27 August 2006

A little floral flourish

Although I really did intend to create a collage sort of barrette, when I started shopping the stash I found that I had fewer smallish gauge red yarn choices than I'd thought and the truth is that I'm not really an over the top embellished sort of knitter Besides, the barrette in question had only about 2 and a half inches of real estate to play with so simpler was better.

I started with the bloom itself and opted to go with the same technique I used in earlier experiments.

My first little bloom was out of DMC Baroque cotton and size 1 or 0 US needles. At about 1.5 inches in diameter when spiraled into shape, this is a very good size for a small barrette or pin.

After the first bloom was done and my stash shopping and barrette browsing brought me back to reality, I zeroed in on some Twilley's in a vivid red.

I worked primarily the same as the DMC but on a combination of size 2 US 3 US needles.

I cast on 84 stitches and knit six rows of stocking stitch. On the next RS row, I knit six and then rotated the left needle anti/counter clockwise 360 degrees before working the first of the next six stitches.

The whole formula is as follows:
Cast on 84 stitches
Rows 1-6 knit in stocking stitch
Row 7: K6 (rotate right needle, K6)13x
Row 8 (and all wrong side rows): Purl

Row 9: (k1, ssk, ktog, k1)14x
Row 11: (ssk, yf, k2, yf k2tog)14x
Row 13: (ssk, k2tog)14x
Row 15:
(ssk, k2tog)7x
Row 17: ssk 7x
Row 19: ssk, s2kp2, k2tog
Row 21: s2kp2 cut yarn, pass through remaining loop

sk2kp2 = slip 2 as if to knit two together, knit 1, pass two slipped stitches over.

Then arrange the swirling bloom and use the final length of thread to secure the spiral in place.

When the bloom was finished, I decided that it needed a leaf or two to frame it out and secure it to the barrette. Because of the metallic nature of the yarn, I wanted a bit of sheen but I didn't really want to dip too far into the realm of shiny but evil rayon.

I settled on combining DMC Traditions with America's Best Rayon Crochet.

With either a size 0 or 1 US and carrying the two threads together, I knit about
a half inch of 4-stitch icord (length A). Next I placed two stitches on a holder.

Working with the other two stitches I increased one stitch on each side of every right side row until I had 8 stitches.

Then I short rowed, long rowed and decreased back down to two stitches. I joined these stitches to the two from the holder and worked another half inch or so of 4-stitch icord (length B). For the second leaf, I increased 1 stitch on each side of every other ride side row until I had 10 stitches.
Again I short rowed, long rowed and decreased but this time back to four stitches. Then I worked about two inches of 4-stitch icord (length C).

I sewed up the gaps between the front and back of the leaves. Then, using a crochet hook, I pulled the length C icord through length B and A respectively.

Next I sewed the leaves and stems to the bloom. Because of the nature of the fibres, I added a bit of fabric glue to prevent ravelling of ends and to give a firmer base.

Next I turned to my wire stash and opted for the 26 gauge green floral wire to secure the flower to the barrette. I played around a bit trying to decide how to attach the completed flower to the barrette and ended up with a combination of simple wire wrap and sewing with the DMC Traditions.

23 August 2006

Those that were blind . . .

may still not see but at least they have eyes. Embroidered for child safety and knitter extra annoyance points. Seated mama and baby bear measure 14 and 9 inches tall respectively.

Now onto the knitted flowers for Michele's end of the knitted booty. I'm doing a series of flowers all using the same pattern but with different yarns in slightly different gauges for a sort of floral collage/corsage hair ornament.

Speaking of blind, or perhaps just dense I'm having one of those say what making up moments with some Debbie Bliss baby booties from Family Circle Easy Knitting Spring 99. When the issue was first out the assembly instructions (which suck) had people confounded and confused. The Fall issue of the magazine has "corrected" instructions which seemed to be pretty much the same and therefore not much improved.

And then I saw the light -- well sort of. Each bootie requires three rather than two squares to create. Two of the squares are seamed together to form the sole and toe box and the 3rd square is folded diagonally and sewn to the other two -- exactly how that's done is still a to be determined thing but I'm only a 42 row garter square away from figuring it out.

18 August 2006

Damn the deadline

My original deadline for completing the bears and companion flower for the Hash House honeys will not be happening.

The first problem is that now that I've found peace with the proportions of baby bear (which I did, in fact, sew up while on walkabout the other day), I'm not happy with the body and ears of mama bear. That means that I need to reknit the body and ears of mama bear. Then I have to sew her up and embroider/sculpt her face and that of baby bear.

The next problem is that in order to deliver flower and bears in one swoop, I'd have to have bears and flower done by Sunday at the latest to be sure that Michele is doing her weekend waitress gig and Sunday is the Whistlestop knitting when I need to pick up from and pay Tania for my Stitch and Pitch ticket.

So I'm pushing the delivery back one week to coincide with the kidling's one month of sucking air anniversary and not conflict with other gotta/wanna do stuff. Maybe I'll make Michele an extra something just to make amends.

15 August 2006

Sew bear with me and a popoki pause

Somedays it is really hard for me to believe that I used to really love sewing. Today is one of those days. The knitting is all but done (a couple of ears to complete) on both the mama and baby bears but now I've all the fiddly sewing bits to do. Here's the baby bear with all strings attached, lots of seams to sew and no stuffing to speak of.

The baby bear is actually the small tweed bear in jacket from Debbie Bliss's Teddy Bears with a few adjustments.

First, I reversed the shaping of the 2nd leg rather than have two alike and a resulting strange seam.

Next I wasn't really crazy about the proportions of the body and the arms.

I decided that are arms needed a bit more shaping so I started them with garter "pads" that will match the garter soles I did for the feet.

I ended up knitting the body in one piece (neck to neck) with shaping in the hip/crotch area. I considered giving the bear a bit of "back" with short row shaping but lost interest somewhere along the line.

I also didn't like the whole idea of making the head by making extra arms (read rectangles) and doing all sculpting/shaping with the sewing up.

My first experiment was a stocking stitch version of the bear head found in Chris Rankin's Gift Knits but the resulting head was a bit oversized even for the larger body. I considered doing a garter version (which I've done before to good result) but instead opted to follow the instructions for the Bear in Nightshirt with Hat (Bliss Teddy Bears). Here's a side view of the somewhat stitched head.

The mama sized bear is sitting in a plastic bag also awaiting sewing and stuffing. Sewing and stuffing are not very walkabout activities but they do want doing and I've given myself a deadline so I'm sucking it up, sewing and shopping for more stuffing.

In a popoki moment, I've been carting the triangle solution around in the bottom of my bag for the last few weeks. The stitches have escaped the needle a few times so I may be doing a bit of back tracking before moving forward and the whole attach live stitches to the edging as you go may also not be very walkabout, here's my current solution to the mirror the shark's tooth and wave edging.

11 August 2006

Once, twice three times a lily

One of the nice things about working with Knitty is that they tell you right up front that no news is good news which is another way of saying that rejection comes quick allowing you to heal, move on and submit elsewhere.
All things considered, swift rejection is not a bad thing. Having just gone through the YAIKTBNT (Yet Another Interweave Knits Thanks But No Thanks), I carefully noted the if you don't hear by, contact us date and proceeded to breathe a sigh of relief as each day ended with no news.

With perfect hindsight, I should have enlisted a volunteer model or two and taken some extra pictures while waiting to hear but then again, such an act might have tempted the fates.

I was delighted when I got the email from Amy on 13 May saying that the flowers were a go and that she needed -- drum roll please -- just the sort of photos I'd not been able to take for the original submittal and hadn't done in the month since.

I was kicking myself a bit for having sent my prototype lilies to a new home but I was confident that I could whip out a couple more lilies to fill out a bouquet and with a work draft deadline two weeks out, there was time for creativity.

When Susan Lazear's email about the Golden Scissors awards on the 19th arrived it almost seemed like an omen. It was, just not the sort I was after. Susan and I decided that we might be able to press a model or budding designer into service as a model for the flowers -- great. Well, not so great.

Models are strange creatures (I can say that because I used to be one) with either an innate understanding of how to hold themselves, their hands, or the ability to take instruction/play mannequin.

Me? I have the innate ability but the camera and I have long since moved beyond our youthful passionate affair. Others, I have come to discover, have neither the innate ability nor the take instruction gene.

In all fairness, the madness of a pre-fashion show changing room and/or the balcony over looking a parking lot is not exactly a mood inspiring backdrop. My model was gorgeous and a talented designer but the setting sucked and her relationship with the flowers was not happening.

I had other options for the weeks to come and was looking forward to connecting with Nancy, Kathy and Lauren to check out wardrobe at the shop the next day. I had a back up lily on the needles and it was all good. No, it wasn't.

Somehow, somewhere that night the lilies disappeared. I didn't discover their absence until Saturday afternoon when I was supposed to be trying to get together with friends to take some additional shots.

And, of course, when something goes missing you're sure it must just be in well, the other bag, still in the truck, in here, over there, somewhere I'm just overlooking it and then the phone calls and panic begins.

I can only imagine that, while browsing the silent auction tables, I set them down and forgot them. I have no memory of doing such a thing and one would hope that anyone who found them would turn them in so they could be reunited. Even if such a happy reunion was in the future it didn't help get photos taken and deadlines met.

Calls to the hotel, calls to Mesa College, emails to Susan, calls to local knitters. . . Keep knitting but your dual deadline worst case scenario is looming large and then there's the holiday weekend wildcard factor.

Saturday into Sunday I pulled what I can only call an all_knitter and managed to knit three lilies in the time it usually takes to knit one. Sunday I had two knitting finished lilies and another on the needles when I, sans significant sleep (3 hours tossing and turning max), wandered over to the WhistleStop. I was hoping to leverage the ambiance of The Grove to snap a few shots but knitting always knows and stretches itself out to foil well laid desperate plans.

The fate of the lilies circulated around the circle of knitters and there was much sympathy for me and curses upon the heads of who ever had my lilies. Jen helped further the effort by learning how to finish a lily. But the last lily still wasn't ready for its closeup when The Grove closed its doors and I trekked home, knitting as I went.

When you're having a knitting emergency and time is compressing at an alarming rate, you need an ally who knows exactly what you're going through or the ask a busy person solution. Enter Kristi Porter, local knitter extraordinaire, who knows about knitting and publishing emergencies.

After a short work day on Monday, I handed Kristi three newly knitted lilies, some gorgeous silk ribbon and couple of bouquets of mini callas. We chattered a bit about other projects, other knitting needs (test & production knitters) and stuff in general before I, knitting still more lilies, went home to face the day job deadline week of 12+ hour days.

Deadline driven weeks with a hostile to knitting workplace does not get many lilies knitted but I wanted some just in case (JinC) lilies. I managed to churn out three more lilies and meet my day job deadline but the holiday weekend was upon us and potential models and wardrobe were in jeopardy.

Enter the next phase of collaborative crisis management. I had wardrobe and hummingbird neighbour Zoe and mom were up for pitching in over the holiday. On Sunday, Kris and I wandered over to the local farmer's market to buy some flowers for the photo shoot and just to generally enjoy the day. We took camera. This is when I discovered that while my love affair with the camera had changed over the years, Kris had never had any sort of good relationship with cameras from either side of the lens. Not a good sign.

My chunky old digital's sluggish shutter speed, less than easy to read LCD display and two pairs of middle aged eyes made this much more of a challenge than either one of us was ready for. Still, after fits, starts and erasing, I had some shots in the camera, some flowers for the next day and I went home to transfer images.

Do the words corrupt Smartmedia card produce an overwhelming sense of dread and despair? If so then you can understand just how I felt on that sunny Sunday when the images that I'd previewed in the camera less than 10 minutes prior had vanished. Just like the missing lilies of the prior week, the digital images might be recoverable through the careful use of card reader, software and a bit of luck but that didn't fit the 1 June timeline.

I had an almost blank spare Smartmedia card, a full battery in the camera, three knitted lilies, a couple bouquets of flowers and several hours of prime photo-taking daylight -- so I took the lot (and my knitting) off to my figurative back yard of Balboa Park.

This is where I got creative/desperate. In the course of the next few days, I charmed/pressed into service friends, strangers and sculptures in my quest for just a few more extremities photos.

The Sculpture Guild's studio in Spanish Village bore fruit in the form of this reclining terracota sculpture and bench installation. Luckily for me, the sculpture (which I have always thought of as the fat broad) had still not been delivered to her purchaser.

On Monday, Zoe, Kris, flowers, wardrobe and I all headed over to
Pioneer Park in Mission Hills which is where I had taken some of the initial photos of the lilies.

Just as the prior photo outing in the park, the time of day was not optimum for photos but we got a nice selection banked and successfully transferred.

In the Museum of Art sculpture garden I've long been charmed by the Zuniga female nude but hadn't really considered just how perfect a model she could be.

Armed with a bit of copper wire and patience, I got some of my favourite shots and unlike Zuniga before me, I didn't have to hear any complaints from the model.

Personally, I think the hair shot of the Zuniga is much nicer than the one that Greg took on a why the hell not whim during our photo experiments.

I did the prep work and Greg did the photo honours when we made the venerable Kate Sessions model the flowers for us. She still has a sour expression but I think Greg's images were pretty sweet.

The final collaborator in the strange saga of the lilies was pal Heather of Fallen Angel Jewelry. Heather's hands and a bit of her handiwork can be seen in this last shot. Heather's hand and that of an anonymous flower vendor are also in the first image shown above.

Kristi and I both uploaded/emailed our images to Amy and waited to see which pictures would make the issue. Zoe was a bit disappointed not to make the cut and Greg and I shook our heads in wonder at the whim shot making the grade but that's how things work. Editor's choice and giving the editor choices is what it is all about.

Although it was a bit of a long strange trip that put me off knitting lilies for a bit, the experience was a good one and a reminder that all in all, I'm blessed with good friends and a remarkably resilient nature.

05 August 2006

Hits, misses, needles and such

Hits and misses -- last weekend was gay pride and although I had friends in town for the event and other friends who wanted to connect up in a not our party so let's get out of the 'hood thing -- it was a big no connect weekend. Lots of cell phone activity but also lots of wrong numbers, can't hear, dropped calls and miscommunications.

Kali (aka girl kitty) gave me a bit of a scare on the weekend. I couldn't get her into the vet until Monday afternoon which left my day wide open for the visiting friends connections but there was a lot more phone than face time and plans to connect up so I do him a mitzvah dissolved.

Kali, being her own charming self, was less than cooperative about allowing the vet to extract urine in the the vet's preferred method. This, of course, required a return visit on the Tuesday with Monday's outlook being less than promising.

On Tuesday, the blood work for popoki showed that her kidney function is remarkably good for her age but once again she was not down with the needle to bladder thing but this time they had a test tube at the ready to at least capture something in a sterile container. So we came home with two weeks worth of antibiotics and a less than clear prognosis/diagnosis.

Also less than clear was WTFO with my relocating friend who was still out of contact by mid-afternoon. I am a very low maintenance friend but I am not a door mat and taking me for granted is not well advised. So when friend and stuff to stow finally arrived I was short, not so sweet and out the door rather than have a nonproductive and potentially destructive conversation.

I really hadn't planned to pop down the pub but I was so irked that I needed to decompress and I was rewarded with good company and the pleasant surprise that I'd not acquired a new less than desirable super power.

Also in the needles, hits and misses departments for the week -- Knit Nite at the JCC on the Wednesday (and a joy to see Zoya again), a good prognosis for Kali, a less than bruising blood draw for me on Thursday and thumbs up for dining at South Park Bar & Grill and Knitting Salon at the Grove.

Onto more needle news

Everything currently on the needles seems to be on size 5 US needles.

The major portion of the popoki shawl is on a no-name-plastic-thrift shop find needle.

The edging section is on a pair of very sharp metal straights.

The bear parts were on metal straights until my finger tips just couldn't take the abuse any longer (swear to gods I am going to knit my fingerprint off that finger yet) when they got transferred to a Bryspun circ.

This was my first test drive of the Bryspun circs. Since a lot of the problems with circ come from where the metal or wood joins with the plastic of the cable, a needle, like the Bryspuns made of a single material (like the no-name thrift shop plastic) should be a better solution.

No problems with the join and perhaps this needle would have been okay for a looser tensioned project but the firm fabric required, tight gauge and lack of give in the Lion Brand Suede gave rise to a stress fracture in the point portion of the needle. The good news is that I was knitting at home at the time and could coordinate the transfer of stitches but I don't see a repair being a viable option for these.

01 August 2006

We interrupt this blog for some beary important news

The pentagon sleeves project is still on hold and the popoki shawl's triangle solution is on target but stalled as a local baby boom has distracted me and put me on a plush toy knitting path after a long lapse.

Before I came back to knitting I was doing a lot of soft sculpture pieces. As a result, a lot of my early knitting was all about exploring sculptural pieces from other people's knitting patterns.

My plush toy knitting kick had
knitted chickens, bunnies and bears flying off the needles on a regular basis. While I still have a few knitted animal parts (notably a kangaroo that looks more like a dinosaur IMO) kicking around in the knitting/studio room, the vast majority of the things I knit went to family and friends near and far.

I've known the parents of one of the babies since their days at Cafe on Park.

While I knit a lot of bears and other things for people at Cafe on Park, somehow Rene, Johnny & Michele didn't end up with any knitted swag and although they have always been on the to-be-knit for list they've never quite made it to the top of the list.

Babies, of course, change everything. And while I'm still trying to come up with a project for Rene that is not all about Rene as mom, for now I'm back into knitting bears from Toy Knits.

Johnny is not just a great judge of wine and women, he's also a musician, so I got it into my head that functional or not, blue suede booties would be a good choice. The early experiment in Berroco Suede is too totally cute also probably totally non-functional. It is adapted from the Party Pumps pattern in Kid's Knits.

Also not very functional is the Lion Brand Suede bear in progress. Originally conceived as a bear for baby Oliver, my gauge is making this more of a mama bear project that Oliver can grow into. Which, of course means I'll just have to start another bear as soon as this one is off the needles (if not before).

So here's a picture of Ursa in progress: