Saturday, August 25, 2007

That Gauge Issue

Yesterday was the SSK, and Patricia had this darling little sock she had knitted:

Patricia's sock

The trouble was, it was too small. She had done a gauge swatch, but not in pattern, and not using DPN's like she would eventually do for the sock. She used straights, in stockinette, and measured and calculated from there.

You see the problem. The green sock is her real sock size, the white one? Not so much:

Patricia's socks



So then Sue and I had a confession.

We'll start at the beginning: A few months ago, Sue, Lindsey and I went to a few not-so-local yarn shops and then to lunch. The yarn shops were interesting. I am not a yarn buyer (I am a yarn spinner) but I like patterns, books and tools. I found small DPNs, a book or two, and an older copy of Interweave Knits (Winter 2005).

On page 20 of said magazine, there is a pattern for Mowat Mukluks, designed by Jennifer Appleby. We saw a pair of them knit up as a sample in the not-so-local yarn shop, and we all three thought they'd be fun to knit and wear.

Now, here is where that not-so-much-a yarn buyer issue crops up. I don't buy yarn, I barely look at it in the stores. Since I spin yarn, I consider a pattern a starting point, and adjust, if need be, my knitting to my yarn. Now in recent years, I've been knitting lace shawls. No real gauge issue: use whatever yarn and needles, and the finished size is what it is.

[cue the scary music here] I did not know what Plymouth Galway yarn was, but these were to be felted, so any old yarn would do, right?

I cast on merrily, having measured my foot and determined I would need the large size [music warning of impending disaster].

Sue came by to drop something off as I was part way into the first boot. Thinking it looked interesting, she volunteered to knit the second boot. We once knitted a pair of booties:


felted, dyed and gave them to charity:

cruise socks


These were knit a year ago, on the cruise, as a sample of toe up socks from Joan Michael-McGowan's class. We know our gauge is different because the booties were somewhat different sizes, but we thought we could work this out [ominous music again].

We knitted. At one point Sue said "Why did you choose the large size?" [cue music]. Yes, these were getting big. We ran out of the yarn I started with, so we added other yarns. Now they were looking decidedly, um, colorful. We determined we would overdye them before felting, thus blending all the colors. We decided that if they turned out well, even if they didn't fit either of us, we would donate them to the auction at SOAR. They would fit somebody.

We pressed on. It became a mild obsession. Days passed. There was much laughter, several meals, eventually wine. Sue (she of the tighter gauge) finished hers and we weighed and measured prior to felting: foot = 20", diameter at upper cuff = 22", instep from leg to toe = 11" weight = 14 ounces.

I, of the looser variety, eventually finished, weighed and measured: foot = 22", diameter at upper cuff = 28", instep from leg to toe = 13", weight 1 pound 1.8 ounces.

Does anyone see a problem here? Also, these were ugly, with a capital U. They were yarnivores: almost two whole pounds of odd lot yarns used up:

hagrid's boots

For scale: the cushion on the couch is 21" by 22".

Next, into the dyepot they went (navy, covers a multitude of sins, and slippers should be dark colors). Then into the washer they went. Hmmm. That gauge issue: two decidedly different sizes. Wash again, and dry them. Hmmm:

hagrid's boots3

Yes, that is a penny for scale. Apparently they make a good cat bed:

mojo hagrid2

Hagrid's Boots. I think not for the auction after all. Anyone know how to get in touch with Hagrid? Sometimes you just have to laugh.

We move on. I will head to a commercial laundromat and try their very hot water, harder agitation, and hot dryer. I don't think it will erase all sins, but I want to try. One must try.

I stopped by my actual LYS to see what Plymouth Galway really was, and may try a new pair. Not using Plymouth Galway of course, but more leftover yarn. Now that I know the size of yarn to use. Perhaps I could do a gauge swatch?

And maybe I'll knit the small size next time. Or maybe I should make a gauge swatch?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Not Counting Weaving

I have said before that I have no counting gene. And yet I weave. I think there is a shared impression that weavers are all orderly counting people, who know what "double two-tie unit weave" means. This is far from the truth.

Case in point:

tibet shawl10

This fabric (a shawl actually) is woven of some very beautiful yarn from Treenway Silks. The yarn is 55% silk, and 45% yak. Yes, yak: how cool is that? Thoughts of Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia.

I bought some of it from Karen and Terry at a show, then bought some more from Lynn this past May in Ontario. When I bought the yarn, I had no idea what I would make of it, I was pondering knitting lace. I just liked it, and the silk/camel, also the silk/angora yarns that were the same grist. It is 7000+/- yards per pound, laceweight to you knitters out there:

yak silk yarn

Planning my fair entries, I decided to use this yarn to weave some fabric. But what kind of fabric: for clothing?, a shawl?, um, what? Thinking Tibet, I decided it would be a large shawl, something to wrap in on a cold trek over the mountains (not planning any cold treks soon, but one must be prepared).

I warp with a paddle. To you non-weavers, a paddle is a device (a stick with holes) that helps one run more than one thread at a time. Because it is easier to use even numbers in a paddle, I decided to run a warp with four of the five skeins of silk/yak yarn. I will have one skein leftover, which may come in handy.

I had to determine how long and wide the shawl would be. I wanted at least a two yard shawl, therefore I would put three yards on the loom (there is loom waste, and there is fringe. I likes me some fringe). I ran the four skeins into balls of yarn, laced them through the paddle and onto the warping board and made a "bunch" of warps. No determination of fabric width yet: that will happen after I count the threads in the warps. No counting yet.

As I run the warps I am thinking about colors. Tibet being the inspiration, I decide on muted reds, golds, browns and oranges. I think the weft (to be determined) will be red, so I want to warps at the edges that match/coordinate with that, then extend that color into the body of the shawl:

tibet shawl2

I want some of the yarn to be undyed, because I really like the silver-beige color. Then I always like a few painted warps, so I decide on a large one for one side of the fabric, a small one to tie it together on the other side, and some stripes to carry the colors of the painted warp across the fabric:

tibet shawl3

So here I go, winding warps, not counting threads yet: that still will come later. Is the math onerous so far?

After I wind the warps, they are divided into piles of big and less big (as in this one is thicker = more threads, this one is thinner = less threads). Still not counting.

I dye and paint warps. Now I count. 1522 ends. I have more threads than I have heddles (little flat steel things that each have to be threaded with a warp on the loom). If I had a few more heddles (like 22 more) I could just barely fit this warp on my narrow (32") loom. At the intended sett, the warp would be 31.7" wide. I don't like pushing the width, so I decide to eliminate on warp chain: out goes the gold:

gold warp chain

I warp the loom. This involves counting heddles on each harness frame. The counting gene would come in handy here, but being gene-less, I count and then add a few to each frame to make sure. Another reason not to try to use every heddle I own: I don't trust my counting.

I thread the reed, thread the heddles, and wind on the warp. I tie on the front and reach for the weft. Decision time again.

Now, the fabric will be warp-dominant. That means the warp mostly covers the weft, and I will need less weft than warp. How to calculate the weft I will need? Hmm. Buy lots. Since I am dyeing the weft to match the warp stripes: dye lots.

I had 5 skeins of silk/camel, the same grist, which I decided to use as weft. Since I used 4 skeins as warp, and I need less for weft, how many skeins should I dye? I hate running out of weft, so I dye five skeins. I know. But I like red, and I can use any red left over. Maybe even for knitting lace (trying to keep you knitters from glazing over here).

I dyed the 5 skeins red. Not the right color red, so I dyed them again. Oops, one more time: thrice dyed they are the right color red:

camel silk yarn

Then I weave. Weaving takes 6 hours. Twisting the fringe took three days. I twist by hand. There are several devices which would help with the twisting, but none of them do as nice a job as my fingers. I like to twist fringe, and I am not selling scarves or needing lots of items twisted. I go all zen and twist. For days:

tibet shawl5

Then I wash and full the fabric, and iron it dry. I have produced one of the most beautiful fabrics I have ever made:

tibet shawl9

And there was very little of the counting or math:

tibet shawl2

Some consequences of the lack of counting are humorous: the weaving uses one skein of weft. I have four skeins left! Plus that extra gold warp. Plus a last skein of silk yak: methinks there is more fabric in my future :):

tibet shawl4

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fair Post the Second

We have many categories for our fair entries: wool fleeces, camelid fleeces, handspun items (knitted, crocheted, woven), woven items (either handspun or commercial yarns) and felted items. There is another Clothing and Textile display at the fair where lots of knitted, crocheted, and sewn items are displayed, mostly using commercial yarns (handspun is not excluded, but not often shown there). Consequently we show no knitted or crocheted items done with commercial yarns, only those using handspun.

We have an unusual category called Spinner Maker, wherein two people can participate, one as the spinner, the other as the maker, either knitting, weaving or crocheting the finished article. A favorite at this years' fair was Sue and Patricia's Spinner Maker shawl:

fair9 2007

First place and Best of Show in the category, plus lots of votes for People's Choice. [Edit: I found out this morning that Patricia did win People's Choice Award overall in our area! Congratulations Patricia!] The same duo (Patricia and Sue) also entered a pair of socks:

fair3 2007

They took first and second in the category.

Judging is fun to watch. We have Open Judging, which means anyone can attend (but must keep silent). We have a few who come to watch, the rest of us are pressed into service to gather, tag and coordinate things for the judge.

This year, I helped the weaving judge, and once or twice was hard-pressed not to comment or influence the judging. The first time was when this scarf came up (Woven items, Category: scarves, always a big batch):

fair6 2007

Dee wove this, and it is the first truly iridescent handwoven fabric I can recall seeing. It is silk, and quite quiet if just seen hanging as a scarf. But the minute the fabric is picked up, it moves and dances in the light. I later asked Dee about it, and she said she consulted a color expert friend (wouldn't we all like one of those?), who thought that two very-close-in-value medium hue colors would best accomplish iridescence. The weave structure is an 8 harness block twill, which allows the threads to be seen in warp and weft direction, accentuating the shine of the silk, and (me speculating here) perhaps helps accomplish the iridescent effect.

Beryl also used two close-in-value silk yarns for her scarf, done in an original twill to the same effect:

fair10 2007

Beryl's scarf came up in the judging after Dee's and once again, I had to stifle a gasp, so as not to influence the judge. These two scarves took first and second, so the judge obviously thought well of them too, but she never mentioned the iridescent effect. She may have seen more of this type of fabric than I have, and not been so surprised, nor considered them gasp-worthy. But I was so impressed, and just stunned by their gorgeousness (stunned silent, thanks to all the gods).

A big hit was this small group of felted animals: two dogs, a sheep and a goat. The felter, a young woman, created a sculpture of each of her own animals:

fair11 2007

On the manikin behind the felted animals is Jan's soft-as-butter handspun vest.

Socks were everywhere:

fair12 2007

Dee's, handspun, plied with a commercial thread (next to Jackie's double woven coasters).

fair5 2007

Sue's (here) and Eileen's handspun socks. Eileen bought a new wheel this summer (a Lendrum) and just can't stop spinning. She's up until 1am several mornings a week, spinning and plying. I can't wait to see what she comes up with for next year :).


and Steph's, one of our artisan dyers. Stephanie also entered several things in the *other* Textile showcase, so we didn't get to see and photograph all of her entries.

We also had some beautiful clothing:

fair 2007

Sue H's top (sorry for the dark photo), and Dee's fully lined jacket:

fair8 2007

which had a hand-stenciled silk lining, with lots of hand sewing and custom details.

A new category this year was handspun baby and small child items:

fair2 2007

This is Sue's gansey for her grand daughter.

We also had yarns, woven bands, bags, baskets, and hats, kitchen items, shawls and fabric. Too many things to mention, and lots of people demonstrating each day: rigid heddle weaving, spinning, silk worms, card weaving, inkle weaving and even a small floor loom. There are other posts here, here, here and here, and lots of fond memories as the take-home lesson.

Now, if I can just stop craving fair-food. A week's gluttony of onion rings, bratwursts, baked potatoes, corn dogs, nachos and ice cream bars have left me wanting more. Next year!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fair Post 1

Just a few quick first shots of the Fair entries as I dash off to demonstrate today:

fair view1

fair view2

fair view3

fair view4

We had 279 entries in several categories: wool (fleeces), handspun yarns, products made from handspun, felted items and woven items. Both judges agreed the entries were exemplary, and they had a hard time picking from among the entries to award ribbons.

Display went easily this year: we are in a new (to us) building (Northern Mines for you locals), and had a great team and cheerful help from the fair staff. We started at 9 am Monday, and were essentially finished by 2 pm. It was easy to display such beautiful work, and we tried to highlight each piece so it could be seen and appreciated by the general public.

There will be demonstrations of spinning and weaving for the next five days of the fair. I will be there, spinning some days, weaving others. If you are nearby, come join us!

Saturday, August 04, 2007





Sue wanted her socks to be red. But she knit them with grey yarn.
Now they are red:

sue's socks2

Sue's socks are handpsun romney cross wool, the pattern is from Interweave Knits, Winter 2005 issue, Embossed Leaves Socks, designed by Mona Schmidt.

I have been withholding. These and several other projects have been kept off the blog for several weeks now while we get ready for the fair. Judging was yesterday, so the various reveals will be forthcoming.

We have an astounding array of beautiful pieces this year, and I only saw the weaving. I'm so lucky to have all of these creative and capable people around. Inspiration abounds, and creativity begets creativity. All of what I do is easier because I am surrounded by a supportive environment.

Like today: I'm off to Birdsong's for a Spin-in.

On the way there, I'll let Sue in on a secret: if you want red socks, it's best to start with red yarn.

[P.S. Sue got a blue ribbon on her socks :)]