When Joanne Conklin visited me in Colorado last summer, she gifted me with a Mardi Gras Ball that she knit! This very special treat takes a prominent place in my “all things Mardi Gras” collection. It is such a nice reminder of our time together.
Joanne – I’m thinking of you today (Lundi Gras) as we head into the finale of Mardi Gras (tomorrow). Wish you were here with us in New Orleans to join the festive craziness. Still love the Beaded Ball you made me. Thank you!
p.s. You can read about the making of the Mardi Gras Ball at Joanne’s blog here.
I love to “paint” with color and texture in many media. Probably my favorite media and technique, not too surprisingly, are fine yarns, beads and lace knitting. The rectangular shape of a stole provides the simplest of ‘canvases’ in which to play with design.
It starts with “tell a story”. For example – Picture early morning walks on the beach and looking out over gently breaking waves through the morning haze.
That picture-story is the basis of the design I just released at Sandrasingh.com today for Gentle Breezes. Flashback to how the story unfolded from design concept through completion of the Gentle Breezes Stole.
My design concepts can hibernate anywhere from a few days to several years (or maybe forever, because I still have LOTS more in the queue. No telling if I will live long enough to see the fruits of them all). Anyway, when Sandra Singh asked me to design something in her single ply Lace yarn, I found that she had a color that was a match made in heaven for the look and feel of that morning walk on the beach looking out over the ocean through a morning haze. Aptly named, the color of this gently variegated gray/blue/green yarn is Ocean Breeze.
I envisioned using beads to suggest the glint of sunlight off the waves. The yarn is single ply and I was concerned about the strength. So, originally I was thinking I would have to use size 6/0 seed beads, placing them using the crochet hook method on a double strand stitch loops. Fortunately, the yarn has a lot of substance and strength so that I could use the smaller size 8/0 seed beads to give the subtler look I originally was after. The strength of the yarn comes partially from it having a slight felted texture. The smaller beads will be pre-strung on the single strand of yarn and slid into place where needed as the knitting progresses.
The next step in the design process was to select a bead color. I narrow the selection to a few finalists based on bead color availability (I prefer the Miyuki brand) and my experience in selecting bead colors. I don’t think the various colors of the beads show up very well in the photo, but this is how I go about choosing the “winner” from the finalists (in this case there were 9 colors I was considering in the final running). By sliding a few of each bead color onto the yarn and seeing them against the yarn (rather than just isolated in a whole bag of beads of the same color) is more representative of what they will actually look like when incorporated into the knitted fabric.
Out of the 9 bead color finalists, I decided on Turquoise Ceylon #536. Several of the others would have been lovely as well. It’s always a hard choice — I love them all!
For the knitted fabric, I planned that the ends of the stole would be worked separately and done in a wide beaded lace border reminiscent of breaking waves. Then the main area of the stole between the 2 wide border ends would be an unbeaded lace stitch pattern giving the feel of breezes and the gentle swells of the ocean.
Up to this point I had still been toying with titles for the design. I settled on “Gentle Breezes”, as I felt this gave more flexibility in knitters choosing the yarn and bead colors to match the picture story wherever they might imagine of gentle breezes on a morning or evening walk.
I found the Sandrasingh.com yarn really pleasant to work with. Even though it is a single ply, it is not kinky at all. And I’ve not had any trouble, either, in it holding up to being strung with the beads. The slightly felted texture of the yarn not only gives it strength, but a wonderful softness plus a lot of volume for its weight.
The knitting proceeded quickly. Of course, in these photos of knitting in progress, the lace knitting has not yet been blocked, so it still looks crumpled and messy. Once blocked, the design elements will “pop” and look crisper/more distinct. In this picture of knitting in progress, the 1st border (in the upper part of the picture) is just lying under the 2nd piece. The two pieces will be grafted together later for an invisible join.
After completing the knitting and grafting the 2 pieces together, the stole is tension blocked.
I never tire of that magic moment when lace is blocked out to show all of its airy beauty. The completely dried stole is then released from the blocking wires and pins, and my senses are further delighted in the wonderful drape and hand of the sheer knitted fabric.
And the story has a happy ending — or is it just the beginning? I hope you might be inspired to “paint” your own picture story using my Gentle Breezes pattern as a jumping off point in creative knitting art.
I’ve been obsessed with making even more of the Beaded Stress Balls, but this time using Mardi Gras as the theme. I even worked up some simple variations to produce different geometric patterns on the surface of the balls.
Probably only people close-by in New Orleans, Louisiana will relate to these. Or those who keep up with Mardi Gras. Each year at Mardi Gras, it seems that everyone is trying to out-do last year’s largest throw-me-somethin’-mista beads of the carnival parades. I won’t be throwing any of these giant beads to anyone, though (I am keeping them!).
I’ve used Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in color Funky Stripe. It is a purple and green yarn. With the galvanized gold seed beads, I think it carries off the theme of traditional Mardi Gras colors pretty well.
If you’d like to knit some of these yourself, I’ve written up the variations to the original instructions at my Ravelry project page. But you will also need the original Beaded Stress Ball pattern to use for the basic instructions. Besides the overall beaded ball in the original instructions, the Ravelry page has guidance for these 3 variations:
Alternating sections beaded and un-beaded
Outer edges of each section beaded and remainder un-beaded
The negative of #2: Interior of each section beaded and the outer edges left un-beaded
I love how such simple changes can result in attractive and interesting designs.
Each ball only takes about 25 yards of yarn. So, out of a single skein of yarn, you could make a bunch of balls. Or undoubtedly you probably have some partial skeins/balls in your stash for which this could be a fun use.
I can imagine in my wildest dreams to make an entire giant “beaded” necklace out of hand-knitted beaded balls like this, but I probably should get onto some other knitting now. What do you think?
Am I crazy or what? Such tiny needles, tiny beads and skinny thread. But the results are worth it. Something special for ME this holiday season. 🙂
These are Bitty Christmas Tree Earrings, an even tinier version of the HeartStrings #H80 BITTY BEADY CHRISTMAS TREE pattern design I published just a few days ago. The published design specifies fingering weight yarn and size 8/0 beads knitted on US 2 /2.75mm needles to produce a 1/12th scale miniature version of a 5′ traditional Christmas Tree. At this size (approx 5″ high by 4.25″ wide), they’re great as ornaments, package decorations and the like.
You can make a bunch of these trees in hardly any time — very satisfying to make quick, small gifts!
Just for my own personal fun, I wanted to try some on both thicker and thinner yarn/threads, too. I had fun making some larger, using sport weight yarn (on US 3/3.25 mm needles) and worsted weight (on US 4/3.5 mm needles). While on a roll, I also made a smaller one using size 10 crochet thread (on US 0/2mm needles).
This smaller one (at just 3.25″ high by 3″ wide), I turned into a brooch using a coiless safety pin.
Then the real craziness started. I couldn’t help myself but imagine some even smaller trees to wear as earrings. Darn it — my eyesight used to be better. I think this is going to be as small as I’ll be going. As it was, I had to wear my jeweler’s magnifier while knitting these, just to see what I was doing! After blocking, they are just 2″ high x 2″ wide (excluding earring wires).
If you want to share my craziness, here is what you will need for a pair of earrings like these:
10 yds (9.1 m) 10/2 Textura Trading Tencel thread in color Seafoam (near substitutes are size 20 crochet cotton or size 8 pearl cotton)
size 4/0 (1.25 mm needles)
148 (approx 1.4 g) multi-color mix of Miyuki size 11/0 (2mm diameter) seed beads (size 10/0 beads should work just fine, too)
2 earring wires
HeartStrings #H80 Bitty Beady Christmas Tree pattern (available through Ravelry and other places selling HeartStrings patterns)
How small can YOU go? I’d love to see the ones you make, too!
p.s. The knitting as background in the photos of the earrings is the original Lacie Blankie made in handspun Cotswold wool for the “Save the Sheep” competition sponsored by Interweave Press.
This is the second in my series of introductory posts on “New Yarns – New Designs to Come”, and peek into the designing day at the HeartStrings studio. Today I am going to show you Colinton 1000 yarn and give you a hint about what’s planned for my new design in this yarn.
Colinton 1000 is a 2-ply fingering yarn of 100% mohair from young Australian goats. There’s a lot of useful information at the Colinton Angoras website about the origin of mohair and its unique qualities; well worth your time if you enjoy learning more about where and how yarn comes about to be.
Colinton’s yarn is different than the mohair yarn you are probably used to seeing and using. The Colinton mohair yarn is not brushed; rather, it has a “flat” look (i.e. far less halo than the usual mohair yarn), and there is a sheen. Thus, it retains good stitch definition, lending itself well to knitted lace and textured fabrics.
I have done designs for Colinton’s yarns before (e.g. the White Lotus Stole using Colinton 3000 ultra-fine laceweight and Coronet Collarette using Colinton 1000 fingering). So I was pleased that I was approached again by Colinton to prepare a new design they will be offering in their new line of Tucker Box kits.
Over a series of phone calls, emails and sample skeins, we discussed the target yarn amount for the new project and its general design concept — a wide lace fashion scarf/mini stole with beads that would use 3 balls/skeins of either Colinton 1000 fingering or 2000 laceweight.
This new design will be in Colinton’s natural colored, un-dyed yarn with beaded accents in 2 colors. This yarn already has lots of class. So I don’t want to overwhelm the design with a lot of beads. The plan is for just enough to give a touch of color here and there. The working title of the design is “A Touch of Beaded Class”.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2. 🙂
p.s. Yes, that is an endorsement of HiyaHiya needles. I just think they are good needles (fantastic joins on the circulars) at a good price.
Behind the scenes with Jackie E-S and life at the HeartStrings FiberArts studio.