Friday, 28 March 2014

This is how we roll

to steal the words from a currently popular song..
Despite the helper kitty, who is breaking more threads than he fixes, some weaving is getting done.  Okay, Kevin doesn't fix any threads, but he is indeed breaking them as he walks around on the warp beams, parks himself to have a gander outside or just pretends he's playing the harp with the warp threads.
  This photo is of him practicing just as I was about to start dressing the loom.  He's decided that my loom is his personal gymnastics equipment.   It has created a few minor problems with the project, but not insurmountable.  Certainly not as bad as my first few woven inches, when I realized that the tension kept releasing.   Linen thread needs to be kept under an even tension.  The brake kept slipping, releasing the tension, making weaving almost impossible.   After crawling around under the loom, changing tie ups and fiddling about, I checked the Leclerc online info about brake assembly.  

It's a really simple piece of equipment consisting of a drum with a tensioned metal band around it.   There seemed to be only 3 main problems.  The band could have stretched; it looked fine to me.  The drum could have gotten some oil on it or the band could have smoothed the drum.  Either way, my brake drum has a light layer of rust, so it's neither been lubricated in any way nor is it too smooth.   Finally I noticed the turnbuckle in the brake assembly.  It felt loose, so I twisted it around a few times until it was much tighter..  I was really careful about making sure it went the right way and I didn't unscrew it completely.   That would have been a horror story and project wreck at the same time.

However, it worked.  I ratcheted down the brake band and it tightened up perfectly.  No more slipping and my warp is lovely and tight.   I can weave properly and my fabric is nicer.     It's a much nicer experience than the frustration of the loose warp.   Now if I can only convince Kevin that he doesn't want to hang out on my loom while I'm weaving this.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Flax and Wool

 With spinning up what I'd hoped was enough linen thread for the warp, I decided that I'd better get around to scouring it.  It was dark, harsh and a rough feeling thread.  I used the recipe from Linen: From Flax Seed to Woven Cloth by Linda Heinrich, which uses Soda Ash and dish washing up soap.  It worked well the last time I tried it.   I weighed up what I needed, using about 3/4 the amount of soap and soda ash because I was going to do at least two scouring baths anyway.  My pot was only so big and I had my imagination run wild with visions of all that dish soap, bubbling up, over the pot and onto the floor.    I figured that was reason enough to do a 3/4 recipe the first time and do it a second time if needed.

I did indeed do a second scouring bath.  After cooking it for a couple of hours, it was lighter, but I wondered how much lighter it would get with a second bath.  Really, the scouring time is minimal, since I really can't justify adding the time I spent doing other things while the pot simmered.  It is just the time to measure the chemicals, set up the bath and check on it periodically.    The second bath made a huge difference.  Not only was the linen lighter, but it was much softer.  If I'd taken the time to whack it while drying, it would have been softer still. 
The threads were all curly and kinky though, since they are singles.  Heinrich says in her book, to give the skeins a good snap after scouring.  It was an amazing transformation.  The skeins went from curly and impossibly messing looking, to smooth, flat and lovely.  It was the a wonderful moment when this happened.  I'm sure that was when I went from enjoying spinning flax to loving spinning flax.  It was pure magic!  I love fibre moments like that.  It makes all the effort so very worthwhile.

After drying, I wound some of the skeins into cakes so that I could wind the warp.  Today I did a bit more research and changed my mind about sizing the warp.  I wasn't going to bother with it as the warp threads are plenty strong.  However, a perusal over some old documents suggested that sizing would keep the singles from getting hairy, keeping them smoother.  It's another short time project so I decided to mix up some double strength gelatin and bite the bullet on drying time.  I'd wanted to start dressing the loom today because tomorrow is planned to be another Maple sap boiling day.  None the less, the warp has been soaked in sizing and is now drying.

I also finished up spinning a skein of the brown wool for the weft.   There are 530 yards of yarn in this skein.  Combined with the tan wool singles, there should theoretically be enough.  I know there won't be though as a) wool stretches on the niddy noddy, making counts overly generous sometimes and b) I'll weave as much as the loom waste as I can, so as waste as little of the handspun weft as possible, since I didn't put a dummy warp on the loom for this project.

For fun, I tossed off a dye vat of a sunny yellow-orange colour and dyed up a skein of 2 ply sock yarn.  I'm pretty sure this is Blue Faced Leicester and nylon, that I spun up a couple of years ago.  It's been sitting here, waiting, because, well, I'm a much better spinner now and my 3 ply sock yarns are nicer.  But I didn't want to waste it, so it's now dyed and into the sock yarn stash.   

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sappy Story

It was cold outside last Saturday,  with what felt like gale force winds.  Really, the temperatures were hovering just above the freezing mark, with winds at about 45 km/hr, gusting higher.  However, the few trees we tapped had been running and we had 5 or 6 gallons of Maple sap collected.   It was forecast to be a high of -8 on Sunday, so out we trudged to see if we could find the fire pit under all the snow.  We spent 5 hours outside and a day's worth of wood.  Luckily we had a few cedars downed a couple of years ago, so it was softwood that we wouldn't burn to heat the house, that fueled the fire pit for this venture.  It would have been less wood if it hadn't been so windy.
The sap is finally running!

One of two buckets with sap.  It's just barely sweetish tasting.

Just starting to boil.  It took forever because it was so windy.

Makeshift wind break to try to keep the fire burning.

Finally, after over 4 hours, the sap has started to colour.

5 gallons of sap yielded 2 cups of syrup.
I heated up the final syrup in the house, filtered it though paper coffee filters and bottled it up.  The next batch will be filtered, heated up and then put into sterilized jars for storage.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Linsey Woolsey/ Wincey Planning

I've decided on doing some Linsey Woolsey yardage for my 75 hour project.  My rejigging my pattern design, I was able to reduce the hours needed to finish, enough to get close enough to 75 hours for me.    Linsey Woolsey is an old fabric, also called Wincey, which has originally a linen warp and a wool weft.  When it started being made in cotton growing areas in the U.S, the warp was often changed to cotton, depending on what you had on hand.   You can find examples in both tabby or plain weave and basic twills. 

  You can find examples of solid colours, lots of stripes and a few checked type patterns.   The wools were able to be easily dyed while the linen and cotton, were much harder.  Cellulose fibres require a different mordanting process, which I've not yet delved into.    I'm guessing that the checked warps were blends of scoured / not scoured patterning of linen but I've not gotten that far on my research yet.   To combine the linen and wool in the same warp would create inconsistencies in warp tension as the linen and wool threads would stretch at different rates.  However, there is plenty of evidence for horizontal stripes, meaning the wool was dyed.  Protein fibres dye easily with natural dyes, so it's a no brainer.  Look at some of the 17th C pictures and you see skirts/petticoats with stripes, most likely made from using a length of yardage, with the selvedges being used for the hem and at the waist. 

Linsey Woolsey seems to have been used for quilt backs, functional fabrics and for everyday clothing.   I'm making an apron.  It's a bit of a stretch for linsey woolsey as I think a work apron would have been cotton or linen, so it could be easily washed.  A fancy apron would have been silk or fine cotton.  However, I only have 75 hours and I can make a serviceable, if needing to be hand washed apron in that time.  The fabric would be period  correct and I'd use it.  Those are two of the major factors in any project I make... well the will I use it part, anyway.

 On Tuesday night, the guild had spinning night.  It was much fun and camaraderie.  It was good to get out and play with friends.  I took my smaller wheel, which fits in the truck between the jump seats and grabbed a handful of the wool that I wanted to use for the 75 hour project weft.   I was certain it was the fleece from a Shetland sheep called Kinread ... I'm sure I'm spelling that incorrectly.  Anyway, he's a whether sheep ( means he can't breed) with a decent,older style Shetland fleece.  He's not pure white, though his fleece cleans up much whiter than I expected, with just bits of brown and black in him.   I start happily spinning away, wondering why the fleece seemed a little on the coarse side.   In the past 3 days, I've spun 8 hours on the wool not to mention the time I've put in on spinning flax.  My handful of wool was done and I went to get more.  It was a bit that hadn't had all the lanolin washed out of it so I went hunting for the remaining bag of fleece which was in the sunporch, so I could wash up a bit more.  I was certain that it had been labelled, so when I couldn't find it, I grabbed the only bag of fleece which was what I thought, the right colour.  Except that I didn't remember Kinread's fleece being bi-coloured.  In fact, I was pretty certain the only bi-coloured fleece I had was a Romney/Icelandic X, which had some pretty defined colour shifts, from brown to light tan, rather than being truly bi-coloured. 

I started washing and realized that this was indeed the Romney X and not the Shetland.  A quick, more careful hunt, found that the bag marked Kinread, had fallen behind something and was a bit damp.  If I didn't wash it right away, it would be toast.  I've spent my day washing fleece.  Every flat surface with ventilation has been covered with screens and towels and of course, fleece.  I've still over half a bag of Kinread to wash.  As well, I've washed up more of the Romney X, in both the lighter and darker shades. In my first project draft, I was going to dye stripes but had to eliminate that due to time requirements.  Instead, I'll get my stripes naturally, with the fleece and only need the one fleece to boot.

What is the only drawback here?  The yarn on the niddy noddy is the Romney X wool singles.  The bag of skeins is the spun flax or linen singles.  Notice the colour?  Yep, where was my brain when I started this?  I'd wanted a change in spinning colour?  It won't happen until I get to the brown.   On the other hand, the linen will scour up to a much lighter colour and that will make for a pretty patterning on the fabric.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Getting Dizzy!

Getting dizzy from all that spinning you know.  I'd say miles and miles, but first we measure in kilometers here and secondly, it's not quite a mile.  There are 1760 yards in a mile and only 1413 yards of linen singles in these skeins.    It's more than a kilometer of thread though.   I've learned an awful lot about spinning flax with this exercise, that's for sure.  You know, things like longer drafting length and more twist.   I'll need to spin up another couple of hundred yards just to be sure that I have enough for it's intended purpose.    Lots of hours of spinning in this lot of thread too!

different photo, same subject of flax
  It will be a nice change when I get to see something other than the lovely tan colour on my wheel.   Apparently water retted flax is supposed to have a "strong and unpleasant odor".  However I've never found that.  It does smell like winter, barn stored hay.  Not that heady, sweet smell of fresh cut hay, but not unpleasant, all the same.   I'll be spinning some wool though soon enough and that will be quite a change from the long drafting length of the flax.

It's the Maple Syrup festival at Westfield Heritage Village!   The whole village is alive with maple activities.  There are sap collection buckets hanging around the site.  The sap is boiled down at the sugar shack and in the Inn, where historical pioneer methods are demonstrated.  As well, the interpreters are in action.  Last weekend they were cooking griddle cake scones and maple cookies.   I was demonstrating as well, but wearing civies since I was parked just outside the gates.   My helper and I were making maple taffy.   How great is it when your job for the day is to make candy and hand out free samples?  It's a totally awesome way to spend a day! 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Project updates

 I've been doing lots of this.  It's the part of the homework which feels like work.  It's the labeling and mounting of the skeins.  I've got starter labels on them, but they didn't have enough info, so I'm having to redo all the labels, do the write ups or headers and mount them on pages.   I'm about half done with the relabeling and mounting.  

When I am tired of doing that, I'm spinning for a possible project.  I started off planning and researching.  I ended up with two options for my final project.  There is a 3rd possibility in the wings, but I'm not really thrilled with that one.  It requires knitting and well, not so interested in that right now.   I've done some sampling and testing.  I realized that my test amounts  for timing  show that I'm slightly pushing it to get my currently planned final 75 hour project in that time.   As well, I'm borderline on practical amounts of needed materials in my stash.  It would be fine if I could just order more, but so far the shop where I generally order my fibre is out of what I'd need, should I run out.  There are options though, but it means changes that I'd have to research and think about.

I've not been able to find flax strick locally.   I have one small strick which I picked up last summer, plus the lovely bit that Wendy processed herself and gave me to try out last year at FOOL.  I have a whole pound of line flax which is made into a thick, ropey top.  It's supposed to be easy to spin, which is is, I guess.  However it's a bit slower than spinning off a distaff as there are lots of small, fuzzy bits in it, which need to be picked out if possible.  At least it's line flax though.

The hank of linen singles on the right is the result of almost 6 hours of spinning... a measly 350 yards of thread about the grist of 8/2 cotton.   The loose bundle on the left is strick, spun from a distaff, which is definitely more even than the thread from the line flax top, but also a slightly thinner grist.  It's 210 yards but only took 2 - 3 hours to spin.   I don't think I'll use it in this project, but it's a nice comparison on size, consistency and spinning speed.
I've got a few more hours of flax spun on the wheel right now.  When I get this bobbin full enough to stop, I'll have to decide whether I'll be using option A or B.  As long as I have enough materials, I don't mind slimming down my original project a bit and my second choice is almost as intriguing.  Either choice though I have to quickly decide whether I'm spinning the loom waste or dressing the loom with a test project and tying on to save hours and materials. 

I do like the smell of water retted flax though - sort of like winter stored hay.

While I've been slogging away at this, the 2 day shower project the guys started has turned into a 5 plus day project.  The ancient shower stall had to be replaced.  The duct tape keeping it from leaking was still holding up, but the rest of it was starting to give up the ghost.  It was supposed to be removed on the Friday and the new one installed on the Saturday.  However, it ended up being removed on Thursday because a few things weren't clear and had to be checked out ahead of time.   Instead of it being an easy install, like every other project here, it's been a major job.  Ceramic tile had to come out and then be replaced to even up the floor.  The old plumbing had been installed on the outside of the walls and had to be moved to behind the wall in order to fit a new shower stall in as the old size was no longer available.  As well, the fixture used for the taps wasn't an actual shower fixture, but looks like something from a hand sink or laundry taps.  That meant the whole blocking and sizing changed.  Then it turned out the drywall was buckled in places, so it had to be replaced.  The shower is in, the drain just has to be hooked up and then the silicone sealant applied, which I've been told needs 24 hours to cure.  There will still be a couple of drywall seams to finish and some painting, but the shower will be useable.  The nice thing is that the new shower looks fabulous.  Even though it is bigger, the clear glass actually lets light in and the room doesn't seem quite so dark and dingy.  Plus, the stall design actually gives more floor space to the room, which makes the bathroom seem larger.