Forget drawing a blank. Why would you want to do that? I’m busy knitting them.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m planning to make Seasons of Creativity using knitted blanks to create color changes in the weft. So one of the things I need to do is sample weft yarns to make sure they’re suitable for use in knitted blanks. Not all yarns will work in knitted blanks – some stick together and refuse to unravel, some unravel too fast and turn into a tangled mess.
I also need to sample weft yarns generally, to see which yarns I like and which I don’t.
And, of course, I need to sample colors to see what colors are suitable for the project.
In fact, there is a ton of sampling that needs to be done for Seasons of Creativity, and left to my own devices I would happily spend the next 2-3 months methodically sampling all the color combinations needed to make sure that the piece comes out perfect.
Alas, the deadline for Convergence entry is February 5. For those who aren’t good with calendars, that is exactly 38 days from now.
Since I was a project manager for twenty years, which is to say that I hate schedule drama (schedule drama is the arch-nemesis of every project manager), I’m calculating backwards from the entry date. 5 days of extra time for rework should something go wrong. 10 days of weaving time (it’s 15,000 picks!), especially considering that launching a class around the end of January. 2 days for mending, wet-finishing and prepping for photography, retouching photos, etc. That leaves 21 days for all the sampling, ordering any additional yarns, knitting and dyeing the blanks, etc. Three weeks sounds like a lot of time, but considering I’m working full time AND need to have a second piece ready for Complexity a month later, that’s pedal-to-the-metal speed.
So I will have to be far more efficient about sampling than usual, and do less sampling than I’m generally comfortable with. This will be interesting!
Anyway, I still have a week of vacation left, so I’m going to make the most of it. I’ve already decided to use mercerized cotton or a mix of mercerized cotton and silk for the leaf motifs in Seasons of Creativity, so that’s easy – I knitted up a blank or two yesterday and will do a few more this morning so I can test colors.
However, for the stars and butterflies, things are a bit more complicated. I am planning to use a combination of weft yarns for this section of Seasons of Creativity, but I’m not sure which yarns I want to use yet. Here are the yarns I’m thinking of using:
On the left is a gorgeous, very fine reeled silk yarn that I bought on eBay about ten years ago. Second from the left is a beautiful ultrafine silk yarn with a metallic silver thread twisted in – it was originally intended for weaving obi. I bought it from John Marshall a few years at a show. The photo really doesn’t do it justice – glitter doesn’t show up well in photos.
Third from the left is a sparkle yarn from Giovanna Imperia Designs. Again, the photo doesn’t do it justice. And on the far right are some iridescent yarns, again from Giovanna Imperia Designs.
All of these are very fine yarns, 20,000 yards per pound or so. So my plan is to use three strands as weft. I’ve knitted seventeen blanks in various combinations of the threads, with waste yarn in between the blanks. Here are a few of them. (Pardon my messy desk!)
And here’s what a single blank looks like:
You may be wondering about the single row of larger stitches midway through the blank. It’s a marker row. I put in a row of larger stitches every 50 stitches when I’m knitting a blank. In the bigger blank I will put in a bigger set of marker rows every 500 rows. It lets me tell where I am in the blank – so I can put in color changes accurately when I’m dyeing. That’s because knitted blanks are unpredictably stretchy, especially when wet, and they’re also very long. If I didn’t put in the marker, I’d have a 30-foot snake of wet knitting that started out 19 feet long and where on earth do I put the color changes? With the marker rows, I can simply count along the marker rows and know exactly where to put the color changes.
Now that I have the blanks, my next step will be figuring out how to use them. (Yeah, I know that’s backwards.) Today’s plan is to create a test file to see how butterflies, stars, and leaves weave up in each of the weft combinations, and also to figure out how best to sample the colors. It’s quite possible that the only way to sample the color combinations efficiently is, well, to weave the final product. The control freak in me is not happy about this, but perhaps I simply need to learn how to let go and “wing it” for a change!
Once I’ve figured out how to use the blanks, I’ll need to dye them. So today will also be a dye day. Tomorrow I’ll rinse and dry the blanks, and Wednesday I’ll (hopefully) start weaving my samples!
Pat Donald says
What an interesting post. As I’ve been working through your color and design workshop I’ve been reading supplemental references and came across some information on selecting colors in knitting. One of my friends and I have discussed if the ideas in your color workshop translate to knitting with the different thread interaction angles leading to different color perception. I eagerly await your pictures.
Tien Chiu says
Hi Pat – Say more about the thread interaction angles in knitting? I don’t know much about knitting, haven’t done it in at least a decade – curious to know more!
Michelle L says
Tien- I searched and could not find a way to contact you as i’ve been reading your adventures for a few years now, and your work is always fascinating.
As a knitter, and also it IT—instead of knitted blanks, wouldn’t you be able to map your design out using weaving software and turn off the warp to see and calculate your weft? Seems like it could be faster, less arduous, and possibly more direct than your current method.
Then you could also audition different designs and pick the one you liked best.
Not affiliated- but there is a list here-
I’m on your blog mail list with a different email so feel free to email me directly if you wish.
Most of them have a free trial so you could get in there and try it out before deciding if the software helped or deciding to purchase.
Tien Chiu says
Hi Michelle –
It’s a great idea! Unfortunately, conventional weaving software doesn’t allow simulation in the way you describe – that’s why I use Photoshop to do the simulations. I do have weaving software that allows me to do the simulation – sort of – but not in the particular structure that I’m using. So Photoshop allows me to do the basic simulation, but to actually see how it works out in practice, I need to weave actual cloth. But I’d have to do that anyway, to select weft yarns and test out dye colors, so it all works out, more or less…thanks for the suggestion, though!
Michelle L says
Well, that’s too bad. I thought I might be able to save you some time. 🙂
Maybe there’s an opportunity there to work with weaving software people to be able to do what you want in future.
I look forward to seeing the finished product- you are so talented and your work is always very inspirational.
I have really enjoyed learning about your design process. I am not a weaver but I have a friend who weaves. Will you tell me more about your knitted blanks? Do you use a knitting machine? What kind? Thanks so much.
Jayne Edwards says
Amazing work, you are so talented