Bendy Report 2018

It’s been two years since I last went to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show, and on that visit I bought mainly fibre for spinning. I more than made up for it this year. Last time I went alone, but this time I had the company of a friend – and ran into another on the way home. Both of them are knitters, and one is also a spinner and weaver.

I had quite a to-do list, from visiting a seller of looms to approaching a publisher of books about an idea I’ve had for a while, eating the same scrumptious lamb rolls I had the last two times and visiting Bendigo Woollen Mill.

We decided to visit the mill first, because I’d seen a little video describing the contents of their show survival kit and I rather fancied it, and numbers were limited. For $30 you got this:

Plus a sachet of hot chocolate (drunk), a pack of mints (forgot were in my bag), a bottle of water and a calico bag (given to my companion in yarn covetousness).

It was good value because I wanted most of the contents, which is pretty unusual in ‘showbags’. However, there are always a couple of things in them that I don’t want:

That’s a bookmark, badge and stitch markers. If anyone (within Australia) wants them leave a comment and I’ll post them to you.

I took my smallest wheelie suitcase with me to be kind to my back, and (theoretically) limit the amount I bought. Going to the mill first meant I wasn’t tempted to buy more than what was on my list because I knew I’d have it with me for the rest of the day, and I should leave space for other purchases. This filled about 2/3 of the bag:

The blue is ‘8ply alpaca blue fleck’ had been brought into the back room just that morning. The grey is ’16 ply recycled fibres’ and is lovely and soft. There’s a ball of Bloom in ‘wine’ colourway and multicoloured sock yarn in ‘purple green multi’. And the only yarn from the front room is a ball of 10ply cotton in ‘sky’, which I want to try machine knitting.

We headed to the show next, had lunch and made our way back through the sheds. I found the Louet dealer, who didn’t have floor looms as I’d hoped, but we talked about me going up to her workshop in Sydney later in the year. I spent some time at the Ashford stand and bought two large shuttles and bobbins – just in time for the blanket I just finished warping up – and a book of weaving patterns from an old manuscript.

At Glenora’s stand I bought some more 8/2 cotton and chenille, a ball of Ashford 8ply and a part for the Knitters Loom that broke a few months back that I didn’t know you could buy.

And I had mentally decided I wanted to buy a handful of single skeins of pretty or luxurious or interesting yarn.

From left to right: yak (white and chocolate) and camel (brown) yarn from Ochre Yarn, Australian grown and processed cotton (the first in recent times) by the Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, a lovely soft green yarn for a hat that matches my Green Stripes Jacket by Kathy’s Fibres, and a multicolour yarn that caught by eye by HalfBaked HandDyed.

And lastly, a cone of boucle saori wool, a handy mini crochet hook set and a sock darning mushroom:

When I first visited the show in 2007 I took photos, watched demonstrations, looked at all the animals and watched sheepdog trials. In following years I added the fashion show to that list, but as the show grew in size I didn’t have as much time for looking at animals and trials. Now I’m pretty much down to lunch and shopping. I didn’t bother with the fashion show this year now that it doesn’t include handmade items.

Today I’m exhausted. I expected that and planned to do not much more than write a blog post, add my purchases to the stash spreadsheet then put them away, and maybe do some weaving.

Will all my yarn acquisitions fit into the stash? No. Not even half! But I did stick to what I planned to buy except for the one small cone yarn – and I didn’t find any rug yarns. And some of it will be used straight away. (I’m looking at you, you lush green skein of green. You’re going to become a hat very soon.)

Sampler Brooch

I started making this brooch a while back, but stopped because I wanted to use it as an example in a talk about weaving while travelling. That talk got cancelled, then rescheduled, and I wound up finishing it and starting another to be the in-progress example.

After I had my eyes done and discovered embroidery was no longer comfortable, I figured I wouldn’t be making any more of these and wondered what I’d do with the settings. But weaving on cloth like this is easier on they eye than the fine embroidery I was doing before, so having finished one I know I can take another with me as a project to do while travelling. Here’s the in-progress example:

I’ve finished sewing in the ends of the Green Stripes Jacket and sewn up the seams. Now I’m pacing myself as I knit the ribbed bits. Which means I’ve machine knit the pieces of another entire garment, but I’ll talk about that in a new post.

Lots going on here craft-wise, but not much weaving right now. I’m still waiting for the circular knitting machines to arrive. I can see on the courier site that they’ve arrived in Australia, but they’ve not budged since. Stuck in customs maybe?

Pinstripe Skirt

Last year I wove a length of fabric to make a skirt out of. It’s taken me nearly a year to get around to the sewing up the skirt. The trouble with making clothing from my hand weaving is I’m not as keen on the sewing as I am on the weaving.

The fabric is woven with Bendigo 3ply classic with a grey boucle yarn placed every 5cm.

My original idea was to make deep folds in the front and back, but that made the skirt a little too bulky.

So I reduced the depth of the folds. I liked the improvement, but then I remembered that when I brought the project to the Sewing with Handwovens class someone suggested box pleats. Lots of pinning later I had changed the folds to box pleats and decided I was happy with the look. I got sewing and finished the skirt:

I like it! It has a bit more flare than an a-line skirt, but isn’t too sticky-outy (for want of a technical term).

Now I just need to weave the jacket I planned to make to complete the outfit. Hopefully that won’t take a year!

Lava Cowl

Having cut off what I’d woven of the Braided Scarf on the Knitters Loom, I needed to decide what to do with the remaining warp. It was threaded at a sett for creating two layers of cloth, so double what would be needed if I wove a single layer, but I didn’t want to continue weaving double weave. So I re-threaded the loom.

At first I thought I might still weave three strips and braid them, but the prospect didn’t inspire me. So I went stash diving for other red yarns to see if that gave me ideas. I found a marled yarn and a boucle.

Then I looked at the to-do list on this blog and saw “Try weaving sword”. Yes! That’s what I would do. I wound some of the boucle yarn on to a shuttle and decided to add a pick every fifth row to hopefully make the wavy weft stand out more.

I loved the result. It was much faster to weave, too. Which I generally did while watching the news of an evening – reports of the lava flow in Hawaii inspired the scarf name. Or rather, cowl. Having cut off the double weave section and rethreaded to the width of the loom, the resulting fabric was a bit short and wide for a scarf, so I flipped one end over and knotted the fringe together.

I gave it a quick soak in woolmix and hung it up to dry, and the wavy pattern seems to have stayed put.

Coco Nut Ice Scarf

Over the weekend I had a bit of a think about opportunities and reasonable expectations of what I can do with the time and health that I have, and I made a few decisions. One was to cut the Braided Scarf off the loom. I’m abandoning it because it was taking too long, and that wasn’t great for my back. Just weaving 10 or so cm of one strip took me the better part of an hour. I’m not abandoning the idea, but if I’m going to do double weave on the rigid heddle again I’ll do it with thicker yarn.

Here’s another scarf I finished a while back. To make it I cut another of my Vari Dent heddles in half – the 10 dpi one. I think I will end up halving most of them. Multiple small ones allows me to do so much more.

By cutting the larger 10 dpi heddle into two I was able to have four sections of the same yarn with a single thread of thicker yarn between. The thicker yarn was a supplementary warp, weighted at the back, as it was stretchy and might have acted like a gathering thread if I’d tied it onto the back beam.

It only took me a couple of hours to warp and weave. I had it done in a day. The fabric reminds me of the classic Coco Chanel boxy jacket, and white and pink are the colours of coconut ice.

A Comely Shawl

The Honeycomb Shawl is done.

Much to my consternation, I have a full ball of the black silk and quite a bit of the slubby silk leftover. So much for my calculations! Still, I have a shawl of a good size and the honeycomb structure has done what it was supposed to: make a feature of the fancy yarn by contracting into a cell-like texture with the slubby silk forming an undulating line.

I rather like the Seta Soie silk woven up, too. It’s not shiny like you’d expect of silk, but soft – almost like cotton. Which is great because I have another four balls in brown that I hope to weave into fabric for a summer top.

Though I’ll probably leave that until Spring, as I doubt I’d weave it in time to catch the last warm days of autumn here. Even with the unusually warm, dry weather we’ve been having.

Draft Confusion

It didn’t take long to get the Katie loom warped up for my first twill sampler. I put 5 metres on, 10 inches wide, in 8/2 cotton. And I have to say… I need to find a cheaper yarn for sampling! I used 1/2 to 2/3 of a nearly $40 cone just for the warp. Since the weft usually takes a bit less than the same amount for the warp, that’ll make this sampler cost up to $60.

I decided to use a rainbow of colours for the weft. If it can be pretty, then why not? I wove 10 cm of the first straight twill in the book, then moved on to the next one. A few picks in I compared what I had to the photo in the book and realised it wasn’t looking right.

And neither did the first pattern. It was vertically reversed, as if I had set a mirror horizontally to the pattern photo.

What had gone wrong? Kay had confirmed at the workshop that you follow the treadling section of a draft beginning at the tie-up box and working out. I had done that. The heddles were threaded in exactly the same sequence as the draft indicated – with 1 at the front, 2 next up and to the left, and so forth until 8 was at the back on the left. Going back to the basics, I looked at Learning to Weave and it confirmed that I should follow the treadling from the tie-up box downward. So what was going wrong?

Did the tie-up indicate a sinking shed? No, the boxes were marked with ‘o’. Was the photo of the fabric upside down? No, if it had been then the stitches would angle to the right of the ridges. I was getting a flipped pattern, not a rotated one.

After a break and a think, I had another look at the book’s first section. It said that the treadling in a draft didn’t always start at the tie-up box. Sometimes it started at the bottom and worked toward the tie-up. However, it also seemed to say that it would only happen if I’d threaded the opposite way to the draft – slanting up and to the right.

This was one of those moments I wished I had a more experienced weaver on hand to ask stupid questions of. But I didn’t, so I decided that I’d prefer to weave samples that looked like the photo, which meant weaving the rest of the drafts from the bottom up. Which worked fine for the third sample.

And then I moved on to the next page… and found the last draft clearly wasn’t going to produce the cloth in the photo. And I found a mistake on the next page too.

But overall I’m really enjoying sampling. By the time I’ve woven 10cm of a draft I’ve worked it out, even begun to memorise it, and it’s starting to get a bit boring – but then I get to try out the next one. It appeals to my rather short attention span. Which has me worried that by the time I get back to a big project I’ll find it harder to concentrate!

Loom Thoughts

A week or two ago I decided to risk buying and downloading an instructional video. The one I had my eye on is called “The Efficient Weaver” by Laura Fry. I’ve hesitated to buy videos because I worry that Australia’s slow internet speeds might mean I wouldn’t be able to download such a big file.

But on Easter Sunday I decided to give it a try. To my relief, the video downloaded pretty quickly and with no trouble. I watched all 1 1/2 hours of it that day, with a couple of breaks. It was very interesting and enlightening. Laura warps from front to back, which I used to do, but with some notable differences in approach. I now have warping valet envy, too.

I was very interested to see that her floor loom has the pedals on top of the bottom front support beam, like my Osbourne did before I changed it. That told me that this arrangement shouldn’t be a problem. She rests her feet where the pedals hinge when not pressing them. That position was quite a bit further forward on my loom, which meant if I rested my feet at the pivot point I’d slide off the front of my seat.

Having gained some confidence around buying videos, I ordered another: Tom Knisely’s “The Loom Owner’s Companion: Know and Love Your Loom”. It came in two parts, and the first downloaded easily. The second kept failing. It took several attempts and most of a day, but it eventually worked. After watching it, I concluded that I didn’t learn much that I didn’t already know, but a few things were confirmed and some of Tom’s tips will be very useful.

And it nudge med into giving the floor loom a ‘birthday’. I’ve had it for only two years, but some parts were a little stiff and a few areas of the wood looked a bit dull and dry. I dusted it off, rubbed Danish oil into as much wood as I could get to, treated the moving parts with WD40 and applied silicone spray to the lamm hooks and shaft runner.

Everything is running smoothly now and it looks great. All in all, I’m rather proud of the fact that it is in much better condition than when I bought it. However, the more I work on the Katie the more I want an 8 shaft floor loom, so I’ve been online window shopping looms and keeping an eye on eBay. And I’m more actively trying to sell the Ashford 4-shaft table loom.

Change may be in the wind.

Mind the Gap

When the Wavelet Scarf came off the loom I was pleased that my idea worked out, but I thought the gaps were too big.

So recently, when I was reassessing the projects I’ve made with the Vari Dent Reed, I considered ways to join the strips at the centre of each gap, where I’d done a section of basketweave. One idea was to do a kind of lace-up effect of criss-crossing yarn. Another was to add beads.

Well, it turned out I had exactly the number of these long beads in my bead stash to fill all the gaps, if I added five to each join.

So I got sewing. It took a while. My back has been cranky lately, so I could only really stitch together two or three joins at a time. But when I was done I was much happier with the way the scarf looks.

I have made a couple more scarves with the Vari Dent Reed testing ideas, but I’m hesitating to post about them. Why? Well, it occurred to me that I have enough ideas now to make up a small book. If that should happen, the publisher (if I don’t self-publish) might prefer that I didn’t share everything that could go in a book on my blog.

And I am exploring even more ideas. This time using a second heddle. But slowly, as the projects on my other looms are distracting me, as is doing a bit of research into looms. And loom benches. And horizontal warping mills.

Planning in Circles

I’ve had some kind of bug this week that had me very tired and with a painful sinus infection. Sinus infections always exacerbate my back problems (I think because the pain makes my neck muscles tense).

It was rather inconvenient. I want to be working. And weaving. Instead I was napping, doing cryptic crosswords and ordering weaving magazines and books.

But I did managed some weaving planning. Since deciding to do lots of samplers I’d stalled at what to do first.

Looking at my weaving books, it occurred to me that some weave structures use the same or similar warp threadings, so perhaps I could explore a couple of weave structures on one long warp without doing much rethreading. I also had the crazy idea of using a white warp, then colouring threads with fabric markers when sampling multicoloured patterns rather than having to tie on a new warp each time.

Or I could weave everything in Next Steps in Weaving or The Handweavers’ Pattern Directory. Either would be a lot of work, and both books have patterns that use only 4 shafts. If I’m using the Katie for these samplers, it would be a shame to not use all 8 shafts at least some of the time.

Both books start with twills. I thought about dividing the warp in half: one side straight twill the other point twill. But what about rosepath? Ms and Ws? Broken twill? Could I fit those in too?

Maybe I should just do a big gamp blanket. I’ve always intended to weave a colour gamp on the floor loom. I even bought a big batch of 10/2 cotton for it a few years ago.

But that’s making a thing rather than just learning. And I’d have to do a gamp on the floor loom, because the Katie isn’t big enough.

Actually… why not make that the next floor loom project, and sample something else on the Katie?

But sample what?

My thoughts had done a circle and I was back where I’d begun. Except I had worked something out. The sampler ought to be for 8 shaft patterns. So I got out A Weavers Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. It, too, starts with twills. The first section talks about how a ‘boring’ straight twill isn’t as boring as it looks, and presents several patterns to try.

Okay then, I thought. Let’s see if that’s true.

So I’m going to weave a twill and colour gamp blanket on the floor loom, and a straight twill sampler on the Katie. It’ll be all twills all the time for a while, but I’ll be satisfying both the need to learn and the need to strike an item off my weaving to-do list.

But gosh, I really need to find a faster way to measure a warp.