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:

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

Craft Swap

A few weeks back a friend hosted a craft swap and afternoon tea. Well, it was more of a craft rehoming, because the idea is you bring along materials you don’t want any more, place it on a table and people take home what takes their fancy.

I had put a couple of things aside, but hadn’t had time to gather a decent amount of stuff for it by the day. So I decided to spend the morning going through all my craft and art supplies. I wound up culling with rather a lot.

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At the swap people were peeking shyly into bags, so I started putting each on the table, unpacking, showing the contents to all and asking who wanted it. This seemed to work, and we found homes for about 80% of the stuff. One participant knew of an organisation that takes craft supplies for kids, so we filled a bag for that. Others had friends who would take materials for hobbies none of us practised. (I brought home some mini fruit decorations for a friend who makes hats.)

At the end of the day I’d found homes for lots of stuff I didn’t want any more, too, so I was very happy overall. I had one shopping bag of things nobody wanted and another of things I’d adopted. The incoming craft items included an old sewing box, lots of jewellery charms and findings, some embroidery hoops and thread, and a few pieces of fabric.

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In fact, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and come away with something new, so I think I might host one of these craft swaps in future.

Viking Hat

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I started nalbinding this hat while in Denmark last September. It taught me one thing about nalbinding: the foundation ‘row’ needs to be maybe 10% longer than the final size because the fabric tightens up and gets narrower as you work.

Initially I made it the size of my head, but it kept getting tighter and tighter – and yet it was staying square (it wasn’t turning into a cone). Eventually I added eight or so stitches around it, then pulled apart all the previous work. The final hat fits…

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… but it is a bit tight. I’ll be looking for someone with a smaller head to give it to. Or maybe I’ll keep it as an example, if I end up teaching a nalbinding class.

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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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And today I finished warping and started weaving.

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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.

Bigger Bargello

A friend gave me some canvas for stitching tapestry last year, and then a book on Bargello embroidery. (Thanks again, Elaine!) I bought some tapestry thread to try on it, in a gradient of greys and another of blues.

I had this beside my tv watching armchair for a month or so, and finished it a few weeks ago.

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The canvas and yarn work well for Bargello. The vertical lines on the canvas show through lighter colours, which isn’t a huge problem because now I know they do, I can paint over them before beginning.

The pattern was fun to stitch but the result is rather uninspiring. I have no idea why I decided to buy a gradient of grey. How boring! But it’s just a test piece. Next I want to buy a whole lot of different colours and do something much brighter. And curvier rather than zig-zag.

I have heaps of this canvas, and the finer stuff I used for my earlier samplers is very expensive, so I’m thinking I’ll stick to using it and start hunting through op shops and ebay for people’s leftover tapestry yarn. It’ll be cheaper and I like the idea of letting what colours I find influence the design.

Pinwheel Tea Towels

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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.

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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.

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I can see more tea towels in my future!