New Recruit

Last weekend we went to a friend’s daughter’s 10th birthday party. Miranda reminds me of me at her age – quiet and creative. Her mum had told me Miranda has seen me weaving and embroidering and wants to learn.

So I thought long and hard about a present that would be suitable. Too simple OR too complicated might mean she’d get bored. A rigid heddle loom would be great, but I figured it would be better if she had a chance to try one first – and I didn’t have time to arrange that thanks to work deadlines.

Then something reminded me of my pin looming last year, and it occurred to me that this was a good way to teach the basic structure of cloth. Each square is complicated enough to be interesting but not overly time-consuming. They can be sewn together to make lots of different things.

I took along my shawl to show what can be made from squares. And I took my pin looms and some yarn I’ve been meaning to weave on them so I could teach Miranda if there was time. Since it was the family and adult friends party, not a kids party, once the presents were open it was okay for us to get started.

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Miranda loved it. I think I have a convert.

Reddy Runner

Finished, washed, fringe trimmed:

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I can see now that I should have used a heavier yarn for the thick weft. The pattern isn’t as obvious as it should be:

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The Dyer & Philips loom did work well for warp rep, but I have to say I found the weaving technique tedious. Soooo many warp threads. Having to use a pick-up stick to open the shed fully annoyed me. And it took aaaaages to weave. Looking at it now, I can see I did eight repeats of the stripe sequence, and yet it felt like I’d done twice that many.

I’ve come to the conclusion that weft rep might be more my cup of tea. Fewer warp threads but similar patterns – just turned 90 degrees. Something to try, anyway.

But probably not on the D&P. It’s a cute loom and with plain weave it is a delight to use, but having projects on multiple looms just means it takes me longer to finishing any of them. If I find a loving home for it, I will let it go.

Once it Was Winter…

… you’d think I’d have been wearing the Handspun, Handwoven, Handsewn Jacket I finished earlier this year. Well, I haven’t. I did put it on once, but when I took it out of the drawer I’d stored it in it was all creased in the front. As I’d predicted, I didn’t like the fringe being so long. And the little bulge where the bottom of the cowl met the zip bugged me.

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So after trimming the fringe, I decided to cut the top section down the front and make it a jacket. I could have zig zagged along each side and sewn it to the back, but I liked the idea of a fringe there, too. Easier said than done!

I unwove the weft until I had enough warp to tie knots. However, this meant I had to unweave past the point where the bottom section joined to so I also had to unpick the top and bottom sections along the front and re-sew them together.

In the meantime, I found I rather liked the way the top of the pockets flopped down, matching the angle of the front edges, so I stitched those in place.

Then I unpicked the shoulders, took out the darts and added a length of cotton tape across the top of the back to strengthen the fabric. After trying the jacket on, I decided I didn’t like the sleeves being so wide. Inspired by the folded pockets, I decided to unpick the top seam and overlap the pieces.

At last I was done:

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After all the adjustments, I have a jacket I like, though it’s a tiny bit small for me – not quite long enough in the body or sleeves. But it’s wearable, and I’ve explored lots of ideas for making woven rectangles into clothing. I’d like to make this again, with wider pieces for the sleeve-upper body so that the seam where it joins the waistband sits under the bust line rather than over it.

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.

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.

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.

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.