Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blocking Lace in the Round - Campanula Sleeves

I finished the sleeves for the Campanula top today. They were pretty easy, once I figured out the decreases for the shaping, and how many stitches I needed to cast on for knitting them in the round. But then I was confronted with the issue of blocking. I didn't really want to lay them flat. Two cookie tins and a couple of pieces of tape later, and voila!

Tools of the Trade - Snapware Snap 'N Stack Portable Organizer

To transport my bead project during the trip I used this portable organizer from Snapware. It has three stacking compartments that snap together with side tabs. I bought mine at Joann's ages ago, but haven't had occasion to use it until now.

In the top compartment I put my bead tray and the project itself, along with some of the tools. In the middle compartment I put my Beader's Companion and my Knitter's Companion.

The bottom tray has two covered compartments. The covers are rather ingenious. There are two depressions that you put your fingers into to remove the covers, but the depressions are open on the flat side so that if you want to you can pull out the entire compartment.

I put my beads in the compartments, separated by project. It's a very nice solution for traveling with your beads. But you don't have to just use it when you're traveling, it is also a convenient storage solution for working on projects at home, especially if you have a cat that likes to steal your bags of beads.

My only association with Snapware is as a satisfied customer.

Holiday Projects

Bruce and I drove down to St. Augustine, Florida to spend Christmas at his Mom's. I needed a knitting project for the car ride so I started this one. It is from Tahki Yarns Spring/Summer Collection 2004. The pattern is #4 Moving Cables Pullover. The yarn is Tahki Cotton Classic. I've had the yarn for quite a while, I love the yellow, so bright and cheerful and warm.

I also started one of the bead crochet ropes for my Larry Scott Byzantine beads.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Three-Quarter Sleeve Pullover - Finished

The original pattern for this pullover comes from the Winter 2008/09 issue of Knit Simple Magazine. The pattern was written to be knitted in the round, my preferred method. In the original the hem of the body was ribbed (2 x 2), as were the cuffs and the neckline. The cuffs were knitted separately and then stitches were picked up on one side to knit the sleeves. The neckline was also to be knitted separately and sewed on. I started out following the pattern, but didn't like the way the sleeves looked (see my previous post) so I decided to redesign the pattern somewhat.

I had already knit the body up to the shoulder shaping when I decided on the redesign. I started the redesign with the sleeves, knitting from the yarn in the body. When I re-knit the body I followed the same method as on the sleeves. I cast on (long-tail method) the 192 stitches the pattern called for and purled one row before joining. This allowed me to take advantage of the fact that one side of the long-tail cast on looks like a purl row. I then joined the round and knit 2 rows, continuing the purl 2 rows, knit 2 rows pattern until I had 4 purled ridges, including the cast on.

Once I reached the shoulder shaping I joined the sleeves and the body and proceeded with the raglan shaping as directed in the pattern. When I got to the neck shaping I used short-rows. After the shaping was finished I purled 2 rows and knit 2 rows twice. I continued the raglan shaping and also added decreases over the shoulder to get the collar to lay flat. To finish I purled one row and then cast off purl-wise on the second purl row.

After blocking the resulting fabric has a wonderful drape, and this pullover fits me perfectly. I love the belled sleeve and the open collar.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Campanula Update

I finished the body of Campanula. I've gotten a lot better at lace, having two lace shawls under my belt, and this pattern is now downright easy. I modified the pattern to knit the body in one piece, rather then three, but I do have a fake seam on the sides. I did this to make the stitches work out when I started the shaping. I charted out the top parts (where the shaping occurs) using Stitch Motif Maker V3 on my tablet PC. Now I just have to knit the sleeves, but first I have to convert the instructions so that I can knit them in the round and create the chart.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pearl Embrace Collar - Finished

I finished the necklace this afternoon. I do love bead work, even though I haven't done a great deal of it. The color, the texture of the beads, there is a richness and sensuality there that touches me. As with knitting, simple stitches yield wonderful complexity and beauty.

- 136 Pearls, about 4.5 mm in diameter
- 3 grams size 11 seed beads (Beadcats stock # 2-11-437-14, bright gold opaque metallic)
- 3 grams size 15 seed beads (Beadcats stock # 2-14-438-70, 22kt gold electroplate on clear glass)
- 10 grams size 15 seed beads (Beadcats stock # 2-14-239-01, rose-gold iridescent)
- 23 flowers (Beadcats stock # N-F2-840-00, topaz transparent)
KO thread (gold)

Tools of the Trade - Dental Picks

When I was working on the bead crochet there were a few times that I had to rip out and when I was picking the loop back up I thought to myself that I could use something like a dental pick to get at the loop. A few days later I received an email from Duluth Trading Company with Dr. Klick's Kits dental tools, on sale. I ordered a set and have used them several times already. The set consists of 7 picks and 4 pairs of tweezers and comes in a nice zipper case. You might want to take some sand paper to the picks to smooth off any burrs, and be careful reaching into the case, the picks are very sharp. I got a little careless and impaled my thumb on one.

My only affiliation with Duluth Trading Company is as a satisfied customer.

Dragon Scale - Spiral Bead Crochet Rope

I finished the spiral bead crochet necklace last night. I really like the way the colors work together. The blue iridescent beads of the center of the spiral with the olive green purple-lined beads and the bronze all seem very organic to me. Once I got going with the crochet I didn't want to stop, and I wasn't sure how long a rope I would end up with, so I decided to put the clasp in the front, hiding it with the flowers. I borrowed the flowers from a project in the October/November 2009 issue of Beadwork Magazine (the project is edelweiss necklace by Melinda Barta).

- approximately 20 grams of size 11 seed beads, blue iridescent
- approximately 10 grams of size 8 seed beads (Beadcats stock # 2-08-507-90, light olive transparent lined with lavender)
- 10 grams of size 6 seed beads (Beadcats stock # 2-06-816-14, dark gold opaque metallic)
- approximately 1 gram of Toho Aiko beads (TBC-221A)
- 3 8-millimeter semi-precious stone beads
- one focal bead by Larry Scott
- Size E silk Guderbrud in dark green

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More Scarves

I've also been weaving. When I first started weaving (almost three years ago) I made a bunch of these rayon scarves. I made them in every color combination that they had. They have been a big hit with friends and family and I've sold and traded them at Bead and Button (you can buy them from my Artfire site). They have been so popular that I no longer have a complete set for myself, so I have been trying to rebuild my stash. Lately I've been getting up a bit earlier than I usually do and weaving before going to work. The fiber is Earth Guild Dragon Tale Yarn (rayon slub). The warp for this one is Purple Haze (variagated) and the weft is Royal Purple (solid). 8 dent reed, 16 epi, plain weave.

I also picked out some colors for bead crochet ropes for some of my Larry Scott beads. These are his Byzantine Beads. My favorites. When he was making these beads his wife told him that no one would buy them because the colors were so unusual. Larry's response? "Oh, Carolyn will buy them." I am an official Larry Scott groupy. I even have the button to prove it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pearl Embrace Collar - Part II

Well, I just couldn't leave it alone. That's what tends to happen when I start beading. I've been known to stay up half the night. I tried the lavender beads and they just didn't pop, so I went back to my bead stash and looked at colors and settled on a rose-gold bead, and a gold-lined clear bead, and found some gold flowers that would work for embellishing. I also picked out some rose and gold drops. I'm not quite half-way done with the initial embellishment.

Pearl Embrace Collar

Playing around with the beads and pearls got me itching to do more, so I pulled out some recent bead magazines and flipped through them until I found this pattern in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Beadwork. The designer is Lisa Kan. I've finished the square stitch chain of size 11 beads and pearls and now need to do the embellishment. I'm thinking of using the pale lavender beads, along with the autumn spice beads, but I don't have the flowers I need, so I can't finish it this weekend. Maybe I should go find another bead project to start, or I could work on one of the two that I have in progress...

It is also the first snow-fall of the season. I love it, as long as I can enjoy it from indoors. This is the view from the deck looking into our woods.

Fun with Beads and Pearls

So I was sitting around this morning listening to NPR and thinking about colors for some of my lamp work beads and I was suddenly inspired to pull out my stash of pearls. Although this didn't end up being used with any of my lampwork beads, I think it is a sweet little bracelet.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Back to Beads

Last Monday one of my work-friends told me that I had inspired him to get out his crochet hook and pick up crocheting again. I was tremendously flattered and of course told him about ravelry. We had gone on travel together to Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey (12 hours in a government van) and I had knitted during the drive. On Tuesday I wore my (only) bead crochet rope necklace that I had made when my sister, Virginia, and I took the Beadcats booth to Convergence in 2006, knowing that he would find it fascinating. I offered to show him how, but then realized that I would have to brush up on my rather rusty bead crochet skills. So I pulled out some beads and some silk Guderbrod (size E) and a 1.4mm crochet hook and got to work. I did a small sample to show him, but didn't get a chance to last week. He stopped by my office on Friday on his way out and borrowed my size 11 seed bead cards, and my bead crochet rope book, but we really didn't have a chance to talk. I did show another friend of mine from work, and may yet get her into beads (I have already gotten her into sewing). Looking at the book had inspired me, though, so this weekend I decided to get out a project that I had started some time ago.

Every year when I go to the Bead and Button show (I work in the Beadcats booth - and get paid in beads) I buy lampwork beads from Larry Scott, my favorite lampwork bead artist. Typically I buy his Byzantine beads and string them with semi-precious stones and silver, but one year I bought one of his long cylinder beads, intending to make a bead crochet rope necklace to go with it. I found some nice dark blue iridescent beads and worked up half the necklace and then decided that it needed to be more three-D. A rope and a long cylinder bead was just too flat. So I decided to do a spiral bead crochet rope. I rummaged in my pretty extensive bead stash (it took two of those organizer cabinets to organize it) and came up with some size 6 and size 8 beads to go with the original size 11 beads.

A couple of hours of stringing later I started crocheting and discovered that spiral bead rope crochet is a bit more challenging than straight bead rope crochet. It took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but I am quite pleased with the results so far. I'm not sure if it will go with the lampwork bead, but it will make a nice piece regardless.

A few notes on tools:

For stringing beads on anything I use the Japanese Bead Threader Needle, available from Beadcats. It is wonderful, and makes stringing a breeze.

For beading I put the beads I am working with in a white ceramic bead tray, also available from Beadcats. I use the large center space for any mutant beads that I don't want in my beadwork. I cover the bottom with self-adhesive felt so it doesn't slide or clink when I stack them.

The thread is silk Guderbrud, size E.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wisteria Garden Shawl

The second shawl in the 2009 Year of Lace.

I think that one of the reasons I am so into the fiber arts is because they allow you to create such beauty, and the world can never have too much beauty. Lace shawls, especially, just take my breath away. Plus, they are functional. What more could one ask for?

Let's try this one more time - Campanula

Well, I got up to the shaping and realized that I had messed up the lace pattern in a pretty basic way. See, I had modified the pattern to work it all in one piece, rather than three, but I didn't take into account the differences in the lace pattern for the two sides of the front. As a result things weren't set up right for the shaping. I guess I should have read the directions a little more closely. Sigh. So I ripped it out and started again. This time I graphed out the lace pattern for the body, plus the lace charts for the shaping, in Stitch Motif Maker.

I'm thinking of giving this one to my friend/adopted-sister Carol of Beadcats, if she likes it. I've got enough of the Vintage Cotton in purple to make another one for me.

That wasn't so hard...

Arles - Rowan Magazine Number 45

Finished! I finally tackled the crochet last weekend. I pulled out my Crocheter's Companion and just jumped right in. It took a couple of tries to get it right, but once I figured it out, it was pretty straight forward. The yarn is very soft, and the top is super comfy to wear. I just love the collar, it has an Egyptian feel to it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three-Quarter Sleeve Pullover

The original pattern is from Knit Simple Winter 2008/2009. The yarn is Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK.

I started out knitting the body. The pattern is already written as a seamless, in the round, raglan, which is one of the things that attracted me in the first place.

I had worked my way through about 3/4 of the body when I discovered that my spit splices weren't holding that well. Yeah, I know that spit splicing is a bit of a cheat, but it means no ends to weave in. At this point I started knitting the sleeves from the body, unraveling as I went.

The pattern calls for you to knit a cuff in rib, joining the beginning and ending of the cuff, and then picking up stitches for the rest of the sleeve along one edge.

I did a provisional cast on and started ribbing. When I got to the end, I did a three-needle bind-off, picked up my stitches and started knitting on the sleeve. There was just one problem, I didn't like the silhouette.

The top piece is the sleeve according to the pattern. You can see way the seam splays out the knitting, and how there is a very distinct bump as you move into the decreases of the sleeve. The decreases are very close together (every other row), which just exacerbates the problem.

So, I decided to redesign the pattern. Using the long-tail method I cast on 106 stitches (the number of stitches that you pick up when you start knitting the main part of the sleeve). I purled one row, and then I placed a marker and joined the knitting. Continuing in the round I knit 2 rows, purled 2 rows until I had six purled ridges (not counting the cast on ridge). Then I continued in satin stitch. I also increased the number of rows between decreases, decreasing every 5 rows, starting at row 30 and continuing through row 100 (for 15 decreases or 30 stitches, 76 stitches remain).

The above image shows the resulting sleeve.


I finished this last weekend, but didn't have enough blocking mats so I had to order more. Lace knitting is so addictive, and the end result is so rewarding. Pretty amazing what you can make with two sticks and a piece of string...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Counting also helps...

On October 5th I received the third kit in the 2009 Year of Lace. This shawl is called Centrino, designed by Laura Nelkin. The yarn is Schaefer Yarn Anne, the pattern calls for 2 skeins. The yarn is 60% superwash Merino, 25% mohair and 15% nylon. I'm not a big fan of mohair (not big into fuzzy), but the fuzzy effect of the mohair is hardly noticeable. It is a circular shawl, knit from the center out.

It has been pretty easy knitting. I love working in the round, it is my usual knitting practice. This time I did use stitch markers between the pattern repeats. The only thing I did not like was starting out on double point needles, but I was able to switch to 12" circulars about half way through chart A. I also had to start over after almost making it through chart B when I realized that I was short a stitch on one of my repeats. I traced back to find the error - a missed yarn over, but it was too hard to fix it and it was just as easy to start over. I made one other mistake that caused me to rip back a couple of rows, but other than that it has been pretty smooth knitting.

If I were writing the pattern, though, I would have called for 12" and 16" circular needles, in addition to the 24" and 47".

After the mistakes I started counting as I knitted, and when I got to chart D I actually wrote the number of stitches between the yarn-overs and decreases. So far it has kept me out of trouble.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Knitting Lace Without A Net

So, this is my year of lace. There is actually a club you can join where you get 4 lace kits a year. This is the second shawl. I didn't end up knitting the first shawl. Lovely yarn, but the pattern didn't really grab me. No worries, though, I'll find another lace shawl pattern for that yarn.

Accepted wisdom when knitting lace is generous use of stitch markers and life lines, but I've never been one for accepted wisdom. I tried to place the stitch markers when I was establishing the pattern, but they just got in my way. Instead, I studied the chart, trying to understand the pattern and how it evolved. Getting through the first chart was the trickiest as that is when you are establishing the pattern. I did have to rip out my work twice. But once I got the pattern established, things started going very well. I was a bit worried about the second chart as you have to repeat that chart 6 times, and they only show the first repeat. Okay, fine, but each repeat you are adding more of the central motif. I was afraid that I would have to chart all of the repeats by hand. Ugh. Too much work. I studied the pattern. Understanding dawned. I could see how the pattern was going to evolve through each repeat of the second chart. I dove in. So far, so good.

So, for me, the key to knitting lace without a net is learning how to read the pattern and how to read the lace as you are knitting. If you can do that, the knitting will lead you and you shouldn't have too much trouble keeping your place in the chart.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Campanula - Knitter's Magazine, Spring 2007, p. 62
Materials - 7 balls Karabella Yarns Vintage Cotton

This is my first serious lace project. There have been a couple of setbacks. I decided to knit the body in one piece, rather than three, but then didn't cast on enough stitches. Fortunately that didn't take me long to figure out. Then, when I got up to the foundation pattern for the lace work I forgot a yarn over at the very end of the row and so wound up one stitch short when I started the lace pattern. I have also discovered that I can't knit lace while tired, or while consuming any alcohol at all. I had almost finished the body up to the shaping when I discovered a mistake several pattern repeats back. I ripped back and fixed it. I have read about using life lines in lace knitting, but have not mastered that technique. Instead I rip back to one row before the one that I want to start knitting with and then pull that last row out one stitch at a time while inserting my needle back into the live stitches that I want to start knitting on.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mitered Short-Row Capelet - Vogue Knitting Fall 2008

Materials - 8 skeins Prism Symphony (5 variegated, 3 solid); 80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% nylon;

I picked Thunderclap and Purple (107). I had to have the colors special ordered for me by Hanks Yarn and Fiber, a wonderful yarn shop.

I was drawn to the pattern by the unique construction - it appeals to the engineer in me. Unfortunately, when I completed the first panel there was a prominent bump at the miter corner. I checked the photo in the magazine and the bump was visible in all the panels. In my mind, a design flaw.

I pondered the construction for a couple of days and came up with a solution. The bump arose because of the purple yarn that forms the center of each panel. Until you get to the purple there are decreases every right side row. But there are no decreases in the two rows of purple - hence the bump. My solution is to switch to the purple one decrease early (2 rows). To make up for the fact that there were 2 fewer rows of the variegated yarn I added another short row to the purple, wrapping and turning every 12 stitches rather than 15. To make the mitered point cleaner I also combine the 3 center stitches on the final purl row.

Arles - Rowan Magazine #45

Materials - 5 balls of Rowan Calmer, 80% cotton, 20% polyester, 175m/50 g, 21 stitches and 30 rows, 5 mm needles

Of course I had to use purple. The yarn is very soft, but kind of mushy so the stitch definition isn't great.

I have to figure out the collar. I'm not sure if my nascent crochet skills are up to the challenge. I may do a beaded collar (knitted) instead.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bead Stash Organized!

Earlier this month I ordered a Best Craft Organizer Cabinet for my beads. It came this past Thursday (May 21) and I put it together that evening in about an hour. Assembly was straight forward and I did not need any help. The boxes that the cabinets came in are fairly heavy (almost 30 pounds) and are a little bulky. I actually unpacked them in the front hall and then carried the different parts down. I got the double cabinet, which stands a little less than 4 feet tall.

Starting Saturday morning I began organizing my bead stash. This consisted primarily of pawing through the plastic boxes and pulling out all beads of the same type. I started with the seed beads, organizing from largest to smallest, then the bugle beads and the pressed glass. Once I had the pile of bead bags I sorted them into color groups and then ordered them from lightest to darkest. This ordering was facilitated by the Beadcats numbering system. They have a numbering system that, once you learn it, tells you the type of bead, the color, the glass type (opaque, transparent, etc.) and the finish (iridescent, matte, luster, etc.). The really neat thing about their numbering system is that you can match bead colors and finishes across all of their different bead types. Great when you're doing projects with different kinds of beads. The sorting process was hindered a little by my cat Jasmine, who likes to steal bags of beads (and who can blame her).

I didn't quite manage to fit all of my beads into the cabinet. I still have 9 plastic boxes but that is much better than the 27 boxes that I started with. Seven of those boxes hold loose beads, which I wasn't planning on putting in the cabinet anyway. The other 2 boxes hold my tiny tear drops.

I am still cataloging my stash, another task made easier by the Beadcats stock numbering system, and my Fujitsu Stylistic (you can read my review of my stylistic here). The only challenge I have is that I bought some size 14 beads before they had instituted their system, so I'm going to have to make up my own numbers for those. Fortunately, the system makes that pretty straight forward.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Afghani Nomad Dress - Folkwear Pattern #107

I bought this Folkwear pattern way back when I was in high school - back when they only cost $4.95. I finally got around to making the dress when I was in grad school studying the History of Science at Notre Dame in South Bend Indiana. I had just taught myself to knit and had started working at Bead and Button for my sister and was getting all crafty. I bought the fabric at the local JoAnn's with my coupons (poor grad student, remember). The nicest piece of fabric, a yard of gold silk, I saved for the bodice. I was just getting into beading and had recently subscribed to Bead & Button magazine, so when it came time to decorate the bodice I went with beads and shisha mirrors.

I remembered shisha mirrors from my childhood in Pakistan. I was actually planning on doing the shisha embroidery myself, but then I saw iron-on shishas at JoAnn's. I bought several and took them home. I really didn't have a design in mind when I started. I just laid the pattern piece on my ironing board and started playing with the iron-ons until I had something that I liked. Once the iron-on shishas were in place I started laying in a little structure for the beading with some chain stitch embroidery.

I started with the back and began drawing some lines. For some reason I decided on an 8-pointed star motif. I used embroidery to outline the points and extended the lines with both the embroidery and later with the beads. I also filled in the stars themselves with beads. When it came to doing the actual bead embroidery I turned to my first bead book "Those Bad, Bad Beads" by Virginia Blakelock (my sister and co-owner of Beadcats). Being something of a perfectionist I went for backstitching rather than sewing down a strand of beads. A lot slower, yes, but much sturdier. Look again at the back of the bodice. It is heavily beaded. It took me a long time, 200-300 hours. But it was winter break, and I was snowed in. I beaded every day, all day, for a month. I watched the entire Babylon 5 series (again), plus all the movies.

Having spent a lot of time beading straight lines on the back, I wanted a change when I got to the front and wound up just doing free hand spirals, with a few straight lines off the circular and diamond shisha. It was a lot of fun. I also did some bugle bead chevrons around the shisha on the shoulders to sort of make it look like epaulets. The finishing touch on the front was the fringe. I laid down a foundation row of triangle beads with their holes vertical and then started hanging fringe from them, ending each strand of fringe with a twisted bugle. Because beads are not always uniform I did the length of the fringe by eye rather than by counting beads.

I wear the dress at Bead & Button every year. The first year I wore it my sister called me Booth Candy. One year an Afghani came by the booth and complimented me on my work. The Japanese who visit our booth every year now also seem to like it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Step One

Step one is organizing and cleaning up my studio.

I have a cabinet for my bead stash on order that should arrive week after next. That should at least take care of that pile of boxes.

Thanks to LibraryThing my books are getting cataloged.

Now I just have to get my yarn stash under control. Yeah. Right. Dream on.

It's good to have goals.