Monday, March 16, 2015

Braided Cabled Ear Warmer

It's amazing how intimidating cables can be! For those not as familiar with knitting terminology, a cable in knitting "is made by working a group of stitches out of order. A cable needle (a short, double-pointed needle) is used to temporarily hold stitches out of the way while knitting the next ones, thus reversing their order and crossing them over one another."(Vicki Square, The Knitter's Companion: Deluxe Edition (Fort Collins, CO: Interweave, 1996) 117) I've known knitters who spend years avoiding this knitting technique, just because of it's visually daunting appearance. Well, I am here to tell you cables are truly a breeze and with a good pattern and some confidence, you too can concur the infamous cable. 
Close up of the 12-Stitch Plaited Cable executed in the
Braided & Cabled Ear Warmer Pattern.
Below is the pattern to my most popular selling design, that displays the gentle beauty of the cable. This pattern is knit flat and then joined in the round using a three needle bind-off, so for those with anxiety about circular knitting, this pattern is even more so for you. For any visual learners out there, the execution of the "cable 8 back" and "cable 8 front" can be viewed here, The combination of these two cables from the 12-stitch plaited cable shown above. Enjoy!

Braided & Cabled Ear Warmer

Skill Level: Intermediate

            US 7 straight needles
            100 yards worsted weight yarn
            1 yard contrasting yarn for provisional cast-on
            Tapestry needle
            Cable needle
            US 7 dpn for 3 needle bind-off


          CO 22 sts with contrasting color yarn, using the provisional cast-on

          Row 1,5 (RS): K22 sts
          Row 2,4,6,8 (WS): K5, P12, K5
          Row 3: K9, “Cable 8 front (K4 and 4)” (slip the next 4 sts onto a cable needle
                      and hold at front of work, K4 from left-hand needle, then knit the 4 sts
                      from the cable needle.), K5
          Row 7: K5, “Cable 8 back (K4 and 4)” (slip the next 4 sts onto a cable needle 
                      and hold at back of work, K4 from left-hand needle, then knit the 4 sts 
                      from the cable needle), K9

          Repeat Rows 1-8 till piece measures 16”

          Keep the 22 sts on the needle and pick up 22 sts from the right side of the 
          provisional CO edge using the size US 7 dpn needle. Holding right sides 
          together, join both ends using the three needle bind-off.

          Use the tapestry needle to weave in ends.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Natural Dyeing With Starbucks Tazo Teas

Tea dyeing is probably the most common and familiar natural dye process. The teas ability to almost immediately dye fabric, is one of the winning traits of tea dyeing. The reason for tea color taking to fabric so quickly is because teas, especially green and black, are full of natural tannins. Tannin can be found in many plant species, and it is this biomolecule that naturally mordants the fabric. A mordant, for those of us who are not as familiar with natural dyeing, "is a substance that has the affinity with both the materials to be dyed and the natural plant dyestuff. Acting as a bond between the two, a mordant helps the dye to become permanently fixed to the fibers."(Jenny Dean, Wild Color:The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2010), 36.)

Fun fact! Tannin is also found in cattle dung and urine, so early dyers would often "animalize" their fabric by soaking the fabric in these tannin rich materials.

Okay now that I have slightly grossed you out, let's move back to dyeing with lovely smelling tea! You can dye using unused tea bags or you can dye with the used tea after a nice cuppa (look at me being so british), the latter of course takes much longer. There are so many different varieties of tea, which means that there are as many dye colors as there are tea brands and flavors, and if you can get into the realm of mixing various teas, the possibilities become endless! For my tea dying experiments I used the common Tazo tea brand. Tazo tea is a division of Starbucks, and as you can only imagine, Starbucks goes through tons of Tazo tea! Being a Starbucks employee, I was able to get my hands on large amounts of used tea bags, and I have been saving them up for these tea dyeing experiments. Below is a bit about the tea itself, from my old Tazo tea Starbucks passport.
Select pages from the Tazo Tea Passport for Starbucks baristas.
I was able to dye using the English Awake Black tea, Zen Green tea, Vanilla Rooibos Tea and Passion Herbal tea. To get the deep colors, I mordanted the silk and wool with Alum and the cotton samples with Alum Acetate. I then prepared a dye bath with the tea. I placed about a cup of dry tea in a nude stocking and submerged it in the pot with enough water to cover the dye stuff. I then simmered the dye and dye stuff for a good hour. I was dying a silk scarf and small samples, so you may want to adjust the amount of tea for the dye bath based on the about of dye stuff you have. In the chart below, you can see how you can get a variety of natural colors ranging from pinks, browns and olive greens from these four teas. As usual, these colors achieved from natural dyeing methods are much more vibrant and have much more depth to them when compared to commercial dyes. 

I made quite a few scarves using these beautiful natural colors as the base to my scarf designs, and then I painted with natural colors on top of the silk scarves. I will post some photos of the finished scarves, once I locate my sister and get her to sit still for more than an hour to be a model for a photo shoot. This may be too difficult so you guys may have to deal with scarves on the mannequin. 

Helpful Natural Tea Dyeing Sources:


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: The End

Today I left Arrowmont. It was bittersweet. When I was away from home, I miss my dog, my bed and my studio. However, I am really going to miss Arrowmont's artistic community. I am going to miss meals while discussing artwork with fellow crafters and artists. I am going to miss listening to Charles Gandy's wonderful tales of travel. This trip has made it very clear to me, that the arts and crafts community is very strong. I would even go as far to say that it is stronger than the fine arts community. There's just a sense of needing to share information and knowledge in the craft community that is lacking in the fine arts community, which maybe a result of fine art's competitive nature. But overall, It was such an amazing experience and definitely makes me want to keep an eye out on other workshop venues for future classes. Though I may already have an BFA, there is no need to ever stop learning new craft techniques.

As I drove home I took some travel photos of the Smokey Mountain area. I wish I could have gotten some photos of the Pigeon Forge area, a very odd touristy area that has attractions geared towards families, but the traffic was a little too heavy this morning for me to get any. You will just have to take my word for it, that Pigeon Forge is visually stimulating and a curious place.
Leaving Arrowmont

"On the road again!"
While driving along the long I-24 through Tennessee to Kentucky, you can't help but notice all the obnoxious billboards! There was one billboard that kept catching my eye, and it was a billboard for The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. Needing a break to walk around and stretch I decided that this museum would be a perfect spot!
The National Quilt Museum!
The museum is housed in a simple brick building. Admission was $11 and I was free to roam. The exhibitions that were up, besides the selection from their wonderful permanent quilts collection, was the 11th Quilt Japan display and the Civil War Period Quilts display. The permanent National Quilt museum collection includes 50-60 contemporary and traditional quilts using both hand and machine processes.
A panoramic view of The National Quilt Museum Collection from the website.
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The 11th Quilt Japan exhibit displayed highlights from the 11th Quilt Japan competition. This contest gives the viewer a glimpse into how Japan and the surrounding countries have taken the tradition of quilting, and put their own spin on it.
A view from the 11th Quilt Japan display at the National Quilt museum from the website {link to}
The exhibition From the Pieces of a Nation: Civil War Period Quilts was a wonderful mixture of classic quilts that displayed the essence of quilt making during a time when the country was torn apart. Wedding quilts and friendship quilts were all apart of the exhibit, showing the strong bond that these pieces formed among family and friends, during such a turbulent stage in american history. It was impressive how many of the quilts in this display contained the colors turkey red, white, green, gold and madder brown. It seems that these colors must have been the most easily accessible during this time. I would really like to research quilting tradition a bit more eventually. The whole Idea of quilts has always been fascinating to be, but never have I realized how much history a quilt can reflect till I saw this exhibit. A trip to the library is in order, now that I am home! Overall, the spontaneous trip to the National Quilt Museum was incredible inspiring.
A postcard I took with me from the museum displaying some of the Civil War
period quilts.
Once I left Paducah, Kentucky I drove...forever! I did get a chance to take a quick photo of the St. Louis Arch though as I passed through the city.
I probably shouldn't have been driving and taking photos...
Now that I am home I have to return to the real world. My job at Starbucks awaits me, as does the other million different things I take for granted not doing while on vacation! However, this trip to Arrowmont has completely influenced me to keep exploring knitting, innovating new knitted accessories and to keep learning new craft skills, even if it is hard after a 7 hour shift.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Arrowmont Summer 2013: Day 6

The last day of class. We started the day by continuing to knit the work we had started the day previous. So I continued to knit with wire and sewing thread, turning my initially flat experiment into a lantern shaped veil.
The knit lantern veil. The phrase victorian gothic comes to mind.
After I finished knitting the lantern, I decided to move to some regular worsted weight yarn and try to tackle knitting a plush cartoon I had created a few years ago, a wumble. Previous to this class I would have never have even dreamt of tackeling this project in knit. I probably would have just settled for a sewn plushy or crochet my way to a finished product. Thanks to Adrienne's class Knitting a Life, I feel so much more confident and not as restricted to the knitting needles. EVERY THING MAKES SENSE! These wumbles are very bulbous so knitting using my newly discovered techniques of short rowing and protrusion creation, should give me the effect that I am wanting.
An image of a wumble among my "fine art" sketches.
After knitting till 5pm, it was time to pack up our studio spaces. The room seemed so empty after everything was removed! However, Adrienne left one small message (made out of wire of course!).
Adrienne's message, and a perfect phrase to describe this past week.
I sure am going to miss my knitting buddies! However, we all exchanged contact info so we could keep in touch. 
The mandatory (jk) knitting class photo!
(from left to right: Jane Merriott, Braxton Congrove,
Adrienne Sloane, Thien-Kieu Lam, Me and Charles Gandy)
Following dinner there was a showing of the film In Search of Lost Colour: The Story of Natural Dyes (Maiwa Productions 2007). It was in indepth look at natural color throughout history, how the dye is harvested and used today, and a peak at the future of natural dye. It was a very inspiring film. If you are interested in natural dye at all, this is a must see!