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–now complete!  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–all done.  Remember how Nancy loved the traditional Finnish ryijy from one of my catalogs? She redesigned a smaller version as seen here, but she also asked me to order the real kit from Finland which she now has received and will be starting shortly.   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!

 

So here are the Finnish Kit supplies from Suomen Perinnetekstiilit (Formerly Vuorelma) in Finland.  Since it is a larger backing with many more knots across each row, Nancy will be able to get the clear definition of the tulip flower.  Can’t wait to see her progress.

Remember, feel free to comment below.

I’m Teaching Rya at Common Ground on the Hill this Summer!

Student making color blending choices

As you may know, I have been a regular “student” of the Traditions Weeks at Common Ground on the Hill  since 2000.  If you are not familiar with their programs, take a look at their web site.  It used to be a one-week long residential (and commuter) Arts Camp focusing on the arts in all genres from all cultures. For the past several+ years it has grown into a 2-week camp. During Week II, I am teaching Scandinavian Rya Design where you will design and make your own rya with my guidance. (If you don’t know about rya, watch this 10-minute video I made with the Carroll County Times in 2012.)

I highly recommend taking the whole week off of work or routine if that is possible, and immerse yourself completely in the program. There are 5 periods each day plus meal time and concerts and lectures in the evenings and nights. You will meet people not only from all across the USA, but also the world.  You can also just sign up for one class, but believe me, you will want to stay for more each day.

Byrdcall Studio is filled with colors today.

Students from a previous class create their color combinations that they will knot onto their woven backings.

My class (in Week 2) runs from Monday, July 6 – Friday, July 10 from 9  – 11:45 AM.  We currently have 5 students signed up, but this kind of class is even more fun with a few more because you all will get to see what each other are working on which expands your knowledge of the craft. You don’t need any particular skills or knowledge in fiber arts. I can provide all the supplies you might need since they truly are very hard to find otherwise.)  Click here to see my Workshop Write-up.

ShelvesofyarnFor those of you who live out-of-the -area, what a perfect chance for learning new skills, meeting new people, enjoying (and learning) arts and music from all around the world in a safe and easy environment–McDaniel College campus in Westminster, Maryland.  If this interests you, do not delay.  Classes are filling quickly.  Hope to see you there.  Feel free to share this with anyone who love the arts and sharing and learning with others.

Melinda

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This is the beginning of Angie Michal’s very first rya which she designed and knotted.

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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.

1series

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

Rya Lesson #5 with Bill and Emilie…

Bill and Emilie learn the rya knotting process for both left-handed and right-handed stitching.

Bill and Emilie learn the rya knotting process for both left-handed and right-handed stitching.

If you have been following the past four rya designing lessons, you can probably sense the joy I felt when the man who asked me to design this rya for him came to my studio in Maryland (from New Jersey) for a lesson and to bring his supplies home with him.

Over a year ago, Bill discovered me on the internet (as many of you have).  He had made a rya about 40 years ago and was searching for supplies and the perfect design for his second rya.  I helped him search by sending links to web sites with hundreds of rya photos.

Here is the pile gathered for Bill's rya project: Monet's Bridge.

Here is the pile gathered for Bill’s rya project: Monet’s Bridge.

Eventually Bill found a painting by Claude Monet of the bridge over the lily pond which had the colors and feel he was looking for.   He asked me to develop this design so he could create a rya for a wall-hanging.  Since I was getting deep into writing my book on “designing your own rya”, I told him I could, but it would be a while… I just had to get the book done first.  Then months later, I learned the lesson so many writers learn…not to rush the writing process.  So rather than make him wait many more months, I took on the project and started to do these lessons for you at the same time.  I hope some of you have found them to be helpful.

So yesterday, Bill and Emilie and sweet little dachshund, Chance, arrived at Byrdcall Studio to learn (or relearn) the process and everything they will need to do to complete the rug.  While I got Bill (left-handed) and Emilie (right-hand) oriented to the knotting process and graph reading, Chance rooted out and consumed all the feral crickets in Byrdcall Studio!

Bill getting more comfortable by the minute with the knotting process.

Bill getting more comfortable by the minute with the knotting process.

Bill and Emile are now starting on a new adventure and I am re-committing to getting this book written more now than ever.  Writing out these instructions here in the Byrdcall Blog has helped me to formulate some of the techniques I’ll put in the book…and I realized not to start you off with such a complicated design!  The rest of my designing lessons will be a piece of cake compared to this one.  But I am very proud of the design and confident that Bill and Emilie will have a spectacular 4′ x 6′ rya hanging on the wall within a year.

Simple set-up: a table, chair, and a hanging rack for the yarn.

They are ready to take the supplies home and create their own work space… Simply a table, chair, good lighting, and a hanging rack for the yarn.  And off they go!

Thanks for keeping up on the lessons.  Bill has promised to send photos of his progress.  I promise to get the book done, but not in 2014.

Thank you Bill and Emilie for letting me use your project as my on-line demonstration.  It has been FUN.

As always in my blogs, questions and comments are welcome.

Cheers!

Lesson #2 in Creating a Rya from a Painting

Monet-5-ready for painting

Last week, I prepared the backings by hemming them to the desired length.  Now I will show you how I take a painting and adapt it so it can be knotted as an off-loom rya.  The design I am working on is from a painting by Claude Monet, but this could just as easily be an original pastel or oil painting, or a zoomed-in abstract from a colorful photograph.  Designs are everywhere.

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I like to use diluted watercolor paints so I can see the graph lines as I work.  Even if an area was going to be black, I would watercolor paint with gray just to give me the idea of dark or black.  Note that the graph paper is not standard.  In a one-inch-square there are 70 smaller squares representing where the knots will be.  (See the close-up shots below.) I carry this special graph paper if you want to give a shot at designing your own someday.  As I paint, it dawns on me that I ought to be thinking yarn-colors, not paint-colors, so I grabs some color samples.  (I know that is not so easy for you.  If you are serious about designing a rya, I’d recommend a yarn sample card set with about 80 colors. My Yarn Samples as sold on etsy.)2014-08-05 12.16.00

So I roughly paint a similar image to the inspiration, dabbing in color and thrust and shapes.  I avoid too much detail because detail doesn’t translate well into the moving pile of a rya rug.  Luckily Monet did great organic flowing designs.  Here is my watercolor nearly complete.  Remember it is just a guide, not a literal painting.

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As soon as I am happy with the feel of the painting, I start to “square-off” my painting lines into color areas for the yarn.  It is fun to follow a curved line making only horizontal and vertical lines.  That is squaring off.  Each of those squares will be a knot with one, two, or three different shades of yarn.2014-08-06 11.43.45

And another squaring-off illustration.  When I am painting, I pay no attention to the grid lines.  Don’t even try to paint according to the grid.  Squaring off will make it look as though you planned it out very carefully.2014-08-06 11.42.29

2014-08-06 15.21.02I will leave you today with this image as I walked away from it this evening.  It is more than half squared off.  In the next work session, I’ll show you how I make a corresponding color card showing exactly what color yarn will go where.  Any questions?