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.

Saori-inspired Spring Sampler Scarf

Some weeks back when I warped up pretty much every loom I own, I put a simple 3ply wool warp on the Knitters Loom and gathered together thrums and yarns in pink, cream, brown and burgundy. I was inspired by Saori weaving, and hoped that a simple project would be within my abilities post-eye surgery.

As it turned out, I had so much fun that I wove a fair bit of the warp before the surgery happened. After the op I didn’t weave for a few days, but I put the loom near by tv-watching armchair and eventually I gave it a go.

I had a thick cream cotton, three strands of very fine grey, burgundy and yellow-brown boucle wound together, and some handspun to play with along with the thrums. I also used the warp yarns – using up the pink with plain weave sections between each bit of ‘play’.

Initially I played with using the thrums and seeing how the different yarns wove up. I also went through most of the weaving methods on a rigid heddle I’d tried before. Clasped weft, basketweave, thick and thin, rya knots, tapestry, danish medallions, leno and Brook’s bouquet had a turn. Then I began to mix the techiniques. I used a pickup stick to weave plain weave with half the warp as a background for Brook’s bouquet. I wove leno as the same time weaving another yarn over and under the leno twists.

I had so much fun! I didn’t think much about what the fabric would be. I figured probably not a scarf, as it would be one-sided and maybe a bit lumpy in places, and not have an overall even appearance. But when I took it off the loom, I was surprised to find it does make a nice scarf. All the different kinds of weaving hang together well, and the textural elements haven’t stiffened it up or made it overly lumpy.

The colours are not what I usually wear, so I’m thinking I might sell or give it away. But I will take lots of photos, because I came up with some combinations of techniques that I’d like to use in other projects. Also, I had a birthday recently and received an Ashford Vari Dent reed, and I have an idea I want to try with it.

But first, I have three other weaving projects wanting my attention. I want to get at least one of them done before I warp up another one. I’m definitely experiencing the ‘fidget’ part of my blog title!

Spiral Mosaic Sphere

For my second mosaic sphere, I initially wanted to do one in black and white, with six spirals connected in pairs. But while browsing through the results of “mosaic sphere gazing ball” on Google Images I saw a sphere that was one continuous spiral using two rows of tiles:

I realised that this would require no measuring up. All I’d need to do was start the spiral and each row of tiles would sit next the last, until they reached the opposite end I’d started on. Easy peasy.

My intention is to use up leftover tiles on spheres. The only kind I had enough of for this design were the glossy black glass ‘mosaic’ tiles left over from our bathroom renovation. When I found I could easily cut these in half at an angle with my glass cutter, I knew they were the right choice for this project. For the narrow row of tiles, I decided to use the larger batch of millefiori I’d bought not long after I’d done the mosaic class because they were pretty, without any idea what I’d use them for. So far I’ve only used a dozen or so millefiori, and mostly ones I’d bought later because they were star shapes. This looked like a good way to use a larger quantity.

So I began with a black droplet, then cut one black tile in half and stuck it down. I worked backwards to taper the tiles back to the droplet, then I got the smallest millefiori and glued it at the opposite point to the tile starting place.

From there it was a matter of swapping from millefiori to black tiles and back again, going around and around. But because of the curved surface, I had to do it in batches or the tiles might move or fall off. Later, Barbara from my art class, who also does mosaics, suggested I stick dressmaking pins in to hold the tiles in place, which allowed me to do more each time.

However, when I reached the middle, I ran out of millefiori.

A hunt for more started. I thought I’d bought them from Bunnings, or Zart Art. But both had a different kind of millefiori in stock – all opaque wheras mine were transparent. I was fairly sure the brand I’d bought was Mandala, so I called them and it turned out that yes, they’d recently changed their millefiori as the transparent ones were more prone to breakage.

Fortunately they still had two packs of the old style ones, so I bought those. When they arrived I got back to work. A few more rounds and I was able to ditch the pins, as all the tiles were now resting on the previous ones, and I got the last 25% done in one sitting.

After letting it dry for a few days, I grouted it with black grout.

I bought a few more polystyrene balls when I went looking for more millefiori at Zart Art, but the vague idea I have for the next one might require me buying more tiles. And now that the weather has warmed up enough to spend time in the garage I’d like to get back to the swimmers clock. And then there’s the ventilation floor patches to do in the kitchen. And I’ve bought enough tiny ceramic tiles to do a matching wave pattern frieze around the bathroom. And I have a large bowl I want to do as well…

Krokbragd

At the moment, the floor loom is occupied with a Krokbragd rug. Krokbragd is a weft rep technique – rep in weaving is where the yarn going one way along the cloth completely covers the yarn going the other way.

That might be an overly simplified explanation, but it’ll do for this post. I’ve tried warp rep twice before, and hated it. (Though technically inkle weaving is warp rep, and I do enjoy that!) But I like the look of warp rep. Weft rep turns the pattern of crammed threads on its side, which means there are far fewer warp ends to thread and there are no cranky, sticky shed problems, so I’ve been wanting to try a form of it for ages.

I’ve been seeing lots of references to krokbragd lately. There’s even a Ravelry forum weave-along happening at the moment. The last Ashford magazine I saw had an article on doing krokbragd on a rigid heddle loom. Earlier this year I found a pile of carpet yarn in an antiques and second-hand market. A lot of it was moth-eaten, but I bought the least damaged cones anyway. I washed it, wound it into cakes and froze it for a month in the hopes that would take care of any moth larvae. I found some more of the same yarn at the Guild Textile Bazaar this weekend, too.

When I wove denim rag rugs some years ago I wound up with an extra cone of thick cotton rug warp. I put that on the floor loom, wound some of the carpet yarn onto rag shuttles, and got weaving. The first attempt was Not Good. Though the pattern was coming out fine, the selvedges were terrible, even though I was using a temple and ‘bubbling’ the weft. On closer inspection, there were even a few threads that doubled back on themselves, missing the floating selvedge, and where I’d bubbled the weft loops had formed.

I unwove it and started again, this time concentrating instead on making sure the yarn always caught the floating selvedge. The selvedges looked fine. I bubbled the picks again, but each time I pressed them in gently with the beater, checked the selvedge and for loops, and corrected if necessary before closing the shed and beating harder to cram the weft in.

I’m liking how it’s turning out so far. There’s a momentum to it, too. Just as I start to get bored with one combination of colours it’s time to switch to the next. I was worried that, what with three picks to a row of pattern, it would take up my floor loom for ages. I suspect that won’t be a problem. More likely having my attention and time split between so many looms will do that!

Revisiting Bookbinding

A few weekends ago an interstate friend, the lovely Kathleen Jennings, came to say. I gave her some of my concertina sketchbooks a few years ago, and she loved drawing in them. So in the evenings, after gallery and historic home visits, we grabbed my roll of watercolour paper and various pretty papers I’ve collected and made a pile more.

As before, the strips of paper being cut from the roll make for an amusing image:

These are the ones I made:

I’d intended to make five, but mistakes in measuring the page widths meant I wound up having to cut two of the strips in two and make shorter concertinas. Funnily enough, I did that last time as well. Measure twice, cut once! Still, it meant I got to make two extra covers out of some lovely paper I’d been saving.

They Call them Gazing Balls

I prefer ‘mosaic sphere’, but I do like the irony of choosing to make a ‘gazing ball’ while recovering from eye surgery. It just happened that I found some polystyrene balls at Zart Art in Box Hill – and their special ‘will glue anything to anything’ Supertac glue – a few weeks ago. After the surgery I decided to give the mosaic sphere thing a try. It’s much easier to see tiles than warp threads at the moment (not that this is stopping me weaving). Since the spheres aren’t going to be touched or walked on, I could happily use broken tiles with sharp edges and glass tiles with the colour on the surface – which gives me a good use for the tiles I’d bought for the ventilation hole patches that turned out to be unsuitable.

For my first sphere, I had no plan. I just made it up as I went. First some yellow lines to break it into quarters, then flowers out of orange, green for leaves, and lastly filling in the remaining spaces with blue and green. I used up most of the triangle and square glass shapes in those colours, and added some cut glass tiles from Bunnings. I only needed to cut tiles smaller at the end, when I was filling gaps.

The grouting was, er, educational. One day I’m going to learn not to make two to three times as much grout as I need. I also made it a bit too wet, so at first it sagged out of the cracks on the underside of the ball. But I kept adding and smoothing and wiping until it had stiffened up enough to stay put. I did a second coat when the grout had thickened a bit more, too.

I’d watched YouTube tutorials that said the ball should be covered in mesh and mastic so the tiles have something to stick to. I tested the Supertac glue by sticking one tile on then holding the tile and seeing if I could shake it off the ball. It held, so I figured it was worth the risk just using that. The one time I tried to remove a tile that had shifted, I couldn’t even carve it off with a knife. Eventually it came loose, but only by taking a chunk of polystyrene with it. Fortunately the glue stuck it back on just fine. The grout wasn’t inclined to stick to the polystyrene where the gaps between tiles were wide, so for my next sphere I’m making sure all the surface is covered in glue.

Yes, I’ve started another one.

It’s rather addictive.