Yarn Desk

I have a yarn desk. Or perhaps I should call it a yarn/roving desk:

(More pictures here.)

It started out innocently enough. I have a very small bedroom with no space for a desk. The people who lived in this unit before me had a big desk that they left. It was intended to be my workspace for desk-y things.

And then I started leaving yarn on it. First a few skeins, then more. Then I started dyeing the rovings, and I started keeping them there, too. It created a really nice rainbow effect, so I decided that this desk is meant to be a yarn desk and not a work desk, unless you consider my dyeing “work.”

Also, I dyed a few more rovings a few weeks ago. The pictures are big so I’ll just link them (this is just a selection):
Treasure Map
Sunshine and Lollipops
Cotton Candy

Now that I’ve started school again, I have less time for dyeing. But even if I did have time, I’d probably hold off on another dyeing spree until I sold/used some of the roving I currently have.

And I’m almost out of wool to dye! I’ve used up more than 6 of the 7lbs I had ordered in August/September/a long time ago and I forget exactly when. 7lbs of wool is a lot of wool. Though it’s not as much as 27lbs (which is the amount I’d need to order if I wanted free shipping).

Scarf run amok, also blackwork

Circumstance the first:  Over the winter break I sadly neglected to bring along the pattern for my present needlework project. As my knitting and spinning tools no longer live in Michigan, this left me at a bit of a (cough) loose end.

Circumstance the second: While I was muttering over circumstance the first,  my family home was the site of a lively dialogue of the subject of steampunk and related fashions.

As a result, I lit on the vague notion of putting together an offbeat patchwork scarf.  Here is what finally tumbled off the sewing table:

My original idea was for the scarf to showcase various different fiber arts techniques. This didn’t quite pan out in the long run, but it meant that my first step was to prepare several pieces of needlework to serve as focal points for the scarf.  I had a manual on blackwork that I’d been meaning to look at for some time, so I decided to open it up and have blackwork decorations. (Remember, I was awfully bored.) The manual turned out to be chiefly useful as a source of patterns – it failed to give any explanation of how to do the embroidery, so I fell back on the theory as elucidated to me once by my cousin. The idea of blackwork (or, in this case, redwork) is that the embroidery should be the same on both sides, except for tying off threads on the back. Toward this end, one uses running stitch to work one’s through each branch of the pattern stitching one stich on top of the fabric and the next below, then returning to the central point using the opposite stitches to make the branch on both sides of the fabric.  This is much easier to demonstrate than describe. I started with something simple and linear to get the hang of it:

Here, for example,  I stitched every other stich on the main line moving rightward, pausing when I reached an acorn to sew that as a branch of the main design, and then finally returned leftward along the line filling in the missing stitches. Seeing as that hadn’t been a catastrophic failure, I attempted something more complicated next.

With these elements complete, I gathered up red and black fabric scraps (available to me through the kind auspices of my aunt) and went to work on the scarf. I started by framing the larger piece of embroidery in heavy black satin, exercising a certain paranoia concerning the seams because of the fragility of the linen. From there, the left side of the scarf (cream semi-upholstery fabric, gold brocaded ribbon with small beads at the centers of the roses, red velveteen) fell together quickly.

The right side, conversely, proved difficult. I despaired of getting the transparent fabric to take a seam without unravelling entirely – I suspect this to be the fault of my lack of technical expertise – and ended up using a selvedge on one side to reduce this issue. However, there were two small rows of holes near the selvedge, as is often the case, which looked odd; I resolved this by using yet more of the red thread to make a row of half-stitches through said holes, which helped considerably. So as to not have too much unrelieved black, the velveteen patch that followed acquired a scattering of red seed beads as well.

Then came the white lace. I’d cut a large piece with the idea of folding it over for a hem, but this made the fabric look heavy, so I encased the edges in a bit of black ribbon  instead. Hence the lace patch was wider than intended.  My band of blackwork acorns, however, was narrow, and I’d meant for it (and the black lace with which I’d framed it) to cross the scarf slantwise. Therefore I thought I would have to narrow the scarf with the next patch of fabric, but all attempts at this produced utterly ungraceful results. All seemed lost; I cursed my lack of proper planning. However, in one of those mercies reserved for those with more enthusiasm than sense, I discovered that the blackwork band with its stiff black lace was not displeasing when laid across the looser white lace. Relieved, I sewed down the edges of the acorn band (leaving the center free to move independently of the background), declared myself done, and gave it to a friend by way of holiday gift.

Sierpinski shawl

My mother gave me a book called “Making Mathematics with Needlework” last Christmas, and I fell in love with the idea of making a Sierpinski fractal shawl. Here’s a nice picture and explanation of the Sierpinski triangle”. Basically you take a triangle, bisect the sides to cut out a smaller triangle, and then you have three triangles; keep doing it. My shawl has 5 iterations, and I crocheted it from the bottom tip up. It’s not equilateral! But it still works.

The basic pattern is this: each row increases by 1 arch. The row starts and finishes with 2 arches, which are made by chaining 5 stitches and then attaching it to the arch (or filled fan) below it by a single-crochet. The filled pieces (fans) are made by triple-crocheting thrice into the same stitch and then attaching in a similar way. I don’t like this pattern all that much because it ultimately doesn’t make triangles so much as curvy diamonds, but it worked well overall. It took me forever, though, because each row just kept getting longer! I used a variegated baby yarn of sport weight and a size G hook.

An overall view. It's about 3 feet from base to tip, but the base stretches to about 5 feet.

A closer up view. It's upside-down from the way I actually crocheted it, though.

I also learned something about the Sierpinski triangle that I didn’t know: it’s the mod 2 Pascal’s triangle. That is, it looks like this:
     1 1
   1 2 1
  1 3 3 1
1 4 6 4 1

so you always add the two numbers in one row to get the number in the next row, except that you put a 0 (a hole) whenever the number is even and a 1 (filled space) when it’s odd. That way you get
       1 1
      1 0 1
     1 1 1 1
    1 0 0 0 1
   1 1 0 0 1 1
  1 0 1 0 1 0 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

and so on. So you can build it from the ground up instead of cutting pieces out. Whee, math geekiness!

More Leaves!!!

Once upon a time, my housemate Riv and I painted a mural on my wall. It looks likes this:

From hobbit room

and this:

From hobbit room

and also this:

From hobbit room

This was the beginning of August, and I completely forgot to blog about it. Probably because I was then moving into the new room, and that took a lot of time and energy.

Anyways, as we were painting the mural, we decided that if we messed up, say, the trunk or branches, we could always put more leaves over it. “More Leaves!!!” we said, and this was the solution to everything, clearly.

A couple of months later, or rather last week, I dyed a bunch more roving in fall colors. And of course, I had to name the colorway after the mural, “More Leaves!”

Here’s all of them hanging out:

From roving

Here’s a close-up of the roving, pre-braiding:

From roving

The braided roving looks like this:

From roving

Also, the batch previous to this one that I put in the Etsy shop is dry and braided and looks pretty. I even named one of them after HRSFA, since it was purple and green:

From roving

So yay for roving. Now I just need to learn how to not get my hands dyed in the process.

Also, yay for having a cool mural on my wall. It made the room infinitely cooler than it had been (it had sad fake wood paneling on the side and the slanty roof, and the walls were white and boring, and the room is small, so this makes it look bigger). Also, it’s a show piece for when I have people over. And I get to say that I live in a forest!

And I dyed a bunch of roving for myself on Thursday, so I might post those when I take photographs of them. They are green and blue and purple, and are very pretty and soft.

Dyeing (and other cool things)

My hands currently have a blueish tinge. This is because I spent the afternoon dyeing wool and yarn with a non-blogging friend, and didn’t bother with the whole gloves thing.

The process wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be.  We laid out saran wrap and then put down the roving and painted it in sections.
Here are the results:


The green and purple yarn in there went to my friend, for all the help that she gave me today. The rest is going to go in my Etsy store when it dries and I can photograph it properly and braid it. (Which I may link to if the powers that be think it’s not inappropriate to do so.)

I also made myself gloves last week. Gloves that fit. I had never made gloves until now; I had been really afraid of them. But they were so quick and easy! And they are the first pair of gloves that I’ve owned that fit, ever. I took the photo before I had a chance to weave in the ends, but it’s enough to get an idea of them.

From Craftiness

Finally, there’s more alpaca yarn from my friend’s alpaca farm. I’m spinning all of the fleece from their farm, and in return I get to keep half of it (or half the profits if I can manage to sell it; not sure if that will actually happen). Here’s one of the 3 skeins that I put in the store. It is rose grey.

From Craftiness

Experimental Knitting

…in which curiousity kills the silkspinner.

I recently found some interesting variegated gold yarn and made an extremely simple scarf for my grandmother, pictured below.

littlegoldscarfUpon finishing, I was left with an impractical skein and a half extra of the yarn, not enough to really do anything with. However, I also had a tiny amount of some purple flax yarn my sister had recently brought me, and the two looked fairly nice together.  Clearly a bicolored project was in order.

At this point it occurred to me that, while I’d been learning about cabled knitting for the past year, I hadn’t seen many projects featuring multiple yarn colors and cables.  I wasn’t sure if this was because a) mixing colors in a cabled project and producing a nice effect is difficult or impossible, b) sane people reasonably think that you shouldn’t distract attention from intricate patterns with unneeded complexity, c) said projects existed and I merely hadn’t seen them, d) that sort of thing makes a project awfully hard to block, or e) other.  Ergo I decided to find out if I could knit a small scarf with gold cables but purple background.

The answer to this question turned out to be yes, I could, but only if I was clever in my choice of pattern. My first attempt turned out to be wrong in every respect — the pattern had the cable strands staying in one place and twining around each other, such that the large stretches of unbroken background tended to clump displeasingly and it was hard to tell the crossings of the gold strands apart from the color changes in the yarn. I switched patterns to one that had lots of cable strands moving rapidly over the background  (found here, originally sent to me by hobbitknitter: http://thestormmoon.blogspot.com/2008/03/free-pattern-celtic-cable-neckwarmer.html). This attempt went rather better, although it was still troublesome that the background yarn was slightly thicker than the cable yarn. The other way around might have been better.  Finally I wound up with the following.

DSCN0031experimental scarf

I’m fairly pleased with it. I think eventually I might try a larger project of the same kind, although of course that would require a good deal more planning.

A Surfeit of Violets

In my misspent youth, I purchased a printed cross stitch kit, worked about a third of it, and never finished.  Flush with vernal free time and a determination to finish the dratted thing, I picked it up again some two months ago. Here is the result.violets

It was stitched on linen of, by my rough count, some sixtyish threads to the inch using DMC cotton embroidery thread. Three strands were used for the crosses, which were done over between four and six threads (more on that later) and one strand for the backstitch on the stems and edging. The location of the stitches was printed onto the fabric but there was also a chart supplying such details as stitch color.  It’s made by a company called Princesse (based, I believe, in France, where I bought it). I used a nice hardwood hoop for the work — it’s possible that a square frame would have been artistically better, but I wanted it to be as portable as possible. The finished work is some 10.5 inches on each side.  Detail shots of the central bouquet and the boundary work:


It turns out that printed cross stitch is rather difficult if one is accustomed to counted; or at least, I found it so. The main issue was that the printed crosses didn’t quite line up with the vertical threads on the fabric, with the unfortunate result that I had often to shift which threads I was using as the edges of the stitches every few rows. Hence  very careful planning of each flower or leaf was necessary, on pain of failing to cover all of the stitch marks or needing to finish up with peculiarly shaped stitches. I ended up slightly revising one of the leaves and one of the flowers to preserve stitch shape. The vertical green lines in the border yield a convenient quantitative description of the alignment problem: the stitches shifted over by a thread roughly every three stitches, or something like once a centimeter. The esteemed SKH, who has more experience with printed stitchery, informs me that this may be a problem of the kit rather than endemic to the art form. The backstitch, of course, was unaffected, and as usual a great deal of fun. (Whee! Pictures form quickly!)

I also had a couple of comically awful problems with the kit — for example, the color chart called for green flowers and purple stems on the border, in contrast to the picture provided. I decided this was a little too surreal for the tone of the work. Moreover, it provided thread in rather wacky amounts: there was as much yellow in the kit as all the greens combined, despite only four yellow stitches appearing in the pattern. It also didn’t note the identifying DMC numbers of the colors, which led to sundry thread-matching shopping expeditions. But despite all this havoc, I’m rather pleased with how it turned out.

Next step: very careful ironing and framing.