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.

Textile Talk: 1year1outfit

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Last night I went to the Victorian Handweavers & Spinners Guild to hear Nicki of This is Moonlight and Rachel of ReduceReuseRecycle talk about Fibreshed and 1year1outfit.

Your ‘fibreshed’ is the area within 500 km of your home, and all the products grown, processed and made within. Nikki describes the 1year1outfit on her blog as:

One Year One Outfit is a challenge to make a locally sourced outfit in a year. Anyone interested in garment making is welcome to join in. Most participants record their findings through social media and use the tag #1year1outfit to keep in touch with the group.

The outfit must be made from natural fibres sourced from your fibreshed, dyed with non-sythetic dyes, and be constructed to last.

After seeing the flyer, I investigated the various sites and Facebook pages related to the challenge. It became pretty clear that it would be very difficult for me to participate, because I can’t wear animal fibres against my skin and no silk or plant fibre is being spun in my fibreshed, and I don’t spin. It might be possible if I moved away from fabric. A quick search online brought up a leather tannery using ‘natural’ methods in Melbourne. I could even try basket-making techniques using locally-grown plants.

The talk was very interesting and I learned more that what I’d found out in my investigations. I think the most exciting is that there are now ‘mini mills’ where small batches of fibre can be spun. They didn’t say if those mills were spinning silk or plant fibre, but I imagine it requires different machinery.

Today my thoughts had shifted to a video I saw recently of Hmong women weaving hemp. I found it again and another that showed how they attach strips of hemp together before spinning it – a method that appeals to me because it does not involve drafting. I got lost in researching plant fibres, and how to make cord and baskets with Australian native plants.

It all reminded me how I’d like to make baskets out of materials I’ve grown. And that I need to get those lomandra seedlings in.

And how there’s still so much work to do in the garden.

Oh – and I nearly forgot: the talk will be repeated on Sunday August 28th, at 2pm. I highly recommend it.

Handspun Vest

Aaaaages ago I spun some wool. Getting it ready to weave was not without trials.

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I wove it into what was a bit of a disaster – meant to be a jacket but waaay too stiff. So I sewed the pieces together and called it a rug. The Dud Rug.

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But it was a pretty ugly rug, so I put it away for a while. A year or so ago I got the idea of turning it to a vest, and ran it through a hot wash to full it a bit to lessen the chance of unravelling when cut. Then it was just a matter of finding a vest pattern. I never seemed to remember to look at patterns in fabric stores while was there, and I found nothing on the internet until a few weeks ago.

I bought a pattern, printed it out, taped all the sheets together, cut them out, joined the body and fronts to make one piece and traced a copy off that.

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I cut out the cloth and sewed the pieces together, then put it on the dress model.

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It was enormous. Clearly there was something wrong with the pattern. I suspect it had printed out too big. So I pinched and pinned and chopped it down until it fit the model. Then when I was satisfied that it was the right size, I used brown cotton fabric for lining and bias tape to finish the edges. Some sewing later I had this:

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It fits perfectly and is very cosy. Unfortunately it’s a bit cold now for vests, but Spring will come along soon enough. All in all, I’m very chuffed to have turned a dud into something wearable.

Inkle Band Top

Earlier this year I made this top:

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Which I decided needed some embellishment. While it was tempting to do some embroidery, I’ve been wanting to use some of the inkle I’ve woven on a garment. I chose one of the wider bands for the centre front, then wove a matching narrower band for the edge of the bib-style facing.

A bit of stitching later, and it was done:

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Of course, I dawdled so long with this project that it’s now winter, and too cold to wear the top. But it’ll be in my wardrobe ready for when the weather is warm again.

Fast & Not So Fabulous

What was new and very fascinating to learn from the books and articles I read was this idea of ‘fast fashion’. It shocked me that I hadn’t noticed the huge shift in how garment retailers operate, though on reflection I had picked up on most of the signs. What I’d noticed was this:

Clothing is the same price, if not cheaper, than it was in the 80s.
Quality is more uneven and more often worse than better.
T-shirt material keeps getting thinner. Sometimes practically see-through.
Shops are having sales more often than not having sales.
Designs don’t stick around for a whole season, so if you go back for something chances are it isn’t available any more.
More clothing is made from polyester.

It turns out brands don’t release new clothes in seasons anymore. Instead they’ve shortened the time between new styles arriving in stores to weeks, even days. All three books pointed to Zara, a Spanish company, for introducing this system. They have basic full or partial garments made up in ‘greige’ somewhere like Bangladesh and air freighted closer to their distribution centre in Europe, so they can be dyed, finished and embellished according to phoned-in observations of on-the-ground trend reporters, and delivered in store in as short a time as possible.

Of course, that means that the foundation garments are essentially the same. What changes is the easy stuff like colour and embellishment. What doesn’t change that much is fabric and more dramatic cut and shape. Clothes are only in stores for a month or so before they’re removed, so it encourages shoppers to drop in regularly. And they do – two to three times more often.

Though it doesn’t seem like it would, this system reduces the amount of stock that doesn’t sell. For a fast rotation of styles to work means the clothes must be incredibly cheap. With or without it, clothing prices have been on a race to the bottom for a few decades now, and that means a generation has grown up thinking unsustainably low prices are normal, and the rest of us have assumed the old ‘high’ prices were due to brands taking a huge profit.

Interestingly, high-end fashion prices have been rising as dramatically as cheap ones have dropped. What has suffered is mid-priced, good quality fashion. Part of the reason for that is that garment manufacturers in developed countries survive by specialising in high-end product, while those in developing countries aren’t interested in the smaller order sizes that mid-priced brand require. This also means that new designers find it very hard to get a foothold in the industry.

And then there’s the fact that most shoppers can’t see the value in the more expensive garment and are confused by the fact that the same garment can cost more in a middle-sized chain simple because of the economies of scale – smaller garment manufacturing orders cost more per piece than big ones. Shoppers have lost the ability to identify quality, let alone value it. Even judging the quality of cloth by thickness is no guarantee, because additives can add a quarter of the thickness to it, only to be removed on the first wash. Most of all, having never made a garment or watched a parent or grandparent make one, young buyers don’t see the work that goes into making clothes or recognise the details that indicate good workmanship.

While fabric production and cutting can be done by machine, the making up of garments still relies on people. Large-scale production favours a system where each worker does one small task, so the training they get is only good for them getting the same king of job. Fancy design requires training or more skilled and expensive workers, so garments are designed with simple construction. This system has put countless skilled tailors out of work, in both the developed and developing world, and led to the dumbing down of fashion styling.

It raises the question: what price do you put on innovation and skill?

That’s the irony in the current way we buy clothes. It’s called ‘fast fashion’ to imply you are keeping up with on the minute trends, but it has made this era’s mainstream clothing more homogeneous and less adventurous.

Little wonder, then, that vintage and charity shopping has become so popular. Though that is facing it’s own problems… but I think that’ll have to be another post.

Scratching Beneath the (Textile) Surface

A few weeks ago I went shopping for leggings and some knitwear, and was shocked to find I couldn’t get anything that wasn’t mostly polyester. Then I noticed more people mentioning buying ultra cheap products online from China. Then I happened upon a show on iView about ethical textiles and, though it did not surprise me to find out about terrible working conditions of garment makers, I was excited to learn about the efforts going into tackling them. So I posted about it on Facebook. A friend commented that she’d just listened to a radio interview with a woman who’d written a book on the subject. I looked up the show, found a podcast, listened to it and was so impressed I immediately bought the book.

The book is called Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion by Clare Press. It was funny and tragic, shocking and inspiring, and I tore through it in a couple of days. Then I bought a book mentioned in it, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle, and absorbed that in a few days, too.

I found it utterly fascinating, from how the fashion industry works now to learning about all the stages, post design, in the creation of a garment. While much of what I learned I already knew, since as a knitter I had made it my business to know all the ethical and environmental issues to do with fibre, but there were plenty of things I hadn’t known on the garment-making side. There’s a lot to be horrified by and yet I came away feeling far more hopeful than I expected.

Why? Because it seems like the garment industry is being taken, sometimes kicking and screaming, in the direction the food industry has gone, with greater awareness and value placed in environmental, social and health consequences of the way it runs. And I can see that the same interest and energy that drives the decluttering and clean living movements could be directed toward people buying, and therefore encouraging the making of, more ethical fashion.

I asked my friends on Facebook if they’ve ever bought really, really cheap stuff and what their reasoning was in order to gauge the sorts of reactions people have for and against ethical shopping. It’s been interesting to see how they regard it. This article investigates people’s attitudes toward ethical products. I was intrigued to see that the people who choose to ignore ethical issues tend to regard anyone who tries to shop ethically negatively – and I’m reminded again of the food movement, and how despite mockery of ‘organic’ products an appreciation for sustainable food practises has grown.

I dove into all this wanting specific questions answered. Why are some clothes now so ridiculously cheap? Is it better to buy direct from China, cutting out the middlemen, or worse? What are the ethical fashion brands and do they make anything that isn’t expensive and dead boring? Why is current ‘fast fashion’ full of dull, unflattering polyester jersey that falls to pieces after a few washes? How should I approach shopping in order to make a difference, even a tiny one?

Most of these questions were answered, and for a few it was easy to extrapolate an answer. But they’ll take more than a few blog post to cover, so watch this space.

Jean Jeany Rug

Back when I was on Pinterest I collected pins to tutorials on hand braiding strips of rag into floor rugs. The techniques used didn’t appeal, however, as they involved sewing, glue or making a wooden framework. I was sure there had to be a way to do it without sewing machine, glue, looms, needles – really, anything more than just the rags and my hands.

I now use Google Images to browse crafty ideas, and recently it led me to a YouTube vid on braiding rag rugs. The method wasn’t quite what I was after, as it still required using needles, but I could see that they were unnecessary. There was a bit of sewing at the start and end, but I could see a way around that, too. The teacher insisted that you could only do it with stretch fabric, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me trying it with the leftover strips of denim from my woven floor rugs.

So a few months ago I gave it a try. And it was so easy! And very, very addictive. This is how much I’ve done so far:

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It’s only the size of a small doormat so far. It’s slow work, but really satisfying. Good for when I want a creative but undemanding task, or something to do while listening to podcasts.

Undulating Twill

For a month or so now, the floor loom has had a project on it. My first one on this loom.

I considered carefully what to try first. Weaving with a yarn I was familiar with made sense, so I knew any idiosyncrasies I encountered were the loom not the yarn. A small project would be good, and one where I didn’t mind if I wasted the warp yarn.

I chose to use another twill project using the same yarns in the Glam Shawl. Yes, that project was a disaster, but it was the one that made me want a floor loom, so it was a good test to see if it did make all the problems go away.

I chose an undulating twill – something I’ve been wanting to try for while.

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The warp yarn is Bendigo Classic 2ply in a discontinued colour called ‘peacock’, which is the same yarn I used for the Glam Shawl just a ply thinner. The weft is – was – the same brand of metallic yarn in another colourway.

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It all seemed to be going well… until I realised I wouldn’t have enough to the metallic yarn. The fabric seemed a bit loose, too. I decided to try to dye some Bendy Classic 2ply to match the peacock colour.

I didn’t get even close. It was more of a Kelly green than a dark teal. I was going to try overdying it with blue, but something about the weaving I’d done so far made me hesitate.

Running my fingers over the fabric, I found it far too easy to distort. It also was a bit scratchy for my taste. Also, looking at my calculations, I realised that I’d sleyed the reed at 1/3 the wraps per inch instead of 2/3. It was way too loose.

I decided that, while it was pretty, I didn’t care for the metallic yarn, nor did I want to sit over a dye pot. I’d use the green yarn as it was. So I untied the warp and pulled simply slid the metallic yarn off the end. Yep, it was that loose!

Then I resleyed the reed and tied the warp back on. Of course, I managed to get two threads twisted to had to fix that. And then as I started weaving I found two threading errors and had to unweave twice – the green yarn showed the twill pattern better and the mistakes were obvious.

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Finally, it was good to go. I love the undulations, the colour combination, and yes, the loom is lovely to weave on.

Prime Failure

The table loom came with a rusty reed. Having spent a lot of time de-rusting the Dyer & Philips reed – and spent a lot of time renovating the table loom already – I didn’t hesitate to buy a new stainless steel reed. I didn’t want to wait!

What to do with the old reed, then? I asked on the Weaving Facebook group for alternative purposes for a reed… and straight away got lots of suggestions on how to de-rust it to use for weaving. Hmm, not what I was asking, but they were trying to be helpful.

Then I picked up a 12dpi free old reed at the guild that I could use on the Dyer & Philips – giving me more yarn options for that loom. I figured if I was going to de-rust that one I may as well do both.

Paul had suggested going to an auto shop and get a larger bottle of rust converter so I could soak the reeds rather than painting it on. They had a spray-on version that contained a primer. The idea of having a thin coat of primer to protect the reed sounded good, so I went for that.

I was SO wrong.

First, I had the reed lying on newspaper. The spray dried onto it, clogging the reed so badly I had to get Paul to use a rotary wire brush on a drill to get the paper off.

Then I reapplied the spray. The remnants of the first and the second coat didn’t go on thinly or consistently, instead leaving bare, rusty patches and globs of primer. I managed to scrape the bigger blobs off, but once I realised that there were bare patches I decided to strip it off and go back to using the old rust converter.

The paint stripper softened the primer, but didn’t dissolve it, so I just wound up with a reed covered in sticky, softened globs of primer. At this point I gave up.

A week or two later I decided to try one more experiment with the smaller reed. The spray advised using acetone to clean up, so I soaked the reed in that. It removed most of the primer… and the coating on the strings that hold the dents in place. The string didn’t come off, thankfully. Most of the primer was gone, but there was a residue left that I am now scraping off each dent with a knife.

So many, many hours labour later I have ruined the longer reed and, hopefully, saved the small one. Though it remains to be seen if the scraping will roughen the small reed so much it wears through a warp.

The old reed from the table loom will get used for something else – maybe a garden ornament. Something a climbing plant to run along, or for water to trickle down.

Lesson learned: never de-rust a reed with a rust converter containing a primer!