Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fleece up to my yin yang

I've been dying and spinning yarn for my Fire & Ice sweater every spare moment I've got. Though June's soggy and cool weather has put a damper on my mountain and ocean playtime, it has been perfect spinning weather. The west coast has been pounded with a couple of good late spring thunderstorms.

My dining room has been turned into a fleece factory. Instead of curtains, I have fleece hanging up to dry and the dining room table has been converted into a carding table/fleece 'painting palette'.

I've done most of the dying . I've got my Ice fleece:

and my Fire Fleece:

As my first big dying and spinning project, I'm using this sweater as an opportunity to learn and experiment with various dying and carding methods. I'm aiming for a navajo plied sport weight yarn but right now I'm just thrilled that it's spinning up relatively evenly.
Here's some batts that have gone through various carding techniques. I have about 3 basic shades of blue and some purple for the Ice colourway. For the Fire, I'm working with 2 shades of yellow, orange and a red.

By varying how I feed my drum carder, the number of times I card it and how I layer the fleece, I'm slowly learning that there is a plethora of ways to create different colourways.
Here's some of the yarn I've spun up so far:

Here's a couple of swatches of some pattern's I'm working on for the sweater. I was inspired by the patterns in Eslebeth Lavold's 'Viking Patterns for Knitting'. I wanted to a viking knot that was a tad more elongated and angular than the ones shown in the book so I took a couple basic knot ideas from that book, threw them together, added a pinch of this and that, gave it a twist and this is what I got:
They're looking a tad Elvish which is a good thing in my book. I did a basic outline of what I wanted onto graph paper and then penciled in the exact stitch pattern as I knitted it up. Once I'm done, I have a graph and a complete swatch to remind me of what I'm shooting for. Also this serves as my swatch and give me an idea of how the yarn will knit up like and how the colours will play against each other. From here, I've adjusted and fine tuned my carding and spinning to suit my tastes.

I'm really liking how the two colourways are playing against each other. I think I'm going to stick with the Ice colour as the background and the Fire for the cabling simply because I look better with cool colours next to my skin.

I know it seems like a lot of work to do up the swatches. I've learned that when I'm working out an original pattern with a few spicy techniques, it's worthwhile to do up a swatch and notate the stitches as I knit them, instead of drawing up a graph completely and knitting from there. I know there are knitting designers that can just draw up stuff onto a graph that looks just like what they want it be knitted up. They are the knitting equivalent of Beethoven composing the 9th Symphony when he was completely deaf, IMHO, and I bow down to them. This knitting monkey isn't quite there yet. I'd rather frog a swatch than half a sweater.

Technically, this is not cabling because both the cables and the background are all done in stockinette in 2 seperate yarns. So it's twist stitches with a few cable needle moves. I found in an earlier swatch that a purl background when using 2 yarns doesn't provide the same receding affect that occurs when using only 1 yarn. Stockinette provides the a nice basic background and as a bonus, it makes it super easy to knit up in the round. Though the end product looks complicated, the actually knitting is nothing more than stranding with a few twist stitches and the odd cabling move when it's done in the round.

To keep me from being completely obsessed with the Fire & Ice sweater, I've started a mobieus shawl with hand-dyed wild silk from Trish Moon at Moon Woven Studios.
Maybe I'll have it done in time for the Saltspring Island Natural Fibre Festival later on this month.

It's my no-brainer project for now though it being silk and a lace pattern, it has a 2 glasses of wine limit before it's in danger of turning into a rat's nest.

Have a great week!


ms. pixie riot said...

I can't stop staring at your pattern swatches... oh my goodness. They're incredibly gorgeous.

jeanius said...

wow. this is beautiful! the colors, the patterning, the spinning... every step is so well thought out .. i have added you to my rss feed so i can keep up! amazing :)

Val S. said...

So Fantastic! I have to say I want to grab that fire fleece and just hold it! I just love it! Must be the fiber addict in me. Your work is just fantastic. I am going to ready your blog all of the time for inspiration.