Plaid & Simple

Over the last several weeks I’ve been sewing. Mending. Making shorts. Making pillow cases for the travel pillow I won’t be taking overseas now we had to cancel the work trip. More mending. And making a skirt.

The skirt, as I mentioned in a previous post, it was meant to be pants, but the pattern I bought for them proved unsuitable. Waist too low and crotch too high. Too much faff to alter it so… skirt.

The fabric came from one of Late Lucy’s dresses. I used a skirt pattern I traced from a favourite a-line skirt as the base, then added as much flare and length as the fabric allowed. Before cutting I’d lined up the yellow and red stripes of the plaid, but after I started sewing I realised the more subtle blue and green stripes didn’t match. So I unpicked and recut and resewed.

Then I stuffed up the invisible pockets on one side and after contemplating only having a pocket on one side so I didn’t have to redo one, decided to put the project aside for a few days. Eventually I did go back with a refreshed sense of patience, fixed the pocket and finished the skirt. I wound up lining it in the black bem silk I’d bought to reline one of Lucy’s old jackets.

There’s something about a long skirt that is particularly appealing. Maybe it’s the swish around the calves as you walk. Maybe it’s the oldy worldy vibe. Maybe it’s more cosy and luxurious somehow, being wrapped up in all that lovely fabric. It has a generosity that is lacking in body-hugging modern clothes. Though fashion does seem to be drifting back toward volume now. Wide legged pants. Oversized jumpers. Non-clingy, unrestricted freedom.

Of course, it’s going to be a while until it’s cold enough to wear it.

Tests & Leftovers

For the last few months, weaving has mostly been about samplers. Samplers from summer school. Samplers from the 4-shaft weaving class. Sampler for my rigid heddle workshop.

I’d like to weaving a thing. It’s been ages since I tackled a new project. So I’ve been on a bit of a finishing drive. I had an 8ply cotton warp on the AKL since my workshop, for a demo that I unwove later. To weave it off I decided to do spot bronson, following the instructions from my class. Lucky nobody got to that in class, because my info sheet turned out to be wrong! It was wrong because there is an omission in the book I based the instruction on: it doesn’t say the heddle should be in the down position when picking up the warp ends for the pattern. I hadn’t noticed when weaving my sampler for the class because what you get looks kind of right. But it isn’t, so if I do another class (unlikely for a while thanks to Covid19) I’ll have to reweave the entire sampler. Still, I did manage to weave off the warp with the correct spot bronson method, and free up that loom.

Next I turned my attention to the Lotus loom. Last year I’d put on enough warp to weave five tea towels, but only got three done in time to sew and gift them for a Christmas present. To keep things interesting, I tried another tie-up – a pattern I’d liked when I made the long Strickler sampler a few years ago. I didn’t know if the fabric would become plain natural coloured tea towels, a table runner or a garment. Eventually it was done, and I decided on tea towels.

That warp was my first on the Lotus. I’ve encountered a few idiosyncrasies of the loom, and resolved most of them, but the one that worries me most was that the tension brake keeps slipping. Maybe only because some of the oil I used on the wood got into the wire groove. Maybe not. The guild has one of these looms, and it has a ratchet and pawl on the back beam in addition to the tension brake. Mine does not.

This could be a big problem as I want to weave rugs. I could keep the Osborne for rug weaving, but I don’t want two floor looms.

Well, the slipping seemed to reduce over time. When the loom was free I decided to take the remaining warp from the rug weaving workshop off the Katie and put it on the Lotus. Then I wove with tshirt rags and then rug weft, beating hard. After a handspan of weaving built up I was satisfied that the Lotus was capable of handling rug weaving, even if it meant occasionally getting up and tightening the warp from the back.

So I’m now free to sell the Osborne. When it’s gone I’ll be able to spread out a little better in the craft room. More room for sewing. Enough space to set up the Bond knitting machine. Freedom to try other crafts.

After all, there’s a reason why this blog is called Creative Fidget.

Certainty of Uncertainty

I was supposed to be going overseas in a few months, on a work trip. It’s all cancelled now thanks to Covid19, which is disappointing but also a relief. Fortunately I should be able to move our flights to get us to and from the same event next year. If not that, then maybe I’ll actually get a holiday out of it. Eventually.

In other news… Recently I agreed to take over the loom caretaker role at the guild. I was doing most of the job already – mending looms and helping with the weaving tools stocktake – so the additional responsibilities are to initiate both, be the point of contact and keep records.

Every time I’ve helped out with the stocktake lots of problems were discussed and solutions thought of but, even with four or five people helping out over two to three hours, we barely got the main tasks done. That’s because so much of what we do at the stocktake is not stocktaking, like loom fixing and assembly, and putting together tool kit bags for each loom.

Because I was going overseas shortly after the stocktake I decided to tackle as much of that work as possible beforehand, but came up against a few road blocks. Now that the trip is cancelled I can take my time. There are looms available for the next class, and plenty spare. And I just heard that interest group meetings are cancelled, so I wonder if classes will be too.

Paul and I are fortunate in that my income doesn’t rely on me leaving the house. The overseas appearance cancellation will affect my income, but not in a big way. I feel for people with jobs that don’t have sick leave, and small businesses that can’t afford to stop for a few weeks.

The other way I feel fortunate is this: as a creative person who likes to read, the prospect of being stuck at home doesn’t feel like a trial, but an opportunity. There’s craft and gardening and some DIY around the house. And tasks I never seem to get around to, like spring cleaning. And a few creative pursuits, like temari balls and welding, that I’ve fancied trying for a while and we have all the tools and materials for. However, I will have to be careful to not trigger my back issues by not being active enough.

What I’m most worried about is my elderly parents catching the virus. They are frail and in the demographic in most danger from it. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that they still live at home, and aren’t in a nursing home.

All we can do is sit tight, wait and see, and hope for the best.

Am I Crazy?

Recently, a few conversations, both positive and negative, caused me to pause and ask myself the above question in regard to venturing into weaving as more than just a passtime. I began to really think about what I want to do versus what I can do. So I decided to write four lists: ‘what do I want?’ ‘what do I not want?’ ‘what can I do?’ ‘what can’t I do?’.

The overlap between can and want whittled possibilities down to this: teaching beginner and intermediate rigid heddle weaving part time, self employed, to adults, perhaps organising more workshops with advanced weavers, and possibly collaborate with other creative people.

Since I was being all business plannery, I then did a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threads), which was … enlightening. If I seriously needed to make money I’d probably back away at this point. Fortunately that’s not my primary aim (though my ‘don’t want’ list did include “overcommitting financially”). I will proceed with caution. Bleeding money is undesirable, making a profit would be surprising. I’d settle with breaking even.

Where to go from here? Well, I am in no rush. I want to finish the 4 shaft and 8 shaft weaving classes before I take on too many other commitments. That means I have a year and a half to go before making any big moves. In the meantime I can do some planning and information gathering.

And I’m sure I’ll ask myself the question above, and feel the doubt, again. 25 years ago, when I quit full time work and started a design and illustration business so I could write books, I felt the same. I turned that fear into focus and motivation rather than paralysis and procrastination. That’s a lot easier when you have the energy of youth, but there’s got to be advantages in being older, too. Wisdom? Experience?

Maybe just being not afraid to say ‘no’.

The Long and the Shorts of It

A year ago, when I ran out of fabric while weaving the Memory Rya Rug, a few friends gave me some garments to cut up. Among them was a pair of batik caftans. While batik is great for rag rugs because it’s coloured on both sides, the patterning on these caftans was so lovely I didn’t want to cut them up. I had immediate ideas of turning them into dresses, and put them aside.

In among Late Lucy’s clothing was a similar caftan, newer and printed with more colours, but in a pattern I didn’t like much. Leah at the vintage clothing store told me caftans don’t sell, so I put it aside to use for rag rugs.

Last week I experienced a sewing jape. I’d moved most of my weaving stuff from the Craft Room to the Loom Room and packed up the Katie Loom because I needed space on the Craft Room table to mend a few garments. With the weaving stuff out of the way I had space in the wardrobe to hang clothing I wanted to refashion. I’d also been to the vintage store and settled my account, leaving most of the unsold garments with Leah, but taking home four pieces of clothing from the 80s that I felt oddly attached to, and wanted to refashion.

I did the mending, then moved on to a refashion. That led to a review of all my sewing projects, which led to me looking at those old caftans while my favourite shorts pattern happened to be sitting at the side, waving its papery hands and saying ‘pick me!’.

Who am I to argue with a sewing pattern? And I could definitely do with some cheerful new shorts. So I started unpicking the seams of Lucy’s caftan. That’s when I discovered that it was much brighter and redder on the inside – definitely more me than the peachy colour on the right side.

Laying out the pattern took care, as so I didn’t wind up with an unfortunate shape in an unfortunate place. I managed it with Lucy’s caftan, which became this:

And one of the old caftans, which was also brighter on the inside, became these:

I also, with Paul’s help, tweaked the carry bag for the Jane loom and sewed a table runner out of an old piece of Japanese fabric. Though I’d spaced the sewing across four days my back was reminding me that it doesn’t like me sewing much, so I took a break.

The projects I want to tackle next are more complicated. I’ve already sewn a calico of a pair of a new pants pattern I’d bought recently… with the usual result of finding the waist is too low and the crotch too high – darn annoying things to adjust for. I may end up putting that one aside, as the idea of making a long skirt out of the fabric appeals just as much.

But in the meantime another 4 shaft class has happened, and I’m back to being all about the weaving.

Redo

Aaaaages ago I crocheted a scarf called a Curly Whirly. It was a brief crochet craze that spread through the online knitting/crochet world. While it is fascinating how the scarf curls around itself, it’s not exactly a practical scarf – more a decorative one. I never wore it, but the yarn had felted too much to frog, and since I’d bought on my first big trip overseas, I didn’t want to discard it.

Four years ago I embellished this cardigan:

It’s had plenty of use. I was growing tired of it, though. I’d nearly sent it off to the op shop a few times, but recently I found that Curly Whirly scarf and, well…

I did make a bit of hole in the cardigan when removing the chain stitch lines, but a bit of visible mending fixed that. Bring on winter!

Fun With Rugs

A few weeks ago I got to be a student at the guild’s summer school, attending Gerlinde Binning’s two-day rug workshop. Unfortunately, the second day was a scorcher up in the 40s. Fortunately, the tram works outside the guild had finished so the class was moved from the scout hall back to the airconditioned guild rooms.

I had camera amnesia again, but at least I have the sampler I wove to take pics of. We started off with rag weaving. I’ve done this before, but it was a good warm up.

Then we moved on to weaving with fleece. This I didn’t like as much. I’ve done it once before but used roving, eliminating the need to comb locks.

Our homework was to make a rag plait, which we wove the next day. That was followed by Soumak.

I skipped rya, as I’ve done that already, and tried weaving krokbragd using tshirt rags. It worked well enough to prove it would be possible, but the warp would need to be threaded to a wider sett. Sampling will be required.

I had to move my car when Gerlinde taught giordes knots, but she gave me a quick demo when I got back. But time was running out so instead of doing that, I concentrated on learning double-faced twill. I’d come across the technique when researching for the twill project in the 4-shaft weaving certificate course, and was determined to try it one day. Now I had my chance.

To finish there was a brief discussion of finishing techniques. Too brief for me, as discussing the many methods and their pros and cons was one of the reasons I wanted to do the class. But I did learn what Gerlinde’s favourite ones were, and why.

A bonus to the class was that the guild’s supply of donated rug weft was being sold off. I bought some berber wool and two batches of 2ply. I picked up quite a bit of rug weft at various places last year, and I’m looking forward to getting everything together and planning some rugs. But I’m still getting through giving it all a week in the freezer to kill moth eggs.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of warp on the Katie. A few days later I described what I needed to Paul and he gave me a length of plastic with a u-shaped profile to try weaving giordes knots. Then he sawed a groove along a piece of dowel to make a tool close to what Gerlinde had used in the class. It was slow weaving, but fun – and a great way to use up scraps of weft.

Then I wove with strips cut from a rug liner from IKEA, designed to stick rugs to the floor. After a few years they get dusty and smelly, and when you wash them most of the ‘stick’ goes out of them, leaving you with thin pieces of slightly tacky, plasticky felt. Well, they weave well enough, so I have use for it now.

All in all it was a great workshop and I’m all inspired to weave more rugs. However, I have one stumbling block: I want to sell the Osbourne loom but the Lotus loom’s tension brake is barely tight enough to hold against normal beating, let alone what’s needed for rug weaving. I had a close look at a Lotus at the Guild, and it has a ratchet and pawl on the back beam as well as the tension brake. Maybe I can find a way to add one to mine.

Anyone know of an old Lotus loom that’s only good for parts?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. But who knows? I might be lucky enough to find one. After all, a sectional warping beam, tension box and bobbin holder for a Lotus loom came up for sale recently – and yes, I snatched them up eagerly. (Unfortunately, the sectional beam doesn’t have a ratchet either.)

Cranking

Switching from making possum pouches to beanies has had a huge added benefit. Though I used the knitting machine to do most of the work for the pouches, it still took me an hour to add garter stitch to the top and knit the tapered base. I’d been wondering for a while now if I could go back to knitting again without rsi flaring up, but the answer is a definite “NO”. I couldn’t even finish one hat per night without my hands burning.

Still, I managed seven of them. And sewed up about ten liners. My sewing pal has made a great deal more. We’ll put them aside until the call goes out for more possum pouches.

But I really needed something to do instead, as Melbourne was swathed in smoke for days and days and I couldn’t go out. (Last year I discovered the cough I’d had for three years was due to asthma, which I’d had no idea I had.) I was twitchy with cabin fever and the knitting machine was set up and ready to go. So… beanies.

A screen grab from the EPA website on the worst of the days.

The first ones I made had latched up ribbing brims. Even that was enough to set my hands on fire. Then I remembered that you could make a long tube, gather the ends then turn one half inside out within the other to make a lined beanie. Hardly any hand work to do. Crank half of the tube from a complementary colour yarn and you had a reversible hat.

Also, I had lots of leftover yarn I’d bought for the workshop in case students hadn’t brought anything suitable. This is what’s left after making several beanies already:

I’m having fun matching colours. Though all the cranking is making my neck and shoulder hurt.

There’s no hurry. Winter is months away.

Dreams

Lately I’ve had a string of dreams where I’m trying to get organised for something and just can’t seem to manage it. Firstly it was a trip to somewhere – I couldn’t seem to get my back packed. Then it was a house move where no matter how many times I returned, even after the new people had moved in, I kept find more things to take with me. Finally it was a public speaking engagement, which wasn’t the source of stress – choosing an outfit and remembering to put on make up was the problem. I vividly remember trying to polish my shoes only to have my fingers covered in black goo and the soles fall off.

What’s up, brain?

Well, it’s kinda obvious, really. I have Christmas gatherings to cook and/or arrange gifts for, then a New Year event, a weaving workshop to prepare for, another one I’m teaching, then the next 4 shaft class. There’s a work trip happening a few months later, and the parties involved are being frustratingly vague.

Yesterday I finished preparing the Jane for the next 4 shaft weaving class, to that’s ticked off the list. I also wound the warp for the rug weaving workshop. The most pressing deadline is Mum’s tea towels. I should get them off the loom this week at least, ready to sew and wash on Monday.

This week… that’s what I need to focus on. The last rigid heddle sampler and warping for the rug workshop can wait until after Christmas. Trip planning is mentally slotted in for January. That leaves tea towel making and shortbread baking by Friday, and salad making for the weekend.

I got this, brain. Stop with the nagging.

A Good Day to Dye

I’ve had a slowly growing pile of items to dye for maybe two years now, and it’s been large enough to tackle for a few months. Last Sunday I decided it was time to tackle it.

The majority of dye-able items were to be indigo dyed with the leftovers of the kit used at the Kay Plus Fun workshop I organised at the beginning of last year. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long is I’d assumed the kit was one of those overnight fermentation deals, and I tend to dye spontaneously. In fact it was a ‘mix up and wait 20-30 minutes” one. So I set it going and wet down all the pieces I wanted to dye. That included the last bit of shibori sampler I wove on the leftover warp from the workshop. There were definitely a lot of fond memories of Kay as well as wistful, sad thoughts about not being able to tell her I was finally getting that last bit of shibori done.

Other pieces to be dyed included a tshirt, two long-sleeved tops and the chenille scarf I wove earlier this year. I tie-dyed the tshirt and tried for uneven coverage with one of the long-sleeved tops. I dip-dyed the scarf, but it came out so dark that contrast was too severe, so I dipped the rest laster when the pot was growing weaker.

When everything to be indigo dyed was done I still had plenty of liquid left, so I grabbed some ripped hemp/cotton sheets and sopped up the rest to use in rag weaving.

After a break for lunch I tackled the Procion dye lot. I had four other cotton items: one of Lucy’s jumpers and three factory-produced lace table cloths. The jumper was white with colourful embroidered flowers around the front… that had bled when I washed it. The table cloths were too stained to give to the op shop and I had a vague idea of dyeing them black and making something goth-y out of them.

The jumper came out great. The dye didn’t produce a proper black – more a dark indigo blue, ironically! It took aaaaages to wash out the dye, so it clearly didn’t set well. Which meant the flowers, as I hoped, retained some colour.

The table cloths came out a disappointing grey-blue, even lighter when dry than this photo shows:

Oh well, that’s dyeing for you! I’m chuffed that nearly everything came out well, and maybe I’ll still find a purpose for the table cloths.