I visited Nancy Roberts last night to talk about machine knitted blanks to dye for weaving, and was blown away by the design possibilities!
First, with machine knitted blanks, the multiple skeins in lots of different shades that I’ve been doing for my color transitions, aren’t really necessary. Using machine knitted blanks, you can get arbitrarily large lengths of yarn in a particular shade, and by blending the shade smoothly along the rows of the blank, you can ensure a gradual color transition along the lengths of yarn. You can, of course, do the same thing in the weft as well. Thus, gradual, even color transitions without dyeing 24 shades of yarn! The Holy Grail!
Second, it is possible to create precise lengths of a given yarn-segment by knitting one row with a slightly looser tension to indicate the transition-point. This produces a visual “break” in the knitted fabric that enables the dyer to recognize when a certain color should stop. If a sharper break is desired, a few rows of waste yarn can be knitted in to separate the two dyed sections. So if I should want, say, 80 weft shots’ worth of purple, then a 50-weft-shot gradual transition to blue, then a section of blue, etc., Nancy could knit the appropriate number of rows for purple, then make a visual “break”, then knit the appropriate number of rows for the transition, then make another visual “break”. In this way I would be able to place the color changes precisely along either warp or weft. Isn’t this exciting??
A third option is to use a blank with the precise length of one shot of weft, then dye in stripes or circles to get an “ikat weft” effect. I haven’t tried this and think it would require considerable testing to get the length right, but it would be an interesting way of getting vertical weft stripes in the finished fabric. If you timed it so that the length of one shot of weft was just barely smaller (or larger) than the row of the blank, you could get diagonal lines. There are probably other possibilities that I haven’t thought of yet.
Now I am contemplating all sorts of creations! I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed, juggling around a lot of different options, but this is really exciting. Complex colors! Complex structures! Wow!
Nancy also showed me her computer-assisted machine knitting. This is really neat stuff! I had eschewed hand knitting as being too boring, and too low a ratio of creativity/thinking to execution – have one idea, spend 100 hours knitting it up. But machine knitting, especially computer-assisted, is something totally different! You can think up an idea, design it, and knit it all in one afternoon. Makes weaving look as time-consuming as knitting used to! (But don’t worry, I have no plans to give up weaving.)
Anyway, these are marvelous discoveries. Nancy is knitting up two blanks for me right now, and will knit two more after I have a chance to plan out exactly what I want. She is going on vacation October 4, though, so I will have to plan quickly if I want to get things done on this warp!