Tuesday 16 April 2013

Come out, come out, wherever you are: Searching other young spinners and weavers!

I realise that in order to become an active cog in the great yarn wheel I will need to get out there among it all.
So my plan of action? To infiltrate the fiber industry one community group at a time. Mwahahaha!!!!

Well, Ok, it isn’t as sinister as it sounds; I just plan to become an active and regular member of as many crafty gatherings as possible. Networking is the key to success so they say!

The main difficulty I have at the moment is that I work in a call centre until 8pm every weekday evening so I miss a lot of local goings on but I will just have to work around that for the time being.

I did manage to go to the monthly meeting for the Mid Essex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers recently however and that was marvellous. http://www.midessexguildwsd.org.uk/page2.html

It was brilliant to be surrounded by so many crafty people; the moment I walked through the door my ears were greeted by the chatter and buzz of the friendly members and their whizzing wheels. I felt completely inspired.

Somehow, scatter-brain that I am, I succeeded in forgetting to take my knitting with me. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because Aunty A let me get some much-needed practice on her spinning wheel. As I struggled to get my hands and feet to work the fleece and treadle, getting in a complete tangle, I was showered in fantastic advice offered by some of the regulars who came over to say hello.

I have to admit, even with all this help, I ended up a tense, crippled form, my nose pressed against the working bobbin and my neck completely seized up. It is safe to say I did not achieve the relaxed, almost hypnotic technique the many experts in the village hall were displaying that day. Never the less, I managed to refrain from launching the wheel across the room in frustration so I feel I did gain one small victory.

Aunty K and Aunty A doing a little weaving
If you are one of them and you are reading this then please do say hello! I would love to know that I am not the only twenty-something tackling this incredibly organic process. Do you have a group of your own you attend? Maybe you can help me avoid the crick in my neck I am currently maintaining?
I look forward to returning to the Mid Essex Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers meeting but I was a little saddened to see that although the hall was full to the brim I was the youngest attendee by a good number of years. I hate the thought of spinning, weaving and dying becoming a lost art and I am positive there must be people of all ages practicing these crafts.

I will sit tight and hope to hear from you all soon!!

Monday 1 April 2013

Loop the Loop

So let’s face the facts then: one of the biggest factors holding me back from making a living in the fiber industry is my lack of expertise in, well, all areas… Oh dear! I hear you cry but fear not, I am certain this is a solvable issue and have responded by knitting like a complete and utter lunatic.

I knit on the bus ride to the primary school I work in by day, I knit on my journey home, I knit in my lunch break before dashing out to the call centre I work in by evening. When I am not knitting I am learning to spin (terribly), reading craft blogs and scouring Ravelry. I have wool and fleece everywhere; poor Gentle Giant now has an Ashford spinning wheel residing in his lounge (a loan from Aunty A for me to practice on while Mr B fixes my cheeky wheel, Trixy, who is currently refusing to play ball).

I have also ruled that every new project I take on must involve learning at least one new skill in order to complete the item in question. If it’s too easy, it’s out.

I can feel myself steadily improving and have enjoyed the odd ‘Eureka!’ moment but all I can really say is thank goodness for Aunty A and Aunty K and the ladies I meet with on a Tuesday who’s extensive knitting knowledge is picked over on a regular basis.

During one of these Tuesday night get-togethers Aunty K proposed a knit along which complied with my new rule perfectly. Aunty K had selected Selbu Modern, a free pattern from Kelbourne Woolens by Kate Gagnon Osborn, you can download it for free here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/selbu-modern.

Much to my relief, it was suggested that we all cast on at the same time, as on reading the pattern through it soon became clear that I would need to master an alien concept – The Magic Loop.

Well what a tangle I got myself in! I strop-knitted for a good hour with the needle cord flicking about in all directions and Aunty K, with everlasting patience, assuring me that once I’d got the hang of it doors would open to many wonderful things - namely socks from what I can gather.

Never to be defeated I powered on (grumbling incessantly) while Aunty K showed me how, when using circular needles (at least 32 inch), to create a loop by pulling the plastic cord through the two middle stitches and knitting in the round using the small, workable circle created.

My problem came when I reached the end of a round and my magic loop had mysteriously disappeared, meaning I had to find the middle and recreate the loop at the start of every round which I was sure wasn’t right.

It was another week until our next knitting meeting so I turned to the other bottomless pit of information in my life – the Internet.

After sifting though many of the hundreds of fantastic free online tutorials we are lucky enough to have available to us I managed to get my head around it. I honestly don’t know how Granny became such an accomplished knitter without the access we have to this frankly awesome tool.

I quickly sourced the error of my ways; a number of magic loop tutorials showed that at the end of each half circle I needed to pull the cord through via the right hand needle ensuring that I always have a loop at both ‘ends’ of the circle. Most importantly, however, I needed to prevent the loop at the opposite side to the needles from working its way out allowing the stitches to join back together on one straight length of cord.

I also picked up some very ‘handy’ hints (if you’ll excuse the pun) whilst studying this loopy technique.

Kathleen Cubley explains how to relax the cord of the circular needles stopping it from twisting and curling every which way as though it has a life of its own by submerging it in hot water for 30 seconds then running it under cold water in her entry ‘The Magical Magic Loop’ on Knitting Daily: http://www.knittingdaily.com/blogs/daily/archive/2009/09/16/the-magical-magic-loop.aspx. Please be careful when doing this – I don’t want any scolded fingers!

Help was also provided on the subject of preventing ladders when using this technique. A tip I found particularly useful was to stop knitting a few stitches before reaching the end of the needle, pull the left hand needle through so the stitches sit on the cord then start your next round. The three stitches will join the rest of the stitches that come round to the left hand needle ready to be worked. This alters the meeting point of the two needles and should stop the creation of ladders in your work. This brilliant little drop of information is supplied by Rosee woodland at The Knitter – ‘Advanced Knitting in the round – part 2’. http://theknitter.themakingspot.com/blog/advanced-knitting-in-the-round-part-2

At the change over point where the two needles meet it is very tempting to pull the wool really tight in attempt to avoid those infuriating ladders however the best advice I stumbled across was to keep your tension consistent because pulling a stitch tight can also cause gaps – which was news to me!
See http://verypink.com/2012/06/20/avoiding-ladders/ for a really good example of this.

I hope you find all this as useful as I have – anything else I come across I will be sure to let you know and any tips you would be willing to pass on would be greatly appreciated so please do get in touch!

I am chuffed to bits at having mastered the magic loop. All you sock patterns out there - let's dance.