07 June 2018

Well, that only took six months . . .

Actually, it took a more like three years.

I read about weaving more than I actually weave. There just aren't enough hours in the year. Way back in the spring of 2015, I decided to weave a pillow for my car. I had bought a full-body pillow, but the fabric had torn along the seam. I browsed the weaving books in my library, and went with a snowflake twill from page 25 of Twill Thrills. (Note: XRX now offers their Best of Weaver's series on a stitchip. This is a great way to have a digital library. I consider this seven book series essential, since each book covers a different weave structure.) I used some leftover Aunt Lydia's size 10 crochet cotton to sample.

Yes, I actually sampled! I warped the loom, threaded the pattern, and wove with different tie-ups to see what patterns I got. I wrote notes. I figured out some extra threads to make the pattern repeat flow from side to side. I planned the project. I bought the yarn (8 balls each of black and victory red). And then, I let it sit.

From time to time, I would think about this. The pillow in my car was tattered. When I drove long distances, I thought about how nice it would be to have a better cushion. But I never quite found the time to get back to the weaving.

And then, we got a snowstorm — a big snowstorm. On December 8-9 last year, we got 11 inches of snow. It was very pretty; and I knew I wasn't going anywhere. For some strange reason, I decided that day was the time to finally warp the loom.

I watched Laura Fry's The Efficient Weaver multiple times. If Laura can do something in 15 minutes, I can do it in 2 days. It probably took me a day just to wind the warp of over 600 ends, in spite of the warp being only one color. Then I needed to figure out how to beam it onto the loom with only myself in the house. I ended up using a dowel rod across a door frame (thank you, C-clamps) and setting the table loom with stand on top of towels. The weight of the loom gave me tension on the unwound warp. As I wound on, the loom surfed across the hardwood floor. Not elegant, but it worked.

Then I threaded the heddles. This particular pattern is 77 ends with another 29 spacers for a repeat of 106. This is also an advancing twill, which means the threading has sections such as "2-1-8-7-6-5," then "8-7-6-5-4," then "7-6-5-4-3-2" and so on. You can't just memorize the repeat. And I really must try dyeing heddles different colors. On eight shafts, it is not too hard to tell if a heddle is on shafts 1, 2, 7, or 8. But the middle shafts can be very tricky. I spent probably a week where I would get up in the morning, think I was ready to weave, check the shed, find a mistake, use up my mental focus for the day fixing said mistake, and then decide I would weave tomorrow. I had mis-threaded heddles. I had crossed warp threads. I had sleying errors in the reed. But, I eventually got it all set correctly.

Brûlée explores the loom because crafting is not possible without a cat.
The green sample is draped over the loom for reference.
I spent most of January weaving. Cuddly Hubby was moving home at the end of January, so I knew I needed to finish the weaving and get the loom out of the living room. The deadline kept me focused. Then the cloth probably sat a few weeks before I found time to watch Laura Fry's Wet-Finishing for Weavers. Since I used cotton, there wasn't that much special to do. I washed the fabric in the downstairs tub, then hung it up to dry. I think I probably ironed it at some point.

And then, it sat some more.

Finally, when I drove up to Maryland Sheep and Wool last month, I took the fabric with me. I figured a few quiet days by myself in the man cave would give me a mini retreat; a chance to do some things that just don't get done at home. I spent a couple days carefully sewing the pillow together. I interwove the threads by following the weave structure. The work was slow and careful, but worth the tedium. I had it mostly done in time for the drive back.

Using a tapestry needle to help insert a pin in just the right thread.
Notice the warp threads have been carefully hemstitched.

Using a blue running thread to set up a seam line.
Sewing the hem. The numbers are telling me how many threads to catch, so that the sewing thread follows the pattern in the weaving. I wove 30 picks of plain weave in a thinner thread to set up the hem allowance. The thin blue running thread is a guide.
The side seam runs down the middle of this motif, but careful stitching makes it hard to discern.
Close-up of hook & eye. An extra thread was woven across to catch the hooks. The eyes were twisted open, hooked onto the woven warp threads, and twisted close. A horizontal weft thread was pulled over the top of the hook to tie it down the the fabric. Both pieces of hardware are essentially woven into the fabric.
A couple weeks ago I finally found time to finish it up. I decided to use the woven fabric as a pillow cover, and to simply mend the original low-quality pillow. I added hooks and eyes to close the back of the pillow cover. The eyes were particularly fun, as I simply used jewelry-making tools to attach the eyes as if they had been woven into the fabric. I mended the body pillow by adding a zipper, mending and reinforcing the failed seam, and adding an extra 2 pounds of stuffing after fluffing up the original stuffing. And I woven in the ends. But, at last, it is done.

The pillow in my car. It is very fluffy right now, but will flatten over time.
Equipment: 8-shaft 80cm/32-inch Ashford table loom with stand & stick shuttle.
Weave structure: Advancing snowflake twill, 77 ends from Bonnie Inouye "Happy Families: A Video Game for Weavers" in Twill Thrills (Sioux Falls SD: XRX Books 2004) page 25; plus another 29 ends in order 8, 3-2-1-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-8-7-6-7-8-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-1-2-3, 8.
Yarn: Aunt Lydia's size 10 crochet cotton in black and victory red
Warp length: 4 yards
Sett: 24 ends per inch
Tie-up: 1-3-3-1; if 1 is up, 2-3-4 are down, 5-6-7 are up, 8 is down.
Treadling: trom as writ
"Right" side of the fabric. This turned out to be the side facing the floor as I wove.
"Wrong" side of the fabric. This was the side facing me as I wove.
A note about the yarn: Spinning books typically talk about using 2-ply yarns for weaving. Aunt Lydia's is a 3-ply. I used it because it is inexpensive and readily available — nearly all the big-box craft stores carry it. What is not evident in the photographs is the subtle sheen. The black is more matte and the red is more shiny. This is a good tight sett. The fabric is stiff. For a garment, you'd want a looser sett to get more drape. But for upholstery fabric, this is perfect. The final pillowcase weighs 755g, or more than 1½ pounds.

(Apologies for the way the red changes in the photographs. These were taken in different lighting conditions.)

23 May 2018

Book Review — Sixty Scarves for 60 Years

I've alluded to my growing interest in weaving (as if I needed to fall down yet another crafting rabbit hole). I spend way more time reading and fantasizing about weaving than I actually weave.

When I was visiting the Skein and Garment Show building at Maryland Sheep and Wool, there were signs announcing this new edition of Sixty Scarves for 60 Years. I had heard of this book but never seen it in person. And, of course, the Skein and Garment Show was the last place I went at the festival, before heading to the car and driving back to the man cave. But, I also noticed the signs mentioned Red Stone Glen. This is the fiber arts center set up by Tom Knisely after The Mannings closed.

From what I can tell, Sixty Scarves for 60 Years was originally published by the Weavers Guild of Greater Baltimore to celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2009. If I understand correctly, members of the guild wove scarves to exchange. They also created this book to share information about what drafts they used to create their scarves. The book was popular and sold out. Now Red Stone Glen has taken the lead to create this new edition. A few scarves have been added, bringing the total to sixty-six.

There is no theme to the book. It is just 66 drafts for different scarves. But what a smorgasbord! Most of the scarves are presented over two pages — a left page for the draft and basic information, and a right page for a beautiful photograph. The good paper quality makes paging through this book a pleasure, as every turn of the page is a new scarf. And the book is spiral bound so it lies open while you are following the draft as you thread heddles or treadle. There are nine scarves whose more elaborate drafts are continued in the appendix. A few drafts require many shafts, but most of the scarves can be worked on eight or fewer. Some can even be woven on a rigid heddle loom.

There are lots of lovely scarves woven on twill threadings. But there are also unusual weaves such as Tom Knisely's "Peruvian Inlay" on pages 26 & 27. Melanie Taylor managed to weave a scarf by making multiple inkle bands and seaming them together ("Inkle Friends & Neighbors" pp. 38-39). "Triangles and Pearls" (pp. 52-53) by Cheryl Migliarini was woven on an 18-inch triangle loom frame. Cheryl joined the triangles together and even added some little pearl beads to make the seams decorative! Adelanna (Lanna) Ray's "Felted Floats" (pp. 88-89, 141) is a 16-shaft deflected double weave that was felted, creating a complex network of interwoven layers.

Some patterns are complex. Some are simple. Some rely on color play. Some rely on complicated tie-ups and treadling. Some use unusual yarn choices. Some use supplementary warps or wefts. Wherever you are in your weaving journey, this book will provide inspiration. So much territory to explore! You can order by calling Red Stone Glen at 717-212-9022, Monday-Friday 9-4. The book with shipping costs $30-35 and is worth every penny and more.

17 May 2018

A Couple Weeks on the Road

I am home in Georgia and, after a week, still playing catch up.

This year I had the privilege of teaching at Unwind. This was year #8 for this gathering. Nancy and Sue put together a delightful retreat! There is time for learning, time for shopping, time for food, and time for camaraderie. Each evening after the afternoon classes but before dinner, we enjoyed happy hour. One suite had the wine drinkers and the other suite had the tea drinkers. I am a tea drinker, so I had a great time hanging out with the scone-munching crowd. A least a couple of us brought an assortment of teas to share. And some inspired soul brought Girl Scout cookies! I did fail a Will save against just one delicious Samoa.

Some items from this year's Unwind goodie bag.
There was also, of course, yarn! This year's goodie bags were sock project bags made by Marie. The bags include a measuring tape and attached pop-up snips. (Notice the snips retract inside their case when not in use.) There's even a small carabiner and a pocket inside. And the bottom is reinforced to make the bag stand up. The bag is very well-designed. Marie made these in assorted fabrics. Mine is a colorful Laurel Burch cat fabric, which I love! There were magazines, including Vogue. I donated mine to the freebie pile, since I already have a subscription. There was yarn from JaggerSpun, Universal, and Lambs Pride. There were even stitch markers from Bryson, stitch stoppers from CocoKnits, and a Needle Keeper circular needle protector.

Items from silent auction and freebie pile.
This year Unwind held a silent auction to benefit the Crossnore School & Children's Home. The school provides foster care for children in crisis. It also has a weaving program to teach women in need an economic skill. While I wasn't able to go on the tour, others did and commented on what a special and amazing place this is. For the silent auction, many of us attendees donated extra yarn, books, or tools. Our little group raised over $1100! In the silent auction I picked up some crochet books, a knitting magazine with yarn to make a polar bear ornament, a skein of lace yarn, and a sampler package of merino top. (I later discovered the top was missing a color, but I was able to obtain the missing bit at Maryland Sheep and Wool the following weekend.) From the freebie pile I also picked up a couple more back issues of Simply Knitting, which is a British knitting magazine. One of the issues has Alan Dart's Hula Hamsters and the other issue has Mr. Wanderful the Wizard. I'm thinking all these Alan Dart critters would be great scrap projects.

A typical Unwind 2018 door prize.

Everyone leaves Unwind with a door prize. Mine was a skein of Miss Babs in the Unwind 2016 colorway and some goodies from Katrinkles. I am especially looking forward to filling in the sheep ornament with some locks or handspun.

All in all, I had a delightful weekend teaching reversible techniques. I got to spend time with my teacher peers Varian Brandon and Heather Storta. I also met the Yarn Guys, Jeffrey Wall & Dennis Rinkenberger, who own Wall of Yarn in Freeport, Illinois. Jeffrey and Dennis even have their own line of z-twist yarn for two-end knitting (tvåändsstickning). Sweet!

From Blowing Rock I drove north to the Maryland man cave. Cuddly Hubby may be home for a few months, but he is technically "lent out" to another site. That means he still has to maintain his Maryland residence. If we are going to have to pay rent, then I am certainly going to make use of the place. I enjoyed three days of quiet. No television (the cable is turned off while Cuddly Hubby is away). Minimal Internet (um, yeah, the cable is turned off). It gave me time to work a little on a project or two without a lot of distractions. Cuddly Hubby flew up for the weekend. We celebrated Star Wars Day with friends. And I went to Maryland Sheep and Wool.

Chocolate-colored Leciester longwool locks, prepared Corriedale, white Leicester longwool locks.
 I told myself that I was hunting and not gathering. (You do not need to start laughing, yet.) I did find the missing color for my sampler set. My real focus was finding 4 ounces of Corriedale and 4 ounces of Leicester longwool. I've worked with both of these breeds. I love Corriedale for its springiness. I like a nice, bouncy, springy woolen-spun yarn. Corriedale is well-suited to that type of spinning. Leicester longwool is not super-soft. It is, however, very shiny and takes dye well. My plan is to card the two together on my drum carder in the hopes of producing a sort of vegan version of the classic Blue-Faced Leicester and silk blend. In fact, I'm sort of surprised the Leicester longwool growers aren't already marketing their wool as an alternative to silk. I did find the fibers I sought. Of course, the Leicester longwool grower also had a gorgeous chocolate-colored fleece that somehow I needed to buy. I was sorry I failed that Will save until I got it home and looked at it again. I've already washed some of it and it is gorgeous. In fact, I was going to wash the rest this week, but we have a whole week of rainy weather coming up (very uncommon for us). So the fleece scouring will need to wait until the warm, dry weather returns.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and productive couple of weeks. I had great fun with friends. I came back with way more goodies than I expected. And at Maryland Sheep and Wool, Elizabeth Johnston's lecture about warp-weighted looms has sent me down another rabbit hole.

17 April 2018

Learning Opportunities

It has been a cool spring. I would complain, but the air conditioning in my car doesn't work right now. The heat does. Therefore, cool weather is good.

Being comfortable in my car will be important, as there are several events coming up in the next few weeks and even in a few months.

This Sunday afternoon, 22 April 2018, Debbie Held will be teaching a class called "Love Your Blending Board" at Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance. I have a beautiful Whispering Woodturner blending board (see photograph, above) I bought a couple years ago at the last Spring Fling. I have used it a little bit. I know I am not using it to its full potential. You can imagine my delight when I saw this class on the schedule. Debbie is a regular contributor to Spin-Off magazine. And she is an evangelist for blending boards. She does lots and lots of things on blending boards that many of us would do instead on a drum carder. That isn't to say a blending board can replace a drum carder. They are different tools with their own strengths and weaknesses. But a drum carder costs roughly 10 times more. Depending on how much you spin, what you like to spin, how much craft budget you have, and how much storage space is in your craft room, you may find a blending board is a much better value. If you want to see the gorgeous yarns Debbie has made, check out her Ravelry page (doodler01) here. Yes, this is why we spin.

Coming up at the end of the month are two weekends of, "No, I don't own a time turner. Why do you schedule like this!?!" If we are going to have physicists and miles-long particle colliders, would somebody please come up with a way to attend two events at the same time? I'm happy to report Unwind is sold out. Those of us heading to Blowing Rock, North Carolina 27-30 April are going to have a great time. However, the inaugural Georgia Mountain Needle Arts Festival will be happening that same weekend in Ellijay, Georgia. That looks like a pretty fine time, too.

The following weekend is just as treacherous. The first weekend of May is, of course, Maryland Sheep and Wool. Although Cuddly Hubby is working from home for a few months, he still has a Maryland man cave. And since rent on the man cave is double our monthly mortgage payment, you can bet I am making use of the place. If I were going to be in town, however, I would be taking classes with superstar Anne Berk. Anne is the expert on intarsia; and she is this spring's Atlanta Knitting Guild superstar. Anne will be at the May guild meeting on Thursday 3 May, and then teach classes Friday through Sunday. Information on the AKG website here.

Farther down the calendar, I'm sorry to report that Georgia FiberFest will be taking the year off. However, Cat Bordhi is still coming to Georgia! Cat will be teaching a weekend-long workshop 6-8 September at Trillium Vineyard. The package includes lunches and wine tasting, as well as plenty of instruction from Cat Bordhi. More information here.

Oh, and don't forget that this Saturday, 21 April, is Local Yarn Store Day. While we can sometimes find what we want online, it is very hard to feel the texture and softness of a yarn or to accurately match colors using a computer screen. If you love your local yarn store, please remember to support it!

23 March 2018

More Yarn Management for Center-Out Circles

In yesterday's post, I wrote about how to create a gradient with evenly-spaced rings. Today's post is related. It still involves center-out circles and geometry.

Let's say you want to make a center-out circle. You have a pile of yarn that is all the same color, so you aren't concerned with rings or gradients or color effects. You just want to know how big a circle you can make with that pile of yarn. Is there a quick way to find out without playing yarn chicken?

The area of a circle = π r2

If we draw concentric rings, we can think about how much yarn is in each ring as compared to the whole project.

Recall our math:
  π 12 =    1π
  π 22 =    4π
  π 32 =    9π
  π 42 =   16π
  π 52 =   25π
  π 62 =   36π
  π 72 =   49π
  π 82 =   64π
  π 92 =   81π
π 102 = 100π

Another way of thinking about this is a circle that is twice the diameter of another will have four times the area. A circle that is three times the diameter of another will have nine times the area.

What does this mean for yarn usage and project planning?

Start by weighing the yarn. Then begin knitting (or crocheting) the center-out circle.
When you have used 1/100th of the yarn, stop and measure the circle. If continued, you should be able to knit (or crochet) a circle 10 times larger than the current one. You should be able to work 10 times the number of rounds. As with gauge swatches, making measurements over small areas can introduce larger errors. But, you can keep checking your work.

At 1/100th multiply diameter by 10.
At   1/81st multiply diameter by  9.
At   1/64th multiply diameter by  8.
At   1/49th multiply diameter by  7.
At   1/36th multiply diameter by  6.
At   1/25th multiple diameter by  5.
At   1/16th multiply diameter by  4.
At     1/9th multiply diameter by  3.
At     1/4th multiply diameter by  2.

(For those of you who want decimals, the progression for multiplying yarn weight on your calculator 1/100th = 0.01, 1/81st = 0.012345679, 1/64th = 0.015625, 1/49th = 0.020408, 1/36th = 0.02777778, 1/25th = 0.04, 1/16th = 0.0625, 1/9th = 0.11111111, 1/4th = 0.25.)

In the diagram above, the pink circle is one unit across, the blue circle is two units, and the green circle is three units. That means if you were knitting those circles and it took 1 skein to make the pink circle, it would take 4 skeins to knit a whole circle the size of the blue one or 9 skeins to make a whole circle the size of the green one.

The reality is that unless I were working with a very large quantity of yarn, I wouldn't trust my reading at the 1/100th mark. But I might trust my reading at the 1/9th mark. And I'd certainly trust the 1/4th mark. So you should be able to get an idea whether or not that shawl will really be the size you want — or whether you have enough yarn to knit all 300 rounds in the shawl pattern — without having to do a lot of knitting and then face the heartache of losing at yarn chicken.

And as with the concentric circles I discussed yesterday, this method also works with center-out squares, neck-down triangles, and half-circles.