20 December 2018

Update Your 2019 Calendar

Update: Since I've signed the contract for Blue Ridge Fiber Festival, I've added that information.

There are a lot of fiber arts gatherings coming up in 2019. Many of them have just opened for registration or are about to open for registration. Here's a rundown.

Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Retreat, Hendersonville NC, Thursday through Sunday 17-20 January 2019. This retreat at the Episcopalian campground is a great way to de-stress after the holidays. Accommodations are in cabins or at the inn. All meals are served in the cafeteria. The long weekend is an opportunity to make progress on a project. Knitting instructors include:
Boykin Exum teaching beginning knitting.
Master Knitter Heather Storta teaching an Estonian lace shawl.
Mimi Kezer teaching sliding loop entrelac.
Varian Brandon teaching a colorwork hat.
I'll be teaching a versa lace scarf.

South Carolina Knit Inn, Greenville SC, Thursday through Sunday 31 January through 3 February 2019. Many Atlantans drive up to South Carolina for this gathering where we knitters overrun the Drury hotel at exit 51. I will be teaching "Liberating the Labyrinth" on Friday afternoon and "Knit Faster with Combination Knitting" on Saturday morning. Update on 20 December 2018: Sold out!

Atlanta Knitting Guild rising star Mimi Kezer, Atlanta GA, Thursday through Sunday 7 through 10 March 2019. Mimi is an amazing soul, delightful person, and talented teacher. Classes include brioche, German short rows, increases, and knitted braids. You will learn much and enjoy the process. Registration here.

The Peach Fuzz Fiber Festival at the Treasure Hunt Antique Mall in Powder Springs GA Saturday and Sunday 9 & 10 March 2019. This new fiber festival is hosted by the Peach Fuzz Fiber Guild. You can learn more by following the link above to their Ravelry group.

Carolina Fiber Frolic, Sapphire North Carolina, Friday through Sunday, 15 through 17 March 2019. Teachers are Julie Cashin, Kathy Donovan, Kate Larson, and Heather Storta. 

Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival, Green Tree PA, Friday through Sunday, 15 through 17 March 2019. I know this one is outside our region. I'm listing it because I will be teaching. This will be my first show where I fly rather than drive. I have heard lots of amazing things about this diverse show. Classes are not yet listed on their website, but I have signed a contract to teach "1×1 Wonders," "Easy Reversible Cables," "Introduction to Versa Lace," "Knit Faster with Combination Knitting," and "Liberating the Labyrinth." I also expect to be staffing the UFO Crash Site one evening, which should be fun.

Carolina Fiber Fest, Raleigh NC, Friday and Saturday 22 & 23 March 2019. Registration is open. I am teaching "Tubular Invisible Cast-On," "Waste Not: Triangular Shawls," "Easy Reversible Cables," "Introduction to Versa Lace," "Garter Tab Beginning," "Hole Story," "Seeing Double Knitting," and "Modular Mystique." Varian Brandon will also be there teaching Fair Isle and other stranded color techniques.

Southeast Fiber Forum, Gatlinburg TN, Thursday through Sunday 4 through 7 April 2019. This show is primarily about weaving, spinning, and dyeing. It is a great get-away weekend and a chance to stay at the famous Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Smoky Mountain Spinnery is right up the street.

Unwind, Blowing Rock NC, Friday through Monday 26 through 29 April 2019. This is the wonderful retreat organized by Nancy Shroyer of Nancy's Knit Knacks. This year's teachers are Laura Barker, Mimi Kezer, Hannah Thiessen, and Jeffrey Wall. Classes are already listed. Registration opens on Sunday 4 November and tends to sell out fast (only 48 slots), so be prepared! Update on Monday 12 November 2018: Registration completely filled. If you want to attend, you'll have to wait until 2020.

Georgia Mountain Needle Arts Festival, Gilmer County Convention Center in Ellijay GA, Friday through Sunday 26-28 April 2019. This is the second year of this delightful festival.

Maryland Sheep and Wool, West Friendship MD, Saturday and Sunday 4 & 5 May 2019. Again, this huge show is maybe a little bit out of our region but well worth the travel. If you need your fix of fresh fleece, live animals, workshops, fiber arts competition, a huge market with many of your favorite vendors, and a fairground, this is your 6-month stop between last year's SAFF and the next one.

STITCHES United, Atlanta GA, Thursday through Sunday 30 May through 2 June 2019. On Saturday I'll be teaching "Brioche Rosetta Stone" and "Knit Faster with Combination Knitting." Atlanta Knitting Guild member Phyllis Bell Miller will also be teaching. It has been a few years since STITCHES was here. Cobb Galleria has changed. There's a baseball stadium just across the expressway. There's indoor skydiving up the street. There are many more restaurants. There's even a pedestrian bridge across I-285 and new express toll lanes. STITCHES has changed, too. United includes knitting but also quilting, spinning, crochet, weaving, dyeing, and designing. After the long wait, this is bound to be a fabulous show.

Blue Ridge Fiber Fest, Sparta NC, Friday and Saturday 7 & 8 June 2019. This show in only its second year includes classes and a market. It is a 6-hour drive from Atlanta, up in the mountains in North Carolina. I will be teaching "Modular Mystique," "Easy Reversible Cables," "Garter Tab Beginning," "Hole Story," "Judy's Magic Cast-On," and "Liberating the Labyrinth." Atlanta will probably be hot and sticky by early June. This show is a nice excuse to drive up to the mountains. Classes run the gamut of dyeing, weaving, braiding, knitting, tatting, and more!

17 December 2018

Crocheted Violets

I must admit, this is another of those projects that probably doesn't have enough "Wow!" factor given the amount of time.

The pattern comes from a 1989 Annie's Attic pamphlet titled "My Wild Irish Bows." As you might guess from the name, the collection of seven designs are all hair accessories worked in traditional Irish crochet motifs. The samples in the booklet were worked entirely in white size 10 crochet cotton, with the exception of one project worked in size 5 crochet cotton. I got the pamphlet at a North Georgia Knitting Guild meeting. I believe the guild library was destashing. Since this booklet is all crochet projects, it didn't really fit in.

For some reason, I looked at the project labeled "Flower Fall" and thought it looked like a spray of African violets. I decided to work it in color. I finished the little violets in short order (using a 1.65mm metal crochet hook). But then I tried the leaves and wasn't happy with the pattern as written. The project sat for a couple years. Every once in awhile I would open my crochet hook case and think I had lost the #7 metal hook. Then I would dig through the unfinished projects pile and discover the bag with the hook, pattern booklet, skeins of size 5 embroidery cotton, and pile of purple flowers.

In an effort to open up more space on the shelves, I was looking for a quick-to-finish project out of the unfinished pile. Of course, I did not realize this would not be a quick-to-finish project until after I was well into the quagmire. I ended up changing the leaves to work them in knitting on US size 0000 needles/1.25mm rather than using crochet. They are worked in versa lace, but without any yarn overs. In other words, they are worked in 1×1 ribbing. Rather than making crochet chains for the dangling leaves, I worked the cords on a hairpin lace loom, using it as if it were a lucet. This produced dangles that look good on both sides, although the ones with flowers have a definite right-side and wrong-side.

After all of the crocheting and knitting, I still needed to assemble the pieces. Just like Percy the Polar Bear, this project was very much about spending lots of time using loose ends to carefully join pieces. It probably took 3-5 hours just to attach all the flowers, and then another 3-4 hours to attach all the little yellow beads.

The final result is about 4½ inches wide by 8 inches tall. It is finished except for attaching it to a barrette or hair comb, and then weaving in the last few loose ends from the leaves. The final aesthetic result is walking a line. Is it pretty enough to wear, or will it be too kitchy?

My guess is I have probably 30-40 hours of work in this thing. But, at least it is no longer taking up space on the shelf. And it has improved my appreciation for Irish crochet. To anyone who is thinking about making one of these for a formal affair such as a prom or wedding, give yourself plenty of time. You probably don't want to commit to making a bunch of them for the bridesmaids.

01 December 2018

'Tis the Season

As stated previously, 2018 was a surprisingly unproductive year. I can't really explain why it was so unproductive, other than a lot of travel and the Mensa regional gathering. I've been looking around the house at stacks of unread textile books and magazines as well as unfinished (or unstarted) projects. I was looking for something small and quick to get me back into the groove.

I purchased issue #138/October 2015 of Simply Knitting magazine when I was at Unwind back in April. There was a silent auction to benefit a local charity. I think I bid $1. Nobody bid against me. The magazine came with the yarn pack to make a cute little knitted holiday polar bear.

The pattern is by Alan Dart, who is well-known in the United Kingdom for exactly this type of knitting pattern. He has many, many patterns for cute little knitted people and animals as well as a fan group on Ravelry. If you have a large stash of scraps, Mr. Dart's pattern oeuvre could be just the thing to clear out the bin of mini-skeins. I should give you fair warning, however. While the knitting is technically, rather quick, the finishing is not. If you are looking for an opportunity to practice sewing seams, this is a great project. If you would rather knit mindlessly, look elsewhere.

I must admit to changing the pattern. All the pieces are written for flat back-and-forth knitting which is then seamed. Mr. Dart does kindly include a one-stitch seam allowance. In many cases, this meant eliminating two stitches when converting a piece from flat to in-the-round. For example, I worked each ear as 10 stitches in the round rather than 12 stitches flat. There were seams in strange placed. For example, the pattern has a seam down the middle of the foot. I changed this by casting-on using Judy's magic and working outward in the round for the black paw pad and then up the leg in cream. I also worked the arms in the round, but this meant having to deal with garter stitch in the round at the cuff trim and working the paw pads in circular modular intarsia.

I eliminated some sewing. Since the legs are worked sole upwards, I plunged the live stitches through the bear body and bound them off inside the bear. The arms are worked in the other direction, which meant picking up stitches through the bear body. The ears were supposed to be attached to the hood. Instead, I picked them up through the head, worked in the round (adding an extra round of height) and then bound off using Kitchener grafting. I combined the hood and the trim piece on the front of the jacket. This meant for some unorthodox knitting, including a provisional cast-on for only part of the element as well as stitches in both directions that needed to be plunged into the jacket and bound off inside. And I added holes in the hood so the ears can peek through as well as joining the hood at back with Kitchener grafting rather than an obvious seam. The advantage of all the picking up and plunging down is that the arms and legs are attached very firmly. I like to think this is a toy that is not coming apart easily.

The embroidery, picking up, plunging down, converting from flat to in-the-round, vertical lifelines, grafting, and just the generally small-ish size made the project fairly fiddly. It was definitely not a mindless while-I-watch-television project. I think I'd prefer a pattern where the whole bear is worked as one piece with a mattress stitch seam at the back to accommodate stuffing. Even the size is a little odd. At 6½ inches/16 cm tall, the bear is definitely too big and heavy to be an ornament, but it is a little small to cuddle. I guess it is the perfect size to tuck on a shelf where it can mark the spot where Dickens' A Christmas Carol should reside.

The final bear is cute. I stuffed him with cotton lint leftover from medicine bottles. There are several people on Ravelry who have worked this pattern with a fuzzy novelty yarn for the jacket trim, and that's a very successful choice I would embrace if working the pattern again. There's also a lady who made two, working a red skirt for the second bear so as to have a Mrs. Santa version. I've finished my bear just in time for the holiday season.

27 November 2018


During the first weekend of November, I took a two-day sprang workshop with Carol James. Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance offered the class in this amazing but rare technique.

I was interested in the technique because it is sometimes confused with knit and crochet in historic collections. Center for Knit and Crochet at some point will want to have resources on their website to help curators and collectors discern among knit and crochet as well as tatting, nålebinding, sprang, and the like. When we reach that point, I want to be useful.

I came away with an appreciation for this amazing technique that dates all the way back to the bronze age. Carol showed us a picture of a Greek vase where the weaver appears to be making sprang. (There's an archeology journal article here.) The technique was common in European military sashes, which is how Carol was introduced to it through her business producing military sashes for reenactors. She also showed us pictures of Medieval costumes showing tights with vertical stripes. And apparently some of the ancient Greek statues showing naked Greeks fighting clothed Persians may have been depicting Persians in colorful sprang costumes. This technique excited me both as a textile enthusiast and an art historian.

I found Carol's arguments persuasive that some items identified from pictures as knitting might be sprang — for example, the tights or leggings with vertical stripes. In knitting, this is difficult to do. I would do it using circular intarsia, which is an advanced technique. If knitting were common, you would expect to see horizontal stripes in leg wear. In sprang, however, vertical stripes are very easy. In fact, vertical stripes might make the project easier and faster to work!

It is hard to exaggerate the horizontal stretch of sprang. This stretch is inherent to the fabric, allowing for horizontal stretch even in fibers with no stretch, such as cotton, linen, or silk. There is no vertical stretch. Horizontal stretch when activated will, of course, cause the fabric to shorten vertically.

In a nutshell, sprang is a cloth-making technique akin to weaving.
  • Easy to set-up — only a simple frame or a couple of sticks.
  • Weft-less — requires a warp but no weft.
  • Very little loom waste.
  • Relatively fast (compared with knitting).
  • Creates two mirrored pieces of fabric.
  • Can be worked as a flat rectangle (like a scarf) or as a circular warp (a rectangle that comes around and meets itself, such as an infinity scarf).
  • Has a lot of horizontal stretch but a lot of vertical stability.
  • Excellent for vertical stripes, hand-dyed yarns, intentional pooling, and other striping or ikat-like effect.
In a wider warp you would use sticks because thread capacity would exceed hand size, but in class we used narrow warps and manipulated the threads using our fingers. On Saturday, Carol was wearing a sprang garment in different colors that was made from ten pieces sewn together.

The pictures are details from a lace practice sampler I made using variegated sock yarn. The patterns were written for a warp of 36 threads, but I ran out of yarn and had a warp of only 34 threads. Elements to notice:
  • The center line. Above it, the fabric is Z-twist. Below it, the fabric is S-twist.
  • Gauge. My Z-twist was packed in tighter than my S-twist. Beating both sides evenly is definitely a skill achieved through practice.
  • When relaxed, patterning is hidden. Patterns in sprang are most visible when the fabric is stretched.
If you'd like to see some of Carol's amazing work, you can visit her gallery of sprang here. You can find her YouTube videos posted as sashweaver here. For example, her video on circular warp is here.

There is a video here where Carol talks about recreating George Washington's sash. Truly a monumental achievement!

15 November 2018

The Power of Color

I've gotten very little knitting accomplished in 2018. I did, however, do some spinning.

Mountain Colors Summertime + Ruby Red (above)
Mountain Colors Ruby Red + Ruby Red (below)
I have a vision for a little red riding hood costume for Dragon*Con. I think it would be great to make the whole cape out of handspun. Ideally, I'd like the entire outfit to be handwoven, hand-knitted, crocheted, sprang-ed, and the like. I've been buying and spinning red. I don't have a plan. My thought is just to make a big pile of red yarn using my default spinning technique, then figure out what goes where. I also have some fleeces with locks, as I think an edging of locks on the cape would be dramatic.

I decided to spin some of the red Mountain Colors Bluefaced Leicester in my stash. Let me just pause right now and say, I adore Mountain Colors. Their colorways are rich, saturated, and vibrant. I had three bumps of Ruby River. Is there a better basic red out there? My original plan was to use all three bumps together, making 2-ply yarns for weaving. But I also noticed in the stash a bump of the Summertime colorway, which has red but also orange and blue-greens.

I'm on the e-mail list for Interweave, receiving the newsletters for knitting, spinning, and weaving. I no longer remember which posts I saw — probably at least one by Deborah Held — that recommended taming a crazy colorway by plying it with a solid or close-to-solid colorway. Jillian Moreno demonstrates this technique in her 12 Ways to Spin Handpainted Top video. This is also a trick to get a large quantity of yarn for a big project (sweater?) out of a stash filled with assorted bumps acquired after random failed Will saves. Basically, you can take a bunch of related but not identical colorways and ply them to a common colorway to make them look like they all belong together. And a solid colorway can also make something that would be way too loud and stripey calm down and look painterly and artistic.

So, that's what I did. I made one skein of Ruby Red on Ruby Red and another skein of Ruby Red with Sumertime.

They both look good.

The barber pole effect is more pronounced in the mixed colorway. But I also think it will play with a field of assorted reds.

Of course, now I am thinking they would also look great in a knitted project, shifting back and forth between the not-quite-solid and the barber pole. And, since I am also following Jen Arnall-Culliford's helical knitting posts, I am thinking this would be an interesting pair of yarns for helical knitting.

13 November 2018

Janet Johnson Stephens 1931-2018

Jan Stephens (7 December 1931 - 22 September 2018) was my friend and mentor. I was asked to speak at her memorial service last Saturday, 10 November, which was also Skacel's day to create 10,000 new knitters. Below is a version of my comments.

Knitting is about turning something that is intangible — love — into something tangible. You can feel love, but you can't see it. It isn't as if you can sit love on a table in good light, take a picture of it, and post it on Instagram. When we knit a scarf for the child going off to college — in the school colors, of course — or an heirloom baby blanket for that precious new arrival, or a chemo hat for a stranger going through one of the toughest years of his or her life, we are turning love into something that can be seen. We are saying, "You are loved. You are important to someone. You are cared about."

Jan loved two things — people and knitting. It isn't surprising, as the one followed logically from the other.

There are several people who couldn't attend today to honor Jan. I sent out a few e-mail requests for stories. Here are some of the replies.

Possibly Jan's best friend in the area was Nancy Barke. Nancy mentioned how Jan had a great memory for people and names. They would attend an event together. On the way home, Jan would say, "Did you meet so-and-so?"  Jan would know this person's name, how many children she had, what she did for a living, and all sorts of things. Nancy would be saying, "Who was that? Was she the one in the plaid skirt?" As Nancy wrote of Jan, "She never forgot anybody." As her daughters Jane and Karen have already mentioned, Jan knew people everywhere she went. You could walk through an airport on the other side of the country, and Jan knew somebody! Knitting gave Jan an easy way to meet people.

I don't remember when I met Jan. I am guessing it was at an Atlanta Knitting Guild meeting? Freida mentioned walking into an Atlanta Knitting Guild meeting for the first time and being overwhelmed by all the people. Jan, of course, welcomed Freida and invited her to sit down next to her. I got to know Jan best through North Georgia Knitting Guild. Jan was an enthusiastic charter member when our guild was founded in the summer of 2007. We had next to no money. We couldn't afford to pay speakers. I looked back at my records. Jan gave three programs that first year. She had helped found the knitting guild in Cleveland. She gave generously of her skills so that North Georgia Knitting Guild could get up and going.

Jan supported more than just North Georgia Knitting Guild. She supported knitting in general whole-heartedly. She was involved with The Knitting Guild Association from early on. She wrote articles and patterns for Cast On magazine. She taught at shows.

Jan had a love of knitting history, of the humanity of it. She didn't just want to know how to replicate historic knitting. She wanted to know why someone had made it. When Center for Knit and Crochet started in 2014, Jan was a charter member. She even listened in on the annual meeting conference call. She asked questions and cheered us on. Jan made a donation of the presentation she had written about the history of knitting. She donated slides she had taken herself on travels to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada, among others.

I asked Beth Brown-Reinsel to recount for me a story I had heard Jan tell. Beth was doing research, and Jan suggested Beth contact the American History Museum in Washington, D.C. Beth did. Jan wanted to come along. When they arrived, they discovered the Smithsonian had rules about who could and couldn't go behind the scenes. Basically, Beth and Jan spent the day pretending Jan was Beth's research assistant. As Beth wrote," I remember we were amazed at the incredibly beautiful christening dress, and the horribly tacky and worn baby bootie —  both ends of the spectrum!" That would have been like Jan to appreciate all of it, the masterpieces as well as the novice projects.

Jan mentored others. She was a mentor to Beth, when Beth joined The Knitting Guild Association Designer Group. And she was a mentor to me.

My big chance to get to know Jan better was when we attended The Knitting Guild Association show in Concord, North Carolina in October 2013. I don't remember who approached whom. Somehow, we figured out we were both attending and decided to share a hotel room. I happily agreed to do the driving. By that point, Jan's health was already interfering in some of the things she wanted to do. She rented a scooter for the weekend, so she could get around the spacious convention facility. I didn't realize I would be Jan's minion for the weekend. Remember, she knew everybody. I knew that it was going to be an important weekend for me, but I didn't realize how important. As I accompanied her, Jan introduced me to many people who are important in our industry. At the Saturday evening banquet. Penny Sitler presented Jan with an honorary lifetime membership in the Knitting Guild Association, to honor and thank Jan for her tireless work for the organization.

In addition to her contributions through writing and teaching, Jan created the correspondence course The Knitting Guild Association still uses to train and certify knitting judges. Jan loved competitions, probably because she wanted everyone to be a good knitters, newbies through masters. Nancy Barke recalled how Jan had encouraged (pestered?) her to submit items to the Georgia State Fair. Nancy kept saying no, she wouldn't win any ribbons and it was too much trouble. Finally, Jan bet a hot fudge sundae on the outcome. Not only did Nancy win several ribbons, she won best in show. Jan got her hot fudge sundae.

This makes me think maybe Jan had a fondness for sweets? On our drive up to North Carolina, Jan insisted we stop at Cracker Barrel for lunch. Not only did we eat Coca-Cola cake there, but Jan purchased a generous portion so we could continue to enjoy it throughout the weekend. I had never heard of Coca-Cola cake. Now, I will always associate it with Jan.

Getting back to the competitions — North Georgia Knitting Guild has an annual competition because Jan encouraged us. I've submitted items to our guild's competition, as well as Maryland Sheep and Wool and Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair. I almost certainly would not have done this if not for Jan's enthusiasm and encouragement.

I need to tell you the story of this grey scarf. As Jan and Bob downsized from their home, I've helped disperse items. When I attended their moving sale, Jan had a ginormous cedar chest. It looked like a movie prop where the villian would hide three or four bodies. Even the woman organizing the sale said she had never seen a cedar chest of that size. Quite a stash! Jan loved yarn. Penny Sitler remarked that Jan literally showed her love of yarn, as Jan decided in her 70s to get a yarn tattoo on her arm.

Bob called me over in the spring of this year, when Jan couldn't knit any longer. I gathered up the last of her needles and yarn. Some of it was used for Knit In Public Day, which gave us a chance to create new knitters. And then Bob called me in August to gather the last few items. That was the last time I saw Jan. We went in to visit. Her room was small. She didn't have any yarn or books or knitting needles. But she had all those shadowboxes of competition ribbons hanging up. It was as if her résumé was there on the wall, for anyone to read. I thanked Jan for being my mentor. And I showed her the grey scarf I had designed, and told her it would be in the next issue of Cast On magazine. When Bob and I talked after our visit, I asked if Jan's eyes had brightened just a little when I got out that scarf. Bob admitted that yes, maybe they had.

Debby L. Johnson wrote, "I will always remember her fondly and like to imagine Jan, now, knitting in heaven with fibers not yet imagined on earth!"

To close, let me tell you why I am wearing this little green stocking. This is a pattern Jan wrote. It is worked back and forth and then seamed, rather than working in the round and using a heel turn, so that even a newbie knitter can make it. That would be like Jan, to want to include everyone. There were even a couple of these still on the needles when I dispersed the last of her knitting supplies. Jan had a big stack of these when we went to North Carolina. As went went around the show, Jan kept introducing me to people and handing out these stocking ornaments. It took me about a day to figure out what she was doing. She suspected Concord was going to be her last show. Travel had become too difficult. There were lots of people she had worked with over the years whom she was not likely to see again. As she was handing out these ornaments, she was saying, "Goodbye. You have been my friend. I value you." She was making her affection and friendship visible, so we would always see it and know it is there.

Thank you, Jan, for all you did to make us better knitters and better people.

08 November 2018

Brûlée 2003 - 2018

I don't know who it was, but somebody played the "everyone discard down to one cat" card. Several of my friends have lost cats this year, including one who started out the year with three cats and lost two.

Brûlée's appetite had been waning, but he was otherwise acting like himself. We tried some medications to improve his appetite, but they didn't seem to help. A couple weeks ago, my veterinarian performed an ultrasound. There was a lot that was normal, but a couple places in Brûlée's upper and lower small intestine were a little odd. We already knew he had some kidney insufficiency issues. The veterinarian suggested doing biopsy surgery. I let that thought sit for a couple weeks. Then, Brûlée definitely did not have a good day on Sunday. He didn't greet me at the bottom of the stairs, meowing his usual greeting of, "Chop, chop, human! I'm hungry! Get with it!" One of us would reward him with an egg toy full of treats. Since Brûlée was clearly feeling poorly, I decided to schedule him for the surgery on Tuesday.

While the surgery went well, recovery did not. There were underlying issues, especially with his liver. Instead of going into a long decline, Brûlée went quickly. That was like him, to decide he couldn't be the destructive chaotic criminal mastermind anymore, and say, "I am out of here!"

Cuddly Hubby and I said, "Goodbye," this afternoon.

The end of next month will mark a decade since I lost Copernicus. I didn't think I'd be back here again so soon. And Brûlée has definitely been the one waving the "Copernicus sent me" memo. He was always too smart for his own good. He had lots of enthusiasm, as if to say, "Ha, ha! I get to play the cat. Look at me! I'm climbing and scratching and attacking." He loved sticking his pointy bits in things. And while he could sometimes be annoying by knocking things over, eating plants, stepping places he maybe shouldn't, or rolling in things he shouldn't; I adored his enthusiasm for being himself. When he was happy — especially because someone was giving him skritches — he would roll over. Cuddly Hubby referred to this as "losing roll control." It was adorable behavior.

Brûlée also liked to spelunk. When he was frightened, he would crawl up underneath the couch cover. I eventually started leaving his cat bed on the couch with the Pendleton blanket draped across it, to form a nice tent. It was a favorite place for an afternoon nap. And I had to remind people to be careful before sitting on the couch. Look for the cat-shaped blob!

When the Cuddly Hubby got a temporary transfer home, he and Brûlée started a habit of the evening enrichment. Brûlée would get at one end of the downstairs hall. Cuddly Hubby would toss cat treats. Brûlée would smack them and eat them. Or the treat would get past him and be stuck underneath the gate; and he would give it an enthusiastic whack to dig it back out. Huzzah!

Brûlée was primarily the criminal mastermind of chaos and mischief and trouble, while Vincent was the patsy. My favorite memory is from years ago, when I heard a, "Thunk!" in the kitchen. I came around the corner from the den into the living room to see Brûlée quickly strike a nonchalant pose as if he had no idea what had happened. I went in the kitchen, and there was Vincent in the middle of the mess as if to say, "Brûlée, why do you want me to hold this smoking gun?"

If the purpose of life is to live in the moment — carpe diem — then Brûlée had that figured out. I referred to him as "The Great Brûlée" for his outsized personality. Our veterinarian called him "Mr. Beautiful" or "Hollywood" because he was beautiful and always perfectly groomed. He was such a metrosexual. For him, the look was key.

While I may be playing lawful good, Brûlée was playing chaotic neutral. He was "The Mighty Hunter" because he loved to catch cat toys. He especially enjoyed destroying feather toys or attacking foil balls. And he had a noticeably distinct meow that was his, "Look at me! I caught something! I'm so clever!" cry.

But mostly I called him my "Criminal Mastermind." In the end, he stole my heart.

He may have started out as Bruce's cat, but he ended up as mine. When the pair came to my house in that dreadful summer of 2009, I figured I would be replacing cats sometime between 2016 and 2020. So here we are, two days after the midterm election. I had hoped to get ten years with them. I got nine years and four months from Brûlée. Looking back at blog posts and photographs as I write this, I can see that Brûlée helped me heal.  He helped fill in the big gaping hole in my heart left by the departures of Copernicus and Sophie. Brûlée had personality elements of both. Both Cuddly Hubby and I have many photographs of Brûlée; his antics were such a regular occurrence. I'm so grateful he was part of my world for as long as he was.

And for those of you wondering, Vincent is still here, but not in great shape. This picture was taken just a few days ago, after Cuddly Hubby and I both returned from being away for five days. (I was at SAFF; Cuddly Hubby was at a college reunion.) We even boarded both cats with the veterinarian because of their health issues. Brûlée hopped up on the couch and spread out in my lap. Vincent climbed up on to the couch as well. They were both glad to see me. And I was delighted to sit and enjoy the company of my two precious feline companions. I'm thankful Cuddly Hubby captured this moment of the feline electron cloud in close orbitals. The pain is real, because the love is real.

30 October 2018

SAFF 2018 Debrief

As you may have guessed by how few posts I have done this year, 2018 has been a little hectic. All the more reason to greet last weekend for my annual trek to Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair.

As usual, I taught many classes. I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach at this wonderful show! Walking around the workshop building, I see so many people I admire. Thank you to Lisa and Anne Marie for their great job guiding all the instructors through the teaching process.

I did not do much shopping this year. Partly that is due to my large stash. Partly that was due to my busy teaching schedule. I did pick up a few things.

I picked this up from Hippie Chix Fiber Art. This is one of my favorite vendors for spinning fiber, as they have tremendous variety. I was hoping they would have glow in the dark fiber from Kreinik. No such luck. But they did have this inexpensive Dorper top. I bought 8 ounces for about $12.50. I have a spinning weekend coming up in January. I've been spinning for a specific weaving project for awhile. I think I need a break. At this point, I'd like to spend a few days with "play" fiber and just try different things. I bought Jacey Bogg's 51 Yarns when it came out. Since the Dorper is non-precious fiber, I can use it to try a variety of techniques. It may not be the best suited to everything, but it should give me plenty for practice, experimentation, and illumination.

Carol James books
Ursula's Alcove had some lovely items (including bone weaving tools). She also happened to have sprang books by Carol James. I'm signed up for Carol James' 2-day sprang workshop this weekend at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance. Coming across these two books was serendipitous. For those of you who are multi-craftual, note the lace pattern on the right edge of the sprang lace book cover is very similar to the strawberry Orenburg lace pattern.

I've previously picked up a couple of the Saori clothing books from HanDen Studios. People talk about being either a process or a product crafter. I'm probably closer to a product crafter — I like to use what I make — but I also enjoy learning new processes. I adore the look of Saori weaving. This book is the basic introductory book. While I don't plan to purchase a Saori loom, it is possible to weave in the Saori method on a table or even rigid-heddle loom. And for someone who sometimes spins art yarns, Saori is a great way to show off those special yarns.

Oh, I almost forgot — I won two blue ribbons in the fiber arts competition.
I entered the red and black snowflake twill pillow that I wove so I would be more comfortable in my car on long trips. I entered it mostly because it uses Aunt Lydia's crochet cotton, which is ubiquitous at the big box craft stores. I wanted other weavers to see that this inexpensive 3-ply can make good fabric. I entered the grey scarf I designed for the fall issue of Cast On magazine just to drum up interest in the magazine. When I picked up my items on Sunday, I learned there were very few entries in the crochet category. So, this is a reminder to everyone for next year — please consider entering items. Part of the fun of a show like this is seeing what other people have done. I always discover a new technique or an example of something I would not have tried that worked out brilliantly.

Thank you to all the volunteers, vendors, and participants that make SAFF such a delightful gathering of our fiber community!

27 September 2018

Off Topic — When Will Hollywood Be Ready for an "Ugly" Heroine?

As stated, this post is a little off-topic. But, as this is a blog about knitting and the readership tends to skew female, I decided to include it.

Back in late March, Steven Spielberg (Amblin Entertainment) released in theaters Ready Player One, based on the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline. I've read the book twice or, more accurately, listened to the audiobook performed delightfully by Wil Wheaton. The story is set in a not-too-distant dystopian future (2044), in which most people spend their time online in the OASIS, a fully-immersive online virtual reality. The book is a love-letter to 1980s popular culture, especially geek culture. It has references to Dungeons and Dragons, Monty Python, television, music, and various video and arcade games. It is quintessentially a Gen X story in the way Forrest Gump was a Baby Boomer story. Much of the story's action takes place in the online simulation where there is a universe-wide hunt for Halliday's Easter Egg. In that world, our hero's name is Parzival and the heroine is Art3mis. Parzival's best friend is Aech (pronounced as the letter "H").

There are three places in the book when Art3mis's physique is described:

On page 35:
She occasionally posted screenshots of her raven-haired avatar, and I sometimes (always) saved them to a folder on my hard drive. Her avatar had a pretty face, but it wasn't unnaturally perfect. In the OASIS, you got used to seeing freakishly beautiful faces on everyone. But Art3mis's features didn't look as though they'd been selected from a beauty drop-down menu on some avatar creation template. Her face had the distinctive look of a real person's, as if her true features had been scanned in and mapped onto her avatar. Big hazel eyes, rounded cheekbones, a pointy chin, and a perpetual smirk. I found her unbearably attractive.

Art3mis's body was also somewhat unusual. In the OASIS, you usually saw one of two body shapes on female avatars; the absurdly thin yet wildly popular supermodel frame, or the top-heavy, wasp-waisted porn starlet physique (which looked even less natural in the OASIS than it did in the real world). But Art3mis's frame was short and Rubenesque. All curves.

On pages 291-2:
At the very top was a school photo of a young girl with a distinctly sad smile. To my surprise, she looked almost identical to her avatar. The same dark hair, the same hazel eyes, and the same beautiful face I knew so well . . . .
. . .
The data below the photo said . . . that she was a twenty-year-old Canadian citizen, five feet and seven inches tall, and that she weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds.

And on page 370:
She looked just as she had in the photo I'd seen. She had the same Rubenesque body. The same pale, freckled skin. The same hazel eyes and raven hair. The same beautiful round face . . . .

Even with an Internet search, I couldn't find how many copies of Ready Player One (the novel) have been sold. It was on the New York Times best-seller list and is well-ranked on Amazon, so I am guessing in the millions. Let's just classify it as wildly successful. Steven Spielberg directed the movie. Industrial Light and Magic led the visual effects. The film had a built-in pedigree. So here's my question, should I ever corner Mr. Spielberg in an elevator, "Why couldn't you cast someone who looks like Art3mis in Ready Player One?"

This is not to knock Olivia Cook. As an actress, she is capable of playing the role. But, Art3mis's physicality and her unabashed relationship to it is important to who she is as a character. Part of why readers like Art3mis is that she is comfortable in her own skin. In a world where you can be whoever you want, she chooses to be herself. And what does it say about Hollywood that a film with a built-in audience can't cast a woman who is 5'7", 168 pounds, with black hair, hazel eyes, freckles, and a curvy physique? What is the message Hollywood is sending? And Mr. Spielberg, why are you complicit in this when you are one of the most powerful people in Hollywood?

For those of you in Generation X — the reliable but ignored middle child of American demographics — the Living Computers museum + labs in Seattle has something special. Through the end of 2018 they have the special exhibit Totally 80s Rewind. CNN reports on it here, with pictures that remind me of Aech's basement. I was thinking it would be very difficult to recreate the climactic scene of Ready Player One (novel) because it involves a room filled with computers representing the history of computer gaming. It turns out there is a museum in Seattle that makes Halliday's vision possible every day. Mr. Spielberg, why didn't you work with them? J. J. Abrams, can I convince you to shoot a remake?

15 August 2018

Book Review: Something New to Learn About Cables

Sometimes the universe seems to say, "Ok, this is the moment for X." For me this summer, the universe is all about cables.

Last weekend I bought a copy of Something New to Learn About Cables by Arnall-Culliford Knitwear. I am guessing Jen and Jim are a married couple in Frome, Somerset, the United Kingdom? After reading this book, I am already interested in their other books Something New to Learn About Lace and A Year of Techniques. And I would eagerly sign up for a class if I saw them on the schedule at a major knitting show. I will happily plop them into the knitting pantheon, right next to TECHknitter.

Why do I like this book so much?

First off, I like the small format. The book is 6¼ by 8¼ inches. While 8½ by 11 or 8 by 10 is a common size, it may or may not fit easily in a knitting bag. I like a smallish book that can be tucked into my bag. And there is a sticker inside with a download code for Ravelry, so I can have a digital copy on my iPad or print just the pages I need to pack with a project. The digital download is even broken up into individual chapters or the whole book, depending on your needs and download speed.

Secondly, this book is packed with interesting techniques and wisdom. A list:
  • cabling without a cable needle
  • cabling 1 by 1 without a cable needle
  • cabling right cross and left cross
  • counting rows using waste yarn
  • counting rows using your finger and the cable cross hole
  • fixing cables by dropping the whole group of wales
  • fixing cables by dropping half the group of wales
  • fixing traveling cables by dropping wales
  • fixing cables by embroidering over them
  • fixing cables by cutting and grafting
  • working axis cables
  • working faux axis cables
  • adjusting loose stitches at the knit-purl interface using combination knitting
  • adjusting loose stitches at the knit-purl interface using slip stitches
  • 1-into-5 increase for starting a closed-loop cable
  • 5-into-1 decrease for ending a closed-loop cable
  • choosing yarn wisely for cable projects

Some of these I had not seen before. Some of these — such as fixing a cable by dropping wales — I teach but had not seen other people talking about it. I had tried the technique of dropping half the cable once in class and it did work, but I had not seen anybody else try it or write about it. In my pattern for the fall issue of Cast On, I did show the trick of counting rows by looking for the cable cross hole. I've never seen the trick of using slip stitches to improve tension at the knit-purl interface. This book is uncovering the obscure tricks intermediate and advanced knitters use.

The book has just a few projects, all of them interesting to knit. There is a gorgeous hat, some mittens/mitts, and a hexagon-based modular blanket that can also be worked as a short or long cowl.

If you have any interest in ever knitting cables, scoop up this essential book now. I need to go track down their other two books.

14 August 2018

Classic and Refined

One of my weaknesses as a designer is that I tend to be too complicated. I get wrapped up in new techniques or projects that highlight extreme craftsmanship and forget that a lot of people just want to sit and knit and relax.

Back in April, I had just taught my "Easy Reversible Cables" class at Unwind. I was still traveling when I read the e-mail announcing a second call for proposals for the autumn issue of Cast On magazine. I was surprised that more people weren't already familiar with the reversible cables technique, especially since Lily Chin has been teaching it for more than a decade. So I proposed a rather simple scarf.

The autumn issue of Cast On went live last week. You can read it on and download it from the TKGA website, if you are a member and log in.

"Legerdemain" is a good basic scarf. As with so many of my designs, I have thought about the details.
  • Italian cast-on and a tubular bind-off gives the scarf a clean couture beginning and end.
  • Ribbles make it reversible (as scarves should be), as well as making the fabric thicker.
  • Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, which is a sport weight 50/50 alpaca-wool blend, gives the scarf warmth, drape, and just a hint of halo.
  • The moonshadow grey colorway is unisex.
  • The pattern is easy to work and easy to remember
  • The overall design is un-fussy and classic.
If you have been waiting for an excuse to learn to do ribbles, or you want to teach someone else, this pattern provides an entrée. And the completed scarf should be a wardrobe mainstay for years to come. This would make an excellent gift for a loved one taking a job in a new, colder locale. You can work it in a neutral, as I have, for years of wear. Or you can work it in a favorite color (perhaps from a sports team?). Or what about the hot designer color of the season for the daring fashionista? Or for a subtler look that has impact without being obvious, work it in the eye color, the complementary eye-color, the complementary skin color, or the complementary hair-color of the intended wearer.

And a final note: this pattern would be very easy to adapt. You can scale it and the cables themselves up and down. I think it would make a fantastic blanket either for a new baby (worked in a parent-friendly yarn choice) or for a special couple, or for that suddenly grown-up child flying away from the nest.

11 July 2018

First Trip to TNNA, part 2

And what else did I see at TNNA?

Wholesale yarns:

Aalta Yarn. A vendor out of Pennsylvania. Several good, solid bases for sweaters. And she has nice gradient cakes for shawls.

Alexandra's Crafts. A hand-dyer from Oregon. She also carries spinning fiber and a nice travel lazy kate.

Ancient Arts. I knew this hand-dyer from advertising and patterns in Interweave Knits. They have a wonderful range of beautiful colors upstaged by colorways based on cats and dogs.

Anzula. Hand-dyed yarns in luxury bases. Proof that cashmere goes with everything.

Baa Ram Ewe. Anglophile knitters, rejoice! This vendor proudly "celebrates Yorkshire and its rich woolly heritage." They carry locally-sourced and spun yarn, as well as patterns that will make you look like you belong on BBC America.

Baah Yarn. Hand-dyer from southern California with a nice range — self-striping, speckled, variegated, solids, and kettle-dyed effects. They also have special monthly colors.

Bellatrista. Milk and soy yarns. They also have Menta, a viscose yarn made from peppermint. How's that for the knitter/crocheter who has tried everything?

Black Cat Fibers. Etsy hand-dyers from Wisconsin. Many of their yarns have names from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Planning to attend STITCHES United next summer, so opportunity to ogle their wares in person is coming.

Brew City Yarns. Hand-dyed yarn with clever names based on geek culture. For example, the "Galaxy Far, Far Away" mini-skein set includes the colors "Bounty Hunter," "Droids," "Sith Lord," "Do or Do Not," and "Like my Father." Their summer 2018 shawl kit is a house-sorting kit for witches and wizards. Not yet carried by anyone in Georgia.

Delicious Yarns. This hand-dyer deserve credit just for her clever photographs. Talk about taking a theme and running with it! She offers several color stylings including gradient, swirl, or speckles.

Dirty Water DyeWorks. This hand-dyer has big skeins — more than 8 ounces in Targhee, Polwarth-silk blend, or Blue Faced Leicester.

Dragonfly Fibers. Someone I know from Maryland Sheep and Wool, SAFF, and STITCHES. Excellent hand-dying and fabulous gradients.

Emma's Yarn. These indie dyers are two sisters from Florida. From what I can tell, they are relatively new on the scene. Their yarn is beautiful, their bases are good, and they even have a merino-nylon-cashmere blend that is 600 yards per skein. I hope to see them again at SAFF or STITCHES.

Fairy Tale Knits. Indie dyer with geeky colorways. She has semi-solids as well as speckles. And she carries Rambouillet yarn.

Feederbrook Farm. A real working farm just outside Baltimore, Maryland. They have a variety of breeds-specific yarn including Black Welsh, Cormo, Finn, and Teeswater. Their Entropy yarn nicely mimics marled handspun.

The Fiber Seed. Hand-dyer out of Florida with a tremendous range of colors in solids, speckles, and stripes. Her yarn is all grown and spun in the USA and hand-dyed in Florida

A Hundred Ravens. Someone else I know from the wool show circuit. Beautiful hand-dying, fabulous mini-sets, geeky colorways (e.g. "Let the Wookiee Win" or "Angelica Schuyler"). It's all good.

June Cashmere. I had heard of this vendor through Interweave. They are working directly with shepherds in Kyrgyzstan to obtain high-quality cashmere fiber while engaging in fair-trade practices that appropriately compensate the shepherds.

King Cole. British yarn company in business since 1935. They carry a full range of yarns and patterns, from classic workhorse yarns to novelty.

Koigu. I chatted with Taiu Landra's daughters, the granddaughters of Maie Landra, who were sitting on the floor and knitting. When I was learning to knit, this was one of the first hand-dyed yarns I encountered. And every now and then, Vogue Knitting would have a fabulous show-stopping piece all in Koigu. Always beautiful.

Kokomo Yarns. Imports Studio Donegal, perfect for the Anglophile knitter. They also have special small-batch yarns from the flock at Portland Community College.

Lorna's Laces. One of the classic hand-dyed yarns. Fortunately for me, I can get it locally.

Meadowcroft Dyeworks Yarn Rehab. Fabulous intense hand-dyed colors.

Molly Girl. Self-taught indie dyer whose rockin' bases and colorways are all music-themed. She has a range of speckled, striping, and kettle-dyed effects. And she has little stitch-marker tins that would be perfect favors at a knit-themed party.

Mountain Colors. Somebody I already know and love from Montana. Thank goodness their beautiful fiber and yarn is available locally. There are literally pounds my stash.

Oink Pigments. A trio of hand-dyers based in both California and Indiana. 12 of their 18 yarn bases are 100% made in the USA, right down to the sheep. They carry Targhee wool in both yarn and fiber form.

PortFiber. They carry handspun cashmere yarns that have pictures of the women who spun the yarn as well as hand-dyed yak-silk spinning fiber.

Remarkable Yarns. This vendor carries Melanie Berg's patterns which so often perfectly walk the line between boring and complex. She also carries Rosy Green Wool (100% organic certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard) and Crave yarn (merino-cashmere-camel-silk blend).

Round Mountain Fibers. Hand-dyer from Vermont with colorways based on birds, insects, and plants. These would be perfect for the nature-lover.

Space Cadet. A hand-dyer out of Pittsburgh, PA. She has yarn and fiber, gradient sweater kits, project bags, yarn bowls and mugs, boxes, and notion tins.

Spincycle Yarns. Another West Coast wholesaler, this time from Bellingham, Washington. These two ladies started as hand spinners. They dye the fiber, then spin, then ply. If you like the look of fractals or combo-spins but aren't a hand spinner, look here.

Toad Hollow. Her lovely colorways remind me of floral Victorian wallpaper. If you like hand-dyed yarn and crave prettiness over neon intensity, check out her colorways.

Toft. This UK company has yarn and patterns for both knit and crochet. They have 12 natural colorways which perfectly complement their pattern specialty — crochet amigurumi. And they have a subscription club that would be perfect for the crochet menagerie lover. If you are thinking about making a huggable toy in natural dye-less yarn, start here.

Trailhead Yarns. Vegan yarns — tencel, cotton, linen. Her colors are vivid, something not always easily achieved on plant fibers. Not yet carried in Georgia or Florida!?

Twisted Owl. Small-batch dyer out of east Texas who has Batman-inspired colorways. Fun!

West Yorkshire Spinners. A British yarn manufacturer, so yet another excellent choice for the Anglophile. They have several breed-specific yarns including Bluefaced Leicester, Falkland, and Shetland.

Yarn Undyed. A purveyor out of the UK with an amazing range of yarn bases. If I were an independent dyer, I would thoroughly explore her offerings. She has some unusual combinations, including an alpaca-silk-linen blend.

In researching this post, I've noticed that several of the most tempting choices are carried by Fuzzy Goat Yarns in Thomasville GA.  That's a four-hour drive from here. If anybody wants to have a full a day trip down to south Georgia to explore, please let me know.

10 July 2018

First Trip to TNNA, part 1

Late last year a took a big step in my professional development and joined The National Needlearts Association by becoming an affiliate member. TNNA is the national-level trade organization. It is best known for hosting a winter trade show and a summer trade show. This is where shop owners often go to see the latest products. It is how they decide whether to carry yarn from Trendsetter or Prism; wheels and looms from Ashford, Schacht, or Kromski; notions from CocoKnits, or patterns from Stitch Sprouts. TNNA also organizes Spinzilla and Local Yarn Store Day.

Membership is $195 per year. And for a designer/teacher like myself, joining also meant acquiring some letters of recommendation and copies of my published designs. It wasn't a five-minute process.

And then I needed to decide how to make the best use of my investment.

Recognizing that I need to write a book (actually, probably more than one) on versa lace, I decided to attend the summer convention in Cleveland, Ohio, to meet directly with potential publishers. Of course, that only took a small amount of my time. I also walked the entire floor, meeting vendors I didn't know. I reminded several vendors that STITCHES United will be in Atlanta next year and that we knitters would really love to see them. It has been five years since we had a major convention in Atlanta. The knitters are going to show up for this. I also reminded the vendors that we have two guilds with over 100 members. Both Atlanta Knitting Guild and North Georgia Knitting Guild meet monthly and both are usually looking for programs. A yarn representative with a trunk show is usually a pretty good program.

Some questions/observations:
Is the market segmented geographically?
I hardly knew any of the vendors from the other side of the Mississippi. There were also some vendors from New Jersey, New York, and up into New England who I didn't know. If I who attend Maryland Sheep and Wool, SAFF, STITCHES South, and read Interweave Knits, PLY, Vogue Knitting and Cast On haven't heard of you, chances are good my 250 guild friends haven't heard of you, either.

Are vendors using guilds to their best advantage?
Guilds are groups of the most devoted crafters. At a meeting, they are gathered in one place. Guilds often need programs. Communicating with guilds could be a way to get new products into the sight of enthusiasts who will then share with friends and pester their friendly local yarn stores.

Where's the hype?
When I attended Gen Con last year, the place was pumped. Now, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison to TNNA, as Gen Con is a consumer convention. Tabletop game companies know how to build excitement. They release new games at Gen Con, often with promotional items available nowhere else. If TNNA wants shop owners to attend the winter and summer shows, then the show-only premiums need to have greater prominence, both for the shop owners but also for the customers.

And what did I see?

Tools, gadgets, and assorted items:

Atenti. This wholesalers has a range a bags for every sense of style. Many of these bags are large enough not just for projects, but also to use as overnight bags.

BambooMN. This vendor imports a range of bamboo-related products, many of which are not knit- or crochet-related. That said, they do have a nice Amish-style swift as well as gorgeous lidded round yarn bowls and square lidded yarn boxes in three colors. They also carry wool, bamboo, acrylic, and cotton yarn.

Clothe Zure. These buttons and toggles attach securely yet removably with magnets. They remind me a little of Jūl. These would be good in a holiday gift-exchange. They can be used to jazz up a plain sweater, shawl, bag, or hat. And if you find a favorite, you can keep moving it between garments.

Dill. Based out of Germany, they manufacture a full range of buttons from natural shell to colorful plastic to metal. They also make these lovely spiral closures, perfect for holding a shawl in place.

Dimensions. Raku clay buttons and shawl pins, made in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I am thinking the gentle color shifts of raku would be great with kettle-dyed yarns, such as Malabrigo, or a variety of hand-dyed effects.

Fairy Knitting. This is a new book coming out in September by authors Alice Hoffman and Lisa Hoffman. From the trifold sample and the pictures on Ravelry, it is a combination of fairy tale stories matched with knitting patterns and gorgeous photography.

JaMpdx. A pair of clever Oregon potters are creating beautiful lidded yarn bowls, as well as profane yarn-related mugs. The pottery is hand-thrown on a potter's wheel and then decorated by piping the clay through a pastry bag (as you would decorate a cake with icing). There are no vendors in Georgia or South Carolina carrying their wonderful designs.

Katrinkles. I mentioned them after I won some of their items as a door prize at Unwind. They have a lovely line of buttons and gadgets for knitters, crocheters, and spinners. I very much like the 4-inch/10cm square frame for determining stitch gauge.

Knina. These are swivel bamboo circular knitting needles made in Japan. I must admit bias here, as I find Japanese culture encourages and rewards excellence in craftsmanship. If you like the warmth of wood, consider these. The unbelievably smooth circular join swivels, preventing kinks in spite of a springy cord. Both pleasantly pointy needle tips are marked with the size in US and metric. A quick test drive is making me wonder why do I see Knitter's Pride Dreamz needles in yarn shops but not Tulip Knina? I am guessing it is price point but really, why quibble over a few dollars when the difference in quality is obvious. I love metal, but would gladly use these lightweight circulars. If you are considering wooden or bamboo needles, please test drive these before investing in a whole set.

KnitBaahPurl. If you are looking for mugs, glasses, project bags, shirts, tags, cards, posters, and more, this is the place. Their stemless wine glasses should be required equipment for those who knit and sip. And as you can see from the pin, they have a wry sense of humor.

Prym. These alabaster-colored plastic knitting needles have a triangular cross-section and slightly hooked tips. The straights clip together, both preventing the loss of a needle and preventing stitches from sliding off while stuffing the work-in-progress into a knitting bag. The women distributing these are based in South Carolina. I am hopeful I will see them again at South Carolina Knit Inn. Even if you aren't a fan of straight needles, the double-points and circulars are worthy of a test drive. As a fan of square needles, I do like the shape of these triangular needles.

Reading Glass Co. Apparently, if you live long enough, your eyes work less well. (Ask me how I know.) This vendor out of Marietta, Georgia, carries a nice array of stylish reading glasses. You need never mar your carefully-crafted sartorial message while reading a pattern written in young person's typeface.

Shelli Can. Maker of craft-themed pins, key chains, and stitch markers. I do love the octopus with 8 balls of yarn. She also has a golden stitch pin — a golden snitch remade as a golden yarn ball with wings. Clever!

Travelin Along. The Knitting Memories Along the Danube cruise scheduled for next summer includes hand-dyeing, Bavarian stitches class, a shop hop in Vienna, and a textile museum tour.

Tomorrow: Wholesale yarns.

25 June 2018

Chemistry Distraction

This is just a quick post to say," I have no idea what is happening here."

I have a stash of beads and sequins from my great grandmother. The stash also contains beads and sequins of newer vintage. I'm not 100% sure of the age of contents of this vial. What I do know, based on the position of the vial in the storage array, is that these sequins were a blue-green turquoise color. How they became zombie sequins, I do not know. And if you open the lid, the acid smell will wake you up, if you aren't alert already.

I've seen this happen to other vials of sequins in my stash. I'm not sure what causes it. Anybody know? Where's a chemist when I need one?

And, yes, the sequins are headed for the trash.

Update: 4 September 2018:
One of my dear friends, Camille, saw this blog post and noticed no one had commented. Her mother has a chemistry degree, so Camille asked her mother if she had any ideas. Here is the response:
I do have an idea. The clue is the acid smell. The sequins were probably made from acetate plastic, the same kind of stuff that makes up traditional photographic film. With heat and time the material degrades and gives off acetic acid. So when the acid reacted with the color on the sequins, it turned them blackish.
Thank you, Camille and Camille's mom!

This makes me wonder about textile conservation. Is this a process that will happen and can not be stopped? If you keep the sequins in a refrigerator, can you retard the effect? What happens to clothes with sequins on them? If I make some art projects or costumes from video and audio tape, will they degrade too? And considering moths and other hazards, does this mean the ultimate crafter's closet is a walk-in refrigerator?

07 June 2018

Well, that only took six months . . .

Actually, it took a more like three years.

I read about weaving more than I actually weave. There just aren't enough hours in the year. Way back in the spring of 2015, I decided to weave a pillow for my car. I had bought a full-body pillow, but the fabric had torn along the seam. I browsed the weaving books in my library, and went with a snowflake twill from page 25 of Twill Thrills. (Note: XRX now offers their Best of Weaver's series on a stitchip. This is a great way to have a digital library. I consider this seven book series essential, since each book covers a different weave structure.) I used some leftover Aunt Lydia's size 10 crochet cotton to sample.

Yes, I actually sampled! I warped the loom, threaded the pattern, and wove with different tie-ups to see what patterns I got. I wrote notes. I figured out some extra threads to make the pattern repeat flow from side to side. I planned the project. I bought the yarn (8 balls each of black and victory red). And then, I let it sit.

From time to time, I would think about this. The pillow in my car was tattered. When I drove long distances, I thought about how nice it would be to have a better cushion. But I never quite found the time to get back to the weaving.

And then, we got a snowstorm — a big snowstorm. On December 8-9 last year, we got 11 inches of snow. It was very pretty; and I knew I wasn't going anywhere. For some strange reason, I decided that day was the time to finally warp the loom.

I watched Laura Fry's The Efficient Weaver multiple times. If Laura can do something in 15 minutes, I can do it in 2 days. It probably took me a day just to wind the warp of over 600 ends, in spite of the warp being only one color. Then I needed to figure out how to beam it onto the loom with only myself in the house. I ended up using a dowel rod across a door frame (thank you, C-clamps) and setting the table loom with stand on top of towels. The weight of the loom gave me tension on the unwound warp. As I wound on, the loom surfed across the hardwood floor. Not elegant, but it worked.

Then I threaded the heddles. This particular pattern is 77 ends with another 29 spacers for a repeat of 106. This is also an advancing twill, which means the threading has sections such as "2-1-8-7-6-5," then "8-7-6-5-4," then "7-6-5-4-3-2" and so on. You can't just memorize the repeat. And I really must try dyeing heddles different colors. On eight shafts, it is not too hard to tell if a heddle is on shafts 1, 2, 7, or 8. But the middle shafts can be very tricky. I spent probably a week where I would get up in the morning, think I was ready to weave, check the shed, find a mistake, use up my mental focus for the day fixing said mistake, and then decide I would weave tomorrow. I had mis-threaded heddles. I had crossed warp threads. I had sleying errors in the reed. But, I eventually got it all set correctly.

Brûlée explores the loom because crafting is not possible without a cat.
The green sample is draped over the loom for reference.
I spent most of January weaving. Cuddly Hubby was moving home at the end of January, so I knew I needed to finish the weaving and get the loom out of the living room. The deadline kept me focused. Then the cloth probably sat a few weeks before I found time to watch Laura Fry's Wet-Finishing for Weavers. Since I used cotton, there wasn't that much special to do. I washed the fabric in the downstairs tub, then hung it up to dry. I think I probably ironed it at some point.

And then, it sat some more.

Finally, when I drove up to Maryland Sheep and Wool last month, I took the fabric with me. I figured a few quiet days by myself in the man cave would give me a mini retreat; a chance to do some things that just don't get done at home. I spent a couple days carefully sewing the pillow together. I interwove the threads by following the weave structure. The work was slow and careful, but worth the tedium. I had it mostly done in time for the drive back.

Using a tapestry needle to help insert a pin in just the right thread.
Notice the warp threads have been carefully hemstitched.

Using a blue running thread to set up a seam line.
Sewing the hem. The numbers are telling me how many threads to catch, so that the sewing thread follows the pattern in the weaving. I wove 30 picks of plain weave in a thinner thread to set up the hem allowance. The thin blue running thread is a guide.
The side seam runs down the middle of this motif, but careful stitching makes it hard to discern.
Close-up of hook & eye. An extra thread was woven across to catch the hooks. The eyes were twisted open, hooked onto the woven warp threads, and twisted close. A horizontal weft thread was pulled over the top of the hook to tie it down the the fabric. Both pieces of hardware are essentially woven into the fabric.
A couple weeks ago I finally found time to finish it up. I decided to use the woven fabric as a pillow cover, and to simply mend the original low-quality pillow. I added hooks and eyes to close the back of the pillow cover. The eyes were particularly fun, as I simply used jewelry-making tools to attach the eyes as if they had been woven into the fabric. I mended the body pillow by adding a zipper, mending and reinforcing the failed seam, and adding an extra 2 pounds of stuffing after fluffing up the original stuffing. And I woven in the ends. But, at last, it is done.

The pillow in my car. It is very fluffy right now, but will flatten over time.
Equipment: 8-shaft 80cm/32-inch Ashford table loom with stand & stick shuttle.
Weave structure: Advancing snowflake twill, 77 ends from Bonnie Inouye "Happy Families: A Video Game for Weavers" in Twill Thrills (Sioux Falls SD: XRX Books 2004) page 25; plus another 29 ends in order 8, 3-2-1-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-8-7-6-7-8-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-1-2-3, 8.
Yarn: Aunt Lydia's size 10 crochet cotton in black and victory red
Warp length: 4 yards
Sett: 24 ends per inch
Tie-up: 1-3-3-1; if 1 is up, 2-3-4 are down, 5-6-7 are up, 8 is down.
Treadling: trom as writ
"Right" side of the fabric. This turned out to be the side facing the floor as I wove.
"Wrong" side of the fabric. This was the side facing me as I wove.
A note about the yarn: Spinning books typically talk about using 2-ply yarns for weaving. Aunt Lydia's is a 3-ply. I used it because it is inexpensive and readily available — nearly all the big-box craft stores carry it. What is not evident in the photographs is the subtle sheen. The black is more matte and the red is more shiny. This is a good tight sett. The fabric is stiff. For a garment, you'd want a looser sett to get more drape. But for upholstery fabric, this is perfect. The final pillowcase weighs 755g, or more than 1½ pounds.

(Apologies for the way the red changes in the photographs. These were taken in different lighting conditions.)