Denim Braided Rug

This one’s been going for a while. I started the version I pulled apart to start this one a year ago, and started this one a month or so after. The slowness has been deliberate – it’s a soothing project to do when I don’t have brain energy so I’ve been saving it for those moments. Recently I had a nagging stomach virus thing, and on a day of distractingly noisy plumbers working in the laundry (which is opposite my office), I had only the mental capacity to stand and braid.

A few hours later it was done. I gave it a quick rinse and spin in the washing machine, and when it was dry laid it out on the kitchen floor.

Pretty happy with that. It’s nice and cushy under the feet, and matches my woven denim rag rugs. Amazing what you can make out of some old jeans!

Tapestry Tangle

An idea for a Bargello project has been floating around in my head for a while, but to do it I’ll need lots of colours of tapestry thread. A while back I jumped onto eBay and bought two large batches of leftover thread. And when I say large, I’m not kidding. This is what the two looked like spread over my eight-seater dining table, after I’d untangled the bigger of the two batches.

creativefidget816

In fact, the largest batch arrived on a day when I hadn’t slept well, felt very crappy and sorting out the contents was just the sort of meditative task I needed. It was a huge tangled bag of mostly tapestry thread but also crewel yarn, perle cotton and stranded cotton. Some was precut into lengths, some precut and clearly from kits, some still in skeins with labels and some not, and lots of lengths from several meters to a cm long. There was even a few scraps of knitting yarn in there. It was like somebody had thrown someone’s entire collection of embroidery yarn into a bag, including the contents of a bin.

The stranded cottons were all precut lengths with no labels so I added them to my collection. The perle cotton and crewel thread was too, so I tied the cotton together and the thread was knotted onto a metal ring.

creativefidget825

Of the tapestry thread, there were several brands including some very old skeins, of which most had felted. I packed most of the tapestry thread into a basket with the ends showing so I can see all the colours.

creativefidget826

I left out the oldest stuff and a group of unlabelled yarn that appeared to be thinner than the rest. The old, felted yarns I started to weave on my Knitters Loom (more on that soon).

creativefidget824

The thinner I started nalbinding (another post will cover this).

creativefidget817

Flax Basket

A friend from Canberra, Donna, came to stay recently, and having heard that I’d been trying out basket weaving brought me an armful of New Zealand flax from her garden.

I’d done a bit of research on how to prepare it, mostly late at night when I couldn’t get to sleep. But when I went to find the instructions again the internet wouldn’t cooperate, so I had to do it all by memory.

I’m rather impressed with my memory (which is something I never thought I’d say) because I remembered them pretty well! There was a certain amount of just doing what felt right, as well. An hour or so of fiddling later, using pegs to hold things in place temporarily, we had these:

creativefidget818

Donna’s is on the left, mine is on the right.

It was much faster to weave a basket this way than use the coiling method. However, you waste a lot of the leaves in getting pieces of an even width and length. I’ve kept the longer offcuts, which I’ll dry and then see if I can shred and use them for coiling.

A friend has offered me some flax she wants to remove from her garden. I have a spot I think it will suit. If all goes well, maybe in a year or two I’ll have my own supply.

Waffleweave Blanket

Silly me. I was so eager to finish the Waffleweave Blanket, I forgot to add the plain weave to the final edge.

creativefidget815

I had to remove the first bit of plain weave and tie the fringe on both edges with knots. Lots and lots and lots and lots of knots. I’d just zig-zag along the edge but I’m worried that, even with the edge encased in satin blanket binding, the rough handling of a child might lead to unravelling.

creativefidget832

I’m afraid my sewing leaves much to be desired. Darn slippery satin edging!

creativefidget831

But I’m happy with the result. And the blanket was delivered to the parents this week. I hope they like it!

creativefidget833

I can now tick waffleweave off my list of weave structures to try. It was easy to do – easy to thread the warp and easy to weave. I’d definitely weave it again.

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:

creativefidget812

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:

creativefidget810

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:

creativefidget809

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.

creativefidget811

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:

creativefidget807

And today I finished warping and started weaving.

creativefidget808

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.

Pinwheel Tea Towels

creativefidget806

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.

creativefidget805

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.

creativefidget804

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.