Monday, January 30, 2006

Dye Another Day

Busy we were.

Nancy came up for a workshop, and we knitted and dyed. The reknitting comes later, watch this space.

First we were treated to Nancy's Table O' Samples:

N. table of samples
(which we messed up even before she explained what each area was)

N. ikat knitting

Here's a preview of what we were looking forward to:

N. socks

Self striping sock yarns. Of our own. Our own choice of yarn, our own colors. We were like pigs in mud, wiggling with happiness.

So we began. We set up the knitting machines Nancy brought, we attached yarn, and threw the carriage back and forth (I was remonstrated for going too fast. Me?) See how serene Sue is:

N. Sue knitting
(note the box of band aids! Danger ahead!)

Sue2, diligent, cheerful, and with proper posture:

N. Sue2 knitting

Patricia, here just finishing off a sock blank, with a pile of blanks to her right, ready for dyeing:

N. Patricia knitting

And these? My knitting. This is not what it is supposed to look like (anarchy reigned) but I saved them anyway. They will be fine. Trust me (famous last words):

N. Sara's knitting

I'm not sure if we were Nancy's most demanding class, or if this is par for the machine knitting course: we kept her running as stitches were dropped, carriages stuck, and whole knitting dropped to the floor. We ripped, we knit again, we prevailed, and beat those little machines into submission. We had blanks.

Day two: We dyed.

Patricia was the only non-dyer among us, and she listened diligently, did all the math, and dyed her sock blank these beautiful melon colors:

N. Patricia's socks

Once Nancy felt like we had a grip on the process, she left, to beat the ski traffic home. And then chaos reigned. Numbers went out the window, we no longer weighed and measured, mutiny occurred.

These are my sock blanks. The colors? Whatever anyone had left in their cups. We were mixing fools:

N. Sara's socks

Perilously close to camoflage colors: so me (not!). But they are socks, lowly socks, experiments, as it were.

Dyes were mixed and traded, and paint brushes wielded. Knitting was painted. Knitting was steamed. We even unwrapped and washed the blanks, before they cooled. Zoot alors!

Lindsey, whose previous mop up skeins were published in this post, did mop up skeins, and mop up blanks. Things got a little competitive though, as we all started using knitted blanks for mop ups: Lindsey got fewer and fewer of the spills. So she got creative, and painted in a variety of ways. I'll wait until I get shots of the finished knitting to go into more details, but it was fun, and she was inventive.

The steamer was turned off, bundles were sorted, some even rinsed, and the wine came out. We flopped down in a stupor. Two days, knitting and dyeing, pot luck lunches and dinners out, ending with wine. I tell you, I'd pay to do this. Ooops! I did.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Color Conundrums

I thouught I would be further along by now, and I could show you the next new band. But alas, it is still yarn:


Also, the loom is still tied up with this:


But soon! Progress is being made.

In the meantime: a discussion of color. Valerie and Maus both thought a yellow band warp would match the pile color better than the cream yarn used in the band. I'm trying a closer close up of the two together, in the hope that you can see the white (or cream in fact) color in the pile.

pile and band close up

There is a yellow band *around* the pile, which might make the whole thing read as yellow, but I still see it as white.

pile closeup

It may, perhaps, be my inability to see beyond what I think I am using, as opposed to the fresh eyes of a viewer, who sees what is. It could also be the difficulties with cameras, monitors and colors in general. Or it could be that pile color versus side-of-the-yarn color issue once again.

Anyway, I'm sticking with the cream as is for the warp. Here are two versions in the running for the pattern to be:

band pattern

The colors in the design act in the same way as stranded knitting: if you are not seeing it on the surface, it is floating underneath. The *dots* that Sylvia did not care for are a product of the same structure: they exist to capture a yarn, to prevent it from beign a too-long float on the underside.

You can see this very well in the pattern from the first band:

band pattern 1

The left side is the pattern with all the threads caught in every shot, the right side is the reduced number of dots on the surface, which is how the positive image is created (take away some, and the pattern is what is left). Random colors cannot be inserted in a line, as they would necessarily float along underneath until they appear on the surface.

So the new band, obviously a more complex design, will have dots, so to speak, and more patterning, but no blue in the pattern field. That will remain in the border.

Clear as mud? I thought so. I'm obsessed, pardon me if I assume you will be too!

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. It has given me something to think about while I work.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On Not Hitting The Bell Every Time

Well, OK. It's a good prototype:

2 bands

Here's the wool band, alongside the first incarnation with the larger weft. You can see how much difference the weft choice made, but, alas, it was not enough. The design is too elongated, a factor of yarn size, and I think the pattern needs to be a little more complex.

Sylvia commented on the colors, and yes, they are not my *usual*. They were chosen to go with this:

band and bag

The band will be used as a handle on this eventual bag. What this picture illustrates *very* well though, much to my chagrin, is the color problem I have when working with pile: the cut end of the yarn, bunched up as it is in knots, looks much different, colorwise, than the side of the yarn.

So, to make a long story even longer, I should have realized at the outset that the band colors would not match the pile colors, even though I was using the same yarn. Duh.

Looks like more spinning, dyeing and weaving is in my future, watch this space.

To put a happy ending on it:


I warped up the little braid pattern in some 5/2 cotton, and it's weaving along nicely. It will make a fine demo band for CNCH, and now I'll have a sample, and a new draft to add to my collection.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Step by Step

Progress is being made.

The black and white band that was on the loom is finished:


These are all the same technique (the other two were blogged here). The two on the right are silk, both the same pattern threading, but one woven with a speckled background, and the other woven with a solid background.

I made a mistake in weaving at the beginning: the little center band is not picked up correctly. This created what looks like a three strand braid rather than a four strand braid (the correct pickup is on the bookmark on the right):

braid draft

But I liked it well enough, and it is simpler than the four strand, so I drew up a pattern for it, and will set it up for the CNCH demonstration. It has fewer warps, and would most likely be easier for someone to work (I haven't tried it on the loom yet, but I will before I do the demo!). I wanted something simple, that people could actually work, and work enough of to go home with a bookmark. Actually, they can't go *home* with it, because I can't cut it off until the whole band is done, but I'll bring envelopes so they can have it mailed.

Anyway, the loom was clear, time to warp up for the new bag band. I set up a draft, to mimic the border pattern already woven on the loom, and re-plied the yarns I had on hand:

band yarns1

Charleen asked what makes a good pile yarn, and basically: anything. But the best yarns will be able to *bloom* once the knots are tied, so soft spin and loose plying (if any) make for a better blooming yarn:

yarn close up
This photo shows the yarn, as pile yarn, used to tie off the skeins, and the re-plied yarn, ready to be blocked.

band yarns

I had to make a few PVC blockers: the re-plied yarn is *very* squirrelly, and I wanted to block it firmly. I filled up the sink and just submerged the yarn, niddy noddies and all, then let it dry on the blocker.

I set up the pattern, and started weaving with the warp yarn as weft:

wool band

It was too heavy, so I started over with a finer handspun weft:

wool band2

I think you can see the difference (you could certainly feel it: the heavy weft made for a looser fabric). The new band is moving along, but might just be the prototype. I will await final judgement, but I think I want to spin some finer yarn and try yet again. Good thing I enjoy the process!

Monday, January 16, 2006

On Changing Horses Midstream

Sometimes this weaving stuff is just an exercise in flexibility. One idea leads to another, projects change, deadlines come and go.

You might remember this project from a few posts back:

Bag from rug

It started life as a rug idea, much spinning occurred, some dyeing occurred, then the warping, and the weaving began.

Then things changed. Horror Vacui reared its busy and decorative little head, and a border pattern ensued on what would otherwise have been a very zen design.

Well, weaving plodded along in a desultory fashion. Deadlines loomed (ha ha) and progress needed to speed up. But for some reason, the project was just not joyful, and around here, the *not joyful* projects get short shrift.

Then, while reading a book my sons gave me for Christmas, I found a small photo of a very interesting knotted pile bag, shaped like a little upside down cone. Eureka!

New life. A new design, and new interest. And (apparently) to hell with the deadline (this new project does not fit the show criteria). Weaving is moving right along. You can probably see the design sheet on the tray (and the border design graph underneath it): the bag will have four sections, not quite equal, but given the existing warp layout, a good compromise. I am encouraged.

The new design means I have to reconfigure several other things too: the bag will need a band, and the Eastern European inspired border pattern will be a perfect design to work with, but: it will be woven on the inkle loom, and I have that warped with this project. So that needs to move along, and then I need yarns suitable for a pick up band. In wool. In the right colors.

Well, I have (or will have, since the rug is now a bag) lots of leftover pile yarn: the right fiber, the right color: the wrong amount of twist. First I will try to just add twist in the plying direction, and see if that makes a yarn sturdy enough for band weaving.

I also have some of the warp yarn not yet plied: it was a 3 ply for the warp, but a two ply of the singles will make a very suitable yarn for a band. If the re-plied pile yarn is too fuzzy, or in some other way unsuitable, I'll dye some of the 2 ply warp yarn.

Then we will need to consider the construction, whether it will be lined, interlined, reinforced, and how to make a closure. And the band: fringe, hanging outside? or no fringe, and sewn to the inside? Tassel or other embellishments? Beads? Any knitting or Bosnian crochet edging? Velvet edging?

You see? Busy-ness. Testing, trying and playing with fibers. It's all good. I have lots to contemplate, and in the end, it will all be too fun.

I don't know what it is about bags, but they are so fun to make. I certainly have more than I can use, but they are still compelling. And, unlike Sylvia, in her recent post on using only one technique per project, I am multi-technique positive.

It must go along with the Horror Vacui.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Small Wonders

Well, weaving has not been very visible lately, at least on this blog. Charleen, Valerie and Carolyn have been holding up the standard though. They have lots of good weaving information in their latest posts.

Right now I am weaving an inkle band, and it is just delightful. The pattern comes from here, and I set it up as an alternating tabby and pattern thread weave structure (what Mary M. Atwater called a staggered set up, for Mexican and European pick up bands, in her book Byways in Handweaving).

inkle band1

My guild has volunteered to demonstrate pick up inkle weaving at the CNCH conference this coming May, so this Saturday we are doing a practice run at our spinning meeting.

I set this up to see how it works, and whether it was a feasible demo band. There is an optimum way to weave these pattern types: the starting position on the pattern and starting shed determine how easy or complicated the pick up will be. The first test sample I did, I knew right away that I was weaving on the wrong sheds: each pass required too many drops and pickups to achieve the pattern. I stopped and re-oriented the sheds so it would flow more smoothly. I'll use the first small sample as a bookmark or something: it looks fine, it was just annoying to weave.

I learned pick techniques from Ed Franquemont (complementary pickup) and then later several other techniques from Jaquetta Nisbett. It's a fun thing to do, and the bands can be useful, although I rarely do anything with them: I just make them.

This band is rayon, which I bought several years ago at the Handweaver's Studio, in London. The background and selvedge threads are a black 2 ply, and the pattern threads are a chained rayon, used double. I plan to paint the white with dyes thickened with alginate: the pattern is a three-element braid, and the dye will emphasize the structure.

I've done this painting technique with other fabrics, here is a complementary pickup band, where each block is dyed a different color:

painted woven fabric2

And here is a handspun silk doubleweave with a small piece of the original fabric, showing both sides of the painted fabric:

painted woven fabric1

You can see how this technique allows me to make a somewhat simple fabric much more complex: colors appear and disappear as if they were woven of many more harnesses than eight, and I can paint both sides differently.

Here is the same thing done on a wool/angora handspun supplementary warp, also the original black and white sample, plus both sides of the painted fabric:

painted woven fabric

I've tried samples of knit fabrics with this painting technique too:

painted knit fabric

The fabric certainly looks more complex than it is: there are 5 colors across some rows, but I only knit with two!

The possibilities are just boggling, that is, if you have the desire to sit and paint tiny little squares with thickened dye. Apparently I do.

I leave you with this morning's sky:

morning sky1

a good beginning for a new day.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Something's Fishy

It is my habit to spin first thing each day when I enter the studio. It helps me focus my day, decide which projects need attention, and make lists.

I usually have some intention for the yarn when spinning, but if I don't have a project planned, I will just spin *for the halibut*. It piles up the yarn, and eventually the yarn falls into a project. I don't have a wide range of spinning possibilities: usually I'm either I'm spinning silk for weaving, or yarn for rugs. Either way, large piles of yarn can pile up, not project specific, and then be useful when an idea forms.

But this halibut yarn is for knitting. It's Blue Faced Leicester, from Paradise Fibers , 3 ply. It's spinning up with no fuss, perfect for that musing I need to do:

BFL yarn

At this point in time, I expect to dye this in a workshop Nancy will be teaching here for our guild at the end of this month: we will learn to use the knitting machines, dye our fabric, and then we will reknit at leisure. I'm also planning to dye some Silk and Ivory (silk and merino) from Henry's Attic. Probably both batches of yarn will end up as lace knit shawls (who *is* this person and what have you done with Sara?).

I took some of the Blue Faced Leicester and Dyed it:

BFL dry
pan filled with dry top

BFL dye added2
dye added: several colors of reds

BFL dyed
all dry and ready to spin.

Again, just for the halibut. I don't know what this will be, I was thinking textured stitch sweater when I dyed it. I'll spin it for knitting (which, for me, is a 3 ply). Then I'll see how much I end up with, and what I want to make.

It might just be more lace. This lace knitting (and I'm a rank beginner at it) is a bit alluring. I've been looking at patterns, and I think I'll try more a few more adventurous ones.

We are also having Joan Schrouder come for a knitting workshop in February. She has no website, apparently, but the link takes you to a description of some of the classes she offers. Since I am on the committee to set these things up, we are having (you guessed it) lace knitting for at least one of the days she will be teaching. Either a Faroese shawl, or Orenberg style lace, or maybe??? We are still batting it back and forth.

And as for me: back to the batts. Time to go settle in for a spin.