Kay Plus Fun Workshop

Last year, at the end of the Kay Faulkner Play+1 weaving workshop at the Ballarat Fibre Forum, I had a crazy idea. What if I flew our teacher down to Melbourne and held a workshop in our studio? The other students were keen and, after a bit of a delay thanks to the eye surgery, I started organising it late last year.

While the insurance to hold a workshop at the studio wasn’t really high, taking it out for one event wasn’t economical, so I went looking for suitable accommodation. The first place I thought of was Sewjourn, a cottage and studio for rent up in Lancefield. A quilting friend told me about it some years ago and it sounded very suited to our purposes. I made enquiries and booked us in.

Circumstances swung against us for a while, with three out of five of the original students not able to come. So I put the word out among weavers I encountered that we would welcome new participants, and the lovely Kaye (yes, another Kay) leapt at the opportunity to join us. Then Elizabeth and Di were able to make it after all, so we had a group of five.

We arrive at Sewjourn on a Monday. I forgot to take a photo of the cottage, which is lovely. This is the studio:

There was a huge full moon on the last couple of nights. Well, it looks tiny here, as I only had my phone to take photos with.

We had chosen woven shibori as our subject. Four of us began with warp shibori and had pre-warped our loom so we could start weaving when we go there, one warped up on arrival for weft shibori. Here’s my work, with the end of some warp shibori and the beginning of a section of taiten – a form of weft shibori where you substitute a pick with thread.

We’d weave a length of cloth, cut it off, pull up the threads and tie them tightly, then paint with dye. We also did some warp painting. Here’s some of both, hanging on the clothesline to dry:

On Thursday Kay made up a vat of indigo, so we dunked another bunch of samplers in that and watched the colour go from bright green to deep blue black. It’s so magical, you just want to find more things to dye.

We also tried ikat dyeing, where you tie off sections of yarn with tape to prevent the dye penetrating.

This can either be used as warp, with the undyed areas lining up across the cloth – but never goes perfectly so you get that nice fussy edge effect – or as weft, which is what Kaye tried at the end of the week:

On the last day we pinned our samplers up on the huge board that quilters use when staying there.

And laid out our painted warps and ikat yarn.

Kay assessed our efforts, cementing what we had learned.

And then we parted ways, sad that it was over but full of new weaverly knowledge and happy to have spend five days in delightful company and eating some very delicious home cooked meals.

Once at home I unpacked over some days. I had expected to be tired, but a bug I had before I went away resurfaced and left me exhausted and sinusy. Paul also had it, so we were a sorry pair for a while. But mid week I regained some energy and, after rereading my notes and putting tags on my finished samplers, I wove off the rest of the sampler warp.

I took out The Handweavers Pattern Directory and looked for drafts using the extended point twill threading on the loom for the resist thread, and for interesting textures to use for the ground cloth. When I ran out of ideas I decided to see how taiten looked with different width spacing between the resist threads. It’s off the loom now, waiting until I have enough other things to dye to make a session economical.

And the loom is packed away, because I then launched into a big craft room and office tidy up. But that’ll probably be the subject of another post.

Taupe Jacket

The third project I tackled post-sewing class was the Taupe Jacket. When I took it in it was at this stage:

I still had to sew in the zip, I wanted to taper the sleeves and perhaps narrow the waist section and I was thinking of adding a collar. Then I had to decide if I wanted to line it.

Well, I tackled all of the above. Zip in. Collar on. Sleeves tapered. Lining added. I tried a fell seam along the underside of the arms, but the fabric kept unravelling even though it had been overlocked. So I wound up doing a straight seam then using some calico bias binding I made ages ago to finish a quilt to stabilise those seams.

I took a bit of a break before tackling the lining due to feeling ill for a week. I hand stitched the lining in because by then I was a bit sick of the sight of my sewing machine.

It now looks like this:

Am I happy with it?

Yes. But it has reminded me that I like weaving much more than sewing. That’s a bit of a hitch in my plan to make clothing out of fabric I’ve woven. I’m going to hold off tackling sewing the handwoven skirt for a while, or I might end up rushing and taking short cuts to get it done quicker.

Greta Cape

I’ve finished my second post Sewing for Handwovens class project.

Using one of the Style Arc patterns I bought.

I made it in calico first, which I’m glad I did as the instructions are a bit scant in places so I was able to work it out without risking the small amount of handwoven fabric I had. I’d done so because I suspected the collar would be in contact with my skin, and being sensitive to wool that would force me to wear a high collar underneath. I was right, so I made the collar from the lining instead.

Though I used interfacing, the only black I had was a bit thin and the collar could be a bit stiffer. I should have doubled it or bought a thicker one. But the collar hasn’t come out too floppy, just a bit softer than it’s meant to be, so I’m not unhappy with the result.

It’s made from the fabric from the Handspun, Handwoven, Handsewn Jacket, which was already the third garment the main yarn in this had been made into.

The only change I’m thinking of making now is to put trim along the lines where I pieced together the handwoven fabric strips. I’ll do that if I happen across the perfect trim. In the meantime, I’ll call the Greta Cape done!

Pattern Practicality

After the Sewing for Handwovens class a few weeks ago I reviewed my approach to clothing design with handwoven fabric. Until then, inspired by Saori, I’d been looking at patterns that didn’t require cutting the cloth. But to be honest, my taste in clothing has always been toward more fitted pieces.

I have cut my handwoven cloth before. A few years back I made a vest out of fabric I’d woven then felted. I wasn’t really entering the danger zone of fraying, however. Felted fabric doesn’t fray.

But I learned something else from that project: don’t download patterns.

Of the three patterns I’ve downloaded, carefully printed, pieced together and cut out, all came out too big. Sure, I printed out the little one inch square, measured it and changed the scale I printed at, but the square is much too small to really get the scale right.

I’ve now tossed those three patterns in the recycling bin, deciding that I will only buy paper patterns from now on. My local Lincraft is closing down, so I popped down there to buy some commercial patterns.

Ugh! I’d forgotten how time-consuming it is to buy patterns in store. Flicking through six or seven big books, writing down the brand and number, queuing up at the counter and discovering they don’t have the pattern you want in stock. I could have gone back and started again, but Paul was waiting in the car.

Once at home I did some searching on the internet. I wanted a classic denim skirt pattern. An image came up that looked right, and it led to a small pattern company, Style Arc. I expected to find it was in the US or UK and post would cost a fortune and take ages – but no! It was a local company in my home city! So I bought the pattern, and a few others.

I love how they contain a little sample of suggested fabric! I’ve sewn one of them now, and I found the instructions a little bit scant in places, but otherwise it worked just fine. Not for beginners, though. More on that project in another post…

I Fixed It!

As I said a few post ago, I took the Glamour Shawl along to the Sewing for Handwovens class to get some feedback on what I could do with it. I was contemplating cutting it up to make something, with the hope that I could make the mistakes disappear.

But the suggestion from the class was to add surface embellishment to hide the mistakes and keep it as a shawl. I was still keen to make it a garment, and I figured if I cut a hole in the middle to make a neck opening, sewed up the sides and added knitted sleeves I’d have a reasonable garment. So I gathered together thrums of the yarns I’d used, the leftover bobbin of gold thread and some black 8ply yarn. Then I hung the shawl over a dowel to examine it and considered what to do…

… and the first thing that popped into my head was “get rid of that awful gold thread”!

So I cut it all out, leaving me with a section of loose warp. Fixing that was easy, I just used the 8ply yarn to weave three rows of leno twists. That one change made such a difference, and suddenly I liked the shawl and was excited about what I was doing.

The next step was some rya knots along the gap where I’d removed threads to fix a mistake and the weft wouldn’t shift in to fill the gap. I liked this, too. More rya knots followed on the other half, to balance. Then I sewed in thrums and knotted those together horizontally, and found other ways to embellish the shawl. When I felt it was fairly evenly covered, I decided it was done.

It’s now a good-looking shawl. I’m not going to push my luck and risk ruining it by making a garment. I like it just the way it is.

Krokbragd Rug

I started this back in September, so it’s been a long project. Partly that’s because each row of the pattern takes three picks, but there’s also my usual fidgety nature to blame. At the time of warping I’d put something on every loom, both in a bout of startitis but also in the hope I’d be capable of doing some of the projects between eye operations. So I worked on a lot of other projects at the same time.

It’s been a cobbled together sort of project. The thick carpet yarn came from a second-hand shop and the Guild textile bazaar, and I used rag shuttles because my boat shuttles are way too small to put the thick yarn on. I had to put clamps on the boards I have my loom raised on so the heavy beating wouldn’t walk off them into my lap again.

If I was to do more of this sort of rug weaving I’d need to find a reliable source of yarn and buy large boat shuttles meant for rug weaving. I’m not 100% sure my loom is up to the job, too. So I was kind of hoping I’d conclude that Krokbragd was fun while it lasted, but I’m not interested in doing more.

Except… I loved it. There was something very fulfilling about watching the shapes form and grow, and it has the same attention-holding effect of knitting self-striping sock yarn – what colour will I do next? It’s very easy to warp the loom, and the strong beating is satisfying.

The resulting rug… wow! I love it. Paul loves it. Everyone I’ve shown (not many people yet admittedly) loves it.

I like the back, too:

Though I have to say, I didn’t love sewing in the warp ends.

So where to go from here? Can I find a good source of rug yarn? Will I order a trio of big shuttles? Is my loom going to stand up to more heavy beating? How am I going to do other kinds of weaving if my floor loom is constantly taken up with slow rug weaving?

Maybe I need to buy another loom…

Sewing For Handwovens Workshop

Until a few years back my writing schedule always had me madly dealing with edits in late December through January. Now that I have to take longer than a year to write a book, edits happen at all times of the year. This means I’ve been able to attend the Guild’s Summer School for the last couple of years. Last year I did basketry. This year I chose a two day workshop on sewing handwoven cloth.

I took along my mini sewing machine (which seemed to be the noisiest in the group!), a few tools and armful of projects – finished, half-done and a shawl I thought might be cut up and made into something. It didn’t seem likely that we’d sew an entire outfit in the two days and there was a small fee for calico so I was expecting we’d do lots of samples and then just discuss our projects.

I was there for the hints and tips, and Pat provided plenty. Many were ones I knew already, since the class needed to be useful to both new and experienced sewers and I’m more in the latter category, but some of those were good reminders, particularly of good sewing habits. By the end I did find myself wishing we’d used some handwoven fabric for a sample or two, just to get a feel for how it behaves, but overall it was a very informative class.

Projects were discussed as a group. It would have been nice to have individual feedback, too, but it would have taken an extra day for Pat to talk to everyone. What I did get was still invaluable: a bit of general feedback on what was working and what wasn’t, and an environment which stimulated me to think about what I wanted to achieve with my projects – helped by seeing the garments that Pat showed us.

These were the projects I took:

Garment: The Handspun, Handwoven, Handsewn Jacket:

Problems: Too small, scratchy. Hangs weirdly at the underarms.
Solution: Now that I have developed the idea further in the Taupe Jacket I’m ready to pull this apart and try making something else. Something lined, so I don’t have skin contact with the yarn.

Garment: The Taupe Jacket:

Problems: The underarm area doesn’t sit so well, though better than the HHH Jacket. The neckline is okay, but I think it could do with a collar. It’s a bit… square overall.
Solution: It needs a gusset, minimum, but I think I’ll try tapering the arms first. That would give me some offcuts to make a collar, so I don’t have to weave more fabric for it. Perhaps some darts at the waist would make it a little more flattering, but I’ll decide whether to do that at the end.

Garment: Boucle Stripe Skirt

Problems: The folds look good on the front, but add too much bulk to the back.
Solution: Add darts to the back instead.

Garment: A Touch of Glam Shawl

Problem: So. Many. Mistakes.
Solution: Class suggestion was to sew in more glittery thread to hide the gaps and skipped threads. I have only a bobbin’s worth of it (I culled it from my stash in disgust) but I do have some thrums in the purples and black that I could knot and sew in. I could pull threads out, too. I’ll need to do plenty of embellishment overall to make it look like it was intended, not hiding mistakes.

I could also use a recent purchase – a simple circular knitting machine from Lincraft – to make sleeves. Then I’d have to cut a hole in the middle of the shawl for a head opening, but I could knit a collar on the machine too. I’d then sew the shawl up the sides… or not. Hmmm…

Wavelet Scarf

The next technique I wanted to try with the Vari Dent reed was to weave separate strips, alternately joining them with their neighbours, rather than having the weft go right across. So I warped up the four small heddles. I started with threads doubled up, intending to separate them when it came time to do the strips:

Weaving with two shuttles at the same time was quite awkward. When I got to the point of separating into four strips, I started off weaving one row of each strip with each of the four shuttles. It was fiddly and I could see it was going to be very slow. I wished I could just weave one strip at a time, but the reed then would then be able to beat in the yarn for the rest of the strips.

And then I had a ‘duh’ moment. I could simply remove the heddles and use them as beaters:

This sped up the process considerably. I put the heddles back in the reed when doing the joined sections. I also only needed chocks when I was doing joined sections.

When I had finished I knotted the fringe, washed and dried the scarf, trimmed the fringe and started arranging it on my dress model:

It’s an interesting effect. The gaps are a bit long in my opinion, thought when gathered together there’s still plenty of fabric to warm the neck. I’d like to try this again with half as many rows between joined sections – and with six heddles.

Of course, the realisation that I can beat with the heddles led to more ideas, so I doubt this will be the last post on the Vari Dent reed.

It’s a Breeze Scarf

So for my next Vari Dent Reed experiment, I tried matching up the heddles that came with the kit rather than using my laser cut ones. For the twisting method I need at least six of the smaller size ones. It could be done with four, but since it makes a lacy effect it’d be a rather mean narrow scarf.

I figured that if I put the 5dpi and 10 dpi half ones together, and threaded every second slot and hole of the 5pi, I’d effectively have four heddles. Or do the same with the 7.5dpi with the 15dpi ones.

How to get an extra two? You might recall that the larger size 15dpi heddle was warped when I opened the kit.

Though my hot water trick lessened the problem, it wasn’t a perfect fix. When putting the half size heddles with the larger, I noticed that the larger one is more than twice the width of the smaller. I figured “what the heck, it’s already ‘broken'” and cut it up. This got rid of the warped end, and gave me two more small heddles.

For the warp I used a grey and white self-striping sock yarn. For the weft I used grey Patonyle.

Neither were sticky, feltable yarns, but I wanted to try another method for keeping the weft in place… Danish medallions:

This worked. It did make it more fiddly, because I had to sew in the ends of each section, but it kept the weft bound together. The resulting scarf is lightweight and lacy and delicious.

And it gave me yet another idea. But first I wanted to make another attempt at a scarf using the chocks. But that, yet again, will have to be another post.

Ocean Swell Scarf

So having had some success with my first idea using my homemade heddles, I threaded the loom to try another. This time I wanted to use the chocks I’d had laser cut at the same time.

Sock yarn had worked very well, but there had been the weft shifting issue. I wondered if using a sticky, feltable wool would help threads stay put. So I warped up the loom with a graduating yarn I bought in Denmark last year. I started with three gaps:

After 20 rows I slid changed the existing chocks with smaller ones, and added little ones where I wanted to grow the new gaps.

After 10 rows I changed them again.

And again…

I kept on this way until I had two gaps, after which I wove 20 rows, then reversed direction. This method took longer than the first, since I was wasn’t leaving gaps between sections of weft. But it was less fiddly because I didn’t have to remove the top of the Vari Dent Reed in order to manipulate the heddles. I just loosened the screws, added and removed chocks and slid the heddles into place.

When I was done, I rubbed the scarf gently between my hands when I washed it, hoping to full the threads into place. They do seem to be staying put. But I wasn’t as happy with the final result. Why? I don’t think the slowly changing colours of the yarn worked as well as the self-striping sock yarn had.

The method worked fine, though, so I want to try it again. But in the meantime I’d had an idea for fixing the wandering weft problem. Also, one of the laser-cut heddles had cracked while I was threading it. Though I’d had spares made, the plastic used in the Ashford ones is clearly much more flexible. I wanted to see if I could modify their heddles to enable me to try the first method again.

I did wrangle a solution, but that’ll have to go in another post.