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.

Stash Portrait 2016-2017

Recent thoughts about where I want to go with weaving, and my fibre allergies led to a bit of a stash assessment. So I laid out all the yarn on the office floor and took a picture:

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(Wool yarns are marked in red, cotton in yellow, and everything else or yarns I’m not sure of the fibre are in orange.)

A sort was in order. I moved cones to the larger boxes and divided everything into wool and non-wool. All non-wool, non-acrylic yarns had instant keeper status. With those put aside, I considered which wool yarns to keep or cull. Sock yarns are keepers, since my feet don’t get irritated by wool. Recent handspun stays, too. The Bendigo Classic 2 & 3 ply does weave up into a nice blanket and makes good warp yarn, so I’ll retain that.

The rest I sorted by softness. The Tonne of Wool Cormo is the softest, Bendigo Luxury next, Cleckheaton Country and Paton’s Inca next, and the rest became one batch of ‘least soft’ yarn. From that I culled the Bendigo Serenade, Patons Shadow Tweed, Lincraft Cosy Wool, a cone of fine boucle and the metallic yarns I hated weaving with earlier this year.

I also culled my knitwear, removing two vests I don’t wear, a cardigan and a jacket. The jackets were unravelled. The yarn I got from them is wool, but I have plans to turn it into pin loom blankets. Since one is a bulky yarn, I’m currently making a pin loom 150% the size of the one I have, so the nails are spaced wider apart and I get bigger squares.

The stash doesn’t all fit into the boxes, but with the wool yarns hanging about in the way rather than the cone yarns, I’ve got more of an incentive to either use them up or cull them.

Looking for a New Home

Not for me, for my table loom!

I advertised it in the Australian spinners and weavers Facebook group a few weeks back. At once point I had someone interested in the loom and not the base, so when someone else wanted just the base I agreed to sell it separately. The first person then had second thoughts about the loom. Still, that’s better than trying to sell the base with no loom!

If you’re in the market for an 80cm Ashford 4-shaft table loom, let me know. Here it is on the base (no longer included). Excellent condition. One owner. A couple of shuttles, metal rods and the original threading hooks included. All for $750 AUD.

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And the piano stool is your’s too – if you pick it up!

Spring Weaving

I’m liking how this sampler is turning out, with the colourful rows followed by reversed, black and grey rows, and that it’s reversible.

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I made a small mistake in the first few rows, but it’s a sampler and if I do think of something to make out of it those rows with probably end up in a seam.

The Pinwheel Tea Towels are growing:

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I ran out of yarn two squares short for The Gamppa Rug, and one of the colours is discontinued. So I bought what I hoped would be the right colours on eBay. The dark brown is pretty close, but the lighter brown is a bit redder, but from a distance not so easy to pick as a different colour.

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I’ve started sewing the squares together.

Spring Spinning

I recently finished spinning up a pack of sample blends from Owl of Athena called the “Humbug Fibre Blend Sampler Pack”. All were lovely to spin. Some were a bit challenging for me, as a new spinner, being quite slippery. I had a few moments when the singles lost cohesion and came apart, both in the spinning and plying. But I learned to compensate by giving them a little extra twist.

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Which was a valuable lesson, as I’m now spinning some silk and alpaca together. Both are slippery, and the silk has a short staple (right term?).

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It’s quite challenging, and I suspect the fibre I spin after this will be an easy one, so I can relax again.