Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Supercoil Basketweave Hat

If you remember from earlier, I made a big 4 ounce ball of supercoil yarn with my Artemis Artemis batts (in Verdigris and Copper Beech colorways) and bits and pieces of other yarns from my mom's stash of remnants. I decided to weave my superoil yarn into a hat using a basket weave. I've never seen anybody do this with supercoils before, so it's a great surprise to see how it unfolds as I sew.

I first needed to spin a skinny single to use as my weft, the part I thread through my needle and weave in and out of the supecoils. That's the little plain skein here. So far, I've finished the top of the hat by starting in the center and spiraling my way out. I made the top the same circumference as my head. After completing the top, I turned a corner to work down the sides and ran out of my weft yarn. I can see that I won't have enough supercoil yarn for a brim. So, I'm going to need to spin the other 4 ounces of wool batts I have to finish the brim. That's next, so stay tuned. What I learned: I like the look of this weave best when the weft is very thin and sinks into the supercoils. That effect is not really what I'm achieving with this weave, but I still like it alright. Also, it's hard to make my stitches look even, but I don't think that I stood much of a chance considering how irregular the supercoil yarn is.

And now for the artsy texture shots...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Knit and Felted

... never felt so good! Before I show off the finished piece, I want to show you the second to last skein I made for my Entrelac Bag. I started with a Falkland wool top called "Sangria" from Cloudlover69 on Etsy. I filled two bobbins just full with singles and plied them together. It's about 4 oz. and 90 yards. I only used half of this skein to do the two rounds of squares in this color. What I learned: I've been carding myself rolags (little rolls) of wool before spinning, changing how I blend colors in the carding process. So, I learned how various ways of carding blends colors together. I think the sangria ball is a little too blended, too uniform. This is in stark contrast to the first rounds of purple and green where the colors were very separated. At the beginning of this project, I was using a spindle, and I used three patches of color on each rolag, where the first and last were the same, like blue green blue. When making that yarn, I made sure to keep the repeats together when plying and the finished knit fabric has patches of color because of this. But I stopped carding this way when I got my spinning wheel and started spinning longer skeins. By the time I got the the sangria yarn, I was really blending the color together with a lot of combing. Most of the rolags were well blended, and looked pretty much the same. On the last skein I made for this project, a green one, I found myself a perfect balance between blending and keeping colors separated. What I did is make each rolag it's own color, at least mostly one color. Some are lighter, some are darker, some are more blue. You can see this in the last photos of this post and in the handles just below.

And now for the bag... It's done! Well, except the lining. I finished all of the knitting last night, and felted it in very hot water for just over an hour in my washing machine; I added a couple pairs of pants to provide some friction. I stopped the machine about every 10 minutes, and most of the time, at least one of the two handles had knotted itself, so I had to keep unknotting them; this wasn't a problem. Also, I used that time to enlarge the holes at the top of the bag where the handles weave through it. Good thing, because the handles barely fit without cutting the holes larger. What I learned: (1) An hour and ten minutes of machine wet felting is enough to almost completely felt very thick knit fabric. It's hard to imagine that this could be much more felted. (2) Most of the sparkle I spun into the yarn is not very visible except in direct sunlight. I like the subtlety. (3) Felting takes dimensionality out of stitches. You can see this by comparing the basket-weave effect in the pre-felted picture above with how smooth the felted fabric is here. (4) I read somewhere that felting shrinks fabric by 10% to 15%. This must be linear shrinkage. So, volume-wise, it shrunk by probably more than a third since (0.85)^3 = 61.4 and (0.9)^3 = 0.73. My finished bag is not obscenely large any more. Yeah. But it is really thick, about 3/8 inches (7 mm).

Although I absolutely adore this pattern, I changed the bottom, adding that last purple round in the center (I also omitted two rounds of large squares, which is my version is shaped like a pumpkin). The purple circle isn't part of the original pattern. When I got to the end, and it said to tie together 24 stitches. This is a lot of stitches to tie together without leaving a hole, and I realized it wouldn't lie very flat, which was something I had noticed in the photos I'd seen in other people's bags on Ravelry. When you have an arrangement of squares in concentric rings like this, the squares generally converge to zero size before filling the space. In this case, the edge length of each decreases linearly from one round of squares to the next. The next round in the sequence (after the littlest green one) does not theoretically exist. In other words, you can't add any more rounds of squares, while still keeping the pattern. So I added more rounds like this instead (all in purple)...

Round 14: With RS facing, pick up 1 st on RH needle. Slip to LH needle, K2tog into back of st, K2tog. Repeat a total of 12 times.
Round 15: K --24sts.
Round 16: (K2, K2tog)* --18 sts.
Round 17: (K2tog, K1)* --12 sts.
Round 18: (K2tog)* --6 sts.

Fits nicely; I recommend it. What I learned: This pattern provides beautiful examples of sequences of finite sequences. In particular, you have where to pick up stitches on each round of squares:
There's also the number of stitches remaining the right needle after every other round.

Here's the artsy shot. Thanks kids.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"What I learned"

Four entries in, and I've figured out what this blog is about. I'm going to document my artistic endeavors and then try to figure out "what I learned" from each one. This give me more direction than just aimless rambling. I hope it will also make it more interesting for those who read it. So, I went back and added what I learned to previous posts, if you want to know.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fun with Wool

My sister made a delicious batch of chocolate dipped cheesecake pops for my mom's birthday party. She let me arrange them for the party, and here's how they looked, like something from Candy Land. Her deserts are good that way, and not too sweet. She had to use a really thick cheese cake recipe to help the pops keep their shape. I had one with nuts even though I think the ones with the sprinkles are the cutest. Delectable! What I learned: Cheese cake pops taste better when they're not frozen.

I spun the single I made from my Artemis Artemis batts (see previous post) into supercoil yarn (batt colors are Copper Beech and Verdigris). I got about 15 yards from a full spool of singles. I love the rich colors. It reminds me of something you'd find in a forest. I plan to make this into a hat using a basket weaving technique I've seen wire wrappers use a lot lately. I've never actually tried the technique, so I'm going to make it up as I go. Wish me luck, and stay tuned if you want to see if it works. Yikes. What I learned: supercoil yarn takes an enourmous amount of roving to make very little yardage, but it's oh, so pretty. Also, I used a white core thread. It would have been nice to use a matching core thread because then if it shows through, it looks okay. I pushed the coils very tightly together so the core thread doesn't show. If I didn't have to do that, I could have gotten a lot more yardage out of the finished yarn.

I have been making slow progress on my Entrelac bag. I'm officially half done, so that makes me happy. I've decided to eliminate two rows of squares because it's going to be really large, even without the extra rows, large enough to hold a few sweaters and a pair of shoes. I need to order more green and purple wool roving from Chimera. What I learned: Carding the wool before spinning makes the yarn very textured. Carding seems to take as much time as spinning.

I tried my first two batches of hand dyed roving this week. Once I found that I could use food grade dye and vinegar to dye wool, I got myself a few pounds of merino and BFL wool in hopes of saving some money on my new obsession with wool. What I learned: There are 5 basic colors of food dye: lipstick red (red #40), magenta (red #3), cyan (blue #1), yellow (yellow #5), and orange (yellow #6). All other colors seem to be a combo of these five. Liptsick red is a very bright orange red, but I didn't actually use it in either of these dyed pieces here. Purple is a combo of magenta and cyan, and the colors will separate easily. You can see this in the roving on the right. I meant it to be purple, blue and green, but when I baked it in the oven, I didn't have the roving fully immersed in the water/dye/vinegar solution. The parts above the water turned magenta, and the blue and yellow dye stayed in the water. On the left, you can see that the orange dye is a really strong and bright dye. I love this shade of orange, and will certainly dye more roving in this color. I was not surprised to find that the yellow dye is not as strong as the other colors. I used many times the amount of yellow as orange or green to dye the roving on the left, maybe 15 times as much. I love this pea green color even though I imagine many people would find it a bit puky. I can live with that.

I did some felting. I needle felted a little blue jewelry pouch with some merino I got from Chimera. I started with golf ball inside of layers of roving. I needle felted it until it was stable enough to remove the ball. Then, I added more roving to make the flap. Then I added some wool yarn which I needle felted in a spiral pattern. Lastly I cut a hole and added a button. What I learned: Needle felted merino is very soft and springy. When you needle felt yarn onto felt, it sort of sticks, but if the yarn is not entirely wool, the yarn can pull off. You can secure it by adding a thin layer of fiber over the yarn and felting that in, but this obscures the color of the yarn.

I also felted a little hamentashen cookie, complete with seed beaded poppy seed filling. It's a pin for a very special friend, the only one I know who might actually wear such a piece. I'm long over due for making her a gift, and I'm hoping she will be able to use the pouch for one of her rings, and wear the pin on a special occasion. What I learned: When you wet felt, and go from very cold water to very hot, the wool shrinks up VERY quickly.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Singles and socks, but not together

I bought some amazingly beautiful batts from Artemis Artemis on Etsy. I started spinning two of them together with bits of other yarns from my stash. You can see the pile of fibers in the first photo, and the spun single in the second photo. I'm going to ply it into supercoil yarn. What I learned: I really prefer plied yarn to singles, since it's stronger and puffs up when you ply it. Oh how I love that springy wooly goodness.

I worked on the top part of my striped socks this week. I spent hours designing the chart and then knitting it up, only to find that it doesn't fit and I have to rip it all out. :( What I learned: stranded knitting is not as stretchy as regular knitting, even when you stretch as you knit.

I either need to use larger needles or make it plain stripes at the top. Not sure which I'll do yet.

Here's a pile of fur sleeping behind me. Prrr.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Trying my new spinning wheel and striped socks

My dear sweet beau got me a wonderful gift for my birthday this year, exactly what I had been dreaming of owning, my very own spinning wheel. I combed up a bunch of rolags the day he brought it home so I'd be ready to start spinning once he came through the door with it. I tried to spin something pretty thin, but my mixture of fibers (superwash merino, bamboo, angelina, tencil) made this difficult to spin an even single, or at least that's the excuse I'm going with. Here is the full bobbin of my single before plying. What I learned: Mixed fibers are harder to spin evenly and thinly than fiber split off straight from the roving.

I plied this single into 3 plys using the Navajo technique. So here is my very first skein off of my new spinning wheel. It's also my very first attempt at Navajo 3-ply, and very uneven. I consider it a practice skein. Not sure what I'll do with it since it's not much yardage. Really, I was just trying to get a hang of how the wheel works so that I could get back to my Entrelac bag. I'm so glad that I'm switching to spinning on a wheel rather than on a spindle. It's more fun and way faster. So, now my bag will take until the next blue moon, instead of 2. What I learned: In Navajo plying, you have a choice of using long draws or short draws. In other words, you can have a plied section take a short piece of yarn or a long one. This changes the way the finished yarn looks. When the draws are short, the color sections stay together. When the draws are long, it spreads the colored sections out more, making it more likely to get a barber pole effect.

This is my first skein of good yarn from my spinning wheel. 67 wonderful yards of green springy yumminess. It's going into my Entrelac bag, round 3 of squares. I'll still have 11 more rounds to knit. This bag is going to be the size of a large sweater. I hope it will shrink up nicely when it's felted.

Since my bag project is as much about spinning as it is about knitting, I've also started knitting and designing my own socks. Right now, I can only dream of spinning yarn thin enough for socks, so I bought some for inspiration, enough to make 4 socks, with I hope a bit left over. I'm designing knee high, wide striped socks. I'm using three colorways of Noro silk garden sock yarn. (Wait until you see the border I'm going to put on it! An old Gothic flourish I'm fiddling with to get it to fit just right.) This Noro is absolutely delectable to knit. Uneven, but so is my knitting still. I've got some gauge issues I still need to work out because I'm drifting from 6.25 all the way to 7 stitches per inch. But I'm loving the colors. I just dig high socks with wide stripes, and I think they'll fit well enough. So far, I'm over half done with the first sock. It only took me 5 tries to get the toe right and 3 times for the heel. So that's pretty good, I think. Maybe. What I learned: I switched from double pointed needles in the foot to the magic loop technique on the leg. My gauge is tighter with one magic loop than with 5 double pointed needles. This seems to account for most of the drift in my gauge. I prefer magic loop.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fake fur and yarn

This contents of this blog actually started a couple of weeks ago when my friend Anne came to town and we got creative together. With her, Anne brought pieces of fake fur in purple, yellow, and orange with the idea of decorating clothing for us to wear on the playa. It gets very cold and dark in Black Rock city at night, and the dust seems to miraculously shake right out of fake fur. Or maybe it sinks in. Anyways, it's the fashion for good reasons.

By the day Anne left, I had plans to make this jacket for Paul. It's fake fur... low pile in orange (a gift from my friend Bob) and high pile in "big bird" yellow. I started with one of Paul's old sport coats. With the help of some pins, I traced templates of each of the main pieces of the jacket onto a large sheets of paper that I got from a brown paper bag. I had two lapels, two fronts, one back, one collar, and two more for EACH sleeve. That's 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 4 = 10 pieces. Okay, I didn't make templates for the lapels, but I might have. Then, I traced the templates onto the back of the fake fur to make sure I had enough and everything fit. Just barely, I had to do a bit of fudging to make up for my sloppy start. When everything fit, I cut out the pieces with a nice trick Anne taught me... use an exacto knife on the back. Works great. Less fur to clean up. Quite remarkable compared with my previous experiences of using scissors on fake fur. What a mess!

At this point I wasn't sure how I was going to sew the whole thing together, so I decided to try whatever made sense to do next, with the philosophy that if I just kept doing what comes next, I might eventually get lucky and finish. I got lucky and it worked.

First piece: I pinned the back piece of fur onto the back of the jacket, pinned the bottom layer inside the jacket, and sewed the bottom edge on the sewing machine. Then I added to two front panels and sewed up the seams by hand, stitching two pieces of fake fur to each other and the fabric beneath. Then, I sewed the back collar and lapels on, using my "what can I do next?" method. I found that I had not cut the front panels wide enough to accommodate the widened lapels, so I had to add long skinny triangles of orange fur under the lapels. This was all done by hand, but the fake fur is very forgiving and the seams don't show. Then, I added the sleeves in the same way. It took me two days and change to finish the whole project. What I learned: I like working with fake fur. It's very forgiving of mistakes and sloppy workmanship. I also learned that fake fur is directional, and I generally like it when the pile goes down. It hangs more naturally that way.

I've also been spinning yarn and knitting lately. This is what I made mom for Mother's Day. I got the batt from Chimera. It's got wool, sari silk and lengths of yarn from my mom's stash. I even added some bouclet loops in shiny mauve.

And this is what I spun on a toy-wheel spindle which I'm making into a bag. It's entrelac knitting. My little skeins are only 10-15 yards each. But I just got a new DT Ledrum spinning wheel. So, my skeins will be longer. Yea. What I learned: Spinning and knitting a project larger than a hat takes a lot of time to complete, but I enjoy going back and forth between the two crafts. I also feel like I'm making this project more my own than just following the pattern with commercial yarn.
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