22 February 2009

First Blossoms


Due to the impending rain, we had to do an emergency fix on our shed roof. Passing by our almond tree I noticed this:

First blossoms: 22 February 2009

And looking at an old hay bale next to the shed, I discovered these:

Hay Bale mushrooms

These mushrooms are only a few inches tall, but somehow look like they belong into an enchanted forest.

If you haven't seen the movie
Coraline yet, you really should go - it is excellent! But don't bother watching it in 3D - it really does not add to the story, I found it rather distracts from it a bit.

In knitting news: I've started the Funnelneck Sweater from the Big Girl Knits book:

Whichway Funnelneck - start of Cable section (center front)

I was unable to get the gauge right - I could manage the 16 stitches per 4 inch, but the number of rows would be way off. Usually I can get gauge by moving up 1 mm from the recommended needle size, but not here ... I knitted about 6 different swatches, and finally decided to use 5 mm needles which would make the sweater a bit smaller than the L size which is too big for me anyway. I'll know more after knitting the whole front.

Finally, I came across an interesting link via a Ravelry friend. If you know a disabled or chronically ill person and sometimes wonder why they are tired all the time or cannot do even small, simple things, because they "don't look sick", read this Spoon Theory - it is an eye-opener.

Till next time.

15 February 2009

More Time to Knit

Well, the recession has finally hit my company, too. Across the board everyone has been ordered to take a week's vacation in February, March and April - hopefully no longer than that. As long as it is a 25% reduction for a few months it's ok - I will have more time to knit, and maybe do some gardening catch-up work.

I'm busy now working on the Hanami stole this long weekend, Pattern C is almost done. I can't wait to put into practice what I've learned in Galina's workshop.

Take care.

11 February 2009

Lace-Making Retreat at Lacis Report

Whew! It was a busy week!

Galina Khmeleva kept us occupied knitting samples day and night (homework!), and I learned a lot from her.
I took all of her classes: Orenburg Shawl Fundamentals (knitting a gossamer web shawl), Knitting a Warm Shawl, and Dimensional Knitting (spiders and bobbles). Of course, there were the other classes on lace-making: Needle Lace, Bobbin Lace and Tatting. Since the Dimensional Knitting classes were repeated, I was able to take a sniffer class in Bobbin Lace which was interesting, but it's not my cup of tea at the moment. Here is the result of an hour's worth of effort:

Beginner's Bookworm - I did most of the top half, then the instructor
(a very patient Maria Provencher) finished the bottom half, because
I was running out of time.

There were 2 classes per day: one morning and one afternoon session (10:30 to 1:00 pm and 3:00 to 5:30 pm), which gave us a rather long lunch break, but enabled us to catch up on our sample-knitting. This was our workshop area (former software office):

And one dedicated lunch-break knitter:

You can see Galina's sampler hanging from the shelf.

Orenburg Fundamentals Class: Galina took us through the making of a sample gossamer shawl, as described in her books, but with more information and tips.

Orenburg Gossamer Shawl sample

She started out by making us knit samples of the basic Orenburg patterns (Strawberries, Honeycomb, Peas, etc.) in yarn she provided - I found out that I had been knitting with needles too large (2.5 mm) and she made me switch to 1.5 mm (US 000) needles, because the holes should not quite be big enough for your pinkie to slip through. Using the smaller needles indeed made my stitches more defined and neater (see bottom, green portion of the sampler - unfortunately, the picture is not that great - the difference is actually visible):

Orenburg stitch sampler, and grafting sample

To the left of it you see two squares grafted together on two sides using the Russian grafting method.

Warm Shawl Class: In contrast to a gossamer shawl, a warm shawl is knitted in pieces: You knit 2 (for a triangular shawl) or 4 (for a square shawl) trapezoid border pieces; you pick up stitches on the short side and knit a "bridge" on each piece; then you graft 2 (for a triangular shawl) or 3 (for a square shawl) pieces together and start knitting the center (picking up border stitches as you work), then you attach the top trapezoid border (for the square version) or a border (for a triangular shawl). The bridge (not in the sample pictured) gives a warm shawl more stability, so it keeps its shape better than a gossamer shawl, which would have to be blocked more frequently with wear.

Three trapezoids for an Orenburg Warm Shawl.

To make a triangular shawl the pink and yellow pieces one have been grafted together; then the stitches on the short pink one were picked up, and the center (turquoise) was knitted up from the pink, decreasing stitches on its left side to produce a straight line for the triangular shawl's long (diagonal) side. If you wanted to knit a square shawl, you would graft the taupe trapezoid to the yellow one, pick up the yellow top stitches and knit straight up, picking up stitches from both the pink and taupe pieces as you knit up. Then attach another trapezoid piece on top to finish the shawl. Galina will have a pattern for a triangular warm shawl in the next issue of Piecework magazine (May/June 2009).

We also received plenty of good information on yarn characteristics. For instance:
Alpaca wool (I had considered it for my first real O-shawl) is not a good choice for shawls and tablecloths etc., because it has almost no memory. Also, a very fuzzy yarn like 100% Qiviuk or cashmere is not good for gossamers, because the fuzziness will cover up the holes which you want visible ("Don't cover up your hard work!"). It should be knitted together with some silk, so it keeps its shape and stitch definition better. 100% cashmere and quiviuk are better for warm shawls, because warm shawls have a less lacy (= fewer holes) design, in order to ... keep you warm.

Galina also showed us howe to properly block an Orenburg shawl (it was a method new to me),
and entertained us with lots of stories from Russia (even what to do, Russian-style, with an unfaithful husband!). To top it off, she had boxes and boxes of beautiful yarns, and cloud-soft shawls on display for us (no photos of these, but we were allowed to take notes of the patterns). The most spectacular one was knitted by her mentor Olga Fedorova, who passed away last year.

Galina's class was very good and enjoyable - if you have a chance, take a class from her! Next, she will be at Stitches West in Santa Clara, California and then at the Black Sheep Gathering in Oregon, where she will teach Orenburg-style spinning.

The only negative thing I have to report is that the Lacis Museum was hospitable only in so far as providing a venue was concerned. On the first day, when I signed up for all of Galina's classes (which were the only reason I signed up for this retreat), Mr. Kliot gave me a somewhat disapproving look, because apparently his vision was that everyone should be taking classes in all types of lace-making. Well, I do not have any interest in the other forms of lace-making at this time, because I am just starting to explore lace knitting. It would also have been nice if the museum had provided a little welcome package - maybe with a map to the locations mentioned on their website, since many participants were not local ... or ... dare I say it? ... a coupon good for xx% off something in the store?

In the morning of the first day there was a "Round Table" - which I expected was where the instructors would be introduced and maybe give us a little overview of their particular craft. Instead Mr. Kliot, who did not even bother to introduce himself, only gave a little talk about how we should try out all the different methods of lace-making. Anyway, the round table turned out to be tables set up by the instructors:

"Round Table" - Left foreground: Galina's table with some of her scrumptious shawls, left background: bobbin lace, center: needle lace, right: tatting.

So I felt that a good part of the first day (the first actual class did not start until the afternoon) was wasted - additionally, no spaces were assigned to the different instructors, so you had no place to put your bag(s). Oh well ... But, all in all, the classes and instructors were great, and that was the reason I went.

And this is what you see on entering the workshop area:


Take care!

09 February 2009

Lace Making Retreat - Quick Note

I haven't had time to post as planned, because Galina is keeping us busy knitting samples and giving us homework - I already learned a lot ... will post on Wednesday.

01 February 2009

Hanami Progress and looking forward to Lacis Workshop!

Things have been a bit stressful at work lately ... since I am taking off part of next week and the following week for the Lace Making Retreat at the Lacis Museum in Berkeley, I had to work a bit longer during the week and even come to work the last 2 Saturdays! But no, they are not exploiting me - I will be able to take off 2 days later, when the project is done. That's the curse when you are the only one in the company with the necessary language skills. It always works out that way, though ... I could be throwing a dart, blindfolded, at a calendar and say that is the week I want to take a vacation - it doesn't matter when - it will somehow work out to be the week when something urgent having to do with a German project will be surfacing. Sheeesh!

In the meantime, I'm making progress on the Hanami stole:

Hanami Stole - 8 Basketweave repeats plus 1 Chart A, with 4 additional rows inserted

Here is a closeup of the Basketweave pattern:

Basketweave pattern

And here is the transition to the cherry-blossom part of the stole:

Transition from Basketweaves to Cherry-Blossom part

Since I knitted one extra repeat of the Basketweave chart, I inserted 8 additional rows into Chart A where you see the 2 lifelines close together. I will knit 4 more 8-row insertions in the following patterns, because I will also shorten the very last pattern by 8 rows. The other lifelines show the pattern repeats - I left them in, because they will help me stretch the stole evenly later once it's done.

Within the last few days I (finally!) received 2 books I was waiting for:

Burda Praxis Strickspitze

Estonian Lace Knitting

The Burda Praxis Strickspitze book is a nice basic course of the technique of knitted lace or lace-knitting (depending on whether every row or every other row is patterned). There are several smaller projects in there - some look like Niebling designs to me, but the designer is not named - mostly doilies, plus lampshades, curtains, and borders. This book, which I ordered from Germany, is a lot thinner than I expected, but contains solid information.

Estonian Lace Knitting is fairly broad in scope, with a brief history of the Haapsalu lace knitting tradition, plus some nice scarf and stole patterns. In contrast to it is this book I bought a while ago:

= Lily of the Valley - Variations of a traditional knitting pattern

Maiglöckchen concentrates on one particular pattern which the author received from a Ms. Edith Haller, who was born in Russia. It is a basic Haapsalu Lily of the Valley pattern and is explored in many different projects: sweaters, moebius scarf, hats, bags, socks, curtains and a pillow. Both books together would make one great book.

During the Lace Making workshop I will try to post as often as possible to share what I've learned. I'm planning to take all of Galina Khmeleva's classes on Knitted Lace, so I can expand my knowledge of how to create a nice Orenburg Shawl.

Take care!