Open Letter to my “Stitches United” Rya Class

Dear Class,

I decided to share this letter as a blog because there are so many others out there who might be in the same stages of rya learning as you.  Plus, this way, you can all communicate with each other and me by adding comments below.  Maybe even people who were not in the class might ask questions or offer ideas, too!

First let me say, I totally loved being your instructor at Stitches United in Hartford, CT last week.  I now know that people who handle yarn regularly as knitters or weavers have a more natural tendency to grasp the basic concepts of graphing a rya rug.  I can’t wait to see the outcome of your designing work.  You were all so diverse in your designs.

But I also know that once you are away from class it is easy to forget something or find that your knots are doing things that you didn’t intend them to do, so let me know how I can help get you back on track if anything goes wrong.  Here are some typical questions that arise:

What do you do if you skipped a warp bundle and your knots are not lining up as you expected?  It happens to the best of us.  Easy to fix.  First confirm that the knots you are making now look exactly like the knots you were making in class and have not morphed into some mutant knot.  If the knot is fine, but you just skipped a “hole” you can get back on track by either extending another knot to “skip another hole” or use the warp bundle next to the gap twice…overlap a knot. Who would know?  Of course you can pull knots out by the head, and replace them where they belong or just change your design slightly.   I almost never pull out knots to fix a mistake.  If you can get away with fixing a booboo so no one knows it happened, that is an excellent choice.

What if you started making 15-16 knots from each threading, but as you progress, your loops get steadily longer and now, half way through, you realize you are getting 13-14 knots per threading?  You might be okay with the amount of yarn given for this class, but you might run out, and that is not a problem, just an inconvenience.  Best thing would be to cut back on the loop length gradually, and increase the “turn of your scissors to make a slightly greater variation in the pile length of each knot.  No one will know.  😉

Remember the Gray Fireflower design on which you all made your first knots?  I just finished that a couple of evenings ago.  I really like it.  Take a look.

And by the way, remember that horrible-looking chart to help you mathematically calculate the amount of yarn you would need?  I did that chart using Gray Fireflower as the example, and I am ecstatic to say that the quantities of yarn I gathered to make that rya came out perfect with about  7-9 strands extra of every color.  I knew it should work out, but to do those calculations and a couple weeks later have it come out right on target…just thought I’d confirm with you the the system works!

Now I am adding you all to my e-newsletter mailing list as you all gave me permission to do.  I welcome you to send me photos of your rya work and any question you might have.  Post your questions and comments below.  (You might not see your posting right away, since I have a security measure to keep spammers from posting their ads.) I don’t think you can post pictures in the comments, but I can edit this blog and add your photos as you send them.

Thanks and keep in touch…  Melinda Byrd

PS  Here is the first photo sent by Grace with her cat design a little more than halfway done! I love your colors, facial features, and whimsicality! (Grace is already planning her next rya.)

 

And here is Grace’s complete and hanging on the wall!  Amazing…

Here is Karen’s all complete.  She revised the necklace design at the end (due to shortage of a color she was planning to use) but the outcome is very eye-catching!

And this just in from Julia Horgan, inspired by the drawing of the hydrangea flowers and leaves.  Great color blendings.

 

And this just in from Connie!  She had to set it aside for a little while because her life plate became too full–including enjoying the graduation of her son from college!  Looking good! Great technique–actually ALL of you have great technique! (In case you forgot, Connie’s inspiration was the calendar page of the fall colors in the aspen grove–zoomed in.) Love it!

And below is Nancy’s–almost done.  Remember how Nancy loved the traditional Finnish ryijy from one of my catalogs? She redesigned a smaller version as see here, but she also asked me to order the real kit from Finland which should arrive any day now.  We know it will be quite different to knot, but the colors will be spectacular and the yarn finer and softer. (Remember the Finnish skein I showed you in class–how it looked like nice yarn for a sweater?)  So stay tuned on Nancy’s report on the new project!

Remember, rya students, feel free to comment below.

A Challenging Rya–and the story behind it…

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As most of you know, I’m not taking on any big design “jobs” until my rya book is completed.  But early Fall 2015, I received an email so intriguing that I had to find an excuse to tackle this challenge.  So I justified it by deciding to document this project as a lesson for the book.  Mission accomplished.  Here is a sneak preview.

paintingPolly Pook made ryas 40 years ago when she worked for a rya supply company in Illinois. The backing fabric she used was different from what I was familiar with, but she was excited to learn to knot on a backing I had from Sweden from the 70’s which was just the size she wanted.  She and her husband, Peter, live in Ontario.

Peter had painted an oil painting of a Canadian landscape. They wondered if this image could be drawn onto the backing.  I have often told people that pictorial images often do not become good rya designs, but this painting was strong enough in colors and design to hold its own as an abstract scene in rya.  So I said YES I could do it for them, if they would allow me to use it as an example in my book.  They were pleased with the idea and helped me along the way as much as they could.Acetate overlay Pook

First, they bought my yarn and backing samples on etsy so they could match yarn colors to the painting.  (Online photos often to not show the true yarn colors.)  Then Peter traced the painting on a sheet of acetate in order to make a line drawing for me to transpose onto the backing with a laundry marker. (Brilliant!)  I had never known anyone to do this before, but it is all part of simply figuring out in the most logical way how to get a job done.  I love it! They sent me digital images of the painting, the line drawing, and the line drawing with yarn color numbers written in each space–which was extremely helpful for me.Pook line drawing from iPad - cleaned up

I used the grid method to transfer the design from 8 1/2 x 11 paper to 34″ x 55″  backing.  I drew lines on the paper with a ruler and stitched the same proportional lines on the backing. Then with a laundry marker, slowly drew what was in each “square” onto the backing.  I’m not going to say that it was really easy because there actually is quite a bit of detail there, but in the end it came together very nicely. Pook line drawing with numbers 9-16-15Don’t worry–the book will have an easier example of how to draw on a backing.  All the same, isn’t it nice to know that this can be done?

working photoSince the backing being used was a traditional Swedish backing measuring 34″ wide x 55″ long, I knew that it had 85 knots across the row and 95 rows (I counted them).  85 x 95 = 8,075 knots in the whole rya.  Good to know.  I also knew that Polly wanted a pile length of about 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ which calculates to about 300 knots from a Rauma Norwegian skein of rya yarn (ryegarn).  So how many skeins would this rya need?  Very good: 8,075 knots divided by 300 knots per skein equals about 27 skeins required for this rya.  We round up to 30 skeins.  Helpful info, but how much of each color?  Aye, there’s the rub.

Pook painting divided into cmWas I in over my head? To figure how much of each color, I went back to a photocopy of the painting and with a ruler, drew lines dividing the painting into 1 cm x 1 cm squares.  It could have been any small size like that, but I thought 1 cm was good for counting the colors that fell within those squares.  I know this will sound like I’m from another planet, but I used math to make the calculations.  I’m going to write this more clearly in the book (I’m practicing on YOU!).

See if you can follow this–and tell me if you can (or cannot) in the comments below.  On my 8 1/2″ x 11″ photo of the painting I drew 18 vertical lines 1 cm apart.  Then drew 27 horizontal lines to the top of the picture.  I didn’t choose those numbers; that just happened to be the measurements of that picture.  Stay with me now.  So the photo now has a grid with 18 x 27 squares for a total of 486 squares. THEREFORE the yarn in 486 squares = 27 skeins, rounded up to 30 skeins for a little spare yarn for wiggle room.

So with great patience I counted how many squares of each color and estimated when a square was half one color and half another.  I had the yarn color cards to know which colors would go in which squares.  So I started counting:  Threading #1 was a dark green. There were a total of 16 squares of that color.  So how much yarn would that be? 16 divided by 486 = .033 x 30 skeins total = .98 skeins, rounded up to 1 skein.  Phew!  If anyone followed me, you are hired!!

Pook Threading cardHere is another:  The mustard color was filling 31 squares on the grid.  31/486 = 0.064. Multiple that times 30 skeins and you would need 1.9 skeins rounded up to 2 skeins. Piece of cake!  It is magic.  For you mathematicians out there, please explain this phenomenon in the comments section  My aging brain is having a hard time expressing why this works so well.

A54BD205-1B82-4D5E-B4BC-98EE675C29A6And finally for those who are very advanced out there, you are thinking, “But what if there are three shades of mustard in that last example?”  Well, you would simply divide the two skeins by three colors and realize that you would need about 3/4 skein of all three of those mustards.

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Hopefully, you are still with me.  Peter and Polly came to the DC area to spend Thanksgiving with their daughter. They all came by the studio to pick up the rya “kit” and for Polly’s lesson since this was a new kind of backing for her.  She is now working on it at home in Ontario and I hope to share a photo of the finished rya wall-hanging in an up-coming issue of the Byrdcall Blog.

Here is what her work was looking like in January!  Way to go, Polly!

 

Rug in progress 1-21-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is what it looked like on April 11, 2016.

Polly Pook in progress

 

Rya in a Day!

"Fireflower"

“Fireflower”

OK, I admit, it is only 12″ x 12″, but that is because I made it for the 12th Anniversary of my favorite art people, the Carroll County Arts Council.  The Carroll Arts Center opened the doors to their new home in the old art deco theater at 91 West Main St, Westminster, Maryland 12 years ago.  (I was fortunate to be a member of the Board of Directors back when this excitement was taking place!) They are celebrating with an art exhibition where every piece hanging on the wall will be 12″ x 12″ and sell for $144.00.  What a bargain! The show is called Footworks and will run from April 16 – June 5.  Opening reception is 4/16 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

1Now for you rya-curious folks (or rya experienced folks) here is what I did.  I hemmed an acrylic rya backing to 12″; no problem.  Then I did something I have never done before.  I cut the backing vertically to 12″.  I’ve always told people not to do that because it would compromise the strength of the rug, but, hey, this is only a 12″ piece.  No one is going to walk on it.  So I zig-zag stitched the edge a few times, and it was a perfect 12″ x 12″ piece.

Then with a laundry marker I drew the rough image of concentric “flower bloom” lines [Theresa Nkonde’s interpretation] or “nebula explosion lines” [Marge Simmons’ interpretation].  By 9 AM I had the drawing complete.  I had no intention of working on it all day.  I gathered a few small partial skeins of random “hot” colors and started knotting at the lower left corner.  My intention was to work for a half hour or so blending the darker colors to the yellow-hot center adlibbing all the way.3

I had yarn orders to fill, I had a book to write, a dog that needed a walk, and a lasagna to make before supper; but throughout the day I kept going back to this little rya just to see how “one more row” would change its appearance.

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I was addicted, I admit, so I worked feverishly off and on all day.  Why did I use the acrylic backing you ask (instead of wool)?  For one thing, I have a lot of it, and it is the least expensive backing I have. Also, it is white which makes drawing images on it a cinch, and while it is not really a floor-worthy backing, it is great for a wall-hanging or work of art.  And for the first time, I used 4 strands of yarn on the needle instead of 3 to really give it a rich solid feel.  And finally for you really perceptive folks, you might be wondering how it would fit as a 12×12 piece of art when the pile clearly extends beyond the 12×12 backing.  You are so observant!  As I knotted, I pulled the knots just tight enough to bring the width to 11.5 ” and the pile extends out the extra width to make it a perfect 12×12.

6Well, you guessed it, before the sun set, it was complete, and I love it.  So HOT!  I realize I could do the same backing preparation for others and gather similar yarns in small amounts (in some cases just a few strands of certain colors.)  So this will be a high priority for me to make available for others.  I’ll come up with a few color schemes, too.  Stay tuned–or if you can’t wait, just ask me to make a kit for you.  The acrylic backing is really 27 inches wide.  I might suggest keeping it that width so it doesn’t have to be cut.  The over all look would be almost the same.  Just wait and see what I come up with as an offering for those of you who really like this piece.  I call it FIREFLOWER.

Watch it GROW in time-lapsed video–a one day rya.  Click below for a silent 30-second show.

Has anyone else tried drawing a pattern on a backing?  How did it work for you?  It sure makes for a fast knotting project.  Feel free to offer comments below.  Your comment won’t appear immediately, but soon after you post, it will be shared.  Thanks for reading along with me.

Spotlight on Angie Michal and her First Rya Rug

6serieswith dog

I’m a sucker for a furry friend on a rya rug. Pets find them irresistible.

I like to feature other artists now and then.  It gives me something fun to post, without too much work on my part.  Angie from Coral Gables, Florida contacted me in the first week of January this year wanting to make a rya rug.  She had a vision and I helped her by sending her digital images of yarn colors to see what would work best for her.  She did a “custom order” in my Etsy shop of backing and yarn, and the new needle holder, and with no more help from me she created this amazing FIRST rya project!  Here’s Angie’s story:

4seriesThanks Melinda!

First and foremost I want to thank YOU for your enthusiasm and your willingness to help and share.

I got a subscription to Juxtapoz (an art magazine) as a Christmas gift. The first issue I received featured two or three interviews of artists alongside their work.  I enjoyed these ‘talks’ very much – I’m very interested in understanding where a work of art comes from and how it comes to be.  It was in one of these interviews that rya rugs were mentioned and, since I knew nothing about rya rugs, I went to Google to find out.  I came across your name and video and got hooked immediately.

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Look at Angie’s set up. See her colored graph paper on the left? Her colors all tagged with numbers to correspond with her graph. And notice the brand new needle holder constructed by my husband in my grandfather’s design. This woman is set to go!

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Here is an encaustic wax piece of Angies. Exciting medium to play with!

I am a stay at home mom.  I have four kids, our oldest is in college and our youngest is 7 years old.  I trained as an architect and practiced until our first child was born but I’ve always wanted to be able to express myself in other ways too. I like to be able to work on my projects in the little gaps that I get between all the other things that happen in a busy household.  I worked for a while with soft pastels and I feel very comfortable with the medium.  I recently tried encaustic wax and I love the smell of the wax, looking for interesting papers to use, applying colors in different layers and adding texture.  My pastels are more representational and detailed whilst the encaustic wax allows me to just play. 

When I first thought of what my rya rug would look like, I thought of colors – bright colors.  I had an image of blues and greens, perhaps because we live near the sea, with a bright ball of fire on one end. You were a big help when we started communicating – you ‘got’ my thoughts and helped put the colors together.  I think the whole thing happened because you were there straight away.  And not long after I placed the order my package had arrived! 2series

I went to work on that Saturday as I waited for my teenage son to return home one evening.  I feel there are two distinct phases in my experience of rya making.  The design process, the choosing of colors and picturing what it’s going to look like is full of energy, going back and forth, standing up and looking at it from far and then coming up close and splashing some more color here or there…

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I love to see the process of planning color arrangements. Here, I bet Angie was trying to visualize the finished rya by laying hanks of yarn on the bare backing.

The actual making of the rya, for me at least, was like meditating.  Knot after knot you keep completing rows and that is the perfect balance between switching off and being just barely present.  If I had a busy day I would excuse myself, sit at my desk and make a few knots and I was good to go.  It was like magic for my soul!

I am happy to say that I am working on a sketch for the next rug!  Can’t wait!  This one, I think, will be more geometrical.  I am looking at Bridget Riley for a project that I am helping my daughter’s art teacher with and perhaps I’ll let that inspire me…

Thank you for letting me share!                        ~ Angie

 

5seriesAngie, Thank YOU for sharing.  You are very inspiring and your rya is spectacular.  have you named it? Do you know where it will hang or lie?  Comments from others are always welcome.  Feel free to dialogue with Angie here. Cheers, to all!   melinda

Lesson #4 Calculating How Much Rya Yarn You Will Need

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In lesson #3, we marked all the color areas on the graph paper with a corresponding yarn blending number which we also tied to our threading card for reference, like a paint by number painting.  (Oh no, don’t glaze over yet!)  To determine the amount of yarn we’ll need, first let’s do it mathematically so we know the ballpark amount.  This technique is really easy, and I can in a moment tell you how much yarn any given backing will require by multiplying the number of knots that can be made across a horizontal row times the number of rows in the rug.

With this Monet’s Bridge design, I have hemmed two (2) 34″ wide rayon and linen backings which each can hold 84 knots across the row.  84 x 2 = 168 knots across the row.  In this backing there are about 21 rows per foot and this is a 4-foot tall rug,  I happened to hem the backing in a way that allows for 82 knotable rows.  So our graph is designed to be 168 knots x 82 rows.  (Calculator, please.)  168 x 82 = 13,776 knots in the entire rya.

With this number, you can figure out lots of information.

  • If you make 150 knots per hour, it will take you 91 hours to knot a rya this size
  • If you make a loop (pile) that is about 1 1/2″ long, you will get about 325 knots from a skein.  13,776 knots divided by 325 knots per skein  = 43 skeins needed for this 4′ x 6 ‘ rya.
  • If you wanted a 2″ long pile, you would get about 300 knots from a skein.  So how many skeins would YOU need to knot a 4′ x 6′ rya?  Calculators welcome.
  • If you don’t like complicated stuff, and you hate math, you could simply say, “OK, my rug needs 43 skeins of yarn, I will order a mixed bag of the colors I need–maybe only 30 skeins, then I’ll see what I run out of, and order more of that at that time.”  I am fine with that.  It gets you started, and by the time you need more yarn, you’ll have a good idea of future needs.

If this doesn’t really interest you, don’t bother reading any further!  But if you are one of the many folks who has asked for this and can not wait for my illustrated book to come out, brace yourself…. here comes the real math with no apologies.

Here is the threading card to show color combinations matched with a number to go on the graph.

Here is the threading card to show color combinations matched with a number to go on the graph.

For each color combination threading you have created on your threading card, count–or estimate–the number of knots in your rug of each of those color combinations.  I usually count by 10’s or square inches on the graph which have 70 knots.

Worksheet for tallying knot counts and math to determine how much of each color Part I.

Worksheet for tallying knot counts and math to determine how much of each color Part I.

 

 

 

Now I agree, that is a lot of counting and numbers.  Now we’ll make sense of them.  The last column on the right (below) tell us how many skeins of each pure color we need to order to make our Monet rug.  Notice only 1/4 skein is needed in certain lesser-used colors.  Lots of 1/2 skeins.  As my grandparents did, I also am happy to split skeins for rya rug makers.  It can save you a lot of money to only buy 1/4 instead of a full skein of every color.

There may be easier ways to do this, but I don't know what they are.  This actually works and doesn't take as long as you probably think it does.

There may be easier ways to do this, but I don’t know what they are. This actually works and doesn’t take as long as you probably think it does.

 

 

Rya Monet yarn pile

I pulled all the yarn from the storage shelves for making this rug.  Here is what the pile of supplies looks like.  So now, all that is left is to have Bill stop by to reacquaint himself with rya rug making, give him a mini-lesson until he feels totally comfortable with the project that will take him about 90+ hours, then home he goes to work on his rya at his leisure.  I can’t wait to see the design become reality.  I’m sure Claude Monet is thrilled too.

PS.  As I was writing this all down for you I was a little mortified that I had chosen such a detailed design with which to explain the yarn calculations.  I’ll go with a more basic design next time.  My book will have it MUCH more basic to start, but this degree of difficulty is good to know if you want to design your own from paintings for example.

Questions?  This is a good place to ask.

 

Lesson #1 Rya of Monet is Now on its Way!

Getting off square one is always the most difficult part of a job.  Since I promised in my July Newsletter that I would have progress on the designing of a custom “Monet” rya kit order for Bill, I am happy to say it’s happening before I write the August Newsletter.

Bill wants a horizontal rya for a wall hanging behind his bed: 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide approximately.  He wants it to have the general “feel” of Monet’s Bridge over the Water Lily Pond, but not have it look like it’s supposed to BE the painting.  So my goal is to design a colorful abstraction of Monet’s bridge on graph paper with a yarn color chart for him to follow.  Here is my progress of the day:

Monet-cutting backing

I selected the most appropriate backing for the size.  It is 34.5″ wide.  Two stitched side by side will be almost 6′ wide.  Perfect.  So I cut it to be 4′ long with an extra several inches to allow for a hem.  Both pieces have to have the exact same number of knotting rows so they match up when stitched together.  (Notice that my grandmother–founder of Lundgren Rya–is watching over my shoulder.)

Monet-hemming

Then comes the hemming with my sturdy old Singer.  I zigzag the cut edge so it won’t fray as I handle it, then fold two rows over, zigzag them together, then straight stitch twice to be sure the hem is stable and permanently locked closed.Monet-hemmed for rodFor Bill I am making a nice open hem on the top so he can slide a rod for hanging through the tunnel.  It will keep the rya wall hanging nice and straight.Monet-4preparing the graph paperNow both backings are hemmed and ready.  Time to prepare the graph paper.  Luckily, this graph paper was designed for this backing.  There are 84 squares across the bottom of the paper and 84 knots will be made across the bottom of the rya. (Coincidence?) There are 82 rows (see those stripes?) in a 4′ backing.  So watch how I adapt the graph paper…Monet-5-ready for paintingI folded the center margins back so the graph lines match up perfectly.  I also cut the top off the graph paper and folded an inch of paper down for a white border…just for the heck of it. Now the graph paper is ready for the design.  AND I am ready to jump in for the fun part.  Stay tuned.  I’m going to be working on this tomorrow.  Any questions?