Category Archives: entrelac

Is This a Bag I See Before Me?

Ah, remember my plan to knit a messenger bag using Entrelac? Here’s how it looked in April of this year.

Entrelac messenger bag in process.

Entrelac messenger bag in process.

The plan was to finish it, then felt it severely, affix a strap and voila, a beautiful, hand-made, unique messenger bag for me. Here’s the bag finished with a lovely flap knit right in, I-cord bind off. Looking good.

The bag open. Note my foot for size comparison.

The bag open. Note my foot for size comparison.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men” you say. Indeed. I finished the bag and went off to Spain before I found an opportunity to felt it. It looked bulky but I was looking forward to getting it into the wash and shrinking it down to wearable size.

Hah! Sounds so easy, doesn’t it. A couple of weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and got the bag into the bathtub where I was going to felt it with bath tub temperature water and a broom for agitation. You know how that went, I bet. It didn’t take long to realize that I was not the equal of a good washing machine.

But the problem is that I don’t own a washing machine – we use the machines supplied by our building which are housed in the basement. But since that was the only available machine, I took the soaking wet, heavy-as-lead bag down to the nether reaches of the building and dumped it unceremoniously into the machine, set the dial for hot water, threw in a pair of jeans as extra insurance and turned the thing on, then left it alone for the required half hour. I figured it would never felt to small, so no worries about that.

Back to the basement where I threw the mass into the dryer, set the dial, and let it go for an entire hour of heat pumping in – our dryers really put out heat, so I figured that could only help. Then I did my best to clean the lovely lint off the sides of the washing machine.

After it finished and was indeed bone dry, I took it out, cleaned out the lint trap and took the thing upstairs, where I showed it to my husband. Hmmm, not exactly small, this bag. Here’s what it looked like spread out on the hassock.

The bag after felting

The bag after felting

It looks a little big, doesn’t it? A little. Here’s a close up of the felting – not quite as good as I’d hoped. But you can see the lovely I-cord bind off really well.

Felting close up

Felting close up

Yes it was bigger than expected. “How big?”, you ask.┬áReally big. Well, my husband demonstrated that for me a couple of days after I did my felting. I was out knitting and when I got home, this is what he showed me.

Bag? Or Pillow?

Bag? Or Pillow?

Yep, this little baby is stuffed with a full-sized pillow, one with a pillow sham on it. And yes, that is a human-sized chair it’s gracing. Big? An understatement. Let’s say I’m not going to be carrying this around slung over my shoulder with a great looking strap. As a matter of fact it is about the right size to be a carpet-bag, which would be great if this was the Dirty 30’s and I was an itinerant salesmen, but it ain’t and I’m not, so there will have to be other solutions.

I have had suggestions – and yes, pillow is one. I polled a few people and asked what they thought of me cutting it down and making it messenger bag sized. But that would mean the edging would be missing from one side. One of my consultees suggested I could do that, then call it a “Deconstructed Aesthetic” (thanks, Rodger). Anyone else with suggestions for this rather large piece of fabric (which took hours of my time, and lots of yarn but not costly stuff, thank heaven) is welcome to comment and give an opinion. I’m looking forward to it as a matter of fact.

Anarchist Knitter Me!

I have a confession. I have considered entrelac one of my least favourite looks in knitting. I have seen some bad entrelac – a sweater in pale blue and white that made the woman wearing it look a lot like the Michelin man. It somehow seemed to be a technique that was more interesting in the theoretical sense than in real life.

But recently I have been guilty of actually knitting entrelac myself. And why? Because I feel that I need to learn more about knitting – to become a better knitter and to add to my knowledge of how knitting works. I have been discovering a few things and have recently been inspired by Anna Zilboorg’s Knitting for Anarchists. I told a friend that and he looked at me as if I had two heads – and immediately told me that I was no anarchist – to him I was a rule bound knitter who thought there was a right way and a wrong way to knit, and perhaps even that I thought that my knitting was the “right way”.

(I have included a link to the Amazon entry for Zilboorg’s book because if you scroll down far enough you will find several reviews that give you a better understanding of the book’s premises. One of the reviews is actually by Cat Bordhi.)

I admit it, I am certainly a rule follower, I like to follow a pattern, even though I have certainly done without. And I think I have been breaking out of that rule-bound shell. If you look back at my recent blog you can see my Elizabeth Zimmerman Seamless Hybrid Shirt Yoke sweater, which gave me a lot of unease, but which I feel I completed very successfully, even though I needed a little hand holding by a few fellow knitters to get through it.

But that wasn’t the first time I had knit an EZ sweater. I don’t have pictures, but in fact, about 20 years ago, I knit an EZ ski sweater in the round, using two colours, steeks and my own blocked out designs. So I certainly had a sense of adventure back then. I have also thrown myself into knitting lace, from a pattern, yes, but bravely, learning the ins and outs of the pattern as I went.

But let me get back to Entrelac. That friend I mentioned earlier has knit several entrelac pieces recently, including a sweater from a book called Out of Africa which he adapted as he went. The sweater is redeemed as well by the fact that it was knit in very fine yarn, so there is none of that puffiness that a larger yarn makes almost inevitable.

So I decided that I was not afraid to knit entrelac and that I would find a project to do. And since I have been knitting socks, and reading about knitting anarchy, I searched around and found the perfect project, the Entrelac Socks, designed by Vickie Starbuck, in Socks, Socks, Socks, edited by Elaine Rowley. The socks are done in the round, they are toe-up, they are entrelac – what more could I want. And I took my anarchist lessons to heart and taught myself how to purl backwards so that I could do the socks without constantly switching from one side to the other.

I was also inspired by the Yarn Harlot. A few weeks ago she posted a blog entry about the Toronto Pride Parade, and shared some of her yarn recommendations for Pride. And I happened to have a ball of Rainbow dyed sock yarn from Lorna’s Laces which has been in my stash about two years. Time to do something with it. So here’s your first look.

I have already finished sock number one. But there was I a little problem – sock number two would be a challenge since the yarn for it had already been knit into a hat. That hat was Half Dome from Knitty.Com. And I posted a picture of it on my blog way back in 2006. Here it is.

And here it is next to its friend the sock.

So obviously there was a dilemma here. But easily solved. I would rip the hat back, because to be honest I was never going to wear that hat, and nobody I knew was going to wear it either. And that gave me another challenge – what to do with yarn that has been a hat for two years. Boy, is it crinkly when it is frogged.

However, still acting as anarchically as possible for me, I remembered reading about how to get the crinkles out of knitting, so I first wound the yarn into a hank over the back of one of my chairs, then ran a nice sink of hot water, and after tying off the hank, I hurled it into the water and swished it around for a minute or so – and to my delighted surprise, it seemed that the crinkles came out instantly. I took the hank out, squeezed it to get out some of the water (someone suggested maybe I didn’t need to be as vigourous with the drying as I had described in an email), and then laid it on a towel to dry. A day later, that yarn was ready for knitting and I was happy because I could really consider that I could wear my Rainbow Entrelac socks at our upcoming Gay Pride Parade here in Vancouver.

So here I am, working on my anarchist skills, and knitting up a storm with some wild Rainbow socks. For those of you who like to get up close and personal, here is another look at my sock as it was growing under my needles. I’m working on sock two and it will certainly be finished in time for the parade. Look for me on the street – look down to see my socks, worn with Pride and a sense of accomplishment.

OMG – I just discovered that our friend The Yarn Harlot has knit the same entrelac socks, but her experience was somewhat interesting. Just for the record, I followed the instructions (such an anarchist) and had none of the problems that the Yarn Harlot had first, but which she apologizes for misunderstanding.
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