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Posts Tagged ‘Knitting and Crochet’

Dear blog followers,

I love having you around. You make me feel listened-to.  I hope you stick around and that I can continue to entertain you.  * Warning: I talk about knitting a lot. I hope that’s what you signed up for.*

I’d like to pay tribute to a random sampling of my most recent followers. Check out their blogs. You might find a new favorite.

Bridgewater Crafts: This designer recently released a very beginner-friendly dishcloth pattern. I haven’t looked at the pattern (it’s paid) but it’s nice to see a designer taking something as simple as a dishcloth seriously enough to have the pattern tech-edited.

A Nerdy Crocheter: If I knew how to crochet, I would totally make this Sunburst Baby Blanket.  She’s selling it on Etsy for $19.99, which seems like far too little money for something so pretty, in my opinion.

Missy’s Crafty Mess: It’s the end of August and, I don’t know about you, but I’m in firm denial that there is any such thing as winter. Psychologically, I can work around this denial by telling myself that the sweaters, shawls and mitts on my needles are meant for crisp autumn mornings or for camping in the mountains. Missy doesn’t seem to have this problem. In the middle of summer she’s posting pictures of balaclavas and referring to winter as an impending event. I don’t know if that’s practical or depressing. None the less, she seems to be a balaclava knitting machine.

Flip Coast Creations: This crafter finds excuses to craft things out of any material to-hand. On a recent glamping trip (glam camping),  they made their own wooden spatula and a truly cunning whittled Gandalf-stick. That’s talent!

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During a recent visit home, Mom and I took some time to play with her new Pat Green Duncan drum carder. For those fellow fiber geeks who want to know, Mom has the hand-cranked Blender/Carder 8 Inch Hand Crank model. I don’t have anything to compare it to as it’s the only carder I’ve ever used; however, I can report that it was easy for a beginner (me) to use. The only hard part was attaching the drive band.

I brought most of a scoured Jacob fleece with me to share with Mom. We spent a couple of happy evenings sorting through the fleece, picking out some to comb, some to tease and card, and some to flick and spin from the lock. We were a bit overly ambitious  and, in the end, spent most of our time on the fleece chosen for carding.

Teased locks loaded into the tray and ready to be carded.

Teased locks loaded into the tray and ready to be carded.

Separating the fiber from the carder.

Separating the fiber from the carder.

Rolling fiber off the carder using a handy-dandy paper towel tube.

Rolling fiber off the carder using a handy-dandy paper towel tube.

After the carder was loaded up and couldn’t take on any more fiber, we used a little metal tool to make a break in the tube of fiber. Then we rolled the fiber off the teeth carefully using a cardboard paper towel roll. After that, the batt of fiber was divided into two or three strips, and the carding process began again. Each batt made three passes through the drum carder before it was (finally) rolled off for the last time.

A small but growing mountain of batts.

A small but growing mountain of batts.

One thing I didn’t realize before diving into this process was how slow it would be. I’m used to using hand carders and I know how slow those are. I just assumed that carding on a drum carder would be faster. It probably is. But it sure doesn’t seem like it. You have to crank slowly and evenly so the fiber will take up properly, standing there all the while, shifting from foot to foot, trying not to daydream. It helps to have someone to talk to, or a podcast to listen to. I understand why people who sell fiber for a living spring for the motorized carders.

One thing I was very pleased with was the amount of junk the carder removed from the fleece. It was already exceptionally clean, but had a bit of  stubborn vegetable matter and dirt caught here and there. The carder took care of it.

A slowly growing pile of junk on the table underneath the drum carder.

A slowly growing pile of junk on the table underneath the drum carder.

 

 

 

 

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Peter Pan busting out a joyous crow. He must have just finished knitting that tunic.

It’s time to crow.

I’ve made astounding progress this summer on my self-assigned warm weather tops knitting project . At the beginning of June, I posted about the first two completed tops:

#1 Austin Tee by Jean Chung

#2 Bonny by tincanknits

Since then I’ve powered my way through two more:

#3 Still Waters by Julie Tujorman

Knitted in Louet Euroflax sport. This tunic is light to wear and the lace panels on the sides and sleeves provide lots of, um, airflow. I usually pair this top with a cotton tank underneath. My husband likes it paired with a sports bra. That last has only happened once, on a very warm and rainy day. I’m pleased to report that this linen dried out very quickly after getting soaked in a mad dash across the Sherwin Williams parking lot.

#4 Sterling Peplum by Klever Knits 

Knitted using Hempathy, a yarn I’ve heard nothing but good things about. The day I finished this tank I put it on and wore it out to dinner with my husband. It’s a bit prickly next to skin right now, but will probably soften up a lot with repeated washing.

 

Fun to wear but sooo much stockinette

After all that stockinette I needed to take a break and knit some lace. So I threw myself upon Red Rock Canyon by Romi Hill with slavering glee.  I inhaled that lace.

Knitted using two hanks of Fish Belly Fiber Works yarn I won at Zombie Knitpocalypse

It wasn’t enough lace. I needed more lace. So much more lace.

So I cast on Evenstar Shawl by Susan Pandorf.

10% down. Lots and lots of fine lace to go.

This one should last me for a while.

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My Saturday at the Shepherd’s Harvest Wool Festival in Lake Elmo, MN.

Rabbit Agility, it’s a thing.  4-H shows off the skills of their highly-trained rabbit athletes. They all seem to like to hide in the tunnel at the end of the course. 20140522-092403-33843080.jpg

Spinning wheels galore.  I had plans to try out that great wheel, but never got around to it. Next time… 20140522-092431-33871222.jpg

Luscious yarns and kits. I managed to be really good this time and didn’t buy much yarn. Just a couple of hanks from a favorite vendor, Winterwind Farm, who sells CVM blends. 20140522-092500-33900394.jpg   20140522-092457-33897497.jpg   20140522-092502-33902176.jpg

The grand prize for rebranding . Because anything that says “Cashmere” has to be a luxury good. 20140522-092503-33903042.jpg

Where I went a little crazy, was in buying fleeces. Pretty, pretty fleeces. Nice presentation too. It looks like they climbed a tall ladder and snipped a bit of cloud out of the sky, then wound it up and plopped it into a basket. I started with just one, but then ended up winning a couple more in the silent auction. I honestly didn’t expect to win either of them.

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Animals 

I wonder what breed of sheep this is?

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This male llama had to be kept penned separately from the herd. He was also the only one who hadn’t been sheared. A bit aggressive perhaps?

20140522-095308-35588724.jpg

 

Mama goat and her two kids, I assume?

20140522-095307-35587912.jpg

 

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Welcome to day six of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.

For today’s topic, I am writing about a knitter I admire: Alice Starmore.

Alice Starmore’s work is true art. Her patterns are not only lovely, they also seem to express ideas. They have a voice and story inside them.

*     *     *     *     *

A Brief History of Alice

Alice Starmore was born in Scotland on the Hebridean island of Lewis. Her family worked as fishermen and spoke Gaelic at home.

Garenin Black House Village, Isle Of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland Image from http://wallpaperweb.org

In 1975, she became a professional textile designer, her work heavily influenced by the fiber crafting traditions of her home. She immersed herself in the textile traditions of Scandinavia and began to write books of knitwear patterns. Her first book, Scandinavian Knitwear, was published in 1981. This book was followed by 17 others, as well as variety of other publications.

Today, Alice Starmore is world-renown as a knitting expert. Her books on Fair Isle and Aran knitting are regarded as standards in the literature.

In particular, this book.

*    *     *     *     *

How I Came to Love Alice’s Work e subjects, and she has taught and lectured extensively throughout Britain, Europe and the USA.

I was first introduced to Alice Starmore’s work while searching for boyfriend sweater patterns. I drooled over several gorgeous cabled sweaters, but wisely decided to tackle a simpler project. I was ambitious as heck, when it came to my knitting, but not deluded. I still have a few of those patterns in my “some day” pile.  I’ll know when I’m ready.

The patterns I’m really enchanted by, though, even more than the cables, are the colorwork. I’m just blown away.

Lindisfarne Sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on Ravelry and in The Celtic Collection.

Oregon Vest by Alice Starmore as seen on https://www.virtualyarns.com

 

This last December I happened up on a copy of The Celtic Collection in a Friends of the Library shop. I snapped it up. I had no immediate intention to knit anything from it, it was just something I had to have. A piece of raw inspiration to feed my creativity. Like a book of Da Vinci sketches or a print of Monet’s water lilies. I read the book in bed, some nights, lost in the world trapped between the pages.

A Tribute to Alice Starmore’s Work…in Lego

It may seem a bit odd to pay tribute to this artist’s work in a non-fiber medium. But I was fascinated to see how well the intricate Fair Isle patterns could be translated into rows of colored PVC bricks.

I started with one of the simplest patterns in The Celtic Collection, a child’s sweater called Ardagh. 

Ardagh Child's Sweater in Celtic Fretwork. Photo of page 47 of The Celtic Colelction.

Ardagh Child’s Sweater in Celtic Fretwork. Photo of page 47 of The Celtic Colelction.

I chose a small section of Chart A for my experiment.

Child's sweater

I used a combination of different types of tiles and plates. I tried to choose colors close to the yarn colors used in the sweater. Some color matches were better than others due to the colors available in our home Lego supply.

Next, I tackled a slightly more complex pattern, the Kells sweater.

Kells sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on page 50 of The Celtic Collection.

Kells sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on page 50 of The Celtic Collection.

I chose a small section of the Chart that showed the intersection of four multicolored diamonds. I ran into difficulties with my color selection, but eventually produced this:

Adult sweater

Early on, I attempted to render one of the more complex Fair Isle sweaters in Lego, but had to quit due to a shortage of pink and purple plates.

So What Was the Point of This?

I won’t deny it, I spent an entire Saturday afternoon playing with Legos. Playing with legos and not knitting.

What I learned is that Legos can provide a very useful medium for trying out new patterns and color combinations. It doesn’t necessarily take less time than swatching. In fact, it probably takes a lot more time. But the advantage is that you can reuse Legos over and over in infinite combinations. And you’re not limited by the colors of yarn you happen to have on hand, only the colors of your Legos.

It’s true that, in this experiment, I ran into some issues with the colors in my Lego supply. But that was because I had not planned to use Legos in this way. The Lego collection belongs to my husband. He buys his bricks with shape in mind more than color. Were I to invest a little money, I could amass a collection of colored plates and bricks exclusively for color work experimentation. And baby, you’d better believe me when I say, there are lots of options out there. Take a web-walk over to Bricklink sometime.

Not Done Playing Yet

I recently took a class in Norwegian stranded color work and am absolutely obsessed with Selbuvotter mittens. This is, perhaps, a better application of Lego experimentation than the Alice Starmore sweaters. One could actually construct a complete mock-up of a mitten (minus thumb) in Lego before knitting it.

Also, perhaps more helpfully, one can play around with various different motifs in a very modular way, swapping things around until you get a sequence that pleases you.

Here's a current experiment in progress.

Here’s a current experiment in progress.

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Last weekend, Mom and I made the joyful trek up to Yarnover.

We shopped.

Adorable felted ride-em horsies

Adorable felted ride-em horsies

We took a Fearless Two Color Mittens Class from Mary Scott Huff. Mary started out the class with a simple exercise in stranded color work for those who needed a review  or for those (like me) who had never tried it at all. The “fearless” aspect of this class was definitely for me. I took this class so I could conquer my personal “Dr. Strangelove” in knitting (i.e., “How I learned to stop worrying love the [fill in knitting-related fear]“).

Mary's a live wire and very entertaining.

Mary’s a live wire and very entertaining.

Here's my first attempt at Norwegian stranded color work. A few rows later, I learned why it's so important to keep your floats loose. This sucker was puckered.

Here’s my first attempt at Norwegian stranded color work. A few rows later, I learned why it’s so important to keep your floats loose. This sucker was puckered.

Later on, Mary passed out her Nordica pattern for us to try. Here was my first try:

I made it about halfway through the mitten when I finally had to acknowledge that I was knitting WAY too loosely. In my effort to keep my floats loose I was knitting everything like rubber-girl.  So I ripped back.

I made it about halfway through the mitten when I finally had to acknowledge that I was knitting WAY too loosely. In my effort to keep my floats loose I was knitting everything like rubber-girl. So I ripped back.

I tried again with firmer tension and smaller needles and got this:

Mitten #1, minus the thumb. It fits. Huzzah!

Mitten #1, minus the thumb. It fits. Huzzah!

 

We took a break at lunch to wolf down some food and chat with friends from my local knitting group. Everyone talked about their morning classes and the classes they were planning to take in the afternoon. I found myself wishing I could undergo a few rounds of cellular mitosis right then and there so that I could take everyone else’s classes as well as my own.

In the afternoon, Mom and I also took a Spinning and Plying Cabled Yarns class with Francine Ruiter. My first-time results were semi-successful.

Francine getting things started. We're all itching to spin.

Francine getting things started. We’re all itching to spin.

YO7

My cabled yarn on the bobbin.

Mom working on her singles. She's shy, so you only get to see her cute smile.

Mom working on her singles. She’s internet-shy, so you only get to see her cute smile.

My cabled yarn finished. If you look closely, there are certain sections of it that seem to have the visual characteristics of a cabled yarn. But not all. Sigh. Must practice.

My cabled yarn finished. If you look closely, there are certain sections of it that seem to have the visual characteristics of a cabled yarn. But not all. Sigh. Must practice.

I left Yarnover feeling jazzed about the new techniques I’d learned, particularly the Norwegian stranded color work.

I think my Ravelry favorites are about to be flooded with color work projects.

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1. Yarnover is coming up this weekend. I’ll be driving up to attend with my mother, another yarn-junkie. We’re both taking classes (fearless two color mittens and spinning cabled yarns).  I’ll  try to restrain myself while shopping in the market, but I don’t promise anything. When I went to Yarnover two years ago, I had no idea what these colorful hankies were for, or why so many vendors were selling them. They seemed oddly luxurious and yet wasteful as nose-blowing tools.

Fiber is so hawt.

Fiber is so hawt.

That was before I started spinning. Now I know what they’re for and I’m planning to pick up some of my very own to play with.

2. Next weekend, my knitting group is taking a long-anticipated trip to a local winery. (Stupid winter). We’ll sample the wines, eat a nice lunch, knit and gab and have a grand old time.

Four Daughter’s Winery

 3. My animal shelter fundraiser (which ends on May 6) is getting some good participation.

I’m giving away a hand-knitted shawl as a prize. I’ve received so many lovely comments. It warms my heart.

I did it! We have always had rescue animals — eight cats so far and three dogs, every one of them a delight. When our boys were still at home we used to foster litters of kittens every summer. I am also on the board of our local humane society. Clearly, I HAD to donate  :-) Thanks for doing this.

orion window

I just completed my donation payment online! Paws and Claws is a wonderful organization of truly compassionate people! Our family adopted our fuzzbutt, Elsie, last year from a wonderful woman assisting a local shelter as a foster home. Our sweet little Chihuahua was not quite one year old when she came home, and I was concerned for her transition. But due to the amazing care and love she received from the shelter and foster home, she transitions with ease and great health! We have a feisty pup in our home that is always looking for a warm snuggle when she is not cruising her kingdom and playing. Thank you for donating your great time, skills and resources to promote this great cause! 

Good-time Charlie, a dog who was just adopted at Paws and Claws.

Good-time Charlie, a dog who was just adopted at Paws and Claws.

I made a donation to Paws and Claws. This is a wonderful contest! I would wear this shawl with pride if I was the lucky one. The animals win either way! Thanks so much for your generosity.

4. The 5th Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Starts May 12

This blog carnival is always so much fun and is such a good opportunity to meet new bloggers and stretch my blogging muscles. I’m already plotting some outrageous ideas for my posts. Maybe something involving duct tape and Legos.

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