One More Woolly Post

Just one more woolly post (I promise!) and then I will get back to more varied blogging.

hand knit itemsToday was a day of weaving in ends, choosing buttons, and sewing on buttons. The stack in the picture above was only part of what I tackled. I won’t share how long this whole process took (forever!), the only good thing is it gave me an excuse to avoid reorganizing the studio (tomorrow’s dreaded chore!). I am amazed at how long it can take to choose the “right” black button; I swear I spent over an hour matching black buttons to different projects because all black buttons are not created equal. I still have eight pieces to finish up and then I can shoot the lot in the studio…….well after I reorganize it that is…….I’m avoiding the studio as I have 180 square feet of backdrop to iron. Fun. Not.

blog feb knit spin 2As a reward for the endless weaving of ends I decided to tackle recycled spinning again. I divided up the scraps of yarn.

blog feb knit spin 3Broke it down just a little this time, and mixed up the colors.

blog feb knit spin 4And spun. This time it is spinning much faster, it is less finicky and breaking less. Now the question is, can I have a big ball of this ready to go by Saturday when I take my daughter to knitting group?

www.debra-hunter.com

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Bull Fighting

blog bull fighting

detail of piece, bull skull measures 6 inches across

Working on this piece has been so rough it has felt like bull fighting. What a trial.

I think I may have shared a snippet of this piece before so I thought I would do a “work in progress” post as incentive to get the piece finished. Originally I started this work back in October or November, it fit a theme for a submission so I jumped in with both feet. I quickly discovered an ambitious idea, even on a small scale, takes a lot longer than a few weeks to complete so I abandoned any thought of submitting the piece.

I wanted to put together a fibre piece that had a lot of different elements. So far this piece has been naturally dyed, eco printed, had a lino-cut made of the bull skull and then printed on the fabric, it has been stitched with various hand dyed threads including some very thick lopi. Beading is still to come.

Composition was a challenge from the beginning, probably because I didn’t plot everything out and just went for it……..and then changed my mind from a small 5″x7″ piece to a 9.5″x14 inch piece part way through when I realized I wasn’t going to submit it. Thankfully the lopi helped tie the composition together.

The lino-cut didn’t reproduce exactly how I had planned either with the final look being thin and grayish. I’m not sure if the natural dye I used was maybe weaker than my last batch, or it was a case of printing a lino cut on the naturally dyed eco-printed fabric, but things didn’t go to plan. Perhaps a mix of too many variables to really be able to pinpoint the lino-cut issues. Rather than dwell on the issues stitching seemed to be the answer. I will try a print on plain fabric once this project is done and then I can see if there is a dye problem and then fix it if needed.

The other challenge has been the actually stitching, the fabric (2 layers) is almost impossible to get a needle through. I have never encountered this before. So far I have tried many different needle and thread combinations but the result has been the same, the only way I can stitch is pulling the needle through one stitch at a time with pliers. It has taken forever. Strange thing is I have used these fabrics before , they are just different cottons, and one layer at a time they are fine, but going through two layers is impossible without pliers (and you have to pull really hard too!). Really odd.

So what is left to do? I need to finish up the “grassland” stitching and stitch around the eco-printed leaves (these items aren’t included in the detailed section in the picture shown). After that a little bit of beading just to add in one more element and introduce a new texture and some new colors. The last decision will be how to frame or hang the piece (never easy to figure out).

There is still a very long way to go.

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For those who are interested, I have a new photo project blog going, a photo essay of our neighbourhoood. It is a “mostly pictures and not much text” blog that evolved out of another blog that was started almost a year ago. I think it will be interesting to explore our neighbourhood through a lens. The blog can be found HERE if you are interested.

Of course I still write at the blogs  Island Home and  Debra Hunter as well. Each blog has a different focus and they are pretty fun to write.

www.thehuntergroup.ca

 

More Knitting Finished

Winter weather definitely has it’s good points, one of them being time spent inside to finish knitting projects that have taken far too long to complete. Just before Christmas I finished this infinity scarf. I originally started it just to get an idea of how much yarn (4.6 oz.) it would take to make one so that I could dye the right amount to knit the “proper” scarf. Let’s just say knitting the sample scarf seemed to take a very long time.

blog knit infinity scarf lopi_0302

Infinity scarf hand knit out of lopi (on location at Castle Mountain, Banff, AB, Canada).

It is very cozy. This is shown wrapped twice, but I quickly discovered that on a -40C day it wraps around three times to really keep the chill out.

blog knit infinity scarf lopi_0306Gray tones are perfect for a piece that I am keeping, however I think the scarf would have been a lot more fun to knit if it had involved bright colors.

blog fingerless mitts_9315The other night I also finished a pair of fingerless mitts that have been in progress for months. This pair consists of wool dyed in marigold and madder.

blog fingerless mitts_9323I was so pleased to finish the mitts. Half way through I decided they were “mine” as I love the patterning. I had tucked them away in the knitting basket for a few months as they weren’t that portable to knit. I knit both mitts at the same time so that they match (plus it is boring to finish one and have to start all over!), so it was quite challenging to carry around eight balls of yarn to work on one set of mitts. I pulled the half finished mitts out last Saturday and took them to the knitting program at our library, and between the time at the library and an evening at home, the mitts were done. Rumor has it I need to make another more masculine set as my oldest son now wants a pair.

Knitting by Debra Hunter
Studio H
Red Deer, AB and Pender Island, BC (Canada)

www.thehuntergroup.ca

 

Going for a Spin

Sometimes the Classified Ads in the newspaper provide new experiences you don’t expect. Back in the summer my dad came across an ad in the paper, “bags of wool for sale, $20.00”. He knew I had been doing all sorts of knitting projects and thought I might be interested. It did seem interesting. We called up the seller and arranged to buy a bag. She didn’t know much about the wool, she was selling it for her sister who had bought it from a neighbor in rural Alberta. Genuine mystery wool. I wasn’t too sure how I was going to use it, maybe felt it or worse case use it for stuffing……well a lot of stuffing as it was a huge bag the size of a garbage bag stuffed tight.

turkish spindleInitially I used the wool to stuff a few mini crochet toys, this didn’t make a dent in the bag of wool. Then one day in late August I took a trip to a woolen mill and in the shop  Turkish spindles. were being sold. I had watched a few tutorials on-line of spinning with them, so I decided to risk the $25 and buy a spindle and see if it would work with the mystery wool.

dyed fleece With plans to try spinning the mystery wool I started popping bits of fleece in random dye pots as I dyed yarn or fabric. There was no real plan, I just thought it would be more fun to try and spin the wool if it was colored.

spinning on a turkish spindleI will admit it took a little to get the hang of spinning the fleece. The hook on the spindle gave me some trouble. I actually took the good old X-Acto knife to the hook to allow it to grab the yarn better; I may still have to carve out the hook portion a little more. The first tiny ball of yarn took forever, but as I spun more and more it went a lot quicker and easier.

blog spinning 3I spun seven small balls in total, enough to give me a taste of spinning with the spindle.

plying the hand spun yarnThe next step was to ply the yarns together. I was really looking forward to seeing the colors combine. The concept of plying was easy, the only issue is that the hook doesn’t seem to hold the yarn in place very well and keeps slipping off. I tried all sorts of fancy tying, winding and twisting, I even briefly attempted holding the yarn in place with an elastic band (did not work!), but the yarn kept slipping off.

plyed hand spun yarnI am continuing to persevere with the plying. The mixed colors look great and will be so fun to knit up. I am wondering if I need to pick up a separate spindle for plying, perhaps a spindle that has a metal hook instead of a carved wooden hook. I am thinking that may work more successfully with plying such a chunky yarn. Still, I think it has been a fairly successful first time spinning experience with mystery wool.

Ready to Full (if you knit you’ll understand!)

ready to fullI have been working on a “fulled” project. In this case it is knitted items that are then partially felted through the process of hot water, cold water and agitation. The process shrinks the item and makes it quite dense and compressed.

I have discovered that there seems to be no science or guarantee with fulling, quite honestly it is one big science experiment that will drive you insane if you let it. For example, I have now tested 4 different yarns plus about 6 different needle sizes, a couple of different wash/agitation methods and tested dyeing before fulling and after. This has been a project of testing for almost a year. This has produced numerous failed test swatches, that are now known as “Barbie blankets”. Yes indeed the Barbie doll house has been furnished nicely with my rejects (but our daughters are thrilled!).

I think I have finally figured what works best. Strangely the knit is so big and sloppy in the beginning, yet this is the combination that shrinks down the tightest and most compact. The best wash/agitation method turned out to be the washing machine which is awfully convenient as our household with five children means the washing machine is ALWAYS running.

The funny thing about this whole process of figuring out fulling is the fourth combination I ever did was the one that gave the best results. Somehow I was convinced it could be better so I kept knitting and fulling more and more versions and only seeing disappointment. I guess there is something to be said for the saying “quit while you are ahead”.

Rundle – Work in Progress October Update

It feels like I have really been lagging behind in blogging as of late, not so much because I have nothing to blog about, but more because I seem to have so much going on and life is quite busy. I seem to have a different fibre project in progress in every room of the house at the moment, plus illustrations and illustration reference pictures dotted all over the place; there is a lot going on.

We also just returned from another quick trip out to the “left” coast. My original plan was to get a lot of stitching done while we were out there, but I seemed to spend all the time that wasn’t on the beaches working in the garden and planting trees. I did get a solid 3 and a half hours of stitching completed on a ferry that was running very late (thanks to the driver of the blue mini-van that wouldn’t go and move their van for over a half hour so that they could actually unload the boat at Mayne Island…..long weekends…..sigh!). I was probably the only one on the whole boat who actually benefitted from the delay. The piece I was working on was “Rundle” so I thought I would do a “work in progress” post.

"Rundle" - before the latest work

“Rundle” – before the latest work

Here is the piece after my last “work in progress” post.

rundle october work in progressHere is “Rundle” currently. The color looks a bit different as the first image was a quick shot taken outside while the second shot I took in the studio.

I have started working on the lower left hand corner. It still needs a lot of work, but I do like the color of the silk in the green leaves. Now I need to build up more plant life in this area.

leavesI also added in more detail into the pale green leaves and started to stitch some detail into the lake. I will continue to add more mini foliage around the edge of the lake.

detail in the lakeSwirls have been stitched into the sky area in fine silk thread. At the moment the effect is very subtle, however I think I may keep stitching in this area to make the effect stronger.

sky detail

This piece continues to be a challenge. As the silk is so reflective, the look of the piece changes depending on the lighting conditions it is viewed under, this makes keeping good contrast quite a trial. There is definitely a lot more stitching needed to complete “Rundle”.

A Question of Contrast – A W.I.P. Post

I have been working on this piece for a few months now, not solidly but more in bursts here and there. I thought it might be helpful (to myself) to post a W.I.P. (work in progress) post on the piece. A few days ago I took a really good look at the piece and noticed the contrast was weak. It was fine standing a few feet away from the piece, better closeup, but from across the room one element was merging into another and the piece really didn’t grab you.

rundle - work in progress

“Rundle” before I worked on the contrast.

So I decided to spend the weekend trying to solve the situation. The first step was to add some silk leaves that I “think” were dyed in mountain ash. From here I could start adding some contrast. I decided to do a combination of stitching and beading to add more definition; for the light-colored stitching I used madder dyed cotton, and for the dark stitching it was logwood dyed wool.

"Rundle" - after adding some contrasting stitching and beading

“Rundle” – after adding some contrasting stitching and beading

I wanted to do a combination of stitching and beading and highlights and dark tones to prevent myself from just reaching for the beads. Beading the focal points would have been an easy solution but I wanted to solve the problem without taking the easy way out.

rundle - work in progress

This has been a tricky piece right from the start. Before starting the piece I did a quick sketch of what I wanted, I did the sketch from memory and all looked fine…..well that was until I looked at a photograph of Rundle for a reference and realized my sketch was mirror image to what really exists. Weird. So everything had to be flipped around before the needle hit the silk. Even though I have spent many hours working on the image, and the image is now right, it still feels backwards to me.

rundle - work in progressThis piece still needs a ton of work. The lower part has barely been touched. Seeing the pictures of the piece on the computer screen is a great help to see what is working and what isn’t. This piece definitely still has many hours to go.

Interested in other blogs I write? I also blog at www.islandhomeblog.wordpress.com (sharing island life) and at www.debrahunter.wordpress.com (sharing finished art, fibre and portrait and project photography).