (ssk, k2tog, double yo) across, end with ssk, k2tog, cast-on 1 {replaces a yo}.
Row 2: p1, (p2, [k1, p1] in double yo) across, end with p2, p1 in single yo.
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k2tog, (double yo, ssk, k2tog) across, end double yo, ssk.
Row 6: p1, ([k1, p1] in double yo, p2) across, end [k1, p1] in double yo, p1.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
In either case, the 4-into-2 paired decrease allows the wales to snake around the holes. The double yarn over problem is still not solved, as you can still see a slight asymmetry along the top of the double yarn overs. After looking at these, it becomes even clearer why the swatch at top is exceptional. I set out to replicate it and, after a few tries, here is what I discovered.

The key to the flat, symmetrical swatch is the decrease is not 3-into-1 or 4-into-2 but rather 3-into-2. This seems wrong until you actually knit it. The 3-into-2 decrease means you've lost 1 stitch not 2. Thus, the double yarn over problem does not occur. The trick is in devising a symmetrical 3-into-2 decrease. Fortunately, I had for reference my mother's commercial sweater with just such a decrease!

Swatch A
Over a multiple of 3 stitches.
Row 1: (alternate 3→2, yo) across, end with 3→2.
Row 2: p all. (Should be one stitch fewer than cast on.)
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k1, (alternate yo, 3→2) across, end with yo, k1. (Stitch count restored.)
Row 6: p all.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
Version A:
Special maneuver: 3 into 2 decrease: 3→2.
Theory: Work a k2tog and an SSK over 3 stitches rather than 4. The central stitch of the group of 3 is involved in both maneuvers and lies on top of the group.
Practice:
Work a k2tog but do not drop the old stitches off the left needle.
Drop the back stitch of the pair off the left needle but not the top stitch.
SSK the two stitches on the left needle. (One stitch is the held stitch from the k2tog and the other stitch is the 3rd stitch of the original group of three.)

Swatch B
Over a multiple of 3 stitches.
Row 1: (alternate 3→2 version B, yo) across, end with 3→2.
Row 2: p all. (Should be one stitch fewer than cast on.)
Row 3: k all.
Row 4: p all.
Row 5: k1, (alternate yo, 3→2 version B) across, end with yo, k1. (Stitch count restored.)
Row 6: p all.
Row 7: k all.
Row 8: p all.
Repeat these 8 rows for pattern.
Version B:
Special maneuver: 3 into 2 decrease trough: 3⇾2
Theory: Work an SSK and a k2tog over 3 stitches rather than 4. The central stitch of the group of 3 is involved in both maneuvers and lies behind the group.
Practice:
Work an SSK but do not drop the old stitches off the left needle.
Drop the top stitch of the pair off the left needle but not the back stitch.
Reorient the back stitch by slipping and returning.
K2tog the two stitches on the left needle. (One stitch is the held stitch from the ssk and the other stitch is the 3rd stitch of the original group of three.)
For version B, use this alternative 3 into 2 decrease on Rows 1 & 5.

After working Swatches A and B, I decided to try more open variations by leaving out two of the three plain rows. I must admit I am very pleased with the results!

More mesh-like version of Swatch A.
Work rows 1, 2, 5, & 6 of Version A (central stitch on top).
More mesh-like version of Swatch B.
Work rows 1, 2, 5, & 6 of Version B (central stitch beneath).
The video shows both versions of how to work the 3-into-2 decrease. Enjoy!