March 2009 Archives

Back on Wednesday

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This post officially post-poned due to a family wedding on a Sunday night that required interstate travel and a small person who would not go to bed until 2 AM after we got home.  She just doesn't understand the whole "you need to go to bed because Mommy and Daddy need to go to work in the morning."  But going to the aforesaid wedding meant that we got to grab my dad and bring him home with us (along with another treat that will no doubt show up on the blog in the future), so baby girl has a fun fun week ahead of her, and I always enjoy having my Dad around!

I'll be back on my regularly scheduled time on Wednesday. 

o w l s in Flight

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Pattern: o w l s by Kate Davies
Yarn: Jamieson's Chunky Shetland in "Eider Duck"
Needles: KnitPicks Harmony Interchangeables, US 11 and US 10.5

Originally, I was planning to post a book review today, but after sewing on all those button eyes over the weekend and giving the sweater a soak Monday night and finding it ready to wear on Tuesday morning, it was clear that the Owls were going to have their day earlier than planned. You might think that these pictures were taken by my regular photographer, but, lucky girl that I sometimes am, my dad is here in Chicago this week, and was able to sit in for this shoot.  My dad has been looking at me from behind a camera since before I can remember and I think he did a great job making both his daughter and the sweater look good.  And the Chicago weather helped out too by giving us a sunny (if cold) morning. 

20090303_owlsSide.jpgThis sweater marks two firsts: the first yoked sweater I've made for myself and the first sweater knit from the bottom up in the round.  I think that I will have to try out a few more yoked patterns, because the yoke, in combination with the waist shaping created a very flattering (I think) sweater for my body type.  Especially considering that this sweater is knit in a chunky weight yarn -- and heavy weight yarns rarely do much for me when it comes to being figure flattering. 

20090303_owlsFront.jpgThe design was meant to be form fitting and I chose the medium size (the third size) which has a bust measurement of 36".  I probably would have also been fine with the small size as well, but I wanted to make sure I could wear a turtleneck underneath the sweater because the yarn isn't quite soft enough for me to wear against my skin. 

When it comes to yarn, this sweater was incredibly economical.  I used just a little under 5 skeins of the Jamieson's Chunky Shetland, so it didn't even take 600 yards.  This is one of the few sweaters for which being short waisted is something of a benefit as I didn't have to knit must past the waist shaping before I was ready to put the body together with the sleeves and knit the yoke.   I will also say that, so far, after a day of wear, I am very happy with the yarn -- it softened up nicely after a warm bath and while there is a tiny bit of fuzzing in the areas that rub, it's not really pilling at all -- if it still behaves this way after a few more wearings, this will become one of those yarns that I continue to reach for when I want to make a quick winter sweaeter.   Not only did I use relatively little yarn, but this thing knit up very quickly once I got rolling.  If you want an instant gratification sweater, this one is right up there.

20090303_owlsNeck.jpgThe owls are a real hoot to knit, a simple motif that keeps you knitting just so that you can see your owls come to life.  Putting on all those button eyes (36 of them!) seems like it would be a real trial, but those buttons create magic for those owls and I found that I just wanted to keep going until I had them all sewed on.

I only have one (minor) criticism of the sweater -- I think that there's probably one too many increases after the waist shaping -- at least for me -- and its a little gapey in the back.   I probably would have been better off evenly distributing those increases around the whole sweater instead of just at the back.   Of course, if I had done that, I would have had to make sure to position those increases so that they didn't change how the owls were centered on the front. 

I  loved wearing this sweater.  It's whimsical without being childish -- one of those garments that you just can't help smile at when you look down or see yourself in the mirror.  It's shaping and use of bulky yarn makes it flattering for those of us still dealing with a little more post-holiday  cushioning than we would like and it's just perfect for a cold day in Chicago.  With a heavier shirt underneath, I could almost have worn this outside with out a coat. 

The pattern itself is easy to follo,  but make sure that you get the latest version, as Kate, who kindly has made this wonderful pattern available for free, has updated it since she first released it into the wild.   I'm looking forward to the children's version.  Not only so that I can make a similar sweater for a small girl who loves owls, but also so that I can say thank you to Kate for her design with some actual cash.    I would happily have paid for this sweater, given the quality of the pattern and the results!

Random Friday?

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First off, thank you to everyone for your kind comment about the o w l s sweater.  I've worn it twice  and simply love it.  I wish I'd knit it sooner so that I  could wear it more before it gets warm!

Sometimes I have a whole collection of things I can write about, but the world around me is making it too hard for me to focus on writing.   Or my mood is just wrong, and I know that mood will color everything and make simple happy things seem grim.  Such is today.  Today itself was wonderful -- one of those good days that I would happily live again -- but tomorrow will bring me some unhappy tasks and the anticipation of them has left me wrapping up the day in a not so great place.

So instead of writing, I will leave you with a few random good things...


1.  I have started taking a weaving class at the Chicago Weaving School, and I am enjoying it very much.  Tonight I finished warping my first 4 harness loom and wove my first twill.  I also warped my rigid heddle loom with my 8 dent heddle today in preparation for some funky plaid dishtowels to welcome spring into my kitchen.   I do like me some weaving, yes I do. 

2.  My husband has some year old Bourbon Vanilla Porter on tap right now.  I did not like it right after he first brewed it, but the aging process has made it a fabulous beer.  I will miss it muchly when it is gone.

3.  There is almost nothing better than a windy spring day and a trip to the park with Z and my Dad.  Ms. Z practically ran 6 the whole six blocks to get there.  Clearly I am not the only one in the house who can't wait for spring to get here and stay here!

4.  Without any prompting on my part, my Dad made the most beautiful warping board for me -- it's a 14 yard board made of walnut left over from the rocking chair he made for my brother and sister-in-law.  I can't wait to warp something up on it!

5.  I downloaded the Amazon Kindle reader application for my iPhone on Wednesday and downloaded a free book chapter (Niel Gaiman's American Gods: A Novel , which I really want to read the full version of someday).  The whole process worked seamlessly.  I don't consider my iPhone the ideal e-book reader, but it does a pretty good job for those times when you'd like something to read but want to travel light.    If you have an iPhone, the software is free and since you can download free first chapters for books to "demo" them, you can try without buying anything at all.  Very cool.

Knitting the Threads of Time

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Every so often I get the opportunity to review a knitting book.  Even more rarely do I get the chance to review a book that uses knitting as a central theme, but doesn't focus on patterns and knitting technique, but knitting as a vehicle to discuss other topics.

Knitting the Threads of Time: Casting Back to the Heart of Our Craft is just such a book.  The author uses the knitting of a sweater for her 6 year old son during a winter in St. Paul as a vehicle to discuss fiber arts as they have developed through time and through multiple cultural traditions.  This sweater is the author's first experience knitting a sweater and as she works through the various issues she encounters with it, she finds ways to connect to cultures and traditions, some ancient, some more recent.  It's got a bit of history, a bit of cultural exploration, a bit of the personal journey to self-discovery woven into it.  Certainly the "new knitter taking a journey to self awareness via knitting her first sweater" is not a new motif, but it is a comfortable one that makes for a nice launching point for the elements Nora Murphy explores.

I like to do a little reading before bed to help calm my mind and to distract me from the days events.  This book fit nicely into that ritual.  It's not a deep book when it comes to discussing any of the history or traditions that it introduces, and it is certainly not a comprehensive knitting history, but it would certainly be a reasonable launching point for anyone interested in exploring the social history of the fiber arts more deeply -- in addition to a rather nice index, she also includes a bibliography of source material that the reader can use as a starting point to finding more information about specific subjects. 

I enjoyed reading this book and found it to have a similar tone to Victoria Finlay's
Color: A Natural History of the Palette, which I also enjoyed (Finlay's book, however goes into a good deal more detail and while a travelogue, is not focused on the author's story so much as the stories of the people involved in producing the pigments she is researching).  It's a relatively short book (less than 200 pages) that reads quickly and leaves you curious about how the textile arts (she doesn't focus on knitting exclusively)  have affected women in the past -- and how they will continue to affect us in the future.

P.S.  Speaking of books, thanks for all the encouragement to add American Gods.  Not surprisingly, I am liking that first chapter I downloaded.  I suspect it might make it into my reading rotation soon.  Assuming I can put down the weaving books that have captured my interest of late... 

Celestine

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Project: Celestine, by Nora Gaughn and Berroco (free pattern)
Yarn: Regia Kaffe Fassett Color 4451 and Regia Kaffe Fassett 4350
Needles:Grafton Fibers Darn Pretty Size 0 Double Points

I don't think I ever mentioned this project before now, even though it's been in my rotation since Christmas time when I decided I needed an excuse to buy some of the Regia sock yarns with the Kaffe Fassett colorways.  I picked two colorways that I thought co-ordinated a little bit -- one more easter eggy and one more boy-like in hopes that I would get a nice balance of colors.  I alternated points so there are 6 of each colorway.  I am almost 100% sure that I could get another Celestine out of what I have left over, but I think the remainders will become socks for Ms. Z since she is in need of some more socks.

When I started knitting Doddy, my original intention was that it be for my new nephew.  But when it became clear that Doddy was going to be quite large, I decided that it would be better as a toy for Ms. Z and I would find something else for Mr. C.  Celestine worked in sock yarn is just right for a smaller baby (size 0 needles gave me the perfect firm structure and let me stuff the thing relatively densely without having to worry that the polyfill would sneak out), both in size and washability.  And I hope the bright colors will be intriguing for a young baby as well.

20090310_CelestineClose.jpg This project is an easy knit, though it does take a little while -- I'd estimate that each point took me 45 minutes to an hour.  Which means that a dedicated person without a lot of distractions could probably knit it in a weekend.  The only fidgity part is the last point, which requires that you pick up 55 stitches around the last opening after you've stuffed the body of the toy.  But now that I've finished, if I didn't know which point I'd knit on last, I wouldn't be able to tell. 

Even though I've been enjoying seeing the completed version of this toy, and I've been tempted to take it to work to sit on my desk and make me smile, I've high hopes of getting it off into the mail so that it can get into the hands of the little person it was made for. 

Spring Dishtowel Cotton Warp

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It's time for another weaving project, don't you think? 

There's a long story about the process of getting this warp onto my loom, but I'll sum it up by telling you that I put this warp on twice and that I always learn a lot by making mistakes.  And I'll definitely never make the mistake of not putting a layer of something between rotations of warp threads.

20090312_CottonWarpBehind.jpgWeaving is an opportunity for all sorts of "McGuyvering" -- to separate the warp threads on the warp beam, I bought 12 foot of clear vinyl floor runner from the Home Depot and trimmed about 2 inches from the edge so that it spanned the entire width of my loom.  An unanticipated benefit is that I can take the unwound part and pull it over the top of the loom so that it has a cover.  

But, enough with the strange little details.  What am I actually warping my loom for.

Dishtowels.

I would almost never consider knitting up dishtowels (not because I have any issue with the idea of knitting dishtowels or wash cloths, but because it takes a long time and I like to use my knitting time in other ways), but weaving is another story entirely.   I purchased some Sugar and Cream in what I thought were springy colors and designed a warp that I thought would be fun to work with from the perspective of playing with plaids.  And then I got to warping.  The towels are destined to be 14 inches wide and roughly 28 inches long, but I think the lengths are going to end up somewhat variable, because while I started out thinking I was going to make 4 towels that were exactly the same, I ended up deciding (after making the first one), that life is too short and that I wanted to play more with my loom, so I'm using them all as an opportunity to sample color and weave effects.

20090312_CottonWarpClose.jpg Of course, every project is an opportunity to play with my camera.

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One thing I learned in my weaving class that I thought I would share is this tip: start your weaving after you've rolled your warp knots past the front beam and have all the warp threads lying flat on that front beam.  This will start everything off levelly and help you identify tension problems..

20090312_CottonWarpReadyToR.jpgAll ready to go!  That header is a little wonky, but all headers are for is to spread out the warp threads evenly and to give you a level place to start from.  Full steam ahead for dishtowels!



Reckoning

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Today we've been house cleaning.  It's a good thing to do as John prepares to start his new job on Monday and as we get ready for our big holiday party.  No matter when we clean, the process always makes me assess my crafty projects as well as the amount of stuff I have.  I've been in bit of an acquisition phase as far as sock yarn is concerned... and at the same time, it's cold and I want to knit sweaters and baby accessories for my tiny person who never seems to have enough warm things to wear.  And, of course, I'm really jonesing for a new sweater of my own.  All of this leads to a lot of startitis.  So it's time to make a list so that I can figure out how I can finish up what I've got going and get to some new things that are exciting to me to!

Quilting Projects

  1. My fiery Blooming 9 Patch
  2. My paper piece purple/yellow color study quilt
  3. My "fire and ice" Modern Thinking quilt
  4. My doll sized version of the Children's Delight quilt -- which I am going to machine quilt and apply the binding to.
Crochet Projects

  1. An amigurumi "surprise" project that is going to make it's way to Houston for my new and completely sweet baby nephew. DONE! 
  2. An amigurumi octopus for Z.
Knitting Projects

  1. Regia baby socks for Z (just need to sew down the edges!) DONE!
  2. Francie socks for me (time to cast on the second sock!)
  3. STR Silkie socks for me (playing with an interesting pattern stitch)
  4. Rogue (poor Rogue!  still in need of applied i-cord edging, having her sleeves sewn in and a zipper -- how can I so want this sweater and be so anemic in my efforts to get it done?)
  5. Stained Glass Scarf for John (I am now  past the half way point for both colors... still a long ways to go.  I wish I had another long car trip coming up... long nursing sessions and car trips seem to be the only way I can get this scarf worked on!)
  6. Habu Kushu Kushu scarf (I like the result of this project, but don't really like knitting with the fine silk/stainless yarn all on it's own.  Probably another project that would benefit from a car trip and limited knitting options).
  7. Zebra Striper baby sweater (no, I have not shown any snaps of this one yet, but I have gotten it started!  it's going to be my first steeking adventure.)
  8. Mountain Colors Three Ply Targhee blanket (I need to put this one by the couch and work on it when I watch TV.  It's the idea TV project since it's worked up in squares and it's absolutely yummy warm yarn to work with!).
  9. Celestine -- another little toy for a special baby.  DONE!  And to be shipped soon!
Projects I Really Want to Start

  1. Crochet granny square afghan for Z.  Should I make this out of the Vanna's Choice acrylic that I have for making ami toys or should I go a little crazy and order a couple of skeins of Dream in Color Classy?  This is one where my practical side and my heart are not in agreement.
  2. Design 3 from "Noro Book 3" by Jenny Watson -- it's a V-neck cardigan in Silk Garden that would be oh so lovely for work.
  3. Cool and Cherish from Rowan Classic Style -- they are discontinuing Cashcotton DK so it's on sale in many places and a perfect sub for the Merino Silk DK in the book.
  4. Cabled gauntlets.  I have the yarn all balled up and ready to go.  I just need to find the perfect cable.
  5. Another pair of STR heavyweight socks for John.  The man needs warm socks for winter commuting! DONE!  Two pairs of socks for John this winter!
I am sure I could come up with more if I put my mind to it... but this will be a good to do lis and general reminder board for now.

* I'm going to use this as a personal reference list for a while... so it will get updated when I cross things off and publish again.  Apologies if it keeps showing up in your RSS feeds as new. 
20090315_Banff.jpg
Not all my retrospectives are going to hape happy endings -- at least not for the sweater.  Today I'm going to share the story of my Banff.  Banff was one of the "it" sweaters for winter 2003-2004.  Published in Knitty, it seemed like just everyone whose blog I read was making this sweater.  I was more easily lured onto the bandwagon back then and knew a lot less about my own sweater preferences, needs and necessities and got seduced by both the pattern and the idea of knitting it in Manos del Uruguay

Less than a year later, this sweater had gone from a darling to a drag, and ended up on my "rip list".  Yet nothing happened until yesterday, mostly because of laziness and because it's just kind of hard for production knitter me to rip out something I spent hours on. 

Why was my Banff (click the link to see my gallery and my less that flattering look in this sweater) such a failure for me when it was such a hit for so many people? 

  1. The yarn and the sweater were not a good match in the gauge stated.  Manos is a singles yarn spun thick and thin, but mostly loose and soft.  Knit at the gauge the project called for, it made a nice fabric, but without a firm gauge, this yarn fuzzes and pills like crazy if it is so much as rubbed against anything -- like, say, one's office desk when one is working on the computer.  This sweater looked shabby after the second wearing. 
  2. Oversized is good on some folks, but I am now convinced that it is not a good look on me.  Especially when combined with the proportions of this sweater.  The pattern is stated to have 12 to 16 inches of ease on an average person.   That's a lot of ease for a sweater that length-wise is geared more towards what I would consider "petite" sizing (at least in the US market).  Put them together... too wide and too short for me.  Not a flattering look.  And, at the time, I was one of those optimistic knitters who just trusted the pattern and rolled with it.  I think the folks who were successful with this pattern were smart enough to adjust it to both lengthen it out and narrow it up a little bit.
  3. I love turtleneck collars, but wool (no matter how soft) and turtleneck and I do not go together.  I just start itching like crazy (I'm not wool-allergic, but I can't tolerate much around my neck area that isn't completely smooth -- so far only cotton and silk seem to work for me).  So this sweater always had to be worn over a cotton turtleneck -- which only emphasized the bulkiness issues.
This is one of those projects that taught me (long in retrospect) that I needed to evaluate pattern sizing and schematics carefully and not be drawn into knitting projects just 'cause everyone else thought they were cool -- unless I had the moxie to modify them to suit my needs*.  And, although there are exceptions to this rule, most of the time, sweaters in bulkier weight yarns just don't work very well for me. 

Clearly, though, I was content to let this sweater sit in a drawer for quite sometime.  What got me to pull it out and recycle it today?  The Piping Hot Pillows in Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom by Liz Gipson.  They are simple plain weave pillows with a woven piping edge.  And they are woven using two colors of Manos del Uruguay.

Now, I have some Manos in the stash, even in contrasting colors that look good together, but probably not enough for more than one pillow -- and I was thinking that having two or three of these pillows to decorate my bed or couch with would really be nice.  And there was only one way I could get my hands on 2-3 pillows' worth of yarn without exercising my credit card:  recycling Banff.  The Piping Hot Pillows look to be woven at a density that won't irritate the fuzzing issues further, and, even better, they are fulled before being assembled, which should also help keep the yarn from getting really abused looking should the pillows actually get used.    I will miss not having multiple colorways in the pillows, but I think that the variations that derive from the kettle dyeing of this yarn will help to create a little more depth in the fabric.

So I got out my ball winder and my swift (if there are any two tools that are more valuable to someone who likes to work with fiber, I don't know what they are!), picked apart Banff's seams and reclaimed 7 skeins of "Thistle" Manos by winding directly from the sweater onto my ballwinder to create center pull balls.

20090315_BallsofBanff.jpgWith a little help from my swift (attach the center pull tail and then rotate manually), I turned these into hanks.

20090315_HanksOfBanff.jpgUsed yarn is always an interesting creature to me... so sproingy.  I choke tied (with a figure eight tie) each of the hanks before taking them for a warm swim in my bath tub with a little Eucalan.  Pleasantly enough, there was no observable bleeding into the water -- a good thing for a item that's likely going to be against skin and clothing.

The yarn is now hanging to dry after it's relaxing and kink-removing bath.  Next stop: weighing and warping.

* I'd like to take a moment to emphasize that I am not dissing this sweater, it's designer or it's design.  It just wasn't the design for me. 

Pile of Squares

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With hanks of what used to be Banff drying in my bathroom and the daily meditation alpaca scarf not quite ready for the camera, out comes a pile of squares.

These are the squares for my 3-ply targhee blanket. Each square is about 1 ounce and about 6x6 which means that the final blanket is going to be on the heavy side if I get it to twin size like I hope to.  There should have been two more squares when this picture was snapped (but they were separated from the herd for weighing duties) and there have been two more knit since then (and one that is in progress), but even without those squares, I still have a pile of squooshy goodness, thick and soft. 

As I have from the beginning, I love the rich colors of the yarn -- all mill ends from Mountain Colors.  I'm particularly smitten with their blues and greens, which can be both rich and electric, and their yellows which are warm and deep.  As I was taking these pictures, I realized how autumnal they seem together, so, I am hoping that sometime in the future they will be supplemented with some additional color melodies.


Lusting for Lotus

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It has been a long, long time since I have picked up a knitting magazine and found a garment that I absolutely positvely without any hesitation must start knitting right this moment no matter what the cost or how small the needles.  So long, in fact, that I can't even remember the last time it happened.  But the minute I saw the cover of the new Rowan (Rowan 45) I knew that I must have that sweater now! And I had the yarn ordered from the UK less than 24 hours later.

Lotus lotus lotus.  I am obsessed with this sweater now.  So obsessed that when I discovered that it is knit on 2.75 mm (US Size 2) in cotton yarn it didn't cause even one iota of concern.  Yes, friends and neighbors, this is an adult woman's sweater knit at 7.5 stitches/inch in yarn with no elasticity.  And my only disappointment is that I do not appear to have a suitable circular needle in my collection on which to swatch. 

What would make a normally sensible knitter throw caution and her credit card to the wind (although, to be fair, with the current dollar/UK pound exchange rate the credit card was not unfairly exercised)?  It simply is meant to be my sweater.  The bell sleeves, the feminine shaping, the perfect amount of ease, the incredible crochet edging.  In this case, the fine gauge is a benefit, just adding to the delicate nature and sophistication of the garment.   This sweater could easily go to a wedding, a fancy restaurant or even just to work.  When I showed it to John, Hey, that's a really nice sweater.  You should make that.  And one final thing: when I look through all the sweaters I have made, my Rowan sweaters have been the ones that I am most proud of and like to wear.  They are often more work (and this one is definitely a "3 yarn ball" design) but I don't think I've ever felt like my work has been wasted.

The gauge would have been daunting to me 5 years ago.  But the longer I knit, the more I realize that there are really only a finite number of sweaters that I can own, wear and enjoy regularly, if only because at some point I will run out of places to store them.  Not only that, but I also am finding that as I get older, I become less and less excited by sweaters and garments knit with yarn heavier than DK weight.  I like the finer resolution of details and lower addition of bulk that comes from finer yarns. Finally, I just have less time to knit, so I really want every sweater I make for me "to count".  This sweater will likely take me some time, but if I hold myself to exacting standards for construction and finishing, I feel that I really will have a sweater that I will love and wear. 

The sweater is knit with Rowan Fine Milk Cotton, which is a new yarn to their line and which is composed of 30% milk protein and 70% cotton.  The yarn feels like nice cotton, soft and smooth and just a touch silky.  Just as inelastic as you expect cotton to be -- the milk proteins give it better hand, but don't give it any stretch -- at least not that I can tell before knitting it. 

I'm hoping to find that pair of 2.75 mm needles today so that I can get swatching and get knitting.  No matter how much optimism I have, there is only so much time, and I think it would be ever so nice to be wearing this sweater when I take my husband out for his special birthday dinner in June.

Overall, I think this Rowan is one of the better ones in my collection.  There are actually two mens sweaters that John would consider wearing and the colorwork is not all that crazy floral intarsia that they sometimes get crazy with. Several of the sweaters in the collection with Lotus also caught my eye.   There's also a huge shawl that is so gorgeous that it is making me want to renege on the promise I made to myself never to knit detailed lace in Kid Silk Haze ever again and is getting me to consider other yarns I have stashed to see if they would fit.  I think of all the recent knitting magazines I've gotten this is the one that won't just end up ignored in a magazine box.

Weaving Class

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As I mentioned a little while ago, I recently started taking a weaving class at the Chicago Weaving School.  The class I am taking is the complete beginner course and the general idea is to start on a 4 harness loom and weave a sampler to introduce the basic concepts in weaving.

20090322_4HarnessLoomSample.jpgIn my first class, Natalie got me started by sitting me down with a table full of colored wool on cones.  She explained some of the basics about weaving and warping and the loom I was going to use, and then let me decide what I wanted to warp my loom with.  It probably comes as no surprise to anyone that I focused on blue and purple hues, and incorporated a lot of bright color.  My final warp included a 3" section of blue a 3" section that alternated magenta, purple and magenta in one inch segments, a 2" segment with alternating rose and yellow warp threads, a 2" segment with blue and red alternating every 2 warp threads and, finally, a 2" section alternating green and orange every 4 warp threads.  If this had been a project with a distinct purpose I might have been more purposeful with my color selection, but because this was meant to be a sampler, I was more interested in seeing the interplay of different colors.

Preparing my warp threads, sleying the reed and threading the heddles took all of my first class.  On my second class, I tied the warp threads to the back of the loom and then wound the warp onto the back beam and tied the threads to the front beam.  And after that, I was pretty much off and weaving.

20090322_4HarnessClothBeam.jpgMy heddles were threaded in a "straight twill" (meaning that the first thread is controlled by the first harness, the second thread controlled by the second harness, the third thread is controlled by the 3rd harness and the 4th thread is controlled by the 4th harness and this threading is repeated for the entire width of the warp).  I've practiced plain weave, basket weave, basic twills, and weaving on opposites.  I've learned how to set up a floating selvedge -- which I now think is likely to be manadatory on almost any project I work on.  I'm not changing color with too much intention, except to see what happens with high contrast and low contrast yarns in the context of my warp and weft.  I'm not all that excited about the bright yellow, but it did help me see something, so it ended up working the way I needed it to.

Last Thursday was my 4th class and I finished up one of my last "basic" structures: rib weave.

20090322_4HarnessRibWeave.jpgOn a 4 harness loom, this is accomplished by raising either 1 or three warp threads at one time and alternating colors in the weft.    You'll notice that where I was working on rib weave, the warp contributes little to the color perception, that's because rib weave is very "weft faced" and it's very easy to pack the weft threads tightly sot hat the warp threads are mostly hidden.

This class has really got my creative juices flowing again.  I find weaving very engaging in a visceral sort of way.  So much color, so much texture, so many fibers so many possibilites for household textiles.  I already have half a dozen potential projects running around in my head and different looms and techniques that I want to try.    I've decided that it's likely that  floor loom will be in my future, but not any time soon.  I want to test out a lot of options to figure out what the best options are for me.  And really, the more I play with the 4 harness loom,the more impressed I am with what can be done with my rigid heddle with the help of a pickup stick.  But more on that, later.

Swatching for Lotus

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20090324_MilkCottonSwatch.jpg
Yeah, I know, it's just a swatch.  But when you're knitting on small needles with small yarn, getting a good swatch is a milestone. 

The desired tension for Lotus is 7.5 stitches/inch and about 9.5 rows/row.  After I got my hands on a pair of 2.75 mm needles, I cast on and promptly discovered that I didn't need them after all: too big.  So I switched to 2.5 mm needles.  Still no dice.  Finally, I hit my target (sort of) on 2.25 mm needles.  Wooo boy.  I'm going to knit an entire sweater on needles I would normally use for socks.

For the record (mostly my own) I got the following results from swatching:

2.75 mm needles: 7 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch
2.50 mm needles: 7.2 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch
2.25 mm needles: 7.5 stitches/inch, 10 rows/inch

I never really got the ideal row gauge, but, since the shaping in this garment is mild, I should be fine just knitting to the desired lengths.

After ripping out the work from the 2.75 mm needles, when it became clear that the 2.5 mm needles wouldn't be quite right either, I just knit a seed stitch band in the middle and then started with the 2.25 mm needles.  Probably not the best idea given the distortion of the swatch at the middle, but I think I was still, ultimately able to get a fair measurement.

The swatch didn't change at all after a warm soak.  I let it dry flat on a counter top instead of hanging because it's unlikely that I will wash this sweater and let it hang dry and I felt that the weight of the wet swatch drying would probably distort the fabric too much. 

The swatch has lovely stitch definition and is soft and smooth on the front and the back.  It has a nice, drapey, but not too loose quality about it that I think will make for a nice sweater. On the reverse stockinette side, you can see any hint of unevenness in my tension, but nothing really shows up on the right side, so the wrong side doesn't bother me at all. 

Overall the yarn was nice to knit with -- I found I could knit and read at the same time, so it's not hard to knit successfully just by touch.  However, this stuff does want to split, so I found it necessary to pay attention to edge stitches or stitches that were tight to make sure that I didn't split the plies -- which would definitely be visible in the fabric.

Of course, casting on has commenced, so in the not too distant future I'll be able to see how "honest" my swatch really was with me.

All Out of Steam

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Well, that title says it all for today... I've got a few things that I could talk about, I've even got some pictures edited, but I'm not feeling the inspiration for any of the topics that normally helps me get them onto the blog. 

Funny how I can have a good day, and at the same time have a series of tiny things slowly but surely take the wind out of my sails.  I feel like a balloon with a tiny tiny hole out of which all my motivation has slowly leaked out. 

I'll be back on Monday, bright-fingered and with bells on to do show and tell with my latest completed weaving project.  Weaving is a place that cotton yarn really shines.

Good weekend, all!

Woven Spring Dishtowels

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20090328_WovenSpringDishtow.jpg
In spite of a weekend with weather that reminded me more of February than the end of March (can you say waking up to snow on Sunday morning?), it was a good weekend for taking a deep breath and letting my mind and hands wander.  There was knitting, weaving and baking and a bit of reading (often while knitting), so both mind and hands were happy with the weekend.

I've had these dishtowels finished for quite some time.  On "problem" I have with posting about weaving, is that because I am learning, I have all these things that I want to talk about.  Color, texture, technique, weave structures are all possible discussions for even a simple project.  Often, it's the pictures that I take (or forget to take) that end up shaping what I talk about.

These cotton towels all came from the warp I talked about a little while back.  My original plan was a set of 4 identical towels for my kitchen, but after weaving the first towel and getting a good handle on what it would take to deal with all the color changes, I decided that I would rather use the rest of the warp for experimentation and that my experimentation would get divided into towel shaped parts at the end.

20090323_CottonTowels.jpgThese are three of the towels before they went through the washing machine.  The one to the far left was my original design.  The one in the center was my bastardized "basketweave" attempt and the one on the right was an experiment in warp and weft faced "lace" patterns on my rigid heddle loom (achieved with the help of the pick up stick).

20090323_OriginalTowelPatte.jpgThis is a more up close and personal look at the first towel.  While I like the pattern a lot, after a while, I got tired of fiddling with 4 shuttles and hiding the ends with a thick cotton yarn.  My design did not work well for carrying the unused colors up the side.  So after one iteration of what I wanted to try I moved onto something else. (Yes, there are the same number of picks in the center square as in the ones to either side of it, somehow my beating got uneven).

20090323_ModifiedBasketWeav.jpgThis is the modified basketweave.  Since I couldn't lift two side by side warp threads at once, I did two warp shots into each shed (the fabric is rotated on it's side so that the warp is horizontal in the picture).   But after a bunch of inches of this, I got bored with it, too, and decided to pull out my pick up stick and play with woven "lace".

20090323_WhiteLace.jpg
20090323_BlueLace.jpg

20090323_YellowLace.jpgHere you can see how different the fabric looks when I use either the white, blue or yellow yarn as the weft for an extended period of time.  In the white and blue examples. you can see that there are warp threads "floating" over a group of weft threads.  For the yellow example the opposite is true: the weft threads are floating over the warp threads.  Of course, these fabrics are not the same on both sides.  If you were to flip them over, the blue and white fabrics would have floating weft threads while the opposite side of the yellow area would have floating warp threads.  I really liked the look and texture of the white and blue "samples" so I extended them for longer regions.

20090323_PullingIn.jpgThis picture (taken before I cut the towels apart) illustrates another property of woven cloth: plain weave is "wider" than weave structures where you go over and under two or more threads (this has to do with how the threads can pull together, and I'll probably talk about it more some other time when I can show some better examples).  So if you're going to have a project like this one, you want to make sure that you maintain a similar number of warp threads that you go over and under during the course of one unit in your project, otherwise the edges will get wonky -- not unlike matching knit ribbing to stockinette. 

Just like the original project changed, even the final location of the results changed.  I didn't really know how much this cotton would shrink (yes, sampling would have good for this) and it ended up shrinking more than I anticipated (measuring before and after would have been a good idea, too...) so the final towels were smaller than I expected.  So rather than dishtowels, I'm going to use them as hand towels for my powder room.  Their different sizes won't be so obvious used that way, and I'll get to enjoy the woven texture more, too.

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