Saturday, February 28, 2009

Silk Work-in-Process Bag

If you were a fine lady, what would you want for a workbasket? Wouldn't it be made out of stunning fabrics like the ones you see in this bag ?

This is the lovely new place where I stash a bunch of little items that are being worked on all at once. I usually have at least 10-20 projects comprising work in process at any one time. (I think my ADD tendencies have been mentioned before.) Most of the projects are small, so a whole flock of them fit in here together.

This elegant bag, called "The Stand Alone Bag," was designed by Gillian Wallis who teaches its construction in a class in Vancouver, WA. If you live nearby, I really recommend her class. The process of making the bag seems to go so much faster than it would if you were home alone working on it. It's so great to have the bag designer and other students there with you while sewing it.

You can also just buy the pattern and make it yourself. Gillian has just opened an Etsy store and is in the process of listing her pattern for sale there. You can also contact her through her store if you're interested in taking her class.

One of the best things about this bag is that it is cleverly designed so that there is no hand finishing work. Everything is done on the sewing machine. Yowsa! My kind of project!

My bag has an exterior of a gorgeous gold and cherry Chinese brocade. The inside and sides are a lighter weight gold silk fabric that had been hoarded since I found it in the NYC fashion district a few years ago.

The bag, which opens wide and conveniently stands up by itself, is a great way to tote projects to guild meetings. I carry it from my studio down to the TV room at night to work on projects while I watch a movie. The bag makes me feel like a Victorian lady.

Now where is that bag resting so casually? That the new-to-me Ashford spinning wheel that has been sitting so convincingly in the living room for the last two months. Finally I have signed up for a class, so next Wednesday night, I'm taking it out of the house for a spin.

So much to do, so little time. It's the same old story.

Friday, February 27, 2009

More Bead-Knit & Bead-Crochet Accessories

Here are more items that I've been working on:

This lilac bracelet is for me. The beads are a lovely pink/lilac color that perfectly match a favorite new Ralph Lauren cable-knit sweater that I found on sale at the end of summer. Both the bracelet and the sweater make me feel quite glamorous.

This bead-crochet necklace is going to go in the store as soon as I decide on a clasp to finish it. It will probably be sterling silver in a simple design--possibly a magnetic clasp.

These bead-crochet barrettes are models for some DIY kits that are going into the store in March. They are fun to make and really dress up a pony tail. They look good worn with just about anything from casual jeans to ballroom gowns. The barrettes are about four inches wide.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Upcoming Bead-Knit Bracelet Class

Morticia's Cuff is a design whose pattern write-up will possibly be finished this weekend. The pattern instructions need to be finished because I am giving a class in making this very bracelet on March 8.

The bracelet is made with size 000 knitting needles using size FF bead nylon and size 11 seed beads. It's finished with a magnetic tube clasp. It is fun to make and is a great introduction to seed bead knitting.

For anyone in Portland, Oregon, who might want to join the class, it will be held at Dava Bead and Trade at 2121 NE Broadway on Sunday March 8. See the Dava Bead website for more details. The knitting skill level is advanced beginner or early intermediate. Only basic stitches are used. It is helpful if you have previous knitting experience using size 2 or smaller knitting needles.

Here is another sample in a different color.

I'd love to see you in the class next month, but if you live out-of-town you will soon be able to buy a kit from my Etsy store to make a Morticia Cuff of your own.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Upcycled Handwarmers

This might look like a mess to you, but my heart sang for joy when I saw the scrap heap of ribbed cuffs at the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store. Visions of lovely handwarmers with dainty embellishments danced in my brain. Oh what lovely hand finishing could be done to these machine-knit cuffs that must have been originally intended to be folded in half and attached to some basic jacket or sweater.

I thought I'd grab a few pair to practice on, and if things worked out, I'd come back and buy a bunch to embellish for the Etsy store.

This first taupe pair that I worked on took forever! The picture you see here is after approximately ten hours of work.

The primary challenge is to clean up the edges. This may look like a simple two by two rib, but it's not. In addition to having approximately 24 stitches to the inch in the center section and 16 stitches to the inch on the flared ends, these cuffs are an example of some kind of alien knitting. At first I thought perhaps it was warp knitting as opposed to weft knitting.

Weft knitting is what we do by hand. It is explained like this by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne in her most wonderful, gloriously-illustrated book, The Art of Knitting, Inspirational Stitches, Textures, and Surfaces. "Weft-knitted fabrics are created from one yarn whose loops link together in successive courses throughout the length." A course is what we hand knitters would call a row.

Contrast this with her explanation of warp knitting:
Warp-knitted fabrics are created from the knitting of a number of different yarns wound into a beam (as in weaving). These yarns form chains of loops along the length of the fabric, which are also linked together laterally in a wide variety of ways. In contrast to weft knitting, warp-knit fabrics are very difficult to unravel.
I'm not sure I'd call this circular cuff warp knitting, but my idea of quickly prettying one up was sure warped thinking. In these cuffs there are two sets of threads and I'm not sure exactly how they work. It seems like one set creates the columns of knits stitches on ribs facing outward while another set creates the columns of knit stitches facing inward. OR--one set creates the first knit column of each pair facing both outward and inward while the other set of threads creates the second column of each pair of knit stitches. There are no outward facing purl stitches. Instead you see behind the knit stitch columns the interlocking of the two sets of threads.

I do not have an engineering mind so I am probably not describing this well, but believe me when I say that this was a bigger mess of thread than the first photo looks like.

You had to carefully unravel in a completely different manner on the two opposing ends. There were lots of loose threads to start with because the cuffs had been roughly cut at both ends. Initially I used a pair of size 000000 knitting needles to slowly and carefully pick up the loops while I wore a pair of magnifying eyeglasses and also looked through a large magnifying glass that was suspended from around my neck.

Once I had the threads on the quadruple zeros I transferred them to a somewhat larger size 0000 and then proceeded to bind off the edges. Such foolishness!

Next, I did a single crochet edging, followed by a crocheted shell pattern.

On this red pair I got smart and saved a bunch of time by chucking the knitting needles and threading an embroidery needle with some fingering wool of a similar color as the cuffs. Running the thread through all the loops was equally as effective, and way faster than, the whole binding off with knitting needles routine. This pair got a little picot edging and some seed beads. The red pair probably took eight hours start to finish. (Guess I won't be trying to sell this work in my store!)

This pair is for a tango-dancer friend. Below you can see the various tools I've used is this journey.

I have one more pair in tan to finish for another dancer friend and then these cranberry lovelies are going to be for me:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Workspace Today

I'm doing a photoshoot of more finished items and work in progress. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Finished Scarves

There's nothing like a new scarf to keep your neck warm when you have a sore throat. The first two scarves are for me and were samples for ideas for next fall.

This first scarf is a combination of some sock yarn, some strands of fingering weight wool/rayon, and some nylon eyelash yarn. Mostly what I was going for was depth of color and the working out of a ribbed self-tying pattern. It is very warm and sensual to wear. I'm going to explore the eyelash yarn some more, even though some would probably think its novelty is passé.

The next scarf was an exploration of using Socks That Rock for something other than socks because really I may have already knit as many socks as I really want to--other than the ones from the recycled Liz Claiborne sweater.

This scarf was knit with a double strand of medium weight STR in a ridged rib design. Here's another way to wear it:

Finally, there is the ruffled scarf. I had been wanting to try one of these for a while.

This one is made with Lion Brand Ruffles and also a DK weight wool/silk yarn. It is totally fun to wear and is very warm. This one might end up in the shop. Haven't decided. Depends on how long the sore throat lasts.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Finished Hats - I Wish I Felt Better

Absent blogger I've been, but my excuse is a little bit of a bug and the usual trying to do too much at once while accomplishing far less.

What in the heck have I been doing besides ignoring my blog readers this past week? Well, there have been things finished and photographed. While I was going on and on about "Working in Circles" last month (that should be the name of my theme song), there was actually work getting done and I can prove it!

Lets start with hats.

First up is a fun purple number that got started last year and was finally finished. Alas it is not going in the store because it didn't meet my quality control standards.

This is an ongoing problem with felting. It's so unpredictable. Some days the felting of a hat seems to take forever. On other days, the same darn yarn, knit in the same darn cloche pattern, will felt up before you can say "Yikes!" And then sometimes there is the problem with the hat becoming too small before all the stitch definition gets felted out.

That what happened with this purple hat. You can still easily see the stitch decreasing in the crown shaping but any more felting would have reduced the hat to a size impossible to wear. So this cute but imperfect hat is destined to become a giveaway or something I'll wear myself.

This black hat felted up nicely and I got smart with it by making the flower ornament a removable brooch. That way you can play with the look of the hat by attaching something else. The problem with this hat, which will go in the store, is that it is so hard to photograph black things. There must be a trick with the lighting. If you know what it is, please leave me a comment.

White yarn is supposed to be very difficult to felt. That wasn't the case with this winter white fiber, although the hat did become smaller in the felting process than was planned.

The idea of this hat, which was inspired by Aretha's wonderful hat that she wore to the inauguration, was ceremony.

This is a wedding chapeau with a bow embellished with freshwater pearls. The hat itself is a marriage between a beanie and a cloche. It will have to be a petite bride who wears it because it definitely is a size small.

This split-pea soup colored hat is for me to wear. It is an experiment inspired by Leigh Radford who was at a recent Tigard Knitting Guild meeting with all the samples from her recent book, AlterKnits Felt. This is a wonderful book if you're fascinated by felting, and I highly recommend it. Leigh has done a lot of experimenting and exploring of the felt wilderness, and she shares her findings freely. The projects in the book are artistic and varied in scope.

Leigh was wearing one of the patterns from the book called "Pleated Cloche", and it was totally cool even though I wouldn't call her hat a cloche. The term cloche to me means to be in the shape of a bell which is what the word means in French. Leigh's hat is more of a pleated beanie or cap. Nevertheless it is a very cool design that involves the fun idea of folding or creasing the felt hat while it is still wet.

So I took my cloche pattern, changed the bell-shaped brim to allow for fullness in the front but not as much as usual in the back with some short row shaping, and added a couple of extra unfelted inches in the knitting of the crown so that there would be something to work with. It was a fun experiment that surely will get tried again.

To me a hat needs to look good in all directions before it is acceptable. Both the wedding hat and my folded hat ended up with nice silhouettes in all directions. For an end to today's post, I'll leave you with a backward glance at them. Next post will have some finished scarves.