Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Photographing Your Fiber with Franklin Habit

I took a photography class with Franklin Habit on Friday at Knitter’s Connection and learned TONS. The first and foremost is that the user manual to your camera is a useful tool! Who knew you could learn so much looking at the manual?

close up of spinning

First, Franklin explained basics about cameras, how they take pictures, and some basics about color. Color is especially important to all of us because we all want to show off the yarns we’ve used and their true color. If you take a picture under florescent lights, for example, your photo is going to have a greenish cast to it. If your picture was taken in a wall with bright blue walls, the light is going to reflect off of the walls and give your picture a blu-ish cast.

multi-directional scarf

One really great feature on your camera is the white balance feature. That means, even if you are in a greenish light and use the white balance, you can still get a decent picture. On my camera, you have to go to the white balance setting, picture of a piece of white paper (I used the back page of my camera’s manual) so the camera knows what is white in that light, and take your newly white balanced photo. This picture was taken next to the window in the lobby area without white balancing anything.

spinning without white balance

This one was. See the difference? I’m definitely seeing this setting being used frequently in the future!

spinning with white balance

Next, Franklin showed us how to construct a simple light box. His suggestion, if you want to build one yourself, was to google for directions because there are so many good ones out there. In the future, I’m definitely going to make one.
light box

In the light box, you can control exactly how much light is falling on your project. If you want only one side illuminated to really pick up the stitch definition, you can make that happen without having to wait for the sun to move. You can also have light illuminating both sides of your project so one side of your sweater isn’t entirely in darkness and the other lit up.

look at that seed stitch!
Classmate's sweater

Another feature of the camera we were playing with is the aperture or lens opening of the camera and depth of field. The term “depth of field” refers to how much of the picture is in focus. You can use the depth of field to your advantage by highlighting only a small portion and blurring the fore- and backgrounds of the photo. Such a picture is said to have a “shallow depth of field.” This is especially good if you want to show off something like a button band but not the sweater as a whole. If you want the sweater as a whole, you would use a deep focus depth of field. (clear as mud yet?)

You can adjust the depth of field in your photo by adjusting the aperture diameter of your camera. The aperture diameter is measured like this: f2.8, f5, f16, etc. It’s a little counter-intuitive (a little?!) but the smaller the number (f2.8), the bigger lens opening is and you will have a shallower depth of field. So if you wanted everything in the photo in focus, you would use f16. You will have to check out your camera’s manual to see what all you can and can’t do with your camera. It’s just amazing to me that my “point and shoot” camera can have such advanced tools at its disposal.

I found what Franklin said about lace to be really interesting. He told us that lace is especially hard to photograph because it needs motion to make it look beautiful. Now, I don’t mean it has to be swirling in the air while you are taking the picture. Rather, it shouldn’t be laying there flat on the table without any shadows, folds, drape, etc. It needs those shadows to give it depth. Without the depth, your lace will look dead or drab so you should either hang it off of something or prop it up to create shadows. You can also use the aperture settings to enhance certain motifs of the lace while having the rest of the project out of focus. That will cause the eye to be drawn to the motif. As you can tell, I had a lot of fun with my lace shawl!



close up of beads

One of the things about photography that Franklin stressed was everything takes time and practice. He compared photography with learning how to knit socks. If you only pick up your socks every 2 months and knit a couple of rows, you aren’t going to learn how to do socks. He stressed that you should practice your photography skills and expect to take time with your photo shoots. If you point and click your photo, it will look like a point and click! You might have to take tons of pictures to get that one perfect one.

knitting needle bracelets

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Our Knitting Heritage Perpetuated by Franklin Habit

I went to the lecture about knitting history last night at the Knitter’s Connection. The introductory powerpoint slide said, “Our Knitting Heritage Perpetuated by Franklin Habit.” The talk was very interesting and I learned lots about the first knitting patterns (boy, am I glad I live now!), knitting needle gauges, proprietary needle technology, the Martha Stewart of the Victorian age, and terminology. I’ll give you a quick rundown and recommend that, if you ever have a chance, listen to Franklin talk about this subject (well, any subject really!).

First, did you know knitting patterns are relatively late to the game? Before the first patterns were published in the Victorian age, patterns passed directly from knitter to knitter. Or, if you wanted to remember how a lace stitch went, you created a lace sampler. You would cast on however many stitches would make a nice pattern repeat, knit your lace pattern, knit a couple of rows of garter stitch, maybe increase some or decrease some, do another lace pattern, knit a couple of rows of garter, do another, etc, etc. Nancy Bush showed us a similar strip of knitting when I went to her Estonian lace class. It was an easy way for knitters to share their designs with other knitters.

Franklin compared modern lace patterns to the original lace patterns by showing us a picture from Nancy Bush’s book and one of the first pattern books. Now, you all know what lace charts look like.

Lace Edging of Mlle. R de B, Franklin Habit, http://knitty.com/ISSUEss10/FEATss10SIT.php

Makes sense, right? The original lace pattern he showed us, however, was a solid page of text with two columns and minuscule font. Can you imagine?! And he told us that, at the very bottom of the page, was a horrendous mistake. UGH.

Not only are our knitting patterns formatted differently, but our terminology is different, too! As Franklin wrote in his “Stitches in Time” article in Knitty ‘08:

At first glance, these early books appear to the modern knitter as an invitation to headache and madness. The vocabulary is archaic; what we call a “purl” may be called a “pearl,” a “turn” or a “seam,” even within the same pattern. The “recipes” are often written in a stream-of-consciousness style that anticipates James Joyce. The errors – even in works that promise on the title page to be scrupulously accurate – are legion.
Franklin Habit, Knitty ‘08 http://knitty.com/ISSUEfall08/FEATfall08SIT.html 

He said sometimes pattern writers wouldn’t even use the same terminology in the same sentence much less the same pattern!

Along with not using the same terms, needles sizes were not standardized. They were the proprietary software of their day. One woman put out the first needle gauge (and was the first to talk about knitting gauge) but of course the only needles that worked were ones that she sold. Can you even imagine how that could drive you crazy? The early knitters were made of much stronger stuff than I am!

The Martha Stewart of her generation was a woman who published something like 19 books in 3 years (I didn’t write down the exact numbers but it was a crazy amount in a very short period of time). She claimed to have invented crochet. Whether or not that is true is something crochet historians will have to duke out!

It was a very interesting lecture though I only gave it a brief mention here. Next time, I swear, I’m going to bring a working camera and/or a cell phone that actually has its memory card in it. I always find it so interesting to listen to famous bloggers talk. It’s fun to put an actual voice to the words rather than the voice you picture in your mind!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Really sad

Is it really sad that I had forgotten that I signed up for a lecture and class at Knitter's Connection next week? I'm attending Franklin Habit's lecture called "Our Knitting Heritage" on Wednesday evening. Then I'm taking his photography class. I had volunteered to be a teacher's pet if they needed one and I got an email yesterday saying they wanted me. This should be really fun! I definitely need to get a working camera and NOT my camera phone. You know what that means, better pictures for the blog!