Feeling Sew Sew

To get myself into the zone for sewing the Pinstripe Skirt I did an overview of all the sewing projects awaiting my time and enthusiasm. These included both refashioning projects and ones I’d make from scratch. When I had everything together, I laid all the projects out on the kitchen table and considered if I really wanted to make them or I was simply determined to use the fabric or refashion the garment.

A man’s shirt went into the op shop pile, another two were put away in the rag rug box – I have more than enough clothing made from Paul’s old shirts now. One polyester top went in too, and another will join it if I decide I still don’t like the fit.

Then I wrote a list of what was left over, divided it into seasons and put winter ones at the top and summer ones at the bottom. No point rushing into making summer clothing when I won’t wear it for six months.

Next I reordered by priority. The Pinstripe Skirt stayed on top because I plan to wear it to a Guild meeting in which the weaving group is going to show some of what our members make. It was harder to decide what to do next, so I chose projects that were ready to go – no dyeing or shopping for fittings required. Rustling up the black jeans I wanted to make a skirt out of reminded me that the box of denim scraps and old jeans doesn’t close any more, so I decided that project would be next.

The rest were ordered by how keen I was to make them. I stacked the projects up in order in a basket and turned to the sewing machine.

To warm up the sewing brain cells I did some mending, like replacing elastic in a slip and redoing a waistband. Then I gathered my courage and tackled the Pinstripe Skirt, telling myself what the teacher of the Sewing with Handwovens course had said: “it’s only fabric”. I finished it on Day Two.

To my surprise, I was still keen to start the next project. Last time I did some sewing I got fed up with it after a couple of days. What I did next I’ll save for another post.

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.

Raffia Revamp

Waaaaay back in my 20s I did a two day short course on raffia hatmaking. I remember the first class was all about the braiding, with the teacher constantly urging us to “weave tighter!”. She told us to keep braiding our stash of raffia at home, and the next week we used hat forms to sew the braids into hat shapes.

I particularly remember I wound up with double the amount of braid than I needed and very sore hands.

So after my hands had healed I decided to see if I could make another hat. Since I didn’t have a hat form I made a boater-style hat – straight sided so no need to get the dome shape right. It came out a bit tight, unfortunately, so I figured I’d give it away.

It never found a head that fit and wanted it. The hat from the class did fit and I wore it quite a bit. But recently I put it on and realised it had shrunk. So I decided to unpick and resew the braid a bit looser, and completely resew the boater hat.

Then followed a long, boring and fruitless search for suitable raffia. In the end I gave up and used some waxed linen thread I’d bought for coiled baskets. It worked fine.

First I tackled the braid from the boater hat. It took a lot of unsewing and resewing, but eventually I got a shape I liked that fit. Then I unpicked the braid of the class hat back to a row before the brim and resewed it a little looser, reusing the raffia it had been originally stitched with. I ran the raffia across some beeswax I used to use for bookbinding thread, and that made it much easier to stitch with.

They’re not as tightly sewn as they were the first time, but I figure the few gaps are air-conditioning. I should get plenty more wear out of the class hat, and I love the shape of the new one, so it’s finally going to get some use.

I have to say, though. I’d be happy if another 20 years passed before I made another raffia hat.

Pear Doorstop

For a small project, this one took a while to finish. The delay was due to searching for something heavy but soft to put inside. It needed to be heavy enough to hold a door open, but not so hard that it would hurt anyone if they dropped it on their foot.

In the end I opted for sandpit sand in a zip-lock bag, reinforced with a layer of packing tape, surrounded by toy stuffing. Seems to work just fine.

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!