20 March 2016

Viridi pinnam (Green Feather) Pattern Tips

If you are making the Viridi pinnam pattern, there are a couple things you can do to make the knitting flow a little more smoothly.

The lace pattern is 24 rows, but with action only on the 12 right-side rows. Furthermore, those rows can be divided into two groups of 6, as the Japanese feather pattern stacks up on one side for 12 rows and then the opposite side for 12 rows. The lace trellis pattern is handy for counting, since the holes alternate right or left with every right-side row. I used a large safety pin placed through the trellis hole on row 23 or row 11. In the picture, I can count holes in the trellis pattern. There are three. My yarn location puts me at the beginning of a right-side row. From the Japanese feather pattern, I can tell the pin is in row 23. Since there are three right-side rows completed since row 23, I can tell I am about to start row 7. After every 12 rows/6 holes in the trellis, I moved the large safety pin up. This made it very easy to count pattern rows without using a row counter. I simply read my work in relation to the large safety pin.

The second thing I did was use stitch markers. I placed plain black rubber markers between all the multiples of trellis pattern and Japanese feather except the first multiple. At that first location, shown in the picture, I used a bright green marker. Since the bright green marker is near the right edge of the fabric, I know I am about to start a right-side row. When you are working any reversible knit fabric, a marker to distinguish right-side from wrong-side is an important aid. The whole set of markers across the project made it easy for me to count stitches on those plain wrong-side rows, and therefore catch mistakes before they became serious problems.

This is also an “ad finitum” pattern, meaning work until you are tired of it or the yarn runs out. The pattern can be stopped on rows 11, 12, 23, or 24. As I neared the end of my yarn, I inserted a lifeline after row 12 or row 24 of each repeat. I knit until I ran out, then ripped back, and unknit to row 11. I worked the slipped-stitch set-up row for the tubular bind-off. Then I worked a second slip-stitch row. I cut the yarn, leaving a little bit of extra tail. Once again, I unknit that last row. Then I threaded my tapestry needle and grafted the “sides” together to finish the scarf. By knitting the last row and then unpicking it, I knew exactly how much yarn should be used in the graft to make those stitches match the size and gauge of the rest of the stitches in the project. Yes, it takes more time. But sometimes the extra time is worth it for the craftsmanship.

19 March 2016

More Reversible Lace — in Organic Cotton

Since my goal for this year is to get the reversible lace technique out into the world in a big way, I have been designing items using the technique. When I was at South Carolina Knit Inn, Cindy from Stony Hill Fiber Arts insisted I take a couple skeins of Pacolet Valley Fiber Company Southern Exposure organic cotton. This is a sport-weight 100% organic cotton yarn grown and spun in the United States. If we want an American textile industry, we need to purchase their products. The cotton is 50% organic naturally-colored cotton and 50% organic cotton. (To learn more about naturally-colored cotton, visit Fox Fibre.)

I was keen to try the green. I must admit, it did not look green in the skein. It looked beige or brown or neutral natural (photograph at right). Definitely not green.

However, being the reader of knitting and spinning and weaving literature, I had read about these naturally-colored cottons and understood they will darken when boiled. So, after I finished knitting the Viridi pinnam shawl, I gleefully filled a large stockpot, stuffed the shawl in, and put the whole thing to simmer on the stove.

Nothing happened.

Wait . . . wait . . . wait.

Nothing . . . is . . . happening.

Ok, not entirely true. The bath turned a brownish tea-like color. Still no sign of green. Green? Are you in there? Hello?

A quick review of the literature indicated a key ingredient is washing soda, which changes the pH to alkaline. Hmmm. A little time on the Internet took me to a blog post about how to turn baking soda into washing soda. I let the water and the shawl simmer on low. I set the oven to 400°F, tossed a few tablespoons of baking soda (probably less than ¼ cup, it was the remnants of a box) into a glass baking dish, and put the dish in the oven for 30 minutes. When the timer went off, I turned off the oven and set the baking dish on top of the stove on the inactive burners.

Time to see if this works.

I spooned about a teaspoon of the washing soda into the stock pot. Within a few seconds, the fabric near the washing soda turned green. It looked like a movie special effect. I added more soda, moving the fabric around to keep the color even. The whole shawl turned green. Success! Better living through chemistry!

I did try simmering the shawl longer, but that didn't seen to make a difference. Plus, I had to be attentive to keep the shawl submerged. If you do this, just turn the shawl green, give it maybe five minutes, then go straight to the rinse.

I rinsed the shawl in cool water in the kitchen sink. At first, the rinse water did turn a little green. The shawl also felt slightly slick or slimy due to the washing soda. When it seemed mostly rinsed, I took it to the top-loading washing machine and ran it through the rinse and spin cycle using cold water. This yarn is machine washable and dryable.

After the wash, I blocked the shawl to its finished dimensions. This yarn does want to pull in after being dressed, even if left to dry overnight. I recommend a generous application of steam while the shawl is still pinned out on the blocking board.

For those of you working your way up the reversible lace learning curve, this shawl uses only the same skills you need for Juniperus ficus — reversible decreases leaning left or right, double yarn-overs, Italian cast-on, and tubular grafted bind-off. This is just a more complicated ‟basic” lace pattern with 24 rows per repeat. Wrong-side rows are still mindless 1×1 ribbing.

You can check out the shawl in person, purchase the yarn from the vendor, or take the reversible lace class at Spring Fling today and tomorrow.

Edited to add: Cindy tells me you can throw a bare skein in the stockpot with the shawl and as some of the color comes into the water, the bare skein may take it up. Talk about natural dyeing and recycling!

18 March 2016

Some Interesting Links on the Web

It has been a busy week here. My next reversible lace pattern, Viridi pinnam, is almost ready to post on Ravelry. Spring Fling is this weekend, where I'll be teaching reversible lace on Sunday.

Completely off topic from knitting — on Wednesday I attended a Congressional Visits Day. It was very interesting spending a day running around the offices for the House of Representatives and meeting with legislative staff. My group was especially fortunate to get an in-person meeting with Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia's 4th district, on the east side of Atlanta. If you have a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. Those of you who are keyed in to visual cues will learn a lot about their priorities very quickly just by looking at how our representatives decorate their offices. If I were still in art history academia, I could easily get a master's thesis out of office décor on the Hill.

Friends have also sent some interesting fiber-related web links to my inbox. I must share.

First up, a long post about Vikings and wool. You'll recall I visited Denmark in 2012. One of the places I saw was the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. I was excited to see the museum mentioned in the blog post. The museum does not just have static displays of ships. The museum is right there on the harbor. They have a ship-building workshop. Over the years, they have built replicas of every ship in the museum. One of them they even built twice, as there was more than one possibly reconstruction! The museum also has other workshop areas where traditional Viking activities are demonstrated and even taught. The day I was there the spinning and weaving person was not on site. However, she had spun and woven a sail by hand in the Viking way, a process that took thousands of hours. The importance of textiles is often overlooked when we are taught the history of sea travel. Fabric was valuable, and a sail took up a lot of it! Ship building — including commercial activities and naval warfare — required the participation of men and women and many, many sheep.

My experiments with reversible lace have involved working lace over a foundation of 1×1 ribbing. Lily Chin has created reversible cables over a foundation of 1×1 ribbing. Lynne Barr has create reversible three-dimensional shapes by manipulating 1×1 ribbing. It turns out Janeen Puckett, has worked reversible intarsia over 1×1 ribbing. Her video:

Lastly and close to home, Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance is hosting a showing of Coton jaune, Acadian Brown Cotton, A Cajun Love Story. If I weren't already teaching on Sunday afternoon, this is where I would be instead, especially since the most recent issue of PLY magazine is all about cotton. And to circle back to my comments about Congressional office décor, several offices for Georgia representatives did have a bale of cotton on display. Cotton may not be king here anymore, but its effect on history here is undeniable.