I’m not known for my Christmas spirit. I’m quite a grumpy old man, really; I don’t much like shopping, “enforced jollity”, or people feeling obligated to run out and spendspendspend. Maybe it comes from working in a shop, and from about mid-September witnessing shoppers become more and more stressed and rabid and worried about not getting something “good enough”, or maybe I am actually just a grumpy old man inside. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas Day is awesome. I love the actual day, where you get to eat chocolate for breakfast and hang around with people you love and have lots of food and play with new toys and watch Dr Who.
One thing I do love about the run up to Christmas is wrapping presents. When I worked at Lush, one of my favourite things was wrapping gift boxes for people, and things haven’t changed. Wrapping paper! Ribbons! It’s great! Not even sticky tape disasters can dampen my spirits when I’m wrapping things!
You just can’t beat brown paper. I love me some brown paper. This year, I bought a cheap rubber stamp and an ink pad (the paint pen is an old favourite!) and went to town, printing my own personalised wrapping paper.
This week begins our block of ‘process into practice’, where the whole class is split into three groups, and over three weeks each group alternates a week of knitting, a week of printing, and a week of mixed media. I’ve been knitting. It’s great! It’s frustrating at times, and I kind of feel permanently cross-eyed from concentrating so hard on all those little needles, but it’s fun discovering what the knitting machines can do. From doing a fair bit of hand knitting in my time (my house is packed full of half-knitted things – a shawl, a scarf, mittens, and an octopus, to name a few!) I have a good idea of how the stitches work and things, so I feel like I’ve picked things up relatively easily. Of course, after things went so well the first day I got all cocky, and then on day 2 I dropped approximately a million stitches. So that was good.
From being a hand knitter and crocheter, I’ve been used to measuring yarns in terms of double knit, Aran, lace weight, or wraps-per-inch (where, funnily enough, you measure your yarn based on how many strands fit into an inch) and have never really understood the “2/16” way of labelling yarn. Having spent some time nosing around the yarn store I think I have a better understanding of it, but it still hurts my brain, so here’s a handy blog post I found that explains it. I also have some difficulty in translating my hand knitting know-how into machine knitting, like if I wanted to increase or decrease my number of stitches. Since these are only single-bed machines, we can’t do ribs or anything, just plain stocking stitch, so I’d like to learn about how to use a double-bed machine. I am also very excited to learn about punch cards for making patterns, and I hope we get to experiment with these this year.
Casting on is the easiest thing in the world. After you’ve figured out how to thread up (yarn up?) your machine, stringing the yarn up from the cone through a few wire loops (reminiscent of a bugs’ antennae), you pull forward the needles you want to knit on, and wrap your yarn in a little ‘e’ around each needle. This is called, as you would imagine, the e-wrap technique. Once you’ve done all the needles, you fix the yarn into the knitting machine’s carriage, which is the part you pull across the machine bed, and is the part that does all the hard work.
The knitting part is also pretty easy, actually. You just pull the carriage across the machine bed, and it knits! Magic! The exciting, difficult, frustrating part is when you start manipulating the knitting. You can do pretty much anything you want to, which is bad for me, because I want to try absolutely everything. I know I’m supposed to be sampling to supplement what’s in my sketchbook, but I just want to see what the machine can do. I’ve made eyelets, ladders, tucks, double hems (where you make ‘tunnels’ in your fabric), and added in extra short rows of contrasting colours. It’s been very exciting so far, and hopefully on tomorrow I can concentrate on making one or two finished, well-made, relevant samples for my sketchbook. Hopefully I can also wash and block all my samples, so they stop curling up.
I think I need to learn to calm down a bit – rather than flitting from one technique to another, and getting excited about learning how to use punch cards and double-bed machines and everything I possibly can, I should really just concentrate on properly translating my sketchbook into my samples. It’s fun though.
Unfortunately, it’s dark by the time I get home these days, so I haven’t been able to take any decent daylight-y photos of the samples I’ve done so far. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to lay them out nicely in the knit room and snap a few good shots.
The D’Arcy Thompson zoology museum is my new favourite place. It’s small and somewhat hidden away, but it’s spectacular and well worth finding! It has loads of drawers to open, which are full of interesting things, and there’s a very-slightly-sinister cupboard full of things-in-jars. Unfortunately the museum isn’t open to the public, but it does open occasionally for special events.
This POSCA paint pen is my new favourite thing. I’d heard about them before (Johanna Basford is a paint pen fan, and I’m a Johanna Basford fan) and decided to try one out, as I was on the lookout for something to give me solid, opaque, quick-drying, non-smudgy lines. I’m so glad I bought it! Not bad for £1.78 – thanks, DJCAD art shop!