Plain fancy squares

20121017-175346.jpgSo I sent off my pink squares for the charity cancer research blanket, and then heard they were doing another one – a ‘Babette blanket’, which apparently means squares of any size which somehow miraculously fit together. The squares can also be any colours, so after the restriction of pink, and the precision of the Woollypoles pieces and the knitted toys of late, I was dying to grab the most garish neons available, specially the lime and orange which looked juicy 🙂

This is quite a big one, and I could have stopped after the blue, but I’d done *almost* a round in bright yellow, except that it wouldn’t quite reach the last two clusters. So I had a dilemma, and T and I discussed the various options (‘can you… cut all the corners off and do them in a different colour?’). Realised it was best just to buy new yellow wool and then frog the old bit out with the courage of my convictions! I took the square down to the wool stall in the Grainger Market, where I’ve not really been, and bought some wonderful bright colours and flecky randoms, which you’ll surely hear more about anon, with a choice of two good yellows but this was the best / most similarly intense. The blanket is for Suicide Watch or some similar charity so I thought it might be nice to go for the cheeriest, daftest, brightest colours I could find…. that’s what I’d like anyway.

20121017-180749.jpgThe next two are samples really, and that is one of the blessings of the random-square blanket. Drawn from a book on colour knitting, the one on the right is a coloured cable, which looks terribly intricate (specially from the back!) but is actually quite nice to do. I might do some more in that, but it needs space to grow really. The other one is pure stranding, using a design from graph paper which reminded me of the Berkana rune (for homely comfort). They are more square than they look, as the left one has curled in at the top & bottom, & the right one has curled under at the edges, but once stitched in they should be the same size. Which I hope will be useful.

Ok girl you’d better get to the Post Office tomorrow! Don’t wanna miss the Woollypoles deadline in particular!!

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Toys are me

This is a bit of a change from the flat squares, even the fancy ones, that I’ve been making! When I was away for the weekend I bought a book called Knitting Mochimochi (Amigurumi) by Anna Hrachovec, again in an effort to raise my game a little. I grew up making toys – Xmas ornaments and dollies – so it shouldn’t be too big a leap. These are pretty fiddly though as she encourages knitting in the round which can make you feel like a (failed) pincushion when you’re juggling 6 stitches or so on 4 needles!

This is Mike the mountain, requested by, named by, and presented to my friend C who chose him out of the book. Proving the author’s point that anything you put eyes on becomes cute. I took him along to the shop where she works and planted him amongst the clothes – which looked rather appropriate! I think it cheered her up in a difficult few days, and provided food for discussion amongst her colleagues, pro and con…

The alligator will be for my niece, and I think I’ll hoard him as a Xmas present. You have to knit up from the tail, over one jaw, turning yellow to make the mouth insert, back under the other jaw, add the legs individually… it was quite a business. But fun to concentrate on.

Here below you can see him alongside the pattern book, almost crawling out of the pages, and since he does look like his sisters and brothers I think I did a good job!

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Woollypoles piece #3 (flowers)

One final piece to go for this project! Seeing the amazing work that other people produce for Knitty, I thought I would try something different. Something more girly, textured, fancy, and in the Myers-Briggs scheme ‘SF’ (sensate feeler) rather than my usual abstract ‘NT’ (intuitive thinker). So I set off knitting a lawn with some flowers – garter stitch stripes in two different greens at first, then settled into a smooth bit with stocking stitch surrounded by a random two or three stitches of garter stitch to keep it from curling – garden texture, like a smooth lawn with rougher borders.

The flowers are from Knitty’s own pattern on her page, and at first I was sceptical that knitting could do such a thing. But it can, if you cast on loads of stitches and then cast off a bunch at a time, draw through and pull up! I also wanted to add buttons, so hung around John Lewis drawing out tubes of various plastic rounds and comparing them with a lady finishing a cardi for her granddaughter. Happy to have found some pink buttons (to go on the maroon flowers) and some maroon buttons (to go on the pink flowers), with a couple leftover to go straight onto the lawn. You like? I did! I hope Knitty does as she said the piece should be basically shades of one colour (dark green /  light green) with decorations which may be in another colour (preferably complementary – so pale pink / dark pink).

You can also see the decorations I made for Piece #2: it had to be feathers, and though I originally visualised them at an angle, it became clear they could form exclamation marks to the dot-dot-dot, thus adding another layer of semantic ambiguity 🙂 I am happy with my haberdashery adventures, and glad I rose to the challenge to take my fancywork up a notch. Credit to you Knitty for drawing it out of us! I always pull the most stops out for your pieces. And yes, the feathers are glued very firmly on the back!! and the flowers are strongly stitched on!

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Sequin satisfaction: labels for Woollypoles

You may have read my admission that I’m not very happy with my labels for yarnbombs. It seems to focus everything on my ineptitude with the physical world – paper and printer and laminate and lettering seem to elude my control. For my Woollypoles piece #1 I had a clear vision of medal-like metal discs hanging from the surface of my runic piece – but what were they? The only thing I could think of in the real world was the round token I used to pay for school dinners with (and the knitting shop certainly didn’t have any of those).

From John Lewis the round things I could find were clear, thin plastic discs about an inch across – rather hyperbolically perhaps labelled ‘sequins’, though when I dropped one on the floor this morning and it caught a sunbeam it did shine bright emerald like a CD. Realised that a DVD pen would write on them, liked the idea, and eventually got round to finding a set in Smiths of various colours of ‘permanent markers – write on most surfaces’. Today finally had chance to do the faffy bit, and actually quite enjoyed designing tags based on previous drafts.

The plastic ‘medals’ went best along the bottom of Woollypole #1, though the spacing gave me head-scratching – they would have been too crowded at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 positions along the bottom of each square, then I tried doing it by eye (badly), then I realised that what they needed was to be equidistant from each other (not counting the seam), so once I had placed the middle ones (lower down, saying ‘’), it was a simply enough matter of counting stitches and calculating thirds.

It may be hard to tell from these pictures but out of the four colours of pens I had I did try to choose one to coordinate with the piece. Obviously dark blue for #1 (the runes piece). Piece #2 (‘enjoy’, in purple and yellow) looked best with a serious black-inked tag.. For piece #3 (the flowers) luckily the red pen had enough definition (the green didn’t) and blended well.

I also picked colours of cotton to match or blend! For the purple piece a blip of contrasting yellow coordinated nicely, and for the green one I had a dark green that would blend. For the orange piece I wanted to blend too, but couldn’t find orange cotton despite the fact I know I bought some, and was unwilling to compromise on either peach-coloured cotton OR contrasting dark blue cotton OR waiting till later to finish it 🙂 Rooting through my bits box to check for the orange, I found everything wrapped in ‘invisible nylon thread’ (it was easier to feel it than see it…!) so dragged that out and it was great. An absolute bugger to work with, as not only is it barely visible, it also has hardly any friction and slides straight out of both the fabric and the needle, which I eventually addressed by using a longer bit than I normally would!

I used three discs per panel of the runic piece to give the name of the rune (in script with curly zs), the blog address (printed), and the rune’s meaning (in capitals). It should be enough to give a web search if anyone is interested.

The sequins squizzle around but can be adjusted and are firmly fixed on and pretty sturdy, so I am happy with my artistic / practical solution. I like the way that the clear discs are about the same size as the big red buttons in piece #3, and thus look like part of the design. I did them in my own handwriting too! so although it is homespun I feel independent and satisfied. I wonder where they will go on the Woolly Poles? Kinda hope that the ‘enjoy’ with its feathers will be out of human reach, even though I glued them on firmly, and the runes piece is bold enough to go high up or anywhere, though I’d be happy enough for the flowers piece to be low down for little hands to stroke its buttons and textures. But this must bow before the greater wisdom of the Woollypoles team, who will have the feat of coordinating all the pieces of each colour! Can’t wait to see it….

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Pink blanket-squares for breast cancer

As a break from the high-level design of my Woollypoles pieces 🙂 I have been churning out some blanket squares for a charity blanket to be auctioned for Breast Cancer Research. No rules except they must be 6″ x 6″ square and include some (or predominantly) pink. The project is organised and compiled by Crochet Crafter who I found on facebook, and it seemed like such a simple and nice group project to join in with.

My first square was knitted and I didn’t really have any plan for the design, so after a chunk of bright-pink garter stitch, I settled down to do a coloured pattern in a stocking-stitch panel. Picked red for the contrast colour, staying within the colourway, and I wanted it to be only subtle in standing out. Having wondered if I should try to make breast designs (somebody else is, apparently) thought that might be the last thing people want to see (and might be vulgar), so what would be comforting for women who’ve had life-threatening tumours? Went for a simple ‘kiss’ design, in little pairs – the maths of where to start and how much gap to leave needed some head-scratching at this point. After another garter-stitch panel I realised it 20121006-113739.jpgwas a bit late to add another line, but not to do so would also be assymmetrical, so did it anyway. The result is odd but hopefully charmingly so in the way that random afghans are. Also encapsulating the observation that you never know what is going to happen in life. The red hardly showed up at all in the artificial light of the evening when I was doing it, but next morning I could see it more clearly.

I went straight on with a traditional crocheted square in pink, with maroon trim and pink edging. This square came with me on travels and it felt good to dive in with something easy and familiar (even though I have developed a new way of starting the next round, slipstitching along and then doing 3 ch up as the first of the new group – better than 3 ch as part of the previous group + 1 ch for the gap, as this never looks convincing). Very little 20121006-113755.jpgdrama except that the final edging round is double crochets instead of trebles, in order to make it the right 6″ size. Worked out why traditional squares keep you warm despite having holes in – they are lovely and thick compared to (stocking-stitch) knitting!

My next knitted square was all in bright pink, using again the big ball I’d bought from my LYS (local yarn shop) in preparation for this project. For a stitch I wanted something that would lie flattish and be interesting to do but not too much faff. So this is in what I’m thinking could be called ‘half triple moss stitch’: knit one row, then on the next row *k3 p3* rep; knit the next row, then on the next row * p3 k3*. You get how it works. Was careful to do the fancies on what would be the purl row, as I 20121006-113806.jpgalways feel any pattern that includes more purl than knit is just pointless masochism. I like the square, although there is one stitch near the middle that is flat instead of lumped (I must have k2 p4); I can see it but my boyfriend can’t, so I wonder if anyone else (e.g. other knitters) would have it leap out at them.

Another crochet square, easy and satisfying to do: some white rows, which won’t clash with the pink blanket, then some scrummy mottled pink-maroon yarn that I lovingly picked up in a little yarn shop in Scarborough. (They had a ‘naughty corner’ where two ladies giggled as they sorted out patterns, and a friendly man with local radio behind the counter.) This yarn is not actually as pink as I thought now that I see it worked up! But I think they’ll recognise that the general intension was there – there are pink mottles. I’m not a big pink fan in general and had only recently busted the stash of all the pink I had gathered as inheritance from Nan; but this has been a reasonable change and this yarn is lush. In this case I managed to think early enough to make the four stripes about 1.5 inches deep each, using a chunky set-square that I find harder to lose down the side of the settee.

Finally a bits-and-bobs crochet-in-the-round without a pattern: a big twelve dc over a loop to use up some mauve-white in the first round, then trebles to use up as much as poss of bits of pink I had knocking around. This involved some ‘pulling back’ (‘frogging’ / unravelling) as my judgement of how much yarn crochet will take is much worse than for knitting. I had been intending to make some rounds dc and some rounds tr, but then worried the dcs would throw off the number of trebles. Here spontaneous design came in, 20121006-113825.jpgbecause I noticed to some annoyance that after the first four rounds it had become ‘convex’, bulging out in a rounded way. So then I thought of those ace patterns that have ‘a circle in a square’, and did the next (white) round with trebles at the edges, and half-trs and dcs in the middle of the edge flaring back out to htrs and trs towards the corner each time. The second white round I did the same and was pleased that I had over-done it so that the square was now ‘concave’ with dips in each side, so that I could do one final pink round compensating for this with a few double-trebles in the middle of each edge. So it was a jazz-like ‘get yourself into a hole and then get yourself out again’ form of creativity, and I like the optical illusion quality of the finished product.

Well that’s it for now, I’d better get them posted off, if only so that I’ve got room to start new projects amongst the heap of bags and stuff overtaking the corner of the settee! There is going to be a second blanket made out of ‘babette squares’, aka any size or colours, so I’m going to think about what to do for that – should be a chance to try out all sorts of new colour approaches. Good luck to the lady putting them together! – I don’t know how it can be done without an advanced computer programme to set out the geometries!

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Woollypoles piece #1

Ah, the runes! I discovered them at Avebury, site of the magical stone circle, when I used to live in Wiltshire. They have fabulous little pagan gift shops with everything from ocarinas to rugs to dream-catchers to books about crop circles.

24 symbols representing the natural world, and hence the forces that push and pull our lives. Reach into a drawstring bag and grope around for a stone, smooth from the beach, turning it over to reveal its divinatory wisdom. Consult the runes in times of stress which are also times of openness for the world to shine through. Proving that anything you can think of has been done before, when I decided to combine two current interests by representing runes for my Woollypoles piece, the googleland told me others had invented patterns, designs, jumpers. Not surprising in a way, as both warm woollies and wild runes have Scandinavian connections.

This one is ALGIZ, and represents PROTECTION, a quality which is appealing in general but also useful for a piece of urban knitting open to the elements and the populace! It can be thought to represent a shield, an elk’s horns, or an open hand held out to stop advancing forces.

The pattern is by Kayleen Clements, though I had to adapt it to trim the margins and also change her subtle garter-stitch relief pattern into a brightly-contrasting colour design. We had to bag a bright colour for Woollypoles, and stick to it, though we could pick a different one, preferably the complementary colour, for letters or decorations. Of course I had to go for orange, typically underselected by the ‘Polers, and took my bouncing ball of vivid orange down to the little indie wool shop to select just the right shade of serious blue. I think it’s safe to say you will see it a mile off!

The second one is called ANSUZ, and represents INSPIRATION – another useful quality both for life and for environmental revisioning 🙂 Blessings and communications from above, truth, and wisdom are also invoked. I like the way too that it looks like the stem of a semiquaver 🙂 This was a selection that kind of decided itself before I thought I had decided…? Funny how that happens and whether to trust it. The whole piece will wrap nicely round a pole and you’ll see one rune from either side.

They’re relatively plain because they’re such a strong communicative statement alone. The other two pieces have been frou-froued up, but I couldn’t face it with this one. I had the image of a round medal / tag / disc hanging from either side, but didn’t know what it was. Lewis’s sold me a bag of clear plastic discs with a single hole in each, and I can write on them (with a DVD pen) and use them as labels. I just have to find a blue DVD pen and, preferably, someone with artistic writing… in the next week or so! Poles await!

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Woollypoles piece #2

Don’t panic, I will post about Woollypoles piece #1 shortly! But what is Woollypoles? The latest group project by the excellent Knitty Graffity, originator of The Woolly Walk-Along, for which I created my Wisdom piece. (You can be involved if you like: email her on her page for details.)

I’ve had this piece going for ages – was going to finish it last year and tag it up by the university library to welcome the students back, but I’ve never got all the conditions together. And somehow it seemed a lot of detail to put into something that might not last long, if my previous ‘BOOK’ project was anything to go by.

It’s part of the project that a clever friend has titled ‘Intarsiverbia‘ – from the technique of multicolour intarsia knitting (or crochet) and the idea of putting a ‘word’ inside another word, which it is an example of. Huh, what?! So here the main word is ‘enjoy…’ in pale yellow, but the word ‘joy’ is picked out in slightly more intense yellow. (The purple here is a better reflection of what the background colour actually is.)

Only two slight technical reservations: here the word ‘joy’ is the natural etymological basis of the word ‘enjoy’, whereas in my previous intarsiverbia projects an unrelated embedded word has stuck out to give an extra dimension – ‘oo’ in ‘book’, and ‘heart’ surrounding the ‘art’. But it’s worth reminding ourselves/myself of what enjoy would actually feel like (joy). Also apparently it’s only technically intarsia if you don’t carry the thread along the back. Which I do. But I don’t really care about that.

So this tag will be going off to New Zealand to be part of something artsy where it will be appreciated, noticed, and possibly be part of the next luscious coffee-table book that Knitty is planning to produce!

It was a bit of good luck – or artistic consistency – that it was already in complementary colours, yellow and purple. This completes the set of the six primary and secondary colours that my other two pieces for the Woollypoles project had already explored. In fact that’s what made me think of this piece, as I realised they were the missing colours. Hence they seem to go perfectly together. The styles are complementary too. Sneak preview to the left; more to follow.

Update: the finishing touches to this piece, and the next piece, can be seen here.

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