beading, beadweaving, beadwork, craft, creativity, design, seed beads

Design work: Embellished Tri Stitch

It’s actually fairly amazing, the things that come from just playing around with beads. I was able to get back to my design work, today. In the process, I was able to test out some S-Lon beading thread that I got a while back from General Bead, and to cut into one of my half-hanks of size 8/0 Czech seed beads.

The thing about beadwork is that it’s not always feasible to start out with a drawing, and assume that the drawing will work out into a real-world prototype which will mirror the drawing exactly. The dimensions and shapes of beads are just too precise, or sometimes idiosyncratic. I’ve found that even with beads which I assume are from the same manufacturer (for example, 3mm Miyuki-brand magatama drop beads), the shapes and sizes are not exactly the same. The exception to this could be if my supplier has at least two different sources for beads which are sold under the same name. Until I visited General Bead, though, the only types of teardrop-style seed beads I knew of were Czech fringe beads, and Miyuki 3mm Magatamas.

Embellished tri-chain swatch.

Tonight I was working with Tri Stitch, which I tried to reteach to myself before I finally realized I was beginning the chain wrong (I was looping through all three beads to begin, instead of just two), and had to resort to looking at instructions to begin. My source: Seed bead stitching: Creative variations on traditional techniques, by Beth Stone, © 2007.

The reason that the photo here doesn’t look like much is that this sample is tiny — about three inches long — and not only did I have to deal with troublesome light sources (it’s night) and difficulty focusing (the colors here are washed out, and none of my photos came out crisp, probably because I was too close), but the beads I used were mostly from a set of beads that I’ve set aside because they are either 1) the most inexpensive beads I had in a certain shape and size, 2) the beads have gotten dusty from sitting out too long and thus I’m disinclined to use them in jewelry someone will wear (without washing), or 3) the beads are likely to fade because of the method of their coloring.

The larger turquoise beads are my least-expensive and easiest-to-replace Czech 8/0s, while the drop beads at the top are color-lined, meaning they have, in this case, a bronzish paint on the inside of their hole which may change color or fade. The beads at the bottom? The amber ones are Czech 11/0s left over from some forgotten project, while the picots (loops) are size 15/0 Medium Topaz Toho beads which I used as a test to see whether the silver lining would come out.

I have another set of 15/0s (unknown brand, old) which are slightly lighter, but their silver linings shed on my fingertips– I was trying to see if it was due to age or the abrasion of the Big-Eye Needle I used. I think it was the needle. Big-Eyes have two spring-steel wires soldered together and sharpened; they’re easy to thread and use, but they aren’t as smooth to the inside of a bead’s piercing(s) as regular beading needles. They also tend to shred one’s thread into its constituent fibers, and jam up. This is magnified when using a bead as small as 15/0. It also isn’t (as much of) an issue with a regular beading needle.

I went through three swatches before I got the above (the trials were fairly…well, learning experiences). I found out relatively early that I would have to use Czech beads for some aspects of this pattern, because the Japanese 8/0 beads I first tried were far too cylindrical to nestle into each other properly. I keep saying that Czech beads are more donut-shaped…this causes them to be friendlier to stitches like Tri Stitch and Right-Angle Weave, because the edges of the beads have more rounded transitions between the walls and the tops and bottoms.

I also didn’t expect at all to have a place to use size 15/0 beads, but for little delicate embellishments like picots, they’re perfect. These are Tohos, which are a Japanese brand, which doesn’t matter all that much, in context. I do have some Czech size 13/0, but the Czech beads can get so tiny (down to the size where they look like sand) that it’s really either amazing or discouraging. :) Maybe both. I have Czech 13/0s that look just as small as Japanese 15/0s.

Yeah, I don’t know, either.

It was good to get back to this, today. I find it slightly strange that work done in design is unpredictable at the point of beginning. That is, I may have an idea of what I want in mind, but the plan has to evolve for anything to get done, especially when dealing with beads (which are pre-made, and thus have their dimensions already determined; the skill and fun comes in where one figures out how to fit them together in some way that looks nice, is durable, and isn’t a mess).

As for the S-Lon beading thread…I like it enough to consider buying C-Lon beading thread, which I’ve heard is basically the same thing. It still shreds if abused, but not as easily as Nymo (which used to be industry-standard). I know where to find both brands (different sources)…I’m just not sure which, or how many, colors to get. Having too many color choices can be as bad as having too few. In any case, I was using an olive tone of thread tonight, and it doesn’t look bad, really. I mean, it’s not black or white or red, which are the colors which would stand out most. I think that because the beads I used were greenish, and the thread was greenish and muted, it dropped back nicely.

I did just get a bunch of C-Lon Micro Cord, which I’ve wanted to use for micromacrame, but haven’t gotten the chance to play with it yet, what with job applications, and graduation, and reading, and my own continuing study. Maybe I should make it a priority to have days where I work with my beads, or paints, or on my writing…

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

more working notes on feather & fan

Alright. So it’s been a night. I attempted a knitted-on cast on over 4mm needles last night with the Bamboo & Ewe (after a terrible first try with mercerized cotton). The knitted-on cast on seems to work a lot better than the long-tail cast on, to the point where I want to try this cast-on method with a single strand of the laceweight yarn on my 3.25mm circular needles. The 4mm needles left large holes, even without yarn-overs, which doesn’t mesh well with my aesthetics.

I wanted to try and see what working the double-stranded version over at least 3.5mm needles would look like — if it would be considerably less dense. It seems, though, that this would imply my buying a 3.5mm straight needle set to see if the lace even looked good, and then a 3.5mm circular in order to knit the final product, and that’s running at least $20. I think that later tonight I’m going to try what I mentioned in the first paragraph and see if it is at all workable.

fiber arts

working notes on feather & fan project

I probably shouldn’t stay on here long, but I wanted to note down some things that I found while working the feather and fan pattern. Prior to this entry, I believe I only mentioned this pattern in regard to a swatch I’d made. Things have become more interesting since then.

Initially I cast on a threefold pattern repeat using base 3 (3[3(k2tog)+6(YO, K)+3(k2tog)] for pattern row; that is, using base “x” and a “y”-fold pattern repeat, y[x(K2tog)+2x(YO, k)+x(K2tog)]) on 3.25mm needles. What I found most…surprisingly with that was that I cast on way too tightly, so the bottom edge of my swatch curled upwards. I was also holding the yarn way too tightly, to the point that on my first try, I couldn’t even fit the tip of the needle into two stitches at once. This leads me to believe that, in general, I’ve been holding the yarn too taut — it works for garter stitch, but I want to graduate from rectangles sometime.

The first attempt was not at all workable, so I ripped it out and cast on again over two needles at once. Unfortunately, though holding the needles together worked, I snugged the cast-on loops up against each other, and this made the cast-on for my second attempt considerably narrower than the gauge the yarn wanted to rest at.

For my first three attempts, I was using Bamboo & Ewe, a wool/nylon/rayon sock yarn — this was only because I didn’t want to break into a new skein of Nature Spun Fingering Weight (I have a limited dye lot of this wool, and I’m currently using it in a project). As I was working the pattern, its logic started to make more sense to me, so I resolved to try it out using base 4 and/or base 5.

So I eventually bound off the first Bamboo & Ewe swatch, too tightly, though it was pretty doomed anyway (I think I just wanted to see what would happen), and cast on a fourfold pattern repeat using base 4 to a 32″ 3.25mm circular needle (4[4(K2tog)+8(YO, k)+4(K2tog)] for pattern row).

I got an Addi Turbo for this, and I think I may be spoiled…it cost about $17, but it’s really smooth, especially when the stitches aren’t worked too tight. The only complaint I may have about it is that I got the brass-needle version (I have not used metal needles before to recent memory), which works really well for trying to straighten out the nylon portion under warm water — I can’t imagine that working well with bamboo.

However, when I really have been working with these for a long time and sweat and oil begins to build up on my hands, trying to hold on to the last few stitches on the left needle can be a little slippery. Bamboo needles get kind of “seasoned” — they get glossy and more polished with use, but they’re also prone to dents if you’re working too tightly. The Addi brass needles are already at a mirror finish, and they feel much more durable than the bamboo — I feel more like the yarn will give if I’m working at too high a tension, not the needles.

S suggested using beeswax on my fingertips to help with the needles slipping out of the stitches. For my part, I have been trying to ply the needle between my fingers at a lower area instead of at the tip, and pushing the cord against my body to bump the needle back up when it starts slipping. What I can say is not to try and hold the tip of the needle when things start slipping…it will make things worse, especially if your fingers are oily or sweaty.

Anyhow. I was using the (self-striping) Bamboo & Ewe to practice with, but I don’t have enough of that dye lot to really make a scarf or shawl with, unless I’m okay with a skimpy narrow scarf…and for what that cost me (around $7 a ball), I might as well go to a local yarn store. I mean, seriously, you don’t get that much per ball (240m), so I’m looking at at least $28 there, and if I’m spending that kind of money, I have a lot more options than the upscale yarn at the craft store.

For this project, in my naivete, I bought two hanks of pink laceweight Misti Alpaca (100% baby alpaca wool). I tried casting on with this material the other night, and found that I was again casting on way too tightly, even though I was practicing on 3.25mm needles and attempting to hold the yarn more loosely. I could cast on (I was using the long-tail method throughout all of these attempts, which may be contributing to this), but I couldn’t get my needle through the first loop. It was kind of like trying to thread a needle with a sledgehammer.

This stuff is two-ply; S said that it’s the type of material wedding-ring shawls are made out of. Luckily, I bought two hanks, though; so it is feasible to hold two strands as one and cast on that way (which I tried the other night and ripped out very quickly to avoid kinking the yarn); I do have 400m of each. When I do this, though, my gauge is slightly wider than it was with the Bamboo & Ewe.

I’m not certain how wide to make it if I want it to be a headscarf…or how far 400m will last me at given multiples. I do think I’ll be doing 4-6 repeats of base 4, but I’ve got to look at my other scarves to see how wide they are (as, for example, I already know that I can put one of my silk scarves over my hair, so I just have to compare widths to see how wide this one needs to be if I want to do that).

I’m not sure if I should take my current project off of my 5mm needles and see what this looks like knitted with them…there are a lot of yarn-overs in this pattern, and I don’t want gigantic holes in the scarf. At the same time, it’s looking pretty dense when knitted at 3.25mm. I suppose I could try 4mm…there are some needles here at that size.

I’m wondering if doing a knitted-on cast on will help things where gauge is concerned. I suppose I could try it, if the long-tail cast on is giving me problems (even though it’s supposed to have a lot of give and spring?).

Oh! — one more thing. When I cast on with the double-stranded Misti Alpaca — I found that I really have to be consistent with my tension, because anything that is a little looser or a little tighter will show by row 6, and it isn’t pretty.

Ah, I guess I was on here too long, anyway. :) Hee. I haven’t been online for a while, so I suppose that’s just what happens…

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…”)