Monday, December 31, 2007

What I did on my Christmas vacation

I hope everyone had as wonderful a holiday as I had - not too much craziness, lots of good food and good friends, time with my family, and 11 blissful days of vacation! This has been and eventful and sometimes challenging year, and I'm ready for a new one to begin tomorrow.

Now that I have given all my holiday gifts I can blog about my gift knitting and other projects. Admittedly I didn't do a lot of knitting for gifts this year; in part because my family chose give to charitable causes this year in lieu of presents, at least for the adults. But my mother and stepmother both requested some of my fingerless gloves to protect their hands. They both take blood thinners and their hands really suffer from bruising, small nicks bleed a lot quickly get re-injured, and generally getting pretty banged up. So I made a couple pairs using's Esprit elasticized cotton yarn, which knits up into a dense springy fabric that hugs their hands tightly and doesn't itch or get them too warm.

Of course, I completely forgot to take pictures before gifting them, but I also made a 2nd pair for my stepmother using's Den-M-Knit indigo-dyed cotton that I did get a photo of. As it's not a stretchy yarn at all I did baby cables in the ribbing and along both sides of the thumb gusset to give a little firmness to the fabric. They tightened up well in the wash so hopefully they will work out for her OK.

I made two things for my niece, Madison. Just look at this face; it makes the heart of her auntie glow to see her loving her gifts so much! I made her a poncho from the terrific little book Holiday Knits by Sara Lucas & Allison Isaacs of Imaginknit yarn shop in San Francisco. It has a pretty feather and fan stitch trim around the neck and hem and is worked form the top down. I made the 1-2 year size and found the shaping to be a perfect fit for Madi, who is still tiny for her 2 years. I used a blue and white Kersti merino yarn from Koigu that knit up beautifully.

I also did some sewing for her - the kitty Madi is sitting on is sort of a pillow/sort of a stuffed animal that I've been wanting to make for her since about the time she was born. Given it's size I decided to wait until she was big enough to play with it. The pattern is Kwik Sew #2339. Its sewn from polar fleece, stuffed with fibre fill, and has machine embroidery for the facial features. It was so much fun to make and even more fun to see her take to it so fast.

A gift that will keep on giving for a while is a vest for Thomas. He at long last expressed interest in me knitting something for him so I immediately swooped in for the challenge. As I wanted his input in the design of the garment all I did was pick out some yarn ahead of time and make a tiny vest to wrap up. I found a beautiful charcoal grey wool called Dolly by Cascade yarns that knits like a dream, and after knitting the mini-vest I decided to also make a little "paper doll" of Thomas to dress up in the vest before I wrapped it up. Making the paper doll took longer than knitting the little vest but it did the trick - he loved everything! I'm going to start swatching with the yarn to find a texture that he likes and that won't bore me to tears while knitting on it - it's a fairly lightweight wool that will knits up well on size 4 US needles, so it won't be a quick project. Stay tuned to see how this one progresses.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joy to all.

Regardless of what holidays you celebrate; whether your holiday has already concluded, is just commencing, or is to come later, I wish you all a life filled with joy, kindness, love, compassion, and peace. Happy knitting to all, and I'll catch up on my Christmas knitting and other projects in a few days.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Little progress has been made.

I've finally completed the embroidery on the Bunad boots but don't have a picture yet. I'm still stymied by the issue of dyeing the suede soles. Being convinced the suede, heat, and moisture don't mix well I've tried other methods, including a traditional blackening method involving a solution of vinegar and iron which reacts with the tannins in suede to blacken it; brush-on suede dye, and simple wishful thinking (very ineffective, I might say) all with the same results. I don't have black suede soles yet. So I broke down, bought some RIT dye, and have just finished simmering the soles in a potful of black dye. They're outside drying right now, and I must say that the stiffness the wet soles confirms my fears as to what happens to wet hot suede, but being either optimistic or foolish I am holding out a little hope that they will be functional once dry. We'll see soon. If this doesn't work I'll just finished them as they are (sole-less, if not soul-less) and at least start wearing them while I hunt down some black sued to make my own soles. Which in hindsight would have been so much easier to start with.

So as I have no knitting pictures to show I am including one of my niece, Madison, who I recently spent a weekend with. Over the 2 years since she was born I have made her a variety of knitted stuffed animals, some of which I had forgotten about. Most of them are tiny cats; one is a large and well-worn rabbit. So here she is, surrounded by her companions......

I am fairly certain that the large white rabbit was from the book Last Minute Knitted Gifts ( a terrific book, by the way); the little blue kitten was an adaptation of the Bubba Bear pattern posted on Knitty a year or so ago; and the grey and the white/orange striped kittens were adapted from Knitting Daily's free knitted animals pattern - very easy, by the way. The primary adaptations I made for all the small kitties were mostly to use finer yarn and needles (for the Knitty pattern), and additionally for the Knitting Daily pattern, to cut the stitch/row counts more or less in half to get the smaller size. All of the little ones were stuffed with yarn and the rabbit has poly fiber fill stuffing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

These Bunad boots are made for felting.....

At long last - an update on the Bunad Mukluks from Folk Style. I've been progressing a step at a time on this project, as it involves a few elements that are unfamiliar or new to me. But the knitting has been done and has gone through the felting process so it's long overdue for a progress report.

As may be recalled from earlier posts, the knitting has done with a striped section added in the leg portion to be sure I had enough yarn to complete the project. Of course, as fate would have it, it turned out I would have had plenty of yarn to make the Bunads in a solid colour after all. Bu I really liked the effect of the stripes, and once I worked the duplicate stitch embroidery they really started to come to life. This photo shows the completed knitted, embroidered, pre-felted leg portion. So onto the felting!

I must admit to having a slightly unorthodox approach to felting (or fulling, as it's technically considered to be but who's really that picky about this stuff?) When I felt knitting I find the whole process to be slower than many authorities would have us believe, so my 1st round of felting usually involves a cycle through a hot wash/cold rinse in the washer (enclosed in a zippered pillow cover), followed by a trip through the dryer. Gasp. However, this photo is of the leg portion after round 1 of the felting through the wash only. I must admit, though, that all my earlier felting attempts didn't involve trying to make something be a particular size. So I erred on the side of caution this time and forswore the dryer throughout the process in favour of more wash cycles than usual.

Everything I have ever felted needed more work than one wash cycle, so multiple trips through the washer were definitely in order. After each wash cycle it was time to evaluate the boots and see how much more might be needed. In the case of the Bunads, I ended up doing 3 wash cycles. This is what they looked like after the final wash but before shaping into a boot and allowing to dry. By what I am sure is absolute luck, they are exactly the right size for my feet.

As they are drying, I am pondering the next steps. The original Bunad Mukluk pattern calls for a solid coloured knitted boot with embroidered details added after the felting. Since I did an duplicate-stitch embroidered design in the pre-felting stage I am assuming I will need more details to be added later in the form of some more free-hand embroidery to pucnh up the felted, and probably somewhat blurred from felting design. So far I am very happy with how the boots are developing but there is still lots of room for exploration and experimentation. More to come...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Final Installment of the Vest Challenge

I hope everyone had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as I did. This was my first time ever of cooking the whole thing (or most of it) myself and it was so much fun. I enjoyed every minute and feel so grateful for my friends, family, and my happy home.

And now on to the last batch of Vest Challenge photos!

Stephanie used her own handspun yarns for the gorgeous entrelac vest that she's very close to being done with. The purple/teal/magenta yarn is a blend of wool and silk, soy silk, or tencel - I can't recall which right now, sorry! Whatever it is, it made a lovely soft, shimmering, almost cottony feeling yarn and since she navajo-plyed it the colours remained distinct and vibrant. The back is striped all over as is the upper front above the armhole shaping, and she's working on the front bands now, which is why the front is bunched up - it's still on the needles. I know she started with some patterns as ideas but then branched out on her own to come up with this design. And it's amazing!

Terri finished at least one vest for Afghans for Afghans, which I unfortunately don't have a picture of as it's already in Kabul. So while her Vest Challenge project isn't completed it's not because she hasn't been doing lots of knitting. She's using a Noro yarn and is knitting the back right now. It's in garter stitch, and I think the stripes will be running vertically once it's completed. The colours are much richer than my camera captured here and it will be lovely once done.

Catherine wasn't able to join us on the night we showed off our vests, but as I see her project almost daily on our commute together, I can vouch for the fact that she had the back and most of one front done. Considering that she only joined in and got started in September she got an impressive amount done in a short time.

Duncan, Carol's very handsome apricot cat, is just amazed by all the work we did, as you can see from his picture here. And so am I - what a wonderful variety of styles, colours, shapes, and yarns we all came up with! When we started this project I wasn't sure how much scope for variety vests could have, but after seeing the results our group came up with I can see how much creativity can be put into a small garment. And the best part of all is friendship we all share. Thanks to all of you for being so terrific!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Knitters & Spinners Vest Challenge, No. 2

The Knitters & Spinners group evolved through a complex combination of circumstances and knitting/spinning experiences. We came together as a group due to the illness and subsequent passing of a very wonderful woman, Elaine. We were all friends and acquaintances of hers, and after the diagnosis of her cancer we began meeting at her home every Tuesday night in what we called Elaine's Salon. We brought food, our knitting, spinning, and companionship, shared our time together and with Elaine and developed a deep friendship as a result of these special Tuesdays spent together. After Elaine passed away we then used her left-behind yarns, mostly handspun, to weave and knit pillows for everyone as memorials to her generous spirit. We have kept meeting long after the memorials were done and have formed a bond that has been very special to me. And now new faces have joined our group who didn't ever know our mutual friend but who recognize the great spirit we share.

So the Vest Challenge is more than just a group project. It is the outgrowth of a shared experience between those who knew Elaine for many many years, and those of us who knew her little or not at all. Some of us have knitted for years, and some have never made a garment before. The real purpose of this project is to celebrate a craft we all love as well as our friendship. So here's the next wave of vests from the Vest Challenge! It looks like there will be one more installment after this one to get every one's pictures in so stay tuned.

Lindy made a beautiful and very simple vest that, like Carol's jacket, looked different on everyone. Photo #1 shows the vest being worn, while photo #2 shows what the actual construction is - it's really just a rectangle with two large slits for the armholes. Lindy used a beautiful novelty yarn with lots of colours in it so the finished vest can be worn with almost anything.

She's adding a crocheted border in one of the colours to give it a little more finished but it is done and wearable as it is. My recollection is that she had a pattern and adapted it in some way but I didn't note what pattern it was.

My vest for my mom is almost there - I finally got the entire body together and the side seams done but still have all the borders and bands to do. Until I have a chance to try the vest on her and feel secure about the sizing I don't want to do anything with the borders - I've ripped and reknit oodles of times on this vest and am ready to get it right at last. I will hopefully have a chance to do that this weekend so it might be done before the year is out. The design is based on the Dineh Blanket Vest from Folk Vests, loosely interpreted to fit the yarn I had available.

Ruthie's vest is just about to the armholes so she's on the home stretch! It's being knit in one piece so there are no side seams and the biggest section of knitting is done. Her yarn is Elsbeth Lasvold's Silky Wool and the pattern is one that was suggested to the group as a starting point for the Challenge, but as it had several significant errors in it I will not name it here. Regardless, Ruthie's efforts are terrific and having used this yarn myself I can say it is a fabulous yarn for anyone who likes knitting on smallish needles (size 4 or 5 US). I'm looking forward to seeing the finished vest on Ruthie in December!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Knitters & Spinners Vest Challenge, 1st Edition

The day of reckoning had arrived - participants in the Knitters & Spinners Vest Challenge had to bring their vests to Carol's house last Tuesday to show off what she had or had not accomplished over the past 5 months or so. The Challenge was simple - to knit a vest of any style of our own choosing beginning last June, I think - and we were to wear them to the November meeting. However, let's face it it- real life isn't so simple and we were all challenged in some way, even if not necessarily by our knitting. But we all made a great effort and great progress, as you can see by this 1st post about the Vest Challenge (as I can only include 5 pictures at a time there will be a couple of posts on this same topic.) And my apologies - I was so busy trying to get pictures of everything in the somewhat dim light available that I utterly neglected to note what patterns and yarns was used in each project and have only dim recollections of what people told me. But I can find out if there are any questions.

Firstly, our lovely hostess Carol. Admittedly she's wearing a jacket here, not a vest, but that's because she made countless items that went to Afghans for Afghans' October shipment. (Actually, almost everyone contributed something or many somethings to the Afghans for Afghans effort, thanks to Carol's and Giovanna's leadership). The jacket is entirely out of her own hand spun yarn and is really beautiful. It's one of those unusually constructed shapes that looks different on everybody who tries it on. If I recall correctly it was all garter stitch, and as she ran out of the original blend of wool she had to improvise to complete the jacket, which she did so perfectly it was not noticeable at all that she hadn't planned it to have the variations in it.

Aileen made a wonderful chevron-striped short fitted vest using a variety of yarns. Each half of the front has its own chevron, while the back is one larger chevron shape that meets in the center of the back. She chose colours that are perfect for her redhead colouring. Side panels in vertical stripes brought the fronts and backs together beautifully. I think the pattern was her own design.

Cathi is very close to finishing her long vest using a Dragon Skin stitch from one of Barbara Walker's books of knitting patterns. My recollection is that she's making up her own vest pattern or doing major adaptations to an existing one. Her yarn is Cascade 220 superwash.

Like Aileen, Lori finished her vest, which was a Rowan pattern, and maybe Rowan yarn as well. It's in a very open, mesh-like stitch that made for fast knitting and a very chic garment which really suits Lori's tall slim figure. The yarn has a little sparkle in it that will be very festive for holiday wear.

Giovanna, co-owner of our LYS, made a Japanese-inspired vest of her own design. She used a light-weight, self-striping wool in a variety of shades of green. She deliberately kept the darker sections of the yarn aside to use for the neck and front bands as well as the side edges. She also created the illusion of the back seam found in traditional Japanese garments by knitting with two separate balls of yarn at a time, changing them at the centre back to create the "seam. As the stripes varied on each side it made a much more interesting back than if she hadn't done the seam effect. The longer length was and overall style of the vest were very flattering on her.

Stay tuned for more on the Vest Challenge - it will take at least one more post to get in everyone, but it's worth the wait!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Busy, busy, busy!

As can probably be deduced from the lack of recent posts, I've been busy! And it's still not even Thanksgiving. Admittedly I'm busy from self-scheduled activities so in theory my busy-ness (is this a word?) is self-controlled (as opposed to being under control, which I never am).

Where to start? How about my sale last Friday? As usual, this annual staff event at the museum where I work was a lot of fun; a very low-key, friendly way to sell my products and a great way to meet all of the people I don't usually see face to face in my usual workday. And also as usual, I had too much stuff for the display space I requested. This is 2 tables-ful of stuff - in photo 1, all the knitted things, and in photo 2, my handbound books, notepad covers, and other non- or barely-fibre related artwork. I basically consider paper a fibre product, as so much of it is made or historically has been made with rags and fibres of various sorts. So combining the two in a single sale never seems odd to me.

I have been on something of a mission lately to find ways to create something I would consider art as opposed to craft using textile techniques textile interests. Don't misunderstand me - I don't think craft is a dirty word. After all, I went to the California College of Arts and Crafts because the word craft was involved, and was a very strong part of the College's mission. And even though now the College has dropped the craft word form it's name my diploma still says that I attended CCAC, not CCA. Its just that I do feel there is a difference between art and craft, and I know it when I see it in my own work. Sometimes I intend to make craft and other times I intend to make art. it's not a better or worse scenario; its' just different and the difference might only be apparent and important to me.

In addition, the ranks of fibre-related vendors has increased by 1 - Adrienne had her beautiful naturally dyed fibre and yarn for sale in addition to the knitted items offered by me and Ms. MmmYarn. It was challenging indeed to keep from spending my hard-earned sales proceeds on all of Adrienne's fibre and yarns. The silk/wool rovings were especially delectable. I might have to take another look........

But sales were good and I am happy. The goal is to hang onto my proceeds until February and March so that they will fund both my Bodega Bay annual Sew Group retreat and Stitches. It's a tall order to make the $$ go that far, but I can be strong and do it. I think.

Speaking of sewing, several of us from Sew Group got together at Lynn's in Half Moon Bay over the weekend for a sewing day together. Many of us start getting a serious itch for Bodega Bay in November, so this was a great way to scratch the itch, so to speak. Since Lynn lives on the coast we get a similar feeling of the off-and-on fog vs sun that is the Northern California coast experience, as it is in Bodega Bay. Many, many thanks to Lynn for so graciously hosting us and providing the space, tables, chairs, irons, goat cheese, tea, and chocolate.

Several of us took the opportunity to get a head start on holiday gifts. I made my gift for my Spinners & Knitters gift exchange (no, I won't show a picture because some of you are reading this blog!) as well as got the quilting done on a coordinating set of large duffel-type bags that I have been wanting to do for a while (This time the lack of a photo is due to a brain lapse on my part. Sorry!)

And the Bunad Mukluks have proceeded apace! I'm writing about them on the Folk Style Knit-a-Long so please take a look there for the progress to date. And, there's still the update on the Spinners & knitters Vest Challenge, but as I'm out of room in my picture quota for a single post I'll have to do those separately. Coming soon, I promise!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Its getting to be that time of year.

I tried to convince myself that I didn't need to knit and test-felt a swatch before plunging into the Bunad Mukluks - I am mostly using Cascade 220 (a well-known yarn in my stash) and have usually found with socks and sock-like objects that actually starting the project is so close to a swatch that I can wing it without a formal swatch. I actually usually love to swatch - I can get a fascinating dialogue going between myself,the yarn, and the stitch pattern that I really enjoy. But the Bunads were calling my name in such a sweet siren-like fashion that I nearly succumbed. The realization that I was intending to incorporate some stranded knitting into the Bundads is what called me to reason - I've felted several items using Cascade 220, but never something that had stranded work. Plus I was sneaking another yarn into the mix that wasn't a known quantity - some Dale of Norway Heilo in light grey.

So I plunged into a swatch (a real circular swatch on even stitches to be able to measure it flat, no less) and was amply rewarded for the trouble. Sometimes those knitting goddesses do indeed smile benevolently up on us. As can be seen be the ugly little wrinkly thing in the photo, the floats of yarn behind the knitting felted and shrank at quite a different rate than the knitting itself, resulting in puckers, wrinkles, and other horrors. The photo shows just one trip through the felting process, and I find at least 2 is usually needed. So I did another test - I clipped the floats in half of the swatch, and left the rest as it was, and sent it through the wash again, hoping that once released the knitting would felt up as it usually does without being hindered by the floats. The end result wasn't really any better than the first, albeit more solidly felted. So now I understand why the pattern was designed with embroidery on it instead of a stranded knitted in design. Since I still have the problem of not quite enough yarn I think I will resort to using stripes in selected areas of the leg and maybe foot, and still leave room for some embroidery. Stay tuned for more. (By the way, the colours are much better than in the picture - everything turned out much greyer and darker than it really is)

And what have I been doing with myself while I have not been knitting on the Bundad Mukluks? Getting ready for the annual holiday sales, of course! The museum where I work holds an arts and crafts fair for staff to sell their handiwork to each other every November, and I must say, I usually do quite well with my esteemed colleagues purchasing my wares. This is what I have ready now for the fair, which will be next Friday. My good friend Ms. MmmYarn likewise sells her handiwork at the fair; she makes lots of fabulous baby things such as booties and hats, along with handwoven scarves made by her husband. We try not to carry the same types of things so as not to compete too much with each other. While we both have scarves, I usually only bring the ones using my hand spun yarns. My biggest sellers are fingerless gloves which I first developed for myself while commuting on BART (the subway equivalent for the San Francisco Bay Area). My hands would be so cold while waiting on the platform for the train to arrive, but as I needed to get my ticket in and out to enter and exit the train any kind of fingered glove was too clumsy for handling the ticket. Plus, I can't knit in gloves and what kind of life is that if I have 15 minutes to wait for a train and I can't knit???? While my hands aren't nearly as warm without fingers on the gloves, it's a lot better than nothing and I can wield my needles with ease. My co-workers like them because their hands and wrists stay warm while typing on their computers in freezing cubicles.

I've also had loads of fun making miniature elf stockings as ornaments, package decorations, or just little things to make someone smile. (There's a quarter on the floor in the center of the photo for scale). Several people have suggested them as cat socks, but when I mention what the possible consequences of actually trying to put them onto a cat on might be that usually ends the conversation. They're an actual tiny sock; I just don't turn the heel , going right from the heel flap to picking up stitches for a gusset, and then decreasing until all the stitches are gone. Each one is the same number of stitches (16) - just the yarn and needle size changes. I think I'll just keep making these until I am sick of them. Right now they still make me smile a lot.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A pictureless quickie

Life is pretty stressful and hectic right now, so this will be a quick post with no pictures -so dull. I have fully succumbed to the lures of the Bunad Mukluks mentioned in last week's post, and while in the dim recesses of my mind I haven't officially "started" them, a swatch has mysteriously appeared on my needles and inspirational books of various sorts have sprouted in my studio. I don't have the specific yarn called for in the patter on hand, and since that has never stopped me, I have pulled out all my basic feltable wools to see if I could conjur up something with those. It turns out I have lots of Cascade 220 on hand, but not enough in any one colour to make the boots as pictured. Once again, when has that ever gotten in my way? So the plan is to use the most plentiful colour, a deep purple, as the main colour, and to add bands of multicoloured patterns around the leg in a few related colours to stretch out the purple. The pattern has the boots knitted in a solid colour with embroidery added afterwards; my colourwork patterns will be in place of that, with perhaps some embroidery done on top of the colourwork later. I'm deciding between floral types of designs like the embroidery in the pattern or using more traditional stranded-knitting patterns. Right now I'm leaning towards a small repeating Eastern-European paisley pattern that I found in a couple books - stay tuned.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Something new?

What is that - over there? Is that a possible new project? It looks like - like, wait, I know what that is - it's the Bunad Mukluks from Folk Style! And I just happen to have a pair of mukluk soles that my good friend Cathi T gave me (and they're in my size, to boot!)

And over there? What could that be? Could it really be a new colour of Blue Sky Alpaca? And is it really just the final colour I need to complete the design I had in mind, to go along with the deep blue violet, lime green, magenta, charcoal and ivory alpaca that I already have? How did that get here?? Did it know that I have been pondering a possible design for a patterned border to go on the hem of a pullover, and that I needed just one more colour to really pull it all together?

How are these new project ideas getting in? Yes, I know I wished recently for a major new project to present itself, but I'm supposed to be making gloves, scarves, bags, whatevers for my holiday sales! How can be even thinking of really starting a new project when I'm supposed to be doing all this other stuff?

OK, look over there - there's 21 1/2 pairs of gloves done (the last 1/2 pair will be finished tonight during Game 7 of the ACLS playoffs (that's baseball, for you non-sports types out there; if you don't already know it baseball is perfect knitting TV - the sound of the bat on the ball, the crowd, the announcers, and your non-knitting (usually male) partner will all clue you in if you actually need to look up and watch anything).

And there's a short scarf blocking over there (I'm not even showing you all the stuff that has been done in the last year) so if I want to start something new for my own uses and just because I love it (and I do, I do, I do) I can. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Best intentions

My intention has always been to post to my blog on an at least a once a week basis, preferably on Sunday nights. A quick review of past postings reveals in hideous splendour the fallacy of my ambitions - I'm all over the place in timing on my posts. So forgive me for my trespasses, and be patient with my excesses (or something like that) while I try to have credibility of some sorts as a blogger. I'll get the hang of it someday.

I finished the EZ February sweater, and found some adorable ducky buttons at Full Thread Ahead to finish it off. I'll be mailing it off tomorrow, but I must say I am quite pleased at the finished product. The knit/purl triangle pattern always looks wonderful (it makes a great stitch pattern for a scarf, by the way) and after a trip through the washer it relaxed and became very appealing indeed. I always like to wash my gift knit items in the way I intend to recommend to the recipient before I send them off just to be sure what I say is a good method of washing is in fact true.

My excuse for not posting last Sunday was the busy, busy weekend I had. My alma mater, California College of the Arts (or California College of Arts and Crafts, the former name that was in existence during my student years) is celebrating its 100th year anniversary in 2007 and last weekend was a big reunion celebration for all alumni. My sweetheart, Thomas, is currently interim Chair of Printmaking (in the red T-shirt) at CCAC and had volunteered to lead a Printmaking Marathon Demo for the reunion festivities. My role was to be the photographer and documenter of the event, and if needed, the encourager to get people to draw and make prints. I was only needed as photographer - once people got going there was no stopping them.

Thomas demonstrated a very appealing monotype technique that produces very colourful, immediate, and exciting results for anyone who can make a mark of any sort. After a brief demo he turned the crowd loose to do their own prints, and everyone within earshot went just a little nuts drawing, printing, and getting excited about making art. It was wonderful! He had prepared enough materials for 130 people to make prints, and every single piece of paper, etc. was used - he cranked the press, encouraged, exhorted, and rallied the crowd for the entire afternoon and got a lot of people really excited about printmaking. What a guy.

After I graduated from CCAC I worked in the Admissions department for a few years, and had a number of work-study students working with me during that time. Hana was one of my favourites, and it was great to see her on Saturday - look at that smile with her print! This is what reunions are really all about.

So often "forward-thinking" administrators at the College decide that printmaking is a lost art and that replacing all the presses with a digital laboratory would be a great idea. It was wonderful to see so many people in the printshop get really excited about making real prints - putting colours on down on a plate and making hand-pulled prints - and to see administration folks there to observe the joy and excitement that resulted. Art is still a "get your hands dirty" activity no matter what trend seekers say or think; craft still matters in art making even when the College itself denies the word in its own name.

OK, the sermon is over; on to other things. Sunday afternoon was spent at a memorial for my long time Sew Group compatriot, Laurel, who died of cancer a few weeks ago. It was a lovely memorial, and the testimonials of her many, many friends gave me a fuller picture of her than I had known, even after 2o + years of acquaintance. It was an uplifting and simultaneously humbling afternoon, and I am grateful that I was able to be there.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lots of little stuff (continued).

I have a terrible hankering to start a "major" project but have been prevented from doing so by a) a lack of adequate yarn for such a project; b) realization that the Holiday season is coming up; c) lots of my friends are having babies; and d) a lot of UFOs and WIPs are hanging around the house. Now, my perception of having an inadequate yarn supply is perhaps simply a perception, and not based on reality. I do confess to having a trunk in my closet that often cannot be closed properly due to the yarn inside of it. But, as any self-respecting knitter with a stash knows, the yarn in the stash is not the yarn I need right this moment for the yet undetermined major project. Why, might a non-knitter ask, is the stash inadequate? If someone has to even ask that question they clearly don't knit and don't have a stash. It the Law of the Stash - it is never enough, what one has is never what one needs right now, and more is always better.

To address the Holiday question I am continuing to churn out my fingerless gloves. I've added 8 new pairs to the supply left from last year, and have another pair on the needles. These gloves are perfect commute knitting - I can almost finish a pair in a day, with the small bit left to be done by evening quickly finished after dinner. I think I have a total of about 15 pairs right now and am aiming for around 2 dozen. The very bright white pair in the picture is an elbow-length style in a very fuzzy yarn left over from a commissioned pair. The yarn is very soft, entirely synthetic, and so fuzzy that it is almost impossible to see what I am doing while knitting them. The solid black pair is the same yarn and if the white was almost impossible, the black was completely so. Copious use of markers is the only way to figure out where I was in the pattern. The remaining black fuzzy stuff became cuffs on a pair of taupe wool gloves - much more manageable knitting, and looks very nice as well.

The zig-zag gloves are my own very loose adaptation of a mitten design in Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Almanac. It's a lot of fun to knit and has a very sleek shape. The first pair I did used the same number of stitches from wrist to fingers, but for the tan and brown pair here I experimented with increasing the number of stitches in each zig-zag to allow a little more room in the finger area. Now I want to adapt the entire thing to being knitted from the fingers down to the wrist, which is my preferred way to knit these gloves. I'm usually using scrap yarn and often run out a little short of finishing, and I find I can work in some design variations at the wrist a little more elegantly than at the fingertips.

A coworker is having her first child in November, and I wanted to make something for her. Some stash yarn that indeed did prove to be adequate to my needs was some very bright white Cleo cotton yarn, which is now underway as a February baby sweater from, once again, the Knitters Almanac. It's begun at the neck and worked down to the lower edge, with the sleeves worked just after the yoke area.

As the mother in this case has chosen not to know her baby's gender I changed the stitch pattern for the body of the sweater to a Scottish Triangle stitch, which is less frilly and lacy than the pattern EZ originally designed the sweater in. The closeup of the sleeve shows the stitch (albeit sideways). I also adjusted the pattern slightly by knitting the sleeves in the round on DPNs, and picking up the underarm stitches once I returned to knitting the entire body, so that instead of being "practically seamless" as EZ called it, my version will be completely seamless.

An lastly (goodness, what a long post) my Mom's vest is still in progress. I don't know if it's more properly considered to be a UFO or a WIP. It is a unfinished object for certain, but it is also a work in progress; it's just progressing very slowly. Any thoughts?

Either way, I have completed one of the side panels that will join the front to back. They need to be slightly wedge-shaped and I've pondered a number of ways to adapt the very linear designs in the rest of the vest to an area that will include short rows, and therefor contain some slight angles. The panel I just did centered the largest of the body patterns, a Greek key design, in a field of the background colour, but added extra plain and short rows to create the wedge. Size-wise it worked very well, but the large expanse of plain background colour seems to be too much. In addition, the background yarn knits up very smoothly, while where I stranded the yarns for the two-colour area is very texturey. I don't like the contrast at all, but now that I know how many rows I have to work with to make the panel turn out right I am going to start the other side and rework the idea to include less plain background and have some other texture/colour in there somehow. I will also weave in the stranding less compulsively this time. Once the side panels are done then I can graft the side seams together, add the borders, and at long last it will be ready for my Mom to wear. Thanks for your patience, Mom!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Small things.

The Tofutsie socks are done, and they look and feel great! The fabric is thinner than what most other sock yarns produced,which considering that they have a lot of cotton and soysilk in addition to the wool it's not surprising. I washed them in the morning and laid them on top of my dryer to block them, and was very surprised to find that they were completely dry by the time I came home from work that evening. I haven't worn them yet but anticipate that the thinness of the fabric will make them more adaptable to fitting into my shoes than most of my socks, which usually get relegated to being house socks. At least I can see and admire them that way instead of hiding them inside shoes!

I suddenly realized that it was getting to be time to start producing stuff to have for sale at the two sales I participate in each year. The earliest one is at the museum where I work; the HR department sponsors a crafts sale for employees to sell their wares to each other. I sell mostly hand-knit scarves and other knitted items, and hand-bound blank books and notepad covers. My best-selling item always ends up being fingerless gloves - my coworkers love them to keep their hands warm while typing in freezing cubicles on computers all day. The gloves are also popular with artists to help keep hands warm in unheated studios, etc.

I make them out of whatever yarn I have on hand, and especially enjoy using the limits of my stash to stimulate new ideas and styles. The versions shown here are my basic style - ribbing at the fingers and wrist, stockinette stitch for the body, and a buttonhole-like opening and a gusset for the thumb. The pairs shown here are basic sturdy tweeds in larger sizes that can fit a man or a woman with a large hand, which is why the one on my hand looks so ill-fitted - I have tiny hands so I have to remember to make a variety of sizes to suit a wide range of hand types.

The second sale I do each year is a holiday Open Studio that Thomas and I host in our live/work studio space. We first moved into this space in Vallejo in November 2002 so we hold the Open Studio each year as a celebration of another year together and in Vallejo. We are in the heart of the historic downtown district which was once a boomtown but now is slowly coming back after a serious decline precipitated by the US Navy closing the Mare Island Navy Shipyard. The shipyards were the primary reason for the town's existence for about 140 years, so the loss was significant for the community. The closure occurred before my move to Vallejo so I don't remember what it was like here prior to that but it has been very exciting to be a part of the downtown revival. So Thomas and I welcome all our friends and our now very large mailing list of people to the studio for refreshments, a showing of whatever artwork we have done in the past year, and my hand made items. This year will be our 5th anniversary in Vallejo so we're hoping to have a special celebration to mark the occasion.

By the way, I have abandoned the Einstein Coat for my niece. The gauge wasn't right for the pattern and I was having hideous problems trying to make the sizing work out for Madi, who is very tiny for her age anyway and the coat is sized as an oversize garment. So, I was juggling between the baby size and the 2-4 yr size and was just coming up with a mess. Supposedly the pattern makes the knitter feel like Einstein by making something so terrific out of very simple techniques but I was still distinctly in the raging idiot camp on this one. I yanked it out in a funk and hid the yarn back in my yarn trunk to wait until she's older to make her something out of it. Much older.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Newly finished and newly begun.

The circular vest is now done and even has been worn! Desdemona, my ever faithful mannequin, is modeling the vest for me here. She has a seriously Barbie-doll figure (unlike me these days) but for this garment it doesn't really matter what your shape is as long as the wearer has shoulders to hang the garment from. I wore the vest to work on Monday and it was a big hit from a visual point of view - the drape and flow of the back, especially, got a lot of attention.

However, the vest is a big circle, with the armholes created in a way that is easy to knit, but not necessarily in a shape or angle that is anatomically correct for the human female figure. In a forgiving fibre like wool the vest would probably be just fine; in a non-stretchy fibre like the silk I used it was OK, but every so often throughout the day I found one side down around my elbow instead of up on my shoulder. I pinned the fronts together with a brooch, which did help a lot to keep everything more or less where I wanted it to be.

My suggestion is that if you like the look of a lacy shawl, but find them to be too difficult to keep on, try this vest as an alternative. It has the look of a shawl but with the armholes it stays in place better, but due to the lack of figure-conscious shaping it's not quite a vest either. Think of it as a shawl with a place to put your arms.

Now that the vest is done I have begun a little sweater coat for my baby niece, who just turned 2 last week. Before her birth I bought some Koigu Kersti Merino Crepe in a blue and white colourway to make a blanket for her but for various reasons ended up using Dale of Norway's Baby Ull instead, and have had the Kersti yarn hanging around in the stash ever since. It's beautiful yarn, but it wasn't quite enough for a sweater for myself, and the dye lots on Koigu are so changeable I couldn't really get more that toned in well enough for my personal preferences.

I've been waiting for the right thing to come along to use for Madi (my niece) and finally put a few things together to come up with an idea. I had some adorable hand-made ceramic buttons with blue and white cat faces on them which were too big for a small baby, but now that Madi is two she's big enough for the buttons to suit her. I have wanted to make Sally Melville's Einstein Coat from her The Knit Stitch book for a long time; the yarn and the buttons all come together and will (if all goes according to plan) Madi's Christmas gift this year.

Along with all the knitting is some spinning. My back has felt better lately and I can spin for longer periods of time. During a visit with my Dad and stepmother last weekend at their home in the Sierra Mountains I took along my spinning wheel and the deep brown Perendale wool my Dad brought me from New Zealand and got a good start on spinning up a batch of it.

My Dad is an engineer and is fascinated with how things work, so it was a good project to take along as it kept me occupied and interested him as well. (Last year he made me a clock reel with a yardage counter which is absolutely wonderful for figuring winding off my finished yarn and knowing the yardage at the same time.) I plan to knit some pillows for their home with the finished yarn and have spun it with a bit more twist than I usually do so that the yarn won't be too soft and prone to pilling. All of the furniture in the house was built by my Dad and it just seems fitting to have handknit pillows from handpsun yarn on the couch and chairs.

One pillow will have a deer pattern (based on the Intricate Stag Bag design from Interweave Knitscene) and another based on Hawaiian tapa cloth designs, as my stepmother grew up in Hawaii and loves the arts of the Islands. Tapa cloth designs are traditionally black, brown and white so the deep brown wool plus the creamy merino my Dad also brought me from NZ will be very suitable.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Almost finished things.

At long last I finished knitting on the Pasticchio Circular vest (from and it's blocking now. I made the mistake of trying it on before I blocked it and wasn't thrilled with it, but as always happens during the process of blocking lacy things it became so much more beautiful once stretched out and opened up. The vest felt too small while it was still an unblocked, wrinkly, ugly little rag but I gained at least 6" in diameter once it was wet and stretched. It's now about 38" across. I'm taking off for a long weekend in the mountains with my folks so it will be dry by the time I come home - now I'm looking forward to trying it on again.

Earlier this week I started a pair of socks that I've been wanting to make for a while. The yarn is Tofutsies, which is a very fine, loosely twisted blend of superwash wool, cotton, soysilk, and chitin (made from crab shells). Therefore it's very smooth and silky, not wooly, and knits up into a thin smooth fabric. As I like lighter weight socks and get itchy easily it seemed like a great yarn to try. I've also been wanting to try out the Fool's Rush sock pattern from Too Much Wool. After looking at the yarn and the pattern more closely I realized that the elegant lace design down the leg and foot of the sock pattern wouldn't show up much in the variegated yarn I had chosen, so I ended up using the lace ribbing from the cuff for the entire sock. It's a very pretty lace pattern and with only 5 st/4 rw to a repeat it's very easy to work. As Ms. Too Much Wool pointed out, that's quite a change from the pattern so I'm not sure I can honestly say I'm making the Fool's Rush pattern at all, but her love of lace is what got me interested, so I feel she and her pattern deserve the credit for getting me started, at the very least!

The ball band claims a gauge of 8 st per inch on US size 2/2.75 mm needles - with my loose tension it took US sz 0/2mm needles to get 8 st per inch. Admittedly I don't do a swatch for socks - they're small enough I just launch into them with my best guess for needle size and check how the sizing is coming out later. I don't often even check to see what gauge I did get - I just try the sock on and if I like the fit I keep going; if I don't like it I start over. I wouldn't have checked the gauge on this one if I weren't blogging about it right now.

So one sock is done, and the 2nd will wait until next week when I'm back to work and commuting again. Socks are better as commuter projects for me than a being with family project when I need something even more mindless than even a simple lace rib. There's always lots of talking while I'm there and I'm much too likely to screw the thing up. Instead I'm taking my spinning wheel and a bunch of beautiful deep brown Perendale wool that my Dad brought me from New Zealand last year (he bought a whole kilo - about 2.25 pounds - plus another kilo of luscious creamy white merino - yum). I can spin and talk with no problem, and I'm planning on knitting some pillows for them from the wool once I've spun enough. Not sure yet what they will look like but we shall see........