Monday, December 4, 2017

In Which I Go To Vogue Knitting

OK, I'm not one who regularly attends knitting fairs. I like going to the odd Fiber Fair to fondle the fleeces and see the sheep, but even those I don't attend on a regular basis. I think I've been to Knit City - which is my local fair - maybe twice? I've never attended any lectures or classes there.

But. Then. I was sent the link for this year's Vogue Knitting "conference", to be held in Bellevue (basically Seattle), and I had a look at the classes....Yep. I signed up for the full-meal-deal, "Sleepless in Seattle".

The experience was truly "sleepless" for a bunch of reasons:
1. I got so jacked on all the inspirational instruction that I couldn't calm down,
2. I got so inspired by all the beautiful stuff on display in the marketplace that I was dreaming about it all night, and
3. I got food poisoning from the hotel restaurant. Really.

I spent all my money on goodies from the market - specialty yarns for tvåändsstickning, some tencel to try, some new sock yarns from a variety of vendors...

And, I took classes from Xandy Peters ("stacked knitting"), Cecilia Campochario ("sequence knitting") and Stephen West (does this guy even need a link??). All of these inspired me to no end, even Stephen West (whose stuff I have never knit, but after one class I am feeling more empowered than ever to ditch the patterns). And I learned how to improve my intarsia. And I learned about the history of the Knitting Belt - a technique that I now want to try.

So now my brain is so full it is going to essplode. I swear.

Here some photos to pass on at least some of the goodies to y'all:

[oh-so-simple granny squares using fluffy yarn]

[stacked knitting, easiest variety]

[sequence knitting, this one's not hard]

[from a shop specializing in my fave: scandinavian scratchy wools]

[this is like a flat pompom on a quilt, easy to do and looks fun!

[gotta love those cables...]

[fur and wool - what a combo!]

I have socks based on all these learnings percolating in my brain right now, and I'm hoping that over the next few months I can distill some good blog posts and/or sock creations out of all of this. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Stitch Markers

I don't use stitch markers a lot for sock knitting - although sometimes I will use one on either side of my magic loop, as "handles" to use for yanking the loop out again if it sucks into my knitting - but I have come to realize that I have some pretty distinct preferences for those that I DO use.

...and here they are:

1. I prefer small, lightweight markers. To mark my place in shawls, I typically use those cheap 200-in-a-box gold or silver rings. I prefer metal because they slide better than plastic. I carry them in a breathmints box. They are great for bulk use in lace, and big enough to use on 4mm needles when I knit the odd sweater.

2.  I like beaded ones, too - but here's where I get picky. The markers must be made of wire or "tiger tail", and must only have 1 large bead - no bigger than 1/4" -  on them and at the most 2 small ones, and the loop can't be any bigger than 1/2" (approx. 1 cm). I've made a bunch of my own, and have found that over time, my hand reaches for those that fulfill these characteristics, and I never use the others. 

3. The marker may not use a jump ring, under any circumstances. 

4.  The marker may not use one of those wire posts that thread so easily through beads, because this forces the marker-maker to then use loops of wire to get the dangly creation onto a ring of some kind, thereby violating rule #3.

You can make your own bead markers. It's not hard. Here's how:

You need some tools: a set of fine wire cutters (I use them for my guitar strings too!) - I like the Fiskars ones - and a set of fine needlenose pliers that come together with a flat edge (crimpers) - ie. not the completely round ones. 

You need some materials: "tigertail" (beading wire that's flexible), crimping beads, and focal beads (I prefer mine to be no bigger than 1/4" in diameter, and completely smooth). 

You can get most of this stuff at Michael's. 

[materials, top left clockwise: crimping pliers, fine wire cutters, 
"tiger tail" beading wire, crimping beads, and small focal beads]

To make a marker, cut a piece of the tigertail that's about 3-4" long and double it. Thread it through your focal bead and then through a crimping bead. Then use the crimping pliers to flatten the crimping bead, and the cutters to trim the tigertail. That's it!

[thread the doubled tigertail through the beads]

[a few completed markers, done to my own exacting specifications]

It turns out I'm ridiculously sensitive to both the size of the loop, and the size of the bead on the marker. Really. In the picture below, the markers on the top are too big, and I find I never, ever use them. See how small the differences are???

[top: markers I hate - too big, or too catchy]
[bottom: marker I like]

Most of my knitting circle buddies do other crafts as well, and some of them, like me, do the odd bit of beading. So we have periodic "marker making sessions" where we pool our kit and have fun making a bunch. Everyone goes home with half a dozen new stitch markers!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Chain or Navajo Plying

Sometimes - OK, for me, rarely - you want to maintain the striping nature of space-dyed roving. The usual technique is then that you use so-called "chain" or "navajo" plying, creating a three-ply yarn that maintains the colour sequence of the single, and produces a variegated yarn rather than  one that is"barber-poled".

Admission: my chain plying sucks. Mostly because I get no practise at it, since I'm not a big fan of self-striping yarns. But also because I suspect my technique simply isn't very good.

I recently came across an excellent video, that features Sarah Anderson showing you how she executes chain plying. It was a revelation to me. I tried doing it her way, and found that the positioning of her hands really helps the process. I used to pull out each loop before plying it, leading to a jerky, and hence uneven, plying job, but her way of doing it is much smoother and makes a better yarn.

One trick is that you need to have the right tension on your single. A tensioned kate is really indispensable here. You need a tension that will feed easily enough so that you don't break your single (it's a pain to deal with broken singles in this technique!) but not so loose that the loop in your chain goes all squirrely. I tried my cheap version of a tension box - weaving the single through the rails of a rail-back chair - but this is hard to make adjustments to once you're set up, so doesn't work as well at all.

In the video, it looks like Sarah is wearing a skirt, and her single comes from her right on the floor somewhere, but I find it easier to wear pants so I can feed the single up between my legs. That way my hands are naturally positioned in front of me, and they stay there.

Another tip is that chain plying does not "average" the thick/thin variations of your single well. On the contrary, it tends to emphasize irregularities! So if you want even yarn, then you need to be able to spin a nice, consistent single first.

The last tip is that I tend to overply using this technique - the hand motions required slow me down considerably - so I find that I need to do this on my slowest whorl, and treadle gently. This is hard for me to do, because I'm so used to speed (I usually spin and ply on my highest whorl, double-drive style). Perhaps if I practise this more, I can get faster...

Anyways, my first try after watching her video resulted in a much improved yarn. Still a bit overplied but clearly I'm getting better!

[slightly overplied, but much improved, chain plied yarn]

[here's what I made from it. You can see the self-striping in action.
pattern: slightly modded Kindness Shawl by Jaala Spiro, free on Ravelry]

This is now a technique that I'm willing to try more often!