The Rug of Waiting

As I mentioned a few posts ago, one of the batches of flannelette had a horsey-plaid-camo-sporty vibe, in greens, blues, greys and browns. I cut them into 2 inch wide strips before realising that I wasn’t going to get many strips out of the flannelette if I made them that wide, and switched to 1 1/2 inch wide strips.

I figured this batch would be my first rug. After working out the size of rug the rags should make using the rough equations I’d come up with based on Tom’s ook, I considered the rug’s design. Do I mix up the strips, or weave bands of each colour? I hung the strips over the front beam of the loom, then tried mixing them up. Nope. Didn’t look anywhere near as good as when they were arranged in groups of the same colour, going from green to brown to grey to blue. But there was quite a jump from green to brown. I had two strips of an khaki camo which would fill that transition nicely, so I googled camo flannelette… and found only one shop in Australia that had any. I ordered some, but the shop was supposed to ring me to get my details and they never did. I also found some nice grey-blue plaid in another shop, and bought two metres of it because it was cheaper that way. I waited for the order to arrive but when it arrived it was not really the same sort of fabric, so I decided I would just weave the rug as it was.

(I did consider contacting the woman I’d bought the flannelette scraps from to ask if she had any more in camo, but I didn’t want to risk ending up with another enormous bag of it! At least not until I knew I wanted to keep making these rugs.)

Black seemed the obvious warp colour, but just black or should I add variation? In Tom’s book there are a couple of projects with staggered stripes of a second colour in the warp. I wanted to try this some time. Well why not this time? But of the colours I had, would any suit? Not really. So I ordered another cone, in grey.

More waiting for an order to arrive. In the meantime, I had been joining strips. In Gerlinde’s class she’d shown us how to overlock them together quickly, and her method certainly was satisfyingly fast.

No shuttle of mine was going to hold the whole rug’s worth of strips, so I did them in batches of the same colour. That also meant I could add a batch of camo or plaid when the fabric arrived. After the joining was done I used a bias binding thingamejig and iron to turn the edges of the strips in. Then I wound them onto rag shuttles.

With the rags ready, and the grey warp yarn having arrived, and the Lotas loom free, it was time to get warping. I got winding, and a niggle started straight away. The yarn was thinner than expected. The project in Tom’s book had a very dense sett – 16epi – compared to what I was used to for rugs. Gerlinde’s recommendation had been 6. I’d reduced that to 12 for this project. I reasoned that I should stick to the instructions, but once I began sleying the reed I knew it just wasn’t right. The warp would cover the rag waaay more than I wanted. So I rethreaded… while watching Eurovision on SBSOnDemand.

So where the warp staggered from black to grey, from 1 grey/1 black, I rethreaded to 2 grey/2 blacks. Then, when I wove, I wove 1/2, 3/4 rather than 1/3, 2/4 so that I had two warp ends together all the way across, effectively halving the sett to 6epi.

I wove a three 15cm header, then got weaving and immediately knew I’d been right. The balance of weft and warp looked great. The warp colour pattern was breaking up the bands of colour enough to unify them but not obscure them. The Lotus was coping with the heavy beating well. The rag was nice to work with. It was all very enjoyable and a relief to FINALLY be weaving.

Then I hit the next snag: I ran out of rag strips two thirds of the way to my intended length.

Well, this was the test rug!

I needed more rag strips. So I considered the colourway so far. Green to brown to grey to blue. Combing through the flannelette rags I hadn’t yet cut up, I found some dark blue with red designs. Perhaps I could transition from blue to red. I looked for flannelette I could buy online. Mostly pastels, a few brights and tie-dye effects, but also plenty of plaids. I ordered a metre each of a dark blue and red tie-dye, and a red plaid.

I’ve cut up the small bundle of rags in blue and red, joined and ironed them. I knew I’d have to wait until the order arrived before I could finish the rug. And the shop I’d ordered from had taken two weeks to deliver last time.

So it was time to start another project. A scarf on the rigid heddle? Or a quick one on the Jane before the next class? Or something else? Sewing? Machine knitting? Jewellery?

Or maybe none of the above, as RSI has flared up in my left wrist. Hmm.

Shadow Weave … Thing

Is done… maybe.

The idea behind this project was to try making a woven fabric version of a knitting pattern I modified for the Bond Sweater Machine a few years back. Here’s the jacket I made then:

It’s essentially a rectangle with cuts in from the two shorter sides. The middle sections are sewn together to make the sleeves, the outer becomes a collar and the body.

But woven fabric doesn’t have the stretch or drape of knit, so I made a calico test version and immediately confirmed that the upper arms/armpit would be too tight. I widened the middle section to compensate. As for drape… there was really no way to know if there would be enough. To test it, I’d have to make a sampler so big I’d have no yarn left for the jacket.

The shadow weave draft is #277 from A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. I picked it because the treadling is easy to memorise – something I was grateful for because handling six shuttles for the split sections of weaving was more than enough for my brain to wrangle.

Draw in was a bit of a problem, so I used a temple on the middle section (the bit to be the arms, where you really don’t want shrinkage) and on the whole width when I was weaving the part where the sections were joined into one. It certainly wove much faster during the joined part, where it only needed two shuttles!

Once off the loom I tied the fringe and sewed up the arms and tried it on. It fit but… it didn’t look good. The yarn – 8ply Bendigo Cotton – did drape well, but was really too slippery to retain integrity where the seams pulled, creating two big holes at the point where the ends of the slits were sewn together.

I draped it over my dress form and slept on the problem. By the next day I thought I had a solution, but it, too, did not work. Back onto the dress form it went, and I began playing. Eventually I had completely unpicked the stitching and abandoned all possibility of having arms. The arm sections became the fronts and one of the slits was sewn halfway together on both sides, leaving openings for my arms, and it became a sort of vest-ruanna with a scarf-collar. As pictured above.

So not a complete waste of weaving time. My experiment proved that the design wouldn’t translate to woven fabric and yet I still have a garment I like. I may even weave some sleeves for it at a later date. I used up some stash and tried shadow weave for the first time, too.

I think, if I try another loom-shaped garment I will stick to plain weave. While the shadow weave pattern looks good, it did make what was a test garment very slow to weave, and that would have made it more annoying if the design had been completely unusable.

Lace Study

The current subject we’re studying in the Certificate of 4-shaft weaving course is lace. Specifically ‘traditional Bronson’ and Atwater-Bronson lace. Whenever I do one of these projects I search all my books and magazines for articles on the subject, and this time I found a fair bit of conflicting information. Checking with the teacher, I learned that the ‘traditional Bronson’ we were learning was a folk version taught by a German weaver who used to teach the class. I’d found a German version of another lace weave, so I’d already noted that there were some variations outside of what my US and UK sources covered.

I produced the sample for Atwater-Bronson the afternoon of the Zoom session on it. I’d already done most of my notes and research, so I decided to put another warp on the loom and do huck and Swedish lace, and spot Bronson sampler using the same profile draft as what I’d designed for Atwater-Bronson.

Of course, that didn’t work. Each of the lace variations has different restrictions and advantages, preventing me from replicating the profile draft exactly. So I aimed, instead, to tweak that profile draft to take both into account… and then I just got creative. Instead of spending a few hours on all the variations, I wound up spending that on each.

Once I had the new warp on the loom I wove a huck lace sampler:

The next was a Swedish lace:

And the last was spot Bronson:

Spot Bronson isn’t a lace, but since it was the base from which Atwater-Bronson was developed, it seemed a good addition to a study of lace. The light green section at the top is barleycorn.

As part of my notes, I made this small chart of the differences between the techniques:

Whether this is strictly right or not… well, I guess I’ll find out when my notes are assessed by the teacher, or if someone corrects me in the comments. The purpose of all this – of the course – is all about building a resource I can return to later, and I think what I’ve done should satisfy that requirement.

It has been interesting to explore the differences between what, to the untrained eye, are weave structures that don’t look very different. The samplers have had me using Fibreworks more, which I’d been a bit intimidated by. I’ve also done a lot of hemstitching, which I’m hating a little less now that I know it off by heart. It’s also clear there is more to learn about lace, but that’s weaving for you – always more to discover!

Forward, Backward

I have a bad habit of trying to predict the future. Bad, because it can make me anxious and depressed despite the fact that, when it comes to the present and past, I’m more of a glass half full kind of person. I suppose that’s because the past and present can’t change, but the future can so there’s potential for disaster.

There have been a lot of posts on Facebook and Instagram predicting wonderful effects from Covid19 and isolation lockdowns, but I am skeptical. The post-Covid consequences could be bad as well as good. So here are some predictions:

Some people will value their relationships more, some relationships will end.

Some people will continue avoiding hugging and kissing, some will resent it if those close to them don’t.

There’ll be a doubling down on the activities that were restricted, good and bad, once lockdown ends. Gambling, drinking, parties, shopping, eating out, etc. will be indulged in as if to make up for lost time.

Op shops and landfill will be overwhelmed as a result of people cleaning out their shed, wardrobe, whatever, while in iso. Feeling virtuous, those people will go out and buy more stuff.

Helping the economy will be used as an excuse for a whole lot of decisions at both the personal and political levels. Some of those decisions will be bad.

Covid won’t be a big leveller in society, and in fact will only make things worse in places afflicted by poverty and inequality. But it may unite some who did not receive support during the lockdown, like casual workers.

The excess of oil will be used to make more crappy polyester clothes and plastic stuff. The incentive to develop technology to turn plastic back into oil for power will dry up.

It won’t take very long for air and water to become polluted again. People will wonder how the opportunity to fix these things was lost, not realising that they only happened because people were forced to do nothing, not that they were forced to do something. Doing nothing doesn’t lead to lasting change.

Stupid people will continue being stupid. Some dangerously so.

But more people will continue to be kind, having experienced the benefits. Community spirit will have taken root in new places, and grown in others.

Some people will discover that growing your own food is harder than they realised, but some will find they have a new passion. With health benefits.

Ditto for cooking.

There’ll be a boom in fad diets to deal with iso kilos. Maybe even a new “Iso Diet” being flogged by some celebrity or influencer.

People will realise that being fit and cooking healthy meals takes up lot of time. Time that many don’t have. Some will continue exercising and eating well, some won’t and have more sympathy for others who don’t have the time.

Most people will return to working in offices. Many of those people will have realised that working from home doesn’t work for them. Some will realise that it does, and alter their career path to suit.

Ditto for kids and schools.

Video conferencing and online learning will experience a dive in popularity once it’s no longer the only link between people, but will have a significant boost overall because people have realised it’s not as hard as it seemed and has significant benefits – in particular being cheaper and faster than travelling in person.

A billionty plague diaries will have been written, but only a tiny percentage will be even vaguely interesting to read as we all experienced this in an unextraordinary way compared to everyone else – but that won’t matter really, because the main benefit was to the writer.

There will be virus spikes and mini shutdowns and hopefully it’ll evolve into just another flu strain that will ‘only’ kill thousands each year. We’ll look back and recount what we were doing when during the Covid19 shutdown, and sigh at a new generation that doesn’t appreciate how how lucky they are to have old folk around telling their stories yet again.

A New Thing

It’s not like I don’t already have plenty of hobbies to entertain me while in isolation, yet some instinct or unconscious wisdom told me that there’s no better distraction than learning something new but not too complex. What popped into my mind when I considered what would fit the bill was temari.

They are small, so I wouldn’t be wondering where the heck I’d put them later. They’re not an overly big commitment in time, but enough work to keep me distracted for more than five minutes. They use materials I have at hand already. They’re pretty and could be nice gifts. And they don’t, if done in small sessions, bother my hands or back.

Just watch a few YouTube videos, I told myself. Maybe buy a book. Well, it turns out books on temari are rather expensive, and the videos mostly focus on getting started, not what you do once you have your grid marked. The most valuable resource I found was temarikai.com.

Even so, there’s a fair bit of ‘work it out for yourself’ involved. Stare at the picture a lot. Take a deep breath and start stitching. My first ball is a bit wonky, but came out much better than I expected.

My second was partly done during a Zoom meeting of the Sweary Stitchers Craft Group, which turned out to be a good social crafting project. And there were requests for balls, if I continued making them.

It’s not good tv crafting, unless the program only requires the occasional glance. Audio books and podcasts would do nicely. It’s a good portable craft, too, though with the same risk with losing needles as with embroidery, and it’s not really suitable to stitch while in a moving car or train.

I’m glad I set myself the challenge to try something new, and found this little art form. I think there will be more temari in my future.

Strips

I’ve been cutting strips out of the flannelette scraps for weeks now. I started out using a self-sharpening quilter’s cutting square and a rotary cutter, but after a couple of hour-long sessions my hand began to hurt – my right hand from pressing down with the cutter and the left from pressing on the square to hold it still.

Looking at the amount of cutting still to do, I nearly gave up on the whole idea. Instead I delved into the back of the sewing cupboard and found this electric rotary cutter:

I’d used it before, and knew the resulting strips are in no way as neat as those cut with a rotary blade and square, but perfect edges don’t really matter for rag rugs strips. The cutter also has some annoying tendencies, but I eventually worked out how to minimise them.

It’s not faster than doing it by hand, but my hands didn’t complain – and my back didn’t so long as I kept sessions down to half and hour to an hour. After a couple of weeks I had got through over half the scraps and had enough for a large rainbow inspired rug, a ‘brights and whites’ rug, and a smaller mat of earthy colours.

I stopped then, figuring that I ought to work out whether I hated weaving the stuff before spending months cutting it all up. In the meantime, I’d bought $400 worth of rug cotton in six colours plus black.

Purchased a bias binding jigamething from Spotlight.

And consulted this book:

I wanted to get an idea what width of rug I should warp up for. Tom shows the results of a test he did, where he bought a yard of several kinds of fabric and wove it on the same warp, to see how many inches of fabric he got.

This would be a useful rough guide if he’d mentioned what the fabric width had been to begin with.

Flannelette on the Spotlight website is 112 cm wide, so I decided to gamble that it was sold at the same width in the US, too. Based on the guess that his fabric had been 112 x 91 cm. Doing the math, I worked out this was pretty close to 100 x 100cm. I laid out strips until I’d covered that much area of my dining table, then weighed them.

So to know how big a rug could be, I can take the weight of all the strips for it and divide that by the weight of the 100 x 100 cm batch. Then I multiply the width by length of Tom’s sample to get the square meterage of his sample rug. Then I multiply the weight of my batch by the square meterage to get the square meterage of my potential rug.

All I need to do then is divide the square meterage of my rug by the width of the rug I want to make, and I get the length. Or divide the square meterage of my rug by the length I want to get the width.

To be honest, I won’t really know if this will work until I try it. I might be wrong about the width of Tom’s fabric. I might have the math all wrong. But I’ve got the weight of 100 x 100 of flannelette and the weight of the rags for a rug, so after the first rug I can use those numbers to make a more accurate square meterage number to work out the slightly less rough size of future rugs.

But before I get to that point, I need to sew together a LOT of strips, use the bias binding jig to help me iron them into tubes, finish the jacket I’m weaving on the Lotas, and warp the loom.

It’s slow going, but I’m in no rush.

Stitched Doubleweave Dishcloths

At the FibreForum workshop I did with Kay last year, she showed us a linen dishcloth one of her students had woven, using stitched doubleweave. That’s a technique I’ve been wanting to try for a while, and I’ve been wanting to weave with linen as well. I like the principle behind truly biodegradable cleaning tools, too. A few months back I warped up the Katie to make some. The draft is at the bottom of this blog post.

The technique was so easy – I’ll definitely be doing it again. Weaving with linen was interesting. It was like what I imagine weaving with spun paper is like. Inflexible, and you’re kind of folding the yarn into place as you work.

After I finished sewing up the first cloth I started using it when washing dishes. I use a natural fibre scrubbing brush mostly, and a coconut fibre scourer for stubborn muck. For wiping benches I have cotton cloths that get washed in with tea towels. So I’m not sure where these dishcloths fit in yet. I think they’re meant to replace Chux. I hate Chux because, while they pick up grot, they hold onto it and soon get stinky – and they’re essentially plastic that sheds microfibres into waterways.

I’m finding the dishcloths are nice for wiping dishes when the scrubbing brush seems like overkill. The whole ‘linen is strong yet supple when wet’ is interesting to see proof of, too. I have six cloths – though one will be a thank you gift for a friend who made me two face masks – so they should last a while.

And now I’m even more keen to weave stitched doubleweave for a garment. Maybe even padded stitched doublweave.

Non-essentials

I have a book coming out in a month or so, and it’s like contemplating a latter half of life significant birthday – should be exciting, was exciting in the past, but now it makes me feel tired and old and the whole thing seems unimportant compared to everything else going on in the world.

Nevertheless, my publisher wants me to promote it, and that’ll most likely be via video content. They suggested I do a reading. Readings are my least favourite activity, so I suggested a Zoom interview instead.

Isn’t Zoom just great? In the last week and a half I’ve taken part in four Zoom meetings: two social gatherings and two classes. I’ve also introduced Dad to Facetime, which he may be liking just a bit too much. Nah, not really. It’s nice to see him and Mum. And their cat. Funny how all these video links end with cats.

I’m sleeping better. This might have something to do with the repaired gas connection under the floor right beneath our bed. No nasty smells in the middle of the night. We went to turn on the heater and it kept spluttering. I remembered smelling gas near the hatch to underneath the house. Opened it. Out came a big gust of gas smell. Called the plumber. Turns out the pipe to the heater was rather incompetently connected to the main gas line. So bad you could hear the hiss.

Unfortunately, fixing the leak didn’t fix the heater, so the heating installers are coming out to fix the heater later this week. I will be presenting them with the repair bill… after they fix the heater. (Get this: the receptionist said it would take a week and a half before anyone could come out because ‘everyone went to turn their heater on the first time lasts weekend’. So a common problem then? Hmm.)

On the same day, our travel agent let us know that the airline we were supposed to fly to Poland with decided that the flights could be moved to within a year of the booking date, not the departure dates. So we won’t be able to use them to go to the same event next year (assuming the virus is under control by then). They also said if we cancelled we ‘might’ get our money back but it will take three months (and is rumoured to take twelve). So we’re gambling on the cancellation ‘option’, since the latest we could fly elsewhere is January, everywhere in the northern hemisphere will be in winter, and there’s nowhere in the southern hemisphere we want to go that would be anywhere near the same flight value (assuming any destination would be open for visitors by January anyway). I’m hoping to at least get the convention’s money back to them. We may have to write off the rest as a lesson to never buy tickets from THAT airline ever again.

We had wine that day, putting aside our no-alcohol-on-weekdays rule.

Instead of cabin fever I seem to be going into hibernation mode. I don’t want to go out at all. Not even to shop for essentials. Not even to get the molar that’s doesn’t like me biting down on it checked out. Not even to get the flu shot. I really ought to get that flu shot. Maybe tomorrow.

In crafty news, I advertised the Osborne loom on the guild’s Weaving Matters group email list last week, and immediately had two interested potential buyers. The most promising one decided it wasn’t the loom for her – I’ve been there and completely understand. The other needs to sell her current loom first, and hasn’t replied to my email letting her know it was still available. I ought to advertise on the 4 shaft weaving course list next, but my determination to sell it has weakened. There are some aspects of that loom that I really like. The castle shelf. The ease of removing the front beam. The brake that doesn’t slip and maintains really tight tension. If I changed the pedals and lamms to be like those on the Lotas loom, I’d be tempted to keep it.

I’ve told myself I have to weave a rug on the Lotas loom before I make any decisions. I just need to finish the shadow weave jacket. And cut up the rest of the flannelette scraps into strips. And the rug warp still has to arrive from Glenora Weaving & Wool. I’m also reminding myself of what I could do in the space the Osborne is taking up. Maybe set up an easel and paint. Maybe do some machine knitting.

For that to happen, some weaving needs to be done, so I’d better stop rambling and go pick up some shuttles.

Occupation

Until a few days ago I had three occupied looms. The Jane held the m’s and o’s sampler from class, which I’ve now finished. The Katie held a warp for stitched doubleweave linen dishcloths (draft by the much-missed Kay Faulkner) – my first attempt at stitched doubleweave and weaving with linen.

Linen was interesting to weave. I ran a humidifier beside the loom, keeping the yarn supple. There was no sett suggestion with the draft. My distracted brain had decided to sett as if for twill. No idea why! It should have been the wpi, since it’s doubleweave so double the sett for plainweave. But I’m glad I didn’t do that, as the plainweave hems are already tough to beat in. The doubleweave section is a bit loose, but I don’t think it will matter, actually. IIRC the dishcloth Kay showed me was quite loose. It’s all about the texture, for scrubbing.

And the Lotus still has a shadow weave one-piece cotton jacket.

It’s my first attempt at shadow weave, which is not proving to be difficult, and my second project on the loom. What is fiddly is weaving three sections separately without getting too much pull in. There has been some unweaving, accompanied by silent swearing.

The yarn is Bendigo Cotton 8ply, which is a convenient 20 wpi in plain weave which means one thread per slot on a 10dpi reed.

I tried a method of threading the reed I learned in class. Apparently it’s how the Saori weavers thread their reeds. You suspend the reed in a flat position before the castle and push the threads into the slots from above with a special tool. Well, I don’t have the special tool, but I found a small steel ruler worked just as well.

I also tried to resolve another problem. On the Osbourn I used slats from a venetian blink as warp spacers, but I’ve found that on the Lotas these slide down to hang in a group under the back beam as soon as I loosen the warp to advance it.

So far I haven’t found card wide enough for a project this big, so I tried tying a section of slats back together. So far it has worked fairly well. Not perfect, but a big improvement. I’m going to tie more sections together, for when I weave longer warps.

What next? Well, there’s the next class sampler – lace weaves. Classes are now online, via Zoom, which is fun. I’m still cutting flannelette scraps into strips, with the help of an electric rotary cutter, and will likely be doing so for a looooong time, unless I get tired of it and stow everything at the back of the cupboard.

I keep looking at the Osbourn loom and contemplating warping it up for a rug. Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking that maybe I don’t like having multiple projects going at the same time. There is only one me, and I’ve noticed that something always gets neglected when I have several projects on the go.

Two is nice. One easy and one challenging project. Three means one is forgotten. Maybe this is my self-isolation self-examination realisation. There are (mumble) number of looms here, but there is only one weaver’s worth of time to occupy.

Homebound

Every day, at the moment, is an exercise in gratitude. I’m an introvert, so I’ve always felt immensely lucky that my career and interests allow me to work from home. So staying at home is what I do most of the time anyway.

My income comes from books, which accessible both electronically and via online shopping. The cancelled publicity trip may mean less books are sold that would have been otherwise, but my income won’t be too badly affected. And people may even buy more books than usual, too.

Australia has a good health care system. I’m not in the most at-risk demographic, though my parents definitely are. I’m currently reasonably healthy… well, apart from some bad sinusitis and asthma lately – so I’m reasonably confident that I would be okay if we caught the virus. Same for Paul.

And yet, I am exhausted.

Sleep is either elusive or doesn’t refresh. I worry about family, friends, acquaintances, local business people, the disadvantaged, the disabled, this country, other countries, people in general, and, ultimately, the planet.

A friend reposted an article on Facebook (so, of course, I can’t find it now) about why people who suddenly have lots of time to be creative are finding they lack drive or focus or energy. The reason, if I interpreted it right, was that people are in survival mode. The brain is alert and watchful, and has turned auto-pilot turned off. Everything requires concentration and attention, like getting into a car and needing to think about every step of driving.

It seemed like a good explanation of where my brain is at. The article recommended being kind to yourself and doing simple and repetitive tasks for now. Well, I had already decided to haul a giant bag of flannelette scraps I bought at a destash into the kitchen and start sorting them, and I realised this was the perfect task to tackle.

The scraps were all in bundles.

First I untied them and sorted the scraps into piles based on size. I needed long pieces to weave into rag rugs. The small pieces could be turned into a rya rug, but I’m hesitating to do another as it was a very slow process. The middle size is the ‘maybe’ one and the long pieces should be fine for rag weaving. A sewing friend dropped by with two handmade face masks for me, so I showed her what I was doing and she said she could use the small scraps to make pet beds, so they won’t go to waste.

I sorted the longer pieces into colour families and/or possible combinations for rugs. The bag in front is a normal sized striped bag, and is full to the top of the small scraps.

And now I’ve started cutting the scraps into strips.

All this seems to be having the desired effect, as I’m a bit more relaxed and slept a little better the last two nights. It’s certainly easier on my back than all the gardening I’ve been doing! I feel like I’m getting something done, but it’s not mentally taxing. And I always enjoy designing with colour.

I hope you are all well and coping in this extraordinary moment in history. We are, essentially, in the midst of a global natural disaster, but we are an intelligent species (though it might not seem so sometimes!) and we will not just survive, but hopefully outwit it in the long run.