Saturday, October 24, 2009

Felting Workshop with Pamela MacGregor

What a reenergizing month this has been. I had been feeling kinda stale and uninspired, but a couple of great workshops have the creative juices flowing again. Today was spent learning to felt with Pamela MacGregor. Be sure to check out her website as she does some really amazing work. Linda Woodward hosted the workshop at Montgomery College in Conroe. Linda is a woman after my own heart and always seems to find some of the most interesting people to come share their knowledge with us. This was my first attempt at actual felting. Many people do not discriminate between fulling and felting. Agitating loosely knitted or woven fabric creates a similar dense fabric, but you can still see the structure of the stitches or threads. Felting is the process of matting, pressing, and condensing fibers to create a dense fabric. You have much more control over the shape, size, and density with felting. Our project today was to create a felted vessel. I had no idea just how much energy is involved in getting the fibers to mat together! We spent the morning laying out, wetting, and pressing the fibers on a form, then embellishing it with yarns, cloth, and pebbles to create a design.

Front before felting
Front of vessel before felting

Back before felting
Back of vessel before felting

After some yummy Chinese food for lunch, we came back fortified and ready to work. You can't imagine how much rubbing, scrubbing, and pounding it takes to get the process going! Mine could still use more work to get it a bit denser, but I'm ok with it as is and just have to add the beads to finish it off tomorrow. Not bad for a beginner! My only disappointment is that the little pebbles disappeared into the white felt.

Final front before embellishments
Front of almost finished vessel

Final back before embellishments
Back of vessel

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SEX in Colorado (Stash Enhancement eXcursion)

No knitting vacation is complete without exploring as many of the local yarn shops as possible. And for only having a couple of free days, we did pretty well! While we were at camp, the group made its way to Table Rock Llamas. This was probably our favorite shop of the week. The had a good assortment of the usual yarns, but also lots of handspun, hand dyed, rovings, books, spinning and weaving accessories. Since I was planning to spread my purchases around, I only came home with some dark brown/black handspun alpaca yarn for a warm hat and scarf, and 4 oz. of merino/possum roving. This is the kind of shop that you would love to have nearby. The staff is friendly and they have great classroom spaces. And yes, I know I could have spun the alpaca myself, but it was asking to come home with me.

We left camp on Thursday morning and after sightseeing and a short hike in Garden of the Gods, we hit the Colorado Springs yarn stores.
Our first stop was Needleworks by Holly Berry. Cute shop, friendly staff, good selection. We came out with needles to try Magic Loop, and a couple of patterns. Down the street, we found Green Valley Weavers. Not a huge selection of yarns, but great books. I found three weaving books that I had been looking at online, but hadn't ordered. They carry a lot of supplies for knitting, spinning, weaving, and dyeing. And once again, very friendly.

On Friday, we took the cog railway up Pikes Peak where it was 22 degrees at the top! Since we booked our trip so early, we had front row seats on the train with a great view all the way up. Once at the summit, we had to pose for the usual tourist shot in front of the sign. That's Roddie and I with our Knitter's Magazine so we could send the shot into the magazine for our 5 seconds of fame.
Pikes Peak Summit

Since our flight home didn't leave until 7pm Saturday, we had all day to shop our way back to the airport. We started in Boulder at Gypsy Wools. This is a wonderful little shop specializing in their own hand dyed yarns and fiber. The perfect place to find something special. We only had limited space left in our luggage, so I only bought some laceweight yarn for a shawl to do as a reminder of our trip.

And no trip to Boulder is complete without visiting Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins. They are one of the largest shops we visited, but we were kind of disappointed in the selection this time. Maybe we were just on shop overload, but they really didn't stand out except for size. The only thing I got was some merino roving for a workshop this next weekend since I didn't have time to shop at home. We did find a great brew pub next door that had some tasty nachos and interesting beer. The raspberry wheat was something I had never tried - pink and yum!

After fortifications, we were off to Denver. First stop was Knit Knack in Arvada. Cute shop in a quaint little shopping district. We found some unusual accessories, and they had their own coffee bar. Definitely a place to hang out and knit! From there we stopped at Recycled Lamb. This place was the surprise of the trip. Located in a not so pretty strip center, they had a great selection of knitting and weaving yarns. The staff was friendly and showed me a beautiful handpainted warp that I brought home to do a big scarf. There were groups of knitters in two areas and everyone seemed to be having a great time.
The colors are deceiving. In person, they aren't quite so vivid. And the tencel for the weft is not so orange.

By now, we're starting to watch the clock since we still have to turn in our rent car. But we move on to Shower of Flowers. This is a huge shop with a fantastic selection. Something about it seems a bit impersonal, but if you need one of the major brand name yarns, they probably have it in every colorway. And they had the best selection of buttons of any of the shops we visited. Our last stop was The Lamb Shoppe. This shop was in a nice older neighborhood, but it was a zoo inside. When we walked in, no one greeted us, there was a large very noisy group knitting at a large table. There were boxes and messy skeins of yarn everywhere. Don't be deceived by the picture on their website. It really had the potential of being a beautiful shop, but we just turned around and walked back out.

So that's it. Nine yarn shops, and only one dud in the bunch. Can hardly wait for the next trip!

CONK 2009

Just back from a great week in Colorado Springs for CONK 2009 (Colorado Knitting Camp). We had 3 days at The Hideaway with our instructor Susanna Hansson learning all about Rovaniemi mittens.
Mitten Examples
I had never heard of them, but am always up for a challenge. And challenging it was! We started off doing a sample in worsted weight yarn to get a feel for the patterning, then it was time to dive into our wristlet samples with fingering weight yarn on 000 double points! Susanna provided all the supplies and we were all able to make our own color choices for the wristlets. The big surprise was when virtually everyone disliked their choice after getting the first one started. That led to a 3 hour exercise in choosing colors and designing the color placement.

1st color choices
Roddie's sample is bottom left, mine is bottom middle.

After making my second choice, I spent about an hour coloring in the charts for the final mitten, only to decide that I still had one bad color in my palette. Once that was fixed it didn't take long to color in three more charts and choosing the best one.

My final mitten colors

Now I just need to make the time to finish designing my mittens. While at camp, I worked on completing the wristlets to see if my tension was going to change as I became more comfortable. So now wristlets are finished. My tension has stabilized. And I'm going to have to go down to 0000 needles! Yikes!

Sample wristlets
My wristlet samples. (the ends haven't been woven in or blocked yet on the right one)

Mitten Class
Our mitten class. That's Susanna between Roddie and me.

View from patio
Our view of Pikes Peak from the patio.