The Yearly Overview Post

My craft/art aims for 2017 were to paint more, try new weave structures, and dabble in other hobbies. Yeah, I did all of that. The first I managed because I held weekly art nights in January and February, and then monthly ones for the rest of the year. The second was achieved by doing the workshop with Kay in June. The third included trying basketweaving and mosaics on top of my usual secondary hobbies.

So what did I do?

In January I started the Photo Album Project, finishing the redo of my earliest album and all but the captioning of the 80s to 00s album. I still have lots to do for this, especially the holiday albums.

Weaving:
I made the Graduation Blanket, Pinwheel Tea Towels, Waffleweave Blanket, and Greenery Blanket. I finished the Denim Braided Rug, wove some fabric for the Tapestry Bag and a double weave blocks sampler. At the Ballarat Fibre Forum I learned to weave Summer & Winter. I went on a leftover warp using jape and made the Ikat Leftover Scarf, Scarf of Leftover Colours, the Plaited Twill Scarf, and the Falling Feathers Scarf, and then a thrum using jape and made Thrum Dishcloths, Spring Sampler Scarf, Anaesthetic-Brain Scarf and Thrum-Fringed Scarf. And finally there was my experiment with the Vari Dent Reed, producing three scarves.

My fave was the falling feathers scarf:

Loomwise, I tweaked the design of my Katie Loom, adjusted the height and pedal position of the floor loom and made laser cut heddles for my Vari Dent Reed.

Basketweaving:
I tried basketweaving at the Guild’s Summer School. But I eventually lost enthusiasm for it due to the non-spontaneous nature of the craft (because you have to pre-soak the fibre) and the wear and tear on my hands. I can see myself using non-soak-requiring materials to make baskets in the future, however.

My fave was the first basket I made at home:

Embroidery:
For the Fibre Forum in Ballarat I stitched some embroidery artworks to sell for charity. Including a pair I liked so much I decided to keep them. I’ve not had the courage to try embroidery since eye surgery.

My fave was the Bathing Beauties:

Nalbinding:
I made a too small Viking Hat, then got the sizing right for the Tapestry Thread Hat, and the Graduated Nalbinding hat.

My fave was the Tapestry Thread Hat:

DIY:
Paul and I turned an organ into a bar. We also renovated the laundry ourselves.

Sewing:
I had sessions of refashioning early and then later in the year, getting heaps of garments made, fixed or tweaked.

My fave was the red shirt to sleeveless top:

Mosaic:
I did a workshop at Bulleen Art and Garden, and was hooked. Aside from the Kookaburra I did there, and the mirror mosaic kit from Bunnings, I went on to make patches for the ventilation holes in the bathroom and entertainment room, and then two mosaic spheres.

My fave was the kookaburra:

Machine knitting:
I did only one project – the Scarf Jacket.

Bookbinding:
An artist friend came to stay and we made concertina sketchbooks.

Macrame:
I made an owl.

Jewellery:
Just before Christmas I made a couple of new pieces.

Of course, this list doesn’t include partially finished or abandoned projects, like the fabric I wove to make a skirt from, the mosaic clock I started or the longstitch embroidery I added dinosaurs to but disliked and threw out. Nor have I included all the gardening I did. I’ve left out artwork, too. I’m going to do a separate post on that.

Looking at all these things I made, I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I got done, especially of weaving. It wasn’t because I took five months off work. I did less craft than usual in that time – just the mosaic and weaving workshop. All my creativity went into home DIY and renovation projects, and gardening.

Setting achievable goals for the year worked. I had a secondary goal of making clothing from handwoven cloth, that I’ve partially achieved (the weaving part mostly, but also a little sewing). Of the new things I tried, basketry was fun but it was mosaics that really got me hooked.

I won’t be attempting to learn new crafts next year, but I will continue to try new weave structures and I’m organising a weaving week with a tutor for a small group of weavers for early next year – the first time I’ve tried something like that. I have an art project in mind, too. Overall, my craft/art aims are pretty much the same as those for 2017: paint more, try new weave structures, dabble in other hobbies.

It’s a Breeze Scarf

So for my next Vari Dent Reed experiment, I tried matching up the heddles that came with the kit rather than using my laser cut ones. For the twisting method I need at least six of the smaller size ones. It could be done with four, but since it makes a lacy effect it’d be a rather mean narrow scarf.

I figured that if I put the 5dpi and 10 dpi half ones together, and threaded every second slot and hole of the 5pi, I’d effectively have four heddles. Or do the same with the 7.5dpi with the 15dpi ones.

How to get an extra two? You might recall that the larger size 15dpi heddle was warped when I opened the kit.

Though my hot water trick lessened the problem, it wasn’t a perfect fix. When putting the half size heddles with the larger, I noticed that the larger one is more than twice the width of the smaller. I figured “what the heck, it’s already ‘broken'” and cut it up. This got rid of the warped end, and gave me two more small heddles.

For the warp I used a grey and white self-striping sock yarn. For the weft I used grey Patonyle.

Neither were sticky, feltable yarns, but I wanted to try another method for keeping the weft in place… Danish medallions:

This worked. It did make it more fiddly, because I had to sew in the ends of each section, but it kept the weft bound together. The resulting scarf is lightweight and lacy and delicious.

And it gave me yet another idea. But first I wanted to make another attempt at a scarf using the chocks. But that, yet again, will have to be another post.

Ocean Swell Scarf

So having had some success with my first idea using my homemade heddles, I threaded the loom to try another. This time I wanted to use the chocks I’d had laser cut at the same time.

Sock yarn had worked very well, but there had been the weft shifting issue. I wondered if using a sticky, feltable wool would help threads stay put. So I warped up the loom with a graduating yarn I bought in Denmark last year. I started with three gaps:

After 20 rows I slid changed the existing chocks with smaller ones, and added little ones where I wanted to grow the new gaps.

After 10 rows I changed them again.

And again…

I kept on this way until I had two gaps, after which I wove 20 rows, then reversed direction. This method took longer than the first, since I was wasn’t leaving gaps between sections of weft. But it was less fiddly because I didn’t have to remove the top of the Vari Dent Reed in order to manipulate the heddles. I just loosened the screws, added and removed chocks and slid the heddles into place.

When I was done, I rubbed the scarf gently between my hands when I washed it, hoping to full the threads into place. They do seem to be staying put. But I wasn’t as happy with the final result. Why? I don’t think the slowly changing colours of the yarn worked as well as the self-striping sock yarn had.

The method worked fine, though, so I want to try it again. But in the meantime I’d had an idea for fixing the wandering weft problem. Also, one of the laser-cut heddles had cracked while I was threading it. Though I’d had spares made, the plastic used in the Ashford ones is clearly much more flexible. I wanted to see if I could modify their heddles to enable me to try the first method again.

I did wrangle a solution, but that’ll have to go in another post.

Twisted Warp Scarf

Some weeks back I posted about the laser-cut heddles I had ordered for the Vari Dent Reed. Of course, as soon as they arrived I immediately threaded the loom and tried my idea. To my relief, having spend a good sum on the heddles, it worked. The result is a featherweight, lacy scarf.

The method is really fast, too, because you’re only weaving a narrow section between the twists.

But I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the integrity of those sections. The first and last shots are inclined to wander, which doesn’t secure the ends as well as I’d like.

Still, it was a start, and proof that the concept had legs. I went on to try another idea, all the while thinking about how to improve the first method. But that will have to be another post…

Briefly Beading

Happy New Year!

I’ve still got a few posts from last year waiting to be published. Aside from this one, there are three weaving posts to come. Better get to it!

Having banned the phone from the bedside table, I’ve noticed some interesting benefits. Aside from an improved memory and sense of calm, I got to looking at the jewellery pinboard hanging over the dressing table. There were pieces on it I didn’t wear or needed altering. That led to a bit of jewellery-making, refashioning and repairing.

In the process, I noticed a bead in my jewellery making supplies that I’d bought at a Viking museaum in Denmark last year. Matching it with some cones led to this very simple choker:

I also saw a resin pendant from a necklace I’d bought on another European work trip. It had been culled a while back because the wire it came on wasn’t comfortable to wear. I noticed the metal in it was copper, and I had a length of copper chain. And some medallions. So I got this:

And the leftover chain was long enough to make a matching bracelet.

Finally, I tackled a more complicated piece. I used the beads from a string I’d culled and some others in my stash to make this:

It was the perfect Christmassy bangle to wear to lunch with my parents.

Bathing Beauties

I finished these months ago, but I didn’t want to post about them until they were framed. Today I finally had all the elements to do that.

I still haven’t had the courage to try embroidery since my eye operation. There’s a fairly complicated WIP waiting beside my tv watching armchair for that moment.

New Loom, New Weaver

Among my closer circle of friends I am the only weaver. When I was a knitter I was the only knitter for a long time, but that changed as I made and remade friends with knitters. Many of those friends are creative, crafty people, too. Sewing is probably the one thing we all have in common, but I am only an occasional sewer.

A friend’s daughter has always been interested in the creative things I do – particularly art and weaving. Last Christmas I gave her a pin loom, which was a great way to familiarise someone with the basic structure of weaving. A month or two back I persuaded her to try plain weave on the Knitters Loom, and she took to it easily, so I knew it was time…

To give her a SampleIt loom, and a lesson.

Apparently I am now the most awesome gift-giver in all eternity.

Coincidently, I taught her to crochet a few weeks before, and she had really taken to it as well. It’s so gratifying to spread the fun of creativity!

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.