Spinning the Cap

So the next spinning project I’ve tackled is spinning the silk caps. I’m using the method where you separate a few caps, then make a hole in the centre…

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Then stretch…

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Draft carefully…

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Then wrap onto a toilet roll…

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And spin…

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Working this way eliminates the need to draft while spinning, which is great because it takes a good bit of strength to do it with the silk cap. I’m assuming this is because the silk threads are mostly still in long lengths, so I’m actually breaking them when I’m drafting. It certainly makes a good crackle as you stretch it. Drafting this way is, however, rather hard on the hands.

The silk tends to catch on any rough skin. I was doing a lot of work in the garden at the time I spun this, so it was catching a lot. I did a couple of caps in each session, and worked my way through until it was all done. Then I plied it and got this little skein.

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A lot of work for a little skein, but it is so soft and lovely.

Once I work out how to turn the silk cocoons into caps, or wind it out into thread, the only thing standing between me and a 1year1outfit is a local source of enough silk cocoons to spin and weave into a garment. Oh, and finding the time to do all that. Which is still all pretty unlikely, but who knows?

In the meantime, I’ve started spinning a blend of Shetland, silk and linen by Woolz’N'yarnZ.

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It’s very relaxing, but that’s not what brings me back to it again and again. Spinning on the electronic wheel means I have something creative I can do standing up. Most craft I do competes with writing for sitting down time.

Comb or Not?

Way back when I first gave spinning a go I bought a pair of carders, only to sell them later. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on tools just yet, so I did a little searching on google and ebay and decided to see if dog combs would work. They have the same sort of fine, bent wire tines and are much cheaper.

Among the fibre I bought at bendy is a small pack of fleece dyed red. It’s also greasy, which is strange, because I’d have thought the dyeing wouldn’t work if there was still grease in the wool. I guess they might have added the grease later. Anyway, I have a few pieces a good comb.

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It turned it into red greasy fluff. I tried spinning it on a drop spindle with what I think is woollen – or woollen-ish. It makes a rather messy single. Not that I mind that.

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But I do wonder… Should I bother combing it? Should I wash out the grease?

Where There’s a T’will

Late last year I was sent some handspun by an Irish fan of my books. There were six small skeins of overdyed grey yarn, and one larger one of grey. The colours complement each other beautifully.

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My first thought was to use the grey as a warp and weave with the colours. But there’s less messing about with ends if you do it the other way around. Since I couldn’t know how many metres of yarn I had, I decided to measure a two metre warp, as that’s a good length for a shawl, and just wound until I ran out of each colour. It made enough for an 18 inch wide shawl. I’m calling it the Fanspun Shawl.

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Which made it a good width to use as my test project on the modified Ashford Table loom. All I had in mind for the weave structure was some kind of twill. When I came to threading, I decided a point twill would be nice, but not too small. So I threaded 2341234 3214321 to make deeper zigzags.

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I’m loving how this is coming out. It’s weaving up fast, too.

First Electronic Handspun

Here it is:

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Plying it was… interesting. I never had problems with plying yarn nine years ago, but this time I had trouble judging how much spin was enough. Some sections were under spun. I wound up winding it onto a stick and then adding twist by hand where it was too loose. It probably didn’t help that I decided to make it a three ply, which I’ve never done before.

Why? Well, I wound up with only a small amount on the second bobbin. I joined the ends of the yarn on both and began winding yarn onto the second bobbin in the hope of evening them up, but the yarn broke at a point that, according to my scales, put 1/3 of the yarn on one bobbin and 2/3 on the other. So I divided the one with 2/3 onto two bobbins to get three in total then began plying.

I could see I wasn’t getting much twist and tried adjusting a few things as I went. Two of the bobbins ran out at nearly exactly the same time, leaving one with enough yarn on it for me to try navaho plying – which I had more success with.

It’s all skeined up now. The question I have now is: do I wash it? There’s no lanolin in it. I have vague memories of a need to wash the skein, but I can’t remember if it applies with washed and dyed fibre.

A Bendy We Will Go

So last weekend I spent 5-6 hours on trains in order to go fibre shopping for four hours. Well, I didn’t only buy fibre, but the main bulk of my purchases was. I wanted to try some plant fibre, and silk, and also get some pretty sheep’s wool. Here’s what I got:

This is the collection of non-sheep fibres:

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This is the four different kinds of silk I picked up:

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And these are all the blended sheep-with-something fibres I bought:

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I also bought a cookie cutter in the shape of a martini glass, a little Christmas pudding for Paul, a big date and butterscotch pudding, two hair clips, one merino ‘head sock’, and some alpaca yarn from a new mill on the Great Ocean Road.

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I regret that I didn’t buy one of the nifty little spindle and spindle companion sets from Luxury Overdose (look under sold items if there’s none in the shop) and some carders from the Ashford stall. I’m not sure yet if I need a carder or a blending board, and I really want to be sure the spinning thing isn’t temporary before I splash out on expensive items, so both were in the ‘walk away and think about it’ category. I hadn’t managed to come to a decision when 4pm came around and I had a shuttle bus to catch.

But I might be able to pick up second hand carders at the Guild, and hopefully I can order the spindle set on Etsy in future, so really, holding back was sensible.

Bargello Nostalgia

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Back when I was a kid and I tried countless different crafts, I preferred the kind of embroidery that used a canvas or grid, like cross-stitch and tapestry. I’m not sure if I tried Bargello, or even if I liked the way it looks, but I was aware of it and remember vividly how it looks.

When I bought some wool embroidery yarn recently I thought I might try Bargello, but I couldn’t find the right kind of canvas. Then a friend generously gave me a roll (thanks Elaine!). It’s double thread canvas, not single as the few instructions I’ve dug up on Bargello say to use, but I figured it might do anyway. However, the spacing was too wide for the thread I had.

When I went in person to Morris & Sons to buy thicker thread I discovered they had single thread canvas, which doesn’t show up on their online store. (Annoying that, as it meant I didn’t know they sold it.) That canvas was much finer, but the retors a broder thread I’ve bought on eBay works like a charm.

So I’ve been Bargello-ing of an evening, in front of the tv, after using Google images to find patterns I like. A few days ago I finished:

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It’s funny, though. When I search on Google Images for Bargello or Florentine Work (which is the same, or similar) I get as many, if not more, pics of quilts as of embroidery. There’s plenty of Bargello-insired quilting out there, but not so much embroidery.

I like that it looks a bit like marbling, or woven undulating twill. And the illusion of three dimensions. And the potential to have fun with colour. I don’t know yet what I’ll make from the samples. Maybe little zipper pouches. I’m just enjoying the process.

Braided Spectrum Rag Rug

It’s done and I love it:

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When I got 3/4 of the way through I started putting it out of sight, not wanting to finish it too quickly, but it’s such good de-stressing activity that I’d soon pull it out for some more therapeutic braiding. Finally, when I wanted the satisfaction of finishing something, I wove on to the end.

The Jean Jeany Rag Rug is still going, so I have braiding to turn to when I need a non-thinky project.

Electrified

The 1year1outfit challenge must still be lurking in my subconscious, because I keep finding myself thinking about how it could be done with non-mammal fibres. Since there’s no yarn made of silk or plant-based fibre grown within 500km of Melbourne, it’d have to be spun. Since I didn’t really take to spinning, if I found some silk or plant-based fibre grown within 500km of Melbourne, I’d have to get someone else to spin it for me.

Or maybe not…

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This electronic spinner came up for sale on Ravelry for a price I thought I could recoup if I didn’t like it. The seller was in Canberra, but I had a friend from there coming down to visit two weeks later. Another possible buyer was already considering purchasing it, but they changed their mind. Everything seemed to line up to make it convenient to buy.

Last Friday it arrived, and since it came with a half-filled bobbin and the rest of the sliver, I gave it a whirl. It took a while to remember how to join new yarn, but once I got past that everything went smoothly. On the same night, I taught my Canberran friend how to spin on a drop spindle, as she’d brought one with her. It didn’t spin well and had no hook, so eventually I found my old turkish spindle and got her spinning on it. That certainly helped wake up my nine year old memories of spinning lessons!

Two days later I found time for some more electronic spinning. So far I’m enjoying myself. It isn’t just that I don’t have to pedal, but I can take it nice and slow, and the wheel never decides to go into reverse on me. Last time I kept at spinning until I had proven to myself that I could do it, despite not enjoying it much. The trouble was, I’d get bored. This time I plan to listen to podcasts and audiobooks if it starts to get monotonous, but I suspect I need more zen-like craft activities now than a decade ago. Stress gets to me more now I’m older.

The fact that this all happened just before the Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show is another fortuitous coincidence. I’m planning to buy some silk and plant fibres to see if I can spin them. If I can, then I’ll be keeping a look out for local sources of these fibres. Just for curiosity’s sake. Really.

Undulating Scarf

The first item made on my new old floor loom is done:

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Warp: Bendigo 2ply in Peacock
Weft: Bendigo 2ply dyed by me
Draft: Undulating Twill from A Handweaver’s Pattern Directory
Loom: floor loom

Though the warping stage was full of hitches, the weaving was very pleasant. Each time I got weaving on it, I got into a steady rhythm. I really, really like lamms! I can pedal away without trying to follow a draft. If I stuck to doing only one bobbin’s worth at a time, I didn’t wind up with a sore neck.

With the table loom, Katie and Ashford table loom free, I ought to be prepping a few new projects, only my head is all over the place at the moment, worrying about a work deadline and trip, stressing over the concreter not turning up to finish a job for months and months, and trying to regain strength and stamina after a two week head cold wiped me out. Oh, and planning to finally finish the kitchen garden landscaping, hopefully in time to plant veges next spring.

Winter Weaving Progress

Some weeks after I gave up on it, I dragged out the smaller of the two reeds that I messed up with primer-laced rust converter. I scraped the remaining primer off both sides of each dent with a knife, in short sessions over a couple of weeks, applied the same rust converter I used on the floor loom, painted the top and bottom rope-covered rail and covered that with black duct tape.

The motivation for fixing it was maths. The table runner I put on the Dyer & Philips loom threads at 4 ends per dent on a 12 dpi reed – the size reed it is – and threading it on a 15 dpi reed was proving awkward.

After a bit of weaving then unweaving, I finally have things working well enough.

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Only… I’m not liking this weaving method much. It’s such a physical effort to get a clean shed. It occurred to me that it’d be a lot easier to get the rep effect I’m after by having the weft cover the warp, rather than the other way around. Then the warp doesn’t have to be so dense and won’t catch on itself. Looking up weft-faced weaving, I think that method is boundweave. Something to investigate.

The Undulating Scarf is done – a post on that to come. I’ve been leaving the Electric Boogaloo scarf for the next time I need transportable weaving, so no progress there.

The Jean Jeany rug grew to about a metre long, which was the work of many hours, but I have decided to pull it apart and start again:

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Why? Well, I began another rag rug, this time made of t-shirt strips. Rather than going around and around I worked out how to turn a strip back on itself, back and forth, to make rectangular rug. It took a bit of weaving and unweaving, with and some suggestions by Ilka White, who taught the project sessions, before I got it right. I’m enjoying this method much more.

The dark is navy, and the light is mostly white with some grey added at the end and centre. I wound up buying second hand t-shirts in green, yellow and purple so I could progress through the colour spectrum. I’m planning to stop after two repeats:

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Having done this, I started to find the Jean Jeany rug a bit boring to work on. So I’m going to start again. I want to weave with more strands – six to eight – so progress is a little faster.

What will the second project on table loom be? I’m thinking of doing a wider panel of the peacock overshot fabric then making a vest out of it and the sample pieces. I still want to do the doubleweave squares on the Katie loom, and do a test project on the rejigged Ashford table loom. I just need to kick the head cold that’s been sapping my energy for the last two weeks, because project planning and warping require me to think clearly.