I’m All Out…

… of posts. Oh, I have a few half-written ones waiting for photos or for me to complete a project, but there’s nothing ready to publish. Been too busy or exhausted for either.

… of Christmas cheer. Already. About a decade ago I started cutting back the number of social occasions at this time of year because I was stumbling through December in a haze of exhaustion. However, the addition of two zero-important birthday parties this year kinda undid that policy. The up side, other than celebrating with these friends, is the falling feathers scarf was perfectly suited to yesterday’s birthday girl, and she posted a pic on FB showing how it matched a skirt someone else gave her.

… of energy. WTF is up with my body lately? Insomnia followed by exhausted but not refreshing sleep, over and over. Needless to say, not much work or craft is being done.

… of things to whine about. Really, things are pretty good overall. And there’s a Star Wars film coming out soon!

Varying the Vari Dent

Ever since Paul gave me the Vari Dent reed my brain has been buzzing with possibilities and wrestling with its limitations. I’ve been looking for ideas, too, mostly in vain. Searching the internet for anything to do with variable dent reeds has had me scratching my head at how little there is to find.

There are three versions out there:

The Ashford Vari Dent.
A search on the site brings up only three entries. One is a link to Wheel magazine, because there is an article in last year’s issue, one is a news item announcing the reed with a few photos, the last is just a link to the SampleIt Loom. There’s one forum discussion on Ravelry begun 19 months ago.

The Schacht Variable Dent Reed doesn’t appear to have a page dedicated to it on their site, but a search for it brings up several three-year-old blog posts, some including projects. A search on Ravelry brought up an announcement of it’s release from four years ago, which also brought my attention to another version made by Majacraft…

The Kromski Weaver’s Choice Heddle is a slightly more complex and flexible system that seems to have been available for a year now. There’s a great video on how it works at the link above. It’s interesting, but not suitable for what I want to do.

The ideas I want to explore require several reed sections of the same size. I emailed Ashford to see if I could buy more and they replied that they aren’t selling reeds individually. Thinking hard, I came up with two other ways to get hold of what I needed (other than buying two or three more Vari Dent kits). The first was to get my own heddle sections made. The second was to buy a full size reed, remove the frame and chop it up.

The first idea looked like the best one, as I have a friend with access to a 3D printer. But after chatting to her I changed my mind. We agreed laser cutting would be better and she suggested a company. I was a bit intimidated, and leaned toward buying a reed to cut up, but came back to laser cutting after considering how difficult it could be to cut it up. So I worked up some files in Illustrator and, since I could do what I liked with the design, I made the heddle pieces even narrower than those supplied in the Vari Dent kit.

I sent off three different sizes of a single heddle as a test: 10 dpi, 12.5 dpi and 15 dpi. This was delivered a few days later:

The acrylic had melted and distorted thanks to the heat generated by the laser. A few emails to the tech guy and we had a possible solution. A week later these arrived:

Almost perfect. The slot gap on the side of each heddle is quite narrow, and makes a half size gap when the heddles sit against each other, but when I warped up the loom it wasn’t a problem. However, my reed hook was a bit thick for the holes, and on the second project one of the reeds broke as I pulled the yarn through. Fortunately I had spares made – and Paul made me a thinner hook out of flattened wire.

The other shapes shown are spacers to use between the reeds, and a wraps per inch guide that I whipped up only because there was a space free.

So far I’ve done one and a half scarves, confirming two of my ideas work. I have a few more ideas to try. When I’m done experimenting I’ll do a separate post – or posts – with photos. And I might see if there is another way to do what I’m doing using just the reeds from the Vari Dent kit, too.

By the Sword, Combined

The Handweavers and Spinners Guild organised a visit from a Japanese weaver a few months back that I wasn’t able to get to. One of the tools and methods Mr Tanji demonstrated was a weaving sword. The piece he worked on was still at the guild the next time I made it to a meeting, and the lovely ladies there gave me some quick instructions so I could try it.

I rather liked it, and decided I would make a sword. As they do, the idea percolated in my brain and reformed itself late one night into this:

Not only could I make it two-sided, but make it the shuttle as well. I felt very clever. Then a few weeks later a search for weaving done with variable dent reeds led me to the Majacraft website and this.

Okay, well, yes, someone has already thought of the sword plus shuttle idea. But I took that as proof there was merit in the idea and made mine anyway. Yet to try it – I have packed away the table loom and the floor and knitters looms are occupied. But I will soon!

The Anasthetic-Brain Scarf & Thrum-Fringed Scarf

When I put a project on all my looms before having eye surgery, this was the most complicated one: two point twill scarves using the clasped weft technique to turn thrums into a side fringe. I did one repeat of the first draft before the first surgery, but didn’t go back to it until after the second surgery.

Oh boy, was it frustrating! My short term memory was completely messed up. By the time I’d done a couple of picks I’d forgotten where I was in the draft. I’d do the same two row three times because I kept forgetting I’d already done them, or skip a couple because I thought I had done them when I hadn’t. Sure, there was a lot to keep track of thanks to adding clasped weft, but it hadn’t been that difficult pre-surgery.

After unweaving and reweaving several times over a couple of sessions, I thought I had about four perfect repeats done. But when I looked closely the first and fourth were different to the second and third. At that point I gave up. I decided I was going to continue with the two up/two down basic twill structure and just shift to the left or right as I pleased.

Oh, the relief! And simultaneously, the project was suddenly so much more fun to weave. The fabric I was getting looked great, in a groovy sort of way. I did have to watch out for overly long floats, but the change of approach made it doable and enjoyable.

A few weeks later, when I came close to running out of thrums I decided to consult the draft again. Sure enough, I had no trouble following it. The affect of the anasthetic had worn off.

I finished it and started the second scarf, attempted the draft I had planned for it. The weaving went just fine. This time I didn’t have enough thrums to do a full length scarf, so after every three clasped weft repeats I did two with the non-thrum yarn going all the way across, leaving enough on the side to make a blue section of fringe. It made for a more ‘graphic’ design.

I’m really happy with how they turned both out. However, I went through my accessories recently and I definitely have more than enough for one person (or two, or three…). A few knitted pieces were culled, unravelled, washed and wound into balls to make into something else. I decided I would try selling all the scarves I wove this year in the Guild’s gallery.

I loved making them, and I’d be very happy if they found a happy home.

Graduated Nalbinding

I’m blinking and squinting at the computer screen this afternoon, due to the after-effects of dilating eye drops. These were administered at my one month post-op checkup. The verdict: I now have superior vision! Or ‘wow’, as both the optometrist and surgeon said. I’ll still have halos around things for a while, and I’ll need to buy magnifying lens glasses for close work like threading a needle or embroidery, but otherwise it’s all worked out well.

The hat below was good tv-watching craft between ops, though I started it a while back.

It was a test to see how good nalbinding looked using graduated yarn. Very good, it turns out. I’m afraid I wasn’t worthy of it, in the selfie below. The pic was taken not long after the second cataract operation, so I was still recovering and couldn’t wear any makeup.

I’d like to try making a mobius scarf next. Not sure I have any suitable yarn in the stash, however. I’ll just have to do a little poking about in there and see. Or maybe buy some more of the hat yarn, which I rather like.

Swings & Roundabouts

I’ve had a mild case of finishitis lately. The part of me that wants to get current projects done is winning the battle against the one that wants to start something new. So what do I have in progress?

The Handwoven Skirt
Currently stalled because my back has been cranky, and sewing is worse for it than weaving.

The Krokbragd Rug
Stalled because I’m waiting to see if I can buy some more carpet yarn from a weaver.

Clasped Weft Fringe Scarves
What I’ve been spending most of my craft time on. It’s been… interesting. Is there such thing as ‘anaesthetic brain’? Because my short term memory was atrocious after the second eye operation. I was incapable of following the draft, and after a number of sessions in which I unwove almost as much as I wove, I gave up and just started making it up as I went. Thankfully, the result is good. Kinda groovy.

Taupe Jacket
Mainly weaving this one in the evenings, while watching tv. I’m warping up the Knitters Loom with a natural wool and for weft I’m using stripes of natural through to brown coloured yarns. I’m intending it to become a jacket. We’ll see.

Eye Embroidery
It’s been the project I grab when I need something portable. However, I may regret not finishing it before now, if my eyesight remains bad for close work.

Swimmers Clock
I need to get back to this. It wasn’t warm enough to work out in the garage, and now it’s too warm.

Weaving Bits and Pieces
I’m making a weaving sword, or wavy beater, inspired by a recent demonstration by Mr Tanji at the Guild. Which I didn’t get to, but the Weavers Matters gals showed me the ropes at the next meeting and it was a lot of fun. Also, working on the idea for the Vari Dent Reed.

Falling Feathers Scarf

It’s done!

I wasn’t really up to weaving anything that required memory and focus between cataract surgeries, so I didn’t touch this scarf for about a month. A couple of day before my second surgery I finished weaving it, and on the day after I cut it from the loom and tied the fringe.

It’s a bit uneven in places, where I beat harder or softer depending on my mood. I like the pattern and want to weave it again in colours that are more ‘me’. I’d also like to weave the draft I meant to weave originally, too, but both ideas will have to go down the end of a very long list of weaving projects I want to do.

Vari (And a bit Wonky) Dent

Paul and I tend to throw ideas around for possible presents as birthdays and Christmas near. (Well, okay, I do this and then mostly have to nag Paul for ideas for him.) This year one of mine was an Ashford Vari Dent Reed for my Knitters Loom.

While the advertised use is to weave with different thickness of warp at the same time, it wasn’t until I had some other ideas for how it could be used that I decided I wanted the kit. Some of these idea I tried a few weekends ago, with not much success, I admit, but in doing so I stumbled upon something rather cool. Trouble is, to do this other cool thing would require several of the narrower heddles in the same size, and it doesn’t look like you can buy the Vari Dent heddles outside of the full kit. I’d have to buy four kits in order to get the number I want, and that would be a tad expensive – especially for a concept I haven’t confirmed is going to work yet!

Still, I haven’t given up on the idea. There’s got to be another way. Maybe I can make my own heddles somehow…

Perhaps because it was a birthday present idea, I didn’t do my usual research and inspiration seeking beforehand. When I did, I was surprised to find no YouTube videos – not even by Ashford – for the Vari dent reed. A search for ‘vari dent blog’ brought up very little, as did a search in Google Images. I found two projects on the Schacht Spindle Company website for their version. Ravelry brought up four results for ‘vari dent’ and more if I typed ‘variable dent’, which included other brand’s versions. Weavolution produced two projects in Weavolution, both using a Saori loom.

These scant results did at least flag that some weavers had issues with different rates of warp stretch from using different warp yarns, resulting in uneven fabric. This is a potential problem even when using the same weight yarns made by different makers anyway. One weaver cleverly used this tendency to create a ruffle, and it could be used to make seersucker fabric without the need to felt.

I’ll keep thinking and playing and browsing the internet. In the meantime, I’ve warped up the Knitters Loom with a simple natural wool warp and I’m weaving plain sections of natural and taupe yarns, with the idea of producing some fabric I can sew into a garment. No idea what kind of garment yet.

Oh, and I should mention a little issue I had with the Vari Dent, too, in case anyone else has the same problem.

One of the heddles that was already in the frame was a bit wonky at one end, I suspect by being shipped with the heddle in the frame and the frame screwed together too tightly:

Two of the slots were completely closed at the centre point – the tines jammed together – which would have meant any yarn going through them would be quickly worn through. Of course, Paul not being a weaver, he didn’t notice or know it would be a problem, so it wasn’t until I received the gift and asked him to get it replaced that he took the above photo and emailed the seller.

They didn’t reply. After three or four days I decided to risk a little experiment. I boiled some water and quickly dipped the end of the reed in. Sure enough, the plastic softened up. As it cooled I held the tines as close to the correct position as I could. I got this:

Not perfect, but at least there are gaps now.

So I guess my advice is: if you get a faulty vari dent reed and the seller doesn’t respond to a request for a replacement, you could try this. But it would probably mean the seller won’t replace it if the ‘fix’ doesn’t work.

Soft Macrame Owl

A few weeks back I saw this in an opshop, hiding under some shelving.

I couldn’t leave it there, lonely and unappreciated. And unfinished. The yarn was wonderfully soft, too. The plant hanger projects weren’t there, but the owl was. Someone had made a start, attaching the yarn to the top rod and doing the first few rows of knots. Some of the pieces were missing: the bottom rod, and one ring and bead for the eyes, but they were easily replaced from my box of macrame supplies.

It was the perfect project to do on a Craft Day I held recently. Amusing and nostalgic, as well as simple enough to do while chatting to crafty friends. I was surprised at how long it took, keeping me occupied the whole afternoon. I had knotted the wings and did a few rows of the body when we wound up for the day.

I finished it over over a few tv watching sessions.

The claws aren’t quite as instructed. I was supposed to glue the ends together and shape them into curved talons. Glue just didn’t seem right, so I wove the ends back into the knots.

Now I have to figure out what to do with the offcuts.

Inclusions in weaving? A stitched bowl? A tiny mop?

Getting Shirty

Every Spring two craft-related events are bound to occur in my life: the annual washing of the woollens, and a bout of refashioning.

Last year was an exception because with my bad back and work stresses I didn’t have much enthusiasm for either, but this year I was keen to do both. The first is well underway. All my jumpers, cardigans, jackets and vests, handmade or bought, are getting a gentle wash in woolmix then being spread flat to dry. I’m packing warmer items away with sachets of lavender (home grown) until the chilly weather arrives next autumn. Lighter, usually cotton-based items I keep on hand for the cooler days of summer.

This year I’ve set up a folding table in the guest room so I don’t take over the dining table for weeks on end. This had the added bonus of freeing up space for a bit of refashioning.

I wanted to begin with four old shirts of Paul’s that, from the looks of it, he barely ever wore. Apparently stripes are in again and these will certainly add a bit of that to my wardrobe. The first shirt (I began pinning and cutting before it occurred to me to take ‘before’ shots) was of a thin cotton, yet had long sleeves. I planned to make a sleeveless top.

The second was made of thicker cotton – with a fairly heavy yoke and collar lining – but with short sleeves. The thicker fabric had me thinking it was suitable for a dress.

The third was of thinner cotton. My plan was to make this a v-neck, short sleeved shirt.

The last was made of a lovely soft cotton. I hadn’t decided what to make out of it, but…

…then I saw the label…

… and decided not to cut it up, but wear it as it is, with the sleeves rolled up.

The red shirt required a fairly basic refashion, so I ‘warmed up’ with it. As it turned out, it wasn’t as straightforward as I hoped. I cut off the top part of the collar, but wanted to keep the stand bit. This was a bit large so I unpicked along the top, trimmed and sewed a new seam, which was rather fiddly.

Next, I started on the dress. This was one of those ‘two steps forward one step back’ sewing projects. I had to unpick and resew so many times. The armhole seams were done four times. When I was done I liked what I had made…

… but it’s just bit too short for a dress. It’ll have to be worn over something. That’s fine. I’ll call it my ‘butt-covering top’.

By then I had to clean up the kitchen table ready for visitors. I wound up putting everything away because I’d stirred up my neck injury and after futzing up the dress numerous times I was over sewing for a while. Still, I have two new tops made from shirts that would have gone to the op shop. Not that I’ve had a chance to wear them, what with Melbourne’s unusually cold spring weather.