Cordyline Bowl

At the end of the coiled basket workshop the teacher encouraged us take home some of the leftover cordyline leaves. She also sold us some waxed linen thread.

I decided to try starting a bowl with no plastic disc, and it went okay – a bit untidy but I think I can do better with practise. At first I soaked all the leaves, but I didn’t even use half of them. So I began soaking five at a time, which gave me about an hour’s stitching each evening.

Eventually I ran out of leaves, and this is what I’d made:

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Which I’m rather happy about. It’s pretty firm, though there’s a slightly looser band in the base where I must have been a bit wussy about tightening the thread. Not loose enough to compromise the structure, though.

I stopped when I ran out of cordyline, though I couldn’t have made it much larger as I had nearly ran out of the thread. Doing an hour or so gave me a much better idea of how long the method takes – which is much longer than I recall Mum’s cane baskets taking! If I was to make anything bigger I’d have to buy more thread, or use both of the remaining colours I bought on the same basket.

Or try using other materials, like yarn with rags, or wire and old garden hose!

Scaling Up

Christmas to New Year is usually the time I go through my whole wardrobe and cull things. This year I couldn’t be bothered looking over it all, so I just did my knitwear. I decided to cull four items. Two I unravelled, one went to a friend and the other to the op shop.

That gave me a batch of 12ply/bulky yarn, and two batches of 8ply/dk. I liked the idea of weaving the 12ply with itself to make a blanket, but I didn’t want to occupy the floor loom with a plain weave project when I could do more interesting 4-shaft ones. I wasn’t sure the thick yarn would go through the heddles or reed anyway. Weaving strips on the knitters loom and sewing them together didn’t appeal, and it was too thick for the pin looms I have.

Well, there was a way to get around that last problem:

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Paul made the frame, I put in the nails and a tac to anchor the starting thread. Once my new pin loom was finished, I got weaving. The longest needle from my bought looms is a touch too short, so I use a darning needle and work my way across.

Soon I had a few squares to block:

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It makes a slightly open, drapey fabric. I scaled up by the same difference that 12ply is to 8ply. But since 8ply yarn on the pin loom I scaled up weaves a little loose, it’s no surprise the 12ply does too. It’s not too open, though.

The up side is I could weave thicker yarn on it. Or weave with 10ply doubled, or 8ply tripled. Which would be a great way to quickly use up yarn.

The only problem I’m having is that using a darning needle means I need to rest the loom on my lap, which I can’t do if the cat is there. So the weaving of squares has been a bit slow – especially with the unseasonably cold weather we’ve had lately.

Yet Another Kind of Weaving

When I was a child my mother added basket-making to the seemingly endless list of crafts she had tried. My Dad took one of her cute garlic baskets to work and came home with an order for 99 of them. By the end Mum’s hands were a painful mess and the gloss had thoroughly worn off basketry as a hobby.

It was the first warning I had not to turn hobbies into work. Not that I listened, having worked as an illustrator and now earning a living as a writer.

When I saw that the Handweavers and Spinners Guild had a one-day basketry class in their summer school schedule, I decided to sign up. I’ve been a bit wary of cane basketry, because I’ve heard it’s a bit hard on the hands. But these were coiled baskets, which involves stitching materials into place not wrestling them into a weave. I like the idea that I could use plant materials from the garden rather than much harder cane.

Well, it was great fun. We started with polymer clay bases, as starting is the hardest and slowest part. We used cordyline (cabbage tree) leaves, which I have the red version of in the garden, and stitched it all together with waxed linen thread.

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I finished it by leaving some leaves sprouting from the rim, adding another bunch and sewed around to the opposite side before finishing off, leaving another tuft of leaves.

You can use this method with other long, flexible materials, like rags and rope. I have a pile of old garden hoses. I’m thinking of using a plant pot drip tray as the base, and sewing it all together with wire or heavy plastic twine.

But I do love the idea of using plants from the garden. I’ve already got some of the recommended plants growing here: cordyline, lomandra longifolia, dianella, lavender and aram lily. I already planned to grow red hot poker. Maybe I can find a place for New Zealand flax and canna lilies as well.

Indecisive

It’s took a while to decide what to put on the floor loom next. For every idea I had there was a major impediment. A project comes together for me when I have a good match of weave structure, yarn and object to make. If one of those three isn’t inspiring me it’s hard to get motivated.

I’d like to weaving some non-wool fabric to sew clothing out of, but without a specific garment in mind for it I had no idea how much to make and how wide the fabric should be.

I could just weave a length of fabric as wide as the loom. But I’d get bored pretty quickly if it was just plain weave and if I’m going to use a weave structure I have to consider what sort of garment I’m making.

I have a list of weave structures I haven’t tried before, but I don’t want to make sampler after sampler. But if I’m not making samplers, what will I make.

So the big sticking point is what to make. I have a vague idea about making garments when I need to decide to make a particular garment. I already have plenty of blankets, floor rugs, towels, table runners, placemats and scarves. I don’t have many people I can make things for, either.

One of the projects on my to-do list is to use a green cotton yarn in my stash to make a waffle weave baby blanket. But with nobody expecting a baby, had I dismissed it and looked further down the list. When nothing inspired me, I decided to make it anyway, ready for next time there are new parents to weave for.

And then a few days laster I ran into someone who has recently had a baby, for whom the blanket would be perfect.

So I wound a warp, and started threading:

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And today I finished warping and started weaving.

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It’s weaving up well, waffle weave boxes forming nicely.

Next I need to decide what to put on the Katie loom, not that the Doubleweave Boxes sampler is done. More on that soon.

Bigger Bargello

A friend gave me some canvas for stitching tapestry last year, and then a book on Bargello embroidery. (Thanks again, Elaine!) I bought some tapestry thread to try on it, in a gradient of greys and another of blues.

I had this beside my tv watching armchair for a month or so, and finished it a few weeks ago.

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The canvas and yarn work well for Bargello. The vertical lines on the canvas show through lighter colours, which isn’t a huge problem because now I know they do, I can paint over them before beginning.

The pattern was fun to stitch but the result is rather uninspiring. I have no idea why I decided to buy a gradient of grey. How boring! But it’s just a test piece. Next I want to buy a whole lot of different colours and do something much brighter. And curvier rather than zig-zag.

I have heaps of this canvas, and the finer stuff I used for my earlier samplers is very expensive, so I’m thinking I’ll stick to using it and start hunting through op shops and ebay for people’s leftover tapestry yarn. It’ll be cheaper and I like the idea of letting what colours I find influence the design.

Pinwheel Tea Towels

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Another weaving project begun when we returned from overseas last October is done. I’d finished the weaving late last year, but the fabric needed cutting into three pieces and the hems sewn, then a good wash in hot water to shrink it.

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I’m very happy with the result. Now that the fabric has shrunk, the threads sit closer together and the pinwheels became much more visible. They’re also thicker and cushier, and suck up water well when used.

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I can see more tea towels in my future!

Thoughts on Fibre

While my main aim for weaving this year is to try new structures, I have a secondary aim in mind. It has come out of a collision between my fibre allergies and interest in ethical textiles.

I’d like to weave fabric in order to make garments from non-wool, ethical fibres.

Why non-wool? It seems like I’m growing more sensitive to it. This really annoys me, as I love wool*. It’s easy to spin, scores well on ethical issues when it’s processed locally and is wonderfully warm. I’ve managed to wear so far it by donning thick, high-necked long-sleeve cotton tops beneath. Fortunately my hands and feet are free from irritation. I think I’d cry if I had to throw away all my hand knit socks.

Why ethical fibres? Last autumn I set out to buy cotton substitutes to wool jumpers and my shock at how hard it was to find anything that wasn’t acrylic propelled me into reading up on ethical textile issues. Since then I’ve aimed to make most of my clothing purchases ethical and to avoid buying new clothes as much as possible, which has been surprisingly easy.

Why garments? Last year the Guild hosted a talk about Fibreshed and 1year1outfit – a challenge to make clothing entirely from materials sourced within your local area. I was inspired, but with no non-animal fibre products available in my Fibreshed, and after spinning silk hankies gave me hand pain, I abandoned the idea of being able to participate. But I can buy ethical fibre from further away, and I like the idea of making clothing from fabric I wove.

The question of fibre sensitivity hovers over everything I weave or machine knit now. I still have heaps of wool knitting yarn in my stash. Now that I’m weaving fine cotton with confidence, a part of me wonders if all that wool knitting yarn is a waste of stash space. Of course, I can use the wool to make gifts, but to be honest, I don’t have people to weave for and I usually end up giving what I can’t wear to the op shop.

A few years ago I realised my stash was becoming more of a weavers stash than a knitters stash. Now maybe it needs to become more of an ethical, non-wool stash.

*I’m still not 100% sure about alpaca. Sometimes it’s made me itch, other times not.

Graduation Blanket

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I finished this just before NYE, but then decided to redo the sewing together of the squares. Just lifting the blanket made the stitching gape, so I looked up other ways to attach the squares and found one that worked better.

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It’s woven from mostly Cleckheaton Country – balls I picked up in op shops and a few extras I bought when I ran out of the two darker browns. Paul has it now, in his office to use as a knee rug on cold winter days.

Craft/Art Aims for 2017

The closest I get to making resolutions is a vague list of new things I’d like to try by the end of the year, and I’m happy if I manage to cross off a few. Since I have a pretty substantial craft To-Do list there’s no point adding a resolution list on top. So what’s on my vague want list?

1) I want to paint more. More people portraits. More cat portraits. I’ll continue going to classes, but I’m also going to try painting every Wednesday nights. I’ve invited friends to come join me in our studio, both for the company and because it’ll make me get away from the tv and do it!

2) Last year I wanted to try some new weave structures, and I achieved that mainly thanks to Ilka White’s weaving sessions class. I’m continuing that aim into this year.

3) I also want to spin, sew, embroider, machine knit, dye, print, make jewellery and try new crafts. Weaving is my main hobby now, but I’ll always dabble in others to keep things fresh and fun.

Whatever I do, the health of my back takes priority. I have to avoid too much sitting down and typing or extending my arms, and the best approach I’ve found is to move from task to task every half an hour or so: sitting for one, standing for the next, then doing something that gets me moving like gardening, walking or swimming.

And, of course, once my summer ‘leave’ is over, writing goes back to having priority over craft and art.

Craft Projects of 2016

I started 2016 with my usual optimism, stating that I’d get more time for craft. But most of my plans were uprooted by a stuffed back, the concreter not finishing the garage base, and the book edit from hell.

In January I did my usual overview of the previous year, and a stash portrait. Paul brought home a little loom and we refurbished it and a friend’s loom. The Glamour Shawl was on Ashford Table loom, convincing me that I don’t like weaving with metallic yarn, and I wanted a loom with a race and lamms.

Weaving: Giotto Scarf. Using some ribbon yarn unravelled from a failed knitting project.

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Crochet: I-cord Headband. Using some i-cord that had been hanging around since I first got the cord-maker.

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Embellish: Pockets on the Houndstooth Scarf. Wove the scarf ages ago, the pockets while teaching a friend how to do log cabin, and finally got around to sewing them together.

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Weaving: Dyer & Philips Loom. New heddles and tape.

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In February I bought a pile of fine yarns for weaving. What I wanted to achieve on looms was changing. Not so much choosing projects to reduce stash and more experimentation and learning new structures.

Weaving: Hibiscus Scarf. Test piece on the D&P loom.

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Weaving: Rep Runner. A sampler – too loosely sett.

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In March I started my first ever weaving class. It was this blog’s tenth bloggiversary, so I wrote about all the ways my crafty life has changed since the beginning. We spent a lovely weekend at Lake Hume with that friend and her partner, she and I weaving together.

Refashion & Embroidery: Cheesecloth Top. This has attracted lots of compliments.

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Weaving: Touch of Glam Shawl. Not happy. So many mistakes. Inconsistent beating. Thinking of dyeing it black to hide the errors.

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Weaving: Floor Loom. I love it!

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In April I finished the weaving class, and ever since have been buoyed by a new confidence while frustrated that I couldn’t get time to keep exploring weaving. A shopping trip where I couldn’t find non-acrylic winter woolies set me on the path of researching fast fashion.

Weaving: Overshot Sampler

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In May and June, inspired by ethical fashion, I did some sewing and refashioning.

Embroidery: Finished Unfinished Cardy

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Sewing: 50-50 A-line Skirt

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Refashioning: Denim Skirt

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Sewing: Inkle Band Top

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Sewing: Handspun Vest

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Weaving: Undulating Scarf

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In July, inspired by 1outfit1year, I bought an electronic spinning machine and found I was much more comfortable using it than a foot-powered one. I finished my first woven-by-hand braided rag rug and some Bargello samplers.

Weaving: Braided Spectrum Rag Rug

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Embroidery: Bargello Samples

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Spinning: Electronic Hanspun

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August contained a mix of spinning, weaving and sewing – and a big landscaping project. I gave a Zoom Loom to a friend’s daughter interested in weaving and taught her how to use it.

Spinning: Silk Cap Handspun

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Sewing: Handspun Handwoven Jacket

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Weaving: Reddy Runner

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September was a quiet one, craft-wise, because I was in Norway and Denmark for most of it. (The posts were mostly pre-written and scheduled.) However, I learned nalbinding while I was there.

Weaving: Electric Boogaloo Scarf

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Weaving: Fanspun Shawl

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Spinning: Blue & Linen Handspun

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Embroidery: Blackwork Bookmark

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Embroidery: Black Rose Red Cardigan

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Nalbinding: Nordic Mitts

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Embroidery: Traveller Pendant

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In October I reviewed what I was capable of doing in work, art, craft, DIY and gardening, since it was clear my back wasn’t going to go back to pre-2016 health. I sold the D&P loom at the Guild sale (and found out later that they sold it for $10 cheaper than I’d specified – no idea what happened there but it’s not enough to bother quibbling over.)

Spinning: Owl of Athena Handspun

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I didn’t finish any craft projects in November and December, thanks to the Edit From Hell. I almost did. The pinwheel tea towel fabric came off the loom. It just need washing, cutting up and hemming. I also finished the Gamp Pin Loom Blanket – even had it washed and dried before NYE – but I’m not happy with the sewing together of the squares and have decided to redo it.

Overall, 2016 was a good year for weaving. Though I didn’t get as much of it done as I’d hoped, I learned a great deal and I like my table loom. I seem to be growing more focussed on it, only dipping into other crafts occasionally – and mostly those that have a relationship to weaving (like sewing fabric I’ve woven).

That’ll continue through into 2017 I hope, but that’s a subject for a different post.