31 October 2009

Dear Prudence Part 1

Remember Brilla? Yarn who was rejected for pin cushion purposes?

Well, those two white skeins recently hit my radar
and seemed the perfect fit for a knitted lace collar.

A knitted lace collar? Well, yes.

No, not for me. People who know me IRL know its back story and future.

I can't remember whether the idea came before or after another project that had me thumbing through my stitch treasuries for lace borders, edgings and/or panels.

When that project found me gnashing my teeth, muttering about Barbara Walker Treasuries and doing more charting (and recharting) than knitting, a look see into the Guild's library offerings ended up with me rediscovering a book I'd dismissed for my personal library years ago.

The book, Knit One, Make One In Classic Knitted Cotton was written by Furze Hewitt who also authored Classic Cotton Edgings (in my library) and Traditional Lace Knitting (not in my library).

Years ago, I found Knit One, Make One in a local used book store but rejected it because its balance of projects to stitch patterns for design inclusion wasn't working for my needs. It still has a lot of projects I'll never knit but some of those projects have stitch patterns that I can adapt and even the projects have adaptation possibilities.

Brilla is not classic knitted cotton but rather a cotton/rayon mix and even though I am working this up on 2.5mm needles it is sort of chunky. It isn't moose lace but it also isn't a delicate flower block into an ethereal experience. Feminine but very strong statement and definition.

I don't have any strong plans to block, or, as suggested for pure cotton, iron/press the welting textures out of the piece. I'm also thinking button hole(s) and a few small pearl buttons rather than a ribbon.

21 October 2009

Carrying water -- bottles that is

While I was fighting with nylon cord that wasn't working up as expected back in July, I went to one of my Knitting Nights and, for some reason or another, the positively painful pink nylon twine on the needles got a bit of attention.

I'm not sure exactly how the idea came about, but since the original water bottle carrier was for a friend doing the Breast Cancer 3 Day, and one of the people taking note of the work is part of the Team In Training group, it just fell into place that I could support the effort with a design and a practical item to make the walk easier.

At one of the Spring/Summer knitting night get togethers, I went from a sort of vague water bottle size, a general notion of how it would fit onto the hydration belt to a sketch and a few notes based on the actual belt and bottle.

She trained, I worked on other projects but finally got project on needles. After some very real false starts with my brain/fingers refusing to remember the knitted mock filet crochet variation I'd become enamoured with some years back , I finally got it on the needles and finished.

We did a couple of tweaks to the end product mostly for her specific ergonomic preferences and perhaps next year we'll do the pattern or a pattern & knit as a fund raiser. I would, as ever, change a few things on the design so it could work for more people's preferences -- slightly different design and it fits on a bike rather than a belt, can fit on either or can convert to a different carry method (for this size a wrist strap).

Team in Training's colours are white, green & purple -- the white was easy but matching the other colours in nylon twine was not happening. I went for the only vivid green available and had to go coned fine gauge cotton for the purple icord element. More materials research might be in order.

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19 October 2009

As seen along the way -- a mountain of cloud

Since last post was long on words and short on images, today's seen while walkabout is very visual.

Surprisingly, no much colour balance dithering was involved with this image.

Just a random in the hood walkabout shot from some months back.

I know that I was looking North & East across Balboa Park from 5th or 6th at some undefined point South of Upas. My memory says near Nutmeg/Maple but I can't be sure.

The vision of a mountain of cloud, light fluffy, white and inviting was too wonderful not to shoot & crop.

It could easily be confused (okay, might need some photo tweaks) with a snow covered mountain top in the distance from a semi-tropical scene.

More elusive than that, it is a big fluffy cloud impersonating a mountain or mountain of candyfloss/cotton candy.

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18 October 2009

Talking Torsos

I can choose to phrase this as either I'm short waisted or as I have crazy long legs. Crazy long legs may be the sexier and ego boosting side of the house but it doesn't quite get to why this is a knit related issue.

So what's up with that? I've been knitting Lisa love-her-to-death Limber's Santorini from Knitting In the Sun and I'm doing it in long discontinued Classic Elite's Sand in what I consider an Aegean Blue.

It is a drop shoulder design and while I don't hate that design quite as much as many others do, there are some problems.

First, and this might just be me (aka a total quibble) but, gauge as given, is as blocked so it doesn't give me an idea of pre-block gauge. This matters to me in part because I am such a loose (to the point of sluttishness) knitter that I really need to have a good pre and post block vision even when working with the suggested yarn.

Sand is an Aran weight yarn that is supposed to knit up on 5mm needles at 4 spi. Euroflax is a sport weight whose native gauge is 6 spi on 3-3.25mm needles and lace gauge of 3.5-4 spi on 4-5mm needles.

The design specifies 4.5mm needles and a blocked gauge of 4.5 spi -- for me at least, that does not compute.

The Sand is not working up as a must block aggressively to get gauge fibre and it also doesn't seem to have the bloom factor that the Euroflax does. It is pretty much on target as an unblocked gauge as given with nice fabric and unless it scrunches down on laundering (and there seems to be enough air 'tween the stitches to make that unlikely).

Resulting fabric will have a bit more heft than the Euroflax but the gauge is quite close to the blocked version of the as written project.

Again on the loose knitter front, if I were knitting Euroflax on the needles suggested I would have fabric nearer fishnet or cheese cloth even before blocking.
So maybe, just maybe I'm knitting truer/closer to the yarn's suggested gauge -- that's a big change for me.

Note to self -- Louet's ball band info for gauge is closer to my knitting reality than most manufacturers' info.

Cut to the chase, if I knit the thing as written and at perfect/dead on gauge it still wouldn't really work for me.

I did, in my own obscure way (bottom up, in the round rather than pick up and bottom down flat), knit the sleeves using the fundamental increase/decrease formula before I admitted that my nagging inner voice was right about the sleeve just being very wrong for me.

Did I mention that I'm short waisted? On a footnote of the crazy long legs, I am 62.75 inches tall or thereabouts. From ground to low shoulder I'm about 53 inches with 31 inches of that devoted to legs and my natural waist is about 41 to 42 inches from the ground.

In theory, those crazy long legs suggest that I should be about 5' 10" and that was always the expectation when I was growing up -- well, up until I just stopped growing and everyone else (including some of the serious shrimps with short legs & long torsos) zoomed past me when I was about 12.

But I've digressed, do the math, my total torso is about 23 inches (yes that's 7 inches shorter than my inseam) and a low shoulder to waist measurement for me is maybe 11 inches.

The smallest size of the pattern specifies an armhole depth of 10.5 inches -- on me that's a dolman sleeve and I don't generally do dolmans. My comfort zone for arm hole depth is about 8 to 9 inches and I should always keep that in mind when working any pattern.

Fortunately, this is a drop sleeve design so changing the arm hole depth does not require a full rework of the sweater body. Since I hadn't worked the body in one piece from bottom to armhole, all I really needed to do to correct for the change was to take out the crochet chain that joined fronts to back.

So what's the take away?

Even the best designs that you so love may need a sanity check to match the design's finished size to your body.

If you're walking around in a fog thinking that you are a perfect size Insert variable here then, unless you are really lucky or totally delusional, you're wrong.

You're also probably wrong/delusional about your ready to wear and the only major difference here is that when you wake up from your fog with ready to wear you'll pay someone money to make the ready to wear actually fit you.

When it comes to the knitting (and days gone by home sewing) you'll need to take ownership of your project and make the corrections yourself. Man/woman up folks, only dish clothes and the like don't need adjustments to fit.

Just like fashion designers design for an ideal fit model that very few of us ever match, knitting designers do the same and your best success is going to come from figuring out your body, the design, your knitting and how to make the three come together for a triumphant trifecta.

I've long since figured out that my truncated torso means that all instructions that tell me how may inches to knit from either bottom to armhole or armhole to bottom will need some tweaks but some how I still fall into the "oh it will fit" viper pit.

I reknit the sleeves based on my reality and I am much happier with the result.

The whole project is on hold (oh like that never happens with me) as other projects (knitting and not) jumped priority queue. To date, the still to be done involves picking up stitches for the neckband and deciding how I will join body sides & sleeves to body -- minor stuff.

No photos this go 'round but if you're on Ravelry, you can see the WIP on my project page. If you actually know me IRL, you've also probably seen it or at least seen the bag I've been lugging it about in.

Bag BTW, (and yes, as we know I am a bag hag) is the Tiger tote from the Buddha's Barnyard series of Chinese brush work by the late Nancy Rupp.

16 October 2009

October is for organising one in a series

The room that is my yarn studio, like most of the rooms in this apartment, has a less than ideal layout -- limited wall space (lots of doors/windows and door swing stuff).

It was far from perfect at move in and,
despite repeated efforts to reinvent it, arguably has only become more dysfunctional since then. Okay, adding more yarn, needles, patterns, projects and fabric may have had something to do with that. . .

Now that I am in the midst of the current incarnation of the Autumnal archaeological dig, I'm taking the extra time to really put like things with like things and not just stash the stash. I've been guilty of the stash the stash story but another part of this go 'round has been to rethink my prior sorting strategy both as new yarn comes into the picture and old yarn exits to a new makes more sense sort order happen.

With a bit of luck, this like things with like things and really taking stock, will mean that I will either finally start working on some of these projects (especially the sewing ones) or admit my lack of interest and pass them along (donation rotation) to someone who's more motivated/interested.

I've been at this for a few (eek) weeks now and although things are still in flux (or crazy chaotic mode depending upon your perspective) I'm now at the fine points decision mode.

For example, is it better to keep the small file cabinet with design/pattern notes/submissions in the studio or in the office/computer room? And does it really make sense to try to keep all not in use knitting needles in one location.

So the powder room off the studio which had literally been a marginally functional crafting library can now function as a powder room but is still mostly about books and knitting needles.

The crowd them out knitting magazines have moved from there to a new set of shelves in the studio. I'm still not happy about the magazine storage but it is a way better for now improvement.

Sadly, the sewing machine, having had its table shifted into computer duty in the office months ago, no longer has a working home in the studio. The best I can do right now is non-functional storage and even that's a where's the shelf/floor space issue.

Photos not shown include the cone zone, fabric stash round 1, do I really own that much fine gauge should be tatting thread and my deeply shallow mannequin (she's an IKEA wireform), the Goko perch and more.

There's still a lot of stuff hanging off of other things as some crazy mix of visual stimulation/overload.

Some of it is just borderline clutter and some is about baskets holding things waiting to join up with others of their ilk (the go back bins) and some is keep it in sight so I can keep it in mind for design purposes but that's part of how a studio works for me -- a complex mix of everything in its place (and that place can evolve over time) and bits and pieces out to visually stimulate/flirt with my creative juices.

And no, not all yarn, wire, needles, fabric, projects (in process or otherwise) are confined to the studio space. Some of that is inspiration and some is just not having space that works. Still, trying (from time to time) to enforce my version of the guest worker programme (you can come out and play but then you have to go back to the selection pool.

I'm also trying to figure out how to move photography into the studio so I don't have a semi-permanent installation on the dining room table. There never has been a good answer in the studio space unless I completely eliminate any guest room/seating/sleeping from the room.

15 October 2009

Eh, she used to embroider too

When my original knitting instructor (Mrs Maclaren) took me on as knitting student when I was a mere kidling, she had high hopes for me.

Those hopes were based in part because, although I was well under the age of 10, I'd already proved myself to be a very talented hand seamstress, quilter and embroiderer. While I wasn't born with a needle in hand it was a near thing.

I did not live up my instructor's expectations and she pronounced me hopeless as a knitter. My other talents stayed and expanded but knitting. . . let's just say that while the knitting seed was planted but it was in hibernation.

One of the embroidery types I really loved was known as Swedish or Huck Weaving.

Swedish friends assured me that there was nothing ethnically Swedish about it and the Huck came from the fact that at one point in its popularity it was worked in Huckaback fabric that, like Monk's cloth, features raised vertical fabric floats that perle cotton, embroidery floss or other embellishing thread cab be threaded/woven through to form a design.

The technique was very popular in the 30s and has had a number of different resurgences over the years.

I began designing in the technique about 40 years ago and last did serious design work about 30 years ago when it retreated as a well adopted needle arts form.

At one point, I worked up designs/finished linens while studying and sold them on a consignment basis with boutiques and a few dear friends also ended up with custom designed and worked pieces.

Since I no longer actively design in this area and my design portfolio (like my modeling portfolio and library of programming subroutines) didn't make the trip to California or stay safely in storage back East (sigh) I hold out but limited hope that some of my friends will figure out digital cameras and such well enough to send photos of the still come out for special occasions linens I designed and stitched for them over the years.

Some of the fabric stored in the studio is hunted down Huck. Some of it high end nice stuff and some of it that is not a lot better than the old style public restroom towelling of days gone by.

I've also either found or replaced some of the original Mildred Kreig pattern booklets but I'd dearly love to see my own original designs. Crazy girl that I am, I have thought about trying to work floats in knit designs to introduce Huck surface weaving into knit designs.