Progress Report

This month’s post is a show-and-tell minus the tell, because I’m up to my ears in not-ready-for-primetime projects. I try to manage my crafted production so that I have something finished and ready to blog about in detail every month, but this month threatens to go by without a post. Not because I have been lying in bed eating bonbons and doing nothing, which actually sounds rather delightful, but because I’m in product knitter mode again, working against the clock, while working on a massive hand knitting project and trying to keep up with swatching for January 2020 Swatchathon. And trying to write a post that distills the essential elements of my creative process as a kind of prospectus for formal talks I might someday deliver. Not a quick and easy write. Eventually there will be at least three blog posts coming from the projects I am working on right now, but for now,  a quick-and-dirty post with scruffy progress pictures will have to do.

Back in October I machine-knitted a sweater for myself that introduced me to the calculations for set-in sleeves, as well as Diana Sullivan’s Zigzag Panel Join, Susan Guagliumi’s bridging technique for hand-manipulating popcorns, and using machine-knit i-cord both as an edging and as an embellishment. I knitted this first sweater using a subtle semi-solid neutral-colored yarn, and that sweater made me want to play with these details in several different color schemes. I won’t be ready to write fully about these ideas until I have knitted all of the explorations I’ve been planning.

The seminal sweater that has influenced four more sweaters, and isn’t done yet

Now I’m working on the second in this series as a belated birthday present for my older daughter. How much do I love my daughter? Count the multi-colored, Skittles-like popcorns, multiply by two for the ends, and multiply that number again by two because it doesn’t begin to quantify how much work each of those damn popcorns was, and you’ll begin to have a metric for my feelings about my daughter.

My daughter’s sweater is the first part of my product knitter pressures, because I will be delivering it in person for an imminent trip. The second part of the product knitter situation is a birthday present for my granddaughter, which also has the same deadline. Princess fantasies have my granddaughter’s almost-4-year-old brain in a death grip, so I devised a color arrangement that features large amounts of pink, aqua, and sparkly green, rescued from the little girl toy aisle by subversive stripes of dark reds and orange reds. I like the color arrangement enough to recycle it for something for myself, although I would replace the sparkly green with a murkier froggy green. I am also pleased with the heart-shaped pocket in which I experimented with a different way to make the popcorns, using what Susan Guagliumi calls “borrowed needles.”

It’s January, which means it’s January Swatchathon month. Normally all I do in January is make swatches, but it’s not working out that way this year. So for Swatchathon purposes, February will turn into late January. But I have managed to eke out a couple of swatches. I’ll save the detailed explanations for the January 2020 Swatchathon post, but so far all of them are hand-knitting. Clockwise from top left, mosaic knitting, stranded knitting, and double knitting with intarsia.

This is the reverse side of the double-knit swatch with intarsia. On one side, the intarsia appears as dots, on the other side as a rectangle

The massive hand knitting project I mentioned is a jacket knitted from my now-vast collection of plant-dyed yarn using a side-to-side modular construction that I worked out in my head during my daily walks. Honestly, I wish I were knitting it exclusively. We’re doing a knit-along in my Ravelry group, The Interior of My Brain, in which the participants knit their own take on a jacket one of our members made. In Johanna’s original version, it is knitted side-to-side in two pieces starting from dolman sleeves with triangular fronts attached modularly. My version, like the other participants in this KAL, has gone its own way. When it’s finally done, this project will be a shaggy dog story, but for now, I’ll offer this one progress picture with no further explanation.

Oh, and I have been doing a little plant-dyeing using my favorite dyestuffs, kitchen waste, specifically onion skins and black bean soaking water and overdyes of the exhaust baths of both.

Using superwash wool yarn, which absorbs color faster than non-superwash yarn, I swirled the left-most hank in a just-cooked and still hot bath of yellow onion skin dye for only a few seconds while it took on vivid onion color, more or less evenly. Then I removed it and immediately added the next hank, and let it dye unevenly in yellow and orange. That took only a few more seconds, but after that, the bath was largely depleted. I left a small hank of yarn in the exhaust bath overnight, until it turned a clear, light yellow, preparatory to overdyeing. The center hank was dyed in about two-thirds of a bath of black bean soaking water for about 24 hours, maybe more, and then I put the light yellow hank into the black bean exhaust bath for a day. It looked as if it could use a bit more brightening, so I put it and the final hank into the onion skin exhaust together to squeeze out the last of the color. After about a day, the overdyed yarn was the gentle green you see above, and the last hank was tinted yellow. I put that final hank into the black bean bath I had held in reserve, and it eventually turned green-blue.

The hardest and least photogenic of these projects is writing about my characteristic design elements for presentation in a workshop format. These elements include color, serendipity, eye movement, using what you have and what you know in unexpected ways, and improvisation. In a past life, I was a methodologist for teaching foreign languages to adult learners, so I am trying to apply methodological rigor to my effort to define the elements of how I do what I do. The task of creating a prospectus for an educational workshop is complicated by the fact that I don’t want to teach specific knitting skills and am not arrogant enough to think that I can teach anyone to see and think the way I do, or should do so even if I could. But I do think that I can talk about the design principles that are shared themes among my projects and even devise practicum exercises to illustrate what I’m talking about regarding color and eye movement. I can worry later about whether anyone would want to hire me to talk about the interior of my brain, or whether anyone would be interested in hearing me talk when I don’t promise I’ll teach them how to do some specific task.

4 thoughts on “Progress Report

  1. I’m impressed with your plant-based dye experiments. I didn’t know that super wash yarn picks up dye better than untreated wool, but it is a logical conclusion. I like your princess dress, especially the heart pocket.


    1. Friends of mine who are much more scientific about plant dyeing than I am don’t like dyeing with superwash because the rapid absorption of color depletes the bath and curtails the nuanced range of color that can be attained with, say, Shetland. There are trade offs.

      Liked by 1 person

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