Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blanket

This is, hands down, the most beautiful weaving there is: Swans Island Blankets.

It's like the Elizabeth Zimmerman of weaving. And even cute, sheepy pictures. And yarn, dyed with natural dyes.
Now, I'm trying to come up with my own version. I've done a sample with Harrisville Designs Highland (the worsted weight, which comes unwashed on the cone and feels pretty serious) sett at 8 ends per inch. Did a little plain weave. A little twill. Wefts in the same yarn, and Cascade Eco, and Cascade Pastaza. This is the Pastaza (silky but definitely shed-prone, and I already have a yellow Lab to take care of that department on the blue couch and my black sweaters):
Everything is warm and cozy. And soft. Even the Harrisville.

I finished the cloth by felting it. But in the dryer, not the washer. I learned this method the other day at the knitting store and it is so much easier than reaching your hand into a very hot bath of water in the washing machine, dragging the heavy fabric to the surface, and then lowering it back in to agitate some more.

For the dryer method, I soaked the cloth in Eucalan and hot water for 30 minutes. Drained the water from the sink and rolled the cloth into a towel. Went down to the basement, threw it in a medium hot dryer with a pair of blue jeans and some tennis balls. Waited a while. Checked. Let it rumble around some more. In all, I think that it took about 20 minutes, with about 15-18% shrinkage in width and length.

And the cloth? Hudson Bay blanket-like.

I'm now forcing myself to do a second sample with the Shetland from Harrisville. More of a fingering weight and maybe closer to the look of the Swans Island blankets.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Speed Weaving

Yesterday I wove more and faster than ever before. I had a deadline: Sunday at 2 pm, when someone was coming over to buy my second loom. (Reminds me of my favorite line from Lord of the Rings, about having second breakfast.)

The warp is a 16/2 linen warp, threaded in stripes of natural and bleached linen. The pattern is Swiss Twill from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book. Version 1 was sett at 24 epi, which produces a very firm piece of cloth. I'm new to linen, so I believe it will soften up with use. Still, it seemed awfully dense. Here's a closeup of the selvedge:
Right-hand side, which is my less even selvedge. I followed advice from the teacher at a linen workshop that my guild hosted in November to sett the edges double through the heddle and the reed. I wasn't happy with the result, and in Version 2, went back to my usual method of threading the edges in a straight draw twill (1-2-3-4) and using a doubled floating selvedge (it comes through the reed but not the heddles).

Version 2, which was what I wove off yesterday into three napkins and a piece for a swatch (wish I could discipline myself to keep better weaving records - I end up with snippets of cloth in a drawer by the sewing machine) is sett at 18 epi, or ends per inch. The cloth looks closer to napkin weight. But I'll have a better idea once I wet finish it, aka throw it in the washing machine. It's a bit harsh for linen, but these are napkins, and I want them to stand  up to normal wear and tear. No handwashing of napkins in this house.
There's now a large, empty space with some fluff and lint on the floor, where the loom was. It's strange to see the space empty; I was accustomed to seeing it filled with a loom.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Komi Hat and Mittens

My finished Komi hat and mittens in Cascade Pastaza.

The mittens are Mitten 9 from Mostly Mittens (links in the last post for the yarn and books), with the top shaping from Ann Budd's first book of patterns. The hat is based on Budd's pattern for a basic hat, with a motif from the mittens used for the stranded colorwork.

Some of the specs - keeping in mind that I generally wear a size small in hats and a size 7 1/2 in gloves:

For the mittens, I cast on 32 st for the corrugated rib cuff, then increased to 40 stitches for the hand portion. The cuff was worked on a size 2 circular, Magic Loop method, and the hand on a size 3. (I knit very loosely; you might be able to get away with a larger needle size). My gauge was about 4.5-5 stitches/inch after wet blocking.

For the hat: I cast on 82 stitches for the K1P1 ribbing on a size 2, then worked the body of the hat on a size 3 without increasing stitches. I did a one-color rib so that the fit was snug; the corrugated ribbing is stiffer and has less bounce than the regular rib. I followed the schematics for Jared Flood's Turn a Square hat; I find that his method of decreasing gives you a really nice fit, without that round egg look that you get from some knitted hats.

Wet finishing makes a huge difference in this project. Beforehand, the stranded colorwork and stitches are tight; after soaking in a sink for half an hour, the fabric has a lot more give. If your size is good, don't do much but blot the water out and lay flat to dry. If, like me, you made something smaller than you'd like (I underestimated the amount of space the stranding takes up and made the hat a little too small), you can get in there with your hands and gently stretch the fabric after rolling it up in a towel to soak up some of the water. Then, lay flat to dry.

Here, you can see the contrast between the outside of the fabric and the inside:
As you carry the color that you are not working along the back side of the fabric, you get a nice, double-thick layer of wool. Between the stranding and perhaps the llama-wool combination of fibers in the Pastaza, the mittens and hat are keeping me warm even in cold, damp weather. I know that traditional colorwork is done at a miniscule gauge, but I prefer the feel of a nice, thick mitten in the winter.

My work, now, is not to lose any of the pieces.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Komi Hat

A Komi hat in Cascade Pastaza (half wool, half llama) to match my mittens. I'm using a piece of the motif from Mitten 9 in Mostly Mittens.

I'm not sure about how it will fit. I played back and forth with the size and finally settled on a cast on of 82 stitches for the ribbing and no increase for the body of the hat. According to Ann Budd's specs in her first pattern book, that's the size of a child's hat, but it still looks plenty large to me. And I know that it will grow when I block it (my mittens are wanting a liner to take up the extra room at the tip, after blocking. And because it is very, very cold today in Chicago. And only December....)

But I love the color and the feel - warm, cushy, stranded colorwork.

And yes, I messed up on the jogless stripe thing. Still warm.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Knit Stalking

 I've been contemplating the ethics of knit stalking. By that I mean, I see what you are knitting. I love what you are knitting. I knit the same thing.

This seems to be an area of questionable behavior to me. On one hand, a compliment. On the other, come on, get your own creativity going. On yet the other hand, it simplifies the candy store of choices that call at me each day that I go to work at the yarn shop. And I get a somewhat tested product: I get to hear about how easy or difficult the pattern is, what it's like to work with a particular yarn, what the fit looks like on the knitter.

Lately, many of us (I am not alone in this stalking thing, I suspect) have been following the lead of a staff member in knitting Brushed Suri mitts from Blue Sky Alpaca. A perfect, quick knit. Nothing but stockinette in the round. You can stuff them into your pocket and knit a row while waiting in line, or sitting in the car, or actually talking and knitting at the same time. One skein makes at least a pair, possibly more (I'm on the second one at the moment).

Here's the fuzzy surface of the mitts. The yarn is incredibly soft and a little bit stretchy, so fit seems to work both on my smaller hands and the long, elegant fingers of another knitter working on them.
I'm also working on the Adam's Rib Cap-sleeved Wrap from Sunday Knits. It is nigh impossible to take a picture of this in process, but here you go:

 There's some crazy mathematical, geometric progression going on here, which is beyond my non-math mind. You knit the whole sweater in one piece, side to side, and somehow hold stitches, pick them up again, do short rows, and eventually end up with  the potential of a sophisticated, knitted item. The directions are well written, and like other things in life, I'm hoping that if I trust, it will come out all right.

Here's a close-up of the surface of the pattern:
And a better view of the color of the yarn: a charcoal with a little bit of striation in it, but overall, muted and quiet.
I haven't been blogging much because I'm not loving the pictures that I've been taking. And I've been busy weaving. Here's my latest sample. Very scary, and as my daughter poitned out, very 60's:
I noticed, as I was waiting for the download just now, that the colors mirror the color of my knitting: blues and greys and greens. How odd. And though I persevered and forced myself to finish this sample even when I wanted to just cut the whole warp off the loom and do something fun (this one is a selection of different types of hand-knotted, cut pile), I'm filing it away as lesson learned. After I finally finished, I reread the directions and discovered that I was supposed to do three different types of knots, not at least three. That error and the crazy, busy colorway going on will force this one onto the reject pile, and I'll have to try it again.

In the meantime, happy thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Komi Mittens

My most recent knitting: another pair of Komi Mittens from Charlene Schurch's wonderful book, Mostly Mittens.

This pair is being knit in Cascade Pastaza, a somewhat fuzzy, halo-ish blend of wool and llama. I've adapted the chart in the book to accomodate far fewer stitches, including truncating the cross panel on the palm. I wear a size 7 1/2 glove; I'm making these with 32 stiches on the corrugated ribbing, 40 stitches on the hand, and 16 stitches on the thumb gusset. You may want to go a little larger if you want room to add a lining, as in Latvian mittens. But this yarn is already super warm, and since I'm winging this pair, I won't have room for a lining.

I'm trying to work through this pattern so that I can figure out the specs for a size Medium. My sister and I are going to do a long-distance knitalong, and I want to graph the pattern for her to minimize the number of new techniques that the project will ask for.

In other news, my very large dog is so cowed by my small cat that last night, when the cat came out onto the stairs to survey the living room below, the dog walked over to the television and pretended to be starting deeply into it, thus to avoid any eye contact with the Very Scary Cat.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Socks

I'm off to Pittsburgh tomorrow to visit my parents and sister. And I'm trying socks again as my travel knitting. Dream in Color in a worsted weight.

I've already moved through the cuff while watching the amazingly great new Sherlock Holmes series on Masterpiece Theater. Fantastic casting. Sherlock is appropriately brilliant, pale, and fast-talking.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm Tempted to Quote Monty Python, but Will Resist

I've been a slacker on the blog front lately.

At least I'm in good company. Seeing this post on my favorite blog, Mason-Dixon Knitting, reminded me that, oh, I have a blog too, and maybe I should update it.

So, what I have I been doing? Going into the city to see the Lurie Garden at Millenium Park. Here's the Frank Gehry bridge from the bandshell across to the lake. I love that the walkway is weathered wood - you feel Prairie and futuristic at the same time.

 The Agora scultpure by Magdalena Abakanowicz in Grant Park.

A massive foot from the sculpture. The scale of these figures is huge; each figure is nine feet tall.
My favorite Metra stop. No idea why there is a Parisian Art Deco station in the middle of Grant Park.
And here's a reason why I've been not-blogging. One could spend endless hours choosing photos, finding links, researching down the black hole of the Internet. (Because now I'm wondering: why does this Metra stop look like this? Chicago is a city of intentional architectural design; there must be a reason. Must resist urge to Google.) (And mini-whine: black hole is sometimes how I feel about blogging. Who out there is reading the ten million blogs now in existence?)

Back to the sum-up: I'm weaving. Finally starting to feel some progress on the tapestry samples for the Handweavers Guild of America Certificate of Excellence. (For potential candidates, please be aware that we posit this theory: Sample 1, which is tapestry interlock and meet-and-separate techniques used to demonstrate "control" of geometric shapes, may be an intentional effort to cull the flock. If you make it past Sample 1 to Sample 2, life and weaving and techniques will get much, much more enjoyable. And not as much like pulling teeth.)

And teaching yoga. I have a blog over on my yoga site, and have been trying to be a little more conscientious over there, which may be another reason why I'm slacking here.

And I'm working at a knitting shop. Very, very fun. Close enough to my house to bike there. Learning to sort yarn, receive shipment, and make detail-oriented coffees.

My knitting (yeah for Dancing with the Stars and The Apprentice and Netflix of the last season of The Gilmore Girls) has been all about Komi-pattern colorwork mittens, in bulky yarns like Cascade Eco and Cascade Pastaza. I don't have pictures of the pair that I just sent off to my daughter, but I'll try to post a picture of the current pair - brown and deep pink and pale pink - in the next week or so.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Inspiration from a Weaver

This is a beautiful, short film of Frederico Chavez Sosa, a master rug weaver in Mexico.

Watch it and be reminded that it takes time to learn how to do something well. There's also gorgeous fiber dyed from natural plants, beautiful rugs, and an artist who really enjoys his work.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chanting 101

I'll be teaching Chanting 101 in October at Yoga Among Friends in Downers Grove, Illinois.
Look over here to read about the class and see my yoga website and blog!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A One-Skein Scarf

Fall is here: I'm knitting with autumn oranges again. This happens every year, without my noticing.

And so enjoyable to be knitting lace again. No worries about fit or gauge. This is the Shetland Triangle by Evelyn Clark from WrapStyle. Such an easy pattern that you can memorize it and knit it while visiting someone in the hospital or driving from Chicago to Boston. (I've tested both).
Made from Isager Alpaca 2. One skein, on a size 2 needle. Next time, I'd go up a few sizes in needle size: the shawl is right for the recipient, who requested a scarf, but not a flowy and open as I'd like to see this pattern. And why not: you could get a beautiful shawl out of one skein of this alpaca-wool mix, and the feel and color are luscious.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Random Beauty: A Japanese Garden for the Nurses

A garden for the nurses and staff at a hospital in Pittsburgh.
Very peaceful. I love the idea of a Japanese garden: spare, quiet, elegant. And even the water is made of stone.
The work seems invisible, though I'm sure that it takes many hours and many people to keep a garden looking this beautiful. We were intrigued by the thought of adding a Japanese river rock pond to our backyard, underneath the tree where nothing will grow. One more view, this of the entrance to the garden.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Egg Cinnamon Cake

I'm reading Harriet the Spy. Every day, after school, Harriet comes home and has cake and milk.

This, plus just getting home from spending time with my parents and sister and extended family, then my older daughter, is making me feel a bit homesick for them. So, I'm baking a cake, which is a good antidote,even though it was at least 93 degrees when we got back to Chicago this afternoon.

A stalwart stand-by: One Egg Cinnamon Cake. A recipe inherited from my grandmother. (Perhaps the eggs were larger in her day; this version uses two.)

One Egg Cinnamon Cake

1 stick of butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. sugar, mixed together

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk by thirds. Beat well. Pour into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick tests clean but still a bit moist.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk. Then go dashing at breakneck speed through the house, like Harriet, crashing into the cook and yelling aloud, just for her own pleasure.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Four Stages of Not-Knowing and the First Stage of Kaivalyam in Weaving

Stage 1: I have no idea how to do this! I've never done it before. How would I know?


A stage marked by the recurring experience that no matter how much you learn, there are still vast black holes of emptiness in your knowledge. Or that the information may be somewhere in the messy closet of the brain, but you just can't find it.

Stage 2: There must be someone or something that can show me how to do this!

This stage is marked by hours spent on the Internet, keyword searching every permutation and combination of words, as well as the growing awareness that the answer is cached somewhere, never to be found, at the depths of page 93 of the search results.

Stage 3: Maybe I can someone who can explain this to me?

More hours on the Internet, trying to locate an individual who has done this before. Search of blogs, information sites, library data-bases, social networking sites for art and craft.

Accompanied by a sub-stage: having found a living-and-breathing teacher, then making the effort to write a not-too-needy, unstalkerish email to an utter stranger, asking for assistance. This stage also is accompanied by really small, very picky, slightly obsessive questioning, such as: in the handbook, the directions first ask you to use one color (singular), and then mention colors (plural); is this intended to suggest using only one color for the warp, or multiple colors? (Follow-up to actually asking this question: it's a misprint to be corrected in future editions.)

Note: this stage can last a long time.

Stage 4: Acceptance of the existential state of being a weaver working alone on the certification process, living with person(s) who I may drive insane with my very pointed weaving questions. Such as: if you're constructing a golden rectangle, do you create the square or the rectangle first? As you are driving on a busy expressway in lots of traffic. Also marked by a sense of isolation, as in: I am alone. There is no one to show me how to do this.

This stage follows soon after the arrival in the mail or at the library of the article/book/example located and purchased. (PayPal makes this way too easy; before you know it, you've bought something on Ebay.)

And what comes next, and this is the important part of this post:

The Stage of Kaivalyam: Sometimes understood to mean freedom. But I prefer my teacher's definition of improved clarity. You realize: I can do this. I need to start somewhere, give it a try, make some (many) mistakes, learn from the mess-up's, and try again.

A stage marked by movement from despair to achievment, from frustration to problem-solving. And much less time noodling on the Internet, which means more time for yarn-wrapping and reading books about crazy mathematical proportion theories and playing with the new set of color pencils (my first, and in a nifty aluminum case - how artistic!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Attention to Detail

Preparing to submit excellent samples is a Lot of Work.

Here's round #3 on the twill sampler. On the road to finishing it, I discovered one threading error, four mistakes in treadling, which I ripped back and redid (I learned that I have to watch the pattern with an eagle eye, and not be dsitracted by listening to an audio book), and then, after completing the weaving and rereading the directions, noticed that the language asks you to make a "blanket" for this sample.

Does "blanket" mean that I should be weaving the sampler from more blankety materials, like wool? I imagine that a twill sampler in heathered, Harrisville yarns would be beautiful. Or is "blanket" just a generic term, meaning bigger than the typical sample of a minimum of 7 by 10 inches?
Having a degree in English, combined with the precision that this process calls for is a dangerous mix. (I've parsed the contrast between the singular "color" called for to separate vertical columns in the sampler, versus the plural "colors" specified in the weft directions. Intentional - meaning that I need to use one main color for warp plus one divider color, and then several colors for weft? Or typo, meant not at all to mean anything significant? What can one say but "ergghhhh."  Or "ergghhhhs."

I'll be saying this for the next two years - weaving is this wierd fusion of creativity and attention to detail. You have to suspend reliance on product and outcome and place yourself into process and serendipity. At the same time, you have to count carefully, be incredibly anal retentive in the many steps of setting up the loom - especially threading correctly, into the right heddles, no threads crossed, everything at even tension.

I'm guessing that I'll either learn patience and attention to detail, or keep finding myself where I was at 5 am this morning - wide awake, thinking about threading the loom, changing the plan for the warp, considering that I should have wound a single-color warp for this sample instead of stripes. Remember the Pushmi-Pullyu from the Doctor Doolittle books? That's how I feel.

Friday, August 13, 2010

WIP August

I'm working on napkins on a warp of 10/2 pearl cotton crossed with wefts of a teal hand-dyed cotton from Guatemala (my daughter stopped in a village and loaded her bag with as much yarn as it could accomodate - very fine, unmercerized cotton, probably around a 20/2 weight) and a 16/2 cotton in a mustard color.

The pattern is Blanket Tweel from Davison's Handweaver's Pattern Book, variation II, I believe. This draft is in the Texture Weave chapter: a smorgasbord of different weaves that create surface interest. At this point, you can't see much happening, other than a slight gap between each set of four warp ends. And this is my first time using this draft, so we shall see, once the warp is off the loom and finished by machine washing and drying. (These will be napkins, so I want them to be prepared for rough and tumble.)

This warp I can sit down, noodle away at, and walk away. The only concern has been trying to get the right selvedge to stay even.

An interesting thing about weaving: one selvedge, or cloth edge, is always more even than the other. For me, the right (because I'm right handed, I adjust better when I'm throwing the shuttle left to right and thus, adjusting the tension of the weft with my right hand) is more troublesome. I discovered this week that if I leave what looks like too large a loop at the right edge, when throwing the shuttle right to left, that the take-up (the length of warp needed to go over and under each warp end) seems to bring that pesky right edge into better alignment.
And inattention seems to help my designing. Somehow, I wound one edge of the warp with closer blue stripes and the other edge with stripes that are further apart. I like the asymmetry: a little bit Gee's Bend.

Now I'm walking down the block to photograph a chalk drawing in front on a neighbor's house. The little girls in this house always do something magnificent with their sidewalk drawings. Looks like a good prospect for my tapestry sample for the COE.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beautiful Hands

Familiar, beautiful hands of my younger daughter, wearing Joelle Haverson's Hand/Wrist Warmers, aka my Reading Mitts, on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/womens-hand-wrist-warmers.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

New Pets

Today we added several new pets to the household.
These are rosies, brought in to eat the swarm of mosquitos that are launching attacks from the tiny pond in the backyard. The hope is two-fold: that they stay small.

 And that they don't die. We started with a dozen for $1.29, and already, on the way home, the top of the bag somehow came untied, water spilled on the floor of the backseat, and I could not bear to look, out of fear that a tiny fish was flopping about. (Since we didn't double-count the fish at the store, we're going on the assumption that all are accounted for and still healthy.)

And another pet, more furry.
A very fine specimen.

In knitting news, I'm soaking the pieces of my Minimalist Cardigan toward blocking them tonight. And I'm working on a sample for the COE, which had me re-threading the loom and re-sleying the ends for Attempt #3. Then I realized, after re-threading and re-sleying, that the outside edges need another 1/2 inch or so of width so that the patterns square. Excellence is rapidly becoming another word for  Learning Through Do-over.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Supplies, Part 1

My desk by the looms.

 Necessary supplies: a notebook for keeping track of the project as I'm weaving. Stuff like what row to weave next (after I come back from letting the dog out, answering the phone, making a cup of tea, and such...in my previous lifetime as a weaver, there often were spans of months, nay, even years, between making the notation - "next row - row 8" - and weaving said row.)

A binder, divided into sections that match up with each of the requirements for the COE. (The only organized thing on the desk, and I love it because it seems to know what it's doing).

A cloth tape measure. A stack of reference books. And a glass of Prosecco.

What are you doing this evening? I'm watching the finale of "The Bachelorette." Then, the special after the finale. Very good knitting television. Perhaps working toward the armholes in the back of my Minimalist Cardigan.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Plan of Attack

The latest plan of attack is to focus on the Certificate of Excellence in Handweaving. I feel nervous even typing this, but I think it's worth tackling, and I am excited about the research and learning that will be involved.

The odd thing about weaving is that it is an art form, but one that is embedded in precision, methodical planning and execution, and exactitude in implementation. Meaning that you have to do a lot of very careful planning and lots of detailed, fiddly work before you even get close to the craft-art elements. As evidence, a loom on the way to being warped for weaving:
Many small movements are involved: measuring the warp on the warping board, tying it with choke ties so that the threads stay in order, winding the warp onto the loom, threading it through the heddles, then threading it through the reed, tying it onto the cloth beam at the front of the loom, spreading the warp evenly, and then, finally, starting to weave what you set out to weave. And this doesn't include every step, which actually starts with choosing what to weave, the pattern you will use, the length of the warp and the sett, or density...well, it does go on and on.

The ultimate reward is the weaving itself: rhythmic, meditative, and at the end, you have something tactile, beautiful, and useful. What will be interesting about preparing for the COE is learning to have patience for all the preparation involved. And confidence that I'm going about this with some small amount of understanding: there's plenty of interpretation-wiggle room, despite the very concrete specificity of instructions from the Handweavers Guild of America, which sponsors the COE.

So, current plan of attack:
Step 1: start work on the research needed for the written portion.
Step 2: finish warping the loom for the twill variation sampler.
Step 3: start researching materials and techniques for the tapestry sampler.
Current deadline: Fall 2012!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fiber Arts International 2010

I was in Pittsburgh this week, visiting family, and happened to overlap with the Fiber Arts International 2010, held in part at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, one of my favorite places from childhood.

My mom used to send my sister and I there to take recorder lessons and lots and lots of art classes: ceramics and drawing and painting and maybe some weaving, but that I'm not sure about. I really think that sending a kid off to art class is key to turning her or him into a future artist-crafts-person: there's something special and self-esteem-building about learning to make stuff, especially stuff that involves good art supplies and color and texture and shape. I recall spending many un-air-condtitioned days in the classrooms, probably keeping myself busy during summer vacation, but also relishing the independence of walking into the building and finding my way to a table and some art stuff.

Perhaps because of my affection for the building - a large stucco mansion painted yellow and gray and nicely restored within -  and because it was hosting a fiber show, I stopped there with my father and husband - and my sister drove in to meet us - on my way to the airport yesterday. Lovely show, covering the first floor of the building, with some other permanent works on the second floor. (My apologies to the artists, but I didn't write down the names of all of the pieces.)

Here's a quilt of what looked like hand-dyed tea bags. Very clever.
And a close-up:
A piece called Scabs by Emily Barletta:
Very knee-and-elbow fibery scabs, felted and embellished and oval in shape but flattened, just like, well, scabs. Interesting.
A tapestry piece showing the evolution of time: Five Generations of Virtue by Lisa Lee Peterson.

I loved this piece, which, in person, is less photographic and more fibery:
A basket embedded with plastic ties. Hard and soft at the same time.
And my favorite: a tapestry of small pieces of fabric, with an ombre effect from top toward the bottom, more subtle in person than the picture shows.
And Pittsburgh would not be Pittsburgh if not for its many hills. Here's an on-the-fly picture of a hill, but you can find much bigger ones ringing the city. When my daughters were little, we would take them to the top of Negley Hill when visiting Pittsburgh - it's probably a 45-60 degree incline, and say: here's now this is a hill! The Midwest is sadly lacking in hills, and when I come home, I marvel at how flat and dry and yellow our landscape is, compared to the up and down and greenness of Pittsburgh.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunday Knits

I was moved, as I walked through the Midwest Fiber and Folk Festival, by the number of small businesswomen and men who were carving out opportunities in the world of fiber. I wanted to support every small farm that was raising its own Angora rabbits, or alpaca goats, or even working with a colleague in China to bring Yak yarn, woven by women in the villages, to the market.

But of all the businesses that I observed and the owners that I interacted with, I was most impressed by Carol Sunday and her Sunday Knits booth. She is doing beautiful work, in a style that seems both vintage and modern at the same time. Her aesthetic is both simple and complex - for example, a pullover in just the right shade of tobacco brown, but with a lotus flower intarsia-d in just the right colors of (I think) pink and red. Even the labels on her in-house yarns from Italy ( of which there is a focused number - four different blends - and a focused color palette of soft, rich shades)are elegant but not fussy. This woman has an eye for beauty.
Even her packaging is lovely:

Also, she had the most efficient booth for shopping: samples of her sweaters and mittens to try on; clearly organized yarns with clearly labeled prices; and a welcoming patience as I and another knitter worked our way through several try-ons, including the vest that Carol was wearing. After a bit, we found ourselves (or maybe it was just me?) muttering, "I want everything."

I settled, with the help of my friend, on the Rippling Ribs Vest, to be knit in charcoal Nirvana, a blend of merino wool with a bit of cashmere.  How can there be only 8 projects of this sweater on Ravelry - especially when one knitter notes that this is her go-to sweater for everything?

My other favorite booth was Mary Flanagan Woolens, more for gawking than desiring.
But the main show was the animals, present either in the fur or in the skein. Here's a very large Angora rabbit in the arms of a delighted youngster:

Also, lots and lots and lots of alpaca. This was from a lovely booth, and is projected to be mittens for my older daughter. I wanted to purchase the same yarn in ivory, but as I asked the shop owner, I realized that what I was purchasing was the fiber from the animal, and if the animal didn't come in another color, then neither would the yarn. Very cool. One of the many alpaca booths even had pictures of the goats beside the yarn spun from their fiber.

The festival is open for the rest of the weekend, so if you're in the Chicago area, you should make your way up to see it. And if you miss this, Sunday Knits will be at Stitches Midwest in August.