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Recently, research for a special knitting project (still under wraps) has uncovered all sorts of spectacular finds, including some fiber-related short films and animations, some of which must be shared.  I’ve already posted about animated shorts most of us are familiar with by now: “The Last Knit” (Spring Fever: knitting addiction), and Tricot Machine’s knitted music video (Knitting Machine). Thanks to the generosity of those who have shared their work online, it will be possible – as my needles click away during the next few weeks, to bring many others I’ve found together in a miniature  fiber film & animation “festival”!

First on the program: “Ball of Wool” (1968), an animated short film made in 1968 by Russian artist and filmmaker Nikolai Serebryakov (1928-2005) (more information about this remarkable animator is available from this obituary).  “Ball of Wool” is a knitted fable, rather like “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg”.

So I’m thinking, if animation is “the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D or 3-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. It is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision” (source), then mightn’t the use of fiber and related fiber arts (knitting, crochet, weaving, etc) to create the illusion be called a(k)ni(t)mation.

More aknitmation tomorrow!

“And so sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved” – Barack Obama

Recently I contributed six pink and green knitted squares to the thousands collected for the White House fence cozy that Code Pink used in its 2009 Mothers’ Day vigil for peace.  This was Code Pink’s second 24-hour vigil in front of the White House in honor of all mothers and women living under occupation and war zones,  for whom the price of war is the safety and lives of  loved ones, their homes, and their future. With roses lifted and giant cozy unfurled, hundreds called for the return of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, so that no more mothers will grieve the loss of children in these wars.

Additional still images of Code Pink’s White Cozy project, the process of assembling the giant cozy in D.C., and the vigil, are available here).  But theRealNews televised report, “Roses and Guns for Mother’s Day”, helped me to feel a part of the action in spite of the distance -

Code Pink’s work includes support for peace in Gaza as well.  They are also sponsoring a fund-raising compaign for the children of Gaza -

  • $10 will enable us to buy a backpack full of schools supplies for a child.
  • $50 will enable 5 children to have the tools they need for the school year.
  • $100 will help build an International Friendship Playground at one of the schools destroyed during the invasion.

Perhaps you could put down your knitting needles or crochet hook long enough to make a contribution

Yes, some days are bitter cold.  Or wet and bitter cold.  But others are mild, a bit steamy.  The afternoon sun is warm on our shoulders as we do weekend errands.  So it’s been time to pull out the unfinished winter projects – the last pair of mittens for the nieces, the remaining hats – for me, and one to send off to the Sioux elders.

Wanting to study twined knitting this year, I’ve been working on a couple of pairs of mittens that draw on a variety of twining and colorwork techniques.  I finally finished a pair of mittens for the youngest niece-let (finally, because I seemed to have been knitting on fumes after the winter holiday rush to finish so many gloves and mitts).  No pattern for these little dainties (but guided by those shared by other generous knitters here and here), some skeins of Araucania pink and magenta, US 3 (3.25 mm) dpns, and online discussion of twined knitting techniques.  Somehow, I managed to include most of the technical elements I’d set out to study:  multi-color casting-on (3-strand braided cast-on) and corrugated ribbing (on the cuffs), bands of twined “crook” or chain stitches (above the wrists).  This project was a delight to research: twined knitting resources abound on the net (here and here, for instance), and it’s easy to find powerful inspiration from amazing twiners like Anna-Maj’s and Asplund.

A pair of multi-color
Wintergreen mittens (pattern by Kate Gilbert) finally came off the needles, a bit later than planned.  Worked in a niece’s favorite earthy colors (Araucania Nature Wool Multi, US 2 / 2.75 mm – would go up a size next time around), these were a challenging treat to execute.
  1. Recharted the leaves, to turn them so that they point towards the fingers now;
  2. revised some of the twists so that they lay flatter, using decreases and increases instead of 3 st twists; and
  3. worked a thumb gusset at side instead of inset thumb on palm. Wish I’d gone up a size on the needles, but soldiered on, having frogged the cuffs once.

detail of the surface – compare twisted sts with dec and increase techniques

Vertigo hat by Kerstin Michler, just in time for the vernal equinox. A straightforward little pattern, which made a wonderful hat with the colors I anticipate from spring.  Noro Silk Garden and US 6 (4.0 mm) needles (16″ circulars and dpns).  Worked with 40 sts (instead of 45) for woman’s hat. Used just over 1 skein of yarn to knit the 11 sections required.

KOB Ying Yang Beret IV,

Ying Yang Beret by Nancy Marchant
Noro Silk Garden, US 4 (3.5 mm) needles
Just because I love this pattern. Just because I want to try KOB instead of brioche. Just because I love Silk Garden yarns. Just because I could use a Noro hat to match my scarf. Just because my US 4/3.5 mm dpns are empty. Just because I could manage another rehearsal project.Nb. substituting KOB for brioche worked just fine. Made double increases in similar manner (k1, yo, k1 in same st), and decreases also work similarly. But, on next round, I worked sl1, k1 (to make only 1 yo in back instead of 2) in preparation for the decrease (next row), and then kkob to k2tog. Helped to place both strands on the needle before knitting. And, did a double braid at edge (I like it firmer). Otherwise, the beret seems indistinguishable from its traditional “brioche” twin.

Love Potion #9

We usually keep things pretty quiet for Valentine’s Day, trying to spread the lovethroughout the year.  But this year there was knitterly inspiration.

A figleaf (thong) … (Men’s Thong-th-thong by Joan McGowan-Michael, Cascade Fixation; my own pattern for the giant fig leaf)

And a Dr. Seuss-inspired willie warmer …. Wee Willie Warmer by Victoria Bales, Plymouth Encore remnants).  Still can’t figure out how it’s to be worn. But the Greeks set Priapus statues in their gardens … we’ll call  it “Middle Age Mistletoe”, hang it over the bed, and hope for the best!

Post Valentine’s Day addendum (4.4.09):

Couldn’t resist trying to give him a heart (he’s had mine for 33 years), after the enthusiastic response to the knitted intimates.

Size:  incredibly full
Pattern:  Heart by Kristin Ledgett
Materials: Araucania Nature Wool Solids, US 4 / 3.5 mm dpns

Simple Soap Sweaters

The need for  a few additional holiday and birthday gifts prompted an unexpected foray into felt-able soap socks.  Inspired by soap socks by Designated Knitter  (pattern here), mine were quickly executed with Boku wool (a Noro look-alike) and US 7 (4.5 mm) dpns.  These will shrink around their scented soap filling (Green Tea, Lavender and Oatmeal soaps from Trader Joe’s); I’ll have to try to make a re-fillable version next time around.

Here’s my recipe for making simple soap “sweaters” for rectangular soap bricks (approximately 2.5″ x 4″ x 1.25”):

  • CO 24 using 2 dpns and Turkish cast-on (or Magic 8), 12 sts on each side.
  • K 2 rows straight
  • Increase 1 st each side twice (28 sts total)
  • knit straight until the piece reaches the top of the bar of soap (for me, 32 rows total); unwrap the soap as needed and try it on to be sure
  • k2 tog each side over next 2 rows; the cozy should now fit entirely over the bar of soap
  • work a 3 needle bind-off to the last 4 sts
  • work 3-4” in I-cord on the last 5 sts; bind off these remaining sts and break yarn (leaving 8-10” tail for sewing).
  • sew the handle to the other side of the cozy.

After the pre-holiday mitten and mitt marathon, it’s been hats all around in January.

I can’t decide if this hat was more fun to make than to wear … the alpaca yarn (Misti International Misti Alpaca Hand Dyed Worsted, worked on US 4/3.5 mm needles) is unbelievably silky and soft, so knitting it was continuous pleasure, and challenge (to keep on the needles).  I modified the Drops pattern, Basque Hat with wavy pattern, a lovely feather and fan design, to make the  hat a bit wider:  I added an extra set of increases, then decreased rather more rapidly.

We always seem to be flirting with sock monkey mania in our family.  After starting, and frogging, a pair of sock monkey convertible cycling mitts for one son, I found my way to a bit of quick monkey business: a hat (my pattern) based on the  cable from Knitty’s infamous  Monkey socks by Cookie A.  This was a quick knit with a skein of Courtelle Chunky Ragg Yarn and Size 10 (6.0 mm) needles dpns.

I’ve long wanted a Russian-style Persian lamb hat, and finally found the right yarn for it (Lana Grossa Cucito) at a price (discount) I could afford. A Papakha is the traditional Russian fur-brimmed, cloth-crowned hat (standard fare for military officers).  My “Papakha Fur Hat”  is loosely based on surveying the basic designs of Russian fur hats (try here for inspiration), drooling over Paula Lishman’s fur yarns, and headband and hat yarns and kits, and the Russian-Style Hat in Runway Knits (here’s a close cousin.

I used Lana Grossa Cucito for the “fur” (Karabella Fur runs $17/yard!) and and Paton’s Classic Wool – the Cucito is a bulky, Persian lamb-style yarn, made of merino wool, but Lion Brand Homespun (acrylic) would also work, doubled, and US 9 (5.5 mm) and 13 (9.0 mm) dpns.   It’s been hard to take it off since tying the (inauthentic) topknot at the breakfast table a few mornings ago.

Mittens and gloves haven’t been forgotten entirely, though.

With these “Opposing Targets” (Target Wave Mittens, from Knitting Nature), worked in the round, I managed to use most of the yarn left from the first pair of Target Waves made earlier in the season as a holiday gift.

I also managed to finish a pair of fingerless mitts for myself (finally!).

These “Slashed Doublet Mitts” were inspired by a long-standing interest in medieval and Renaissance illuminations and costume.  The “slashed” texture of pattern stitch is basically Barbara Walker’s “Jewel Cross-Rib”, Treasury #1, p. 27 (called Cross-Stitch Block pattern and Swish with a Twist by others); how the stitch reminds me of the design of Renaissance slashed sleeves and doublets).  The variegated Koigu PPM goes nicely with my Noro striped scarf.

December knitting nearly overwhelmed me, I suppose.  The challenges posed by the holidays are always something to contend with. In many ways, there was little transition from November’s efforts to the final push in December, but in the end, when I look at all the photos and the reduced stash, it’s clear I was productive.

Sometimes I knit for the sake of trying something new, and the fact that the object will be gifted is the excuse. This month, another Elizabeth Zimmerman wonder, a pair of mittens based on her mitered mittens pattern (May, The Knitter’s Almanac), fit the bill.  I can’t say why it was so satisfying to make these mitered mittens (US 6 / 4.0 mm, 1 skein Noro Silk Garden), except that the luck of the draw -my two skeins of Silk Garden started in roughly the same place (check the thumbs! which I typically knit before continuing on the hand upper, rather than after) – were an enticement.  FYI: I added thumb gussets similar to those proposed by GraceIvy (gusset technique) (rather than the steeked thumbs proposed by PurlBee).

Mid-month there was the “Pencil Project” – I executed (for pay!) one seventh of a commissioned giant water tower cozy project led by weeballyarns (Robyn).

Most of my 7′ x 14′ section was produced over the course of a single weekend (!), delivered by 12.10.08 for installation on 12.13.0.   The Pencil” lasted liitle more than two days – a short but sweet life.  My work was one seventh of this commissioned giant water tower cozy project he project, conceived by fiber artist Robyn Love to publicize the Golden Pencil design award.  There’s more information about the project-in-progress here, and about the final installation in the NY Times and Daily News; plenty of photos of the pencil in situ are available on Robyn’s blog: Big Day for Pencils, and here’s the video documentary of the project:

And then there was the holiday knitting … always (for this inter-married Jew) an excuse for learning something new.  This year that meant knitting a few globes for in-law’s  trees.  First , I jumped on the viral bandwagon and tried Eunny Jang’s simple Cabled Globe Ornament (with Cascade 220 leftovers); this pattern’s  a quick and effective platform for exploring the interaction of cable and globe.  Next there was a more complicated aran ornament (Heirloom Cabled Holiday Ornament by Terry Morris, fingering weight Knit Picks Palette, Cream, US 1 / 2.25 mm needles); this is an impressive, special pattern which makes a special gift, a design worth revisiting as is, or using as a point of departure for one’s own cabling or colorwork ideas.

A son travelled to Texas to spend Christmas with his girlfriend’s family, and wanted something special to put under their tree. With a bit of surface decoration, a felted teacup (Knitted/Felted Teacup and Saucer by Anita M. Wheeles; US 8 / 5.0 mm, Lion Brand Lion Wool Solid) was just the thing. It’s a quick knit (less than an hour for all pieces), and an equally quick felt in the sink; with a bit of embroidery, it was transformed into a delightful gift.  To finish as an ornament, I tacked the cup and saucer together with a few stitches after embroidering the cup and added a crocheted cord to hang.  

Hannukah came and went in our home.  Since this minor Jewish  holiday celebrates, in essence, a military victory, I’m always ambivalent about effusive observance.  Nontheless, there are always ways around the “problem”.  Having married into a Jewish family, my husband rarely misses Christmas; but he especially loves “little people” (young, or old) – these are for him.  For him, one Hanukkah gnome (Korknisse by Mann, US 3 / 3.25 mm, Araucania Nature Wool Solids) for each night of Hanukkah!

For the in-laws, a fewmore  ornaments … felted and beaded “Persian” Orbs (Ornaments by Leigh Radford, 2.75 x 4.5″ after felting (2.75 x 6.5″ before felting).   The shape of these ornaments remind me of Persian jars.
Needle Felting !

Pattern: Festive Felted Garland splendid tutorial, by Purl Bee’s Whitney.

Another holiday project for in-laws. We’ll be using them as dangles for their tree.
Now that I’ve learned a bit about needle felting, I’ll be doing some serious experimentation …

NB. Instead of purchasing and using the rather expensive Hamanaka Futte (Felt Ball Maker) recommended by the Purl Bee designer, I used a couple of small kitchen strainers I’ve had lying about for years. I simply attached them together with a rubber band, filled the basket with a soggy soapy ball of roving, and smacked the basked against a sponge in my other hand. I checked periodically to be sure the ball was felting evenly. Then I “finished” each ball manually, to make them a bit denser.

I used a Clover 3-needle tool from the closest LYS and scraps of Noro Kureyon to decorate each ball (I knew there was a reason I’ve been saving every single scrap of the precious colored stuff over the years).

Corrugated Cabin Scarf, inspired by Mabel’s Scarf by Larissa Brown (Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes, US 9 / 5.5 mm) — Wanted a scarf to complement a corrugated rib hat I made for my BIL a few years ago with Kureyon Big. The corrugated rib pattern Larissa’s pattern reminded me of the many Log Cabin quilts I’ve made, and the others I saw recently at an exhibit of Gee’s Bend quilts. Since BIL is looking for a new place to live, a “log cabin scarf” seemed just right.
(n.b. I’m afraid I’ve “unvented” my own approach to the logs, so this may not be a fine example of Larissa’s lovely original).

A nice straightforward pattern, that works up with striated yarn quickly to an enticing hat. This is a perfect stash-busting (one skein) walking pattern!  My modifications: I decided to add some additional garter st interest top and bottom on the Noro Kureyon version (US 7/4.5 mm needles).  Completed the blue soy-wool cap, and decided to go garter all the way on the Paton’s SWS (US 8/5.0 mm needles).  #3 – Noro Iro, bulky, worked as Medium (13 sts x 120 rows for band, 60 sts around for top, 62 sts for bottom band) on US 8/5.0 mm needles; soft and dense!

vibrant Noro Cash Island cap (US 6 4.0 mm needles).

And finally, there was another Ravelry swap, the Rock Opera Swap (I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to participate in this one).  The few “rock operas” I was familiar with (Tommy, Hair, Aida and Rent) were already taken by the time I had to choose; I grabbed for Pippin was because of a strange childhood association with one of the songs:  “My Corner of the Sky” – my mother played Diana Ross’ cover of the song incessantly on her 8-track tape player during my high school years in the early 70’s.

Pippin (sometimes called Pippin the Hunchback) was the ill-favored son of Charlemagne the Great, the first Holy Roman Emperor (ruled 800 – 814 CE).   I decided to knit a hat, the elements of which were guided by the refrain of “Corner of the Sky”:  “Rivers belong where they can ramble / Eagles belong where they can fly /I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free /Got to find my corner of the sky”.  So I aimed for a crafted jeweled crown (the source of the conflict between Charlemagne and Pippin, and Pippin’s wandering, the imperial eagle (I must have made half a dozen different charts!), a fleur-de-lis for the emperor’s French wife who supplanted Pippin’s mother and created many of the problems for Pippin, Bavarian twisted river cables and chain-maille-like twisted stitch sections.

The other items in the package included:

  • music (I tried to reciprocate the wonderful CD my swap partner sent to me in the earlier Day of the Dead swap, and used  Christmas as a guide to include a range of genres – chant, organum, isorhythmic motets, hocket, medieval instrumentals and Crusader songs); there are a few covers of “Corner of the Sky” (alas, not Diana Ross’, which is not available for download anywhere), and a few contemporary responses to the music of the period
  • 100 g Regia Fassett sock yarn
  • organic (medieval) spice tea & chai recipe (spices were the only medieval foodstuff I could reliably and conveniently connect to Pippin and his royal father)
  • bone yarnball stitch markers

Those last few days of December were entirely knitting free.  Almost.

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