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The Adventures of two Fibre Artists.



Contributing Artists

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gossamer Webs

This will be my first attempt at Gossamer lace knitting. I have always been fascinated by Orenburg Shawls. I love how light, airy and fragile they look, as if made with spider webs. This particular project will be a headcovering for church (Orthodox Christian women cover their heads when entering a church). I am using some of the alpaca lace weight fiber I bought from Knit Picks. The colour is a bit difficult to see in this lighting but it is a grayish lavender shade.

I feel the beauty of Orenburg shawls lie in their simplicity. You only need to utilize a few basic stitches to make up 10 foundational stitch patterns that, in turn, are mixed to produce infinite possibilities for designs. And what beautiful designs they are.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tax Refund

I can be fairly confident, in conjecture, that I am not the only fibre artist who knew exactly what she/he wanted to do with any monies received this year, in the form of tax refunds, that were left after other financial obligations were met. In point of fact I, personally, had already started a wish list while waiting for the check to arrive. This is the result.

As mentioned in previous entries, I work almost exclusively with mohair, which I love dearly, but while I am still trying to master spinning lace weight I decided to purchase a few skeins of fibres I have no access to via my spinner's herd. My first stop, shopping the internet, was Knit Picks for some wonderful colours of lace weight alpaca and merino from their "Alpaca Cloud" and "Shadow" lines, respectively. I also purchased several small sizes of single point Bryspun needles (displayed in the large basket with the yarns). Sizes used for working with lace weight. A needle I have found to be very comfortable to work with for my painful hands. Bryspun are light weight, warm, and the points are tapered to make those more complicated stitches easier to manage. I highly recommend them to anyone who absolutely refuses to give up knitting no matter how painful they find it.

I also found a wonderful seller on eBay from whom I bought a cone of lovely light blue-ish 100% cashmere (the picture does not do the colour justice) and some cobweb weight light cream colour cashmere. Both were wonderful finds and I look forward to doing business with Richard at Colourmartuk in the future. He was very helpful and the product arrived surprisingly quick for having to come from overseas.

Included, also, in the basket above is some nice light sage lace weight merino also found on eBay and some novelty yarn picked up on sale here and there at local shops. Something to have on hand for that splash of colour or texture on future projects. All this fibre, and needles also, were very reasonable which made it possible for someone like me who's mad money is limited, but every once in a while you have to splurge a bit.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Little C's Sweater

My neice and her husband made, with God's blessing, a beautiful baby boy whom they named Christian. I decided that this blessed event would be a great time to try my hand and making a sweater. You can imagine how anxious I was being that this was my first attempt and that it would be for such a speacial person.

I spun some mohair from my goats and plyed it with some comercially verigated dyed mohair roving that I also handspun. The two together, as you can see, produced a wonderful choice yarn for a baby boy.

The sweater is a Raglan and after knitting, in my opinion the best choice for anyone's first attempt. I am so glad my mother stopped me before I committed myself to the pattern I had picked out and suggested I try a raglan instead. For those of you that are new to knitting, raglan sweaters are knitted so that the arms do not need to be sewn on, which means, no trying to match seams. I can only imagine how much aggrevation that saved me.

I was pretty pleased at the finished product save that, not having Little C for a model, he was still safely tucked away in his mother at the time, I misjudged the cuffs. They are a bit too small and now having tried it on him after he came home, it is apparent that I will have to alter the openings to accomodate his hands.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Another Sunday Spin-In

We had another short Spin-In Sunday and my fibre sister has so many wonderful projects going on. Spin-ins are a wonderful means for inspiring each other by sharing projects and bouncing ideas off each other. Not to mention drinking good tea and discussing friends and family.

As I work on my lace project it is becoming apparent that this is going to be slow work. So I am plan to put it down from time to time and work on the other projects that have been put on the back burner, and perhaps start a few new ones. I am not sure if I am as good at multitaksing as my EM but I will try to learn from her, that's what we do, teach each other.

I really need to work on the tea towels that are on the loom so I can get it off. I need to spin up some more lace weight mohair to finish the scarf I am working on, I want to dye some merino and perhaps some mohair with some cochineal I bought at SAFF last October. I would like to make me a nice mobeus or head scarf for Liturgy, Orthodox women cover their heads when worshiping, and finally get started on an Icon scarf for my Godmother using fibre I spun from one the dogs that took up residence and the monastery.

So many plans, so much fibre and plenty of enthusiasm, it is a shame that I haven’t the time to match.


Friday, February 10, 2006

11:05, Friday Night

K1, yo, K1, sl1, k2tog, psso, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, ssk, k2tog, purl..................yippeeeee!!!!!!!


Thursday, February 09, 2006

8 bells and all is well

I learned, long ago, that if you are stuck on a problem and favorable resolution slips beyond your grasp, leaving only frustration in it's wake, the best thing to do is just walk away and leave it be for a bit. Amazingly, more times than not, once you return you find the answer sitting there waiting for you, leaving you to wonder how you did not see it sooner, or why it seemed so difficult. I personally do not spend too much time on wondering though, I tend not to look gift horses in the mouth, if you know what I mean.

Since the only results I was managing to find when I began my lacrosse project, the one I ended up ripping out, was not productive, I thought the answer would be, just try another project. But while looking at other patterns I began to sense that perhaps this was one of those instances where I just needed to walk away for a bit. Give it, or rather me, a rest.

These past couple of days have been dedicated to getting acquainted with some of lace knitting's more accomplished teachers/artists. While preparing for my weaving project I visited the library and checked out a few books, among them were "Knitting Lace" by Susan Lewis, "Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls" by Martha Waterman, The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann" by Nancy Nehring and of course Galina Khmeleva and Carol Noble's "Gossamer Webs, the History and Techniques of Orenburg Lace Shawls". I am now sure that this is what needed to happen. If I had not put that knitting down I would have continued to stumble, maybe not blindly, but most certainly severely visually and mentally impaired, through the project, quite possibly becoming more and more frustrated and I suspect it would not have been pretty. Someone was going to get hurt......"When the student is ready, the Teacher appears". I am now better prepared and I think I can hear my husband breathing a sigh of relief.

I am now gaining possession of the language, techniques and yes, even the spirituality of lace knitting. A whole new world is beginning to open to me and the terrain is becoming more familiar.

After spending a good portion of the day doing more research I decided to pick up my yarn, needles as well as the initial pattern, the one I started with and very nearly gave up on, and everything seems to be clicking. I have just sailed, effortlessly through the first 8 rows and the weather continues to look great, not a cloud in sight.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mixing it Up

There will be no picture of my lace work project today because, you guessed it, I ripped it out. It was not shaping up the way I liked, but that does not mean I am giving up. I have started over, using a different pattern, still lace work, but I thought I would give myself a break from the other pattern and try something not quite so ambitious. I don't know if there was a mistake in pattern, if I was not paying close enough attention, or even if I was being to critical of my work. I suspect, though it was not the former or the latter but rather that as a newbie to lacework I choose a pattern that was best tried after some practice. Regardless I am trying again and I will report how it goes.

One of my sisters asked me to create a piece for a devotional table and kneeler she is making for her son. My 4 harness floor loom is already warped with some multicoloured cotton set up for a pattern called "Santa Fe Mission" featured in Handwoven a couple of years ago. It isn't Orthodox, in design, not only aesthetically but in religious design, but neither is he so I think it will do well. Since he is male I did not want to do anything to frilly and I think these colours will suit him and I think he will appreciate this woven design over something lacey.

So I will be working on this project along with the knitting, mixing it up, multitasking, but you know what? I am a woman and multitasking is in our nature. I am confident that both will proceed nicely and I will be satisfied with the end results.

My fibre sister and I had a quasi spin-in last Sunday. Neither of us really worked on anything, since I had just ripped out my work I had nothing to bring, but the meet was productive in that we went over some materials (patterns, books, catalogues) and I showed her how to access this blog and create posts so she should be contributing soon.

She has a real talent for colours, just one of her many talents, and I often ask her advise whenever I think I would like to blend colors or introduce colours on a project. I am more into the natural shades, which can be pretty bland at times and until recently, our last trip to SAFF, I had been a little scared to work with bright colours but she inspires me to experiment a little.

While sharing various materials and resources with each other she showed me a catalogue from
Knit Picks. They have some really great prices on lace weight yarns and even though I am a spinner with a treasure of mohair at my disposal I went ahead and ordered some yarn from different fibres to try. I really need more practice to spin thinner than 22 wpi and I could not pass up those prices.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Creating through the Pain

Some of us, unfortunately, find that creating art can be quite painful. I am one of those who do. I suffer with arthritis and fibromyalgia and I wake up with my hands, among other parts of my body, so stiff and painful that on occasion my husband will gently massage them untill I am able to open and close a fist on my own. The act of picking up a coffee mug can cause the pain in my wrists to shoot all the way up my arm. These complaints can make many fibre activities miserable, especially knitting. If it were not for the enjoyment and relaxation fibre art affords me I am not sure if I could continue.

There are a few things I have found to be helpful in reducing the pain. The first, of course, in the case of knitting, is choosing the correct needles. Warm natural materials like wood, casein and not so natural, plastic, are easier to hold in painful hands. I love my Britanny needles but recently I found the joys of Balene and Bryspun. They, the latter two brands, are not only warm but light in weight and they have the tapered tips that make it easier to insert into a stitch, especially the tighter ones like 'k2tog " or "sl1, k2tog/p2tog, psso". There is another natural brand that has become popular among knitters with arthritic hands and that is the "Ivore" from New Zealand. Again they are warm, light weight and have tapered points.

Then there is, when choosing the right tool, the style, circular, flex or straight. Obviously the longer the needle the more awkward it can be as your work begins to progress and more weight begins to tax any hand or wrist. Imagine when making a shawl or sweater, as the rows accumulate there is more weight placed on the wrists and hands trying to support long singlepoint needles. Circular needles will allow the work to drape and even rest onto your lap so your wrists are supporting the whole project. The same goes for flex needles. The needle itself is small, about 6 inches or so then a plastic cord is attached, not unlike the circulars but instead of connecting the two needles there is a ball on the end of the cord that prevents your work from slipping off. You are still working with two needles but since most of the needle is flexible the work, once again, is allowed to wrest in your lap.

Another precaution you can take to help alleviate pain is frequent breaks to offer your hands rest. I am sure there are some exercises aimed, specifically at painful hands, but what I usually do is to gently contract and flex the fingers making a fist and massaging them, much like my husband does for me on those occasions that I can't seem to manage myself. Warm water is helpful. Just like hot baths will soothe aches and pains in the body the warm moist heat is also helpful in alleviating painful hands. When taking a bath is not feasable allowing warm water to run over your hands can be of some relief.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Wonderful World of Mathematics

I remember growing up how adament my father was that I understand the importantance of mathematics. He told me that I would need these skills through out life. He saw to it that I took every class my high school offered, fortunately I either had a talent for math or I was able to catch on quickly. I suspect it was the former rather than the latter because I was able to see, right away, equations in many activities that one would not ordinarily equate with math. For me it is evident when solving puzzles, learning languages, including html, gardening, as well as the more obvious. I have to admit, this is a case where father knew best as I have found that math has indeed been more thatn just convenient in many aspects of my life, especially in my nursing career.

Knitters find out right away that there is a certain amount of math involved in creating a project, calculating how much yarn will be needed, how many stitches to increase or decrease, etc. but for me, I see clearly maths presence in lacework. With each row I complete, and so far there haven't been many, I can visualize, in my minds eye, equations and their embodiment, and it is indeed most beautiful.

I have written a few articles on the spiritual side of fibre art. The meditative aspects, the aesthetics, the sheer delight of creating with one's hands, the admiration to name a few. When one speaks of spirituality, beauty is very easy to envision. Who knew math could be beautiful also......still, it didn't seem quite as beautiful while struggling, nearly 30 minutes last night, on the same row, searching for that illusive stitch that threw the whole equation off.

Addendum: Speaking of "Spirituality" yesterday was my name's day. In Orthodox tradition I celebrated by being blessed at the end of Liturgy and am reminded of how Saint Melangell sacrificed for God and what I need to do to try to emulate her in my effort, and hope, to become righteous.
I suspect some would read this and question what this has to do with fibre art. Why I would feel the need to bring this up. But I also suspect that anyone who enjoys any kind of art at any level, if only by appreciating it at a distance, can feel their spiritual side stir and for those, like me, who's faith is an important part of thier life, it has every thing to do with it.