Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Alluring Materials

Sometimes that's why I keep this up, the materials are so attractive. This week, I'm warping 30's/2 silk:

30-2 silk

Also spinning some Blue Faced Leicester, dyed months ago (here), and needing a little pre-drafting, but then spinning up like butter:

BFL spun

Listening to books on tape (Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier this week: quite the Victorian Novel), and watching the rain, hail, and even yet more snow this morning.

But I'm snug and warm, the materials are delightfully tactile, and with hot tea and a book on tape, what could be better?

Monday, March 27, 2006


Knitting was Friday, affectionately known as the Society for Subversive Knitting (SSK) for reasons we won't go into fully here. Suffice it to say, some members spent an entire year bearing witness at the local Board of Supervisors meetings, knitting away a la Madame deFarge, keeping a jaundiced eye on the proceedings. SSK is a left-leaning decrease, I will say no more.

First up:
Dee's sweater

Dee had a new design for Mountain Colors, which Patricia promptly modeled for us. It was her size and her colors, how convenient! I neglected to write down the name of the yarn color, I think it is a new one.

Next, Lindsey came in with a new poncho, modular knitting with a twist. There was a detailed description of how she came up with all the elements, but I was too busy taking pictures to pay attention:

Lindsey's top

I had asked everyone to bring what knit-dye-reknit examples they could and we had a show and tell. Several of us were in Nancy's class a few months ago. Unfortunately, Nancy won't be teaching this year again at SOAR (too bad!), but she will most likely be a vendor. First up:

Sue2's shawl

Sue2's shawl. The Leaf Lace pattern, knitting straight from the fabric, so you can see how the colors will progress.

Then we had socks. These are Patricia's melon colors, still on the needles:

socks Patricia

I even had them take them off their feet, these are Sue's:


And these are Patricia's:


Note the bad camera work: both of the above pairs of socks had matching toes: I just didn't get them in the photos!

We all thought Lindsey's socks, with their contrast color cuffs, were fabulous. You can see the ball of yarn will eventually progress to some more pinks, but it gave us the idea of just doing contrast cuff socks, perhaps next dye day:

Lindsey's sock

In the background of this picture, you can see a small tin, which looks like this close up:

Lindsey's knitting

And look what it contains:

Lindsey's knitting2

Cool, huh?! A nice, rigid box to keep needles from getting broken while being hauled around.

Last, we have Lindsey's new mitten:

Lindsey's mitten

While we can all attest to its apparent practicality, we thought it looked a little unseemly, and could imagine *other* things this construction might cover. We are, after all, the SSK.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Single Project Person. Who Knew??

Apparently I am a single project knitter. For some reason, I felt compelled to finish the blanket I had on the needles, before starting the next project, which I was anxious to get to: a shetland shaped shawl, Fir Cone from Cheryl Oberle's book Folk Shawls.

I bought new needles, and even bought(!) the yarn, I was so ready to start knitting. No time to spin: there will be time enough to do another shawl with handspun. This needed starting Now!, except, it had to wait.

Here's the blanket in question:


A shawl-shaped garter stitch wool blanket done on big (10's) needles, using handspun I had dyed for something else, but hey. It came out nicely.

I can see the need for blocking wires: on a real shawl, I'd have pins in every point, but on this couch potato blanket, I only pinned it enough to get the shape right. A man on a running horse, etc:

blanket corner

So I finished knitting the blanket on Wednesday evening, tossed it in the washer to soak Thursday morning, spun out the water and set it up to block. Then I ran out to my LYS to pick up new needles, came home and cast on. The shawl starts with fir cone lace pattern for the center section:

fir cone

This is Silky Wool from Lavold, knit on 6's (4.0mm), Bryspun circs. The tips are just what I was looking for (joy!):


Thanks to those of you who suggested them. I have already called Meadow Farm and ordered a few more sizes. The yarn is just slipping like silk, and the tips are scoopy and perfect for those psso's.

SPP was quite the surprise for me, and apparently only applies to knitting. I have at least 5 looms set up with projects, and more than 4 projects going on spinning wheels (I loves me them extra bobbins). Will it continue with the knitting?

Well, um, no. There's airplane knitting, there's social knitting, and there's secret gift knitting: this is for evening couch knitting. Hmmm. Maybe I'm not such a SPP after all.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Courting Insanity?

I've had several (!) spools of Zwickey silk sewing thread for some time, with the intention of using it for cardweaving. Now, sewing thread makes very small bands:


In the photo you can see the edge of my shuttle, which looks giant next to the threads (and feels a little out of proportion but, hey, what are you going to do?).

This is twelve cards, (x 4 threads each or 48 threads total). I think I can actually say threads here, not yarn: usually we weave with yarn and sew with thread. I'm weaving with thread, heh.

But think what a nice necklace this will make, with say, some snowflake agate beads?

And speaking of snowflakes:

snow March 20

This is Spring??

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pick Up Tutorial

A few emailed questions have prompted this tutorial. I needed do this anyway for our CNCH demonstration, and the questions have provided me with an opportunity to set this up.

The following tutorial is about speckled background pickup techniques. There are others: horizontal stripe backgrounds, and complementary pickup. But I will limit this demo to alternating, or speckled, background bands.

Bands like this are woven in Europe (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, the Baltic areas) and in Central America (Mexico) and the Southwest (Navajo and Hopi). I learned this technique from Jaquetta Nisbett, who has a great video on band weaving, and from my friend Rute, who is from Latvia.

First, the question from Leo: I was wondering if you post/share the pattern layout for your bands.

Here is a draft for a simple seven pattern thread band:

band draft

What you see here is a pattern indicating white threads (denoted by the squares without centers) and black threads (denoted by the solid black squares). There are six white threads in each border, then pairs of black pattern threads, alternating with white plain weave in between. The two rows indicate whether the threads are in the open shed, or the heddled shed. The "O" in the top right of the pattern indicates threads in the open shed, and the "X" below that indicates the heddled threads.

The draft is read from left to right, starting at the left side of the warp. The pattern threads are set up in pairs, and the plain weave threads alternate between them.

Next, we have a drawdown of what the above draft could look like:

band pattern3

We will develop this pattern by picking up threads by hand. To pick up threads, we separate the warps at the spot we want to pick up pattern threads, reach down and pull them up from the lower shed to the upper shed. Some people use a sharp object, like a knitting needle, to help pick up threads, but I use my fingers.

So, we start with the bottom of the drawdown and just weave without picking up any pattern threads. This creates a speckled area, just like the draft name implies. Then we will pick up threads, following the drawdown, which looks like this:

band pattern 4
Here is the porton of the draft we are working,
and here is what the band looks like:

band sample 1

Then, we can pick up threads, and push down threads we don't want to see on the surface. The pattern will indicate when a thread is pushed down, in this case by a blank circle:

band pattern4

Push down the threads by separating the warps at the location you wish to remove pattern threads, and slip the pattern pair to the lower warp, below the weft thread pass. Starting with the top two "v"s in the draft, the band now looks like this:

band sample 2

Next we weave the other motif on the pattern, reversing the direction of the "V", making a rose, or diamond shape:

band sample 3

At this point, the threads floating on the surface and on the undersurface of the band must be taken into consideration. Do you see in the pattern how some of the threads in the diamond shape are floating on the surface for five weft thread passes? That's about the limit for this thread/sett. The same five thread float in smaller threads, or in wool, or a sticky cotton thread, might not be so bad.

So the pattern, the sett and the thread have to coordinate. How do we figure this out? Sometimes, a sample is the only way to tell. Generally, the finer threads can handle the more complex patterns, heavy threads require simple patterning, with no long floats.

Tension matters too, and affects the way the weft will beat in: play with the tension and see if you like the band better with it tighter or looser. These are warp faced bands, so the warp has to undulate over the weft. Tight tension precludes much undulation, and loose tension allows a closer, tighter beat, and a firmer band.

And the question from Gail: I am interested in learning
more about the pick up techniques that you use on the inkle loom.

The best resource I can think of is Jaquetta Nisbett's video on pick up bands from Victorian Video, from the Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS.

Evelyn Neher's book Inkle is good, and Mary Miegs Atwater's Byways in Handweaving. There is nothing like a good hands-on demonstration, though, so if you can make it to CNCH, in Modesto CA, I'll be there with several members of my guild, Sunday, May 7th, from 2-4, in the demo area.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Third Time is a Charm

I'm weaving the third band, the first two of which I described here.

band March 9

I spun new yarn from a mohair/Lincoln blend and dyed it:

band yarns March 9
(sorry about the askew nature of the photo: I'll try to take photos square to the grid next time. I hope it doesn't give you vertigo!)

The band is weaving up well, the size and handle is fine, and I like the more complex pattern. I can't tell about the colors just now: the woven bag has been rolled up the back of the loom (as the weaving progresses, the woven part rolls up behind the loom) and is inaccessible for a while. But the colors seem *good enough*.

Here's a comparison of the three attempts:

3 bands

On the left, the first band, woven with the pile yarn re-spun, and using itself as weft. The middle one was with a finer weft: ok, but not quite what I wanted: too rustic. The third band, still on the loom, is clearly more appropriate.

I do have a few tricks when using tightly twisted yarn in a very sturdy (read tightly tensioned) warp:


First is the C-clamp. If the loom is anchored, I can pull the tension tighter on the warp, and in this case the tighter the tension, the easier it is to pop the sheds.

I can also lean back with more body weight, to help me press in the weft (and yes, I do).

The second tip:


I drilled (yes! gasp!) a hole in the beautiful shuttle made by Rod Stevens of Woodchuck Woodworks (no web presence but available at Carolina Homespun, and Woody is at many fiber festivals throughout the year. I highly recommend his work).

Anyway, yes, the hole helps: I thread the weft through, and then when (not if!) I drop the shuttle, the whole mess doesn't unwind. The weft is high twist yarn too, so it wants to snake off the shuttle, but the hole captures it.

And last: look who is blogging! Welcome Bren.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

Margaret Sanger

This is a bag made in honor of Margaret Sanger, a champion and advocate for women's reproductive freedom. I made it in January 2001, in response to George W. Bush's signing a bill, on his very first day in the Presidential Office, removing US funding from any organization worldwide which counsel's reproductive freedom for women, including contraception and abortion.

Another woman who responded to the signing of that restrictive bill is Jane Roberts, who founded 34 Million Friends. The original intent of her organization is to replace that restricted $34 million in funding with $1 from 34 million people. 34 Million Friends has joined with the United Nations Population Fund to help promote women's health and reproductive rights worldwide.

NARAL, founded in 1969 to help repeal abortion laws in the United States, is currently collecting signatures in a petition drive called Prevention First, urging Congress to approve and support contraception, and sex education, as a means of preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, circumventing a need for abortion.

Donate a dollar, sign a petition. Help the women of the world help their daughters, families, and communities.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Shawl Sighting

No young beautiful model strolled by, so I had to pose for the photo myself:


It blocked out bigger than I expected. It's soft and airy and very lightweight.

At least two other people from the dye class are making this shawl, Sue and Lindsey (and maybe Patricia?), so I have asked them to bring them along to knitting later this month.

They dyed rich fall colors, so watch for the photos, coming soon to a monitor near you.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Rather odd photos of the Silk and Ivory Leaf Lace Shawl blocking on the bed:

leaf lace shawl2 drying

leaf lace shawl2 blocking

I could not get a full shot, so the angle is odd. Perhaps when it is dry, a young beautiful model will wander by and I can get a *people* shot.

You can see the color progression:

leaf lace shawl2 det

To recap: this is one skein of Henry's Attic Silk and Ivory, dyed as fabric in Nancy's technique of knit-dye-reknit on size 6 (US) needles. The scarf/shawl measures 39" from neckline to tip, and has a 69" wingspan.

What's next in the queue? Why another Leaf Lace scarf! Here's the yarn:

next leaf lace
before turning it into a ball, and here it is ready to go:

next leaf lace2

Henry's Attic Monty's 3/9, enough, I think, for a scarf, using size 5 (US) needles.

I just like doing this pattern, and I'm giving the scarves/shawls all away. Also, in my defense, several other guild members are doing it now too. Interesting things have come up, and some nice alterations to the pattern, which will be reported later, watch this space. So am I boringly single minded or fiercely loyal? You decide.