Weaving


I want to put the brakes on June, to have the days slow to a languid crawl wherein there is plenty of time to luxuriate in the last weeks of one of the most pleasant Springs to be had.

Hearing the noisy birds at the feeders this evening I grabbed my camera and slid quietly outside to snap pictures of the finches.
(Picture heavy post; please let me know if any of you have a slow connection which makes loading lots of pictures almost impossible.)DSC04879

 

 

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At times throughout the day over two dozen would be flitting amongst the branches of the ash tree and two feeders.
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A tiny bird hummed into view to stop for a bright sweet drink.
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She kept an eye on me but didn’t seem too wary about the less than five feet between us.
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There was another reason I’d stepped outside before the evening dew began to fall.
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A shirt was waiting to be brought inside and ironed after this past Saturday’s debut at the NW Regional Spinners’ Guild conference held on the beautiful grounds of Willamette University. I only went for the day to chat with people, spin and volunteer to watch items in the Gallery a couple of hours. And chat with more people. While spinning on my Egret. And have a delightful lunch outside next to this bridge with Flora who drove down from Portland to spin for the day.
DSC04860The material was woven earlier this year (see 1.4.14 post) from a combination of linen threads, tencel threads and wool. A linsey/woolsey shirt – which looks like it will definitely need ironing. The material may have come off the loom in January, washed, dried and rolled up to store but it took until May to get around to figuring out what shape to make the shirt. I’m quite pleased with it. I love the woven detail that can be seen close up.

Whee! Another project came off the loom yesterday. This material is destined to be a summery shirt.

1.5 Correction on the yarns used.  (I should never write thread content from memory late at night!)
Warp, 4 types, sleyed at 16 epi using 12 dent reed:
10/2 linen, plum
8/2 tencel, deep burgandy
8/2 linen/cotton, red
5/2 cotton garnet
Weft -  2 of the yarns used in the warp: 8/2 linen/cotton red; 10/2 linen plum
Alternating shuttles in straight twill drawn (1,2,3,4…)

Extra warp had been measured on for testing color combos and treadling pattern for the weaving. With a limited supply of three of the colors there wasn’t much leeway for extensive sampling, but enough for both Ed and I to like the pattern of this sequence. I love the very slight slubbiness that both of the weft threads had which adds a bit of character.
Weaving 003(The colors are closer to the real fabric in this top picture.)

Tossed in the washing machine then the dryer with a large fluffy towel it came met all my expectations. Except for throw that left an undetected loop underneath.  I completely missed it, even during inspection before tossing it in the washer. I blame the small child who was here yesterday. She helped me finish weaving the piece then apparently I was too excited about tossing it in the washer. I’ll have to get a needle thread a length of that yarn  along side this errant loop (as seen below) so that it can be cut.
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But for the binding off and sewing on of 12 buttons, Feather’s boot socks are finished! They will be incomplete until they are actually measured against her legs when we see her, and little brother, Gus, on  Wednesday.  Her legs were measured in April. It’s a rare six year old child that doesn’t grow by leaps and bounds during the summer. Despite pleas for length measurement this past month no one has taken the time. So, they’ve been knit an extra inch but am resisting the urge to bind-off and be done, just in case.
(Last row in progress – I didn’t want to once again forget to take a picture. I hope Feather will be willing to model them.)DSC03733
The Never-Ending project that was begun in midwinter has been one dog-gone challenge after another. The one that started out on the Great Wheel. No, it goes back earlier in time. To a retired, slightly built woman who dearly loved her companion Great Pyrenees with all her heart. She often told the community dinner workers of his exploits during the previous week.  Then one week she arrived with bruises and sore muscles. He had almost pulled her arm out of socket dragging her down the sidewalk. It hadn’t been the first time but apparently the most uncontrollable. Her doctor told her in no uncertain terms that if she wanted to live she had to find the dog, which outweighed her, a home that could love him and safely exercise him.  She begged Ed to ask me if I’d spin the hair removed during his weekly visit to the groomer. The next week, even before hearing my answer, she arrived at the dinner dragging 2 garbage bags full of dog hair.  AKA Chiengora. Over 3 pounds of the stuff!
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I separated the dark hairs from the white, dividing the various shades of grey into little batches. Though it smelled a bit doggy, for the most part it was clean and not obnoxious. The spinning commenced with cheerful attitude, curious about how it would spin up and eager not only for the experience of spinning chiengora but getting to know the Great Wheel better.

Except. There were a great deal of short cut ends. Everywhere. The hair in the second bag was quite dirty, though it didn’t seem to have the short bits. That bag was set aside. I tried spinning it alone. Blending it with BFL wool on hand cards and with combs. The cards worked better though I was slow. I’d card during the evening news then spend the next 20 minutes or so spinning it. Night after night. Short dog hairs flew covered the floor around the Wheel and flew through the air. I doggedly carded and spun the small increments.

Several weeks into the journey Dog Lady and I met at the community dinner and I mentioned that it was slow going what with all the short cut ends. Would she be happy with handwarmers? No? A scarf or hat perhaps? No, she didn’t want something to wear. Oh dear.

By the time the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival rolled around in April Ed knew I needed some serious help if I was ever to be free of the task. He talked with JoAnn Duncan who was set up with their drum carders across from our booth. He returned to tell me that JoAnn will teach me how to use it first thing in the morning. The last smallest one was coming home!

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Even blended with longer staple wool, it wasn’t very cooperative. It wanted to spin either very thin or thick. I never did find that good consistent lace weight that I was aiming for. I finally decided to stop fighting and let it spin fingering and not ply it so that it wouldn’t be too bulky. Hairy stuff!

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Eventually the loose floating hairs started bothering me to the point that it didn’t take long before sneezing and mild itching would occur during the spinning.  By then I’d spun up several cops. It was time to stop. I was plotting to weave a simple tapestry of a Great Pyrenees head against a green background.
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I’ve had second, third thoughts about the decision not to ply. There is so much thin/thick variation that might be evened out, or made more obvious.

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For now, when I come to a too thin area I remove the thin spot entirely, skipping ahead to where the yarn is thicker.

It’s not the wisest, speediest course of action to not only tackle a new, temperamental fiber, but a brand new loom. A tapestry loom. Something I haven’t touched since we moved from the Navajo rez when I was 17 and didn’t have the space to lug the huge loom my brother had built for me after I fell in love with weaving in 8th grade home ec.

With pamphlet manual on the table I warped the loom. With a limited amount of spun Chiengora (indeed, there are still pounds in the bags) I didn’t want to take the chance of using it for the warp, nor does it have a high twist. The cotton that I’d spun on the Great Wheel before embarking on the dog hair seemed perfect for the job.  Setting the dog picture behind the loom the weaving commenced and all was looking acceptable as it progressed to under the chin where I started introducing some greys. (Doesn’t this sound good! In reality it looks quite elementary!) Thrilled at how quickly it was coming along I  entertained the notion that I’d be done with dog hair within a week.
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Oh. But. Do you see that wispy bit of white curling up just above the green on the left? Note the sagging bits over to the right, just about the working line. Nope, it didn’t do any good to tighten the warp. To my horror the cotton warp was unraveling with each beat of my little hand fork. There weren’t enough tricks up my sleeve to stop a weak warp from stretching and separating. The cotton had been spun and plyed without thought to what it might be used for. There was not enough twist to handle the beating that a warp must endure. Scissors were brought out, the warp and partial tapestry cut off. Digging tencel yarn out of my stash the loom was rewarped and the weaving begun again.

The execution is so vastly slower than the telling it’s hard to believe that I’m only up to the nose. The set-back  dampened the remaining  scent for the hunt that developed when I could smell the end coming. For now I’ve been playing with Ed’s GW #3, trying to pinpoint that sweet set-up for a good sustained spin of the wheel. Once OFFF is over I plan to tackle the loom again and complete the task once and for all. We won’t be selling at OFFF but we plan to demonstrate GW3 at the Aurora Colony Handspinner’s Guild booth on the lawn on Sunday. Saturday afternoon, the 28th we’ll be demonstrating spinning, with spindles and GW, at the Marquam Hills Alpaca Ranch which is only 4 miles from us, and 16 miles from Canby (OFFF). They will be having an open house /barn that afternoon and invited us to demonstrate. They have a wonderful Alpaca set-up, friendly Great Pyrenees dogs, lots of friendly alpacas and a store area with their products.  The winery/vineyard next door to their place is also have a wine tasting event that day.

The magnificence and memories of the two Sock Summits are a highlight of our life tied with fiber. We’d been looking forward to SS14; seeing so many people from around the world, selling our spindles to the happy throngs of people. It’s not possible to put into words what Sock Summit encompassed. This evening I read on both Yarn Harlot’s blog and Tina Newton’s blog that they made the very hard decision to dissolve their Knot Hysteria Productions which was responsible for Sock Summit (and other fiber retreats). Both of them worked tirelessly, along with their two teams of helpers and the numerous people behind the scenes, to pull off two incredible, fantastic Sock Summit events. It staggers my mind to even think about the myriad of details that had to come together almost seamlessly, working from two ends of the continent while juggling their own full time successful businesses and families. As a team they were formidable. I have no doubt that they will each continue on to be major players in the fiber world.

One of the things that makes me the saddest is that we won’t get to hang out with Jocelyn, the Knitting Linguist. Not only was she a hands-down terrific helper in our booth but Ed and I both enjoyed her companionship. (Oh my! You must see what she’s up too!)

It will be interesting to see what might rise up from the demise of the Sock Summit, as we know it. I suspect there might be some other event that gathers forces to fill the huge void that is left. With time a hole is almost always filled by something. (‘cepting holes in sock (clothes)! We know how those progress.)

On to happy news! 009
(Violet didn’t want to wait for the  cookie to have a pretty coating of Easter icing! I made royal icing for the sugar cookies that were boxed up and mailed to the grandkids in Idaho where they landed without nary a crack or break.)

Violet’s shirt fits! :) As planned for room to grown, it’s a bit big.

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Since Aurora didn’t want shoulder buttons I modified the pattern and instead kitchenered the two should ribbing bands. Without the extra room unbuttoning both shoulders pieces would have given — Violet hates having her head messed with — I decided a boat neck would provide a generous space for Violet’s head wide across the shoulders. Turns out the neck didn’t need to be so wide! There’s no problem getting her head through. 016The overall success of this shirt has me itching to warp up the loom and do some more weaving. Possibly within the next couple of weeks once a couple other pressing items are complete.

Yes, there’s been Walking Wheel spinning, it’s coming along quite nicely.

Ed beat me up three mornings this week. A very happy sign that after weeks of feeling miserable fighting the flu and all the side effects (sleeping endless hours, chills, aches…) he was finally once again waking up before me. He hadn’t been so sick in these past thirty-five years, and he almost always is the first out of bed. He’s not one for lying in bed once it’s light outside. It was almost alarming to be the first one up morning  after morning while he continued to sleep another hour, or more. He’s on the mend and gaining more strength and wellness every day.

Just a short post tonight. Original plots drifting through my head have diminished due to a very slow computer that’s making small tasks into monumental obstacles. So, instead of a long chatty post with tidbits from all that’s happened this past month I’ll pick up where I left off last time and focus on this one thing. The makings of Violet’s sweater.

With optimistic expectation of completing the sweater by Violet’s 1st birthday, confident that there was plenty of time to cut and sew the fabric, the final inches were woven with almost a week to spare.  Tuesday morning I finished sewing the two raw edges, put the fabric into a mesh bag and tossed it in the washing machine with a load of towels.  Violet was sound asleep in her little crib when I removed the cloth from the machine and spread it out on a folded blanket laid across my bed. Smoothing the cloth, thinking ahead about measuring and cutting the pattern from kraft paper I was suddenly stunned to remember the knitting ribbing . Egads! Slow knitter that I am and a full week of responsibilities: work, family from Idaho coming, getting together food for the memorial service for a dear friend, practicing then playing at the annual St Patrick’s dinner there was little hope for finding the necessary time.

Using a carpenter’s square, kraft paper and a quilter’s ruler (I think that’s what it’s called) I drew the pattern using the dimensions given on the Windowpane Baby Sweater pattern by Ann Walker Budd. Deciding to simply hem the bottom of the sweater rather than knit a ribbing I added an extra 1.5″ to the length. Once the paper pattern was cut I traced around the edges onto the fabric with a washable pencil.

Fabric marked I sewed a tight straight stitch all along the outside of the tracings with a double stitching along the edges to keep the handwoven material from unraveling where the ribbing stitches would be picked up. The longer yarn carries (floats) of the windowpane, 3-shaft weave (aka waffle-weave) needs the extra stability than my normal handwoven materials woven with plain or twill patterns.

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Using the pink cotton 8/2 yarn that came in the weaving kit and a size B/2.25mm crochet hook I commenced picking up stitches for the first sleeve and slipped them onto size 4 / 3.5mm circular needles.

233What a patience testing experience. The pattern says to pick up 44 stitches for the ribbing. After the third attempt I finally called it good at 42 stitches. The second sleeve was just as challenging as was the left back shoulder. Even with a fine crochet hook I was challenged by trying to get the correct number evenly spaced through the somewhat tight intersections of weft and warp. The ah-ha moment came on my second try across the left back shoulder: Really now, how crucial could it be to make sure the exact number was picked up? Just go with what looks good and right. Whew, it’s been a bit quicker sailing though I still have the neck bands to do and then stitching front, back and sleeves together.

The little checks of the waffle-weave and the way the intersections of color with white make tidy sun circles make my heart sing with joy. Overall I’m charmed at how well the cloth turned out and with the looks of it as progress is made. I hope to finish it by this time next week. If I don’t get a move on it Violet will outgrow it before it’s worn! She celebrated her 1st birthday last weekend! How the year flew past.

It feels like a Saturday night: Hair freshly washed. Pajamas and robe providing comfortable warmth. It’s early to bed tonight for tomorrow will bring an early morning drive to the far north of the Willamette Valley.

Show weeks can be quite stressful with all the extra work on top of keeping up with normal duties but having taken the month off from accepting spindle orders I actually feel on top of the situation. Another huge annual obligation has gotten underway as I’m slowly organizing and going through bookwork readying for tax paperwork.

The slow down in the office brought time to play: The Julia loom was finally, finally warped! Gracious, I can hardly remember when I first measured out the warp, sleyed the reed then started to do battle with the shafts.

All went well until after the reed was sleyed (the warp threads placed through the correct dent (Slot)- this pattern calls for 18 warp ends per inch (wpi), I have a 12 dent/inch reed so threaded one warp in a dent followed by two warp ends in the next dent across. The trick is to keep the order correct when threading the heddles so there are no crossed threads.
Warp sleyed

Some time ago I bought the  kit to convert the loom into a 4 shaft, 6 treadle counterbalance. The kit included 4 horses which are what toggle the shafts on the counter-balance rod. (How does one explain that action!) Wooden brackets  hold the shafts in place while adding heddles, tying the horses, the lamms and treadles. First I had to equalize the texsolve heddles from between 2 shafts to the 4 shafts. I lost count of how many times almost all the heddles were in place when a shaft would work lose from the bracket and suddenly crash down spilling all the heddles. In a tangled heap. Of course, when one shaft fell others followed. More than once I wanted to do violence to heddles and shafts. After the heddles were subdued with lines run through from one end to the other to keep them on the bucking shafts the warping fun began.

Insane. Simply insane. Using a 4 shaft counter-balance loom that has resisted every step of the conversion from 2 shafts and threading a 3 shaft waffle weave pattern. The empty fourth shaft wanted to dance with freedom as the other shafts were slowly threaded; 1 of them getting twice the threading as the others, making them hang at crazy angles and levels. Weights on the ends, cords on the ends, adjusting and readjusting the horses to get them to hang evenly as I slowly threaded my way across. Several times I reached the point that I couldn’t bear to even look at the loom for days on end. (Hard to ignore when the loom is next to my chair in the living room.) Determination and the desire to get on with the weaving would take me back to coaxing sense into the beast.

Threaded Heddles

What sweet blessedness when the warp was completely on the loom and the last knot was tied into place. Eagerly the weaving commenced.

Except. Stepping on each treadle in turn showed there to be 3 sets of crossed threads between the reed and the heddles. sigh. In the years of weaving this was a first. At least it was a straight forward fix.
Except. The empty back harness and the second harness with twice as many warp threads weighting it down continued to bob and shuffle off-balance resulting in narrow sheds on one treading. At one point Ed commented that he was surprised I hadn’t hurled angry words at the loom or thrown something. What? A little loom conquer me? Ha! With weights judicially placed on the 4th harness, the horses carefully retied higher, the distance to the treadles readjusted we finally reached a happy partnership with the harnesses moving in sweet harmony.

The waffle weave is a fun pattern. Once several inches had been woven I could see my place in the pattern and no longer had to single mindedly focus on counting. The rhythm is relaxing and soothing. Don’t let my experience turn you away from either weaving or the sweet little Julia loom, which I do enjoy. I could have stopped anywhere in the process and plugged in the dvd which came with the loom. It shows how to warp back to front, the recommended method for this loom. The stubborn person inside obstinately said, “I can do this my way and, by gum, I will.”

Our dear little Violet was fascinated with the weaving and wanted to lend a hand.
Violet & Bobbin
Afterall, this material will become a shirt for her first birthday!

Violet Weaving


After two days of snow the storm winds have blown in a warm front from the Pacific Ocean bringing torrential rains. The sound of water penetrates every moment. I can hear the creek roaring 2 blocks away. Our front yard is flooded despite the sump pump with a drain hose extending across the property to the drain ditch. Ed  walked around this end of town looking at the water levels and talking with neighbors. Our neighbors to the west have several inches of water in their basement so Ed took a length of pipe to extend their pump line towards the back of their property.

June was also a wet month, the month I set forth on a spinning and weaving path with the end goal of a light vest for Ed. The yarn on the big bobbins above was spun from Sweet Grass Wool Top comprised of 50% Targee, 25% Bamboo, 25% Silk, colorway: Black n Blue. A real joy to spin. (A quick glance through Patty’s website didn’t bring up this particular combo, sadly it seems no longer available.)

The small bobbins contain the two shades of blue linen, and the grey cottolin which were used for the 15″ wide warp, sett at 18epi.  The Linen was also alternated with the 497 yards of handspun in the weft. I started out throwing the four shuttles alternating between wool and linen: one pick aqua blue linen, pick wool, pick grey, pick wool, pick med blue, pick wool, and so forth. Three inches of woven web proved the grey cottolin too dominant. Unweaving those inches I commenced using three shuttles with the two blue linens and the handspun.

Linsey-woolsey (known as wincey in Scotland, and used several times in the Anne of Green Gable books) is a material that dates back through the ages. The warp is made with linen with wool used as the weft, thus Linsey-woolsey. In the American colonial days this was a very common material, with cotton often substituted for the linen in the South. Many considered it an inferior, cheap, ugly material and despised wearing it. How perceptions change.  I’m not forced to wear a dress or two made from this material day in and day out for lack of any other choice,  thus Lindsey-woolsey is appealing.

Since July, bouts of weaving interspersed with longer bouts of the loom sitting idle. With must-do-now projects completed and a new year beginning I resolved to weave every day until it the warp was all used complete. When planning material for a specific purpose I tend to only warp enough for that one project rather than putting on lots of yardage. Many weavers will put on as much as a loom can handle and thus weave a dozen or more yards from one warp, occasionally changing the weft, tie-up and treadling thus ending up with materials for a variety of uses. Someday I should do that and see what I end up with.  I put 160 inches of warp on the loom and wove until there was little space left for the shuttle to pass: 137″ inches of woven web, 13.5″ wide.
(Close-up before washing)

After taking it off the loom Saturday it was soaked in hot sudsy water then pummeled by hand for about five minutes followed by two warm rinses and thrown in the dryer for about 15 minutes then hung to finish drying. Going over the material and snipping the little bits of ends sticking up here and there I wasn’t completely happy with the somewhat stiff hand so I tossed it in the washer with a couple of towels and gave it a proper washing to help soften the linen. Not a fan of hand washing, I prefer to weave items that can handle the abuse of a washer. Taking the cloth out of the dryer before it was completely dry I then ironed it on the hottest setting while pressing down hard to bring out the best in the linen.
I’m pleased at how well the handspun blends with the linen and yet shows of the variations within the Black n Blue colorway. Now to track down a simple-to-sew dress vest pattern.

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