Monday, January 31, 2005


I think I might have actually unvented something. At least, I've never seen anything like it before, and coming out publicly, I'm sure you'll all let me know if you've seen knitting like this:

one sock

Sure it looks like a sock. In fact it is a sock, but with a funny sole.

I took a class at SOAR 2001 from John Yerkovich and Priscilla Gibson-Roberts on Shepherd's Knitting. They wrote an article for SpinOff, the summer 2001 issue.

It really is Bosnian Crochet backwards (how's *that* for esoteric?). Shepherd's Knitting is single crochet, done in the back loop only, always in one direction. It is used in Korsnas sweaters, which I first noticed in Nordic Knitting, by Susanne Pagoldh. There is also a more recent article by Carol Rhoades in the January/February 2004 Piecework.

To achieve the traditional fabric, the process must be done in one direction only, or circularly. It creates a firm fabric, suitable for hard use areas of a garment. It makes an inflexible fabric though, and when used for boot socks, the result is not form fitting like socks we would wear today.

So the challenge was to create a sock that fit, and had this hard wearing fabric in the areas that get the most abrasion: the soles, heels and toes. The process I unvented is to knit the insteps, then switch to crochet across the soles, and then back to knitting on the insteps. It was a dance of needles and hook, with the two processes joined at the juncture each round. The crochet torqued slightly, but it is not noticeable in the wearing. The two techniques needed to match up in the row gauge, so a bit of fiddling with needle and hook sizes was necessary.

The yarn we used in class was a singles, because the process is best done with a z-twist yarn. I adjusted that to a cabled yarn: two 2-ply yarns replied in the z direction to make a firm, z-twist 4 ply final product.

They came out well, I wear them in the cold mornings inside my slippers, and, so far, they show very little signs of wear. They are thick, warm and form fitting socks, with hard wearing soles. The socks were shown in the Fall 2004 issue of SpinOff, but my description of the process must have been too obscure (you think?) because it was changed to a *short row technique*, which it is not.

I'm not sure my unvention is useful in any other way, but as sock soles it seems a neat trick.

2 socks

I also made up a silk bag, again of 4-ply cable yarn, which shows the traditional technique in a more usual setting:

silk crocheted bag

It has lucet drawcords in the same 4-ply cable silk, and is shown with the soon to be ubiquitous dime.

The raised bands are Bosnian Crochet, essentially the same technique reversed: single crochet in the front loop only. Like stockinette, the technique has two sides, each creating their own textural interest.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Design Challenge

In my previous incarnation as a fabric weaver, my kimonos were somewhat graphic in that the pieces, once sewn together, made a graphic image of their own. The stripe color and placement could make or break the garment.

kimono sleeve

But now I am learning knotted pile. And, like any good weaver, I'm most concerned with the technical details: the sett, the yarn choices, the beat, the selvedges, the hand of the fabric. The design is secondary, at first, while I concentrate on the learning the process.

But viewers, most of whom are not weavers, don't care about that. The graphic image is what they see, and how they determine the success of piece. It can be simple:


or complex:

silk bag front

and I'm trying to find my *voice*, so to speak, in what I like as well.

I am learning an ancient and very visual textile medium, which has traditional images and graphic concepts associated with it. I have no intention of directly replicating the work from another culture. Instead, I can draw on my own world, and from cultures around the world that inspire me. So these days, my bedside reading is all about design: symmetry, tesselations, and sacred geometry. And my sketchbook follows me from house to studio, always ready for the next idea:


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Dyeing is Life


white silk


dyed silk

I love to dye. I especially like to dye yarn. This is two bombyx bricks, soon to be joined by 3 others, to become a silk shirt. I thought the Roosevelt dime was a nice touch. If it becomes a Reagan dime, I may have to stop using dimes. And nickels are so heavy.

These were dyed with Lanaset dyes: mostly magenta, violet and mustard. The warps chains are painted, and there are two skeins dyed a solid color. The remainder of the warp chains will be a combination of solid colors.

My dye work space is less than ideal. I dye outside, on a covered back porch. It is connected to the laundry room by a door: the table, scale and steamer are outside, the sink and shelves of dye are inside. The door swings the wrong way: when it is open, the sink is behind it. I am constantly opening and closing the door, but when I am in the Dye Trance state, I hardly notice it.

I have had better workspaces, but that did not necessarily mean I did better work in them. It's just a matter of getting in and doing the work, no matter what the surroundings. When that trance state happens, I'm not looking around anyway: I am happily mesmerized by the colors.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Is It In The Ether?

What makes something popular? Is it just the next logical step in a progression? Knitters did socks. Then scarves. Then ponchos. Now fingerless gloves.

I finished these over the Christmas weeks:


They are of 3-ply handspun cashmere fiber from Peace of Yarn that I bought at SOAR in 2003 just for this purpose.

In the Spring of 2003, my hands began to hurt while doing a marathon knotting project in the studio. I thought it might be signs of arthritis, or carpal tunnel, but the ache disappeared after a few days. Since I had not stopped knotting, I deduced that the pain was not work related. The weather had warmed up, though, so I thought my hands might be reacting to cold, and I decided to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves for work.

They had to be fine threads, so I had ease of movement, and soft is always good for next-to-the-skin clothing, so the cashmere seemed perfect.

Time passed. I spun the yarn, dyed it and knit the gloves this winter, making up the pattern as I went, and yes, ripping a few times for fit and shaping.

Now, lo, fingerless gloves are everywhere. All sorts of knitters have knit them in all sorts of colors and patterns. Mostly like mine: without knitted half fingers.

Was I tapping into some Universal Knitting Project Craze? Or are we all just getting older and have aching hands (I *know* that's not true, most of these knitters are younger than I am).

I know this phenomena is not exclusive to me. Other people talk about ideas they've had and then suddenly: it's everywhere. It's like we have synchronized thought patterns.

The Buddhists are probably right. We are truly connected.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Adult Learners

I will be taking a cardweaving class at CNCH this coming Spring at Asilomar. I admire the work of the instructor, Gudrun Polack, and have taken a brief class from her before. Gudrun has lots of samples of her work, one of my criteria for choosing a teacher. I look for people who are *doing* the work, not just talking about it. I look for people who have examples of their work to show, and whose work I admire.

I was asked by a friend *why* I was taking a class in cardweaving, because I have been doing it for almost 30 years myself. Well, there's always something new to learn, and Gudrun approaches things quite differently than I do. She has a mathematical mind and approach to cardweaving, and I could use a little of that to balance out my (kindly put) intuitive approach to making bands.

I took short session from both Linda Malan and Linda Hendrickson at Convergence in Denver last summer, and picked up some very useful tips. I also got to see into the process of other weavers, and it has helped me refine mine.

I really began to delve into the adult learning process 6 years ago when I began to weave knotted pile. It has been interesting, engaging, challenging and exciting to learn this weaving technique. It is so different from weaving fabric, throwing a shuttle, painting warps and making clothing. I found myself intensely focused once again, and that is a wonderful feeling.

pile loom

I have devoted most of the past six years to knotted pile, and the related techniques, including cardweaving, that go into making small bags from the pile fabric. These are more *hands-on* techniques than throwing a shuttle. My fingers are actively engaged, I handle the yarn more, and I manipulate the warps by hand. It has brought back the excitement I first felt when I began weaving 28 years ago. What a gift!

Not all of the work I have done in knotted pile has been successful. It has been a learning process, but I strive to finish each piece, even when it's not going well. If nothing else, it can be used as a cautionary tale for others. But really it's for me too: the process of finishing is important. The *body* of work is important, not just the individual piece.

I think this excitement that I feel is translated to other people, and as they learn this weaving, a new community of knotters has grown. As a technique, it is not unlike knitting: each knot is tied by hand, and then rows of knots build into a fabric. It is a meditative process, and once the fingers learn, the mind is free to imagine, as the work builds.

knotted pile

Monday, January 24, 2005

Narrow Bands

I am not sure what is so alluring about weaving narrow bands. Cardweaving, kumihimo, pick-up bands, and just plain inkle bands are fun to weave and addictive. I try to actually *do* something with them, whether it's bag handles, a strap for my conference name tags, or, more recently, bags out of bands. But in fact, I have lots of bands that simply reside in the studio.

silk bands

These are some bands in Central American pickup technique that I wove during my *I can't believe the political climate* phase this recent Fall. I think it helped to have something wonderful to work on, or perhaps time cures all ills, because my outlook is much improved (though the political climate is not).

This band:

Reeled silk pick up band

is a random pattern, was quite fun to weave, and intended to become part of a bag with the other two bands. In the end, they didn't quite look right together, despite being of the same yarns: the patterns were too disparate. So I used it alone, to make a small bag:

small bag

The handle was cardwoven, out of the last remnants of those colors of silk, and I may yet bead the front edge of the flap (I tried some last night but pulled it out). It's just the right size to hold small things in the Big Bag from last week, the fabric for which is done, washed and ironed, and ready for cardwoven handles. I *still* have not dyed the yarns for the cardweaving, so, today being the last day of good weather, dyeing is on the agenda.

And for Laura:
Conga Rats

The Conga Rats in knotted pile. Enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Blog as Taskmaster

silk fabric 2
Originally uploaded by lambspin.
Whew! Today's goal was to spin (my morning practice, so to speak), dye a cardweaving warp (very small, easy, quick), warp the floor loom and start weaving the silk bag fabric. Well I almost got it all done. No dyeing today, despite perfect weather: 68ºF and sunny.

I had not been spinning silk for several months, perhaps even a year. Other projects called, and I have boxes of skeins of silk, ready for a knotted pile project that has not progressed. So I've been working from the existing yarns, not realizing how *much* I missed spinning that silk.

Two weeks ago was the local spinning day at our guild, and having nothing urgent to take with me, I grabbed a silk brick and some bobbins and was away. It was like coming home, so relaxing and comfortable. I spin on a Lendrum, with the very fast head, and the silk basically spins itself. Today I spun up two more bobbins, and began the mental planning of the colors I would dye this yarn.

I did eventually get down to the studio, warped and started weaving the reeled silk fabric you see here.

It's about 18 inches wide, 36 ends per inch, over 600 ends. The weft is 5/2 pearl cotton. The fabric's rep-ish, the weft is totally covered. It seems just right for a sturdy carry bag, and displays my anti-symmetry bias quite nicely. Hmmmm. Anyway, I like it, it will do.

And for Charleen: it got so warm in the studio, I had to take off my shoes and socks. Sorry. It is California.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Painting Warps

Painting Warps
Originally uploaded by lambspin.
Yesterday was sunny and warm, a good day to dye. I had four warps of 8/2 reeled silk from Treenway prepared, washed and de-gummed the night before. To de-gum, I soaked the warps in a crock pot overnight, in a solution of dish washing liquid and soda ash. I rinsed them in the morning, and then soaked them in the fixative: a vinegar bath.

While the warps were soaking, I mixed up dye stock soultions: 2% of Lanaset Blue, Violet and Turquoise, and 1% of Navy. I wanted dark/neutrals for this project: a travel carry all bag, with pockets.

I painted the four warps with variations of the colors, then bundled them up in plastic to steam.

The warps went into the steamer, I turned it on, and went about my afternoon. Oops. I forgot them. They steamed for about an hour, rather than the usual 20-30 minutes. The only casualty seems to have been the plastic wrap: it became an Ugly Plastic Sculpture. I left them to cool overnight.

There was very little washoff when I rinsed them this morning, and hung them out to dry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

cardwoven bag

cardwoven bag
Originally uploaded by lambspin.
Well, it's sort of like cheating. Posting a picture of a finished piece. But it's a start.

Weaving Blogs

I've looked for them, there are not many out there. So I'll start my own. My intention is to use this forum to keep myself on track, and if I have to update my progress publicly, perhaps I'll get more accomplished. Perhaps.

The short list of projects right now: Pickup bands in several styles: Central American and Latvian, in silk, for class samples. 2 kumihimo braids, also for samples. Cardwoven band in fine silk, black and white, Egyptian diagonals.

Silk pile bag with a cotton warp, as a test. I need to find a good warp for class projects. Need to warp, and design, and begin the weaving by February 5th, for a demonstration.

Finish a project on my big pile loom, and get that warp off. The leftover warp itself can be used as band warp, but it's clogging up progress. The warp is too daunting (253 ends of handspun tussah silk) and has been stalled for 2 years.

New kimono fabric (commercial silk) and new shirt fabric (handspun silk).

Reeled silk fabric for a carry-bag, with pockets, for travel.

Cashmere hat: yarn spun, needs dyeing. The fingerless mittens are finished and the scarf warp is done, but not woven. All three projects are of the same fiber, some 2 plied (for weaving) and some 3 plied (for knitting).

This is enough to focus on for today. Obviously, there are more!

Next: how to figure out photos. Until then, new photos are at