Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fiber & Friends #2

The Net Loft encourages its community to be multi-craftual, and in keeping with this aim, many of the Fiber & Friends 2016 classes were not about knitting or spinning. The first one of these that I took was net making, a chance to learn the basics of fish nets, while making small decorative samples.

The class was taught by Bonnie Phillips, who mended nets in the original Net Loft when it was exactly that. She has had varied careers since, but has always made artistic use of net materials, buttons, beads, bones, and feathers. For a picture of Bonnie in her net mending heyday and the story of how she inspired Dotty Wideman to start a craft paradise called the Net Loft, look here.

Our classroom table was set up with a 2 cup hook jig at each place on the table, and with a packet of supplies and some instruction, we wound our needles with waxed linen cord and began:

The knots in a net are a simple pattern of half hitches, but it takes a lot of practice to remember the sequence and form the loops evenly. In imitation of the real thing, decorations are strung along the top like floats, and on the bottom like weights. Because it is a fanciful art project, beads and things may be scattered around the netting as well. These are examples of some of the students' work:

Here's my first effort:

Pretty uneven, but, then, I don't need to catch any fish with it, I guess. My first knitting was probably pretty uneven, too. Decorations were some beads on the top and mainly some single earrings saved after I had lost one of the pair.

Notice the boo boo extra loop on the right side. Easy mistake to make, hard to correct. But, as I'm sure thousands of knitters and crafters have thought since the beginning of twisted fiber, what happens if I make that error consistently and on purpose? It's a pattern! It's a design feature!

Another mistake I made from the beginning of signing up for the class was the intended purpose of these little nets. From the git-go they looked like necklaces to me. I was a bit surprised that this had not seriously occurred to anyone else, and that the original vision was for them to hang in a window (light through glass beads) or in a frame or pinned to a board.

So in the afternoon session I laid out my journeyman effort with the intention that it should be a necklace and that a different shape would make it better to wear. Having used up most of the decoration stuff I brought, I had to repair to the shop downstairs for more dangle supplies. In the end, this is what came together:

Shell pieces, metal charms, bone and wooden fish, and a somewhat more even net! A necklace! A net-klace!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fiber & Friends #1

In spite of my good intentions, I just couldn't manage to blog during the Net Loft Fiber & Friends event in Cordova AK. It was all I could manage while attending daylong classes to poop out a few Instagrams; hope you enjoyed them. But I do want to tell  you about it all, so here goes in a post-happening series of posts.

Because the ferry schedule is so awkward, (so awkward, indeed, that the web site is hopelessly out of date and you'd better phone them if you're serious about going there) I had to arrive a day ahead of the start. This turned out to be a useful opportunity to scope out the town and environs. And at the Chinese restaurant just before I crossed the street to sign in, this was my fortune cookie:

The first Saturday and Sunday: a two-day workshop about hat design. Whaat? Two days to figure out how to knit a topper? Well, yes, if your teacher is the brilliant Bonne Marie Burns.

She used the humble knit beanie to give us insight into the design process of all knit garments. This means some serious and diligent swatching (stitch and row), and serious thought about sizing, materials, construction, and an historical detour into the development of the knit hat from the 1400s.

She taught us how the math of the top decreases rules the process, and how the designer can fiddle, fudge, frog, and maybe some other f-words, too, to make inspiration mesh with stitch counts and create a realistic plan for a real product.

We learned about using tear sheets for inspiration, and wrote our own design concept statements, followed by the hard graft of the actual plan for the design.
We measured heads, swatched swatches, swatched potential stitch patterns, tried out this 'n' that, so that by the end of the two days, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do, and a definite plan for it,  but had not cast on a serious stitch yet. Eventually I did cast on, and in fits and starts and odd moments managed to make most of what I call the rough draft version of my hat.

The Big Idea was to make a 4-panel hat featuring a scallop shell texture motif in each one. The shell was based on one in an Alice Starmore sweater, Cape Cod by name. Executed in a different gauge and fiber, however, it was a miserable squashed caricature of a shell, so needed a good bit of revising and rescaling. Likewise, the panel dividers went through several iterations, as did the crown decrease method. I can now say with confident experience that as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of the pattern is in the knitting. You just don't know what it will look like till you know what it looks like. 

Here's the finished product, with rough draft huddled below.

 3/4 view:

 And the top. Just love that p2tog "button" as the center finish:

I have to say I'm really proud and pleased with myself, and massively grateful to Bonne Marie for all she taught us.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Oops! She Fumbles! She Recovers!

Remember when I said in the last post that you can't tell for sure how a sweater will be until you sew the pieces together. Welp, that goes double and triple for the current item under construction. Sewed Sleeve #1 on, no problem. Got sleeve #2 ready to pin and, um, let's just take a look, shall we?

That's #1 in place, fine and dandy. Here's #2:

Compare and contrast. One of these things is not like the other. If you said there seems to be a triangle missing from the edge of #2, you'd be absolutely right! This is what comes of knitting the first sleeve as a "swatch", then the body, then the second as an afterthought. You stop increasing too early and end up with two utterly different sleeve shapes. Sigh.

My life flashed before my eyes as I initially thought I would have to frog all. of. the. pattern. area. of. the. sleeve. and do it again with edge increases. And how would it look made with partially shrunken and frogged crinkly yarn and partly with new yarn? Or knit a whole new friggin' sleeve and shrink it?

In the midst of the Slough of Despond (where the frogs live), I realized that this is a gansey. (I know, brilliant deduction, Sherlock, but stay with me.) One of the design features that marks gansey construction is the arm gusset, a diamond-shaped piece in the armpit area that makes for freer movement of the fisherman's active arms. I could make a half-gusset, a triangle rather than a diamond, to add the missing shape! Counting rows and stitches of the missing area, I came up with this:

I sewed it to one side of the misshapen sleeve (easing to account for its non-shrinkage) and washed the whole sweater again.
This is in its pre-shrunken state. Notice color difference as well.
Now what do you think?

According to the trotting horse theory, it's game over and fix accomplished, all within the tradition! Anyway, it's in the underarm area, and anyone who is inspecting my sweater armpits can go sit on a fishhook.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Less Banging, and Some Homework

Not much to see here, folks. The Blaer banging out has slowed to a glacial trudge for sleeve reasons, as explained in the previous post. And when the knitting gets slow, the motivation slows down, too. When I just couldn't stand it any longer, I picked up another project, the one I neglected for my banging-out exercise, the Cornish Knit Frock. Much more gratifying, even the tight gauge ziggy zaggy neck ribbing. And whizz bang (relatively) I had banged out all the knitting of it. Bang into the washer; bang into the dryer, a little hanging about to finish drying, and here it is ready to sew up!

I have unraveled the swatch I shrank in order to have shrunken yarn to sew with, so all that's left is to put it together. I am a bit worried about potential fit. In spite of all my measuring and calculating and swatch-shrinking, the body seems like it is way too long. But the only way to know for sure is to get busy and see what happens.

This is the nervous part of sweater making. You can spend hours of your time and lots of your money, do your very dangdest to get it right, and still be subject to the whims of the yarn gods as to whether you will have a garment you will love, or one that you will give away. This is probably what separates us merely prolific knitters from the ace knitters of the world who can create an exact replica of their vision.

I've also got homework to do. My homework package arrived from the Net Loft in advance of the Fisher Folk knitfest in Cordova in 2 weeks.

There are swatches to make, needles to corral, seaglass to select, bits and bobs to use in my net necklace, and should I take a project of my own to work on in between whiles? There will be a 6 hour ferry ride over. On the 6 hours back, I'm sure I'll be working of my Fisher Lassie Gansey. But excuse me for now--I've got lots of work to do!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Bang the Sweater Slowly

The neck, the lace, the shoulders, the body, contrast bands, button and buttonhole bands, all banged out quickly.

All that's left is the sleeves, and the banging has slowed to a lazy thud. Why? Not for lack of effort, let me quickly say. Sleeves are the worm in the apple of top-down sweaters. When you do them one at a time, you constantly are throwing a big ball of sweater around and around in your lap as you knit these smaller tubes attached to the main bulk. This time, I essayed two-at-a-time on two circular needles. They're more likely to match, another knitter said. (True. I often knit flat sleeves simultaneously on straight needles and they do match better.) It's easy, she said. So much faster, she said. Well..... not so much, in my experience.

There's the skootching of the stitches down to the needle end ready to go. Then finding the other end of the correct circ. Finding the right yarn. Untangling said yarn from the other sleeve's yarn. Tugging the first couple of stitches tight so as not to have a gappy column between needles. Four times on every round. A method for even sleeves it might be; an aid to rapid banging it is not. So while I skootch and untangle, here's a video to watch. Kinda dirty, pretty weird, pretty misogynistic, outstanding male beauty, great tune:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Banging On

It's been a bit more than a week since I started #bangingout the Blaer sweater. Got the hardest part (the lace and shoulder increases) done at the knitting retreat, and since then it has been simple smooth sailing with plain old stocking stitch back and forth, back and forth.

Right now with its curliness, unblockedness, and gathering on the needles, it looks a bit like a baby's romper, but I assure you it is on its way to becoming a full size adult cardigan. Couple more inches of this and it will be ready for the bottom contrast bands, then on to the sleeves!

Warning: Possibly NSFW Section Ahead! 

It may depend on where you work. A bar, no problem. A kindergarten, close the window now! It's also not knitting related, but it gave me such a case of the giggles, I had to share it.

The origin is a random browser ad I caught in the corner of my eye. Did I really see that? For once, I had to click on the ad to see what the heck this actually was:
It had to be yellow, didn't it? Turns out, when divers need to take a whiz underwater, they just have to let 'er rip in the wetsuit. That plus sweat and any other body secretions tend to make the neoprene stinky and deteriorated after a few uses. Piss Off (and other wetsuit shampoos) to the rescue! It neutralizes the nastiness and makes it much more pleasant to don the garment for your next underwater adventure. And I discovered all this on the very day I was making this in my British swear word coloring book:

You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Retreat Goes Forward

Friends, has this ever happened to you? You make meticulous plans for a project, let's say just for a random example, banging out a sweater at a weekend knitting retreat. You print out your pattern, order and receive your yarn from exotic foreign sources, swatch, assemble correct needles plus extras just in case, add measuring, cutting, and sewing tools. You pop it all in a bag and haul it off to said retreat.

That was me this weekend, all geared up to #bangoutablaer. (See previous post for all the sweater-banging-out background.) I cast on the minute I arrived at the cabin, and by Friday evening had made excellent progress, to wit: the contrast neck band and lace section.

It may not look like much to you, but lace doesn't get banged out quickly. In fact, some of the lace areas had to be knitted more than once. Let's just say that liquor and lace are not an ideal combination for fast progress. Well, fast and correct progress, anyway.

This being a top-down yoke cardigan, what followed on Saturday was a whole lot of horizontal knitting as the number of stitches expanded for shoulders. At one point there were 300+ stitches per row. By Sunday morning, the yoke was all banged out, sleeve stitches separated and held, then the fronts and back joined for the body of the sweater.

After that, it's just straight back and forth stocking stitch down to the contrast bands that finish off the bottom of the body. By the time I headed home, I had added about another inch to what you see in the photo above and was mightily pleased with myself. The hard, fiddly part was all banged out and the rest would be plain, if fine gauge, sailing.

And Then. And then I check my email when I get home and OMG at the top of the pile is a cheery note from Ravelry inviting me to download a revised corrected version of a pattern in my library--BLAER! Consternation is the polite word for what I felt. Deep, screaming, table-pounding consternation.  From the peak of self-congratulatory progress to the weedy bottom of the Slough of Despond.  Instead of banging out a few more rows before bedtime, I had to compare new and old pattern versions to figure out what had changed. (Note to Ravelry: you might want to help a knitter out by highlighting changed text in a new pattern version. Just sayin'.) Good news/bad news is that I can't find anything different in the size I'm making after (bad news) spending an hour comparing old and new. If something's off in the lace chart--pffft! I've done it and it looks ok, and I'm not going back there. I'm banging on undeterred.

But back to the retreat. As always, it was a joy to be with the amigas, eating delicious meals

Grilled fresh halibut, Mexican spoon bread, and salad, for example, drinking various potations, eating chocolate, soaking in the hot tub, and knitting, knitting, knitting.

Here are the members of our merry band:
Judy, in her regular clothes, banging out a beautiful green Aran sweater.

 Anne, our super host, banging out a Rowan denim gansey.

Jere, showing off her first pair of socks on her beautiful pointed Pilates toes.

Linda, who not only crocheted a scarf, but learned to knit!

Camden working on her heirloom Kaffe Fassett sweater.

You guys are all so beautiful and skilled!

And though we were inside knitting knitting knitting, browsing, and sluicing a lot, we did pop outside from time to time to admire King Mountain across the valley still wearing a lot of its winter snow

and watch the tiny new leaves emerge. They seemed to visibly expand by the hour.