Thursday, February 20, 2014



Like everyone who works with their hands, I sometimes have stalled projects. I like to finish things, so every now and then I asses whether a project is merely stalled, or I'm done with it and call it good, rip it out or cut it off.

Reasons for dropping a project can come in many forms: I'm bored with it, I have other pressing things to do and it gets sidelined, I don't need it anymore, there is a glaring mistake or I came to a place where there was no resolution, no way forward (often happens when creating without patterns or guidelines), I don't like it, I have outgrown it, blah blah blah.

The photo above is of silk pile, the back of a bag, the front of which was completed and left on the loom since 2009. Whoops! Here's the front, when I started it:

pile bag sept 07

The photo is dated July 2007. Whoops! again! I know when and why I started to weave this: the bag I was carrying, every day at the time, was wearing out:

silk bag front

I'd already taken this bag apart once, washed and re-made it, replacing the band, which had worn out. Now, other parts were also wearing out, and I wanted a slightly larger bag, with a more firm closure. This was completed in 2003, so it stood the test of daily use for a good 4 years, before I started its replacement.

I finished weaving the front of the bag in 2009:


Two years? What happened to make this such a long story? Well, books. This project was put aside when I started writing and creating the projects for Book the First in 2007. I completed the projects and manuscript in 2009, and picked this back up to finish it. I got the front panel done, and started up the back.

Here intervened Book the Second, quickly followed by Book the Third (at the printers now!). This project languished on the loom (a small floor upright loom, easy to push aside and not look at).

Ten days ago I arrived home from a trip, knowing I had only ten days at home before the next trip (hello! today!). It is hard, sometimes, to get involved with a project on demand, in such a short period of time. But, too tired to think of anything new or demanding, I sat down at this loom, and just wove off row by row of the already determined pattern, with the already prepared yarns. It was a perfect activity, mindless handwork, no thought involved. I simply sat down and did it.

As I worked, I tried to remember how I planned to incorporate these panels as a bag, and how I might want to change my original plan. As mentioned before, I have a new sewing machine, and want to make bags using leather and canvas, sturdy straps and more abrasion resistant materials. I have learned a few things about how the bags will wear, when under constant daily use, and some textile components, while fun to make and really nice to look at, are sometimes not as sturdy as I would like.

In the process of weaving, my enthusiasm for this image, this bag, and how nice it would be, returned. I changed the image a bit, to reflect my new plan for it, and I wove on it eagerly each morning.

So the back panel is done, a little finish hemming is needed before I cut it off, and a plan for its construction has been made. I've bought zippers! leather! and linings, and when I get back after this trip, I will sew it all together. It will be a prototype, of sorts, so there may be glitches in its construction, but...that's how we learn. By doing. And doing better the next time, and the time after that.

All this doing, re-doing and doing again requires enthusiasm. Sometimes its hard to ignite that enthusiasm, and with stalled projects, just waiting for enthusiasm to return does not make it show up. Doing makes it show up. I am so glad I had this 10 days, this block-of-time-too-small, and that I was able to work on this and get back that excitement.

Next up:
silk shawl transitions

Handspun silk shawl for Book the Third, which was (sadly) photographed in progress, not finished. I'm not sure I like it, I have a few design issues with it, but I love the stitch pattern and the fabric is very lovely. Do I rip? or finish?

I have not decided yet. I will think about it. It will wait until I return, and we'll see. I will pick it up and start knitting on it again...and we'll see if my enthusiasm ignites.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Small Packages

At her talk the other night, Lisa Sousa gave each of us a small bag of very fine merino:


I spun my sample, both to see how it would spin up, and to test for yardage, should I want to do a whole project with fine merino. This fiber would be perfect for a lightweight scarf or shawl; it can be spun into a soft, fine and warm yarn.

I spun it up on a 3/4 ounce spindle:


It worked perfectly, I don't think either a lighter weight or heavier spindle would do as well for me. If I were doing a larger project, though, more than 4 ounces, I would likely use a wheel; a fast one with a very light tension.

I wound that small cop into a center pull ball and plied:


The results are a skein that weighs 25g (0.08 ounces), and was 608" before washing, 570" after washing (15.8 yards), or *about* 195 yards per ounce (197.5 yes. per ounce):

Merino fine

Lots of small shawls use around 400 yards, so a mere 3 ounces would be plenty! Lots! A Bargain! in fact. Where to buy? My retailers are Carolina Homespun, and Village Spinning and here to find other vendors.

Other small packages this week? I have been babysitting:
Morning play