Monday, September 6, 2010

Instant Inspiration

In my last post I mentioned that I find winding wool to be, among other thing, inspiring. Mostly because  it allows me to use previously unavailable yarn :) Among the recently wound balls were 6 skeins of bulky yarn that I had dyed a couple of summers ago. They were among a bunch of skeins (see bottom photo in my last post) that I dyed that summer using natural dyes- and most of them stayed in skein form for a long time after... Why? Sometimes I really like looking at the skeins. They took an awful lot of work, these skeins, so maybe there's a bit of losing the point of dyeing them & just wanting to appreciate them as they are. After two years, though, it's time!!!

Before I talk about making the bag, a little background on how they were dyed. The yarn I used was KnitPicks Wool of the Andes bulky weight, which has 137 yards per 100 gm. Although I won't go into the techniques for naturally dyeing the yarn (except to say that in most cases it took at least 2 times in a boiling pot to get the dyes onto the wool), the dyes I used were as follows: red- brazilwood, orange- brazilwood 2nd bath, gold- onion skins, green- yarrow+indigo, blue- indigo, & purple- brazilwood+indigo.

Yesterday right before dinner, with those newly-wound skeins on my mind, I looked online at Lucy's crocheted bag pattern, swatched a bit to find the best hook for this wool & project, & got started. I ended-up choosing a US size I/9 (5.50 mm) needle, to make a fabric that's not too loose, but not so stiff that it stands up like a basket, either. I worked the increase rounds just as she did, but since it's bulky yarn, & I wanted enough yarn left over to make a strap & embellishments, I only worked half as many increase rounds as Lucy did. As there were 6 colours, I worked the stripes in sets of 6, arranged in rainbow order- I am nearly addicted to rainbows & rainbow order, to the point that I tend to arrange our one set of rainbow-coloured dishes in rainbow order when they come out of the dishwasher. Go fig.

The entire bag is just 4 repeats of the 6-stripe pattern, with the final purple stripe as the decorative, shell-stitch edge. One technique I learned from using Lucy's pattern was to slip stitch into the first double crochet in each round (after joining the last round with a slip stitch to the top of the chain 3), which eliminates the jog that happens when you change colours, & which also makes the beginning of the rounds spiral up the bag in a barely detectible way. Some things I changed were: I crocheted over the tails from changing colours for the first few inches of every round, leaving ~2" at the end to work back in (in the opposite direction). This took some time off the final weaving-in of ends. I also made a different strap, & since the bag was narrower, I decided that one long strap would suit my tote-lifestyle better. I sewed the strap into the inside of the bag, too, instead of the outside.

For flower decoration, I went to Suzann Thompson's "Crochet Bouquet" & used the "Topsy Turvy #2" flowers. I had a lot of fun with the placement of the flowers & stems, & choosing fun buttons from the stash :) The bag was done by 2:00 this afternoon, so it took less than a day of crochet (with plenty of time for sleep & meals :)

I am looking forward to using my new tote- perhaps to carry yet another craft project...?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Winding Wool!

Yesterday I was feeling energetic (in other words, my arthritis wasn't getting in the way :) so I spent some time winding wool. This is one of those love/hate fibre tasks, for me at least. Probably one reason for the "hate" aspect is that my set-up for winding wool isn't the most optimum. My winder is clamped to the side of an old, fold-down desk, putting it at an awkward angle for winding. The non-awkward part of the set-up (which overrules the awkward parts) is that the table of the desk accomodates my swift & the desk is really close to my loom & other fibre accoutrements. (OK, so there are 2 computers in the room as well, part of our slightly schizoid tekkie/back to the land lifestyle...)

My swift (the wooden contraption in the back left of the photo) is an absolute gem. It came to me so many years ago that I didn't know what it was. Our church used to have a yearly rummage sale & I would help out the (mostly older) ladies with various aspects of the sale, which was a great way to get to know these lovely ladies... this was back in the late 70's & early 80's, so most of them are gone now, but I have so many fond memories of this bygone era of our church community... Anyway (I digress), they all knew I was a knitter & seamster, so anything even vaguely fibre-related was put aside & quietly sent my way, as they all knew I had very little money for my fibre past-times back then. The swift had belonged to a passed-on member of the church known for her needlepoint (it came with a frame & lots of small skeins of wool, too). Most of this booty was put away because I didn't really know how to use it, but luckily it all followed me around in my nomadic 20's. It wasn't until more than 10 years later, when I became a handspinner, that I realised it was a swift- an essential piece of handspinning equipment. I have never seen a swift like it, outside of museums... It's small, made entirely of wood, & sits on a stand (most are huge & clamp to the side of a table). So I love my little swift, & was contemplating it's long & serendipitous service yesterday as I wound wool from it.

So, I made room among the wool baskets by the desk to set a chair, to make winding less stressful to my back. And then I just started winding... The little skeins of wool (in the basket) were given to me by a friend who had dyed them at a natural dye workshop some years ago & then never used them. They are all well labeled with plant source & mordant, & as I wound them I got some ideas for dyes I hadn't tried before (marigold!). Maybe I'll make them into crochet motifs...

The balls in the front left are bulky wool that I dyed with natural dyes two summers ago. They are light on yardage, being bulky weight, but I think that I could crochet a small tote from them. Lucy at Attic24 has a nifty bag pattern that I've been wanting to try. The thicker wool would work up quickly & give me a sturdy bag, I think. I could even embellish with lighter wools that were dyed in the same dye pots (see photo at the end...).

There are some largish balls of sock-weight wool in the back, which are from Knitpicks. I broke down & bought one of the "Cruise" kits- 4, 100-gram skeins of their tonal sock wool & patterns for 12 different socks. I have been knitting socks again (it must be Fall) & all the lacey patterns appealed to me. As it turns out (& I should have known...) they are all toe-up socks, which is a technique I haven't done much with, in my long sock-making career. Looks like I'm in for "another learning experience" soon... The colours of the sock wool are just gorgeous, though, which will be incentive.

Last, but not least, there's a skein of indigo-dyed, worsted-weight wool, (left side, middle) dyed two summers ago in my orgy of natural dyeing... It's been hanging off the loom for so long I can't remember when it landed there. It just needed to be wound.

And then there's the skeins of wool still needing to be wound...

Some lovely stuff in there. It's all very inspiring, and with the changing of the seasons, I'm ready for some fun!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

どうですか。。。(What do you think?)

You may recognise these motifs from a few posts ago :) After making 7 rows of 13 pinwheel motifs, I took a hard look at it & the possibilities. If I wanted a mini-afghan I'd be working 'till Christmas, so I downsized my ideas & messed around with the fabric a bit. 

If you look carefully you can see that the edges are on the diagonal (follow the line of buttons from lower right to upper left in this photo to see it). I wondered what would happen if I made a tube & added one more set of motifs to unite it all. I started to do this & it looked as if it would make a 14"-16" square- perfect for a cushion cover! So I went looking deeply into the attic/sewing/treasure room & found a 12"x16" cushion form. I like to use what's at hand, so I snipped out the 2 uniting motifs I'd put in & wrapped the resulting tube around the form- it fit perfectly if I overlapped the beginning & ending rows, which would make for a nice opening to insert the form (something I hadn't figured out yet anyway).

For the ends of the fabric tube I used the black yarn I'd decided not to use for the motifs- I'm so glad I reserved it! I held the ends together & crocheted through both layers (3 layers where the motifs overlap- you can see it at the top of this picture, the purple on top of light blue), making it up as I went along. I added a decorative second row to the ends- you can see the shell stitch & picots I used to jazz them up. I decided on 2 rows of buttons to fasten the overlapped motifs at the opening, since the bottoms of the inside motifs might migrate over time & get bunchy. The lower set of buttons are shiny brass ones (there were exactly 7 of them, which is what I needed), recycled from who knows what, who knows when... found in my button stash. The second row of buttons are random ones from said stash. They looked cute & add to the random-colour-ness of this project. I used the same yarn in white (stuffed into a thin tapestry needle) to sew the buttons on, & I kept the leftover in the needle just in case these buttons don't survive "life with Brendan" :) (He's a bit hard on the decor lately, as his body is growing at an amazing rate & when he throws himself on the sofa these days, everything goes flying...)

I am very pleased with this little cushion (that only just found out that it's a cushion...).