fiber arts, garments, needlework, sewing, tatting

Crochet lace?

Today I realized that if I wanted to add lace accents to clothing, I can make the lace using a crochet technique.  It’s been a fairly long time since I did any crochet, but I find it much easier than knitting.  If I wanted to try my hand at it, I do have some laceweight yarn, which I think is alpaca.  I also have fine cotton crochet thread, which would likely be what I’d use if I put lace cuffs on a shirt, for example.

I found one book specializing in crochet lace patterns today, but it focused on bedspreads and tablecloths, which is not really what I want to make.  New Tatting focuses on doilies, which again, is not really what I want to make.  There’s always the option of going back to Ravelry, if they’re still up, and actually that may be a very good option.

I have in mind a shawl pattern with a lot of openwork between denser areas of stitching.  It would probably take me a while, though, given that the yarns are so tiny and the hooks are so tiny.  But! I know I can crochet, and I can read crochet diagrams; whereas tatting is almost totally foreign to me right now.  And I have all the stuff I need to crochet, including some backup manuals.  ;)

Sounds good?  :)  I’ll add it to my “things I can do” list.

calligraphy, drawing, sequential art

crochet and playing with brushes

So I suppose it’s the time of year when I start thinking about what I’ll make or buy for people for Christmas.

I wanted to note that the crochet scarf pattern that I’ve named “dark waves” over on another website, could be good for someone’s Christmas present.  I don’t know if I would actually be able to finish it before Christmas, though — at least, working with a fine gauge, I’m unsure.  Basically I was thinking that I’d be able to work on this and it didn’t matter if I liked dark purple anymore or not, because it would be going to someone else.  ;)

Anyhow.  Also to update on the playing around with watercolors, ink and brushes:

I’ve “recently” (as in within the past two or three months…I think) obtained a set of watercolor brushes that I’m really happy with.  I’m using the Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes, primarily.  These have been mixed with some other brands; though I can’t recall the specific brands offhand, besides Princeton Art & Brush…which works differently because the bristles are of a different degree of stiffness than the Cotmans.

I basically have a bunch of small round brushes and a small flat…the Cotmans I like, because they come to a reasonably fine point, at least in my judgment, and the larger sizes have bristles long enough to contain a good ink load.  (Only complaint I have is that the bristles on my smallest — an older brush — have splayed a little, causing random additional lines; and the bristles aren’t very long.)

Last time I was experimenting with them, I was using a jar which contained some Yasutomo Sumi ink (I know, pre-ground ink is not the best way to go about things, but it’s available).  The jar…last time I used it, it had a skin of dried ink that fell into the bottom that I had to pull out so it wouldn’t gunk up my brush.  I need to remember to clean the jar out.

I have a couple of pads of Bristol now to work with — I’m using the 300 series until I want to do something serious, then I can use the 400.

I’ve eased off of attempting the Japanese calligraphy, once I saw that I had a difficult enough time writing basic phonemes in ballpoint so that they look right…

…yeeeah.  The Japanese study hasn’t been coming along well, because I keep forgetting about it.  Reading books on Japanese calligraphy and Chinese brush painting, however, has been good to show different ways to *hold* and *use* a brush.  The grip one uses on a brush drastically changes the quality of mark one can obtain from it.

But yes; I did find that the entire Oriental calligraphy thing would require a different set-up than I have; and in that field, I’m working uphill because of my limited knowledge of how to write in the language anyway.  But the information of learning different ways to *use* what you have (and as I’ve read, Chinese brush painting, at least, draws off of calligraphic strokes in order to create an image) — that’s actually really valuable, even if you’re illiterate in all Asian languages.  :)

As for what I’m doing artistically, otherwise: most recently I did a series of sketches while trying to get to sleep.  Don’t know if that counts.  ^_-  But I did find that the Staedtler fiber-tipped pen I was using (.3) can create a variety of line widths, depending just on how hard it’s pressed, and how slowly or quickly one moves it.  I should try that with the Microns and see how it works…

The art get-together I’ve been trying to plan with a friend just isn’t happening.  Not entirely sure why, other than that maybe they just aren’t into it anymore.  Or I intimidate them or something.  I don’t know.

As regards ink and quality of ink — I have now tried Higgins Eternal, and I prefer Higgins Calligraphy.  Eternal is not a very dark black, it’s more of a very dark bluish grey — which probably doesn’t matter if you’re making work for graphic reproduction, as the blacks can be digitally darkened.

The Higgins Calligraphy ink is the black that I personally prefer — in pens, the closest thing I can find to it happen to be the Pitt fiber-tipped and brush pens.  I haven’t tried Copic or many of the other fineliners, though, so that should be taken with a grain of salt.

fiber arts

garter-stitch scarf and update on Wool-Eater blanket

I noted over on Ravelry that I’ve started a new project. This is an extremely easy project, a scarf which is basically garter stitch all the way through (knit all stitches, repeat). To mix it up a little, I’m using two yarns held together as one, for the first time.

This has been pretty simple, though I’ve had to check and make sure I was not throwing the yarn backwards once or twice — after a while, my brain starts thinking counter-clockwise is clockwise. I’ve also not dropped any stitches so far, which is amazing — and probably due to the fact that I’m not ever using the purl stitch, so there’s no chance of my forgetting to move the yarn behind or in front of the tips of the needles. For this project, I’m using a Bernat acrylic self-striping sock yarn (Bernat Sox, mentioned below) and a Brown Sheep fingering-weight wool yarn (I think this is technically a light-fingering weight yarn: it has 3 plies instead of 4, and was in the lace section of the LYS where I bought it).

I should mention here that I really, really see why many knitters like to use natural-fiber yarns more than acrylics or other synthetics. The wool in the Brown Sheep yarn is much warmer (and lighter, and less dense, and probably more fire-retardant) than the acrylic, and aesthetically, it’s just so much nicer to know that you’re working with a natural (“real”) fiber instead of what’s essentially plastic in the form of a fiber. I mean, microscopically, I’m sure the scales and structure of wool help to insulate much better (after all, they’ve evolved for this!) than something which is microscopically smooth.

Acrylic is great if you need really big quantities, because natural fibers are so much more expensive that a handcrafted wool blanket or similar huge project, like a cloak, would be prohibitively expensive. But I’m really having a lot better feeling about what I’m doing right now, working with the wool, than working with 100% acrylic.

Of course, the scarf I’m working on is half acrylic, half wool because of the twin yarns. I’ve made something with the acrylic before, and it does soften up in the wash. But since my Convertible Cowl (Lion Brand Homespun, acrylic) and filet-crochet (Bernat Sox, acrylic) experiments, I’m really hoping that acrylic isn’t generally a poor insulator. But I think I was told in my Fibers class that it is — in which case the wool might be able to contribute warmth that the acrylic wouldn’t otherwise have.

Hopefully, the acrylic can at least help to keep the scarf from felting and shrinking too much. Technically, the Brown Sheep yarn is supposed to resist felting, but that’s no guarantee. The most I can do is wash it in cold water and possibly by hand. But to be honest it’s probably going in on the Extra Delicate cycle, unless I can find a clean bucket to wash my wools in (and then squish them).

I also understand now why some people dislike the “pooling” of color that can happen with self-striping yarns. I’ve run into this, though I don’t know why it pools in some areas and isn’t …what’s the word… there isn’t a pattern to the pooling. The Brown Sheep yarn though is a solid color, which is getting kind of heathered in with the other, so it’s helping to break up what would otherwise likely be an annoying geometric color pattern.

The only technical problems I’ve run into so far are the twisting of the yarns together in my hand, and what happens when one yarn lies directly on top of the other on the needles. Hopefully, though, the latter will get worked out in the wash…and the former I may be able to mitigate by being careful about how I wrap the yarn around the needle.

I know, this wouldn’t happen if I were using the European Pic method. But I’m not, because I want this first project to be a success, and I’m still clumsy at European Pic. Plus, I may work at a different gauge with that technique than with the American method, so I can’t even with good conscience practice with both on the same piece.

I also restarted work on Winter’s Dust (the 100% acrylic crochet blanket) today, which went surprisingly quickly…but with that project, it really is all about chipping in small amounts of work at frequent intervals. As the project gets bigger, it seems that the work slows down, though it doesn’t; the amount of work that gets done is just proportionally smaller when compared to the whole. I probably could have at least gotten into the fourth round of diamonds if I put the same effort I worked today, into starting a new motif.

It’ll likely be some time before I’m finished with either one of these projects, but I already know that I want to do something with Irish Moss Stitch and a jewel-tone wool for a later project. I’m thinking stole. ;) I do already have a woven wool stole, I think I just love it so much that I’d like to make another. :) Six months until Fall kicks back up? ;D

And then I did find an alpaca-blend yarn recently that felt just wonderful, but I saw no price for it, so I didn’t chance it. It was almost like angora, that one.

I’m not sure how much yarn this scarf I’m knitting now is going to eat up. I’m about to break into a new skein of Brown Sheep…and let me tell you, it gets eaten up faster with knitting than with crochet. I can always get a new set of colors to pair with the self-striping Bamboo and Ewe sock yarn, if I use too much of the Brown Sheep on this project (I had not been planning to continue this current project past a sample, until I saw how well it was turning out). The thing is I only bought one ball each of turquoise stripe and purple stripe Bamboo and Ewe last time…so there isn’t a big color lot in my reserves, there.

But maybe I can practice with them and then maybe branch out into some more vivid blues or something.

fiber arts

update on Winter’s Dust (Wool Eater blanket)

I’ve restarted work on Winter’s Dust — the lapghan I was making late last year.  What I can say at this point is that I think if I ever make another of these, it won’t be out of 100% acrylic yarn.  I’ve been using what I’ve crocheted so far to cover my lap at the computer.  It is very bulky and heavy, and it doesn’t really insulate that well.  However, I’m wondering if this will change once it’s washed and gets a chance to fluff up.

After making the cowl out of Homespun and feeling the wind rip right through it, though, I suppose this is just a learning experience.  I don’t think I really believed my Fibers instructor when she said that acrylic was not warm, but I see what she meant now.

I have a cotton thermal blanket that is warmer than this one…

I suppose the problem lies in where one could get enough yarn out of a warm fiber to make a blanket without breaking the bank.  Maybe it’s just better to sew a blanket…

fiber arts

post-Xmas catch-up

After I wrote the last post on the 23rd, I went and wove in the ends of yarn for D’s scarf.  What I need to remember for next time is to pull the fabric to “seat” the yarn before cutting the end of the tail — what happened once this time is that pulling the fabric basically undid one entire securing stitch.

Basically, the book I have tells me to follow the lines of each crochet stitch up and down, for about four stitches, then (I altered this) pull the fabric to seat the yarn and clip it 1/4″ from the fabric.

I did find a place where I may have incorrectly joined a new tail end of yarn, where a hole might form, but Sis would probably be able to help me with this if it does come undone.  Best we can do now is wash the scarf on “gentle” (or hand wash, but I specifically got the Wool-Ease so we _would_ be able to machine wash it).

Besides this, I’m finding that I like giving things to others more than just receiving things.  This is the first year that I’ve really had enough money to be able to give things to people, and most of it was handmade.  And, right — I also had enough money to be able to buy things for myself that I really wanted.

It wasn’t as stressful as I expected, other people coming over, the other day.  But I did hold my new Hinduism book close to me so that others wouldn’t be thumbing through it (I don’t know why people seem to think that since you let them into your house, they can touch anything they want).  I got a New Agey type book from my brother, who was probably working off of the content of the bookshelves in the computer room, not the bookshelves in my bedroom.  The computer room is where I put books I don’t read!  But the thought was nice.  :)  And M is interested in that book, which is a good thing.

I think I’ll probably head in to my volunteer position tomorrow, not today.  I really need to clean up these receipts and the jeweling supplies, though to be honest, what I really want to do is read.

beading, fiber arts

Day before Xmas Eve rush

Well, Bracelet 1.0 is out.  If I wrote what the reaction was to it, it would probably sound like bragging, but I got invited to make more jewelry and sell it to her.  Well, maybe I can write a little…the recipient was showing it to everyone in the office.  :)  I probably shouldn’t post more lest I make myself and her identifiable.

Let’s see.  I’m about to finish the ribbed scarf for Xmas.  I went back and tightened the crimp beads on G-M’s bracelet…M’s necklace is done.  S’s bracelet is restrung and ready to go (though I wish I  hadn’t cut the tail end of thread so close to the knot).

What needs to be done:

1) weave in ends on ribbed scarf

2) wrap gifts!  May need to find boxes for jewelry, I don’t know where.  Maybe I can make origami envelopes for them, but that won’t stop them from being crushed, unless I use really sturdy paper.  I should check online.

E’s stuff should be easy enough to wrap; A’s stuff can also be wrapped easily.  I should start on that.  B’s stuff still needs to be delivered.

After I finish weaving in these ends I can help with the cooking, though I do want to catch up on my kanji book.

beading, fiber arts

Xmas crafts

So I started making a scarf for my dad for Christmas.  I ended up using Lion Brand Wool-Ease because I knew it could be machine-washed, and I knew it was available.  So far I’m liking it, but then I’m a tactile kind of person and it feels nice in the hand.

I went on Ravelry and looked in the comments on Wool-Ease — a lot of people say it pills, which could be an issue with this yarn, because it’s a ribbed scarf pattern.  But I’m guessing that if it’s shaved in the short direction along each row, it should be ok.

As an added point, I also looked around the Yarn section for superwash worsted wools that wouldn’t be scratchy.  The two I looked at — Cascade and Swish — both had comments that they either pilled and/or felted with washing.  So…maybe it wasn’t such a bad buy.

Can you believe that I only got the yarn 4 days ago?!  The scarf looks like I’ve been working on it much longer.  It’s a very simple pattern made with single crochet — you just work into the back loops only.

I found out that I’d been starting my first rows wrong — I’m supposed to put the hook under the V, not under the “top two” loops, which of course varies depending on how you’re holding the chain.  This is where Maggie Righetti’s _Crocheting in Plain English_ saved me from confusion.

Other than this…I’ve completed a lot of jewelry for Christmas.  I should really photograph what I’m going to give away so that I have reference photos in case I want to re-create what I’ve made.  Or, in case I want to study them to see what went right with them.

I’ve already made a bracelet version 2.0, based on one I made for the Secret Santa thing.  I’m going to have to make it 2.1 soon — I used a purple Swarovski for the center, bordered with Violet and Alexandrite Swarovski crystals.  The thing is that my skin washes out pale colors, and the purple next to what are essentially tints makes the center of the bracelet stark.   I’m going to replace the Alexandrite with Montana Blue and see where that takes me.  I’m hoping it won’t wash out the Tanzanite colored crystals, but I think it will…so there may be a version 2.2.  :)  If there is a 2.2, I want to use something more like a Capri Blue.

EDIT:  I should note here that the bead store I normally go to has started stocking “Turkish Silver” in their metals collection.  I looked up “Turkish Silver” online and apparently it’s an alloy of silver and cadmium, from the one source I viewed.  If you’ve worked with pigments, you know that cadmium is highly toxic, and cadmium oxides — as used in Cadmium Red, Orange, and Yellow — can be absorbed through the skin.  (Cadmium Red Hue, etc., on the other hand, denotes that a synthetic pigment was used to mimic the warm tones of cadmium oxides, and they’re normally safe).

I’m just hoping that anything that contains cadmium (or “Tibetan Silver” [which may not be mainly silver]), or any of these other alloys with potentially toxic metals (lead, antimony, etc.) are labeled so we know what may be hazardous.  Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a law in place that says that producers of metal must disclose when the metals are hazardous to health, in jewelry — despite the fact that this stuff is made to be worn next to skin.

I wanted to note that down to myself just in case I forget why it was that I was hesitant to use the base metal clasp in one of my bracelets.

fiber arts

progress…sometimes you can’t see it, but there is progress…

It’s amazing how when I’ve followed pattern instructions, the resulting fabric turns out nearly exactly like the photographs.  That likely won’t be the case all the time, from what I’ve read.  Or maybe it will, and the photos are at a bad angle.

Have I just been lucky?  (Or unlucky, if I thought it would turn out better than the photo?  Or if the photo didn’t really show how poorly insulating the final product would be?)

I’m really glad I picked up those books.  It actually helps, a lot.  I think I have the American version of the knit stitch down.  I’m working on the American version of purling.  It just gets so repetitive sometimes (along with the uncertainty that comes with learning) that it gets boring, even though I *am* learning something.  I’ve gone back to working on the crochet out of boredom, but I suppose maybe this just says that I’m getting to the point where I don’t have to do straight garter stitch anymore.

I was working on a swatch which began as garter stitch (k) with all stitches twisted — this is before I figured out that it was the wording of how to do the knit stitch that was difficult to understand, and that because I was following what I thought they said, not what the picture showed, my fabric was physically twisting to the right.  It took comparison among four different sources to make sure that the image wasn’t wrong.  Then when I did what the graphic said, I could see how what the picture showed could be described in the words I’d hitherto misunderstood.

It’s kind of weird when you get to a certain point in your life, and instead of being the “smart kid” who has all the answers, you end up being a person who very definitely does *not* have all the answers.  Adjustment period.

Anyhow, the positive thing about having done that swatch is that I don’t think I missed any stitches (except for once, I had 12, until I cast on 4 more stitches and made it 16) though I did have to pull out several because I did something wrong and I didn’t know what it was.  That gave me practice with individually undoing loops — which wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.  Just thread the tip of the left needle into the space where the yarn comes out, then when the stitch is slipped, pull the extra loop out.  Not hard…

I got my 20%-off coupon for the yarn store in the mail today.  Hahahahaha.  I should figure out the project I want to work on next, before I buy expensive yarn, though.  And I should probably finish my blanket and this cowl I’m working on.  I want to make something that will be somewhat functional, not just decorative.

I had been thinking about making something with mohair, but if I use the pattern I have, I’d need to xerox it and take it to the yarn store with me, so I know I’m getting the right weight of yarn.  As I recall…I think they had three different types of mohair last I checked.  Maybe I’ll work on that.  I could do one of the lace capelet patterns I have.  Only problem is that I may need giant needles…ugh.  Though maybe it won’t be as much of a pain as using a too-big hook.  The only thing is that I have no idea how I’m supposed to weave in a tail if what I’m making is lace.

Oh, right.  I want to learn the cable cast-on method and the long-tail cast on.  I know where I can find directions for the first; though maybe there’s another copy closer than I think.

I guess that’s about it.  I’m trying not to get too discouraged with the Wool-Eater blanket.  It’s just that it’s becoming so hard to see it growing that it gets a bit tiring.  Plus, I don’t know how long my yarn will hold out.  I did some calculations and apparently, even though I have most of a skein, I’m going to have to break a new one to finish this row of diamonds?  I can’t help but feel (or hope) that my calculations are off…I haven’t had to do math in so long.  And I really wanted to end the blanket on a maroon or navy row, not on green.  It makes a big difference to the way the entire thing looks.

I guess maybe I should stop worrying and just keep going and buy a new skein or two if I need them…and just rip out one or two rows so there isn’t a noticeable color change.  The worry is paralyzing, and I want to get this done sometime.  Sis said that I could stop at a certain number of rows and just add on to two sides to make the thing rectangular, which isn’t a bad idea.  I’d have to work out *how* to do that, though.

I suppose I could do gradual decreases and have the blanket come to one or two points…I could practice with the trial square I made and that bright green Vanna’s Choice that I got for some reason.

There’s the not-knowing-when-my-dye-lots-end-thing, and the fact that the yarn is cheap.  Big project, cheap yarn.  Kind of bites.  Not a pleasure to work with, aside from the color.  When I wash it, it’s supposed to soften.

(“You just keep telling yourself that…”)