Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chances Are . . .

you could easily win one of the knitted wraps in the summer giveaway!

Enter by Sunday, September 4 for the drawing on Labor Day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

More Machine Knit Wraps

Machine knitting can be relaxing.

If you have ever tried to use one of these machines, and gave up in despair, you might laugh at this idea because in truth the learning curve is very steep and it can be very stressful.

Continuing experimentation on the machine last month, after creating the two wraps in the summer giveaway, led me next to another bias knit wrap, again out of rayon, but this time with a different stitch pattern. It was a fairly relaxing undertaking to knit on the bias in this second attempt.

I am on the hunt for some over-all stitch pattern to love in bias knitting other than the drop stitch. This black and taupe sample uses rows of yarn-overs. Yes, they look like they were done on a diagonal, but they were actually done in rows which only look diagonal because the knitting was done on the bias.

Don't you just love the drapiness of rayon? This particular yarn is a loose three-ply of mostly black, some taupe and a tiny bit of charcoal.

Next up, I challenged myself to considerably more hand manipulation while making the Fiesta Wrap:

This project called for high use of the garter bar. For those of you who have never used a knitting machine--it has a series of latch hooks, each of which holds one stitch. A carriage is passed over the latch hooks causing them to knit, creating a stockinette knit (or jersey) fabric facing away from the operator. Facing the operator is the reverse stockinette (purl) side of the fabric.

The garter bar is a tool that can be used to lift the fabric off the bed of needles, flip the fabric over, and rehang it on the needle bed so that the side of the fabric that was preciously facing away from the operator is reversed to face the operator.

It is called the garter bar because it is what you would use to create a garter stitch fabric. The removal, turning, and replacement of the fabric slows you down because it is all hand manipulation. There is nothing automatic about the process.

This piece required a lot of hand manipulation. It took 210 garter bar turns to create it. In addition, the use of two different fibers required the alternate feeding of the yarns through the carriage at the designed intervals.

The mimosa pink fiber is 90% cotton and 10% nylon. It is knit in a welted pattern with a series of knit rows followed by a series of purl rows. In the center of each welt is an insertion of seven strands of thread in magenta, turquoise and purple. Each end of the insertion row is bead knotted to create a little fringe at the side of the wrap.  All hand work. All slow going.

This project perhaps should not have been attempted as a calming one.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer Giveaway: Vegan Knitted Wraps

What do you say--better late than never? Finally, the summer giveaway is happening.

(The giveaway rules are at the end of the post. As usual, the more you help spread the word, the more entries you get in the drawing.)

This year the annual summer giveaway features the first two of a series of wraps I made last month with the assistance of a trusty knitting machine. The knitting machine can be meditative and stress reducing only after you spend countless stressful hours learning how to use it. Underscore the word countless! Thankfully I took those classes last winter. They really helped.

This first wrap is knit from a 100% acrylic bouclé thread. It was a straightforward project which only required hand manipulation in creating the long columns of dropped stitches.

Since each column of stitches is formed by a different latch hook, you can go across a row and release the stitches from your selected hooks and then tug on the fabric to drop the stitches in that column. You want to do this every 10-20 rows to make it easier to unravel the column.

This wrap is six feet long and 16 inches wide. It is light and breezy. Perfect for a late summer or early autumn evening.

The next wrap in the giveaway was my second project in the series. Having previously hand knit a fine silk bouclé Clapotis and having spent an ungodly number of hours at it, I was wondering if I could make a passably similar item on the machine in less time.

This is the result:

This is a bias-knit dropped stitch wrap created out of a loose 3-ply 100% rayon yarn. It has crêpe texture and beautiful drape. It is 70 inches long and 13 inches wide. It works well both as a wrap and as an oversized scarf.

This yummy wrap took more hand manipulation on the machine because it required you to not only drop stitches, but also to increase and/or decrease on each edge every other row. (EOR in machine knitting parlance.)

A difference between this item and a hand-knit Clapotis is that in the original design by Kate Gilbert, you twist the knit stitches on either side of the dropped stitch. This helps keep the stitches on either side of the drop column from migrating into the drop space. One would never ever twist all those stitches by hand on the machine because it would defeat the whole purpose of making it in this time-saving way.

I was able to make this in 7-8 hours--a 90% savings of invested time, so the heck with those twisted stitches. Oh, and I blocked it, which I might not have done with wool, but the rayon cried for it.

One of these vegan wraps could be yours if you:

  • Leave a comment below. Be sure to say which of the two items is your favorite in case your name is drawn first. If your name is drawn second, you might receive the other one.
  • Tell me in your comment that you are a blog follower for a second entry in the drawing.
  • Tweet about the giveaway, post about it on Facebook, or do a blog post about it and link back to this post and tell me in the comments for additional entries.
I'll draw the winning entries on Labor Day. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

You Say Target, I Say Missoni

What knitter who has ever glanced through a September fashion magazine hasn't fallen in love with Missoni? You have probably heard...they have created a line for Target.

You will have to work fast, though. The line comes to the stores September 13 and is only available until October 22 or until supplies last. See the full line lookbook at Fashionista.

Dream Garden

Those beautiful roses I received on Monday, and a lovely item I spied on Etsy, inspired this curation. Welcome to this imaginary place to go for meditation or prayer, dreaming and creativity, or peace and tranquility.

Click Here to Enter the Dream Garden

Come back tomorrow to read about and enter this year's giveaway!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Breathing, Sobbing, and Spinning

When stress gets the best of you, it's hard to call a friend. You are afraid to speak, and if you started, then the tears might follow. And who wants to burden a friend with all of the turmoil and fear going through your mind or with the sorrows of your heart?

On a trip home from the day job for a late lunch today, I found these on my doorstep along with a lovely card from a friend whom I have mean meaning to call:

At some point, perhaps a few weeks ago when hospice was started for my Dad, I stopped crying. It feels sometimes like I've also stopped breathing. Today, when I found these gorgeous cream-colored roses and read my friend's note, I sobbed a month's worth of emotion right out of my eye sockets. It was just what was needed, because I then took a great big breath and felt better.

I mentioned a few posts ago that there has been some spinning going on. Both kinds, really. Lots of great spinning at Saturday night's dance, and some yummy fiber spinning, too.

This is the "True Blood" Red roving from Blue Moon Fiber Arts--a first attempt at beaded thread plying:

And my favorite yarn to spin, two-ply color twist. First in heavy worsted weight, slightly thick and thin in exotic rooster colors:

And chunky weight in regal purples and greens:

I really outdid myself in achieving consistency on this last skein. Not so thick and thin on this one-- check out the close up:

Some cosy winter scarves and hats are the destiny for these yarns.

By the way, my dad has responded well to hospice care. Now that he has adequate pain management, he has actually starting joking and kidding with people again. I can't wait to go visit again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dancing Tonight! Light Fantastic!

2010 Dance Eclectic's Black & White Ball
My own clever, talented and sweet Mr. Cha Cha heads a dance organization that produces an annual outdoor Black & White Ball. For several years we have danced in a local park, but with the completion of Director's Park in downtown Portland, the event was moved there last year.

It's an eclectic event in which black and white tee's and chinos mix with finer ballroom apparel with ease. The dancers have varied social dance backgrounds and ability levels but all are friendly and non-judgmental. A grand time is had by all under the stars in a glorious outdoor setting near boutique hotels, the cinema, and shopping. Passers-by linger in the plaza to watch and often grab a bite to eat at the cafe on the plaza.

If you are in Portland, stop by tonight between 6:30 and 9:30. I'll be there tripping the light fantastic.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Making and De-stressing: Bead Knotting

When stress strikes with full force, like when I wait to get a telephone update about my dad from the hospital and I think he might die, it seems that there is nothing better to do than clean house. Mind you, housecleaning is my least favorite task, and I have far too many far better things to do.

So why, when life is terrible and scary, do I pick up a broom?

A dear friend answered, upon hearing this plaintive question, "Well, it's because when life is spinning out of control, cleaning is one way to symbolically bring order into it." She's so astute, my clever friend.

Of course! It is a mindless, productive thing to do.

So I asked myself, what else could I do since there is going to be more stress in my life? Instead of getting married to the broom? Couldn't I work on mindless artsy stuff? Heck, yes.

The projects that I have found most calming recently are bead knotting, spinning yarn, and to a lesser extent, making colorful wraps on my knitting machine. There will be more about the last two in upcoming posts. For now, here is some Fall jewelry I made for myself.

This long necklace is made of amber, clear, and irridescent crystal rondelles pearl-knotted with purple silk. The sweet magnetic clasp by Darice can be found at JoAnn's Superstores. It was a mindless way to spend a few hours.

Luscious greens and amber in a pearl-knotted bead necklace and a crocheted rope bangle.

In upcoming posts, you'll see some of the color-twist yarn just produced, and also there will be some discussion about whether using a knitting machine is something to do when you are stressed. And--finally there will be the summer giveaway next week!

De-stressing hasn't been all about making products. I've taken up Zumba dance-exercise classes and occasionally a little baking as well. Long soaks in the tub would help, but who has the time?

What do you do to de-stress? Put your tips in the comments.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DIY Beaded Purses

Did that last post get you excited about making a beaded purse of your own? If so, here are two sites you will want to explore:

for Patterns: Bead Lady Designs
for Kits: Purse Paradise

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fashion Tapas: Beaded Purses

Here are some of the purses that were on display at the Pittock Mansion. The exhibit was not set up for photography, so please pardon the poor quality of the photos. Still, you can glimpse enough detail to appreciate the incredible workmanship of these bags.

Steel beads embroidered on velvet drawstring bag.

Beaded knitting on a bag constructed of two circles with a wrist loop.

Embroidery and bead embroidery on a small frame bag.

Dense bead embroidery on a frame bag.

Crocheted beaded rings and bead fringed frame bag

Frame bag of beaded knitting with stranding and loops

Drawstring bag of beaded knitting with stranding between stitches

Bead knitting with beaded fringe
Some of Mrs. Pittock's personal collection. Tapestry bead knitting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pittock Mansion

I have lived in Oregon since Mt. St. Helens blew over thirty years ago, and yet until recently I had never gone to see the Pittock Mansion, a stunning landmark here in Portland. How does it happen that we miss such treasures right next door?

The Approach
The real motivation for the outing was an exhibit of some vintage beaded purses that was on display there at the time, but it was also an opportunity for some photography practice. To give credit where it's due, all of the photos in this post, except for the second one, were taken by Mr. Cha Cha, who is much better at architectural and scenic photography than I.

The Pittock Mansion was completed in 1914 for Henry and Georgiana Pittock on a hill high above Portland's skyline. Henry was an early pioneer and a self-made man who owned the Oregonian newspaper and had many other diverse business interests. Georgiana was of sturdy stock and equally as industrious as her husband. At the age of 9 she had crossed the plains from Iowa to Oregon with her parents.

These were the rooms that resonated most for me. The ones where I could imagine spending lots of days and nights.

The Music Room

I only want to show you a taste because I am hoping you might visit Portland and see this beautiful historic home for yourself.

The Sewing Room

With the fine tea set on display in the room, one can easily imagine the women of the family gathered here with their handwork. There is a treadle sewing machine off in one corner, but it is apparent that most work was done by hand in here.

The Sewing Room

There was a sensational library where the family actually spent most of their time together. I am more of a reclusive type who loves spending time alone and so could more imagine taking a book or a sketchbook up to this sleeping porch:

Sleeping Porch

A children's room was magical with its little bed, a puppet theater and its vintage toys.

The Children's Room

Ready to Perform

Leather Political Toys Kicking Around a Red, White & Blue Barrel

The 16,000 square foot home has a stunning interior that you only begin to see here. The home had a large number of amenities that were not common in the time when it was built. To learn more and to watch a little video tour, be sure to check out the website link above.

The true magic of the home, however, is its site. Located high in the hills overlooking Portland, it has an unparalleled panoramic view that includes five mountains on a clear day. Observe:

Portland Skyline  and Mt. Hood

In the next post, I'll show you some of the purses that were on exhibit.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Over-dye Project

Here's another lace sweater I found. It looks better on a person than it does on the dress form. It would be seriously improved by being over-dyed a dark blue, don't you think? If I use a dark navy dye, would it turn out a dark marine blue because the fiber is green? Any dyers out there have an answer?

The button needs to go, too.

Back detail--sweet.