Saturday, May 31, 2008

To market, to market..

One of the 10 reasons that I had not blogged, I guess was number 6, was that I am working on a new pattern. It came out of my desire to recycle, reuse and save our environment. I love this trend and hope that it becomes a way of life rather than a passing gimmick for advertisers. It is kind of like the way that our freeway speed limits were reduced for the energy crisis, but restored when, what? There was no longer a need to conserve energy? Ahh, what a concept.

Back to knitting...and the pattern that I am working on. I packed for last week's trip to the cottage and made sure that I brought some cotton from my stash. The idea was to make a market bag. I even brought (or thought I had) a pattern or two so that I could sit on the deck, watch the waves and knit away without a care.

Things rarely go as I plan, and this was no exception. We got there and it was cold, no deck knitting. Fine, I could sit inside and look out at the lake, no cares. I opened the fiber "suitcase" and got out the cotton. No patterns. While searching the incredible stash at home, I must have laid all forms of patterns somewhere and left them there.

I am not easily discouraged, only manically obsessive about working on what I set out to do. How hard could it be to make a simple bag, with a stable bottom, an openwork pattern, easy in and out top and comfy handles? Knowing that there are patterns out there, it was probably better that I did not make one before trying to design my own. This opened the doors to more possibilities and probably more errors than I would have made if I started with something rather than just an idea.

Garter bottom. Fine, how big? Got it. Openwork pattern, looked great, easy to do. How tall? Hmmm tricky, since it stretches in all directions. I am not very tall, so I did not want it to drag, but I planned on two short handles, so I could go a bit longer on the bag.

I like it, I wrote notes all the way through and decided it is too long for the general user. Great for baguettes and really long spaghetti! Plus the knit netting caused some calculation concern when placing the handles in accordance with the "twist."

I had more cotton, in orange, and it has a mild boucle texture. I wonder how that would work? I used the original pattern that I had just jotted down, but made some adjustments. So far, this one is looking good. I had thought about different handles and the appropriate sizing, so the suggestions from my friends have been incorporated. I will be finishing this one up tonight!

Talk about energy use! A simple bag, from simple materials, used from my pre-existing stash, and as much brain power and knitter's input that I could include has taken much of this week's energy. Thankfully, I do not run on diesel.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Top 10 Reasons that I have been late with the blog….

If you have been wondering, “what is up with LindaLuFiber,” here is a partial list of my goings ons:

1) Getting ready for the Cranbrook Art Museum opening of the Craft in American exhibition on June 14. The Black Sheep Knitting Guild will be demonstrating knitting and spinning for the public and hosting a knit in for those who are interested, plus it is a family fun day so the museums have free entry that Saturday. This is World Wide Knitting in Public Day, and we are a registered site! (join us would you?) We are listed under Bloomfield Hills, MI and there is a map and everything you need to know posted! Look us up!

2) Working on the Hanami, not enough, but a bit…

3) Working on a triangular shawl in my own dyed wool…storm in the springtime, which reflected reason #4,

4) Visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The sky was stormy grey and the trees bright spring green! This is where I like to take a knitting vacation while I bond with my patient husband and our adorable cat.

5) Applying for a cultural travel grant to visit Turkey….guess what? I got it! So the entries may get a bit skimpy during the summer, but I will try to get some good pictures and have already found a yarn market in Istanbul…hope it works out!

6) Visiting our cottage that has been neglected for the past 3 months! So a trip to Tobermory, Ontario gave me some good knitting time. I planned to make a market bag, grabbed the yarn and forgot a pattern! So I am making one up. I did the first trial version and used it to bring all of the barbecue picnic food and condiments and plates to the picnic table. This helped me decide to make the next one shorter. Thanks to my friends from the Black Sheep at the Beanery tonight, I have some good input on version #2 that is on its way to becoming my next posted pattern. It takes about 6 hours to get to the cottage, so I had plenty of time to work it out.

7) Spending countless hours securing flights for my husband and myself to visit Korea in August. We were invited to participate in a ceramic tour (we both do ceramic art) and two international exhibitions in Seoul. (Another skimpy month for blogging, but I am checking into Korean fiber.) Ravelry has been a good source for my travel fiber fix, I highly recommend finding locals before you travel and check out the fiber scene!

8) I am a teacher, meaning that the school year is ending and report cards are next on the big agenda.

9) I am taking an art doll class at Hollander’s in Ann Arbor. Another opportunity to make art and use fiber and found objects to their full potential. Here is the beginning of one of the pieces...more to come after tomorrow!

10) There just are not enough hours in the day, week or month. Gosh it is great to have such a full fiber life!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bohus Stickning (or miniature knitting for pattern junkies)

Being the glutton for challenge, adventure and general fiber learning, I was intrigued by a posting for a class on Bohus Stickning. The intrigue began with the name. I did the natural thing, I googled it. Wow, great pictures and what do you know, I own a book that seems to feature that very subject! Poems of Color was a book purchase that I made simply because it had a great cover. That and lots of pictures of sketches on graph paper representing color combinations and designs for knitting. The artist in me was very excited. The knitter in me did not know quite what to think.

The class was being taught by Susanna Hansson. She would be in town for the weekend and there were a couple of choices, Sunday's class was for mittens, using a unique method for carrying color up the mitt for color designs that ran vertically. The pattern for these mittens and a great description was in last month's Piecework magazine (the one with the poem mittens on the cover). I have the magazine, and may one day make the mittens.

The Saturday class was the one that caught my eye. It was described as an introduction to the history of this type of knitting and a workshop to make the historic Bohus Blue Shimmer cuffs (see her website, they are beautiful!) I wanted to know more about the history of knitting in general and liked the aspect of the artistic uniqueness of a group of women creating wonderful wool and angora blend patterned sweaters on tiny needles for the wealthy.

I started some cuffs, on the tiny (size 00 needles) using the color chart that has repeats of different multiples for each section. This requires increases and decreases to make them work out. It also requires a magnification device, plenty of eye rest and a marker to keep your place. Who would have thought that the advent of asphalt would begin an artistic movement in knitting? The hubbies who used to work in stone found themselves out of work in the quarries when asphalt was developed, so the women came to the rescue. They did their usual home bound laundry, kids, cooking and cleaning bit, then settled in for the evening. By dim light, using essentially bike spokes, they carefully planned and knit these fantastic sweaters. The yarn was weighed before they received it and weighed again as the sweater to be sure that the lowly artisans would not keep any materials for themselves.

My cuffs are not done, thanks to the Hanami in all its glory (3x the 32 row pattern-done) but will be. Maybe when the weather suggests the need for them, or possibly sooner. My friend Cheryl, well, let's just say she is a machine. Hers are done and she is ALSO working on the Hanami, I must find some way to slow her down!

I studied art history in college, as a way to appreciate the development of art movements. I guess it is only natural that it would be interesting to learn about the history of knitting for different purposes and in different cultures. Bohus Stickning is a bit highbrow, but lovely and interesting. Now, a whole sweater on miniature needles....I would go blind.

Friday, May 9, 2008

If Hanami is Japanese, why is the knitting like Greek to me?

Here's the thing. I am busy. I am busy all of the time, much of this busy activity is fiber related and yet more is not. So, in the midst of all of the busy behavior, the end of a school year, planning for summer trips and adventures, I agreed to a KAL. You know, Knit a harmless, so well supported by friends and others who can share your sorrow and joy and pressure you into finishing what you have begun. KAL, perfect. Thanks to my friend Cheryl, who brought the most beautiful yarn that she dyed and the most beautiful pattern, the Hanami Shawl by Melanie Gibbons, I am involved in this project.

It was so harmless, in the beginning. Fun, friends, using yarn that I had and never knew what I would make of it. Yes, I had a $52.00 skein of Schaeffer Andrea Silk in laceweight, and never knit lace. I also had a bunch of lovely alpaca lace from Cherry Tree Hill, and more get the picture. The pattern is an inexpensive, quick fix of a download and away I go!

This was two weeks ago.

I now have started the beautiful shawl, with all of my knitting experience to guide me. The pattern is well written and easy to follow. I am an idiot! I work all day, stay busy into the evening and late at night, in the poorest of light, I decide to work on this project. Is it a surprise that by following such clear instructions and using markers in the proper places, my section counts never make sense? Is it possible that with all of my knitted rows and unknitted rows and the perfect beaded cast-on (the second time around) that I may have actually knit the entire shawl, but only have one inch to show for it? Yes. It is true. I am embarrassed and horrified. I knit a beaded bookmark to prove that I haven't lost my touch (thanks Stacey, great kit).

Last night, after struggling with the perfect yarn and getting to about 3 inches of knitting, I realized that the wonderful, expensive silk from my stash was pooling and hiding the pattern. That was the last straw on this redone and redone and redone project. Not the pattern itself (I don't give up that easily) but with that yarn.

I started over. I found beads that match the Cherry Tree Hill Suri Alpaca. It is not cherry colors, but it is soft and softly shaded. I cast-on and began (did I mention it was about 11 pm on a school night?). I know the pattern inside and out by now, you would think that life would be a breeze. I think that I felt a little too confident, because I made a whole new batch of mistakes and put it aside (not frogged, just aside) for tonight.

Each day is a new day, each night, new also. A fresh start is what I always recommend to my friends, so that is what I have recommended to myself. I will begin before 11 pm and I will quit when I have a row that has the correct count. I will sleep without worrying about the next row. And as we are reminded in yoga, nothing is perfect. Nothing is intended to be perfect. Try to achieve a new level, appreciate what is accomplished and challenge yourself to do more.

I am challenged, and finding myself, strangely, enjoying the fact that it is not a simple act.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Retreat Adventures continued...Dyeing to get at it!

Saturday morning proved to be a bit overcast, much cooler than our arrival, but heading full blast into color as we began our dyeing day with Rita! She gave us a little overview, reminding us to be safe and careful, some general inspirational tips and books to look over. This is when the various types of learning styles become apparent. The listen, or read and analyze folks began to do just that. The less patient, jump in and try it types did just that! Me...well, I had done some dyeing before, so I wanted to start right away.

Rita had pre-knit some blanks for us on her knitting machine, so that we could dye in a different way. This was great, since it was my first blog experiment, I had a chance to try again with more vivid color! I had brought my own pale green silk and wool blend lace weight that I had pre-knit just for this purpose. Boy, how I love getting clearance prices on a less desirable color...what a great opportunity for over dyeing and twice the fun since it will have a second life in my knitting! I love that.

Much of the yarn that we dyed was sock yarn. This is a great way to experiment with patterns and colorways. Not only is it a manageable amount of yarn to work with, but it can easily be used almost regardless of color choices or experimental methods. It is so interesting to me, seeing the choices and varieties that are used when a huge array of colors are available. Some people gravitate to their favorite colors and combinations and others are like kids in the candy shop grabbing up everything that looks exciting. I tend to choose a color that grabs me and become inspired by adding bits of other colors for new combinations as I go.

Looking at the drying rack gave us inspiration for future projects and insight into what variety was available. I am guilty of finding that one skein of yarn that has fabulous colors and feels great, but may not be ideal for my project. The colors may pool, based on the repeats, or may even muddy out of the picture when combined in small knit stitches. I am not saying that all yarn should have a purpose before it is dyed, but it helps to try a good variety to understand what the options will be. Some of my less dramatic colorways seemed a bit wimpy on the rack next to the wonderful peacocks that surrounded them. But when I got them alone and twisted them or held them open, I could see new potential for the closer or further repeats or the skein that was neutral with a couple of surprises dotted into them. I am anxious to see who they grow up to be once on my needles.

There are so many things to consider when dyeing yarn. The project, the colors and the combinations are just a few. But it is not necessary to get caught up in this all of the time. Sometimes the sheer pleasure of experimenting will produce an outcome that you could have never planned. Nor may you always repeat, if you are like me and react to color and just keep painting or over-dyeing until it looks right and neglect to keep notes! I leave that organization up to the professionals who need to repeat their results.