I’ve never been one for sampling in weaving, but then, in my mind you sampled in order to check whether you were going to get the sort of cloth you wanted. Most of the time I got pretty much what I expected, or else close enough, and if I didn’t I’d unweave and make adjustments or accept the cloth I got.

But there’s another use for sampling which Kay pointed out to me: a chance for experimentation and learning. That’s had me thinking about the drive to make versus the drive to learn. I’ve definitely been focussed on the former more than the latter since starting to weave. If I’m not making something I feel like I’m wasting time.

Yet if I wove to learn more often rather than to produce, not only would I learn faster but it would lessen the problem of having too many scarves, blankets, tea towels, etc. I need to see sampler as beautiful objects in their own right. In fact, what if instead of packing away workshop samples I aimed to fill a wall of my craft room with them, like we did at the workshop?

Inspired, I decided to ask Paul to install a hanging system. To prepare, I moved everything that was in the way. The clutter came off the drawing board, the knitting machines went into the guest room. The floor even got a much-needed vacuum. Of course, we then decided it’d be easier to hang samplers on the doors of the cupboards instead, so I didn’t need to move anything after all.

But I found I was enjoying having a bit more space. Without the knitting machines the craft room was so much more, well, roomier. So I got to thinking… do I really need the Passap? It never gets used nowadays. I primarily bought it to knit socks on, but I still have nearly 40 pairs of handknit socks so I’m not going to run out any time soon. Machine knitting is a sit, concentrate and spend a few hours kind of activity – much like weaving. If I had to choose between regularly spending a few hours of concentration on machine knitting or weaving, weaving would win.

I’ve used the Bond knitting machine more than the Passap. It’s easy to remember how to, and I prefer garments knitted from 8ply to 4ply. So I wouldn’t be eliminating machine knitting from my life completely, if I sold the Passap.

I even contemplated getting rid of the drawing board too. Then I could fit two floor looms in, if the second was smaller. Or I could remove the drawing board and keep the Passap…

Oh dear.

Bleaching Solution

A few refashioning batches ago, I made this sleeveless top from one of Paul’s shirts:

You can see the problem. The pocket wound up in an awkward spot and when I removed it the shadow of it remained. I’ve been thinking about how to hide that ever since. After my craft room tidy up recently I had an idea for a swift, easy way to fix it: bleach.

I tested my idea on a scrap of the fabric, using neat and then diluted bleach:

Only neat bleach made a strong enough mark. The fabric is thick enough that it wasn’t destroyed by it, so I went ahead and painted the front of the top:

Initially the marks bleached to green, which would have been nice:

But after a wash they changed to light blue, which I like as well.

The pocket shadow is still there, but it’s much less noticeable.

Kay Plus Fun Workshop

Last year, at the end of the Kay Faulkner Play+1 weaving workshop at the Ballarat Fibre Forum, I had a crazy idea. What if I flew our teacher down to Melbourne and held a workshop in our studio? The other students were keen and, after a bit of a delay thanks to the eye surgery, I started organising it late last year.

While the insurance to hold a workshop at the studio wasn’t really high, taking it out for one event wasn’t economical, so I went looking for suitable accommodation. The first place I thought of was Sewjourn, a cottage and studio for rent up in Lancefield. A quilting friend told me about it some years ago and it sounded very suited to our purposes. I made enquiries and booked us in.

Circumstances swung against us for a while, with three out of five of the original students not able to come. So I put the word out among weavers I encountered that we would welcome new participants, and the lovely Kaye (yes, another Kay) leapt at the opportunity to join us. Then Elizabeth and Di were able to make it after all, so we had a group of five.

We arrive at Sewjourn on a Monday. I forgot to take a photo of the cottage, which is lovely. This is the studio:

There was a huge full moon on the last couple of nights. Well, it looks tiny here, as I only had my phone to take photos with.

We had chosen woven shibori as our subject. Four of us began with warp shibori and had pre-warped our loom so we could start weaving when we go there, one warped up on arrival for weft shibori. Here’s my work, with the end of some warp shibori and the beginning of a section of taiten – a form of weft shibori where you substitute a pick with thread.

We’d weave a length of cloth, cut it off, pull up the threads and tie them tightly, then paint with dye. We also did some warp painting. Here’s some of both, hanging on the clothesline to dry:

On Thursday Kay made up a vat of indigo, so we dunked another bunch of samplers in that and watched the colour go from bright green to deep blue black. It’s so magical, you just want to find more things to dye.

We also tried ikat dyeing, where you tie off sections of yarn with tape to prevent the dye penetrating.

This can either be used as warp, with the undyed areas lining up across the cloth – but never goes perfectly so you get that nice fussy edge effect – or as weft, which is what Kaye tried at the end of the week:

On the last day we pinned our samplers up on the huge board that quilters use when staying there.

And laid out our painted warps and ikat yarn.

Kay assessed our efforts, cementing what we had learned.

And then we parted ways, sad that it was over but full of new weaverly knowledge and happy to have spend five days in delightful company and eating some very delicious home cooked meals.

Once at home I unpacked over some days. I had expected to be tired, but a bug I had before I went away resurfaced and left me exhausted and sinusy. Paul also had it, so we were a sorry pair for a while. But mid week I regained some energy and, after rereading my notes and putting tags on my finished samplers, I wove off the rest of the sampler warp.

I took out The Handweavers Pattern Directory and looked for drafts using the extended point twill threading on the loom for the resist thread, and for interesting textures to use for the ground cloth. When I ran out of ideas I decided to see how taiten looked with different width spacing between the resist threads. It’s off the loom now, waiting until I have enough other things to dye to make a session economical.

And the loom is packed away, because I then launched into a big craft room and office tidy up. But that’ll probably be the subject of another post.

Taupe Jacket

The third project I tackled post-sewing class was the Taupe Jacket. When I took it in it was at this stage:

I still had to sew in the zip, I wanted to taper the sleeves and perhaps narrow the waist section and I was thinking of adding a collar. Then I had to decide if I wanted to line it.

Well, I tackled all of the above. Zip in. Collar on. Sleeves tapered. Lining added. I tried a fell seam along the underside of the arms, but the fabric kept unravelling even though it had been overlocked. So I wound up doing a straight seam then using some calico bias binding I made ages ago to finish a quilt to stabilise those seams.

I took a bit of a break before tackling the lining due to feeling ill for a week. I hand stitched the lining in because by then I was a bit sick of the sight of my sewing machine.

It now looks like this:

Am I happy with it?

Yes. But it has reminded me that I like weaving much more than sewing. That’s a bit of a hitch in my plan to make clothing out of fabric I’ve woven. I’m going to hold off tackling sewing the handwoven skirt for a while, or I might end up rushing and taking short cuts to get it done quicker.

A Tidy Space Oddity

A few weeks ago I was feeling poorly, so for something to do I backed up this blog. Well, not in the usual way. Looking at the backups WordPress does, I couldn’t see how I would ever access the entries if I ever needed just the contents. So I cut and paste the contents of every month into a Word document – which is how I used to back up when this was a Blogger blog.

When I was done I skim read through the blog from the start. That was… interesting. It’s easy to feel like I am some kind of crazy person obsessed with making stuff when I read an entire year’s entries in one sitting! The blog has seen lots of changes, from RSI forcing me to give up knitting to passing phases of craft-related internet phenomenon (blogs, podcasts, ravelry, pinterest).

It put me in a strange, fed-up mood, so that once I had a little energy again I began tidying up and finishing things. The Taupe Jacket lining got sewn so I could put the machines away. Materials I’d gathered for a talk at the Guild that was cancelled got packed away as I was sick of them taking up space waiting to see if it would be rescheduled. I finished spinning the banana fibre after not touching the wheel for many months, to see if I should pack the wheel away.

I decided this mood might be good for culling so I started halfheartedly tidying the craft room. I started with jewellery supplies, moved on to refashioning projects and finally tackled the accumulation of carry bags around the house. In the middle of it I wound up in the garage, where I made the biggest impact – all the basketry materials I accumulated early last year went into the green waste bin.

Other than that I didn’t get rid of much. Mostly I put stuff away or stored it better. While the result was satisfying, I suspect if I had more energy and time I could have done a lot more.

I have the WIP list down to just three items now, but I’ll be starting a few weaving projects soon so that isn’t going to last long!

Greta Cape

I’ve finished my second post Sewing for Handwovens class project.

Using one of the Style Arc patterns I bought.

I made it in calico first, which I’m glad I did as the instructions are a bit scant in places so I was able to work it out without risking the small amount of handwoven fabric I had. I’d done so because I suspected the collar would be in contact with my skin, and being sensitive to wool that would force me to wear a high collar underneath. I was right, so I made the collar from the lining instead.

Though I used interfacing, the only black I had was a bit thin and the collar could be a bit stiffer. I should have doubled it or bought a thicker one. But the collar hasn’t come out too floppy, just a bit softer than it’s meant to be, so I’m not unhappy with the result.

It’s made from the fabric from the Handspun, Handwoven, Handsewn Jacket, which was already the third garment the main yarn in this had been made into.

The only change I’m thinking of making now is to put trim along the lines where I pieced together the handwoven fabric strips. I’ll do that if I happen across the perfect trim. In the meantime, I’ll call the Greta Cape done!

Pattern Practicality

After the Sewing for Handwovens class a few weeks ago I reviewed my approach to clothing design with handwoven fabric. Until then, inspired by Saori, I’d been looking at patterns that didn’t require cutting the cloth. But to be honest, my taste in clothing has always been toward more fitted pieces.

I have cut my handwoven cloth before. A few years back I made a vest out of fabric I’d woven then felted. I wasn’t really entering the danger zone of fraying, however. Felted fabric doesn’t fray.

But I learned something else from that project: don’t download patterns.

Of the three patterns I’ve downloaded, carefully printed, pieced together and cut out, all came out too big. Sure, I printed out the little one inch square, measured it and changed the scale I printed at, but the square is much too small to really get the scale right.

I’ve now tossed those three patterns in the recycling bin, deciding that I will only buy paper patterns from now on. My local Lincraft is closing down, so I popped down there to buy some commercial patterns.

Ugh! I’d forgotten how time-consuming it is to buy patterns in store. Flicking through six or seven big books, writing down the brand and number, queuing up at the counter and discovering they don’t have the pattern you want in stock. I could have gone back and started again, but Paul was waiting in the car.

Once at home I did some searching on the internet. I wanted a classic denim skirt pattern. An image came up that looked right, and it led to a small pattern company, Style Arc. I expected to find it was in the US or UK and post would cost a fortune and take ages – but no! It was a local company in my home city! So I bought the pattern, and a few others.

I love how they contain a little sample of suggested fabric! I’ve sewn one of them now, and I found the instructions a little bit scant in places, but otherwise it worked just fine. Not for beginners, though. More on that project in another post…

Kitchen Ventilation Patch Mosaics

I’ve done the last of the mosaic patches in the smaller ventilation holes for the old central heating.

My first idea had been to make something in slate, since the floor was slate. I bought a couple of tiles and did some experiments, and was mostly confident that I could make it work. However, when I sat down to actually put together a mosaic, I found I hated the material. There is absolutely no control over how it breaks, so I wound up with a whole lot of pieces nibbled into shape with my tile nippers, and it looked crap. Even then, I couldn’t be sure they’d stay in that shape, as they kept crumbling.

So I brought out some of the smooth-edged tiles I’d worked with already, fiddled around a bit and either didn’t like anything I came up with or worked out I’d have to buy more tiles. When I considered how much trouble I had buying enough of the right colour of these tiles in the past, I just didn’t have the energy to pursue them.

But I’d have to buy something. And I realised that if I wasn’t going to use anything I had already, that freed me up to use any tile that took my fancy and was available. I recalled how I’d seen simple leaf shaped tiles on a mosaic shop website, and loved the sinuous pattern they formed en mass.

I wasn’t going to spent a pile of money without working out if I liked the effect in person, and I didn’t want to discover I hadn’t bought enough tiles only to find they weren’t available any more. I’ve learned that you have to work quickly from concept to finished piece, to make sure the latter doesn’t happen.

So I mocked up a tile in Illustrator, printed it out and confirmed that I’d probably like the effect. I counted the tiles and bought what I thought was enough. However, the tiles I wanted came in batches of two colours. I couldn’t be sure how much of each colour I’d get. I paid extra for fast shipping and when they got here I discovered there were less burgundy tiles than black. I simply reversed the pattern I’d come up with. Then I divided the tiles into three equal sets for the three patches. Laying out the pattern on a cement sheet backing, I worked out that I needed more black tiles, and ordered those straight away.

When they arrived I got to glueing. After a couple of sessions over a few days, I had my patches ready to insert. Then it was just a matter of filling the holes with layers of mdf to get them to the right height, glueing down the mosaics, grouting and sealing.

Another lesson I’d learned from previous mosaics was that I should test the grout colour beforehand. It always dries lighter than I expect. It was worth doing. This time I got it spot on.

There’s one more possible floor mosaic to do: the larger patch when the intake grille for the central heating was. It’s quite a big area, and needs more than a simple filler. But before I do that I have the clock to finish, and I want to do a glass mosaic bowl.

A Phoney Life

Late last year I came to the conclusion that I was addicted to my phone. Gosh, that’s a statement that would have made no sense fifteen or twenty years ago!

Earlier in the year a friend had shut down Facebook for three months because she was spending all her time there and not interacting with her family. Ironically, this is the same friend who insisted I sign up because I’d be left out of social events otherwise. At the end of the three months she reactivated her account. She said it didn’t make a lot of difference, as she had spent the time she used to waste on Facebook in other apps on her phone.

It seems like the phone is the problem, I thought.

After eye surgery, while I was sensitive to light, it became really obvious that I spend too much of my time looking at screens. I’d wake up and check my phone, get up and shower, look at my phone while eating breakfast, sit in front of the desktop computer, check my phone in every break, settle down at night to watch tv and check my phone during the ad breaks or if the show was boring, then go to bed and listen to podcasts, read on the phone and, most often, look at social media before going to sleep.

If I put my phone out of my reach at any of these times of day, I’d find myself reading for it without thinking. If I set it down next to me and told myself I wasn’t going to look, I’d find myself scrolling through Facebook minutes later.

That sounds like addiction to me.

Was this a bad thing? I loved my iPhone when I first got it. It replaced my watch, diary, Melways, notebook, book, torch, ipod Nano and camera. It connects me to the world and my friends. But was it having a detrimental effect, too? Like my friend, I tended to blame the apps for making me anxious or distracted. I hate the nervy feeling that I’ll lose friends and become dangerously uninformed if I don’t keep being a slave to social media.

So I decided to see what would happen if I cut back my phone usage. I decided to:

– charge my phone away from my bed
– remove Twitter, Instagram and Words With Friends from my phone
– leave my phone in the kitchen during the day, unless we go out
– during breaks I can check my phone, but I must spend as much time not looking at it
– go back to using analogue versions of a notebook, diary, and watch, and even books

After a few weeks I noted I was feeling calmer. I fall asleep faster and have had less and milder insomnia. When I wake in the morning I think about the day ahead and make plans, and don’t forget what they were so easily.

And the memory improvement was the most surprising. I realised that by stuffing phone use into all the little gaps of time between activities I wasn’t allowing my brain time to remember the small things. Letting it meander before sleep and rising, or during breaks, gives me time to not just recollect, but to see the big picture, rather than bouncing from one thing to another without an overall sense of priority. Also, my subconscious isn’t waking me up through the night to remind me about things I need to do as often as it used to.

I’ve also noticed that friends really do expect me to be checking the phone constantly. It’s not so much that they want answers to questions straight away, but that they leave decisions that might inconvenience me to the last moment, expecting that a Message will reach me instantly. Nobody rings when it’s urgent any more.

Another advantage of putting the phone out of reach is I’m not being constantly bombarded by advertising. Oh, such a relief!

Which has had me thinking… These new devices that you can talk to in your home… How long before they begin to chirp advertising at you? Because the ploy of social media was to get people to think they can’t live without it, then slowly introduce the ads. How long before your internet-connected kettle and washing machine are telling you what coffee or laundry powder to use?

Now there’s a nightmare of a future. Maybe I shouldn’t be spending all that extra time thinking!

I Fixed It!

As I said a few post ago, I took the Glamour Shawl along to the Sewing for Handwovens class to get some feedback on what I could do with it. I was contemplating cutting it up to make something, with the hope that I could make the mistakes disappear.

But the suggestion from the class was to add surface embellishment to hide the mistakes and keep it as a shawl. I was still keen to make it a garment, and I figured if I cut a hole in the middle to make a neck opening, sewed up the sides and added knitted sleeves I’d have a reasonable garment. So I gathered together thrums of the yarns I’d used, the leftover bobbin of gold thread and some black 8ply yarn. Then I hung the shawl over a dowel to examine it and considered what to do…

… and the first thing that popped into my head was “get rid of that awful gold thread”!

So I cut it all out, leaving me with a section of loose warp. Fixing that was easy, I just used the 8ply yarn to weave three rows of leno twists. That one change made such a difference, and suddenly I liked the shawl and was excited about what I was doing.

The next step was some rya knots along the gap where I’d removed threads to fix a mistake and the weft wouldn’t shift in to fill the gap. I liked this, too. More rya knots followed on the other half, to balance. Then I sewed in thrums and knotted those together horizontally, and found other ways to embellish the shawl. When I felt it was fairly evenly covered, I decided it was done.

It’s now a good-looking shawl. I’m not going to push my luck and risk ruining it by making a garment. I like it just the way it is.