Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chessboard progress

Finally have been able to do some more work on this project, although I have been spacing it out over the week.

The first cut

Tuesday: I needed four dowels, 62.5 cm each. Of course, that's just over 24.5 inches, which meant that I couldn't get two out of a four-foot dowel (strange how lumber is still sold in Imperial sizes here in metric Canada), and was lucky enough to find three-foot ones at Canadian Tire. Note that I'm cutting a little longer than the marked length -- I generally do this when working with dowels so that I can sand them down smooth and eliminate any minor splintering when sawing.

Rough fit

So I got all four cut, and thought I'd take a quick look to see how they would look with my copper elbows. The ends fit fine, even before sanding, so I figured that a quick once-over with some 180 grit would be all I needed to prep for staining.

Sanded and stained

Wednesday: Because I have been worked a lot with oak in the past (with light/night, among other projects), it was a pretty easy decision to stick with it.

One of the things I like about oak is that it's predictable with the stain I've been using (Varathane's Mission Oak), looks pretty good even just clear-coated (Minwax Satin Finish Polyurethane), and smells heavenly when I sand it.

I had originally planned to do one coat of stain, followed by a coat of polyurethane, but given the dowels aren't exactly going to be submitted to a lot of wear or exposure, I think they look fine with just the stain.

Dry fit

Thursday (today): I still need to properly block the knitting, as the vagarities of my handspun and my knitting style (hey, I'm human!) have resulting in some not-exactly-perfectly-square squares, but I thought I should check first to see how much room I'd have to stretch the ones that need tweaking.

The answer is "not much" and I'm OK with that. I'm going to wait until I've got one chesspiece knitted before I get rigourous about it.

It's nice that everything fits pretty much as I've designed it, with the dowels snug but not tight in the sleeves, the copper elbows comfortably on the dowel ends, and the knitting relatively straight. Fingers crossed that the pieces go as quickly.

And in the post yesterday arrived the found clumps of wool (white and dark) from the Isle of Lewis that Melissa Jay Craig retrieved for me on her trip there over the summer. They're a little felted together, but not irrepairably so, I hope: a gentle soaking and light teasing should loosen them up.

I'm going to needlefelt the dark to outline some of the cables and other bits on one of the kings, which echos how the originals were coloured to determine which side each piece belonged to.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Major Progress

Chessboard complete

Needs washing and blocking, but other than that, the chessboard is finished.

Once I get started, it's hard to slow me down -- I got a lot of work done on this piece during the Olympics!

I've now started working on the chess pieces, and I think I'll be saving myself a lot of grief by knitting (in larger needles and yarn!) one of the kings up before I take on doing it for real with the tussah/camel. The thought of having to frog the thread (and likely more than once) is not an appealing one, so if I can get the bugs worked out first on a bigger version, I should be able to just rip through the ones I need.

OK, maybe rip is being more than a tad optimistic: it's going to take me awhile to knit the kings and the berserker, but by the time I finish them, knitting the pawn from looking at the pictures I've got should be less nerve-wracking.

she says fervently, crossing fingers and knocking on wood.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Moving Right Along

A bit more than half-done

I finished the first half of the chessboard yesterday: if I apply myself, I can crank out a lot of 3"-squares in one day (yesterday, it was 11), which means that another two good days of solid knitting, and I'll be done this part of the project. (I also finished the next diagonal of brown squares after I took this picture.)

This morning, I knitted a swatch of the tussah silk/camel down yarn as well (below). Those two giant pins are actually standard dressmakers ones, and there's an inch between the two of them. On the 1.25 mm needles, my gauge is 13 stitches and (roughly!) 21 rows to the inch.

Tiny knitting

Given I need pieces that will mostly cover the squares, I'm looking at something a bit over 100 stitches per piece -- depending on how the patterns fit, that's like 27 or 28 stitches a side.

Knitting the swatch took less than an hour -- I cast on 30 stitches and worked away until I had a bit over a half-inch, as I didn't want to spend my entire day knitting a "full-sized" swatch. I'll use knitting the pawn, which is what I'm going to start with, as a better gauge of the number of rows I'm going to need.

Am very pleased with how well the knitting is going, and how much yarn I actually have left to do the tabs that I'll thread the oak dowels through to form sort of a stretcher system to keep it open and flat.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Progress, at last!

White Finn/Lincoln

The white's been spun.

The brown's been spun.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel for this project, and it's not a train coming towards me.

Unfortunately, I got turned down on the residency application, so I took matters into my own hands and set a goal: join Ravelry's Tour de Fleece (where one spins every day the riders ride in the Tour de France bike race) and finish off the chessboard yarn component of this project.

And I have, with a week to go, no less.

That's the good news: the bad news is that I have a lot less yardage than I probably need to execute the chessboard as I had originally conceived it, with four-inch squares, and use some silk noil from my stash for the chess pieces. I opted to three-ply both the white and the brown instead of keeping it two-ply (like the sample several messages below): easier and faster to knit were my main reasons.

Thus, the squares will need to be made smaller, and the silk noil is going to be just too bulky to work with. What to do? Dig out a 100 gm bag of 50/50 tussah silk/camel, spin it up in the remaining week of the Tour, and use that for the chess pieces.

So tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday, when the boys are grunting up HC climbs in the Alps or recovering from them, I'll be whirring away on my lace flyer with the fat hollow-core bobbins and spinning from the fold. After filling three bobbins (one a day), I'll two-ply it on Friday and start swatching all over again.

Now, where did I put those 1.25 mm Inox needles?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Let's try this one more time

It's still a project I want to do -- it's just something that I need time, space, technology, and knowledge to execute properly.

So I'm recasting and repitching it for a residency application that's due April 1. They provide everything I need (including travel, housing, materials, equipment, and education): I just hope they want me.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Change of plan, sort of

The sculptural part of this project isn't going to happen according to my schedule: I've just not had enough time or energy to do all the spinning I need to, although sampling the silk noil I will use for the chess pieces has been going as well as can be expected.

(Which means I haven't had time to do much!)

I really wanted to get some different silk to work with (from The Silk Tree), and made a special trip to the Silk Weaving Studio on Granville Island in Vancouver when I was there three weeks ago. Despite a sign saying they were open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the door was locked and the place was dark (and we were there at 12:30 p.m.). hrumph.

Work on the book progresses, however: I've been doing a fair bit of reading about the history of the area where they were found, and have an outline done of what I want to write and draw. The actual process of doing the book itself isn't what's going to take the time, it's all the other prep work.


Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm Rooked


Well, technically, the name of this piece is The Warder....

I finally took the plunge to teach myself how to make monotypes for this project. Using watercolour pencils dry on a detergent-coated frosted mylar sheet, I did a rough sketch of a rook (although not my favourite berserker) from the Lewis Chessman publication put out by the British Museum.

No, it really isn't this colour -- it is, after all, a piece of carved walrus tusk -- but I wanted to see how the pencils would work to make a print, and I'm rather pleased with how it worked, particularly the gentle fuzziness of the image, as I wanted to avoid a photographic look.