Archive for June, 2009

For those of you who don’t know what a ‘magic ball’ is in relation to freeform knitting and/or crochet, it’s a ball made up of varying (or pre-determined) lengths of yarn which not only makes your project more portable for travel but can also create surprises in your finished fabric.

Just for fun I googled ‘magic ball’ and the first result on the list was this one where you get to ask questions of a….uh….ball!  Yeah I know it’s weird…However since the sun was out I asked if it was going to rain and the answer was “you can rely on it”.  And guess what?  It started raining just minutes later!  Then I googled ‘magic yarn ball’ and got completely different results….Most of the results describe a swap where the swappers hide little gifts inside the balls of yarn as they wind them.  Never heard of that version  before! But I digress…..

The reason I’m talking about ‘magic balls’ as they relate to freeform knitting and/or crochet is because members of my Ravelry and Yahoo Freeformation groups are participating in a Magic Ball Challenge.

I’m  just experimenting at present because I quite often have “what if?” moments and the best way to answer myself is to play and experiment. Apart from wrist warmers I’m not sure if any of my explorations will result in an actual item but nonetheless it’s so far been an interesting experiment!

I’ve chosen to use the same colours for all the experiments as an experiment in itself,  just to see how much the different techniques I’m using change the overall look of the fabrics.

Image #1 – Firstly, for the wrist warmers ( my #1 experiment) I used shortish lengths of yarns – anywhere between 30-40cms – and knotted them together leaving ends of approx 5cm(2.5″).  I cast on 38 sts and continued knitting until they were the length I wanted. I left all the ends alone to be worn on the inside of the warmers as they create extra warmth without too much unnecessary bulk.

magic Ball Experiment #1

Magic Ball Experiment #1

Image #3 – Next I knitted a diagonal square.  This time I didn’t want the ends hanging out so I used them to embroider French Knots over the surface.

Magic Ball Experiment #2

Magic Ball Experiment #2

Image #3 – My next experiment is a sample of my “any which way knitting” technique – I’ve included the image of a one colour sample to illustrate directional changes as well as the simplicity of the stitches I use.

Single colour sample

Single colour 'Any Which Way Knitting' technique

Image #4 is a sample using both knitting and crochet (in the ‘any which way” method).  These last two pieces were not made using a magic ball.

AWWK Knit&Crochet

Sample of normal "any which way knitting' with some crochet

Image #5 – The final image is my magic ball version of ‘any which way knitting’, again with the ends used to embroider french knots on the surface.

Sample with ends used to embroider French Knots

Sample with ends used to embroider French Knots

As you can see the difference between the last two images is quite striking.  I expected there to be a difference of course since in the first piece I had total control as to when I changed colour whereas the colour changes in the 2nd piece were determined by the lengths of yarn in the magic ball. In this case the lengths varied from between 30cm(12″) and 40cm(17″)

I’m rather keen on the embroidered ‘any which way’ fabric and I expect this may grow to become a yoke for a vest or a jacket.

In the meantime there are more experiments to do!

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“Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposefully, to cause vibrations in the soul.” -Wassily Kandinsky

Inspiration for design can come from anywhere.  A child’s painting, your backyard, a street in Italy, a brick wall in Cornwall, the Australian outback, a wrought iron fence in any suburb in any city, a favourite painter or a favourite fibre artist.

Doodling and brainstorming can boost creativity although the latter usually requires a group of people sharing ideas but I’m a freeformer so I believe that anything is possible 🙂

This site might be worth a visit. And don’t forgt to click on the 10 Creative Myths link on this site!  Brilliant advice and I couldn’t have said it any better myself!

I particularly like this suggestion I grabbed from Step 4 at the above site …..“freedom inhibits creativity. There are nothing like restrictions to get you thinking.” I occasionally run creative challenges on my Ravelry and Yahoo groups which begin with a certain criteria which could easily be looked on as a restriction.  For example the current challenge is based on a “magic ball” of yarn where differing lengths of yarn are knotted together and then crocheted or knitted. They can then add whatever extras they like and what each participant does with this fabric is entirely up to them.  Past challenges have proven that the above quote is very true.

Some of my favourite painters who I turn to are:

Paul Klee

Wassily Kandinsky


Robert Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay

Marc Chagall

Juan Miro

In fact any of the Expressionists and Impressionists are good creative fodder.  You don’t have to like any of these artists’ work but studying their use of colour and line is an invaulable exercise.

Even if you never create anything from your explorations it’s still beneficial to absorb the possibilities from this kind of creative wandering.

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“Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter. Paul Klee

There are those who don’t believe that even a basic knowledge of colour theory is necessary in order to design successfully. Some of these people, the lucky ones,  fall into the category of those who were born with an innate colour sense.  The rest?  Well….as I said, a little bit of colour theory never hurt anyone….

I had to learn about colour and from the moment I painted the obligatory grey scale at art school I was captivated.  I had fabulous art teachers who encouraged me, taught me to ‘see’, to live dangerously when it came to colour choices and that nothing is precious until it is finished.

I still make mistakes but the making of these mistakes isn’t a negative.  Instead I see them as a continuation of the learning that began over 20 years ago.

Colour sites to explore…..

Colour Formulas

Colour Lovers

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Ever since I bought my first computer, using software to generate design ideas has been one of my most favourite things to do.

Back in the days when I was designing knitwear I used all kinds of different programs.  Creation 6, Kids Pix, Deluxe Paint, Stitch Painter to name a few.

Nowadays I mostly use Garment Designer and Stitch Painter from the Cochenille Design Studio which were developed by Susan Lazear and my all time favourite Gliftex which was developed by Owen Ransen.

Garment Designer and Stitch Painter each have a specific purpose in that you use Garment Designer to design actual clothing patterns for either sewing or knitting or crochet. Stitch Painter is used to create surface designs for knitwear, beading and stitchery.

Gliftex on the other hand, is super useful for many things including surface design ideas for fabric printing, scrapbooking, quilting and creating imagery for polymer clay transfers not to mention ideas for stitching.

Gliftex is my favourite tool for generating colour and design ideas and for helping me overcome creative block.

Here are a few designs Gliftex created in a matter of minutes…

Gliftex2 Gliftex4 Gliftex3

As an added bonus, Gliftex can also be used as a colour scheme aid!

You can download demos of all the software mentioned above by following the links provided.

Then there are fractals!  A wonderful source of inspiration and I used them a lot for my knitwear designs many years ago. They are also incredibly beautiful!  At first the very idea of having to write mathematical formulas scared the hell out of me but I needn’t have worried because there are programs out there that do all the work for  you! You just have to click your mouse buttons!

fractal4 fractal5 fractal6

You can download freeware versions of fractal generators including FracTint and Fractal Explorer from here – I used Fractal Explorer to create the above three images and Sterlingware for the two below.  If you look in my Favourite Things column you will also find a link to a fractal site that will take your breath away! Another site for downloads (including Sterlingware) and great imagery is the Amazing Seattle Fractals site

Sterli Sterli2

Warning: As with any download from the Internet, please remember to run a virus scan on any file before opening it!

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