November 30, 2016

Cotton, Cloaks and more Cotton

The first 2 bobbins of the sage cotton have been plied.   The yarn looks amazing considering how different it was to spin, than the cinnamon cotton.  Cotton sliver and punis usually have a grain, so it spins smoothly from one end and a bit lumpy and roughly from the other.  Well, this seemed to have a few issues from either end.  Not only that but the slubs wouldn't pull out with a gently tug, nor would they necessarily rub out with a simple twist between the thumb and forefinger.  Nope, I had to pull each stupid slub out individually, or so it seemed.  Still, it spun pretty quickly.  Bobbin 3 was filled during the Grey Cup game.  OMG - what a suspenseful game that was.   I didn't take enough breaks during the spinning time and went to bed with sore shoulders - but really, that was a lot of cotton spun.  I don't think it will look as nice as this skein though. 

I decided to stick the cloak yardage in the washer and full it up a bit more.  Unfortunately I got a little bit side tracked because my sweetie was home and remembered about it, when the washer started to spin.   It is a bit more fulled than I wanted, but still drapes decently.  It is pretty easy to piece together now.  

I've been butting the two selvedges together and running a thread though the loops made when the shuttle switches direction.   It is like running an extra warp thread though and a great technique for joining pieces for blankets or to make wider yardage as in this case.  If I'd been thinking, I might have used a blue thread to make that blue stripe on the selvedge the same size as the rest.  Still it looks pretty good.   This picture is of course of the best part and what it should look like.  Not all of the seams look quite that invisible.

My sweetie surprised me with a road trip to Camilla Valley Farm, which is a well stocked weaving supply store.  I came home with this little bag of goodies.  I wouldn't let him pay for them because then they would have been Christmas presents and I figured I'd likely want to play with them sooner than that.   They offer great mail order service, but I'd never pass up a road trip there.
   So I know what my sweetie is giving me for Christmas, and I can't touch it now for weeks.... argh.....

November 24, 2016

More cotton spinning

It's been a busy week.  I finished up the cinnamon brown cotton.  I simmered it, although it did boil a bit in there when I got distracted making lunch, for about an hour.  The water was a golden brown, but nicely clear, so free of any nasty gunk.   It took a bit to dry, in this cold, dreary weather though.
I love that feeling when you take your sad looking wet skein and snap it between your hands, and everything comes together.  The threads align.  The twist seems to even out.  The whole skein suddenly looks glorious.   This is 100 g, 490 yards of 2 ply cotton.  It is so pretty and was so enjoyable to spin.

I've started on some sage green cotton now.  There is a little less than 100 g here because I used a bit for some of my master spinner homework or homework practice.   I'm working on the second bobbin.   I know this will go greener after it is wet finished.  Right now it is a rather sad, pale beige/greenish colour.   

I'm just going to spin up cotton as I find it in my stash and hopefully I will have enough for a decent project.   I'm thinking maybe yardage for a shirt, just because I can :)

Look!  Look!  The floor is down and I love, love, love it.  What a pain though.   In order to put it down, the guys had to move everything out of the kitchen.   It took a couple of days, which was really quite a nuisance.   However, they got the floor laid and the appliances moved back in on Sunday night.  On Monday, my oldest son visited, so my man had help for moving the base cupboards back in.   They  have most of them permanently installed.  The sink cupboard is only half made.  It still needs the face frame and the doors.  The old sink and counter has been set on top, so really, the kitchen is useable at the moment.  I certainly can't complain about that.  Since we are still trying to decide on what to do for the counter tops, having at least the old ones to use, gives me lots of work space.

November 20, 2016

yardage done and some spinning started

The wool yardage for the cloak project is off the loom and drying.   It was 9.4 yds and 24 inches wide off the loom.  I tossed it in the washing machine with a bit of laundry detergent and let it agitate until I was happy with the finishing, and then rinsed it twice.   It is now 8.8 yards long and 22 inches wide.     I'm not certain that I don't want to full it up a little bit more, after all a cloak should be warm and windproof.  I'm not sure it's quite fulled enough for that.   I'll see when it's dry, whether or not I'll wet finish it a second time.   It will be lined though, so that will help.
I have to admit that I pretty much love how the blue checks feel a bit like a shadow of the brown.  So far I've found only one weaving error, which thankfully is very near the beginning of the yardage.  How I missed it, I have no idea!  I still have time to fix it I think - maybe a good thing I am not sure the fabric is fulled enough.

 I've been spinning up some naturally coloured cotton sliver.  I have 100 g of this lovely cinnamon brown colour.  It is just freshly spun and plied.  It hasn't been wet finished yet.  If I simmer it in some water, it will likely darken and redden up the colour. There was almost 250 yards, after plying on this bobbin, plus another 32 yards which were on a bobbin that I'd forgotton I'd had, which tricks me every time I use it.   There is something which binds inside and stops the bobbin from taking up properly.  I've run a round file through it, cleaned it, oiled it etc and still it doesn't work right.   I should mark it in some way, to differentiate it from all my other bobbins which work spectacularly.

The kitchen sub-floor is down and the vinyl flooring is about to go down.  I'm currently washing dishes in the laundry tub and cooking in a crock pot, which is sitting on the dryer.   Hopefully this will all be back to normal very soon.

November 16, 2016

ziplock baggie DOS dyeing - weak acid dyes

DOS -  depth of shade
weak acid dyes - use citric acid or vinegar as the acid agent
 ziplocks - because you can dye multiple colours or shades of smaller amounts of fibre or wool in one pot, saving time and energy.

I need to make another pair of guy mittens before Christmas.  I was spinning up some fleece, I think from the stuff I picked up from the Ontario Wool Growers this summer.   It is white.   I really didn't want to knit white mittens, especially for one of my guys.  I didn't think it would work for any of them and be a bit boring for me.   So I decided to dye up the yarn today.   I had 69 g spun, into a worsted weight woollen - gosh I love the long draw - I added another 38 g of a grey woollenish yarn.  My idea was that I would do the cuffs in a dark colour and work my way to the finger tips in lighter shades.  I didn't want a ton of shading to make it totally ombre, but just colour blocks.   Since I still have a whole whack of that 2% solution of Navy Blue dye, that is what I used.  Because I was dyeing 3 skeins, 3 different colours, I also decided to dye in ziplock baggies so I could do it all in one pot.

Step 1 - weigh and soak fibre, then do the math

First thing is to weigh the skeins and write the numbers down!   You need a work sheet for this and it is a pain when you forget to record the original skein weights.
I soaked with just a couple of drops of dawn dish liquid to help the water absorb quickly.

The math is easy stuff.   You want to figure out the amounts of water, acid and salt.   Water is important for ziplock bag dyeing, to make sure you have enough to cover the fibre.
write quantities of additions on bags

The numbers are 40 x water, 20% salt and 33% vinegar.  Write this down on your worksheet and then take a sharpie type marker - indelible and write it down on the ziplock baggies..   As long as it is a decent quality plastic bag, the brand name doesn't matter.   These are just the most economical around here when there isn't a sale, so I keep them in the fibre room..

These notes make it easier to set up each individual bag.  Note the vinegar has x2 because you split the amount and add half at the beginning and the rest half way through the process.

Bags of fibre, salt and vinegar heating up

You need to use something to keep the bags from touching the bottom of the pot.  This can be a stick across the top with the bags pegged to it, or I just use a dedicated vegetable steamer thingy.   Use a thermometer.  Add a couple of inches of water, set the bags in.  The water level may rise dramatically, depending on the quantity of water in your bags.  Turn the burner on and let the temperature rise slowly.   This is wool, so somewhere around 180° F, carefully open up the bag and add the vinegar.   In a perfect world, you would remove the skein, but with larger amounts, I just spurt the vinegar down the side of the bag and squish well to mix.   Once the temperature gets to just below boiling - let it hold there for about an hour.   Squish, mix, wiggle the bags once in a while to keep the fibre/yarn dyeing evenly.
dye is exhausted after processing

Check the bags.  The dye should exhaust, leaving the water clear.  The dye could exhaust earlier - splitting the vinegar helps the colours absorb evenly, but you still need the full hour of cooking time to make sure processing is completely done, making the yarn as colourfast as possible.  

Once the hour is done, turn off the stove.   You should let the bags cool naturally.  However - if your fibre isn't really delicate, and you are in a hurry, you can transfer the bags to a sink or basin.  If you open them carefully - use gloves please, the water and steam are hot, you can dump out a bit of the water, helping them cool down a bit more quickly.

Once they are cool enough, rinse them in water to make sure there is no unattached dye and hang or lay flat to dry.

This is my dye pot after the bags of wool came out.   Nothing leaked into the water - the bags held tight.   I only used a tiny bit more water than this for the whole process.

Three shades of blue yarn.  I used a 2% dye stock at dos (depth of shade) .5, 1 and 2.

I love the denim blues I got.  Soooo pretty, but I won't tell my guys that the colours are pretty unless I want the mittens for myself.

November 14, 2016

Project updates

I'm still weaving the yardage.  I think I'm over half way done.   I stopped tracking  and just kept weaving.   One repeat is 6 inches, so 3 are half a yard, which is my minimum weaving goal each day.  I'm trying for a yard, but some days it seems harder to do such a minimal amount, especially with lovely sunny days and rush on to get the kitchen usable before Christmas.

It's sort of usable now, at least for this week.  The top cupboards are in, save for the 2 new ones which need to be built.   The bottom bases are made and the cupboards have been fitted on them for the moment.   This is because the flooring goes in next weekend and as soon as it's done, the base cupboards will be totally ready to install.   Right now, the old, chopped up counter top is just sitting on top, so that there is a work space.   Amazingly, in the new kitchen, with light, clean walls and cupboards, it looks great.   It's made me feel that I need to rethink my counter choices when it's time for the real one.  I was going to go with a darker granite looking laminate but I think I now need to check lighter coloured samples. 

I was running around doing errands on Saturday and stopped in at a couple of thrift stores.  The one, with the habit of mis sizing the sheets, had a bunch in.   I bought a double set for $7, but it turned out to be a twin size but the $5 king size duvet cover has an awful lot of fabric in it.    Then I popped into the Sally Ann.   Apparently they have these special days when you pay only $5 for a bag of specific coloured tagged items.  I ended up with 6 pair of jeans to chop up for rugs (yes, I know I don't like weaving with denim, but it makes lovely rugs) for only $5.  You can't really go wrong with them at that price.  I left the trendy ones with artfully placed rips and holes in them and the ones with fancy brand names, or in really good shape.   It won't  make any difference for my use and might for someone who really needs those jeans.

It's rather nice though that the weather has gotten unseasonably nice.  Yesterday I washed and hung out all those sheets for future rugs.  Today most of the jeans got washed.   Gotta love these lingering autumn days!

November 09, 2016

coat/cloak yardage

Ages ago, sometime last December, I started winding the warp for this project.  It is yardage for a sacque coat, although I have cloak in brackets on my project notes.  I had two bouts wound and tied off.  I set them in a bag and proceeded to get involved in other things.   Right now there are at least a half dozen project for my loom, using new techniques or big things like coverlets.   There are at least another half dozen  of really should do/ want to do projects.   Some of the above dozen even have projects sheets written out, drafts done and fibre collected.   

Sometimes though I get a bit overwhelmed with what to do next.   There are way too many choices and which one do I do next?   So I ran across the warp chains for this project and realized that getting it out of the way would be a good thing.  Plus of course, winter at Westfield does need winter outerwear.  While the costume department is well stocked, having my own is always a nice thing.

The yarn is 100% wool.  It is carpet mill ends from a now out of business high end rug manufacturer.   It is amazingly soft.   They called it a 4 ply crepe yarn, but after looking at it, it is a 4 ply chained yarn.   I've no idea if it is crepe or not, but it is definitely a chained yarn - not chained as in Navajo/chain plying though.

I wasn't sure of the yardage as we bought it by the pound and I have a fair bit of it, 2 cones of the white and one each of the brown and blue.  This meant I had to make an educated guess at how long a warp to make and if I could actually get the project I wanted out of it.   I ended up with a 9.5 yard warp which was 26 inches wide in the loom - sett of 10.  The yarn wpi was 14, 15 if I pushed them close together, so a sett of 10 should work for a twill.  I did a quick test swatch back when I was planning this and it looked okay.

I was lucky that I wrote down the numbers of threads in the colour order on my project notes.  What I didn't write down is that when winding the first 2 chains, I changed the number of white threads in the large section.  So instead of 30 threads, it was 32.   This meant that as I was threading the loom, I had to run back to my warping board and wind off 6 more threads, plus 2 for floating selvedges.   What a pain that was.   None the less, it went on the loom perfectly.  I wound off the remaining 2/3 of the warp, sleyed the reed, threaded the heddles and wound it on on a single day, with the help of a lot of Star Trek - the original series. That evening I wove the first 14 inches :)

Now I'm looking for the sacque coat pattern.  I know that I have a copy someplace.   I remember tracing it off.  I remember folding it up and putting it in a plastic ziplock bag.  I remember putting it away.   It isn't anywhere I can find.   It sure isn't where I thought I'd put it.  It isn't with the rest of my historical patterns - in 3 different bins no less, nor is it with my fabric or even my weaving supplies.   At least I have a bit of time - or I can just make a cloak with the yardage.   However, I do have the yarn already set aside for the actual cloak project....   

I'm taking my time weaving this off.   It requires counting threads as well as treadles.  Luckily with a plain twill, my feet can pretty much go without actual counting. 

November 04, 2016


The first time I went to Olds Fibre Week, was just after the devastating floods.   As we flew towards the Calgary airport, you could see the swaths of water, creating ponds and lakes where farmland should have been.  A local spinning guild had a space in the sales room where they were running a fundraiser for one of their members who had been affected by the flood.   They knew someone who had alpaca but they were just pets.  In exchange for shearing the animals, the guild got to keep the fleeces, which they were selling off to help their member replace equipment.   They had a number of different fleeces, all for $20 a piece.   I was happy to help and it was a pretty small fleece, so I could find the space for it in my luggage. 
 It was grey.  It looked grey.  They said it was grey.   I thought it was grey.

I fit it all into several large ziplock bags and yesterday I emptied one of those into a net bag and within 2 minutes of setting it into a laundry tub with hot water and Dawn dish washing liquid, it looked like this.   I figured that maybe it wasn't quite such a grey fleece after all.   The second wash water was fairly clean.  It only took 2 rinses.

Oh my!  It is white, really white.  It's not the finest alpaca.   There is a bit of guard hair that I've been pulling out.  Some of the hair is obviously neck or maybe belly/leg hair.   But that which isn't guard hair or thicker and short, is quite nice.   With a little bit of work, it will be a great bit of fibre for blending with some Merino.   Plus with all that white, it is a great canvas for dyeing.

A good few years ago, a friend of mine from Tenn. was visiting family in N.Y. where she stopped to visit an alpaca breeder who was selling off the previous years fleeces for next to nothing.  She sent me a whole box of fleeces (2 of them) for a Christmas present that year.   I'm still working my way through it.  This is the rest of the first one.  It is prime alpaca, with no guard hair and I'm guessing only the blanket.  It's a lovely light fawn colour and the other one is a bit darker.   This fleece will be so enjoyable to work with, since it will require almost no effort.  It has no vm and required only one washing to get it clean.   It's first wash water was cleaner than the second one from the above!

November 03, 2016

Kitchen update! and yarny things of course

Oh my goodness!  Look what is happening with the kitchen renovation!!!  The walls are painted and I will have to say that my sweetie did an awesome job with the drywall.  They are perfect.   The cupboards are going up.    A few inches of space were lost when the outside wall was insulated, which has meant a shift of all the cupboards.  It won't make much different to most of the room, but the top cupboards on either side of the sink don't quite fit.   We could do it by switching two of them around, but then the cupboards would only be 12 inches wide.   He says if he makes them to fit, they would be 16 inches wide, which would make so much more sense for dish storage.

I've been doing a bit of Xmas knitting.   These are simple wool mittens sized to fit any one of my guys.   My sons and my husband all fit the same size, so this is pretty easy.   I can make several pair and they can choose which one suits their fancy.   That little piece of yarn is all that I had leftover from this pair.   Admittedly, I used a partial skein and if I'd made mitts for myself or daughter, there would have been plenty left.  But, really, I didn't need plenty left ;)  The remaining 24 inches of yarn is much easier to dispose of than a partial skein.

This is the 50% alpaca/50% merino blend.  It is a lovely yarn and the mittens are quite soft and yummy.  I'm making another pair of "guy" sized mittens and did have a few moments of angst where I almost ripped them out and made a pair of mittens for myself.   I decided that I actually have enough alpaca in my stash to blend up another batch and make myself mittens from that.
 The needles are Knit Picks.  They come in a 6 pack and are made from brightly coloured wood.  They are some of the sweetest needles I've ever used.  They have a perfect point , weigh practically nothing and slip the yarn across them just nicely.  I will have to keep my eyes open for more of these.