Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Knew I Could

I had a bit of a setback due to blithe disregard for forethought and the (apparently unfounded) confidence that the neck decreases would magically align with the raglan decreases, which of course they would not, at least not of their own accord.

So I ripped back to The Joining Of The Sleeves (last night) and now all is well with the world in terms of starting new knitting projects, which I assure you I will do Very Soon Now.
There's a part of me that really would like to finish this necklace before the next knitting project begins.
Problem is I think I want a different type of chain/rope for the other side, and I can't decide exactly what it is that I want, so this is as good a stopping point as any, I suppose.

Not that I don't like this chain; on the contrary, I really really do.
See? It kinda looks like a very twisted herringbone stitch, except some columns of beads stick out and some stick in, so in cross-section it's a triangle rather than a circle. And it's not herringbone stitch, not even slightly.

It's a variant of the African polygon stitches that Valerie Hector describes in her book, and that Diane Fitzgerald has in hers. Well, it is, but for the stitch counts (which I made up. See, I counted to two), which completely change the way it looks.

This is a variant with three beads per side; the green and grey one has two per side. 
As you can see (perhaps), the middle bead (the pink column) has its hole perpendicular to the rope while the first and third (and both beads in the first chain) lie parallel.

What I really like about this stitch is that the column of beads that stick out (the teeny little real actual pearls above, and the various green seeds above that) need only a single thread pass, so it's ideal for very tiny gemstones (which have even tinier holes) or pearls (which ditto).

I have some teeny tourmaline, and amethyst, and carnelian and perhaps some iolite just waiting.

Meanwhile my local bead store had its spring Bead Art day and I really scored.
I think the big beads were super-cheap because they're not quite evenly-shaped, but I have no idea why the leaves cost so little, as they look great to me. All I know is that I picked up five beads for the price of a single not terribly overpriced art glass bead that I might buy at a Real bead show. Perhaps from someone not yet famous.

I've had a table at this show a couple of times, and much as they call it Bead Art, it's really just a sale that people in the neighbourhood sorta support and see if they can pick up something cheap - or better yet, see what people are selling and then go into the bead store (the show is in the parking lot) and buy the beads themselves. 

The first time I was in the show, I sold enough stuff to make the heat rising off the asphalt tolerable (in retrospect); the second time wasn't quite as good, and subsequent times have just been grim (last year I sold one. pair. of. earrings), so what with the economy in the toilet, I didn't think it really worth the bother this year.

There were a few bead-weavers, Joan (something; I always forget her last name but she does fabulous work) and someone that I "know" (and I do really mean the quotes as I don't actually know this person - or at least I didn't before I introduced myself to her) from Etsy and perhaps one other, but truthfully most booths were very ugly strung pieces.

(Lest you wonder, I have high regard for those with an eye for balance and composition who manage to string necklaces that are lovely; that sort of work was not well-represented today.)

Guess I should really promote my etsy store if I want to sell beaded jewellery.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Don't Always

Ever the optimist, I really wanted to get finished and wear this cardigan tomorrow, but there are wishes and there's reality and this time reality won.

On the other hand, my car-pool buddy is playing golf tomorrow, so he won't be there (in the car) to notice that what I was knitting on previously is now on my body, howEVER on Monday he will be, and I will most definitely have a completed cardigan, ends sewn in, underarm holes closed, buttons attached, not to mention the next project started, so I guess it's ok that I need some sleep.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Up Side

When you have about 15% fewer stitches, knitting goes pretty quickly (this is about 6" or halfway to the armhole).
Of course, if I'd have had the right number of stitches to start with, I'd be finished, and might even have started the next project, for which I had already wound the ball when I discovered that my error stood between me and startitis. (I am occasionally disciplined about this sort of thing, sort of).

Almost all I did today was make this dress, which looks much better on than off, although in all honesty I somehow managed to sew puckers into the pockets, which is Not Like Me at all. On a body (mine), it's less sack-like than its hangered appearance would indicate. Also greener, which is just as well, since I look dismal in beige.
About ten to fifteen years ago I sewed about ninety percent of my clothes (I didn't wear jeans that much) until I realised that (a) I didn't love it all that much because (b) much of the time my sewing desire was motivated by thrift and ability rather than love of the process and most importantly (c) it was cutting into my knitting time. Beading wasn't quite the focus that it is now. I don't mind time-sharing between knitting and beading. (And spinning, and occasionally sewing).

I enjoy sewing much more when it's a couple of garments every now and again.

I hate sewing Roman shades, but I keep doing it anyway (that's thrift speaking).

Since my fabric stash has plenty more suitable fabrics, and since it wasn't too onerous, I think I might make it again with tweaks (I need to make it a size smaller).

Before I settled down to sewing, I made this pendant using a bead by the very talented Beau Barrett. 

I love the way these seed beads mimic the finish on the lampwork: he fumed the bead (I think with silver, though it may be gold; I'm not sure and I bought it long enough ago that I don't remember) and then added the green bumps, to which the fuming has added a sort of inner glow that I find quite compelling. The seed beads are the new permanent-finish opal silver-lined or gilt-lined or whatever they call them, but in any event they have the same soft inner glow.

I haven't decided on a rope or chain for this yet. The colours are very subtle, but a whole necklace with just these two might be a bit dull, and yet I'm not sure what to add to the mix that will work well, and yet not draw focus from the pendant.

Luckily I don't have to decide right now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Down Side

The worst thing that can happen when you hit the sweet spot on a knitting project is discovering that the garment you were making was not for you, but for a much, much larger person because it wraps around your body more than once, and it's not a shawl or a scarf or a blanket.
The sleeves were for this body though.

At least there's a fiber up side:
Julia sent me a skein of Henry's Attic [undyed] silk for my birthday, but luckily I know my way around a dyepot. 

Actually, I was using a roaster oven, which is much like a crockpot except that it has a temperature dial.

And oh yes, it's dead, although it wasn't when I started dyeing.

Silk is fabulous stuff where dye is concerned: as long as it's well and truly wet, and is soaking in enough citric acid, it still slurps up dye even with no heat, so I made sure that all of it had colour (this required a few glugs of dye here and there) and then steamed it to set the dye, and now it's trying to dry, though the humidity isn't being terribly helpful.

I finished my necklace.
Everyone at the massage place admired it today, and I have to report back that no, you really don't get bored when your massage is an hour and a half (my birthday treat) instead of the usual hour. 

My son was concerned, you see.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

All Mine

When I turned forty I decided that I'd never again work on my birthday, but as this year's is a Saturday, and furthermore the Saturday of a long weekend, it's especially easy AND I still have that vacation day in reserve, so my year is starting off pretty well, apart from the fact that even though no alarm clock started playing Morning Edition at 6 ayem, I woke up anyway.

A small matter.

On the yay side, I have socks delighting me.
Nancy, thanks again, the blanks are giving me so much pleasure!

You can't really see, I don't think, but I think I have the transition from entrelac to plain knitting wrapped up. 

My entrelac squares are eight stitches for a total of forty-eight around, and my usual socks are seventy-two, or six sets of twelve, which means that for the transition, I pick up twelve stitches instead of eight, and short-row by twos and ones, and then the next round when I knit the wraps, I'll have my seventy-two. I think it'll be neater than having picked up eight only, and then being forced to increase.

As you know, everyone needs some instant gratification from time to time, though in a knitting context, "instant" is a relative term.
I'm at the point in this short-sleeved cardigan when it seems as if it's slowed down horrendously, and just when I'm at the point of wondering if ever these interminable raglan rounds will get shorter as I know there are eight stitches less every other row even though it doesn't feel like it, suddenly the next row will be the second-last, and I'll have forgotten to do the garter stitch for the neckband, so I'll have to undo six rows because there really is no alternative, but then I'll be finished, bar closing the holes at the underarms and sewing on a button (which I might bead) and steaming.

This is a good place to be.

On Tuesday when I taught at the bead store, I bought a tube of almost every new colour of the silver-lined opal seed beads and made these earrings. While the beads in the tubes are utterly delicious, somehow they seem to lose something like this, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps they need a contrast to really show them off.
On the other hand, I do like them in this necklace I'm just starting, even though there's no contrast in sight.
Muscovite stone (not yet attached), and a few dull rubies in the chain. I've had them for ages, was a little disappointed in their colour at the time, but they're just perfect here! The benefits of a large stash cannot be underestimated.

And now to finish the hair and face so I can safely go out for lunch (mmm, sushi - thanks, Amy!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Thing Is

Deadlines really aren't all bad.

I had a plan, a list of projects as teaching proposals. A decent sized list mostly containing projects already completed, so all I had was a couple of pieces to make. Well, three.

Two are done enough to be photographed, and I had my time mapped out so that I could also complete the third.


And then Anne delivered the news, welcome at the time, that the deadline had been extended, so I could just play until the next deadline approached.
I kinda like the chain I used here. Used it last week too, on the black and white thing

It's a neat concept; I should teach a class - guess I need a sample...

And oh look, I was surfing and saw something cool, had an idea and worked up a sample.
And that led to another idea which needed more attention RIGHT AWAY.
And now my list is longer.

If the deadline hadn't been extended, I'd be done, but now all I am is behinder.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Entre Nous

I'm a big fan of entrelac, and even though I'm good about weaving in as I knit, it's irksome doing entrelac with multiple colours a la Kathryn Alexander, much as I want to be her (among others) when I grow up, but it's just not enough fun, so I think about it and move on to something else.


It all started a few years ago when Nancy commissioned me to bead a something for Adriana, and in exchange I'd get one of her fabulous silk scarves.

I really enjoyed making Adriana's necklace, because from the start I knew exactly what to do. She was inspirational. She's tall (well, a lot of people are tall compared to me) and a compelling presence, so I knew she could carry off something big and dramatic, and her lovely honeyed colouring is so perfect for the fall tones towards which I so often gravitate too.

I had a nice collection of ocean jasper cabochons patterned in mustard, cream and soft green, and some tiny dichroic glass cabochons in green and orange, which was my starting point.

This is what I ended up with.

Well actually, Adriana ended up with the necklace, and I ended up with this incredible scarf. Nancy did the dyeing, and Chris did the utterly amazing weaving.
This barter thing is awesome. There's something about paying for something gorgeous with actual reciprocal effort, making an emotional investment in what you give to enhance your appreciation of what you get in return. It's a fabulously catalytic transaction.

Then a year or two later, Nancy dyed up a pair of her sock blanks to match, as best her memory permitted.
Not too shabby - you'll have to take my word on this, as my photos are lying sacks of poo when it comes to colour, but I swear, the sock blanks are a very good match.

Which leads me to entrelac (which is a better match to the scarf photo, right?)
I'm loving the way this is turning out, the gradual fade. I'm getting the colourwork without the work, and I can't stop knitting because I keep on needing to see what happens next. 

This is my favourite type of knitting (and spinning for that matter), when the process is vastly enlivened by delight in the progress. Not to say one doesn't always take joy in progress, it's that it's just so much fun to see the colour progression. Some hand-painted rovings are like that too: what forms under your fingers is just magic.

And y'know, magic is pretty cool stuff.

For those interested in starting your very own entrelac socks, each square is eight stitches by sixteen rows, six squares around, and I'm using size zero (US) needles. For reference, I almost always use the same size needles and seventy-two stitches for socks that fit me well and have a nice firm fabric.  

I used the knitted cast-on, and worked one square in garter stitch at a time, casting on for the next as I finished each one. It becomes a tube as you work the next round of squares: knit up the stitches on the square across the gap, and work back and forth (in each square, and for each round of squares). I'm sure google will yield all manner of detailed entrelac instructions, should you need them.

Oh and PS the deadline? Moved to the end of June. Apparently you can escape them sometimes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I swear, there's no way to avoid them.

If I want to teach at Bead Fest Santa Fe (which was fun as a vacation, and fun as a teaching gig, but not fiscally rewarding) and I think I might, then I have to submit entries by Friday night.

I'm quite taken with this design, but I think I prefer the other sample with the matte beads, though not all the colours were quite right. I think I see another couple in my future.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Knew?

My weekday morning ritual involves the usual shower-clothes-pack-lunch thing, but since the company for which I work likes to incentivize (I made that word up I think, but with my luck it's actually a real word in this age of verbifying nouns) green behaviour (some at least), one being car-pooling.

My car-pool buddy lives about ten minutes west of me, and we work about thirty minutes (what with highway construction; it used to be twenty only) east of me, so he drives here and one of us drives from here to work. This means that I need to be ready and waiting so that I'm out the door as he gets here, and what better way to while away a few minutes than by spinning? My wheel is always there in process, and I can see out the window as I spin, so it works well.

My usual footwear is Doc Martens or Chucks or other flat-soled footwear since I already did the insanely high platform shoes back in the seventies in high school when I was fully prepared to suffer pain for perceived beauty; now I'm less keen, though I have noticed how hard it is to find flat shoes that are neither men's nor old ladies'. High heels are the Shoes du Jour.

So a couple of weeks ago I bought some linen pants which I wore with my usual flats, which turned out to be not such a wonderful match, as I walked all over the hems. While I'm perfectly capable of hemming a pair of pants (I was shocked the first time I realised that this was a skill that some people failed to acquire, as opposed to something everyone just knows how to do, like walking or breathing or finding chocolate), it struck me that in this instance the thing to do was to buy suitable footwear, i.e. heels.

Which I did, and that's a story unto itself.

Though I wasn't wearing The Pants today, I was wearing my new shoes, and as usual, on a weekday morning, waiting for my car-pool buddy, I sat down at the wheel and wondered if this footwear would hamper my spinning.

Not at all.

Who knew that you could spin in heels?

Lest you wonder about the richness of my life (or lack of it as evidenced by the above), let me assure you that my days have not been filled with only the superficiality of clothes.

I finished a pair of socks, for one (though I haven't woven in the ends).
And the close-up - isn't t pretty?

And a sweater, but no photo.

And a necklace.
And another one which started off as a class sample but ended up actually complete.
I like it on the shorter side, but knowing that (a) my intent is not to keep it for myself and (b) some people may have bigger neck or prefer longer necklaces, I made an extender, which I thought was quite ingenious.

I think the class was a bit challenging, but I had good samples!