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i think i just blew my own mind

Before knitting, I was a crocheter.  Ok, that’s kinda untrue…I DID learn to knit as a kid, but stopped probably as suddenly as I started.  I’ve always been crafty, though, and can draw, paint, etch, sculpt, sew(-ish),etc…  When I was in high school I used to charge $5 to redraw a photograph onto 9×11 paper, in pencil.  Call me Kinkos.  I only took up the needles again once Yannick and I started dating.

Well the sweater I tried knitting for Yannick for our first dating anniversary didn’t get past 4″, probably because I’d found old needles at home, random acrylic from Wal-Mart, and a pattern from a book at the library, and none of the 3 had anything even remotely to do with each other.  I instead taught myself to crochet, and his gift sweater led to toys, shawls, home accessories and more.  I found my way back to knitting thanks to the fun fur trend of 2004, when I made a hostess gift for a friend and had to knit it because trying to crochet in fluffy black boa (feather) yarn was rediculous when you couldn’t see a single stitch.

But before getting my heart spiked on a knitting needle and fueling the last 8 years of my life, and after the months-long crochet obsession ending in 2 giant sampler blankets, there was cross stitch.  I won’t get into my eBay spending, my binders of print-outs, or the time I filled the cash register tape at 120 items and had to start a new transaction when buying one of every color of Anchor floss.  Here are some of my proudest xstitch items:

This was an ornament I made for an ornament exchange.  The original pattern had an American flag inside, but my swap partner lived in Australia so I charted my own flag for her.

This is a little (4″ square) pillow I made of our cat Sam, using X-Stitch photo software to convert the pic to a pattern.  The back was just lined with a piece of flannel cut off an old shirt.

This is a little piece I made for Robyn when she moved into her first place.  (Not my design, it was from a cross stitch magazine I used to subscribe to).

My mom’s name is Betti, and everyone always buys her Betty Boop stuff.  This is a vest I’d made her back when she was still teaching.  There’s a product called “waste canvas” that is disolvable in water, so you baste it onto your fabric/shirt/etc, do your cross stitch, then wet it and remove the strands of waste canvas, and your cross stitch remains on the fabric below.  Here I’d bought the zippered vest and used the photo software to convert a picture I’d found online.

I used a fun, football-jersey-style font to create the “letterman’s jacket” writing on the back, with more waste canvas.

That same year we were getting together with Yannick’s family for Easter, and I made the hourglass picture for his grandmother as a “thank-you” for hosting all of us.  The original pattern (from the same cross stitch magazine I’d subscribed to) said something in English, like “time with the family is time that counts”, so I translated it to French since Yannick’s family is French-Canadian.  I really enjoyed doing the beading in this piece.

Finally, my most “epic” cross stitch HAS to be this one.  My dad isn’t sentimental, but he loves his family, and I always liked this pic of him, my sister and me.  (My mom and two brothers were in another photo).  I used the photo software to create a pattern using only black, white and shades of gray, and enlarged it to 9×11.  I stitched it on black Aida and framed it with a plaque reading “Daddy’s Girls” and a copy of the original photo on the back.  I love that from far away it looks like a real photograph and you can’t even tell it’s stitched, but I don’t see myself recreating a project like this any time soon, ‘cus it took 192 hours of stitching!  (Luckily I was home on sick-leave at the time, but still…)

Why am I bringing this up now?  Well a few days ago I was watching weaving videos on YouTube and saving them in a playlist (yes, I AM that kind of nerd), and a lightbulb struck when I saw a woman making floats for decorative Christmas trees, and checking her “pattern” she’d drawn with Xs on graph paper.

That was when I realized that weaving, unlike most knitting, is square.  (Assuming you’re using the same weight yarn in warp and weft, and your tension is even).  Maybe I should rephrase to say “plain weave” is pretty darn square.  And I suddenly realized that all those cross stitch patterns snoring away in my office could be put to use if I wanted to practice using a pickup stick and weave with floats on top to “draw” designs.

But today it wasn’t a lightbulb that went off, it was a whole fireworks display.

I don’t need to weave the pictures- I can weave my fabric, a scarf, a shawl, placemats, etc…and then CROSS STITCH on it!  Using my patterns and my floss stash…after all Aida and linen that you buy for cross stitching is nothing more than woven fabric at a certain number of threads to the inch.

Whoa.  Mind-numbing expansion of cross-crafting possibilities here.


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the second holds a wash

Ok I’ll be honest, I have no idea what that title is supposed to mean, but I’m trying to do a post a day for this new year.

Yannick and I came up north to study and a photo of us poring over our books and notes really wouldn’t be very entertaining, so I’ll instead give you a photo that proves I finished my mom’s scarf.

20120103-225640.jpg

Ok, true, that pic only shows something being hand washed in Eucalan, but trust me, it’s my mom’s scarf. My very first hand weave. You just can’t see it until she does.


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maaike would be so proud

Yesterday was a good day (except for the fact that my kids and hubby are all sick, and my strep throat, which should be gone ‘cus I’m on my last day of meds, started hurting again).

First I took the boys for haircuts- no pic ‘cus I forgot.

Then I got a hair cut:

You like?

Then, in the evening, in a shock to even me, I finished my mom’s scarf!  I still need to twist the fringe and wash it, but SERIOUSLY?  After only about 6 hours, the scarf is off the loom!

I still can’t show it to you though, but pics will come once I give it to her.

My aunt was in town yesterday and was admiring one of the yarns I had out, and mentioned that she likes those twisted cowl scarves that you can loop around your neck a few times.  She also mentioned that her coats are black and brown, and that people are always telling her to add color.  So I decided I’m going to make her a woven cowl scarf.  I’m not quite sure yet how I’ll join the two ends later, but I’ll figure it out at the end.  (I hope, heh).

I chose the hank of Sweet Surrender Spark Sock Yarn from my stash.  I think I’d got it during one of the Robyn’s Nest sock  clubs.  The colorway is “Flower Power”, which is a variegated yarn, with repeating 6-7″ lengths of orange, blue, green, yellow and magenta.

Kinda like this.  They don’t repeat around, but they repeat in the way the skein was dyed.  So I decided to try and keep this pattern in both the warp and the weave.  I tried to make the warp around about 70″ long which went right from the middle of the blue, down 2 repeats or so, and ended at the middle of the pink.  So the blue and pink would overlay in the same spots, but the orange, yellow and green would make solid areas.

Kinda like this.

It was awkward to find a place to warp, because the boys were downstairs so I was trying to do it upstairs where they wouldn’t get all tangled up in it, and I forgot to anchor the loom with a book or something heavy so it kept inching backwards.  Most of it is properly wound, but occasionally I hit a tighter or looser strand where my colors wouldn’t line up.  The tension evened out when I wound it, but my color blocking isn’t as perfect as I’d like.  Oh well.

The yarn surprised me by being divided into 2 hanks.  I wound them each into their individual cakes, and used about 6/8ths of one half for the warping.  The amount of yarn left over feels like at least enough to knit a short row heel or toe, so the leftovers will probably wind up as socks for me.

Once enough warp threads had been placed with 2 threads in every slot I wound it up and sat down to place all the hole strands.  Here it is, ready for weaving (after I throw a bit of waste yarn in there to even out the spacing).

And finally, this shows how I plan to weave it.  I picked the width of the scarf hoping to match up the length of each color, and my goal is to get each row to be its own color, by starting at the proper spot and making sure to keep it going every time finish a shuttle.

Unfortunately that’s all the crafting, weaving or otherwise, I can get done for now.  On New Year’s Day Yannick and I will be swapping houses with my inlaws as per the usual ‘weekend-before-exam” custom, and I need to get 36 Word pages of questions and answers from our school stuff organized and arranged into manageable bits to print out and tape onto index cards so we have flash cards to run through together.  The previous 2 years’ exams were easier, in a sense, because they were mostly math-based.  So while it was frustrating to learn all the formulas, once you knew how they worked, the exam was only as hard as the time spent working them out.  This year we’re learning all the biology and anatomy and physiology of the eye, and our exam will test us on the muscles, nerves, bones, parts of the eye, which nerve brings blood to which muscles, which muscles control which movements, which diseases cause which ocular symptoms…blargh.


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all’s well that ends loom

Yesterday Maaike picked me up and we drove down to meet Yannick at Colette’s studio.  I was giddy and excited and Maaike poked me in the arm and said “You feel like someone who’s getting a loom today!”

But then there was a bit of a mixup with schedules and for a short period of time it looked like I might not be getting a loom.

(This is the face of someone who doesn’t think she’s getting a loom)

Luckily things worked out, and after a quick lunch at apparently the ONLY restaurant/cafe/place that sells food you can eat in the entire area, we met back up at Colette’s and…

…well…

…what does this face tell you?

This is half of the face of someone who got a loom!
(The other half looked like it didn’t even belong to me, was blurry, and I think there was a crazy eye).

Yay!

I got an Ashford Knitter’s Loom and it’s awesome!  Set-up was non-existent, it was 99% ready right out of the box.  I asked Yannick to help me set it up since it was a gift from him (the accessories were a gift from me) and I wanted to remember that he had set it up for me.  Well “set-up” meant putting the 3 plastic ties through each of the 2 flat boards for either side, and then attaching them to the loom.  About 45 seconds, and done!

I then went to Maaike’s house so she could show me how to warp it.  I’d taken an “Intro to Weaving” class with Maaike and Deb at Colette’s last winter (by the way, when did seasons no longer require capitals?) and so I remembered how to do the basic plain weave, move the heddle, knew a bit of terms like “shed” and “shuttle”, “warp” and “weft”.  But the looms that we’d used were already warped when we got there.

Oh- and those looms were Crickets.  And I was so, so tempted to get a Cricket.  They’re tiny and cute and a bit cheaper and while you can’t upgrade to a double heddle later, you can still do umpteen types of weaves with it.  Yes, I said umpteen.  The only thing, literally the ONLY thing that ruled out the Cricket for me was the width.  You can’t weave wider than 10″ on it, and while I expect to seam larger projects like blankets, I wanted to at least be able to make placemats or kitchen towels without having to seam.  I don’t need 8 million scarves.

Once the Cricket was out, and I knew I wanted a smaller, more portable loom that I could use sitting on the couch, that left me looking at the AKL and the Glimakra Emilia.  I was really taken by the ratcheting system of the Emilia, as well as the extra width (13″ vs 12″ of the AKL).  But in the end the AKL itself, and its accessories were more affordable, it had better finishing (the Emilia isn’t varnished or even fully sanded), and Yannick can always change the plastic ratcheting system of the AKL to metal one day, if I really want it.

So Maaike taught me how to warp, and it was much faster, easier, and more zen-like than I’d expected.  It really wasn’t bad at all, and before long (maybe 1 hour, with chatting, to warp for an 8″ wide, 5.5′ long scarf plus 5″ fringe per end) I was weaving!

I’ve got the scarf-in-progress hidden in these pics ‘cus I told my mom my first project would be for her as she babysits so very often so I can attend guild, workshops, and this particular loom-purchasing trip, and while she knows she’s getting the scarf, I want the finished project to be somewhat of a surprise.

I’m using the size 12 heddle (12 dent?  12 DPI?  Still learning the lingo) which means there are 12 strands to the inch, and it is warped (the strands that run the length of the scarf) with 100% wool, black fingering weight that I bought on a cone (along with another one in white) from Colette.  I figure I have tons of fingering sock yarn in assorted colors, but while I have some black that is marked for projects, I don’t have white and these 1 lb cones will last a long time.

This pic is from overhead and shows the loom on my couch with a white sheet of paper covering the scarf, and a tissue box resting in front of the heddle for scale.  This loom is small!  Maybe 14-16″ wide total, and about 2′ long or so.  Plus it folds even with the weaving project on it, and fits easily into one of my tote bags.  It’s awesome!

Side view.  (The loom is in weaving position, and lies completely flat for warping).

Back view.

Front view.

And this is my mom’s jacket, that I’m making the scarf to match.  (The green one on the right).

In about 2 hours at Maaike’s last night I managed to warp the loom and weave 5″ before coming home.  This morning I sat on the couch while the boys played and in about an hour got up to 20″ out of the total 66″.  I’d have more to show tonight but I need to get some work done for my actual day job that has a deadline so I can’t put it off.  That said, I plan on weaving more tomorrow…