Monday, February 28, 2005

The Mystery of the Spiders

Warning: Arachnophobics Look Away!

disgusting spiders

These disgusting spiders are purple. Dead, and purple. They came out of the dyepot. The question is: how did they get *into* the dyepot?

I had 4 more bobbins of silk spun for my shirt:

silk bobbins

I ran the warps and washed them in a bucket (an empty, white bucket), then I washed out the crockpot (an empty, tan pot) and filled it with clear water, soap and some washing soda for the de-gumming. No spiders evident so far.

After de-gumming, I rinsed the silk, washed out and re-filled the crockpot with water, a cup of vinegar and dye (Lanaset, Violet and Turquoise, both 2%, about an 80/20 mix). I re-entered the warps, put on the lid, and walked away. Three hours later, I turned off the pot. I did not lift off the lid. The next morning, I rinsed the warps, and The Spiders were in the bottom of the pot. And yes, they are purple. Where did they come from? How did they get into the dyepot?

Perhaps they were in the dyestock (premixed, but kept in sealed jars). That's the only non-see-through liquid in the process. But I poured it into a measuring cup first, and did not notice corpus delicti. It's a mystery.

Here's the dyed yarn:

blue silk yarn

And the pile of yarn so far:


I'm halfway to a new shirt.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Penny Squisher

rolling mill2

I was planning to title this post Tool Porn for Marcy, but I was reminded of all the spam that might generate. We can only hope *they* don't find us now.

This is my rolling mill, used mostly for squishing pennies. I used to employ the railroad tracks, but that was chancy, and required Actually Leaving Home, which I do only under duress.

Why squish pennies? To use as embellishments. I like their coppery goodness, and their price. This bag is *Venus*, handspun silk, with a few squished pennies in among the embellishments:


Rumors occasionally arise that pennies will be discontinued as actual coin of the realm, at which time I plan to rush to the bank with my $10 and purchase a lifetime supply. I do have a disc cutter and copper sheet metal, but pennies are much more fun.

I drill the holes first (more tool porn) with my drill press:

drill press

Depending on my mood, the hole might be through Lincoln's head once again (History Major) or, more kindly, through the Lincoln Memorial. Here is a bundle, ready to be shipped off to a friend, who thinks they'd be fabulous on the hem of a skirt:


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Eye Protection

This is one big eye bead:


which has become part of a chain of beads, including more eye beads large and small:


Eye beads afford protection and ward off evil. Blue is also a magic color, so a blue eyebead might just be the *best* eyebead. And then a Very Large Blue eyebead, well, it just might rise to the top of the Protective Amulet charts. The chain will be used to hang a harem lamp belonging to Cousin Joan, similar to this one which she gave to us:

harem light 2

Cousin Joan likes to travel. Sometimes, she travels to Turkey. She can be prevailed upon to bring back lovely things from Turkey, like the harem lamps, and also useful things, like these scary pile scissors:

pile scissors

Scary yes, but also scarce and hard to find here. There are not markets and bazaars selling tools of the weavers trade in my town. So we send Joan, of the cousin persuasion, off to the hinterlands. And in return, we sometimes make her things with her beads.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Front Flap Flops

In a nice way:

felted bag

Finished. The handle was cardwoven, sewn on, the bag lined and given a few embellishments. The coins were part of my Christmas gift of beads from my younger son, and they add a little weight to the front flap, making it flop closed nicely.

It was a neat quick project. I am more accustomed to working with silk, or a cotton foundation warp with wool pickup warps. This was more challenging: the warp was a bit sticky, the sheds were a *pull* to clear, and beating on a closed shed was, um, tight. The selvedges were not as neat as I would like, but the bag construction and felting hide that detail. I felted it twice (through a machine cycle and the dryer) to get the firmness I wanted. I like the finished felted bagginess of it all.

I think for future projects, a little more twist to the yarns, Peruvian style, would solve some of those difficulties.

And what's in the bag (goose)?


Tools. From the top: small magnifying glasses (an essential item for me) in their case, a case of tapestry needles, Altoids (*suckies*, in the vernacular), a shed stick (made by Woody of Woodchuck Wood Products), band shuttle, tape measure, scissors, hand repair balm, and small pliers (for pulling those tapestry needles through thick cloth or pesky tight sheds).

Friday, February 18, 2005

The bag so far

wool band bag2

The bands were woven, sewn into a bag shape, then tossed summarily into the washing machine. The fabric agitated a while (in hot water, with detergent), then ran through the rinse cycle, agitated again, the water spun out, then I popped the fabric into the dryer for about 15 minutes.

The fabric is nicely fulled, still supple, and will move on to the next phase (the band for the handle) next.

Last, a picture on a green background, just for Freyalynn:

wool band bag

(I'm not sure the green helps, but, hey, she asked)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

"Have you ever *seen* a fish?"

picses prayer rug

Some of my best lines come from other people. The above quote came from Betty, who, yes, has actual fish in the creek behind her house, and has probably seen her share. In my defense, yes, I have seen fish. This was the second attempt to depict fish, the first attempt was declared by Kathryn to look like a horse.

Betty elaborated that the eyes were odd. Now that I look at it more critically, I think yes, the side fins are perhaps too big. But how 'bout those fine tails, eh?

Your friends will keep you humble.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Back to Weaving

On the way home in the airplane, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. After watching people weave silk bands all weekend, it occurred to me that I have a wool band, of the pickup variety, which just might make a nice felted bag, similar to this one:

band bag

But I was wrong. I got home and pulled out the band in question:


and even though the pattern was OK (random pickup) the color order was wrong, and there were borders, which would get in the way of any design continuity in the bag.

So I *had* to warp the loom and start another, of course, to follow through with the idea, even if there were other projects screaming for attention. The new band so far:


Handspun wool, some of which was once destined to be socks (3 ply), other of which is Lincoln, once destined to be part of a knotted pile something. It pays to have stash. When next you see it, it shall be a small felted wool bag.

And, the apparently obligatory blog cat picture:


Kitty. Our personal feral cat. She is a good mouser, we feed her so she stays around. We also trapped her, had her spayed and given shots, for which she has not forgiven us. It took a long while to gain her trust, now she is nervous again. But she's here, and she'll eat, so she may eventually come around. She is not as charming as Claudia's Igor (scroll down), but she has potential.

And last, lest I be accused of lack of loyalty to my home State:


It's California, in February.

Monday, February 14, 2005

More Winter Here Than There

I'm back from the land of Very Nice People in a Not Very Cold Place. I wish I had taken more pictures in the first part of the week, when there was Actual Snow on the ground, and when I was staying on a beautiful, remote ranch, far from city lights. Photo opportunities abounded: the shy cock pheasant tiptoeing around the spilled seed from the feeder, the luminous golden grasses, which glowed against sky, soil and snow. There were willows, with branches red in winter, and an oak which had golden yellow branches, both trees looking like basket material on the hoof. The clear, crisp weather was a delight, the air crystalline, and fresh. The night sky was intensely populated with stars. We drove on one outing up to the mountains, and then out into wide open spaces, rolling open hills and bluffs, with much sky, and long vistas of grasslands.

The latter half of my visit was snowless, also Not Very Cold, and I only remembered to take this one snapshot, of the view from my hostess Linda's backyard:

Linda's view

We spent a few days spinning silk and weaving bands, I ate more than my share of Montana's winter rations, and then, suddenly, I am home. To rain, and cold fog. I am sitting wrapped in my new mohair shawl, the fire going, hot tea in hand, and bean soup on the stove, all in an attempt to stave off bone-chilling cold. Irony? You decide.

yurt fog

Monday, February 07, 2005

Maiden Voyage

The travel bag makes its debut:

travel bag2

This will be filled with my water bottle, protein bars, book, ticket, travel shawl and other essentials for its first trip tomorrow.

It came out well, not perfect by any means, but certainly serviceable. The fabric is not as crisp as I would like, even though it's sett quite close, has a firm beat and a heavy enough weft. I think silk just wants to relax. Linen might be a better fiber choice next time: this is how a *series* starts!

travel bag4

The pockets are knotted pile, they once graced the walls as objects d'art, but seemed lonely and in need of a bag upon which to reside. So they start their new incarnation in a more utilitarian role.

The demonstration warp has nearly two *whole* inches woven, not very picturesque yet, but progress certainly:

pile project

And last:


housegifts. I will be staying with two different people on this trip, they each get a towel, and one of my hostesses will also have a new bookmark. The towels are 5/2 & 8/2 cottons and rayons, warp painted and sett at 20 epi, and woven with 8/2. The bookmark is handspun silk, Latvian pickup, way fun.

I'm off to Montana, yes, in winter. Go ahead, even my travel agent laughed. If you are a member of the Billings Weavers Guild, or Prairie Handspinners I may see you this week. And the next blog post might just have some picturesque travel shots, or so we can hope.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Weaving in Public II

Charleen said it recently:


A newly warped loom is all about potential.

I warped the small loom yesterday for a demonstration at the Sacramento Weavers Guild's annual Open House this weekend. It is a two day event, I will be there all day Sunday. There are the usual exhibits of members' work, and demonstrations.

I'm taking a chance this time and planning to work without a plan (oxymoron?). I usually have more than a sketch to go by, and often have a square-by-square pattern to follow. But like Lisa, in her post on Scarimekko Revisited, I'm going to wing it. I'll take one of the sketches from my sketch book, and a bundle of colorful silk, and weave away.

The mitigating factor is that I rarely get very much done during a demo anyway, so if it is really terrible, I'll call it a sample and start over later (always have an out).

Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

More Dyeing Fun

By the time this picture is posted, this knitting will be no more:

cashmere hat

Yes, sadly, I had to rip. This is the same 3 ply cashmere yarn as the fingerless gloves in the previous post. I have lots left, enough for a hat, and maybe yet another pair of gloves. So I started the hat, but the gauge over stranded knitting is just too different: I need an inch more in width. The hat might fit, but it looks like I'm trying to be one of those skater-dudes in their little tight watch caps. Um, no.

The planning and dyeing for this cap has been way fun though (in the vernacular). I'm stealing, um, borrowing, an idea from my friend Nancy Roberts. She took her inspiration from an article in Threads by Rebekah Younger, about knitting fabric on a knitting machine, dyeing it, ripping it and reknitting it.

Nancy has taken this technique and, well, become obsessed. She has done samples, bags, hats, socks, sweaters and. . . you get the picture. The colors reknit into subtle and striking stranded patterns, looking like complicated color changes, when really it's only two strands.

Here's some of her dyed fabric:

nancy's dyed shetland

And then here's the fabric reknit using a strand from each skein:

nancy's shetland

The two colorways fit neatly together, making a complicated looking fabric.

She has also done knit-dye-reknit with a solid color yarn:

Nancy's bag

This is a knitted/felted bag she sent me. The leftover yarn is in the photo, showing the very long color repeats. It is this technique that I am copying, um, reproducing. I sent 3 skeins of cashmere yarn to Nancy, she knit them into a long strip for me on her machine, and I dyed it:

dyed knitting

Now I'm reknitting (or, as you now know, reknitting *again*) this yarn with the leftover plain burgundy yarn from the gloves. The colors are just beginning to change in my hat. The ball of yarn shows the long color repeats.

Nancy's done several whole sweaters:

Finished Gansey 022

The really exciting news is that she will teach this technique at this year's SOAR ! Yes, she will have knitting machines there. Yes, those lucky ducks who take the class will knit, dye and the begin reknitting their project. And the retreat class will learn Nancy's neat trick for dyeing a *pair* of self-striping socks that match:

nancy's socks

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


This little cardwoven band will be the handle on my travel carry bag:


It is reeled silk, painted with Lanaset dyes, with a cotton weft. It's coming out well, I like it, it will work.

But it has caused me fits. It is a threaded in pattern. I first set it up on a small loom. After weaving an inch or so, I decided I wanted the borders to rotate continuously forward, making a tidy edge. So, I unwound the warp from the small loom, and set up the center section on a c-clamp, with the borders weighted separately.

Well, this worked for about another inch. The tension was too wonky (technical weaving term), so we went to Plan C. I set it up for the third time, still midstream during the weaving process, on my floor loom, winding the center section on the warp beam, and dropping the weighted edge threads over the back beam.

I wove for another inch (we can see we have a total of 3 inches and several hours here, right?). Well, at this point, I gave up on the separate rotation for the edges, and decided to weave them all as a pack.

Why? Well, the tension *still* was uneven. The center section has cards rotating variably in both directions as it is, and with the edge warps rotating only one direction, the tension overall was too funky. I think it might be my eclectic collection of weights: a motley crew of fishing weights and jars of pennies.

I will try this again, starting from the outset on the floor loom, with a set of evenly matched weights. But for now, for this band, I'm just going to weave away.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Weaving in Public

We don't get much chance to weave in public. The occasional sheep-to-shawl, or guild demonstration, yes, but not often do we see weaving on the train on the way to work, or weaving in the doctor's office while waiting. Knitters and spindlers have all the fun.

Weaving is much more a solitary craft. But,occasionally we get out there, and perhaps lure a few new converts to the craft. Interweave Press has been sponsoring an award they call FiberHearts, for guilds that do weaving outreach: teaching, demonstrating, and generally putting weaving in the public eye.

My local guild was the recipient of one of the first FiberHearts awards, in 2003. We have two guild ringleaders, Beryl Moody and Igor Raven, who manage to organize, set up, staff and cajole others to staff, lots of demonstrations in our local community through the year. We have a presence at our County Fair, we also spin and demonstrate weaving at other local events held at the fair grounds. The guild has purchased inkle looms, which are set up on demonstration days and have a docent present to help children (and adults!) learn to weave inkle bands. We have sheep to shawl demonstrations, and lots of spinners come out and spin. It was these activities that led to the FiberHearts award in 2003.


We decided that some of the money would be used to sponsor another guild outreach we call the Rug Project. We would, as a group, spin, dye, warp and weave a knotted pile rug, in public, and invite others to learn and participate as we demonstrate. The project could involve almost everyone in our guild: we bought wool and mohair from local producers, we spun the warp and weft yarns, dyed them with natural materials available locally, designed a rug based on local images such as acorns, oak leaves, quail, deer, and snowflakes, and we weave in public whenever we get the chance.

Much of the wool and mohair for the project was donated, then we sent it to Yolo Wool Mill to be processed into French combed top. We spun the yarn, and then invited Karen Urbanek to come and teach a workshop on natural dyeing. The design team: Ginger Luters, Teresa Poston, Jan Evers and Eileen Jorgensen, came up with a design representative of our local area. I taught 2 knotted pile workshops to our guild members, with the understanding that the trained weavers would then demonstrate and teach others as the rug progressed.

We built a portable loom out of galvanized pipe, met to warp the loom, and I started the rug out with a border. Then we were out in public! We demonstrated and taught and events through the summer of 2004, then the rug went home with a different weaver each month. Members have been weaving in their homes, and I had not seen the rug for many months. Our target date for completing this first (!) rug is June 2005. Recently, the rug loom showed up at a guild meeting, and I was pleased and surprised at the progress:


This is the back of the loom, showing the rug as it wraps around after weaving. The picture above is the rug as the weaver would see it: the weaving edge.

I cannot tell you how pleased I am, not only with the progress on the loom, but also that we have managed to lure at least one new weaver (Hi Jan!) and several experienced weavers (Hi Dee, Sue, Beryl and Igor!) into knotted pile. It is a delight to me that other people enjoy this process, and that everyone in the guild who has worked on this project has had such fun.

We plan to raffle the rug at the conclusion, and I have my money ready to buy tickets. We hope to raise back the investment Interweave made in our guild, and keep our outreach projects going. Thank you all!