Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Dyeing Silk

More warm colors:

silk cloth5

Dyeing silk is a two step process: de-gum, and then dye. I always assume silk comes to me with the sericin (gum) still in it. I remove it in an alkaline bath of water, detergent and soda ash, then I apply the dye.

Specifics? I use a table top roaster with inside dimensions of about 12" by 18" x 6" deep (or so, I'm guessing here). I fill it about 2" deep, squirt in some dish detergent and add 2T soda ash. Then I layer in the silk, about 2 to 3 ounces worth, turn it on to 215ºF and leave it for 2 to 3 hours. After de-gumming, I lift out the silk, drain it, and rinse out the pan.

I refill, with 2" water, add a cup of vinegar or 2T citric acid crystals, the dye stock, and then re-enter the silk. I leave it, at 215ºF, for another 2 to 3 hours. I let the silk cool in the dyebath, and the next day I rinse and dry it. I use up existing dyestock solutions, either Lanaset or Cibacron fiber reactive. In fact, the only dye I won't use on silk is *weak acid* or level acid dyes, sometimes called Kiton type.

And because it's all about the photos:

altar cloth3

Treenway's 8/2 reeled silk sett at 24 epi. Dyed as yarn, not fiber, some painted and some immersion, as described above.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Monk's Robes

Some of the latest silk dyeing:

monk's robes

These colors were inspired by monk's robes from Southeast Asia. Ginger Luters recently gave our local guild a slide lecture on her trip to Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar), and showed us wonderful textiles she collected there.

I also dyed some blues and other reds:

silk dyeing3

Seasonal Peeps for scale, of course.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Few Beads

One of my sons gave me beads for Christmas. It occurred to me that the large silver-wrapped amber bead might be nice on a necklace to go with this fabric:


The color shows up funny on my monitor: the amber is a deep rich gold. I made the amber into a pendant, using 14 ga. silver wire, and strung a variety of beads to go with it. There are glass, silver and semi precious beads, and two carved wood or seed beads (also part of the the gift from my son), plus some silver charms which were a gift from my friend Mollie.

I like balanced but asymmetrical work, so some things match and some don't. I tried to avoid the *phallic pendant* look, so easy to achieve, so hard to forget!

A few quick answers to comments: I chose unmercerized cotton weft for the fabric because it is *sticky* (being unmercerized) and will hold the smooth silk together well. I choose wefts based on a) the color (purple in this case) b) the size and c) the surface finish: either unmercerized or raw silk for their rough surface. With smooth threads like silk, using a slick (mercerized) weft means the seams might not be stable once the fabric is sewn into a garment, even close sett and firmly beat fabric. I wash all the fabric off the loom, and wash my clothing (honest I do) once it's sewn up (no dry cleaning).

And Char: the blue band is just part of the fabric: it will be sewn 4 panels together, with sleeves added. The sleeves are the same as the kimono sleeves you've seen me wear: like this.

And for Jesse:


a photo of my studio. Obviously taken in late Fall; the new green leaves are all out on the trees, now that it is Spring (that comment is for Claudia). (And notice how I refrained from saying *my darling son Jesse*? His friends would only tease him). Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

At Last

Whew! Spun, dyed, on the loom, and starting to weave:

silk fabric

fabric for the new silk shirt. I ended up with 11 warp chains, some painted, some resist dyed and some immersion dyed. I think I spun 6 bricks total, but I really didn't keep track. This is 608 ends, sett at 40 epi, just over 15" wide. The weft is 10/2 unmercerized cotton.

And for a straight-on view:

silk fabric 4

The next time you see this, it will be a shirt! Now, back to the rug (my daily grind, so to speak).

Friday, March 18, 2005

Getting There

I'm moving along on the rug border:

March 18 rug

At about two rows a day, it will take me another ten days. There are a few challenges, but overall it's coming out fine. I am apparently not as strong as Peter was: I can't seem to beat in the rows as tightly as he did. It will make for a deeper border, but that's a small detail, I think (I hope).

Quick answers to silk comments:

The silk top I'm dyeing is from Peace of Yarn, retail outlets include Carolina Homespun in San Francisco, and The Fold, in Illinois. I'm dyeing it for class supplies, including an upcoming workshop at SOAR 2005 on silk cut pile (the same technique as the rug pictured above).

The silk top in the photo below is unspun silk, prepared for spinning in a long aligned rope of fibers, yes, similar to wool top. It's fabulous stuff, and makes sumptuous yarns.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hip Deep in Slow Projects

Progress is being made. The progress is not very photogenic, however. I'm still spinning silk, still weaving row by row on Peter's rug, and now also dyeing silk everyday.

I started with this:

silk top

Six pounds of bombyx top. Unfortunately, it's not for me, it's class supplies. It will become more of this:

dyed silk top

but at one dye run a day, it will take a few weeks.

Back to the salt mines.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A Few Diversions

Off-blog, so to speak, I've been asked why I have so much left over fabric, and what I *do* with all that left over fabric.

Well, I plan to have more fabric than I will need (is it thus *left over*? You decide). Extra fabric is not a bad thing, mistakes happen, miscalculations happen, and one can always use good durable fabric (foregoing the term *peasant*, taking Lisa's point).

I've used fabric for a series of bags, and yes, these are definitely classifiable in the *useless diversions* category, but, hey, I like them and they've kept me busy:

goddess bags

I've also learned, thanks to a class at Convergence in Denver last June, to make books (in a manner of speaking), using my fabrics for the covers:


I made several of these blank books for gifts this year.

My math skills being what they are, I feel more comfortable knowing I'm weaving extra fabric, and usually have about two yards left whenever I plan a garment. Not on dishtowel warps though: those always go down to the last inch, and I give them away. I haven't had new dishtowels myself in a few years and, hey,(while I'm whining)I need new curtains too!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Peasant Cloth

I originally entitled this post A Few Quick Answers, but I went beyond brief. I do want to answer a few questions I've received though, from last week's posts:

First of all, the angora in my scarf is from Bay Colony Farm, in MA. I spun it, and the cashmere, on my Lendrum with the Very Fast Head:


(You can see I'm back to spinning silk.)

And, as Lisa points out, few peasants had access cashmere or angora, so can I actually still call my cashmere scarf peasant cloth? I think so, because it's the spinning and weaving style that I use to define it. I believe it's well spun yarns sett close and beaten with a firm beat that make for durable cloth, no matter what the fiber content.

Pre-Industrial people invested precious time in their personal cloth production, and that cloth needed to be as durable as possible. Laura J discussed the book Woven Into The Earth, which I am reading, and the fabric samples unearthed in Norse Greenland. These textiles were primarily woven of smooth, uniform singles with a tight twist angle of 40° or more, woven closely sett at 25 to 30 epi. There are rarely any kinked threads, indicating firm control over such highly twisted threads. The warp-weighted looms probably aided in this, but the weft must have been under control in some manner too.

I choose to make my *peasant cloth* from plied yarns, sett close, more on the Andean model (although not *as* tightly spun, nor *as* closely sett):


There are over 100 samples here, cottons and silks, woven over the last 15-20 years. The fabrics for clothing are sett closer than I would, say, for a dishtowel, because I want them to be durable. I wear most of my clothing as *everyday* wear, not special event clothing, so it has to stand up to my daily life events.

So yes, I think silk can be *peasant cloth*, and cashmere, angora, alpaca, merino, and all the luxury fibers we can buy today. Aren't we lucky, to have access to all the fibers of the world, and the time and good fortune to spin up any fiber we want?

Friday, March 11, 2005

All Soft All the Time

The angora yarn was spun, plied and dyed:

angora yarn

then used as weft for the cashmere warp:

cashmere scarf

Yummy. Cashmere and angora, warm and soft.

But it will also be durable, and give years of soft warm wear. A Famous Weaving Teacher once said I wove good *peasant cloth*, which I take as a compliment.

The warp is long staple Royal Cashmere from Peace of Yarn. It's spun fine with plenty of twist, then plied with plenty of twist. Then it's sett closely, and woven with a firm, but not crushing, beat. I depend on the inherent softness of the fiber for eventual softness in the finished piece, as opposed to spinning softly, or weaving loosely.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Quick Update

Just a quick update , I promise I won't bore you with row-by-row photos as I finish this.

Here's a close-up photo of Peter's rug, including the new rows of border that I wove yesterday:

peter's rug2

You can see the colors and small designs Peter used: the yarns were hand-dyed and have wonderful color variations. Most of the rug was woven when I received it, I'm weaving the last border. I managed yesterday to advance the warp, adjust the tension, and create the pattern from the back of the rug:

rug pattern2

and weave two rows. Only 35 rows left to go!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Peter's Rug

peters rug

I am finishing this rug for Peter, who died too young, and for his sister, who now owns it. Peter was a scholar, an artist, and a craftsperson. He repaired and restored rugs, and was almost finished with his own rug when he died unexpectedly.

The design is the result of Peter's research and scholarship: it is a recreation of the rug in this portrait, The Mass of St. Giles, by the Master of St. Giles, now held by the National Gallery in London. Peter attended design school in London, and came home with a sheaf of slides and notes on rugs in portraits and paintings in the National Gallery.

Peter and I learned to weave knotted pile from the same teacher. But Peter surpassed his teacher in craftsmanship, and in the complexity of this design, and I hope to learn from him, by working on his rug. I have had to graph the design from the existing rug, and now will endeavor to do this rug justice as I complete the border.

I promised Peter's sister that I would finish his rug in time for his birthday, April 5th. It's time to buckle down to work.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Quilt Blocks

pile quilt block

OK, so it's not a typical quilt block. It's knotted pile, not fabric (well, it *is* fabric, but not that kind). Anyway, herewith my first knotted pile quilt block design. This bag back is approximately 5" x 8".

I used handspun wool for the knots, Lincoln to be exact, on a sample loom I already had warped. It was quick and fun, I like it. This type of weaving is simple and can be a very meditative process. Sometimes I sit down to work, and look up hours later, having lost all track of time. Such are many of my days.

This is much like quilting in another way: quilters take perfectly good pieces of cloth, cut them up into little bits, and sew them back together again. I have taken perfectly fine skeins of yarn, cut them up into little bits, and knotted them back together again. But it's all in the pattern of knotting, or sewing back together, if you will. We all have our little obsessions, eh?

Charleen asked why I don't make bigger bags. Well I have, some, but there are problems. First: the bag itself becomes heavy. Knotted pile tends to be a weighty fabric, and not conducive to carrying around. So if a bag is to be a container, bigger is fine. But as a carry bag, not so good. I did try it once:

pile goddess bag

I carried this bag for about a year, which was about enough time to make another, smaller bag, to replace it.

Also, the width of the bag sets up a range of practical lengths: if a narrow bag is too deep, it becomes impractical to reach into it. Long narrow bags are fine for storing long narrow things, but not really as useful to carry about.

There is an eminently practical aspect of knotted pile that appeals to my thrifty Scots heritage: the knots use only small amounts of yarn. Therefore virtually *no* amount is wasted. The Big Bag, for example, is all knotted from leftover knitting yarns, and weaving thrums. I can point to various parts and tell you where the yarn came from, again, much like quilters, who might make quilts out of their scrap bag. The design for the Big Bag above came from this book, which I recommend as a great source of inspiration and information.

Friday, March 04, 2005


This was a dead project.


Not really long dead, but dead nonetheless. It is a long vest, the panels are being knit in the round, then it will be steeked and borders, hems and a collar will be knit. The problem, and the reason it had died an early death, was boredom. I was tired of the pattern, which for some reason I could not get into my head, so I had to keep referring to the chart. That's annoying. So I put the project in a bag, and did not look at it.

Then my friend Sue, who raised the sheep which provided the grey and brown wool, mentioned I could stop knitting that part, and change the design. Voila! A new lease on life for the vest. It will now have a yoke, of a simple stranded pattern, relieving me of tedium, and energizing the project again.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Square One

I woke up this morning knowing I did not want to compromise on the cashmere warp. This scarf has no deadline and is not needed immediately, thus there is no need to use a weft I did not think was up to the quality of the warp. So, before I could change my mind, and yes, in the early morning, before the studio heat was even on, I un-wove the 36" I wove yesterday.

square one

My fingers, toes and nose recovered from the cold by the fire as I spun some angora, from Helen, for the weft. I'll dye it dark red, and it will accentuate, not diminish, the soft warmth of the cashmere.

And for Sylvia, another picture of the mitten, this time with hand:


I wouldn't go much higher than this on the fingers: the palm side starts to curl over, and feels *in the way*. (By the way, that is not my hand. It belongs to some old lady who was wandering by, and who agreed to be a hand model. I paid her in chocolate.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

On the Loom

I warped this today, and started weaving:

weaving 2

Handspun cashmere warp, wool weft. This is the same cashmere as my fingerless mittens and the knitted hat, except this is a two ply, since I intended it for weaving. The spinning was done over a year ago, the warps were run and dyed, just waiting for their rotation to the head of the queue.

When I am done, I will have a cashmere *set*: mittens, hat and scarf, sort of a fifties retro gift box kind of thing.

The wool weft is not as soft as I would like. It will do, it just doesn't do justice to the cashmere. I tried an alternate weft (and turned up the lighting):

weft experiment

handspun merino, 3 ply, space dyed, left from another project. But I didn't like it. Yes, it was softer, but with the color in the weft it became too *plaid*, not me. Also, it obscured the painted warps, and the blotchy area (how attractive a description that is), which I dyed intentionally by braiding and dipping the warps in dye.

Since I know the hand of the scarf will soften with washing, and the cashmere will assert itself, I'll weave on with the wool. In a perfect world, I'd have a cone of cashmere weft. Ah, well.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Designing on the Fly

Minor progress has been made on the silk knotted pile design experiment:


My original plan was to divide the space into thirds, with this diagonal portion comprising the bottom third of the bag front. I am inspired in this by the tapestry weaving of Kirsten Glasbrook. I love her colors, images and especially her use of space. I think this has gotten away from me though: if this is the bottom third, the next two thirds will make the bag too big.

Be that as it may, I'll finish this section and move on. But to what? I have been lured to looking at quilt blocks, by friends who keep talking about them (and you know who you are). Not being a quilter, I don't have many reference books, but I do have this one, which gives some nice block ideas.

I came up with this:

quilt block

One block in two different color progressions (wanna vote?). Thank you Stitchpainter and so much for designing on the fly. I don't think this will end up as the top two third portion of this bag, but perhaps part of the back side.

These quilt block ideas have given me much inspiration for future bags, and one always wants a plethora of projects in the wings, eh?