Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Embarrassment of Riches

When I told my friend Kathleen that I had bought a knitting machine a few weeks ago, she asked if I would like a machine she had recently inherited from her aunt.  Would I?  Of course!  Only thing I like more than a new piece of equipment is one that has been used and treasured by someone else.

In the intervening time, the one machine has grown to two machines of different gauges.  Do I want both?  Of course?  Two treasures are even better than one!

So last night, dear Kathleen brought the machines to class and we transferred them to my car.  But wait!  Not just two machines, but also a cardboard box of punch cards, a tub of tools, and a box containing a mystery wood tool (called a Needle Easel, which I later figure out has nothing to do with machine knitting).

(Side note:  I have the TV tuned to "How It's Made" and they have just finished sorting sardines by size and are stuffing them into cans.  Disgusting!  Please excuse me while I change the channel.)

Had to take a sick day for a minor but inconvenient complaint, so I have been getting to know the machines and all the goodies Kathleen gave me, and wondering what I did to deserve such a generous friend.  These knitters are way above and beyond my little LK-150 and have gadgets that naturally appeal to the geek in me.  And I feel so honored to be entrusted with something that belonged to her aunt.  I just hope I can learn the skills needed to really make good use of these machines.

My Dining Room Table Covered With Wonderful Things!

As of this morning, I now have two favorite knitting machines -- for different reasons.  The first is a Studio 360K.  This is a standard gauge machine (4.5 mm) and it takes 24 stitch punch cards.  It also has a built-in knit radar accessory that allows you to feed  a  pattern (looks like a scaled-down version of a sewing pattern) into the machine, and tells you when to increase or decrease stitches to match the shape of the pattern.

Studio 360K

My other new favorite (and probably most favorite) is a Studio MK-70.  It's a mid-gauge (6 mm) machine, slightly smaller in gauge than the LK-150, which is 6.5 mm.  So now I feel entirely justified in having three knitting machines.  It also takes 18 stitch punch cards.  And the form factor is the coolest -- at first glance you would assume it's a portable sewing machine.

Then you take the lid off the case and see that it has two "wings" that fold down to make the needle bed.  Here it is with the sides still up.  In the center, a plastic case for holding yarn sits on the carriage, with an accessory tray on top.

The tension arm folds in half --  that's the silver thingy with the white doohickey at the bottom -- just to the left of carriage.  Major cool factor - plus it will be so easy to take along anywhere.

Inventoried all the accessories...   If Kathleen hadn't told me how much her aunt had loved these machines, I would have known by what I found.  All of the original accessories, including the manuals (!)  were included.  Plus two dozen assorted weights, dozens of punch cards (many hand-punched), graph paper and unpunched cards, a tool to punch the cards, a set of knit radar patterns, and several extra transfer tools and tappets.

I don't like to use 'previously loved' items without cleaning and making sure there are no missing or broken parts -- it's so easy to cause damage.  So I've already contacted Newton's Yarn Country about servicing them.  And hopefully will be able to schedule some classes with them for next month.  I can't wait to start knitting on them!

Now I need to study up on punch cards and how they work.   I took a photo of this one because the designs on it are pretty obvious.  There are loads of geometric designs, some animals, some hearts and flowers, and I don't know what else.  I gather that what you see on the card is a bit elongated and will be squished down a bit in the actual knitting.

Tonight I will be studying information on the Rocking Horse Farms site.  Looks like they have quite a bit of information geared toward people who don't know a lot about machine knitting.  That would be me!.

In unrelated news, I finished the "Burning Bright" merino yarn.  Here it is as roving, being spun, and the finished yarn.  The roving came from Edgewood Garden Studio on etsy.  I found it very easy to spin and the photos don't really show how warm and beautiful the colors are. You see quite a few string ties in the finished yarn because there are actually four pieces.  I Navajo plied my singles and had several oops moments when I hit underspun big spots.  So there are actually four skeins totaling 140 yards in (mostly) worsted weight.   Now trying to find a knitting pattern to do it justice. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Beaded Bracelets

Cannot believe it's been over two months since I last posted.  Sometimes real life gets in the way of crafty fun stuff and it's been like that recently.  All good stuff like weddings and anniversary parties, and work, work, work (I don't talk about it here because it's nothing to do with fiber arts, but I love my job and especially now feel very fortunate to have it!).

I have had time here and there to indulge my fiberactivity disorder.  Still spinning -- working on the "Burning Bright" roving I started over the summer.  Already showed the unspun braid in a previous post so no reason to post anything new.  And I was invited to join the Saturday Spinners -- a small local group of people who take their spinning seriously.  I attended their last meeting and was a bit intimidated by the skills they have -- also by the amount of study and documentation that has gone into their samples.  Hopefully they will inspire me to improve my own skills.  They're currently doing a study of long wools, which appeals to the geek in me.

My newest project involves weaving on a small tapestry/bead loom.  I started taking a class on bead and tapestry cuffs through a couple of weeks ago.  Love the concept because it's self-paced and you can replay all or part of a lesson over and over.  This site has a neat feature that lets you add class notes linked to specific points in the video.  Also lets you ask and answer questions as you go along. 

The class is taught by Claudia Chase, who's the president of Mirrix Looms.  Although you could complete the class with nothing more complicated than a sturdy picture frame as the loom, I, of course, went from planning to make something with some stretcher bars and miscellaneous hardware from the garage to wanting to make something out of copper tubing (plans all over the internet). 

 Then as I was browsing ebay for unusual spinning wheels, I decided to see if there were any tapestry looms for sale.  Found a Mirrix "Little Guy" 12" loom, put in a really lowball bid and was surprised to win it.  So for not much more than what a home-made copper loom would have cost in materials and tools (can't build a loom without the appropriate tools, after all) , I have a nice Mirrix with all the amenities and none of the cuts and scrapes. Plus the seller included several containers of beads and spools of threads in colors that I will actually use!

So this week I set out to make the first bracelet in the class, which was to be woven with silk warp and weft, with occasional rows of beads.   Could not find silk thread in my local stores so I drifted into some DMC metallic pearl  size 5 thread.  Leave it to me to be diverted by shiny objects.  And I found some gorgeous cobalt blue 11/0 seed beads to use.

I actually started out weaving according to directions, but after just a few rows it became obvious that the metallic thread was simply too stiff to make a nice selvedge.  Rather than tossing the warp and starting over, I decided to frog the weft, and just do rows of beads.  The blue by itself was pretty bland so I alternated two rows of blue with one of crystal colored beads that I already had in my stash.   Even though this isn't what I set out to make, I'm very happy with the results.  And it only took a few hours to make.

Ordered some white silk to hand-dye myself.  In the meantime, I'm going to start another project using some peacock blue DMC size 5.  Non-metallic so stiffness should not be an issue.  For the beads, I'm trying to decide between  two silver-lined AB 8/0 seed beads  -- Emerald on the left and Dark Smoky Amethyst on the right.

Or maybe I'll use both.

That's one of the things I love about these crafts -- no rules!

Correction -- there are some rules.  Witness the knitting machine which has been banished to the guest room for a few weeks until I have the patience to figure out why it knits perfectly when I'm sampling and jams up whenever I try to start a real project.