Friday, March 30, 2007

No Blue Lips

Labyrinth and spindles

Just spindles this time, no lips, coffee beans or cowrie shells :).

This is the *other side* of the bag from this post. It's about 12" by 7", handspun wool and mohair.

Now: on to weaving a band for the handle. I wish I could whine and moan about how much work this all is, but it's, um, not! It's just too fun.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Cat Post

You have been warned.

My husband says I am obsessed with this cat:

mojo lap

It is spring here (despite last night's snows), and small vermin abound outside. The keyword there is outside. Mojo does not get the concept:

mojo mouse2

The really fun thing to do is to let the current victim go, under the couch:

mojo mouse

See how small that space is between the couch and the floor? I think it makes the game into *cat TV*:

mojo mouse3

It reminds me of those old cartoons, where the Big Cat Face appears in the mouse hole. In this case, the mouse, or vole, bird, lizard or snake, whatever is the current treat, seems to flee to the other end of the couch, causing the Evil Cat to scurry around, back and forth, in the chase.

The fate of this particular beast? The vacuum cleaner I'm afraid. Otherwise we have corpus delecti under the couch. So the vacuum sucks them up and we deposit them outside, sometimes still quite alive, sometimes much the worse for wear(where do all those lizard tails go??). This little victim was the third one that day. Perhaps Mojo is just helping me get to the vacuuming?

I'm putting this current cat-obsession to good use though:

cat shawl sample

I have been spinning up some grey (cat-colored) yarn, and designing a cat-based four-square shawl. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Mojo, however, does not appreciate evening knitting:

Mojo evening

It forces him to sleep on the arm of the couch, not the lap.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Three Cups of Tea

Read this book:
3 cups of tea

This man is doing more to bring about peace in Central Asia than any coalition of the willing, or not-so-willing, can ever hope to do. There is very little of politics in this book, and yet it is current events writ large.

Because of my interest in textiles of Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, I read lots of books about the area, fiction, non-fiction, textile-related or not:

book pile


book pile2

These are fascinating books, some even life-changing for me, and I've enjoyed them all. But not one is as touching, compelling, important and heart-felt as Three Cups of Tea. It does not even mention textiles, but it is related. It is about the people, the place and the future of the people and the place where these textiles are a part of the fabric of life.

Buy this book, read this book. Better yet, go to the website. Attend one of Greg Mortenson's talks, donate to the Central Asia Institute, spread the word.

This man is doing good work. If you ever despaired of peace in the region, or hope for the future, read this book.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Just Weaving

OK, blue lips? Coffee beans? Cowrie shells? (well, I can see that one. . . )

black silk Mar 2007

On the loom now, Cascade silk, two-block twill, sett at 24, woven with a 2 ply raw silk from Robin and Russ. It's really black, but to get any detail I had to wash out the color.

What do you all see in this, eh? :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Weaving About Weaving

spider web2

Fun, eh?

Edit re Marcy's comment: it's always fun to hear what other people *see* in the graphics. Around the edge are shuttles, Marcy, shuttles. The thread path goes from spindle to shuttle to web (a little hard to see?). Here is the real *failure*: I had to take the photo in certain light, at an angle, to even see the spindles: the blue and red are too close in value to really see well. Ah well, next time. There's always a next time!

Monday, March 12, 2007

All Silk, All The Time

Well, at least it seems so recently:

silk fiber

Silk dyeing occurs apace. These may be for classes, the next one being this May, in Ontario. I say may be because this is bleached tussah, something I've not used before, and, while it is dyeing up nicely, it is not as crisp and orderly as the usual bombyx. I'm going to have to spin some up, and try it out, such a hardship [back of hand pressed to forehead].

This one is bombyx:

Sarah's silk

A long delayed thank you gift, which has gone off in the mail. I think you can see the difference, on the surface at least: this is more orderly and crisp. I may be jousting at windmills here, only the spinning will tell.

And here we have the latest knitting:

peacock scarf

The Peacock shawl, in two ply silk, on US 0's. I'm through half of the rows here, and you can see by the ruler at about 10" deep, so it will be about 20" deep as a scarf. I'm finding knitting with the white very easy to see, even though the stitches are tiny. I will dye it a dark red once it's knitted; knitting a dark color would've been too hard on the old eyes that I somehow have in my face.

The pattern is good, easy to follow, no mistakes so far. I'm into the longer rows now though, up to chart 4, so the going will be slower from here on in. But May is months away, right? right? I know. These things tend to sneak up on us.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

More Spinning, No Yoga

Last post, there were two comments regarding spinning for weaving. It's a big subject, but I'll answer from my little corner of the weaving world.

Anne asked the easier question: Do you have a favorite "coarse" wool breed for warp? And do you prefer singles over plied? Or does it depend on the application?

Hands down first choice for rug warps: Lincoln wool. Other longwools will do: Leicester, Wensleydale, even Romney. But I prefer Lincoln, bought as fleece, then processed into pindrafted rovings. I always ply, usually 3 ply for warps. All the yarns, commercial and handpsun, mentioned as warp yarn in the last post were 3 ply.

Bibliotecaria (!) asked *what do you look for in spinning a yarn suitable for weaving? Although that may be too broad a question.*

In the context about which I was posting, warp yarns, I look for very tight twist in the spin and ply. These are yarns which will have to withstand abrasion in the weaving process, and the fabrics they produce need to be durable too: bands, which become handles for bags, mostly, in my world, get lots of wear and tear. Rug warps get a lot of abuse in the making, not so much in the using, since they are protected (covered) by the weft.

Twist is a funny thing, more adds durability and abrasion resistance, up to a point. Less, and you can have a weak yarn, which either pills in the wearing/use, or actually doesn't stand up to the making process.

I think I am out of step with current use/yarn design: I like almost all my yarns, whether they be for weaving or knitting, to be spun fine, with lots of twist. I ply up to the size I want, again, whether for weaving or knitting. I think of these yarns as *traditional* in that indigenous or ancestral cultures, who spun and wove for everyday use, not for pleasure so much, made yarns more like these. Today, we see lots of soft spun, sometimes even soft spun singles, used in weaving and knitting. Without felting, these yarns just are not as durable as tightly twisted firmly plied yarns.

For resources, look at the yarns mentioned in Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans, or Mary Wright's Cornish Guernseys and Knit-frocks. The yarns used in this type of knitting are described as worsted 5 ply, knit up at a gauge of 8 to 9 stitches to the inch, on US 1's, 2's, or 3's. That is fine yarn, we'd say *sport weight*, tightly spun and plied, for durability.

For weaving, the best yarn reference for traditional garments I have found is Else Ostergard's Woven Into the Earth, wherein she dissects the fabrics, and the yarns: 2 ply yarns spun at a 45 degree angle, plied at a 35-40 degree angle, and then sett and beat as close as 30 ends per inch, more commonly at 20 ends per inch, and picks per inch. Those are fine yarns, and they make up into fabrics that can be cut and tailored, and worn everyday, as durable working garments.

How durable does a yarn or garment need to be? Well, I guess that depends on the product: I like things that I make to last. I do not make trendy things for the most part, but classic sweaters, shawls, blankets, scarves, etc. I wear them everyday, and just yesterday put on a woven shirt I made in 1995 (I guess I could make some new clothes, eh?).

How about softness? Well, for that I depend on the fiber. We have at our disposal almost every fiber known to man, and a few new ones never before imagined. If I want something soft, I use a fiber suitable, like silk, but I still spin with plenty of twist and ply the yarn.

I have several silk scarves, some 12 to 15 years old. I use them often. I don't treat them as delicate, because they are not. They are still shiny and firm, because the yarn had plenty of twist, making it durable. But they are as soft as, well, silk.

Here is the current shawl:

hs silk shawl

And a close up of the yarn and weave structure (hah! it's plain weave, but sett close, so it's a warp-dominant plain weave):

hs silk shawl2

hs silk shawl3

Anyway, you can see the yarns are close together, and rub on each other every time the shed is changed. They would abrade in the weaving, if it weren't for the tight twist. This is spun silk, always a little lesser quality than reeled silk, and in order to approximate the reeled silk look, I need to make the yarns so they fuzz as little as possible. Spin tight, ply tight, ply up if you want a larger yarn.

So that's my mantra: spin fine and ply tight. The quality of the fiber determines how coarse, or how fine, the garment/object will be. And sheesh, a diatribe. I can go on and on (obviously), but I will stop myself. I hope I've given you a picture of why I do what I do.

In other news, I received this yesterday:

Anne's fiber

A box of handyed shetland rovings from Anne :). The little bags are 2 oz. each and spin up nicely to fill a bobbin. I started the usual dreaming of *what this will be*: a knitted shawl (surprise, eh?) and decided to dye up some wool to ply with it. I hunted through the bins and found some grey wool roving, which I am dyeing right now. It was marked Belinda and Rambo, (sheep I once knew) 1987.

Hmph. No wool here shall be spun before its time.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Spinning and Yoga

With a title like that, I expect to get more than a few hits from people looking for exercise information. Move along, nothing to see here. We're talking fiber, and I don't mean dietary fiber. . .

rug yarns March 2007

Cold weather, snow and ice have meant much spinning time in front of the warm fire lately. These are three yarns I've been spinning: pile weft, rug warp, and band warp. The pile wefts are Karakul and English Leicester. The grey Karakul I bought this past month at a new spinning store Stick and Stone Fiberarts, in Van Nuys. This is all there was of this fiber, and only a rug weaver could love it: full of kemp, it was abrasive enough to exfoliate. I also spun up some dark Karakul from Black Pines (thanks Cathy for the heads-up). It was very nice to spin, not as abrasive as the grey, but definitely a rug yarn. The white is the English Leicester, from Brindle Hill Farm in PA. Very nice stuff, all of it, and now I have a pile of pile yarn.

The rug warp is 3 ply, only a portion of what I will need. I think there are 250 yds. here and I'll need about 1400. But it is coming out nicely:

warp yarn Mar 2007

This is two commercial warp yarns on the outside edges used as standards, with the handspun in the center. The fiber is a wool/mohair blend, from neighbor Sue's (former) goats. I have plenty and plenty of the blend to spin up, so I will persevere. I once read a lengthy online missive from an inexperienced spinner about spinning coarse wools into fine yarns: she was opposed to it on some logical grounds, the extended explanation of which I have forgotten. My thought at the time: too much thinking, not enough experience. She'd been spinning for some twenty years, but had limited experience with traditional weaving. Some things are counter-intuitive: coarse wool makes fabulous firm fine rug yarn, and has for centuries.

3 yarns March 2007

Here are all three types of yarns: two ply band warp, three ply rug warp (both from the same fiber blend) and the pile yarns. It is fun to be able to flip back and forth spinning a variety of yarn types: it makes a big project seem less daunting when taken in small bites.

I have some dyeing to do now, and the weather has been improving enough to imagine working (outside) in my dye *room*.

The yoga mentioned in the title? That would be Mojo:

mojo sleeps Mar 07

He practised his Bikram yoga during the storms, on the rug in front of the fire.