31 December 2013


As I mentioned yesterday, I did work on another small project. In this case, I knocked out a square for the TNNA Great Wall of Yarn. The yarn this time is lovely stuff -- Sweet Georgia Silk Mist. This is obviously a Rowan Kidsilk Haze substitute. If you don't know what to do with it, you can browse the 1000 pages (no exaggeration) of Kidsilk Haze projects on Ravelry.

I decided to work a little lace with the color stacking, so as not to muddle the beautiful spring colors in the skein. I used a provisional cast-on, leaving enough tail to be able to bind off later. After only a little fiddling, I was able to determine that something around 88 stitches would stack for me. I found a stitch pattern from p.71 of The Haapsalu Scarf by Siiri Reimann & Aime Edasi that would fit over 85 stitches, plus two for the selvedge is 87. So I cast on and knit using a US size 7 (4.5mm) pointy needle.

On the downside, this did not go as quickly as I would have liked. Partly I did not spend as much time sitting and watch bowl games with my husband as I anticipated. (He is determined to watch all 9 of the Pac 12 bowl match ups.) Partly the pattern took a little longer, especially since there are 14 double-decreases on every right-side row. But the pattern is only an eight-row repeat, and thus encouraging as you pass a milestone about every hour.

I worked until the swatch was square, then blocked it overnight using blocking wires. (Note to self: must find new and stiffer wires, as my set is sadly no longer straight.) In this case, I spread the wired swatch out on top of a white towel on the carpeted floor in the guest bedroom. I pinned through the carpet, spritzed the swatch generously, then left a box fan blowing on the whole array overnight.

In the morning, I bound off both the top and bottom using a sewn bind-off. The advantage of this technique is the loose tension, which can be manipulated to match the gauge of the knitting and thus not disrupt the color pooling. For lace, I really do prefer to bind off after blocking, as laces may grow beyond expectation when aggressively blocked.

The final swatch is 21 inches square but uses only 15g of yarn or a mere 0.034g per square inch. It is a diaphanous square of lace that can be pulled through even my rather small wedding band. While the mohair does not frog well, it also holds the pattern in place. If your needle falls out, the stitches tend not to go anywhere. And when you weave in an end, all those sticky hairs will keep the end in the fabric. Truly a lovely swatch that sings a siren song of lace shawls yet to come.

30 December 2013

Nearly-Instant Gift

As you might guess from the lack of blog posting, the holiday season has been full of distractions. I spent three weeks over Thanksgiving at my husband's Maryland man cave. In addition to celebrating the holiday with family, I did accomplish some knitting stuff. I was most pleased that I worked on writing up a scarf pattern that uses an interesting entrelac technique. I had been most annoyed at myself for the lack of progress on that pattern, and it felt good to spend time writing and test knitting and making progress. Then I got home to Atlanta to discover that files written in Pages ’11 on my husband's computer don't open in Page ’09 on mine. (A pox on whoever in Cupertino, California decided that was a good idea.) Fortunately, Cuddly Hubby came home for two weeks during the end-of-year holidays. I've been able to open and export the file, thus restoring the three weeks' of work I did writing and test knitting. Of course, now that I'm in the middle of the holidays, I haven't had the time to get back to it. We'll hope for better in 2014.

So, while I couldn't work on that project, I put my focus elsewhere. I've knocked out two small projects and third, a hat, that I'll hold off on posting until the matching gloves are finished.

The first small project was a small bowl for the SEFAA gift exchange. Initially, I thought I'd knit a somersaulting rim trifold bowl from Cat Bordhi's wonderful A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting. I had some Bernat Roving acquired in the NGKG annual auction this year (for a whopping $2). Large yarn. Big needles. Knitting in the round. I figured I'd knock this out, felt it in the wash, and have a fine gift. I was about an hour into the project and working on it at Whit's annual blocking party, when Barb asked, "What yarn is that?" As I reached over to pick up the label, I noticed the fiber content: 80% acrylic, 20% wool. That will not felt. If you are looking for the wooly look of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky, but do not want your project to felt, then Bernat Roving might be an option. If you are looking to make a felted bag or slippers, move along.

In the end, I went to my stash of Skacel Artfelt paper and Schoppel Wolle rovings and made a felted bowl. The roving had a color gradient in it reminiscent of sunsets or fire. I cut a square piece of Artfelt paper, then snipped it in eight places so I could overlap the "petals" to make it roughly bowl-like. I tacked down wisps of overlapping fiber in a couple layers to create the bowl.

To felt it, I made the bowl wet. I took a pair of socks, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and put them in the center of the bowl. I did this to discourage the bowl from felting in on itself. Then I wrapped the outside of the bowl in plastic, put it in a nylon knee-high stocking, and threw it in the dryer for about 20 minutes. I was surprised by how much it felted. It was a medium-sized hold-in-two-hands bowl before felting. It came out small and cute and fits-in-one-hand sized. And the whole process took maybe two hours.

I found it interesting that the interior and exterior look a little different. As this is a felted bowl, it can be turned inside-out based on which side you like best. And it did felt nice and dense. In fact, it maybe came out a little too dense. On the other hand, better to be too stiff than not stiff enough if you are trying to make felt pottery.

Tomorrow: the other small project.

27 November 2013

Off Topic -- Panda Cubs on PandaCam

Those of you who know me know I love pandas. And I specifically love the pandas at ZooAtlanta. I was a docent about a decade ago and can still tell Lun Lun and Yang Yang apart. Yes, I am one of those crazy people who looks at Mei Lan (already in China) or Xi Lan or Po and makes comments about which parent they resemble in which way, while the rest of the world just sees another black and white bear. The latest iterations -- Mei Lun and Mei Huan -- are entering the dangerously cute cub stage. Just viewing them on PandaCam can cause metabolic anomalies requiring insulin injections to offset the sweetness. They are also finally venturing into the exhibit dayrooms. Xi Lan and Po will soon relocate to China to join the breeding program at Chengdu. If you are in Atlanta this weekend, you have the rare opportunity to see up to six pandas of various ages all in one place.

18 November 2013

A Beautiful Disappointment

I pre-ordered Tudor Roses back in June. I was excited the book would be back in print. The 1998 original features a dozen beautiful designs. Some are Fair Isle with Alice Starmore's brilliant sense of color. Some are cables. In particular, I had been lusting after the pattern for "Henry VIII," which is a sweater surely fit for a king.

I had been stalking the book for awhile on the used book websites. I should have bought it when I saw it for a mere $150. But then Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini came out in 2010. Adrienne wrote about her year-long quest to knit "Mary Tudor," the cover sweater. After that, prices on Tudor Roses went into orbit. In the meantime, some of Alice Starmore's other out-of-print books began to reappear. I decided to bide my time. "Patience, Iago, patience!"

So when I saw the opportunity to pre-order Tudor Roses, I couldn't click the "it must be mine!" button fast enough. And when I saw the book was shipping a month early, I was happy. And when I saw the e-mail predicting its arrival today, I was truly delighted. And when I went to the mailbox, and saw the cardboard box stuffed inside, I pulled it out and stroked it. And I brought the box inside the house, and set it triumphantly on the kitchen table, and opened the box. Happy Monday!

And then . . . I opened the book.

This tome is substantial. The cover is dignified. The title page has a lovely geometric motif and a quote from William Shakespeare himself. It is truly a beautiful book that demands to be noticed.

But I was curious, when on the fourth page, the copyright notice states,"Tudor Roses, first published by Calla Editions in 2013, is a revised and expanded reimagining of the edition published by The Broadbay Company, Fort Bragg, CA, in 1998." In the whole copyright notice, the only item listed as copyright 1998 is the sonnet on page 5.

You have been warned.

There are 14 patterns in this new edition. All are beautifully photographed and styled, although most of the photographs show the full garment, rather than illuminating details. Each pattern is introduced with a few paragraphs of biography, written from the point of view of the lady being honored. There is an excellent family tree and some historical background on the Tudors. And there are little colorful motifs here and there on the pages, filling in places where too much white space would be jarring. So this book scores a perfect "10" on romance, style, and beauty.

Here is the list of patterns and how they relate to the 1998 edition (using Ravelry as my guide, since I don't own the 1998 edition):
Elizabeth Woodville -- new pattern
Margaret Beaufort -- new pattern
Elizabeth of York -- a two-color texture pattern has been converted to two-color colorwork
Margaret Tudor -- similar (same?) texture & cable patterns
Katherine of Aragon -- some changes in the bands; Fair Isle colors changed
Mary Tudor -- Fair Isle colors changed
Lady Mary -- new pattern
Anne Boleyn -- a completely different texture pattern from the Fair Isle cardigan in 1998
Jane Seymour -- highly altered, with the diamond pattern still used but the 2-color damask deleted
Anne of Cleves -- similar (same?) texture and cable patterns
Katherine Howard -- similar (same?) 3 color-pattern but colors changed
Catherine Parr -- similiar (same?) 2-color pattern but colors changed
Elizabeth the First -- similar (same?) texture pattern
Mary, Queen of Scots -- new pattern
Missing in Action in 2013:
Henry VII -- texture and cable pattern
Henry VIII -- Fair Isle pattern

Some of the color changes and updates are nice. My point is not that these are necessarily bad; rather, if you anticipate purchasing this lovely coffee-table book instead of paying a premium for the 1998 edition, be sure that the new version contains what you want. You may very much like "Mary Tudor" in her new color scheme; but if you want the previous color scheme, you are out of luck. If you liked "Anne Boleyn" or "Jane Seymour" as they were, then this book is little or no help. And there are no color charts or other information about the yarns -- all available from Alice Starmore through her website at www.virtualyarns.com. You'll need to do a little hunting if you want/need to substitute yarns, especially in the Fair Isle sweaters.

Also, this is definitely a book for knowledgeable knitters. I haven't knit from it yet, so I can't comment on the accuracy of the written patterns. The patterns are mostly written-out with standard abbreviations. There are schematics, and the charts are large and clear. I do notice there are no tutorials about how to cut a steek, work stranded colorwork, or cast-on or bind-off, or any little diagrams of how to do unusual maneuvers. However, you probably already have Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle Knitting or her Aran Knitting on your reference shelf.

Bottom line: A breathtakingly beautiful book of beautiful sweaters. Now, can anybody lend me the 1998 edition so I can knit "Henry VIII?"

30 October 2013

Pieces of Knitting History

I wasn't sure if I should blog about this or not, but considering how little traffic it seems to be generating, somebody needs to say something.

Schoolhouse Press has organized a series of three auctions of garments handknit by Barbara G. Walker. The first auction is already open. It ends Saturday night 2 November at midnight. The second and third auctions will follow in sequence, ending on Tuesday 12 November and Saturday 23 November respectively. Look books can be downloaded at this link.

Right now, I don't know whether to be excited or disappointed. There's a sweater I might bid on, because it is currently listed at under $100, and to me that seems a crime against knitting. As someone on the temporary board for the Center for Knit and Crochet, I hope all the pieces end up in the homes of knitters who will adore and treasure these items for decades to come.

05 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 4

I left Saturday morning unscheduled for sleeping and catching-up. While I like taking classes, I’ve been learning it is helpful to have at least a little rest built into your show schedule. I did hang out for awhile in the knit and crochet lounge. There was a crocheter working on finishing a cookie afghan! This was a motif afghan in which the round motifs were identifiable representations of different types of cookies. It was adorable, although I think it could be dangerous to have such an afghan in the house, unless you are very good at not purchasing sweets.
Contents page from Stories in Stitches No. 1.
Because of my connection to the Center for Knit and Crochet, at lunchtime Jan introduced me to Ava Coleman. Ava and her business partner Donna Druchunas have started a venture called Stories in Stitches. This is a wonderful journal that tells the stories behind the knitting. Some of the stories are anecdotes, but some are scholarly research about the role knitting has played. The first issue features counterpanes. The second issue looks to feature some pioneer lace. Ava very kindly gifted me a print version of the first issue. You can be sure I intend to keep acquiring issues as they appear, although I will need to decide if I want electronic copies, paper copies, or both.
Celtic Cables swatches
The final class I took was on Saturday afternoon. I chose Melissa Leapman's class on Celtic cables. Again, I already have her books and have even done a few closed-loop cables. But I know cables are required on Level 2 of Master Knitter. I had never taken a cable class, and I figure Melissa wrote the book! She had us knit two swatches in class and a third swatch for practice afterwards. One of the things I really enjoyed about the class was her discussion about how to design closed-loop cables of your own. Melissa does live in New York and has some of that air about her, as well as boundless creative energy. There's almost an electric zap as she discusses design. She also showed us an advance copy of her upcoming book The Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook.  She has come up with several fabulous stitch patterns, including a butterfly that sits in high relief off the fabric and an all-over texture pattern of grapes and vines. Even with all the stitch dictionaries I already have, I think this one may need to find its way on to my bookshelf.

Saturday night was the TKGA Banquet and Fashion Show. I put my Valentine Gansey in the fashion show, as well as my recent scribble lace shawl. I also volunteered to model, if needed. In the end I got to wear Lily Chin's "Chevron Stripes" from the cover of Knitter's Magazine, issue 110. I also modeled a 100-year-old antique traditional Swedish jacket with twined knit sleeves that belongs to Beth Brown-Reinsel. Awesome! The TKGA Fashion Show overall was definitely a parade of extremely-skilled knitting. I may live in Atlanta, but Arenda Holladay's work makes me want to knit a Fair Isle sweater, even if I can use it only two months of the year.
Jan Stephens receives lifetime membership from Penny Sitler
The best parts of the evening were the awards. Several people who had completed Level 3 of Master Knitter were pinned. And Jan Stephens was made a lifetime member of TKGA in recognition of the work she has done to promote knitting. I was a little way back from the stage and didn't get great pictures, but I think you can tell from the photograph that Penny Sitler, TKGA Executive Director, was getting just a touch teary-eyed.
Everyone at the banquet also received two skeins of Cascade Fixation sock yarn and a sleep shirt from Annie's as favors. I don't necessarily agree with the consumerist sentiment, but I know lots of knitters who do. There were also many door prizes over the weekend, although I didn't win any.  Considering the size of the my stash relative to the size of my house, that's just as well. Thank you to all the kind sponsors who donated to the party!

On Saturday, Jan and I drove home. I’m so glad she encouraged me to attend the conference. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend; and I came home re-inspired to put some focus back on Master Knitter.

04 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 3

On Friday I took an all-day class with one of the sweetest, kindest knitting teachers you'll ever meet, Beth Brown-Reinsel. I had taken classes with Beth several years ago when she came to teach for Atlanta Knitting Guild. This time I decided to learn twined knitting. This is a Swedish technique that dates back to at least 1680. How do we know this? Because a twined knit glove was found under a slag heap. I do not know which is more astonishing -- that a glove survived 300 years under a slag heap, or that the Swedes keep such good records of their garbage! Books on the subject by both Anne-Maj Ling and Laura Farson have been on my shelf for some time. I figured taking the class would get me to spend a little time actually doing the technique rather than just reading about it. And Beth is the sort of teacher who has worked out subtle details in how she teaches. For example, her handout is stapled together except for the stitch chart, which is separate because you will need to knit from it during class. While twined knitting is not a fast way to knit, it is interesting and satisfying. Beth also showed us some inspiring photographs of work that Anne-Maj Ling has made. The two-color method is especially striking, as it produces pinstripes. If you shape the knitting with increases or decreases, then the pinstripe patterns move around in delightful ways.

I should also mention that Beth has a Kickstarter campaign running until Tuesday 22 October. I did not realize, but she has already produced one knitting video and the Kickstarter funding is for post-production on a second video. I haven’t seen either, but based on the quality of her classes and her essential book Knitting Ganseys, I have no doubt the videos will be first-rate.

Friday evening was the TKGA Fun Night. Patty Lyons gave a hilarious multimedia presentation on gauge. Patty did more than just talk about the importance of gauge and how to use it. She showed sad examples of gauge gone wrong. Mostly these were sweaters that were far too big to fit their intended recipients. The saddest example was probably a beautiful Fair Isle sweater. It was clearly a labor of both love and great knitting skill, but it just didn't fit. Heartbreaking! Most of the examples were less sad, and it was a case of all of us laughing in recognition. Maybe we’ve recognized the work of the gremlins early enough to have ripped out the project before getting to the end, but we’ve all been there with a project that went off on its own adventure without properly consulting its knitter first. And so many of us have just kept knitting along, disbelieving that our knitting could betray us.

03 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 2

I took quite a few classes during the weekend. I started out on Thursday morning with Joan Davis' "Measuring Magic with Ease." I didn't know anything about Joan, but quickly discovered she is an energetic teacher. Her class handout is about the size of a softcover book! And Joan even gave us bags and yarn. Thank you to Patons for the yarn donation! Lace Sequins is a pretty yarn with a little fuzz and a little bling.
Swag from Joan Davis' class.
Joan's class covered measuring your body and knitting to fit, but she also covered a lot of material about what will and will not look good on various body types. If we are going to knit or crochet a garment, we should be nice to ourselves and make something in a color and cut that is flattering, and we should adjust it appropriately to fit our figures. No matter what your figure is, you will look better in clothes that fit you properly.

In the afternoon I took Galina Khmeleva's class on "Russian Grafting with a Twist." What a great technique! And who better to learn something Russian from than Galina herself? She also covered some basics of Russian knitting. It was like learning knitting at the knees of a Russian grandmother. While I love modern knitting innovations, it is very grounding sometimes to go back to basics and look closely at traditions. The ways of the Old Country usually persist for a reason. And I was delighted when Galina explained that Russian grafting was originally used as a way to join strips of weaving to make fabric wider than the loom. Remember, my weaving loom is only 24-inches (60cm) wide. So this is a cross-genre technique. Glee!

02 October 2013

What I Learned at TKGA, Day 1

I spent the first week of October at the TKGA Fall Show in Concord, North Carolina, just north of Charlotte. It is always fun to attend a show, and this one was no exception.

First off, my roommate for the extended weekend was Jan Stephens. Jan has been involved with TKGA for years -- designing, writing articles, and running the course for certified knitting judges -- but has recently retired. I must say that attending with Jan was great fun. Jan knows nearly everybody, and if she doesn't know someone, she quickly introduces herself. Plus, Jan's just a generally pleasant person to be around. She is also a wonderful mentor, as she knows when to poke me. I probably should have made a “minion hat” for the weekend, as I was grateful to be Jan’s minion. And on the drive up, Jan introduced me to the joys of Cracker Barrel’s Double-Chocolate Coco-Cola Cake. Yum!
Size 10 cotton yarn donated by Universal Yarns
It was Jan who poked me about attending the On Your Way to the Masters Day. This was an all-day seminar with members of the Master Hand Knitting Committee. They helpfully pointed out common pitfalls and how to avoid them. I found the swatch reviews especially helpful. Sometimes when you are working on Master Knitter, it is hard to evaluate your own work. Watching committee members evaluate a swatch helps me to look at my own work through their eyes. Also, talking to other people who have completed levels 2 and 3 is motivating for me. Thank you to Universal Yarns for donating yarn for the day. I had forgotten how many pretty yarns they make, until I saw the box filled with a nice assortment. And a special big thank you to all the members of the Master Hand Knitting Committee, as they were obviously pretty tired by the end of the day!

In addition to classes (posts to follow), there were other distractions. There was a market, of course. My favorite part of the market was the Crochet Design Challenge. Wow! Some of the things crocheters are producing right now are amazing. There was voting for audience favorite, but it was very hard to choose. Some examples: very fine gauge doilies, fine gauge motif dress, complex afghans, wire necklaces, a miniature diorama, and a lamppost and Mr. Tumnus costume for a child who was a fan of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was sorry the knitters didn't have a great display like that, but delighted the crocheters put their talents so prominently on display.

20 September 2013

More Fiber Art on Display

At the beginning of the summer, I mentioned a number of opportunities to view fiber art in the metro Atlanta area. I am happy to report there are more opportunities this fall!

Georgia Quilt Show, which this year is at Cobb Galleria.
It was open Thursday and Friday, and will be open tomorrow, Saturday 21 September, from 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM. Tickets are $10 at the door.
This show has plenty of vendors and classes. But if you just want to view the work, keep walking past the vendors. The back half of the exhibition hall has quilts on view, and the work is stunning. Allow yourself a couple hours to take it all in.

"Fantasy in Fiber" is currently on view at Lamar Arts in Barnesville, Georgia.Open hours are Fridays 11 AM to 2 PM and Saturdays 10 AM to 4 PM.
The show runs through 31 October 2013.
This venue is an hour's drive south of Atlanta. Just follow I-75 south to Exit 201 and proceed west on Highway 36. When the road forks, keep left and follow it into town. The art gallery is a converted rail depot, and it will be on your right. Barnesville is an adorable small Southern town, perfect for walking around, getting a bite to eat, and lingering in the local antique shops. Artists on exhibit include Lucinda Carlstrom, Leisa Rich, Lynn Pollard, Anne Vincent, Judith Krone, and Karen Tunnell amongst others.
Coral Reef by Susan Hanberry, on display at Lamar Arts
Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance is making significant use of their exhibition space.
Currently on view from the Atlanta Chapter of the American Sewing Guild: "National Sewing Month: Sew for the Skill of It!"
On view through Saturday 28 September 2013.
This exhibition has a surprising range. There are quilts and clothes, but also dolls and fabric pottery! Some people are sewing to construct something, others are sewing for embellishment. There is also a silent auction in conjunction with this exhibition. The holidays are not all that far away, and this is a great opportunity to pick out a handcrafted gift.

In October, SEFAA will be showing "It's All in the Cards" from Fiber Art Fusion. If I am understanding correctly, this exhibit comes from a challenge project where members drew randomly from a deck of playing cards. Dates are 8 through 25 October.

And in November, SEFAA's resident artist Karen Tunnell will be exhibiting her work. Karen stiffens fabric and then marbles it, a technique you might recall from the end papers of old books. The initial patterns often resemble geology and cartography, reflections in water, or other natural but chaotic patterning. She often embellishes on top of the marbling, either with stitching or drawing. Her works appear abstract at a distance, but many have hidden recognizable imagery up close. The colors and patterns alone are often pleasing, but many of her works are topical, dealing with environmental issues. I believe Karen may also be having an open house to coincide with this show.
Tumbling Stones by Karen Tunnell
As with all SEFAA exhibitions, more information can be found here on their website.
SEFAA is open most weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 AM to 4 PM.
SEFAA is located just off I-75 at Exit 252 Northside Drive NW. Proceed south one block on Northside Drive, then turn right at the traffic signal on to Bellemeade Ave NW. As you head up the hill, just past the apartments you can turn right into the back entrance to the senior center. SEFAA's space is in there. Or you can go to the first stop sign, turn right, come in through the front, and someone can direct you to SEFAA's space.

12 September 2013

Keeping It Simple

Another scrap-busting project I finished earlier in the summer is the "Keep It Simple Spiral" from Betsy Beads by Betsy Hershberg. If you have a scrap stash and a bead stash, Betsy's book is an excellent addition to your knitting library. Most of the projects are quick, fun, and gift-able. For me, this was a true scrap-bust, as the yarn was a sample of South West Trading Company Amaizing from February 2009. The beads were already in stash, too. I did need to purchase a magnetic clasp at Michael's.

This project begins with stringing beads; but with the proper tool, it should take less than half an hour and possibly less than fifteen minutes. Because the whole project is i-cord and the yarn was a little slick, I increased the coefficient of friction by using my wooden Blue Sky Alpacas double-pointed needles. Mine project is choker length because that's how much yarn I had. But pattern could easily be a longer necklace or a shorter bracelet. It is easy enough for knit-night or television knitting. If you like sporting events, you could probably make one each weekend while watching football and be ready for holiday gift giving in time for the post season.

11 September 2013

Nearly Instant Gratification

Things are finally settling into what is now the new normal. The Cuddly Hubby was back in town for our 19th consecutive Dragon*Con. Woo-hoo! He stayed a few extra days, and it was very good to have a few days of what was the old normal.

For once I remembered to take some knitting to Dragon*Con. After all, it is four days of sitting in panels, so it is prime knitting time. And the costuming is always inspiring. I limited myself to four outfits during the weekend, and that left just enough room to pack a some yarn. One project was cast on after Dragon*Con -- the Circular Stranded Baby Surprise Jacket. I'm still poking away at it.

Another was cast on and all but bound off during the convention, but then I changed my mind and decided to knit it over again with some refinements. That project is a blanket square, and it is still in production right now. It is great as television knitting while I catch up on the latter half of the second season of Grimm.
The third project I did cast on and work all but the bind-off during the convention. The Fall 2013 Giorgio Armani Prive collection prominently featured the color pink. Armani chose not a strong pink, but a soft whisper just-barely-there almost-nude pink. It is like the color of champagne with just a drop or two of strawberry or raspberry juice, or perhaps the drippings off a maraschino cherry. This, of course, reminded me of a certain lovely skein of angora-merino blend from the market in Uzes, France. I had been looking for an excuse to work up something in “The most Beautiful Shawl on Earth” stitch pattern from page 177 of The Haapsalu Shawl. And I've been trying to work up small one-skein or less projects as samples for my scrap-busting class.
The directions for this cowl are simple. Using backward loop, cast on in the round in multiples of 14 -- mine has 84 stitches. Follow the chart from the book. Do be careful, as the pattern shifts a bit and your beginning of round marker will need to adjust accordingly. But it is pretty obvious where the center of the motifs are, so you can always find your place from round to round. Bind off using Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind-off to match the cast on. I didn't even bother to block the cowl, because the buttery soft angora might object. Yes, this is pure luxury, which is why I've photographed it with my grandmother's mink stole. If you like to fold the cowl snug, as I have, a single pearl or diamond tack pin or even a cuff link is perfect.

28 August 2013

What Do You Do with a Torn-Up Afghan?

Although I have blogged very little this summer -- it is, after all, not a good idea to blog and drive on the interstate at the same time -- I did manage to mention that the Marietta Museum of Art would be having a significant yarn installation. I also managed to knock out a Muppet-fur hex-mesh net to donate to the cause.

The installation has been up for nearly two months. Of course, I've been running around so much that I haven't had time to stop and check it out. Until yesterday, that is.
The installation covers the stair rails as well as the large columns on the front of the museum. I love the patriotic swag over the door. You can see that some of the elements are old afghans that have simply been whip-stitched together. When you get a close look, some of the pieces are torn or faded or in some way damaged. But when combined with other items, this conglomeration from the island of misfit yarn projects becomes a great installation.
One of the side rails on the porch is covered with crochet, including the charming detail of a yarn spider using a doily as her web.
I was thrilled to see that the Muppet-fur hex mesh ended up on one of the center two columns!

If you have never been to the Marietta Museum of Art, is it just south of the Marietta Square. I find the easiest route is to start south of Marietta and travel north on Atlanta Road, which becomes Atlanta Street, which becomes Cherokee Street north of the Square. As you approach downtown Marietta, Atlanta Street becomes a one-way street. Get in the new left lane, go a scant half-block, and park next to the big white classical building (which is the museum). If you are coming from the north, either circle around so you can drive up Atlanta Street, or park on the square and walk down from the southeast corner. If you are looking at Google Maps, do not be misled -- the Marietta Museum of History is not the Marietta Museum of Art!

There are lots more details to see in person, including four more columns, another porch rail, and lots of swags on the ceiling.

25 July 2013

A Little Crochet Therapy

This blog has been a much quieter space than I prefer. My Cuddly Hubby has settled into his Maryland man cave. While it would be nice to think I now have two residences, the reality feels more like I have half a residence in two places. My used knitter's cats, my friends, my studio, and my familiar stomping ground are in one location, and my Cuddly Hubby is in another. I've been making the 650-mile all-day drive every two weeks. I've put 5000 miles on my car in two months. This and other factors are leading me to conclude that commuting back and forth every fortnight is not sustainable.

Some of those other factors include little things. For example, there is no food in my refrigerator. If you leave for two weeks, then anything you left behind will have spoiled by the time you return. And if you are about to leave for two weeks, then you only purchase what you think you can eat before you leave. Also, keeping two kitchens is confusing, as it is easy to forget you bought butter/cereal/tea for that location but not for this location.

You also come home to a big "to do" list, even if you left the place in good shape. All the cleaning things you might do once per month are now crammed into two weeks. Two weeks of mail is on the table. If there has been a power outage, then you come home to wrong clocks and timer lights switching at peculiar hours. And there are appointments to be made. On this last trip, I came back and made five phone calls on Monday to set up appointments. I am guessing the two residences lifestyle is glamorous if you do it the way Frank Lloyd Wright did it -- live in Wisconsin the warm part of the year and Arizona the cold part of the year. Making a big trek once every six months is sustainable. Splitting your life between two locations; not so much.

In the midst of this turmoil, I have been attempting to clean my studio and impose a small amount of order. I looked around and gathered up some of those projects and kits that were gathering dust, taking up space, and generally in the way rather than properly stowed. My thought was that I would have few distractions in the man cave, thus forcing me to work on unfinished objects.

One of the items I picked up was the fashion show door prize I won at STITCHES South this year. The Romantic Pineapple Shawl is a crochet project. I do know how to crochet. And I figured it would be a nice change of pace. It came in a nice tote bag, but that meant it was lurking on the floor of the studio. I figured that if I made it, then I could put the tote bag, leftover yarn, pattern, hook, and needles away. As you can see, logic is failing me.

This turned out to be a fairly enjoyable project. The main body of the shawl is not "social" crochet. The pattern requires your attention as you work a background of cluster-Vs with the occasional pineapple motif thrown in. I enjoyed the distraction and the excuse to focus. By the time I got to it, I'd worked enough pineapples for the edging to be "knit night" work; however, it was a little tedious. The bottoms of all the pineapples are worked across the row, but the points are each worked separately. The first pineapple can be worked with the already-established yarn, so you have 23 ends to weave in and 22 beginnings to weave in. I wove them in as I went -- I knew not to delay and make a monster. But this is very much an example of the result being worth the effort. As you can see in the "action shot," the little points really are quite flirty and fetching. The whole effect truly is romantic. Good crochet!

19 June 2013

Weekend with Brenda

Last weekend North Georgia Knitting Guild was delighted to bring podcaster extraordinaire and practical knitter Brenda Dayne to the Atlanta area for two days of workshops. I gleefully signed up for the works -- “Creative Glove Design,” “Beginning Bead Knitting with Mrs. Beeton,” and “No Math Sherman Toes and Heels.”

For the glove class, Brenda had a thorough and informative slide presentation and a handout with places to record our own hand measurements. I knit one pair of gloves many years ago -- and keep wondering every winter why those two skeins of plum-colored qiviut in my stash haven't knit themselves up into gloves yet. I also have a skein of pimento-colored cashmere that might make for nice gloves. Brenda is clearly someone who has knit gloves more than once, and she was able to provide several bits of information I had not yet encountered on the topic. Very helpful!

The sock class was an all-day affair in which we knit baby socks to learn the technique. I had encountered the Sherman toe before in Wendy Knits but didn't realize that's what it was. This is the technique where you cast on your full sock number over two needles using Judy's Magic Cast-on, then work back and forth on one needle to work an hourglass toe, then finally start working in the round. The advantage is that once you know and understand the technique, you can pretty much just grab yarn, cast on, and go. The hourglass heel is worked in a manner akin to the toe. Good as it is, I'm not a convert and think I will stick with Cat Bordhi's foxglove sockitecture. But I'm glad I took the class and was exposed to the technique in depth.
Mrs. Beeton wrist warmers
The class that turned out to be the little gem of the weekend for me was Mrs. Beeton. I've heard Brenda talk about this pattern in her podcast. I had paid it little mind. It turns out to be a delightful little pattern. I especially recommend downloading version 2.0 of the pattern. Because this project is designed to use little leftover bits of yarn, Brenda gives you the yard-by-yard requirements for each bit of the project. This is a great stash-buster.

Looks like sea anemones!
The trickiest part of the pattern is the beaded cast-on. By the way, don't let the stringing beads put you off. I used a dental threader and strung all the beads for one gauntlet in under 15 minutes. Brenda has you use long-tail cast-on with the beads on the skein side. I used long-tail but with the beads on the tail side, which is why the beads on mine are way out on the tippy-tip edge of the ruffle. I was also pleased that when I dug around in my bead stash, I could find small beads and large beads that coordinated with my yarn and that matched each other. Sometimes, it truly is better to be lucky than good.

I also got lucky with the yarn. I used one of my one-ounce skeins from Merike Saarniit's "Rainbow Microwave Dyeing" class. I believe I had dyed the skein "across" rather than "around" according to Laura Bryant's terminology. I worked the ruffles of the first gauntlet down past the join. I did not break the yarn. Then I worked the ruffles of the matching gauntlet also down past the join using yarn from the other end of the skeins. At that point I could work both gauntlets simultaneously for the ribbing until I was nearly out of yarn. For the bind-off, I used Lucy Neatby’s version of picot bind off from Knitting Gems 1 DVD, and TECHknitter’s excellent version of circular bind-off. I did go down one needle size on bind-off so as to have enough yarn and to keep the bind-off from splaying out. And I did have to knit fewer rounds of ribbing than the pattern recommended. But the luck was that the ribbing section just happens to be the correct magic number for my little mini-skein. I the yarn flashed, but it flashed the same way on both gauntlets, even though they were worked from opposite ends of the skein!
Blue flashing
Green flashing
One more comment about this pattern: the inner/bottom ruffle is worked with the beaded edge but then worked in the heavier yarn. The outer/top ruffle is worked in the hazy yarn. The ribbing is worked in both yarns held together. So when you choose yarns, be sure to pick something that will give you an effect you like. In this case, I think the bright pink softened and unified the chaos of the handpaint.

To give you an idea of how quickly these can be made: I cast mine on Thursday night during a power outage (thank goodness for my rechargeable LED lantern), worked on them in class on Friday, and finished them on Saturday night. If you have scraps, you could make up a few sets of these and put them aside for last-minute holiday giving.

24 May 2013

No Cookie Monsters Were Harmed

I've been busy cleaning house lately. As many of you have heard, my husband took a job out of state. He could be laid off here or work there, so he chose work there. This has meant some changes in my life and household.

1. Divide stuff into what stays here and what goes to his new one-bedroom man cave.
2. Drive more and give thanks for the gas-sipping car.
3. Rearrange household to accommodate new reality.
4. Pay attention to whether the lawn has been mowed or not and respond accordingly.

I'll be traveling more, as I do want to see my husband. I like my Cuddly Hubby, and I definitely miss him. He is enjoying his new job and making friends, which is good. And we had a long-distance relationship when we were dating and engaged, so it isn't as if we haven't done this before. I am hoping the situation will bring some focus. If I am very well-behaved, I'll plan projects so I get knitting done when I go to visit, and get pattern writing and class planning done when I'm back home. I'm also planning quite a few home renovations, since Cuddly Hubby won't be around to be irritated by drop cloths, paint cans, or torn-up bathrooms.

Since I've needed to walk around our home, sorting stuff as I go, I've finally found some time to de-clutter. A random skein of Lion Brand Fun Fur was lurking in my studio. I know I didn't purchase it -- it was a freebie at one of the knitting shows/retreats/gatherings. I had not even bothered to add it to my Ravelry stash database. But then I saw it and thought, "Well, I could knit it up quickly and give it to the Marietta Museum of Art yarn installation." So I cast on and knit for an hour as I watched television before bedtime. I woke up the next morning with a better idea. As crazy as a Muppet-fur scarf might be, how about a Muppet-fur net? Plus, I'd been meaning to spend a little more time with hex-mesh before taking another shot at Herbert Niebling's Lyra.
This is hex mesh knit en point. I cast on two stitches, increased until half the yarn was used, then decreased to the end. Unfortunately, I measured wrong and ran out of yarn. So I had to rip back and try again. I went down a needle size, which is why the square is not square. The fabric is like a big shaggy blue amoeba of Silly Putty, as it can be pulled in different directions. And, of course, there are holes throughout, leaving all sorts of possibilities for weaving other materials through the item. I am hoping the yarn installation people at the museum have fun with it.

20 May 2013

Fiber on Display

For some reason, spring 2013 seems to be a very fiber-artsy moment here in Atlanta. If we want fiber arts to have a place in our local arts communities, then we need to turn out when fiber arts are exhibited. If you have any free time at all, here are some exhibitions to attract your attention.

Repetition & Ritual: New Sculpture in Fiber
Needles & Threads: Gwinnett Celebrates Traditional Fiber Arts
Jes Schrom: Confession
All three exhibits are at Hudgens Center for the Arts in Gwinnett County. Admission is $5. Through Saturday 25 May.

fiberARTlanta exhibit
Sponsored by SEFAA at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta
The exhibition features a broad range of fiber arts from various SEFAA member groups. Through Tuesday 28 May.

Threads of Life
Sponsored by The Tapestry Weavers South at Quinlan Visual Arts Center, Gainesville. Through Saturday 8 June.

Georgia Celebrates Quilts
Sponsored by East Cobb Quilters' Guild at the Cobb Civic Center. Admission is $10. Friday through Sunday 14-16 June.

In the Mind's Eye: 2013 Chattahoochee Biennial of Textiles
Sponsored by Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild at the Marietta Museum of Art. Admission is $8. Through Sunday 30 June.

Symmetry/Asymmetry: African Textiles, Dress, and Adornment
At The High Museum of Art. Admission is $19.50. Through Sunday 25 August.

If you are more hands-on in your art appreciation, these upcoming yarn bombings/installations are a great opportunity for creative expression as well as re-purposing old swatches:
Norcross Saturday 1 June.
Atlanta Knitting Guild and SEFAA at Museum of Design Atlanta, Saturday 8 June.
Marietta Museum of Art, donations due by Saturday 1 June, big reveal Saturday 6 July.

30 April 2013

Unwinding in North Carolina

Even before 2013 began, I knew April was going to be a busy month. STITCHES South and Unwind are just two weeks apart. I didn't get to teach at STITCHES South, but I did get to teach at Unwind. And I am very glad I did.
Contents of Unwind Goodie Bag. Everyone got this.
Unwind is a knitting retreat weekend in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Nancy Shroyer of Nancy's Knit Knacks and Sue Homewood are the organizers. The theory is that many knitting shows are big and busy. This is all fine, but sometimes you just want a quieter experience. You want to come back from the weekend rested and rejuvenated. You want to make new friends rather than just hang out with the friends you have. Unwind is exactly that sort of weekend. It is a smaller gathering in a little resort town way up in the mountains. The views on the drive up are spectacular. The town has delightful shops, including the yarn shop Unwound, and delicious restaurants, including an ice cream shop with fudge and candy apples and chocolates. The gathering itself is about 25-50 people, so not overwhelming crowds. There are only three or four instructors. And students are encouraged to take three classes but not four -- in other words, you are expected to have a rest period to just relax or wander the town. Our name badges were color-coded so you could see who had the same rest period. Even the teachers had a rest period.
Door prizes and swap prizes. :-)
Since the teachers all roomed together, I got to meet Michelle Hunter and Debra Lee. Both are delightful people and fine teachers. Michelle Hunter of course is Knit Purl Hunter and the author of Building Blocks.  This afghan book is a great way for beginning knitters to move up the learning curve. Knitting is the most fun when you can knit what you want, rather than being limited to knitting what you can. Debra Lee is both a teacher and true fiber artist. She is especially brilliant at bags and color work. It was fun each day to see what the other teachers were wearing. Michelle, of course, wore her wonderful sock-opus tights made from leftover sock yarns. Debra wore beautiful jackets with lots of complex patterning.

The only thing unkind I can say about the weekend is why don't people south of North Carolina know about this?! There were quite a few ladies from nearby in North Carolina and a whole van load from the Washington, D.C. area. Miss Babs' had special open studio hours nearby, and I think the ladies in the van went home with their weight in yarn. Everybody participated in the door prizes and games, even the teachers and organizers. I was being a well-behaved munchkin and not spending money and I came home with yarn and books. The donations were a wonderful chance to see some of the products offered in our industry. There was also a stash swap opportunity to pass your less-wanted yarn, books, and materials off to someone else -- perfect if you actually did some spring cleaning.

For a quiet weekend of knitting in a lovely locale, Unwind!

15 April 2013

STITCHES South 2013

I am very fortunate that there are several weekends I look forward to each year. One of them is, of course, STITCHES South. The older I get, the more I know the calendar lies, because it can't be possible we've just finished the fifth STITCHES South.

I signed up for Almost the Works. I've done The Works once, and while I love taking classes, that is a lot of classes even for me to soak up in one weekend. I'm finding that Almost the Works is the right pace for me.

This STITCHES got off to a bit of a bumpy start for the organizers, as some of the nice XRX people were stuck in Sioux Falls SD due to a late-season snow! I know everyone was very grateful to arrive in Atlanta, and not just to see proof that spring does exist. Rick Mondragon was one of those delayed, so Laura Bryant gave the Opening Day talk instead. This did not bother me at all, as I had immediately acquired her new book Artful Color, Mindful Knits. Those of you who have many hand-painted yarns in your stash will find Laura's book to be essential for figuring out how to use those yarns to good effect. Laura has lots of discussion and helpful illustrations about magic numbers and how to make yarns pool intentionally in a good way. She discusses yarns that are dyed around the skein versus across the skein; and explains when they will and won't pool. She also discusses color "weight" (heavy versus light), which is a topic she covers in her excellent Interweave video A Knitter's Guide to Color. Pair Laura's book with Lorna Miser's The Knitter's Guide to Hand-Dyed and Variegated Yarn, which focuses on breaking up pooling rather than controlling pooling. With those two books in hand, you are ready to make your hand-painted yarns sing, dance, and jump through flaming hoops with no clown barf in sight.

For the Thursday afternoon class I took Beth Whiteside's "Loops with Fringe Benefits." I had heard good things about Beth's teaching skills, and although I probably could have figured out the loops and fringes on my own, it was nice to sit down for three hours and try them out. I was impressed with the exhaustive research Beth had done on this topic and I can definitely recommend her as a teacher. Our class swatches demonstrate a wide variety of loops and fringes. I especially like the little bows. Wouldn't those be fabulous in a ribbon yarn against a background of plain yarn?

On Friday morning I took Charles Gandy's "Pattern Pitfalls." I've taken classes before with Charles. He is a delightful teacher and a Southern gentleman. Again, I knew most of what Charles mentioned, but it is nice to double-check knowledge. As I am self-publishing patterns, I do not want to be guilty of creating pitfalls! The one really brilliant thing I must remember from Charles -- if you print a book, be sure it is on paper that will accept pencil and pen annotations.

Friday afternoon was Merike Saarniit's "Microwave Rainbow Dyeing" class. This was my fifth class with Merike. Again, microwave dyeing isn't all that hard, but it was really nice to do it in a class with someone who could show you that, yes, it really isn't all that hard. And I was thoroughly impressed with how we managed to do this in a conference room in a hotel! The first skein I dyed blue, bright apple green, and deep maroon. The second skein is dotted with purple, orange, and green. It came out a bit weak.
When playing with dyes, the color mixing is not the same as the paint color mixing many of us learned in grade school. I plan to over-dye the second skein with more purple, orange, and green and with more overlapping of colors to make it more interesting. I'll probably just do that on a hot summer day and let the skein bake in the sun to set. The microwave makes the process faster, and the speed can be especially useful if you are dyeing colors that you don't want to bleed together. As with so many techniques in crafts, the questions is not so much, "What is the right way?" as it is "What effect do I want to achieve?"

Going into the weekend, the class I was most excited about was Esther "Jazzturtle" Rodgers' "Corespinning for Fun and Function." I so wish I had taken this class before Jacey Boggs' workshop last spring. Jacey's two-day workshop had lots of technical information, but no handouts. In Jacey's class we spun several different types of yarn using a variety of techniques. By the end of the weekend, my recollection of what I'd spun and how I'd done it was poor. If I want to spin art yarns, I still having to go look up techniques in Jacey's book or video. If I took Jacey's class again, I'd definitely take notes and clip samples to a piece of cardstock. In contrast, Esther's class was three hours of basic corespinning. For a $30 materials fee, Esther supplied students with one of her fabulous jazzy batts and some Teasewater and Wensleydale locks. It was wonderful to spend the morning just becoming comfortable with corespinning. And the bobbin on my wheel just got prettier and prettier. As you can see, I ended up with an awesome skein of art yarn, and enough of it that I should be able to use it in a project. Because of my experience in Jacey's class, I was careful to take notes in Esther's class. Bottom line: Sequence is important! Become proficient at basic corespinning, then take a technical weekend workshop on making art yarns.

Saturday afternoon was devoted to Susanna Hansson's "Lovers and Runders." This is the third class I've taken with Susanna. Many of her classes are devoted to traditional Nordic techniques. Again, the little braids are something I probably could have figured out on my own, but sometimes the most efficient learning occurs when you just decide to go spend three hours in a class. Plus, Suzanna gives you a nice mnemonic so you can remember how to make the braids without having to keep looking it up. As you can see, I ended up with a nice reference swatch. (The change from white to green is only because I ran out of white yarn.)

On Sunday morning I wrapped up the weekend with Anna Zilboorg's "Surprisingly Special Techniques."  This is basically a tips and tricks class. Anna's knowledge base is somewhat different from that of most other knitters, so I was confident her approach would be unique. We covered several techniques, but the best part was making her perfect buttonhole. It is worth the class just to learn the buttonhole. A word of caution: I am a very visual learner. Anna is not a visual teacher, and her handouts are not visual, either. She is also very opinionated. So go into her class ready to happily follow along the path she leads you, and don't be afraid to ask very specific visual questions if you are a visual learner. I was lucky Susan Duralde sat next to me, as she is also a visual learner and the two of us had mostly the same questions.

I also did some shopping in the market. I bought some yarn and spinning fibers. Some of it was less about "I need/want this" and more about "I like this vendor and want this person to have a good weekend and come back next year." The most unusual fiber I bought was carbonized bamboo. This sounds to me as if maybe the plant fiber is burned before being reconstituted? The fiber is not as slippery or as shiny as bamboo rayon often is, and it is the matte black of a black hole. If Darth Vader spun, he would spin this! It is the yarn version of the Dark Side of the Force! I was also thrilled to see Yarn Barn of Kansas back in the market with the books. As good as I have become at resisting the siren songs of yarn and fiber, Japanese stitch dictionaries are Kryptonite for me.

The weekend included plenty of other fun, too. My friend Marilyn (of Marilyn H's zipper) came for a visit and we stayed up way too late talking about knitting. I saw lots of friends in class, at the banquets, and in the market. For the first time during the fashion show, I won a door prize! It is a pineapple crochet shawl in a bright spring green. The prize includes the yarn, pattern, crochet hook, project bag, and even a blunt tapestry needle for weaving in the ends. How's that for complete? And Ivana Knitsolotta, double agent for double knitting, made an appearance at the Student Banquet. So all and all, a fine weekend!

22 March 2013

Fixing Column Pattern

Every now and again, someone on the Ravelry "Knit One Below" board will ask how to fix a mistake in column pattern. Part of the reason there is no easy answer is that fixing mistakes in column pattern is not easy. I would rate this as one of the more difficult tricks a knitter could do. I did, in fact, need to do this four years ago on the socks I entered in the Think Outside the Sox contest. And it took me most of an evening, with many starts and stops. I'd think I had it, turn the work over, and see that I hadn't gotten it right.

So, for all of you who really, really need to see this, here it is. Here is how to drop a wale and pick it back up in column pattern.

And while I have not exhaustively explored it, I do believe you can put lifelines in at least some brioche patterns. As much as you will love a lifeline in lace, you will love it even more in brioche.

06 March 2013

If it hangs, is it art?

It is time again for Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance's annual Square Foot Fiber Pin-Up Show. Last year's inaugural show was pretty successful -- about 45 entries in a range of fiber techniques. I've already seen some of this year's show, and as good as last year was, this year appears to be even better. I believe there are more entries and also even better work. I was fortunate last year that my entry received enough votes to get into the annual SEFAA calendar. I don't think that's going to happen this year, as this competition will be very stiff.
Sea Dream
knit and crochet, handspun and commercial yarns

Of course, I'm not entering a square so that I can get into the calendar. I'm entering a square because I would like to see more knitting and crochet exhibited. Quilters and weavers already exhibit their work, and their workmanship and skill is more highly regarded because of it. I can't very well complain about knitters and crocheters not exhibiting if I don't!

The rules for the exhibit are simple -- use fiber, and the entry should be less than 12 inches by 12 inches. The exhibit isn't juried and there is no entry fee. Consequently, there is a wonderful range of work.

I decided to push myself artistically by working outside my usual methods. My usual approach is to plan my work from the outset. I fearlessly crunch the math, when needed. I sometimes swatch; and I often rip and re-knit repeatedly as I change my mind about details. But for this project, I improvised. I gathered up lots of little bits of yarn. Some of these skeins were leftovers from completed projects. Some were samples. But much of it came from the Jacey Boggs spinning workshop I took last April. I ended up with lots of little bits of very bumpy, lumpy, funky art yarn. But I didn't have a lot of any one yarn -- just lots of small samples. And I wasn't sure what to do with any of it. Art yarns are fun to spin and pretty to observe, but I hadn't thought of a project that would benefit from their special textures.

I started by casting on with a very bumpy yarn called a coil (p. 85 of Jacey Boggs Spin Art). It is made by plying a thick and thin handspun in a special way that creates fluffy bumps that are softer but similar to beehives (p. 56). I worked reverse stockinette back and forth in short rows until I used up all the coil. Then I picked up some other handspun yarns made with corespinning techniques. I don't remember exactly how all of these were made. (If you take Jacey's workshop, bring some cardboard and write down what you make, then attach a sample. I found that although it was a great workshop, afterwards I don't recall clearly which yarn is what, and there weren't any class handouts to help me remember.) I knit back and forth, throwing in short rows in a semi-random way. When I got to the dark part at the top, I actually held two yarns together. One is a balanced corespun yarn -- the black batt was corespun around two plies as they were plied together. The other is a pretty cobalt blue singles with sparkles. I just held them together and knit a pattern similar to Lizard Ridge. This was the first time I knit any of my handspun.

Once I had the background, I then thought about what to add to it. I decided that the chartreuse coil yarn resembled a reef. I've seen articles about crochet coral reef projects. So I decided to try that. My rule was every time I picked up a new yarn, I tried to work it in a way that was different from what I had already done. So the goal was to use up little scraps from stash and to constantly improvise. I also worked most of these in crochet. Because crochet stitches are firmer than knit stitches, they have enough structure to support three-dimensional work. But the knitting worked great as a background because it could be stretched to fit the canvas, whether or not what I knit was actually one foot square.

The first piece I made was that nice roundish ruffle near the right. It is circular single crochet worked alternating 1 sc, 2 sc in next sc around and around until I ran out of yarn. I used leftover Skinny Stripes from my summer 2012 TNNA swatches.

Then I picked up some Habu FQ-1 Fique, which is some plant in the pineapple family. I crocheted branching chains and slip stitches. That became the coral near the center of the picture.

The orange and yellow coral on the left is Kauni wool in an ever-widening wedge of garter stitch with ever-lengthening picots based on my Bootkicked scarf.

The blue-green coral at far right is a supercoil (I think) handspun yarn worked in four rows stockinette, four rows reverse stockinette, with picots on one edge. It is mounted sideways from the direction in which it was worked.

The three-colored coral in the lower left is Ella Rae Seasons leftover from Ginny's granddaughter's baby surprise jacket. Those were whipped out lickety-split by working foundation single crochet stitches out of a central circle and then single crocheting back to the center.

Next to it is a coral that is a linen stitch tube worked side-to-side in a beehive handspun. I adjusted my work so that all the beehives would lie on one edge of the tube.

For the seaweed in the upper right -- a sample of South West Trading Company Bamboo -- I pulled out my copy of Crochet Master Class and learned how to make hairpin lace.

The seaweed on the left is bits of Mini Mochi from the Curlique Shawl, using foundation single crochets, and making little fans up one side and down the other by working sc, chain 1, hdc, chain 1, dc, chain 1, hdc, chain 1, sc all in the same stitch. Sometimes I worked two or three double crochets in the center of a fan.

The starfish is a sample of Miss Babs Yowza. I started circularly in the center with 5 single crochets. Each time I went around, I extended the pentagon by working taller stitches near the increases as shorter stitches between the increases.

Lastly, the sea slug on the lower right is a tiny bit of fingering weight handspun. I cast on in the center using Judy's Magic cast-on. I worked around, increasing one stitch at each end on every round. My strange increases account for the odd bias in the shape. Then I bound off with single crochet.

After all the scrumbles were arranged and attached to the background, the picture needed to be hanging-ready. I sewed the picture by hand to a commercially-prepared canvas. I even put proper picture wire across the back.

I won't hazard a guess as to the quality of this art. But I can say I accomplished several goals:
1. produced something to put in the show
2. used up some stash
3. stretched myself artistically
4. learned a new technique (hairpin lace)
5. re-learned another technique (foundation crochet)
6. finally made something with my own handspun
Whether the picture is well-received in the show or not, it has already been worth the effort.

One last reminder --  if you attend the show, be sure to vote for your favorite squares. Also, many of the squares (mine included) are in the silent auction to benefit SEFAA.

Update: To my surprise, I won't be getting this piece back. "Sea Dream" sold in the auction. In fact, someone placed a bid on it, and someone else bid it up! And it placed high enough in the voting to be included in the 2014 SEFAA Calendar. Thank you everyone who voted for it, and a special thank you to the bidders!