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.

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.

Correction. Redirection.

So it’s not Sacroiliac joint inflammation. The MRI found no indication of it. However, it found two large Tarlov cysts and one small one, with the latter squished into the channel where nerves for the right leg pass through the sacrum.

I’ve had these appear in MRIs before – one six years ago on the right side of my pelvis that wasn’t in a bad place and is now gone, and more recently at least one in my neck. Where the new ones are positioned does explain the pain and other symptoms. If they are the cause, then I have Symptomatic Tarlov Cyst Disease, which sucks because it’s rare and very hard to treat.

I’d rather have bursitis or SIJ. STCD is not well understood and because asymptomatic cysts are fairly common, it’s often dismissed. I thought I’d had a big enough serve of ‘debilitating’, ‘unrecognised’ and ‘no cure’ back when I had chronic fatigue syndrome twenty years ago.

But I did mostly recover from CFS, and the cyst I had six years ago was bigger and is now gone, so these might eventually resolve too. Hopefully without causing permanent nerve damage and bone degeneration…

Anyway…

I haven’t had much I can post about weaving lately, but it’s not for lack of weaving. In fact, I was overwhelmed with weaving for a while there. It’s just that half of it is 8-shaft weaving course work and I decided when I started in July that I wouldn’t fill up the blog with samplers. However, I’ve recently found that having post of the 4-shaft course samplers easily accessible online can be very handy, so I’m planning to do an overview post of the course so far.

The other weaving is gift weaving, and I wasn’t going to risk the recipients would see anything before they received their items. Which was silly, because they know what they’re getting. However, I’m not going to have either gift done in time now. I had a neck flare up yesterday that forced me to sit in an armchair all day. The pelvis and leg pain is a bit better today, so it looks like resting rather than keeping moving is what works for me.

That means leaving the first gift unfinished on the Lotas. The Jane loom is almost wide enough for the second gift, which I could reduce to fit. However, I don’t think I’d get it done in time for the doubleweave sampler. I’m planning to install the supplementary warp beam I bought a year ago for that. I can’t do that sampler on the Katie, and the Katie is too narrow for the gift, so the gifts will have to wait. Fortunately the recipients are kind and understanding people who won’t mind waiting.

Other weaving-related projects are beckoning, too. I’ve bought plans and materials to make a horizontal warping mill, and once the supplementary warp beam is on the Jane I will need to adapt the trolley-bag I made for it.

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.

Pinwheels Scarf

Some while back when I had a backlog of posts to publish I decided not to post about the 8-shaft weaving certificate course samplers. I am having fun and learning heaps, and maybe at some point I’ll do a catch-up post.

I’m also toying with the idea of weaving an item in some, if not all, of the structures we explore. The first was twill, which I’ve woven plenty of times but I’ve never made anything that utilised a tabby binder. At the last Guild meeting of weavers on Zoom the subject discussed was weaving with handspun. Some of the oldest yarns in my stash are handspun, and I’ve been wanting to use up older yarn. Somehow the three ideas – twill, handspun and using older yarn – came together, and after the usual planning I got stuck into winding the warp for two scarves using a corkscrew twill in Strickler that looks a bit like tyre treads.

Before I could get that on the Lotas, however, I needed the loom for a class sampler. The colour-and-weave sampler was meant to be done in the Guild on one of their floor looms, but since we’re in lockdown and I have the same type of floor loom, I offered to be ‘one less student to worry about’ and do it at home.

The sampler was meant to be 50cm long, and since the loom waste is 50cm, it made economical sense to increase the length to the warp and make a scarf. Though I tried a whole lot of fun varieties of colour-and-weave and designed my own, none jumped out and said “do me for the scarf”. It was a project for pinwheel towels in Handwoven I found while researching colour-and-weave that caught my attention. I decided my scarf would be made up of 20cm sections of all eight pinwheel versions – or seven if I didn’t have enough warp.

It turned out to be quite addictive and fast to weave, but I had to make myself not weave the entire thing in one sitting and cause a back flare-up. As I suspected, I only had enough warp for seven of the pinwheel designs, but that’s fine. Odd numbers often look better than even, anyway.

One of my favourites for the year, I reckon.

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.

Dyeing to Start

The eight shaft certificate weaving course has begun! Woohoo! The schedule needed to adapt to lockdown, but thanks to Zoom and our adaptable teacher and her assistant, it got underway without a hitch.

The Guild provides yarn for the course, but we couldn’t go there to pick it up. Last year, in anticipation of this course, I bought a range of the yarn we mostly used in the 4-shaft course – Bendigo 3ply classic – but for the first sampler we used the 2ply version, and I only have two colours of that yarn: natural (which I used for the warp) and a red. One weft colour wasn’t going to offer much exciting experimentation, so I dyed ten bobbin’s worth of the natural.

In my limited supply of dye I had the purply blue on the right, red and yellow. Overdying gave me the colours between. I was hoping for a brown using all three, but got dark burgundy-purple shades.

Still, I love how they turn out. Overdyeing creates more harmonious colour schemes. I’d dye more often if I wasn’t too lazy for the set up and clean up.