Friday, 19 December 2008

This weekend I will be mostly...

...figuring out which weft will go into this next warp...and then doing something about it:

As part of the windfall I received from the wonderful weaver's stash, there were a lot of short ends of dyed 60/2 silk, obviously left over from various projects. They were in a veritable rainbow of mostly soft pastelly colours. Weighed, I found there were between 1g and 14 grams on each of the cones.

The shortest cone (0.5g) was 8.5 m. So I thought that they would be great, combined and blended into a multicolour warp. For this first experiment I chose the peach, pink and softer purples above, with the odd strand of darker purple, blue and one of hot pink for emphasis. The result was the warp you see above.

I beamed this at 60 epi, so I've now gone from 8epi to 16epi to 60epi with the sectional beam. I was starting to make plans to wind 60 short lengths of silk onto 60 cones for every one of 10 inch-wide sections when I realised that meant I'd spend all day winding 600 cones, and then winding them on to the beam 60 at a time. Crazy. It was also a recipe for tangles and madness. But I thought, if you can make multiple passes of a warp with a paddle when winding a warp, why shouldn't that work for sectional beaming as well? So when winding the cones for the warp, I wound 10 cones for each section, with 6 threads at a time on each, and I wound enough for 3 sections at a time onto each cone. That cut down the work involved considerably, and also allowed for gradual changes in colour as one colour of silk ran out and was replaced by another. A good way to use up various complentary ends of projects. Next time I use this approach, I may not wind the three ends of each set side-by-side. I'll spread them out, making the spread of colour more random.

There's 6.8 m of warp on the loom, which gives me enough for three scarves.

Next, as this is a seat-of-the-pants project - what threading, and which wefts? I'm going to thread this in a straight threading this afternoon, and the first scarf will be a two-shuttle undulating twill, in the mauve 60/2 skein of silk sitting on the centre of the warp, and the handspun, variegated silk cap, which is in pinks and mauves. I'll probably do a second in a twill pattern with a pale grey 60/2 silk weft, and the third in perhaps a series of paler pinks - we'll see.

If this is a success, I intend repeating the experiment with the pastel blue and green random ends. I also intend pulling out the knitting machine I bought but haven't really found the time to play with, and learn how to use it while making a simple v-neck top in faux mohair.

For some reason, the internet connection at home does not allow me to log in, which means I'm unable to make posts from home. As I've earned some time off, I finish work at lunchtime today and don't even think about work again for a fortnight. That means no posts from me until next year. I'll have almost two full weeks at home to play with my hobbies, barring a few days in Brussels with some family for Xmas (I'm joining an Australian in Brussels for a Danish Christmas, as you do) and a day in London with a friend to see an Annie Leibowitz exhibition. Best of the season, and warm wishes to all.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Daring to weave with handspun

I made some lovely hand-spun and dyed silk cap and merino yarn, years ago. I thought it was pretty, but could never decide what to do with it. I knitted some of it into a babys beanie for a friend, but the rest sat there, waiting for inspiration. I wanted to weave with it, but didn't dare try to use it for a warp and didn't want to make a project using it in the weft.

Over the last few months, the idea of using this in the warp has been germinating. I've seen several examples where people have used handspun in the warp, so I decided to risk it. After all, if I can weave with delicate threads like 10/1 linen, surely plied handspun can't be too much more delicate?

The other thing that's been inspiring me is a discussion Meg initiated on layers. It's been playing in the back of my head. I'm endlessly fascinated by the different ways that cloth can interact, and have been mentally toying more and more with the idea of upping the level of complexity in my weaving.

And so, onto the loom went a warp of the silk and merino handspun. Olive green merino plied with itself on the borders, the same merino plied with the space-dyed silk cap inthe centre.

I didn't really want a twill, and I wanted to play down the barber-stripe effect from the plying, so for the weft, I chose more space-dyed and spun silk cap, in slightly different but complementary colours in similar hue. For the record, I chose the brown-and-green silk cap in the second photo in this post.

The project was starting to call itself "Moss on oak", so I created a draft which suggested the rough texture of bark.

I threaded the heddles in a crackle threading, but wove a twill tie-up and treadling. The end result is a mostly almost-plain-weave fabric, with thin lines of undulating twill which roughen the texture to the eye but soften it to the feel.

I beat lightly to allow the wexture of the facric to be slightly open on the loom, although this was much less evident after fulling. I surprised myself by having only one warp breakage during the weaving, on a particularly thing piece of merino. The slightly slubby nature of the handspun silk, along with the twill lines, is even more suggestive of the northern side of a tree trunk:

The fabric itself is soft and fine yet plush; light yet very warm. The piece is complex enough to find something new every time you look at it. Overall, I think this is the best scarf I've made yet. However as it contains the first silk cap I ever spun, I think it has to become mine!

More dishtowels

While making the warp for the 'Autumn leaves' dishtowel for the festive towel exchange, I naturally beamed enough warp for five towels. These were woven qutie quickly, but it was only a couple of evenings ago that I got around to hemming them.

After making one towel in honeycomb for the FTE, I wove a second towel in honeycomb and then started casting around for other ways I could use a honeycomb threading to make different, interesting towels. Lo, I found an article in the Best of Handweavers' "Fabrics that go bump", showing three different towels on a honeycomb threading. So I tried them out. These are the results:

From top to bottom, star pattern woven in check, honeycomb woven in mostly brown with green and cream stripes at each end, and two towels in a 'circle' structure, woven in sage green. I enjoyed playing with these structures, and particularly like the circle-structure towels. I suspect I'll give one as a gift and keep the other for myself.

Interestingly, I've found a similar experience to that of Connie Rose. For all that I've had fun making these interesting structures, the thing that pleased me the mose about these towels was the hem of plain weave at each end of the star towels. It was so much crisper and more delicate than the more textured structures. I kept coming back to fondle it.

There truly is something inherently satisfying about plain weave, well executed.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

They're here!

I may be the first person lucky enough to have received towels from the Festive towel exchange. These are Huck lace towels made by Sonja of Insanity Looms in a lovely mercerised cotton, and are called "Chantilly Cream" and "Devonshire Cream". Sonja was even kind enough to provide a swatch of the cotton in case I wanted to embroider the centre of one.

Thank you so much Sonja, these are exquisite and they're going to be treasured. I can picture them lining a tea tray, or a basket of freshly baked breads.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Two blankets, one warp

These are the baby blankets made from the thick cotton warp I used, the first time I properly sectionally beamed. The two were woven on the same warp with the same threading, but with different tie-ups and treadlings. To give you a sense of scale, they're hanging over a rocking chair and the blocks are not quite 2" square.

The first was woven in a 5-end huck lace, to give a very large, slightly open, lacy structure, but yet one which remains stable. Here's a close-up of the weave structure.

The second blanket was woven on the same huck lace threading, but with a twill tie-up and straight treadling, giving a block twill structure - just for something different!

I'd had to sample twice, so I was running out of warp for this one before I thought it had reached a decent size - hence the insistence on getting every last possible centimetre out of the warp! Pre-washing, this one is about 1m x 80-ish cm, the huck blanket is a more reasonable 1m x 1.3 m.

Because these were woven at 8epi in 2/2 cotton, they're substantial, chunky blankets. I didn't enjoy working at 8epi at first, because I'm so used to finer thread. I wish I could say that these were fast weaves, but getting the weft in the right place for the slevedges took great care and attention, so I had to concentrate with every pick. I'm pleased with the outcome though. After trying to decide how to finish these, I settled for machine-stitching the loose ends and blanket stitching the hems, because the fabric will be too thick to fold. The huck blanket is done this
way and I'll do the twill blanket tonight. Then it's measuring and wet finishing, and they're done!


I spent the entirety of last week in bed sleeping off a virus, but managed to drag myself out of bed on Saturday to go to the last meeting of the year for the local spinner's group with Ota. One thing I've really missed since moving here is the camaraderie and inspiration of the spinning group I had in Sydney (waves at Celia), so I'm really enjoying the few hours in a village hall with like-minded people. I think they even forgive me for being a weaver and not a knitter.

I managed to spin quite a bit more of the red-brown alpaca I've been spinning for some time (it's almost done now). But the main appeal this past weekend was to see some scarves the group had been been making for some time: each person got some blue-faced leicester wool and spun it, then it was given to someone else to dye, and then to someone else to make into a scarf. The person who spun the wool then got the scarf back. It was truly fascinating to see how the people solved the various problems of dyeing and making a finished garment from something they hadn't designed from scratch, and there were some truly beautiful garments there.

In addition to this delight, P&M Woolcraft had come along to the meeting, bringing a large part of their shop with them. I'd feared that I'd indulge in retail therapy and I did, although largely I restricted myself to items I went along knowing I wanted to buy. I really had to restrain myself when it came to purchasing fibre: I rarely buy top, and when I do it tends to be white so I can dye it the colours I want. I know that blended and pre-dyed top is something I'd enjoy spinning but probably wouldn't find a use for, and yet I really had to stop myself from buying the colours!!! All the pretty colours! My eyes kept following them across the room.

Here, however, is the swag:

Clockwise, from lower left: two more Majacraft bobbins for my Little Gem, because although I already have 4 (o0r 6?), you can never have too many if you spin lots of silk cap. It's sticky enough that it's best stored on the bobbin until ready to use. A cold-water, fibre-reactive dye kit for dyeing cotton, because I've only ever used acid dyes and wanted to try FR, a Glimakra boat shuttle to try because I've wanted a larger boat shuttle for some time, 15 cm quills for the new shuttle and 13 cm quills for my Dryad boat shuttles, 100g of blue-faced Leicester top to try spinning because although I've woven with it and love it I've not spinned it, 50 g of blue, turquoise and burgundy top to satisfy the colour fetish, 100g of bamboo because sometimes it's fun to play, a back-issue of Handowoven which illustrates how to drape a jacket on a dummy form (I want to think about making my own clothing from handwovens), and in the middle, a tiny bit of baby camel and silk top.

The camel and silk top was the most expensive part of my purchase, as I bought half a kilo of it. But it's crying out to be a drapey tunic top, and it's so stunningly soft, luxurious and delicate in colour it had to be had:

I can barely wait to start playing with it.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Nearing the end

You can see in this photo the three sections where the guide yarn jumped off the yarn counter and I gave the beam an extra turn of warp, just to be safe. I'm very fortunate to have made the right decision about whether to give another turn or not, all three times! Better a foot of loom waste on an end or two than to lose a foot of warp...

I finally took those knots all the way to the back of the heddles - there was no physical way I was going to be able to get even so much as another shot out of that warp. But what I did get, from a 4ish-metre warp, was two samples and two baby's blankets, one in a 5-end huck, the other slightly smaller and in a block twill. One of these days I'll have the right light to actually take photos of them.

You can see the next project(s) lining up on the rather-messy work table. I cut this blanket off on Saturday and my loom is currently naked - a highly unusual state of affairs.