Friday, December 30, 2011

Inspired by Stained Glass

In my last post, I indicated that I would post some pictures of items I have made that were in some respect inspired by stained glass.  I hope you haven't been holding your breath in anticipation of this event!

Here are some pieces I have made that have stained-glass-like elements to them.  The first is a beaded needle case with a spiral color pattern.  I love the way the transparent glass beads glow against the opaque black ones:

The next piece is a rather wild felted knitted hat with a stained glass motif:

Here's a closeup of a tam I showed in a previous post...the colors are really vibrant against the black:

Another hat with bright colorful bobbles and pompom against a black background:

And yet another hat, with blocks of color and stranded patterns interspersed with black:

Last hat--A Rose Window-type pattern in fair isle:

Here's a braided necklace with a glass pendant:

And next, a coin purse made from a recycled sweater with a stained-glass-like color pattern:

And finally, a double-knitted scarf with periwinkle blue and black patterning, which is reversed on the back of the fabric:

I hope you have enjoyed this little tour of my creations.  Coming soon, a free pattern or two!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stained Glass

I recently realized why I like the look of leaves or flowers with the sun shining through them.  It's because their glowing colors remind me of stained glass!  I have always loved to see the sun shining through colored glass;  in fact, I remember having a little mosaic toy as a child, with little colored plastic squares that were placed in a transparent plastic grid, which could be held up to the light.  I loved to try different patterns and hole them up to see the sun shining through them.

I love to try to capture the beauty of these glowing colors in a photograph, when I see them.  So here are some photos that remind me of the beauty of stained glass:

I hope you enjoyed this eye candy as much as I did!  I had a few thoughts recently about transparency.  As the light shining on these somewhat transparent leaves and flowers causes them to glow, so God's love shines through us to others.  He takes our uniqueness, and shines through it to make our lives glow.  Like leaves and flowers, each of us has things that make us one-of-a-kind.  In the case of a leaf or a flower, it may be its shape, hue or texture that sets it apart.  In our case, it may be our unique experiences or gifts that make us special.  But each one of us is special in the eyes of God, and He wants to use our individual differences to glorify Himself, even as the light shining through the things He has made brings glory to Him.

Sometimes, though, we mar the beauty of His work in us.  When we refuse to obey Him, our sin mars the beauty that He has created in us, like the blemishes on the leaf in the next photo:

The absolutely amazing thing about this, though, is that, unlike this leaf, which will never be unmarred again, God gives us the opportunity to be renewed to wholeness and purity again.  Through His Son, Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven and have all our spiritual blemishes removed!  Thanks be to God.

In my next post, I plan to share some fiber creations inspired by stained glass and its glowing colors.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Predicaments of Pattern Production, or, The Frustrations of Fashioning a Finished Fiber Fabrication

After working all year on the same two patterns, I finally got both of them self-published.  You may wonder why it would take over half a year to get two patterns written up; I am asking myself the same question.

I guess the simple answer to this is modern technology (more specifically, computer programs, and my own ineptitude with them!).  In trying to create a pattern that looked “professional”, I had begun creating knitting charts in Excel, using the Aire River Knitting Font, and pasting them into my Publisher file as I created the pattern.  This works great, but I found earlier this year that when I would make a pdf of the chart, some of the lines on the chart would come out with uneven thickness (See the example below).

 This is not horrible, but it bugged me that when I designed the charts in Excel, they looked fine, but when made into a pdf, they looked different.  This seemed to happen randomly, with different results at different times.  Adding to this problem was the fact that, in order to create the charts the way I wanted them, I needed to paste them into another program to tweak a few things before inserting them into my Publisher file.  This seemed to create even more problems.

It seemed like the three programs I was using didn’t interface very well with each other.  I tried many different ways to save the files and many different ways to insert them, but remained unsatisfied.  But eventually I found that, though my charts didn’t look perfect on the screen, they did seem to print up reasonably well.  So I decided to use the best ones, even though they still irritate me.

Another problem that hindered the production of these two patterns was that I decided to make some changes in the design as I went along.  Each time I made a change, I re-knitted the pattern, to be sure that I had written the instructions clearly and accurately.  This took additional time, effort, and focus.

In the first pattern, the Bavarian Twist Stitch Christmas Stocking,

Bavarian Twist Stitch Christmas Stocking

I decided to use a ribbing for the bottom of the foot, instead of stockinette, after designing and writing up the pattern.  The instructions had to be rewritten, and some of the charts had to be redone, as well.  Then I realized that because the two sides of the sock were mirror images of each other, I needed two separate charts, rather than one repeated chart where the gusset is decreased.  Then I tried creating a pdf file from my Publisher file, and discovered that my charts looked wonky because of the uneven thickness of the lines on the chart!  But I finally got the pattern published.

The second pattern was the Collared Knitted Capelet.

Collared Knitted Capelet

 I had thought this one would be easier to chart than the previous one, because it contains no cables.  But these charts also gave me trouble because of the uneven thickness of the lines.   And I kept finding “hidden” objects in my chart that didn’t show up in Publisher, but jeered at me from my pdf’d chart, saying,  “Catch me if you can!”   To make matters worse, I came up with a “better idea” for the crocheted edging.  This meant that I had to knit the pattern again to try out my idea.  Unfortunately, after re-knitting the garment using my new idea, I discovered that the old way actually looked the best!  But in the process, I had discovered a way to keep the front edges from rolling so much.  So I started knitting again, to check out my pattern description of this technique.

Now that these two patterns are completed, I am breathing a sigh of relief.  I am hoping that my next pattern can be written up with much less trouble.  If only I weren’t such a perfectionist!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Preparing a Raw Fleece: Flick Carding the Locks

I was recently given some raw Romney fleece, and thought it would be a good opportunity to share how I prepare a fleece for spinning.  Many thanks to Andy and Pam Walton of Lake View Farm, who donated the fleece, and to our friend Tyson for setting aside the best of the fleece for us.  You made this post possible!

A raw fleece consists of many locks of fiber.  A lock is a group of fibers that "hangs" together, much like a lock of hair.  Here is a lock of fleece:

The upper left end of the lock is the butt end.  This is the end that was attached to the sheep; hence, it is usually cleaner than the other end.  The end at the lower right is the tip end.  Often (though not always) this end comes to a point.  Technically, I guess this would be two locks, since I see two tips here.

To prepare a fleece for washing and carding or combing, I first separate out each lock and (when necessary) remove any foreign material, such as hay, seeds, dead bugs, dung tags, and even on rare occasions a flap of skin that came off with the fleece.   Here you can see some hay in the fleece.

Next, I flick card it to separate the fibers and release the dirt.  This is the tool I use for this procedure:

As you can see, this tool has prepared many fleeces.  Working with raw fleece is by nature a dirty, greasy job, and my flick carder reflects this.  The flick card has many wire bristles that brush through the fiber to untangle it.  I start by holding the butt end of the fiber tightly between my thumb and fingers; then I use the flick carder to untangle and separate the tip end of the lock.

See how the fibers fan out and become much less dense?  Next, I turn the lock around and grab the tips tightly with my fingers and thumb.

I then use the flick carder on the butt end, to complete untangling the lock.

Here are the flicked locks, ready to be washed:

I will wash them by soaking them in hot water and dish detergent in my washing machine, being careful not to let them agitate.

Preparing fleece is a time-consuming pursuit, which probably explains the numerous as-yet-untouched fleeces in The Barn (aka our garage).  I have learned that, if I don't do this right away, I will probably not get to it...ever.  But I do enjoy getting my hands into the greasy fleece and creating order from the chaos of the unflicked locks.  And there is nothing quite like taking the raw fleece all the way through to a finished product!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Explorations in Brioche Knitting

I am woefully behind in writing posts for this blog.  The new year has brought some new challenges for me, as well as a couple of bouts of a particularly nasty bug.  All this has not stopped me from knitting, however,  I have used my "down time" to try a couple of new brioche techniques.  After my first project, a two-color brioche scarf, I decided to do some more scarves to explore the technique further.

The two sides of the scarf

My second brioche scarf was made in a similar manner to the first (see previous post), with the main yarn on one side a solid pink, and the main yarn on the other side a variegated mix of greens, pink, and purples.  This time, however, instead of using a selvedge stitch on each edge, as I did in the first scarf, I worked the brioche stitch all the way to the edge on each side.  I'm not completely sure why, but I like this edge a little better than the selvedge stitch one. 

See the green stripes against the pink background?

I also tried switching the yarns to make a stripe of the opposite color, about 4 inches from each end.  This was not difficult to just works the stitches on each side with the other side's color for as long as one wishes. 

My third scarf was also worked with two yarns: this time, a dark brown for one side, and a variegated pink and brown for the other.  The thing that makes this scarf different is that I switched from brioche to double knitting at regular intervals.  This creates narrow, double-knitted slots in the scarf.  Basically, to transition from brioche to double knitting, stop wrapping the yarn around the needle between stitches, and position it so that it stays out of the way when you slip the stitch of the opposite color.  This way, you will end up with two layers of stockinette stitch fabric, one color on one side of the scarf and the other color on the other side.

This scarf not only has a unique shape, but it also has the potential to be used as a "pass-through" scarf.  See the photos for some creative ways this scarf can be worn!

I am currently working on a baby blanket in brioche stitch, again using two-color brioche.  I have still barely brushed the surface of Nancy Marchant's book, Knitting Brioche:  The Essential Guide to Brioche Stitch

Watch for these scarves to appear in my Etsy shop!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year, New Technique: The Brioche Stitch

My husband deftly caught the hint I dropped, and got me a new knitting book for Christmas:  Knitting Brioche, The Essential Guide to Brioche Stitch.  I have been wanting this book for a while, and was so pleased to get it!  I have looked over Brioche Stitch patterns before, but haven't really played around with the technique.  So, as soon as things settled down after New Year's, I picked up needles and yarn, and began knitting a two-color brioche stitch scarf.  I like this technique:  it creates a thick, cushy, warm, reversible scarf, with mostly Color A on one side, and mostly Color B on the other.

Brioche Stitch is knitted in a rather unorthodox way, compared to most knitting.  Yarnovers are combined with decreases on every other stitch across each row, and the rest of the stitches are slipped.  On any row, one only works half the stitches, and the remaining stitches are worked on the next row (if you have knitted a double-knitted tube on two straight needles, it's kind of like that). 

This technique goes more slowly than standard knitting, and it also uses more yarn; but it produces a special fabric.  I particularly like the effect when using one solid yarn and one variegated yarn, as in this scarf.

I was very impressed with the thoroughness of Nancy Marchant's book.  She gives detailed, photo-illustrated instructions for the basic brioche technique, including cast-ons and bind-offs that work well with the method, increases and decreases, crossing stitches for cabled effects, and a separate section on working with more than one color in brioche.  Then the fun begins:  A wonderful Stitchionary (55 pages!), showing all kinds of brioche effects.  The book also includes a chapter on the design elements of brioche knitting, and 25 projects to make using brioche techniques.

The technique takes some practice to perfect, but I learned fairly quickly how to do the basic technique.  I'm looking forward to trying some of the more complex stitch patterns in the book!