Thursday, October 30, 2014

World Champions

Just saying!

Might just have to teach myself to knit argyle!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

EEEEEK at Steek (or my annual blog update for Cheryl)

(Please note that the new banner for Throwing Sticks is Cheryl Oberle's Celtic Roses pattern.  The pattern that I refer to below is from her 2014 Fall Knitaway, and it is the Celtic Roses Cowl pattern)

I have been knitting pretty seriously for about 10 years.  I have done some color work, but mostly alternating yarns to create stripes.  Long ago when I was an innocent and intrepid newbie I embarked on an intarsia carpet bag - it was featured in Interweave sometime in '03 or '04 (and if I was feeling charitable about intarsia I might have looked up the pattern).  Thankfully it was felted, otherwise I would have had a multi colored sieve.  That bag has long ago left this house, all that remains are small bobbins of Brown Sheep that remind me of my misplaced ambition.  So when mom and I decided to sign up for Cherly Oberle's Fall 2014 Knitaway and learned that we would be doing two color stranded work and steeking I was nervous.  Not to mention the fact that I was OBLIVIOUS as to what to steek meant.  I should have clued in when Cheryl mention in her Knitaway prep notes that we needed "practice" yarn to learn the techniques, because if we made mistakes with our good yarn, well there was no way to recover it...

Steek is Scottish or Middle English for "close" or "shut".  Here is my understanding; in knitting it allows us to knit across an opening, creating a "steek" or closed area, which has a twofold purpose.  The "steek" allows us to knit with two colors in the round, eliminating the need to purl back in two colors (smart, smart, smart says I),  the it makes it a very handy place to pick up stitches to knit borders, sleeves, necks, or any other appendage opening!  What you might not know about "steeks", you have to cut into your knitting.  You read that correctly, you CUT into your KNITTING.  Once you commit to "steeking" there is no turning back.

In the days leading up to the Fall Knitaway, mom and I dug in our vast stashes for practice yarn.  We found a treasure trove of nasty acrylic dating back to the days when most of your yarn came from the drug store (and in the case of the yarn I picked, I think it came from the plastic rope section of the hardware store!).  The project remained a mystery, it was billed as a cowl, and I think we all had our own ideas as to what "cowl" means.  I was excited about knitting in color, but worried as well, since my previous forays were limited and frustrating.  We arrived at the Knitaway eager to learn about the project and excited to meet up with two wonderful sisters that we met a year ago.  As we all settled in and chatted Cheryl explained the scope of the project and presented the pattern.  "Gulp", thought I, "I don't have enough fingers!"  As all of us met each other's gaze, I realized we were all thinking the same thing, "need an extra arm".  But I knew we were in excellent hands.  Cheryl accommodates all knitting styles, my mom and I knit English or "throw" our yarn, several of our compliment are the speediest Continental knitters I have ever seen, and one of our cohort knits in the most fascinating and complicated manner I have ever seen, and I feel like a rube for not paying more attention, I was still struggling with the lack of a extra fingers.

Mom and I relaxed into a combination of English and Continental, so one color is thrown, and the other color is picked up off the left hand in the Continental manner.  There is a good reason for remaining consistent with which hand holds which color as it does affect the front of the fabric - who knew!  I can't say I took to  two stranded knitting like a duck to water, but it made a lot of good sense to me.  I am not the most able Continental knitter, but once you learn the rhythm it becomes easier, and I know with practice I will get better.  The nice thing about knitting two color stranded in the round is you never ever have to purl back.  The scary thing about knitting two color stranded in the round is you have to create a "steek" and then CUT into your KNITTING.  In the first two days of the Knitaway we were all lulled into a false sense of calm, "yay" we all thought, "knitting with two colors is fun, its easy, the charts are great to follow"....  And if we were all worms this would be perfect, we could knit tubes for days!  But we have arms, we have a need for shaping in our clothing. Enter the dreaded "steek"...

Here you can see how being consistent with holding each color in a different hand, you create a consistent fabric on the reverse of the piece.

When you know you are creating a garment, and for this purpose we will use the example of the cowl, that has the need of an opening, but you want to knit it in the round so you can knit the entire garment, you must create a "steek", simply put extra stitches that you knit, creating extra fabric that you will then "capture" so you don't lose your live knitting.

Here you can see the "steek", we knit a border for 20 rows, then placed markers, cast on (in this case using the "e" loop method) an additional 5 stitches.  You then knit across them as you follow your color chart.  Simple...

Then you continue to knit your garment until you reach the length desired.  In the case of this cowl, you knit the pattern, when you finish that you place the live "steek" stitches on waste yarn, I suppose you could bind off if desired, remember the "steek" is going to be cut, it doesn't have to be finished off prettily at all.

So you have five extra stitches (or however many your pattern requires), you mark the center line of the "steek", illustrated here in gorgeous RED ACRYLIC.  You then stitch along either side of the center line twice, thus creating two sew lines on either side of the center line.  I backstitched on either end of all four seams.  Are you terrified yet?  Trust me I was, and I did this first on the plastic rope, I mean acrylic practice yarn.

 Sewing in the knitted fabric and the resulting seams, a bit hard to see I know.

  Then comes the thrilling part... you cut along the center line to create a flat piece of knitting.

You cut along the center line...

Do I hear gasps?

Trust me I gasped.

I was concerned that my sewing machine, not the fanciest, would chew up my knitting.  I was really please, I didn't even have to adjust the tension or the feeder feet.

Then you resume knitting as normal, picking up border stitches, picking up for a sleeve.  I realize that this all sounds rather cavalier, but what I am trying to impress is that "steeks" are not hard or intimidating, nor is two stranded knitting.  Where you need to take care in creating a "steek" is making sure that your seams are solid, if in doubt sew another seam.  Steeks to create a small ridge under your borders, and so are probably not for every project, but I am planning to knit a two stranded ski sweater, and I tell you being able to knit it all the way with small seam ridges in the armholes and the cowl neck are a very small price to pay.

Below is the cowl cut and stitched.

The cowl ready for a nice pin and some cold weather.  If any of you know where NorCal winters went, please be sure to send them back our way.

Lastly here is the practice cowl made out of rope, I mean acrylic.  If you can se in the two color ribbing in the second picture there is a subtle change in the dominant color, the white seems pinker - we shifted the left hand color from laying on the back of the knitting to laying on top of the red.  I know sounds like a lot of blah blah, but trust me it really does make a difference.  I did promise all my Knitaway cohort that I would make a hat out of the blasted Acryls, and that I would take a picture of me and mom planting bulbs later this winter, please note ladies the hat (headband in this case) is ready to go.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

More Noro!

Well my obsession with Noro yarns continues.  I just finished the Short Row Colorblock Top (Noro Magazine Spring?Summer 2013) - it is much more like a tunic than a top, as it comes down to mid thigh.  I knit it in a medium using the recommended yarns and colors Silk Garden Lite in 2087 and 2094, I went down a needle size (I'm loosey goosey knitter).  It is great with jeans and a funky belt!  Love  this knit.

I had two skeins of yarn left over - don't ask me how, but I did; so I am knitting the Semi Circle Shawl with my left overs.  This will go into the gift trunk!

In other news my mom and I are participating in Cheryl Oberly's Fall 2014 Knitaway.  We're meeting up with our friends we made last year (isn't it nice that Cheryl can teach you how to knit friends...  sorry couldn't resist).  This Fall she is teaching color work, given my new love of color, this promises to be a wonderful class.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas, and the woes of the whiny knitter

All the gifts are wrapped, the tree is decorated, the menu is planned…  All I have to do over the next week and a half is cook, bake and enjoy my friends and family.

This past weekend TJ and I were up in Napa at our favorite Inn, The Inn on First, with our favorite Innkeepers Jamie and Jim.  It was a bit of an extended birthday celebration for me, and a great pause before the Holiday frenzy.  We have a very set routine when we go up to wine country, we always start with pizza at Ca Momi, and a leisurely stroll around the fantastic Oxbow Public Market, where this year we did a little bit of Christmas shopping.  That first evening we had dinner at Bottega, where we have dined an embarrassingly many times - Chef Chiarello is often in the restaurant, and I grinned at him this time like a star struck fan (yep I am…).  The following day we took Atti on a long winding drive around the valley, which included driving up the Silverado Trail to Calistoga, a pleasant lunch and walk through St Helena, a stop at Dean an Delucca (whee!), a visit to an open house (beware the Notos will look at property anywhere!), and a stop off at a great little estate shop and art gallery where we met Tom Scheibal and saw his wonderful and luminous paintings.

When I first laid eyes on his work I thought it was encaustic, and I could not get over how smooth it was.  I should step back, I wouldn't have been as engaged if his work hadn't struck such a chord with me.  He is originally from the Pacific Northwest, his work is lyrical, dreamlike, quiet, and melancholy but not sad.  I was drawn to his work right away, I wanted to touch the surface of the canvases, I remember walking through the Oregon forests and feeling the same sense of serenity that I found in his paintings.  His work is not encaustic, it is a resin method that is his own, and it is truly lovely.  Please enjoy his work.  I don't want to copy it directly without his permission, but I encourage you to visit his blog.

In knitting notes, I am stalled, I can't find the Noro colorway for the sweater I had planned to knit over the winter, and now I can't even find the magazine in my pile of knitting patterns!   Oh the woe's of the whiny knitter!

Lastly I gave myself a wee little birthday gift…  Carla Sonheim's Year of the Fairy Tale class.  I am so excited!  Creativity for a whole year!  I have already dragged out my copies of The Brother's Grimm, Has Christen Andersen, Anne Sexton's Transformations, and Angela Carter's Burning Your Boats - ok so I am hoping that the topic of fairy tale has some wiggle room!

I wish all of you a very festive season, to those of my friends who celebrated the Festival of Lights earlier this year I wish you a very happy 2014!  To those who celebrate Christmas, have a safe and merry holiday.  I wish you all a wonderful season and lots of love.  See you in 2014!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Noro Love affair continues

I have finished the gorgeous Noro Jacket that I knit for my mom's birthday.  I think it is the most beautiful piece I have ever knit, and this is not a testament to my skill as a knitter, but the pattern and the  Noro color ways.  It was a compulsive knit, I kept finding myself knitting one more row just to see how the colors flowed.  And they did flow off the needles.  The short row shaping of the fronts and the sleeves is wonderfully clever and gives the jacket a great fit.  I love that the fronts are slightly longer than the back, from the back it looks like a nipped in Bolero, but there is great coverage in the front.  I cannot say enough about my first adventure with Noro yarns.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Fun with stamps!

I've been spending a lot of time in the Atelier making stamps.  I had this crazy idea that I could make "upcycled" tissue paper with my stamps, and then things started to spiral.  I've always been a little bit uncomfortable that my card designs are collages, and not totally my own work - my own collages, but...  Suddenly I looked at cases of pre-made greeting card blanks, and my hand cut stamps...

Here are some of the resulting photographs!  I'm really in love with the gingko stamp.  I call the other ones "pinwheels", the gold stamp looks a little bit like a sand dollar, the blue one is a bit like a Japanese woodcut of a chrysanthemum.

The opportunities are huge....

Monday, July 22, 2013

Atelier Noto

(Mom working on Cheryl Oberle's Arachne's Bower  in the cool evening on the 'patio' of the Atelier)

Since I converted my garden shed into a workshop I have been spending most of my time outside, playing with water colors, creating my own stamps, covered in a slight sheen of dust, paint, sweat and bug spray.  I could almost live in the "Atelier" as we are now calling my little creative space.  But I have to share it with the no-see-ums when the evening rolls in, and with our unpredictable summer fogs I sometimes wake up to 50 degree weather and if I haven't been careful, soggy artwork!

I have recently started carving my own stamps.  They resemble wood cuts, but the product I use to carve them is infinitely more forgiving than wood or vinyl.  I use Speedball Speedy Carve blocks, they come in a variety of great sizes, and I have found that the scraps from the larger shapes I cut make great small stamps.  I use the Speedball carving tools, which work well on harder blocks as well, but cut the Speedy Carve blocks like a hot knife in warm butter!  Here are some of my finished stamps:

When I first started stamping with them the 'stamp' was a bit floppy and so there were gaps in the prints.  I had a brain storm, "lets glue them to 2x4 blocks".  HA!  While in principal this works wonderfully, hand sawing bits of 2x4 is a real pain.  I know there is a solution out there, and I will find it.  Meanwhile I am stamping up a storm!

I have combined my stamping with Carla Sonheim's Water Color Transfer techniques to great effect.  Check out her classes, I plan to take all of them as time permits.  I am stamping them on used packing tissue, blank recycled card stock, and recycled brown bags to make wonderful "up cycled" wrapping paper sets.  And playing with yards of muslin to test out different fabric paints and inks with a thought to making tea towels, place mats and napkins.  It seems like the possibilities are endless.

I am having some knitting remorse.  I didn't finish the Noro cropped jacket for mom's birthday, but it will be finished when she returns in two weeks.  I did wrap the unfinished sweater - needles, pattern, yarn and all, knowing that as a knitter herself she would completely understand - she loved it, and we both got a huge chuckle out it all.  I haven't knit a stitch on my own Arachne's Bower because I have been so consumed with ink, paint, fabric and other distractions!  And then there is the real job which interferes with play time.  I'm so lucky that the real job is shooting weddings which is such a joy! Spoiled for choice might have to be my motto.