Juniper Bee Design Studio

Knit. Crochet. Embroider

Sunny Spread Crocheted Afghan

This spring, I revisited an old friend: crochet. I learned when I was very little, so young that I don’t really remember being taught. But I do know it was my mom who taught me and I crocheted many doll blankets, bags, pouches, all sorts of things and all without a pattern. So I find the medium very intuitive with lots of room to improvise. But now, since part of my job is to help people decipher knitting and crochet patterns, I thought I’d better try following a few myself!

The blanket pattern, A Sunny Spread, was recommended to me and I decided Noro Silk Garden would be beautiful.

Some Sunny Spread Squares in Noro Silk Garden

Some Sunny Spread Squares in Noro Silk Garden

I alternated between two colours, one for the centre and one for the border, and found them to be quite addictive. I made a total of 30 and had a lot of fun arranging and rearranging,  standing perched on a chair to get a bird’s-eye-view of the overall effect. In the end, I didn’t follow the pattern completely, making a smaller, rectangular version which I bordered using some Peruvian Alpaca that had been gifted the Christmas before by the person for whom this blanket was intended.

Sunny Spread squares, laid out and being joined

And now I have completed several more crochet projects and quite enjoy the execution, even if I have yet to follow a pattern verbatim from beginning to end…

Complete and comfortable in it’s new home

It feels good to have the crochet hook back in my tool kit after such a long hiatus and I’m looking forward to further developing this skill as part of my repertoire!

Back to Square One

A lot has happened, in the last year and a half, and absolutely none of it has been documented here.  In fact, I’ve all but abandoned my little corner of the interwebs, occasionally poking in to deal with spambots or to start a draft…

But this week a plan has started to emerge and now I feel like I’m ready to give this another shot. So, here I am, back to Square One, with a new look and a new commitment.

I am undecided in how to deal with my few previous posts; whether to leave them up or to delete them forever, but I will quickly bring you up to speed on what has happened since.

First, in the spring of 2013, I learned to spin and was gifted a lovely spinning wheel (which I still have).

Lovely gifted spinning wheel

 

I also experimented with acid dyeing fibre, which I promptly spun and knit into mug cozies.

Acid-dyed fibre, drying

Acid-dyed fibre, drying

Slubby purple cozy

Slubby purple cozy

Gradient BFL cozy

Gradient BFL cozy

Spinning kept me occupied through to the fall, then there was a wild jaunt in a two-day workshop knitting with wire.

Experiments in wire knitting

Experiments in wire knitting

I left my boring, ugly office job that winter, had a short liaison with needle felting and rediscovered a childhood friend in crochet in the spring (and fell in love with Noro).

Crocheted squares in Noro Silk Garden

Crocheted squares in Noro Silk Garden

Summer began while visiting a lovely yarn shop in Spain and finished with a new obsession: embroidery.

All You Knit is Love, Barcelona

All You Knit is Love, Barcelona

So, as you can see, there is potential for me to have many projects, plans and adventures, which I will endeavour to share here. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.

Nostepinne: The Portable Ball Winder

A nostepinne is a great tool to have even if you already have a ball-winder to turn your hanks into cakes. Why? Well, nostepinnes are portable! So the next time you find yourself on holiday, stumble into a new yarn store, find something you absolutely must have and are compelled to knit with it immediately, you’ll be able to!

The simplest nostepinne is a dowel (actually, even simpler is a toilet paper roll, which I was using until I found this beauty). They are easy to use and will fit in any knitting bag. And just like a ball-winder, they create centre-pull balls (or cakes) that you can stack. I also love that you can find many hand-crafted nostepinnes, making them beautiful and functional (my favourite combination).

Here is a photo-tutorial on how to use one. I purchased this one from Ancient Arts Fibre along with a lovely and soft hank of 100% baby camel at this year’s FibresWest.

Hand-crafted nostepinne, made of mahogany and walnut, and 100% baby camel hank (about to be wound into a cake!)

Hand-crafted nostepinne, made of mahogany and walnut, and 100% baby camel hank (about to be wound into a cake!)

Make a slip-knot and place in the groove

Make a slip-knot and place in the groove

Build up a base

Build up a base

Once you have a thick base, start winding the yarn from top-to-bottom while turning the nostepinne

Once you have a thick base, start winding the yarn from top-to-bottom while turning the nostepinne

Here's a close-up of what you want it to look like. It may help to guide the bottom wrap with your thumb

Here’s a close-up of what you want it to look like. It may help to guide the wrap along the bottom using the thumb of the hand holding the nostepinne handle

The goal is to build a shelf at the top and bottom for that Cake Shape

The goal is to build a shelf at the top and bottom for that Cake Shape

Eventually it will start to look like something a fancy ball-winder would produce- well, not quite but this is only my third try.

Eventually it will start to look like something a fancy ball-winder would produce– at least eventually, with practice; this is only my third try.

As the cake grows, the wraps will be further from the nostepinne. Remember: building a shelf will give you the Cake Shape!

As the cake grows, the wraps will be further from the nostepinne. Remember: building a shelf will give you the Cake Shape!

When you're done, just undo the slip knot, slide the cake off and gaze through the lovely centre-pull hole!

When you’re done, just undo the slip knot, slide the cake off and gaze through the lovely centre-pull hole!

Then congratulate yourself on a job-well-done and enjoy some tea and yarn-cakes

Then congratulate yourself on a job-well-done and enjoy some tea and yarn-cakes

There are a two things I really like about winding centre-pull balls: the yarn gets to relax in the middle void after pulling it off the nostepinne and you can knit from both ends at the same time. Now that I have this soft, springy cake of camel, I think it’s time to swatch and dream up some wrist-warmers, I think this yarn would be perfect!

 

FibresWest and A Thoughtful Beginning

This weekend I attended my first FibresWest. I started the day in a workshop on cast-on methods called A Thoughtful Beginning.

The workshop was packed with information; three and a half hours worth and we could have spent another hour or two more! We covered some basic cast-ons (including the tried-and-true long-tail), circular, provisionals, and finally some decorative cast-ons. I have several books with cast-on instructions, and of course there is always YouTube, but I find nothing compares to being able to interact with the instructor and connect with other students.

And our instructor, Venessa, was absolutely fantastic: engaging, encouraging, approachable, and humble in her expertise.

Two of the most exciting techniques I learned were Old Norwegian/German Twist, and the I-Cord cast-ons.

The Old Norwegian is just as resilient as the long-tail but with the benefit of stretch. So it’s perfect for sock cuffs, mittens, and hats. I’m also a tight knitter so a little extra stretch would be helpful and this cast-on looks so very neat and tidy with a similar braided look to long-tail. I may even use it all the time instead of the long-tail (which, by the way, I have been doing a little wrong all this time! At some point I started doing it backwards. Now to hunt down those I’ve shown and correct them!).

The prettiest was the I-cord cast-on, which is very time-consuming and will need more practice before I actually use it in a project. However, the finish is so clean and sleek, I have to find a way to use it!

But the most profound statement of the day wasn’t about technique. It was something Venessa said in her introduction, something so simple but resonates with me still: You knit where you’re from.

And that had me thinking about knitting in a way I hadn’t before. I may live in the middle of the big city, but I spent my childhood in a small rural community. A place with a lot space and a lot less going on; less calling for attention, for reaction, for consumption. A place with room to breathe and ponder; where the details stand out so they had better be well-thought out. A place to Do for the sake of Process and not for chasing Results. A place I often miss and long for and try to recreate in secret places that I can disappear to when the clamour and chaos of the city becomes a little too much. And this is why I knit.

I think you also knit who you are. A thoughtful beginning indeed.

image

The sky as seen from my childhood home

Work-in-Progress

Oh, hello! I'm still working and a l'il shy. I'll show you soon, promise!

Oh, hello! I’m still working and a l’il shy. I’ll show you soon, promise!