Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nobelese Largesse A&S Swap

So I decided to sign up for an A&S swap. I figured it would let my muse play in places that it normally doesn't. So after signing up and waiting a few weeks, I had gotten my person. I wont mention them by name until the swap is over and I have given them their piece, but what I can say is she has a Spanish persona. Knowing that, I tried to think what I could make. I decided to focus on her colors (she really like jewel tones and I know I had a sapphire blue roving I've been dying to spin up). At first I was going to spin up the blue wool and then make her a book and hand knit (with interspersed pearls) a cover for her book. I realized that wouldn't work at some point early in the month of June and realized I only had two months left to make something.

I began searching the web, looking for something that would work for me. That was when I came across a spanish pouch that someone had recreated by embroidering it. It is a 13th century find and they recreated it with white, reddish gold, and sapphire blue. I figured... I can do this! Not embroidery, of course, since I don't know how to embroider, but I could knit it! Here are links to both the extant find as well as the stitch pattern as someone figured it to be.

Royal Institute of Cultural Heritage

Brick Stitch Pattern #16

Then came the scary moment of realizing I've never done color work before. I figured now was as good a time as any to learn. Since it is a simple stitch the whole way through, I figured I could focus on just the switching of colors.

So here I am wondering how to go about making the pattern. That's when I realized I could use my husband's pixel blocks! They are like legos, in 12 colors, except all perfectly square so it would work perfectly in making a color work pattern for myself. The nice part about working in this manner is that if I made a mistake (and I made a few) I could just rotate the block of 5x5 pattern to the proper manner.

As I started working, I realized I was only going to be able to use two colors. Using all three would make the pattern HUGE. So I cut it down to a yellow with bits of red, green, and blue mixed in. Sunflower, I believe it is called. And also the sapphire blue. Both were hand spun, one on my ashford, the other on my antique flax wheel.

I wanted to knit it in the true diamond pattern that was on the actual bag and as tiny as was on the bag, but because I wanted to felt the bag, I didn't want the whole thing getting lost in the felting, so I stuck with making it a little bigger and making it straight. I couldn't diamond because... well... knitting is difficult to diamond and I'm not -that- good of a knitter.

So here is an update as to how far I have gotten in 4 hours of knitting:

I will say I plan on the pattern repeating once more to make the bag longer. After felting it, I will be finger loop braiding the draw string out of red Egyptian cotton as well as making the tassels out of it. I plan to line the inside of the bag with silk, as well. Hopefully it goes over well. I'm thinking of what kind of trinket or three I can throw inside, even if it is some hand mixed home grown spices or something.

There are so many things I learned doing this project and so very many things that this was a first for me.

This was my very first color work in knitting. All in all, I think it came out pretty well (this is pre-felting):

This was my first time doing finger loop braiding. I had to teach myself using diagrams and reading instructions and a lot of trial and error since the videos were not working well for me. I used, of all things, and made the simple purse string from it. Go to the links section for a link to the proper technique I used.

This was also my first time ever making tassels. You would think, how could this be your first time? Tassels are simple things! Yes, well, they are. And I've made yarn dolls, so I knew what to do, but this was my first time ever doing it. And when attaching the tassels to the bottom corners, I used a huge needle and drew it through the wool and silk alike to the inside of the bag but no knot would keep it in. So my ingenious idea was to take a small metal bead and tie that with the cord thread and now it stays with no problem:

So, in the end, the bag ended up being: a merino blend (hand spun) for the yarn knitted in sunflower and sapphire blue. A crimson egyptian cotton (purchased) that was then finger loop braided for the drawstring and also wound for the tassels. Two clay beads for decoration (purchased). And last, but certainly not least, a silk lining for the inside. Here are a few pictures of the final project:

For a little more technical information:

The yarn was spun to about 25-30wpi.
I knitted using a pair of circular size 2 needles.
Felting shrank the bag by about 15%.