Category Archives: Knitting

Tastes Better in Twill

Hello to readers old and new! Sorry about the gap between posts. I’ve been trying to write about my experiments in fiber blending, but it just hasn’t been clicking– I finally realized that, for it to work, I’ll need to include details of what the blended fiber will ultimately make. (And I’m not there yet!) In the meantime, here are some other things I’ve been up to.

First, I’ve been weaving. Actually, I’ve been weaving for years without realizing it: not fiber, but pie crust!

This time I decided to get just a smidgeon more adventurous than plain weave and try a 2/2 twill. I made a very cheaty pie with a store-bought crust and frozen berries, so the time investment was minimal. Pre-made crust isn’t as delicious as the real thing, but it slices up quite nicely when you’re making lattice tops in the weave structure of your choice, and a frozen berry mix makes a quick pie filling when tossed with a bit of sugar and flour. Perfect for weaving experiments.

And for eating.

Also along weaving lines, I visited a small museum recently and came across this sketch dated July 27, 1903. Careful scrutiny of my blurry photographs reveals the artist as Edmond Massicotte. This was great fun to find alongside some of the more modern displays, including an unnerving room filled with glowing ribcages. Personally, I found the loom much more interesting: not done by a weaver, but drawn with meticulous attention to detail.

In the knitting realm, I started the Nightingale mittens. I’m using a worsted-weight, chain-plied handspun from Sweet Georgia’s BFL/silk roving in the variegated Midnight Garden colorway against a background of commercially spun Sweet Georgia yarn in Nightshade (which my significant other stealthily slipped into my yarn basket when I wasn’t looking: how nice!).

Translation for readers of the less-fiber-inclined sort: I am making the mittens out of yarn.

Since they come from the same dyer, the two colorways go together wonderfully, but I’ll need to be careful about how I spin the rest of the Midnight Garden:

Commercially spun on the left, handspun on the right. I think.

As you can see, the darkest tones are a bit too similar to the Nightshade. Since I want to avoid having long patches of the dark blue in the more complex patterning of the mitten body, I think I’ll break up the roving a little bit more as I spin. Any suggestions for how I can reduce color pooling with the yarn I’ve already spun?

When it skeins, it pours

I went away to visit family this past weekend, and somehow or other I wound up at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival. (“Somehow or other”, in this case, involved last-minute rescheduling of the weekend and a frantic bus ride at two AM. You know, these things just happen.)

Actually, it’s been an especially fibery couple of weeks over here, even though I haven’t spent much time in the studio. I went to a weaving guild meeting last week, and am hoping to join the guild in the fall. (Plus, they were nice enough to let me snag some goodies from their book sale!) I’m also planning to check out a nearby weaving conference in a couple of weeks, along with taking some road trips with friends to upcoming fiber festivals. In short, things are great!

Acquisitions!

At the New Hampshire festival, I found a beautiful cherry niddy-noddy which, incidentally, perfectly matches my also-recently-acquired cherry spindle. I was also pleased to find some Icelandic top and an interesting Icelandic-alpaca blend, each from a different farm’s booth. The latter fiber has a bit more of what we’ll tastefully refer to as “vegetable matter” than I’d like in a processed roving, but it’s spinning up into a lovely glossy yarn.

A very young, slightly overenthusiastic sheepdog and her flock.
The thing about sheep is that they have an attention span of approximately half a second. They’ll look at you with bright-eyed curiosity for just that long, then deem you completely unthreatening, uninteresting, and unworthy of posing for. I had to keep surprising new sheep to get a picture.
It was a terrible struggle not to take this absurd little creature home with me. My dad, whom I’d dragged along, had to remind me that it would be both high-maintenance and smelly. Then the rabbit breeder rushed over and flung one into his arms. A hard sell!

The next day, tired but happy, I went for a walk in the woods with my mom. She brought her dog, and I brought my spindle.

Cartwheel. Technically not a craft picture. Well, it adds atmosphere.

Though I’m not especially surefooted, don’t worry: there was a perfectly serviceable path.

Of course, when I got home, I went and started planning more projects. Because I can’t help it. I’m thinking of a handwoven Go board in an as-yet-to be determined structure (doubleweave?), as well as a pair of nice mittens for myself. Mittens in May? Well, by the time winter rolls around, I’ll be neck-deep in Christmas gifts. For the pattern, I have a copy of Nightingale, which I love– it reminds me of Jacobean embroidery and all things nice– but I’m going to adapt the chart to the Mittens to Order pattern. The Sweet Georgia roving is spinning into a very pretty singles, so I’ll chain-ply it and use it for the birdies against a navy background. I think it should work, but I hope I have the technical skill to pull it off. I’ll keep you updated on this latest insanity.

Nostalgia and New Things

I don’t know about you, but I’m a seasonal sort of person. My life and memories thereof have always been clearly ordered by the different seasons of the year, or at least, the seasons as they occur in the rather pastoral little corner of the world where I grew up. I left home fairly young, but I think the place where you grow up is pretty well rooted in your psyche. The city where I live now does have all the seasons, and in abundance, but they come later and change more abruptly. It’s the delicious in-between times that I miss: the mists and the fog of early spring and late fall, the lime-green rainforest of new leaves and the bite of the cold morning air as you step outside.

This year, in lieu of leaves, I have roving.

The real transition to spring takes place here during the last week of April and the first week of May. As you might have gathered already, I get a bit sentimental this time of year: a degree of sadness tempered by an inevitable burst of energy.

Somehow, that energy has gone and manifested itself in the form of new craft projects.

When it takes you three days to put ten ends on an inkle loom, you know there’s a problem.

Between a stockpile of silk for my spindle, a lengthy waiting list for my looms, and numerous needly things needing attention– on top of, you know, a job– one could almost suspect that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

That little row counter is looking at me accusingly. I know it is.

No, I’m just irrationally frustrated by how slowly things are going. I’ve been spinning and weaving for less than a year, so looking at it in perspective, of course I can’t expect to be efficient or even reasonably proficient yet. That doesn’t seem to stop my brain from zipping ahead to the next project well before time or budget (especially budget) permit. There are so many things I want to do, especially when it comes to weaving. One of these days I want to really Get Serious and study weaving techniques methodically, but I’m a bit afraid to start– and as long as I keep coming up with new side projects, it’s not going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not complaining about getting to spend some quality time with my favorite fiber. This silk is a little outside my usual color spectrum, but it drafts like butter, and it’s so soft that I’d love spinning it no matter what the color. (Note: upon reflection, I don’t think you can draft butter.)

So, how to cope? Spring might seem like the time to try something new, but for all that, I’m thinking that it’s time to slow down and go back to some old projects: the tapestry on my studio desk is looking awfully sad and abandoned.

Have you ever felt in over your head with your own hobbies?  It’s easy to talk about something like weaving as “just a hobby”, but these things have a way of entangling themselves with your self-image and your expectations of yourself. Not to mention your self-control. I’d be curious to know what strategies you have for managing it all.

Crafting every which way

At last, some finished projects! Enough, I think, to give you a quick update.

The Henslowe is complete. Hallelujah! It took almost exactly two skeins of Cascade Ultra Pima. Unfortunately, by “almost exactly two skeins”, I mean “two skeins plus three yards”.

Oh, well.

I also cut the inkle band off the little loom:

It’s about a yard and a half long– what shall I do with it? I’m thinking it would make a nice summer belt once hemmed and finished.

On the big loom, I’m starting another overshot project. Overshot is really my loom’s (and my) comfort zone. I’ll have to sample for weft a bit more, though: the knobbly purple cotton yarn above isn’t quite bulky enough to get a squared pattern with the 8/4 cotton warp I’m using, no matter how lightly I beat. I think that since it’s actually an unbalanced two-ply, it’s not really as bulky as it looks. Some of the leftover Ultra Pima might be just the ticket, though.

(Also, bad tension. Bad, bad tension.)

In other news, I’m still fighting off the knitting bug, so I’ve cast on another project. This time I’ll be attempting Floating in a beautifully indulgent Tanis Silver Label, but I’m trying to go into the project with a different (healthier?) mindset than I did the last. I’ll consider it a learning experience and will live with any non-structural mistakes, but if the whole thing starts to fall to pieces, then I’ll rip it out and use the Tanis to weave some yardage. Or at least inchage.

I will say that my motivation is increased tenfold by the presence of a flock of little sheepy stitch markers.

(I am a sucker for stuff shaped like sheep.)

Next, I’m anxious to get back to my miniature treehouse. I’ve been gradually collecting materials for a nice long session of leaf-making, and I should be ready to start just in time for spring. Whether this turns into a successful project or, um, comic relief, rest assured that pictures are forthcoming!

Confronting my nemesis with resignation, if not aplomb

I’ve mentioned, probably too often, that I’m not much of a knitter.

My Henslowe is coming along, but it’s not happy about it.

I’ve been fascinated by weaving for as long as I can remember, but didn’t actually teach myself to weave until quite recently. In contrast, I learned to knit many years ago, when my mother taught me to make tiny ski hats. Her knitting didn’t exactly follow a by-the-book approach: more along the lines of “just decrease when it’s time” and “use whichever needles you can find that match”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that– learning to do things by feel gives you a better sense of underlying structure than does following a pattern to the letter, but it’s not the systematic approach that many (brilliant) modern knitters learned.

Accordingly, I’ve often felt a vague sense of inferiority in the knitting realm, not helped by my own lack of dedication. I tend to come down with knitting like a stomach bug: once or twice a year, unpleasant while it lasts, and mostly forgotten once over. When I come back a few months later and pick up the needles again, I’m invariably frustrated that my abilities haven’t magically improved in the interim. (When I mentioned my trouble with Henslowe to chopsticknitter, she was entirely sympathetic, until I showed her the absurdly simple pattern. At which point she observed that considerably less attention was being paid to the shawl on my lap than to, say, our conversation, my tea, and the weather.)

In general, I think I’m a bit disconcerted by textile techniques in which the whole project literally hangs by a single thread. Until the whole project is done, it’s a challenge to relax for fear of making a mistake. (For similar reasons, I’m a much better baker than I am a cook.) With my woefully slow-moving needles, knitting is the most troublesome of such techniques, even though it’s easier to correct mistakes in knitting than in some other single-string techniques. If you’ve ever tried to fix a mistake in tatting once a ring is closed, you will recognize this headache:

I guess you could call these tatting thrums.

But even if you can undo knitted fabric without having to cut it apart (usually), it’s completely unrewarding to rip it out over and over again. Which is what I inevitably wind up doing– or else I decide to live with a mistake and it haunts me forever after. (That said, chopsticknitter also encouraged me not to rip out the lace section of my Henslowe despite the, well, personal touches that found their way into the pattern. Thanks to this helpful advice, I’m nearly finished and think I’ll find it quite wearable.)

Compared to knitting, I find the learning process of weaving much more rewarding, and with every new technique I learn I find that I’m exponentially* more willing to put in the time to study and correct mistakes.

In a welcome moment of peace amidst the knitting wars, I finally got myself an inkle loom (from this shop).

I quickly put on a test warp and am finding inkle weaving to be a pleasant and relaxing experience. I’d never tried this kind of weaving before: my plan for this loom had been to use it for tablet weaving as an alternative to a backstrap, but I’ve also become interested in the idea of pick-up patterning. Though, being freshly burned from the knitting, I thought I’d better master the basic mechanics of this little guy before starting anything fancy.

I guess simple weaving isn’t comparable to complex knitting, but even so– weaving is so much more my thing. I’ll keep struggling my way through the knitting, but I suspect I’ll be much happier if I keep a security blanket (literal or figurative) on the loom.

*Not hyperbole. Only a little, anyway.