Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A bead post(!)

We had a brief discussion about bead looms recently on a group, and since I'm buried in tax stuff and won't even be going to teen knitting club today, I've imported my response post.

Also, it's pouring rain, so here's a picture of the cobble stones outside our front door when DD left for the bus, and a cheerful sky snippet above from a few nights ago to remind me that the world is not always dreary.

Suzanne Cooper has a handy set of beadwork links. My favorite vendor is Beki at Out on a Whim, a fun store up in Cotati, California.

I absolutely adore Don Pierce, whom I met at the first Interweave Bead Bash up in Estes Park some years ago. He and his wife are truly good people and his beadwork is art. In person it shimmers and glows with a life of its own, and when a person wears the piece the two merge and the person takes on that extra something that was in the beadwork. He is a wonderful teacher and a fair and honest vendor, too. Walking into a classroom where he is teaching you can feel the magic.

Another expert teacher and hilarious person is Jeannette Cook. Her classroom is an endless party of laughter and "I've got it!" and color and fun. She has tricks and techniques that remove the frustration from beadwork and fill a person with ideas. She is one of those special teachers who makes learning hard things a breeze, and her lessons have that auto-fuse feature where they become part of your mind instead of departing through the other ear. She is great!

If you can get a copy of The New Beadwork by Scherer and Moss you'll see some very inspiring work. Many of those artists went on to write books. Charlene mentioned Valerie Hector. David Dean is another gifted beadworker. I would love to own one of David Dean's pieces... The other person whose beadwork I enjoy very, very much is David Chatt.

Interweave's Beader's Companion is a handy little reference and good to have around. I used to write for their magazine. I never, ever, wrote for Bead & Button, though they asked. They were difficult to work with in the early years (does that sound diplomatic?), while Linda Ligon, Jean Scorgie, and then Jean Campbell over at Interweave were gems of the first order.

Looms. Is it a Mirrix or homebuilt or ??? It makes a big difference. I used custom homebuilts, just rigid frames because that's what suited my designs the best. Mirrix looms are lovely for collars.

1) Loom weaving beadwork is quicker. What I was known for in the trade was 3-D freeform peyote critters, rigid, stand alone, weird colors (hey, I had an orange tumor in my dominant eye), and expressive. I also made a lot of game boards to pay the bills, and while I can work (even without good vision) flat peyote or any other flat stitch REALLY REALLY fast, a loom is quicker. Even running the chicken farm with a new baby, no plumbing, and a wastrel for a husband (the ex), I could weave upwards of 3000 beads per day in an exceptionally complex color pattern. Peyote at full speed, maybe half that per day.

2) Looms yield better drape. Having a long tensioned warp transforms large flat pieces of beadwork from craft to art. There are few things in this world that appeal to my senses as much as cutting a length of glass bead fabric off a loom. I usually worked with Nymo O for warp and weft and laid a supplementary warp of handspun bombyx froghair, then bound the selvages and cut edges in a bombyx ribbon woven on an Alden Amos tape loom.

3) Looms yield a flat fabric (if you tension your warp evenly and use relatively uniform beads). For game boards, this is rather important. Freehand beadwork has a lot of positive characteristics, but "flat" isn't the first one that comes to mind.

One of the drawbacks of a loom is you have warp ends to deal with after cutting. Because of this, I only used a loom for pieces where a ribbon-bound edge could be seen as a nice addition, where there was another, acceptable way to conceal the cut ends, or when the piece was too large to work comfortably freehand (bigger than 4" x 6").

There are intermediate methods, working on a small pin-loom that stretches each row as it's worked freehand, threading a continuous warp between two fine, adjustable bars, etc. By the end of working a piece with one of these compromise methods, I have always thought I was an idiot and should have used the loom!

Oh, and the current state of my EZasPi Anniversary shawl, which might just be finished before the next anniversary... KnitPicks merino laceweight is very, very tolerant of being frogged and re-knit over and over and over again. Not the softest hand, but soft enough, and the durability factor is important since this shawl is for DD.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Quick bootee note for AnnP

AnnP, you don't have to Kitchener the bottom seam of the bootee. You can just bind off and sew the two sides together. If you sew the inner edge halves of the stitches it becomes a decorative seam. Since most of baby's weight is on his toes or the backs of his heels, the important places for the bootee to be smooth are at the end of the tongue and the center back, so the sole seam does not need to be flush. (Didn't have your email, thus this open note.) Oh, and here's the tern photo I meant to post earlier today.

More birds

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Lots and lots of big birds today, over a dozen egrets, a new flock of terns, the usual curlews and willets, more young gulls, and only a few hundred ducks. One of the curlews was calling -- what a beautiful sound! The tide was way out, but a snowy was at a culvert and posed beautifully when I told him what a lovely fellow he was.

Knitting club was fun. Had three tables of kids (mostly girls this week) making friendship bracelets and teaching each other different braids and knots, DD spun silk froghair, one of my pompom boys decided to learn to knit and had it down pat in a dozen stitches, fewer than a dozen boys stayed to make projects, but a lot darted in and out, and there were a bunch more new kids this week as well as piles of regulars. The darters do that for a few weeks and eventually feel comfortable enough to stay and play. The administration continues to be surprised that so many guys come to club, let alone that they behave perfectly. Don't ask me how I feel about the administration...

Today I tried something new. Five minutes before the bell was going to ring, I clapped twice. Everyone was instantly quiet. I said loudly, "Start cutting thread for projects to work on until next Wednesday." They dove in happily and when the bell rang they'd already tidied nearly all the stray bits of yarn and thread! Such good kids. I often see them around town or at the library after school, and they always smile and often hold up a wrist to show me what they've made.

I just knit another pair of newborn bootees to give away. Had an eye appointment yesterday and it was rather horrid; knitting makes the experience bearable. Since my orb has surprised them by surviving its ordeal, we're starting another set of tests to see if we can heal my unhappy macula. The diagnostic equipment is amazing. They can do a macular scan now that shows tissue density, where pockets of swelling are, and makes it all measurable. Sure wish there were a way to turn off my brain, though. Ouch! The bootee pattern is quick and small, and has few enough rows that I can keep track in my head since I'm fully dilated (and thus can't see much) for hours during and more hours after the exam. [When I had the first surgery, I had to keep my eyes dilated for weeks and could see color and intricate detail in the dark. Eerie!] I am putting a nice dent in the bin of leftover sock yarn and will soon have a nice stash of bootees on hand. I'll post more bird photos if/when Blogger decides to comply. Isn't this pair of terns wonderful?! They were watching the rest of the flock dive.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Silly knitting

Stephenie mentioned short rows this morning on the phone, so here are a couple of pics of a silly thing I knit when I was in a mood. Fine coned cotton, started at the center, with a short row edge. When I finished it I realized I could have knit a sweater in the same number of stitches, but it was therapeutic knitting and has proven handy for dusting...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In between & UFO's

First, Cassie sent me this link to the best Huldu yet.

I'm in between on a bunch of projects. I'm waiting for the weather to clear before washing all that green Cascade 220 for my FLAK, else it won't ever dry. We've had a lot of rain, mostly squalls, lots of horizontal hail and drenching downpours. The nasturtiums are resplendent and already blooming in sunny spots.

I was digging in the stash for some yarn to do a beta of Morgan and found two UFO's (a rarity for me since I love to finish), both on US#3's, for DD, and from the Texas years when I was on pain meds and knitting by feel. One is a mohair/silk shaped lace shawl and the other is a cardi made from a cone of cotton embroidery floss. She outgrew both so I set them aside, thinking I'd rip them later. I have notes somewhere but don't need them since they're both sufficiently obvious patterns. There are buttons and ribbon for the cardi stowed somewhere, gorgeous things from Britex and worth finding. I think I'll finish at least the mohair, though I'm putting it in the slow lane for later. I like the cardi more, but there's a lot of work left. Anybody wear a 32" cardi? Maybe I can cheat and turn it into a summery something with minimal sleeves...

I just ripped my pi back to row 48 and have glommed together a lace pattern that is a cross between the small leaf I used in the first section and the modified arrow I will use later. A bit more fussing and it should work.

I'm plugging away at the second sock in the ringel pair (finally), finished C's socks without the ankle shaping (brain rebelled -- I'll make the next pair fit better), and am wearing my new yellow Opal socks today.

I get the sniffles every time I pick up the Claudia brand yarn for those fingerless gloves so will have to jettison that project and use a different yarn (fabric softener, I think, and I've washed the hank but it's still fragrant). Am pondering changing the needle size in the Koigu mitts and keep taking out the fabric and fondling it, trying to decide.

I really need to whip up some more bootees for gifts. Haven't even looked at the CIT swatches for a month. It will happen, but DD needs a larger Rogue more than I need a cardi. She needs socks for her size 10 and growing feet, too. It's a good thing I like to knit!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Grandmother loves her new scarf and says she's going to wear it even when she's asleep.

It was very windy and high tide again today, so instead of more photos of duck flotillas here's a shot of the beach just below where I sat to eat lunch today. The sound of the waves hitting the rocks was invigorating and put me in a good mood for knitting club. Had mostly boys again, an especially good batch. Some are becoming adept at clove hitches so I'm thinking about more complicated projects. Time to look through my dad's old copy of Handicrafts for some ideas.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Litla Hyrna Huldu

The shawl for my grandmother is finished. I used 100 grams of elann.com's Baby Silk (80% alpaca/20% silk) and a simplified top-down version of Litla Hyrna Huldu from Three-Cornered & Long Shawls by Halldorsdottir.

Here it is on DD, and Gm is tiny so the shawl should be just about the right size. I worked half again as many repeats in the edging as the pattern (and the required extra in the triangle) since my gauge was smaller than the pattern and I wanted a slightly larger shawl (24" depth, 46" width, just under 26k stitches). I used a smaller than advised crochet hook, too, to minimize the pointyness of the edging. The soft scallops are really nice with this yarn. Quick, easy, and a lovely light-weight snuggler.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


It was Teen Knitting Club and fair weather this morning, so here are a few photos. I remembered someone commenting that she was fond of curlews, and there were two on the mud flats, though one was a little far to get a good snap. If you magnify these photos, the resolution should be high enough to show some nice detail. They are such lovely birds.

My willet friend was grooming himself and not photo-ready (the mud flats were a bird salon; I seemed to hit the moment of the day when all birds fuss over themselves). I did get a snap of a young willet who was striding along the water's edge as fast as I was walking up on the path!

A photographer from the local paper came to club today, but so did over thirty kids! Nearly every teen who has said he would come back another day came today. My 7th grade regulars stopped by for a moment and were overwhelmed by the crowd so left immediately. Only three of the knitting 6th graders braved the zoo. I ended up making three stations, one for knitting, one for pompoms, and one for friendship bracelets. Luckily, I had kids at each table who could teach the others, and I spent my time helping with paperclips (hook through the end of the bracelet braid, then through a belt loop), teaching half hitches, and knotting pompom leashes.

I felt today as if I achieved my goal of giving the kids some fun stress relief. I took a moment to look around the classroom and saw all the school's cliques mixing, helping each other, 6th graders teaching 8th graders and vice versa. Last fall I had envisioned a table of happy knitters, and some weeks that is what we have. Most days are like today, a beehive of busy teens playing with color and string, learning that knots really do matter, that scissors can be used for more than paper, that hands are handy.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


When a design has gone awry mid-span, how wonky does it have to be for you to rip it out? Do you surf the wave and finish the thing, knowing you'll rip it later, or do you rip back to the good part immediately and make changes on the fly?

What do you consider to be valid reasons for frogging? Gauge, fit, and blaring errors in lace or cables that cannot be fixed via laddering or localized surgery? It's so ugly you'll never wear it and you doubt a charity will accept it? You're on a yarn budget and have found something more appealing to make with that specific yarn?

Have you ever done a partial frog, tried something different, then frogged back and returned to the original design, realizing it had merit after all?

Do you plan ahead, then knit carefully in order to avoid making grievous errors, or are you carefree, casting on and knitting an idea, figuring you can always frog later if it turns into a dud?

Do you bribe yourself, have a special frogging ceremony, or are you like me? I swap chores with my daughter and she converts the knitmess back into tidy balls of yarn. She especially enjoys frogging beadwork, which involves scissors and bowls and tweezers and sedating her mother for the duration.

And yes, the root of this post is because I'm knitting the last bit of something disappointing, but I'm riddled with doubt because everyone else thinks it's wonderful. Is it my eyes deceiving me, am I too picky, or do I simply have poor taste? I chose to finish it anyway, hoping that when it's done I will see the beauty others see in this pattern.

Update: an article recommended by Sheri.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A few photos

Serious wind today, trying to tear my knitting from my hands as I walked along the shore. The only birds on the water were some coots with bills pointed into the gale.

I did find a handsome comrade with an injured hip mooching in the library courtyard. It's easy pickings and he's young and still has some use of the leg, so I hope it's just a strain. He was courteous (and well-fed) enough to wait patiently until I got up before hopping over to see if I left any treats. If I'd had some leather gauntlets... but my years of chicken chasing and playing junior vet are long gone.

I tried the Morgan shawl on many body types today and figured out the necessary modifications. I could have sold a dozen shawls just to a handful of ladies at school. Shawls are definitely still in style.

We made friendship bracelets at knitting club. A few of the kids can tie a half knot, but they don't know what it's called! Whatever happened to tangible reality, to tying knots in jump ropes or your brother's shoelaces?