Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Necessity is the mother of invention

We drove to Virginia this past weekend. Eight hours in the car each way. I can't do nothing for that many hours, so on the way out the door I grabbed some needles and a ball of yarn. I decided to make socks. It needed to be a simple design, because I didn't have a pattern to follow. I cast on and started the cuff. I quickly decided that it couldn't be too simple of a pattern, or I would get bored. I could have chosen to just do a rib pattern for the whole thing, but I'd done that before and I wanted to try something different.

I decided to run a simple cable down the center of the sock. The only problem was, I didn't have my cable needle with me. I thought the yarn might be stiff enough, or the stitches big enough (size 2 needles) to just take two stitches off the needle and let them sit there while I knit the next two stitches, but that didn't work well for me. So, here was my solution:

 When I reached the point where I needed to twist the stitches, I used the previous needle to hold them, then knit two, placed the held stitches back on the left needle, and knit them. The second cable was slightly easier because it came at the beginning of the needle. I did both cables by holding the stitches to the front, but it would be equally easy to do a cable with the stitches held to the back.
It worked like a charm.

Here is the completed sock (a long sock for a long trip):

I liked this method so much, I may never use my cable needle again. I doubt I was the first person to do this, but it was a new idea for me. Maybe you will like this trick, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Goals

This year I will keep it simple so that I actually have a chance of reaching my goals.

1. Teach. As often as possible.

2. Spin. As often as possible, including at least one new breed or fiber that I haven't spun before.

3. Because my mother taught me "idle hands are the devil's workshop," always have a project underway. And complete at least some of them. My current projects are a pair of socks (more about that in the next post), spinning again for the Ribe mittens, and an embroidery/sewing project. That last one has an actual deadline, so no procrastinating allowed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 in Review

Here it is, already a week into 2016. Today I will stop and think about what I accomplished last year. I set myself seven goals for 2015. The one that seemed the most important to me at the start of the year - recreating the Ribe mitten - went nowhere. In fact, I used up the yarn for an entirely different project. But I will start again. I also did no work on the tablet woven garters. But I did inventory my yarn and roving, which prompted me to give away much yarn that I knew I would never use. Now a new person is learning to knit.

I finished my little experiment about how much yarn fits on a spindle. After several trials, to get consistent threads, I fit slightly more thread on my medieval reproduction spindle. Two full spindles made enough thread for a napkin or basket cover or short veil.

I wanted to teach more often in 2015, and I did. I taught at every event I attended, also taught one-on-one or to small private groups. I also attended as many classes as I could during the year, because learning new things is as much fun as passing on what I already know.

After learning about goldwork techniques at Pennsic 2014, I wanted to try my hand at a period embroidery piece. I did some research on these styles, and worked out a design, based on a small enamel piece. But I never started the embroidery. That's because in the spring I learned about lacis, and if you have read any posts this year, you know I am smitten with the technique. So, while I didn't do the embroidery project I expected, I did increase my knowledge of a period embroidery style. Perhaps this year I will organize what I have learned and panel for period competency from Athena's Thimble. (I wonder if I could be ready by Birka?)

A project that I wanted to do, but was not originally a goal of 2015 was to make a period style knit bag. I made my pattern, made several samples and began the actual piece. Then, I put the yarn away before we went to Pennsic, and I have been unable to find it since. I must have put is somewhere very, very safe. When it turns up, I will pick up where I left off.

The best thing I did in 2015 was take Marjorie Parmentar as my apprentice. I am so enjoying spending time with her and watching her skills and knowledge grow. I am looking forward to our time together in 2016.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas knitting

I promised to show you my Christmas knitting. Each person got two knitted items. The trick was – they had to choose their own. What was meant to be a secret game quickly became a funny free-for-all. Everyone seemed to love what they chose from "Santa’s Bag."

And then there were the beer socks.
Happily, sock one fit perfectly, and I quickly finished up sock two (it’s much faster when you can knit in public). As you can see, I ran out of the dark brown Jacob. Rather than spin more, I used up the leftover bits of gold yarn. And there is just enough left for future repairs (I expect these socks to get worn).

Happy Holidays

New Year’s Eve, and the holidays are almost over. It really has been a lovely season. We began, earlier in December, taking family to a Christmas concert, full of laughter and sing-alongs. Then, the weekend before Christmas, we had our traditional visit to New York City, to be part of the hustle and bustle, lights and decorations. Not to mention good food, and of course the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We spent the entire day at the Met, including the extended evening hours, which gave us plenty of time to explore at a leisurely pace. We visited our old favorites, and took in several special exhibits, including Gilded Age furniture, and an exhibit of house-shaped vessels from Central and South America. This was one of my favorites:

I love the little dog waiting at the door for scraps!

And then there was the exhibit of 16th century textile pattern books.

book by Johann Schonsperger the Younger, Augsburg, 1529

The Met has an extraordinary collection of pattern books from the dawn of the print age, and many
samples of period textiles created from the patterns. Needless to say, I spent hours in the exhibit. It clearly showed how the rise of printing influenced textile fashion across Europe. Printers were freely gathering patterns for textile prints and embroidery from Italy, Germany, France, the Levant… and binding them together for the public’s consumption. While some people may be frustrated by how all this borrowing makes it difficult to know the origins of a particular pattern, I find it exciting to think about the “free” exchange of information across great distances, for people (especially women) who might otherwise not have the opportunity to travel so far. Today these books are particularly rare because pages were often removed in order to copy the patterns onto the material to be embroidered. The Libro de rechami (1532), by Alessandro Paganino even illustrates women using various methods to copy the patterns.

I think my favorite part of the exhibit related to a pattern of birds. This was clearly a popular pattern. Here is the pattern, and its interpretation in several different styles:

I was excited to see the lacis artifacts. Since this is a technique I have recently begun to learn, it was fun to see so many period examples all together. I think I will try my hand at one of these patterns.

And then there was the modern lacis. Perhaps I need to make myself a shirt.
 c. 1920 and 1910 respectively

Then, as a little extra treat, we found our way to a little-visited part of the museum, with an exhibit of 19th century samplers. Here is my favorite, because it was such a surprise.

London, mid-19th century

This piece is only about 3.5 inches square, so you can get a sense of how tiny these stitches are. But, who was this girl who was stitching complex math problems instead of quotes from Scripture?

We ended our trip to New York with a visit to the Central Park Zoo. The weather was perfect, and the animals were particularly active. Here is just one photo for your enjoyment:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beer Lover's Sock

Sock one is done!

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The only part I had trouble with is the heel. That is the yarn I spun from the locks. With combed or carded wool I can spin any thickness my heart desires. Spinning from the locks, with a fair amount of lanolin still in the wool, it was difficult to spin as fine as the rest of the yarn. It took most of the yarn I had spun to finish it, so I will have to spin more white before I reach that point in sock #2. It is also significantly thicker, and therefore difficult to knit on size 1 needles. I will make sock two the same, but if I do this again, I will spin it all with combed or carded wool. I will say that my husband is very unlikely to get holes in this heel.

Here is my general pattern:
Using size 1 needles, cast on 68 stitches. Knit 5 rows of 1-1 rib. Change to the Jacob wool and knit one row. Increase to 72 stitches. Knit for 2 inches. Begin knitting gold stripes. Each wide stripe is 5 rows; each narrow stripe is 2 rows. After 3 wide stripes, begin decreasing. Decrease one stitch at the beggining and one stitch at the end of a row, every 5 rows, until 64 stitches remain. vary the stripes according to the yarn you have. Knit until the sock is as long as desired. This one is about 12 inches. Using needles 1 and 4, knit a garter stitch heel. Turn the heel and decrease as usual until 64 stitches remain. Continue knitting, changing yarns as needed, until the sock is the desired length. 

If you don't like beer, it could also be the chocolate and caramel lover's sock (that would be me).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sock Progress

Here is my sock so far:

I’ve used up almost half of my yarn, except for the mixed gold that I am saving for the foot. The knitting is going pretty quickly, so I’ve decided to make knee-high socks. I’ll need to knit about 4 more inches, so I am spinning up more of the brown Jacob wool. It is tightly spun at 32 wpi (12.5 wpc) and the plied yarn is 15 wpi (6 wpc).

I had different amounts of each shade of gold, so I varied my stripes as I went along. Each wide stripe is 5 rows and about half an inch wide (1.2 cm). The last part of the leg will be mostly brown with one or maybe two thin gold stripes. I’ve decided on a garter stitch heel, using the white yarn, because it will look a little like the bubbles in a beer head.