Saturday, February 28, 2009

Still Working at the Pile

I’ve finally finished my CAMMO sweater, the painted cotton novelty yarn knitted up really well and it is now a kick around the house tee sweater. I chose a really simple style for the garment and the end result fits me very well. I think that the way the painted yarn made zigzags is really very cool and will look great with army green capri’s.
I still have a few projects sitting on my sewing table, but the pile is quickly diminishing. I can almost see the end in sight…. If I really apply myself I can clear it off before…..hmmmm, I’m going to say Easter!
I pulled two 2/16 natural linen pieces woven in Swedish and Bronson Lace for my next finishing project. These two pieces were samples left over from one of The Guild of Canadian Weavers Intermediate test questions. They are lovely pieces that just don’t have any wow factor; the colour is just a tad uninspiring.
My plan is to soak them in a light Procion MX dye bath, not sure yet what colour will liven up this rather dark beige, and then paint on them.
I drove to Kelowna today and picked up the Dye-na-Flow Exciter Pack for under $20.00 (sorry about the flash glare). It contains 9 concentrated vibrant colours of “paint that acts like dye” for use on all fabrics according to the package. Apparently I can just paint it on, leave it for 24 hours then fix it by ironing. When I find something like this I’ve just gotta give it a go! Wish me luck!
Weaving Words
Bosom is the main part of a woven piece as opposed to the selvedges or borders.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tabby and Basket Weave Tea Towels ~ It's All About Technique

Every once in a while I notice that my weaving becomes very tiring. I feel quite achy after only a short time at the loom. I know it’s time to put on an easy comfortable warp to weave and concentrate on my technique. Well, that’s what I’ve done today. Six yards of tabby and basket weave for tea towels. I've used all cotton set at 24 epi, that's fairly tight due to the basket weave floats.

Because the pattern is so easily seen when weaving and memorized, I can ask myself questions while I weave.

Am I sitting up straight? I do have a tendency to hunch over and drop my head forward while looking at the fell line.

Am I grabbing the beater bar in the center? It’s so easy to not reach to the center with my non dominant hand.

I have found a solution to this that works for me. Silicone sticky bumps….
I place one bump in the center of my beater bar and make sure that with each beat I touch the bead; this prevents any left or right pull on the beater.

Am I doing a long enough follow through with my weft after each shed? I have found that if I don’t allow enough slack at the end of the pass, the next pass can pull the weft and create a crappy selvedge.

Am I messing with the edges? Stop it!!!!! Sometimes when I’m doing a tricky piece of weaving I labour over each selvedge turn, fiddling around with them. This is a very bad thing. It slows down my weaving and prevents me from ever getting a good rhythm and I’m sure it makes the selvedges less uniform.

So today is all about relaxing at the loom and concentrating on some good habits.
Did you notice my new Library Thing? You can click on it and see a list of the weaving books I use.

Rhadzimir is a small checked pattern made on twill weaves, used for neckwear fabrics.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Summer and Winter Eight Shaft Christmas Tree Pattern

The Summer and Winter Christmas trees which were my first project on the Louet Jane loom have been washed, pressed and cut up. I have just slipped one into the card stock to give you an idea of how they will look. They need a little something, something I think, so I’ll be adding some shiny embellishments before I mail them in December, but hey, I’m pretty much ready and only 10 months early! I’m thinking of adding seed beads as ornaments or perhaps a gold star to the top, not sure yet.

This is the draft for the cards which uses 8 shafts and 14 treadles, so it's perfect for the table loom.
Now onto what’s new in my studio….move over Lily Louet…it's seed time!

On the 15th we started our seeds. We put in 12 varieties of heirloom, organic tomatoes and surprisingly many are already showing leaves. I’m especially proud of these seedlings because I saved the seeds from last year's crop, only purchasing 2 new varieties to try out this year. We have also started onions, eggplant, peppers and Italian kale. We basically eat a Mediterranean diet, so these plants will be the basis of our food for the summer. My sister gave me a few heads of hard neck garlic last week and I thought what the heck and planted them too. Unbelievably they are inches high already, hopefully the snow will leave my garden soon, so I can bung them into the ground. I planted my real garlic crop last October, so if these grow it'll be a bonus.

My husband rigged up this great seed table using his saw horses and a square frame to hang the grow lights, so we’ll be fooling Mother Nature and turning the lights on for 12 hours a day to get a good head start for planting out in April.
The English word subtle is derived from the Latin word subtilis meaning finely woven.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Possum, Mohair and Wood Shawl Part 2

I hope this hop scotching between my daughter Ngaire’s posts (her name is pronounced Ny Ree by the way); and mine isn’t too confusing; our goal is to give two perspectives on weaving.

This is my Window Pane Handspun shawl just after I pulled it off the loom – it measured 25” wide by 104” long plus fringe…pretty long but I had no idea how the shrinkage would work out and I wanted a long shawl. Pretty straight eh?

After machine washing on the delicate cycle for 6 minutes in hot water and cold rinse to encourage it to full I was surprised with the results. So I repeated the whole process for a total wash time of 12 minutes and a full cycle of machine spin drying and I still had much less shrinkage than I'd planned. The fibres are well knitted together and don't move, but it is still a very light weave as you can see.
The only place I could find to hang the shawl to dry was from my upstairs banister. Here it is hanging a full floor length! The shawl is now 23” wide by 99” long plus 8” fringes, plenty big enough to wrap around and throw over any shoulder.

I had some issue with the weft turns; the handspun didn’t snug up as much as I wanted around the silk selvedge threads, so I needle wove 4 more ply’s of the silk through the edge turns. I think it really did improve the look of the selvedges and seemed to finish off the window pane effect very well. Below is a closeup of the web showing that it's a very stable web and is squared in the beat...10 epi and 10 ppi, photo's a bit blurry though...

This shawl is not as soft as I had anticipated, the possum in the wool/possum/mohair blend makes it very warm and cozy, but the novelty mohair which felt very soft in the ball seems to makes it a bit less soft than I’d have liked. My handspun didn’t expand as much as I’d hoped either. I wasn’t looking for shrinkage as much as an expansion of the grist, you know general puffiness, and that just didn’t occur. This isn’t a gauzy shawl by any means but it’s not quite as lofty as I’d hoped, but beautiful nonetheless.

Gebrochene is the German term for the structure sometimes called M’s and W’s. It is a twill interlacement with an elaborate threading and treadling and a twill tie up.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bead Leno ~ Everything to Learn

With Bead Leno sometimes the beads can get tangled because they can’t get clear of the twist from the previous shed, this is caused partially by tension and how close the beads are set, I think, at least that seemed to be my problems! To break up the clumps I had to strum the beads with my fingers to break up the clumps. After I had finished the scarf I was reading up on Bead Leno and one of the tips was to raise the treadle that lifted the heddles that had the warp threads that didn’t have the beads and that would clear the shed. In my case that was shaft #2, I wish that I had taken a photo, sorry. Also wish that I had read that sooner!

I also had a little problem with the tension. Every time that I advanced the warp the left hand side of the scarf was getting softer and softer. I kept trying to firm up that edge until I had made the centre as tight as a drum. Then it happened . . . a warp thread snapped as I was trying to clear the beads. Thankfully it wasn’t a thread going through a bead so it made for an easier fix. I added another thread that dangled from the back in a film canister. Another film canister with six pennies was hooked over the troublesome left side of the scarf to help with my tension problem, which added much needed tension.

The next learning experience was adding to the weft. The bobbin was getting emptier but I was able to see the end of my warp so it was a race to see which one reached the end first. Well it was the weft, so I had to learn how to add on. Bead Leno is a single weft thread and then a space so there could be no doubling up as that would have showed in the final project. Luckily the Tencel was 2 ply so Mum showed me that I could untwist the Tencel down about 1 inch to make two separate singles, then pull one single off; a pulled piece is better then a cut piece as the pulled fibres are easier to incorporate then a sharply cut piece. Do the same process to the new yarn to be added to the weft. Then take the two pieces and twist them back together to make a newly doubled yarn, with a little drop of Fray Check to help the two pieces to stick together. It sounds a little confusing but the photo will make things a little clearer.
As I was weaving the scarf I wasn’t sure if I liked the black stripes because what I like about Bead Leno is the twist, which is highlight with variegated yarn. Within the black stripe the interest is the lacy effect and the coloured weft. But the more I wove the more that I started to really like the black stripes. Although I think that the Bead Leno structure is more interesting when represented by the variegated colours.

Project Details

Warp and Weft Yarn: 20/2 Tencel
Colour: Multi and Black
epi: 40
On the Loom: 108” x 6”
Finished Size: 73” x 5.5”, 9” fringe

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pretty, Pretty Bead Leno

I liked doing Bead Leno so much that I decided to do it again, nothing like a little positive reinforcement! I had a ball of the multi colour Tencel leftover from the first Bead Leno scarf and half a bobbin but I wasn’t sure if there was enough for another scarf. I had to do some math to find out how much I had. Inside of the cone of Tencel is a sticker which says that there is 8400 yards per pound. After weighing my ball and some quick math I found out that I didn’t have enough so I would have to do some stripes. After some sketches of possible stripe placement I found one that worked for me. I had to keep in mind that the warp needed to be divisible by four because Bead Leno is based on four warp threads twisting onto one another. I also wanted to have the stripes separate; I didn’t want to have 2 colour threads with 2 black threads because I thought that the scarf might look muddy or blurry around the edges of the stripes. As you can see in the third photo my math was pretty close, all that I had left was a tiny ball of the multi coloured Tencel.
Onto the warping board . . . the board is backed with a towel because it makes it easier to see the threads as the board is placed on some shelves. The thicker pink yarn at the back of the board is there as a guide as I have to wind inch segments of my warp, it is there so I don’t have to remeasure three yards each time. Although when tying off the warp bundles I have to be careful not to attach it also! I use a large gauge yarn to tie the cross so I don’t lose it and so it is easier to see. Then to make double sure that I don’t loss the cross, I use smaller gauge yarn to tie the separate halves of the cross. I also use the smaller ties for the rest of the warp and I tie frequently, maybe too much, can there be too much?!
Here is a photo of my back beam, I can’t remember why we took off one of the back beams but it does make for a cool photo!
The tying on of the front beam was a little tricky because the multi coloured Tencel and the black Tencel have slightly different weights and so the tension was hard to get even. Also the groups that I did for my tie up were too big so I had a lot of space between them; thankfully I had planned for a fringe of 10 inches so the Venetian blinds helped to close up the spaces. But what really helped was the adding of the wool header, which I use instead of hemstitching.
The first Bead Leno scarf that I did I used a 12 dent reed with the spacing of 4 – 4 – 4 – 0 – 4 – 4 – 4 - 0 etc. In the finished product the sleying pattern showed up and while I liked it, I thought that this time I would change the sleying. To change the sleying I had to also change from the 36 epi that I used with the first scarf to 40 epi. For this scarf I used a 20 dent reed and the spacing was 4 – 0 – 4 - 0 etc. It has made for a more gauzy fabric. I am looking forward to concluding the weaving and seeing the finished product.

Picture of my first scarf at 36 epi.

Picture of my second scarf at 40 epi.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Possum, Mohair and Wool Shawl

New Zealand is a place I get to go fairly frequently since my husband and children are citizens. The last time we went, we spent some time with friends in Te Puke (pronounced tea pooh key) and I found a small carding company called Rainbow Carding. This lovely couple lived on what New Zealanders call a ‘Life Style Block’, which is a nice way of saying a hobby farm and were doing some really interesting blending. I purchased a huge bag of roving in a colour called Black Tulip. This photo shows the colour perfectly!
This roving is a really deep royal purple and as the tag shows, it’s a blend of Possum, Wool and Mohair. Yup, I really did buy 900 grams! Consequently I have been spinning this lot forever it seems. At the time I purchased the roving the Canadian dollar was worth $1.45 New Zealand, so this worked out to be around $43.00. The possum gives amazing warmth as well as softness, the mohair gives it shine and strength and the wool makes everything else behave.

I spun the roving using the semi worsted method to minimize any eventual pilling and produced a fine 2 ply yarn. It feels very heavy for it's size due to the amount of mohair in the mix.
Wanting to do a fun, quick project using my handspun I decided to make a shawl, but the Black Tulip was pretty but would be unremarkable by itself. After a wander through my stash I came upon a 1/30 magenta silk. It was far too fine to use as a singles, so I plied it fairly loosely to make it thicker.
I also found this interesting mohair novelty yarn, in a silimar tone to the Black Tulip. The mohair is spun around a silk knot core yarn, the core yarn has lots of colour pop.
Now that I have my yarn choices the project seemed to fall into place. A plain weave set at 10 epi would make the shawl light and airy. I alternated the silk and mohair in the warp, one shot every 10 warp threads and I would repeat this in the weft for a window pane effect. I sleyed one warp thread per dent in a 10 dent reed, but since the mohair novelty has a larger grist than the rest of the warp I left an empty dent on each side of it. The colour is a bit washed out here and my venetian blind is leaving sun stripes, but you get the idea.
I put on 4 yards of warp ‘cause I like my shawls to be long enough to wrap around and toss over your shoulder and have 27 inches for width. I am using a ski shuttle for the wool because I wanted to have it slide through the web and this seems to work better for me than a stick shuttle. I am carrying the silk yarn up the sides and have a silk floating selvedge, but I'm not carrying the mohair up the edge because it would make everything too hairy. I have no idea how this yarn will behave during the fulling process, I did preshrink it after spinning, so hopefully the take up and shrinkage will be minimal.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Finishing Up the Tencel Scarves

We are now well into our second month with snow on the ground, a very unusual year for the Okanagan Valley. We generally have snow around Christmas, then by mid January it’s gone, gone, gone. We have been having lots of grey days and yesterday we had the dew point and the temperature the same, it was a beautiful sight; frost on the trees. This is the scene from my back deck, looking toward the north.
My second tencel scarf is off the loom and already been trotted off to the guild show and tell, and it got very favourable comments, but surprisingly for me so did the one with the purple weft! Using red tencel as the weft really made a huge difference, much more forgiving of any beat differences. I chose to change the pattern to be all over squares rather than runs of pattern. This photo is of the scarf under tension on the loom. The undulations are very well behaved.

Without tension, but still on the loom, you can really see the puffy three dimensional blocks.

Now all finished and pressed it looks quite lovely, I'm very please with this one.
Since I was taking photos in my guest room, I thought I’d show you a set of overshot pillows in 'Cat's Paw or Snail Trails' that I did a few years ago, very classic in blue wool and natural white cotton.