Category Archives: Fibers

#knitchat 5/26: Unusual Knitting, Unusual Fibers

What constitutes unusual knitting… knitting a space alien, birthday cake, or even an entire village? Maybe unusual knitting can be knitting part of a gigantic knitted bunny that can be seen from satellite views. Or unusual for you can simply mean knitting socks rather than hats.  Unusual fiber or knitting material can include yarn made of milk, soy, or corn… or knitting with wire or Ramen. Yes, someone has knitted with noodles.

#knitchat Questions:

Q1) What is the oddest thing you’ve every knit or wanted to knit?  If you’d like, share examples of strange/unusual knits you’ve found on the Internet.

Q2) What is the oddest fiber you’ve knit with or wanted to try? What has stopped you from doing so?

Q3) Next #knitchat topic suggestions

DETAILS… DETAILS… If you want to know more about what #knitchat is and how it works

  • Where: Twitter (follow the #knitchat hashtag)
  • When: Thursdays on the date listed above at 6:30 PM PST/9:30 PM EST (1 hour)
  • Who: Me you and other Twitter Knitters/Crocheters & Fiber-crafters
  • How: Need a primer on Twitter Chat… check this out: What does this Twitter chat thing look like?
  • How: to post photos – 5 ways to share photos on Twitter
  • How: to shorten your links. Simply paste your link into the field in http://bit.ly/ and shorten it. Copy and paste this link into the twitter feed.

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Filed under #knitchat, Fibers, Fun Stuff

Erstwhile Future Goat-herder?

Cute pygora goat from http://www.pansplace.com/

For my birthday a few close relatives threatened to purchase a goat, a pygora goat, for me. No, I’m not kidding about  this ( no pun intended). To my husband’s relief and indeed my own, they were persuaded not to buy me a goat. Well I can think of a few very, very good reasons:

  1. Our yard is not outfitted yet for a goat. Our fences haven’t been reinforced, nor are our gates fixed up to prevent a goat prison break… Also, we haven’t removed plants that are not healthy for goats to nosh on… I just recently discovered that Rhododendrons ( a staple in Pacific Northwest gardens) are very toxic to our little bearded friends.
  2. We do not have a shelter or goat house fit to make the goat comfortable.
  3. I’m not sure what the neighbors would think.
  4. I’m not sure I’m up for the commitment yet of having to milk a female goat daily.
  5. MOST importantly  of all… I cannot be with the goat 24-7. Goats are herd animals and need constant companionship. While other humans could provide somewhat of a substitute as a companion… I don’t think me or the other residents including my husband & the four legged ones, in our household would appreciate having a goaty friend running a round. Not to mention… I’m not so sure one can housebreak a goat. Not sure I want to find out if that’s possible as well.  If we were to have goats, we would need at least a pair.

Livestock of any sort is quite a commitment.

While, I would love, no adore, having a lovely little pair of goats. I have to be fairly realistic and decline the offer… at least for now. As mentioned earlier, I did get a few informative books on goat herding for my birthday. One titled: “Barnyarn in your Backyard.” I love that the Urban Farm has made sort of a resurgence. Looks like a number of people today are attempting to live the life of self-sufficiency that Tom and Barbara Good did in the TV Series I mentioned a number of podcasts back called the Good Life. But I have to say… I worry about people doing these types of experiments and then having to figure out what to do with their animals later when things don’t work out. But maybe that’s me an my city girl inexperience talking.

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Episode 17: Adventures in Felting and Dreaming of Someplace Warmer

I may not be able to go some place warm right now but I can dream about it. I certainly can listen to music and songs that remind me of warm South American days on a beach right? Or I can make myself a hot water bottle cozy.

This is the episode where Rachel and I talk about felting. I think I’ve actually become  convert to this technique.

Episode 17

 

Two Hot Water bottle Cozies in Cascade 220 and Elann Peruvian Highland Wool

 

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Filed under #knitchat, Felting, Fibers, Knit, Knitters, Knitting

I’ve discovered felting

Right, when the last thing I needed was another needle & fiber-craft. I took a two hour course on felting. I went in completely ignorant of how to shape wool fiber or roving into all sorts of forms, came out being able to put together cute little animals and creatures.

The ingredients needed for a successful felting are the following:

1.) Felting mat (usually made of a thick piece of foam or a wide flat brush with thick bristles).

2.) Wool roving or fiber (that is washed, combed and processed).

3.) Felting needle.

That’s it… no glue, no wires unless you’re creating an armature or skeleton to make your felted creation bendable and pose-able… though this sounds tricky & fiddly and perhaps a bit dangerous. Because essentially when you’re needle felting you’re taking the felting needle and jabbing it over and over again into the roving bits to shape them. For example in both the owl and the Totoro figures below, the body is simply just a rolled up wad of roving that has been poked and shaped into a body form. The ears on Totoro and the owls’ wings are smaller clumps of roving shaped into the appropriate form. I didn’t cut those pieces out. I basically poked and prodded at them until the wool took the shape I desired.

This is such a simple yet rewarding craft… even children (who are responsible and responsive to safety instructions) can master this skill within an hour or two.  It’s a great introduction into fiber-craft.  Looks like I may not have to knit or crochet everyone a present this year.

Want more ideas for felted cutestuff?

My 2nd Totoro - completed in less than 1 hour

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Filed under Craft, Creativity, Dolls, Felting, Fibers, Gifts, Kitsch, Needle Felting, Toys

Spun rainbow

Actually finished this prior to Christmas. Made from felting scraps and other fibers I had on hand. I may have enough to make a pointy ski hat.

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Swatch Day and Blueberry Socks

I know I said I was going to write about swatching as part of my process in the whole “Raglan Sweater Series” of posts. I lied.

I know a lot of knitters don’t like hearing the “Sermon on the Swatch.”  Maybe it’s just part of the lesson. Knitting a whole sweater that doesn’t look or fit right. I’ll be honest. I have had this happen to me… more than once. As a result, I now swatch.

That’s all I’ll say on this subject for now.

I did have time today to swatch a few yarns I’ve been wanting to try… some yarns for spring: a cotton/hemp blend, Silky wool, and a mystery yarn from Yarnia that I purchased at last years Knit & Crochet Show (Fall). It’s a mystery because I lost the tag.

I’m a little worried that the Coto Canapone (cotton/hemp) is a bit heavy and stiff, but I think it will soften up after washing and blocking.  I’ve heard some really great things about using hemp and I’ve swatched some pure hemp before. It was a bit too harsh for my liking, and I realized that it would take many washings before I could get it to the softness I wanted. Though perhaps I should think of this as a trade off for the fact that hemp takes a lot longer to wear thin than cotton.  Apparently hemp had quite a history as a much used textile until recent times.  Perhaps with the economy being as it is… more people will turn to having durable clothing items rather than disposable ones they replace or trash every year.

I’m quite charmed by the Yarnia yarn.  Unfortunately the photo of the swatch I took doesn’t reflect the different greens\ and purple shades in this gorgeous yarn. Some people have noted that they find the loosely spun plies difficult and splitty to work with, but I’ve always felt that if you take proper care, even splitty yarn can make nice fabric as long as your knitting on the ‘snug’ side.

From top to bottom, Coto Canapone, Silky Wool, & Yarnia 'mystery yarn.'

From top to bottom, Coto Canapone, Silky Wool, & Yarnia 'mystery yarn.'

I was also able to finish my pair of Heritage Paint socks for the shop model for my “Toe up Socks” class coming up.  I have to say, this yarn is pretty fantastic. I think it’s pretty durable and still fairly soft with no itch. Plus it’s pretty inexpensive and the yardage is huge… 437 yards a skein. I found that the solid colors of this yarn are quite a bargain at around $12-13 dollars a skein. That’s a good price for yarn for handknit socks that should last quite some time.

My Blueberry socks in Heritage Paints

My "Blueberry" socks in Heritage Paints

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Filed under Fibers, Hemp yarn, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Lace, Portland, Portland Knitters, Socks, Stockinette, Stuff I made, Teaching, Techniques, Yarn

Dyeing in History

This is one of my favorite shows… The Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson aka. I-have-a-cunning-plan S. Baldrick from the Blackadder series. I’m sharing the few bits from this show that describe old and ancient dyeing techniques.

Purple makers using rotten shellfish to make ‘royal purple.’

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZw3Z2ms9-8]


Dyeing blue with Wode

Part I (Part about wode dyeing is about  5 1/2 minutes in. There is an interesting bit on pin-making at the beginning of this video)

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xznkMDBG1S8]

Part II

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftH9k6htQPI]


Cleaning  and fulling wool cloth with… yes… Pee. The part about the fulling is actually 3 1/2 minutes into the first video. It’s continued in the second.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwTn2e73QfQ]

Part II

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8A7dC7xUwU]

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Filed under Colors, Dye, Dyeing, Fibers, History

Needed some color to brighten up my winter

Hopefully we’ve seen the last of the snow for now. Hopefully.

I meant to post more photos from the dye work I did in December. I finally got around to snapping pictures of the more of the skeins of yarn I dyed.  Here they are for your viewing pleasure.

Northwest Woods (probably for a pair of socks for my brother Ted)

Autumn Fire

Amazon Parrot

Note, I’ve discovered the fine art of squeezing the dye and painting the right amounts of yarn.  I was happy with all my colourways except for one. I didn’t include it here, it was supposed to emulate the colors in a peacock feather, but i think I should have used more dark green. I need to overdye this yarn or repaint it.

Sample of the Blouson from Interweave Knits

I also dyed a good deal of peruvian cotton (about 17 skeins) for the 1824 Blouson pattern.  Let me tell you, dying cotton (and I assume other plant fibers) is a royal pain in the ass.  It wasn’t so much the pre-washing of the fibers in a solution of synthropol then soaking them in a soda ash solution, or dissolving the large amounts of salt into the dye water before adding the urea solution and dye. I REALLY REALLY hated the process of washing out the excess dye and other chemical badness in the yarn after the dyeing was over. Ick. I could never truly felt  that I got it ALL  out. On top of that I’m not sure I want to make a simple stockinette stitch pattern like the Blouson… since dyeing this yarn was such a labor intensive process. Two or three skeins of the yarn are a bit darker than I expected. I think I may have soaked them in too much soda ash solution, but I don’t mind the color imperfection. I think it adds more appeal and a hand-fashioned look to the final product.

Not to mention the warning on the package of the dye said something like… the state of California warns that this produce may cause cancer!!!!

I have decided that I will dye up a few more batches of cotton yarn, just enough to use up the dyes I purchased and from now own I’ll only dye wools, animal fibers and nylon. Or I’ll use Kool-aid and other foodbased dyes.  I have a sweater’s worth of Artfibers Rush I need to dye and some skeins of mercerized cotton. Maybe I should invite some friends over… “Hey, share the cancer!”

Luna dyed with Seafoam & Grey Mist (formerly "Sunlight" yellow)

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Filed under Colors, Colorwork, Cotton, Craft, Creativity, Dyeing, Dyeing_yarn, Eco, Fibers, Fun Stuff, Knit, Knitting, Socks, Stockinette, Techniques, Wool, Yarn

Weekend in San Francisco

I went to SF to attend a wedding, unfortunately, I drank some chai tea drink this morning that had bad milk in it. I spent a good part of the afternoon being ‘sick.’ I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drink chai again. So I was too sick to attend the wedding, and I’m sitting in the Hotel room recuperating, watching BBC comedies and drinking Genmai-cha (green tea with brown rice).

Though I did have a great time yesterday. I’ve scored yarn, books, and a few Samurai videos. We’re staying in Japan Town at the Kabuki Hotel, and it’s quite a lovely spot. I highly recommend it for anyone who wishes to stay in SF and be pampered at a reasonable price. Each hotel room has a traditional Japanese bath. I was able to scrub up and relax in the tub before curled up and fell asleep yesterday… complete heaven – near Nirvana. The Hotel also has a lovely little garden to sit and knit in for a moment or two.

The hotel is part of the Japan Town complex that includes a mall complete with several Japanese restaurants, a huge bookstore and a number shops with Japanese goods. On Thursday night, I spent a few hours pouring over the books in the Kinokuniya bookstore. There are so many wonderful inspirations and designs in these books.  I wanted to pull out my notebook and jot some of them down, but I felt a little self-conscious. I do think that I’ve noticed that many Japanese styles featured in some of the books didn’t seem fitted. It must be a style adaption that comes from Japanese fashion history. Clothing in Japanese culture wasn’t really fitted until they adopted styles from Westerners.

I did buy a knitting stitch pattern book which was a little spendy, but well worth it because all the stitches were diagrammed in charts. I absolutely hate reading instructions to lace and cables line by line. The Japanese really understand how to explain things visually and with symbols. The only thing I get more joy from is the instructions for some IKEA products. There’s something comforting about not having to use too many words to explain things.

Yesterday I visited Art Fibers for the first time. What a joy! They have the most wondrous array of fibers and yarns. I bought a few things including a silk and mohair blend yarn called Tsuki that knits into an absolutely dreamy cloud. I’ve never knit a mohair lace shawl before, so I opted for something very simple: a triangular shawl with daisies. I started it yesterday and I’m about a third of the way done. I’m really quite pleased with the look and feel of this yarn. The silk catches the light beautifully.

Artfibers is a wonderful place, they actually allow you to ‘taste’ the yarns in house by swatching them yourself. Also, Kira Dulaney was there to offer advice and guidance on the yarns. She even helped me design a custom pattern for a tank top. If you have a chance, do check out her pattern site as her work is absolutely gorgeous. My only regret is that I don’t live close enough to frequent the shop regularly. Here are a few of my scores from the store: Mozambique, more Tsuki (in bright teal), Baccarat, and Golden Chai …

Addendum 4/1 – the scarf/shawl in Tsuki is nearly finished. It took only 40 grams and at $14 for a shawlette, that’s quite a bargain.

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Filed under Craft, Creativity, Crochet, Fashion, Fibers, Garment Design, Knitting, Travels, Yarn

I’ve been dreaming of sock knitting machines

sockmachine4.jpg

Not literally… though I have been fascinated with the motion and mechanics behind machines that craft. The irony is we can teach or design machines to do the things that we do but they can never master our ability to change how something is produced. Machines may be able to produce things far more quickly, but we lowly humans are still required to invent new machines, figure out how to use the machines in new and different ways, or figure out what to do when the machines break.

I really don’t think I’m going to spend $300+ on a sock knitting machine, I’d put that money toward a spinning wheel or beginner’s loom (or even more yarn). Besides after looking at the complexity of the machinery and reading about how many needles are needed for your average automatic sock knitting machine, my instinct tells me that the sock machine might be a little too high maintenance a gadget for me. Still, it’s nice to read and learn about the machines and how they work and appreciate the quaintness of the form and packaging the sock machines come in. From the photos the mechanism of the machines reminds me of those old fashioned hand crank beaters. When I was a child we had an electric one, but every time we stayed at some vacation condo or summer cabin, I’d rummage through the kitchen drawers looking for the hand beater. Even as a child I enjoyed machines. My parents actually bought me an erector set at one point and one of my favorite activities was finding out how many ways I could use the tiny motor to move or do things. I suppose even as a child I wanted to build robots.*

I think after next week, I’m going to buy this book, Knitting Technology. Yes it looks very geeky and far too technical. In fact, the table of contents holds a few topics that would drive most readers away. Who else but me would get really into a chapter titled “The manufacture of hosiery on small-diameter circular machines.”

loops.gif

*Lego Factory Software: All this talk of toys and machinery reminds me of this great sitelegobunny.jpg I found the other day on Lego that allows you to create (and then order) your own customized Lego sets. Check it out: Lego Factory. I also quickly put together my own Lego bunny. What I love about this tool is how well designed it is and how I can zoom in/out and flip the views of the object that I’m building.  Also, I can select from all the fancy new Lego pieces that didn’t exist when I was a kid (hubs, gears, intersections, more complex sockets). Remember being pissed that your mother clipped your fingernails so short your stubby little hands couldn’t pry the bricks apart? (Yes, I am aware that I am perpetuating Lego’s viral marketing campaign).


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Filed under Fashion, Fibers, Gadgets, Robots, Science, Techie, Toys, Uncategorized