Posts Tagged ‘blue’


The Daily ATC Challenge: Day 13

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Today’s theme for the Daily ATC Challenge is: SNOWFLAKES

They’re beautiful and it’s January, so why not? Both of mine are watercolor on 140lb paper, however the second, darker one also has a bit of faint 6H pencil. Basically, I decided I didn’t like the first one and did the second one late last night so I’d have something better to share this morning!

dailyATC13 faint snowflake

dailyATC13 bold snowflake

The faint one was made by doing a blue wash, letting that dry mostly, and then scrubbing out the snowflakes with a damp brush. Additionally, before it was dry, I dripped on some clean water for additional effect.

The darker snowflake was first drawn on sketch paper using circle stencils, a protractor to get my wheels into sixths, and then just a good deal of pencil sketching. When the sketch was complete, I traced the lines I wanted with a very soft pencil, I think an 8B. Then I flipped my sketchpad ATC over onto the watercolor paper blank ATC and went at the back of the sketchpad ATC as though it were a scratch ticket. The design transferred beautifully, though reversed of course which doesn’t matter for a snowflake. Since the paper had slid a bit with my scratching vigor, I traced the bold, dark lines with a 6H pencil to get very faint, but slightly depressed into the paper lines for my outline. Then I went over the entire sheet of watercolor paper gently with a polymer eraser. The eraser took off all the bold, dark pencil from the transfer process but left the pale hard pencil lines intact. At that point I was able to start outlining my snowflake in watercolor with a very fine nail art brush and use a larger brush with clean water to spread the outline away from the snowflake in a wash. I worked my way around the snowflake four times, each time outlining a little less and spreading the outline a bit less. Ultimately, that left me with my white snowflake which has more blue around the center background than the other parts. This would have been a million times more easily completed with Frisket, but since I’m allergic to latex, I try to stay far, far away from that stuff!

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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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Spinning Study Group

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On the second Thursday of each month, I’m lucky enough to get to join a spinning study group at Table Rock Llamas. The ladies in the group are wonderful and I’ve learned so much just being around them. Almost every month, we have a dedicated thing to work on learning. Two months ago, we had a workshop taught by a study group member on how to spin coil or beehive yarn. Here’s my beehive yarn from November being modeled by my older dog, Sketcher.

In December we just goofed off and held a gift exchange. I ended up with something I had no idea I needed so badly, a yarn bowl! I’ve been using it non-stop since I got it and I’m considering getting one made from the same local artisan for holding two separate balls so I can use it for fair isle work, particularly as I’m planning at least two stranded projects for my county and state fair entries this year. If you haven’t tried a yarn bowl, you need to!

As for this month? We did a study of Blue Faced Leicester wool. Blue Faced Leicester is pronounced “blue faced lester,” and commonly referred to as just BFL. BFL is a fantastic fleece for the handspinner. It’s got a magnificent crimp and shines almost as though it contains silk. BFL is known for it’s luster. BFL is considered a longwool and the narrow locks range from 3-6 inches on average. The wool I’m spinning today has some variance but lends itself toward the long end of the spectrum. While the wool is rather soft and could be worn against the skin, I’ve gotten a bit spoiled with affordable Merino wool top and if I’m going to really splurge like I had to on the BFL, I’d rather just save a bit longer and snap up a bag of cashmere or higher micron count Merino than I usually buy.

The shop owner where we hold our meetings bought two BFL sheep fleeces for us and washed them. Here’s the view into my sack of BFL after today’s spinning. I’ve got a ton left to card and spin. Just look at that shine though! Wow!

Washed BFL

Members of the study group could buy as much as they wanted for $4 an ounce. That’s a lot more than I usually pay for sheep’s wool, but it was a matter of wanting to spin with the rest of the group.  I’ve spun BFL before, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’m very, very glad I splurged on some of this local wool from a sheep named Poppy! (my donkey’s name is also Poppy) BFL is fairly uncommon in our area so fleeces command a higher price. I ended up buying 4oz. That’s about as little as I ever buy of any spinning fiber because 4oz provides plenty of freedom to decide how to spin the yarn and a multitude of possible projects. I could make a lace shawl, a pair of fingering weight socks, or a worsted hat. The only time I buy less than 4oz is when I buy little bitty 1/3oz bumps of fiber for spinning hexipuffing yarn, but that’s for another post.

Given the high crimp of the BFL in our study group fleece and the burning desire I’ve had to try out the Majacraft lace kit my brother D got me for Christmas this year, I opted to spin my BFL into a lace weight yarn which will then most likely end up knit into a shawl of some sort depending on the finished yardage. Due to the quantity of vegetable matter in the wool even after washing, spinning is a bit slow. I’m carding my wool into woolen rolags and picking as much VM from the wool as I can both while carding and while spinning. With the high crimp and the wool’s luster it is working up to be a fantastic fine thread of a single even if it is slow going due to the relatively dirty wool.


I will later ply this, likely a chained 3 ply, to make a finished lace yarn. I will probably also dye this fiber as I’d like to see first hand how the BFL takes up dye. I’ve heard good things about BFL’s receptivity toward acid dyes and that the wool’s natural luster makes the colors shine from within.


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Home Sweet Home

Posted under Free Patterns, Knitting, Models, Toys No Comments

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For the Iron Craft’s week 8 challenge the theme was your hometown. I spent an immense amount of time thinking about what my hometown craft should be. Eventually, I’d all but given up. None of the places I’ve lived, including my current city feel like home. Everywhere I’ve lived just feels so temporary. I really hope I can get a real place soon, one that feels like home.

In my mopery trying to decide if anywhere feels like it’s my hometown, I Googled the addresses of my childhood homes and popped the maps into street view. I really don’t recommend that. Some homeowners do silly things like repaint the house’s different colors and rip out all the wonderful trees!

One good thing did come of surfing through the western US in Google Maps. Watching some Dr. Who on Netflix helped too. I finally decided on my craft for the hometown challenge! The one place that I most certainly feel like calling my home is planet Earth! I’d seen a pattern for a knit planet Earth on Ravelry before when searching for science and math related knits. I grabbed some cheap acrylic yarn from my craft closet, a set of wonderful Balene II double pointed needles, and got to work. I printed out the chart from the Ravelry pattern. I didn’t worry about the actual pattern. It’s in Finnish and I can’t read that. The chart however makes the pattern very obvious. I added row counts to my printed chart and was able to figure out the increasing and decreasing very easily. The chart was missing a few vital things though. I ended up adding Antarctica, some ice for the North Pole, Tasmania, the UK, Hawaii, and Madagascar. Then, I reshaped Central America, the southern half of Africa, the southern half of South America, the Great Lakes area, and Eastern Australia. Here’s my altered chart for anyone who would like to knit a globe.

The finished ball came out very tight. I used aran/heavy worsted weight yarn on size 3 needles to get a very firm fabric. I also stranded the entire project since it is a ball and long floats with some puckering only serves to help maintain the spherical shape. I would never do such long floats on a flat map. It’s also a bit overstuffed to make for a very firm play ball. It’s just the right weight and size to run down one arm, across your shoulders, and down the other arm when I manage it. I’m still very stiff from the car accidents and as a result tend to drop it about 99% of the time. Conveniently, Sketcher my dog is all too happy to go fetch the dropped ball.

Here’s a few shots of the finished knit Earth. For the hometown challenge photos I stuck a pin in the globe roughly where Colorado is. The idea is that no matter where I live, I always have a hometown craft!

Be sure to let me know if any of you make an Earth with this chart. I’d love to feature your planet!

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