23 January 2009

Dress Adventures

I have been working on the Red (I know, it's not red YET) Day Dress a lot and have finally reached the bust zone. It's exciting, as it means I'm nearly ready to work on the sleeves! But before I go further into this I must catch you up on the developments that led me here.

I have mentioned recently the trickiness of the gauge when it gets complex. And I have promised to say more about custom plying...

I'm working on 3.5mm needles and I'm custom plying the yarn. The skirt '5-ply' consists of 1 strand of organic alpaca yarn, 3 strands of tussah silk and 1 strand of shantung silk:

The body '6-ply' consists of 2 strands of recycled cashmere (which roughly is equivalent of alpaca strand used for the skirt), 3 strands of tussah silk and 1 strand of shantung silk:

Although the difference between alpaca strand and double cashmere strand is minimal it actually affects the gauge quite a bit. Custom made charts below show skirt gauge on the top right and body gauge on the bottom left:

1 stitch in skirt gauge measures 35mm x 47mm (H x W)
1 stitch in body gauge measures 32mm x 43mm (H x W)

These charts are quite easy to make and invaluable if you are designing something from scratch. Simply make a table in a word document with lots of columns and rows and then adjust the height and width according to your gauge measurements PER STITCH.

Below is a sample of body fabric gauge and it works out at 31 rnds and 23 sts to 10cm. You need to divide 10cm by 31 (= 32mm) to get the height, and by 23 (= 43mm) to get the width.

I have used this technique to design the hip curve on the skirt. Here is the chart:

It worked a treat (as it does in 99 cases out of 100).

And it is accentuated by the strategically positioned pleat.

Well, now that I'm on the bust level the subject of the next post is quite clear in my mind. It is going to be on charting the breasts :)

18 January 2009

Surprise In The Mail!

Well, I have stayed up too late watching "There Will Be Blood" (with Daniel Day-Lewis - I had a crash on him in my teenage years - ooops! should I be sharing this?) on Friday. Very intense. Saturday morning the bell rang and I half thought I was actually dreaming still, but it rang again. So I got up and - half asleep - went to open the door. By the time I clambered down the stairs the postman was already gone. Under the door mat there was an envelope. I picked it up and looked at the addressee (me?) not knowing what it might be...

I have already forgotten a deadline of nearly 1 year ago. And here are the actual books!

One of the Stitchville hats has actually made it onto the cover (hooray!). Styled here (above) like a classic pillbox-style hat, but can be also worn à la française, more like a beret...

I love the surprise moment that is a given of publishing turnover time...

Off to have another cup of coffee now, but will be back soon to talk more about the Stitch Style projects (unfortunately, some of the original instructions were simplified to widen the appeal of the projects). I figure I can still debrief my preferred approach which, given you are adventurous enough and your fingers are agile enough, can be of use to the potential "takers". I will also present a couple of technical tricks involved so that you don't have to look for them elsewhere...

11 January 2009

Pirates Love Chunky Sweaters

Hey! The chunky sweater is finished! It got 10 out of 10 in my son's estimation (and he is a severe critic, perfectionist as he happens to be). He practically does not take it off, except at bedtimes - and only after intensive campaign:

Me: "Darling. You cannot sleep in this sweater. You will get too hot. Believe me. Why don't you put on your spaceship PJ's? I promise, you can put it back on first thing in the morning."
Louis: "But..."
Me: "I know, and I promise - first thing tomorrow you can put it on. OK?"
Louis: (sulkily) OK.

The hot hit garment features:
- a side zip with a pully thing to make it easier to zip it up and unzip it,

- an odd cuff,

- and enough fine-stripe-free-space to spice it up with a scull badge, mateys.

Goofing about is something this young pirate likes to do a lot. And, may I say, he does it rather well.

This sweater was actually designed for Kids' Mirasol Collection, which (among other things) is fund raising for the Mirasol Project and the pattern will soon be available to download at the Stitchville Yarn Boutique. I will, of course, let you know...

10 January 2009

The Perfect Souvenir

This morning I had to get up early to meet a bunch of friends at the South Bank. It was not easy after last night, as my daughter's friend stayed with us for a sleep over. The novelty thing I discovered is that 7 year old's notion of sleep over has absolutely nothing to do with sleeping. It's more to do with applying ample make up in one's bed at 11.30pm, with a shadow of light available. They both literally looked like ghosts this morning when they appeared in the kitchen with their purple shadows around sleepy eyes accentuated by remaining traces of badly applied make up.

So off I went. The air was crisp and frosty. I ran past the Southwark Cathedral and the Golden Hinde. The mist hung over St.Paul's Cathedral's dome and the place looked quite mystical. I was late. I made an entry, was warmly greeted and spent subsequent 2 hours immersed in a very profound exchange of thoughts (instead of meeting for a gossip we meet to practice dialogue, you see). Afterward one of my friends asked me if I wanted to join her in her pursuit of the perfect yarn for a scarf. Now, this friend of mine is not quite as "touched by wool" as me and I thought that I shall certainly support her healthy if unexpected interest in knitting. A thought ran fleetingly through my mind.

"Remember NOT to buy any more yarn. You are running out of storage space."
Well, I only bought 4 balls of Rowan Classic Extra Fine Merino Wool in bright orange, because it was destined for me!

Picture this... In a chaotic sale section was a mountain of yarns. You name it: tweed, cotton blends, silk blends, wool, man-made stuff. I cast an eye over it and was not particularly drawn to it, frankly. But then I spotted this bright orange splodge and touched it (I know, I should have known better). I looked at the label - 100% merino. It's getting better all the time. After a moment of diving into the Yarn Mountain I tracked down another ball, at which point I thought:

"If I can find 4, I'll take it."
And then I saw a woman on the other side of the Yarn Mountain. She was holding a plastic bag containing 2 more balls of my chosen yarn and talking to a bloke about it. She took one ball out of the bag to examine it closer. All the while I was thinking:

"You don't really want this honey. PUT IT DOWN."
For another minute or two I kept on ploughing through the Yarn Mountain hoping that I might find 2 more balls of orange gorgeousness hiding there, but to no effect. All that time I discreetly monitored the "enemy movements" from the corner of my eye and repeated my "PUT IT DOWN" mantra in as focused a manner as humanely possible. The "enemy" had finally put the bag back onto the slope of the Yarn Mountain and I gracefully and decisively took it and gave her a big radiant smile. Sales can be very exciting indeed!

I am glad I purchased this yarn (even though it shows a slight weakness of will). On the up side I got it in a lady-like manner. Whatever it will eventually become, it will always remind me of this magical morning spent in company of excellent friends and a scouting trip with S.

A perfect souvenir.

09 January 2009

4 Days & 21cm In

The skirt of The Red Day Dress (more about this in the fullness of time) is getting more substantial every day. I am officially 21 cm in.
I promised to reveal the source of my gorgeous silks a few days ago and have subsequently disappeared for about 3 days - mostly knitting in every spare moment (let's face it - they are not numerous). A while ago I listened to an episode of Cast-On podcast where a knitter has attempted in a very thoughtful essay to tackle the subject of time relativity in relationship to knitting. I think this is exactly what happened on this occasion. It seamed like an instant, like a blink, but in fact was 3 days! Nevermind.

And to the point.

These lovely silky 'obelisks' are from Fibrecrafts and they are virtually inexhaustible source of finest silk thread. They are really meant for weaving and machine knitting but, as creativity has no limits, they do come in handy on occasion in this strictly hand-knitting temple of fibre worship (also known as my home). I ply them with various yarns and they do work up very beautifully in lace patterns too.

Just to give you an example of the sort of silky lace knitted up with this yarn...

Silk Shawl hand-dyed in safflower, 2002.

And in the next post more on the magic of custom plying...

06 January 2009

When Gauge Gets Complicated

As it will, from time to time. Are you ready? Ok. Here I come!
Single strand of Angel Touch Alpaca looks like this:

Plied with 1 strand of tussah silk it looks like this:

Plied with 2 strands of tussah silk it looks like this:

Plied with 3 strands of tussah silk it looks like this:

And ad finitum. Well, maybe not this time.

I'm experimenting with gauge for the next major project - a day dress. And it is very interesting indeed. Just look at this (you might need to click on the picture to be able to appreciate the tiny details :):

Although the strands are so fine, adding just one at a time makes much more of an impact than I have anticipated, and not in any sort of predictable pattern either. I like the subtle gradient effect this gives the fabric and am intending to use it to enhance the design. I will also add a fine strand of shuntung silk, which is shinier and "silkier" than the slubby and slightly "sticky" tussah. These silks combine well with alpaca, which on its own does not produce fabric dense enough for this project. I don't really want to work on needles smaller than 3.5mm. It's only a knee length dress, but still. I am actually giving myself a deadline for this project. Yep! February half-term. I do love challenges!

Today was Day 2 of the project (if I were to discount hours of nursing the idea in my mind over the Christmas holiday), and having sketched and swatched it yesterday, I have cast on today and made a bit of progress on the 250 sts of the hem. Thoroughly enjoying the plying process, though it can be a bit tedious at times.

Do try and imagine my yarn basket for this project.

Tomorrow I shall reveal its gargantuan proportions, as well as the source of my lovely silks...

02 January 2009

Wrapping Up...

And I am not referring to the chilly weather (although I must say I am loving the crispness of the air). I am referring to the Advent Calendar 2008. It is time to take stock of what it brought into our family life and into my creative life.

Firstly, it had provided a rich source of fun and excitement for everyone; children (because they adore Christmas time and treats) and parents (because we adore the children and anything, that makes them happy) alike.

Secondly, it has provided me with structure to be creative, disciplined and steady within.

Thirdly, it has inspired countless conversations and became a temporary installation in our kitchen (don't you love temporary installations - I tend to have at least one on the go at any one time!) and a tactile record of the run-up to Christmas 2008 for our family.

Finally, it provided this:


We had emptied the pouches onto the sparkly piece of material and the pouches lay there, light as empty shells...

We had found a box and stored them away neatly:

This could have been a tricky moment to facilitate with a pile of chocolates in view and within reach. Luckily, I appear to have very sensible children who have agreed without too much convincing that it was an ace idea to put all chocolates in a special tin into which we will dive during post-climax zone of January, whenever our spirits need lifting or we are simply after momentary pleasure. And so we did! The pleasure derived from our tactile calendar continues into the New Year!

Happy New Year!