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.