What Knitting Lace is Teaching Me

I decided last week to knit a lace shawl. Because, you know, quarantine!

Here are the things I’m learning in the process:

1) I must not wait until the end of an entire repeat to count my stitches. Having to go back more than about 10 or 12 stitches to fix an error is just asking for trouble.

2) I am allowed to put stitch markers wherever I like instead of (only) between each pattern repeat.

3) Yarn-overs were invented by a trickster god who laughs hysterically every time a knitter misses one or drops one by accident.

4) “Total focus” is just the starting point for the level of concentration required for success in this endeavor.

5) At the rate I’m progressing, we will be past the third or fourth wave of the pandemic by the time I’m done. But it will be lovely.

Until next time!

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The Class Project

I’m a student now at the University of South Carolina, because I’m retired and have time AND, more importantly, people 60+ can take classes for no tuition.

Last term I took a 3-D Design class, which was fun because we made different kinds of sculptures (wire, wood, and mixed media). This term I’m taking Jewelry Making. You might be asking yourself why I would do that? The truth is there are always new things to learn.

There are all levels of students in this class. We more advanced students were given the first assignment of finding someone who inspires us, and choosing a project based on that inspiration that uses skills we already possess. This served several purposes, I think. The professor gets a feel for what each of us can already do and it got us into the mode of looking around for inspiration and making that idea our own. And provided the opportunity to fumble around in the studio there and figure out where everything is. Which is like cooking in someone else’s kitchen – you KNOW whatever it is you’re looking for has got to be there, but where?????

The artist that I chose as my inspiration was Maggie Joynt. Her work is amazing – here is a link to her Flikr account. I used etched brass, sterling silver, and copper wire to make my pendant. The stone is astrophyllite, which really complements the colors of the metals. Techniques: fabrication, etching, and patina. The chain in the photo is one that I had already made.

Astrophyllite, Sterling Silver, and Brass Pendant

Astrophyllite, Sterling Silver, and Brass Pendant

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Spinning the First SAFF Batt

It’s always such an adventure to spin a new batt. The very nature of batt creation means each one will be unique. In my last post, I mentioned the batts I got at SAFF this year.

The first one I decided to spin was one of the ones from River’s Edge Fiber Arts. The colorway was named “Maple Leaf”, and I loved the rich, muted colors the minute I laid eyes on it. It’s a blend of 70% merino and 30% mulberry silk noils. Noils are little nubby things that give yarn a wonderful texture.

I spun a little sample first, and found that the ply ration needed to be higher than I thought. So I spun the rest with an 8-1 ratio and plied it (2-ply) with 9-1 and that was perfect. I’m delighted with the way it came out!

Merino/Silk Noil handspun yarn

Merino/Silk Noil handspun yarn

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This Year’s SAFF Loot – Spinning Fiber

As I’ve mentioned in the past, SAFF (the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair) is hands-down my favorite place to buy fiber for spinning. The choices! The colors! And at that show, my favorite fiber vendor is the Trading Post for Fiber Arts. So imagine my disappointment at their absence this year. I really missed the jaw-dropping pleasure I’ve experienced in their booth in the past.

However, that meant I had more money for other folks. In particular, I indulged at River’s Edge Fiber Arts and Apothefaery Luxury Fibers. For whatever reason, I was drawn to batts more than roving.

Click the thumbnails below to see the large images.

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Another State Fair Winner

I entered just one skein of handspun yarn in this year’s SC State Fair back in October. Yes, it’s December now, so I’m a little late with this post.

It was a fractal spin of 100% bombyx silk, dyed by Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks. I did it as a two-ply, with a 1-6 split. That means I split the braid in half long-ways, then split one of those halves long-ways again into 6 long narrow strips. I spun the “whole” half all in one go, then the 6 long strips end-to-end. So I had two bobbins, one with long color changes and the other with quick color changes. Those got plied together.

This type of silk fiber looks best to me as a consistent yarn, and I’m happy to say it came out well in that regard. And I won first place with it!

I had 4 skeins of this fiber in the Nosegay colorway, and I spun them all the same way (more or less). A couple of lovely things will result when I get around to knitting them up.

Bombyx Silk, "Nosegay" Fractal Handspun

Bombyx Silk, “Nosegay” Fractal Handspun

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Silk Hankies – Working Smarter, Not Harder

Back in 2015, when I was a new spinner, I tackled some beautiful silk hankies. They are nothing like “regular” fiber.

The basic technique is to peel off one (very) thin hanky, poke a hole in the middle, and draft it out however much you want prior to spinning. The less you draft them ahead of time, the more you must do when actually spinning. The fibers are very long and it is a challenge to draft them at all while spinning. It actually hurts your hands because silk is a very tough fiber.

Forward to the present. I want to knit a shawl using the hanky yarn I spun way back then, BUT I also want to include some undyed hanky silk (which is pearlescent white) with the purple/gold/blue that I have from before. That means hanky spinning!

Luckily, I know more now than I did then. I very quickly realized that this is a time when I want to pre-draft the fiber out COMPLETELY before spinning. That way I have more control over the drafting process, and no damage to my hands while spinning. The spinning process in this case is actually more like plying, because I am just making sure there’s enough twist as I put it through. I’m spinning it on 12:1 and feeding about an inch with each treadle.

I’m really happy with the results.

Undyed Hanky Silk

Undyed Hanky Silk

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Inspiration – Bench Play Time

Copper and Glass Bead Shelf Pendant

Copper and Glass Bead Shelf Pendant With a Sterling Silver Chain

I love the Internet. When I’m feeling stuck, creatively, I can go on Pinterest and see all kinds of wonderful images that get me freshly inspired.

Lately I’ve been seeing a LOT of pictures of work by Mary Hettmansperger. I love the way she uses simple techniques to make gorgeous one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Her work really appeals to me visually and artistically.

So I did some digging online, and found several of her books on the used book market. I got 3 of them and have begun working my way through her projects – taking her techniques and making them mine. My last couple of posts about Fooling Around with Copper were about some of this work.

My only challenge, if you will, is that she uses commercial chains for her pendants and I prefer to make my own. Some of her designs don’t lend themselves well to the thicker nature of handmade chains, so I’m having to figure out how *I* want to do them.

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More Fun With Copper

These are both copper. The round piece was torched, high oxygen, then soaked in hot vinegar. The other piece was previously etched with ferric chloride, then lightly salted & subjected to ammonia fumes to produce the blue patina.

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Fooling Around with Copper

I’m working with copper a lot these days. It’s beautiful in its own right and has really interesting properties.

Today, for example, I worked on the components for a pair of earrings. I’ve been reading up on ways to put patinas on metal. I have a little booklet by Charles Lewton-Brain, Patinas For Small Studios, that has tons of cool ideas. Including, for dual-gas torches, heating copper with the oxygen level boosted higher than usual. Oh, mama, did that ever work! That is the only thing I did to these strips of copper, & check out those lovely blues and purples.

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Moonstones and Silver

These earrings are my latest creations! The setting is embellished with stamping and sterling wire.

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