Sunday, April 23, 2017

A visit to the Met

We visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art last week. The main purpose of the visit was to see the terra cotta warrior statues from China. That was a fabulous exhibit, but I was surprised to see many things in the exhibit besides the famous warriors, such as little statues of dancers:

 (206 BC - 9 AD)

and silk embroidered textiles: 
(2nd c. BC)
these were very difficult to photograph due to the lighting conditions

One of my favorite things was this pair of 2nd century BC silk mittens: 

And then there was this cosmetics pouch from Niya, an ancient oasis town along the Silk Road:

 (25-220 AD)
They found a bronze mirror inside it.

Keeping with the Chinese theme, we also visited an exhibit of Chinese story scrolls. This one was painted in the 13th century:

 The poem that accompanies this picture says:
In the eigth month they twist the thread,
the black thread and yellow.
"With my red dye so bright
I make a robe for my lord."

And finally, we visited an exhibit of 19th century embroidered Chinese theatre robes. Here is a detail of one of my favorites:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Herringbone Cowl

Ta da:

I finished the cowl, and there is even still cold weather so I can wear it. 

My skill improved as I continued, but I still made mistakes. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • it is easier to work mindfully than to fix mistakes
  • be gentle with tension
  • be careful not to split the yarn
  • work slowly; dropped stitches are hard to pick up correctly
  • if you accidentally drop both loops, put the lower one back on the needle
  • if you want to go back to fix a mistake, tink, don't frog
As I was knitting the cowl, I was still thinking about the red socks. I decided to test out making a clock on a modern pair of socks, so I will have an idea of what to do when I reach that point on the reproduction socks. This is a close approximation of the historic design, just a little smaller, since the stitches are so much bigger:

I'm halfway done with sock two, and then I'll go back to the red socks.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I don't usually find myself wanting to recommend a fiction book to people. These days I read much more history and archaeology. But I have just finished reading a book that I want to recommend to every spinner. The book is "Spindle," by E. K. Johnston. As you may guess, it is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale, from the viewpoint of the spinners. I have looked at E. K. Johnston's webpage, and it says nothing about it one way or the other, but I find it hard to believe that she is not a spinner herself. Her descriptions of the act, the feeling, the emotion of spinning is so true to what I feel, if she is not a spinner, she must know one. With every page I read I could feel the pull of my own spindle. Even if you are not a spinner, it's a really good story. If you are one, you'll love it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

herringbone cowl

Herringbone stitch is really interesting. It doesn't even look like knitting. A friend said she thought it reminded her of nalbinding. maybe that's why I like it. It's an easy stitch to do,  but it is also easy to make mistakes.I'm glad I chose to make a cowl, because really, the mistakes won't matter much in the end. Here is the project so far:

One of the tips I learned from the YouTube video is that you want to use larger needles than ordinarily called for by the size of the yarn. I am knitting with a fingering weight yarn. What I found when making my gauge swatch is that the first row is very tight to knit, even if you cast on loosely. For the cowl I cast on 224 stitches using size 7 needles, then transfered them to size 5 needles. That worked perfectly. If I were making socks with this yarn I would be using size 2 needles (or maybe even size 1 for dense socks), so you can see that I went up in size quite a bit. The video also implied that it is easier using metal needles, but I don't have any.

To knit this stitch flat, the video says for the first row, knit 2 together (k2 tog), but only drop one loop off the left needle. For the second row, purl 2 together through the back loop (p2 tog tbl), but only drop one loop off the left needle. I found this difficult to do. What worked for me was k2 tog tbl (etc.) for the first row and p2 tog (etc.) for the second row. The end result looks the same.

The cowl, however, is knit in the round. The first row is k2 tog (etc.), and the second row is k2 tog tbl (etc.). The trick comes when you reach the end of the row and switch directions. You have to keep moving the marker, or the starting place will migrate. You also need to remember which row you are on.

In this picture you can see some of my mistakes. Almost all are related to forgetting where I was. At the right edge of the photo you can see the start of rows. It looks sloppy, but that's just what happens. At the lower center you can see where I accidently dropped some stitches off the needle and they got mixed up when I put them back on. Higher up and to the left is a spot where I forgot which row I was on and switched back and forth. Finally, you can see a row in about the center of the photo where I forgot to switch all together, and knit two rows the same - both rows point this way: ///// The silly part was, it took me to row 15 to realize I can easily tell which row I am on.


knit 2 together                                                           knit 2 together through the back loop

Hopefully by pointing out my mistakes you can avoid them if you try a project using this stitch.

After I finish the cowl, I am considering trying to design a pair of socks with herringbone cuffs. The trick will be to decrease quickly when I change to plain knitting for the foot - reducing both the number of stitches and the needle size. The cowl has 11 stitches/inch on size 5 needles, so you can get a sense of how dense it is.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Knitting Projects

I'm continuing to make slow progress with my reproduction Swedish socks. I am decreasing now. At first I thought decreasing each time I came to the outer point of the decorative triangles would be enough, but it wasn't decreasing fast enough. I decided to also decrease when I reached the base of the triangles, but decreasing at that purl point was confusing me. I decided to decrease within the knit stitches.
Now my problem is actually remembering to decrease!

I have two other knitting projects underway. The first is a sock pattern from the book "New Directions in Sock Knitting." I bought the book because I am a builder at heart. I love exploring different ways to put things together. I chose this particular pattern because it looked like one of the easier ones in the book, meaning the sock construction, not the cables.

I completed the leg section without too many mistakes in the cable pattern. Rather than knitting the heel and then picking up stitches for the gusset, this pattern adds purl stitches every other row between the cables. This creates the gusset without having to pick up stitches later. I like the look of the sock, but I am not having fun knitting it. And isn't that the point? I'm considering ripping it out to the base of the leg and justcontinuing as an ordinary sock. In the meantime, I've stopped knitting. I know in my heart that I am unlikely to ever finish the second sock if I continue this way. Is it really worth it to keep pushing through? Maybe I should frog the whole thing and choose a different pattern?

My third project came about while I was researching for a nalbinding class I am teaching this spring. I came across a video for herringbone stitch. I love the look of it and decided to give it a try. I'll tell you the details in my next post.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My Swedish socks

I continue to work on my Medieval style knitting project. This first sock will clearly document my trials and errors, because I just can't pull them out. The stitches are too small - I would lose my mind. In fact, as I was knitting over the Christmas holidays, I was pleased because I had reached the 5 inch point - I was ready to start decreasing the back of the leg. Then I noticed I had dropped a stitch, within the triangle pattern. It was several rows back. I tried to pick it up, but it just got worse, so I unraveled several rows and put the knitting back on the needles.

It was a worse mess than before - I had missed several stitches, and kept splitting the yarn. It took me about an hour to get everything back on the needles correctly. That row looks awful. Sigh. But I am on my way again - almost back to the 5 inch point.

(The color is all wrong in this photo, as you will see, the yarn is red.)

Here you can see some of the choices I've made as the project progresses:


This is the center front of the sock. I added a little triangle, for just a bit of interest. When I started the sock, I only had 4 needles, and I had a very hard time with the tension, particularly going from needle to needle. You can clearly see where I stopped knitting until I was able to borrow a needle from a friend. The tension issue has gotten better, but it has not gone away. I'm not sure what else to do. Perhaps it is because of the small size of the stitches; perhaps it is because the silk/wool blend is not as forgiving as a plain wool yarn. I don't usually have this problem.

Here you can see the back of the sock. I began by purling the first and last stitch of each row, but after completing 2 triangles, I decided it didn't look right. Looking closely again at the photo of the artifact, I decided to purl just the first stitch of every other row. It seems more correct, but I didn't like how that looked, either. After one triangle, I switched again.

Now I am purling the first stitch, except at the beginning and end of each triangle. That stitch I am knitting so that I don't have 3 purl stitches in a row. It does not exactly match the artifact, but I like how it looks. One more triange and I should be ready to start decreasing!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 in Review

Happy New Year! It went by so fast. Luckily I kept my goals simple in 2016. I had 3 goals - to teach, to spin, and to always be working on a project. I did teach, both at events and one to one. I didn't do much spinning, though. Work had me on the road often, which doesn't leave much time for spinning. Still, I enjoyed it whenever I could put a spindle in my hand. Unfortunately, I didn't even manage to try spinning with any new fibers. Maybe next year.

As for projects, I had several. I continue to play with lacis. I did quite a bit of knitting for Christmas gifts - mostly socks, and a pair of warm mittens for my sister who has moved to Wisconsin. Silly me, I didn't take any pictures. I've continued working on the Swedish sock pattern. More on that in my next post. And, I had a special knitting project in 2016 - I knit the sky. Here it is:

The idea was to look at the sky each day and knit a stripe using the colors you observe. I knit the colors I saw as I walked to work each morning, or when I first looked outside if I was not working. Most of the days are the Albany sky, but if I was somewhere else, that's what I knit. I expected to have beautiful blue stripes for the days when we went to LA, but it rained and was cloudy. One garter stitch rib didn't seem like enough back when I was starting, so I did 2 (4 rows of knitting each day). In this photo the end of the year is sitting on top of the beginning of the year. Any day that was clear or cloudy was knit in garter stitch. If it was raining, I knit a simple lace pattern; if it snowed, I knit "snowballs." The pink and peach colors are days when I saw a beautiful sunrise. That only occured at the beginning and end of the year. And a bit in October, before the time changed.

Here is what I learned from this project:

  • two rows per day would have been plenty - the scarf is over 14 feet long! (If you can see the pink stitch marker, that marks the start of December.)
  • I knit with 2 strands of yarn at a time, but there are many more than 2 colors in the sky at any time - sometimes I counted as many as 6. It was often difficult to choose which colors to use. I should have had at least 2 more colors - a very pale blue, and a lighter grey. The winter sky tends to be pale.
  • There was not much snow in 2016. Even though I knit snowballs, none of the times it snowed was more than a dusting, except one storm in April that was about 4 inches.
  • There was also not much rain. There are many long stretches with no rain at all.
  • The sky is an amazing thing, once you stop to really look at it. While my project is done, I still find myself looking up.