Handspun, Handwoven Scarves

Oldest yarns plus handspun plus twill with tabby were the inspirations for these scarves. The draft are Strickler #263 and #265, both using a corkscrew twill threading and tie-up.

The first, #263, was slow to weave and it was easy to make a mistake. It required three shuttles: one for the handspun pattern yarn, one for the thin black tabby binder, and one for stripes of the same black yarn I used for the warp.

It reminds me of the tracks of tyres, or some kind of ancient writing.

#265 was a much faster point twill treadling, using two shuttles: one for the handspun and another for the tabby binder. They pattern looks like dramatic bow ties.

They turned out very well, and I will definitely be more confident in designing weaving projects using handspun now.

Trying Different Hats

Normally, I try not to even think of the ‘C’ word until the beginning of December, unless I know I need to order a present early. This year I’ve put that rule aside for three reasons:

Firstly, I’m sick of ordering online. While I understand and empathise with Aussie Post for the delays, it’s one more thing to worry about. And the delays are only part of the problem with ordering online. Recently some items I ordered hadn’t arrived so I tried contacting the shop, but they didn’t reply to messages left via email, their answering machine, their website’s contact form or their Facebook page. It took a couple of weeks to finally get through on the phone, only to find out the items had always been out of stock and help up by international shipping issues. If I’d known they were out of stock I wouldn’t have ordered the items. Two and a half months later they still haven’t arrived, but the shop is the only one in the country selling them so I really don’t want to cancel my order.

The second reason is I don’t much fancy shopping in person, either. When lockdown ends there’s going to be a rush on shops, and things will sell out, and since we’re supposed to be transitioning to ‘living with Covid’ (which will no doubt mean ‘dying with Covid’ for a number of people) and I doubt the vaccine passport idea is going to go smoothly, I’m intending to stay away from strangers as much as possible.

The third reason is because my solution to the above is to make most of my gifts, and that takes time and planning.

On the up side, I have a very short recipient list. On the down side, it includes two men who aren’t easy to pick something for even when not choosing hand made.

One of the ideas I had for gifts was to sew hats. I found a free bucket hat online and gave it a try. Aside from me misreading the interlining pattern pieces as lining and having to unpick them then cut and sew a new lining, the construction was problem free and it fits perfectly.

The outer fabric is denim and the inner a navy cotton with tiny flowers in red, green, yellow, blue and white. Both came from destashes.

I also have a sunhat pattern I’ve been wanting to try for ages, so I gave that a whirl. The main fabric is a white corduroy printed with green and black parrots from an old, stained dress of Late Lucy’s. The lining is a white cotton bed sheet.

This was a bit of a faff to construct, with lots of stay stitching and a seemingly unnecessary bit of gathering thread to ease the side piece to the top, but there is a nice bit of theatre when you turn what looks like a clump of fabric inside out and it turns into a hat. It fits and I like it.

Still, it’s not really Mum’s style and definitely not Dad’s, so I stuck with the bucket hat.

Mum’s uses some offcuts of fabric from a dress she made years ago and more of the white cotton sheet for the lining, and Dad’s uses the same denim I used on my bucket hat with a lovely soft red cotton plaid for the lining.

All the hats have used destashed or repurposed fabric, so I’m pretty chuffed about that. I’ve offered to make one for Paul, but I’ll have to enlarge the pattern. If I made it with the black denim in the stash it would be easy to tell which hat was his and which was mine, and I have a black and grey plaid shirt that would work for lining. Hmm.

Helping Hands

Recently I’ve been watching art demonstration videos on YouTube, starting with James Gurney, then various other artists. Inspired, I’ve been doing a bit of art at home and wishing I could go out and paint en plein air.

Many more portable easel options are available since I last looked, from expensive ponchard boxes to cheap DIY set ups that attach to tripods. I was particularly amused by a laptop conversion I saw, though I suspect it wouldn’t be a practical solution in the long run. I have a DIY ponchard box I made in 2010 and a plastic version I put together for our trip to Central Australia. They all rest on my knees, which means I need to sit down when painting. Having something fixed to an easel would be much more flexible.

I bought James Gurney’s video on his DIY sketching easel and as I watched it, I couldn’t help thinking all that wood looked heavy. Or at least, heavier than I was willing to carry. All the clips and magnets holding things to the boards made me wonder if the boards could be eliminated and the clips remain. A bit of searching later, I bought this:

It’s called ‘helping hands’, and is for soldering. I was worried that the arms would be too weak to hold a palette, diffuser and sketchbook/canvas board steady while I worked, but they’re impressively sturdy. It has a hole in the base for screwing it to a table, which Paul enlarged and created a thread that matches the quick-release plates on tripods. And that hollow in the centre is just right for a water container.

The next step was to gather the things the clips would hold. James uses pencil tins as palettes, and I didn’t manage to find one before the lockdown, so had to order a tin of pencils online, which took ages to arrive. The first diffuser I came up with used bamboo skewers and bendy straws for the frame and white plastic sheet for the fabric, but both double-sided and masking tape peeled off the plastic so I wound up sewing on some white poly-cotton instead. I wasn’t going to attempt to buy kite fabric from Spotlight as they’re slow getting orders out so with Aussie Post delays on top who knows when it would arrive. At the moment if something can’t be bought in a supermarket, chemist, baker, butcher or green grocer, I’ve got to either make it using bits and pieces around the house and garage, or just do without.

Once I had all the components lockdown had eased enough that I could leave the house for a ‘picnic’. Reluctant to go out on my own in case people approached me, I invited a friend to keep me company and shoo people away. She agreed and we set a date and time… and when the moment came it was waaaay too cold.

I had to begrudgingly acknowledge that all this waiting for the perfect conditions was silly, and I should just paint, darn it! I found a sketchbook challenge and put the easel aside. But then it turned out one of the themes did require a bit of outdoor work:

I’m pleased to say that my easel idea worked. I wound up swapping the front and middle sets of arms around so that the front ones weren’t in the way and the book was closer to me, which meant the water bottle had to sit on the palette, but that was fine. The least successful thing was the diffuser. It flaps around in the wind too much, which is a problem with the construction, not the arms holding it. I’d need a lighter tripod if I’m going to carry it far, too, and the IKEA kid’s paintbrushes are about as good as you’d expect.

Overall, a surprisingly successful, if rather whacky, DIY easel.

Sewing the Good Stash

All this stretch garment sewing began a few years ago when I bought two fabric remnants, a black jersey with flowers and a navy and white striped knit. The striped fabric was meant to be the test fabric for the leggings I was going to make from the floral.

A few years, various hesitations and much fabric and sewing machine buying later, I have finally sewn that floral fabric.

When the fabric arrived it proved to be a bit thin for leggings, so I figured I’d make a long-sleeved top or skivvy. Of course, laying out the pattern pieces required care to ensure I didn’t wind up with big flowers in unfortunate locations, but I managed it without too much fuss. However, what I found then was that even if I’d plonked the pieces down in the most space efficient way, I’d still wouldn’t have fit in both sleeves.

That left me with a choice. Either I have 3/4 length sleeves, which I hate, or cut outs at the shoulder. So I went with the latter.

Expecting disappointment, I have tried using the cover stitch machine again with varying results. Sewing two layers seems okay, but it wouldn’t stop dropping stitches when I attempted two layers either side of waistband elastic on a pair of leggings. After I’d exhausted the setting adjustment options in the manual, I tried pulling the thread out of the lefthand needle, which is the side that always fails, and just sewing with two, and you know what? It worked!

Obviously, it’s not okay for a brand new machine to not sew as it’s supposed to, but the internet tells me it’s a common problem and most likely operator error. Still, I will be checking the guarantee to see how long I have to work out the source of the problem.

Spring Inspiration Scarves

While weaving the chenille scarves, I got to thinking more about using up more old or unusual yarns in my stash. When I had searched for something to use up the white warp I had tried weaving some slubby white cotton, but decided an all white scarf didn’t appeal. Could I use up that yarn next? I wasn’t feeling energetic enough to dye the cotton, but what if I wove it with a coloured warp?

Looking at my collection of 8/2 cotton, I chose three that were around the same value. The combo looked very Spring to me. I also had two balls of slightly thicker slubby cotton in a teal, so I wound enough warp for two scarves.

I chose a draft in Strickler (#102) that produced flower shapes, reproduced it in Fibreworks ao I could play with colour placement, and altered it to eliminate a long float.

The white wove up really well:

The teal is okay. You have to look closely to see the flowers. But it is cushy and soft.

I have enough slubby cotton in another brand to weave several more scarves, but after joining the Guild’s weaving group Zoom meeting on weaving with handspun, I was inspired to do that instead. The two balls I picked are also some of the ‘oldest’ yarns in my stash, and the warp yarn was probably a few years old when I picked it up at a destash.

None of these old yarns are particularly ancient, mind. They’re just the oldest in my stash. But I wouldn’t want them to end up so ancient that whatever I made out of them wouldn’t last long, which is a good motivation to weave yarns I’ve been intimidated by or not sure what to do with.

Chenille Scarves

When the Venne scarves came off the loom I wasn’t sure what to weave next. I have a few linen projects I’d like to weave, but the heating here is very drying so I’m waiting until spring. I’m not ready to weave another rug yet. I also didn’t want to tackle anything mentally challenging when I was about to launch into the 8-shaft course.

Opening my stash spreadsheet, I looked at the oldest yarns there and found a few potential sparks of inspiration. Maybe I could weave up some of the small batches of interesting yarn I’d been procrastinating over for years. Taking out whatever appealed, I wound up with three batches of indigo blue and white yarn – clearly something about the colour was attracting me. I chose the chenille that was ikat dyed in one of Kay Faulkner’s workshops.

I’ve woven this yarn (undyed) into a scarf before, using it as both warp and weft on a rigid heddle loom. It was hard to beat and the warp was a twisty nightmare, and the scarf came out a little stiff. Then I tried dip dyeing in indigo later, didn’t like the look and dip dyed the white end… and hated the result.

A different approach was needed. I’d seen chenille woven as weft on a 8/2 cotton warp in a project before, so based the sett and structure on that. I chose a simple 4-shaft 2×2 point twill with a straight treadling on a blue warp, which was easy to warp and fast to weave. When the scarf came off the loom it had the perfect drape for such a cushy yarn.

However, I had only used up one of the two balls of chenille. I decided to weave another scarf using a white warp. But then I thought… just one scarf? Wouldn’t it be more economical to warp up for two scarves? But what to use for weft on that second scarf? I could try unweaving that stiff chenille and use the weft to make a new one. Or, if that didn’t work, there was plenty of white slubby cotton in my stash that I could weave – and perhaps dye.

The second chenille scarf is much busier, because the white weft makes the twill more obvious and breaks up the blue.

In the meantime, I tried to unweave the old chenille scarf. It turns out chenille locks in pretty determinedly when woven with itself. I abandoned the task went looking for another yarn to use, but something about the unwoven chenille, which had a speckle effect thanks to being tightly woven then overdyed, kept calling me back to the old scarf. So I gave unweaving another try and found if I trimmed off the warp every 2 cm it was not so laborious that I wasn’t prepared to do it, over a couple of days.

Turns out I was right. It did weave up nicely. This time I wove point twill, which gave it a kind of flowery feel. However, it barely wove up to a cowl length. I added a bit of denim at either end and buttons to make it easily removable.

Which left quite a bit of warp on the loom. Not enough for a scarf, possibly too little for a cowl, but too much to just cut off and ‘waste’. This was an opportunity to play, I decided. I then played around in Fibreworks until I had a pattern I liked, and decided to weave it in black.

I’m thinking maybe fabric for a small bag.

Ribs & Shadows

Once the rosepath warp was off the Lotas, it was time to plan a new project. Two, actually, because I’d decided I wouldn’t keep rethreading and sampling blended drafts on the Jane loom, which needed to be free in time for the start of the 8-shaft certificate course. Though that was two months away, I didn’t want to risk that a distraction, back flare up or something else stop me from weaving off the sampler warp.

What to weave? Something not too challenging, I decided. The latest Heddlecraft theme is ribs, which reminded me of one of the sampler I wove of half the first chapter of the Strickler book. Two of the twills formed ribs and a slightly stretchy fabric, which I’ve always wanted to use in a project. Going back to the source, there’s a note with the draft saying that it was used as a kind of knitted rib substitute. I decided to weave a simple ribbed scarf with the rest of the sampler warp, which only required rethreading the loom in a straight twill. Then I chose purple and aqua-blue weft yarns and started playing.

It’s easy to weave and you can see the ribs forming in the plain white section. You can also see my beat has been a bit variable. We had our covid shots a few days before, and my body did not react well.

For the Lotus, not wanting to tackle anything too challenging steered me toward weaving a Venne kit. I’ve woven shadow weave before, but I haven’t woven a kit. This one makes two scarves. I’m planning to do the first in the treadling provided then a variation for the second.

I replicated both drafts in Fiberworks so I could print at a bigger size, and play with shadow weave drafts. Once I’d threaded the shadow weave scarves I found I’m going to have to wait until the faux rib scarf is done to have two free shuttles for it. That’s fine. After all, I can only weave on one loom at a time!

StaSHHHH!

There are a couple of posts I usually compile at the turn of the year. There’s the yearly summary, the list of books I’ve read, and the stash flash. It’s a bit early for any of these, but I’ve just examined my yarn stash so I thought I might do that post now.

The latter was inspired partly by a friend’s efforts at clearing the estate of a crafter. It’s an overwhelming job even though the deceased’s husband is still in the house so it’s not a full clear-out. The woman must have had no financial limit to the money she could spend on her hobbies, and the belief she would live forever. Yesterday I looked through a box of of beads, all of one size, that together would have cost over $500 to buy new. Most of the bags were bulk size and unopened. And that’s just one box of many. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn the deceased had run a craft shop that closed and she kept the remaining stock, by the sheer scale of what she owned.

It’s had my friend and I thinking about craft and hoarding. I don’t feel bad for the woman for having so much stuff. I hope it brought her joy. But I don’t want to be like her. So my thoughts turned to my stash. Especially to the yarn I picked up at destash sales in the last few years. Most of which is knitting yarn.

Knitting yarn? What was I thinking?

Well, I can answer that too easily. I wanted yarn for my new circular knitting machines. I was also thinking that I could use it on the Bond, or weave with it, and it would be good for teaching rigid heddle weaving. I was thinking that they don’t make yarn like they used to and non-machine washable yarn is getting harder to find. I was thinking that brown may be out of fashion but I like it. I was thinking ‘Oooh! Purty! Soooft!’.

For each and every batch of yarn I bought I could see pictures in my head of what it could become. I still do. It was all entered into my stash spreadsheet, carefully categorised. It all became part of my impossibly long project to-do list.

It’s comforting, though, knowing that if I can’t go out and buy yarn there is enough in my stash to keep me busy. Whenever I thought about it realistically, I had to admit it was unlikely that I’d ever be in that situation. Then this year happened.

But isolation hasn’t validated this reason for having a stash. There was still mail order, even if it was slow unless you paid for express post. Did I use stash instead of buying more yarn? No. I bought more yarn. For workshops. (I have no regrets. I learned so much!)

The other reason I looked at my stash was to consider what to make next. I’m thinking of maybe taking a break from weaving by setting up the Bond and machine knitting a garment or two. Or picking an easy project I can weave when I’m not feeling alert enough for the Echo sampler on the Jane. Rugs. Throws. Scarves. Fast, gratifying weaving that will use up some of the knitting yarns I probably shouldn’t have bought.

What I wound up with was a list of projects I could make, with notes on whether I’d keep or gift the item or learn something from making it. Then I culled the stash based on that, with 2 1/2 kilos of yarn going out. It’s in a giant bag with some of the yarn I culled last time, mid-year, but couldn’t find homes for most of it because of lockdown.

Familiar Weave, Old Yarn

Doubleweave is the subject of the current weaving class sampler. I love doubleweave. I’ve been weaving it about as long as I’ve used twills.

In our class project we chose a combination of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ colours for the warp, so the top and bottom layers will be more visible. Having established that most of my Bendigo Classic 3ply was a decade or more old and should be used up, I was pleased when it was one of the suggested yarns. I wasn’t so pleased when one turned out to be thinner than the rest, however. I doubled it up with a fine yarn only to find it, and the thin 3ply, had breaks in it and, on closer inspection, were moth eaten. I had no other light 3ply. So instead of having one layer of mid-dark coloured yarns and the other all light naturals, I had to add dark brown. I figured that meant my laters were ‘dark colours’ and ‘naturals’.

After doing the class samplers, I started exploring further. I wanted to try pick-up, so I researched the structure and made myself a picture to weave.

Well, in my defence, a TARDIS has a lot of straight lines. Only the words have curves and by the time I got to them I had a good grasp of the method and the confidence to tackle them.

What next? Well, stitched doubleweave seemed like it might be similar to pick-up. All the information I’d found on it was for eight shafts drafts and I was restricting myself to four, but by using the pick-up method I’d just learned, I was able to get a passable stuffed stitched doubleweave. Then I moved on to try interlocking doubleweave, double-faced twill and colour and weave.

Then I ran out of warp, and wound another ready to try doubleweave blocks. I wove check, colour and weave and tubular log cabin. Then I started playing, doing alternating bands of floats, hopsack, interlocking doubleweave and double-faced twill, and finally wove a net of warp and weft floats with plain weave between and filled the ‘pocket’ with a fabric strip.

Finally I rethreaded the warp with a doubleweave overshot pattern.

“Stop weaving and play with me!”

By this point I’d well and truly exhausted my options and energy for doubleweave. I decided it was time to turn my mind to other projects, both weaving and not. The pantry was looking like it needed a clean and reorganising, for a start…

Use it or Lose it

Having gone through my stash spreadsheet to note the yarns that were more than ten years old or were bought second hand, I figured I should examine them in person before deciding whether to use or cull them.

First I said ‘hello’ to a few cones of 16/2 cotton bought new in 2008. We’d been reacquainted recently for Mum’s tea towels and the Little Puffy Clouds fabric. I see myself using them. They can stay.

Next I surveyed the cottons and muttered “What’s with all the yarn for baby blankets?” Most of my friends are way beyond having babies, and while I could sell blankets through the guild I have more exciting things to weave. I’ve adopted waaaay too many possible baby blanket yarns at destashes and op shops, and even new last year. Most of it will be culled.

I have a multitude of cone yarns bought second hand. Most are worth keeping, but I found two small ones of cabled yarns, which is puzzling, since they just don’t play nicely as warp (unravelling fringes) or weft (hard to deal with the ends tidily) have got to go. Don’t know what I was thinking the day I picked up those. Out they go.

Discovering that most of my Bendy Classic 3ply is from 2007 or 2008 was a surprise. It’s a staple weaving yarn, and would only take a couple of projects would use it up. Possibly in the next weaving course samplers.

As I beheld the sock yarn stash, I heaved a melancholy sigh. Most are nine years old. I SO loved knitting socks before rsi came along. I keep telling myself I’ll get the Passap knitting machine going again and remind myself how to knit socks on it… when I don’t have more exciting things to weave. Still, it does make nice scarves so I’ll be keeping most of it, though I do wonder if I’ll ever get around to dyeing that 1 kg batch of sock blank.

Next ‘Hmm’ moment was the mystery yarn for weaving a collapse weave shawl that was supposed to be super stretchy, but isn’t. I think it’s just lace weight. I don’t know if it’s wool or not, so it’s going in the cull pile.

The big batch of Bendigo Luxury 3ply in navy is nine years old. I was going to make a cardigan on the Passap. Really, if I’m not getting around to making socks it’s even less likely I’ll tackle a cardigan. But it is nice yarn and a shawl I spotted in a book the other night has given me an idea.

To the old, slightly very dark brown bulky wool I said “Maybe your role in life is to be rug yarn”. Out of one stash and into another, then.

Uncertainty kicked in when I got to the knitting yarns. I went through them twice. They all whisper ideas for Bond machine knitting, some even have printed patterns with them. I do like to use the Bond, and I might need something other than weaving to do soon, as the loom room is going to be emptied and painted soon.

But the mustard-coloured 8ply should probably go, as it’s so not my colour. I could dye it, though. Well, it’ll be a while until I can find homes for the yarn, so it can sit with the culled yarns and if I get interested in dyeing I’ll sling it in a pot and see what happens.

Post-cull, the stash is 3 1/2 kilos lighter, and a little less deluded, indulgent and potentially decrepit. I only wish it was that easy for me!