The Knit that Just Kept Knitting

Seems like it took me forever, but it’s finally finished: my Tempest Striped Cardigan.

Tempest Striped Cardigan

I started this back in December and worked on it here and there since then. I realize my spare time was divided up amongst a lot of things over the past few months: taking a wearable electronics course (god, I have to get to work on my project for that!), taking another jewelry fabrication course, learning how to use metal clay & setting myself up to do that at home (blog post about that to come soon), sewing a few things, and oh yeah, there’s that pesky full time job that I need to keep up if I’m going to pay for all these expensive pastimes.

Anyway, I’m quite pleased with this sweater. I have come to realize that my favourite knitted sweaters are made with DK weight or sock weight yarn. It takes waaay longer than knitting with a thicker worsted-weight yarn, but I love the finer fabric that results so it’s definitely worth it. This sweater was made with Malabrigo sock yarn, a plied, 100% merino yarn that’s really springy — this sweater has a ton of stretch to it and therefore fits quite well. I chose two colourways of yarn that were just a bit too similar to each other (863 Zarzamora and 853 Abril) — so instead of clear, alternating stripes, I’ve got a somewhat stripey mottled look. But the colours are fabulous! Purple is definitely a favourite of mine.

Tempest Striped Cardigan back view

The pattern calls for doing a sewn bind-off on the button bands. I hadn’t heard of this technique before but I intend to use it a lot from now on. It’s done with a tapestry needle and takes longer, but results in a bind-off that has a lot more stretch than the usual method. I highly recommend trying it out if you’ve ever had problems with your bound-off edge not having enough give to it for comfort.

Tempest Striped Cardigan

The only thing I’m not too happy about is the top of the sleeves. The sleeves seemed too narrow and pointy at the tops after following the pattern directions, but I went with it anyway. Turns out I really should’ve bound off at the top of the sleeves about 5 or even 10 rows sooner — you can see in the next picture how that extra length there causes the shoulders to stick up a bit due to that extraneous length there.


Despite the minor problem with the sleeves, this one’s definitely a keeper! I’m finally getting the hang of knitting things I’ll actually wear…and it’s only taken me about 160 knitting projects to figure it out. 🙂

Here’s the link to the Tempest Striped Cardigan pattern by Ann Weaver if you’d like to try it out yourself. And I’ve made notes about mine, including the modifications I made to the pattern, here on my Ravelry project page.

Fabrication class: creating hollow shapes with die forms

I’m taking an Intermediate Fabrication class at Jewel Envy. In the last class we learned how to make a die form to create hollow-form shapes. After 3 hours of intense, focused work, I brought my work home to show my husband.

“Want to see what it took me all goddam class to make?” I asked as I walked through the door. THIS:



“That’s…it?” said Dave. (Now don’t get me wrong, Dave is amazingly supportive and encouraging husband, but both of us are pretty pragmatic and cynical, so we were both on the same page on this.)

Yep, that’s it. It’s a lame little triangle of copper, with one side slightly puffed out or domed and the other flat, and it’s hollow inside. Dave said, “I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t pay 10 cents for this.” Which is Dave’s slightly nicer way of paraphrasing Justin Halpern’s father (of Shit My Dad Says fame) when he said “Listen, I don’t want to stifle your creativity, but that thing you built there, it looks a pile of shit.”

Fair enough! Agreed. I don’t think I can even tart this thing up into a reasonable pendant for a necklace or something — which was the original intent…here’s my sketch; the drawing at the bottom right is what I had in mind:


Nonetheless, here’s what this ‘pile of shit’ copper puffy triangle actually represents…

I learned how to make a die form. This involved sawing a rounded triangular shape out of a sheet of brass then gluing the brass to a wooden block and, using a drill press, then a saw and files, creating a hole in the block the same shape as the triangle.



Having made the die form, I can now make as many puffy little triangles as I want! So if I wanted a whole necklace, say, with a matching pair of earrings, of little puffy triangles, I could do that. I could also create the triangles in other materials such as silver.

To use the die form, I placed a sheet of copper on top and put it into a hydraulic press. The extreme pressure in the press causes the copper to get pressed down into the hollow triangle of the dye form. The higher the pressure, the puffier the triangle, but you have to be careful not to put too much pressure or it can blow a hole through the copper. Then I cut the puffy triangle out of the copper sheet with a saw and filed the edges smooth. Next I soldered the triangle to another flat piece of copper, sealing all the edges, then cut the piece out and filed the edges smooth again.

Even though this first attempt is what Sam Halpern might call a pile of shit, it does mean I’ve learned a new technique for metalsmithing and jewelry making. And in the hands of an experienced artist like Barbara Bayne, this technique results in some gorgeous jewelry. Look at Bayne’s amazing pieces created using die forms:

Die form necklaces by Barbara Bayne

Or this piece by Judith Neugebauer:

jewelry by Judith Neugebauer

Or this cute Copper Puffed Heart Necklace from Michele Grady Designs on Etsy:

Copper Puffed Heart Necklace by Michele Grady Designs

As for me, die forming definitely isn’t my favourite technique I’ve learned so far in my jewelry-making classes, but, as always when I learn a new handcrafting technique, it certainly makes me appreciate how much work goes into creating the tiniest pieces that most take for granted.



Jewel Envy Student Exhibition

I’m actually pretty excited about this. Jewel Envy is having their annual Student Exhibition, showing pieces made by people who took classes there, and I’ve got three pieces in the exhibit. Woot!

Jewel Envy Student Exhibition 2014 postcard

That’s my blurry silver cuff there on the bottom left of the postcard. But check out that ring second from the left. I’m told that guy made that ring in his first class. How annoying is that? I love it! It reminds me of a ring I fell in love with about 20 years ago, but never bought, by a guy named Ivaan who had a small shop on Queen West with a sign out front that said “Getting Married? Come in here before he buys you a slice of pipe with a rock in it.” Yessss. He made really cool rings, one of which indeed became my wedding ring and it looks nothing like a slice of pipe. But the other ring I loved was a large calla lilly with a shard of purple amethyst crystal nestled inside as the stamen. It seemed far too delicate and fragile to actually wear. But Dirk Ave’s (Dirk Ave! — even his name is cool) has made a version that seems really wearable.

Anyway, here’s a better picture of my silver geometric cuff:

Silver Geometric Cuff

I made the cuff in a Beginner’s Fabrication class from a sheet of silver from which I cut out triangles, half circles, and a rectangle. I love wearing this piece.

The other two pieces I’ve got in the show are my Queen of Hearts rings (yeah, I know…they made me give them names when I entered them in the exhibit 😛 ) were from my Beginner’s Casting Class, in which we learned how to do the lost-wax casting process. I blogged about making these pieces here and here. I really enjoyed lost wax casting…something about pouring red-hot molten metal in a process that could go horribly wrong and destroy all the hard work you did carving the form makes me feel all bad-ass Lord of the Rings-ish. Lucky for me, these two rings came through the casting process really well.

Queen of Hearts rings

So Friday’s opening night should be a fun opportunity to hang out at the studio and have a couple of drinks and admire all the amazing work the artisans and students at Jewel Envy create. Come by if you’re in Toronto! Or, feel free to vote for your favourite piece. Do check them out! Lots of fantastic designs.