April 28, 2009

A day for weaving

It is a grey and drizzly day today. A perfect day for getting things done or at least started. With that in mind, I made bread with some sweet sourdough starter I was given. While it made a tasty loaf, it really wasn't very sourdough tasting. It would be easier and tastier to just use my grandmother's bread recipe. I'll try a different starter next time. ( The daffodils are bright and cheery, even with the gloomy day).

The woad seeds got planted for the comparison between directly planted seeds and seedlings started ahead of time. I've found woad germinates rather quickly and gets leggy just as fast, so starting it now still gives me plenty of time to get it into the garden beds at our normal spring planting time, somewhere about the last week of May.

Weaving is happening as well. The softness and generally nice hand of this fabric makes up for weaving in plain white. I don't imagine it will stay plain white. I've already got plans for it and right now I'm trying to decide whether this will be a woad blue or a madder red dye project. Depending on how much it takes for the garment, will decide if it's dyed in the cloth or dyed in the garment. I want the scraps for a secondary project and they'll be yellow, greenish and possibly brown. I wove the starter header/sample bit with a contrasting colour of yarn so that I could check for threading errors and crossed threads more easily. The difference in the pattern visibility on the white warp/white weft would have made it much more difficult.

April 27, 2009

The Garden Believes it's spring!

The garden is growing fast and furiously. It's amazing how much colour there can be this early in the growing season. The sage is up and there are leaves large enough to harvest! The thyme is just starting to show signs of growth so the rest won't be too far behind. There are a huge amount of flowers bursting with colour as well. The Fritillaria meleagris, also known as Snake's Head Fritillary and checkered lily is first dated to 1575. There is only one of them in the garden and it just happily comes up every year.
The Yellow star of Bethelem and Bloodroot are perking up the Allium which is looking like it wants to bloom soon as well. The daffodils, both yellow and white are in full bloom as are the Hyacinths. There is this low, purple charmer, which I can't identify. When we moved here it was planted everywhere. Having dug up much of the former gardens and repurposed it to raised beds or different plants, I thought it might have been disappeared. It is obviously a hardy beast as it has taken only a couple of years to be back in full vengence, a purple wash across lawn and flower beds alike. It dies back fairly quickly, so I don't mind it at all.
Finally of course there is the old and cranky Dog Lily, enjoying the sunshine of a warm day, probably hopeing that I will drop the bacon flavoured doggie treat in my pocket.
There is a warp on the loom and cloth being woven, but it is too nice to be inside weaving all day today!

April 21, 2009

Urban Wildlife and Inkles

I've been noticing new and regular visitor to my back garden. He's very wary and startles even if someone moves too quickly at an upstairs window. I have suspected he has been visiting for several years but this is the first year I've seen him. It's nice to see urban wildlife, even if it is a garden eating bunny. Here he is as seen from the 2nd story window, through the window screen.

The floor loom is in the process of being dressed. I'm working on threading the heddles right now. At the rate at which I'm allotting time for this chore, it could take several years or at least a week. It's plain white wool which I hope to dye after it's off the loom. Since my big pot is packed, this seemed like the best way to actually get this project started.

The inkle loom has been busy. The blue and white pick up pattern took days to weave off, despite regular attention to the loom. While I was wanting to do a brocade pattern, I did a few simple, narrow bands just to bump up the production. I'm actually trying to find a pattern that makes me smile enough to use for trim on a green linen gown. I'm getting close but haven't found the right one yet. However, I have used up a bunch more small bits of handspun and have almost 8 more yards of trim to show for it. I really wanted a bit of green yarn in the trim, but didn't have any suitable. This was a tad frustrating until I looked at my roving stash near my spinning chair. There, on top, was a naturally dyed green batt, waiting to be spun. So soon, there will be green yarn to weave with. The top one is natural tan, dyer's knotweed blue and dyer's greenweed yellow. The bottom is natural tan, natural black and a rusty madder red.

The Orangeville Alpaca show was lots of fun. We had loads of spinners come out to play so spinning was fun and relaxing. The shawl produced was very pretty; a herringbone twill in two shades of brown alpaca.

April 15, 2009

Spring Gardens and projects

Look what I found in the garden while I was digging yesterday! The miniature tulips are early, blooming even before the daffodils. As well, the lone Siberian Iris came up. I should really plant more. Before I put in raised beds, there were many of these but I think the squirrels found the bulbs in the garden beds. It looks forlorn and lonely :) I've got one bed of woad seeds planted directly into the garden. I'll be started some seeds in a few days to plant into a second bed as seedlings to see which ones grow the best and produce the most woad leaves.

Yesterday I finished weaving another inkle band. Interestingly enough, I looked at that pattern and said, UGH - at least I can hide it as a belt or something. My DH looked at it and said, Wow! Nice, finally one with some colour! I am constantly amazed at the differences in perception. I also warped up the inkle loom with a tablet weaving project, which required making some make shift cardboard weaving cards. The whole project was a disaster and is now off the loom. The cardboard was too soft and bent too easily, while the threads just tangled everytime the tension was released. So I cut off the double weave tablet weaving project and I put on a new inkle pickup weave project this morning. I was up and at it really early. The blue and white is the pick up pattern while the grey, white and red is the one that is "colourful" :) This is a very fast and fun way to use up my small amounts of handspun, naturally dyed yarn.

I'm also giving the Ashford Traveller a tune up today. Saturday is the Alpaca Ontario Show where the Guelph Handweavers and Spinners will be doing an Alpaca fleece to shawl demo all day. It's lots of fun and the Alpaca are just the sweetest and somewhat goofy looking animals. This is a rather relaxed fleece to shawl as it isn't a competition and we have lots of time to answer questions and talk with the public.

Finally, if I'm not exhausted and needing a nap, I've been winding off some leftover cotolin thread into small skeins. I'm going to do a quick wash with them in soda ash and then mordant them with alum. Then I'll see what colours they might take up. I've got some dried weld, woad and madder left from last year. If it works there will be enough for a few inkle or tablet woven bands but nothing big, but at least the thread will get used up.

April 12, 2009

A Long week..

Last weekend was Forward Into The Past. It's a fun and informative event, open to the public and reenactors alike. I was feeling somewhat burnt out and stressed, so only went to a couple of classes this year and spent the rest of the time chatting and relaxing. On the way home, my transmission started squealing and I felt very lucky that the van made it into my driveway! So $3111 later, I can drive again. This is the 2nd transmission in 2 1/2 years. If it goes again then too bad! While I like my van, I don't like it that much!

The project on the floor loom is coming off. After trying to force myself to spend time each day on it, and avoiding it like the plague - I came up with some dandy excuses, I'm chopping it off. Of course, I did have to prep for a class I was teaching and I did a program at the Burlington Weaver's Guild as well, which required a bit of work. Wow, do they have a great meeting place and an amazingly friendly group of people there.

I also had to make a spring cake. The men folk around here will eat pie until it's coming out their ears and then some. However, I went for a change and made a fancy cake. Darned thing took over 5 hours to make, including a ton of little royal icing flowers, that I ended up not using!

So back to the loom.... The project on it was to be my show and tell piece for the Guelph Handweavers and Spinners yearly challenge. This year was based on the 100 mile Dye-it, meaning choose locally raised and processed fibres, yarns and or natural dyes. I had the local fibres, shetland wool from Earendel Farm, I had process and spun them myself and dyed them with plants that I'd grown or harvested locally. I was going to weave them into a wall hanging but turns out that I wasn't enjoying the technique.
Worried that I wouldn't have anything to show for my challenge and the fact that the yarn that I had designated for this project was really small amounts compared to what I normally do, I had to find another project that would use only yards of yarn instead of hundreds of yards. What did I come up with?

Inkles... warp faced plain weave bands. I'd only done inkle weaving in crochet cotton which is a very forgiving yarn. Working in handspun wool has been enough of a challenge to keep my interest. So I have a guild project that I can then use for costuming! Of course the inkle loom as we modernly know it, isn't remotely medieval but inkles are. They were probably woven on box looms, 2 beam looms of various designs or a simple technique - like tying your project to a tree and your waist for tension. There are references to inkles, illuminations of women withtape and box looms with rigid heddles or no heddles (string possibly?) as well as weaving tablets. There are bits of ribbons found and top selvedge headers for warp weighted looms which were probably woven with rigid heddles or something similar as they are repp weaves, rather than tabby weaves. The string heddles are a simple method of making a hand operated 2 shed heddle device, so I put rigid heddles in the same category. There are at least a couple of very early period rigid heddles found, in the size for making tapes. Now to figure out a way to make one of these early looms that is much more period than the one I currently have!