Sunday, October 23, 2011

After the IWC Knitting Workshop

Double knit, single strand scarf,  knit with Noro Silk Garden--photo taken in backyard
I have completed two scarves using Valentina Devine’s double knit technique which utilizes only one strandof yarn. The scarves before they were blocked were about 4 ½ inches wide by 80 inches long, after I washed them they grew to 89 inches long! I think I made a mistake in rolling the scarves in towels to get the excess water out of them.

The scarves were knit on a #7 knitting needle using Noro brand Silk Garden yarn, which is 45% silk, 45% kid mohair, and 10% wool. Noro Silk Garden is not the softest yarn, but the color changes are great and they made up as nice looking scarves. And of course, it is always nice to finish a project, which is not always the case with me.

Double knit means that there are actually two layers of fabric. The scarf is knit in a circle so the center is hollow, then the knots from the color changes in yarn can be pushed to the center of the scarf to be hidden.

Same scarf with photo taken against stucco wall

The whole scarf consists of four different rows of knitting. The first row you cast on an even number of stitches.

The second row: knit the edge stitch through the back of the knit stitch, *yarn over, knit through the back of the next stitch*, (repeat the yarn over and knit through the back of the next stitch until the last stitch in the row), the last stitch slip the stitch as if you were going to purl it. Turn knitting.

The third row: knit the edge stitch through the back of the stitch,* slip the next stitch as if to purl it, knit the third stitch in a regular manner*, repeat the slipped stitches alternating with the regular knit stitches across the rest of the row including the edge stitch which is a slipped stitch as if it was purled.

Continue knitting as in row 3, changing colors at will. I always knotted at the edge, but that isn’t necessary. If you look at Valentina Devine’s example of double knit edging and cuffs on a black jacket in the last blog, many of the new colors were introduced in the middle of the line. As long as the knot is hidden it doesn’t matter where the color change takes place. Knot yarn, and then knit for a few rows before hiding knot in center of scarf.

When scarf is desired length begin row four binding off. Bind off first and last edge stitches as single stitches, but treat the knit and purl pairs of stitches as one knit stitch in binding off. After binding off the last edge stitch single, cut the yarn leaving a two inch tail and put the tail through the last loop. Hide this knot in the center of the scarf.

Lightly wash and lay out scarf to dry, blocking out to the scarf’s measurements.

Friday, October 21, 2011

IWC - Knitting Workshop - Part 2

Statue on Ft. Lewis Campus, site of IWC - Durango, CO
 Although IWC is called a weavers’ conference it’s all about fiber. The selection of workshops is pretty eclectic. Besides several weaving related workshops, others were on dyeing, spinning, designing, basketry and sewing. The workshop that I took was Free Form Knitting and was taught by Valentina Devine of Los Alomos, New Mexico. IWC’s format of workshops is a person signs up for one workshop for the span of the three days, rather than several shorter workshops. Depth versus variety.

Valentina taught us about four different basic knitting techniques in the three day workshop. She also covered embellishments and the construction of some basic garment types. Her methods utilized both knitting and crocheting stitches and a vast variety of yarns. Valentina was always concerned with color, texture, and basic shapes.

Valentina Devine demonstrating adding clusters of French knots as embellishments
For each of the techniques that Valetina passed on to us, she illustrated the result with numerous examples that she brought with her. It was a treasure chest of yarns and garments—our own “trunk show”.

Valentina was less concerned with gauge; sizing was generally based on the fit of known garments. Her style of garments has a loose, comfortable fit definitely not tailored.

V. Devine's sleeveless long vest - example of a loose fit using blocks of log cabin
The four basic shapes, which determined the technique that we used, were the rectangle/square as in log cabin, round as in swirl, irregular shapes, and strips from a double knit variation.

A previous student's jacket done in log cabin using sock yarn
V. Devine holding an example of Swirl technique done in a top
Valentina on left showing an example of irregular swatches edged in black
Valentina's double knit strip of many colors used as an edging and cuffs of black jacket
Valentina’s philosophy of knitting was very freeing and made a person adventurous combing yarns and colors outside of their normal comfort zone. I’ve included some examples of her designs and then shown what I completed during the workshop. My examples are rather incomplete as I am a slow knitter. But I was also trying to take decent notes and photos as my short term memory is getting shorter as time passes. I found Valentina to be a flash knitter, of course knitting continental style, and having done it for a living for many years with the cliché “time is money”, being a slow knitter wouldn’t get a person a very good paycheck.
My unfinished sample of log cabin or linear shape

My unfinished sample of swirl or round shape

My unfinished sample of an irregular shape

My unfinished sample of single strand double knit using Noro Silk Garden

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Intermountain Weavers' Conference - Part 1

The end of July the Intermountain Weavers’ conference (IWC) was held in Durango, Colorado. IWC is a regional conference of western states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. It meets every two years in the off year that the national conference, Convergence, meets.

The past 4 conferences have been held in Durango at Fort Lewis College on a plateau above the city. It’s a beautiful campus, usually cool temperatures with a terrific backdrop of mountains.

A land formation seen from the highway while driving through New Mexico.
 Driving there through Arizona and New Mexico is like driving through a western movie set, the vistas are vast and unbelievable. One year my roommate and I drove through a “brown” thunderstorm in Monument Valley.

A modernistic Navajo rug ready for sale at a Trading Post

My own Navajo "rug" 5"X 7" woven by Lorraine Mark
We enjoyed the stops at the Indian trading posts throughout the reservation, looking for yarn and weaving tools. Some of the posts had rugs for sale that were beautiful works of art.

AAA puts out a terrific map called “Indian Country” that covers the huge Indian Reservation at the Four Corners Region where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet. Besides the roads and highways, Indian Trading Posts are indicated and the normal tourists attractions of parks, monuments, museums, etc. If you’re going to travel in the area, the map is well worth while obtaining.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blue to Dye For

Kathi stirring the indigo pot to mix the ingredients
 The natural dyeing workshop is an annual meeting in May with the Las Vegas Fiber Arts Guild. Originally they held it up on Mt. Charleston, just outside the city where it was nice and cool. But it was a pain carting everything up there and then setting up and then bringing it all back down the mountain. So for the last several years Nancy has hosted the extravaganza in her front yard. Her set up is unbelieveable and gets better every year. It’s getting to be a burden for her as she nears 80 and requires help from others in the guild to keep it operating, but what a tradition it’s been.

A row of about 10 propane stoves with 2 pots each for dyeing. Two outdoor craft sinks for rinsing and a drying rack. Crock pots have been added for Kool Aid dyeing and this past year they added a tent with indigo dyeing. Plus Nancy serves tacos for lunch, and has tents set up while we wait for the pots to do their thing. People sit around and spin, knit and talk up a storm.

Bev and I were so taken with the indigo dyeing that she is going to try it in her dyeing efforts in Cedar City on Saturday, October 15. Some of the complexity of the indigo dyeing has been taken out with kits. We were able to pick some up on clearance at JoAnne’s and also found some at Dharma’s on the Internet.

Skimming the waste materials off the surface

The yarn has to stay submerged in the solution, not agitated.

Then when it is brought to the surface it is green.

A person quickly lets it drip out as you don’t want oxygen to get into the solution. As oxygen gets to the yarn it oxides the solution on the yarn turning it blue. It’s amazing to watch.

First dip = light blue

If you let the yarn dry a bit then you can redip it to get a darker shade of blue. The blue is the color that was originally used in blue jeans. If you don’t work with plastic gloves it does a great job of dyeing your hands blue too!

Second dip = darker blue

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Did We Skip Fall?

Formation in New Mexico on way to Weaving conference

The summer was a busy time with visits with grandchildren, a flight to Wis. for a HS class reunion and catching up with relatives, driving to a weaving conference in Colorado, and working at a pop corn/cotton candy stand at the county fair.

Relatives in southern Wisconsin
Relatives in Green Bay area
Along the way we (Bev, a weaving friend, and I) participated in a natural dyeing workshop in Las Vegas in May, a tri-loom workshop with our own Cedar City weaving group in July, and a felting program this past week in October.  In Sept. I was back in Las Vegas for a rep weave workshop with Joanne Tallarovic of Flagstaff, AZ.

The fall was warm with above normal temps, and Bob’s garden has done well with swiss chard, kohl rabi, onions, green beans, carrots, and finally tomatoes.  Then this week it abruptly came to an end with snow. Flurries in our backyard and 17 inches in the mountains east of here at Cedar Breaks National Monument.  So the mountains now have their white caps on, and the sheep are back at the University Farm two blocks down the street.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Weather in Early Spring is Crazy

After living in the desert climate of Las Vegas valley for the past 24 years my husband and I are rather amazed by the differences in the weather of Southern Utah at 5800 ft. in the spring time. One day we get 9 inches of wet snow and everything is a Currier and Ivies print. It’s really beautiful, but horrible to drive in. Twenty-four hours later the snow is almost all gone!

We wanted to plant a dogwood tree in our yard, but the lady at the local nursery explained that the tree gets too confused by the weather and doesn’t do well here. The weather warms ups, the tree buds out, and then it freezes and/or snows and kills the new growth. I finally understand. So instead we planted a dogwood bush, a variation which does much better but still has the white blossoms.  [This is our Juniper tree that has the bird feeders--the local McDonald's of the Thistle Seed.]

When we want a change of pace, or want to thaw out we drive down to St. George, 45 miles south and 2500 ft. lower to warmer temperatures, and visit Costco and Barnes and Noble. About 15 miles south of our house the altitude starts dropping and the snows start disappearing. It’s really quite amazing what a difference a few miles make.

A few weeks ago we had two birthdays in the family. Jordan , Dustin and Erin’s youngest daughter turned one, and Carlee, our youngest turned one year older.

Carlee and Tom celebrated with a weekend in San Diego minus children. Sleeping late and visiting the aircraft carrier, the USS Midway, headed the list of activities for the weekend. In the meantime Katie Jane had an “unbirthday” day at Winner School. Tom’s been enjoying the above average snow pack in the mountains for his Friday ski day. (Those four day work weeks for Utah state employees are something to be envied.) Jack at age 7 is pretty accomplished on skis too. Check out this video that Tom posted:

Jordan and invited guests had a special cup cake party with the birthday gal really getting into it with frosting everywhere. She’s taking her first steps so what she’s not getting into now, she soon will be. She’s a really cutie, but then I’m biased.

This past month Dustin with the help of Grandpa Bobbie, made Paige’s Park became a reality. Paige loves to play outside. Now if we can only teach her to leave the woodchip outside in the yard.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mile High Spring In Southern Utah

Bob and I had to make a second trip Thursday in the same week to Las Vegas, and we woke up ourselves before the alarm went off. (He never sleeps too well the night before a dissertation defense of one of his students.) It was good we woke up early, as the electricity was off and the wind was howling. Bob said there was snow on the ground, oh whoopee. The electricity was “clicking” on and off and the answering machine on the kitchen telephone was issuing instructions on how to set up. We might as well get up.

Spring at 5800 ft. is not a straight line, it is a series of dashed lines, and some are smudged. Snows in the morning, melts in the afternoon. Sun shines the next day, and then another storm blows in.

We drove to Vegas on Tuesday morning with two inches of snow on the ground, and saw two trucks in the ditch on the Interstate at our entry exit. We came home at 9:30 that night and the snow was all gone.

We left home Thursday morning with the electricity out. So there was no hot tea for the trip, and Bob had to manually open the garage door to get the car out. There wasn’t that much snow but there was a bit of ice under the ice when the rain turned to snow. Fifteen miles down I-15 we left snow behind as we lost altitude. Spring in southern Utah.

(The photo is our neighbor’s fence to the north, that Thursday morning.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trying to Revive a Local Fiber Guild

I have a licenses’ plate holder on my Honda CRV that says “I’d rather be Weaving”. That’s kind of an exaggeration for the Procrastination Queen, but it sounds better than “Slightly Warped”, which might be closer to the truth.

Just before the Christmas holidays we had a stretch of heavy rainy weather that produced flooding in the St. George area south of here. One day I rushed into Staples office supplies store and forgot to lock my car. Locking your car in Vegas is second nature, in Cedar City not so much, but old habits are not necessarily bad. Anyway, when I came out of the store I found a note on the driver’s seat from a new resident of Cedar City who was also a weaver and wanted to connect with me. How great was that! Can you imagine if I had locked my car door it would have been a lost opportunity to meet a fellow weaver? Who, incidentally, has turned out to be a very nice lady about my age from California who has been in Cedar for about a year. We’ve really hit it off and are “partners in crime”—not really, but we are working pretty closely on a project.

Both of us have come from active fiber guilds and miss the give and take with other fiber people. So we decided to try and find the weavers and spinners that we know must be here. Both of us were surprised to find that Iron County is sheep country. The University Farm is just “down the road a piece” from my home, and I go by their flock every time I go into Cedar City.

During the summer the sheep from the surrounding ranches spend the time ‘up on the mountain’ and the different flocks are herded or trucked up to the higher elevations east of the city. One Saturday afternoon on the way to church we were almost late because we had to wait for a flock of sheep to go down the same road ahead of us on their way to summer grazing. They were being herded by a young girl on an ATV and an Australian sheep dog, now that’s a little different than Vegas.

It's getting close to spring, even though it's suppose to snow tonight (!), and this ad appeared in the local paper today.

Then in late October Cedar City has a Heritage Festival when they bring the sheep down from the mountain. The Main Street is closed down and the sheep do down the center of town. The sheep end up in a stock yard west of town where some ‘winter grooming’ takes place. Nearby in an arena there are the typical festival attractions of food, demonstrations, and craft booths. All of this was totally new to us.

So, in the past month or so, my new weaving friend and I have been deciding what we should be trying to do. We decided to sign up for a meeting room at the public library to hold an organizational meeting. Then we found out that there had been a local guild some years ago in the area, but was now inactive. It had been made up of weavers from Cedar City, St. George and smaller surrounding areas. Another weaver, Ann Nelson, is a local librarian, and long time resident, her family long involved in raising sheep in Cedar City, was a member of the old guild. She gave us a list of members of that still lived in the area.

So we started with a mailing to about 25 households, and then we spent two days visiting businesses in Cedar City explaining out project and leaving small fliers. We even took out an ad in the student newspaper at the local college, Southern Utah University. I tried creating the ad, but finally asked my son, Dustin, to improve on what I had done. Dustin is a graphic artist, so maybe our college investment would start producing dividends. He was generous and said his payment would in the form of my babysitting for Paige and Jordan, a real hardship.

I think the ad turned out pretty nicely. I even printed some on a sheet and replaced a few of our small fliers with the new fliers.

So this week Thursday evening we’ll see if anyone else is interested in reviving a fiber arts group in this area. Regardless, my weaving buddy and I have decided to start a less formal weekly get together for fiber people at the local coffee house, The Grind, at 19 N. Main Street on Wednesday mornings from about 10:30 until lunch time. The guild in Las Vegas had such a group that met in the local yarn shop and we called it the “WOW Group” (the Weaving on Wednesday Group). But Cedar doesn’t have an independent yarn shop anymore, so The Grind will be the next best thing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Updating a Cutting Table

My daughter-in-law, Erin, gave me an interesting book for either my birthday or Mother’s Day while we were in the planning stages of the Cedar City house. The book was Creating Your Perfect Quilting Space, Sewing Room Makeovers for Any Space and Any Budget by Lois L. Hallock, Martingale & Company, Woodinville, WA 98072-8478, 2005. It really had some good ideas, and I actually read it completely. While the book was aimed at fitting a sewing room to the needs of its user, a lot of the principles of lighting, space utilization, shelving, etc. could be used in setting up other craft rooms.

I paid close attention to the sections on adequate lighting and electrical outlets. That input helped in making suggestions to the builder when it came to designing my craft room. I wished I’d followed through with more outlets in the rest of the house every time I vacuum.

In the craft room there are 6 cam lights in the ceiling, plus lights in the ceiling fan. I’ve added Ott lights for addition light in specialized areas, like the ironing area, by the sewing machines, and weaving loom. The basement tends to be darker, and as I get older I like lots of light to get rid of the shadows. The craft room outlets are set up on two separate circuits so there is less chance of blowing of a fuse while in the middle of a project.

One of the other sections of the book that caught my attention was the adjusting of tables, counters, ironing boards and sewing machines tables to the height of the user to prevent strain and backaches.

The sewing machine table could be modified by using an adjustable chair, which is what I did using an office chair on rollers. So not only does it go up and down to the correct height, but it will move around on the concrete floor in my craft room.

However my cutting table is a folding table like the ones that used to be used in cafeterias. I like it better than the newer plastic tables now sold at Costco. The plastic tables’ tops aren’t as stable for cutting fabric with a rotary cutter as the older plywood or fiberboard table tops. But my table was too low to use as a cutting table, and I wanted to be able to move the table around in the room. I’d read in Studio magazine by Interweave Press that several crafts people like things in their craft rooms to be on wheels so that they can be more easily shifted around. So I’d been slowly collecting plastic storage drawers sets on rollers to fit under my cutting table for more efficient storage using those coupons from Michael’s and Joanne’s. Now my goal was to come up with “something” that would raise the level of the cutting table and make it easily moveable at the same time.

I came up with the idea of stacking blocks of wood with rollers attached to the bottom of the stack. The top block would have a hole to fit the table leg in, but snug enough so it would stay on. The stack would be wide enough for the wheels to be screwed onto the bottom of the stack.

I got a drill press for last Christmas and finally got it set up in the new workroom in the basement. It worked really well for this project. I have to admit Bob helped drill the holes for the table legs, but I did the rest of the project. The idea worked and the cutting table is just about the perfect height. I was able to pick up a nice stool at Ross’s just in time for Christmas projects.

Here is how the craft room looks today, crowded, and messy, but working out pretty well.