Posts Tagged ‘experiment’

It occurs to me that I make a lot of things, and think I’m going to blog about them, and then don’t. Either because the moment seems to have passed, or because I’ve been busy making other newer!shinier! things instead. So, it’s suddenly struck me that No, it’s not ‘Cheating’ to show them off when they are past some strange number-in-my-head, like, 24-hours old. So here, we go: the first in what might possibly be a series.

This particular One I Made Earlier really does have some kind of seasonal time-limit on getting showed off, so I figured it makes sense to start with the ‘November Spinning Challenge’ thing.  Alright, it’s not November any more, that much I grant. But bear with me.

One of my friends on Ravelry has been throwing out challenges in the spinning group we both belong to. The idea is to get people trying some new things, extending their range, and generally exploring and experimenting together.  Her big idea for November started with distributing portions of some of the worst and most unpleasant spinning fiber known to man. No-one ever quite worked out what this was, and all I can say was it felt like plastic, tested as wool, was the most lurid colors imaginable, and gave severe rugburn while being plied. (Some minor rugburn was also reported by several individuals at the spinning stage.) All I can say, rather terrifyingly, was that the person who gave it to her, had originally been planning to spin and knit a sweater from it. I shudder to think.

So, everyone got given 120g of this stuff, and the brief to spin at least half of it, and use at least some of each color (plus not more than one other yarn/fiber) to make a seasonal ornament of some kind for our assigned partner.

My partner honored the original sweater plan by making me a miniature one (as well as a handful of cute aliens, from a completely different yarn she’d spun either on another occasion, or merely as an antidote, I’m unsure which):

And so what did I make? I have to say, I love it. I knew my partner had two small kids (and celebrated Christmas, as she knew I didn’t), so I thought a holiday puppet might be fun. I’ve never knit a puppet (or any kind of toy, in fact), but inspired very loosely by the Estonian Sheep puppets from Interweave (available here), I decided to have a go at making one up as I went along. (Note: if you intend to try this, and I do encourage you, please use nicer wool: this hideous stuff was too much of a pain to even contemplate swatching properly. It was so horrible, I don’t even make any apologies for not swatching. My recipient almost certainly had issues arising from this that she was too polite to mention, but between ourselves, I’m glad it came billed as a puppet for a seven-year-old and a three-year-old. That’s all I’m saying.)

I started with the decorative two-color long-tailed cast-on I learned at Knit Nation this summer (which deserved a whole post on its own), and continued with some rather desultory colorwork on the body. ‘After a bit’ (when I thought I might run out of green yarn) I decreased for the neck, did some fairly random shaping for the head (pretty much a lucky guess based on the most cursory glance at the sheep pattern above) and then went to town with lashings of i-cord. Darned on some eyes and a nose, and I give you —

Kippi’s Bright i-deer –


You can probably tell how much fun I had posing the little guy before I sent him away. The rough wool made really sturdy i-cord, and I was able to get it to stay in various positions without the use of the pipe-cleaner I’d planned – and failed – to run down the middle.



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Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Apparently it is possible after all. A while back I made a few swatches of different yarns, sandwiched them in glass and baked them in the kiln. None of them were a rip-roaring success, but one showed possibilities. The problem was that is was knit from a deeply unpleasant pink acrylic with a metallic thread (which is the bit that survived the firing process) and I haven’t been able to bear to knit with it further. Can you blame me?

So, I have since managed to acquire, by processes over whih I shall draw a veil, a small reel of fine silver wire. Wire fine enough to knit with, if you try. I’m struggling to work out the right sized needles to use, and can’t manage to get neat stitches, but perhaps I will acheive that some time. And it’d be – well – neat if I could, because then I could produce “swatch” art glass using different stitch patterns.

In the meantime though, here are three prototypes: the first swatch was simply soldered (with lead-free solder) onto a stained glass copper-foiled pendant, the second was just laid on top of a single piece of random glass that was then fired, and the third was sandwiched between two layers of Bullseye and fired.


The first one I quite like, but I’m concerned it’s very fragile, and might tarnish; the second one is an abject failure, but shows glimmers of hope for some interesting manipulations further down the line (I quite like the way the silver has partly melted in and partly stayed on the surface) and the third one I am very pleased with indeed.

Yes. With a bit of luck -because with inclusions you never know (and the person I bought the silver off had had no luck including it in glass) – look out for swatch pendants coming to an Etsy shop near you soon.

I’m off to celebrate six months of knitting with a little more wire swatching.

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I have a mathematical friend who once, in our university days, treated me to a very nice meal he had cooked, and afterwards, espresso and an explanation of quantum theory. It may have been a complex intellectual wooing manoeuvre, but if so, it failed miserably as I was so busy trying to bend my head around the quantum part that I failed to notice the rest. Also I thought he was involved with someone else (which he was) and naively assumed (I can’t quite believe this now, but it’s true) that he could therefore not be engaged in wooing activities (which he quite possibly was, actually). Hey, ho. Also, poor soul would have been barking up the wrong tree for another reason. As he’s about two feet taller than me, I wouldn’t even be able to see the expression on his face without my contact lenses, and according to my Iron Rule of Partner Selection #3, that’s a rate-limiting factor in relationships: I can’t imagine going out with someone too far away to see (rather like not speaking a common language).

Well, I was very taken with his explanation, and especially with Shrödinger’s cat, which I vaguely remember as involving an experiment set up with a cat in a box and some particles of something which in one state would mean that the cat was alive and in the other state would mean that it was dead, but that until it was observed which state was true, then the cat had to be considered simultaneously both alive and dead.I don’t remember if there was a neat little appendix that made play with the experimenter/observer effect, or if I only dreamed that part. And I might be pretty wrong about the whole thing. There I go, bastardising science again, But don’t blame me; blame my friend Andy.

Anyway, fast-forward a whole hunk of years, I find Child Two happily singing to herself the nursery rhyme for a quantum universe: The Grand Old Duke of York/He had ten thousand men;/He marched them up to the top of the hill,/And he marched them down again./And when they were up, they were up;/And when they were down, they were down,/And when they were only half-way up,/They were either up or down.

Until they were observed, at which point they would presumeably be categorically one or the other. But not, note, half-way. One or the other, but apparently both. This helps me with the cat in Shrödinger’s box. Either/or masquerading as “and”. Not a concept a three-year-old has any difficulties with, it seems. What does that imply?

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home dyed skein oneI’m shivering through today, shivered through last night, and through yesterday, laid low with another of my recurrent bouts of tonsilitis. I so hate this. I can probably write off most of the next week to misery. I had no energy today so I did little more than make the builder tea, look at a little y-a-r-n p-o-r-n and order some undyed merino to play with when my wonderful package turns up from America. A very kind Raveler offered to send on some precious American food dye, with lots of colors I can’t get here! Yummy colors, no less. I’m getting ready to put my postman through some severe stalking next week.

This, for those who are interested, is the etiology of the new madness. The Beloved plays cricket in the season. He claims “it’s only a short season”, but as it takes an almost day-long chunk out of our weekend from April to September (weather permitting), and one or two evenings a week once things really get going in May, I’m not so sure. However, it keeps him happy – coat in good conditon and his eyes shiny – so I am pleased for him, especially since he is unfailingly supportive of my own amusements, but I do wish it consumed less of our family time. Anyway, off he went on Saturday, and the builders – while not actually around over the weekend – had created an unholy mess in the back part of the house, so I couldn’t even reach Kelvin (he’s sulking: they’ve put a pink and purple dustsheet on him, and are treating him as a coffee table. I don’t know how I’ll make it up to him). There are a few Kelvin ideas percolating, but they’ll have to wait. The little ones were asleep, Child One was lurking with a book, there was nobody to stop distract me…

So, having finally got around to picking up some food coloring in Waitrose, with Child One’s birthday next week in mind, I decided it would be much more fun to let it loose on some interesting eBay yarn I had no idea what to do with. This was 150g of two-ply merino/silk in a natural color of unknown wiehgt/yardage. I thought – correctly – that the wool and silk would take up the dye slightly differently, and anyway, apart from the stash of angora which I want to stay cream, I didn’t have anything else to play with.

I happened to have some citric acid around (from bath bomb making for Child One’s birthday party two years ago), which was handy, as I didn’t have “white vinegar” (don’t really know my different vinegars apart, other than wine versus spirit). So I soaked the yarn for “a while” (aka, not very long really, but it’s all an experiment anyway, so who’s to say it’s not enough?) then laid it out on cling film and poured food coloring, turmeric solution (OK, OK, turmeric in suspension: don’t be pedantic), tea solution and coffee all over it. Wrapped the cling film firmly and steamed the package for “a while” (see above for more specific timing). I’m impatient. I put the finished yarn in a bag and spun it as fast as my washing machine would let me and hung it over the door to finish drying. Then I carried it around in my arms for a while (about twenty-four hours, actually). Child One suggested I could wear it, as is, without knitting, as a scarf, and by George, I think she’s right. In fact, if I hadn’t felt compelled to wind it into a ball to get a better sense of the colors, I would be doing exactly that right now. After all, I am wearing my heaviest cardigan (aran wight, 75%wool, 25% mohair – and warm) and the black wrap/scarf which was almost the first thing I made and all the other clothes I put on this morning when my temperature was more conventional. I’m toying with either a) putting on my fingerless gloves or b) crawling into the oven alongside the chicken I’ve just put in there.

Anyway, this is the result. I think it might be a little lurid, but maybe it will be acceptable. I suppose it depends how it knits. It ca always be redyed to damp the colors down if required. For the record, I also think it’s sport weight and around 240 m. We shall see. A shawl is my best guess, but more specific suggestions – or entirely different ones – are most welcome.

first dyed skein1first dyed skein2fisrt dyed ball

ball winder of notePlus, two good things happened in this winding process: Child One offered her arms, perfectly spontaneously (I think she was fascinated by the whole mad scientist event), and I discovered a ball-winding tool with great potential – Child Two’s plastic toy comb. She was adamant that it wasn’t mine, but hers, and I shouldn’t use it, but I overruled her, invoking the sharing principle. She remains unimpressed, so I’ve hidden it on my desk (this is way too easy to do, and can be passed off as accidental if I’m challenged).

Now I’m going to get myself as close as possible to a source of heat, and take a medicinal scotch, for my throat’s poor sake. Next up: the great hot glass event…

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So what happened to the experiment with knitted swatches included in glass?

Actually, it didn’t work out great. But there were a few reasons for that, and a few hopeful signs, so I’ll have to give it another go. Firstly I think I used yarn that was too thick for best results. And then I compounded the problem by laying them on the glass two at a time because I wanted to use the scrap glass I had around of very nearly the right size, and was also too lazy to cut it up. I think it would have been better with more space around the edges of the yarn, so a higher yarn: glass ratio. It would have maybe helped if the yarn weer thinner, or possibly ironed first – anything to get the glass to soften around it and seal it in earlier.

One of the big worries was the formation of bubbles, and at least that didn’t happen. What did happen was this:

fused wool

fused acrylicfused acrylic/metallic

Left to right: wool, acrylic, and acrylic with metallic thread.

The wool just turned to ash. That was a waste of a swatch, but worth remembering if I were ever to want to produce a fused ashtray with integral fake ash. The acrylic retained a lot of stitch deinition, even if I have taken a terrible picture of it. I think thinner yarn could really help here. The acrylic with metallic thread quite excites me. I don’t understand why the acrylic part has burned away while it hasn’t in the adjacent sample, but it has definite potential. I’m also considering using some very fine metal wire, but I believe it’s dire to knit with, so this might be an interesting, finger-friendly alternative. I’m still going to order some metal wire, mind you, and give that a go. I’d like to think it’ll give me more control of the swatch. Beause one thing I really do need to make clear: my knitting might be bad, but it’s not that bad.

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the bees knee-dlesMy daughter dropped the knitting needles of the friend who got me started, and the stoppers broke. I decided that it was no job for glue: this needed Fimo. I liked the results, but then I had second thoughts (perhaps they are too heavy and/or too twee?) and so I bought new replacement needles for her. We’re keeping these.

Meanwhile, I think I just had a fabulous idea to combine my current obsessions.

If I knit a few swatches of different yarns, and then sandwich them between layers of glass, I can see what interesting results I can come up with. The possibilities are probably far greater than the reality will prove, but it has to be worth a try. Putting anything between glass like that is a tricky prospect: anything could happen, depending on how it combusts, how much air is trapped, what gases might be released… You can have a ghost image of your original object, bubbles, nothing at all…

Maybe the different fibers will react in different ways. This could be another way – not useful to the majority, I know – to test that unknown ball of “wool”. I know it won’t get into the knitting manuals: “Take your sample, layer it between glass and heat over six hours to 1400°. Cool for another six hours. Check results.” But, well – I’ll have a better idea once I’ve tried. Right now I’m envisaging elaborate tableware or coaster sests with a series of different lace patterns, or a service whereby people would send me their swatch (say of the wedding shawl they made) and I would return it included (in the technical sense of the term) in a bowl. But, I am getting ahead of myself. As I said, inclusions are notoriously quixotic.

I’m off to try a couple, though. Bt which glass to use? I could use the nice Bullseye, or some cheaper float (window) glass, although that has the disadvantage of softening at higher temperatures. I guess I should try both. A swatch of swatches? A meta-swatch?

Also, I’ve been stroking the angora I got on eBay a few weeks ago. I’m working up to winding it. And then working up to working out what to do with it (beyond stroking).

pet angora

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