Posts Tagged ‘black’

12
Jan

The Daily ATC Challenge: Day 12

Posted under Fine Art No Comments

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Day 12 of the daily ATC challenge will be:  SNOWMEN

Here’s what I came up with:

DailyATC12 watercolor

PRANG watercolor on 140lb Artist’s Loft watercolor paper

 

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27
Feb

Why You Should be a Knitting Needle Snob

Posted under Knitting, Product Reviews, Techniques No Comments

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It’s all just sticks and string, so why hunt down the ‘best’ needles? Why not just use what’s most readily available? Or those vintage needles you came across? People have been knitting for hundreds of years on all sorts of things. Some of my favorite traditional knits are the Andean chullos traditionally knit on hook ended needles made of baling wire. And I’ve personally knit on toothpicks, paperclips, large dowels, and even porcupine spines! If any old stick will work, why pay more for those needles? It’s the yarn that goes into the finished piece, so isn’t the yarn the only thing you should be splurging on?

NOPE. Your needles and pattern are just as important and very much worth spending a few extra bucks to have quality because it will very much show in your finished object, even if those needles aren’t going to be a permanent part of the project, they’re just as important as the yarn. Good needles can make a bad knitter’s work look better and a great knitter’s work look horrible, just by being good or bad needles!

I’m currently working on designing a new hat using a stitch I’ve created. It’s a lovely hat and I’m sure you’ll all want to knit it when it’s released. The first hat was knit from a ball of variegated bulky weight yarn, a long on color yarn that when used with such a stitch count creates beautiful stripes. I do love the stripes, but it makes it a bit harder to appreciate the detail of the new decrease and how well it works in ribbing. As such, I purchased a new ball of yarn, the same exact brand, but in a solid color.

The first multicolor hat was knit on a set of double pointed needles and I had a bit of trouble with stitches popping right off the ends of the needles until I hit the crown decreases. It was just too many stitches for the needles. When I was out in the snow picking up the solid colored ball of yarn, I also grabbed a set of 16″ circulars in the same size. Of course I had to get a different brand as no big box shop carries the brand double point I’d been using.

The second I got home, I cast on for the new solid color hat. I’d like it done and photographed as soon as possible so I can share the pattern with you all. When I got into the knitting a ways, I stopped. Something didn’t look right at all. I compared the in-progress hat to my completed one. YEP. Something’s horribly wrong. The stitches are all correct and the new color has much better stitch definition than the multicolored yarn,  but the new needles ruined it! I was over halfway through the body of the hat section too, so it’s a bit sad to rip out. That’s probably an hour and a half of work.

Here’s a close up of the first hat’s stitches. This bit is plain k1p1 ribbing.

Multicolor hat stitches

It’s beautiful, right? The stitches are even, uniform and straight. Now, here’s the same exact pattern and size hat knit in the same brand of 100% acrylic yarn one day later by the same knitter on different needles. Neither piece has been blocked.

solid hat stitches

 

Can you see the differences? The blue one looks horrible. The stitches are crooked with the left leg dominant. It’s wider and sticks up from the fabric more than the right one. Some stitches are more squat, some are taller, and some are just plain wonky.

The needle change also affected gauge in addition to the shape of individual stitches. The multicolor hat has 9 ribs in 4 inches where as the blue one has 8 ribs in 4 inches.

Gauge of multicolor ribbed hat

Gauge of solid ribbed hat

Changing needle brands means redoing your gauge swatch. Changing brands of knitting needles, particularly if that includes a change of knitting needle material, requires redoing your swatch. While only one rib, two stitches, in four inches doesn’t seem like much, in bulky yarn over enough stitches for an adult sized hat, that equates to adding about two and a half inches to the circumference of the hat. That’s huge!

Ribbed Hat difference with ruler

I know the ruler here only shows one and a quarter inches difference, but you’ve got to multiply that by two since there’s two layers under that ruler. Even if it were only an inch off though, that’d surely be enough for a strong wind to carry your hat away while out walking the dog on a brisk winter day.

What are the things that matter about a pair of needles? Generally the tips and the material. How sharp are the needles? How smooth are they? Do the cables have good flex yet aren’t too soft if they’re circulars? Here’s the needles I used for these hats.

Sharps versus Clover

 

The taper on the tip is nearly identical between these needles which is why I was willing to give the cheap and most importantly immediately available ones a chance. The metal ones have a slightly sharper tip, but almost imperceptibly so. The big failure here is that the bamboo needles are a little sticky. Not sticky like they were covered in toddler hand goo, but more in that the yarn doesn’t slide freely down the needle. You’ve got to stop and readjust the knitting to move more stitches to the top. The stitches don’t slide over the join from the cable and back up over the needle well either.

So, what are these needles of win and doom that are making and breaking such a hat? Surely one cost four or five times what the other did, right? Not at all actually. At regular prices one is $8.99USD and the other is $11.50USD with the $11.50 ones being the better ones. Of course given that the cheap ones are from a big box shop though, you could use a 40% off coupon on them which is exactly what I did as it was the only thing I was buying at that shop. That drops them down to $5.40 which means the better needles still are less than twice the cost of the bad ones! Here they are, the hat-ruining Clover bamboo needles and the wonderful but harder-to-come-by HiyaHiya Sharps made of stainless steel.

Clover and Sharps

So what are your favorite brands? What needles will you avoid at all costs? Do you have any problems with allergies to knitting needle materials? I adore the Addi needles, but I have trouble with the nickel in them. I’ve tried their brass line as well, but the smell drives me bonkers!

Lastly, keep in mind that yarn can vary in thickness even within the same brand and weight, so when changing between colors, you might want to redo your gauge swatch too, even if you’re using the same needles. Multicolor acrylics are notoriously thinner than their solid counterparts. If anyone knows why this is, I’d love to know!

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09
Mar

Ravellenic Hat and Mittens Set

Posted under Knitting No Comments

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Something about the idea of a handmade, matched hat and mittens set just grabbed me when I was first learning to knit in 2010. I found some absolutely crazy rainbow stretchy yarn and started experimenting. After a dozen or so restarts, I finally designed a simple hat that fit well using it. I bought some solid black yarn and set it aside as well so I’d be able to make some matching mittens. I certainly wasn’t a good enough knitter to make the mittens yet, much less to do them without a pattern.

While tidying up my office space nearly four years later during the Ravellenic Games, I came upon the hat, still with unwoven loose ends, the black ball of yarn, and the remnant ball of rainbow stretchy yarn. I needed to knit some mittens for my Mittens Moguls medal, so I figured, why not? I whipped up these cute mittens in no time.

Then, I decided I didn’t actually like the hat made using just the rainbow yarn. I carefully picked out the cast on edge, unraveled the hat just enough to remove the brim, and then reknit the rolled brim using the remainder of the solid black yarn.

I love it! It’s just perfect and exactly what I envisioned so long ago when I was planning out my first matched hat and mittens set.

Feeling ready to make your own hat and mitten sets? Leisure Arts has a great book out called Snow Day Sets to Knit. It’s an ebook you can download and start knitting from right away. All the patterns call for worsted weight yarns like Red Heart Super Saver or Cascade 220, so they’re perfect for the beginner to make with easy to find yarn. Best of all? All the patterns are written for both working flat on two needles and seaming at the end OR working in the round on four double-pointed needles. Even if you’ve never worked in the round before, you CAN make your first hat and mittens set with this book! Like this featured set!

And as an added bonus for my readers? How about 15% off the purchase of your Leisure Arts order? Just use this code, ART15,  and save 15% off your entire order from Leisure Arts! Hurry as this discount offer ends March 30, 2014!

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01
Mar

New Month, New Projects

Posted under Life, Sewing and Quilting, Spinning No Comments

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It’s officially the first of the month, though I’ve got to say as I’ve not slept yet it’s feeling a lot like February still. I am taking advantage of the time I need to stay up to make sure the laundry gets done so I’ve got work shirts tomorrow. The Craft Yarn Council just changed up my class offerings in a big way, so I’ll be doing a demonstration tomorrow looking for class signups and working on some of the new samples. Tomorrow looks like it’ll be pom pom rug making day.

I started spinning a wonderful single of natural colored BFL wool which will become a 2-ply light fingering weigh yarn for my mom to knit into a scarf for my grandmother. I’d spun some yarn before, but as a DK weight yarn, I’m afraid it’ll be too thick and warm for her to wear in Southern California. Thanks to my new electric spinner, I’m almost done with the first ply, about 45 grams of wool if I recall correctly. Not too bad for a quick evening spin!

IMG_4609

 

When I needed to get up to change the laundry, the yarn kept coming undone when I wrapped it around my flyer like normal. It’s not the most wonderful way to hold the yarn when you have to get up, but sometimes it works. Then I thought about the package of new clamps I’d just ordered sitting right beside my wheel. Perfect. They’re just easy enough to open without sacrificing clamping power for me to be in love with them. Then as an added bonus? I find out the reinforced nylon handles weigh just enough to keep the very high twist yarn from untwisting under the weight of the clamp on the platform. I clipped the yarn into the clamp and then just set the clamp down. You can’t get an easier and more foolproof way of setting your spinning aside! I’ll definitely be keeping one of these guys in my spinning supply box from now on. I’ll post a full review of the new clamps too once I get to try them on my woodworking, but I figured you guys would love to see my new spinning solution!

Then, since I just tossed my work clothes into the dryer, I figured I’d get some fabric I bought last week into the wash so I can cut it up and get sewing. My physical therapist has a small pillow which we use every week under my shoulder because I can’t lay flat on my back on a hard surface without something under my right shoulder. The pillow in question here is an airline pillow that was stolen ages ago and is starting to really show it’s age in the fragile from the start blue cover. It’s just falling to shreds. So I’m going to make a pair of washable covers for his extra positioning pillow!

Here’s the fabric I picked out for him.

IMG_4603

 

The black with glow-in-the-dark skeleton fabric will be for the body of the pillow. Then, for the border along the open edge, I found this wonderful black and white grid which to me looks a lot like graph paper. I think it’s the perfect combination. We’ve got the anatomical organic shapes from the human body and it’s infinite complexity mixed with the rather stark, mathematical grid of the relatively nonsensical numerical grades and measurements for everything to keep insurance companies happy. Sure, it’s a little deep for a pillowcase, but I’m thrilled with it so far. It can only get better from here. Plus, it looks like I should have enough fabric leftover to make a cover for my equivalent little pillow at home and maybe a couple ice pack covers for me too! Sometimes little treats like a goofy ice pack cover can make all the difference on a high pain day.

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25
Feb

Ravellenic Games are OVER

Posted under Weaving No Comments

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Whew. It’s been an insane couple of weeks for me with the Ravellenic Games in full swing. I challenged myself to get all 34 unique medals this year and I just barely made it! I was so busy spinning, knitting, crocheting, and weaving though that I’m quite a bit behind on posting. This means one thing for my readers: get ready for the deluge of awesome projects.

I’m going to kick off with my absolute favorite project of the games this year, my mini notions bag! You got a bit of a preview in the Rainbow Yarns post earlier. I posted those pictures of the yarn with the new electric spinning wheel right before the insanity started and I was challenged by a friend to get all 34 medals. So what did I do with this yarn? Well, not quite yet!

I didn’t want to use just rainbow yarn for a project because I’m just not very into the bright and crazy colors. My best friend teases me relentlessly about my ever so boring love of earth tones. So I went up to my favorite local fiber and yarn shop, Table Rock Llamas, and picked up some jet black merino wool. I quickly spun this into a 2 ply fingering weight yarn. It spun up fast on the new espinner and when a friend was helping me wind it into a center pull ball, we both marveled at how even it was as it flew through the tensioning fingers at high speed. I don’t think I’ve ever spun so much yardage so evenly, much less so quickly. There was approximately 125 yards from 0.8oz of fiber and I used every last drop.

For my project I opted to use the new black yarn with the rainbow crepe yarn. I set aside the rainbow light fingering yarn from the previous post for hexipuffing of course. How could I not? Here’s that crepe yarn again made from rainbow wool and two plies of polyester machine embroidery thread.

My best friend, K, was visiting the night I did this and so she helped provide extra hands to warp my four harness table loom with the black handspun yarn. We learned a very important lesson that night. Never, ever warp a loom with energetic yarn. You’ll be wrestling with it for hours trying to get the kinks out and tension applied evenly! Still, eventually we succeeded and I began weaving a plain tabby cloth immediately working with a shuttle of the rainbow crepe. I made this particular shuttle from lacewood last year for a specific project, hence the absurd length. But it was the only one I could find and I wanted to weave right that second. If I’d had patience, I’d have soaked and possibly weighted the black warp too! Or, you know, put on something other than jammies for the picture.

Before long I had a beautiful finished fabric but more space to go on the loom before running out of warp. Since it was handspun warp I felt extra horrible about wasting it and spent a while glancing frantically about my room trying to find something I could weave across my black warp to make a useable finished fabric.

I settled on a mini skein of solid black aran weight handspun and a second mini skein of DK weight black and gold thread with sequined yarn, both spun at Distaff Day this past January. I quickly worked them up for a bit in a striped pattern until I lost my patience and just had to cut my rainbow fabric off the loom.

From here it went right into the bathroom sink to be hand felted before being stretched out to dry. Given our difficulties warping the highly energetic black, it was a rather surprisingly flat and even fabric that wasn’t trying to curl up on itself. I had expected it to skew like the bias that forms in knits with energetic yarn worked flat.

I spent a day agonizing over how to cut up my fabric. I finally settled on three rectangles to make three little bags, a black and gold coin purse, a small rainbow notions bag, and a large project or double-pointed needle storage pouch. All three would have cotton liners and zipper closures.

Since I was trying for all the medals and the multiple bags would have all earned just more duplicates of the same medals, I didn’t finish them all. Each woven fabric has been sewn into the outer bag and the lining fabric for each liner cut. I did completely finish the bitty rainbow notions bag though and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

At about three-and-a-half inches square, it’s just the right size for a tape measure, stitch markers, a package of yarn needles, and a bit of lifeline thread – you know, just the knitting bag basics! It’s my first ever handwoven from my own handspun. I just love running my hands over the lightly felted fabric.

This was also my first ever bag with a zipper and I’m thrilled at how nicely that came out. I didn’t have any directions or idea what I was doing. I just made it up as I went along and it was so successful I’ll definitely line bags that way in the future too!

Keep an eye out for a bunch more posts loaded up with wonderful finished objects from my 2014 rainbow of Ravellenic projects!

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