Showing posts with label strange and unusual yarns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strange and unusual yarns. Show all posts

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Knitted Art of Movena Chen

Movana Chen is a Hong Kong-based artist who studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Hong Kong. Since 2004 she has been working in the medium of knitted art, specifically knitting with recycled fibres from old newspapers and magazines. She sees her work as the opposite of book-burning, which is an act of hate and destruction, while her work transforms a communication medium into another form of communication: art objects, and wearable art.

I especially enjoyed Chen's series of photographs depicting her travels around Paris with one of her knitted forms, which showed some Parisians interacting with her work.

You may check out more of Chen's work (she is also quite a good photographer) and read her own thoughts on her work on her website.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Some Yakety Yakking about Yak Yarn

If you like yak yarn, or wish to try working with some, you might consider buying it from The Rocking Yak. About a decade ago Bret Colledge, the founder of The Rocking Yak, was backpacking through the mountain villages in southwest China and was struck by the poverty and desperation of the Tibetan people there. He decided he had to help them by giving them a way to support themselves and their families, and so formed The Rocking Yak company, which employs Tibetan women who use their traditional spinning and knitting skills to produce high-quality hand-produced yak fibres, yarn, and garments.

Spinners can buy The Rocking Yal's fibres and spin and dye them into their own yarn. Knitters can purchase The Rocking Yak yarn, which comes in its natural brown, a dyeable cream, and a few hand-dyed colours, and is available in light, medium, and bulky weights. The Rocking Yak also offers a few very basic knitting patterns for free. If you are a non-knitter or don't care to add yet another item to your already endless list of projects, The Rocking Yak sells some hand-knitted items.

Some stores in U.S., Canada, and China sell Rocking Yak yarn; for those of us who don't live near one of the stores on the list, Rocking Yak's products are available online, and they offer free shipping on U.S. orders over $30. I've had no dealings with The Rocking Yak or with yak yarn myself, but I've looked at the all the projects made with The Rocking Yak yarn on Ravelry, and I see a lot of beautiful items and no complaints whatsoever.

Here's a slide show of the Tibetan knitters and spinners and other The Rocking Yak employees at work, with bonus shots of some unsuspecting yaks, who have no idea how their down (which is gathered after they've shed it, not shorn) is helping the people they live among.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Today's Knitting is Yesterday's News

If you're still one of those who indulge in the delightfully archaic practice of reading the newspaper on actual newspaper, or if your local newspapers are so desperate to entice you to do so that they leave freebies on your front porch, you may be wondering what to do with the paper once you've read it. Well, if you're a knitter, you can turn it into yarn and knit things with it. Back in 2007, Design Academy Eindhoven student Greetje van Tiem, from the academy's Man and Leisure department, presented a graduation show project that involved old newspapers into yarn that can be woven into carpets, curtains and upholstery. Accordng to van Tiem, each sheet of newspaper yields twenty yards of yarn.

Italian artist Ivano Vitali, who is interested in zero waste art and was experimenting with tapestries made of backdated newspapers, plastic bags, eggshells and aluminum foil nearly forty years ago, now works almost exclusively in recycled newsprint.

Vitali makes not only art installation, but newspaper garments that are not only quite attractive but even wearable. He produces different colours in his garment by carefully pre-sorting the newspapers before producing the yarn. And these are remarkably well-cut styles, but I can't help wondering what would happen if one got caught in the rain in newsprint knitwear. Mightn't it disintegrate completely?

I don't think for instance, that I'd have the nerve to go swimming in this Ivano Vitali-made bikini.

If you'd like to give knitting with newsprint a try, you might begin by checking out this Craftster tutorial on how to make newspaper yarn.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Getting Shirty

If you're into upcycling or simply can't bear to let your favourite but worn t-shirts go, Relevé Design can tell you how to make t-shirt yarn. Figuring out what to do with the resulting balls of t-shirt yarn may be more of a challenge. I'm less than impressed by the suggested projects at the bottom of Relevé Design's page, and was underwhelmed by what I came up with via Google image searches and on Ravelry. T-shirt yarn is simply too bulky to use in knitwear. People make pom-poms out of them (for what purpose I don't know), weird rope necklaces, lumpy-looking headbands, and kitschy belts.

I think your best bet is to stick with décor items such as baskets, cushions, and rugs. You'll probably be braiding rather than knitting, and you'll need to know how to work with colour and have a good eye for design in order to get attractive results, because you're going to be working with small amounts of each colour. The classic braided rug seems to be the most generally successful t-shirt yarn project. The beautiful rug above was made by Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated. I bet it feels awesomely soft and cushiony to walk on.

If you've made a successful t-shirt yarn project, feel free to link to it in the comments!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Go For the Gold... Yarn

Next in the "they can make yarn out of anything" category, we have... gold yarn. This Buffalo Gold yarn, brought to us by The Buffalo Wool Co. which specializes in bison yarn, is 3-ply fingering-weight made from 100% pure bison down twisted with pure gold wrapped around silk. This is a special edition yarn that may be gone before this piece on it even posts. Buffalo Wool Co. promises us that this yarn is "ready for scarves and shawls that will become a heirloom in the making". At $175(USD) per 2oz/57g hank, it had better be an heirloom lovely enough to pacify your children for the correspondingly smaller size of their college funds. I'm not tempted to buy this yarn as I look terrible in gray and don't care for the colour combination of gray and gold anyway, but I would like to touch it. I can't help wondering how those glints of gold would feel against the face. Mightn't they be a bit stiff and scratchy?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A String of Pearls

In the fall of 2012, Vogue Knitting celebrated its 30th anniversary (for this reincarnation, that is, as the original Vogue Knitting was in publication from 1932 to 1969) with a special pearl-themed issue. In 2007, they had similarly celebrated their 25th anniversary with a silver issue. They did not use the concept for their tenth issue in 1992, but I suppose it's hard to get inspired by the idea of relating tin to knitting. I am, however, looking forward to their forthcoming coral, ruby, sapphire, gold, emerald, and diamond issues.

At any rate, besides featuring a number of pearl bead-encrusted designs such as sweaters, skirts and lace stockings, Vogue Knitting also promoted a special pearl yarn that the New Zealand company Zealana produced especially for the occasion. Pearl yarn production employs a cellulose spinning method that permanently fuses powder made from crushed pearls to tencel fibre. The resulting yarn, which is 50% pearl, 50% tencel, is supposed to be luminous, to feel velvety to the touch, to smooth and moisturize the skin and to lighten freckles, and more prosaically to also be breathable, moisture-wicking and even block ultra-violet rays.

Zealana produced 500 skeins of this yarn, priced at $40(USD) a skein, and each one was numbered and placed in a black velvet jewelry box, like, well, a strand of pearls. One hundred skeins went to String Yarns in New York City and sold out overnight, and the other 400 skeins, which went to stores across the U.S., will almost certainly be all sold by now. The Yarn Sisters has exclusive distribution of the yarn, and had another lot of it earlier this month, but also seems to have sold out of that. I doubt it's possible at present to buy more pearl yarn, but if you are as avid to possess a skein as any of the characters in John Steinbeck's The Pearl, you might keep an eye on The Yarn Sisters via their Facebook and Ravelry pages and see if they offer another lot in future.

I have to admit I would love to get a skein or two, even though $40 a skein is much more than I would normally pay, but hey, compared to vicuña yarn, it's a downright steal, and anyway it's yarn made from pearls, and how amazing is that?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

And You Thought Cashmere Yarn Was an Indulgence

Have you ever wondered what the most expensive yarn in the world is? I did, and googled it, and I believe it's vicuña yarn, which is pictured above, and which costs $300(USD) for a single ounce/28 grams. It doesn't look all that special, does it?

The high price is determined by the scarcity of the yarn and by the difficulty of its procurement and production. The vicuña is a South American animal that lives in the Andes. It's a relative of the llama, and possibly also related to the alpaca. The vicuña can only be sheared every three years, those who want to shear it have to capture it first (it's difficult to domesticate the vicuña because they are very good escapists), and then they only get about a pound of wool from each animal for their efforts. Vicuña wool is the finest in the world with a 12 micrometre diameter, and valued for its exceptional warmth. It's very sensitive to chemical dyes and so usually remains its natural cinnamon colour.

According to Incan legend, the vicuña was the reincarnation of a beautiful young woman who received a beautiful coat of gold in order to disguise and protect her from the advances of an ugly old king. Because of this it was against Incan law to kill a vicuña, and only Incan royalty could wear its fleece.

The vicuña is still a protected animal, having been an endangered animal during the early seventies with an estimated population of 6,000. Now that the vicuña population has increased to approximately 300,000, this danger seems past, but the Peruvian government is still working to protect vicuñas from poaching, loss of natural habitat, and other threats, and also controls the production of its yarn to reserve its profits for the local people. About 50,000 pounds of vicuña yarn is illegally smuggled out of Peru annually. All this is to say... I wouldn't recommend that you buy any cut-rate vicuña yarn if you get a chance.

I'm not about to rush out and buy any at the going rate, either. An economic concept called "the law of diminishing returns" comes into play here, by which it is meant that the benefits of spending more money for a greater quality and quantity of material goods level off after a certain point. There's no denying that cashmere yarn is better quality than acrylic, that it's warmer, softer, more attractive, and more pleasurable to wear. But at some point in buying luxury items, a cost-benefit ceiling is reached. Once you are reasonably protected from the elements by your garments and have more beautiful sweaters and scarves and other items than you can wear regularly, you're really paying for things like the rarity value of an item and the cachet of their ownership. Not to say that you're wrong in that, especially when by buying vicuña wool you're helping to support industry in the none too economically advantaged Andes villages, but for most of us cashmere is luxurious enough.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A Tall Muskox Yarn

One day in the summer of 2004, my parents, who were on a road trip to Alaska and the Yukon, called me from their car so that my dad could ask me if I wanted any muskox yarn. I said, uh, sure, and he asked me what I wanted to make with it, adding the caveat, "Not an afghan. It's pretty expensive." I told him to surprise me. My father is very much a process-oriented person and was very excited by the whole concept of my making something out of such an unusual and exotic yarn. My mother, a relentlessly practical woman, interjected things like, "It's too expensive to be worth it!" and "She'll have to hand wash it!"

Dad came back from their Alaskan road trip with a hat kit for me, and I knitted a little brown cap for myself. Mum told me how much it cost and said I was not allowed to ever throw it out, that if I got tired of it I had to give it back to her so that she could shadow box it or something.

I'm not sure I ever would have thought yarn could be made from muskox hair. It doesn't look like a feasible project. But I am increasingly realizing that yarn can be made out of virtually anything. The muskox has a two-layered coat, and the yarn, called by the Inuit word "qiviut", is made from the soft underwool. The muskox sheds this layer every spring. The muskox aren't sheared as sheep are. The wool the yarn is made from is gathered from the pelts of hunted muskox, gathered from the wild during the molting season, or obtained from farmed muskox. Qiviut is stronger and eight times warmer than sheep's wool, and is softer than cashmere.

You'll be glad to hear you don't have to have parents who travel to Alaska to get muskox yarn of your own. In Alaska, the Musk Ox Producers' Cooperative, which is owned and operated by native Alaskans, sells hand-knitted qiviut items. Because the muskox yarn and knitting industry was developed to give the indigenous population of Alaska gainful employment, the co-operative doesn't sell much yarn, but they do sell the cap kit my father bought for me.

Alternatively, the Quebec company Cottage Craft Angora has, besides some hand-knitted items, 100% qiviut yarn for sale in not only its natural brown but in a range of attractive dyed colours, and in both 2- or 3-ply. At $39 a skein, it's probably not a purchase you'll make lightly, but keep in mind you are getting an unusual and high-quality product and helping to support a grass roots industry in an economically challenged region.

If you really feel like splurging, Cottage Craft Angora also has hand-painted qiviut/silk blend yarn for $150 a skein. Much more attainable is their superwash blend, which is 10% qiviut, 10% cashmere, 10% bamboo and 70% superwash merino, or their qiviut/angora blend yarn. They offer other yarns as well.

And keep in mind... even if you don't ever own any qivuit yarn, you have learned a great new word that will allow you to triumph over your next Scrabble opponent.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Yarn of the Dog

They say pets and pet owners tend to resemble each other. This may or may not be true, but while you may not look like your pet, or want to, you can dress like your pet. Knitting with Dog Hair by Kendall Crolius apparently tells you how in comprehensive detail and includes bonus info about how to do the same thing with cat hair. It's out of print, but there are some copies of Knitting With Dog Hair available on Amazon. Among the mostly positive Amazon reader reviews, there's one which raves,

I found this to be an excellent book. So far I have made a pair of otter skin gloves, mousefur socks and a Gerbil Thong. I plan on making a bearskin bra for for my wife and a chipmunk purse. Without this book I would never have discovered the joys of Animal fur knitting!!!

I don't think the Amazon reader reviews' far-reaching potential as a means of subversion is generally realized.

Some people have actually acted on the advice in the book and had sweaters made from their dogs' hair. You can see a gallery of pets and pet-hair-wearing owners here, and I must admit some of the sweaters aren't totally unattractive.

But one word of advice.... if you decide to make a sweater with your dog's hair, be sure not get caught in the rain while wearing it. You'll smell, perhaps unsurprisingly, like a wet dog.