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.
Polly 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.
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.
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. Don’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?
Since 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.
Was 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!!
Here 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.
And 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.
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!
And here is what it looked like on April 11, 2016.