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.

Nothing to See Here…

Crafting has been limping along here lately. My back has been playing up, so I’ve only got a little bit of each WIP done and work has the highest priority when it comes to time spent on the computer. I should soon be able to get a post done about some portraits I finished recently, though.

I’m getting a little scared of 2019. There are so many opportunities cropping up for cool stuff happening next year. And it’s only May. On top of that there’s a couple of ambitious projects I’ve come up with all by myself. I know I can’t do it all. The first half and the last few months of next year will be hectic, work-wise. I can do a few other things around that, but not everything I want to do.

I need to choose. Or maybe let circumstances choose for me. Hmm.

New Things: Old Things

I’ve done 18 drafts of the twill sampler. That’s approximately 2 metres woven out of 5. Some of the patterns were memorisable after a while, but some had long sequences that just didn’t break down into steps I could keep in my head. But today I thought of a new way to orient my memory, so I’ll try that on the next draft.

For a while the sampler was the only crafty thing I was working on. Then my focus suddenly scattered. First I needed a project I could do while chatting with friends, so I started handsewing a pear-shaped doorstop from this book, out of some printed denim scraps.

I’m not sure what I’m going to stuff it with. The other doorstops I have are filled with whole wheat or rice. But I had a heat pack I hadn’t used in a while erupt with mites a few months back, so I’m a bit reluctant to use something edible. It needs to be heavy enough to hold a door in place, but soft enough to mould to the shape. I was considering sand – sealed within a ziplock bag so it doesn’t leak out.

I made these raffia hats waaaaay back in my 20s. They were always a bit tight, but recently they seem to have grown tighter. Maybe the raffia has shrunk with time. So I’m unpicking the stitching holding the braided strip together with the intention of resewing them. It took a while to find small batches of raffia to stitch them with.

After not touching it for quite a few weeks, last night I wove some of my knitters loom project. It’s a double weave scarf that’ll eventually be braided.

And discussions on Facecrap about alternatives to throwaway plastic items finally gave me something to sew this long strip of curtain material into: produce bags. I’m using one I bought as a rough guide.

I’ve been meaning to put a twill sampler on my floor loom, but my head’s been a bit foggy lately. I think it’s allergies. One of the enormous eucalypts near us blossomed and covered everything in yellow dust, and at the same time the air in Melbourne has been hazy from backburning. Spending a couple of days outside gardening hasn’t helped.

Hopefully the air will clear soon and I’ll get my mojo back.

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.

Honeycomb Shawl

This project has a history that goes back quite a way. In 2005 I travelled to the UK for the first time. I knit my way around the country, sometimes visiting places just because there was a famous yarn store. In a lovely little shop on the Isle of Skye I bought some beautiful, rather expensive hand-dyed and spun silk. A year or so later I knit the Scribble Knit Shawl:

But the lace weight wool yarn I used for the thin thread eventually went a bit brittle and snapped. I frogged the shawl and kept the silk. Some time in the last year or two I saw a book cover featuring a girl wrapped in a shawl made in what looked like a honeycomb structure, and it got me thinking that I could weave the silk as the feature thread in honeycomb.

I wanted the main yarn to be silk this time, since I’m more sensitive to wool these days. Finding a thin silk yarn to go with it took some time. I bought some online that I thought was black, but turned out to be brown, and I had a sample of another yarn sent to me, but that one wasn’t quite right either. Then a recent sale at Dairing Yarns had me snapping up six balls of a thin black silk yarn. Not a slippery silk, but one with a texture more like linen or cotton. I think I bought all they had left, and when I came to doing the sums for the project I realised I was going to have a fairly slim shawl. Or a wide scarf. That was okay. I’d take either.

I used my new warping board, made by Paul, to measure the warp …

… and threaded the loom. To be honest, I wasn’t all that sure if this would work. I’d not woven honeycomb before, and rarely woven silk. I didn’t have enough yarn to sample. I figured I’d have a go, and unweave if I didn’t like it. Following a draft in The Handweavers Pattern Directory, I got weaving. Immediately I realised I was going to have to do some careful calculations if the slubby silk was going to last the whole scarf/shawl. I worked out that I would get less than halfway through. Having two picks of feature yarn next to each other wasn’t thrilling me, so I tried using the main yarn for one of them instead. It worked – and I liked the result much better. A 10cm plain border at either end would also help stretch the feature yarn over the entire length.

I unwove the test section and started again:

And I really like it.

Rethinking

I’ve never been one for sampling in weaving, but then, in my mind you sampled in order to check whether you were going to get the sort of cloth you wanted. Most of the time I got pretty much what I expected, or else close enough, and if I didn’t I’d unweave and make adjustments or accept the cloth I got.

But there’s another use for sampling which Kay pointed out to me: a chance for experimentation and learning. That’s had me thinking about the drive to make versus the drive to learn. I’ve definitely been focussed on the former more than the latter since starting to weave. If I’m not making something I feel like I’m wasting time.

Yet if I wove to learn more often rather than to produce, not only would I learn faster but it would lessen the problem of having too many scarves, blankets, tea towels, etc. I need to see sampler as beautiful objects in their own right. In fact, what if instead of packing away workshop samples I aimed to fill a wall of my craft room with them, like we did at the workshop?

Inspired, I decided to ask Paul to install a hanging system. To prepare, I moved everything that was in the way. The clutter came off the drawing board, the knitting machines went into the guest room. The floor even got a much-needed vacuum. Of course, we then decided it’d be easier to hang samplers on the doors of the cupboards instead, so I didn’t need to move anything after all.

But I found I was enjoying having a bit more space. Without the knitting machines the craft room was so much more, well, roomier. So I got to thinking… do I really need the Passap? It never gets used nowadays. I primarily bought it to knit socks on, but I still have nearly 40 pairs of handknit socks so I’m not going to run out any time soon. Machine knitting is a sit, concentrate and spend a few hours kind of activity – much like weaving. If I had to choose between regularly spending a few hours of concentration on machine knitting or weaving, weaving would win.

I’ve used the Bond knitting machine more than the Passap. It’s easy to remember how to, and I prefer garments knitted from 8ply to 4ply. So I wouldn’t be eliminating machine knitting from my life completely, if I sold the Passap.

I even contemplated getting rid of the drawing board too. Then I could fit two floor looms in, if the second was smaller. Or I could remove the drawing board and keep the Passap…

Oh dear.