Friday, September 28, 2007

The Girl Gang

I don't know when or in what context that name came up, but it is sometimes appropriate: we'll be camping and spinning for the next three days at the Celtic Music Festival here in town. It is sponsored by Guinness, of all things, and could that be bad??

Three days. Camping. Spinning. And Guinness. Hah! Glorious fun! The weather is fabulous for it: cool in the mornings and evenings, and 70's during the day.

I have a new hat for those brisk mornings and evenings:

knit hat

Kim was right, a hat was the next thing to make with yarn left over after knitting these mittens. I still have yarn, enough to mix and match with some additions for future knitting. Potential. Yarn in the bank, always a good thing.

But for now, I'm off to spin more, and for three whole days :).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Under A Rock

Please excuse me, I am under a rock (note the present tense).

It involves some of these:

SOAR boxes Sept 07

which contain lots of dyed silk fiber that I forgot to photograph. Sigh.

It also involves this:

pile Sept 07

and this:

pile bag sept 07

which have been more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

A quick response to Nancy, the bands from the previous post are pick-up inkle bands (duh, I should've said that in the post). There's a quick tutorial here. Much fun, I must say.

This rock is getting heavy. But it will stay put, as I have yet more to do.

Ciao :)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Becoming Adept

Everything is a learning process. When we learned to walk, most of us didn't just get up off the floor and run. We took a few trembling steps, and fell down. We got up and tried again, and maybe fell a few more times. A foot went out wonky, and we did a face-plant. Eventually, we could get up, take aim at a goal, and make a run for it.

At some point we stopped trying, because we could just do it. The face-plants come as a shocking surprise now and then, and yet they still happen. Occasionally.

All this fiber stuff is just like learning to walk, except there is often a physical reminder of the face-plant stage. A sock that has slightly too many holes in it is still a sock. We might wear it, and wear it out, but we also try again, and maybe again and again, until we can pick up those stitches and leave no holes and have A Sock, rather than a sad little sock. Then, of course, we have to do it again (we need Two Socks). The second sock might not be A Sock, but we've gained experience, confidence, and eventually we just knit socks.

So here's a saga, from face-plant stage to not-yet-Sock stage, that has kept me entertained for weeks. Several months ago, I showed you this bag:

spider web bag

Knotted pile, handspun, love the bag itself but there was something not-quite-right about the handle. I sewed it all together though, and took it with me to Asilomar, as a work-in-progress. I love to have examples of not-quite-right for show and tell. I learn more from my mistakes, the analyzing, the fussing, the do-overs, than I do from the projects that go smoothly. In fact, I have the firm belief that the projects that go smoothly are not my own: they are done with the assistance of some other-worldly being who thinks the world needs that One Perfect Bag to remain in tight spin on its axis.

However: we are talking about the process of becoming adept here, and while other-worldly help would be welcome, it usually requires just work. Work, work and more work, and I know the irony of using the term work for something that is really just play.

So here's the first band, the not so successful one, which became the handle for the bag:


Leaving out that it was too short for the bag, the design fell short of the mark. I wanted a certain look, a design that looked like a ribbon wrapped around a pole. On paper, it all looked like it would work, but in yarn, or at least in the yarn I chose, it did not.

I tried a second time, with other yarns, but with the original pattern draft, at the left of this band:

band beginning 2 July 2007

Still didn't work, so I started fussing with it. I dropped a few threads, then a few more, and marked each new version with a red thread. Eventually, the band was closer to the look I wanted:


There was still a slight variation I thought would help, so I warped up a band in cotton yarns, with the new threading, which I liked:


tried a different color weft (whoops! not so good):


And then tested an even further variation:


Oops, went too far. This one is too spare, even though it is indeed like a ribbon wrapping around a pole. The one above looks like two ribbons wrapping, and I like that better. To celebrate the just-rightness of the design, I did a longish band, in handspun silk:


silk band3 July 2007

Then I had another idea, oh dear, which will require more *work*, such as it is. Stay tuned, more to come. Progress however, is being made, step by little step. Face-plants free with every effort.

You can see (I think, I hope) why I thought it was important for that ribbon-wrapped quality of the design, yes, on yet another bag:

atropos detail


The first bag got a completely different band:

world wide web3

Rethink, rethink. It's a mantra. Even with many years of learning behind me, I still stumble and fall. If I never succeeded, I probably wouldn't be so sanguine about the pratfalls. But success only comes with effort, with failures, with trying. I don't mind telling you about it, I don't mind showing people the steps, because I think they eventually lead to competence, for me, and, I hope, for you.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Artisan Dyers

Mittens Sept. 2007

I love to dye yarns, fibers, fabric, anything. But I can be tempted by fibers that others have dyed. What fun to spin up something that I didn't mix, stir, heat and serve! There are so many options out there, how to choose?

I like to buy from people I know, which narrows the field somewhat, and makes it easier to resist every pretty fiber that comes down the Internet. These fibers came from three friends, purchased at different times, but (snort) oddly they all go nicely together. It's easy, I say, to put stuff together like this if one is consistent (read obsessed) with a limited range of colors.

I've been knitting mittens, an easy travel project, small and portable. This pattern was adapted from Selbuvotter, adjusted a bit to accommodate my larger gauge. These were knit on US 2's, starting with the lace cuff:

mitten cuffs

This wool is from Anne, at Wooly Wonka Fibers. She dyed some Shetland wool in reds and oranges, which I plied with some solid red that I had dyed.

mittens3 sept 2007

The blue and yellow, also the other red at the finger tips, comes from Steph at Wooly Daisy. I bought this from her at a local spin-in, where resistance was futile. I stayed away from the table for the first few hours, until a nice young woman came up to ask advice on what to buy for her spinner sister (danger, danger Will Rogers). She bought lovely merino from Steph, while I picked up 7 ounces of an unknown wool in three colors: reds, blues and yellows.

I spun up most of this wool that very afternoon. The packets were about an ounce each, which neatly fit onto my bobbins. I plied them by running them into balls later that evening, and plying from both ends.

Now I just needed some orange, and I had some nice yarn spun from batts from Linda, at Grafton Fibers :

Mittens2 Sept 2007

There are several bits of yarn left, ready for the next project:

mitten yarns3

more mittens? a hat? gloves? socks? Perhaps I need to buy more fiber and spin up enough for a shawl?

This way lies madness. We all know. But it's all good.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Whoops Post II

This might be Whoops post number 46, but we'll just leave it at 2, shall we?

You all seemed to so enjoy the last post, a minor comedy of errors, that I thought I might as well go ahead and post another whoops or two.

First up:

silk scarf yarns
Some handspun silk, 2 painted warps, two smaller immersion warps and a skein.

Nice colors, eh? I thought so too when I dyed them. But, apparently I lost my mind for a little while there.

I knew I wanted a monochromatic or analogous set of colors for this project. There was to be some weave structure involved, and I don't like the color to overwhelm the structure. I wanted the structure to show, as it were. I knew I wanted reds, I had all that red silk camel for weft, and I thought about which colors would go with the red: magenta, wine, orange, etc.

I ruminated for a day or two, not really settled on any series of colors. Dye day dawned (dye days are arbitrary, they can come at any time), and I had the brilliant idea to add brown, and then gold. How nice, I thought. I mixed up dyes, I painted warps, I wrapped and steamed. I rinsed the yarns, and hung them to dry, then it hit me: too much color.

Oxymoron, you say? Normally, so would I. However, that structure issue: these colors would dominate, preventing the structure from being the dominant element in the fabric. In knitting, it's like knitting a complicated Aran with variegated yarn. The elements fight each other.

I had several options: remove the color (Thiox), overdye the yarns before weaving, or weave, and change plans. I opted for #3. I wove a plain weave scarf, very nice, handspun painted warp, just not what I had planned:

silk scarf2 Sept 2007

I love weaving this kind of cloth:

silk scarf Sept 2007

and it will make a very nice scarf. I may even overdye the fabric once it is finished, we'll see.

Now I need to spin more silk and actually weave the cloth I planned to weave, ahem.

Whoops number two for today is this tussah/silk yarn:

tussah cashmere

I want to knit Frost Flowers Shawl from A Gathering of Lace, which needs 3600 yards of yarn.

I have a pound of this blend, and sat down to spin a sample. Now, when I start a largish project, I want the steps to be easy, intuitive, accessible, so I don't have to struggle with the process. So I spun a comfortable size, plied it, then measured. It's running about 3500 yards per pound. I like to have extra when I am knitting (not being very big on the measuring and the gauge issues). So you see the problem.

I also didn't like the way the fiber was drafting: there are places where there is tussah, and places where there is cashmere, and places where they are blended. The yarn washed up fine, but I think this might be a problem with wear over time.

I have choices here: buy more tussah/cashmere (yikes). Spin finer yarn (might exacerbate the blending issue). I don't like either of those, so I will rummage around for another fiber. I'm sure something appropriate is hiding in the bins somewhere.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Nothing really lost in these two projects, but not hit-the-bell grand either. We move on.

I'll leave you with a shot of the final felted version of Hagrid's boots:

Hagrid's boots4

They have been felted again, and are quite solid, but still two different sizes. And perhaps just a bit large. They do stand on their own though, perhaps they could become planters??