February 26, 2012


 The loom is finally dressed!  I'll have to say that I took my sweet time on this project.  It's another run of tea towels.  I threaded the loom in a simple straight twill, planning on using treadlings, in the spirit of a sampler.  I'm currently planning to do each towel in a different treadling, unless of course a design catches my fancy and I may do two like that.  The first is a simple, two colour basket weave.  I'm pretty sure that there will only be one of these.  While the basket weave makes a nice pattern, I find it slow to weave.  That just makes the second half of the towel a tad tedious.      I did manage to cross two threads in the process of sleying, but it didn't take long to fix, once I got everything threaded, tied on and ready to go.

The second slip stitch sock is coming along quite nicely.  It is such a quick knit pattern.  I took this photo this morning after I'd picked up the gusset stitches.  After dinner this evening, I managed to knit almost, but not quite half of the foot!

In other news, the shirt I've been trying to make for my sweetie, has been quite the project.  It is a simple 1860's shirt.  It should be easy, considering how close the pattern is to a 1500's shirt.  However, I used a commercial pattern and the directions have you sewing patches over the gussets and gussets in plackets and partial linings inside, to cover all the unfinished edges.  As well, almost all the seams are flat felled.  So I finally sat down to sew.  I sewed all those lovely flat felled seams, attached the sleeves and gussets.  I put all the gusset lining patches in by hand.  As I went to attach the collar, I realized that I'd sewn all the flat felled seams inside out.   There is no way I'm ripping out the seams.  The fabric is too lightly woven to handle that much reverse sewing and I don't have the patience for it.  I'll just grab some different fabric, recut and sew a whole new shirt.  Sometimes, I wonder how I can manage to make such a major, and really dumb error.  Oh well, the next one will be tons better, I'm sure.

February 20, 2012

End of February Projects

 The woollen spun yarn has been plied and wet finished.  I was thrilled to have 300 yards of balanced yarn.  It's awfully poofy and thick though.  If  I don't use it for the dyeing part of the class, I'm sure the only thing it would be good for is a really thick pair of mitts or a hat.  It's fairly soft, thanks to the long draw.  It's a medium grade commercial blend, so no particular breed.  It's beautifully prepared though, lovely to spin and inexpensive. 

I've been wanting to knit up a new pair of socks.  I've waffled over the pattern choices, wanting something interesting but not horribly dependent on a fussy pattern chart.  I finally decided to try an easy but new technique.  I reminded myself that I've frogged enough half socks because of fit or design before that one more time wouldn't make a difference.  I chose a Kroy black and a Kroy self striping, which had knitted up into nice enough but not spectacular stripey socks.  I started knitting a slip stitch technique, which knits up almost as quickly as plain knit, but certainly doesn't look like plain knit socks!  I'd forgotten why I don't tend to purchase Kroy sock yarn anymore though.  It's very springy and thick, compared to most of the yarns that I use.  It feels so much bouncier than some of the recent pairs of socks I've knitted and the fabric feels quite thick.  However, for  a fast knit, it's awesome.  While I have other yarns on my favourite to knit socks with, I know that Kroy socks are comfortable and incredibly durable.

Today was Family Day: a newish holiday put onto the calendar to break up the stretch between Christmas and Easter.   I'm not complaining about another holiday.  Three day weekends are  always nice to have.  It was a beautiful, mainly sunshiney day, so we headed out for a drive.   Our first stop was St. Mary's.  It's a pretty town and has the advantage of having a large independent craft store and a rather nice candlemaking supplier.  Of course being a holiday both were closed and my last minute whim of getting votive and tealight wicks, which I've needed for ages, got put on hold.   After a quick lunch, I was given the choice of a walk in the park or a trip to the antique mall.  At that exact moment, a rather cold breeze picked up and I chose the antique mall.  It was their winter sale and because all prices were up to 50% off, the place was packed.   I absolutely love glass bottles, reamers and oil lamps.   These two were on sale for 30% and 35% off, and they were inexpensive, as far as oil lamps go, in the first place.  The one on the right was only $20 and the one on the right only slightly more, but it screamed to come home with me!  I'll have to get wicks for those two as well as a third, to make them fully operational.  We have one which is wicked, fueled and ready to go in a power failure or ambiance emergency.

One day soon, I'll show the current warp going on the loom.  It's unexciting, plain old natural 2/8 cotton right now, so dull and boring.  Once I get weaving though, there will be a little more photogenic.  Next project will be either doubleweave, overshot or huck.   I'll have to admit that overshot is starting to win, but I've stopped thinking and planning because well, this warp is still only getting threaded into the heddles and I'm putting the cart before the horse as far as projects go.


February 15, 2012

The Long Draw

I've been practicing my long draw.  It's a spinning technique to make woolen yarns, light, airy and suitable for knitting.  Since I generally spin for weaving, I use a lot more worsted and semi-worsted techniques.  The smoother, denser worsted threads can be much less elastic, less sticky and well suited for weaving.   However, this means that I periodically need to practice the long draw.

 As well, a true long draw is not the easiest of things to do.  There are all sorts of "longdraws"; supported, American,  traditional or English and the list goes on.  Over the past few years, I've been trying to teach myself the traditional or English long draw.  I've not found it the easiest of techniques and like many adults, the I haven't learned it even though I've  practiced it for 10 minutes, attitude sort of sets in.  I've persevered though and every once in a while I pick up my hand cards and go at it again.  Hand cards, because rolags are supposed to make the longdraw easier. 

I found a couple of videos on you tube, which have been really helpful.

Ruth MacGregor makes it look really easy! 

This lad's video however, takes the cake!  It's very well done. He explains the technique really well and lets face it, he's so young and confident that you realize it's just a bit more practice.

And practice I've done.    I carded up a bazillion rolags and filled the bobbins with the blue Merino.  I can tell  you exactly what muscles are involved with hand carding now, as every single one of those muscles screamed at me for two days.  I used a slightly supported long draw for  the blue.    Then I tried James technique, using a prepared off white coloured  roving.  It works well too.  I've been spinning on the Mazurka, using double drive.  However he suggests that Scotch tension works better for him.  So I spun one bobbin full on double drive and started the second using single drive with Scotch tension.  I'd have to say, so far I prefer the double drive for the long draw.  Guess it's just what your used to.   All this is for good use. The Master Spinner 3 course, requires 250 yards of handspun yarn for the dyeing project.  Better to get that done sooner than later!

I've been able to do a lot of this bobbin with the unsupported longdraw.  I'm still not proficient at it, but it's way better than it was!   I'm looking forward to seeing the two white bobbins plied!  Then, if I have enough for the course, I can go back to spinning the blue.

February 10, 2012

On the fringes

The shawl is off the loom.  Because the handspun really wasn't stable enough to leave the fringe without twisting, I dragged out my beloved fringe twister and had a long fringe twisting session.  It took me about 3 hours to twist the fringes.  While I cannot in anyway say I really like the process, I love how much easier the little fringe twister makes the job.  318 ends, x 2 (because there were 2 shawl ends) 6 threads in each fringe - made for a long evening.    The next morning I was up insanely early, so I popped it in the washer and wet finished it, spun it out and set it in front of the fire to dry.   The shawl turned out very soft, with the patterning slightly more subtle than I'd anticipated.  When held together, the grey and the white showed a fair bit of contrast, although when woven, obviously not quite so much.  It's still pretty.  Finished size, without fringes, is 28 wide by 80 long.

Then, with the possibility of the Olds College Level 3 Master Spinner course coming up this spring, I dragged out my carders, whipped up a bunch of rolags and practiced my long draw.  I figure now is the time to practice a few of the skills I don't use as often.   The roving is still from that huge batch of Dyer's Knotweed dyed up ages ago.  These bits were from the Merino roving, guessing from the staple length on the carders.  The blue is really almost that deep and gorgeous.  I'm finally getting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the blue roving, but I don't think any more of it is close to this shade of blue.

Now to decide on the next project for the loom.  I have some fine merino wool, some silk/wool blend which is a little thicker, some heavier blanket weight wool and a bunch of 2/8 cotton.    Then of course is the 25, 10 yard skeins of white yarn needed for the master spinner dye class.  I should probably get started on that too!

February 07, 2012

Project Progress Report

Here is yesterday afternoon's progress report on the pink and blue socks.  Despite alternating colours for the starting point, they look pretty much the same in my opinion.  The colours are well balanced and the pink and blue seem fairly evenly distrubuted regardless of where I chose to start.  They are pretty vibrant socks.   I was about to update the blog, when a whole slew of activities and chores happened and by then it was the hockey game. 

We don't have cable or satellite t.v. reception.  Cable isn't available here and no satellite is because of a lifestyle choice we made.  We do have an ancient, old antenna which brings in between 1 and 3 stations, depending on the day.  We are happy with that.  However, hockey games are another deal all together.   While we can't watch most of them, we can listen to them on the radio, via the internet.  The problem is that our slow connection, albeit faster than a phone modem, still bogs down if I try to multi-task the computer.  We can listen to the game or do something else, not both at the same time!   

By the time the hockey game was over, my photo was no longer up to date.  I finished the second sock and they are ready to block!  Okay, I don't actually block socks, but if I were to, they would be ready.  They are very pretty! 

I messed up the toe grafting on the first sock.  I had to rip it out because I'd managed to run the needle through several bits of yarn instead of the loops.  It did make a mess of things.  After ripping it out and starting again, I went to Knitty which is a really nice online magazine with really good articles, articles to recheck my preferred grafting instructions.   By accident,  I hopped to the wrong article and while it was on grafting, it wasn't the how to.  Rather, it was presenting a rather interesting reason on why not to graft sock toes and an alternate method.  I figured it was worth a try because I've ripped out lots of toes in efforts to get the length and grafting correctly done. 

 This method leaves a tiny gathered hole, like on the top of a mitten or a star closure.  I'll have to wear them a bit to see if it's acceptable to my foot.  The whole idea of it has made me rethink sock toes.  I'm hoping to get the energy to knit up a few pairs of socks, using different toe closures in order to compare and find which one I like best.  I haven't yet made a pair with a 3 needle bind off, so that it at least one different one to try.

The weaving is a tad slow going.  I think that perhaps I should have used a bit of warp sizing.  There have been a couple of broken warp threads and a bit of fuzziness of the yarns, which is making weaving a bit slower.  Because of the fuzziness, I am having to advance the warp quite frequently, which I should probably do anyway.   It's coming along though and taking longer because the frustratingly slow pace has me taking more breaks.   It sure feels like I'm winding a lot of bobbins though, only because the handspun yarn is thicker than I normally like to weave with.
   I am seriously considering cutting the warp in front of the heddles and tying on another warp in order to use the same threading pattern.    However, if I find a 5 dent reed, I'll probably abandon that idea in favour of a double weave project. It's been mulling in the back of my mind and the suitable reed is the only block for that project right now.

February 02, 2012

Fibery Projects and Something to Crow About.

I'd been waffling over what project to weave next.  I decided on using some of the basket of Shetland yarn.  I've got lots of spinning happening and yarn does start to build up after a while.
It's going to be a shawl.  I only had enough of the handspun yarn for one project, so there is a necessary although in my mine somewhat unacceptable amount of loom waste.  I was a little concerned that the grey and white would have a lot more contrast, which is not quite what I wanted.  I wanted a soft colour combination and a discreet  patterning.  This is working well.    I will have to reset my tie up as one of the shafts is not rising quite as much as the other 3, creating a really iffy shed on treadle 4.   I'm alternating between basket weave and straight twill to create a checky pattern. 

I couldn't wait for my handspun, indigo dyed, superwash merino sock yarn to dry.  I found a skein of sock yarn which I'd purchased in the fall.   It was on sale for such a good price, I couldn't resist the bright, pretty colourway.  I'd told myself that I needed more solid colour sock yarn but it was pink and blue and telling me it wanted to come home with me.  I'm glad I didn't ignore it as the socks are really pretty.  As I normally do, they are fraternal socks.  I love the difference that having the cuffs different colours is making.  It will be interesting to see if it will hold for the whole second sock.  It would be fun to have one which looked to be blue with pink and the other pink with blue.

We've had the oddest winter this year.   It's mainly been mild, with a few frosty, cold days in between with bits of snow here and there.  A couple of days ago, we had one of those snow falls.   We got a few inches of it - nothing compared to normal snowfall amounts.  It brought the wild birds to the birdfeeder.  One day there were Blue Jays, Cardinals, Juncos, Wrens, Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Mourning Doves.   The next day, we had a visit by some Crows.

I don't mind the Crows.  They are interesting birds.   They don't eat the food in the feeder, only the ground fall.  I'd rather they eat it than rodents.  They are very wary and watchful.  I can't get to the window of the back room without them noticing and unless I'm really, slow about it, they scatter.  If I do get close to the window, you can see them keeping an eye on me and if I lift my camera up, they are gone!  Last year the Crows used to strut around the garden, looking oh so funny.  This year, they have to compete with the chooks, who still go out and about, so whatever they were hunting for, is likely in shorter supply. 

Notice that one of the birds is hanging out on the tree.  It always seems that there is at least one, often more birds keeping a watch.   We had 7 regularly last year.  Before I took the photo, there were 12 on the ground and 2 in the trees!