Monday, April 29, 2013

Oh, Hello!

Things have been moving at break neck speed it seems so here's a "drive by" blog post!

ToolMan and I spotted this on our way to the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival a couple weeks ago; we seriously considered forcing him onto the shoulder for a quick refill!

The fiber fest was full of the usual goodies and old friends.

I didn't have much time to shop; I spent most of my time spinning and winding skeins of yarn for donations.  I did get a couple of bobbins filled but didn't finish the bump of fiber; hopefully I'll get it done this week.  Ha!

The Secret Knitting is done and has been turned in.  This is the only thing I can show you until it's released later in the year.  I can tell you that the yarn, Stacatto from Shibui, was absolutely fabulous to knit with!  And this isn't the actual color; the one I got the joy of knitting with hasn't been released yet.  :)

I gave up on the warp that was on the loom and cut the whole mess off.  I did invest in the Floor Loom Weaving class on Craftsy, which has taught me more in a few hours than what I gleaned from library books and websites.  If you haven't heard of Craftsy, go over there and try one one the free classes.  I'm liking their format more and more; it has the convenience of a CD to rewind and replay, but the addition of being able to email questions to the instructor is the best thing since sliced bread!  I plan on using my little Secret Knitting check to pick up a warping board, couple of shuttles, and other things I need to start weaving.  Lord knows I have enough yarn to start with!

I think I've identified the judges for the Washington County Fair; I just need to squeeze in a meeting time when we can all sit down and discuss details and times.  I've been recruiting volunteers to help with the Fair, and that'll probably continue right up to the last minute.

My poor TKGA Masters notebook is sitting somewhat neglected; I have finished the first 3 swatches and swatch pages and gotten them into the notebook.  Too many things on my plate right now to concentrate on that.  It may get put on the back burner until after the Fair.

Until next time, I'll see you in the funny pages!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Not really knitting.

Right after I posted last week, I got sick.  So sick that I didn't knit, play with the new loom, or even read the Spin Off magazine that arrived.  Now, that's really sick.

I was too sick to knit, but that didn't keep me from being busy doing knitting related things, though.  I"ve accepted the position for Superintendent of Textiles for the Washington County Fair.  The entries for the Fair have fallen off in recent years and interest was waning, especially in the Textiles Division.  Since the previous Superintendent is bowing out, the Fair organizers decided this is the year to shake things up.  If you know me, you know if there are two things I do well, it's shake things up and tell people what to do!  

The Textile Division classes have been added to over the years, but unfortunately none were removed.  Some were very outdated; I mean, really, when was the last time you heard anybody say, "Wow, look at all the patterns for an embroidered toaster cover!" or "I'm happy to see some many designs for macrame' plant hangers!"  Severe editing was called for.  I culled and combined and eliminated and added; what was a 23 page, single spaced list of classes and lots is now down to 11 pages, including all the new rules.  

My next step on the Fair is to wrangle judges.  I think I might have a Master Knitter roped, um, coerced, er, convinced to judge the knitting, and I'm hoping I can talk her into doing some of the other classes.  I have the card for the past president of the local quilters guild (that's the only class I didn't mess with), so I plan on enlisting her to judge as well.  I think one more judge would be good, hopefully I can find a Master Crocheter to help out.  After that comes strong-arming volunteers for entry day, judging day, and watching the exhibits during the Fair.

I did gets nearly every weaving book the Library offered and have been pouring over all of them.  And Ravelry and YouTube have proved to offer up tons of information about weaving and this loom.  I did finally feel well enough on Friday measure a warp for the loom; just a short one of 2 yards, but in two colors for a sampler.  Since I don't have a warping board (that's on ToolMan's list), I turned the dining room chairs on their sides on top of the table and used the legs.  

I got part way through warping the loom the first time and then got hopelessly tangled and lost between going front to back and back to front.  So, out went that warp (I'm sure the birdies building nests will love the cotton and wool yarns, though), and I started all over on Saturday.

The next warping went better than the first, but by no means smoothly.  Probably because I was tired, still a little sick, and it was late, and I don't know what the hell I am doing.  I found this tutorial, which was actually more helpful than most of the videos on YouTube.  After nearly 4 hours, during which I had to re-thread missed reeds, re-thread missed heddles, tie and re-tie knots, and cry, I managed to get nearly all 200 threads where they were supposed to be.

This afternoon, I wound a couple of bobbins and sat down to try this baby out.  

And discovered that my sampler in no way even remotely resembles what the picture in the book looks like. Possibly because I discovered that I have several threads in the 3rd harness when I was supposed to be using only the first 2.  And probably because the yarns I have on hand are a bit thin for the 8-dent reed, and probably a lot because of what tech people refer to as a "PICNIC".*  Well, I've go no where to go but up, as they say.  

On the "almost knitting" front, I haven't worked on the Masters Project at all this week; I just wasn't up to  being hyper-focused this week.  I did meet with Sandy, from Shibui Knits today and took on a Secret Knitting Project.  I can't tell you about the pattern or show you what I'm knitting, but I can let you drool over the yarn!

She entrusted 10 hanks of the above to me; Staccato is a fabulous superwash merino and silk blend (70% merino, 30% silk) in fingering weight in a lovely dark gray/green called "Field".  It was so delicious feeling when I wound it into cakes, that I can hardly wait to swatch and get started!

*  PICNIC = Problem In Chair, Not In Computer

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Edge Tension Redux

I'm still working on my edge tension; so I knit the first two swatches in Cascade 220.  I"m pretty happy with how they turned out, except for the cast on.  The tension across the swatches is pretty good; there's very little rowing out.

I think I've got the edge tension on the left side conquered by wrapping the yarn for the first and last three purl stitches the wrong way, and then knitting through the back loop. 

I"m less happy with the right side; I still see uneven tension between the knit and purl rows.  I'm trying to break my bad habit of tightening up the first stitches on the knit side.  I think if I can do that, they'll look much better, although the gals in my Master Knitting Study Group told me they looked fine and I just need to get over it an move on!

While looking at the questions for these swatches and my notes, I realized that I have nearly always used the bumpy side of long-tail cast on for the "public" side and the loopy side for the "private" side.  When looking at the questions, it occurred to me that there might be variations of the long-tail cast-on that eliminate that loopy side.  A quick search in Principles of Knitting revealed that I've been doing only the knit version of long-tail cast on all these years and there actually is a purl version.  Who knew!

Well, now that I've found and practiced the purl version of long-tail, I decided to use these swatches to practice weaving in ends.  Yes, these are the same swatches in the first picture above; I'm pretty proud that the bright green can't be seen from the right side!

I've been mulling over a table loom for some time and keeping an eye on craigslist for one, then Tina of Black Sheep at Orenco got a consignment to sell an elderly lady's tools and stash to fund keeping her in Alzheimer's care.  The deal was too good to pass up and knowing that it will help take care of this little old lady warms my heart.  So this Wolf Pup Loom with 8 harnesses and 10 treadles came to live at my house yesterday.  Nothing like jumping into the deep end of the pool!  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gauge and Tension

This week had me working on yet another swatch in the quest for the elusive "gauge" and settling on a yarn to use for the submission swatches.  

Greenland is a superwash, and while delightfully bouncy and a joy to knit with (I can hardly wait to make a sweater out of it), it just doesn't block very well.  Oh, you can soak it, pin it out, steam it, and it looks great.  Unpin that baby, and it bounces right back where you started from.  Nope, I need something I can block into submission.

Cascade 220 and Lion Fisherman were neck-and-neck in the running for a bit.  I love both of them, although the Fisherman is a bit thinner than 220.  In the end, by the time I got a nice gauge in stockinette, they both looked a bit thin.

After looking at the samples, I settled on the Paton's Classic Wool; it's nice and round which means it fills out the stitches well, it has a bit of bounce but not so much that it can't be blocked flat, and on US 7 straights it gives me near perfect gauge of 19 stitches and 25 rows over 4 inches.   The Yarn Council says worsted should be 16-20 stitches over 4 inches, and the ball band says 20 stitches and 26 rows.

The next battle was (and still is, to some extent) my tension.  Here's the latest swatch:

I tried several different methods of knitting on this swatch: Continental ("picking"), English ("throwing"), Combination ('some of each"), purling back backwards, various tensioning of the yarn through my fingers, and anything else I ran across.  What I found is that my usual Continental method gave me the best result; that's what's on the bottom third of the swatch above.  It shows much better on the back side:

From the bottom up:  about 1/3 way up inside the blue is my usual Continental; the middle 1/3 inside the blue is my English; the top 1/3 is my Combination (Continental knit and English purl).  The bit above the blue is pure crap; that's where I tried purling back backwards.  What I learned was not to do that last bit.

I also tried various methods of selvages.  The Masters does not allow my favorite: slipping the first stitch of each row.  Of course, I love it precisely for the reason they don't allow it: It hides all manner of tension problems.

Here's where I started: terrible tension and stitches of every size imaginable and it rolls to the backside even after blocking.

I tried making the last stitch very tight, turning, and making the first stitch loose; hoping they would even each other out as some knitters said they would.  For me, not so much; although I could get the selvage to face front and lay down with blocking.

I tried throwing the first and last stitches.  Yeah, that didn't work, either. And it rolled to the back, too.

Last, I tried wrapping the yarn clockwise for the first and last purl stitch, the knitting through the back loop on those two.  Still not great, but I think with a little practice, I can get a pretty good looking edge out of this one.  It takes some concentration (after mumble, mumble number of years wrapping yarn counter-clockwise) to remember to bring the yarn UNDER the needle instead of over to purl.

They say practice makes perfect.  I think it should be "Perfect practice makes perfect."  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some practicing to do.