Tuesday, 30 September 2008


(Please excuse the crappy image quality, I took this with my camera phone just as I was about to leave for work.)

I sewed the first of the two seams together last night. On the right is the third panel of fabric, just sitting on the blanket, on the left is the seam I sewed, which hasnot yet been pressed. It took me hours to sew 2.5 m of "invisible" seam by hand (I'll never make the seam truly invisible in a fabric as highly patterned as this). I was very careful to ensure that the patterns of the braided twill matched up across the seam, even in places where the beat wasn't precisely even. I finished right on bedtime, so decided to leave it until tomorrow to do the next one. And then I had a flap.

My partner has a 30 kg luggage allowance for the flight into the base, and this blanket is going to weigh several kilos. It was much too late in the year to ship it down, and the ship won't get in for a full six weeks after he gets there anyway. The blanket has to be large enough to wrap around a full-sized, 6'1" male and not fall off the side of a single bunk. Conversely, it's going over a single bunk and has to be carried down - so I don't want it too large.

The first two panels together just covered the top of my small, antique double bed. Was that the place to stop, considering I haven't washed this yet so shrinkage has to be considered? I slept on it.

With a fresh mind this morning, I pulled out the tape measure. Each panel, 33" in the reed, has come down to 30" wide off the loom. I cut them to 2.6 m (110") long, considering the sheer height of said recipient. A typical single blanket measures 66 x 90" and a double 80 x 90". Three panels, sewn together and hemmed, will measure 90 x 100ish", before washing, with an estimated 10% shrinkage based on the samples.

So I'll be sewing that second seam tonight.

The good news? 8.5 m of fabric, and not one dropped or broken thread, missed warp or other error. Despite the tangles getting this warp on the loom, the tension remained even through the whole weaving. Also, I'm also very pleased with the way the variegations in colour have been carrying across the seams.

Monday, 29 September 2008

I finished the fabric for the blanket yesterday, and solved a mystery.

When I bought my loom, it came with a couple of wooden blocks to fit a beam on. The then current owner wasn't sure what they were for, although later I found some holes in the loom for the blocks. They were to allow the cloth beam to be moved forward. I wasn't sure why someone would want to do that, unless they were weaving something really bulky. Yesterday, with 9 metres of blanket fabric on the loom, I noticed this:

The fabic is actually pushing the lower lamms out of the way. Mystery solved. If I decide to make another blanket, or particularly when I get around to making the long-planned hall runner project, moving the cloth beam forward would be a desirable thing. Clearly Glimakra Ideals were not designed with lots of bulky cloth on the cloth beam in mind.

I'm so pleased I got a move on with the blanket the other weekend, because late last week my partner was told that he was going to have to go in a month early. He leaves in less than two weeks, for six months south. I'm determined that this blanket is going with him, and that finishing it won't cut into our time together. So I wove and wove and finished all of the fabric this weekend, and made a bit of a start on the joining last night. That really means I only have another couple of evenings to do the finishing.

Tonight: sewing the panels of the blanket together. Hopefully the hems tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A windfall, and a tribute

These two boxes arrived in the mail a day or two ago, and I spent a half-hour or so last night unpacking and sorting them. There is 10kg of yarn there (foot-long metal ruler for scale). I won them as a job lot on Ebay, for what was a criminally small amount of money considering the contents - there's a great deal of 60/2 and 140/2 silk in there, and the one cone of orange 60/2 silk on top repays almost half of what I paid on its own.

It's clear from the rest of the listings that this was a man who was clearing out a lady's (I'm going to presume his mother's) weaving room, because for whatever reason she was unable to use it any longer. I asked no questions of course, that would be unduly familiar. But the contents of the box....there are some real treasures in there. There's a good kilo or so of natural-coloured 60/2 silk, half a kilo of 140/2 silk, a lot of tail ends of dyed silk left over from projects which will undoubtedly make an interesting rainbow project at some time. A bit of tussah silk, silk noil, 60/2 cotton, mohair, wool boucle...the list goes on. There's quite a bit of monofilament which suggests the lady did shibori, and it may or may not be the dissolving variety. Various other adventurous yarns. I was so inspired just by unpacking all of this, imagining what she would have done with it, and impressed by the sheer variety of projects they suggested and obvious skill she possessed.

So, Mrs Ashley, wherever you are: you were clearly an accomplished weaver of superior talent. I'm inspired by your skill, and truly appreciate the treasure I've inherited from you.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Coming along...

Five metres done, and a weekend to myself coming up so I ought to possibly even finish the weaving this weekend. I'm reluectant to say so with so much to go, but it's all gone remarkably smoothly so far - especially considering that the warp is somewhat sticky. I'm pleased with the way it's turning out so far - the colours make it look quite antique.

No chance I'm going to get any more done this week though - the old "busy job" phenomenon.

Monday, 15 September 2008

There's nothing like finality, part 2.

I finally got around to hanging an art piece that's been ready to go on my wall for months. This started life as a sample scarf, using an overshot draft to weave hand-dyed and hand-spun silk cap into 60/2 silk. I'd wanted to see what difference 60/2 silk would make compared to the 20nm-ish rayon I'd been using (I know it sounds a travesty to weave silk cap into rayon, but I have a lot of it and it gives such a lovely hand). The answer was that while one silk cap was more than enough for a scarf woven into the rayon, the increased number of ppi allowed by the 60/2 silk meant that this "scarf", at 1.2m long (if I recall correctly), was just a little too short to be a proper scarf. You could wear it as a scarf, but being much shorter than my preferred 1.8m it wasn't going to feel right. It was still a lovely piece however, so I decided that it ought to be the first piece I've made, to go on my wall. So I sewed it around a dowel and it's stayed dangling from the mantle of the fireplace for ages, because the hacksaw is hidden somewhere in a very full tool shed that I didn't organise. Far too full for me to want to rummage through, looking for one.

It was a stunningly beautiful autumn day yesterday so I spent the day working in the garden. Because he had the saw out, my partner offered to cut the dowel for the scarf. So when I came inside, I found this lovely little scroll sitting on the loom:

From there, hanging it was as simple as tying some invisible sewing thread around the dowel and draping it over the doorbell chime so the scarf appears to be hanging in mid-air. No need for even so much as a nail. This is now hanging on the patch of wall that faces the front door. It's now going to be the first thing that greets anyone who enters the house.

Job done. Now it just needs a really good press...but that's a job for another time.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Blanket making

My partner has asked me to make him a blanket for his field season. That is what the wool dyeing in my previous post is for.

The warp for this blanket is a creamy-beige wool of unknown provenance, which I picked up on Ebay. I've made a 9m warp, 33 inches wide, sleyed at 16epi. For the weft, I've dyed a whole pile of sport-weight bluefaced leicester wool, to a soft coral-brick-red colour with a few slightly darker patches. I'd originally planned to make this blanket using krokbragd, but my partner saw and fell in love with a braided twill draft. Braided twill is something I've long wanted to use to make something, so I was keen to play!

Obviously a job this big is something you want to sample. So I spent last weekend finishing the threading and sleying, tensioned the warp, and started weaving a sample.

Braided twill is such a pretty draft. It looks much more complex than it is - but it's a lovely, robust weave structure for a blanket.

In sampling, I found a threading error. It's rare for me to make a threading error. I'm quite careful in threading, pulling only enough heddles and ends for each block of the threading plan. In this case, I'd put one end on shaft three when it ought to have been on shaft two. As this was just a sample, I decided to continue weaving and correct the error when I cut the sample off. In the meantime, to mark it I tied a scrap of wool around the offending warp thread.

Once the sample was cut off, I cut it into three equally-sized pieces. I kept one off the loom for control (the bottom piece of cloth, with the yellow header attached in the below photo), handwashed one (the topmost piece of cloth), and tossed the third into the washing machine at 40C with the rest of my laundry (that's the one in the centre of the image, with the beige face to the camera). I estimate that there was roughly 5% shrinkage on the hadnwashed sample, and about 10% shrinkage on the machine washed sample. The wool fulled nicely and felted only slightly, which is a result - the blanket can be machine washed! That's very important when you're on base. The last thing you want to do is to hand-wash a heavy woolen blanket.

You can see that there's a treadling error in there that I also deliberately ignored, as this was just for the sample. The treadling for this draft is nice and rhythmic. 1-odd number-2-even number-1-odd number, with the odd numbers and even numbers going from 3 up to 9 and back to 4. It makes for a good rhythm, so long as you remember where you are!

I've not done much on this during the week this week, as it's been a very busy week (both daytime and evening social obligations) work-wise as everyone passes through on their way into the field season. But that's OK, I have 5-6 weeks in which to make this blanket. So I decided to work on the next project on Sunday and Monday evenings instead. The next project will be a cople of silk scarves and I want to try to make the first a collapse structure, so I've been overspinning some dyed silk cap I'd already spun. I accomplish this by setting my spinning wheel to the appropriate tension, having the spun silk cap to hand on a lazy kate, and simlpy letting the yarn take a right-angle around my finger to control the rate of take-up and twist. Otherwise my feet are doing the rest of the work: if the spinning wheel is set up to the correct tension, the yarn will be pulled off the bobbin at the correct rate to add spin. Very little thought is required, beyond periodically checking to ensure the correct amount of overtwist is being added.

All of which makes it the ideal occupation to do while sitting on the couch in front of BBC's The Planets, sipping a glass of red wine! It can be a relaxing hobby....

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


I had fun dying three kilos of Blue-faced Leicester wool a few weeks ago:

I was even given a fabulous old laundry copper to do it in! (It's just a pity I was unkempt from having spent all day in the garden while the photos were being taken!) The colours made me very happy as they swirled around in the pot:

The general idea was to end up with a slightly faded, orangey, salmony brick-red colour, with the occasional darker spot. I think I managed that.

These are destined to become the blanket for my partner. This blanket has evolved somewhat from the original idea of Krokbragd, as he saw and fell in love with a braided twill draft. I've wound warp on (that's the beige wool warp in the previous post), sampled it and am now roughly two feet into the blanket fabric. I'll post about that another time.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Sometimes the most unusual household objects come in handy when weaving. What you see here is an Aboriginal artwork, a carved and decorated branch in the shape of a goanna. I brought him with me when I moved and he lives in my studio. My most recent draft (a braided twill) is very heavy on using shafts one and two, so I had to move some heddles around. The little goanna's wooden legs made him the best thing ever to take the weight off the shafts while the moving operation was underway!