June 26, 2006

It's slow going

I have neither fell off the face of our earth, nor become so famous and wealthy that I can vacation in my own, secluded retreat (be it island or cabin) without internet access. Although I can still dream. (About the later.)

Nope. Just stuff. Not a lot to report or show, but at least this keeps me honest.

It's been slow going, but I have been knitting. For a while there, I was a sock knitting machine. But with my recent return to the work force (I started a new contract job- 'nuf sed) and knitting socks on size US#0s, my progress just isn't what it should be.

There's always a bit of an adjustment period when going back to work after being off for a while. (A 'while' being defined as more than two weeks.) All those tasks and errands still need to be done, despite having nine less hours in my day to do them. Oh, sure. I know that I'll get no sympathy from y'all. In fact, I'm not asking for any. Just an acknowledgement that there is a period of time when schedules and chores are jumbled until it all settles into a different routine.

Anyhoo... besides the obvious less knitting time, I've started my Trekking socks for the Trek Along With Me... er, along. I'm using color 93 and knitting them on Addi Turbos US#0. (That's ZERO! in case you missed it.) I can't believe that there is such a difference between 1s and 0s, but there is (although it might be mental).

These socks are for MattyBonez, and I'm am following the Thuja pattern from Knitty with one major difference. Due to the fineness of Trekking, I've cast on 80 stitches. Eep!

I haven't had much time or inclination (do you know how HOT it's been here?) to take any treks with my sock, but I have found some enjoyment during my lunch breaks. The company's offices are along a man-made canal, similar to the Riverwalk of San Anton(ee-oh). Except not the party attitude at all.

The canal provides shade and a pretty area to walk or knit, and it is typically 10-15 degrees cooler down there. And if you get bored of looking down (into the water), you can look up and watch for the monorail people mover. Yep, that's right. Crazy, no? I'll try to remember my camera one day soon and take some pix.

Besides the Trekking socks, I have also started two larger projects: the Adamas shawl and a Tivoli sweater. The shawl is my first lace project and I've been brought up short by already having a mistake and no lifeline. I'm not that far in, so if it's determined that I'll need to rip and reknit, I won't be too despondent.

The Tivoli (aka Picovoli sweater sans picot edges) is coming along nicely. It's been a while since I've worked on needles larger than 2s, and I can really get some inches (okay - millimeters) in with just a few hours of TV watching.

As with everything, I hope to get some pictures taken and posted of my current projects. Although I may need a quickie project soon. Just for the FO satisfaction.

Er... I just overheard a colleague quote and then refer to the movie 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles' as a "classic comedy." Um, no.

Posted by Nanc at 02:08 PM | Comments (6)

June 19, 2006

Silk Screen Printing Part 3: Burning the screen

Usually, this is the space where I would carefully craft a sassy teaser, to get you interested in the article, and to compell you to click on the link.

I'm much too tired, so... It's a multi-part article. I've got you trapped. Click on the link, or else you won't have the full set.

In Part 3 of this series, we discuss preparing your screen for printing.

Need a quick link to Part 1, so you can build the screen? Here you go. Need a quick link to Part 2, to refresh on creating your design? Here you go.

Youíve got the screen, but do you know how to use it? Sure, you could ink up your screen right now and make prints, but all you would end up with are ink rectangles the size of your screen. Though unique, this is hardly impressive or witty.

Instead, you want to modify the screen in such a way that you control how the ink flows. You do that by blocking off some of the holes in the screen. Where the screen is blocked, the ink wonít flow, creating the design.

There are a couple of methods that you can use to block off the screen. My personal favorite is to use photo emulsion. Using this method, you create a photo-sensitive layer on your screen that can be used to create very detailed graphics. By laying the design positive created in Part 2 on top of the screen and exposing it to bright light, you burn your design on to the screen.

Hereís what youíre going to need to gather get your screen prepped:

  • The screen you built
  • Photo emulsion diazo stuff which you can find at well-stocked craft stores or online. This costs about $25 for 7 ounces, and can be used to create a boatload of screens. Seriously, 7 ounces goes a long way.
  • Something to skim the emulsion onto the screen. I prefer the flimsy fake credit card that I get all the time in the mail
  • Rubber gloves (These are optional, and I prefer the disposable ones)
  • A darkish room (a bathroom with no windows works great)
  • A bright lamp with a reflector. I bought a cheap metal reflector with a grippy, springy holder and a clear 150W light bulb at Home Depot for under $10 and it works pretty well.
  • Red light bulb (this is optional for your dark room work)
  • 3M Super 77 spray adhesive (again optional, but makes life kinda nice)
  • old newspapers (optional, but keeps your work spaces tidy)
  • fan (optional for speeding the screen drying process)
  • wood blocks (optional for the screen drying process)

Go ahead and gather the requisite items, Iíll wait here.

Making your screen photo-sensitive

Mix the Diazo as it tells you in the directions. Once you have it mixed, it has a short shelf life. Keeping it in the fridge will make it last a little longer - around 3-4 months, plus itís fun to keep non-food items in the fridge.

Take the screen, the Diazo, the fake credit card, and rubber gloves into your darkish room. Using rubber gloves will help you avoid the social faux pas of having green photo emulsion under your nails for a couple of days.

Drizzle the Diazo goop onto the screen and Use the fake credit card to scoop, skim, and spread a thin coat. Try to get the excess back into the bottle.

Scrape the excess goop, flip the screen, and scrape from the other side. Repeat until you arenít getting any more excess off. You are hoping to get a nice thin, even coat. Drippy blobs are whammies. Avoid them, since they can screw up your artistic design. Also, it may be obvious, but don't let the wet screen touch anything.

I hear you complainingÖ How can I see what Iím doing in this dark room? WellÖ you can have a little bit of indirect light, just not too much. Visitors to our house may wonder why we have a red lamp in our guest bathroom. Now you know. Red light doesnít have any negative effects on the photo emulsion. Plus, the red light makes you feel like you are doing top secret photo developing stuff.

Then set the screen to dry. It doesnít hurt to lay newspapers down to catch any spare drips and blobs that may occur. You will want the screen to dry facing up, so that the area of the screen that will eventually touch the shirt, bag, paper, or whatever dries nice and flat.

To speed up the drying process, you can do a couple of things. First, set the screen up on blocks, like that classic 1981 LeCar thatís up on blocks in your front yard. This will increase the air flow.

You can also use a fan to increase the airflow and cut the drying time down to about an hour. I tried to make a comparison of this step to a Chevette here, but I couldnít pull it off.

Once itís dry, store the prepped screen in the dark until youíre ready to use it. I put my screens in a cardboard box lined with a towel.

burning your design on to the screen

There are two ways to expose the screen: using the sun or a lamp. I prefer the lamp, since I can control the brightness, and I know how long it will take to expose.

A couple of items about the lamp. Use a reflector and a bright bulb. Try to get the light directly over the screen, so that the light distributes evenly. Also make sure that the light and the screen won't move while you are burning the screen, otherwise it could muff the process.

In a darkish room, grab your photo-emulsed screen, and lay it face up. Spray a quick dab of Super 77 spray adhesive on the top of the screen and let it sit for about five minutes till the adhesive feels like little rubbery bumps (but not sticky). The spray adhesive will hold the transparency in place, without slipping.

Examine your transparency, and ensure that there arenít any extra blotches of ink, hairs, or anything else that might muss it up.

Then carefully place your transparency on the top of the screen backwards. When you flip the screen over for printing your design will be facing the correct way. Ensure that you have a good margin all the way around, then press the transparency on.

For good measure, I also put a plate of glass (from a picture frame) on top of the transparency.

Place the screen under the lamp, and fire it up! At the pre-determined time, turn off the light and take the transparency off. Where the black ink covered the screen, you should notice that the emulsion is slightly lighter in color.

Timing will be different based on your setup, and it may take a couple of times for you to get the timings down. In my setup, it takes between 45 minutes and an hour for me to burn a screen in my laundry room photo lab.

If you donít let the screen burn long enough, all of the emulsion will rinse out. If you burn the screen too long, it will be impossible to rinse out cleanly and the edges of your design will burn over.

rinsing the screen

Rinse the screen in cool-ish water (think room temperature). The sprayer attachment on a sink is a godsend for this. It will take a minute or two before the emulsion starts to rinse off, but keep spraying. Flip the screen over, and rinse the screen from the other side too. Soon, the lighter colored emulsion will start to rinse away, leaving a clean screen.

When you think that all of the emulsion is out, hold the screen up to the light and carefully examine it to ensure that all of the screen holes are cleared. Be careful not to under Ė or over rinse your screen.

Once youíve rinsed your screen, let it dry. Completely. Take a break, you've done some great work.

Get ready for Part 4, where we actually get around to printing!

Posted by Matty at 10:59 PM | Comments (11)

June 16, 2006

Screen Screen Printing Part 2: the design

Iím sitting around at home, hopped up on painkillers from a mouth-based melee at my dentist's office. What better time to get caught up on my articles?

Part 2 of this series provides tips and tricks that I use when creating designs for silk screening. Weíll worry about how to transfer the design to the screen in the next article.

Did you miss Part 1 and want to learn how to build a screen? Or perhaps just want to relive the fond memories by reading it again? Click here for Silk Screen Printing Part 1: Making a Screen.

One additional note: This is stuff that we figured out through trial and error, books from the 70s, and some scant info that we found online. We are not professional screen printers, just folks sharing what worked for us. Your mileage may vary.

Hereís a list of the ingredients that you will need to play along with me today:

  • A great idea
  • Computer with a printer
  • Photo editing software
  • Overhead transparency paper

initial thoughts

Screen printed art has a unique look, and it looks way better than an iron-on. Another added bonus is that the screened design will last years longer. There are also some limitations that you should be aware of.

When you create your design, you should keep in mind what makes the screen technique special, and work it into your design. So, hereís a short list:

  • Your design will have a limited number of colors. Each color that you want to include in your design has to be printed separately. Each additional color adds a layer of complexity and more risk of goofing up.
  • Due to the limited color palette, your design will be very strong and iconic without actually doing too much. Make this work for you.
  • All design rules apply. Take your time and develop a great idea. A mediocre design is still mediocre even when itís emblazened on 50 shirts. Iíve been guilty rushing the design just so that I can get to the fun part. Now, I try to work on a design for a few hours, then come back to it a couple of days later, to see if there are any other little bits that need to be tweaked or adjusted.
  • The size of your design is limited to the size of your screen. (Actually a little smaller, to allow room on the screen for the ink and squeegee.)

creating your design

I will generally have a quick sketch or idea forming in my head before I sit down in front of my trusty computer. It's much easier to start if you have an idea.

The end result is going to be a positive design of black ink printed onto a transparency. I generally design in black and white so that I'm not distracted by the colors. If I am working on screen that will use multiple colors, I might play with the colors a little during the design, but everything that I print out will be black.

You can create a design in almost any graphics program. I prefer Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. If you know how to use Photoshop, but are looking for a less-pricy free version, I highly recommend GIMPshop, an open source photo editing software. The controls are similar to Photoshop, and Gimpshop plays well with Macs and PCs.

The process is easier to show than describe. Each design that you create will be different, but the link below outlines a few of the basic steps that I use when making a screen from an existing image. (Itís a little Flash-based tutorial that I made using Wink -- also free software.)

Click here for the quicky tutorial (pops).

Once you have the graphic designed print two copies of the image onto the transparency paper. Carefully line up the two copies and tape the edges, so that you end up with one super dark print.

Note: When you go to the store to buy the transparencies, read the package carefully; they come in a couple of flavors including one type for laser printers and one for ink jet printers. Know thy printer type before hitting the office supply store (Most home printers are of the ink jet variety.)

That's really about it. Practice. Notice what kinds of shirts, designs, and logos that you like, and keep working on your own designs. If any of this discussion seems fuzzy, check out the gallery on the right for additional explanations and photos.

In Part 3, Iíll walk you through burning the image from the transparency onto your screen.


Here's a couple of resources that you can use to get started.

istockphoto-is a good resource for stock photos. You can find almost anything on this site, and I've used a number of photos from this site as a starter for designs.

Stencil Revolution-check out the stencil galleries for ideas on how to develop images with a limited palette.

Posted by Matty at 07:54 PM | Comments (1)

Dye-O-Rama Drama

There was a bit of drama with my Dye-O-Rama yarn. See, I thought that I had mastered the Kool-Aid and could move up to Wilton's icing dyes. Oh, how wrong I was...

Also, I receive my yarn and it's terribly... exciting!

When last we spoke on this topic, I had enjoyed my first foray into the joy of Kool-Aid dying yarn. I had a taste of success and I wanted more. But before I was willing to jump in again, I needed to test out a few things...

Like what was the full and broad spectrum of the Kool-Aid's palette? So I set up a day by myself ('cause who else could stomach this nonsense?), and got to dyeing a bunch of miniskeins. Basically, I took one 440 yard skein of KnitPicks D.Y.O. sock yarn and, with the use of my mini-niddy-noddy from MSWF, made 46 tiny skeins of yarn. (Can you smell the crazy yet?)

These miniskiens were dyed in little pots (donated -and cleaned- baby food jars donated by The Squid himself) on the stove top. I used one packet of Kool-Aid per jar, which makes for a very concentrated mixture and very bright colors. Because I had more mini skeins than flavors, I mixed a few colors up, over- and double-dyed a few, and played with techniques (leaving them in a tight skein). Heck, I even tried coffee!

I wish I would've taken a picture of all the mini skeins drying on the clothesline, but I didn't. I've got some thoughts and ideas for these mini skeins, but for now they seem to like hanging out with our new garden gnome, G'nome, from IKEA. (Sorry if you find him a little phallic; trust me - I did not see it when I bought him. Color me innocent.)

The mini skeins DID become useful when we had another Kool-Aid dying event over at Chris' house. They served as a free-for-all color wheel.

Along with some of my knitgrrls (Angi, Skitter, P-la, and blogless Aubyn), I dyed up a pretty skein of blue, green, and greener self-striping sock yarn. This was done with the basics: KnitPicks Dye Your Own sock yarn and Kool-Aid. And I was instantly impressed with myself.

This smug satisfaction was quickly wiped from my psyche when I attempted to use Wilton dyes. I was dreaming of making a skein of wonderfully inspired self-striping sock yarn for my Dye-O-Rama pal. It would be sections of black with bits of golden brown and white interrupted by bands of light, dusky blue reminiscent of the ocean. It would be called 'Java at the beach' in celebration of her dog.

But what I dreamt of and what I made [shudder] were two very different things. First, I didn't realize the problems people were having with the Wilton dyes. It seems that some colors, such as Black and Cornflower Blue for instance, didn't create their namesake colors. Instead they would separate into other colors: colors that really had no business on my dream yarn.

The Black became fuchsia and green. And when mixed with my bits of golden brown (Tamarindo Kool-Aid), this became a batch of camouflaged hunter yarn. Which may have been fine, except that I had already worked on those stripes. And the Cornflower Blue, what of it? That turned purple and denim blue with bits of bright turquoise! Eep!

I know, I know. You may see it and think it's not bad, or even [gasp] attractive. But trust me, it's not. It's... "interesting." Interesting in that same way that boy you had a crush on in 6th grade called you that to his friends. Interesting in a way that wouldn't be caught dead talking to you at the skate rink on Saturday. Interesting in that way that you cursed your braces, glasses, short hair, and late-blooming tomboy-body. Yeah, like all of that.

I got over all that "interesting" stuff then, and I will now, too. But is it something I could gift to another knitter? Perhaps not. But I couldn't let it end there, so I worked myself up for another day.

Although definitely not the color I was going for, the Cornflower Blue results were attractive. I bargained with one of my knitgrrls for another skein of KnitPicks D.Y.O. and tried my luck.

This time I kept the yarn in its tightly wound skein and used a lot of the dye in the first bath. I was trying for deep purples. For the second bath, I used less dye and unwound the skein to get some of those denimy blues throughout. It still wasn't quite what I was hoping for, but closer.

So which skein did I send to my Dye-O-Rama pal? You'll just have to wait and see (much like she does)!

Bonus! I've just received my hand dyed yarn from my pal and I. Love. It! My pal is Maria of agujetas y punto, and she calls the yarn "Jeans with a Twist." Check it - Vannakin went for the mail run for us today. (Oh, sure. It's more of a walk or a stroll for us, but for Vannakin it's a marathon!). Anyhoo, I catch her doing her posing thing on top of the mailbox and I just had to wonder why.

What a happy surprise it was to see her pull out this gorgeous yarn: dyed just for me! I guess in all her excitement, Vannakin ripped off the packaging and stuffed the notes aside, along with our regular mail. (It's all been recovered now. Thanks.) Well, I could barely contain my excitement as well, and no sooner had I ripped the yarn from Vannakins stiff, wooden paws did I wind it up into a cake ready for the needles! Ooh, la la!

Posted by Nanc at 05:05 PM | Comments (5)

June 08, 2006

Lost my marbles

A few clowns short of a circus.

Mad as a monkey on a trike.

A kangaroo loose in the top paddock.

And other euphemisms for being slightly crazy. (I especially like the third one from the bottom: Knitting with only one needle. How apropos!)

I've got another pair of socks knitted up, but there's something a little off about them. Hmmmm....

Don't get me wrong. The socks are lovely (IMHO), and no one but me and a very astute knitter would see the error of my ways. (And please, I'm not challenging any of you to a astute-knit-off. But why would you pay enough attention to my knitting to notice this unless you were looking for mistakes. And really, that ain't nice.)

See, what happened was... I was making up this pattern as I went and I was plagued with 'd-oh' moments from the start. The original plan was to knit the ribbed cuff and then work in stockinette for the rest of the sock - to show off the wonderful colors. But I had cast on too many for plain stockinette.

Plan B: the stitch count would work perfect for the cable pattern from the Log Cabin Socks in Handknit Holidays. The 72 stitches on my sock worked three pairs of the cables just fine. And the colors were doing this cool, slow spiral around the ankle. All was well.

I only did one repeat of the cable pattern before starting on the heel. I was concerned that having a cables on the heel may be a little uncomfortable for shoes with backs, like sneakers, so I went back to my simple 2x2 ribbing.

I realized that for the foot to fit, I would need to decrease more than typical for the gusset. I went down to 64 stitches, but because I didn't put enough forethought into this, needles 1&2 had 36 stitches (half of the 72) and needles 3&4 had 28 stitches.

This required some fancy footwork (Ha! Yes - pun intended!) and manipulation with the decreases at the toe. The top of the foot/toe was decreased every round where as the bottom of the toe was decreased every other round until the last four rounds, which all were decrease rows.

Um... does this sound complex enough yet? Well guess what - I still had the second sock to knit! Eep!

Actually, I did okay until [doom doom doom-doom] the heel, when, for whatever the heck I was thinking, I worked it in 34 stitches. Um. Instead of the 36 which would be half!

Well, okay. I kept moving on. The heel would be fine. But apparently numbers are not my friends, and when I did the decreases at the gusset I went a little further, I guess. Oops.

So now I had 36 stitches on needles 1&2 and 24 stitches on needles 3&4. Um.... Of course, I didn't notice this until I was nearly to the toe and starting thinking about those decreases! (And where were my notes all this time? Why right there in my knitting notebook. D-oh!)

Okay, long story short. (Or is it too late for that?) I worked the toe decreases just fine. Both socks fit well and look marvelous. And I can't hardly tell that one is a bit tighter around the foot than the other... much.

The stats:

  • Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock in Marbles
  • Pattern: my own, but inspired by the Log Cabin Socks
  • Needles: size US #1 (2.25 mm) blonde wood double-points picked up at MSWF (These feel okay to knit with, but they're not as smooth as Crystal Palace bamboo needles. Also, one seemingly skinnier-but-still-size-1 needle bent during the first few rounds. It never got worse, but I started to dread that needle.)
  • Gauge: Okay... I really didn't do a swatch, but based on the completed socks - 8 sts/inch and 11 rows/inch
  • Notes: I learned my lesson. Take detailed notes and then USE them for the second sock! If I play with this cable pattern again (which I might), I would knit less ribbed cuff (1" instead of 2) and add an inch of ribbing on the bottom of the leg to give more stretch at the ankle.
Posted by Nanc at 02:55 PM | Comments (11)

June 02, 2006

I've got a long ways to go

Not too long ago, Purling Pirate counted and figured out how many pairs of socks she could make from her sock stash. Heck, she's even got a counter on her site to keep her honest. (And, oh-my! how it's grown lately!)

At one point, I thought that I had scooped her lead (especially after my haul from MSWF). But no. Not even close, really.

First, let me explain to any non-knitter (or non-crafter) that may be reading this and is concerned that their head may explode from the information revealed below. A knitter's stash is sacred and very personal. Size and content don't matter as much as emotions (what makes us happy, content, and excited) and possessiveness.

Some knitters keep a fairly small and tidy stash, which is constantly changing as projects are actually knitted from this yarn. (Crazy, huh?) While other knitters will horde every ounce of some fiber that takes their fancy, with no real intentions of knitting it up. (This is especially the case of a yarn that may become discontinued.)

And then there's the sock yarn stash. These yarns are separate and independent from the rest of one's stash. And the sock yarn stash is illusive when it comes to accounting for the stash.

If you ever charm your way into a knitter's home and are granted the privilege of viewing (and ooh'ing and ahh'ing) their stash and you know that they knit socks, ask about their sock yarn stash. I guarantee you that they will be impressed and that it will be separate. But I can't guarantee that you'll see it. That may just be too much good will to ask for.

Okay, now that I've gotten that over with... I laid out and counted my sock yarn stash today. Not because I was bored. Heck no, I could be knitting! But because the stashes were getting a little out of control. I had been in the stash to get bits n' piece here n' there, and nothing was put away. So it was time to tidy (and ooh and ahh).

So my official count as of today is...

I could knit 68+ pairs of socks just from my stash!

The "+" is because I've been keeping my leftovers/scraps. The knitgrrls and I are going to gather all our scraps together and knit the most horrendous, crazy pairs of socks ever to be knit! Ain't life grand?

Like a good blogger, I snapped a couple of pics of this whole shebang. And of course the majority and best pictures are of Walter "helping" me organize and count. (HA!)

As an aside, I also found two skeins of Trekking XXL (#93 and #126). Which is good and timely since I snuck under the wire and joined the Trek Along With Me knit a-long.

Posted by Nanc at 11:32 AM | Comments (11)

June 01, 2006

Fortune cookies

Typically, the fortunes that await me in the mist of Chinese fortune cookies are likely to make me laugh. Out loud. And if they're not humorous on their own, finishing the line with "in bed" is sure to have me cracking up.

For the past few months I've kept my fortunes because they have been either extraordinarily apt or amazingly wrong. 'Wrong' in the sense that I nearly pee my pants with the whole "in bed" joke. And yes, I'm simple like that.

So without further ado (did you get the preliminary ado?), I present my six most recent cookie fortunes and my commentary:

  1. Helping a friend is like helping yourself...in bed. Okay, I'm ALL about this! It seems like a win-win situation. No arguments here! Unless that *friend* happened to get some horribly selfish fortune. And then it's nothing like like helping myself!
  2. Sometimes the wisest person is dressed in the rudest clothing...in bed. Um, ... how do they mean "rude?" Like offensive or crude? I looked up rude, and found that there are five very different definitions listed. Some of which really wouldn't be all that bad, if'n ya' know what I mean. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.) Also, this fortune, in the wrong hands, may start some sort of showdown with Matty and I vying for that prestigious "wisest person" title. This is a tricky one.
  3. The riches of others makes you more valuable...in bed. I don't even think I needed to add the "in bed" bit to understand that I was just called a whore.
  4. The good will you show towards others will return to you...in bed. See number 1. I'm starting to be concerned on how the Chinese restaurant industry perceives me.
  5. You will continue to take chances and be glad you did...in bed. Honestly, this one befuddles me a bit. I mean, I'm in a happy, monogamous relationship. What chances? I little more than PDA next time we're grocery shopping? Not hang the love swing from a secure beam, but rather in a random, near-the-wall spot? Ignore his 102° temperature and runny nose? I mean, really!
  6. It is better to get something done late than never...in bed. Um,... gotta go!
Posted by Nanc at 04:29 PM | Comments (4)