Thursday, 28 August 2008

There's nothing like finality to make one's day.

I finally got around to finishing off the babys blankets last night.

Considering they've been sitting around in the torture room for long enough for me to warp up and weave an entire 4m warp of tea towels and associated samples and to start warping up the blanket (of which more another time), it's scandalous that I couldn't find the leisure to cut up and sew the fabric. There's nothing like a dealine however. Another colleague has her last day of work tomorrow before going on maternity leave, so last night and the night before I cut apart and hemmed all four blankets (making five in total that I got from the warp). I brought them in to work this morning, and I've already managed to give two of them away. The recipients are delighted.

Here are three of them, stacked in my office.

After much internal debate, I chose to give these a simple plain hem. I'd considered trying to edge these with ribbon, or trying an invisible hem on them, but the intention is for these to be robust working items, and I wanted them to be as simple and sturdy as possible. There's no way these are coming apart. I'm pleased with them, especially as they've turned out so soft: and they'll only get softer with time.

They come with their own special care instructions.

I have a giant willow tree in my backyard!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Ooh, expensive!

I've done it. I've just contacted Glimakra in Sweden, and asked them to ship me a sectional warp beam, tension box and a second back beam.

The scary thing is, because I bought my loom second-hand, I'll be spending more on those three items combined than I paid for the loom in the first place! It's so going to be worth it though. I spent the weekend trying to beam a sticky wool blanket warp, with the normal wooly snarls - despite using best warping practice. I debated whether the money would be better put towards a second loom (I do lust after a dobby), but I do intend keeping the Glimakra and I may as well have it so that I can play with some of the more complex weaves I want to play with, such as ikat and varying weave structures across a warp.

I can't wait to play with these new toys. I consider this my winter treat.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

About turn on the loom

So I'm a sucker for punishment. Even with a bad back, I couldn't resist crawling under the loom and tieing up the new project. I wanted to get going on it because I was excited about the draft I wanted to try. So I tied-up slowly, with lots of rests - but I ended up doing it not once, but twice.

Once I had the pedals tied, I started with a sample. And I hated it.

I was already out of my comfort zone with these colours, because I don't really do pastels, and this was just coarse. Garish. Ugly, in a really bad '50s way. So I tried some other colours. In the image above, from bottom to top: scrap cotton in grey, the sandy yellow 8/2 cotton I'd thought to sue for the warp, brown 8/2, and a natural 10/2 cottolin. The cottolin was better than the others, but I still wasn't happy. Worse, the fabric was going to be totally impractical for a tea-towel. Clearly this needed a draft which gave a more even balance between the warp and weft. And with a sore upper back, I really did not want to completely rethread the loom. So off to the computer.

I still don't own any drafting software, although I've been trying several with an eye to purchase (I'm leaning towards Fibreworks at the moment, but I'd appreciate recommendations). So I downloaded the demo of Pixeloom, put the threading in and started to think about alternate tie-ups and treadlings. The solution I came up with was a twist on a tie-up for "Betsy Ross towels", from a 1918 weaving book given to me by a friend, who'd inherited it from her grandmother. As this was a 4-shaft draft, I'd have to spend minimal time under the loom, re-tieing. Then I played with treadlings until I found a pleasing draft.

Next problem: what to use for the weft now? Why not try the sandy yellow again? So I did.

What a difference! From clunky and ugly with colours not working together to light, lacy and pleasing. The two colours go together really well. As the green is dyed with three different, close shades, and the yellow is dyed with two slightly different shades, the slight variegations in colour are pleasing to the eye. This is going to turn into something that's a light teatowel rather than a robust dishcloth, but I'm so pleased with the effect, I think I'm going to tie the green silk on to the loom as soon as I've done this and make the green-and-yellow scarf with this draft.

Alternate activities

So much for the idea of a long weekend's weaving. I'd planned to take Friday off and weave all weekend: but I took a chill in my upper back early in the week. As someone who's had a lot of injuries to the neck and shoulders, a chill in that spot can be quite bad. So I took Thursday off sick (feeling a total fraud because I'm perfectly healthy, just stiff) and lay down a lot. Couldn't use the computer, couldn't garden, couldn't weave because I was at the tie-up stage. So I read. A lot. Fortunately, I had a book delivery that morning with a couple of novels and the Interweave Compendium of Finishes, and the latest issue of Handwoven arrived in the mail that morning as well. I also took the time to reacquaint myself and read properly Anne Heche's exqisite book The Art of the Loom, and read in more detail Janet Phillip's Designing Woven Fabrics, which continues to tantalise and tempt me, despite the fact that I've not had the chance to try anything out of it yet. This was all made much more pleasant by the fact that the weather was nice, and the discovery that lying in a deck chair in the back yard was a comfortable as lying in bed. At least, once I got the deck chair out of the garden shed - we're buried under bikes at the moment (we cycle. A lot.), and it was behind one.

However there's only so much one can read in one go, and not being able to work with my hands was driving me nuts. But did you know you can knit while half-reclined? I almost never knit. I'm not very good at it, and it's something I don't enoy as much as spinning and weaving. But I wanted to make something for young Benjamin, the recipient of the very first of the babys blankets, who chose to make his way into the world on Tuesday afternoon. And so:

This is made of handspun white 22-micron merino, and a navy blue merino-flax blend, plied with a thin strand of spun silk cap (the white flecks in the blue). I spun the blue yarn years ago (Celia, this is the roving you and I shared!), and this was the last of it, after I had already made two beanies from it.

I made an adult-size beanie, because this is a 2k, 2p rib, which pulls in a lot. I figured I may as well make something Ben can grow into and keep, rather than a tiny baby thing - especially as he's already a big boy. This is actually round, by the way - it's only square at the top because at the moment it's keeping the back of my spinning chair warm!

And then I went on to spend way too much time tieing up the loom because I'm a sucker for punishment, but that's another post...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Warping up

I beamed the next project last weekend. This is the green cotton for the teatowels for the teatowel exchange. The yellow cotton on the swift in the background is what I plan to use for the weft.


I did everything wrong while beaming this warp. I beamed it back-to-front, but did it while half asleep and not paying attention. And I didn't seal the threads into the raddle. So the threads went all over the place, I had to figure out where they ought to be and move packets of thread at random in order to get the warp spread at roughly the right location and width on the beam. What I really should have done was give up and rewind the warp, but I chose to persist and see what the outcome was.

What I did right was to proceed calmly and with confidence. None of the stress and worry that I used to have when beaming a warp. And I remembered a lot of things that I have learned from Peggy Osterkamp's book: I weighted the warp in two bouts in the front of the loom, beamed slowly, and shook and bounced the warp to clear that tangles my rough handling at the raddling atage had caused. And the warp went on relatively smoothly. I threaded the heddles up, sleyed the reed and laced the warp packets on. You can see in the above image just how un-smoothly the warp went on, by seeing how uneven the ends of the packets are.

I've not tightened this yet, the threads are still sitting there loosely. I'll tighten the tension tonight and if it all looks OK, I'll weave off a sample as an experiment to see how well I can deal with a poor warp. I'm approaching this with interest and excitment, rather than the tension and half-dread I used to have when approaching a difficult warp (even one of my own making!).

This experience has, however, crystallised a desire I've had for some time. I've always wanted a sectional back beam, and two days ago I put in an enquiry about ordering one.

As an added bonus picture, here's a photo of the cotton on the loom, with the silk on top. The silk was dyed with the same set of dyes as the cotton, and the difference in colour take-up is fascinating. The yellow silk cap will be woven to be a weft into the green silk's warp, to make two scarves.


The rest of the babys blankets

Just to give you an idea of how much six metres of fabric adds up to....

Photobucket Photobucket


Thank goodness I have the lovely new clothesline!

This is now sitting in a folded lump on my work table, because we had visitors last week. I need to cut them up and hem at least one of them this coming weekend, because next week is the deadline for handing the first of them out.


Hmm....need to figure out what to do about gift boxes.