Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Learning How To Knit Again

Y'ALL, I got the grant!!

My first grant-writing experience, and I got it! In a previous post, I detailed my journey in pursuing the grant and I'm pleased to inform you that my hard work paid off, and I danced alll the way back from my mailbox when I got the news. And I've got a looong driveway! You know, I had almost given up on receiving anything on my first try. This whole art career thing is full of rejections, and it makes things easier if you keep your expectations low. I'm not saying to always view the glass half-empty, but it helps to keep reality at hand in an attempt to protect your self-esteem. 

SO, I wrote the grant to ask for funds to buy a knitting machine. And now that I have one, I have to prove that it will further my career in the next year. In fact, that is part of the process. January 2016, I will be submitting a final review of how I spent my grant money and how it helped me. Not only is it a way to hold yourself accountable with others but a supreme kick-in-my-butt to learn how to use this machine as quickly as I can.

Above are some of my first test knittings, using the 2-color stranded pattern function on my machine. I designed the single-motif and repeat patterns in my computer, manually input them into the machine's primitive, electronic system, and then you're ready to knit!

My first time repeating a single motif -- toothbrushes, of course :)

My intimidation quickly dissipated as I started working my way through the manual. I forget that I am capable at understanding basic machinery -- things like oiling generously and looking closely at what's moving where. With enough patience, you remind yourself that it's simple mechanics.

The machine, in a way, works backwards. You see the purl-side (or wrong side) from where you are sitting and you have to go around to the other side to see exactly what you are doing, hence the view in the picture above. 

It's hard to take good pictures of the machine but mine has found a cozy nook bumped up next to the record player. Over this past weekend, I executed my first real project with the machine. That meant using nice, wool yarn that I paid money for. Needless to say I was a little uptight at first but there's no better way to learn than to throw yourself in the ring. I decided to start with an intarsia design because I have a death wish and why would I start easy? I mean I already bought the finest gauge machine there is (aka- smallest, hardest-to-see, general feeling like your fingers are way too big when attempting to fix any mistakes, etc) so might as well add a dozen balls of yarn into the mix. 

DISCAIMER: For anyone who thinks that buying a knitting machine is cheating, making things easy or automatic in any way, I'd like to debunk your assumptions right now. 

Hand-knitting is WAY easier than this!! You can control everything much better since it is all in your hands or lap. With this machine you have up to 200 needles that you need to keep an eye on and god help you if you lose a stitch (or worse a dozen stitches),  those babies run faster than you can blink. Just because it says this machine is electronic doesn't mean that it's automatic. You push that carriage back and forth for every row of knitting. In fact, you don't ever plug it in unless you're wanting to use the electronic pattern functions, and in that case, all the machine is doing is moving your needles into the correct position for you. You're still pushing that carriage.

What the machine does well is allow you to knit larger, faster. It really feels much more like working on a loom rather than the hand-knitting I'm accustomed to. Especially doing intarsia color-work, it reminds me of tapestry weaving -- that's where you lay the yarn by hand into each needle, depending on what color goes where, and then push the carriage across, controlling the tension of each yarn ball with your free hand -- The machine is more physically enduring than I expected. The carriage requires more force to run across the bed of needles when doing intarsia. Also my tension was pretty tight which is something I need to troubleshoot. That requires the machine to work even harder.

And of course I was knitting for hours on end because I was so excited about it all. Doing any physical activity for 6 hours will leave something in your body aching.

 So what do you think?! It was fun not getting a chance to really see the work until I took it off the needles. It turned out even better than I imagined! There's a fair share of mistakes in there, but I left them in, allowing them to be badges of my learning process. Also probably didn't know how to fix them anyways, hehe. The toothbrushes are nothing new for me but it was smart to start with a design I was familiar with, that way I could focus more on the learning aspect.

This piece ended up around 21" x 18". I used all but 4 needles on the bed. That means that this is about the widest I can go. If my tension was looser it could be a little wider. I'm surprised because when I decided I wanted to scale up, I was imagining a lot larger than this, and now I'm seeing the limitations of the machine. I think this means I'm going to need to work in sections and seam edges together to get the size I'm after.

Look at all those tiny stitches! By the time I cast off, my row counter was at 270. I had so much fun, I can't wait to start my next project.

Also this past month, I've been working on a new batch of "smalls". Mostly, tiny houses but also have some lil' toothbrushes. 

I'm hoping to put a series of pieces up for sale online in the near future. The good and bad of this idea is that I'm selling these little houses to my friends and neighbors faster than I can make them! Facebook has been a great platform where people have been reaching out to me about purchasing pieces (you can find me here). If you are ever interested in buying any of my work PLEASE let me know! We can work something out. I'm always open to trades and price negotiations. I need people to buy my work so it has a place to hang and I can continue making more. My house is too small to hang it all!

Quonset hut!! Wish I had one of these in real life.

SIDE NOTE: My beautiful, little niece turned 2 this past month and I can't fight the desire to make her beautiful things. This year I made her a lovely, knitted bunny that is the perfect snuggle size. I hope it brings her happiness!
Free knitting pattern for this bunny available here.

Have a great day!