Friday, July 29, 2005

Diversions, or How I Can Make a Simple Task Expand

I have spent the week preparing warps, dyeing warps, warping warps, and weaving warps for this fabric:

silk fabric1

It is silk, 120/8 reeled tussah from Treenway, woven at 48 epi, with a cotton 20/2 weft. This is a new yarn to me, and has a distinctly crisp feel: the 120/8 is not a simple plied yarn: it is 4 two-element plied yarns, plied back on themselves (4 zzS plied Z). I learned to call this yarn structure *crepe yarn* from Ted Carson, way back in the dark ages, in a class he taught in February 1981 (yes! I still have my notes).

The hand of this yarn is pebbly, or bumpy, not smooth as a reeled yarn would be expected to be. The more I worked with it, the more curious I became as to its final *handle* in the fabric. So today, as I started to weave, I found out. It feels nubby. Crisp, but not smooth, it is interesting.

It reminded me of an old kimono I have:

old kimono

the fabric of which always had a slightly *not smooth* texture: not rough, but not smooth, similar to what I am weaving now.

The kimono is old and worn enough to have holes in it, from which I pulled a couple of very fine threads (gasp!), to see if the yarn structure was the same as what I am using. The best I could tell, from the tiny pieces I extracted (they broke as I pulled them out) is that this is made of a spun yarn (short fibers) in a two element construction, but with both elements spun and plied in the same direction, to make them very tight and cord-like. But not the same as my 120/8 yarns.

Must Investigate Further. Diane Varney describes a crepe yarn as a 3 element technique: a 2Z plied S then re-plied with an S single(non-spinners have now glazed over). My notes from Ted Carson say that a crepe is a 2Z plied S and the reply two of the resulting elements as a 4Z. If loosely plied, this is called knitting crepe, tightly plied is called a cord or cable yarn (which term Varney uses too). I know many knitters who simply call this construction a cable yarn, twist amount notwithstanding. So who is right, and just what is crepe yarn, or cable yarn?

Next, I pull out long dead Aunt Gladys' yarns from the early '50's (yes! I have too much stuff!) and lo and behold:

old yarns

All are 4 plies: 2 elements plied together, then 2 of these re-plied to make a 4 element construction. The 2 ply yarns are spiral yarns, though, two elements held under different tension when plying. This gives the final construction, and the resulting fabric (yes! I have 50 year old swatches! Why throw *anything* away!) a pebbly texture, much like my woven fabric. Is this knitting crepe? None are labeled crepe, cable, cord or anything but Virgin Wool.

Hmmm. Just what does crepe mean? Is it a yarn? Is it a fabric structure? We repair to the weaving books: No mention in either Helene Bress, or Mary Black, of crepe fabric.

In Irene Emery, no fabric is mentioned, but she describes *crepe twist yarns* as high twist singles, which, when woven, "produce a creped or crepe-y effect" fabric. I know many weavers think of highly twisted yarns woven in plain weave as crepe fabric: obviously this has nothing to do with the terminology used by spinners.

And is spinning jargon yet again different from knitting jargon? Why, yes! How else would one explain the *worsted yarn* terminology variations or (excuse me?) *double knitting*? And is *sport yarn* a hold over from tennis, or from cricket? How many other sports wear sweaters? Oh, OK, skiing.

To make matters more interesting: Ted Carson was a Canadian. Is this that old *separated by a common language* issue??

You see how far off track I have gotten. And are we any better for it? No. But we have taken up precious weaving time. And this is for a deadline, mind you. Back to the fabric at hand:

silk fabric3

In this photo you can see the blue in the ikat stripes is (gasp!) darker. It is the same yarns, degummed and processed in the same pot at the same time as the plain blue warps. But it is darker blue. The only thing I can think of is that the ikat tape that it was tied with:

ikat warps

held it down in the pot, therefore getting more heat faster, and the dye striking first. Another hmmm.

Another surprise: the golden tussah color largely washed out in the degumming. The colors in the two photos above show this well: the golden tussah is, sadly, much lighter. It also shows here in the braided area before degumming:

braided warps

And after dyeing:

silk braid

You can see, even in the resisted areas, the yarn is much whiter.

These unbraided yarns work up into the mottled area in the fabric. I first learned this braid/dye/unbraid and weave technique from Vicky Jensen, who now works at ProChem. Vicky has an MFA in fibers, and several of the fabrics from her master's project had this nice braided/dyed feature.

Alas, no definitive answers to all this rummaging through my library, my storage closet and Aunt Gladys' old knitting supplies. But it *is* interesting, at least to me, and has kept me occupied during the hours of prep leading up to this fabric. Any clarifications/further obfuscations gladly accepted. And now to weave.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Lovely Sight


You non-spinners are probably bored silly with photos of full bobbins, and bobbins-in-progress. But there is something so enchanting to me about a full bobbin. And judging by the photos on other blogs, to other spinners as well.

This is zone-out spinning. You'll notice the dime, these bobbins are from the SpinTech. Big. As in 1/2 lb. skeins. This is fabulous displacement activity during hot weather. The SpinTech is effortless. I can be practically asleep, there is no treadling, and the fiber prep means I just sort of *hold* the roving, and twist runs in. Well, sometimes I have to sit up and slide the hook. If I turn the SpinTech sideways to me (orienting the bobbins in full view) it generates a breeze! That, a fan, a studio with the swamp cooler on, and a glass of tea: now you have a picture of my afternoons.

This is the last of the pindrafted roving of a wool/mohair blend from last year. I won no cigar in the Empty Bins Project: I did not get all of this spun up before the new supply came back from the processor. I *am* on the last 2 pounds:


I use both Yolo Wool Works (for their *French top*) and Morro Fleece Works (for their *pin drafted* roving). This is from Morro Bay.

And the end result?

rug yarn2

So far, about twelve pounds spun and dyed. The remainder will be undyed (sort of creamy off-white). This is all for knotted pile, just the pile weft, and probably enough for a small rug, several bags, and who knows what else. I do have an idea, but it's experimental. You'll be the first to see it, whether it works or no. This instant publishing is so. .. instant!

Hi and welcome Amy! Glad you found the blog. Thanks for the book mention, I'll have to look for it. But don't hold your breath on that *post every 2 or 3 days* thing. I am not that productive, and without weaving and spinning to talk about, I might degenerate into rambling monologues. And what an aging, progressive, left-coaster can rant about these days, well, it's just not pretty. And here? We're all about the *pretty*.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Who's in Charge Here?

Some projects are just demanding. Despite other commitments, they seem to have a life of their own, craving the spotlight, attention and time. I cannot seem to stop working on this:

silk pile 2005

(whoa, that orange looks really bright on my monitor; it is a bit Cheese-its(TM), not so Halloween). Anyway, I think you can see the direction it's going. This is silk pile, and Franklin tells the tale. If you click on the photo, you can see it close up.

Then there are *other* demands:


This is our feral cat: we call her kitty (yes, very unclever), caught in a rare moment of quiet. Despite the heat, she is truly a loudmouth: whenever I come up from or go down to the studio, she's there yowling, as if I don't feed her. We have whole conversations. I wish I knew what we said. She definitely rules the roost, as I feed her twice a day, on command.

Tough life, eh?. (We have, in our defense, provided her with a rug to sleep on. This is the *hot weather* pose).

I will soon take myself in hand, and get things done that are past deadlines, or for deadlines fast approaching. Until then, I just respond to demands, the handmaiden, of sorts.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Done and Done, well, Almost

The weaving is done, but the finishing has just begun.

The rug weavers finished knotting:

rug project4

We cut the rug off the loom, and are now braiding and wrapping the warp ends. I am so impressed with us:

rug project7

Here is a close up of the quail in the corner. The graphic imagery is locally inspired: quail, dogwood blossoms, snow flakes, deer, and oak leaves. The raffle is in a month, so we are on track. We still need to wash and trim the rug, and then it goes on display at the county Fair.

I also wove the silk scarf:

scarf July 2005

I made one long scarf, rather than 2 short ones. I like excess, and have never been fond of skimpy.

Now to work on the fringe:

scarf July 2005 ends

And Freyalynn? There was green:

scarf July 2005 2

This also will be finished by the Fair, which is a month away. It almost feels like a luxury of time, but there are more things to get done, so I know it will be Business as Usual: working up to the deadline.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Actual Weaving Content

I know, for a weaving blog there has been a veritable dearth of weaving here lately. In my defense, hey! it's summer! It's hot! And yes, I've been gone, away from the loom, for thirteen of the last thirteen days. As in: Left The House.

This is unusual for me. I can usually be counted on to Be Here. I can Not Leave the house for days, weeks, even. When I grocery shop, I plan for many days' meals, just so I can stay home for great lengths of time. If I need them, I can Call For Ingredients, to the person who actually goes out to work.

And, to top it all off: I'm leaving again today. Maybe twice (if you saw my 2 mile long dirt/gravel driveway, you'd know why this is an announcement). BUT:

silk warp

I have warped. Silk scarf (maybe scarves, I can't decide lengths yet), for the local County Fair. I have never entered anything (I have been a judge a few times, years ago), but last year, I looked around and thought *this place needs some color* (I have now offended fully half of my guild). So I promised myself that I would send in a few things this year.

The time has come. Entries are due. I have not woven anything entry worthy. I planned to enter four things, I may have two. I will work on getting the others done, but I have to Stay Home.

No more lunches out. No more movies. No more doing fun things with friends (and, if truth be told, No More Sitting in the Service Waiting Room at the Car Dealers).

I ran off and painted these warps in May of 1999. I can't remember why. They are 30/2 silk, 600 ends. According to my notes, I had planned to sett them at 40 epi, but I sett it at 48 epi instead. I want the painted warps to be predominant, the weft will be a fine cotton (30's/2? who knows, it's been on the shelf for a while).

A few quick but belated answers to comments:

Sheila: Silk pile weft can be almost anything, singles, plied, whatever. Real Silk Rugsā„¢ are made with reeled silk (homonymously). For spun silk I just go for the grist appropriate for the sett, sometimes bundling them in groups to obtain the grist.

And Lola? Classes may be pricey, but the process is not. Watch for Sarah Swett's book Kid's Weaving, it has plans for the loom, and a few first projects, all of which will cost less than $50 to accomplish.

And Deanna: I had yogurt, blueberries and walnuts for breakfast this morning. I'm addicted, thanks once again!

Friday, July 08, 2005


I so enjoy weaving knotted pile. Textiles woven of knotted pile originate from every part of the Asia, the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. It is unknown how old or widespread the technique is, as discoveries of extant ancient textiles are rare. The oldest known carpet fragments date from the fifth century BC, but they are examples of a well developed technique, fine work both in design and execution.

I learned this process 6 years ago, from a friend and fellow guild member. He had *retired* from weaving, but was gracious in teaching me, and kind enough to pass on his tools and looms.

It is a meditative activity (as I may have mentioned previously), and creates the most luxurious of fabrics, whether used for rugs, or otherwise, as I have in bags:


When I first took this up, some people looked at me cross-eyed, as if *why?* would I want to take up to such an anachronistic and slow technique. But I am a spinner, slow does not daunt me. There were also a few people, mostly those who looked at the product, who said they wanted to learn it too. So I do try to pass on what I know.

This Fall, the class is included in the workshops at SOAR. We will spin the silk for the pile, as in the bag above, and build our looms. The class filled. The waiting list filled. Working with the organizers at Interweave, we were able to find a bigger room, and I found a co-teacher to help, so we could expand the class size. Sarah Swett, a tapestry weaver and friend, has agreed to come and help me.

I can't tell you how grateful I am, first that people are interested in this technique, and second that Sarah, who is much nicer than I am, will be coming too. It is a treat for those who signed up, expecting only me, to have Sarah too. A full class generates energy, and can be a magical experience (small classes can be magical too, for their quiet grace. It is just not the same bubbling energy).

This class sometimes fills, sometimes does not. I am curious why, and will be asking when the class convenes. In May, before registrations were known, I told my friend Amy that I'd be surprised if the class was full. So I am surprised, curious and grateful, and so looking forward to this class, and another chance to meet with people who I feel are my community.

SOAR 2001 was scheduled to begin on September 16th, also that year in Utah. For a few days, it was uncertain if it would actually happen, who would make it, if teachers, supplies enroute, and students could manage to get there. Only two people canceled. We drove, because plane travel was uncertain. It was a relief and a release to be there, with people who traveled from all over the world, and joined in an activity some consider anachronistic and frivolous. But it was comforting, and signaled to me that we could and would go on.

It is nice once again, to contemplate this hopeful event, as a contrast to the opposite: the mindless stupidity of bombing innocent people. My condolences to the people of London, may you go safely about your lives again.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Sometimes, we just have to take time out of a busy schedule to make a few accessories for those Special Occasions:


Every girl needs a crown, eh? This one is sort of a Cinderella thing: if it fits, you just must be The Princess.

The coins, of course, are Canadian pennies, with an image of The Queen:


I couldn't use American pennies on a crown, with Lincoln on them. That would be just silly.