Friday, September 17, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Remember this?

Well, I fussed over the yarn pile for about a week, and finally managed to put one project together that is now on my loom. It is some sort of wrap - I am not sure what kind yet. That is yet to be determined.

The burnt sienna color yarn is an wool-alpaca blend that I got from Zeilinger's Wool Mill several years ago when we were in Michigan. The pink is Romney from my friend Rusty's sheep.

The Romney dye color is a light red - I think I probably used Jacquard Scarlet diluted. The pink has a slight orangy tint.

When I washed the wool-alpaca blend yarn after I spun it, a lot of dye came out of it, and the result was the alpaca in the yarn got dyed just about the same pink as the Romney yarn turned out.

I wanted a drapey fabric, so the yarn is set at 5epi. and I am beating it to square. Beating is actually not an accurate statement. Placing is more like it. The weaving is going really fast since the fabric is so loose and it is plain weave.

And now for the Public Service Announcement.

Do not, under any circumstance, spread your handspun yarn all over the floor and leave it for a week.

 I am not sure what the exact yarn gestation time is, but in a week it breeds.

What came out of three plastic tubs, will now only fit in four.

I think I am walking backwards.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Can't Hear You

Handspun sorted by color - Sept 2010
Yesterday, we had torrential downpours of rain. I was determined to go to my regular spinning group, so I braved the elements and loaded up my wheel and spinning basket and set off. I did not get very far though, because the roads going north to the highway I needed all seemed to be closed.

I decided to comfort myself by getting out the three full tubs of my handspun yarn to see if I could put together something to weave a shawl with - since my loom is standing empty for the moment.

I spread out the contents of the tubs, and separated everything by color in the middle of the living room floor. I thought if I got it all out, maybe some of it would speak to me and tell me what it wants to be.

Well, it is still there. I must be deaf.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Not Easy to Be Square

One of the Weaving Guilds that I am a member of - the Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild, is sponsoring a study group on the Overshot Weave structure. As a fairly inexperienced weaver, I joined the group in hopes of learning something about the weave structure that most people think of when they think of handweaving.

Since I have never woven an overshot project, I decided I should weave a sample just to try the structure out. So, I picked out a design from the book Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes.

I looked through my yarn stash to see what I had on hand that would work for my little sample and came up with 8/2 cotton. I found several different cotton possibilties for weft.

3/2 Cotton Weft
After some research, I found that an overshot warp should be set like the yarn would be set for a loose plain weave. For the 8/2 cotton, I decided on 18 epi. I put a short warp on my loom - just two and a half yards about 12 inches wide.

Once the weaving began, I quickly discovered that obtaining a nicely squared pattern was not going to be easy. According to the texts I read, the overshot pattern weft should be about the weight of two strands of the warp.

The first weft I tried was the red 3/2 cotton in the first photo. While it looked pretty, the pattern is obviously far from being square.

Next I tried two strands of 5/2 cotton in blue. This was better, but still not square.

In my stash, I had some green 16/2 cotton , so I used 4 strands of it as weft figuring that would be equal in weight to two strands of 8/2 cotton. The result was better but still not square. I started beating my weft in more firmly. I beat as hard as I could. The pattern got closer to square, but still it was not there. You can see in the photo where I started off beating not as firmly and toward the top began beating harder.
At this point I was a bit frustrated. I started thinking of things that might make the weft beat in better and decided a temple would do it. So, I used my temple to keep the warp spread to it's maximum width - by this time I had switched to two strands of navy 8/2 cotton - and the result was almost square. But, it was still not square enough.

More frustrated, I got out my Peggy Osterkamp books, and found out that my weaving method is not what she recommends. I had been told when I started weaving to always beat the weft in on a closed shed. That's what I have always done, and so far it worked.

Peggy Osterkamp's recommended way to weave is that you beat - or rather place your weft - on an open shed, then immediately change to the next shed. The theory is that you place your weft with the beater while the warp is as wide as the reed makes it be, then before you move the beater away from the fell, change to the next shed.

Peggy's recommended weaving sequence is throw the shuttle, beat the weft, change to the next shed the push the beater away from the fell. Peggy also recommended a very tight warp.

I decided to give these suggestions a try.

I tightened my warp. I tried out the new weaving sequence - very slowly. I found my weaving rhythm really out of sync, but I made myself keep on going. It was worth the effort because my design is finally square.

I am still out of sync, rhythm wise, but I am not sure you can ever really get a rhythm in an overshot pattern. The treadles are constantly changing and the shuttles are changing as well. I suppose time will tell about that.

Sometimes, I learn really unexpected things when I am trying to learn something else.

Now I wish I had made that sample warp a little longer.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adieu Knitwords

I was saddened last week to learn that my favorite Machine Knitting Magazine, Knitwords, is ceasing publication.

This was a fabulous magazine for machine knitters. It contained fashionable sweaters for all ages and machine types featuring many techniques. It was a labor of love for the publisher, Mary Anne Oger. The love showed in every issue. I have them all, and refer to them every time I make a sweater on the machine.

The limited good news is that Mary Anne plans to be available for seminars. I hope she will continue to design and publish. She has so much talent and so many creative ideas for machine knitting.

Machine Knitters have so few resources left. For magazines, we have exactly two - Country Knitting of Maine News and Views and Machine Knitting Monthly from the UK.

I urge machine knitters everywhere to support the remaining publications. I would hate to loose them too. We need inspiration for the machine knitters today and those to come.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

First Warp for Ellie's Loom

Ellie's Loom is warped and I am finally weaving.

The first warp is one that I had been planning for my 4 harness Le Clerc. It is yet another project from the Fall 2009 issue of Handwoven Magazine. The "recipe" is on page 44 and is titled "One threading, four patterns, four towels". I had already dyed the contrasting yarns so decided to proceed as planned. This is my fourth project from that issue of Handwoven, and I have more planned. (This may be the best issue ever)

The towels are huck variations. They appealed to me because huck is a new weave structure to me (most structures are since I am only a beginning level weaver), and with four different towels on the same warp, the bore factor should be conquered.

Learning to get along with Ellie's loom has been challenging. I think anytime a weaver deals with a new loom there is a lot to learn about how to get along with it. Everything is strange. The braking system, where to tie up the harnesses out of the way to thread, how to wind the beam where to tie the lease sticks and the list goes on.

Things went pretty smoothly until I started tying up the treadles. The Herald Loom was shipped with wire tie ups, and when I got the loom it had about eight - not enough for my project.

The wires that were in treadles showed signs of being bent with pliers. I got suspicious that Ellie must have had big problems with the wires jumping out of the holes in the lams. Perhaps this is the reason the loom has never been warped.

I researched on Ravelry and Weavolution and found out that indeed, the big complaint about Herald looms is the wire tie ups. Other weavers hated the loom because of the wire tieups. They experienced lots of problems keeping them attached to the lams. Another big disadvantage of the wires is that the treadle height cannot be adjusted, and since the treadles sit on a slant, the back wires or ties are necessarily shorter than the front one's.

Based on this information, I decided that I would most likely change out the wires for ties. I started researching my options. Texsolve cord was recommended. My investigation into it revealed I would have to spend about a hundred dollars to get enough cord to make every connection on the loom. At that point, I was not going to invest a lot of money in a loom that perhaps would not even work, so I needed a cheaper solution than Texsolve.

So, I went to my trusty references from Peggy Osterkamp. Peggy is a total genius. She knows everything about weaving. Her books cover absolutely every problem and question that I have ever had about weaving. I think any weaver with no support needs all of her books.

Peggy recommended tying up treadles with a snitch knot and cords. That is what I did but I used shoe laces for the tie cords, and some nylon cord for the snitch knot section.

I cut a length of cord that is about 10 inches long. I threaded a pony bead onto the cord (to prevent the knot from pulling through the hole), then folded the cord in half and tied a double overhand knot in the two ends. Next I took the loop and let the bead slide down to the knot. I threaded the loop through the hole in the treadle and made a snitch knot that I put my shoe lace ties through. I then adjusted the height of the treadles, looped the end of the shoe laces like the first half of a bow and the treadles were tied up.

After correcting a few threading errors, I am finally weaving. I have employed my poor man's temple for the waffle weave - alligator clips, cord and fishing weights!

Weaving is proceeding. I think I am going to love the loom and I sure love weaving in the airconditioning as opposed to my old studio in the unairconditioned garage.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ellie's Loom

First a little history:

Sometime probably in the late 70's or early 80's there was a weaver named Ellie who bought a new 45 inch 8 harness Herald loom with a sectional beam. I am sure Ellie dreamed of all the wonderful things she would weave on that loom.

Life must have interfered, because she never go around to weaving on her new loom. It never had a warp.

This year, Ellie, whose memory is failing, moved to assisted living. The unused loom remained behind, stored in a garage with only rats and mice for company. The harnesses collected a little rust.

Ellie's close friend and neighbor began the hard task of cleaning out Ellie's house. The loom went up for sale to another weaver.


Over the last several years, I have been teaching myself to weave. When I started, I thought I would never get a 4 harness loom threaded properly. I marveled that anyone would ever want more harnesses.

However, time in the chair has cured most of my early problems with crossed threads and missed headles. So I decided that if a loom appeared with more than 4 harnesses and if it were inexpensive enough to get passed my strong tightwad nature, I would buy it.

I was at knitting group one day talking about this to some other weavers, and I told them that I was convinced my new loom would find me.

Then, over a week ago, there was a posting to both Weaver's Guilds that I belong to that there was an 8 harness loom for sale. The price was right but I hit delete on the emails because I just had no time to investigate the loom. I was going out of town for several days so the timing was just all wrong.

My friend Kay, of Cordova Studios, also knew that I was looking for a loom, so she kindly forwarded me the email announcement which I saw for the third time. I hit delete. I was just too busy to look into it.

I thought about it all weekend while I was gone. I finally decided that if the loom was still available when I got back (and I thought that was unlikely) that I would check on it and go look at it. So I did.

The loom had not been sold to my surprise. No one had even looked at it. When I saw it, I knew my loom had indeed found me.

It took me a day to get it cleaned up. My husband has adjusted the brake. I think it is ready to warp.

I am now re-reading all my weaving publications, paying attention to all the new possibilities that 8 harnesses bring. I think it will keep me busy for a long time.

Now to get a warp on it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Basketweaving - Not the Underwater Kind

Today my Spinning Buddies, the Texas Twisters met at Nancy's house to learn to make a Spinning Basket. This basket is perfect for wool and even has a lazy kate built in as well as a tool holder and a small basket for trash or maybe hand cards or wool combs.

Nancy had everything well organized. We started by measuring all of our materials. The first photo shows Laurie and Joanne working on measuring and cutting the reeds.

Next we made the bottom of the basket. Here is a photo of Nancy showing Maxine how to get started. We lined up the reeds for the basket bottom with the right sides facing down.

Then we wove a couple of reeds on each side of the handle to get it stablized and centered. Finally we wove enough reeds to complete the bottom of the basket. Then we checked to be sure the corners were square.

Once the bottom of the basket was woven we twined around the edges to keep everything squared up. Then, we started up the sides of the basket. The first couple of rows was the most fiddly part I think. This photo is Laurie starting to weave up the side.

As we got higher up the sides, we added in some colored reeds to make each basket our unique work of art. No two are alike and each is beautiful.

We worked hard, but could not finish the entire basket in one day. Basketweaving, like most crafts, takes a lot of time.

Here are photos of some of the baskets as they were at the end of the day. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of all of them.

First is Sharon with her basket. She used red and blue reeds in her basket.

Here is Peggy's Basket. Peggy has one row of red reed, and I think she plans to add in some green reeds as she gets farther up the sides.

Kay used green and purple in her basket.

And here is my basket. I used two shades of purple and one round of a rose pink in my basket.

We still have to add the upper basket on and finish the top edges. There is also another small tool basket to make that is attached to the side near the handle.

I hope we get to finish this next week. It is going to be beautiful and so much fun to use!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dyeing without a Dyepot

This weekend I attended a three day workshop with Holly Brackmann called Dyeing Without a Dyepot. The workshop was sponsored by the Fort Worth Weavers Guild. I was one of about twenty attendees and I loved this workshop.

Holly is the author of the book The Surface Designer's Handbook: Dyeing, Printing, Painting and Creating Resists on Fabric. The book covers many types of dyes for all sorts of surfaces. It is an excellent resource.

The workshop focused on one type of dye, that I don't think anyone attending the workshop had ever used before. This dye is Pro Transperse Transfer Printing Dye which is used to transfer patterns to polyester and other synthetic fabrics.

The dye is applied to a peice of paper or transfer medium (an interfacing for example) and then is heat transferred to the fabric. The result is a bright, permanent transfer. In the photo, Holly is showing the dye as it appears on the paper on the left and after it has been heat transferred to the fabric on the right. Dull unidentifiable colors become bright and vibrant with a little heat and time. The fabric remains soft and supple and the fabric can be washed.

There are all sorts of possibilities with this dye, and the workshop explored many of them. The dye comes as a powder and is mixed into solution with boiling water. At that point it will keep, but may settle and needs to be mixed if it has been sitting for several hours. The dye can be directly brushed on paper, or it can be thickened and used with screens or stencils.

Once the paper is dry, the dye is transferred to fabric by heat setting it. To heat set the dye, hte fabric is put face up on a lightly padded ironing board, then the transfer is placed face down on top of the fabric, followed by a piece of parchment paper. Next heat is carefully applied. The longer the dye is heated the more color is transfered - but caution is needed since the polyester fabrics will melt if they get too hot. We did a lot of ironing this weekend!

We learned how to take a photocopy and turn it into a heat transfer by applying dye then ironing it onto fabric. The dye adheres to the black in the photocopy and the images are stunning. We also experimented with fabric crayons, and learned that some tissue wrapping papers are used dispurse dye transfers that can still be used!

We explored using many objects as resists to the dyed paper. One popular resist was a feather. A sheet of paper was painted with the dye and allowed to dry. Then the resist object - in this case a feather, was laid on top of the fabric, followed by the face down dyed paper. The result was almost like an X-ray.

In many cases, the resist object would pick up enough dye to allow it to be used as a transfer, so it is possible to build up colors and effects.

We thickened the dye with a thickening agent, and applied it to our paper with homemade stencils and with screens for screen printing. The thickened dye can also be applied directly to paper, then objects can be drug through it to form all sorts of lines or patterns.

The transfers can be applied to sheer fabrics too. Dramatic effects can be achieved when a sheer layer with transfers on it is placed over an opaque layer also with transfers.

We learned how to apply foil decorations to some areas as accents to the rest of the piece.

It was a great weekend of learning and fun with more ironing than most of us had done in a long time. Certainly we all have a new trick or two in our bags.

I can not wait to see what some of these very talented women will create in the coming months with the things we learned in this wonderful workshop. We also have an new appreciation for a type of fabric many of us rarely use in our crafting - polyester.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grrreat Tiger Wool gets Gold!

Sock blanks are lots of fun to dye, but the knitted results are often not predictable unless the blank is painted in broad stripes. That is, unless the blank is dyed using a method I read about in the Grrreat Tiger Wool Experiment group on Ravelry.

Blanks dyed using this method have a predictable thin stripe of one color with other colors between the stripes. This is achieved by painting one side of the blank in a solid color, and the other side can be painted in a different color or several colors.

This photo shows my Go for the Gold Socks in progress on top of the dyed sock blank. Notice the blue on the blank has turned into thin regular stripes on the socks.

There are many other possibilities with this method. Faux fairisle can be put on the non-stripe side, or you can have the faux fairisle interrupt the striping for a ways. There are lots of photos in that Ravelry Group to get more ideas from. Check out the thread called Experiment #6

The distance between the stripes is determined by the width of the blank and the width of the solid area. To get a complete stripe, the solid area needs to contain a complete round of sock yarn. For me, this is just under 30" for a 60 stitch sock. Thirty inches translates into 40 knitted stitches at the stitch and row gauge I used to make this blank, so, my solid area needs to be 20 stitches wide down one side of the blank to get one solid row. The wider the blank is, the more rows of knitting I have between the solid stripes.

Now that I know the math, my next sock blanks will be machine knitted with this dyeing method in mind so I can get wider spacing between the stripes.

This was a really fun way to dye a blank, and the resulting socks got me a Gold Medal in the 2010 Ravelympics Sock Hockey event.

I dyed another blank at the same time and have those on my needles now. They will be knitted in the Skew Pattern from Knitty Winter 2009. Skew should show off this type of sock yarn to great advantage.