Eye of the Needle

I worked on this piece for a couple of years. It was the project I’d take on trips or work on while listening to a speaker and an event. It was also the test piece I worked on after my eye op.

I have to confess, I didn’t enjoy it much. It may be that I didn’t because it hung around so long and I got bored with it. Struggling to work on it post-surgery turned that lack of inspiration to discomfort. There’s some irony in that my last fine embroidery project is an eye, when my eyes are the reason I stopped.

To get the eye finished quicker, I decided not to do the eyebrow and an area of shadow under the eye. The lines were done with the orange-based cleaner on a printout method. I’ve washed these sorts of lines out before, but this time it was hard work scrubbing it off, and I wasn’t entirely successful. Maybe because they’d been there for a few years. To hide them, I painted the piece with Procion dye while at the weaving retreat.

I do like how it turned out.

I just need the perfect frame for it.

Not long after I dyed it I got a fortune cookie at a friend’s birthday party:

I laughed and laughed.

Red at Night Cardigan

It’s taken me months to sew this up. I’d do a seam, find a mistake, unpick it, sew it again, find a mistake, unpick it, sew it again, spend the next few days with a sore back, forget the jacket exists, remember it exists but don’t want to stuff up my back again, finally get the courage up again to work on it and… repeat.

But it couldn’t last forever, and last Friday I finally finished.

Yarn: Bendigo Woollen Mills 8ply Cotton in pomegranate… and a darker, purpler shade of the same yarn from a very different dye lot.
Pattern: Seaview, with a plain collar and a garter stitch row added to the cuffs and hem.
Notes: If I made this again I’d do the body in one piece. I like the structural support side seams give, but the fronts are pretty narrow so I could have relied on just the collar seam for that.

It’s very comfy. I think I’d like some sort of closure. There’s a small safety pin holding the fronts together in the photo.

It pilled like crazy under the arms the first time I wore it. I hope that isn’t going to be an issue. It’s made me reconsider my idea of finishing off the rest of the Bendigo Cotton on the machine. The new ball was noticeably lower in quality to the old, with some very thin spots in the yarn in a few places. I’ll be watching for holes.

Well, if I do machine knit some more summer clothing, it’ll have to wait a while. We have some guests staying soon so will need the dining table clear for a while.

A Filling in Time Saves Nine

Or so we hope!

During a recent trip to the dentist for a checkup and clean I was listening to a happy commentary about how great my teeth were when there was a pause, and then the apologetic news that a filling had fallen out and I needed a replacement.

Yeah, well, stuff happens, and often seems to happen in clusters. I’d rather have a filling than back surgery, though there have definitely been times at the dentist when I wished for a general anaesthetic.

I’d noticed that the dentist’s tools came wrapped in plastic, so I asked if they threw them away at the end of each day. No, thankfully they are sterilised then repackaged. Later I asked if he had one past its use-by and would be thrown out, as they are very handy for manipulating stitches on a knitting machine. He popped out of the room and came back with three.

So that weekend I gave them a try on the Addi Express. Oh, so much easier than the little plastic needle supplied! I cranked out the above hat using tuck stitches – which is a simple technique where you make the machine skip a stitch.

The yarn is something I picked up at Bendigo Woollen Mills. It’s labelled as ’16 ply recycled yarn’. Which is about as thick as I’d go for these machines. It makes a nice, cushy hat.

But it definitely is too warm for hats here now!

Gardening Hat & Cowl

Hat Yarn: by Kathy’s Fibres
Hat Pattern: Latu

Some time ago I tried cranking the base for the Latu hat on the larger circular knitting machine with the intention of dropping and latching up the rib and cables. But the gauge was way off and I ended up slowly knitting it by hand.

Most of my knitted hats are fitted. The slouchy volume of this design appealed to me. I can pull it down over my ears if I want to.

Of course, it’s now getting a bit on the warm side for hats.

My Stylebooking continues. Yes, it has become a verb. I’ve added bags and jackets and travel clothes and summer hats and belts. I’ve culled a piece or two almost every time I added a category, but not a lot. Except for the belts. I had heaps of belts. I don’t wear belts so why the heck did I have so many? Most of those went the op shop.

I got rid of a black bag that I bought because it has all the pockets and handles I like and was the right size… but I finally admitted to myself that I hated it. So. Ugly. I found one I liked on the way out of the op shop. Bag in, bag out.

(And then when I went through box of things I reserve for travelling I discovered I already had a bag just like it. Doh!)

Oh, and that cowl? It was once a bag:

I never used it. I took it apart and sewed the ends together. Ta-dah! Cowl. Which happens to go nicely with the gardening hat.

It’s not been all about the culling and refashioning, though. When I added my jackets to Stylebook I realised I wasn’t using my denim jacket, even though I like it. Why not? Well, it turns out I’m deathly afraid of double-deniming. So I used the ‘looks’ feature of the app to come up with outfits that I could wear the jacket with. And then I wore one. Win.

All this has been a welcome distraction whenever I have a few minutes free. I’m back working on the book. Paul has had back surgery. I’m going to have my first tooth filling in years on Monday. The weeds are going nuts. I haven’t done much weaving in ages. I haven’t even finished sewing up the red cardigan. I’ve run out of energy and inspiration, just getting through each week. But we’re not unhappy. Just exhausted.

A-Crafting We Will Go

So this week has turned into a sort of half holiday, half work week. I’m working on a novella that may or may not be a commission (long story – no pun intended). Otherwise I’m doing a bit of everything: weaving, mending, gardening, cooking, reading, walking, painting and enjoying a cuppa out on the deck in the welcome spring warmth.

I’ve done a little bit more of Stylebooking, adding a few garments I’d missed, and a bit more culling of the wardrobe. Five of my long-sleeved tshirts are from Uniqlo. They’re supposed to be a cotton polyester mix. I’m sure they were thick and cushy when I bought them. I don’t like flimsy t-shirts, so I’d have never bought them if they were. But after a couple of washes they’ve were all thin and now have that squeaky quality polyester has. After some deliberation, I’m going to donate them to the op shop, as they are still wearable if you don’t mind the feel of polyester. I still have plenty of long-sleeved t-shirts to last me through spring, and if I find I need more next winter I will buy some ethically/sustainably made ones.

Last weekend was all about craft. Saturday I went to the guild for the weaver’s meeting, then stayed on to try to fix some looms. The talk at the meeting was about using a fan reed on an Ashford table loom. The simple and ingenious way Mary hung the reed gave me a great idea for using the Vari Dent Reed on my Katie loom. The loom mending went well – at least, I hope my solutions worked! One loom I couldn’t fix on the spot. Someone has replaced a missing pawl pin on one of the Ashfords with a screw, which is inelegant and not particularly successful. I’m going to have to come up with an inexpensive way to undo the damage.

On Sunday afternoon I hosted another Craft Day. Three lovely hours of nattering and craft with friends that felt like three minutes. I started with some bag mending and refashioning followed by cutting up t-shirts ready to weave more seat pads.

I’ve finished those pads now. I’m in a bit of a finishitis phase at the moment. I still have to sew up the red jacket and finish the green beanie, and those bag refashioning projects.

And then what? There are some more variable dent reed ideas lurking in my visual diary, and my wardrobe edit hasn’t put me off weaving some summer weight fabric for clothing. I also want to machine knit another cotton garment out of the white, green and purple Bendy Cotton in my stash. And I have a few clothing refashions to do.

Plenty of projects to finish. Plenty waiting to start.

Cross-Pollination Scarf

Earlier this year I had a look at my small collection of VÄV magazines and saw there were some holes. I buy them when I see them at one of the local newsagents, which isn’t the most consistent way of getting them. So I popped onto their website and ordered three back issues.

Two turned out to be of particular interest. One covered boro boro – the art of recycling and mending. Another featured adventurous weaving techniques and materials. In the latter I read about an Estonian textile artist, Kadi Pajupuu, and one of the techniques she is shown playing with is weaving with multiple small heddles.

From the looks of it, she is simply flipping them. But what caught my eye was the thicker thread between sections of weaving used as a supplementary warp, just like what I did with the Coco Nut Ice Scarf… except she was moving them around as she flipped the heddles.

Light bulb moment!

Suddenly it was obvious that the next step from the Coco Nut Ice Scarf was to start swapping around the thicker threads. I didn’t want to flip heddles, as she had, because that shortens the warp threads at the sides faster than the middle. But I did want to do something different to what she’d done: see if I could easily weave the ground warp threads on their own while the thick threads were crossing or twisting or whatever I would up doing with them.

It turned out to be simple and intuitive and fast. By having the thick threads as a supplementary warp, I could move them into position in the back as well, and keep the warp tension even.

I kept it simple, just crossing the threads over.

I love the resulting scarf. I wove it from alpaca, so it’s soft and plush.

And there are so many directions I could go with this idea. But I’ve had yet another one, and this time it involves doubleweave and two heddles.

Pin Loom Seat Pads

Recently the guild held a “See Yourself Weaving?” Open Day. I was all fired up to help out, but when Paul’s slipped disc happened and I got plantar fasciitis again I had to pull out of most commitments, including this one. However, by the time the Open Day came around Paul was well enough to drive me to the station, and my feet were good enough to get me to the guild via public transport, so figured I could participate so long as I got to sit down.

I had one day to get organised. My original intent was to demonstrate pin loom weaving and stick weaving, but I kept the organisation down by deciding not to set up stick weaving. I concentrated on getting my triangle and hexagon looms warped up and with a few rows of weaving done, ready to demonstrate. The square one would be to show how it all starts. For examples of what to make I took the Hunky Hank Shawl, Graduation Blanket and Greenery Blanket – the latter so I could tell people that you can scale up the basic square pin loom for thicker yarns.

Then I thought… I have always wanted to try weaving rags on a pin loom. So I gave it a try on the loom I made for the Greenery Blanket, but the rags (leftover from the Braided Spectrum Rag Rug) were too thick. So I decided to make another pin loom – this time double the size of the basic square one.

A couple of hours and a trip to Bunnings later, I had this:

I warped up and started weaving, but stoped with only a quarter done so that people at the Open Day could see the process was the same. It was a great day, with over a hundred people coming to check out all the different kinds of weaving on display. Someone had already set up a couple of stick looms so I demonstrated those as well. I didn’t a chance to look around myself, I was so busy!

When I got home I finished the rag rug square and decided it would be perfect as a seat pad. So over the next week I made five more, stopping only because I ran out of orange rag ‘yarn’.

I have two of these built-in seats. Looks like four or five pads is a good number for each. So I need to make at least two more, and I just found an orange t-shirt at an op shop to cut up.

I really enjoyed making them, and now I want to make a huge pin loom and see if I can make big floor rugs.

Oh – and the other great result of the Open Day is I sold my Ashford 4-shaft table loom! A new weaver and I got chatting and she said she wanted a four shaft loom, but she wanted a bigger one than what they have at the guilds so she can make large items. She came over a few weeks later to look at the loom, and it was exactly what she wanted. I’m so happy it went to a good home!

Twill Sampler 1.2

Somehow I managed to miss two drafts when I counted how many I had left. So I had to squish five samples into the space for three.

The third last wasn’t looking anything like the photo in the book. Then I twigged that the picks needed to be beaten hard. In fact, they should be for the last five drafts. Oh well. The first two weren’t, the third was, and the weaving of the last two got rather cramped as I ran out of warp so they’re probably not beaten as firmly as they should be.

I tied a new warp to the old, this time a black one. I have six dark warp twills to do.

Then I’ll have all the multicoloured warp drafts to weave.

Judging by the time I’ve spent so far, accepting that other projects and life will distract me, it may take the greater part of a year to weave everything in a chapter of the Strickler book. There are 24 chapters. Hmm. I don’t want to be finishing this in my 70s.

But it is interesting. And fun, at times. Maybe I’ll keep going until it stops being fun. Maybe I’ll be more selective in which chapters to tackle, skipping to structures I haven’t tried before.

You know, I don’t want to make weaving my job. I’ve turned hobbies into jobs before and it can take the fun out of them. Yet there is something about weaving – and art – that makes me want more than enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake. I like that they both offer endless challenge and learning. I expect that’s how a woodworker feels about his craft. Or a hobby musician.

There was a discussion on a Ravelry forum for weavers a few months back in which a weaver of reputation heaped scorn on newer, hobby weavers for wanting drafts and projects for multi-shafted looms. Work it out yourself, she said. I’ve seen the same criticism levelled at weaving magazines for being project-based.

Its fails to take into account that most people aren’t doing this for their living. They don’t have the time to dedicate to working it all out themselves. They probably never will. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be weaving at all, or never touch a multi-shaft loom.

Writing suffers from this attitude, too. It’s like you can’t write and not be seeking publication. If you write for the pure enjoyment of it other writers think there’s something odd about you. And yet it’s fine to be a hobby painter, not earning money from art or entering awards.

I figure if it’s fine to be a hobby painter, it’s definitely fine to be a hobby weaver, too.

Fancy Log Cabin Baby Blanket

I’ve woven baby blankets out of Bendigo 8ply Cotton a couple of times before. It makes for a cushy fabric, once it’s been washed.

Someone told me ages ago that baby blankets are generally a meter by a meter, so that’s what I aimed for. I do like using the full width of the loom, or close to it. As it turned out, I wound up with 400 warp ends, and I have 200 heddles on each shaft, so I didn’t need to move any heddles. Bonus!

Partway through measuring the warp, I began to suspect I wouldn’t have enough of the green. I did some maths and found I’d be just short, so I had to buy more of it. Fortunately the colour is still available. I bought another ball of white, too, just to sure. So my stash won’t be reducing in size as much as I hoped by doing this project.

Once the warp was on the loom I realised that I had a problem. The standard boat shuttles won’t hold much of the 8ply yarn. My longest stick shuttle isn’t far off the width of the blanket, but I have no space to the right of the loom to get it into the shed. And I only have one of them anyway. Thankfully I found some large boat shuttles at the Bendigo show. I bought two, which was silly since I’m using three colours and I’d probably use these for krokbragd, which uses three shuttles.

I was hoping to be able to simply seam the two ends of the blanket, but carrying the yarn up the sides didn’t make for a very tidy edge. I wound up sewing on blanket binding. Not my favourite task! But it turned out better this time than the last.

The draft is something I spotted in a photo and worked out on a draft-making app on my iPad. While I like the result I wasn’t as thrilled with it in person as I thought I’d be. Still, it is pretty.

The whole project has me thinking that maybe I’ll use the rest of this yarn on the knitting machine. It’s not that I don’t enjoy weaving baby blankets, but my friends are all past the age of having babies and while I enjoy the weaving I really dislike the sewing part.

And playing with the Addis and Bond has reignited my interest in machine knitting, which is something I’d like to embrace while it lasts.

Twill Sampler 1.1

I’ve been working away at this project for four months now. My idea was to weave all the twills in the first chapter of Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, which are all threaded with a straight draw. So far I’ve woven only ones using a light warp. I’d thought I would get them all done on the six metre warp, but I came up short by about 6 drafts.

I found two mistakes early on. One draft was missing a tie-up, another just didn’t look like the photo. Otherwise they were all fine.

What have I learned so far?

That some twills are easy to memorise and a pleasure to weave. And some are a PITA. It partly has to do with the treadling. If it’s a simple line rather than moving all over the place obviously it’s going to be easier to follow. But some treadling sequences flow nicely while others feel awkward.

That some of the twills would probably look better with a wool yarn, but others were fine using cotton.

There seems to be an endless variety of twills, but a lot of patterns look similar. That means I could now choose the ones that are easier to memorise. (Though if I was using a loom with treadles this wouldn’t be relevant.)

I have added tags with notes about each draft. I should do this as I go, as four months back is a long time to remember details, even if I did use post-it notes in the book.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve added a great deal more to my knowledge. I’ve already woven quite a few twills, and I think I understand the structure fairly well. I was able to spot mistakes in the drafts. I guess there were no big surprises. Still, there might be something in the dark warp twills, so I won’t judge until I get them done.

I still want to do the last six drafts, so I tied a new warp onto the old one and pulled it through, then cut off the old and tied the new one on. I’ll do the same when I come to weave the drafts using a dark warp.