Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Summer School - Wednesday - Painting blanks

After yesterday's busy day, today was a gentle, fun morning painting knitted sock blanks. If you haven't tried this technique before it is delightfully simple and you get amazing results. Here it is in a nutshell:

First, you will need a "blank". This is essentially a piece of machine knitted fabric. A friend machine knits long pieces of fabric for me using two strands of superwash merino/nylon sock weight (4ply ) yarn. They are finished off with waste yarn which stops the blank unravelling until you are ready to knit. (See below for ordering info.).

Soak your blank in water with some citric acid (25g acid per 100g blank) or white vinegar (100ml per 100g blank), and a spot of washing up liquid.

When it is good and wet, squeeze it out thoroughly (I spin dry mine) and lay it on clingfilm with a layer of towel/kitchen paper underneath to stop the dye slooshing around too much.

Paint the blank with your dyes - we were using my procion mx fibre reactive dyes.

When you've finished painting, lay on another layer of kitchen paper, wrap the blank up in the clingfilm like a swiss roll and microwave (or steam) until piping hot.

Let it cool, unwrap, rinse and dry - voila - your blank is ready.

To knit with you simply unravel the waste yarn until you reach the "live" knitting and you can then either:
  • Knit direct from the blank and wind the second strand into a ball as you go or,
  • Unwind both strands into balls then knit or,
  • Wind off the strands onto a niddy-noddy or swift, steam/wash the skein/s and hang to dry with a little tension. This approach evens out the kinks in the yarn.

The group produced so many lovely examples I couldn't fit them all on the blog so here are just a couple, with the rest in the album

Oops, nearly forgot to mention - all the blanks sold out at Summer School but new stocks are coming in later this month. I already have a list of advance orders so if you would like to order they are £8.50 each for 100g blank of 75% superwash merino/25% nylon. They are knitted double-stranded which makes them perfect for a matching pair of socks and if you're a "two-at-a-time" knitter you can even knit them both at once!

Pre-orders and newsletter subscribers will get firsties on the new stock, so sign up for the newsletter if you haven't done so already : )

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Summer School - Second instalment - maths!

As you may have guessed from Monday's update, we have been kept veeery busy. Luckily we have been well-fed and watered (and we have managed the occasional glass of wine even if we didn't make it as far as the bar!).

Tuesday was always going to be the most challenging day, not ideal given that I had the epic headache from hell. Julia and I spent Monday evening checking that my maths was right for the self-striping exercise, resulting in a rather late 1.30am bedtime and me not being able to sleep for thinking about measuring, counting and chart-planning (maybe this was the reason for the headache!).

After Julia "liberated" a flipchart from the lecture theatre (we did return it), I did a "classroom" session explaining the maths behind self-striping patterns. I felt (almost) like a proper teacher ; )

Armed with calculators, coloured pencils and graph paper, the group designed their "faux fairisle" patterns. Then we had some fun measuring huge long skeins stretching them out around chairs.

If anyone had been wearing a pedometer it would probably have gone into overdrive with all the walking! After the skeins were all marked out with garden twine and string, painting began in earnest.

And here are some of the results.....

For lots more lovely skeins, I've uploaded Tuesday's album here

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Summer School - Day One, the first...

My blogging skills must be improving as I'm writing this from our room in the college at Summer School and I've managed to log onto the college wifi network, set up a googlemail account, uploaded a bunch of pics to picasa and write this post! So it's welcome to the 21st century for me!

We (that is Julia and I), have been having a fabulous time. We arrived Sunday with two cars crammed full of equipment, materials and the entire shop for the trade fair. After a lovely evening meal we met our fellow tutors then all our students. A quick bottle of wine in the room while we prepped for Monday and it was off to bed.

Up early Monday and by 9.30 everyone was busy making swatches. By lunchtime the first dyed skeins were hanging on the line, sets of skeins dyed using "easy-striping" in two colours and three colours. After a yummy lunch it was onto ball-dyeing, turning snow-white balls of white bfl/alpaca boucle yarn into balls of candyfloss-coloured skeins of floofiness. (Rumours of strange religious ceremonies being practised by Liz and Andrea are greatly exaggerated despite how it may appear in the photos!) Speaking of which, as I'm a bit short on time (and need some sleep!), I've just uploaded a complete set of all the pics to a picasa album so if you would like to see what we've been up to, stop by and have a look.....

ps. I'll fill you in on today's exploits tomorrow (because I can't type any mooooorrree.......zzzzzz)
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