Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Little Help from my Friends

Long time no post. And yes, thank you, last week at Tahoe was lovely!

Many projects simply would not be, if it were not for help from my friends. This is one of them. Many months ago, I wrote about Nancy Roberts' dyeing knit fabric, and then re-knitting the yarn (see this post). Well, she also had an idea that dyed knit fabric could be used as weft, so I agreed to weave up a sample. The dyed silk fabric looked like this:

nancy's silk1

Purples to fuchsias to golds and back again. I knew I would have to wind the bobbins in order, and keep track of them. I imagined I would have to unwind the fabric onto a bobbin, then rewind each bobbin to get the colors to come out right: the beginning of each yarn on the bobbin needed to match up colorwise with the end of the previous bobbin (clear as mud? yeah, for me too). But my friend Lindsey knew, and could explain to me, that each bobbin could be wound off in order, then woven from the *opposite* end of the fabric and it would come out right.

I wound the bobbins and lined them up in weaving order.

Nancy's scarf bobbins

Not entirely trusting myself, I also numbered the bobbins (I know; anal):

Nancy's scarf bobbins1

Now, being the inveterate plain weaver, I also had to get input on just *which* twill would be effective in this fabric, and so I asked the general assembled at a gathering a few weeks ago. Dee simply said *two block turned twill*, which sounded good to me. But I've never woven it. So I had to look it up.

I turned to Handwoven's Index, and found an article by my friend Sharon Alderman on turned twill, entitled *Easy as Pi* (see Sept/Oct 2000 Handwoven, pp. 26-29). I liked the *easy* part of the title. Now, I have listened to Sharon's lectures, and know that she can make structure truly understandable to the neophyte (me), and she did. Using this draft, I guessed at the sett, and scrunched under the loom to tie up an 8 harness pattern weave (whew!).

Weaving progressed smoothly, as long as I remembered to treadle in block rotation. I set up my treadles to walk from right to left, and I am accustomed to walking them from the outside in. I had to remind myself to walk the outside treadles for the whole block, before moving into the center treadles. Here is the fabric on the loom:

Nancy's scarf on loom1

And just *off* the loom, before finishing:

Nancy's scarf1

and on the *model* (Nancy, who came to town to be our guild speaker on this very subject, thus the pressure was on to finish this!):

Nancy's scarf

Well, since I was guessing all the parameters for this fabric, including the length this weft would weave, I ended up with extra warp. Quick as a flash I ran up to the house and retrieved my knit-hat-in-progress, the cashmere hat from this post. I've been knitting sporadically on this for months, but it's not very pleasing, or at least it was stalled. So here it is just before ripping it out:

cashmere hat's last gasp

And here is that fabric on the loom;

cashmere fabric on loom

Handspun cashmere and silk, yay! Here's the fabric off the loom:

cashmere fabric1

It is now washed, but I think I will full it more, and then cut out and *sew* a hat. Done. Done in an hour, vs. the many hours of knitting it would have required to finish. I'm so not a knitter! (I do have some several balls of this yarn left, I'm thinking another pair of fingerless gloves, can one have too many?).

This whole project gave Nancy and I several more ideas for fabric using knitted-dyed weft. More later! Her website should be up soon:

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I've been at the metal clay again:


These are for my son and his fiance (well, my son probably won't get such a thrill out of them, so we'll say they are for his fiance). They are smallish (forgot the dime, but for scale the bottom charm is 1/2" long), and on the back have their initials and 06 stamped into them: they are getting married next year. If she likes these, they are meant to hang on the back of necklaces she will make for the bridesmaids. I will make more, if she wants them all to match, these are samples.

Some are pressed into molds I made from buttons. I wish I could photograph the detail better. They might need a little patina, to make the details more evident. I used PMC(tm) clay for these because it has the advantage of shrinkage: I made them larger, used stamps for the letters on the back, and then they shrink about 25% in the firing.

I just stopped, dipped a few charms in a patina solution, and buffed them:


I think you can see the detail better, and S. will be able to decide which finish she likes. I should have done this before the wire and silver bead were added, but hey, they are samples. They'll need a bit more polishing. The dime, of course, showed up for scale.

I had more than enough wedding charms, and still extra clay, so I made some bits for me:


A few don't have holes yet: I couldn't decide if I wanted to hang them like charms, or sew them onto fabric somewhere. I can drill the holes when I use them.

Some of them looked like leaves, so I made a necklace:


This is *so* not me: too sweet and it's um, green. I've had the beads for years; one of my sons went with me to a gem show years ago, thought these would look nice in a necklace for me, and I bought them. Green, not a color I use much; they have languished. I added a few beads of Bali silver and voila, necklace.

Ranging even further afield from my normal comfort zone, I *almost* made a pair of earrings to match (matched sets, also *so* not me). But, the charms are cut facing the same direction, and in earrings, that looks like two left feet. I refrained.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Next Thing

I feel a new series coming on. I know they are imminent when I'm making something very fun, and have lots of ideas I can't incorporate into the existing project.

Here's the first:


A silk cut pile hat. Looking down at the top:

hat top

Cool, huh? It has been fun to weave, despite fear and trepidation. At several points in the process of weaving this, I had doubts. It was, as you may have guessed, math related. First. how do you find the diameter of a circle to which you know the circumference (I have an in-house consultant who helped here)? Then, how do you make pieces fit that area, especially with something as fluid and variable as weaving? Will the weaving depth remain constant as the number of knots decreases (the answer turned out to be: no)? To reassure myself, I stopped and made mockups:

hat mockups

A small paper hat top, a larger paper hat top, with details of the patterning, a full real size paper hat, and a full size fabric hat (rough sewn). I kept getting the reassurance I needed, so I forged onward.

The inspiration for this hat came from my friend Kathryn. She knits hats, inspired by Peruvian pile hats (on her website, click on *teaching schedule* and you'll see a picture of her, wearing one of her hats!). A few summers ago, she asked me to teach her knotted pile, so she could weave a pile hat. I have thought about just how to do that ever since.

Her hats are inspired by ones like this:

Peruvian hat

This photo is from the book Peruvian Textiles:

Peruvian Textiles

But Kathryn saw the Real Things (tm) in the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, many years ago. I have not seen them, just photos in books, and Kathryn's interpretations.

The Peruvian hats have a square aspect, and I have thought about how to weave that. I think it would be slightly easier than the star-shaped top I eventually wove, but then, I haven't tried it yet. It will probably show up as part of the series-to-come.

My direct inspiration came from this book:

Afghan book2

which I saw at Convergence in Denver. The Afghani hats have round tops, some divided into sections, four or five or even six. I chose five sections, and then fussed my way through the weaving.

The tops of the five sections do not *quite* meet: so there is a bit of knotless netting to bring the top closed. Fitting, that knotless netting: the original Peruvian hats are not knitted or woven: they are netting, with pile inserted into the loops (this information I gleaned from Raoul d'Harcourt).

So this hat comes full circle (a pun! and unintentional!), from the Peruvian inspiration, through Kathryn's fertile executions in knitting, to my first fumblings in pile weaving, and then the circle closes with netting.

Fitting I think. Except the hat. It doesn't fit. (It's a teensy tiny bit too small). So, on to the next hat.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Solace of Spinning

Like many people this week, I have spent an inordinate amount of time paying attention to the news. Whether it's radio, TV or the newspaper, it's not good. It's sad, depressing, and made me angry and shamed. It made me angry to see people left out in the elements, exposed to danger, with no food, water, toilets or comfort. No one seemed to be in charge, there was much confusion, lots of fingers pointed, and few results.

Also like many of us, I tend to *keep busy* during stressful times, mostly, for me, with spinning. I have spun through fires, floods, and the few and far between earthquakes. 9/11 was too stressful, I think I spent that time cleaning, and weaving (much more energetic).

It is with the best of intentions that I set off for the studio each morning this week, with a task to attend to, only to find myself sitting down to spin, and the time goes by. Much less else has gotten done. I listened to the radio, and sometimes spun in the quiet, hoping the world will recede. The TV is not in the studio, and his week it was too hard to watch anyway. Too frustrating, from this distance, to be able to do so little.

This week, I have spun up almost a pound of 3 ply Polwarth:

purple yarn4

The roving was overdyed, it was too Colors of Spring for this time of year:

purple yarn5

I had a hard time getting the color right in the photo: too dark in the shade, and washed out in the sun. These were taken in my shadow, which seems to give it the right amount of bright light, and some mitigation from the glare.

I've also been spinning mohair rug warp, from commercially prepared top:

rug warp

very tightly spun and then just as tightly plied, this is a three ply (see the dime?). It was easy, in my tightly wound state, to add that extra twist, to add that extra spin to the ply. Perhaps it was therapy. I made a niddy noddy out of PVC, and then submerged the whole skein under water to set the twist:

rug warp2

I wanted the yarn to dry under tension. It has a scary amount of twist in it, constantly kinking and curling back on itself. It is tamed in it's present state, who knows what will happen when I release it from bondage. I've got three of these bundles of yarn, yardage as yet undetermined.

The projects from those stressful times of busy-ness remain connected forever to the events at hand. This shawl was spun of an angora, silk and merino blend, then dyed and woven with a merino space-dyed weft:


It was spun while trying out a new wheel (a Jensen Saxony, which I later sold), during OJ's trial. I did not watch all of the trial, certainly, I had to go to work, and sometimes it was just too boring. But it was on for weeks, it seems now, and this yarn was spun then.

I use the shawl all the time: it is comforting on airplanes, it helps define my space. It is comforting in stranger's homes where I sometimes stay, it is a bit of home that travels with me. I wish you could feel it, it is soft and fluffy now, after years of use. I often have it over my shoulders on chilly mornings here. It resides on the back of the couch, and I brush my fingers on it as I walk by. But somehow, it is also always a reminder.

It is not only spinning that is a comfort. This sweater was knit in the hospital, all one summer, as I sat with my parents while they lay dying:


They both died the same summer, of separate illnesses. There was time to sit and talk, and time to sit and knit, and many times I was glad to have something in my hands, to be able to look down, and so not break down and cry.

The sweater is way too big for me, I was not paying attention to details. I used what yarns I could grab as I went out the door, and made it all up as I went. I wear it anyway, often. It is what I put on over my nightgown and under my robe, on cold winter mornings before the fire is lit. I've had it for fourteen years now, and know that someday it will wear out, but for now, it is my reminder of those days.

I am grateful for the roof over my head, a clean bed in a quiet home, shoes, clean underwear, my own food, water whenever I want to drink it, the clothes in my closet, the books on my shelves, and my spinning, knitting and weaving. If these things were suddenly gone, taken by forces beyond my control, I could go on. But I would have parts of my life missing, reminders of my days, and of events known only to me.

The news this week is improving, but the people most affected will need help for a long time to come. Some of them may become recipients of the results of our cash donations, and some small children may just get new purple hats.