All Wrapped Up

You know how it goes. While at the fabric store buying something needed something else pops into your shopping basket. That’s how I came by this navy flowering gum Jocelyn Proust organic cotton knit. At the time I thought I’d make a top or pair of leggings, but when I’d finished the test version of the wrap dress the navy fabric caught my eye and I thought it would make a nice finished version. That meant buying more fabric, of course, but at least that time I didn’t succumb to extra fabric temptation.

The waist is rather high on me, but I’ve reached a point where I need the belly-skimming that a high-waisted dress achieves. I’ve lengthened the sleeves and skirt, and omitted the cuffs. I wore it to a friend’s Cup Day gathering. It’s very comfortable and, unlike other wrap dresses I’ve had the past, doesn’t gape in the chest area or fly open at the skirt wrap at the slightest turn or breeze.

I might make another one of these one day.

Holes

I’ve been sewing a dress. Progress has been a bit slow due to a non-flu illness that stole a week, and doing the construction in small steps due to the pattern being rather fussy. On the weekend I decided I would finish it. I picked up a skirt front and moved to the window for better light, so I could see which was the right side and instead saw little spots of white. Then I looked closer.

Holes. Tiny holes.

So I picked up the other skirt pieces. One had holes, the others were fine. The bodice with the finicky instructions… a hole in a complicated front panel.

Ok, I had bought the fabric cheap. Clearly this was why it had been discounted. The main reason I’d bought the fabric was to test patterns with since I wasn’t all that keen on the colour. So not a huge disaster. But I would have skipped some of the fussy sewing instructions if I’d known. Too fussy to unpick the bodice and replace the holey piece if I could cut another from a hole-free section of the fabric. I was tempted to pack it away for a while, but I pushed ahead and sewed the seams so I could at least try it on and see if the pattern needed adjustment – which it did.

So this is not the blog post I was planning. There’s not been a lot of blog-worthy activity here lately. I’ve made serviceable but unattractive things like a brush holder and sleeve protectors for painting. I’ve reorganised art supplies and given away most of my macrame materials to a friend.

It feels like many months since I did any weaving, but it’s only been about five weeks. I had a strong feeling I needed a break when the 8-shaft course was done. Since then I’ve occasionally looked at my looms and all I can think is I have too many woven items needing homes. I don’t have the energy to sort out selling them though the Guild, let lone on my own. Maybe I should only weave items I need. Well, that wouldn’t be much, and how could I then justify having an entire room dedicated to weaving? Especially when I’m doing more art now and need more space for that.

Such are my thoughts, but then I remind myself that only five weeks have passed and I probably just need more time to regain my enthusiasm.

50/50 Again

The fabric stash has been growing lately, both due to a few destashes and me buying knits online in order to make basics to replace those that had worn out. I haven’t made the basics yet, but did whip up two new 50/50 skirts.

The first has some destash material on the front. I’ve been craving colour, and it certainly fit the bill.

The second recycles fabric from one of Late Lucy’s old skirts.

Now I just need to get around to making those basics, because they’ll go very well with these skirts.

Wonky Blocks

The first warp I wound on my new horizontal warping mill was for a set of Summer and Winter tea towels in 16/2 cotton that I’m calling “Wonky Blocks”. They were to be a Christmas present for a friend. Needless to say, they didn’t get them in time.

The first snag was the realisation, halfway through measuring the warp, that I wasn’t going to have enough yarn. So I ordered more. When the yarn arrived I picked up the cone holder and realised the yarn in it had 8/2 written on the side of the cone. Not only had I wound half of the tea towel warp in the wrong thickness of yarn, I had used this 8/2 cotton with the 16/2 pink for both warp and weft of the pinwheel towels.

Well, the pinwheel towels look fine and maybe the thicker thread will make them thirstier. 8/2 cotton warp wasn’t going to work for the Summer and Winter tea towels, however, because then the ground yarn would be thicker than the pattern yarn. So I set what I’d wound of the warp aside and, starting from scratch, wound a new warp in 16/2 cotton, put it on the loom and got weaving.

For the pattern yarn I wove 16/2 doubled, on my double pirn shuttle. It was a fun weave, but progress was slow. I just couldn’t seem to fit weaving sessions into my days. It seemed like I only made progress during Zoom class sessions. One of the problems was that the pattern doesn’t go all the way to the end, leaving a ten end boundary of plain weave. That meant moving the pattern shuttle through the warp to the top or bottom at both ends of each pick.

This is a six shaft design, so I ought to have put those ten stitches on either side on the last two shafts, but I hadn’t thought of it until I started weaving. When I got to the end of the first tea towel I snipped off those pesky ends and tied on new ones weighted at the back of the loom after threading them through the last two shafts – which meant I didn’t lose any warp length by cutting off the first towel and tying on again.

Weaving was MUCH faster after that. However, I now found that I kept making mistakes with the box pattern. Mistakes that weren’t worth going back to fix, so I decided there was just going to have to be variations between towels. Then it occurred to me that it would be fun to get a dice and roll it to decide the box heights. Numbers 1 & 2 equalled a box 8 picks high, 3 & 4 meant 16 picks high and 5 & 6 were for 24 picks. So for the third towel I did that, though not strictly. I didn’t want really big boxes.

More than three months after I started I was under pressure to finish because I needed the floor loom for one of the class projects. The rethreading and using the dice made it fun, though. Then just like that, they were almost done. I save the last few design rows and the hem until the recipient was here, and could see how they were made. I sewed the hems and gave them to her that day, which meant I had to leave the washing and snipping off of ends for her to do.

I’d definitely weave this design again. If we didn’t still have a set of handwoven tea towels still going strong I’d do a set for us with a red, white and black theme. But we have plenty of tea towels. What I need, however, is more dishcloths. They’re high on the to-do list, on which the 8-shaft course project is the topmost item now.

Before, Now, Later

I know how it looks. All this art and no craft. But you’ll have to trust me – craft IS happening. It’s just not being finished.

I’m still weaving the tea towels on the Lotas. When I tried finishing the Theo Morman inlay project that had been on the rigid heddle loom I struggled with the sticky warp for a bit before deciding the inspiration was gone. The fine warp came off and I’m now weaving a plain white scarf from the ground warp.

Most of my weaving has been class samplers, and I’m not going to post about those again until nearer the end of the course. Which I’m starting to look forward to finishing. It’s not that I’m over the weaving and learning, but just a bit tired of doing a course. I’ve been thinking about why, and I reckon it’s partly because I’m tired of uncertainty. Will my health take another dive? Will my parents suddenly need all my attention? Will WW3 start? I have a strange itch to get it done while I still can.

But then, maybe it’s just because I’m really enjoying art at the moment. Life drawing classes have restarted and I tried doing a nude from life in oils the other day and was surprised to find I could do a reasonable painting in the time we had. Aside from a few back issues, my daily art practise is still going strong. It’s amazing me how all these finished pieces are building up. I’ve gone from two portraits plus a handful of pet paintings per year, to potentially 365 small artworks.

Of course, I already know that dedicating an hour or so a day can accumulate to big achievements because that’s how wrote the first draft of my last few books. The question I’m asking myself now is… what else could I tackle in this way?

That’s another reason I’m looking forward to finishing the weaving course. I want to put what I’ve learned, both in weaving and art, into practise, but I have only so much energy to spend, and a good part of it is taken up (sporadically) by classes and weaving samplers. I am, however, looking forward to doing the final year project, which is a finished object woven using one of the techniques we’ve explored.

That might just take the edge off.

28 Days

Where did they go? It seems like the last month passed in a flash. I’ve thought about writing a post several times, but nothing was quite blog-ready. Not that I wasn’t doing anything arty or crafty, it’s just that none of it was at a good stage to blog about. So here’s my work-in-progress:

Weaving: there’s a set of tea towels on the Lotas, and I’ve done a bit of class work.

Art: the daily art challenge continues. In February I drew cars using alcohol ink markers. It was a big learning curve, but I really enjoyed that. I was pretty tired of cars by the end, though – something I suspected would happen so I picked a short month for it.

March up is “Nature’s Remnants”: shells, seed pods, bones, feathers, fossils, dried leaves, etc., which will be a nice contrast from manmade object. It wasn’t on my list of subjects, but I decided to bring together ‘cats’ and ‘dogs’ and make it a ‘pets’ theme, which will allow me to draw other kinds of pets as well. That gave me room for a ‘wild card’ subject. I’m using casein paint on sealed and clear gessoed plywood boards. I’ve not used casein before, or painted on boards. The first painting was definitely a journey of discovery.

I also tried the local art association’s portrait workshop, which was great. Lots of very talented artists in there.

Sewing: nothing since January, but I’ve done a lot of thinking about what sort of clothes I’d like to make, and whether the weaving course final project will be a garment or not.

Other: I painted a huge backdrop for a James Bond party. It’s too big to keep, so it’s waiting to be dismantled. I’m a bit sad about that, but that’s the trouble with props. If you do a good job, you’re going to regret having to destroy it at the end.

One thing I do remember about the month is lots of garden contemplation. I’m planning changes to make it easier to maintain now I have an unsteady leg and less stamina. There’s going to be some serious landscaping happening in winter to improve access, and the last six months of vege garden failure is an extra motive to simplify that area, too.

‘Adapt and simplify’ is my motto of the year, and the garden is definitely one area that needs both.

Sewing Day… & Before & After

Recently a friend hosted a Stitch’n’bitch at her house, with the stitching being sewing and the bitching being much-missed in-person conversations. I was looking forward to it so much I reorganised the stash the week before and picked out four potential projects to do on the day. One required making a pattern which requires concentration so I figured I should do that beforehand. Then I figured everyone would be wanting to cut their fabric at the start, so I did that too.

A few days later I decided to also cut out the pieces for another project, which was a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of project and needed my full attention. It was a petticoat with a lot of fussy gathering, so I got that part out of the way. Which left only a few seams to do. I figured I only needed three potential projects to do on the day and finished it.

On the day I started with the pre-cut project – a pair of pyjama pants:

Once they were done I cut and sewed a pair of shorts:

The third project was another pair of shorts, but it was evening by then and I decided I’d done enough. I’m not 100% sure I want to make shorts from that fabric anyway.

The next day I tackled another project: two nightdresses in organic cotton knit that I picked up on sale when I was only supposed to be buying press stud tape to fix our doona cover. It was a good discount! And my old nightdresses are developing holes.

The pattern is a simple knit dress design I made years ago for a costume. I’d lengthened and adjusted it for fit, and cut the pieces for one dress, during the week.

When I went to cut the second dress I ran out of fabric. I’d assumed I’d get both fronts and backs across the width. Is it me or do fabrics seem to be narrower these days? I wound up cutting the front in two pieces, divided at the waist, and had to abandon idea of pattern-matching. Thankfully, only Paul and I will ever see these close up.

All in all, I got five projects finished in less than a week, and only one of them counts as a new garment added to my wardrobe (underclothes and nightclothes don’t count). Two were made of fabric from destashes. I’m still feeling inspired but getting a warp on the Lotas and cleaning the house have priority this week.

Unwind

A couple of dowels sticking vertically from a wooden base. That’s what I’ve been using to hold both cones and reels of yarn when winding warps or bobbins. Even though the dowels weren’t straight and sometime fell out, it did the trick. But as I was weaving the pinwheel towels, I noticed how the yarn wound up with quite a twist to it. Reels of yarn ought to sit horizontally when unwound, while yarn from cones needs to come off vertically.

Since I was doing a bit of carpentry anyway, making the warping mill, I got to thinking about making a new yarn stand. The usual lazy kate design came to mind first, then converting one of the boxes the local specialty wine store sell. But the prospect of transporting it to a workshop made me realise it needed to be light, multi-purpose and collapsable.

Immediately I knew all I needed was two pieces each of dowel and timber. For cones it could be used like this:

For reels it can be used like this:

Or this:

And then be broken down like this for travel.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most satisfying.

New

At some point we’re going to wind a warp using a warping mill in class. I haven’t used one before, though I’ve watched demonstrations. The Guild has only a small number of these, and I find I get quite overwhelmed and mistake-prone at in-person classes, so I considered making my own. After doing a bit of research, I bought a horizontal folding warping mill plan and knocked one up with a bit of help from Paul (because the big saw makes me nervous, and his system for storing tools is rather, um, personal to him).

I made one tweak – using cord instead of wooden braces at the base, inspired by my late Pa’s clothes airer. It’s much faster to just spread the legs until the cord is taught than to lift up each side, line up the holes of the wooden brace with the dowels and ram it on. And, of course, when you’re done you just lift it and let the legs swing together.

It had also occurred to me that if I sell my sectional warping equipment and make a folding warping mill I’d free up some space in my rather cluttered loom room. Having a warping mill means I won’t need my warping board, though I’ll keep it in case I need a more portable option. I’m thinking of selling my floor inkle loom too, as I’ve had it for a few years and haven’t used it once.

The urge – and need – to declutter and simplify always comes when I’ve had health issues, but there’s also the approaching start of a new year that’s driving thoughts of needs, wants and hopes for the near future. Last year I decided my mottos for 2021 were “be flexible” and “make no commitments. This year I keep returning to a great quote from Kieth Richards:

“I ain’t old, I’m evolving”.

So I’m thinking “evolve and simplify” is my motto for 2022.

Happy New Year! Here’s hoping it’s less trying than 2021.

Pink Pinwheels

I finished the first tea towels gift 45 minutes before the recipient arrived on Christmas eve. It didn’t feel like cutting it close. It felt like an unexpected win, because I’d already said I probably wouldn’t get them done in time. But I finally started feeling better, and figured I’d give finishing them a try.

Here they are on the loom:

Here’s a close up:

And some stylin’ with meringues Paul made that happened to be in the same colour:

The second set of gift tea towels will have to wait until I can get more yarn. I have an old reel of the right colour, but I’ve decided I’m not going to risk using old yarn in a gift.