Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sari Silk

I decided, for my own record as much as anything, to post some of my own designs that came pre-blog. This is a simple fitted shell I designed last year, knitted bottom up in the round. The bodice was modeled after a woven silk shell in my closet, but I am not entirely happy with the cut - I think a more deeply scooped neckline would have better balanced my wide shoulders and long torso. Nevertheless, it is perfectly wearable, and was a good learning experience.

The yarn is recycled sari silk, knitted in alternating rounds with Estelle's aran weight silk. I haven't seen much blogged about sari silk - it seems to have been relegated to the unappealing niche of amateurly handspun novelty yarn. I have yet to find any patterns for it other than tote bags and shapeless wraps, which is truly a shame, because it is beautiful and (once washed) soft. Not only is it recycled, but it is generated through projects which support and empower vulnerable Nepalese women. Admittedly, the twist varies wildly (although I believe more recent versions are better spun), but knitted along with a commercial yarn it behaves quite nicely.

I have a bundle of mostly blue skeins in the stash which I plan to knit along with charcoal grey worsted weight wool to make a zippered outerwear vest - perhaps with some cables to add depth and visual interest.

Tomorrow: the modified tunic from VK, which just needs the ends woven in. After all the angst and fussing, I love how this turned out!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Here Be Dragons

I spent much of yesterday happily absorbed in design fever. (And will atone for that by spending much of today less happily mired in feverish decluttering.) After some on-the-body measuring (to the amateur violin-like strains of "but mooooom, standing still is booooooring") and some comparison measuring of existing garments, I came up with a dress shape. And then woke up in the middle of the night having second thoughts about whether it would be too loose. I have a horror of things being too small, especially kid stuff, and consequently a tendency to be over liberal with adding ease here and there throughout the calculations. C did specifically say she wanted a snug dress, not a flouncy one, so I think I will redraw the bodice a little straighter down to the waist before flaring the skirt portion. And remeasure everything in suspiciously OCD fashion. (Just ask my DH about checking the front door lock when we go on holidays - except there was that one time I was right and he HAD forgotten and it was a Good Thing I Checked.)

The graph paper was generated by Print a Grid - a simple (and inexpensive!) but mind-bogglingly useful program. I was able to generate a grid that matched my gauge specifications exactly, and thus accurately graph the design stitch by stitch.

Now to work out the dragon - it must be recognizably Norse / Celtic, tending towards cute rather than evil, but not saccharin or cartoonish, and have enough surface features that it will not form a solid blob of reverse stockinette in the centre of the dress, which could make it sag or bulge due to the elastic properties of the stitch. I've been combing google images for days, and now have a reasonable handle on the general anatomical features I want, but haven't found an existing design that comes close to being directly adaptable. Probably just as well.


After the kids went to bed, I finished up the last sleeve of my nemesis:

Good thing I liberated all those pins the other day! I'm going to sew it up first, so as to be absolutely certain how wide the knotwork cuffs need to be. Oh, and this is all that was left over - seems I did manage to do the math second time around.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pearl of the Hyperbolic Plane

I love the melodic and mysterious sound of that phrase, which inspired this:
I was following the trail of Norah Gaughan's recommended reading list, which lead me to searching out some mathematical knitting links, and I was seized with the thought that I really should get on with crocheting a hyperbolic plane in silver. (It's not actually all that mathematically complex - you just crochet two stitches into one each round, effectively doubling every round.) It was so coral reef-y looking, that I thought a black pearl would set it off nicely, and the sound of the title pretty much clinched the design. I think it will become a pendant on a simple sterling silver chain.

Inspired by designers like Nora Gaughan, Teva Durham and Debbie New, I have begun to flesh out a design direction based on the notion of organic mathematical forms. I love the purity of math, and its elegant ability to discern unity in the complexity of living things. I want to explore the shape of the human body itself though, rather than just decorating it with the patterns of other creatures. What mathematical ideas could describe the curve of the hips leading to that delicious swoop into the waist, the symmetry of breasts designed to fill with milk? This harks all the way back to my grade school days when I used to play for hours with number sequences and geometric forms, entranced by the notion of making a brilliant discovery using only my mind and a pencil.

My other passion is incorporating symbol and meaning into design - to create garments and pieces of jewelry that flow out of my personal sense of spirituality and connectedness and being in the world. (It is particularly gratifying when I sell such a piece and the recipient writes to tell me how they connected with its intent).
Here is the yarn for a sundress I am designing for my daughter:

She spent considerable time stacking the balls in a variety of geometric configurations - perhaps she takes after me just a little. It is going to be a sleeveless sundress - an A-line, I think - and it will be knitted in the round in plain stockinette with a purl stitch design of a Norse dragon coiling up the body and a border of runes at the bottom. I'll divulge why as the dress progresses. I thought it would be fun to photograph the design process, particularly since this is going to take some very careful figuring and charting.
The swatch: Demonstrating already a need for caution because the yarn splits very easily. It's Katia Ancla - 100% cotton, quite bulky, and the color is even more deliciously saturated than the photo. It never ceases to amaze me that I produced a child whose skin tone actually complements intense reds and oranges, but it's a grand excuse to knit with them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I have one of those horrid elastic band headaches, squeezing my brain into a hard lumpy mess. The fabric of my carefully orchestrated "get ready to move" plan (which has been in effect for 4 months now - really) is looking like the worst kind of knitted nightmare - dropped stitches unravelling wildly, the ones I managed to pick up splitting and somehow fanatically tight by the time I knit them back up to the needles, and the whole business looks like a project that should be abandoned without even the bother of frogging. Except it's my life.

So, what's the most productive thing to do when faced with the paralysis of an overwhelming task? Make lists, do 15 minutes at a time, yada yada yada... Or do what I did and cruise the blogrolls this morning while dreading the impending day of going to a public event to be Mother Of The Most Oppositional Child There.

I found some cool stuff, though:

Print and Pattern - it's a pretty new blog, but already has an impressive collection of inspirational prints and design motifs.
Design Sponge - more random inspiration - the erin adams mosaic with the little red birds is calling my name in a big way.
A random stripe generator - looks like a fun way to mix and match those oddiments of yarn on the screen.
Posie gets Cozy - I am SO in love with the multidirectional / multimedia design thing - paper, sewing, embroidery, jewelry, knitting ....except my creative frenzy is not helping the calm and focused organizing thing.

Also, I managed to take some photos at the school picnic while taking a little walk with my Not Nearly So Oppositional child, and then I got to playing with the photoeditor to generate some colorway inspirations. Love the textures and the subtle colorways, but what if you moved a little closer and squinted? I can definitely picture a FairIsle design now, and it is much easier to pick out specific single hues.

A wild rose:
With a more manageable balance of colors - how gorgeous would this be in a FairIsle blend?


And you thought watching the grass grow was boring:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Digging for Treasure

I did some sensible, disciplined, "grown-ups finish what they start" sort of knitting this weekend. Row after row of plain stockinette, mocked every stitch by the knowledge that I Made A Mistake On Yardage. But I shall prevail - I have read every page of both of Nicky Epstein's edging books and now, overwhelmed with creative stimuli and Too Many Choices, I have pretty much decided to design my own. (I sometimes wonder why I spend so much money on books, only to use them as creative jumping off points - surely there is a cheaper form of inspiration??) It will be WAY cool, and based on Nicky's use of i-cord and the mathematical design formulae I gleaned from this site early in my silver smithing ventures. I never really stuck with it for jewellery (largely because metal work-hardens rapidly and I don't - yet - have the fire-intensive equipment to alloy, fabricate, and repeatedly anneal gold and silver), but the notion of genuinely tied continuous knotwork continues to fascinate me.

The other sensible thing I did this weekend was to start sifting through a lifetime of accumulated sewing, knitting and other fiber art supplies. It's only 2 months now until we move and I have to pare down our belongings to fit in an 800 square foot 2 bedroom apartment (did I mention the two kids and the cat and the 155 lb Irish wolfhound?) I have no problem shedding most of our possessions, because we really haven't ever been into accumulating fancy consumer goods and I am truly looking forward to a simpler uncluttered lifestyle. It's the fibre and textiles and their associated accoutrements that I cling to, unable to shed that classic Depression era thought "but what if I need it someday?" I think it's more than that though, because the sort of multi-media textile art I love relies on a deep and eclectic hoard of treasures from which one may draw, at a moment's notice, just the right bit of something for a project. I just have to organize and consolidate them. I have resolved to shed the cheap acrylic yarn that was all I could afford in my teens and the (likely polyester) "mystery fabrics" that were on sale and that I have never yet made drapes from or utilized to reupholster my couch. There are lots of lovely treasures though, and I thought it would be fun to post some of them as the "dig" progresses.
This is from my pre-children art quilt phase. I had a very dreamy sort of eco-feminist image of breasts flowing with milk into a magical pool in the woods. I was not so much into planning things at that point though, and thought I could just sort of "paint" the little 1 inch squares of cotton prints into place as I went along. Clearly, it was not going to work (although I still rather like the image), and for the last 10 years it has been taking up quite a lot of space as a very prickly object containing most of my best sewing pins. I dismantled it with the (amazingly non-injurious) help of my 3 year old DS. The squares went into a ziplock to make a lovely watercolorish sort of quilted project at a later date. And I don't have to buy more sewing pins.

My mother brought this back from Istanbul for me a few years back:
It's a heavy upholstery fabric, and I think it will make a lovely set of organizers: sewing supplies, knitting needles, and soft, compact storage for my inventory of finished jewellery.

Like so:

Do I have time to design and sew this stuff? I'm not sure I have time not to, and I would like, for once, to move without things being stuffed haphazardly in makeshift boxes at the last minute.