Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bigglety Bouclé Beanie

I'm back from Eastern Oregon and have wonderful photos to share with you, but I'm off to my day job this morning and can only put up a quick post. Two and a half scarves got knit on the trip and lots of fabulous scenery was seen.

The two finished scarves are blocked and drying. Meanwhile, here's the finished bigglety bouclé beanie modeled by my lovely assistant, Valerie.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Northwest Houseboats

I'm off today for an exciting trip to Eastern Oregon to the Willowa Mountains this weekend. Mr. ChaCha & I will be staying for three glorious days in a lodge with no cell phone service, no Internet service, and no television in the rooms. There may be some hiking and there will definitely be knitting going on.

I'll leave you with a few more photos of Northwest Houseboats. The first photo is a moorage on the Columbia River:

The next photo is on Lake Union in Seattle:

See you next week!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Little More WIP

Yesterday's post had some projects in progress from my studio. Okay, yes, there's more.

I'll show you a little more, but not too much. Otherwise you'll be assured that what I call a "little ADD problem" is perhaps something more akin to having a "little insanity problem".

This blocked, currently drying, and almost finished object is either a narrow wrap or a wide scarf that will get some fringe added as a final step. It was made on a mid-gauge knitting machine of which I am not a master. I have been teaching myself about hand manipulating stitches on the machine.

The little horizontal strips of faggot lace were painstakingly made by use of a multi-pronged transfer tool which lifts the stitches off of a group of hooks (needles) so that they can be transferred to adjacent hooks (needles).

You might think by looking at the finished product that this was an easy task. I know many people think that using a machine to knit is somehow cheating because it is so "easy" and fast. Lordy, if they only knew that hand knitting is so much easier!

Here's what I learned while making this project:

1. Choosing to make an item this large as a learning project was just plain dumb. Most of the time I was thinking that this scarf/wrap should just be called by the combination word scrap. There were times when I was dropping stitches like mad and swearing and thinking that even the letter "S" should go away because surely all I was going to get was crap.

2. For some types of machine knitting projects you need to have plenty of weights hanging on the finished part of the fabric. This weight holds the fabric down so that the loops of knitting will not jump off the machine's needles (a row of evil hook-ended things). Well, when knitting lace on the machine, too much weight causes you to drop stitches when transferring them.

Sometimes I didn't know that there were dropped stitches until I had merrily knit 20-30 rows past the point of dropping. I would cheerfully move the weights up the fabric closer to my live stitches and presto-expresso there would be a huge F*ing hole in the middle of the lace! I ripped out and re-knit as many stitches in this project as there are in the finished item.

3. When you are cursing and swearing at a project like that no one will approach the studio to see how things are going. Especially the cat.


For a change of color palette and a change from screaming at the knitting machine, I also was working with this box of goodies last weekend:

The four balls of yarn on the left were handspun by me. The two top ones are multicolored singles and the two lower ones are somewhat more monochrome 2-ply yarns. The two yarns on the left are commercial yarns. The top green one is some mystery yarn and the purple is Lamb's Pride worsted by Brown Sheep in the color, "Wild Violet".

This yarn is destined for a series of purses. Here's the first one started:

I love how the multi-colored single yarn worked up in the Victorian point neige stitch in the top band. This purse may end up with a large silk-ribbon bow and a hand-fashioned cord strap. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Little WIP

You know I'm always flitting among a whole variety of projects just like a drunk honey bee on a pollen rampage. Here are some works in process:

These little flower components are out of some of my handspun yarn. They will be attached to scarves.

My homespun yarn, Path of Roses, is from cushy and soft wool fiber from Corriedale sheep.

These are some flower components from the Path of Roses yarn. They were spun out of primarily pink sections of roving. The more solid green was spun for the scarf fringe.

The flowers and fringe will be going on a scarf in a drop-stitch lattice pattern seen here on the needles:

The turquoises and the greens in this next yarn, Inca Treasure, were spun from some Targhee fiber which is soft and spongy. It is coil plied with a gold single from Jacob sheep. The Jacob fiber is not so soft. I haven't decided what to do with this yarn yet. It will either become a purse or the trim for a hat.

The Bigglety Bouclé Beanie is coming along:

So many projects. So little time!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stalking Heads

What can I say? I had a headache when I made this yesterday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Getting Down to the River

Floating homes are usually attached with thick chains or cables to a floating boardwalk, a concrete walkway, or a pier. Most floating home communities in Portland have homes attached to a walkway which has large fittings or cutouts that go around pilings driven deeply into the river bed.

When the river rises during rainy season, the walkway floats ever upward while staying attached around the pilings. The houses and boats moored to the walkway float up as well. The entire lot of homes, walkways, pilings, docks, etc. is referred to as a moorage.

You get down to the river by walking down a ramp that is steeply inclined when the water level is low and that is not so steep during the rainy season.

This photo was taken recently. Since we are near the end of summer the river is low. Notice how steep the ramp is. Also, check out the base of the brick red steel pilings. Notice the difference in coloration at the base. This shows you how high the river gets during the rainy season.

Cars of course always remain on shore. Some moorages have garages and some have funky gravel parking lots. There will be mail boxes on land as well. And a dumpster for garbage.

As a houseboat owner, you'll want a good wheelbarrow or cart to port your groceries down to your house. Oh--and a good rain coat and rain hat for the winter became you cannot manage an umbrella and a wheelbarrow at the same time.

All groceries and purchases (including that 3-piece leather sectional you had to buy) get carried down and garbage gets carried up.

It take a hearty sort of person to live the lifestyle of the river, but what a glorious life it is!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Happiness from Happiknits

Look what arrived in the mail over the weekend:

I won this lovely cowl in a giveaway held by Happiknits. It arrived in the most splendid packaging. Such wonderful thought and attention to detail are evident in both the packaging and the product.

The cowl has trim knit out of a lovely handspun art yarn. There are so many great colors and textures here. It is glorious! Take a look at this close-up:

The office at my day job is FREEZING cold with gusty air-conditioning so I will be wearing it in the office for sure.

I made the mistake of leaving my new treasure lying on the worktable in the studio. In my absence, my model and chief confidant developed ideas of her own:

That Valerie is such a goof! (She is not getting this cowl!)

Friday, September 11, 2009

House Afloat

When your home floats on water, it has to be tethered to something so that it doesn't just drift away. It has to be floating far enough off shore so that the underpinnings don't snag up on the river or lake bottom.

Most floating homes are in communities of like-minded water enthusiasts who often refer to themselves as river rats. I know this because I once was one.

In the Pacific Northwest, a floating home is often colloquially called a houseboat, and its tenants, houseboaters. Although some purists would call the type of homes above floating homes and would reserve the term houseboat for a motorized pontoon boat similar to this:

How are the houses in the first photo kept from drifting downriver? What are they attached to? How do you get down to the river? Where do you park your car? These are some questions that will be answered in the next installment of this "Floating Home Friday" series.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beginning the Bouclé Beanie

In the last post you saw the sketch of my idea for a beanie with a bouclé brim, and you read about my confessed insanity of creating the crocheted bouclé yarn by hand.

Here's the hat progress so far. This is the crown of the hat before felting, modeled by the lovely Valerie:

After vigorous felting and much dye loss out of this commercial yarn by Malabrigo, the crown looked like this as it dried on the hat block:

After it the crown had dried (and stained the heck out of my lovely hat block) it looked like this on Valerie:

Now I need to do some swatching to decide if I want to crochet or knit the brim and in which stitch pattern.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Making Crocheted Bouclé

Higglety pigglety, this bouclé is bigglety!

The 33 yards of bulky and dense bouclé, shown in the last post, was made of the ingredients that you see in this photo. The curly part is made of 100 yards of a 2-ply handspun wool yarn that I made in the colorway like the yarn on the left, except it was drafted as a thinner yarn than the one in the photo. The binder yarn is a thin wool machine yarn put up on a cone. Some beads were added to the binder yarn just for fun.

Each loop (there are approximately 3½ loops per inch) was stitched in place by my own nimble fingers using a small steel crochet hook and basic crochet stitches.

If you do the math, you'll calculate that there are approximately 4,158 loops handstitched into this fine specimen that took 8-9 hours to create (including the spinning and plying of the original fiber, but not including the time it took to do the process discussed in the following paragraph).

Before the 2-ply yarn was put into a bouclé, it was knitted up as a hat that didn't come up to my standards. That yarn sat all done up as a hat for a month or so before I frogged it. (For those of you who are not knitters, frog is a term for unravelling or ripping apart a knitted item. The term is precise--ha ha!--because a frog says "Rip-it, rip-it!")

Here's a photo of hat undone:

Now, the rational thing to do at this point would have been to put this fiber back in a warm water bath, straightening it when wringing out the excess water, and then drying it with a weight attached to straighten it further. It could then be re-knit into something new.

Why do the rational thing when the crazy thing is so much fun? I saw all the lovely waves in that unravelled yarn and immediately thought, "Hells bells, I could crochet up some bouclé with that stuff!"

Had anyone ever crocheted bouclé before? Was it totally insane? How long would it take?

You can see that I was already obsessed and running down the path to massive time consumption for a hair-brained idea. But, this is what I saw in my head--a better hat with a bouclé brim having the texture of a Berber carpet.

So I sat down and started crocheting the binder yarn around the curly handspun 2-ply.

If you want to try this, go take an old sweater, unravel it, loosely put it on your swift and leave it there while you crochet it into some cool new stuff. Here's what you do: *Work a single crochet (sc) in the top of a little wave, work a chain stitch (ch); repeat from * for each and every little f*ing wave in your yarn. (Have fun with that! Good time to listen to some knitting podcasts or a book on tape.)

Next post I'll show you Bigglety Beanie in process.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Loopy for Bouclé

Bouclé is a french word for curly. With your forbearance in the next few posts, I will take the liberty of using this word as an adjective, a verb, and a noun.

In this manufactured green boucl
é yarn sample, you can see evenly-spaced, tidy curls that are plied into the yarn. This yarn is fairly thin and the loops are small. A knitted fabric from it would drape nicely and would also have a uniform curly texture with a short nap.

In this red knitted hat brim, the loops of the
bouclé yarn are of a thick and fluffy, loosely-spun roving that was plied around a worsted weight yarn. The result is a soft uneven texture with a fairly tall nap.

In handspinning, a bouclé yarn can be created by loosely plying one strand of fiber around another so that the loose strand forms little circles of fiber that stand out from the other strand which becomes a sort of core yarn. This may not be a good description because I'm no expert (having only tried a boucl
é yarn once in a spin class.)

For the same reason (no expertise) I make another disclaimer. Perhaps what I created and am showing you next is not really yarn because the loops are not plied.

Is it yarn? If it wasn't made by plying, how was it created? How big is it? What's it for? You'll find answers to these and other questions in the next post.