Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some thoughts on the creative process

One of the most common comments I get when talking about designing a new project is something like, “How do you come up with ideas?” or “Where do ideas come from?” or “I wish I was creative.” - something along those lines.

I thought I would throw out a few ideas on creativity and then how to get those ideas flowing. I know people are stitched up (literally and figuratively) right now finishing Christmas projects but maybe this will come in handy for the new year.

I think about the use of creativity a lot both because it’s important to me and because I see such a sadness in people’s eyes when they tell me they wish they were creative.

So issue #1 is, how does creativity work? I think the biggest hindrance for people using their natural creativity is our general perception of what creativity is and how it works. This is by no means a complete list but here are some misconceptions I think a lot of us have about creativity:

  • Creative people just have ideas popping into their minds – complete and in a finished form – all the time, effortlessly.
  • Creativity is a mystical, ethereal process that can only be accessed by the chosen few.
  • Creativity is inherent, not learned. If you weren’t born with it, sorry Charlie.
  • Creativity only happens in regards to the “Arts,” not in everyday, mundane parts of life. Mary may be finding creative solutions to problems at the office but she may not see that as being creative. After all she’s not painting a portrait or knitting a shawl, she’s just doing her job.

These kinds of perceptions can be the hardest to overcome because they are really grounded in our culture but I think a way to overcome them is to acknowledge the misconceptions and make a choice to try to step beyond their confines. Once you do that a few times, I think you’ll be surprised how quickly those walls can fall down.

In regards to the first point, my experience is that ideas do pop into my mind. Sometimes they are really clear but most of the time they are vague, sort of “I wonder what would happen if I did this…” or “I wonder what it would look like if I did that…”. But that’s only the first step. It takes a lot more to bring that idea to life. What happens more often is that I try to think of ideas on purpose. Sometimes I want to learn a new technique or I want to use a particular material or make a particular item. With that in mind, I will sit down and get the juices flowing (more on that later).

On the second point, I think this perception comes more from the mystery of the fluency of the highly skilled person than the process of creativity itself. When someone is highly skilled and we see them using that skill, it appears so effortless, so easy. Of course, we’re not seeing the hours and hours the person has spent honing his/her skills, practicing and experimenting with techniques, learning new techniques, talking to and learning from others. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot) was talking the other day about how she knits so quickly. She talked about her style of knitting and how her Grandmother who taught her to knit made a living by knitting and therefore had to be fast and other factors but the point she kept coming back to was the fact that she’s been knitting for 35 years. Building your skills will allow you more fluency in your creative process – more tools are always better!

That’s not to say there’s not an element of mystery to the creative process. Of course there is. But it’s not limited to a small group of people. I firmly believe the mystery is available to everyone – it’s just learning how to let it happen.

I grant you, there are people who from their first breath are inherently chosen to do a certain thing – an actor who knew at the age of 3 he wanted to be an actor, Tiger Woods who from the youngest age was able to golf, the child prodigy violinist. Those people undoubtedly exist. But what child do you know doesn’t use his or her imagination? By now it’s become a little clichéd but all children are creative. I know of no better answer to this misconception. You may not feel creative but it’s in you, even if life or others have beaten it out of you. There are ways to get the creative juices flowing again and we’ll have a look at those in a later post.

As for the last point, let’s face it, creativity at its most basic is problem solving. We solve problems all day every day whether it’s writing a report at work, solving an operations problem or getting all the kids everywhere they need to be. The creativity you use to keep the toddler occupied is the same creativity you can use to design a purse and the creativity you use to schedule your employees is the same creativity you can use to adapt a sweater.

Next time, where to start.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sharing the Joy (or enabling – depending on how you look at it)

I think maybe I mentioned that I kind of like beads. I’m also fairly fond of knitting and crocheting with beads, especially purses. Add to that my fascination with vintage patterns and pattern books and you’ll understand why I was so excited to find the web site for Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions. While there are a few modern patterns for knitted and crocheted bags using seed beads, there aren’t many. But I found a number of them at this site. It’s definitely worth a visit.

In fact, I have a confession to make. As I was writing this blog entry, I went to the web site to get the correct URL. Ummm…in the interest of journalistic integrity, I decided to poke around a little bit to get a wider view of the offerings… and managed to pick out 3 more items to buy!! I haven’t actually bought them…yet.

One word on the books that she offers. Although I believe she does have some original copy books for sale, the majority of them are scanned in and printed out with spiral binding - done very nicely indeed. That won’t necessarily appeal to the hard core collector but it is great for those of us who actually want to make things using the patterns in the books. I have several vintage craft magazines from the 1912-1920 sort of era and the first thing you realize is that the paper is quite fragile and it’s not the easiest thing for practical pattern usage. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not so much with the practical.

With the Iva Rose’s versions, I can fold them back and just get to work – plus I still get to enjoy the real flavor of the original books because she includes all the pages. Of course, providing the books in this manner allows her to provide them at incredibly affordable pricing – many are less than $10.

One last word. If you’re at all interested in costuming or costume design, there are definitely some books in this collection to interest you, including some on millinery. Also, if you’re interested in some of the more unusual types of crafts such as Teneriffe lace, tatting, Maltese crochet, Cluny lace, drawn thread, Honiton lace, Irish lace or other Victorian and Edwardian crafts, you’ll find books to interest you as well.

So that’s my plug. Go check it out yourself.
www.ivarose.com

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Creativity and the Elements of Design

I don’t always take a lot of time to read. Somehow I get home from work, usually tired in my brain, and pick up a knitting or crochet project to work on. Usually that refreshes me and then hooks me in so that by the time I realize I’m recharged, I’ve worked through the evening and it’s time for bed.

One of the things I always find fascinating is the subject of design. I am hugely inspired by blogs such as that of Roger von Oech, called Creative Think. He’s done books such as “A Kick in the Seat of the Pants” and “A Whack on the Side of the Head.” Now, honestly, how could you not want to read books with names like that! He also has a creativity tool called “Creative Whack Pack.” This is a whole series of creativity challenges and principles on cards, like playing cards, that you can use in a number of ways. Pick a card, any card. Use a card a day. Work through them systematically. However you want to use them, I find them thought provoking and rather fun!

On one of the cards is printed, “Get out of Your Box.” Roger goes on with a short challenge to cut across disciplinary boundaries, look into other fields in order to learn more about your own field or to gain a new perspective on issues you deal with every day. Often gaining this new perspective can open up all sorts of new doors for discovery. For me, I’ve been known to browse through stores that I wouldn’t normally be interested in, like building supply stores or a bicycle shop, for a new or cheaper way to supply my fiber craft.

For instance, my spinning wheel, a Louet S-15, had a solid rubber tube which connects the wheel shaft to the pedal. A while back it broke. There are no spinning stores anywhere near here and I couldn’t find anywhere to replace the part – I didn’t even know what it was called. The other problem was that the screw holding the tube in place was on the backside of the wheel shaft with only about an inch of space to get to it. I don’t know about you but I didn’t own a screw driver only an inch long. I kept trying to figure out what to do, trying to think as widely as possible. A trip to the local building supply store solved the problem. For one thing, I discovered that you can get a bent-head screw driver. Who knew? Now I could get to the screw to replace the part but I still didn’t have the main piece I needed. So I wandered up and down the aisles until I came to the plumbing section. Did you know that you can get thick, flexible, clear plastic tubing in a variety of sizes? I didn’t but I happened to find that one of the sizes matched my broken piece – exactly. The best part? It cost about 29 cents a foot. When I got home, the repair took me about 15 minutes and is still spinning along plus I have plenty left over for future repairs.

Roger quotes Bob Wieder saying, “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” The card ends with the question, “In what outside areas can you look for ideas?”

All of that to tell you about this new book I’m reading. While looking for a book in the local bookstore (which I never found), I came across one that is really absorbing me. It’s called, “Universal Principles of Design” by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler (published by Rockport). The sub-title says, “100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design.” A little pompous, that title maybe, but it’s really quite a useful book. Each of the 100 design principles is arranged alphabetically for easy reference and is addressed by a brief description of the principle on the left-hand page and practical examples on the right-hand page. Although a particular design principle may be focused on a certain expression (print design or art design or software interface design), it’s fun to try to imagine how it could be translated to fiber arts. The entries are short enough to be read and thought about a little at a time, either in order or chosen randomly throughout the book. I haven’t gotten very far but was interested that one of the principles I pondered this morning while on the treadmill, I was able to apply and use this afternoon at work. Having to explain it to my co-worker helped me also clarify it in my own mind.

Some of the principles I’ve had some contact with, either through personal study or because my mother worked on a degree in Psychology while I was in school and I was her guinea pig (taking all the tests, etc.). Thanks, Mom. The book covers principles such as Cognitive Dissonance, Rule of Thirds, Archetypes, Gutenburg Diagram, 80/20 Principle, Hierarchy of Needs, Top Down Lighting Bias, Golden Ratio and Structural Forms. On each principle, the authors give the reader a number of other topics that relate to this principle for further study and even gives a listing of the principles according to whether their category:
How can I influence the way a design is perceived?
How can I help people learn from the design?
How can I enhance the usability of a design?
How can I increase the appeal of a design?
How can I make better design decisions?

A final thought in this regard. In an online Ethnic Knits group I participate in, there has been a discussion on the traditional design of Norwegian sweaters. If you’ve ever been near skiing folk, you’ve probably seen a beautiful color work Norwegian-style sweater. Traditionally, the designs are worked in black and white with a red accent color. The discussion moved into the reason for the red color, something I’ve never thought about before. Evidently, during World War II, although Norway had declared itself neutral, they were invaded by the Nazis. The resistance movement began using red ribbons pinned to the chests or lapels as a sign of their resistance movement but the Germans would tear them off. I won’t go all the way into it, but, because the Germans continually confiscated smaller items such as ribbons or hats or scarves, the resistance began incorporating red into their knitting patterns. Their design identified and concentrated the resistance and allowed the Norwegian people to make the statement they needed to make on a widespread basis. Not only did it allow them to make a statement, it was in made such a way that the design still resonates through the appeal of the mix of the colors.


I suspect the authors of this book would approve of their design.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I'm back

Time’s gotten away from me a bit. Not sure why – some say it’s having fun that does it. Hummmm….

I have been busy with multiple projects. I went into my local Hancock fabrics shop the other day, as you do, to buy some needles for a bead embroidery project I want to try. I got my needles and asked the clerk a question. Now, to get to the clerk, I had to pass by a sample dress. I’m a sucker for a sample. The pattern looked lovely (although the sample was made with the ugliest material on the planet) so I buckled. I found a beautiful chocolate brown material and a brown and blue edging that looks great with it. I was able to get the bodice part done the other day and now just need to get the skirt part done, attached to the bodice and bung in the zipper. I’m a little bit apprehensive about the zipper because it’s not my strongest point but I think, if I just take plenty of time, I’ll be alright.

Skrå-trøyer progress: I don’t have a photo because it’s really just more of the same but I’ve started on the top back and am getting on fairly quickly, even though it’s a bit more awkward working it back and forth. I’m working it knitting across and then knitting backwards so I can easily keep the strands running along the back of the work and I’m having to be careful to not let the gauge get too different from the round knitting section. I think it’s okay right now but it’s kind of hard to tell before it’s all done.

Speaking of hard to tell, when I got to the point of being ready to split the back and front, I realized that, math idiot that I am, I had got it wrong…AGAIN! It felt huge. I’ve actually now cut it down yet again by one whole motif on the front and one on the back. Now I think it’s finally at a reasonable size. It’s just so hard to tell while it’s on the circular needles if it needs adjusting. If I ever make this pattern again (of course now I have some concept of how it goes) – and I’m not promising that I ever shall – I will run it onto several circs from time to time just to check it out. So at the end of the day, I’m going to have a bit of steeking to do. But to be honest, I don’t really care because I’m as in love with it now as I was before I started. I love it, love it, love it. I’m hoping to have the back finished this weekend and then get the front done next week and the sleeves the following week (since I’m off that week of Christmas).


Tambour work: I was really happy that this photo picked up the pattern drawn on the fabric as well as the stitching because the pattern is drawn very lightly and is being actually a little difficult to work from. I’ve discovered that if you turn it a certain way in the light, the pattern shows up better on this fabric. I haven’t gotten so far yet but I’ve done a little and you can see in the upper corner that I’ve just started doing the little swags around the outside. It takes a little to get used to stitching on this material but I think I’m getting the hang of it now. In case you missed the previous post, this is a type of crochet that done on fabric and was popular in the 1700-1800's.

Lace Shawl: I lived for quite a few years in the UK but I’ve now been away for a whopping 10 years. It feels like forever. Most of my time was spent in Scotland and I loved living there and had some wonderful friends. I’ve finally made the decision

to take a trip back so in February I’ll be heading off. Not the most auspicious time, I know, with regards to weather, but it is before all the prices go up. As I was thinking about the trip, I got an idea to do a Saltire & Thistle Shawl. That’s what this little blob is. I’m doing it in the style of the Shetland shawl where you have the center panel, surrounded by a wide border and an edging around. Usually you would work the border 1 side at a time but I’ve decided to experiment with that part. I cast on 1 stitch, increased to about 120 and then decreased back down to 1 for the middle section which is worked in the style of the Saltire (also known as St. Andrew’s Cross) – the Scottish flag. I’ve just picked up stitches all the way around and will be starting on a Thistle pattern out of one of Barbara Walker’s wonderful books and then I’ll have to decide on an edging. I’m going to let that be a surprise, like writing a book and having to finish it so you know what happens. That’s the sort of thing. For those interested in such things, I'm using Skacel Merino Lace Yarn in a sort of pinkish tan color - the only color the yarn shop had 2 skeins of. I love knitting with this yarn. In fact, if you don't have a lot of experience with lace knitting, this is a great yarn to start with - soft handle, doesn't split easily.

I’m not too stressed about getting it all done because I’m thinking it might be cool to take it as a travel project. With it on the circs now, it’ll be easy to carry. Don’t know if I can wait that long – I’ll just see how it goes.

Baby Sailor Suit – This was a pattern that I originally wrote when a colleague was having a baby. I wasn’t happy with the original version sleeves and I can’t say I’m too much happier with these sleeves. At least with this one I have it in front of me to look at and figure out what I want to do differently. The other, alas, did go to the baby and I no longer have access. I love

the little pattern. I don’t know if you can see but it’s a onesy type construction and will have snaps at the legs and cute white anchor buttons along each shoulder so that it opens wide for the giant baby head! I have the pattern finished except for whatever I decide to do with the sleeves and to get the finishing touches on the various sizes. This is another project I’m hoping to get finished this year. If you would be interested in knitting it as a tester for me, I would be willing to provide the pattern for free to you. That would just basically mean make it up and let me know if I’ve made any errors in the pattern. If you would be interested, just let me know either in the comments or by email at
dks@wandagraysondesigns.com.

Like I said, it’s been a little busy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Best Laid Plans

I was off from my day job last week. I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish during the week. Maybe you’ve guessed where I’m going with this.

I got absolutely nothing done that was on my list other than working on my Skrå-trøyer sweater. Now I did get quite a lot done on that and I did get quite a few other projects finished and things done. Unfortunately, none of them were on my list. I used to add things to my list after I’d done them so I could say they were on the list but I didn’t think in this case that that was quite in the spirit of the whole list thing.

One of the things I had on my list was to clear my desk and finish organizing the piles that were stacked on it. I have to be honest and say that after sitting at a desk on the computer for 8 hours a day, when I go home I usually have very little desire to sit at a desk or work on the computer.

But I was tired and couldn’t really get into any of my projects. Somehow projects seem to conspire and make sure that they all get to “thinking” points at the same time – not helpful when you are brain-challenged. You know how it is when it’s no longer just mindless knitting and you actually have to pay attention to the pattern.

I had a new
Dr. Who audio book from Audible (David Tennant has such a great voice – and variety of voices - for this type of reading) so I got that playing and got right to it. Not only did I get my desk cleared and organized but I also hung 6 framed tambour projects. I had done a set of 4 tambour pictures using ecru colored tatting thread on a natural colored linen and then I’d done a set of 2 – one was a sort of free style and the other was a celtic knot pattern, both on a filmy fabric. I’ve had them laying around so I’m quite pleased to finally see them hanging.

One of the piles on my desk was a new tambour project that I’d gotten materials for a while ago and never started. I had the idea to do a purse using a silky brick red material and then over it I would layer a very filmy gold color material which would have a tambour design worked on it. To me it is a very Victorian combination of colors. I’m not sure exactly what shape it will be or whether it will be mounted over a frame but I’m fairly excited to see how it will come out. Anyway, I got the pattern drawn on the fabric and this morning before work I tried out a couple of different threads to see what I will use to work the design. I think I’m going to go with a yellow tatting thread as it blends nicely into the gold of the fabric but will still stand up against the darker underlayer. I also think it will allow me to do a finer stitch which is what I had originally envisioned for the project.

I’ll post pics as I get going.

Ah, it’s so nice to look over and see a clean desk and a new project just waiting to be worked. I left Rose in between time and space trying to find the Doctor so tonight I’ll have get the project started so the Doctor and Rose can get out of this predicament they’ve found themselves in!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Misers Bag


Just a quick post to show the finished Miser's Bag. I've got a number of ideas for variations and can't wait to finish them.

My main project now (apart from the Skrå-trøyer sweater) is a Shetland-style shawl in honor of my upcoming trip to my former homeland, Scotland. It's been 10 years since I've been there so I'm more than ready to get going. Alas, I'll have to wait until February. I know, I know, the potentially worst weather month but all the flight prices begin to rise in March for tourist season. There really is a smidge of method in all my madness. Not much, sometimes, but certainly some!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Can't get better than this.

Sitting here listening to Van Morrison working on a new bag. Don’t get much better than that, does it?

Have you ever heard of a Miser Bag? It was popular from the sort of mid-1800’s to the early 20th century and is something that has always intrigued me. I have sketches of it early on in my design sketch book. Here’s a picture of a 1920’s
pattern for one – see the extensive pattern instructions! I think it’s the mechanics that intrigues me. As you can see, the bag parts are on each end with a middle part with an opening to access its contents. There are rings that can be slid one way or the other to get at the contents or each can be slipped out to the opposite ends to keep everything in and safe.

At the little presentation about Civil War-era purses, the presenter talked about
the fact that these were great because they could just be hung over a belt to be carried and then be right to hand when needed (they were used by men at one time as well). She also mentioned something I had never noticed before – the 2 ends are made differently. One end is rounded and the other end is sewn flat. The reason for this is that the user would keep their gold coins in one end and their silver coins in the other end and would know what end to go into just by feel, taking the guess work out of the process.


I’ve finally started experimenting with a rather traditional patterning – here’s what I’ve got so far. It’s a smallish version but I think it’s really pretty with the green thread and the transparent grey seed beads. The beads are transparent enough to pick up the green of the tread and really complement it.

I’m thinking that you could really update the look with some cool ring beads in the middle and an interesting handle. The sample above doesn’t show a handle but I have seen examples with a sort of bracelet handle that I think could be made really modern. It’ll be interesting to see where it can go.


Skrå-trøyer update: Well, I have done absolutely nothing that I’d hoped to get done
this week, mostly because I became obsessed with my Skrå-trøyer sweater. Here are a couple of photos that show that I’ve got the body worked all the way to the half gussets at the armhole shaping. The second photo shows the side panel and how it splits to work in the half gusset. The body is worked in the round and then at the point where I am now, I have to start working flat. I’ll have to be careful with my gauge because changing from circular knitting to flat knitting will produce a different gauge, especially since I’m working 2 different weights of yarn. I’m just making some adjustments now and I took today off from working on it to give my hands a break – one can only work for so long with US size 1 needles and worsted weight wool! I’ll get kicked back in tomorrow once I’ve finished my little Miser Bag. I certainly feel that I’m a good half way through although I still have to do the sleeves and they can be a little tricky with the way they’re made. But I’ve got a lot done and I think I’m not going to be too far off my goal of finishing it by the end of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We've been getting very spoiled here in Central Illinois with temperatures as late as day before yesterday at 70 degrees. But it did finally decide to cool off in time for the holiday so it's a very autumn day as I watch the local squirrel jump round my patio in search of the plants I rescued into the house. If you've followed the squirrel saga, he did discover how to move a few of the rocks in the herb pot but he didn't manage to do too much damage.

I've almost finished my little beaded clutch experiment. The body was quite easy as it was just round and round with the beads being slipped on each half of the double crochet stitches. It was interesting to see that each half of the stitch twisted the beads in a different direction. I don't know that you can really see it on the pictures below but in person it created a sort of chevron pattern.

I was a bit stumped on the flap because I would have to work it flat. When you're crocheting with beads in this style, the beads present to the side away from you which is fine when you're going in a circle but wouldn't work working back and forth. It was already getting a bit heavy since there were so many beads in the body of the bag. My solution was to work the flap without any beads. The pearl cotton is quite heavily mercerized so has a bit of a sheen on it so I thought this little shell stitch would compliment the beaded body. I didn't quite work the flap wide enough so I decided to do a couple of rows of the shell stitch on the outside border of the flap and then finish it up with a row of single crochet with the beads along the outside. I'm really very pleased with how it ended up. I just need to do the lining which I'll have to do with some heavy facing to give the body some...well, body! It wouldn't do to have it flapping about, would it!!

It's pretty small - only 5" wide by 4" tall but I really like it. As with others bags, I'm not sure what I'll do with it but I'm enjoying it. Maybe that's enough.


Hope you all have a wonderful holiday.



Monday, November 12, 2007

From anywhere...and anytime

Inspiration also comes at the weirdest times. Sitting in church the other morning, I was looking at the stained glass and the column shapes and happened to wonder what a certain stitch pattern would look like. At first I thought it might look good as a summer top but then I wondered what it would look like as a scarf. When I got home I did a quick swatch and fell in love with it. In St Louis a couple of weeks ago I bought some beautiful yarn that I thought would work great. Actually, the yarn was bought for a scarf for my Mom for Christmas (sorry, Mom – you can have the pattern!). Here’s what happened! Easy and cute, what’s not to love? It still needs to be blocked but I love how it looks. Here's a picture of the scarf and a close-up of the stitch pattern.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Inspiration can come from anywhere - literally

Last year I watched a dvd of a British tv show (called Spooks in the UK but called MI-5 in the US). I love that show. This particular episode was one where a rogue newpaper publisher was trying to derail Israeli-Palestinian talks, killing the UN’s chief negotiator who was a friend of Adam’s. At the same time, Harry’s daughter, unbeknownst to him, is making documentary films about the Palestinian situation. By the time she gets onto his radar, she’s gotten herself into a situation where they can’t tell if she’s being run as a spy by the Israeli intelligence so Harry tries to come to her rescue. Adam stops him from blowing the operation until they understand more of what’s going on.

Now I tell you all of that to say, regardless of how pretty Rupert Penry-Jones (who plays Adam) is, the thing I couldn’t take my eyes off of and what I watched over and over with the remote and the pause button with my nose to the screen was his jumper. He had on this wonderful deep green chunky sweater and I had to figure out how it was made. I was obsessed. Now understand they were filming in winter (thus the jumper) so he often had a coat covering the pretty sweater. But I finally think I figured it out and decided to make my own version of it.

Now, because this was a test version and I didn’t want to spend loads and loads on some expensive chunky wool (which wouldn’t do for me anyway), I decided to use my favorite wool in the whole world. Not actually my favorite, favorite but I do love it, not least for the fact that it still has it’s wooly lanolin fleecy smell and I love that smell. Sometimes I open my craft closet where my fleeces are stored just to dwell in the smell of the fleece. Weird, I know but I’m not bothered. Not everyone enjoys this sheepy smell as much as I do but I’m not worried about them. It’s not like I force people to smell my closet.

Ah, yes, the wool. This is Fisherman’s Wool from Lion Brand. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best value in 100% dyable, feltable wool on the market – 465 yards for about $8. You can’t beat that with a stick. I always have a full stock of it on hand because, in addition to knitting beautifully, did I mention it dyes like a dream and felts like a charm?

But I digress. The sweater. The pretty man sweater.

So, I began my tests. After tons and tons of pausing and stepping through the scenes of the sweater (and he must have liked the sweater, too, because it was in a lot of scenes – cheers, mate) I decided it must have been a fisherman’s rib stitch (to go with the fisherman’s wool yarn – do you see something happening here?) using a chunky yarn and large needles. Since I have quite enough chunk without adding chunky wool to the mix, I decided to tone that part down a little and use the Fisherman’s Wool and size 7 needles for my gauge swatch.

You learn so much when you start playing around with things. I’ve always loved this double stitch but I can’t remember that I’ve ever made anything with it. It’s just lived in the back of my imagination waiting for the perfect project. One thing I learned from my lovely swatch is that this is an extremely stretchy-in-the-width stitch. Extremely. My normal long-tail cast on would never be able to corral this wild stitch. But I found that if I use the backwards e cast on or backwards loop or whatever you want to call it – it’s just throwing loops onto the needle with them flipped to the back – I could accommodate the stretchiness of the pattern without it going crazy. I also learned that, in order to get anything approaching an accurate gauge, the swatch needs to be stretched width-wise slightly. Did I mention the pattern is stretchy? Yes? Good.

Once I had the gauge all figured out, I got stitches on the needle and started knitting. Once you get the rhythm of the knit 1 stitch, knit in the stitch below the next stitch, it’s pretty fast until you get to the armhole shaping. Then I had to figure out a) how to work the first armhole decrease, and b) how to start the cable and bring it up the raglan sleeve. Oh, yeah, the pattern was a raglan sleeve with a pattern running up the decreases. I don’t even remember now if it was a cable but I’m thinking it was. Anyway, in my world a cable wove its way up the raglan. I decided a 6-stitch cable would be the right size to both travel up without making things too funky and big enough to stand out and be noticed.

So far so good. Now the sleeves. Of course, the only thing with the sleeves was to get the right number of stitches cast on and then figure out how many I needed there to be at the widest point. From there you just have to figure out how many increase rows you need and how you want to spread these over the body of the sleeve. If you add more decreases early, you have a more blousy sleeve. If you add them later, you get a more form fitting sleeve. I wanted somewhere in between so I sort of made it up as I went along, making the decreases fairly even up the sleeve body. The armhole shaping for the sleeves was a doddle because of the nature of the raglan. It was exactly the number of rows and frequency of decrease and the front and back pieces (minus the cable stitches) so they would fit together perfectly. Done.

I had the cable follow all the way up the raglan into a cozy, almost turtleneck collar. I continued knitting for about another 2 inches so I could fold over and hem the collar on the inside. Now, I not only have a sweater that double thick (because of the way each stitch is knitted twice) but the collar is quadruple thick (because the stitches are knitted twice and I have 2 layers of fabric). There you have a cozy, comfy pretty man sweater – for a woman. The pretty man was just the inspiration. Well, not actually the pretty man – it was actually the pretty man’s sweater. Actually I guess this sweater could be for a man with a few alterations. Not many. Just a few.

I absolutely love the finished item and wore it all the time last winter. As I was making it I did take notes and even managed to get the pattern mostly written. In fact, it’s written to the collar decreases and I’m working on the test sweater now so I can make sure everything fits together. It’s a challenge to keep track of trial and error. I don’t know about you but, with most things, I usually sort of poke around until I find something that works but I often don’t remember what I did to get there.

I’ve had to make a few corrections and, ahem, refinements to make the pattern flow and be intelligible to anyone other than me but I loved the exercise of capturing the process in a reproducible form. It’s made me much sharper in examining what I do and has helped me to think more critically about my craft. As they tell me Dobie Gillis used to say, “Good stuff, Maynard.”

I'm planning on making the pattern available to puchase on my website at http://www.wandagraysondesigns.com/ as soon as I finish the testing and get the pattern prettied up.

By the way, you’ll have to watch the episode to find out what happens to Adam and Harry and Harry’s daughter and all the others. Very exciting.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Crazy Talk

My Mom sent me this note this morning and I thought it was fun. See if you can read it:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uivervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and
lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitil raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Amzanig huh?

(She assures me it was much harder to type than to read!)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Now it's really finished...

I've finally finished a little handle and the lining for my little purse. Like I said before, it's now the most perfect but the first time I had done something like this and I did sort of make it up as I went along. So not so bad, right?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time off but just wish it could have been 2-3 weeks. I've averaged about 14 hours a day knitting, sewing and beading and I STILL don't have time for everything! When my ship comes in, I'm definitely going to be busy!!

The one thing I haven't gotten as far as I wanted to is with my Danish sweater. I have finished 2 of the pattern repeats but I have about 10 more to go. I worked out the other day that it will take about 60 more hours work to finish it. The goal is still the end of the year and I do have a little more time off before the end of the year so it's still do-able.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Looky, Looky!

It’s finished and I’m so pleased with it. This is a reworking of the vintage purse I was telling you about. Of course, it didn’t end up anything like the original but it was great inspiration. How fun is this?!

The body and top is crocheted with seed beads and then the edging and fringe are beaded with a larger bead accenting. I wish you could feel how gorgeous the beads make the bag feel. Although I started with tone on tone, it’s quite a hard color to match for the larger bead, lining and handle but I’m happy with the brown accents and I think they add an authentic color combination. It is lined and I did use a French seam because the lining was quite ravely. I used a very light lining fabric and it gives a nice ‘stained glass’ sort of effect in the light through the lacy bit at the top.

Anyway, it was a very easy project and I think I’m going to write up the pattern and then play around with some alternatives to the techniques here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Just a thought...

The preacher told this story this morning which I really liked. Ever feel like you’ve lost your focus?

An old lady used to ride a scooter every day across the border in Brazil. Each day she had a bag of sand strapped to the back. After a while the border guard began to get suspicious and wondered if she was trying to smuggle something in the bag with the sand. One day, he made her open up the bag and even though he went through all the sand, he found nothing and had to let her pass. Finally after this had gone on for months, every day a bag of sand on the back of her scooter, he told her he wouldn’t arrest her if she would just tell him the truth if she was smuggling anything. Yes, she told him, she was smuggling. But what are you smuggling, he asked. Her reply? Scooters.

I love surprises! I have this week off from my day job to get some things done for my fun job. One of the things I wanted to do is visit the bead shop over in St. Louis. There’s also a knit shop over there called Knitorious. Several of the ladies from our Fiber Arts Guild have visited and really enjoyed it so I thought, as it was in the same part of the city, that I would stop by. I just wanted to check the web site to find directions and found that they were hosting a talk by a Civil War re-enactor, Deborah Hyland, on Civil War era purses. I got there and found that one of my compadres was already there, also for the talk. Fascinating! She had pictures of a wide variety of purses as well as the old patterns, ladies of the era carrying purses, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed it as these old purses are a particular interest of mine.

As a bonus, I don’t know if I mentioned it but several months ago when I was in Omaha, I bought a couple of skeins of Artful Yarns Portrait mohair yarn in color 122. I didn’t have a plan for it, I was just taken with the colors (jewel tones – green, blue, turquoise, purple). I found a little shrug that I thought it would work lovely with so off I went. Of course, the pattern didn’t call for this gauge of yarn so I had to do a little figuring but I found that I could work the yarn on needles 3 sizes larger than the pattern and work at about 66% of the stitches listed in the pattern and it came out just about right. That is until I got ready to do the sleeves and realized that I wasn’t going to have enough.

Classic story, right? No problem, I’ll call the store and get them to send me 1 more. That’s all I needed – 1 more. They certainly had more when I bought my 2. Uh, yea. They didn’t have any more. But they couldn’t have been more helpful. The owner offered to call his rep and see what other shops would be carrying the yarn. Maybe they would have one. Four shops – yea, nobody had any and, as you can probably guess by now, the color has been discontinued. Classic.

So, Saturday, I’m standing in Knitorious talking to my friend and I happened to look down. There it was! Not only the Portrait yarn but the very color I needed. Probably the last 3 skeins in existence!!! There, right in front of me!! I had a little scream, did a little dance and bought all the skeins they had!! I know I only needed 1 but, honestly, tell me, how could I not!! It was only 3 skeins so I can always do a scarf or a hat or something. I’ll post some pictures once I get it done! How fab is that?

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Place to Crochet

I was in my local bead shop the other day – La Bead Oh – and the owner, Kathy showed me an antique beaded purse that someone had just given her. I was a lovely sort of stripey pattern and as I looked closer, I realized it was double crochet with 2 beads in the first part of the stitch.

I know you’re supposed to be able to crochet with beads and get a beautiful effect but it’s never quite worked for me. But I had a good look at it and decided to have a go.

I finished my little beaded vase (see earlier post) and still had beads on the thread so I started there and you know, it’s easy peasy! I’m really enjoying doing it (it’s actually easier than knitting with size 0000 needles!) and I’m loving the effect. So now I have a couple of other ideas of things I want to try.

It’s a little like the knitting in that what you’re seeing is actually the wrong side of the work. Like this:











(sorry about the blur)

But when you turn it through, there’re the lovely beads!!














Now I’ve just got to decide how long I’m going to make the tube and how I’m going to finish it off. I think I’m going to just do a flat bottom and then put a beaded fringe on the bottom but I’m not sure about the top. A little more thought is needed…hmmmm……

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Love Beads

Can I just say, I love beads. I love how they feel and how they catch the light and how the fabric feels in your hands and how they look. I’m enamored with beads. No one who knows me will be surprised by this sentiment but I just felt it needed to be said. I also love the fact that, even in the hands of a novice, they make things lovely. I’ve knitted with beads and I’ve crocheted with beads and I’m learning how to tambour with beads. But this is my first foray into just plain beading for a bag like this. Well, not the absolute first. I’ve done a couple of little amulet bags but this is the first real people size beaded purse. As you can probably tell, it’s my own design – not very even but did I mention it’s my first? And I’m in love with it. Just like a first car or first house or first love, it’s special. Even if it’s a first beaded bag that only a creator could love, since that’s me I feel pretty good about it!

As with other things I make, this started out life as something else. This was the top half of a bag knitted from
Noro Silk Garden (which I still intend to finish by the way). But when I got into it, I didn’t like the proportions so decided to finish this off as I did and I’m ever so pleased with it.

Did I mention I love beads? OK. Good.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ahoy, Matie!

I've had this pattern on my mind for several years. I originally made it for a colleage having a baby but it was one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants things that came out only so-so. But I've been wanting to refine it and get it written down. Here's what it looks like so far with the sleeves still to come. It's very exciting to finally get it sorted out. I will have it in 4 sizes, this being the newborn/preemie size, and will have it for sale on my web site eventually.

My biggest news is that I've finally started my own business. People have been telling me for years that I need to do this but it was never the right time. Now it just seems to be the right time to start and, as I'm telling people, everyone's reaction seems to be, "Well, it's about time." That's been a very satisfying reaction, I can tell you.

The web site is
http://www.wandagraysondesigns.com/. The name comes from joining my mother's and father's names because they are the ones who have inspired my curiosity and creativity throughout my life. A new adventure, for sure.

This part is really for my Mom. Here are some of my plants,the second on is what I was telling you about. No idea what it is but it's turning out so pretty. You can't really tell in the picture but the flowers are a pale purple.















And, finally, in the serendipity rocks category, is a little project that I thought was supposed to be a little knitted bead coin purse, but turned out actually to be a little beaded vase. It still needs starching and shaping but I was thrilled to discover it. I was actually going to rip it because it wasn't at all attractive. I discovered, however, quite by mistake that I was knitting it inside out. All the other things I've knitted with beads I've done in garter stitch so I never thought about a right side or wrong side. With this one, because I was knitting in the round with the knit stitch to the outside, I discovered there definitely is a right side.

Here's a picture of what I was seeing. Not too clever, right. But just turn it inside out and wha-la - a while different picture:

knit side:









purl side:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Shangri-la is in your mind...

Next year the Olympics will be in China which is a huge deal for the Chinese government and people. Having been cut off for so long from the rest of the world, ordinary people are hoping that the huge influx of people from others countries will highlight their struggles with a totalitarian government, which the Chinese government still is for all intents and purposes as well as showcase all that is wonderful about China, the Chinese people and Chinese culture. The government is making every effort to show the best side of their country to show that they have everything to be proud of and to prove they are not a second-rate country but a strong, proud nation.

In their effort to make their country accessible to the enormous number of visitors, they have faced a few stumbling blocks. One is how they have tried to make all their signs and posters read in multiple languages but largely in Chinese and English. Taxi drivers have even been made to learn at least basic English so they can best serve the travelers. All very noble efforts towards the goal. Unfortunately, not all of it has turned out as they would have wished. Especially at issue are the signs like this one(which is my favorite of the ones I’ve seen).

(Click to see a larger image)

The government has now had to draft in Western retired businessmen to work with them on cleaning up the signs which, unfortunately will do exactly the opposite of what they’ve wished. I’m afraid most people will overlook the great effort which has gone into making Beijing accessible to them and will end up mocking their efforts.

I just want to know…where IS my buffalo?!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Progressing...


Here's the progress on my Danish sweater....
It's finally starting to look like something!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Long Weekend

I love long weekends. About all I did was sleep and knit. I got through the first motif on my Danish sweater which feels like a huge thing. The thing is, I had to make a little adjustment because I couldn’t face starting all over. Seems it was coming out a little larger than I had intended – due partly to my maths, I think, but also due to the fact that it’s a 16-stitch repeat and if your measurements fall in the middle of the repeat you either have to round up or down. I rounded up and I really could have done with rounding down. So I’ve made an adjustment that I think will work but I’m not going to admit to it until I see if it works. So far it’s okay and I’m going to blindly continue.

I finished my self-designed Victorian bag so I only lack sewing in the lining. I did a lining but the material was a little heavy so I’m going to change it out. I’m pleased with how it came out. A weird thing happened with the beads and thread at the beginning of the piece. It’s knit from the top of one side, increasing beads as you go down and then worked back up the other side. On the top section of the beginning, somehow the beads seemed to bleed onto the cotton. I’ve never had that happen before so don’t know really what happened and it didn’t happen on the rest of the work. Giving it a good soak in soapy water seems to have gotten most of the color out of the cotton, although if you look closely you can still see it. I originally did a powder blue lining but think I’m going to go back to white.

I’ve got an idea for a smaller coin purse that I need to work on this week. Since this came off the needle last week, I now need to get something else started. I have some lovely cobalt blue beads that I’ve been wanting to do a full-size purse with and I think I’m going to do one of the patterns out of the Lacis reprint of 2 1920’s beaded bag instruction books. I started it this morning but it may take a while! I’m working it with a cobalt blue crochet perlé cotton size 8 thread and size 0000 needles. Like I said, it may take a while! Actually it’s just awkward right now because I started it with 8 stitches over 4 size 0000 double pointed needles. Anything that small is awkward at first but once I get some distance on it, it should go pretty quickly. I love the tone on tone effect so far.

I was also able to make great strides in my Fisherman’s Sweater. I’m testing the pattern I wrote to make sure I haven’t put in something too stupid (of course, I did so the exercise is worth it!). I’ve finished the front and back, which were the pieces with the cable stitch up the raglan shaping and am now about halfway through the first sleeve. I should be able to finish that tonight and maybe by the weekend I can do the collar section which is the part I most need to test on the pattern. It’s been quite interesting now that I’m getting more patterns written and ready for others to work on the discipline of getting the patterns right. I’m also going to work on some assorted sizes for this sweater, too, to add to the flexibility. I need to learn much more about that side of things and this will be a good chance to work things out. After all, other than the fact that it’s got a ‘fancy’ stitch, it’s a pretty basic sort of pattern.

Once I get the pattern worked out, it will be available for our Guild members but I’m also going to work out a way to get patterns out there for others to use. I’m still working on how I want to do that.

I was also very excited to get an email from a student in my recent sock class with a photo attached of her first completed sock (using my pattern, no less!). That’s the real pay-off, isn’t it, passing on the knitting bug!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Just another quick post to show off my latest necklace. I’ve had this shell for a while, pondering it every time I went by the table where my jewelry stuff is, trying to figure out what it wanted to be. Funnily enough, I’d also had this jasper for a while. Green is my favorite color and I fell in love with the color variations in this stone, never dreaming they would go together. Sometimes it’s just right in front of you. Last night I sat down to admire the shell and just started poking around in my beads and then I just saw it! I’m really digging it – and it’s just the right length.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm getting carried away

Just a quick post to show you what I did this weekend. I got a little carried away but here are my new stitch markers (I have sets of each one plus another one I forgot to put in the photo). Hope you like! I'm even using some on my sweater. As always, just click on the photo to see a larger shot. In case you can't tell by the photo, the little red ones are lady bugs. Awww....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Update

Well, I have to report that, so far, I’m winning the battle of the squirrel. I put down the heavy river stones and he has not yet been able or willing to do battle with them. I’m not saying this too loudly, however, because I don’t want the challenge to get back to the squirrel. Just, so far, so good.

This morning was the last of 4 classes my local fiber arts guild sponsored at the local community college. We had 9 students who took the class on socks, hats, and mittens. All were fairly new knitters but all willing to jump right in and experiment and learn so I think it went well overall. They were a great bunch and I really enjoyed them. Sock knitting, when you’re not an experienced knitter, is a lot to take in over just 4 classes (3 weeks). They even had a go with the MagicLoop experience and all were like the proverbial duck to water with it. Thanks, Debi, for bringing the samples for us to play with (yes, I had a go, too, as I’d never done Magic Loop before).

Skrå-Trøyer Update: It may not look like much yet, but I have gotten to the point where I will start the main motifs and side seam pattern. Next I will lay out stitch markers for each of the motifs and side seams until I get the rhythm of the pattern and I’ll be good to go for a couple of months! Actually, once I get into this part, I think it will go pretty well; having to pay attention to the pattern will help.

Victorian Bead Bag: I’ve got the knitting/beaded part finished and am just now working on writing out the pattern (it’s my own pattern) and sewing the lining. Then I’ll have to get the knitted part and lining attached to the purse frame where I’m going to try something a little new (to me). I'll post pictures when I get it done. I just love the play of the blue silver lined beads and the silver of the purse frame.

Vertical Stripe Sweater: Hip, hip, hurray!!! I’m finally completely finished with everything! This has been quite a project. I got the idea with these socks (I call them my rat pack socks because the colors reminded me of Dean and the gang in all their 1950’s splendor). I knitted the bottom of the body flat, using a striping pattern with the colors then I Kitchenered the ends together. I did the sleeves the same way. Then I made the bodice and sleeve tops. My math went terribly wrong so the bodice ended up being very wide which meant the sleeve caps were too long (they’d been made to fit the bodice). Not having the heart or the courage to rip it all out (or the yarn, to be honest), I went down the steeking road. I know steeking is supposed to be for another purpose but this sweater is wool and I figured the same principle would apply. I got out the old trusty sewing machine and sewed three passes on each side seam and sleeve top before I took my scissors to the excess. I just did it quickly and have banished all scary thoughts to the outer darkness. When I wash it for blocking I may go ahead and felt those edges down a bit. I wasn’t too sure about the sleeves but I ended up hemming them up a bit and now I feel much better about them. I can’t believe I’m finally finished. I guess I’ve had this going almost 2 years now. Sigh… I did keep some sort of track of the pattern as I was working but I’m going to have to adjust it to all the fiddly stuff I ended up having to do. I think it will be okay, though. It’ll just need some work.

I’ve been getting quite a few of my patterns worked up into actual pattern format and have been amazed at how many I’m getting. I need to figure out how to post the .pdf files and get some of them out there for people to try out. I’m hoping to finish my pattern for the Fisherman’s Sweater (aka “pretty man sweater” – long story – I’ll tell you sometime) test finished so I can make sure the instructions are reasonably accurate.

Next time I’ll try to have pics of my new line of stitch markers. I’ve been having a lot of fun with them and will have them for the next Guild meeting for people to see.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Won!!

I won the most recent bout of the beat the gas price contest. You’ve played it, I’m sure. You see that the gas prices are going down. Just how low will they go? Do I get it now or if I wait until this afternoon will it go down more? Sorry, you lose, it’s just gone up 30 cents a gallon. Or it’s going up and you wonder when if it’s going to come down. You keep driving, waiting for the downward turn. It’s a little like playing chicken with the train, train.

I don’t usually think too much about it – I have a little car with reasonably good gas mileage and I don’t have far to drive (nothing in Springfield is very far). But on Sunday evening I noticed that the stations closest to me were $2.75. It was time to fill up. If I fill up on the way to work Monday morning, I’ll still get it at that price because prices usually go up about 11am on Monday morning. Hummm….what to do. I’ll pass. About 10am I had to go out to run some errands. By that time the price had actually gone down to $1.69. I cave and fill ‘er up. Low and behold, by lunchtime the price had jumped to $2.95!

Nice going, right?! I don’t win the contest very often so it’s sweet when I do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Squirrel Cometh...

I was going to start out with other stuff but I have to tell you that I’m in the middle of the great squirrel wars. I actually have plants on my porch that are growing and thriving. That’s huge for me. I usually have quite the black thumb and often say that I never met a plant I couldn’t kill. So anyway, now I have these plants. My local squirrel has decided that it’s much easier to dig up my plants for his little treasures than dig in the hard ground around. I’ve tried the stinky spray that’s supposed to keep them away. It kept me away because I couldn’t sit out there with that stink but did nothing for the little critter. Someone at work told me to use red pepper – critter loves it. So now I’ve brought out the big guns. I went today and got some river rocks – nice and heavy river rocks – and have placed them in all my planters. So tomorrow we’ll see if they are any deterrent at all or if he’ll manage to move them out of his way. I’ll let you know.

Now that I have that off my chest, now we can get to the fun stuff. Here are my recent necklaces I’ve made. Such fun! I also made a couple of scarf pens but didn’t manage to get pictures before I gave them away.








I also got started on my Danish Skrå-Trøyer sweater this weekend. Here’s what I’ve gotten done so far. Doesn’t look like much, does it. You try knitting 400 stitches with 1 strand of worsted weight and 1 strand of fingering weight on size 1 needles! The fabric isn’t that thick but it’s very firm which makes it quite difficult to knit. You can’t just shove the stitches up to the end of the needle and knit away. You have to sort of feed it up slowly or it will shoot off the end of the needle! Ask me how I know that!!



But I’m very pleased to have gotten it started as I have a goal to finish it by the end of the year so I’ll have to get moving.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Learning from the past...

I bet you know that wool is warm and that wool is fabulous but did you know...



This is from a 1939 Beehive knitting magazine that I found yesterday when I was out and about. It seemed so funny. I think of all the studies and claims that we hear these days and people get so het up. I think that 68 years from now we'll have some decendents laughing at us, too!

"Wear Wool and Be Well

ULTRA-VIOLET TRANSMISSION THROUGH FABRIC MADE FROM WOOL – It is an established fact that the health-giving ultra-violet rays are transmitted to the body with greater power through Wool than through either Artificial Silk or Cotton."

I have finally finished my fair isle sweater (with the help of air conditioning and the fan on full blast because, as mentioned before, wool is warm!) and I'm very pleased with it. I need to do a little more blocking on the top of the sleeves but it's ready (and I'm ready) for some cool weather. I have a feeling that's a way off yet.




Now I'm going back to knitting and enjoying my long weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Busy Weekend

What a weekend! Are you ready for all the stuff I actually got done.

First, I finished the main knitting on my Fair Isle sweater. Now I only have to work in all those ends...

Then I made 3 mittens for the upcoming Socks, Mittens and Hats class at Lincoln Land Community College. Two of them were a pair made from 1 skein of Crystal Palace Taos in the Sedona colorway. They are done just with a basic pattern to show off the beautiful yarn and here’s what I had left!

























Then I made this 1 mitt because I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to try painting it with dye to see how that works – also as an exhibit for the class.



(Yes, I do have very small hands.)

While I was at it, I decided to do my swatch for my skrå-trøjer sweater. I got it done with black worsted weight wool and white fingering weight yarns using a size 1 needle. I thought the size 1 needle would be harder to use with the worsted weight yarn but it was okay. I did my swatch with 4 repeats of the pattern across and 3 repeats high. The pattern is 16 stitches by 16 rows and my gauge worked out to 8 stitches and rows to the inch (probably because of the difference in the weights of the yarns). I love the feel of it. With the gauge swatch I was then able to do the (quite considerable) maths required (I think I did it right). I even got it worked out onto an Excel spreadsheet with the repeats and the edging all marked out at the (I hope) right places. I still need to do the sleeves but I think they will be a bit easier now that I’ve kind of got things worked out for the body.

Blessings be on the head of Beth Brown-Reinsel who had the worksheet all worked out with examples of the maths to be followed. Bless her little pea-picking heart (as my Grannie used to say) because even with her help, it’s still a giant step of faith (because of my maths skills)!!! I’m determined to have me a wearable skrå-trøjer sweater by the end of the year.

This was also a good exercise as I found that I was forgetting stuff and had to go back to my little sample sweater to remember what we’d done. I certainly don’t want to leave it too long. The original was in blue and white and I did my sample in green and white but I think I’m going to use the same black and white that I used for my swatch to make the big one. One thing is that I think I have enough (from my Stitches shopping) of the black (I have about 2,400 yards which should be more than enough) and the white is easily obtainable so I shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to get hold of what I need. Also, I think that’s a very Scandinavian color combination. One thing’s for sure. When I wear this sweater, I won’t need a coat of any kind no matter how cold it gets!



It’s a little tempting to think of doing it as a cardi as it will be so warm but I’m going to go the full way for the first one (we’ll see if it’s also the last). I’ll also have to decide whether I’m going to steek the sleeves and front opening. The original one was not steeked so I may just go that direction. I don’t mind knitting color back and forth. Originally this pattern was knitted in the round up to the sleeve openings and then was knitted back and forth for the front and back. The sleeves are knitted from the cuffs up as they use the twinned knitting for the cuffs. So that’s what I’m going to try to do.

As if all that wasn’t enough, I took a class Sunday afternoon – a beginning PMC class. PMC is precious metal clay and it’s just what it says. It’s fine (.999%) silver in a clay form. You can mold it, shape it, cut it, wrap it around stuff that can burn away, and twist it. Then it gets dried out and fired and, whallah, you get a fine silver bangle or ring or earrings or whatever you want to make. At the end you just shine it up and, whallah. It’s absolutely amazing and you don’t have to have a bunch of specialty stuff to use it (except a kiln or access to a kiln that can heat it to about 1200 degrees). There is a lot of specialty stuff you can use but you don’t have to have it. I had a ball and made two wee things. I couldn't get a good picture but will try during daylight. They're not that good but they were worth doing to learn. I can definitely see myself using this stuff more for all kinds of things.

Sunday night I even got some of the 4500 yarn ends worked into my fair isle sweater. I have to say, I got even more of it done this morning at the clinic while I was waiting to be told I had an ear infection and needed both an oral antibiotic and antibiotic drops. Yea!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Huh?!?

In the “What were they thinking?” department:

I recently got a new computer from a large electronics retailer (who shall remain anonymous). I actually had a really good experience with the sales staff, got a great price for exactly what I wanted and even had a great experience with the mail-in rebate. I was nervous about the rebate offer because I’ve had horrendous experiences in the past with this process.

Anyway, I got through all of that and when I received my rebate check, I also received a $15 gift card (with purchases (sic) of $149 or more). Fair enough, 10%, right? Well it was until I got to the really small print with the exclusions:

“Qualifying purchases excludes computers, music, movies, games, Game Hardware, Sharper Image, Verizon, Infinity, Velodyne, Bose, Polk, Apple, Kicker, MTX Thunder, LG, KEF, Denon, Outlet and ‘anonymous’ Gift Card purchases.” I sat stunned for a while trying to think what it might actually INCLUDE. The only things I could come up with were sodas and batteries. $149 worth of batteries and cokes, anyone? I tremble to think what that might lead to...

Read on and you discover that this gift card is good for “future use only.” Is there actually a future target date? Are we talking 2010? Well, no, I see in looking closer it’s only good until 8/15/07. Hummmm…

I finally got my bead/jewelry-making stuff organized this weekend and while I was at it made this ring.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Finished Danish Skrå-trøjer

Just a quick post to show the finished article. It's not perfect but isn't it fun?! I used 1 strand of white fingering and 1 strand of verigated fingering for the braided cuffs and collar. I think it gave an interesting effect. I've started ciphering for my real Skrå-trøjer - I can't wait to have one of my very own!! Keep in mind, though, that this sample was knit on size 4 (3.5mm)needles and the real one will most likely be knit on size 1 (2.25mm)needles. That should be interesting!




Monday, August 13, 2007

Stitches Report

I wanted to post a quick report about Stitches Midwest, at least enough to say that an interesting time was had by all. We had quite a large representation from our Guild but I wasn’t sure I would run into any of them as I travelled separately from the others. We did run into each other all over the place, making it feel a little like we were taking over! Everyone seema to have really enjoyed their classes. I'm a little sad I missed the Guild meeting on Sunday to hear everyone's reports.

One thing that made the weekend a little more interesting - as if it needed it - is that there was a “Wizard’s Conference” right next door, evidently one of the Comicons. So there were people dressed up all over the place like animé characters and comic book characters. Quite a few Star Wars characters (those seem to be the most popular) but also Batman and Spiderman and, for the ladies, the most popular seemed to be some sort of I-Dream-of-Genie belly-dancer sort of character. One lady in my class came in laughing because she’d just passed a Spiderman with his “head” off smoking a cigarette. Priorities, eh?! Of course, there were numerous comments on the interesting combination of the comic book fans and the knitters. One thing held in common was the amount of money that must have been spent. Wow. Either there are a lot of broke people today or there were a lot of rich people this weekend (or maybe a combination of the two).

I had a wonderful, wonderful class with a lady named Beth Brown-Reinsel. She was so sweet and encouraging and a wonderful teacher. Here are some of the samples she brought to show us:



The class was more than I could have asked for. I learned so much and enjoyed so much the project we did, which was a Danish sweater. The sweater’s history is a bit cloaked in mystery.




They know who knitted it (the wife of turner (sic) Hanson) but not who he was or what he did. The


original – here’s a picture of a reproduction – was made with a worsted weight wool and a fingering weight wool. So it has some interesting definition and effect on the color work. Beth was able to study the original and created the pattern for the large sweater from the original. But for the class, she designed a miniature version that allows the knitter to practice all the components of the larger version – twinned knitted cuffs for the sleeves and neckline, half gusset, color work, following a color pattern and knitting a facing for the neckline slit.

I had a ball and here is the finished product (before blocking):


I’ll post later once I get it blocked. I’ll also post a note of a few of the things I learned during the class and a few more thoughts.