Lace SwatchesYou make swatches right? For every project? I know, I know… It seems like SUCH a hassle. And really what difference does blocking make? Well if you what to improve the appearance of your knitting, it can make a BIG difference.

If you don’t make swatches already, today is a great time to start! You want to make your swatch out of the same fiber you plan for your final project. This will help you see any possible problems ahead of time. Like BEFORE you invest days or weeks of time, and your hard earned money creating your gorgeous masterpiece.

Although it may seem annoying to create a swatch or sample, it can save you a great deal of time and frustration down the road.

Benefits of making a swatch:

  • It will tell you how the fiber works with your planned stitch.
  • You get an idea of the drape of the knit fabric.
  • Tells you if the fiber will hold up for its intended purpose.

Simply knit a square at least 4 inches in the same stitch pattern you intend to use. Because stockinette stitch can curl on it’s own, it helps to add a border of garter, or seed stitch. If you are using cables, lace, etc… in addition to stockinette or garter, include them. The point is to do a sample of the stitches used in your final project.

You will then block it by using the appropriate method. Be sure to check the yarn’s ball band for care information.

Benefits of blocking a swatch:

  • Tells you if the color in fiber will run.
  • You get to witness the drape and feel of the knitted fabric.
  • Tells you if fibers will shrink or stretch out of shape.

Basic methods of blocking:

  1. Spray Blocking – Gentlest of all the methods and works well for more delicate fibers. Pin swatch into shape and gently use a spray bottle to add moisture to the fibers.
  2. Wet Blocking/Immersion – Soaking your item in water, shaping, then allowing to dry. Works well with animal fibers, especially when using a lace stitch.
  3. Steam – Shape and add moisture to your item with steam from an iron or steamer. Cottons work well with this method. Do not use on man-made fibers. Do not touch your iron directly to the fiber, instead float the steam just above the surface allowing it soak into the fibers.

Blocking swatchesOnce you know the method you will try:

  • Select a surface to apply the blocked item, one that is appropriate to pin the item down and allowed to dry. Blocking mats, furniture, carpeted floor, or a quilted surface often work well.
  • Enough stainless steel pins to shape the swatch.
  • A clean, dry, safe location to leave the item to air dry for approximately 24 hours.

This post discusses just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to blocking. Test things out and see what methods work best for you and your knitting needs.

If you want to be informed when our eBook on “Blocking Your Knits” becomes available, or updates on our other projects, please sign up here.

Many peYarns in stash legacy artople choose a word to guide them. For 2017, I chose “Legacy”.

Back in the mid 90’s, I started my own web-page. Our household was one of the first to get the internet in our small Kansas community, with a population of 1800 (On a good day). For years I sold eBooks, talked about art, growing cotton, my grand-kids, and yes even my dog. (Stops and pets Sparky)

In 2003 I started working part-time at an area public library. I told myself I would do it for JUST one year. It would help take pressure off of myself financially, and force me to get out of the house and around other people face-to-face. It is now January 2017, and I still work there. Why? Maybe more about that in a later post?

I am often asked about the eBooks. They started because I was teaching a photography class and I wanted the students to make their own pinhole camera. I couldn’t find what wanted, so I made my own. I had this little book I had made purely for my student’s use and I wondered, what would happen if I put this online? This was the beginning of me selling eBooks on eBay. Remember this was in the early 2000’s.

Over the years I sold my own art, and more eBooks. Then in 2013 I stopped. I haven’t painted since. Bluntly, I was broken and just could not open another emotional vein to create. (Another long story best left for another time) So I turned to knitting.

With knittinKnit Swatches Legacyg I felt productive, creative and I could just keep going, one stitch after another. The focus eventually became learning new techniques and skills. What I would exactly do with those techniques and skills? I had no idea or clear plan at the time.

So now what?

In October of 2016 I began teaching knitting courses online through SkillShare. I made three small classes, and learned a great deal in the process. Then at the end of November, my father passed away. It was not totally unexpected, and he is missed a great deal. But it left me pondering, what would MY legacy be, once I was gone?

I wanted my life to have some meaning, some purpose. I have some training and background in education. But I knew that traditional teaching was not for me. For roughly a ten year span in there I taught Art as an adjunct at an area college. I found that I enjoyed the research and writing aspect, much more than the face-to-face teaching. Now it is January 2017 and here I sit, writing this post. So expect to see new eBooks released, and old-ones revamped. I have a plan. I have goals. Now I just need to work the plan.

I hope you stick around to see what happens next!

Yarn stash colors inspires

As I planned for 2017, I was asked the question “Who, living or dead, imaginary or real, inspires you? Who would I have as my board of adviser’s?”. Who inspires you to take it to the next level? When thinking about setting out on this adventure, the following people came to the forefront. (In no particular order)

Mark Lipinski http://marklipinski.com/

Mark Lipinksi, everyone’s favorite “Cupcake”! Although he is not a knitter, he is still important. As his says, “My life is just a series of awkward and humiliating moments separated by snacks.” He is a joy to hear and often says what I wish I had the nerve to say. He would be the one to tell me to be authentic, stop worrying what others thought, and eat the frosting first.

Marly Bird http://www.marlybird.com/

Marly is the national spokesperson for RedHeart yarn. I was not familiar with her until her grandmother and aunt told me about her in my day job (Library). Creatives are often told about a cousin, brother, or family member that also create in a said medium.  In this case, I only wish I had heard of her sooner. Her podcast brightens my day, makes me laugh and motivates me to continue creating.

Alice Starmore https://www.virtualyarns.com/

She was masterful. Her work beyond compare. Amazing. I can only aspire to be half the fiber artist she personifies.

Meg Swanson and Elizabeth Zimmermann http://www.schoolhousepress.com/

Meg Swanson and Elizabeth Zimmermann. Mother and daughter knitting heroes. Elizabeth is considered the American guru of knitting. She took something she instinctively knew how to do, made it accessible and shared it with the masses. Her daughter and granddaughter continue that legacy today.

Kaffee Fasset http://www.kaffefassett.com/

One word: “Color”

Mary Walker Phillips http://cprhw.tt/p/2AukR/

Mary Walker Phillips helped take knitting into the world of fine art. She showed that it was possible to be creative and expressive with simple needles and yarn. That it simply was “more”.

So there you have it. Seven people that help keep my creative juices flowing. Who would be on your list?

knitting hat

The last few weeks I have been regrouping and reorganizing. I am bitten by the knitting bug, or is it re-infected? As I have mentioned before I tend to have Creative ADD.

If you are a knitter you probably know of Elizabeth Zimmerman. A Facebook group I joined is working our way through her “Knitting Workshop”. A new edition was recently released that has peaked interest.

First up is create a hat with Fair Isle accents. We gave ourselves two weeks to complete the hat, using Zimmermann’s guidelines.

Knit hat elizabeth zimmermann

Next up is making a sweater. Her method is such that it encourages you to design your own items. And since a purpose of all this is to offer knitting patterns here, it is a perfect match.

Another thing that has been on my to-do list was to make looms for my grandkids to use. OK, truth be told the grandkids are just an excuse. I want to do a bit of weaving with some of the less expensive yarns I have on hand. I mean I need to make sample…..right?!

I wound up making a few different sizes using the guidelines found at CraftLeftovers.

Weaving

Shawl with COLOR!

Blocking in process – Shawl with COLOR! 40X14.5″ Lion Brand, Amazing, Mauna Loa 53% wool/47% acrylic

Last week I managed to get a new painted started.  I only got as far as starting the underpainting. I have a show in June at a small local gallery co-op and one would think I would feel more pressure to have a LOT of new work to show.

But the truth is I am OBSESSED with knitting. Notice the painting is of hands knitting? Chances are most all new pieces will be knitting themed.

Oil Painting in Progress

Oil Painting in Progress

I have decided this is the month I will officially start designing some of my own things. The first thing I have in mind are working with lace. There just happen to be a number of lace weight yarns in my stash calling my name.

I made a New Year’s resolution at the beginning of this year to not buy anymore yarn until July. So far this year I had to buy one skein. ONE. That is pretty darn good if I do say so myself!

NOTE: And it was to finish a lace shawl I was making. (Pats self on back :0)

1533934_10152131455596291_1280975481_n

Misc. Lace Swatches

One of my goals this year was to create a shawl each month. Well, February got away from me, and I finished it the first week of March.

Orenburg Lace Shawl I decided to create an Orenburg (Russian) Lace Shawl.  Yes, the shortest month of the year I decided to do the most difficult one I could for my skill level. What was I thinking? But in my defense I did get it completed!

The pattern I used was by no means the most difficult of Orenburg Shawls. I wanted to be sure to understand the construction first. I hope to conquer a particular one at a later date.  The one I did do came from Knitting Traditions – Spring 2012 issue, “Romashka Scarf From Orenburg”. I used Patons Lace, Vintage Antique, (498 yrds) 2 skeins.

Orenburg shawls are created by a sort of jogging around method. Here I made a short border end, created the first corner, picked up the stitches along its straight edge then turn the second corner.  The length of the shawl is made by simply following the chart for the borders and panel. Once you get to the other end I then made the third corner, picked up the stitches along the top while making the top border and finished by creating the fourth corner. Then standard finishing techniques were used so I could call it complete.

Below are images of a recently completed Estonian Lace Scarf. The pattern is Lily of the Valley from “Knitted Lace of Estonia” by Nancy Bush. (Note: Not an affiliate link)

I used Paton’s Lace yarn.  It is not as crisp as others I have used in the past, it has more of a halo. An acrylic blend, so I am not sure I like it. If  it is not used for another lace shawl I can always use it for baby items. It is soft, and washable! And very inexpensive in comparison.

Estonian lace shawlFolded Estonian Lace ShawlIt is freezing outside, but inside I was more than a little pleased to discover my plant blooming. It was a gift last year for Mother’s Day from a son-in-law.  Just a few days before I had made the comment that I “…hoped it would survive until Spring”.

That’ll teach me!

flowering plant in studioBelow are a few images taken around the studio/office area. :0)

Blue Scarf In Studiopeacock Feather in StudioSheldon Cooper Painting With Frame Art Studio dollThe goal for 2014 is to have one significant shawl completed for each month. I am not sure if I want to begin on a idea that has been peculating in my noggin, or jump right into creating an Orenburg shawl next.

Eventually it will all come together for an eBook tutorial with original designs.

Talk to you all soon and have a wonderful rest of January! Stay warm! And please be sure to leave comments and/or suggestions.  I always love hearing from you!

deer2

Deer just outside my studio window Tuesday.

2014 is here! It gives us a fresh start, a clean slate, to begin again.  There will be changes this year in the blog and website. The biggest one being that I am going to start including knitting projects. This of course will be reflected eventually in a new banner etc…

As some of you may know I work a part-time day job at a local Public Library. One of the perks of working there is I am surrounded by intelligent crafty people every day. At some point, I am not sure when exactly, I decided to get into knitting. We have a very strong knitting group at the Library, and local college. It is a skill of mine I wanted to improve. So I tapped into this amazing resource of people and information.

And then…..

She. was. never. seen. again.

I am obsessed.

shawl2

Completed in December, shawl in merino and silk. Started it on my birthday and completed it on Christmas Day. Pattern from a Interweave publication.

I still paint. It will never go away. I still have a book on painting I need to complete! It is just on hiatus at the moment. It has taken a bit, but I have decided to not fight the urge to create with fibers and just to go with the natural creative flow. So days in the studio are split between writing and knitting.

swatches2

Lace swatches currently on my work table.

Over the years I have gotten very deeply into drawing, painting, polymer clay, beading and photography. Each tends to feed off the other. Knitting I am sure will be no exception. The website will reflect this instead of trying to force it into something it just is not.

Another activity that has been consuming my time of late, is knitting. Yea I know, what does knitting have to do with painting and fine art? Well I could elaborate on the fine art aspects of the craft but I will leave that for a future post.

If you are not familiar with the Knitting Guild Master Knitter program, you should go to The Knitting Guild Association website and read up. In a nutshell it is a three-level correspondence course that goes through the technical aspects of craft of knitting. Once you pay for the course you are required to do a slew of swatches and research to master the craft.

Misc. Knit Lace Swatches with Errors

Misc. Knit Lace Swatches with Errors

I myself am NOT signed up for the Master Knitter program. But when I first learned about it, I was able to poke around and find out the gist of what each level required. Since then, much of that information is not available online, so my lips are sealed! With a great deal of research and digging I came up with my own self-study program based on their guidelines.

So far I have completed a Level-One notebook and am in the middle of Level Two. I stopped working on it a year and a half ago, but I did dig out my notes and information the other day. I have also started a lace scarf I had planned on using as a gift. (Rethinking the gift idea after experiencing the learning curve of picking it back up)

TKGA Notebooks and Notes

Program Notebooks and Notes

So what is the reason for posting on this blog about knitting? I am questioning my past external and now internalized need to only focus on one or two areas of creativity. In fact we have a “Knitting Socks for the Absolute Beginner” ebook here at Artist-How-To Publications it is  also available at Amazon.com.

In the back of my mind I am considering rewriting or perhaps creating an entirely new publication involving knitting. Sometimes temporarily shifting to another activity helps to feed my creativity.

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