Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Knitty 2009: Bitterroot & Pyroclastic - Ka Boom!

So, let’s continue on with are lil’ whirlwind, shall we? Ok! We shall! Because what would life be if we didn't have ups to go with our downs? Perhaps stable, secure...maybe in my next life.

In the new release of Knitty Winter 09, we are fortunate to have our yarn and fiber featured in 2 patterns – by 2 amazing designers, Rosemary Hill and Marlowe Crawford.

Dyeing, ok, I can do it – there are times, especially with natural dyes to create certain colors, or color combinations. And, then, there’s the physical aspect – which has taken a certain toll on my body over the past couple years. But designing, I have serious respect and a certain amount of awe around people like Marlowe and Romi who can take a material and transform it into a beautiful, inspiring, useful object that keep you warm.

From literally sitting beside Marlowe on the couch throughout this process, and from talking to Romi, there are so many stages of designing that might not be obvious at first glance. Sure, there’s the idea, I am very familiar with getting ideas – but bringing that idea to life is a whole other set of complicated commitments. There’s the idea, then starting to swatch, knitting, ripping, knitting, ripping, pencil, paper, erase, scratch, calculate, multiply, do it again, alter, shift, change, knit, test knit, name, re-name, photograph, choose photos, edit photos, typography, format document, get it out to the public, or in the case of Knitty, submit your pattern, and let the waiting game begin. The pattern is accepted, yea, hoots and hollers, sipping of champagne, then mum’s the word. While the worker bees over at Knitty are and have been doing much pretty the same thing to the patterns about to be released. And, this to our beloved knitter and spinners is FREE to you. This is truly a gift of talent, thought, and love.

Sometimes people ask me if I plan to design something – my goodness. At this moment, I could not be happier supporting people like Marlowe and Romi, those that have dedicated themselves to the process with materials. Their designs encourage me to use the best materials and to create interesting colorways that hopefully will inspire them to continue creating such beautiful pieces.

Bitterroot, by Rosemary Hill, is a shawl available in 2 sizes. I adore the pattern – how it builds upon itself – alike peacock feathers in a plume. Bitterroot features my favorite type of edging, deep V’s, exaggerated and dramatic lace. Romi spun our 50% camel / 50% silk in Glenda for this shawl.(all photos courtesy of Romi)

Pyroclastic, by Marlowe Crawford, feature the dynamic paring of form meeting function. This pair of socks which have a sweet, classic, cable design are coupled with the shaped arch. The shaped arch creates a biased fabric which keeps the sock snug even after wearing them multiple times. Furthermore, for my butterfly brain, fluttering here and there, is often times plagued with 2nd sock syndrome, the shaping through the arch, makes knitting the sock go by very fast. Marlowe used our Creating Superwash Merino yarn in Burnt Ember. These socks will be a gift for my Mom – another avid supporter of Marlowe and her designs.PyroclaticPyroclaticPyroclatic

Well, my newly cast-on Bitterroot is calling my name. Be back soon with photos!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In every stitch there is a thought. Donna.

As those of you close to me know, life around here has been pretty hectic the past few months. I think the insanity started with preparing to Sock Summit, which quickly rolled into SOAR, the fiber club gaining many more members, working with designers, and classes at AVFKW really taking off. We have been blessed with a growing business. That said, behind the scenes we have been going through something really sad.

I've kept quiet about it because I think that writing about it would it make it more real. And, as I write it does. Adrienne sister-in-law, Donna, was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer about a year and a half ago. Her cancer went into remission. At the beginning of October, Donna participated in a walk for breast cancer. She was having stomach pains so they went to the hospital. At that time, she learned that she had liver cancer. From what I've learned, I guess that it is somewhat common for breast cancer to develop into lung cancer or liver cancer. The doctor gave Donna the awful news that she had only a few months to live. Whats worse, is that Donna was responding poorly to her pain medication, so she went into intensive care, and was in so much pain that she was incoherent. This was all happening the week before SOAR. It was daunting to head into the middle of Oregon - now knowing what was going to happen to Donna. Upon arrival to Oregon, we received good news. That Donna had been moved from ICU to a regular hospital room. She was coherent and now we family could talk to her again. She then returned home.

As soon as I heard about Donna's illness, I proposed to Adrienne that we make her a shawl. We decided to team knit the Daybreak Shawl. Knitting this shawl for Donna seemed to give some direction to our anxiety, sadness, and worry transforming those emotions into something beautiful that could provide comfort and warmth. Donna loves sunflowers so we used golds, browns, and reds. Donna's DaybreakDonna's Daybreak

Earlier in the week, we learned that Donna had to go back to the hospital. After spending a few days undergoing blood work. We have just learned that Donna is not doing well. Her liver and her blood, if you are knitting this week, or spinning, if you could just dedicate a few stitches to Donna - a few thoughts her way, and to her family, I would really like that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Picking Up Where I Left Off: SOAR 2009

Silk reeling was my hands down favorite part of SOAR. It provided the much needed stretch in skills that I've been looking for in my spinning practice. Let's get down to business with some visuals.

The title of the class was Spinning Six Slick Silks with Michael Cook aka Wormspit.Learning how to reel silk.

The first yarn we made was created using the Laotian method of reeling. In this method, we take a few handfuls of cocoons and place them into a kettle of simmering water. In order to start reeling, we need to rough up the outside of the cocoon with a scrubby brush and grab the filaments coming off the cocoons. Learning how to reel silk.

In the above photo, if you look in the left hand corner you can see a copper pipe thingy - this is called a croissure. We wind the filaments through the croissure in order to start reeling. The croissure helps us keep the filaments organized and also allows to squeeze extra water out of the newly reeled thread. Just learning how to wind the filaments through the croisure was a test in itself. Learning how to reel silk. Learning how to reel silk.

During the Laotian method, the silk is pulled through the croissure and carefully laid in an organized pattern on a towel. Then, it is wound by hand onto a silk bobbin. The next 5 yarns we created, we used the Japanese method of reeling. This method, like every in craft in Japan, was much more detail oriented and precise. In this method, we used 18 cocoons instead of the large handful above. Also, we went from using 1 pot of boiling water to 3 pots of water, all running at different temps. As difficult as it was, it was fun to have challenge my level of ambidexterity. Often times, the right hand needed to be doing something very different than my left hand. From here on, the photos will refer to the Japanese form of reeling.

Once the filament has been wound through the croissure, the reeling can begin, we attach the end of the yarn to reeler and start to give it a go - being very careful, steady, and watchful that the filament does not break. If you have ever lost an end while spinning wool, imagine losing an end of this. Mind you th filament we are reeling is 100,000 yards per pound. To give you a point of reference, the finest yarn AVFKW carries (Wishing, 100% Alpaca) is 7000 yards per pound.Learning how to reel silk. Learning how to reel silk.

Even though the first reeling is complete, from here the silk must be re-reeled 3-4 times so that we can get as much water out of the silk as possible. If the silk is allowed to dry too fast, the filaments can become stuck together, this making it impossible to use the filament. Then, you get to cut your silk off the bobbin, and toss it in the shhhh...trash. Also, it is very important that you reel your silk in a criss cross reason for the same reason. DSC_0078.JPG

Once the silk has been re-reeled, I added twist to the filaments using my spinning wheel, thus, making them into yarn. The first yarn I made is called Tram which means that it is a low twist single, often times used for embroidery. Then, I made a 3/2, 10 twists per inch. 3 refers to the amount of filaments in the yarn, 2 refers to the ply. Each filament was made of 18 cocoons. The next group of yarns I made were a high twist (20 twist per ince) 2 ply and a high twist 3-ply. These are definitely the shiniest of the bunch - like little tiny, sparkling pearls. Finally, I made my thickest yarn, laughably about 9000 yards per pound - somewhat resembles AVFKW Shimmering Lace - 10/2 - so, 10 filaments, 18 cocoons each, 2-plied.

After adding twist, and marking each sample with contractor's ribbon, it was time to remove the waxy, stiff seracin from the yarn. My yarn felt more like flax than silk. DSC_0100.JPGDSC_0104.JPG

Ah! That's more like it, soft, shiny, silk.DSC_0113.JPG

I hope to demonstrate this process at the studio - but want to practice a bit first. It was an amazing albeit insanely detail orientated experience. Michael Cook was a fantastic teacher. I highly recommend taking a class from him if you have the opportunity - you will learn to understand silk in a whole new way.