28 December 2016

2016 Hideous Dumpster Fire Ornament

Earlier this month, I quickly knocked out a hideous crocheted dumpster fire ornament. South Cobb Arts Alliance hosts a Christmas House arts and crafts show each December. With it, they also have a tea room and silent auction. I believe Friends of the Mable House are also involved. Truth be told, I'm not sure which parts are executed by and for which organization. This group of events is a major fundraiser. The Mable House Arts Complex has a historic home, the art center with workshop and gallery space, and a concert venue. Throughout the year there are opportunities to gain skills in various arts, view and purchase art, attend concerts and live theater, and attend historic re-enactment. Sometimes the arts complex is just a good place for my local community to gather, such as for the farmers' market or food truck night.

I made the hideous dumpster fire ornament for the silent auction. I figured someone would connect to it. For many people, 2016 has not been a favorite year. John Oliver wrapped up Last Week Tonight for the season with a not-safe-for-work take on 2016. That was in November when we still had about seven weeks to go.

Well, 2016 has embraced its character. If you are going to play the chaotic alignment, then by golly dig in and be chaotic. In the last week we have lost George Michael (on Christmas Day!) and Carrie Fisher. George Michael's album Faith was probably among the first five CDs I bought when I got a CD player in the mid 1980s. That CD was a significant part of the soundtrack of my days in graduate school. Cuddly Hubby and I have the poster triptych for the Star Wars trilogy reissue of the last 1990s hanging in our master bedroom. So, yes, there is a picture of Princess Leia in my house. Geekdom and Generation X suffered notable losses this year even before this week. (Yes, I know Carrie Fisher and George Michael were technically Baby Boomers, but their contributions to popular culture strongly impacted Generation X.)

Thus, I offer to you a crafting option to help celebrate/commemorate/obliterate 2016 in all its, um, glory.

I don't normally write crochet patterns. This one is free, because I'm sure there are better ways to do this; but I don't know them yet. If you want to download this file for free, it is on Ravelry.

2016 Dumpster Fire Crocheted Ornament

Techniques you already know:
  • foundation crochet
  • American crochet terminology
  • working into back of loop
  • chain stitch/tambour stitch
  • Russian join
  • basic needle-and-yarn sewing
Supplies & Materials:
  • Size G/4mm crochet hook.
  • 1-2 yards of fishing line for hanging
  • blunt tapestry needle
  • Worsted-Weight acrylic yarn.

    Sample used:

    Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice

    color 174 olive, about 15-20 yards,

    color 153 black, about 5-10 yards,

    color 158 mustard, about 1-2 yards.

    Red Heart Super Saver Multis

    color 950 Mexicana, at least 5-10 yards of red-orange-yellow with the blue-green-purple edited out; even more would be better!
Gauge in single crochet:
14 stitches and 16 rows = 4 inches

Nomenclature & Abbreviations:
I am using American versions of these stitches, not British versions.
fsc = foundation single crochet
sc = single crochet
cdc = half-double crochet
dc = double crochet
ch = chain

Dumpster is worked as a center-out rectangle at the bottom, then up the sides. The black lid is worked separately and attached. The fire is worked separately, then attached.


With olive:
Establishing round:
2sc in last chain of foundation to turn corner.
4sc in row of chains.
1sc in last chain to turn corner.
You now have a rectangle that is 5 stitches on each long side and one stitch on each short side.

Round 1:
1sl+1sc in corner stitch, 3sc on long side,
1sc+1hdc+1sc in corner stitch, 1sc on short side,
1sc+1hdc+1sc in corner stitch, 3sc on long side,
1sc+1hdc+1sc in corner stitch, 1sc on short side,
1sc+1hdc in corner stitch.

Round 2:
1sc in corner stitch, 5sc on long side,
1sc+1hdc+1sc in corner stitch, 3sc on short side,
1sc+1hdc+1sc in corner stitch, 5sc on long side,
1sc+1hdc+1sc in corner stitch, 3sc on short side,
1sc+1hdc in corner stitch.

Round 3:
Working into the back loop only:
Please do not work extra stitches in the corners.

Round 4:
Resume working into both loops:
4sc, 2hdc,
1hdc, 5sc.

Round 5:
3sc, 3hdc,
2hdc, 4sc.

Round 6:
2sc, 4hdc,
3hdc, 3sc.

Round 7:
1sc, 5hdc,
4hdc, 2sc.

Fasten off.

With black:
Working back and forth:
Leaving about a foot-long tail, 7fsc. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the front of the loop. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the back of the loop. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the front of the loop. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the back of the loop. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the front of the loop. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the back of the loop. Turn.
1ch, 7sc in the front of the loop. Fasten off, leaving about a foot-long tail.
Using tails, sew lid to taller side of dumpster using overcast stitches to mimic hinges. Weave tails toward front of lid, but leave excess for tacking lid to front of dumpster later. Ridges on lid should be facing public side.

The fire part is a hot mess!
Firstly, I used Red Heart Super Saver in the Mexicana color way, which is essentially a classic rainbow. I wanted to purchase separate skeins of red, yellow, and orange, but the store was out of orange that day. I didn’t need the green-blue-violet part of the multicolored yarn. I ended up “editing” the yarn by cutting it into little pieces and then joining the 13 pieces of red-orange-yellow yarn using Russian join (sewing them together). I joined red to red and yellow to yellow, which means the red and yellow parts are twice as long as the orange parts. It would be much easier to just purchase a red-orange-yellow variegated yarn.

The fire part is worked randomly and side-to-side. It is mostly chain stitches with a few single crochets for the base. Also, I worked the single crochets from left to right — i.e. left-handed rather than right-handed. Here is a description of what I did and a picture of what I got. Competent crocheters, I have no doubt you can improve upon this.

6fsc, 7ch, slip stitch back down the chain, slip stitch down the foundation single crochets.
1ch, left-hand single crochet 5 or 6 stitches, randomly chain, slip stitch back down, chain a bunch more, slip stitch back down, slip stitch back down the single crochets.
Keep working back and forth, sometimes making a straight line up and back, sometimes making several branches.

Because I was pressed for time, I only made enough fire to edge the dumpster. Ideally, you want to do a whole lot of fire and fill it up! I didn’t have enough, so I had to use stuffing to fill the dumpster.

Use chain stitch and mustard yellow yarn to add “2016” to the front (lower of the two long sides) of the dumpster.

Use tails to tack fire to inside of dumpster.

Use black tails to tack dumpster lid down.

Use fishing line at all four corners to create a hanger.

12 December 2016

Off Topic — Ya Lun & Xi Lun

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I have passions beyond fiber arts. I have a lifelong passion for giant pandas. I'm fortunate to live in the very best city in the whole United States when it comes to pandas. When I moved here more than twenty years ago (yes, before the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games), there were zero pandas in Atlanta. At that time, the only panda in the United States was the geriatric Hsing-Hsing at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Lun Lun and Yang Yang arrived here in Atlanta in the fall of 1999. I have been a fan ever since. For me, there are few places in the world better than the panda exhibit at ZooAtlanta.

Today, I just wanted to blog a happy shout out to ZooAtlanta and Chendgu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. When I think of the International Space Station, I think of the collaboration between the United States and Russia. When I think of ZooAtlanta's giant panda program, I think of the collaboration between the United States and China. In both cases, difficult, remarkable, and wonderful things have been achieved by working together. These collaborations give me hope that working together is possible no matter what happens.

Today, ZooAtlanta's second pair of twins — cubs #6 and #7 — received their names.

ZooAtlanta President & CEO, Raymond King, announcing panda cub names.

Congratulations, Ya Lun & Xi Lun!

And congratulations to the care staff at ZooAtlanta and their colleagues from Chengdu Research Base. Lun Lun has had five successful pregnancies and seven cubs. I like to think Lun Lun's beautiful face and Yang Yang's playful temperament will always be represented in the giant panda gene pool.

For those of you keeping score:
2006: Mei Lan
2008: Xi Lan
2010: Po
2013: Mei Lun & Mei Huan
2016: Ya Lun & Xi Lun

I do hope the Chinese will please remember that, whether you like him or not, our president-elect is not terribly strong even at American etiquette. Forgiveness might sometimes be needed. And I hope our new administration will please remember that etiquette is an important element of Chinese culture. Politeness sometimes matters. Many people regard the relationship between China and the United States as the most important international relationship today. I am glad the town I call home is doing a little bit to make this a friendship.

29 November 2016

Negative Ease

When making garments that fit the human form, we sometimes talk about "ease." Ease is a measure of how much extra fabric is in a garment. For example, if a bust measurement is 36 inches, then a sweater that is exactly 36 inches around has no ease. If the sweater is 38 inches, it has 2 inches of positive ease at the bust. If the sweater is 35 inches, is has one inch of negative ease. A big, boxy, oversized sweater might have 6 or 8 inches of positive ease.

This is important when you are making garments that both fit and flatter. And ease behaves differently if the fabric is woven than if it is knitted. Woven fabrics generally don't stretch if they have been cut with the grain. (Cutting on the bias is a whole different story.) Knit fabrics are different. They stretch. They move. They might even grow.

This also means knit fabrics can match our shape. If the shape you have underneath is not one you want to display to the world, then this is maybe a bug rather than a feature. On the other hand, this can be advantageous. I recently made a simply shell using Takhi Yarns Ripple. Ripple is a thick and thin cotton yarn with no elasticity in spite of its i-cord construction. After a great deal of swatching through stockinette, reverse stockinette, garter, ribbing, seed stitch, and the like, I decided to work the garment in stockinette brioche stitch (Nancy Marchant's term) or column pattern (Elise Duvekot's term). Although brioche is a somewhat slow knitting technique, it gave me two advantages. First, brioche is very stretchy. The resulting fabric is stretchy in spite of the yarn. Second, brioche is a more solid fabric. I tend to wear only a thin silk slip as an undergarment, so I wanted a top that wasn't too sheer.

The pattern was relatively simple.

Make a gauge swatch in the desired stretchy stitch pattern and write down the math.
Cast on in the round in an amount that is close to zero ease at the waist but is slightly negative ease at the bust and that is a multiple for the chosen stitch pattern.
Work in the round to the underarms. Be sure the lower hem will hit your body at a point that is flattering — i.e. either above or below the widest part of your hips.
Park the front stitches and continue working back and forth up the back to the top of the shoulder. Work a selvedge treatment at each edge, if desired. Notice the fabric will end slightly towards the back of the body, so that there is a straight line across the back of the shoulders and neck.
Park the back stitches.
Join a new skein and work a couple inches back and forth across the front. Once again, work a selvedge treatment at each edge, if desired. Notice you can try on the garment and work until the neckline is a height that looks good on you.
On right-side row, knit across, bind off center stitches, continue knitting across. Bottom of neckline is now bound off.
On wrong side, work across first strap, jump to other strap, join new skein, continue across second strap.
Continue working back and forth with two skeins to complete the front “straps.” Notice that the length of the front might be different than the length of the back depending on what is needed to fit your body. This is fine.
Try on garment to double-check fit.
Turn the work inside out and work three needle bind-off to join the shoulder, bind off the back neck, bind-off second shoulder.
Turn work right-side out. Block if necessary.
Edgings — particularly in crochet — can be added after the fact at the neck, armscyes, and hem.

Notice there is no shaping anywhere in this garment. It is rectilinear, as if it had been constructed from Lego building bricks. Off the body, it is nothing special.

But on a body, it sings!

Now this top does not look *quite* this good on me, unless I wear a Frederick's water bra underneath. I'm small-breasted, but I know I can use foundation garments to give me more shape. Notice the key to making it flattering is the placement of ease. Negative ease stretches over the breasts and emphasizes that shapeliness. If you are sewing, this effect is difficult to achieve with woven fabric. But with knit fabrics, we can achieve this result without even increasing and decreasing!

The bottom line: when we knit, knit for the intended body. Allowing the knit fabric to stretch just a little over a feature will emphasize it by making it look a little more shapely and a little larger. Giving the knit fabric just a little positive ease so that it skims a less-delightful feature will disguise it without making it look like you are trying to hide something under a circus tent. And while there are lots of tutorials out there to help you shape garments using increases and decreases, sometimes a wise choice of ease and stitch pattern is all you need to make a flattering garment.

02 November 2016

Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair 2016

The end of October means time for SAFF! This year, I taught Thursday through Saturday. That meant I had Sunday free to crawl the market.

I checked out the fleece sale on Friday before I left for dinner. I knew I wanted some locks for lockspinning, corespinning, and just general art yarn mischief. The best fleeces get picked out early; and there are unusually fewer longwool fleeces from the start. Fleeces were arranged in the barn by type of animal (goat, alpaca, and sheep) and then in categories. Wool categories included fine, medium, long, and primitive. There was also a table in the corner for "other." These are fleeces that don't fit well into the established categories. Some people feel very strongly that shepherds should not mix up sheep genes willy-nilly. Others feel this type of cross-breeding experimentation is just more of what humans have been doing for millennia. I don't have a strong opinion. I wouldn't care if you crossed a balrog with a unicorn. If it produced a great fleece and was a happy animal, it's all good from my perspective. On the "other" table I found a beautiful fleece from Cher, an Icelandic Cotswold cross ewe whose home is Dry Creek Sheep of Sugar Grove, Virginia.

Cher in 2015.
Photo credit: Susan Hmurciakova of Dry Creek Sheep.

Cher's 2016 fleece.
Photo credit: Susan Hmurciakova of Dry Creek Sheep.

Cher's fleece was not judged this year. She won third place last year. This is definitely an art yarn spinner's fleece. There are two different types of locks. Her fleece has some Cotswold-like locks that are tight waves, lustrous, darker grey at the cut end fading to pale at the tips. There are also some Icelandic-like locks that are more wire-y with a gentle wave, black-brown at the cut end fading to light brown at the tips. And there is some rough but bouncy and shorter dark fiber. Then again, I haven't scoured the fleece yet; it may soften. This is a fleece that will definitely need to be sorted by hand, all 5 pounds (over 2 kilograms) of it! My housemates looked aghast when I said I might overdye. With this much, I am sure there will be enough fiber for both natural and dyed spinning.

And Sunday I shopped the market. I really do need more adult supervision.

The bottle of Power Scour is, of course, for the fleece. I also found another Japanese stitch dictionary to add to my library. And I found the smaller lace-size Fix-a-Stitch. Galina's video is about using intarsia in traditional Russian lace. The wooden box is from Knitting Notions. It is well-made and designed. It even has a small magnet to keep the lid from opening accidentally. In a home with cats, this is a nice way to keep a special skein safe while you work. The wolf in sheep's clothing felted ornament is from Lanart. They carry beautiful garments made from alpaca. I've seen this ornament before and always resisted because I don't know what I will do with it. I still don't know, but this time I decided I should indulge!

The last place I shopped was Hillcreek Fiber Studio. Someone in the workshop barn was playing with a 12-inch square "potholder" loom earlier in the weekend. She was making a block that had a diagonal line across the middle. I purchased the Mini Module set, which is a square and a triangle that are 6 inches on a side. I also purchased the great tome of continuous strand weaving and a locker hook. Carol Leigh has done a tremendous job promoting this type of weaving. I tried couple quick swatches yesterday; and I am already fascinated by this method. It is fast, fun, and with little waste. This would be a great way to use up leftovers and spinning samples. With the mini set, there are quite a few quilt patterns that can be reproduced in weaving. Adding color changes within the weaving, there is even more to explore. And the book has many, many ideas for projects. This rabbit hole has potential!

13 October 2016

A Couple of Spinning Challenges

I haven't done much knitting in the last month. I do have a project on the needles, but it isn't a design for publication. Instead, I've devoted a fair amount of attention to spinning.

Last week was Spinzilla. The Whole Nine Yarns did not field a team this year. I joined the Kromski team. I don't have a Kromski wheel, but Kromski North America is based in Georgia. They have been wonderful, gracious corporate sponsors of Georgia FiberFest for the past two years. And you'll recall I came back from the festival this year with a big pile of Polish merino in the Pavonia Peacock limited edition colorway.

My goal was to spin all that fiber into a 2-ply lace weight yarn. I am envisioning a circular shawl in reversible lace. Remember, reversible lace takes twice as many stitches, therefore twice as much yarn. Magic always comes with a price. Well, by the first day I could tell that I wasn't going to get to the plying stage. By about Wednesday, I could tell I wasn't even going to finish all the singles. Sigh.

I did end up with a very full bobbin and a partly filled second bobbin of lace weight singles at 40-50 wraps per inch. I had exactly 2000 yards on the first bobbin and over 1000 yards on the second bobbin. My total for the week was 3114 yards. I think this is more than what I spun last year. And I made the monster mile again, so that was good. Still, I would like to spin faster. If someone offers a class on Spinning for Spinzilla, I'd like to take it. I'm in awe of the people who spin more than 10,000 yards in a week. In the meantime, I know I'll have this spinning project ongoing at least through the end of 2016.

The other spinning challenge I approached involves Twist: The Art of Spinning by Hand. This is an exhibition opening next month at Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland. The curator is Jennifer Lindsay, who is also in her second year as president of Center for Knit and Crochet. Jennifer challenged spinners to spin a yarn based on a story. I wanted to use a well-known story, so I picked the first 15 minutes of Star Wars to be my muse.

I spent a month or two of thinking about what I wanted to do as well as embarking on a scavenger hunt for beads, gears, fiber, and threads. The final yarn is only about 10 yards. It is corespun. It incorporates beads, threads, wool, silk, alpaca, Angelina, wire, and even some metal pieces from the hardware store.

As an intermediate spinner, this was right at the edge of my skill level. Those of you who are better spinners will, no doubt, notice places where my skills fell a bit short of my vision. And I have no clue how I would keep going with this. How to represent Luke? How to deal with the spaceships in the big battles? I can say that in terms of technique, this is far and away the most difficult yarn I have even attempted. If you only improve by stretching yourself artistically, consider me stretched!

12 September 2016

Georgia FiberFest 2016

Whew! I've just come off the whirlwind that is Dragon*Con followed by Georgia FiberFest!

As usual, a big thank you goes out to Kromski North America for their corporate sponsorship of the event. Kromski showed off their beautiful wheels and looms this year. They now have a wonderful jumbo flyer option for the Fantasia, if you like to spin art yarns. And they had a Fantasia wheel painted to resemble Polish pottery. In the photograph above, the blue fiber at top is the special edition Pavonia Peacock color. When Kromski gave out fiber last year at the vendor and teacher reception, it was fairly easy to get people to part with it. Not this year! Next year I must remember to be sure to sit at a table with non-spinners. The drop spindle was also included in the vendor and teacher gift bags. No excuse not to learn how to spin. And the gift bags also had assorted packets of Eucalan wool wash. I got the jasmine Wrapture "flavor."

Attendees and teachers also receive goodie bags. The goodie bag itself is pictured in the center. The celebratory "Dances with Wools" sheep (by artist Conni Togel of Sheep Incognito) is on the front, and the back has the long list of sponsors. The goodie bags also included:
● fabric squares (upper left) from Sunday Best Quiltworks
● tape measure (upper right) from Han Den Saori
● jar opener (center) from Camelid Cottage

I won the two skeins of "Buddy" yarn from Lunabud Knits (lower right) and the button as a door prize at the Friday banquet. Both this year and last, the Friday banquet was very good. The food was prepared by 5-star chef Jamie Keating, owner of Epic Restaurant. The door prizes were plentiful, too.

The rest of the photograph shows what I acquired in the market. The market gets better and better every year, although I do have to admit I'm not sure anybody showed up with an assortment of Firestar or Angelina. The rolags are by The Sample Family. Her sister, Kimarie of Kimarie's Knit Knacks, had gorgeous brightly-colored yarn for sale, including self-striping sock yarns and mini-skeins in eye-searing neon colors. The white silk — which I have dubbed "blinded by the white" — is from Swan Hollow Studio. I'm glad to see them every year, as they carry a wonderfully wide range of spinning fibers, primarily in undyed natural colors. If you want to craft a yarn to your specifications, Swan Hollow Studio can help provide the ingredients. The sand-colored mini-batts are from The Hippie Homemaker. I'm planning to spin a yarn based on the first 15 minutes of Star Wars; and I was stumped how I was going to spin Tatooine. I'm very glad somebody else has figured out how to dye a complex color like sand. The silk ribbon is from Alpaca Trading Post. If I decide to spin more of Star Wars, I am thinking this ribbon would be perfect for sand people! The Saori book is on clothing design. I bought one last year that includes skirts; this one is tops. I haven't tried Saori weaving, but I am sure the simple and clever ways to make clothes from basic rectangles will be useful for any sort of hand weaving. The jump ring opener and the bead reference card are, I think, from Primitive Originals. They brought kumihimo materials, including looms, threads, and beads, as well as a wonderful variety of jewelry clasps. I always have to look up bead information when I want to use beads with my knitting. I might make some chain maille accessories for a Dragon*Con costume; thus the jump ring opener could be helpful. And the wooden domino racks are from Allen B. Carr Works in Wood. As a gamer with a set of double 18 dominoes, the racks seemed like a good idea. I may want to sew, weave, or knit a carry bag to keep them in good condition.

I taught "One Color, Two Layers," "Daring Double Cables," and "Introduction to Reversible Lace." Thank you to all my students!

Next year's 6th annual Georgia FiberFest will be Thursday through Saturday, 7-9 September 2017. The featured guest speaker and teacher will be Franklin Habit! I already have the dates saved in my day planner.

06 September 2016

What We Do For Others

Last weekend I attended my twenty-second consecutive Dragon*Con. I've written about Dragon*Con before. Cuddly Hubby and I refer to it as the best weekend of the year, even better than Christmas. Over the years we have attended a variety of panels and activities. With 40 programming tracks, this is the sort of show where you could wear out a time turner. It isn't uncommon to decide to do something this year and to skip it next year in favor of something else we had to skip this year. But this year I did something I had never done before — I donated blood.

The Cuddly Hubby donates blood every year, usually on Thursday. Our tradition is to go pick up our badges on Thursday afternoon. Then Cuddly Hubby spends an hour or so donating blood. Then we go eat a good dinner at Max Lager's brew pub. But this year, Cuddly Hubby had doctors' appointments the week before the convention. Some of his test results weren't back. He wasn't able to donate.

It helps to know that every year the blood drive has Dragon*Con-themed t-shirts. Donate blood, get a t-shirt. I do not care about t-shirts. I rarely wear t-shirts. Getting a t-shirt is not motivation for me. But Cuddly Hubby has gotten a t-shirt year after year. At this point, he wears a different blood donor t-shirt every day of the convention, including Thursday. He was bummed when he couldn't get this year's t-shirt.

I never donate blood. In my youth, I had a couple bad experiences with needles. I have a pronounced fight-or-flight response. I almost passed out during the blood test for our marriage license. I also just barely make the weight requirement for blood donation. So I never donate.

By Saturday, it was clear Cuddly Hubby's results wouldn't be back in time for him to donate. So on Sunday morning, I psyched myself up. I walked into the Hilton and down the escalator. And I did it! There was a point when I first got in the chair that the fight-or-flight response really kicked in and I just wanted to jump up and run up the stairs. I kept my eyes closed almost the whole time. About halfway to three-quarters of the way through I got dizzy. All of a sudden, people were tipping my chair back and putting ice underneath my neck. I'm sure I changed colors. But I did not pass out. The person behind me actually threw up while I was donating. (Yes, they wisely put me at the far end with the experienced technicians dealing with the "problem children.") And it took a little bit of work to get my arm to stop bleeding afterwards. But, I faced down my fear and I did it!

And I got a t-shirt in Cuddly Hubby's size.

Later in the day, we met up at a panel. Cuddly Hubby sat down next to me. I had the t-shirt draped over my bandaged arm. I handed him the shirt and said, "I got your t-shirt."
He asked, "How'd you do that."
As I handed him the shirt, I pointed to my bandaged arm. "I donated blood."
It was worth it for the way his face lit up. He knew I had faced down a fear to do this for him.

How do you know you are married to the right person? When that person makes you a better person. I wouldn't donate blood on my own. I wouldn't donate blood for a t-shirt. But I thought of Cuddly Hubby getting out his Dragon*Con blood donor t-shirts every year in the future and seeing that hole in the sequence where 2016 went wrong. I didn't want him to have an unhappy story. So I made it a happy story.

24 August 2016

Artistic Fraying

Sometimes part of the fun of writing a knitting pattern is coming up with unique instructions. For awhile, I've wanted to write a pattern that ends with, "Tie yarn securely to the roof of your car. Drive around for a couple weeks. Untie. Attach yarn 'feathers' to project."

Unfortunately, I have discovered this works only for very specific yarns.

Those of you who have seen my car in person may know that I typically have a little streamer "poof" coming off the radio antenna. This is made from several strands of Filatura Di Crosa Timo in color 13. Sadly, this yarn has been discontinued. I only change out the streamer about once a year, so I figure my one skein (60 meters) should last the life of the car.

I purchased this particular yarn because I was looking for a ribbon yarn in a colorway that would look good with my very red little car. What I did not realize was how the yarn would change when tied to the roof. The ends start out plain.

 But after driving around for awhile, they feather.

I've come to rather like the feathered look.

A couple years ago at Georgia FiberFest, I bought an art batt in the ‟flame thrower” colorway from Alpaca Trading Post. This was a wonderful batt with all sorts of different textures. I spun it up into over 75 yards of corespun goodness. The art batt included a couple yards of ribbon yarn very similar to Timo. I decided the feathered texture would be great fun. So, I dutifully cut the ribbon yarn into smaller sections and attached it to the roof of my car. I drove from Maryland to Georgia. I drove around Atlanta. I drove in the rain. I don't remember how many miles I put on my car, but this yarn would not feather!

As you can see in this ultra-closeup, both yarns appear to be the same construction. (Timo, both feathered and un-feathered is on the left.) It looks to me as if the central stitching migrates to the center and the weft breaks at the edges. I have no idea why one will feather and one will not. Ideas, anyone?

16 August 2016

Mach Wave Cowl

In early summer I was knitting projects quickly. It seem that knitting is much faster than pattern-writing, photography, videography, and all the other elements that go into self-publishing a pattern.

For the Mach Wave cowl, I decided to use some stash yarn. I had purchased Wool2dye4 Tweed Worsted in a "learn to dye with Kool-Aid" kit at The Whole Nine Yarns. This yarn has three plies, two of which are wool and the third is superwash wool. The third ply takes dye differently from the other two, creating the tweedy effect. I did quite a bit of outdoor dyeing back in June. That first burst of scorching summer weather triggered the impulse to execute the dye projects that had languished through the cooler months.

Although I have a big pile of Kool-Aid packets in my dyestuff stash, for this project I used Jaquard acid dyes. Before applying the dye, I decided I wanted the skein to become a center-out möbius. I divided the yarn into 11 lengths, placing a pin at each division. (Note to self: Next time, take the pins out as soon as possible. They will rust!) I wanted the stripes to be the same width. If the möbius is worked center-out, then the first color needs to be half the length of the remaining colors. Thus, the first color section was only one length, while the remaining color sections were two lengths.

Just for the record, here are the dyes I used:
1st section: 636 gold ochre
2nd section: 612 lilac
3rd section: 621 sky blue + 631 teal
4th section: 627 kelly green, 628 chartreuse, 629 emerald, + the tiniest bit of 620 hot fuchsia
5th section: 607 salmon + 617 cherry red
6th section: 600 ecru, 607 salmon, + 636 gold ochre

I laid everything out in aluminum pans, covered them with clear Plexiglas, and let the yarn bake in the sun for the day.

The cowl pattern is a center-out möbius worked in a reversible lace feather and fan pattern. You'll recall I figured out how to work chevron/wave patterns in a center-out möbius when I designed the Sonic Boom cowl. Sonic Boom was reversible because the feather and fan pattern was applied to a welted fabric. For Mach Wave, I instead used feather and fan as a reversible lace.

If you are working your way up the reversible lace learning curve, this in an intermediate project. The cast-on is Cat Bordhi's möbius cast-on. The lace pattern itself is a fairly basic reversible lace pattern. If you don't like the möbius shape, you can make a cylindrical cowl instead.

In September I'll be teaching a series of classes on reversible knitting at Georgia FiberFest. The festival will be producing their own magazine this year, and I've submitted Mach Wave for inclusion. You can also find the pattern as a paid download on Ravelry.

26 July 2016

Reversible Centered Quadruple Decrease

On the Alacrity mitts, I knit myself into a spot a didn't expect. I cast-on. I worked in the round. I introduced the thumb gusset using a bridge. I decreased away most of the thumb gusset. And then I got to the bottom of the gusset and realized I needed to work a reversible 5 into 1 decrease to keep everything in pattern.

Yes, this is a reversible centered quadruple decrease.
  • Park the five knits on one needle and the five purls on another needle.
  • Use a crochet hook to enter the obverse stitches in order 3-2-4-1-5. Yes, you will need to park stitch #1 and remove stitches from the needle as you work.
  • Using the hook, pull a stitch up through the whole stack.
  • Place the stitch on the right needle.
  • Turn the work.
  • Repeat on the reverse.
  • Turn the work back.

Not fast, but it can be done.

25 July 2016

Reversible Centered Double Decreases

As I continue to explore reversible lace, there are more and more techniques to develop. I've already posted how to work left-leaning and right-leaning decreases. The obvious corollary is how to work double decreases.

I need to explain there are different types of reversibility.
For example, if the obverse is this: /O/O
The reverse could be this: O\O\
or this: /O/O
The first example is mirrored reversibility, but the second example is identical reversibility.

In a centered double-decrease, there are also two possible configurations.
The stitches start out on the needle as left - center - right.
The final stacks could be either:
center                    center
right           or         left
 left                        right
which I will write as
center ∙ right ∙ left     or     center ∙ left ∙ right

The center ∙ right ∙ left version is the result of a typical knit-side centered double decrease:
  • slip the center and right stitches together knit-wise,
  • knit the left stitch,
  • pass the 2 slipped stitches over.

The purl-wise version of this is:
  • slip the right stitch knit-wise,
  • slip the center and left stitches together knit-wise,
  • slip all 3 back to the left needle,
  • purl all 3 stitches together up through the back of the loop.

The center ∙ left ∙ right version normally requires a lot of slipping stitches back and forth. However, when used in a reversible decrease, there is a shortcut.

When slipping knit stitches on to the cable needle, be sure the left and center stitches have eastern/right facings, then:
  • slip the right stitch purl-wise,
  • rotate cable needle 180° clockwise,
  • slip the stitch back to the cable needle,
  • knit all 3 together.

The purl-wise version is:
  • slip the right stitch knit-wise,
  • slip the center stitch knit-wise,
  • slip both stitches back to the left needle through the back of the loop,
  • purl all 3 together.

The purl-wise centered double decreases can mimic either stack. As I worked them in the video, they created identical reversibility with their knit-wise mates. If I had matched them up the other way, they would have created mirrored reversibility. The reality is this detail is so subtle it probably doesn't matter. I suggest figuring out which knit-wise version you like, which purl-wise version you like, and then work those unless you have a really good reason to do differently.

24 July 2016

Thumb Gusset Bridge

I gave the direction to use a bridge to create a thumb gusset. As this is an unusual maneuver, I thought I should explain.

In a top-down mitt, you cast-on in the round and work a tube. At some point, you may want to create a thumb gusset without breaking the yarn. You can do that by casting on more stitches, joining them back to the main tube, then continuing in the round. For reversible lace, I use a waste yarn tab to mimic the tubular cast-on and bind-off I've used elsewhere in the project.
  • Knit across the tab,
  • turn,
  • yarn over and slip one purlwise with yarn in front for the first pair,
  • then work alternating knit 1 in the running thread, slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front across the tab.
  • After that, turn
  • and work 1×1 ribbing across the tab.
  • Now that the tab is established, join to the body of the mitt using a crochet hook to work the last knit-purl pair on the body a second time. This produces a secure join that won't gap.
At that point, I can return to working in the round. Eventually, I introduce decreases to shape the thumb gusset away.

If you prefer a taller thumb, that is still possible but you'll need to break the yarn. Before you cast on for the mitt, cast-on and work a little tube for the thumb and cut the yarn, leaving enough tail to weave it. When you are ready to insert the thumb gusset, just work across the little thumb tube, join back to the body of the mitt, and continue in the round.

23 July 2016

Tubular Cast-On in the Round

I've already stated that for reversible lace, I like the tubular Italian cast-on. I have discovered, however, that it is not the easiest cast-on to work in the round. It is very easy to introduce an unintentional twist! Could there be an easier way?

This alternative is not as fast and requires waste yarn. However, I think it is easier to work. And it creates the same tubular structure as Italian cast-on.
  • Cast-on auxiliary yarn using whatever cast-on you like and casting on one stitch for each knit-purl pair you want for your project. In other words, cast on half as many stitches as you intend to have.
  • Work several rows back and forth to create the auxiliary yarn tab. You can work in garter or stockinette, as you prefer. Since the tab is what keeps the work from twisting, please don't skimp on it. I would work at least five rows, maybe more.
  • I like to work one row of a separate thin and slippery waste yarn. That way I can reuse the auxiliary yarn tab in another project because I don't have to cut it from the skein.
  • Knit across using the project yarn.
  • Fold the strip around so you can join to create a tube.
  • You have the knits for your knit-purl pairs. Now you need to work a round to create the purls. Work a round alternating slip 1 purwise with yarn in back, purl 1 in the running thread between the stitches.
  • Since I like to weave in my tail, I work it in as "shadow wraps" or "twin" stitches or "doppelgänger" stitches before I get to the end of the round.
  • Work one round of 1×1 ribbing.
  • Now you are ready to start your reversible lace pattern!
  • I typically establish about an inch or two of fabric before I remove the waste yarn row. I can unravel the auxiliary tab and reuse that yarn. If you unpick the slippery waste yarn, you can reuse that, too.

22 July 2016

Alacrity Mitts

Time for more reversible lace!

The Whole Nine Yarns hosts an annual Christmas in July event. This year's event will be this Sunday, 24 July 2016, starting at noon.

My contribution this year is a reversible lace pattern I've named Alacrity. These are fingerless mitts worked from the top down. If you know how to work two tubes simultaneously, you can work these until you run out of yarn. This is a yummy luxury yarn you won't want to waste — The Fibre Company Road to China Light, containing alpaca, silk, camel, and cashmere. I had less than a yard leftover.

This pattern will also help you work your way up the reversible lace learning curve. It uses double increases and centered double decreases. The mitts are identical, so there aren't any weird directions about making a left-hand versus making a right-hand. And they are reversible, which means you can even turn them inside-out!

The freebie version of the pattern is somewhat abbreviated. I'll post the full version on Ravelry as a paid download. Video tutorials to follow here on the blog and on my YouTube channel.

07 July 2016

Seaming Solution

A few months ago, a member of Atlanta Knitting Guild arrived at a meeting with a challenge. She was making a blanket in pieces and was ready to seam it together. She had used slipped-stitch selvedges and was discovering that mattress stitch did not appear to be a pleasing solution. There was quite a bit of discussion amongst members but no sure-fire solution.

I let this question mull in my mind for awhile. Then I remembered a trick I had seen Gayle Roehm use in her "Sssinuous" scarf pattern, Knitter's Magazine #117, Winter 2014. As you might guess from the name, Gayle's scarf twists around and back on itself. Because it is a scarf, a tidy slipped-stitch edge is appealing. After all, most of the selvedge is visible in the finished accessory. But there are places where the scarf needs to be seamed together. And the scarf will be seen on both sides, so reversibility is highly desirable. I am pleased to report that Gayle has thought this problem through and solved it!

In this video, Gayle show how to graft live stitches to the slipped-stitch selvedge.

And in this second video, Gayle shows how to pick up stitches. (A big thank-you to Gayle for posting these tutorials on YouTube where everyone can find them!)

Some of you may already have figured out how this will figure into a seam. Use Gayle's technique for picking up right down the middle of the slipped-stitch chain.

In the photo, the top shows the selvedge with a wooden double-pointed needle inserted. The bottom is the chain selvedge before picking up.

Then work mattress stitch using those picked-up loops. I've inserted bright paper behind the seam to make the loops more obvious. You can see I've basically just laced the two sides together.

While this does not produce the same inconspicuous seam as mattress stitch, it does produce a seam that is tidy. (I've turned the photographs 90° because they fit better on the page when horizontal.) The top image shows the seam from the knit side. The bottom image shows it from the purl side. The slipped stitches mean you have one stitch for every two rows, which is why the result is not the invisible seam mattress stitch can achieve. Still, not a bad solution. And I must admit, I rather like it from the purl side.

04 July 2016

Optical Illusion

As you know, sometimes I'm working on a project that suits a vision, and sometimes I'm just experimenting to see what happens. ("Experiment" — isn't that just a grown-up word for "play?")

Four ounces of Corriedale recently hit my fiber stash. This was from A Good Yarn in Sarasota, Florida. I had been a winner in last year's Spinzilla, but somehow we had never quite coordinated getting the prize into my mailbox. No worries, as it arrived just in time for the summer dyeing season. Yes, while the rest of Atlanta melts in the heat, I figure I should make use of this free and excess heat energy.

I divided the fiber into thirds. Using Jaquard acid dyes, I dyed one chunk with 602 bright yellow, the second chunk with 608 pink, and the third chunk with 624 turquoise. I did the sun tea version of dyeing, but I should have used larger jars. I had trouble with the fiber not dyeing evenly. I got the yellow saturated in only one or two tries, but the pink and turquoise I dyed repeatedly. I must admit I was amazed at how the fiber slurped up the pink. I continue to find that blues don't always exhaust the dye bath. Maybe they need more vinegar?

The downside of the repeated dyeing was that the turquoise felted a little but the pink felted a lot. Hmmm. I used my hand cards to break the fiber up into tufts.

Okay, so what to do with three piles of fluff?

By now you may have guessed that what I have are the basic printer colors of yellow, magenta, and cyan. I knew I wanted to blend the colors. But how?

Initially, I thought I would make rolags on my blending board. But when I started to use the board, I realized I needed something with a greater capacity. Time to get out the Majacraft Fusion Engine drum carder!

There was some math involved and a lot of dividing. Here's what I did.

I decided to be very picky about measuring, so I used my jeweler's scale, because it measures to the 0.1 of a gram. Unfortunately, the fluffy fiber made it hard to read the scale. So I figured out what to do. I rolled up a piece of paper. I could stuff the fiber down inside the paper (or even set the fiber on top) and still be able to read the scale to get a measurement. The trick is to tare the scale first with the piece of paper on it.

I started by dividing each of the three colors in quarters. That gave me 12 puffs of fiber, 4 puffs of each of 3 colors. I decided to make 6 rolags, 2 each of 3 different colorways. My final goal was rolags blending from magenta to yellow, yellow to cyan, and cyan to magenta. That meant each rolag would use only 2 of the 3 colors.

To blend on the drum carder, I started with 2 puffs of 2 different colors.
I measured out a 1 gram puff, another 1 gram puff, and a 2 gram puff from both colors.
I put a 1 gram puff of different colors at each edge of the drum carder and carded those.
Then I did the same thing, this time moving the puffs about and inch or two in from the edge of the carder.
I took the pair of 2 gram puffs, attenuated them together, and then carded them onto the middle of the drum.

At this point I had a 50/50 color mix in the center, and pure colors at each side.
To fill in, I divided the remainder of the two starting puffs each into ½g, 1½g, 1g, and 2g.
I paired off the ½g and 1½g pieces, attenuated them together, and carded them about two to three inches from the edge, so they overlapped some with the solid color.
Then I paired off the 1g and 2g pieces, attenuated them together, and carded them in the gaps next to the center 50/50 section.

When the carding was complete, I used two aluminum US size 8/5mm knitting needles to roll the batt off as if it were a large rolag. Here's was I got.

Any orange, green, or violet you think you see is an illusion caused by optical mixing.

My plan is to spin magenta to yellow, yellow to cyan, cyan to magenta, magenta to cyan, cyan to yellow, and yellow to magenta. I should be able to wind the whole singles off as an Andean plying bracelet and then make a 2-ply. That's the plan, anyway.

02 July 2016

We Love Raw Wool Locks!

Today is the first day of Tour de Fleece 2016. While I am not formally participating in it, I do have my fingers in some spinning projects right now.

To kick off the occasion, I decide to post this video from July of 2014. These are Leicester longwool locks from Rivendell Farm in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. These raw locks came from a ram. As you can see, Brûlée likes the male smell. He rolls around in the locks so as to get the smell on himself. I've seen this scent anointing behavior in other animals, such as my favorite pandas at ZooAtlanta.

As a spinner, knitter, crocheter, and weaver, haven't we all had a moment when we wanted to just roll in the stash?

19 June 2016

Pitch Matters

I'm working on several projects right now. I've finished my Christmas in July project for The Whole Nine Yarns (more about that next month). I need to come up with a pattern for Georgia FiberFest. Several nights ago I woke up about 3 AM and could not get back to sleep for nearly two hours! I had an idea.

After I got up late that morning, I cast on a möbius. I was knitting along fairly well. Then I decided to swatch from the other end in 1×1 ribbing.

When you are working with a long-print yarn, the number of stitches in a row or round matters.


On a round of 450 stitches, the long print in Cascade Tangier is not long enough. It produces one-row stripes.

However, on a much shorter pitch of 40 stitches back and forth, the result is a nice gradient. In fact, for a gradient back and forth, I wouldn't want to work on much more than 40 stitches. Now that I think of it, wouldn't it be wonderful if yarn manufacturers included this information on long-print yarns?

What is impressive is how very different this yarn looks depending on the pitch (number of stitches in a row or round). In knitting we sometimes talk about matching a yarn to a project. This is a great example of how the same yarn can look very different. Choose wisely.

15 June 2016

Tools in Revolt

I'm having a couple of days where my tools and I are just not getting along.

I've been working on a fine-gauge reversible lace scarf. It is a lovely thing, indeed; all 75,000 stitches, 60 hours, and 97 repeats of 5 multiples of pattern. I finished it and blocked it, using the beautiful bronze Lacis blocking wires I wrote about previously. I used my typical method for blocking: thread blocking wires through the edges, pin onto mat, spray with water, ignore overnight. In less than 24 hours, the bronze oxidized and left blue-green stains on the edges of the ivory-colored scarf.


Fortunately, I was able to dig up some stain-removal information (thank you, Internet). The key was lemon juice and salt. I purchased half a dozen lemons at the grocery store. Once I squeezed them, I was armed with a cup of fresh juice. I laid the scarf in a glass baking dish, spooned lemon juice along the stained edge, and then salted. It worked! It took multiple iterations, as the whole scarf did not fit in a baking dish, but at least it worked. I then soaked and reblocked the scarf by simply spreading it on the mat (without pins or wires) and ignoring it for two days.

I'm not sure what to do about the bronze blocking rods. I did take some brass cleaner to them, and they are all shiny and lovely again. I am wondering if I should spray them with clear coat? Or should I just clean them after every use? Or maybe it is time to retire them and look yet again for better blocking wires?

Today I tried to register for the TKGA show next month in Charleston, SC. But I'm having trouble doing that. I wonder if the universe is telling me to skip that show?

So I decide to go cast-on my next project. And this happened.

Yes, the cable pulled out of my Kollage square needle. I've had this happen before with Knit Picks needles. In fact, at this point I sort of expect my Knit Picks cables to pull out unless I've re-glued them. But I did not expect my Kollage needles to do this. (It is worth noting these are the older version that was manufactured in China, not the current version made in the United States in Alabama.) Calling all adhesive chemists! Will someone please make a better long-term adhesive for circular needles?

First world problems.

I think I'll go eat some chocolate.

30 May 2016

Reversible Entrelac with Gwen Bortner

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the only class I took at STITCHES South 2016 was "Reversible Entrelac" with Gwen Bortner. It was an advanced class and on Sunday morning. I was a little concerned the class might not make, but we had exactly four people. Whew!

Some of you may be wondering why I would take this class. After all, I've already posted the Sir Thomas scarf, which is a reversible entrelac project. But Gwen's approach is different from Jay Petersen's. Always good to survey the range of technique.

You'll recall in entrelac you are joining little blocks as you go. These blocks join in two places. When you start a new block, you work up stitches off the side of a block in the previous tier. That is one place to think about reversibility. As you work back and forth on the new block, you also join one selvedge edge to live stitches from a block in the previous tier. That's the second place to think about reversibility.

You'll recall from my previous posts that Jay Petersen's method primarily involves thinking about the selvedge edge joins. Jay has done a lot of experimenting with knit, purl, and cable patterns. When he creates new stitches from the selvedge of the previous tier, he thinks about whether knit stitches or purl stitches will blend, and he uses the turning loops as if they were live stitches. When he joins the selvedge of his new block to the live stitches of the previous tier, he does so using Rick Mondragon's intarsia sliding loop technique. But again, that technique mimics knit or purl stitches. So Jay again thinks about which ones will blend.

This comes back to the question, what kind of reversibility? Jay has focused on the kind of reversibility found in knit-purl patterns, such as seed stitch. If there is a knit on the "front," there is a purl on the "back." Depending on the symmetry, these patterns can look essentially identical from either side (the pattern is merely shifted or mirrored), or they can be different but related. (The pentagonal entrelac cushion cover is an example of this type of reversibility.) This is similar to the reversibility of basic two-color double-knitting. The sides are positive-negative mirrors of each other. If there are equal numbers of knits and purls, and especially if the arrangement employs certain types of symmetry, then at a glance both sides appear to the be same.

Gwen is instead focusing on both sides having identical reversibility. Jay's solution is to accept that both A and B exist, and to come up with patterns where both A and B are relevant and ways to choose between them. Gwen's solution is to think about ways of joining that might look identical from either side of the fabric. A versus B no longer matters. Furthermore, Gwen focused on creating new stitches from selvedge edges in the previous tier, rather than how to join to the live stitches from the previous tier.

Without giving away too much (I hope!) Gwen has three potential solutions. The first involves using the selvedge turning stitch that is so critical in Mondragon loop. The second and third involve using the encased pick up Gwen teaches in her “No Wrong Side – Reversible Fabrics” class.

The homework for the class was to make three left-leaning base triangles on a magic number of 7. Gwen didn't provide the directions to how to do that. If you can't do the homework, you probably aren't quite ready to take the class. Truth be told, I'm used to doing entrelac square rather than en pointe, so I had to look up how to work base triangles. In my swatch, the grey triangles are the homework.

Reversible entrelac obverse

The green course and grey triangles demonstrate the three pick-up methods Gwen taught. Those are the ones I worked in class. From left to right, using the turning stitch (similar to Jay Petersen's method), solid encasement, and lace encasement. These were worked from the reverse side of the fabric, so in the photograph above, you are seeing what they look like from the opposite side. In all three cases, Gwen had us join to the live stitches by working two stitches together.

Given a few weeks' time, I realized I needed to get back to this swatch and finish it so I could liberate the needle and class yarn. But I also got thinking about potential variations. Since I wanted to work one more plain course of rectangles before working top triangles, I had a chance for more experimentation on the purple tier. I was especially interested in if I could match where the selvedge joins live stitches to where stitches are initially picked up.

Reversible entrelac reverse

The first option I tried was a variation on the lace encasement. Gwen's version is a bit more delicate because she skips unneeded stitches. I decided to try it using the turning stitches but working them together in pairs. The join is a bit thicker, although it still has the decorative gaps. The advantage is I could match this pick up method to the live stitch join.
  • Work all the stitches towards the join. Turn.
  • Place working yarn where you need it to be for the next stitch.
  • Slip a stitch purlwise to the right needle.
  • Using the left needle tip, pass the two live stitches from the previous tier over the live stitch on the current tier.
  • Slip the live stitch back to the left needle.
  • Work the row.
  • Exception: On the very first row, I only passed one stitch over instead of two.
The second experiment involves the encasement method.
  • I put the seven turning stitches on a needle.
  • Work alternating knit 1 wrapping yarn counter clockwise (the way opposite from how most people in the West are taught), reverse yarn over 1, across all seven stitches. 14 stitches/7 pairs total. Turn.
  • With yarn where you need it for the next stitch, slip the first pair to the right needle.
  • Pass the live stitch from the previous course over both the stitch and reverse yarn over.
  • Slip the pair back to the left needle.
  • As you work the row, work all the pairs together either "knitting through the back of the loop" or purling up through the back of the loop. (If you had wrapped yarn the regular way, you'd need to slip all these stitches knitwise to change their facings. I figured it was easier to give the stitches the facings I wanted at the time I created them.)
  • On later rows, use the same maneuver to join, except slip just one stitch instead of a knit-revyo pair.
For the third experiment:
  • Work k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1 across the 7 turning stitches.
  • Knit up (or if appropriate, purl up) a Mondragon loop from the live stitch of the previous tier.
  • Work back and forth on the loop.
  • Repeat as needed.
Since this is the method Jay uses, I experimented by alternating knitting up and purling up for the Mondragon loops, even though the fabric was garter stitch. The colored blips are noticeable. In garter stitch, the alternative is to make them noticeable on one side of the fabric but not the other. My suspicion is the blips would be less obvious in 1×1 ribbing, since the fabric would pull in.

All three experiments produced joins with different visual characteristics. But I also feel they all produced pick ups and joins that generally matched.

I did try one more experiment on the blue course. At the center purple block, I ended the row with (k1, yo)×7 instead of k7. I wanted to see if I could somehow sandwich the blue yarn. I eventually tried:
  • Knit across.
  • Purl the yarn over.
  • Pass the previous stitch on the right needle over the active stitch on the right needle.
  • Reorient the knit stitch on the left needle so that it faces east/right.
  • Slip the active stitch on the right needle to the left needle.
  • Pass the stitch on the left needle over the active stitch.
  • Turn and knit back. (In this special case, there is also a decrease at the end of the row to shape the ending triangle.)
 This created a stack with two purple stitches and a blue sandwiched in the middle.

Overall, an interesting set of experiments. As with so many things in knitting, the optimal solution is predicated on artistic goals.

29 May 2016

STITCHES South 2016

At the beginning of April I drove up to Nashville for STITCHES South 2016.

First off, the Tennessee Department of Transportation does not seem to realize that tourism is an important component of their state economy. A drive that should have taken just under four hours took more than six! Due to construction, traffic was unbelievable around Chattanooga. I expect that kind of slow crawl in a snow storm but not on a pretty spring Saturday. More construction on I-24 heading over the mountains added another hour. By the time I got to the STITCHES South market, I needed to walk around and just unwind as I breathed in the calming yarn fumes. I did just a little shopping on Saturday but more on Sunday right before I left.

I haven't read Knit My Skirt yet. Like many people, I was a little uncertain about the book. Skirts? As it turned out, a friend gave me a lovely embroidered Indian blouse and I am having a poor time finding a skirt that matches. I bought the coral-colored Claudia linen directly from Claudia. I plan to purchase several skeins of teal from Eat.Sleep.Knit (Claudia didn't have much teal left) to make a skirt to match the Indian blouse. Skirts should be a lot of fun. After all, there is lots of knitting more or less mindlessly in the round. And I have seen in person that a linen skirt can have flirty drape and swing.

Curls had been on my ‟maybe” list for awhile. As I continue to design patterns in reversible lace, I thought a curl project might be appropriate. I'm trying to mix up the projects and shapes.

The two skeins of sock yarn were purely stash enhancement, for which I should be ashamed. How could I resist the colorways — ‟Cape Canaveral” and ‟Huntsville”? The colors are based on a photograph of a Saturn V rocket launch. And little rocket stitch markers came with the skeins. Blame Hook a Frog from Madison, Alabama (just outside Huntsville) for coming up with an irresistible marketing strategy.

On the other hand, thank you to Nancy Alison for work to preserve the skill of bead knitting. Her booth had a lovely display of assorted bead knitting kits, including the purse clasps! I've admired this technique and read about it but never tried it. The Monarch butterfly wing purse will be a perfect chance to expand my skills. Most of Nancy's kits were $50 or under, so fairly affordable.

The last two things I purchased were another vibrating pillow (in a zebra print, not pictured) and the multi-colored Zulu wire bowl. I had purchased a vibrating pillow a couple years ago. It is very useful on long car trips, especially for keeping my back comfortable. The bowl was simply a failed Will save against entrancing beauty. I love the color, the pattern, and even the size. In the two months since I purchased it, it has become a great place to drop knitting notions. And the basket won't break if a cat — cue The Great Brûlée, bringer of chaos — knocks it off the couch.

I also attended the student banquet. Phyllis had two fabulous outfits, one with mitered squares and the other a coral-colored lace dress with turquoise blue glass beads. Jill totally rocked the place with two garments in intarsia — one depicting Elvis and the other John Lennon. She even incorporated lyrics on the back! Joyce had a yellow and black mosaic knit jacket that matched a commercial skirt and blouse combination. There was a crocheter showing off a shawl in crocodile stitch. I love the texture! And several ladies from Florida had a car cover depicting scenes from Florida.

On Sunday morning I took Gwen Bortner's reversible entrelac class. More about that in tomorrow's post.

28 May 2016

Closed Yarn Over Increases in Reversible Lace

As I explore and develop reversible lace, I keep adding new techniques. I usually start with, "Ok, I like this technique on one-sided fabric. How do I do it reversibly?"

One of the increases I like is the yarn-over version of make 1. There are at least three different increase methods I know of that go by the name "make 1." One technique involves co-opting the running thread. The second method (used by Elizabeth Zimmermann) is casting on a backward loop. The third method is throwing a yarn over or reverse yarn over and then twisting it closed on the next row or round. Since it is twisted, this means there is a left-leaning and a right-leaning version.

Working reversibly, here is the version that leans left on the obverse and right on the reverse.

And here is the version that leans to the right on the obverse and the left on the reverse.
Of course, there are other ways to increase. And I admit these are fairly fiddly. As with so many things in knitting, this is only one possible solution.

09 May 2016

Crochet Dragon

I can crochet. I don't always remember I can do this. I learned to crochet when I was about nine or ten years old. I can remember working on crochet in school when I was in fourth or fifth grade. Both of my grandmothers as well as my great grandmother were crocheters. And when I was in college, I used to crochet snowflakes. That was a great way to learn the basic stitches, because snowflakes usually incorporate a variety of stitch heights to create their patterns. I would hang the snowflakes against the large sliding glass windows of my dorm room.

As we know, Ravelry is the Internet Wonderland of knit and crochet. On the Woolly Thoughts board was a thread titled "Amish Puzzle Ball." What's that? For an adult, the puzzle ball isn't that difficult. But for a child, it would be an interesting object for learning three dimensions (width, length, height or for pilots, pitch, roll, and yaw). I followed links over to this website, where I learned what a puzzle ball is. Dedri Uys is the designer. Somehow — and I really don't remember what link I followed or how I fell down the rabbit hole —I discovered her book. Dedri has converted puzzle balls into toy animals. Adorable!

And I couldn't help but notice that the dinosaur looked similar to the dragon from Tomie dePaolo's book The Knight and the Dragon. This is one of my favorite books to give as a baby gift. After all, the story involves a knight and a dragon! And there is a princess, too, who happens to be the librarian. It's a great story about books, learning, practice, and discovering that enemies can be friends.

The modifications turned out to be more complicated than I expected. That said, I'm not sorry I waded into the project. It is good to push oneself creatively. I had assembled the legs and the basic forms of the head and tail section. But it took most of the weekend diligently working on the project to finish all the little elaborations. Many of these I worked more than once until I got something that worked. For those of you who would like to give this project a try, below are my modifications from Dedri's delightful pattern. I can also see the potential to work this pattern as a rhinoceros.

Rounded “spikes” instead of pointy ones.
Working in a spiral.
Use magic circle, chain 2, 6 sc around. (6 sts total)
Work (1 sc, 2 sc in next sc) ×3. (9 sts total)
Work 9 sc. If making smaller spike, skip to end.
Work 10 sc. (the extra is because you lose 1 st per round when working in spirals)
To end: break yarn leaving 30-40cm tail for sewing.
Pull end through and weave under chain to fasten off.
When attaching, flatten to for semi-circle.
Sew three small spikes and three large spikes to spine of of tail, working from tip of tail. Sew five large spikes to back and top of head. Sew by going through both legs of chain on opposite sides and taking the same stitch twice. You want these to be very secure so they cannot be pulled off no matter what!

Spade shape for the end of the tail:
Working in a spiral.
Magic circle, chain 2, 3 sc. (3 sts total)
2 sc in each sc. (6 sts total)
1 sc in each sc. (6 sts total)
(2 sc in next sc, 1 sc, 2 sc in next sc)×2. (10 sts total)
(1 sc, 1 sc, 1 slip, 1 sc, 1 sc)×2. (10 sts total)
(2 sc in next sc, 1 sc, 1 slip, 1 sc, 2 sc in next sc)×2. (14 sts total)
1 sc to offset precession
(1 sc, 1 hdc, 1sc, 1 slip, 1 sc, 1 hdc, 1 sc)×2. (14 sts total)
(1 sc + 1 hdc in next st, 1 dc in hdc, 1 hdc + 1 sc in next st, slip, 1 sc + 1 hdc in next st, 1 dc in hdc, 1 hdc + 1 sc in next st)×2. (22 sts total)

Ears (make 2):
for pink inner ear:
working in rows
Magic circle with tail for sewing later, ch 2, 2 sc.
Ch 1, 2 sc.
Ch 1, 2 sc.
Ch 1, sc decrease to end.
For green outer ear:
working in rounds
Magic circle with tail for sewing later, ch 2, 4 sc.
4 sc.
2 sc in each sc. (stitch count increased to 8 total)
8 sc.
8 sc.
4 dec dc. (stitch count reduced to 4 total).
4 sc.
Fasten off, leaving tail for sewing.
Sew pink to one side of ear.
Run green tails so they both come out the less-pointy end (should be the beginning end of the ear).
Sew less pointy ends to side of head.

Horns (make 2):
Working in a spiral.
Magic circle, ch 2, 3 sc.
Work 8 rounds of 3 sc.
Reach across (i.e. skip next sc) and sc in middle stitch to close tube.
Work another tube as above, but with only 3 rounds not 8.
Work a third tube as above, but with only 2 rounds not 8.
Sew three pieces together to form sturdy horns.
Sew to top of head between spike and ears.

Wings (make 2):
Worked in rows. Leave long tails for seaming and attaching.
Cast on 18 foundation single crochets (fsc).
Ch 1, 2 sc, sc dec, 10 sc, sc dec, 2 sc. (16 sts total)
Ch 1, 1 sc, sc dec, 3 sc, sc dec, sc dec, 3 sc, sc dec, 1 sc. (12 sts total).
Fold in half. Seam top and bottom. Attach to back of neck.

05 May 2016

Divide and Conquer

There have been some questions for the Georgia FiberFest knit-along.

While it has been advertised as a mystery knit along, quite a few people have been curious. The schematic at left will give you some idea of the overall shape. When you wear this shape, it turns out to be rather flirty and cute. The Bootkicked scarf also used a similar shape.

Several people are using gradient yarns other than the ones called for in the pattern. That's fine. In fact, that is part of the fun of a knit-along. How will the final projects be similar or different? The trick is, I wrote directions for dividing the yarn (with pins, please don't cut the yarn!) based on the Camelid Cottage yarn. This is a post about how to divide the yarn if you are making your own design decisions.

The first questions is, "How much yarn do you have?"
The second question is, "How many zig-zags do you want?"
The third question is, "How much do you want to blend when you change colors?"
The answers may be inter-related.

For my sample, I had 300 yards in 3 colors, 100 yards per color.
I decided to work 5 zig-zags.
I decided I wanted to blend 10 yards of each color at each color change.
Dividing the total yards (300) by the number of zig-zags (5) gave me 60 yards per zag.
So my plan:
start with a zag to the right
knit 60 yards from color A
zig to the left
knit 30 more yards from color A
knit intermingled stripes using the last 10 yards of color A and the first 10 yards of color B
knit 10 more yards from color B
zag to the right
knit 60 yards with color B
zig to the left
knit 10 yards with color B
knit intermingled stripes using the last 10 yards of color B and the first 10 yards of color C
knit 30 yards with color C
zag to the right
knit 60 yards with color C

If I've done this correctly, every zig-zag section uses 60 yards of yarn.
Every blended area uses 20 yards of yarn (10 from each color).
Sometimes a pin is telling you to start or stop stripes but sometimes a pin is telling you to change the zig-zag direction.

One question I got was what to do with a 500 yard 5-color put up?
In that case, I'd be tempted to do 5 wider zig-zags and blend 20 yards.
Each zig-zag unit will have 100 yards in it.

So the first zag is 80 yards of color A plus blended 10 yards of A and 10 yards of B.

The zig is blended 10 yards of A and 10 yards of B, then 60 yards of B, then blended 10 yards of B and 10 yards of C.

The next zag is blended the final 10 yards of B with 10 yards of C, 60 yards of C, then blended 10 yards of C and 10 yards of D.

The next zig is blended the final 10 yards of C with 10 yards of D, then 60 yards of D, then blended 10 yards of D and 10 yards of E.

The final zag is the final 10 yards of D blended with 10 yards of E, then 80 yards of E.

I'm not good enough with Excel to write a spreadsheet for this. Maybe I can convince the Cuddly Hubby?