Category: experimenting

DFW Fiber Fest Recap

I am very lucky that my job affords me the opportunity to attend a lot of fiber events, but one experience I’ve never had is going to a big event as a yarn civilian. So, when I saw the teacher line-up for this year’s Dallas-Fort Worth Fiber Festival I decided to take the plunge and sign up. I had a full weekend of classes (7 of them!) and managed to sneak in some marketplace time as well. Here’s some of what I learned during this lovely weekend.

These are my swatches from Knitting for Speed and Efficiency with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (bottom) and My Aching Wrists with Carson Demers (top). In the former class I learned a ton about the history of knitting before we talked about how we can improve our personal knitting rate. It was interesting to take at this particular time in my life as a sick person, because the disability community talks a lot about not measuring our worth in productivity and my brain was really trying to figure out how to hold onto an interest in knitting quickly with not feeling like it reflected on me. I learned that I knit 28 stitches per minute, which is mid to top of the average range for North American knitters: 10-40 stitches per minute. We talked about a very efficient way to knit if we’re willing to learn a new technique, as well as ways to increase speed in our current knitting style. You can’t really practice both, you have to pick one, and I’m still undecided which I’ll do when I’m done with one of my current projects and am ready to take on a speed-practice one.

I put these swatches together for the picture because they both show the same tendency – when I start practicing a new knitting technique my gauge gets smaller. I am a very loose knitter, often needing to go down 3 needle sizes to get gauge, and I finally learned why in Carson’s class. When I make a stitch I do so on the shaft of the needle, so my stitches are the diameter of two of the needle size, not one like it would be if I formed the stitch on the tip. I don’t have a problem with being a loose knitter so I’m not sure if I’ll attempt to change this practice of mine, but it is nice to understand why I have to knit on such tiny needles.

I also took my first two weaving classes this weekend – Knitting for Weavers with Deborah Jarchow and Saori Weaving with Kathy Utts. Above are my samples from the former class. It was such a great set up – there were half a dozen different types of beginner looms in the class. We each warped the one in front of us and wove a sample on it, and then moved around the room and tried out other looms we were interested in. It is amazing how different the models can feel in your hands, and how tiny style differences make using it harder or easier for your body. During the entire time we were warping I was thinking how glad I was that I took a class and didn’t just buy a loom, because this activity was not for me. And then the moment we started weaving, as I saw cloth being created in front of me, I had such a visceral reaction – I was part of an ancient textile art, sisters with the Goddess Arachne. Now that the fumes have worn off I’m still not sure I’ll take it up as a hobby, I don’t know if I have the mental energy to properly learn a new kind of making, but I also don’t know if the siren call will overwhelm my senses at some point.

My favorite class experience was definitely Saori weaving. I love everything about the philosophy – it is about creating imperfect art and knowing ourselves in the process. Sitting at that loom felt so good, as did playing with techniques and making up my own. The Saori way is to machine wash your weavings, which puts fear in my stomach but I am going to do anyway to really go through the process. After that is done, I cannot wait to hang this piece that I love in my office. It’s definitely not in my budget to buy a Saori loom anytime soon, but I may visit the local studio and take some more classes.

I can’t believe it, but I didn’t take any pictures while I was there! So just imagine a picture of a great marketplace full of interesting vendors. I also really liked the hotel/conference center set up – they’re across the street from each other and right next to a bunch of restaurants. My favorite was Nosh and Bottle, a deli/market. I had one of the best sandwiches of my life there and will definitely eat there again next time I’m in Dallas. Maybe for next year’s show? If so, hopefully I can convince some of my knitting group to come with me!

Daisy’s Sweater’s Alteration

Daisy’s Sweater’s Alteration

I am a very impatient person as a rule and you see this the most in my attitude around presents. I hate having to wait to open mine, and to see the people I’m giving to open theirs. So, when my Dad was visiting this past weekend I made him open Daisy’s Sweater early. And he loved it! He lay it over his hands and imagined it on his little pup and it brought exactly the smile to his face that I had hoped for. And then in a small voice he asked, “I’m not sure if this is okay for me to say, but would it be possible for there to be a leash hole?”

Obviously I said yes! And then I set out to figure out how to make a leash hole in a finished sweater.

My first thought was that cutting knitting means a steek, and I got excited to do my first one on a real project, not just a swatch. After refreshing my memory with some tutorials, I grabbed the appropriate crochet hook and prepared to reinforce. But as I planned where I would reinforce I thought about the kind of facing I would make and how to make it pretty over such a small area. My Dad indicated that the ideal length of the hole would be 3-4 stitches. Any of kind of facing on both sides would overlap, not to mention the fact that my steek would have a top and bottom to face as well.

At this point I entered the period where I remembered how the steek tutorials all make a big deal about how knitting doesn’t want to unravel. They had photographs of swatches they had snipped and then carried in their purses without any unraveling. This sweater was made of handspun BFL that was plenty sticky. Maybe I could just cut the hole and it would be fine?

I took to the internet to ask my knitting friends. I am thankful that they reminded me how much abrasion a leash would put on the hole and that this was a recipe for a ruined sweater. Laura Chau suggested I make it like a buttonhole, which were just the words I needed to hear. A tiny hole in your knitting is a buttonhole, not a steek. I decided to give it a shot on my sewing machine, using my swatch for practice.

The first sample was a great teaching tool. My method would definitely work – the ribbon facing was invisible enough on the right side for my purposes and the automatic buttonhole worked a charm on my handknit. I also learned how hard it is to nicely line up a sticky knit with a slippery woven. I did a few more samples to play around with my stitch settings.

These buttonholes were perfect! Using my walking foot helped move the sticky knit fabric smoothly through the machine. I had thought the default buttonhole settings made a pretty wimpy looking buttonhole. I increased the width to 7mm and decreased the length to 0.2mm. This more substantial buttonhole really stood out on the knit and seemed like it would have the integrity for the job of being a leash hole.

And there we go, the final product! My Dad apologized for giving me another project when he saw me researching and testing. He didn’t realize how fun an experiment like this can be! Have you ever cut your knitting using a steek, a buttonhole or another technique?

Intarsia in the Round Techniques

Intarsia in the Round Techniques

From the outside my Mia Tank and my Winter Traveler sweater don’t look to have a lot in common – one is a summery sleeveless tunic and one is a warm sweatshirt of a sweater, one is in crisp sport weight silk and linen while the other is an earthy bulky wool. But they both required me to use the technique of intarsia in the round. I used different methods for each, and today I will cover them and discuss my preferences.

Before I delve into the two techniques, I should explain why intarsia in the round is complicated. Intarsia is a colorwork technique where a single strand of yarn is used to create a patch of color within the background. When knit flat you knit with the main color, knit your little patch of contrast, and end the row with the main color, continuing the pattern as you knit back on the wrong side. The problem with doing intarsia in the round is that every row is a right side row. So when you come back to your colorwork patch, the yarn end you’re knitting with is on the other end of the patch. If it’s just a few stitches you could make a float, or even use a separate strand of contrasting color for each row. But for a large design you’ll need to figure out a way to get back to the end of the patch where the yarn is waiting for you. The answer is that you’ll have to work wrong side rows, so generally most intarsia in the round techniques are ways of knitting flat and seaming as you go.

Mia is written as a single-color pattern, so I had to figure out how I was going to work the seed stitch sections in a different color. I googled around and found this blog post on the subject which covers the technique I ended up using:

  1. Knit your RS row as normal to the end of the round.
  2. Wrap and turn the first stitch of the round.
  3. Knit a WS row to the wrapped stitch.
  4. Pick up the wrap and knit it with the stitch.
  5. Wrap and turn the last stitch of the round.

You can continue this way for the entire length that requires the intarsia, and then return to normal knitting in the round when the colorwork is complete. As you can see in the photo above, I found this technique was very visible on the fabric surface. It was impossible to get even tension between the wraps knit with their stitches and the surrounding stitches, leading to a visible column. This particular pattern has stitches added to the back only, so the line is particularly visible, moving to the front of the garment as it descends rather than being hidden under my arm. It might be less visible in a squishier yarn, but I did not love it for this silk/linen blend.

I was unsatisfied with my first attempty, but not scared off from the skill in general. Winter Traveler is written to include intarsia in the round, so I followed the technique the designer suggests in the pattern (which she made a great YouTube video for). It is similar to the technique above with a few key differences:

  1. YO at the beginning of my first RS intarsia row, then knit as normal to the last stitch.
  2. SSK the last stitch with the YO from the beginning of the round.
  3. Turn, YO, then knit the WS row to the last stitch.
  4. P2tog the last stitch with the YO from the beginning of the round.

Clearly it is the same idea of knitting flat and connecting the ends of the rows. The difference is that you use a YO as the stitch you connect across, rather than a wrap. SSK and P2tog are used because those decreases will put the YO on the wrong side of the fabric, behind the round stitch. That, and the fact that none of the YO passes in front of the round stitch combine to make this method much less visible than the wrap and turns.

So there you have it, the two intarsia in the round techniques I have tried this year and my thoughts on them. Let me know if you have a skill you’ve experimented with different ways and found one works out better for you!

FO Friday – Color Blending Study

FO Friday – Color Blending Study

Construction: chain plied

Fiber:  BFL/Silk (75%/25%)

Colorway: Emergence

Dyer: Fibernymph!

Ravelry link!

I mentioned back in April that I was undertaking a color blending study for my spinning group. In honor of Tour de Fleece I wanted to share my results with you all. 

I started with a set of 4 colors – 1 ounce of each. I split each color into 7 pieces to make a total of 15 possible combinations pictured above. Above is a progress picture from part way through my carding process. I chain plied for ease of project management – just 1 bobbin of each color to deal with! I am in love with the results.

Here are the skeins with 1 color. My baseline.

These are the skeins with 2 colors. They’re very distinct, and it’s easy to pick out the component colors.

Here are the sets with 3 colors. The individual skeins are more similar when you look at them from afar. Up close, however, they have a lot of depth and it takes close study to pick out the component colors.

This is the final skein with all 4 colors. It’s my favorite, the one I would pick off a shelf at my LYS to take home with me. The appearance is complex and heathered.

I am so glad that I went through this process. Blending fiber is different than blending paint – the individual fibers remain yellow and green and silver. As you add more colors the results get more and more nuanced. I am eager to play with this more, ultimately making a color wheel from the primary colors.


FO Friday – Chambray Copycat Shorts

FO Friday – Chambray Copycat Shorts

While I was cutting out the pattern for my Everyday Skirt, my 4 year old asked me to make her something, too. Mentally I scanned her wardrobe and remembered she needed more shorts, so I grabbed an existing pair and quickly traced them for an ad hoc pattern.

I had only done this once before – for a bodice for a dress for her. I am making an concerted effort to grow my skills as a sewist, so I figured I’d dive in on these shorts and learn something in the process.

The fact that these shorts aren’t modeled gives a clue to the biggest thing I learned – make sure the item you’re basing your pattern off of fits the intended recipient! I thought the ready to wear pair were her current size and I was sizing up for the future, but instead I just made a second pair of too small shorts. Whoops! Luckily I know lots of mamas with littler kids, so these shorts have already found a loving home.

Aside from my measuring fail, I feel like these shorts were an awesome learning experience. I didn’t label my pattern pieces and learned why that’s important. It’s amazing how similar they can look as a pile of paper! I loved inspecting the shorts to figure out the order in which to construct them. I was grateful I had just finished my Everyday Skirt because that pattern made it clear why the steps were organized as they were and I was able to see how important that would be in these shorts.

I am really glad I went through this exercise. I’m sad my daughter and I can’t spend the summer running around in matching bottoms, though. I still have a yard of this fabric left, so I think I’ll be shopping her closet for good candidates to copy. Or if you know a kids pattern that would be great, let me know in the comments!

Arm Knitting Experiment

Arm Knitting Experiment

When an octogenarian asks you if you know anything about arm knitting, the correct answer is, “No, but I’m sure we could figure it out!” That is how I ended up experimenting with the technique and fodder for today’s post.

Carol is the founder of a medical support group I attend and it quickly came out that we both love knitting. When chatting after a meeting one day she said she would love to learn arm knitting, and I eagerly invited her over to figure it out together. I am always up for a crafting challenge and I was excited to make a friend. Carol brought the chicken salad and her sister, Penny, and I brought my fearless spirit and an instructional Youtube video.

For those unfamiliar with the technique, arm knitting is just like using knitting needles except your arms are the needle. You pull the loops through by hand and end up with an airy fabric, great for oversized cowls and quick throws.

When diving through my stash to prepare for their arrival, I found myself drawn to a bag of roving I’ve had forever. I’m pretty sure it’s Ashland Bay Merino and while very nice, wasn’t close to the top of my spinning queue. I quickly split it into quarters lengthwise and decided to use it as is for my first piece.

I loved the fabric I got. But that cowl was plenty big for me and only used up 1/3 of the roving. I couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if I spun the remaining portion into a huge, bulky yarn and made a matching cowl. So, I did.

I’m sure this is obvious to you, but even the mostly gently spun two-ply is going to be significantly thinner than the unspun fiber it came from. I like the fabric of the spun version much less – it’s so loose it makes me think of netting. It has a lovely drape, but I like my garter stitch squishy.

What did I take away from my experiment? Arm knitting is a fun, quick way to knock out a FO. I’d definitely use it to make a quick blanket or scarf for someone who likes chunky accessories. I have pretty tiny arms and found a bulky handspun too thin to make fabric I enjoy – I’d have to figure out how to arm knit tightly to use that yarn weight successfully.

I also found how fun it was to experiment with a new technique with a new acquaintance. Carol and I proudly wore our cowl at the next meeting and it was great to see her glowing with pride. We’re looking forward to more knit nights together in the future!