Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Maybe I CAN braid it!

The braiding did not start off well. I wanted to do a four-strand braid (which I had never done before) so I could use two strands of each color. I found an easy-to-follow instruction page here, pinned my swatch to a blocking board, and proceeded to go at it. The braid kept wanting to twist, making it difficult to tell which strand was which. Those times when I was able to make some progress, I found it impossible to keep my tension even.

It occurred to me that it would be so much easier if the strands were weighted. This triggered what little I know about bobbin lace and I figured I might have better luck if I pinned the strands in place as I went along. Since I was working a narrow braid, I figured that I could use graph paper as a pattern and a blocking board instead of a lace pillow.

Voila! As you might imagine, it was slow-going with all those pins, but IT WORKED. I did the one on the left first, and trust me, it is a great improvement over my previous attempts. Then I did the one to the right, and you can see how much better it already is than the first one. The braids did want to corkscrew, so I spritzed them well and pinned them flat. The problem seems to be solved.

This could be fun!

By my reckoning, I am at least three sidetracks away from where I started and it's time for me to start working my way back. I do want to revisit this, though; I'm a knitter first but all the needle arts are so very tempting to me.

Next up will be using embroidery stitches to attach beads, then back to stretchy cast-ons, then back to the Crimped Stitches themselves. Whew!

I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving day. Actually, given the state of the world, let me offer that wish for every day.

Until next time . . .

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tying on Beads

Perhaps the simplest way to add beads after the fact, even easier than sewing them onto your work, is just tying them on.

The first thing to do is get the beads on the yarn. Obviously, the beads need holes "large enough". They don't need to be loose because yarn is squishy, but if the hole is too small you risk breaking the bead.

Any sewing needle that will get through the beads is going to have an eye that is too small to get the yarn through. I generally use a wire threader for a needlepunch tool as shown to the right, but you can get appropriate needles - and just about everything else jewelry - at Fire Mountain Gems.

Once a bead is on a length of yarn, it's a simple matter to pull one end through a space and the other end through an adjacent space. You can use a crochet hook or tapestry needle, whichever is easier. Tie a square knot (right over left and left over right), put a dab of glue on the back of it, especially if the bead is heavy or precious, and let it dry.

And this is my result.

Of course, I looked at it and thought "hmmmmm." What I was seeing was the beads forcing the fringes to stick out. So, I decided to add extra fringe and macrame it into a design. (A nice tutorial for basic macrame knots is here.)

Superwash wool has many virtues but, it turns out,  suitability for macrame is not one of them. I did manage to tie a couple rudimentary knots, but that was it. So, I grabbed some slubbed cotton from my stash to see if plant fibers would work any better. They do, and I think that with more practice, smooth yarn, and an actual plan, I would have come up with something I would be willing to post on my blog. For now, I should probably stick to my knitting.

On the other hand, as I was writing this post, I thought "Hey, maybe I can braid it!" I will save that for next time.

Until then . . .

Friday, November 7, 2014

Embellished Swatch Part 1

I worked a swatch in Crimped Row Stitch #2 using the extra stretchy cast-on. I didn't use a larger needle, but it blocked beautifully.
When I said in my previous post that I saw embellishment potential in the cast-on, I was looking at the large spaces between the clusters, shown by the green arrows. But a smaller space behind the lowest strand in each cluster, shown by the pink arrows, is revealed by sliding a tapestry needle under the strand and gently pulling it away from the knitting.

Now, except for standard fringe, embellishing was not as straightforward as I had imagined. Searching for ideas, I found many awesome web sites. They concern themselves only with embroidery on fabric, but some of the techniques can be extrapolated to knitted items. Two sites that stood out to me are Sarah's Hand Embroidery Tutorials and Beading Arts.

But I digress. I added standard fringe in two colors in the center of the swatch using a lark's head knot. I am absolutely always forgetting which way to pull the fringe through the edge to get the smooth side of the knot (circled in the photo to the right) on the outside of the work. It's a fussy detail, of course, but I like it much better that way!

 My instinct is to insert the crochet hook from the front of the work. This may be correct for actual crocheting, but it's not optimal for adding fringe. The hook has to be inserted from the back. I'm hoping that now that I've done a diagram of it (to the right), I will remember it forever. Time will tell.

More and more lately I've found myself wanting to add embellishments to my designs. So, next up will be some simple ways of adding beads. Until then . . .