The Seduction of Simple Squares

The pin loom has proven to be quite addictive. Most nights, while watching the telly, I make a square. Sometimes two. I’ve now got enough for a 4×5 square lap blanket, and hoping I can get enough squares out of the yarn I have left to make it a 5×5 blanket.

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I went to the guild last Saturday and had a peek at the other pin looms they had in stock. This one came home with me:

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Perhaps I’ll soon be writing a blog post called “A Hedonistic Host of Hexagons” or something equally silly.

New Projects!

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I started a few new projects before declaring my WIP finishing drive finished. How was I to resist when the pin loom was sitting there beside my tv-watching armchair, all new and interesting?

I tried some cotton weaving yarn first, thinking I’d make some washcloths, but the weaving part was really tough on the hands and the yarn turned out to be too thin.

Then after dividing the stash up into fullable and machine-washable yarns I had a few no longer destined for their original intended projects. I decided to try the Bendigo Woollen Mills Neon on the pin loom, and it worked very well:

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So I’ve been making one or two squares a night:

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They come out a bit bumpy, but the frogged yarn has quite a kink in it and they settle down a bit with blocking.

The other project I started was also inspired by my yarn contemplation. Since scarves are the most likely to contact my skin, and don’t need to have stretch, one of the best fibres I can use for them is silk. I had a skein I’d bought back in 2008 as art yarn – that is, yarn with the primary purpose of being on display. It is by Ixchel Yarns and is 100% silk with a thread of silver through it.

I bought some fine undyed silk at the Bendy Show a few years ago thinking I’d try it on the knitting machine. Now I decided to match it with the Ixchel silk. So I warped up the rigid heddle:

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I’ve found trying to use a ball winder on silk is an exercise in slippery frustration, so I just warped straight from the skein holder. All of the art silk went into the warp, mixed with the white. The weft is all white:

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I hem stitched the beginning, staggering the stitch length, too. And I’m doubling up the picks every now and then to add a little more interest:

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It feels lovely to work with, and hasn’t been any trouble. I doubt I’ll use up even half of the fine silk, which I have two skeins of, so I can see more silk woven scarves in the future.

Though I didn’t finish all the WIPs before starting new projects, tackling the list has not only cleared out a few stalled projects and helped me decided to abandon ones I wasn’t feeling much love for, but the anticipation had eager to get into something new.

Maybe hurrying to finish projects before I go away just means I’m confronted with an intimidating list of possible starting points when I get back. Having a couple of WIPs waiting for my return might help me get back into the craft groove when I do.

The Arty Necklace – Inserts

I started the Arty Necklace in 2012. Let me recap…

First there was the preparation, then the linking.

Next I was supposed to fill the frames with… something. I’ve been changing my mind on what I want ever since. First it was mini artwork, then photos, then embroidery, then mirrors. Each kind of filling has difficulties to overcome. None are particularly quick to do. In the end I came full circle and returned to artworks, so I brought out the acrylic paints and got to work.

First I filled all of the frames with pieces of acrylic board – cardboard with a surface that mimics the texture of canvas.

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Then I wrote down a list of as many kinds of traditional paintings I could think of, and started painting.

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This is going to take a while, so I’ve decided my WIP Wipeout is over and have begun a few new projects. More on that soon.

Yarn Shrink, Rethink

It’s been three and a half years since RSI set in and I had to give up knitting. In that time I’ve culled a quarter of the garments I made because they no longer fit well, partly because I grew, and partly because they shrank despite gentle, careful washing. So far this year I’ve culled three more garments for the latter reason. I really hadn’t worn them that much, so it’s disappointing.

And that got me thinking that if I was still knitting now, I’d be much more choosy about the yarn I made my clothes out of. But then I remember how I used to be intimidated by using expensive yarns in case I wasted them on a bad design, and that knitting was as much about enjoying the process as having a garment to wear a the end of a project.

Taste and fashions change, too.

Then there was the little discovery I made about the Paua Shell Ruanna. The green and black yarns I used are machine washable. The blue is not – or it is not as machine washable. The result is a slight shrinkage of the blue stripes, despite the fact that I’ve only washed it twice. It doesn’t bother me, but it is a mistake I don’t want to make again.

So in the spirit of learning and moving on, I’ve had a more critical look at my stash. Sure enough, I’d matched machine washable and non-machine washable yarns for a couple of other projects. I’ve now added the info to my stash spreadsheet, designated those yarns for other projects, and even shuffled the stash into tubs for ‘feltable’ and ‘non-feltable’ yarn.

From now on any garments and hats I make will use machine-washable yarn. But since most of what I weave isn’t garments and hats, that’s not a big change. I have a few projects in the to-do list for the Bond Sweater Machine, though. All but one use machine-washable yarn, thankfully. I just have to rethink one project.

Dyeing To Fix Them

Ah, those fibre craft puns…

What with all the culling I did before and after moving house, I’ve been accumulating things to over-dye for over a year now. Last Saturday I woke in the mood to do a one-off, cook-something-in-a-pot kind of craft. I wanted to try using up the candle-making supplies, but I want to try wet sand casting and I have no sand, so that’d have to wait.

So instead I cooked up some dye pots:

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First I had the Bison Scarf, which I didn’t wear because of the colour:

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I like this dusky burgundy-purple much better!

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Then there was the more recent Two Heddle Leno Scarf which was too pink for me (in the photo it is a bit less pink than in real life):

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Now a deeeeeep blue:

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Lastly I had made the mistake of spinning the water out of the Gift Yarn Jacket at the same time as something I’d dyed, leaving faint pinky-red patches:

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Overdyed with a diluted brown dye:

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I like it, but am considering refashioning it as well because the sleeves have been fulling and shrinking. (That’s why there’s a cuff missing).

With each dye bath, once the main item was out I threw in a silk scarf or scrap. They’d been solar dyed with leaves ages ago, but came out a dirty, unappealing yellow-brown. The result was surprisingly nice:

The blue one’s a keeper, I think:

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The pink one is destined for a friend who it will suit perfectly:

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I’ll need to seam the scrap of brown, but I think it’ll make a nice short scarf:

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Shrinking WIP List

With two weaving, one sewing, and one embroidery finished, and another embroidery project abandoned, the WIP list is less than half the size it was when we got back from our trip.

I have my sights set on finishing the Arty Necklace next. I’m full of ideas and enthusiasm for that one now.

And the rest of the WIPs?

I’ve never considered the portrait part of this WIP finishing drive. Which has made me reconsider whether I should have it in the list on the sidebar. So I’ve put it into a “Portraits Painted in 2015″ list.

The Eye Embroidery is my portable project, which I’m saving for waiting rooms and meetings, so I don’t want to rush to finish it.

That leaves the Jacobean Embroidery project, which I’m not enjoying. The photo of the finished piece is so small I can barely make out the stitches and colours, and I keep finding I’ve used the wrong colour or stitched the wrong way. I suspect I bit off more than I can chew with that kit, and I will probably pack it away somewhere until I become more proficient at stitching or give up and give it away. But if I don’t, well, it’s not a fast project and I don’t want to leave the looms idle.

Either way, once the Arty Necklace is done I’m free to start anything I want. Will I be paralysed by too much choice, or have a massive bout of startitis?

Silk Stripe Placemats

The placemats are done:

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The plan was to weave a table runner to match, using up the rest of the sari silk. And I’d hardly used any sari silk. I had a little bit of warp left on the loom so I started experimenting with mixing the black cotton and sari silk, at at once I hit a problem.

With the placemats the overspun nature of the sari silk didn’t matter. I could ease out some of the twist with the end I started with, and when I cut the yarn to finish I could untwist the rest. But once I was weaving it without a break in the yarn the twisting became a difficulty I could do without.

And I was a bit over this project. And I was running low on the black warp yarn, too. And the sari silk would go really well in a friend’s weaving project…

So I decided there would be no table runner, just eight placemats. Which I’m very pleased about. Especially as stains aren’t going to show on these!

A Loopy Solution

Two years ago I made this scarf:

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It’s the yarn equivalent of endless soup. The lighter purple was originally knit into socks, then frogged when they shrank and made into i-cord, then after a while I made more i-cord out of sock yarn and wove a scarf out of it.

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Which I never wore. It was a) a bit boring and b) too thick and rigid.

I was going to pull it apart, right back to yarn. But every time I went to do it I had to admit, the fabric the i-cord wove into was rather nice. Just not as a scarf.

On Monday I was thinking about my new pin loom and thought I’d finally pull apart the I-cord Scarf and use the yarn to weave some squares. But to convince myself once and for all that it was worth undoing all that work I draped it over the dress model.

And then the solution hit me. Maybe it was seeing all the interesting weaving on the weekend – particularly the saori weaving – but it occurred to me that if the scarf is too wide I can just pull out some warp yarns on one or both sides and they’ll turn into a loopy fringe. Or I could pull them out in the middle. I’ve woven scarves with loops at one or both sides, but not one with loose weft in the centre.

So I got to work, and in a little while I had this:

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Much less rigid and much more interesting! A scarf I want to wear.

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(And another item off the craft to-do list.)

It’s Towel Time

An empty loom is a sad sight to see, so I’ve been thinking about what to put on it next. Every time I do this I looking at a three cones of cotton yarn in my stash and ask myself “am I ready yet?”.

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These were meant to become towels. A set for me and a set for Mum. The first and only previous attempted I made to weave these was back in 2008, and I got so befuddled by the math and intimidated by the number of warp ends needed when using 16/2 cotton that I packed the cones away without even taking off the labels.

Well, I’ve got a bit more weaving under my belt since 2008. Some of it involved projects with a few hundred ends, and some used cotton. If I did plain weave and just played with colour that would keep the project as simple as possible. It would keeps the number of ends to warp as low as possible too. So I measured up an average size tea towel in our kitchen, did the math and came up with 617 ends at 30 ends per inch for plain weave.

617 ends. I have 320 heddles.

I have plenty of handmade temporary heddles, but not enough to make up a shortfall of nearly double what I have. And I don’t relish the idea of making so many more of them. So what to do?

In the small hours of Saturday morning the solution suddenly hit me. I would be going to the Handweavers and Spinners Guild that day for their weaving demo day. I would just buy the thicker 8/2 cotton they stock and then sell the thin stuff. However, when I got to the Guild I started chatting to a lovely weaver who suggested that I simply use the thicker cotton as warp and the thinner one as weft – perhaps even doubling up for the weft.

Talk about a smacking-self-in-the-forehead why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? moment.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Here are the three cones of 8/2 cotton I bought for the warp:

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So if I use the 16/2 yarn for the weft, I have six colours to mix together. This could be fun.

While I was there I also bought this:

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Yes, I could have knocked one together myself, but it was there and so was I. I’ve been thinking about getting a pin loom for a while, as I have a heap of sock yarn that would look nice woven into squares and sewn together into a blanket. And I reckon I could make the squares while watching tv.

Weaving Weekend

I was sick all last week. Aches, back pain, headaches, fatigue and insomnia. It wasn’t until Friday that I worked out it wasn’t just a change in the weather but a bug going around when I started encountering other people who’d had the same symptoms.

Once I decided Friday was a sickie, my whole outlook changed. Instead of it being a failed work day it was a day on which anything I got done was a bonus. That improved my mood greatly! I just pottered around, resting and thinking.

One thing I decided was that, if I felt up to it, the weekend was going to be dedicated to weaving. I’m still determined to strike off as many projects in the WIP list as I can before starting new ones. So on Saturday morning, after a bit of Vitamin D harvesting in the garden, I got stuck in.

I got a placemat and a half woven:

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But the main achievement was to finish the Paua Shell Ruanna collar:

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And to sew it to the ruanna:

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I was always pleased with the ruanna, and now I like it even more.

I’d decided that, for some reason I don’t remember, this could be a scarf it if didn’t work out. Maybe because I didn’t have enough weft yarn – Bendigo Luxury in black. And I didn’t have enough… but I just ordered some more.

Now I can think about what to put on the loom next. Hmm. Choices, choices.

Though if I’m to stick to finishing WIPs, I should finish the placemats and table runner first.