beading, beadweaving, beadwork, Business training, color, glass beads, jewelry, metalsmithing, occupational hazards, seed beads, small business planning

Self-observation + Link to Matubo seed bead review

Observation first, before I forget.

I really like working with seed beads and fiber.  And I really like writing about seed beads and fiber.  I originally started the metalworking classes because I could see some things being done with seed beads which could be more cleanly and simply done with metal (like cabochon and faceted stone setting).  And I could see the use that those skills would open to me in doing something like making my own clasps.  But I don’t think at heart that I’m a silversmith (for the love of silver, at least).

Also, unless I went into enameling, and/or heavy use of colored stones, I probably wouldn’t want to really get into metalsmithing that deeply.  Enameling can be hazardous, which is a reason I’ve avoided it in the past.  In one of my classes, I observed someone blow powdered enamel (a.k.a. colored glass dust — “colored” meaning probably toxic to ingest; “glass” meaning tiny shrapnel which may shred your lungs and never get back out) off of her bench and into a cloud.  I held my breath as I walked past.  She still had a cough the next semester.

How do you really guard against stuff like that other than wearing a respirator the entire time you’re in class?  What if I hadn’t happened to see what was going on?  What if I didn’t know to look away every time the enameling kiln was open?  (An enameling kiln radiates infrared light when the door is open and it’s hot, and that can damage eyesight unless protection is worn when looking towards it.)

I still remember when I had to spend 10-15 minutes cursing over the pickle pot because someone dumped out my tiny copper rings into the pickling solution and it was so dim — and the pickle so saturated with copper (it turns deep blue-green instead of clear when it’s old) — that I couldn’t see them.  And I remember coughing for two weeks afterwards from the fumes, as well.

But let’s get back onto a positive note, shall we?

I have enough experience from my time in smithing classes (two semesters — more than that, and I didn’t want to put myself back into the situation) that I feel reasonably confident that I can construct and solder a toggle clasp on my own, or fabricate a clasp from sheet and wire.  It probably wouldn’t be the greatest-looking thing or the most creative thing (creativity is very much helped by fluency of skill), but it’s possible, and I know it’s possible.  I can also make custom closed jump rings from wire and solder — easy, with the right setup and materials.  Or, so I say now that I know how to cut the jump rings away en masse and cleanly.  If I’d used silver for my class project, I would have wasted about $60 worth of silver while I learned how to avoid twisting the saw.

Plus there is the bezel setting I learned at the end of first semester, which showed me that even though it looks simple to set a stone in a metal bezel, in reality there is a lot of work which goes into it, and it requires some finesse to avoid, say, melting your bezel into a puddle instead of closing it.  It also requires some finesse to achieve a secure seat for your stone, and to avoid inadvertently damaging the stone in the process of setting it.  This is not even getting into whether what you’re setting it on looks good or not — more often than not, this is a flat piece of sheet metal, sometimes with stamps, soldered buttresses or designs of wire, or, in some cases which I especially admire, bits of granulation.  I can’t do granulation yet, so of course, I’m impressed.  ;)

Form is explored in metalwork, but often at the expense of color.  Color dynamics are a big attractor and driving force for me.  My seed bead, colored pencil, and marker collections attest to it.  I have wanted to get into painting, but so far the only experience I have there is in one Color Dynamics class which used gouache, plus Continuing Drawing — there was an introduction to pastel painting at the very end of that session.

I know there are liver of sulfur and shakudo and shibuichi and the golds and coppers and brasses.  I even know that there are the reactive metals to work with, titanium and niobium, and these.  But do I really love metal?  At this point, my enjoyment of metalwork is not high enough for me to go out of my way to expose myself to the hazards of metalwork.  Hot metalwork, at least.  Cold connections are much less intimidating.

In addition, there seemed, in my metalsmithing class, to be some prejudice against beaders.  I inadvertently ran up against this when I started constructing a beadwoven chain for my metal pendant in class.

At this point, having done some work in design myself — I mean, beyond changing the colors of a pattern, and I mean — really taking a concept through multiple models to achieve a workable formula (that collar with the daggers may have to be altered so it curves more), I can see the point that people who work in metal may think that beaders are unoriginal because they/we stereotypically don’t take a project from concept to conclusion, but rather have to learn via patterns and mimicry before we can stand on our own two feet.

But where are you going to find a way to learn to bead unless a) you know someone who does it who is willing to teach you, b) you take classes at a bead store — if there is one near you, or c) you learn through finding pre-made patterns (in print and online) and following them?  I mean, seriously!

It wasn’t until I confronted the idea of going into business with my own jewelry start-up that I found I didn’t have the complete set of skills I’d need to do business in the way I’d want to do it.  I’m gaining that skill now, and I’m slowly de-shocking myself from the scare of potentially treading on someone else’s intellectual property rights.  In two to five years, maybe I could have a viable business.  But there are a lot of things to get in order, first.  Particularly, identity and my target market, plus maybe figuring out what lies behind the drive to bead.

There are a lot of things that I didn’t know about myself that I’m learning about myself, which could gain me a signature style, which could in turn become a brand that I’d be able to sell within the U.S. for U.S. level living-wage money.  Probably not urban living-wage money, unless I’m in a place I don’t want to be, but nonetheless.

I think, though, that one of the reasons there are so many beading pattern books on the market is that really, handwoven beaded jewelry is…it’s expensive in terms of time and design, but not in terms of materials.  It’s also relatively fragile.  So maybe it seems more profitable to sell copies of the patterns and let people make the jewelry themselves, than it is to have a firm which produces and distributes finished beaded jewelry.  Otherwise, most of what I’ve seen comes from outside of this country, and really, how do you compete with a $10 daisy-chain bracelet?

Unless you have a distinct identity, that is — and you know what you’re selling, beyond your product.  Though, of course, that can easily go icky, if you jump to conclusions.  But the reality behind it maybe doesn’t have to be really that bad.  If you’re selling things because you want to celebrate femininity, hey, good on you, you know?  But know that’s what you’re doing, and know the cultural context it takes place in; and the possible problems resulting from the flawed system that your statement only makes sense within.  And know it’s very possible that others will see different meanings in your art than those which you intend.

I think that if I’m really creative — if I really take an unusual tack to what I want to be doing, and I do something which no one else in my part of the world is doing, or which maybe no one is doing anywhere — I think it’s possible to run a handmade jewelry business.  It would be tight, financially, and it would take a lot of time.  Plus, a lot of my attention would be expended on business as versus creation, at least unless I found a partner to manage that side for me.  This is at least a two-person venture, if it’s serious, and more likely eventually at least a 5-person venture.  But hey.  The culture?  The work?  It could turn out nice.

Anyhow, I’ve put this to the side for now as an auxiliary option.  I’m not married and don’t have plans to be, so I’ll have to support myself.  Right now I’m looking at writing and beadwork as things I love, can do relatively easily, and can do immediately.

I promised you a link to a review of Matubo seed beads.  That link is here.  I ran across this by accident; the author displays photos of these beads next to a couple of other brands which I had not seen in action prior, but which I’m considering trying out, now.  Presently, Matubos are only available in 7/0 size (in Czech sizing) — the size is quoted in the article; the difference between the Czech and Japanese sizing relations is something I’ve just inferred from past experience.

Anyhow, happy crafting (or whatever you do out there!)  Treat yourself nice.  :)

embroidery, fiber arts, garments, needlework, tatting

Beginnings of playing with _Embroidered & Embellished_; plus, tatting?!

I finally broke through the wall and started playing around with muslin and threads, today.  What I found, which was surprising, is that my own handwork differs from the handwork I’ve seen in my main text, for now — Embroidered & Embellished, by Christen Brown.

I picked up this book, as it was advertised to me before the date of its publication, and I’d been waiting on seeing it before I bought it.  It’s a very pretty/inspiring book, and I ended up checking it out of the library and reading it all the way through.  I found out that it seems to be geared towards beginning embroiderers, given the (limited) spectrum of “traditional” stitches which it features, which seem based on linework.  There are also some stitches for more advanced needleworkers, which fall under the chapter on “raised & textured embroidery” — though I wouldn’t have known about the difficulty level, except for reading in other embroidery texts.

Despite the linework bit, which really reminded me of drawing with fineliners as versus markers (ribbonwork?) or painting — I went out and bought a copy of this book today, because it does say (out of the great plethora of options) what needles to use with what thread or floss, and things are easy enough to understand, and limited enough, that it’s relatively non-intimidating.  It also seems that the later stitches often build upon simpler stitches learned early-on.  So while this isn’t a thorough reference by any means, it is a good teaching tool and introduction to embroidery, as it shows different results given with the same basic skill set, based on using differing materials.

I’m really glad I finally got up the nerve to try and practice.  I don’t know what it is, but starting is always the hardest part, for me.  I think there is a fear there that I’ll try it but not like it, or that I’ll try it and fail.  What happened today is that I tried it, and I liked some of my errors more than I liked what I was supposed to be making!

For example, there is something called a lazy daisy flower — while trying to do this, I accidentally started making a lazy daisy maple leaf.  I actually like the maple leaf better than the flower!  It all has to do with variations in proportion and spacing.  Color doesn’t hurt, either — I’ve been intentionally avoiding pink, and so came out with a bunch of red maple leaves.  (And one flower, after thinking to myself that I really should try to make one.)  ;)  Note:  when using a French Knot as the center of a flower, make the knot first and then stitch the petals.  The needle has been punching holes all through the center of the flower, and so your knot may pull all the way through the (now-weakened) fabric, otherwise.  So unless you want an eyelet with a knot hanging off the back, don’t do that!

There are a few other things to mention.  One:  how one holds the thread on the right side of the work while stitching, really does matter.  I’ve had more luck with making a stitch and then looping the floss over the needle, rather than stitching with my floss leading in some general direction, however.  Two:  it’s difficult to make a finishing knot when working with a small embroidery hoop.  I think mine is about 4-5″ across, and that’s not enough when you want to finish a thread (requiring one to make a French Knot and pull the [thick] needle straight through taut fabric) and the needle is facing a wall.

The third bit is related to #2; and that is, when stitching an outline using a backstitch, it really does matter whether the floss falls above or below the needle.  Randomly, one gets an offset, broken pattern, though this can also be done intentionally; always holding the thread above the needle, however, gives an overlapping pattern.

The last thing I wanted to mention:  proportions.  I genuinely like my own proportions better than the ones shown in this book.  I am not sure how much of this has to do with having practiced writing kanji, but my staggered blanket stitch (called the “short-long-short blanket stitch” in the book) really looks like I was writing yama, yama, yama over and over again.  (The Japanese character [or kanji] for “mountain” reads, yama; it shows three peaks next to each other, not unlike the staggered blanket stitch.)

That’s as far as I’ve gotten, for now.  I did, however, find a book on tatting, which is a method of lacemaking.  I’ve gotten the idea in my head to make garments with 3/4 sleeves, and lace edging the sleeve openings.  However, I’ve really got to find a good, simple book on tatting which will teach me the fundamentals.  I’d never been exposed to it before, and so while a lot of what I saw, looked basically like a lark’s head sinnet which was looped around and upon itself — I had never even seen a tatting shuttle before, and I don’t know how to use one.

There is a place I know of which I can go to in order to look at laces, and they probably have a library there.  And it’s probably much greater than the one book I found on the shelf, today.  ;)  I didn’t pick that one up; it’s called New Tatting.  It focused mostly on doilies, which is not really my end goal.  My end goal would be something more like making trims for garments.  But again, you know, maybe it’s just meant as a course for learning the basics.  I’ll just have to research it more.

beading, beadwork, embroidery, fiber arts, glass beads, macrame, seed beads, sewing

Surveying the field…or a part of it.

When I started the Business certificate program, I had the idea of going into business as someone who made jewelry out of seed beads and fiber.  Then I transitioned into “maybe it would be better to do silversmithing,” and after this last bead show, I’ve found that I really do like working with glass, for its versatility and economy.  There’s also the unnecessary drama in and around metals, for me.

So I’m coming back around to “seed beads and fiber,” whether that is knotted, woven, braided, or embroidered.  I just don’t think I realized until Easter (when I was knotting) that a lot of the beaded projects I’ve seen in — well, to be honest, particularly the one knotting book I have which teaches Cavandoli — the designs are actually primarily fiber projects, with beads to accentuate them.  They aren’t primarily beadwork; they’re primarily fiber art, with beads.

For beadwork itself, there’s nothing better (to me, and at this point, anyway) than beadweaving.  I’ve read that techniques in and of themselves cannot be copyrighted, only specific designs can be.  I really hope that’s true.  The most significant difference to me between beaded macrame and beadwoven work is the role of the fiber.  In beadweaving, the fiber itself is generally supposed to be unobtrusive and fall back or nigh-disappear while the beads take center stage; while in macrame, the fibers which the beads are threaded onto are design elements of their own.

Then there is beaded embroidery/bead embroidery, which I really hope to try soon.  I don’t think I’ve ever done it before.  This is a bit more specialized than embroidering on fabric with beads as a design element for a garment (which is what comes to my mind when I write “beaded embroidery”).  This is using beads, thread, and nonwoven fabric to mount stones and create jewelry (which is what comes to my mind when I think of “bead embroidery”).

I’ve also thought of branching out into just plain embroidery, given that the wonderful color mixes of threads are there, tempting me just like a wall of multicolored seed beads does.  If I do this well — and/or if I can get past my gender-related block to sew, this could turn out some really nice stuff.

By the gender thing, I mean in particular that it hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me to deal with being female, and many of the clothing patterns I’ve seen have been strongly gendered in a way that…shows me that I’m not in the designer’s target market.  There are some cooler things, like Folkwear patterns (I still haven’t finished that Nepali blouse mockup), but what I really would like to do would be to alter patterns to suit my own tastes (and body).  I’m just not that good yet.

It would be great for me, if I could disassociate prepackaged, commercialized and marketed femininity — not my version of femininity, but someone else’s — from what I create on the sewing machine.  Unfortunately, though, that kind of mindset gets a lot of external bolstering.  But this doesn’t have to be the way it is.  As, what about men who want to sew for themselves, for starters?  Where are the patterns for them, and/or when we do find those patterns, why is it assumed that a woman will make it for him?

Why does sewing have to be a gendered activity?

Or maybe I just haven’t spent enough time browsing pattern catalogs to find designers fully targeting myself, yet.  Wherever they are, they certainly aren’t easy to find.  Maybe I’d have better luck in a big city sewing store.

Anyhow, I’ll get off the soapbox, now.

But yes.  Little embroidered purses would be an excellent trial, given that I can assemble something coherent out of the multitude of embroidery stitches I’ve found!  I collect cool little purses, so I bet this is why I think it’s a great idea.  ;)

So I’ve said this much about beads and fiber.  I haven’t included kumihimo (Japanese loom braiding) or Chinese or Korean knotting, here, because they’re really on the periphery of my focus, at the moment.  Maybe not forever, but for now, at least.  I mean, I still can’t tie a Garakji, and I did try for a while (it helped to use a tapestry needle).  These things are just a lot harder without a teacher there to help.  I’m seriously lucky I finally figured out the Dorae knot…which took two books together, and hours (and hours) of troubleshooting.

…and, I just realized, I totally forgot about knitting and crochet.  Knitting is probably definitely out, except for spool knitting; crochet, not totally.  There are methods for adding beads to textile works like shawls, and there is bead crochet which, while somewhat predictable, does look nice.  The difficulties come with finishing the ends of the work, in jewelry-making processes.  I don’t like to be overly dependent on commercial findings or adhesives; and that applies to trying to finish kumihimo as well as crochet.

Anyhow.  The third element to this, which I thought of when I realized that I’m dealing with pierced items and things which in a modular or sequential fashion, thread through pierced items, is wire.  Wire can be used in weaving and in other textile processes like knitting, braiding, and crochet.  What is nice about it is that it holds its shape (at least, when hardened), it can be formed and forged, and because of these things, it can add visual and textural interest.

The drawback to any form of metalworking is that it requires specialized tools.  I’m lucky in that I’ve been messing around with jewelry since I was a kid, so I have a bunch of tools already.  Still, though; the setup costs can be relatively expensive.  This goes triple or quadruple when you’re intending to embark on a full-fledged metalwork run, let alone when you’re working in precious metals.

I do have some ideas as to where to pursue private classes in silversmithing, which look pretty good about now.  I’m so new to the field, though, that I can’t really tell what lies ahead, here.  I know that I don’t want to go to an ultra-expensive elite school at this time — not until I’m sure that it’s what I want to do.  And I’m not that sure.  I already made that mistake once, with the Master’s program I bailed on because I thought I wanted to be in the industry, before discovering that it wasn’t as good a match as I’d hoped.  I am not about to pretend that I can practice for a short amount of time and come out the other end of the curriculum as a silversmith or goldsmith.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve found a smaller, competing school, which is about half as expensive as the professional one, and does not require the purchase of any outside tools or materials except for consumable supplies (like lubricant and solder).  One of the classes they give that I know I want to take, is filigree.  But I’m going to have to wait a while, for that one — it has a prerequisite.  At the very least, though, it’s something to keep my eye on.  And then there are the Art Center courses, which are much less expensive than the above, being not-for-profit…also something to keep my eye on!

garments, sewing

heading up to buying fabric, and altering pattern

I should be going out tomorrow to try and find a suitable cloth for the Nepali blouse. What I want to do is lengthen both front panels and the two back panels, along with the slits on the sides (which hit above my pant line at the current time).

I should need about three yards of material for this, assuming that I lengthen the front and back pieces a maximum of eight inches, which means I’ll need 16″ more material. Normally I’d be using 2.5 yards of material w/o allowing for strategic placement of the pattern on the fabric. Half a yard is 18″. This last time I believe I got 2.75 yards of muslin and it was more than enough for the basic garment.

The major thing is that I don’t want to be showing skin, and the slits at the sides will show my skin (or more likely, undershirt), and the hem is so high that if I lift my arms above my head, I’m pretty sure my belly will show (which makes me uncomfortable normally, regardless of whether my belly is large or not).

One of the reasons I’ve liked sewing is that you get to customize your clothes, so for someone like me who says that just because I’m female doesn’t mean I want to show my body to the world (honestly I don’t know why clothes designers seem to think that female = sex object, even if unwilling), it’s good to know that I can modify what I’m wearing.

So basically I want to make this tunic-length. Slit on the sides but not to the point that people can see my skin. Long enough so that if I reach over my head, no one’s going to be looking at my navel.

As for fabric choice — I’m thinking something between violet, blue, and blue-green, though a brown will also work. I want it mid-ranged to dark in tone. This pattern is a good choice for showing off the print of something like a subdued batik. It should drape well, not wrinkle easily, and not be translucent (as the fabric overlaps itself and the interfacing is opaque and also unbleached, it is easy to see in the muslin version that the muslin is translucent).

I’ll also need maybe .75 yards of interfacing. I want to use a lightweight silk (probably not white), as I’ve noticed the nonwoven stuff tends to roll up on itself after a while of washing. (Granted, though, this was in a ready-made shirt.) This would be encased inside the collar, so it probably won’t get very worn. I’m thinking of cutting the interfacing on the bias, though, after seeing what a stiff collar looks like. I should probably still get at least .75 yards, but I need to check pattern requirements.

I also need to topstitch closer to the edge of the collar, next time.

It will probably be easier next time to use…well, I suppose I can use that white silk basting thread to mark points on the fabric, if I’m using a darker fabric. It’s a bigger pain than using chalk, but I know the silk won’t melt into the fabric, never to wash out, unlike the chalk.

Right now I’m thinking rayon, or a wrinkle-resistant cotton.

M told me that we have another pattern here which is like what I’m thinking of, with the tunic idea — but it’s a bit too untailored for me. The pattern I’m working with has been fine to the point of realizing it was uncomfortably short, and I can easily remedy that. I’ll just have to lengthen the waist and the portion below the waist, and make sure those lengths match before cutting my material.

And I need to get some sleep.

fiber arts, occupational hazards

Butterfly 10 + 4mm circulars

So I went to a LYS and found that the pattern I’d been practicing — the Cloverleaf Cable one — is really advanced for the amount of time I’ve been knitting. The pattern includes an SSK, and undoing an SSK was messing me up. I found out that when undertaking a project with a new stitch, you have to know both how to knit it, and how to unknit it. Since I barely know how to do an SSK anyway…well, you can see my problem.

I did find a thread on Ravelry that can be searched under “tinking SSK” which gives a lot of different methods for undoing an SSK without damaging the work more than necessary. But I think that for now I’m probably not going to do the Cloverleaf Cable.

I did find a Diagonal Lace stitch pattern (no SSKs) which I want to use with the Misti Alpaca laceweight, held double. This note still needs to be marked on my pattern sheet, though. This last time of attempting something with that yarn, though — I learned that with the Diagonal Stitch pattern, I need to put in a lifeline every pattern repeat (every 6 rows). Undoing a pattern which includes YOs and SKPs is…well, I can say that I messed up the pattern more by trying to undo my work than it was messed up to begin with. If I’d had a lifeline, I would have been able to just rip back one and a half rows, given that the yarn didn’t tangle itself into a knot instead of ripping back. And this yarn really does like to knot instead of coming undone, unlike the Butterfly.

Right now I have some new yarn — Butterfly 10; mercerized cotton, DK weight. Plus a set of flexible plastic 4mm circulars which I used a hair dryer to straighten (much easier than using tap water, even though I warped one section of the cable). I was told by the LYS person that they would be easier on my wrists than metal or bamboo circulars, which she said could cause RSI (though this might not be an issue unless you’re knitting a *lot*).

The only thing I can say about them so far is that I need to keep my tension looser than I did in order for the loops to move over the join between needle and cable smoothly; plus the feel in one’s hands (and the scraping between the points in the method of knitting I’m using, which polishes bamboo points but may wear on these) takes some getting used to. I do, however, like the concave taper on the points. I can look up the brand if anyone’s interested.

I also picked up a pattern for a cable scarf and charted out the pattern last night so I could see how it worked. I think if I add on one more cable and one more in-between panel, it should be workable in the smaller yarn. It’s easy to see now why so many of the scarves in LYSs are narrow and long — it’s easier to undo because there are less stitches to drop or tink.

I really have no idea why the Butterfly is so much easier to unravel than the Misti Alpaca, except it’s larger and so it’s more difficult for a tiny strand to get caught and cause the unraveling to stop. Plus it’s mercerized, so it’s kind of shiny and smooth.

The Misti Alpaca which I broke off — I’d been using it for samples, which is how I know it works well held double for the Diagonal Lace pattern. But it really does wear when it’s ripped back, plus it knots; so now I have a bunch of fuzzy, tiny waste yarn. I’m going to use it for lifelines, as I did when trying to see if the Butterfly 10 looked good in the Diagonal Lace pattern (it doesn’t).

But the Butterfly 10 — it cost me $4 a hank. I’d hate to use it for dishcloths — it’s soft and shiny enough to be garment material. Of course there is that issue with cotton absorbing pesticides while growing which I heard about in my Fibers class, so the poison can’t be washed away…but really, most of my clothes are cotton, so I’m not entirely certain I should be overly concerned about the yarn in specific.

There is one LYS store within driving distance which sources locally-grown, organic cotton. I’ll have to check that out.

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.

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

New books

This is going to be a quick post just to say that I picked up a couple of new books.  These are _Knitting in Plain English_ and _Crocheting in Plain English_.  From what I’ve read of both, there’s some overlap.  But I ran across these two, earlier, and was impressed enough with what I read (and saw, in the diagrams), to pick the both of them up.

A full review will have to wait…I’m only on Chapter Five of KPE (and in CPE, I’m only far enough to have learned a new hook position which makes my fabrics softer).  I decided to pick up KPE because I want to learn how to knit, and I needed a reference that was better than the free “Idiot’s Guide” lying around the house, which I’ve found not to be trustworthy.

I can name one instance where the diagrams in the latter are obviously wrong (though I only figured that out after going to…I would be on the lookout for more errors, but I really don’t plan on going back to that book if I can help it.

Initially I thought that these two books were just to explain pattern terminology, but I do think now that they’re going to go far beyond that.

I’m continuing on the Flexi Cowl that I began a while ago (crochet).  No pictures, yet.  I really don’t know how it will turn out.  This is the project where I changed hook position basically 1/3 of the way through the project, though having a perfect flat rectangle isn’t necessary for this pattern.

And, I began practicing garter stitch on my bamboo needles.  (Which warped.)  I’m thinking that when I do begin on the scarf that I want to make to familiarize myself with the knit stitch, that I should probably use an ombre (slow color-change) yarn, as versus a tweed (?).  I mean by that, that there is a yarn which has two different colors to the plies, which I’d been planning on using for warmth…the problem is that the colors are both neutrals.

Ah, I don’t know.  The tweed is cheap enough that I could easily make a stole.  But there are other, prettier yarns out there.  It’s not a question of function, so long as I keep to wool, but of economy and style, I suppose.  The project could turn out looking pretty good as well as being functional.  It would just likely be smaller.

Wow, I’m getting tired.  I should get to bed.