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:

dyeing

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:

violetsdetail1violetsdetail2

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.

Mini 2

Well, I managed the more symmetric tail. And maybe the legs? But the head, despite the more careful folding at the beginning, got almost completely lost when I had to reverse-fold it at the end and couldn’t find the middle. Oh, well. Too bad I don’t really like gum. Anyway, Elisabeth asked for a better gauge of how big the dragon is, so here’s the second attempt guarding its treasure and the pair trying to fend off a larger relative (one of my favorites, made from 9″ square paper).

Autumn Leaves at Albany Airport

I was walking through the Albany airport a couple of weeks ago, when I looked up and saw one of the most brilliant artistic concepts I’ve seen in a while.

The artist cut maple leaves out of gold foil and suspended them from a skylight by transparent threads. Since each leaf was only attached to the ceiling by a single thread at its center of balance, the leaves rotated in the slight breeze generated by the airport’s air currents.

The effect of autumn leaves slowly fluttering down from the sky was altogether convincing (and all the more striking for occurring in the middle of a sterile modern airport). But it’s the simplicity of the technique that I find the most striking. No virtuosic skills would be required to make something like this–any of us might easily replicate it with scissors, nylon thread and gold paper. The genius of the artist rests almost entirely in his having seen that easily acquirable materials might so easily be combined to create this evocative natural effect.

Here are a couple of pictures, courtesy of the Albany Airport website


So…does anyone have a suggestion of another exquisite application for these effects?

Mini

As a dragon, it’s hard to be awe-inspiring when you’re only an inch long. For instance, unless your folder was really, really careful, you probably won’t have any legs. Or eyes, for that matter. But on the whole, I think I did pretty well with this one. Of course, it doesn’t have any legs or eyes, really, but it’s almost too small to be able to tell that they’re not there. It’s made from a 1.75″ square piece of gum wrapper, and, except for the head, it’s probably about as precisely folded as my first attempts at this model (on 9″ square paper). I admit, I used a pin to help with some of the smaller folds (especially having just cut my fingernails, my fingers just don’t get that precise), and the foil backing helps tremendously.

minidragon

I ate another piece of gum today, so maybe I’ll try again. Maybe this time I’ll be manage eyes and legs, and perhaps I’ll even try for a more symmetric tail.

Coffee stirrers are meant to stir coffee, not to be made into baskets.

Bored on a coffee break between playing sessions at Bennington, I was irritated at how bendy the wooden coffee stirrers became when they got wet. And I thought, “you know, I bet I could make a basket out of these.” Somehow, I convinced esqg that this was actually a good idea (note: as you will surely soon see for yourself, neither of us knows the least bit about basket-making). Anyway, we found a bowl, got some hot water from the tea urn, and soaked a bunch of coffee stirrers. Soon we had a nice little 2″ x 4″ section of woven basket, no problem. Of course, coffee stirrers don’t get any longer than 4″. But what to do with it?

basketoutsideOn the theory that if we staggered the stirrers (which we hadn’t) we could weave more stirrers in and thus enlarge the project, we took it apart and started over. This time we left some room on the edges of the “warp” stirrers, and managed to weave in another set in, and another. By this time, some of the stirrers, perhaps insufficiently soaked, perhaps just faulty (they were only coffee stirrers, after all), were starting to fray where they’d been bent. But we pressed on, and managed to complete a circle, four stirrers deep and 18 around.

basket bottom
But baskets have bottoms, so we set to work trying to connect the free ends of the 18 stirrers to make a bottom. We ended up taking groups of three evenly spaced around and interlocking them so as they’d hold together. This at least gave the basket a bottom, if not a particularly nice looking one.

basketinside Then we wanted to add more substance to the bottom. Since coffee stirrers don’t bend widthwise too well, we broke some in half and stuck them in–rather haphazardly. At this point, our hands were getting wrinkly, and the basket was starting to fall apart as much as it was being put together, so we decided to leave it at that. Not bad, for a first attempt, given coffee stirrers as materials? Well, pretty bad.

But it was fun and, perhaps more importantly, disabused me of the notion that making a basket out of coffee stirrers would be a good idea.

Topological Knitting: featuring the HRSFA Klein Bottle Hat!

Apologies: this post has been very long in coming but I’ve finally gotten around to writing it up.   I did a bunch of knitting last fall and winter, partly spurred on by the HRSFA yarn that the awesome hobbitknitter gave me last summer.  (And general thanks to hobbitknitter for encouragement, yarn, loan of needles when I went in for jury duty, etc.)  At the beginning of last fall it occurred to me that a Klein bottle would be a befittingly awesome thing to turn HRSFA yarn into.

But before we get to that: my Mobius strip, which was sort of a warm-up project for the hat.


There are a number of ways of knitting a Mobius strip:  the one I used was the “inside-out” method, basically the one explained here.   The idea behind this is the following: if you cut a Mobius strip in half you get a single strip with two full twists in it.  Now, knitting a strip with two full twists is easy — you just put two twists in the row of stitches before you join the ends in circular knitting.  So the hard part here is “undoing the cut” by grafting (sewing with yarn) the unfinished edge of the double-twisted self to itself — the first time I tried to make a Mobius strip I had the wrong number of twists in my original strip, and the strip ended up getting internal twists when I tried to join it up.  (Some people thing grafting is cheating, but I think it’s cool.  Also it was a fun challenge, and I had to learn how to do it for the Klein bottle anyway.)

I knitted the strip in k1p1 to make both sides look the same (I needed an odd number of stitiches around for the grafting, so the strip came out as seed stitch rather than rib stitch).  As it turns out, k1p1 is not perfectly symmetric with respect to turning it upside down, and the grafting produced a half-stitch offset, so things didn’t exactly match up where I joined, but I managed to join things in a way that made the seam as unnoticeable as possible.  (I also think seed stitch is just generally pretty good at hiding grafting seams.)

OK: now for the Klein Bottle:

The construction of this was a lot simpler topologically: I just knitted a tube with a slit in it, fed the narrow end of the tube through the slit, and joined it to the other end of the tube. The only tricky thing here was doing all the increases and decreases in k2p2 rib, which I think I managed fairly nicely.

More pictures of the hat in various configurations can be found in my Knitting album on Google here along with the Mobius pictures and a couple pictures of my hyperbolic scrunchie (which didn’t turn out as well as the others; I might post on hyperbolic knitting later if future projects turn out better). Here’s one last one (this is a bit of an in-joke among recent Fusion High Ladies; read the alt-text or click through and read the caption on the link):

Potholder stitch and periodicity

Ordinarily, crocheting in variegated yarn produces alternating patterns because the crocheting goes back and forth. But when you do potholder stitch (see my earlier post) the situation is different. Each row only shows on one side, so all the rows on the same side go in the same direction. That means that a pattern will tend to be regular.

My aunt got some yarn for me to make potholders, and it’s white yarn variegated with five rainbow colors (not blue or indigo). Each white or colored section takes about 6 inches, or 3 stitches. So my 30 stitches turned out to be nearly perfect to make the yarn go through exactly one cycle per side. I thought this would mean that the potholder would have boring nearly-vertical stripes, but it turns out that the dyeing of the yarn is not quite regular enough to permit that. It’s close, but it has zany variation! Take a look.

I didn’t bother to flip my pictures this time: my computer takes all its pictures as mirror-images, which is sort of annoying, but this way it looks as if I crocheted right-handed. Shrug. 🙂