Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spincycle Yarns

While I was at Stitches, I had the pleasure of meeting the Spincycle girls, Rachel and Kate. I've long admired their yarn. This year, they debuted a new line and I can honestly say this is the most original, yet still practical yarn I've seen in a really long time.

They have developed a line of millspun yarn that looks like handspun! It is called Dyed in the Wool and it is stunning. It isn't obvious in these images, but the yarn gives long color repeats. It is unusual to find long color repeats in yarn and in most cases the yarn is a single ply, which doesn't wear well. This yarn is plied.

Dyed in the Wool is 200 yards of superwash BFL. The fiber is dyed by Rachel and Kate before it is sent to a local mill to be spun up.

Let's have a look at the color range. Oh look... it comes in every color. And it mixes well with other yarns. In the first image of this post, you can see Rachel knitting up a sweater in a combination of Dyed in the Wool and a grey shade of Cascade 220 fingering.

I came away with a skein in the Fallen Leaves colorway. Boy do I wish my knitting obligations were finished because I'm just itching to cast on with this yarn.

For the record, I'm not getting paid for my point of view on this yarn. But I can honestly say I haven't been this enthusiastic about a line of yarn ever. The thought and care put into this yarn deeply impresses me. And although I haven't knit up my skein yet, it feels like a hard wearing yarn. So if you want to get your hands on your own skein (and you know you do), hop on over to their Dyed in the Wool etsy shop.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Stitches West Fiber Damage Report 2013

In past years, I'd only gone to Stitches one of the four days. This year I had a class with the wonderful Shannon Okey, so I had a pass that let me into the marketplace everyday. This might have been a problem. I ended up going to the market preview on Thursday and returned on Friday. By then, I had done so much damage I didn't go the following two days. I'm pretty controlled with spending.... except at Stitches. So let's have a look at what happens when I bring a credit card "just in case."

The Thursday marketplace was only open for three hours. Good thing too. 
I made a beeline to the Cephalopod booth where Sarah (the owner) stopped me and complimented me on my Celestarium. She didn't know I was the designer and I didn't know she was the owner, so we had a fangirl moment over each other. I've never asked for yarn support before, but three skeins of Skinny Bugga! in Cheraxes Tiridate (1.) will become the southern companion to Celestarium. 
The next stop was at the (2.) Becoming Art/ Never Not Knitting booth. Becoming Art yarn just glows, so 2 skeins of Cielo fingering came home with me. The purple is Luminous Heart (I think, the label didn't have the colorway on it) and the brown is Sunlit Amber. 
I wandered over to the (3.)  Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth to touch all the yarn. I agonized for a good half hour or more over what skeins should come home with me. I left with two skeins of Silkie Socks That Rock in the Mossley Manly and Schwarzwald colorways. I also picked up a skein of Socks That Rock Medium Weight in the Enchanted Forest colorway. As an aside, it is all Alicia's fault that I got the Mossley Manly. Her Manly Cowl made me want it.
The last purchase I made before the marketplace closed was at (4.) Redfish Dyeworks. Last year I got fiber that looked like a thunder cloud. I decided that it needed a friend, so this braid of 60%Merino/ 20%Yak/ 20%Silk came home with me.

Day 1 did some damage to my wallet... but day 2 was much worse. I went to (1.) Cephalopod again. I decided I needed one of their awesome bags, which has an extra front pocket. Then I had to get four skeins of Bugga! in Nebraska Conehead because I promised myself I'd get one sweater's worth of yarn. I also picked up a skein of Skinny Bugga! in Oleander Nymph because a friend got the same skein last year and I wished it was mine.
When I stopped by (2.) Wonderland Dyeworks, two braids 80%Merino/ 20%Tussah Silk in Coral Reef had to come home with me because the fiber glowed. I blame Carol. I will get her back.
I've long admired (3.) Spincycle Yarns, but I hadn't bought a skein from them until now. I have a whole bunch of things to say about this orange skein, but that will be in a future post. Just know that it is 100% BFL in Fallen Leaves and it has a great backstory on how it came to be. Carol bought a skein too.
I've needed a sweater sized box bag for awhile now. I got one at (4.) A Needle Runs Through It. It has knitting sheep on it. When I got home, a sweater moved into it immediately. And rumor has it her bags are going to be stocked at Green Planet Yarn in the future. I can see money flying out of my wallet already.
I also stopped by (5.) Slipped Stitch Studios when I wasn't with anyone and picked up a miPattern Wallet with magnetic bookmarks. It is nifty and will be much more useful than my current pattern system. Bonus: it is the color of my blog.
I wandered over to (6.) Ann Weaver's booth which also had Neighborhood Fiber Co. yarn. Ann is awesome. And I'm not just saying that because she liked my shawl. (That was just a bonus.) I picked up a copy of her book White Whale vol.2 because I must make the Ambergris sweater. I have no idea when I'll have time, but it will be mine one day. I also got a skein of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock in Georgetown. It is an electric purple and it is superwash. I plan on remaking my crazy purple bike socks sometime. I'm still disappointed that I accidentally chose non-superwash wool for the last pair. It isn't practical for a pair of bike socks.
I always like going by the (7.) Village Spinning And Weaving booth. I got three Japanese knitting books. One is a stitch dictionary and the two others are about socks. I haven't a clue what the titles are, but the diagrams are good enough to knit from.
For quite awhile I have admired (8.) Greenwood Fiberworks on etsy. I finally got my hands on two braids. The purple braid is the Enchanted colorway and the blue braid is Blue Eyes. They are part of the new Sock Roving line that is 80%Superwash Merino/ 20%Nylon. The last pair of socks I handspun wasn't superwash. I've learned that all my handknit socks need to be superwash for me to wear them regularly.

Stitches West was great. I had a bunch of great conversations and met some really neat people. And when I got home, I found that for the first time in two years, I actually have a life direction. I've felt like I was bumbling around, but at least for now, I feel like I know what I'm working for. And that is worth more than all the yarn in the world. Well... almost all the yarn.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Celestarium In The Wild

This past weekend I spent time at Stitches West. And I'm proud to report that I saw some Celestarium shawls in the wild! 
I was introduced to the first one through a friend because it was still a WIP. Marie is closing in on finishing her version, which is made of Colinette Jitterbug. It looks great already.
Standing in the Abstract Fiber booth

I heard Alison (on the right), was going to be at Stitches, so we arranged to meet up. She did her version in a laceweight by JaggerSpun and added a border to give it more heft. Pictures do not do it justice. Later on, whenever we passed each other in the market place, we pointed to each other and shouted something like, "Awesome shawl!" 
My buddy David is on the left

The sighting of this version was truly serendipitous. I met up to have a dinner with the South Bay Knitters. As we were leaving, my buddy Vivian said, "Hey, isn't that a Celestarium?" The owner in question was outside, walking to her car. So Vivian and I did what was only logical; we ran after the Celestarium yelling, "Is that a Celestarium?!" Jen was kind enough to stop and let us take a bunch of pictures. Her version is made of Tosh Merino Light in the Volga colorway.
At Pedros

The last sighting was one that I did know about. This Celestarium was at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth.It was the version I knit up for Twist Collective out of Blue Moon's Seduction in the Haida colorway. I had gotten an email a few weeks ago asking if Blue Moon could borrow the shawl to display at their booths at Madrona and Stitches West. After doing a little dance in front of the computer, I sent a polite "Yes."
Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth

Stitches West was loads of fun. The inevitable "Loot I Got At Stitches" post will be coming up soon. And let me tell you, I did some damage.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tribute To My Opa

Last week my Opa passed away. He was surrounded by loved ones, including my Oma. I thought I'd share a few things about him. 
My Opa, Reinhard, was born in the Westfalia region of Prussia, before Prussia became Germany. His father worked in a coal mine boiler room. His mother was a seamstress and tailor.
 My Opa, with his parents and older sister, Ruth.

He studied to become a mechanic and welder. But a few weeks before he was able to take his final test for his degree, his visa came through to leave Germany. The choice was to either stay in a war-torn post WWII Germany, or go to a new land. He chose to travel to Canada while he had the chance. He met my Oma on the boat. He played his lute and was popular with the ladies. My Oma was seasick the whole time.

His nephew learned his lifelong love of planes from my Opa. As a 5-year-old in Germany, Peter, the nephew had hammered two pieces of wood together in a cross arrangement and wiggled the two pieces around pretending it was a plane. Opa explained to him how a plane really worked. (The nephew is not pictured below).
My Opa is in the cockpit, my Mum is to the right. 

My Opa passed down the art of taking a proper roadtrip. The goal of the trip wasn't to get to a place as fast as possible. He encouraged taking the backroads. And it was just fine to stop for a second breakfast.
 Opa taking a "second breakfast" in the Mojave.

We had many lovely years with him. Towards the end of his life, he did have Alzheimers. My Oma served him faithfully to the end. Although he didn't talk for the last few years of his life, we knew he understood things just fine when we visited. He would always tear up and we'd get his classic bear hug.
My Opa and his sister Ruth

The last time I saw my Opa, I was able to show him the majority of the knits for The Book. He looked and touched every one of them. I was able to let him know that he was one of the reasons this book could even happen. And I also let him know that his compass and one of his coins from his coin collection would be appearing as props with one of the knits. That night I received the strongest hug I had ever gotten from him, despite his growing weakness. There isn't a better goodbye that could be had.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Knitwear Photography Pt. 4: Lighting Situations

Last week I talked about f stops, shutter speeds, and ISO settings. While all of these are needed to created a balanced photo, the most important thing was left out: light. Photography is painting with light and different conditions can give you vastly different looks. For the sake of our series, I will be talking about creating photos that show off yarn and knits (your product) in a more accurate way as opposed to a purely artistic way. (Silhouettes are wonderful to use artistically, but typically do not show off products well.) This week's model is a skein of Canon Hand Dyes in the Fall Leaves colorway, Charles base.

Frequently, the biggest no-no that you'll hear about in product photography is not to use direct light. There is nothing wrong with using direct light, but it is more difficult to achieve good results. There are more factors to take into account such as where shadows are going to fall. It is also quite easy to over or under expose parts of the picture. This is especially true if you are using a model. Skin is notoriously difficult to get an even exposure in direct sun. It can compete heavily with trying to get a correct exposure of your product. The background you choose for your product will also factor in how difficult it is to get an even exposure. 

It is, however, not impossible to get a good picture in direct sun. It is simply more difficult. You can do quite a bit to influence your lighting. One option would be to wait for, or move into the shade. There are no harsh shadows to compete with. The trade off is that there is less light, so you may need a tripod if you need a longer exposure time. If you need to shoot in direct sun but don't want to deal with the difficulty in getting an even exposure, you can use a diffuser. The one I invested in also has options that make it a reflector as well. But just about any semi-opaque object can work as a diffuser, such as a white sheet. In the diffuser image below, you'll notice that there is still a shadow. It is just less harsh than in the direct sun. Your last option is to wait for a cloudy day. Clouds are nature's diffuser. 
I'd like to note that all four images were taken with the same f stop. I only changed the shutter speed to accommodate the changes in lighting.

If you are shooting in direct light, using a reflector can do a lot to help create a well exposed image. The reflector I have has four different reflector options along with the diffuser. The color options are white, silver, black, and gold. 

In the following images, I chose to leave the camera settings all the same. This means that some images are over or under exposed. But I wanted you all to see what a reflector can do.
In the image with no reflector, you can see that the yarn is both over and under exposed. The image with the diffuser being used is simply under exposed. And now the magic begins. With the exact same lighting conditions, a reflector can even out the light and save some otherwise unsalvageable images. The gold reflector can warm up an image whereas the silver reflector can cool the image down. White is used to fill in light in a neutral tone. And black can be used to help absorb light and reduce glare. Although I find myself using the black reflector the least, it can be quite useful when shooting near reflective surfaces, such as a lake or glass building. And keep in mind that you can use fabric, paper, or any other material to bounce light like a reflector. In a pinch, I have had someone who was wearing a white t-shirt position themselves to reflect light. A reflector is just a little easier to transport than poster board or yards of fabric.

And now for the homework.
1. Take two pictures of the same object in a spot gets direct sun and shade. Take one image in direct sun and one in shadow.
Bonus: When the object is in direct sun, see if you can reflect some light into the shadows and get a more even exposure.
2. Using backlight, take three pictures of the same object. One with no reflector, one using something white (like a piece of paper) to reflect the light into the shadows, and one using something metallic (like a toaster or cookie sheet) to reflect light.
Bonus picture: Use something colored, like a green shirt or towel, to reflect light.

I think that is enough about light for now. In the coming weeks, I plan to start talking about composition. The next photo post will cover some basic composition rules.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cloud Parade

It has been ages since I've taken pictures just for fun. All my photographic effort has gone towards this blog, The Book, or documentation. Well, today our family got some news that my grandfather isn't doing well. Mum and I decided that a little distraction from life would be healthy. We were at the tail end of a storm, so the clouds were pouring over the ridge line. We went up for a look.

The clouds were moving at an incredible rate, but there was hardly a whisper of wind on the ridge itself. 

Every now and then the clouds would clear. Wind would rustle the leaves, disturbing the remaining raindrops out of the canopy.

We warmed ourselves in the sun. Mum asked where the autofocus was on the camera.  

Crows circled overhead. Their feathers caught the light every once in a while making the birds themselves appear white.

We stayed until the last of the clouds had paraded by.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Knitwear Photography Pt. 3: Exposure

Last week I talked about lenses. You guys left me some excellent feedback, so instead of talking about lighting and reflectors this week, I'm going to talk about the finer points in getting the right exposure. When showing off yarn and garments, the goal is to get a balanced photo with even lighting. In your arsenal, you have the f stops (size of the aperture), the shutter speed, and the ISO.

The f stop, or focal ratio, affects the amount of light that comes in as well as the depth of field. The smaller the f stop number, the larger the aperture is, the shorter the depth of field is. This means that a camera set to f/1.4 will have a lot of light come in, but the trade off is that only a thin slice of the photo will be in focus. Often times this is ideal if you want to have much of the photo out of focus. But if you need to get a whole skein into focus a smaller aperture needs to be used, such as f/9. Typically, any f stop over f/8 will allow the entire photo to be in focus.
In most cases, you'll be setting the aperture before the shutter speed in order to determine the depth of field, or how much of the photo is in focus. 

The shutter speed determines how long the light is allowed to hit the sensor. The numbers represent length of time the shutter is open. 1/100 means light hits the sensor at one hundredth of a second and 1/1000 means light hits the sensor at a thousandth of a second. Typically, you won't need a tripod for any shutter speed above 1/60. Lower than 1/60 and you'll need a tripod or to put the camera on a hard surface. Sometimes, despite using a tripod, your images can come out shaky at lower shutter speeds. This is because you are shaking the camera just by pressing the button. There are two ways to fix this. With film cameras, a shutter release cord was used. But with my digital camera, I set the self timer instead.
In most cases, you'll choose your f stop, then you'll match a shutter speed to it in order to get the light balanced. But you can get some interesting effects by changing the shutter speed. In the photos below there is water running in the background. The faster shutter speeds are able to freeze the water droplets whereas the slower shutter speeds allow the water droplets to look more like streaks. If you've ever seen a photo of the ocean where the water looks milky, the photo was taken at a slower shutter speed, usually in the range of 1/8.

Lets say that you have set your aperture and shutter speed to capture a photo in a particular way, but the photo is still coming out too light or dark. You can change the ISO. ISO stands for International Standard for Organization. Like the shutter speed, the numbers also refer to how fast light is captured by the camera. ISO 640 means light is being captured at 1/640 of a second. But unlike the shutter speed, it does not determine how long the shutter is open. Originally it referred to the grain of the film. Silver crystals in film would capture an image when exposed to light. The smaller the crystals, the finer the grain, the more light was needed to get a correct exposure. Bigger crystals could capture light faster, but the resulting image would look grainy because you were seeing the actual crystals.
These days, most DSLR cameras can capture clear pictures at high ISO readings because the sensors are so sensative. But at very high ISO numbers, such as 6400, you can start seeing graininess in the photo because bigger portions of the sensor are needed to capture the light faster. In most cases, it is hardly noticeable until you blow up the image. As for me, I often leave my camera at ISO 640. I find it gives me a clear image with more leeway in choosing the aperture and shutter speed.

And now for the bit I've been looking forward to. I'm assigning you all homework. You mission, should you choose to accept it, is to shoot a series of images using what you've learned from this post.
1. Shoot the same picture using three different f stops. (f stop suggestions: f/1.4, f/4, f/8)
2. Shoot the same picture using three different shutter speeds. Be sure there is something moving the background, such as leaves. (Shutter speed suggestions: 1/8, 1/60, 1/250)
3. Take the same image, but set your camera at different ISOs. Determine at what point your images start becoming grainy. Start at the highest setting and work your way down.

Next week I will be talking about using a reflector and how different weather can affect your images. And again, if you have any suggestions for this series, please do share it with me.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Same Habits, Different Excuse

So, my birthday is coming up in two weeks. This means that every time I buy something, I've been using the justification, "It's my birthday present to me." I don't think I'm spending any more or less than usual. It's just the excuse that has changed.
After seeing all of Andi's wonderful self striping sock yarns, I decided to treat myself to my very first self striping yarn. It's the Fall Leaves colorway on the Charles base by Canon Hand Dyes

I've made quite a bit of progress on my Grace cardigan since I last talked about it. I'm about an inch from starting the hem. It's going pretty fast for a fingering weight cardigan. But since most of the knitting has been going on the evening, I hadn't really seen the true color of it until I took this picture. Even though I loved the yarn in skein form, I'm on the fence on how I feel about it knitted up. It's not that I don't like the color, I'm just worried it won't look good on me. I suppose the only way to find out is to finish it.

And now for a little book sneak peek.

As for the knitwear photo series, I have gone back and added some information on focal lengths on the lens post. And after getting some good feedback, I will be talking about f stops, shutter speeds, and ISO settings on the next photo post. The lighting post will come after that. 
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