Monday, January 30, 2012

I fell down a rabbit hole.

I don't recall how I got there, but one link led to another, and next thing I knew, I was at the library asking them to find me a book about 8th-15th century Muslim textiles. A book about 8th-15th century Muslim textiles written in French, at which I'm really rusty. But I went ahead and placed the order through the Inter-Library Loan service at my local public library, and a few days ago it arrived!

All these photos came from Tissus D'Egypte Témoins du Monde Arabe VIIIe-XVe Siècles.

The book is called Tissus D'Egypte Témoins du Monde Arabe VIIIe-XVe Siècles (Egyptian Fabrics Witnesses of the 8th-13th Centuries), and is the catalogue raisonné for an exhibit of the same name at the Geneva (Switzerland) Museum of Art & History in 1993. It must have been a pretty awesome exhibit, and if I'd been in Europe then, I'd totally have gone. Anyway, as soon as the librarian put the book in my hands, I went straight to a table and started looking at all the pretty pictures. I was pleasantly surprised that, for the most part, I could understand the captions and could generally make out what materials things were made from, where it was found and when. Those 8 years I spent learning French weren't wasted after all.

This was knit at 17.5 stitches per inch!

Finally, at chapter 10, I found the knits (everything to this point had been woven), and they were definitely impressive. One of my favorites is #161, a fragment of knitting in red, blue, ochre and yellow wools. It's knit very finely in stockinette stitch, 7 stitches per cm. I think that translates to something like 17.5 stitches per inch. Whomever knit this piece was using some very tiny needles! It was found in Fustat, Egypt, and is believed to have been made sometime around 1070 A.D. I wish I could see the back of it, though, to find out if the color work was stranded, intarsia, or duplicate stitched. It's not known whether this item was used as clothing or whether it might have been made for furniture.

Can you see the jog where it was knit in the round?

Another one that I like is #167, a fragment of knitting in white, light blue and dark blue cottons. This one is knit at a slightly larger gauge at 5 sts/cm (12.5 sts/inch). What's really neat about this fragment is that it's very clear that it was knit in the round, as the jog between the rounds can be seen about 1/3 of the way in from the left. It's attributed to 11th-12th century Fatimid Egypt and is believed to be an article of an adult's clothing. Again, I'd like to be able to see the back of it, to wrap my head around how this knitter did the color work.

This is thought to have been a hat.

In all, there were 13 examples of knitting in the book, many of which had Arabic script knit into them. There were 3 knitted tubes shown, 2 with script and one with geometric bands, that are believed to be belts. There was also a fragment in cotton which is believed to be a hat. What's so impressive about these items is the skill demonstrated by the knitters. The stitches are fine and even, with very complex color work. It was an engrossing rabbit hole, to say the least, and I hope that the next time I get to go somewhere, there will be a textile museum for me to check out.

Until next time, Friends!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I forgot my own blogiversary.

No cards, no flowers, no phone calls. It was just a day like any other. I did a little knitting, I did a little unknitting, I ran some errands. I even posted here!

The first project I ever posted here. I wore this cowl today!

I've kind of surprised myself that I've kept it up for a whole year. In that time, I've found my voice and have come to enjoy the writing process. I don't think I'll ever consider myself a writer, but it's definitely not as bad as I thought it was when I was in college.

A photo I've never posted here, because they were knit for a gift. Which was given last weekend.

I have no idea what the new year has in store for me, but I'm looking forward to sharing it here. Maybe I'll throw in a little more sewing and needlepoint, as well as architecture and design. Thanks for sticking with me, y'all. Until next time!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I can never do things the easy way.

Take these socks for example. They're supposed to be CookieA's Milo, knit from Punta Yarns Merisock Handpainted. They're supposed to have a 78-stitch leg, mostly ribbed, with a cabled "X&O" going down the back of the leg.

54 does not equal 39.

What I've got is a 108-stitch leg, with 6 cabled "X&O" sections going all around. It might have something to do with my tendency to make things harder than they need to be. I'm pretty sure the chart was clear - I just assumed that there was a mistake and I was supposed to repeat the whole thing, not just the last four stitches. Had I paid the least bit of attention, I could have done the math and realized that 72+6=78 and that 72+36=108. Not only did I increase too many times, I also made myself do 10 more cable crossings than what was required. And I didn't have a cable needle when I did it, so I had to improvise. I made a simple sock cuff much more labor-intensive than it needed to be.

This one has the right number of stitches. And ribbing.

And the worst of it is that I have already knit this pattern once, so you'd think I would remember what I did last time. Nope. It's just so sad! There's not much point in having a great pattern if you're not going to follow the damned thing. I'm almost ready to rip them out and start over, and I'll probably do it tonight while I watch Downton Abbey. I think it's all I'm good for while that show is on. The last time I tried to knit during the show, I ended up with uneven toe decreases and socks an inch too short for my husband to wear.

So next time I hope I have better things to say about these socks. Until then, Friends.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cat and Mousies!

The mosaic cat is finished! It looks pretty cool - I can't wait to get it hung up. I think it's going to live on the faux-brick wall in my dining room, along with its peacock friend. I have also been checking out Etsy & Ebay for more of their friends (mainly the pheasant that goes with the peacock & the Siamese cat that goes with my black cat), so that the wall will look a little more filled in. I've found all kinds of neat examples of these kits and I'm having a hard time deciding what to get. Most of the completed mosaics I'm finding are priced at around $40, some as high as $65, and then shipping. What's blowing my mind is that when these kits were originally sold in stores, the peacock kit went for $10 and the cat kit went for $5. But then, according to this inflation calculator page, in current dollars, the peacock kit would now cost $60.24 and the cat would now be $30.12, so I paid just about the right price for the cat when I bought it in an antique shop two years ago. I feel like I should go back and see if there are any more. If any of you happen to see the Siamese cat out there anywhere, please let me know - I am happy to reimburse you for it if you buy it. I'd really like to have the pair.

In knitting news, I've made a couple more stuffed mice, as two of my nieces requested them at Christmas. They didn't get any in their stockings because it was thought they were too old for stuffed animals anymore. They were very sweet about asking for a mouse each and hoped I could make them in pinks and purples for them. I think that of these two, the lavender one with the peachy-colored ears is the more successful - I think the other is a little too dark. I think I'll try to make a pinkish one, this time with a bright contrast for the ears. I'll have to do a little digging through my stash, though, these mice have been great for using up remants of sock yarn!

Well, that's it for this one, y'all! See you next time.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mosaic-by-Numbers is fun!

I can't believe how much fun I'm having making this black cat mosaic-by-number. It's really incredibly easy; the only difficulty is coming up with the hand strength to squeeze the glue bottle. I made more progress on it, filling in the haunches and tail with the matte black stones. All I have left is that great, long torso. Once that's finished I'll fill in any small places that were missed and hang it on the wall. I have to find a place for it, but I think it will fit right in with our late 1960's/early 1970's basement decor.

I've also started on a pair of socks for my husband. They're very thick - I'm using Jarbo Garn's Raggi sock yarn, which is classified on Ravelry as an aran-weight yarn, and US5 needles. The socks are going really fast, since the leg is just a 2x2 rib and I did a simple slipped-stitch heel flap. I'm nearly finished with the gusset decreases, and since the feet will be stockinette, I feel sure that these socks will be done before the weekend is.

It's a short, sweet post tonight, Friends. I have about 10 minutes until Top Chef comes on, so I have to run. Until next time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's almost like I'm getting somewhere.

I finished my Vilai socks yesterday, even weaving in the ends and getting them washed and blocked! They've turned out to be lovely socks; the colors are beautiful and the yarn softened up nicely after washing. I made them in US size 6, since my mom convinced me that her friend would really like to have a pair of handknit socks. It worked out alright for me, as I was getting a little bored with the pattern and was glad to be able to finish up with such a tiny, little foot.

I've also made some progress on the mosaic cat, getting the face filled in. It's a curious process, this mosaic-by-numbers. Applying the braid and the sequins was pretty easy, but filling in the large spaces with little bits of broken glass has been a little tricky. Part of it might be because the bottle of glue I'm using has a little bitty hole for the glue to come out that gets clogged up fairly easily. For a while there, I had to squeeze really hard with both hands just to get a pea-sized bit of glue. Once I went after the nozzle with a t-pin, I was able to clear out the clogs and get nice smooth lines of glue. The other reason it's tricky is that I have to spread the glue evenly, then hope that I get the glass spread evenly, so that it all adheres. If you look at the close-up, you can see a few bare spots that I'll have to fill piece by piece. I think once I clean up the places where the glass is covering the braid, the cat will look pretty cool.

Well, that's all for now - I'm headed out to meet some friends for knitting at a local coffeeshop. Until next time, Friends!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Making Lemonade.

You know that tired old saying, "When life hands you lemons..." Well, since it's the New Year, I thought it would be good if I finished some things and so last night I decided that I'd continue with my Hydrangea bag. I'd made a supply run to Joann's a few days before Christmas, so I had all the bits and pieces that I needed to complete the bag. I got my sewing machine threaded and bobbined so I could put on the zipper, and whaddya know? No freaking zipper foot. I looked all over the place and couldn't find it. I looked for it again this afternoon. No dice.

So I did what any crafter in my position would do: I started a new project.

This new project is not knitting; it's a sort of glue-by-numbers thing I found a couple years ago at an antique mall. It's a General Crafts Picturesque. "The elegant mosaic to make by number," as the brochure that came with it says. I looked all over the place, trying to find a date to clue me in about when this kit might have been produced, and finally found it in the corner: 1969. The mosaic I'm working on is a black cat, long and stylized. The eyes have a big gold paiette and a turquoise teardrop-shaped jewel. The cat's collar is 4 pieces of turquoise glass tiles. Then there's pink glass and black glass for the mosaic bits and gold braid and black braid to establish the lines. It screams retro. I made pretty good progress on it tonight, and though I probably get back to it until the weekend, I think I can have it finished within a week.

The funny thing about this mosaic is that I actually already have a finished one that I found at a shop in Red Key, Indiana. It's a really small town: I think there was maybe a flashing red light at the four-way stop, but it might have actually been before you got into town. Anyway, the finished one is a golden peacock, also long and stylized. The nice thing about having the catalog of all the different kits is that I can see that each of the two projects I have has a mate, which I kind of feel like I want to look for. I have no idea if I'll find them, but I may just start keeping an eye out for them.

That's all I have for tonight. Until next time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Was Alright.

It was a pretty good year, for the most part. I got to go to Sock Summit. I won two blue ribbons at the State Fair. I passed my NCIDQ exam. Those are the highlights, I think. I started this blog, too. I think I did alright with the posting, even if I didn't quite get here twice a week.

Looking over last year's projects, it looks like I completed 32 projects. It seems like a huge amount of knitting and, quite frankly, I'm not sure how I did it. I appear to have knit 11 pairs of socks, 5 baby sweaters, two pairs of booties, 3 sweaters, one vest, two shawlettes and 8 mice. There were a few hats & scarves in there too.

Amongst all those projects, I think that my Vesper sweater is my favorite. It's easily the best fitting garment I made for myself, I love the color and I love the softness of the yarn. It was certainly a challenge as well, with its seemingly endless rounds of stockinette in DK-weight yarn and my early mistake of putting a full twist in the round. The effort was worth it though: it's the garment I wear most.

My least favorite project of the year was probably the Kusha Kusha scarf, just because it was miles and miles of stockinette. The yarn was interesting, but the knitting was boring. Boring, boring, boring. I still haven't gotten around to felting the crazy thing. I still have a cone of the silk/stainless steel yarn, but I think it will wait in my stash until I feel some inspiration to use it. Maybe in some kind of accessory or gift for someone.

In the coming year, I expect to do plenty of knitting, but I might also be augmenting it with some sewing and needlepoint, too. I've got a few ideas for some home decorating projects, so it will be fun to flex my creative muscles on some other crafts as well.

Anyway, I have plenty of things to look forward to this year, and I hope you'll stick with me. Until next time, Friends.