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.

Electrified

The 1year1outfit challenge must still be lurking in my subconscious, because I keep finding myself thinking about how it could be done with non-mammal fibres. Since there’s no yarn made of silk or plant-based fibre grown within 500km of Melbourne, it’d have to be spun. Since I didn’t really take to spinning, if I found some silk or plant-based fibre grown within 500km of Melbourne, I’d have to get someone else to spin it for me.

Or maybe not…

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This electronic spinner came up for sale on Ravelry for a price I thought I could recoup if I didn’t like it. The seller was in Canberra, but I had a friend from there coming down to visit two weeks later. Another possible buyer was already considering purchasing it, but they changed their mind. Everything seemed to line up to make it convenient to buy.

Last Friday it arrived, and since it came with a half-filled bobbin and the rest of the sliver, I gave it a whirl. It took a while to remember how to join new yarn, but once I got past that everything went smoothly. On the same night, I taught my Canberran friend how to spin on a drop spindle, as she’d brought one with her. It didn’t spin well and had no hook, so eventually I found my old turkish spindle and got her spinning on it. That certainly helped wake up my nine year old memories of spinning lessons!

Two days later I found time for some more electronic spinning. So far I’m enjoying myself. It isn’t just that I don’t have to pedal, but I can take it nice and slow, and the wheel never decides to go into reverse on me. Last time I kept at spinning until I had proven to myself that I could do it, despite not enjoying it much. The trouble was, I’d get bored. This time I plan to listen to podcasts and audiobooks if it starts to get monotonous, but I suspect I need more zen-like craft activities now than a decade ago. Stress gets to me more now I’m older.

The fact that this all happened just before the Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show is another fortuitous coincidence. I’m planning to buy some silk and plant fibres to see if I can spin them. If I can, then I’ll be keeping a look out for local sources of these fibres. Just for curiosity’s sake. Really.

We’ve Got to Move It, Move It

Paul finished his Batchelor of Photography a few weeks back. During the final few weeks he was franticly busy and I had a head cold, so when it was done we spent a few days relaxing and recovering.

Then we got stuck into all the things we’d been putting off. Like chasing up the concreter, who still hadn’t filled the ‘moat’ between the old tennis court slab and the new garage foundations. The garage went up in January, so we haven’t been able to put our cars in it for coming up on six months.

As I expected, the concreter didn’t turn up. Again. But Paul had also got the inspector in to see if he’d give us the offical go-ahead to use the garage anyway, and he did. In the meantime, I’d done some careful calculations and reckoned we could get the kitchen garden tidy-up done in time for spring. I’d hoped to be growing veges last spring, and didn’t want to wait another year. I invited the landscaper around to quote on the construction work, and when he heard of our concreter problems he offered to quote to finish the job. The price was very reasonable, so we’re going ahead with both projects.

All this means we had a lot of moving of things to do. For the kitchen garden that meant clearing the space. The contents of the gardening shed went into the garage:

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The succulents went onto the deck, sheltered from frost. The herbs were set aside, ready to go into the herb beds when they’re in. Pallets and a trestle table were moved, lots of plastic pots were cleaned and, if of the right plastic, thrown in the recycling bin, wood for the fire was moved into an old rustic shelving unit that was in the gardening shed, and scraps of wood too big for the old garage were moved to the new one.

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When you move things, you find things you’d forgotten about. There was an old terrarium in the garden shed. A friend’s nine-year-old daughter, Miranda, is a bit of an expert of these, so I invited her and her mum over for a ‘Terrarium Day’ so she could teach me, and the result was fantastic:

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I also found seven pavers, which was exactly the amount I needed to put stepping stones in a topping pathway, so we didn’t walk as many stones into the house or garage.

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The clean up has given me some other ideas, but I’m holding off following through with most of them. I still have lots of other garden jobs that need doing, including lots of plants in pots that need to go in the ground and a couple that need moving, which ought to be done in winter. I’m sticking to a general rule that I can’t buy any more plants until I’ve planted what I’ve got.

Bits & Pieces

After around twenty years of neck pain, I finally got around to having an MRI done last month. The physios and the one osteo I’ve been to over the years never suggested I get one. They’ve all said my problems are muscular, not spine-related. But after all the pain I had earlier this year, and the slow recovery, I figured it was time to have a closer look at what’s going on in there.

Though the MRI did reveal some minor spinal problems, like small bone spurs on one side and a slightly compressed and bulging disc, the assessment didn’t point to them as the major causes of pain. It is more likely it is soft tissue damage. The up side is that I can work on those. Bone and disc problems are much harder to treat.

It all means doing less of the things that cause the problems (typing, looking down or turning my head) and more stretches and exercise to strengthen the muscles. Actually I’ve been doing all of the above for years, just not to the degree I’m going to have to go to now. Since writing is the main culprit, it means cutting back on the activity that is my source of income. To put a more positive spin on that I’ll be calling myself ‘semi-retired’ for a while.

Does that meant more crafting time? Unfortunately, no. I need to avoid sitting for long periods, particularly when it involves extending my arms in front of me and making repetitive movements. What will I do with my time instead? Exercise, obviously. Short stints of gardening. Portrait painting. Helping Paul with his photography.

And maybe we’ll do some things we’ve talked about for ages, like travelling within Australia, cooking classes, learning a language and growing veges. I’m all for treating setbacks as opportunities. Who knows, I may like this lifestyle better!

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.

To Donate, or Not to Donate

Vintage and second hand clothing has been very popular for a while now. More and more savvy shoppers have realised that the duds of the past were often better quality and made so that they could be taken in or let out. Retro became trendy. So has refashioning.

The authors of the three books I read visited charities to investigate what happens to donated clothing. Though they were based in Australia, the US and the UK respectively, they reported the same findings. The amount of good quality clothing has diminished as the good stuff has been snatched up or sold on to vintage retailers, and incoming low quality clothing has swamped stores with clothes only fit for landfill.

We’ve all heard how charity stores struggle to deal with people ‘donating’ actual rubbish, including soiled nappies and underwear among bags of clothing. Of people using the front of charity stores as a free rubbish skip. Thoughtless stupidity aside, people make a lot of assumptions about what happens to the clothes they give to op shops.

Of what charity shops receive, only a small portion is sold in their shops. The rest goes to rag-suppliers, fibre recyclers, the second hand market in Africa, or landfill.

The clothes that go to Africa are compressed into cubes wrapped in plastic. At their destination buyers have to choose based on only what they can see. African customers have their own clothing preferences (flares are hugely popular, apparently) and the best charity sorters keep this in mind when choosing garments. The unscrupulous use the system to dump unwearable rubbish in Africa, so there’s a risk for the buyers in every cube. One bad cube can put them out of business.

While it’s great that some of this clothing finds a home, the massive influx of cheap cast-offs has meant the local garment-making industry in Africa has been badly affected, and traditional methods of construction are in danger of being lost.

I’m not saying don’t give clothing to charity shops. It’s better that what you donate has a goes to a rag suppliers than landfill if it doesn’t make the cut for resale. But bear in mind when you shop that the low quality fast fashion pieces are probably going to end up in landfill, and if it’s polyester it’ll never break down.

Give the good stuff to charity shops. Wash it first. Iron it, too. And if you replace that button or broken zip, give the shoes a quick polish or clean, and even save shop labels until you wear an item the first time, because if you’ve never worn there’s a better chance of it getting on a rack.

Better still, if it’s in really good nick, consider refashioning, dyeing, repairing, giving or swapping clothes with friends.