Wednesday, 30 January 2013

New Weaving Challenges

It's been interesting weaving.  There were a couple of broken threads, not because of  my spinning technique,  but because the kitten kept a paws on interest in the project. 

I wasn't sure the project was going to survive the kitten's activities.  He was on the front of that loom, investigating more times that I could say.  He was on the back beam as well, using it as a balance beam and finding the new repair warps enticing new toys.

I will admit that after several gentle admonishments and moving him off the loom, I got the squirt bottle.  Yep, camera in one hand, because nobody would believe me if I just told them this happend and squirt bottle in the other.   What has kitten learned?  He's learned that when he sees the squirt bottle, he should move away, but he's not manage to equate the squirt bottle with any particular action.  Thus we have a chewed rug, broken warp threads, chewed weft skeins and the list goes on.  I hope this teething/growing/whatever stage, doesn't last much longer.

However, I got the weaving done and the project off the loom.  It only took me an hour to twist the fringes. 

When my sweetie saw it, his comment was "Good choice on the colour", so I'm guessing the dye job worked out with acceptable results.   I really like the varigation of the warp colours, which was happenstance from the natural colours of the fleece.  I tried to keep bunches of similar shades together to have enough yardage  to have sections of colour.  I was able to do that because I flick carded all the fibre for the warp.   If I'd carded them with the drum carder or hand cards, I could have had a homogenous colour, but where is the interest in that?
What I like best is that this is no sleezy, wide sett fabric in order to make it soft and drapey.  Nope, this is a decently stable sett, which will make a long lasting fabric and it's still soft and drapes really well.  I love it when it all comes together.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

All dressed and no place to go....

I finally had enough yardage for the warp spun.  It was time to dress the loom.   I rechecked my WPI and decided to re-sley the reed at a slightly closer sett.  It really is a fairly quick process and only too half an hour or so.  Then I started winding the warp.  I needed 360 ends and over the afternoon I wound off a bout here and there, chained them up and stuck them on the loom.  I got 4 bouts wound off and realized I would be short enough yardage  to cause a problem.  So back to the wheel I went and spun, spun, spun  for several days until I got not only a charlie horse in my left calf but enough yardage to finish the warp and allow for broken threads.  I'm not expecting any threads to break unless I do something stupid, since I've needed scissors to cut most of them.

Kitten protection for the warp chains.
In between spinning sessions, I started tying on the warp threads.  It was here that I realized that I had a huge problem.  Those warp chains hanging from the front beam were giving the kitten a lot of excitement and me a lot of worry, as I had visions of chewed yarn.    I ended up tucking each warp chain in a plastic bag and tying it on the beam, tightly I might add to protect the warp.  Thankfully the kitten ignored the bags.    I will mention that tying on to the existing warp is somewhat tedious, but at least it's fairly quick tedium.
Sadly, a dressed loom but no weft dry enough to weave with!

I finished winding the last warp chain yesterday, tied it on and beamed the warp.  Despite my complaints about the tedious bit of tying on the new warp, the whole buisiness of dressing the loom seemed to pretty much sail along.  Once I got the knots through the reed, the rest of the process was pretty effortless.  I untied the cord which had been turned into a kitten toy - that was a good 10 minutes of fun - so that I could lash on the warp, thus saving a bit more of my handspun yarn.  

Then I started test weaving - fixing two crossed threads.  I test wove a couple of inches and was horrified.  It looked awful!   The grey of the warp and the beige colour of the weft were lifeless.  I even asked hubby to check it out, hoping he'd just say something about the light and make me feel better but his comment was "Gak, can you dye it"...  something I hadn't really wanted to do.  I'd spun up a pretty borderline amount of weft, not wanting to have yards of it left over.  Dyeing it means either spinning more or dyeing extra fibre.

Awesome, awesome, awesome, dark blue from an Indigo vat.
Today, I made up an Indigo vat and dyed away, knowing that I'd have to dye up a bunch of  sliver to have on hand for when I run out with 4 inches left to weave!   I got a perfect soft, denim blue on the skeins and the sliver.  I put in 100 grams of white merino mill ends to play with later.  When I fished them out, I also found a small skein of spun weft, which had sunk to the bottom and had been missed.  It was dark blue!  Luckily, I'd put only half the stock solution in to start with, so revamped the vat and redyed all my skeins and sliver.  I had enough dye left to do another batch of Merino.  I was trying to decide whether to worry about totally exhausting the dye vat, when I noticed the kitten playing with something... a skein of my weft, which had mysteriously "fallen" off the shelf.   I rescued it, quickly soaked it and dumped it into the Indigo, hoping that there was enough dye left to get it even close to the dark blue of the rest.   I was lucky.  Very, very lucky, especially since it was one of the larger skeins I'd spun.   So the blue is darker than I'd really wanted when I started with, but it's an awesome blue.  I'll have more than enough contrast and depth for the pattern and 200 grams of Merino in that awesome blue as a bonus!

Now I'm drying the yarn in front of the fire, in hopes of getting a little bit of weaving done. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

The test shawl

 It didn't take long to dress the loom.  It was only 360 threads which went quite quickly.  First thing yesterday morning I had only to tie on the warp to the front beam.  Normally I use a long nylon cord and lash the warp bouts, which creates an easy method to evenly tension the warp.  However, my nylon cord seems to have been turned into a cat toy and I didn't want to figure out if and where I had put the rest of the cord yardage, so I just tied the bouts onto the apron rod.  It turned out to be quick and easy, so I was happy.

Weaving went quite quickly.  Last night I finished twisting the fringes.  The yarn is quite old and felt somewhat scratchy and stiff after weaving.  It almost felt like I had the sett way too close, but I was sure I hadn't made that mistake.  I ended up tossing it in the washer with a bit of laundry detergent in order to clean out the many years of grime build up and the old spinning oil. 

Out of the washer came a much softer and more drapey piece of fabric.  I lay the shawl on a dryer rack in front of the fire and had to fiddle with the placement to keep the fringes from hanging at the kitten's eye level.  This morning the shawl was dry.  It's decently soft  and still has a pleasing amount of drape. The final measurements of this shawl are 78in x 26 in, not including the fringe.  It's a nice size.   I've tied off the warp at the reed, in knots so the kitten can't undo them.  It should be quite long enough to tie on the handspun shawl warp.
The final seal of approval!  After taking the photo, I turned my back for a few minutes to upload the piccys.  When I'd finished and put the camera way, I went to then put the shawl away and found this cute sight.  Kevin must have curled up on the shawl almost as soon as I'd turned around.  I wonder if one can sell a shawl with the benefit of kitten approval?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Shawl Project Update..

I was sure I had enough Perendale for the whole warp, but I didn't.  I am so glad that I picked up another pound of fibre last October, "just in case".  I've been washing locks.  Of course washing them in January seems to take twice as long than in the summer.  It's not the washing that takes twice as long really, but the drying.   This bag is a little more compacted, with the lock structure less defined in places, so it's taking longer to separate them.  Add in the kitten who is desperate to find out more about the "stinky" fibre, and it's been making for a very slow process.

Longdraw from the fold - commercial roving
Not being able to spin the rest of the warp, I started spinning the weft.  I'd have preferred spinning each one in turn, to keep the rhythm going, but it would feel like wasted time putting off spinning until enough locks were washed and dried.   So while there are still about 400 yards of warp to spin, I started spinning the weft.  This is a commercial roving that says it's light grey/silver, but it spins up more of an oatmeal colour.  The roving is soft enough I guess but nothing spectacular.  It has a few tiny neps which I can't see until I actually come upon them while I'm spinning.  However, it has surprised me at how nicely it spins and what a nice yarn it makes, even with the few little neps which seem to spin in before I catch them. 

Colourful warp chains
I'm winding the test warp.  I've added a bit of extra length for testing and to make sure there is enough left to tie on.  It's a colourful warp, to be certain.  My stash yarn left me only one option and that was a slightly thinner wool/silk blend.  Lovely, lovely yarn but that sett would have been off enough to affect one or the other shawls and the idea of re-threading the reed unnecessarily, defeats this particular purpose of the test shawl.  At the guild, they had some 2 ply wool yarn which had been for sale for a while.  All the more subdued colours are gone and only a few skeins of each colour of the remaining yarns are left.  However, while it is a slightly firmer yarn than I'm spinning, it is the same WPI, so I think it will be a better choice for a test item.  I have some grey for the weft and also have 1 skein of bright yellowy/orange which I'm debating using for an "accent" stripe, just in case these colours need something to help make them pop.   I've got only two more chains to wind and then I can start dressing the loom.  I do have to hide the warp from the kitten when I'm not around as he's very interested in them.

Right now, I'm dithering over weave structures and trying to decide whether I want to dye the weft or not.  There is only a small contrast, but the warp is a clear grey while the weft definitely has a brownish cast to it.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Some small achievement and the smell of wet wool

This morning I had an interesting conversation with a friend.  She weaves on occasion and I wanted to run a bit of a thought process by her, knowing she'd be honest and knowledgeable in her opinions.  I'm spinning this Perendale with the idea of weaving a shawl. I'd dithered over whether to spin and knit socks or spin and weave the shawl.  It's a bigger project to do the shawl and will require a fair bit of dedication and regimentation to get it done in close to 50 hours, since it needs about 1800 yards of yarn.   The socks would have been an easier project but if I had used the Perendale, I wouldn't have wanted to wear them as I prefer superwash socks.   I ended up chosing  the shawl because it's a much bigger challenge, using materials I have on hand and something I'd use, which sure wouldn't be handwash socks, even though I wear hand knit wool socks 10 months of the year.

I wanted to run by her my idea of putting on a commercial warp with a slightly longer length than needed so a) I could test pattern ideas without using the handspun and  b) then weave the shawl, cut it off, leaving the loom dressed and just tie on the handspun warp so that I don't have to spin the loom waste.   In essence, a useful dummy warp.

She thought I should have chosen the socks because the project would still fit in the time criteria I have and not have to push myself or make it a challenge.  She told me that she thought it was better to choose something that you liked a little less, which would be easier than chose something harder or obscure which requires a lot more work.   I thought it would be more enjoyable to chose the challenge and knitting socks I wouldn't wear would be harder to complete, because I wouldn't like doing it enough to keep at it without lots of breaks and distraction.  I thought it was an interesting and very big difference in opinions.  What do you think?

So, I've been spinning ... 13 hours in the past 4 days....   In that time,  I've flick carded a rather large amount of locks.  I flicked a few locks and then spun them up in order to keep control of the fibre because the kitten kept eyeing them a bit too enthusiastically for my liking.  I only had to distract him a couple of times though.      I did keep a yarn sample on hand so that I could keep checking the grist.  I know how easy it is for me to make them slightly bigger or thinner when I spin while distracted.   

Skeins temporarily skein for photo, as they're still wet!
I plied them together.    I got two full bobbins of plied yarns, plus a little bit extra.   There is just over 500 yards here.  That is almost half the warp that I need if I use the sample shawl as a dummy warp.  I should have enough Perendale left for that remaining 500 yards from what I have washed.  I'll have to spin something else for the weft or wash more.  However, I was thinking that since I need another 700 ish yards for the weft, that I might do that with a shorter fibre, using a long draw for  speed with it being softer as a bonus.  I'm figuring on 6-8 hours for dressing the loom, and another 6-10 to weave it off.  With time needed to wet finish and twist the fringes, it doesn't leave a lot of time to spin the weft.

The Perendale yarn is still drying.  I had just wet finished it and skeined it up only to take a photo.  It's flat and drying right now,  drying flat so that I can keep it away from the kitten!  Boy, do I love the smell of wet wool.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Spinning Perrendale

Last spring I'd purchased a pound of Perendale fleece from The Fibre Garden.  It's a lovely place to shop.  The boys that run it are knowledgeable, friendly, lots of fun and enabling as well.  I'd washed it up to keep the lock structure, by laying out fibre locks on window screen.  It's a fairly time consuming method of washing, but the end results, with fleece that has the lock structure intact, is wonderful.

I'd put the washed locks in a bin and set them aside until I knew what I wanted to do with them.  Yesterday, I finally started spinning them.  I decided I wanted a fairly thin yarn, about 5- 6 twists per inch.  We'll see how close I stay to that as there were a few times that I caught myself relaxed and reveling in the act of just spinning to make yarn and not stressed trying to make yarn match specific requirements. 

To start with, I decided that I wanted a worsted yarn, so I'd be using a short forward draw.  Because the locks all had their structure after washing, I was able to pull out the flick carder for processing them.    All the locks are fairly long, so they flick open easily, with little risk to nipping the knuckles with the sharp tines, like with a shorter staple length.   I don't flick by brushing out the ends, but rather I use a hitting or bouncing motion, which creates static, opens up the ends.  This quickly separates the individual fibres and any VM and remaining dirt, just fall out easily.  There is virtually no chaff, bugs or any VM, so this fleece is a dream to process.

By putting a twist in the middle of the fibre, and gripping before flick carding, the locks stay together.  By lining up the opened locks with the cut ends to one end and the tips to the other, I can easily keep the grain of my yarn running the same way.  Does it make a lot of difference?  The scales are all running the same way, so hopefully it means a smoother, softer yarn, which will be easier to work with.  I will say that drafting these locks has been most enjoyable.

This is what I've gotten done since yesterday.  That is about 4 and a half hours of spinning.  I'd worried after months of practicing, making small skeins and samples that I'd not be able to spin just to make yarn.  It was an unnecessary worry, as the moment I sat down to spin these locks, I felt the spinning zen happening and felt wonderfully happy and relaxed.   It was such a good feeling.

 With it being this much fun to spin, I'd love to pick up another pound of that Perendale- a Romney/Cheviot cross, it's lovely, long, crimpy and fun to spin.  It's such a lovely colour too!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Oat Bread

 This is a fine grained oat bread, which is easy to make and quite delicious.

 6 cups all purpose flour
2 cups large flake oatmeal

1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsn honey
2  tsp yeast or one packet – regular rising yeast
2 tbsn plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups water – more or less

Proof yeast in small bowl with 1 tbsn honey and about 1/2 cup warm water. If the yeast is active, it should be bubbly and ready to use in about 10 minutes. Meantime, mix flour, oats, salt in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the honey and 1/4 cup oil. When yeast is ready, add yeast and 1 cup warm water. Start mixing, adding second cup of water. Slowly add the last 1/2 cup of water while mixing. The flour mixture will pull together to make a dough, kneading until smooth and elastic.
Oil large bowl with remaining 2 tsp oil. Place dough in oiled bowl, rolling it around until the entire surface of the dough is lightly covered in oil. Cover with plastic wrap, foil, parchment etc and let dough rise in a warm place, for approximately 2 hours or until doubled.

Punch dough down to remove large air bubbles, shape into 2 loaves and place in oiled pans. Allow to rise until almost doubled. Bake in a preheated oven at 350° for 35 - 40 minutes or until the loaves are nicely browned, hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom.   A  cooking thermometer should read about 94 °C or 200° F

You can easily switch out 2 or 3 cups of all purpose flour for whole wheat.  You might need to add a little more or less water though, depending on the humidity and absorption of the flour.   Same with additions like raisins.  You can add a cup or so to the dry ingredients, being aware once again that you might need to add a few more drops of water.

Bread is pretty flexible, at least this recipe is.   If it is too dry, knead in a tablespoon or two of water.  If it's too wet, knead in a tablespoon or two of flour. 

By the way, it's scaled to fit a 5 quart Kitchen Aid bowl - you know, just in case you have one and wish to use it.   It seems that two loaves like this fit nicely and I no longer need to make 6 or more loaves at a time.

I highly recommend the cooking thermometer.  Sometimes bread can look done before it is.  Just tip the bread over and pop the thermometer part way in the middle.  If it's not done, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.  If it is internally done but not browned nicely, put it back in anyway as it won't do it any harm to cook it a little more.

And yes, I know that 1 packet of yeast is slightly more than 2 tsp yeast.  Believe me, it won't make a difference.  

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Spinning in the New Year

 It feels like I've spent hours and hours,  blending and spinning fibres.  This is a 3 ply Merino/Silk blend.   It's amazing how much more time a 3 ply yarn takes than a 2 ply yarn.  The caked yarn is a 3 ply short forward draw, worsted and the skein is a 3 ply long draw, but not a true woollen.  I re-carded the sliver into rolags for the skein.  It muddied the colour blend a bit, but it did draft much more smoothly than the original sliver, which was pretty compacted.

This skein 2 ply blend of the same sliver.  I spun it up just for fun and practice.  It's a nice weight and there is a little bit of the original sliver left, which I will spin up to the same weight and TPI.  I should have enough for a pair of fingerless mitts or a hat. 

I'm using up the last of the Knotweed/ Japanese Indigo dyed fibres.  I blended this with a bit of white Alpaca.  This is a replacement for the Polwarth/Alpaca blend yarn I'd spun, that the kitten chewed up.  It's a nice yarn, but not nearly as nice as the original.  It's a 2 ply yarn, soft, consistent and worthy of some special project.  I have enough of the blue left that I can card and spin up about 2 more bobbins full of singles.  The problem is that I just don't feel the love that much when I'm spinning this.  I don't know why because it's decent fibre, feels nice, drafts well and makes up to a nice, squishy, soft yarn.