Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Finished Projects and some new project musings...

The nice thing about having 2 spinning wheels is that I can easily work on more than one project at a time.  I set aside the Minstrel, with the Blue Faced Leicester and spent a couple of days spinning up the Indigo dyed, superwash Merino.  I skeined it off and soaked it this morning.  It's a fairly tightly spun, nicely even skein, with about 280 yards of yarn.  I'll sample before I turn it into socks but I'm guessing it will be a 54 stitch sock, rather than 60 stitch sock.  There seems to be a tad more loft in this yarn than in a commercial sock yarn.  I was considering trying toe up socks with this yarn but think maybe sticking with a tried and true top down, flap heel as I'm not fond of the fit of short row heels.  Once it's dry, I'll sample and go from there.  I'm also considering doing the toes and heels in a second colour, using a commercial sock yarn for durability, however  I may just run a strand of toe/heel yarn along with the blue.  The nice thing about the near solid colour is that if I do a fancier pattern, it should show up nicely.

The tea towels are washed.  I tossed them in the washer and dryer while still in a full length, right off the loom.  When they were dried, I ran a small zig-zag stitch along each side of the marker I'd used between each towel.  I used # 10 crochet cotton, as it was handy and shrinks at about the same rate as the 2/8 cotton.  They're cut apart.   I just need to iron them and hem them.  I swear that takes the longest of all the steps in weaving!  They'd have looked quite awesome in my previous kitchen!

Next project?  Well, I have some sewing to do.  But on the loom?  I have the project which was supposed to be on this time, a structural plaid, which might just end up being a shawl.  I also have a hankering to try my hand at double weave.  I'm a little concerned about all the 1/3 and3/1 shaft combos on the counterbalance loom.  I wonder if I should set up the old jack loom for the double weave project?  Here is where some advice would come in very handy.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Friday Night Results!

Yesterday, I cut out a shirt for my sweetie and realized that where I have my sewing machine set up would be just too cold and too dark to sew.  It's in the laundry/mud room and there isn't proper lighting in there for night time work, although many windows make it a wonderful place to sew during the day.  It was pretty cold last night and while wood heat is lovely, the farther away from the stove you are, the cooler the house is.   Other than the bedrooms, which are pretty much unheated, the sewing machine is set up in the farthest spot away from the stove. Next time I'll plan ahead and set up a table in the living room.

Instead, I worked at the drum carder.  All the indigo dyed superwash Merino was dry and I didn't want to pack it into a little bag and forget about it.  I carded up 6 lovely batts.  It only took 2 passes through the carder to get them nice and smooth.  I didn't worry too much about completely blending the fibres as I wanted a little bit of variation in the yarn.  It won't be a lot, as the colours were quite even right from the beginning.

I finished up the South African top and plied it.  I ended up with about 600 yards of plied yarn.  It's lovely and soft, even spun with a short draw for a worsted type yarn.     I noticed when I tried to find an empty bobbin to ply the yarn onto, that many of my bobbins had ends of singles from previous projects.  So I took the last of the white singles I'd just plied and plied them with some of the dark Dyer's Knotweed blue.  Then I used the rest of that dark blue and plied it with some leftover grey to make two small sample skeins.  It was rather fun spinning the two little skeins for barber pole results.

Finally, I opened up a bag of the Blue Leicester roving which my son gave me.  This breed is one of my very favourites to spin.  It is long and soft and very, very yummy.    It's white.  It looks like much of the other white yarns I've spun.  I was able to spin over half a bobbin last night.  Considering it's a fairly fine yarn, I'm pretty happy with that!  No photo of this because really, it looks so much like the bobbin of South African singles, that you can look here to see it.  However if you could feel the two different yarns, you'd find the South African was soft but the Blue Faced Leicester was ooh, so much softer!  The fact that it is roving which will make a more lofty yarn to begin with helps a bit with that.  That the roving is light, fluffy and practically spins itself, is a bonus!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A Blitz of Summery Colours..

The winter coloured tea towels are done!  I wove each one about 35 inches to allow for hems and shrinkage.  They are currently about 19.5 inches wide.  The last one was a bit iffy.  I'd already realized that I'd likely get only a square from the last of the loom waste.  As I approached the square measurements, I still had thread in the shuttles, so I just kept going.  I'll admit there was a bit of clearing the shed with my hand before each shot by the time I got to the end of the towel.  I almost made it.  By 34.5 inches, I'd had enough and left it at that.  I had only about 6 or 7 inches of loom waste left behind the heddles.  Not my favourite way to weave but at least it was an economical use of the yarn!

Then I started to prep for a guild presentation on natural dyes.  I wanted to show that natural dyes could be exciting for the modern weaver and spinner.  Two days before the presentation an idea of doing a natural dyed painted warp had my thinking cap on.  I knew how to do it, but didn't have the right equipment for steaming it, nor enough suitable white wool yarn with which to experiment.  As well, lets face it, it was two days before the presentation and planning a new project and winding the warp would add more time than I thought I had.  Instead, I took the last skein of yarn from the Jessie fleece that I spun and two skeins of natural white superwash sock yarn.  The Jessie skein was just a normal skein from my niddy noddy.  The sock yarn was wound into two separate long skeins, using two chairs placed 6 feet or so apart.  (Note to self...more figure 8 ties!)   I also grabbed the embroidery thread skeins I'd spun up last fall.

After mordanting everything, I had to decide on colours.  The method I tend to use with Madder, requires a long soaking unless I'm using an extract - no extract on hand right now.  Logwood is a never exhausting dye bath and I didn't want that.  What I wanted was warm and sunny, summer colours.  I hunted through my dyes and found a jar of Black Oak bark that I'd purchased last year and not yet tried.  This was the perfect time to try something new.  So Monday afternoon, I simmered the Black Oak, then not having a strainer fine enough to remove the bark shavings,  I started dyeing.   Oohhhh a lot of nice yellows which are supposed to be very, stable and fade resistant.  I dipped in only part of the Jessie skein.  When it came to the sock yarn skeins, I folded them in half and then in half again, to make a manageable skein and dipped only the ends of the skeins in.   I would use Indigo as the second colour, making green the secondary shade and certainly, those would be the colours of summer!

Yesterday, a phone call got me off to a bit of a late start, but after lunch, I was waiting for the final reduction of the Indigo vat.  All afternoon I was reminded why Indigo dyeing is so much fun.  Put the yarn and fibre into a vat which doesn't look like it should dye blue.  Pull it out and presto, as the air hits it, it turns from green to blue.  It never fails to excite me.  I realized after my skeins were dyed that there was still a lot of pigment in the pot.  I measured out 100 grams of white superwash Merino and tossed it in the pot.  Two dips later, it was a lovely shade of blue.  100 grams should be enough for me to spin up for a pair of socks.
Sock yarn, dyed with Black Oak and Indigo
Superwash Merino dyed with Indigo
It was certainly a colourful day yesterday!  I was able to use the dyed yarns as part of my presentation.   The guild members were find the humour in my passing around still wet skeins as they hadn't had a chance to dry before I left the house. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

It Feels Like Winter Projects...

Winter is back and today is a cold, snowy , blustery day.  It's white out there and I have found myself craving colours of summer.   Of course this is what I've been doing lately..

 More log cabin... 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 - switch shuttle order.. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, - switch shuttle order.  I'm getting a wee might tired of counting to 10!  I'm on tea towel number 4 - let the countdown begin.  At least that is starting from 10 backwards.
I also think that perhaps using the soft khaki brown/green colour was a bad choice for this time of year.  It should have been daffodil yellow or rose pink or geranium red or summer sky blue....

 The reincarnation of the cabled hat.  It's a plain ribbed hat.  It was easy to knit although it took  more yarn than I'd anticipated as I tightened up the tension a bit so that it would be warmer.  It fits.. yay.. and yes, it's toasty warm.  It's also very comfortable to wear, which is a bonus.  I'd have to say it's not horribly stylish or even that attractive, but it serves its purpose.  Even better is that since today winter came back, it's finished and I can wear it out to feed the chooks!   Notice the lovely grey colour though.  ugh... goes with everything I own, might get confused with one of my son's hats since it's the same colour although different style and  the dull grey blends in with the skies this time of year.  Did I mention it's comfortable to wear?  That's why it's staying just as it is.

I'm working on the second bobbin of the South African Merino blend top.   It's lovely to spin.  It's making really nice yarn singles and I am chomping at the bit to ply it up to see a finished product.

I think  that maybe the next fibre I spin, should be dyed first.   I have noticed though, that I much prefer spinning naturally colour fibres than previously dyed fibres.  At least there is a hockey game tomorrow night and that is prime spinning time!  

Sunday, 8 January 2012

It Shouldn't have been Rocket Science

Finally, the loom is dressed and I'm weaving.  It should have been simple but I turned it into rocket science.  It's a simple colour pattern and only tabby weave.  Once I sat down at the loom, I had the heddles threaded in record time.  Unfortunately, I managed to muddle up the colour order in one block and kept it that way for a few repeats, miraculously changed it back to normal in the middle of another pattern block  and went on until the the end when I did the same for 3 more blocks.   Thankfully, I allowed enough extra warp for substantial sampling, so I had no worries about weaving out tests.  It only took a short time to figure out my errors and fix them, but it's been a while since I've made that big a mistake in threading!  The moral of the story is, don't put in a movie which you haven't seen in a long time, or you'll watch it, instead of watching the heddles.  
The first tea towel has been woven and there are another 4 or 5 to finish off.  It's only a 6.5 yard warp and I'm weaving the towels to about 35 inches to allow 2 inches for hems and 3 inches shrinkage.  That's about 5 with loom waste, which usually gives me 6 towels.  I don't count on that last one though, it's like a bonus to have it actually work out.

The hat is finished.  Enough said about it.  I'm looking for a small child who needs a lovely cabled, soft, wool winter toque.

What's wrong with this photo?  This was our driveway yesterday.   A few days ago, we had snow and pictures of the chooks hanging out in it.  They were playing in the puddles of melted snow yesterday and again today.  We usually get a January thaw, but it's only a few days.  It isn't normally a thaw with only a few days of winter.  I'm not complaining mind you.  I'm not a huge fan of lots of snow, bitter temperatures and biting winds.  It's just different.  When winter actually comes, we'll be all taken quite by surprise, I'm sure.   This was taken from inside the house, hence the glare.

The seed catalogues are in already.  I was amazed that the first few came in November.  I was waiting on one and it came a few weeks ago.  I normally wait for a snowy, blustery day to hunker down with a huge cup of herbal tea and figure out my seed order.   I may have to change my routine this year.   I did get a fresh batch of Dyer's Knotweed seeds ordered.  They should be arriving in the next week or so.  As they are cold sensitive, I'll have to watch the mail box just to make sure they don't get frosty.