Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A stitch in hand...or something like that

Just to show that 150 stitches per row makes a difference when you’re knitting a fair isle sweater, here’s where I am now:

I’m back to the split for the armholes and have just started working the top back. I could have steeked the armholes but since that wasn’t the way the original in the museum in Denmark was made, I’ve decided to do this one without steeks. Now that I’m at this point, I will work the front and back pieces flat. Stockinette stitch can be tricky when knitting with more than one color, although there are a couple of different ways to deal with it.

One way (the way I generally use) is to
knit backwards instead of purling the wrong side rows. When knitting backwards on a piece like this, I generally hold the dominant color over my left thumb and the other color over my left index finger (for knit stitch the dominant color is the one on my left middle finger and the non-dominant on my left index finger). Holding them like this allows me to throw them easily, maintains the dominant color and keeps my yarn from getting tangled. The only thing I do have to be careful about is the tension.

You will almost always have different tension on items worked in the round as opposed to those worked flat which is why you should work your swatch in the manner the final product will be knitted. I will be able to use my first try as a gauge swatch since I haven’t had the courage to rip it out yet. It’s still sitting in its basket by the bookshelves, serving as a map. I’m still honoring that first attempt by allowing it to remain until which time it must be sacrificed to the greater good (the real sweater!).

The other way to do it is to use what Beth Brown-Rensel told me is called a
Norwegian purl. Because of the way this stitch is made, the floats remain on the wrong side of the material. It’s a bit different and isn’t the fastest way to purl but since it’s the way I learned, I never knew there was a different way to purl. Even now, I can’t really get the hang of other purling styles. It’s also a style that, I think I’m right in saying, must be worked continental style (with the working yarn in the left hand).

With my trip to the UK coming up quickly, I thought I’d share a web page off of the BBC News website with tons of photos of Scotland. They’re all taken by readers and submitted to the BBC. Click here to have a look. There are 10 or a dozen photos per week so just click through the date links on the right hand side and enjoy!

It’s astounding how many different “faces” Scotland presents, all the way from sandy beaches to fishing villages to cities to mountains. Some of them are breathtaking. I’m hoping to have some photos of my own to post by the end of February although I’m not a great chronicler. I forget I’m supposed to be taking photos!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's in the bag

When a friend and I were at Klose Knits in Urbana the other day, we saw Brigette had some felted bags for sale that were made from old wool sweaters. They were so cute but I had to ask myself, how hard could that be. I hadn’t actually thought I would do it until I drove by a Salvation Army store and, on a whim, thought, “Why not!”

I found 2 sweaters that I thought could work – a whole $3 each – and brought them home. I threw the 2 of them into the washer with some hot water and soap (one of them was rather nasty dirty) and let the washer, water and soap do their thing. About 15 minutes later I ended up with 2 nicely felted woolen sweaters – much cleaner as well, might I add.

Last night I got the bug so went to town with the old scissors and here’s what I came up with. The great thing is that the sides are already sewn together – no seaming there. I just need to stitch up the bottom, hem the flap, matress stitch the raw edges and figure out the strap. All I did for the flap is fold the extra part from the front part of the sweater to the inside as a lining and then bring the back part over for the front flap. For the strap, I have the sleeve material and I may try to do something with that, although that will take considerably more seaming. With the way the fair isle is worked, however, I think I would still have a good flow of the pattern if I do use those pieces. The other possibility would be to buy a ready made strap. Honestly, I can’t remember now what the others looked like. Anyway, here’s my $3 felted fair isle bag!

Mine won't be nearly so well-finished as the ones in the shop but, I like to try almost anything once!

How fun and easy is that!

By the way, there's no point of reference for size but it comes out as a messenger bag sort of size. If you want to try this remember the felting rule of thumb (it may only be my thumb but it has worked for me): a knitted item will tend to felt about 5-10% width-wise and about 30% lengthwise. In other words, don't expect the width of the bag to be that much less than the original sweater. If you want it smaller, just cut the side seams and sew around the both sides and the bottom.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Design Exercise

One of my favorite design exercises is to find an interesting item or an interesting yarn and try to design something around it. I thought it might be fun to blog through the process.

As an example, I’m going to design a purse around this beautiful piece of coral.

I found this recently at La Bead Oh, my local bead shop. I spent the afternoon just sort of mulling over the shape and color of the coral, trying to imagine how it could be used. I worked on a couple of simple sketches to experiment with what I would need to do to make it look like what I see in my head.

Speaking about sketching designs, don’t worry if you’re at the stick man stage. I’m not too far off that. I like to keep unlined index cards around to sketch on. They’re easy to carry around so I don’t lose an idea if I’m out and about and they’re pretty inexpensive and easy to just file away ideas. Sometimes ideas like to bake a bit before they’re ready to come to life. If you’re like me, don’t count on remembering them!

Here are a couple of things I was thinking about:

I could see the coral being used as a closure of some sort, either as the hook or as a bar for a closure to fit over. After thinking about it more, I came up with this, using the coral as a button with a square "buttonhole."

The next thing I have to consider is what I’m going to use the knit the purse. A couple of thoughts I’ve had were to use some natural colored linen yarn I’ve got on hand. That might contrast nicely with color of the coral. But it would need a nice shape to keep it from looking dull.

The coral is very reminiscent of Asian design. Perhaps I could work that into the design, a Chinese pattern of some sort. Nothing over the top because I’m not so into that style but there could definitely be something interesting there.

I’ve got a couple of different silks to spin, one in hankie form and the other in roving but I’m not sure if the colors would go. Definitely something to investigate. Wouldn’t that be beautiful? It’s spinning up as a lace weight in single ply which could work in silk, although it may be better to Navajo ply it for a more substantial yarn. Because it’s variegated, Navajo plying will help keep the color progression. The only thing is that if I do that, I’m going to have to get spinning. Hummmm….

I did also think about getting a hank of that recovered silk yarn but I’m afraid that will be too heavy for what I want to do. (I looked at the yarn shop and it’s definitely too heavy and the colors didn’t go.) I thought I could also look at getting a couple of different colors of linen or hemp and doing a sort of fair isle pattern using some Chinese character charts. Here are the colors I found that I thought would go well:

You can’t see all the colors so well but it’s a sort of medium celery green and red.

This is all part of the process of exploration and I’ll be keeping my eyes open over the next little while and I’ll do some swatching with what I’ve got to see what I’m happy with.

I did have a little idea about the shape. Since I think I’m going to use the coral piece as a bar which the closure will wrap around, I don’t think I want the purse to be too large. I’m afraid if I go too large, I’ll lose the impact of the coral. But it’s also got a bit of weight so it will need to have some structure behind it.

All these are things to consider. As I swatch and make decisions, I’ll post so you can see what I’ve been trying and what works.