To block or not to block

Pattern repeats are sorted out, out of work needles correct positions critical, many false starts, then onto yarn crankiness. Two “shawls” are now knit, approximately 16 inches by 64 inches,  one in off white cashmere, the other in over spun wool. They are large enough to drape around shoulders, lightweight enough to wrap for warmth as scarves.  Both required washing to remove sizing, are now very different in body and touch.  My favorite way to “block” laundered items is air drying on a wool rug after a couple of spin cycles in the washer. I use pressing/steaming if appropriate to fiber, do have blocking wires,  but they have only ever seen daylight as substitutes if I “lose” ribber cast on comb wires.  Next in this family will be a shot at knitting this item with thin ribbon. Here are the completed drying twosome with their purl side public face. Knit side is interesting as well, duplicating the hand technique swatch exactly. Yarn weights used are pushing boundaries for KM, knitting is extremely slow after design/yarn problems are all sorted out. Though this online post follows camera documentation that began yesterday, the actual process has occurred over the past 2 weeks.

A shawl tale

I have always been interested in mock crochet stitches executed on the knitting machine, have done a bit of experimenting in the past. The ones that are the most interesting to my eye are usually double bed, often making them reversible, which in turn may require hand manipulations. Browsing through old knitting magazines I came across this baby sweater, and became determined to produce a similar fabric, in a manner that might be more manageable for production. In this instance the back locks are changed in sequences of 3, 1, with button changes, they yarn is fine. First sample I produced was following the pattern stitch instructions.

The fabric as a hand technique, dropped stitches included

The challenge: creating a downloadable stitch pattern that will automatically select appropriate needles and duplicate this texture. Yarn used will be varied and different weights. Pusher/needle set up both beds critical, then there must be an edging…more to follow.

Gris-Gris

I recall as a textile student doing research cross cultural references in fibers, the image of a horse blanket literally covered with gris gris obtained by its owner from the local shamans in the course of his travels to insure protection on his life journeys. Over time gris gris have been dolls or images of the gods, small cloth bags containing herbs, oils, stones, small bones, hair and nails, bits of written spells, pieces of cloth soaked with perspiration and/or other personal items gathered under the directions of a god for the protection of the owner. In Voodoo, gris-gris are charms or talismans which are kept for good luck or to ward off evil. Here is my personal interpretation. This amulet bag measures 10 inches long, approximately 5 inches wide, the cord 28 inches long.

Love in an uncertain world

A new/different direction from other neck pieces, my first with a “story” open to interpretation; it is composed of coiled, knit, crocheted, and stitched telephone and magnet copper wire, assorted beads, a couple of acupuncture needle covers, the cut/ partially frayed “heart” of an unfinished spirit doll, and a screw closure. It is also considerably more of a “burden” than the feather weight magnet wire cousins, weighs in at 3.5 oz./88 gms.

The latest in collar country

In anticipation of the fiber invitational in Lowell and the annual Art to Wear show at Cambridge Artists’ Cooperative, the copper wire is resurfacing in new neck pieces. Some of the presently completed work may be seen below. Materials often come with their own stories. I purchased my nearly invisible wires from an elderly gentleman at a RI yard sale years ago for only a few dollars. He in turn had worked using them on TV and radio tubes in the “old days”. The 32 gauge version was obtained with the assistance of a brother-in-law-electrician. A beaded piece is “in the works”, and then there is all that colored telephone wire and a shoebox full of acupuncture needle cases periodically calling out to me… I tend to work freeform, without sketching, piecing elements and working out designs and problems as I go. There are elements of surprise for me as well in each piece I create.

The beginning of a new/different direction

ladder lace and short rowed ruffles, modified commercial toggle closure

The finished collar tuck lace and ruffle collar; 4 strands of nearly invisible wire used throughout

Trying to coax a rectangle into a square.

Blocking is one of those topics open to endless debate both as to method and necessity. In most of the items I produce using conventional yarns, I restrict it pretty much to washing/pressing/ironing as needed, thus avoiding all those blocking wires, pins etc. In this instance however, the wire item is in need of some help in changing into and retaining the desired shape: my partial solution is seen in the photo above.

For the curious: Magnet wire or enamelled copper wire is a copper or aluminum wire covered with thin insulation. It is used in the construction of transformers,inductors, motors, headphones, loudspeakers, hard drive head positioners, potentiometers, and electromagnets, among other applications. However, it is not usually magnetic itself. Magnet wire insulating films used (in order of increasing temperature range) include polyurethane, polyamide, polyester, polyeseter-polyimide, polyamide-polyimide (or amide-imide), and polyimide. Kynar wire is an instance of color coated member of these families, and used in my “colored” jewelry items. For knitting on a loom I prefer 32 gauge or thinner (higher numbers), which can be plied successfully for more drape but are nearly invisible singly; 30 gauge or less(lower numbers) moves into the hand crochet/knit coil domain for me.

I enjoy using materials designed for uses other than those for which they were designed, the inherent challenge, surprises, and problem solving.